Destinations, John and Virginia Rudzinskas

Destinations

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Innsbruck Austria picturesAustria 2007

We visited the Tyrol region of Austria and stopped in the city of Innsbruck. The city sits on the Inn River and is surrounded by the Alps. Our short stay in this capital city was spent walking around the Old Town and peering into the many shops selling chocolates, pastries and jewelry.

We added our photo of Emperor Maximilian's Golden Roof to our tourist catalog. It was built in 1500 and is decorated with 2,657 fire gilded copper tiles. The Golden Roof is actually a three-story balcony on the central plaza in the heart of Old Town used by Maximilian 1 to watch tournaments in the square below it.


John and Virginia Rudzinskas in front of Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna Austria

Austria 2009

Austria 2009 and The Imperial Splendors Tour Group

We enjoyed visiting Austria again and explored the magnificent and cosmopolitan capital city of Vienna. A scenic drive took us through the stunning lakeland area of the Salzkammergut to the beautifully preserved city of Salzburg, Mozart's birthplace. A portion of this journey was completed on a Brandner Cruise ship that sailed the Danube River from Krems to Weissenkirchen.

In the picture to the left, we are standing in front of Schonbrunn Palace, just outside of Vienna, Austria.



Belgium picturesBelgium

We arrived in Brussels from London, England via the EuroStar.

While driving through the city of Brussels, we passed an interesting site. Located on the Avenue de Stalingrad in central Brussels is a huge megaphone known as La Pasionaria.

The megaphone is a creation of local artist Emilio Lopez - Menchero. It is about 4 meters long with a horn diameter of 2.3 meters. The art work was dedicated to all migrants to Belgium and is dedicated to spontaneous self expression.

We caught this fellow getting a chance to blow his own horn. This is a plaza where citizens can publicly express their thoughts on matters, both great and trivial.





Vancouver BC Canada pictureCanada

We've enjoyed our many visits to our northern neighbor. Vancouver seemed casual but cosmopolitan, offbeat and blessed with a beautiful natural setting. Victoria's Inner Harbor and Empress Hotel  were picturesque and a joy to explore.

When we visited eastern Canada, we found Toronto to be a metropolis that was more welcoming than overwhelming and it was filled with interesting neighborhoods that might host multitudes of university students or a huge, medieval castle. It's an easy drive from Toronto around the western end of Lake Ontario  to the always spectacular Niagara Falls.

We viisted Canada again in 2016 and enjoyed Banff, Lake Louise, The Canadian Ice Fields and Jasper National Park.

 

St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech RepublicCzech Republic

This was our first visit to the Czech Republic. We entered the Czech Republic from the western border. Crossing the Vltava River, we made our way to the Wenceslaus Square area in Prague (Praha) where our hotel was located.

Our explorations included The Old Town Square, Havelska Market, Wenceslaus Square, the Charles Bridge, and St. Vitus Cathedral which is located within the Prague Castle. This picture was taken while in the Prague Castle.

Prague certainly deserves its reputation as being one of the world's most beautiful cities!



Nyhaven Denmark

Denmark 2015

We started our Scandinavian vacation in Copenhagen, Denmark. We did our usual extensive walking tour of the city, photographing the many interesting sites of the Danish capital.

 
We visited Christiansborg Palace where we toured the lavish royal reception rooms(after putting on protective vinyl booties on our shoes). The elegant rooms displayed beautiful furniture, highly decorated walls and ceilings and intricate, colorful tapestries. All the appointments were truly fit for a king.


Although we didn’t enter the Amalienborg Palace, we toured the adjacent courtyard with its large fountain. From this vantage point, we had an excellent view of Frederik’s Church, popularly known as the  Marble Church. Frederik's Church has the largest church dome in Scandinavia  with a span of about 101 feet.


The Rosenborg Castle is another nearby royal residence. It dates from the early 1600’s when it originally served as a summerhouse for Christian IV. It’s situated a in the King’s Garden, a spacious, leafy public park.
Whenever you see a photo of Copenhagen, you’ll often see Nyhavn. This canal, waterfront collection of brightly colored 17th and 18th century townhouses is fronted by cafes, bars and restaurants and many people having a good time.


Situated about a mile north of Nyhavn is the famous statue of The Little Mermaid. Of course it is a very popular tourist spot and you can fight your way down the rocks to the water to get your own photo of the lovelorn, Little Mermaid.
Tivoli Gardens is a Copenhagen amusement park that first opened in 1843 and continues to a major attraction for local residents as well as for tourists visiting Copenhagen.  Along with the many rides, the park contains many restaurants(simple and fancy), cafes,  a theatre,  bandstands, flower gardens, an aquarium  and a lake.


From Copenhagen we headed west across the Great Belt Fixed Link (The Great Belt Bridge) to the island of Funen. Here we visited Hans Christian Andersen’s home and museum in Odense, birthplace of the famous fairytale writer. Onto Aarhus and Den Gamle By. Den Gamle By is a collection of completely furnished  old Danish town houses. At Frederikshavn, we boarded the Stena Danica and made our way across the Kattegat to Gothenburg.

Buckingham Palace, Londodn EnglandEngland 2007

London is a wonderful place to visit once you've successfully escaped from Heathrow Airport.

There are so many places to visit - parks, monuments, castles, towers, bridges, museums, shops and on and on. Did I mention there are many pubs with an assortment of ales to make your acquaintance?

We met some interesting people in many of our pub stops and enjoyed sharing a brew with them.

There is so much history and so many interesting things to see and do in England. We are planning to go back.

 

John and Virginia at StonehengeEngland 2013

We finally made it back to England for the first time since 2007 and it was well worth the trip! This time we were able to visit Liverpool and the award winning Beatles Story tour area. The Beatles Story is an atmospheric journey into the life, times, culture and music of the "Fab Four". Of course we visited the Cavern. We also visited Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and the ceremonial pageantry of the Changing of the Guard. We also visited St. Paul's Cathedral, the breathtaking ornamental gardens of Henry VIII's Hampton Court Palace, Runnymede, the site of the sealiing of the Magna Carta and Shakes'ear's birthplace as well as Anne Hathaway's Cottage.

We also visited Oxford and enjoyed a walking tour of the city and the University of Oxford area. We went on to visit Warwick Castle which was magnificant with it's opulent Great Hall and State Rooms. In York, England's most complete medieval city, we stood in awe in fromt of the great Minister and later walked through a maze of quaint streets, indluding the narrow Shambles.

We went through Northumberland National Park We visited the Roman Baths in Bath, England, enjoyed King Arthur's Glastonbury and visited pretty Widecombe-in-the-Moor as we headed across Dartmoor to Plymouth. We crossed the River Tamar as we made our way to the pretty shark-fishing village and former smugglers' port of Looe. We visited the beautiful Lake District and Grasmere, home of poet William Wordsworth. Back in Plymouth, we visited the Mayflower Steps where the Pilgrim Fathers embarked in 1620. We also visited the Plymouth Hoe where we saw statues of Sir Francis Drake, the Plymouth Wheel, and many war monuments. The signseeing hightlight of our last leg in England was visiting Stonehenge. Then we strolled through pretty Salisbury with its vast cathedral. While in London, we went to two musicals. Wicked was amazing. The Jersey Boys was great also. We really enjoyed our visit to England.

 

Eiffeel Tower, Paris FranceFrance

Our stay in Paris was entirely too short. This charming city deserves its reputation as an elegantly beautiful metropolis.  We were surprised by how huge the city is! One can really appreciate this from the Eiffel Tower. The view from this famous landmark encompasses a stunning vista of white stone buldings, manicured parks  and the Seine River. Just driving along the Seine, there is much to see, including the Notre Dame Cathedral,  which we saw in the soft golden light of the setting sun. The Cathedral is celebrating 850 years of history. Ever year, the curch welcomes 14 million people to visit, pray and celebrate.  

The Arc de Triomphe was the exclamation point at the end of our drive down the Champs-Elysées. Our  short excursion to the Palace of Versailles gave us a glimpse of kingly extravagance, magically mirrored rooms and  royal gardens. Andre Le Notre, the gardner, made the French formal garden famous throughout Europe. He designed a masterpiece at Versailles and earned himself an international reputation. He designed principal walks cut by secondary walks surrounding groves, trellises and tree-covered archways. There are several pictures of his gardens on our France page.

We saw the Musee du Louvre (in English, The Lourve) but definitely didn't have enough time to enjoy it and see it the way we would like to have. We would have needed days to just scratch the surface of all there is to see. The building itself is a historic monument. It's located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement. We hope to go back soon! Despite all the stories we heard about Gallic rudeness, all the people we encountered were friendly and helpful. As we were leaving Paris, we were already forming wishes that we will have the opportunity to visit this wonderful city again.

 



Rothenburg Germany picturesGermany 2007

We spent most of our time in the capital city of Bavaria, Munich. The city is full of beautiful and interesting buildings.

We also visited Heidelberg and Rothenburg. The street scene, left, was taken duriing our exploration of the walled and wel preserved medieval town of Rothenburg. We enjoyed seeing the romantic alleyways and picturesque squares.

During a Rhine River cruise where we saw looming castles and hillside vineyards, we visited the old university town of Heidelberg, which also wears its age well.



John and Virginia Rudzinskas in front of Marienplatz, Munich GermanyGermany 2009

It was a pleasuure to visit Munich again. This time, we had a chance to engage in one of our favorite travelling activities - exploration by ambulation.

Our hotel was situated across the street from the Munchen Hauptbahnhof (the train station) and less than a mile from the Marienplatz, where the picture to the left was taken. The Marienplatz area is a great place to people watch, check out food shops, try several different tasty sausages, sandwiches, pastries and excellent German beer.

We had an opportunity to reprise the Hofbrauhaus experience!

 

 

Gibraltar

Gibraltar

Our excursion to the Rock of Gibraltar, which has been in British hands since 1704 was very interesting.

We saw the Upper Galleries, part of the Great Seige Tunnels. We also visited St. Michael's Caves and we viewed the ruins of the Moorish Castle and admired the colony of Barbary Apes, a species of tailess monkeys called Barbary Macaques.

We spent the afternoon visiting the square and enjoying a nice lunch. At the end of the day, we headed back to Spain. We enjoyed the tour group and look forward to our next tour!

 


 

Heros Square, Budapest HungaryHungary

This was our first visit to Hungary and the beautiful city of Budapest. We visited the 13th century Matthias Coronation Church. Then, from the Fisherman's Bastion located nearby, we enjoyed a panoramic view of the city, nestled along the banks of the Danube River. We explored the shops along Vaci street, examined the wares in the Great Market Hall (also known as the Central Market Hall).

We delighted in the ornate buildings along Andrassy Avenue and were thrilled by a night time visit to Vajdahunyad Castle. The castle was builtt between 1896 and 1908 as part of the Millennial Exhibition celebrating the 1000 years of Hungary.


Ireland

Our orientation drive in the Irish capital of Dublin included stattue lined O'Connel Street, elegant Georgian squares and St. Patrick's Cathedral. Then we visited Oscar Wilde's statue and Trinity College which is famous for the 1,200 year old Book of Kells and the magnificent Old Library. We went out the first night to see the Dublin Taylor Irish Show which was amazing. The next day, we went across the Curragh to the Irish National Stud at Kildare. On the way to Limerick, we saw the Rock of Cashel, visited Tipperary and St. Mary's Cathedral. We also saw King John's Castle and the stone where the Treaty of LimJohn and Virginia at the Ring of Kerry, Irelanderick was signed in 1691. Our second night in Ireland, we enjoyed a medieval banqueat at Knappogue Castle. Our third day in Ireland, we enjoyed a breathtaking view of the Clare coast from the 668 foot Cliffs of Moher. Then we drove across the limestone plateau of The Barren to the port city of Galway. Next we enjoyed a real Irish farm experience at Rathbaun Farm. We tried our hand at scone making and learned from the farmer about sheep shearing and dog whistling. Afterwards, we enjoyed coffee and our scones fresh from the oven. The next day we visited quaint Adare with its pretty thatched cottages and Killorglin on Dingle Bay. We then drove around the 100 mile panoramic drive around the Ring of Kerry which is the island's southwestern tip. The picture next to this text is of John and me on the Ring of Kerry tour. We enjoyed seeing the Lakes of Killarney and then spent some time in Tralee. We then enjoyed a morning visit to Blarney, renowned for its magical Kissing Stone. Then we went on to Cork and Waterford where we visited the House of Waterford Crystal. The next day we took a ferry from Rosslare across St. George's Channel to Pembroke Wales and started our tour of Wales.


Rome, Italy picturesItaly

Beautiful Italy is history, churches, architecture, food, wine, hilltop towns, sunny coasts, undulating vineyards and so much more.

We were driven from Leonardo da Vinci Airport (at Fiumicino) to Rome amidst a swarm of Vespas and motor bikes weaving it and out of traffic while miraculously avoiding collisions!

We spotted stately umbrella pines in the distance for the first time and knew our Roman Holiday had begun.

Our itinerary included Florence, Pisa, Venice, Assisi, Pompeii, Sorrento and Capri, Monte Cassino and Sicily.





Liechtenstein picturesLiechtenstein

Nestled between Austria and Switzerland is the tiny principality of  Liechtenstein.I think one of our favorite things about visiting Liechtenstein is that you just don't meet many people who have been to Liechtenstein! 

To commemorate our visit, we obtained a special passport stamp (for a small payment). If ever asked, we'll always confidently respond that Vaduz is the capital of Liechtenstein. We had a nice lunch in this tranquil city and afterward took in the sculptures on the main plaza. The Vaduz Castle, the most prominent landmark in the town, was perched above us. There are only around 5500 people that live in Liechtenstein.

 



Ensenada, MexicoMexico

Our jaunts into Mexico included Tijuana and Ensenada.

During a visit to San Diego, we drove  to the border and walked across a small pedestrian bridge into Tijuana. We perused a wide assortment  of goods offered by phalanxes of street vendors. 

Our  Ensenada venture came as a result of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship stop (right after Santa Catalina Island).

We ventured to La Bufadora (The Blow Hole) via a small shuttle service and passed through a gauntlet of street vendors to reach this marine geyser propelled by the Pacific Ocean . We also were treated to this native dancer shown in the photo.

 

 

 

Asilah Morocco AfricaMorocco, Africa

We arrived in Morocco and continued on to Tangier, the jumping off point for the Moorish conquest of Spain and home town of legendary medieval traveler Ibn Batuta. Sightseeing with a local guide included a spectacular panoramic drive to Cap Spartel. We enjoyed the views and quenched our thirst Bedouin-style with a glass of hot mint tea, accompanied by local biscuits. We visited Tangier's exciting and colorful Grand Socco square and explored the narrow streets of the Kasbah. We had a wonderful Tangene lunch and really enjoyed the local cuisine. We returned to Spain via Ferry across the Straits of Gibraltar from Africa. We visited the peaceful seaside resort of Asilah with its own Medina (ancient city) and fortresses, reflecting the many different cultures which have left their marks. We enjoyed tea and typical Moroccan pastries with our tour group.


Amsterdam, etherlands picturesNetherlands

Amsterdam sports beautiful canals, picturesque houses, excellent museums and colorful flower markets while basking in a liberal, laid-back atmosphere.

The city is full of bicyclists who aren't so laid back if you make the mistake of wandering into their bike lane.

Our Dutch experience included a visit to a diamond center, a cheese farm, working windmill and the quaint village of Vollendam where we were treated to an excellent fish dinner.

Anne Frank wrote her world famous diary while hiding in occupied Holland. She was found, arrested and became another casualty of the war. Her father published her diaries when released from Auschwitz.

 

Stave Church, Oslo Norway

Norway

We left Karlstad, Sweden and headed northwest toward Lillehammer, Norway. On the Swedish-Norwegian border we stopped at Eda to visit the peace monument. This 55 foot granite structure, which straddles the border, was built in 1914 as a symbol of the 100 years of peace between Sweden and Norway.
We approached Lillehammer by driving up the west bank of Lake Mjosa.This pristine, long and narrow lake afforded us many beautiful views and gave us a clear view of Lillehammer, sitting up on the hill. In Lillehammer, we visited the Maihaugen Open Air Museum. A school, post office, railway station, shops, farmhouses and farm paraphanelia can be seen in a pretty naututal setting with a delightful lily pond. A stave church is one of the highlights on the grounds.
Norway is one sparkling picture post card. These were our thoughts as we drove from Lillehammer to Flam through Valdres and Filefjell. This area of majestic mountains, sprawling pine forests, glimmering lakes  and sparkling, rushing streams pulls you into a world where you think there just might be truth to the Norwegian tales of trolls lurking behind the massive rock formations. One stop along the way gave us an opportunity to visit a beautiful stave church in Borgund. This church was built in the late 12th or early 13th century and is said to be the best preserved stave church in Norway.
Arriving in Flam we stayed at the charming Fretheim Hotel. Here we embarked on a Flam Railway ride. The Flam Railway is one of the world's steepest as it climbs about 2800 feet during its 20 kilometer journey from Flam to Myrdal. It is one spectacular ride through mountain and valley and over streams and deep ravines and past cataracts and waterfalls.
The next morning  we took a  a leisurely cruise on the Sognefjord and Naeroyfjord. It was breathtaking!  You are surrounded by beautiful mountains whose steep slopes disappear into the the blue/black water as countless cataracts and waterfalls tumble and splash down the tree covered mountainsides. Along the way,  where the topography permits, colorful houses dot the scene. We landed at Gudvangen and were driven to Stalheim, where we had a dazzling panoramic view over Naeroydal Canyon. We enjoyed pastry and tea as well as the view.
We continued on  and by early afternoon we arrived at picturesque Bergen, sometimes called the  most characteristic of all Scandinavian towns. We visited the fish market with its riotous collection of fish, flowers, fruits, vegetables and souvenirs.We strolled through the narrow lanes of ancient Bryggen and admired the colorful wooden buildings that Bergen is known for. We also boarded the Fløibanen funicular for a ride to the top of Mount Fløyen  where we were rewarded with superb views of Bergen.
From Bergen we headed to Geilo. On the way we stopped at the Steinsto Fruit Farm and were given a very entertaining presentation by the owners of the farm about how the farm is run. We got to sample the excellent cider.  Then we crossed the Hardanger bridge and climbed up to Voringfoss, Norway's most celebrated and mightiest waterfall. We continued across the Hardangervidda mountain plateau to the ski ressort of Geilo.
The next day we left for Oslo. On the way, we stopped at Torpo to admire and gain entrance to a beautiful stave church. We also took our group photo here.
We continued along the scenic road between the Steinsfjord and the blue Tyrifjord. Although this was July, the mountain plateau had many areas covered with snow. The small lakes and ponds mixed with dark mountain rock and snow covered areas and mossy green areas created a constatntly changing visual delight. Did we say already Norway is one big picture postcard?
We arrived in Olso.  We took our usual exploratory walk and walked the length of Karl Johans Gate  to Norway's Royal Palace. Later in the day, we walked to the Oslo Opera House and as well as onto the opera house. It is designed  so that the roof angles to the ground allowing visitors to stroll along an enormous slanted plaza to the roof. 
We also went sightseeing with a local guide and saw the National Theatre, Parliament and the Royal Palace. We visited Frogner Park with Gustav Vigeland's famous stark sculptures.We visited the ornate City Hall which is more like a palace.
We took the serpentine road through Oslo's most fashionable residential area up to Mount Holmenkollen. We enjoyed the breathtaking view of Oslo and the Oslofjord. We did a tour of the Treasures of Norway which allowed us to admire relics from Norway's great seafaring past: 1,000 year old ornamented Viking ships, the Fram, a 100 year old primitive ship used for Arctic expeditions and Thor Heyerdahl's fantastic Ra and Kon Tiki vessels.

 

Basillica of Our Lady of the Rosary, Fatima PortugalPortugal

The majestic scenery of the Serra da Estrela mountain range formed the backdrop for our morning drive to Portugal. On the way to Lisbon, we visited the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary in Fatima. We enjoyed a Fado style dinner with great entertainment that evening as an introduction to Portugal's capital, Lisbon. On our first morning, a local guide took us through the Baixa quarter's main squares and we walked through the cobblestone alleys of quaint Alfama, the popular quarter of the seamen and Fado singers. We drove along the grand Avenida da Liberdade up to Pombal Square. We took pictures of Belem Tower guarding the mouth of the Tagus, and the Monument to the Discoverers. Then, we visited Jeronimos Monastery with the tomb of Vasco da Gama. We really ejoyed our excursion to Sintra and the royal palace of Queluz. We took an elevator ride to upper Lisbon and then started our drive back into Spain. Here are some pictures we took with our tour group.

John and Virginia at Clava Cairns, ScotlandScotland

We drove around the 200 year old "New Town" and of course, walked around the Royal Mile visiting "Old Town" Edinburgh. We enjoyed seeing the Edinburgh Castle and admired Scotland's Crown Jewels. Then, we explored Holyrood Palace which is the Queens home when she is in town. Later we went to see the Royal Yacht Britannia to see how the Royal family and crew lived and worked on board. We ended our first day by going to the Jamie's Scottish Evening with Bag Pipes performance which was great.

Of course, we had to see Floors Castle and had a cup of tea and shortbread in Melrose Abbey at the ruins at Jedburgh.

The next day we drove over the elegant Forth Road Bridge and through Fife to St. Andrews, whose Royal and Ancient Golf Club has given us the rules of golfing. Then, through Braemar, home of the Royal Highland Games to Balmoral Castle. The next day, at Culloden Visitor Center, we heard the story of the crushing Hanoverian victory over Bonnie Prince Charles Scottish clans. Then we enjoyed a full day of Highland splendor. Loch Ness with its mysterious Nessie, Fort William beneath Ben Nevis, Loch Linnhe, and haunting Clen Coe. We motored across wild Rannoch Moore to the Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond for a cruise on the loch before heading south. The next day, on our way through the Lowland Hills, we stopped at Gretna Green, where the blacksmith used to wed runaway couples.

 

Mount Etna, Sicily, ItalySicily

Sicily is almost a nation unto itself. We arrived in Palermo via a ferry from Naples, Italy. We were driven around the whole island of Sicily.

This beautiful Mediterranean island was a Greek colony, a Roman province, an Arab emirate and a Norman kingdom. The fertile land, natural beauty and favorable climate have been coveted by many different peoples.

We visited Palermo, the Monreale la Cathedral and Marsala salt beds. We went on to Agrigento to the Valley of the Temples. We saw the Piazza Amerina bikini girls, Taormina and then drove up the chestnut tree lined winding road to Mt. Etna. The picture to the left is of Mt. Etna, Europe's only active volcano.

Graceful vineyards, ancient olive groves and shiny lemon orchards were frequently on display.

 


John & Virginia Rudzinskas in Bratislava Slovakia

Slovakia

On the western edge of Slovakia, the capital city of Bratislava is located.

After doing our usual long walking tour of the city, we had lunch in the Old Town section of Bratislava. Old Town is a mixture of medieval buildings like St. Michael's Gate, as well as new cafes and restaurants and interesting sculptures sprinkled along the streets.

The building seen in the background of this picture is St. Michael's Gate which was built around the year 1300. Today, it is surrounded by modern luxury shops.

 

 

 

El Escorial and the Valley of the Fallen, Madrid, SpainSpain

We flew into Madrid, the capital of Spain since 1561. Our local guide took us to the Puerta del Sol, Plaza de Espana with its monument to Cervantes, the Parliment, Cibeles Fountain, Calle Alcala and Paseo de Castellana. A highlight on the first day was a visit to Prado Museum and an afternoon excursion to El Escorial and the Valley of the Fallen. We went on to enjoy beautiful Castile. We crossed the rugged Sierra de Guadarrama on the way to Segovia, famous for the 2000 year old Roman aqueduct. We walked through the walled town of Avila and had an overnight stay in Salamanca and enjoyed wine tasting at the Hacienda Zorita. Our local guide took us to see Maria Luisa Park, the Golden Tower on the Guadalquivir River and Alcazar, the 11th century Moorish fortress in Seville. We strolled through the narrow lanes of the charming Santa Cruz Quarters and visited Seville's 15th crentury gothic cathedral which houses the remains of explorer Christopher Columbus. Our evening was spent enjoying a wonderful 3 course Andalusian dinner with drinks and an exciting and passionate flamenco show. From Seville, we drove through the sunny sherry wine region of Jerez to Algeciras to board our ferry and sail across the Straits of Gibraltar to Africa. After our visit to Africa, when we got back to Spain we had a little leisure on the Costa Del Sol. We drove into the mountains to history steeped Granada, and enjoyed a guided walking tour featuring the Alhambra Complex. A fantasy of "lace in stone" surrounded by arabesque gardens and fountains, it affodrs superb views of the Old Quarter and Sacromonte, a mountain occupied by Gypsy cave dwellers. We also admired the magnificent Water Gardens of the Generalife, the royal summer residence. In Granada, we discovered the Royal Chapel and Cathedral which houses the mortal remains of the couple who unified Spain under one monarchy, Queen Isabella of Castle and King Ferdinard of Aaragon. Then we visited the Carthusian Monastery, an outstanding example of baroque architecture. The olive and orange groves of the rolling Andalusian hills were beautiful. We moved on to the more barren landscapes of Don Quixote's La Mancha on the way north to Toledo which is spectacularly situated on a granite hill surrounded by a loop of the Tagus River. Our walking tour with a local guide took us over a moorish bridge and we visited an early synagogue, the 13th century gothic cathedral and the Church of Santo Tome with one of El Grecko's most famous paintings. We visited the local Damascene Steel Workshop before taking the fast train to Barcelona. We enjoyed our tour group as we visited Spain.

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelonia

In Barcelona, we visited the Basilica of the La Sagrada Familia, the unfinished church by Antoni Gaudi. This very unusual construction darws in 3 million visitors a year. The original foundation was laid in 1882. The splendid interiour was finished in 2012. The plan is to finish the Sagrada familia church in 2026 for the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death in 1926. It will be 144 years after the church was started. After driving through picturesque little villages, we went on to see the incomparable setting of the craggy mountain of Monteserrat. We spent a day touring Montserrat Abbey, the gateway to the Montserrat mountains. The Basilica has a 12th century carving of the Black Virgin. While at Montserrat, we enjoyed breathtaking scenery of amazing rock formations and panoramic views. When we got back to Barcelona, we walked along La Ramblas which starts at Plaza Catalunya and ends at the Monument of Columbus at the Port Vell Harbor of Barcleona. We walked to the Gothic Quarter which is the medieval city of Barcelona from the middle ages. It has many beautiful churches, plazas, markets and museums. You can see parts of the old Roman walls and acqueducts. We visited Cast Batllo, Gaudi's architectural treasure. which was built in 1904 in the heart of the city. The facade is composed of stone and glass. The interior walls have a wavy shape with lime mortar and mosaic fragments of colored glass, ceramic discs and wood. On the roof, the roof is in the shape of an animal's back with large iridescent scales. The spine which forms the ornamental top is composed of huge spherical pieces of masonory in colors which change as you move along the roof.

Vasa Ship Museum, Stockholm, Sweden

Sweden

We were driven through the "breadbasket" of Sweden through miles of fertile farmland strewn with tidy farms, followed by small towns and major seaports. We arrived in Stockholm and enjoyed a Swedish Midsummer Dinner. We went sightseeing with a local guide and visited the Royal Palace, Riddarholm Church, the blue and gold chambers in the City Hall where the annual Nobel Prize banquet is held. We went on to visit the Vasa Ship Museum and enjoyed seeing the most richly ornamented war vessel built in Europe, the Vasa. The Vasa sank on her maiden voyage in 1628 and was raised in 1961.

We enjoyed Stockholm's most colorful historic island and took a guided walk through the myriad of narrow streets and alleys, dotted with picturesque buildings, artists studios, small shops, and various outlets. Still on the shores of Lake Malar, we visited King Gustav Vasa's Gripsholm Castle before continuing west through the scenic Lake District. On the way, we got glimpses of the ancient garrison town of Orebro and Bofors, the site of Alfred Nobel's ammunition factory. We enjoyed a scenic day driving through Varmland, the area so beautifully described in Selma Lagerlof's Gosta Berlings Saga. We drove to the Norwegian Border and took pictures where we could stand with one foot in Sweden and the other in Norway. Our Scandinavian vacation was awesome.

 

Chapel Bridge, Lucerne, SwitzerlandSwitzerland

Our several day visit to Switzerland was centered around the city of Lucerne. Lucerne is a charmingly quaint city, resting on the banks of Lake Lucerne. The cobbled streets of old town are lined with ornate patrician houses. We walked around the city, crossed the lake via the Chapel Bridge, took a cruise on the lake and visited the Lion Monument.

We also took a trip to Mount Pilatus in the Swiss Alps. We rode the aeriel gondola up and took the cogwheel train down.

Our Swiss folklore dinner and entertainment was capped off by an introduction to the wonderful world of yodeling when John was invited on stage to demonstrate his expertise.



Mendocino Botanical Gardens, Mendocino, CaliforniaUnited States

We have been to all 50 states. Every state is special in its own way.

The national parks and monuments offer a fantastic display of natural beauty fashioned by earth, wind, water and fire.

The large cities and small towns offer unique architecture, great shopping, tasty local flavors, delightful brewpubs and the wonderful people of the U.S.A.

For nearby states, we just plan a general  route and drive. For more distant ones, we fly into a convenient city, rent a car and hit the road. Our home of the past 24 years has been sunny California. This picture was taken from the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Definitely worth a visit anytime but especially in the Spring.


Wales sceneryWales

We enjoyed our trip to Wales. We crossed the border from England to North Wales and drove to lovely Betws-y-Coed and through the incomparable landscapes of Snodonia National Park. After a stop at the tongue twisting Llanfair..., we boarded a ferry at Holyhead for the crossing to Dublin Ireland.

A few days later, we took another ferry from Rosslare England across the St. Georges Channel to Pembroke, Wales.

We drove through South Wales and took an excursion to Cardiff Castle to enjoy an evening of Welsh entertainment and dinner.

To see a silent slide show of our trip to Wales please click here.