Category Archives: places We’ve been

Italy Day 16, Sperlonga, Tyberius’ Villa, Tivoli


In retrospect, today was a very full day. We touched on so many things: historical, culinary, visual.  From the beach to a hill top town, from 1st century BC to a local bar playing beach boys.  We had one miss and one near disaster (that wasn’t). Everything else was perfect.  What a glorious day!


Virgilio Grand Hotel


The Hotel Entrance


The Lounge, the Virgilio Hotel Is Modern

Breakfast was included at Hotel Poseidon. We ate at the hotel and walked the old town of Sperlonga one more time.  Ellen said, “I could stay here a month”  Sperlonga is a beautiful community, though there might not be enough cultural events for a months stay.


It Was Too Cold To Setup Breakfast Outside


Tropical Pizza, Highly Rated but Slow Food?

A Pictorial Walk Around Sperlonga













































Tiberius’ Villa, Sperlonga


Sperlonga Seen From Tiberius’ Villa


The Path to the Ruins of Tiberius’ Villa, Sperlonga

The hotel concierge strongly advised that we visit Tiberius’ Villa and Grotto, which is a few kilometers south of Sperlonga.  I knew tiberius had a villa atop the blue grotto with a stairway down into the grotto, but not about Sperlonga! Back at the hotel, we brought our luggage down and I went out back for the car.  It was GONE! It was simply not there!  Not here, not around the corner, GONE!

I frantically went back to the hotel desk, “scusi, my car is gone!”  “oh, we moved it down stairs.  It’s on level –2.”  Whew!  And it was on level –2.


Walking the Ruins, Sperlonga

Driving to Tiberius’ Villa, meant retracing our drive south about three kilometers.  The turn off for parking is not well marked.  The first clue the driver has something is coming up is the bus parking to the left you notice just as you drive by a small blue “P” and arrow to the right. Down the road some there are place to turn around.  Even knowing where the turn in for parking is, it is easy to drive by.  The entrance is quite small.  You drive down a short steep road.  The road goes straight take a turn to the right and park in a dirt/grass area.  We found the last parking space.  I thought we might be parked in when we leave.


Raised pools, Tiberius’ Grotto, Sperlonga


Water Once Flowed Through The Pipes (holes)


A Statue Left Outside (hard to access?)

The entrance to the villa from the parking area is not marked at all.  From parking you walk 100 meters to an access road.  Left takes you back to the main road.  Right takes you down to the sea. “Scusi, dov’e la villa di Tiberius?  e la?” (pointing to the right). “No e la” (fellow points to the left)  That saved us a walk down to the sea and back! Up to the Villa.


Close-up of the Ancient Pipes


Fishing Here Is Still Good!


Small Fish in the Lower Pool


Large Fish in the Upper Pool


Our Single Busload of Tourists


The Ruins a Different Perspective


Ellen, Having a Great Time!


View from Tiberius’ Lair: Sperlonga & Ellen


Description of Tiberius’ Grotto, In Italian Of Course

Instead we found the entrance to a museum. “Dov’e la villa di Tiverius?”  It worked once, lt’s see what the museum official says.  “e qui”.  Cool, in we go.  You pay a few euro to tour both the museum which houses incredible status and then tour the grounds of the ruins of what once was Tiberius’ Villa.  Tiberius knew how to position his homes.  This on is situated on a relatively flat  expanse that runs right to the sea.  To the left is a grotto.  To the right is the Lido that leads to Sperlonga.  It’s a moderate walk from here to there.  Directly in front of the villa, now ruins, is a rocky seafront.  There was a fellow spear fishing on the rocks.  The fishing must be pretty good.  The grotto pools with their array of huge fish were fenced off.


Some English at the bottom!


Location of Statues in Tiberius’ Grotto

The statues in the museum depict scenes from Homer’s Odysseus. The Slaying of the cyclops is very well sculpted in white marble. It is a huge statue with many parts.  Interestingly Tiberius had these statues placed in the grotto.  Tiberius himself had living space in the grotto.  The museum is small.  It houses the statues that were recovered from the cave.


Odyusseus and the Cyclops


Cyclops, Close Up





How The Art Might Have Looked


What is Left Today


It is a short walk to the entrance to Tiberius’ Villa, which is now a series of low walls marking the boundaries of houses and plazas.  It is small compared to Pompeii. Then a villa is quite small compared with a town or city. To me the most amazing thing about the villa is the Grotto.  There are two man-made pools fronting the grotto. I imagine one was cold water, the other hot.  These look to be fed by a freshwater spring.  There is evidence of fire in some places inside the cave. It could be caused by Tiberius’ candles or lamps or perhaps by modern teenagers in the 16oo’s lighting bonfires in the caves.  Perhaps both are true.


Marble Come To Life

A tour group arrived with us.  Tour groups typically move quickly through sites. This one did as well. Here one moment and headed for the exit the next.  “Check, got that one”.  Maybe it’s just me, but I prefer to linger in striking places to soak in the history or the beauty of the place (both?).  The Grotto faced the perfect sand beach that stretched in an arc for two kilometers.  It has access to great rock fishing and fresh water pools.  What a wonderful place to relax.  I must admit I know very little of Tiberius.  Curiosity will drive me to read more about Italy’s roots.  It is clear that someone or some group of some ones really had it in for Tiberius.  Everything he has touched was severely trashed.  It brings to mind current US politics. Basta! (enough of that)



The skies had darkened as we walked the ruins.  A drop or two fell as we left for our car.  The promised rains were coming.  I drove on to Terracina with Ellen and our GPS units navigating.  We planned to eat lunch in Terracina


Terracina, Coming

It was a dark gray, rainy drive to terracina.  Learning from Gaeta, this time I drove along the coast.  We found nothing of particular interest in a long drive around and back into town. If there was an old town, we didn’t find it.  Headed back out of town we passed a very appealing restaurant on our right.  Stop, backup, park.  “Do you think we can park here?” “Look, they did.  We should be ok”


Terracina, Going!

This is About How We Felt About Terracina, Wet and Out Of Focus

We walked into the restaurant. It was packed.  Ellen headed for the Toilette while I tried in vain to get someone’s attention. Perhaps ten minutes later, a fellow who looked like the owner walked by. “Scusi, posso mangiare qui?”  “No.” Followed by  stream of Italian that was unrecognizable to me.  I get this often now.  We’ve been given menus in Italian later to have them swapped for the English ones when I becomes apparent we have no idea what’s on the menu.  It is Easter today.  The restaurant had probably been booked for weeks in advance.  No wonder nobody even noticed us when we walked in; or when we walked out.  Another day without lunch, but that’s OK.  We’re headed to Tivoli.

On the Road

Our car needed to be fed too.  We could probably have driven through to Tivoli, but a service stop presented itself and we took it.  Cars to the left, trucks to the right: ok.  Food to the right gas straight ahead; oops.  I drove in the out to get back to the food court.  It was an extensive food court with fast food (pizza, calzone, beer), made to order pasta dishes, salads and vegetables, trinkets and souvenir sales.  We each had a slice of pizza.  Ellen’s was vegetable with a crunchy crust.  Mine was cheese and peperoni with a soggy crust. The crust is everything.  It was a fair lunch, the least memorable thus far.



Free Street Parking!


Trip Advisor Loves B&B Il Giardino


The View Isn’t That Bad Either.

With the alfa fed, we sped off to Tivoli.  There was relatively little traffic; we made very good time.  Approching Tivoli we switched from the clueless Garmin to the mostly ok Google Maps (again thank you TIM, Palermo!).  Still we drove into town, out of town, back into town, then up the correct street without seeing B&B Il Gardino.  “Wow, a parking space”, I zipped in and parked.  We found the B&B very close by. The sign was prominent if you are walking by, but not so much if driving.  It was mid afternoon when we arrived.


We have a Patio and a View over the Valley

Omar came right away when we rang the front bell.  He checked us in and showed us our room.  It was comfortable and had a view of the valley over the tops of the homes just below.

An Afternoon Walk Tivoli

Tivoli, the historic town of Tivoli, is small and build on a hill side.  We walked the upper city.


Tivoli’s Upper Square


The Arch, Tivoli


We Missed the Castle, Tivoli


Valle D’Este

Tivloi Gardens were open and closing at 7:30.  The group of eight ahead of us chose not to enter, it was too expensive.  No problem for two @ 8 euro each.

We walked the gardens until we were literally shooed out at 7:20.  But I thought they closed at 7:30!

I’m trying WordPress’ album and slideshow feature to see if we like it.  Tell us what you think.  -ron



Eden 2.0

The sun was sinking low on the horizon as we walked back toward “home”.  We had noticed a bar with an appealing view and stepped in to watch sunset over a drink.  We were seated at the “window”.  There were no windows, just a low railing and an expansive view.  Sunset, Beer, and Limoncello: Heaven.


Eden 2.0


Waiting for Our Order, Eden 2.0, Tivoli


A Tivoli Sunset from Eden 2.0’s Balcony

Ristorante Sibilla

Back at the apartment we freshened up and went out for dinner armed with two recommendations for dinner.  One for authentic local food, the other with a 10% discount.  It was dark by now and we navigated by a tourist map.  These maps are next to useless.  We managed to find the local food restaurant, but it was closed.  Most everything seemed closed on the narrow streets we walked.  OK, let’s find the other one.  Like streets in Boston, there was no way to know where a street would lead.  Some would go straight then zig left.  Others connected to the right only.  We were lost.  We asked directions from two woman who spoke perfect Italian, but no English. Back up the hill and to the left, is what we took away.  We went back up the hill, left, then down hill to the river.

I saw a restaurant across the river, but that was not the one recommended.  It was il Ciocco, which I remembered as having a great view of the river and waterfall, but not so great food.  After dark, there is no view.  TIM & ItalPhone to the rescue.  Ellen mentioned that they might be closed by now.  “Yes, we are open.  The kitchen closes at 10.  Pronto, Pronto”  We arrived at Ristorante Sibilla at 9:20.  We were seated right away.  Our waiter enjoyed talking with us in English (how hard will it be to learn some Italian?)  We had a good time talking with him too.  I had a simple classic dish of paste with pecorino cheese and pepper, Ellen had cheese ravioli.  My dish was fantastic.  The combination of fresh paste, virgin olive oil, some butter, pecorino cheese, and pepper was what Mac&Cheese should be.  It was mouthwatering  The cheese in Ellen’s ravioli was superb.  I very highly recommend Ristorante Sibilla.  The house wine was excellent as well.

We found our way home by following the main street uphill to Tivoli’s upper square.

Pratt and Chattenango Falls Syracuse and Lake George

Here are a few photos we took visiting with Paul, Carol, Dylan, Heidi, and Jameson.

DSC04244   DSC04237

Paul and Ron                                                 Carol and Dylan



DSC04231 DSC04215

Chittenango Falls

DSC04148 DSC04144

At Pratt Falls: Paul, Dylan, & Ron ( pratfall coined here?)

DSC04255 DSC04124

Near Pratt Falls

Here are a few representative photos of our drive around the lake.  Ellen took these.  She is enjoying her Sony A6000 camera enormously.


Paddle Wheeler Lake George


The Mohican Mast Head




The Horicon had Sailed


Lake George, NY


Town Park and Waterfall, Ticonderoga NY


Early Fall Foliage, Ticonderoga NY


Lake George Town

Whale Watching Video and PowerDirector


I’ve switched over to PowerDirector for my video editing and I’m quite pleased with the software. So far the software has had every feature I’ve wanted while editing video and it is easy to use. It’s crashed on me a few times. PowerDirector is not happy loading 60 AVI files. It may load them, but it will crash trying to do much of anything. It looks like the software loads features as they are needed and does not have sufficient memory when a number of large files are loaded. The solution is not to do that! Just work on a smaller set of files and it runs just fine.

Whale Watching Video, Loreto Mexico

While working on an entirely related issue (getting Amazon Prime to run on my smart TV), I would up connecting my wifi enabled devices to the TV. While testing the connection, up popped some video from our March whale watching trip. That was just the nudge I needed; editing those videos is a perfect way to test PowerDirector. The process went smoothly and without a crash. I’ve uploaded the mp4 output to the Loreto video album.

The video was shot with a Canon IXUS 800 point and shoot in a waterproof housing. This was our first whale watching trip and we were concerned that better equipment could be irreparably damaged. The quality of the video is what you’d expect from an older point and shoot camera, though the IXUS 800 is a fine camera within limits.

As for the video, it’s a sequence of our best clips of our days at Magdelena Bay, edited, spliced together, and with a sound track. I’ve kept the audio track in place, we get pretty excited.


San Francisco to San Diego on State Route 1

As we both have time and “Li’l Beast” we decided to take a leisurely trip to San Diego via route 17 and the Scenic Coast Highway. route 1. Both route 17 and 1 are windy and hilly if not mountainous for some of the distance. I wanted to see how Li’l Beast performed going up and down steep hills and how I handled the curves of rt 1. We both wanted an excuse to travel along the coast. It is serenely beautiful.

First we stopped in Palo Alto to visit friends, show off our “new” RV, and have an early dinner with Melissa, which was fun. Parking was not an issue though the restaurant would not let us park in their lot. We found a nearby bank that was closed and had ample parking. We headed out later than expected after dinner with only a few hours before sunset. AllStays (an I Phone app) to the rescue. Ellen settled on the Marina Dunes campground with AllStays, called ahead and made a reservation for us.

Like most campgrounds, this one had moderate sized RV campsites with water and electric hookups and a picnic table. Perfect. We hooked up and settled in just after sunset. Even better, the next morning we found that the seashore was a short walk through the nearby dunes. We had a fun morning.
We met a couple returning from a month in Mexico who also had a Winnebago View 24J. They had no problem with diesel in Mexico (I had read there were issues and now read it should be no problem). They found that their View was a bit small for an extended trip. Ours fells fine for us.

On our second day we drove through Big Sur. Li’l Beast performed admirably. No issues with the hills, if anything I found the twisties a bit intimidating at first. I’m comfortable in a sports car and this large and heavy (nearly 6 tons!) beast is certainly not that. There is more body roll with the View than I’m comfortable with; I’ll probably add Sumo springs to the suspension to dampen out the sway.
We prefer to stay at national or state parks for a number of reasons: the campsites are usually well separated, the park is usually sited in an appealing location, RV size is limited to 24 feet. Some parks are undeveloped and have no hookups which is inconvenient for long stays.

Kirk Creek Campground was our second planned stop. California State parks have a reservation system that is open to reservations two days out and beyond. We had not made reservations prior and were within the two day cut off and could not make reservations in the system. We tried calling the campground and go no answer. Kirk Creek was full as was Limekiln State Park, our second choice. Plasket Creek Campground had a number of open sites for a one or two day stopover and we took a site that was level and shaded by a big oak tree.

Plasket Creek Campground has access to the cliff area overlooking the Pacific Ocean with a 100 step stairway down to the beach. We stood on the beach and watched the sun set. On our way back we met a couple touring California in a rented RV. They were from Holland and were having a blast, though they were happy to be back with greenery after being in the desert for a week. The next morning we met a United Airlines pilot and his family. They had just purchased a View 24J. The father and one son drove the RV back from Ohio. This was their first trip as a family.

The next day we encountered hundreds (thousands?) of elephant seals molting on the shore. We stopped at a designated overlook and walked out to the fenced off area to get a better look. There a docent explained that these were 80% female with some adolescent males.. That they come ashore to molt, sloughing off a light brown stiff “fur” at this time of the year. We saw many brown seals, some strikingly light bright silver ones. Most had molted and were dark gray. It was a startling sight. The seals were crammed together on the beach, often crashing over each other to get around. The stench of animal pee hung in the air, reminiscent of old time Zoos.

On our third night we stayed at a state beach near Carpenteria. This was wall to wall RVs and many families. It was tight getting backed into our slot. With all the bustling activity, the park was noisy and uninviting. This was the night of the Pacquiao Mayweather fight. Every large RV had their external HDTV out and tuned to the fight. On the bright side, it was a short walk to the beach.

Setting up to drain the gray tank the next morning, I could not get the hoses to couple tightly and had some leakage. I also had a devil of a time getting the cap off the RV drain pipe, resorting to a screw driver to pry the cap off (or at lease loosen it enough to screw it off). I have to work on this; it’s embarrassing having leaking sewer hoses.

The next day we drove almost to Pismo Beach and stayed at the North Pismo Beach Campground. As campgrounds go, this one was expensive but well laid out. There were over 100 sites but setup to allow a good distance between them. Again the campground is located a very short walk to the beach. We had stopped at two campgrounds north of NPBC, but each one was full.

The next day we could have driven to San Diego, but chose to stay at South Carlsbad State Beach. This campground has a large number of sites along a bluff overlooking the ocean. The sites are wide and some have short trees dividing the sites. Some sites are developed though we stayed in an undeveloped site with no immediate neighbors.

All the state beaches were great for camping, though I would not recommend the one near Carpenteria if you want solitude. All campgrounds had showers with hot and cold water. As newbie’s we had not realized how important reservations can be to an orderly trip. On the down side, making reservations for a long trip (one or two months) is a planning nightmare. A two day delay in the trip could lead to scrambling to get back on track or at the worst derailing an entire plan. I think we’ll next try making reservations a few days ahead of where we think we’ll be and hopscotch along that way rather than planning out an entire trip. That way if we want to stay longer where there is lots to see or do, we can.

Gray and Blue Whale Watching in BCS

Ellen and I joined friends on a whale watching trip to Baja California Sur, Mexico. We are good friends with four of the couples having met for dinner often and taken outings to the wine country and hiking trips over the past decade (longer for Ellen). The other two couples quickly became friends of ours as well.

The trip was fun. We enjoyed the camaraderie of banter over dinner, good food, and cervesa. We flew into Loreto, Mexico and drove to Puerto San Carlos on Magdalena Bay in two vans. Loreto is surrounded by a mountain range. It took two hours to drive from the Bay of California to Puerto San Carlos on the pacific side. Cyn pointed out that this is a relatively short drive. On last year’s whale watching trip it took six hours to drive north to their destination on the Bay of California!

This is the time of year that the whales calf in the Sea of Cortez. We went to see the mommy and baby whales, both gray and blue.

The two hour drive to Puerto San Carlos went by very quickly and in no time we were settling into our rooms. The rooms at Mar y Arena Eco Hotel are large and tiled with a sliding glass door facing Magdalena Bay. Each casita was two story with one room downstairs and one upstairs with a total of about six casitas in all. For us, the accommodations were quite comfortable though hot water was in short supply.

Two took two full days from sunrise to nearly sunset at Puerto San Carlos. We had a fabulous captain who did not crowd the whales and let them come to us. Sadly most whales didn’t come to us, though a few came close. We did drift over the tail of one gray whale and have some great video of that. We also had a baby swim alongside and we touched the whale.

We then drove back to Loreto for the blue whales. I got terribly sick on the drive back to Loreto. That put me out for two days. Some of our group did go out to see the blue whales. They are huge and the boats would not get close to them. “They are so big, you only see part of them at a time. They look like a huge log on the water”. They’re far less exciting to see than are the gray whales.

I wanted to go fishing from Loreto. Larry and Barb went fishing two days and caught “yellow tail”. Not yellow tail tuna, but another fish that’s pretty good eating. The Giggling Dolphin cooked the fish for our group for a few nights. Had I not been sick, I would have been out fishing too.

This was BIG FUN. Ellen and I will return next year, though we’ll probably opt for the 6 hour drive to the “friendly whales”.