"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, June 10, 2013

Impressions of Amalfi Part II

Bell Tower of St. Andrew's Cathedral at Amalfi
St. Andrew's Cathedral at Amalfi
The Cathedral at Amalfi sure is one of the main draws. I have reported on earlier posts about this beautiful place. It is so unique as well as it is actually two Cathedrals and has so many additions that it is like going back in time in layers.

View from Amalfi Coast road

Half the fun of going to Amalfi though is getting there. The Amalfi Coast is something to remember. I have already done the coast tour three times, twice by road and this third time by road and boat, and I would go again in a heartbeat.

Lookout point on Amalfi Coast tour

Amalfi Coast

Bikini on the Amalfi Coast
We even passed a place called Bikini!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Impressions of Amalfi Part I

Map of Amalfi done in tiles as we entered the town
There are only a few places in the world that stand out to me as the best places I've visited. Santorini at Greece and Eze at France are two of those places. I have now found a third - Amalfi, Italy.

Town square of Amalfi

I love Italy. What's not to love, really? There are tons of small towns, beach views, mountains, friendly and fiery people, architecture, art and wonderful food. If I had to pick one country as my favorite, it would have to be Italy. So it was no surprise to me that I would find another favorite place while on my visit along the Amalfi Coast. This trip, I did a shore excursion that went to Sorrento, Salerno and then we picked up a boat to see the Amalfi Coast from the water to Amalfi and back. 

Amalfi Coast view

Moises and I had visited Sorrento and Salerno ten years ago and loved them both, but Amalfi stood out as a place I would love to return to. It is small and oozes charm. It was hot and crowded and had a to die for Cathedral. I took so many photos on the tour that day that both my camera and my phone ran out of battery. Pity too as I was just getting to the best parts of the old Cathedral underground, but then again, that only means I want to go back.

Great people watching in Amalfi

Statue at Amalfi by the Cathedral

Cathedral steps at Amalfi

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Statues of the MNAC Museum at Barcelona

Gothic Art Virgin circa 1300 at MNAC

The MNAC Museum of Barcelona has the most intriguing statuary. I especially loved the area where most of the statues are from around 1300 and carved in wood. They are all religious statues.

St. John the Evangelist circa 1300

This guy has an especially interesting nose.

Saint Bertrand circa 1300

Finally, this is of Santa Lucia.

Santa Lucia at the MNAC
I guess that translates to St. Lucy? More information on the MNAC Museum and especially the Gothic collection can be found here.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Graffiti at Split, Croatia

Graffiti at Split
I was so torn before I left on my trip that I would have enough time to see all that Split, Croatia had to offer. I had a tour out of town to visit an ancient site and a medieval city. Both were great and I will report on those later, but my concern was to get back to see Split.

More graffiti at Split

I had time luckily to get a quick walk around the Diocletian Palace, but it really was not what I expected. Split is filled with so much graffiti, it is hard to appreciate the Roman Emporer's Palace, which by the way, is all underneath the town. It is nothing like Dubrovnik, which is beautiful and graffiti-free.

Split graffiti

Graffiti on every downtown buildng at Split

I can appreciate what I call urban wall art, but what was at Split was really not appealing. The sad thing is it is everywhere. Split is a pretty large city and has the look of urban poverty I find so sad. Lots of people with troubled faces patiently waiting for buses was the common theme all around Split.

But I loved Dubrovnik even more than the first time. Go figure!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Norwegian Jade Review Part III

Shops opened at night on Norwegian Jade

Norwegian Cruise Line advertises that they are a Freestyle cruise line. I do have to agree with them, but that is not necessarily a good thing. This is the attire people were wearing for dinner on the Norwegian Jade.

Front desk at night on Norwegian Jade

I saw everything just like I saw on the Norwegian ship in Hawaii in 2006. Bedroom slippers, short shorts at night, lots of clothes that looked like they may have been new in the 1950s. I like HAL as people tend to dress up more. 

me and Sarah in 2008 on HAL Noordam

Dinner on Eurodam 2011
To each his own, some people really hate to dress up and probably NCL is perfect for them. On NCL, you don't need to go out and buy a new wardrobe, but what's the fun in that?

Norwegian Jade Review Part II

Cabin steward Manolo

The best part of my Norwegian Jade cruise was my cabin steward, Manolo. He was the nicest, most accomodating and hard-working cabin steward that I have ever encountered on my cruises. Almost every time I left my cabin, there he would be either in a stateroom working or in the hall preparing to go in to a room. He always greeted me by name, asked about the excursions I went on or was leaving for and left me the most beautiful towel animals at night. (I sure missed the chocolates I get on HAL, but that wasn't Manolo's fault.)

Towel animal duck

Towel animal frog

Towel animal elephant

My favorite towel animal of all was the one I labeled "sexy bunny." Really cute!

Towel animal sexy bunny

Norwegian Jade Review Part I

me at Alizar Restaurant
Those of you who read my blog already know I had a lot of misgivings about going on the Norwegian Jade. I was on the Norwegian Pride of America back in 2006 to Hawaii, and I didn't love it. Being that the Jade was originally built as the Pride of Hawaii, a sister ship to the Pride of America, I thought there was a good chance I wouldn't be thrilled. Honestly, I wasn't. Norwegian Cruise Line just is not for me. I love Holland America. I love the dressing up (not every night, but at least a few nights.) I love the older, more sophisticated crowd. I love the attention to detail with all the lovely architectural details of the ships and beautiful china and wonderful uniforms of the staff. I love how well-trained everyone is on Holland America. I love all the fresh flowers. 

Norwegian Jade hull design

But not all was bad on the Jade. The food was surprisingly good. I only had one meal I didn't love at the Alizar, and I told the waiter and he brought me something else. I did eat four nights in the specialty restaurants and really loved Le Bistro and Jade Garden. Cagney's was okay. The steak tasted kind of strange, almost like liver. I did not love Moderno, but it is just too much meat for me. I did eat dinner every night at 6pm. I was traveling alone and brought my Kindle. Some nights I chatted with other singles or groups sitting near me. Often, I read a book. The service is top-notch when they first open the restaurant. I ordered a sparkling water and tipped the waiter each night.

Jade Garden waiter

I had rack of lamb at Le Bistro and escargot that was divine. The green tea ice cream at Jade Garden was to die for, and the dish I had was excellent too. The wait staff in Jade Garden were a lot of fun as well. The Maitre'D asked if I wanted dessert and I asked him if I didn't like it, would they make me eat it like my father always did? The Wine Steward, Maitre'D and waiter all thought that was hugely funny and we joked about it.

Le Bistro Restaurant on Norwegian Jade

The worst part of the ship was the stateroom. To me, it was totally claustrophobic. There was way too much closet space and the bathroom was super cramped and laid out weird. There are two partitions in the tiny bathroom, which separates the toilet from the sink area and then the shower. I did not have a tub. The shower was large, but I missed not having a tub. I am a small person, 5'1" and 118 lbs, and I was knocking my elbow constantly in the toilet area. I cannot imagine how larger and taller people survive in this bathroom. The stateroom itself was also very small. The other really bad layout is the halls. I guess NCL doesn't want to have wide halls so they can have more area for public rooms. But the hallways are very narrow, making it difficult to navigate when people are coming from the other direction.

Also the walls are paper-thin between staterooms, so I got to listen to conversations from my drunken neighbors each night before they went to sleep. My stateroom was quite distant from the reception area, but I could often hear the piano player in my room. 

7th Floor Deck on Norwegian Jade

The other thing I really disliked was the amount of smokers on the 7th floor deck. That is the walking deck and each night when I tried to take my walk after dinner (I usually walked two miles), I was choked by cigarette smoke. In the end, I started walking the jogging track, which was not ideal but better than inhaling second hand smoke.

More to follow in Part II.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Juan de Aragon buried at Monastery of Montserrat

Juan de Aragon buried at Montserrat Monastery
I have to admit I am the worst person to take organized tours. I always wander off and snap photos, read what is written on walls and generally pay no attention to the tour guide. I know there are times I could really learn something, but I can only have so many of my senses engaged at the same time. I listen on the bus approaching where we are going and normally get some background info. But once we arrive, I am off in my own little world. Same went for the tour to Montserrat, so I am not sure that this information was or was not told to us on the tour. I tend to research what I find when I get back. I took photos of the information on the walls as well to remember what I saw.

Juan of Aragon died on the 5 of July 1528
The information I found on Juan of Aragon is pretty interesting. He is buried at the Monestary of Montserrat. He was the bastard grandson of John II of Aragon, who was King from 1458 to 1479. Accoring to wikipedia, John II of Aragon  was also called "John II the Faithless[1] (CatalanJoan II el Sense Fe), also known as the Great (29 June 1398 – 20 January 1479)[2] was the King of Aragon from 1458 until 1479, and jure uxoris King of Navarre from 1425 until his death. He was the son of Ferdinand I and his wife Eleanor of Alburquerque. John is regarded as one of the most memorable and most unscrupulous kings of the 15th century."

So Juan de Aragon was a bastard grandson of an unscrupulous King. He ran in to a lot of troubles with his underlings when he was appointed in charge of Naples. In 1512, he was appointed Viceroy of Catalonia, but that didn't last long. By 1514, he had been relieved of his duties. Who would know he had such a checkered past by the beautiful burial memorial he has at Montserrat. 

How intriguing!
Juan de Aragon memorial

Full view of Juan de Aragon memorial

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Virgin of Montserrat

Black Virgin of Montserrat
One of the highlights of my four nights in Barcelona this April was a half day tour to Montserrat. I chose an afternoon tour, not sure why, but I'm glad I did. The morning crowds were gone and the spiritual feel of the place was incredible. I actually had a spiritual experience while viewing the Black Virgin, also known as La Moreneta. As I approached to touch the sphere that is exposed from the glass that surrounds her, I felt someone squeeze my shoulder, hard but not hurtful. I realized my eyes were closed and when I opened them and looked to my right to see who had approached me, nobody was there. I choose to believe it was a comforting squeeze from Catalonia's patron saint, the Black Virgin of Montserrrat. She is black from the candles that burned day and night to honor her.

There is a long history of this statue. Supposedly she was brought from Jerusalem, others think she is from the 12th century. More information on the Black Virgin can be found here. There are many websites that give information on this wonderfully, spiritual place, but nothing beats going there. I highly recommend it.

Architectural detail of the outside of the Monastery at Montserrat

Monserrat Monastery has beautiful light fixtures

I will post more photos of all the amazing details of the Montserrat Monastery and the different ways you can get there.