Lose Yourself to Venice

If ever there was a city in which to simply wander the streets and lose yourself to it’s enchantment, it would have to be the romantic city of Venice.

With it’s labyrinth of canals connected by centuries old bridges, Venice has a way of stealing your heart and captivating your soul. 

  Venice is not the place to hurry through and check places off your sightseeing list. Venice is a place to take your time and leisurely stroll the alleyways, sample the food and wine, and simply  enjoy the atmosphere.

Although there are definitely some “places to see” such as St. Marks Square, if you only have a day or two, in my opinion, you should take your time, meander through the alleyways, and soak in the ambiance. 

If you have the time and the resources, a gondola ride is definitely in order.  It is quite special to float beneath bridges and glide through the canals absorbing the enchantment of Venice from the water.  

To get the full Venetian experience, try taking a waterbus or vaporetta to one of the more than 100 small islands in the Venetian Lagoon.  There are several to chose from including Murano, famous for it’s glass making, and Torcello, which is a nature reserve away from the crowds.  However, if you are fascinated by photos you may have seen of quaint, colorful homes lined along the canals, Burano is the place to see.   

Burano is the home to many local fishermen and toward the end of the day you can see their boats parked along the canals.  It is said that the families painted their homes in bright, colors to be more visible from the sea and to assist the fishermen when coming home during a thick fog.  

Burano is also known for it’s lace making and you may visit the Museo del Merletto ( Museum of Lacemaking ) to learn more about the intricate handmade lace.  Today, there are only a handful of traditional women still making lace on the island.

The canals are lined with shops that will lure you in with their lace products.  However, many of them offer inexpensive imitations made in China.  True Burano lace takes weeks to finish and even a small hankerchief will be 45 euros and up.  

Venice is a very popular place for a wedding, so don’t be surprised if you see a bride or three roaming the streets in their beautiful gowns.  How romantic is that!

With magical waterways and bridges, Venice holds an aura of the surreal and will transport you back to another time.  Take a break from the real world and spend some time in Venice.

 

 

 

Gardens of Augustus, Capri, Italy

With steep cliffs rising majestically from shimmering, turquoise blue waters, it is difficult to surpass the beauty of Capri!  Located in the Bay of Naples, Capri is well known for it’s magnificent views, as well as being a playground for the rich and famous.  Although there are many designer shops and fabulous restaurants and hotels, the incredible natural beauty of this island is what lures thousands of visitors to visit each year.

For our brief visit, we took a funicular up to the Piazzetta, or main square, where you will find numerous shops and restaurants.  A fifteen minute walk through the Piazzetta will lead you to the Gardens of Augustus, the idyllic terraced garden that provides sweeping panoramic views of the stunning cliffs below.

 

 

 

Originally, known as Krupp Gardens, named for the German industrialist who established them, the Gardens of Augustus are beautifully landscaped featuring bouquets of geraniums, dahlias and pansies.  The beautiful flowering gardens offers a perfect compliment for the numerous statues displayed there.   



Even more amazing than the gardens are the fabulous views of the bay of Marina Piccola and the Faraglioni.

The Faraglioni, three towering limestone rock formations just of the coast of Capri, tower approximately  100 meters above the azure sea.  The formations are named Stella, Faraglione di Mezza and Faraglione di Fuori or Scopolo.   Stella is closest to the shore.  Mezzo is the smallest and has the famous stone archway, which is large enough to pass through in a small boat.  Scopolo is home to the blue lizard, which can be found no other place in the world. The unique blue color of this lizard most likely developed to camouflage it in the surrounding turquoise water and sky.  

If you have the time, I would definitely recommend a boat tour that takes you past  the Faraglioni and visits the famous Blue Grotto.

After spending some time admiring the incredible views from the gardens, we wandered the lovely, flower lined streets of Capri and stopped at one of the numerous restaurants to enjoy a Cappuccino.

Our time in Capri came to an end all too soon.  I would have loved to have had at least a full day on this magnificent island, preferably a week……a month!

However, as we only had one day on the Amalfi Coast, ( not near enough ) we were wisked away to Sorrento for lunch and then a the fascinating Pompei!

If you have had the opportunity to visit the amazing island of Capri, I would love to hear about your experience!  As for me, it’s Arrivederci until next time.

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

Today Anything is Possible!

Let your joy burst forth like flowers in Spring!

Spring is a time of new beginnings!  The earth is bursting with colorful flowers and the trees are budding out, showing off their new green color.  The birds are singing their most glorious song and the sky is as blue as the sparkling color of the ocean seas.

  It seems that nature is celebrating the return of warmer days with it’s burst of glorious beauty!

He has made everything beautiful in it’s time.   

– Ecclesiates 3:11

Spring makes me feel like anything is possible.  The increased light and the warmer air encourages me to get outside more, work in my garden, go for long walks, and just take in the glories of nature.  It’s finally time to shake off those winter blues and feel the joy that arrives with spring.   

Spring is a time of celebration! It’s the time to kick off your shoes and run barefoot through the dew sparkled grass.  It’s a time to gather with friends and family for picnics in the garden and cooking on the grill.  It’s a time for planting and starting with new beginnings.

For nothing will be impossible with God.  -Luke 1.37

My hope for you for today is that you will relish in the glories of spring and lift your eyes in thanks for the beauty of this day.

Wishing you blessings today and everyday.  – Gerri

This Crazy Texas Weather!

There is an old saying in Texas that goes….

“If you don’t like the weather, just wait about fifteen minutes!!”

Our crazy Texas weather has definitely been all over the map this year.  We have come from the torrential and devastating floods of Hurricane Harvey, to a Fall season of anticipating cooler weather that just didn’t happen.  Then, suddenly temperatures dropped and low and behold we had a surprising early December snow! 

Now that it’s January, we have had an unbelievable second snow!  This time the temperatures dropped into the teens and we did not reach above freezing for three days!  This is quite unusual for Cypress!  I guess my secret wish came true! 

A typical January day in Cypress would be much like today, a sky of blue,  full of bright sunshine and hardly a cloud to be found.  We’re expecting a high in the mid sixties which is quite normal for this time of year.

However, last week we were huddled around the fireplace as the temperatures dropped below freezing and the city virtual came to a stop as schools closed and people were encouraged by the mayor to stay off the roads.  I know you might laugh at this if you live in the north, but this is really exceptional for south Texas.  Our city is not prepared to handle ice and those crazy drivers need to stay off the roads!

Although I have to say, I’m enjoying the return to normal temperatures, I did love the splash of cold and snow.  It was lovely to look at and wasn’t too bad for a winter walk if you bundled up!

I was surprised to find this bit of green palm frond among all the cold and snow!

Well, for now temperatures have returned to normal for us.  It’s an absolutely gorgeous day and I won’t have to bundle up for my walk later!  However, come August when temperature are soaring into the nineties, I will be treasuring remember these memories of snow days and hoping they will come again.  

Wishing you many blessings today – Gerri 

 

A Magical Morning

It’s a rarity to have snow in Cypress, and when it happens it’s beautiful and amazing no matter how quickly it passes. 

It was around midnight when I peered out my front window on the night of the great snow.  I was mesmerized by the beauty of the falling flakes.  When I realized the snow was actually sticking to the ground, I grabbed my jacket and boots to step outside my home to capture a few images while I could.  I knew the magical white covering wouldn’t last for long, and wasn’t sure if it would still be there when I awoke in the morning.

 

 

All night long I awoke every couple of hours to see if the snow was still there.  The next morning I was thrilled to see the snow still on the ground.  Again, I donned my boots and jacket and immediately headed to the pond to be amazed by the beauty.  No coffee needed this morning, as I was so excited to see the snow.  

The brief walk to the pond was amazing as the snow clung to the trees, bushes and rooftops.  Perhaps a half an inch of snow left a beautiful white blanket on the lawns. 

 

 

When I arrived at the pond, the beauty did not disappoint.  Although there was not much snow on the ground, the trees were resplendent with white.  The mix of fall colors with the new fallen snow made the scene all the more glorious. 

 However, even as I walked around trying to capture every bit of the sublime beauty, the snow was dropping from the branches of the trees.  I knew it would not last for long.

 

 

By the end of the day, there were only sparse lingering patches of snow on a few rooftop corners that hadn’t gotten much sun on this heavenly day.  As quickly as it appeared, the snow faded away leaving only a hope that perhaps if conditions are just right it will come again sometime.

In a year of catastrophic hurricanes, devastating fires, and destructive earthquakes God has graced us with a brief moment of wondrous beauty of nature.  It’s fleeting passing reminds us to savor each precious moment of it’s glory.  

As the resplendent colors of fall fade into the often dreariness of winter days, there is still beauty to be found in a bright, clear day filled with sunlight, or the beads of ice on shrubs and branches that glimmer like crystal.

If you truly love Nature, you’ll find beauty everywhere.

 – Vincent Van Gogh

Chacchoben Ruins, Costa Maya

If you are a lover of nature and history, the Chacchoben Ruins are surely not to be missed!  Located about 100 miles from the Costa Maya port, south of Cozamel,  these three excavated pyramids are surrounded by a lush, tropical jungle filled with an amazing variety of trees and plants.

You can follow a well maintained circular path that leads you to these ancient structures, while a guide gives you a wealth of information about the Mayans ancient religion and customs.  You cannot climb the pyramids, but there are stairs to climb to a raised area with a very impressive view of the area below.

Truly, I was as fascinated by the beauty of the massive trees and lush jungle as I was by the ancient pyramids.  The Spanish moss and Palm trees not only offer inviting shade, but also enhance the majesty of the pyramids.  The combination of nature and history creates an awe inspiring harmony that leads you to imagine what life would have been like for the Mayan civilization of so long ago.  

I think I would have been content to just wonder the path and relish in the magnificence of this amazing, tropical, jungle.  I am not aware of the age of some of these trees, but by the size of the trunks, I would think they had been there quite awhile.

If you choose to visit these amazing ruins, remember you are in a jungle and you might want some bug repellent for the mosquitoes.  There is some walking involved, and I think it would be rather warm and humid in the heat of summer.   Our visit was in October, and while there were a few mosquitoes, I found the weather to be fairly comfortable.  

Being an avid nature lover, history buff and photography fan, this magnificent archeological site turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.  

“Wherever you go, Go with all your heart.”   –   Confucius

Hope you all have the opportunity to satisfy an adventurous spirit.  –  xxoo Gerri

 

The Peaceful Banks of the Medina River

August is upon us, often known as the dog days of summer.  In the southern United Stares, August can be uncomfortably warm with relentless heat and humidity.  Southerners are growing ever so tired of the heat and yearning for the slightly cooler temperatures of fall.

The best place to spend these warm summer days is at the beach or the lake…. or at least in a cool refreshing swimming pool.  Another option is to visit one of the many rivers that wind through the Texas Hill Country. The water can be quite chilly and many rivers offer the cool relief of tubing or rafting.

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While we didn’t get away to the beach or lake last weekend, we did stumble across this pretty spot on the Medina River near Bandera.  It was peaceful and quiet, the perfect spot to take a moment to relax and take in the quiet beauty of the river banks.  Huge Cypress trees lined the banks offering plenty of shade from the hot Texas sun.  Actually, we were quite lucky that the recent rains had brought cooler temperatures, a huge improvement to the mid nineties of most August days. 

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I couldn’t get over the amount of birds that were wondering the banks and frolicking in the water.  I did a little research and to the best of my knowledge they were Graylag and Swan Geese with a few Muscovy Ducks mixed in.  (Thank you RH for your assistance on this!)  I went crazy trying to capture as many photos as I could of these amazing creatures.  

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We came to the river after having a late breakfast in Bandera, also known as the “Cowboy Capital of the World.”  Why it’s called that I’m not really sure, but I did find some hard to resist western boots in one of the local shops.  Another interesting tidbit about Bandera is that Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie visited Bandera while taping their reality show The Simple Life.  If you happen to be a country music fan, Bandera was once called home to country musician Robert Earl Keen

 

We stopped for breadfast at the OST Restaurant in downtown Bandera.  O.S.T. stands for Old Spanish Trail, a route that was designated to improve highway access back in 1915.  The OST Restaurant opened in 1921 and today is one of the last original restaurants along the route.  It features a John Wayne room which features, of course, a plethora of John Wayne memorabilia.

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No trip to Bandera is complete without visiting the General Store.  If you want to experience a bit of Texas history, this is the place to be.  The store is filled with local treasures and there is even an authentic 1950’s ice cream fountain.  we did not sample the ice cream as we had just finished breakfast, but I’m sure it would be a delight!

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Overall, I really enjoyed out quick trip to Bandera, Texas and the Medina River.  Bandera is filled with a rich Texas history and left me with a desire to return and explore a little more. As they say in Bandera…..

When Life Gets Tough,

Cowboy Up…..

Maybe next trip, I’ll wear my boots! – xxoo Gerri