"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, March 30, 2015

Hail to Captain Bas Van Dreumel

Captain Bas Van Dreumel photo courtesy of hollandamericablog.com
When I met Captain Bas Van Dreumel on the Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam on the transatlantic sailing last year, I was impressed by his warmness, professionalism and how often we saw him around the ship. He stopped to speak to us, and offered advice to our 19 year old niece about a career on the ship. What I didn't realize at the time, actually until today, was that I had sailed with this Captain twice before on the Eurodam, when he was the Chief Officer. 

Moises and me on the Transatlantic cruise

I love how Holland America gives us the cruise log at the end of the cruise. I often use that to remember where I was and when. Having sailed on the Eurodam frm Barcelona to Dover in 2011 and again doing the Med Glamour in 2012, I got to know the Eurodam and some of the crew quite well. On the Nieuw Amsterdam in 2014, my husband and our niece sailed with us on the Transatlantic from Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona. We were in such capable hands. 

Dining staff on the HAL Nieuw Amsterdam

Our room sat on the floor under the bridge, in room 7008, and we got to see the goings on up their every day. It was fascinating to watch. I loved this room. We had a balcony room and the interior room right across, 7006. Everything about the cruise was amazing, including Lavinia from the Spa. She even did a tour with us to Gibraltar. 

Lavinia from the Spa on the Nieuw Amsterdam and Jimena our niece
I love Holland America line. I am impressed by the staff, the interior design, the cleanliness, the flowers and the fact that they focus on education and history, not non-stop partying. I cannot wait to go on my next cruise in June on the Zuiderdam to the Greek Islands!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Tunisia Update

Photo I took of a ceiling in the Bardo Museum 2012

Protesters from Tunisia against the attack at Bardo Museum
courtesy of Demotix
I started thinking about my day trip to Tunisia on a Holland America ship in 2012 last week when my niece announced she was going to Djerba Island, Tunisia, for her honeymoon. I was happy for her but extremely nervous. I had not been to Djerba, but I visited the capital of Tunisia, Tunis. For all its good, even in 2012, there was a lot of bad. I thought the people I met were lovely, cultured, kind and smiling. They are a beautiful group, the Tunisians. 

People taking photographs at the Bardo Museum in 2012
This is the way I remember the Bardo, with lovely groups of people strolling and taking photographs. We were a small group and the museum is huge. Part was closed off and I do remember it was really a hassle to get in. We had a group reservation but the place was locked down tight with padlocks. They only let in small groups at a time and we had to wait our turn. There was a lot of military presence everywhere.

Hostages being held at the Bardo Museum
This is how it looked a few days ago, when 19 people, mostly tourist lost their lives to a group of terrorists.

I remember really enjoying our day in Tunisia. I did the full-day tour "Best of Tunisia" from the ship. It was intensive, with a visit to the Bardo Museum, a visit to the Souk (market), Carthage, lunch and a visit to Sidi Bou Said. It was a long day but a great day. Our guide was very educated and kind. He was worldly and had just visited Cozumel, the island where I live, a few weeks before. But at the end of the day, I was glad to go back to the safety of the ship. It just didn't feel like a place I would feel comfortable spending the night. 

Shop in Sidi Bou Said

I had told my niece last week I thought she should really reconsider going to Djerba Island, due to the unrest in Tunisia, and this was before the killlings. Now she is contacting her travel agent and we will see. I am sorry for the lovely people of Tunisia. I am so sad for the people and their families who lost their lives in this tragic event. My niece even brought up how could the people on the ships even go on the rest of their holiday after having this happen to others on their ship. Good point. Prayers sent out. Stay safe and let's keep our eye on Tunisia and hope it improves. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Gargoyles & Graffiti 2015

me in Monte Carlo

So it is now March of 2015. In June, my blog will be four years old. Gargoyles and Graffiti ... wow, it is hard to believe. I am having a severe case of writer's block, but I have a trip coming up in June. So hopefully I will get some inspiration from that. I will be attending the wedding of my beloved niece, Sarah, in Norfolk, England and then on to an Eastern Med cruise.

Terrace house walls at Ephesus

I was able to upgrade my room this week from an inside cabin to an oceanview with windows facing front, a few floors under the bridge. Pysched about that. Not only was it not more money, I saved a whopping $32 dollars. I am going with my all favorite line, Holland America, so I couldn't be happier. It is on the Zuiderdam, which is a Vista class ship just like the Noordam. It will be getting out of dry dock the month before we sail.

my niece Sarah in Santorini

My niece, Sarah, and I did the Roman Empire cruise on the Holland America Noordam in 2008. It included Ephesus, Santorini, Malta, Olympia, Corfu and Dubrovnik, that began and ended in Rome ... well really Civitavecchia. We stayed in Civitavecchia at the beginning and ended with a few days in Rome.


This time I will sail from Venice and visit Olympia, Nafplion, Athens, Ephesus, Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini and Naples. The cruise ends in Rome. I have never been to Nafplion, Mykonos or Rhodes ... so I can't wait to see some new sites.

Owner and his son on a boat trip from Malta harbor

Most of these great photos my niece took. Thanks, Sarah!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Malta: Full of Contradictions

Mdina, Malta

My niece and I toured Malta on our Roman Empire cruise on the Holland America Noordam. We did a tour of the old capital of Mdina. The guide who took us around explained that the same six families have owned the old city for hundreds of years, and no amount of money is enough to buy in to Mdina. 

Malta is full of contradictions. It was founded by the Order of St. John, a Roman Catholic order of the Knights Hospitaller (crusaders.) More info can be found about the founding of Malta here

Malta is so impressive from the water as we entered the port area. The old buildings all made of stone with the backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea. It is a beautiful site. 

There is the old capital city of Mdina and the newer capital of Valleta. Valleta is the most crowded spot in all of Europe. It is evident in all the buses we saw, with crowds of people everywhere we went. I preferred the solitude of Mdina. More information on Mdina can be found here

But the crown jewel of Malta is found on its waterways. We took a private boat tour in the afternoon that was magnificent.

My niece Sarah on the beautiful wooden boat

Malta seen from the water

Malta takes on a whole different feel from the water, laid back and peaceful. If you would like more information on tourism in Malta, click here