"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, 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!