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.

 

 

 

 

 

Highlights of a Day in Rome

How can you possibly see the amazing city of Rome in just one day!  With it’s incredible history, art and culture if you only have a day, you just do the best you can.

This was our quandary when visiting Rome on our Royal Caribbean cruise this past Spring. However, as with all of the ports that we visited, it’s a matter of priorities.  For the limited time that we had, we choose the historical Colosseum and the Vatican. 

Our day began early with a bus ride into the Eternal City from our port in Civitavecchia and our first stop was the Colosseum.  Seeing the Colosseum was truly like stepping back in time as the amazing structure dates back to AD 80.  

Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, this is a place where gladiators fought not only animals, but other humans as well.  The history is rather grisly, but the Colosseum itself is truly an amazing work of architecture, especially when you realize it was created over 2000 years ago.The Forum, Rome, Italy

From the Colosseum we took a walking tour and visited the Roman Forum, the place where Roman citizens would meet to exchange ideas, do business, and shop at markets. 

From the Forum, we continued on our walking tour through the city streets of Rome.  Our destination was the San Pietro in Vincoli to see the amazing sculpture of Moses by the infamous Renaissance artist Michelangelo.  This dramatic figure is nearly eight feet high in a sitting position.  A superb example of craftsmanship and beauty, Michelangelo’s Moses sits with the Tablets of Law under his arm.  He is quite the imposing figure with intense looking eyes and muscular arms.  

After lunch, it was time to head to the Vatican City where we viewed the amazing Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo.  Lines to see these incredible museums can be quite long.  However, you can avoid the long lines by making a reservation and  buying your tickets in advance.  As with many European churches, it is expected that you cover your knees and shoulders, so no shorts or tank tops please!  

The Vatican Museum boasts an amazing collection of artwork and centuries old tapestries displayed in a long, narrow hallway that you pass through on your way to the Sistine Chapel.  We had a very competent tour guide to explain a bit about what we were seeing.  

The Sistine Chapel is magnificent and words really cannot describe the beauty of Michelangelo’s impressive frescoed ceilings.  It is quite crowded as you pass through.  Remember, it is a chapel, and guards will attempt to quiet the large crowds that can be as great as 29,000 visitors per day!  Pictures are not allowed in the chapel.

Michelangelo’s Pieta, his earliest masterpiece, can be seen when you visit St. Peter’s Basilica.  Carved from a single slab of marble, this graceful sculpture shows a very youthful Mary holding the body of Christ in her arms.

I know that photos do not do the magnificent sculptures of Michaelangelo justice, nor the amazing city of Rome.  I came away with such a deep appreciation and better understanding of the history and culture of Rome. Even now, as I review these photos, I feel reverence to the memory of our visit.  

Although our time in Rome was brief, the experience was truly an event that I will always remember.  For now I have to say  Arrivederci Rome.  I will see you again someday!

The Amazing Views of Cinque Terre

The steep, rugged coastline of Cinque Terre is definitely a sight to behold!  Who could resist the magnificent views of the terraced patios and colorful homes cascading down the hillside to the sea!

Cinque Terre, Italy

Located in the northwestern corner of Italy on the Ligurian Sea, Cinque Terre consists of five seaside villages, all with amazing views of the Mediterranean Sea.  The centuries old villages are connected by a series of hiking trails, as cars cannot reach these quaint towns lined along the rugged coast.  The villages are also connected by rail, and each village hosts a train station.  You may purchase tickets online for the Cinque Terre Express to save time and waiting in long lines.  

Cinque Terre, Italy

To experience the fabulous views of the rugged coastline by sea, there are private boats available for excursions, or public ferry boats run from La Spezia to Levanto from after Easter to November 1st each year.  

Portovenere, Italy and the Bay of Poets

Our day began in the charming fisherman’s village of Porto Venere which you can read more about here.  After wandering the historical town and enjoying the views of the marina, we boarded the ferry for our journey to Portofino.  Whether you choose a private tour or decide on the public ferry, the magnificent views of the amazing coastline will not disappoint! 

Cinque Terre, Italy

The public ferry stops at four of the five villages and people will depart and board at each stop.  Corniglea, the smallest of the five villages, is high on a cliff with no beach or marina, but is accessible by train.  Time did not allow us to visit each village.  However, we truly enjoyed getting out on the water and taking in those fabulous views!

Portofino, Italy

Our trip ended at the charming village of Portofino.  Here we enjoyed wandering the village with the many shops and delighted in a fabulous meal at Ristorante Moren.  I can honestly say I enjoyed the best ravioli I ever tasted!  Sadly, I can’t tell you the name of the dish.  It was recommended by the waitress as I had no idea what to order.  It was a seafood ravioli with a touch of lemon and I while I’m normally not a huge foodie, I would return to Portofino just to experience that dish again!

Portovenere, Italy

One day on the Italian Riviera is definitely not enough! This is a spot that I could return to again and again.  Highlights were views of the incredible steep and rugged coastline and experiencing this charming and easygoing Italian lifestyle.  Not to mention that delicious ravioli!

However, as it goes with cruising a day was all we had. Next stop….. Rome!

Until next time – Gerri

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

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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