If it’s Sunday, this must be Slovenia!

I was excited to wake up Sunday in another new country — Slovenia. After all, Slovenia was the reason we chose this itinerary. Let me explain…

We have a friend in Ljubljana. Jim visited many years ago (1993?) when he was working on his Master’s degree, but I had never been. Our thought was we should find a cruise that stopped in Slovenia so our friend Marjan could come to the port to see us, but that’s not quite how things worked out. After we booked the cruise and really started researching we discovered how close all the ports are, and learned Ljubljana was only about a 2 hour drive from our final cruise destination of Venice. The idea of Marjan visiting us in port was scrapped, and we decided to visit Ljubljana after the cruise. So much for needing a cruise to stop in Slovenia in order to see our friend! That’s OK, we loved our itinerary and think we got the best of both worlds…we got to see some sights while we were in port in Koper, then have a personalized tour with Marjan when we got to Ljubljana.

Since we knew we’d be seeing Ljubljana and Lake Bled later in the week, we opted for a Roundabout Travel tour to the Skocjan Caves and Lipica Stud Farm (home of the famous Lipizzaner stallions). As with the Urban Adventures tour in Split we paid our money and took our chances, and once again hit the jackpot with an outstanding driver/guide Sanjin Cernos. Guides can make or break a tour, and for the most part ours were excellent.

We started with a short drive to the Skocjan Caves and paid for the 10:00 tour. 


As we had quite a bit of time, we walked up a nearby path and admired the scenery. Far below we could see a raging river and a little foot bridge. Sanjin told us those were near the cave exit and we all thought it looked innocent enough, but that was before our tour of the caves.

I was annoyed because there was no photography allowed in the caves, but I’d soon find out why. At any rate, I’m getting ahead of myself, so let me back up.


A very large group of us left the visitor’s center at 10:00 and walked down several steep paths to the cave entrance.


At the entrance we were split into four groups for the walk through the caves.  I thought the groups had too many people, and our group was made up of people who only spoke one of two languages, so everything had to be said twice. In hindsight, maybe the dual language tour was for the best since it gave us a chance to rest and catch our breath!😳

The man made entrance tunnel into the caves was quite narrow with a low ceiling.  I had a brief moment of panic before I calmed myself down by putting one foot in front of the other and looking at the back of the head of the person in front of me. As soon as we got into the actual caves I was fine.

I was absolutely awestruck by the caves…they are magnificent! They are also a little treacherous because the ground is very wet, and the walk is a series of steep climbs (and descents) on very narrow paths and stairs. Very steep climbs. Very narrow paths.

Pictures? Nah, I was holding on to any available railing for dear life…operating a camera, even one as simple as an iPhone, might have caused me to embarrass myself – or worse. I have to admit, more than once I wondered what would happen if someone got injured in there.

These pictures are from the official Skocjan Caves website:


Around every corner was more spectacular scenery, as well as the increasingly loud sound of rushing water. Remember the river from before we started the tour? Yup…it runs right through the caves and comes complete with an Indiana Jones-style bridge suspended about 150 feet above!  It was an extremely narrow bridge and it seemed precarious although it was perfectly safe. Yes, it was a little freaky. Both of us were happy to get across, but Jim practically ran for terra firma when he neared the end!😆 Here’s another picture from the official website. Can you imagine if photographs were allowed inside the caves?  Everyone would be stopping on that bridge for selfies!😂


We were nearing the end of our cave walk, but what goes down must climb back up, and up, and up. The tour is advertised as a walk over uneven terrain, but to these Houstonians it was like climbing several alps!  Thankfully the last path was downhill and we had a chance to rest our legs a little for the hike back up to the visitor’s center! In the next picture you can see the last pathway leading down out of the caves. Almost all our walking had been on similarly steep paths:


We were happy to see daylight, and we stopped just inside the cave exit to regroup and let everyone catch up.We still had quite a climb to get up to the point where we caught a funicular that took us almost to the top.

The caves were a great experience, but I’m not sure I’d rush to do it again. It was fun but also a bit scary for both of us.


Here you can see the cave exit with a narrow path that hugs the cliff in the foreground. Even after we left the caves we had quite a bit of walking and climbing to do!


Back at the visitor center, I was disappointed to find gift shop closed for lunch. My intention had been to purchase some pictures since I couldn’t take my own, but I guess closing right at the time a huge group exits and missing the revenue doesn’t bother them. Oh well, that’s what the internet is for!

We made a short drive to the tiny town of Lokev.


Sunday’s lunch was at Gostilna Muha. The restaurant has been in the same family for generations, and serves what I would consider to be generous portions of comfort food. Of course, there was plenty of wine and bread too. I can’t imagine a restaurant surviving in that part of the world without copious amounts of both!


After a great lunch, a short drive from Lokev brought us to the Lipica Stud Farm. The grounds are beautiful…exactly what you would expect to see at a world-class facility.


We saw horses at pasture on our way in. My pictures were taken from a moving car, and unfortunately the ones with horses grazing are very blurry. I found these on the Internet and chose them because I thought they were the closest to what we saw:


Lipica was our introduction to very exclusive, precise horse breeding. NOTHING at the Stud Farm is left to chance. The horses breed, but there isn’t anything “natural” about the process!😮 The breeding program is controlled by law, and carefully implemented to make sure there isn’t any inbreeding. Machines and humans take care of gathering sperm and insemination. The Lipica website describes a more free and natural breeding process, but my impression from our visit was completely different. It’s even managed so that most of the foals are born at the same time of year. Here’s an explanation of the process:


There are separate buildings for studs, brood mares, etc. On each stall is a plaque detailing the horse’s bloodline.


From birth, young foals are evaluated and prepared for their future roles…breeding is only for the cream of the crop. Breeding stallions are proven performers with specific bloodlines, and broodmares are put through rigorous testing before selection.

One thing I thought was very interesting is the horses are actually black or bay at birth, and gradually turn shades of gray as they mature. Gray was the color preferred by the Austrian royal family, so over the years this became the dominant color in the breeding process.

Foals and their mothers are kept together in a yard for a period of time, and then are pastured together until the young horses are weaned. Once at pasture, the young horses are separated by gender. 


The riding school show was awesome. Horses trained to perform start their schooling at three for the very precise moves required of the performing stallions. We saw horses and riders at every stage of training, from young horses just beginning to learn to those who are highly trained in intricate movements. There is a lot of trust between the horses and their trainers!


We arrived back in Koper around 5:00. We were tired, but it had been a fantastic day. We ate dinner in the Pinnacle Grill and again didn’t do much of anything after dinner. Jim had started sneezing at the stud farm and hadn’t stopped, even once we got back to the ship! We were hopeful that it was allergies caused by the dust and dander at the farm, but alas he had caught my cold.

I thought about starting to pack, and I did organize a few things, but I wasn’t really interested so I quit and went to bed around 11:00. I would live to regret that decision, but that’s a story for Monday night in Venice!

A (Split) Walk to Remember

Saturday brought us to Split, Croatia and another gorgeous day in the Adriatic. We had booked a tour through Urban Adventures, which means paying your money and taking your chances with the quality of a guide. We hit the jackpot in Split and had an excellent guide for our day, Senka Vlahovic, but as you will see in a couple days it really is luck of the draw.😰

We left the ship with another couple and allowed more than enough time to make it to the meeting point because we weren’t sure about the walk or exactly where we were to meet.  We were docked right next to the bustling ferry terminal.


I had e-mailed Urban Adventures before the trip and gotten a map pinpointing the meeting location, so I thought there was no chance of messing up. 


We used Google Maps, the e-mailed map, and GPS to find what we THOUGHT was the correct meeting location and proceeded to wait. Time passed and there was no sign of a guide or even anyone who looked like they might be a guide! A quick look around and we discovered there was another site about 50 feet away that also fit the meeting description, and it was there that we found our guide. We really enjoyed our day, but Urban Adventures needs to do a better job with helping unfamiliar visitors find meeting locations. As you will see in a few days, there isn’t always a happy ending!

Wow! Only two paragraphs in and two things to watch out for later in the trip! I must want you to keep reading!😁

Our tour was called Secrets of Split, and it revolved around Diocletian’s Palace, which is the center of the old city. The well-preserved palace and ruins date back to the beginning of the Fourth century A.D. and were built by Emperor Diocletian for his retirement home. The structure is massive, covering seven acres! About half of it was for Diocletian’s personal use, and the remainder housed the military and servant staff.

At the time it was built, the sea provided the protection for the south wall of the palace, and that was where supply boats came as well as where the most important structures were. It is also believed that the emperor wanted direct access from the sea to the palace.

The three sides of the palace facing land had more solid walls, turrets, and heavy gates, but the south wall featured a series of arches behind which was an arcade. It was in the southern half of the palace where the emperor’s public and private apartments and all religious buildings were located.

The palace was abandoned with the fall of the Roman Empire, and remained vacant until the seventh century. It has been occupied continuously since that time, with residents establishing their homes and businesses in the palace’s substructures, open spaces, and in the walls themselves. The palace today is considered to be the best remaining example of a Roman palace because of its excellent degree of preservation.

The above history lesson was brought to you courtesy of our wonderful guide Senka, with a memory assist from Wikipedia and Rick Steves!😂

Back in Diocletian’s day the sea reached the south wall of the palace, and access was by boat. Over the centuries the sea has receded, and there is now a vibrant Riva (or promenade) just outside the palace walls. The Riva is lined with shops, bars, and cafes that are within the lower exterior walls of the palace, and vendors of all kinds set up stalls in the Riva on the weekends and for festivals. It was there that our tour began with a look at a diagram of the palace as it was and an explanation of its history. Standing in the Riva looking towards the palace, you can see the remains of the south wall with newer (post Roman Empire) structures built on top of and behind the wall.

Here is an artist’s rendering of the palace as it was in the time of Diocletian:

The south wall of the palace today:

From the inside:

Stock picture from the internet (it was incredibly crowded on the Riva the day we visited because of the Festival of St. Duje, Split’s patron saint):


We entered the palace through the old south gates and found ourselves in the gigantic Grand Hallway that leads from the gates to the Peristyle (the center of Split, in the area of the palace where Diocletian’s chambers were located). To either side of this grand hallway are the excavated substructions of the palace. Excavation of these basement halls has revealed the original floor plan and layout of Diocletian’s residential quarters. This area was fascinating to explore. The architecture is quite remarkable, and excavation has uncovered evidence of structures on the site that predate the palace.

The next three pictures are from the pamphlet you get as you (pay to) enter the basements:


In this picture, you can see where the outer wall of the palace actually forms the back wall of a bar/café on the Riva. They are using the palace window opening for shelves!


We walked around the palace for quite a while, looking at the ruins from Roman times, as well as the medieval structures that now form the nucleus of the city.


Pusti me da prodjem (Let Me Pass Street) is considered by some to be the narrowest street in the world.


The Peristyle is a bustling, vibrant square filled with tourists, locals, performers, and street vendors.

This picture of the Peristyle is from Wikipedia:


One of my favorite areas of the palace was Diocletian’s vestibule, a formerly domed area where today a male a cappella group sings Dalmatian folk songs.


Inside and outside the palace walls one can find busy markets, cafes, and streets filled with tourists and locals alike.


One thing that surprised me, not just in Split but everywhere was the amount of smoking. Would you like some ashes with your fish?😳


Exiting the palace through the Golden Gate in the north wall, one finds an enormous statue of Gregory of Nin (Grgur Ninski), an important religious figure in the history of the Catholic Church in Croatia. 

Rubbing the black statue’s shiny bronze big toe is said to bring good luck. Jim figured it couldn’t hurt!


A short walk off the beaten path took us down some narrow streets to our lunch location in a quiet residential neighborhood.


I know it will come as a surprise to you that we were served prosciutto, cheese, bread, olives, and wine for our meal! I always thought of those as being unique to Italy, but I discovered on this trip that the Italian/Venetian influence is very strong across the entire Adriatic coastal region. The other thing on our plate was octopus salad. I have to admit I probably didn’t give it a fair chance. It just didn’t appeal to me!


After lunch we were treated to local school children performing on the Riva.


Some more wandering around town brought us to a wonderful Gelato stop and the end of our tour about 2:30.


It was a beautiful afternoon, but very crowded and just as in Korcula, the prospect of some relaxation time on our balcony drew us back to the ship. We stayed out there through sailaway, enjoying the abundant sunshine and perfect temperature.


I thought I was done taking pictures and I had gone inside when Jim called me back out to the balcony. He spotted a lady who had just come to her window for a smoke. I’m glad he got me…it’s one of my faves!


Dinner that night was another Gala evening. We sat at a table for six – this particular group was a little awkward and I was fighting my way through the worst night of my cold.🤒 I absolutely couldn’t keep my eyes open and excused myself from dinner while others were lingering over coffee. I was asleep before Jim even made it upstairs!😴😴

Walking👣 and Wining🍷

We woke Friday morning to that which we had avoided almost the entire trip…dark clouds and rain showers.☔️ Fortunately for us Mother Nature decided we needed to stay with the “Clear and Sunny” program and we ended up having a beautiful day!


I had not heard of Korcula before we booked this cruise so I had to do a little bit of extra research to find something to do during our port call. After visiting, my opinion is that Korcula is one of the hidden gems of the Adriatic! We had a wonderful time on a country walk and wine tasting with Rachael from Korcula Explorer. We toured with the same three couples we were with in Montenegro. Since we’ve already established that we all like to eat, drink, and take our time everyone meshed well and enjoyed the day!😁

We took a modified version of the first tour, since our port times didn’t allow for the exact tour on the website:


We started out with a short van ride to a country road where our walking tour began. We meandered up and down the gravel paths and paved country roads of Lumbarda. It was so tranquil! The weather cleared as we walked…by the time we reached our first stop the sun was shining.


Our first stop was at the Bire Winery where we tasted several wines including being introduced to one of the most prevalent local grapes called Grk. Grk is produced only in Korcula, and we had it at both of the wineries we visited.


We then made our way across more of Lumbarda to the Popic winery.


In addition to more Grk we were introduced to other local wines — Posip and Plavac Mali. We enjoyed a cold lunch of bread, prosciutto, cheese, and olives on a patio overlooking the vineyards with the idyllic town center of Lumbarda and the sapphire blue sea in the distance.


We had a great time on this tour. It was a little bit different than some of the other things we had done so it was unique as well as being enjoyable. I think we got a much better feel for the island and its people by taking the tour than we would have gotten if we had just walked around Old Town. Rachael was very pleasant and knowledgeable about her adopted home, and we enjoyed both the walk and the winery stops. I would choose Korcula Explorer again if we returned to the Adriatic and had a port call in Korcula.

After walking👣 and wining🍷 our way through Lumbarda, our van brought us back to Old Town Korcula. We wandered the narrow streets and stairs for a little while, and helped the local economy by purchasing an oil painting.


Honestly, by that time I was tired and my feet were begging to be set free from my  (stinky, dirty!) walking shoes! In addition my cold was winning the battle and I knew we still had busy, busy days ahead. For once we were happy to return to the ship and have a little relaxation time. We sat on the balcony through sailaway and watched the ever-changing skies over town and the surrounding mountains.


Later we had a very good dinner in the dining room, and I returned to the balcony for one more shot…


As soon as it was completely dark I continued my early to bed early to rise tour of the Adriatic coast!😴

The WOW Factor

Our stop in Kotor, Montenegro was AWESOME! All our ports were beautiful, but Montenegro really brought the WOW factor from dawn to sunset! It helped that we had a fantastic tour guide and great people to share our day with. The thought running through my head all day was how lucky we were to be visiting one of the world’s most beautiful places.


I booked early in the planning process with Montenegro M Tours, and since I booked so far in advance we got the company’s owner Mladen Lalatovic as our guide. I posted the tour information on my Cruise Critic roll call and we ended up with a total of 24 people in three vehicles taking the same tour.


Maybe this is a good time to make a couple comments about sharing tours. It’s a great way to make private tours more affordable, but I do think it’s important to make sure everyone in a vehicle/sharing a tour is on the same page before a tour starts. One of the three vehicles on our Montenegro tour had a very different experience and I think it’s because the people in the van weren’t in agreement about whether they would stop for lunch, how long they should spend at each location, etc. We were very fortunate in that all the people in our vehicle were “stop and smell the roses” travelers and our tour was outstanding.

Almost all our guides on this trip were excellent about listening to us and adapting the day to suit our tastes. That usually resulted in longer tours with plenty of time for local cuisine and off the beaten path sights. If all aren’t in agreement it can cause some conflict, so it’s a good idea to take care of the details ahead of time.

We were lucky enough to dock in Kotor instead of having to tender, so we were off the ship and ready to start our day right at 9:00. From Kotor we made the short scenic drive to Perast on the Bay of Kotor for our first stop of the day. Perast is an old maritime shipbuilding and trading village that is now a tourist destination, with a big draw being the tiny islands of Our Lady of the Rocks (artificial) and St. George (natural). Mladen hurried us along so we could get on a ferry boat to Our Lady of the Rocks before hordes of tourists from big buses descended upon the town.


Our Lady of the Rocks (Gospa od Skrpjela) is just breathtaking. According to local legend, the island was formed by seamen and townspeople throwing stones into the sea and sinking old boats to mark the site where an icon of Madonna and Child was found.  On July 22, 1452 two brothers found the icon on a rock outcropping. One of the brothers was crippled and was miraculously healed after the icon was discovered. The decision was made to mark the spot where the icon was found by building a shrine to house it. In this way the artificial island was created.

The original shrine was largely destroyed by pirates in 1624, and construction of the current structures was started in 1626. The island and buildings have been expanded over the years, and today remain as an important shrine for sailors.

Over the main altar, a painting depicting the icon is the centerpiece of the church. Painted in the mid 1460s, it has been well preserved over the years. This was one of several churches we saw where important religious icons were protected by decorative metal work, with only the faces exposed to the elements.

Behind the altar there’s a narrow passageway where one can put their hand through a hole to touch the rock beneath. It’s said to be the original rock the painting of the Madonna was found on.  I took a peek and decided it wasn’t for me. The passageway was extremely narrow and it didn’t look like a good place for a middle-aged, slightly chunky, claustrophobic female! The way I looked at it there were two possible outcomes and neither was positive…I would get stuck because I freaked out in the dark, narrow space, or I would get stuck because I’d been consuming too much bread, prosciutto, and wine! Either way, I decided to take their word for the existence of the hole and the rock!


The other island near Perast, St. George (Sveti Đorđe), doesn’t have quite as interesting a back story as Our Lady of the Rocks.  St. George is partially hidden from view by a wall and towering Cypress trees.  The only structure on the island is an old Benedictine monastery, but the island is home to countless graves. As a matter of fact locals refer to it as the island of the dead! There is no tourist access to the island, and it has not been inhabited in many decades.


The picture below is a stock photo from the internet. It’s the photo I couldn’t get. Why? There was a girl posing right in the middle of the arch the entire time I (and many others) were trying to get a picture. She was posing for her boyfriend and taking numerous selfies. Very frustrating! Sometimes I think there should be signs posted reminding people they’re not the only ones there.



We had time to walk around Perast after we went to Our Lady of the Rock. It is a charming little seaside town and I would have liked to have more time there, but the rest of Montenegro awaited us!


We headed to Budva by way of the Kotor Bay Ferry. You can also get to Budva on land by driving completely around the bay, but it is much faster to take the ferry across.


On the way to Budva we stopped to see JAZ Beach. This is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, and is also a major concert site during the summer months.


Budva is a study in contrasts. Today, it is quite a large city, but our destination was the old medieval walled city perched on the edge of the sea. The old city was charming, and not crowded at all. We enjoyed walking around a place that isn’t on many big bus tour lists! Budva is also an interesting mix of old and new. Quite a bit of the old city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1979 and has been rebuilt.

This isn’t the greatest picture I’ve ever taken, but I thought the contrast between the old city walls and the jet contrail was interesting:


We stopped for lunch in Budva. It was fantastic! We ate at The Juice Bar, which had smoothies and juices, but also some delicious meat and cheese platters, wonderful sandwiches, and of course, wine! Jim split a meat and cheese platter with a friend and I opted for a grilled sandwich. What I got looked a lot like what we would call a panini, but over there it was just a grilled chicken sandwich with pesto!


After lunch we began slowly making our way back towards Kotor, with spectacular scenery stops along the way. One interesting stop was overlooking Sveti Stefan (St. Stephen). This former island is now connected to the mainland by an isthmus, and is home to a 5 star resort. In the distant past, the island was a fort, housed a village, four churches, and a monastery, and provided shelter for pirates. In Yugoslavian times the facilities were converted to a resort, and have remained that way through various owners and renovations ever since.


The other scenery stop was above the port. I’ll let these pictures speak for themselves. Just breathtaking!


There was a souvenir stand at the last scenery stop. This picture speaks for itself too!


We arrived back at Kotor Old Town about 3:30, but our day wasn’t over. Mladen spent another hour with us, showing us the highlights of the town and telling us a little more about Montenegrin history.


About 4:30, after our tour ended, we headed back to the ship but first we had a couple of important purchases to make. We had to find a Christmas ornament to add to our collection, and we had to buy some cough medicine. Fortunately my cold wasn’t getting worse, but it also wasn’t going away so I decided to do something about it.🙄 I love buying cough medicine in Europe. It seems a lot more effective than anything the FDA’s gotten their hands on!


Our day was far from over. We took advantage of the beautiful day and our huge balcony and invited our touring friends to join us for sailaway. What a fantastic experience it was – cruising through the fjords in picture perfect weather enjoying the company of new friends!


We ended the day with a late and somewhat light dinner at Canaletto. Once again, I was not the life of the party. My evening went like this…sailaway party, wine, dinner, sleep. My consolation was I was keeping the cold just under control enough so that it wasn’t stopping me during the day. It sure was wiping me out at night though!

I almost cried myself to sleep…the next day was Friday, which meant we were getting close to the end of the cruise. How could something we planned for so long be going by so quickly?😢

Making Lemonade in Dubrovnik!😉

I had been counting down the days to Dubrovnik for months. We had booked what I thought was going to be a fantastic 🍷wine tour🍷 to Bosnia-Herzegovina. I was excited for two reasons. First of all, one of our winery stops was at a monastery where they had been making wine since the early 1400s. I thought that sounded pretty neat! Secondly, we were going to visit Bosnia, which I also thought was kind of neat. I mean, how many people from Texas can say they’ve visited Bosnia? Not us! We couldn’t say it before the trip, and we still can’t say it!  Here’s what happened…

We woke to another beautiful day, and docked (if I remember correctly) a little early.


We met up with the other two couples on our tour before we disembarked, and showed up about 10 minutes early to our designated tour meeting place right across the street from the ship. We waited, and we waited, and then we waited some more. I sent Mario (the owner of the tour company) several text messages and emails. I finally heard back from him 30 minutes after we were supposed to leave that there had been a bad accident that morning which resulted in our driver being air lifted to a hospital in Zagreb and also put our guide in the hospital.🤕 Obviously, Bosnia was not to be.😢

I can’t fault Taste Dubrovnik (the company) because accidents happen.  However, I was a little uneasy while we were trying to get in touch with Mario and find out what was going on, because we had no communication for about 40 minutes. We were angry while we were waiting and wondering, but once we learned what had happened we understood and moved immediately to plan B. We had a PayPal refund by the time we woke up the following day.

Luckily for us Dubrovnik is a pretty easy place to find something else to do. There had been plenty of tour operators hanging around watching to see if we got picked up or not! We ended up hiring a tour company (van & driver) for €15/person. They took us to see the local scenery and views. The views are definitely not too shabby!

We have road signs in the U.S. warning us about deer or moose, but this was the first time I’ve seen a warning sign for feral pigs!

😢 Bosnia:


We followed the scenic drive by spending the rest of the day in Dubrovnik Old Town.


Once we got to Old Town we walked around a bit, then went to a restaurant called Konoba Jezuite for lunch at the recommendation of the tour company. Truthfully, the walking around part of that last sentence was because we couldn’t find the place!


The restaurant was tucked away out of the major traffic areas and we wondered if perhaps we’d been sent on a wild goose chase, but our meal was fantastic. Konoba Jezuite actually ended up being a great choice because we had a wonderful table outside without the kind of crowds we saw at so many other locations.

Jim’s Dumpling Stew:


Once we finished lunch we decided to walk the walls of the old city. The Croatians have done an excellent job of creating a steady stream of income in Dubrovnik. The tariff to climb hundreds of stairs and walk the walls of Old Town is about $22.50. Per person!😳


One thing that makes the walled cities in the Adriatic different than any of the historical places I’ve visited before is that they’re not ruins, relics, or museums. They’re actual inhabited town centers that happen to have ancient walls to protect them from invaders. People live, work, and play in locations that have been inhabited hundreds or even thousands of years longer than the United States.

Hmm…I’m not sure if this is an ancient problem or a modern problem!😳


Unfortunately, the walled city of Dubrovnik was heavily shelled during the War for Croatian Independence in 1991-1992. The Montenegrins and the Serbians set up shop on the hill overlooking Dubrovnik and bombed the walled city relentlessly for seven months.  Here’s a map I found on Wiki that shows how devastating the war was to Old Town:


In the pictures you will notice two different types of roof. The solid red roofs are fairly new because those structures were damaged or destroyed in the war and have been rebuilt. The roofs that survived have more signs of age and variation in color. You’ll also notice some buildings that are nothing but ruins. The ruins stand next to surviving buildings that are occupied and house shops, restaurants, and families.


We went back to the ship around 6:30, and had dinner in the dining room with one of the couples we spent the day with. Once again after dinner I went straight to bed. I was definitely not the life of the party, but with 10 days to go I didn’t want my cold to decide to linger or turn into anything worse! I was asleep long before we left port headed for Kotor, Montenegro!😴

It’s All Greek to Me!

Tuesday we visited the island of Corfu, Greece. We didn’t really have any expectations for the day because the island didn’t seem to “fit” with the other ports. It almost seemed like an opportunity for a beach day thrown in with the historical ports, but we couldn’t have been more wrong. We were blown away! Our driver, Spiros “2” from Corfu Taxi Tours was fantastic, and everything about the day was memorable.

There were four of us in a vehicle for our “Corfu Taxi” tour, and thankfully we all have a similar travel style…learn about the culture, stop and smell the roses, get off the beaten (tourist) path, eat local cuisine – basically see and do the things that you can’t on a crowded ship’s tour because of numbers and because they’re catering to the masses. Spiros was one of the many guides we had on this trip who “got” us, and he very effectively tailored the day to make it perfect. We started with a drive up into the mountains and stopped a couple times to admire the gorgeous scenery. Even though the day was hazy, we had abundant warm sunshine and stunning views.

We then made our way along the narrow, winding roads to the tiny town of Makrades where Spiros dropped us off at the beginning of town and let us make our way through the village at our own pace. 

We saw the villagers getting ready for their day, and marveled at their easy, comfortable lifestyle. There is a small store and café, but for fresh food the locals rely on the daily arrivals of the fish truck and bread truck. Talk about fresh…the fish is caught in the early morning hours, then brought directly to the customers! I think the local cats were also fans of the fish truck!

We stopped to see Angelokastle (Castle of the Angel), but at Spiros’ recommendation we didn’t make the climb! The acropolis (walled city/fortress) is perched atop a cliff at the highest point of the island. The earliest records of inhabitants at the location have been traced back to the 5th-7th centuries AD, and the complex played an important role in protecting residents during sieges as well as being a cultural and market center for many centuries. Today the renovated castle is open to the public as an important Greek cultural site.

Our next stop was a shopping stop, but not one we minded – it was at an Olive Wood shop in the tiny village of Krini. This was more than just a shop…it was a place where they craft and carve the gorgeous pieces. We all bought some small items, but I really wanted to buy some bowls/baskets (as if I don’t have enough). Alas, I was stopped by the limitations of our suitcases and Lufthansa’s weight restrictions so I passed. That doesn’t mean I won’t have a larger piece soon though…the internet is a wonderful thing!

Spiros asked if we liked bread and wine…obviously he was still getting acquainted!😉 He made a quick stop at a bakery (see the sign…I’m not even going to attempt to type it!) and then we were off to George’s Cellar for a wonderful, relaxing lunch of bread, olive oil, tomatoes, feta, and olives. 


I couldn’t get over how fresh and delicious everything was, including the wine! It’s all grown locally, and George’s presses their own olive oil and makes the wine on site. Jim and I were intrigued enough by the wine to buy a bottle, and we were shocked at the cost. It set us back €3.50!😮 The best part of it was we avoided the $18 corkage fee on the ship because the wine looked more like a bottle of balsamic vinegar than wine. It was in a clear bottle with no label, and it had a plastic stopper instead of a cork. The security guy at the ship took a long look when we sent Jim’s bag through the scanner, but he didn’t ask so we didn’t tell! You can see bottles of red wine on the shelf in the next picture. The big barrels? Olive oil…gallons and gallons of liquid gold!

Here’s a funny side story about the wine — when they asked us if we wanted wine with lunch they also asked us if we preferred red wine or white wine. Of course my first question was what kind of red wine. The answer I got was, “It’s made from red grapes.” When I asked what kind of red grapes the waitress shrugged and said, “Just red grapes.” Come to find out, George’s makes four kinds of wine. You can get dry red, sweet red, dry white, or sweet white. I still have no idea what kind of grape was used to make the wine, but that’s not important because it was good.🍷😁🍷

After lunch, wine, and a dessert of candied kumquats (also grown and made on site) we visited Paleokastritsa Monastery, a gorgeous, tranquil spot overlooking the Mediterranean. In addition to the monk’s cells, numerous cats, and an abundance of flowers, the monastery has a working olive oil press and a small museum with artifacts dating back to the Byzantine Empire.

A leisurely drive towards the port brought us back to Old Town Corfu, where Spiros dropped us off to explore. It was interesting, vibrant, and eclectic — we found everything from t-shirt souvenir shops to produce stands to expensive art all existing in the same cramped spaces. We enjoyed our short stroll around the town, but we also got turned around and had a hard time finding our way out of the maze! Google Maps wasn’t much help, in part because all the streets were narrow, winding, and had names we couldn’t pronounce, let alone type! We finally asked a shopkeeper where we should go, and sure enough the correct way out was counter-intuitive to what we were thinking! It’s a good thing we finally put the tech toys away and went old school!

Spiros dropped us off at port around 3:00, a good two hours longer than we had booked and paid for. What a fantastic day! We had a preconceived idea about this port, and we were unexpectedly delighted with both Corfu and our tour. We arrived thinking it was going to be a wasted day, and we left thinking Corfu needs to go on our list of “must return” places!

Dinner was in the Pinnacle Grill with our touring friends. It probably wasn’t our best meal of the trip…our waitress was obviously new to the Pinnacle and service was slow. Still, we had plenty to eat in a quiet, relaxing environment with good company so no complaints.

I was exhausted after dinner and could tell I was coming down with a cold, so I went straight to bed while Jim went exploring the night life. I needed my beauty sleep because we had a big day coming up with a tour to Bosnia, or did we? My next post will be about making lemonade when you’re given lemons! 

Yes, the water really is THAT blue!

Please accept my apologies…I totally lost my way when it came to keeping up with this blog. This was a fantastic and action packed trip…most nights I was so exhausted that I could barely get pictures off my camera before I fell asleep, only to do it all again the next day. Unfortunately, even though I had internet access, the process of resizing the pictures to post was so tedious and slow on the ship I eventually gave up. The good news is now that I’m home I have no such issues, and I get to relive most of the trip by getting caught up on my posts!

We left Valletta at dawn on Sunday, and spent a wonderful (but not very comfortable!) day on the beautiful Maltese island of Gozo.

Here are some “crack of dawn” (literally) pictures of leaving Valletta and arriving in Mgarr, Gozo…

We took a Jeep tour of the island with Barbarossa Tours. There were four or five of us in a pretty small Jeep all day, which is why I said the day was a bit uncomfortable. By the time we got back to the ship we were wind blown, sunburned, and had aching rear ends from the bouncing!😳
I finally tied a scarf around my head because I got tired of eating my hair!

Despite the discomfort, the island is stunning, and the contrast between the arid landscape, the limestone structures, and the brilliant blue of the Mediterranean was breathtaking!

One of our morning stops was at the Ggantija Temples. The structures date back to 3,600 and 3,200 BC. In addition to the temples and surrounding walls, there is a museum containing artifacts from the excavation of the site.

In addition to lots of scenery and the visit to the temples, we spent quite a bit of time at the Citadel. The current structures date back to Medieval times, but there has been a fortification on the site since 1500 BC.

What a view!

The cathedral within the city walls is still in use, and there was a wedding taking place during our visit. I didn’t see the bride and groom, but I loved their get-away car. It brought back memories of learning to drive (and parallel park!) in my mom’s 1976 Bonneville!

We had a nice, relaxing lunch, and would have happily spent more time exploring the narrow streets and enjoying the day, but our driver was a bit of a task-master. Her job was to make sure we saw the whole island, and by golly that’s what she did! It was somewhat comical at times, and we felt like we were negotiating tour time vs. relaxation! Our driver originally suggested we could tour the Citadel and eat in just 45 minutes.🙄 We all vetoed that idea, then she offered us an hour, but we said no to that also. We finally got her to agree to something that we thought was reasonable and would still allow her to check all the boxes on her list!

After lunch we made a stop where the Azure Window used to be, but it was very crowded and commercialized even though the main attraction does not exist any longer. 

More scenery and Ta’ Pinu Basilica:

One of the highlights for me was seeing the salt pans on the remote north side of the island. We drove along the coast and learned about the process of extracting salt from the sea using giant pans or flats that line the coast between the sea and the coastal road. The pans are 350 years old, and the tradition of making sea salt has been passed down in families for generations. Since the salt is gathered during the summer we did not get to see the process, but there is plenty of information available on the Internet.

By the time we returned to the port we were ready to go “home” and relax!

Sunday night was quite profitable. We had a nice dinner in Canaletto, the Italian specialty restaurant on the ship. Jim was tired and went to bed right after dinner, and I decided to check out the casino. I returned to the room within 45 minutes, $730 richer than I entered!😂

Monday was a much needed sea day, and we accomplished absolutely nothing, unless you consider sitting on the balcony an accomplishment.😁 

Dinner was a “Gala” night with friends in the dining room, and we went to the show after. It was OK…better than some I’ve seen, but this cruise was 99% about the ports and for us the ship/cruise was just a means of getting us there!

Once we got to Greece on Tuesday we had eleven busy days before we could sit and relax…and that was on the plane home!

What’s Behind Door Number 1?

I admit to being something of a door and window junkie. I especially love doors. With that in mind, Valletta, Malta was a dream. I just thought I should warn you, because you’re going to see a few!☺️ 

We arrived in Valletta on Saturday morning for an overnight stay. We didn’t have anything planned for the morning, so I spent some much needed quality time with my friends Balcony and Coffee, and later we walked around the waterfront area for a while. 

Back to the doors…to find the doors requires a good local guide, and we loved our late afternoon walking photography tour with Dragana Rankovic of Photograph Malta. There were only four of us (2 couples), so the tour was very much tailored to our needs and interests. Dragana showed us highlights and hidden gems of Valletta, and helped with the technical aspects of photography too.  We walked around Valletta exploring many streets we never would have found on our own. This was another “exercise” tour…Valletta is very hilly! Something that surprised me was the number of homes that are unoccupied and have been empty for many years. Some of them were prime real estate, and I would have expected them to be snatched up and renovated. 

Later we took the ferry across to the neighborhoods/towns of Birgu, Bormla, and Fgura. We walked the narrow streets and enjoyed a rest and refreshment break at a local café. 

After our tour, Dragana helped us get a reservation outside at Trabuxa, an excellent Italian restaurant in the old city. It was a fantastic day and evening!

Make Me an Offer I Can’t Refuse!

We woke Friday to hazy foggy skies after 10 hours of much needed sleep 😴! Oh well, at least it wasn’t raining and the fog was outside and no longer in my head! The captain did a “drive-by” of Stromboli, but the volcano was all but obscured in the haze.

At 10:00 we went to the well attended Cruise Critic Meet and Greet. It gave us an opportunity to put names to faces and meet most of the people we’ll be touring with in the ports as well as make definite plans.

We took a “Godfather and Hidden Villages” tour with Sicily Life and thought it was fantastic. My favorite part of the day was the time we spent in Savoca, a tiny village on a cliff where major scenes from The Godfather were filmed. We got our exercise in this town…there’s only one way to get to the top, and that’s by foot power!

Our next stop was Taormina – a much larger town than Savoca and filled with tourists. 

We wandered for a while, then set up shop right on the square for people watching, Arancini, and Cannolis! 

Finally, we visited Castelmola, several hundred feet above Taormina overlooking Mount Etna. The village was charming, but unfortunately Etna was shrouded by clouds so seeing the mountain wasn’t happening for us.

Back at the ship, we spent the rest of our evening on our balcony with some red wine.🍷 The captain had promised a drive-by of Mount Etna to see the lava flow. He tried, but the clouds just weren’t cooperating so off we went towards Malta.

Castles and Cruising

I didn’t sleep as well Wednesday night as I had the night before, but I think that probably had something to do with the dryer churning away and knowing we had to get packed up and ready to leave by 10:00. As soon as I got up I removed more things from the dryer and set it to run again, but in the end we ended up packing a couple damp things.🙄

Our weather luck was no more, and it was raining off and on when we set out at 10:00 with our fantastic guide Rossella from Rome Cabs. We originally booked just a transfer, but then I read about some other tour options and added those to the transfer. Since we were in Italy I wasn’t in as much of a hurry to get to the ship as I would be in Galveston!😆 Unfortunately the rain meant that traffic was outrageous and we had to alter our route somewhat, but we really had a nice time. The best part was every time we got ready to get out of the car the rain stopped!

Our first stop was in the tiny medieval town of Ceri. The castle was built in the 12th century, and sits atop a cliff. There is a single steep, winding road leading up/down, and a traffic light at either end controls entry and exit. 

Today, the town is home to 7 families. There is a church, a café, 2 restaurants, and a tobacco shop (the town version of a convenience store). What a charming place!

If you look carefully in the next picture you can see what looks like a doorway in the hillside. That’s actually the entrance to an Etruscan Necropolis, so the area has been inhabited for thousands of years.

From Ceri we drove to the coast. I was fascinated by the Umbrella Pines, which Rossella told us are found only in Italy.

Our next stop was Santa Severa castle on the coast, which was built in the 15th century. The original plan had been to go to Lake Bracchiano and castle which are from the same period, but between the weather and traffic near Rome, we opted to head to the coast. It was interesting to walk around the village…the castle is RIGHT on the water, so it was very different than anything I’ve seen before.

We got to Civitavecchia about 1:15…check-in was a breeze, but getting onto the ship was an adventure in the sideways rain.🌧💦🌧 We used our umbrellas as shields!☔️ Our refurbished suite is beautiful, but our main interest is in the huge balcony! I’ll post more on the ship itself later when I have time to take some pictures. We ended our first of 12 cruise nights sharing dinner with new friends, and fell into a deep sleep soon after dinner. So far everything has gone according to plan, and we hope our luck continues!