France, May 2016
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A window in Tom's universe.
This is more than a website of photos, it is a place to
share photos, adventures, stories, opinions, and
Tom Ballard Photography

For my friends and family who wish to follow along, I am sitting up this page to help you do
just that.. I have tried this model for tracking before, it seemed to work, so I am continuing
to use it...

If everything works according to my plan, the following steps should let you share the trip
with me.

There are actually two parts to following me as I travel.. One is to watch my location via a
tracking map. To view the tracking map with my location, use the link below, "Travel
2015".... !!!  Second is via my itinerary, which will be shared on this page.

1. While traveling, I will be carrying a SPOT satellite reciever/transmitter which will collect
GPS signals, calculate my position , then share my position on a web page, via the SPOT
network. For the techies in the group, the website for SPOT is
www.findmespot.com.

2. I am sharing the daily itinerary that was provided to me by my travel company,
www.smartours.com . This is my 11th..?.. trip with this company. First trip was to China and
it was great, except for the guide and the food issues!.. I decided to try some more. Not all
have been as good as the China trip, but for what I get for my money, I keep going. The
worst of these trips has been some bad guides, and difficulty finding food!!!! But, the good
is the package deal. I get air from the USA, I get hotels, and I get ground transportation..
As long as I can get these, I can just turn my head on the other stuff.. Half of guides have
been good, the other half were just horrible.. Not consistent either way!!!    FOOD!!! Too
many times, for lunch and dinner,  the company just turns you loose and says go find
something to eat!!! In the USA, that might be OK, but not in places where they do not speak
English.... Breakfast has always been provided as a buffet meal, included with the hotel
room. This is pretty much the standard for hotels around the world. And, most of these
buffets are good!!! So, if you can get by on one good meal a day, you will survive!! I still
carry food bars with me, just in case!!! I have had to use them on several occasions!!! And
experience means I carry toilet paper with me!!!.. But in Turkey, LOTS of BIDETS!!! I loved
Turkey!!!! Bidet Toilets in every hotel.... Awesome!!!

To view the information I used to select this trip, check the Smartours  link for this trip at:
https://www.smartours.com/tour/unforgettable-france/
Select "Itinerary" to see the advertised version of the itinerary..

3. By checking the Smartours map and looking at the itinerary, provided below, you should
have a fair idea of what I am doing at any given time.

4. I am not sure how the map will show the date and the time while I am gone, so, a quick
search of the internet will bring you up to date...

For a map of my last seven days of travel, click this link: Travel 2016

Note: This trip officially starts and ends in New York City

Note... I expect I will have good internet support for this trip, and for my daily followers, I
will try to share daily images and a few notes about the experience.. Sometimes the best
laid plans do not work out, but I will try.. And, it will also be my plan to do a summary here
after the trip. This will include my over all view of the trip, and the photos as I get them
processed..
Note: The map will only
share the most current
seven days of information.
After a point has been on
the map for seven days, it
is then deleted.

You may have to adjust
the ZOOM  to view the
map. Use the slider on the
left side to do this..

To check the date, time,
and GPS coords, for any
given MARKER on the
map, click on the little
balloon at the point, or
click the little "+" sign to
the left of the point, in the
list, called messages.

Also, in the message list,
you can click on the little
orange ball, and the
system will take you to
that MARKER, on the
map.
Remember Mark Twain's Quote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-
mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad,
wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating
in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
This site is BEST viewed in GOOGLE CHROME!!!!

If the map does not work well for you, or any other issues crop up that you need help with, please
contact me at ballardtom@sbcglobal.net. I should have email service while traveling!
The shared images for this adventure will be at the bottom of this page,
when they are ready, after the trip...
The total cost of these
trips are almost always
DOUBLE the advertised
price..
The advertised price
does not include
domestic travel
expenses, tours, tips,
non-included meals,
visas, etc..
The EXTRAS add up
fast!!!!!
Post trip reports and photos will be shared below, as I get them ready
Exploring France, May 19 - Jun 1, 2016.

For my friends, family, and other interested persons, I am setting up and sharing this
web page so that those who are interested in such things can follow along as I do the
adventure, and then come back later and review the images I will plan to share. Truth
is, I am not sure when the BIG photo share, that seems to be my signature, will happen
as I am staying quite busy, and have gotten far behind on my other photo releases.. I
think I still have to finish the Thailand and India trips!!! But, not matter, it will get done!!
Keep checking.. I do freely admit that I share WAY MORE images than many people
care to browse though, but for some, it is just perfect, so... I guess my big files are for
the coffee drinkers with a lot of free time on their hands, or someone who is serious
about learning about the area, through photos.. For those people who are in a hurry,
there are the travel magazines with a few postcard images, plus a lot of advertising..

Before leaving on one of my adventures, I set up a tracking page that contains some
travel information provided to me by my tour company.. Below, you will find the
tracking information, and you will find some of the basic pre-trip info supplied to me.
It is provided for entertainment and for perspective.. I have found that for most all
these trips that I do, the
TOTAL COST is TWICE what the advertised price is.. The
advertised price is the stripped down price.. When you add in domestic travel,
domestic hotel, food that is not provided, tips, extra excursions, airport parking, etc.
The final price is much different than what the advertised price is..
The France Adventure is now complete!!! For this adventure, I
left my home airport early, 0600, on the morning of May 19, then
returned to the same point on June 1, just before midnight. I got
to bed at 0200.  I did it, I added another country to my adventure
list, but the sad part is that I did not get to add the items of great
interest to me, to my list.. For those, I will have to plan a return
adventure.. In my rush to secure a trip to France, I overlooked
the fact that my tour would not include two of France's most
famous landmarks, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.. I got close
enough to each, to see them, but that was about it, and even
then, it was only for a few minutes. So... I had four things I
wanted to see, the D-Day Beaches, the Chateau Gardens, the
Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower.. I saw a small portion of the
beaches and a couple of the chateau gardens, so, I have to go
back!!!

My head is still spinning from all the travel and the many
experiences that I was involved in while on this adventure. And
many of the things going on in my head have to do with dealing
with surprises. I was told the French would not be friendly. They
were super friendly. I was told the food would be awesome. I
found the best food and service to be at McDonalds!!! The hotel
rooms in Paris were so small that I felt like I was sleeping in a
closet and not a room.. I saw thousands of outdoor dining tables
and chairs, but nobody was eating!!! They were sipping soda
and smoking cigarettes, lot of cigarettes!!!!
The image above is a great memory of a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.. For this image, our tour bus stopped
near a lookout point, then we were given 10 minutes, to rush to a viewing position,  to see the 11PM,
sparkle show on the Eiffel Tower. I think it was 11 PM.. But, for about 5 minutes, a series of lights on the
tower are set to blinking at the top of the hour.. It is neat.. I do not know if this happens each hour or just
once per night, but we did get to see it..

While on the trip, I was writing road reports to friends and family back home, plus sharing sample images
from each day.. This seemed to be a fun thing for all of us.. I tried this on my previous trip, and it went over
very well.. Because my latest camera has bluetooth, and my tablet has bluetooth, it is easy now to share
images between these two travel buddies. Once the images are on the tablet, then I can add my road
report and then email the whole package together.. Each package contained approximately 50 images..
Now, here on my site, I am going to share these road reports, but, instead of the sample photos, I will be
sharing the complete set of memory images for each day.. For those who do not know, I do not do the post
card photos, and move on, I do a documentary, on frame at a time, so my share files are long!!! They are
good, but if you plan to dive into them, get a beverage, get relaxed, then set back and enjoy!!!!  

I could tell you more about the trip here, but I think that you will learn more by reading the road reports, as
they better share the emotion of the experience better... If I change my mind later, I will come back and
update this... To enjoy this trip, I suggest looking over the planning material I used to prepare for this
adventure, then go to the daily road reports and the images for that day...

Was a fun trip, but did not get all the check marks on my list that I wanted.. Now, I have to go back...
Before each trip, I set up a planning page, with itinerary info, etc.. For
historical purposes, I leave that information on my site after the trip...
So.. Below you will find the
original information, FOLLOWED BY the
after trip ROAD REPORTS AND SUPPORTING MEMORY IMAGES!!!!
******************************************************************************************
May 19...   
May 20...
May 21...
May 22...
May 26...
May 27...
May 28...
May 29...
May 30...
May 23...
May 24...
May 25...
Jun 01...
May 31...
Friends and Family,..... France Adventure, 2016-05-20

Greetings from Paris, France!!! At long last, I am here!!! Arrived here yesterday around noon, I think...
My head is still spinning from all flying, time zone changes, etc... But, I am here and ready to explore..
But, exploring did not start right away, as I just worn out!! Right now it is Saturday morning the 21st
and I have about 10 minutes here before I catch the bus, the share some of yesterday, the 20th with
you, then take off... We are headed to Normandy today, I think....  But, I do have comments for here,
and I do have some photos from here.. Hopefully my little road story for today will be better, but...

So, we got here yesterday the 20th!! Met our guide, rode bus to our hotel, met everyone at 6 PM for
a little social time, and some notes about travel for this trip... But, before the meeting, I had to have
some food... Went to a famous French restaurant down the street called McDonald's!! Was great!!!
On of the ladies from the trip walked down with me, but was not brave enough to try the burgers.. She
went on to another place... I came back to my itty bitty room and took a nap, then went to the
meeting, then back to my room for a shower and some much needed sleep!!! I got it..

Notes about the room... SMALL... good water, no wash clothes, GREAT towels....

My watch says I have to run.. Lets see if I can get this out before I go!!!

T
This was my first day of travel!!!!!! Left my home airport at 0600, flew to NYC's Laguardia Airport, and
for 14 dollars I shuttled over to JFK, where I got a bite to eat and caught my "tour" flight from JFK,
headed to Madrid.. At midnight we were somewhere out over the Atlantic Ocean... This is where I end
this day of stories and photos, then start the 21st!!!

Trip Trackers!!..... France Adventure, May 21, 2016

Good morning!! Well, it is morning here, and so far it is good, so......  Did you ever wonder where this
so called new fad of Little Houses, or Little Homes comes from??? Well, yes, I found the source,
FRANCE!!!! Everything here tiny!!! It is sort of like a doll house that you crawl into. A doll house for
adults!! The hotel rooms are so amazingly small... I wonder why they have not started using bunk
beds, etc... Good thing for me, I lived in a dorm for four years in college, and I have lived in a
backpacking tent for months on end, which was good training for this adventure!!! But, they almost
went tooooo far when they created this room I am in now!! The bathroom door rubs the toilet seat
when you open the door all the way!!!! Using the bathroom in these places is kinda like using the potty
at the airport!!! Do I need to say more!!! It is now 0615 here where I am now, which to be honest, I
am not sure where I am.. Will have to look it up on the itinerary, but breakfast buffet opens at 0630,
and I can hardly wait to go check it out.. What does all this mean to you, nothing!! Most likely I will
type a bit here, go eat, come back, and use my remaining time to finish my note... The images I have
selected for this message are already attached, so the story telling is all that is left to do!!!! I can do
that till forever!!! Came from a long line of story tellers!!! So, lets go get into it...

My day, yesterday, started at 0500 when the alarm alerted me to the start of my day... My morning
started with clean up, plus bag packing, etc... Since we were only staying in Paris one night, we had
to repack everything, set our bag outside our door before going to breakfast.. Then, be on the bus at
0800 for the driving and touring for this day.. At breakfast I was joined by several people, a couple of
them are in one of my shared photos... If I have not said so yet, we are a group of 36, and so far, it
seems we have a GREAT group of people, from all over the USA... Sometimes we only get one
region represented for some reason, but this time we have the whole country represented!! Also, we
have what seems like a great guide, so we are all set for a good time... The big challenge for me is
the food.... One of my friends once said, I will eat anything you can serve on a plate... Not me, I have
much more restrictive limits, and so, THANK GOD for McDonald's and Subway, so far!!! But, then
there was the burger place that I went to that was very good. It was just called Quick!!! Liked it...
Speaking of food!!! It is time for me to do breakfast, so I will do that and come back to this when I
return!!!

0710... I am back.. I did manage to get breakfast, but there was a mix up here at the hotel.. They
thought we were to eat at 0730, however, we were told 06030!!! Life!! But, we got food... How do
people stay thin?? Change plate size!! The breakfast plates here are the size of bread plates back
home!!! And, the pastries back home are full of goodies, here they are full of air... Hummmmmm!! But,
they do have good coffee, so!!

I made a helper list of the major things we saw on this day, which started as we drove across one of
the rivers here, headed out of town.. The guide said the Eiffel Tower is on your right! I looked, and
yes, I saw the tower for the first time in my life, though it be only the top, sticking up above some
other buildings!!!! I understand we are to return there in a few days and see it up close!!! We are
staying in this hotel, in Normandy, for three nights, then off we go again!!! I think we are here because
it is a cheaper town to bring tourist to...

So, how did our day go! We ate, we got on the bus, we hit the road.. And, what I learned quickly is
that most of the big roads here are very good, but they are toll roads.. lots of toll stations to go
through!!! Then we came to a place where there used to be a coal fired energy plant, which has shut
down to GO GREEN!! It worked, they have gone so green that now they are not even cooking the
food in many places. To make people feel better about that fact, they now call the food SUSHI.. Take
raw food, give it a cute name, and its good to go!! Go figure!
Then, there was the biggie for the day, at around 0900, we arrived at Claude Monets famous home
and gardens.. Tis nice that he become famous, because he was about to starve before that
happened!!! But, the water garden is to die for.. I loved it.. The house and the attached garden was
neat, but the water garden is a place I could be for days.. The layout is really neat, and the plants and
flowers are just awesome.. I think many of my readers have been there, so they know what I am
talking about... Before my time ran out, which was two hours, I got to see the water garden, tour the
house and local garden, then see his grave, etc....

From Monet's place we moved on to some other tourist spots.. Most of which I did not get the names
of, but were neat to see.. One of our stops was to see where Joan of Arc was burned to death!!! Big
monument there now!!! Then, we did tour.. After which we were set free to go hunt for lunch.. I hate
this part of all the trips, hunting for food.. I really wish they would take us to a good place, help us
order, eat, pay, get back to touring, but no, have to HUNT for food... First, I stopped and exchanged
US money to local money, then went food hunting.. Lucky me, I found a burger place called QUICK..
Was great.. then I went back to an ice cream place and got some really good ice cream!!! From there
it was back to the group and back on the bus, which brought us to our hotel. After check in, we did a
walking tour, then were set free to HUNT for food!!! I do not do well with this.. But, met people who
told me where to go for beverages, which turned into a fun thing.. While in the store trying to pick a
variety of beverages, a young man came up near me to get his beverages.. Turns out he spoke
English!!! He looked at my picks and smiled.. I asked him it these were good!! He said not, they were  
crap, for homeless people!!!! We laughed, then he helped me select better beverages!!! Said he
learned to speak English in Australia! We had a good time with out chat... I asked where the best
place to get a burger was.. He said there were none.. More crap, eat the good French food and
relax!!! More laughing!!! In the end, we both left, I went for a long walk, trying to find food I might eat,
and as luck would have it, on a lonely back street, I found a Subway!!!! I found a McDonald's, but it
was closed for remodeling.. Thought I was going to starve to death, then, there was Subway, and it
was good!!!:-)))

Back at the hotel, I did my laundry, had a beverage, showered up and called it a night...
Now, it is 0735, time to reread my little story, correct as many mistakes as I can find, then send the
whole package to you!!! Hope you enjoy the sneak peek of my day!!!

Happy Travels
T
May 21...  Part 1
Trip Trackers,........ France Adventure, May 22, 2016

Goood Morning from Normandy, France.. Last night was our second night in this hotel, tomorrow, we
move again... It is now May 23, but what I am here to share with you is for May 22.. And, with that
said, I do not think there is going to be much to tell, unless I get carried away.. I have spent the last
ten minutes trying to decide if I spent the money I had in my left pants pocket, or did I drop it while
paying for something, or did pickpockets get it, or, and the list goes on.. It was only about 25 euros at
best, so little is lost if it was in fact dropped, etc, but ....
I think I am going to have to do a better job of keeping my mind on where I put my small monies... I
should stick to using the same pocket all the time... In fact, I found some money in another pouch this
morning. Maybe that was the missing money I was looking for.. I have been guilty of looking for my
glasses, which I was wearing at the time!!! I know, it never happens to you!!! :-))) But, it is happening
more to me as the years go by.. That said, I think I just need to focus more!!! This retirement thing,
and relaxing may have gone toooo far!! Need to unrelax a little!!!! I think they call that keeping your
eyes on the road while you are driving!!!!

OK, the breakfast alarm just went off, so time for me to go get a bite of breakfast. Will try to get the
rest of this note finished and mailed before we set sail for our big day at Normandy Beach and all the
history items there....We are hoping for good weather, but the forecast is iffy!!! Yesterday, the 22nd,
we got rained on while on the bus, and while traveling, but at the place where we did the tourist thing,
there was only a short sprinkle...
Be back in a bit!

OK, I am back, but the one thing that one learns here is that the internet is very slow. Takes forever to
do anything.. I am might not even get this out until tonight, but I will try..... Breakfast was good, but
lite.. French hotels do not do a big breakfast like the hotels in other countries. Here breakfast is more
like a snack than a breakfast!!! But, it works, sort of....

As for what I can say about May 22, we ate, we boarded our bus, rode about two hours west to see
an island that had been covered over by buildings... Guess they started working on that assignment
hundreds of years ago, and I think they are still adding on!!!! But, we arrived at the parking lot, made
our way to a shuttle bus that can be, and will be driven from both ends!! Never seen that before.. They
drive up into a slot. Off load and reload people, go to the other end of the bus and drive away using
the steering wheel, etc, on the opposite end!!! Cool idea.. The French do have some cool ways of
doing things.. And, the water here, I just cannot get enough of the water, it is the best I have drank in
my life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After gettin off the shuttle bus, we walked the final distance to the place where we met our local guide.
Her name was Queen Helen. She climbs to the top of this castle thing at least four times per day!!!!
And, she does not look the part, but she is hard to keep up with!!!!!!!! See her in the photos.... She
took us on a about 1.5 hour tour to the top and part of the way down, where she released us to
explore on our own and to FIND food, which is not fun... The first place I went into was soooooo slow,
that I got up and left. Did not want to waste my day waiting on a waiter... And a burger here would
cost more than a steak at home.... Plus it might take a day to get served.. I left, I went for a walk. I
found the place where the guides hang out, and I found our day guide and her hubby.. Had a brew with
them and was told where to go to get a good sandwich.. I did. It was good!! And I had a brew with it,
plus one lady from our trip joined me before I was finished... I think it was at this place my money and
I parted company, if in fact we did....

When our time was up, we made our way back to the shuttle bus, then to our own bus, and did
another two hour back here to the hotel.. Arriving around 5 PM.. I spent the next two hours trying to
solve the email issue!!! Then at 7 PM, I joined the gang for a provided buffet dinner in the dining area..
It was either fish or chicken legs.. Chicken legs!!!! What did they do with the rest of the chicken.. Why
did we not get the good part!!!!!!!!!!! Bummer! I know many people have told me that French food is
awesome, but so far, we have not found that to be true.. Guess times have changed since my friends
were here many years ago..... We completed our dinner, and called it a night... But, while at dinner,
the lady next to me shared some neat apps on her phone.. Now I have them on mine.. One is free
international texting!!!

OK, the clock is about to run out on me.. So I best run.. But, today is the big day to see Normandy
Beach.. Will share that later!!

Happy Travels
T
Trip Trackers,....... France Adventure, 2016-05-23

Good Morning! It is now 24 May, 2016, and in less than an hour, I am supposed to catch the bus to
the Peace Museum, I think it is called.. I almost missed this trip, as my guide is hard to understand
sometimes... I just learned that I could do this, a few minutes ago, so, I will plan to go.. Have to be
downstairs in 45 minutes to catch the bus.. After the museum trip, we get back on the road to our next
tourist location!!! But I have loaded a few memories from yesterdays visit to the famous Omaha
Beach, plus other attractions in the area... To be honest, I could not keep the facts straight, but I did
take photos, and I will be sharing them here!!!

On May 23, we did the normal breakfast, got on our bus, and headed over to the famous beaches..
The good part is that we are only about 45 minutes away.. We arrive and tour the area that was
associated with some ranger action.. We toured a bunker, checked out the beach, saw the huge
bomb crater holes, etc.. Then back on the bus to our next location.. We made a few stops for photos,
them moved on... At some point, we stopped for a lunch break, them we were back on the bus and
headed for our hotel... The highlight of the day for me was the USA military cemetery.. Neat..
Groomed to perfection.. Did not have enough time to visit the Visitor's Center..
Later, we visited a tapestry museum, and visited the surrounding area..

In the photos you will see, a couple of the famous beach areas, some memorial projects, our lunch
area, a photo of Susan, who is our retired helicopter pilot, that is on tour with us. You will see the first
location where US soldiers were buried, though moved later, and you will get a glimpse of the British
Cemetery, as we drove by..
I may have missed a few items, but, you will get an overview of what we saw this day.. As for the
history here, I think my readers will know a lot more about this that I will ever know, so I will leave that
to the experts, but it is a neat thing to come see.. To me seeing the area behind and around the
beaches was the highlight of this visit... This area is flat as a pancake!!!

OK, will try to send this, then head to the next tourist event!!!
T
Trip Tracker,... France Adventure, May 24, 2016

Good morning once again from France.. I am not sure where I am, but I am still in France!! And, still
having fun on this adventure... Speaking of adventure, it is now the 25th, and I am writing this short
note before I catch the bus that will take us out to be tourists today!!! Yesterday, the 24th was a fun
day, but an easy day... Some of us took the offer to go see the Peace Museum, as it is called.. There
we saw one of the three Kissing Statues in the world. One in California, one in New York, and then
the one here!!! They are neat.. I have now seen two of them. The other one I visited was in California.

For those of us who wanted to visit the museum, we caught the bus at 0800 and were taken to the
museum, where our guide got our tickets for us, then set us free, with instructions to be in the parking
lot ready for pickup at 1100... About 9 of us took the offer, did the tour, took the photos and caught
the bus  again at 1100. This time the bus had all of our travel buddies on it, as we were headed to a
new town, new hotel, etc... But, we had a stop to make, and the place we went to was what I really
came to France to see.. I love beautiful gardens, and we were going to stop and see our first!!!

On the way to the gardens, we stopped for a "grab" lunch at a rest stop, then got back on the road,
later arriving at the item of interest. It is called the Villandry Chateau. Awesome!!! We only had about
1.5 hours to tour here, so we were rushed, and to get the most time in the garden, we just sort of
skipped though the main building. However, I did slow down and grab a few memory photos before
going outside for the viewing of the awesome gardens!!! I just loved the gardens!! Wish we could
have stayed much longer, but... Once finished there, we took the ladies shopping for an hour, then
came to our hotel.. At around 7 PM, we were provided a small dinner, to end the day!!! Was fun...

I have attached a few memory images from the day for you to browse!!! Have fun checking them
out... Right now it is 0735 here.. I think most of my friends back home are sleeping, so when they get
up, this note might be waiting for them, if I can get it out before going to the bus...

Happy Travels
Trip Trackers!!!.... France Adventure, May 25, 2016

Good Morning from Paris! My little band of travelers arrived here yesterday!!  

As I look at the calendar, I see that I have not gotten out any updates in a couple of days.. There are
seasons.. We have fairly poor internet here in France, and we have been traveling far and fast.  The
combo has not left time for sending!! Yesterday started at 0500, on the bus at 0730, and got to bed
this morning near 0100!! But we do not start today until 0830, so.. But, I have some photos from our
visits to two chateau on the 25th... There is not much story to share, so I will just send out the images
so that you have some idea what we saw on the 25th... The chateaus here are awesome, and there
are many!!!!!!!!! Would take forever to see them all.... And, to each one there is a long and amazing
history!!!

Speaking of amazing.. We finally got close enough to the Eiffel Tower to see all of it, last night... I
think our tour group is going there today.. Also, the myth about great food in France is now busted..
Maybe there was a time in the past when food was good here, but that has pretty much gone down
the tubes... The food back home is much better, plus the prices here are just off the scale.. For a
hamburger that was not as good as Burger King burger, cost me 17 euros.. Was worth about 4
euros.. A small draft beer, a poor hamburger and some onion soup was 33 euros!!! The people
around me had other stuff, and it was about the same...

Ok, time to do the send, and hope these get to you.
Happy Travels
T
Trip Trackers,... France Adventure, May 26, 2016

Greetings again.. This might be my lucky day.. The internet is moving faster!!! So, might get caught up
here before catching the bus for our morning tour!!! I have already selected a set of photos to share
with you from yesterday, the 26th... Which, was a travel day.. I share with you a memory of the sun
9rising in a mist, then breakfast, then on the road, with a few snaps of the views from the bus
window... At some point you will see a huge power plant, then we stop to visit a huge church, and do
our group photo, taken by our leader...  After the group photo, we view the inside of the church and
head back to the bus.. Pay attention to the STOP thing in the road.. When they say stop, they mean
it.. There is a big post that comes up out of the street, and blocks it!! Check it out!!!

Once back in Paris, we take a driving tour of town, stopping for a tourist photo at the big arch.. But,
we never make it to the Eiffel Tower, not yet anyway!!! We drive by it, but no stopping!!! Driving us
nuts!!! We do go on a one hour boat ride on the river near the tower, and then we go ride a tram to a
high point, where we were supposed to tour another old church, but some of my trip buddies called
that off, saying we were hungry.. It was nearing 8 pm, and we had not eaten since 1100... So, our
guide dropped us off at a food place to eat.. Typical of modern day France, the food as not very good,
and was extremely expensive.. Check out the photos.. My burger, plus a bowl of soup, plus a little
glass of beer, cost 33 euros.. I was supposed to get ice cream for dessert, but the service was so
slow, I did not have time to get it.. We left at 10 pm.. Made our way to a view point where we could
see the Eiffel Tower sparkle at 11 PM... Then it was back to the hotel.. Which took forever.. There are
political issues here now, and it is messing up traffic!!! But, we made it to the hotel, and I got to bed
around 0100...

Now is it near 0800 on the 27th, and we are doing a tour at 0830..  I think we have a going away party
for some of our people tonight.. Some are going home in the morning.. The rest of us will go on south
for the rest of our days....

OK, I think that covers it, in the time I have!! Enjoy the memories...  More soon
Happy Travels
T

Trip Trackers,.... France Adventure, May 27, 2016

Greetings again from Paris!!! As I type this, I am sitting in my hotel room with a bath towel wrapped
around me.. It is now 11:50 PM here at the Oceania Hotel, where the air conditioner has not worked
for two days!!!! There seems to be no attempts to repair it!!! ????

Today was a mix of totally off the scale things to see, then nothing to see!! I guess I did not read the
program close enough before I signed up for this trip, plus, now that I am on it, I have compared what
was written to what has happened, and there is a HUGE difference, to the point that I think Smartours
just outright lied about a lot of the things we would do.. But, it is what it is... I think it is time to search
out a new travel company... Not all of our challenges have been because of the tour plan.. There is
some big political issues here, they have affected what we could do somethings, or so we were told...
Two things I really wanted to see up close was the big museum, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower..
Somehow I got the impression we would do both.. Turns out we will not do either one!! No Louvre, No
Eiffel Tower.. That said, yesterday, the bus drove by the Louvre, and while we were on a boat ride,
we got a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.. And, at 11 pm, we were allowed to view the lighted Eiffel for
ten minutes..   Then, this evening, just as it was getting dark, our bus drove by the Eiffel, and
stopped.. Our guide said OK, go take your photos, you have 20 minutes!!! And, then it got dark...

So, how did this day go!! For those of us who paid some 78 dollars for the extra tour, we caught the
bus, drove to a place called the Palace of Versailles, a huge chateau outside of Paris! For our guide
this day, we had a very funny Irish fellow.. He was Irish, but leads French tours!!! And, he does an
amazing job!!! The long and short of this time at the chateau was to see the amazing interior!!! I will let
the photos tell that story.  Was a great tour, but did not go like the advertising said....

We left the chateau, returned to our hotel, where many of us zoomed off to hunt for food... I ended up
at another burger barn that was recommended to me, and it turned out fairly good! Plus on the way
back to the hotel, I stopped at McDonald's for ice cream.. As I was going out the door, the owner
overheard me talking and wanted to know where I was from, I told him.. He knew it well...!!! So, we
started visiting!!! Visited so long my ice cream melted.. The manager brought me a new sundae and a
new coffee!!!! Was fun.. The owner had owned 10 stores, but had downsized to four and was looking
to finish selling out and retiring in a few more years!!!!  

I made a couple of drugstore stops to get cough drops and First Defense nose spray for my cold!!!!

At 5 PM, the bus took us to our farewell dinner, which turned out to be good food and lots of laughs..
We are losing 10 of our people now.. They will leave at 0500 in the morning, the other 26 of us will
venture on... But, we had to say goodbye!!! We will have another dinner when this last group heads
home in a few more days!!! In the morning, our group of 26 will catch a bullet train for a 3 hour ride to
southern France, to continue our fun there..

After dinner this evening, we tried a planned photo stop for the tower, but construction work messed
that up.. So, we went to another location, and got in a few shots before dark..... But, I am still
bummed that we were not planned for going up the tower, or going to the Louvre!!! Sucks!

OK, better stop here and spell check, then send! Need some sleep for the long day tomorrow!!! I
hope this will go out tonight.. Internet is messy here, along with the air conditioner, which does not
work.. I have the window open!!!

Happy Travels
T
Trip Trackers,.... France Adventure, May 28, 2016

Good Morning from Avignon, France, or so my smartphone says!! I have completely lost track of
where I am.. I just go with the flow!!! And yesterday the flow was fast, some 200 miles per hour fast!!!
And, we were told that the flow next year would be 300 mph... More on this in a bit.

Right now it is 0643, and I am sitting in a real room for a change.. The little boxes in Paris were
getting to all of us.. Now I am far south of Paris and life seems to be more normal here, though I just
arrived yesterday, but there is lots more space here!!! Rooms are way better here!!  But, I just went
down for breakfast, since most hotel breakfast buffets open at 0630.. Not this one on the weekend..
The lady downstairs said 0700 was opening time on the weekend here.. So, I have time to type! In a
few minutes I go back and try again... So, I have loaded some memory photos of yesterday, so let me
tell you what you will see...

Yesterday morning, the 28th, ten of our buddies left the hotel, headed for the airport. Their vacation
was over.. I was not aware that there was two versions of this trip, but there is.. They took the short
version.. 26 of us stayed for the long trip... And, we did the usual bag out, breakfast, and on the bus
thing, which took us to the train station. WOW, trains here are nothing like back home.. Well, they are,
sort of, they run on tracks!!! That is about it... Here the train station is super neat!!! Even found fun
stuff.. See photo of charging station.. You have to pedal the machine to get power to recharge your
phones, etc.. Great device!!! ... From there I went to a coffee shop that gave you free wifi and power,
while you wait for the train.. You pay for the coffee, the wifi and power are included.. I show a photo
of the power unit they bring to your table.. You just plug into it and charge while you are doing coffee,
surfing, etc... I loved it... Need to bring all this neat stuff back to the states!!!

Our guide handled all the luggage issues, etc.. Then, at 1015  or so, we all met and started loading on
the bullet train.. We had one lower compartment to ourselves.. WOW, really neat trains... That said,
after the train was in motion, I went upstairs and found a better seat, so as to do photos while we
traveled. Was great fun.. The train was zipping along at 200 mph, and felt like we were sitting still...
We were told  that next year, these trains will be replaced with 300 mph trains.. That would be
awesome!!!  

2.5 hours after we left Paris, we were here!!! Fun... On a new bus, we were off to do a little tourist
stuff.. Stopped at an old bridge, then walked to a small town area, where we were given admission to
another old church thing, to tour.. We did.. Then we met back at a meeting point, walked back to the
bus, and came over to our hotel, which was very close to where we had been on tour, etc.. This time,
I got a really nice room, compared to the match box rooms in Paris....   OH, and dinner last night was
duck!!! They seem to eat a lot of duck here!! Was good...

I just noticed it is time for breakfast.. 0700.. Will take a break here and go eat.. Back in a bit.. Have to
be on the bus at 0800.. And, it is, or was raining really hard this morning.. We most likely will have a
wet day!!!

0730.. I am back... Great breakfast..!!! Real fruit, etc, that is not served in Paris!!!! Ok the clock says
I have to hurry.. Brush teeth, etc, grab stuff, head for the bus.. But, someone asked about the food in
France.. The food thing is a myth... And, a male friend asked about the French Babes.. This too is a
myth.. Have seen only two or three so far.. Both myths busted!!!

OK, time to run... A few memory photos attached for your browsing pleasure.. Have fun..

Happy Travels
T
Trip Trackers,... France Adventure, May 29, 2016

Good Morning from France!!!  I just looked out the window and there is no rain.. Yesterday it rained a
lot!!! But, it was a come and go thing, which we survived!!! Speaking of surviving, it is now 0614 on the
30th, I think.. Our time on this adventure is about to run out, but that is okay, we have survived!! That
said, I think many of us can say it was quite the experience.. I should call my little stories from the
road, "Telling it like it is!". One of the things that stands out most for me and for my fellow travelers is
that the hype of what to expect here is not how it is... And, another myth has been busted!!! Before
coming here, I was lead to believe that French people would not be friendly to Americans, and so I
should expect to get the cold shoulder, so to speak.. I have found the opposite to be true.. I have
never met a more friendly bunch of people in all my travels!!! So where did this thing about the French
being unfriendly come from???? If you are looking for unfriendly people, go to Italy. That is where I
have found the most unfriendly people on earth, so far!!!! So, the myth about the French being
unfriendly is BUSTED!!!

I have about 10 minutes before I have to run eat, but what is strange here is the food issue.. We have
not found the food to be good, as was expected.. My dinner last night in the hotel was good, and the
group dinner the night before was good, but so far, none of us have found a GREAT meal here.. If it
ever happened here, it was a long time ago.. There are some things that are very odd here.. Potatoes
cost as much or more than beef.. Go figure.. And, the markets are full of veggies, but few to none are
served in dining places.. Most of what is served in dining places is pig, fish, cheese, and bread.. If you
like these items, you will survive here.. But, if you are vegan, you do not have a chance!!!!

Still five more minutes to write on this before breakfast!!! So, I will say again, the food thing is a the
big mystery.. As I share images of my food and room, I get a lot of comments about how poorly I eat
here, but, to be honest, the food choices that we have are very limited.. There are a lot of people
going out to eat, but they are just getting snacks, cheese, etc, and wine. Then, they smoke a lot of
cigs and nibble a lot of cheese!!! I always try to add food photos so that people get a sense of what
there is to eat here, and so far, breakfast has been our best meals.. But, even they are very limited..
In Asian countries, the breakfast buffets are awesome.. Here they are just snack racks!! Speaking of
such, time to go to the snack rack!!! Be back soon!!! Have to put my bag out as I leave for breakfast..
We are moving again today!

OK, I am back from the snack rack!! Can you imagine carbonated water on your cereal in the morning!
Well that is what I just had.. I do not drink milk, but do eat cereal, with water on it.. This morning, they
served carbonated water, so !!! Cereal was a little bubbly!!! And, again, the food was very limited at
the buffet.. If you like to eat food, France is not the place to go.. Other countries put this place to
shame!

OK, I am back from breakfast and have only a few minutes before I have to go check out, etc...
Photos from the 29th are loaded... So, what will you see. We started the day with visit to another
church.. Seems that is a high point of visits to France, seeing churches.... Then, of all things, we
visited a fruit and veggie market.. These things are rarely ever served in public food places, but they
are for sale... At some point we stopped for a walk-about. I chose to stay near the fountain and do
photos of it and the people who visited.. From there it was off to visit an artists studio. His name was
Cezanne.. Interesting place... Simple but effective!!! First we were told that we could not take photos,
then after the tour, we were told to take all the photos we wanted, and we did... !!!  This was followed
by lunch, which was a block from where the famous Nostradamus was born!! This was another box
house on a street about 6 feet wide!!! Space is an issue here!!!

Our lunch stop was another wild experience.. Pretty much no English spoken here.. Took forever to
get an order in, and then what I got was bread, with hamburger meat and fries on it.. Have no idea
what it was called.. And if it had not been for the beer to wash this dry mess down, I would have
choked!! See photo..  Then, it was off to an olive oil tasting... WOW, this was to be fun. Turns out the
owner of the place could barely do English, and the amount of olive oil we tasted was a shock!!! We
were given little plastic spoons, for the tasting... It was filled three times, with different oils.. All
together, these three spoons of oil amounted to about one teaspoon of oil to taste!!! Then, they
wanted us to shop and spend!!! Some did!!!   After the oil tasting, we were off to a city built partially in
some old quarries.. Was a nice place to take photos!!! Then, it was back to the hotel, where I tried to
eat something other than a burger.. I ordered the chicken, then chocolate for dessert.. Was good.. !!
Had these two with a beer.. The total bill was only 28 euros, or about 30 dollars for a beer, a piece of
chicken, and a scoop of chocolate in a jar!!!!

OK, if I had more time, I would of course tell you more of the funny views I have of this place and the
experience, but time is gone.. Have to close this and go check out... This might go out this morning,
but who knows!!! But, will get it out!!! We are back on the road today!!

Happy Travels
T

Trip Trackers,.... France Adventure, May 30, 2016

Today is the 31st, though my message will be for the 30th, another travel day for this little band of
angels!!! But, I think I have finally solved one of the mysteries of France.. These people do not dine
out!! They just go out.. In a short, they go out to do some Nibbling and Sipping.. No real food is served
at the dining places, just snacks and drinks, such as wine.. They nibble, they sip, and they smoke a
lot!!! How do I know all this, I have been doing the research for the better part of two weeks now!!!
Today is my last day, and I leave here at 0400 tomorrow morning... But, as I have traveled, I have
tried to find travelers food that is good.. It is not here.. And, I have not seen the locals eating real food
a their tables. They have  something to nibble on, and they have something to sip on, and they have a
huge ashtray!!! They start this social process late in the day, and stay until???? There are a lot of odd
things here.. Yesterday, the 30th, we were on the road a lot, traveling to this new location, Nice? A
huge town by the water.... We did not arrive at the hotel until after 7 PM.. I had some emails etc, to
do, then I hurried out to find food.. There was none close to the hotel, except Subway and
McDonald's. I also wanted to get  a couple things at the drug store.. I walked forever to get to the
drug store, and it was closed.. I got there at 8PM.. It was closed, as was all the other stores on the
streets.. Most ALL stores in France close at 7 PM... The drug stores seem to close at 7:30 PM.
Some grocery stores will be open til 9 PM.. When the stores close, the nibbling starts!!! I did manage
to find a grocery store at 8:15 PM. It was supposed to be open til 9 PM, but they were shutting
everything down and running people out at 8:30, which included me.. They did let me grab a couple of
cans of beverage and showed me where a few sandwiches were left... I  hit two brews and a
sandwich, then to check out.. You have to bring your own carry bag, or buy one.. I generally buy them.
The one I got this time was nylon, cost 1.5 euros, and will go in my travel bag for future use!!!! Kinda
neat really...

OK, the deal is, we will do this last day with a walking tour, then a baby train ride, etc.. Then at 7 PM,
we are to have another farewell dinner. Then, the rush is one to prepare for leaving... I assume a nap
will be in order, then up at 0200, then out the door at 0400, arriving back home in the USA around
midnight..

I have gotten some great email comments from my readers, and I say thanks. If I have not gotten
around to the replies yet, I will try.. But, what most people have pointed out to me is that my
experience here is so totally different from the experience others have had.. One big difference is that
none of the others have been on tour.. They lived here a long time ago, they were here on business a
long time ago, or they did self guided trips, which are super different for sure!!! But, even people on
this trip, who have been in France several times before, say it is different now!!!! If I were staying with
friends here, and had time to visit the local places that only the locals know about, then I too might see
things differently, but I am a tourist, and I am seeing this place as a tourist.. I am told I should come
back and stay long enough to become a native, then I would see a different side of this country!!
Maybe so.... But, I am just telling it like it is!!! ;-)))

I have loaded some more sample photos from yesterday. We were on the road a lot, but did some
tourist stops.. Not sure what they all were, but I did take photos, and they are shared with this
message.. Now, it is time for me to gather my stuff and prepare for my day!!! Hope you enjoy the
memories.. Will try to share images from THIS day later...

Happy Travels
T
Trip Trackers!!... France Adventure, May 31, 2016

Guess what!! This little adventure story is soon to come to an end.. Has been a LOT of fun to share
the stories from the road, and to exchange info with friends who gave me info and suggestions before
I left, plus added to it while I was on the road!!!! I say 'was on the road", because I am actually back
home safe and sound, but lets pretend, for the sake of the story, that I am still traveling, sort of... It is,
and has been, amazing to me how different the perceptions of France is among my friends.. People
telling me about France, and what I should see and do, equates to four people describing a donkey,
given that each is viewing the donkey from a different position, front, back, and two sides!!! You get
what I am saying, right!!! It is the same donkey, but it is hard to relate to any of the stories given that
there were so many different viewing positions... I will get back to this later, and in fact, I am actually
thinking of turning these travel trips into  college classes!! Anyone want to sign us for the "Travel
Truths, 101-????", class!!!! I have been, in my spare time, reading a book titled, "Why we make
mistakes". It is really neat.. I got it as a free download from my local library.. I would suggest anyone
who has some extra time on their hands should read this book!!!! Much about ourselves can be
learned by reading this book.. I will be returning to this later!!

Penultimate!! Do you know what that is?? I would say look it up, but that is no fun!! Actually it means
second from the last. So, this is the penultimate report in my series.. The last report I did was the
ante-penultimate report, or third from the last!!! Now that you know, let me tell you about the
penultimate day of the Great France Adventure!!! As it turns out, it was a very good day, which is
perfect for ending a vacation-adventure!! It could have been rainy and nasty, but no, perfect weather
for our last full day!!! And, so, how did it go!!!

I would have thought the tour company would have sort of slowed things down a bit, being near the
end of the trip, but no, full speed ahead.. After breakfast, we were met by a really neat local guide
who took us on a walking tour, starting at our hotel, making our way down near the beach, several
blocks away, then onto a tram-bus, for a ride to a lookout point above Nice, which is the town we
stayed last night.. I think it is Nice, but who knows! All these places just sort of run together!!! Then,
we "trammed" back to the beach area where we were set free to go do an Easter Egg Hunt, actually
it was not an Easter Egg Hung, it was a Food Hunt, which was much harder than an9 Easter Egg
Hunt!!  Of course I struck gold, I found a McDonald's!!! Actually, near the tram drop off, I found a
Subway, but was not impressed, so I kept hunting, and found the McDonald's, which turned out to be
GREAT.. Even better  than the ones back home!!!  For real..!!!!

When the guide took us for our little walk, we stopped several times for a bit of explanation about the
area around us, and the history of the area.. We started this walk by watching a skater come zipping
across  
Town, and doing very well at it. She was crossing ruff areas, train tracks, sidewalk jump-offs, etc, as
if all of it was just one big smooth area!!! I was much impressed.. I have been a roller-bladder, and on
those kinds of surfaces, it is very difficult.. She made it look eassssssssy! Impressive!!!

We walked through a really neat park, with an amazing reflecting pool illusion that is way cool... Saw
statues, etc, and kids playing, while on their way to school... We visited, and toured, another church,
and veggie market, etc.. Great looking veggies at the market, but never saw any veggies served in a
meal..!!! Most of the food here is just potatoes, bread, cheese, and some pork.. I think these people
are so constipated all the time that they probably think they are gonna die.. Maybe the wine helps with
constipation.. And the pork, nasty!!! Pork eaters stink up a bathroom so bad that the smell will take
the paint off the walls.. The meat does not digest, it rots!!! It is bad in France, it is super bad in
Spain.. I guess they eat more pork in Spain.. The bathrooms at the airport in Spain stink so bad you
can hardly go in them, and it is all of them!!! Not one, not two, but all..... You really do not want to go
in a bathroom after a pork eater has been in there!!!

Along with the veggies, and fruit, there are LOTS of beautiful flowers sold at these markets.. We
never saw any of them in our hotel, or in any of the eating places!! So, where do the flowers go???
Into the homes? I suppose so, along with the veggies and the fruit, all of which is not available in the
cafes, etc... Go figure!!  After the veggie market thing, we loaded on the tram train and rode up to the
top of a local lookout, where we did our tourist photos, etc.. Was a neat ride up and back, and was a
great lookout..

Back in town at the tram drop off, we were told to go find food, cruise the beach, etc, then be back at
the hotel at a given time for our next adventure, which turned out to be a bus ride across town to a
location near a harbor where Picasso's museum is located!! We walked past the very expensive
watercraft, and on to the museum.. One of the boats we saw was reported to be one of the fastest
yachts around.. Belonged to a Russian fellow, who just happens to a  friend to Putin!!!

After the Picasso museum, which was part amazing, and part ????? If you know Picasso, you know
the challenge of understanding his craft!!!! Interesting.. Abe Lincoln, when asked for an opinion on
something of this order, was reported to have said, "For people who like this sort of thing, I think this
is just the sort of thing they would like"!!! After the museum, it was out on the street to do some ice
cream and people watching, with the time we had left, before being back to our bus!!! I think you will
like my people watching experience!!!

Back on the bus, we zipped back to the hotel, where we had a few minutes to freshen up, then meet
back in the lobby at 7 PM, for a short walk to our second "farewell" dinner!!! Turns out it was OK, but
like everything else, it was just okay.. First part of my meal was PIZZA! My main dish was GNOCCHI,
an Italian item made from potatoes, and for dessert, apple pie!!! How is that for fine French dining!!!
;-))

After dinner, we walked back to our hotel, made ready for an EARLY exit the next morning!! I am
getting ahead of myself, but so what.. I stopped by the front desk and asked for a WAKE-UP call at
0200.. Remember that little fact... After teeth were clean, it was off to bed for a fast nap.. All of us
and our luggage were to be in the lobby at 0400... I got to bed at around 11 PM...

For our penultimate day, I think that about covers it.. Of course, I could go on forever, with the details,
but... I have added the allowed 50, or so, images from this day, for you to browse!!! Have fun.. There
is one last day of images that will take me home!!!

Happy Travels
T
Trip Trackers,.... France Adventure, Jun 01, 2016

I am willing to bet that when you got the my last road report, for May 31, you thought it was over.. But,
no, it was not, the fat lady had not sung her song yet.. Truth is, she is not going to, but we have to end
somewhere.. There is no fat lady in this adventure, and I cannot sing, so waiting for the fat lady to do
her job, or for me to fill in for her is just not options that will take place, but, all good things come to an
end, even the fun that we have had with this adventure... There will be another, though I do not know at
this time when it will happen, or where it will happen, but if you choose to stay on the list, I will share
the experience with ya!!! But, for now, it is time to finish this one, so lets do!!! The memory images are
loaded, I just have to add the story, so lets getter done!!!

There is one thing I would like everyone to know, I hate getting up early, for anything... But, when I
have to, I do.. I had to get up at around 0100 to start this adventure, then two weeks later I had to get
up at 0200 to finish it!!! And, when it was over, and I was back in bed, at home, I turned the light at
0200.. So traveling the way I do, can push a person beyond their comfort zone, for sure!!!! That said,
there is a bit of teasing between me and one of my photo buddies. He is well known for being up
before daylight, being on location, with camera mounted on a tripod, and ready to do photos when the
sun comes up.. He does this locally, and even in other states, such as Kansas, where he goes to
photograph Sandhill Cranes, I think it is. But, he knows better than to ever invite me out for sunrise
photography, I am not going!!! I will however do lots of sunset images!!! So in the world of what we do,
he covers the sunrises, I cover the sunsets!!!! But, to be fair to him, he also does sunsets, I just do not
do sunrises!!! Not my thing... Starting my day at noon is just about right for me!!!!

With all that photo talk out of the way, let me say the trip home required that those of us traveling back
to the USA together on this last day, had to be up, packed, and in the lobby at 0400. There would be
no meal served this early in the morning, but the hotel had prepared sack nibbles for us.. Most of the
contents was cookies, etc, and a piece of fruit, plus a bottle of water.. I think I ate the fruit, drank the
water, then tossed the rest of the stuff.. As an added note here, all people on these tours do not come
and go at the same time.. When I arrived in Paris for the start of this adventure, I came with only a few
people from NYC. I, and they, were traveling as part of a flight plan we got through the tour company..
Other people chose to arrange their own air travel, and to add interest to all this, some people only
stayed with this tour until we left Paris, at which time, about 10 people headed back home.. As I recall,
26 of us came in from NYC on the same flight. We met the other 10 at the first hotel.. They had made
their own travel plans.. Then at the end of the first week or so, I think it was about 10 that said
goodbye to us, and headed back home.. The balance of us, 26 I think, continued on to southern France
where we completed our adventure.. But, even then, we did not all leave together. For a number of
different reasons, some of us headed back to the USA together, others were headed back later, using
their on flight plan, and then I think there was a few who were going on to catch another tour, but I am
not sure about this...

So, how did this whole thing get wrapped up, for me. But, first I have to tell you not to trust hotel
employees to do what they are supposed to do.. It rarely happens.. So, always have a back up plan.
Case in point being that I wanted to get up at 0200, to be downstairs at 0400.. At around 10 pm, after
our dinner, I stopped at the front desk of the hotel, and requested a wake up call for 0200.. I am still
waiting for that call.. Knowing that it was a long shot, I also set two alarms in my room!!! They worked,
the call from the hotel never happened, but, being up, I called them at 0230 and asked what happened
to my call.. They had no idea, but did have a record of the fact that I had asked for one!!! Go figure..
So, what is to learned from this.. First of all, do not leave wake-up call requests at the front desk..
Probably will not happen.. But, if you want a backup for your smartphone alarm, or whatever,  use the
automated wake-up system in most hotels.. These seem to be fairly dependable, and they are not
people dependent. On many hotel phones, there is a way to call the WAKE UP service, set your
desired time using the phone key pad, then close the program.. But, even then, make sure you have a
couple of backups, if you really need to be somewhere, like on that plane headed for the USA!!!!
Actually the return is not the important flight to make, it is the one going over!!! You do want to be on
that one, or you will mess up your adventure, big time.. But, for the flight coming home, who cares, it is
over.. Being a few days late will not be an issue!!!

OK, so I am in the lobby, with my luggage, I get my snack sack, do my nibbles, load on the bus with
my remaining travel buddies, and our guide.. We go to the airport, we get in line to get our boarding
passes, etc, and then our guide says farewell and he heads back to the hotel, as he has other chores
to attend to.. Actually he too will be trying to get home, but this time it will be to another town in
southern France.. He lives there during the touring season, and then in Miami, Florida, with his wife, the
rest of the time... But, due to the labor disputes, his trip home will be delayed about 7 hours!!!!!

On the day before we left, our guide said we would be flying over some really neat terrain on our way
from Nice to Madrid, and that we should do our best to get a window seat on the right side of the
plane, for this leg of our trip home.. To be sure, I got one of those seats on the plane, I got a piece of
paper from the hotel, drew the outline of a plane on it, and circled the areas on the right where I
wanted a window seat, so that I could take photos.. When it came my time to get my seating and
boarding pass, and knowing the language would be an issue, I handed my artwork to the agent, and
indicated that I wanted a window seat on the right side, away from the wing, etc, so that I could take
photos.. He seemed to understand, and so my ticket was issued!!! When I finally got on the plane, and
found my seat, it was an isle seat on the opposite side of the plane.. So, was my artwork bad, was
language an issue, was this person pissed, or what.. !!! But what really hurt was that it was a beautiful
sunny day, and from what little I could tell, the view was awesome, and many of the people who got
the window seats were reading a book, playing on their computer, were visiting with a buddy, or were
simply asleep!!! That hurts!!! So, I have no images from the neat ride over the beautiful mountains
area... But, we did make it to Madrid, and did find our connection for the flight on home, but the one
thing I remember about Madrid, was the paint peeling smell of the bathrooms at the airport.. It was just
super hard to hold your breath until you could get in, do business and get out.. Horrible.. And, where
does one find horrible smelling bathrooms?? You find them where people eat a lot of pork.. I have
known for a long time that pork does not digest, it rots!! And the rotted waste  smells as bad or worse
than the smell of a dead body!!! I guess the people in Spain eat a lot of pigs!!! Every time I see people
eating hog, I know how that story is going to end, I do not want to be nearby when it does!!!

Earlier I said the agent did a bad turn for me, by not giving me a window seat to do photos, but there
was some relief for the ride from Madrid to NYC, which was about 7 hours.. Not bad, given that I have
generally been sitting for 15 hours on other flights!! When you have gotten use to 10-17 hour flights, 7
hours seems like a puddle jump!!!!  The plus part of the ride across the Atlantic was that I did sit on the
right side, and I did have a window seat, but there was nothing to see!!! But, the really good part of my
seating arrangement was that I had both seats on that side of the airplane to myself!!! The plane was
not full, and I was lucky enough to not get a seat buddy... So, I could spread out my electronic toy
collection, use the extra tray for food and drinks, etc.. Was gooooood!!! And, we had a nice flight.. The
meal was fair, the snack was fair, and so, getting to NYC was a comfortable event, but, it had its
challenge at arrival... !!!

My seat was near the back of the plane, and so I was one of the last people to get off.. Normally that
is not an issue, and even with the fact that I was getting off at JFK, I was still comfortable with the fact
that I had to get through customs, etc, then shuttle over to Laguardia airport to catch my next flight, to
Chicago.. But, I could not even exit the airplane for a few minutes, then after that, it was stop and
walk, stop and walk, for near an hour.. I could not figure out what the issue was.. Nobody came by to
explain, and so, I assumed it was a TSA issue and just stayed in line.. But, I was starting to be
concerned as I had a long way to go to get out of this airport, get to the next one, and still make
arrangements for the next flight. I never figured out what was going on, but after nearly an hour of
standing the in line coming out of the airplane, I finally could see a sign way up ahead, and I think I
used the telephoto on camera to read it.. In short it said US Citizens to the left!!!! The hallway was full
of people, so there was no "left". But, I made one.. I made my way to the sign, by passing up a lot of
confused looking people, then once at the sign, I kept zipping down the wall until I found a clear area
and a customs agent, directing traffic.. When she looked a me, she looked like she saw a ghost!!! She
said where did you come from, as I was holding up my USA PASSORT for her to see.. I said I came in
on Iberia flight 1652, or whatever is was. She said, well then where have you been!!!!, knowing the
plane landed an hour ago. I said I been waiting in that line back there until I got close enough to see
the sign for US citizens to go left!!! She said US citizens always get to go first, coming in.. I said
nobody told me.. She asked about the airline telling me. I said they told me nothing, at least nothing I
could understand, so... She just shook her head and pointed to the line in front of me, where only two
people were waiting.. Then, again, when I met the final agent, she asked why I was so late getting to
the checkout desk, so I told my story again.. She indicted that this airline routinely has issues like this!!!
Go figure!!! I got checked though the rest of the ordeal fairly fast and then on the shuttle, which l
caught just as it was leaving for Laguardia.. Lucky me!!!  Then, at Laguardia, the shuttle driver let me
photograph his big smile, and then everything was OK.. In fact, when he was getting my bag out of the
back of the shuttle, he asked about my camera, and was I going to take his photo. I said it was my
hobby and yes, I was gonna take his photo, so he posed, and I took the photos!! Turned out great..
Gave him one of my cards and headed to the next check-in desk. Got my tickets for home, then went
to hunt for food!!! And what did I find!!! Yes, another hamburger!!! Being a heart patient, I suppose,
per some people, hamburgers will eventually kill me, but the choices for a traveler are limited, and
hamburger is the only travel food I trust..   PLUS, I LIKE them!!!!

To get home, I have to fly to Chicago, change planes and fly on to STL... Lucky for me, I get to set
next to a 29 year old fellow, who was a head hunter!!! I had heard the term, but did not know what a
head hunter does!! He was very good at explaining it too me and told me how he got into the business,
etc.. I was not aware of how big of a demand there is for the services of headhunters!!!!! Our labor
reports talk about people being out of work, but then when you talk to people like this fellow, and to
other industry people, they talk about having vacancies that they cannot fill.. Seems that job skills it the
BIG issue.. Of course you knew that, right!!! So, the two hour flight I was on seemed like 20 minutes..
Plus, being a young person who grew up with smartphones, this fellow took time to set some stuff up
for me on my new phone, my first smartphone, and he suggested some more good apps for me, plus,
he introduced me to the practice of listening to podcasts!!! WOW.. Endless supply of ways to use my
phone!!!

All was going well until I was to catch the flight from Chicago to STL.. The flight was delayed.. The
longer it was delayed, the closer I came to running out of energy to keep going.. We did finally take
off, and the pilot explained that a broken plane earlier in the day, at Dallas, had thrown a lot of flights
off their plan, but he would do his best.. I think he pushed it coming home.. WE had few people on
board, and we got  home fast!!  I most likely should have taken a room in a hotel for the night, but
common sense to a tired person does not always happen, as it did not happen to me... I got my car
and headed home, only to miss an exit and lost valuable time getting home before I ran completely out
of juice!!! The last ten miles were just the hardest thing to do!! Barely made it back and into my front
door!!! It was 0100 when I walked in.. And, I had been thinking I will just drop my bag, undress, crawl
into bed and sleep for 24 hours!! WRONG!!!! About the time I turned the lights on, my body discovered
we were home, and was not gonna go to bed, before it got some food, got a shower, got to check
emails, etc.. The list goes on... But, it finally did happen, the body settled down, I crawled to bed, and
at 0200, I reached over and turned the light out, it was over!!!! WRONG AGAIN!!! At 0515, jet lag
kicked in!!! The alarm in my head went off and I was wide awake!!! NO WAY! But, yes, the adventure
was over, but the recovery had just started!!! It is still going on!!!!

For those still awake and reading, THANKS for traveling with me.. Was fun having you along for the
adventure... I expect many have fallen asleep by now, but, maybe they will come back, or maybe they
will just browse the images, then move on, but not matter, there is something here for all, and now, we
wait to see where the next adventure will be, and when.. As for the images I selected to share, they
are just memories of the trip home, not much explaining needed, but there should be our morning
snack, the Kissing Point, which is the last place where you have to say goodbye to people not going
through security with you at the airport. You get to see how clever the airport people are, they ROUTE
you through the GIFT department, on a winding trail, as you make your way to your gate!!!! Amazing...
There is a sample of the fancy condom machines at the airport, and an old VW bus, etc.. There is a
photo of the plane we left Madrid on, and oddly enough as I was taking the photo, an airport employee
came up and said NO PHOTOS!!! Must have been a secret plane of some kind!!! You do meet some
strange people sometimes!!! You see some fancy plane food, you see my shuttle driver, the Dentist
sign!!!! The NYC sign, and other airport stuff, to include some flight images... At at the end, you see
me doing my self photo.. I guess that is how I look to the world, as I seem to always have a camera
glued to my face!!!

Thanks again for taking the time to share my adventure!!! Thanks to the people who sent me
comments and suggestions as I moved through the adventure, and thanks to those who are already
checking in to make sure their name stays on the list for the next adventure.. As of now, you are on
until you ask that I remove your name,
So sit back and relax and see what happens next!!! I may have said this earlier, but I may be taking a
travel break to catch up on chores, then, we get to go again!!! Until then,

Happy Travels,
T
May 21...  Part 2
Part 2...
Part 1...