100 Best Cities in the World – the Count down Continues


So – let’s review – 50 cities – I’ve been to 28 of them. That’s 56%. Hope I do better on the next 25…

50. Dallas – Great start – I’ve been there several times. I’ve also been to Fort Worth, and most importantly – to Plano! Plano is actually a lovely suburb of the vast and massively tall buildings of Dallas. We once made the mistake of thinking that downtown Dallas might be worth a visit – on Saturday. Boy, were we wrong. Like many US downtowns – it’s a city of office buildings – alive during the day, dead at night. Really really dead on weekends. Unlike Montreal, with it’s bustle day and night – Dallas looked and felt dead that day. We left and went to the Science Center in Fort Worth (great place). But hey – things change and it’`

49. Atlanta – I was raised in Atlanta. Lived there from 1951-1966. My fondest young memory is feeding the ducks bread from our table at a lake (pond?) near our home. My memories of growing up aren’t all that wonderful generally – but I did love our yard. We lived on an acre of land – mostly woods with a creek running through it – and we had a gardener. One time a rattle snake came into the grassy part of the yard – and he had to kill it with a hoe. Very memorable. I also remember playing for hours and hours and hours in the woods. Basically by myself – but sometimes with some of the neighborhood kids – all of them boys. I was very glad to leave Atlanta when I graduated high school. At that time – 1966 – 50% of the girls in my HUGE graduating class got married within 2 weeks of graduation. I was a square peg in a round hole. I was the ONLY kid in my class who applied to college across the Mason Dixon Line. My favorite high school class – math of course. But I loved science as well. My senior year we had a science fair – and for my project – I learned to program a computer. The very first IBM 360 – it was in a AC room with a raised floor for all the cables. And the guys running it were amazed that a 16 year old GIRL (it was the GIRL that amazed them) was interested. I wanted to be an engineer. But in those days – Girls didn’t become engineers. So I settled on Math and Physics. Up hill battle even so. None of this described Atlanta however. Last time I visited it was a lot like Dallas. Huge downtown with towering office buildings and not many folks actually living there. Vibrant suburbs – still segregated to this day. Oh well.

48. Orlando. Another easy one. I love Disney anything.. I’m a Disney nut. I’d have worn Disney clothing with princesses if it came in boy stylings. I’ve taken my kids, I’ve gone with my sister Carrie (we rode King Kong at Universal so many times they allowed us to just sit in the front rather than run thru the maze). I’ve taken my grand-kids. I think that Disney blew it big time when they lost out to Universal on Harry Potter – but I love Harry Potter lands to death. I adore the Star Wars section of Disney Hollywood – and I’m a true believer in the Avatar lands. Memories of Orlando are many – although I think my favorite was when we took Sophie (about 3 at the time). She was up up up – then asleep. She slept thru every dinner, thru meeting Belle, thru truly expensive Princess dinner parties. But her highlight – having a short conversation with Rapanzel over how to wash hair…

47. Calgary – Wow – if this list sticks to North America – I’m golden. Ok- Calgary – definitely a yes. We took all 3 of my kids on a trip to Banff and the National Parks and started in Calgary. Huge empty streets except for the street walkers. My oldest son – Robert (12 at the time) – wanted to know what these ladies were doing. They would hang around the nearby all night convenience store because it had a pay phone. We’d go to the place to grab a treat before bed. Paths crossed. Questions were answered… maybe.

46. Copenhagen – well – I’m not surprised this city made the list, it’s cool. I’ve been to Copenhagen, but I was really young (like 20), I saw the Mermaid, I caught a ferry back to England. All I remember.

45. Tel-Aviv – Check that guy off too! After the war in 1976 we got really concerned about the long range life span of Israel, and felt we had to visit while there was still an Israel to visit. Went with my oldest (only at that time) son – who was just 18 months old. We camped our way around most of Israel, visited the Sinai (at that time part of Israel), and even went snorkeling in Elat. I managed to leave my passport at the cable car station at Masada, ended up driving back to get and went to the wrong side of the mountain! With an 18 month old kid and a stroller. And weather over 100 degrees. The Israel army took pity on me – and a solider went to the Cable car base, got my passport – took the cable car up the mountain and then RAN down the Roman road to where I was sitting in the shade with Robert. He gave me my passport and than RAN back up the Roman road. These guys are fit.

44. San-Paulo. Knew it wasn’t going to last. On my short list. Oh well.

43. Frankfurt – Been there. Got bumped off an airplane and had to spend the night. Toured the city. The sidewalks were covered in dog poop. In those days – they didn’t have ‘clean up after your pet’ laws – so folks just let the dogs poop as needed. Horrid. You couldn’t look up to admire the architecture or even straight ahead to watch for traffic lights. If you didn’t watch your feet – you walked in it!

42. Hong-Kong – Been There. Sadly. Unfortunately for Hong-Kong – we had to leave Kyoto to fly to Hong-Kong. I really didn’t want to leave Kyoto – and arriving in Hong-Kong was literally a flight into hell. The airplane had to dip between two mountain peaks on the way in – and the belly of the plane scraped the tops of buildings on the descent. The streets were packed – and folks walked around/over/ignored the millions of beggars in the streets. I’m not good with places where there are really really wealthy people living on top of really really poor people. And there are really really poor people in Hong-Kong living on boats with no proper water or toilets, living in slums, living on the streets. Our hosts did their level best to impress us – but I left thinking – never coming back.

41. Montreal – I live here! Wow – I live in one of the World’s Best Cities. But I knew that. I adore my city, it has everything except perfect weather… Outside of say February and March – when only the insane lie here – it’s great. Our version of a heat wave is when it get’s above 90 – and even then, it doesn’t last long. Our spring is too short (we go from covered in Snow to covered in flowers in under 30 days – often with a snow storm thrown in to make sure we’re paying attention). We have great theatre (read my blog if you don’t believe me), we have great Festivals – Fringe is just one – but there’s the Laugh Fest, The Jazz Fest, Formula 1, The Graffiti Fest, Movie Fest after Movie Fest – it’s a never ending cycle of things to do and see. Well – not during Covid of course. During Covid we’ve gotten to respect our multitude of fabulous parks, walking paths, bike lines and out door markets. Our restaurants have rediscovered the delights of having a veranda – and out door dinning – even out door FINE dinning is the newest in thing. No – we’re not perfect – but we’re close. I’m super glad I live here. And I dearly wish I didn’t have to stay in February and March like I did this year.

Ok – I’m Pausing again. Of these 10 cities – I’ve been to 9 of them. So out of 60 cities I’m up to 37 – or 61.666%… That’s pretty decent.

Stay tuned to find out who made the top 40 cities of the world… You might want to start making your own lists actually.

Signing off for now – but promising to finish the list some time this summer… (that gives me a lot of space, eh?)

The Soup Lady!

100 Best Cities in the World – Where have you been?


Part 2 – Cities 50 – 74

I finished Part 1 – Cities 100-75 with a score of 13/25. Let’s see how I do with this part of the list.

Keep in mind that I’ve had 73 years to do all this travelling – and it’s not surprising I suppose that I’ve been to lots of places. But let’s be honest here – years 1-15 were spent growing up (Atlanta, New London, and a Navy Base), and years 16-21 were spent going to University and meeting my husband. Of the two – I probably worked harder on the later. But that’s a story for another time.

Bottom line – I started to seriously travel my junior year at Tufts. I spent a year abroad in London – and we took several trips to parts of Europe during school breaks and the summer that my year aboard ended. Be careful what you allow your kids to do I must say. That experience definitely set the tone for the rest of my vagabond existence.

74. Lyon – been there. Lyon is best known for it’s train station – and I think that’s were we spent most of the time we were there. Again this is pre-internet – so you visited the places you could find in a travel book. Lyon was more of a pass thru than a visit kinda town in those days.

73. Shanghai – Missed it! Toured almost all of China and didn’t manage to visit Shanghai. Oh well.

72. Minneapolis – Been through there. Big city in the middle of flat flat flat everything. Might be nicer to live there. Not a wonderful place to visit.

71. Warsaw – Missed it. Same trip as Cracow and Kiev – which is why the price got so out of hand. Check it on a map. You can’t do all three in one tour. We were nuts to even consider it.

70. Brisbane – sigh. See Perth. Never been. Love to go. Not now though.

69. Valencia – Been there! Great oranges. We spent a night there on our way from seeing the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. Which I have to tell you is an absolute must see place! Valencia was a disappointment in comparison. Way it goes.

68. Helsinki – Nope – never been there. On a long list – not a short list too. So I won’t put the odds in it’s favor….

67. Ottawa – Been there lots! It’s the capital of Canada of course – and only about 1.5 hours from Montreal. They have a fabulous Regency weekend there every year – and we’ve been several times. They also have nice bridge sectionals and regionals. And of course we’ve taken folks who visit us there – particularly if they come from overseas. It’s an impressive kind of place – not a big city of course – but a lovely small town. I’m proud of our Capital.

66. Portland – Now here’s a question – Portland Maine or Portland Oregon. Doesn’t really matter because I’ve been to both. Portland, Maine is the cuter place – trust me here. Nice museums, nice shopping, cute water front, nice restaurants, easy walking. Portland, Oregon has big trees. And it’s a fairly big city. 66,000 for Portland, Maine, 695,000 for Portland, Oregon. So that’s really it in a nut shell.

65. Brussels – Ah, Brussels. Can’t even think about Brussels without thinking of Jacques Brel. Love his music – and of course he’s famous through out the city. Brussels has some of the best food in Europe in my opinion. And it’s so accessible. There are great places to stay that won’t break the bank, there are museums to see and enjoy, and there’s the food. Let me repeat – the food alone is worth the trip! And not just the Pates Frit! (Fries to you who don’t read French. And don’t call them French Fries – you are Brussels – that’s in Belgium.)

64. San-Jose – My son and his wife live in San Jose – so of course I’ve been there. We came thru several times – once on our way to Anza for an Napoleonic Re-enactments which I fondly remember. We had rented a motor home planning to visit some of the National Parks. Great plan – but it had issues. For starters – it took us 2 days to get out of San-Jose. We were simply too new to the entire Motor Home thing to feel safe leaving the driveway of my kid’s home. But once we got on the road – it was better. Truly scary thing – driving the highway from San-Jose to Los Angeles. Cross winds and a motor home are not fun!

63. Buenos-Aires – Been there. One of our good friend’s was in the middle of a rather nasty divorce and they hadn’t told the kids yet. And his son was getting married in Buenos-Aires. He commented that the only people he’d know would be his wife (and they weren’t speaking), his son and his daughter. So we volunteered to come to the wedding! It was an awesome trip. We included a trip to Iguacu Falls (they are amazing), went into wine country, rode horseback in the Andes, and had some incredible Argentine BBQ. We toured Buenos-Aires from tip to tail – even paying homage to Evita Perron’s grave site.

62. Delhi – Nope. Not on the list. Frankly – India scares me. I know folks that love it – they call it home. But they are seriously wealthy, and I think that might make a big difference. I love watching movies about India I will admit, and we once were invited to join a photography trip to take pictures of Tigers – in India. That might have been a lot of fun, but still – India scares me. Too crowded, too many really really poor people, Too much class divide.. I know myself well enough to know that I’m not comfortable in a country that treats parts of it’s population like dirt.

61. Riyadh – Nope. Never been

60. Philadelphia – City of Brotherly Love. Been many times, for many different reasons. It’s lovely. Classic even. A little bit of everything, tons to see and do – hard city to resist!

59. Stockholm – on the short list.

58. Denver – Mile High City. It’s not the city itself that’s so amazing – it’s the location. So near the Rocky Mountains you could spit on them. A bit of a cowboy kinda of place, mixture of rough and ready and high tech. Fun to visit. Skiing is incredible. Apparently the Mountain Climbing is also ‘to die for’ – but way out of my comfort zone.

57. Oslo – nope. Like Stockholm (and all of Norway, Sweden and Finland – it’s on the short list)

56. Naples – Florida or Italy? Doesn’t matter actually – I’ve been to both. And like the Portlands – I think I like the smaller one better. Naples, Italy has amazing food, lots and lots and lots of hills, some incredible views, ice cream I can still taste today, and of course – Herculum and Pompeii. I loved Herculum – partly because I had no expectations. And I admit that Pompeii was exhausting and hot and dusty. But still – worth the visit. Naples I’d go back to. Just for the food.

55. Phoenix – been there. Fell in love with it. I was totally ready to move there until my husband pointed out that there is no ocean. Right. That’s a problem. Ok – I’ll just have to visit. Don’t go in the summer though. We were there in the late fall and it was incredible. Still warm enough that you could enjoy going for a late night swim, but the days weren’t so insanely hot that you couldn’t walk outside!

54. Austin – missed it somehow. Which given how much of Texas I’ve visited seems a surprise. Maybe I was there and don’t remember. Hmmm.

53. Lisbon – Love it. My husband hated it. Ok – I admit, it’s hilly. And we were walking everywhere which drove my husband’s hip nuts. But it’s a simply wonderful place. Tons of things to do and see and some of the most incredible shopping. I loved our Air BnB with it’s private garden, I enjoyed riding the buses (a way to avoid the walking), and I found the food delicious.

52. Osaka – My kind of town. I had never been despite at least a dozen trips to Japan and frankly – I was impressed. Great museums, beautiful parks, tons of history, friendly people, nice walking, good bus/metro service – and like all of Japan – very very clean. What’s not to love. Oh – and the food was good. A win, win, win!

51. Hamburg. Germany again – and this one I know I visited. Lots of clocks, lots of old architecture, and lots of Germans.

Ok – so we’re half way thru – and my count is now 15 + 13 = 28 out of 50… Getting there!

100 Best Cities in the World – The count down begins now!


Part 1 – Cities #100-75

I saw this list and of course I started checking them off. Been there, want to go there, not on your life would I go there.

Which given that no one has been able to travel for MONTHS – seems on the face of it an insane activity. But I suppose a traveler remains a traveler at heart. It’s just been a time off kind of year I suppose.

I’m breaking the list down into 4 parts – partly to keep you interested… Marketer at heart that I am – and partly to keep the length of each blog reasonable. Too long is just begging to be boring!

Blogs should be like mini-skirts. Short enough to grab your attention, Long enough to cover the interesting parts!

I am also of course reminded of the line from “Changes in Latitudes, , Changes in Attitudes” that Jimmy Buffet sings – “Reading departure signs in some big airport Reminds me of the places I’ve been. Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure, Makes me want to go back again”

100. Cracow – never been. Probably never going to go either. Oh well – nothing like starting on a high note, right? This actually was on a plan maybe about 5 years ago – but the price of just getting there was daunting. But see – if I’d done it – I’d have done it!

99. Raleigh – I’ve been there. I don’t remember a ton about it though – we might have just driven thru – but it’s a lovely town. So now I’m 1 for 2

98. Salt Lake City – Been there LOTS! Seriously – I know this city. It’s on the way to Park City – where my husband and I have been going skiing regularly since 2002 (yes – that’s when they had the Olympics). It’s not a place I’d live – Salt Lake City that is – but it’s got a lot to recommend it as a tourist high point. And best – it’s a starting point for the truly outstanding National Parks Tour in Utah. Now that should definitely be on your must do list.

97. Mexico City – Now that’s a place I’d love to go. I’ve been to Mexico – but managed to miss Mexico City. Some day…

96. Glasgow – How did this dirty smelly kinda down in the dumps – sorry I went there – city make the top 100 list. Miracle or they paid off someone. Anyway – been there. Not going back any time soon. Never being soon enough actually.

95. Sacramento – I always think I’ve been here – but it might have been passing thru. We did do the drive down the West Coast – and I can’t think we’d have skipped it. But honestly – that was 49 years ago. So I honestly can’t say I remember it. So – 2.5 out of the top 5…

94. Manchester – This was one of my favourite stops on our UK trip s couple of years back. Great Museums. Fabulous train station. Well worth a few nights!

93. Düsseldorf – hummm – can’t remember for sure. I did a ‘Germany’ tour when I was 20 – and I’d bet that Düsseldorf was on it – but if it was – I don’t remember anything noteworthy. I’ll give it a – haven’t been. Probably never going.

92. Nashville – This is on my to do list! I lived in Atlanta for years and years – and never made it to Nashville because my parent’s had no interest. I came close when I went to play bridge at Gatlinburg – fried food capital of the world – they even fry Oreo cookies – but didn’t visit Nashville. Missed out on Dollywood too.

91. Bucharest – Been There. I was young – it was still Communist – I loved it because it was cheap and I could eat like a Queen and pay under $1. Don’t count on doing that today folks. So… 5 out of the bottom 10 on the been there list. 2 on the want to go list.

90. Minsk – sigh. I’d love to go – never been. Not looking good either. Oh well.

89. Perth – Missed that entire Continent! Same for New Zealand. On my to do list… when Covid is over and we can travel again…

88. Hanover – Been there. Part of my Germany Tour. Industrial. Ok. Nothing much to add. Sorry.

87. Kiev – remember how Cracow was on a plan… well Kiev was on the same plan. Trip got canceled due to insane cost.

86. Kuwait-City – Another entire part of the world I’ve never seen. And not on my to do list either.

85. New Orleans – Now we’re on familiar ground! I spent a week here visiting my daughter who was living there for 2 years. Plus we had a fab weekend there when my husband was being interviewed for a position at their new Marriott hotel. We even did the Mardi-Gras Bead tossing silliness! It was a hoot. Good food too. Fried Oysters were the best. And don’t get me started on the Red Fish Grill’s Double Chocolate Bread Pudding. Stuff of dreams….

84. Cologne – Another city that I visited multiple times. This is the home of one of the world’s largest (it might well be the largest – but I’m hedging my bets) Food Fairs. It’s incredible. A floor of Chocolate. 2 Floors of beer stalls. The most amazing raisins I’ve eaten at the Morocco pavilion. Insanely large, your feet are guaranteed to hurt – and that’s just day 1. It takes at least 3 days to see everything – and even longer if you actually want to try the food. I first tried Illy Coffee here – mind blowing. One year we did a taste tour of the competitors to Prosciutto Ham. Another year we focused in on Tomato’s. The fare is called Anuga – and when this madness ends – I highly recommend it if you think you are a foodie. It will set you to rights. Great Cathedral, adorable restaurants, and charming evening walks. Just do all this BEFORE the fair opens. You won’t have the energy to enjoy it afterwards.

83. Auckland – see Perth. Sigh

82. Baltimore – Check that guy off! I lived in Washington, D.C. for 3 years – and it’s not called ‘Balt-wash’ for nothing. Lots to see, lots to do – and super cool. Baltimore – definitely better than #82.

81. Rio-de-Janeiro – on the to do list. Not now of course. Someday.

So – out of the bottom 20 – I’ve been to 9. Not doing that well actually. But lots more to come.

80. Stuttgart – Been There! It’s lovely. Walled city is old fashioned and super quaint – and the new part is – well – new. I was young – on a bike – and stayed in a youth hostel. It was a different time, different kind of travel. You used books to decide where to visit – or relied on other folks reporting back on what they’d done that day. Man – has the internet changed the way I at least travel…

79. Athens – Been There! Went back. Twice. I love Athens actually. It’s not the cleanest city in the world, but folks there are actually really really nice. I sat on my glasses when I visited with my travel buddy – The Intrepid Traveller – and really flattened them. We were staying in a cheap hotel with an amazing view of the Parthenon – we actually shared both the bathroom and the shower with everyone on our floor. The guy running the hotel was super nice though and had a friend who was an eye glass guy! We walked to his office – and he fixed my glasses. For free. Since we didn’t have 2 nickels to rub together – we were thrilled.

78. Muscat. Nope.

77. Marseille – Yup – check that one off. Got to love the French Rivera. Such a lovely place. Too bad I can’t afford it anymore.

76. Edmonton – Yup – that’s another been there. Highlight of a trip to Banff and the Canadian Rockies that we took with our kids 35 years ago. Why the highlight? The Mall blew them away. They have more submarines in that Mall than the Canadian Navy. (Not that hard to do – we actually only had 3 at the time. And I think we might still only have 3). We had heard that the Pierogi’s were amazing – so we went on a Pierogi hunt. Good luck with that. They are made at home – so you need to know someone. We didn’t. Oh well. But the Mall was a hoot and a half.

75. Adelaide – oh dear – ending on a down note. See Perth.

Ok – Out of the bottom 25 cities – I’ve been to 13. So over 50% That’s not bad. I’m not cheating by looking ahead – so you’ll have to stay tuned.

How did you do against the Montreal Madame?

Signing off – The Soup Lady

Day 243 – Last Commandment for Seniors (#12)


You sill haven’t learned to act your age – and hope you never will!

Hear-Hear! I never ever ever wanted to act my age. I never acted my age all my life, and now is most certainly not the time to rethink that strategy.

When I was in my early teens – and by this I’m referring to that torture chamber we call High School – I was way to studious and concerned with math and science in particular to take notice of the things ‘girls my age’ considered important – like clothes and boys. To be very honest – I’m still not overly concerned about clothes – See Commandment #2 for Senior – “In Style” are the clothes that still fit.

I did go thru a ‘boys are amazing’ period – but for my time – it was very late, and ended rather abruptly with me marrying my still to this day husband – Victor! I arrived at University as a ‘Southern Belle’ – complete with breathy accent – and was immediately considered a very desirable date. This was beyond amazing to me – no boy had ever considered me interesting outside of class before – and I would have 4 dates a weekend. One on Friday night, One on Saturday afternoon, One on Saturday night, and one on Sunday afternoon. With 4 different boys. And for the record – no kissing until the third date!

Sunday night thru Friday afternoon – I was the model student – taking high level math and science classes, and for the first time discovering that there was history after the end of the civil war (for the record – that ended in 1865). I was raised in Atlanta Georgia – and that’s when our history classes deemed that history stopped. Surprise Surprise – it didn’t stop!

So between fending off boys (I took to hiding in libraries to be sure to get my studing done) and then going to parties all weekend – I was very busy.

I suppose this period is the closest I came to acting my age.

After I met Victor – things got really interesting in the ‘boy’ department. Victor was in the habit of waiting until the last minute before making a date – and I would be ‘taken’ long before. After several ‘I’m sorry, I can’t go out with you, I’m busy” conversations, he learned to book me ahead – and eventually we agreed to go steady. I think the crisis was ‘Homecoming Weekend 1967’ when I was the Princess from one fraternity – not Victor’s – and thus too busy to be with him. I think he asked me to go steady so that he could stop having to ask me out so far in advance.

But I still had to keep up my studies – but now I had to hide out in new places – and just from one boy! Fortunately, Victor pretty much hated libraries – and there were lots of smaller ones on campus that I don’t think he ever found. I was able to keep up my work weeks, play weekends lifestyle.

Then I spent my Junior Year Abroad. I choose to go to London to study Drama – which for a Math/Physics Major was a bit of a stretch. But the folks in the Drama department were ok with it, and while the Math Department got their knickers in a knot (I had to drop my double major), the Physics Department agreed to it. So – London, without my boyfriend, for a full year abroad.

This was, I admit, one of my favourite years (Fall of 68 to the Fall of 69)… and again – I wasn’t acting my age. I was interested in studying, getting good grades, visiting Museums and Art Galleries – and my Drama Department co-students thought me dull, boring, and not really a decent drama student. Push came to shove when I won a lottery to go behind the scenes at the Royal Vic and meet Sir Lawrence Olivier – then starring in Chekhov’s “Three Sisters”. Despite pressure to give up that opportunity to a ‘real’ drama student – I persisted in taking advantage of that win, a meeting I remember to this day.

My year aboard ended the way a year aboard for a square peg in a round hole must always end. I drove with my friends to Istanbul – then waved goodbye as they crossed into Asia on their way to India. I traveled alone by train and hitchhiking (ok – I was 20 – it seemed acceptable) back into ‘Europe’ and met up with a friend who I didn’t really know – but who wanted to do a bicycle trip thru the German speaking section of Romania. We met up in her university town – took our bicycles by train into Romania and spent 2 weeks or so biking from village to village. In those days (Summer 1969) the way you showed off your wealth was by the height of the manure pile in front of your house. I grew to love Lard Sandwiches – and we feasted off the garden crops of peas and green beans. One of the villagers bought my bra for her daughter for the equivalent of a weeks living money – and in a Youth Hostel in Czechoslovakia we swapped a $1 American bill for a day’s worth of food and lodging. Interesting times to visit behind the Iron Curtain.

I eventually made my way back to Paris, met up with my sister who flew in from the US, and we continued to wander thru France and eventually to England. We flew home from London – and while she returned back home to Atlanta and University – I went back to Tufts for my final year. Victor had meanwhile changed schools and was now at Cornell. Our plan was to see if we were still ‘an item’, and if so – I’d graduate and continue my schooling at Cornell – provided I could get accepted of course.

We did, I was – and we got married Sept 11, 1970. It’s 50 years and counting today…

Enough of this – bottom line – I’ve always persisted in being a tad different. I had my kids a bit later than other folks, I got married a lot earlier (I was 21 – Victor was 20), I was studious to the point of embarrassment to most of my peers, and when I got close to retirement – my friend ‘The Intrepid Traveler’ and I started our yearly trips to far off places. Not to be left out Victor and I did a fair amount of traveling too!

I’ve been to China, Mongolia, Taiwan, Hong-Kong, Japan, South Korea, Bali, France, Fez, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Russia, the Netherlands, England, Ireland, Scotland, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Malta, Liechtenstein, Vatican City, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Israel, Amsterdam, South Africa, Kenya, Botswana, Rwanda, Zambia, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Czechoslovakia, Greenland, Northern Quebec, Most of the US, Eastern and Western Canada, Venezuela, US Virgin Islands, Mexico, British Virgin Islands, Grand Cayman, Belize, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahamas, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. I realize of course that traveling now is not the same – but I was young, I was keen – and I was willing to travel cheap. Mostly – I was lucky to have a friend willing to travel with me! And grateful to have a husband who also found travel interesting.

There are so many places that I loved at the time I was there that I couldn’t imagine going back to – my ‘roughing it’ ability is seriously suffering from concerns about where there’s going to be a clean toilet – but I would recommend doing it NOW – don’t wait till you are your age to travel. It’s never too late – and it’s always rewarding – Masks on for safety of course.

Enough of this trip down memory lane. It’s getting embarrassing. Bottom line – I’m not planning on acting my age any time soon… Get over it.

Signing off to think of something else crazy to do… Mask on of course – The Soup Lady

Travel isn’t just about Museums – sometimes you must do Laundry


It’s our last full day in Berlin – and there is a ton of things still on our list to see and do. Unfortunately – one of them is Laundry. Can’t get away from the fact that eventually either you wash clothes or people start to move away from you in the Metro. Which, on consideration – might not be the worst idea.

Anyway – laundry. While it’s awesome that the Cat’s PJ’s has machines – and they aren’t $$ (just 4 euro’s for the load – wash and dry) – they are slow. Really slow. So it’s a relaxing morning – I get some blogging done, The Intrepid Traveler reads – and eventually the laundry is hanging in our room. We just couldn’t wait for the dryer to dry everything completely.

It’s almost lunch time before we leave the hostel – and our first stop is the Karstat Department store. It’s right across the street from the hostel – and it’s huge. And amazing. I love the houseware department – German and Italian plastic ware are so cool. There’s the complete selection of all the top designers – and we spend a good 30 minutes just handling all the beautiful things. Eventually – big shoppers that we are – we pick out a 1 euro knife to have on hand for cutting fruit. Then it’s on to the Museum of European Cluture.

Never heard of it? Not a surprise! It’s not really a museum – it’s 4 rooms in a larger museum dedicated to Ethnocology – and there’s a gigantic exhibit on Canadian First Nations! We quickly walk thru – admiring their considerable collection – and thinking – what must the Germans think of Canada – Land of Indians? Do they think we still have cowboys? Oh well – I guess our efforts at explaining the issues related to East and West Germany are probably even less informative.

The display related to European Culture is fairly interesting – lots of stuff I really didn’t know – including the fact that Doner’s were invented in Berlin. Yes – Doner. Those omnipresent huge meat things that stand vertically in a rotisserie in Turkish Fast Food restaurants. Who knew it was a Turk living in Berlin who invented that? I have to say they have been yummy eating here.

There is also a very interesting exhibit on WWI – everything is made of grey felt and chicken wire – definitely inspires respect and remorse in the heads of the viewer.

Our next stop is the National Art and Decoration Museum, which has a huge section on Fashion. Unfortunately – we’re going so slowly that we arrive with under an hour before it closes. We zip quickly into the Regency section – I snap a picture of dancing shoes – I hear tell of an amazing ball being held in Brussels in just a few weeks – I really could use some new shoes.

Just across the mall from the Art and Decor Museum is the ‘Old Master’s’ Museum of Berlin. And it is a stunner. And open an hour longer than the Art and Decor Museum. So we zip in there – and hit the highlights. I’m a huge fan of their Venus – and there are some Rembrants and Rubens that you just don’t want to miss. We also spend a good 15 minutes enjoying the Proverb painting by Brueghel the younger. So good. And they also have a Hermonious Boch. Sigh.

Dinner is at the Tex-Mex (yes – again) – this time we are meeting up with a friend from Montreal – and it’s the one place I know for sure is good, not expensive – and I can find! Dinner is great – The Intrepid Traveller and I split a single meal – the portions are that big.

Home – Bed – early up for our flight to St. Petersburg, which goes swimmingly. No problems – even though we’re flying Areoflot – and I admit to a bit of concern about using a Russian Airlines. Turns out I should not have been worried.

We are standing at Baggage Claim when my female friend from Africa – Mr. Piatgorsky – sneaks up behind us to give us a hug, and a high 5 welcome to St. Petes!

Why Mr. Piatgorsky? Turns out she’s travelling with a huge – really huge – suitcase. And Mr. Piatgorsky loved to travel with his cello – to the point where he’d buy the seat on the airplane next to him for his cello. Needing a name for the reservation – and not being married – he would reserve his seat for Mrs. Piatgorsky! I’m going to call her MP for short!

Anyway – we’d planned to met up – MP is spending 10 days with the IT and myself in St. Petes. We’ve already made our reserations at the MIR youth hostel – 1 private room with bath for the IT and myself to share – MP is getting 2 beds – one for herself, one for her suitcase.

Ah – if only things worked out as planned…

But you will have to wait till tomorrow to hear how things go down in St. Petes!

Signing off – The Soup Lady – and her travel buddies – The Intrepid Traveller and Mr. Piatgorsky!

Palaces of Tears, of Queens, and of Famous Paintings – ah, it must be Berlin!


Day 3 in Berlin dawns bright and cold – given our plans for the day – more museum visits – it’s perfect.

Our first stop is a brand new ‘museum’ – called the Palace of Tears. It’s located right behind the Main Train Station in Berlin – and it served as the ‘Border Station’ during the days of the iron curtain. It has been carefully restored to look just like it did during the Cold War – where it was the main crossing station between East and West. Thru a combination of interactive exhibits, free audio guide, multi-media displays, and written text – the conditions facing people who wanted to travel between East and West were explained.

At the end of the exhibit – there’s a brief section on the events leading up to the falling of the wall – and I will admit to leaving the museum with tears in my eyes. Very very moving.

We now head for one of the two major palaces open to the public – Most go to Potsdam to see San Souci – but not us! Nope – we’re going to see the Sophie-Charlotte Palace (aka Charlottenburg Palace). It’s a bit closer to Berlin – and reportedly has far fewer crowds. And is just as big. We figure if we can do it quickly – we’ll try for Potsdam too – but that is a pipe dream.

The trip to the Sophie Charlotte (aka Charlottenburg Palace) is fast and easy – I admit to a love affair with the Berlin Metro. So well signed – every station has elevators and lifts – and the stations, the stair cases – even most of the elevators are wonderfully clean. Most importantly are the multiude of pre-warning signs. As you leave a line heading for the next line at a transfer station – there’s a sign telling you when the next train at that future line will be leaving in each direction. Consider how handy that is – you know before you start the hike whether or not to rush. Cool.

Anyway – the Sophie Charlotte Schloss is huge. And it was totally ruined during the war. The roof was gone, the insides essentially gutted. And it has been completely rebuilt. Most of the moveable interior funishing and paintings were safely stored during the war – so those are the originals, it’s the incredible flourishes and swirls on the ceilings, and the glorious wall paper (not to mention the walls, floors and ceilings) that are ‘new’. Fortunately, the Sophie Charlotte had been well photographed prior to the war – it was already a museum – so there was lots to work with for the restorers.

And the results are wonderful.

There are 2 huge sections to the building, the older more intimate section that was built before she became Queen, the wing that was added by her grand-son – Alexander the Great, and of course the magnificent garden. Most beautiful room – the ball room with it’s high ceiling, green paint carefully chosen to make the dancers feel they were dancing in a garden – and in their day – mirrored windows so as you danced, you could see the reflections of other dancers. The impact is amazing.

There were 2 paintings that particularly caught my eye. One I’ve seen copies of many times – Napoleon on his horse crossing the Alps by David. As per Wikipedia – source of all knowledge – The version produced for the Château de Saint-Cloud from 1801 was removed in 1814 by the Prussian soldiers under von Blücher who offered it to the King of Prussia. It is now held in the Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin. So this time I was seeing one of the 5 existing originals.

Glorious.

But even more intriguing – in the next room is a strikingly similar painting of Blucher – also on a rearing horse. According to the audio guide – Blucher – fresh from the win at Waterloo – commissioned an artist to create a painting of him that mirrored that famous one of Napoleon – and for many years – the two paintings hung side by side. Today they are in seperate rooms – but easily close enough to be admired one after the other. Also in the room with David’s Napoleon is one of the famous one’s of Napoleon as Emperor – clearly also spoils of war!

Another fascinating fact – when Napoleon conquered Berlin – he slept in Queen Luise’s bedroom in the new wing – which has been redone to look as it looked when he was there. When she returned to power – she refused to sleep in that room – so her darling husband – the King – created a new bedroom for her – closer to his own. Nice, huh?

After walking our feet off at Charlottenburg Palace – we checked out the three other famous museums that are clustered at the entrance – the Berggruen Museum, The Collection Scharf-Gertenburg, and the Brohan Museum. We carefully tour all 3. My clear favorite was the Berggruen – color me pink, but any museum with 85 Picasso’s is going to make me happy. I loved it. The Brohan Museum was much smaller – and featured a lovely collection of Art Deco objects. I would happily take any of the tea sets if you want to get me a birthday gift. The Scharf-Gertenburg was much more difficult to appreciate. It’s collection of works by Surrealists like Max Ernst and friends is interesting – but hardly joyous. Most intriguing to me were the series of etchings on a Lady’s Glove – and the glorious Egyptian Arch that just happens to share space in the Museum. Overall, however, I ended the visit feeling sorry for artists that suffered so much for their passion.

Clearly 6 museums in one day – at our speed of travel – is a challenge. To describe us as exahusted would be an understatement. We slowly dragged our bodies back into rush hour on the Berlin metro, made our way back to our hostel – and while Jill rested up (and set up plates and silverware for dinner) – I bravely went out to hunt down food.

The Cat’s Pajama’s Hostel is located in a funky area of Berlin – lots of inexpensive options – including the omni-present Doner establishments. I spot one that not only has a Donner machine – it has a chicken rotisserie – and there are 3 chickens on the spit. I order one (wait 10 minutes please), find a bottle of Spanish red wine for 2.5 Euros, and hunt down some pastries. Back to my chicken restaurant – for my chicken and a huge salad. We feast well tonight!

We are joined for conversation by a young Australian, our quiet but passionate male Argentine friend, and the young Pole who was defending Democracy against the Russian the night before. Tonight our conversation is mostly about walking tours – they had all taken different ones and were comparing notes.

Tired, full, happy – we tottle off ‘early’ at around 10:30 for bed.

Tomorrow is another day.

Signing off – The Soup Lady and the Intrepid Traveller.

The Pergamon, the DDR, and the Jewish Museum – Such a busy day!


Tuesday is serious Museum day

We opt for an early start – grab breakfast at the Cat’s Pajama’s and head out for the Pergamon Museum. Even though we know that the name sake exhibit – the Pergamon Altar – is closed for re-hab until 2018 or so – there are still stellar things to see at this museum – most notably the gates to Ninavah – or Babalyon – depending on your reading text. Guide books and fellow travellers have warned us about long – long – long lines – so an early start is pretty key.

We end up arriving just 10 minutes before opening time – and the line is very short. We didn’t opt to buy tickets on line – we have student passes to present – and since they will get us a 50% reduction – we’re keen to use them. Note to other traveller’s – we bought the 50 Museum pass option – for 12 Euros. It’s good for all the Museums on Museum Island – plus 45 other Museums scattered across Berlin – including our 3rd stop of the day – the Jewish Museum. We’ll pay it back in savings by tonight.

So – after waiting in line, buying tickets, doing the mandatory leaving of the backpacks in the locker routine – at about 10:45 we’re finally standing awestruck in front of the gates.

These are the smaller gates – the larger ones being too big for the museum to display – and still they are massive. They tower over the crowd – and while we are hardly the visitors of yore – and there is nary a camel to be seen – it’s easy to imagine walking across the hot sands – seeing these gates raising like a mirage in the distance. Incredible.

There are several other highlights in the museum – an intact market gate from an ancient town in present day Turkey, a guest room from a house near Mecca, and parts of the wall surrounding a palace. Massive pieces of art – carefully dug in pieces out of the ground, shipped to Berlin to be lovingly put back together in rooms dedicated to their display. The Pergamon well deserves it’s reputation as a place not to miss.

From the Pergamon we walk slowly back past the Berlin Dom to the DDR museum. This tiny independantly run museum was one of the highlights of my last trip to Berlin – and it didn’t disappoint this time. Hours later we surface – having learned a ton about what life was like in East Germany – what clothes people wore, what rules they had to follow to get ahead – and just a tiny bit about how hard it was to leave.

We make our way back to the Metro – and from there we go to the last museum of the day – the Jewish Museum.

We arrive there at 4:30 – thinking we have tons of time since the museum closes at 8:00. Wrong. So Wrong.

This Museum recently added a new wing – twice the size of the original museum – and the architect created a space that is entirely unique in the world. You know you are in for a visual treat from the moment you see the Museum. There’s the Baroque original (If it’s not Baroque – don’t fix it), and seemingly completely separate is this massive steel structure that appears to have slashes across it’s face – as if it were attacked by a giant beast. This is the new wing – from above it looks like a lightening stroke, from the ground it looks and feels tortured. Stunning.

You enter the museum just as you would any other – thru the Baroque section. But after you get your ticket and do the mandatory stowing of the back-pack – things change. You are directed to start off by descending a long, fairly dark staircase and find yourself at the bottom in a space with 3 distinct paths – the Axis of Continuity, the Axis of Exile, and the Axis of the Holocaust. The Axis of the Holocaust is a dead end of course.

The Axis of Exile ends in the Garden of Exile – another masterpiece of architectual design. Walking in this space makes you dizzy and dis-oriented – exactly the feeling that the designer intended – since that is how many refuges feel when they arrive in a new land where they know no-one, don’t speak the language – and must survive.

Following the third axis takes you to another seemingly endless staircase up leading to the start of the main exhibit.

The theme of the exhibit is Jewish life in Germany in the last 2000 years – and it starts of course in Isreal with the disaspora. The exhibits follow the experiences of the Jews – thru the inquisition, the Black Death, the good times of acceptance, the bad times of rejection. It is fascinating – and big.

We are just at the 1/2 way point when they close the museum around us – offering us tickets to come back the next day. We are stunned. Where did the time go? But they are closing – and so we head home for left over Fried Chicken, involved and detailed conversations with our fellow hostel guests – including a rather serious for the circumstances lecture on the future of socialism from an intense young Russian. Exhausted but pleased – we head up stairs for bed.

Signing off too tired to think… The Soup Lady and the Intrepid Traveler.

Whit Monday is a holiday in Berlin – Another surprise!


All the stores are closed – as are the banks, the post office, most offices – and I’m guessing government buildings. Good news for the tourists – at least most restaurants are open – and museums normally open on Monday are open today too. Whew – for a minute I thought I was back in Bali celebrating Nyepi – only with less preperation!

We’d planned to do the Berlin Basics today – Check-point Charlie and the Topography of Terror Exhibit being first and foremost on our list. Check-point Charlie is silly – 2 guys dressed up as soliders – posing with any tourist willing to tip them. I guess the good news is they are being nice about it – smiling or being serious as the tourist requests. But it’s really silly stuff.

More interesting – and well worth reading – are all the official signs talking about where the wall was – and tracing the route down Zimmerstrasse thru the carefully placed cobble stones. We walk the Wall to the Topography of Terror – a free exhibit that traces the history of Hilter and the SS from 1933 till the end of the war. Stunning, informative, horrifying, intriging, alarming – and unforgetable. The mood in the large space is somber – as befits the topic – and the timeline starts off like Hilter did – slow and careful – picking up speed and horror as time moved on. A must see exhibit.

We leave there to check out the Gropius House – but the special exhibits on this month don’t appeal to us. Next stop – a quick peak into Potsdammer Plaza – and then a stroll towards Brandenburg Gate.

A wildly unique building attracts our eyes – that plus a sign that says free Science Museum. Even better – it’s open. So we stroll on in. It’s a display put together by Otto Bock Inc. – famous for prosthetics. And it’s all about the human body and how our brain controls our legs and hands. It’s fascinating. I particularly found the beam walk simulaton intriguing. It’s really easy to walk a beam that appears to be flat on the ground – another story altogether to walk that beam when the visual tells you that you are high above a city scape.

Walking on – we admire the Brandenburg gate – and the crowds of tourists admiring the gate. Been there – seen it. We move on.

Our next stop is a fabulous mini art museum – The Guggeneim – Deuche Bank Museum. It’s a modern art exhibit space – free on Monday’s – that this time is featuring an artist who asks questions and then attempts to get the audience involved in his answers via video footage.

One stunner – he goes to a flea market and displays a collection of palm tree branches for sale. Full sized palm tree fronds. Eventually – after a lot of curious looks from the passers by – the organizers ask him nicely to leave. Granted the palm tree branches are used – but hardly the stuff of yard sales. He morfs this experience into a discussion on group definitions. What is – and What isn’t – a flea market appropriate item.

Another challenge has 5 people trying to play one piano at the same time. In another video – 4 potters try to make a single pot together – with strange results. I’m not going to describe the rest of his work – but you get the idea. Challenging questions – with probably no really good answers.

Moving on – we opt to collapse into “The Digital Eatery”, which kindly gives us hot water for free to go with our slice of cake. They have a virtual reality simulator – which of course I must try! The first program is a jet fighter in outerspace – Once I put on the glasses – I can see my body wearing a space suit, my arms manipulating the controls of the space ship – and of course my surroundings – a meteor shower with targets to hit.

I loved it – even if I couldn’t actually hit any of the targets – in fact – I never even found them! But it was still very very cool.

We continue our walk – ending the day at the Haut Banholf – and eat a surprising great dinner at the Tex-Mex Cantina. 6.90 Euro (about $8 Canadian) for a fried chicken dinner large enough to feed 2. But we didn’t know that – so I ordered Pork Chops – same price – same huge size. Well – it’s going to be left overs for dinner tomorrow.

We drag out tired bodies back to the metro and head home to the Cat’s Pajama’s. Tea, Blog and Bed for Bozo….

Signing off – The Soup Lady and the Intrepid Traveler

Carnival Time in Berlin – Who Knew?


I couldn’t have planned the timing of our trip to Berlin better if I had tried – but I’m ahead of myself a bit. I’ll back-track and then move forward in time sequence.

Our landing in Berlin at the smaller airport of Schoenfield was uneventful – luggage arrived, bus to metro organized – no problems at all.

We opted to take the bus in all the way to Hermannplatz – we could have switched to the Metro – but riding the bus gave us time to get a feel for the outer limits of Berlin – probably the only time we’ll actually see where ‘real’ people live!

Once we arrived at Hermannplatz – finding the Cat’s Pajama’s hostel was also simple. And what a lovely hostel it is too. And yes – Pet very very friendly! But that doesn’t bother us a bit.

Our room is a small, but a very nicely located double -on the third floor with shower en-suite – Overall – it compares nicely to more expensive places – it even has a 27″ flat screen TV (not that we’ve even turned it on yet). First time I’ve seen that in a hostel. And at least every other day maid service. In a Hostel! Top that Marriot.

As expected – there’s a huge kitchen, 3 full fridges for people to store their food in – and there’s a party happening tonight. Free bratwurst and Free beer – all you can eat and drink.

Nice way to be welcomed to Berlin, eh?

Turns out that this is the start up to Whit Sunday – or Pentacost. The Intrepid Traveller knew this was a big deal in the Catholic Church – what we didn’t know is that it’s a big deal in the Hermannplatz area. Once a year – on this Sunday – there is a huge – huge – huge Parade! It starts at noon on Sunday – and lasts till 9:30 in the evening. Over a million people will be watching. And it all happens right outside the door to our hostel. It’s a diversity parade – if you have a group – you can join. The ‘floats’ and I use that term very generously – range from wagons pulled by the participants to highly decorated vans and trucks. The music is loud and raucous – the dancers in many cases barely clad. Head dresses and tail feathers with thongs of various sizes were the norm – not the exception. There were groups of drum core teams, there were lots and lots of folks representing various Native tribes – from all parts of the world. Africa, South America – you name it.

It was the Berlin version of Mardi Gras on a penny-wise budget – but playing to an audience of over a million. The Intrepid Traveller and I can’t think of anything in Montreal that would pull such a crowd.

Before the parade started – we had to go to church of course. I picked the Cathederal of Berlin – I mean – why not. And we picked High Mass. So we were treated to a full orchestra, a choir of about 30 young ladies and a male soloist, the church organ with it’s over 7000 pipes, the current arch-bishop of Berlin, 5 more priests, countless alter boys and girls, enough incense to full the huge church – and confirmation!

It dawned on me about 1/2 way thru that the only way to really enjoy church music is when it is played to an audience of devotees. And it is glorious. The building resonated with the music – the audience hung on every note. Magnificant.

So – Pentacost services, Carnival Parade – and for dinner – Doner and Pizza. Hey – it’s Berlin.

Signing off to plan tomorrow’s adventures.. The Soup Lady and the Intrepid Traveller.

On the road again…


Travel is one way to discover who you are when you are not at home!

This time the Intrepid Traveller and I are doing a city tour. For those who have faithfully followed our adventures around the world – you will know that this is a tad unusual. Generally we are more ‘country’ centric – rather than ‘city’ centric. But I can easily explain the difference.

Reason for city tour #1 – we’re getting older. I hate to admit it – but it’s much harder to visit a country than a city. More short stays are hard on old backs and tired knees.

Reason for city tour #2 – we really, really wanted to see one city in particular – St. Petersburg. I know tons of people who’ve been there – and I’ve never heard one of them say – we stayed too long in St. Petersburg. So we figure – 2 weeks is just about a minimum for a city that large, that unique, that different! We shall see of course.

Reason for city tour #3 – I will never be the only driver of a rental car again. Never. I’m a bus, metro, train kinda gal – renting cars with the expense and responsibility involved – nope. So moving between cities is going to be public transit – and in this case – plane!

So – our city tour is centered on 4 cities.

City #1 – Roissey en France. Yes – lowly little Roissey – hard by the Charles De Gaul Airport, and primarily known for it’s zillions of cheap bedrooms for tourists in transit – it’s our first stop. Ok – it’s really a transit city for us too – but we’re taking a full day to explore it before we move on.

City #2 – Berlin. Ah – the sausages – the pretzels – the beer. Well – since the Intrepid Traveller doesn’t ‘do’ beer – perhaps we’ll have to work around that highlight. And of course the Berlin Wall. Our real reason for including Berlin this time – it was on the Intrepid Traveller’s Hit List – and who am I to not want to fulfill her wishes?

City #3 – St. Petersburg. The point of the trip – the highlight, the raison d’etre. 2 weeks here to savor the sights, visit the museums, and go to the Theatre.

City #4 – Brussels. Why Brussels – well, we needed a city that Air Transact flew from non-stop in order to get the Intrepid Traveller back to Montreal. And we needed a city worth visiting, and we really didn’t want Paris. Option – Brussels. Besides – I hear Napoleon might be massing his troups to the south – who am I to avoid good battle?

So that’s the plan – let’s see how it all plays out.

Signing out to fly to Roissey en France (aka Charles De Gaul Airport) – The Soup Lady and the Intrepid Traveller.