As it was getting close to New Year’s Eve Maurice suggested going somewhere as we had no plans for that evening. Maurice suggested Portugal and asked the guardienne who takes care of the buildings where we live for suggestions as she is Portuguese and she said Porto so we quickly booked a trip for three days. Porto turned out to be a really beautiful and interesting city, full of hills like San Francisco and beautiful architecture, a lot of it with embellished with blue and white tiles known as azulejos. It was started by the Moors who once ruled this area. We found the Portuguese people to be very friendly and warm.

The first thing I saw when we got out of the metro stop when we arrived was this beautiful chapel.

A closer view. This was more recent tile done in the early 1900’s.

Another decorated church. Note the gray skies. We got rained on a couple of times. The sun came out the day we left.

I think this church was closed but I loved the door and window.

Here’s another one.

There was some Art Nouveau too.

They put up two huge umbrellas which blocked the beautiful Café Majestic. It has a gorgeous interior which is worth buying a overpriced drink to see just don’t, please, eat there. I did and I’m sorry. We had the crummiest seats in there too.

The pretty bar there. Over crowded with tourists. It’s listed in every book and article you read about what to see in Porto.

The Camino

The French call it le Chemin. We started seeing the same people as we hiked either from the gite the night before or at stops to sit or drink. There was a group of three ladies walking much faster than we did laughing and talking a mile a minute. One of them always wore shorts, even on the day we got heavy rain and wind. On our very first night at our gite we met a man we would see over and over, sometimes on the road or in our gite. We used a company to carry our bags to each gite. I knew I wouldn’t be one of those with a huge bag on my back. There were a few places to get fresh water but toilets were rare.  I am not a camper and don’t like the whole potty in the forest thing but had to a few times. Most of the meals we had each night were what Maurice called “gite food”, not the best but filling. There were always big tables for the hikers at dinner so we got to know each other.

There were symbols of the pilgrims everywhere. This was on the side of a church. The scallop shell represents Saint James as those that made it all the way to his burial site brought back a shell to prove they had made it.

There were churches everwhere and lots of little places set up for pilgrims too.

Lots of roses and crosses.

There were signs everywhere, especially in villages. Mostly we depended on the red and white ones for directions but still managed to lose our way a few times.

Spring flowers were everywhere, especially these white daisies.


Z Santa Fe is full of ancient churches and chapels.

 San Miguel Chapel which is one of the oldest in the States.

 The Miraculous staircase in the Lorreta chapel, which seemes to sort of hang in the air. It didn’t have bannisters to begin with and structural poles were added later. Nuns ran up and down it without any accidents.

Another view from the front of the chapel.


 This is a type of altars seen in many churches there.

Searching For A Creche

I am always looking for a great Creche as we near Christmas. To tell the truth, I’ve been less than impressed with many I see around Paris.

I looked in the St Severin Church known for its “alley” of “palm trees”.

This was it: interesting but not very impressive.

I did like this little boat hanging from the ceiling with what looks like the Holy Family being transported in a boat but it’s always there and has nothing to do with Christmas.

A very simple creche at St-Gervais-et-St-Protais Church.

The cross on a statue of St Antoine there looking like it has been touched by many hands.

Notre Dame has a creche from Sicily which used to be at the St Sulpice Church. It’s enormous with running water and little Satons everywhere. I think this is my favorite.

A little bridge going over the flowing water.

He’s Arrived

My new grandson, Nathaniel Luke, arrived on May 20th. He is healthy and, of course, cute. The experience of having a baby in Switzerland seemed to have been pretty much the same for my daughter in law as her other three in the States. She had a doctor who spoke English and who pretty much just observed the nurse delivering the baby, even taking videos for my son at one point as he cut the cord. The nurse spoke perfect English and was very nice. In the photo I saw of her she is wearing the scrubs nurses wear along with a string of pearls around her neck. They wanted my daughter in law to stay in the hospital for 5 days if you can believe that. She just stayed two nights. Since this was her fourth baby they figured she pretty much knew how to do everything. On the whole she said the staff was very relaxed about the whole thing. Not only will my son get a nice tax break on having four children in Switzerland with its negative birth rate, but money every month-I guess they are hoping to encourage the Swiss to have more babies. They get lots of looks from the Swiss along the lines of “What are you doing with so many children?”. The Italians are more like, “Way to go!”
I walked my two oldest grandsons to school each day. They are in an Swiss public school and, of course, the main language is Italian. My oldest grandson is frustrated with his lack of Italian and his understanding of it. His four year old brother is less concerned. They are both going to an all day local soccer club this summer, all in Italian, and I think they will be fluent after that. Their two year old brother can already rattle off a little Italian with a perfect accent. When you walk into the school there are little slots where the kids take off their street shoes and put on rubber shoes that can’t be worn outside. They also have light little cotton shoes to wear for physical education. They have to have little shirts for art, the four year old has a bib to keep his clothes clean during a gourmet, three course lunch. The school next door for older kids where my oldest grandson will go next year also has a place to change their shoes. In the class right now there is a difficult student who apparantly hits the other kids and is so awful that the teacher actually physically pins him down to the floor and puts her hand over his mouth. We know this because my grandson drew a picture of it. Can you imagine this happening in the States? Lawsuit time.
A few photos we took today on a walk:

As you can see, the area is very rural. This is a little farm that sells fresh produce.

A little chapel in the neighborhood. The doors are always unlocked and everytime I have looked in there have been candles lit. The whole area all around Lugano is packed with churches and the bells ring all of the time.

The interior of the little chapel.

Little framed hearts on either side of the statue of Mary.

The tiny bell tower. Most of the churches here seem to have those round wheels on each bell.

Sideroads of Europe