Day 1,564 of Traveling the World | Carcassonne, France | May 15, 2022

You enter the city of Carcassonne. When you finally catch your first glimpse of the gigantic structure on the hill, it is almost more than you can take in in one view, as it is mammoth, a behemoth bearing down on you. Yes! It is that large, that commanding. We have read that this medieval walled city, high on a hilltop, looks like the perfect setting for knights and dragons. The oldest buildings here date to the 13th century. It is a curious experience visiting Carcassonne, as when you enter what you think is the castle, you are entering a walled city with stores and restaurants…and even a church!

In 2014, we first visited Carcassonne, having read a travel article about the city and citadel. However, we can’t find many of the photos, and we did want to experience this amazing place once again. Like San Marino and Seville, Spain, there are many weapons shops. You can buy swords and daggers and even full suits of armor! The fantasy of being a knight is alive and well here (and Game of Thrones probably doesn’t hurt!).

Eating continues to be a bit of a challenge. After driving several hours and settling into our hotel, we went in search of a bite to eat, since we hadn’t eaten since early morning. But most French restaurants are open for about two hours for lunch, then close and reopen around 7-8 pm. We searched for places that were open all day, what they call “all the way through,” only to show up and have them say, “Yes, we are open all the way through for drinks; the kitchen is closed until 8 pm!” Another place listed its opening time as 5 pm, so we arrived at 5:05, but it was dark inside and locked. The sign with its hours was listed on the door – every night, it opens at 5 pm! We waited until 5:15 (still no sign of anyone inside) and left. We finally found a small sandwich shop that was open, but it wasn’t very good. French cuisine is great, yes! – but not if you are hungry between 2 pm and 7 pm. You. Are. Out. Of. Luck!

So, today (Sunday), we decided we would play ball with them. We had coffee and a croissant for breakfast, then walked through the Old City and took photos, stopping for a three-course lunch around 2:15. By the way, Mike asked a waitress at this restaurant as we were a walking by around noon if the kitchen closed and then reopened in the evening. She said it didn’t close and was open all day. As we were eating lunch, about 2:45, we overheard a couple of British women asking if they could get anything off the lunch menu, only to be told that only the limited menu was available of soup, sandwiches, drinks, and desserts. In other words, the kitchen stays just a little open all day. Europe makes it hard for people who only eat two meals/day – an early breakfast and an early dinner.

There were a lot of people visiting, but we were told that in summer it is almost impossible to move, the crowds are so heavy. In 2014 we visited in September, and now in May, so we have only been here in the shoulder seasons, which suits us fine. We took a drive around the city to see what else is here, but it is unremarkable and fairly bland. The biggest (and only) draw is the Cite, and it truly is magnificent.

The view of the Cite de Carcassonne, the medieval fortress city, shining on the hill, as you approach it on foot. The entire city that surrounds this fortress pales in comparison!
The entrance is pretty overwhelming – compare its height to the tiny people walking in front! And notice the slits, the “loopholes,” for shooting arrows at invaders.
This is what the defensive “loopholes” look like from the inside.
The moat is now grass…but what an impressive view, huh?
Ramparts and guard towers just down from the main entrance.
…and more on the other side, along with those gorgeous crenellations.
A suit of armor for sale….just 1300 euros!
Most of the toys for sale are bows and arrows, knives, swords, and shields. Girls and boys can pretend to be defenders of the Cite!
A pretty dining spot along the wall and tower.
One of the streets leading to the Basilique Saint-Nazaire (St. Nazaire Basilica).
The streets are filled with charming gateways and scenes like this.
We wondered if this could possibly be….
…Yes! It is a snail, mascot for the L’Escargot Restaurant. As you can see, most restaurants offer a “menu,” a three-course meal for 16 to 25 euros or so. The escargots here come served in parsley! Yum!
This is where we had our three-course meal, under the trees (and cloudy sky). We tried the regional specialty, Cassoulet, but were not impressed. It is a casserole of 80 percent navy beans, 10 percent sausage, and 10 percent duck. It was just okay. The salad, onion soup, and dessert were delicious, however!
We don’t know what this building is, but liked the little medieval awning over the door.
There were lots of places like this as we circumnavigated the fortress…cobblestone paths with arches. We talked about the people who built a fortress of this magnitude all those centuries ago – many probably spent their entire lives working on a section of the complex.
Down to the left were views of the “new city” of Carcassonne.
Everywhere we walked, there were always towers and more towers.
…and more towers!
The “three arches” intersecting with each other.
A cute, somewhat befuddled dragon.

Day 1,562 of Traveling the World | Le Grau-du-Roi, France | May 13, 2022

Mid-May, Perfect Day! If you look up Le Grau-du-Roi on a map, you will see that it is situated right on the Mediterranean Sea, about 20 miles south of Montpellier. The name roughly translates as The King’s Bayous. The roads just before you arrive are lined with salt marshes and inhabited by hundreds of wild flamingos. But only their legs and beaks are that famous salmon color – the rest of their body is a pale pink. We saw them from the highway, so we couldn’t take any photos of them.

One of the advantages of the way we travel is that if we are tired, we can easily change our plans depending on how we are feeling. We have spent the past two weeks traveling in the mountain towns of Italy, and really haven’t had a break, a day where we just spent an easy day doing nothing. We had planned to head east today and spend time in Arles, where Vincent van Gogh created some of his most famous works, and where he cut off his ear. Arles also has an ancient Roman Colosseum and other Roman ruins. But we needed a break, so we changed our plans. You can’t do this when you are with a tour, for example. When you are with a tour group, you are told to have breakfast by 7 AM because the bus is leaving at 8 AM, and then you will have an opportunity to tour a famous site for one hour before continuing on to the next place. That is way too structured for us!

We just wanted to take a short drive today, so we headed 15 minutes south to Palavas les Flots. The city had lots of sand and beaches, but no area to walk around and have coffee. So we headed farther east, to La Grand-Motte. Ditto – we did not locate a good area for walking. But we didn’t strike out on our third attempt, we struck gold! We found Le Grau-du-Roi, a charming city with an inlet to the Mediterranean, with a huge marina. The town is connected across an inlet by a swing bridge, which rotates horizontally, rather than lifting vertically from the middle. We have seen the same kind of bridge before in the Caribbean.

Boats were taking people fishing and sightseeing, and restaurants offered every kind of seafood imaginable. We must have passed a dozen ice cream places, and in each one, waffles, crepes, churros, and beignets were also offered – with or without ice cream! Walking around this charming place delighted us for a few hours, just long enough to be out and seeing some sights, but by no means a tiring day. We had no agenda, no “famous historical site” to see. We just walked and enjoyed this seaside village. We heard some American English and a little German, but mostly French. It was a great day!

The perfect seaside town!
Up and down each side, the commercial boats were docked, ready for business.
From a sheltered inlet, boats enter the Mediterranean here.
A loud, wild group of kayakers returning from the Mediterranean. You can see some sailboats far out near the horizon!
Another view toward the Mediterranean.
This was just a collection of buoys and flags, but they looked eager and happy!
A glimpse down the main pedestrian walkway along the inlet.
A pretty house on the opposite side.
A relaxing and cool location for a cappuccino!
From the center of the swing bridge looking out to the Mediterranean.
A contemporary statue honoring the women of the region, waiting for their loved ones, titled simply, HOPE.
We didn’t get photos of the flamingos, but here is the next best thing.
This particular ice cream purveyor took up most of a block!
We liked the colors of this ice cream stand!
…and this color, too! It would likely turn your tongue bright blue, huh?
KINDER BUENO – Good Children?? That is an ice cream flavor!!
These crepes were already decorated, probably as a show and tell for customers.
This is the biggest item we have ever seen a drink served with. What happened to those little umbrellas? Or a skewer with cherries and pineapple? Wow.

Day 1,561 of Traveling the World | Montpellier, France | May 12, 2022

A funny thing happened on the way to relaxing in Montpellier. We spent four hours on a train from Genoa, changing trains in Marseille, and decided we would check in upon arrival (scheduled for 1:03) and have a leisurely lunch, since we had left early and only had coffee. It sounded so simple, way back then – yesterday morning. Our six-minute walk from the train station was, uh, a bit longer, as there is a fence across the street we needed to turn on. Instead, they made us walk UP 25 steps with all of our luggage, only to walk DOWN all those steps on the other side. We arrived at our hotel tired from traveling, eager to dump our stuff, get into the city, and eat something. The hotel had emailed us the day before, asking what time we would arrive at the hotel. How nice! Except that, upon entering and chatting with Simon, the owner, he said we did NOT have a reservation! We showed him our “guaranteed room,” and he said no, it wasn’t in his system. We said that this had happened to us 10 years ago or so, in Krakow. Our reservation went into a subdirectory that they never looked at, and they had no rooms available, so they called the nicest hotel in the city, got us a room for exactly the same price, and called a taxi to take us there! Simon looked at us, startled, and said that every hotel was sold out in this area of the city. He didn’t have much hope for finding us a room, and called several hotels in the area, with no luck.

Finally, he came back to us with a solution. His parents have a guest apartment two blocks from the hotel, and they were fine with us using it…he just needed to call a service to get it cleaned and freshened. If we could wait until 4:00 pm or so? Well, we really didn’t have a choice. He suggested a place where we could have lunch and hang out a while, and we had a fantastic lunch. Our apartment has a full kitchen, dining area, living room, two bedrooms, bathroom, and a washer/dryer. The Wi-Fi is fast! It is super-quiet, as only Simon’s parents live on our floor, next door. We went to the grocery store up the street and had fresh homemade omelets with veggies and salmon for breakfast! It was quite wonderful. So, a good moral to our story to remember – things work out for the better. We didn’t get what we wanted and planned while we were on the train, but we have some added advantages now, and actually got something better.

On to this beautiful city! It was fairly busy. Looking for a room for us, Simon remarked that it was especially busy for early May. People were out enjoying the warmth and sunshine. Our suspicion is that most places will be very busy this summer, as everyone is so happy that everything is open again after more than two years of staying home and being ultra-cautious. The city has many labyrinthian streets teeming with shops and cafes. The Botanical Gardens were quite busy, as well. It is free admission, but the glorious thing was, no car or tram sounds could be heard, even though it is located on a busy boulevard. It was pure bliss.

Montpellier has its own, older, Arc de Triomphe, along with beautiful public parks and plazas. We are still weaning ourselves from Italian phrases and trying to remember “please,” “hello,” and “thank you” in French, instead. Everyone has been very nice, trying to speak to us in English. We should be in Germany about the time we are used to using our meager French. After that we will be in Britain and we will probably be stuttering through several languages for a while before we get any English out. But we all understand each other, eventually.

Tomorrow, we pick up a car for a while, so we no longer will have to conform to train and bus schedules, early in the morning, wearing masks for hours. It will be very freeing!

Montpellier’s own Arc de Triomphe, dating to 1691. In contrast, the more famous one in Paris dates to 1836, which means Montpellier’s is 145 years older.
This beautiful, columned building is the Court of Appeal, adjacent to the Arc de Triomphe.
A triple hit! The Court of Appeal on the left, with the Arc de Triomphe on the right. Sandwiched in between is Montpellier Cathedral.
The Aqueduc Saint Clement, completed in 1765 to bring water to the city. Check out all those arches! It is dizzying.
We thought this was such a pretty scene! This is in the Jardin des Plantes, the Botanical Gardens. The rusting structure provides a focal point for the lake, the lily pads, and all the pretty flowers, trees, and vegetation.
In the Botanical Gardens is a forest of bamboo! It reminded us of the Bamboo Forest we visited in Kyoto, Japan.
This starburst-looking green plant was too cute!
The Promenade du Peyrou, a beautiful, peaceful park just across from the Arc de Triomphe. People were sitting on the benches and walls, having lunch, drinking coffee, and just chatting and enjoying the cool air atop the hill. We did the same!
Chateau d’eau du Peyrou, a pretty structure in the Promenade. We climbed the stairs you see, and that is where we got the photo of the aqueduct, which runs out from this building.
The famous carousel on the Place de La Comedie. Every business here had “Comedie” in their name, since it evokes F – U – N!!!
The Place de la Comedie. Walking through Montpellier, we saw several buildings with black domes, just like this one.
Sidewalk sale! – just like when we were growing up! Every shop had merchandise outside on tables. For a Thursday, the crowds made it quite busy.
On this pretty and warm day, the crowds were out, enjoying the shady trees and open-air restaurants like these. It looks very French, no?
This is all trompe d’oeil – the building is painted to resemble balconies and windows, but they just ain’t there, folks.
This is the Rue de Maguelone, where our apartment is located. The trams run all over all the streets, and have priority. Of course, on every pedestrian walkway, there are cars, trucks, trams, scooters, motorcycles, and bicycles riding up behind you and then honking loudly! They startled us quite a few times.
France, birthplace of Macron! Well, yes, that’s true, as he is the President of France, but we think we meant macarons, shown here!
Princess Tam Tam? Sounds like a Disney movie heroine.
We liked how happy this boy looked, way up high in a window overlooking the Place de la Comedie!
“Panse d’Agneau” – Sheep belly. We saw this from down the hall and somehow thought it was a doll hanging from a hook. We then found out the name of the store was Tripes de Food – tripe to eat. It looks somewhat like a chamois cloth for washing your car.
Now, wait. This isn’t right, is it? Protecting your nose from Covid while contaminating your lungs with cigarette smoke and leaving a Covid opening hole over your mouth? It all seems so counterproductive and…wrong!

Day 1,560 of Traveling the World | Cannes, France | May 11, 2022

Three countries hosted us on our way to Cannes: via bus, we started out in Italy, passed through Monaco, and wound up in France. From Monaco on, we remembered driving this twisting, tunnel-dotted mountainous road 19 years ago, on our honeymoon. We were denied entrance to the very posh Monte Carlo Casino because we were wearing t-shirts and shorts, very unaware of its history and prominence. Sure, James Bond wore a tuxedo there, but that was from another time, another age.

In six days, the Cannes Film Festival begins, and the town will become a mini-Hollywood. But during our one day and night here (just passing through), it was “ordinary time,” and hotel rates were low. We were in a nice hotel, rated well, for 127 euros per night. We looked ahead to next week, during the film festival, and the same room is 400 euros per night! Hotels will always charge whatever they reasonably think they can get!

So, we took the bus here from Genoa, as it was direct, but Cannes wasn’t the final destination. We stopped several times to let people off and take on new passengers in shopping malls and other places, but we had expected to be let out at a bus station in Cannes. At one point the bus stopped on a street with no name or signage, oand with no announcement from the driver, and new people had started to board. We just happened to look at the time and noted that it was right about when we should arrive in Cannes. So we asked the woman next to us (who had just boarded), “What city is this?” She answered, “Cannes.” We then asked, “Is this the only stop in Cannes?” “Yes,” she replied. We looked at each other, shocked, and hurriedly packed our iPads and other items we were using, hoping the bus wouldn’t pull away before we could disembark. We encountered people trying to board, annoyed that they had to back out to let us pass. And here’s the kicker to the story: we were standing on the street for all of 30 seconds, trying to get our bearings with the help of Google Maps, when a man asked us for directions, in French, no less. We have been studying French for six months, but we are nowhere near understanding rapid French, even if we knew where we were going – which we didn’t!

This was our first time staying on the Riviera again in 19 years. The city is very much alive, busy, and so darn pretty! It was a sunny, warm day, which made it all that more enjoyable. The Mediterranean Sea was a dense blue color and looked very inviting. Life here is very leisurely and measured. Nobody was hurrying anywhere, as you see in places like New York City. We will return to the Riviera later in the summer, before we leave for London. The photos will give you a glimpse into why the Riviera is so well-known and beloved.

Cannes! The water of the Mediterranean is a pretty deep blue, the sand is white and silky, and the people are playing games and laying in the sun. What’s not to like??
…and another photo of the Fun. Check out the yachts in the background. Everything on the Riviera is meant for relaxation and pleasure.
The narrow streets are filled with flower baskets and retail shops, with most people strolling hand in hand, as we were. We noticed that the city has all the big-name designer shops and hundreds of bars and restaurants.
The city’s color scheme, for buildings, seems to be cream and white. There were no dark buildings anywhere in sunny Cannes.
A peek into Monaco’s mountainous region across from its beaches. This was taken from the bus!
JP Paci, Artisan Chocolatier. This is the side view of their pretty window, as the front reflected too much sun. You can see their assemblage of marzipan.
The chocolatier created these exquisite chocolate scenes, which would delight a child no end. In the front is the White Rabbit with a card saying, “I am late.” Then there is “Alice behind the mirror.” The last one is “Tea Time.” They are beautifully crafted and colored.
This pastry is a French specialty…two choux pastries, a larger on the bottom and smaller one on the top, with chocolate cream in between and a “ruffle” of icing. They came to be called “religieuse” because the pastries resemble a nun!

Day 1,558 of Traveling the World | Genoa, Italy | May 9, 2022

All we knew about Genoa (or, in Italian, Genova) before we arrived was that it was the hometown of Christopher Columbus and that it was a port on the Ligurian Sea, a branch of the Mediterranean north of Corsica and Sardinia. But we have discovered its charms. We are staying in the city’s Old Town, directly across from the Old Port. We arrived by train from Bologna on Sunday morning, and as we walked the 15 minutes to our hotel, we were unimpressed by what we saw. Genoa looked rough, and grim. But when we got to the street our hotel was on, there were more people, cafes, and traffic. The city was coming to life. And when we wandered through the old town and into the newer area, it was like we had crossed from several centuries earlier into more modern times. Once outside the old town, prices rose! Everything was more upscale, with the prices rising accordingly.

We did try to tour the Christopher Columbus house today (Monday), but it was closed. We found that half of all businesses were closed on Sunday, and the other half are closed on Monday! His childhood home is just at the dividing line between the old and new cities. It is just a little downhill from the famous Porta Soprana, the highest (“soprano” – get it?) gate/fortification in the city.

We walked the Via Garibaldi, a noted street in the Old Town, which has more than 100 palaces. A few are now art museums, but the exteriors are magnificent. Visiting the Genoa Cathedral, we found it to be absolutely glorious inside. We walked along the harbor for a while, where a lot of people were going to the largest aquarium in Europe, or just having some cappuccino. Local dishes were on our agenda while here, as we leave for France tomorrow – lasagna with pesto (a Genoese specialty) and pansoti (a Genoese triangular-shaped ravioli stuffed with herbs and cheese) with its traditional hazelnut sauce – very rich and unusual. We enjoyed them greatly.

On the Via XX Settembre, a wide shopping and dining street, there is a beautiful inlaid sidewalk (photo below), and for several blocks, there is a fun and gorgeous portico that runs along both sides of the street. Innocently and unknowingly, we walked up one street called the Magdalen (Maddalena) – can you guess what we saw there? See below! All in all, Genoa was a fun city in which to end our time in Italy. We would happily return to this country anytime at all. You know the old wisdom…you will never have a bad meal in Italy! It’s the truth. But you will also, always, see beautiful old buildings and churches and meet the nicest people ever. Grazie, Italia!

The famous fountain on Ferrari Square. Unlike most others, which flow from the center OUT, the water shoots into the center from the edges.
This is the Biosfera (Biosphere) in Genoa’s Old Port, designed by the acclaimed architect Renzo Piano. It has gorgeous bright orange ibises walking around inside, along with butterflies and amphibians. The interior is very cramped, though.
The Sottoripa Portico, across from Genoa’s Old Port, began to be constructed in 1133 AD. It is Italy’s oldest portico (think about it: it was a little over 350 years old when Columbus walked through it!). Our hotel is just behind where we took this photo, overlooking the harbor.
Palazzo Ducale, the magnificent Doge’s Palace, was built in 1298, and is now a gathering/hanging out spot.
…going inside, the palace is now a mall, with a few different businesses. The cafe portion, an atrium, is open to the sky above.
Palaces (palazzos) along the Via Garibaldi.
This palazzo was highly ornamented.
…and here is a detail of the facade. We truly don’t know if this is male or female, but it doesn’t really matter…it is nicely done.
…and just down the block was this building, with men lowering their heads. We don’t know if they are supposed to be expressing pain, holding the building up, or something else.
This street is the Magdalen. Several women were hanging out on the doorsteps, eyeing us up and down, and then the woman with the purple umbrella walked around the corner in stilettos and the tightest clothing ever. We realized we were in the Red Light District!
The next palazzo was adorned with these faces! We LOVED their various expressions!
As usual, everyone else was window shopping, and we were looking DOWN at this beautiful sidewalk, installed in 1909.
The ceiling of the arcade on Via XX Settembre – every business trying to advertise their own – it was like Las Vegas!
…and more – notice the signs, the ceiling, the sidewalk, the pillars of the portico – a very rich experience!
A fun whale – again, notice the sidewalk, too!
Across the street, the portico has picked up Genoa’s favorite theme of black and white stripes, now faded to gray and cream.
We liked the ornamentation on these buildings above the portico- more stripes!
Do you need gladness? Step right up, as walking shoes are sold here. With our increased level of walking, good shoes sure make us glad – and pain-free.
Unsure as to what this business was, we looked inside and found ATMs. But that is only the first-floor business. Wall Street English is a language school for native Italian speakers…maybe for those who want to go work on Wall Street.
The Christopher Columbus House, with a plaque at the top announcing his name and accomplishments. Adjacent is a sign announcing Mocktail Week. What??!! You can only make money if alcohol is involved!
The Chiostro di Sant’Andrea (Cloister of St. Andrew) is a beautiful ruin of what once was. It is adjacent to the Columbus home and a few steps away from the Porta Soprana.
The Porta Soprana (not Tony or Carmela!). It was constructed in 1158 to defend against attacks by Frederick Barbarossa. Notice that the crenellations at the top are still intact!
As in Bologna, we have loved seeing these little storefronts from the early 1900s. This is an engraving shop.
Yes, the entrance to this tiny shop is just the width of one person. What you see is all there is!
The Old Town was decorated with butterflies throughout.
A view into the Old Town from the Porta Soprana. As we wandered around, thinking we were on small pedestrian paths, there would be honks from a motorcycle, car, OR truck, wanting to get by. We saw some pretty tight squeezing-through moments, as these streets are only meant for people!
The striped building is the Genoa Cathedral.
Genoa Cathedral of San Lorenzomagnificent! The black and white stripes are ubiquitous in Genoa and, as you saw, also adorn the exterior of this beautiful cathedral.
The glorious dome!
The magnificent organ pipes, with frescoes on either side looking like a book opening up.
A sarcophagus with clawed feet!
The front and back of the boat, the Vascello Neptune, a tourist attraction in Genoa’s harbor.
The artist, left, had just finished this sand sculpture and was cleaning up the excess sand. Quite a large group was watching, and everybody (including us) threw coins into his box. As we walked up, we thought this was a real dog. Since it is on a blanket, does he just destroy his artwork each day and start anew the next time? Hmmmm…we don’t know, but that is our guess!
Red. Juicy. Strawberries. We bought a carton.
How does anyone know which vehicle is their own???
Anyone with an infant would certainly want to visit Bebibaboo!
Mickey was visiting the Old Port – but they didn’t get his face quite right, did they? He looks like he is just a member of this family.
A sundae on a cone – gelato, whipped cream, nuts, and chocolate, at Gelateria Artigianale. She was eating ice cream with her mom, and we asked if we could take a photo before she dug in. Is that a beautiful, inviting cone of gelato for a beautiful woman, or what? We may have to indulge in one tonight! A gelato, not a woman. We have no plans to return to the Magdalen this evening.

Day 1,556 of Traveling the World | Bologna, Italy | May 7, 2022

If you were dropped into the Plaza Maggiore in Bologna, blindfolded, and had to guess where you were…you might guess Rome, Florence, or Milan, or another more popular Italian city. There are crowds (in many alleyways filled with bars and restaurants, there was not a table to be had). There is every conceivable high-end retail store you can think of. There is world-class food, especially tortellini, a city specialty. And there are the porticoes, the covered walkways (that we unknowingly called arcades, at first) that are a UNESCO World Heritage Site – if you can believe it, 25 miles of porticoes run through the city. Since we had rain off and on throughout the days we have been here, the porticoes were a godsend, keeping us dry. And walking through them for hours is one of the best things to do in Bologna. Seeing how they change in construction as the city grew is quite interesting.

Our entire lives, all that we knew of Bologna is that it was a “university town,” so we looked forward to arriving, as we suspected we would find more diverse food choices and more choices in stores. In fact, the University of Bologna was founded in 1088, and is the oldest university in the world. There were lots and lots of people here, and many groups of teens sightseeing and going to the front of the line because they had a group reservation. At one point we decided to skip the ticketed portion of the Archiginnasio (the oldest university building) because of so many tours going in ahead of us. We didn’t know what the Anatomical Theater was, but we skipped it, only to find out that it was where cadaver dissections took place for medical students. At any rate, as you will see in the photos, what we could see for free was impressive enough and much less crowded. Maybe we’ll see the rest on our next trip to the city. We never feel we have to “do it all” in one trip, as we always assume that, like MacArthur, we will return!

It is easy to envision staying here for a longer time in the future, as the city has so much to offer. Our first night here, we enjoyed Pakistani food, as during our last two stays in more secluded mountain towns, all we could find was pasta and pizza. So the diversity here was most welcome. But now that we have had some variety, there will probably be quite a bit of traditional Italian food in our near future. We are only going to be in the country for a few more days, and there is nothing like real Italian food.

We decided to start with photos of storefronts in the old part of the city, dating likely from the late 1800s-early 1900s. They look exactly as they would have then, with generations of workers linking the years together.
A restaurant specializing in pork – do you see the entire roast pig in the window?
A gorgeous flower shop.
This shop had a little of everything. Most of these stores are in one of the oldest parts of the city called the Quadrilatero.
The yellow boxes looked so pretty!
A lovely – and delicious – bakery.
Evocative of a jungle…
The dazzling interior of Rosarose Bistro.
A meat vendor.
An old restaurant front, advertising modern temptations.
We liked the multiplicity of dogs…dogs…dogs…
Che bello! A canine angel with food paintings behind it.
A sandwich shop.
In a large crowded public market, this group had a lunch nook all to themselves…looks like a 30th birthday party.
…and so did they!
They had their very own room. Most locals were sharing the lunch that you see…this group has four large platters of lunch meats, cheeses, breads, figs, jams, and condiments.
Gelato! (We keep saying ice cream, of course!)
The redundancy of pasta…all nearly identical, as they are each shaped by very experienced hands (not by machines). Bologna is known for its tortellini, and in most cases, the tiny ones, needing to be made by more adept fingers, are more expensive despite what filling they hold.
Have we died and gone to heaven yet? We haven’t seen tomatoes this red and gorgeous in a long time!
Ham, anyone? There were lots and lots of ham and cured meat shops.
Pretty bars of soap, all locally made.
Gorgeous, colorful produce at the market.
While the porticoes are famous, and are the town’s treasure, see how different they all are in this and the following photos. All were constructed over different periods of city life.
This portico is a little more ornate,with drapes, as it is on the city’s main square, the Piazza Maggiore.
This portico is in different colors than the rest, with a plea for peace in Ukraine.
In the oldest parts of Bologna, this portico is made of wood and rounded brick.
This portico has capped pillars.
Old brick construction on the right portico, with more modern cement pillars on the left.
The Fountain of Neptune (1566) in Piazza Maggiore.
These four figures around the base of the statue are called “lactating nereids,” sea nymphs friendly and helpful to sailors. Why they are on a fountain commissioned by St. Charles Borromeo and honoring the election of Pope Pius IV, dating to 1566, is a mystery.
The Asinelli Tower, one of two almost adjacent leaning towers in the city. Standing at 319 feet tall., Asinelli is the tallest and was used as a prison and a stronghold.
The beautiful interior of Cattedrale Metropolitana di San Pietro.
There are canals in Bologna, dating back to the Middle Ages. Who knew?
The inner courtyard of the Archiginnasio, once the main building of the University of Bologna.
Beautiful! The ceilings and walkways of the Archiginnasio are covered in colorful dedications, coats of arms, and remembrances of local faculty.
Part of the library on the second floor.
One of the porticoes of the University – the ceilings and walls all look like this!
The Piazza Maggiore, Bologna’s main square.
Klimt’s “The Kiss” in a store window. We think it is part of a kit for children to color.
The look of this retail window was very pleasing, nicely put together.
We didn’t notice anyone wearing any shoes that looked even remotely like these. It is like they were in a museum. They are set under a dress, so we guess they are women’s, but we aren’t at all certain.
THIS?!?! It is a red chocolate shoe with a white chocolate rose, of course!

Day 1,553 of Traveling the World | San Marino City, San Marino | May 4, 2022

Oh my, oh my! San Marino is our 105th country to visit, and it truly is a fortress town and a hilly town. The views are beyond compare. It reminds us of watching a video on Yosemite a few weeks before we first visited there, and then arriving and looking up. It was such a feeling of reverence and awe, very different than seeing a film or photos. The same applies here. Pictures can give you part of the story, but being here is a whole different level of being.

We arrived by bus from Rimini, Italy (as there are no trains that travel here), only to find no taxis at the station. The man there said, “You can walk! Only 10 minutes!” In front of us was the steepest mountain we had ever seen, and it was like looking up at the Empire State Building and having someone say – “It’s easy! Just start walking up the face of the building!” It was a sheer vertical climb UP. We declined, and he helped us call a taxi, a complicated venture. The 5-minute ride cost us 20 euros, and while shocking, it was money well spent!

San Marino is completely surrounded by Italy. DON’T refer to the citizens as Italians, though – they are Sammarinese, proud of their independence from Italy. The country is the third smallest in Europe, with only Vatican City and Monaco being smaller. It is the world’s oldest republic, having been founded by a stonemason, Marinus, in 301 AD. The city’s most notable features, and the most popular, are the three towers, which are on the crest of the city. The largest, and most accessible, is the Guaita Tower, built in the 11th century. We visited there and climbed more stairs in an hour than we had in the last year! The city is built for defense, with guard towers overlooking the city. This is reflected in the shops on the medieval streets (which twist and wind – up, up, up only, it seems), as there are quite a number that sell weapons. See the photos below – in the shop windows were crossbows, knives, daggers, swords, bows & arrows, handguns, and rifles. The other popular, and ubiquitous, stores are perfume and sunglasses…outnumbering even clothing stores, we think. The only cuisine is Italian, and our only dining choices are pizza, pasta, and sandwiches. No, we don’t mind that much, as it is all delicious.

The views! The stunning layout of mountains and fields is inescapable. We are at 2,457 feet, and each glance out is gasp-worthy, even after seeing it a hundred times. We spent three days here, although travel sites mention that a few hours are sufficient to see the entire city. What you miss that way, is having the streets to yourself after the day tourists leave, and being able to watch afternoon turn to dusk turn to night, watching the valley below and how it changes as the light fades. And the opposite is true in the morning, as it all “fully wakes up” before your eyes! Writing this blog, sitting on the bed with the panorama before us, is beautiful and priceless.

Of course, restaurants and hotels take full advantage of the view. The window tables fill up first, and hotel rooms with “a view” are more expensive. We don’t know how we lucked out, but we are on the top floor of our hotel, in a corner room, with four panoramic windows looking out (see the photo). We keep the drapes open all night, looking at the view before/as we drift off to sleep. Mike said, “Other people look at their Hummel collections; check out what WE look at!!” It makes us feel very fortunate to see the world as we do.

A peep at the valley from the top of the Guaita Tower.
Our corner room in Hotel Cesare, with a view like we have never had!
The view!
The view, again, this time from our bedroom window.
One of the many uphills that we up-hilled!
The Cesta Tower, constructed in the 13th century on top of the remains of an old Roman fort, always looming in the distance, looking like part of a Gothic novel.
A view from the top of Guaita Tower.
At the top of the Guaita Tower.
A ladder is the only way up to this level, then you have to stoop to get through this tiny door. Everything was built for defense.
Looking from the ground up.
…and across the courtyard.
Even some cannons are still around.
A pretty, and long, pathway to a private home along one of the many switchback medieval streets.
Inside the chapel at the tower. It was very simple and clean.
We laughed! This is a security camera in a small tower room, and does look just like a basketball!
The front of the Basilica of San Marino, looking like a solemn, stodgy, government building.
…but inside was a shock! Gone is the heaviness, and gone is any gaudy ornamentation! This church is sleek, calm, newly painted, and sophisticated. A real surprise!
Check out that gorgeous dome! And, of course, front and center in the Basilica of San Marino is…San Marino!
Part of the city walls, with two guard towers as you approach the old town.
…and we discovered a hole in the wall a little further down, with a pedestrian bridge across.
So pretty! And just one of many towers, arches, and walls walking along the streets.
Walking along the city streets, with parts of the old city walls, we looked inside to see a “loophole” where guns, crossbows, or bows would have been able to shoot out without the shooter being shot. We learned that it is called a loophole on Jeopardy! this week, after having just walked by them that morning!
In the middle of all the retail shops on one of the busy winding streets is this pretty house, with flowers and greens in bloom.
More crenellations along the public walkways, which are vestiges of the old city walls, as you have seen in so many of these photos.
San Marino Palazzo Pubblico, the seat of government in the Republic.
These sculptures of beautiful women were along the road going to the main plaza. We had to leave this photo in a square orientation, as rounding cut off their heads!