"Gargoyles & Graffiti"chronicles architectural elements that I find interesting or unique in my travels. Gargoyles are my passion, but today graffiti (which I hate but am learning to love as it is everywhere) is as much a part of architecture as the gargoyles and decorative railings that thrill me.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Grand Turk Continued

Moises and me on Grand Turk
I found this photo my sister-in-law, Mariana, took on our holiday Caribbean cruise pretty amusing. It says prison with an arrow pointing to us. This was taken on Victoria Streeet in Cockburn Town, one of the oldest towns I have ever been to in the New World.

Victoria Public Library

Wikipedia has this to say about Cockburn Town ... "The seat of government ever since 1766, Cockburn Town was the first permanent settlement on any of the islands, founded in 1681 by salt collectors who arrived in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The city supposedly lies on the place where Juan Ponce de León first landed on the island."

Display at the National Museum of Grank Turk

Some of the oldest buildings are still used, but they seem to be only open at rare times. Maybe a few hours in the morning and a bit in late afternoon. The entire island has a feel of mañana time, like nothing happens fast and maybe not at all. The people are friendly and seem good natured, and nobody is in a hurry.

But by and far the best part of Cockburn Town for me was the National Museum. It is quite an impressive little place. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Introduction to Grand Turk Island

Beach at Grand Turk seen from the cruise ship

My husband, sister-in-law and I took a cruise over the Christmas holiday on the Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam. One of the nicest places and a complete surprise was the island of Grand Turk. The beach is just absolutely gorgeous. Cozumel still has a beautiful beach with clear waters, where we live. But it was nice to see a place with so little activity, still so laid-back and with crystal clear waters.

There was a variety of transportation options - local cabs, ATVs to ride along the main road, and golf carts as seen above. We opted for a local cab as I only knew I wanted to see Cockburn Town, which boasts a local musem (quite good) and some of the oldest buildings I have ever seen outside of Europe.

Cockburn Town Museum porch
We had a bit of a scare when we first arrived by taxi to Cockburn Town though. The driver of the van who drove us in to town was drinking Budweiser. Now this was 9am. I found it amusing, not really frightening. I mean the island is pretty small, seems to be comprised of mainly one road and the driver was not going fast. 

Once we arrived in the town, it appeared to be mostly just a sandy road with a few souvenir shops and a bunch of older men, you guessed it, drinking Budweiser at an old picnic bench. The scary part came about when one of these men appeared behind us and started to follow us down the road. In my nervousness, I ran over to another van driver and asked him if he was heading back to the ship. I wasn't too comfortable with this guy, but he assured me he was harmless and just mentally ill. He laughed and said it really isn't good for business how he follows the tourists around. So we stayed and enjoyed ourselves! I am really glad we did.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Palma de Mallorca: A Magnificent Place

Cathedral at Palma de Mallorca

Detail of the Cathedral

Palma de Mallorca was everything I expected and more. The day was hot in the sun and cool in the shade. We took a taxi from the Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam to the Cathedral before it opened and waited. The first few hours were sheer bliss. As the day wore on, it got hotter and way more crowded, so we actually returned to the ship early. That is the blessing of doing your own thing and not going on an organized tour. It was the last stop of our cruise, and I think we were all pretty tired.

Nieuw Amsterdam docked at Palma de Mallorca

The day was short but wonderful. My favorite place at Palma de Mallorca was the Basilica of Saint Francis from the 13th century. La Seu is also very impressive, the Cathedral, but I found the Basilica more spiritual. I will report on both Churches in other posts.

More information on Palma de Mallorca can be found here on wikipedia. Here is is a photo below of people returning to the ship.

Bye bye Palma de Mallorca

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Palermo Cathedral: Holiness in the Midst of Chaos

Palermo Cathedral

The Cathedral in Palermo is not only impressive, but a Holy Place. It just feels so wonderful to walk in. The guide books say the most impressive part is the outside of the building, but I loved the inside too. Information on the history of the Cathedral can be found on Wikipedia here

It is a jumble of Norman, Renaissance and Gothic elements. Tour groups were everywhere and we made our way in to the Cathedral with a group from the Holland America Eurodam. I couldn't have been happier with the Cathedral. It just felt right. We were on a tour that took us to Monreale, but we stopped first here and I am so glad we did. I loved the Palermo Cathedral so much more than the one in Monreale. I also loved Palermo more. Monreale is a quaint, lovely town but it doesn't have the vibrant nature nor the pandemonium or joy of life of Palermo. 

Palermo Cathedral

Closeup of statue at Palermo Cathedral

Closeup of floor design - interior Palermo Cathedral

Interior Palermo Cathedral
You decide but my vote will be for Palermo! Photos of the Cathedral at Monreale coming tomorrow. 

I was again on a cruise, this time from Rome to Rome, Western Med, traveling solo. I have to admit. I missed my husband a lot this trip, probably because even though I did meet some great people and had a few dinners with them ... it was not like 2011, where I had a group of 2 couples I did almost everything with. I missed you this trip ... Yvette, Ray, Neal and Tiara!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Taormina: a Beautiful Slice of Sicily

Fountain in Taormina

Overlook near Taormina

This is definitely a gargoyle post. On our Roman Empire cruise, my niece and I took an excursion to Taormina, Sicily. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. Set up on a hill and overlooking the sea and mountainous terrain with beautiful greenery thrown in, it is truly a gorgeous slice of Sicily.

What appears to be an abandoned night club with a Cross above

Stairway by souvenir shops

On that particular day, it happened to be the day after an election of some sort. It was so wonderful to observe all the local Italians standing in groups in the streets, conversing in whispers in corners and gesticulating wildly about the outcome. We had no idea who had run and won or lost, but it was great fun just being part of such a lovely place.

Behind the Greek Theater

Taormina is small and friendly. It is oozing with charm and lovely restaurants and hotels. It has a Greek theater, which to me was kind of the low point of the tour. I preferred the cappuccino and desserts and the stroll around town. I adored watching the children play. I even loved our group that day.

Greek Theater

Another view from the overlook

Walking around Taormina

Skip Messina. It is just another port town. Make your way instead to Taormina. More information can be found here. And if you ever do make it, please go in and check out Hotel Timeo. I really wanted to stay there but I was on a cruise. A good reason for me to go back! If you would like more info on the luxury hotel Timeo, please click here. It is located right in front of the Greek Theater. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Remembering Taormina: Gargoyles Wanted

Gentlemen in Taormina

It has been four years since I went on the Roman Empire cruise with my niece, Sarah. There were so many wonderful things about that cruise - great ports, the perfect amount of days on the cruise (10) and a fabulous traveling companion. Since that year, I have traveled solo on most of my trips. In 2009, I went to Barcelona and Athens for 5 days each by myself. In 2010, Moises and I went to the Baltic to celebrate our ten year anniversary. In 2011 and 2012, I cruised solo. I have decided after these last two cruises that I definitely like traveling alone. It's not perfect as there are a few lonely moments, but I also get to do what I want when I want. And cruising is a perfect venue for a single middle-aged woman (eeh gads, did I actually say it out loud ... middle-aged.)

Taormina street

I will be 57 this month, so I guess I must admit it, but what is it about getting older that feels the same? Now I understand when a group of 80 year old women out to lunch call each other girls. I just don't feel old. Everybody else just looks way too young. I catch myself in awe when a young person drives by and I think they must be 12. Instead of me being old, the world just looks too youthful!

Moped in Taormina

In celebration of my upcoming birthday, I want to revisit Italy, starting with Taormina. There is something ageless about Rome with its crowds and crumbling ruins, graffiti and traffic, smog and confusion. It is somewhat sad but mostly hopeful. But one of my favorite places in Italy is Taormina, Sicily. It is a wonderful, quaint and friendly small town. Where Palermo, Sicily's capital, is like a loud belch, Taormina is a quiet whisper. 

Greek Theater at Taormina

Taormina is a place that beckons one of my favorite things ... gargoyles. I need to go back to try to find them. I am sure they are hidden there somewhere. If any of you readers have photos of gargoyles in Taormina or other parts of Sicily, I would love to post them here!

Almost gargoyles

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Lucca vs. Cinque Terre

Florence, Italy
Florence, Italy is one of those rare and special places. I have been there either two times. The first time was in 1995, and I went by train from Rome and spent five days there. It was exquisite, though a bit cold, as it was winter. The second time, my husband and I took a tour that stopped in Florence. We loved it enough to abandon our tour and stay an extra day, then taking the train on to Venice. 

Lucca in Tuscany
Next year, I will be on a cruise that will stop in Livorno. I could either return to Florence, take a tour to Cinque Terre or go to Lucca. I am torn and can't decide. Both Cinque Terre and Lucca look amazing. The crowds kind of turn me off for Cinque Terre though. I probably won't return to Florence, as I love to explore new places. Help me decide!