Day 2,133 of Traveling the World | San Juan, Puerto Rico | December 3, 2003

San Juan? Muy bien! San Juan is very familiar to us, as we have been here several times, both for stays of several days and as one-day stops on cruise ships. So we were very surprised that we have never written a blog about it. The reason would be that we haven’t been here since we started our homeless life, nor did we provide it as a retrospective during the Covid lockdown. So we went out to wander around and take some photos to give you the flavor of the city. One year, we drove around the island and visited a coffee and chocolate farm, which was most interesting, even though it was just a demonstration/education farm, rather than a profit-making enterprise. We learned during the visit that, since they have the US minimum wage and OSHA requirements, etc., they couldn’t compete on price with most of the countries involved in coffee production. That also explains why Kona coffee from Hawaii is extremely expensive (note that most “Kona” coffee you find in stores is really 10% Kona).

Ships dock in Old Town San Juan, so it is easy to walk off the ship and into what often feels like the typical 1920s Caribbean town. In 1508, Ponce de Leon explored this island “discovered” by Christopher Columbus. Columbus named the entire island San Juan Baptista, and the capital city – you guessed it – Ciudad de Puerto Rico. With time, the two names got flipped, so we visited the city of San Juan and the island of Puerto Rico. San Juan is the second oldest European settlement in the Americas, and the entire Old Town San Juan is still enclosed by the original fortress walls, dating back to Ponce de Leon.

Here, filigree cast iron balconies abound, along with cobblestone streets, lush foliage, and historic colonial architecture. Some buildings show their wear from the effects of the sea, wind, and storms, but most have been lovingly restored. Cigars are still rolled by hand here and sold in stores and kiosks. Rum is popular, along with coconut and pineapple – the perfect recipe for a Pina Colada, which was invented in the city. Their famous island dish, mofongo, consists of crushed green plantains mixed with crispy pork skins and garlic. Every other restaurant advertises mofongo as their “specialty.” San Juan has a nice mixture of English and Spanish signage, but the feeling is tropical, fun, lush, and it is oh-so-colorful. Very warm and sunny, it is the perfect escape from northern winters.

A lovely, tropical day from a viewpoint.
This was a small coffee/pastry cafe with a beautiful outdoor seating area.
Town Hall is decked out for Christmas.
We weren’t sure if this was set up as a sort of Christmas Village, or if it always decorates the front of this store. Observing the building colors – and the balconies – it is certainly a depiction of San Juan.
St. John the Baptist Cathedral. Except for some peeling paint from water leaks, the inside was beautiful. We weren’t sure from the outside it was still operating, as we approached from the rear. The exterior is in rough shape, and the entire fenced parking lot was filled with day parkers. But the front door was open and welcoming.
This is the lovely dome over the main altar, with a trompe d’oeil depiction of arches and a balcony.
You know, it’s no wonder we like horror movies – a childhood of seeing saints’ images – like this gruesome one – and of course, crucifixes showing Jesus being tortured. It all seemed commonplace back then – and looks like it still is.
Plaza de la Catedral, which was very pretty and very busy.
La Nave de Los Pinguinos (Jorge Zeno, 2000) – a fantasy animal sculpture in Plaza de la Catedral.
This colorful balcony had updated colors on a historic house, along with a cute and colorful artificial banana plant – no feeding or pruning necessary.
An outdoor restaurant down a narrow walkway, set back from the street.
Capella de Cristo de la Salud (Christ Chapel), at the dead end of a cobblestone street adjacent to the Pigeon Park.
Parque de las Palomas – Park of the Pigeons. There is a sign for buying pigeon food on the front of this tiny building.
…and here they are! They were all over this woman, all over the ground, all over anyone who walked into the park.
She, however, seems to be savoring her pigeon experience.
The colors! Caribbean islands sure love to dazzle.
Wellll…the Caribe Hilton is credited with inventing the Pina Colada. We thought perhaps this is the building where it was invented, but the Caribe Hilton is more than two miles from here. Maybe this is a fantasy in the same league with restaurants declaring themselves “World Famous.”
Nice ornamentation on an old building.
The hanging garlands of flowers made this bar very inviting.
Reading this inscription, we realize we had the wrong idea about this fountain. It looked like someone had been thrown overboard, who is horrified, descending into the sea. But it is, in fact, a widower’s memorial to his paralyzed wife, who swam 40 daily laps in a pool.
All decked out for the holidays, this super-pink building was full of people.
Around the pink La Casita were about two dozen mosaic plaques in the sidewalk, like this one.
This company was founded in 1902, and its famous product was a nonalcoholic drink called Kola Champagne. The original tiles are really colorful.
These four buildings, all neighbors, show that different colors can live in perfect harmony.
A “Pride” arch, welcoming us to the ocean walkway.

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Day 2,130 of Traveling the World | St. John’s, Antigua | November 30, 2023

Land ahoy! After almost a week at sea, we sailed into the pretty harbor of St. John’s in Antigua. Contradictions abound here – from the ship, the water was beautiful Caribbean turquoise, the sun was gleaming, and it looked like paradise. Close up, it lost some of its luster and was another story. Walking into the port, we first walked through a tourist-created area of jewelry and souvenir shops. It was nice, and it was clean, but it felt artificial. We found the contradictions of the city when we walked into town. From an attractive area of manufactured retail shops, and gorgeous views from the ship, we walked into a fairly poor Caribbean city. A lot of it was downtrodden and fading, but some businesses had newly painted their building and tried to perk up the neighborhood. Many people set up umbrellas that shaded tables out on the streets, selling both fruits and vegetables as well as textiles and souvenirs. There were 3-4 places that had music blaring so loudly that none of the (mostly older) cruise passengers would enter, and in fact, walked by more quickly to save their hearing.

By the time we had gotten to Antigua we had had five days of poor ship internet. The ship had told us that the area we were passing through had only intermittent coverage. So we were looking forward to catching up with our blogging and other business using fast land-based internet. We were disappointed when neither our Google Fi SIM, which supposedly covered Antigua, nor our Discover+ 130 Country SIM, which also supposedly covered Antigua, gave us any data transmission. We finally bought an eSIM that was meant only for Antigua and Barbuda, and it provided marginal and inconsistent service, reaching only LTE from time to time. It doesn’t appear, from our one-day experience, that their wireless data system is at all robust or reliable.

One thing we have noticed in the dozens of ports we have visited throughout the world is that those tropical island “paradises” that have a connection to a larger, wealthier nation tend to be more pleasant places for visitors. Puerto Rico, where our next blog will be written from, has had endless discussions about becoming independent, becoming a US state, or maintaining its current status. Since a majority of the populace never agreed on any change, it has just stayed a Commonwealth and unincorporated territory of the US. We have been there many times and find it vastly more pleasant. Some of our other favorite islands are the US and British Virgin Islands, Tahiti (a French territory), Saint Martin (French and Dutch), the Canary Islands (Spanish) and of course, the Hawaiian Islands. It is great that people have the chance to follow their own path, but realistically, it is hard for a small island or group of islands to create a wealthy society. It is a little heartbreaking to see people trying so hard to improve their lot in life, but knowing that as long as they stay on their poor island, they won’t be able to make much advancement.

On our Transatlantic voyage, it was surprising that it was never cold, even in November. Most of the days were nice enough to sit on the outside deck for meals, and Antigua was our very first “tropical heat” day, as the temperature was in the high 80s. It was also rather humid, but that is why people flock to the Caribbean, particularly during the winter – it is always a nice escape from snow, ice, and cold.

Our view upon arrival – gorgeous.
The waterside restaurants and cafes were colorful and inviting.
“Exotic Antigua” may – just may – be a slight exaggeration.
Donuts in a colorful building.
Another colorful building, but as you see, people walk in the street to avoid cracks and holes in the pavements – even though the street itself needs repair.
Having nothing to do with the book or movie, Rambo’s sells clothing and backpacks.
“A drainage ditch runs through it.” NOT an attractive water feature.
The green building is a clothing store named “Trendy.”
Umbrellas and folding tables made for many a retail store here.
Some American delights – at a cost!
This is a “Variety Store.”
One of four casinos we passed – on a poor island that has no money to gamble. Two of the casinos across the street from each other were both named Paradise.
Sculpture of Sir Vere Cornwall Bird, the first Prine Minister of the independent Antigua and Barbuda, and known as the Father of the Country.
Typical buildings, bottom half painted, top half left “natural.”
This store is The Life Saver.
Public school school children all wear uniforms, with some of the cost of the uniforms paid by the government. There is also a code for students’ hair. (Notice that they are walking in the street, as we did.)
Here is another girls’ uniform. The boys we saw all were wearing ties! In this heat!
One of the more colorful restaurants we saw.
An afternoon shot from the ship.
Green hills and a blue sky – looking good out there.
…and one last shot.

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Day 2,126 of Traveling the World | Santa Cruz de Tenerife | Canary Islands, Spain | November 26, 2023

Nobody out there thinks the Canary Islands are named after a yellow bird, right? Right??!?!! No, the name is taken from the Latin for “Island of the Dogs, “ Canariae Insulae. The islands were named by King Juba II of Mauritania, as he claimed that there were a large number of dogs on the islands.

Our cruise ship docked in a very different place than the other times we visited. We forgot there was a free shuttle to take us to the City Centre, and so walked out of the port. So glad we did, as it was a whole other experience. We found pedestrian-only shopping areas, a few plazas, and a sense of the locals’ city rather than the area catering to cruise ship passengers. Each time we have visited, we were aware that we were walking in the footsteps of European explorers, like Columbus, whose last chance for provisions was in the Canary Islands. It gives you a unique view into history. And even though the Canary Islands are a Spanish autonomous community and archipelago, they are 810 miles off the coast of Spain, but, much closer, only 130 miles off the coast of Africa.

In our walk around the downtown, we happened upon several plazas, and all were filled with sculptures and Christmas decorations. It was almost like being in the US, with many familiar stores, but the US doesn’t have quite the number of plazas, squares, and public places. And the number of sculptures was off the charts! Check them out – particularly the first photo. From our first viewpoint, we thought it was just a human torso, from the chest down, but we discovered the statue’s head and face when we reached the other side. For a few hours, we felt transported. It wasn’t at all the city we remembered, but it was a city whose acquaintance we were happy to make. It was larger and more sophisticated than we remembered, and it would be a place that would be worth a long stay.

This humanoid tree is so beautiful, gleaming in the sun. Titled Lo Llevo Bien (I’m Doing Well) and created by Basque artist Julio Nieto, it symbolizes “the optimism of the human being, who, despite all thoughts, takes it well.” The branches are the figure’s thoughts, in many languages. We noticed one branch said simply, NOSTALGIA.
Lots of masts – lots of boats – lots of fun for the owners.
Monument to the Fallen in Plaza de Espana.
The Guardian, armed and ready.
We are equal opportunity photographers…if we show one side, we show the other, when available. You can tell by the shine on the cheeks – that people rub them for good luck!
Fountain and accompanying lake in Plaza de Espana.
This smokin’ chica has some serious Botox lips!
It was hard to tell what these are until we were right on top of them. We discovered the trio was the Three Kings, with their gifts as well.
Still naming restaurants after their island group…
What is a cow doing on this balcony?
A tram system runs through the city. It is clean, cheap, and pretty much runs on time, so we hear.
Bronze sculpture, titled Per Adriano, of a theatrical mask at the top of the stairs leading to Theatre Guimera (Igor Mitaraj, 1993).
A great old building – the doors look like a Frank Lloyd Wright design, and as your eye is drawn upward, all different styles emerge.
This store – and upstairs residences – are ready for Christmas.
La Hierbita has been around for 130 years.
Mr. Wonderful?!?! Wondering if the owner is a Shark Tank aficionado – or just a fan of Kevin O’Leary.
Such a pretty store, with a tattoo parlor just above.
It seems the Virgin Mary – this time appearing as a Day of the Dead icon – is a favorite mascot for Mexican restaurants.
The throne? For Santa Claus, of course. The decorated mailbox? For children’s letters to Santa, with “the list of demands.” The plaza? Plaza de Chicharro.
Do you know what this tree is? We took a few guesses and were wrong. It is a Dragon Tree, in Plaza de Chicharro.
This could be in any US city…but it is in the sunny, warm, Atlantic Ocean. It is funny that even countries that don’t have a Thanksgiving Day, they have a day ripe for sales – Black Friday. We saw that repeated in many stores. Always in English. Always in black ink, of course.
A pretty pedestrian mall we found, stretching 7-8 blocks.
Loving this beautiful building and wondering what its intended use was when it was constructed.
Superior Court building, across from St. Francis of Assisi Church.
In front of the Superior Court is an outdoor restaurant and this glorious banyan tree.
We thought this was just a dollar store, but it sells home decor like the gold statues outside. They love their “Mister” stores (see Mr. Wonderful, above).
A view of the marina once we walked to its other side. There were many cruise ships of differing sizes, some for long-distance voyages, such as ours. Others were just for travel between islands or to the closest continents.
Inexplicably, this Cinderella carriage was in the square with the Superior Court. We hope it isn’t the judges’ primary means of transportation.

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Day 2,123 of Traveling the World | Lisbon (Lisboa), Portugal | November 23, 2023

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our American readers! Today is our day of Triple 23s – 2,123 days of traveling the world, on November 23, 2023.

And a glorious day in Lisbon it was! Portugal is the home of Fado (Portuguese folk music), Pastel de Nata (most wonderful pastry), Ginja (alcohol), Pasteis de Bacalhau (cod fritters), Bica (espresso), and Port Wine (wine!).

Since we are not alcohol drinkers, we did not try the alcohol, and being on a cruise ship, we couldn’t stay out late enough to attend a Fado show. So, what’s left? Yes, we tried the cod fritters, and particularly, the pastel de nata, as we have many times in Portugal and even in Hawaii, where a bakery made them fresh every day.

Guru Walk is a company that offers free walking tours in bigger cities, where you pay what you wish at the end of the tour. Today’s was exceptional, as we had María as our tour guide. She appears several times below in photos and a video. Working to complete her Ph.D. in Fado music, she emphasized places to experience it, as well as how much you should expect to pay, as we walked around. Born in Lisbon, she is absolutely in love with the city and all it has to offer. We know exactly how much we should pay for bica, cod fritters, natas, or a shot of Ginja. Mostly, the cost is dictated by whether you are in an upscale neighborhood or a locals’ neighborhood.

Lisbon is a city of hills, so we started on a hill, since our cruise ship, of course, was at sea level…or should we say, river level, as we were docked in the Tagus River. And then we walked many staircases several different times. It was quite a workout! Seeing the many stairs in front of us on the last climb, she asked how we were doing. Jan said, jokingly, “I really hate you right now.” But she egged everyone on, as she is used to the hills and staircases. We climbed to some amazing lookouts, or Miradors, for views over the city and the river. When we stopped for the natas, unbelievably, the shop gave each of us one, free. It was like winning the lottery. Of course, most of us went back in and bought some more, so it was a win-win.

The day was warm and sunny, and lots of people were out and about. It was an ideal day to see parts of Lisbon that we hadn’t seen on previous visits. Having a guide really opens your eyes to delights that you never knew about. Our tour group was young and interested in everything, so it was also a lot of fun. If you ever take a Guru Walk in Lisbon, we hope you will be lucky enough to have Maria as a guide. She was just the best!

Escadinhas do Terreiro do Trigo, the narrowest street (although it is now a staircase) in not only Lisbon, but all of Europe.
In the Alfama District, we came upon this house with a playful mural.
Rounding a corner, this colorful building came into view. Notice the severed leg, just hanging out.
Laundry was out drying everywhere in Alfama. Our guide, Maria, told us that nobody in the country owns an indoor clothes dryer.
View of the Tagus River from one of the Miradors, or viewpoints, high in Lisbon.
We started seeing photographs adjacent to the front doors of residences in Alfama…a project undertaken to recognize the people who have lived here. When they pass away, their photos will remain.
This is two adjacent homes, with the residents’ names etched underneath their photos. The project is called Alma de Alfama, or the Soul of Alfama. It is very touching to experience.
This was a Ginja stand – we saw several. It is a ginger alcohol that people drink as a pick-me-up…whenever…and to toast the day.
Here is our guide, Maria, teaching everyone how to toast in Portuguese.
A building covered in azulejos, the Portuguese tiles, made of painted ceramics.
Rua Augusta, the major shopping street in downtown that leads to the Arco da Rua Augusta, a large ceremonial arch.
Here is the arch, with pretty angels adding to its grandeur.
The Santa Justa Lift, established at the end of the 20th century. It exits onto different levels at the rear.
Once at the top, there is an observation deck to get wonderful views of the city below. We walked up another way, not having to wait in an hour’s line and pay for the pleasure.
A Christmas market set up in Plaza Dom Pedro IV.
Teatro National D. María II is in the rear of the plaza.
A tribute to Fado music in statuary.
Another view over Lisbon from another Mirador.
The neighborhood of Chiado is home to Lisbon’s shopping and theater center, with high-end boutiques and restaurants.
A building wrapped as a gift in the Chiado District.
Here, Maria is pointing to the Guinness Book of World Records plaque. Bertrand Bookstore dates to 1732 and is the world’s oldest operating bookstore.
Liking the vibrant colors…
A Brasileira dates to 1905, serving coffee, particularly espresso, since then. In Lisbon, an espresso is called a Bica, short for the Portuguese phrase, “drink this with sugar.”
The inside is as impressive as the outside!
A festive building, to be sure.
A Fado restaurant, beautifully decorated with guitars, keyboards, dancers, and other tiles.
Plaza Luis de Camoes, a tribute to one of the country’s great poets.
A Pastel de Nata, filled with custard inside, with crunchy layers of filo dough outside, and warm from the oven – yum! Nata de Lisboa on the main shopping street is the place we visited, and they tasted perfect.
…Just for fun.

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Day 2,120 of Traveling the World | Cádiz, Spain | November 20, 2023

The cruise ships think so little of Cadiz that they list this charming city as Seville (Cadiz) and describe everything to do in Seville without a word about the actual city of Cadiz. Yes, we docked in Cadiz – anddddd, Seville is 73 miles away!! It just doesn’t get any respect, and a cynic (never us, of course) might think that the cruise companies emphasize Seville because they can sell you a costly excursion to that distant, famous city rather than you just walking off the ship and enjoying the local sights. However, since we have visited Seville multiple times, but had never been in the “island city” of Cadiz, we thought a stroll through the city was warranted.

Just wandering around, with no real agenda, we came upon several pretty plazas with churches, a town hall, and cafes – all decorated merrily for Christmas. There were many shopping streets, and all had garlands and Christmas decorations. Three cruise ships were in port, so the city was buzzing and quite busy. Not everybody took off for Seville, it seems, even though we could see many buses lined up once our ship’s gangway was cleared and open for the day.

In Town Hall Plaza, there was a Farmer’s Market set up, with kiosks selling all sorts of merchandise – fruits and vegetables, sure, but also handmade items and Christmas wares. We passed a cool mask store, and multiple chocolatiers and bakeries. Both locals and passengers were out shopping for the day! Cadiz is a long, thin island just off Spain’s Atlantic coast, and it is connected to the mainland by several bridges. We could hardly believe that after walking just 5 minutes, we were already on the opposite coast from where our ship had docked. As we always say – on an island, you can’t really get lost; you always pass by somewhere you have already been!

Town Hall Square, or Plaza de San Juan de Dios. We passed by several times, and it was always busy.
Catedral de Cadiz Plaza. They were setting up for a concert on the cathedral steps, and the sound check was loud enough to be heard in Seville, 73 miles away! The line to enter the cathedral was very long.
Across the plaza from the church is its Bell Tower.
As we mentioned, Christmas decorations a-plenty appeared everywhere.
The mask store was quite wonderful, quite colorful.
We liked this mismatched building connector. Close up, though, you can see how the weather from the ocean deteriorates the exterior of buildings.
This Christmas tree is quite modern, but more interesting is the trees behind it – six orange trees, which were bearing fruit. One entire street was planted with laden orange trees – they brought a smile to people’s faces. However, the oranges are very bitter, not edible, and you open yourself to prosecution if you pick them, as they are the property of the local government.
One of the typical shopping streets, part retail, part residential.
At least 10 residences were passed had an entire cuffed hand like this as door knockers.
Loving the lions lined up on this facade.
A beautiful piece of Art Deco art on the exterior of a building.
One of the many plazas we came across during our walk.
Another Art Deco mosaic – this time wrapping around the corner of a building.
Translation: Dolls of sugar. (Cute.)
The morning sun in Cadiz.
This mini orchestra greeted us in the Plaza de la Catedral.
You can listen to a snippet from the orchestra in this short video.

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Day 2,118 of Traveling the World | Cartagena, Spain | November 18, 2023

Our second visit to a city named Cartagena in a few months – this time in Spain, not Colombia. That other Cartagena, in Colombia, was bursting with life – colorful, busy, and old areas being revitalized. THIS Cartagena, in Spain, is more of a historic destination, and wasn’t as busy and colorful. Its Roman occupation has led to lots of excavations and archaeological sites. There are many historic houses and public squares, with Cartagena being known for its plethora of Art Nouveau buildings. We have been here several times previously, so we decided on a walking path and just aimless wandering through the heart of the city rather than visiting any major tourist destinations.

We targeted several famous houses that still exist, just to look at the external architecture, and found some other buildings that looked interesting. The day was sunny and warm, and the plazas and cafes were full, as there were three cruise ships in port. One place we stumbled across was a museum of a house whose inscription wished good luck to all who entered, hence: The House of Fortune. Uncovered in the year 2000, it shows the life of the wealthy family who lived here at the end of the 1st century BC. Some mosaics were found in a pile, and they were scrupulously pieced together, as much as possible. The swan tile, which we show, has become symbolic of the museum. Mike had the feeling that we had been inside on a previous visit, and he was correct – we found photos from about 10 years ago placing us inside the museum. But this visit was interesting, nonetheless.

Cartagena’s old city walls, built by Carlos III, are in great shape!
Unbelievably, this is the city Office of Tourism! Looking mighty grand…
Palacio Consistorial de Cartagena (Town Hall), a newly restored Neo-Classical building. Close up, there are bullet holes in the facade from the Spanish Civil War.
This is work dedicated to violence against women – specifically the murder of women by their partners. The first line says, “He’s not going to do anything to me.” It goes on to explain that it was said by a woman to her brother a few days prior to being murdered by her ex-partner, and that so far this year, 52 women in Spain have been murdered by their partner or ex-partner. Abuse is often not reported by women because they don’t think it is “serious enough.”
A glimpse of Calle Mayor, the main shopping and dining street running through the city, paved in blue marble. With large cruise ships in a port, we are often surrounded by tourists speaking English and other languages not endemic to the area, but here we heard mostly Spanish spoken, as this is where residents meet their friends, shop, and enjoy a day out.
The Gran Hotel de Cartagena.
The Casino de Cartagena.
Mosaic inlays in residences and retail stores like this were scattered around the city. This one reads: “Star of the Sea, help your children.”
Here is another mosaic inlay. The building to the left of the mosaic has pretty detail around the windows, like a curtain opening.
Another mosaic, just noting the name of the street: St. John Street.
This large, grand building appears to have been built as a hotel.
The Casa Maestre family mansion.
We have seen windmills like this one in various Spanish cities. It looks strange without the typical windmill blades, doesn’t it?
Casa Zapata, a beautiful old mansion, is today a school.
Walking along the street inside the House of Fortune museum, with a video representation of what it likely looked like.
The swan mosaic, the most complete and distinctive remnant found, today a symbol of the House of Fortune.
Spain does love their ham! It is sold everywhere in the country. Many convenience stores the size of a 7-11 will have a dedicated section containing a selection of hams and a meat cutting machine. We would never tell a Spaniard, but it just seems like lunch meat to us, acorn-fed or not. We guess you could say – pearls before swine.

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Day 2,116 of Traveling the World | Palma de Mallorca, Spain | November 16, 2023

With great anticipation, we approached an island we had never before visited – Mallorca. Its capital and largest city, Palma, is dominated from the sea with a view of its great Gothic cathedral, Santa Maria of Palma. While the exterior is very imposing, set up on a hill and surrounded by old city walls, the inside is dizzying and dazzling. Your eyes desperately try to look everywhere at once and grasp what you are seeing. But here, s-ll-ooooo-www observation is the prescription, and then it makes sense. The altar area has lights everywhere, along with a baldachin (canopy) meant to resemble the crown of thorns over the altar itself, adding to the majesty. The giant window behind the altar reflects its bright colors all along the side walls, even over the organ pipes. There seems to be one wild view after another. The side altar has an overlay, installed in 2004, depicting the loaves and fishes miracle, but includes serpents and a pile of skulls. Skulls appear a lot on the floor, likely tombs of local bishops or wealthy patrons. What a place!

It is fun to walk along the top of the city walls, stretching out to either side of the cathedral. The trick is knowing when to exit, as there are very long stretches where you are simply stuck – to walk ahead, not knowing how far you will have to go, OR to go back to the exit you passed 10 minutes ago? We did have to return to the ship by 4:30…….

The island’s history is a series of conquests and reconquests – the Romans, the Muslims, the Christians, the Moors, the Byzantines, the Vikings, then pirates – all claimed Mallorca at various times. With all this history and the fact that in the 16th century the pirate problem was so bad that the King of Spain considered abandoning Mallorca and the rest of the Balearic Islands, it is easy to understand why their cathedral looks like a combination of church and fortress.

Today the visitors are much friendlier. Mallorca is a major tourist destination. Although the island is occupied by fewer than one million residents, the airport is one of the largest in Spain, serving more than 28 million passengers per year. It is easy to see why, as it is so beautiful and so warm. In the summer, it can reach up to 100 degrees F, and the low average in the winter is about 60 degrees F. Just a delightful place.

Our day in Mallorca started with a beautiful, gleaming sun – not too hot, not too cold.
The Marina had a few yachts, but mostly smaller pleasure boats.
The old city walls extend along the Balearic Sea, an arm of the Mediterranean.
Between the city walls and the ocean is this pretty lagoon, part of Parc de la Mar.
We have noticed this in several cities lately: vendors put out their goods – purses, jewelry, or 1-euro souvenirs – on a sheet. The police drive by every hour or so and chase them away, as they do not have permits. When they see the police coming toward them, they bundle up their items in the sheet and walk in the opposite direction. Once the police are gone, they open up the sheet, rearrange their sale items, and continue to do business. It seems like a waste of time on everyone’s part.
Approaching Mallorca Cathedral (Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, 1229-1601) from the marina. It is a huge structure on a relatively small island.
View from the rear of the cathedral. The round stained glass window over the altar area is much more vivid in person.
The altar area is dazzling – no other word for it – and very busy! Parts of it were designed by Antonio Gaudi, of La Sagrada Familia fame. The baldachin (canopy) over the main altar is meant to resemble the Crown of Thorns.
This cave-like wall installation in the side chapel is a modern depiction of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, and was completed in 2004. The window treatments look dark blue, but in person, they were clearly black.
You can see this fish/serpent in the previous photo, above, on the left toward the bottom. It isn’t quite the placid, dead fish you see in paintings of the loaves and fishes.
Stained glass window to stained glass window across the vaulted ceiling, front to back. The front window, at the top, looks like a box of children’s balls.
The window of “children’s balls” cast this lovely reflection onto the organ pipes.
The side altars and windows are a bit more “traditional,” but the colored glass used is deep and lustrous.
One of several skull and crossbones we saw inlaid in the floor, likely denoting a tomb.
Museu Diocesa, a Christian museum in a 13th century bishop’s residence.
A typical street here in Mallorca, filled with shops, but not wide enough for anything but a motorcycle or scooter.
This was sunset as we departed Barcelona for Mallorca, which is out there somewhere in the distance.

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Day 2,110 of Traveling the World | Dubai, UAE | November 10, 2023

“It’s really easy to reserve a table here with your cell phone,” we were told by a woman at the hotel. Duh. We have reserved tables on both cell phones and iPads when looking at restaurant sites. Yawn. BUT…she didn’t mean, booking a table through an app; she meant, literally, leaving your cell phone on a table (at, say, a food court), looking around, ordering, and returning to the table with your food. Nobody will take, or even touch, your cell phone – it is your phone, at your table, and is always there when you return. All we could say, with big eyes, was: Wow!

That is a great introduction to Dubai. It is modern, clean, sleek, westernized, safe, and compared to when we were here for a month in the summer of 2019, has more young people from many different cultures and countries. The subway is much more crowded than it was last time, with every car on every train (which arrive every four minutes) full to the brim with commuters and travelers. The malls (we visited the two largest in Dubai) and the Museum of the Future were equally crowded.

Deep Dive Dubai, a diving and instructional facility with a pool that is 200 feet deep, was an afternoon well spent. Mike took and passed a Nitrox certification class and also did recreational diving. Nitrox tanks have a higher concentration of oxygen so that you can stay at depth for a longer period of time without decompression stops. It is interesting, as the pool has different levels filled with everyday stationary objects that you can use for photos or just to explore – like a Ducati motorcycle. But, diving with no ocean life means that the unexpected never happens – there isn’t suddenly a shark swimming just above your head, or an octopus scuttling around.

The Museum of the Future was still being constructed in 2019, but has been open since February 2022. The building is more impressive from the outside than the inside experience was. Largely a series of videos and with some interactive models, the museum was alternately boring and engaging. The lobby had a robotic dog walking around, and a flying robot, but there wasn’t a whole display on robotics, or even a hands-on, even though every person in the lobby was straining to watch the dog. A few years ago, 60 Minutes aired a segment on how far robotics has come, and it was fascinating. But the museum didn’t really expand much on the subject. We even spent about 20 minutes watching a similar dog being tested outside public buildings in Canberra, Australia, earlier this year and blogged about it. We were able to interact with that one a little by placing ourselves in its path and watching how it rerouted around us. So, although the technology isn’t yet widespread, it is in use and not exactly “of the future.”

There were a few items that were more cutting edge on display such as a (small) model of a flying taxi that you could look at hanging from the ceiling, but not a full-size one that you could sit inside. There was a self-driving car, but it was on a showroom dais, and just looked like an ordinary car – there were no rides offered, or even a chance to look at it close up. So, our feeling is that the museum doesn’t go far enough with the whole, immersive experience of what the future will be. It is a soft, mewling kitten, when it could be a thrilling, pouncing lion. As Marlon Brando lamented in On the Waterfront – it could have been a contender. We could have walked out with big eyes, saying how incredible it was, that it was a world-class museum, and dazzled by all that we got to experience of what might be possible in the coming years – but we just felt – MEH.

The Museum of the Future, built on a grassy hill, set among skyscrapers.
Another view of the museum during the day. It is built in the shape of a torus.
Standing on the viewing platform in the middle loop of its architecture.
Here is the museum in 2019, with the top portion and right side not yet completed.
Inside, there were lots of videos explaining the rainforest, living in space, etc.
This is The Library – 2,400 crystal specimen jars of life on earth, both living and extinct.
This jar had a small bat…
…while these had worms and sea creatures.
This is the Stillness Therapy room – a place to lie down or sit down, close your eyes, and feel gentle vibrations as the disc on the ceiling made different ocean patterns and noises. It was very calming.
What you see on the outside, you see on the inside – along with these three elevator pods to move you between floors.
Floating around the lobby was this robotic blimp named Festo.
One of the robotic dogs in the lobby, stretching, dancing, and exercising.
The main hall in the Mall of the Emirates. This is the mall with many luxury stores, and more, as you will see.
Parrot shoes and butterfly stilettos – have never seen anything quite like them.
Swarovski wares, sitting in their own boxes.
Yes, the Mall of the Emirates has a “Ski Dubai” experience. It is 28 degrees F, or -2 Celsius. The kids were having a snowball fight!
The store Rituals was looking especially pretty.
With the goal of achieving employee happiness, Dubai set up these kiosks for police employee services. Similarly, they set up other police kiosks so that people could pay traffic fines with cash.
We passed at least eight stores with regional women’s clothing ranging from plain all black to these, decorated with rhinestones and embroidery.
With a beautifully decorated holiday table, this home store was ready for Christmas already, with trees in the very back.
The tank is 60 meters deep, or just about 200 feet, and contains 14 million liters of water, about 3.7 million gallons. Isn’t it amazing that it could hold a Boeing 777??
Open for only two years, Deep Dive Dubai is available for general diving, classes, and even as an underwater filming location.
In the tank, there is a full-size pool table, a Ducati motorcycle, several chess sets, a living room with sofa, and a bathroom. Farther down is a complete library.
Here are some divers taking a tour.
A different shopping experience, this is Dubai Mall, the world’s largest. This is a little more family-friendly, with several completely different food courts, a Chinatown section, movie theaters, and ice skating.
This is the entrance to Dubai Mall Chinatown, where the pharmacies, supermarkets, and food court all cater to Asian needs.
A cute store – every item for sale had its own glass bubble pod. Everything was handmade and priced between $50-75.
The ice skating rink, surrounded by giant video screens showing nature shows and advertisements.
Except for the heart, this entire wall, and the words, were all made out of stuffed animals.
In the food court, we smiled at the name of this Indian restaurant.

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Day 2,100 of Traveling the World | Luxor, Egypt | October 31, 2023

Twenty-one hundred days of being purposely homeless – today’s landmark for us. Being in Luxor was a real treat. Our ship, Virgin Cruise’s Resilient Lady, docked at Safaga, across the Red Sea from Saudi Arabia. The bus trip was four hours long, but was interesting. While the first hour was through the Sahara Desert, the next three were through small villages filled with children, people shopping and waiting for a bus, and various shopkeepers and vendors. Whenever we smiled or waved, every single person acknowledged us with smiles and friendliness – an enthusiastic wave back, a nod of the head, a big smile, and several grown men blew kisses! Some looked startled that we were even noticing them. So that made it a lot of fun.

The Temples at Karnak in Luxor are most impressive – huge carved columns and statues and walls constructed of huge slabs of stones. Walking around is dizzying, feeling so connected to the past royalty of Egypt. It is the only place on earth where ram-headed sphinxes exist, and they made many – all lined up in the courtyard at the entrance.

The Valley of the Kings was chosen for burials once Pharaohs realized that when erecting a pyramid, the pyramid signified that a wealthy person (with expensive jewels and other items) was buried there – hence, ripe for grave-robbing. But they needed a pyramid shape to safely enter the afterlife. In the Valley of the Kings, there is a mountain that has a natural pyramidal shape, and so it was perfect for royal burials. The valley has 63 total royal tombs, all constructed in the same fashion. King Tut is here, and we just had to enter and see his tomb. We were surprised to see his head and feet – explanation below. With an entrance ticket to the temple complex, we were allowed to enter three tombs, and truthfully, that was all the time we had. There are still intricate carvings and vibrant colors in the tombs, which were magnificent. If only we were Egyptologists – we would know their significance and meaning. Until walking into these tombs, the only times we saw depictions of gods and hieroglyphics was in newly constructed places, like the Luxor Casino in Las Vegas. We had seen photos, of course, like everyone, but walking through and knowing that people 3,000 to 4,000 years ago had spent their lives building and decorating these areas made it feel like sacred ground. It is an amazing place to see and visit,

At the Karnak Temples, this is a good place to start. The Big Guy is a Pharaoh, thought of as a god by the Egyptians. The teeny-tiny figure who stands atop his feet and can fit between his legs? No, not a child – HIS WIFE! He is everything, while she is an afterthought. Glad that has changed – at least, in Western Culture. (By the way – when sculpted, this Pharaoh was dead, as his hands are crossed over his chest and his legs have him standing still.)
This Pharaoh was alive when this statue was sculpted – his hands are not folded over his chest, and he is possibly walking forward.
Rows and rows of sculpted columns adorn the Karnak Temples. A lot of the vibrant colors still exist.
Hatshepsut’s Obelisk, the second-tallest in the world. She was Pharaoh from 1479-1458 BC, started construction of the Karnak Temples complex, and assumed men’s affectations, such as a beard and male garb. Interestingly, due to religious and ritual reasons, her building accomplishments were destroyed. When it came to this obelisk, it could not be destroyed due to its inscription to the Sun God, Ra, at the bottom – so a wall was built around it so that it could not be seen…the only way it could be “destroyed.” This is all of the wall that remains.
A walking Pharaoh- so he was alive when sculpted.
Another large, walking Pharaoh whose face is lost to the ravages of time.
A small gateway in the complex guarded by two statues.
This walkway is lined with huge statues…it felt like an Honor Guard, walking through.
The walls were all sculpted in figures and hieroglyphics.
The outer courtyard.
The only place in the world where there are sphinxes with ram’s heads is here at Karnak Temples.
The entrance has these walls, mostly standing. They are the youngest part of the complex, dating to around 400 BC, as the Pharaohs would have wanted to see their statues and tombs first, so this was the last part to be built.
Outside of Karnak is this debris field, where bits and pieces of stone, columns, and structures are gathered.
The Nile River, lifeblood of Egypt. We saw quite a number of river cruises operating in this area, as Luxor is always one of the highlights of a river cruise.
Valley of the Kings, with the pyramid-shaped hill to the left of the sunbeam.
In all 63 royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings, there is an intricately carved entrance hall like this one, listing that particular Pharaoh’s accomplishments.
A sarcophagus with carved walls and columns and a still-vibrant ceiling painting...3,500 years later.
Close-up of the sarcophagus. In all of the tombs we entered, there are multiple depictions of people and creatures, as you can see on the walls.
Entering King Tut’s tomb, considered a minor Pharaoh, as he died at age 19 without accomplishing much. But his tomb was bound with riches and funerary objects. Most of the others had been robbed centuries before.
The wall paintings in Tut’s tomb were also still quite vibrant, as they were only uncovered 100 years ago by British archaeologist Howard Carter.
A boat sailing into the afterlife.
We have heard and know so much about The Boy King – King Tut, but we had never seen his mummy. Meet his mummy…or, rather, his head and feet. We paid an extra $12 each to enter his tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Apparently, because he died so suddenly, the embalmers did a rush job on him and didn’t let him dry out properly. When Howard Carter, et. al., attempted to unwrap him, his torso fell apart. That is covered by cloth, as our tour guide said it is a “gruesome” sight. So, head and feet only.
A close-up of his feet – not a pretty sight.
More of the amazingly vibrant colors in King Tut’s tomb. It would have been a shame if all of this art had been locked away forever, as intended.
We love how frivolous this looks, with figures upside-down in circles and a band of animals watching over the tomb – birds, a scarab beetle, a snake…
On the right is the Egyptian god Apis, revered for his uniqueness and importance. Like all of the walls we saw, he is depicted several more times in a row, along with four snakes, depicting royalty, divinity, and protection.
More boats sailing into the afterlife, along with gods and animals.
The burial chamber of Ramses IV, richly decorated.
Ceiling of Ramses’ entrance hall – the figures walk in all directions on the ceiling.
A Pharaoh sarcophagus in the Valley of the Kings.
As we drove along, close to Luxor, we spied several guard towers with automatic weapons. As one drives through the less-populated areas of the country, you must pass through many police checkpoints. Once in the city, every so often you observe police outposts with one or more officers watching the road with a vehicle pointed toward the road ready to respond to calls. In general, police presence in Egypt is quite vigorous and obvious.
Typical in Egypt, houses are built with rebar on top of the house, implying that further construction will take place. In reality, it is to avoid paying taxes, as the house is “never finished.” This family’s children may build the next level, and the next, always making sure there is rebar on top. We noticed this many years ago when we visited here. It makes the all of Egypt look as if it is going through renovation or repair, or as if some recent disaster has struck the entire country.
The first hour of our four-hour drive from Safaga to Luxor was through the Sahara Desert. The view didn’t vary much.
Sunset over the West Bank of Luxor, looking very Egyptian.

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Day 2,096 of Traveling the World | Cairo, Egypt | October 27, 2023

Eighteen. Eighteen! That is how many places in the U.S. alone that are named…CAIRO. There are 6 more places named Cairo in Colombia, Italy, and Costa Rica. But….we were at the original Cairo, the city that evokes pictures of pyramids, camels, ancient times, mosques, and exotic goods. You won’t be seeing any photos of camels or pyramids, as we visited Giza many years ago on a cruise. This time, we opted for a tour of Medieval Cairo, with visits to a mosque, synagogue, church, and bazaar. Just walking the streets was fun, experiencing it all and filling our senses with smells and images that were just beautiful. It was a grueling 3-hour bus trip each way from and to Port Said, though. It is not so bad in the morning, but it seemed that it took forever, at night, to return. We had to wait for other buses, as we formed a convoy led by a police car. We are assuming that it was for our security.

Refined scenes? That would be the religious building and the facades of the military structures we passed. The scruffy? That would be most of the ordinary neighborhoods we drove through on the bus, with everyone selling everything along the streets. The buildings are old and many are literally falling apart, but that is due to Egypt being a relatively poor country. The delicious? That would be a lunch feast we had, with baba ganoush, salad, falafel, eggplant, beef chunks, rice, and okra in thick tomato sauce, all able to be scooped up with lovely pita bread. The exotic? That would be the Old Cairo Bazaar, which felt like something out of the 15th century. Everyone wanted to sell us something. The two best lines we heard: How can I take your money today? and I don’t know what you want, but I have what you need. We laughed, as of course we can’t actually buy anything other than drinks/snacks since we have no home in which to put anything.

Cairo is known as The City of 1,000 Mosques, more than any other place in the world. As we drove all around the city, every time we glanced out, there were multiple mosques in view. At one point, counting those we could see in two blocks, there were 14! The city also has 12 remaining synagogues. The one we visited is now a museum, and is the oldest of the remaining synagogues. But sadly, in a city of 22,000,000 (!), there are – ready? – THREE Egyptian Jews. It is interesting, both that there are so few, but that they know exactly how many there are.

All in all, we liked Cairo, at least more than on our first visit in 2009. It was hot, but only about 88 degrees F, with a little breeze. It seems like fall is a good time to visit. One of the ship’s workers, Taiane, said when she was here in the summer, it was 110! We saw lots of tourists wandering around who were not part of tour groups. The old parts of the city feel really old, and so interesting. You can buy any item you are looking for at many different shops, but we don’t know how one shop distinguishes itself when several hundred shops are selling identical items at identical prices. It seems like a hard way to make a living.

Mohamad Ali Mosque. Completed in 1858, it is still breathtaking to walk inside and see the lights, chandeliers, domes, and striking details.
The glorious domes.
One of four pillars that create a Christian “cross” in the floor design. Muhamad Ali was fascinated by the Hagia Sophia, which was originally a Christian Church, so many of the features aren’t exactly Muslim in origin.
The courtyard, with a clock tower and a central ablutions structure.
The mosque’s exterior. The minarets in the rear are called Pencil Minarets, for obvious reasons.
The mosque is built in the Citadel Fortress area, and a good portion of the fortress remains.
Built into the Citadel walls is this Police Station – a beautiful entrance, to be sure.
As we drove around Cairo in a bus, we saw this military academy, as well as armories, an Air Force building, and an Army building, among others. The city is very military-oriented.
As we entered Cairo, there was a row of these apartment buildings, numbering about 30. Our tour guide noted that the sidewalk level is fronted by “world-class luxury shops.”
This is all that remains of the Babylon Fortress in Old Cairo, built by the Emperor Diocletian around 300 AD. Pretty nice “ruins,” huh?
Ben Ezra Synagogue, now a museum, is built on the site where it is believed Moses was found as a baby. Evidence points to a construction date of pre-882 AD, although the current building dates to the 1890s (that is, “yesterday,” in Egyptian building dates!)
This is a small portion of The City of the Dead, which is a vast stretch of necropolises and cemeteries that cover many city blocks on both sides of the highway. It all just looked like houses and mosques in ruins.
A beautiful mosaic of Mary surrounded by female saints, in the courtyard of St. Mary’s Church.
Stunning St. Mary’s Church is Coptic Orthodox, and is also called “The Hanging Church” or “The Floating Church.” See why, in the next photo.
It is hard to see what this is – even in person! – but it is a peek through the floor down, where you can see light. This church has no foundation and you can see there is a substantial distance from the bottom of the structure to the ground below it! It is built on the ruins of the Babylon Fortress shown above, so it is “hanging,” or “floating.”
We caught this from the bus, stopped at a traffic light. It is a scooter with a cart on the back. The back tire of the cart was flat, and it was loaded with heavy bags of what looked like grain or hay. Not having a jack, the two men on the right were trying to lift the loaded cart while the man on the left removed the tire. It wasn’t working out too well.
Loving these glittery, over-the-top belly dancing outfits in the midst of dozens of mosques, with women fully covered in head scarves and hijabs shopping in the area and children leaving school (some girls with head scarves).
This photo and the next give a better idea of the “common neighborhood block” as we looked around. Most people sold fruit, veggies, and other items from tables on the street.
The buildings were old, most discolored or with chunks of concrete missing, and laundry hung from many of the windows.
A beautifully carved mosque in the Old Cairo Bazaar.
A nice display of perfume and bottles/containers in the Bazaar. Here, the vessels are as important as the fragrance.
A great slice of life in the Bazaar. Notice, above the man’s head, that the Coca Cola sign and Stella Artois sign are first inscribed with their names in Arabic.
An elegant old vessel that is about as tall as the shop ceiling.
What an array of goods, down a few steps from the main street in the Bazaar.
A pretty arch in the Bazaar, where everything was for sale.
A curious array of dial telephones, when the young generation, selling them, has never even used one! Who does???
Another scene from the Old Cairo Bazaar.
This shop felt very old, and had a matching pair of angels bearing lights.
This is part of the world’s largest flea market, which stretches in every direction for many (seemingly endless) blocks.
We passed probably 100 shops like this (no exaggeration) selling fabric from huge bolts.
Items flowing out from their shops onto the sidewalk.
Armor Officers House, one of the many military buildings as you enter Cairo.
A palace built by Baron Empain of Belgium in 1906. One daughter had a mental or physical condition that required she be locked up here, and then either his wife or daughter committed suicide in the palace, subsequently leading to claims that the place is haunted.

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Day 2,094 of Traveling the World | Island of Rhodes, Greece | October 25, 2023

Do you remember the Colossus of Rhodes? No? You‘re not that old? Well, this was its home in ancient times. We visited the fabulous local – are you ready for a mouthful? – Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, and it is said to be built on the site where the Colossus once stood. Rhodes was warm and welcoming, and within a few minutes from the port, we found the beautiful Old Town, a path of shops and restaurants that ran for about half a mile, right to the Mosque of Suleiman. We encountered squares, fountains, lots of people, sun, friendliness, and loads of invitations to eat and drink (“I have reserved this front table just for you!”). It was all very charming.

Greece has had economic problems for many years, sometimes causing the more northern EU countries to complain that they were unfairly supporting Greece and the other EU members. Rhodes specifically had many fires over the summer which forced many tourists to flee. We have spent a little under two weeks in Greece recently and things have looked very lively and busy everywhere. Greece has been doing much better economically during the past few years and is expected to set an all-time record for tourism in 2023. We are glad to see it. Greece is a very pleasant place to visit and has a lot to offer visitors.

We arrived at the Palace after 30-40 minutes, and found it delightful. We had read its history, and lots of the structure was destroyed in an explosion and altered as various empires took over. What exists now had been restored in the 20th century, although not quite to the delight of historians. Nonetheless, it is what it is, and we saw many grand rooms with old mosaic floors and filled with…church choir stalls. Different rooms had stalls of different designs, and we suppose they were bought to simply fill the large spaces.

You will wonder what the last photo is all about out. We were sitting at the end of a long portico in the Palace’s courtyard, and next to us was a partial relief of a nude man from the neck down – likely a god – with a figure on either side of him. An Australian woman, full of life, came upon it with a group and exclaimed, “Oh, they saved the BEST for last!!” Everyone laughed, including us, and her group began to rib her, encouraging her to do something. “Do it! Do it!” – they chanted. So she did! See the last photo! Very fun group and woman!

A glimpse of the Aegean from the Panayia Gate in the Old City.
This is the Church of the Virgin Mary of the Burgh, built in 1300 AD and, sadly, bombed in WWII. Even the ruins are beautiful, though.
It is interesting that in these ancient ruins, someone has set up living quarters! Do you see the windows in the ruins? Lights were on!
A pretty restaurant square with a huge tree providing shade.
Bougainvillea was growing wild everywhere here.
The main shopping street through the Old City. There was lots of jewelry, handbags, and clothing on sale.
This is a lovely restaurant called Socrates’ Garden.
As you approach the end of the retail stores, the Mosque of Suleiman appears. But you can see the mosque’s minaret from the ship!
The Hippocrates Square Fountain, topped with an all-seeing owl.
The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, also known as the Kastello.
The Palace Courtyard, with statues of Roman emperors. Up close, we noticed that few were complete – lots of missing feet, hands, and noses.
The beautiful vaulted staircase leading to the upper rooms.
Looking down the staircase is a different pretty view.
A small vaulted chapel. Such gorgeous architecture.
Ancient statue of a knight, missing lots of stone details.
This room had two sets of arches with columns. All the floors were mosaic, mostly from the 2nd-4th centuries.
A statue of Hercules, tied to other figures with a snake.
A calm area of the Palace, with angels guarding the doorway.
A beautiful floor mosaic featuring the winged Victory in the center, with the goddess Athena to the right and Poseidon to the left.The mosaic dates to the late 200s AD.
This mosaic of Medusa is a little more recent than the one above, by 50-70 years, but as you can see, is a bit more degraded.
Loving the swoopy-doopy dips, turns, and ornamentation of this light fixture.
This street adjacent to the Palace seems to be a part of it, as the style is similar to that of the Palace.
Great gargoyles in the form of fabulous creatures – a crocodile, and possibly a dragon or two.
This room in the Palace speaks to quiet, calm, and contemplation.
This courtyard, formerly the French consulate, has the same feeling of peace as the former photo.
Wanting to eat that ice cream!
She did it! She did it!

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Day 2,091 of Traveling the World | Athens, Greece | October 22, 2023

Oh, what to say about Athens, other than we have absolutely loved being here and experiencing the lovely people, the warm weather, the ancient ruins, and the modern, over-the-top restaurant decorations. Our stay at. In(n) Athens was really great – breakfast was exceptional, and the staff is so helpful and accommodating. Together, we had only been here for one day on a cruise in 2009. We journeyed to the top of the Acropolis to see the temples, and that is about all we remembered of that trip. Some things never change – the Parthenon, on the Acropolis, was formerly filled with construction workers, cranes, and scaffolding. All of those remain. It has been undergoing restoration and reinforcement continuously since 1975. Built in 438 BC, it was bombed in the 1687 Siege of the Acropolis. From 1800-1803, the 7th Earl of Elgin removed (looted) some of the surviving sculptures, now known as the Elgin Marbles.

Our ticket for entrance to the Acropolis was at 8:00 am, as it would be cooler and not as crowded to visit at the time it opens. Are we ever glad we did! The weather was perfect, and the early morning views over the city that you can see in the first dozen photos were worth getting up early for. It is a bit of a hike to the top, but not overly strenuous.

Now that we are about six years older than when we started roaming the world full-time, we are increasing enjoying going slowly. We don’t try to see everything in a city, just a few sights, so that there is more to visit and discover next time we visit. That is certainly true here in Athens. There are so many ancient sites and ruins to visit, but we didn’t want to spend our week just slogging through them all. We went out every day and walked, but only for a few hours. It is a nice pace for us. Athens is absolutely glorious, so a return is warranted. It is one of the great cities of the world, and one that we would recommend highly.

Our daily walks usually culminated at one of the local restaurants, often within a few blocks of our hotel located near the Plaka Neighborhood. There are many restaurants in that area. Most of them are reasonably priced, and many are very good. We were shocked that at Mamacita (see photos below), we had some of the best Mexican food we have had outside of North America. Sharing the Spanish language didn’t help the authenticity of the Mexican food we recently had in Barcelona. But, Mamacita…wow! At any rate, the food alone is enough of a reason to stay for a while in Athens.

View of the city, and the breaking dawn, from the Acropolis.
The Parthenon, on the right, and the Erechtheion, on the left.
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, built in 161 AD. Destroyed 100 years later, it was used as a music venue, holding 5,000 people.
At one point, that distant beam of morning sunlight washed over parts of the city.
The Propylaia (“Gate”), used as an entrance in ancient times, has the same function today.
The Erechtheion. Notice the stony ground it is built on.
A close-up of the Erechtheion columns, cleverly using six goddesses. These are replicas, however. Five of the originals are in the Acropolis Museum and the sixth one is in the British Museum.
A view of the city through an opening in the wall and another door.
The poor Parthenon has been undergoing fortification work for decades. Nobody gets photos of the entire structure without cranes, restoration work, and scaffolding.
As you can see from this other side, the top pediment has only a little stone left on either side.
These photos were all taken between 8:00-8:30 am, so not the thousands of people around…yet.
High up, on one corner of the Parthenon, is this centaur vanquishing an enemy. You can’t really see it without enlarging the photo. It makes us wonder how people could see it without eyeglasses or Lasik available. Perhaps it was just meant for the gods to see?
In the area away from the structures is a large debris field, filled with pieces of columns and other marble.
This police car had one man inside and this officer looking around. It barely looks big enough for one child, let alone two adult men. As we were sitting on the bench near the car, another tourist, laughing, stopped and took a photo of both cops sitting inside.
We try Mexican food all around the world and are never quite satisfied. At Mamacita, the food tasted like a good SoCal Mexican restaurant. (We went three times in six days!)
A pretty side wall in Mamacita. Her tattoo is La Vida Loca – the Crazy Life.
Three of four pieces of a huge quesadilla with guacamole and pico de gallo – for less than $8 US.
BLACK Vanilla ice cream, with bourbon from Madagascar. But…it’s low-fat!
This show-off sandal is for, like, the Cyclops. But sandal makers here will make you a custom pair for $40-50.
Hadrian’s Arch, 132 AD, separating the old city from the new one built by Hadrian. The side facing the Acropolis says, “This is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus.” The other side has the inscription, “This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus.”
A pretty courtyard restaurant.
Which face should she wear?
This unusually named store was closed, permanently, with no indication what it sold.
An interesting antique/odds and ends store. The owner walked toward us when he saw us taking a photo, clapped his hands several times, and said something in Greek. He looked irritated, but most owners are happy to see their stores get free advertising on social media. And…we hadn’t stepped inside the store at all.
This cafe had an original 1940s vibe, but we liked that overhead, on a major street in the Psyri district, somebody had hung five rows of laundry.
Most streets and corners in Psyri felt welcoming and funky.
Little Kook, a patisserie, decorates not only both sides of their alley, but also across the street, farther up.
This was another decorated building up ahead and across from the alley and across the street. Outstanding! It brought in a lot of customers. But even if it didn’t, they now have a reputation to live up to.
Along the sides were windows jammed with Halloween/Christmas wares, as well as a pastry shop, magic shop, and this coffee house.
So true, but we also have good stories about good choices.
For $15, a restaurant called Athena’s Cook serves kabobs (with salad, potatoes, pita, and dip) in dramatic fashion.
A good philosophy.
The vibrant colors on this cafe reminded us of Havana. Athens has a pretty good population of feral cats. They hang around restaurants hoping for a handout!
Fairytale Athens. The exterior is just the beginning…
Inside, there must be thousands of dollars of silk flowers…
Upstairs is the pink room.
From the mouths of philosophers…