"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.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Remembering Taormina: Gargoyles Wanted

Gentlemen in Taormina

It has been four years since I went on the Roman Empire cruise with my niece, Sarah. There were so many wonderful things about that cruise - great ports, the perfect amount of days on the cruise (10) and a fabulous traveling companion. Since that year, I have traveled solo on most of my trips. In 2009, I went to Barcelona and Athens for 5 days each by myself. In 2010, Moises and I went to the Baltic to celebrate our ten year anniversary. In 2011 and 2012, I cruised solo. I have decided after these last two cruises that I definitely like traveling alone. It's not perfect as there are a few lonely moments, but I also get to do what I want when I want. And cruising is a perfect venue for a single middle-aged woman (eeh gads, did I actually say it out loud ... middle-aged.)

Taormina street

I will be 57 this month, so I guess I must admit it, but what is it about getting older that feels the same? Now I understand when a group of 80 year old women out to lunch call each other girls. I just don't feel old. Everybody else just looks way too young. I catch myself in awe when a young person drives by and I think they must be 12. Instead of me being old, the world just looks too youthful!

Moped in Taormina

In celebration of my upcoming birthday, I want to revisit Italy, starting with Taormina. There is something ageless about Rome with its crowds and crumbling ruins, graffiti and traffic, smog and confusion. It is somewhat sad but mostly hopeful. But one of my favorite places in Italy is Taormina, Sicily. It is a wonderful, quaint and friendly small town. Where Palermo, Sicily's capital, is like a loud belch, Taormina is a quiet whisper. 

Greek Theater at Taormina

Taormina is a place that beckons one of my favorite things ... gargoyles. I need to go back to try to find them. I am sure they are hidden there somewhere. If any of you readers have photos of gargoyles in Taormina or other parts of Sicily, I would love to post them here!

Almost gargoyles

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Cinque Terre Once Again

Beautiful photo of Cinque Terre
I read recently that the number of guests that are allowed to enter the villages of the Cinque Terre are going to be limited. Crowds enter these villages during the summer months from the cruise ships.

Vernazza of the Cinque Terre
I did see the villages of the Cinque Terre once from far away when on a tour to Santa Maria Ligure and Portofino. The sherbert colored buildings could be seen atop the mountain cliffs from the highway. I look forward to an actual visit there next year!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Gargoyle-Inspired Photographs by Stephen Crome

Cemetery at Glendalough by Stephen Crome
I love reading the posts by fellow travelers on Holland America Line fans Facebook page. I especially love the photos of Stephen Crome, and all the wonderful places he visits. His recent photos of Dublin include an area I knew nothing about until today. That is the Glendalough area that was founded in the 6th century AD by St. Kevin and became a monastic city. 

Another from Stephen Crome of Glendalough
by Stephen Crome
More information on this wonderful place can be found here.

Another great photo by Stephen was taken at Irishtown, Dublin. It lies outside the medieval city walls.

Irishtown by Stephen Crome
Thanks Stephen for the wonderful, gargoyle-inspired photos and my chance to learn new things today! Finally my favorite photo ....

Photo by Stephen Crome

Stephen mentioned on Facebook he took the tour with Paddywagon Tours. Looks like a great one for anybody who makes it to Dublin. That is one of my bucket list dreams.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Venice Graffiti

Graffiti at Venice

On my walk around Venice, I spotted graffiti here and there. After traveling in Italy extensively over the last five years, it just doesn't bother me anymore. It is a form of expression that goes back to Roman times. Below is an example from the Roman Colosseum. I found the Colosseum graffiti photo on a blog, Makenzie's blog.

Graffiti at Roman Colosseum

Some more photos of graffiti I found on Venice.

By the way, the first graffiti says "Ti amo" which must mean the same as "Te amo" in Spanish, or I love you!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

More Santa Margherita Ligure

Police station kiosk by waterfront

Continuing my post on Santa Margherita Ligure, these are the impressions I got while walking around the town. It has a wonderful home town feel. 

Fellow cruisers in front of a smoke shop

Self-service cigarette machine

I am not recommending smoking by any means, cannot stand it. But I found this self-service cigarette machine interesting to look at. 

Restaurant facing the waterfront

Where are the children?

All along the waterfront, Santa Margherita Ligure has things to do - restaurants to eat at, hotels to sleep in and even rides for the kids.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Revisiting Santa Margherita Ligure

Santa Margherita Ligure May 2012

One of my favorite stops on the Holland America Eurodam cruise of the Western Med was Santa Margherita Ligure. Originally we were supposed to tender there, but there was a change of plans and we ended up tendering at La Spezia. I chose to take the tour to Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino, and I am so glad I did. It was a hard decision as the other tour I wanted to do was Cinque Terre. The really cool part of our tour was that the bus actually meandered through the area of Cinque Terre, so we were able to see the houses perched on the hills from our bus, and I just couldn't miss Portofino. I loved Portofino, but I think I liked Santa Margherita Ligure even more.

Notice the Holland America sign at the bottom of the photo
Why, you say? Portofino is amazing. It has star power and is totally walkable. There are charming hotels and great restaurants and what's not to love? But Santa Margherita Ligure is a real place. When the sun goes down and the cruise ships and yachts leave, Portofino nearly closes up, but SML continues. It has banks, police, a Cathedral, real estate offices and restaurants for the local people. I would love to return to both places, but I think I would stay in SML. Our walking tour was fascinating!

Italian flag-inspired building
Cathedral detail at Santa Margherita Ligure

Real estate office ceiling at Santa Margherita Ligure

If you would like to visit this area, there is great information on Fodor's site about this area of the Italian Riviera, just click here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Santa Margherita Ligure

Panorama at Santa Margherita Ligure

Santa Margherita waterfront

Santa Margherita Ligure in the province of Genoa is one of the most picturesque places I have ever seen. I couldn't decide what photo to post first. Anyway, no photograph will really convey the feeling you get when you arrive in a place like this. We arrived by bus, then were taken by boat to Portofino. I loved Portofino. Everybody must love Portofino. What's not to love. It is small and chic and very famous. But what I loved about its neighbor, Santa Margherita Ligure, is that it is a town. When dusk comes, it doesn't close down. It is a place where people live and children go to school, where the wife of the local policeman makes his lunch to take to the station, where the old people pray at the local Cathedral. It is a real place, not just a tourist place. 

Typical house colors in Ligure

Don't get me wrong. I love tourist places. They are good for a day or two, but Santa Margherita Ligure is somewhere I would love to return. I would love to stay in one of their hotels and wander the streets and have cappuccinos. I would love to eat at their restaurants and take a stroll along the sea front. I want to visit the Churches and Cathedrals. It is a place I would love to go back and spend some time. More information on this lovely place can be found  here.

Last but not least, I am fascinated by the people from Africa who live in Italy and other Western European countries. They spend a lot of time with a rolled blanket or sheet, with knock-off sunglasses and souvenirs inside. Out their wares come on the sidewalk, then they feel police presence, everything is rolled up and they run off. Police pass and ten minutes later they are back. Some of their knock-offs are quite good too!

Local street vendor 

it almost feels like a game between these gents and the local police. They seem to tolerate each other!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Cinque Terre: Here I Come

Vernazza, Liguria
I loved Liguria the last time I was there. We docked somewhere else but then took the bus to LaSpezia and a boat to Portofino. It is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth. At the time, I was sad because the shore excursion to the Cinque Terre was sold out. I waitlisted but couldn't get on. So here once again, I am looking forward to a trip from Rome to Barcelona. Our stop in Livorno has an excursion to Cinque Terre, and this time I will book early.

Monterosso, Italy
The tour goes to three of the five towns of the Cinque Terre from the ship. I toyed with a private tour, but since I am traveling alone and don't know if I will meet anybody to go with me, I will probably use the ship tour. The private tour was $1,322 dollars ... up to 5 people. Sounds kind of steep.

Manarola, one of the towns of the Cinque Terre
I think Manarola is the one we always think of when we hear about Cinque Terre. I just love the way the buildings are of all different shades of sherbert and lean precariously on the mountainside.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Towel Animals Galore

My Yoda towel animal
I adored my cabin stewards on the Holland America Veendam for the repositioning cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Montreal. Iman and Wayan were the absolute best. They were there in the morning greeting me by name, asking what tour I would be going on that day, and did I enjoy my breakast? Throughout the day, they smiled and spoke to me, asking if I enjoyed my tour and what I was doing that night. They were always there, always smiling and working hard.

My wonderful cabin stewards Wayan and Imam

My room was always spotless. But the most important thing of all, I had my towel animal to come home to each night. One night I came back after dinner and Imam was finishing up. I asked him if he was going make me a towel animal and he said no. I was very sad, but he had sort of a mischievous grin on his face as he said it. Then I realized, he wasn't going to make me one as it was already there .. a monkey hanging on a hanger. (Need to locate the photo.)

Towel animal with room service menu 
Another towel animal

Wayan and Imam up close
Thank you Wayan and Imam! You made my cruise.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Perce and Sweet Lorraine

Sweet Lorraine
I have taken my share of shore excursions on cruises. Most I barely remember the guide, typically being mildly aggravated by how much they talk and how little I will remember later. There were quite a few exceptions my last cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Montreal on the Holland America Veendam. One great exception was the "Best of Perce" tour with our guide, Lorraine - and our bus driver, Frank.

On the way to Perce

We could not have had a lousier day weather-wise. It was cold with snow still on the ground in spots. The wind was whipping and it rained off and on. But in the toasty bus with Lorraine's anecdotes and Frank checking that we were warm enough, it felt like a day out with family. Lorraine is from the area around Gaspe and Perce, Quebec. She grew up there and then moved to the big city of Montreal and lived there for 40 years, working for a bank until she retired. Then she and her husband moved back to where they grew up.

Bleak day between Gaspe and Perce
Seen with rain through the bus window
Now she works as a tour guide some days, and on the other days, she shuffles seniors to their doctor's appointments and brings them home from the hospital. She is one of the kindest people I have ever met. 

in Perce

Frozen waterfalls

Even with the bad weather, the tour was terrific. We got to see frozen waterfalls and the rock at Perce. We ate lunch at a little restaurant by the boat dock of Perce, and I was ever so grateful I wasn't doing the tour on the boat that day.

Boat by the restaurant where we ate

Cute souvenirs in the one shop that was open
The town of Perce is tiny. Since it was before season opened up, there was only one souvenir shop open. But the trip there and back, with the lovely lunch and Sweet Lorraine, made the day go by fast. It was a delight!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Bar Harbor Tour and More with Woody

Bar Harbor Coastal Cab van
I originally was wait listed on a tour from the Holland American Veendam Shore excursions. But once I met Rich and the group from Cruise Critic at the first meet & greet, I was invited along on a private tour to Winter Harbor and Acadia National Forest. I wanted to go on the private tour, and luckily HAL was very accommodating as they did send me the ticket to my room. But I asked them if I could cancel, and I am so glad that I did. The private tour with Woody could not have been better.
Inside of Woody's van
First off, Woody is just a super nice guy. He has lived in the area his whole life and knows almost everything there is to know. He is kind and cared when I got cold. He took us to all the places we were supposed to go and then some. We first went to the Naval Facility at Winter Harbor, then would back around through Acadia National Forest, stopping at all the key spots along the way. 

Arcadia National Forest
The coldest yet most beautiful spot was Cadillac Mountain. So glad we got to go there. If you squint your eyes a bit, or maybe get a magnifying glass, you can see our cruise ship right above the shoreline.

View from Cadillac Mountain
You cannot go wrong with Woody and his Bar Harbor Coastal Cab tours. You can find his website here. He does all kinds of private tours and can adapt yours to exactly what you want to see, but don't miss Cadillac Mountain. It is gorgeous. Don't forget to tell Woody we said hi ... from Luh, Rich, Al and Gail!