Juliana’s Life Outside of Escrow (LOE)
(You Only Live Once!)
What is a fitting slogan for Juliana’s LOE (Life Outside of Escrow)? This requires some thought as I have many:
“So many places, so little time.”
“Work hard, play hard, laugh hard, die happy”
“And miles to go before I sleep…”
“I am always game to try something …. once”
“Where to next?”
Throughout my life I have had the privilege to be able to see the world. Some were trips planned, others were to follow my father in his various different diplomatic postings. Though born in Taiwan and having lived there a few years when I was a teenager, I also lived for extended time in Cuba, Brasil, Portugal and of course, the U.S. Each place has a different culture, language, customs and brings different memories that I cherish.
I started this compilation of pictures years ago, and then, in 2019 the pandemic hit and all travel stopped. Stuck at home with nothing but travel dreams and wishful thinking, I decided that each week I would put up on Facebook a picture of a place that I enjoyed so that we could all dream and make plans on where to visit once we could safely travel. And here they are.
Trying to Rest in Peace
When you are a VIP in Ancient Egypt and you die, they layer you in decorated coffins to effectuate a proper send off. Unfortunately, all these barriers do not prevent your body from being dug up and you and your sarcophagus put on public display. There is no “rest in peace”.
The cuteness that is Burano
Colorful Burano stuck in the middle of the Venetian Lagoon. The building color design plan is that colors have to be as opposite as possible from the building next door. And they have to be bright! And all colors of the rainbow. The word “monochromatic” is not in their vocabulary. Such a fun island with cute scenes that play to the many tourists’ cameras.
The Walls of Xi'An
Xi’An, known to be the home of the Terracotta Warriors, also has the most perfectly preserved ancient city wall in China, built in the late 1380s. Rampart towers line all around the top of the walls and there is a big avenue between the outside and inside walls to stroll and even bicycle on. Here it is, lit up at night and it wasn’t even Christmas. Xi’An is a great little city to play tourist in, and that’s besides visting the Terracotta Warriors, which is a must see.
Game of Thrones
Last time we compared palace gardens. This week we have the game of thrones. French versus Russian, emperor versus tsar, Napoleon’s blue one at Fontainebleau and the Russian Tsars’ red one at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Napoleon, being a small person, had a smaller throne that wouldn't overwhelm him, of course. I can't figure out why they have foot stools. Are they needed to keep their feet comfy? Is it a sign of majesty and power? What the heck? I don't see foot stools in thrones in movies, do you?
Battle of the Palace Gardens - is mine bigger than yours?
Gardens of Versailles (left) and Peterhof (right) palaces. Those kings/queens, tsars/tsarinas were in a competitive race to see who could build the bigger and better “garden”. They simply had too much time and money on their hands.
St. Peter's Basilica
After an early morning rising and after hours of waiting in line to get into the Vatican, you get to see this nice view - St Peter's Basilica as viewed from the Vatican Gardens. Absolutely makes the wait worthwhile.
Sunset and the Notre Dame
Sunset and the Notre Dame- before the pandemic and Notre Dame disaster. It's nice to be able to just look at it and reminisce.
Fantastic Beasts and where to find them
Oh, those fantastic beasts and where to find them! A prop straight out of a movie? Not quite, this is a little Kirin beast sitting on top of the roof gable. A symbol of peace and prosperity for the Nishi Honganji Temple in Kyoto. Rooftop figurines are very popular in all cultures. Some are bulls (Peru), some are gargoyles (Paris) and all are supposed to be fierce (and sometimes cute) protectors.
For thin people only
Lisbon, Portugal - Somewhere in the city, there is a residence that probably only thin people could live in.....
Reminder: purse snatching can ruin your day
It must have been a bit of a problem such that the city government of Tallin, Estonia, had to put up signs to remind tourists that they are prime prey for pickpockets and purse snatchers. Other than that, great little city to spend a day in!
Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plains, Wiltshire, England - A must go to on your trip to the UK. There is not much else to see but at least you can check off one more item on your bucket list. Oh, and have a scone. There are many types of scones from all over the world, but they originated in England (or Scotland, or something), right? So Stonehenge was close enough and we got some to get a taste of the real thing. They were as hard as a rock. It’s been years and I still remember so, not a good impression, but, hey, bucket list.
Finding a surprise U.S. export on a foreign street
Sure, the U.S. imports a lot of stuff from overseas, but sometimes, you will find an obvious U.S. export in another country that brings a grin to your face. Here is a product that you will find in many of the beach cities in the U.S. to control people traffic on boardwalks . This picture of a traffic/parking cop (?) on a Segway, however, was taken in downtown Lima, Peru.
I unearthed this very old picture, probably from 1969- 1970 when I still lived in Portugal, to share this week. Portuguese bullfighters do not kill the bull in the arena; they just stick the spears into the fleshy part of the bull’s shoulders. Can’t remember the actual location, but it must have been a Praça de Touros in Lisbon. I’m sure my Portuguese / St Columban’s Alumni friends can relate!
Temple of Love
"Oh to be at the Temple of Love, the Temple of Love...." (I am pretty sure there is a song along those lines )...
Imagine those secret assignations in the middle of the night, or picnics in the waning afternoon. French nobility in their satins and poofy hairdos, meeting here under their spouses' noses?
Such a pretty little building in the middle of a bucolic countryside. Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon, Versailles.
At Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Where did he come from? Did he draw any inspiration from his time living here? Did it REALLY look like this during his lifetime? Of course not, but it's great for the community that feeds off the tourists. For great men, always good to visit the roots and ponder. Although I do prefer Anne Hathaway's Cottage, don't you?
The Ultimate Stairmaster
What's a few steps (400) to meet, greet and commune with gargoyles? Here's a view of the snail shaped stairs located in the left side tower of the Notre Dame. The tower is still there; the gargoyles are still there (I hope). All we need is for restoration of the church itself to be completed (2024?) and hopefully we can enjoy the stairmaster again.
Waterloo! Waterloo! It goes through the mind when you visit Napoleon’s tomb at Les Invalides. After everything he accomplished (or tried to accomplish), all came down to one single defining event - his defeat on the battlegrounds at Waterloo. One never realizes how they will be remembered in history and further promoted by ABBA.
Where's the drought?
The Grand Cascade at the Peterhof Grand Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia. With much of the world in a drought situation, I wonder if the many fountains in and around the Lower and Upper Gardens of the Palace are still running? Just looking at that water in the picture now makes me cringe, even if it is on a “recycling” system.
Lost in translation
My thought on this: If you can't get to see its BIG brother on site in Giza, this is maybe the next best thing - the little "Great Sphinx of Tanis". It was guarding a temple/burial site in the ancient city of Tanis when French archeologists pulled it out of the ruins and installed it in the Louvre for the rest of the world to enjoy. Now you don't have to travel to the hot desert sands to gaze upon it and other Egyptian treasures, but something is irrevocably lost when transferred out of their original milieu. “Lost in translation”.
Mines of Moria
Are you a Lord of the Rings fan as I am? Well, then, here you have St. Edwards’s Church, Stow-on-the Wold, Gloucestershire. This medieval church has its share of history and seen its share of battles. But today, it is renowned for its ties to the fantasy world. Local legend has it that Tolkein envisioned this as the Doors of Durin that leads to the Mines of Moria in Fellowship of the Rings. Can you just imagine Gandalf standing in front of it saying, “Open, Sesame”? Ah, no wonder it did not open. The word to open, as we know, is the Elvish word for “Friend”. Yes. I am a huge fan!
Life is a Cabaret!
Life is a cabaret, old chum, come to the cabaret! Welcome to Paris’ Moulin Rouge, the most famous one of all. Did not have time to watch a show there, but hey, just being able to say, “See, I was there!” was worth all the jostling with tourists and being photobombed.
The grim expectancy of death
Musee Rodin, Paris – Besides the Thinker, Rodin’s most famous work – a bronze group sculpture depiction of the event in French/English history in which the burghers of the town of Calais were ordered to surrender their besieged city and prepared for beheading by the English king. The depiction of their despair and expectance of death is clearly portrayed in this medium. Goodness, I love Rodin’s work.
Living the Life in the Afterlife
I once heard that we can’t take it with us when we die, right? Well, Emperor Qin Shi Huang of China decided that was not his philosophy, so in 300 B.C. he decided to construct his terracotta army (and army support staff) to protect him when he died. Hence the life sized terracotta army in his mausoleum. At least he did not require real humans to be buried with him. Look at the picture of the single warrior – it is said that each warrior figure was created to look differently. That’s a lot of work for the artisan slaves! Conclusion - it’s good to be Emperor.
If Gargoyles could talk
Perched on top of the Notre Dame, a conversation is being conducted….
Stryga (that’s the horned demon gargoyle on the left) – “ Bummer, grounded again!”
Big Bird (laughing his head off) - “Ha! Told you not to eat that tourist!”
Giving us the finger
Are you an ancient history buff? You need to go to Rome, of course, where even the cobblestones have history. And when you are in Rome, besides the Colosseum, Foro Romano and Fountain of Trevi, you need to visit the Capitoline Museum, known for their great collection of ancient statues. For instance, here is Constantine the Greaaat!, first emperor of Rome, giving us his finger. Good thing he wasn’t giving everyone that “FINGER”.
The things you find at cemeteries
So many well known personages to look up at the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris – Moliere, Chopin, Jim Morrison, and look! A Ma family tomb! I told my husband Kenneth Ma that I know where he could lay in peace once he leaves this earthly paradise for a heavenly one. This cemetery is definitely not Rose Hills or Forest Lawn.
Venus de Milo
No intro needed. Beautiful, isn’t she? What is unbelievable is that she was sculpted over 2000 years ago, falling into the B.C. timeline. For me, seeing Venus gives me the same visual/impact punch as gazing on David by Michelangelo, but he is a few years older, as in A.D. (Anno Domini) The sculpting artistry is beyond words.
Time waits for no man (or woman)
Clocks from the Musee d'Orsay, Paris - Tick tock, tick tock. A reminder that time flies! As I post this entry on Facebook on June 1, 2022 we are fast approaching the halfway point of 2022. With the housing industry at a standstill and interest rates at a decades high, it’s time to get to work to survive the 2nd half of the year, chop, chop!
Taking complaints here!
Venice, Italy. Hopefully this little man will bring back some memories for you. At the Doge's Palace you will find Il Signor "Complaint Box". You want to submit a secret complaint against someone and get him investigated and in trouble? Just slip the complaint through the mouth of this little man stuck on the wall of the palace. Images of furtive, hooded figures in the dark of the night comes to mind.
Le Sacre Coeur
Paris views - Le Sacre Coeur. I can't remember if this was taken from the top of L'Arc de Triomphe or the Eiffel Tower. It looks good up close, too, and correct me if I am wrong, but I remember a funicular that you can take to go up to the basilica if you don’t want to climb. Whichever or wherever, don't I wish I was seeing this in person right now. Instead Covid 19 has made me a nervous nellie about going anywhere other than office and home. This is what the pandemic has done to me. (posted on Facebook on May 18, 2022).
The hippie commune within a European capital
Within the city of Copenhagen, a 5 minute walk from the Parliament buildings, in the nation of Denmark, which is part of the European Union, you will find Freetown Christiania, a little (about 20 acres, 1,000 residents) self governing freewheeling “nation” enclave within the bigger city/nation. Sort of like a modern day commune, it is populated with “idealists, hippies, potheads, and happy children”, as per Rick Steves’ travel guide. The locals build their homes on this government land and they monitor and police themselves. They even have their own flag! Leave the community and you are “entering into the EU”, as their gate sign proclaims. What a trip (pun intended)! This was an eye opener simply because of its location. For more info, look them up in Wikipedia. It’s amazing what we can find on our travels.
Venice, Italy - If you have fallen afoul of the Doges, you will be marched/dragged to prison, which is very conveniently, right by the Doge's Palace and accessed by this bridge. Lord Byron called the bridge descriptively, "The Bridge of Sighs". That is all you can do as you take your last look at freedom, the sun and Venice while you are dragged away. The prisoner cells are nothing to write home about either - dark, dank and dreary, and being it’s Venice, probably under the water line.
It's Never Never Land!
Why, it’s the gates to Never Never Land! Yes, Versailles, France and the lives of the Rich and Famously Rich. All that glitters may very well be gold (or gold mixed in paint). The amount of coin needed to sustain this kind of lifestyle is incomprehensible to us peasants. Of course, the Kings and Queens of France had the whole French treasury to play with. Sort of like our modern day Jeff Bezos and his treasury, I suppose.
France's Point Zero
Point Zero in front of the Notre Dame – this little commemorative plaque stands at the center of Paris. Way back when all distances in the city (and therefore possibly all of France), were calculated from this location. It’s always underfoot so many tourists don’t see the history on the ground as all they see is the cathedral in front. Try telling them to move so that you can take a picture….Seriously.
Mind the Gap
Every visitor to London knows this. To me, it also means, don’t slip through the cracks! Welcome to the London Underground!
Another trip to the land of the GOT
Going back to Kings Landing, aka Dubrovnik, Croatia , we have another picture from this now famous corner of the world. To tempt the tourists, this food store wants to make sure everyone knows they have all food types covered. Love that town. Don’t know if it has changed since they become worldwide known. Maybe this store now offers sushi….
To all the GOT fans...
Kings’ Landing, aka Dubrovnik, Croatia. Or should it be the other way around, Dubrovnik, better known as King’s Landing in Game of Thrones? Does it look slightly familiar?
Another view of La Tour Eiffel
Paris, France - 2 photos of the Eiffel Tower, from a different point of view. Smile if you remember your last on-site view! I remember one year watching the Tour de France whiz by from the Tower. That was an event to remember!
Of Ancient Gods and Men
Ancient Olympia, Greece – The Praxiteles sculpture of Hermes and baby Dionysus. Ancient gods and the men who sought to memorialize them in stone. Another one of the great works of art from ancient times. How does a 4th century BC sculptor hand carve such beautiful figures from hard marble? Has it been the same process through the centuries?
In the eye of the dragon
Page, Arizona - Mother Nature’s whimsical art, carved at Lower Antelope Canyon. They call this one the "eye of the dragon" and it is probably best seen when taken as a picture instead of physically at the location. Close to Las Vegas, if you like natural scenery, this is another perk of living in the western states.
The beautiful architecture of Celsus Library
Ephesus, Turkey – What remains of the façade of the amazing Celsus Library built around 110 A.D. It was actually a public library and is connected to the public forum where John the Baptist preached.
The Versailles of Peter the Great of Russia
Peter the Great saw what went up in Versailles and decided he needed his own little gilded palace, and voila! Peterhof Palace outside of St. Petersburg, Russia. An extreme version of “keeping up with the Joneses”, in this case, with the Louis’ of France…
Torre de Belem
Lisbon, Portugal. Some of you may not know that my family and I lived in Lisbon for many years. Here is a picture of the Torre de Belem, the fortress right on the Tejo (aka Tagus) River and a short 5 minute walk from our house. Every time I see a picture of these monuments to Portuguese seafaring days I am taken back to my teenage years.
Who? Do! Hoodoos!
Here in Bryce Canyon National Park, in Utah, red colored sandstone spire shaped rocks abound, called "hoodoos". This is not our first trip there, and every time we go, we see something new and majestic, formed by wind, water and Mother Nature. What a treat for those of us who live in the western states.
That's a lot of sand...
Death Valley National Park, CA and NV – Want a little sand? A panoramic view of Mesquite Flats near Death Valley. This picture was taken by Justin Gonzaga, my daughter's significant other. He has a real knack for eye-catching photography. Yep, sand dunes in the middle of nowhere. Gorgeous but don't go in the summer unless you like being cooked.
Nazca, Peru - The Hummingbird geoglyph, one of the many geoglyphs called “Nazca Lines” of Peru. From tip to tip it is 320 ft long and 216 ft wide and can only be seen in its entirety from the air. This picture was taken from our light plane, at 3000 ft up and we barely caught the whole figure. The timeline of the geoglyphs creation was 500 BC to 500 AD. How was this ancient civilization able to create such designs that could only be seen clearly from high up in the air?
It's always a lantern festival
Nara, Japan. At the Shinto temple of Kasuga Taisha (Grand) Shrine, known for its hundreds of lanterns, stone and bronze, all around the complex. What a beautiful sight! This temple is near the deer park where the animals roam freely looking for food handouts. With all the tourists, they have it made.
Pompeii, Italy. In AD 79, Vesuvius had a fit and we are now frozen in time.
RIP, Jim Morrison
Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Lots of famous people have a seat at this particular table (graveyard). Moliere, Chopin, Gertrude Stein, Oscar Wilde, the star crossed lovers – Heloise & Abelard. Of them all, it’s Jim Morrison who gets lots of flowers and attention all the time.
A Samurai Stronghold
Osaka, Japan. Osaka Castle at night. Home of the Tokugawa clan and their fierce samurais. Ah, those were the days. It feels far removed from the Japanese of today.
Assyrian history in the western world
The Louvre, Paris. The Assyrian rooms at the museum are guarded by these huge winged human-head bulls taken from the palace of Sargon II, Khorsabad, c. 715 B.C. It’s mind boggling that westerners moved history and put it in a western museum. On the other hand, if it were not for these “movers and shakers”, today we would not have had the chance to gaze at them in awe. It’s like something from the movies, maybe “Cleopatra” or something….
The Little House of Virgin Mary
The House of the Virgin Mary near Ephesus in Turkey. According to beliefs of the devout, St John the Apostle was tasked to look after Mary and he situated her in this stone house where she lived for the rest of her life. The “wishing wall” and the fountain with healing properties are nearby. The discovery of this stone house has an immensely interesting story behind it, if you’d like to look it up!
Outskirts of Paris near Versailles - One of the rustic peasant buildings at Le Hameaux – Marie Antoinette’s retreat from the drudgeries of playing Queen - at Le Petit Trianon. Life was so tough for her she had this whole little “village” built. She invited her court and staged plays and they all played like they were peasants, without the corresponding drudgery and hard work. It’s tough being the queen.
The Pyramid effect
At the Louvre in Pari, if you follow the I.M. Peh pyramid at the street level all the way down the Louvre to its interior, at the very bottom, you will find this inverted glass pyramid barely touching it’s corresponding small stone one. Isn’t it cool?
Oh those men in uniform!
What’s better than a man in a uniform? A whole bunch of men in uniform, of course! Changing of the Guard in Copenhagen (in blue on foot). Changing of the Guard in Buckingham Palace (in red on horses). You can tell which one is more approachable and which one has more pomp and circumstance.
The Ins vs the Outs
Paris, France - Everyone shows their pictures of the exterior, but the actual “interior”? Not so much. Well here you are, the innards of La Tour Eiffel and L'Arc de Triomphe.
A short trip through time
Ephesus, near Kusadasi in Turkey. Three places to introduce you to:
Let's make a pit stop - at the Latrina (public toilets), circa 100 A.D.
Then there is the commercial agoura (marketplace) next to the Library of Celsus , circa 100 A.D. It gives me goosebumps to think that I was walking where, according to the New Testament, St. John the Apostle preached.
And finally, a roadside stand, circa 2015? - It is such a relief for tourists to know that they will be purchasing REAL FAKE WATCHES here. No guarantees about passing through U.S. customs, though.
Two views of Piazza San Marcos
Venice, Italy – Look a picture of Piazza San Marcos, pre-pandemic (taken from our cruise ship, and during pandemic lockdown (copied from social media sources). What a difference the ants/people make. I heard their man-made canals to keep back the waters were working and the piazza did not flood this rainy season. Next time we visit we won't need galoshes.
A sad part of Russian history
St Petersburg, Russia - The Peter and Paul Cathedral within the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg contains the tombs of all (but 2) of the Russian Tsars. Nicholas II and his family, the last of the Romanovs, were brutally murdered by the Bolsheviks. Their bodies were found, recovered and interred here, in this side chapel. Yes, despite the mystery, the official version is that Anastasia was also recovered and buried here. At least, her plaque seems to be the one on the right.
Oracle (of Delphi not Java)
The “other” Oracle, and this is the real thing – the Oracle at the Sanctuary of Apollo, Delphi, Greece. This is where the ancient kings would go to consult on important matters of state. Today, we go to “our” Oracle when we need Java and other high tech blessings. It’s all up to the gods, either way.
Every once in a while, on your travels, something will catch your eye and immediately you will be transported back to that which you hoped to have escaped from ... for a short while anyway. A reminder of home in downtown Tallin, Estonia.
Where are we now?
Toto, I don't think we are in Kansas anymore.
(Somewhere between St Petersburg, Russia and Helsinki, Finland)
When in Rome.... Do as the Romans do
A short trip to Rome, Italy - The Colosseum - constructed in 70 AD, it is at its most arresting at night with all the huge spotlights. Sort of like Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium. The Roman Forum served as Rome’s market and gathering place. Sort of like our pre-pandemic Glendale Galleria Mall.
It's Ariel! Courtesy of Hans Christian Andersen, the little mermaid sits by the shore and gazes sadly across the harbor of Copenhagen, Denmark. Surprisingly, the statue is quite small, maybe no more than 4 feet high and situated very close to the Langelinie walkway around the shore, which unfortunately, made it very susceptible to vandalism.
I usually see it in a bottle and take it as a pill. Never thought I’d see Ginkgo Biloba in its natural form as a beautiful and HUGE tree... and on the grounds of Schwerin Castle in Warnemunde, Germany, no less! I had to take a picture of the description sign just in case proof was needed. Why did I think they only grew in China?
Rudolph (the Red Nosed Reindeer)
Lapland, Finlandia. Lapland is known as Santa’s stomping grounds. Lapland food - don’t quote me on this but I think they serve reindeer meat as there are more reindeer in Lapland than humans. Here is a stuffed one. Oops, maybe not the best thing to bring up this time of the year …. Santa’s reindeers will have a cow… Hahahaha! I make myself laugh sometimes. (This was a posting in December of 2020)
Looking upon Angels
Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o’er the plains.
And the mountains in reply, echoing their joyous strains.
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Paris environs, Cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres – This was a posting to Facebook on December 23, 2020.
Paris environs, Chateau de Fontainebleau. The palace was home to the French Kings from the 12th century to 1870 but it is best known for its ties to Napoleon. His throne (he was not a big person, was he!) and the Abdication room where, on that pedestal table, Napoleon signed his abdication papers. Compared to Versailles, I loved Fontainebleau much more. More history, less ostentatious, less tourists and more gorgeous interiors. Infinitely worth the train ride from Paris.
Vatican, Rome. The beautiful Pietà - Michelangelo's masterpiece in St Peter’s Basilica. The face of Mary, looking down on her son, is sculpted indescribably pure and sad. I was lucky, although I had been there a few time, this picture was taken before a crazed person attacked and damaged the sculpture in 1972. Why are there people who do things like that?
Veni, Vidi, Vici
Casa Aliaga, Lima, Peru – This private museum contains the personal belongings of 16 generations of Aliagas, starting with Jeronimo de Aliaga, who came to the new world with Francisco Pizarro as one of the Spanish conquistadores. Here is his sword, which had a bloody history where the Incas were concerned between 1532 and 1572. This is another case of “Veni, Vidi, Vici” – I came, I saw, I conquered.
Peru - Trips are not always about beautiful sceneries, grand castles and glorious paintings. Sometimes we delve into the culture and in doing so, you find…. interesting and “alien” customs. The Chinese women used to bind their feet. The Inca people of Peru believed that an increase in cerebral mass will enhance cranial/brain functions, making them smarter. So, they bind the head of the newborns until a certain age to increase the brain. The skull then looks like this. Very. Alien. To each their own.
Helsingor, Denmark – You ever watch the Vikings series on the History Channel? Vikings! Yes, here we are deep in the real deal. Deep as in the dungeons of Kronborg Castle (aka “Elsinore” of Shakespeare’s Hamlet fame) where you will find Holger, the Danish Viking national hero of old, who will rise and shine when Denmark needs a hero to fight her enemies. Just waiting for those Swedish barbarians to dare cross the Oresund Sound. Violence, blood, drama. Yep, just like the series.
Lima, Peru - The Mochica culture in Peru flourished from 100 to 700 AD and their pottery can be fun while depicting aspects of their life. This is a favorite of mine. With its huge bulging eyes this pig shaped vessel looks like it received a big surprise when someone poured hot water into it! Ha!
Peru - Inca nobles accoutrements – headgear, ear ornaments , necklace and chest plates. All in shiny gold. Can you just see these nobles, dressed in their shiny and presiding over altars of (human) sacrifice? I think Hollywood has made movies of them. Regretfully, my hubby would not let me bring back any “ear ornaments”.
Bearing up when traveling
Lower Antelope Canyon, Nevada – Mother Nature hard at work sculpting the canyons so that they…. Bear up!
An Awww photo
Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada - It’s not just about the places experienced, architecture seen and different cultural life tasted. Our Yukon trip (to see the Northern Lights) we visited the Yukon Wildlife Preserve and look what we found! Cutest. White Fox. Ever.
The Colors of Santorini
Santorini, Greece – the incomparable Santorini and the town of Oia, set at the tip of the caldera where eons ago the mountains decided to blow their top. It is such a beautiful place in which every picture is worth a million words. The only drawback to the visit are the hoards (and I mean “hoards”!) of tourists squeezed into their narrow streets like ants.
Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada - Another chasing the Northern Lights Yukon adventure – Didn’t see much of the Lights but guess what we found - Wooly Bull-y! Okay, you had to have been alive and sentient around 1964 for that to mean anything... I am sure Wooly is not feeling the cold.
The ghosts of Pompeii
Pompeii, Italy - Vesuvius looms behind the destroyed Temple of Jove and a colonnaded street leading to the town center. Pompeii, in a quiet (tourist-less) moment in time.
Monasterio de Jeronimos
Lisbon, Portugal - It’s back to my memories of Lisbon today, as I look at my pictures of the cloister within the Monasterio de Jeronimos and the tomb of Vasco Da Gama, Portuguese explorer within its Church. Love, love, love Portugal. Miss, miss, miss Portugal. Tenho tanto saudades.
An Easter Egg
When you go to St Petersburg, Russia, you must stop by the Fabergé Museum. Each Fabergé egg is exquisitely hand crafted, painted, and jeweled and each egg hides a surprise egg when you open it up. Fabergé’s Renaissance egg pictured here is one of delicate beauty and the surprise egg, they believe, is the Resurrection egg featured in the same exhibit case. They are so beautiful that I wanted to share. Places to visit, things to see. Happy Easter!
The perks of retirement
Kyoto, Japan - Kinkaku-Ji, the Golden Pavilion. Built by a Shogun as a place for retirement. I imagine that it was absolutely the most peaceful place ever, a safe haven that would take away all the violence and blood and politics that would have characterized a Shogun’s life. Wouldn’t you like something like this to retire to? And by the way, that’s not paint; the light is reflecting on the gold leaf coating!
Athens, Greece - The Acropolis at sunset, as seen from the Hill of Muses (aka Philopappou Hill) across the way. The Parthenon, the Erectheum, the Theatre of Dionysus, remnants of so many magnificent structures overlooking the modern city of Athens, slowly being restored.
Gassing up in Paris
Paris - Now here is another random picture taken on an unknown street - a Parisian gas pump alongside a busy street. Zip in, gas up, zip out, et voilà! No fuss no muss. Wish U.S. gas stations were this easy. But then, our standard cars are triple the size of theirs. Maybe this pump is just for scooters?
For the directionally challenged
Paris - Hanging out at the corner and wondering – where are we going? If you are directionally challenged, have fun with this one.
So cool! This was a picture taken at some random street in Paris. A BMW scooter! Doesn’t that look like a fun ride? Sure beats scooters here in the U.S.
Vision from Scheherazade and the 1001 Nights
In actuality, this is the Dormition church of the Optina Monastery along the river Neva in St Petersburg. One of the most beautiful domes I had seen in St Petersburg, like something found in a fairytale. Well, this fairytale structure was, for a time, as an ice skating rink for Olympic trainees. Can you imagine? What a waste. But after reconstruction it is now back to its original purpose as a church.
Castles in the Sky
Bryce Canyon, Utah – Planning a trip to a close location? Here is a place you can get to pretty easily if you live in one of the western states. “Castles in the Sky” is what I call this picture. There are many, many more of these wonders, all available for you to find and look upon them in wonder and awe.
Capri, and not the shorts or the drink
The island of Capri – off the Amalfi Coast, Italy. Doesn’t it conjure images of a little Italian village set halfway up the mountain, the sun shining on blue, blue waters, a ride in a convertible down the coast, and you in a spaghetti strap dress and wide brim hat sitting at a café enjoying the view? Yeah. I love dreaming while I am wide awake, particularly when living through the drama of month end craziness.
Shades of Marie Antoinette
Versailles, outside of Paris - I’d like to think that this frilly, feminine carriage, showcased behind glass, is one that Marie Antoinette herself used to gallivant around the countryside. This can be found at her bucolic country play house(s) near Versailles - Le Petit Trianon. This is the real thing to those we see in TV period pieces from that era.
The Lizard, the Tree and the Hand
Peru, the Nazca lines - The Lizard, the Tree and the Hand. To understand the sheer size of these mysterious animal geoglyphs on the desert floor you have to fly high above to 3,000 feet. Then, if are lucky and can compare an 18 wheeler truck traversing the highway that cuts right through the geoglyphs, and the little structures dotting the side of that highway, you realize how enormous these man made designs are!
Paris Trip Thoughts: Sainte Chapelle, hidden within the Palais de Justice, this is the most beautiful little church in Christendom, I think. The stained glass illuminates the church in different colors from different angles and at different times of the day. There are no words. Just wow.
Navajo Nation land and The Mittens
Utah/Arizona - another Westward Ho! destination. In the Navajo Nation’s Monument Valley Tribal Park you find its iconic Left and Right Mittens buttes. Be sure you visit the Four Corners area, too, where Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico meet. Stick a limb in each state!
A discourse regarding Parisian toilettes
Even though I have been back to the U.S. for almost a month, I still find myself hitting the restroom (toilettes/WC) whenever one appears on my horizon, whether I have to go or not. God forbid that I can't find one when I need to go, as so often happens when we travel.
Halfway through our trip we found the most interesting public toilettes scattered around certain parts of Paris. We came upon this cylindrical structure one evening purely by chance and although my husband was a bit desperate, we still had to read the instructions to figure out how this thing worked. The door opens when you press the green "open" button, you go in and press another button inside to close. You do your thing (ahem, be sure you don't forget to wash the hands), press the button to come out, and then... the toilette automatically shuts again and the whole inside is washed, disinfected and dried! When it is ready to be used again, the open button turns green, and voila! Next person in line! Convenient to the max.
The only problem is that just the cleaning portion itself takes about 3 minutes, I think, and for someone waiting on the outside desperate to go in, that is 2 minutes and 50 seconds too long. So at the Eiffel Tower, where 2 of these pictures were taken, the line was so long that although it says that "only one person may use the toilet at any time..." Ken and I went in together and our travel buddies – my sister, my daughter and our family friend went in together to save time. Everyone behind us were very, very grateful.
Colorado - Previously we visited Monument Valley. As we wander through the western states, we come across the Anasazi ruins in Mesa Verde National Park. Just amazing. Where did they go to? Did they just die off, or were they incorporated into other tribes? Conjectures abound but it’s difficult if you were not actually there, you know? I see you rolling your eyes!
Paris Metro thoughts and Tips
Paris 2014 Trip Thoughts: Today it is about the Metro. I have traveled on a number of cities’ metro systems and while I am taking out of the equation the fact that I got hit by a pickpocket while on this system, I would rate Paris’ a 5 out of 10. Cleanliness was average, smell…. well … some places left a lot to be desired. Although congestion was not bad, given how many tourists wandered through the system along with the locals. From time to time you had music to accompany you as musicians would play for you in the tubes as well as in the trains (for your donation). Pretty good music, too!
The running schedule was decent. Only had to wait more than 7 minutes in some outlying areas. But for the first few days, it was crazy trying to figure out where we were, where we were going, which lines to take, where to change and, most important, which direction are we heading now?
Purchasing a ticket at their vending machine was an exercise in futility. 30 euros per ticket to go two miles????!!!! Much later we found out that choosing a destination on the machine is a crap shoot. There is another St Michel in a town 30 miles away… So for the first few days we always had to resort to purchasing from a human being.
When our Navigo public transport pass kicked in for the rest of the days, that piece of plastic (see 2 pictures) became our most valued possession (besides the Museum Pass). We could use it to go on the metro, bus, RER transit system, anywhere in Paris and some surrounding cities like Versailles and Chartres. We could even use it on the Funicular in Montmartre!
As to the direction challenges, that was resolved when Justine pulled out her trusty Paris Metro lines phone app that she downloaded here in the States. Punch in the starting and the ending stop names and it will tell you - blue line to Chatelet then red to Etoile then green to Trocadero et voila! Le Tour Eiffel! It didn't even need Wi Fi!
So for those of you going to Paris, remember: Passe Navigo and the Paris Metro phone app. You just can’t go wrong. And oh yeah, avoid those green ticket vending machines, Bus 69, and if you are going to one of their gare (train) station, prepare to be totally, totally confused.
Pre-pandemic we would fly off to visit other countries on our vacay; post-pandemic we are cutting down on flying abroad, so why not check out places to go within driving distance?
Continuing on with our visit of the majestic Navajo lands in Arizona and surrounding states, our next stop is Spider Rock at Canyon De Chelly National Park. I always wonder what are the chances of it toppling? Wasn’t there a western movie with that scene - Montezuma’s Gold or something? Long, long time ago….
Cruising out of our pandemic misery
All Aboard ! – More than a year into the pandemic, are we feeling it? That desperate feeling that (after this last month end) we need to GET OUT OF DODGE to chill, rest, relax and get away from our exploding Inbox! So the middle of the sea is a good place to be. Especially if there are margaritas, a band, “free” food and fun and games!
How tasty is Rudolph?
Helsinki, Finland – A brief visit to this country and I learned that Lapland, as seen on that tent covering, is a region of Finland , all ice, and snow and cold!!! When you think of Saint Nicholas and Father Christmas, think Lapland. So what is Lapland food? Well…. they have more reindeer than people, so….think Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer…..
A sentinel of our California coast
California – How about a beautiful drive up the Pacific Coast Highway and the 17 Mile Drive? Stop by the Lone Cypress tree in Pebble Beach, enjoy the view, take a deep breath and let all the pandemic stress flow away. If you live in California, this is a short and easily plannable trip. Just get in your car and drive.
Fortress of the Sexy Woman
Cuzco, Peru – The fortress of Saycsaywaman (Tourists pronunciation – “sexy woman”, LOL) – 15th century fortress built on a hill in Cuzco. Those individual stones are huge and thick and placed together by hand, fitted perfectly with no spacing in between. All manual calculations, manual labor, no machines involved. What is left of this portion of the fortress wall is more than 3 times taller than me. How did these Incans do it?
Ornate Italian tombs
Firenze (Florence), Italy - Not anywhere on par with Stanley Tucci and his search for Italy, of course, but I do love all the Italian churches. So much history in each! For example, here in the Basilica of Santa Croce, you find Michelangelo's tomb! Now where else can you just walk in and say, “Hi, Michelangelo!” and no one thinks you are talking to a fighting turtle.
When aiming for a glorious afterlife
At the Louvre museum, Paris - If you want to travel to the afterlife in style, you will need that perfect sarcophagus, painted and detailed with all your good deeds. Prime example – this sarcophagus is on display in the Egyptian room at the Louvre. Note to all: the museum is a closer travel destination than the afterlife.
Immortal but for that darn heel
On the island of Corfu, Greece, you will find a villa built by Empress Elizabeth of Austria in 1890, a memorial to her son who died. She was a huge fan of Achilles and that is why the villa is called Achilleion. Here are views of the sculpture that portrays - “The Dying Achilles” - a German work of art. Makes me want to go back and re-read The Illiad and The Odyssey. Maybe even watch Brad Pitt in Troy.
Marie Antoinette's Last Days
Paris - Forget the films and the books. History never becomes more real than when you read the names of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette on the list of those who fell under the blade of Madame Guillotine. The list is set on the wall at La Conciergerie, the dreaded prison of the French Revolution of which Marie-Antoinette was probably its most famous prisoner. Her cell is open for public viewing and staged so we can see what her captivity must have been like. We can only imagine the terror and hopelessness she must have endured.
Peru - Canopy view of the Amazon jungle from the Refugio Amazonas, a lodge where you can commune with nature. Climb the tower and look over the top of the trees that is the jungle. That was one enlightening trip and it’s good to have the Amazon checked off from my bucket list. Next stop alphabetically – Antartica! Can the COVID virus exist there?
The importance of signs ... in English
St. Petersburg, Russia – On the grounds of the Grand Palace of Peter the Great at Peterhof (St Petersburg). It's always good there are signs in English to point us in the right direction, as I am always directionally challenged. The most important one is at the bottom. Always #1 on my list when I travel anywhere, be it halfway round the world or to the next county.
The Serenity of Japan
Kyoto, Japan - If I need to relax and de-stress I always go for a picture taken in Kyoto, Japan. For a country with a very violent past under the shoguns, they sure built beautiful temples and structures. This one is the Kiyomizu-Dera temple at sunset.
I am directionally challenged
Travelling down the Venice Grand Canal via vaporetto to the little islands of Murano and Burano. Hmm, which vaporetto should I be boarding? The left or the right? One goes east, the other goes west. I have been known to get on the wrong one.
When in Greece do as the Greeks do and go to Delphi because hey, this is the center of the world, according to the ancient Greeks. To mark the “navel of Earth” the “Omphalos” stone was erected on the site. So there you are "Middle Earth". Funny how all races and civilizations thought they were the center of the world. The ancient Chinese did, the Hobbits did, and certainly the modern day U.S.
The Charioteer of Delphi
Delphi, Greece – Perusing through our pictures from our visit to Delphi, I always come back to one of the best known statues from ancient Greece - the Charioteer of Delphi. This, my friends is ancient, as in 470 BC ancient. Like the statue of David by Michelangelo, the Charioteer is awe inspiring and never to be forgotten once you have actually seen it in person.
Peru - Sunset on the Tambopata River, a tributary of the Amazon. This is what I dreamed of during the pandemic – the end of a day in a place far away from the home or office, a glass of wine, the softness of silence all around, and, most important, no mosquitoes.
Fun in the snow
Whitehorse, Yukon Territories, Canada - On our adventures through the Yukon in search of the Northern Lights, we came across the Takhini Hot Pools. The adventure is not just to sit in the hot springs while it is below zero above and snowing, which is all I was game for. The adventure is to get out from the hot springs, roll around in the snow, and then jump back in. Here are my kids, doing the shivering dance. I made them do it twice as I didn't capture it fully on video the first time. LOL! It builds character!
The ups and downs of dog sledding
Whitehorse, Yukon Territories, Canada - Today we are tripping back to our Yukon trip where dog sledding is a great way to see the countryside and the snow - up close and personal. This is a GOOD picture because I am actually STANDING UP behind the dogs and that’s because we were taking a break . I was the only one of our group thrown off, not once but TWICE, and the only one whose dogs got away and had a great time running around crazy leaving me face down in the snow. I have always been a high achiever.
Ye Ole Drugstore
The best thing about traveling are the fun things you run across. I love cruising and the Baltic cruise took us to places we probably would not have gone to in Northern Europe. In Tallin, the capital of Estonia, across the Baltic Sea from Finland and Sweden, I came across the oldest known apothecary, established in 1422, and still selling pharmaceuticals! It’s a bit mind boggling to do the math. 600 years old!!!
Foo Lion for protection
Nishi Honganji Temple, Kyoto, Japan - As we travel we can find the most exquisite things if we really open our eyes to everything around us and above us. This one was not even at eye level. Would you not love to have this decorative guardian protect your roof top?
Upper Antelope Canyon, Arizona – Located on Navajo land and needs a Navajo guide to access. Gorgeous picture of the remarkable canyon walls. This photo was just taken with my phone and it came out looking like a piece of art. Have phone will travel!
What a lot of bull!
Last week we looked at a roof top figurine from Kyoto. This week we are featuring rooftop figurine from Pukara in Peru. The double bulls are placed on the roof to protect the household. Cute, eh? We need all the help we can get. Even if it is a lot of bulls…..
Could be downtown Main St. USA
Looks like any old street in Anytown, USA, right? Except when it isn't. Welcome to Copenhagen!
The wonder of Machu Picchu
Peru - I had a friend who asked, when she saw my changed picture on FB, whether Machu Picchu would be a good place to go visit. I told her that my Peru vacation was the best one I have taken and Machu Picchu was the highlight. Look at this, the ruins, 7,000 feet in the Andes and backdropped by the mountains wreathed in clouds. Isn't it incredible?
Marcus Aurelius of Rome
Good ol’ Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor, memorialized in marble. I find it amazing that this artist, in the early years of ancient civilization, was able to sculpt and carve all the little curls into the marble. This very well preserved bust can be found in the Ephesus (Efes) Archeological Museum, near the ancient city of Ephesus, Kusadasi, Turkey. A great place to visit if you are into ancient Western civilization history.
Parking Cones in Finland
In the U.S. we have our orange cones on the street to mark “no parking”. In Finlandia, they have these cute turtle cones. Now, why could we not be as creative? Probably because someone would steal it right away. Looks like something we could put in our backyard.
We are one with nature and the bugs
Peru - Our guest quarters at the Refugio Amazonas along the Tambopata tributary of the Amazon River. Totally in communion with nature. No glass, no screens, all natural wood, and slatted wood roof. Restrictions on water usage and electricity only runs a few hours a day. We have to sleep with a net over the bed because, you know, those bugs want to cuddle right in there with you at night.
If there are Onion Domes, then you are in Russia
St Petersburg (Russia) and the Church of Resurrection/Savior on the Spilled Blood. Known by a couple of names but the importance is on the “Spilled Blood” part. The church was built where Czar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. The actual ground of the assassination was incorporated into the church and enclosed in a shrine across from the altar. Yes, a bit gory. Not sure if bloodstains still remain….. Not the best picture of the church because it is so huge it should be taken from far away to get the full effect. But still pretty good looking onions!
Hight Speed Travel This Is Not
Lisbon, Portugal - It might be a touristy thing to do, but riding one of these quaint trams is a fun way to visit certain older neighborhoods, like Alfama, high up in the hills of Lisbon. Unless you want to build up your thigh muscles and stamina, you are going to want to take the trams around those steep hills and visit Fado (national lament music!) restaurants that abound in that area.
Portugal's version of the Magic Castle
For those of us who have been there, Palacio de Pena in Sintra, outside of Lisbon, is unforgettable. Vividly colored walls, architecture filled with elaborate stone carvings and mythological statues, these pictures are only very small snapshots of a very small part of the whole fantastical structure. Google it and you can find other great pictures. Better yet, put it on your bucket list and visit it in person!
Knowing My Left From My Right
London – In the U.S. and other parts of the “normal” world, where we drive on the RIGHT side of the road, we are conditioned to look LEFT for incoming traffic when crossing the street. Looking RIGHT takes some getting used to. No, wait, do I look LEFT? Or is it RIGHT? I wonder how many tourists in UK almost stepped into traffic because they forgot and watched the wrong side?!
Giverny, France - All his art canvas around my home and office is probably a dead giveaway that I am a huge fan of Monet. So when we were in France, we couldn't miss the chance of going to visit his gardens in Giverny where he painted for 40 some years. What a feeling it was to realize we were standing right there, in the real world of his paintings.
Visions of Retirement
Assisi, Italy - One of our Italy tours years ago was nonstop, rush, rush, with very little time to deep soak the sights and history. Exhausted, we arrived at Assisi and right then and there I decided, here’s where I am going to retire to. Once you see this sunset view of the town and the Basilica of St. Francis (of Assisi), you can see where I’m coming from (and going to).
Taking a Bath in Bath
The Great (Roman) Bath in Bath, England. Hot thermal springs for the public to soak and rejuvenate in. Right. Looking at the green stuff today is a little offputting, isn’t it, but I am sure that in the Roman times of 5th Century AD, the people could not care less. Or know less. What diseases lurk in the deep green yonder? Take a dip! Ignorance is bliss.
The Caryatids - Sentinels of Time and History
The world’s best known Caryatids (female korai columns) are those holding up the Erechtheion, next to the Parthenon, at the Acropolis. Considering they were constructed around 421 B.C., these korai certainly weathered the elements, wars and man’s despoliation well. They stand as mute testimony to history and the inevitability of the passage of time.
The Beautiful and Alien Landscapes of Death Valley National Park
in California & Nevada
Death Valley may lay claim to be the hottest, driest place on earth and the lowest National Park in the U.S but on our 4 day trip on Thanksgiving we encountered rain and snow as well as clear sunny skies. Painted mountains, salt flats, sand dunes and surreal landscapes were added to the glory of looking up and seeing the Milky Way in this International Dark Sky Park.
With names like Stovepipe Wells, Furnace Creek, Badwater Basin (lowest place in the U.S.), Mesquite Flats, Devil’s Golf Course you know you are west of the Rockies and in the middle of nowhere.
Go hiking in the mountains, ride into the sunset, lie on the sand dunes as you gaze at the Milky Way, take an astrophotography lesson on site and start clicking away!
And it is only about 2 ½ hours away from Las Vegas!
The Amazing Upper Antelope Canyon (AZ), Bryce Canyon (UT)
and Zion National Park (UT)
Mother Nature works hard through the eons of time. Blessed are we who have the opportunity to behold the masterpieces carved and painted.
Hunting the Aurora Borealis and Fun in the Yukon
Someone mentioned that the strength of illumination of the Aurora Borealis runs a 10 year cycle and we were coming to the end of this cycle. Heaven forbid that I should miss it in this lifetime! So off we go to the city of Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territories, Canada. Never mind that the standard temperature there is 22 ̊F at noon and 0 ̊F at night. YOLO!
Yes, you can say that we achieved our goal. Although not visible by the naked eye the 3 days we were there, we did see the Aurora Borealis through the lenses of the camera. They and the night moon were gorgeous and fascinating no matter which medium was used to see them and voila! Here is proof for posterity. You have to be a bit of a fanatic to do this: viewing time each night was from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. out on the open fields, shivering under temperature that was below -17 ͒͒͒C. Have you ever seen a frozen camera? My poor Nikon 5300D sat on a tripod out there for 4 hours for 3 nights.
Dog Sledding in the falling snow! Yes it snowed all day up in the mountains making the experience very unique for a Southern California gal. There is something to be said for gathering around a campfire for lunch of bison and elk sausages, making a delicious hot drink from spruce branches (picked from the tree right there) and having the snow fall continuously. We drove our own sleds and I admit that I was thrown 3 times, face planting in the snow. Now, everytime I hear “Up!” all my muscles tense up and I grab something tight, as that is the call for the dogs to “Go!”
My veterinarian daughter was so happy that we got to visit a wild animal preserve. In the snow. But it was worth it. Aren’t they beautiful?
The Lost Civilizations of Peru
In my bucket there were 4 places that I dreamed to go and in one vacation we accomplished them all - Peru!
There is something to be said for being able to brag, “I trekked through the steaming jungles of the Amazon and sailed down its rivers and tributaries with alligators ambling along”; or, “I swooped around at 3,000 feet in a small plane to look at the stupendous Nazca lines, and didn’t throw up once; or, “I survived the high altitude of 12,500 feet when we visited the highest navigable lake in the world - Lake Titicaca”. Been there! Done that! Loved it!
But the absolutely most indescribable experience in my life was arriving high in the Andes mountains, turning the corner and seeing the majesty of Machu Picchu laid out in front of me. It was an overwhelmingly emotional moment, bringing tears to my eyes. My one thought was, “Finally, I am here.” Simply put, if I had died then, I would have died happy. That’s how much it affected me.
The City of Lights
Paris is a crazy city. I am not sure that I like it much, but it does get better after a few trips. I look at it as a must-visit location for any self proclaimed world traveler, but if it wasn’t for the history and the art, there wouldn’t be much there that would attract me. Is this reverse snobbery?
When I first visited 15 years ago, the people were snobby, unhelpful and terribly unfriendly. My impression was that they looked at tourists as they would second class citizens. That had changed by the time I visited again about 3 years ago. I think a great deal had to do with the emergence of the European Union, which made it easier for citizens of the EU to travel from area to area and hence force changed the insular attitudes of the French.
Cruising is a lovely way to vacation. You travel in state, stuff yourself with good food, enjoy the entertainment on board and get to go on shore excursions from time to time to see some of the world. No need to unpack! Unfortunately, some of the excursions are limiting as to what can be seen. Turkey is one example. I would have loved to spend more time in that country, but we only sailed to Kusadasi, the biggest port along the Mediterranean, the main focal point being the ancient city of Ephesus. How amazing it was to be able to view the Celsus Library and walk upon the very grounds that St John the Apostle was supposed to have walked and preached. And then to visit the house where the Virgin Mary was supposed to have lived! History does not get better than that!
Corfu, Greece and Dubrovnik, Croatia
Along the route of that Mediterranean cruise we visited Corfu, it’s only claim to fame being the Achilleon. This palace was a retreat for the Empress Elizabeth of Austria Hungary who was an ardent admirer of the Greek Classics and the stories of Achilles by Homer. Her story is a sad one, I feel. Constricted by the formal Hapsburg Court after her marriage to Franz Joseph I, she would come to this palace to escape it all. She lost her only son and was later stabbed to death by an Italian anarchist. But I understand that this little villa facing the Adriatic Sea was a source of comfort for her.
We also visited Dubrovnik in the country of Croatia before it became popular from the Game of Thrones series. A walled city, perfectly preserved, with ancient streets and stone palaces, situated along the Dalmation Coast and facing the Adriatic Sea. See, just saying these names just gives me a thrill. It is so foreign!
The island of Santorini is part of a 3 island chain with the main attraction being Thira, which can only be reached by cable car, donkey or a climb of 600 steps, and Oia, which is where the most popular pictures can be found. There are apparently 800 churches in Santorini, and the prevalent blue and white colors of the buildings reflect the colors of the Greek flag. It is a lovely place to visit, but because it is best accessed from cruise ship excursions, the crush of tourists at any given time can be mind boggling and can take away from the experience. But, if you have a great camera and don’t mind the jostling for position, there are innumerable potential places for fantastic, colorful pictures.
For a history buff like myself there is no city more fascinating than Roma. You just can’t go more than a few steps without realizing that you are stepping on stones that Roman Legions and their Caesars stomped on. How cool is that! Like Paris, Rome is also a must-visit location for the world traveler, but there the similarities end. While the Parisians had this general air of insouciance and holier- than- thou mindset, the Romans were, I felt, friendly, down to earth and very proud of their history as the center of the Roman Empire. To do Roma justice a person needs put on their tennis shoes and be ready to walk everywhere so that no nook or cranny is missed. Gawk at something incredible? Go outside the Vatican in the early morning and look at the endless line of people lined up to visit Vatican City and the Musei Vaticani. Again, been there, done that, and maybe will do again!
I have been to Venice several times and never had the chance to dig deep into the Venetian lifestyle, simply because I was never there for a long period. Images of Venice is always - water, canals, water, small streets, water, throngs and throngs of tourists everywhere and the struggle of rolling suitcases up and down those canal bridges. Venice is so commercialized that it is difficult to get a sense of the actual people who lived there. But I do admit to enjoying riding the vaporetto around the Grand Canal, as long as I could figure out which direction it wa headed, and particularly visiting the town of Burano with its colorful houses and quaint shops, far removed from the hustle and bustle of Venice proper.
This Russian city was one of the port stops on our Baltic cruise, and although I hope to visit more of the country in the future, this excursion gave me a taste of the differences between the European culture and the Russian one. The biggest difference, and the best thing about St Petersburg, were the fantastical onion domed churches. Loved them! Nothing like that in any country in the world. Need to see the extravagance and excess of Imperial Russia? Visit the Grand Palace in Peterhof and the Catherine Palace in Pushkin. Is it no wonder that the Bolshevik Revolution happened? I might not be a big Russian history buff, but there was enough there and at L’Hermitage to fascinate me. I was surprised at how much Russian history is intertwined with European history, all due to the blood relationship between all the royal houses. I am going to put Russia in my bucket!
The city is well on its way towards reaching zero emission footprint. Cars and buses are rare compared to other congested European cities and the most common mode of transportation is the bicycle. There is nothing that grabs the female tourists’ romantic imaginations more than a man in uniform, especially if he is sporting a tall bearskin hat. Especially if he is walking in formation and not cracking a single smile. Copenhagen is a town you walk everywhere and so do the guards, as they march from the Armory to Amalienborg Castle. What a way to stop traffic! A fun city to visit - check out the human traffic on Nyhaun port, have a beer from the Carlsberg Brewery and enjoy Hans Christian Andersen’s home town.