Friday, September 29, 2017

Back in Italy, Corsica (France), and passing through London

We're off for another grand adventure in Europe:  Bolzano and Cinque Terre in Italy,  Corsica in France, and a brief stop in London.  But first, the long trek to Bolzano in the Dolomites, the Italian Alps just below Austria.  We fly into Frankfurt and transfer to a small Austrian Airlines flight to Innsbruck.  Our little plane looks lost among the big jets in Frankfurt, but it's just the right size in Innsbruck, where everyone stops for pictures on the walk from the plane to the terminal.

 Austrian Airlines, FRA-INN

We purchase bus tickets at the Tabac and catch a local bus from the Innsbruck airport to the train station, about a 20 minute ride.  Our first stop is the speck shop in the station, to admire the display and to purchase speck sandwiches for lunch on the train.  Speck is a cured meat dating from the 1200s and native to northern Italy and southern Austria.  Meat from the rear leg of a pig is rubbed with salt and spices and cured for several weeks before being cold smoked for days, then air dried for months.  It's wonderful!

Innsbruck itself looks truly appealing as we zip through on the bus and we again note that we should spend some time here someday.  But, not today, we're heading to Italy.

 Innsbruck train station speck shop

The wait on the train platform is scenic and we take in the mountains and scenery, including the Bergiselschanze ski jump used in the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics.

 Surrounding mountains and ski jump

One of my favorites views from the platform is the huge bike parking area for people who ride their bicycle to the train.

Bicycle parking at the train station

The scenery is beautiful as the train winds through the Alps, over the Brenner Pass, and enters Italy at Brenner, where we change engines and train crew.

 Scenery along the train route, Innsbruck to Bolzano

We arrive in Bolzano in the late afternoon, check into Hotel Greif, just off the main square, Piazza Walther, and settle in at a small bar on the piazza for an aperitif before seeking dinner.  It's getting a little chilly in the late summer weather and we hear that rain and snow are on the way so we're thinking of outside seating while we still can.

 Piazza Walther in Bolzano

Just  a few blocks from the piazza, restaurants are tucked in the buildings with plenty of sidewalk seating and we grab a table and share several bruschetta,  a plate of speck and cheese, and fried eggplant (which turns out quite different from what we expect, but is really good).  A great meal and a great introduction to the region.

 Dinner sampler of delights

We wander a bit after dinner, sauntering through the evening streets of Bolzano on our way back to the hotel.

 Evening streets

To our great delight, we hear sounds of music and enter one small piazza to find a band playing in the center, with everyone passing by stopping to listen and appreciate.  This is clearly a German band, all brass, percussion, and winds.  No strings.  Really good.  We stop for their last few numbers as we end our first day in this magical place with this special moment.

 Band playing, everyone stopping

The band winds down just as it starts to rain  and we stroll back through Piazza Walther, lit up for the evening.

 Piazza Walther later in the evening

It's been a long day and we're a long way from  San Francisco.  We're loving every minute!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Saigon Street Scenes

Walking around Saigon, I find lots of sights and adventures in which I take delight.  Here's a few that I manage to capture in photo.

 Stock exchange, complete with bull and bear

Walking by a school, festival in process

Row of birdcages in the garage

Ho Chi Minh

 Trash cans

Sculpture at the Ho Chi Minh museum

 Paths along the Saigon river

 Vietnamese Uber

Plant delivery

I've truly enjoyed my stay in Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon.  The people, the food, the sights, everything combined for a fabulous experience.  I'll be back to this town and back to explore other parts of Vietnam.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Ships in the River

The Saigon River flows through the city and my hotel room looks out over it.  The river is busy 24x7 with traffic.  I watch the ships come and go over the time I am there and find it facinating.  After a while, I start to take pictures.

Container ships

I see ships carry gravel up the river and other ships and barges taking gravel down the river.  I wonder why people don't use the gravel they have rather than sending it away and bringing more in?  One of the mysteries of life.

 Dirt, sand, and gravel travel up and down the river

And, the occasional ferry passes by.


Generally, ships go single file, only sometimes passing a really slow boat, and everyone works hard at the bend in the river as the current carries them toward the opposite shore.  But, at times, the traffic picks up.

 Getting busy

 I could sit for hours and watch the traffic on the river.  Something new with every ship and continuous action and change.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Food and Dining in Saigon

The food in Saigon is plentiful, inexpensive, and really good.  I see fresh food stands everywhere I go, in the markets, on the street corners, and in shops.

 Fresh food in the market

 And, on the street

And, places to eat are everywhere, in the markets and on street corners also.

 Dine in or out

I stop at a stand in a market for a bowl of beef pho and sausage.  The pho tastes of lemongrass and I add fresh mint leaves, bean sprouts, and red pepper sauce.  The side of spicy pepper sausage (on a stick) with peanut sauce and a beer totally complement the meal!

Lunch:  Beef Pho with spicy sausage

I'm truly enjoying the culinary exploration aspects of Saigon!