Havana, Cuba

June 2018


Traveling to Cuba? Not a problem- as we had been told anyway.

We had no idea what we would find when we arrived in Cuba or how to get there for that matter.  There are so many negative stories circulating about traveling to Cuba as well as staying in Cuba unless you’re coming in on a cruise ship with the ship arranging everything for you therefore we had a few reservations about going yet we were far too curious not to take this trip.

We were told you had to contact the embassy to get a visa. You must have travel insurance. You are required to declare any currency that you bring into the country.  Plus, no credit cards would be accepted in Cuba, cash only. As it turns out all the things we heard about travel to Cuba were not exactly true with the exception of no credit cards being accepted, cash only.

As usual we elected to buy tickets and deal with whatever came our way as we went along.  At no point were we ask how much cash we were carrying much less having to show our currency. Contacting the Cuban Embassy was not necessary as they have a small Kiosk near the airline counter to walk up give them cash, (no cards accepted) and fill out a pink slip which we were never ask to show the entire trip. The cost of the Visa could be anywhere from $50 to $100 depending on the airline. We flew Delta and had to pay $100.  Another friend told me she only had to pay $50 flying Jet Blue.  The form we were asked to fill out for Visa asked for information on purpose of visit, we chose education. From what we understood before our travel you cannot travel to Cuba as a tourist yet we were never ask by anyone our reason for being there. At no time were we ever ask to buy or show proof of travel insurance.  We had been told the American dollar was not a good idea and the best way to go is changing to Euros at the airport, which is what we did. As it turns out that bit of information was true since the banks did not like the dollar. The Cuban currency is vey confusing for most everyone since they have two different ones the Cuc and the Cup, the Cuc being of more value. The confusion begins when you start to make a purchase using one and getting change back in the other. After 12 days there we still were not clear on their money and felt we were short changed while making purchases on many occasions.

Communicating with the outside world while staying in Cuba is very difficult as Internet is very limited. You are required to purchase a card choosing different amounts of money depending on the time you would like. Once you purchase the card you have to find an internet zone, usually a hotel or possibly a restaurant find yourself a corner to hang out, and log onto Wi-Fi on your phone, scratch the back of the card for the pass code and hope you are able to get on line once you enter the code. Most of the time we had to make several tries before being able to get online.  I ask one of the gentlemen who worked at the place where cards are sold why the Internet was difficult to get. He replied that the U.S. had blocked the signals for them. Whether that is true or not, I have no idea. Also the lines to buy Internet Cards were very long and tiring.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Havana has many interesting points, music, dancing, old cars, art and many lovely and friendly people. There’s also an abundance of Airbnb’s that are very affordable.

We were able to find a one-bedroom apartment for the low price of $18 per day. The apartment was adequately furnished comfortable, clean and private. Hotels in Havana have rates compared to the U.S. with some being even more expensive than in the U.S.

The apartment we rented was centrally located and we were able to walk to all the areas we wanted to see with the exception of the beach. Going to the beach was not a problem by Taxi, Coco Taxi, or perhaps one of the old cars that lined the streets giving rides and tours. The going rate for a one-hour tour in one of the old cars was 50  Cuc. One Cuc is equal to one American dollar. Once again try to exchange for Euros because Cubans do not like or respect the American dollar. Even though we had Euros we went straight to one of the banks to exchange for Cuban Pesos or Cucs.


As we walked through the streets of Havana the buildings told many stories, one of which was the wealth that existed in that country at one time only now we see many of the buildings being braced by makeshift wooden frames to keep them from falling down or caving in. I fear that many of these buildings will soon be lost.  Although the local people appear to be happy they seem to have no desire or incentive to do anything more than exist. I suppose that is typical of a Communist Country. I value the time we spent with these people seeing their way of life and experiencing just a tiny bit of what it would be like to be trapped there. To all the cruisers out there, you only see what they want you to see as they have one area for the cruise ships staged to look really good with live music to greet the people yet there is very little about the real day-to-day life.

Before traveling to Cuba I had heard many stories about dancing and music on every corner in Havana yet we saw very little of these festivities. The most dancing we saw while there were the dance lessons we had at La Casa del Son, one of the dance studios, along with a few bands playing at local restaurants. We enjoyed the dance lessons immensely getting the feel of the local dance along with a few moves I had never seen before. Apparently taking dance lessons in Havana is a very popular tourist attraction. We saw very few Americans there but many from other countries came for lessons and of course no locals taking lessons.

We signed up for a week of dance lessons for an hour a day and still had plenty of time in between for a walking tour visiting Art Museums, parks and taking a bus tour of the city. The bus tour was a big disappointment consisting of no more than a drive through the streets, a bit more than we had seen walking, yet nothing of interest. The tour guide narrating gave no information other than pointing out different hotels along the way. A taxi ride would have been far more interesting since you are able to have a one on one question and answer with your taxi driver as well as the driver being more willing to please to increase his tip. Actually the cost of the taxi would have been about the same as two tickets on a bus.


We had one last stop on our list before going home which was seeing one of the beaches other than what we had seen in and around Havana. Most all of the shore around Old Havana is filled with trash and debris and no beach to speak of yet we had heard they had beautiful beaches but did not realize we would have to travel 6 to 10 miles to get there. The owner of the apartment we rented had several recommendations of things to see and restaurants around town and recommended Tropi-Coco as one of the nicer beaches. Our choice of travel to get to Tropi-Coco was taxi or Coco Taxi. I chose the Coco Taxi thinking the open-air ride to the beach would be more enjoyable. I’m pretty sure Ched would have chosen the taxi looking for a less bumpy ride.  The beach was beautiful with clear blue water as far as you could see but the overcrowding of local people left it a little less desirable than it would have been otherwise. Perhaps on another day it would have been more enjoyable.

We booked our time in Havana for 12 days but both agreed one week would have been more than enough. Our curiosity with Cuba was satisfied leaving us happy we took the trip yet glad it was over.















Mexico, Yucatan Peninsula

March 2018


The Cancun and Cozumel area in Yucatan Peninsula was a favorite of mine in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I was able to spend a lot of time in this area exploring and came to know the area well. As with most everything, time has brought many changes in and around Cancun, Playa Del Carmen and Tulum. Rather than the beautiful peaceful place I remembered we found high-rise hotels, extremely crowded beaches and everything centered around nightlife. Another uncomfortable feeling was watching law enforcement making their presence known riding through the tourist zone on the back of pick-up trucks with high powered guns, finger on trigger, ready for any sign of crimes being committed. During our month there we heard several reports of shootings taking place many drug related and some involving tourist. The local gossip around the area lead us to believe the Mexican Cartel was attempting to move into that area.

This was Ched’s first trip to this part of Mexico so we were determined to have a look around before moving on. After checking around we found the local buses to be the best and most economical way of travel getting us into the downtown area for grocery shopping and then onto other nearby travel destinations. We took a bus into town from the hotel zone to the downtown bus station where we bought bus tickets to Tulum.

The Tulum area had changed so much that I hardly recognized it. We had a nice long walk from where we got off the bus down to the entrance of the ruins checking out several shops along the way. Much of the ruins had been roped off and not open to tourist to walk into and explore as it was in much earlier times. Today you are only allowed to walk by and take a few pictures. I had hoped to get another close up look at the images carved on the walls, which is no longer possible unless you’re there in a professional manner to study. As I remember those carvings told quiet a few stories.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Isla Mujeres a small island just a short boat ride off the coast of Cancun was highly recommended for beaches, snorkeling and a place to stay. There were two different ports that offered ferry rides to the island, which is the only way to get there. We caught a bus to Puerto Juarez and paid $18 each for round trip tickets. When we boarded the ferry to cross over we noticed many people were struggling with luggage apparently for their stay on the island. My tip would be if you have plans to stay in a hotel on the island, travel light.

The island was very beautiful with gorgeous inviting beaches of clear blue water. Shops, restaurants and hotels covered the rest of the small island and plenty of tourists to go with. We managed to find an open spot on the beach for a little sun time before heading up to one of the waterfront restaurants for a cold drink and a sample of Mexican food.

Walking through the streets on our way back to the ferry we were entertained with different musicians along the way and tourist, who had over indulged in the drink, driving rented golf carts through the crowded street barely missing a few pedestrians. We also saw a lady getting a fish pedicure from a sidewalk stand outside one of the stores. By look on her face it was hard to tell if she was enjoying it or getting ready to remove her feet from the tank and run.

Our day on Isla Mujeres was one of the more entertaining ones before moving on across the Yucatan.

Next stop Merida!

I had often heard about the beautiful old colonial city of Merida but neither Ched nor I had been there. We took a bus into town to the main bus station where we purchased a one-way ticket for about $20 per person for a four-hour bus ride to Merida. Ched did online research before we left finding the most centrally located hotels in the city in order for us to be able to walk to most of the places we wanted to see, art museums, historical buildings, churches, etc. Most of our trips are planned around walking which we prefer to most other methods of getting around town. I’m glad he enjoys the planning since I tend to be the one to hop on a plane and deal with what comes my way after I get there. He does make things a bit easier although I rarely admit it. LOL!

The night before leaving for Merida we booked a hotel online located in the center of the city. We were very pleased to be able to easily find the nice clean room waiting for us when we arrived shortly before check-in. There was still a little daylight left since our bus left early that morning so we wasted no time taking a walk through town to see what was around us before the next day to make the most of our time in Merida.

We were not disappointed with Merida finding most everything we had heard about this city to be true. It was a beautiful city and the people we met were very friendly. As planned we were able to walk to most everything we enjoy seeing and meeting a lot of friendly folks as well. The only thing we did not care for is that Merida is not on the coastline and we do enjoy the water.

We decided to make the most of our Mexican adventure and continue on across the Yucatan looking for another beach area hopefully with fewer tourists to spend the rest of our time. After looking online we found a very interesting place called Progreso Beach. We ask around town and found the distance from Merida to Progreso Beach to be about 28 miles. Also, someone recommended a taxi driver that would take us there for $30, a very man who also agreed to come back for us when we were ready to leave.

Coming into this small beach town gave a more comfortable feeling than when we arrived in Cancun earlier in that month. We realized right away that we would have no problem hanging out here for a while. After a couple of nights in the hotel we found another hotel down the beach with a very affordable weekly rate so we moved in and settled down. Just as we were getting comfortable and familiar with the area enjoying the peaceful atmosphere we got up one morning and saw the cruise ships out at the end of the long dock along with many locals setting up the beaches with umbrellas getting ready for the people from the ships. Soon the entire place filled with tourist looking much like the beaches we left in Cancun. We did not see that one coming. I suppose we should have checked before going but at that point there seemed to be no escape to the life of yesterday.

Unwilling to move on again we spent most of our time there at Progreso Beach avoiding ship days and looking for a few side trips to nearby places of interest. We met another nice Taxi driver who took us on a day trip to the Cenotes waiting while we toured and enjoyed swimming in the underground caves and then taking us back to our hotel.

The Cenotes were definitely a highlight to this trip. There are a few to choose from around Progreso but the ones we went to were about an hour’s drive away. We passed through a few villages and a lot of country side before reaching our destination. When we arrived, we seemed to be the only ones there. After paying an admission fee we were directed toward the horse drawn cart that would take us quiet a ways into a partially wooded area and onto the entrance of the Cenote. Before entering the Cenote you were directed to outside showers and required to shower before entering.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The entrance was like most caves I have visited before with the only difference being the wooden steps built in a scaffold type platform going down to the water. I’ve been in many caves before but never one with water like this for swimming. Looking around I suddenly realized we have the same thing in Florida, my home state, only we call them sink holes and either fill them in or warned to stay away from them.

There was only a couple of other people besides Ched and I in the cave and I was the only one getting ready to have a swim therefore I took a minute to get up the courage to go in the water. While I sat on the steps looking around me enjoying the beauty of the stalactites hanging from the ceiling with my feet and legs dangling into the cool water I saw a school of tiny fish coming up to me nibbling away at my feet just as I had see in Isla Mujeres with the woman paying $10 for a fish pedicure. That was definitely a first for me.

As we came back the same way we went down on the horse drawn cart several buses bringing tours from the cruise ships were lined up waiting for entrance. That was our lucky day! We had come early and were able to escape all the tourist for once on this trip.

March in Mexico was not bad but then again it was not so good either. Glad we went, wouldn’t go back!


December 2017


Nicaragua completes our year of travel. This time we tried something a little different than our normal trips by spending much of our time volunteering at La Esperanza, Granada, Nicaragua a learning center for children of all ages who come to learn English, Math and Art. Ched has a bit of advantage over most volunteers, including me, since he is retired from the school system in the US after 24 years of teaching. He has a Masters in Education and a Masters in Art, yet what we have experienced here is nothing like he has ever dealt with in his many years of teaching. He has a special ability to communicate with children that is very impressive, which really came in handy here. Very few of the volunteers who come here have any experience in teaching and only a few speak any Spanish.


We’ve seen so many of the children that are dedicated to learning English, the class we have been volunteering for, and they come every single day although they are not required to do so. I have to wonder how many children in the U.S. would make that same commitment without being required to. The poverty level here is horrific as we are reminded each and every time we make that 2- mile walk to school through congested, trash filled streets, fighting our way through the crowds of people at 7 in the morning. A typical day’s walk to school consist of dodging in and out of people pushing wooden carts with wooden wheels packed with fruits and vegetables dropping them off at roadside stands that offer them for sale. The majority of the time the streets are muddy with cars driving through pushing people out of the way as they go, honking their horns at people, bicycles, and animals, dogs and horses that are wondering about the streets. I have yet to see a pasture with horses but I have seen many horses wondering around freely feeding on any grass they are fortunate enough to find. Most of the homes here are small shed type buildings with tin roofs, some with dirt floors and some structures are nothing more than a stable with no walls only tin nailed together, yet you see families living there.

After passing the market area we see buses lined up going to Rivas another city about an hour south of Granada. Most people here, “the gringos”, refer to them as the “chicken buses” for obvious reasons. You can see most anything being transported on these buses along with the people including chickens. A bus ride to Rivas is offered for less than one US dollar. We also walk pass a Tortilla Stand with two young girls making and selling tortillas to people who pass by. As we pass the homes many of the children wave to us that we later see at school and many of them we never see at school.


The horse and wagon still play a big part in day-to-day life in Nicaragua. You rarely go out without seeing them being used along the streets for hauling everything from building supplies to fire wood to furniture. The most unique transportation still in use here today is the horse drawn hearse with glass all around displaying the person who has passed to spirit inside with white fabric draped along the glass. It’s common to see the funeral procession moving slowly down the street with the family walking behind hearse.


There are many grand old buildings in Granada, beautiful churches, hotels and scads of restaurants. One favorite place to visit is the Choco Museo. They teach you all about Cocoa, which grows all around this area, along with giving you many samples tempting you to either sit and have one of their delicious drinks or perhaps take some home. I opted for the Chocolate Mojito and Ched had one of the non-alcoholic drinks both of which were very tasty. Next door at the Coco Spa they offer facials with a cocoa base. I did not try the facial thinking that it seems a shame to waste all that delicious chocolate but the massages they also offer look very tempting.

Granada is quite beautiful despite all the poor living conditions. Central Park located in the city center is a gathering place for locals as well as a few tourist. It’s usually hard to find a seat on the many benches in the park where people come to enjoy the air. I would have to assume they come here since most of the places here do not have air-conditioning. One of the most important things I have noticed is that the local people seem to be happy with very little stress despite their living conditions. I suppose the statement I’ve heard so often in life applies here: “You don’t miss what you never had”.


The main street starting at Central Park and running all the way down to the lake is called Calle La Calzada although the locals call it “Calle Gringo”. The reason they call it Calle Gringo is because that is where all the tourist, as well as Ex-pats, gather at the outdoor cafe’s most every night. This street is very good for people watching if you’re into that sort of thing and I’ve been known to do a little people watching in my time. Many of the locals will come by to entertain you, everything from Musicians to Acrobats twirling fire sticks, not to mention many of the locals pass by the tables attempting to sell their wares to who ever may be sitting there. You will also see a few panhandlers, especially one woman with six children and one on the way who works the area every night, having her children work all the people for money or whatever they can get stopping at each and every table and refusing to leave until they get what they want. She can get pretty nasty if you refuse to contribute to her family fund. Apparently business is good because the children appear well fed and healthy. Another interesting point I observed was various different American or possibly Canadian men, elderly to say the least with very young Nicaraguan women or should I say “girls”. Many of these men look to be in their 80’s and the girls could be anywhere from their teens to late 20’s. I had to stop and say a little prayer for these girls realizing how desperate they must be to feed themselves or their families to accept a life such as this. I did pay close attention trying to recognize any U.S politicians or Hollywood Actors or Directors that may possibly be in the area. I have to report none seen at this time. LOL!

When we are not volunteering at the school we have been able to take a couple of side trips to some beautiful areas near Granada. One of my favorites was a boat trip to the islands located out in Granada Lake, Monkey Island, Rock Island, and San Pablo Fortress.

San Juan Del Sur on the Pacific Coast was another weekend trip. The area was beautiful with a lot of Expats living there and a few bars and restaurants where most of them spent time, one popular place was Big Wave Daves.



Our time has come to an end in Granada, celebrating the last day of school with a Christmas Party for the children. Just as the rest of the Christmas Celebrations we have observed while being here the party was quite unusual. About 100 children stood in line in the rain outside La Esperanza waiting to get in as the party started much later than the time they had been told. Once the gate opened the room filled quickly and the sounds of the children talking and laughing were out of control. The people who were in charge were all natives with a little help from the volunteers. As I stood there looking around the room and wondering what they may have planned for activities or games for the children, (as we would expect back home), I noticed one of the women in charge walking about the room with a balloon stuffed inside her shirt looking as if she was about to give birth. At first I thought she was making a joke but she never took the balloon out of her shirt. Then I noticed four giant speakers that had been brought in and another one of the guys with a computer selecting music to play. I thought this to be a bit odd since we had been told for the entire time we were there no Wi-Fi was available. Suddenly the music started and was turned up so loud you could hear for blocks away. The DJ stopped the music and the girl with the balloon in her shirt stepped to the center of the room asking for children to come up and enter a dance contest that was about to begin. Several children that appeared to be 9 to 10 years old stepped up to enter the contest. The music started with Salsa and a variety of other music and the dance began. We were in total shock to see children of this age, or any age for that matter, bumping, grinding, and doing the bootie shake that I have seen in a few late night clubs back home. The girls were rubbing up against the boys and the boys rubbing up against the girls. At the end of the dance they ask the rest of the children to judge the winner with applause of hands. After announcing the winner this group sat down and another group of much younger children got up to dance performing the same moves. This time there were 5 and 6 year olds. We go to the Latin Socials often back home and have seen some hot steamy moments on the dance floor but never have we seen anything like this. I have to wonder is this the culture here?


At the end of the dance contest the girl who had been walking around with the balloon in her shirt since the beginning of the party started to move about the room moaning and groaning and producing an odd scream turning her back to the crowd of children she popped the balloon under her shirt then turned around again holding up a baby doll shouting “Praise Jesus”. A few of the male volunteers started to march around the room toward her carrying flowers and other gifts. Not until that time did we realize she was attempting to reenact the birth of Jesus.


Although the party was not over for the children it was for us. We said our goodbyes and walked our two miles back to La Casita soon to be on our way back home to the States.




After leaving Brasov, Romania, we decided to catch the train and make our way back to Macedonia, stopping briefly in Sofia, Bulgaria. This is such an interesting city, I regret that we only allowed one day to have a look around.

When we got off the train in Sofia, there were a few good hotels within a short walking distance. We arrived in the night, yet had no problem getting a room at a nice hotel with a reasonable rate. We spent the next day on a walking tour of the city, also taking the subway which was also located a short distance from the hotel and train station.


As we walked through the streets we were very impressed at how clean and well kept the city is. One of the buildings we passed had armed guards resembling the guards at Buckingham Palace in London. Since the language is not one we understand, we could only assume it was a government building of some kind.


The first stop was a brief stroll through the Pagan Museum, checking out the artifacts used in rituals so many years ago. Many of the things on display were not that different than some of the things used in rituals of the Catholic Religion. Apparently, freedom of religion is alive and well in this part of the world, considering we have seen evidence of at least 5 different religions with Christianity and Muslim being the most practiced in the area.


Our next stop was at the National Art Museum located in beautiful Battenberg Square. This museum was quite interesting so we spent at least a couple of hours or more walking through. The gallery has a unique collection with arts of distant lands as well as not so distant. So many of the things we saw on display were taken from Macedonia, a neighboring country to Bulgaria. Ched is from Macedonia and was very confused as to how Bulgaria ended up with so many artifacts that came from his country. One would have to believe that such treasures would not leave the country from which they originated.



This was our last stop in Bulgaria. Time to catch the bus back to Skopje, Macedonia for a few more days before flying back home.




Brasov, Transylvania, Romania

     Our Romanian adventure started in Bucharest, the capitol of Romania. I will have to say, that I was not impressed with Bucharest and did not find the area interesting enough to spend much time in. Before we arrived, we read warnings about the area having high crime, among other problems. One warning had stated there were packs of wild dogs in the area and not to go out without dog biscuits. We saw no crime and never needed those dog biscuits during our time in Bucharest, even though we did do a lot of walking and riding of subways, and trolleys. The people in this area were not especially friendly and most of the taxi drivers were very rude but no incidents occurred to make us feel threatened. On my next trip to Europe, maybe I will take a closer look at Bucharest. There must have been something of interest that we missed.

     We took a train from Bucharest to Brasov, about a three-hour train ride costing about 24 lei/Ron per person or $7 US.  Love those trains. They were a little rustic in this area but we found them to be much more comfortable than the bus. Our hotel was only a short distance from the train station. With the help of a young Romanian girl we found the correct bus that would drop us closest to the hotel. The only disadvantage in getting to the hotel, was its location, high up on the side of the mountain, leaving us with a walk up a steep incline, while pulling bags through small one-way streets.


     Brasov is a small medieval town nestled at the base of the Carpathian Mountains. We found it to be one of the cleanest, well kept cities that we visited on this trip. The city square was where most everyone ends up who comes to Brasov. Also, Black Church is just to the side of the square, one of the oldest churches built in the 1400’s and the most interesting church I have ever had the pleasure to visit. The area is also filled with shops, restaurants and street entertainment.

     We went to Romania especially to visit Dracula’s Castle, which is located in Bran about 15 miles away from Brasov, a 45-minute bus ride.  While making plans to visit the castle we found brochures everywhere – even in Bucharest, offering trips to Dracula’s Castle along with other castles in the area. The cost ranged widely- anywhere from 45 euros to around 200 euros depending on the stops you choose. The trip was a group tour of around 12 to 15 people. After asking around we found out from the local people that the same locations offered by the tour companies could be reached by bus costing no more than $6.00 per person. That was exactly what we were looking for. There are buses that run all day back and forth to Brasov.  We wanted to be on our own, take time to explore the area and come back when we were ready.

     Bran is a very small community located at the base of the mountains just below the Bran Castle aka Dracula’s Castle. After hearing so much about Dracula’s Castle, I could not wait to go there for a visit. As a matter of fact, we went out of our way just to visit that area where the castle is located. As we walked up the trail towards it, I  appreciated its beauty, but somehow I did not feel the energy I thought I would feel when we got there.  It soon became apparent to me why I was having those feelings.


     While listening to the locals talk about the castle’s history, they rarely mentioned Dracula. Dracula’s Castle is highly advertised worldwide as the home of Dracula, the character in the novel based on Bram Stoker aka Prince of Darkness.  Bram had a history of inviting large groups of people to dinner, only to end the evening with slaughtering everyone who came.  According to our tour guide, he would then impale many of the dinner guests and display them in front of his home for everyone to see. It appears his actions were against Muslims for the most part, as a defender of the Christian faith.

     As far as the blood-sucking vampire stories we’ve all heard, none of those are true. The only blood consumed by Dracula was when he had just killed someone and sat down to dinner, using their fresh blood as dipping sauce for his bread.


     It appears that the family of Queen Maria, Princess Ileana, now owns the castle, advertising it as “Dracula’s Castle.”  This is misleading to say the least.  Had this been the castle where those incidents actually occurred, the tour through Dracula’s Castle would have been much more interesting. But in reality, the castle of course was never occupied by Dracula and definitely not owned by Dracula or his family.

     The castle is furnished with furniture that once belonged to Queen Maria. Although it is very beautiful, I have serious doubts that all of the people who visit the castle would do so had they known they were only going to see the furnishings of Queen Maria.


Venice, Italy

Venice is one of the most beautiful cities we have visited thus far. However, the overcrowding of people, along with the debris they leave behind tends to take away from its beauty.

The first day we arrived in Venice, the crowds of people made it difficult to walk on the streets. It wasn’t until two days later that we realized the Film Festival was being held there on August 30th, also a Regatta Race was in the area as well. From what I understand, on a typical day Venice has around 30,000+ visitors. They have already limited the number of cruise ships they allow to come to the city in order to control the over-crowding.  We found hotels and restaurants to be extremely high priced.  Perhaps this is also a way of controlling the number of visitors.

If you’re planning a trip to Venice make sure you pay close attention to transportation, especially at the airport. Marco Polo Airport is the closest to Venice.  Treviso Airport is the furthest away. You may get a better rate from the Treviso Airport but you will pay more in the end because of the distance into the city. A taxi from Treviso Airport into the Venice or Mestre area is around $100/84 euros. A taxi from the Marco Polo Airport is $30/25 euros. The number 45 bus, which runs 24/7 from the airport, will take you to the same places for $9.50/8 euros. The currency in this area is only euros. Another interesting point is the ride from the airport to the Mestre area is only 2 to 3 miles, a bit pricey compared to what we are accustomed to.

We stayed in the Mestre area to avoid the high priced hotels and crowds of people, not to mention the only way to get to most hotels is by water taxi, which could be a little tricky if you travel with alot of luggage. The Mestre area is a smaller community with lovely people, plenty of small shops, markets and a few small restaurants. My favorite was The Wine Shop with a great variety of homemade wines. I was able to take my 2-liter water bottle that I had emptied the night before, and get it filled with Malbec, a red wine that was some of the best I have ever had.

No problem walking on those streets!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We booked our hotel online through Hotwire getting The Hotel Ducale; nice hotel but very small room. The hotel staff was very friendly, helpful and spoke English. Everything at the hotel was very convenient – – from being able to purchase bus tickets at the hotel to service of complimentary breakfast each morning. Transportation into the Venice downtown area from Mestre is normally by bus or train, with the train taking a little longer but offering the same price of 1.50 euros per person and is only a 15 minute ride. If I made a return trip, I would definitely go back to this area, very pleasant.

Hotel Ducale – Mestre area

Walking around Venice was a little more pleasant after some of the events were over, although it was still crowded. We purchased tickets for the water bus taking us on a 25 minute ride through the canals to visit the San Marco area. San Marco, which seemed to be the most popular area of all was flooded with people. Ched remarked on all the changes that had taken place since he was there around 40 years ago. He remembered feeding masses of pigeons in the square. Today, there is no room for pigeons and difficult to walk freely through the street.

Boat to San Marco

20170901_165925 (1)

This was my first visit to Venice, seeing the beautiful old buildings and churches, walking through the maze of streets, trying to find our way back, stopping to ask directions along the way while enjoying the beauty of canals flowing in all directions. While walking the streets, we passed a floating vegetable market.  There was also a garbage boat collecting garbage, making its way through the canal just as a garbage truck would drive down the streets at home. I had to wonder what it would be like to live there, having to travel by boat to get out of the city or go to work or go shopping every day. We also saw two men-moving furniture on to a large boat; moving day for someone.

20170901_160052 (1)
Floating Market


20170831_145138 (1)20170901_165925 (1)20170901_17003420170901_15294420170902_20203620170831_13303220170901_174040

All of the activity taking place along those streets and waterways was very interesting since the only way I had seen Venice was through the movies or television.  In my mind, it was all men, dressed in striped shirts, black pants and straw like hats giving rides to people while standing on the back of Gondolas, rowing down canals. There are definitely some of those, but I never realized they had to share those waterways with all the rest of the residents.

Venice is a town everyone should see at least once!

Next stop…Romania!

Edipsos, Evia Island, Greece

Evia 1

Evia Island is an island located off the north shore of Greece.  I had never heard of this island until the day before we bought our bus tickets to go there.  We knew we were not ready to leave Greece yet, but we wanted very much to leave Athens.

We realized that some of the highly advertised islands in the area, although beautiful, could be overpopulated and just as pricey as Athens; therefore, we would need to choose wisely.

About ten years ago, I became acquainted with nature’s hot springs.  I’ve enjoyed several throughout the US and many other countries.  I got hooked the first time I was able to soak my sore bones in the hot, soothing mineral water that bubbled up from the ground. Having heard that some of the islands surrounding Greece have these hot springs, I decided to base my search on that; hence, I found Evia Island.


After a bus ride of less than a hundred miles, which was continued by Ferry, we reached our destination in a little more than 3 hours.  Once we arrived at the ferry, everyone was asked to get off the bus.   Each passenger was required to buy a ticket to cross over to the island; a trip that took around an hour.  No one spoke English and we were not sure what to expect, so we just followed the crowd. We were surprised to find that Edipsos was located at the exact place we were getting off the boat.


The location of the hotel could not have been better:   a short walk from the bus station, a market right around the corner, a block up from the beach and a 10 minute walk to the thermal baths (a/k/a hot springs). The hotel, Dafni Studios, is an older building but very well kept, with marble floors, a tiny little elevator and a balcony overlooking the street lined with restaurants and shops.  At $30 a night we felt it was a steal. This price is common for most of the hotels in the area, which was surprising after what we had just left in Athens, not to mention this is a beautiful little island town.


After getting settled we were off to find the main attraction that had brought us to this island. The search for the hot springs was not difficult since all you need to do is follow the old folks walking down the street in their swimsuits, carrying beach bags, with a towel thrown over their shoulder.  It was very apparent that we had found a favorite hide-a-way for old guys, although not all were in that age bracket.

Since there is no time limit on going to the thermals, we could not wait to check out the water and decided to go back around 7:30 that evening.  Many people had the same idea and were laying around on the tops of rocks in pools of hot mineral water.  This was the highlight of our time spent in Evia Island.



Nights in Evia Island are also a big event. Every night, the street around the bay front is closed to traffic. A large variety of vendors set up, selling just about anything you could imagine.  Musicians, puppet shows, games, carnival type shows, different kinds of food, etc. were all along the streets on both sides, making a walk through the area a bit challenging as well as entertaining.  The first night we came across this event I thought they were having a special celebration, but after asking around I found out this happens every night. Each night we were there we would go down to check it out and found that every night the streets were just as crowded as the night before.

We enjoyed our stay on this little island but nothing lasts forever…

Next stop, Venice, Italy.