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Aug 12, 1961 - Europe 1961    No Comments

Florence, Day 1

Our tour started at 9 and our  first stop was was at the Medici chapels. The chapel done by Michelango is very simple but handsome – the sculpture of course is wonderful. The room forms a perfect background for the tombs & the figures. Then to the Baptistry & Cathedral – the outside of both are sticking with green, red, white marble but the inside’s ornate & uninteresting. We found the Pieta in the Duomo – then left to get refreshments outside. Took a beautiful drive across the Arno up into the hills to Piazza Michelangelo and Pitti PalaceA vast mainly Renaissance palace, situated on the south side of the River Arno, a short distance from the Ponte Vecchio. The core of the present palazzo dates from 1458 and was originally the town residence of Luca Pitti, an ambitious Florentine banker. The palace was bought by the Medici family in 1549 and became the chief residence of the ruling families of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. It grew as a great treasure house as later generations amassed paintings, plates, jewelry and luxurious possessions.. The latter contains an art gallery with some very famous works – 2 of Raphael’s Madonnas, Titians, Van Dyck, too many to absorb properly. Walked thru some of the rooms on my own – very handsome, elaborate chandeliers, hangings, chests, vases, etc.

After lunch at the hotel, more touring. The Uffizi Gallery – a tremendous one – with a most comprehensive collection. Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Fra Angelico, Filippino Lippi, Michelangelo’s Family, Raphael, Titian’s two Venus’s Reclining – but my feet gave out – the gallery has marble floors – very hard on the feet.

A long drive to Fiezols restored us – it was lovely in the day time – and then Harry & I left the tour. Went to Piazza della Signoria where some vino blanco revived us. I went shopping – prowled many streets & into many stores. Bought Christmas cards at Dilta Frangini which the Joe Kendricks had recommended, and a blouse at Bellini. Everyone here wears the beautiful silk over-blouses with pleated or straight skirts – I couldn’t resist any longer.

After a bath & drinks, we went over to Piazza della Stazione for aperitifs at an open air cafe and then to a nearby cellar restaurant, Buca MarioThe Buca Mario Restaurant was founded 1886. This is when its first owner and founder Mario Corsini decided to house a place in the Palazzo Niccolini's cellars where soup and ribollita could be served, along with a wine cavern.. Another very good meal – we have yet to have a poor one in Italy. This time I had Ravioli stuffed with spinach.

Jeannette got sick & had to leave. Harry & I taxied to Piazza della Replublica and sat and listened to the music and singing over coffee & brandy. We made friends with the couple next to us – Italians on a holiday from Trenta. We had a lot of fun trying to converse – me with my Berlitz he with a few words he’d learned in “P.W.O” camp. We exchanged addresses, promised to write.

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Aug 15, 1961 - Europe 1961    No Comments

Florence to Venice

The weather today was much better – more like Paris. Jeannette was still shaky so Allen, Harry & I left her at the hotel and went on a tour. We caught a bus for Piazza de Marco and in the Academy of Fine Arts, saw the “David”. It is beautifully displayed in a gallery along with several other works of Michelangelo – mostly unfinished – but still very gripping & impressive.

We taxied to the Bargello or National MuseumThe Bargello, also known as the Bargello Palace, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, or Palazzo del Popolo (Palace of the People) is a former barracks and prison, now an art museum, in Florence, Italy. where there is another room of Michelangelo’s works – the Bacchus, David – Apollo, a Madonna with Child, bust of Brutus. This museum too was fascinating – many sculptures, armor, guns, etc. Hard to leave.

We went to Pza. d. Signoria and had a beer – the crowd there is always interesting. Then went to Ponte Vecchio looking at the shops, made a couple of small purchases, and walked back to the hotel.

Jeannette was much better – in fact, had done some shopping. We ate, rested, packed and left on the train at around 4:30, arriving Venice at around 7:20. Allen & I played gin almost the whole way. The countryside was lovely as usual – vineyards, olive groves, peach orchards. Sometimes we went thru miles of tunnels thru mountains.

We arrived just at sunset & went to the Hotel Luna by a long gondola trip. The absence of traffic noises was amazing – but to see how the gondolier maneuvered was equally amazing.

We found our hotel right off the Grand Canal and only a few steps from St. Mark’s square. Our room was disappointingly modern – not atmospheric as you might suspect. But I’m only kidding – it was air-conditioned & fully furnished – even to a large piece of porcelain in each bedside table we didn’t know what to do with. Our bathrooms look European – completely marble, the bidet (of course) a sky light, and a towel as large as a sheet.

We had drinks in the hotel bar and ate outside – the walk outside our our patio seemed to be a a main thoroughfare. After dinner we joined the traffic to St. Mark’s Square. We had heard music coming from there during dinner – to our amazement, there was a huge symphony orchestra, hundreds of people milling around, tables set up out around the square. We sat for awhile – I had coffee then Tchaikovsky’s 4th lulled Harry to sleep so we folded.

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Aug 15, 1961 - Europe 1961    No Comments

Venice, Day 1

Harry & I had breakfast in our room, joined the tour downstairs outside the hotel. It was a ‘walking’ tour of St. Marks Square, the Cathedral & the Doge’s Palace. But to our surprise, it was much easier on the feet than we had expected – benches in every room of the Palace. The last part of the tour was a motor ride to Murano to see how the Venetian glass is blown. It was fascinating to watch and to do! Harry pushed me up to volunteer first to blow some glass; naturally I did itMy kingdom for a picture!! – and after you blow & blow – the strike the glass & break it. All this is a come-on to buy – so I did – a dozen gobletsWish I knew where these are/if she liked them/if we still have them!! I do hope I like them when they get to Waco – some several weeks hence. All are hand-made (or hand blown) of course and etched.

Back in Venice we bought some beads for Willie MaeOur housekeeper and one of my keepers while they were on this trip. Family will know this, because I harp on it, but I was only 2 when they went on this 6 week journey. in a store – then around the corner found the same for about 1/2 as much at the stand outside our hotel. After having some drinks, we decided to go to St. Mark’s at 2 for the pigeons. It was wild – the air was thick with them and like the tourists we are, we bought grain and fed them & took pictures.

Had light lunch at the hotel, then a gondola tour along the grand canal with a stop at one old palace – Rozzonico – wehre Robert Browning had stayed and died.

We walked back thru St. Mark’s Square – such commotion – hundreds of tourists, bands playing. I believe there are more tourists here than any place we’ve been – or else it seems that way because they’re all concentrated in or near the Square. And what an assortment of people – all nationalities , all kinds of dress – it defies description.

We changed clothes and caught a bus (motor boat) to Lido just at sunset – we had a lovely view of both Venice & Lido. We looked at the beach with its hundreds of cabanas, had a drink in the Excelsior bar, went thru the Casino, then motored back to Venice. A French couple sat with us and we made friends with them on the way back – they spoke a little English. He was a surgeon in Paris.

We had dinner at the hotel – 4 courses leaving us miserably stuffed. Desert was “Doge’s Kirsch” a specialty, fixed at the table & lighted. Harry & I took a couple of turns around St. Mark’s to walk some off & to hear the orchestra – the music was so good. But we were too tired for anything else & retired early.

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Aug 22, 1961 - Europe 1961    No Comments

Munich to Baden-Baden

Harry and I breakfasted upstairs on the top floor of the hotel – it is a little horrifying to see how much damage still exists from the bombing. Again, as in Innsbruck, there are many new buildings around the station but here, there were still remaining many gutted buildings. From the guidebooks, we learned how many of the old buildings had been reconstructed & repaired. There is an enormous amount of building going on all over the city. It truly a shame we didn’t have more time here – it looks as if there would be much of interest.

Harry and I caught a trolley & went to the J. A. Henkels store to look at the knives – but it was a disappointment. It seems that, in this store anyway, they don’t have some of the things they export to the U.S. We ended up buying some kitchen knives and sewing scissors.

We met the Early’s at the hotel & drove across country on the Autobahn, the super-4-lan4 highway that Hitler had built. It was a relief to get on a good highway and we made very good time. From Munich to the west, there are few hills – we’d left the Alps behind – mostly rolling countryside with larger farms than in the South, bigger barns & more machinery. Even so, the women were in the fields, as in Austria & Switzerland, helping with the harvest (hay). It rained intermittently all day – it seems there are many showers in Germany maybe accounting for the lush fields of wheat, cabbages & in one or two places fields (or nurseries ) with gladiolas & other flowers.

We left the Autobahn temporarily at Uln and Jeannette and I visited the Munster Cathedral – it has the tallest spire in the world. Maybe because it is Protestant, or maybe because the organist was playing, it was the first time I’d visited a church in Europe that I had a feeling of reverence – there were only a few people in the sanctuary and all had a reverent attitude – instead of the noisy throngs in the other Cathedrals.

We had lunch at a nearby restaurant, the Golden Ox, then returned to the Autobahn. Arrived Baden-Baden about 4 o’clock. I had thought we’d be in the middle of the Black Forest but we’re not – we actually saw more forest yesterday from Neuschwanstein to Munich.

Our hotel, one of dozens in this resort town, is very nice & is well situated – away from the train station. There is a nice balcony outside our room but it seems to shower too much to use it.

Harry and I wanted to look at umbrellas so we took a long walk past the shops. When it began to rain, we bought one for each of us – everyone on the street here carries one – you just feel undressed without it!

After dinner, we went to the Casino & played Roulette for a couple of hours – it was interesting to watch & fun to play – we came out a little ahead. The casino is very plush – carpets, chandeliers, statuary,, silk wall covering, etc. Got home about midnight.

I seem to concentrate a lot on our hotel rooms but in each there seems to be a surprise. Here and in Munich, the top cover is not a sheet, not a blanket – but ??? {water stain makes this unreadable} – a sort of a feather comfort thing that is very warm but there is not alternative. Also in Baden-Baden, our bath was a “Thermal-Bad” – mineral water, as well as plain, piped to the tub as you could take the baths in your room. There was a thermometer provided for the bath water, the only trouble being that it registered Centigrade instead of Fahrenheit.

Before we leave the South of Germany, I musn’t forget to comment on the numbers of pinickers we’ve seen – in Austria, Switzerland, & Germany. All had equipment – folding tables, chairs, even lounge chairs, which they carried around in or on top to their cars. So that is one reason, I suppose, that everywhere we went {?} groups – even on the {?} mountain pass. They don’t have to stop at a roadside park as people do in the States, because they carry their own equipment.

Also – the baby carriages! From the time we got on the boat train at Cherbourg, all the way around Europe. I have been amazed at the vast quantities of baby carriages – in the fields, in the cities, in the villages, on the highways, inside of & on top of little cars, etc. It’s pretty obvious that families take their babies everywhere they go – we’ve seen babes in arms 0n many a sightseeing tour – and it’s obvious that we’ve been through sme very fertile – and Catholic – countries!

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