July 12, 2019

Bratislava, Slovakia

Dateline: Bratislava, Slovakia

We left Vienna about breakfast time this morning and started the forty mile trip to Bratislava. For the first time in two weeks, the weather was left than perfect with rain showers all morning. It was a rather nice change watching the rain squalls drop their fat little drops into the Danube. It made me feel rather sleepy: gray and rainy days often do. So, I kept nodding off in the lounge while I was trying to do scene study on Choir Boy. I don’t have the lines yet, but I am starting to find the shapes of scenes and character moments.

We arrived in Bratislava around lunch time. It was my first time in a former Soviet bloc nation and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I had some vague expectations of drab architecture and women in babushkas but Bratislava is a dynamic modern city. Even if the country is somewhat behind on the development curve, the city is doing very well due to its proximity to Vienna and its much lower labor costs. All sorts of multinational firms have moved in and the city is busy upgrading itself and trying to restore its prewar appearance. It has the feel of a gentrifying US industrial city that is being reborn. It’s the closest feeling place to Birmingham so far.

Bratislava old town

The old town is a mix of Renaissance era gothic and baroque and full of winding little cobblestone streets. The historic buildings are all either refurbished or in the process of being redone and there are significant government programs to return property to private ownership and to restore property rights confiscated under Soviet rule. The one thing they haven’t been able to fix yet is the motorway running across the front porch of the cathedral (a particularly petty punishment in response to the failed revolution of 1968). The Soviets put in a new bridge across the Danube and demolished the Jewish quarter and nearly took out the cathedral for the access road.

The usual walking tour, including the bishop’s palace (with a superb collection of 16th century English tapestries that were apparently found rolled up behind a wall when a recent renovation was done. The rain ceased about ten minutes after we started and it was very nice the rest of the day. Then some cafe time, a little shopping, and a nice dinner. I skipped the castle as I didn’t feel like the 700 steps up the hill. There’s one thing about Europe – like my old house, no stair master necessary. The castle is a modern restoration. The original burned in 1811 and was a ruin until a few decades ago.

Main square, Bratislava

I’ve bought a couple of teddy bears from various destinations. Those who have been to one of my holiday open houses will know why. It’s not quite the same without the two of us, but the bear tradition will live on. Most of my other purchases have been postcards. I’ve also bought some little prints and watercolors of some of the towns I’ve passed through and I’ll have those framed and added to the walls at home after I get back. The last thing I’ve been collecting has been copies of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in various languages. Tommy was a huge Potter fan and was working on some of his European languages using translations so I’ve decided to add to the collection. I can make out some general sense in Slovak but I can’t figure out how to pronounce any of it.

We’re now steaming down the Danube. I can hear thunder outside but I’m nice and warm; Casablanca is on the television and all is right for the moment. Buadpest tomorrow, disembarkation the next day, then a couple of free days to explore before returning to the usual workaday.

July 11, 2019

Vienna, Austria

Dateline: Vienna, Austria –

The ship spent both last night and tonight tied up to the Danube docks so we could all have a full day to explore Vienna. I have been here before and am well aware that it takes a lot more than a day to see a city of some three million people and centuries of history. Fortunately, I have been here before so there was plenty of been there, done that in my planning out my day and I didn’t try to squeeze everything in. I think what I need to do with some of my favorite cities such as Vienna and Barcelona and London, is just get a round trip ticket and a hotel room for ten days or so and just immerse myself. I was looking at the first week of November for a vacation, but I just got a call from an attorney and they’ve scheduled a trial I need to testify at right in the middle of that week. They’ve already switched dates and canceled on me a couple of times so I fully expect to do that again. I’ll schedule the week off, perhaps, and make it a staycation or a jaunt to Chicago or NYC instead.

Schonbrunn Palace

After breakfast, on the bus for a driving tour of central Vienna, mainly involving the famous Ringstrasse with all the gorgeous 19th century buildings. Franz Joseph may not have been the wisest of rulers, but he knew how to let his city planners and architects transform medieval Vienna into a city of wide boulevards, imposing public buildings and art nouveau apartment houses. The bus ended up in the southwest end of the city at Maria Theresa’s summer palace, Schonbrun, which is the Austrian answer to Versailles. Last time I was here, I remember going to Schonbrun, the famous yellow color of the palace, the baroque gardens, but nothing of the palace interior. Maybe I didn’t go in. It’s been 35 years. Anyway, did the interior tour this time through the state apartments, mainly laid out by Maria Theresa but redecorated and rejiggered a few times by her successors. Most of imperial Vienna seems to have gotten stuck in the 1870s and 1880s when the Emperess Elizabeth, or Sisi as she was known, reigned supreme. She seems to have head the last word on decor and fashion but I’m not always certain as to her taste.

Vermeer’s The Art of Painting

The bus brought us back in to central Vienna and dropped us at the art museum and basically said you have until 8 am tomorrow – have fun. I went looking for an opera or theater production to go to but everything seems to be on summer hiatus as they all prepare for the Salzburg festival. So, I went to the art museums (which contains one of my favorite works of visual art – Vermeer’s The Art of Painting) as well as most of the Breugels you’ve ever heard of. It runs high to Reubens, who is not my favorite, but there are a couple of good Caravaggios to make up for it. I skipped the Natural History Museum. Been there. And headed for the Hofburg instead and took a look at the crown jewels (included with my art museum ticket). I did not tour Sisi’s apartments. I do remember those from my last trip and thought their Victorian excesses need not be seen more than once in a lifetime.

The Hofburg – Central Vienna

Then it was down through the main shopping district for some window shopping. I went into Armani and Versace – I always do, but could find nothing worth the exorbitant price tags. I ended up at the cathedral, yet another huge gothic edifice. The last time I was in Vienna, I was here over a Sunday so I went to mass at the cathedral. I figured I should see one in action. I went to the traditional Latin service rather than the German (as thanks to four years of high school Latin, I understand it rather better than my two quarters of college German lets me understand it). It was magnificent with the pomp and pageantry and the organ and a full symphony orchestra playing the musical passages. If you’re ever in a European cathedral town on a Sunday, by all means go.

After dinner in a cafe and some people watching, I struck out for the Prater and did a couple of things I haven’t done in decades, such as walking down the midway eating cotton candy. I also went on a couple of rides including a spook house. They’ve become much more technologically advanced since my youth with some very good mechanical and make up effects but the point is still to give girl teens an excuse to scream and cling on to their dates when things go ‘Boo’. It happens in Austria as well as the US.

Then back to the ship. Pushing 20,000 steps today so I’m tired and going to bed early. We leave for Bratislava in the morning.

July 10, 2019

Melk Abbey

Dateline: Vienna, Austria

It’s been a long and eventful day, culminating with a very nice evening in one of my three favorite European cities (the other two being London and Barcelona). I forgot to set my alarm this morning, so I overslept by a significant amount and woke up ten minutes before I was supposed to be in the foyer to meet the group. I was not an intern for nothing, I made it with several minutes to spare. We were docked in the small town of Melk, Austria. I knew nothing about Melk, other than the character Adso of Melk from The Name of the Rose. (I read the novel in college – everyone did in the mid 80s and I remember going to see the film on a date with Teresa Mosteller back during med school days.). Adso is the Christian Slater part, a role that exists so William of Baskerville can talk to him and provide the reader/audience with all of the necessary exposition. From that, I expected Melk to be another cramped medieval town with an abbey. I was wrong.

Melk is like a miniature version of Passau (which itself isn’t so large). All baroque buildings (replacing earlier medieval and gothic structures) and dominated by an enormous baroque fantasia of an abbey and church perched on a crag high above the town. (It is a bit of climb to reach it). The abbot in the early 18th century had all the original buildings pulled down as old fashioned and created his new monument to god in the new style. The edifice remains a working monastery and abbey with a community of thirty some monks (none in evidence) who still administer the building, grounds and surrounding parishes whose primary income now comes from tourism. There is also an active middle/high school on the premises with more than 900 students. They were also not in evidence. I assume they were on summer break.

The library at Melk abbey

The tour of the abbey and grounds included a museum portion. (Not very exciting – the usual reliquaries, monstrances, croziers and medieval paintings of saints and madonnas), a stunning library (which took me back to The Name of the Rose again), and the church itself with more marble, gilded cherubs, frescoes ceilings, and other rococo touches than you could shake a stick at. The gardens adjoining, also perched on the crag above the Danube valley, were also lovely and ranged from a baroque formal garden with clipped topiary to delicately arranged wild gardens of tamed forest and beds of shade plants with meandering gravel paths. Lovely views out over the countryside as well. Very reminiscent of the opening helicopter shots in the credits sequence of The Sound of Music.

Back down the hill and back on the boat. (There really isn’t anything else in Melk but the abbey) and off we steamed into the Wachau valley of the Danube. It’s a place where the river cuts through the foothills of the Alps so fairly steep mountains hem in the river with little villages clining to the few places they can be built. One of them is Willendorf (as in Venus of) so it’s been occupied for about 30,000 years. Lots of terraced vineyards and orchards clinging to the sides of hills. The major products appear to be wine and apricots.

Durnstein – Wachau Valley

After leaving the Wachau, the scenery became much less interesting, wider plains with various levels of agriculture, occasionally broken by a riverside industrial plant so I took a nap until it was time to dress for dinner. We docked just outside of Vienna and were told to put on our best for a Viennese night out. We were bussed into downtown Vienna to an address just off the Hofburg, across the street from the Kaiser Josefplatz called the Palais Palavicini. It’s an 18th century nobleman’s house, still occupied by the family, but they let out the formal rooms for events so up the grand staircase to a lovely 18th century banquet hall for dinner with live music, singers, dancers from the Staatsoper ballet on a summer side gig, and far too much wine and champagne. It was really quite lovely (and not the kind of thing one expects from this sort of tour – but Tauck tries to do things up right) but the night was a bit warm and there is a distinct lack of central air in 18th century town residences.

Dinner out in Vienna

Bus back to the ship, a digestif and ready for bed. I don’t have a story tonight, but rather a rumination. As we were driving the not very interesting highway into Vienna with my usual empty seat beside me (I’m the only person in the group travelling alone), I was wondering what Steve or Tommy might have made of the trip. Tommy and I had been talking about a Rhine Danube cruise together for a year or so before he died but we could never get the timing to work out with his three varied jobs and their odd calendars. He would have liked the ship and the pace of the trip as it would have been fine with his respiratory and orthopedic issues. He would have had acerbic comments on the food and on some of the entertainments offered (as those were both areas of expertise). I think he would have enjoyed learning more about German and Austrian culture but would have stopped sight seeing about the third Gothic cathedral. He was never a big sight seer. He was much more about the people to people piece of traveling. I probably could have parked him in an apartment in Amsterdam or Budapest for two weeks and then met up with him after the trip and he would have been happy going to the local shops and cafes and getting to know the locals and their routines. Steve, on the other hand, would have been bouncing out of bed every morning raring to go and ready to see something new. He would also have been incredibly frustrated at the lack of English language signage. (‘How am I supposed to read that?’ would have come from his lips about ten times a day). We’re in a part of Europe where most people speak some English but he would still have been miffed at their lack of an American accent. Steve and I never got the chance to travel abroad other than Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. I am both sad and grateful for this. On his bad days, he could elevate the ugly American stereotype into George Carlinesque poetry and guess who would have gotten the brunt. Eventually I’ll find a new travelling companion of some sort (applications are open – I’m thinking the big 2020 trip will be in April). In the meantime, I can keep myself reasonable company.

July 9, 2019

Passau, Germany

Dateline: Passau, Germany and Northern Austria

I woke up this morning to find the boat tied up quayside in the lovely little university town of Passau, just over the border from Austria, located where the Danube meets two major tributaries, the Inn and the Ilz. As it was 7 AM and we weren’t due to arrive in town until after 9 AM, we obviously made good time last night, A lot of other river boats made good time too as we were tied up three abreast at the docks. We weren’t going to be in town very long so I decided to skip the formal guided tour and set out exploring on my own.

The main part of the town is basically built on a sandbar between the Danube and Inn rivers. The Romans, who originally settled the area, had wisely not placed their city their due to the propensity to flood, but later, during the Holy Roman Empire, they had better flood control systems and people moved off the high ground and onto the river plain. There was a flourishing medieval town for hundreds of years that grew quite rich from the river trading routes. The local pooh-bah, an archbishop I believe, decided that the gothic architecture of the middle ages was far too old fashioned for someone of his wealth and stature. A mysterious fire then happened in the mid 1600s leveling pretty much everything and when it came time to rebuild, they went for baroque. The central city on its spit of land is a jewelbox of baroque architectural styles, all painted various candy pastels and culminating the cathedral whose baroque lines and rococo interior must be seen to be believed.

It didn’t take me more than a few hours to explore town (it’s not very big). I happened upon a large used book store which occupied me for a while. I bought a couple of prints. I can read a little German so I perused, picking out words here and there and bought two books about the structure, politics, and art of the German Kabarett (which will be useful for a couple of upcoing projects. I’ll have to get Diane McNaron to do some translating.

Organ – Passau cathedral

At noon, the cathedral had an organ concert showing off their enormous organ system (actually five interlocked organs playable from a single console , nearly 18,000 pipes and ranks in the nave, both transepts and the ceiling. When everything is going at once, it’s very much surround sound. The concert started with Tocotta and Fugue in D minor by Bach (of course) and included a few other pieces as well. Then it was back to the ship for yet another sausage lunch and then one more last walk before weighing anchor and heading into Austria.

The little towns along the river all look like shots from the title sequence to the Sound of Music as we continue to glide by and run through the occasional lock, down stream this time. Our entertainment tonight was a piano/violin/cello trio playing three centuries of Austrian music. They weren’t very good (and I wasn’t about to tell them that Edelweiss is about as Austrian as Chevrolet). I’d had a third cocktail so someone convinced me to sing with the lounge pianist (a very nice Australian lady named Margie). I think I made it through Night and Day.

And so to bed. First Austrian stop in the morning. No story tonight. Too tired.

July 8, 2019

The stone bridge across the Danube leading to Regensburg

Dateline: Regensburg, Germany and points east.

We crossed over from the Main-Danube canal into the Danube sometime when I was sleeping and made our first stop on that river at the town of Regensburg this morning. The Danube, despite Johan Strauss’s propaganda, is not a beautiful blue, not even this close to its source. It’s more of a muddy green/brown but as I have no intentions of swimming in it, that’s neither here nor there.

Regensburg dates back to Roman times and the cathedral is built on the site of an old Roman temple (pieces of which can still be seen in the crypt) and is another one of those small Germanic river ports that we have been calling at all week. I did not feel like another guided tour of the cathedral and old town (which seemed fairly indistinguishable from various other cathedrals and old towns we’ve been to this week) so I struck out on my own walking tour, leaving the old town behind to take a look at the more modern city outside the medieval walls. Not that different from the modern US city with plenty of handy Aldi grocery stores. There is a lovely greenbelt with walking paths surrounding the historic town so I walked along that as well. The one thing I noticed was no squirrels in the parks. I don’t know if there’s been a coordinated extermination campaign, they simply aren’t around or the species here are nocturnal. It was just a little odd.

Palace of Thurn and Taxis

I must admit I did poke my head into the cathedral (more interesting on the outside than the inside), wander the old town a bit (like most of the others, a pedestrian/bike friendly zone of shops and cafes), and finally caught up with the group as they were about to enter der schloss. The local palace is still a private residence, belonging to the princely family of Thurn and Taxis. As they more or less invented the modern postal system and had a monopoly on it for several centuries, they aren’t hurting for money. The dowager princess Gloria is in residence (she was not included on the tour) and her, son the Prince is off somewhere in Italy. The dowager is my age so I thought perhaps she could use a walker, but my German is probably not good enough to get by. The prince, unmarried, is a bit young for me at 36 but I could be talked into it. However, I am unlikely to be able to give him children and dynasty is important.

As for the palace, the newer parts (late 19th century), aren’t that interesting and the state rooms are not very good rococo (MNM would love it). It is a real working palace, continually hosting various events and it’s interesting to peep a bit behind the scenes. it’s also built out of the remnants of a medieval monastery and those pieces which date back more than a thousand years with Romanesque design and Gothic additions were much more interesting. Some of the monastic cloisters still exist and were much more interesting than the baroque fantasia upstairs.

Regensburg cathedral

Then, back through town and everyone on the bus. The ship had already headed downstream due to the threat of low water from Europe’s current heat wave. The water levels remain high enough for smooth sailing and we were only slightly inconvenienced when the tour company sent the wrong coordinates for the docking station to the bus drivers leading to a meandering tour of the German countryside while everything was sorted out. I helped the Australian-American family of five with their jigsaw in the lounge for a while and so to bed.

I think my first encounter with royal palaces was in 1984 when I made my first European trip. My first few stops were Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg and I don’t recall any palaces in those places – my first encounters were in France when I got to Paris. Like all good tourists, one of my first stops was the Louvre. This is before the IM Pei redesign and the pyramid. I paid my francs (pre Euros) and entered. I remember being very impressed by some of the larger rooms and galleries but also marveling at how cramped some of the rest of it felt. It also had the filthiest public toilet I think I’ve ever come across. I immediately exited and held it for several more hours. Several days later, it was time for Versailles. I lucked out and came on the one day a month that they turned on the fountains. They don’t do it more often then that as 17th century plumbing is somewhat delicate. As I wandered the grounds on a hot and humid July day, I wondered what it would have been like to have been outside in 17th and 18th century court dress and immediately understood why the fountains were so important. As for the palace itself, lovely but not to my taste and the famous hall of mirrors was much smaller than it had been in my imagination. As I continued through Europe, I went to more castles and palaces and ultimately had to marvel at just how ordinary some of them were. I think my favorite was the Danish Royal Palace from the 19th century whose name escapes me which struck me in terms of its contents and layout as a Victorian era garage sale. Give me a domestic space that looks lived in by real people and has a good HVAC system.

July 7, 2019

Nuremburg, Germany

Dateline: Nuremburg Germany and points south east:

We’re in the process of navigating the last of the locks that lift us up and over the European continental divide to the Danube river. We should be done and on the downhill slope sometime after midnight our time. We arrive in Regensburg in the morning, then it’s on to Passau and Austria. That makes this roughly the half way point of this vacation. It’s been a good one and it’s giving me some ideas for what to look for in a 2020 trip but that won’t happen until next April at the earliest so there’s plenty of time to make plans.

I awoke this morning with the ship tied up to the pier in Nuremburg. I was a bit discombobulated as the first thing I saw when I looked out the window was a replica Mississippi river boat entitled ‘Mississippi Queen’ with a home port of New Orleans. I couldn’t figure out what it was doing in Germany. It wouldn’t be able to travel the waterways very well as the smoke stacks were much to high for the multiple low bridges. Perhaps they are retractable. I had breakfast (my Scottish grandmother would be happy with the amount of oatmeal I’m eating at the breakfast buffet) and then it was everyone on the bus for the ride into Nuremburg, about 20 minutes away. There were two choices this morning: one a tour focused on the medieval past of the city as a seat of the Holy Roman Emperor and one focused on its peculiar role in Hitler’s Third Reich. I have had enough of madonnas and churches so I opted for the latter.

Remains of the Congress Hall – Nazi Party Rally Grounds

We had a drive through town, past a number of the historic sites and then headed out into the suburbs into the area where the Nazis had constructed their parade grounds and stadia for their annual rallies. Many of the original structures planned had never been built or did not survive the war but enough were left to get a sense of the scale of that the Nazi’s were trying to achieve with their massed forces, torchlight parades, and war games. It was all very Triumph of the Will. The famous zeppelin field was closed for some sort of car racing but we did go to the huge stadium, designed to seat 50,000 that is now mostly in ruin. It’s too expensive to tear down and too expensive to repair and when you look at this monumental brick edifice and realize that most of the bricks required slave labor, it’s hearbreaking. The city has had the good sense to put their museum about the history of Nuremburg and how it intertwines with Nazism in part of it so we spent a couple of hours there. It’s intense. Not as devastating as the Holocaust Museum in DC as the focus is more on the social conditions in Bavaria that enabled Hitler’s rise to power and how he kept returning to Nuremburg for his big annual rallies and gatherings of the brain trust. (Think the Nuremburg laws). We also went to the palace of justice which contains the famous courtroom 600 where the Nuremburg trials were held after the war. To stand in the same place where the evils of the Nazi regime were exposed on the international stage and the foundations for international law were placed was quite moving.

Nuremburg castle

After that, we had a couple of hours free in the old quarter of the city. I used it to climb up to the old imperial palace, with its commanding view of the city from it’\s verandas, and then to descend back into town via Albrecht Durer’s house and finally the toy museum. This latter was the perfect anecdote to a surfeit of Nazism from earlier in the day. Germany has long been a leader in the production of toys and games and the industry has been centered in Nuremburg since early in the 20th century. Displays of toy soldiers of various types, model railways, doll houses dating back to the mid 1800s (my favorite being a doll millinery shop from about 1870 with the most savage looking proprietress who looked like she would as soon bite her doll customers as outfit them with a new picture hat). The post war galleries were a bit disconcerting as I saw a few things that I have owned or still owned lovingly preserved behind glass. I guess I am aging into a museum piece.

Then, it was time to bus back to the ship, ooh and aah at the last three locks on the Main-Danube canal which lift the ship about 80 feet apiece (and look like the entrance to a particularly dreary level of hell as you sail up to them), and have a lovely dinner and one too many cocktails. (Which is why there is no story tonight. Maybe tomorrow. We continue to sail all night but I shall be asleep (hopefully for all of it).

July 6, 2019

The canals of Bamberg

Dateline: Bamberg, Germany and points east

We’ve turned off the Main river and into the Main-Danube canal that connects the Rhine watershed with the Danube watershed, leading to a water transportation route across Europe from the North Sea to the Black Sea. The idea for the canal was first proposed by Charlemagne well over a thousand years ago but they didn’t actually getting around to constructing it until after World War II, finally finishing in 1992. The canal is a good deal smaller than I imagined. Just enough room for two river boats to pass and with small locks and low bridges everywhere strictly limiting the size of vessels. This is why all the river boats have roughly the same plan, no matter the company. I think they’re all made by the same manufacturer in Switzerland with just little tweaks in the design.

Today was another low energy morning. For some reason i woke up at 4:30 AM raring to go, but it was far too early to be up and moving about. I watched some TV, read a few chapters and ultimately broke out the laptop and finished the last 2,000 words on the next chunk of the book I’m trying to write. This whole bit ended up being slightly over 6,000 words. I’ve now got somewhere around 10,000 words down on paper which is about 20-30% of book length. The editor I’m working with thinks I have something here so maybe, if I can keep churning pieces out, it may actually come to fruition. I’m going to try to get one more chunk done before I go into rehearsal for Choir Boy as I am unlikely to get anything done during that four week period.

The shingles continue to be a problem. I wandered off to the Apotheke this afternoon and bought capsacin cream and an ice back. The heat was not a successful trial. I’m going to try the ice later tonight. The pack is still cooling down int he minibar fridge. The arc is toward slow improvement but this is now week six and I’m really ready for the symptoms to go away. It’s very odd to have what feel like small electric shocks to ones navel.

Cathedral Square – Bamberg

We reached today’s destination, Bamberg, in the early afternoon. The dock was a rather depressing looking industrial area so we boarded busses for the mile or so into the central city. Where Rothenburg was a celebration of the medieval style, Bamberg is going for Baroque. The city is dominated by a large cathedral (aren’t they all?) which is in sort of a transition between Romanesque and early Gothic style. Next door is the Archbishop’s palace which was based somewhat on Versailles with very baroque lines. Below them is the center of town which is bisected by a small river and which seems to be a hodgepodge of styles from the last millennium. Bamberg was relatively untouched by World War II so a lot of the architecture is original.

The city is a bit of a regional hub and a good deal larger than some of the other places we have been stopping recently. It’s Saturday so everyone has come into town from the outlying villages to do their shopping and the central shopping area was full of life and ordinary Germans doing ordinary things. I spent some time shopping, but didn’t buy a whole lot. Also a lot of the amiable chit chat one does with tour travel companions. As there’s only 63 of us, we’ve all pretty much IDd each other at this point and sat together for at least one meal.

We left Bamberg early evening and continued along the Main-Danube canal. Uneventful so far but some of the locks are a bit of a tight squeeze. We’re due in Nuremburg tomorrow morning.

Splash Mountain at Disneyland

Tonight’s story is a short one. I could probably come up with longer and more involved ones if the waitstaff wouldn’t keep filling my wine glass at dinner. I was reminded of it as I sat on deck this evening watching the countryside glide by as we split the dead calm waters of the canal. It struck me that in some ways, this cruise is a very long log flume ride. I’ve always been partial to log flumes at amusement parks, even if you do get wet. Maybe because it was one of the few kinds of rides that my mother would get on. She had terrible vertigo issues with most roller coasters and things. I remember her being very green when she got off the Matterhorn at Disney many years ago. She was a bit perturbed at my father who had convinced her that it wasn’t really a roller coaster. Anyway, years later, Steve and I were on one of our annual trips to Disneyland in California. Steve adored Disneyland. He had grown up in Southern California and it opened when he was seven and he went with his parents the first week it was open and back again at least once a year most of the rest of his life. We were there on some weekday (we avoided weekends – crowds). We did all the usuals but were a bit disappointed that the big new ride, Splash Mountain, was not yet operational. Later in the summer the sign said. About two that afternoon, an announcement came over the PA system that they were going to beta test Splash Mountain that afternoon with park goers and that it would be open starting now. We hightailed it across the park and became two of the first paying customers to ride. It’s a good thing we did too as the word got out quickly and the park was inundated with local season pass holders eager to sample the new attraction. As the line grew impossibly long, we smiled, and headed for Pirates of the Caribbean. Sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time.