Prague: last day (sob)

Published January 7, 2014 by Christa Maurice

Since we had done everything we planned, we lingered over breakfast and then spent a while sitting in the room after packing everything up. After checking out, we went out to revisit anything we might have missed. We really hadn’t missed anything. Not that Prague is short on sites, it’s just that they’re all very close together. So it was back to Wenceslaus Square and back to Old Town Square and back to the Charles Bridge. My companion wanted to get a kolbasi sandwich until she realized that it was walking food so we went to a restaurant and had a plate. I have determined that Czechs do not like vegetables. The first meal I had here was pork loin and dumplings. No vegetables. The second meal was goulash with dumplings. No vegetables. The third meal was pork ribs. Those came with a vegetable if you count the raw onions or the horseradish. I ate the horseradish as it was excellent, but not the onions. The fourth meal was pork rids at a different restaurant. This came with a couple pieces of lettuce, which my companion thought was for garnish, but I ate them anyway. This last meal was an eight-inch chunk of kolbasi with mustard and horseradish, which was, if anything, better than the last horseradish.

Once it started getting dark we set off for the hotel to wind out the last few hours before pick up for our flight and naturally got lost. I figured no matter which way we turned in that part of town we were going to get near where we needed to be and lo we turned a corner and were at the foot of We    nceslaus Square.

And travel days still suck, but this one not as much. We ended up lingering in the hotel bar for 6 hours before our driver arrived, but it was a straight flight back to Abu Dhabi so no long layover and I had the window seat so I managed to sleep a lot. The new E-gate system was super fast. We got to skip the enormous Immigration line and breeze right through. The luggage arrived about the same time we did. The drive home was uneventful. Then I just had to stay awake until I could go to bed and completely miss what festivities there were. Did I mention we arrived home on New Year’s Eve? Fire works? What fire works? Didn’t hear a thing.

And now a few things I had to share.


Ham. Four hams. Four hams roasting over an open fire. Mmmmm, ham.






On the first day of our trip one of the other memebers of our tour group asked about this pastry she had seen on the street, but didn’t know the name of. She said someone told her and it sounded like “turtleneck.” Jana, our guide started laughing. Trdelnik! In Czech slang a trdelnik is someone who has a good heart, but is kinda stupid. I looked at my travel companion and said, “New code word!” So should you ever hear me say someone is a turtleneck, you will understand. Trdelniks are beyond tasty. Just pastry dough wrapped around these huge wooden rods, rolled in sugar and almonds and hung over coals to roll, really fast, until they are browned on all sides. I didn’t have one until the last day and I’m very glad I didn’t or I would have been snarfing then down everyday and all the walking in the world would not have saved my hips.








These last two shots amuse me. Jana, our first guide, was pretty young. She was still in elementary school at best when communism fell. To her it was history like bell bottoms, pill box hats and flappers. Our WWII guide was about my age and in high school or college when communism fell. He remembered textbooks that had been rewritten and had lots of fun tidbits about where the KGB used to operate and the biggest statue of Stalin in the world that was not quite finished when Brezhnev started saying that maybe, possibly Stalin was a teensy bit wrong and all those deaths were a bad idea. He sort of viewed commission like you might view a slightly crazy uncle who smelled funny and was a little scary, but doesn’t visit anymore.  The tour guide who took us to Terezin, she was an adult when communism fell and she hated it with a personal fire. As we waited for the bus, she pointed out the National Museum at the top of Wenceslaus Square, particularly the light spots. It seems that in 1968 during Prague Spring the Soviets decided to fire on the Prague Parliament. They took aim and shot – the National Museum. The parliament building is no where near Wenceslaus Square and it does actually say in huge letters over the door “Museum Regni Bohemiae.” One can only assume that the person responsible could not read Czech. Either that or he didn’t want to move the tank all the way across town so he could shoot at the right building. The second picture is the monument to Wenceslaus with a picture of Vaclav Havel in front of it. In front of that are candles in memorial to the two students who immolated themselves in protest of the Soviet clamp down. Behind the monument is the National Museum. The actual memorial to the students in set in the sidewalk where they set themselves on fire in the form of two lumps in the bricks connected by a cross.


Prague: Day Four

Published January 6, 2014 by Christa Maurice

Sunday we had decided to go on a WWII tour, but my companion wanted to attend mass so we went to the later tour. The guide was fantastic and had visual aids. He had his exact spots on the sidewalk picked out so that we kept ending up facing exactly where he wanted us looking.







This is the Prague Town Hall. The left picture is pre-WWII. I took the right picture. There was no blitz in Prague because there was no heavy industry in the city. One bomb did hit the city, but that was a squadron of American fliers got off course in the clouds and mistook Prague for Dresden. There are no hard feelings. If my tour guide is anything to go by, the Czechs probably would have invited bombing if it meant getting the Nazis out of their country. But that’s not what happened to the town hall building. After World War II was declared over and while the Czechs were waiting for the Soviets to come collect the Nazis, the Nazis were trying to get away from the Soviets. They weren’t stupid. Americans might try them and put them in jail, but Stalin was going to ship them to a gulag that would make Terezin look like a seaside vacation. The Czechs also knew the score and really wanted the Nazis in the hands of the Soviets. There was fighting for four days and during that fighting the town hall was set on fire and the majority of it was destroyed. Just as a fun aside, the KGB used to use the bell tower of the town hall to watch the Czechs.

czpr017-2When taking the above picture, the Alphons Mucha Museum was directly behind me and this unassuming building was to my left. Why have I included a picture of this particular building? Because then Albert Einstein was teaching at Charles University he lived there. Honestly, you can’t go five steps in Prague without stepping on some significant spot. Oh yes, when Einstein was living here, he was hanging out with Kafka.


Prague: Terezin

Published January 5, 2014 by Christa Maurice

DSC02862We had an appropriately gloomy day for our trip to the WWII Jewish Ghetto. A bus picked us up at our hotel and took us to the tour offices. Several tours were scheduled to start at the same time so for a while there was a large group of miscellaneous tourists standing around before we were divided into language and tour destination groups and loaded onto buses. As we waited my travel companion and I fell into conversation with the lone gentleman who was also at our hotel, but we discovered later, not on our tour. Turned out he works as a recruiter for Sprite in Texas. My travel companion’s husband will be looking for work in a few months. Texas is at the top of their short list for destinations. The recruiter then asked ‘would you be willing to live in Dallas though?’ Apparently, this is a sticking point. My companion and her husband are perfectly okay with it though. At that point the tour company finally had their act together and started separating us onto buses so I encouraged her to chase him down before he got away and get his info, which she did. Twenty-first century job hunting at its best.

Terezin is an hour outside of the city. Add to that, the bus driver didn’t really know how to get there. We took a circuitous route through Praha 2 before heading out of the city in the correct direction. We passed the location where Heinrich Reinhardt, father of the Final Solution, was assassinated by three members of the Czech Resistance. We also passed some Soviet apartment blocks. Uglier than advertised.

The first stop at Terezin was the Jewish Cemetery. This is not an extermination camp, but overcrowding, overwork and malnutrition will do the job without the use of harsh chemicals. First, they were burying bodies. Then they built a crematorium and put the ashes in wooden urns. Then they couldn’t make urns fast enough so they started using “paper urns.” The only image that came to mind was a manila envelope, but one hopes not. The mortuary was locked because of the season so we didn’t get to go inside.

The secondDSC02864 stop was the ‘little fortress.’ Terezin was originally built as a fortress for the Franco-Prussian Wars, but the wars were finished before the fortress was so the Hapsburgs used it as a political prison. That certainly made it easy for the Nazis to retrofit when they started moving their own political prisoners in. Our guide had an uncle (or possibly great uncle) who was a prisoner there. He died from the brutal treatment. Her aunt, arrested at the same time, got off comparatively easy. She was taken to Berlin where she was tried and executed. The first commandant the Nazis installed wasn’t a bad guy. He and his wife smuggled in messages for the prisoners, tried to get them decent food and didn’t allow random cruelty. At the end of the war when he was tried, he was let go without punishment. But the Nazis got wind that he wasn’t a sadist and replaced him with someone who was. This second commandant was sort of a genius for cruelty. One of the things he liked to do was save up the prisoners care packages and let them have a feast. Sounds good so far, right? Well, for this feast everything in the care packages was dumped into a big pot and cooked together. Meats, chocolate, pencils, cigarettes, sewing needles. Yum. Another of his food based punishments was to starve the prisoners (moreso) for a couple of days and then give them huge portions of over salted, over spiced food which they were required to eat all of.

DSC02869One of the more famous residents of Terezin was Gavrilo Princip, the man who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austira, sparking World War I.

Third stop was a museum housed in what was originally a school and, after the town was taken over and turned into a ghetto, a boys dorm. The first floor was devoted to the children, which was just crippling. Drawings and poems with the birth dates and usually death dates of the creators. None of then more than 14.

The last stop was a different museum that had more art and a replica of a barracks room, which for some inexplicable reason we were not allowed to take pictures of. I say inexplicable because we had just been in the real thing complete with unevenly worn floors and that cubical with the hole in the floor that served as a toilet for all several hundred people crammed in there. So what did this one have over the real thing? Set dressing. The second floor I could have spent hours looking at the drawings alone. These artists were professional artists before the war and they were astonishingly good at portraying more than just a snapshot of life in the ghetto.



This last photo I took because I thought it was one of the more cruel punishments. It’s the view of the town from the shower room. Impossibly close and impossibly unreachable.

Then it was an hour’s ride home. My companion and I decided to stop for dinner in Wenceslaus Square. The first place we stopped was too expensive, but further down the road and inside a gallery we found a place with the most divine ribs. While we were eating this guy came in. He overheard us talking and asked if we were in banking. Turns out he came to Prague to teach and is now in real estate management. Excellent source of information should we end up moving here.

Prague: Day two

Published January 4, 2014 by Christa Maurice

DSC02839Friday we went freelance and revisited some of the places we’d earmarked on the tour yesterday. Naturally, this required getting lost. We found Wenceslas Square easy. We found Old Town Square easy. Charles Bridge was totally unfindable for at least an hour, though in that hour we found tons of lovely places and tasted some amazing honey wine.

Yes, this enormous stone bridge. We couldn’t find it. Worse, after studying the map later, we realized we had been within three blocks the entire time and just kept turning the wrong way.

This was a shopping and walking day. About four we headed back to the hotel for a rest period then went out for diner.

We had decided early in the day to have dinner in the neighborhood of our hotel because it’s a little less touristy. Naturally, the staff spoke decent English. I had goulash with Czech dumplings, which appear to have a lot in common with American stuffing though unflavored. The dumplings I had on the tour yesterday had the consistency of potatoes so much so that I though I was eating really weird potatoes for half the meal. These dumplings were much better though not at all what I call dumplings. They were cubed, toasted bread mushed together with something into a tube shape and steamed, then sliced. Looks like bread, tastes like bread, not quite bread. My travel companion had pork ribs. Believe me, that order was a struggle. I wanted those pork ribs, but I’d had goulash on my mind since I arrived in the country.

Tomorrow we’re going to Terezin, a “model Jewish community” from World War II. Apparently it involves some walking. That will be a nice change. I haven’t been navigating enough cobblestones this trip.

Prague: The All Inclusive Tour

Published January 3, 2014 by Christa Maurice


We got very lucky on the tour. The bus picked us up at the hotel and drove us to the end of the tour. Across the river and up, up, up to the most defensible spot in the city where the palace complex sits. Our guide was very funny, making jokes about the flag meaning the president is in the country, but that doesn’t mean he’s working. It was bloody cold, but we were moving. It was also St Stephen’s Day so the churches were having mass and we couldn’t go inside. After the complex tour we looked at the view for a minute. Then we surveyed the thousand or so steps to the bottom of the hill and our next destination. A thousand. Does that sound like hyperbole? It’s not. I didn’t count, but there were about ten in each set and there were more than ten sets. Had we started at the correct end of the tour we would have had to walk up those steps – at the end of the day.


That church on the left? Mozart played there. The steam rising in the distance? The river. We went all the way down and across the river to, see those pointy spires on the left side of the picture, but to the right of the green church roof where Mozart played? Walked there. Not in a straight line.

So we went down down down to New Town as the guide explained that Prague was originally four cities that joined together so the districts of New Town, Old Town, the Jewish Quarter and Wenceslas Square were once separate legal entities. We walked all these places. It was a lot to take in. Around the middle of the tour, we had a boat ride on the Moldau that largely repeated what we’d heard while walking, but from a different perspective (on the river and from a different person.) Then, we stopped for lunch at a medieval restaurant where we ate in the basement. The name of the restaurant was something about a spider. If they had told me that ahead of time, I might have opted out. There was no spider and the food was yummy. The sauerkraut was sweetish and the light was to low, but I think the red stuff was a different kind of sauerkraut. Oh and that bottom picture? The dumplings, accidentally taken with flash. Actually, this is the only time I saw them.

DSC02842 DSC02843     DSC02844

When the tour ended in Old Town, our tour guide told us our hotel was just that way behind those houses. We set off. We found Wenceslas Square okay. Our hotel is only two or three blocks off the main square. After about six blocks I said, not, this isn’t right and pulled out my map.

I thought I had lost my mind. The map made no sense at all. So we went back to the last place we recognized and tried again. We had better luck (and I wasn’t soaked to the knees like I was in Venice.) In the hotel we got hot chocolate in the bar and I pulled out the map to see if I could make sense of it.

It was in Russian. No wonder I couldn’t make heads or tails of it on the street. Next time, Ill try a map in a language I can read or at least decipher.

Prague: Arrival

Published January 2, 2014 by Christa Maurice

Our flight left at 2:15am so we were on the road at 9:30pm to get to the airport with plenty of time to get lost because I’ve never gone to the airport in Abu Dhabi and not gotten lost, GPS or not. There was a very crabby couple with two kids in line ahead of us. They had waited in line for forty-five minutes! What was going on? I’m not sure what they planned to do with their time. The kids were better behaved than their parents and the flight wasn’t leaving for two more hours. Shop duty free? The next hurdle was that they had seven bags. Four people. Two adults, two boys around ten/eleven years old. Going on vacation for a few days. Seven suitcases. Plus, it says very clearly on the ticket one piece of checked luggage per person. One per person times four people does not equal seven. The parents had fits claiming that it didn’t say anything on their ticket about luggage restrictions. When I got up to the desk, as I was the very next person after these nincompoops, I plopped my bag on the belt and said, one bag I can count! The lady at the counter laughed and changed our seats to a row with more legroom.

We arrived in Prague just before six local time and landed in fog. The immigration guy here was just as sour and silent as the guy in Dusseldorf. Maybe they are related. Luggage pick up was flawless and, since ours was the only flight arriving, so was finding our driver. We got to the hotel, checked in and went up to our room.

The time was 7:00. The day after Christmas. St. Stephen’s Day.

Yeah, not much going on. We decided to do an all inclusive tour (called The Prague All Inclusive Tour) but it didn’t pick us up until 9:15 so we set off down the road just to see what we could see. Would you laugh if I said we weren’t three blocks from the hotel when we started saying we could live here? Our hotel is on the edge of the touristy area so we were finding general life pretty quick. Banks, restaurants, churches, a theater (live), gorgeous architecture.

Tomorrow: the tour.

The Enchanted by Elaine Cantrell

Published June 25, 2013 by Christa Maurice


The Enchanted

By Elaine Cantrell


Forced by his father into a marriage he didn’t want, Prince Alan soon finds that his bride isn’t the sweet, submissive creature he expected. Morgane has the heart of a dragon and beauty beyond compare, but she isn’t thrilled about the marriage either. When black treachery threatens the kingdom, Morgane and Alan embark on a perilous journey that has an excellent chance of ending in failure and death for them and all their people.


Morgane advanced on her enemy with deadly purpose.


“No!” Alan roared. “She has a knife.”


Morgane tried to retreat, but it was too late. Aili’s knife caught her in her thigh. Blood spurted as if from a fountain. Renweard was closer to her than Alan. His sword rose. Aili breathed her last as Morgane swayed and slipped to the floor.


Alan ran across the room and cradled her in his arms. In seconds he was coated with blood. “ʺWe must stop the bleeding!” he cried. “Where are the healers?”


ʺI will find one.” Renweard left the room at a run with King Bowdyn right behind him.


Morgane’s eyes fluttered open. “Your arms around me. No heaven can compare.ʺ


Alan pressed a kiss to her hair. “I love you, my brave Morgane.”


Morgane sighed. “I could not let you face this battle alone.ʺ

Author’s Note:

After spending most of the last ten years writing contemporary romance, I decided it was time for a change. So in the spring of 2012 I wrote my first romantic fantasy, The Enchanted. Several challenges immediately presented themselves. First, I knew that I didn’t want the fantasy to overpower the romance which meant I’d have to balance my world building details with the romantic elements.

Challenge two was finding characters who’d fit into my newly created world. I didn’t want plastic, stereotypical characters. I wanted real people with warts and human imperfections, people whose lives and problems would draw you in and make you care about them.

My third challenge was to craft a plot that included fantasy elements, yet at the same time allowed my characters to be in charge of their own destiny and in the process grow and change.

I’m pleased with the way it turned out. I enjoyed the experience so much I have another fantasy/sci fi romance in the wings waiting for December and its turn at publication. Given my new love affair with fantasy romance, will I write contemporary romance again? I sure will. I’m working on one right now, and I just love it. It will be my first full length romantic comedy.

Author Links:

The Enchanted is sold at most online retail outlets.



A sweet story, easy read, fairytale/fantasy/romance 5 stars.
Teresa Cypher on Amazon

A wonderful story that has swept into my heart. I will be remembering this one for a long time and reading it again.
                                                   Tifferz Book Reviews on Goodreads


Venice – Homeward bound

Published April 25, 2013 by Christa Maurice

Travel days suck. They just do.

It was recommended that I catch the 11:25 bus. ‘K. At 11:10 I checked out and by 11:15 I was standing at the bus stop. The bus however was not so cooperative. When it hadn’t appeared by 11:40, I studied the schedule and found that there was an 11:50. So I waited. And that bus didn’t show up either. As there was another one at 12:15 I gambled and won. Then I couldn’t find where to check in and the very helpful Italians wouldn’t tell me where I needed to go and the signs were no help at all. I went to an information booth and the man behind the glass would only shake his head at me. I’m aware of how annoying it is to answer stupid questions all the time, but nobody held a gun to your head and made you go into hospitality. But I found the departures desk, checked in (where the woman screwed up my seating assignments on both flights so instead of having window seats I ended up in the middle both flights.)

On the flight to Dusseldorf I was nearly sick despite my trusty Dramamine. In case it ever happens to you, try to arrange to be sick with a helpful English speaker next to you. I had a very helpful, but non-English speaking Danish man to one side and a fluent English speaking German man on the other side trying to pretend it wasn’t happening. It’s got to be me. I exude a pheromone that attracts only unpleasant Germans. Not that I wasn’t trying to pretend it wasn’t happening too, but when you’re sitting there with an airsick bag clutched in one hand and a napkin in the other, pretending only works so well.

I had a glorious 6 hour layover in Dusseldorf and to my good fortune this terminal was much better than the last. It even had a super secret waiting area with cots. Then is was shoveled into my next flight where I was not just in the middle of the row, but also in the middle of the plane and once again we had a rather rough landing that left me clenching my teeth and thinking, “I think I can, I think I can.” Honestly, all of Europe seemed to have an unwelcome mat out. Other places, even random people on the street were nice to me. In Italy pretty much only the bus drivers were nice to me and I think that had a lot to do with how bedraggled and wet I was that first day.

In Abu Dhabi I took my sweet time getting off the plane and through Immigration. I had a 4 hour wait for the bus to Al Ain. At the Immigration desk I watched the officer poker face everyone who went through until he got to me. He looked at me, looked at my residence visa, grinned and waved me on.

I arrived in Al Ain at 10:30 in the morning. There is a 2 hour time difference between Venice and Al Ain, but that still has me traveling for 21 hours. The fish feeder had quit working at some point while I was gone, but the fish had the grace to not eat each other.

Travel is starting to get a bit wearing. Having to figure everything out all the time, like when the grocery store is open. Getting lost. Arriving at a destination and realizing you’ve forgotten something key. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Crabby immigration officials. Unhelpful information desks. You know, I’d really like to know what’s going on next time I go someplace. I may be headed to Paris Disneyland for Christmas next year out of desperation.

Venice – Day 4

Published April 24, 2013 by Christa Maurice

Monday was the day the toilet wouldn’t stop running. Initially, I thought I would go into Venice late because I hadn’t seen it at night, but when time to leave came I just didn’t have the interest to go and my knee still hurt from a three day accumulation of stairs. Since my iPad battery was dead I decided to take a walk while it charged, planning on the way back to stop at the neighborhood grocery store for a snack of some sort as I could not face cold lasagna again. The grocery store was open as I passed it on the way down the road. I walked down the road for a while and then turned around and walked up the road for a while and then started back. The entire round trip took about an hour and apparently I looked like a local because someone stopped me for directions and looked completely freaked out when I said, “sorry, no Italian.” I went to the grocery store only to find that it was closed. Open at 2, closed at 3. From past experience I can guess it will be open again around 5, but until then I’m stuck with nothing but €3 Cokes and €2 Kit Kats (also beer, whiskey, gin and brandy, but I’m even less likely to get into those.) I used the bathroom, flushed and got my iPad off the charger. Now just imagine, the flush sounds like Niagara Falls at peak volume. The room is eight by ten. There is no escape from the noise. Plus I have spent the last three years in a place where water is precious. So I headed down to the desk. All the way down the stairs I could hear the water running through the pipes. I’m not exaggerating. I was standing at the desk explaining and asked the desk clerk if she could hear it and she could. The very lovely repairman came up and fixed it, explaining to me what had happened and how he fixed it, entirely in Italian of course and now I’m afraid to use it again.

Around dinner time I decided to make another stab at the grocery store. I replaced my suitcase so that it no longer looked like animals had been nesting in it and determined how much space I had to smuggle home goodies from the grocery store. Too bad the grocery store wasn’t more accommodating. It’s just a little neighborhood place and while the ginseng coffee looked interesting I figured I didn’t need anymore help being wired. The neighborhood people think I’m amusing and smile at me when they see me now. The cashier in the grocery store was very patient while I sort through my mess of coins to pay for my meager dinner. This is unusual. Italy doesn’t have, shall we say, a service oriented culture. If you are lucky when you walk into a shop they will ignore you. If you’re not, they will watch you like they expect you to start randomly pocketing stuff. Once you decide to purchase something, sometimes they are pleasant and sometimes they act like you are bothering them. For the first few days when I walked down the street the passersby stared at me like I was an invading Hun. Now, they’re smiling back. Too bad I’m leaving tomorrow. They’ve just started to like me.

I did learn why I never managed to see Venice after dark. The freaking sun doesn’t set until eight o’clock! What the heck! In Abu dhabi the sun is setting at seven and by eight I’m in bed. I thought it was because I was going out too early. This is just another way in which Venice is like Disney World. To get the best experience you really have to stay in the park, er on the island, islands. Whatever. To get the best experience you must be on site. That way you can go out early for the entertaining sight of the milk boat and the trash boat, go back to your hotel for a midday rest and drying off session if it happens to be raining or you had the mis fortune of walking into high tide because you didn’t expect it to be on the sidewalk, then go back out for an afternoon stroll, maybe fetch dinner and you’ll have the energy to see Venice after dark when the sun sets ridiculously late. However, unlike Disney, you will have to drag your luggage through half of Venice to an overcrowded vaporatto to the bus that will take you to the airport. And how you find your hotel in the first place is a mystery. I couldn’t find anything twice unless it was the Rialto Bridge or San Marco Square, both of which seem to have their own gravity.

Travel day tomorrow. The airport bus leaves here at quarter to twelve. The bus in to Al Ain arrives at ten. Almost twenty-two joy filled hours of buses, airports and crowded planes unless I luck into another upgrade. Come on, upgrade! I need to get some sleep.

Venice – Day 3

Published April 23, 2013 by Christa Maurice

On Sunday I learned that Venice is a two day trip, tops. This being my third day and being sunny, I counted my remaining cash, found I was still in very good shape for walking around money. Before I left Mestre i thought I’d be clever and buy a Coke in the grocery store as they are over a euro more in Venice, but forgetting that it’s Sunday and the store would be closed. Clever, but not as clever as I’d hoped. In Venice, i decided to ride a vaporatto for its entire run. Not as much fun as it sounds. Instead of circling, which I had assumed, it goes to one end of the route (in this case San Marco Square), turns around and goes to the other end of its run (a different stop near San Marco Square.) It took an hour from end to end. San Marco Square was positively packed with people. I had been under the impression that it was busy before. Wrong. The flags were flying in front of the church. Huge ten foot by twelve foot at least flags. There were costumed drummers. There was some kind of promotion going on, but I couldn’t sort out what was going on and, as usual, I was headed upstream. After leaving the Square, I walked around trying to avoid ending up at the Rialto. I was successful, but it was close.

Within three hours, and remember there was an hour on a boat, I was walking around trying to decided if I had actually been all over the island or if it was just starting to look the same. The previous day I had come up with a master plan to eat spaghetti Bolognese at a particular restaurant very close to the Ferrovia (accent on Ferro because it is the train station) vaporatto stop. The restaurant I wanted was jammed, so I walked along the road, this being the Times Square of Venice, there would be another. I found one that didn’t look crowded and when I walked inside I discovered why. No the food was not terrible, but the narrow opening lead to a giant, and from the sound of things, Chuckie Cheese type restaurant. I sat up front and got my spaghetti. I think it’s illegal to not have spaghetti as some point while in Italy and I don’t want to be stopped at the border. It wasn’t what I had hoped for, very oily and no bite, but it was tasty and more important the place mats were maps of venice giving me the opportunity to discover that I had missed and entire, large, section of the city.

Post lunch, I set off in the direction on the undiscovered country. Suddenly, the streets opened up to be streets. Not quite two lanes wide, but not so cramped that you felt like you had to ask passersby if they had been tested and had protection. There were also more street performers. Previously I had seen a lot of beggars, but no street performers. I have a rule about beggar and street performers. I don’t give money to people who aren’t making an effort to earn it. Seriously, if the little old lady in the babushka outside the cathedral had a sign that said she would pray for my soul in exchange for a donation, I would have gone for it, but just holding out a cup? I took a short video of the two guys playing guitar and gave them some money. Opera guy was cleaning up. The jazz quartet was doing okay, but they have to split it four ways. The Charlie Chaplin mime was doing terribly and when I passes his way again he had packed it in, hopefully for greener pastures and not because the gangs of roving purse sellers had chased him off. Need a purse? Need sunglasses? Need a ball of goo that will reform itself into a gold pig after you splat it against something? You can get all that stuff easily and I would buy from street vendors, but I have a purse and sunglasses and no need for splaty gold pigs. I happened to walk past a purse dealer who was involved in negotiation with a little girl as her mother looked on. The dealer was having a ball trying to talk this girl into letting her mother buy a purse but the little girl kept saying that her mother couldn’t have another purse because Daddy said no more.

Also during my afternoon roving I discovered a grocery store. I had come across butchers and fruit and vegetable vendors, but no basic grocery stores. When traveling in other countries, one of the things I like to look at are the grocery stores. Oddly the German girl I met on the plane said she also liked to look at grocery stores. She mentioned being amazed that in Canada they sold eggs by the dozen. In Germany she said you can only get them by the half dozen. She was fascinated by the fact that you could get eggs in the UAE in flats of 30. In Italy eggs are available in dozens. If I could have gotten half that stuff back to the UAE, I would have needed to buy a new suitcase.

After the grocery store, I decided it was time to head back to the hotel. This always requires an hour or so of finding a vaporatto stop and I was still trying to avoid the Rialto bridge which of course meant I ended up in San Marco Square. As I passed I noticed that the line to get into the cathedral wasn’t long so I hopped in it and was disappointed. In Notre Dame you went into the church, all the way into the church. In San Marco you walked through the foyer and into their gift shop. If I had waited in line for that I’d have been peeved. As I passed outside, I noticed that they had closed up so maybe I just got unlucky.

On the vaporatto to the bus station I got stuck in the middle of a group of obnoxious Germans. Maybe I’m just unlucky that way too. This group couldn’t understand that no standing in front of the driver meant them too. They kept standing up to take pictures, once nearly causing an accident. I was so distracted by their antics that I nearly failed to take in how empty the canal was. Every other time I had been on the Grand Canal there had been so many vaporattos, water taxis, gondolas and personal boats that one could almost hop across, but at this point in the day it was so quiet that I could see water. In one stretch there was only one other boat and it was a vaporatto (headed directly for us. I don’t know how they manage to not have dozens of accidents a week.)

The bus route, as if sensing that I may have gotten my bearing finally, threw me one more curve ball. The bus wasn’t there when I got to the correct lane so I waited for ages in the cold with several other people. When the bus finally arrived it wasn’t the full route. It was the limited route. There I was hoping I could get on the bus without having to pull out my hotel postcard and show it to the driver and I had to anyway.

On the upside I did get the show to stop coming out in one stream. On the downside, apparently its interpretation of “shower” is a circle of water that a person can easily stand in the center of without getting wet. I may have been better off with the broken version, but since I don’t know how I fixed it, I don’t know how to break it again.