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Maurice & Dawn tour Europe

Welcome to Maurice and Dawn's travel page. Here is where we will be keeping a record of our European trip for all of you to read. Please feel free to leave a comment or message for us. We will be adding to our travel page as we continue our trip and remember to check out our photos as well.

Way back in November 2007 Aeroplan offered 20% off the award points necessary for flights to Europe and we jumped at the opportunity to use some points that had accumulated for quite a few years. We booked two return tickets to Dublin and also a side trip to Rome so we could visit Dawn's sister, Elisabeth and family, near Naples and see some of Italy.
Then the "madness" started in late July 2008 when Maurice's friend Kevin told him there was an opportunity to come and work in Madrid, Spain if he was interested. The money sounded great and the other reason the work in Madrid made sense was the great opportunity for us to live and travel in Europe. After being offered what seemed like the dream job for a guy approaching retirement (four days a week) and getting lots of encouragement from our family and friends, not to forget much cancelling and rebooking of flights, Maurice set out for work in Madrid on 17th September 2008 and met up with Dawn in Rome on 17th October to take some holidays in Italy as initally planned. Our trip really started there so we thought it would be the logical place to begin our travel page.

Diary Entries

Tuesday, 03 November 2009

Location: Nice, France

We have reached the end of our travels in Europe for this marathon trip and we returned the car this morning to Nice airport with 22,455 km on the odometer. We could add nearly 2,000 km on our shoes and many more on trains, busses, boats and planes.
It has truly been a terrific experience for us and we are grateful that we were able to see so much of Europe, its wonderful history, its fascinating architecture, the diverse landscapes, the many cultures, customs and languages, the choices of food and drinks. We also enjoyed some special treats such as the cruise on the Rhine, the F-1 race at Nurburgring, the Glacier Express train journey in Switzerland and many boat and tourist bus trips through cities. There were many challenges along the way such as the language difficulties, finding the gate on a parking garage locked with our car inside, our original GPS (SatNav system) failing, our laptop monitor failing, making a phone call, parking in some cities and driving anywhere in Italy! All of these added to the unforgettable travel experience and the trip of a lifetime.
Now we are flying to Belfast to spend a few days visiting our families in Northern Ireland and we will be returning to Calgary on 10th November, tired from our travels but with countless memories of a very special trip.
Thanks to all of you who have kept track of our travels through our “PlanetRanger” web page. We hope you have enjoyed our diary entries and our photos as much as we have enjoyed posting them.

Monday, 02 November 2009

Location: Nice, France

Today is the last full day of our trip and we donated four large boxes of clothing, towels, electrical and miscellaneous items to a church group in the city. Then we went for a walk along the main shopping street, Avenue Jean Medecin, to Place Messina and into the old town where we had dinner near the Opera.

Sunday, 01 November 2009

Location: Nice, France

Today is the one-year anniversary of our arrival in Madrid for what was to be one to two years of work and travel in Europe. We went for a walk along the Promenade des Anglais before lunch and returned to watch the F-1 race on TV. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing at the hotel and organizing our stuff for our return flights to Ireland and Canada. In the evening we walked into the city centre and had dinner in a restaurant in a pedestrian shopping street close to the old town area.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Location: Nice, France

This morning we left Italy headed for Nice, France; our last destination in mainland Europe for this trip. We took the most direct route between Turin and Menton, which took us through the Alps along steep switchbacks up and down again with great views of the lovely fall colours. We crossed the border between Italy and France in a narrow tunnel barely wide enough for two vehicles. Menton is a lovely town, quite close to the Italian border and about 35 km from Nice by road. After parking close to the busy town centre, we walked along the promenade and the main shopping streets close by. Menton looks quite like a smaller version of Nice, with a stony beach and steep mountains behind the town. The weather today was very cloudy but warm at 18 C and there were lots of people, especially children, in Halloween costumes going from shop to shop in the town. On our walk, we climbed some steps to see two churches whose spires were visible from the promenade. One of these had its interior draped in a dark pink silk fabric with gold brocade trim, quite unusual. There were nice views over the town and the beach from some steps adjacent to the churches. After dark, we drove on to our hotel in Nice and had dinner in the hotel restaurant.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Location: Torino (Turin), Italy

Today we walked through Giardini Reali to Via Po and Piazza Vittorio Veneto where we ended our walk yesterday. Then we crossed the river, passed the domed church Gran Madre di Dio and walked up the nearby Monte dei Cappuccini to visit the church Santa Maria al Monte. This baroque church was built in the early 1600s and has a bright beautifully decorated interior. There is a terrific view over the city from the courtyard in front of the church. We walked back into the city centre again and continued our walk through more piazzas and along streets admiring and photographing many baroque buildings and churches highlighted on our map, including Piazza Carlo Alberto, Piazza San Carlo, Piazza Carlo Felice, Piazza XVIII Decembre and Piazza Statuto. At Piazza Carlo Felice we saw the Stazione Porta Nuova, the railway station, which we thought looked quite like Atocha station in Madrid. Turin has a really nice city centre with many streets lined with porticos or arcades and pedestrian areas with interesting shops, boutiques, restaurants, bars and cafes. We walked and took photos until dark and then had dinner close to the city centre on our last night in Italy for this trip.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Location: Torino (Turin), Italy

Today we left Rapallo and drove about 200 km to Torino (Turin), known as the Capital of Baroque and home of the famous “shroud”. Our hotel is close to the city centre and we walked through the Piazza della Repubblica passing the ruins of the Roman city wall and Porta Palatina gate with its towers. We also saw the ruins of the Roman Theatre which was excavated during the expansion of the Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) in the 1800s. Next we walked to Piazza San Giovanni to visit the Duomo, a baroque church with a huge dome. The “Turin Shroud” which, according to tradition, is the burial cloth of Jesus, is safely stored in a glass display case. It is protected with a linen cover but there are a few photographic reproductions on display. We noticed some army vehicles strategically located close to the Duomo, for security of the shroud, we suppose. Next we walked through the Piazza Castello, past the Palazzo Reale, the Palazzo Madama, the Armeria Reale, the Biblioteca Reale and the church of San Lorenzo. Then we walked along Via Po, a street lined with porticos, turning off to see the Mole Antonelliana, a building that has a curved dome and spire which was the tallest brick structure in the world when completed in the late 1800s. We continued along Via Po to the Piazza Vittorio Veneto which ends at the river Po. This Piazza is lined with stately 19th century buildings that match each other across the street. It was getting dark so we walked back into the centre and had dinner in a restaurant nearby.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Location: Rapallo, Italy

Today we took the train south to the region known as Cinque Terre (five lands) which has five old fishing villages separated by a few km each. These villages from the middle ages were isolated from the rest of Italy because of the rough mountainous terrain and were only connected when the railway was tunnelled through. In some villages the railway station is only partially open to the sky and the end of the platform is inside a tunnel. We got off the train first at the middle village of Corniglia which is set high up on a cliff. We took the local bus up the steep hill to the village centre and walked through the narrow streets, a lot of them just steps, admiring the beautiful views to the sea and the mountains which are extensively terraced for growing vegetables and vines. We got back on the train to travel to the villages of Manarola and Riomaggiore, the most southerly village and later visited Vernazza and Monterossa al Mare, the most northerly village, on our return trip to Rapallo. Other than Corniglia, all the other four villages are at the coast and have harbours for small fishing boats. Common themes for all the villages include narrow streets and steps, stone paved streets, pastel coloured buildings, prolific vegetation growth; especially aloe-vera plants. Monterossa al Mare has the only beach worth mentioning, though it has pebbles, and there is a modern promenade that leads from the train station through a tunnel to the village centre. The train makes it very easy to travel to all the villages but the hiking enthusiast can take the “short” walking trail which takes six hours. We returned to Rapallo after dark and had dinner and a last walk along the promenade of this lovely town.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Location: Rapallo, Italy

Today we took the train to Genoa, about 30 km from Rapallo. We walked from the central station to Piazza de Ferrari near the old city past many elegant buildings, palaces and churches. Most notable were the Christopher Columbus monument, Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) which is now a museum, the university building and the palaces (stately homes) from the 16th century along Via Garibaldi, now used as museums, bank offices, art galleries and private apartments. More palaces line the streets close to Piazza de Ferrari which also has an unusual fountain. Nearby we saw Piazza Matteotti with Palazzo Ducale which is used as government offices and for cultural events. There was a science fair there today with hundreds of students in front of the building. Along Via San Lorenzo we saw the cathedral of San Lorenzo, a gothic church with a black and white striped exterior. We continued on to the old harbour area where we had lunch watching the harbour activity. Then we walked along other areas of the harbour viewing the array of large and small boats, luxury yachts and a large galleon with extensive wood and metal decoration. Next we walked to Palazzo del Principe, now a museum, with a lovely garden and a Neptune fountain. Across the main roadway we stopped to take some photos of the Stazione Marittima building. We walked back through the narrow streets of the old city, out through the Porta Soprana gate and past the house where Christopher Columbus lived into the newer part of the city. On our way to the Genoa Brignole train station we walked through part of the main shopping and commercial area with many 19th and 20th century buildings but it was too dark to appreciate them. We took the train back to Rapallo and had dinner in another of the many restaurants along the promenade.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Location: Rapallo, Italy

This morning we walked along the coast about 2 km to the next village of San Michele di Pagana. Along the way we saw some very elegant homes and estates, hotels and apartment buildings with fantastic views over the sea and the mountains across the inlet. We walked back to Rapallo to explore the town and the waterfront admiring many nice buildings, some with painted details giving a three-dimensional appearance to their decoration. It warmed up to the mid 20’s C in the sunshine and we had lunch on the roof terrace of our hotel which provided a great view out to the promenade and marina. In the afternoon we took the bus to the small fishing village of Portofino close to the end of the peninsula and about 7 km of narrow winding road from Rapallo. Portofino is now a destination for the super-rich who arrive by luxury yacht. The quaint harbour front buildings are converted to high-end and exclusive shops and restaurants but we opted not to have the coffee at €5.50 a cup! We walked a narrow pathway along a headland past the Castello Brown to the lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula, admiring some fantastic views of the harbour and the sea. On our way back, we stopped in the town of Santa Margherita about 4 km from Rapallo. We walked along the promenade and past the harbour where many people were waiting for the fishing boats to return with their catch. We walked up many steps to visit San Giacomo di Corte, a baroque church decorated inside with coloured marble and gold leaf trim and with many paintings on the walls and ceiling. We returned to Rapallo on a later bus and had dinner in another restaurant along the promenade.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Location: Rapallo, Italy

This morning we left Rosia and drove north-west, through the Tuscan countryside again, toward the Italian Riviera. On the way, we stopped for a short visit in the city of Pisa, parked by the river Arno and walked to the Piazza Duomo where we saw the famous leaning tower, the cathedral and baptistery, all inside a walled square of the old town. These buildings all have some parts of their exterior finished with grey and white marble stripes. We also stopped to see another small, ornately decorated church on the river bank, again with grey and white marble accents. We drove on to our hotel in Rapallo, south of Genoa, passing through many tunnels through the hilly area along the coast. Our hotel is close to the old town centre, the river and the marina. We went for a walk along the promenade admiring the beautiful views out to the headlands adjacent to the town, which look quite like the Amalfi region, and stopped in an outdoor café for drinks in the warm weather. Later we went walking again, this time through some of the narrow shopping streets close to the church and found a nice restaurant along the promenade for dinner.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Location: Siena area, Italy

Today we finally made it to Florence on our last full day in this area. We parked close to the old city centre and walked towards the TI to find a map. On the way we passed some elegant buildings, much nicer than what we saw in Siena. We walked through the Piazza Pitti with its large stone Palazzo Pitti, now a museum. Then we crossed over the River Arno looking upstream to a bridge with buildings along it, which we later discovered was Ponte Vecchio. We passed many other interesting buildings and, after getting a map, had lunch in the Piazza in front of the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, a large building faced in dark green and white marble stripes. Next we walked to the Duomo, an even larger church, again faced with dark green and white stripes and some pink accents. Unfortunately it was closed today so we had to be content viewing its grand exterior and bell tower, very ornate with its marble statues and decorations. We visited many other sites on the tourist map north of the river, mostly churches and piazzas, but the most spectacular ones were Piazza della Repubblica and Piazza della Signoria. The latter has an “open museum”, an open-sided building containing many marble and bronze statues of varying sizes. Nearby, in the square, is Neptune’s Fountain and many other interesting sculptures. Next we walked to Piazza St. Croce and its Basilica of the same name finished in light marble with an interesting star-shaped feature near the top. We walked back along the river, crossing over Ponte Vecchio, lined with jewellery shops on each side of the pedestrian walkway, and open sections in the middle for views to the river. Unfortunately we missed a lot of the interesting sites that Florence has to offer as it would take several days to cover it all. It was already dark so we drove back towards Siena and Rosia. We turned off the main road and found the walled village of Monteriggioni, which we had visited a few days ago, so we had dinner in a nice restaurant there.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Location: Siena area, Italy

Today we had planned to go to Florence but it was raining quite heavily so after lunch we went back to Siena. We walked up to the old fort of Santa Barbara, then to Porta Camollia, a gate through the town wall, and along Via Camollia towards the centre. Along our route we stopped at three Basilicas, various fountains and churches dating from the 13th and 14th centuries. Other buildings of note included two Palazzos owned by rival families – Tolomei and Salimbeni – who founded banks in the 15th century. The rain persisted throughout the day, very heavy at times, so we returned to our apartment in Rosia to dry out and went out for dinner in the village.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Location: Siena area, Italy

This morning we packed a lunch and started out towards Florence with light rain falling. When we got to Siena, on to the 4-lane highway north to Florence, we got caught in a traffic jam. After moving slowly for only a few minutes we came to a complete stop at 11:45 am. At 1:00 pm we were still parked and the rain had stopped so we decided to have our lunch in the car. Then at 1:15 pm, the police had worked their way through the line behind us turning cars around so we headed back on the wrong side of the highway to the nearest exit. There must have been a really bad accident to completely block the road but we don’t know for certain. We decided that it was too late to drive another route to Florence so we drove into the Tuscan countryside to the village of Monteriggioni, approximately 15 km away from Siena. This village, built mostly in the 13th century, has a complete wall around it and 10 or more towers along the wall, two with narrow entrance gates. There is an old church inside the walls and a number of quaint old buildings which are used today as wine, pottery and art shops selling to the tourists. There are lovely views over the Tuscan countryside from outside the walls. We drove back south, about 35 km, through the wooded hills and vineyards to Rosia and then on to the small village of Monticiano which has another old church with an interesting bell tower. Unfortunately the church was closed and there was not much else to see in the village. Maybe we will have better luck going to Florence tomorrow.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Location: Siena area, Italy

Today we drove to Arezzo, approximately 70 km from Rosia, through the lovely Tuscan landscapes. Arezzo is a medieval walled town set on a hill and we walked up to the old centre to visit the Duomo (cathedral) and its bell tower which can be seen from many locations around the town. The cathedral is a sandstone building decorated with marble statues but is quite dark inside which hides some of the many paintings and 14th century frescoes that it contains. Next we walked to the Piazza Grande, the main square of the town, which is similar to the one we saw yesterday in Siena but smaller and the buildings are not so impressive. Arezzo has many churches, most dating from the 14th century or earlier, and we visited a few taking photos where we could. We then walked around a section of the town wall where we had great views over the surrounding countryside. Next we stopped to view the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre dating from the early 2nd century. We ended our visit at the Porta San Lorentino, a well preserved entry gate through the town wall and drove back to Rosia for dinner.

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Recent Messages

From Liz and Geoff
Just catching up on all of yur recent travels -you certainly need this journal to remind you of all of the places youv'e been.
I am going to send you a seperate email re our forthcoming trip now. Sorry we will miss you in Ireland. Take care and safe journeys.
Love Geoff and Liz
Response: Hi Liz and Geoff, maybe you could make a PlanetRanger page for your trip to Australia. Sounds really exciting and we wish you happy travels. Send us lots of photos!
love from Maurice & Dawn
From Tony
Immanuel Kant held that the mind shapes the world as we perceive it to take the form of space-and-time. It is said that Kant focused on the idea drawn from British empiricism (and its philosophers such as Locke, Berkeley, and Hume) that all we can know is the mental impressions, or phenomena, that an outside world, which may or may not exist independently, creates in our minds; our minds can never perceive that outside world directly. Kant made the distinction between things as they appear to an observer and things in themselves, "... That is, things considered without regard to whether and how they may be given to us ... ."[
Look at the time and money you could have saved was all an ellusion.....sorry,couldn't resist it.....have a nice !!
Response: Wow Tony, where do you find this stuff? Maybe we are really sitting in our living room reading the Rick Steves travel guide...
From Tony and Kay
Guilt Trip ! We feel like we owe you money Dawn ? All this travel we have shared with you from our arm chairs.We feel like a trip to the orient now....when can you organize that trip.We need to order more pop-corn !
Getting fat in Calgary from Tony and Kay (lol)
Response: Ah, the mysterious orient, that would be nice. You make that trip and we'll buy the pop-corn.
From Tony & Kay
Hurry home guys ! your drive needs shovelling !! Thanks again for your Planetranger.I feel exhausted from my travels ! the only Bellagio we will ever see i think is in Las ...take care.
Response: Hi Tony & Kay,
We hope the snow has melted before we get back as we have forgotten how to shovel it! Bellagio in Las Vegas is pretty good too.
Cheers, Maurice & Dawn
From Patrick & Nadine Tho
Dear Maurice & Dawn,
Glad to see that you are both still together continuing your mammoth tour of Europe. How are you handling all the travel and the continual exposure to new places, all the history etc. Its a good job you are keeping such a comprehensive log because when you get back to Canada (if you ever do) you will definitely need it to remind you of all that you have done.
It is great to read and see all the places you have been to. What a great adventure.
Look forward to hearing from you a hopefully seeing you again in the near future.

All the Best Patrick & Nadine Thordarson
Response: Hi Patrick & Nadine, great to hear from you. This certainly has been a mammoth tour but we have enjoyed it and our advance planning has paid off so far with only minor hitches. The PlanetRanger web site has also helped us to keep a record of our journey. We have gone past 20,000 km on the car already. We will be in touch when we get back to Calgary in November.
Best regards, Maurice & Dawn
From Tony & Kay
Dentist ! Poor Dawn....Why did you wait untill you returned to could have had it done in Hungary ? Reminds me of my chipped tooth in
Response: Hi Tony & Kay,
I did visit the dentist in Hungary. How many people that you know go to Budapest for a root canal?
Cheers, Dawn
From Tony & Kay
todate....which place did you enjoy the most Dawn...and what advice would you have for a couple doing what you have done....?
Response: Hi Tony & Kay,
So far, Switzerland was the best but you have to bring lots of cash. Do you know anyone who can help??
Cheers, Dawn
From Liz
Hi Maurice and Dawn, Just checked to see how you got on with Samantha and family. You all seem to have had a ball. Your photos are very interesting. There is a travel book in the making here!?
This is Geoff's big birthday so we are having a surprise party for him tonight . Just some of his family and a few friends who live nearby. I am having another one on Sat at the boat for our boating friends.
Enjoy yourselves
Love Liz
Response: Hi Liz & Geoff,
We really enjoyed having Samantha, Brenden & Reagan stay with us in Germany. They were able to spend some time in Munich as well as in Franconia with us. Hope the "big 60 party" goes well for Geoff, we wish him a happy birthday.
love from Maurice & Dawn
From dave goddard
Response: Thanks Dave. see you at the Pump Symposium and the Pig Roast??
Maurice & Dawn
From Barbara Simpson
Thanks for letting us know about Planet Ranger. What interesting travels you are having! David and I are in the UK at the moment (Reading) and we leave for India on Friday. Dave has a new assignment in KolKata for the next year.

Thinking of you and wishing you all the best. Perhaps we can get together at Christmas??

Response: Hi Barbara & David,
Surprised to hear that you're heading off to India. We hope you will have a great time there. We are enjoying travelling through Europe and PlanetRanger keeps a great record of our journey. We will be back in Calgary in November and we would love to get together at Christmas and catch up.
Kind regards,
Maurice & Dawn
From Jim Dillon
Hey Maurice & Dawn"
Enjoyed reading your many, many journal entries. Reminded me of my own travels through Europe complete with my own Rick Steve's travel guide. When does the "Greer Travel Guide" get published?
Glad to see yo are finding time to squeeze in some pool to keep your game sharp!!

Enjoy your travels and see you back home whenever.

Response: Hi Jim, great to hear from you. A few people have enquired about the future travel guide. I think Rick Steves has it sewn up! Looking forward to a few games of pool and a music night when we get home. Take good care,
Best regards,
Maurice & Dawn
From Liz Qua
Hello Maurice and Dawn, Looks and soounds like you are having a fantastic time.
You could turn this into a commercial venture you know. When you were in Stockholm did you not take a boat trip. You also did not mention all of the quaint shopping streets?
Response: Hi Liz & Geoff,
Just catching up to your message. We are having a great time on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Stockholm was wonderful but the weather was not too good. The quaint shopping streets were packed with people so we made a quick pass along some of them.
love from Maurice & Dawn
From Kathy and Harry Wald
Hi there,
Wow what an intersting life you are leading these days. I for one am most envious. Your photos are stunning. Have a nice glass of red wine somewhere along your travels, just for Harry and I, and we will be there in spirit to enjoy it. May your journey continue to be exciting, and safe travels. We look forward to seeing you in person again sometime soon.
Love Kathy
Response: Hi Kathy and Harry, Thanks for your kind comments and wishes. We are having a wonderful time but missing our family and friends in Calgary. We will certainly catch up with you when we get back in November. Meanwhile, take care and stay in touch.
Maurice & Dawn
From Kevin B
While you are off to Munich - dont forget to visit the Science Museum there - I'm off to GIW to talk about slurry pumps........
When I was in Munich years ago, I went to an outdoor classical music concert in one of the platz. I recommend you check to see if something similar is on - well worth watching.
Response: Hola amigo, I really have to thank you for all of this excitement! Enjoy the trip to GIW and give William P. my regards. Thanks for the tips on Munich.