Stockholm’s City Hall – Great Vantage Point

Before my recent trip to Southeast Asia, I took advantage of a cheap airfare to spend a long weekend in Stockholm. I had been there a while back on a day stop from a cruise with my family. It was summer time and it allowed us to get a flavor of this city by walking around Old Town, visiting the Vasa Museum, and enjoying a nice lunch. Of course, Stockholm was charming and I hoped for a return visit someday. And that materialized when a college friend found the special fare and asked if I’d be game for a slightly mad short trip there. Having not used vacation time in the year, I thought “why the heck not!”

The plan for the trip was to just go with the flow. I had already seen key sights so that was good with me. Serendipity can yield interesting experiences!

One place I discovered on this trip was Stockholm’s City Hall. My hotel was maybe 2.5 kms / 30 mins’ walk away and we were making our way from our hotel in Kungsholmen towards Old Town. We ran into the the City Hall and wondered what it was. It faces the water with great views of Gamla Stan (Old Town) and Sodermalm across the water – excellent photo opp spot!

Here are some of the images of the building and the views from its unique spot in the city.  If you find yourself in Stockholm, go the extra distance outside of Gamla Stan to get to this spot!  (Click on the images to enlarge.)

The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa: Something for Everyone!

I had the opportunity to head north to Michigan recently to explore the town and area around Traverse City.  Mind you, I had only learned about Traverse City a couple of years ago when I read about it from one of my favorite travel blogs, The Working Mom’s Travels.  So, always ready to explore new places, I did not hesitate to make the trip even though I could only go for a weekend.

Getting there required a connection for me coming from Atlanta but, frankly, it was easy as a Michigan cherry pie as Detroit is a great airport, easy to navigate and with many flights in and out to my place of origin and my destination.  Traverse City is but 10 minutes away from the airport, a straight drive in.

I arrived at my place of stay, the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in no time.  The courtesy airport pickup was excellent and my driver, Aaron, did a great job of giving me an intro to the area.  His friendliness was just the first one I experienced after arriving but it was not to be the only one at the GT Resort and Spa!  (I like the GT abbreviation they use because I went to university at another GT:  Georgia Tech!)Grand Traverse Resort, Traverse City, Michigan, view, vista, hotel, travel, photo, blue sky,

When I arrived, the place was packed as there was a convention that weekend but everything flowed smoothly, with check-in being lightning fast.  The Grand Lobby is large and has multiple seating areas (so many hotels these days forget to make their lobby inviting; I like it when they feel almost like a living room) including one in front of a fireplace, another in front of a piano, and a couple of others, including a small bar area.

Grand Traverse Resort, Traverse City, Michigan, view, vista, hotel, travel, photo, blue sky,

Lobby at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa

The hotel has about 600 rooms, a combination of standard hotel rooms, suites, and condos, some privately owned.  Wifi is free and it’s everywhere – now THAT scores high on my list of amenities, as I am sure does for everyone.  It gets so old to go to a hotel where you have to pay for it…  Come on, people, move on to the 2010s before the 2020s get here!

Since I arrived later in the afternoon, I decided to stay in and not go into town (I knew that would be on my agenda on the next day anyway).  So I opted to check out the health club facilities and explore some of the resort.  I guess I am not surprised their health club was larger and more complete than a standard hotel as this is not a standard hotel.  Plenty of treadmills, elliptical, rowing machine, etc. and not of the archaic kind (mental note:  add this to my hotel pet peeves list…).  The health club overlooks a large indoor tennis facility that apparently is well known.  I didn’t count how many courts but at least 5, if not more.  So if you pick the right piece of equipment and your timing is right, instead of watching TV, you may be able to watch a live tennis match!  Next door is a large indoor pool entertainment area with stuff for kids of all ages to enjoy.  Pretty neat place.

Grand Traverse Resort, Traverse City, Michigan, hotel, travel, photo, pool, recreation

Pool area

With the workout done ahead of eating a big meal (see how I plan ahead??), it was time to shower and get a cat nap in.  The bed and pillows were so comfortable it took me no time to get to that nap.

Grand Traverse Resort, Traverse City, Michigan, hotel, travel, photo, bed

Look at that bed!! All comfort!

Recharged, I decided it was time to discover some Michigan wines since I had never tried one before.  Yes, I had planned to taste some wines the next day as part of Leelanau Peninsula’s Sip & Savor festival but I am nothing if not a student and a learner, so no harm in pre-research 🙂  The resort’s up-high restaurant and bar, the Aerie Restaurant and Lounge, sits on the 16th floor of the tower at the Grand Traverse.  I really liked the openness of the bar and restaurant with great views of the East Grand Traverse Bay and the golf course at the resort. Unfortunately, it was cloudy that day so the setting’s incredible sunset views were not going to happen for me but I can only imagine how spectacular the sunset must be from up there.

Grand Traverse Resort, Traverse City, Michigan, view, vista, architecture, hotel, travel, photo

The Aerie offers great vistas 360 degrees

Having sampled a couple of wines, I proceeded to have dinner.  There is not bad table at the Aerie since they all have a window view.  In the area where I sat, the booths away from the windows are slightly raised above the floor so you also can get a pretty unobstructed view from them – and so I did.  I enjoyed a blackened trout and a spinach salad that were tasty and fresh.  I capped the meal with their version of a bananas foster which consisted of a small scoop of cinnamon ice cream, dark chocolate pot de crème, chocolate mousse chips, bruleed bananas, and banana cheesecake.  Pretty.  Dang.  Delicious.  I got to my room and in no time I had fallen asleep fully clothed…  That’s a good night!

Aerie Restaurant, dinner, bananas foster, chocolate mousse, Grand Traverse Resort, Traverse City, Michigan, hotel, travel, photo, bed

The awesome dessert that closed up my meal

Though some signs of the age of the wing I stayed were evident (other wings are newer), for the most part a good effort has been made to update the spaces, especially the rooms and bathrooms.  The room I stayed at had two double beds and was quite large with a side view towards the East Grand Traverse Bay with Old Mission Peninsula in the background – not bad!

Though I am not a golfer, if you are, this may be a perfect place for you.  Their main golf course, aptly named “The Bear,” is a Jack Nicklaus signature course and I hear it is for those who like a good challenge!  They have two other golf courses in the 900-acre property, one a Gary Player signature course (“The Wolverine”) and another designed by William Newcomb (the more pleasantly named “Spruce Run”).  Looking out the window of the Aerie, I was begrudging not having pursued learning how to golf!  (I did briefly try in the late 1990s but if you keep missing the ball when you tee off, you know it is time to pursue other interests…)

On the day of my departure, I went for a massage at the spa.  Work had been hectic the week before and my last massage was four months ago so I was overdue for one to help set me right.  A mid-morning massage, a couple of hours before heading to the airport, was the right thing to close up the weekend visit.  Using cherry infused oils (I was worried the smell would be too much but it was actually subtle), the relaxation massage was just what I needed before returning home to face the work week after such a fun weekend.

I am glad I invested my time and money to visit Traverse City and in an upcoming post, you will see what else contributed to making this such a fun and excellent weekend!

Have YOU been to Traverse City and its vicinity?  What is your favorite spot?  I leave you with the view from my room towards the East Grand Traverse Bay!

Grand Traverse Resort, Traverse City, Michigan, view, vista, hotel, travel, photo, blue sky, East Grand Traverse Bay

View towards East Grand Traverse Bay


I was hosted at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa during this visit.  Opinions all ilivetotravel’s.

Top 8 Climbs for a Great City View in Europe

There are so many ways to see and experience a city.  But one of my top ways to get to “know” a city is by getting up high and looking down at it.  Of course, this is not hard to do as there are usually man-made or natural high points.  While I like getting a view more than anything else, the view is even more appreciated when I have had to climb my way to get it.  I will only list here places that I have actually climbed as opposed to places where I rode up when there was a way to climb it – the ones I rode up will be the subject of another post…   So, here are eight (in no particular order) of my favorite climbs to get a city view in Europe!

Paris’ Eiffel Tower

Yes, I may be stating the obvious but most people ride the elevator on this one.  I have been up the Eiffel Tower two times and both times I climbed it up to the point at which there is no other way open to the public to get to the very top (and then you are required to take an elevator).  I love the freedom of walking up the tower, seeing its beams and bolts up close, and pausing a lot along the way (yea, for the view, that’s the ticket!).  It may not be for everyone but if you are able to do experience the tower this way, do it!  Regardless of how you go up, the altitude and the view of Paris combine to give one a great experience!

Paris, France, Eiffel Tower, climb, stairs, vista, view, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, travel

Up close and personal

Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre

You can walk up or ride up to Montmartre (I have done both) but the best view is from climbing the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur itself.  Of course, this is a better view in some ways than the Eiffel Tower since this view includes the Eiffel Tower.  But not only are you rewarded by looking at Paris from this angle, but you get to see the many gargoyles and other details of the church up close and personal – which makes for good photo opps!

Sacré-Coeur, Paris, France, architecture, gargoyle, photo Canon EOS Rebel, view, vista

One of the gargoyles keeping watch over a park

St. Paul’s Cathedral in London

When I went up St. Paul’s Cathedral, it was the first time I had gone to the top of any church.  St. Paul’s, built in the 17th century, is 111 m high (365 ft) so you really are high up when you climb it.  I enjoyed not only the view but seeing the “innards” of the structure as I made my way up to get a glimpse of London (pre-London Eye!).

St. Paul's, Cathedral, London, England, United Kingdom, dome, view, vista, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

Looking down towards the front of the Cathedral

Bologna’s Medieval Towers

Bologna is a city of arcades (or porticoes):  it is great to be able to walk around the city whether it is raining or not thanks to this feature of this unique Italian city (home of the world’s oldest university!).  But perhaps a lesser known secret of this town, former possessor of many medieval towers (estimated at 180 towers!), is that you can go up one of the remaining towers (one of the pair called the Due Torri).  It will not be the one with the serious tilt but the other one (which is taller).  I recommend putting out the effort and going up!

Bologna, medieval tower, Due Torri, Italy, architecture, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

The lower of the Due Torri (the tilted one)

St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican

OK, to get to the first viewing point, you do take an elevator but to get to the top of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, you walk it up.  Not only do you get to look down across the Tiber to Rome but you get to look down onto St. Peter’s Square (where I have participated in a papal audience (as a VIP!) and an Easter Mass) from a great vantage point.  What I enjoyed (besides getting to the top) was walking inside the dome’s inner and outer walls in the passageways – the higher you got, the more you noticed the curvature of the walls and sometimes had to tilt the head a little bit to adjust to it!  When you come down, you are deposited right inside the basilica.

St. Peter's Basilica, St. Peter's Square, Rome, Roma, Italy, Italia, view, vista, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

St. Peter’s Square from the top of the dome

La Giralda in Sevilla (Seville), Spain

La Giralda, Seville’s famous tower is part of which is a former minaret built in 1198 during the Moors’ occupation of Spain.  It sits in the center of the city right next to the amazing Cathedral of Seville (3rd largest church in the world).  To go up this 100m+ tower, you do not walk up stairs.  So how do you go up if it is a “climb” and there are no stairs?  Well, it actually has ramps!  Why?  So horses could go up!  So, do like the horses and go up the ramps to enjoy views of the city center of Sevilla.

Sevilla, Spain, Sevilla, La Giralda, Cathedral of Seville, view, vista, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Composite picture looking down onto the Cathedral of Seville

Galata Tower in Istanbul

Where else, other than Istanbul, can you look at a city laid across two continents with a great bird’s eye view?   Besides learning about its history, it was a great climb.  Once at the top, I looked at Asia across the busy Bosphorus with all its maritime traffic and then with a slight turn of the head, I was looking at Europe.  Across the Golden Horn, I could see the “skyline” of Seraglio Point where the eye quickly focused on Topkapi Palace, the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

Istanbul, Estambul, Turkey, Turquia, Turkey, Galata Tower, Golden Horn, Karakoy, photos, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Looking towards the Asian side of Istanbul

The city walls of Dubrovnik

Though there are higher vantage points from which to admire the tiled roofs and setting of Dubrovnik, the city walls allowed me to look down but yet be close enough to feel the city.  It was more of a walk than a climb but, since I had to use stairs to get to them, I will call them a “climb” – but don’t be scared, it is pretty easy to walk along these walls!

Bell Tower and Church of St Vlaho in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Bell Tower and Church of St Vlaho


On the Other Side of the Golden Horn

A visit to Istanbul is not complete without crossing the Golden Horn to the other side of European Istanbul.  And it cannot be any easier.  A short walk from the Grand Bazaar you can cross the Golden Horn (which back in the day was closed with a long chain to prevent ships from coming in) by bridge or by a short boat ride to the Galata/Karaköy area.

Istanbul, Estambul, Turkey, Turquia, Turkey, Galata Tower, Golden Horn, Karakoy, sea, photos, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Walking to catch a boat to cross the Golden Horn (Galata Tower to the upper left)

I opted to cross by boat.  Upon landing on the other side, I went past a spot with a lot of activity where fishermen came in with their goods.

Istanbul, Estambul, Turkey, Turquia, Turkey, fish, Karakoy, photos, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Fishermen with their goods

The sea was right there, no big barrier between the sidewalk and the beautiful blue waters of the Bosphorus!

Istanbul, Estambul, Turkey, Turquia, Turkey, blue, Topkapi Palace, Golden Horn, Karakoy, sea, photos, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Looking back across the Golden Horn towards Topkapi Palace

I made my way to the Galata Tower (about 67m high) built in 1348 by the Genoese who had commercial interests in then-Constantinople.  It sits on a hillside so you will do some exercise getting there and then you will climb it.  Yes, lots of work but you will rewarded with great views of Istanbul landmarks like Topkapı Palace, the Hagia Sophia, and the Blue Mosque.

Istanbul, Estambul, Turkey, Turquia, Turkey, Galata Tower, Golden Horn, Karakoy, photos, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

View from the Galata Tower towards Seraglio Point. You can see, from left to right, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and the Blues Mosque

Istanbul, Estambul, Turkey, Turquia, Turkey, Galata Tower, Golden Horn, Karakoy, photos, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Looking towards the Asian side of Istanbul

Along the way, I stopped at the Neve Shalom Synagogue that had been bombed a dozen years earlier (and then 5 years after my visit).  It is not an old building by Istanbul standards having been finished I 1951 but it is the largest Sephardic synagogue in Istanbul.  The guards were not sure if to let us in but they spoke Turkish and Yiddish only, languages none of us knew.  Thankfully German (which I spoke at a very elementary level) and Yiddish sort of relate a little – enough to say we were American, to understand they wanted to know what hotel we were staying at, and answering.  We were allowed in.

Beyond these places, I enjoyed a local place called Ece Bar in Tramvay Caddesi, facing the Bosphorus.  It was a three level locale with the bottom level offering a feel for traditional local music and dance.  We were hosted by the owner, Ece, and it was a neat experience.  Other levels offered more standard restaurant and bar services.  I have tried to see if it is still in operation but have had no luck.

I also meandered up some large avenue going east-ish from the Golden Horn which gave me an opportunity to see more of modern Istanbul, not just the old quarter where I spent most of my time.  Istanbul offers contrasts in so many ways:  the population reflects in its “look” the mix of peoples that have been through here; modern buildings sitting side by side structures from days long gone in one incredible juxtaposition.

Istanbul, Estambul, Turkey, Turquia, Turkey, modernity, juxtaposition, photos, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

The juxtaposition is everywhere

At the end of this walk I met my friend’s girlfriend for lunch and then I decided not to walk back as I was tired and ended up with a mini-adventure.  See, I wanted to come back by water so I could admire the grand old mansions that sit right by the shores of the Bosphorus.  However, I somehow got lost trying to find a boat stop and the locals I ran into spoke none of the languages I could communicate in at the time (English, Spanish, French and German).  After a lot of walking and beginning to wonder what to do, I ran into an older Dutch couple who had a clue and who were doing exactly what I had hoped to do – success!!

Dolmabahçe Palace, Ataturk, Ottoman, Istanbul, Turkey, Turkiye, Turquia, Estambul, architefcture, Bosphorus, photos, travel Canon EOS Rebel

Dolmabahçe Palace, an European style palace built towards the end of the Ottoman years; where Ataturk died

mansions, palaces, Ottoman, Istanbul, Turkey, Turkiye, Turquia, Estambul, architefcture, Bosphorus, photos, travel Canon EOS Rebel

Other grand buildings along the Bosphorus

mansions, palaces, Ottoman, Istanbul, Turkey, Turkiye, Turquia, Estambul, architefcture, Bosphorus, photos, travel Canon EOS Rebel

Other grand buildings along the Bosphorus

mansions, palaces, Ottoman, Istanbul, Turkey, Turkiye, Turquia, Estambul, architefcture, Bosphorus, photos, travel Canon EOS Rebel

Other grand buildings along the Bosphorus

mansions, palaces, Ottoman, Istanbul, Turkey, Turkiye, Turquia, Estambul, architefcture, Bosphorus, photos, travel Canon EOS Rebel

mansions, palaces, Ottoman, Istanbul, Turkey, Turkiye, Turquia, Estambul, architefcture, Bosphorus, photos, travel Canon EOS Rebel

Can you imagine living on the building right under the bridge??

I highly recommend the crossing of the Golden Horn and a boat ride along the shores of the Bosphorus (not just crossing the Golden Horn) as you will a glimpse of the Istanbul of today – and of yesteryear.

“Moses Wuz Here” – Mt. Nebo, Jordan

Show me the way to the Promised Land, said Moses

Mt. Nebo is located on what seems to be an area north of the Dead Sea that sits high on a ridge and, according to the Bible, is the place where Moses was allowed to see the Promised Land he would never enter (after guiding his people out of Egypt for 40 years!).

Moses, Mt. Nebo, Jordan, tourism, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Moses, I suppose

Mt. Nebo, Jordan, Moses, Promised Land, Holy Land, religion, archeology, history, sign, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Today, without Moses around, this sign does the job of pointing to the Promised Land

Mt. Nebo overlooks the valley of the River Jordan and one can glimpse Jericho and Jerusalem to the west on a good day.  The site was visited by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI at some point giving the site an added level of credibility if you will, as a site of religious importance.

Moses, Mt. Nebo, Jordan, archeology, history, religion, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Welcome to Mt. Nebo!

It is also claimed Moses is buried there but there is no conclusive evidence (as conclusive as one may expect a few thousand years later…).  Whether any of this interests you or not, the views of the valley below are certainly worth it.


Moses, Promised Land, Mt. Nebo, Jordan, tourism, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, view, vista

Some of the view

The visit

There was a small temporary-looking exhibit at the site showing some of the beautiful mosaics of the remains of a church found in the first half of the 20th century on Mt. Nebo.  It really makes you ponder the history of the place and the area and all the events it has witnessed over time.

Mount Nebo, Jordan, mosaic, Moses, history, religion, archeology, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Part of the mosaics

Mount Nebo, Jordan, mosaic, Moses, history, religion, archeology, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Color manages to survive close to two millenia

Mount Nebo, Jordan, mosaic, Moses, history, religion, archeology, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Up close and personal

The place is crowded with tourists of all ages and that takes away for sure from the importance of the place.  Perhaps some construction during the time of my visit contributed to the small chaos, though there were moments when I was glad there was chaos and a crowd…

Mt. Nebo, Jordan, tourism, photo, children, Canon EOS Rebel

Young Mt. Nebo visitors

Mt. Nebo, Jordan, tourism, photo, child, Canon EOS Rebel

Another schoolkid visiting the site

I was patient, though, and I was rewarded when the key spot where Moses stood cleared up for a good 5 minute and I was able to soak it all in better during that pause in the visitors.

Let ME show you the Promised Land

So, in case you have not been there, allow me show you the Promised Land!

Mount Nebo, Holy land, Promised Land, Jordan, Moses, photo, ilivetotravel, view, vista

“Over yonder!” says this modern-day Moses-wanna-be


During this trip, 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 – Busch Memorial Stadium

A long time ago, I did two round-trip drives from Atlanta, GA to Boulder, CO as I spent two summers in Boulder for a college internship.  The very first time I drove to Boulder, accompanied by my college roommate, I was thrilled to see the St. Louis Gateway Arch for the first time and heeding that semi-eternal call “Go west, young man!

We were thrilled to be able to make it to the Arch while it was still open.  And we were rewarded with great dusk-time views.  My favorite was this shot of Busch Memorial Stadium which served the St. Louis Cardinals from 1966 to 2005.  I hate it when cities spend millions/billions held hostage by professional sports when that money would be better used to educate children, take care of the old, and -heck, why not- fix potholes.  Seems to me if cities stood together, the pro sports leagues could be pushed back on and we could all end up with better cities instead of stuffing the wallets of hooligans.  But I suppose that is a post for a different kind of blog.  For now, I just wanted to share this great image this young man took back in the day with a film camera as he went out west…

St. Louis, Missouri, Busch Memorial Stadium, Gateway Arch, photo, vista, view, night, night time, baseball, Cardinals

Got lucky there was a baseball game going on!



Photo of the Week – The Mountains of Utah

Ah, this picture really makes me long for winter (or a trip to the southern hemisphere where IT IS winter!).  Taken many years ago while I skied awesome Alta, I long to return to those wonderful slopes and setting.  I need to ski next year as I missed this season and I also have Europe in my sights for a ski trip…

Are you a ski fan?  What is your favorite place to ski?  Where do you want to go ski?

Alta, Utah, ski, mountains, vista, photography, freedom, sports, outdoors, photo

Photo of the Week – ilivetotravel on the French Riviera

This photo of the shoreline of Nice, France is from a LONG time ago – when I was very fortunate to be on 2-week business trips to the French Riviera.  It has been on my mind lately that I need to write about my trips there from those times.  It all starts with a picture!

Nice, France, French Riviera, tourist, travel, model, photography, tourism

Enjoying beautiful weather in Nice, France!!

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