Thursday, May 29, 2014


I know, I know.. finally. I gave up on taking the time to clean 'em up and figured I'd share them raw and happy!


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Recommendations for Dubrovnik, Amsterdam, Paris

I'll update this page with additional items, but wanted to get it started.

Dubrovnik: Go! Beautiful and small city, well worth the visit.

  • There is a bus that takes you from the airport directly to Pile Gate in Dubrovnik. It's worth taking and saves over taxis.
  • Recommend staying right in the old town:;label=yho748jc-review-xu-244c10c141de89b7-XX-unspec-us_az-com-L%3Axu-O%3Aunk-B%3Aunk-N%3Ayes;sid=aec11318ea1e9edddd504c7d0ca969ef;dcid=4
    • We LOVED this place. Alberto met us at the gate and walked us in (Dubrovnik is a little maze of tiny streets and alleyways that look like streets!)
    • It does have a balcony, full kitchen and can sleep up to 4 (double bed, and two singles with two bedrooms.) The balcony was the true appeal. Recently renovated. There is a small studio apartment available as well.
    • Quiet place off the center, behind the Cathedral. Alberto showed us around to orient us and made very good restaurant recommendations: Taj Mahal (bosnian cuisine), Restaurant Kopun. Additionally we went to: D'Vino Wine bar, Dalmatia Konoba (local cuisine), Gaffe Irish pub, and all were wonderful.
  • Things to do
    • Mount Srd cable car and walk
    • Walk the wall surrounding Dubrovnik
    • Day trip to Mostar- BEAUTIFUL Unesco World Heritage site. We chose Metro Tours based on tripadvisor reviews, and they have a location right on the main street in Dubrovnik old town. Long day but well worth going to (and you tick off another country, Bosnia-Herzegovina!)
    • Walk all around the old town. The city is very small and there is a lot to explore: two monestaries, a synagogue, museums. A day trip to the neighboring island was recommended, but we didn't due to the rain.
  • We spent three days plus an evening, and this was more than enough time to see the city. For those who like to move, a day would be enough plus a day trip. No cars are allowed in the old town. Note: there are a LOT of steps.
  • My friend who lives there characterizes Amsterdam as a large village, and I agree. It's very walkable, public transportation is easy and walking along the canals is beautiful.
  • Restaruants:
    • Tomo Sushi- yum!
    • Moeder- local cuisine, very good!
    • &samhoud- yum! We went to a yelp event here and stayed for a four course meal; unsure if this is a general offering but it was amazing. The restaurant itself is beautiful though quite expensive, but they do offer a 'street food' menu during  the day which is affordable and looked quite good.
  • Things to do:
    • Anne Frank House- powerful and well done museum with a heart-breaking story
    • Rijksmuseum- incredibly well-done and lots of amazing pieces
    • Sex Museum- interesting and guaranteed to make the fair blush
    • Walking along the canals to see the beautiful views, collections of many bikes, and the houseboats
    • Koekenhof- incredible gardens of more tulips and other flowers than you've ever seen. Even slightly off-peak time, it was incredible
    • Zaans Shane- windmills. Quaint small town with 6+ working windmills. Some cute shops to walk around in, and check out the stroopwafel (syrup waffel.) Yum!
    • Red light district: no trip to Amsterdam would be complete without walking this area at night. You'll feel like you're back at a college frat party again, the only difference being the red lights!
Paris: the most beautiful city in the world (in my opinion). This was my first repeat, and with only two days, I had certain things I wanted to see again.
  • Hotel: stayed at Hotel Design Sorbonne- very cute boutique hotel right across the street from the Sorbonne. Great location. Tiny room but well appointed-- I had forgotten how tiny paris hotels are! 
  • Things to do:
    • Notre Dame- we didn't climb this time but the views are amazing
    • Rodin Museum
    • Palais du Luxemburg/gardens: worth a quick walk around as we stayed closeby
    • Pantheon and St Etiene du Monde: St Etiene is one of the most beautiful churches I've seen (and I'm obsessed with churches!) Right behind the Pantheon. Unfortunately closed when we went.
    • Montmantre and Sacre Coer- a hike but worth it. Montmantre is a beautiful and quaint area and Sacre Coer the highest part of Paris with amazing views. Gets very busy but gorgeous. There is also the cemetary here where Jim Morrison and other famous peeps are buried.
    • Picasso Museum- it was closed when we went, but I saw it the last time and it's worth the trip. It's in the Morais neighborhood which is very pretty as well.
    • The Louve- magestic museum impossible to be seen in one or two days. 
      • Worth getting the Carte de Musee (museum card) if you enjoy museum. It allows you to not wait in the long queue for many places, and allows multiple entrances-- a great advantage for the Louve
    • Musee D'Orsay- beautiful smaller museum (though not small by any means!) with an impressive collection of impressionist paintings
    • Arc de Triumph is worth seeing as well, and climbing to get some amazing views.
    • Versailles
  • Dining:
    • Laduree- macaron. Hands down the most amazing thing EVER.
    • Le Coup-Chou- just as amazing as I remembered from over ten years ago. Quaint, low ceiling with beams, fireplaces, small rooms and incredible food (duck was fantastic!!)
    • Domaine Lintillac- four in Paris, very good food and pretty affordable
    • La Ferrandaise- they do a three-course tasting and it was incredible. Very small place and they pack you in. The food and service were great though not inexpensive.
    • Recommendations: get a cheese plate and some wine. The selection is often huge and amazing! also, paris is known for apertifs (pre-dinner drinks) and digestifs (after dinner.)
  • Jazz- the jazz in Paris is well-known. We went to Le Petit Journal, a small jazz club in the Latin quarter and were not disappointed (note: they charge a ridiculous amount for your first drink, and successive drinks are much less. It was something like 20E for a small carafe of wine!)
Have fun!!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Last of Paris

Fun night and wanted to share. We got a restaurant recommendation and decided to stat close after two busy days. La Ferrandaise was an adorable small place. They offered a three course price fix and we did that. I got gazpacho, lamb and a lemon tarte. We decided to go traditional and got an apertif of kir (white wine with peach liquer); and a digestif of coffee. Yum.

We seriously rolled out of there. it was so good but we were full. We also got a recommendation of a jazz club and it was amazing. Three floors and tight but great band playing jazz and big band/swing tunes. Nice and lively for two weary travelers. I hope the band gets a cut of the drink price as it was crazy expensive-- two drinks was forty euros! (sixty-ish dollars). The place was called le Petite Journal and is right near Palais de Luxemburg, and a five minute walk from out hotel.

I will try to post some recommendations when I return but these places should be among them. What a fun trip!! Paris was my first international repeat. Unfortunately I didn't write the blog when I went elevenish years ago. I went in the winter so wanted to come back to see the gardens. My only surprise was that most of the gardens were green and not flowers, so I possibly could have seen more in december as well. Either way, it was wonderful and still my favorite city.

People talk about the french being rude and I don't see it at all. If you open in french, which is only Bon Jour/Bon Soir (good day/good evening) and parlais vous englais (do you speak english), people are friendly and helpful and most do speak english, at least better than our french! It is wonderful here, beautiful and so worth the trip. ``We did a whirlwind tour for sure, but it's worth stopping to take in the sights and tour. With the heavy rains, we flew through some things we would not have.


Paris day Deux

Last day of the trip! We thought we would make it memorable with a trip to Versailles. We grabbed breakfast by the hotel and headed out to catch the train. It took maybe 45 minutes and was a ten minute walk to the chateau. Apparently we were not the only ones with the same idea as it was a bit of a wait even with the museum pass.

I have never seen anything more opulent. The front was gilded and it is just huge. Every room is grander than the next. Seeing this puts the French Revolution into perspective.. it is no wonder it happened. We toured the chateau with the audio tour then wandered the gardens. The drizzle turned to a cold hard rain.

The gardens are beautiful and done in an English style. The footprint is simply huge.

We grabbed a sandwich and headed back after a few hours, then walked up to Notre Dame. The line was really long and it was still pouring so we opted to go to the Louve instead. We saw the Venus de Milo, Mona Lisa, a Michelangelo and many other beautiful works when the crowds got to us and we headed out. One of the benefits of the carte de musee, or museum pass, is that you can pop in and out of the museums.

We wandered a bit of the Latin Quarter looking for chocolate stores to bring back some gifts (and practically had to sell all our worldly possessions for it!) We decided to stop for some drinks and a cheese tray, and as I remember it was huge! Wandered back to the hotel. I am sore and exhauster but it was well worth the last couple of days.

Tonight we are going to a restaurant by the hotel that they recommend and will try to catch some jazz, which was recommended. Flights in the morning so it wont probably be a late night.. though I guess we will see!

I so highly recommend Paris. Even raining, it is magical.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Day 1 Paris

I am on the wacky keyboard in the hotel as wireless is not working so please forgive the typos. very frustrating to type but busy day and I want to share. If youe have two days to see the city, here is how it is done.

We got up early and left at 730. I last came in the winter, so wanted to see the gardens. We are staying near the Sorbonne in the Latin Quarter so headed to the Palais du Luxemburg gardens and walked through. We decided to head to the Musee Rodin to get a two day carte de musee, a museum pass that gives you access to the main museums in town.  We grabbed an omelette for breakfast which turned out to be an egg with no cheese.

The museum is small and wonderful with a beautiful garden and sculptures in the museum and throughout the yard including the Thinker.

We admired the gilded roof of Invalides where Napoleon was buried before heading to Musee d Orsay, home to an extensive Impressionist collection among others. We then walked over the Seine River to Jardin Des Tuileries through the gardens, then to Place de la Concord to see the Obelisk. Laduree, known for their macarons, is there. Not to be confused with macaroons. I dream about these, and we got 6 minis and headed to the metro to go to Montmartre, a quaint neighborhood on the north side of Paris/. We saw Madeline, viewed the Arc de Triumph from a distance and headed off.

I remembered the walk from the subway. They apparently have a funicular, something I apparently missed my last visit, but you are most of the way up by then so we huffed on up. Sacre Coer is an amazingly beautiful and unique church, and the highest point in Paris. We walked the square in monmantre which has restaurants and lots of artists.

We decided to stop at an irish pub to plot our afternoon and enjoy the views. We caught the metro over to the Marais on the right bank and went to the Picasso museum to find it closed. We wandered around a bit and went to the Centre Pompidou for the museum of modern art. Apparent the Warhols arent on display now so we struck out again. We wandered more, got a drink then zent to Domaine Lintillac at someones suggestion. We started zith a kir apertif as she suggested and again got the duck, which was recommended. Yummy though not as good as the place yesterday.

By then we were exhausted and it was 930 so we headed back to plot our day tomorrow. very fun though I am quite sore and tired, but suspect we burned off what we ate today. Serious yummy city.

Forgot to mention that for those who claim the french are snobs, and they can be-- they are not always. When we got to the street from the train and subway yesterday and tried to get our bearings, we pulled out our map. someone stopped and asked if we need help, and walked us to the Sorbonne right by our hotel. It was very nice.

Well lots more I Could write but I am tired and this keyboard is really slowing things down. Paris is as beautiful as I remember and packed with things to do. I highly recommend and if it means anything, it is my very first repeat of any place outside the US. I love it here.

Amsterdam day 4/paris

This will be a short post as it had been a long day and I'm pecking on my ipad. I only slept a couple of hours last night-- not a good trend. Tried to shake it off and with wpthe rainy weather forecasted it went to the museums. I decided on the rijksmuseum and was not disappointed.

The building is gorgeous and looks like an old palace. It's four floors and a great history representation including Rembrandt and the Nights watch, and a special exhibit of Asian art and shipbuilders tester models. I spent a couple of hours wandering. I wanted to go to the Van Gogh museum, but heard mixed reviews and decided to take a power nap before heading on the high-speed Thalys train to Paris.

We made our way on the metro from the north train station to our hotel, just next to the Sorbonne university. Cute little boutique hotel with well appointed though small rooms. We decided to go to dinner at a place I went to on my last trip around eleven years ago, curious if it's still as good as I remembered. I was not disappointed. Decided to walk nearby first and got to see my favorite church st etienne du Mond and the pantheon, shrowded in much scaffolding. Seems to be my luck with this city! The last time I was here the Arc De Triumph and Notre Dame were in scaffolding.

We went to dinner at a place I went on my last trip eleven years ago called Le Coup Chou, or the little chicken. Quaint old place with very small rooms, lots of fireplaces, low ceilings with beams. Quaint and gorgeous. And the food was amazing. We both gots duck breast with apples and potato pancake. Worth it! Plate licking good. Seriously. And the wine here is affordable and incredible.

We mapped out our trip for tomorrow. Lot to pack into a day so well see how it goes. I'm so excited to be here! This city is as gorgeous as I remember.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Amsterdam day 3 (and the pm of day 2)

We chose a sushi place and found one in town that was recommended on Tripadvisor called Tomo Sushi. A short Metro ride and voila! We were there. The place was really cute with a trendy interior but it wasn't stuffy. We got a couple of sushi/sashimi samplers and they were very good.

We then took the Metro up to Dam Square and walked a bit to get to the Sky Bar/Lounge in the Doubletree hotel. The views were gorgeous! It was around 9:30 and the sun was just starting to go down. It was quite windy and cool but so nice! I'm not sure why everyone was inside and not on the huge patio deck. We got a drink and enjoyed the sunset and the view.

We were close to the Red Light District, so decided to walk through. The edge is marked by, yes, red lights, so there's no mistaking it at night. I did actually walk a part of it during the day as well and it's quite different! Tons of people and the windows where the girls are are framed in red lights as well. They try to interest the crowd and though some were attractive, quite a lot were not. We did get to see a transaction going down and it appeared that the guy was negotiating for her, ahem, services.

There's a lot of other sex shops there as well as the Cannibus and Hemp Museum.

We continued on walking towards Rembrandt Square where we intended to get the Metro. I'm not sure why we didn't, but we walked on and on and ended up just walking back to the apartment. We passed Skinny Bridge and walked down a couple of streets with really old houses that were leaning and quite skinny as well (the houses on the row are all attached.)

It was a late night and of course I'm up at the crack of dawn. :)

I'll be headed to Keukenhof today if the weather permits and I can pull myself together. Lots and lots of coffee! It's a metro ride to the train to a bus so will be quite a trip but I've heard it's beautiful and of course what the Netherlands are known for: flowers and particularly tulips!

A note on travel: while it's fun to see the world, it can be really stressful sometimes when you don't really know the culture, the language and where you're going. It can be an adventure as well and sometimes when you get lost you can stumble on the most amazing things. I do find travel stressful and don't really enjoy flying, however, I get to see amazing places that I've read about and have seen in pictures so it's worth it. I do miss home though, and I'm missing it right now. But-- an adventure awaits and I'm off!
I suppose I shouldn't have yet mentioned the stresses of travel. :) Today started off well enough, and I hopped on the 24 Metro to Central Station, found the Nord Amsterdam Coffeihaus Tourist Center to purchase tickets to Keukenhof. I asked for a bus ticket, however, apparently got a train ticket. I didn't know, and made my way to the Muzeumplein to catch the bus to the airport. The bus driver said he'd never seen my ticket before (hint #1) but allowed me on. It was a long ride to the airport with many stops.

I got to the airport and walked around but couldn't find where the busses picked up (the bus that I needed, anyways, there were lots of busses around!) A very nice man walked me over to where the bus was, and I got on without any issue (this time!) I had gotten a combo pass which included the express bus to/from the gardens and the garden entry.

The gardens were magnificent. It passed its peak a week or two ago but it was still really amazing. I guess it's in bloom for two months so I was lucky. You could wander this garden for hours, but alas, on little sleep and with sprinkles and a cold breeze, I walked for a couple of hours. There was a big musical instrument on the way in-- kind of like an old fashioned pipe organ that mays automatically. What was funny about it was the music: I heard Madonna and Lady Gaga, among other modern musicians!

I made my way back to the airport and waited for the bus back when I learned that I had a train ticket in my hand and not a bus ticket as I expected. Whoops! Thankfully it was easily rectified though a waste of money. I didn't feel like going into the airport to find the train when I knew where the bus was, so I purchased another ticket. I made my way back to the apartment, stopped for a quick sandwich at the wonderful bakery nearby on some amazing seeded bread and decided it would be a great thing to catch a nap, cursing myself for only bringing three sleeping pills. I thought I'd be tired out enough from walking over 8 hours yesterday, but no such luck apparently.

Tonight Michael wants to go to a yelp meetup which is gathering to discuss attending the Taste of Amsterdam in a couple of weeks. It's at a Michelin-rated restaurant called @samhound, and apparently there's a four-course tasting there that he thought sounds interesting so we'll check it out.

I've never stayed in an apartment when traveling internationally and I have to say I really like it. You miss some amenities, of course, but it's really nice to feel like a local and to be able to eat a small home-cooked something. That has consisted mostly of breakfasts, but when you eat out for over a week straight for all meals, it's nice to have the break.

I had stopped by the Market yesterday and picked up some blackberries, so I'm enjoying them as a snack. Oh, and the bakery is called Bakken met Passie in the Pijk. Yum.
The yelp event was lots of fun and an all-night thing. We met for drinks and had a bevvie of lemoncello and prosecco with a mint leaf, yum! then some wine. We had decided to stay for the four-course tasting and it was quite good. A lettuce wrap with ginger, soy, oyster and some other yummy stuff, a spring roll, a tomato meatless burger which came in a little paper wrap like McD but was surprisingly good and catalina cream.. yum. Seriously. The people were very cool and we had a great time.

We hadn't planned to stay that late but we did, so we headed back. So much for plans, but all is good. Tomorrow is supposed to rain so will be a museum day. Then off to Paris!!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Amsterdam Day 2

Hello from Amsterdam!

I decided on an excursion from the city to view the windmills that Holland is known for. I was pointed to Zaandijk, a short train ride north and was not disappointed.

I took the Metro to the Central Train Station, and the train around fifteen minutes to the city. It's around a fifteen minute walk to town and very cute. A bit tourist trappy, but there's a quaint small town that's beautiful then the area where the windmills are. You can tour the bakery, a cheese shop, a windmill and other buildings. It was very picturesque and well worth seeing.

I wandered around for a couple of hours and picked up a warm waffle with syrup ( Oh my, I had no idea what I was missing in my life. Yum. I wandered and did some shopping for people then headed back to the train.

Once in Amsterdam, I walked around a bit then realized something. There's no better way to learn a city then to forget your map and guide book at the room! Whoops. Ok, so that part wasn't planned, but thankfully I got my bearings yesterday so kind of knew where I was going. Until I stumbled into what I assume was the Red Light District and ended up laughing at a group of 40-plus year old frat boys. Wow.

I went to the Sex Museum, which is on the main drag in town and quite interesting. It showed everything from ancient greek and chinese sculptures, carvings, paintings, etc. in an assortment of different sexual positions. Many times were represented including Marilyn Monroe, Betty Page and other 'modern-day' people as well.

I found a middle-eastern restaurant and got a dish of eggplant, spicy lamb and cheese with some fresh pitas- yum! I wandered around a bit then decided to take a canal tour while the weather was still holding out. It was around an hour and toured through some of the larger canals. I learned a few interesting facts:

  • There are hooks high on most houses here. Apparently because the stairways are so steep, people move furniture in and out of the windows
  • The cost of the house is by width, which is why many of the homes are so narrow
  • There are over 1,000 bridges and over 100 canals in the city
  • There is an old prison housed in one of the old bridges
  • There is an underwater tunnel that is something around 60 km because the ferries couldn't handle the capacity
I got off the ride and walked partway back then picked up the metro to go back to the apartment. I stopped by the market ( and wandered a few blocks when it started pouring. I picked up some blackberries I noticed on the way into the market and raced back, but decided to stop at a cafe (not to be confused with coffeeshop) for a cup of coffee to warm up a bit and take a break. They had mini lemon merangue tarts which was one of my favorite things when I was a kid. I got one and yummm!!!

Getting off my feet a bit and relaxing before we get ready to head out to dinner. I'm actually craving vegetables, as I often do when I go out to eat a lot and don't eat much of them. Strange, huh?

Well, I'm going to send this off and will write about the evening tomorrow with my next post. Have a lovely day!!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Amsterdam Day 1

To finish off Dubrovnik:

We enjoyed our last evening in Dubrovnik and decided to paint the town, so to speak. We went to get a light dinner of mussels and salad and went to the Gaffe, one of two Irish pubs in town (right across from each other.) Alberto works there and suggested that we go. Who were we to say no?

We had a few drinks and stayed after midnight, watching these two guys trying to pick up a couple of women. It was quite entertaining! Alberto came by to chat with us a bit as well. We staggered home and had to wake in four hours for the trip to Amsterdam. Not our smartest move, but it was fun. I took a bunch of pictures that looked fabulous when I took them, or so I thought. But in the harsh light of day-- well, let's say you won't see them. :)

We left for the airport at 4:45 for our 6:25 flight. The flight was surprisingly full. We stopped in Zagreg, the capital of Croatia, then headed to Amsterdam. I was surrounded by screaming kids so didn't get the sleep I so badly needed. We took the train into Amsterdam and got off in De Pijp. Michael brought me the longer way past the museum complex where the Van Gogh Museum and the famous Rijksmuseum are. I'll be checking them both out at some point.

We settled in and I tried to power nap with no luck, as they are doing construction on a nearly apartment. So I sucked it up and headed out while he worked. He walked me down the street to the market that sets up and breaks down every day and showed me the bus stop, which is only two blocks away. Got a lunch of a ham and cheese croissant and headed off.

The but drops at the Central Station, though I stopped before that. I saw the station, which is an impressive building, so walked towards it to take some pictures. I decided to meander around and explored some of the area to the west of the center city, and decided to go to the Anne Frank Haus. The line was long and took around 45 minutes to get in, and it took around the same amount of time to walk through the museum. It was interesting and well done, though heartbreaking. The place was much larger than I expected, however, knowing that eight people lived there for two years without seeing the light of the sun really made it a challenge to view. Not to mention the stairs. Many, many stairs. Did I mention I pulled a muscle in my leg? Ouch.

I walked around and visited the Westerkerk Church, then decided to just wander around. I saw the National Monument, the Royal Palace and Nieuwekerk (New Church). Apparently wandered on the edge of the Red Light district.. which was hilarious as there is a huge church next to a sex shop. While I was trying to take a picture of that scene, movement caught my eye and I realized that the mannequins in the window weren't manneuquins at all but actually live women. I had been warned to NOT take their picture, so I wandered off after checking it out.

Sex is much more open in Europe in general but Amsterdam takes it to a whole new level. Sex shops, rather graphic sexual souveniers, scantily clad women in windows, and cannibus references are prevalent. I learned that there is a difference between a coffee shop and a cafe (where you would get coffee, ironically). A coffee shop is where you'd buy pot.

After a few hours I made my way back to the apartment and we caught up and got ready for dinner. We went to Moeders, a traditional Dutch restaurant and got two meals and shared: I got a mashed potato and sauerkraut dish with a sausage and what looked like a meatball with a brown sauce. Michael got a beef stew with boiled potatoes and red cabbage. Both were amazing! We got an appetizer of house recommendations, and it was a plate with smoked salmon, a duck leg, duck pate, an oyster in a cream sauce and a phyllo dough with cheese and spinach. yum!

We decided to walk back as we were quite full and meandered across the canals back to the Pijp. We picked up some stuff for breakfast, and then got some stain remover due to my, ahem, red wine incident. Oops.

The weather should be nice tomorrow then may rain the rest of the week. Possibly going to visit an area with lots of tulips, weather allowing, and maybe some windmills. We'll see!!

Off to drink a glass of wine (carefully, now) then head to bed for some more exploring tomorrow. Woop!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Dubrovnik Day 4

Hello from windy and rainy Dubrovnik!

I finally slept and it was *wonderful*. Oh yes, sleep rocks. I woke up at 7:30 feeling nice and rested. We ate breakfast at the apartment of some bread, ham, cheese and coffee/tea and took our time getting ready. We walked around a bit then met Alberto in the square by our apartment around 10 to meet up for coffee and to pay him.

It started to rain as we sat there. We got a couple of coffees and talked with him for a while. He was born here and grew up here. Such a nice guy! We really lucked out staying at his place. The apartment was a little more than many of the places we saw, but has a private deck and two bedrooms along with a full kitchen, which is nice.

We ran over to the Rector's Palace and museum for a tour of the art work there. It's a beautiful building and had some impressive artwork that was very religious in nature-- not my thing, but an impressive collection.

We left and decided to do some shopping for people, then got lunch at a pizza place called Mea Culpa. It was pretty good, and we got a spicy pizza and a salad along with wine and beer (of course.) We walked along the Sradun and through many of the side streets. I think we've walked most of the streets in the city by now. We had thought about going to the island but since it was pouring much of the day, we decided not to.

Our ticket to the Rector's palace got us into two more museums, so when we saw the Maritime Museum, we decided to go in. It was interesting, and there were a lot of pictures and replicas of old boats from Dubrovnik, from sailboats to steamboats, as well as the tools found on board and paintings of the boats and people who were on them or financed them. We walked around the old Port for a while, and it stopped raining for a little bit. Saw cats sunning themselves on the benches around and did some people watching.

We decided to do a quick tour of the Cathedral which is near our apartment and a really large building with the bell that we here frequently. The bell rings at really odd times-- sometimes on the hour, sometimes on the half hour, and other times at seemingly random times. It's very strange though I'm sure there's some logic to it!

We made our way back to the apartment as I crashed and needed to lay down for a few. The store was now closed unfortunately, I guess it closes early on Sunday. I wanted to pick up the yummy cranberry tea in the apartment but no luck, and Michael is out of beer. Bummer. So we went back to the apartment. I woke up freezing and apparently the wind was blowing quite hard now and blew open the window to my room. Brrr!!!

Alberto told us he works at the Irish pub tonight and suggested we go down for a drink and to listen to some live music. Oh, ok! Why not, right?

There's not much more to see here, so we're enjoying some laziness. We fly to Amsterdam early tomorrow, on a 6:30 am flight. Ick. We get in late morning and will have most of the day for me to explore. Michael will work and we'll meet up later in the day for dinner.

We'll head out for dinner in a bit, but probably a light one. We found out that the mussels we had on the first night are fished from the river north of here, and we passed the fishing beds on the way to Mostar yesterday. They were really good so we may get some more of those. Yum!

We are up early and will be out tonight so signing off for the day. I'll try to write more tomorrow and will start my recommendations list in the meantime. :)


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Dubrovnik Day 3

I'm going for a record it seems-- how little sleep can I actually function on? Well, I'm hoping to not find out but unfortunately my busy brain has other ideas. I think I've had 9 hours of sleep in four days, but I'm still going and have a cup of coffee to get me kick-started.

I forgot to mention yesterday that we went to the hole in the wall cafe. It literally is a hole through one of the Dubrovnik city walls onto a little section overlooking the water. It's a beautiful view with a bunch of seats packed into a tiny little area. Fun little place and we got a drink.

I should also mention that the birds here are strange. They really make the strangest sounds for pigeons and seagulls. And apparently the stray cats are not fixed as I've heard three in heat so far. Disturbing aspect of this beautiful city.

Today we head to Mostar in Bosnia Herzegovina. I read about it as a recommended trip though many people do an overnight there. We found a travel agency that offers transportation there. There is a stop on the way (it's three hours). They orient you, give you 3 - 3.5 hours to walk around and drive you back. I'm looking forward to it.. If I can stay awake. Hopefully I can catch a snooze on the bus though I usually can't sleep sitting up. Sleep when I'm dead I suppose..

We walked to Ploce Gate to be picked up for our tour. It was a long ride, and we stopped a couple of times on the way. We made a stop at Medjugorje where there have been reported Virgin Mary sightings up on the hill overlooking the city. It's quite a heavily traveled place, with a lot of huge busses dropping off huge groups. Catholics make a pilgrimage here, though the Church has never sanctioned it. According to Rick Steeves, "To the cynical non-Catholic, it's just a strip of crassly-commercial hotels, restaurants and rosary shops leading up to a dull church, all tied together about a silly legend about a hilltop apparition. :)

We went through the checkpoints-- from Croatia to Bosnia, back to Croatia and again to Bosnia Herzegovina. The van was filled with people from all over-- a lady from Poland, four guys from turkey, a couple from France, couple from England, and a couple from the States. The driver and tour guide own the company and are locals. Romeo is a big affable guy and 6' 6" tall. Metro Tours was recommended through Tripadvisor.

We ate lunch at a local restaurant overlooking the Mostar bridge. It was recommended that we get cevapcici, a local sandwich of a thin bread, lamb and veal sausages, and cream cheese. I have been to a Bosnian restaurant with a friend of mine in Phoenix and it was very similar to something we ate there. Yum! We looked out at the Stari Most, or old bridge. It was destroyed during the war in the early 1990's and rebuilt a couple of years later. It was built by the Ottoman in the 16th C.

This town is an interesting mix of east and west. There's a lot of muslim influences, and is inhabited by Croatians (catholic), Serbians and Muslims. The old town area is lined with tourist shops with some beautiful things with a very Turkish influence. After we ate, we climbed the bridge then walked through the town. It was pouring but we did manage to get some great shots of the bridge and this beautiful picturesque area. We headed towards the Mosque and climbed the minaret. It was extremely narrow with very small steps and a steep climb. I only panicked a little bit :) on the way down.

The top had several inches of water, so we sucked it up and walked around, taking some gorgeous pictures. The stairway was only wide enough for one at a time, so I was very glad no one was coming up when we went down. In the bottom of the mosque were some beautiful rugs and tapestries and some gorgeous painted and glass decorations on the wall.

This is such a pretty town and I'm glad we came. It would be really stunning in good weather, but even the rain didn't really damper its beauty. We unfortunately only had a couple of hours there before we had to head back. We stopped at a town called Pocetilj, an artists' colony filled with a mix of Christian and Muslim architecture. It was pretty steep on a hillside and really gorgeous. It had a big mosque and several other buildings, along with some houses and some ruins throughout. At the top of the hilli s the ruins of a fortress built in the 15th century. It was largely destroyed during the 1990s war though around 100 still live there. We made a quick stop for a break, and went back to Dubrovnik, but didn't get in until after 8 pm.

We decided to have a snack of cheese, salami and crackers with some beer and wine instead of a full meal. It's been a long day, but fun. I'm very ready for bed now, though!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Dubrovnik Day 2

What is the best time to wake up on your first day in Europe, when you had one hour of sleep in the prior 24 hours you were traveling?

4 am, of course!

Why I consistently do this, I'll never know. But I decided to make the best of it. :)

Dubrovnik was a merchant town that hit its peak in the 15th and 16th centuries. Then an earthquake destroyed much of the town in 1667. My guidebook says that much of the town was rebuilt following the quake, in Baroque style, however, there are some Gothic-Renaissance buildings which survived from the Golden Age.

Last night we walked to Pile Gate-- actually, we came through it, but went back up the Stradun, the main shopping street which is very wide. Especially compared to the tiny little streets winding through the city that look like little alley ways. This city really reminds me of Venice for that reason, of course without the canals.

The apartment is really nice, and Alberto recently renovated it. The building has been in his family for over thirty years. His mother actually lives in an apartment downstairs, and there is a gorgeous courtyard that he's fixing up for her. The apartment is one of very few with a full balcony with a view, and we can see Srd from it, a peak overlooking the city. The place has a full kitchen and was nicely appointed (thanks for the tea, Alberto!!) I still haven't gotten used to instant coffee, so I was pleased for the option. There's a bottle of wine as well for later. :)

There's a farmer's market by the cathedral every morning and a little market nearby so we may get some stuff there to eat out a little less. We'll see.. I'm not sure either of our culinary skills are up to par. It's nice to have a comfortable place to unwind.

We're staying not too far from the Cathedral, in case you check a map for orientation. We walked to Pile gate on the other side of the city in less than ten minutes, so I suspect a day will show us most of the sights. Alberto recommended taking a trip to a nearby island and he said there is kayaking there as well. That might be fun to mix it up a bit.

The church bells rang early this morning and there were some crazy birds flying through as well. It was beautiful for early morning.

We were going to walk the city wall but a friend suggested that sunset is a beautiful time to do it, so we decided instead to explore the town. We'll grab breakfast somewhere and wander.. I read in my guidebook that the Cathedral was largely funded by the English King, Richard the Lionhearted in the 12th C. He was shipwrecked nearby and swore that if he lived, he would build a cathedral on the spot. Voila!

What a fun day! we walked through the town for a bit and decided to walk the wall before the tours got into town. We may do it again in the evening as suggested later. What a gorgeous view! It's really a pretty way to see the city as you're elevated a bit looking down. It was a slightly steep climb at first, starting at Ploce Gate, which was recommended. We climbed a steep area then walked the wall over looking the city. It was nice and cool and breezy so perfect for walking. It took an hour and a half including taking lots of pictures around the city. The gorgeous terra cotta rooves and the brilliant emerald green waters surrounding the city are magical.

There are cats everywhere. The animal rescuer in me was screaming about starting a spay and neuter program here! Lots of cats at every turn but people seem to leave them be.

We got breakfast of a traditional omelette and then took the tram up to mount Srd to overlook the city on the mountains. It was a beautiful visit and the walk in the area around Napoleon's battlement was gorgeous.

We then explored some of the local sites including the Monestaries (Dominican and Franciscan), the Synagogue and walked around the town. We explored a couple of churches and a memorial for the people who died in the resistance during the war here in the early 1990s. I needed a nap desperately and laid down for maybe a half hour until they were doing some work in the apartment below. I gave up and we decided to explore further. We decided to save some places for the upcoming days, and went to a travel guide place to book a trip to Mostar tomorrow. It's a Unesco world heritage site and somewhere we are both looking forward to!

We went to the grocery to get a snack of cheese and crackers, with some beer and wine, as well as something to eat for breakfast. We then sat up on the balcony to enjoy the view and the snacks. It was so relaxing and really beautiful.

We went to a wine bar (D'aVino) and I enjoyed a flight of the local red, Palvec. We learned it's the same grape as Zinfandel, and the Zins in California are actually from here. It was very good. We had a wait for dinner at another place Alberto recommended, called Taj Mahal. It was local Bosnian food and very good! We got an appetizer of pepper stuffed with a spicy cream cheese (not very spicy, but flavorful) with saffron on it. I got a dish which was a tagine of veal, okra, tomatoes and garlic and Michael got a steal with a red pepper sauce. The bread was very good and similar to the Bosnian place in Phoenix I found-- thin and crusty, though the bread in Phoenix was eggy and it wasn't here. We got baklava for dessert.

We were both pooped and it's after 11 here so decided to go back to the apartment.

Tomorrow we go to Mostar, which should be beautiful. It's a three-hour drive there but from what I'm told, well worth it. Hopefully I'll sleep past four am!!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Dubrovnik Day 1

Well this was the trip from hell. I won't into every detail, but apparently the merger with American and US Air isn't quite as seamless as I would have hoped, and their codeshare with British air as well. I have a wedding to go to in August in Copenhagen and will definitely reconsider..

1. I was booked flying into Heathrow airport in London and out of Gatwick (a fatal car accident and weather *tried* to stop me from reaching my destination, but thankfully didn't. I did book a driver to take me at some cost, but was unsure if the three hour time allotment was enough.)
2. I had to change terminals and check into a new airline in Boston, with a one-hour layover. I ran a good bit, jumped more than 20 people in the line and JUST made it.
3. I bought a seat reservation on the trans-atlantic flight, and didn't get what I booked

There were some other minor things too-- I'm just grateful I made it and that I have all of my dark brown locks mostly intact.

Michael arrived just before I did, but it didn't take long for me to get through this tiny airport. We took a shuttle to the Pile Gate (pronounced Pih-leh) part of the wall surrounding Dubrovnik, and called Alberto, whom we rented the apartment from. He met us promptly and walked us through the maze of Dubrovnik. It was a good thing! We walked down the Stradun, or the main road and wove our way through the maze to the apartment.

There are no/few hotels in Dubrovnik, and most people rent apartments when they are here. This apartment is GREAT! It's a two bedroom , has a lovely little private balcony with a view, a full kitchen and is newly renovated. He did a nice job of it too.

Alberto got us settled then showed us around the city. He gave us some suggestions of restaurants and places to go see while we're in town. We walked by the Cathedral, meandered to a place on the cliff just next to the outside of the wall where a bar is located with the best views of the city. We then stopped at an outside bar and Alberto bought us some drinks and we got to know each other. He is married with two young kids and seems like a really nice man.

We then decided to go to dinner where Alberto recommended at Kopun, minutes from our apartment. It was really good and we got seafood dishes that we really enjoyed. The weather is nicer than expected-- no rain while we were here, and crisp but beautiful.

Tomorrow we'll explore Dubrovnik as I'll be working through my jet lag. :) After 1 hour of sleep in over 24 hours, a light day will be nice. Alberto is going to help us set up some activities which will be great.

This city is stunning. The buildings and wall are of a very similar light tan stone. There is a high wall surrounding the city that can be walked and a place on the hills outside the city that you can go to for gorgeous views. I'm looking forward to exploring. It almost feels italian-- a mix of Venice with the windy mazy of streets and the italian countryside where the cyprus trees line the area. Lots of tile roofs.. gorgeous city!

Have a great day!! Time for bed on the other side of the world!