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Return to Rio Dulce 2010

 

Scotland to Paris to London to Houston to San Diego to Houston to Guatemala 
            The predictions Scott had for the length of the project were right on.  We were finally able to finish testing the updated rig control system on Oct. 18.  We make backup copies of the new programs to everywhere we could think of on the rig and said our Good-Byes to the crew with the understanding that we would stay close by, in Europe, in case there were any problems and we would have to come back.
            The next morning we packed our bags and headed to the Dundee Train Station with no reservations, just the will to leave and our new passports in hand.  We walked in and within 15 minutes we had tickets to Edinburgh and were leaving the station.  We then began inquiring on what would be the best way to get to France. The conductor told us that because of the strike in France, (Huh, there’s a transportation worker and fuel strike in France... How can that be??? The first time in our lives we heading there and of course there is a strike!). we were told there were no trains going into Paris.  So we decided our best bet was to get at least to London and figure it out from there.   Come to find out, the train we were on, final destination was London with a 3:00 arrival time. 
            When we got to London, we were very happy to find out that the EuroStar was running to Paris and the next train was leaving at 4:05. We quickly bought tickets and headed to gate and security.  When we had packed that morning we didn’t know if we would be getting to Paris by train, plane, or automobile ;)  It didn’t really matter but we had packed thinking about checking bags to get on a plane.  This is important when you are travelling with all the tools of the trade that Scott travels with.  Trains security is just the same without checking bags.  All the bags made it through except for the one with the tools.  They emptied out every single thing from that bag and wiped down every piece of electrical equipment.  Everything cleared with no problem with the Swiss Army knives but they didn’t like the locking multi-tool knife.  We explained that we had been working and they finally let us through with the warning that if we went through train security again they might confiscate the multi-tool.  *Note to self: Send back Scott’s favorite multi-tool by mail to the USA so we don’t have to worry about losing it.  With all that fun we boarded the train with minutes to spare.   In less than twelve hours and two trains we had made it to Paris….Alleluia!!

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  (Train to London and Train to Paris)
Two Weeks in Paris
            Our first night was spent in a quaint little hotel near the Gare de Nord (North Station).  The next morning, after our first French breakfast at McDonalds,(Scott is still a kid at heart when it comes to food)  we were off to find 23 Rue de Source.  We headed out the train station to the taxi stand, or what we thought was a taxi stand, later we found out it was the “cars for hire.” After an enjoyable ride through Paris with Perrier provided…we arrived at Robert and Irene’s flat.  The price we arranged for the ride was at least twice as much as it should have been and now we know to look for a meter whenever we get in a cab.  Live and learn.

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  As Irene said as she greeted us at the door, “Welcome to your home in Paris.  What a blessed feeling came over us.  Who would have thought that just six months earlier when we had met them in Mexico that we would be at home with them in Paris.  The first day Scott had to finish up some work e-mails and so Cindy got busy planning what we would do.  That night Irene treated us to the first home cooked meal in months….lamb with all the fixings including French wine, bread, and cheese. What an epicurean delight!   Irene also graced us with an invitation to a small dinner party she was having with family and friends.  We thoroughly enjoyed another wonderful Irene prepared meal with great conversation, including talk about the infamous transportation strike. The worst effect of the strike was that it cut off about 2/3 of the petrol that usually comes into the country.  Some gas stations hadn’t received a shipment in over a week.  We found out that flights were flying but the problem was getting through the strikers blocking the airport.  The cause of the strike was the government raising the retirement age from 60 – 62.  Many young people were striking just for the sake of striking and caused many of the schools to close a day early for their mid-term break.  Robert and Irene had plans to leave to go south for a week with three of their grandchildren, (what luck that we would be able to house sit!),  and were blessed with being in the right place at the right time when she saw a truck pull to deliver petro.  Before they left we took them out to dinner at a nice restaurant within walking distance made out of an old metro station.  Again great French food and we even got Scott to try Fois Gras. 
For the next three days we used our Hop on, Hop off double-decker bus pass to see most of Paris on the five routes they provided and even one was by boat.  Score!  We also learned how to get around on the metro.  There were two lines very close to the house and from there we could change to routes that would take us all over the city.  Out of hundreds of pictures we took…here are our classic shots of Paris and Versailles.

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Eiffel Tower..Our favorite sight in Paris or as they say the symbol of Paris.  It was built for the World Fair in 1989 by Gustave Eiffel.  All we can say is what an astonishing view from the top. 

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 Arc de Triomphe22 on the Champs de Elysees which was ordered by Napoleon as a memorial to the Grand Army in 1806 and completed in 1836.  The tomb of the unknown soldier was added in 1920. 

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Notre Dame was begun in 1163 and completed in 1200.  What can you say about the architecture, the façade with three portals, the rose windows, the reliefs, the interior, with all the chapels, and finally the alter but beauty and peace night and day.

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 City Scape with the Grande Arch built in 1982

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Place de la Concorde The Egyptian Obelisk from the Temple of Luxor, a present from Mohammed Ali to King Louis-Phillippe as long as he moved it, which took 5 years from 1831 to 1836.  We learned all about this at the Musee de la Marine.  First they had to build a ship to transport the obelisk.  They sailed the ship to Egypt during the dry season and parked it as close as possible to the obelisk.  Then they took all the rigging off the boat.  Next they designed towers to use mechanical advantage to lower the obelisk and move it to the ship.  Re-assemble the ship, wait for the rainy season for water to float the ship and sail back to France.  Finally do the same to place it in Paris. We believe that when Mohammed gifted it to Louis that he never thought he would actually take it.  ;) 
We were also astonished by the exhibition in the National Musee de la Maritime which showed the work of Admiral François-Edmond Pâris to preserve the knowledge of the maritime cultures of the world by documenting and designing over 400 models that he had sketched during three circumnavigations of the world. Named "All the boats of the world ", the exhibition conceived as a round-the-world journey, allows us to discover a wide variety of peoples, seas and rivers, and to get to know both their boats and their cultures. What a magnificent history he and his sons left for the world to enjoy. 

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Montmartre was the most picturesque quarter in Paris.  It stands on a 130 meter limestone hill that is where, according to legend, St. Denis, the first bishop of Paris was beheaded in about 250 AD.  In 1871 the Sacre Coeur was built upon the hill which contains the Savoyarde, one of the largest bells in the world weighing 19 tons.  In the 19th century it became the literary and artistic centre of the whole city and was the Mecca of all the Bohemian artists.  This is where we most enjoyed our café lunch on the street watching the artists selling their wares and street vendors. 

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   The Louvre….  What can you say about…???  The most visited museum in the world (15,000 per day)…Other than blown away.  The Musée du Louvre contains more than 380,000 objects and displays 35,000 works of art in eight curatorial departments with more than 60,600 square meters (652,000 sq ft) dedicated to the permanent collection. The statues, sculptures, the Paintings Collections  by the French,  Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch, Flemish, and English Schools,  the gianormous paintings, the artifacts, antiquities, objets d’ arte, prints, drawings…..multiplied by hundreds or thousands.    We are used to museums where you might see one of something, like a sarcophagus, but here you would see 20 all lined up in a row.  All I can say is that I wish I had my Masters in Art Education, like my nephew Judson, so I could truly appreciate it all, especially the masters like Davinci and Michaelangelo.  After the day, our brains and feet were tired so back to the flat we went to watch The Da Vinci Code.  We know the real reason why the pyramid and inverted pyramid were built on the rose line ;) 

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 The Opera was built by Charles Garnier between 1862 and 1875 and took twice the time he estimated to build it.  If our memory serves us true it cost £35 million pounds to build it.  The 5 story structure covers an area or 11,000 square meters (118,403 sq ft), can hold an audience of 2000, and the stage can hold up to 450 actors.  “The genius of Charles Garnier was his determination to make this palace a huge theater where everyone becomes an actor.  At the entrance, great mirrors allow the audience to readjust their clothing before entering an enchanted universe. All the trials and tribulations of daily life and the chaos of the exterior world are left at the door, and the show begins. Aware of the shared spotlight, everyone takes their time climbing the grand marble staircase one step at a time, to allow oneself to be seen. Then, one stops on the balconies to admire the interior decoration and observe the others, before entering the magnificent red and gold auditorium.”  Unexpected construction difficulties arose when excavations discovered an unexpected natural water table. It had to be drained, then the foundations were built and filled with water to equalize the pressure on both sides. (This is the origin of the legend of an underground lake under the Opéra, exploited famously in Gaston Leroux's, Phantom of the Opéra.) Yes, that is the door that leads to the Phantom’s box, always left empty.  :)   We took a guided tour in English but were only able to see the public areas due to the fact that there was a show that night and because on the Thurs. before strikers had destroyed part of an opera in another city in France.  So the theatre was on high terrorist alert and followed the appropriate  called for procedures.  I really would have loved to have seen the backstage where up to 50 sets can be housed for a performance.  Unfortunately we couldn’t find a copy of Phantom to watch that night in Paris but it was the first movie we watched once we returned to the boat. 
        Again our luck held true…that is good luck on the day we chose to visit Versailles, with it being a “restrike” day.  The first metro we entered to buy tickets to go outside the city zone, we were told that we could buy them but there was no guarantee that the train was running or that it would be later in the afternoon to get back.  We were blessed with a beautiful, sunny day and we made it there and back.

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Versailles was first a hunting lodge with about 8,800 hectares built in 1624 by King Louis XIII but King Louis the XIV escaped civil disturbances in Paris and made it into his royal palace in 1668.  With great forethought, in 1837 Louis-Phillip restored it and converted it into a museum of French history.  It is most famous for being the sight that the 1919 peace treaty with Germany, putting an end to World War I.  Today the estate is only about a tenth of the original grounds, including the Palace, the gardens, the waterways, the Grand Trianon (the week-end palace) and the Petit Trianon (Marie Antoinette’s Chateau).

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      When we were up top on the Tower de Eiffel, I saw a miniature replica of the Statue of Liberty down the Seine River.  I told Scott that I wanted to get a picture of it.  So for days I kept my eyes peeled for the photo opportunity.  Finally on our way back from Versailles, when we got off to change metro lines, which this was the only metro line that you had to exit at street level and cross the street to go down the stairs for the other metro.  I saw the statue.   What a relief to get the picture. Teacher asks, “What country gifted the USA with the Statue of Liberty?”  Can’t stop being the teacher.  ;) 
 What we like best about the Musee de Orsay was the array of artists that are on display here in the musee: including Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Cezanne, Ganguin, and Renoir to name a few and the fact that you couldn’t take pictures. ;) You could just browse and enjoy the art.  What a relaxing museum experience. 
Our final thoughts about Paris, in one word:  opulence.  We were also awe struck by what we witnessed in all the museums.  We would see children as young as 3 seated and sketching what they were seeing.  As a student I don’t remember drawing until I was in HS Biology class or as a teacher the benefit of having students sketch.  Now I see why, when visiting the Louvre, you would see classes of students drawing classic paintings.  They have been trained all their life to be there.  Also why our host, Robert, now spends his retirement in his studio painting.  This is my favorite painting by Robert

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on the left and here is Scotts favorite on the right.. 
Monday, Nov. 1st off we went to catch the 2.5 hour EuroStar back to London.  This time we spent the extra 20 Euros to ride first class which served a lunch.  What a bonus! 

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London
From having flown and trained through London so many times, it was nice to finally be here to visit.  Again we decided to get to know the city first by using the hop on hop off bus tour. 
The first day we got the northern sights of Madame Tussauds and 212b Baker Street with a monument to Sherlock Holmes and Watson. 
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  Then downtown we went to St. Paul’s Cathedral where Prince Charles wed Lady Diana in 1981.

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  We jumped off the bus an jumped on the boat cruise and out we went to Greenwich. 

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  What a great place!  Walking up to the prime meridian or the beginning of longitude 51°28′38″N 0°00′00″E and Observatory.  They had a really nice museum and Scott really enjoyed seeing …  Next, some of the classic shots of London: 

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London Bridge

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Tower of London 

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Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

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The London Eye

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  Big Ben

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Westminster Abbey
The next day was our second and final day for the bus tour.  It was a good plan when we bought the ticket but we weren’t warned about the Tube Strike for better safety concerns.  Usually 1.5 million people use buses and cars to get into the city, with the strike there were 3.5 million on the road.  What a nightmare!  We had quite a slow bus tour of the city.  We were able to make it out to Hyde Park and back.  What luck that right on that tour was the Original Hard Rock Café, where the first piece of memorabilia was donated by Eric Clapton

to secure always to have a seat in his favorite place for a drink.  Thanks to my nephew Deren, we are hooked and have to stop at all HRCs we come across during our travels and of course a phone has to be made to him to let him know where we are.   Paris and London checked off the list. 
Thursday was our museum day.  We spent the day at the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum.

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We both just loved the beautiful foyer in the NHM.  My favorite was the diamond exhibit in the gem vault.  It showed all the colors that diamonds are available in the world.   L19
Friday we were off to see the changing of the guards.  What a spectacle of pomp and circumstance???? 

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What a surprise as we heard the band strike up:  The James Bond Theme then the Beatles’ Michelle, it was impressive but we could have done without the cold and rain.  With the recommendation of my travel companion and Scott’s boss Mike, we were off to the Faraday Museum and Believe It or Not, Ripley’s Museum. It was a nice place to get out of the rain. 
Our last day in London we happily spent the day hunting down this Harry Potter locale at King’s Cross Station…..

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  and  off to the West End to finally see. 

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The show was marvellous except every once in a while they would sing a word with the British pronunciation and we both would just cringe.  The big difference was their intermissions.  They sell refreshments down the aisles just like at sporting events in the states.  Going to the theatre brought back many wonderful memories of shows we had seen at TUTS in Houston with our years of season tickets. 
As our European Vacation came to an end we were both shocked to find out that the average person spends 2.5 days in each London and Paris.  We were certainly blessed to be able to spend three weeks.   


The Stop Over in the States


Sun. Nov. 7 we flew back to Houston.  Scott spent the week catching up on Scotties Do List at Aztec, meetings on the next oil rig project that will be in Bahrain after the first of the year, and buying everything we will take back to the boat.  .  Cindy flew off to San Diego to attend her Godson’s Wedding.  What a blessing to witness and Collin and Nicole became man and wife.  

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The Happy couple. 

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The Proud Mom and husband Scott

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The priceless shot for me 

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Gotta Love the Michigan Fball Groom’s Cake

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The McG Kiddos as I knew them

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The McG Kiddos All Grown Up

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With my ole Softball coach John with his wife Donna  

The four days flew by as they always seem to with my best friend/sister/mentor, Patti.  The other big news while I was in SD was about the Carnival cruise ship Splendor that had to be towed in after a fire. 

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Sunday, Nov. 14 Cindy flew back to Houston. After I got to the baggage claim area, I started searching in my belly pack for my phone to tell Scott to head out from the cell phone lot.  Right then the carousel started running with baggage as someone bumped me as they passed by to go for their bag.  As I turned around with ringing phone in my ear, I noticed someone picking my bag up.  You can imagine my laughter as I realized it was Scott that was picking up my bag for me, he just makes me melt he's sooooo! romantic sometimes.   First we went to fulfil one of our cravings, an enormous stuffed BBQ backed potato.  We spent the day packing and repacking our suitcases. Again, mega thanks to our dear friend Karen, for giving us a home off the boat and for the chauffeur service to/from the airport.   We ended up with 4 bags (50 lbs each), two back- packs, and one carry on.  Whew! 


Back to Guatemala
Monday morning, Nov. 15 found us back at IAH for a 10 flight. We made it through security, only having to mail back (which we are duely impressed with the set up they have to do it right there in security so you didn’t have to throw away your items) one pair of pliers and multi tool that ended up in a backpack we thought we would check, but they saved us money by letting us use it as a carry on.  An uneventful flight except for it leaving a little late and having to do a fly by the airport and return loop since a plane didn’t take off as quickly as they thought it would.  Once we were on the ground we had been warned that going through customs they might go through all bags since it is getting close to Christmas.  Luck would have it that we were one of the last to get to the baggage claim.  Once we were there we couldn’t find and luggage carts.  So I saw a gentleman with a Supervisor on his shirt and so I asked him where we could find more carts.  He quickly found one and went to Scott and loaded our bags on the cart.  Then he proceeded to run us to the front of the line and through customs, barely stopping to hand over the customs form. As we got outside he asked, “Tip?” He definitely earned that $10.   
Once outside we felt so important looking for the gentleman holding up the small board with “Sindy” written on it.  The driver had been arranged by our marina to get back to the boat.  One more white knuckle, in and out of traffic trip back to the river.  By  7 we were back home, safe and sound on the boat. 
It is hard for us to believe that it has been 5 months since we have been on the boat and that in the last month we have gone from Scotland, to Paris, to London, to Houston, to San Diego, to Houston, to Rio Dulce, Guatemala.  We thank God every day for this blessed life he is giving us to live. 

 

 
 
 
       
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