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Europe 2005

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Introduction

Friday June 17, 2005 to 
Sunday June 19, 2005
El Granada to Venice

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Monday June 20, 2005
Day 1 - Venice

The flights from San Francisco to Chicago Midway through Denver were uneventful.  Once in Chicago we picked up our rental car and arrived at the crowded Sheraton, the cheapest hotel in the area.   The next morning while packing up we discovered CJ's Gameboy was missing.  We surmised that we had left it on the plane at Midway.

Our plan was to see the Museum of Science and Industry before getting on our 4pm flight to Toronto at O'Hare. Kathy and I both had grandparents that had lived in Chicago, and we had both spent lots of time at the Museum 30 years ago and had plenty of fond memories of it.  My grandparents lived within walking distance of the Museum, and my brother and I even walked there alone when we were kids.

I managed to find my grandparent's apartment building to show the kids on the way to the Museum.  The Museum opened at 9:30, and we were there right before it opened.  What was once a free museum with free parking somehow became a pay museum with a huge underground parking garage.  There were a number of other changes as well.  

The old model train had been removed years ago, and recently replace with a new HO scale exhibit with scale models of downtown Chicago and Seattle.

We watched this chick hatch - the Chick Hatchery is still there, but the rest of that wing of the Museum is now a genetics exhibit.

One of Kathy's favorite exhibits was the Fairy Castle, so we went there.  It hasn't changed at all in 30 years.  We decided to skip the coal mine exhibit, since we had just been to a real coal mine in Bisbee, Arizona a few months ago.  Perhaps the biggest improvement was in the U505 German submarine exhibit.  The U505 used to be outside, and you only saw the exterior of the sub through small windows from inside the museum.   The hull on the U505 submarine has degraded to 1/4 its original thickness over the years of exposure to Chicago's elements.  Over the past few years they dug a hole on the other side of the museum, dropped the U505 in it, and built a roof over it.  They also repainted and restored it.

The new U505 exhibit opened just days before we arrived.  Since we were short on time we decided against touring the inside of the sub, but we got a fine view of the outside in the new exhibit.  

We saw as much of the Museum as practical in the short 3-1/2 hours we had before leaving for O'Hare.  We made a quick stop in the space wing to see the Apollo 8 Command Module.  After the Fairy Castle, Kathy's other favorite was the body slices, so when we ran out of time we split up - she and the kids checked out the body slices on the blue staircase, and I went to Yesterday's Main Street.  Yesterday's Main Street was a disappointment - it was nearly deserted, since it is now a dead end - it used to lead to a great interactive car exhibit.

I had budgeted a hour for the drive to O'Hare, and it took about that long.  Traffic was a mess downtown on the freeways.  The flight to Toronto was again uneventful.  The Toronto airport (code YYZ, which is also the name of a Rush song on the Moving Pictures album) was a mess of endless construction.  We needed to get to the international terminal via a shuttle bus.  During the lengthy wait, I noticed that apparently all the tarmac fire extinguishers were corralled behind a temporary concrete barrier.

 

While I'm no safety expert, I figured this arrangement pretty much defeated the purpose of fire extinguishers and was pretty stupid.  Ironically less than 6 weeks later an Air France plane crashed at Toronto Airport, and no one was killed.

Our flight to Frankfurt didn't leave until 10pm.  Once we boarded the plane, I finally had the warm and fuzzy feeling the we were really truly headed to Europe.  I had dreaded flying Air Canada over the ocean, since I'd heard their service was not good and my experiences on the short Chicago to Ottawa flights I'd taken hadn't been fantastic.  Air Canada's overseas service was nearly as good as Lufthansa's, with the exception of awful movies.  We arrived in Frankfurt about 10am local time and had another long layover before flying to Venice.  Once we arrived in Venice, we found Kathy's parents at the airport.  They had arrived a few hours before us, but one of their bags was missing.  By the time they were done waiting on bags and filling out forms telling Lufthansa where to deliver the bags, our flight had nearly arrived.  We took the Alilaguna - airport water bus - to Venice, arriving at San Marco a long 70 minutes and 5 miles later. Everyone arriving to San Marco is greeted with this view...

San Marco from the boat
From left - the Campanile (tower), 
the Clock Tower is hidden by scaffolding painted like the Eiffel Tower, 
the column with St. Theodore, the original patron saint of Venice, atop the dragon he slew,
Basilica San Marco,
the column with the winged lion, the symbol of San Marco, the 'new' patron saint of Venice (since 1200 or so),
the Doge's Palace

We found our hotel with no problems, but had to cheat and ask for directions to Bob & Karin's nearby hotel (this was the only time when we were in separate hotels)  We had dinner at the Aciugheta Restaurant in the campo outside our hotel and called it a day.

Prev
Introduction

Friday June 17, 2005 to 
Sunday June 19, 2005
El Granada to Venice

Next
Monday June 20, 2005
Day 1 - Venice