The Humble Homepage of Christopher Erickson
Total Solar Eclipse 2006!
What an amazing sight!
On March 29th of 2006, our family had the chance to view the total eclipse of the sun from the desert skies of Libya. It was a fantastic experience that we will never forget. We booked a 12-day eclipse cruise with Sky and Telescope magazine and Travelquest International on the MSC Sinfonia. We had the once-in-a-lifetime chance to not only see a total eclipse of the sun, but to also see the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx, Cairo Museum, Pompeii, Alexandria, Tobruk, Tripoli, Egypt, England, Italy, Sicily, Malta and the Duomo Cathedral in Milan. I took a gazillion pictures as well as video of the eclipse.
Here are my pictures of the trip and the eclipse.
Here are my videos of the eclipse.
This was my first attempt at video editing so please don't expect a Hollywood production!
If my server is slow please accept my
apologies and try again at a different time.
My server has become rather busy since putting my eclipse pics and videos on line.
Mediterranean eclipse cruise 2006 travelogue
Trip has been fun
so far but exhausting. Taking along a couple
of 70 pound Pelican cases packed with a telescope and camera gear has been a nuisance but
the requirement for a suitcase full of formal wear for the formal dinners on the ship has
really been annoying!
converted to 340 Euros was painful. If we
ever come back to Europe we might wait until the exchange rate reverses. The Hotel was near the airport (picked it from
Hotwire.com) and had free WiFi. It was also
very clean and the staff was very polite and helpful.
Dinner was at an
Italian pizzeria who's name translates to "the bucking mule!" We had pizza, Italian style. I have heard many times that Italian pizza is very
different than American style pizza and not nearly as good (at least by American
standards). It was indeed rather different but in fact it was quite good and we all came
away wishing we had got some more for the road. No
heavy tomato sauces.
Next morning we
had a very nice breakfast of cereals, cold cuts, cheese and biscotti at the hotel and then
walked around Malpensa (suburb of Milan) and found an open market. Quite interesting.
Most older Italians don't seem to appreciate unexpected eye contact and especially
smiles from strangers. They would much prefer
to take sneak peeks at you and not have you notice.
Afterwards we had
to get a hotel shuttle back to the airport so we could catch a bus to the train station so
we could catch a train to Genoa. Whew! The worst was having to really hustle to get all
of our luggage onto the train and piled into our little compartment. We would have never found the right train and ramp
without a very nice English-speaking woman at an information kiosk. The train stations are not geared for the needs of
inexperienced tourists who don't speak the language!
And the trains are not really designed to deal with people with a lot of luggage
either. And you are completely on your own
getting it on and off! And did I mention that
you are expected to get on and off quite fast? Many
train station stops were only two minutes long! Now
add narrow train car aisles and steep steps and you are starting to get the picture.
Fortunately we made it and I didn't even have a heart attack in the process. Trying to figure out the correct disembarking station was a bit stressful until my wife found a nice, English speaking Italian woman on the train that told us the correct station name to look for. She even came down to our compartment and told us when to get ready to get off.
At the correct
Genoa train station we managed to get off with all of our stuff. Then we split into two groups. Two with the luggage and two to find the "in
walking distance" hotel. We eventually
found the hotel. They claimed they were
"150 meters from the train station". While
that may have technically been true, they were certainly NOT 150 meters (yards) from the
station exit! More like .75 kilometers! We went back and caravanned the luggage and took
two trips huffing the bags uphill to the hotel. Three
cheers for rolling luggage and caravanning straps. However
it would have been nice if the sidewalks had been smoother!
First order of
business was a nap, since we are still trying to adjust to crossing 10 time zones. About 9pm we went out and found a meal. Everybody in Genoa seems to be dressed to the
nines. Expensive suits and high heels
everywhere you look. Really made me feel like
a misplaced Alaskan in my jeans and T-shirt!
happy to take our VISA card without a problem. Nobody
even asks for ID or anything.
Well, it is after
1:30am here and time to catch some more Z's for tomorrow.
Sort of weird to
check my RoboCam back in Anchorage and see the sun shining and snow on the tarp of my
observatory project. Hopefully my friend Mike
stops by the house and knocks the snow off of the tarp!
cool here and it is a bit hazy and rainy. Probably
about 45-50F. People can't believe I am not
cold, running around without a coat.
Getting to the
ship proved rather painless but a tad expensive. Had
to rent two cabs to get the four of us and our luggage to the ship. Check-in was fairly smooth and a bit boring. Luggage dropped off at parking lot and packed off
by ship staff. Family went through lines and
nominal paperwork and finally security before boarding ship.
The Sinfonia (sin-phone-ee-ah) is a new
ship and supposedly a fairly new addition to the Italian cruise line MSC Crociere. It is impeccably clean inside and has a classical
music theme. The decks are all named for
famous European composers. All Italian
composers, I think. However unlike other
cruise lines you may have experienced or heard about, this one has some differences. First, this one is no food orgy. There are specific meal times and you better be on
time or you miss out. Breakfast and lunch
have optional buffet alternatives to the formal sit down meals but dinner does not. Three of the dinners even require formal dress! There is also a "midnight buffet" but I
have not tried it yet. Food quality is
uneven. I have had a slab of chicken breast
that could have been used to re-sole a shoe and a steak that could have been used to
re-tread an old tire. At other times the meals are reasonably okay. Many times I had no idea what, exactly I was
eating. Be warned that ANYTHING in the
mini-bar and/or calling room service will cause extra charges to your final bill. If you miss a meal, the two boxes of peanuts and
the two Mounds chocolate bars in the mini-bar are your only alternative. Also be advised that they don't seem to restock
the mini-bar during the cruise! The rock
climbing wall was out of order but for those of you who know me well, will understand that
this didn't upset me much. The pools and hot
tubs are drained after dark, which DID upset me as a trip to one of the hot tubs before
bedtime would have been nice. There are a few
shops on the ship but mostly expensive perfumes, dresses and several jewelry shops. No place to buy the usual basic things like
batteries, magazines, candy bars and such. Laundry
service is available but the prices are downright painful.
About five bucks to get a pair of pants washed and three bucks per foo-foo-undie
(nod to 'Young Frankenstein'). Shore
excursions seem rushed but organized. All of
the staff were efficient and polite. Most
spoke almost no English. The staff/jerks with
the cameras are lucky none of them needed their cameras surgically removed. Be warned that the room staff can burst in on you
if you don't take the time to place your little "do not disturb" sign out. The rooms are nice, compact and efficient. The beds are like plywood with sheets stretched
over them. Italians seem to prefer REALLY
hard beds. A double bed is made by stretching
a double sheet over two single beds shoved together.
Needless to say the middle of the "double" bed is nearly completely
uncompressible and VERY uncomfortable. I have
named the edge of the mattresses the "mattress crust". A real detriment to
snuggling couples. There is an Internet cafe
with rotten Internet speed, 1/3 Euro per minute and locked into a crippled web browser. There are two el-cheapo black and white LaserJet
printers that all 16 Internet stations share. No
picture uploading or downloading allowed. No
USB access. No IM allowed. Most of the time the printers are out of paper. Even the bottles of water in the room will cost
you extra if you crack the seal. The only
soda pops on the ship are in the bars and mini-bar and will cost you over 3 Euros each if
you touch them. Even a soda with dinner will
cost you extra. We were surprised to find a
whole set of unexpected fees and charges already on our bill before we even opened our
cabin door. There were a number of
"docking fees", "excursion fees", "port taxes" and a
pre-emptive "5% gratuity fee" that we were never warned about. Kiss another $750 goodbye. We paid extra for a cabin with a window but I
guess we forgot to ask for a CLEAN window. The
outside of our window was filthy and stayed that way throughout the entire cruise. Asking if we could get the window cleaned was
fruitless. In conclusion the Sinfonia was
structured more like a luxury hotel than a stereotypical cruise ship. I guess it wouldn't be that big of a deal if we
had known in advance. Oh well. I came for the eclipse and the antiquities! In all fairness I suspect it is possible that the
current cost of fuel could be behind the lack of generosity and freebies.
What an awesome
place. Pompeii is much better preserved and
much bigger place than I had imagined. Many
buildings were completely intact with roofs and interior wall paintings. I took a lot of pictures. Our guide was Anthony and his English was rather
difficult to follow. He had a HEAVY accent
and often emphasized the wrong words or parts of words in his dialogue. He spoke slow which was both good and bad. It helped to make some words easier to understand
but other times made a simple statement take very long and frustrating to listen to. He was nice but moved us along quickly and was
always complaining about how slow we were. We
were not allowed time to visit the official gift shop but were given about ten minutes
with the street merchants before they bussed us to a coral factory to try to extract many
dollars from us. The artwork at the coral
factory was nice but not nearly as interesting as Pompeii.
Ironically Anthony felt we needed a lot of time at the coral factory (a.k.a.
undiscounted coral jewelry factory outlet). Eventually
everybody returned to the bus. Some with
purchases. Anthony finally got the hint and
we headed back to the ship. The bag lunch
provided by the ship was downright nasty. I
drank the bottle of water and ate the bread roll. Looking
around it appeared that everybody else was doing essentially the same thing.
Dinner on the
ship was so-so and the bed proved to be just about the worst I have ever slept in. It killed my shoulders. After several days of asking the crew if something
could be done, they covered the mattresses with about four additional blankets under the
bottom sheet. That helped a lot and I was
able to sleep a bit better.
What a beautiful
and strange place. So much uncompleted
construction and so many abandoned buildings. Diane
was our tour guide and she gave us a detailed history of Sicily and its people. She told us here Father was Sicilian and her
Mother English. She spoke excellent English
with a blended Sicilian and British accent. She
was funny and pleasant to listen to. Much
better than our experience at Pompeii. Anyway
apparently Sicilians have a rather fond relationship with Mount Aetna, their active
volcano. Apparently it is a lava volcano and
not an explosive, ash type volcano. That
makes it safer to live near. Sometimes it
puts on quite a lava light show for the locals and once in a while, a slow lava flow will
destroy a town or two. Fortunately the lava
moves so slow that the villagers usually have up to a year or two to move somewhere else
before the lava destroys their home. Sounds a
lot like the Big Island of Hawaii. Sicilians
are also proud of their heritage as the vacation destination of the world's rich and
famous. In Palermo there is an unwritten rule
that all celebrities are to be treated like regular people.
Nobody asks for autographs or takes pictures of their famous visitors. They also emphasize that "what happens in
Palermo, stays in Palermo". I am sure
that a lot of reckless celebrities probably appreciate that! Bill Clinton should have taken Monica here instead
of under the desk in the Oval Office. Diane
told us a story about one time when Liz Taylor and Richard Burton were drunk on their
butts and arguing/fighting in the middle of
the street. Apparently at one point Liz
grabbed a guitar from a street musician and broke it over Richard's head. Well, I guess some stories are just too good to
keep secret. The streets in Palermo are
downright frightening. Steep, twisting,
narrow, old and unpredictable. The faint
hearted were advised NOT to look out of the bus windows as we wound back and forth up the
wild mountain side roads of Palermo. On most
of the curves, the bus took up the entire road and then some. Several times we met other vehicles who had to
slam on their brakes and then back up to allow our bus to make it around some hairpin
corner. What a wild ride. While in Palermo we also visited an ancient Greek
theater. Very impressive. When the Roman empire took over Sicily, the Romans
redesigned the theater to accommodate their own preferences. They built a wall on the back side, took out the
bottom rows of seats, added an upper wall with alcoves to hold statues of their gods and
built a complicated underground backdrop scene "machine" into the bottom of the
theater. I got a lot of good pictures.
At sea, headed to
Cairo. Several good astronomy talks. The one on solar eclipse photography techniques
was really good. Wish I had brought my video
camera and taped it. Taped the two on Sunday. Mostly to make sure I was familiar with the camera
again. I don't use it often and I forget all
of the functions and features. Daughter is
having a blast with a bunch of new girlfriends.
Alexandria! Giza! Pyramids! Camels! Cairo! Cairo Museum!
Wow. What an amazing amount of history here in the Nile
delta. We arrived in Alexandria and then took
a bus to Giza. The ride was interesting as we
saw some of the ancient walls of Alexandria, erected during the reign of Alexander the
Great. Fisherman were everywhere in the delta
waters, weaving between the tall reeds. Eventually
we left the delta waters behind and headed deeper into the desert. There were sporadic signs of life along the road
in the form of random buildings, abandoned buildings, humans, horses and every once in a
while, a camel. Our tour guide explained
that two-humped camels are "true" camels and one-humped camels were called
dromedaries. She then told us that camels
without humps were called Humphries (get it?) Bad jokes aside, she told us a lot about the
history of Egypt and about current life in Egypt. She
was very proud that she had trained her conservative husband how to say "please"
and "thank you" so well that he is now scolding their children whenever they
forget their manners. I suspect that women's
liberation still has a long ways to go in her country.
She has a master's degree in Egyptology and speaks five languages and apparently is
now considered minimally qualified to be a tour guide!
Different standards for men and women. Anyway
as the miles rolled by we eventually started to see more civilization. Soon we were back in a city environment and
weaving around various city streets. This
place is dirty. Lots of trash everywhere and
the buildings look to be in rather poor repair. Suddenly
in the background haze of the city, there they were.
Two great pyramids in soft gray outline, rising above everything. I felt goose bumps rise up on my arms. They were formidable. The city felt insignificant next to them. Wow. Soon
we were parked between the two largest of the three great pyramids and attempting to dodge
the Egyptian hucksters that were descending on the tour buses like a plague of crazed
locusts. They would try to give you stuff and
then ask for "gifts of dollars for their children". They profited from many tourist's desires not to
be rude. The only way to avoid being
exploited was to be firm and rude and say "NO!"
And walk past them. Some people wore
sunglasses and pretended they were not there. Others
pretended not to speak any language the hucksters knew.
A few meekly held up their hands and said "no money!" and tried to run
around them. Even the security police would
try to get you to let them take your picture in front of the pyramids and then ask for
money afterwards, when they were still holding your camera.
And if you decide to buy anything from them (fool!!)
Don't EVER let them take a big bill from you and then give you change. You will not get back even a fraction of the
change you expected. And watch out for the
"your picture on a camel" hucksters too. You
will pay the guy $5 to $25 to get your camera back from around his neck and THEN find out
that the other five guys around the camel expect to get their very own $5 to $25 EACH! One will tell you it is his camel. The next will tell you that he was the one who
helped you up on the camel, etc. You get the
idea. Anyway these guys really take away from
the magic of visiting the pyramids and the sphinx.
everywhere. Egypt seems really bent on
protecting tourists from terrorists. Each bus
had a security officer with a machine gun under his suit jacket and a radio in his ear. Our caravan of about 10 tour busses were led by
five military vehicles and trailed by two more. Machine
After we left the
pyramids behind we drove over the Nile river into Cairo and visited the Cairo museum. The old museum is in poor repair and is a huge,
seemingly random collection of ancient artifacts that seems to go on for just about
forever. Unfortunately most of the stuff
isn't even labeled!! Old, wooden display
cabinets everywhere. The place was more like
a disorganized warehouse than a museum. There
were tons of fascinating things to behold and most of them a complete mystery to the
visitor. Even some 10-foot-plus statues were
completely unmarked with any kind of identification.
Apparently a new museum is being constructed and will be open in a few years. Hopefully they do some effort in labeling the
stuff they move over to it.
After the museum
we had an excellent lunch at a German buffet restaurant in Cairo called something like
"The Pluck and go". I guess
something was lost in the translation into English.
After that we hit a few gift shops. Finally
we headed back to Alexandria and the ship. What
an amazing day. Nothing will top the feeling
I had when I saw the pyramids for the first time, rising in the haze above the city.
was back on the ship we left port and headed for Tobruk, Libya. Made famous by Rommel and the British during
WWII. Not many rusting tank hulks left in the
desert any more but various military cemeteries and battleground markers exist.
PS - Yes, I was
huckstered for $25 for a picture of my daughter on a camel. I guess it was worth it. The camel was grinding his teeth, slapping his
lips and wailing in complaint and so was my daughter.
Night in the Libyan desert!
Only 63 of the
1,500 eclipse chasers on the ship had chosen to pay an extra $700 for the privilege of
spending a night in the middle of the Libyan desert under the stars. Doris had booked me for the overnight trip but
chose to say on the ship herself until the next morning when the balance of the eclipse
chasers would be brought into the desert.
didn't get $700 worth of desert stargazing but I did get a completely different kind of
experience. We were supposed to get a
"night under the stars" in the Libyan desert.
I brought about 45 pounds of stargazing gear on top of my eclipse photo gear. We arrived in the desert camp and was greeted by
about 1,000 Libyans, 300 tents, a big truck mounted power generator, monster mercury vapor
light poles and about 10 security vehicles orbiting at high velocity around the camp. Reminded me of a desert rock concert. I should also mention that Libyan National
Television was there along with some Libyan dignitaries.
I believe that one of them was President Kadaffi's son. We were given a very nice dinner in several of the
large tents and afterwards were ushered to an open theater area where a number of the
dignitaries gave speeches, followed by translations in French and English. The themes were about "peace between the
Libyan and Western peoples" and Libya's desire to have more people from the West to
come see their many historical places and to see proof of how safe Libya is for tourists. After the speeches there was ethnic music with
dancers. The music was impressive. The dancers were covered from head to calf and had
veiled faces with just their eyes showing. One
was thin and the other was somewhat heavy. The
heavier one was certainly the favorite of the young Libyan men. Every so often a veil would slip from just above
the nose to just under the nose. Whenever
that happened the large crowd of Libyan men behind us would go ape! Shouting, clapping, stomping and whistling. A bit intimidating.
Afterwards we were led through a series of tents with displays of Libyan culture
and economy. Everything was laid on mats and
sheets placed on the desert floor. There were
several fresh paintings of solar eclipses combined with Libyan cultural themes. It was all very impressive and even a bit
We had three tour
guides, a security officer and a bus driver with us.
All were very polite, helpful and professional.
And very friendly! My favorite was
"Key" (his nickname). He helped
haul our gear around and tended to our every need. We
swapped email addresses and he told me a bit about his family. He impressed me as a loving father of his two
little girls and a gentle husband to his wife. He
had lots of questions about America and was always ready to answer our questions about
daily life in Libya. Key learned English
while attending "University" in Libya. His
English was very good and only once in a while did we have to work at communicating
certain words or concepts.
That night we
were shown to our tents. They had mats placed
on the desert floor, a single mattress, a hand-made foam pillow, one thin acrylic blanket
and an unopened package of sheets. I stayed
in my clothes and coat and huddled under the single blanket. Still about froze to death! The Libyan desert gets darn cold at night.
Tomorrow is going
to be the BIG DAY. The total eclipse of the
Sun!! How can I possibly sleep when we are SO
Woke up to a
heavy, wet fog and a lot of concerned eclipse-chasers.
I was cool. I was convinced it would
burn off in an hour or so and we would all then proceed to be cooked to oblivion in the
desert heat. Had breakfast in a tent. Very good! The
night before I had carefully polar aligned my Vixen GP mount so it would be able to track
the sun perfectly the next day. Bad news! We were informed that the rest of the ship was
going to be taken to a location two kilometers away.
We had the option to stay where we were or go to the other location. Of course I had to go to where the rest of my
family was going to be! So much for my
perfect polar alignment!
A quick gear grab
and a bus ride and I am rejoined with my family. The
mist is completely burned off now. I stake
out a good spot in the field of 2,000 or so astro-geeks and their family members/victims. I set up my mount, topped off with an Orion 80ED
refractor and an Orion glass solar filter. Even
though I have a Coronado h-alpha filter setup, I choose not to use it because it would
take too long to swap out just before and just after totality. The glass filter gives a pleasing yellow/orange
tint to the sun and is just fine for this application.
The Sun has been very inactive anyway. And
not to mention the replacement cost of the h-alpha filter set, if the worst happens. I have tried to keep the value of my equipment
down to as low of a pain threshold as possible, just in case it gets lost, destroyed or
stolen. Anyway I am using a Scopetronix
MaxView-40 afocally-coupled eyepiece with my SONY DCR-PC5 Mini-DV video camera. Should give an excellent full-frame view of the
outer corona when the right moment arrives. Second
video camera (older 8mm Canon videocam) set up to one side and pointed to watch the
astro-geeks as they watch the eclipse. Nikon
dSLR around my neck, taking random shots of everything.
Everything looks perfect. All of the
equipment is humming along. Sky is completely
cloudless. Libyans are smiling everywhere. Slight breeze is helping to keep everyone cool. GP mount is tracking the Sun very well. Now to start the countdown. First contact is now less than an hour away. I am watching the progress using Astromist on my
First contact! The cameras are rolling. People are starting to act silly. Photographers are beginning to threaten the lives
of anyone who approaches too near to their gear. The
Libyans are saying a special prayer for the event. Everybody now wants to take a peek through my telescope. I let them look into the video camera's
viewfinder. More often I just hand them a
pair of Celestron binoculars with solar filters attached.
I run the scope camera at intervals to capture the time between first and second
contact in compressed time.
approaching the big one. Second contact. The point where the Moon completely obscures the
Sun from view. The Northern part of the sky
is visibly turning darker blue than the rest of the sky.
People are beginning to call out times. People
are beginning to lower their voices. The air
is beginning to feel cooler.
Okay, seconds to
go before second contact. Solar filter off! The Sun is going away! Diamond ring!
People are yelling and shrieking! The
photographers are busy and not making a sound. Lots
of "oohs" and "ahs" all around. A
few sharp profanities off in the distance. Not
sure what happened but it must not have been good.
Second contact! Totality! Incredible! I split my time between the scope camera, my dSLR
and just watching the eclipse and the people all around.
What an incredible event. The Sun is
beautiful. The light blue corona and the red
ring around the Sun is breathtaking. The
orange horizon around us is beautiful. I can
easily see Venus. I am not sure how to
describe it. Four minutes of totality and it
is going to feel like 8 seconds worth after it is over with. I try to just look up and enjoy it but I just
can't let go and not swing my dSLR up and snap more pictures. It's incredible.
Just about the most perfect conditions for a total eclipse that you would ever want
Third contact! The Sun is coming out on the far side of the Moon. Totality is over.
I can breathe now. A sudden feeling
of loss. A sudden feeling of sadness. I have waited for this eclipse for over two years
and now it is over. I get the solar filter
back on the telescope, check both video cameras and immediately begin to re-live the
experience with those around me. Everyone is
quiet now. Nobody wants to break the spell. Everyone speaks in hushed tones. Some people begin packing up their gear. The rest of us keep recording, determined to stick
through fourth contact, when the Sun finally moves completely beyond the obstruction of
Forth contact! Well, it's completely over now. Time to start rushing to get everything back into
the big Pelican boxes and back onto the buses before I get left behind. I wish I didn't have to rush right now. I still want to savor the flavor of the event. More time to let my mind fully absorb every
detail. Every sight. Every sound.
Well, we are back
on the bus, headed back to the first camp and to a late lunch. After that it will be a long bus ride back to the
ship and a late dinner. On the bus, most
people are quiet and keeping to themselves. Some
are already planning their next total eclipse trip to Siberia. Wow.
Back in the cabin
and the videos look awesome. I hope my video
editing talents can merge the two tapes into a great final product. I begin to think about which of my friends have
really good tape editing talents...
astronomy presentations. Apparently I have
caught a cold. Well at least it didn't happen
before eclipse day! My Mom is convinced the
cold night in the desert gave me the cold. My
efforts to explain the mechanisms of viruses proves fruitless. Once again. During
dinner the ship leaves Tobruk and heads for Tripoli.
We are told we will be there in the morning.
Head cold getting
worse. Had a bad night's sleep. Didn't want to leave the cabin but my wife and Mom
wanted to explore Tripoli and are afraid to do it without my presence. Blegh. Went
into Tripoli with them and explored around the downtown area. We were going to visit the museum but they only
accepted Libyan money and we didn't have enough for all three of us to get in. Took a bunch of pictures.
Doris and my Mom
took the town tour. I was miserable with my
head cold and stayed on the ship with Sydney, who also wasn't feeling well. Malta is an independent island-country with a very
unusual history. Castles, forts and churches
everywhere. I took a bunch of pictures from
the decks of the cruise ship while Doris took pictures of the town for me. Cold is getting worse and I think I might be
developing conjunctivitis. Went to ship
doctor and got some antibiotics and other meds.
Lat night was the
worst for my cold and I think I am now in recovery. However
Doris now seems to be coming down with symptoms. Bucking
our heavy luggage around is going to really miserable if we are both feeling like do-do. Mom and Sydney went on a tour while Doris and I
stayed on the ship.
Back to Genoa, debarkation day. Then on to Milan.
Back in the port
of Genoa. Luggage is tagged and off the ship. We wait for our turn to get off and join it. Finally our time comes and we walk the gang plank
for the last time. Sort of sad to leave our
home of the past 12 days. Sure not going to
miss the food or the super-hard bed however.
There sure seems
to be a lot of crooked cab drivers in Genoa. No
cab meters and no change. 40 Euros to get
from dock to train station. Similar trip in
Milan costs 13 Euros. Genoa is not a nice
place. I like Milan a LOT better.
Getting all of
this luggage on and off of the trains is absolute hell.
The European rail system is NOT intended for tourists. You are on your own when it comes to baggage and
trying to figure out which train platform is the right one for the train you want. And watch out.
They might change the platform number with only minutes to spare. If that happens you might have to buck all of your
crap the length of one platform, down a long flight of stairs, down an underground
corridor, back up another long flight of stairs and then down the length of another
At least I didn't
have a heart attack in the process. Anyway I
think that if a tourist really wants to take advantage of the economical European rail
system they should consider getting a HIGH quality back country backpack. If they can't get it in the pack and then haul the
pack at least a mile, then leave it at home. And
get a map of the rail routes and take a moment to figure out the names of each stop so you
will know when to get off!
Finally made it
to Milan and get a Taxi to the Hotel. Sure is
nice to be past the trains!
walking tours downtown with the family. Italians
sure dress to the nines around here. About
95% of the people look like they could be right off of the cover of Vogue magazine. Found the Milan Planetarium and Museum of Natural
Science. However we didn't go in. Found the Cathedral Duomo. Over 700 years old and still under construction. Third largest cathedral in the world. Rather impressive.
Took an elevator to the top and took a lot of pictures while exploring. Afterwards we went through the interior. Hard to imagine how hard people have worked on
this cathedral for the past 700 years! Tried
McDonalds in Milan. Weird. Got a bacon burger. It had a weird smoky, tangy, cheesy sauce and no
vegetables. Sort of dry and tasteless
otherwise. Fries and coke were comfortably
familiar. Hotel is very nice. Staff are very helpful. One fellow has a wicked sense of humor. Says his wife is from Colorado. Two nights here and then time to catch a plane to
London. 100 Euros for a cab ride to the
Malpensa airport. Ouch.
Fly to England, overnight in England.
gone smoothly so far on this trip. No missed
planes, trains or ships. No lost luggage. Nobody hurt or lost. Came close in the Malpensa airport. I joked with my Mom and my daughter that Doris and
I were close to picking out their milk cartons after they missed getting onto the elevator
to the second floor and the departure gates. Only
took them fifteen minutes to find the gates and us waiting for them.
all the way through to LAX. Made it easier to
travel light with overnight kits for the London hotel.
Hotel near Heathrow is lovely. Very clean and
riddled with convenience. Desk in room has an
Ethernet cable on it, along with four different types of power outlets. They bragged that they had an Italian restaurant
and were confused when all four of us crossed our eyes and stuck out our tongues! They also had a sports lounge with burgers, pizza,
nachos, fajitas and fish & chips. That
was more like it! After a good (but 100 pound
expensive) meal, we hired a driver and car (90 pound) and had a three hour night tour of
London. Wife and I loved it. Daughter slept through a lot of it. Mom enjoyed it until daughter draped over her and
started to snore.
Leave England for
Well, caught the
bus back to Heathrow airport. Everything
going smoothly. However sat in plane for two
hours with no air circulation as the crew
worked to start the 747 engines. Apparently
they use compressed air to start the engines and after two different compressors failed,
finally found a third and got the plane started. Ugh! Now for a 11.5 hour flight to LAX. Food is reasonably good and most of the crew has
a good attitude. One does not. She has become rather unpopular with the people
in our section. Finally we see the
civilization signs of LA. Whew. 13.5 hours in an airplane seat is a killer! After several hours at LAX, we are on our way to
Portland. After another 1.5 hours in the air,
we are waiting at Portland International for our flight to Anchorage. Portland International sure is a lot more
civilized than Sea-Tac! Our departure gate
was just across the hall from our arrival gate. No
hoofing it the length of concourse C and then the length of concourse B! Now for the 3.5 hour flight to Anchorage. Plane is mostly empty and we each get three whole
seats to ourselves. We stretch out and try to
sleep but it is still rather hard, even with three empty seats to work with. Arrive in Anchorage around 1:30am. We have been flying for over 24 hours and are
completely fried. So nice to be home! Now to get our bodies adjusted back to a time zone
11 hours different than where we were 48 hours ago!
Tomorrow we pick
up our doggies from the doggie-sitters and all will be right in our world.
Now it is time to
start working on my videos and digipics for the Eagle River Nature Center presentation on