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Ivan’s Europe Sprint September 6-16 2001 St. Moritz, Switzerland; Florence; Prague, Luxembourg, Jersey 26 September 2001

St. Moritz, Switzerland: Good flight on Continental; after takeoff, a particularly nice view of Southern Manhattan. No inkling it would be my last as know it. In Zurich, quick transfer at the railroad station to train to Chur and then St. Moritz; the entire connection from the airport was 3.5 hours. It is a long ride but you won’t want to stop enjoying the scenery to read a newspaper. Lovely ride with some pretty decorated cars, one of them a pullman. The grass is bright green, the lakes, waterfalls and the little villages along the way. Carlton Hotel sent a stretch caddy to greet me at the rail station and all the staff was at the front entrance when I arrived. They gave me a real nice room with a porch over the lake and the high mountains with snow peaks. Lunch at a very rustic looking restaurant in the hotel — tried to nap and check e-mail. Orientation walk to Badrutt Palace Hotel — a very large property and closer to the lake but not worth the extra $100 a night to stay there and it’s just 5 minutes walk closer to town — the Carlton is just 5 minutes walk from the rail station. St. Moritz is quite small but there are some odd curiosities around town to see such as a leaning tower. The Carlton is more of a boutique property; they take good care of their guests and you can always get a seat in the dining room which is not so in the other resorts. The Maitre D’ was really good and worked around the menus to suit my tastes and tired needs. Dinner at the hotel was prix fixe at about $45 for a 4-course meal with ravioli, soup, salad, fish and cake — all of it excellent. A good pianist in the lobby as well. 

I have to retract my comment about the Swiss when I compared them to the Singaporeans earlier this year. The Swiss really are quite nice, even if they are at twice the price of Singapore. I was treated royally there this time around except that some of my friends were just busy roaming the country and didn’t have time to get together; it’s a small country but not that small when you are out of town. No problem, I get to Switzerland a few times a year so if not now then later…

At breakfast I learned that the napkin covering the bread at the serving table is for your hands to keep them off the bread. I saw a cute poster for a jewelry store: “If you adore her, you must adorn her.” Here is a 6 hour excursion which gets you all over: A one hour train ride goes to Alp Grumm and you pass glaciers with very green water. From the railroad you see all these elderly folks with their walking sticks and backpacks walking all over the place. The railroad goes around all sorts of corners and goes where people go. The technology used here pulls the train from above so that you almost glide along the track. It is a great ride. Then I backtracked from Alp Grumm ten minutes by train to Bernina Diavolezza station which has a cable car ride to a ski area where all you see are alps and ski trails. The whole area is covered with snow even though it is early September. It is stunning. This is the one thing in Switzerland where the cable car going up and down is totally uncoordinated with the arrival and departure of the railroad and I was really pissed off at having to sit around waiting for connections. I complained to the proprietor and he said “You must be happy in Switzerland” and promptly drove me back to St. Moritz! Then to Punt Muragl for a tram ride up the mountain overlooking St. Moritz and neighboring villages. Then the local bus to city-center. The Kulm Hotel is the 3rd 5-star resort in town and has a lovely lobby and a casino. I walked around the city and saw people folk dancing; there is a cashmere store with great merchandise at city center but it is pricey. I walked to a middle school near the lake and got a great view of the Palace Hotel. Walked back to the Carlton Hotel and sat along the footpath from town on a bench with all the church bells ringing. Walked to the leaning tower and the grave of Mr. Badrutt — one of the founders of the town. Only the living can give voice to the dead and I didn’t know who Badrutt was until I spoke with a friend on the phone while aboard the train back to Zurich.

Florence, Italy — It’s a one hour flight from Zurich; there is a free bus to center city and from there take a taxi. There were none on the streets (and this was really disturbing considering it was in front of the bus station) so I went into a nearby hotel to have the clerk call for one. Hotel  Tornabuoni Beacci very Italian with a terrace overlooking the rooftops of Firenze and pretty common areas and guest rooms. Lots of church bells ringing all the time in Florence; sorta like being woken up by all the mosques the first time I was in Amman. Orientation walk with Doug who looks “all hung out Italian” but is an American attorney on extended sabbatical. Covered major sites, dinner and first round of gelato. Most sites are within the “first ring” (my term, not theirs) which I am defining as “inside” the river. Good city to walk around right now — weather was perfect, particularly after cold Switzerland where it was colder than normal. The main area of Florence is rather compact and most things you need to see are within 10-15 minutes walk of each other. My hotel is very conveniently located to all the major sites and I recommend it for good value — just expect to be woken up at 7:00 and then again at 7:15 because the church bells ring at those times. I don’t know why!

Our daytime adventure starts at 10am with a 7 minute walk to Palazzo Veccio where we rub noses with a statue for good luck, see the museum inside which contains large congress rooms and some family fun with a children’s museum and hidden-tunnel tours (reservations needed for these). The copy of Michelangelo’s David adorns the entrance to the museum.  Nice rooftop views from the museum. The Duomo church is busy; just off the piazza duomo at the Ave. Maria sign, take the street for about 2 minutes toward the church of St. Lorenzo and the beginning of the Lorenzo Market which goes on and on with street vendors selling stuff such as belts, ties and other junk. Behind the church of St. Lorenzo by separate entrance are the Medici Chapels with some very good sculptures done by Michelangelo. These were burial crypts of the Medicis. We tried some bread at a local bakery and then continued to Church of S. Croce to see the graves of Galileo, Machiavelli and Rossini within the cathedral. Galileo’s epitaph is generous; while he was alive, the church hated him. The Florence Synagogue is a few minutes away and was more ornate than I expected; we walked in while a wedding was in progress. Upstairs is the women’s gallery with a good view of the sanctuary and a museum about the community’s history. Passed by the “Foundlings” orphanage. Entered the Baptistry next to the Duomo; don’t stand in line for more than a few minutes for this. Walked past the Uffizi (which is in the Palazzo Veccio where we started) to the Ponte Veccio which is a bridge over the river lined with jewelry shops; from afar it looks like a mural of box-drawings over a bridge. It is a weird thing to look at, but there are some good photo-ops here. The Pitti Palace is just over the bridge and we skipped the museum in favor of a walk through the Buboli Gardens behind the building; here you climb a lot but get marvelous views both of the city and of the Tuscany region beyond. Lunch at Osteria Antica Mescita, via S. Nicolo 60/R — good local dishes; try the white bean porridge. Staircase behind the restaurant leads to Piazzale Michelangelo for excellent vistas of center city from just across the river. A taxi back to the hotel leaves me back at 4pm ready for more. 

I hire a car and driver (25 year old fellow named Andrea) to drive for 2 hours around the nearby countryside. First to Villa San Michele, a lovely monastery-turned-hotel run by the Orient Express company, and then drove around to see pretty restaurants with good views, vineyards and lots of old ladies walking around between villages on long winding country roads that seem to be in the middle of nowhere. It costs about $35 an hour for a private taxi. My mom reaches us enroute on the cellular; Andrea understands these things as Italians are very family oriented. Picked up gifts for my nieces at Bartolucci Francesco, via Condotta 12/R, for wood clocks, pencil holders and all sorts of oddities made of wood at very cheap prices. They will even sell you a full-size wooden motorcycle or a kitty-hawk replica but those will be pricey. The store is famous and it is about 5 minutes walk behind the piazza Veccio. 

I begin to preview goods to buy at the St. Lorenzo market and the Rinascente department store which is in the piazza republica just between the Duomo and piazza Veccio. I decide I will stick to the Rinascente; the goods at the outdoor market look cheap and I can’t tell if they are real. There is a good internet café 3 minutes walk from the hotel; dinner at a café near p. republica and gelato at the best place in town, I’m told: To get there, go to the Rinascente on p. republica. One block behind the Rinascente is via Callzaiuoli. Go 2 blocks to the right along this street; there will be a Stefanel shop at the corner of De Tavolini street. To the left you will see an orange neon sign that says Gelato. Get a scoop of anything but also get a scoop of whipped cream which is divine. I walked with my treat into the courtyard of the Uffizi for a special moment; a lone violinist was playing somber music for coins in the empty space with much echo. Great capitalism in the courtyard of the administration building of the Medicis, founders of the letter of credit and the first pan-european currency. Tomorrow I will be in Prague — the last time I was in Eastern Europe, my very sharp and scheming waiter in the hotel in Warsaw couldn’t imagine crossing to the West — now his is a NATO country and I’d love to see him today.

There is a free concert in p. veccio. Great deal of attention here to windows and doors. Italy is an ambivalently catholic country — many people find the church somewhat irrelevant. There are 400,000 Florentines but 4 million tourists; center city is kept mainly auto free. A little too many tourists and not enough natives. Florence was not as romantic as I had hoped — certainly not as romantic as Paris. I also had a lot of mediocre food here including some pasta that tasted like it came out of a microwave; as I said, the tourists eat in town, the real Italians are somewhere else.

After a passable hotel breakfast, I am at the Uffizi at 10am with my advance reservations arranged by phone before leaving the US. Bring cash because they don’t take credit cards. If you want to stand in line, be prepared to waste 2-3 hours per museum and you may not get in at all. The Uffizi took me 30 minutes to see; mostly church art that I feel I have seen before. Then to the top of the Duomo for a view of the city. Many steps — allow one hour to stand in line, go up and down. You will see the top of the dome from the inside, get a top-down view of the inside of the cathedral and of course a magnificent city view. When you get down, you can also walk around the inside of the cathedral which is not really much to see at ground level so avoid the long lines to get in from the main entrance. Lunch at a pizza-bakery on the way to the Gallery Academia to see Michelangelo’s David. This museum is worth about 15 minutes. Then shopping at the Rinascente where they don’t ship things home. Spent about $500 there and then bought a necktie at the Gucci store which had the best black on black killer tie that I needed for an elegant black suit. This season the neckties in Italy are sorta boring and I think the better shopping in Italy is not in Florence but Rome. The taxi ride to the airport is 15 minutes or about $11. As I step out, my mother is calling to interrupt this vacation with the news (I first thought she was joking) that some kind of Pearl-Harbor day was going on in the US and that the twin towers of the world trade center had fallen and that all flights were grounded. Meanwhile, I am about to get on a Lufthansa flight filled with “Nazis and Fascists” headed toward Munich and then to Prague which I figure are very safe flights and places for an American to be right now. I really know nothing yet and the flight goes normally. Munich as usual is a great connection even when you have less than 30 minutes to connect without a jetway. As the week continues, this perfect efficiency will descend into utter chaos.

Prague — The Prague Airport is new and nicely done. :15 taxi ($18) to center city in a very nice car. Hotel Palace Praha (the way they spell prague) is very nice boutique 5 star hotel in center city. Late night bowl of pasta; the desert was stale but kept in an interesting hydraulic UFO-type dome that lifts electronically. Sat in the business center having some long phone calls and reading the news on the internet; answering many e-mails asking if I am still alive and OK. This seems worse than Pearl Harbor to me; at least there we knew who the enemy was and the Japanese targeted the military. I am quickly getting sick to my stomach. CNN and BBC are on TV and it is obvious we are in for round the clock coverage. Next morning I am determined to put this to the side to get on with the business of enjoying a day in Prague.

Breakfast is quite lavish with blintzes, pastries and all sorts of goodies. 10am start to the music hall and an old tower next to it. Then to Old City Square to see, among other things, the astronomical clock at the top of the hour. We took an elevator up the building housing that clock to see things from the top of the tower and to see the figurines inside the clock that move around. The elevators in this building are quite an engineering feat in that they are both elegant and in small spaces. Today I will get a good appreciation for the high quality of Czech engineering from my guide who is a geologist (and therefore keeps telling me what everything is made up of). On the square, I previewed the crystal shops to see what to buy. The green/white crystal at the Erpet Shop (the largest on the square) looks very innovative and pretty and was more impressive than the Moser shop which of course is the more famous name. Then to Parisien shopping street (that’s what it’s called) and runs right off the square and takes you to the Jewish Quarter. There’s a good crystal shop there as well called Egermann right across from the main synagogue on Maiselova Street #15 (they do mail order: maiselova@egermann.cz). The whole time I am there is on and off rain showers. I have a car, driver and guide with me for the day and that’s how we will cover lots of ground although at $50 an hour the 8 hour day is a virtual 3 credit course in Prague but worth it. An excellent guide is Miroslav Pisa, PhD phone 42.02.65.12.297 or 420.206.687.329 or cell 42.0604.682.173; he speaks several languages and does all the VIP tours for visiting heads of state.

We pass the National Museum and spot where Havel and others started various revolutions and where the Russian tanks entered the city in 1968. Off to the countryside to see a monastery inside rock formations and an old church; the Karlstad Castle which is worth viewing for the views around it and lunch nearby at a local tavern with a walk in the woods in the rain.  Return to the city to see Prague Castle which is the seat of government and St. Vitta’s Cathedral as well as St. George’s Basilica which, like the Kremlin, are all inside the Prague Castle grounds. A short drive to Charles Bridge to walk across this interesting pedestrian bridge and then back to the hotel where it is now 6pm.

Met my colleague Yirka and we walked along the various shopping streets; the casino on a main corner has large Hebrew letters. At the baggage claim area in the airport, there were large Hebrew brochures for the casino. No Arabic or Japanese — just Hebrew and English. Evidently there must be a ton of Israelis who come here. Figures there are these kosher Moroccan restaurants next to the casinos. We walked the Charles Bridge, Old Town, and the National Museum at night. The Intercontinental Hotel was too busy to seat us for dinner and the lobby was filled with CNN, so we went to dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel, now the #1 hotel in the city. It was $55 for two which, like Prague, was generally reasonable; we took the metro home; like Moscow, the sign tells you how long it’s been since the last train departed as opposed to when the next train is supposed to arrive. Go figure. I return to the hotel to respond to another round of e-mails. A look at the newspapers (which I will read on the plane ride later), greetings from staff wishing me well, and a letter from the US embassy under my door warning me to keep low. As you know, our embassies are the repositories of the most useful information known to man.

Thursday I am out at 10am (as you can see I’m not an early starter but I kick ass once I’m going) to see the Jewish area which consists of several small synagogues, exhibits and a cemetery. The children’s art from the Holocaust exhibit is worth the flight of stairs to see. The neighborhood has a consolidated ticket for about $13 that lets you in everywhere in the neighborhood. There is significant police presence. It rained all morning; I bought crystal at 3 shops; one of Judaica and of wine glasses in the Jewish neighborhood and a cake serving plate at Erpet.

The noontime drive to the airport took 40 minutes; traffic builds up in Prague as there are not enough streets; cheap internet access at the airport — 35 cents for ten minutes of high speed access wins my prize. Security is tighter — going through the x-ray machine is taking a long time and it is a full large jet flight to Frankfurt on Lufthansa. So far, intra-Europe I have been on small jet planes.

An hour later (4pm) we are in Frankfurt but the flight is late enough that my connection is short so I miss meeting my colleague. There is some sort of scare in the airport and for a few minutes the gates are all sealed. The security force carries machine guns here. Luxair is very nice 25 minute flight on a 737 to Luxembourg. It is raining here too and I have a car and driver pick me up at the airport. He suggests we start by dropping in on the US Army’s cemetery just outside the airport to see General Patton’s grave. We arrive just a minute before closing. It is a fitting thing to do. Then we drove around for an hour to see old and new parts of the center of Luxembourg and some nice homes and got to the hotel by 7. I can’t reach my colleague in nearby Germany and so I start wandering around town; there is a full rainbow present and grand walls and fortifications around the city which was essentially a high fortress around the valley. Dinner at the hotel Le Royale coffee shop in the only 5 star hotel in the city which is where I am staying; very pretty linens but such laid-back service; it took almost 2 hours to get through a 3 course meal. Lots of ice cream selections and good food though. Took another taxi at night to Monte Clausen for a beautiful night view of the city walls all lit up. Luxembourg is a pretty little place with little to see or do in the middle of nowhere but it is friendly, you can speak French or English, and it is as laid-back in Europe as you will find. A good place to veggie out if you have lots of patience for slow-moving people. Also some good shopping and if I were here a day I’d be walking off with some cute Frenchie sweaters. Where did Mike go? Maybe he flew off to Afghanistan during the day; neither he or his wife are picking up the phones. Anyway, he told me earlier that day he is wearing his uniform under his coat and laying low; I am not so sure I’d like to be hanging out with him right now but I did hire a car and driver $50 an hour to take me there and had to release the fellow after I couldn’t find Mike.

At the airport next morning, Michael gets me on cellular at the gate. Postpone your departure and let’s get together right now he says. I say, no way, I’m on my way. Besides, the later connecting flight would arrive after sundown Friday and that’s a no-no for me. I should’ve listened to Mike. I get on the plane and we are on the way to the runway and then the pilot hears problems in the engine and loses his transponder, then takes us back to the gate where we deplane “temporarily.” I left a camera and a roll of film on the seat under a newspaper. My baggage was aboard this seemingly inconsequential hop & skip flight and I am now missing my medicines, return tickets, documents and all sorts of wonderful things I will need, but the fact is they were going nuts in the UK with security taking briefcases out of people’s hands at the gate and as I said luggage simply wasn’t moving anywhere. We are rebooked onto a Luxair flight to Heathrow where I will then take the Speedlink bus to Gatwick and then onto Jersey (Channel Islands, UK). Yeah right. The British Airways person rebooks us but neglects to tell the Luxair flight that 30 refugees are on their way to their flight; the 2 gates are 15 feet away (the whole airport has 8 gates) but the Luxair person is totally clueless with regard to checking us in. I pulled over the BA person to rescue us from this moron. Then we fly to Heathrow where are bags are nowhere; there are 30 people in the basement filling out forms with a countergirl who only speaks Italian because the land agent in London for Luxair is Alitalia. At Heathrow passport control is utter chaos (it seems like everyone behind the counters there wears a turbin); I cut line as much as I can but realize I will never catch my connecting flight if I don’t keep moving. So I try to enlist customer service supervisors but the British are much more interested in passing the buck and you can forget about getting them to lift a phone to call the folks at Luxembourg airport to get my bag and belongings sorted out. They only send e-mails to each other at BA. By the end of this weekend I will wish I were a terrorist because they at least get to where they want.

The Speedlink to Gatwick is anything but. It makes stops and takes about an hour and a half; it is a rather pricey bus ticket at $25. I miss my connecting flight. Now I am to be waitlisted on later flights because they are more interested in accommodating business class passengers than I (I know this having overheard the telephone conversations with the BA personnel dealing with my case). In the ultimate insult, I don’t clear the waitlist for the 6pm flight to Jersey because the plane is overweight and they don’t want any more passengers; forget about the fact that I only weigh 120 pounds or roughly 55 kilos. Now I am waiting for the 8pm flight and virtually going nuts to get someone to clear me against yet another waitlist; the gate agent doesn’t want to help me. I go back out to customer service land to the guy who earlier smiled and assured me that I’d get on the 6pm flight and finally he got me cleared for the 8pm flight. There are no hotel rooms anywhere within 50 miles of this airport with thousands of stranded travelers and no trace of lost luggage because it is a security emergency and they have stopped transferring all luggage. At the gate, they are scrutinizing every passenger carefully (but not really — the guy looks at my bag full of boxes but doesn’t open any of them) and our flight is very late.

JERSEY (Channel Islands, between England and France) — About 10pm I arrive in Jersey and my friend is at the airport to collect me and he has this really funky looking French beetle-type car. We fill out the baggage report but I will never hear back from BA about the luggage. A full week later I will get a call from Alitalia in London telling me they have my bag. This after I spend a week cashing after BA having them tell me the bag is in several different cities. This after I spend a week dialing phone numbers till I get through to lost and found at Gatwick to find out nobody found my camera aboard the plane.

Anyway we are now in Jersey. Everything is closed at 10pm; there is no place to eat dinner. We go home and make tuna sandwiches. Next morning we attend synagogue; there are about 30 Jews on the island; it is a motley crew of people attending. There is a reverend sent by the national chaplaincy for the High Holidays which are to start on Monday night. He is a NATO chaplain who tells of having just returned from Estonia telling new soldiers that they are not to rape the girls they come across in the fields. Says it is hard to believe in the 21st century that he is giving these sorts of lectures in Western Europe. Everyone is shocked at the events of the past week and I the unofficial US ambassador; everyone wants to greet me and give me well wishes. They are very friendly here and my host is quickly receiving invitations to people’s homes for breakfast after Yom Kippur which is still 2 weeks away.

There is not much to do today and not much tourism except by elder people; the island can be seen in an hour. There are pretty coastlines, old fortifications along the beaches, vast green farmlands, cows and some very pretty houses with tall cliffs, surfing waves and winding roads. It looks like the coasts of Eastern Maine or Canada. The cost of living is reasonable; on the walk to synagogue we saw all sorts of animals walking along the side of the streets such as chickens. It’s like a petting zoo and kids would like it. At the entrance to farms on the side of the road is an “honesty box” — filled with fruits and vegetables, it says what you are to leave in coinage in return for what you take. The system works — people pay and take what they want. Eating hours are very constricted here; arrive ten past 2 in the afternoon and it’s past lunch time. We finally found lunch at the Blue Café in the main pedestrian area. We spend the evening chasing after my lost luggage but it is hard to reach anyone and even harder to get any useful information. I want to know if my flight to the US is running the next day but the internet sites are all clogged and the phone systems shut down. I won’t know till I get to London if the flight is running — the BA personnel in Jersey have no idea which end is up.

Sunday morning I fly to Gatwick on the 35 minute flight from Jersey. We are late because someone checked a bag but didn’t get on the plane; they are offloading 250 bags to find the bag and then this little old lady comes aboard finally. At Gatwick, I am racing to get to the gate for my Virgin Atlantic flight. My ticket is inside my lost luggage; Virgin won’t let me check in; Continental Airlines which issued the ticket has cancelled its flights and can’t reissue the ticket but they at least (Virgin wouldn’t) sell me a new ticket for $1,500 which I buy because I want to get to — of all places — New York! As we are to board, they say there will be a delay due to the security and what follows is the collapse of the civilian air travel system as we know it. It takes 3 hours to board this 747 which is almost sold out because they are searching every single person and all his carryon items as s/he boards. We all feel like convicts but are glad to feel safe. We are openly mocking the questions they ask: Did you pack the bag yourself and watch it at all times? Like a suicide bomber is going to answer the question honestly? At least El Al knows how to do the security routine; here they have been shocked into now learning how to do it yesterday and there is a shortage of trained professionals. Every gate has to wait till the crew finishes boarding the other gate. Our flight must have screwed up half the airport!

Once aboard, it is now time for an 8 hour flight! There are about 35 hassidic Jews who look right out of Fiddler on the Roof central casting and they start hopping around the plane looking for empty seats where they’d rather be sitting. I get one who plunks himself down next to me. He wants to show me books of his favorite rabbis and the kosher meals didn’t get on board so he is starving with fruits and cookies while I am eating my vegetarian meals (which were a bit weird — Virgin has strange tastes for their food but it is an airline with a funky attitude and yet professional where it counts). 

You won’t find a classical music station on board Virgin flights; the TV screens are quite good and each seat has one; the theme of their entertainment is “Party On, Dude and have a Most Excellent Flight.” The highlight of this flight was the Hassidim making a frontal assault on all the overhead bins to pull out their black hats, sashes and prayer books to have an organized prayer service in the back of the plane for afternoon prayers. The flight attendants were beside themselves not knowing what to do and who knows what the other passengers thought. At least they didn’t think they were hijacking the plane! Once we arrived in the US, customs was easy and I had an easy ride back into Manhattan despite the fact that we were warned of delays. Instantly, the presence of American flags everywhere was noticed and there is still smoke rising from the lower part of Manhattan even though it is 6 days later. The buildings are not part of the skyline now as I approach the Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan, but it is hard to notice something not there especially when looking at a skyline that always seemed mystical.

So, as you can see, this was a pretty action-packed journey — a fall sprint through Europe. The biggest disappointment on the ground was the colder than usual weather and rain in St. Moritz, Prague and Luxembourg — highs of 50 shouldn’t be the case in early September. Had a hard time throughout getting ahold of my friends but in this case one can’t be too unhappy because the schedule was real tight and as air travel conditions deteriorated one couldn’t count on the normally efficient system working well. Unfortunately, we all know that the changes afoot will only drive law-abiding people like us absolutely bonkers with inconveniences and delays, while the real troublemakers continue to have the run of the house.

The US Dollar is still strong but down a good 10 percent from what it was earlier this year. I found all the destinations to be what I expected: St. Moritz has beautiful views and good nature, service and food; Florence has lovely Tuscan countryside and a city with things to see; Prague is a charming city that is bouncing back with lots of infrastructural improvements and tons of classical music events everywhere, good prices and a city that is easy to get around in. Luxembourg is a little vichy worth disappearing to and was a diversion meant to visit my colleague but it didn’t work out; what followed was a total disaster but despite this my short visit to Jersey was really nice.

After this traumatic experience I vowed that I really didn’t want to go anywhere or particularly get on a plane for the rest of the year.  I suppose it is just nuts that it took me only a few days to decide (even before my bag was returned) that I will fly El Al (an airline I go out of my way to avoid because of all the security) to Israel in just one week because I figure that El Al is now probably one of the easier airlines to fly since they have the routine down pat and Delta has cancelled its flights to Israel. Hey, I’m now in the most dangerous city on the planet — how much worse could a week in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem be, right?

Photos will be posted in about 2-3 weeks. There will be no original pictures of Jersey or Luxembourg since the camera was lost.

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