Cremona Italy

Day 52, Thursday October 26, 2017

Thursday we stopped at Cremona on our way to Milan. Bob wanted to visit the Mouseo del Violino which tells the story of five centuries of violin making in Cremona including the violins of Antonio Stradivari. I wasn’t sure it would be all that interesting but I did enjoy it as well. Bob was surprised and pleased to discover an exhibit on guitars as well. This guitar was made by Stradivari in 1679, and it is the only one of his guitars that is still playable of the five remaining today. The frets are made of sheep gut tied around the neck of the guitar. This guitar has five double strings instead of the six strings of modern guitars.There was a room full of instruments, and when we punched their number into the audio guide we heard the instrument being played. It was a really nice feature, and we listened to several of the violins and these violoncellos, some of which were from the 1600’s. I took this photo for my daughter. She has a cello, but it isn’t quite as fancy as this one from 1639 made by Piero Galbani. This is the Cremona Duomo and its bellower, which is said to be the tallest Medieval tower in Italy. Unfortunately both were closed so we didn’t get a chance to visit either of them.There are still several violin shops near the Duomo, in the same locations as in the 1600’s. Here is one of the shop windows we pass on the way back to the car.All the side streets are paved with the old cobble stones and marble paving stones .We arrive in Milan about 3:30 and it took forever to find a place to park our car.  The free parking for our bnb was on the street. We ended up parking bit further away and then moved our car closer later in the evening when there was a space available. We get settled into our Airbnb. and we are both rather tired and happy to stay put for the rest of the day.

Day 53, Friday October 27, 2017

I had a much needed ‘jammie’ day and Bob checked out the metro and got us tickets to the Milan Duomo, which is one of the largest Gothic churches in the world. We wanted to see Da Vinci’s Last Supper which is known here as Cenacolo Vinciano. That is actually the reason we added Milan to our travel itinerary but I totally forgot that someone told me we needed to reserve tickets online well in advance. Well, they are all booked up until sometime in late December! I guess we will have to try to return some day if we want to see it.

I finished a couple more journal pages.

Rivalta sul Mincio, Italy

Day 49, Monday October 23, 2017

We have been on holidays for seven weeks already! Our days fly by, there is so much to see everywhere we visit. Even a long holiday doesn’t have enough time for everything we could do.

We were surprised to see how close the mountains are on our drive to Rivalta Sul Mincio which is about half way between Venice and Milan. A quick internet search tells us that they are the Dolomites and they are part of the Italian Alps.Just one of the many small towns we see on our drive today.

We arrive at our Airbnb and get settled, then we both had a much needed afternoon nap. I plan a quiet day tomorrow, some journal time, some laundry, lots of rest, and Bob is thinking about going on a 34 km. bike ride!  Guess who has more energy?

Assisi, Italy

Day 42, Monday, October 16, 2017

On our way to Venice we stop in Assisi, to visit the Basilica di San Francesco, which is the burial site of St. Francis of Assisi. Construction of the basilica began in 1228, two years after the saint’s death.  We only have two hours here as we still have a long drive to Venice, and it is definitely not enough time. We walk through this enormous gate into the town…and emerge here. We do not have time to explore the town, so we turn around and head up the street to the Basilica.We are rather surprised to see armed guards checking everyone’s bags.The basilica is very impressive.Here is the main entrance.I must say I had a difficult time as there are no pictures allowed inside! This is one of the most impressive churches we have ever seen. We are surprised to discover that there are actually two churches in this building, one above the other. The walls and ceilings are covered with painted murals by renowned artists of the day, including Giotto, Simone Martini and Cimabue. It is incredible and I so wanted to take my own photographs. I was a bit disappointed in the selection of postcards and other material that depicting the interior of the church. I guess nothing seems quite as good as taking my own photos. These interior views are photos of postcards. Here is the Upper Church with its beautiful rose window.and this is the Lower Church. I could have stayed here for hours, there was so much to see.The altar area of the Lower Church is incredible.Downstairs is the crypt which contains the tomb of St. Francis.
The cloisters is outside so I get to take photos…and here are some of the Upper Church and the big flights of stairs that lead up to it.All too soon we have to leave as we still have a five hour drive to Mestre, which is just outside Venice. I take one last photo of Assisi and the basilica on the hill from the car window.Here is a different postcard view.I love the drive to Venice, the countryside is so beautiful. I told Bob I feel like I have come home. Perhaps I was an Italian in another lifetime?One thing neither of us expected was the smog and pollution.  It has been hazy but I wanted to believe it was just the hazy weather. It wasn’t! I check on the internet and discover that Italy is the most polluted European country! Northern Italy is the worst so we can only hope the situation improves as we head south.  We can barely make out the hills in the distance.

Day 43, Tuesday October 17, 2017

We spent a much needed quiet day organizing our nice new bnb, getting groceries and planning what we want to see and do in Venice.

Trogir to Dubrovnik, Croatia

Day 33, Saturday, October 7, 2017

These orange trees were growing in the yard at our bnb. Our host kindly offered us some and they were delicious.  There were also pomegranate and olive trees growing on her property. The drive to Dubrovnik takes almost four hours and the highway passes through some beautiful landscapes.

We stop at Polče for our lunch and sit by the water.These apartments near where we are sitting remind me of something from a Mad Max movie.  I am very happy I do not have to live in one of these.Just before we cross into Bosnia-Herzegovina there is a large valley that used to be a river delta and is now rich farmland with hundreds of long narrow plots of gardens, vineyards and fruit trees.I think it is beautiful but wonder why the plots are so long and narrow.Perhaps so each farmer has access to the river for irrigation?The highway here is lined with fruit stands.  Oranges are ready for harvest and hang in bags for sale.We cross the border into Bosnia-Herzegovina, which has a narrow strip of land that divides Croatia into two sections so that Bosnia-Herzegovina has access to the Adriatic Sea.  We both expected there would be a large port there but we didn’t see any. We are in Bosnia Herzegovina for all of 13 minutes!Here are some more photos taken from the car window on our way to Dubrovnik Just before Dubrovnik we cross over this bridge, which is high enough for cruise ships to go under.

We find our apartment without any problems and settle in for the evening.

Zadar to Trogir, Croatia

Day 26, Saturday, September 30, 2017

Today is a travel day from Zadar to Trogir. Here are a couple photos from the car of the drive here. We take the freeway and pay the toll as it is quite a bit faster than the non-toll roads.Driving through a huge flat valley on the way to Trogir there isn’t much to see, no farming and very few houses or towns. It seems kind of strange.We will be in Trogir for a week and there is a lot to see in this area so I think we will be busy.  We are also only about a half hour from Split which we want to visit as well.  Our apartment here is lovely and it has the biggest kitchen yet this trip. It is so nice to have a bit more room to prepare meals, and the TV has lots of English channels so Bob is enjoying that. We relax after arriving early afternoon and then go get our groceries for the week. Kind of a lazy day.

Here’s a couple photos that you might find interesting. I love peeking into doorways and openings. This is what I saw when I looked into an opening into an abandoned basement while we were in Jablanac last Wednesday.I know duct tape can be used for a lot of things. I always bring a bit with me when we travel and it often comes in handy but we have never seen it used to hold down road stones! We found this strange sight in a parking lot in Senj.

Zadar, Croatia

Day 25, Friday, September 29, 2017

It was a beautiful day for our drive to Zadar. The sun was shining, and the sky was blue. The Adriatic Sea is amazing, it is so clear and has such incredible shades of blue, everything from aquamarine to indigo.I keep snapping photos from the car window and telling Bob about all the different colours of the water. There are little inlets all along the coast…

and many of them have beaches.  This one was below a lookout where we stopped to have our lunch.

I took this to show how very clear the water is.  I now understand why so many people come to the beaches in Croatia, and yes, the water really was that blue!

I also saw these and wonder if they are buoys maybe for lobster traps?  Maybe someone reding this knows what they are and can let me know? I forgot to post a link to our apartment in Senj and here is our home in Zadar for those who are curious about Airbnb accommadations.  We have had very good luck with all our Airbnb bookings on all of our trips. We decided to visit Zadar because I read about the Sea Organ and the Sun Salutation, two amazing art installations by local architect, Nikola Bašić.  I recorded my own Sea organ music but I need to learn how to load videos to YouTube so I can include them in my blog.  The link I have included was a video I found online.  We sat at sunset and listened to some phenomenal music created by the ocean waves, It really was quite magical.

Next we checked out the Sun Salutation, and it was pretty unique as well.  

We decide that we might as well climb the Radar Cathedral Bell Tower. The entrance fee is only 15 Kuna, which is $3.00. The tower is 56 meters, or 184 feet tall.

Only 209 steps later and we are at the top platform with the railing, right below the roof. which has great views of the city lights.

This is looking up at the angel on top of the roof…and here is Bob.It was a little bit scary climbing the narrow winding steps right near the top. We were above the bells, and there didn’t seem to be much holding up those metal stairs. This is looking down from the top of the stairs.

And here are some views of the bells, which are enormous. They also rang for 9:00pm just minutes after we left the tower!

The Church of St. Donatus is open until 9 pm so we visit there next. This is a 9th Century church which is built on the ruins of a Roman Forum.

Here are some interior views.  This is very different from any of the other churches we have visited in Europe.

Some of the stones used to build this church were from temples that were built to Juno and Jupiter. It is hard to wrap my head around just how old these stones and buildings are.

You may or may not know that I love trees, and that is a Roman Gate in the background.

We wander up and down a few of the streets and we are surprised at how many of the shops are still open.Restaurants often occupy very interesting buildings.This was such a pretty window I just had to take its picture… and then we walk back across the bridge to our car for the short drive home.

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.

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