"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.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Lucca: Everything I Thought It Would Be and More

Outer walls of the city of Lucca
The cruise I took on the Holland America Westerdam last month had its first stop in Livorno, which is the gateway for Florence and Pisa. I have been to Florence a few times, and even though I really love it, I wanted to explore and see something new. Pisa just didn't interest me. I am glad I decided on Lucca.

Column detail from St. Michael's in Lucca
We went to both a Church and the Cathedral when in Lucca. Our guide was great. She was born in Southern Italy, but had moved to the United States as a girl and returned to Italy with her son as an adult. Therefore, her English was perfect. 

More detail from St. Michael's Church
St. Michael's was absolutely beautiful, and we visted it from the outside. More information about this beautiful Basilica can be found here.

Lucca is an amazing place and the only town we went to on the entire cruise that I could actually picture myself living there. If only, right?

Photo of our Holland America tour group on our walking tour
This was definitely a gargoyle inspired tour.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Oh My Cod: Great Eatery in Mahone Bay

Photo of the lovely owner of Oh My Cod Restaurant
Well I have been back from the Canada New England cruise that started in Fort Lauderdale for months, and now I am finally posting photos and remembering the great things I did and saw. One thing that has been nagging at me for months is the promise I made to a lovely young woman shown here, that I would do a blog post about her gorgeous restaurant, Oh My Cod, in Mahone Bay, Novia Scotia.

me in Mahone Bay in front of Oh My Cod
The restaurant is awesome, and is just one of the lovely things about the gem of a town. We were there so early that most of the local owners were scraping, painting, landscaping and generally getting ready for the tourist season. I had one of the workers take my photo in front of Oh My Cod while they were working on the outside deck area.

outside deck renovation from the end of April 2016

Thank you, kind soul, for taking my photo. As I am writing this, I cannot find the business card that the owner gave me, but I was able to find their website online and am now a friend on their Facebook page. If you ever make it up to this beautiful town in Nova Scotia, please stop and have a bite at Oh My Cod.
For more information, their website is here. Become their fan on Facebook at their Facebook page here.

More on Mahone Bay in another post!!

Monday, May 1, 2017


my friend Susan McClung taking a photo of Lunenburg
I could probably do a hundred posts of the town of Lunenburg. That is how impressed I was with the place. Combine it with Mahone Bay down the road, and it is Heaven on Earth. We were there before season started, and it was quite chilly. Sometimes I had to stomp my foot up and down to shake off the cold before snapping a photo. Susan was braver than me. When she was taking this photo, I was on the bus where the heat was on.

Lunenburg on the water
Lunenburg is a town of sherbert color houses that are 200 years old and not only still standing, but meticulously kept up. It is a hilly town with friendly folks and a wonderful, calm ambience. We weren't there in the summer, but I have to believe it livens up a lot.

One of my favorite photos of Lunenburg
The photo above is engineering at its best. This appears to be a handmade boat ramp.

Another wonderful building is the old Lunenburg Academy, which used to be a school. Definitely a gargoyle-inspired building, I think it would be a great place to film a horror movie. Next to the Academy is the Lunenburg Cemetery.

Lunenburg Cemetery

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

La Aurora Part 2

La Aurora workers
As mentioned in my first post on the La Aurora cigar factory, the workers all smoked cigars. They seemed quite oblivious to us milling around and taking photos of them, so I think they get a lot of tours.

Displays from La Aurora

The tour included a lot of history about the making of the factory, how it grew and what it is like today. If you would like more information on this tour, click on La Aurora cigar factory.

The tour guide at the factory, Eugenio, was awesome, but the best person of all was our tour guide for the day, Chucky. He was fun. He was entertaining and he was kind. More about Chucky later. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

La Aurora Puros (Cigars)

La Aurora Cigar Factory
Our best tour on our Christmas cruise on the Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam was called Santiago Insider. It was to the oldest city in the Americas, Santiago de las Caballeros from Amber Cove, Dominican Republic. When I read the information on it, I was expecting to go to a little old town. What is actually there is a bustling city of a million people. 

La Aurora entrance
The highlight of the tour was the La Aurora Cigar Factory. In the entrance, there were some old vehicles they have used over the years. The tour was so interesting, as we walked from phase to phase of the making of cigars. The only difficult part for me was the perk of working there is you get to smoke as many cigars as you like. So all the employees and also our tour guests were puffing away. I had to ask to be let out of the room. It was so smoky, I couldn't breathe.

Equipment for making the cigars

Cigar maker

My favorite part of the cigar factory was watching the workers in the break room.

Break room La Aurora

Monday, April 10, 2017

Mariana and Our Christmas Cruise

my favorite photo of Mariana from our Christmas Cruise
My husband, Moises, and I had such a great time on our Christmas cruise with my sister-in-law, Mariana. She is a lovely person and a lot of fun. We had taken a trip together last April to Florida and got along famously. So when the chance came up to book a cruise on the Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam, we decided to do it. The photo above was taken on the streets of San Juan, where Mariana was our guide for the day.

Mariana with our favorite guys, Anwar and Muli
The first night we couldn't get reservations, but every night after except when we went to a specialty restaurant, we dined with our favorite guys, Anwar and Muli. They were so nice and such a great team, so professional and hilarious. We loved the way Muli danced around the dining room, getting everything done spectacularly.

The cruise was a blast!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

From Sex Shops to Spirtuality in Gdansk, Poland

Welcome marching band in Gdynia, Poland
Street along the way to Gdansk
We were met by a marching band when we arrived in the port of Gdynia, Poland on our Baltic cruise. We left the port for our excursion to Gdansk. Along the way, we saw McDonald's hamburger shops, lots of traffic and a peep show and sex shop. Our tour guide gave a running commentary all the way to Gdansk and back, explaining to us about the "exploding balls" (cannon fire) during the war, and a few other things that made us chuckle.

Traffic and our guide going to Gdansk, Poland

We arrived in Gdansk and bus loads of people got off. It had a Disneyland feel and doing further research when I got back home, I found out that Gdansk was mostly destroyed by the Second World War and rebuilt after. It was definitely rebuilt for tourists as every imaginable flavor of ice cream, type of souvenir and amber jewelry was available here. The amber is especially nice though and reasonably priced.

I found the tourists of particular interest and even more astonishing, there was a woman who sat in a cotton candy booth in the hot sun all day. She was barely visible behind the spun confection.

Tourist in front of fountain in Gdansk

Cotton candy lady
But by far, the best part of our tour in Gdansk was St. Mary's Church. Touted as the largest brick Church in the world by our guide, I was not that impressed by the size. Supposedly 25,000 people fit in this Church at one time, but I would have hated to be in the crowd on the day that many were there. What I loved about the Church was the gargoyle effect. It is loaded with both spirituality and medieval touches.

Also inside St. Mary's Church is the tomb of Maciej Plazynski, a revered leader of Poland.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Taormina: a Beautiful Slice of Sicily

Fountain in Taormina

Overlook near Taormina

This is definitely a gargoyle post. On our Roman Empire cruise, my niece and I took an excursion to Taormina, Sicily. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. Set up on a hill and overlooking the sea and mountainous terrain with beautiful greenery thrown in, it is truly a gorgeous slice of Sicily.

What appears to be an abandoned night club with a Cross above

Stairway by souvenir shops

On that particular day, it happened to be the day after an election of some sort. It was so wonderful to observe all the local Italians standing in groups in the streets, conversing in whispers in corners and gesticulating wildly about the outcome. We had no idea who had run and won or lost, but it was great fun just being part of such a lovely place.

Behind the Greek Theater

Taormina is small and friendly. It is oozing with charm and lovely restaurants and hotels. It has a Greek theater, which to me was kind of the low point of the tour. I preferred the cappuccino and desserts and the stroll around town. I adored watching the children play. I even loved our group that day.

Greek Theater

Another view from the overlook

Walking around Taormina

Skip Messina. It is just another port town. Make your way instead to Taormina. More information can be found here. And if you ever do make it, please go in and check out Hotel Timeo. I really wanted to stay there but I was on a cruise. A good reason for me to go back! If you would like more info on the luxury hotel Timeo, please click here. It is located right in front of the Greek Theater. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Lucca vs. Cinque Terre

Florence, Italy
Florence, Italy is one of those rare and special places. I have been there either two or three times. The first time was in 1995, and I went by train from Rome and spent five days there. It was exquisite, though a bit cold, as it was winter. The second time, my husband and I took a tour that stopped in Florence. We loved it enough to abandon our tour and stay an extra day, then taking the train on to Venice. 

Lucca in Tuscany
This year, I will be on a cruise that will stop in Livorno. I could either return to Florence, take a tour to Cinque Terre or go to Lucca. I am torn and can't decide. Both Cinque Terre and Lucca look amazing. The crowds kind of turn me off for Cinque Terre though. I probably won't return to Florence, as I love to explore new places. Help me decide!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Goat Hair, Mohair, and Angora

Goat farm

Le Chevier du Nord goat farm was one destination on our Best of Saguenay tour. What I noticed right away was how dirty the "sheep" looked and how wide set were their eyes. 

at Le Chevier du Nord

They are really very bizarre looking creatures, quite large and really look like sheep to me. I had never seen a goat like this before, but they are goats. They are goats that produce a beautiful mohair that can be made in to angora garments, including sweaters and boots.

the goats
As I said, they are quite dirty but very cute and quite friendly. We walked through the process of how they sheer the goats and finally make their wool in to wonderful sweaters, coats and other garments.

You can find out more information about this lovely, family run business here.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Grand Turk Continued

Moises and me on Grand Turk
I found this photo my sister-in-law, Mariana, took on our holiday Caribbean cruise pretty amusing. It says prison with an arrow pointing to us. This was taken on Victoria Streeet in Cockburn Town, one of the oldest towns I have ever been to in the New World.

Victoria Public Library

Wikipedia has this to say about Cockburn Town ... "The seat of government ever since 1766, Cockburn Town was the first permanent settlement on any of the islands, founded in 1681 by salt collectors who arrived in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The city supposedly lies on the place where Juan Ponce de León first landed on the island."

Display at the National Museum of Grank Turk

Some of the oldest buildings are still used, but they seem to be only open at rare times. Maybe a few hours in the morning and a bit in late afternoon. The entire island has a feel of mañana time, like nothing happens fast and maybe not at all. The people are friendly and seem good natured, and nobody is in a hurry.

But by and far the best part of Cockburn Town for me was the National Museum. It is quite an impressive little place.