Let’s Have Lunch

There are so many choices when it comes to eating in Paris. Cafes line streets, vendors sell there wares in the street and deciding where to eat can be a challenge.

My friends and I settled on the Cafe Leone in the area surrounding Notre Dame. I would recommend this charming little restaurant to anyone looking for a quick bite. Their pizza was delicious.

Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile

The Arc de Triomphe, was commissioned by napoleon in 1806. It wasn’t until 1836 when it was inaugurated in King Louis-Philippe. The monument is dedicated to the armies of the Revolution and the Empire.

Within the small arches are engraved The names of 600 military leaders who served during the French First Republic and the First French Empire. Underlined names signify those who died on the battlefield.

The Unknown Soldier was buried at the base of the arch in 1921. The flame of remembrance is rekindled every day at 18:30. Every year on November 11th a special ceremony is held.

Of the four statues on the Arcs pillars is Le Départ de 1792 or La Marseillaise by sculptor, Francois Rude. The sculpture celebrates the cause of the French First Republic during the August 10th uprising. Above the volunteers is the winged representation of Liberty. During World War I it served as a recruitment tool and encouraged the French to buy war loans in 1915–1916.

La Marseillaise is the French National Anthem. Originally known as The War Song For The Republic Of The Rhine. The melody became a rallying cry for The French Revolution and became La Marseillaise after army volunteers from Marseillaise were heard singing it in the streets.

To help you plan your own trip to visit this monument check out the official website.

https://www.paris-arc-de-triomphe.fr/en/

Flower Bike Man

Along the bridges and streets of Amsterdam keep your eyes peeled for the Flower Bikes. These are the handiwork of an American man named Warren Gregory, Flower Bike Man. When his wife had difficulty finding her bike, he decorated hers with colorful flowers so it stood out. He also decorated a number of abandoned bikes and staged them along the route home to their houseboat so she wouldn’t get lost.

Souvenir and Window Shopping

As I walked along the canals of Amsterdam, I noticed these funny little boys in a window.

Among the items for sail are items of Blue Delft ceramic. These delicately painted vases and plates were crafted at a 33 different “porcelain” factories. Only one of them is still in business, Royal Delft. These items are made of earthenware but were designed to compete with Chinese porcelain.

Some of the most popular Delft Blue items are the Kissing Couple. No one knows for sure the true history of the young lovers. Some think they are based on a photo taken in 1920.

Wandering the streets of Amsterdam you can find Antique Shops, Sweet Shops, Bakery’s and Dutch Cheese Shops. There’s literally something for everyone.

Seven Country Houses

Architect Tjeerd Kuipers, is most famous for the aptly named Seven Country Houses. The row of seven houses represent the architectural styles of Europe. Exotism is the term for a romanticized longing for what is far away. Each of the houses is built in a different architectural style representing seven different countries in Europe.

Germany, France, Russia, England, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands are all represented in architectural styles of their respective countries.

If you’d like to see these for yourself head to…

32II Roemer Visscherstraat
Amsterdam, 1054 EZ
Netherlands

52.3615, 4.8770

Please remember these are people’s homes and businesses so don’t be a nuisance.

Fishing Village to Modern City

The Dutch capital of Amsterdam in The Netherlands started out as a fishing village in the 13th century. Today it is a cosmopolitan city full of historic neighborhoods and an exciting nightlife.

The 17th century is considered Amsterdam’s Golden Age. Thinkers and artists such as Rembrandt and Descartes called Amsterdam home.

Along the canals, the narrow houses were built by merchants. They had their businesses in the front with access to the canals and lived in the back and above. A trio of canals Prinsengracht, Herengracht and Keizergracht encircle the historic city center. The waterways gave the merchants a means to bring goods and materials into the city. The houses average 25 -35 feet across and have steep gabled roofs.

You can lose an afternoon wandering the streets of Amsterdam. Every facade has a story to tell.

Going Bananas in Cologne

The name Thomas Baumgartel may not be a household name, but his contribution to world art scene cannot be forgotten. He is affectionately known as “Banana Sprayer” in grafitti circles.

As you venture about Cologne, keep an eye out for Baumgartel’s handiwork. In 1987, he spraypainted a banana on the Museum Ludwig. Later that same night he was apprehended in a major sweep and spent the night in jail.

The banana tag is seen as a badge of honor, patrons could tell a museum was worth visiting if it had been deemed so by Baumgartel.

Want to learn more and see Baumgartel’s studio, click below…

Shrine of the Three Wisemen

Dreikönigsschrein, the Reliquary of the Three Kings is a tomb where they say that the remains of the Three Wise Men are enshrined. Set in a huge display case behind the main altar of the Cologne Cathedral, this is considered to be the largest shrine in the western world.

It took the world renowned goldsmith, Nicolau de Verdun spent half of a century building this masterpiece. The shrine was completed in 1225 and the remains of the Magi were laid to rest here.

This golden Reliquary of the Three Kings is made of wood, coated with gold, silver, enamel, and adorned with precious and semi-precious stones.

According to the legend, Queen Helena, mother of Constantine travelled to the Middle East to find the remains and bring them back to Cologne. The reliquary is comprised of three sarcophagi, two on the bottom and one on top.

More about the Three Wisemen can be found at this link…

http://projects.leadr.msu.edu/medievalart/exhibits/show/reliquary_cathedral_comparison/three_magi

Das Rathaus in Koln

The Cologne City Hall is one of the oldest Rathauses in Germany. Documents that mention the City Hall date back as far as the mid-12th century referring to a “House of the citizens”. In the 14th century, the current city hall was built on its foundation.

In the early 15th Century, a tower resembling a church steeple was added. The 5 story tower of the Rathaus is decorated with 124 figures of emperors, kings, popes, honorary citizens of Cologne and patron saints of the city. Due to a poor choice of building materials the figures deteriorated over several centuries and were restored several times.

When standing in the square, take a look back at the city hall tower. Watch the clock every hour when it chimes. When the clock strikes, the bearded head beneath it shows tongue and starts teasing passerbys.

As you’re looking at the carved figures, pay special attention to what they are standing on. You will see a number of monkeys, musicians and hidden under a larger statue of Archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden, there is a man giving oral sex to himself. Dating back to 1410, the obscene carving was a popular motif in the Middle Ages. It literally represents showing one’s backside to the authorities. The carvers wanted to show that they don’t care about the morals or the public appearance of the authority figures.

Konrad von Hochstaden was the Archbishop of Cologne from 1238 – 1261. His position as one of the seven elector seats of the Holy Roman Empire made him quite powerful. Kings throughout Europe beseeched him for his approval before their coronation. In addition to laying the foundation stone for the Koln Cathedral, it’s also thought he used his authority to implement a tax on beer. Probably a very poor decison given the number of breweries in the city.

If you want more information or plan a visit The Rathaus follow this link.

https://www.cologne-tourism.com/see-experience/poi/historic-town-hall/

The Elves Fountain

Near the Cathedral in Colgne is a charming fountain. The sculpted characters respresent the heroes of a German folksong. These “magic helpers” worked there magic at night when the citizens are fast asleep to help finish the households chores they has started earlier.
Even though the elves loved to be hard at work, they did not like being around humans. All went well until one evening the tailor’s wife decided she wanted to see the helpers. She scattered peas all over her floor in hopes that the little elves would slip on them and then she could rush in to see them for herself.

She heard a commotion and quickly lit her lantern and stomped her feet. The elves ran out of the house and were so offended that they left the city. The people of Cologne then had to finish all of there chores by themselves.

You can see the hardworking elves and the tailor’s wife with her lantern carved into the fountain.

Basilica Church of St. Ursula

Built on the ancient ruins of a Roman cemetery, where 11,000 virgins associated with the legend of Saint Ursula were supposedly buried. Inside the church is a reliquary featuring the bones of these martyred girls. The story of Saint Ursula is now considered to be fiction. It’s thought that there were originally 11 girls accompanying St. Ursula but over the years the letter M was mistaken for the Roman numeral for 1000.

Hahnentorburg (Hahnen Gate)

There are 12 gates through which you can enter the city of Cologne. Hahnentorburg is the most popular.

The gate features 2 semi-circular towers. In between you can see Cologne’s Coat of Arms. As was the case with much of Cologne, the gate was damaged during WWII and later rebuilt.

On the day I visited, there was a flea market going on with many vendors set up along the path to the Gate.

Locks of Love

There is an arched bridge that spans the Rhine River in Cologne. Hohenzollern Bridge has become a “Love Lock” bridge where couples lock a padlock onto the bridge and throw the key into the river to show their love and devotion.

Is Someone Watching Me?

In Gothic architecture, a gargoyle is a carved figure with spout to move water away from the building and prevent damage from rainwater eroding the mortar between the bricks.

A gargoyle is often times a fantastic creature, an animal or grotesque creation.

The French word gargouille which means throat or gullet leads to the name and gargoyle calls to mind the sound of the water rushing out it’s mouth as it gargles.

A carved figure that does not act as a rainspout is called a Chimera or grotesque.

Beyond The Marktplatz: Schnoor Quarter

The oldest and most quaint sections of Bremen is the Schnoor Quarter. A tangled maze of small streets are lined with shops and restaurants. The name Schnoor refers to the workshops where the rigging for ships were made. This neighborhood was one of the poorest and home to the local fishermen. Many of the half timbered buildings date back to 1400 and 1500’s.

The Rathaus

A Unesco World Heritage site, the Bremen Rathaus is one of the most beautiful buildings in Europe. The brick gothic hall was built in the 15th century. This incredible building was designed and built in 1400. While a large protion of Bremen was destryed in WWII, the Rathaus was unscathed.

Bremen’s Knight Roland

Bremen is an amalgam of the old and the new. The historic square or Marktplatz features a huge statue of the Knight Roland, which symbolizes the rights and priviledges of the Hanseatic City. Hanseatic refers to a medieval merchant’s guild. Roland was a protector of the trade group.

The Brementown Musicians

One of my favorite Brothers Grimm fairytales was The Brementown Musicians. Even though the title characters never made it to the town, you can still visit them in Bremen.

In the classic tale, a donkey, a rooster, a dog and a cat escape their respective abusive farmers and set out to become a famous group of musicians in the free city of Bremen. Along the way, they see a lit cottage and peer in the windows to see a band of thieves counting their ill-gotten treasures. They decide to scare the thieves and take over the cottage as there own. Once the thieves are chase off, they spend the rest of their days in the cottage, never making it to the city.

Next to the Rathaus or City Hall in Bremen is a scuplture depicting the musicians. Be sure to rub the Donkey’s leg for good luck.

In front of the Rathaus is the Hole of the Brementown Musicians. Toss a coin into the hole and hear one of the animals. Just look for the signs.

All around the town are representations of the musicians.

Ackbar Returns

After a full 15 months of travel from The US to Canada to Panama Canal to Germany to The Netherlands to France, Ackbar and I have returned home and now it’s time to sort through thousands of photos and memories. We spent a month in Papenburg, Germany from April to May of 2022.

Papenburg, Germany is situated on the Ems River in Lower-Saxony. For Disney fans this is where the Meyer-Werft Shipyard is located and the Disney Cruise LIne ships – Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy and Disney Wish have been built. Each ship starts it journey along the Ems to the North Sea on it’s way to new adventures.

A charming city of canals, windmills and sailing ships, Papenburg is a delightful escape from Germany’s more metropolitan cities. With a population of about 40,000 people, the city has a very laid back feel. There is something for everyone here, fine dining, shopping, culture events and historic sights.

The Rathaus is Papenburg’s City Hall. Located on the Haupkanal, this Neo-baroque building was built in 1913.

One of six sailing ship replicas on display in the canals of Papenburg, The Freiderike is situated outside the Rathaus. These stand as a symbol of the area’s rich shipbuilding tradition.

Meyer’s Mill, erected in 1888 is between the canal and the city park.

Muhle’s Mill is near the city center.

We can’t talk about Papenburg without talking about the many wonderful restaurants. Be sure to brush up on your German as many of the residents do not speak English. Despite the language difference, we managed to dine at these restaurants on multiple nights and eventually made friends with the owners who remembered our favorites.

Wirsthaus am Zeitspeicher has excellent wienerschnitzel

https://www.wirtshaus-am-zeitspeicher.de/

Adriatik had an amazing filet

https://www.restaurant-adriatik.de/

Olympia had the most delicious Beef Stroganoff

https://www.olympia-papenburg.de/

Bellini served Italian favorites, I highly recommend the Filet Gorgonzolo with Pasta.

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100063545115044

Mediterra served us a memorable meal in their upstairs dining room.

https://www.mediterra-papenburg.de/

Papenburg has a convenient train station where you can roam around Germany and Europe. We visited Koln and Bremen from here.

Searching for Easter Eggs…

Avenger’s Campus is full of Easter eggs for the entire Marvel universe. Keep your eyes peeled and you never know what you might see.

In WEB, Worldwide Engineering Brigade headquarters teenage superheroes in training have been assembled by Tony Stark to develop new technology. On the way to your look for the hallway full of lockers. So many young heroes are taking part in the Campus, Miles Morales, America Chavez and Harley Keener have all decorated their own lockers.

While waiting for your turn, don’t forget to check out the bulletin boards.

Even the cleaning supplies in WEB Slingers may hide a secret. Do you know characters Monkey Joe, Wal Rus, and Goom? WDI 1401 is a reference to Walt Disney Imagineering at 1401 Flower Street, Glendale, Ca.

Over in the Web Supplies store, you never know what may be lying round in plain site. Look up high and read the labels.

A Galaxy Not-So-Far Away

If you ever wanted to feel what it was like to be Luke Skywalker, look no further than Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Every inch of this land, is full of eye candy and Easter eggs. Build your own lightsaber or droid, rub elbows with other fans at Oga’s Cantina or fly the Millennium Falcon. This land is the stuff that 12 year-old me could only dream of.

One of my favorite Easter eggs is this transport parked on top Cookie’s restaurant. The 3 cargo containers are labelled with the year of the Original Trilogy’s release. “77” for Star Wars: A New Hope, “80” for The Empire Empire Strikes Back and “83” for Return of The Jedi”. Keep your eyes peeled for even more hidden details.

Spirited Theaters

One thing London does not have a shortage of is haunted places. On my sprint through the city, I mapped out a few spooky locations. Due to the pandemic and the hour of my journey, I wasn’t able to venture into any of them, but they still have that sense of something other worldy lurking in the shadows.

In St. Martin’s Lane, it was originally called The New Theater in 1903. The Noel Coward Theater has the distinction of being the home of it’s original manager, Sir Charles Wyndham. Sir Charles managed both the New Theater and the Wyndham Theater, which sits behind it.

If you see a debonair gray haired man walking the hallways or entering the dressing rooms, say hello to Sir Charles.

Towards the end of WWI, a group of friends were enjoying a performance at The London Coliseum. They noticed a friend of theirs walking down the aisle. Strangely, he disappeared into thin air. On his last day before being deployed, this young soldier had seen a production at The Coliseum. Later, the friends were notified that he had been killed in battle. There were sightings of the young soldier for many years after.

For more stories about Haunted London check out this book by my good friend, Rob Gutro.

A Sprint Through London

Travel in the time of Covid has been an adventure in and of itself. Flying over seas in a mostly empty plane and being locked in a hotel room for a 12 day quarantine made it all the more interesting. I was in the UK for work and had planned on staying in London for a few days, but the universe had other plans.

Even though London and the UK were emerging from lockdown, the country wasn’t necessarily open to foreign travelers. I had to cancel my plans and leave as soon as my work was done. Until, the flights home kept getting cancelled. In the end, I had about 4 hours in London the night before my flight.

I mapped out a route from Leicester Square down to St. Paul’s and set out to see as much as I could see.

To celebrate the 350th anniversary of Leicester Square, a series of statues depicting famous movie scenes were in stalled. If you aren’t looking for them, you may actually miss them.

A short distance from Leicester Square is where you can find Cecil Court. This hidden thoroughfare in London is the home to some of the most unique bookstores. Second-Hand books, Antiquarian books, even the residence of an 8 year old Mozart can be found on this narrow street. I didn’t get a chance to explore as most of the shops closed early or had yet to open from the lockdown.

Frohliche Weinachten

Winter in Europe is a beautiful and magical time of the year. A dusting of snow covers the narrow streets as people scurry about preparing for the holiday. The city of Hamburg, Germany was one of the most wonderful Yuletide celebrations that I had seen. The city is home to over 30 different Christmas Markets where one can shop for unique gifts, enjoy homemade treats and have a warm mug of Gluhwein in a specially decorated mug. You pay a small deposit that gets returned if you give it back or you can choose to keep it.

The largest of the Christmas Markets is in the City Hall Square. The ornate Rathaus serves as a backdrop for rows and rows of holiday booths and carnival rides for the children.

You can find everything from hand carved Nativities, decorated gingerbread cookies, handmade Kissing Balls and miniature replicas of the city’s famous buildings. The shops are laid out on different “streets”, Handwerskgasse for homemade crafts, Naschgasse for sweets and Spielzeugggasse for children’s toys.

Santa Claus is well represented in Germany at Christmastime. In most of Germany, Der Weinachtsmann is Father Christmas or Santa. He didn’t appear in Germany until the 1800’s but that doesn’t make him less important to the season. The Jolly Old Elf makes an appearance over the heads of the market goers on his reindeer driven sleigh.

There are other Christmas Markets throughout the city and it’s impossible to see them all.

Check out these links for more information.

https://www.hamburg-travel.com/see-explore/events/hamburg-christmas-parade/