Krakow’s churches

Krakow’s churches

With 142 churches in Krakow, you are seemingly never out of sight of one.

St. Mary’s Basilica may be THE church to see in Krakow. Unfortunately, it was “closed” for some conservation work, so we could only get a glimpse inside. But the glimpse was stunning:

St Mary's

After being destroyed by Tartar raids in the 13th century, St. Mary’s was rebuilt in the 14th century. Only one of the two towers is part of the church; the other was used as a watch tower by the city. From here you can hear the hejnal, the hourly bugle call, repeated four times, from each side of the tower. The buglers are local firemen, who have to climb 239 steps to the top of the tower. The song ends mid-tune, to honor the legendary watchman who died alerting the town to Tartar invaders in 1241.

Tucked behind St. Mary’s is St. Barbara’s—a charming little church:

Founded in the 14th century as a cemetery chapel, St. Barbara’s was turned over to the Jesuits in the 16th century and became a college.

Copper-domed St. Adalbert’s is Krakow’s oldest church, sitting lonely in a corner of market square:

The earliest parts of the building date to the 10th century (!) Over the years, it has taken on pre-Roman, Roman, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque characteristics. The church is the site of frequent concerts, but we didn’t catch any – another time, perhaps.

St. Francis’ Basilica is home to stunning stained glass and arguably the most colorful church in Krakow:

The Art Nouveau interiors were designed by Stanislaw Wyspianski and feature floral patterns. The centerpiece is the stained glass “God the Father in the Act of Creation.”

The Church of Saints Peter & Paul, built in the 17th century, at first appears to be a government building. But the statues of the twelve disciples (no Judas, but Mary Magdalene) on the fence at the street give it away:


We only saw the exterior of Wawel Cathedral, but it was stunning. Poland’s national church, it is a hodge-podge of architectural styles: Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, and Neoclassical:



snapshots of Paris

snapshots of Paris

I’ll close out the Paris posts with some random snapshots.

We were there during the Ryder Cup, but this was as close as we got:



We love street art:



They were setting up a floating catwalk for Fashion Week:


Near our hotel was a spot called the Cactus Club. We thought it might be some kind of tequila bar or something, but, no: it was a shop of all things cactus:


a line at the Nespresso stand on the street:


next time, we’ll have to try O’Tacos:


And, finally, Paris fashion on the metro:


Until next time, Paris!


A small bite of Paris: Musee d’Orsay

A small bite of Paris: Musee d’Orsay

I believe that Paris, like most large capitals, is best experienced in small bites. For that reason, I’m glad we’ve experienced it in stays of less than a week. That has allowed us to choose one or two things to focus on each trip. This time: Versailles and the Musee d’Orsay.
If you are a follower of my blog, you know that we are big fans of the hop-on/hop-off bus tours. This time, we opted for something a little different: The Batobus hop-on/hop-off boat tour!
Not only did it get us where we needed to go, it gave us a water’s-eye view of the city.
A floating park:

Houseboats along the Seine:

And the Eiffel Tower:

And so we made our way to the Musee d’Orsay. Despite the fact that we had pre-purchased our tickets with “guaranteed” entry time, we had a longer wait than those who showed up to buy tickets at the door!
But once we got inside, the wait was worth it – stunning!

a mini-Versailles in the Salle des Fetes:

While we were there, they were in the midst of renovating the Impressionist Gallery. The masterpieces remained on view, but were scattered elsewhere throughout the museum. They were kind enough to include an updated map of the location of those pieces, so we managed to see them all.
Some of our favorites:

We had hoped to catch the Rodin Museum, but the delay in entering the Orsay nixed that idea.
At the recommendation of Todd’s brother and sister-in-law, we had dinner at Le Souffle, featuring – wait for it – souffles!
A lovely day in Paris.

Versailles: one reason the peasants revolted

Versailles: one reason the peasants revolted

Our second year to visit Paris for the Jimmy Buffett concert, this time with friends Eric and Teri.

The trip began with a small glitch. Two weeks before we left, Eric had a heart “incident” that resulted in him being grounded from flying for several weeks. (Not to worry, he is well, just under doctor’s orders until he can revisit.) So, the three of us flew while he spent the day on the train: almost 6 hours to Barcelona, then the high-speed train to Paris.

We flew an airline we hadn’t used before: Trans Avia, a subsidiary of Air France. We were impressed. First of all, they didn’t hesitate to offer a credit for Eric’s ticket. Unlike other airlines we have flown (RyanAir), their instructions for carry-ons and cabin-checked luggage were clear, so we knew exactly what we could and could not take. We opted to check a bag, which meant physically checking in at the airport in Alicante. They had three gate agents, and all were friendly and efficient. Fastest check-in we’ve had there to date.

When we arrived at Orly, we took a cab to the International Paris Hotel. This lovely hotel is located on a quiet street in the 11th Arrondissement near the Place de Republique. Cabs in Paris operate on a fixed rate from the airport, so, while expensive, there are no surprises.

We were greeted at check-in by the lovely Helen, who spoke excellent English – and better Spanish than we did! She had lived in Valencia for a while – because it’s a small world. She helped us with restaurant recommendations and reservations, and with directions to get to our tourist spots.

After getting settled, we strolled around the neighborhood and encountered St. Joseph Church:

My favorite part: the apostles with their names in elementary-teacher lettering, so the children in the church school can learn who’s who:

apostles with names

Often, the best tourist spots end up being those you stumble upon.

We settled in for drinks across the street and watched the locals and their dogs enjoy the early evening, then walked back to the hotel, arriving just as Eric’s cab pulled up.

At Helen’s recommendation, we had dinner at Aubergine……all of our dinners were perfect. Pricey, but perfect.

We headed out early Thursday morning for Versailles. The guy working the desk gave us different directions than Helen had. He sent us to the Republique metro stop so we wouldn’t have to change there. I had told Helen we were familiar with metros, so she had had us start at the closest stop, only three blocks away.

Rush hour on the Paris metro. Crowded and crazy, but we made it to the stop where we picked up the C Train to Versailles. We stopped into a bistro there and had coffee and croissants for breakfast, then walked to the Chateau.

Photos don’t do it justice, but we took them anyway:

Stairs worn down over the centuries:


And the Hall of Mirrors! Striking today – I can’t imagine what it must have been like when mirrors were rare:

Then a ride on the Petit Train to the Grand Trianon, a much more manageable royal house. Teri dubbed this royal getaway the Palace of the Chairs:

Lunch at Delices D’Agra – FABULOUS Indian food – and great people watching:

Then back to Paris and a siesta before dinner at Bouillon Chartier, which had been recommended by a friend in Alicante. Good food – not great food – reasonably priced. Large, crowded, noisy restaurant, but the waiter was adorable and he figured the bill at the table – on the table top!


An early evening – by Alicante standards – and a reasonable start Thursday morning.


A day in Valencia

A day in Valencia

We’d been in Alicante since the Big Road Trip in May, working on updating furniture for the apartment. We couldn’t stand it anymore, so Todd found a deal on a rental car and we hit the road!

We had visited Valencia briefly when we were here looking for an apartment, but we really didn’t spend any time or do anything there, so we headed off for a couple of days.

I merrily grabbed my Spain atlas and we set off. GPS is a God-send, but there’s nothing like a physical map to make you feel like you are on a road trip!


After arriving at the hotel with no mishaps, we settled in for a siesta – we had both been feeling a bit under the weather. Then we headed around the corner to pick up the tour bus. I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: the hop-on/hop-off busses are GREAT! You can get an overview of the city, get your bearings, and they stop at most of the main tourist places.

A quick visit to the cathedral – it was really weird to tour the cathedral while a service was going on in one of the naves, but they welcomed us inside. The loud Brits did get shushed. People amaze me.

The focus of our trip: the aquarium! We bought our tickets in combination with the tour bus, so we ended up entering without a map, which other visitors got when they got their tickets at the ticket booth. So, we meandered…and, while the aquarium is incredible, it is arranged a bit higgledy-piggledy, as our British friends would say.

We started with the jellyfish:

Then the big fish:

Then the penguins:

Then the birds:

Then the little fish:

An interesting moment when the lights went out – but quite stunning when they came back on. It seemed to alarm the fish as much as it did the human visitors.

We stopped in one of the cafes for a drink and saw this sign – wrong, just wrong, for an aquarium restaurant to serve sushi!

sushi bar

We finished up with some turtles and a crocodile:

Still lots to see in Valencia – we barely looked at the amazing architecture. Another day…



Sur de Cantabria: Cradle of Iberia

Sur de Cantabria: Cradle of Iberia

This 2-plus-week road trip was not our normal travel situation. Typically, we’re city (or at least big town) people, and we stay in one place for a while. So our final stop in southern Cantabria was out of our comfort zone…

Thank God for Google maps and a good atlas! After many winding roads from San Sebastian, we arrived at Molino Tejada, which we learned about from a fellow blogger: Stitch and Sizzle.

The grounds were beautiful:

The décor was spectacular (happens when the owner is an artist):

Our cabin was amazing:

We got settled and headed into Polientes, the “capital of this valley.”

Our first stop: the local candy store. We got there just as school was out, and the proprietor was reinforcing math skills. As the kids picked out penny candies, he made them keep up with the math. If the math wasn’t right, they didn’t get the candy until it was. And they had to figure change, too!

Following Carolyn’s advice, we went into La Olma for drinks. We got there a little after 6, and the kitchen didn’t open until 9:30. So we contented ourselves with chips and people-watching with our wine and beer.

Two groups of older men were playing what we guess was spades – 10 cents per hand. Only one argument broke out while we were there, but they resolved it without spilling drinks or coming to blows.

A mother with a toddler and infant was having her afternoon coffee while the kids had their afternoon snacks. It appeared that she had brought their snacks with her, and that that was a daily visit.

In the square outside, mothers visited while school kids played soccer. Every few minutes, a boy would dash inside, rush past the bar, and scurry down the stairs to the bathroom.

Three middle-school-aged girls lugged in their school books and set up homework on a table by the front window without ordering anything – again, apparently a daily occurrrence.

Obviously, La Olma is much more than a restaurant/bar: it’s town center.

We explored one village whose only resident appeared to be a scruffy doggo – when Todd opened the car door to say hello, he jumped in, ready to come home with us. Took a bit to get him back out…dog friend

On our way back to Molino Tejada, we spotted a mother stork feeding her babies:stork mom

We awoke the next morning to this breakfast spread – we were the only guests!breakfast

A day of exploration, starting with Cascada de Orbaneja del Castillo:

The town was guarded by kissing camels framing a map of Africa:IMG_5261

Local cats kept their eyes on us:

We arrived at the 12th century Romanasque Collegiata de Sant Martin Elines in time to pick up the tour:


Finally, we headed out on our long drive home, surrounded by rising mist:

The final tally: 3000 kilometers in 2 weeksfinal mileage