Third day here and it’s my first one!! Pistachio


It’s all about the journey until you get there!

When last we spoke I had just left Lourdes, France and was on my way to Monaco. As a flight attendant, I’ve seen most of the world…..from the air. This trip, I wanted to see things from ground level. So I booked long train rides from city to city. I must say, it was a great idea and I’m loving every minute of it. Riding through the countryside of southern France was even better than expected. I even saw Flamingos!!! There is a protected area where a flock lives and I was lucky enough to catch them on a day that they were there. Unfortunately, the train was moving too fast to get a picture. I had a lovely seat mate who was on her way to a friend’s wedding in Lycee. When she boarded, I was taken aback by her dress and makeup at 8 in the morning. Then, she told me about the wedding, laughed, and said I don’t usually wear flowers in my hair in the morning! Haha! We had a nice chat, her English being better than my French. The trolley came by twice and both times I got an espresso. They brew it right on the cart!! I was amazed by the mountains of the French alps, not expecting them to be so high. I changed trains twice, in Toulouse and Marseille. The train that I picked up in Marseille was a regional and very crowded. It’s in the last picture in this first group. Then we’ll move on to my arrival in Monaco.

Riding through the French Riviera was a special treat! Every town we passed through I felt I already knew (from reading books where there was always some romance involved or the heroine was escaping to recover from a broken heart). There were several that I wish I could have stopped to see, maybe another trip.

After a long day on the train I arrived in Monaco. The train station was very nice and clean too. My Airbnb host had given me instructions on how to get into the marina where the boat that I would be staying on was moored. However, the tents for the upcoming boat show were being set up and I got a little lost , but only for a minute . We were to meet in front of the bronze statue of the Diver by the pool. I eventually found it and Tony. Tony, my host, couldn’t have been more wonderful. He had thought of everything. He was very attentive and had everything on the boat that one could possible need. I really wish I could have stayed there longer. The two nights that I stayed on the boat I was transported back to my childhood and slept like a baby. Everything about this stop, from the boats to the boat show to the marina reminded me of my father and I began to miss him terribly. For those who haven’t known me long, my father was a yacht broker over thirty years and when he had a boat show I would go with him a lot. It also brought a lot of nice memories.

The first night in Monaco, I went to a seafood restaurant right at the marina. The food was good and so was the location!

The next morning I tried to get moving early but, Monaco doesn’t rise early and neither did I. Once up , I set off in search of the Starbucks for the coveted “I’ve been there” mug. The one that I went to (there are two in Monte Carlo) was on a roof top and had the most amazing view!! Then, I realized I had left all my meds back at the boat! So, back to to the boat (after stopping at the souvenir shop by the Yacht club). So, I was able to drop off my purchases while picking up my meds…good thing.

After all that, I set off to be a tourist. On Sundays, the local buses are free and go the same places as the tour buses, so I took the number 1 to get to the palace and made it just in time to see the changing of the guard. The line was short so I bought a ticket to do the tour of the palace which I’m really glad I did as the paintings were gorgeous! The old city is so charming and I wandered the streets looking for a little place to have lunch. Found a little sandwich place, quite good. Following lunch, I went to the cathedral and Princess Grace’s tomb. The cathedral was magnificent .

I walked down through the exotic gardens to the Oceanographic museum , which was wonderful! For those who grew up watching Jacques Cousteau specials, this is the museum that he directed. I took a million pictures! Afterwards, I wandered down the mountain hoping to find a special place that my host had told me about…. and I did!!! It is a secluded beach that he said only locals know about. Of course you have to climb down very steep steps to get to it….. but, totally worth it!!! I made it down and put my feet in the Mediterranean!! It’s a pebble beach and my tender feet had a hard time walking but I lived ever second!! I even took 3 tiny pebbles.

Next up was stopping for a pizza before returning to the boat to get ready for my night out at the famous casino. The pizza was fabulous (pizza Marguerite) and I followed with an espresso to wake me up! I hurried back to the boat to shower and change into a long dress (yes,really) brought just for this night. No pics, as I was alone and somewhat intimidated by my surroundings. Anyway, I felt rather glamorous walking to the elevator at the yacht club, which take you up the mountain to the level the casino is. Unfortunately, my sugar went low and I had to stop for a coke. Gathered my wits for about 15 minutes and made my way towards the casino. All the while, I’m thinking “walk in like you own it”. My turn to intimidate 😉. Keep in mind, my knowledge of this place is only from James Bond movies, so I’m expecting diamonds and glitz and tuxedos and……………there was nobody there! It was only 9pm and, apparently, the place doesn’t get hopping until 11-12. I will say, it was extraordinarily beautiful. The paparazzi are stopped out front and snap pics continuously, to not miss anyone , I’m guessing, that they don’t recognize. The cars out front are lined up and of types you only hear about, but never see. The convertible Bentley seems very popular. I prefer the vintage sports cars that were riding around, and there were lots. One only has to see the streets of Monaco to understand why the Grand Prix is here/there. I played the slots for a little while and then went to find the roulette table. I’ve never played. But, I walked up with every intention of playing once. I watched……and left, just wasn’t interested. So, I walked around, still looking for James Bond. Didn’t see anyone even remotely dressed that well or that interesting. So,I went back outside to look for celebrities….,.nada. Took some pretty pictures and decided to head back to the boat. I walked around and ended up taking pictures of a lovely church that I found out this morning is where the locals prefer and where they like to have their weddings (as opposed to the cathedral). The remains of their patron saint are buried there. I went back to the boat and packed up for the next part of my vacation. In the morning, my host Tony took me to the train station along with his daughter whom he was taking to school. My visit to Monaco was a blast, loved it and so glad I got to see all the places that I did in such a short time.

Today, I’m making my way along the Italian Riviera and loving it. I see now why people love it. Maybe on my list for other trips.

Thank you for joining me on this adventure! Be sure to “like” , “follow”, and “share”!!

edit: still unable to upload with pictures, hoping to edit them in later.

Leaving Lourdes, vacation midpoint.

I’ve just pulled out of the station in Lourdes and must admit I’m a bit tearful. It was an incredible experience that I’m not likely to ever forget. If you’re new to my blog, welcome! I had problems uploading in Lourdes, so I’ll be starting with yesterday’s adventures first.

I woke up very early to join the queue for the baths, my purpose for coming here. If not familiar with Lourdes, please google. It was a chilly 59 degrees, but you could almost imagine being on a south seas island as I was behind the Pacific Islander group again and they were singing so sweetly. Another lovely tidbit, they were wearing what we would think of as Luau type traditional outfits and garlands of flowers on their heads, as beautiful as their huge smiles. Seated on either side of me (we were lined up on long benches) was a lady from Dublin and a lady from San Francisco. Both had been to Lourdes multiple times and explained everything, which helped my nervousness. They were both very kind. We got in line at about 7 am and my turn came about 9:15. Prayers started around 9 followed by the infirm being taken in shortly thereafter. When called back , you are seated on another bench to wait to be called into the changing area. The first thing I noticed was how warm it was, knowing that the water was going to be like ice. The changing area is shrouded in curtains and I was told there would never be a time that privacy or modesty would be compromised. I was soon called back and the first woman to introduce herself and ask my name warmly said “welcome”. I mention this because the way it was said immediately put me at ease. The area had places for eight people (I don’t know if the men’s side is the same). The lady that helped me held up a very large blue cape like thing (much larger) that fully shrouded me so that I could undress in total privacy despite being surrounded by people. Then, once finished, it was wrapped around to await my turn. When that time came, the curtains in front of the bath were opened and I was ushered in. Inside the area were three people, one at the head next to me and one on either side. One was a very young American nun, who handled communicating and explaining. She was very sweet and I wish I could have thanked her. So, a large piece of Muslim which had been soaked in the waters and wrung out was then wrapped tightly around me (cold), again under the blue cape thing and sort of fastened. The nun and the other lady then took my forearms (for stability) and instructed me to walk down the 2 steps into the water. There was a statue of Our Lady at the opposite end and you were instructed to present your intentions and their signal that you were finished would be the sign of the cross. I stepped down into the (icy) water and walked forward then was told to sit back like you’re sitting in a chair and submerge. They started the Littany of Our Lady of Lourdes. And just like that , it was over. Truly, I don’t remember getting out of the water or the muslin being removed (I understand from others, this is normal). I remember getting dressed and being amazed that I was already dry (no towels, but had been told this would happen). They tell you not to rush, that there is no hurry and they offer to help with your shoes. When done, the lady that had welcomed me came over and said She was a nurse and asked about my cgms and pump. She smiled and said “it is much better for you” meaning my tools make control better. I smiled, said yes, and showed her my reading on my Apple Watch. I think it was 143, from my pump being off while in the bath and being nervous. She smiled again and said “good”. I walked out with a huge smile on my face and I think it stayed there for hours. Below is the picture of the benches where we waited and the doors to the baths.

From there, I walked over to the Grotto for a few more moments of prayer. I felt different, really I did. But, if you asked me how, I would be at a loss of what to say. From there, I decided it was time to reach the top of the mountain. And, I decided to walk all the way to the funicular. It was a pleasant walk through town and I took quite a few pictures (to be included in the gallery). The ride up the mountain was incredible and the sights beautiful!! Taking pictures at the summit was fun and I offered to take a group picture for a German family and they reciprocated. I had brought a picnic and do, sat down to enjoy it. This is a good time to say that the Lourdes area is overrun with moths right now and I don’t know if it happens every year, or not. It was more than relaxing up there and I content to just look at the scene. Back down the mountain and then on to the apartment to start packing for the trip to Monaco (and a quick nap).

For my last evening in Lourdes I went shopping and then for a nice dinner of roast chicken and mushroom risotto. When dinner was finished, I went back to the Grotto for pictures. Below are pictures of the place where you fill your bottles with the spring water and the grotto and spring. It is tradition to touch the rock face and there are places it is worn smooth.

I wanted to come back for the candlelight procession this night not as a participant, but as a spectator. It was amazing seeing so many people and knowing it’s like this

My time in Lourdes was more special than I had even hoped for. I hope to upload even more pictures to the gallery.

A very full day in Lourdes, France.

This place is growing on me as I settle in to the rhythm of the schedule. After letting myself sleep in this morning, I was off and running at about 1030. First stop was the tourism office to plan the rest of my stay. I already knew that I would be going to the 5pm Procession of the Sacraments and the 9pm candlelight procession. It was very overcast so I have put off going to the top of the mountain until tomorrow. The lady that was helping me reminded me that today was market day. If you’ve known me long, you know that I adore farmer’s markets. So, with map in hand, I set off. What a treat, culinary and otherwise. It’s funny, I was so worried that my French wasn’t strong enough for this trip, but I seem to be understanding and understood very well. I bought some local cheese, a local cake type thing, and some tomatoes and those apricots that look like little sunsets. Following that, I stopped in a hardware store and bought a travel iron. Neither my apartment, nor the boat have one and I feel strange all wrinkled up. Quick side trip (not really, got lost again) back to drop everything at the apartment and I set off again, this time to the Sanctuary. I was most interested in seeing the underground Basilica able to hold 7,000 plus people. While huge, it doesn’t feel like it and you don’t feel overwhelmed by people. The old church is beautiful and I also got to see St Bernadette’s crypt. By that time, I was ready to go to where the Procession of the Sacraments starts. It’s very impressive to see all the groups gathering with their banners. The languages were French, Italian, and German. Although, several times they used English. I was thankful for the German. I’m eating dinner now, as is everyone else here. I opted for a mushroom omelette and it was fantastic!!! This morning at the market I had seen a mushroom as big as my head, guess it was still on my mind. I’m going to break a rule and have a coffee before I leave, it’s going to be a late night. I also want to warm up in case it gets chilly during the candlelight procession. Then, I’ll head back over to the Grotto, to offer prayers for friends and family. I’m planning on trying again for the baths in the morning. If all of this sounds like a foreign language to you, google Lourdes and St Bernadette. I’m here for the healing miracles, the pilgrimage, and some family history.

Last night, I posted about changing all my pump settings and then promptly forgot to write about it. Duh! I really was tired. For this first half of my vacation, I’ve been having lows all over the place from too much walking and climbing. On my T-slim, I duplicated my settings into a new “pattern” and then lowered the carb ratios and correction factors. Happy to say, today was much better. Climbing hills (mountains) has always made me go low.

Brief intermission while I go to the candlelight procession and the grotto.

The candlelight procession was everything I had hoped it would be. The pictures speak for themselves. There is something so basic about receiving light and giving light. My heart was warmed numerous times this evening by people who offered to hold my candle while I took pictures, none of whom spoke English. I walked with an Irish group for awhile and then an Italian group. Couples are plentiful and it seemed as though it was a beautiful experience to have together. One favorite moment was asking the Pacific Islanders if I could take a picture. I have no idea where they were from, but we smiled a lot and sometimes that’s all the communication you need.

And so tonight, my parting thought for you….. Being kind and smiling require no translation.

unable to upload pics tonight, will edit in the morning.

Porto discoveries!

This was my second day in Porto and last day in Portugal and wow, did we stuff as much in as possible!!!

As you’ll see in the first couple pictures, I had a crazy shower…….Surround sound and a bunch of jets. Ok, it was a little bizarre, but good bizarre. It was a nice way to start the day. The hotel provided a light breakfast and then we were off. We rode the trolley/tram over to where the Lello bookstore was, but we were distracted by the university gift shop, which had some really cool and innovative gadgets. A short walk away was Lello, which today’s visit was planned around. Enjoy the pictures, because nothing I say will come close to describing how wonderful it is. Fran bought a couple books and we were off in search of lunch. But, this time we were distracted by a favorite china shop “Bordello Pinheiro”, where I found a piece I’d been wanting since June….. St Anthony as a sardine…’s a thing. We ended up at a lovely Art Deco cafe sitting under the trees….having a toaster for me and a crepe for Fran. But then, a lively coffee and port macaron which was fantastic! I ran across the street for just a minute to photograph the fanciest McDonalds I’ve ever seen, complete with pastry case.

Next up, we grabbed a cab to head to the Graham’s tour, but he didn’t want to take us. Our reservation was for 3 and time was closing in. We hoofed it down the road and suddenly a cab appeared and the woman agreed to take us up the hill to Graham’s. The tour was fabulous!!! The aroma, incredible. And the tasting? Well, I did. This was a special occasion and I sipped all three glasses in my flight. Afterwards, I purchased one bottle available only there and in the UK and Fran bought 2 for Fritz. I just have to say, after serving Graham’s Malvedos vintage port for 20+ years of my career this was a special afternoon for me.

We then got a cab to visit the student’s store at the university, which was cool and reminiscent of Harry Potter again. From there we raced down the shopping street, ordering dinner for aboard the train along the way. While it was being made, we ran to the hotel to pick up our bags. Back to the restaurant to pick up food and grab a cab to the station where we found out it was late….of course. So that meant we were able to catch our breath. Train showed up and we are on our way back to Lisbon. What an awesome day!!

Unfortunately, this was my last day in Portugal with Fran and Fritz. Very early tomorrow, I will fly to Toulouse, France and then a train. You’ll just have to tune in tomorrow night to see where I end up! Enjoy the pictures!

First visit to Porto

I titled this “First visit to Porto” because I think I’ll be back. This is an awesome city! It’s laid back, beautiful, and fun. I’m here 2 days and won’t come close to seeing everything.

We arrived early and immediately bought hop on hop off tickets. I love these, because you get a great overview and become oriented to the city. It also ate up time until we could check in at the hotel. Wait until you see the view!!

After eating a great lunch we were off to the Ribiera area. I’m super tired so will probably leave a lot out. We did the boat ride to see all six bridges and took some great pics. Weather was hot and sunny

Ok, just too tired to write. Enjoy the pictures. By the way, blood sugar was a pogo stick today..

Attending church in a foreign land….

My friends invited me to attend church with them this morning and I was more than happy to go with them. My friend is a retired Episcopal priest and has associated with the local Anglican Church. It’s very interesting, there is a Portuguese branch of the Anglican communion and then an English church here is Lisbon, where expats attend and services are in English. I’m sure I’ve explained that incorrectly, but not sure how to.

The service is the same, just a few words are different. And how nice to hear the Queen’s English ! The people were very nice and I was welcomed. Admittedly, I didn’t know the hymns. After the service, there was a nice coffee hour where quite a lot of people showed up. I love that and was able to meet several interesting people.

I went back to the sanctuary to take pictures and learn a little history of the church and graveyard .Fascinating stuff (I will edit later to include a link to the history. I loved wandering around the graveyard and you’ll understand why when you see the pictures.

The readings this morning were about healing, which really moved me as I’m headed to Lourdes later in the week. Currently, I’m on the train to Cascais. It would seem everyone is headed to the beach today. I’m including a picture from the train that I found funny. You’ll understand why. Hoping to take a lot of pictures in Cascais.

Thoroughly enjoyed myself in Cascais, weather could not have been more perfect. I wandered around somewhat aimlessly taking pictures and enjoying the sights. I found 2 markers for the Camino, not realizing previously that in went through Cascais. I’m told the water is freezing here, but there were plenty of people swimming…..hardier folk than I! Food trucks were set up along the beach and I got a crepe to tide me over. Fran and Fritz are fixing dinner tonight and I’m really looking forward to it. They have been such great friends (and hosts).

T1D update: while I don’t usually change the time on my pump when working, I did change it to local for my 2 weeks in Europe. I’ve had a few lows attributed to some steep streets and foods I was unfamiliar with. As always, my Dexcom is my lifeline and keeps me from going too low. Things I’m planning on reviewing during this trip are the InPen and MedAngel. Both have been great info for you.

Link as promised to the St George’s history

Quite smitten with Coimbra….

What a lovely day!! Dark and early we headed for the Oriente train station to ride to Coimbra. We were lucky to sit across from a young couple from Rockville, MD and chat the whole way, so the ride went very quickly. We arrived early in Coimbra and went straight to the central plaza, where we stopped for the local pastry and coffee. Shops were already open so we looked around a bit and found one of the small music troupes singing fado. This particular group were all female and attending medical school. They were very good and funny too. If you didn’t see the video earlier on my Facebook page, check it out. Next up, we hired a Tuk Tuk to give us a tour of the city and give our tired legs a break. The driver was training a new guy so we learned a lot. I was very happy to see the Roman aqueduct and the mermaid pool. Along the way, we saw the university store where all the Harry Potter-esque uniforms are sold. We went back but they were closed. We purchased tickets to see the 500 year old library that I was so excited about, with an entry time of 5pm. The library was incredible, as expected. You are not permitted to take photos in the library, so I’m sharing pics of the postcards I purchased. Then, we took the river boat ride which Fran had done previously. It was great for picture taking. One of the highlights of the day was meeting the young law student who was selling decorated pencils to raise money for one their traditions (the ribbon burning ceremony, google it). I must say, this is one of those cities I could live in , much to offer. Enjoy the pictures and stay tuned for tomorrow’s entry.

An afternoon at Fatima

After arriving in Lisbon this morning, my Friend Fran picked me up and we hit the ground running. First stop was the train station to pick up tickets for two trips… Coimbra and Porto. Next up, a stop at the house she and her husband Fritz are living in during there retirement in Portugal. It is absolutely incredible and I hope they’ll let me post pictures tomorrow. It has incredible tile and woodwork and an outside kitchen I hope to duplicate. A picture of their lovely cat will have to suffice for tonight.

Then, we were off on our day trip to Fatima. It was , of course, incredible. I was amazed by the quiet. Despite there being many people (children included), it was near silent. I doubt such respect would happen at home. I’m going to let the pictures do the rest of the talking. I didn’t get more than an hour’s sleep on the flight and I need it. Tomorrow, we are taking the nice train to Coimbra and I’m so excited to see the college and library.