Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Year in Review: Paris

I had hoped to chronicle much more of our Europe trip in photos. But time seemed to slip by this year with our other travels and range fires and writing and excuses, excuses. So I didn't get everything posted that I wanted.  I took over 1,000 photos of the trip but I have trouble getting them up on this site from my iPhoto files.  It is very cumbersome. However, one part of the trip I want to write about is PARIS.

The rest of the Rhine river cruise included the Black Forest where we saw lots of cuckoo clocks, glass blowing and Black Forest cake. Beautiful rolling hills, farm land country.  Reminded me of southern Pennsylvania where I grew up. John bought a big piece of Black Forest cake and ate it all himself.
We went through a series of locks as we got to the end of the river cruise

We toured the Mercedes Benz factory in Germany which has some workers and lots of robots. I felt like I was in one of my science fiction novels. That is a whole other post that I don't have time for here.
Robot on display in Mercedes Benz showroom. I think it needs a face -- or not.

We toured Strasbourg, France and learned about the European Union. The guide said that some Europeans complain about the cost of the E U. But, she said, we have had 70 years of peace and that is worth every euro.  I was always aware during this trip that only a short time ago these people were fighting and bombing each other to bits and a not-very-wide-river was the only thing separating them (between France and Germany).  We saw storks nesting in trees above fancy houses in a residential neighborhood.  Storks always come back to the same place every year to nest.

Friday morning we disembarked the Viking Ingvi in Basel, Switzerland, saying goodbye to the friends we had made on the trip. We took a taxi across town and boarded a high speed train to PARIS.   There was a rail strike but for some reason our train was running and arrived in Paris on time.  We had only four days to explore one of the great cities of the world. Did you know that Paris started as a Roman garrison?  It is that old.

One of the many cathedrals in Paris, which we found useful for resting from the endless walking. And inspiring, too.

Ah, Paris.  We were on our own and we walked a lot.  I had the map and was moderately successful getting us around. We rested in lots of cathedrals -- Gothic and Romanesque.  We tried the Paris subway system and got lost. I had dreams of them finding our skeletons in the next century. But we emerged, shaken, but in one piece. That was the day we were trying to go back to Notre Dame again because the first day when we walked hours to get there, the line was so long we only toured the outside.

The Rodin Museum was near our hotel. Incredible amount of sculpture inside and out. This is the small Thinker. There's a huge one outside in the gardens.

We stayed at a lovely little hotel in the Rue Cler neighborhood, Hotel du Champ du Mars, that I found in Rick Steves Paris guidebook. (His guidebooks are excellent reading and really helpful for good restaurants, reasonably priced hotels, and sightseeing.)  Rue Cler is near the Eiffel Tower which we walked around but did not go up because of the long lines and the short time we had to explore.

outside our hotel

When we finally got in Notre Dame it was magnificent and noisy, much to John's chagrin. He expected all those tourists to be quiet and reverential.  Wrong.  We lost sight of each other for awhile, and I was getting extremely nervous that I would have to do the rest of Paris by myself, but then I saw him plodding along in the throngs of tourists. We caught the noon mass and it was lovely -- in French.  Fabulous choir at a Monday noon mass.

Notre Dame

The weekend we were in Paris, the third weekend in June, Summer Solstice time, they were having a music festival. Everywhere we walked we ran into small groups of musicians, singers, or solo guitarist making music. In one of the Gothic cathedrals where we went Saturday evening to rest we happened on an organ concert. What an experience, sitting with those soaring arches with stained glass and the sound of this magnificent Bach organ recital.  It was humbling and uplifting. (I recorded some on my IPOD which was probably illegal and want to post it on my YouTube channel if I can ever figure out how to do it.)  At Notre Dame there was a Scottish High School Band playing rock and roll in the courtyard outside. What a combination!

Lunch at a restaurant across from Notre Dame.  Everything was so fresh and appetizing.

Then there was the food.  An indescribable experience and expensive.  All of Europe is expensive due to the miserable exchange rate. (1 euro = $1.30.)  After a while we didn't even try to translate how much money we were spending. We decided to just enjoy ourselves.  The cheese shops I could spend hours in. Amazing french bread. (Imagine that in France.) Wine shops with -- French wine! Our last evening meal was a picnic of rose wine, cheese, and amazing French bread in our room, whose open windows overlooked the people walking on the street. Paris and Amsterdam seem to live in the streets in good weather. I think it has to do with the small size of apartments that people socialize in cafes.

Now this is a cheese shop.  Aroma was heavenly.

And les Parisienne -- they are so elegant. Young and old. Men and women. You could pick out the Americans in sneakers, shorts, T-shirts and looking frumpy.

We even made it by mistake to Versailles, the bastion of Louise XIV.  On that same subway system we were trying to make it back from Notre Dame, didn't know where to get off and noticed that the train was going to Versailles so we stayed on and got to see some of the estate. The mansion wasn't open since it was Monday but we walked the grounds which were magnificent.

The Gardens at Versailles. 

Tuesday morning we left on another high speed train for Amsterdam.  We enjoyed the rest of our rose wine, cheese, bread, chocolate, and figs for lunch and dinner. Then boarded a KLM flight home.

I'd go back in a heartbeat.

Eternal Paris (outside our hotel in Rue Cler)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Snow. Finally

We finally received measurable snow yesterday and over the night. About 4 inches. Temperature is around freezing but the next four nights will be single digits. Guido's water trough (an old tub) froze solid so John takes him water in his red bucket.  It's hard keeping him in water when the temps don't get above freezing because we don't have a heater in his water. The chickens and ducks drink out of a heated dog bowl.  Guido looks kinda small in these photos but he's about 800 pounds. Don't want him to tramp on your foot.  His coat is real shaggy.

The Year in Review: John's Birthday in Germany

Celebrating John's birthday in a Heidelberg cafe
I got behind in my postings about our trip up the Rhine. After the castles we stopped in Heidelberg, had a guided tour then had the rest of the day to explore. We opted for lunch at a town restaurant, where I ordered a drink that I thought would be lemonade but it turned out to be champagne punch. (I didn't waste it.) We were celebrating John's birthday on June 17.  It was a lovely day and we enjoyed walking around Heidelberg, which is a university town. I took tons of photos but alas, if I try to publish them all I'll never get through the Europe trip!

After that our tour went to Speyer where we had another guided tour of the town.

That evening after our German supper on the Viking Ingvi, the crew sang happy birthday to John and presented him with a delicious birthday cake. Might have been his best birthday ever.

Heidelberg:  Finally got his glass of dark beer

Serenaded by the crew

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas or else!
Guido is our 18 month old steer who was a bummer or leppy calf. That means he was bottle fed because for whatever reason his ma abandoned him. So he's on the small side.  He loves to be brushed and zones out when John brushes him.  He loves table scraps especially banana and citrus peels and corn cobs. He DOES NOT like carrots and arugula. Apples, for sure.  He's John's 'pet' and when John goes into his corrall to feed him, he butts John until he gets his neck rub.   He has two nice, dry horse stalls with straw to get out of the weather. He gets lots of grass hay to eat and wet cob for his morning treat.  Steer heaven.

Zoning out

Love dem apples

What a handsome guy

Christmas Presents

 A Far Out Galaxy, a space odyssey involving good aliens who look out for planet Earth, and High Desert Detective, mystery and romance in Harney County are on free download on until Friday, December 26. The sci fi is the first in the series. High Desert Detective is the second in the Fiona Marlowe series.  Enjoy! Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Heard in Harney County

"You're cuter than a spotted pup," said my neighbor's new beau when she got all dressed up to go out for dinner.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

John and I hope all of you, friends and family, have a wonderful day celebrating all the many blessings in your lives.  We are thankful for all of you.  Peace and love. Marjorie and John

PS.  How can you meat eaters possibly look this handsome guy in the eye and then eat him?!  He looks a little worried, don't you think?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Hoodoo Canyon

Hoodoo Canyon is now available as a digital book on  

In my latest mystery I explore one of my favorite questions:  What is reality?  This time with a group of physicists invited to attend a top-secret conference in Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park. But the conference organizer doesn’t show up and one of the attendees turns out to be an extraterrestrial.  It’s mystery with humor and a little romance starring renowned theoretical physicist, Dr. Eloise Bright, who finds it odd that a top-secret physics conference will be held at a remote backcountry campsite in Bryce Canyon National Park.  Curiosity overcomes reason, and she agrees to go, not knowing who will attend. When the conference organizer doesn’t show, the attending physicists team up to try to find him. One of them takes extraordinary interest in Eloise and, in an aside to her, confesses he is from another galaxy, which she laughs off at the same time wondering what she’s gotten herself into. However, the professed extraterrestrial might be the key to finding the conference organizer.  Eloise’s scientific training is further put to the test as she must come to terms with a hoodoo curse that brings bad luck, with the conference organizer’s disappearance, and with her desire to be back at her university teaching job and in the nice, safe world of math equations. Ultimately, she has to decide if she really believes her eyes.

I hope you read and enjoy my latest digital book, and if you have the time, please review it on Amazon.  Thank you.

Buy it now:  Hoodoo Canyon on Amazon

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy Halloween

Midnight the Cat
Wishing everyone a very spooky All Hallows Eve, a celebratory All Saints Day, and a Day of the Dead filled with wonderful memories.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg viewed from the castle
On Tuesday we arrived in Heidelberg, Germany, which has a baroque old town and a free and famous university.  We toured the castle which overlooks the town.  It was abandoned over 300 years ago. The castle is not totally restored as it takes some money to keep these castles up and operating.  Stage productions take place in the courtyard. The castle boasts the world's largest wine barrel that could hold 50,000 gallons of wine.

After the castle tour we were on our own to walk around town. We celebrated John's birthday there.
Courtyard of Heidelberg Castle where a local production of My Fair Lady is rehearsing

Interior of castle where walls are being renovated
World's largest wine barrel

Rehearsing for My Fair Lady in a castle courtyard.

The Middle Rhine

Leaving Marksburg Castle aboard the Ingvi
Leaving Marksburg Castle behind we proceeded on the Ingvi up the Middle Rhine River which is the most scenic on the trip.  There's castle after castle after castle.  One reason for so many castles is that the river narrows through here and in days of old the towns and knights, etc wanted to regulate traffic on the Rhine so they built castles. It was also a handy way to protect families and troops if attacked. They put them up on hills -- easier to defend, of course.  I didn't write down all the names of the castles but there are whole guidebooks written on the castles of the middle Rhine.

Myths and legends abound, the most famous being Lorelei, the beautiful siren of the rocks who lured sailors into the raging deep water and to their doom.  She sat and sang sweet songs to them at night.  This legend has produced many songs and poems, the most celebrated is "The Lorelei" by Heinrich Heine in 1823.

In 2002 in recognition of one of the world's oldest and most magnificent cultural landscapes, UNESCO declared the Upper Middle Rhine Valley a World Heritage Site.
Yet another historic town on the French side of the river from the deck of the Ingvi
As we sailed along for about two hours our guide, Boris, gave us a running commentary on what we were seeing as we sat on the deck of the Ingvi. It was a wonderfully pleasant afternoon and a day filled with castles.

These are only a few of the castles in this section of the Rhine. A few are still in ruins, some have been renovated, one or two are hotels or private homes.

Narrowest part of the river, Lorelei Rock on the left

John surveys the vineyards that produce all that nice Rhine wine

How'd you like to live in this relic in the 13th century?

Castles and Vineyards along the Rhine

Friday, August 15, 2014

Marksburg Castle

Marksburg Castle
View of the Rhine from the castle from whence we had just come
Marksburg Castle overlooks Braubach on the Rhine and is unique in that it was never destroyed. Some of the castles on the Rhine are rebuilt versions of the original and some are just ruins. It is said that Louis the XIV of France, the Sun King, ordered all the castles on the Rhine destroyed in the 17th century. Marksburg escaped because it sits atop a steep, isolated hill on a bend in the river.  Marksburg retains nearly all of its initial construction.  The interior construction features a series of gates that could be closed in the event of an attack. If one gate was breached, the Lord and family and knights retreated behind the next upper gate. The castle was not heated. Imagine all that stone and tiny little fireplaces to keep warm by.  Knights rode massive war horses and kept them inside the castle. References to this castle date to the 13th century so it survived 800 years of turmoil.  Slits in the outer battlement were for shooting arrows. The castle was added on to many times. Today the German Castle Association is headquartered there and there is a small gift shop and cafe.
Interior battlements

Very long steep grade to get into the castle. Also used by knights on horses

That black box on the wall of the castle is the bottomless toilet.
Our guide describes the fine art of gunnery, a later development

Alcove where the residents might eat

Another alcove for music, another might be for needle work.

Unusual window-meets-roof treatment

A knight in shining armor. Heavy, hot, and stuffy. And how could they see out of those slits?

Torture chamber display in what used to be the horse stables in the castle

 Blacksmith shop
Where  food and herbs were prepared and dried
Our guide said this was where the knights ate. Alcoves would be off this room
Tiny beds for tiny people This one fit two.

Castle from the ship landing at the Rhine

Back at the ship for the trip along the Middle Rhine and more castles