A Travellerspoint blog

23 May, Monday

Walking tour today of Wein (Vienna). We opted for the full walk tour, not using the bus at all. We left the ship with our guide and headed for the Underground. Tickets were furnished by Viking, nice touch, and we rode it to the City Center. We then walked for 3+ hours looking at the historic buildings and hearing their history. Wein was ruled by several different people over the centuries. Building and homes were built and destroyed or the use was changed to suit the ruling power. We ended at the huge Cathedral in the center of town. We then opted to stay in town longer to visit some stores and have a cup of their famous coffee and a piece of cake.

Finally headed back to the boat mid afternoon. The day was fantastic, clear skies and a temperature of 82, almost hot. Sure would not want to be here in July or August.

Music is predominate in Wein. On any day there can be as many as 60 concerts taking place. Some of the concert halls have as many a six halls for concerts. Of course Mozart is the dominant composer as he gave his first piano concert here at the age of 6. His remembrance is everywhere, especially in the candies and chocolates for sale.

Posted by REDTAILRV 21:51 Comments (0)

22 May, Sunday

Early commotion, this was our first lock of 67 locks. It was huge with three longboats and 1 cargo ship entering. When the gates were closed we were lifted some 50+ feet to the next level. This is much more than the highest lift on the Mississippi (42feet). Once at the new level it was first in first out. We were number three to leave. We followed the other two long boats all the way to WEIN (VIENNA).

All along the river were fishing houses, shacks and nice summer homes. Nearly each place had a large net on the end of a pole. These were to dip in the river and bring up fish, mainly eel. Since it was Sunday much activitiy was taking place at the places, lots of kids and fishermen.

MId-afternoon we entered our second lock of the trip. Much long and not at wide. There were only two longboats in this lock. Once leaving the lock we only had 1 hour till be docked at Wein. Dinner was early as most of the passengers had opted to attend the Mozart/Straus concert presented by the WIENER RESIDENZORCHESTER. This consisted 9 musicians playing only strings and reeds. The room was huge with extremely high ceilings, thus I thought the sound would echo. However it did not, it was magnificent. There were also two singers and a dancing couple.
The dancers added a little levity to the program.

After the concert was over, about 10:30, busses took us back to the ship. There, for those who wanted, was a Hungarian Goulash soup waiting with fresh bread.

Posted by REDTAILRV 21:39 Comments (0)

21 May, Saturday

There are several dining choices on the boat. Continental breakfast is offered on the Terrace, rolls and coffee at the coffee station and a full breakfast in the dining room. Today the city tour of Budapest was included . We visited both the Pest side (flat areas) and the Buda side (the hilly side.) Heroes Square was first on the agenda. Here the heroes of past days are honored, going all the way back to the 10th century. We then crossed the river (Danube) to the Buda side where the large churches and museums are. The MATTHIAS church is Hungary's most famous building.
It has changed hands several times because of the wars being not only a catholic church but a temple for the Jewish, a church for the Russian Orthodox and a military headquarters. It has been completely refurbished and is a beautiful structure.

Budapest was not as lucky as Prague. All the bridges across the river were bombed during the war as were many of the buildings. The city changed hands several times. Today it is a booming metropolis with all sorts of activities. Truly a place to visit.

We set sail at 5:30 pm for our trip up river to WIEN or Vienna.

Posted by REDTAILRV 23:30 Comments (0)

20 May, Friday

Last night in Prague, leaving for Budapest early in the morning. Bags out at 7:00, confirm them at 7:30 and bus leaves at 8:00. This is an eight hour ride, depending on traffic. There will be at least two rest stops combined with a lunch stop. Used the rapid check out at the Hilton which certainly made it easy. They send the receipt to my email and I can print it at home. Bus actually was able to depart early as everyone was ready and on board.

The departure of Prague was quite easy, very little traffic. Hardest part was the narrow streets before entering the main road or freeway. Actually it is a toll road with the bus having an auto pay box as it passed several check points. The country side is rolling hills with lots of trees and several housing complexes. They look as thought they could be summer homes for the city dwellers.

We entered SLOVAKIA at 11:30, same country side. At one time the CZECH Republic and the SLOVAK republic were one country. Only in 1989 did they each become their own entity. As we passed into Slovakia there was no passport control, just rolled on thru. This is true of many of the European countries as a result of a 1985 treaty.

Stopped for lunch once we entered HUNGARY. This was a glorified truck stop with a very good restaurant. They specialized in Hungarian Goulash and other food of the country. Here we were on yet another currency, the FORIENT. ($1.00 = 285F)

Arrived at the boat, GEFJON at 4:00pm, got checked into our room, 211 and surveyed the boat. The bags were delivered to our room while we sampled wines of the country. Beer was big in Prague but wine is the drink of choice in Hungary. Early to bed as it was a long day and a busy day ahead.

Posted by REDTAILRV 23:17 Comments (0)

19 May, Thursday

Leisurely get up as nothing is scheduled for today. Had another great breakfast at the Hilton and then prepared to venture downtown. We decided to ride one way and walk back. Now do we take a cab or?? After talking with the clerks we decided to take the local bus, #207. This would be a U S Dollar one way each, not a bad deal. So off we went catching the bus across the street and riding it down to the Charles Bridge area. As luck would happen, the bus stop was only 1 block from the Jewish section and the Jewish Cemetery, our tour for the day. Buying the entrance and the talking tour was not cheap but well worth the expense. As I stated yesterday, Prague is OLD. This cemetery started in the late 600's. As is with Jewish custom, the original bodies were not disturbed, only dirt and more bodies buried on top. The headstones are raised to the new level and all is started over again. They estimate some 70,000 people are buried here. Also adjacent are several synogues and other sacred buildings. The Jews played an important part of Czech history and have all been honored here.

We then walked to the Charles bridge and it was much more crowded than yesterday. Hundreds of school groups as well as tourists were taking advantage of the great day. We looked at the shops for some items all to no avail, so gave up. Barbara had a cake funnel with ice cream and I opted for a beer later down the road.

We walked back to the Hilton, about 45 minutes. Not being too hungry we opted for snacks and drinks at the ZEST bar in the lobby. Being guests of Viking we got a 20% discount which certainly helped.

While watching the news on the missing Egypt Air airbus we packed and readied ourselves for the next day. Suitcases have to be out by 7:00 with bus loading at 7:30. All this for an 8 hour ride to Budapest. We will transit 3 countries on our ride: Czech Republic, Slovak Republic and Hungary.

Posted by REDTAILRV 05:22 Comments (0)

18 May, Wednesday

Early get up this morning as we had to check in with Viking and change. Most of our trip will be EURO, however the Czech Republic uses a Czech Krona or Crown. Buffett breakfast in the hotel was outstanding. Then at 0820 we met at the Viking Desk for a City Tour. First of all, the city of Prague is OLD, especially compared to anything in the United States. Our first stop was at the Castle, started in the 600's. The cathedral was started in 650 and too nearly 600 years to complete. Partly because of wars, partly because of religious problems and partly because of money.
It was finally completed in 1929. The entire grounds are still used for official state offices and such. From the Castle we went to the Charles bridge. This was the first stone bridge build North of Italy, in the 800's. There are 30 stone or bronze statues along the bridge. It is no longer used for vehicles, only pedestrians, and marketeers selling tourist items. We then walked thru Old Town with it quaint shops and eateries. At the Central Square we observed the Astronomical clock built in 850 (and still working). After a small snack and a good Czech beer we continued our tour walking thru the Jewish area.

Prague was lucky during the World Wars, as it was never bombed. Thus all the buildings and hundreds of years old and in very good condition. Only new coats of stucco put over the old with new coats of paint. The streets and sidewalks are still cobblestone, and very uneven to walk on.

Posted by REDTAILRV 10:00 Comments (0)

17 May, Tuesday

The London airport is laid out in a vary strange manner. You can walk several minutes to the various gates. There is no waiting at the gate.
One hour prior to boarding the gate is put on the reader board and then you proceed to it. In the waiting area of the main terminal are all the shops and resturants, all high class in cost.

Our flight was finally posted, we proceeded to the gate, checked in, showed the passport for the umpteenth time and then boarded.
It was only a 1+35 hour flight to Prague. Europe was cloudy so could not see and land mass. Landed slightly ahead of schedule, clears immigration and was met by the rep from Viking. Drove to the hotel and settled into our room. Seems several others arrived earlier. We are to meet in the morning at 8:20 for a walking tour of Prague.

Posted by REDTAILRV 12:28 Comments (0)

16 May, Monday

Time to go!!! Rescheduled the Sun City Express to a 3:15 pickup instead of a 4:45.With TSA and the other slow downs it would not be enough time to reach the airport and check in. So at 3:25 the van arrived, we then picked up another fare and headed for the airport. Got there about 4:10 and already there was a line at British Airways. Luckily I had gone on line the night before, secured the seats and printed the boarding passes. Once checked in we headed to the gate B25. This is on the American Airlines concourse. Not much to eat our there, had a small bite and hoped the dinner on board would be good.

Earlier while checking it there appeared to be lots of open seats. I had hoped my card as a retired pilot would yield a benefit. BUMMER, the flight was over sold. Our seats were tolerable but not the best. As we climbed out we were told the inflight entertainment was not working correctly, again BUMMER. When dinner arrived what a disappointment. Not much, not tasty and not presented well. Never was offered a cup of coffee.
So with MP3 in my ears I tried to sleep.

At 11:00am local London time they started to had out the breakfast. Again a big disappointment. A mixed grill or an omelet cooked many hours ago.
Landed at Heathrow Airport and cleared immigrations.

Posted by REDTAILRV 12:18 Comments (0)

15 May, Sunday

Well today was very relaxing, all suitcases were packed. Got a free brunch at the Palm Brook Country Club, which was nice.

At 7:30 went on to British Airways web site to get our boarding passes. The site was extremely helpful, especially compared to the United site I had to use a while back. They reviewed our paperwork, said we were qualified to check in. It then gave me the option of looking at our assigned seats and changing them. The 747-400 from Phoenix to London was only half full so many seats were available. Changed the seats and printed the boarding passes. Then the flight from London to Prague was also light, again changed seats and printed the boarding passes.

I am taking my business cards and copies or our Retired Northwest Magazine with me. I will give the Captain of each flight one. Hopefully he will be generous and upgrade us, but I am not counting on it.

Our original pickup was at 4:45pm, told them that was not enough time for an international flight and for the TSA problems they are now having at Sky Harbor. So they moved us up to a 3:15 pickup. We may have to sit at the airport an extra time but at least we will be there.

I hope to be able to update this blog daily, will depend on the internet service we get along the way.

Posted by REDTAILRV 05:35 Comments (0)

13 May, Friday

Well most of yesterday was spent intermittently on the internet watching the live progress of the Solar Impulse on it way to Tulsa. The scheduled flight was 17 hours 50 minutes. It actually took 18 hours 10 minutes, landing in Tulsa at 10 minutes after 10pm.

All shots were live, Bertrand gave interview in between flying the aircraft and using his yoga for rest. His meals for the flight consisted of
cereal with powdered milk and water for breakfast, For lunch he had carrot soup and dinner was chicken curry. Just before landing he had an energy drink.

Posted by REDTAILRV 15:01 Comments (0)

12 May, Thursday

As stated in the blog of 6 May, we visited the Goodyear airport and the Solar Impulse. It initially was to depart for Albuquerque on Monday, May .
That was changed because of weather and since I was on the mailing list I received it was to depart for Tulsa on May 12 . There was a short window of good weather and they wanted to take advantage of it.

Arising at 11:00pm, my neighbor Jon and I departed our house at 00:00 for a 00:30 entrance to the viewing area. We had the required free tickets for entry, along with 250 others. Parking was easy and so was the short walk to the roped off viewing area. We positioned ourselves behind the press section, hoping for the best views. About 01:00 the rolled the Solar Impulse out of the hangar, complete with wing and tail walkers. There is only one main gear with a dolly supporting the huge vertical stabilizer. In all over a dozen handlers were moving the aircraft. Shortly there after the pilot, Bertrand Piccard stopped by in his flight suit. He explained the mission of the Impulse and the valuable lessons to be learned from the flight. He answered several questions before he had to board and plane and get situated in the cockpit.

The movement from the ramp to the end of the runway commenced. Again with over a dozen handlers pulling the aircraft some mile or more to the West end of the airport on runway 03. During this time the spectators just milled around, we had brought extra coffee to took advantage of drinking it. Once at the end of the runway, the spectators were then moved to the 'dark' side of the hangar to allow us to see the aircraft better.

At 02:55 procedures were activated to 'fire up' the aircraft. The radios and satnav were activated. All this time there was live feed to the internet so all could see what was happening. At 03:05 , with all systems GO, you could hear a shallow whine, then the lights started to move. The aircraft was airborne in 600 feet. They passed by our position at about 200 feet elevation and an airspeed of 27 mph. What an awesome sight, history in the making.

Posted by REDTAILRV 14:47 Comments (0)

6 May, Friday

, . THe

Awesome day. Early morning email stated they were going to have tickets available for the SOLAR IMPULSE this morning and afternoon.
We had already secured the tickets for Saturday. However Saturday was programed to be a very busy day so thought we would try for Friday tickets.
YEH, we got them, tours from 1:00 to 4:00. We left the house about 12:00 for our drive to the Good year airport. Arriving there about 12:30 we were some of the first in line, even got to stand under the easy-up in the shade. Finally the hour arrived and they let us in. What a monster aircraft.
The wing span is longer than the 747 by several feet. It has 4 electric motors run on batteries charged by the solar cells on the tops of the wings and fusealage. It is only a person cockpit, very small and compact. The seat serves as a pilots seat, reclines to a cot and is also the toilet. The flight from Honolulu to San Farncisco took 56 hours non stop. SO it is a long and grueling journey. They fly between 5,000 and 25,000 feet depending on weather and winds. The air speed is only 45-55 mph, very slow.

The flight from San Francisco to Phoenix too 16 hours. They landed Monday night and were programed to depart Tuesday morning. BUT weather enroute delayed the departure. Looks now as though they will leave next Wednesday, May 11. They will head to Albuquerque then Kansas City.

They have a staff of many, to do the flight planning, flight following and maintence. Nearly all are European, mainly French and Swiss.

If we have notice we will be there for the departure.

Posted by REDTAILRV 16:24 Comments (0)

29 April, Friday

Almost the end of April already. Suitcase is packed for the Viking RIver Cruise. We leave May 16, non stop to London then nonstop to Prague.
It will be a LONG flight but at least it is on a 747 so there is room to walk about.

Have about 2 1/2 hours at Heathrow and then on to Prague. Viking people will meet us there and take us to the hotel.

I hope to be able to give my NWA card to the Purser and he in turn will give to Captain. Hopefully a perk or two will result. (IHOPE)

All this is on the new SURFACE 4 by Microsoft. Great tablet, almost a full computer. Can do much more than I will ever try.

Posted by REDTAILRV 10:08 Comments (0)

15 April, Friday

Preparing to fly to Albuquerque for a meeting with the Andulaz Hotel. Need to finalize the menus and room arrangements. Will leave Phoenix at 0900 and be in Albuquerque at 1105, BUT coming home we leave at 500pm and land at 505pm. Nice that Arizona does not go on Daylight time.

Posted by REDTAILRV 17:03 Comments (0)

31 March, Thursday

First entry from the new SURFACE PRO 4. Will be many more.

Posted by REDTAILRV 11:43 Comments (0)

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