Our Travel Adventures

Archive for the ‘Useful Information’ Category

Mullin Automobile Museum

On Saturday, February 14, 2015, Valentine’s Day, Abby and Rusty traveled with the Paradise British Car Club down to Oxnard, California, to tour the Mullin Automobile Museum. It is open two Saturdays per month and only available by prior appointment. [http://www.mullinautomotivemuseum.com]. However, this museum is well worth the effort. Peter Mullin is a very wealthy collector who has purchased and restored the world’s best European art deco automobiles. Every few months,the museum offers a new presentation that features a particular manufacturer. We went to see his collection of beautiful Bugattis. The photos that follow reflect their art deco sculpture and automobile design as envisioned by the family Bugatti.

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Our Fall 2014 Mediterranean Cruise

On the 18th of September, Abby and Rusty flew on a KLM 747 from LAX to Amsterdam, Netherlands. After 11 hours in the air, we transferred to a 737 and made our final two-hour hop down to Barcelona, Spain. Arising early on Saturday the 20th, these two travelers set out to explore this enchanting city. Then, on Sunday afternoon, we boarded Holland America’s youngest ship, the Nieuw Amsterdam. With California friends Katherine and Steve Anderson, (and an additional 2,000 other pampered passengers) we proceeded to comfortably cruise Europe’s southern coast for the next 24 days, stopping in 13 other picturesque ports. In the following photos, we’ve attempted to give you a tantalizing taste of this magnificent Mediterranean wonderland that Abby and Rusty were blessed to briefly visit.

 

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Overview map: Our 24-day northern Mediterranean cruise aboard Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam.

Italy s Pompeii two survivors

Abby and Rusty enjoy an amazing Mediterranean Autumn.

 

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Barcelona, Spain: We join Katherine and Steve on a double-decker bus
sight-seeing tour. 

 

Barcelona Spain bull ring 

Barcelona, Spain: The Bull Ring.

 

Barcelona Spain old balconies

Barcelona, Spain: Old City balconies.

 

Barcelona Spain urban gardens

Barcelona, Spain: Beautiful urban gardens.

 

Barcelona Spain park gate

Barcelona, Spain: An artistic park gate.

 

Barcelona Spain new wild styles

Barcelona, Spain: New City features wild new architectural styles.

 

Barcelona Spain Hi Tec Bullet Bldg

Barcelona, Spain: The Torre Agbar Tower (aka The Bullet Building)

 

Barcelona Spain Bullet at night

Barcelona, Spain: The Tower lit at night with changing patterns of 4500 LEDs.

Barcelona Spain China Town

Barcelona, Spain: The International District.

 

Barcelona Spain Catalunya pride 

Barcelona, Spain: Proud residents showing Catalan province flags.

 

Barcelona Spain first view Sagrada Familia cathedral

Barcelona, Spain: Our first view of Gaudi’s unfinished Holy Family Church.

 

13 Barcelona Spain Gaudi spires 2 

Barcelona, Spain: Details of those Gaudi spires.

 

14 Barcelona Spain Gaudi entrance 1

Barcelona, Spain: One of three church facades.

 

15 Barcelona Spain Gaudi entrance 2.

Barcelona, Spain: The Passion of Christ entrance.

 

16 Barcelona Spain Gaudi entrance 3

Barcelona, Spain: Details showing Gaudi’s genius.

 

17 Gaudi snails

Barcelona, Spain: More details showing Gaudi’s humor.

 

18 Gaudi house 2

Barcelona, Spain: Closeup of Gaudi’s Casa Batllo.

 

26 Barcelona Spain Gaudi s Parc Güell 6

Barcelona, Spain: Gaudi’s whimsical 30-acre Güell Park.

 

27 Barcelona Spain Gaudi s Parc Güell 9

Barcelona Spain: Güell Park’s HypoStyle pavilion with four-seasons ceiling.

 

28 Barcelona Spain Gaudi s Parc Güell 12

Barcelona Spain: Güell Park’s Portico.

 

31 Barcelona Spain vista

Barcelona Spain: Güell Park’s grand view of the city.

 

42 Barcelona Spain Mount Tibidabo

Barcelona, Spain: Mount Tibidabo’s wild mix of old cathedral and new amusement park.

 

32 Barcelona Spain Ramblas ramble

Barcelona, Spain: We take a Ramblas ramble.

 

22 Happy Pills

Barcelona, Spain: Katherine spots an unusual store – but it was only selling specialty candies!

 

34 Barcelona Spain views from Ramblas 2

Barcelona, Spain: Ramblas museum featured one-person floats used during Catalan festival.

 

36 Ramblas golden angel 1

Barcelona, Spain: On the Ramblas, Rusty approaches an amazing archangel.

 

37 Ramblas golden angel 2

Barcelona, Spain: Will Rusty be enchanted by this beautiful being?

 

35 Barcelona Spain views from Ramblas 5

Barcelona, Spain: On the Ramblas, Abby gets detained by a demonic dragon!

 

21 Barcelona Spain Gothic Quarter

Barcelona, Spain: Near the Ramblas, we go into the Gothic Quarter.

 

23 Barcelona Spain Gothic alley

Barcelona, Spain: Near the Ramblas, The Gothic Quarter’s ancient alleyways.

 

24 Barcelona Spain Gothic gargoyles 1

Barcelona, Spain: Gothic gargoyles.

 

42 Barcelona Spain Plaza Catalunya bubble man

Barcelona, Spain: Plaza Catalunya’s bubble man.

 

39 Barcelona Spain Plaza Catalunya performance

Barcelona, Spain: Plaza Catalunya’s folk dance recital.

 

40 Barcelona Spain Columbus monument at harbor

Barcelona, Spain: The harbor monument to Columbus.

 

41 Columbus column detail

Barcelona, Spain: Columbus seems to implore us to see more of this world,
so off we go!

 

43 Barcelona Spain Hasta luego

Hasta luego Barcelona!

 

44 Barcelona s jumping dolphins 1

As our ship entered the Mediterranean for the first time, these dolphins provided us with a spectacular sendoff.

 

46 Marseille France old forts at Old Port

Marseille, France: Two old forts flank the Old Port.

 

49 Marseille France Nouvelle Major cathedral and Old Port

Marseille, France: The New Port and city center.

 

47 Marseille France fortress church

Marseille, France: Abby and Rusty take their own whirlwind waking tour, starting with this fortress church.

 

48 Marseille France cat custodian

Marseille, France: The church’s caretaker of the cats.

 

 

 

50 Marseille France fresh fish

Marseille, France: Fisher terminal and the catch of the day.

 

60 Marseille France fantastic fish

Marseille, France: Ferocious-looking ribbon fish.

 

51 Marseille France mirrored bus stop 

Marseille, France: Mysterious mirrored bus stop.

 

52 Marseille France cone head

Marseille, France: Cone head.

 

54 Marseille France Chamber of Commerce

Marseille, France: We explore the new exhibit
at the Chamber of Commerce building.

 

58 Marseille France expo poster

Marseille, France: A celebration of the history of France’s primary port.

 

57 Marseille France  40s cruise ship

Marseille, France: A classic 1940’s cruise ship.

 

55 Marseille France dive helmet

Marseille, France: Beautiful bronze deep-sea diver’s helmet.

 

56 Marseille France dive suit

Marseille, France: Abby marvels at this early underwater space suit.

 

59 Marseille France street market

Marseille, France: We visit the international vendors’ markets.

 

61 Marseille France pastries

Marseille, France: A tray of tempting pastries.

 

62 Marseille church stairs

Marseille, France: A hike up the highest hill to the Notre Dame de la Garde.

 

64 Marseille France Notre Dame de la Garde tower

Marseille, France: A spectacular bell tower.

 

65 Mar church details

Marseille, France: Wonderful stonework.

 

66 Marseille France Notre Dame de la Garde interior 1

Marseille, France: Opulent interior.

 

67 Marseille France Notre Dame de la Garde telescope

Marseille, France: The most artistic telescope we’d ever seen
(designed by Jules Verne?!).

 

68 Marseille France Notre Dame de la Garde street details

Marseille, France: It provided a terrific view of the red-tile rooftops…

 

69 Marseille France Notre Dame de la Garde view of soccer stadium

Marseille, France: As well as the Marseille ultramodern soccer stadium.

 

71 Livorno Italy Venezia Quarter

Livorno, Italy: Only a few hours to visit the Venezia Quarter.

 

72 Livorno Italy New Fortress 1

Livorno, Italy: The “New” Fortress built in 1590.

 

73 Livorno Italy New Fortress 2

Livorno, Italy: A boat in the moat.

 

74 Livorno Italy Goldoni Theatre

Livorno, Italy: Abby gets her bearings on the steps of the theater.

 

75 Livorno Italy Abby and statue

Livorno, Italy: Abby strikes a statuesque pose.

 

70 Livorno Italy beautiful bicycle

Livorno, Italy: Go green – get a bicycle!

76 Livorno statue 4 Moors

Livorno, Italy: This statue is known as the ‘Four Moors’ and honors Livornos’ defeat of pirates.

 

77 Livorno four Moors detail

Livorno, Italy: Incredible detail of captive North African pirate.

 

80 4 before M s Palace 2

Rome, Italy: Our guide, Pete, snaps the four explorers at the Palace of Mussolini (also known as the Wedding Cake).

 

78 Rome Italy Mussolini s Palace 1

Rome, Italy: Mussolini wanted a palace more magnificent than previous emperors, but he never got to live here.

 

81 Rome Italy walking wet streets

Rome, Italy: The only rain showers on our entire trip
dampen these Roman streets.

 

82 Rome Italy Romulus  Remus

Rome, Italy: The she-wolf nursing Romulus and Remus.

 

84 Rome Italy ancient Roman layers 2

Rome, Italy: Like a giant cake, Rome was constructed one layer on top of another as it was repeatedly ruined and then rebuilt.

 

 

83 Rome Italy Roman Forum

Rome, Italy: Ruins of the Roman Forum where matters of state were discussed.

 

85 Rome Italy ancient Rome model

Rome, Italy: Our guide, Pete, shows us a model depicting the layout
of ancient Rome.

 

86 Rome Italy Roman Colosseum 1

Rome, Italy: The remains of the Flavian Amphitheater,
commonly known as the Colosseum.

 

87 Rome Italy Roman Colosseum 2

Rome, Italy: Drawing of the completed amphitheater and the colossal statue of the emperor that gave its nickname.

 

89 Rome Italy Roman Colosseum 4

Rome, Italy: Ancient advertising.

 

88 Rome Italy Roman Colosseum 3

Rome, Italy: The retractable rain awning once available to Roman spectators.

 

90 Rome Italy Roman Colosseum 5

Rome, Italy: Gladiators’ gateway.

 

91 Rome Italy Roman Colosseum 6

Rome, Italy: the floor of the Colosseum had trap doors with elevators to raise fighters and animals from below.

 

92 Rome Italy Roman Colosseum 7

Rome, Italy: This sports complex had multilevel entry and exit corridors,
just like ones today.

 

93 Rome Italy Roman Colosseum 8

Rome, Italy: Detail drawing of Colosseum access design.

 

 

 

95 Rome Italy Roman Pantheon 1

Rome, Italy: The Pantheon, Rome’s titanic temple honoring all its Olympic gods.

 

96 Rome Italy Roman Pantheon 2

Rome, Italy: Crowds moving through the Pantheon’s massive bronze doors.

 

97 Rome Italy Roman Pantheon 3

Rome, Italy: The dome of the Pantheon, built in 126 A.D., is still the world’s largest coffered concrete dome. It forms a perfect half sphere with a height
and width of 142 feet.

 

94 Rome Italy Arch of Constantine

Rome, Italy: Emperor Constantine’s Arch dedicated to
the first “Christian” emperor.

 

99 Vatican City Swiss Guard 

Vatican City: The Swiss Guards.

 

100 Vatican City Pope s balcony

Vatican City: The balcony where the Pope greets Catholic crowds
in St. Peter’s Square.

 

98 Vatican City St Peter s Square

Vatican City: St. Peter’s Square. No Pope Francis to greet us today.

 

101 Vatican City Egyptian lion

Vatican City: The Crusaders collected ancient art and treasure from the middle east and took them back to the Pope. This lion is one of several Egyptian monuments surrounding the plaza. 

 

102 Vatican City Death Star

Vatican City: Modern art pieces are also regularly purchased and placed here – remind you of the Death Star?

 

103 Vatican City St Peter s Basilica 1

Vatican City: St. Peter’s Basilica – The Pope’s private church.

 

104 Vatican City St Peter s Basilica 2

Vatican City: Just a little place for the Pope to pray.

 

105 Vatican City St Peter s Basilica 3

Vatican City: A sculptural detail – so this is an angel?

 

106 Vatican City St Peter s Basilica 4

Vatican City: One of Michelangelo’s most lifelike sculptures:
Mary with the Body of Jesus.

 

 

107 Naples Italy New Castle  Royal Palace of Capodimonte

Naples, Italy: New Castle and the Royal Palace of Capodimonte up the hill.

 

108 Italy s Amalfi Coast 1

Italy’s Amalfi Coast: The scenic winding road to Sorrento.

 

115 Sorrento Italy 1

Sorrento, Italy

 

116 Sorrento Italy center statue

Sorrento, Italy: A holy traffic cop.

 

117 Sorrento Italy church

Sorrento, Italy: Sunny church facade.

 

109 Italy s Amalfi Coast 2 

Italy’s Amalfi Coast: The end of the road.

 

110 Italy s Amalfi Coast inlay shop 3

Italy’s Amalfi Coast: We visit a master wood-inlay artist and meet his cat.

 

111 Italy s Amalfi Coast shopping stop 1

Italy’s Amalfi Coast: Our great Italian guide, Claudia (CBM tours), at another roadside attraction.

 

112 Italy s Amalfi Coast Mary of Amalfi

Italy’s Amalfi Coast: Mary of Amalfi prays for our safety from Italian drivers.

 

113 Italy s Amalfi Coast shopping stop 2

Italy’s Amalfi Coast: Incognito lemon.

 

114 Italy s Amalfi Coast shopping stop 2  1

Italy’s Amalfi Coast: Festive farmer’s market tempts the adventurous eater.

 

118 Italy s Pompeii and Mt Vesuvius 1

The remains of Mount Vesuvius and the ruins of Pompeii.

 

119 Italy s Pompeii Basilica of Justice 2

Pompeii: Once a wealthy resort and seaport.

 

121 Italy s Pompeii fish  produce shops

Pompeii: Shops for craftsmen and international merchants.

 

122 Italy s Pompeii fast food cafe

Pompeii: An early fast-food restaurant with thermos-like soup pots serving passing shoppers.

 

123 Italy s Pompeii paved street with stepping stones

Pompeii: Elevated crosswalk with spaces for chariot wheels and kept clean by daily wash down with diverted river water.

 

124 Italy s Pompeii column detail

Pompeii: Details of elaborate cast column decorations.

 

125 Italy s Pompeii residential details 2

Pompeii: The volcanic ash preserved this home’s colorful frescos.

 

126 Italy s Pompeii residential details 4 

Pompeii: Details of the wall art.

 

127 Italy s Pompeii residential details 5

Pompeii: Images from long ago preserved in plaster.

 

128 Italy s Pompeii residential details 6

Pompeii: A portrait of the owner?

 

129 Italy s Pompeii body cast 1

Pompeii: One of the body casts of buried victims of the volcano.

 

130 Italy s Pompeii House of the Poet 1

Pompeii: Many houses featured an entry with sky-lit pool.

 

132 Italy s Pompeii House of the Poet 3

Pompeii: Some of the vaulted ceilings survived the ash but the heat and gasses killed any occupants.

 

133 Italy s Pompeii House of the Poet 4

Pompeii: Ceiling details.

 

134 Italy s Pompeii singing fountain

Pompeii: A whimsical fountain. Homes had running water and sewage disposal.

 

120 Italy s Pompeii 5000 seat theater

Pompeii: This theater featured performances and government meetings and offered outstanding acoustics.

 

141 Corfu Greece hard times

Corfu, Greece: Corfu and all of Greece have fallen on hard times with high unemployment and civil unrest.

 

137 Corfu Greece lighthouse

Corfu, Greece: Abby climbs up to see the view from the lighthouse.

 

138 Corfu fort

Corfu, Greece: Rusty enters another old fortress built to ward of Moorish pirates.

 

139 Corfu Greece wall detail

Corfu, Greece: This symbol of St. Mark means that the Venetian empire once controlled this port.

 

140 Corfu Greece Abby s first expresso and baklava

Corfu, Greece: Abby enjoys her snack of baklava and sweet Greek coffee.

 

142 Nieuw Amsterdam anchors at Kotor

Kotor, Montenegro: Nieuw Amsterdam anchors in the deep waters of this Mediterranean fjord.

 

143 Granite mountains of Kotor 1

Kotor, Montenegro: The sun is just rising high enough to illuminate the granite cliffs above this magical medieval town.

 

144 Granite mountains of Kotor 3

Kotor, Montenegro: Notice the stone walls rising along the ridge built to keep out southbound barbarians.

 

145 Lion of Saint Mark

Kotor, Montenegro: Another stone plaque indicating one-time control by the Venetian navy.

 

146 Village of Kotor

Kotor, Montenegro: View from the town square with more mountain fortresses in the distance.

 

148 Black plague warning

Kotor, Montenegro: This symbol was said to represent the decimation from the Black Plague.

 

150 Sail fish sign

Kotor, Montenegro: An attractive swordfish sign for a merchant selling nautical antiques.

 

151 Kotor alley

Kotor, Montenegro: These narrow alleys were built to confuse invaders and allow deadly defense from above.

 

152 Kotor artist

Kotor, Montenegro: Around a corner, we found this artist working in the soft morning light.

 

153 Kotor stairway

Kotor, Montenegro: Ancient stone steps worn down by generations of fleet feet.

 

154 Kotor antiques

Kotor, Montenegro: One of the village’s dozens of antique shops.

 

155 Kotor window

Kotor, Montenegro: Perhaps for protection from rats, the town loves its cats.

 

155 Kotor cat

Kotor, Montenegro: One of many Kotor cats.

 

156 National Archaeological Museum Athens building

Athens, Greece: Due to windy weather, our ship docks early in Athens, so Abby and Rusty taxi to the National Archeological Museum to see their extensive chronologically arranged collection of ancient art.

 

164 Abby with abstract statue

Athens, Greece: 5000-year-old Cycladic figures now look very modern.

 

165 the harpest 

Athens, Greece: This little figure is called “The Harpist.”

 

157 Greek onto vase 

Athens, Greece: Minoan vase. 

 

158 Arch museum dogs fresco

Athens, Greece: Partial fresco with hunting dogs and wild boar.

 

159 giant vase

Athens, Greece: How could an early potter throw something this massive?

 

161 Pretty pitchers

Athens, Greece: When form follows function, beauty results.

 

160 gold goblet

Athens, Greece: Gold provided a malleable medium for early artists.

 

162 golden gull

Athens, Greece: The bull was sacred to early Greeks.

 

163 golden bear

Athens, Greece: Golden lion? 

 

166 Poseidon

Athens, Greece: If he’s throwing a trident it’s Poseidon, a lightning bolt it’s Zeus.

 

167 Apollo

Athens, Greece: The young athlete god, Apollo.

 

168 Greek citizen

Athens, Greece: Amazingly accurate 3-D portrait of a Greek VIP.

 

169 bearded bust

Athens, Greece: More mastery of facial details.

174 perfect hand

 Athens, Greece: A highly defined hand.

170 horse and jockey

Athens, Greece: This dynamic sculpture is known as “The Jockey.”

 

171 tomb image of child with lamb

Athens, Greece: We paused in this section that featured cemetery memorial artwork.

 

172 tomb image of dog

Athens, Greece: A faithful companion.

 

175 The Acropolis

Athens, Greece: The hilltop fortress of the Acropolis.

 

176 Abby on Acropolis

Athens, Greece: Abby takes in the view from the top, remembering when she lived here summer ’69.

 

177 Athens from Acropolis

Athens, Greece: One of the world’s oldest cities, Greece’s capital now has a population of over 3 million.

 

178 Temple of Zeus

Athens, Greece: The Agora (ancient meeting hall and center for commerce) still has its original roof intact.

 

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Athens, Greece: The 5000-seat Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a musical performance center, is still used today. 

 

182 Parthenon couple

Athens, Greece: We start our tour of the Acropolis temples — The Parthenon, The Erechtheion, and The Temple of Athena Nike.

 

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Athens, Greece: This is the most famous temple, The Parthenon, dedicated to Athena, goddess of Athens. It was nearly totally destroyed in a battle when Venetian artillery blew up the Ottoman powder magazine hidden inside.

 

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Athens, Greece: Details of the Parthenon’s left facade.

 

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Athens, Greece: Details of the Parthenon’s right facade — Note the horse heads peeking out from under the roof.

 

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Athens, Greece: We next walk to the marvelous new Acropolis Museum.

 

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Athens, Greece: Below the museum’s entrance is a newly excavated archeological site.

 

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Athens, Greece: This scale model of the Parthenon shows its architectural perfection.

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Athens, Greece: Scale model of the Parthenon’s front roof triangle sculptures.

 

194 Parthenon gods details

Athens, Greece: Detail of the front roof triangle sculptures that honor Athena.

195 Parthenon horse details

Athens, Greece: Details showing how the horse heads would have looked.

 

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Athens, Greece: Abby explores the Plaka, the old neighborhood at the foot of the Acropolis, where she lived in 1969. She was disappointed to see how dirty and graffiti-covered it had become.

 

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Athens, Greece: While not the same house where Abby once lived, this one is very similar.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: The Galata Tower, built in 1308, dominates the skyline of the city’s European side.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: Abby and Rusty join the crowds crossing and fishing from the Galata Bridge. It spans a bay called the Golden Horn. Shops and restaurants line the bottom layer.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: We walk as far as the Sirkeci Train Station, fabled terminus to the Paris-to-Istanbul Orient Express.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: Next morning, our SRM guide, Senem Kotooglu, leads us to an electric tram headed to the heart of Istanbul.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: With only one day to see this sprawling city that spans the Bosphorus Strait from Europe to Asia, Senem conducts a four-hour walk that takes in the major attractions within Istanbul’s historic Old Town.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: On our ride, we pass this striking stairway.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: Our first stop is the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, but better known as The Blue Mosque.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: One of the Blue Mosque’s six minarets.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: Entrance is free but lines can be long. Everyone must take off their shoes and women cover heads with scarves.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: Muslim men wash at this fountain before entering the mosque. Some tourist women wear full burkas.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: This mosque features a series of blue domes and golden pinnacles.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: The mosque’s golden light floods in through dozens of stained-glass windows.

 

216 Blue Mosque interior

Istanbul, Turkey: Pillars, walls and ceiling are covered in repeating mosaic patterns.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: As we walk to our next sight, we pass a vendor displaying Turkish pastries.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: This stack contains giant sesame pretzels.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: Katherine declared the pretzels delicious.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: Next stop is the Hagia Sophia museum. It was first the Constantinople Orthodox Christian Church’s version of the Vatican. After the Ottoman conquest, it was converted into a mosque. Its original Christian mosaics and iconography have been restored and it now serves as an historic museum.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: View up into the museum’s massive dome.

223 Blue mosque crazy angel

Istanbul, Turkey: A very odd-looking angel.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: Some of the Turkish treasures on display – an emerald-encrusted dagger.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: A golden tea service.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: Items from Ottoman royalty.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: Below the Old City, we descend into this series of ancient cisterns for storing water.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: Senem next introduces us to one of her favorite restaurants for Turkish coffee and dessert.

 

229 entrance to Grand Bazaar

Istanbul, Turkey: Our final destination is the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: This magnificent indoor mall attracts locals and tourists alike to its colorful collection of storefronts.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: Gold and jewelry merchants claim dramatic discounts.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: Aladdin would love all these magical lamps.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: Some shops feature both old and new brass and copper kitchen equipment.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: This fine fellow sold Turkish Meerschaum pipes.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: Here are extraordinary varieties of bobbles, bangles and beads.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: Belly dancing paraphernalia are on prominent display.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: Fancy footwear can also be found here.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: Want to satisfy a sweet tooth? Look no farther than Turkish Delight!

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: The sights and smells of the Spice Market overwhelm our senses.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey: exotic oils line the shelves.

 

242 Lesbos street scene

Mytilini, Lesbos Island, Greece: A chaotic mixing of East and West, old and new in this street scene from this island city.

 

243 Lesbos statue and dog

Mytilini, Lesbos Island, Greece: Solemn statue of fisherman’s waiting family contrasts with a happy harbor dog.

 

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Mytilini, Lesbos Island, Greece: The Old Fortress guards
the fishing harbor from pirates.

 

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Mytilini, Lesbos Island, Greece: Abby and Rusty explore the Old Fortress.

 

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Mytilini, Lesbos Island, Greece: View of the city’s commercial port.

 

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Kusadasi, Turkey: Another harbor protected from pirates by a formidable fortress.

 

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Ephesus, Turkey: Our tour guide, Ilker with SRM Tours, takes us by van to Ephesus, trading center of the ancient world. Our first stop is in the hills above to see the house where Mary, mother of Jesus, is believed to have lived after her son’s death. 

 

249 Mary s house detail

Ephesus, Turkey: This hillside sanctuary is surrounded by peaceful gardens.

 

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Ephesus, Turkey: A major trade center of the ancient world. Abby walks along the ruins of Harbor Road towards the now silted over bay.

 

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Ephesus, Turkey: Excavation of this once major metropolis (500 B.C.) has only just begun.

 

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Ephesus, Turkey: This carving topped a temple gate and represents the goddess Nike presenting a wreath to the victor.

 

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Ephesus, Turkey: This gate is protected from behind by the evil image of Medusa.

 

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Ephesus, Turkey: Visitors marvel at the Library of Celsus, third largest library of the ancient world.

 

261 Ephesus library up view

Ephesus, Turkey: The site’s most spectacular ruins, the library once held over 12,000 volumes. The four statues represented Intelligence, Knowledge, Wisdom, and Valor.

 

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Ephesus, Turkey: Just a sample of the hundreds of cats that make the ruins of Ephesus their home.

 

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Ephesus, Turkey: Feline royalty.

 

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Ephesus, Turkey: Another sun worshiper.

 

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Ephesus, Turkey: This mosaic floor resembles a Turkish carpet.

 

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Ephesus, Turkey: Pomegranates now adorn this ancient gateway.

 

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Kusadasi, Turkey: We make a lunch stop at a family business that specializes in weaving and selling stunning Turkish rugs.

 

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Kusadasi, Turkey: Here we see a demonstration of the unique double-knotting technique used in Turkish carpets.

 

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Kusadasi, Turkey: While our guide, Ilker watches, Steve and Abby test the texture of finely woven wool with their bare feet.

 

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Kusadasi, Turkey: Rusty marvels at the lustrous density of woven silk, and also at its breath-taking price.

 

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Santorini Island, Greece: The Nieuw Amsterdam anchors in the bay and tenders take us to the port town of Fira.

 

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Santorini Island, Greece: This is all that remains of an exploded volcano — only the caldera’s rim now rises above the sea. And that isn’t snow, it’s the whitewashed buildings of villages that perch along the crater’s perimeter.

 

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Santorini Island, Greece: From Fira’s harbor, Abby and Rusty hire a boat to take them to island’s north shore.

 

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Santorini Island, Greece: A closer view of our destination, the photogenic village of Oia.

 

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Santorini Island, Greece: An early morning look back from Oia towards Fira.

 

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Santorini Island, Greece: Inside one of the many art galleries that provide the principal income for Oia.

 

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Santorini Island, Greece: Restaurants are the other major business here.

 

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Santorini Island, Greece: Oia residents love their dogs.

 

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Santorini Island, Greece: They all seem to be patient, well behaved, and well cared for.

 

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Santorini Island, Greece: Oia residents have promoted the use of whitewash for walls and blue for church domes.

 

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Santorini Island, Greece: However, a few pastels have worked their way into the classic cliff-hugging architecture.

 

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Santorini Island, Greece: Once, windmills helped power the pumps and millstones, now they’re just decorative.

 

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Santorini Island, Greece: Fine Greek cuisine carefully combines fresh seafood with slowly simmered sauces.

 

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Santorini Island, Greece: Abby and Rusty lunch in Fira on a patio with a Mediterranean view.

 

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Santorini Island, Greece: While Rusty and Abby walk the 700 steps from the village of Fira down to its waterfront, some visitors elect to ride these donkeys instead.  

 

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Argostoli, Greece: On this island off the west coast of Greece, we taxi to Lassi Beach and finally get to swim in the Ionian Sea!

 

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Venice, Italy: Our ship actually visits here twice during our Mediterranean cruise, near the middle and at the end. So we’ve combined all of our Venice photos for viewing convenience. 

 

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Venice, Italy: Plazza San Morco, the political and religious center with its Campanile (bell tower), the city’s tallest structure.

 

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Venice, Italy: This Piazetta, or little square, has the Doge’s Palace on the left, the library on the right, and the two columns looted from Constantinople — the 2,000-year-old winged lion of St. Mark and St.Theodore vs. a croc.

 

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Venice, Italy: The Correr Museum displays models of the war ships used to establish and maintain the Venetian empire.

 

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Venice, Italy: Interesting trivia — this early gondola features a louvered shutter for the privacy of its passengers. Now you know the origin of our modern Venetian blinds! 

 

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Venice, Italy: The Doge’s Palace’s first floor was home of the Venetian empire’s ruler and his family; upper floors contained ornate governmental halls and meeting rooms.

 

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Venice, Italy: Just one of many immense and extravagant palatial halls.

 

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Venice, Italy: Memorable sculpture of a mother and child.

 

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Venice, Italy: Prisoners tried and found guilty in the Palace’s Hall of Justice (left) had to cross this “Bridge of Sighs” and enter their terrible internment within the Venetian prison (right).

 

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Venice, Italy: Abby and Rusty follow the passageway to the Bridge of Sighs.

 

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Venice, Italy: The last view of the outside world most prisoners got to see.

 

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Venice, Italy: View into the depths of the prison.

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Venice, Italy: Abby can’t wait to get her freedom!

 

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Venice, Italy: Details of St. Mark’s Basilica, built in the 11th century with treasures captured by Venetian war ships. St. Mark’s bones are buried here.

 

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Venice, Italy: This gigantic church glows in the golden light of its bejeweled mosaic interior.

 

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Venice, Italy: This winged lion of St. Mark represents the pride and power of the Republic of Venice.

 

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Venice, Italy: Rusty and Abby spend a morning walking across Venice sightseeing and getting lost in its maze of alleys and canals.
 Travel options in this floating city are limited to either walking or riding a boat — no wheeled motor vehicles are allowed beyond the bus and train stations. 

 

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Venice, Italy: With dozens of holidays and costumed celebrations, Venice is perpetually partying.

 

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Venice, Italy: The tradition of the masked ball probably originated here.

 

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Venice, Italy: The city is bisected by the Grand Canal and most boat traffic must use it, so it can get very crowded.

 

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Venice, Italy: We use the slower water buses, known as vaporetti, but those in a hurry hire an expensive speedboat taxi.

 

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Venice, Italy: Romantics with 100 Euros hire one of these classic Venetian gondolas to glide them around for an hour.

 

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Venice, Italy: Once painted in bright colors, current Venetian law requires that gondolas all be black. Each must be hand made from 280 pieces with 8 types of wood. The front ornament serves as a counterweight to the gondolier.

 

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Venice, Italy: Boats tie up to these brightly painted poles and passengers can disembark directly into their residences.

 

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Venice, Italy: Hundreds of these classic wooden speedboats travel up and down the canals.

 

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Venice, Italy: Secondary canals can be very narrow.

 

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Venice, Italy: Hundreds of footbridges criss-cross these side canals, making transport of goods and luggage difficult.

 

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Venice, Italy: For a hefty fee, these brightly painted barges will move the bigger merchandise to stores and homes.

 

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Murano Island, Italy: To avoid fires in Venice, glass factories were all moved to this island a few miles across the lagoon.

 

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Murano Island, Italy: We watch as craftsmen create magical glass animals similar to these.

 

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Burano Island, Italy: On this neighboring island with its leaning bell tower, lace makers live.

 

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Burano Island, Italy: Artisan women create intricate knotted designs passed down through the generations.

 

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Burano Island, Italy: Details of their intricate needlework.

 

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Burano Island, Italy: Examples of the handicrafts they are able to create.

 

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Burano Island, Italy: Homes here are famous for their fanciful color schemes.

 

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Burano Island, Italy: Legend has it that drunken fishermen needed their own specially colored cottages to ensure that they’d have no excuse for slipping into bed with the wrong wife. 

 

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Venice, Italy: As our tour boat returns us to Venice, a glorious sunset illuminates its spectacular skyline.

 

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Venice Italy: We now understand why Venice is called the City of Islands and Queen of the Adriatic.

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Venice, Italy: On our last day in Venice, Abby returns to the Rialto Bridge and a special jewelry shop she’d found there.

 

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Venice, Italy: In the Le Perle, she purchases special Murano glass earrings.

 

Nieuw Amsterdam plus tenders

Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam with lifeboat tenders. Our ship carries 2000 passengers, 900 crew on 12 decks.

 

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While we usually tie up to a port dock, in smaller locations a tender transfers passengers to shore and back.

 

Rusty on deck

Rusty photographing from the Promenade deck.

 

Nieuw Amsterdam aft pool

The aft swimming pool favored by Abby is for adults only.

 

Nieuw Amsterdam NYC chandilier

The New York Skyline chandelier that hangs in the three-story Atrium. 

 

Nieuw Amsterdam staff farewell

The final farewell from representatives of the ship’s outstanding staff.

Abby’s Mediterranean Cruise Ramblings
Our 24-day cruise on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam departed from Barcelona on September 21 and finished in Venice on October 15. We spent two extra nights both in Barcelona prior to the cruise and in Venice at its end.

What we enjoyed most about cruising:
– Twenty-four days in one comfortable cabin with all clothes and other needs stowed only once in closets and drawers.
– A comfortable king-sized bed with the waves gently rocking us to sleep
each night.
– The helpful, kind, fun staff (most were Indonesian or Filipino): room stewards Dika and Rosa, Cruise Director Mario, and location expert Tom.
– The amazing variety and quantities of food (both healthy and not so).
– Meeting other people from around the world
(including Swedes, many Aussies, and a few Brits).
– Walking the Promenade Deck many mornings — three times around
equals one mile.
– Entertainment, especially the B.B. King Blues Club band with its man and woman singers who knew all the old soul and rhythm and blues classics.
– Rick Steve’s ‘Mediterranean Cruise Ports’ book was immensely helpful as we planned our brief visits to each port.
– We decided that the second half of this cruise was best since we had
more time to explore the destinations of Venice, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and then back to Venice.
– Abby loved reading books recommended by friends that focused on places from our cruise:
   >  Shadow of the Wind (eerie novel set in Barcelona)
   >  The Drifters by James Michener that starts in 1969 in Torremolinos, Spain, with college-age vagabonds.
   >  The Four Seasons: historical novel about Vivaldi and sisters raised in a nunnery in Venice.
   >  The City of Fallen Angels: a nonfiction description of Venice and its characters by an American journalist who lived there during the time of the Fenice Opera House fire.
   >  The Island: historical novel about the leper colony and Crete, Greece.
   >  And No Bird Sang: Farley Mowat’s memoir about his WW II army service in Sicily and Italy.
   >  The Prince of Medicine: nonfiction about Ephesus.

Problems and reservations about cruising:
– Illness: Despite our due diligence, as well as the cruise staff’s efforts at germ protection, on our ninth day of cruising, Rusty got a sore throat and high fever. The next morning, he went to the ship’s clinic but passed out while waiting to see a doctor. What a way to go to the front of the line! That night, Abby also started feeling ill. She was achey, couldn’t keep keep food down, and just wanted to sleep for a couple of days. Her virus then went into her chest resulting in lots of coughing. In a day or two, our California friends also got this bug. In all the ship’s public spaces, we were hearing that same familiar cough. Previously, Abby had gotten a flu shot although Rusty had not. Once home, we did Internet research and learned that Australia (coming out of winter) had a large number of H1N1 flu cases that year. The symptoms sure fit what we’d experienced. Both of us lost two-plus days of activities due to this vicious virus. The good news was that Abby did not gain weight on the cruise, which she would have done otherwise.
– Weather: The captain chose to cancel visits to three ports due to high winds endangering tendering of passengers to shore and back (Monte Carlo in Monaco, Taormina in Italy, and Katakolon in Greece).
– Liquor: Prices were way too high. Happy Hour helped. At least we didn’t drink too much!

So, will we take a cruise again? We are still undecided but look forward to learning more from other’s experiences. 

 


Mothers’ Day Reflections

Today, Sunday, May 13, I’m writing about our journey two weeks ago into Brazil. It’s Mother’s Day, and I’ve been feeling nostalgic, missing my kids. We woke up around 8:00 and calculated that it was 2 p.m. in Tanzania, so tried to reach Jonathan. No answer. So I said, “What time is it in Sedro Wooley?” (where Jodee lives). Rusty did another quick calculation and said that it was three hours less or 11:00 a.m., so we called her. She answered immediately. I said “Bong jjee-ah” which means good morning in Portuguese. Silence. So next I said, “Jodee, it’s Mom.” And she said, “Is everything OK? It’s still night here, so I thought something was wrong.” Woops! Rusty figured the time wrong. It was actually around 5:00 a.m. in Sedro Wooley. We told her we’d call back later.

I took the small collection of photos of our family to breakfast and shared them with the sweet, gracious woman who helps with breakfast and cleans our room. When I asked her about her family, she proudly named her three children who span from six to 18 years old. Soon they stopped by to see their mom on the way to a family gathering (yes, it is Mother’s Day here as well). I was sad that she needed to work on Mother’s Day and miss the family gathering. 

On our next attempt to call Jonathan, he answered. In Tanzania, they don’t celebrate Mother’s Day so he was clueless. He was eating his lunch and visiting in Swahili with some neighbor. Sounding happy, as he usually has when we’ve reached him, he warned us that his cell phone battery was almost out of juice. So three minutes into the conversation, just as we were learning how he and some youth leaders are starting a soccer/youth empowerment group that will include information on HIV/AIDS prevention, his phone shut off. Nevertheless, it was so wonderful to hear his voice.

So back to Jodee, now 8:30 a.m. her time. We had a thirty-minute much needed catch-up. Last year on this day, we had all gone to the Wooley Mammoth, the large, communal house, where she now lives, for the well-attended Mother’s Day celebration. Based on that visit, Jodee, Pablo (her dog), and Lala (her cat) moved-in, and now they continue to be happy with the decision. She’s gearing-up for the Fremont Summer Solstice street fair, the next big venue for her pottery. Her other good news was that she now works one to two days a week at the Nell Thorn Restaurant in La Conner, a special gourmet restaurant. 

Since we’ve mainly been connecting with Jodee via e-mail, it was extra comforting to hear her voice. 

Our small photo collection includes some family shots with my mother and Rusty’s mother with us. We shared our love for them today and felt that they were smiling down on us on this Mother’s Day in Ihla do Mel (Honey Island) in Brazil. I hope that our friends had or remembered special Mother’s Days as well.


We prepare for our night hike

Wonderful family memories. No, Jonathan and Jodee are not with us in Brazil. This was from our 2009 trip to tropical, humid Costa Rica.

Happy Mother’s Day!

The Waterfalls of Iguazu: A Wonderland of Falling Water

Iguaçu National Park of Brazil

We were on our way to see the Waterfalls of Iguaçu, one of the most famous natural wonders of South America. We’d both read the descriptions and learned that, on first experiencing Iguaçu, Eleanor Roosevelt had exclaimed, “Poor Niagra!” But though we truly tried, our imaginations were incapable of envisioning the placid, half-mile-wide Iguaçu River winding around a series of small islands and then plunging 300 feet down, all along the edge of a two-mile-long escarpment. After getting up early and finishing an excellent Brazilian-style breakfast buffet at our hotel, Abby and I walked out across the highway to catch the next bus to the park’s entrance.

We’d only been standing there a few minutes when a big, black BMW sedan pulled up and its distinguished-looking driver offered us a lift. As we climbed in, he introduced himself as a helicopter pilot for one of the private excursion companies that regularly took wealthier tourists on scenic flights over the falls (for a hefty fee). This sharply dressed, middle-aged man laughed when we realized that it was a walk of only a few hundred yards farther up the hill from our hotel to arrive at the park entrance. We offered our gratitude for his short ride and waved farewell as he sped away.

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At the entrance, we purchased tickets for the day and caught a free shuttle bus to take us the couple of miles into the heart of the park where the viewing trails started.

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Across from the main trailhead was the elegant pink edifice of the grand old Hotel das Cataratas, the original and only hotel within this park’s boundaries.

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IMG 3082Before we even started our hike east toward the Rio Iguaçu, we could hear its rumbling thunder; then we caught sight of the first falls.

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As far as we could see was this wonderland of falling water!

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The billowing mists rose from Iguazu canyon, cooling and coating us with its fine spray. Abby watched birds soaring high above.

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Along this section of the lower river, it dropped over the basalt cliffs in a series of chutes and curtains.

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But up river were the spectacular free-falling cataracts called The Devil’s Throat.

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The morning sun lit the spray, forming sparkling rainbows!

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This catwalk allowed visitors to view the center of The Devil’s Throat and surround themselves in its spray.

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Checkout this short video shot by Abby to see and hear the falls!

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Along the trail to the restaurant, we began to see coatis, raccoon-like characters who weren’t shy of people.

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However, we soon learned that they were major pests around any eating area.

IMG 3084The littlest coatis could climb into the poorly designed waste baskets, and many visitors carelessly left food scraps or deliberately ignored the ‘Do Not Feed’ signs.

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Wouldn’t this be an amazing place to run a marathon?

By late afternoon, we had circled this park several times to experience again the magnificent views under the constantly changing lighting conditions. Enchanted but exhausted, we decided to conclude this truly sensational day. Now realizing just how close the park entrance was to our hotel, we chose to walk down the half-mile-long hill back along the highway. But away from the waterfalls’ cooling mists, we found ourselves soon getting hot and thirsty. Fortunately, Abby spotted a roadside vendor of hammocks who also offered refreshments, including ice-cold coconuts. With his handy machete, he lopped the top off one for us, inserted a straw, and handed it to us to drink. The refreshing water in our coconut contained many natural electrolytes. Now rehydrated and recharged, we happily walked the remaining distance to our hotel.

Iguazu National Park of Argentina

The Brazil side of the Iguazu Falls offered us a broad view across the canyon to the hundreds of cascading curtains of water as the river droped over the escarpment’s edge. But the advantage of the Argentina side, and the reason that we spent two days and a night exploring it, was that we could walk around, above, and across these cataracts while also exploring the much larger cloud forest (and its exotic inhabitants) that existed on that side of the river. 

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Here, we hiked trails and catwalks that crossed the edge of the escarpment and allowed us to get both above and below these falling waters.

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 Some visitors chose to pay extra for an optional adventure cruise taking them into one of the tamer falls.

 

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Instead, we chose to take the park’s free boat trip over to San Martin Island where we could explore the world’s only walkable island completely surrounded by waterfalls.

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Like a target’s bull’s eye, this island placed us in the canyon’s central basin surrounded by the biggest falls. 

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The island’s blossoms loved the clouds of spray.

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For reasons we didn’t understand (tasty, careless tourists?), hundreds of vultures lived in the trees of this island.

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The park’s free train took us to the catwalk that extended a mile across the river where we could look directly down into The Devil’s Throat.

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Our first view of it looked like a giant sinkhole that was swallowing most of the river.

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But from the viewing platform, we could see down into the roaring “throat” and out along the misty canyon beyond.

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The 6th of May was the closest and brightest full moon of the year, so we signed up (and payed extra) to take the park’s special moonlight tour.

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After a bountiful buffet at the park restaurant,  their 9 p.m. train took us back to the catwalk over to the Devil’s Throat—there we marveled in its indigo glow as moonlit mists enveloped, soaked, and chilled us.

 

The Wild Things in the Forests of Iguazu

To our delight, we learned that this park offered a second-day visit for half price if we had them stamp our tickets as we left that first afternoon. Park guides informed us that wildlife viewing was usually best first thing in the morning (before most of the big tour groups showed up), so Abby and I arrived right at the 8 a.m. opening time. Here are just a few of the animals and birds (and other wonderful things) that we discovered as we walked the miles of trails winding through this magical place. Many other creatures were either too quick or too distant for us to photograph.

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Toco Toucans do visit this park, but are rather shy, so stay high up.

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Listen for what sounds like the croaking of frogs in the treetops and look for that big orange bill!

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A pair of Crested Guans, almost as big as turkeys, dashed by us in the undergrowth.

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We enjoyed seeing these Plush Crested Jays picking nuts and stashing them away for winter.

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These talented mimics use a wide range of vocalizations.

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Related to crows and very intelligent, they seemed to come closest when Abby whistled to them.

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We believe that this was a female Violaceous Trogon—these sang beautifully but didn’t sit still long.

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In the Tupi language, Agouti means “He who eats sitting.”

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We spotted several Agouti early as we walked the Macuco Trail.

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Of course, Coatis were everywhere.

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Especially where they weren’t supposed to be!

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This little squirrel was also gathering nuts.

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What sounded like wind in the treetops turned out to be a tribe of Brown Capuchin monkeys—this big male watched us intently.

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Mother with youngster gave us a look.

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Be sure to also check the streams and ponds—this huge catfish circled under our bridge.

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Turtles loved basking in the sun.

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Multicolored mariposas (butterflies) darted everywhere.

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This one took a special liking to Abby and stayed with her for several minutes.

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Many types of mushrooms poked up through the leaves.

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But our wildest discovery turned out to be those four young doctors we’d met a week before in Uruguay!

 A Few Tips If You’re Planning a Trip to Iguazu

If at all possible, go to both the Brazil and Argentine sides of the falls. Some folks go on a single-day tour that covers one side of the falls in the morning and the other side in the afternoon; but that would really rush what should instead be a two- to three-day extended experience. Because we had the luxury of time, we chose to spend one day on the Brazilian side and two days (plus the full-moon walk night) on the Argentine side. We first flew into the airport on the Brazil side and spent the afternoon getting situated at our hotel and learning about the area before going to the Brazil park the next morning. If you have plenty of money, you might want to stay at the Hotel das Cataratas, the only hotel within the Brazilian park boundaries. It is a big, palacial old place that has the advantage of allowing guests to explore the park well before and after the times set for outside tourists. However, because of its higher costs, we chose to stay just half a mile outside the park at the more affordable Hotel Harbor Colonial. It offered many family amenities (like a swimming pool), big comfortable rooms, an excellent breakfast (included with the room), and an optional (but well priced) dinner buffet—we ate there two nights in a row, with different dishes prepared each night.

Once in the Brazil park, their free shuttle bus goes to several potential stopping points. We chose the third stop in order to take the best walking trails above the river. We found that the Brazil side of this river provided sweeping views of the hundreds of falls on the other side. The early morning had the best light for photos on this side. If sunny, you’ll see rainbows in the mist everywhere you look. We learned that all the outside snack bars and restaurants swarmed with pesky coatis, those cute raccoon cousins that tried to get everyone’s food. We spent almost eight hours circling the various trails to take pictures and enjoy the changing light on the waterfalls.

We spent a second night and leisurely morning in our Brazil-side hotel. We had arranged with the hotel travel service to have their shuttle driver take us across the border and over to our hotel on the Argentine side (for only U.S. $35 for both of us). Our driver took charge of the passport processing at both immigration offices, making this border crossing quick and totally painless.

We used the afternoon to get situated in our Argentine hotel and learn about that side’s city and park. We stayed at the Jasy Hotel, only a five-minute walk to the downtown restaurants and bus station. There are many other hotel options here. The Argentine park is over twice the size of the Brazilian one, and its trails take you both over and under the falls. They also offer a free train ride to the 1.5-mile-long catwalk out to the observation platform at the edge of the Devil’s Throat. And don’t forget to take their free boat ride over to San Martin Island for close-up views of other falls and the vultures.

The Argentina park opened an hour earlier (at 8 a.m.) than the Brazilian side. A second day on the Argentine side was half price, but only if you get your tickets stamped as you leave on the first day. We learned from the park guides that we could expect to see much more wildlife if we started the trails right when the park opened.

While hiking the upper trail, we noticed a frog-like calling from high in the trees and were delighted to discover several Toco Toucans squawking to each other. So be sure to frequently check the treetops for birds and for Capuchin monkeys!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Tips Trivia

What follows are some of the things that have either enhanced or detracted from our travels. The first of which are our big brown rolling duffel bags from Eddie Bauer. Fred and Laura were worried about their size and how much we had filled them. They were correct to worry. We brought too much stuff and the bags have also not been made to withstand South American rolling on uneven pavement. Within the first month, we both found shoe-repair men who bolstered the front straps that were tearing-away from the bag. Recently we both noticed that the rolling wheels were beginning to bow-out. Then one of Rusty’s rubber wheels started to fall apart. He has now used silicon glue to try to save the wheel, but we are also checking the prices of new bags—very expensive. Perhaps in Buenos Aires we’ll ship home some of our winter clothing that we need now, but won’t need in Brazil. We still like the idea of rolling bags, but need to learn to pack more like the many young back-packers we’ve met.

Our day packs by Pacsafe have withstood the test of time. We relish the many security enhancements (hidden zippers) and cut-proof fabric. We highly recommend this company. To keep our money secure, Rusty keeps his wallet in a front pocket or zip pocket in some of his travel trousers. I keep my money in a small leather change purse that I keep deep in a front pocket. We both have passport pouches that can go around our necks when we are in airports or border crossings. Otherwise we bury these deep inside our day packs and just keep a copy of our passport in our wallet or change purse. We’ve had a few things stolen from hotel rooms, like my favorite red nylon travel shirt that I didn’t notice missing for a few days. So now I keep favorite things out of site or inside my zipped bags. For bus trips, we lock our bags with travel locks.

Shoes are such an important part of this journey. My favorite and almost always-worn shoes are my Keen sandals, now, in this chilly autumn air, often worn with socks. In the Galapagos, they were the perfect trail and beach shoe. Rusty wishes he had brought his Keens. Instead, his favorite for great comfort and support are his Columbia, waterproof, hightop, trail runners. I made the mistake of buying some trail shoes on sale at REI right before leaving. Unfortunately they were a tad bit small on my right foot and soon I had a black and blue big toe nail. Yuck. So I traded those with a street vendor for a collapsable duffel bag that we needed for the Galapagos boat trip. In Cuenca, Ecuador, I bought some waterproof hiking boots on sale. They were essential for our rainy day at Machu Picchu and on a few other occasions, but usually I prefer to wear my more comfortable, lighter Keens. Once on a rainy morning on one of the islands in Lake Titicaca, I wore black plastic bags over my socks within my Keens and kept my feet dry on the muddy trails.

Before leaving home we bought an overview-type book on all of South America and the Moon guide to Panama. Since then, as we get close to new countries we search for book stores with English guide books. It seems that the only new guide books available down here are by Lonely Planet. Once at a used book store we found the Moon guide to the Sacred Valley and Macchu Picchu and at a book exchange an old Fodor’s guide to Argentina. We still prefer Moon. Now we need to buy a guide book for Brazil and we so hope to find the most recent Moon guide, but will probably need to buy the one by Lonely Planet. We also recently have found the website: Hostelworld quite helpful in locating hostels. We’ve enjoyed the ones that have private “matrimonial” double rooms with bathrooms. On a few occasions we’ve had shared bathrooms, which we don’t much care for. The hostels and hosterias have a large central breakfast area where we’ve enjoyed meeting fellow travelers, most the age of our children, backpackers from all over the world. Most hostels also have a kitchen where folks prepare some of their own lunches and dinners.

Another thing we wish we left at home was the extra, small bag that holds Rusty’s tripod and walking poles for the two of us. When we took the walking poles to Machu Pucchu, where they might have helped us with all the climbing, the crowds were so thick and we were so busy with our cameras, we finally put the walking poles away. Also we’re not using the binoculars much.

A must and used-daily device has been our Steripen water sanitizer. This little battery-operated ultraviolet light will, in only 90 seconds, kill all harmful bacteria and viruses in a liter of water. Since we can make our own safe drinking water, we don’t have to buy bottled water, saving both money and wasted plastic. We have a one-liter Nalgene bottle and several smaller metal bottles for hiking. Mentioned once previously in our blog has been the pocket GPS that has helped us find our way on many occasions.

We couldn’t do without:  my Swiss Army knife and Rusty’s Leatherman tool; a calculator; earplugs; our headlamps that we’ve used on dark streets as well as for reading in bed when there are no bed lamps. We’ve done well with our rechargeable batteries and mini-charger, and our foreign power-plug adaptors.

Laundry has been much easier than my trip to Peru and Ecuador 30 years ago. We have used the service provided at some hostels as well as using “lavanderias,” laundry services, in the neighborhoods. We pay under $10 for a couple of weeks of mixed colors clothes. When in Boquete, our friend Cliff shared that his favorite jeans disappeared at one lavanderia, so we learned to document all the items we were leaving, but have had no problems. I also have learned how handy the bidets that are in all bathrooms in Argentina are for hand-washables. We bought a flat, round piece of rubber as a stopper and carry laundry detergent. Bidets are rather fascinating. Look them up on Wikepedia to see their uses throughout the world. Who would think that some people never use toilet paper! I’ve found that they are also perfect for shaving legs and cooling and washing my feet when I come back from a dusty, hot walk. Now I know why our world-traveler friend, Vicki, had a bidet installed in her bathroom in Seattle.

Yesterday, we met Katie, a young Colorado woman who will soon be starting a Masters program at Western in Bellingham. She’s a vegetarian and noted how much weight she had lost in Argentina. Rusty is having similar problems. Probably because I’m more of a meat-eater, I am holding steady. But we both are having a heck of a time following our healthy and particular diet preferences. There’s no way I can avoid wheat without starving, and unfortunately, the wheat served is almost always white flour. Rusty has found that he cannot stay off dairy since cheese is served in so many dishes. We love corn, rice, and beans, but find that Argentines do not. Recently, hungry for Mexican food, we’ve gone to three different Mexican restaurants in three different cities. Only one served corn chips or corn tortillas.They start the meal with white bread and salsa. In the one that did use corn, their enchiladas were made from a flat corn bread. They have no idea of spicy “hot.” And sweets, oh my. Argentines love sweets. With their breakfast croissants that are often sprinkled with white sugar, they serve the Argentine spread that is as popular as peanut butter is in the USA, “crème de leche,” a type of caramel spread.

Next to the comforts-of-home items. I am so happy that Rusty downloaded our favorite 150 albums onto his iPod before we left home. As we sit right now in our B & B room in Valle La Angostura, we are listening to Fay Vance, an Irish folk artist we heard at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. The iPod sits on a little amplifier-speaker system and brings us such peace and memories of good times past with friends and family.

This little MacBook Air laptop has been magnificent! Besides all the e-mails, photo downloads, editing, and blogging, we also use it to Skype with Jonathan in Tanzania. The only problem has been with the touchpad which doesn’t respond to my fingers. For some reason I have almost no finger ridges; I learned this on many occasions in the past few years of identity checks for my education jobs. The officials continually sent me back for more readable fingerprints, until the State Patrol would finally give-up. Rusty fixed this touchpad problem by getting me a small mouse to use.

Another gem has been our Nook electronic reader. I can download books from the King County Library, “checking them out” for three weeks. It’s hard to get some South American titles and the latest books because of the demand, but older books are plentiful. If I need to buy a book, buying it online from Barnes and Noble is much cheaper than buying it in a book store. We’ve also found new authors and titles in the book exchanges we’ve come across. These we read and then pass along at the next book exchange.

Update on Jonathan

Update on Jonathan. Some of you have been asking about Jonathan, somewhere in the Peace Corps in Africa. You’ve been concerned since he has not updated his blog for over a month. Don’t be concerned, but know that he might not be updating his blog any time soon. He’s now in his assigned village that is a day’s walk from a town with internet accessibility.

One of our BEST Christmas presents was talking to him on the phone right before we departed for the Galapagos. He’s in a village in the highlands of Tanzania, a four-hour walk from Lake Malawi. His Peace Corps training had been in Dar es Salam, in a very hot and humid area of the country. So he was so pleased to learn that after his two and half months of training that his assignment would be in the highlands, where he could see his breath in the early morning! He’s the only Peace Corps member there and has a little house in the center of the village.

His Swahili is coming along. The people are very friendly In fact, always knocking on his door and then coming in, sitting down, wanting to visit. But Jonathan is only still able to talk the basics, so the visitors just sit. He’s learning much about the different customs, particularly about “social property.” The concept of personal property is nonexistent, so, for example, his guitar has become a play-thing of visitors.

He sounded happy. While we were talking, a villager came in and Jonathan spoke Swahili about his “mama” and “papa.” As far as using English, he was pleased that there was one teacher in the village who spoke English. We didn’t learn much yet about his Peace Corps job specifics, so more later on that.

He said there were pigs, cow, dogs, cats, rats, and goats in the village. In fact, he might soon have a pet cat to help with the rodents.

Malaria and AIDS are the significant health problems in Tanzania and he’s working on AIDS education. That’s all for now. “Uhuru na Umaja”–Freedom and unity! Keep him in your thoughts and prayers.


 

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Kaiti and Jonathan in September just before he left for Africa.

Abby reflects on Latino families

First we had that marvelous month with the Panama family in Boquete — a family that included the 40-year old daughter who lived with her father and mother. So after our fabulous week in a hotel in Bocas del Toro, we needed to plan our stay in Quito, Ecuador. I recalled how I used the Web site “airbnb” in August to book a week’s rental of a cottage in Cape Cod for a get-away with two childhood friends. So we checked the site for rentals in Quito and were so lucky to find a posting by “David” in Quito for the rental of a room in his family’s home for $23/night. We decided to book three nights and hoped for the best.

We hit the jackpot. David met us at the airport. There stood this good looking young man, about the age of Jonathan, who surprised us with his good English. He had been a foreign exchange student in Oregon a few years back! He drove us to his large three story townhouse where we met his mother, Nancy, father, Carlos, brother, Carlos Jr., and aunt, Guadalupe, all who lived in this large home together. He took us to our room on the third floor that  looked out on the city lights of Quito with mountains behind. Our “suite” had a bathroom just for us.

David then drove us the ten miles south into Old Quito to a fabulous mediterranean restaurant that had a stunning view of the city. We ate outside on the patio and got to know David.

We ended up staying five nights with the Castillo family, all of whom were so loving and kind to us. It seems that in most stable, happy Latino families, the children live at home until they are married. While David’s oldest brother, Roberto now lives with his wife in another home, David and his other brother, both in their mid twenties, live at home. Mother, Nancy, often went to Roberto’s house after work to help care for Roberto’s two young children. Auntie Guadalupe’s role in the home is to prepare and serve the meals since all the other members of the family work outside the home. One evening, everyone was out except Guadalupe, so the three of us watched Ecuador play Argentina in soccer, cheering as Ecuador won 2 to 0. We were truly treated like members of the family. Who knows (listen-up Jodee, Jonathan, and Alice) maybe the Latino way of family togetherness makes good sense!


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David and Rusty at his home
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Carlos Jr. and David at the family’s auto-electric supply store
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Nancy and Abby
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Tia Guadalupe

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