Posts Tagged ‘Danube River’

50th Birthday Plans Revealed!

A milestone birthday is coming up for me in less than two months.  I’ve been living my life planning on this for almost 50 years now.

Dessie-Hollie-Anthony -- Fall 1964

My mother didn’t get that opportunity and my father barely made it.  She died at 47 (in 1990) and he passed away at 55 (in 1987).

So, what’s a few wrinkles and a head full of gray hair?  I never had a six-pack stomach, so as I get old/older, I don’t have to worry about losing that.  And, I can’t be all that disappointed that I have to work a little harder to keep the slowing metabolism in check.

AP 1st Birthday

While I definitely love cake, even that boring white cake for my first birthday in 1965 (Happy Birthday Crystal!), there’s a chance that I won’t have a cake this year — unless I have it early or late.

Since you only turn 50 once, Ray and I decided to make both of  our “nifty fifty” birthdays memorable.  Last year, he celebrated with a Danube River cruise that allowed us to spend a day in Zurich, Switzerland, and to visit Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, and Germany.

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Since then, we’ve been saving our pennies (okay, mostly dollars) to make another international trip to celebrate my 50th.

However, the second part of that trip may now be in jeopardy due to missiles, bombs, bullets and bloodshed.  While we’re not changing the itinerary just yet, a back-up plan is being considered.   More on that shortly.

When we started planning the trip, it was going to be an overnight flight from the United States to the Mediterranean destination of my dreams with a plane transfer and four hours of sit-time in Paris, France.

Dreams of wine, cheese, and pastries began filling my head.

Pastries

At that point, we decided instead of spending seven nights on the Mediterranean Sea, we could spend three nights in Paris and hit two continents!

Picnic

So, now I plan on spending my birthday sitting in a park having a picnic of wine, cheese, fruit, bread, and pastries in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower — rain or shine!

eiffel-tower-at-night-with-moon

While Ray and I each paid for the trip, I already know what my birthday present is from him — a Sunday evening that includes a three-course dinner cruise on the Seine River, a one-hour visit to second floor of the Eiffel Tower to look out over Paris, and an evening at the world-renowned Moulin Rouge!!!

Now, about my original 50th birthday destination spot before Paris crashed the party!  I’ve always wanted to visit Tel Aviv, Israel, the fifth most visited city in the Middle East on the beautiful Mediterranean Sea.

Tel Aviv Mediterranean Sea

Tel Aviv is known for its dynamic atmosphere and famous 24-hour culture earning it the nickname, “party capital”.

It’s also known as “The City That Never Sleeps”, “The Bubble”, and “The White City” (for the more than 4,000 buildings built-in a unique style from 1930s German-Jewish architects and, yes, the buildings are white!).

Tel Aviv

Since Tel Aviv is Israel’s financial capital and is compared to New York City, it’s also nicknamed “The Big Orange”, because of the famous Jaffe (now a part of Tel Aviv) orange — a very sweet, almost seedless fruit similar to the Valencia orange.

We booked this trip back in January, but once the Israel-Gaza conflict started back in early July, which has led to bombings and missile strikes that have claimed more than 2,000 lives, mostly in Gaza, we thought about choosing another destination.

However, Tel Aviv is still the safest city in Israel and we’re still going.

So, that is how I plan on spending the last days of my 40s and the first few days of my 50s.

In the words of French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement, Victor Hugo, “forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age”.

Anthony

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Our Day In Passau, Germany

We traveled from Aschach, Austria, to Passau, Germany today.

While I’ve seen some beautiful sights in my travels in the United States, like Lake Tahoe, California, the boat cruise today out of Austria to Germany has to be one of the most breath-taking views I’ve had the pleasure to witness.

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The afternoon, we docked in Passau, “the city on three rivers” in Germany.

We walked along the Danube, the Inn, and the Ilz rivers, visited the shopping district, and St. Steven’s Cathedral, which houses the world’s largest cathedral organ.

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While very interesting, Passau has been my least favorite city we’ve visited so far.  We still have two more nights in Germany after tonight.

Anthony

Random Friday Thoughts — October 18, 2013

It’s been a hectic week since I celebrated my birthday last weekend and this weekend is going to be another crazy one.

After work this morning, we’re off to Chicago for my annual physical and then this evening, we take off for Zurich, Switzerland.

We’ll be there for about 24 hours and then fly to Budapest, Hungary.  Originally, that’s where we were going to board our “Sound of Music” Danube River cruise of Europe to celebrate Ray’s 50th birthday.  But, there is a mechanical problem at a dam and the cruise ship cannot get to Budapest.  We now have to take a two-hour bus ride and embark on the cruise in Bratislava, Slovakia!

Sound of Music Cruise

If you missed the details of the trip, here’s the blog I wrote about it back in August:  https://anthonypeoples.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/plans-for-a-milestone-birthday/

Here are my random thoughts for the week!  Enjoy your weekend!

HOBBY LOBBY ISN’T VERY HOLLY JOLLY!

It’s not even Halloween yet, so many of you might not be thinking of decorating for Christmas.  But, if you are, you can find anything you want for the holidays at Hobby Lobby!

Hobby Lobby

That is, unless you celebrate Hanukkah!

The chain of more than 550 stores nationwide is owned by conservative billionaire Steve Green and it seems that Hobby Lobby refused to carry Hanukkah items like paper dreidels, menorah-making kits, or greeting cards because of Green’s “Christian values”.

hobby-lobby-jewish-hanukkah-goods

New Jersey blogger Ken Berwitz made this public in late September.  He even quoted a Hobby Lobby employee telling a woman asking about bar mitzvah cards, “We don’t cater to you people”.

The company then responded to Religion News Service, “Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. is currently working with our buyers over our merchandise selection. Our customers have brought this to our attention and we are currently evaluating our Holiday items and what we will carry in the future.”

Steve Green

After the uproar, it now appears that things will change at some Hobby Lobby stores.  Green issued this statement, “We do not have any problems selling items that celebrate Jewish holidays.  We have in the past and have decided we would try it again in some of the markets where we have Jewish population.”

A group that fights anti-Semitism, the Anti-Defamation League, accepts Green’s apology.  The group says, “We are satisfied with the apology of Hobby Lobby and appreciate the company’s efforts to investigate the incident and to ensure that it does not happen again.”

TORN ABOUT ELTON JOHN’S DECISION

Weeks ago, Cher declined an invitation to play at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, because of the country’s anti-gay laws it implemented this past summer.

Boycott Sochi 2014

However, Elton John refused to cancel his early December shows in Kazan and Moscow stating, “I’m aware of the situation and I will be diplomatic. I’m not going to go into Russia and tell [Vladimir Putin] to go to hell and things like that. That’s not the way things are done. You chip away at something, and you hope there will be dialogue and that the situation can get better. You don’t just go in there with guns blazing and say, ‘Well, to hell with you.’ Because they’re going to say, ‘To hell with you, and get out of the country.’ That’s not going to solve anything.”

las-vegas-shows-elton-john

I understand that Elton playing those two shows will raise awareness of the deplorable laws that are in place to target Russia’s LGBT community.  But, it’s an uphill battle since those laws and documented cases of violence toward gays are supported not only by Russian officials, but a large portion of the Russian population.

This Pew Research survey came out two months ago.

Anti-Gay Russia

When Madonna and Lady Gaga played shows in Russia, they spoke out against the country’s barbaric attitudes to Russia’s LGBT community and faced fines and jail time.

There’s a part of me that wants Elton to go there and speak up and say “screw you”!  However, I’ll be appalled if he performs and takes the money without making a stand for equality and progress.

…BUT SOME AREN’T TORN ABOUT ELTON PLAYING THERE

Seidzhagfar Lutfullin, a conservative imam from Russia’s predominantly Muslim Tartarstan region, wants the concerts cancelled.

He thinks by allowing Elton to play that God could rain destruction on Russia as act of revenge because “sodomy…is what the world famous homosexual Elton John, (sic) who recently wed a man in public, is promoting.”

Other conservative groups want Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the concerts.

Vladimir Putin, Patriarch Kirill

And, a coordinator for the Christian group Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods says, “The statement by this gay guy – Elton John – about his support for gays and other perverts during the upcoming concert in Moscow is an insult to all Russian citizens.”

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Right

Confusing Wine SelectionHappy Hour

SERIOUSLY, LIGHTEN UP!

I admit that I’m a very strong supporter for equality and I’ll be the first to stand up to someone being anti-gay or derogatory.

However, I think that people can be a little oversensitive and try to find things to be upset about.

I love Britney Spears!  I did fifteen years ago when “…Baby One More Time” came out and topped the charts.  I was concerned when she had her breakdown and I thought her career was over, but she sure showed me and the rest of the world with “Femme Fatale” and that tour solidified “It’s Britney, Bitch”.

Britney July 2011

Some people think that her use of the word “bitch” is part of her catering to the “gay” audience.  Seriously?  People can’t just enjoy the music and not think that it’s “too gay”.  Do you think that Madonna, Lady Gaga, or Cher sits around and wonders if they cater to a certain demographic?  They know who still lines their pockets with gold!

Recently, Britney told a DJ, “A lot of my hair stylists and my beauty team that I work with are gay so I hang out with gays a lot and I just think they’re adorable and hilarious.”  And, then some gay bloggers took issue with her choice of words.

Let me say that if anyone ever want to call me “adorable and hilarious”, I’m okay with it!

Get a life, Mary!  Wait, maybe I shouldn’t refer to a man as “Mary”!  Well, here’s a little Britney with a “rock & roll” edge.  It doesn’t sound that “gay”, does it? 🙂

“THE MEANING OF MATTHEW”

It was 15 years ago last week that 21-year-old Matt Shepard died from injuries after being relentlessly beaten and tied to a wooden fence in Laramie, Wyoming.

After starting the Matthew Shepard Foundation with her husband, Dennis, and their son, Logan, Judy Shepard released her book, “The Meaning of Matthew:  My Son’s Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed”, in 2009.  I just got around to reading it and it’s fantastic.

The Meaning of Matthew

While we’ve read the tragic headlines and seen the pictures of Matthew and his killers splashed across the news, this book lets us know who Matt was from the people who knew him.

Judy said it best in the Author’s Note at the beginning of the book, “You know him as Matthew.  To us he was Matt.  I have tried to reconcile the two within these pages.  It would be unfair to Matt if only Matthew’s story was told.  Matt was so much more than “Matthew Shepard, the gay twenty-one-year-old University of Wyoming college student.”  He had a family and countless friends.  He had a life before the night he was tied to that fence.”

I only have one small complaint about the book —  no pictures of the Matt that the Shepard family remembers.  Judy talks about Matt dressing as Dolly Parton twice as a child and I would have loved to see that photo.

But, that’s minor!  Check out this book because it’s phenomenal.

“BATES MOTEL”

While we await the arrival of the final season of “Dexter” on DVD (November 12th), Ray and I checked out the first season of A&E’s “Bates Motel”.

The 10-episode thriller focuses on the lives of a young Normal Bates (“Psycho”) and his very alive mother as they start a new life in a small Oregon town and manage their new business, the infamous Bates Motel.

Bates-Motel-Title

Freddie Highmore (“Toast”, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, and “Five Children and It”) is creepy and enchanting as 17-year-old Norman Bates.

Max Thieriot and Mike Vogel (“Under The Dome” and “Cloverfield”) smolder on the screen as Norma Bates’ son, Dylan, and her lover, Deputy Shelby, respectively.

Max Thieriotbates-motel-trust-me-vera-farmiga

But, let’s talk about the real star of “Bates Motel”, Vera Farmiga, who was nominated for an Emmy for her performance of Norma Bates.  (She was also nominated for an Oscar for 2009’s “Up In The Air”.)

Farmiga is electrifying from the first moment we see her and she is totally captivating in every scene.  Regardless of the scene she’s in, whether it’s violent, sad, or happy, you can’t take your eyes away from her!

)Norma Norman

I want a one-way ticket to this crazy-town.

And, a final note.  The first episode of the series features W. Earl Brown, as Keith Summers, the former owner of the Bates Motel, known then as the Seafairer Motel.

W Earl Brown Keith Summers

Earl is from western Kentucky and we were in the Radio-Television department together at Murray State University and I was one of two actors in a one-act play he directed back in the early-1980s!

He’s also starred in “There’s Something About Mary”, “Scream”, and HBO’s “Deadwood”.

Way to go, Earl!

NOTHING FUNNY ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

Except this….

PICK HIT OF THE WEEK

The world first became aware of Ke$ha when she sang back-up on Flo Rida’s #1 hit “Right Round” in 2009.  Later that year, she scored her first solo #1 on her first try with “Tik Tok”.

Kesha

Since then she’s tallied up a total of 13 Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100.  Ten of those reached the Top Ten, including another #1 hit, “We R Who We R”.

Pitbull

Pitbull has charted with 18 Top 40 hits on the Hot 100.  Of those, nine have reached the Top Ten.  He topped the chart with “Give Me Everything” with Ne-Yo, Afrojack, and Nayer in 2011.

pitbull-kesha

This summer, we drove to Tinley Park, just outside of Chicago, to see Ke$ha and Pitbull in concert.  While they didn’t perform a number together, they must have been working on something behind the scene!

“Timber”, which features Ke$ha, is the first single from Pitbull’s upcoming album.

PEEPS’ ’80s FRIDAY FLASHBACK

Earlier I featured Britney Spears’ version of “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”.

While Britney’s version hit the Top Ten in Germany and Ireland, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts spent seven weeks at the top of the chart with the song in 1982 here in the U.S.

Jett scored eight other hits on the Billboard Hot 100 Top 40, but only two of them reached the Top Ten — “Crimson and Clover” (#7, 1982) and “I Hate Myself For Loving You” (#8, 1988).

That’s it for today.  Have a great weekend!

Anthony

Random Friday Thoughts — August 23, 2013

Getting up at 1 a.m., drinking caffeinated soda by 2 a.m. and having a rabbit cross your path on the way to work instead of sleeping in and having iguanas and sting rays dart across in front of you on walks along the beach are sure signs that I’m no longer in paradise.

Just 24 hours ago, I was waking up for one more stroll in Cancun.  We just got back late last night and four hours later I’m back to work.  Luckily, I only have one shift before I try to catch up on rest from the vacation this weekend.  I hope you’ve all had a good week.

CANCUN

Our getaway to the Yucatan Peninsula was awesome.  We ate plenty of fresh fruit and breakfast was my favorite meal.  A green-colored orange/pineapple/carrot/spinach juice combo was my favorite way to start the day.  The unlimited adult beverages were fantastic, too.  I’ll post a picture of my favorite potent potable next week.  And, I learned that Dos Equis beer is pretty tasty on tap and I’m not even a beer drinker.

Here are a few photos from the trip.  Hopefully, I’ll get around to posting the rest of the vacation pictures on Facebook early next week.

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RAY TURNS 50 NEXT WEEK!

He turns how old?  I’m just giving him a hard time.  Age is just a number.

Little Ray Teen Ray

For his golden, milestone birthday, he chose a cruise on the Danube River, which is coming up in mid-October, with stops in several European cities for his present.  While a little pricey, you only turn 50 once!

I recently blogged about it and if you missed it, here’s the link:  https://anthonypeoples.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/plans-for-a-milestone-birthday/

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO MY WEATHER IDOL

While my fascination with weather started when I was a four-year-old cutting weather maps out of the “Mayfield Messenger” and “The Paducah Sun-Democrat” in the late-1960s, I knew that I wanted to be a television meteorologist after seeing Tom Skilling on WGN.

Vintage Tom Skilling

61-year-old Skilling joined WGN back in 1978.  Tom is the chief meteorologist covering the weather weekdays for the two-hour midday news from 11 am – 1 pm, the 5 pm, and the 9 pm shows.  In addition to the long hours he puts in on television, he also writes a weather page for the Chicago Tribune and a weather blog.  It’s reported that Tom has a weather staff of twelve.

Tom Skilling

Just last year, Tom signed a multi-million dollar, ten-year contract that will keep him on the air until 2022.

When Tom signed the contract, he told Robert Feder of “Time Out Chicago”, “I have marveled at the support I’ve received from my viewers all these years — at their loyalty and kindness. We are nothing in our line of work without those who offer us the gift of taking time out of their busy days to grace us with the honor of checking out what we do and what we have to say. I’m beyond words over the whole thing.”

While I’ve never met him, from a meteorologist standpoint, I’ve never seen anyone with the commitment to weather that I see in Tom.  His lengthy weathercasts are incredible and you can just feel the passion when he talks about the weather, whether there’s a snowstorm on the way or just more tranquil weather — he sells it and he owns it.

As I said earlier, I’ve never met Tom, but I’ve celebrated Chicago Pride with him and his colleagues at WGN on their Pride float.  He’s always happy and you can tell he loves weather and he loves people.  (This is from the 2010 Chicago Pride parade.)

Pride 2010

While some people have bobbleheads (no thank you), I cherish this autographed publicity photo from Tom in 2003.

Tom Skilling

Tom, my colleague and my weather idol, congratulations on 35 years and here’s to next nine (or more) at WGN.  Thank you for inspiring me to follow my weather dreams.

And, I have to feature these hilarious videoes of Tom to show he’s not all weather maps and computer models.

“Tom Freakin’ Skilling!”

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

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PATHETIC, ANGRY IOWA WOMAN

A Des Moines, Iowa, woman is getting off easy for a disgusting act of violence she committed last spring.

Sheena Ann Cornwell

Police say that 28-year-old Sheena Ann Cornwell showed no remorse when she was arrested for hanging her boyfriend’s senior dog, Lillie, in an intoxicated rage because the dog was barking.

While he believes what Cornwell did was cruel, Judge Joe Smith doesn’t think she is a danger to society.  The Des Moines Register reports that Cornwell is now on probation for two years and she cannot own a pet during that same period of time.

But, the judge’s decision is raising concern and some think it sends out the wrong message.  Tom Colvin of the Animal Rights League says,  “I’m very afraid that that’s what it’s saying – is that someone can torture an animal with no consequences.  So, what are the consequences here for Lillie? For Lillie’s death?”

So sad!

WAS IT HOMOPHOBIC, A MISUNDERSTANDING, OR DAMAGE CONTROL?

In my quest to keep the anti-gay laws of Russia front and center until people realize the antics and hate the government there is spewing, here’s someone who agrees with the way things are headed there.  Or, does she?

Yelena Isinbayeva

Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, a two-time Olympic champion, is strongly anti-gay (or is she?).

Last week, after winning the World Championship title in Russia, “USA Today” reports that she said, “If we allow to promote and do all this stuff on the street, we are very afraid about our nation because we consider ourselves like normal, standard people.”

She added, “We just live with boys with woman, woman with boys.  Everything must be fine. It comes from history. We never had any problems, these problems in Russia, and we don’t want to have any in the future.”

Yelena 2
After widespread criticism, Isinbayeva “clarified” her comments, “English is not my first language and I think I may have been misunderstood when I spoke yesterday.”
She added, “But let me make it clear I respect the views of my fellow athletes and let me state in the strongest terms that I am opposed to any discrimination against gay people on the grounds of their sexuality [which is against the Olympic charter].”
boycott-sochi-2014
Isinbayeva, I really don’t know what your views are or if this clarification is just damage control?  However, let this American offer you some advice.  I don’t speak Russian and if I’m going to criticize your country’s pathetic views toward the LGBT community (and I will), I’ll do it in English, a language I can fluently speak.  I won’t condemn your leaders in a poor attempt by speaking Russian because there may be some misunderstanding!
Russia
MILLER COMES OUT AND COMES OUT AGAINST RUSSIA
Two days ago, while I was away, 41-year-old “Prison Break” actor Wentworth Miller officially came out as a gay man.
wentworth
Miller came out in a letter to the St. Petersburg International Film Fest.  The actor refused to take part in the festival because of Russia’s anti-LGBT laws.
Miller GLAAD
Miller writes, “I am deeply troubled by the current attitude toward and treatment of gay men and women by the Russian government.  The situation is in no way acceptable, and I cannot in good conscience participate in a celebratory occasion hosted by a country where people like myself are being systematically denied their basic right to live and love openly.”
For years, there’s been speculation about Miller being gay with Perez Hilton reporting that Miller was dating former “Brothers & Sisters” actor Luke MacFarlane.
Luke MacFarlane
Congratulations Wentworth on standing up to the bullies in Russia and I hope by coming out that you can live your life openly and happily.  And, if you’re dating Luke, you two make a beautiful couple!
Luke Wentworth
PEEPS’ ’80s FRIDAY FLASHBACK
Depeche Mode

While it’s not Ray’s birthday present, we’re heading to Chicago Saturday night to see the 1980s English band, Depeche Mode, in concert.  The band is still putting out amazing music thirty years later.  As you might remember, their first American hit on radio was “People Are People”, which reached #13 in 1984 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The band went to score five more Top 40 hits on the Hot 100:  “Personal Jesus” (#28, 1989), “Enjoy The Silence” (#8, 1990), “Policy of Truth” (#15, 1990), “I Feel You” (#37, 1993), and “It’s No Good” (#38, 1997).

And, just this year, they hit #1 on the Billboard Dance chart with “Heaven” and #10 with “Soothe My Soul”, both from their latest album, “Delta Machine”.

And, speaking of Depeche Mode, here’s the blog I wrote about the band and how excited I was to get tickets for their concert:  https://anthonypeoples.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/finding-my-own-personal-jesus-in-chicago-this-summer/

THAT’S IT FOR THIS WEEK

While it’s shorter today week because I was away until last night, I hope you enjoyed or learning something from my random thoughts.  Have a great weekend!

Anthony

Plans For A Milestone Birthday

When it comes to birthdays, turning 13, 16, 21, 25, and 30 are the birthdays that seem to get the most glory.  Once you reach a certain age, many people stop making a big deal out of them.

I remember, as a teenager, thinking people who were 30-years-old were over-the-hill.  Once I hit 30, and then 40, I began to think much differently about those ages being ancient.  While I’m one of those people who don’t make a big deal out of each successive birthday, this year, it’ll be different for Ray.  Later this month, he turns 50 and we’re planning on celebrating it in style this fall.

Turning 50 is a big deal to me.  Think of all of the great people who never made it to 50:  my mother and her mother (47 and 48, respectively), Whitney Houston (48), Judy Garland (47), President John F. Kennedy (46), Elvis Presley (42), John Lennon (40), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (39), Princess Diana (36), Marilyn Monroe (36), Jim Morrison (of the Doors) (27), Janis Joplin (27), Jimi Hendrix (27), James Dean (24), and Ryan White (18).

Ray was born at Mercy Hospital in Fort Dodge, Iowa, on August 25, 1963.

While I always wanted dirty blonde hair when I was younger, these days I wish I was a ginger.  But, then again, I’m just thankful that I’m in my 40s and I still have hair!

So, when thinking of his upcoming 50th birthday, I thought about a surprise trip to Cancun, Mexico.  I was there in 1993 and I loved it.   I’ve been wanting to go back and I know that Ray’s never been there.  It’s a good thing I asked him before buying the package.  While he said it would be fun, he had other ideas and he’s the one turning 50!!!

However, I didn’t give up on Cancun.  Since I had some vacation time left over, we got a great deal and we’re going to Cancun for five days this weekend.  This is a picture I took of Cancun 20 years ago.

Cancun 1993 001

So, Ray thought about it, did his research, and he made a decision.  While both of us have been to Mexico and Canada (before passports were required), this trip was international and it required a passport.  This map is from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and luckily, the trip he planned is “green”, which stands for “take normal safety precautions”!  Red is danger!

Safe Travel

So, obviously since the green locations on this map are in Europe, that must be the destination for his golden birthday celebration.  If you guessed that, you’d be correct.  Ray decided he wanted to take a cruise on the Danube River!  However, the timing for the trip didn’t work out for his birthday.  So, we’ll be taking it in October.

The cruise on the Danube River is on the “MS Sound of Music”.  Could the name be any gayer? 🙂

In October, we’ll drive from the Quad Cities and take an overnight flight from Chicago to Europe.  The original trip itinerary had us on an overnight flight from Chicago to Budapest, Hungary, and boarding the cruise.  However, I didn’t feel comfortable leaving the U.S. and arriving in Budapest to board the cruise on the same day.

While this is Ray’s trip, I’ve always been fascinated by Switzerland and it didn’t cost us anything extra for the flight changes to make it part of our vacation.  For the same price, we now fly from Chicago to Zurich, Switzerland, a global city and one of the world’s largest financial centers, and arrive Saturday morning!

Zürich

We get to spend almost 24 hours there!   We then fly from Zurich to Budapest and board the “Sound of Music Cruise Tour” on Sunday, where we’ll travel the Danube River from Hungary to Germany with several stops in between in Slovakia, Austria, and Germany.

Sound of Music Cruise

The cruise departs Budapest Sunday night and after sailing all night and in the morning, we’ll arrive in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, for an afternoon tour.  It’s one of the youngest capital cities of Europe, yet its history dates back more than 2,000 years.

From there, another night of sailing will be followed by an all day visit to Vienna, Austria, known for musicians Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Falco (“Rock Me Amadeus”).

After another night of cruising the Danube, we arrive in Durnstein (wine country in lower Austria) and another short cruise will take us to Melk (in lower Austria), where the historic Benedictine Abbey is located.

The next day, we arrive in Passau, Germany, which is also known as Dreiflüssestadt, the “City of Three Rivers”.  And, being a city of so many rivers posed a major problem earlier this summer when central Europe experienced some of the worst flooding in decades.  These pictures are from Passau in early June.

Passau Flooding 1 Passau Flooding 2

Since our cruise is more than four months after the flooding, it’ll be interesting to see how fast Germany responds to a natural disaster and how much of the city is flood ravaged and damaged.

The next two days will feature stops in Regensburg and Nuremberg, Germany.

When we awake after the last night of  the cruise, we’re driven two hours to the Munich (Germany) airport for our flight back to Chicago.  Once we get through customs, we’ll drive the three hours back to Moline just in time for me to go back to work — jet lag and all.  Crazy!!!!!!!

While Ray’s milestone birthday trip of a lifetime is still two months away, I’m already planning the trip for my 50th birthday in the fall of 2014!!!!

Happy Birthday early Ray!

Anthony