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Old 04-20-2014, 10:40 AM   #1421
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Just got back from Beijing last week - a truly interesting place to visit despite the haze. A few pictures to share on a more remote part of The Great Wall (managed to climb a small part of it but many parts were very challenging and unrestored). ImageUploadedByEarly Retirement Forum1398008368.358969.jpgImageUploadedByEarly Retirement Forum1398008394.876977.jpgWill be going to Florence next week. The last time DH and I were in Florence was more than 10 years ago.
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Old 04-20-2014, 11:03 AM   #1422
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Coolchange, no recent trip to Grand Cayman, but have experienced Stingray City before. We went with our dive club and had about a dozen folks in our group feeding the rays. We were in about 10 feet of water on a sandy bottom with our dive gear on and extra weight to keep us comfortably seated. We were in a big circle and the host went around with a bucket of cut up fish pieces and each of us grabbed a handful. The rays showed up as if on cue when they smelled supper. They pretty much swarmed over us as we offered up the food - they would suck the chunks up right out of our hands. You could rub your hands all over them as they swam around you even letting their tail slip through your enclosed fingers. We were cautioned not to grab them or attempt to restrain them in any way. Apparently they are so accustomed to this interaction they rarely extend the barb on their tail - we saw this once and only when a dummy tried to latch on to one by grabbing both sides of its body. Luckily he quickly released it and no harm was done. Highly recommend this experience.
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Old 04-20-2014, 12:24 PM   #1423
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Just an update to those who gave us advice for our last minute Europe trip we are doing in May - we decided to do Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris. So excited!

BTW, I just discovered I can call France for two cents a minute via Google Voice. Fun!

Booked our Paris hotel and now have to find accommodations in Amsterdam and Brussels.
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Old 04-20-2014, 06:29 PM   #1424
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When you are in Brussels, I hope that you have time to do at least a day trip to Bruges. Luxemburg is also feasible for a day trip by train from Brussels.
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Old 04-20-2014, 08:31 PM   #1425
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Just back from a week in Venice. This was the view of the Rialto Bridge from our hotel terrace, as well as the stretch of the Grand Canal in the other direction.
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Old 04-20-2014, 09:29 PM   #1426
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Just an update to those who gave us advice for our last minute Europe trip we are doing in May - we decided to do Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris. So excited!

BTW, I just discovered I can call France for two cents a minute via Google Voice. Fun!

Booked our Paris hotel and now have to find accommodations in Amsterdam and Brussels.
Sounds great. I don't know Google voice but if it is anything like Skype, then as long as you have wifi you can make USA calls at USA rates, including toll free numbers for free. Hopefully you won't need that feature (last year I had to make many calls to sort out credit card issues)
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Old 04-20-2014, 09:30 PM   #1427
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Fabulous photos Mr Gumby, it all looks fabulous.
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Old 04-20-2014, 09:41 PM   #1428
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Which Venice hotel is that?
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Old 04-20-2014, 10:05 PM   #1429
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This thread made me look back at my travel photos. Following are 2 of the photos I took during the 2003 Carnival in Venice: the boat race on the Grand Canal, and some costumes in San Marco Square.

I hope to go back some day for another Carnival.




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Old 04-21-2014, 05:53 AM   #1430
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Which Venice hotel is that?
It is the Hotel al Ponte Antico. Located in a beautifully restored 14th Century palazzo, it has only 9 rooms and, to my knowledge, one of the few terraces on the Grand Canal. I very much enjoyed sipping Prosecco out on the terrace as the boat traffic went by, with all the tourists taking our pictures and thinking "Damn, why didn't I stay at that place?" While we were at the Accademia Gallery, we saw this painting by Vittore Carpaccio, painted in 1496. Our hotel is the building straight under the middle of the arch of the old Rialto Bridge. Not many places you can find a 500 year old picture of your hotel.
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Old 04-21-2014, 10:41 AM   #1431
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Thanks the name sounds familiar. Probably very popular.

Some of the rooms have terraces or it's like a breakfast room?

I stayed in a hotel a couple of years ago where the breakfast room overlooked the Grand Canal, though it was further down from the Rialto.
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Old 04-21-2014, 12:54 PM   #1432
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When you are in Brussels, I hope that you have time to do at least a day trip to Bruges. Luxemburg is also feasible for a day trip by train from Brussels.
I haven't planned that part of our trip yet, so thanks for the tips! Will look into it.

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Sounds great. I don't know Google voice but if it is anything like Skype, then as long as you have wifi you can make USA calls at USA rates, including toll free numbers for free. Hopefully you won't need that feature (last year I had to make many calls to sort out credit card issues)
Eeks, yes, hopefully not! I was hoping to use the Google Voice for making calls, if needed...good to have a plan in place, just in case!
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Old 04-21-2014, 02:08 PM   #1433
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When you are in Brussels, I hope that you have time to do at least a day trip to Bruges.
Bruges (or Brugge, as the locals call it since it's in the Flemish-speaking part of the country) is without a doubt one of the half dozen most beautiful cities in the world, IMHO.

Remarkable place. Once one of the major ports of northern Europe, but the canals silted up and it gradually faded into relative obscurity. As a result, not much changed since the middle ages, and the architecture is breathtaking. Not unusual at all to see buildings that were put up 500-600 years ago (or even more), still in active use all over town.

And don't get me started on the beer ...
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Old 04-21-2014, 03:47 PM   #1434
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Bruges is one of the few major European cities that escaped destruction in WWII, hence the preservation of its buildings. There's a dark comedy called "In Bruges" that shows parts of the city.

And when in Belgium, one must have its bières and moules-frites. I did not take good pictures of our table, so have to link one in from the Web.

All this talk makes me want to go back, but the world is large and there are so many other places that I have not visited. So many places, so little time and money...

PS. At the end of that day trip, we rode the train from Bruges to Ostend and had moule-frites for dinner there before riding the train back to Brussels. Oh, what a great day!

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Old 04-21-2014, 06:03 PM   #1435
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Thanks the name sounds familiar. Probably very popular.

Some of the rooms have terraces or it's like a breakfast room?

I stayed in a hotel a couple of years ago where the breakfast room overlooked the Grand Canal, though it was further down from the Rialto.
The terrace was for everyone at the hotel, but since there are only 9 rooms in the hotel, the terrace was never crowded We ate our breakfast there every morning and rested up for dinner in the late afternoon.
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Old 04-21-2014, 06:30 PM   #1436
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Bruges (or Brugge, as the locals call it since it's in the Flemish-speaking part of the country) is without a doubt one of the half dozen most beautiful cities in the world, IMHO.

Remarkable place. Once one of the major ports of northern Europe, but the canals silted up and it gradually faded into relative obscurity. As a result, not much changed since the middle ages, and the architecture is breathtaking. Not unusual at all to see buildings that were put up 500-600 years ago (or even more), still in active use all over town.

And don't get me started on the beer ...
Oooooh....thank you so much for the details! We will definitely go check it out! It sounds breathtaking indeed.

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Bruges is one of the few major European cities that escaped destruction in WWII, hence the preservation of its buildings. There's a dark comedy called "In Bruges" that shows parts of the city.

And when in Belgium, one must have its bières and moules-frites. I did not take good pictures of our table, so have to link one in from the Web.

All this talk makes me want to go back, but the world is large and there are so many other places that I have not visited. So many places, so little time and money...

PS. At the end of that day trip, we rode the train from Bruges to Ostend and had moule-frites for dinner there before riding the train back to Brussels. Oh, what a great day!

Ooooooooh YUM! That pic looks scrumptious! We will surely have to try that.

These tips are so helpful. So far I only have the hotel in Paris booked. Eeeeks! So NOT like me to be a last minute planner...but we just couldn't pass up this opportunity so I will somehow pull it off.
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Old 04-22-2014, 11:14 PM   #1437
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Very nice pictures Gumby!
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Old 04-24-2014, 08:12 PM   #1438
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Just back from a Panama Canal cruise on Princess with a few days on both ends with relatives in Florida. This is my first trip since kicking my job to the curb. 19 days. Long by my old standards, but I hope to make this one look short, hehe. Strange to come home and not be immediately pulled into doing work for the man. Instead I went through the mail, paid a few bills, reconciled some statements and got all caught up on that kind of thing. I think I need to get better at doing some of that while traveling as the time away gets longer.
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Old 04-24-2014, 08:23 PM   #1439
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Just back from a Panama Canal cruise on Princess with a few days on both ends with relatives in Florida.
How did you like the Canal? I went through it twice when I was in the Navy and thought it was one of the modern engineering wonders of the world. If you were intrigued by it, you might read David McCullough's book "The Path Between the Seas" about what went into building it.
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Old 04-25-2014, 11:48 AM   #1440
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How did you like the Canal? I went through it twice when I was in the Navy and thought it was one of the modern engineering wonders of the world. If you were intrigued by it, you might read David McCullough's book "The Path Between the Seas" about what went into building it.
It was very cool. Amazing that they can keep the ships from scraping against the walls. I wrote a paper on the canal construction projects when I was a senior in high school, the same year that book was published! The title sounds familiar...I wonder if I used it in my research.

They had the gates for the new, bigger, locks sitting on the sidelines. Its not off my bucket list yet until I traverse the new set of locks when they're done.
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