A Week on Block Island, Rhode Island

Hello !

Quick entry today, mostly because I wanted to share a link to a Block Island tour slideshow that I just uploaded to Youtube.

Mrs. Working Stiff and I, along with her parents, just spent a wonderful week there.  It has always been one of our favorite places.  We had quite a huge rental house with a large yard full of great old trees.  The house was on the southwest part of the island with views of Long Island off in the distance to the west.

With all the hurricanes that have been going on down south, we were expecting a week of dreary, rainy weather, but it really was surprisingly nice all week.  There was some rain and plenty of fog, but mostly at night, with lots of sun during the day. read more

A Toil of Two Cities

I studied this pile and more for months leading up to our trip!

There is some old wisdom, probably dating back to before The Working Stiff was born, and that goes something like this:

“Go to Paris in August. All the Parisians are out of town on vacation.  You’ll have the place to yourself!”

Yeah, right.

After our recent trip to Europe – 5 nights in London followed by 8 in Paris – I now know that is some old wisdom that needs to be shoved deep into the circular file!

It was really crowded in both cities, at least in and around most of the bigger tourist attractions.  I can’t say that I noticed the “locals on vacation” thing in London, but there was plenty of evidence of that in Paris.  We did see many shops and restaurants closed.  Many of them would have a sign on the door indicating that they were closed for their annual holiday.  July this to August that.  So it is absolutely true that many thousands of Parisians would have been out of town on holiday.
However…… you still have the two million visitors from Germany, Spain, Italy, China, India, etc., etc.  Oh – and the US of course, though my perception was that we were in the minority. read more

Drinking in The Scenery

News Flash! Club Soda illegal in Europe!!

After those long trips from Philadelphia to London and then from London to Paris, we were thirsty!

We Learned that drinking habits are different in both of those places, as compared to the US.  Of course, we think of London as everyone drinking pints of beer (particularly Guinness), and we think of the French as so many million wine drinkers.  Yes, that is all true, but there is more to it.

It is true that the Brits appear to be very beer-centric, and we found the pubs to have quite a good selection.  There appeared to be a substantial brew-pub culture going on there not unlike what has taken off in the US over the past ten years or more.  We stuck mostly with wine though, and had no trouble finding good wines by the glass, carafe, or bottle.  Regarding wines by the glass, one thing we saw almost everywhere we went in both cities, was that you would ask for a glass of wine and they would ask you what size you wanted.  Menus listed sizes also.  A small might be listed as 175 ml and a large might be listed as 250 ml.  (That’s about 6 oz. and about 8.5 oz.) We found those sizes to vary slightly and sometimes to be listed in centiliters instead.  We got used to that, soon learning to ask for the larger glass. read more

Up in The Air (and home)

The iconic Tower Bridge, which spans the Thames next to The Tower of London.

(I actually wrote the below and processed the photos on the plane in the middle of our flight, but then opted not to try to figure out how to get the WIFI connection.  We got home safely at almost 5:00 Saturday afternoon after an approximately 9-hour flight!  More soon on trip details, ups and downs, other stuff.)

This is a test.  This is only a test.  Can we do a blog entry from an airplane?  Why not?

It is about 6:00 PM Paris time / high noon Philadelphia time and we are 5 or 6 miles above the Atlantic Ocean hurtling through space inside an aluminum tube at 500 miles per hour.  I understand the physics of it, but it still doesn’t make much sense! read more

Paris to Philadelphia

Crepes are everywhere. Excellent and inexpensive street food!

Bon Voyage to us!

(Quick entry before we try to figure out our first ever Uber ride to Charles de Gaulle airport and our date with Air France.)

As Sir Paul says in one of my favorite Beatles songs, “Were on our way home”.

Between London and Paris, it has been a busy and exciting two weeks away from home.  We have had a fantastic time and have many more pictures and stories to share, but we are looking forward to getting home to our own home, bed, and kitties!

Yesterday morning, as we sipped our café au lait, we decided to bag the idea of waiting in line to go through the catacombs.  So, we shall add that to the list of things we had wanted to see or do, but cancelled due to long lines and/or massive pushy crowds.  Ah well, we just need to come back in November! read more

Rainy Day In Paris

A pretty good view of the flying buttresses that support the main chapel of the Cathedral of Notre Dame

Actually, we have had several rainy days.  At this point the small umbrella that my wife packed for me is gradually disintegrating.  I am hoping it lasts at least through tomorrow and then I can leave it to its destiny in a French landfill.

On Tuesday, we took a day trip to Bruges, Belgium, and that was our first rainy day since London.  Bruges is a very well-preserved medieval city in northwest Belgium.  As we strolled around the town it seemed like around every corner there was another incredible castle-like ancient building or another charming stone bridge over another narrow canal.  Though it was wonderful to wander the winding streets and hidden passages through the town, it was also very crowded.  We heard languages from all over and it was clear that Bruges was a very hot destination.  We had not even heard about the city before we saw the Colin Farrell film “In Bruges” when it came out back in 2008 and we wondered how many of the other visitors were in the same boat.  The wife and I agreed that the great old-world beauty of the place coupled with the massive crowds made it all seem very much like being in Disney World’s World Showcase area.  That’s a shame but I suppose a compliment to Disney! read more

Sunny Afternoon in Paris

The Cathedral of Notre Dame (“our lady”). Two blocks from our rented apartment.

Nous sommes à Paris!

(We are in Paris!)

It is a gorgeous afternoon in Paris and, after a busy first several days, we are having a lazy few hours at the temporary headquarters of The Working Stiff.  The Mrs. is relaxing inside while I am sitting out on our little terrace above the busy Boulevard St. Germain.  It is a narrow terrace but has enough room for a little bistro table and two chairs.

Like London, Paris is a city that is divided by a major river running through it with an east-west orientation.  The river in London is The Thames (pronounced “tems” – don’t try to complicate it by saying the “H”, or people might think you’re from Rhode Island.  Just say “tems”), which flows from west to east.  In Paris, The Seine flows in the opposite direction – east to west.  That is the reason that the part of the city (imagine you are in a boat going downstream), to the south of the river is called “The Left Bank”.  The Right Bank is to the north of The Seine. read more

Sunny Morning in London

View looking east along the Thames. We are staying near the Shard skyscraper on the right.

Greetings again from London!  We have been zipping around the city for several days doing some touristy things and some not-so-touristy things.  I think at this point we are mostly adjusted to the time change but it is still a bit hard to get up early in the morning.  Mrs. Working Stiff has been very pleased at the very fall-like weather here.   One note to myself for future visits would be that it would be good to bring a light jacket or sweatshirt even in July or August.  Also, the need to bring that umbrella is no joke! Fortunately, we packed (and used) two of them. read more

Hello from Swinging London!

Border Control at 7:00 AM!

Well hello from SWINGING LONDON!

It is just after 8:00 AM (3:00 AM in Philadelphia) here on what will clearly be a beautiful day.  We got into the city yesterday by about this time after an on-time flight followed by a long wait in an enormous passport control room with a thousand or two other people.  Giant signs all around announcing that this was the “UK Border” and that if we had any intention of seeking asylum- this was the time and place to do it.

We briefly pondered that option, figuring that the British authorities would likely grant us asylum based simply on the results of last November’s election in the US, but ended up just telling the border agent we were on vacation. read more

A Tale of Two Cities

We are finally almost there! All the gods permitting we should be on a plane to London in less than 24 hours.  I have mentioned before in these pages that Mrs. Working Stiff calls me The Planner, and I suppose I come by that moniker naturally.  I do like to research and plan.  As a wise person should say sometime, one need not be a boy scout to appreciate being prepared.  Hhmmmm, maybe I’ll say that myself.

I have been planning and researching, and re-planning and re-researching for so long that I’m sure I deserve an advanced degree in something or other. (Mixology?) read more