Pula, Croatia

Day 15, Tuesday September 19, 2017

Well, it was raining all night and still raining when we got up this morning but it stopped mid morning so we decided to go check out Pula. We found a parking lot and this is what we see when we get out of our car! An incredible Roman Amphitheatre.

But…I turn around and this is what I see…

The sky is very dark but we go check out the Amphitheatre and hope we don’t get wet. We decide to walk around the amphitheatre today and go inside on a drier day when we might not have to leave because of the rain. There are some great views from the outside.

We take a walk around the central part of the old town and we see some more Roman monuments: the Temple of Augustus, The Roman Twin Gates and and the Triumphal Arch. Image 2017-09-19 at 9.06 PMBy now it is raining quite heavily so we make our way back to the car, passing this interesting looking candy shop with huge candies. The banana candies are life size!Of course as soon as we get home the sun tries to peek out, but it doesn’t mange to do so for very long and soon it is raining again.After a late lunch Bob reads and I work on my journal which, of course I am already behind on.

 

 

Zagreb to Pula

Day 14, Monday September 18, 2017

We were all packed and on the road by 10:30, which is really pretty good for us!  We really liked our apartment in Zagreb. it was not very big but it had everything we needed for our stay and the location was fantastic, within walking distance to everything! If you are curious you can check out this Airbnb link.

We had a four hour drive to our next destination, the town of Pula, in the area of Croatia known as Istria: Zagreb is in Central Croatia. This is one of the first views we had of Croatian homes in the countryside as we left Zagreb.

We drove through about 25 tunnels on the toll highway between Zagreb and Pula. It cost 138 Kuna in tolls, $27.60 Can. but it saved us more than three more hours of driving. The tunnels were pretty amazing. The longest one was 5,062 meters, over five kilometres long! …and there were several more that were over 1,000 to 2,000 meters long.

We stopped for groceries before we arrived at our apartment and we  found our next ‘home away from home’ with only one wrong turn. The only bad news of the day is that the weather from Amsterdam seems to be following us. We are not sure what tomorrow will be like. Oh well…

Severe Weather Alerts – Pula, Istria 

  • Red Warning for Rain

    Red Warning for Rain in effect from Tuesday, 1:00 AM CEST until Wednesday, 12:59 AM CEST. Source: Meteorological and Hydrological Service

     

Rijk Museum and Travelling Challenges

We spent more than six hours at the Rijk Museum today and although we didn’t see everything we did manage to see lots of fantastic art.  Image 2017-09-12 at 11.12 PMWe saw some of my favourites. It is always exciting to see, in person, paintings that I have admired in books for years…and I found some new favourites.  There were so many great Dutch artists that I have never seen before.This is the Gallery of Honour and at the far end is Rembrandt’s Night Watch.  Both Bob and I remember this painting from our last visit to the Rijk Museum over forty years ago.

Bob had downloaded a museum app so we had a bit of a treasure hunt following their 90 minute guide to see what the museum considered their top works of art. It was a bit of a whirlwind trip through the museum and we retreated to the gardens outside to have our lunch. Bob also had a little cat nap…DSC08917and I checked out the playful fountain.
Any idea what all these doors are?  Check at the end of the post for the answer.The museum is a nice mix of paintings, sculptures, furniture and other historical objects. I always like to look in the museum shops although I seldom buy much.  This book was pretty amazing though. The white gloves at the top of the page give an idea of its size, and only a bit more than €6,000!On the way home we are surprised at how few cars are on the roads.  It is after 5:30 and everyone is coming home from work, but so many people ride bikes that there just aren’t that many cars on the roads.But there are so many cyclists, of all ages.  Notice that no one wears helmets. Parents often carry two children on their bikes, one in front and one behind. I also saw several children standing up on a carrying rack above the back tire, holding on to their parent’s shoulders!  I tried to get photo of this but they fly by so quickly I wasn’t able to get one.  Now that didn’t look at all safe to me.Here are some more parents with babies in front. No helmets anywhere to be seen. So different from home.  Even the motorcyclists here go bare headed.

When we get home there is an email waiting for us that KLM has cancelled our flight tomorrow. Bob thought I was joking when I told him about it.  I don’t know what is going on but that is the second flight that we have had cancelled this trip and we have only been gone a week! Apparently there is a big wind storm expected tomorrow so they cancelled all their flights.  After a rather stressful three hours on the phone we manage to get rebooked but not until Thursday, so we have to stay another night here in Amsterdam and we lose one of our days in Zagreb, Croatia, which is our next stop.Too bad but that is the way it is.  We were lucky though as our current Airbnb host says that we can stay here one more night so we didn’t have to try to find somewhere else to stay.

Answer to the earlier question about the hallway of doors.

It is the women’s washroom.

 

Quiet Rainy Day in Amsterdam

Monday, September 11, 2017

We were going to go to the Rijk Museum today but I needed a down day and it is windy and raining, so we decided to stay home have a quiet day instead. Yesterday we walked almost nine miles, and the equivalent of 25 flights of stairs, or so my Fitbit tells me!  No wonder I am tired.

Some friends and family are curious about our Airbnb apartments so I thought I would include a link to each one we stay at. If you are interested take a peek.     Airbnb

Here are a few photos that never made it into previous postings.This little sculpture was in the street right outside the Oude Kirk. Bob thought it a strange placement right outside a church and asked me what it meant.  How am I to know?Our apartment host is an artist who makes tiles that are for sale in museum shops. The kitchen ones are playful takes on antique tiles and they are mounted in her bathroom and kitchen. She also very generously gave us one as a gift.We saw this couple walking Saturday and as they passed by everyone started to cheer and clap.Now, we saw this fellow with his brand new tattoo two days ago at Dam Square and the strange thing ( other than why anyone would want this tattoo on their head) is that we saw him again two times yesterday, once in the afternoon and again in the evening.  What are the chances of that happening in as big and busy city as Amsterdam? I almost felt like we should say hi! I love people watching and Amsterdam is a great place for that.  I just wish I had a chance to draw or take a photo of some of the interesting faces we have seen.

Getting Organized

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Our Airbnb host is a retired school teacher who now lives outside Barcelona on a farm. When we arrived at her apartment the fridge was stocked with enough food for several breakfasts and lunches, including these farm fresh eggs and a big bowl of fresh fruit.FullSizeRender

We went to the FC Barcelona Stadium to get a ticket for the soccer game tomorrow night and to check out the best way to travel to the stadium. It turns out that it is only one bus from our apartment to the stadium, so it will be easy for Bob find his way there tomorrow night. The team store is huge, three levels of all things soccer! FullSizeRender

The stadium is huge as well, it holds 100,000 spectators, and there were several interesting sculptures on the Stadium grounds.  Image-1

I am going to go to a life drawing session tomorrow night while Bob is at the soccer game, so we head over to the old town, to check out the best route for me to take tomorrow night as well.  Turns out that there is a metro line that goes from the drawing studio right to a couple of blocks from home so we rather lucked out on our apartment’s location.

 

Back in Barcelona!

Monday, November 30, 2015

This is our last Airbnb apartment for this trip.  We have been very happy with the selection of accommodations available and we enjoyed staying at all of our apartments.  Yes, some were better than others but they were all more than adequate and it was great having a kitchen, living room and bedroom. Prices were very reasonable too, they ranged from $32 to $94 Canadian with an average of about $65 a night. I know it would have been much more expensive to stay in hotels and I really preferred our little apartments.  We are located in Sant Andreu, a Barcelona neighbourhood north of the main tourist area of the Old Town. There are not many tourists here, which is rather nice.  Lots of little shops in our neighbourhood and easy access to the metro and bus.  Image 2016-01-24 at 5.26 PMWe are up early to return our rental car, and catch the bus back to our apartment. I took this photo from the bus window and I kind of like the reflections in it.DSC01829That is quite enough for me today and I am looking forward to staying put the rest of the day and doing a bit of journaling and blogging. As you know, I am rather behind. This little fellow was quite happy to have me take his photo on our walk home from the bus stop. DSC01832

Bob went exploring while I had a relaxing day. We head back out tonight to check out the local fair as Bob has his heart set on a foot long hot dog for supper.DSC01835_3On the way home we peeked into this garage. All the shops here are very tiny, this one isn’t much wider than what you see here, so they need to put one car on top of the other.
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Peñiscola, Spain

Sunday, November 29th, 2015.

Our holiday is drawing to a close.  We will be in Barcelona tonight so that we can return our rental car tomorrow.  Our last nine days in Spain will be spent exploring Barcelona and visiting the sights.

As we left Valencia we were stopped by the police to allow this protest march to cross the road. We later discovered that police had evicted staff from a public broadcasting television station after it was closed by the government due to austerity measures. Check here for a short video and more information.

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On the drive to Peñiscola.FullSizeRender

There is a castle in Peñiscola, about three hours south of Barcelona, that we want to visit because the Game of Thrones Season Six had some scenes that were shot there. I found a good picture of the castle at www.spain  Somehow I missed getting a picture of the castle that shows where it is located on top of the hill in Peñiscola.r_castillo_peniscola_t1200389.jpg_369272544

We find a place to park, which isn’t always an easy task, and head towards the castle, which is near the port.FullSizeRender_2

Soon we are trudging up steep hills, past narrow streets, looking for the way to the castle, which doesn’t seem to be marked anywhere.FullSizeRender_5

We pass this interesting building which is covered with sea shells.FullSizeRender_3

Quite by luck we find the right road up to the castle and we soon are standing on one of the castle courtyards. The Peñiscola Castle was built between 1294 and 1307 by the Knights Templar. This last great fortress was to become their last refuge as they were evicted and arrested in 1307 by James II of Aragon. In 1411 Pope Benedict XIII converted the castle into his papal seat and lived there until his death in 1423.  Remember all this took place years before Colombus even set sail for North America in 1492! FullSizeRender_2

We explore this interesting castle, wondering what areas might have been used for the filming for the Game of Thrones.  The castle was never finely finished as the Knights Templar were never able to completely finish its construction.FullSizeRender FullSizeRender_5

Can you spot Bob?FullSizeRender_2

Looking down the same step narrow steps.FullSizeRender_4

We think this doorway must be a good candidate for the inclusion in the TV show.

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I love how the old stone steps are worn from all the feet that have climbed up and down them over the centuries.
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FullSizeRender_2 FullSizeRender_5These stairs lead to the dungeon. As we walk down them I imagine the terror so many people must have felt as they were dragged down these very steps.FullSizeRender_4

There was an exhibit in the dungeon about the Knights Templar that was interesting. In one of the photos below you can see a grate in the dungeon floor.  Beside it is a photo of the cell with restraints that was under that grate,  It was a weird feeling looking down into that cell, and at the table and other torture instruments in that room. I wonder if there are ghosts that linger here?Image-1After the dungeon we climb up to the top of the castle for some great views of the town and surrounding countryside. Looking down on the town shows just how close together the houses are, they really are one on top of the other as they climb the hill towards the castle. You can also see the high rise apartment buildings that are being built along the ocean front.FullSizeRender_4FullSizeRender_2 FullSizeRender_3 FullSizeRender_3

This doorway is on the outside of the castle walls.FullSizeRender_4

Around the corner and down the hill from the above photo, there is a garden area with a refuge for raptors that are wounded, sick, or born in captivity.  They are rehabilitated and once well enough they are returned to the wild.IMG_2589

Can you spot the two girls climbing the walls?FullSizeRender_2

On our way back to the car we pass what must be the biggest paella pan ever.  They were using what looked like a small shovel to mix and serve the food.FullSizeRenderWe need to reach Barcelona by 6:00 to meet our Airbnb host and we are still three hours away. About 150 km. from Barcelona the odometer on our rental car turns 6,000 kilometres!

It takes us a while to find our apartment.  It is located down a narrow side road that looked like an alley so we didn’t think we were in the right place. The only place we could find to park the car so I could go out and look for the apartment is in a handicap parking spot. There really are no parking spots anywhere around here.  Just as I was getting concerned that we wouldn’t find the apartment I hear someone call my name.  Our host has just arrived and she sees me looking rather lost and confused standing on the sidewalk.  Turns out that little alley is indeed where the apartment is located.

We put the car in the garage, which isn’t an easy job, the street is very narrow and the garage is barely big enough for the car, and we get settled in our last apartment of the trip. Later in the evening we go for a little walk and discover a fair only a few blocks from our apartment. This little girl was so intent on catching her ducks to win a prize.FullSizeRender_5

On the Road to Valencia

Thursday November 26, 2015

Bob is loading the car and we will soon be on our way to Valencia.  This is the view from our balcony.  As you can see, we were right on the edge of Los Alcázeres, just fields beside us, so it was a nice quiet location.FullSizeRender_3FullSizeRender_5

Before long we are passing lots of salt pans, which are large shallow ponds of sea water. The water evaporates and leaves behind the sea salt, which is then harvested and piled into these enormous piles of sea salt.  Seems strange to think that the salt we eat is produced in this fashion. I had visions of workers out raking up sea salt from the salt pans, not bulldozers and big machinery.  A bit naive on my part I think.Image-1We stop to stretch our legs and have lunch near this beach.  It is certainly not as pretty as other beaches we have visited.FullSizeRender_2The view in the opposite direction.  This is an area full of condos and apartments and partially constructed buildings. FullSizeRender

We stopped for another break a bit further on… FullSizeRender

and found these strange hairy balls, hundreds of them all over the beach!  Some of them were several inches in diameter.  Does anyone know what they are? FullSizeRender_4

We detoured into what we thought was a little town called Alcoi, thinking we could go for a walk in a park area near the town, but we got a bit lost in what turned out to be a rather large city. We also discovered that the park didn’t have any easily accessible areas for walking, so we were soon back on the road. Next stop was the town of Xativa where we visited the ruins of a once grand castle with 30 towers.  FullSizeRender_3FullSizeRender_2

It was getting late in the day and we only had just over a half hour before closing so we saw as much of the castle as we could before the sun set and the castle closed. This was one of the water features in the garden area of the castle. FullSizeRenderThe view from the castle was quite spectacular.FullSizeRender_5

There are lots of market gardens visible in this photo.FullSizeRender_3

We still see lots of graffiti along the highways but we also see these murals. Too bad I can only glimpse them flying by in the car.FullSizeRender_2

There are numerous orange orchards and the trees are absolutely loaded with oranges, so many that they are falling on the ground. Sorry for the blurry image, this is another photo taken from the car.  I never did find a place to pull over and get a good picture of an orange orchard.  Too bad…FullSizeRender_4

Thanks to our trusty iPad and its GPS we find our next Airbnb apartment in Valencia and we were pleasantly surprised to find that our host had very kindly stocked it with all sorts of groceries! It also has lots of artwork as our host’s husband is Nico Munuera, a Spanish artist.Image-1

Los Alcázares, Spain

Tuesday, November 23, 2015

We are in Los Alcázares, a small coastal spa town on the south west corner of Spain.  It is on the Mar Menor, or little sea, which is Europe’s largest salt water lagoon. This ‘little sea’ is 20 square kilometres and is separated from the Mediterranean sea by an 18 km long spit of land called the La Manga Strip which keeps it 2 to 4 degrees warmer than the Mediterranean Sea.  Not that it matters to us as we are not going swimming this time of the year!

You can see the La Manga Strip in the distance.  It looks as though the high rise apartments are floating on the water.  I am convinced that a big wave would wash right over this spit of land and have no urge to go visit.
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Today is a quiet day.  I rest and Bob goes for a walk to explore the town and the beach. This seems to be the routine we have settled into after a travel day.

Our Airbnb apartment is very nice and we decide to extend our stay by one day so we do not have to travel on Bob’s 65th birthday.

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Troglodytes!

Sunday, November 22

This was our Airbnb apartment near the village of Alhendin, about 20 minutes outside of Granada. It was very nice and quiet but it is time to hit the road again. We need to be in Los Alcázeres, a small coastal town in southeastern Spain by evening.Image 2015-12-12 at 11.18 PM

The drive is interesting as the scenery changes often.  These are photos shot through the car window so they aren’t the best, but they give a pretty good idea of the countryside. This is on the outskirts of Granada.  I find it so strange to see apartment buildings and then countryside right beside them.  There are no suburbs around here, it is city and then it is country, nothing in-between.DSC01195We are surprised to see snow on the mountaintops.DSC01200

Before long there are fewer trees and the land is much more arid looking.DSC01199It is hard to tell from the photo, but this area is much like Drumheller, Alberta, with fields suddenly giving way to steep, dry ravines. DSC01206

Soon we are seeing weathered and eroded hills that have what look like caves or tunnel openings.DSC01207

A quick bit of internet research revealed that many people in this area live in caves.  We stop in a little town named Purullena, and visit the Museo Cueva Immaculada.  This was quite the experience.  As we entered the museum we realized that we were walking through a family home.  There were footsteps painted on the floor and we were told  to follow the footsteps and then we were left to explore their house! We passed what looked like the grandparents having something to eat with their grandchildren in the dining room.  It was rather bizarre.Image 2015-12-12 at 11.48 PM

Curtains separate the rooms so that air can circulate, and there are also chimneys for air circulation. We climbed a flight of stairs to an area of their home that was set up as a museum, with old farm implements, photographs, kitchen utensils, and a whole lot of other assorted items.  Here are some pictures of the cave houses in Purullena, and another little village we drove to nearby.DSC01242The temperature in these homes stays between 17º and 21º C year round. The ceilings are dome-shaped so that the caves will not collapse and to distribute the weight of the hills above to the thick outer side of the walls. DSC01233Thirty years ago everyone in the town lived in caves, and today about 1,100 of the towns population of 2,700 still live in caves.  The soil here is called arcilla, which is a special type of clay that is compact but still very soft so it is easy to dig.  It is also an impermeable soil which stops the rain from entering the cave.DSC01221The cave homes are dug out of the mountains and there are no other construction materials used. The homes are painted with white chalk which breathes so the air can circulate, and this prevents humidity from building up in the caves.DSC01230We saw this ‘troglodyte’ busily hanging up her laundry before she went back into her cave home. These cave dwellers call themselves Troglodytes, which is from two Greek words meaning hole, and dying to get into  If you want to read a bit more about these unique houses check out http://www.spain-holiday.com/blog/cave-settlements-in-andalucia.php DSC01240

We were quite surprised to discover that the public washrooms were also the family bathrooms, complete with the family laundry, showers, kids toys and other personal items! These were located just outside the cave home, sort of like modern outhouses.  We thought it must be difficult to put plumbing inside the caves.

As we continued on our way to Los Alcázeres we passed lots of huge market gardens, many of which had these tunnel hothouses, field after field of them. It was quite the sight.  DSC01254