A Travellerspoint blog

October 2015

Northern Ireland

Belfast

all seasons in one day 49 °F

21 - 23 October 2015

Jim was finally feeling a bit better so we headed east towards Belfast. Our plan was for a birthday dinner for Jim, take in the Titanic Museum and see a bit of Belfast.

Belfast is about a two hour ride from Raphoe. On the way over we had a small issue with the car. Not something that needed immediate attention but when little lights go on, you're never really quite sure if it's "major" or not. We arrived in Belfast, had a nice lunch at The Crown Pub and checked in at our B and B - Ravenhill House Bed and Breakfast.

Before anything else we did want to make sure all was ok with the car. After a few emails and a call with Brian in Dublin - the car issue sorted itself out. :-)

Ravenhill House Bed and Breakfast

Ravenhill House Bed and Breakfast

View from our window Ravenhill House B/B

View from our window Ravenhill House B/B


We chatted with Roger, our B and B host and headed out for a stroll in the neighborhood.

Dinner that night was at The Shed Bistro. Jim found it on Trip Advisor and it got great reviews. And for good reason!! It is a small local cafe but the food and service was really nice. A good meal always makes Jim feel a little better.

The next day it was up for breakfast. One of the great things about staying at a B/B is the breakfasts. It's a great way to start the day and also being a slow time of year, to chat with the hosts. Roger was a wealth of information and a great cook. We headed off for a day of touring with full bellys.

Traffic in Belfast is not fun. Actually we've found the same in many of the Irish cities. The streets haven't changed in many years but the amount of vehicles has. Fortunately, there is a bus that picks up about a five minute walk from the B/B. It took us to within a block of the beginning of the Titanic Trail (which lead us to the museum doorstep) - about a 30 minute walk. Again we had made our reservations on line. In the lobby there is kiosk where you input either your reservation number or the credit card you used and retrieve your tickets and then to the info desk to pic up the audio guide. NOTE: Thursdays in the fall are Senior day (65+)- 10 euro instead of 14 euro (for Jim, of course).

Titanic Trail Belfast

Titanic Trail Belfast

Belfast

Belfast

The museum was fantastic. The major portion of the Titanic was built right outside the museum location. Titanic was then sailed to Southampton, UK for final fittings and ultimately from there her maiden (and only) voyage. The museum winds from floor to floor on six different levels. Three and a half hours from start to finish. Very enjoyable.

Titanic Museum

Titanic Museum

Breakfast was starting to wear off and we were sure we could find a pub for some lunch and a pint. Mc Hugh's fit the bill.

From there, with Rogers recommendation, we decided to do a Black Cab Wall Mural Tour, which explains about the recent history of the Belfast conflict. He had given us a card from a company that he used but we had a problem with the phone. Still determined to do the tour we walked up to the Visitor's Center and they got us a cab from another tour company straight away. Jackie Johnson ended up being our tour guide...and lucky we were (for many reasons). Jackie sat with us a bit and we chatted about the recent history between the Catholic and the Protestant communities. His tour was a representation of both sides with the theme of hope. It was really a great tour. Actually being there and seeing the areas that we'd only viewed on the news showed us that although healing, Belfast is still a city in transition and all is not forgiven or forgotten.

Views of some in Belfast

Views of some in Belfast

Bobby Sands Tribute in Falls Road area Belfast

Bobby Sands Tribute in Falls Road area Belfast

Peace Wall

Peace Wall

Remember, Respect, Resolution

Remember, Respect, Resolution

One funny thing happened though. When Jackie asked us where we were staying, we told him. He was very surprised and asked us if Roger (??he knew Roger??) had recommended another company. We said yes, but we had a problem with the phone number- well, it was his company and his partner was supposed to be manning the phones. He immediately gave him a call and got him to get the problem fixed. We laughed and said we thought it was meant to be that Jackie would be our tour guide. If you head to Belfast, we definitely recommend the Irish Cab Tours and ask for Jackie.

Making it back to the B/B just about dinner time and we headed to Errigle Inn for a light dinner. That and a comfy bed made for good night sleep.

It's Friday, it's raining and it's a drive back to Raphoe. We got in mid afternoon - it rained and rained and rained that whole day.

The remainder of our time in Ireland will be down south - doing a little genealogy and enjoying another part of Ireland, so....laundry time and time to get the house ready for the King's when they return. One of the expectations of a home exchange is that you will leave the house as you found it and we came into a pristine home. Fortunately, we're not messy people, so it was just a matter of washing sheets and towels and making sure the kitchen and bathrooms were in good shape. Dinner at home and we'll be off early in the am....

Posted by pjburke 08:03 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

...and More Ireland

Derry and Malin Head

overcast

15 - 20 October 2015

One of the nice things about a home exchange is that you can take day trips and then head back, know where you'll be sleeping and also make a meal and relax. Some people have told us that they look at a 25 miles radius and see what there is to see in that area and then move on. Which is exactly what we did our second week in Donegal - we actually expanded it to about 50 miles but same idea.

On Thursday , it was a bit grey but a good day for a walk, plus Jim had the beginnings of a cold. We're hoping with some meds he'll start to feel better.

Off to Derry for a stroll. We found the visitors center easily and was given some great information by the young man working behind the desk.

Peace Bridge

Peace Bridge

Peace Bridge

Peace Bridge

On Friday, with JIm not feeling any worse but also no better, we headed out to Malin Head. This is the northernmost point of Ireland. Along the way we stopped at the Donegal Famine Museum. Beautiful countryside views.

Donegal Countryside

Donegal Countryside

Countryside Cottage

Countryside Cottage

Malin Head LIghthouse

Malin Head LIghthouse

Carrickabraghy Castle

Carrickabraghy Castle

The Finger of God

The Finger of God

Still not feeling great on Saturday or Sunday - I worked on the blog and we watched the New Zealand - France Rugby World Cup Semi Final and then Australia vs Argentina....... Go All Blacks!!

Our plan was to go to Belfast for two nights and celebrate Jim's birthday but with JIm still not feeling great we stayed around Raphoe.

The 20th - Happy Birthday Jim....Feel better soon...

Derry and the Donegal Countryside Photos

Posted by pjburke 05:19 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

More Ireland

Donegal and Northern Ireland

sunny 48 °F

13 October 2015

I'm not sure if I explained this earlier but one of the reasons we ended up in Ireland was that we're doing a house exchange. A couple from a small town in County Donegal (Raphoe) is exchanging with us. They're in Saddlebrooke (as this is being written) and after our stay in Dublin, we headed north. It was about a two and a half hour drive. The skies were a little grey as we started but brightened as we drove north.

Oh....I forgot - before leaving Dublin. I got to do a little genealogy research. At the General Register Office in Dublin (which happened to be less than a five minute walk from where we were staying), I was able to get copies of my grandfathers' (John Crowley) birth certificate, the birth, marriage and death certificate of his father (Thomas Crowley), the birth certificate for my great grandmother Sarah Leary and marriage certificate for my 2nd great grandparents (Cornelius Crowley and Mary McCarthy) and Mary's death certificate.

For anyone doing research in Dublin, this is a great resource but be aware, there is a charge. Much of the basic information (i.e. name, year, volume, page) is available on line. If you have this information - the charge for each photocopy is 4 Euro. If you need to look information up, they have indexes (1845 for Non-Catholic marriages and 1864 for other records) but the charge to use the book is 2 Euro (which covers up to five consecutive years) or if you have a lot to look up it's 20 Euro for the whole day and you can check as many books as you need to. So - do your homework. There is a maximum of eight (8) photocopies per person per day. Any further can be emailed or posted. I don't mind paying for copies but I did think it's a little excessive when you're charged for using the books to look up information yourself.

Back to Raphoe. Having seen a photo of Jim and Fionnuala's home, as soon as we turned on to the main street in Raphoe...there it was. Through the gate and parking in the rear - this would be our home for the next 10-14 days.

When we tell people that we're doing a house exchange, some people are very interested. Some ask for the website and seem keen on the adventure while others, not so much. Some are apprehensive about having people staying in their homes when they are not there. But we know that the expectation is that we will take care of and respect each other's homes. It really is a great experience.

Jim and Fionnuala's home is beautiful...and huge - four bedrooms, three and a half bath, huge modern kitchen, living room, sitting room, sunroom...and more. I do wish we could have seen their garden in the spring or summer - it's lovely now but I have a feeling it is spectacular in season.

We got settled, got some groceries and relax in our new "home".

Irish and English

Irish and English

A little about Raphoe

A little about Raphoe

14 October 2015

It's been a very busy six weeks - today is a rest and relaxation day. A day to catch up on email, try to SKYPE Mom and just put our feet up but also discuss and make a plan for the remainder of our time in Ireland. BUT.....

I guess we just can't sit still. That afternoon, we did decide to check out a site that was right there just outside Raphoe - the Beltany Stone Circle. This stone circle is reputed to be older than Stonehenge and the access is quite a bit different.

( I'll preface this by saying that I'm a huge "Outlander" fan. I blame my sister Peg - she recommended that I read the books and I'm currently on the 8th book.) Anyways - if you're not familiar with the books, this site probably won't interest you at all but it was to me. And since, we missed seeing Jamie and Claire who were filming in Prague when we were there. I really wanted to check these out. I promised Jim I wouldn't fall through and end up in 1743.

Follow the signs

Follow the signs

We followed the signs out of Raphoe, down a less than two lane road to a small parking area (really just an area off to the side). There was a sign pointing up a walking path, so up we go. It was a steady uphill climb along a path that was bordered by meadows and sheep on both sides. The path ended at a gate to a meadow and in the distance we could see the stones. It was a nice day, cool but sunny and we were the only ones there, except for maybe 100 sheep. As you can expect with over 100 sheep, walking to the stones was a bit of a minefield which unfortunately we didn't/couldn't avoid but it was worth it. Check out the pics!!!

The path to Beltany Stones

The path to Beltany Stones

Our first look at the stones

Our first look at the stones

Beltany stones with resident sheep

Beltany stones with resident sheep


Stones

Stones

Beltany Stone Circle

Beltany Stone Circle

I don't think Jim is taking this seriously

I don't think Jim is taking this seriously

Giving it my best anguished Clairelook

Giving it my best anguished Clairelook

15 October 2015

Day trip - Raphoe is only about six miles to the border with Northern Ireland and the Giant's Causeway in Antrim has been on Jim's "to do" list - so we're off.

With Garmin in Jim's hands we're on our way. (With regards to driving - since our exchange hosts car insurance made them pay for each person who would be using their vehicle (our's did not) - Jim and I decided that I would be the DD. Fun, fun, fun!!!)

Our Garmin really likes to take us on the "road less traveled". At one point, I saw a beautiful beach and turned in...on the cliff overlooking it was a small building - not familiar to me but as I was to later find out - again - anyone familiar with Game of Thrones (cliffs overlooking Dragonstone)- you will recognise it. There was also a derelict (abandoned) castle on the property - Downhill Castle. Again, very few people. One of the advantages of traveling off season.

Information on the Castle

Information on the Castle

Downhill Castle

Downhill Castle

Downhill Castle

Downhill Castle

GOT location shot

GOT location shot

Northern Ireland Coast

Northern Ireland Coast

After stopping for lunch in Portrush, we made it to Giant's Causeway. As tourists go, it was really pretty quiet and the sun was still out. Again, the pictures really tell the story.

Giant's Causeway

Giant's Causeway

Steps at the Causeway

Steps at the Causeway

Beautiful views

Beautiful views

Giant's Causeway

Giant's Causeway

For Ireland I'll be batching photos on Shutterfly - Enjoy!!

Posted by pjburke 10:19 Archived in Ireland Comments (3)

Ireland

Dublin...the start of our tour!!

semi-overcast 50 °F

11 Oct 2015

Our trip from Amsterdam to Dublin was effortless. Bags arrived quickly and we were through Passport Control - no problem. Brian, our house exchange hosts son lives in Dublin and he brought the car to the airport and met us at the Arrivals area. Fortunately for us Brian agreed to ride with us into Dublin instead of taking the bus. Its' been a couple of years (since New Zealand) that I've driven on the left side (and sat on the right side). It takes just a bit to get used to. Brian is a very brave and patient man. He never yelled or screamed in fear and only once did I hear - "that was just a wee bit close". Thanks Brian for all your help.

We made it to the hotel and got the car parked with only minor confusion (of course on my part). We stayed at the Harding Hotel on Fishamble Street in downtown Dublin. Nice little hotel, great little pub and wonderful location. After getting settled we started walking towards the Temple Bar and Trinity College area - just to walk around. Well, the weather had other ideas and guess what was right in front of us when it started to rain..a pub. Go figure - Ireland?? a pub?? We stopped in ordered a pint and decided to stay for a late lunch and watch a bit of the Ireland vs. France Rugby Match. The last time we watched rugby was four years ago, in a small pub in Viet Nam and again it was World Cup but it was the final between NZ and France. It's actually pretty exciting and fast.

We knew that there was going to be music in the pub at our hotel so at half time we wandered back, grabbed a seat and watched the Irish beat France. That topped off with some great music was a nice way to start our stay in Ireland.

We were going to stay for more music but then the Ireland vs Poland Football (soccer) game came on - so the music stopped. I like football/soccer but I like music more so we head up for the night.

12 Oct 2015

Our room at the Harding was small but comfortable and breakfast was included. Breakfast was great!!! Starting our day off like this we probably wouldn't need lunch. We were going to take the local bus to tour but the very helpful young man at the front desk encouraged us to take the Hopon/off. This time - we probably broke even...not sure I would do that again. We took the bus out to Kilmainham Gaol.

Again, I'm going to rely on WIKI for basic info: Kilmainham Gaol is a former prison in Kilmainham, Dublin, Ireland. It is now a museum run by the Office of Public Works, an agency of the Government of Ireland. Many Irish revolutionaries, including the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, were imprisoned and executed in the prison by the British, and in 1923 by the Irish Free State.

Kilmainham Gaol

Kilmainham Gaol


Irish History

Irish History

The Rock Yard

The Rock Yard

Cell door lock

Cell door lock

For those interested in the history of Ireland in the early 1900's, this tour is a must. All guests must take a tour. We arrived about 1020 and there was a small queue for the 1045 tour. I was really glad we got there early - when we left the line was around and down the sidewalk. Get there early!!

Feeling a bit of a thirst, from the gaol we headed to Jameson Distillery. I'm not a big whiskey fan but Jim is. The tour included a tasting and you also must sign up for the tours. Again, timing is everything. We only had a short wait before the start of our tour, but long enough for Jim to chat with a young lady from Wisconsin who was working at the shop and to decide to treat himself to an early birthday gift. A "bottle yourself" Select Reserve Cask Strength Black Barrel Whiskey. I have to admit, it is quite tasty - let's hope it makes it home unscathed.

For Doug McGee!!!

For Doug McGee!!!

Happy Birthday Jim!!

Happy Birthday Jim!!

From Jameson's, we decided a wise decision was to take Jim's "birthday present" back to the hotel before heading out for more sightseeing. It was a beautiful, but chilly day. We walked along the River Liffey, over the Ha'penny Bridge and over to the Trinity College. I thought that he wanted to see the book of Kell's. (I had seen in back in 1986 when Peg and I went to Dublin after the first Crowley Family Reunion. At that time, I seem to remember seeing a few of the pages. Now there are only one or two to view.) But, Jim didn't really care and thought I wanted to see it, so we skipped that stop and headed back for a pint.

Italian for dinner tonight - Toscana Restaurant - it was pretty good.

River Liffey

River Liffey

Ha'penny Bridge

Ha'penny Bridge

Trinity College

Trinity College

Posted by pjburke 08:02 Archived in Ireland Comments (5)

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

sunny 55 °F

08 October 2015

Good bye Dubrovnik...Hello Holland!!!!

As air travel goes, it was easy..on Easyjet!!. On in Dubrovnik, off an hour later in Amsterdam - only the weather changed. Sunny when we left, cool and cloudy when we arrived. i know now why the Europeans travel so much, because it's so easy!!

We're staying in an apartment near the Museum district of Amsterdam and with our host's directions in hand we head towards the city. The #197 bus (5 Euro) drops us off at Museumplein (Museum Square) and within five minutes we're knocking on Irene's door. And just so that we're sure as to where we belong, she has a note with our names taped to the front door.

Irene's

Irene's

Irene was right there to answer the ring with a huge smile and welcome. Being tired and being greeted so warmly dissipated any reservations we might have. She guided us to the apartment which is in the lower level - more of a garden apartment. Again from Airbnb, the pictures were totally accurate. The apartment is a large studio with a separate kitchen and eating area and decorated as only Irene could. She has a quirky design sense that totally represents her personality. We immediately felt at home.

Irene's Quirky Kitchen

Irene's Quirky Kitchen

We were hungry (seems we always are) but first Irene sits with us and, with the two days we have, she recommends more than we could see in a week but it was great having so many options. I had made our reservations and printed our tickets before we left AZ for the Van Gogh museum. With those in hand for the following day, the only decisions were what to do with the rest of our time.

But first dinner -she recommended a small neighborhood cafe just a a block down the street - a little neighborhood gem called Verhulst. Food, service and atmosphere were all great.

Good food and a wonderful comfy bed - a great start to Amsterdam.

09 October 2015

Great night sleep and it was time, of course, for breakfast. Irene had also suggested Valerius Eten and Drinken, another neighborhood cafe. Amsterdam could be competing for Budapest for my favorite city on the food alone. Our meal much bigger than I expected. In the US, we get a choice of bread - not here, they just give you three different kinds, plus eggs, plus juice and coffee. Definitely won't need any lunch.

Breakfast at Valerius

Breakfast at Valerius

With full bellies, it was a ten minute walk and we arrived at the Van Gogh Museum. As we approached I realized why the guide books say to get your tickets in advance. There was quite a line waiting. But wait...that's not "our" line - that was the line to buy tickets. With tickets in hand, we were directed straight to the museum. It would have been at least an hour wait had we not preplanned. The new museum entrance had opened just the month before and the building is beautiful. Tickets, whether on line or in person, were the same price. Plus if you get your tickets on line - you pick the time you want to enter and then you have a 30 minute lee time. Price:$17 entrance plus an optional $5 audio guide - I recommend the audio guide - more like a small tablet, good sound and headphones and great information. Travel guides we've read estimate about an hour to view the museum. I think that must be old info because we were there 3 1/2 hours. Definite MUST if you get to Amsterdam!!!

We finished our tour mid afternoon and with Irene's recommendations in mind, we hopped on a local #3 bus and took it to it's last stop in the northern part of the city,Haarlemmerbuurt, which is also one of the oldest areas of Amsterdam. From there we strolled the cobbled streets, wandered along picturesque canals stopping for photos ops along the way.

An enticing little tapas cafe caught our eye while walking and it was a light late lunch/early dinner before walking back to Irene's.

10 October 2015

Irene had asked us on the day we arrived if we wanted to go on a canal boat tour. It was on our "to do" list. She recommended two, one that could cost 17 Euro and it was a big boat tour or one for 19.50 Euro which was much smaller with a live narrative from the captain. It seemed like a no brainer to us and we booked the later ...for the 11am tour.

Canal Cruise ship

Canal Cruise ship

Canals, canals and more canals

Canals, canals and more canals

Irene's apartment is located on the edge of a small square - we found them frequently in Amsterdam. As we started our adventure that morning, we walked out of the apartment and right into a Farmer's Market. We found out that every Saturday this little Market in this little square. It was instigated by the neighborhood to support local merchants. I couldn't believe they could fit so much in such a little square. There were local merchants selling meat, veggies, cheese, fish, crepes (if only we had known-these would have been breakfast) and more. Fortunately for us, they would be there until 5pm.

Off to the canal tour. We arrived early, checked in and sat outside a few doors down with coffee and watching the world go by on this cool sunny morning. Bikes with babies.....bikes with groceries...and one talented young lady who was drinking coffee and talking on her cell while riding her bike.There were also cars maneuvering the narrow streets along with tourists from the small hotels near by taking in the scenery.

Our canal tour was with Classic Canal Cruises and Captain Eddie was our captain. Born and raised in Amsterdam, he had retired from the Dutch Navy, been a captain for Holland Cruise Lines and was now enlightening tourists and locals alike as to the beauty of Amsterdam's canals. The tour was supposed to be 90 minutes but Captain Eddie asked if we minded an extra 30 to see some more of the beautiful canals. It was a great trip.

The afternoon was full with more walking the canals, through Begijnhof (a small village inside the big village) and we even encountered a large protest march. (The marchers were young people protesting the discrepancies between wages of the young and the old). After all this excitement we made our way back to Irene's. She had recommended another neighborhood restaurant called Narbonne for dinner and was making reservations for us. Plus, we wanted to make sure that we had a chance to shop at the Farmer's Market before it closed. Jim had his eye on some cheese. (Note: one fortunate thing about being in the EU - as long as we packed food in our bag we were going to be able to bring it into Ireland - not that they don't have cheese there).

P1190694.jpg

After dragging Jim away from the "cheese guy", I worked on my blog and as the sun was setting on Amsterdam we strolled to Narbonne, Eten and Drinkin for dinner. Great little cafe located at Bosboom Toussaintstraat 28 was tucked away off a main street and about a 20 minute walk from Irene's. She really encouraged us to have dinner there and with her previous suggestions - we didn't doubt her choice.

Dinner was great, atmosphere casual but nice. SO...we come to another IASW (it's a small world) moment. We chatted with our waitress, Alisea (not sure I got the spelling correct). "Tucson?? You're from Tucson?? My grandma lives in Tucson!" As I explained that that we actually lived north of Tucson proper, she vividly described the hilly road to her grandma's - Tangerine!! Not sure exactly where she lives but it has to be close- probably Oro Valley. Small world!!

11 October 2015

With a mix of regret (only that we didn't have more time in Amsterdam) but also excitement - we're off to Ireland.

Amsterdam is definitely a great city but their airport??? Not so much!! It's the definition of "let's automate as much as we can so we don't have to hire real people". Sorry Amsterdam... but that's how it felt. If you're flying out of this airport - two hours might just not be enough. I'm going to preface this by saying that just the day before there had been a terrorist bombing in Turkey. I don't know if this is how it always is at this airport but not a great impression.

First, we couldn't check in on line (flying AirLingus) and neither could very many passengers on Delta and KLM. Haphazard lines to check in at the kiosks, then on to another line, weaving our way towards baggage check in. Make sure to watch the videos being played on monitors because you will be doing it yourself. But first your documents get checked (by a human) and then wait in another line to check your own bag and put it in a little machine that whisks it way and then it was another line to passport check and then another line through security where they were hand checking every backpack and carry on. Of course, our luck, once we got through all the "lines" our gate as #57 of 60. Don't get me wrong and sorry for my little rant - I'm all for safety but it felt like I was at Disney with the lines that make you feel like you're actually getting somewhere and you're not. You can only imagine Jim's comments :-)

But it's off to Ireland. We'll be there for three weeks - primarily for a house exchange but also to tour some areas that we didn't get to go to when we were there last. Also...just maybe... some genealogy!!!!

Amsterdam pics from shutterfly

Posted by pjburke 02:18 Archived in Netherlands Comments (4)

Dubrovnik

The Pearl of the Adriatic

sunny

06 October 2015

As we drove from Mostar towards the coast, the grey clouds seemed to follow us for just a short while. The closer we got and after passing through a long tunnel, we emerged on the other side to clearing skies. By the time we got to our final stop on the Patty, Jim and Brenda tour, the sun was welcoming us. Brenda would be heading home shortly but we (P and J) are heading on to Amsterdam and then Ireland.

Mostar to Dubrovnick

Mostar to Dubrovnick

Seaside town along the way from Mostar - almost deserted

Seaside town along the way from Mostar - almost deserted

Ana was our Airbnb host for the apartment in Dubrovnik but she was up in Zagreb for work. It really seems that many of the Airbnb apartments are family businesses. Throughout our trip, sisters, cousins, Dads and/or Moms were helping when the primary person was not available. And, of course, they were just a text away. Speaking of texting - I think Jim might finally be convinced that a smart/iphone would really be a good thing to have as we travel internationally. (I have a smart tracphone at home. Which works great at home but doesn't work outside the USA. Originally, because we travel so much, a contract was not such a great idea. But with new pricing I think it would be very useful. And truthfully, without Brenda's phone - we would have been a bit lost. Thanks B!!)

But I digress....With bags in hand, we made it down the four flights of stairs. (It was great going down the stairs for once but then you realize at some point we'd have to go back up.)

Walking into our "home" and walking out on to the terrace was incredible. The view...oh the view!!! See what I mean.

Our view from the terrace

Our view from the terrace

Jim enjoying the view

Jim enjoying the view


The apartment in total was great. Two bedroom, living room, kitchen and an sea-view terrace all for $79 per night. Who said that Europe was expensive??

Marija arrived and showed us around the apartment and also sat down with us and gave us the info on Dubrovnik. She also told us where we would have to go to drop the car off (which we decided to do that day instead of the next).

The sun was out and it was time to see the Old City but first - get rid of the car!! We went back and forth on that decision but in the end we were glad that we dropped it off that day so that we had the whole next day to tour the Old Town. Dubrovnik was very easy to get around. Had to get gas first and then the Fleet office was just two minutes up the street. We lucked out with a parking spot right across the street, check over the car, sign paperwork and DONE!! Marija had told us which bus to take to get from the rental car place to the Old Town. She also suggested that we think about buying a "Dubrovnik Card" - it included the Old City Wall, about eight museums and bus transportation for 24 hours. We did the math and decided it would at the very least break even and would be very convenient. Got the card, caught the bus and off we go.

The bus dropped us off right outside the gates of the Old City. Having gone through a devastating earthquake in 1667 and damage again during the fighting in the 1990's, it is currently thriving as a tourist destination.

Being our first afternoon and it was quite late, we decided to just wander a bit and then stop for dinner. We would come back the next day to do the wall. Dubrovnik is a walled, medieval city(probably from the 6th or 7th century but those claims are disputed) and also a seaport. The old city is now a UNESCO Heritage site but the city proper has also extended north along the coast and comprises small neighborhoods and a huge port. On a busy day it's not unusual for four or five cruise ships to be in port. We were lucky, our first two days in town, there was only one large and a couple of small ships. When we left on Thursday Oct 8th - there was probably six. As we found out Thursdays and Saturdays are when there are the most cruise ships in port and are days to do something other than try and see the Old City. One suggestion: try and wander around at night. All the tours and cruisers are gone and you can even find a quite corner or two.

P1190212.jpg

07 October 2015

Dinner was delicious and we probably had a little too much wine so the next morning we were glad that we had already taken the car back. We made our way, UP the stairs and to the bus stop and took the local bus back to the Old City. We made our way up to the wall (price included in the Dubrovnik Card normally 100 Kc (about $14). The wall runs up and down for about 2km (1.24 miles) and is a combination of walkways, stairs, turrets and towers. And for those of you who are Game of Thrones fans, the pictures will seem very familiar. It was filmed here. The views are quite beautiful and you'll be able to see, it really is a working city, with homes and schools - not just a tourist attraction.

The Old City

The Old City

Roof tops of the Old City

Roof tops of the Old City

It was a gorgeous sunny day and feeling a little parched and very hungry we decided lunch should be outside. the harbor side of the city has a couple of cafes with delicious seafood. Seafood on the sea - can't get much better than that other than it was also very reasonable.

Seafood by the sea side

Seafood by the sea side

Our trip was coming to an end and the next day was going to be an early one for Brenda, so we planned the evening at the apartment and it was a good thing. A thunder and lightening storm came in along the sea and it truly was the most spectacular I've ever experienced. Brilliant lightening strikes lighting up the water and the thunder rolled enough to shake the house. (I loved it!!!).

08 October 2015

As they normally do, the storm passed and ushered in a beautiful day. Sun after the storm

Sun after the storm

Unfortunately, at 0600 Brenda was off the the airport for her flight home. It hardly seemed like we'd really been traveling for a month. The three of us had talked extensively about how fortunate we felt that 1) we have the opportunity to travel as we do and 2) that the three of us seem to really meld as travel companions. Safe travels B...until our next trip!!!

Our flight to Amsterdam didn't leave until late afternoon, so we decided to head back to the Old City and try to scout out some of the small alleyways. Upon arriving, was when we found out what Thursdays were like. Crazy!! It was so much more crowded than the past two days, so we grabbed some lunch, made our way back to the apartment just in time to meet with Marija's Dad who would be our ride to the airport.

Just the two of us (missing our travel buddy) we're heading to Amsterdam and on to a new adventure.

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Posted by pjburke 14:56 Archived in Croatia Comments (3)

Mostar, Bosnia

overcast 62 °F

05 October 2015

Mostar is a place that we really wanted to see - it's a little off the beaten track but worth the trek. It was about a two hour drive from Trogir. We had good roads (mostly highway) on the Croatian side but once we got into Bosnia we realized things would be a little different.

One lane roads, many under construction, was the norm as we made our way towards Mostar. We came across an accident with a car that was entering the road from a drive way vs. a tractor trailer. It didn't appear that anyone was hurt but being a two (small) lane road - traffic was backed up for miles - thankfully not in the direction we were headed. We're really not sure how emergency equipment were going to get there.

We had been using our Garmin GPS with a Europe chip. It's really had been working very well..until we arrived in Mostar. It got us to the city but after the our initial entry - it was useless. Our only guess is that where there used to be roads there are now buildings, two way streets are now one way or pedestrian walkways (one of which I drove down) and what used to be goat paths was now a road - two way and almost (but not quite) big enough for one car but it was now a two way streets. Definitely made driving "interesting".

We finally resorted to texting our Airbnb host (Lamai) for directions. She was at work but contacted her sister, who called her cousin, who walked down, in the rain and guided us in. Without him, we would have never found our way and that would have been our loss.

Another twisty windy lane led us to Lamia's apartment which is located above her family home on a hill over looking Mostar. Her sister Tia greeted us with a huge smile. The apartment is a very nice two bedroom flat with a wonderful view of downtown Mostar. It looked very new and we asked Tia about it's history.

Mostar

Mostar

There is so much written about the recent history of Mostar. Here is a brief excerpt from Lonely Plant. Obviously, each side has their own "version".

Mostar grew from a simple crossing point on the Neretva River to an important crossroads settlement and provincial capital in the Ottoman Empire. Ottoman governors liked to set their stamp on their cities through monumental architecture, usually grand mosques but in the case of Mostar, the Stari Most.
The Austria-Hungarians further developed Mostar with a planned city on the western banks where the Gymnasium and City Baths are good examples of their fine architecture.
During the 1980's Mostar became an important tourist attraction centered on the old bridge and the preserved Ottoman quarter. Visitors from all over Yugoslavia flocked here in summer, especially for the July diving competition.
Mostar suffered greatly during the inter-ethnic wars from 1992 to 1995 that resulted from the collapse of Yugoslavia. Initially a Serbian force shelled the city from the eastern hills killing thousands and forcing even more from their homes. Croats and Muslims combined to expel the Serbs but shortly afterwards became adversaries. The Croat forces took over the western bank expelling Muslims and the city became divided along the river.
The Stari Most was a favored target for Croat artillery based in the western hills, and on November 9 1993 a direct hit collapsed the bridge into the river.
The Dayton Agreement established a unified city corporation, which concentrated on rebuilding the city center and culminated in the reopening of the new Stari Most in July 2004.

Tia told us that their house had been bombed and burned down back in 1990's. It's been rebuilt with love and care. During our brief one night stay, we were fortunate to meet Tia, Lamia, their Dad and of course their cousin.

We visited the Old Town and Stari Most (the cities iconic 16th century bridge). This bridge stood for 427 years before being bombed in November of 1993. It was reconstructed, using the same methods in 2004 and done so well that I couldn't tell that it wasn't the original.

Stari Most

Stari Most

This is the tourist area of Mostar with the Bridge being it's center piece. Bridge diving has been a tradition since the 1600's. The day we were there, a hat was being passed to raise money and encourage a man to dive. We never did see if he went over or not. We decided on early dinner at Sadrvan, which was recommend by Tia. Good local food and very plentiful. Brenda and I ended up sharing "The National Plate", more than just a tasting of local Bosnian dishes. It actually would have been enough for the three of us.

Having previously visited a country that had a large Muslim population, we knew that the call to prayer would come early. When we were in Cianjur last year, it was about 0400 and the chanting continued for hours. The call to prayer in Mostar began about 0600 (or at least that was the first I heard it) and seemed only to last a short time. About an hour later, I heard the bells chime from the Christian church. A mental note to self - maybe things are changing...maybe not.

One stop we wanted to make before we headed to off to Dubrovnik was a Bosnian coffee shop that was also recommended by Tia - Cafe de Alma. It opened about 10am and we made it over just about that time. It was a quiet day and we were introduced to the traditional way to drink Bosnian coffee by the cafe's owner Jaz (pronounced Yaz). He sat with us for a while and with great care familiarized us with intricacies and traditions. Jaz told us about the coffee roaster which takes prominence in his shop (It was originally his Father's). We talked about travel and his love of rock climbing and the fact that his family is in the tourism business. It almost seemed an after thought when he told us that his Mom knows Rick Steves and had appeared in his Bosnian segments.

Cafe de Alma

Cafe de Alma

Jaz (yaz) making us Bosnian coffee

Jaz (yaz) making us Bosnian coffee

Here is more info on their shop from a Rick Steves article but my suggestion is to go, meet Jaz and learn from his love of Bosnia.

http://blog.ricksteves.com/cameron/2015/10/bosnian-coffee-achieving-mudlessness/

Sadly, after coffee it was up the hill to get the car and head to Brenda's last stop, before heading home to the US - Dubrovnik.

But Mostar wasn't finished with us yet. It took us another 30-40 minutes to find our way out, finally asking a man walking along the road. His directions, "see the big orange building? Head towards that." And it worked - off to Dubrovnik!!!

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Posted by pjburke 03:21 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Comments (1)

Plitvice Lakes National Park and Trogir

From the mountains to the sea

02 October 2015

We had heard so much about the Plitvice Lakes National Park and since we decided, due to time constraints, to skip Lake Bled. we made it happen. It was a quick one night stay, which we don't really like to do but here, it worked.

Taking off early from Rovinj (actually setting the alarm clock) and getting on the road by 0800 got us into the park right around noon. Breakfast was sparse, so it was lunch at the cafeteria. The food really wasn't too bad but we've had such good food recently that it was just "ok".

Shortly after we left Rovinj, we hit rain which made us second guess our plan. But, there was no turning back now. What's a little rain???

Still a slight drizzle and the fact that we had all our bags in the car and we made our way to our one night guesthouse - Pansion House Prijeboj . Pansion House Prijeboj

Pansion House Prijeboj

As we were checking in, the young lady at the desk, asked us if we were going to have dinner there that night. Hmmm - we didn't know that it was an option. She assured us that the food was good...especially the fish!! 15 euro person...works for us - three fish dinners at 730pm. We'll be there.

By the time we got back to the park, it was still a little grey but the rain had stopped and off we went exploring. Plitvice is known for it's waterfalls and there were plenty to view. I think that the rain actually enhanced our views.

Not to easy to get lost!!

Not to easy to get lost!!

Falls

Falls

....and more falls!!

....and more falls!!


One trail lead to a boat which lead to another boat which lead to a trail that ran along the lake which lead to waterfall after waterfall. It really was lovely. I"ll let the pictures do the talking. (Note: we had thought about two days at the park but really one was just enough. If the weather was better I'm sure there would be alot more to do but one worked for us..)

Dinner that night was a great surprise!! We went to dining room (in the lower level) at 730 and no one was around and the lights were off. Whoa...what's going on. We looked around...no one. I walked out to a small cabin behind the lodge and the owner answered. His English was better than my Croatian but only by a few words. Fish?? Yes!! and with a head nod I knew we'd be having dinner soon. We followed the owner back in to the house and he headed out the back door. Where is he going?? but we followed. The fish was on the grill but he also wanted to show us where they came from. He had his own fish pond in the back and had caught the fish just before cooking them. The dinner came with a whole fish (each), potatoes, grilled vegetables, a fresh salad and bread. We were asked when we made the reservation if we wanted wine or beer but we had a bottle and they gladly let us drink it with dinner. It was incredible!!! Being this late in the season, there were only five other people staying that night but we were the only ones having dinner - their loss!!

Yummy Fish Dinner

Yummy Fish Dinner

03 and 04 October 2015

And again...we're off!! This time for two instead of just one night. We head south and west towards the coast, in hopes of some sun and warmer weather - we're heading to Trogir.

The ride was uneventful up until we got into Trogir. There really wasn't an "event". It was just that it was Saturday. Being an an old seaside town it had really narrow and VERY tight winding streets. I guess "challenging" would be a good word - but we made it with the vehicles paint job in tact.

We were greeted by our hostess Katarina and her Mom - both lovely ladies. The apartment - was nice with really awesome views over looking the Adriatic. The only slight problem was that to go into town or down to the harbor and then back to the apartment there was a hill, a really steep hill, but I guess we have to work off all this great food somehow.

The view from our apartment - Trogir

The view from our apartment - Trogir

Down the hill to lunch along the small harbor (vs the large harbor) and stopped at a water side restaurant - Mediterranean . It was just opening for the afternoon (at 1pm ???) and they were out of a number of things since they would be closing on Sunday for the season. after lunch and little grocery shopping,we headed up over the BIG hill to the Old Town. It had been threatening rain all day and started sprinkling as we were coming down the hill and the skies opened up as we got over the bridge. We made our way out of the passing downpour and continued to wander after it stopped.

Two tourists posing for a photo

Two tourists posing for a photo

Lunch and Dinner

Lunch and Dinner

The calm after the storm

The calm after the storm

Old Town coming over the hill

Old Town coming over the hill


Sunday, we woke to bright sunshine and a glorious day. It was back over the the hill for lunch and to see the areas of town we missed in the rain. But before heading over the bridge to the Old Town we walked along the waterfront admiring the multitude of sail boats. Trogir's port is home to a number of sailing companies. We haven't sailed since we left San Diego and walking here really made me want to just jump on one of these boats and sail away. One can dream !! But maybe, one can do more than dream. We talked with the owner of one the companies about sailing out of Trogir's harbor next fall. Jim has told me since I hit the BIG 60 next year, I can pick my trip - hmmmmm ... Croatian Coast for a week or two???. It is a definite possibility!!!

Sunday morning sunshine

Sunday morning sunshine


Maybe next years vacation :-)

Maybe next years vacation :-)

Well..back to earth and off for lunch and a stroll. Being another really old town (established in the 3rd century), it's been pillaged and plundered but the old Kamerlengo Castle (or parts of it) still stand. Views from the Tower were wonderful!!

Fort Kamerlengo

Fort Kamerlengo

Off again tomorrow and heading back inland for a side trip to Mostar, Bosnia. We've heard that it's a very interesting spot. We'll keep you posted!!

More Pics....

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Posted by pjburke 06:00 Archived in Croatia Comments (4)

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