We spent three days in Barcelona touring the main sights like La Sagrada Familia, the "Cathedral" and Park Guell. The architecture of the buildings are a beautiful blend of the old and the modern. The shopping in Barcelona was some of the best.

The main promenade, Las Ramblas, is about a mile of shops and street performers. We must have walked up and down that street a dozen times. Some of the street performers were very unique and would have huge crowds around them. There were angels, Atlas with the world on his shoulders, unknown characters, ogres, headless chefs, magicians, and artists. Every time we went down the street there was always something new.

We did try out these GoCars which were like two-seated mopeds that toured us around to famous sights. That didn't go over so well though. The one we had had a messed up GPS which meant we couldn't follow the route so we went back to get it fixed. It also had trouble starting. Once we got going we found that whichever one of us was following the other had to breathe the nasty exhaust of the other. We originally had reserved a full day, but one hour turned out to be more than enough.

The famous La Sagrada Familia, which started construction in the 1800's with Antoni Gaudi as the architect, was mind blowing. I have no way of describing the grandeur of the still unfinished church. It is likely to take another 50 years to finish. Gaudi died at the age of 76 after being hit by a tram. He knew he would never see it finished but said "God has all the time in the world".

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Bye Bye Les Baux

Yesterday we visited the Pont du Gard, the famous Roman aqueduct, and then on to Nimes. There we took about an hour whirlwind tour in a mini train that showed us the main sights in the city: the Roman arena, an ancient temple, and more. We walked around a bit, found a self service laundry, so made a beeline back to out car for our laundry bags so we could finally get some fresh clothes.

We decided to hurry back to Les Baux in order to catch the sunset on the town, hopeful for amazing photos. We were not disappointed. The town glowed.

The town, emptied of the day trippers, felt like it was ours alone as we wandered the empty stone streets. Our new suite was beautiful, had it's own terrace, and was very unique; very pleasant for our last night. We watched the stars from our terrace and drank in the night.

It did not rain.

After our breakfast, we took one last shopping trek through town before heading out. We drove East of Avignon to see some caves, but they were closed for a two hour lunch break which put us off schedule for exploring Avignon, so we left and headed for our last bit of sightseeing in France.

We toured the Papal Palace, the nearby gardens and two churches. We have found that the old churches have some great art: frescoes, paintings, sculptures, carvings, and more, so we try to wander into most we see. One in particular had a mass starting in one of the side chapels and they were singing so sweetly. There were two nuns dressed in pure white singing alternatively with one man. It was so simple, clear, and reverent. We stayed for quite a while listening to song after song.

After a nice leisurely dinner we headed to our hotel for an early night. We had a 6:00 am train to catch to Barcelona.

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Les Baux II

We have lost track of the days. I just know I have so many days at this location and so many at that and them it is time to go. However, I believe that it was the 7th, the night after the big storm, when we toured the chateau. WOW. The size of the castle had been huge and had survived multiple drives over the centuries. The views from various high points overlooking the valley, on all sides, were incredible. They had actual working trebuchet, a large version of a catapult, a battering ram, and the smaller catapult. It was extremely windy and nearly blew me sideways a couple of times! James figures it was gusting at least 40 MPH. There were dozens of very steep stairs that were worn with 6 inch divots carved out of the stone. We were exhausted afterwards and knew we would feel it in the legs later. One section was newly discovered in the 90's, and went way down lower than they thought the structure went and was full of more rooms and storage and cisterns.

After several hours of climbing and crawling all over the chateau, we headed off to Arles. Arles had several Roman ruins from the first century, including an arena. The wind was still very brisk and we were ticketed out, so we didn't actually stay more than about 2 to 3 hours and then headed back to Les Baux for a quiet dinner.

We pick a small restaurant, one of only about 4 to choose from. We ate indoors since it was a little too cool out. During dinner we were treated to a lightning show off in the distance, though there was no accompanying thunder. Our skies were starry and beautiful while the storm raged on the horizon. We did get some video and I did manage to catch one strike with my camera - which tool many tries.

Later in our room we threw open the window and watched for a long time before turning in. It was beautiful. James woke me up around 1:00 to say the storm had hit us, the 2nd night in a row! It was louder and more violent than before! We struggled go sleep. I did manage to doze off until...

Our entire bathroom turned into a shower. Water poured from three light fixtures and streamed down the walls and poured out (it had a raised floor up off the side of our room with a sliding glass door) into our bedroom. Unfortunately the power was out. Unfortunately, I needed to use the restroom. Unfortunately, I could not wait, so I ended up having a midnight frigid shower! We were afraid the ceiling would cave in, so I handed James everything out of bathroom, makeup bags, towels, hair stuff, tooth brushes, and the like. James figured a couple of gallons per minute poured into the bathroom. Anything on one side of the bed was soaked in minutes. We quickly packed up everything in case we had to flee the room and then laid back down and just waited. We could tell the storm was starting to move off and again I managed to doze off until...

James woke me up again and said our bedroom roof was leaking right onto his head. I turned my iTouch into a flashlight (yes, there's an app for that) for the second time that night and we located several leaks in our room, with the biggest being right over our heads. We grabbed the recently rescued towels and used those where our pillows had been and scooted down low in the bed to avoid the drips and finally fell asleep around 3:00 a.m.

Well the roof didn't cave in. We did survive, and the sun was actually shining when we unfolded ourselves out of our fetal positions.

Our B&B hostess, Ute was horrified of our ordeal and the mess and moved us to the suite for tonight. So while we have this strange story, we also have her nicest room for our last night in the magical Les Baux.

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Les Baux

We arrived at Les Baux after we left Cassis, though we did stop at Aix de Provence for about two hours. Les Baux is magical to me. There is nothing like it. It is a tiny town carved out of the mountainside with origins and ruins dating back to the 12th century.

Clouds had started to gather by the time we arrived; around six. After checking into our B&B, we ate dinner and wandered the now nearly vacant town (all the day trippers had left). The cobbled streets are very narrow and wind upward toasted the ruins of an old chateau that housed the barons or lords that were in power. The town was attacked several times in it's history due to it's excellent location atop a high hill as well as for limestone, bauxite and fertile green valleys it controlled.

We brought our tiny car into town after seven when it is allowed, and brought our bags in as you do not want to risk ruining them by bumping them along the uneven stones. James is very intrigued by how people built and modernized such medieval buildings.

A huge storm rolled in our first night and we were awakened by monstrously loud claps of thunder and blinding flashes of lightening. It went on and off for several hours making it hard to sleep. We could hear the deluge and saw the damage it made the next day when we visited nearby St Remy to try to do laundry. Many stores were mopping out and closed, including the one laundromat. We decided to try again the next day.

I will write more about Les Baux again when I have more time, but I will tease you by saying we didn't get much sleep the next night either.


Moving on to the French Hills of Provence

James got a little burned yesterday. I think he needed a couple of additional applications of sunscreen. He very proud of his international burn, and men says he "planned it".

We moved from our regular room to the suite for one night- sigh... very nice. We usually try to have one splurge night somewhere in the trip, and this is where it fit in.

We have gotten quite hot and tended to sweat more than we are used to, so whenever we found a cool breeze we would put our hands on our hips and make it look like we were having an animated argument. In reality we typically would be trying to decide in what flavor of gelato to try next, or what in the world to buy Ricky for a gift.

Yesterday there was some kind of regatta race in the little bay. There were 1, 2, & 4 person slender boats with the long oars that raced out to a large buoy and back for several laps. It seemed there were 2 separate races. Other than that the town was MUCH quitter on Sunday than it was on Saturday. The waterfront marina area with all the restaurants and shops was a throng of people.

We leave Cassis later today, but not until we take a boat ride along the rugged coastline first. This area has fjiord-like fingers if rocks jutting out into the sea that they call Calanques. We want to explore them some today.

Later we will head on to Les Baux, a tiny hill town that is very romantic and sill be our home base while we check out other towns and sights like Nimes, and the famous aqueduct called Pont du Gard.

I hope to finally get photos uploaded sometime during this portion of our trip.

Talk to you all soon!

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Cassis Part Deaux

My last blog post got sent in mid-sentence the mention my iTouch came into wireless range.

What I had been saying was that I did buy one pair of sandals in Venice. However, I was disappointed almost the minute I walked out the door because they looked so ordinary. Ordinary won't cut it. So the search was still on.

I found my "bling blings" in St Tropez where they have a noted style made famous by a leather artisan. They are called St Tropeziennes. They are like nothing I have ever had for sure.

Today we have rented chaises on the beach and will do nothing.

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We rented our car in Nice and them headed for Grasse where I had some fragrance on order. Back in 2006, when Mandy and I were there, we crafted our own fragrances. I really liked Mandy's, so I ordered a bottle for myself. They had the day mixed up, so we had to kill some time while they made it up. We found the old town and toured Fragonard, a several hundred year old fragrance company which has been in the same family the entire time.

After going back and getting my perfume, we headed on to St Tropez. We watched massive yachts go in and out of the harbor while eating lunch. After some shopping, we were off to Cassis. I had heard of this harrowing cliffside road called Road de Cretes that had amazing views of the Mediterranean. We found the road and photos will not do it justice.

Cassis is a small fishing village that has become a destination for vacationers in the 20 years or so. James thinks it is romantic. We walked the marina area to find just the right spot for dinner, then sat near the water to watch the stars come out and a few fishermen cast their lines. I agree with James that it is very romantic.

Tomorrow is just a lazy day on the beach, shopping, and a boat ride.

Oh, I have to mention that I bought what I call my "bling bling" shoes. You have go buy shoes In Europe. I bought a pair in
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It has been quite warm each day; probably in the 80's. Monaco was quite an experience with the 100+ foot yachts, the exotic cars, and the very wealthy people coming out of shops like Chanel, Gucci, Ferragamo, Bruno Magli, and the like. I made sure to give them lots of elbow room on the sidewalk so they wouldn't be sullied. When we were at the marina one young woman (probably in her early 20's) had three or four Helpers carrying about five or six garment bags, each with several hangers, plus probably another dozen or more shopping bags, onto a huge yacht. Everyone took their shoes off before boarding the boat.

Today we rent a car and head off to Grasse to pick up fragrance I ordered, then St Tropez for lunch, then on to Cassis for the next 2 days.

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I am sitting at a tiny cafe here in Monaco just killing time while James tries his hand at the casino, Monte Carlo. It is probably in the upper 80's in the direct sun. This email will send once I am again in my hotel with the free wireless service, so don't be confused if you start calculating times and time zones.

I figure I have probably gained a pound or two, even with the heavy walking (we avg about 7 miles a day).
I am doing salads for lunch now. Darn.

Tomorrow we rent a car and head off for St Tropez and then on to Cassis, a small fishing village on the coast.

James is really loving these high-end, classier towns.

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Monaco today

Today we head off to Monaco. James is really liking Nice; the ambiance is oh so fine.

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Finishing Venice - on to Nice

September 2st was our last full day in Venice. We had a leisurely day getting lost in the alleys; we made a point of hitting spots we hadn't explored before. We found several churches we had not looked in. They were beautiful. One in particular had the most amazing paintings on the entire ceiling; it actually looked 3D.

Marco, the owner of our B&B, was back for our last breakfast. This is the fourth time I have stayed there. I love his place. It is the best value to be found in Venice.

After a quick last minute shopping and bank machine dash, we checked out and headed to the airport for out flight to Nice. Now we start the French Riviera portion of our trip. We will meander Nice today and check out Monaco on Sept 2nd.

After arriving in Nice, we took the bus to our hotel and checked in. We were pleasantly surprised by the room. It was very modem with its updates and the bed doesn't feel hard!

We walked the beach boardwalk for a few hours then had dinner. we did find the "old town" which was a labyrinth of tight streets filled with shops. dinner was wonderful, better than any other so far.

Tomorrow we head off to Monaco.

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Finishing up Venice

We are about six days into our trip and we are already exhausted.  We are walking an average of about 7 miles a day.  I also managed to get an infection in one of my toes right from the start so have been pouring some antiseptic on my toe several times a day to try to get that shut down. 

Paris weather was spotty and cool, with some rain on most days, but not bad.  One day we did the hop-on-hop-off bus that gave us a good tour of the major sites like the Louvre, Arc de Triomph, Champ d Elysees (not sure of the spelling here), and the like.  It was good considering it was cold and rainy for most of that day. 

On Monday, at least I think it was Monday, we went on to Venice.  Venice was bluster the first day, but was pleasant.  Jackie and Dale leave on their cruise from here and only had one full day in Venice, so we let them pick what they wanted to do.  We mostly toured around looking for the best shopping deals.  Today, I think it is Wednesday, we are on our own now and we will take the day a little slower.  I want to visit the churches, some museums, and pick up a few gifts.  Tonight will be drinks in Piazza San Marco with the bands trying to out play each other.  I love that.  Tonight is all about romance.

On Thursday we head off to Nice and the South of France. I am excited to show James the cool stuff that Mandy and I found when we were there in 2006.  It should be warm and beautiful. 

Next time I will try to post some pictures.