May 24 – June 2
We’d been planning for about six months a return to Europe to celebrate our 40th anniversary this year. The impetus for this is that we originally planned on getting married there in 1982 (we did visit but ended up returning to the US to get hitched) and since have celebrated each of our decade anniversaries by spending time there in 1992 (a month), 2002 (ten days or so) and 2014 (six months, although we did miss the decade by two years).
Normally we would head over there in the fall, closer to or encapsulating our anniversary date of October 30th but fate intervened this year when cycling friends Cathy and Tony celebrated their retirement by planning a three month stay in Europe. They would spend the month of April in Girona Spain, May in the Provence region of France and June in Lucca Italy. So, we decided to move up the timeline of our trip and spend four days in Lucca with them.
The rest of the trip fell into place once we set a theme, and that would be to celebrate by staying in a few of our favorite cities, those being Amsterdam, Paris, Montpellier, and Munich. And once we discovered that 10 days of travel in two months Eurail Senior Global Pass cost a ridiculously low $372 apiece, that became our mode of transportation, even more so by the increasing cost of gas and how expensive rental cars have become.
We’ve found over time that it generally doesn’t cost any more to fly in and out of different cities which means you can save travel days by not having to return to the first city, but instead can go in one direction, say London to Rome. With this in mind, we decided to start in one of those favorite cities, Amsterdam, end in Munich, and work out the places in between as planning progressed. And of course, we’d stop and see Francois in Montpellier.
Our original thinking had us landing in Amsterdam for three nights, then onto Paris for three more. As we liked the Dordogne region of France in 2014, we thought to return there, but further contemplation led us instead to the Loire Valley for the simple reason that we would need a car in the Dordogne and walking would be a big part of our activities there. Given that my back issues limit the amount of pleasurable walking I can do, the Loire would allow us to ride bikes instead and thus we made the switch.
The rest of the itinerary filled itself in, with a stop at Francois’ in Montpellier for three nights and then, given the complexity of getting from Montpellier to Lucca, a couple of nights in Nice and likewise, a couple of nights in Innsbruck on the way to Munich from Lucca. Misfortune struck a couple of weeks before we departed in that our good friend Tony passed away in his sleep during his and Cathy’s stay in Provence and thus, we would not be meeting them in Lucca as planned. We decided to stick with that town though as we’d not been there before and so, took a day off our planned stay there to add it to Innsbruck. Fortunately, we were able to book a nice Airbnb in Lucca at that late date.
The week in-between returning from our road trip and our flight to Amsterdam turned busy as we hosted Stephanie and Lee for four nights, allowing us to return the favor of them having hosted us numerous times in Corpus Christi. They would spend time doing what visitors to Los Angeles typically do, such as walking the boardwalk from Venice Beach to the Santa Monica Pier and hitting up the La Brea Tar Pits. For Joanna and I, the highlight was joining them for a visit to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, opened last year in what had once been the 1939 Streamline Moderne design May Company department store.
The Academy holds more than 13 million objects including costumes, costume sketches, film reels, posters, props, and screenplays dating back to 1927. Some key objects in the Museum’s collection include Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz (1939), Shirley Temple’s tap shoes from The Little Colonel (1935), a typewriter used to write the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), and the only surviving shark mold from Jaws (1975).
There is much to see here, and it is easy to spend a busy three hours or more and still not see every exhibit. What I found of interest is that it is not just a collection of famous and not so famous pieces of memorabilia from the movies, but more a loving tribute to the art and industry of making movies. There are specific exhibits that highlight each element of the movie making process, including but not limited to screen writing, set design, costuming, special effects, sound recording, and editing.
I particularly liked these elements, where you peel back the layers of movie making to learn in greater detail just how the magic is made. Take the Foley Artists, responsible for the reproduction of everyday sound effects that are added to films, videos, and other media in post-production to enhance audio quality. These reproduced sounds, named after sound-effects artist Jack Foley, can be anything from the swishing of clothing and footsteps to squeaky doors and breaking glass and can also be used to cover up unwanted sounds captured on the set of a movie during filming, such as overflying airplanes or passing traffic.
The props and sets of a film often do not react the same way acoustically as their real-life counterparts, requiring filmmakers to Foley the sounds. The best Foley art is so well integrated into a film that it goes unnoticed by the audience. Some common examples of devices used to mimic sound in a film are corn starch in a leather pouch to make the sound of snow crunching, a pair of gloves sounding like bird wings flapping., cellophane creating crackling fire effects, a water-soaked rusty hinge when placed against different surfaces makes a creaking sound, and a heavy staple gun combined with other small metal sounds makes good gun noises.
We finished our visit to the museum with a snack at Fanny’s, the in-house restaurant with a variety of choices. Joanna and I split a very good chicken sandwich and a pastry, enough to hold us over until a stop at a favorite local brewery, Firestone Walker’s Venice Taproom at the edge of Marina Del Rey. Given Stephanie and Lee’s love of beer, we completed their stay the last night stopping in at Santa Monica Brew Works for some pints and a dining experience that was less than outstanding.
At that time (they have recently introduced an in-house food concept) food was being delivered by a rotating cadre of food trucks and we were gifted with the folks from Poutine Brothers. We ordered a couple of poutines, one with smoked pork and the other with short rib and when delivered to the table dug into them only to discover that the meat was cold, not just lukewarm but actually cold. We returned them to the truck to see if the situation could be remedied only to be advised that this was the correct temperature and that nothing could be done to warm the meat.
We returned to our table and ate as much of the dish that we could (at least the fries weren’t bad) and eventually took what was left home to be heated up later. The next day, Saturday, we took Stephanie and Lee out for a drive before their flight home in the afternoon, up to the Palisades on Sunset Blvd, then down to PCH and up the coast to County Line and a stop for food at the ever-popular Neptune’s Net. Joanna and I split a superb order of fish and chips, more than enough food to last us the rest of the day. We finished up and got our happy couple to the airport on time leaving us with a few days to get ready before our departure for Amsterdam on June 2nd. And we will get into that adventure in the next post.
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures: https://www.academymuseum.org/en/
Firestone Walker: https://www.firestonebeer.com/venice/
Santa Monica Brew Works: https://www.santamonicabrewworks.com/
Poutine Brothers: https://poutinebrothers.com/
Neptune’s Net: https://neptunesnet.com/