"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, February 18, 2013

Palermo: Traffic, Chaos and More

Palermo traffic
Our first stop on our Holland America Eurodam cruise was Palermo, Sicily. Before I went, I had mixed reviews from the friends who have been. Most said stay away, go to Monreale or somewhere else, but I'm glad I didn't skip the tour to Palermo. I loved it. There is something so uniquely charming about this chaotic, crazy place.

Palermo traffic on a Saturday
The traffic, because it was Saturday, was heavy but not horrible. There really wasn't a sense of hurry. Sicily is an amazing place, filled with sunshine, palm trees and people that are incredibly happy and hard-working. They smile. They gesture. They live life fully.

Palermo streets

I loved the city tour of Palermo, full of grime and graffiti but also with stores like Frette, the most wonderful linens on this planet. Frette sheets are incredible. Some day I hope to sleep on some!

Frette store at Palermo

We did a tour of Palermo to the Cathedral and then off to Monreale. I have to admit I preferred Palermo. Sure, the Cathedral in Monreale is impressive and I loved the coffee shop I went to, but for real charm, I pick Palermo any time!

Our driver on his cell phone while waiting in Palermo traffic

If you would like more information on what to see and do in Palermo, click here. It is a good list from Lonely Planet.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Port of Civitavecchia

Holland America Eurodam  at Civitavecchia
Looking forward to another cruise from the port of Civitavecchia. Having left from there last year, I would never believe I would be lucky enough to travel from there again. This will be my third cruise from Civitavecchia.

Tugboat at Civitavecchia port

What many people do not realize who never traveled from Rome for a cruise is that the cruise does not leave from Rome at all. It leaves from the port of Civitavecchia. 

Civitavecchia port

I love the town. It is so charming and the people so friendly. More information on this port town can be found here. I love to go in the day before and wander around, eat at the local establishments and generally bask in the pleasures of this small and quaint town.

Civitavecchia Port from Holland America Eurodam deck

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

As Cruise Ships Age

Photo courtesy or US Coast Guard/Reuters

I apologize that this post is neither gargoyle nor graffiti, but the Fire on the Carnival Triumph has really dampened many cruisers' plans. How much is true and how much false will be sorted out over the next few days, but the bottom line is that things cannot be fun on one of the fun ships! The stench is supposedly awful from rotting food and the bathrooms are backing up, leaving a horrible mess.

It is hard to understand why they can't somehow get these people off the ship before Thursday. As the cruise ships begin to age, I wonder if this is going to become more and more common. I remember being on a cruise ship in 2008 when a small fire broke out. I had heard a weird noise at dinner, and I commented about it to my niece. Our cabin steward said that was the location of the fire, under the main dining room, but it was put out quickly and caused no damage to the ship. 

My niece and I stood at our cabin door with our life jackets on. I had our passports and money securely stowed on me, and we had our cabin steward take a photo. Luckily for us, that was as bad as it got. With about fifteen minutes of alarms going off and some simple instructions, we were sent back to our cabin to sleep.

I wish all the cruisers on the Carnival Triumph prayers, positive thoughts and well wishes. Having survived on the island of Cozumel after Hurricane Wilma, I know how inconvenient and messy things can get. We had no electric and no running water for weeks, so trying to keep the house clean and bathing were really challenging. We'd been stuck inside with four dogs through the 63 hours of the storm, also a nightmare. So again, my best wishes. Carnival Cruise Line, do your best to get these people off the ship please!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Graffiti of Barcelona part 2

As mentioned in my Barcelona Graffiti post part 1, our ship docked in Barcelona on May Day, the 1st of May. Almost everything was closed, which gave us a great view of all the roll down doors of all the shops.

This is part 2 of my walk through the Barri Gothic. 

Really interesting is the graffiti on graffiti that I found on many of the doors. Note for instance above, it appears that the larger graffiti in orange and black saying Nota or note ... no. 10! has had some cruder graffiti added above.

I was unable to read this last one, so I hope I am not offending anyone. Can somebody tell me what this says?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Graffiti of Barcelona part 1

The day we stopped at Barcelona on our Holland America Eurodam cruise from Rome to Rome was May Day, the 1st of May. At the time, it seemed like a stroke of bad luck as most everything was closed. No banks, no department stores ... many restaurants were closed. Hotels were open and everybody that lives in Barcelona was out walking, which made for some very crowded streets. But the one stroke of luck was that I could get day time photos of all the graffiti on the roll down doors of the establishments. I bet that only happens once in a while.

The graffiti on these doors in really impressive, as you can see. Enjoy a walk in the Barri Gothic!

No business is really immune, but for me, the more times I go to Barcelona (count it, 4 times now and another trip in the works) - the more I have grown to love the graffiti and consider it part of Barcelona's charm.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Memories of Gibraltar

Some fellow passengers on Eurodam with Alan our guide
I want to say his name was Alan, but maybe it was Allen. This kind and interesting gentleman was our guide in Gibraltar. He made the tour of the siege tunnels and the Rock of Gibraltar so interesting and fun. He was a delight. I still fondly think of that wonderful tour.

Gibraltar ape

What's not to love about Gibraltar? I love the fact that it is bilingual, both English and Spanish. I love the Barbary apes. I love the friendliness of the people and the vibrant nature of the place. There was more building going on there than anywhere else I have been lately.

The views from above after you are whisked by cable car to the top are impressive. We were able to see our ship, the Holland America Eurodam below.

I am torn between taking an 11 day cruise, once again from Barcelona to Dover, but this time we would visit 5 ports in Spain, 2 in Portugal and 2 in the UK ... ending in Dover and stopping again in Gibraltar. The other option is a shorter 7 day cruise from Rome to 4 ports in Italy, 2 in Croatia and 1 in Slovenia. 

Gibraltar is one of the reasons I would like to do the Barcelona to Dover again. The only thing that dissuades me is the trek through the dreaded Sea of Biscay. Last time, we ran in to 80 mile an hour winds. And I am not loving the idea of an older ship, the Ryndam, on Holland America. On the other hand, I love HAL. I love the food, the beautiful flowers, the wonderful crew and the overall ambiance. The 7 day cruise is on NCL, with the dreaded freestyle dining, which to me is just a hassle. Traveling solo, I just want to have a nice quick meal without a lot of fuss, instead of having to decide between all the specialty restaurants and making reservations. I also am not fond of the dressing down that is so common on NCL. Well, guess I will wait to see what happens in the next ten days on pricing. I have no reservation at the moment on either cruise, and both are approaching final payment. Wish me luck! I need to make some reservation as I have all my airfare lined up for both cruises. Talk about living dangerously! :)