Orly Airport to Lourdes

Left for the Orly Airport flight at 0530 which was 4 hours pre-flight in the hopes it would provide ample time to get to my destination. The first step on this journey was an Uber and he arrived 3 minutes post email. The driver spoke no English so it was a quiet ride through a glowing Paris with Christmas decorations and lights.

Arrived at the Le Bus Direct location at 0550. It was scary dark in an area with homeless sleeping about but a friendly man in a business suit approached and gave me instructions on the process. I smiled and thanked him grateful he departed after informing me of what to do.

The 0605 bus arrived and I was allowed on though booked for a 0645 passage. There were 4 passengers on the bus and one with a dog who gave much love.

The 30 minute trip went quickly on a sparsely commuted highway. Once in the airport I snagged a man with supervisor on his name tag and received all details needed to locate my airline.

Since I arrived early my next step was to investigate the airport. Perhaps there is a job with this work as I certainly fit the qualifications. Here are my findings..

There was some Christmas cheer..

Clean bathrooms with a bit of an odor, but nice touch with the female personal care items machine. This is a new find.

Pricey stores..

A classy restaurant….

And last, but not least, an interesting mobile….

Since Orly Airport passed inspection it was time to move on to TSA. Here I found the staff pleasant but unaware if Lourdes water could be brought back on the plane. This concerned me as I had brought an entire suitcase to fill with bottles of Lourdes water. Mary will find a way.

Once on the plane I met a man of 22 also going to Lourdes. He sat on one side and a man of 25 sat on the other going to an annual reunion of college friends where they drink heavily for 24 hours then return home. Odd combination of seat mates, however both charming.

Pao Airport

As we neared the airport the pilot informed us that Lourdes Airport was closed due to the strike and we would land 30 minutes away in Pao Airport. From Pao we would be bused to Lourdes Airport. Departure went quickly and the ride through the French countryside a delight with scenes of the Pyrenees.

The Pyrenees

Once reaching the Lourdes Airport a rental car seemed the best route as I was unsure of the reliability of cabs in the area.

Lourdes Airport

My 22 year old seatmate came for the ride and upon reaching Lourdes we made plans to meet which never came to fruition and I began the visit happily alone.

Next Blog: Why I am at Lourdes and for those of little faith you will probably will remain that way and never read my blog again…….

The Big Bus: Paris

“Whenever in doubt take the Hop-On/Hop-Off Bus,” is my new motto. It was the saving grace for the trip.

With the Paris transportation strike the bus provided the needed way to get around. While waiting for the bus was lengthy due to Paris gridlock associated with the strike I met many fascinating tourists from India, South America, and Africa. Always good to chat with other tourists as you get the “dirt” on what to do, see, and a varied point of interest. I got a belly laugh when the South American gal told me I spoke good English. I politely thanked her, and wondered what nationality she thought I was. 🙂

There are two routes for this bus:

  • Blue Route – travels Montmartre area, Gare Du Nord , and Place Pigalle. This tour gives a feel for the shop area and a few landmarks. Doing the entire route takes a little over an hour, but take the plunge.
  • Red Route – travels the circuit with Eiffel Tower, museums, Arc de Triomphe, and Louvre. Drop offs and pick ups are frequent.

They also have add on trips with Versaille, DisneyLand Paris, river cruises, and night tours, but enough commercial for non-compensation.

All that said, let’s soak in some of the sites:

The Eiffel Tower was built for the Paris Exhibition of 1889, (World’s Fair). It towers over the Paris skyline and lights up nightly, even twinkling. She’s a heavy gal at 7500 tons of iron and is the most recognized man-made structure worldwide.

A few other oddities:

  • There is a private apartment at the top.
  • A post office is in the tower.
  • Radio, Telegraph transmitters, and a meterology lab were installed inside. This is why it wasn’t torn down post-exhibition as planned.
  • Hitler ordered it destroyed, however his orders were never carried through as French militants cut the elevator cables.

Rainy Day for Booksellers Along the Seine River
Notre Dame
Notre Dame Under Construction

April 15th, 2019, was a sad day for the French when their beloved Cathedral burned. Caused by a cigarette or electrical malfunction, this treasure trove of French history built from 1160-1260 was gone. As of this writing there is a 50% chance of saving the fragile Church.

Place de la Concorde – this is the largest public square in Paris. During the French Revolution over 1200 were guillotined here.

Champs Elysees, which means Elysian Fields, is one of Paris most glamorous streets with its monuments, landscaping, famous expensive shops, restaurants, and a few museums. Simply walking it makes one feel rich.

And at the end of the Champs…

Arc de Triomphe was built to recognize those who fought and died in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. French victories and generals names are inscribed in the Arc. It also holds the Tomb of the Unkown Soldier from World War I.

Free to walk around there is a charge to climb the 280 stairs to the top which holds impeccable views of the City. To get to the monument there are underground passages with entrances on the Champs Elysees.

Paris Opera House – is probably the most famous opera house in the world. Holding 1979 patrons the structure was built in the 1860’s and commissioned by Emperor Napoleon III. Tours are given and it is a must see.

The Ritz Hotel decorated for Christmas. This was the final hotel of Princess Diana.

The Flame of Liberty has become the unofficial tribute to the Princess of Wales after her untimely death in 1997 in the tunnel beneath the torch. It represents an enlightening of the world. Appropriate tribute to one who touched so many.

Tuileries Gardens at Christmas.

And let us end our Paris tour with Locks of Love on a fencing at Sacre Coeur..

Au Revoir Gay Paris!

Sacre Couer and Moulin Rouge: What a Combo!

Upon returning from the Louvre the Montmartre neighborhood beckoned. Staying on 5 rue Tholoze, at the Hotel des arts, was a relaxing experience. The hotel is newly renovated and lovely. No compensation received..

Christmas lights in the area

Beyond the hotel were many stores, outside cafes, Christmas markets with hot mulled wine, and award winning pastry shops. This area was a sanctuary for artists with Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Piet Mondrian, and Pablo Picasso having studios here.

Typical cafe in the Montmartre area

The Sacre Coeur, or Sacred Heart, looms above. She is the glory of the mount. Montmartre translated is mountain of the martyr and it was on this spot St. Denis was decapitated in 250 A.D. He was the first Bishop of France and patron saint.

The Main Altar of the Church

The basement of the Church has an interesting exhibit area.

Adjacent to Sacre Coeur is Eglise St. Pierre de Montmartre. This Church dates from 1147 and is serene. It houses a relic of St. Therese of Liseux, a Doctor of the Church, and patron saint of AIDS sufferers, florists, and missionaries. If you seek an intimate and spiritual visit stop here.

On to Moulin Rouge..

Street View

Moulin Rouge, or Red Mill, was opened in 1889 through the efforts of 2 businessmen looking for a venue for the rich to have fun. Starting with champagne filled parties the tradition continues. The 600,000 annual visitors experience 80 dancers in one of two nightly shows performed 365 days a year as they sip their champagne.

It was here that Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec displayed their paintings. Toulouse, a regular visitor, made posters of the dance. Posters are displayed prominently throughout the building and seen later in the blog.

Main Seating. No pictures are allowed of the performance.

The show was beyond expectations. Dancers danced to themes from Russia, to circus themes with clowns, to Indian, Chinese, Thailand, Spanish, and American dance. Dancers flew from the ceiling in circular balls, and there was an underwater performance with a swimming pool on the stage. Clothing was stripped off quickly with bare breasts exposed in abundance, so be prepared for folly!

And between the dancing snake charmers, jugglers, and acrobats performed.

The show lasted 2 hours and while in the 100 euro range it is a must see. You will never forget it .

There are also dinner options.

And while songs accompanying dance are mainly in French they are familiar and understandable.

To The Louvre and The Visit

Side View of the Louvre from a window inside

With 1 pm Louvre reservations I scrambled to locate a taxi as it took 4 hours from plane to hotel. Upon arrival at the hotel the manager offered an upgrade and I grabbed it. In the hotel lobby fellow tourists briefed me on the strike and the need for Uber as a back up.

After 45 minutes of Uber AP installation challenges it was installed. Wondering if a 17 euro visit to the Louvre was worth a 35 euro cab ride I went. At this point I knew this would be my last visit to France.

On my visit 10 plus years ago students were boycotting and my bus was caught in the cross fires. The students lay in the roundabout and valuable Mount St. Michel was lost waiting for the police to pull them out. Do I attract these things or what? Well, on to the Louvre.

The Uber driver came promptly, was courteous, and thankfully spoke good English. A friendly Frenchie, what a joy.

The area surrounding the Louvre was a delight as was the famous triangle. While I never like the I Pei triangle appreciation for the structure was achieved when viewing its impact on the lobby as it provides depth and light.

Once inside the museum I found the Information Desk unmanned and some exhibit halls limited due to the strike. The guard at the escalator gave me directions on the most expedient way to tour.

The Louvre dates back to the 1200’s and was a royal residence. Once the Palace of Versailles was completed in 1634 the royals moved to that Palace as their residence. That said, the architecture of each room along with its walls, windows, and floorings are as beautiful as the works of art displayed.

There are 3 wings with each wing having 3 levels, 0, 1, 2. These are named after prominent figures from French history: Richelieu, Sully, and Denon.

The Richelieu Wing – in this wing European sculptures, Near Eastern Antiquities, French and Northern European Paintings, and European Decorative arts are displayed.

These two pictures are an interesting combination. The first is a self portrait of the painter and the second is the artists portrayal of The Consecration of Napoleon and Josephine which combine politics and royalty. It is a massive painting with much depth, color, and emotion.

The Sully Wing – Greek, Egyptian, and Roman Antiquities, French paintings, and European Decorative Arts, prints and drawings are displayed here.

The Venus de Milo

The Denon Wing displays Eastern, Egyptian, and Islamic art as well as Greek and Roman Antiquities, and European sculptures.

The Mona Lisa is a guarded painting with a line to view. This is partially due to its inability to be insured as it is priceless. Smaller than one would imagine it remains the prime interest to those visiting the museum.

The painting is of Madam Lisa Giocondo, the wife of a wealthy silk merchant. Leonardo da Vinci, the painter, never completed the painting as it lacks a lower landscape. Multiple layers of oil were used to produce the shadow effect. This created her smile.

Retail Madness

Upon completion of your visit take time to visit the retail area.

At this shop you can create your personal fragrance.

Other Attractions

Outside the Louvre is the Carousel and Tuileries Gardens. In the spring and summer these gardens are an extraordinary place to visit. There also is an open air sculpture museum in this area and the Christmas markets are held here. The Gardens are free.

12th century meets 21st

Across the Seine is the Musee Eugene-Delacroix where one can visit the painters apartment, studio and garden. Admission is included with Louvre ticket.

Other Louvre treasures…

And a find, American Thomas Cole, from the Hudson River School of Painters.

Stay tuned.. Moulin Rouge is next.

Is Paris Burning?

Train Station

No, only their transportation services are burning. During my December 4th to 9th visit the strike began and is now in its 4th week. The strike concerns retirement changes. Frenchie’s have over 40 retirement plans and are able to retire at 55 with many of them. The government wants to change and streamline these plans which is causing quite a stir. Personally, I hate being retired so I don’t get it. That said let’s chat about the trip and the strike’s impact on it.

Arrived in Paris at Charles DeGaulle Airport on the first day of the strike, December 5th. My first notification was when a fellow passenger mentioned it upon deplaning. She was going to Marseille, a short jaunt, however, she had a six hour wait for her flight. While American me was appalled she smiled stating she was pleased to get any flight home. I should have taken heed.

Once in the terminal I sought directions and was greeted by the usual French response. While I love the Frenchie’s their disdain for US, meaning the United States, is evident. And it didn’t help matters that our President insulted theirs the day before. While not all Frenchies like Macron they are loyal.

After speaking with 4 different red coat “helpers” in the airport I located my way out of the terminal. Already missing JFK I ponder scrapping the trip.

Next was obtaining a ticket from a machine for the fare on the one train which was running. After several attempts on getting a ticket from the machine an American tapped me on the shoulder and told me to go to the ticket agent. Guess he heard my profanity and I followed the direction he pointed me in..

My success rate with human ticket folks has been 50/50 yet hoping to be lucky I found the window and a millenial with a smug look glaring at me. Sensing her disgust on Day 1 of the strike I attempted my, “un peu Francais,” and things got worse. Here was a real bit-h, pardon me, and as we proceeded in ticket purchase she proved to be a double b-tch.

She snickered when I asked how to use the ticket and where to go. Knowing she was probably telling me where to go in French under her breath I realized assistance needed to be obtained elsewhere. Why bother getting upset as there is karma in the world.

Looking around I noted even the Asians appeared bewildered. I felt a kinship and located a 50ish woman red coat “helper” who actually helped. Reading my mind she smiled as I approached took my ticket posting it to a circular disk on the turn style said, “#22 to Gare,” and pointed to the stairs beyond the turn style. Success!

Posters at one of the Train Stops

At the Gare Station I found a pleasant, young man in a blue jacket to help. Also, the bathrooms were free at this station. A gift to us weary travelers with a savings of .70 euros, akin to .85 USD. Nice touch as I was near ready to water a tree.

Gare Station decorated for the holidays. Nice mall inside the Station.

Since there was no further train access a cab to the hotel was the only way. I am up to 35 euros for transport now and by days end it came to 80. However, when there is no other option who is counting?

At least the cab drivers kids will have a nice Christmas.

Tomorrow: The Louvre

Another view of the Gare Train Station Mall at the holidays.

St Augustine: Aglow for the Holidays

From now through February St. Augustine will be brightly lit and on New Years Eve fireworks will explode adding to the oldest city in America’s charm. Here’s a few pics to savor..

Comfortable Trams guide visitors through the lights.

Or a wagon..

Or a carriage ride..

Purchase lights to add to the glow..

It’s fun for all ages young or old..

And even newlyweds..

In the square or in the street..

Come, enjoy and have a look..

Happy Holidays to all.

St Augustine: Daytime Visit Flagler College Kitchen and Dining Room Community Open House: Eco-Friendly

Today marked the community open house for the Flagler College kitchen and dining room renovation. While to some this may sound like small potatoes, (pardon the pun), to renovate a dining room encompassed in priceless stained glass Tiffany windows was no easy feat. All this was completed over summer break.

The dining room now has a food court with rotating menus from countries round the world. They also have deli and food service available for vegans, gluten free, and those with dietary preferences. These students make up 26% of the student population.

One of the main attractions to the renovation was the food digester. Everyday 200 pounds of food waste bound for the landfill goes down the drain. The digester makes this waste liquid even venting the methane gas, a by-product of the process. By 2025, 50% of food headed for the landfill will be eliminated by the digester. Currently the college is at 23% of goal. Cooking oil is also recycled and changed to a biodiesel.

The Digester – black piece middle of picture

Recyclable plastics made of a 50/50 construction of corn and plastics are currently being used in the kitchen and all paper products are compostable. Straws have been eliminated. To ensure students are aware of this eco-friendly environment training sessions are given three times a year.

Main kitchen

Student provide 25% of the kitchen labor with part time schedules of 12 to 15 hours per week. Schoolwork is always the priority.

Allergen free kitchen area

So final question… While the kitchen promotes vegan and salad bar entrees, what do you think the students favorite fare is?

Chicken nuggets

Guess Ronald McDonald won this one!

More pics of the dining room and later tonight.. the Christmas lights of St. A.

The dining room is also available for weddings.

Lisbon and Belem

Arrived in Lisbon without a plan. Doing a free fall every once in awhile is exciting and one never knows where it will go. Rising early with breakfast 2 hours away I took a walk to the beach. In my walk I met a man who swims in the sea every morning with a buddy. We spoke of America and his work related visits. Here they are getting ready for a swim..

As I continued to walk I came across a young woman in her senior year at Salesianos High School in Estoril where I stayed. She was interested in becoming a surgeon. Wow! What a brilliant young woman with a plan. Nice to see and meet the future. The locals were fascinating.

Once back at the hotel I reviewed a Hop On, Hop Off bus pamphlet, however, only 2 day tickets were available. Decided to take the train into Lisbon and explore on my own. Upon departure from the train I saw various sites along the sea walk.

Some stone art work on the walk.

Then I came upon several squares and took a donation based tour of Lisbon.

Rossio Square

In Rossio Square our tour began. This lively square has been one of Lisbon’s main squares since the Middle Ages. The National Theater which was formerly a palace lies behind the Column of Pedro IV, which is a monument to King Peter IV.

Lisbon is known as the City of 7 hills, however there are actually 8, and to explore it appropriately one needs much energy and good shoes. Besides the walking tours there are also Toto’s available for tour. Tours in these small vehicles are pricey but a fun ride.

A Toto doing a night tour.

Trams are also available. The 12E for 1.35 euros takes tourists up the winding streets. This is a particularly beautiful way to capture Lisbon at night.

Driver’s View
Inside the Tram. Gosh, doesn’t that guy look bored??????

There are outside restaurants and stores along the tram route..

Sardine Store

Back to the tour…

In Lisbon’s early history it was ruled by Moors and this park pays tribute to them. Many multicultural festivals occur here. Note the modern castle facade to the right of the fountain.

From Moors to modern day art work made from plastics found in the ocean. This fish represents global concerns.

Next, we start our hilly climb courtesy of an elevator.

Lisbon has specialties to try when visiting. Bacalau is a cold water cod fish, and then there is aginjinka. Aginjinka was developed by a priest, has 23% alcohol, and a sweet sour cherry taste similar to cough medicine. While our group didn’t try the cod, we did sip the aginjinka. Mixed reviews.

Lisbon streets are charming, narrow, and pebbled. Along the way there is much to see. Here is a site where laundry is done.

Then there are the artists at work explaining musical history.

And pictures of residents..

These pictures which appears on building exteriors are a project done by a British woman to draw concerns to the regentrification of Lisbon. Many elderly are being forced from their homes with investors moving in. Lisbon has become an attractive real estate market with its climate and tax laws.

St. Anthony’s Church

While 90% of Lisbon is Catholic, few practice, however, on June 13th, the feast day of St. Anthony, all of Lisbon comes out to celebrate. The celebrations last all night. The city gives free weddings to couples wishing to marry on St. Anthony’s Feast Day. Perks for the selected couples include everything from payment of the wedding dress to 2,000 euros. They take this Feast quite seriously with some leaving their decorations up all year.

Following are pictures of St. Anthony’s Church interior, his birthplace, and baptismal fount.

In closing Lisbon views from the top of the “hill.”

Worth the hike, wouldn’t you say?

Next: Belem

A short train ride from Lisbon is the town of Belem. Besides McDonald’s, it provides more breath taking sites.

Then there is the lovely Jeronimos Monastery which was closed on the day of visit.

And the spectacular waterfront with its Discoveries Monument,

as well as the Belem Tower.

This Tower of the 16th century was the ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. As Portugal navigated the world this tower was the first and last site seen when sailors journeyed.

There are many souvenir shops in this area as well as small venues which serve food and drink while enjoying the waterfront.

This concludes Portugal and what a finale.

Nazare and Sintra

Nazare is a popular seaside area in Portugal with a mild climate, natural beauty, and record breaking waves which attract surfers worldwide. While its roots may be in fishing it is fast becoming a tourism mecca. Having visited 5 years ago I noted the increase in buses to the area.

A wide variety of gift shops are available in Nazare as are pastry shops and restaurants.

Brought back to the States a large box of goodies from this store. The Best!

Portuguese can cook and bake like no other with their fish preparation tasty and unique. Stop, walk the beach, collect stones, and enjoy.


This resort town is also like no other, however, it is a resort of palaces and gardens. Near Lisbon the entire town is classified as a Unesco World Heritage Center. There are 10 palaces for viewing. Told of Sintra by a fellow tourist I was unaware of the time table needed for the visit. Arriving late in the day I was only able to take in The National Palace of Sintra.

The Palace of Gothic design was the medieval royal residence of Portugal from the 15th to the late 19th century. The last of the monarchy had an apartment in this Palace. It is well preserved and worth the visit.


A Medieval Kitchen

To effectively capture the Sintra mystique I recommend reviewing web sites prior to visit and decide which palaces call to you. Also, consider the available palace gardens in your review as they are pristine and exquisite.

Many tours are available and for those uncomfortable with driving on narrow, treacherous roads I recommend this route.

Post visit make time for the gift shops as they have a different variety of wares.

Walk the roads around the castles and take in what a magical site Sintra is.


Woke early to rain so took the train into Porto which was a stones throw from my hotel. Ticket machines are easy to use and tickets reasonable. Before getting on train tap the ticket on the transponder device. Then upon train departure the tap the ticket again. There are many employees checking passenger tickets. I was stopped and checked.

Trains and stations are clean in Porto. No graffiti which was nice to see.

Once above ground I found myself in the historic area. Here is the “real train station,” with its 20,000 decorative hand painted blue tiles.

And a side view of the train station with a nearby church..

Inside of the church..

Due to the rain I purchased a Hop On Hop Off Bus ticket and learned of the City and places to visit. Worth the price.

Traveled to the sea which was wild..

Learned of Lovers Lane by the Sea….

And found tourist places to visit.

  • Cafe Majestic
  • Casa de Musica
  • Teleferico – aerial Gondola ride
  • Riberia – with its many shops and restaurants
  • Palacio Da Bolsa – Located in Riberia. This gentleman’s club, (which now has a 2 female members), was created for Port Wine Monarchy and paid for by their industry. It is a spectacular building with a marble staircase that took 40 years to build! The Hall of Nations has mosaics representing various countries. And the Arabian Hall remains the focal point of the Palacio. The Hall is used for meetings, classical music concerts, and weddings. Check it out…

Interesting fact.. The carpenters who built this Palace were Portuguese and had never been to an Arabian Palace.

  • Lello Bookstore or Livraria Lello and Irmao – a historic and fascinating bookstore not far from city center. For 5 euro one can visit and if you purchase a book the admission fee is used as a credit. Worth the visit.
  • Clergio Tower This landmark Tower opened in 1763 and is a dominant feature in the Porto landscape. Guided tours are given.
  • Porto Cathedral

Situated in historic Porto center the Cathedral looms over the City and walking to the top of the tower provides majestic views. There was a nominal fee to visit but well worth the price.

  • Real Compahnia Velha
Tawny Port – Sweet and Strong

And what would a visit to Porto be without a visit to a Port Winery? This tour recommended by the hotel was one of the best I have taken. The winery began in 1756 belonging to the then king and has been in operation since. Vineyards are 120 km away on the border of Spain and all grapes are harvested by hand. 90% of the grapes are smashed by hand and the remaining 10% by feet. The Port was phenomenal and I was grateful for packing light to accommodate my purchases.

  • Le Coliseu Porto Ageas – The Russian Ballet was in town both nights of my visit at Le Coliseu. The performance of Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty were beyond words. Prices were reasonable and check out this venue should you visit.

For me this concludes Porto, the second largest city in Portugal with 2.4 million helpful and friendly citizens. Visit and enjoy.

How could I have forgotten to mention the baked goods? Sublime.