Category Archives: Travel

The Cruise

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale.

The final part of our trip to France in the spring of this year was an 8-day Viking River Cruise. (I am saving the 2nd leg of the trip for Veterans’ Day.) Imagine our delightful anticipation, having seen all of Viking’s TV ads showing the glorious scenery and culture that is yours while on board this vessel. We were to meet the cruise ship at Avignon in southern Provence – a wonderful place by any measure.

The cruise went like this:

Because of high waters on the Rhone R. (early snow melt on top of ample rains); authorities wouldn’t let cruise ships travel under the bridges, and our cruise ship was unable to GET to us in Avignon. Viking put us up for the first two nights at Hotel Novetel; there was a lot of complaining from previous cruisers about the hotel’s food, a mere shadow of what we would finally experience on Viking. We were able to do our walking tours of Avignon and Arles – we traveled by bus instead of boat to Arles the second day.

We were, on Day 3, bussed to our stranded ship in Vienne, where we got to unpack in our cabins, and started to at least experience the luxury of the cruise ship, even if it was stationary. They did allow us to cruise upriver on Day 5, from Vienne to Lyon – we were ecstatic, but learned the following morning that we were stranded again, this time in Lyon.

Cruising was wonderful for the four hours we got to do it. Food, drink, and life on the boat were fabulous, and we met some great people. We did see almost all the other scheduled sights by bussing from either Vienne or Lyon.

But lots of riding on busses. Hmmmmm.

Tours and sights:   Palace of the Popes in Avignon (plus a lot of wandering on our own, since we were there a day and a half on our own). Arles – Van Gogh territory and a Roman Amphitheater. A winery or two, Vieux (Old) Lyon, and they’re not kidding about the Vieux… 15th century homes, and traboules (detailed in my July 15 post). In Beaune, we got to see the original Hotel Dieu, which I will write about some other time.

When have you spent too long on a bus?


Today’s guest post comes from Sherrilee.

My daughter is a traditionalist. She wouldn’t admit to this of course, but just ask her what she wants to do on vacation and that will tell the whole story. You’ll end up with the same vacation you took last year. And the year before.


So it didn’t surprise me that when we settled on Colorado as our vacation destination this summer, she wanted the same trip we took 3 years ago. I got the big glossy state tourism booklet in the mail and I asked her more than once what she wanted to do, but I’m not sure she looked at it. Same campground on the way out, same campground in Larkspur (south of Denver) and same activities on her list (Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Aquarium in Denver and the Wildlife Sanctuary in Keenesburg).

Generally I’m OK with this, but after a rocky start to our trip (bad news from home on our second morning), I was just itching to make the trip a little different. After flipping through some of the pages of our glossy book, I asked Young Adult if she wanted to go rafting. You’d think that most young folks would jump at the chance to do something new and exciting. Nope. I had to talk her into it!

That little hole-in-the-wall post-rafting pizza place

It was a slightly overcast morning, which turned out to be perfect – not too warm. We had wetsuits and helmets and “flotation devices” (they don’t say “life preservers” anymore), lessons in how to lean and lectures on what happens if you end up in the water. We both stayed in the raft, although not all our raft mates were that lucky and didn’t end up too sore from paddling. Then we had lunch at a little hole-in-the-wall pizza place up the street.

Since Young Adult hadn’t been super-enthusiastic prior to the rafting to begin with, I was happy to hear her say that the trip could have been a little longer. Of course this means that now rafting will be part of the tradition and any vacations to Colorado in the future will have to include it!

What do you like to do on vacation?

Last Child Syndrome

Today’s guest post comes from Pluto.

We all know the story. First child gets all the brand new clothes, thousands of photos, scrapbooks. Second child gets a few new clothes, some photos. By the third child, it’s all stained hand-me-downs and no photos.

Well I’m the ninth child.

No new clothes and the only photos were from a distance, blurry.

Then it got worse.  At one point, some people who were desperate for attention make a big deal out of announcing that I’m actually a runt and a cousin, not the 9th child.

You’d think that this would be devastating but it’s turned out to be great for me.  I was suddenly the center of attention. Groups were formed to voice outrage over how I was being treated, t-shirts were printed. Somebody even started a Facebook page for me!

And now finally, after many years, lots and lots  of miles and a few snapshots, it turns out I’m not so insignificant after all.   In fact, I’m kind of fascinating.  Not just the baby of the family, I’m much much younger than all my relatives. They were forced to admit this when they got a clear look at my complexion – cool and moist without too much acne.

It’s not nice to gloat, but at this distance, who cares?   I’ve had my close up, and it turns out I look pretty good!

What rank do you hold in your familial Universe?  



The Trailer Court

Lead photo:   Ariel view of the Trailer Court 

Today’s guest post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale.

In 1958, my dad figured out how he could get his Masters Degree and become a guidance counselor (and leave behind teaching high school woodshop and mechanical drawing). There was a program at Colorado State (then) College in Greeley where you could complete a Masters over three summers. Since many of the students had families, dorms were not practical; CSC provided a “trailer court” if you could come up with a trailer.

So here’s where I spent a chunk of my childhood – in a 16-foot vintage Kit Carson Travel Trailer the folks bought used for under $1,000. It had two fold down beds – one from a couch (folks just kept it down and put their home mattress on it) and one converted from the dinette for my sister and me (ages 6 and 10 the first summer) – a kitchenette, closet and other cubbies (no bathroom – that’s what the community wash-house was for). The ice box wasn’t so hot – tiny and drippy and inefficient – so a few weeks into the first summer, Dad scored the vintage refrigerator you see on the pallet in the photo. We didn’t bring much but necessities, but the folks were smart enough to fit in our bikes.

Turned out the original trailer court was full, and the “overflow court” where we landed was a gravel parking lot between CSC’s football and baseball fields. This was Kid Heaven, as the football grandstand was our castle, the baseball dugouts were low enough on one side to be climbed on, and the ticket booths were unlocked – available for a play house, hide-out, and selling stuff. We kids created our own newspaper, played hearts at Doug M.’s converted school bus in the evening, got books from the bi-weekly bookmobile that stopped at the end of the Court. By the third summer I was 12, and had my first jobs: babysitting (heck, my mom was right across the lot), and some ironing in the washhouse.

The second year we knew more, and did as everyone else did – laid a length of linoleum down on our “yard”, placed a long table right outside the door for the summer kitchen (the electric fry pan, toaster, and coffee maker), and basically lived outside. Called it “Okee Hollow.” The only time we were in the trailer was for sleep, except Dad who would study in there if it wasn’t too hot.

And a little cloud passed over every afternoon, showered us and settled the dust, and then moved on.

My sis and I spent time on campus practicing in the piano rooms of the music building, while Mom sang in the Summer Chorus. Yes, she left us on our own for a whole hour!) Wednesday nights on campus was Family Fun Night, with an outdoor movie (i.e. The Seven Voyages of Sinbad), concessions, and games. Some weekends we took day trips to Denver to Elitch’s Amusement Park or the Natural History Museum, or Estes Park in the Rockies. We have home movies of Mom typing one of Dad’s papers on a picnic table next to the Big Thompson River, as Sue and I dangled our feet from a boulder in the icy stream.

These three summers were golden – we called them the best summers of our lives.

What has been your best summer?

Adrift in the Driftless

Today’s guest post comes from Clyde in Mankato.

When Sandy and I moved from the North Shore, we were glad to have a new area to explore. We had run out of places to go, sights to see, roads to drive in the Arrowhead.

We quickly latched onto the southeast corner of the state, the Driftless Country. The drive along the Mississippi is wonderful, but the back roads provide more adventure: drives across the ridges or through the valleys or from ridge to valley to ridge to valley. Winding roads, abandoned churches, thriving churches, abandoned farms, thriving farms, hole-in-the-wall villages, along the Root River by bike or car, Lanesboro, and and the other villages.  Lanesboro



Along the Mississippi two favorites are the village of Old Frontenac and a delightful little cafe, sometimes tea room, in Lake City called the Chickadee Cafe.Bunnell House

I will share with you two quiet gems which you can tour.

The historic Bunnell House, operated by the Winona County Historic Society, which I see now has performances. It sits in Homer, near Winona along the highway 61, The Great River Road.

Pickwick Mill

The Pickwick Mill, which sits in a small village on a winding drive up a valley from highway 61. It is near Winona but is operated by a private non-profit. When we were last there, it was still a low-priced, do-it-yourself tour, which made it peaceful to wander through the several dusty floors of the building and along its bubbling river and still mill pond. The tiny elderly volunteer on duty that day was pure charm. It was near closing time, but she told us to take our time. Her husband kept calling and asking when she would be home. She kept telling him to be patient. We felt pressured to leave. She told us with a smile, “He’s a useless old lump who needs to learn to take care of himself.”

The mill takes its name from The Pickwick Papers, just as a whim.

Are you a wanderer through space and time or are you driven by an itinerary?

Eating Eiffel

Today’s guest post comes from Verily Sherrilee.

We talk about food a lot here on the Trail.  We even have a list of our favorite recipes.  And when we get together, food is usually an important part of the experience.  The spread at Blevins Book Club is always amazing and even when we sat on the sidewalk waiting for the Tom Keith memorial, we had a terrific array of goodies (popcorn, chocolates, cookies, fruit).   But one of my most memorable restaurant experiences was not of the informal kind.


On a trip to Paris with a client, we visited the Eiffel Tower.  As we walked around the first level, our guide mentioned the Jules Verne Restaurant, which is even higher up, on the second level.  Although we already had plans for dinner, the client was entranced by the thought of eating at the Eiffel Tower.  Our guide made a few calls, pulled a few strings and voila! – we had reservations for the evening.

I am not all that good with heights.  I’m usually OK when I’m enclosed so places like the Gateway Arch or the Washington Monument are do-able.  However when I’m NOT enclosed, I don’t like it at all.  So while I wasn’t crazy about eating dinner 125 meters (410 feet) above the earth, I figured I would probably be fine.  Unfortunately what I didn’t know until we arrived is that the Jules Verne is windows from floor to ceiling.  And our guide had managed to not only get us in that night but had swung a table right by those windows.  My stomach took off for parts unknown almost immediately and I chose the chair farthest from the window as possible.


As the waiter came around to pour the red wine, I leaned a little bit back to let him reach the glass in front of me.  That was when I learned that the chairs had a little “give”.  As I pushed back, the chair pushed back as well, giving me the sensation that I was falling backwards.  Since I was already so worried about the windows and the height, I screeched and jerked forward, knocking the arm of the waiter.  Red wine went everywhere – the tablecloth, the napkins, the plates – it even extinguished the little candle in front of me.  I managed to stay wine- free but my shriek had gotten everyone’s attention in the entire restaurant.   It was one of those classic moments when you truly understand what it means to want the earth to open up and swallow you.

Luckily the Jules Verne is quite small, so I didn’t embarrass myself in front of too many people.  The dinner was out of this world and I managed to get through the rest of the evening without incident.  But I’ll always remember my dinner at the Jules Verne as the “night of the red wine disaster”.

Have you had a dining disaster?


Today’s guest post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale.

I have loved secret passageways and other hidden places since I was a very little girl. The first house I remember had a bedroom closet that my mom fixed up as a play house. I remember a hanging light bulb and unfinished attic-y floorboards covered by an old rug; I could touch the rafters of the sloping ceiling… my first hidden place. The other upstairs closet was long and narrow, and I liked how it connected to my folks’ bedroom right next door… my first secret passage.

As I grew older there were more hidden places: the house my grandpa built with its “secret staircase” to the attic, cleverly tucked into a bedroom closet; a friend’s house where the bookcase in the main room <i>was the door to the up-stairway</i>! Heaven. Closets under stairways, pull-down attic staircases, “forts” under pine trees, pedestrian tunnels under busy streets… I’ve always been drawn to these.

So imagine my delight when, on a walking tour in Lyon, France in early May, we came upon the Traboules (originally from the Latin ‘transambulare’ , meaning to cross, pass through).

In the 15th and 16th centuries during the height of Vieux (Old) Lyon’s silk trading with Italy, city planning was not at its best. Most streets ran parallel to the river, making it pretty difficult to get from one street to the next without taking a long detour. Merchants and Italian architects created, between the courtyards of the buildings, a network of passages – usually hidden by doors that were used as the outer entrance to the apartment buildings. They were then used by both the hard-working and the indolent.

Mailboxes in traboule
Mailboxes in traboule

Many of these passages still exist, and some of the available entrances are now marked with a plaque (as between the two doors in the photo); others look very ordinary. Often there is a set of mailboxes in the courtyard behind these doors.   These were used by the French Resistance during WWII – perfect locations in which to exchange messages.

What is (or was) your favorite hiding place?