Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Pacemaker

It was in July, 2016 that I noticed that climbing some hills and going up the stairs in out house was requiring a lot of exertion. I thought that I was getting out of shape and that I should do more exercise, but then I began to think that this was requiring too much exertion. This was over the span of a few days. so, I called my cardiologist's office and got a quick appointment. He did an EKG and said that maybe I needed a pacemaker. He wanted me to get further evaluation. He said, "The easiest thing is to drive over to the emergency department. That way you won't need an appointment and I'll call ahead so they will be expecting you." Got lost on the way (I followed the GPS) but finally got there. They were expecting me and couldn't understand how I wasn't passed out because my heart rate was 30 bpm. Yes, I needed a pacemaker and now I have one, battery and all.

I have to say, hearing that I needed a pacemaker was a shock because a pacemaker wasn't even in my thoughts when I went to the doctor's office. Psychologically adjusting to the fact that I have one has also been difficult. However, thoughts about that have dimmed somewhat since I added a radiation oncologist to my medical team a few weeks ago. That story will have to wait for another post.

The Great Computer Debacle and Other Things

It is hard to believe that I haven't written a post here in over a year. With so many people now on Facebook, I can add little ditties on there. Once in a while, though, I like to write in more detail, just so I have a record of what my life has been like. It is time to catch up.

Rochester, NY is cold in the winter and has lots of snow - usually. This year we have not had, so far, any really debilitating snow storms, although communities not that far away have gotten hit hard. In addition to cold, one thing that Rochester does have in abundance is music. It is home to the world renowned Eastman School of Music, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and many, many other groups and venues for music performances, operas, plays and all manner of entertainment. Anne and I are still taking hammered dulcimer lessons and this year have added a class in the History of Western Music, both taught by the also world famous Mitzie Collins. Many of the performances by the Eastman students are free and we also have a subscription to Rochester Philharmonic performances. So, we are busy musically, but I wanted to talk about the computer and my workshop.

Anne had an older HP computer that wasn't getting along all that well with Windows 10. It was in two different shops a couple of times and we finally got her a laptop to replace it. She is pleased with her new computer. I said, "We really have no use for another computer. I will take this one to my shop in the cellar, remove the hard drive and recycle it." I took it to the cellar and decided that the next day I would get the drive out. Overnight the thought occurred to me that maybe I could install Ubuntu (a Linux operating system) onto it in place of Windows. Ubuntu is frequently used by computer geeks on an older computer to bring it back to life. So, I installed it. Ubuntu is a free open source program and has a ton of also free open source programs to do just about everything under the sun. I put it next to my Mac in my room, but really had no use for a third computer there. (I also have an older laptop.) What to do? I said, "I will take this, now resurrected, computer down to my shop, where I also don't really need it." I have a workbench there with several shelves over it. The bottom shelf was too low for the computer and monitor, so I cut it in half. Then I decided that I could use a couple of electrical outlets wired directly from the service panel instead of extension cords that I was using. It took two days to snake wires around for that project, but now I was ready.

Several trips were made to bring down the computer, monitor, speakers, keyboard and mouse. I got it set up and turned it on. Everything went fine and it told me I had some updates to install. Okay, install. Halfway through, the thing froze and despite using all the troubleshooting available, I couldn't get it unfrozen. Logic would have told me, "You took the thing down to recycle it. Why don't you do that?" No. I remembered that I had another hard drive from a backup for this machine that was now not being used. I removed the side of the computer and saw that the hard drive was deep in behind the DVD drive, but it wasn't a whole lot of trouble to get it out. It turned out to be the same size and brand as the back up drive, so I swapped them. I now had to load Ubuntu on this new drive. Upstairs I climbed to get the disk and back down I went. I loaded Ubuntu, which went on without a hitch. I also downloaded a couple of extra programs from the Ubuntu software store (free). I went upstairs and the machine went to sleep after the ten minute time that I had set. It never woke up. Try as I might I could not get the thing to come alive again. Then I thought, "I wonder if I took the first drive and reloaded Ubuntu onto it...maybe it might work. I'll give that a try in the morning." I went to bed and in a dream a voice came to me and said, "Stop already. Disable the hard drives and recycle the dumb thing." Funny how dreams can have a profound effect on your life. I did what the voice said and it is now gone, Ubuntu and all.

Remember that shelf that I was talking about that I sawed in half to make room for the computer? Now I wanted the other half of the shelf back, so I had to join the two halves with a piece of plywood underneath with glue and screws. Now my workshop is back in relatively good shape and I have to decide what to make next. I think I will not make any more musical instruments. This past year I made a minstrel banjo (from scratch), an Irish tenor banjo, a mountain dulcimer and an octave mandolin, all from kits. There's no more room for instruments and I have to learn to play these. I am leaning toward making limberjack figures. That's not a misspelling. They are wooden figures about a foot tall that have limber joints and dance when bounced on a thin board. Dulcimer hammers is another possibility and intarsia woodworking, plus Anne thinks making some bowls would be nice. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Model Boat

I have been thinking of making a model ship for some time. Years, in fact. I started a model Lightning number of years ago, took it out every once in a while, looked at it and put it away. Last year, however, I got it out and actually made some progress on it. However, I wanted to build something more ambitious, like the Charles W. Morgan or the Bounty, but kits for those are a few hundred dollars, so, if I bought one, I had better do it. I mentioned all of this to brother-in-law, Art, who thought I should abandon the kit idea and build one from scratch. My father had built a model of a sailing sloop entirely from driftwood and it is really beautiful. But, Dad was a craftsman in the true sense of the word. Then I thought, why not build a model of the Sara B. I wanted a model of a boat that had some meaning for me, so that seemed like the perfect answer. I got the lines of Sara B from Skipper Chris who had meticulously taken them right off the boat. I scaled them out as best I could and blew them up to actual size, 1/2 inch to the foot. Sara B is about 38' on deck so that would make a 19" model.

I met with Art and we went over plans and techniques. I was planning on making a solid hull, but Art thought I should do plank on bulkhead, a lot more work, but more fun (Art says). He gave me a piece of walnut from which I can cut the planking.

Here I am with the piece of wood.

Since I wrote this post, but didn't publish it, I joined the Model Shipwrights of Western New York, a group just forming of several people interested in model boat building. I was contacted around October, but didn't get to a meeting until December 2015. The knowledge and expertise of these men is truly astounding. A few images of works in progress and finished boats are below.

Well, I got correctly scaled drawings from Skipper Chris for the size boat I want. I couldn't get my printer to do anything in the way of scaling without a lot of trial and error, mostly error. So, now I have the drawings and the wood. I had better get busy.

It's Been a Whole Year

Well, golly gee! I haven't posted anything to my blog in a year. I know that I have not just been sitting here comotose for that time. I've done a lot of things, but, I haven't written them down. I have posted things to Facebook, but maybe not with the same detail as I would here. It seems that we get so inundated with information these days that it's hard to keep up. The good part of this blog is that I could go back and read what I had done at various times. Hmmm. Do people blog anymore? I think some do at least. So, now the task falls to me to recreate my year and post it here for the joy and edification of my followers, assuming anyone is still following. If you are, dear reader, hang in there and give me a few days to gather some thoughts.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The New Year is Slip Sliding Away

It is almost the middle of January. Katie Rose just turned 18 and she's deciding on which college to attend. Dulcimer lessons are proceeding. Go to my other blog, Barrister Bill, to see about that. We renewed our membership in the YMCA, free this year, courtesy of our new health insurance carrier, Aetna. We have been asked to be sacristans at our church (why oh why can't I just say "No") and I'm thinking about building a model of the Sara B, which is the schooner in which we have a partial interest.

The first step seems to be is to have plans from which you transpose the lines somehow to a block, or blocks of wood. Skipper Chris Gateley did a masterful job of taking the lines off Sara B and emailed the drawings to me. I have been reading a lot about building model boats and there is quite a bit about taking the lines off another model, or a real boat, but very little that I've found about what to do with the drawings once you have them. We're having lunch with Skipper Chris and Skipper Sue later this week, so I will just come right out and ask him. "Hey Chris, what do I do now?"

We have appointments at the Y tomorrow to me with health advisors to tell us what we should do with our aging bodies to make them new again. I once had a barber who asked me how I wanted my hair cut. I told him, "The usual and make me look good." He said, "Hey, I'm not a miracle worker." I hope I don't get the same answer from the health advisor. We have been getting some unwanted exercise by shoveling our driveway the past few days. Not enough snow for the snow blower, but enough (1" to 2") to require removal. One of the things I want to discuss with the Y guy (or gal) tomorrow is sailing. When we were on Sara B this past summer, my body did not feel at all limber. In fact, I felt somewhat limited in my ability to move. Maybe arthritis has something to do with it, but I want to see if I can do something to loosen myself up. I don't think I'll be sailing one designs anytime soon, but I should to be able to move more fluently on a 47 foot schooner.

I almost forgot. I just finished reading The Last Lion, Alone 1932 - 1940, the fascinating biography of Winston Churchill by William Manchester. This is the second volume of the trilogy. Manchester explores all of the macinations going on in England, France and Germany in the years leading to the second world war. It was very interesting and educational reading. This book is about 689 pages of text. The final book is over 1,000 pages. I think I'll wait a little while before I take that up.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

O Canada, or Was That Oswego?

I'm sitting on our deck looking up at the stars in the blue sky. It looks like a night sky put in motion like you might see on a National Geographic special, but it's 6:00 in the evening, the sky is blue and the "stars" are little puff balls from the cottonwood tree at the back corner of our property. There must be millions of the little things. They accumulate like snow all over the place. I have had to place a protective cover over my glass of Scotch to keep the little cotton balls from landing in it. The cover is actually a pamphlet entitled "Welcome to the Oswego River and Canal" which has a direct relation to our trip to Canada.

This past Wednesday, June 18, 2014, we woke up at 5:00 am, had breakfast and arrived at the dock at Fair Haven at 7:00 am to begin our sail across Lake Ontario aboard the Schooner Sara B. with Skipper Sue and Skipper Chris. The Sara B is owned by a limited liability company of which we are a part. [Skipper Sue, in her parallel life, is the well known author, Susan Peterson Gateley, who has written a number of books on the history, folklore and ecology of Lake Ontario and the surrounding area. You can learn more about her here.]

 Sailor Bill
 Skipper Sue
Skipper Chris

We loaded aboard, via dinghy, our backpacks, food, foul weather gear, cooler and bedding and we headed North for Canada. About an hour or so into the trip, the seas were beating and the winds were whipping in an unfavorable direction. Old Man Winter had forgotten to go to his home and he made us very cold. Three days before Summer we were all in our winter foul weather gear. The final straw was that fog was spotted on the horizon and concern arose about crossing shipping lanes and navigating Canadian shoals in poor visibility. We collectively decided to tack and head for friendlier waters.

Friendlier waters were found in Sodus Bay. Initially, I was a little disappointed because we can drive to Sodus Bay in about forty minutes and I was looking forward to overnighting in the wilds of Canada a little east of Toronto. Sodus Bay, however, proved quite agreeable. We found an anchorage were we could only see trees on shore. It reminded me very much of Second and Third Lakes in the Adirondacks near Old Forge. A quiet night was spent there.

Sodus Bay

We awoke the next morning to a fog and a light north wind. Since we wanted to go North, the wind was of little help. We could motor there, but the idea was to sail, a much different experience, so, after consulting the marine weather forecast and sticking our fingers up in the air to determine the wind's true direction, it was decided to head east to Oswego. My only prior experience with Oswego was when Anne and I drove through there on our way home from Alex Bay and I have to say that with major road construction and travel through an industrialized part of the city, I was not very impressed. The harbor, however, was a different story.

We were graciously afforded dockage at the H. Lee White Marine Museum. Hopefully, it was the antiquity of our vessel that was prized and not the antiquity of the crew. We arrived as the museum was closing, so we declared "Happy Hour," relaxed, had dinner, relaxed some more, took delightful, hot showers at the attached boating education center, relaxed some more, witnessed a beautiful sunset, listened to Taps begin played at the adjacent Coast Guard station and went to bed.

Anne on Sara B.

Sara B. at dock in Oswego

Does he plan to drive that boat?

I was expecting to be awaken by Reveille being played, but, that was played later. I guess the Coast Guard is more laid back than the Army. We munched on some donuts and banana and began our day. Chris and I walked to the nearby marina to get ice and noticed a sign for several harbor and park walks, so after getting the ice stowed, we set out for a walk of a little more than a mile around the harbor and marina. The harbor was being dredged so we diverted to a spot where we could observe the crane loading a barge with muck. We learned a lot about the history of Oswego harbor from Sue. After viewing the harbor today, it was amazing to find out about the amount of industry, shipping and even yachting that took place in days long past.

Tug pushing barge from harbor dredging.

There was a farmers' market in progress a relatively short walk away, so we opted for more exercise, bought honey, some strawberries and some muffins. After lunch on board we visited the marine museum which included a self guided tour of the USAT Tug LT-5 (Major Elisha K. Henson) which is still operated for educational purposes. There was also a massive Erie Canal Derrick Barge that we toured. After we finished with the museum, Anne and I were pretty tired of walking whereupon Skipper Chris and I declared that Happy Hour had mercifully arrived. We remained the rest of the evening on the boat.

World War II Tug LT-5

Anne on LT-5

Saturday dawned bright and sunny, although with not much wind. Docked near the museum is a metal hulled schooner, The Ontario, which has been undergoing restoration for the past twenty six years. It is almost finished and quite good looking. One of the other LLC members, Rich, has been quite active in the restoration. We walked down to visit with him and watch other volunteers splicing rope and doing other boatly chores.

Sue had been talking about the Oswego Canal and a restored 1901 tug that was docked about a mile away at Lock #8. We learned that there was a flotilla of several hundred kayaks heading for the lock, but we didn't see them. One kayak type canoe and a sailboat that were transiting the lock tied up waiting for the water to drop and we got to talking with the Canadian sailor, who, it turns out, was completing a transatlantic voyage by himself. He had sailed from Newfoundland to Ireland and then from Gibraltar to Antigua and then on up the east coast.  He had a day or two to go until he reached home in Toronto.

 Canal Tug Urger 

Canadian sailor homeward bound

On the way back to the boat, Anne and I stopped at the Oswego Railroad Museum which was a nicely done, mostly HO gauge layout of the Oswego harbor and surrounding area. A very knowledgeable man by the name of Billy walked us through the layout and explained the history of the New York Central and Lackawanna railroads in the area.

When we got back to the boat Rich was there and we had a nice lunch. It was now close to 2:00 pm and we hoped there would be a little bit of wind to sail back to Fair Haven. There was a little wind, but not enough to fill the gaff rigged main and fore sails, nor the stay and jib sails. We tried to sail, but finally gave up and fired up the old Thornycroft diesel and motored back to Little Sodus Bay. The weather was still nice so we ended our voyage to Canada with a tasty dinner at the Pleasant Beach Hotel and Restaurant.

We didn't get to Canada, but when we moved up here, I set a goal to visit and learn about the places nearby. Sailing along with Southern Shore of Lake Ontario, seeing Chimney Bluffs from the water, overnighting in Sodus Bay and visiting Oswego were great ways to experience the Silver Waters of the Inland Sea.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Our Tour de France

This is an account of our river cruise in southern France, August 2013 aboard Viking River Cruises, "Europe."

When making arrangements for the trip, I thought it would be a good idea to book our flights as well as the cruise through Viking. They provide transportation to and from the airports to the boat and I felt that would make the trip less taxing even though it cost a little more to do it that way. I was wrong. It was not less taxing. Apparently, the rule for international travel is that as long as you have forty five minutes between connecting flights, it's okay. Of course, even though you book your flights months in advance, you don't actually find out what arrangements have been made until a couple of weeks before departure. We flew from Newark to Frankfurt and then connected with a flight to Marseille with a little less than an hour to spare. Despite assurances to the contrary from Viking, we had to go through passport control and customs in Frankfurt, each of which involved lines. We made our connection, but with only a few minutes to spare.

On the way home, the boat docked in Chalon sur Saone which was forty five minutes from Lyon where we had to catch a flight to Munich and then our flight to Newark. Anne and I were driven in a private "taxi" (sleek, black Mercedes with leather seats and no taxi markings) to Lyon airport. That part was fine. . When we got to Lyon we went into the airport to find it jammed with people and closed because of a "lost baggage situation." The military was there and fire brigades and no one could tell us how long with would last. Our non-English speaking driver spoke to a woman with a clipboard who communicated this to us and then he left.

It turned out that our flight was only delayed about fifteen minutes, but again, our connecting time in Munich was only about an hour.

I had been questioning our travel agent and Viking about these arrangement since we learned of them and was assured that if we missed our flight to Newark, Viking would put us up in a hotel in Munich overnight. Having read the transport contract, I'm not so sure they had to do that, but, in any event, we wanted to go home, not spend a night in Munich. When we visited Anne's cousin, Eileen, in Germany, a few years ago, she took us on a grand tour of Munich and we stayed overnight in a hotel near the airport then. It was a very nice trip and maybe we'll do it again some day, but it wasn't in our plans for this trip.

Before we left the boat, Viking said that we could change our flights at a cost of about $2,000, or, they suggested that if one of us were handicapped, they could order a wheelchair and that would get us through the airport quicker. This is apparently now becoming a trend and it no longer works as well as it used to. So, Anne agreed to be the handicapped person and when we got on the plane in Lyon, I asked the stewardess about this and she said that Anne was on the list for a wheelchair and that someone would meet us inside the terminal.

European, or at least German, handicapped people must be made of strong stock indeed, for when our plane landed, it didn't pull up to a gate, but parked on the tarmac. They rolled up one of those tall stairways by which passengers, both handicapped and normal deplaned. Then we had to walk to a bus and stand until we got to the terminal. Meanwhile, time is ticking away.If a person had a serious disability, I don't know what they would do, maybe slide them down a chute.

We got into the terminal, along with hundreds of other people and looked around for some sign of officialdom, but saw none. We must have looked bewildered because a Lufthansa agent materialized from the crowd and asked if we were looking for a wheelchair. We showed him our boarding pass. He looked at his watch and his eyebrows raised as he told us it was quite foolish to make flight arrangements with such a short connecting time. I politely told him that we had not made the arrangements and that I had been complaining to Viking about it. He said to follow him and he led us to an elevator which took us to the second floor where there was waiting a golf cart type of conveyance. Anne sat in the front next to him and I rode in the back, facing the rear, holding our luggage. We went careening through the airport, the driver beeping his horn, people scattering and mothers pulling children to safety. We arrived at a passport control with a long line. Our driver stopped at a gate and motioned to an immigration agent inside a glass booth who checked our documents and allowed us to proceed ahead of the other waiting travelers (how embarrassing). We then scooted through baggage check where nothing appeared to get checked and then proceeded to the airplane gate. The plane was delayed a few minutes and we made it with only ten minutes to spare. We would not have made it had it not been for the cooperative agent and our rollicking ride through the huge Munich airport.

Sunday (August 25, 2013)  ARRIVAL IN AVIGNON

Now, let's see. I was going to write about a river cruise. We were met at the airport in Marseilles and driven by bus to our boat which was docked on the Rhone River in Avignon.

 There was a buffet luncheon awaiting us on arrival. We found our friend, Mike Kehoe and decided to take a short walking tour of the city. Avignon is known as the City of the Popes because from 1309 to 1377, seven Popes resided there because of turmoil in Rome.

One of the interesting sites is the Pont d'Avignon (Bridge of Avignon). According to legend, heavenly voices told a young shepherd, Benedict, where a bridge should be built. The authorities resisted, but Benedict persisted and with a superhuman show of strength, marked the location with gigantic rocks earning him the respect and support of the common people. He then founded a society of bridge builders who completed the structure in eight years. Benedict, unfortunately, did not live to see it finished. He was buried in one of two bridge chapels. Also, unfortunately, floods and wars took their toll on the bridge which now only extends to the middle of the river. It is immortalized in a 15th century children's song, Sur le Pont d'Avignon.

The Papal Palace is huge and next to it stands the Cathedral Notre-Dame-des Doms from the 12th century. In the 19th century a golden figure of the Madonna was erected on top of its tower.

I don't know. They're French.

After lunch there was a short walking tour of Avignon with a guide, but this tour didn't climb up the hill behind the Papal Palace. Following the tour there was a cocktail hour, dinner and then music and dancing in the lounge.

Our stateroom had twin beds, a small bathroom with a shower and a water level window. It was comfortable enough, more comfortable and larger than the room we had on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship out of San Pedro a few years ago, but not as nice as other hotel beds I have been in.

Monday (August 26, 2013)  ARLES

We sailed early morning, going South and arrived in Arles about 9:30 in the morning.

Arles is seven times the geographic size of Paris, yet its population is a mere 50,000. The city, or commune, its official designation, dwarfs the French capital thanks to the Carmargue Delta, an untouched nature reserve that reaches from the Rhone to the  Mediterranean Sea.

Vincent Van Gogh moved to Arles in 1888 and painted 300 works there including "Cafe de Nuit," "The Yellow House," and "Starry Night Over the Rhone."

Our walking tour included the above sites along with Les Arenas, an amphitheater that could seat 20,000. It is still used today for public events.

At 6:15 PM we cast off from Arles to return to Avignon and arrived there about 10:00 PM accompanied by accordion tunes.

Tuesday (August 27, 2013)  AVIGNON

After breakfast today we took a longer walking tour of Avignon along a warren of cobbled streets, shops, lantern-lit passageways and architectural treasures, not the least of which is the 14th century Papal Palace (Palais des Papes). Competing with rival Popes in Rome, the Popes of Avignon spared very little in establishing themselves as superior. Built in 1335, the Papal Palace is the size of four cathedrals and is the largest gothic palace in the world with walls eighteen feet thick. Today it houses a museum, but contains only a very few pieces of furniture.

Wine, beer and soda (pop for our Rochester friends) were complimentary and served freely with lunch and dinner. At other times, you could buy wine for 7 or 8 Euros a glass. On our return from every excursion or walking tour, we were greeted on board with a glass of lavender water into which would be poured, if you wanted it, a large helping of vodka. Also, there were two visits to wine cellars for wine tastings. I was not greatly impressed with the selected wines. Therefore, being well lubricated, we saw no need to buy wine in any of the towns that we toured.

At 3:00 PM we departed Avignon for Viviers. We enjoyed a tea hour with French pastries in the lounge.

We arrived in Viviers about 10:00 PM and there was a night walking tour. I don't remember very much about it and I doubt I took any pictures, but I'm sure it was a very nice place.

Wednesday (August 28, 2013)  TOURNON

The Viking Europe cast off from Viviers at 5:00 AM and arrived at Tournon at 1:30 PM. We took a bus tour to Tain L'hermitage, visited the Musee Pierre Palue, Valrhona's chocolate factory and boutique and tasted some wine at Murinais in the Crozes Hermitage wine region. The museum of Pierre Palue is run by his daughter, Marie, and devoted to the works of the artist and other artists of the Paris New School. Marie is a delightful person who actually lives in the museum, a 16th century tower. She narrated a slide show for us and was willing to answer any questions we might have.  Being cuisine challenged, I had never heard of Valrhona chocolate, but the French think it's the official chocolate of heaven. At the winery, we had some more tastings (good thing we weren't driving), had a tour of the winery and rummaged about in the vineyards.

Mike (right) and Joe Kehoe

Because of heavy traffic (small town roads not designed for 21st century auto traffic), we were late getting back to the boat which was to cast off at 7:00 PM for Vienne. Dinner was scheduled for 7:15, b ut they had to wait for us because we were all on busses stuck in traffic. At 9:30 PM we had a lesson on cheese and a cheese tasting after which there was music and dancing in the lounge. The ship arrived in Vienne at 12:00 midnight. I know that because it says so in the "Viking Daily," not because we were awake to witness our arrival.

Thursday (August 29, 2013)  VIENNE / LYON

In the morning we took a walking tour of Vienne and a mini train ride to Mont Pipet. You could walk up to the chapel, but after the twisting, narrow and steep road that our mini train took, I'm glad we rode. At the top of the mount it was discovered that the "train" had a flat tire on the engine. We rode down the hill on it anyway. I don't know what happened to the next group riding up.

One of the attractions of Vienne is the temple of Augustus and Livia, which looks like, well, a Roman temple. It is surrounded by narrow streets with many small shops and cafes.

Lyon's location, where the waters of the Rhone and Saone meet, has been appreciated since at least Roman Times. In 43 B.C. a lieutenant of Caesar, seeing the two-river vantage point that today's Fourviere Hill would command, founded the fort of Lyon. The city grew and became the starting point of the entire Roman road system ensuring that all roads would lead there. As a result, Lyon became the capital of Gaul and has been a place for trade and cultural exchange ever since.

Lyon is France's second city by size. It is a clean, prosperous, cosmopolitan city and is often considered to surpass Paris in terms of lifestyle. It is one of Europe's foremost publishing centers and by the mid 18th century became the silk weaving capital of Europe.

A large, impressive, series of swimming pools were built for the summer olympics to be held in Lyon. Do you remember when that was? It didn't happen, but not the citizens of Lyon have a very beautiful place to recreate right along the river.

Courtyards and traboules (secret alleyways) were the meeting places for the silk weavers and provided safe passage for them to carry their wares to and from market without being accosted.

Recognized also as the food capital of France, Lyon has almost 2,000 restaurants, none of which we entered.

Sailing on the Rhone and Saone rivers requires going through sixteen locks and many low bridges. As a result, the sun deck on the boat was closed more than we would have liked. They lowered the canopies and even the wheelhouse. There is an area in front of the wheelhouse which was open through most of the bridges and surprisingly, when the sun deck was open, it could never be said to be crowded.

Wheelhouse with top removed

In a couple of towns we took night walks, either alone, or with a couple of other people. We were assured that it was perfectly safe and it was. We never felt uneasy. In one town we walked past some restaurants, outdoor vendors and outdoor musical performances, populated by a mixed age group, but, it seemed, mostly young people (or is it simply that all groups of people are getting younger, in my view). The French like to eat outdoors and there were a number of streets with tables set outside of small shops and many people eating there. The food smelled good, but, sadly, we never had the urge to eat there because of all the food available to us on the boat.


At 1:00 PM the Europe cast off from Lyon for Macon and arrived there about 7:15 PM. While we were sailing we took a tour of the galley (kitchen, but we saw only a small part of it). They offered free wine, but I declined. I don't recall if Anne had some.

In the lounge there was a question and answer session at which we could ask any questions we had about the boat or anything else about the tour. I learned that the boat is 33 feet wide, 77 feet long and draws six feet of water, which I found kind of remarkable. It is designed for the shallow rivers with many low bridges and, of course, has to fit through the locks. It can turn in its own length with the aid of water jets in the front and a propeller in the rear that can swivel from side to side. There is not a lot of dock space in most of the towns making it necessary for the boats to tie up next to each other. From time to time we had to walk through another boat to get to our own, or passengers from other boats had to walk through our to get to theirs. The crews of all the boats were very coordinated and worked together when a boat closest to shore had to leave and the others had to shift to allow this. The crew of our boat consisted of a captain, an assistant captain and two deck hands, all of whom spoke French and not much else. The restaurant / kitchen staff and the hotel staff were mostly from European countries other than France which is why is was easier for them to converse in English with us instead of French.

Saturday (August 31, 2013)  TOURNUS / CLUNY / BEAUNE

Macon must have been one of those towns that we walked through at night because we arrived there at 7:00 PM on Friday and left at 5:00 AM on Saturday. Did I take notes? I think I did, but where are they?

We arose early on Saturday to join a bus excursion to Cluny, the famous Benedictine Abbey that was established in the 10th century and had a tremendous influence on the church and hence European history for almost a thousand years. Eight hundred abbeys throughout Europe and as far away as Poland were founded or influenced by the abbot of Cluny.

The monks were driven out and the building destroyed during the French Revolution. Restoration efforts began in 1873 and are still ongoing. I'm not going to write about the history of the abbey. Books have already been written. The place is quite a lot to take in on a half-day tour. You can learn more here. There are better pictures than I got at this site.

While we were on the bus tour, the boat left Tournus and sailed to Chalon-sur-Saone where we rejoined it for lunch.

A word about the meals on board seems appropriate. Breakfast was in the dining room and there was always a buffet, or you could order from a menu, or ask for just about anything you wanted and it would be prepared. Lunch was in the dining room, or there was an alternate buffet in the lounge. Several days we opted for the lounge because the offerings seemed more attractive to us. Dinner was in the dining room. There were no seat assignments, so you could sit with whomever you chose. In addition to the regular meals, throughout the day there was a station near the lounge with pastries or cookies and coffee and several varieties of tea, all of which was complimentary. I use the word complimentary or free sometimes, but, of course, you are paying for all of this in the cost of passage. Oh, the cuisine also represented local fare. One night we had frog legs as an appetizer.

We were now in the Burgundy region of France. Every day on board, the wines served were representative of the particular region that we were visiting. Did you know that there is more white wine produced in Burgundy than red? I didn't either, but that's what we were told.

Our afternoon excursion was to Beaune, a town rich in art history, narrow, cobbled streets and half-timbered medieval buildings. Again, outdoor dining was de riguore along with expensive cars. We walked next to one sleek, low, black car that said Lamborghini on the rear.

One of the attractions of Beaune is the Hospices de Beaune, a hospital for the poor of the city founded in 1442. The poor of Beaune were guaranteed bread and free medical (hospice?) care in perpetuity. Not only the poor were cared for there, although wealthier patients had their own ward. From the time that the first patient was accepted in 1452 to this day there has been a functioning hospital at the site.  From their beds in the paupers' ward, the sick could admire the Last Judgment polyptych above the altar in the chapel. They might have also contemplated their own mortality. The first patient was accepted in 1452 on January 1st. The first deceased was buried on January 10th.

By the end of saturday we were pretty tired. We did a lot of walking at Cluny in the morning and again in Beaune in the afternoon. When you take a trip such as this, you have to get up and go in order to experience the history and culture of the land you are in, but I was glad for the vodka whatever when we returned to the ship and to relax in the lounge after dinner.

I forgot what times are bags had to be put out for departure, but they were there on time and so were we after an early breakfast. I described our trip to Lyon and then home at the beginning of this narrative, so I won't relive it again here.

I highlighted some of the excursions that we took, but a large part of the enjoyment of the cruise was the cruising itself along the two rivers. Most of the landscape was pastoral with some small town and a few cities along the way. I don';t recall seeing anyplace that was rundown. We were free to get off the boat anyplace we docked and explore at will. All of the places we visited were clean and welcoming. The French are health conscious with many of them bicycling or jogging and, for the most part, they all looked to be in pretty good physical shape.

The river cruise was a nice way to experience the areas through which we traveled. The land excursions provided an additional dimension. Life on board the boat was pleasant. There were only about 180 other souls sharing the cruise with us and we got to meet some very nice people. I hope I got the pictures under the correct dates, but I guess it doesn't really matter. It all took place on our river cruise in Southern France. I hope that you found this enjoyable, assuming that you got to this point. I wanted to finally get this done because things have happened since the cruise of which I want to write also, so, after you have read this, I will write something else.