Why We Skipped Florence for Portovenere!

Along the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera are five very quaint and picturesque villages dating back to Medieval times.  The colorful homes cling to steep terraces and the harbors are filled with fishing boats.  This charming area with it’s jagged and steep coastline is known as Cinque Terre.  

Originally, when we were planning our Royal Caribbean Cruise to the Mediterranean Coast, the plan was to visit Florence while our ship ported in Livorno.  However, as I was exploring the area of northern Italy before our arrival, I knew that my heart was calling me to Cinque Terre and once again, it was the right call.  I am all about the quaint and charming and those steep, rugged  views, so Cinque Terre was definitely the place for me!

To begin our excursion to Cinque Terre, we took a bus from our ship, Vision of the Seas, to the charming Porto Venere, an old fisherman’s village on the Bay of Poets.  The colorful homes that face the shoreline along the marina offer the quaintness and charm that I find captivating.  Right by the marina, there is a delightful spot to have a cappuccino and enjoy the views across the Bay of Poets.


From the marina, stroll back a bit from the harbor and you will discover the old town of Porto Venere.  Wander through the old city gate, Porto del Borgo, dating back to the 12th century.  Once inside follow the steep, narrow streets full of flower and fruit markets and enjoy the many artisan shops along the way.


After a steep climb up the narrow streets built centuries ago,  you come upon a beautiful view of the Bay of Poets.  The Bay of Poets was a favorite spot of the English poet Lord Byron, where despite of his club foot, he participated in many water escapades.  

On the rocky point overlooking the Bay of Poets, stands the Church of St. Peter,  also known as the Church of San Pietro.  Built in 1198 in Gothic style architecture over a preexisting 5th century pagan temple,  the Church of St. Peter stands out prominently boasting it’s distinguished black and white bands for all to see.  Over the years, fires and ransacking caused damage to the structure and it was beautifully restored in the early 1930’s.  The interior is magnificent and definitely worth the steep climb for a peak inside!

Porto Venere is not actually included in the five villages that create what is known as Cinque Terre.  However, it is where our excusion began and it is definitely worth a visit.  There is no train service to Porto Venere, however, it can easily be reached by car, bus or ferry boat from La Spezia.  

With it’s astounding blend of nature and architecture, as well as it’s mix of history and resort area, Porto Venere is included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and definitely a place to add to your bucket list of places to see!

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, 


There is rapture on the lonely shore, 


There is society, where none intrudes,


By deep sea, and music is it’s roar.”  –  Lord Byron


Next post will include our boat trip along Cinque Terre to Portofino.  – Arrivederci for now!


The Mountaintop Village of Eze, France

Perched high on a mountain top overlooking the clear, blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea, lies the very picturesque Medieval village of Eze.  Located on the road between Nice and Monaco and easily reached by train or bus, Eze is famous for it’s quaint medieval buildings and it’s spectacular views of the Mediterranean.  

Medieval village of Eze, France

A visit to the lovely area of Provence and the Côte d’Azur has long been on my bucket list and sadly we only had one day in the area on our Royal Caribbean Cruise.  I wanted to see so much of France, yet I didn’t want to be rushed from place to place.  I yearned for time to relish in the sights, taste and smells of this spectacular place.


So…..after some discussion, RH and I decided to skip an excursion to Monaco to allow us more time to linger in Villefranche and Nice.  You can read about our time in these two charming spots here.  However, I couldn’t miss out on the visit to the medieval village of Eze, perched 1400 feet above the sea, and I am so glad that we went.

View of the Bay of Villefranche.

The ride up the hillside to Eze was remarkable in itself! The winding road was filled with amazing views of the Bay of Villefranche and all the charming homes cascading down the hillside. Once we arrived in Eze, the entrance to the medieval village was just a brief walk from the bus stop.  

Eze, France

After entering the gates to the medieval village, we followed the narrow cobblestone roads up a steep and rocky path and were enchanted with the lovely stone homes that are now filled with charming boutiques, artisan shops and lovely flowers.

The road leading to the mountaintop brings you to the amazing Jardin Exotique d’Eze, a lovely botanical garden on a steep terrain with exquisite views of the coast.  There is an entrance fee of 6 euros per person.  I regret now that we did not pay this small fee to wander around and enjoy the views.  

Eze is one of those places where you think if only the walls could talk what a rich history they could share.  It is believed that Eze was first populated around 200o BC by Celto-Ligurian tribes, and it’s amazing history has been shaped by the Romans, Moors, and House of Savoy.  The Medieval town we see today was built around the ruins of a 12th century castle and you can an influence of Egyptian and Middle Eastern architecture. 

Eze, France

I believe I could have wandered the cobblestone roads around the medieval village for days taking in the ancient stone structures, the beautiful flowers and the incredible views!

Flowers of Eze, France

  Eze can get quite crowded so I would recommend arriving early in the day and allowing yourself plenty of time to wander and enjoy this fascinating spot!

I have to say, I truly enjoyed my brief time in Eze and sincerely hope I have the opportunity to return someday!  Thanks for reading and until next time – Au revoir!  

The Charming Seaside Village of Villefranche-Sur-Mer

It’s hard to imagine a seaside village more picturesque than Villefranche-Sur-Mer!  It truly was enchanting to view Old Town Villefranche as we cruised into port with it’s colorful, pastel buildings cascading steeply towards the sea. 

The harbor of Villefranche

Situated close to Nice and near Monoco,  Villefranche is in the heart of Cote d’Azur, otherwise know as the French Riviera.  Many of the colorful, pastel buildings date back to Medieval times. The town itself was founded in the 14th century, by the Count of Provence, Charles II of Anjou.  Later the town fell to the Dukes of Savoy and Villefranche remained a part of Italy until 1860.  There are many lovely, historical buildings to visit and explore the rich history of  Villefranche. 

The colorful buildings of Villefranche.

The Bay of Villefranche boasts of one of the deepest natural harbors in the Mediterranean Sea and has become an important port.  Although a small fishing fleet operates here, the beautiful harbor primarily caters to mostly pleasure boats and cruise ships.  While we were in port, we noticed the infamous World Ship, the largest privately owned residential yacht, was also in port.  

MS WorldWe took a tender from our cruise ship, Vision of the Seas, into the town.  Once we arrived, we were delighted to wander the narrow, cobblestone streets filled with terrace cafes, charming shops and balconies filled with flowers.

The colorful buildings along the harbor of Villefranche.

We stopped in a charming cafe to enjoy a pizza and a glass of wine.  While we were having our lunch, a very friendly older woman stopped to visit with us.  She spoke very good English, but would sparkle the conversation with bits of French.  I will always remember how she shared her memories of her childhood when France was occupied by Germany during World War II.  She was so thankful to the Americans for coming and saving France from the German occupation.  It made me realize that there are very few people still alive that have memories of this devastating time in history.   I have to say she really touched my heart with her gratitude.  

Terrace cafes in Villefrance, France.

After our lunch, we took a bus to Nice, capital of the French Riviera.  I understand there is also a train that will take you the brief five minute ride to Nice.  We spent some time wandering the historic quarter, visiting the flower market, and sauntering through the narrow streets to admire the fabulous architecture.  The streets of old Nice are lined with with tall houses painted in warm hues of reds, yellows and pink.  There are also many restaurants and boutiques to wander through.  

    Both Villefranche and Nice are fabulous places to visit, and once again, I longed to have more time to wander the enchanting streets, visit the charming boutiques, enjoy the exquisite cuisine and take in some of the amazing museums.  

View of the narrow streets of Villefranche.

However, our plan was to visit the Medieval visit of Eze and check out some amazing views of the Mediterranean Sea.  So we had to scurry on our way.  You can check out our visit to Eze in my next post.     Until then, thank you for stopping by!     Gerri

The Enchanting Mijas Pueblo

If you adore the quaint and charming, you won’t want to miss the Spanish village of Mijas Pueblo.  It lies on the southeastern coast of Spain, in the heart of Costa Del Sol.  This Andalusian  village is filled with white washed buildings, narrow, cobblestone streets and balconies overflowing with colorful flower pots.  For me it was love at first sight!

The Andalusian village of Mijas Pueblo.

The delightful village of Mijas Pueblo clings to a hillside about 1500 feet above sea level and offers incredibly picturesque views of the dazzling Medeterrainian Sea.  We arrived in Mijas after about a 45 minute bus ride from the port that zigzagged up the steep roads of the Sierra de Mijas mountain  range.  As we approached the village, we could see lovely, Spanish homes all in the same white washed style as the lovely Mijas.  As we traveled closer to our destination, I knew I was in for a a treat!  

The first thing I noticed after stepping off the bus were the breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea.  The sky that day was so incredibly blue and the sea simply sparkled in brilliance below. 

Mijas Pueblo, Spain

As we began to wander the narrow streets and alleys of this quaint Andalusian village I became captivated by it’s Medieval charm.  We strolled up and down alleys that connected the various levels of the village and I was enthralled with the lovely potted flowers and plants that adorned steps and balconies throughout the village.

Mijas Pueblo, Spain

The white washed buildings are full of shops filled with hand made pottery, paintings by local artists and leather goods.  The pottery is colorful and beautiful and I was so tempted to purchase some, if only I had room in my bags to bring it home!

Mijas Pueblo, Spain

The Mijas settlement has a rich history and is known to have existed for centuries, beginning with the Romans and Greeks in the 2nd century.  The Romans called the village Tamisa, which over time has been shortened to Mijas.   It was a prosperous little village due to the wealth of minerals in the nearby mountains.  It was later inhabited by the Moors, who abbreviated the name to Mixa.  Over time, numerous other cultures claimed Mijas as their own and Mijas has been subject to many attacks, including those of pirates.

Our Lady of the Virgin Rock

The charming church,  Our Lady of the Virgin of the Rock, was completed in the early 18th century and covers the ruins of a Moorish castle dating back to the 8th century.  According to legend, two young shepherds saw a white dove that turned into an apparition of the Virgin Mary.  The festival of the patron saint of Mijas is celebrated every year with a procession.  The peaceful setting and incredible views also make this area a popular venue for weddings today.

Mijas Pueblo, Spain

Today Mijas is home to many local artisans and is visited by a vast number of tourists every year.  In 1969,  Mijas was declared a Historic -Artistic village, and is now being authentically preserved.  

Although, I can imagine at certain times Mijas could be quite overrun with tourism.  However,  we arrived quite early in the day and practically had the place to ourselves. Not all of the shops and restaurants were open, but we were able to walk around and enjoy Mijas’ charms without fighting throngs of people.  Personally, I was enchanted by the lovely white washed village and colorful potted flowers.  I only regret that I didn’t have more time to wander the narrow streets and take in the beautiful panoramic views of Mijas. 

Thanks for stopping by – Gerri 

The Azores – A Gem in the Atlantic

If you can imagine a paradise off the coast of Portugal in the Atlantic Ocean then you are dreaming of The Azores!  This archipelago of nine islands formed from volcanic eruptions is one of the most incredibly beautiful and unspoiled spots I have ever visited.

The Azores, Portugal

The largest of these islands is Sao Miguel, home to Ponta Delgado, capital of this sublimely beautiful group of islands.  After five full days crossing the Atlantic Ocean on our Royal Caribbean Cruise, you can only imagine how thrilled we were to be approaching land….and what a delilght this spot turned out to be!  

Ponta Delgado, Azores

We awoke before dawn to get our first breathtaking view of the magnificent Azores and the port of Ponta Delgado.  The city stretches along the beautiful bay, with numerous churches and houses sprawling on the gently sloping hills.  The black and white color scheme of the buildings adds a relaxing harmony.

Sao Miguel Island, Azores

As we stepped off the ship to explore the city, the air was fresh and cool, definitely cool enough for a jacket or sweater.  If felt divine!  The first thing we did was to hop on an open air double decker bus to take a quick tour of Ponta Delgado.  I was captivated by the lush, green foliage and colorful flowers.  No wonder this island is known as the “Green Island.”

Sao Miguel Island, Azores

After our quick tour of the city, we took a bus tour up the mountain to Sete Cidades and the two crater lakes.  It was as if we were headed into the clouds surrounded by a tropical paradise. 

Sao Nicolau Church, Cete Cidadas, Azores

Our first stop was to view the charming Sao Nicolau Church built of white stone with black trim in Neoclassical style and featuring Gothic windows.  The cobblestone path that leads to the entrance of the cathedral is lined with tall pines that creates a very picturesque welcoming.  The church was built in 1758 after an older medieval church had been destroyed by fire.

Lagoa das Sete Cidades, Azores

After a quick stop at the church, we continued our journey to the twin crater lakes.  The folklore is that two star-crossed lovers could not be together and each lake was formed from their tears, one being green and one blue.  Of course, the reality of this is that one lake is deeper than the other.  The day we were there was quite overcast, so both lakes appeared green.  However, it was still an amazing and incredible site to behold.  

Lagoa das Cete Cidades, Azores

It is possible to either spend the day kayaking or to hike around the lakes.  If time had allowed, I would absolutely have spent more of the day enjoying the incredible beauty of the twin lakes. 

Sao Miguel Island, Azores

             The fresh, unspoiled beauty of Sao Miguel Island left me longing to spend more time exploring the wonders of this magnificent place.  There is so much more to see and experience on this tranquil island of vibrant colors.  It is definitely a nature lovers paradise. 

While visiting The Azores may have once been almost unheard of, some airlines are now offering flights into Ponta Delgado Airport.  SATA International, the Azores own airline, offers limited direct flights from Boston, Massachusetts and Delta Airlines is now offering flights from New York City.  I am currently researching the possibility of returning to this incredible destination!

But for now, I will be continuing my saga of our glorious cruise across the Atlantic!

Thank you for stopping!  – Gerri

Historic San Juan


RH and I have finally returned home from our amazing journey on the Transatlantic Cruise with Royal Caribbean from Galveston to Barcelona and then around the Mediterranean to France, Italy and Monte Negro.  This trip was truly something I had dreamed about for countless years and I promise you, it did not disappoint!

  I have learned so much from this journey and have been awed by the history, beauty, architecture and culture of the many places I have had the great privilege to see.  As we journeyed into each port, I became increasingly fascinated with the amazing history our world has to offer.  

I will begin my account of this journey with the historic port of San Juan, Puerto Rico.  We arrived in San Juan on the fifth day of our journey  and were quite excited to have a day in port.  We were up early that morning in plenty of time to enjoy our cruise into the San Juan Bay.  As our ship headed to the port, the massive fortress of El Morro is on the left side of the ship and offers quite an impressive view from the sea.  El Morro is the 400 year old walled fortress designed to guard the entrance of San Juan Bay and defend the colonial Spanish port.  The history of this fortress is truly fascinating and takes you back in time to when the Spanish conquistadors were defending the fort.  

The port is located in the heart of what is known as Old San Juan, the oldest European settlement in America.  El Morro and Castillo San Cristobal, both a part of San Juan National Historic Site  are a fairly easy walk or a short taxi ride from the port.  Walking or driving, the views of the San Juan Bay along Paseo de la Princesa are simply stunning.   

If you are a lover of narrow, cobblestone streets and charming, colorful colonial architecture, you will delight in strolling the streets of Old San Juan.  It’s easy to spend the day wandering the streets and soaking up the beauty and history in the vibrantly colored brick and stone buildings.  The buildings are delightfully quaint with elegant doors, balconies and colonial details, an absolute dream for a fan of colonial architecture.  I would suggest walking shoes to meander though the cobblestone streets and know that mid afternoons might be a bit warm as the tall buildings block the breeze.  There are many museums, shop, and street cafes to visit and enjoy easy going Caribbean vibe.  If you tire of walking,  there is a free trolley that winds through the area and you are able to hop on and off as you desire.   

This was our second visit to Old San Juan and I was still fascinated with the history and amazing colonial architecture.  We noticed that there weren’t the crowds that we saw on our last visit,  presumably due to the devastating hurricane last fall.  However, Old San Juan is alive and vibrant awaiting your visit.  If given the chance, I will definitely return to explore the history and culture of this amazing island. 

Blessing to all – Gerri

Cruising to Barcelona

There is nothing ordinary about sailing across the vast Atlantic Ocean!

We are traveling on Royal Caribbean’s ship Vision of the Seas which left Galveston, Texas almost two weeks ago.  Our first stop was San Juan, Puerto Rico where we had a lovely day wandering the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan.  After another five days at sea, we arrived in Ponta Delgado, Azores, an island off of Portugal! I have to say this was one of the most beautiful and unspoiled places I’ve ever seen!

The experience of crossing the Atlantic has been totally amazing, relaxing and so peaceful.  There is something so calming about listening to the gentle sounds of the waves as the ship glides through the ocean.  The waves have been mostly between 4 to 6 feet, which our magnificent vessel glides through luxuriously!

Most days the skies have been delightfully blue, with occasional clouds.  The air temperature has ranged between the mid eighties in San Juan to the mid fifties as we travel north to Spain.  

As we traveled from San Juan to The Azores, I was overwhelmed by the unspoiled beauty of this magnificent ocean!  When traveling in the Caribbean, you occasionally see other vessels. Perhaps freighters passing by or other cruise ships as you travel along your journey.  However, in the middle of the Atlantic, we went for days with only seeing the sky and sea, no other vessels!  Water depth was about 15,000 feet or 3 miles deep.  We traveled along at about 20 knots. We have currently traveled 5013 nautical miles towards our destination in Barcelona.  

Tonight we will pass through the Strait of Gibraltar and tomorrow we arrive in Malaga, Spain.

I wish I had more photos to share with you, but I seem to be having some technical difficulty!  I’m looking forward to sharing more with you soon.

Thank you to all for your well wishes for this journey. –  Gerri


Dreams Can Come True!

As you are reading this, I am leaving on a ship for my dream of a lifetime trip! This trip has been in the wishing and planning stages for years.  My husband and I have saved our pennies, hoped and dreamed, and it is finally coming true!

We leave out of the Port of Galveston and our destination is Barcelona, Spain!  Some may call us crazy, but we will be spending sixteen nights on a cruise ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean.  I have to admit that although I am totally excited about this grand adventure, I am feeling a bit nervous about so many days crossing the Atlantic.

Along the way we will stop in the beautiful and historic San Juan, Puerto Rico before many days at sea.  Eventually, we arrive in Ponto Del Gado, Azores which is a small chain of islands off of Portugal.  Then, three more stops in Spain before we arrive in Barcelona.   After that we will be doing a bit more traveling around the Medeteranian Sea. 

During this time, I will be taking a bit of time off from blogging.  However, I hope to post some pictures for you on my Instagram page @tocreatesunshine.  I also have a Facebook page of the same name.

While I am away, I will be journaling about the experience and look forward to sharing with you upon our return.

Until then, wishing you many blessings…..Gerri

Getting Garden Ready

It seems that Mother Nature just cannot make up her mind!  We have had some perfectly lovely days, but suddenly the rains came through and once again it is cold and damp.
Every time I think Spring is here to stay, another cold blast of winter comes barreling through.  I know that I have no reason to complain as there are places that are still getting snow!  ( I’m so very sorry. )

Whether it’s cold and grey where you are or if your fortunate and the sun is shining bright, we are all thinking about the same thing…..warm, sunny days and flowers in the garden.   So, today I thought I would share some photos of springs past. 

Last May, I attended the beautiful garden wedding of my niece.
As always, I was captivated by the beauty of the garden ( and the beauty of the bride) and captured a few photos to store away for savoring on grey days like today.  

It was a small garden with lots of potted plants and fountains creating the perfect ambiance for a beautiful Spring wedding.

The bride and groom exchanged their vows before this wall of potted ivory, and you can just image how perfect it was. ( I guess I’m a bit of a romantic at heart.)

I’ve always loved a garden wedding.  They seem so cheery and bright.  

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant.”

Have faith, in no time at all, we will all be singing in the sun.  Blessings – Gerri 

Photo Challenge – A Favorite Place

How do you choose one favorite place?  I have so many “favorite spots.”  Some of those places I’ve only visited once, maybe twice, fell in love with them, but have not had to opportunity to return.  There are other places I love and return to them as often as I can

As much as I love to travel, when I saw the weekly photo challenge for a “Favorite Place,” my heart turned close to home.  This lovely pond is about a half mile from our home where my husband and I walk our sweet Bear almost everyday, no matter what the weather.

When we visit, we often see turtles basking in the sun and it is also a favorite spot for ducks, egrets and we recently saw a blue heron.  There are some huge coi that we feed tortillas and they will come to the surface so you see how big the are. 

It’s a favorite place for photographers, and it’s a lovely spot for photo ops to mark those special occasions in life!

But the best part of all is it’s the perfect sanctuary to escape the stress that comes in our busy world.  It’s peaceful and serene, a great place to meditate, read a book, or simply enjoy the peaceful ambiance. 

 Hope you’ve enjoyed this walk around my favorite place.  Blessings to all.  – Gerri