Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Dubrovnik: The Best Day of our Trip as We Walk the Walls

You know how you build expectations? From the time I started reading about Dubrovnik, I was excited. For one thing, some scenes from Game of Thrones are filmed there, and we are great fans.  Even more, there is a great hike; Dubrovnik has restored and created a wall all around the old city which you can hike. It isn’t for the faint-hearted; it starts with about 60 stair straight up. Once up, there are more stairs, FitBit told me we did 30 sets of stairs on the wall. There were ascents and descents, some a little challenging.  A friend who had done it before told me to be sure I had shoes with a good grip because the stones could be really slick. Even on a beautiful sunny day, there were a couple slick places, so I cannot imagine what it would be like to hike it in damp or rainy conditions.

But we had perfect weather, sunny and warm, but not hot, even a little chilly in the shade. We were also the only ship in town, a rare occurrence in Dubrovnik.

oldship

 

LOL, no, that is not our ship, but I loved this old looking ship. It isn’t really old, and I imagine it is an events location, a party ship, but I loved it.

 

We took the panoramic tour, but dropped off once we got to the Pile gate at the entrance to old Dubrovnik. The first entry to the walls is just inside the gate, to the left, with good signage.

p1130196

 

wallsticket

 

About halfway up the double sets of stairs taking people up to the wall, I stepped aside, yes, to catch my breath because there are a LOT of people struggling up these steep stairs, but also to take a documentary photo:

stairs

When you get to the top, the views are spectacular.

p1130197

I had read that the best strategy was to head uphill, first, get the worst over with, but as we started left, we saw this sign:

OneWayWallsSign

 

So aarrgh! We had to turn the easy way first. Never mind. Each step introduced a new and spectacular sight.

p1130237

 

p1130217

 

 

p1130200

 

p1130212

 

p1130207

 

p1130205

 

p1130211

 

p1130225

 

p1130209

 

We sighted the Dubrovnik harbor from the walls, and decided when we finished our walk that we would have lunch there, if we could find a good place.

dubrovnikharbor

 

Once we finished our hike, we explored the back streets in Dubrovnik, zig-sagging our way to the port:

 

craftsflowermkt

November 1st is coming soon; the flower markets are doing gang-busters business as Dubrovnik citizens buy flowers to remember their dead on All Saint’s Day.

p1130241

 

sidestreets

As we enter the port, we spot a restaurant where crowds of people are sitting in the sun, the Konoba Locanda Peskarija, eating cauldrons of mussels, big huge pots of mussels steamed in a simple wine broth, just the way we love them. We find a seat; we already know what we will order. As we wait, a wedding party arrives to have their photos taken in the port.

weddingphotos

 

A beautiful Dubrovnik salad to share:

saladdubrovnik

 


PeskariijaMenu

 

And a heaping cauldron of mussels, so many mussels we couldn’t eat the all! It was served with a basket of wonderful crusty bread to sop up the wine broth.

mussels

 

We couldn’t be happier.

As we leave, we run into our friends from the ship at the restaurant next door; they have made an art purchase they are celebrating. We always have great chats with this couple.

We wander around a little longer, avoiding, as much as possible, the beautiful wide street down the center of old Dubrovnik until the very end:

stradum

 

We head to the old gate once more, and just outside the gate is a shuttle, waiting to take us back to the Viking Sea. It doesn’t get any easier.

p1130259

 

Tonight we have dinner in the World Cafe. We have discovered that the food is the same as in the restaurant, but here we can deal directly with the chef and servers, and have exactly what we want in the small quantities we prefer. We have found a very quiet table, no one seated in our laps, and we can have our own quiet and private conversations, dine at our own pace; this isn’t what we thought we would prefer when planning our trip, but it seems to suit us well.

November 16, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, Exercise, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Food, Travel, Weather | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Only Julia Childs Could Lead Me Into Temptation

I try so hard to be good, and for the most part, I keep myself reigned in. Every now and then, however, I stumble and fall, and this time I did it in a big way.

I got a notice that a local shop/cooking School, Bodacious Shops, was doing a special Julia Childs dinner, a seven course dinner using genuine Julia Childs recipes.

“AdventureMan!” I shouted from my office to his, “AdventureMan, there is a Julia Childs Dinner at Bodacious Shops! They are using her recipes!”

“Book it!” shouts AdventureMan back from his office.

We miss France. We miss French food. We miss travel. We just moved, we have a house on the market, utility bills for two houses and projects for the newest house. We are masking and socially distancing to the point that we never eat in a restaurant, except two weeks ago when we ate outdoors at Flounders. Every item points away from an event like this, and we jumped in with both feet and never looked back.

When the day came, we were busy with normal family projects and a grandchild. When the grandchild got picked up, a storm was rolling in. I got in my nightgown, and settled in with a great book I am reading. At 5:47, AdventureMan called from his office “Don’t we have a dinner tonight?” and oh yes, and it started at 6:00.  LOL, we scrambled. We got there by 6:10, last ones to arrive but ten minutes could happen to anyone.

We were very correct, very socially distanced, and masked, except it was a dinner, so masks came off.

The dinner was delightful. It could have been all formal, but it wasn’t, and it was a lot of fun. Chef Nick is very funny as well as skilled and knowledgeable, and as it is more a presentation than a hands-on course, we didn’t get too messy.

We started with salmon mousse. It was divine. It was as good as anything I’ve had in France.

The next course was Vichysoisse. It was really good. I make Vichysoisse myself, and I am happy to say, this was very similar, tasty!

The next course is mussels, which we love. We eat mussels in the Pacific Northwest, and we eat mussels in France. We ate a memorable bowl of mussels in Dubrovnik. AdventureMan makes a mean dish of mussels steamed in white wine, seafood broth and garlic, so Chef Nick was up against a tough standard. The mussels were good, and I can’t eat mussels without using my fingers, so it was delicious – and messy.

We had a salad, and we had a sorbet, and then a little break before the main course, Boeuf Bourguignon.

I’m used to a little stewier beef burgundy, but I liked this one just fine. It was rich and textured, and had a lot of flavor. I was delighted that they kept the portions French-like, smaller. When food is well prepared and full of flavor, you don’t need to eat so much.

A little French cheese, a Compte and something very soft, a lot like Brie but it wasn’t.

Ummm, there was actually more of the Compte (top one) but I forgot and ate a couple pieces before I remembered to take a picture. Forgive me!

And the evening ended with a lovely very chocolatey chocolate mousse, served in a little pastry puff.

 

Balanced against the risk of eating out in a town where the positive rate for COVID is still hovering between 13% and 14%, we agreed that this was a relatively safe bet. This was not a real downtown restaurant, but a specialty shop were they do cooking classes and special events. The number of attendees was limited by the space, the spacing, and, frankly, by the price.

We felt safe. It was a group of people who love good food, who weren’t drinking too much or talking loudly. People respected the 6 foot rule and wore masks when not eating.

AdventureMan said it was a good risk and a good investment in another way, in that we didn’t have to take a plane or a boat to France.

So yes, it was a risk. And yes, some risks are worth taking.

August 15, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Chocolate, Civility, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, France, Marriage, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant | , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Reykjavik and Thingvellir in Iceland

We can’t believe our good luck, after the clouds and rain in Oslo, Bergen and being shut out of Lerwick, here we are in Iceland, and the weather is PERFECT. Perfect, that is, if you are an Alaska girl who loves to chill 😉 as AdventureMan debates whether or not he needs to wear his long underwear to keep warm.

The cruise director, Aaron Syfert, has told all of us, his cruise-children, to dress “like onions,” in layers, so that we can dress down if possible, and be warm enough when it is really cold. As we enter the bus, we have three or four layers; within minutes, there is a loud outcry from those aboard “Please turn down the heat!” In our full-up onion garb, it is really hot. The driver laughs and said he had wanted us to be warm enough, and turns down the heat until everyone is happy.

We drive through part of Reykjavik en route to our first stop, and the place I have wanted to see the most, Thingviller.

I have a thing about sacred spots, that it seems to me that there are some places in the world where the interface between this world and . . . the next? . . . the former? . . . .the alternate? . . . the interface is thin and perhaps not open, but permeable. Thingviller is a very very old place, a place where all those spread out in rural Iceland would gather to made decisions for the community. It was one of the most ancient forms of democracy, or democracy of a sort, of course it was mostly chieftains making the decisions, advised by their counsel, and while those decision makers were probably mostly men, they made decisions by consensus, and vote, for the greater good of the community.

Some of the decisions they reached would chill you. You will see a waterfall, below, by which there is a pond where violates of the law were drowned. Our guide tells us that most of them were women who had children out of wedlock. “What happened to the men?” one guest asked. “They were beheaded, if they could be found, if they could be identified,” she replied. She added that most of the time, the women went to their death without identifying the man who had impregnated her.

Geologically, Thingviller is fascinating. Thingviller is a huge rift between two tectonic plates, the North American Plate and the Euro/Asian Plate. I had known of “The Thing” the Viking Thing, about the decision making places, but it wasn’t until Digg, or one of the other news sourcing articles I get told me in some spectacular photos from around the world, that I knew about the rift. There were photos underwater, photos of daring young divers with one hand and foot on the North American Plate and the other on the EuroAsian Plate, truly spectacular. I wanted to visit the decision making place, and I wanted to visit the rift.

Last – and not least – Thingviller is one of the locations where Game of Thrones is shot, many of the scenes north of The Wall and of The Wall are shot here. It gives us a thrill, first Spain and the Alcazar and Alhambra, then Dubrovnik, and now Iceland, we are on a roll.

We had a great day, a truly great day, and the weather held. For me, Thingviller was worth the trip to Iceland.

September 15, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Social Issues, Travel, Weather | , , , , | 4 Comments

Wake of the Vikings: My Favorite Places Aboard the Viking Sky

I have a dear friend I met on a previous Viking Trip. We met outside a museum of Archaeology in Zadar, and we were astounded, watching the Viking Tours go by and not one mention of this really good museum for the bargain price of 4 Euro.

Every time we saw one another, we had very quick but high quality conversations. It might be we’d pass at a restaurant in Dubrovnik, and they would tell us about a purchase and we would tell them about a cauldron of mussels. It might be in a quiet corner outside the WinterGarden. Even aboard ship, we led very different lives, but have developed a lively friendship via correspondence, greatly about books and politics and efforts to create a better world.

We laugh at how different we are. I told her about yesterday, the rolling waves and going to the spa and laughing as we rolled around in the hot pool, the waves sloshing back and forth and front to back. She wrote back that not only does she not believe she will ever see her husband in a spa, but that he would also be “knee-walking sick” in those “rollicking” waves. She makes me laugh, and I make her laugh, and part of our friendship is respecting our differences.

So my favorite parts of the ship may not be your favorite parts of the Viking Sky. I am an introvert. I would rather pay more for a room, and spend time there, than in most of the public spaces, no matter how lovely they are, and the Viking Sky truly has many lovely and serene spaces.

Here are mine: the room

 

The spa:

Below is the snow room; there really is snow underfoot and snow falling, you go there after the wonderful hot pool

 

 

The wonderful hot pool, above

Where you rest before you go back to real life again 😉

A quiet corner just outside the Winter Garden

 

I would have also taken a couple photos in the Explorer’s Lounge, but . . . it was full of people! On our last cruise, it was rarely full, not even close, only some people would come, for Mamsen’s, for the view, for the quiet and privacy. When the bar is open, it is more crowded and noisier. You can see photos of the Explorer’s Lounge from our last trip, on the Viking Sea.

September 12, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Viking Sea: A New Day in Kotor, Montenegro

It’s a little disorienting, waking up each day in a new location, today, even a new country. We awoke early to watch the ship enter the Kotor harbor; the scenery is spectacular, and spectacularly different from Venice, Koper and Dubrovnik.

ComingIntoKotor

 

kotorscenery

The ship home page tells us it is chilly:

ShipHomePage

There is a hike in Kotor, too, and one look, we look at each other and know that this is not the hike for us. We will choose to go into Kotor and explore. This hike may zig-zag, but it is a steady, steep incline, and then a steady, steep decline when your legs are weak and shakey. Ummm. Pass.

KotorHikeWeDidn'tTake

As we eat breakfast, we watch the first tour groups head out. This is one of the places where we had turned our tour tickets back in, preferring to do it on our own.

firsttourgroup

 

We exit the ship, cross the street, and we are in the Old City of Kotor. We find that this is a town full of truly beautiful and welcoming churches, Catholic and Orthodox.

 

The clock tower in the large main square

p1130286

 

p1130288

 

p1130289

The Cathedral of St. Tryphon has uneven steeples. Some stories told us it was because they ran out of money, but there were others that said it happened in an earthquake.

p1130290

 

p1130294

 

p1130292

 

p1130296

 

p1130298

 

p1130299

 

p1130301

 

p1130303

Doors of Saint Mary’s

p1130305

Inside Saint Nicholas. They had chants playing, places to sit, and local people coming and going, lighting candles. It was a lovely place to be.

p1130306

 

p1130307

 

p1130308

Saint Luke’s, where I found a beautiful cross for my grandson

p1130309

Inside the Maritime Museum

p1130314

Kotor’s Cat Museum

p1130316

Saint Michaels

p1130317

Time for refreshment. We find a hidden cafe, Perper’s, and I see blueberry juice on the menu. That’s exactly what I want:

p1130324

 

p1130322

We find a way to access the city walls

p1130326

 

p1130327

 

p1130331

This is the church, Church of Our Lady of Remedy, I believe, (below) that is half way up the zig-zag path we did not choose to hike today. A few people on the ship hiked to it, but I don’t know anyone who went further. Many people make the pilgrimage from Kotor to pray for good health.

p1130332

As we are headed back to the ship, we spot a Farewell Montenegro sign. We have thoroughly enjoyed our day in Montenegro, and would happily come back.

GoodbyeMontenegro

On board, we give the Pool Grill a try, and like the food. After eating, we meet up with our friends who tell us that the food at the Pool Grill can be customized. For example, I got the shrimp salad sandwich, but didn’t eat any of the bread, or the fries, and I should’t have eaten any onion rings, but I did. Our friends explained you can ask for the shrimp salad or Mahi Mahi without the sandwich – we really like these people! They think like we do! From this point, I had the shrimp salad on greens!

PoolGrillShrimp

 

We take dinner once again in the World Cafe, find a quiet table and have a dinner that delights us.

 

November 16, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life | , | Leave a comment

Mamson’s for Afternoon Tea

It’s late in the afternoon, and we are back on board. We don’t want to nap; we are trying to get on local time, which keeps changing, put the clocks ahead an hour here and back an hour here. We love the Explorer’s Lounge, so we head up there for “tea”. They have lovely not-too-sweet pastries at Mamsen’s that we adore.

 

More of the Explorer’s Lounge:

p1130162

 

Our tea:

p1130165

Our location:

p1130166

 

Back to the room for sunset on our way to Dubrovnik!

p1130169

 

This night we checked the menus for all the restaurants and decided to try one called: The Restaurant. They seemed to have some really nice choices. No reservations. So we headed up around seven, and were seated. Other people sitting close; one party of seven having a good old time, and very loud. I can’t even remember what we ordered. Once again, no control over how much was coming, no control over timing. When we said we wanted to split a creme brûlée, the waitress brought us each one, and said “I know you really want to have your own.”

No. No, we didn’t. We don’t like waste, and we love good tastes, but we like them in moderation. Clatter and clanging of the dishes and flatware, too much noise, too little privacy and we don’t even get our say over dessert. One time in this restaurant was enough.

We walked off the creme brûlée – no, we didn’t eat the whole thing, but the evening is so lovely and we love the walks around the decks.

November 15, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Customer Service, Food, Restaurant, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

From DIGG: Real Life Film Locations for Game of Thrones

The 7 Kingdoms in ‘Game of Thrones’ are actually these 5 real-world places

It turns out it takes less post-production tinkering than you’d expect to turn our world into the lands of Ice and Fire.

Facebook
16K
36
16K

Not much in “Game of Thrones” could be described as “true to life.” King Joffrey, for instance? IRL, actually a pretty sweet guy. And the Khaleesi definitely ain’t a natural blonde. (Oh yeah, and to the best of our knowledge she hasn’t fire-hatched any dragons, either.)

Say what you will about the vaguely insane plot and ever more inventive ways of killing off characters, though, there’s one element of the show that’s surprisingly real: the locations. It turns out it takes less post-production tinkering than you’d expect to turn our world into the lands of Ice and Fire.

Whether it’s the steep crags of Winterfell or the stone palaces of King’s Landing, the scorched slave port of Astapor or the frozen whiteness beyond the Wall, the show’s most dramatic landscapes really do exist — in five countries and on two continents.

Hold on to your dragons, it’s time for a tour.

Malta: King’s Landing (season 1), Pentos


Mdina city gate (Alex Murphy/Flickr Commons).

Malta’s stone city of Mdina, with its aptly lion-topped gate, was the original King’s Landing. San Anton Palace, the Maltese president’s residence, stood in for the Red Keep, where kings are murdered and brothers and sisters get way, way too close. Other island fortresses, notably Fort St. Angelo, Fort Ricasoli and Fort Manoel, provided the backdrop for other scenes in and around Westeros’ ruling city.


The Azure Window (Robert Pittman/Flickr Commons).

Daenerys Targaryen and her ill-fated brother Viserys, meanwhile, were supposed to be across the Narrow Sea in Pentos but in fact filmed their early scenes on another corner of the island. One of Malta’s most spectacular natural monuments, the limestone archway known as the Azure Window, loomed over Daenerys’ wedding to beefy horseman Khal Drogo. Maltese officials would later complain that the shoot damaged the protected habitat, which may have been one of the reasons why the GoT crew packed up and found a different location for the following seasons.

Croatia: King’s Landing (season 2 onward), Qarth


Dubrovnik (ELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP/Getty Images).

If King’s Landing suddenly acquired a lot more red tile roofs between seasons 1 and 2, it’s because it moved to Croatia’s walled city of Dubrovnik. Unlike Mdina, which is inland, Dubrovnik perches right on the coast — fairly important if your boy king’s deranged uncle is going to attack there by sea.


Minceta Tower (Romanceor/Wikimedia Commons).

Daenerys, by now widowed and mother to three dragons, hopped over to the idyllic island of Lokrum, opposite Dubrovnik, where the crew created much of the creepy city of Qarth. The House of The Undying, the site of the season finale, was the mainland’s real-life Minceta Tower. The palace gardens where Sansa has taken to moping in season 4, meanwhile, are the lush grounds of the Trsteno Arboretum, just up the coast from Dubrovnik.

Morocco: Yunkai, Astapor


Ait Benhaddou (Stefan de Vries/Flickr Commons).

The third season ventured to North Africa as the Khaleesi went on her travels in search of an army and those ever elusive ships. Producers selected two of Morocco’s most unique landscapes, Ait Benhaddou and Essaouira, to represent the fictional cities of Yunkai and Astapor respectively. Both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Ait Benhaddou for its red citadel on the foothills of the Atlas mountains, and Essaouira for its stone sea walls topped by bronze cannon. Ait Benhaddou has the added bonus of a nearby studio in the city of Ouarzazate, so popular is the area with directors (Laurence of ArabiaThe Last Temptation of ChristAlexander and Gladiator are among the many movies filmed there).


Essaouira (Mark Fischer/Flickr Commons).

It’s Essaouira’s turn as slave-trading Astapor, however, that remains most memorable to me at least, for reasons that anyone who’s seen the season 3 finale will immediately understand.

Iceland: Beyond the Wall


On the shores of Lake Mývatn (Juergen Adolph/Flickr Commons).

If Morocco’s red plains bring the fire to ‘Game of Thrones,’ Iceland brings, er, the ice. The show’s makers quite logically headed north to shoot the part of the story that unfolds at the northernmost tip of Westeros, preferring Iceland’s otherworldly landscapes to anything CGI could produce. Vatnajökull National Park and the Svínafellsjökull glacier, both in the southwest, were picked for season 2, while most of season 3’s ultra-Wall action was filmed on and around frozen Lake Mývatn further north, littered with clumps of black lava from the active volcanos that dot the region.


Thingvellir (Andreas Tille/Wikimedia Commons).

Season 4 moved on to Thingvellir National Park, a protected area of exceptional natural beauty and another UNESCO World Heritage site. Aptly enough for the Wildlings and their proto-democracy (sort of), Thingvellir’s plains are where Iceland’s parliament was first founded and continued to assemble, under the open sky, for almost nine centuries.

Northern Ireland, UK: Winterfell, Vaes Dothrak, Kings Road, Storm’s End, Castle Black, the Iron Islands…


The Dark Hedges of Armoy (horslips5/Flickr Commons).

Northern Ireland is to ‘Game of Thrones’ what New Zealand was to ‘Lord of the Rings.’ No other country has provided so many locations for the show, from the towers of Winterfell (Castle Ward) to the shore of the Iron Islands (Ballintoy Harbour), the rocky beach where the sorceress Melisandre gives birth (Cushendun Caves) to the interlacing beech trees of Kings Road (the Dark Hedges of Armoy). If you’re watching a scene set anywhere near woods, chances are it was filmed in Tollymore Forest. Entering or exiting Castle Black? That’ll be the vast outdoor set constructed in the disused limestone quarry of Magheramorne. And the number of interiors shot at the Paint Hall studio in Belfast — where the shipyard that built the Titanic has been turned into one of the biggest studio complexes in Europe — are too many to mention.


County Antrim coastline (Paolo Trabattoni/Flickr Commons).

So keen are the regional authorities to keep the crew filming there, in fact, that Northern Ireland’s national screen agency, economic development body and the European Regional Development Fund have between them stumped up the equivalent of $15.5 million in grantsto the show’s makers. In return, the Northern Irish government estimates that the productions has boosted the region’s struggling economy by some $109 million — not least by attracting globetrotting GoT fans to themed tours of filming locations and nerd-fest exhibitions of official memorabilia. Don’t tell anyone, but we sort of want to go.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/culture-lifestyle/entertainment/140429/seven-kingdoms-game-of-thrones-filming-locations

 

April 30, 2014 Posted by | Entertainment | | Leave a comment