Category Archives: Retirement

Day 17, Tivoli, Civita Bagnoregio, Orvieto


Tivoli and B&B Il Gardino

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B&B Il Gardino’s Entrance, Tivoli


Common Area, B&B Il Gardino, Tivoli

We awoke early for us, enjoyed a leisurely shower, and went down for breakfast.  The buffet breakfast was quite varied. “Would you like coffee?” “Due cappuccino, per favore.”  though we could have spoken English.   I really appreciated the fresh fruit that greeted us at table.  The cappuccinos were great.

As we often do we walked the town of Tivoli in the morning.  There were a few people out for a morning stroll or coffee.  The town felt deserted. We left for Civita Bagnoregio around 10am.

Bagnoregio on an Italian National Holiday


Bagnoregio is Perched on a Small Hilltop

Traffic on the autostrada was unusually heavy today and moving as congested traffic does.  We came to a near stop or a full stop innumerable times.  Sometimes traffic would zoom at the speed limit and two kilometers come to a complete halt for minutes at a time.  I’d expect to come upon an accident, but there would be no indication that anything was wrong aside from the traffic.

Our GPS piped up with “take slick road on right in 2 kilometers toward…”  I pulled to the right lane saw that traffic was queuing in the break down lane for the exit and pulled in line just in time.  Traffic moved at a snail’s pace.  After an hour we were approaching the turnoff and one of the holdups became apparent.  For every car in line that exited the autostrada, here were two cars who cut the very head of the line.  That was infuriating.

The second bottleneck was traffic merging from the left accessing the toll booths.  There were two lines of traffic darting in, around, and through each other.

Third up?  The toll gates themselves.  Two were closed and two were open; one open for cash, the other for telepass. Cars accessing  the cash lane were blocking the telepass lane and telepass holders were blocking the cash lane.  Madness.

Finally my turn after cutting of a guy trying to cut in front of me.  That’s not going to happen after waiting 90 minutes.  Up to the booth attendant with my ticket.  He’s on the phone.  He takes my ticket and 3,40 shows on the display.  Great I hand him a 5 and fish for 40 cents.  He takes the five, still talking on the phone and does nothing.  I found the 40 cents to get an even 2 euros back a tried to hand it over.  He’s still talking on the phone. “Sigonore, per favore” nothing, this guy is “busy”.  “Signore, please take this 40 cents”  nothing.. I’m sure traffic behind me is convince I’m a total idiot by now.  “Allora, Signore, please take this 40 cents too” It wasn’t a shout, but I did raise my voice.  He moved the phone away from his ear, glowered at me, and released a stream of Italian the gist of which was I’m on the phone talking about this traffic backup.  You could wait.  He did take the 40 cents and give me 2 euros.  I was free…

The back roads to Bagnoregio were traffic free!  I had this haunting feeling that something was happening that I was not aware of.  Why so much traffic on the autostrada? We we approached Bagnoregio, I could not believe what I saw.  Driving toward the lower parking area, the streets were lined with parked cars.  In the lower part of the new town, there were people milling about every where.  Car parking areas were full.  We eventually found a parking yard with an opening and grabbed it.

The pay kiosk was broken another dilemma.  Do we park elsewhere and not get ticketed for sure, or do we simply walk on hoping for the best?  We walked on, joining a stream of people headed to Bagnoregio.  Now Civita Bagnoregio is a very small town that sits on a precipice. Access to the town is across a long picturesque pedestrian bridge.  To access that bridge, you first park, walk up steps to the upper town, walk through the town eventually to access to that pedestrian bridge.  The crowds were staggering. Walking through the town we joined a throbbing throng of people moving toward the pedestrian bridge; with another stream of people returning.  It’s about a 1 kilometer walk through the town.  This was like being at a world fair, it was so crowded.  Everyone was speaking Italian.


Bagnoregio is Quite Dramatic


Crowded? Pieno, Pieno, Pieno!

Look closely at the crowd crossing the footbridge to the city in the photo above.  It turned out that today, the day after Easter, is a national holiday. Half of Rome had come to visit Bagnoregio.  We eventually reached access to the pedestrian bridge, but seeing the crowd crossing the bridge it became apparent that a relaxed lunch in Bagnoregio admiring the town and its views was not going happen.  There was no way we could stand the crowds. We left having taken a few photos of the town and the crowds.


The Foreground Appears Uncrowded, a Bus had just Gone Past!



Upper “Bagnoregio” men’s & women’s Line

We both needed to use a Toilette.  The line near the Bagnoregio foot bridge was excessively long. We moved quickly back through the new town and down the stairs to find a men’s and woman’s line.  Predictably the men’s line was four deep, the woman’s nearly twelve.  Ellen, “is there a door in the men’s room?”  After checking, “yes” and she waited in the men’s line with me to the shock of one fellow in particular.


The Lower Women’s Line


Ellen used the Men’s Room, One Guy was Not Amused!

Back at the alfa, we had no parking ticket.  There was traffic!  There were people looking for parking and those leaving.  We left and dialed in Orvieto as our destination.  We were off.  Ellen asked if I was ok leaving Bagnoregio without actually seeing the city.  Of Course, the mass of people was a complete disaster. No way would I have wanted to continue.

We stopped at a service center on the autostrada to get gas and maybe a bite to eat.  I drove past the entrance for the food court and drove through the exit to park.  No harm done, nobody was coming out.  The food selection at the food court was extensive, from pizza by the slice to made to order pasta dishes.  A fellow overheard us talking about the pizza and he said, “the pizza is good”. We opted for a slice of pizza.  Crust makes a pizza.  My pepperoni/salami pizza slice was good, but the crust was not crunchy.  Ellen’s was crunchy and much better. Full up, we filled the car up too.



Orvieto, Prominent in the City is the Duomo

The drive to orvieto went very smoothly until we reached Orvieto.  Rick Steves had recommended parking at the funicular and taking it up to the city.  Parking in the city is limited and expensive.  Right.  So we drove up a winding road looking for the funicular.  I stopped and asked an attractive woman police woman (comment about Italian Woman discreetly left out) where we would find the Funicular.  She was very helpful and precise.”a sinistra, allora diretto e a destra” motioning in the general direction of left.  Off we went following her directions and surprisingly we did not find the funicular, but we found a parking garage.  We parked, dragged our luggage out of the car, and headed out in search of the Funicular.

The policemen directing traffic either did not understand English or couldn’t be bothered.  Ellen approached a group on a corner and asked were we would find the fu NIK u lar.  They looked at each other, clearly not understanding what Ellen was asking.  I have no idea where this sprang from but I blurted out, “FU nick u LA re”  Instant recognition sprang upon one gal’s face.  She pointed down the hill, “e la”, she said proudly.  In Italian accent is everything.  The difference between so prah SEt to and so pra SAH to is the difference between getting a blank stare or a great sausage.

Down we trundled over cobblestone, Ellen dragging her suitcase, me with my duffle bag over my shoulder. We found an expansive parking lot, the entrance to the Funicular, and a ticket office.  “due biglietti, per favore” and we stepped into a crowded car with standing room only. Ellen and I were separated in the car.  Eventually there was a beep, the doors closed, and the Funicular lurched downward. DOWN?  We are going DOWN?  It occurred to me that we probably drove up to parking in the city.  There was no need to take the Funicular.  None.  I didn’t want to look at Ellen; didn’t want to know what she was thinking!

When the Funicular hit bottom, we stayed aboard as others boarded.  A bit later the doors closed and we were headed back to Orvieto.

We took no photos of the Funicular. We were disgusted with it/us.

We dragged our bags up past our parking area, up and up.  Eventually Ellen approached a good looking Italian fellow and asked where the Grand Hotel Italy was.  He said, in very good English, this street takes you to a square.  The hotel is just past the square on this street I believe.  We had arrived, almost.  Those last 200 meters were torture.

Orvieto and Grand Hotel Italia


We Found Orvieto’s Duomo

The hotel is well located in Orvieto’s centro storico.  It is a comfortable if modest hotel situated just off Piazza del Popolo.   We had a standard room of moderate size with a nicely appointed bathroom. Lunch was a vague memory, we were hungry again.  We asked at the desk where we could get an authentic local meal.  “On Piazza del Popolo, just nearby, is Mamma Angela’s.  That is the best.”

Mamma Angela’s


It Was Too Cold to Sit Outside

We walked had walked past that piazza on our way to the hotel.  Finding the restaurant was no problem, but it did not look open.  Approaching a fellow setting up outside seating, I asked, “E aperto?” to which I heard “No, aperto alle sette quindici.  Vuoi una prenotazione allora?”  “Si, alle otto?” and the waiter made a gesture saying I’ll remember you while saying, “recordo”.  We had forty minutes time to walk some of Orvieto.  The church on the square is interesting, though we had seen a clock tower nearby.  Off we went in search of something.  That something was the Orvieto’s duomo.  It is an impressive structure in white and gray stone similar to Firenze’s duomo.  It was closed.  We returned to Osteria da Mamma Angela at 7:15 sharp, hoping to be seated early.  “Buongiorno, interno all’esterno?” “La, per favore” I said pointing inside while avoiding the whole interno issue.  We were seated and given menus in Italian.  Ellen asked his name. “Luca” Ellen asked “Luca, with two ‘c’s’?”  “no, one c, Luca”.  Luca is one of the owners.


Mamma Angela’s Italian Menu

Cool, We were well into translating the menu with my “Italian phone” when a waitress came over and asked if we would like an English menu.  Sure, let’s do that.  Apparently, I had spoken enough Italian convincingly that the first fellow thought I spoke Italian. Cool, if counter productive!”


Mamma Angela’s Ravioli


Mamma Angela’s Osso Bucco

The English menu was so much easier to decipher, though we still had questions about ingredients.  Included on the menu was Osso Bucco.  I love osso bucco.  Ellen even commented that it was on the menu. Ellen ordered Mamma Angela’s Ravioli. We had house wine which was exceedingly good.   My osso bucco was not nearly as tender I had expected.  Like the pasta, the beef was al denti.  It was perfectly seasoned with just the right touch of finely chopped carrots. I assume celery and onion as well, though they mostly dissolved in the sauce.  I have since learned that chianina is the local breed of Tuscan cattle.  It is a tougher meat than angus.  The Italians prefer a chewy beef to the tender beef we eat in the U.S.  My osso bucco was no doubt from Chiania beef.  It was very tasty and very resilient! The osso bucco was good. Ellen’s really enjoyed here ravioli.


Cheese Cake, and the Topping? Excellente!

Our waitress tempted us with a desert list.  We settled on cheese cake.  The cake was wonderful, but the fruit topping was amazing.


Inside Mamma Angela’s

Italy and Wines

A word about Italy and wines.  Italy has more acreage cultivated for grapes than any country in the world.  It produces more wine than any other country.  Surprisingly, most of Italy’s wine is produced by small family wineries producing wine for local consumption, akin to Germany’s local breweries. Most of these do not produce wine in sufficient quantities for a large export market.  The wine is consumed locally.  Therefore Italian wines are virtually unknown in the U.S.  Only people who travel to Italy and sample the wines from the various regions come to appreciate both the quality and variety of these wines.  I have had some extremely good glasses of house wine produced locally in small volume I’m sure.   No doubt I will have a mixed case of wine (or two) shipped back home.

Typical for us, we left Mamma Angela’s happy, tired, and sated.  Unusual for us, our walk back to the hotel was short, flat, and with no stairs.


An Eclectic Curio Shop, Orvieto


There’s Something About Betty




Wagon Train, Orvieto

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.

Galapagos, Day 5


Galapagos: South Plaza and Santa Fe Islands


Today was filled with birds, iguanas, small islands, and more birds. We had an early morning dry landing on South Plaza Island and walked a loop around the small islands’s perimeter. South Plasa is a small flat island covered with a coral/red succulent plant, numerous land iguana, swallow tail gulls, frigate birds, and sea lions. The far side of the islands is a rocky cliff which slops down to the water on the near side. Hundreds of birds were nesting, perched in the cliffs, or flying about below or around us. The contrast between yesterday’s excursion to the town and people contrasted dramatically with today’s small uninhabited island, making to day special. Busses, noise,, and tortoises yesterday, zodiacs, quiet, and wildlife today. The contrast was not lost on us.

During lunch we left South Plaza for Santa Fe Island. Santa Fe was a wet landing and a walk on a broken lava and sand trail.

Here are a few photos taken on South Plaza and Santa Fe Islands.

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A Sea Lion Pup

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A Landing Swallow Tail Gull

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Island Cacti

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Ellen and Some of our Group

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Island Vegetation

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Frigate Birds in Flight

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A Nasca Booby Taking Flight

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The Sea Lion Yawn

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A Land Iguana


One Talkative Swallow Tailed Gull


A Lava Lizard and Land Iguana


A Sea Lion Pup


Sally Lightfoot Crabs are Quite Colorful


Iguanas Look Prehistoric, Here is a Land Iguana


Swallow Tailed Gulls are Graceful in Flight


A Flock of Frigate Birds Followed the Islander


Some Took the Easy Way


A Flowering Cactus, the Islander in the Distance


The Galapagos Dove


The Galapagos Ellen, a Rare Bird


Sea Lions and the Islander






South Plaza and Santa Fe Islands
Apr 14, 2016 – National Geographic Islander

We continue our expedition in the magical Galapagos archipelago exploring two beautiful hidden small treasures, South Plaza and Santa Fe Islands.

We disembarked at South Plaza Island very early this morning. This small island, which is in fact just some few hundred yards long, was once part of the ocean floor. It is the product of a volcanic uplifting. The amount of wildlife found in this paradise is overwhelming. In addition, the marine landscape is as beautiful and striking as its inhabitants. Huge cacti were surrounded by a carpet of red vegetation where colorful Galapagos land iguanas were seen everywhere making it look like a real life painting.

Further inland there is a spectacular cliff side where many sea bird species can be observed either flying around or resting. Once we arrived to the highest point to walk along the cliff, we found the best site to watch sea birds in action. Galapagos shearwaters were skimming the ocean surface looking for food while Nazca boobies were gliding along the cliffs. Beautiful Swallow tailed gulls were seen either flying around or taking care of their hungry white youngsters

After this magical morning visit we went back to the ship to join a presentation. Naturalist Jonathan Aguas talked about the Human History of the Galapagos Islands.

After lunch we headed to Santa Fe Island. In this location there are remarkable sceneries where volcanic cliffs are covered with giant prickly pear cacti. Some guests opted to go kayaking while others went snorkeling. Waters were relatively calm today and many colorful reef fish species were seen, including many rays, Galapagos sea lions, some sea turtles and some sharks.

Once everyone was back onboard we put on our walking gear to explore Santa Fe Island. The landing beach is home to a Galapagos sea lion colony. The rocky inland trail led us to encounter a couple of pale brownish green land iguanas, the famous Santa Fe land iguana (Conolophus pallidus). This latter species, as its name implies, is only found on this small island and nowhere else in the Galapagos! It is not only endemic to the Galapagos, but just on this island.

After recaps and dinner we had a star gazing session on the top deck. A clean sky gave us the opportunity to observe an impressive celestial starry night right on the equator.

Once we were all in bed, I’m sure we all could not help but think about the various feelings and memories that this day brought us, so strong that will remain in our hearts and minds forever.


About the Author


Carlos Romero·Expedition Leader
Carlos was born in Quito, Ecuador and grew up in Venezuela, where he lived for many years near the ocean and later the rainforest. He returned to Quito to study biology and specialized in the fauna of Ecuador. His main field of study was zoology with an emphasis on vertebrates. He has a doctorate in biology and a master’s in ecotourism and natural protected areas management. He designed a new curriculum for the largest university in Ecuador, the Central University— a masters in environmental management and administration of natural protected areas. Carlos has also taken part in various scientific projects and expeditions with the Biological Sciences Department of Quito’s Polytechnic University. He has published several scientific papers, including one about the bats of Galápagos and one about the vampire bat of mainland Ecuador.

Galapagos, Day 3

Floreana Island, April 12 2016

Carlos’ cheery voice awoke us very early in the morning for a Zodiac ride, wet landing, and a walk to see flamingos (maybe) and turtle nesting. The turtle tracks are unmistakable and depression the turtles create are huge. We saw no turtles as they nest at night and hatchlings emerge from the nest at night.

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Two Turtle Nests and Tracks

As with most of our landings, our party was the only group on the beach.

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On the Trail with naturalist Jeffo and photographer Dexter

The walk to the lagoon and flamingos was short and interrupted as we walked past a Lava Heron in a tree literally four feet away. Like all willdlife in the Galapagos that we encountered far from the towns, this heron was unafraid of us and stood quite still for a photograph.


A Lava Heron perched on a tree very close to the trail

We were not disappointed at the lagoon. There was a number of flamingos feedin by kicking up algae and consuming it. The beta carotene in the algae and shrimp turn the flamingo’s gray feathers bright pink. The total population of flamingos on Floreana is about 250 indigenous. We also saw one Chilean flamingo which was white colored and a Chilean juvenile.


Still Waters


Flamingos in the distance

On our way back to the beach we encountered our first boobies, a male booby courting a female. Unfortunately the male was not successful as the female flew away. In the booby’s courting dance, the male lifts one foot and sways to the opposite side, sways back to the oher side and lifts the opposite foot. He does this a number of times. We did not observe the booby sky pointing this morning.


This fellow was unsuccessful

We have a video of the Blue Footed Booby Mating Dance.  Unfortunately it is too large to post here without editing the file.  Ii will post the video in our video library a bit later.



A Yellow Warbler

Back aboard ship, we were too late signing up for kayaking to go out today. Both the morning and evening reservations were booked.

After breakfast we disembarked by zodiac to explore Champion,, a small island off Floreana. This was our first view of wildlife from a zodiac. It was fun exploring the small island.


Our small group aboard a zodiac touring Champion


Paul and Jeanne near the bow on the lead zodiac


Swallow Tail Gull perched under an overhang

On our first sighting of a Galapagos Seal, we were informed that there are no seals in the galapagos. What we saw were sea lions! Sea Lions have small ears protruding on each side of their head. Seals have holes for ears. There are some fur seals on the islands, but we did not see any. They may be endemic to the west islands.



A Sea Lion perched high in the cliff



An Inquisitive Sea Lion Pup


A Nasca Booby looking for dinner

We had lunch with Paul and Jeanne and had a very interesting wide ranging discussion. Paull recommended “the beginning of infinity” by David Deutsch as an explanation of why things are as they are.

After the zodiac excursion we went snorkeling and saw numerous tropical fish, some in schools others singly or in pairs.

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Ellen having a wonderful time


We have a small canon point and shoot camera with an underwater housing. The camera takes some very good photos and has white balance adjustment for underwater shots build in. Unfortunately, I failed to bring the camera on this snorkeling trip. This was the second time we forgot the camera in our excitement to get abord a zodiac and into the water. The photo above was shot a few days later.

Post office bay on Floreana is home to the oldest post office in the pacific. It was setup in 1793 by James Colnett, a British whaler. Seafarers would stop by Floreana to leave letters in a barrel and look through the letters already there. If a sailor was going to visit any of the places addressed on the letters, he would take the letter and deliver it. This tradition is carried out today. We left a few letters for friends and family and took a few letters with nearby addresses. It will be fun making new acquaintances from this “post office”.

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Carlos explaining the history of Floreana’s Post Office Barrel


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Carlos “stamping” a letter for Ellen

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Do We Have to Go?


The end of a magical day



National Geographic, Lindblad Expedition Daily Trip Report
Floreana Island
Apr 12, 2016 – National Geographic Islander

The southernmost island in the Galapagos is also well known for the occurrence of mysterious events of its early inhabitants. Just to mention one, a woman from Germany came to live here with three lovers, one of them was Ecuadorian and the other two came with her from Europe. One day she and one lover disappeared without trace and other inhabitants followed a similar path of tragedy.

Before breakfast we headed onto the beach for a short hike over a greenish-brown sandy beach comprised of olivine crystals. We also visited a brackish water lagoon with Greater flamingoes, noble inhabitants of this location usually joined by pintail ducks and black-necked stilts, among others.

The trail ends at a white coralline sandy beach where sea turtles nest throughout the year and where rays concentrate by the hundreds along the shore under the breaking waves. Sally light -foot crabs splash the dark lava with their colorful shells.

Back on board for breakfast we started to navigate to a small Island called Champion where we disembarked for a Zodiac ride in search of interesting wildlife such us sea lions, boobies, swallow tailed gulls, brown noddies, red billed tropic birds and others. We also searched for the elusive bird called the Chatham mockingbird which became extinct on the main island due to predation by introduced animals.

We came back on board to get ready for another exciting activity, snorkeling at one of the best destinations to do so, as large schools of fish are found, including parrot fish, king angel fish, invertebrates, echinoderms and more. We also enjoyed swimming with sea lions who entertained us throughout the session. It was a great morning!

Post office bay is another place on Floreana open to visitors. In addition to the interesting human history of the island, here one can also take and leave correspondence in the way whalers and others used to do centuries ago. No need for stamps.

We also enjoyed exploring by kayak because this place is alive with plenty of wildlife like, turtles, sea lions, marine iguanas, and birds. The landscape here is outstanding, too!

Galapagos, Day 2

The expedition folks kept us very busy. Yesterday we were so tired with 3 hours sleep, we almost skipped the evening walk (our first experience off ship). We did go but were not impressed with our guide Pato’s knowledge of the area. He was “ok”. Ellen bonked her head on a low lying branch on the way back. A number of people heard the bonk. She was ok if stunned.

We had dinner with the Istanbul group and a close knit Park City group and an interesting conversation about visiting Istanbul. The recent bombing was mentioned.

In the evening, the Islander moved to Espanola Island. We skipped the early morning (6am) kayaking group, opting to sleep in a bit and have breakfast. In orientation briefing after breakfast, Carlos was hilarious and informative. Our first snorkeling adventure was up next. We brought our own equipment and did not have to “gear up” on the top deck. Though I did go up to get a ditty bag for our “stuff”. With 30+ people scrambling for equipment it was a bit of a zoo, though Carlos had it under control. The NatGeo/Lindblad equipment is quite good though we do prefer our own familiar suites, masks, and fins. Though with new “Miami” suites we were not sure how things would go.

We boarded Zodiacs for a short trip to the snorkel spot. Three zodiacs carried 16 people each. With mask and fins on, we hit the water. Me with a back flip, Ellen more gingerly. For the first time ever, Ellen had no equipment issue! No water in the mask, no snorkel filling with water, no “the water’s cold”, nothing!! The trick was a bit of vaciline along her hair line. I can’t say the same for me, I set the mask too loose and had a minor water fill issue. That turned out OK as I could slosh the water around the mask to clear any fog.

The snorkeling started with a deep water entry and a short snorlek look-see to a lava rock wall that was great. We drifted/swam along the rock wall in between 15 and 30 feet of water and watched colorful tropic fish swim about, some singly or in pairs, others in schools. I chose not to take a camera the first time out. It would only be in the way if we had equipment issues. I enjoyed bobbing around with Ellen for an hour. We pointed interesting fish out to eachother. An hour went by far too quickly. Our zodiac, #3, picked us up and back to the boat we went to dropp off our gear and head back to a white sandy beach. This was the most idylic strech of power white sand I have ever experienced. Again I did not take a camera, but wanted to see what a “wet landing” was like before hazarding our equiplent. As with everything on this expedition, the wet landing was no problem. Carlos overstates the difficulty of each event to be sure people prepare accordingly. It is a safe thing to do when dealing with people of vastly differing capabilities.

Ellen and I stripped to our suites and swam from the beach. This was big fun.

Back aboard we took a quick shower with plenty of hot water and had an Ecuadorian feast for lunch. I had a discussion with Michael Fleisher about the blues origins in the 30’s and 40’s and its influence on the 50’s and 60’s blues-rock.

I headed to the breezy top deck and got in a very animated discussion about life with a New York Psychiatrist. We touched on politics, but mostly talked about the human condition as it relates to us both. Suddenly Ellen appeared. She had been searching for me. We were leaving for a long rock-hopping walk in 3 minutes. I had to scramblel to make it and forgetting to grab my life preserver to board the zodiac, almost didn’t.

This walk was the first time we saw just how much birdlife exists on Espanola. There were shorebirds and sea birds in abundance with a cacophony of bird calls. This was the beginning of mating season. We saw many Nasca Boobies with their gray webbed feet. A Galapagos Hawk sitting on a rock among hundreds of nesting boobies, Galapagos Mockingbirds who were quite inquisitive and bounced right up to us and hopped between our feet. There were many marine iguanas and lava lizards that looked well fed. There were many sea lions on the rocks and in the water catching dinner. We saw a lone sitting waved albatross, a male. The male albatross arrive first on the islands followed a bit later by the females. We were too early to this island to see the albatross mating dance.


A Galapagos Dove and Lava Lizard


The Galapagos Mockingbird


An Immagure Nasca Booby


A Fledgling Nasca Booby


Another Juvenile Nasca Booby


Mother with Fledgling Nasca Booby


One Juvenile Head On


A Yellow Crowned Night Heron


The Galapagos Hawk


Male Waved Albatross


The Same Fellow


A Mating Pair

This fascinating walk took us to dusk. As we headed back on the walking loop toward the Islander, we found a pair of waved albatross going through their mating dance/ritual. We stopped to watch for a while then back to the zodiacs and the Islander for dinner. I have no notes on dinner that evening. We were bushed and wanted to eat and head right to sleep.

The island has no fresh water supply and is uninhabited. It is fascinating that life on Espanola find enough water to survive. I’ll explain how a bit later. I’ll also post video of the albatross mating ritual, what we have of it.

Here is the “Daily Expedition Report” for the Islander for 4/11/16:

Today the Galapagos exploration brought us to the southernmost island in the archipelago, Española. Several activities were going to comprise our expedition today and deep water snorkeling was going to give us a good experience by exploring the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Once we entered the underwater world of Gardner Islet, a marvelous sanctuary of fish was revealed to us. Lava rocks decorated with a variety of invertebrates, playful Galapagos sea lions, and reef fish of different species were part of the attractions that were seen.

As soon as snorkeling was over it was time to enjoy the sandy area found at Gardner Bay beach. A combination of white organic sand along with dozens of Galapagos sea lions were the perfect combination to inspire us. The curious Hood mockingbirds were the ideal companions for this marvelous occasion. As soon as the last Zodiac returned from the beach, we pulled anchor in order to take us to the next destination, Punta Suarez.

The afternoon activities were going to be set in a unique environment that only Española Island could provide. A comfortable dry landing was going to be the best way to begin our journey. Since the very beginning, surprises of different kinds astonished us as we explored the area. Colorful marine iguanas on the lava rocks greeted us on our hike as we approached the rocky area. When the Hood mockingbirds approached us without any fear, it reminded us that we were in a very special place, but the presence of juvenile Galapagos sea lions in the tidal pools was one of the most remarkable things to see.

Once we reached the farthest point of the trail we enjoyed seeing different kinds of sea birds. Nazca boobies were all over the cliff area, swallow-tailed gulls flew around us, and the glorious Waved albatross made us realize we were visiting a seabird’s paradise. A colorful sunset was the perfect ending to our expedition today, but we knew that our Galapagos exploration continues tomorrow.

San Diego

San Diego

We drove “Li’l Beast” to San Diego to visit family a few weeks ago. Unusual for San Diego, we caught the tail end of a tropical storm that came up the Baja Peninsula and dropped a ton of rain with lightning and thunder for a full day. Now it is sunny and cool in the evenings, just what you would expect in Southern California.

We consider moving to San Diego from time to time. Even now I’m hoping that Hercules can “get its act together” and implement a well designed walk-able plan for its bay front property. Work has re-started on the “Tyvek Palace”, a high-end condo project that went bust about six years ago. It will have shops on the ground floor and about 150 market rate apartments in the floors above. The high-end condo concept was abandoned. Strangely, no additional parking has been planned for the 200+ cars that will be parking in the Bay Neighborhood. This is a significant problem that the city of Hercules failed to address when the project was approved. If Hercules does a better job of planning/implementing development of its bay shoreline, that could change everything. I doubt the city has the foresight though.


Hercules, Ca

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     Sycamore North today                   Sycamore North last year

If I had to guess, we will stay in Hercules for the next four to six years, then move to San Diego. San Diego housing prices are still low compared to the Bay Area which makes moving there quite possible. Another little known fact, San Diego county allows the tax basis of your current house to be transferred to San Diego County if you buy there. If your home is worth $150 K, you can transfer your ridiculously low housing tax basis if you buy in San Diego! I am not sure that this tax transfer works for out-of-state property, something I have not had to research as we live in California. This might make the purchase of a house along the coast or with a view feasible for us!

We had thought to head back to the Bay Area this morning, but we’re still here and will be for a few more days. This is one of the joys of retirement. If you want to spend more time somewhere/anywhere, you can do it. We have arranged online payments for all of our bills and have a monthly deposit from our savings dropped into our accounts every month. We can close up our home and go anywhere we want at the drop of a hat and not have to worry about our creditors. Of course, I check our accounts regularly.

If we go for more than a week or two, we do have to have the post office hold our mail. When we were in Europe in July, we had a huge stack of mail to work through. Surprisingly, there were only four or five pieces of mail of any significance. Most of the mail was marketing material that went right into recycling. What a waste of time and material that is.

We’ve had Li’l Beast plugged into the Nema 14-50 socket Chanda had installed for our Tesla here in San Diego. It’s no coincidence that the Tesla and our RV take the same plug. Tesla planned this to increase the number of alternative charging locations for the Tesla. Today, if we were to take the Tesla to Eureka, we may have to charge at an RV campground. We’d most likely take our RV, Li’l Beast.

Balboa Park, the Museum of Man

Yesterday, we visited the Museum of Man, Balboa Park San Diego for the Mayan Exhibit. There were very few original pieces which was a disappointment. There were numerous pots and some jewelry on display; that was great. Interesting were the interactive presentations. Create your name in Mayan glyphs, hear it pronounced, and print it out. Print out your date of birth in Mayan calendar glyphs. There were a number of videos that described the Mayan culture, how the ruins were discovered, games the Mayans played, and population centers growth and demise over time. I’d post photos if I had thought to re-charge my camera’s batteries! Both batteries are charged now, and ready for the Aeronautics Museum and the Vermeer Exhibit at the park. I’ll update this post with photos when we get back.

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Photos from the Mayan Exhibit, Museum of Man


San Diego Zoo

If you visit San Diego, do not miss Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo. Both are a treat. As usual, I recommend going early for quick parking and to get some time in before the crowds. Still the crowds have never been a problem, both the park and the zoo are large. Crowds spread out and you don’t even notice. I have photos of a prior visit to the zoo that I will post a bit later.

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A series of photos from the San Diego Zoo


The San Diego Air and Space Museum

We just returned from an afternoon at the Air and Space Museum.  The museum is in San Diego’s Balboa Park.  The Air and Space museum houses a large number of airplanes and space memorabilia, including the Apollo 9 space capsule, a PBY-5a Catalina amphibious airplane, The Gee-Bee R1 aircraft that Jimmy Doolittle flew to win the Thompson Trophy: Doolittle and the R1 ,  a number of WWII aircraft, a Blue Angles Hornet, and any number of other aircraft.  The museum is large, but it could easily be doubled in size to give each plane more space.   The time flew by as we walked the museum.

We were drawn from the entrance to the center courtyard then walked through the far doors and headed left.  If you do this, you’ll miss the exhibit of early flight through WWI on the right side of the museum.  We retraced our steps and discovered the WWI replicas and originals on the right half of the museum.

A word of caution,  Tuesday is a day of free admission to some of the park museums.  On the fourth Tuesday of the month (today), the Air and Space Museum is one of those that is free.  On Tuesdays, the park is full and parking becomes difficult unless you arrive after 3 pm.  The park closes at 5 pm; it is not worth it to go that late.  Go early, you will be glad you did.


Photos of San Diego Air and Space Museum

BalboaPark1      AeronaticalMuseum

   Reflecting pool, Balboa Park                  Air and Space Museum

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              Apollo 9 capsule


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           PBY-5a Catalina                                             Mig15

IMG_5618      IMG_5631

                  F4-Phantom                                  Phaeton Plaque

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                   Phaeton                                    Ford V-8 Deluxe Roadster

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                    Spitfire                                                        ME109

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Vought F4U Corsair


Ryan STA Trainer and Acrobatic plane



Istanbul, day 1, morning

In the light of day our street is more inviting, but still desolate. There are two buildings near by that were gutted by fire some time ago and never rebuilt. Their outside hulk stand in defiance.

We headed off early this morning to get our morning coffee, explore the area in the early hours ahead of a tourist onslaught (if there were one), and to visit the SOK market. First stop, the Italian coffee shop Ellen spied last night. There it was and the barista, a very Turkish looking fellow, spoke English reasonably well. Ellen ordered a single espresso machiado and I a double cappuccino and a berry cream filled tart. Ellen found a yoghurt granola breakfast meal in a cup thing.

When the espresso arrived, my cappuccino was a disappointment. I should have known better than to order the penultimate Italian drink outside Italy after just having visited. Ellen was funny though. Her single espresso machiado arrived in a demitasse with a small dollop of foam. It looked quite small; Ellen was crestfallen, “Is this what I ordered” she asked. Yes, that is a espresso machiado sweetie.

Tomorrow we will seek out some Turkish coffee. When in Rome…

From the coffee shop we walked further up to where the road ends in a shopping boulevard. We were early; most shops don’t open until 10 Am. We turned right looking for a bookstore to find a tourist map and perhaps a Turkish-to-English tourist cheat sheet. Walking down the street it became apparent that the street was organized by vendor type interspersed with coffee houses and Turkish Delight vendors. First were the shoe sales which went on for quite a time. In the middle of that area we found the Russian Embassy, a double gated large well maintained compound. A bit further there was another official looking building that I thought might be the equivalent of our immigration as there were a number of people waiting outside. Ellen asked the guy in front of the Russian Embassy and discovered it to be the Swedish Embassy. A block down were the Dutch and English Embassies.

A bit further along we found the Tunnel stop Sishani, an entrance to the subway. I have never been in a subway that went that far down underground. There were four escalators, two of them long and steep as well as two people movers, horizontal escalators. Down into the bowels of Beyoglu we went to see if we could find a metro map or perhaps get an “Istanbul Kart”, a city-wide RFID card for transportation. The vending machine at the bottom was out of tickets and we headed back up from “Hell” as Ellen kiddingly called it.

Near the top there is a map for the subway system showing that this train ran past the Great Bazaar. Cool we know how we’ll get to the Bazaar. Out on the street again we found a kiosk that had Istanbul Karts and bought one.

The Istanbul Kart can be used for up to five people at a time and charges the card each time it is used. Additional funds can be added to the card at vending machines in the subway and at street level. We were good to go.

Further down the street we came upon the musical instrument section of the boulevard. This was amazing to us. There were Gibson guitars, baby grand pianos, clarinets, drums, horns, practically any instrument you would want. There were lovingly crafted mandolins and balalaikas in one stringed instrument shop. I plan to go back to play a Gibson or two and drool over the balalaikas.

Ellen and I had a difference of opinion as to where the SOK market was located. It turned out that she was correct,again, we found the market, and purchased what we needed (at least we think we did). The pastrami is extremely lean and does not look like pastrami at all. The toilet paper turned out to be paper towels (still need TP), and we’re not sure the butter we bought is actually butter. I find this sort of shopping fun, not frustrating; I celebrate differences. (Was butter it turned out…)

Traffic on the shopping boulevard continued to build as we were exploring; until it became near gridlock with cars and people “all over the place”. A fellow in a bright green std transmission Lancia stood out in the crowd. Either he did not know how to handle a stick or he was intentionally being intimidating. To move forward 2 or 3 meters, he’d rev the engine, pop the clutch, then hit the brakes. To watch him, he’d leap forward with a screech of tires and stop suddenly. You could hear him a block away, which we did while heading to the SOC. Me,”I think that sound is the Lancia guy.” Ellen,”yes, I see him”.

On the way back to our flat we stopped at a typical Turkish restaurant right on the corner of our street. We were greeted in English as we walked in (is it that obvious, oh yeah my sneakers) and returned the greeting. There were at least a dozen trays of food: beef, lamb, spinach, eggplant, eggplant with kabob, dolma, and more. Ellen had one dolma, spinach, eggplant with kabob, and a lamb dish. I went with the spinach, eggplant with kabob, and a fresh squeezed OJ. All were excellent, though not exotic in flavor. The eggplant kabob was our favorite. Most amazing to me the meal was $25 TL. The exchange rate is a little under 1 USD to 3 TRY (Turkish lira), our meal was very inexpensive.

We’re back “home” now and resting before going to the Grand Bazaar! I said jokingly, “Perhaps we’ll find a rug for The Beast at the bazaar. It’ll probably cost $8 USD and take $200 USD to ship it home”. Will we walk up-hill to take the subway or walk down hill thinking we can find the bazaar without much trouble.

Oh I forgot to mention, Turkey has an iPhone app for their subway system called Metroistanbul that we downloaded free from the app store. Also the surface tram is very quaint. We’ll be posting today’s photos on our website.

This is Big Fun.

R & E

Retirement Vacation Spring 2015

We are taking a cruise of the Greek Isles to celebrate our retirement. We’ve chosen to sandwich the cruise between city visits: Rome and Istanbul on the front end and Venice and Florence on the back end.

We have no expectations for any aspects of this adventure. If the properties are as compelling as as the website photos are, we will be pleased. The Seabourn Cruise is another thing altogether. Again we have no expectations having never been on a luxury cruise. For us we think it will be about the ports of call and not so much the cruise ammenities; we’ll see.

I had wanted to go for two months. Ellen and friends pointed out that Rome can be quite hot in July and that it would be best to cut the trip short. Eventually sanity overcame obstinance, and the trip was cut back to the list below. I had found a 3br/2ba flat in the outskirts of Rome for $2500 per month and a car rental for $850 for a month with unlimited miles! That would set us up for a month exploring Italy, Southern France, and perhaps Switzerland, Southern Germany, and Austria. That will wait for another year.

Cities and Accommodations In Order of Appearance






Retirement Celebration planned.

We have finalized our first post retirement trip. We are going to Italy, Turkey, Greece, and back to Italy for a month. The heart of our trip is a two week Seabourn cruise from Istanbul to Venice on the Seabourn Odyssey. You can find the itinerary on Seabourn’s website.

In booking the trip, I thought we would fly to Istanbul and spend a few days getting over jet-lag before embarking on the Odyssey. The most reasonable flight I could find into Europe for our travel dates was a flight into Rome connecting to Istanbul. Sooo, why not spend a few days in Rome before going on to Turkey? We will now fliy to Rome for four days, then fly Pegasus Air to Istanbul for four days, embark on our “Retirement Extravaganza” (I hope so), disembark at Venice for four days, then off to Florence for five days.

Of course the cruise has excursions at each port of call. Together with our travel advisor, Pam Harper Horst of Pam’s Path to Travel, we have selected a shore excursion roughly every other day of the cruise. Some days we will just saunter around the old town on a Greek Island, some days we’ll hire our own car. Sure we do not speek Turkish or Greek or even Italian, that only heightens our sense of adventure. I have had no problem communicating in foreign countries with gesticulations, though sometimes I was not sure until we arrived that all was well.

This is the most exciting thing we have done since our first trip together to Sicily, before we actually knew eachother well. We have taken a number of safaris with good friends in Africa, which was exciting, but it is not the same when travelling with another couple who knows the ropes.

I love Italy. The peole, the history, the weather/climate, the architecture, the art (oh the art), and music. These are the most civilized people in the world. Life is an art form; yet historically the Italians were engineers when compared to the Greeks who were philosophers. The rennaisance may well be the high point of civilization on the earth. Perhaps I would not think so had I lived then. Seen through the eyes of the brilliant artists; yes, Carravagio, Michelangelo, and Bottecheli represent for me the perigy of art in the world. Then there is the ancient architecture and the modern. Incredible.

You will find poor quailty Italian export goods, designed to be flash and cost very little. However, Italian design and engineering is among the best in the world. It is not mass produced and it is very expensive, but it is among the highest quality you will find anywhere but for a price. Italy is not heaven. It has political and economic troubles, social dischord born of cultural clashes between old and new, aged and teenager, corrupt and honest. If you look closely, you will find this in any country in the world; some more some less.

Anyway. We will both start and end in Italy. We will have internet access for the entire 31 days of our trip and we will report the good and the bad as we go. I will post our detailed itinerary and accomodations in a forthcoming blog.

I have the sea in my blood and I think that the cruise through the Greek Islands will rekindle the adventurer in me, even if abord so sedate a vessel as the Seabourn Odysse.

Be Well, Be Honest, Be True



We are both retiring now, one year earlier than planned. With all the activities and hobbies I’m into, this will be fun. I am not at all concerned that I’ll have too much idle time on my hands. I can spend half a day days on end simply researching a topic of interest.
For instance, we are taking a cruise of the Greek Islands next year and I’ve been reading up on each of the ports of call. We are also joining a whale watching trip friends have organized for next spring. I’ve been planning a trip to Alaska from Seattle for 2016 in a motor home. The most time consuming topic I’ve looked into is motor homes: which size, model, manufacturer. What features are available and which are necessary? Alternate supplies of water? Rainwater harvesting and filtration? Water heater, tank less?
After many hours chasing my tail, I think it’s a Winnebago View for us. It’s a moderately expensive diesel class C rig, nominally 24′ in length (25+ in reality), with a functional interior for two people on extended trips. We will not be going on an extended trip between now and our spring/summer trips next year. Therefore we’re putting off a purchase until next August-October when the 2016s are available. That should help bring down the price on a 2015 either new or slightly used. We will consider older Views if price, interior, and model came together. For now, I’m “just” researching coaches.
The class C is a natural choice for us. Based on past camping experience, we like to visit state and national parks. Many of them have a size limitation of 30 ft. We also want a very drivable coach, but one that does not sacrifice interior space and comfort. A class B is too small for us for extended periods of time. There is too little exterior storage for us.
The View is not optimally setup. We will swap in a tank less water heater, carry a rainwater harvesting system and additional water “cans”, and carry solar panels: all useful for boondocking. Friends of ours are getting a Leisure Travels Unity class B+ van. It has a Murphy bed that folds down over the dinette and looks out the side window and door. It has a number of unique and well conceived features not available in a typical RV: a tank less water heater standard is standard for example. Both the Leisure Industries and Winnebago View are built on the Mercedes Sprinter chassis with a 3 liter turbo diesel engine.
RV pricing is very confusing for both new and used. Prices are all over the place and it is hard to know what’s a good deal. There are a few great deals that go by, but they’re snapped up quickly.
Now to stop researching RVs until next year… but I’ve learned that Mercedes is introducing a 4 wheel drive version of the Sprinter.