Goðafoss: The Waterfalls of the Gods and Water Art

Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water

Goðafoss, (“Godafoss” for ease of my typing!), or “Waterfall of the Gods“, is one of the must-see waterfalls in Iceland.  The Godafoss waterfalls are about 36 ft high (12 m) and are located at the Skjálfandafljót River.  It is located somewhere between the northern towns of Akureyri and Husavik.  More precisely, it is on the ring road going east from Akureryi, right after the road to Husavik branches off (route 85).  The story goes that a key Icelandic chieftain in the year 1,000 AD was trying to decide whether Icelanders would adopt Christianity.  After deciding in the affirmative, he returned home and threw his images of the pre-Christianity pagan gods into the waterfall and, hence, the name for the waterfalls.

Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water

The waterfall from the highway

The water was gushing generously, as one would expect a proper waterfall would do.  Perhaps this time in June was still a time of heavy melt?

Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water

Fast-flowing!

Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water

Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water

Yours truly

Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water

Looking from the waterfall back towards the road along one of the trails

Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water

Majestic!

Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water

The main part of the waterfall

Not only was the waterfall impressive but the flow over the one closest to me drew my eye as the following pictures attest… I need to figure out how to turn some of these into neat art pieces for my home!Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, waterGodafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, waterGodafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water

Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water Godafoss, Iceland, waterfall, travel, photo, water

 

Iceland’s South Shore: The Dyrhólaey Peninsula and Vik

Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, black sand, basalt,beach,travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

The south shore of Iceland is a popular route for visitors to the island.   One can do a day trek from Reykjavik (though, arguably, a long day) to see the major sights along the ring road on the south (e.g., waterfalls, glaciers, black sandy beaches).  The south shore deserves more than one write-up so I will separate into the waterfalls, the Myrdalsjökull glacier, and the Dyrhólaey peninsula – Vik area.  Here, I want to share some of the views from the latter, the Dyrhólaey peninsula and Vik, just a short distance east of the peninsula, where our day trip ended before returning to Reykjavik.

Vik

I will start with Vik, since it is a small place to talk about.  Vik means “bay” in Icelandic hence why many towns on the island end in “vik” (Reykjavik, Dalvik, Husavik).  It is the southernmost town in Iceland.  When I read about Vik, it is called a village – it has less than 300 so “village” seems appropriate.  Be its size as it may, it is a scenic spot for sure, even if the time of day I visited was not the ideal light for great pictures (I wish I had been there at sunset though that was likely around midnight!).  The basalt rock stacks or towers coming out from the ocean (go straight south and you will not hit land until Antarctica!) are quite impressive.

Vik, Iceland, village, church, scenic, landscape, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Church in Vik

Vik, Iceland, village, scenic, landscape, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Beautiful fields of purple

Vik, Iceland, village, scenic, landscape, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

These recall turf houses even if it is not turf on their roofs; note the layers of rock behind them!

Vik, Iceland, village, flowers, scenic, landscape, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Isn’t this an incredible sight??!! Basalt rock spires in the water.

The Dyhólaey nature reserve

Dyhólaey was declared a nature reserve in 1978.  This covered not only the landscape but the incredible wildlife there, mostly birds I assume.  We saw plenty of cliff birds perching right along the edge of the cliff and then flying off.  The contrast of the white feathers and the black sands below was pretty neat to see.  The black sands are definitely a reminder of the impact of volcanic activity in Iceland, especially in the south of the island.Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, black sand, beach,travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, black sand, beach,travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, black sand, beach,travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, cliff bird,travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

These birds are a sight to see as they fly to and from the cliffs.

There is a lighthouse at the top of the peninsula, one of two structures there (the other seems abandoned, maybe a former residence for the lighthouse keeper?).  The lighthouse dates from 1910.  I am not sure but I suspect no one lives in the property any more.Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, travel, photo, lighthouse, Canon EOS Rebel Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, travel, photo, lighthouse, Canon EOS Rebel

One can walk down to the beach right at the base of the peninsula where the black sands and smooth small rocks are right at your fingertips.Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, black sand, lava rocks, volcanic, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, black sand, lava rocks, volcanic, travel, photo, Olympus Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, black sand, lava rocks, volcanic, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, black sand, lava rocks, volcanic, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

As you can see the views from the top of the cliff are spectacular and worth admiring – definitely worth the drive over.

Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, black sand, basalt,beach,travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Love this lonely stack of basalt

Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, black sand, basalt,beach,travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

An arch that reminds me of the 12 Apostles in Australia

Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, black sand, glacier, volcano, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Looking inland to the glaciers and volcanoes

Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, black sand, basalt,beach,travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, black sand, basalt,beach,travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

I agree – the vista is worth soaking it!

 

——– More on Iceland ——–

My itinerary for my week visit to Iceland

A stroll around Reykjavik

Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik

Þingvellir:  Where History and Nature Meet in Iceland!

The Blue Lagoon

Goðafoss:  The Waterfalls of the Gods

A Northern Town:  Akureyri

Whale Watching

Postcards from Iceland:  Dalvík

Hallgrímskirkja Church: The Young Icon of Reykjavik

Hallgrimskirkja, church, Reykjavik, Iceland, architecture, design, views, Olympus, travel, photo

Hallgrímskirkja Church in the heart of Reykjavik is a “young” building.  It was completed in 1986 but took close to 40 years to erect.  Its design, driving up in a pointed way to the sky with its tower, reflects on the landscape of the island country with its lava flows.  The structure is not the tallest structure in Iceland but is the tallest church.  Though young, it has become the icon of the city due to its highly visible profile and unique architecture.

Hallgrimskirkja, church, Reykjavik, Iceland, architecture, design, views, Olympus, travel, photo

Approaching the church from the back, on a slightly gray day

Outside, you can admire the structure from up close which allows for any number of neat pictures from different perspectives.  Outside you can also admire the statue to Leif Erikson, allegedly, the first European to reach North America (I mean, who knows if another Viking got there before him?!).  Interestingly, the statue pre-dates the church as it was given by the U.S. to Iceland in 1930 to commemorate the 1,000th anniversary of the establishment of Iceland’s Parliament at Þingvellir.

Hallgrimskirkja, church, Reykjavik, Iceland, architecture, design, views, Olympus, travel, photo

The statue of Leif Erikson in front of the facade of the church

Hallgrimskirkja, church, Reykjavik, Iceland, architecture, design, views, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, photo

Close up of Mr. Erikson – and the clock tower

Hallgrimskirkja, church, Reykjavik, Iceland, architecture, design, views, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, photo

A visitor and Mr. Erikson meet – as seen from the clock tower

Hallgrimskirkja, church, Reykjavik, Iceland, architecture, design, views, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, photo

The inscription that describes the gift from the U.S. of the statue on 1930

Hallgrimskirkja, church, Reykjavik, Iceland, architecture, design, views, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, photo

A visitor takes advantage of the statue’s base for a shot of the church

We went inside and, as many Protestant churches, the interior was plain.  I assume the more so to help the faithful focus on God.  Being a tourist-visited site, of course, removes some of that aura but, at the time I visited, there was an organist playing (or maybe just practicing?) which drew attention to the pipe organ at the back of the church.Hallgrimskirkja, church, Reykjavik, Iceland, architecture, design, views, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, photo Hallgrimskirkja,pipe organ, church, Reykjavik, Iceland, architecture, design, views, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, photo

My favorite part is the observation deck at the top of the church tower.  As usual, when it is available, I always go up to gain a birds-eye view of the places I visit.  This deck did not disappoint as it helped frame the city of Reykjavik within its setting, hugged by mountains and the Atlantic Ocean.  I leave you with some of the views I enjoyed from up high in Hallgrímskirkja!

Hallgrimskirkja, church, Reykjavik, Iceland, architecture, design, views, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, photo

Detail of the roof above the altar area

Hallgrimskirkja, church, Reykjavik, Iceland, architecture, design, views, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, photo

View of the neighborhood by the church

Hallgrimskirkja, church, Reykjavik, Iceland, architecture, design, views, Olympus, travel, photo

Looking towards the area where our apartment was

Hallgrimskirkja, church, Reykjavik, Iceland, Pearl, architecture, design, views, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, photo

The Pearl Observatory (and restaurant)

Hallgrimskirkja, church, Reykjavik, Iceland, architecture, design, views, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, photo

View a little further away from the church

Hallgrimskirkja, church, Reykjavik, Iceland, architecture, design, views, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, photo

Looking now further away from the city center

Hallgrimskirkja, church, Reykjavik, Iceland, architecture, design, views, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, photo

Looking further away in another direction

Hallgrimskirkja, church, Reykjavik, Iceland, architecture, design, views, Olympus, travel, photo

And now in another direction!

An Unplanned Stop in a Rural Cemetery in Moldova

Moldova, cemetery, blue cross, cross, dark sky, white cross, unique cemetery, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Cemeteries always have a draw.  Not quite sure if it is purely the inclination to the morbid or something else but, when I drove past this cemetery in Moldova (on my way back to Chisinau after visiting Soroca in the north) and noticed the colorful and unique crosses, I went back to get a quick walk around and snap a few pictures.  I love how the dark skies helped make a nice contrast to the color of the crosses.

(Click on the photos to enlarge and step through them.)

Postcards from Iceland: Dalvík

Dalvik, Dalvík, Iceland, fjord, Eyjafjordur, fishing town, mountains, boats, churches, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, travel

Dalvík, in the north of Iceland right at around 12 o’clock, is a small town of about 1,400 inhabitants on the western side of the Eyjafjörður fjord.  We drove through this fishing town on the way to our base in Akureyri as we rounded the peninsula where Dalvík sits on route 76 going east after visiting Hólar earlier that day.  Route 76 is not part of the famous ring road.  It is a very scenic road hugging the coastline and passing through a couple of charming small towns (Siglufjörður and Olafsfjörður) – a drive I would recommend.

We enjoyed some of the views around Dalvík and here I share some of my favorites.  What do these images remind you of?

Dalvik, Dalvík, Iceland, fjord, Eyjafjordur, fishing town, mountains, boats, churches, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, travel

Incredible landscape around Dalvík and across Eyjafjordur.

Dalvik, Dalvík, Iceland, fjord, Eyjafjordur, fishing town, mountains, boats, churches, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, travel

Dalvik, Dalvík, Iceland, fjord, Eyjafjordur, fishing town, mountains, boats, churches, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, travel

Fishing and fish processing are the key industries in Dalvík

Dalvik, Dalvík, Iceland, fjord, Eyjafjordur, Dalvíkurkirkja, fishing town, mountains, boats, churches, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, travel

Beautiful church (Dalvíkurkirkja) that must almost get lost in winter with it being white!

 

Dalvik, Dalvík, Iceland, fjord, Eyjafjordur, fishing town, mountains, boats, churches, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, travel

What seemed to be the main church stands out well against the mountains around the town

 

——– More on Iceland ——–

My itinerary for my week visit to Iceland

A stroll around Reykjavik

Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik

Þingvellir:  Where History and Nature Meet in Iceland!

The Blue Lagoon

Goðafoss:  The Waterfalls of the Gods

A Northern Town:  Akureyri

Whale Watching

Iceland’s South Shore:  The Dyrhólaey Peninsula and Vik

On the Camino de Santiago: Day 1 from Sarria to Barbadelo

Camino, Santiago, Compostela, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, Spain, yellow arrow, kilometer marker, travel, photo, Olympus

As I explained in an earlier post, my time to do the Camino de Santiago was limited so we started in Sarria, west of León, 110 kms from the end point in Santiago de Compostela.

Camino, Santiago, Compostela, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, Spain, yellow arrow, kilometer marker, travel, photo, Olympus

The first marker of our hike: the 110 kilometer marker!

The itinerary though had us visiting O Cebreiro and Samos prior to starting the hike so that didn’t leave us much time on Day 1 to hike.  So we hiked a very short distance that day going from Sarria to Barbadelo, a small town with a very nice small hotel “Casa Barbadelo.”

Camino, Santiago, Compostela, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, Spain, yellow arrow, travel, photo, Olympus

Our group in Sarria, about to start the Camino!

I am certainly glad to have seen O Cebreiro and Samos but it made for a long day on the road and I was, along with my fellow trekkers, eager to get on the Camino for real.  Though the hike that day was very short (1.5 hours or so), it was a good warm-up.

Camino, Santiago, Compostela, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, Spain, yellow arrow, travel, photo, shell, Samsung Galaxy

The ever-present shell of the Camino – you see it anywhere in Europe where the Camino goes through!

Camino, Santiago, Compostela, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, Spain, yellow arrow, travel, photo, Olympus

The way forward marked by the sign and the yellow arrow!

The terrain we crossed went by some major highway but it was very rural and lush, crossing farms along the way.

Camino, Paredes, Santiago, Compostela, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, Spain, yellow arrow, travel, bridge, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Highway near Paredes

Camino, Santiago, Compostela, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, Spain, yellow arrow, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Very lush lands between Sarria and Barbadelo

The highlight was crossing a 12th century bridge named the Aspera bridge that crosses the Celeiro River.

Aspera, bridge, Ceileiro, river, Camino, Santiago, Compostela, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, Spain, yellow arrow, travel, photo, Olympus

The Aspera bridge (and the ever-present yellow arrows!)

We did enjoy arriving at Casa Barbadelo where we shared 3 rooms among eight of us.

Barbadelo, Camino, Santiago, Compostela, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, Spain, yellow arrow, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Approaching Casa Barbadelo

The rooms were basic but spacious and the buildings in Casa Barbadelo were quite new.  The grounds were quite nice and the place even had a pool.

Barbadelo, Camino, Santiago, Compostela, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, Spain, yellow arrow, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

The front yard of Casa Barbadelo – note the outdoor seating area on the right

We enjoyed a GREAT meal and lots of good laughs that night accompanied (or triggered?) by one or two glasses of sangria.  A perfect ending to a long but short (does that make sense?!), easy first day on the Camino!

Djema el-Fna: The Central Square in Marrakesh – Full of Life!

spices, Morocco, food stand, medina, Djemaa el Fna, Jemaa el-Fnaa, food stall

Market time!  Marrakesh has a very lively market, Jamaa el Fna (or Djema el-Fna) spread out over the same-named square, second most famous square in African after Cairo’s Tahrir Square.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site so that should command some attention, right?

Of course, the souks (or alleys) of the medina are full of shops but it is this square that is the main scene.  At night, the market is teeming with life.  Locals and tourists alike enjoy all it offers.  The range of items for sale, be them food or other goods is wide.  Eateries can be found all around from the basic to the restaurants.  Of course, be ready for the extra “persuasiveness” of any of the sellers around.  It is intense to walk around (a little bit of a turn-off for me).  You can also see diverse live animals to charm you.  But feeling the place’s vibrancy makes it a must-see and must-walk-around.  Perhaps even buying a thing or two?

dates, fruit, Morocco, food stand, medina, Djemaa el Fna, Jemaa el-Fnaa

Dates, dates, dates

orange juice, Morocco, food stand, medina, Djemaa el Fna, Jemaa el-Fnaa

So many orange juice carts! Must be a lot of thirsty people around…

spices, Morocco, food stand, medina, Djemaa el Fna, Jemaa el-Fnaa, food stall

Food stalls, like these with spices, add a lot of color -and aromas- to the scene.

lamp, Morocco, medina, Djemaa el Fna, Jemaa el-Fnaa

Beautiful lamp

sweets, Morocco, food stand, medina, Djemaa el Fna, Jemaa el-Fnaa

And back to food after that lamp!

Morocco, food stand, medina, Djemaa el Fna, Jemaa el-Fnaa

Continuing with the food vendors…

dried fruit, figs, Morocco, food stand, medina, Djemaa el Fna, Jemaa el-Fnaa

Dried figs!

pita bread, Morocco, food stand, medina, Djemaa el Fna, Jemaa el-Fnaa

The baked goods could not be far behind!

eateries, restaurants, cafes, Morocco, food stand, medina, Djemaa el Fna, Jemaa el-Fnaa, Canon EOS Rebel

One of the many casual eateries in the square; more formal ones can be found in its periphery

drinks, entertainment, Morocco, food stand, medina, Djemaa el Fna, Jemaa el-Fnaa, Canon EOS Rebel

Soft drinks are part of an entertainer’s set up in the square

eateries, restaurants, Morocco, food stand, medina, Djemaa el Fna, Jemaa el-Fnaa, Canon EOS Rebel

Many restaurants all around

Djema el-Fna, Morocco, food stand, medina, Djemaa el Fna, Jemaa el-Fnaa, Canon EOS Rebel

So whether during a short visit like mine or one that allows you exploring every nook and cranny of ‘kesh, don’t miss out on an evening out at Jemaa el-Fnaa!

 

Petra, Jordan: History on the Rocks

Petra, Jordan, Nabatean, archeology, ruins, history, necropolis, ancient site, exploring, Middle East, travel, photos, Canon EOS Rebel, donkey, ilivetotravel, canyon, stone

I first went to Petra, Jordan back in 1998 on a day trip from Sharm-el-Sheikh at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.  If you know the lay of the land, that may sound impossible.  Well, not if you take a flight from Sharm-el-Sheikh to Aqaba, Jordan and then hop on a bus.  That’s exactly what I did.  I did not have the luxury of time so it was an either do it on a day trip or not do it.  Since I could not predict the future, I had to go for it to be sure I got to see Petra in case I didn’t get to come back.

Petra, Jordan, Nabatean, archeology, ruins, history, necropolis, ancient site, exploring, Middle East, travel, photos, Canon EOS Rebel

Headed to Petra

Petra, Jordan, roads, travel

Great vistas along the way

Return to Petra

Fast forward 15 years and I return to this necropolis-turned-town-turned-movie-setting-turned-massive-tourist-site.  I was thrilled at the opportunity to return and explore it on more depth.  You see, in my first visit, I decided to walk my way in which is great in many ways but it eats away precious time for someone on a day trip there from Sharm-el-Sheikh.  The second time, while I did walk in, I walked faster knowing time was precious and I rented a donkey to take me up to save time.  That was a great idea except that the donkey preferred the edge of the path on the way up rather than risk hitting itself against the rocks at the other side of the path, making this rider a little bit worried about the way down!

Petra, Jordan, Nabatean, archeology, ruins, history, necropolis, ancient site, exploring, Middle East, travel, photos, Canon EOS Rebel, donkey, ilivetotravel, donkey

Donkey in the shade – smart!

Petra, Jordan, Nabatean, archeology, ruins, history, necropolis, ancient site, exploring, Middle East, travel, photos, Canon EOS Rebel, donkey, ilivetotravel

Giddy up!

Petra, Jordan, Nabatean, archeology, ruins, history, necropolis, ancient site, exploring, Middle East, travel, photos, Canon EOS Rebel, donkey, ilivetotravel

Look Ma, no hands!

Thanks, Nabateans

Petra is amazing due to how it has evolved over time but it was the Nabateans who deserve the credit (after God, of course) for this place.  Certainly, the landscape and topography are thanks to the Maker but what happened after that really starts with the Nabateans who carved a necropolis out of these beautiful rocks.  Others, like the Romans, continued to develop the site to what we know now.

Petra, Jordan, Nabatean, archeology, ruins, history, necropolis, ancient site, exploring, Middle East, travel, photos, Canon EOS Rebel, donkey, ilivetotravel, canyon, stone

Some of the tombs around Petra that later peoples used for other purposes – like commerce

Petra, Jordan, Nabatean, archeology, ruins, history, necropolis, ancient site, exploring, Middle East, travel, photos, Canon EOS Rebel, donkey, ilivetotravel, Roman amphitheater

The Romans put Petra to good use

More than the Treasury

You can see evidence of amazing early engineering when you see the channels that were carved into the rock to capture the rare rainfall that rolled down canyon walls and take it into a natural “holding tank.”

Petra, Jordan, Nabatean, archeology, ruins, history, necropolis, ancient site, exploring, Middle East, travel, photos, Canon EOS Rebel, donkey, ilivetotravel

Channel that collected rainwater from the canyon walls and directed to a well

Also impressive are the facades of the tombs built into the rocks such as the Royal Tombs and other areas like the Monastery and the very famous Treasury, which many think to be what the Indiana Jones movie showed.  In reality the Treasury is more of a facade.  Be sure to get a guide who explains to you what you are looking at as the Treasury, for example, shows evidence of how it was carved out of the stone.  And be sure to go all over!

Petra, Jordan, Nabatean, archeology, ruins, history, necropolis, ancient site, exploring, Middle East, travel, photos, Canon EOS Rebel, donkey, ilivetotravel, Royal Tombs

The Royal Tombs from a distance

Petra, Jordan, Nabatean, archeology, ruins, history, necropolis, ancient site, exploring, Middle East, travel, photos, Canon EOS Rebel, Royal Tombs

Some of the Royal Tombs

My advice if you are visiting Petra and don’t have but a day or two is to use a donkey for some of the climbs (unless you want or need the exercise) and then walk and explore – this way, you will maximize what you will see from this one-of-a-kind place and there is PLENTY to see and admire about this unique site.

Petra, Jordan, Nabatean, archeology, ruins, history, necropolis, ancient site, exploring, Middle East, travel, photos, Canon EOS Rebel, Treasury, ilivetotravel

My family “came along” with me to Petra!

 

During my second visit to Petra, I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board.  That notwithstanding, the stories I share were my real experiences and nothing else.  As they always are!

Photo of the Week: Two Sides of the Coin

St. John Lateran, Rome, Italia, Italy, Roma, tourist group, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

While visiting St. John Lateran in Rome, Italy, I ran into a group of tourists posing in front of the basilica (it is one of the four main basilicas in Rome, along with St. Peter, Santa Maria Maggiore and St. Paul Outside the Walls; however, it is the oldest and actually has the highest rank of the four).  Could not resist to capture -and share- the two sides of the “coin” I ran into…St. John Lateran, Rome, Italia, Italy, Roma, tourist group, photo, Canon EOS RebelSt. John Lateran, Rome, Italia, Italy, Roma, tourist group, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Ideas for Paris Travel with Pre-Teen Kids

Paris, Arc de Triomphe, Paris, Eiffel Tower, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, travel, view

A friend asked me what to do in Paris as she was going with her kids for a week or so.  I do not have kids but I was one once and that, coupled with the fact that I have stayed at a Holiday Inn, fully makes me an expert at recommending stuff for kids.

My brain immediately thought “Paris Disney” but I really thought this would be a criminal offense when they have the opportunity to have a much more unique experience – and ilivetotravel is all about experiences.  Like chocolate and macarons.

chocolate, macarons, maison du chocolat, Paris, France, food, foodie, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

All sorts of good stuff can be found in Paris. And I am sure kids & adults alike will enjoy!

So here is what I tell my friend to do:

  • Jardin de Luxembourg – This, the second largest public park in Paris, was part of the Palace that sits right by it.  The Palace was built in the early 17th century and is now the French Senate.  The park has many statues and fountains.  Maybe your daughter can imagine how it must have felt in the 17th century being a princess walking around the gardens!  And your son may enjoy renting a sailboat to operate in the large fountain while you sit and watch people go by as you enjoy this garden!
  • The Pantheon – This is likely a quick visit.  Some of the most notable French figures are buried here but I don’t think that will impress the kids.  However, it was free (at least when I went years ago) and seeing a building with such a unique interior may be interesting for the kids for, at least, 10 minutes.  And you, the parent, get to see it!
  • Go up the Eiffel Tower.  I don’t know if the kids will be up to hiking up as far as they let you before you have to take the elevator to reach the top but I know you are fit and can climb it with no issue!  While the climb may be more work than the kids want to do, seeing the structure up close as you go up is neat.  But, in the end, it’s the view from the top that matters most so, whether you all climb it or not, go up!
  • Walk up the Arc de Triomphe. OK, if the kids didn’t want to climb the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe is another option available to help you burn the calories of all the delicious pastries you are likely going to be eating (I will be mad if you don’t!).  It is deceiving but it is like 14-16 stories high so it is not trivial.  The view is not as cool as the one from the Eiffel Tower but you can look down the Champs-Elysées from it and, on the other side, towards the modern arc-shaped building in the distance.  Oh, and please use the tunnels that go under the road – don’t attempt to cross the street to get to it!
  • Visit MontmartreIt is a great place to and walk the narrow and hilly streets (still making you exercise with this plan!).  To get up, you can climb the stairs but I will cut your kids some slack and suggest you all ride the little funicular.  Once you reach the top, you are rewarded with the massive Sacre Coeur church.  And guess what?  You can climb it to the top!  This one, I think your kids will definitely enjoy and great views of the city to boot!

    Montmartre, Paris, France, photo

    The narrow and hilly streets of Montmartre – explore!

  • I feel obliged to suggest a museum that may be good for kids.  But I had to do some research on this.  I found the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, or the Museum of Hunting and Nature (60, rue des Archives, in the third arrondissement).  It is supposed to be interesting for kids mixing animals (dead) and art.  Let me know how it is!
  • Pompidou Center (19, rue Beaubourg, in the fourth arrondissement) has a hands-on children’s area, not sure for what age exactly but it is free for kids so you can get to check out some art under the guise of taking them to a museum that has stuff for them (even if it turns out they are too old for what it has!).
  • Notre Dame is quite impressive even for kids but it may be a quicker visit with them.  On neighboring Ile St. Louis (the island in the river near Notre Dame), there is an ice cream place that is really good.  It’s called Berthillon (31 Rue St.-Louis-en-l’Ile).  Use that to reward the kids for letting you visit Notre Dame 🙂  And you can have one too.
  • Take a boat ride in the Seine.  Some of the boats offer fancy dinner cruises but there is a batobus (boat bus) that you can take to travel up and down the river –more fun than the metro (for the kids AND you!) and you can use this to see the city from a different perspective.
  • The Tuileries Garden (right by the Louvre Museum, at the base of the Champs-Elysées almost) is one of the most kid-friendly spots in Paris, and also one of the most beautiful.  There are trampolines, a merry go round, etc.    A large Egyptian obelisk is located outside on the west side of the park on the Place de la Concorde – could be a unique thing to see from ancient Egypt in Paris.

    Paris, obelisk, Place de la Concorde, Sacre Coeur, photo, France, travel

    A view towards the Place de la Concorde and the obelisk. Note Sacre Coeur in the background!

  • Go into the many places that have phenomenal pastries and other decadent things, like these.  For the kids, you know…
    • Ladurée – several across town (one near La Madeleine, another on the Champs Elysees, etc.)
    • Dalloyau – there is one at 2, pl Edmond Rostand, right across the Jardin de Luxembourg; there are other locations like 101, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.
    • Angelina (226 rue de Rivoli, right across the Tuileries/Louvre; incredible hot chocolate).  As you can see, I have conveniently picked places close to the others I have recommended so you have NO excuse for missing these!
  • Visit where Raúl lived (24 rue de Tilsitt).  OK, it’s a boring building one short block from the Arc de Triomphe.  Thinking it over, it may not impress the kids – or you – so only go if you run out of things to do 🙂

    Paris, Arc de Triomphe, Paris, Eiffel Tower, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, travel, view

    Yea, the building I lived in was boring but this is the view from the rooftop terrace!

Enjoy Paris and be sure to let me know what the kids enjoyed – from this list or otherwise!

Photo of the Week – The Breathtaking Alps of Transylvania

Romania, Transylvania, Transylvanian Alps, hiking, nature, outdoors, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

This scene was what we were rewarded with after arriving at the Cabana Curmatura in the Transylvanian Alps in Romania and hiking on for another hour.  I dream of returning to amazing Transylvania.  Too bad people’s only notion of it is the legend of Dracula:  there is SO much to enjoy and explore there!

Romania, Transylvania, Transylvanian Alps, hiking, nature, outdoors, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

The Timeless Capitals: Rome, Athens, Cairo

Acropolis, Athens. modern Athens, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

I have traveled to a good bunch of countries and hope to add more over time.  Most of the time, that means I have visited their capital cities even if briefly.  Rare is the case where I have not visited a capital city of a country I have been to.  Honduras, Mexico and the Dominican Republic come to mind.  Tanzania does too, now that I think about it, since Dodoma -not Dar es Salaam- is its capital.  I thought it would be cool to do a series of the capitals I have visited…  Let’s start with the timeless!

The timeless capital cities

One cannot argue that there are cities that are timeless.  Many are not capital cities.  But as the theme is capital cities, I will pick three that are timeless fully aware that I am stating the obvious given the choices:  Rome, Athens, and Cairo.

Just thinking about the “youngest” one of these goes back a couple of thousands of years.  Mind boggling.  )Of course, there are much younger capital cities that I could call timeless too.)  Going to any of these can be daunting with all the possibilities to explore the ancient, the old, and the recent (say, last 200 hundred years??).

Athenas – Atenas – Athina

Athens may be the easiest to navigate in terms of this but it still requires time to learn all about it.  It also merits exploring the “recent” not just the old or ancient.  In any of these cities, one can get stuck just on the archeology or history “touring” and miss the vibrant cities they are now, their history notwithstanding.

Acropolis, Athens. modern Athens, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

The modern outskirts of Athens towards Piraeus

Acropolis, Athens. modern Athens, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

A juxtaposition of modern Athens and old Athens

Rome – Roma

Rome has such depth that one could just focus on the Roman Empire period, or just the food, or just the Catholic, or just the modern life – and spend weeks on any of the topics.  A first visit to Rome can really consume one in the key sights to be seen – and that is OK, no reason to stress about it.  But either carve out time for, or plan to return for, diving in to the other experiences.  And don’t worry, Rome is eternal so it will all still be around for your next visit!

Pantheon, Rome, Italy, Panteon, Roma, architecture, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, travel

The old: Pantheon

food, carbonara, Italian food, Rome, Italy,  food porn, Olympus

The food: Carbonara – my favorite dish to have in Rome!

Olympus, St. Peter's at night, St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican, architecture, night time

The Catholic: St. Peter’s Square at night

Tourist, Pantheon, Rome, Italy, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, travel

The visitor: Is this a Roman look-alike soaking in the incredible Pantheon?

Cairo – El Cairo – La Caire – Al-Qaherah – القاهرة‎

About Cairo, what I can safely state is that it is one complex city!  For someone not used to large cities in countries where one doesn’t speak the language or one is not familiar with the culture, it can be overwhelming.  I felt that way on my first day there during my first visit.  And then you start walking around, sensing the vibe, having contact with the friendly locals, and the city opens up differently than expected.  Yes, there are key sights to be seen – the “musts,” but in Cairo, as in other places, the best part is the “experiencing,” not just the touring (I am not an anti-touring snob, just a proponent of experiencing!).  I believe it totally change what Cairo is in our minds to become more immersed (to the extent one can in a one week visit…).

Pyramids, Cheops, Giza, Cairo, Egypt, travel, architecture, ancient Egypt

The “musts”: The Giza pyramids

Cairo, Le Caire, Egypt, shisha pipe, hookah, chilling, experience, travel, photo

The “experiences”: At the Grand Bazaar

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These cities are timeless for their longevity and history yet they could also be grouped into other categories in this series.  I preferred placing them in the timeless group as they serve witness to the development of civilization, to the evolution of how we humans operate, and to the great achievements of the past while yet being alive in this modern world – not just being city-museums.  So go and explore these timeless capitals!

tourists, Italy, Canon EOS Rebel, baby carrier

Tourists enjoying a timeless capital: Rome!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these cities if you have visited – or how you envision them if you have not!

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