Woman Overboard: Act I

COPYRIGHT 1998

Introduction

    In 1989, the ACLU came charging to my defense as a district teacher elected to the

local school board.  Marqueta Sims, representing ACLU, held the reigns, winning 5

cases in the local San Luis Obispo court.

      I wrote this play shortly thereafter …..but had to wait for those involved to either

move away or die before I could release it.  Almost everything that happened was

real….  except for the dramatic license and comedy.

       Marqueta eventually led us to Sacramento and the Educational Sub-committee ….,

who defeated us by a very slim margin. 

      After those first 4 years on the board, I retired, and of course ran again for

eight more years.

SETTING:  THE BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING ROOM. LEFT, TABLE, CHAIRS, WINDOW, DOOR. RIGHT, PODIUM, COFFEE TABLE WITH COFFEE POT, CUPS, ETC.

CAST:                                       

PATRICIA

SUPERINTENDENT EEL

BOARD PRESIDENT HYDE

CATHERINE BLOOM

MR. FETCH

MRS. ETTA PIM

MR. STEWS

MRS. BLAND

ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT LIVERS

MR. FORT

CURRICULUM DIRECTOR

AUDIENCE MEMBERS

STUDENTS

TELEVISION CAMERA CREW AND NEWS REPORTER WITH CAMERAS, MICROPHONE, ETC.

TIME: THE PRESENT

ACT 1:

THE BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING ROOM. TWO WOMEN AT THE INFORMATION TABLE PICKING UP PACKETS FOR TONIGHT’S MEETING… END UP SITTING IN AUDIENCE.

CALLY

There’s nothing on this agenda about Catherine Bloom being seated on the school board tonight. I wonder what’s happening.

PATRICIA

There was a picture in Saturday’s paper showing her official “swearing in” at the Courthouse, so there is no way the superintendent can postpone her being seated again.

CALLY

Are you serious? Would you like to bet some money on that? Take a look at the board table.

PATRICIA

Oh I see there are only four places set for the board members… there is no seat for Catherine.

CALLY

Yeah. This should be the hottest entertainment in town tonight.

(THEY SIT. THE BOARD MEMBERS STRUT IN, CHATTING SOMEWHAT OBNOXIOUSLY WITH THE ADMINISTRATORS. DURING THE FOLLOWING SCENE, OTHER MEMBERS OF THE AUDIENCE ENTER AND TAKE SEATS.)

SUPERINTENDENT EEL

…Well, my wife said, “Dear, would you please think about taking the garbage out when you leave?” And of course I said yes.

(CATHERINE BLOOM HAS ENTERED QUIETLY DURING THIS AND STANDS TO THE SIDE)

BOARD PRESIDENT HYDE

And of course you did.

SUPT. EEL

No, I didn’t, but the point is that I said would think about it.

 (ALL LAUGH. AUDIENCE MEMBERS ALL LOOK AT EACHOTHER AND SHRUG.)

CALLY (MUTTERING TO PATRICIA)

What?

(ADMINISTRATORS AND MEMBERS TAKE SEATS; TALKING ESCALTES. CATHERINE MOVES FORWARD AND ALL FREEZE.FOR HER MONOLOGUE)

CATHERINE

Oh my God please give me the strength and courage so that I can survive this! Look at them… behaving like little children who have done a nasty trick by removing the fifth seat, MY seat. OK, now I am pissed. Their vindictive comments on TV, in the newspaper and at the last three board meetings I could have ignored, but this missing chair is a gross insult. This is war.

(SHE MOVES FORWARD AND ALL NOISE AND MOVEMENT ARE RESUMED.)

CATHERINE

Good evening, fellow board members, administrators and members of the public.

(SHE MOVES THE PACKET BELONGING TO THE CURRICULUM DIRECTOR—WHO IS GETTING A CUP OF COFFEE—AND SHE TAKES HIS SEAT. NO ONE GETS UP.)

Oh, gentlemen, please don’t get up. I need a microphone NOW, if you please, and a name plate by the next meeting.

(THE CURRICULUM DIRECTOR GETS HER A MIKE.)

SUPT. EEL (SPUTTERING)

I told you over the phone, Mrs. Bloom that I would call you when we were ready for you.

CATHERINE

Yes, you did. And I said I would think about it.

(SOME CHUCKLES FROM THE AUDIENCE.)

SUPT. EEL (COUGHS, CLEARS HIS THROAT)

Well, Mrs. Bloom, we are not sure that your election is legal, and until we confer with. our legal opinion, we cannot allow you to participate in the activities or the votes of this governing board.

(SOME MOANS AND BOOS FROM THE AUDIENCE.)

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Mrs. Bloom, we have invited our Roastfield lawyer to address this issue tonight.

CATHERINE

I have an obligation to the public that elected me, to be here.

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Your election is very controversial.  Mr. Fetch will try to clarify our situation.

(MR. FETCH COMES FROM THE AUDIENCE TO THE PODIUM)

MR. FETCH

Board members, administrators , ladies, and gentlemen of the audience. The situation we have here is a catastrophe.

(AUDIENCE STUNNED)

We have a high school teacher elected to HER OWN BOARD of education. ANY vote she casts would be a conflict of interest!

(MOANS FROM THE AUDIENCE)

In four months the board will be voting on teacher salaries…… certainly she can’t vote on her OWN salary.

(PAUSE)

Certainly she can’t vote on administrative raises, because, one: they are her bosses; and two, those raises would take away from teachers’ salaries. Naturally she would vote against new buses, additional supplies, building expansions or anything else, because these would take away from teacher salaries.

Until we can investigate the legality of Mrs. Bloom’s election as a board member, we request that she step down and not vote on any of the board issues. Thank you.

(HE SITS DOWN)

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Mrs. Bloom, we would like you to leave the board until we have looked at all the legal ramifications of your recent election.

(A QUIET FALLS OVER THE ROOM)

MRS. PIM (RISES AND COMES TO THE PODIUM)

Good evening. I am Mrs. Bloom’s American Civil Liberties Union lawyer, and I would like to speak to the board.

(ADMINISTRATORS AND BOARD MEMBERS MUTTER TO EACH OTHER. MRS. PIM WAITS UNTIL THEY ARE QUIET. MRS. PIM THEN CONTINUES.)

Last Thursday the Attorney General issued his “Opinion,” at the ACLU’s request, on the legality of Mrs. Bloom’s election. I believe you all received copies in your pre-meeting packets, yes?

(SHE WAITS UNTIL THERE ARE SOME MUMBLED “YEARS” FROM THE MEMBERS AND SEVERAL ADMINISTRATORS)

I have some extra copies here for the members of the public. The Attorney General clearly stated that Mrs. Bloom’s election was and is LEGAL because there is no law against it, and the public has the right to choose. There are NO areas on which she cannot vote. He does state that since teachers receive raises according to a specific and prearranged scale, she could also vote on these raises–but since there could be a “perceived” conflict here, he recommended that she abstain on this specific issue. Mrs. Bloom has already agreed to this abstention. She is free to vote on all other areas.

SUPT. EEL

Mrs. Pim, we have had word from some members of the public that they will sue the board if we allow this teacher to vote on any issues. Therefore we would like to have our lawyers clarify the situation before Mrs. Bloom is seated.

MRS. PIM

The letter from the Attorney General does just that, Mr. Eel.

BOARD PRES. HYDE

This is absolutely improper, Mrs. Pim! In two weeks we will be doing the yearly evaluation of the superintendent. Certainly a district teacher, working UNDER the superintendent, should NOT be allowed to evaluate her boss!

MRS. PIM

But who better, Mr. Hyde?

SUPT. EEL

That’s preposterous! She’s nothing but a teacher. How dare she be allowed to evaluate me!

MRS. PIM

But it seems that this is the wish of the public, Mr. Eel. And who better to evaluate your ability to lead this school district than the teachers?

MR. FETCH (SNEERINGLY)

Mrs. Pim, without maligning you or the ACLU, perhaps there are some problems that need to be worked out. May I suggest that Mrs. Bloom wait three or four months while we work out the legality of her involvement on this board.

MRS. PIM

No, Mr. Fetch. There nothing  illegal about her election. She’s broken no laws, and the “public will” is more important than the administration’s frustration.

(SHE TURNS TO CATHERINE)

Mrs. Bloom, welcome to the board of education!

(SHE CLAPS, AS DOES THE AUDIENCE)

CATHERINE

Thank you, Mrs. Pim

(MR. FETCH STORMS OUT, AND ADMINISTRATORS MUTTER AMONG THEMSELVES)

CATHERINE (ADDRESSES THE AUDIENCE)

And thank YOU.

SUPT. EEL

We’ll see about this.

(RISES AND GETS COFFEE)

BOARD PRES. HYDE (HITS THE GAVEL)

Well, uh, to business. Are there any changes or additions to the last board minutes?

MR. STEWS

I move we accept the minutes.

MRS. BLAND

I second.

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Are there any nays or abstentions?

CATHERINE

I will abstain because I wasn’t officially seated at that meeting.

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Uh, well, then the minutes are accepted. The first item on tonight’s agenda deals with the overcrowding of the elementary schools in Shoreline. This will be presented by Assistant Superintendent Livers.

(ALL LOOK AT THIS ITEM IN THE PACKET)

Mr. LIVERS

You can see that we propose to eliminate the elementary overcrowding in Shoreline by busing students both south twelve miles and north eight miles where there are empty seats available in our other elementary schools. This is the administrative recommendation for the Shoreline overcrowding.

MRS. BLAND

Thank you, Mr. Livers. I certainly support your recommendation. I hope we’re not going to spend any money buying new buses?

LIVERS

We haven’t looked into that yet, but we will have that information for the next meeting.

CATHERINE

Please excuse me, but I would like some background on this problem, Mr. Livers

SUPT. EEL (TERSELY)

(BACK TO HIS SEAT)

This is NOT the time for that, Mrs. Bloom. You should have gotten that information before the meeting.

(SITS)

CATHERINE

I am sorry, Mr. Eel, but I did call Mr. Livers on Friday–let me see—I noted the times down—at three o’clock, but he wasn’t  available. On Monday I called at nine AM but again he wasn’t around. I even called your office at eleven AM and asked for a return call. But I guess you are still thinking about it?

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Oh, see here, Mrs. Bloom, I see no reason to blame the superintendent for your lack of information.

MRS. BLAND

I agree, Mrs. Bloom. Since you are just a teacher, certainly you should have more respect for administration.

MR. STEWS

If you had a question, Mrs. Bloom, you should have gone to the superintendent’s office, as I do. Now you are just wasting our time and causing problems.

CATHERINE

Well, Mr. Hyde and Mr. Stews, maybe you can give me the answers?

(PAUSES)

One, and the most immediate question is, why are we being asked to approve the administrative recommendation with such limited information? Example: Mr. Livers just said that they haven’t looked into the transportation situation, but we are being asked to approve the recommendation without any research.

Two, we have no choices! What else might we consider to alleviate the overcrowded elementary schools in Shoreline?

(LIVERS JUMPS UP, KNOCKS OVER HIS CHAIR AND YELLS)

MR. LIVERS

This is incredible! She only attends one board meeting and she’s trying to take over my job! Is that it? Do you want my job, Mrs. Bloom? Do you think you could do it better?

CATHERINE

Anyone who offers more than ONE alternative could do a better job.

(LIVERS STORMS OUT)

SUPT. EEL (RISES)

Mrs. Bloom, you’ve been here less than thirty minutes and you have already caused a major problem.

CATHERINE

I didn’t cause the problem, sir, your staff did.

MRS. BLAND

Catherine, you should just spend a little time observing how nicely we work together before you jump to conclusions.

CATHERINE

But Mrs. Bland, I’m not the one doing the “jumping” here!

MR. STEWS

This is unbelievable! She has attacked the credibility of the administration within a half hour of joining the board. Now we have Board Member Bloom who knows more than we do.

CATHERINE (IGNORING HIM)

Mr. Stews and Mrs. Bland, what are your reactions to the Shoreline elementary situation?

STEWS

I’ll vote for whatever the superintendent recommends. We pay him to take charge of the district, and we should support him.

CATHERINE

Mrs. Bland?

MRS. BLAND

Well, I’m not sure. Short of building another elementary school in Shoreline, busing the kids elsewhere is the only alternative, as the administration has so wisely proposed.

(MUTTERING FROM THE AUDIENCE WITH HER STATEMENT)

CATHERINE

You mentioned a new elementary school. What are the pros and cons of that?

MR. FORT

Being newly elected to the board myself, Mrs. Bloom, I would be interested in the growth projections in Shoreline and the cost of building a new school. Maybe we could get Mr. Livers to return, Mr. Eel?

SUPT. EEL

If Mrs. Bloom would refrain from insulting the staff, I’ll see if he’s calmed down.

(GOES AFTER HIM)

(MUTTERING FROM THE AUDIENCE)

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Maybe we should take a ten-minute coffee break. (BANGS GAVEL)

(SOME PEOPLE MOVE TO THE COFFEE TABLE AND SOME LEAVE STAGE. AUDIENCE MEMBERS NO. 1 AND NO. 2 MOVE TO CATHERINE, AND ALL THREE MOVE TO FRONT)

CALLY

We wanted to welcome you to the board, Mrs. Bloom. My name is Cally and this is a Shoreline parent, Patricia.

PATRICIA

Oh, Mrs. Bloom, we parents in Shoreline have been trying to get a new school built for eight years now. There are only a few of us here tonight because we’ve been ignored and/or insulted by the administration and the principals at our two overcrowded schools, and we’ve lost faith in the system.

CALLY

If you could possibly get the new school back as a future agenda item we could get a bunch of parents to stand up and fight for it again. When we met with Superintendent Eel several years ago, he talked about a District Strategic Plan for the schools. We have asked repeatedly to see this plan, and we were ignored.

CATHERINE

I remember a newspaper article last year about Shoreline PTA requesting a new school–what happened?

CALLY

It was to be “taken under advisement” and it simply died. That’s the way this administration works. They keep tabling the item until everyone eventually just gets tired and goes home.

PATRICIA

Both of our elementary schools have been crammed for the last eight years. NOW Livers comes up with busing! Over two hundred kids will be bused daily to another site either eight or twelve miles away. They will spend two hours daily on the bus, not to mention being uprooted from their original, local school and friends. What kind of solution is that? Livers ignored the demographic plan we paid for—he said that the district hadn’t approved it.

CALLY

We have been checking the district budget for a long time. Spread among different accounts, we’ve found a surplus of seven million dollars. Mrs. Bland claims they need this money for emergency.

CATHERINE

It sure seems as though insuring good, local education is an emergency, doesn’t it? I don’t know if I can help.

(HYDE GAVELS FOR THE MEETING TO RESUME)

CATHERINE

But I will try.

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Everybody, please sit down; the meeting will continue. Mr. Livers has consented to continue his interrupted presentation.

MR. LIVERS (SHUFFLING PAPERS)

We have room for extra shoreline students at three different sites, two here in town and one in the other direction. We’re looking into the transportation costs now.

SUPT. EEL

There are no other choices for Shoreline, so getting the board’s approval is merely a formality. Staff will continue to explore costs and the redistribution of buses.  We are working on a Strategic Plan as our vision for the future. This plan is a precursor to any definition of site-based management, and therefore we need to move carefully.

(ALL LOOK PUZZLED AT HIS STATEMENT)

CATHERINE

How will you determine which students and what grade levels will be bused? Move students from all levels? Move an entire grade? Could you tell us the specifics of your bus plan for Shoreline?

MR. LIVERS (SCRATCHING HIS PRIVATES)

We haven’t had time to determine the process. We’ll need to confer with the principals of the two Shoreline elementary schools and make our conclusions.

CATHERINE

Then I move we table this discussion and vote until the next meeting, when the staff will present more information. Do I have a second?

MR. FORT

I second.

CATHERINE

Since staff will be doing more research, I would like to see information on the cost and possible location of a new school in Shoreline.

SUPT. EEL

You are out of line! The staff does not work FOR YOU, Mrs. Bloom.

CATHERINE

I assume the staff works for the benefit of the students in our community? And the board was elected for this same purpose?

MR. LIVERS

Here she goes again telling us how to do our jobs. She will destroy this district!

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Mrs. Bloom, we work together here in support of the administration—the people whom we hired to run this district.

MRS. BLAND

Oh, really, this is just too stressful. I can’t continue working with this conflict!

MR. S TEWS

You cannot keep attacking our superintendent and the staff! You are out of order…

(OTHERS INCLUDING THE AUDIENCE, BEGIN YELLING OUT COMMENTS, RISING IN VOLUME UNTIL BLACKOUT.)

(BLACKOUT)

[END OF ACT 1]

To be continued… (and cheap)

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The Transformation of Breslau, Germany, to Wroclaw, Poland

WroclawThis marvelous Town Hall dominates the main square (Rynet) in Wroclaw  and has for the last seven centuries. Originally only a single story after  the ruinous Tatar sacking in 1241, it now presents the late Gothic Style from the 15th century.

Our first meal in Wroclaw was lunch in a Greek restaurant directly across from the Town Hall.  An added dimension to our introduction to the city was 100+ cap and gowned university students “graduation” ceremonies right in front of us.  At the end, one of the thrown caps landed next to Mike…who, as an ex- softball player, sent it back. The owner applauded his throw!

After lunch, and looking for a hotel, we spotted St. Mary Magdalene’s Church.

The Cathedral

Because of the many tourists, we slipped down a side street….right to the Hotel Quebus. While I went in to check it out, Mike got the car and parked in front. A young, energetic hotel employee ran out, grabbed the luggage and started in when Mike yelled “Wait, I don’t know if my wife checked in yet!”  The guy answered “Doesn’t matter, I’ll bring it back out…it’s my job.”

The Qubus Hotel

“Come on” I said,” the clerk said if we like the room, it’s ours for 2 days.” And it was charming, more so because it had 2 nice armchairs. Best of all was a small balcony that overlooked one of St. Mary’s flying buttresses and a bit of the town.

Our top floor balconyWonderful location and free parking.

Early that that evening we continued our walk-about and found a Restaurant.  Noticed that pedestrians were not crossing the central area and wondered why.

Dinner the first night

We sat under the awning (with heaters)  and watched strolling people….and the central fountain spraying. (Apparently everyone knew except tourists!).  The water changed heights and colors and suddenly the front of the restaurant was packed……probably with locals hoping to see some wet and surprised tourists.

Center SquareWe had a marvelous waiter/university student and history major who spoke fluent English.

He talked about WWII (his thesis) and the bombing of Breslau.

Another picture of devestation

Behind (and beneath) this beautiful city, we now see a story of ruin and devastation. Originally Slav, then for centuries German as Breslau, then populated by Poles from the Soviet Ukraine city of L’viv, after the war.

And another

During WWII, The Nazis decided to turn the entire city of Breslau into a fortress but only managed to hold out for 4 months against the Red Army, capitulating on May 6th, 1945.

Injured and leavingThe fighting left 70% of the city in ruins and three quarters of the civilian population fled west.

Ironically St. Mary Magdalene’s 14th century church survived the war only to be partially destroyed 3 days after liberation when the Soviet’s munitions, stored inside, accidentally exploded. It was rebuilt in the 1970’s.

After the warThe survivors  are climbing up through the rubble to start over! The last person is only half way up.  These statues were built on a street corner as a reminder.

04/19/2015

8/9/2019

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Russia: an overview of a long trip.

First stop, Suzdal

This is the picture of our lodging at the Art Hotel Nikolaevsky, Posad. Looking closely on the left the building with three green roof tops is where we stayed in a lovely suite. The red roofed building with the blue roof was reception-dining-bars- and hotel rooms.

Never leaving the grounds, a guest would have swimming pools, three different restaurants, a church, and sports fields.

This dinning area is in one of the green roofed areas and doubles as a cock-tail lounge and for “star watching”. Unfortunately those two days during then night time it rained but there were splits in the clouds and you could see the stars above. Beautiful. Like it was doing right here, this was late afternoon and some of the clouds were moving in.

Suzdal served as a royal capital when Moscow was a cluster of cow sheds. The monastery was founded in the 14th century and grew mighty in the 1600th through the 1700th century. While Mike went to see the inside, I remained in the car, safe from the rain and the cold, and just read about it.

Rural Russia is quite beautiful and the towns are rich in history (Often quite a bit of sad history)

Next Stop: Moscow

Arrived around 1:00 PM and checked into our hotel Pushkin. And proudly shown into our split-level suite. She said welcome to our best room in the hotel and stopped. Looks at my cane. I look at her, and at the stairs, and at the cane and I said, “Do you have an elevator?”

And we were changed to a nice first floor room.

But there was an elevator anyway.

Our guide Natalia led us to the Kremlin and Red Square the next morning. Cold and drizzly but walking was good, but not for all of us.

This is the Kremlin. It was a fortress of old, and now is the present seat of government. It sunk 49 feet into the ground so as not to dwarf the other surround buildings, the State Kremlin Palace is the Kremlins only modern building.

Saint Basil Church. I had to go back and rest up to continue walking. (And maybe a glass of wine too.)

At the top is the State Historical Museum (Red building with two towers) to the left is the Grand Kremlin Palace and at the bottom is the famous St. Basil’s Cathedral.

And look at this picture, boy I am sorry I couldn’t make that walk.

On to: Saint Petersburg

Saturday October 7th, we took two trains to Saint Petersburg and arrived at 7 PM: A mob of train people- including, “Taxi hunters” hustling at exorbitant prices. If you were dragging luggage you were a victim. Mike kept saying, “Too much.” Until he got a reasonable price.

Our destination was the Helvetia Hotel, and what a very good choice.

The entrance always boasted two armed guard, (guns in holster and under jacket), who didn’t allow you to enter the hotel or even courtyard without reservations.

We vistsed the the Aurora Ship the next day which was used to counter attack the Bolsheviks in Saint Petersburg as they attacked the parliament while it was in session at the Winter Palace. This revolution was in October 1917.

The Aurora revolutionary ship. It fired its gun, one shot, to provoke the Revolutionaries to storm the Winter Palace. Here was the seat of the provisional government that the Bolsheviks planned to over throw- and did.

We did move on because it felt that the gun was aimed at us- along with the frosty air, and also it might be the fact that we are from California. The ship was preserved as a, “Historical Reminder”.

(This is not an evil spirit protecting… but a green bush after rainfall that looks alive.) Figured that with all the sideshow on the river boats and with the Aurora that you might be interested in seeing some of the elegance distributed by the wealthy. This one is Catherine’s Palace.

 

What can one say about such elegance and beauty? This was only one of the three Catherines’ Palaces.

The leaves are falling, time to go in.

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Masada

Masada

Masada! One of the oldest and most glorious places I have ever seen. We saw the classic, Roman buildings from the 1st century BC on the very top of this 6,ooo year old Chacolithic Period site. Today it is crammed with people from all over the world coming to see and visualize our past as a people. And perhaps to learn from it.

This archaeological site tops the rock mountain at 1,300 feet above the Dead Sea. The ancient Roman fortress, built by Herod the Great in 31BC , became the 20th century symbol of Jewish heroism. UNESCO World Heritage Status evolved in 2001.

Cable Cars

There are two ways to travel to the top: walking the Snake path (curvy, stony, and hot), or taking the Cable Car. Easy decision! You can see the top of the Snake beneath the cars. Obviously the structures were build around the mountain rim for protection. The center plateau was used for farming and cattle/sheep raising. For this water was essential but scarce.

Calidarium

Herod had water chambers dug around the bottom of the mountain with channels catching and carrying the rainfall into the cisterns. Then donkeys were used to haul the water to cisterns at the top. Now, with aquaducts and sufficient water, Herod created a bathhouse complex.

Masada3

The water was heated, passed through pipes into the saunas and eventually funneled into the swimming pool. Incredible.

This Hanging Palace, a 3-terraced structure, was Herod’s personal quarters. If you look closely there appear to be three giant steps down the mountain side. And there are. The top level holds the throne room that opened out to a courtyard. On the back wall behind the throne, we were able to see faded wall paintings. These were the original drawings and it was magic to stand there visualizing the artist working on them. The second terrace contained the meeting/conference quarters, while the third level was the family living area.

Synagogue

The incredible discovery that this synagogue, presumed to be the oldest in the world, has ties to the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The skeleton excavation so far sheds light on this ancient House of Worship. Standing at the edge of Harod’s courtyard, we could just see the Dead Sea beyond and the salt mounds that pepper it. Makes me hungry.

Dead Sea

Leaving Masada we prioritized our needs as air conditioning, food and wine. While driving along the Dead Sea, a surprise Las Vegas appears. A compound of large hotels and restaurants situated along the shore.

Dead Sea2

Shortly we sat in a lovely, cool restaurant, drinking wine and watching the beach activity. Mobs of people, young, old and families plunged in and out of the warm water and lounged under roofed cabanas. Apparently there are wonderful health benefits from swimming in this super-saturated salt water.

Ein Gedi Kubbutz3
Ein Geddi Kubbutz

We checked into Ein Gedi Kibbutz Hotel about mid-afternoon. This family styled hotel was located about a half mile up the mountain.

And this was the view we had from ourback patio.

Ein Gedi Kubbutz2

They closed our wonderful pool at 5:30 so everyone would make a timely arrival the family-style dinner buffet (which closed at 8).

While walking to the dining hall, the lowering sun began its slide toward the Dead Sea.

And tomorrow we have but an hour’s drive till we reach Jerusalem.

Jerusalem1

Tel Aviv: the new Face of Israel

Tel Aviv3

Arriving at 5pm in Tel Aviv, through Security and into a rental car, we dashed to our reserved Lusky Suites Hotel with the sun-lit Mediterranean Sea and the promenade viewed from our balcony.

Tel Aviv4

Tel Aviv was created in 1909, when the Jewish National Fund purchased land among the dunes north of the old Arab port of Jaffa and named it Tel Aviv “Hill of the Spring”.

While not a beautiful city in its self, its rebel but friendly attitude and vitality are most appealing. Dinner that evening, overlooking the Mediterranean shore, was alive with people of all ages and many cultures, walking, sitting but most of all, socializing, along the promenade.

With only 2 days here, we planned the first for a walkabout of the Bauhaus buildings which received UNESCO World Heritage status in 2004. This was a pre-Nazi German architectural style of the 1920’s and 1930’s. The over 4000 Bauhaus buildings have earned Tel Aviv the nickname “The White City”.

Building2

As an architectural form, the buildings are based on functionality rather than glamor but the elongated balconies and rounded corners vastly appealed to me. Some of them are sensually appealing and I wanted to run my hand over them.

Building4
Old Jaffa

THEN OFF TO JAFFA, one of the most beautiful ancient sea ports in the world! According to to the Bible, Jaffa was built after the great flood by Noah’s son Japheth.

Remains have been unearthed dating back to the 20th century BC ,  establishing this site as one of the world’s oldest ports. After a decline in 1948, it revived as a center for arts, crafts and dinning. We can vouch for the food, sea view,  salty breeze and the beautiful antiquity of this ancient site.

We found the Visitors Center on the main plaza just in time for the “English” tour of the “Underground” . Down one level was a museum with many relics: statues, working implements, part of a fishing boat and the like from hundreds/thousands of years ago, all excavated from from this site. Our guide told us who used them and when. Unbelievable.  How many cultures passed through and left their mark??

Old Jaffa2

Two stories down we found the on-going excavation of a Greek village. The stairs took us down-and-around  the walls and room of a typically ancient house opening to a section of the forum and a water well. The excavators were not the least bothered by our passage. The guide said they had many more levels planned for digging. (That’s probably why the workers were smiling!)

At the end of the tour,  we were led to an enormous circular viewing screen. A marvelous 3-D video of the history of Jaffa was presented. I wanted to see it again but our guide said another group was entering and another language would be used. (Dam)

Hot and tired, we headed back to our hotel. Later we walked to an outside Kosher restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean Sea  and sipped an excellent wine.

Tel Aviv

07/20/2013

Korazim Park

Caesarea, Isreal- second part of our trip:

This picture is the entrance-or exit  to Korazim National Park which includes  all of Caesarea.

We saved the Treasure of Caesarea for the last, and it was spectacular. A Saturday with good weather equals crowded. The area was so spread out that the crush  didn’t matter.

This next picture shows the original (excavated) port area. Herod the Great, in 29 to 22 BC, built this magnificent city on the site of an ancient Phoenician port and dedicated it to Augustus Caesar. The Crusaders, in the 12 th century, revitalized the city as a major port.   In the late  13th century, the Mamelukes destroyed all of it. Caesarea was then reclaimed by the sands   until the ruins were found in the 1940’s. It is now one of Israel’s major Archaeological Sites.

Caesarea

Looking more closely at this second picture, you get a good overview of the excavated sites. The original port…

This picture is the entrance-or exit  to Korazim National Park which includes  all of Caesarea.

We saved the Treasure of Caesarea for the last, and it was spectacular. A Saturday with good weather equals crowded. The area was so spread out that the crush  didn’t matter.

This next picture shows the original (excavated) port area. Herod the Great, in 29 to 22 BC, built this magnificent city on the site of an ancient Phoenician port and dedicated it to Augustus Caesar. The Crusaders, in the 12 th century, revitalized the city as a major port.   In the late  13th century, the Mamelukes destroyed all of it. Caesarea was then reclaimed by the sands   until the ruins were found in the 1940’s. It is now one of Israel’s major Archaeological Sites.

Looking more closely at this second picture, you get a good overview of the excavated sites. The original port is submerged.  If you look to the right, you can see the long, curving arm that protects the sunken port. There are choices to view this: swimming/scuba diving or seeing the films. We chose the movie which included the port foundations and parts of sunken ships. Excellent! Finally, looking straight ahead at the same picture, the Roman Amphitheater looks like a brown donut.

Amp2

This is a more defined view of the fantastic job the Romans did on the 2nd century amphitheater.  Now, fully restored, it accommodates over 4000 people  and hosts operas and concerts. Music…..with a view over the Mediterranean. What a magnificent site.

Next we approached Crusader City and the church.

Pamphlet3

The deep ditch in the foreground is the end of the 11 mile aqueduct that Herod the Great commissioned to carry water from a nearby mountain.  The aqueduct was built on arches that allowed for a constant influx of fresh water to the city. Magnificent feat! Above the aqueduct is the side view of the temple of Augustus and the Crusader Cathedral which is still being excavated.

Cathedral2

This beautiful, vaulted Cathedral, although smaller than present day standards, is exquisite. The building was dedicated to St. Paul and built on the site of an earlier Byzantine church.  Not crowded inside, only the waves were heard. And no one spoke. Caesarea, backed by the blue Mediterranean Sea, offers the world its staggering, ancient ruins. Successive  phases of occupation have left a treasure trove of archaeological  remains. And all this began in the 4th century BCE.

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The beginning of our Florida family visit- Wonderful!–But the ending was tragic.

All the tickets and reservation times seemed to gel together and our neighbor Jane, is driving us to out new airport terminal. Our flight to Miami, Florida was over four flights using some home miles to ease into first class seats- but not first class wines…

Mike questioned the stewardess about this (poor wines) and she said, “Good ones are only used on international flights.”  We arrives at 3 AM at our favorite hotel, The Grand Palms resort, where we’d be staying for the week.

Breakfast at 10:00 AM and was complimentary, Mike and I managed to arrive 5 minutes before the deadline. And they smiled at the tip and said, “Anytime!”

We decided to take a walk on the golf course right in front of us and we were really lucky only one ball came near us.

Need for more exercise so we headed for Hollywood Beach on the Atlantic Sea. We drove through the recent high rises and tried to figure our which one was out president hang-out, not to throw stones but maybe something…

After we bypassed the high rises we found parking lots galore, minimal of which charged $40 bucks! Mike having been there as a youth knew where some of the secret spots were and found us an empty and open space for free.

When we got out of the car and headed for the beach I was traumatized by the beauty of it.

We walked along until we saw a couple exit their table and we almost ran for it. No fights. The further you look out on the Atlantic the deeper the color becomes.

Later on the afternoon we went to visit Mike’s brother, Chuck and wife Marlene and daughter Toon. Chuck had reserved a Cuban restaurant for that evening.

Arriving on time, we were taken by the concierge to a small dark corner room. “Wait!” I said “There are several oval tables near the front that are vacant.” “Oh, those are reserved for parties of 4.” The concierge responded. And I turned around and counted, “We’re a party of four…” He looked stunned for a moment and looked us over and said, “Please follow me”. It was that best meal and best table I’ve had in a long time.

The next day we dined with Syl- Mike’s oldest sister. They frequently called and kept each other apprised of the information about the family members. It was a lovely meal but otherwise jammed packed with kids who loved to scream.

The following night was a meeting of available family members at, “The Big Fat Greek Restaurant.”

Left front row to right: Mike, Caroline, nephew Jeff with wife behind him Laura. Niece Beth and Beth’s husband Michael and Mike’s sister Sylda in between.

Good food- crowded- lots of families. And charming was the water way to the side of the building filled with screaming kids… along with their parents at the sight the sight of the Manatees.

To be continued…

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Tivoli in Copenhagen, Denmark

Freefall at the Tivoli in Copenhagen, Denmark

Tivoli Freefall

We took a cab from the airport to our Copenhagen Plaza Hotel and checked in. Stepping out on our 4th floor balcony I was delighted to see the main train station on our right and directly across the street was the Tivioli, one of the most beautiful amusement parks in Europe. Timing was everything! Suddenly, what looked to be a giant umbrella arose from behind the park wall and opening gracefully began to climb. It slowly spiraled around swirling out the tethered chairs attached beneath. The sounds of scared laughter rose with it until the flying seats were parallel to the park ground 5 floors below. I was reentering our room when the shouting lessened and the  umbrella began to close, descending to earth.Copehagen train station

A train came noisily into the station and distracted me from this wild ride that both fascinated and terrified me.

The weather was bits and pieces of chill with a few drops of rain but we needed exercise after a very long flight from San Francisco. We headed out on the pedestrian zone to do a walkabout. Because the cobbled-stone streets can be slippery when wet, we crowded in with the others sharing the narrow sidewalks. We spotted a “Plank Steak House” serving spare ribs and caught a couple of seats next to the fireplace. Excellent meal. Back to the hotel and the balcony to watch the fascinating Freefall again.  The umbrella was rising and the vocal whoopla was beginning……but this time there was one voice that screamed in panic. As it crescendoed into piercing shrieks, the Freefall’s ascent  slowed and then stopped. Then it began to lower. When it reached the ground, it was quiet.

A few minutes later it rose again trailed by the normal yells of delight and fear.

Now I felt really comfortable with this wild and scary ride.

Tivoli Gardens

The next day we walked through the park entrance….and the area was so large that without the map we would have been lost. Rides, restaurants, gardens, shops, ponds…it was wonderful, and vital. We spent hours. This is a city and country that we plan to revisit.

Copehgane River

4/13/2013

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Andorra

The culmination of our parador trip ended (May, 20th 2017) in the principality of Andorra as we crossed the French Alps.

The population of this whole country is 80,000 although not seen in this picture. Then as we drove through this breath taking beauty we arrived at an entrance way to the City.

Shortly thereafter we stopped for an overview for as much of the country as we could see, what with the Alps all hanging around.

 

This country became independent in 1993 and had its first democratic elections. This country became independent in 1993 and had its first democratic elections. Before that time it was the autonomous state of both the French and the Spanish since 1278.

For many years now Andorra has been the tax free paradise for shoppers and changed from the Peseta to the Euro in 2002.

 

As fascinating as the country is- we were on our way to a wine tasting area near by- and what a trip that was.

This was the overview of our room, looking up, down, and around at the magnificent Pyrenees. With all the tree coverage and homes we wondered where the Devil the wine growing was going on???


Although this Patio is not overwhelming, it made up for it as night with the sound of the river cascading down the hill side behind it… and lulled us to sleep.

The next morning the hotel owner and vintner told us that we would be going up to his winery driven by his second in command.

It started off basically at ground level and transitioned immediately to steep curves, and suicide curves, every time we went around a corner I almost fell off the back of the truck. But the driver just kept laughing and said, “It gets better.” “Better than dying?!” I asked.

When we stopped at the top my legs had to quit jittering before I could get out of the truck. But the magic words, “Come, let’s taste this wine.” Looking around and down, and down, and down. God knows how they grew grapes on this magnificent mountain.


These giant distillers were shiney, modern, and clean— and loaded with wine. We drank, smiled and drank some more. I asked out driver how we would get down, would we be going down the same way as we went up? I’d rather walk… He laughed and said, No, we have an easier way down. And I asked why he didn’t do the easier way up? He responded, “More fun this way.” Mike chimmed in, “Yeah, but I need another drink before I get on any winding road again.”

9/26/2017

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Exchange Family Reunion-Traipsing through London

May 12   After leaving Armenia  and Georgia, we flew into Paris, grabbed our luggage and hopped  the Eurostar to London.

Eurostar Paris to London

A 2 hour ride through  the outskirts of Paris, beautiful  farmland and with only 15 minutes under the  English Channel. (I was happy the time under water was so short!) A cab to Novotel Blackfriers Hotel  and smoothly checking in…until she said it would be $ 30:00 each for breakfast.  I whipped out my e-mail confirmation with “breakfast included”. She said “but the rules have changed” and I said “but my e-mail hasn’t.”  She went away and returned, all smiles, “we will honor your reservation.”

We had a 12th floor executive level  room with balcony.

Novotel Hotel, LondonVery nice view. The view straight out was of the Shard Building by Renzo Piano and the tallest building in Europe. Unobtrusive during the daytime and lit with soft colors at night. If you look to the left, a new high-rise  blocks the view of Blackfriars Bridge and the river.

Our breakfast buffet was excellent.  While we ate we watched out the window as people from the underground hurried to work. All wore black…and it seemed unusual for a mild May day. Never did find out why.

This is a picture of our “extended family”.

Exchange FamilyKate and Tom DeBrabander-Van Dessel from Antwerp and their 16 and 6 year old sons who visited us in California last summer.  Kate was our exchange student for a year—26 years ago—and continued to be family ever since. Now they had arranged to take turns flying from-and-to Antwerp (takes about an hour) so one of them would be home for the kids at night. Tom came first. We had a glass of wine on our balcony and planned our walking strategy.

The South Bank walk was crowded  and vibrant. We ate lunch at Gabriel’s Wharf in a small, Greek restaurant  continuing our “catch-up” conversation. On our walk to the London Eye, parallel to the river boats and the crowds beside the water , we approached a mob of people waiting to board the Eye.

London Eye

This symbol of modern Britain was exquisite ….and huge!   It is easy to step on, takes 45 minutes to do the circuit and from the top (on a clear day) one can see Windsor Castle 25 miles away.

We continued on but were forced to stop in front of the Park Plaza Hotel.

Park Plaza Hotel, Riverbank

A glass atrium soared from the bottom to the top of the building. (And what would one see from the other side?) Up the elevator to the top and the picture shows the view. Later we ate dinner at an excellent Indian restaurant.

The next morning Kate arrived and they joined us for breakfast in our hotel.  We entered the restaurant at 9:50 (serving stopped at 10)  but our lovely hostess winked and said “on us”. Lovely.

Our strategy: walk across the Millennium Bridge and see St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Millennium Bridge

Sun shining, we crossed this elegant pedestrian bridge, looking every which way to absorb the monumental  views. It led us to our next stop: St. Paul’s Cathedral.

St Pauls Cathedral in the Blitz

In 1942, St. Paul’s was one of the major  surviving structures  of WWII  during the London blitz.  (Notice the blown out windows and walls of the buildings in front.) Christopher Wren was the architect in 1660 after the great London fire.

St Pauls Cathedral exterior

 

The Cathedral body was so well designed that little re-structuring was needed.  Beautiful on the outside and magnificent on the inside.

On the left side of the Cathedral was a coffee house with a covered patio. It began to drizzle  so we snagged  a table by a fireplace, ordered coffees  and reminisced  until the sun returned.

The Temple church exterior

Next stop The Temple.

The rounded section on the left side was the original Templar World Headquarters  established in the 12th century and lasted until they were “eliminated” in  1312 by the French king and the pope. (And after all the murder and mayhem of the Templars, the king and the pope never did find TREASURES)

Knights Templar Statue

Marble effigies of some 12th century Templars are located here. Originally the Inner Temple housed the  Queen’s “Council”. Now they contain law offices and law students-in-training.  This is consistent with the Medieval Knights Templar “protecting” pilgrims to the Holy Land.

We found a typical English Pub in an alley behind the Temple where we ate lunch and said farewell to Tom, leaving to fly home.  His sharp wit will be sorely missed! (But we have Band-Aids.)

Straggling back to our hotel, we decided on dinner at the Swan, next door to the Globe Theater.The Swan at the Globe Home Swan

 

Crowded but we got a 2nd floor window table with this great view. (Of course the view became much more beautiful after two glasses of wine.)

 

Parliment

The next morning, Kate, Mike and I walked across the Westminster Bridge to the Houses of Parliament.

Known world wide for its beauty, the Westminster Abby has been here since the 11th century. Much of it was destroyed by the  1834 fire and rebuilt. We went to the public entrance but “not open till 2:30”.   So, we walked on to St. James Park for coffee….and, as usual, we talked about the trials and tribulations of life.  Since we first met Kate at 17, and Tom a few years later,  and their families …..our continued involvement with them opened our eyes and our world.

A large gathering of “peaceful protesters” gathered in the park waving signs about  Reduced wages, and began to sing.  (just like home!)

Leaving I the looked toward Buckingham Palace and saw the Changing of the Guards.  Since Kate had to fly to Antwerp  around 5, we headed to our hotel bar for a “farewell till we meet  again” toast.

Later Mike and I crossed the street to a 1930’s Prince William Henry Pub for a beer and true “pub grub”.

Prince William Henry Pub

The next morning we were traveling on to Bournemouth-on-the-Channel.

London, we will see you again!

11/30/2014

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An October family Thanksgiving in Portland, Oregon

Major holiday traveling is a headache. We tried to beat the system  by flying in and out of Portland during off-season and choosing a centrally located hotel  to limit  driving and crowds.

Portland Rose Hotel

I found Hotel Rose, along the Willamette River, facing the park, ideally located for our small family of five. Walking shoes important, cars not.

Because Mike and I arrived a day earlier,  I was able to renegotiate our “reserved” rooms to lovely adjoining  rooms for our daughter, her husband, our 10 year old granddaughter and us. The views from the balcony included the park and river. They arrived at 4 and we decided to walk River Park and choose a restaurant for later.

River parkA beautiful walk paralleling the Willamette River, busy with strollers, joggers, bikers and geese.  Beautiful , relatively friendly and fat geese. According to natives, they come every fall to fatten up for the “long haul”.

Geese, Riverside Park

Of course much of it they unload on the lawn! And here, nobody walks on the grass. We found a lovely riverside restaurant for dinner: McCormick & Schmick. We came later and sat outside under trees with sparkling lights. It was quiet and cool while inside the restaurant was a zoo.

Restaurent on riverMike had done some research so after a great hotel breakfast (unusual), we took off for Old China Town.

China Town, PortlandWhen we were touring “Lan Su Chinese Garden”, a Chinese artist, exhibiting his work, was painting names in Chinese script. I cannot describe the way he…. painted but it was fantastic. Edie was enthusiastic about seeing her own name in a vibrant and artistic Chinese style ……and so were we.

EDIE in ChineseAfterward Mike, Edie and I walked through the old town, impressed by  the 18th and 19th century buildings and how many had been rehabbed for businesses.

bikes in Portland

Steve and Bronwyn got loaner bikes from our hotel and went riding. Portland has many “pedestrian only” streets that include bikers.

Later Edie and I set off for a round of shopping.  I gave her a “cap” for purchases and she stopped  20 dollars short of the limit.  “That’s all I need Grandma” she said. (I love this kid!)

We joined Mike, Steve and Bronwyn for coffee and Steve took this picture.

Steve Taking Picture

At a Lebanese restaurant that eve I had roast goat and Mike had lamb stew. Besides the excellent food, and best of all, we had a great convivial conversation.  Even Edie, who had pulled out some of her drawings to work on and escape some boring adult conversation, contributed to ideas being expressed. She is growing up to be a very lovely and self-contained young girl.

The next morning we were all off to the Portland Saturday Craft Market.

Saturday Market, Portland

It was inspiring. All the tents were operated by the craftsman or woman and was an amazing collection of talented work. Every time I inspected an object, the craft person was there to explain it and give background. I could have spent much more time….and money there.

Edie, Mike and I went back to lunch in our hotel and watched base ball afterward. Bronwyn and Steve went running.

We planned a celebratory dinner at Momma’s Italian.

Momma's Italian

We raised our wine (beer for Steve) glasses for the wonderful food and each other. It had been a splendid weekend.

When we got back to our hotel,  Steve got the concierge to take the following picture ofour  small, immediate family.

Family Portland

Wherever you are…….Happy Thanksgiving!

11/9/2014

Posted in Oregon | 5 Comments

The Bastides: the birth of French Democracy

800px-Domme_sky_viewDomme is an almost perfect bastide: a walled village sitting on a hillside.

(credits: by Luc Viatour, August 30, 2012)

The Bastides: the birth of French Democracy

Between 1220 and 1372 about 700 bastides, also referred to as new towns, were built to colonize the wild and fertile lands of Southwest France.  They grew as small, self-sufficient  hamlets which eventually had to become fortified for   protection. The following picture is the oldest and simplest that we saw: bastide Couvertoirade.couvertoirade

 

Compare that one to a more successful bastide of Eymet.

Eymet3These bastides enabled the rulers and those wealthy enough to own land to centrally locate their population, protect them, and to make money by raising taxes on their production. BUT, most importantly, it converted the serfs into freemen! Hence the birth of Democracy in France from the 13th century.

As the bastides grew in popularity and goods, they needed stronger walls and banding together inside them. Many were built on minimally established sites or on trading routes and were open to passersby and local farmers.

They were planned to put some order into society….and did just that.

Bastide de Villefranche du PerigordThe bastides all had a central square lined with arcades that acted as a commercial hub and market. As you can see in the first picture, the arcades were rough hewn, but,  for the 12th and 13th century, they were magnificent. The buildings themselves were 2 rooms deep: the first room the store, the second living quarters and the arcade for the display of wares.

Villereal StreetThis is the square in Villereal. Since churches were not allowed on the square but were to be, in addition to the religious center, the Keep and fall-back in case of a serious attack. The façade is built as a fortress topped with large open areas where weapons and hot oil could be dispersed. Standing in front we could see the stanchion openings where the chains would either raise or lower the ramp to cover the moat….now filled with stones.

Although Villereal started in the 12th century, it must have done very well to support the family that built this castle in the 15th century.Villereal Castle

Although noting the solid wall around the castle, the marauding continued. Before we began this journey, we decided to locate near Bergerac, both for the wineries and the bastides. The beautiful Chateau Des Vigiers in Monestier, France was our residence for 5 days.

The ideal situation: the Chateau has 2 restaurants, 2 bars and is located on A hill-top with woods and a golf course. Busy days and lovely evenings.

Chateau

The next morning we drove to Montpazier.

Notice how much bigger and more elaborate the following site is. Reason: in the 12th century the King of England married Eleanor of Aquitaine. And they established  this village….in spite of the problems between the French and English. This next picture shows more of the royal grandeur in the elegant town-houses.800px-Monpazier

Notice some of the 2nd floor windows. We had lunch straight across the plaza under an umbrella and watched mini-vans plus horse drawn carts  bring produce and wine.

Chateau De Monbazillac


On our way back we stopped at this formal  bastide, fully self-contained. The Chateau was built in the 16th century and owned by the same family for over 600 years. The Chateau had a deep moat surrounding it. We also found a trap door for emergency escape in the basement….swimming out through the moat would be fine…except for the alligators.

Monbazillac Dordogne1One look at those lush vineyards reveals the success of this estate. We made sure of it by sampling in the tasting room. We stopped at the Lalinde bastide that was located right on the Dordogne River on our way to the hotel.

Lalinde Dordogne

It was well protected by the strong currents.  The water levels could vary by as much as 50 feet and it was very swift  at any level. We headed back to our Chateau to celebrate with a marvelous dinner and a clink of glasses for this wonderful discovery of the Bastides!

Dinner212/5/2013

Posted in France | 3 Comments