"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.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Gargoyle Christmas

Nothing like finding gargoyle Christmas ornaments to buy online. What don't they sell on the internet?

Just click the link above and you can order these awesome ornaments. Feliz Navidad y Prospero 2016!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Graffiti Christmas

Southampton, UK graffiti posted by Richard Edwards
Since I had a post about gargoyles at Christmas, I thought it only balanced that I post about Graffiti at Christmas. Typing "Graffiti Christmas" in Google, I came across a great blog called The Cabbages of Doom and a great post on Christmas graffiti. When you look closely at this, it is pretty funny. A would be robber snowman is holding up another snowman with what looks like a gun, but is actually a hair dryer. LOL I guess to a snowman, there would be nothing worse than being melted by a hair dryer.

Homer and Son by Graffiti Life

Here is more great graffiti by Graffiti Life. Homer Santa is choking Bart for painting graffiti at Christmas, I think. The wall had become famous as the Bart Simpson wall, so they updated it for Christmas. More on this graffiti artist can be found here. It says "Don't get caught painting Christmas graffiti!"

Graffiti Christmas Card

Last but not least, here is a Graffiti Christmas card from Reduce the Panic's website. It is from the post "Not your Average Christmas Card: Santa Claus Graffiti." More info on this website can be found here.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Celtic Explorer Part 1

Plymouth Barbican courtesy of WikiVoyage
Once again, I am looking at cruises for 2016 before even going on my cruise for this year. I started by checking out the new itineraries on the Holland America Koningsdam, which will be new in 2016. It is the largest vessel HAL will build at 2,650 passengers. It has some wonderful itineraries including a Greek and Turkey itinerary. There is also a cruise that departs from and returns to Amsterdam, actually Ijmuiden - that does Iceland, Norway, Scotland and England. It is a great itinerary, but I keep getting drawn back to a cruise on the Prinsendam. The Prinsendam is Holland's smallest vessel and also its oldest. It was built in 1988, formerly known as the Seabourn Sun and the Viking Sun. More info on this Elegant Explorer can be found here on Wikipedia.

Plymouth Sound courtesy of WikiVoyage
The itinerary I am interested in is called the Celtic Explorer and goes to Antwerp, Guernsey, Isle of Scilly in the UK, and Dublin, Belfast, Donegal, Galway and Cobh (Cork) at Ireland. I have been searching for a land tour in Ireland and I just don't like bus tours. I don't mind day trips on the bus from the cruise ship, but bus tours spend too much time on highways on the bus ... and I end up packing and unpacking more times than I can count. 

To stay in nice places, the prices become cost-prohibitive. Mind you, the price for this cruise for a single in a single cabin is almost $5,000 dollars. But the beauty is the room is nice with an ocean view, the food is good and I unpack once and the ship takes me where I want to go.

Mayflower Steps at Plymouth courtesy of WikiVoyage
 This cruise is all about history, from the Mayflower steps at Plymouth to the last place the Titanic sailed before its fateful end. But the best part is it takes me to my family roots. Being a bit of a genealogy buff, I get to go to most of the places my family was from ... Dublin (my father's grandfather on his mother's side) and Donegal, Galway and Cork - from my father's father's side. 

Cobh Port entrance to County Cork
There is even a place to see a room on the Titanic at the Titanic Experience at Cobh.

Titanic Experience at Cobh Ireland

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Thinking of Paris

me and Moises at Versailles 2002
My heart goes out to all the people around the world who lost somebody in the terrible tragedies in Paris this week. No words can begin to describe what we are all feeling - anger, shock, disbelief. I remember our one and only trip to Paris in 2002. We have not been back, as I was sure we could never recreate such a fairy tale trip. It was our most romantic vacation.

me at the Hotel California

Younger and much thinner then, Moises took a photo of me in the lobby of our hotel. Between all the amazing architecture and the Louvre, we were so impressed. And we loved the people of Paris. They were amazing. Now understand my husband speaks five languages, which goes a long way in Paris. We never once found anyone rude or abrupt. I have a harder time navigating the streets of New York. They aren't really rude, just always in a hurry. 

One of the architectural wonders of Paris
Stay safe, get well and hope to see you again one day. Take care, dear friends of France, and I really hope things get back to normal soon. The world has gone crazy. Let's hope we can right these troubled times.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Walk in the Plaka

My favorite little angel
On my walk in the Plaka in June, I could feel the fear and anticipation in the air. We were only weeks from the default of the Greek government in the eurozone. In the end, they got an extension - but things only got worse after I left. Banks had their doors closed, hotels only accepted cash, even Greeks in other parts of the world traveling had their credit cards refused as the banks had no funds to cover it. But that day I walked the Plaka, an amazing thing happened. I connected with a young boy playing his accordion in a doorway. He was like a little angel to me. I will never forget it. It has become the photo on my Facebook page, and one I remember with such joy and spirituality. Thank you, young man, for making my day!

the Plaka in Athens

We have a marvelous walk in the Plaka. I remembered it from 2009 as an amazing place, but I enjoyed it even more this time. 

Motos and more motos

Our group from the Holland America Zuiderdam

Greek olives ... yum!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Athens' Ancient Agora

Ancent Agora at Athens

One of my favorite stops on the Greek Med cruise this past June was the stop at Athens. I had been there before on a land trip in 2009, and I hadn't liked it nearly as much as I did this time. I arrived in 2009 right in time for Greek Easter, so the place was deserted. This time around, I decided to take an organized tour with the ship. I loved it.

Ancient Agora Ruins

We went to the Ancient Agora, then a walk in the Plaka and finally to a great restaurant for snacks. The food was wonderful and the service terrific.
Lovely restaurant at the Plaka, Athens

As it was a very hot day, I was grateful to be walking the almost deserted Agora or marketplace, instead of dealing with the crowds at the Acropolis. I had adored the Acropolis in 2009, but I had arrived at 8am and walked all the way up long before most of the people arrived. But midday, I was on my way back down.

I even met a friend for the day, can't remember her name but here is a few photos of her. We had a great time together.

If you find yourself in Athens and have already done the Acropolis, then think about this lovely walk through time at the Ancient Agora. More information can be found here.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Holland America Eurodam : a Floating Palace

Silk Den on the Eurodam
Tarmarind Restaurant on the Eurodam
Pinnacle Grill bread

I can't say enough good things about the Holland America Eurodam. She is not the newest ship but almost ... Nieuw Amsterdam is the only newer ship. She is spotlessly maintained and the staff is first class. The ship is absolutely stunningly beautiful as you can see from my photos.

I traveled alone on a cruise from Barcelona to Dover, so it meant so much to have the staff befriend me and make my meals so special. The first night I brought my Kindle but after that, I chatted with the crew. Thanks, George from the Lido, the manager of Canaletto (Henry??) and the staff of the Pinaccle Grill where I had two lunches. 

Holland America also makes it attractive for people traveling solo. Unlike other cruise ships that charge double for the rooms, HAL typically charges 1.5 times the per person rate, which makes a big difference in price. I wanted a balcony room but in the end, settled for a large G partially-obstructed room, 4091. It was amazing. Even though there was a machine outside my floor to ceiling window, it only covered a portion of one side which left me with a nice ocean view. There were times I missed a balcony, but normally I went out on the 3rd floor deck for panoramic views and walks. 

Eurodam large outside cabin 4091 - partially obstructed view

Eurodam Cabin 4091

Traveling alone is definitely underrated. I have to say there was really no time I felt like I made a mistake by cruising by myself. I got to do exactly what I wanted to do for the entire 10 days. I am not in to the shows on board or after-dinner bars, so before I went to bed, I watched a movie or a TV show. The ship provides DVDs in the rooms and free videos from the front desk. I planned excursions ashore every day and the itinerary was intensive. We left from Barcelona and visited Gibraltar, Cadiz, Lisbon, Vigo (where I went with a small group on a private tour to Santiago de Compostela), Cherbourg, Brussels and disembarked in Dover. The sun shown every day and sometimes it even got warm but never hot. The only rain we saw was the overnight in Lisbon, but I was safely on the ship enjoying my dinner at the Canaletto, the Italian restaurant on Lido Deck. I had the same seafood dish both time I ate there and was thrilled with it. Steak both days at Pinnacle Grill. (Okay, I admit one place I am pretty predictable is with my food. If I like something, I can eat it again and again!) 
Lido Restaurant on the Eurodam

The most amazing Asian lunch on board in Lido when in Cherbourg.

Yvette and Ray
Neil, Tiara and me, Luh (on the left)
I met some really great people ... thanks Neil, Tiara, Yvette and Ray, and also the 6 couples from Texas whose names I don't remember but will never forget their hospitality.

Friday, October 30, 2015

McDevitt's Men Shop Memories

McDevitt's Men Shop circa 1940

From Joanne McDevitt
March 19, 2013

McDevitt's Men Shop started as a dry goods store near May Street on McMillan known as J.A. McDevitt and Sons. They Moved to 933 East McMillan Street and operated only as a men's haberdashery from then on. When Morris furniture moved out of the Paramount Building, McDevitt's moved in and stayed there for many years running a successful business and actually supporting all the families in one way or another. The original business was started by James A. McDevitt (Dad's grandfather) and Joseph Aloysiius McDevitt (Dad's father). There were 6 brothers: Joe, Jim,
Kenny (also known as Thomas) Leo, Lawrence and Robert and one sister Margaret. Due to a war injury, Kenny never worked in the new store and Jim only worked there a short time after his brother (your grandfather, Joe) died, as he had a career in the army followed by a job at Underwood Typewriter Company. Later Paul Hennies (Madeleine's husband) worked there and as you know your Dad worked there for for 17 years.
In the 1930's Peebles Corner was a busy shopping district and it catered to the people in Walnut Hills and Hyde Park. Besides McDevitt's Men Shop the corner included, Pollyana Hats, Guenther Dry Goods, Graeters, Paramount Theater, Orpheum Theater, both featured vaudeville shows, movies and in the summer rooftop movies (due to no air conditioning), Woolworth's Five and Dime Store where music sheets were sold and a pianist and a singer (sometimes your grandfather John P. Sheehan) were paid to perform to sell sheet music. (Remember no CD's ITunes etc.)There was also a Smokeshed across from the store and sometimes operated by your great aunts Alice and Clara (Marian's mother and aunt). You could buy tobacco, a newspaper and maybe place a little bet there as well. There were no credit cards but you could have a charge account in the stores and they thrived on service. At McDevitt's they would make alterations for free, wrap your purchases, walk you to the front door and open it for you as you exited, and they delivered! One time a customer George Rhode phoned to ask for a collar button (it was a little button to attach the collar to a shirt, costing ten cents). Your dad drove it from Walnut Hills to Newtown! (Of course gas was probably only twenty five cents a gallon).
The store prospered for years and while no one got rich they benefited from a good work ethic, strong family ties and a deep respect and love for each other. As a result they were able to buy homes, educate their children, enjoy the good times and support each other in the not so good times including the Great Depression (one week the store only made $100. Out of that they had to pay the rent and divide the rest for each brothers salary). The business and the family also survived the flood of 1937. During those dark days they depended on daylight due to no electricity and sold out of black shirts because people could not do laundry and they could wear black shirts for a couple of days. Not to mention personal tragedies. But the family stuck together and enjoyed big celebrations and smaller ones. But a favorite memory of Dads is going to grandma and grandpa McDevitt's house on May Street on Sundays after Mass and early dinner for homemade applesauce and ice cream from Graeters with his mother, dad, Madeleine, Helen and Ann. At one time there were 19 cousins at these happy gatherings.
But due to a changing neighborhood, transportation choices, shopping Malls and finally the riots in Walnut Hills the business could not survive. McDevitt's Men Store closed. We've had great role models, have much to live up to and as Father Larry once said we all can stand tall on the shoulders of those that went before us.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Tour to Montserrat

From the bus approaching Montserrat
There are many ways to get to Montserrat. I went on a bus tour that left early afternoon from Barcelona for a half day tour. You can also get there by train and then a cable car to get to the top. The day was cool and crisp. The sun shone bright and the sky was the most beautiful shade of blue with just a few clouds. 

Near Montserrat

Cable for cable car at Montserrat

Montserrat Lookout area

View from lookout area at Montserrat

Once there, again you have a lot of options of things to see. I chose to visit the Monastery and completely missed the Museum, by accident. The highlight of my visit was the Black Virgin and the beautiful Cathedral. More to follow in another post.

Black Virgin

Montserrat Cathedral

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Naples, Italy

Naples Cruise Port courtesy of Google
On my first trip to Rome, my ex and I were in a taxi with the most charming taxi driver I have ever met. He was from Naples. As they say, he wore his heart on his sleeve. He told us about his mother. He had tears in his eyes. He could not have made us feel more welcome to the enchanting city of Rome, but he made me want to visit Naples even more. So we did. We took a tour that went to Naples and the Amalfi Coast and then on to Pompeii. 

The tour was great. I have been to Pompeii twice now and am still in awe of what is there. I saw a glimpse of Naples ... the garbage, the traffic, the grime. But Naples intrigues me. I loved Palermo, so maybe I can love Naples too. On my next Holland America line cruise, we will be one day in Naples. I immediately knee jerk reacted and thought I would do a tour to the Isle of Capri, which is to die for. The ferry ride is exciting, the waters and views from the cliffs amazing, but maybe just maybe I will stay in Naples instead.

I would love to visit the National Archaeological Museum. Many of the artifacts from Pompeii are actually displayed there. I am getting my bearings, figuring out. Maybe I will take a taxi to the Museum. It doesn't look far and I am sure it will not disappoint. More information on this Museum can be found here.

Archaeology Museum at Naples courtesy of Vincenzo Surace

And the best of all, maybe I will meet some folks that are like that taxi driver I met in Rome. I bet I will!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Forza d'Agrò: A Feast for the Eyes

Forza d'Agro house entrance
I have done my fair share of travel, lots of it in Europe. I am very thankful for the opportunities I've had. But no matter where I go, my favorite places in the world are almost always in Italy. Greece has some gorgeous islands too, but Italy is just chock-full of lovely towns. My new favorite area in Italy is Sicily. I love the quaintness of Taormina, the madness and passion of Palermo; and I have also found a new town that is a feast for the eyes ... Forza d'Agro. I am not the first. Francis Ford Coppola chose it for all his Godfather movies.

Part of the Norman Castle that sits above Forza d'Agro in ruins

There is something magical about this town of Forza d'Agro, perched not far away but much further up than Messina in Sicily. It is an uphill climb from the ocean of 420 meters (around 1200 ft.). I almost thought the bus was not going to make it, but we did.

Forza d'Agro entry
Unfortunately too much time has elapsed and I can't figure out which set of doors this is. I don't think they are from the Baroque Church, possibly from San Agostino. It doesn't change the beauty of the doors.

Ceramic tiles showing the town map

Even the car park was charming

I took a tour from the ship called the Godfather tour. We were supposed to also go to Savoca, which I was really looking forward to. But the road was washed out, so we went to Taormina. I had been there before, but it is such a beautiful place, I really didn't mind going again. Photos of Taormina to follow!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday Morning Spirituality: Vejer de La Frontera

Vejer de la Frontera, Spain

Our second stop on our cruise from Barcelona to Dover was Cadiz, Spain. I had visited before so I wasn’t too psyched about going back. I typically don’t like to revisit places, especially ones I hadn’t loved to begin with. What I remembered of Cadiz was a port town, kind of dirty and getting driven by a 70 year old lunatic named Bartolomeo on the cruise ship pier against our will going 90 miles a hour. Needless to say, I didn’t want to relive that experience, but Cadiz surprised me. It was clean and lovely and not at all how I remembered it. They have done a lot in the eight years since I was there. I took a wonderful tour of Cadiz with a guy I met named Bob, and we had a great afternoon touring Cadiz. (That will be saved for another post.) Since it's Sunday, I want to talk about Vejer de la Frontera.

Vejer de la Frontera was once the border between the Christian and Moorish worlds. We arrived in early morning before the town was really awake. A few old men wandered the streets. One had a loaf of bread in his hand. Another man spoke to a woman above, who opened her window to lean out and chat.

Lady in the window chatting

Our guide walked us through the old town, so charming and beautiful and in harmony. It was chilly and so quiet as the town slept and we had the privilege of enjoying the morning without a mob of people, cars or buses.

Honestly I don’t remember much about what she said that day. I mostly remember how I felt … full of peace and serenity on a Sunday morning.

Cathedral in Vejer de la Frontera

my traveling feet

 I had thought I took the picture of my traveling feet in Barcelona, but actually it was here in Vejer de la Frontera. I love the cobblestones and the wad of paper on the ground.

Last but not least, I didn't notice until my husband pointed it out - that the photo above has graffiti that says, "My name is Bombe."