What day is it?

We are in Italy!!

This comes almost as a shock to us. Having been fortunate enough to vacation in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic in October, the grand plan was to return to Europe in a couple of years. And then ~10 days after we got home, I received a request to perform a laboratory inspection in Naples, Italy. Well, how can you say no to that offer – and Harvey wasn’t staying home while I went to his favorite country. So here we are back in Europe – so blessed. (and yes, thanks Maureen for getting me into this assessment business!)

We had a fairly long journey here – Edm to Vancouver to Frankfurt to Naples. But all our flights went well and Lufthansa dined and wined us quite well. Upon arrival, the friendly gentlemen at Budget had our Ford Fiesta all ready for us. We followed the hotel’s directions and with just one short detour for a missed corner, we arrived at the Hotel Agora. This hotel was recommended by the hospital and is great. The staff are extremely friendly and helpful and they cater to North Americans as they are close to both the U.S. Naval Base and the NATO Headquarters.

After settling in, we took a test drive to the Naval Support Site where the hospital is located in preparation for my visit on Tuesday. Then it was pizza and wine for dinner at the hotel. The nice waiter brought us chilled limoncello at the end of our meal – so yummy. 20140224-205721.jpg
We chatted with some Brits and Americans who live nearby and had stopped by for the 2 for 1 happy hour. After receiving their congratulations on our country’s prowess in curling and hockey, it was off to bed. We had been up for 31 hours with just brief plane naps so it was time!20140224-210045.jpgCheers,

B & H

Motown

In January, Harvey and I took a quick 6 day trip. To somewhere warm and sunny, you ask? Well no – we went to Detroit, where it was colder than Edmonton and snowy. You ask again – Why? Are you crazy?

There was a meaning to this madness. I was heading to Toronto for a meeting and when scheduling the trip, I realized – it is the same week as the North America International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. This has been on Harv’s bucket list for a long time – but I had always balked at the thought of Detroit in January. But here I was going to be a short 3 hour drive away. So thanks to Aeroplan, Harv was also booked and away we went. 20140223-204407.jpg
First – the auto show – We spent about 4 hours there on Tuesday morning and Harv went back later in the day for 3 hours on his own. It was quite spectacular. As well as the displays that one would see at the Edmonton Auto Show (and believe me, Harvey has spent more than his fair share of time there), the Detroit show features any and all new models, concept cars and specialty show cars. The displays themselves are a sight to see – glitz & glamour with gigantic LED screens and fun items like a simulated Ford assembly line. It was certainly worth seeing and Harvey was very happy to tick that one off the list. 20140224-081437.jpg
Some of Harv’s favorites:20140224-082027.jpg
Fun fact: The first Mustang produced was sold to a pilot in Newfoundland. Before long, Ford realized that this car was going to be a big deal and wanted number one back. The pilot held out for a couple of years but eventually traded them for #1,000,000 off the line. Number 1 on display here still bears the NF license plates. 20140224-080401.jpg
After his Tuesday at the show, Harv didn’t feel the need to return so on Wednesday, we visited The Henry Ford in Dearborne. This major complex includes a 12 acre museum, consisting of a collection of antique machinery, pop culture items, automobiles, locomotives, aircraft, and other items. We didn’t have time to visit the museum but would like to in the future. Also in the complex is Greenfield Village, a 240 acre historic village-museum with more than 100 buildings. This area isn’t open in the winter, but again would be a fun summer visit.

Our focus for the day was the Ford Rouge River Plant. This extensive complex is where the F150 truck is built. The tour starts with a bus ride from the museum to the plant complex. It was a quiet tour day – we had our own private bus ride, viewing of the two films they show and tour of the plant! It was very well done and extremely interesting. 20140223-205640.jpg
Two take- away thoughts from the plant:
– it is amazing that each truck comes out equipped as it should be. Each unit is already bought (owner or dealer) and has its own list of criteria (model, type, options, etc). They come randomly down the line and a bar coding system tells the line workers what to install.
– I am so very thankful I have never had to work on an assembly line. Although apparently well paid, I couldn’t imagine doing the same task over and over – approximately 60 – 66 times per hour!

Detroit itself is as you probably have heard, in an interesting state. The downtown core where we stayed (note: the Doubletree Inn & Suites was excellent) is centred on the entertainment business – the Cobo Center where the NAIAS was held, the Joe Louis Arena, Ford Field (football field), Comerica Park (baseball park), a couple of large casino complexes, hotels and restaurants. No retail that I really noticed, a few boarded-up office fronts. It seemed fairly well kept and safe.

Travelling a few blocks out from the core, you encounter the evidence of the devastation of Detroit, the city that has declared bankruptcy. Blocks of buildings and factories, streets of houses that are boarded up, empty, some burned. This went on for a considerable distance.

And then you leave the Detroit city limits and you could be in any large American city – suburbs and shopping complexes. Quite the dichotomy.

Of course, we also took note of the world headquarters for General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. I think GM wins. 20140224-075426.jpg
We had an excellent dinner at Roast, a Michael Symon of Iron Chef fame restaurant, and a fun lunch at Logan’s Roadhouse. 20140223-204054.jpg
Then it was back to Toronto, a lovely dinner with our niece, Brooklyn, who is thriving at Ryerson University, and a couple of days of CSTM Board meetings, as well as a nice visit with our friends, Lucie & Stan. 20140223-203631.jpg
A quick trip but well worth it. And as well as ticking the auto show off Harv’s list, Michigan was one more state off my list – only 3 to go (Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma).

Cheers,

Bev & Harv