"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.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Best New Year's Places in Europe

Venere lists the five best spots to party in the New Year for 2012. They are in order: London, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome and Vienna. More information on what there is to do in these wonderful cities can be found at:

My husband and I will go to my sister-in-law's house to celebrate with her, her husband and four of her children. We bring the cake and non-alcoholic refreshments. Daisy, my sister-in-law, will open a bottle of wine for her and her husband, Miguel. She will make a big meal, usually something that sits like lead in my stomach but very tasty none the less. One of the daughters will be dressed in something too tight and too short and wearing way too much makeup. The other daughter will dress like a prim librarian. The two boys will do their best to wear their finest, but something is always off ... the hair sticking on end or shirt tucked half-in, half-out. But I wouldn't have it any other way. 

I look forward to spending time with my husband's family, now my family! There is a comfort knowing they are back to Cozumel. They spent Christmas away, and I am very glad they will be here to ring in 2012!

Pictures to follow ....

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Greetings

Cozumel Christmas tree along the waterfront

Christmas greetings from Cozumel! The weather is balmy, overcast and warm. Temperature about 23 Centigrade, 74 Fahrenheit. Today friends are diving, eating too much and relaxing. I spent a nice night on Christmas Eve with friends for dinner at Sorrisi's Italian. Very good food and great company.

My husband is visiting family in Merida, Yucatan, so it is a bittersweet holiday. We have never been apart in our 12 years together, and we vow we will not spend the holidays apart next year.

Cozumel Museum

For all of you all around the world, Gargoyles & Graffiti wishes you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy New Year!

Clock tower on San Miguel square

All photos courtesy of This is Cozumel.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Market in Basel

Having done an Avalon Waterways cruise along the Rhine River in October, I yearn to do this cruise at Christmas time. Germany really knows how to do Christmas Market. Most cruises start in Basel, Switzerland - where every Saturday is a feast of cheeses, breads, fruits and good cheer. The people of Basel are friendly and the market sellers that come down from the mountains are even friendlier.

A great website for information on the Christmas market in Basel and other locations can be found here. Basel is such a magical time any time of the year, but it must be especially beautiful at Christmas. I know what I will ask from Santa for next year!

Photos courtesy of christmasmarkets.com and all from Basel, Switzerland.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rhine River Cruise in October

me (on the left) and my niece Sarah

The one thing you can be sure of when traveling the Rhine River by river cruise boat is that you will be cold. We stomped our way through Heidelberg, went inside as we passed the Lorelei due to the severe wind, and tightened our coats in Amsterdam as we walked from the Van Gogh Museum to a restaurant around the corner . Don't get me wrong. We had a great time, but the first thing that comes to mind when I think about going on the river cruise is how cold we were. Now my niece may not have noticed as much as she lives in England. I live in Cozumel, Mexico - where cold weather is 60 degrees Fahrenheit. 

It was an amazing trip, booked almost at the last minute which is my favorite way to travel whenever possible. Decide to go somewhere, figure out how to get there and GO! 

Sarah and Macarena Man
My niece Sarah is super friendly and she made a whole slew of new friends on this river cruise. From Macarena Man who "did the Macarena," almost every night to a group of men with canes that taught her to play cards. We called them "1 stick, 2 sticks" as some had 1 cane to get around and one guy had 2. The wives were all without canes. (Gotta believe women age better than men while on this type of cruise.)

Macarena man "doing" the macarena

The crowd was older, but oh so friendly. We went with Avalon Waterways on the Tapestry. The boat was great, the crew so helpful and the captain was a delight. I will never forget him jumping around in wooden shoes the first night.

me and Sarah with the Captain in the middle leaving the river boat in Amsterdam

We even got to sit at the Captain's table for the Captain's dinner. I think that was more because of my young niece than myself!

Our tour director with her hands on my shoulders

Avalon Waterways and their river boats is definitely the way to go if you want to do the Danube or the Rhine, or any other river that they traverse. (People say the Danube is even prettier than the Rhine.) The difference in river cruising is it is more relaxed with around 100 people so you get to know everyone. There are no plastic cards to get on and off the boat, just a number so they know if people are still ashore. I highly recommend it.

Information on Avalon Waterways, just click here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Rolling In the Deep at Miami Airport

I bought a copy of Adele's 21 while in Miami this week, along with the tribute CD of Amy Winehouse, Lioness Treasures. I was blown away by how good the Adele CD is. I especially liked "Rolling in the Deep," "Rumour Has It" and "Someone Like You." The entire CD is superb.

The best part of my return through the Miami airport was a group of school children doing their rendition of "Rolling in the Deep." They were all dressed in their school uniforms and couldn't have been much older than 7 or 8. They blew me away. 

Sorry for the quality of the video as I was standing in the back of a big crowd, and this is only the second video I have ever recorded. (Probably pretty obvious, LOL.) I took it impromptu with my phone. 

If anybody has the information on the school, I would love to credit them. One child did a version of Santa Baby that was amazing. I have to applaud not only the children, but their music and dance instructor as well. 

Adele's version of "Rolling in the Deep"

Happy holidays!

Monday, November 28, 2011

What Church is This in Basel, Switzerland?

Is this the Munster Cathedral in Basel?
I really need some help from my European readers. Is this photo above of the Munster Cathedral in Basel, Switzerland? It looks like it from this photo, but in a few of the other exterior photos and in all of the interior photos, I cannot find any matches online. All the photos I find look very different, especially the interior photos. Please, readers, help me out. Let me know if you can.

The Munster Cathedral in Basel has an interesting past as it started as a Catholic cathedral, but it has been a Protestant Cathedral since 1529, of the order of the Swiss Reform Church. More fascinating information on this Cathedral can be found on wikipedia by clicking here.

From the reading I did today, it appears there are numerous chapels and what looks like an area for information that is gated, please help me identify. It is driving me crazy! TIA.

Near by gargoyle-themed trees
No post would be complete without at least one gargoyle!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Basel, Switzerland: So Great

me in Basel wearing clogs

My niece and I took a river cruise from Basel to Amsterdam a few years back. We stayed a few days in Basel beforehand, and I was super impressed with this great town. There was so much to see and do, from the Saturday food market to the wonderful architecture. We even rode the local train on every imaginable route. A two day pass on the trains was included in the price of our hotel stay.

Basel Marlplatz (or City Hall)

The market we visited on Saturday was incredible from the fresh breads and cheeses to the guy wearing mutton chops and a funny hat. I will try to figure out a way to download my photos. Right now I only have access to my niece's photos as they are on disk. Mine are on a memory card from Sony and I need some kind of adapter to access them. Will search online and see if I can find out where to buy it. 

Flower market area

Wonderful architectural details of Market area

Note the sloping roofs on the old houses & the gargoyle-themed trees

Basel is "Located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel also has suburbs in France and Germany. With 830,000 inhabitants in the tri-national urban agglomeration as of 2004, Basel is Switzerland's second-largest urban area." (Wikipedia) If you would like more information on Basel from wikipedia, click here

Street fun in Basel

If you want to travel to Basel and stay in a great hotel, check out the Grand Hotel les Trois Rois. I didn't stay there but it is breathtakingly beautiful. If you would like more info on this hotel, click here.

Grand Hotel les Trois Rois (photo from their website)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cause of Death for Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse Inquest

The cause of death is finally in on Amy Winehouse. She had five times the legal limit of alcohol in her system when she died. Her alcoholism killed her. I have to admit it really bothered me when her father would be on TV, saying she had kicked drugs three years before. He seems like a wonderful man, don't get me wrong. But the ignorance of people not realizing that alcohol is a drug is what I find frightening. She never found sobriety. As long as she was drinking, she was not sober.

Alcohol is a legal drug, but for many of us, it is really a liquid poison. One drink is too many, a thousand never enough. For those of us whose last drug of choice is alcohol, we know all too well that life goes down very quickly. Alcohol was my last drug of choice. I took my last drink when I was 31. I am now 56. 

I only wish Amy Winehouse could have found the joy I found, and the pain. Because life without drinking or drugs can be very joyful, but also very painful. When we begin to feel again, it sometimes seems overwhelming. That is where the concept of one day at a time comes in. For me, I have even practiced one moment at a time. 

The fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous makes it possible to learn a new way of living without the crutch of alcohol or drugs. What most people don't realize who are not alcoholic is that drinking is but a symptom of a greater problem. The problem is in ourselves. We are people who cannot deal with life and so we drink or take drugs. Stopping the drugs or alcohol is only the beginning. We need to find real sobriety, but all I can say to someone out there who is sick and tired of being sick and tired, just go to one meeting. All you need to join is a desire to stop using drugs or drinking alcohol.

I got where I am today one day at a time with Alcoholics Anonymous. Thank you, AA. And for those of you still suffering, there is a way out. Just come to one meeting. It is a program that we work one moment at a time if necessary. 

Amy, we will miss you. I only wish you could have found what I did. RIP

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Street Art in St. Petersburg, Russia

Graffiti art in St. Petersburg

A festival was held a few months back in St. Petersburg, Russia. Its focus was street art, not graffiti. The art is really spectacular. More information on the festival can be  found here

The art is sophisticated and quite beautiful. More images can be found on graffiti.org. Click here

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Canterbury: Mixed Review

Sarah & Liam in Canterbury 
I have mixed feelings about Canterbury, England, which I visited after my Barcelona to Dover cruise. On the one hand, it was great to see my niece Sarah and meet her boyfriend. On the other, the town was just so so. I adored the Abode Hotel and was welcomed like a princess and loved my room. Hats off to the Abode Canterbury!

Abode Hotel Canterbury staff including Nick, Housekeeping Manager

Cute shops many from London

There are plenty of cute shops as well, but the amount of cigarette butts and dirt and garbage on the street surprised me. Add the weather, which nobody can do anything about ... it was just so windy, it made it hard to enjoy walking around. The Marks and Spencer's was a real plus, what a store! My niece took me there for the first time, and I went back three times during my two day stay. Got hooked on the bacon sandwiches. There is nothing like bacon in the UK. It is delicious.

Canterbury Cathedral from outside gates
Square by Cathedral gates

The Canterbury Cathedral was not at all what I expected. It was nice, but not really to my liking. Maybe I have been spoiled by all the gorgeous Cathedrals in Italy that I have visited. It seemed very sparse and plain. 

The town itself has a travel agency, where the staff were actually rude to me when I walked in to inquire about tours. I walked in behind two women and the man said, "Picked up somebody, did you?" And the women turned up their noses and said in unison, "She is not with us." And the three of them began to laugh. Obviously I left without booking a tour. 

There was a street musician who was quite good.

Street musician

Of course the highlight of my time in Canterbury was the few hours I got to spend with Sarah and Liam. It had been three years since I had seen my niece, so it was worth it to go.

My niece Sarah

Highlights: family and the Abode Hotel
Lows: Canterbury Cathedral & the town itself

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Taormina: Revisited

I knew as I was posting on Sunday that I hadn't located all my photos of Taormina, Sicily. I remembered snapping a few photos of the locals huddled in groups discussing the elections from the day before. 

locals huddling discussing election results

closer up view in front of amazing shop

And of course all the architectural details I love so well in another of my gargoyle posts.

Wall detail in stone

Door detail

Post detail
Taormina is chock full of wonderful details. It is laid-back, safe and full of friendly people. It truly is one of those rare and special places on earth. I got to thinking maybe I needed an excuse to return and I stumbled on a language school that teaches immersion Italian. Now that would be special.

If you are interested, check out Babilonia Italian Language School

Sounds like a dream come true!

Last but not least, a photo of the youngest member of our tour group in Taormina. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Achilleion Palace in Corfu: Gargoyle Delight

My niece Sarah with Sissi in the background

On our Roman Empire cruise, my niece and I took a tour to Corfu, Greece that visited the Achilleion Palace. It was built by Empress of Austria Elizabeth of Bavaria, also thankfully known as Sissi, as her real name is a mouthful. The palace was designed after the mythical Greek hero Achilles. After Sissi's death, the German Kaiser Wilhelm II bought the Palace and used it as a summer residence. More info on the Palace can be found here

Palace entry ceiling

But the interest for me was all the architectural wonders. You may say it is gaudy or you don't particularly like the style, but I found the Palace fascinating. It is beautiful in a very different way. Taken all together it is almost too much, but if you stop and observe just one stair railing or one chandelier or the way the light hits a painting, it is truly magnificent.

By the staircase

Detail of one of the ceilings

Wall detail

Decorative railing

The Palace also has amazing grounds and a view of the ocean that is truly blessed. I will have to dig out the view for another post. For now, check out this palm tree.