Baltic Adventure 2023

May 22nd, 2023

After this trip, I have visited 81 countries in the World!!

Amsterdam: Wed. May 3 through Fri. May 5, 2023

Sign at JFK Airport

Jeff and I took an overnight flight from New York City and arrived in Amsterdam on Wednesday, May 3rd at 5:30 in the morning! The taxi from Schiphol Airport breezed through empty streets to the center of the city and the hotel we had booked online: the NH Collection Flower Market Hotel.

We were in Amsterdam for three days before starting a Baltic Sea Cruise on Saturday. We arrived a few days early to give our bodies a chance to adjust to a different time zone. We were tired from lack of sleep on the plane, so on our first day, we took a leisurely canal-boat tour.

The Rijksmuseum

Amsterdam is a delightful city with interesting architecture and many beautiful canals and bridges. We were eager to try Dutch cuisine so we searched for restaurants that served traditional “stamppot,” “bitterballens,” “poffertjes,” “stroopwafels,” “vlaamse frieten,” and “erwtensoep/snert.” And, of course, Jeff found De Kaaskamer van Amsterdam – an amazing cheese shop located in the 9 Streets district.

On our second day, we visited the Van Gogh Museum. We had pre-booked timed tickets which we purchased at home. This worked out well because all tickets for the week were sold out. The museum had expanded since our last visit to Amsterdam with a modern two-story glass entrance.

The Van Gogh Museum

The weather was glorious – clear 50 to 65 degrees – perfect for walking around the city and taking pictures. We visited Rembrandt’s House Museum and walked around several interesting neighborhoods.

We had read that there are more than 840,000 bicycles in Amsterdam. That’s more bicycles than residents! Many bicycles were decorated with colorful artificial flowers celebrating spring.

On Saturday, May 6th we boarded Holland America’s MS Rotterdam: our home-away-from-home for a 14-Day Cruise around the Baltic Sea to visit several northern capital cities: Copenhagen, Stockholm, etc.

Holland America’s MS Rotterdam

The Rotterdam was launched in 2021 and is the newest ship in the Holland America fleet. It holds about 2,600 passengers and 1,000 crew members.

The main pool area in the photos below had a retractable roof and was used as a multi-purpose area. The roof opened on warm days and during evening hours it became a social gathering place. At night, lounge chairs were set up with blankets so passengers could watch first-run movies under the stars. Popcorn was included!

The World Stage theater was located on Decks 2 and 3, all the way forward in the bow of the ship. It had 714 seats and was almost a theater-in-the-round. The multi-level Atrium was located in the center of the Rotterdam and connected restaurants and shops.

Although the Rotterdam was larger that the last cruise ship we had traveled on, it didn’t feel big and overwhelming. Our favorite place to hang out was the comfortable Crow’s Nest on the 12th level.

We boarded on Saturday afternoon and the ship left Amsterdam that evening. The following day was a “sea day” which gave us plenty of time to explore the ship, settle in, and relax.

Monday May 8th, the Rotterdam arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark.

We got an early start and took the shuttle bus to a Metro station. After a couple of stops on the train, we got off in the center of Copenhagen near Nyhaven. We used Googlemaps and Applemaps to find our way around.

It was a glorious bright sunny morning and we walked along beautiful Nyhaven. Hans Christian Andersen had lived in several houses along the harbor during the early 1800s.

We continued along the main shopping street, Stroget, which is lined with all the familiar international clothing shops, restaurants, and Danish boutiques. We stopped for good coffee along the way.

We saw Christianborg Palace which is the seat of the Danish Parliament and houses the Prime Minister’s Office and the Supreme Court of Denmark. The palace is also used by the queen of Denmark for official events. We had just one day in Copenhagen so we didn’t tour the palace.

We passed the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, one of our favorite museums, and we also saw the entrance to the famous Tivoli Gardens. We had spent a week in Copenhagen on our last visit 21 years ago and visited all these sights, so we didn’t feel the need to visit them again on this trip.

It was getting to be lunch-time, and we were lucky to find Tivolihallen, a Danish restaurant that served delicious “classic open-faced sandwiches” called smorrebrod. It was a family-owned restaurant and the old-fashioned dining room was cozy and comfortable. Of course, they spoke perfect English!

Later we discovered that Tivolihallen is listed in the book: “1001 Restaurants You Must Experience Before You Die.”

After a tasty lunch, we walked toward the Town Hall – Radhus. Although the building was built in 1905, the architecture was inspired by the Renaissance-style Town Hall in Siena, Italy.

There was a very interesting astronomical clock on display with 15,448 parts. The Radhus is the seat of Copenhagen’s city government so all local city government functions are performed there. They had a table of artificial flowers for rent for their frequent town hall weddings.

That’s a statue of Hans Christian Andersen near the Radus looking toward Tivoli Garden:

Tuesday May 9 – Warnemunde and Rostock, Germany

Everything we had read at home in preparation for this port said to go to the medieval town of Rostock and not bother with Warnemunde. So we made the trek, and it was a “trek” because we had to take a local commuter train first, then ride the tram to Rostock, then walk into the city center.

Steintor or Stone Gate

The Steintor, built in 1574, was one of the original gates into the medieval city of Rostock and leads to Neuer Markt which is the historic center. Marienkirche, St. Mary’s Church, was built in 1265.

The Rathaus or Town Hall

New Market Square (Neuer Markt) features pastel colored merchants’ houses, the pink Town Hall, St. Mary’s Church, and the Rostock Cultural History Museum.

Merchants’ Houses

There are bars and restaurants surrounding the square and a daily farmer’s market. It’s a good place to start a tour of the pedestrian streets of the Old Town. We strolled up Kropeliner Strasse, the main shopping street which was full of international brand name stores.

We had a good lunch in a big self-serve cafeteria located on the ground floor of a modern shopping center.

Afterwards, we took the tram to the train and then back to Warnemunde. Because it was still early, we decided to explore the seaside village. We were very happy we did, because we liked Warnemunde better than Rostock! It was a lovely seaside resort town with adorable fishermen’s cottages.

Two famous Warnemunde landmarks are the 19th century lighthouse and the popular Teepott Restaurant located on the seemingly endless beautiful white-sand beach along the Baltic Sea.

Thursday May 11 – Riga, Latvia (Wednesday was a quiet Sea Day aboard the MS Rotterdam)

Riga Castle

The ship arrived early in the morning and cruised up the Daugava River and docked near Vansu Bridge across the river from Riga Castle. It was a short walk to the medieval Old Town of Riga, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Riga Cathedral: Seat of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia

Riga, the capital city of Latvia, was founded in 1201 and had been a member of the Hanseatic League. This was a medieval confederation of market towns and merchant guilds in Northern Europe. The Swedish Gate is all that remains of the Middle Ages fortification wall which once protected the city.

The Swedish Gate

The old town center of Riga, the Vecriga, is a labyrinth of cobblestone streets lined with medieval churches and guild halls. Vecriga today is full of popular restaurants, art galleries, and museums.

The Central Market is one of the largest and most visited markets in Eastern Europe. The buildings were originally constructed in the late 1920s as German zeppelin hangars. Each one is a speciality market.

Riga Central Market

The city of Riga is also famous for its more than 800 Art Nouveau buildings constructed between 1901 and 1908. Elizabeth and Albert Streets are outdoor galleries showing off the beautiful architecture.

The Powder Tower, built in 1650, is part of the Latvian War Museum and served as a repository of the city’s gunpowder.

Latvian War Museum & Powder Tower

Bastejkalna Park runs across both sides of the Pilsetas canal and is home to the Latvian National Opera, the Freedom Monument, and the University of Latvia.

Bastejkalna Park

Friday May 12 – Tallinn, Estonia

Calm seas prevailed as the ship left Riga, Latvia and cruised to Tallinn, Estonia. A shuttle bus dropped us off at the Russian Cultural Center near the Viru Gate entrance to the Old Town. Tallinn is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and recognized as one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe.

Viru Gate

Tallinn grew in importance as the northernmost member of the Hanseatic League during the 14th to 16th centuries. The city was well fortified during the Middle Ages with a large city wall and 66 defensive towers. The wall and many gates are still standing today.

Buildings in Town Hall Square

We walked through the Vira Gates along a narrow cobblestone street to Raekoja Plats – the bustling Town Hall Square. Today, the colorful 15th century buildings around the large square house restaurants and other tourist shops. In one corner of the square is the Raeapteek.

The Raeapteek

Tallinn Town Hall Pharmacy – Raeapteek – is the oldest pharmacy in Europe that has continually operated on the same premises since 1422. An exhibition room displays goods sold at the pharmacy during medieval times including snakeskin potion, mummy juice, powdered unicorn horn, tea, jam, gunpowder, and marzipan. The historic site still operates as a modern pharmacy today.

Kaera Jaan Restaurant

We had a delightful lunch outdoors at Kaera Jaan Restaurant on Town Hall Square. The restaurant was named after a folklore character and is a popular song.

Most of the streets in the Old Town are limited to pedestrians. Tallinn is actually two towns: an upper one and a lower town. Historically, the Upper Town belonged to wealthy aristocrats while the Lower Town housed poor ethnic Estonians.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

There are several paths leading up to the Upper Town called Toompea Hill. We climbed steps on our way up, but later found a narrow cobblestone street which led back down to the Lower Town. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral opened in 1900 during the Czarist Empire on top of Toompea Hill.

St. Nicholas Church

On the way up to Toompea Hill, we passed St Nicholas’ Church which was built from 1230 to 1275. Today, the church functions mainly as a museum of religious art.

Tall Hermann Tower or Pikk Hermann

Tall Herman Tower was a defensive tower built in 1371 in a corner of Toompea Castle – home to today’s Estonian Parliament. The tower was the highest stone tower around the Baltic Sea during the Middle Ages. Today, Tall Hermann flies the national flag as a symbol of Estonia’s independence.

Part of Tallinn’s Medieval Fortification

After visiting the beautiful city of Tallinn, we returned to the ship in the late afternoon. We enjoyed a game of Trivia with Jean and Ed, friends we had met on a previous cruise. Later, we had a delicious dinner in the lovely Rotterdam dining room.

Saturday, May 13 – Helsinki Finland

The distance is 50 miles between Tallinn, Estonia and Helsinki, Finland. During the night, the ship crossed the Baltic Sea and arrived in Helsinki very early in the morning.

Old Indoor Market Hall 1888

It was a ten minute shuttle ride from the ship to the port of Helsinki and the bus let us off near the old indoor market – Vanha Kauppahalli. What a treat! The Old Market Hall was opened in 1889 with 120 stalls and six shops in the central gallery. There were shops selling fish, reindeer soup, elk kebabs, etc.

We strolled along the port and browsed at the outdoor Central Market – Kauppatori. We crossed the street and went to see the exterior of Uspenski Cathedral, the orthodox Church of Finland from 1868.

Uspenski Cathedral

The grand Senate Square, is lined with impressive landmarks: Helsinki Cathedral, Government Palace with offices of the Prime Minister and the cabinet, and the main building of the University of Helsinki.

Helsinki Cathedral
Government Palace

The Art Nouveau Central Railway Station – Rautatieasema Jarnvagsstation – was designed by the renowned architect Eliel Saarinen in 1919 and is a monumental landmark in the capital of Finland. The building has been selected as one of the most beautiful railway stations in the world.

We continued our self-guided walk of Helsinki through the downtown business district.

Pedestrian Business Street
Young Ukranian Folk Singers

Before taking the shuttle bus back to the Rotterdam, we strolled through the beautiful green Esplanade Park. Tents were set up with people selling a variety of ethnic foods. Local people were sitting on benches and enjoying the bright sunshine and good weather.

Esplanade Park

Sunday May 14 & 15 – Stockholm, Sweden

The Rotterdam sailed calmly from Helsinki to Stockholm overnight. The ship was scheduled to be in the lovely port city of Stockholm for two whole days. Wonderful! Stockholm is one of our favorite cities.

Gamla Stan

The ship cruised past beautiful pine-tree covered islands as it approached Stockholm harbor. The 20 minute shuttle bus ride into the city dropped us off just outside the historic old district of Gamla Stan.

Swedish Folk Dancing

There was Swedish folk music and dancing in one of the little squares in Gamla Stan when we arrived.

The narrow streets in Gamla Stan are reminders of its medieval roots. We took a cruise around the harbor.

We had a delicious Swedish lunch at a little restaurant called Stockholms Gastabud Bar & Bistro.

Smoked herring three ways and cranberry cake with linden berries for desert.

The Riddarholm Church

The Riddarholmskyrka, built in the 13th century is one of the oldest churches in Stockholm. The church served as the final resting place of most of the Swedish monarchs until 1950.

I took the photos below in two of Stockholm’s Metro stations. Most of Stockholm’s Metro stations have some sort of art installation and are definitely worth seeing.

One of the best sights to see is Stockholm’s City Hall and we were lucky to walk in and book a tour. The famous building was built between 1911 to 1923 and houses government offices and conference rooms. The City Hall is famous because the Nobel Prize banquets are held there in the “Blue Hall” every year.

Stockholm City Hall
Nobel Prize Banquet Room: “Blue Hall”

Thursday May 18 – Aarhus, Denmark

We enjoyed a restful Sea Day on Wednesday and arrived in the commercial port of Aarhus early the next day. The shuttle bus dropped us off near the DOKK1 – the modern library which was voted “the best public library in the world” by the International Federation of Library Associations.

DOKK1 Library & Cultural Center

Aarhus is the second largest city in Denmark, located on the eastern shore of the Jutland Peninsula. Aarhus was founded in the early Viking Age (8th century) and is one of the oldest cities in the Baltics.


Stroget is the main shopping street but today was a holiday so almost all of the stores were closed. The architecture was a mixture of historic and modern.

Cathedral of Aarhus

The Cathedral of Aarhus is the longest church in Denmark and has the tallest spire. The church was completed in 1350 and can seat 1200 people. I read that all Danes pay 1% of their income directly to the Danish Church through their tax system. Opting out is an option, however 75% of the people actually contribute.

ARoS Art Museum

The Aarhus Art Museum has a collection of Danish and international works of art. The architecture of the building was supposed to be inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy but the interior reminded me of the the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

Interior of ARoS

“Your Rainbow Panorama” is a permanent installation mounted on the roof of the museum designed by Olafur Eliasson. It is a circular multi-colored glass walkway. Visitors can walk around inside the structure for magnificent views of the city looking through colorfully tinted glass.

Your Rainbow Panorama
Skyline Views From the Roof

The MS Rotterdam left Aarhus Thursday night and we enjoyed a Sea Day on Friday May 19th. We re-packed and relaxed and enjoyed the ship as we cruised back to Amsterdam.

Saturday May 20: We gave ourselves one more day in Amsterdam. We left the ship and checked into a hotel near Schiphol Airport. From there, we easily took the Metro into Central Station.


Cuyperspassage is the name of a tunnel at Amsterdam Central Station that connects the city with the river. 46,000 traditional blue and white Delftware ceramic tiles were used to decorate the walls.

We were lucky to have another beautiful sunny day to explore Amsterdam. The city was more crowded with tourists this week, but we walked around the Jordan district and enjoyed our last day.

Heertje Friet

Sunday May 21, 2023 – travel day: Jeff flew home to New York City and I continued my travels to Spain.

Apt Sign at Schiphol Airport

The NYC Orchid Show

March 23rd, 2023

The New York Botanical Garden has a special Orchid Show in March every year. It’s a wonderful preview of spring with a riot of vivid colors and warm sweet scents. It was a mild winter this year, but after a chilly snowfall, it was wonderful to walk among the exquisite blooms in the conservatory.

Outside, the Botanical Garden’s tropical conservatory looked like this:

Manhattan in Winter

March 7th, 2023

I was born in Bellevue Hospital and grew up in Manhattan, so New York City will always be my favorite city in the entire world. I love the energy, and spirit, and excitement of the city. I enjoy being surrounded by the sounds, smells, lights, people, and buildings of “the city.”

Governor Cuomo Bridge on the Hudson River

In February, I rode the MetroNorth commuter train into Grand Central Terminal to spend five glorious days visiting museums, eating out in interesting restaurants, and exploring Manhattan.

I booked into the conveniently located Library Hotel and had a cozy little room all to myself. My son, Chris who lives in Manhattan, met me and we walked over to The Museum of Modern Art on 53rd Street.

Crowd at MoMA Watching the Colors and Patterns Change

I’m a member of MoMA and have been going there since the early 1960s. Seeing the artworks in the museum’s collection is like visiting old friends. The museum has expanded and grown tremendously over the years.

Matisse’s Dancers

Chris and I walked around the corner to La Bonne Soupe for dinner. It’s a casual French bistro on west 55th whose motto is: “ici pas de chi chi” – here, there is no fuss! We were lucky to be there for Music Night and were entertained by a really good jazz trio.

Easy-listening Jazz

The night air was chilly so wearing several warm layers and a hat was necessary to stroll down Fifth Avenue. The streets weren’t crowded and the lights in the buildings glowed.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Rockefeller Center at Night
Old Checker Cab Made of Lego Blocks
Fortitude Proudly Guarding the Library

Another day, it was an easy subway ride to lower Manhattan to the new Whitney Museum to see the Edward Hopper exhibit. This neighborhood has become upscale. I remember it used to be pretty seedy.

Old Meat-Packing District
My Favorite Edward Hopper Painting

The NYC subway system is the best way to get around the city especially when it’s chilly out.

Sleek Silver Subway Train From Above

I had read about a new food court which featured Singapore street food called Urban Hawkers. Everything looked so good, it was hard to decide. Chris and I enjoyed several tasty treats.

The winter skating rink was being resurfaced when we walked through Bryant Park. It was so much fun to be in the city without the usual crowds of tourists.

Bryant Park

A visit to NYC isn’t complete without seeing The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Their special exhibit was Mayan Art – fantastic! Well worth seeing.

The Main Entrance of The Met
Mayan Art

Frank Lloyd Wright’s most spectacular design (in my opinion) is the Guggenheim. It is also an excellent building to showcase modern and contemporary art. Alex Katz’ paintings filled the museum’s spiral walkway.

The Guggenheim Museum
Inside The Guggenheim
View Across the Museum Gallery

Time flies when you’re having fun! The weather all week had been high 20s at night but comfortable 30s/40s and sunny during the day. However, by Saturday morning Polar winds blew out of the north and the temperature in Manhattan dropped to 5 degrees. Time to go home….

Mediterranean Voyage – Fall 2022

November 27th, 2022

We spent a month traveling across southern Europe from Croatia through Italy and across the Mediterranean Sea to Spain. Thursday October 6th, we flew from New York City to Bologna, Italy. We arrived in Bologna Friday night October 7th and checked into our hotel. It was just steps away from the 15th century Piazza Maggiore.

Piazza Maggiore at Night

Bologna is a charming medieval university town where, according to a local taxi driver, “All the Italians come to eat.” Many of the medieval buildings have been restored and are well maintained. The city is home to the University of Bologna established in 1088 AD. It is the oldest university in the western world.

The Torre dell’Orologio in Piazza Maggiore

The Clock Tower was built about 1250 on top of the Palazzo d’Accursio. The clock was installed inside the tower in 1444. Today, Palazzo d’Accursio houses the public library and the town hall of Bologna. The tower is open to visitors to climb to the top for wonderful views of the city and to see the clockworks. We stayed at the lovely Art Hotel Orologio which is located near the famous clock tower.

Typical Bolognese Street

Bologna is known as the “porticoed city” because there are 25 miles of covered walkways throughout the city. Porticos were common in the Middle Ages because they provided more living space above the first floor. Bologna’s porticos are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A Beautifully Decorated Portico

It was fun to walk around the city along narrow medieval streets. Many of the alleyways were lined with shops and outdoor restaurants on the ground-floor level.

People were out strolling or riding bicycles at all hours of the day and night. The commercial center of the old town, named the “Quadrilatero,” is comprised of several narrow streets near the Piazza Maggiore, filled with small shops selling meat, fish, cheese, bread, and pastries.

Paolo Atti & Figli was founded in 1880 and is famous for their traditional fresh hand-made pasta. Tagliatelle, tortellini, and lasagna are said to have been invented in Bologna. The city is nicknamed: “la dotta, la grassa, la rossa” – the learned, the fat, and the red – referring to its university, its cuisine, and the red-colored roofs and bricks of the buildings.

Paolo Atti & Figli

Bologna is located in northern Italy in the Emilia-Romagna region, between Venice and Florence. For more information about Bologna, I recommend the website:

We spent three nights and two full days in Bologna before taking a taxi to the nearby city of Ravenna to board the Azamara Pursuit to cruise the Adriatic Sea and visit towns along the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia.

The Azamara Pursuit

Monday October 10: The morning was cloudy and cool when we boarded the Azamara Pursuit. With less than 600 passengers, the ship was the smallest cruise ship we had ever sailed on. We arrived early and had time to explore our new accommodations for a “7-Night Croatia Intensive Voyage.”

Azamara had recently severed ties with its parent company, Royal Caribbean. The new independent company was attempting to be a part of the luxury cruise business by offering free gratuities, a free basic drinks package, on-board credits, as well as free laundry!

Full Moon on the Adriatic Sea

“Intensive Voyage” means a new port every day! The ship sailed at night and early the next morning we arrived at a new city. At dawn on October 11, the Pursuit anchored off the Croatian town of Opatija.

Golden Sunrise Over Opatija, Croatia

The lovely seaside town of Opatija located on the Kvarner Gulf has a population of apx. 5,700 people. It is a popular summer and winter resort with several grand hotels dating from the late 1800s. The most popular activity in Opatija is to walk along the 7.5 mile seaside walkway known locally as the Lungomare.

View from the Lungomare

The tender put us ashore near the promenade and since it was a beautiful sunny day, we walked along the gorgeous coast. The Lungomare was finished in 1911 after Opatija was declared a “climatic health resort.”

We passed through Angiolina Park which has been known for its rare plant species since the late 1800s. The exterior wall of the Open Air Theater is decorated with portraits of famous people who were either born in Opatija or who visited the coastal town.

The Wall of Fame

My favorite site along the Lungomare was the Maiden With the Seagull, which is a statue of a young girl with her arm outstretched to a fluttering seagull. The statue was made by the Croatian sculptor Zvonko Car in 1956. For more information about this charming coastal town see:

Maiden With The Seagull

Wednesday October 12: Zadar, Croatia: Life aboard any ship becomes routine rather quickly. The crew aboard the Azamara Pursuit was friendly and helpful; the small size of the ship made it very manageable. The ship docked early in the next morning at the edge of the old town of Zadar, Croatia. After a leisurely breakfast outdoors on the aft-deck, we were ready to explore a new city.

Azamara Pursuit Docked at Zadar, Croatia

On the dock next to the ship were two multi-sensory art installations created by the Croatian architect Nikola Basic. The Sea Organ was made of concrete steps leading down to the water. The waves interact with a cavity built under the steps creating random but harmonic sounds. The sounds are emitted from holes made in the concrete. People sit on the steps to relax and listen to the soothing groans of the sea.

The Greeting to the Sun and The Sea Organ

The other artwork built into the promenade was called the Greeting to the Sun. Also designed by Nikola Basic, it was a large circular work embedded in the concrete. During the day panels absorb energy from the sun and light up at night with random patterns and colors. Both artworks were impressive and amazing!

The Roman Forum and St. Donatus Church

After spending some time enjoying Nikola Basic’s creations, we walked along the promenade to the ruins of a Roman Forum. Beyond the ancient columns was the 9th century Church of St. Donatus.

The Clock Tower in the People’s Square

Modern high-end shops line both sides of Siroka Ulica (‘ulica’ means street in Croatian) and we were immediately thrust into the 21st century. The street ends at Narodni Trg or People’s Square which was filled with many tourists eating and drinking under restaurant umbrellas. A clock tower was built in the early 19th century and mounted on top of a 16th century Venetian era building. Today it is a museum.

We returned to the ship via small back streets which were lined with tourist shops selling everything from gelato to t-shirts. The stone pavement was very clean and shiny and looked like it had been polished. Later after dark, we went ashore to experience the lights of the Greeting to the Sun.

Azamara Pursuit at Night

Local people and tourists lined the promenade to see, hear, and experience the two wonderful artistic creations. We sat on the steps to listen to The Sea Organ which emitted a variety of sounds due to increased waves. The sounds were like a soft low-pitched fog horn.

The Greeting to the Sun & The Sea Organ at Night

Thursday October 13: The Pursuit arrived at the dock in Split, Croatia early in the morning. Split is a big city spread along the Adriatic coast. White limestone mountains were visible beyond the city buildings. Split was founded by the Greeks in the 3rd century BC and it has a long history of invasions and conquests.

View of Central Split From the Ship

The site was chosen by the Roman Emperor, Diocletian, as his retirement home in 305 AD. He ordered the construction of an opulent fortified palace to be built on the coast. The palace was designed like a huge Roman military fortress. Interestingly, over many centuries, the townspeople inhabited the palace and the city of Split grew and developed in and around it. Today the palace is part of the city.

A Corner of Diocletian’s Palace Wall

We entered the old palace through one of four gates called the Brass Gate and found ourselves under thick ancient arches. We climbed up high stone steps to the Peristyle (courtyard). This was the central square where Emperor Diocletian made appearances to greet his subjects.

The Peristyle Square

The Cathedral of Saint Domnius was built and consecrated in the 7th century and houses Diocletian’s tomb. The Bell Tower of the Cathedral was built in the 12th century and looms over the Peristyle Square.

The Bell Tower of St. Domnius Cathedral

It was fun to wander the ancient narrow streets of the palace. Today, about 3,000 people live within the old palace walls and it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Roaming the Back Alleyways of the Palace

After wandering for a while, we discovered the Golden Gate of the palace wall and passed through it to see the great statue of the Protector of Split: Gregory of Nin or Grgur Ninski.

The Golden Gate of Diocletian’s Palace

Bishop Gregory of Nin was a medieval bishop who encouraged the use of the Croatian language in Catholic religious services instead of Latin in 926 AD. The 28 foot tall statue was erected in 1929. People are supposed to rub the statue’s toe to obtain good luck.

Grgur Ninski

The palace was a hodgepodge of architecture which reflected many centuries of invading cultures and waves of dominant groups along the Dalmatian Coast. We walked through the Iron Gate to the People’s Square which was another attractive area for people to gather at the restaurants.

Narodni Trg – People’s Square

We returned to the ship and prepared for an Azamara White Nights Party held on deck around the pool.

Bar-B-Que on the Pursuit

The party was a lot of fun with good company and tasty food outdoors. Everyone was supposed to wear white and we did the best we could, but no-one really cared. It was a fun enjoyable social evening.

White Night Party on the Pursuit

Friday October 14: Early the next morning, the ship anchored in a tiny harbor near the old town of Dubrovnik, Croatia. The city is known for its distinctive massive stone walls which were erected in the 16th century. Dubrovnik has become a very popular and crowded tourist destination in recent years.

View of Dubrovnik From the Sea

We rode a tender to the small protected dock just outside the sea-gate entrance into the city.

Dubrovnik Harbor

Dubrovnik, historically known as Ragusa, was founded in the 7th century by the Greeks.

Entrance to the Rector’s Palace

We walked along the Stradun to one of the stairways to the top of the wall. Dubrovnik has become such a popular tourist destination that the city charges 25 euros per/person to walk on the wall.

Stairs to the Top of the Wall

I could have taken a million pictures from the top of the wall. There seemed to be beautiful scenery and spectacular views everywhere and at every turn.

I love walking on ancient city walls and we have experienced quite a few from Lucca, Italy to Xian, China. It gives me an appreciation for how insecure and afraid the residents must have felt before they built a wall in an attempt to keep out invaders.

Sea Views From the Wall

Back on the ship that evening, we heard a performance given by a Croatian cellist, Ana Rucner. She played several jazzed-up short pieces which we recognized as composed by Orff, Vivaldi, and Beethoven and she also played and sang several Croatian folk songs. Her cello looked like a white metal outline of a traditional cello and sounded more like an electric bass guitar played with a bow. Thankfully, it was a short performance.

Azamara Pursuit at Anchor

Saturday October 15: The Pursuit cruised to the island of Hvar, Croatia and dropped anchor just off the town of Hvar. The island was listed as one of the ten most beautiful islands in the world by a travel magazine. It is known as ‘the island of sunshine, beaches, wine, olive oil, and lavender.’

Town of Hvar on the Island of Hvar

High on a hill above town is the Fortica Fortress. The Venetians began construction of the fortress in 1278 but the current structure was completed in 1551. Today it is a tourist destination for its spectacular views and it supposedly houses a collection of amphoras. We did not climb up to visit the fort.

The weather was perfect: crystal clear cloudless blue sky and a warm sun with 70 degree temperatures. Hvar was another summer resort with inviting hotels and a seaside promenade and gorgeous scenery.

We passed many large cactuses and hardy succulents among the umbrella pines and palm trees as we strolled along the coast. I could understand why the island is so popular.

Lighthouse at Sibenik Harbor at Dawn

Sunday October 16: The captain had recommended that we watch the ship navigate through the very narrow St. Anthony Channel at sunrise and I happened to be up and took pictures from our veranda. I felt like I could reach out and touch the rocks and I was impressed by the captain’s ability to maneuver the ship through the narrow channel. The strait connects the Adriatic Sea to Sibenik Bay and to our next port of call which was the city of Sibenik.

We had elected to go on an excursion to another historic city, so we didn’t really see much of Sibenik. We were told that there is an old town center with an old church, but we had other plans.

The 12th C. Cathedral of St. Lawrence in Trogir

A charter bus drove us to the historic town of Trogir, Croatia which is located on a small island and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its Venetian architecture. It was founded by the Greeks in the 3rd century BC and was ruled by the Venetians for almost four centuries.

13th Century Wall Around Trogir Facing the Sea

The historic town and harbor of Trogir is said to be the best-preserved Romanesque-Gothic complex in all of Central Europe. According to UNESCO, “Its beautiful Romanesque churches are complemented by the outstanding Renaissance and Baroque buildings from the Venetian period.”

A Local Trogir Resident

Trogir was a small compact medieval town with narrow alleyways opening to small plazas. A wide promenade along the shore was lined with large palm trees and tourist restaurants.

At the end of the island was Kamerlengo Castle. The fortress was built in the 15th century and today is used for outdoor performances during the summer.

Kamerlengo Castle

This was the last day of our “Azamara Intensive 7-Day Croatia Cruise” – and it certainly was ‘intensive.’ We both longed for a ‘sea day’ sometime during the week to take a break and process all the sights. In the afternoon, we joined our Trivia Group for a final successful win. By now, we were a group of nine, so it really was an easy win – and a lot of fun! Later, we enjoyed dinner and conversation with four of our new friends. We shared two bottles of a California favorite and recommended wine. A real treat!

Monday October 17: The Pursuit docked at Ravenna, Italy in a very thick fog. Our driver picked us up and drove us back to Bologna. The plan was to stay one night in Bologna and take the high-speed train to Rome tomorrow. It was actually fun to return to Bologna, which was now a city we knew and enjoyed.

Fuente de Neptuno – Fountain of Neptune

We arrived at Piazza Maggiore early enough to have cappuccinos at an outdoor cafe overlooking the Fuente de Neptuno. The bronze statue of Neptune was installed in 1566 and is a famous city landmark.

One of the most interesting sights in Bologna is the Biblioteca Comunale dell’ Archiginnasio which became the university’s main academic building when it was constructed in 1563. Today it houses a public library – with 850,000 volumes – and the old Anatomical Theatre.

Anatomical Theatre

The Anatomical Theatre was constructed in 1636 for medical lectures and displays. The building suffered extensive damage in 1944 and the theatre was reconstructed using original materials.

Tamburini: Antica Salsamenteria Bolognese

Tuesday October 18: Rome, Italy: We caught an afternoon high-speed train from Bologna to Rome. Under a bright blue sky, we zipped through the beautiful farmlands of Italy at speeds up to 288kms per hour. Rome was a beehive of tourist activity and, surprisingly, the temperature was 80 degrees. We checked in to our hotel near the Campo de’ Fiori and explored the neighborhood.

Statue of Giordano Bruno in Campo de’ Fiori

We had been to Rome twice before so we knew our way around the glorious city and we had planned what we wanted to do during these two days. To me, it’s fun to return to a place and experience it again and see how it has changed, like visiting an old friend. Rome was definitely an “old friend.”

Piazza Navone

Wednesday October 19: We set our alarms for 5:45am because we had pre-arranged tickets for early morning access to the Vatican Museum before it opened to the public. The tickets were called “Breakfast at the Vatican” and we had to be at the entrance at 7:15 for our small group tour.

Vatican Museum Entrance at 7:00am

The tour was well worth getting up at such an early hour. The group was comprised of about fifteen adults and we were the first people to enter the museum that day. It was glorious to be able to look at the art and treasures of the collection without the distractions of throngs of people.

Vatican Museum
Map Room at the Vatican Museum

Fortunately for us our tour leader was excellent and, as she slowly progressed through the galleries, she explained the highlights of the most important elements in the galleries.

One of the Raphael Galleries

Although no photography was allowed in the Sistine Chapel, we were able to sit down under the famous ceiling for a long period of time and listen to the tour guide explain the history and stories of the panels and describe Michelangelo’s process of creating the beautiful frescos. She also described the other frescos around the walls of the Chapel, which are often overlooked but were created by Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, and other well known artists of the time. This was an amazing and unforgettable experience.

Crowd at Vatican Museum 9am Opening

Our tour finished about 9:30 and we enjoyed an “American Breakfast” in a covered outdoor area set aside for tour ticket-holders. Afterwards, we had to plow our way through the crowds entering the museum. Pre-arranged timed tickets are necessary to gain admittance to all the museums nowadays.

Line of People Waiting to into the Museum

We thought it would be interesting to revisit St. Peter’s Basilica. We walked around the Vatican wall to the main square to discover that access to pedestrians was blocked by police and other security forces. On one side there was a very long line of people waiting to get into St. Peter’s. So, we changed our minds! A taxi driver told us that the pope has his audiences on Wednesdays so there is more security.

Saint Peter’s Basilica
Hostaria Romanesca in Campo de’ Fiori

Thursday October 20: We had only two full days in Rome on this trip so we planned to visit one special place each day. Today we had timed-tickets to the Galleria Borghese. This is a wonderful art gallery housed in the Villa Borghese surrounded by a beautiful city park high on a hill in Rome.

The Galleria Borghese

The villa was built by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in 1633 to house his collection of antiquities, sculptures, and paintings. The building is a work of art and it is the best place to see some of Bernini’s magnificent statues. The Galleria also owns a large number of Caravaggio paintings.

Bernini’s Abduction of Proserpina
Boy With a Thorn

We walked from the Borghese Gardens to the Campo de’ Fiori passing several of Rome’s most famous sights: Piazza Spagna, Fontana di Trevi, Pantheon, and Piazza Navone. Everywhere we went was crowded with too many tourists. I guess we weren’t the only people in the world who wanted to travel!

Neptune’s View of Tourists at the Trevi Fountain

Friday October 21: Our time in Rome was ending so we checked out of our cozy hotel and hired a car to take us to the Port of Civitavecchia. We boarded the Azamara Onward and began a “7-Day Intensive Mediterranean Cruise” from Rome to Barcelona with island stops along the way.

Saturday October 22: We had settled into our cabin and explored. The Onward was identical to the Azamara Pursuit so we felt right at home. The ship arrived at the city of Portoferraio, Elba as the sun was rising. The city was built on steep hills on a narrow peninsula surrounded by the sea.

Portoferraio, Elba, Italy

Elba is a small island which is part of the region of Tuscany and is located six miles off the Italian coast. The population is about 30,000 residents and it is primarily a summer resort destination. The island became internationally well known when Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to Elba from 1814 to 1815.

We signed up for an excursion because we wanted to visit the Villa de San Martino which had been Napoleon’s summer residence. It was a small unassuming stone building decorated with characteristic capital “Ns.” We entered through a back door and walked through unimpressive small rooms which were furnished with a few period pieces.

Villa San Martino

Afterwards the tour bus drove us to the other side of the island to the fishing village of Porto Azzurro and we had an hour to walk around and explore on our own. It was a pretty town with tourist shops, restaurants, and two gelato bars. The small harbor was filled with fishing boats.

Porto Azzurro

After lunch on our ship, we went out to explore Portoferraio on our own. It’s the largest city on the island of Elba and it was well fortified historically with three separate 16th century fortresses.

Portoferraio with a view of the Medici Fortress

Impressive sailboats lined the U-shaped harbor but most of the shops and restaurants were closed. We guessed that it was an active port during warmer seasons.

Sailing Yachts Along the Quay

Sunday October 23: During the night, the Onward moved westward and docked at the large commercial port of Olbia, Sardinia, Italy. I looked out to see inter-island ferries offloading trucks and cars. We had a leisurely breakfast at the Windows Cafe and prepared to go exploring.

Port of Olbia, Sardinia

There were no signs of a shuttle bus or directions to one at the disembarkation door so we went through a gate on the main thoroughfare across from the commercial port. A guard who was standing there pointed toward town. We walked for about 20 minutes until we reached the old town of Olbia.

Museum of Archeology and a Ferris Wheel

We passed the Archeology Museum which looked interesting, but it was closed today. We found Corso Umberto I, which was the main pedestrian street in the historic center of Olbia. The street was lined with tourist shops and restaurants but there were few people since it was Sunday morning.

Corso Umberto I

Following a sign, we turned into a small side street to see the church of San Paolo. The building was built on the ruins of a pagan temple from the Roman era and the church dates from the 15th century. The tiny church is noteworthy for its colorful majolica dome which was constructed in 1939.

Church of San Paolo

We walked several blocks up to a main cross street and decided to sit at one of the local restaurants and have a snack. Since it was lunch time, the restaurants was crowded with locals and tourists.

Eventually, we went back to the ship to relax and catch up on our journals. Some of the large Mediterranean ferries were painted with cartoon characters.

Monday October 24: Porto Vecchio, Corsica, France: The island of Corsica is only eight miles north of Sardinia and a 50-minute ferry carries passengers between the islands. The fact that Corsica is a French island and Sardinia is part of Italy, reflects the long history of conflicts among the Mediterranean countries.

Sunrise Over Corsica, France

The ship docked near the town of Porto Vecchio early in the morning. It was another beautiful sunny day. We quickly learned that the town was built in two parts on a steep hill and it was a strenuous walk to get to the upper area. Fortunately for us, the French government provides free shuttle-bus service.

Porto Vecchio, Corsica, France

Restaurants lined the small harbor but didn’t have many customers. The jitney bus was full of local people, not tourists. We had the feeling that the summer season was over in Porto Vecchio. The bus left us off at the old town center which had a kiddie merry-go-round in the middle.

Carousel Porto Vecchio

The Citadel of Porto Vecchio was built in 1539 by the rulers of Genoa. It was destroyed and rebuilt three times from 1540 to 1589. The Republic of Genoa finally gave the island to France in 1768. We paid a small admission fee to climb the stone stairs to see wonderful views from the top of the fortress.

Citadel of Porto Vecchio
View of the Harbor of Porto Vecchio, Corsica

We sat in the little square to have soft-drinks and people-watch. Later, rather than wait for the jitney, we walked down the hill and back to the ship. The weather was warm and sunny – a real delight for this time of year. We returned in time for a late lunch onboard and relaxed for our next port-of-call.

Cruising Into Mahon Harbor, Menorca

Tuesday October 25: Mahon, Menorca, Spain: The distance is 288 miles across the Mediterranean Sea from Porto Vecchio, Corsica to the island of Menorca. This is one of the Balearic Islands which are part of Spain. The Azamara Onward crossed at night and was due to arrive at the port city of Mahon at one o’clock in the afternoon. We went out on deck to watch the ship cruise into the beautiful harbor.

Cruise Ships Docked at Mahon

Mahon (or officially Mao in the Catalan language) has one of the longest natural harbors in the world. It was a gorgeous three mile journey from the mouth of the harbor to the dock. We enjoyed a ship-board bar-b-que lunch outdoors on the pool deck before going ashore.

Mahon Harbor

The historic center of the capital city was built on top of high cliffs. Fortunately, there are steps and an elevator up to the top. We arrived just outside the Carmelite Cloister which has been converted to a covered market selling everything from local produce to shoes, jewelry, clothes, and speciality food.

Entrance to the Carmelite Cloister

The outdoor courtyard of the cloister is also used as a performance space. An escalator leads down to a large supermarket built under the cloister. It was an amazing use of space. Near the cloister, in the Prince’s Plaza, is the famous Fish Market known for its fresh fish and prepared tapas and other goodies.

Placa de Princep (Prince’s Plaza)

As we walked around the plazas and streets, we were surprised that many shops seemed to be closed and there were very few tourists. At first we thought is was a local holiday or “siesta” time, but realized that tourist season was over. Menorica, like the other islands on this trip, were closing for the winter.

Main Pedestrian Street in Mahon

The central part of Mahon was fashionable and clean with many interesting shops housed in pastel stone buildings. There were small plazas with charming outdoor cafes at the ends of every street. We enjoyed walking around the town and eventually returned to the ship.

Jeff and Me

Tonight was Azamara’s White Night Party. The pool deck was transformed to an elegant outdoor bar-b-que with white tablecloths and candles. It was a fun evening and the weather was perfect.

White Night Party on the Azamara Onward
Mahon Harbor at Night

Wednesday October 26 Palma, Mallorca, Spain: I was so excited to finally get to Mallorca that I awoke early, just as the Onward approached the harbor of Palma. We had breakfast outdoors on the aft deck as the ship docked. The weather has been unseasonably warm – up to the mid 70s – but good for us.

View of Palma From the Ship – Bellver Castle on the Hill

Palma is a large city of over 400,000 people and the capital of the Balearic Island of Mallorca. It has been an international resort city and holiday island for decades. We had a 10 minute bus ride from where the ship was docked to the city center. The massive 13th century Santa Maria Cathedral (locally referred to as La Seu) overlooks the Bay of Palma.

La Almudaina (left) and Santa Maria Cathedral

The Gothic cathedral was built on the site of a Moorish mosque beginning in 1229. The adjacent Royal Palace of La Almudaina was originally an alcazar or Islamic castle built during the time of Muslim rule in Spain between 902 and 1229. Almudaina has been modified over the centuries and today is a museum and also serves as the official summer residence of the King of Spain and members of the royal family.

Royal Palace of La Almudaina

We waited in line to see the interior of the cathedral. Sunlight poured in through the stained glass windows and cast rainbow hues of light on the tall Gothic columns. It was very impressive!

Interior Light in the Cathedral

We explored the narrow streets of the old town with thousands of other tourists. We walked up to the Placa Magor (the Spanish version of Piazza Maggiore in Italy) and found a small tapas bar for lunch. What fun! I have to return to Mallorca soon to see more!

Pedestrian Plaza
Tourists in The Old Town
Tapas Restaurant

Thursday October 27: Valencia, Spain: Another day and another wonderful city. This time it’s Valencia Spain. After the ship docked in the busy harbor, we took a shuttle to the center of the city and entered the “old town” through the Torres de Serranos. The tower was a defensive structure built in 1392 and was part of the original medieval wall surrounding Valencia. Fortunately, it was saved from demolition when the city walls were knocked down in 1865.

Torres de Serranos

We crossed a bridge over the Turia Gardens and looked down at the lovely green space. The city government diverted the River Turia, which frequently flooded, and created a beautiful urban garden. The seven mile park has a zoo, an arts & science museum, sports fields and facilities, foot paths, performance venues, as well as riverbed gardens. It is a real asset to the people of Valencia.

Narrow Street in the Old Town

We had read about the famous market in Valencia, so we walked through the old town to the Mercado Central. The building was completed in 1928 and decorated in Valencian Art Nouveau style. The Central Market is one of the largest public markets in Europe.

Mercado Central
Food Stalls in the Market

We decided Valencia was another wonderful city to explore but we didn’t have enough time to see and experience everything we wanted on this trip. Valencia was added to our “must return to” list.

Friday October 28 Barcelona Spain: We’re almost at the end of the 7-Day “intensive” cruise. The Azamara Onward arrived in the huge international port of Barcelona before dawn. The cruise company gave everyone an extra night aboard the ship, so we could explore the city during the day, spend the night in our cabin, and disembark Saturday morning. We had already made plans to stay in Barcelona until Monday November 7th.

La Rambla

Barcelona is one of our favorite cities, so it was wonderful and exciting to be there again! We know our way around; we have favorite places to visit; food and restaurants to try again; new sights to see. On our first day in Barcelona, we walked up La Rambla, the main pedestrian street that runs from the port up to the always busy Placa de Catalunya.

Typical Small Plaza in Barcelona

Saturday October 29: Barcelona Spain: We disembarked from the Azamara Onward and checked into the Hotel 1898 located on La Rambla. We stayed there before and like the location because we can walk or take the Metro to anything in the city. It’s also a quiet comfortable hotel with a roof-top sitting area. We had nine days in Barcelona so I took a zillion photos. Below are highlights of this wonderful city.

Art Nouveau Former Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau

We discovered the former Hospital de Sant Pau which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The complex was built between 1901 and 1930 and is composed of 12 pavilions connected by underground tunnels. It was designed by a well-known Catalan architect and functioned as a hospital until 2009. After extensive restoration, today it is a museum and cultural center.

Sagrada Familia

We walked past Antoni Gaudi’s cathedral, the Sagrada Familia, to see the progress of its construction. It is supposed to be finished in 2026 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the famous architect. We revisited a few other Gaudi designed buildings on this trip. They are amazing structures!

Casa Vicens
La Pedrera – Casa Mila
Casa Batllo
Park Guell
A Room Inside Casa Batllo

One day, we took a train out of the city to visit the Benedictine Abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat. After an hour train ride, we took a Rack Railway up to the abbey. The Monastery of Montserrat was founded in the 11th century and rebuilt between the 19th to 20th centuries. It was a very interesting day-trip.

Monastery of Montserrat

Barcelona is full of good restaurants serving tapas, paella, and pintxos – Basque or Catalan finger foods.

Taverna Basca Irati

One day we took a taxi up Montjuic hill to visit the National Museum of Art of Catalonia. The impressive building was built in 1929 and houses a wonderful collection of ancient Romanesque and modern art representing the Catalan region. Behind the building was a large arena or performance space.

Lobby of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
View of Barcelona From the National Museum

Jeff discovered that visitors can take an elevator to the top of the Christopher Columbus monument located near the harbor. There is a small entrance fee to ride in the tiny 3/4 person elevator.

The 60 Meter Mirador de Colom
Mercat dels Encants – Huge Flea Market
Bubbleman Outside the Cathedral
Beautiful Laribal Gardens

Monday November 7 Barcelona to New York: We flew home after staying in Barcelona for 9 days. I encourage everyone to go to Barcelona as soon as you can and stay as long as possible. It is a wonderful fun city; full of things to do and see; great food; friendly people. We had a fantastic time! We discovered new places to see and experience and we revisited sites we saw on a previous trip. Antoni Gaudi’s creations are thrilling to see every time. Barcelona is an easy city to walk around and the public transportation system-Metro and buses-are modern and efficient. BRAVA BARCELONA!!

Rhode Island – August 2022

September 3rd, 2022

My niece, Jenn, and I drove north to visit our cousin Marie in Westerly, Rhode Island. We had a great time seeing many coastal beaches and eating delicious fresh lobster rolls and just-caught seafood! Our first stop was George’s of Galilee with fabulous views of Block Island Sound.

Point Judith Lighthouse

Watching the sunset on the beach was a community celebration enjoyed by many groups of families and friends. They brought supper and set up tables and chairs to watch the end of the day.

Breakfast at The Cooked Goose in Westerly, Rhode Island was a yummy fun time with fresh goodies!

We drove to Watch Hill and explored the lovely affluent coastal town.

Posing with Ninigret, the “Guardian of Watch Hill”
Flying Horses Carousel, oldest platform carousel in the United States has been operating since 1884.

We went up the hill and walked out to explore East Beach which, according to a sign, was “one of the most beautiful beaches on the eastern seaboard.”

The other attraction in Watch Hill and right above East Beach is Taylor Swift’s impressive house built on top of a high hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean:

The Three Musketeers!

“The Towers” is a historical landmark in Narragansett. The impressive building is a remnant of the Narragansett Pier Casino built in the 1880s. Today The Towers is a venue for public events.

Jenn and I enjoyed delicious lobster rolls for lunch at the Coast Guard House overlooking beautiful Narragansett Bay before driving home.

Home-made ice cream at Brickley’s for dessert