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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Grocery Stores are My Museums

by Lulu

When we travel, Harry loves to visit historical museums – particularly those with planes hanging from the ceiling.  But I think the best way to find out about the culture of a region is to visit their grocery stores.  I love going to Monoprix in France, Waitrose in England, and Lindl in Germany.  There was a great store next to our hotel in Maastricht in the Netherlands and Harry will admit he enjoyed the chocolate puddings complete with whipped cream for .19 euro.   There are products we don’t have here in the U.S. or they are packaged differently.  Some of the European stores have refrigerated shelves where they keep the dairy products that look like regular shelves.  Eggs aren’t refrigerated at all in England and in France there is more wine than soda.
But you don’t have to travel outside of the U.S. to experience different cultures.  I remember when I was teaching in Arizona how the supermarkets there devoted an entire aisle to salsa.  An even closer cultural phenomenon to us is the Piggly Wiggly.  There are two Piggly Wigglys in Blountstown, Florida on Route 20 about 40 miles away.  They are between Tallahassee and the beaches on the gulf coast so I must make a stop each time we go.  There are products there that you don’t see in other stores.  I always find something to buy.  We stopped on the way back from Panama City on Monday.  I bought some string beans to make with ham I had at home and also picked up a jar of “cranberry spread” which I had never seen before and I love cranberries.  I also bought some drink mix that is iced tea/lemonade/pomengranate.  That mix at Whole Foods would cost about 8 dollars but I paid $1.50.  You can see in the photos here of some other unique products that I didn’t buy. 
I first became aware of Piggly Wiggly in the movie, Driving Miss Daisy.  Miss Daisy was a wealthy older woman in Atlanta and had a black chauffer who drove her everywhere – including the Piggly Wiggly.  They are a southern tradition.  I found that there is a museum in Memphis that has an historical Piggly Wiggly replica:
Maybe Harry and I can both be happy with a stop there. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Trip to Vadosta Georgia - Wild Adventures

Valdostians like to tell the story about the wild elephant. The circus used to "winter" in Valdosta in the old days. One day an elephant broke loose.  It ran up and down main street terrorizing the locals. The sheriff shot the elephant. 

About 70 miles north and east of Tallahassee is Valdosta GA. In the old days - it was a railroading center for the lumber and the cotton industries. Now it is famous for Wild Adventures - a budget water and theme park. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Lulu's Birthday Was Sunday

We were home from Europe for only 24 hours - but time marches on. I had a little party for Lulu's July 12th birthday. About 20 neighbors showed up to enjoy - cake - ice cream - drinks - and snacks.  

Madrid - Last Night In Town With Flamenco

After the Flamenco Show - Friday night in Madrid

Friday night was our last night in Europe. Lulu wanted to see Flamenco dancers. We were sitting in a KFC - yes Kentucky Friend Chicken - in Madrid. It was the only place we could find with free wifi and free soda refills. Lulu was surfing the net and found a Flamenco Show that was only 1/4 mile away. The show was to start in 30 minutes.

We scurried over to find the place sold out. After much begging - and telling them we were going home the next day - they pulled out an extra table - put a table cloth on it - and we sat down in the middle of everything. It was a delightful show - and after a glass of sangria - everything was fine.

See the two videos below of the dancers.


We woke up at 7 AM Saturday to catch our plane home at 10 AM. After a quick ride to the airport - we asked if they needed volunteers to give up their seats for cash. They did not offer cash - but they did offer us a business class ticket with the bed and VIP service. We would have gotten home 3 hours later - but those tickets cost like $3500! Lulu had not had her coffee yet - and she was a little cranky. We turned it down.

After we ate some breakfast - Lulu started thinking it over - and would have taken the free business class bed tickets - but alas - when I asked again - they were not available any more. We had a nice flight home from 10 AM Saturday to 5:30 PM. The flight to Atlanta was 9 hours. But it was daylight all the way - we did not sleep - we watched movie - after movie - after movie. They fed us 3 times!

Marge was at the airport waiting for us in her Caddy. We were in the house by 6 PM.

17 days in Planes - Trains - Buses - Cabs - Scooters. Netherlands - Belgium - France - Spain .

Lulu stopped by this library. When she said she was a USA library professor - they gave her a wonderful tour.  The little panel trucks looks just like the one we eloped in - in 1971. Notice there is a guy inside it - with that big blind spot he back up and nearly nailed Lulu. 

My favorite seat in Madrid - overlooking the Plaza Del Sol - form the second floor of the KFC. Free soda refills - free wifi - good air conditioning. Lulu found our Flamenco Show here on her iPhone.

Friday, July 10, 2015

We Are Spending Our Last Two Days In Madrid

See Lulu along the fence in front of the Royal Palace. It was almost sunset here and still 100 degrees. Still - Madrid is pretty - and hot and dry is definitely nicer than hot and humid.

Madrid is a wonderful city even if the temperature was over 100 all day. As they say - it is a dry heat. It sucks the sweat right out of you - you never appear wet. Before you know it-  you drop over from dehydration.

Our train from Barcelona was about 3 hours. Some country big whigs go onto our car late - with all the body guards - etc. At the other end - another entourage was there to whisk them away.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Touring Barcelona - Just Two Days Left In Madrid - Then Home

Breakfast - I ordered a cup of hot chocolate - check it out. 

We spent all day Wednesday on a hop on / hop off bus tour of Barcelona. It is a giant cosmopolitan city of 1.5 million people - 3 million if you count the area. The Olympics of 1992 invigorated this city - they developed slums for the Olympics and they are now desired upscale housing along the beach. 

Harry's next toy - a Piaggio Ape - three wheeled truck - can be registered as a scooter

This bull arena has been turned into a 6 story mall.

Lots of meat markets

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Spain - Barcelona - Melia Sky Hotel For the Next 2 Nights

When we arrived in Barcelona - our trip was delayed by car falling from the highway and onto the railroad tracks ahead of us - we did not have a hotel booked. Lulu wanted something better than last night's place in Bordeaux. We got online in the station and she scored the Melia Sky Barcelone - a 4 star - for $101. It is near the Mediterranean Beach - we are on the 8th floor - we just got back from the stainless steel pool on the 6th floor. 

We took the train from the northwest corner of France all the way down the coast - skirted the Pyrenee Mountains - and ended up to Barcelona. We stopped in Nantes - Bordeaux - and Narbonne. 

We plan to stay in Barcelona 2 nights - then take a 2 hours train to Valencia - we will visit the FSU campus there - then will finished up in Madrid. We fly home from there on July 11th. 

Once we crossed the border into Spain we notice these gigantic new train stations - carved into the mountains underground. They are way over the top compared to anything we saw in France - Netherlands - etc. For how grand they are- they were not that busy. I am guessing it has something to do with the European Union upgrading Spain a little. 

The hotel is very modern - just like son Keith likes. Note the extra bed in the room. 

Spent Last Night In Bordeaux - In Route To Barcelona Now

Will be in Barcelona today - will stay 2 nights. Lulu is checking out 4 star hotels as I type.

We arrived in Bordeaux late last night and our room was tiny. It had a kitchen and bath but it was camper size.

Madrid is supposed to be 100 degrees all week. We spend our last 2 nights there.

Southern France is pretty but they have no idea what AC is.

We have 4 nights left. We have been sleeping really well.

We cross over into Spain shortly. We will skirt the Pyrenees along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

Monday, July 06, 2015

France - Lorient - We Spent A Night In The Home Of The Nazis Wolf Pack Sub Pens

From 1940 to 1945 - most of France was occupied by the Nazis. Hitler planned to rule the world for one thousand years and it appears that he planned to do much of it from France. He heavily fortified the entire French Coast.

The subs rode these trolleys into the sub pens in K1 and K2.

Thanks to the UBoat fleet - Hitler very nearly won the war in 1942. He had built a series of fortified submarine pens along the coast at Brest - St Nazaire - Bordeaux - etc. The Uboats could sail into the underground pens undetected - where they could be refurbished  and reloaded. The pens were self-sufficient. They had their own supplies of fuel - electricity - water - and food. As a matter of fact - when the Nazis surrendered in Reims - the troops in the submarine pens refused to come out. The Allies solved that problem by completely leveling the city of Lorient - nothing was left standing. The base would have nothing to support it. 

Saturday, July 04, 2015

July 4th - 1942 - the USS Norlandia was sunk by a German Uboat

Here are some random notes I found out about the ship my grandfather died on in World War II.
ex- Lake Galata 1926 purchased from US Shipping Board renamed Wyoming 1941 chartered to Norgulf renamed Norlandia 1942 torpedoed and sunk off Dominican Republic
2689 July 4
Crew 9 died
July 3 - Unarmed U.S. freighter Norlandia steaming from San Juan Puerto Rico to Nuevitas Cuba is torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-575 at 19°33'N 68°39'W; nine crewmen lose their lives. U-575's commanding officer Kapitanleutnant Gunther Heydemann apparently genuinely solicitous of the needs of those whose ship he has just torpedoed gives them a bottle of brandy before the boat departs (see 4 and 5 July).
July 4 - Fourteen survivors from U.S. freighter Norlandia sunk by German submarine U-575 the previous day reaches Samana  Dominican Republic (see 5 July).
July 5 - Seven survivors from U.S. freighter Norlandia  sunk by German submarine U-575 on 3 July  reaches Samana  Dominican Republic.

At 03.38 hours on 4 Jul  1942  the unescorted and unarmed Norlandia (Master Herbert Elvin Callis) was torpedoed by U-575 about 25 miles northeast of Cape Samana  San Domingo. The torpedo struck on the starboard side between the engine room and the #3 hatch. The explosion tore up the deck  destroyed the radio room  jammed the machinery and caused the ship to flood rapidly  sinking by the stern after 15 minutes. The 21 survivors among the crew of eight officers and 22 crewmen abandoned ship in two lifeboats and were later questioned by Heydemann  who expressed regret at having to sink an American ship and gave them a bottle of German brandy before leaving. He reported the ship erroneously as the Panamanian steam merchant Portland. One boat with 14 survivors landed after 18 hours at Saman√°  Dominican Republic  while the other boat arrived 12 hours later.

U-575 - Type VIIC
Commissioned: Jun 19 1941 Fate: Sunk Date: Mar 13 1944
Sunk 13 March, 1944 in the north Atlantic north of the Azores, in position 46.18N, 27.34W, by depth charges from the Canadian frigate HMCS Prince Rupert, the US destroyer USS Hobson, the US destroyer escort USS Haverfield, and by depth charges from a British Wellington and Fortress aircraft (Sqdn. 172/B and 206/R and 220/J) and Avenger aircraft of the US escort carrier USS Bogue. 18 dead and 37 survivors.

Lorient - Sunday We Go To Lorient - France

Lulu pretty well has the rest of our tour penciled in.

After Lulu's convention in the Netherlands - we are vagabonding across Europe using Eurail Passes. They are deeply discounted first class train tickets that Americans must buy before they get to Europe. We are spending July 2 to 11 - on trains seeing things we have never seen before. Today it was Reims - tomorrow it is Lorient.

Lorient was my choice. It is on the Northwest Atlantic Coast of France. The Nazis build giant concrete pens for their Uboats there. Some consider them one of the wonders of the world. The roofs are 40 feet of poured concrete - the allies hit them with our best bombs and could not damage them. We eventually chose to burn the city and starve them out. This was one of the holdouts after the Nazis surrendered. 

The Nazis ruled over France from 1940 to 1945. I am surprised that the French have allowed these pens to survive - they are a glaring example of how the Nazis reigned over the French.

My grandfather - Roy Shartle Everhart - was killed by a Nazi Uboat - U575. It sailed out of Lorient. It sunk my grandfather's freighter (USS Norlandia) on July 4th 1942 - 73 years ago TODAY. U575 never made it back to Lorient - it was sunk 3 months later. 

Our train from Reims to Lorient takes over 6 hours. We did not want to go back through Paris but it is much quicker that way. Lulu got us a hotel on Priceline in Lorient for 56 euros. It is called Hotel Escale Oceania.

REIMS - France - World War II Ended Here

Notre Dame Cathedral in Reims. They are doing repair work.
It is called learning readiness - I never heard of Reims before. The word just blended into the background of world news for me. When Lulu said she wanted to see Reims - I said what the heck. 

Reims sits about 80 miles northeast of Paris. It is the capital of champagne country. Just south of town is Epernay which Don Perginon Champagne is bottled. 

This is the Reims Opera House from the second floor of McDonalds. You can see the Notre Dame Cathedral sticking out over the roof.

The Notre Dame Cathedral was the site of many of the French coronations. Louis XIV was crowned here. The cathedral was started in 1210. It was damaged in both World Wars. Imagine - this church has been standing 800 years.
This is the east side - or back - of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Reims.

We missed Our Train To Reims - So We Spent Thursday Night in Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

Our train from Maastricht via Liege and Brussels got into Paris too late to catch our next train to Reims. So Lulu found us a nice room at the Hotel Appia near the station. We cleaned up and took the subway to the Seine River. We walked the river form the Notre Dame Cathedral almost to the Eiffel Tower. Paris is called the City of Lights - and we enjoyed looking at them as we walked. Before we knew it - it was time to go back to ur hotel. It was about 2 AM when we hit the sack. In the morning we caught the train to Reims. 

Lulu at Notre Dame
The Louvre on the Seine - looking west to east. The Louve was at one time the palace of Louis XIV -  but he built Versaille and moved the government there for much of his 70 year reign.
This little electric Renault - called a Twingo was parked on the sidewalk west of the Louvre. 

There was a big carnival west of the Louvre. Lulu got freshly made cotton candy there for 2 euros - then they shut down the machine for the night. It is sorta like closing down a bar.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Just Arrived in Reims From Paris

We are at our hotel in Reims - our home for 2 nights. 

We left Paris at 1 PM and were here before 2 PM - in our hotel at 2:05 PM. We are waiting for our room to be ready at 3 PM - we have free wifi. I am surprised how nice the hotel is for 61 euros including tax. It is right downtown on a main square. 

It is hot here - 92 - but not as humid as Tallahassee. They do not keep the AC down as low as we are used to  :-) Spoiled Americans. 

Reims is much quieter than Paris - much less traffic.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Maastricht - Netherlands - Last Night in Town

Robert C Everhart killed fighting the Nazis. 

Is is 9:30 PM - our last evening in Maastricht. The sun is still out. Lulu has one meeting tomorrow - then the rest of the trip is for us. It is sort of like the bombers flying over Germany in WWII - the first half of their trip was for the motherland - the second half was for themselves.

Today I did 3 important things. First - I did the laundry. One of the ways to pack a small bag is to wear things at least 3 times. We got 7 days out of the first session - now we are fresh for another 7 days. 

Second - I visited the little mountain resort town of Valkenberg. It was here that Beatrice of Falkenburg grew up, who, in 1269 at the age of 15, married 60-year old Richard of Cornwallking of the Holy Roman Empire. I can relate to these guys.  There is also a Casino here. 

Finally - I visited the American Cemetery of the Netherlands. It is about 10 miles east of Maastricht. Here there are 8301 Americans who died nearby fighting the Nazis. I found the grave of one Robert C Everhart.  I did a little research about him. He was 30 - not married - has 2 brothers and 2 sisters. He got killed in an ambush. His birthday is August 9th. He lived in Ohio. 

Everhart is buried at the American Cemetery near Maastricht

John J Cox is also buried here.

Melissa Johnston Presenting at the IASL Convention in The Netherlands

Melissa Johnston is a professor at the University of Alabama. She was one of Lulu's doctoral students at Florida State University. She is doing several presentations at this International Association of School Librarians Convention. 

The group meets around the world. So far - Lulu has attended their conference in Malmo in Sweden - Hong Kong in China - and now Maastricht in the Netherlands. 

The Limestone Hills Hide Much Of The History of Maastricht - Day 6

Just south of town is the entrance to the mine. Inside that tunnel - there are 200 miles of passage ways - some extend over into Belgium. The Dutch hid "The Night Watch" by Rembrandt here so the Nazis couldn't take it. Several Jews used these tunnels to avoid the Nazis. This is a mine - not a cave - it is man made. 

Limestone was cut out of the tunnels by hand. They have been taking it out for 700 years. Later - the mines were opened as tourist attractions - and charcoal drawings were placed right on the walls. Inside - the mines are relatively clean and dry. It is only 52 degrees in the cave. I was carrying a mantle lamp which was very hot and it kept my legs and arms warm.

This young tourist is using a small saw to show high easily the limestone was to cut. Underground limestone absorbs moisture like a sponge. When brought outside it took 2 weeks to dry out. Then it became a very hard building stone. Also the limes stone was crushed to make cement. A typical worked would remove two blocks a day - each a little less than a ton. Horses were used to haul them out. On the wall you can see the outline of where blocks were cut out.

This drawing is of a worker sharpening his saw.

This drawing shows all of the tunnels in the mine. The layer of limestone is about 30 feet thick.

More cave drawing in the Saint Peters mine.

I drove about 10 miles south of town on my scooter to Eben-Emael and the famous WWII fort. I did not realize that I had driven into Belgium - there are no border stops - no lines across the road. 

At Fort Eben-Emael - there are still relics left from the war.

This is the entrance to Fort Eben-Emael. At one time - this was the strongest fort in Europe. Most of it is in the mountain. France had built the famous Maginot Line of forts to protect from Germany. The Germans simple went a few miles north and attacked this fort in Belgium. They practiced for days on a mock-up fort. They designed a plan where gliders full of men landed on the top and took the fort from inside. This fort protected 3 bridges crossing the canal and the Meuse River. The Germans flooded into the low country then were in Paris quickly. 

Fort Eben-Emael is really a mountain honeycombed with tunnels in the soft limestone.

Some Belgian vehicles were still milling around the fort - like this neat jeep

We have rented a cheap Chinese knockoff scooter. It costs about 40 euros a day. This scooter costs about 1000 euros new. It is governed to 15 MPH which allows us to drive on bike paths - sidewalks - plazas - and streets. To give you the idea of speed - our Vespa at home goes 65 MPH. Even though we are only going 15 MPH over here - it sure saves your legs so you can walk around at night.

Fort Saint Peter was carved out of the mountain in 1701. From this fort - the cannons can cover the whole city and the Meuse River. They chose this spot for the fort because when Louis XIV attacked the Netherlands - he chose this spot to invade. In the background you see Maastricht.

Fort Saint Peter is just south of downtown. There are daily guided tours. 

Lulu And I Met At This Pool In The Summer Of 69

Tamaqua had a big storm yesterday. It caused a lot of mud to be washed into our old swimming pool. I worked as a life guard and met my wife there. Later - we built a home overlooking the spot where we met. We lived there 30 years and raised our two sons there.

Later Lulu became a life guard there and more years later our sons were life guards there.

Tamaqua is a small town of 8000 people in the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania. It was a coal mining and railroading community. Both industries are virtually gone.

Added - July 2 - The people of Tamaqua took just 24 hours to drain the pool and clean out the mess. What a job well done.