Showing posts with label Celebrity Silhouette. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Celebrity Silhouette. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Kotor, Montenegro: Climb Every Mountain

“Climb every mountain,
Search high and low,
Follow every highway,
   Every path you know. . .”

As the steps grew more uneven – actually missing in places – and the town below looked like a miniature toy land, I started humming those lyrics from the “Sound of Music.” My mental musical mantra carried me upward as we conquered one of those ‘travel bucket list’ items we’d had since a cruise stop in Kotor, Montenegro back in 2004:

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We were finally climbing the walls that zigzagged up the sheer face of the Hill of St. John to the remains of a once mighty fortress high above this town of some 26,000+ people. It had been on our list  since July’s triple-digit temperatures during that previous cruise  kept us from tackling it.

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Last fall we’d again arrived by cruise ship, this time aboard the Celebrity Silhouette.  The October visit, on a cool crisp sunny day, didn’t provide us any weather-related excuses.

SilhouettePt22012 159Kotor, is a UNESCO listed “World Natural and Historical Heritage Site” and its Old City, (that triangle of red roofs you see on the photo above) built between the 12th and 14th Centuries, remains a delightful warren of narrow streets and squares.

It is located on Boka Kotorska, the Bay of Kotor, at the far end of the deepest natural fjord in the Mediterranean.

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Upon paying the 3-euro fee to walk the walls, we were provided a brochure with map showing color-coded zones: ‘relatively safe walking path, zone of increased risk and high risk zones’ and a brief history of points along the way. It also said, in bold red letters: You are advised to use caution on the trail and consider your physical condition.

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After all, it is a climb of 1,350 steps with an ascent of 3,947 feet/1,200 meters. (And once up there, you will need to come down). It began quite easily on somewhat uneven steps that lined a sloped cobbled path, which once had been used to move cannons up to the fortress.

Steps along our route continued to be uneven, many broken or missing in places, yet fine in others. Low borders in places and others not. (There were places you didn’t want to make a misstep. )

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This somewhat rickety metal bridge, spanning a deep crevasse, led into what remains of the fortress.

SilhouettePt22012 134 We explored its nooks and crannies, which were often accessed by tiny openings. (I am five feet tall, by the way).

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Venetians built the walls and a reminder of their presence remains today in the image of the winged Lion of St. Mark, the symbol of the then Republic of Venice, just above modern- day graffiti.

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From the fortress we had spectacular views back over the city and bay and into valleys on the other side of the hill, like this one that revealed the remains of an ancient church.

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From the fortress mega-yachts appeared to be  the size of row boats.

SilhouettePt22012 123Not everyone was able to make it to the top. Those of us who did photographed each other to celebrate the feat. We felt pretty smug during our descent when half way down we came across a group of red-faced, 20-somethings sucking air and declaring that they had gone far enough!

We had two major chuckles on this outing.  The first was the “No admission” sign near the fortress that cordoned off a sheer drop of several hundred feet:

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And the second was the young woman we encountered along the way, who obviously had decided to dress formally for this outing:

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If You Go:

Map picture
By water:
There is nothing better than arriving in Kotor by boat traveling through the fjord that cuts through the towering cliffs, passing intriguing small hamlets along the way. If you have an opportunity to take a cruise with Kotor as a port of call – we recommend taking it!

Ferries from Bari, Italy and Bar,Montenegro also travel to Kotor.
By air:

The nearest airport is Tivat, eight kilometers away and is served by several airlines.

More information:

It is time for Travel Photo Thursday so head over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more armchair travel! Hope to see you back here Sunday for WAWeekend!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

In Pursuit of Passion: Those Who Dare

Travel, for us, is pursuing a passion.  It is about risk-taking; leaving our routines and comforts to experience  new cities, countries and customs. 

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“You are so brave!”

So often that is the response when we talk of some destination or our plans for reaching and discovering it. (That's us high above Dubrovnik, Croatia in the photo above.)

No, not brave.

Just passionate about seeing the world while we are ‘young’ enough to do so.

Along the way we’ve met others who haven't let age or health deter pursuit of their passions. As the year draws to a close, we've been remembering some of those folks who’ve inspired us along the way:

~~~Ravenna, Italy~~~

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The two ladies in the photo above finally paused long enough for me to snap a photo of them while on a stop in Ravenna, Italy. They were fellow cruisers who had been a continual source of inspiration from the moment we first noticed them aboard the ship.

Their white-hair and frail-frames masked the spirits of a couple of independent travelers who were constantly on the go;  never missing a port of call – nor an afternoon of reading at poolside when on the ship.

~~~Poros, Greece ~~~~

Two years ago, on the Greek island of Poros we visited one afternoon with self-taught artist Vasilas Poriotis as he sat in his sidewalk gallery.

As our visit ended we told him that we hoped to return one day and find him there.  He said he would be  "if I am not dead." Then with a sweeping gesture over his work, he added,  "I am not focused on the end - I am not afraid of it when it comes. . .it is what you leave behind that matters. And I have left something behind. . .It is important to leave something behind."

~~~Adriatic Sea~~~

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John Koruga, who splits his time between Seattle and Mexico, has pursued his travel passions for decades. But it wasn’t until this fall, at age 86, he tried  the world of cruising. He flew from Seattle to Rome and boarded the Celebrity Silhouette, the cruise on which we also ‘looped Italy’s boot’.

SilhouettePt12012 329Age and health are not topics John readily discusses (although he had both knees replaced a few years ago); he’d prefer to talk about the next trip he’d like to make and he’s got quite a few on his list. In this photo he was teaching me the art of bocce ball.

~~~Bologna, Italy~~~

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It was  Anna Maria Monari, the 72-year-old owner of Trattoria Anna Maria that inspired during our visit to Bologna, Italy. She founded her restaurant 24 years ago in a smaller location a few blocks from its present site. Back then, Anna Maria was both waitress and chef, serving menu items created from her mother’s recipes.

She’s not entertaining thoughts of retirement either, as she told us,  “I am here every day.  Where else do I have to go? This is the party.  . .Mama Mia!”

~~~Mascota, Mexico~~~

It was on our stop last spring at  El Pedregal Museo, The Stone Museum in Mascota, Mexico the town high in the Sierra Madres near Puerto Vallarta where we met the owner, curator, and artist  Don Francisco Rodriguez.

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Pero, por que piedra? (But, why stone?), Joel asked of the 76-year-old artist as he explained how he goes to the river and searches for rocks, loads them into a wheelbarrow and hauls them.

Porque es mi pasion, (Because it is my passion),” he answered simply with a shrug and a grin.

~~~Kastri, Crete~~~

“The colors of the sea”  is what I told him when he said he wanted to make me a gift. But  the real gift was the time I spent with  Georgios Chalkoutsakis on that warm spring afternoon on Crete’s southern shore. Georgios is a glass bead artist whom some might label as 'handicapped', but I would call him talented! 

He is wheelchair bound as a result of a premature birth.  His hand movement is a bit limited but that hasn't kept him from perfecting his art of glass bead making. My colors of the sea are pictured on the left.

Yes, we believe it all comes down to daring to pursue a passion.  Will 2013 be the year that you begin pursuing a long-put-off passion?  Or will you simply step up the pursuit of an existing one?

Stop by Budget Travelers Sandbox today if you need a bit more travel inspiration.  And if you want to receive TravelnWrite posts in your inbox, sign up in the box on the corner,become a friend by signing up below that box (where our other friend’s photos appear) or follow us on Facebook. We'll get back to the Winter Western Road Trip this weekend.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas: Finding Saint Nicholas

Santa Claus – fact or fiction?   Saint Nicholas – fact! 

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And if you don’t believe that, just head to Bari, Italy and visit the Basilica di San Nicola (Basilica of St. Nicholas).  The remains of this Patron Saint of sailors, merchants, children, archers and thieves have been resting here since 1087!

Because the church was built on what was previously the residence of the Byzantine Governor (Catepan’s Court) historians can’t quite agree on the stages of construction.  The underground Crypt where the remains are enshrined was consecrated in 1089. 

Whatever the sequence, the end result is an enormous structure; one well worth visiting.

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We visited the Basilica of San Nicola  this fall when the Celebrity Silhouette stopped for a day in Bari.

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Depending on the version you choose to believe, Saint Nicholas relics were either ‘removed’ or ‘rescued’ from the saint’s original shrine in Myra, located in present-day Turkey by a group of sailors and merchants from Bari.

SilhouettePt12012 335There had been great competition between Venice and Bari, both seaport towns on Italy’s eastern shores.  But legend has it that the saint passed by Bari on his way to Rome and had chosen it to be his burial place.

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The Nave at Basilica di San Nicola

So, who was Saint Nicholas and what’s the link to Santa Claus? 

Saint Nicholas, who was born around AD 270, is believed to be from whom the present day Santa Claus evolved. Saint Nicholas was a real human being born in the village of Patara, which at the time was a Greek holding and today is part of Turkey. 

Saint Nicholas was orphaned at an early age and is said to have given away his entire inheritance to help the sick and suffering. He dedicated himself to serving God and became known as the Bishop of Myra and known for his love for children, concern for sailors and their ships and his giving to those in need.

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The Crypt at Basilica di San Nicola
Known for his giving of gifts, stories abound about his generous acts, and much like all stories about him vary. Perhaps the most popular story to carry through the ages is:

There was a poor man who was unable to provide his three daughters with dowries. Without anything to offer prospective husbands (other than love, that is) the daughters would most likely have been sold into slavery. Then without explanation, on three different occasions, a bag of gold (or gold balls – depending on the version) appeared in their home providing the funds for the dowries. Some say the bags were tossed by Saint Nicholas through an open window – others say down a chimney but each landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry.

This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Oranges are used in symbolize the gold balls . . .have you ever found an orange in your stocking and wondered why?

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History shows he attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325.

His death on December 6, AD343 continues to be a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day (December 19 on the Julian Calendar).

Since 1951 the basilica had been home to a community of Dominican Friars and is now an active ecumenical center.

If You Go:

Map picture
The Basilica di San Nicola is on the piazza of the same name within the remaining walls of the ancient city of Bari. It was a 20 minute walk from the cruise ship dock, a bit further from the Central Train Station. We didn’t use the recommended shuttle.

Hours: 7,30 – 13,00, 16-19,30; Entrance is free. 

For information on the Basilica:

For information on Saint Nicholas:

All photos in this post are Jackie Smith’s with the exception of the photo of the Russian icon of St. Nicholas from The Elsner Collection. It is used under Creative Commons licensing agreement with Wikipedia: Photo by The InstaPLANET Cultural Universe .

Thursday, December 6, 2012

And the “Celebrity (cruise) Guest Chef” is. . .

None other than. . .Joel Smith, The Scout and editor of!   Don’t believe it? Well, I’ve got the photos below to prove it. Even better, any one of you reading this who takes a cruise on the new Celebrity ships could be a ‘guest chef’ as well.

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Our fall cruise was on the Silhouette, one of the newest ships in Celebrity’s flotilla of luxury. It’s one of the Solstice class ships that offers those expansive green lawns on the uppermost deck.

They now offer picnic packages for the lawn, so why not have a barbeque as well? They’ve got just that in their specialty restaurant, the Lawn Club Grill, an interactive place where cooking is almost as much fun as eating. 

(Easy for me to say, as I was the photographer – not the guest chef!)

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After Joel was introduced to fellow diners and the applause ended, Lawn Club Chef Steven Diaz, had  Joel suit up and wash up, and work began. The cooking island is center stage in this restaurant and to make sure everyone can watch, two large screen televisions broadcast to the far reaches of the eatery.

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Chef Diaz has an extensive professional culinary resume which includes recently opening the restaurant at the luxury beach resort Balcones del Atlantico, A RockResort, in Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic before turning his career sights to the sea.  However, he’d met his culinary challenge with Celebrity-Chef-in-Training Joel.
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(Joel’s pizza is on the left, Chef Dias on the right).

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Did I mention this was a comedy floor show? Especially when it came time to toss the pizza dough. But with Chef Diaz’s guidance, this was the end-result of the session; the first course served at our table:

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Ah, but the best was yet to come. . .the grilling! Notice Celebrity-Chef-in-Training Joel had earned his chef hat by now.

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In all seriousness, Joel said he did learn a lot about grilling steaks – one of his favorite at-home past times.  Chef Diaz, who had been aboard the ship for just a month of his first six-month contract, answered questions and offered cooking tips throughout the session.

I mean, how often do you get one-to-one tutoring from a professional chef?

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For Celebrity Guest Chef Joel, it was time to eat.  But not for Chef Diaz. . . the next group of chefs had arrived.
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If You Go:
SilhouettePt22012 221The Lawn Club Grill is a specialty restaurant, meaning you will pay extra to dine there. In addition to the pizza, the meal includes an enormous salad bar and the dessert list is extensive. Chicken, fish and meat are among the grill items – you can eat some of each or a lot of a single selection if you have the capacity.  Disclosure: Our meal was hosted by the cruise line.

The interactive part is optional; if you prefer to have your meal cooked and served by the professionals – it will be.

For cruise information:  Celebrity Cruises
For information on the resort mentioned above: Balcones del Atlantico, A RockResort 

That’s it for this week’s Travel Photo Thursday. Thanks for visiting; hope you’ll head over to Budget Traveler’s Sandbox for more travel adventures.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Ciao! Ciao! Celebrity ~ Hello Harmony

We said farewell to our floating home, the Celebrity Silhouette, on Tuesday and have set up our Venice ‘home’ in an apartment called Harmony.

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We arrived in Venice in the early morning, gliding through the darkness on the Guidecca Canal toward the cruise terminal as quietly as the gondoliers who ply the waters of the nearby Grand Canal. (I was among the die-hard 'arrival fanatics' who were up at 4:30 to view our arrival.)

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The ship stayed overnight, so Wednesday afternoon we toasted our old friend from our neighborhood waterside bar as she set sail at sunset to retrace the steps that brought us here.

Our home this week, an apartment rented from the website Vacation Rental By Owner, is in the Zattere; an area away from the concentrated hordes of tourists; a place so down-home that the man at the corner bar knew we wanted our ‘two Americani coffees’ this afternoon when we walked in and we’ve only been there twice since our arrival.

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This is ‘our’ street – we enter our building through the second door down from Joel.  We are on the first floor (that means second floor by US terminology). Our apartment isn’t as cute and warm as the one we rented in Bologna; but it is spacious, clean and functional – and a fraction of the price of hotels here.  So we are in ‘harmony’ with our digs. (Yes, pun intended)

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The kitchen is both the living area and kitchen as the television is against the right wall in this photo.  The bedroom, bath and second bedroom/den down the hall.

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The Zattere is exceeding our expectations; we stroll this section each day to get home.  (BTW, that large ship is a private yacht.)  The only problem is that the days are rushing past far too quickly.  And there’s a lot of city here to explore, so ciao for now. . .I’ve gotta get going!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

With Travel, sometimes it’s the small things. . .

. . .that leave the longest memories.

And for the animal lovers we are, the small things are those little four-footed creatures who can capture our hearts or sadly sometimes break our hearts when we visit those places that have no compassion for their homeless dogs and cats.

I am happy to report to all our fellow animal lovers that this trip has been a good one – for us and the furry ones that we’ve encountered. Today, on TP Thursday, I want to share some of those encounters with you:

Let’s start in Catania, Sicily where this bride and groom were virtually ignored by us camera-toting tourists. . .

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. . .because we were so taken with this charming little member of the wedding party (who WAS watching the bride and groom):

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Then there was the stroll through Bari, Italy’s old town when we happened upon this fellow asleep outside one of the traditional bars (where you can have coffee, sweets, alcoholic drinks or just hang out with the locals). And he could have cared less about the number of tourists aiming camera’s at him:

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Valletta, Malta wins hands down for the care given its ‘street cats’.  They have free rain-proofed and cushioned  public housing in the city park:

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And signs in Arabic and English advise people to only feed them at the ‘feeding stations’ – these are two story structures that offer both food and drink. There was one well fed but camera-shy cat behind the structure just waiting to eat a bit more  as soon as I left:

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This fellow was sunning himself against the exterior walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia’s Old City – totally oblivious to the attention being given him by those of those of us who felt the need to capture his bath on film:

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Just down the road, we spotted a mom and her adolescent children – all were well cared for and despite her camera-shyness, I had to include her photo. (Those of you who remember our still-loved-and-missed “Thai Guy” will understand why she captured my heart):

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This trip has given me hope that animal welfare has caught on world-wide.  If not, at least the efforts are expanding.

That’s it for this Travel Photo Thursday.  Head over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more travel photos from around the world.


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