The Rise Of The Electric Scooters

Economical and Convient Transportation

Electric scooters waiting to be rented

They’re everywhere… zipping down busy streets, running on sidewalks and racing past bicycles in the bike lanes. They’re lime green electric scooters and you will find them in most large cities in France and probably most of Europe as well. You’ll see young men racing each other down streets and  couples sharing a scooter. On one day we saw two couples take a spill off their scooter, no injuries but it seems to require some coordination between the riders. You’ll see them leaning against buildings or dumped in alleys or standing in neat rows near major attractions. While long racks of rental bicycles have become common worldwide these scooters are a new phenomena.

They’re everywhere on the streets of Paris

We haven’t seen them much yet in major U.S. cities and oddly that’s where they hail from. Seattle to be precise and the company is called Lime (visit their website HERE). We spoke with one man in Lyon who said his son is making good money collecting them at the end of the day and charging them at his home. All of this seems to us a real accomplishment considering that two years ago we didn’t notice them at all.

When done – just leave them

While I am not sure that this senior couple is brave enough to take advantage of these scooters it does strike us as a really convenient and inexpensive way of getting around considering the cost of taxis and even Uber. We took a look at a scooter in Paris and learned that it costs €1 to start the scooter and €0.15 per minute to operate. That means that a one hour ride will cost €10 or less than $12. We’ve been told it’s really easy to set-up, you scan a code with your cellphone and set up an account. When you no longer need the scooter, you just log out of the rental and just leave the scooter where you are.

While we have read for years about auto clubs that intend to saturate a market with cars that would work like this, to our knowledge they have never materialized. This system seems to be really working and we expect to see these lime green scooters in every city worldwide.

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Port of Call Lisbon Portugal

It’s easy while walking the streets of Lisbon to think you have somehow slipped back in time. The port of call of Lisbon really seems to live in the past. Quant cobblestoned streets lead to plazas bordered by palaces, churches and castles. Attractive small cafes and restaurants abound and shops and galleries invite at every turn. Streetcars that look like they really belong in another time, glide down narrow streets. Even much of this cities graffiti rises to the level of fine art. Portugal seems to have deliberately let the world speed on by, having discovered a comfortable place to sit back and watch everyone else frantically race on to – not sure where.

Where Your Ship Docks

There is a stretch along Lisbon’s central waterfront where cruise ships dock. There are two terminals not far apart, Terminal de Cruzeiros de Lisboa and Terminal de Cruzeiros de Santa Apolonia. Both feature good access to ships and town and have free public facilities. Much of central Lisbon is within a mile of the cruise piers.

Transportation

Lisbon features a good public transport network, both underground and surface with buses and trams and can also add the Transtejo (river connection). Lisbon Metro is one of the most cost efficient and flexible ways of traveling around the city.

There are 24 and 48 hour passes available and the funicular system can also be used.

 

1 Day ticket (24h)

Carris/Metro 6.40€ -Valid for unlimited journeys on Carris and Metro, networks during 24 hours following the first validation.

Carris/Metro/Transtejo (Cacilhas) 9.50€ – Valid for unlimited journeys on Carris, Metro and Transtejo (river connection), during 24 hours following the first validation.

Ticket Offices are open every day 7:45 a.m – 7:45 p.m at the following Metro stations:

Marquês de Pombal, Campo Grande, Colégio Militar/Lu, Jardim Zoológico, Marquês de Pombal

Rossio, Baixa-Chiado, Cais do Sodré, Oriente Aeroporto. There are also vending machines at every station.

There is also a visitor’s card called the Lisboa Card where you get unlimited travel for 24 hours for just €20 that also includes free access to Lisbon’s best museums and attractions like the Torre de Belem, Jeronimos Monastery and the Santa Justa Elevator and more. You can buy the card online HERE.

Currency

The currency of Portugal is the Euro and major credit cards are welcome almost everywhere.

Attractions

Castles, museums, churches and palaces all within a mile or so from the cruise ship.

Castelo de S. Jorge at R. de Santa Cruz do Castelo

Hilltop Moorish castle & palace ruins

Jerónimos Monastery at Praça do Império 1400-206 Lisboa

World heritage listed Gothic monastery

Oceanário de Lisboa at Esplanada Dom Carlos I

Waterside aquarium with ocean ecosystems

Museu Nacional do Azulejo at R. Me. Deus 4

Ceramic collections located in a church

Belém Tower at Tower at Av. Brasília

Medieval defensive tower

Padrão dos Descobrimentos at Av. Brasília

Concrete monument to maritime explorers

Santa Justa Lift at R. do Ouro

Elevator linking city levels from 1902

Carmo Convent at Largo do Carmo

Medieval ruins & archaeology museum

Basílica da Estrela at Praça da Estrela

Baroque church with twin bell towers

Ajuda National Palace at Largo Ajuda 1349-021

19th-century royal palace and museum

Arco da Rua Augusta at R. Augusta 2

Triumphal arch with a viewing platform

Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte

Popular destination for city views

Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga at R. das Janelas Verdes

Historical art collection in old palace

Palácio dos Marqueses da Fronteira at Largo São Domingos de Benfica 1

Grand palace

Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen at Calçada da Graça

Terrace park featuring sweeping city views

Museu de Marinhaat Praça do Império

Maritime museum in sixteenth century monastery

Impressions of Budapest

If you haven’t given much thought to Budapest, Hungary maybe it’s time you did. This city can hold its own against any number of great European cities like Paris, Rome or London. There have been travel moments in our lives that just stay with us because they were so special. Strolling the banks of the Danube in Budapest after dark is just such a moment…

Enjoy a stroll thru Budapest with us.

Having Coffee in Rüdesheim Germany

Recently we spent a little time in the very picturesque town of Rüdesheim Germany with a local coffee being one of the afternoons highlights.

Rüdesheim am Rhein in the heart of Rhine wine country is a town that has become maybe too cute for words. A favorite day trip destination for area Germans, its streets are packed with cafes, restaurants and gift shops. The town is also famous for its local brandy and Rudesheimer Coffee. The center of the cafe district is Drosselgasse, a walking passage that takes you past wine gardens, shops, restaurants and cafes.

The fortunes of the town are indebted to a local distiller. In 1892 Hugo Asbach opened the company Asbach & Co. in Rüdesheim. He created a brandy giving it his name and it remains as popular in Germany today as it was in the late nineteenth century. In 1937 the company coined a marketing slogan that added to the fortunes of the brand, “The spirit of wine is in Asbach”.

in 1957 Rudesheimer Coffee was created, a popular coffee drink with Asbach and cream that has become the signature drink in the town and is served in every good Café. Similar to Irish Coffee it is the perfect hot drink for the winter months and special occasions. There is even a signature shaped cup that’s supposed to be used with this concoction.

Recipe for Rudesheimer Coffee

Ingredients

1.5 ounces Asbach Uralt Brandy

3 cubes of sugar

Hot coffee (regular or decaf)

Whipped cream sweetened with vanilla sugar

Grated milk chocolate

 

Instructions

– Warm the brandy by using a double boiler or very low flame in a pan. Do not bring to a boil!.

– Place 2-3 cubes of sugar in an original Rudesheimer Coffee cup, and pour over the heated Asbach and light it by using a long match.

– Stir with a long-handled spoon to dissolve the sugar completely.

– Let it burn for about 1 minute, then pour in hot coffee to about 1 inch below the rim.

– Top off with freshly whipped cream and sprinkle with grated chocolate or dust with cocoa.

Don’t have any Asbach Brandy (it’s not available in the U.S.) or the proper cup? We wouldn’t let that get in the way because this recipe is a good challenger to Irish Coffee. Substitute any good brandy and a tall mug, but follow the recipe.

 

 

Vineyards grow everywhere around Rüdesheim

The Port of Venice, Italy

Port of Call Venice

One of the most popular ports of call on Mediterranean cruises, Venice (in Italian Venezia) is also regularly an over-night stay for many cruise itineraries and a port of departure for some cruises. It is an island city criss-crossed with a number of canals and is home to the iconic gondola. If you are planning your first Mediterranean cruise we would strongly recommend you selecting an itinerary that includes this marvelous city.

Where You Dock

The cruise ships dock primarily at the cruise terminal of Venice called Venezia Terminali Passeggeri. Large cruise ships tie up in the Marittima basin (Bacino Stazione Marittima), smaller ships tie up at the nearby San Basilio pier and Santa Marta pier. The piers are located just to the southwest of the northern entrance to The Grand Canal and to the west of Piazzale Roma. The larger piers are equiped with terminals that offer facilities and some shops.you can take

Transportation

The main city island is cut in half by The Grand Canal which acts as a sort of waterway main street. The heart of the city is centered around St. Marks Square (Piasa San Marco) which is the most popular first destination for visitors.

Most cruise ships usually operate shuttle boats from the pier to docks along Riva degli Schiavoni which are just east of St. Marks Square in front of the Doge’s Palace. Cost has ranged from free to $12 round trip. Some cruise ships also provide a shuttle bus service to Piazzale Roma near the port or take a land taxi or the People Mover located near the front of  the first

pier. From Piazzale Roma, youcan than  catch a water bus (vaporetto) on either Line 1 or Line 2 along the length of the Grand Canal to St Mark’s.

Venice is a very walkable city as well and while the streets seem to zigzag throughout the city it is isn’t difficult to keep your bearings. Numerous directional signs will point the way to the Rialto Bridge, which is one of two bridges across the The Grand Canal with additional markers pointing to St. Marks Square. The other bridge across The Grand Canal is a footbridge called the Ponte dell’Accademia located farther south than the Rialto.

Glass shop St. Marks Square

Currency

Italy uses the Euro with an exchange rate usually under $1.50. US Dollars are not readily accepted but most major credit cards are.

Glass factory on Murano

Attractions

Just strolling thru this remarkable city is the main attraction with its interesting neighborhoods, historic architecture, famous upscale shopping streets, open-air marketplaces and an endless assortment of restaurants and cafes. Venice is noted for art and architecture, the canals separating the 118 small islands on which it was built in the 5th century, its mask making, art glass , and of course Carnival.

A few of the more notable mask shops are Atelier Marega, Calle del Scaleter, 2940/B, Tragicomica, Calle dei Nomboli, 2800, Carta Alta Venetian Masks, Sestiere Giudecca, 796, Venice Masks by Alberto Sarria, San Polo 777, and Atelier Flavia, Sestiere Castello, 6010.

The glass factories of Venice of which the most famous is Murano Glass Works are located on Murano which is a series of islands linked by bridges in the Venetian Lagoon which can be reached by ferry.

 

River Cruising in Europe Part Two

A Cautionary Tale Part Two

Note: See Part One Here

Low & High Water

We just got home from a European river cruise and it didn’t go as we had hoped. Sometimes the rivers experience high water conditions that prevent the long boats from passing under bridges. In our case, Europe has been suffering a long drought in the Danube and Rhine Regions, and the rivers were so low they kept the long boats from sailing in certain areas.

Our Experience

It is not my intent to single out Viking River Cruises but they are the company we cruised with this year. We were also novices to river cruising and were totally unprepared regarding a couple of areas where we experienced serious problems. We offer what has happened to us as a cautionary tale which will hopefully help others in their planning.

To start, we were very surprised at the number of longboats and cruise boats plying these European rivers. There were places where there were as many as six boats tied up three abreast at the docking area. Along one stretch of the Danube River, in the course of a mile, we passed five of these cruise boats headed in the opposite direction. Not that it affected us, but the traffic was almost unbelievable.

There are a few major companies offering river cruises and more than a dozen smaller ones. Avalon Waterways and Viking River Cruises are probably the two largest with the most experience. In addition to these, the list includes AmaWaterways, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Tauck World Discovery, Crystal River Cruises, Scenic Cruises and a number of newer operators. Generally they have similar policies regarding cancellation, itinerary changes and what is covered in a cruise package.

Getting the cruise you want usually requires making a selection over a year in advance so there is no way of knowing the water conditions ahead of time. Most lines reserve the right to modify the itinerary as conditions warrant. To fulfill the contract, this can include putting you on buses and in hotels instead of on boats. Once you show up to take the cruise, except in the case of a medical emergency, you are in their hands through to the end.

Air Fares

Many lines include airfare and transfers in the package price. In our case with Viking we asked if we could remove the air portion as we were considering taking a trans-Atlantic cruise back to the States. Viking’s policy without exception required us to pay for the air portion even if we weren’t going to use it.

Since this was our first river cruise we didn’t know that there were options in approaching airline ticketing. We were advised of a $100.00 per person deviation fee for Viking to schedule us into Budapest a week early. Apparently there is also a program called Air Plus which costs $50.00 and provides you a bit more flexibility with the airline reservations but can also increase the cost of the airfare.

In our case the reservations booked by Viking were terrible and nothing we would ever have arranged for ourselves. Going to Europe we were routed Florida to Frankfort with a connection to Budapest. We had an impossibly short time between flights so we missed our connection. For the return flight we were booked at 7:00 AM out of Amsterdam to Munich, connecting to a flight to Frankfort to catch our flight back to Florida adding up to a twenty-two hour travel day where a normal trip would be less than 13 hours. When we asked for changes to the schedule, we were advised that any alterations would require a change/upgrade fee of $600.00.

Added Tours

Also included in many itineraries are local tours in the cities visited. While this is normally a good feature, in our case Viking’s insistence on providing these tours ended up adding additional hours on buses getting to many of the tour sites. You could stay on the boat and choose not to participate but that meant you missed one of the places on the original itinerary. Some smaller cruise companies either don’t provide tours or charge extra and that should be a consideration when making plans.

Cabin Types

Most cabins on river boats are small and the options are usually a matter of the window size, having a French balcony or a full balcony. We had booked a French balcony cabin with Viking on this trip and if we return to Europe we will probably down grade our selection. First the cabin was so small that it was uncomfortable to use for just sitting (no chairs either) so we spent most of our onboard time in the lounge (there are also suites with sitting rooms). Additionally because when we were docked we were usually tied up to another boat. To avoid looking into another stateroom we usually kept our curtains closed. The French balcony wasn’t a valuable option.

Trip Insurance

Because of the high price of river cruising, in the future we will select trip insurance that allows us to cancel for any reason and pay much closer attention to river conditions weeks before the trip. It seems that an adjusted itinerary is not justification to cancel for many insurance plans including the one we used for this trip.

Information On River Conditions

For more information on river conditions see Ralph Grizzle’s information at River Cruise Advisor, a site that tracks water levels as does River Cruise Information. We will also pay for the air upgrade option (in the case of Viking that’s another $50.00 per person) and become more involved in selecting flights.

On the positive side Viking has recognized that they didn’t deliver what we were expecting and have provided some compensation for all of the problems we experienced, which makes for a slightly better ending to this story.

Castles – A Photo Tour

We’ve been to Europe a number of times and are always drawn to the fantastic castles found in virtually every country. They stand as a substantial reminder of the remarkable history of this region. There’s a tour guide joke about traveling thru Europe called ABC – standing for Another Beautiful Church. Maybe not often as well preserved there are also a lot of castles to visit as well. Following is our photographic tour of these pieces of medieval history…