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Thursday Doors: The Medici Family

A Medici Door, Florence, Italy

A Medici Door, Florence, Italy

Here we are in Italy, this time in Florence, seeing fantastic doors!

A Medici Door, Florence, Italy

A Medici Door, Florence, Italy

The Medici Family was an Italian banking family, and political dynasty that produced three Popes of the Catholic Church, and two Queens of France. The family ruled Tuscany from 1513 until 1737. We find their symbols,(balls) first displayed on their crest, then prominently displayed on buildings all over Florence and Tuscany, which were financed by Medici money. Some say the balls represented coins, others say medicinal pills that recalled the family’s origins as doctors or apothecaries. This door represents everything that the Medici family represented: the Popes, the Queens, The Dynasty! Balls, balls, and more balls!

A Medici Door, Florence, Italy

A Medici Ball, Florence, Italy

Here is another interesting door! This one can be found at one of the churches sponsored by the Medici family. Do you know what this door was used for? The poor would knock on the door and receive scraps of food!

A Medici Door, Florence, Italy

A Medici Door, Florence, Italy

A Medici Door at the Duomo, Florence, Italy

A Medici Door at the Duomo, Florence, Italy

A Medici Door, Florence, Italy

A Medici Door, Florence, Italy

A Medici Door, Florence, Italy

A Medici Door, Florence, Italy

I hope you have enjoyed our walk through Florence today seeing some of the Medici Doors! If you go to Tuscany be on the lookout for them!

This is just one of many photos in the Thursday Door Collection featured by Norm2.0!   Won’t you join in or take a peak at all the doors? See you next week!

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Converge

Converge; to come together and meet. The statues are meeting up to see all the cars converging into Florence, Italy! Where are they all going?

Are We there Yet?

Are We There Yet?

Traipsing Through Tuscany- Florence and San Gimignano

Palazzo Vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio

Sculpture

Rooftop Sculpture in Florenc

Tte Window of the World

The Window of the World

Thinking about our visit to Florence I can’t get over all the beautiful art we have seen in the Uffizi Gallery, the Pitti Palace, the Duomo Museum and the Accademia. I was especially excited over the artwork of Artemisia Gentileschi, (1593-1653) that SB pointed out to me in the Uffizi Gallery ( Judith Beheading Holofernes) and the Pitti Palace (The Conversion of Magdalena, Judith and Her Maidservant and David and Bathsheba). I first read about Artemisia Gentileschi in a book called, The Passion of Artemisia: a Novel, by Susan Vreeland. Delving into the themes of art, history and the lives of women, this is is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Gentileschi painted many pictures of strong and suffering women from myth and the Bible. Her works include victims, suicides, warriors and especially, the Judith story. When you read the book and then see her paintings, her real life and her paintings intertwine and give you perspective of the times and how this woman lived and painted, and why she did so. Even her style of painting called chiaroscuro, which represents a strong contrast between light and dark, gives us a glimpse of her life.

One of Gentileschi’s works, David and Bathsheba, completed in 1635, had been found after centuries of deterioration, in a storage deposit area of the Pitti Palace, revealing decay, color flaking, due to improper storage conditions, and humidity damage. The re-evaluation of the Gentileschi’s courageous life and works were brought into focus with the attention of the Florence Committee of National Museum of Women in the Arts, who decided to fund the restoration of David and Bathsheba. Today, Gentileschi is regarded as the most progressive and expressionist painters of her generation.

Thinking of that book, brought to mind another book, called The Birth of Venus, by Sarah Dunant. This historical novel of Florence is a story of love, art, religion and power  as told by Allessandra Cecchi when her father brings a young painter to paint the chapel walls of the family’s pallazzo. This story is told while Florence is caught in a state of turmoil imposed by the fundamentalist monk Savonarola, who is seizing religious and political control and the Medici State, with it’s love of luxury, learning and art. On our walking tours of Florence we learned a great deal about the Medici family and Savonarola.  Recalling that book, brought to mind The Lord’s Supper, painted on the wall of the Santa Maria della Grazie Church in Milan, which I have been lucky enough to see.

I was curious to learn how all this beautiful artwork was saved during WWII. Now, I am currently reading, Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis, by Robert Edsel. In particular I am interested in, General Karl Wolff, a German officer, who risked his life to save the collections of the Uffizi Gallery and the Pitti Palace. Robert Edsel also wrote, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and  the  Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, now made into a motion picture of the name, The Monuments Men.

San Gimignano, twenty-five miles south of Florence, will be our first stop on our way to Montepulciano, where we will be making our home base for our Tuscany visit.

The parking lot outside the main gate, Porta San Giovanni, was very busy as we approached.  The village itself is pedestrian only. Getting in the car parking queue we had to wait for a car to come out before we could go in and take the spot. One in, one out.  San Gimignano gives you a glimpse of a real Italian countryside experience, but with just enough shops and restaurants added to make it interesting for tourists.  The towers are restored replicas of the original, but they look authentic.

San Gimignano is a small, walled, medieval hill town with fourteen towers of various heights, replicated of the original seventy-two. Before the walls were developed around the town, these towers were a refuge, when ruffians and rival city states were sacking the town.  If under attack, the tower owners would set fire to the external wooden staircase, leaving the sole entrance to the house and it’s strongholds, unreachable. Today you can see all these tiny slit entrances way up on the second story of the towers, minus stairs to get to them. Also, notice that the buildings are made of different colored stones and brick. Heavy stones were used for the bottom floors and lighter cheaper bricks for the upper floors. In the year 1300, about 13,000 people lived within the walls. In 1348, a six-month plague left the town with 4,000 survivors. Crushed and demoralized, the town came under Florence’s rule and was forced to tear down it’s towers, and the trade route was re-directed away from San Gimignano. The town never recovered and poverty drove the well-preserved city to be as it is today.

Our walk takes us through the Porta San Giovanni up to the Piazza del Duomo, and the church itself, which features Sienese Gothic art_ Old Testament to the left___New Testament to the right. Further up the hill is the is Sant’Agostino Church, built by the Augustinians, who arrived in 1260. Here there are English speaking friars, who are happy to tell you about the church and their way of life. We stop and have lunch at the Locanda di Sant’Agostino, right next door to the church on a beautiful small piazza. The restaurant serves typical Tuscan home cooked meals, which would be paninos, pizza, pasta and insalatas, served with a local fruity white wine.   Walking back down the hill, along the ramparts, there are superb views of the Tuscan countryside. Soon we are inside the Rocca, originally another walled defense area, now a small walled garden of olive trees, where a group of men are singing and playing instruments. I loved our time in San Gimignano, but it is time to move on to Montepulciano. For more interesting history and scenes of Sam Gimignano, view the movie, Tea With Mussolini, a 1999 drama of the plight of American and English expatriate women during WWII. Most of the scenes are of Florence and San Gimignano, where the movie was filmed. In particular it reveals the artworks inside the Duomo of San Gimignano and how the women came to be there and tried to save the art. For more readings about the war and art see my  blog postings on Milan,  https://cadyluckleedy.com/2014/02/14/one-day-in-milan/ and the War in Val  D’ Orcia, https://cadyluckleedy.com/2013/04/11/war-in-val-d-orcia near Montepulciano. See you next in Montepulciano!

TTT, Traipsing Through Tuscany

Today starts a new Series in Italy, called TTT, Traipsing Through Tuscany.  Traipsing through the hill towns to be exact. Getting off the beaten track has been some of our best excursions! A bit of advice, we flew into Florence where we took a cab into the city. So we will begin in Florence. After spending a week here we went back to the airport and got a rental car to drive on through Tuscany and the hill towns.  We spent  a week in Montepulciano. As a home base it was perfect.  We explored surrounding hill towns, always coming back to Montepulciano in the evenings, and then we drove on to Rome. We dropped the car off at the Rome Airport and took a cab into Rome, where we stayed another week.  Much easier!  You could not pay me enough to drive in the bigger cities and spend a great deal of time just looking for a place to park.  There aren’t any parking spaces to be found! Save yourself the headache!

Florence, by far is my favorite biggish city in Italy.  It is easily walkable, with museums, restaurants and shopping galore. If museums are not your thing, there is plenty of beautiful outdoor art such as sculptures, icons, buildings, bridges and churches to keep you interested. One of the rituals, near our hotel, was a woman artist who sketched daily with colored chalk on the pedestrian-only street. This was truly a street scene because her sketching would cover a large section of ground. She would work on it all day. It was beautiful!  Very early the next morning between 4am and 5am the street cleaners would come through with their brushing machines and  brooms and wash it all away. Around ten in the morning she would start again with a new scene. Unbelievable!

To see the highlights of Florence we took walking tours that also included the museums. We tried for months to get tickets for the major museums and there were none to be had online. They were available through tour groups. In the end it worked out well because we never had to stand in line to get in the museums, and there were long, long lines. The downside is WE could have spent more time IN the museums, hours and hours. The tour group went to the major and most appealing exhibits, and that would be fine for most. The four tours we took were offered by Art Viva. They were the Original Florence Walk, the Masterpieces of the Uffizi Gallery Tour, and the Original David Tour.   These walks are long, at least three hours each with additional time added for the museums! Wear comfortable shoes! The English speaking walk leaders are very knowledgable, and we stopped occasionally for a cuppa, (wine, coffee, tea) always at good locations for people watching! We took three tours in one day and I was pooped, but from then on we knew where everything was and went back to the areas we wanted to spend more time in on other days.  On another evening we took the Original Evening Walk in Oltrarno, which included a wine and olive oil tasting!  We had a wonderful time on these walks and there are many to choose from!

On this visit we stayed at the Hotel Davanzati, a small boutique hotel located near the Uffitzi Gallery and right across the street from where the Original Florence Walk started each morning. This was good because we didn’t have to walk a great deal before we started the walk. Entering a doorway in the historical area there are a number of stairs to climb to reach a tiny elevator that takes you to the reception area and then to the upper room floors of the Davanzati Hotel.  The owner and his son were there everyday to recommend restaurants and sights to see, provide maps and answer any questions we had.   The breakfasts and late afternoon wine/happy hour gatherings were a big hit. The rooms were tastefully decorated and immaculate. After a lovely week in Florence we were in a rental car and on our way to Montepulciano, to get a taste of the countryside, the hill towns, and the slower pace of Italian life. See you in San Gimignano!

 

For more information about Hotel Davanzati see: http://www.hoteldavanzati.it

For more information about the Art Viva walking Tours see: http://www.italy.artviva.com

Florence

From the Rooftop of Antica Torre

From the Rooftop of Antica Torre

Florence is my favorite city in Italy, bar none. Due to my harried arrival I was ready for a glass of wine on the roof top garden of Antica Torre.  You can see the entire city from here and it is spectacular! There is an indoor garden and an outdoor garden with plenty of snacks and drinks and a friendly staff. After our welcome wine we ventured out into the nearby street to the Trattoria Carrozze.

Trattoria Carrozze

Trattoria Carrozze

It was still raining cats and dogs so we followed suit at the restaurant and placed our umbrella at the door with the other odd forty of them.  That is what you do with your umbrella in Italy, leave them at the door in the stands for them.  I always leave with my own umbrella too.  Miracles do happen.  The penguin-dressed waiter led us to a table by the window of the rustic feeling establishment to dine on pasta and more wine.  It was just like an old 40’s black and white movie, watching people hurry by on the cobblestone walkways, umbrellas open in the light hazy drizzle.  After our dinner we strolled through the narrow passageways to Piazza della Signoria and the Rivoire Cafe.

Piazza della Signoria

Piazza della Signoria

This is my favorite cafe in THE WORLD for hot chocolate.  Thick, thick, thick and chocolaty, chocolaty, chocolaty, with another great spot for people watching! If it hadn’t been drizzling we would have taken a table right on the Piazza.  Inside the cafe people were buzzing like bees!  While we waited for someone to leave, so we could take their seats, I eyed the counters of desserts.  It all looked so yummy!  Following another stroll to the Duomo we returned to the hotel to settle in for the night.  I needed plenty of rest for the four train excursion the next day to the Cinque Terre!

The Duomo

The Duomo

A Classic Italian Room at Antica Torre

A Classic Italian Room at Antica Torre

The Italian Look

The Italian Look

Rooftop View

Rooftop View

Rooftop View

Rooftop View

Rooftop View

Rooftop View

For information on Antica Torre see: http://www.tornabuoni1.com

For information on Trattoria Carrozze see TripAdvisor.

For information on Rivoire see TripAdvisor.

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On To Florence!

Ok, my blog is going to start with a Pop Quiz.

I have not written to you in two weeks because:

a) I had such a good time in Italy, it has taken me two weeks to get back into the grove.

b) I know it is summer and you are all doing fun things, besides reading my blog, so I gave you a few weeks to catch up on all the doings.

c) I decided to clean out my garage to make room for a new Italian sports car.

d) All the above

So now that we have the Pop Quiz done lets move on to Florence!  I love Florence!  It still is my favorite city in Italy, but sad to say I only spent one night in this beautiful city this time because I had more on my plate.

Even the signs are romantic!

Even the Signs are Romantic!

Roof Top View of Florence

Roof Top View of Florence

Roof Top Duomo, Florence, Italy

Roof Top Duomo, Florence, Italy

First of all, we need to discuss the madness at the train stations these days. When I arrived and left Montepulciano I used the firm of Private Driver Services with Emanuele. Emanuele was prompt, curteous, and drove a spotless Mercedes station wagon. On my last day in Montepulciano he picked me up in Montepulciano, drove the 30-minute ride to Chiusi, carried by bags into the station, down the stairs, up the stairs and told me to wait at the proper train line.  What a guy!  This was nothing like the treatment I had in Rome.  In Rome a train attendant (I thought) came to me, picked up my bag and walked me to the proper train line for my departure and then said, “That will be 15 Euro.” I was a little taken back, I thought he was a kind train attendant helping me. (Like in Prague in an earlier posting) I gave him a twenty and asked for change and he looked me in the eye and said, “No,” and walked off.  Well, that taught me a lesson.

When the train arrived in Chiusi, a man, who was also boarding the train picked up my bags and hoisted them onto the train.  I had stewed over this because even though I had mailed home boxes of goodies and my books, I wasn’t sure I could heft the bags on the train in the few minutes allowed to heft. As it turned out this man, his wife and friends were also my booth mates on the train.  They were from Australia and we had the best time talking and we all hit it off immediatley.  We talked all the way to Florence and discovered we would all be heading to Cinque Terre in a few days and I hoped we would meet up there again.IMG_0164

As we approached Firenze Rifredi Train Station, it was raining Gucchi cats and dogs and there was no shelter where the train stopped so it was every man for himself in the pouring rain. I lumbered along with my two stacked bags and when I reached the station a young man hoisted my bags and took off down the stairs, up the stairs and around the bend of the train station with me struggling to keep up with him. When I got there he said, “Thirty euros.” What?????  Well, I looked him in the eye and said, “No.” He looked so surprised.  I gave him 5 euro.

I went to the Taxi Stand and to no surprise there were no taxis available. So I waited.  Then I crossed the street and waited at that taxi stand. Still no taxis.  I thought it odd there would be no taxis available, but then it was pouring so I thought everyone was wanting a taxi and there would be a wait. As I waited, I watched.  When a taxi did pull up my friend, the exorbitant bag carrier, would hail the taxi, talk to the driver and then place hand picked travelers into the taxi.  Every taxi that pulled in had the same routine.  The taxi did not stop at the taxi stand just looked for the bag carrier and took his travelers.  Hmmmm…..  Then an anxious looking visiting priest came up to me and asked if I had called for the taxi.  What?  He said I had to call for a taxi to come to this station and the bag handler had offered to do it for him for 50 euro.  What????   How much had I given him?

I was sure I would never get a taxi now.  So the priest, who had called for a taxi and I along with three more priests stood and watched as every cab that came was hailed to the “Bag Handler” as I now referred to him. I was nervous about being left alone at this station so asked the priest if I could ride with them if we ever got a cab. We stood for over an hour and watched this procession with the priest going up to each taxi and stating that he indeed had called for a taxi, but the taxi driver looked nervous and only followed the orders of the “Bag Handler.”  My phone had no signal here at all.  So I looked the Father in the eyes and said, “Father, we are going to have to be ruthless, they have a scam going on here, so follow my lead.”  When the next station wagon taxi pulled in I ran to it and flung open the door and threw in my smallest bag.  All the priests followed suit. The “Bag Handler” came to the taxi and I gave him a piece of my mind, something on the order of treating priests like this and so on.  I was furious. The taxi driver got out and opened the hatchback allowing the priests to load our bags all the while the “Bag Handler” read the taxi driver the riot act.  We had all squeezed into the taxi when another taxi pulled up.  Our taxi driver looked so relieved, but told us we had to get out and take the other taxi since he was not supposed to be taking travelers.  So one priest went to confirm this with the woman taxi driver, who was very helpful and said yes she had been called to pick us up. We then transferred all our luggage to her big Mercedes station wagon and after one last dirty look at the “Bag Handler” we were off.  I  told her we were going to different locations, and she said no problem.  We proceeded to City Center Florence chatting in Italian and English while she waved at all the other female taxi drivers and I tried to cool down.  She said Firenze Rifredi Train Station was not the main terminal so most of the taxis would be waiting at Florence Maria Novella Station, the station the priests had failed to get off at.  They will never make that mistake again!  I had no excuse my train was destined for Firenze Rifredi. As we passed Maria Novella we saw a long line of taxis there, the real taxis. We were told most taxis wanted the easy pick up fees of Maria Novella while the out-lying stations were manned by the “Bag Handler,” with him receiving a cut along with his mob of drivers.  Over three hours later I arrived at Antica Torre Di Via Tornbuoni Hotel, where my husband was frantically waiting for me, since I was late and had not answered his telephone calls.  I paid for the cab for myself and the priests and waved goodbye to them. I needed a drink! On to the Rooftop terrace of Antica Torrei Di Via Tornbuoni!

Rooftop View of Florence

Rooftop View of Florence from the Hotel

For a great car service while visiting Montepulciano I suggest: Tuscany Transfer Service (Emanuele) http://www.tuscanytransfer.it

My Take on Magnificent Corpses

Duomo Florence Italy

Duomo Florence Italy

The Duomo, Milan, Italy

The Duomo, Milan, Italy

The Duomo, Milan, Italy

The Duomo, Milan, Italy

I find myself drawn to historical books (and some not so historical) about saints, pilgrimages, the Medici clan, Leonardo da Vinci and the Catholic Church. All throughout Italy there are beautiful small churches, grand duomos, magnificent basilicas, filled with beautiful earth shattering art and sculptures. When I was in high school I had to take an art appreciation class as a freshman and I hated it. Pictures in a book. However, when I went to Italy and saw the real McCoy I wanted to know more.  Who were the painters, the sculptors, the saints?  What did it all mean? In the churches I had known,  there might be a small cross, maybe a statue of Mary, or stained glass windows of Jesus as a shepherd with baby lambs. Church buildings looked to be a gymnasium. You get the picture. The Italian church soared into an azure sky, the pink marble glistened in the sun, the saints peered down at you.  In Italy the fresco scenes were filled with gnashing of bodies or cherub angels floating across an Italian landscape.  Sometimes both in the same scene. The detail and brilliance of color and depth in the scenes of people in deep distress or in a trance beyond words was captivating. There were armored men going on crusade urging their followers forward. A woman standing steadfast while  holding  the bloody head of a man in her gnarly strong hand.  The  man  triumphant over the defeated slain dragon. The pictures became real.  The pictures told stories.  You didn’t even have to know the story, you got the message. No matter what language you spoke, words weren’t necessary.  The frescoes and paintings said it all. Passion.  Faith.

The Duomo, Milan, Italy

The Duomo, Milan, Italy

And I wanted to know more about those bones.  Those pieces of bodies and what they were there for.  I think the first relic (term for holy bits and pieces of people or their clothing) I remember and payed any attention to, was inside a tiny glass window lit up in an alcove in a small exit way leaving a church. It was a hand.  I thought well that is odd and went up closer to take a better look.  It was a real shriveled up cut off hand.  I wasn’t sure what to do. I looked around me. Do you act like you didn’t see it?  Ho hum that’s nice. Do you drop to your knees and pray?  Why was that there? I was taken back.  I had to know more. So I decided to read up on it. Hence, I started reading that………

During the early years of the church, the body parts of holy people were highly prized and sought after for their healing powers, and brought fame and followers to any church that presented these body parts or even the clothing these people wore. Remember the man touching Jesus’  clothing and being healed?  So rich patrons and crusaders scoured the holy lands and returned with their riches to put them on display in their local churches.  Or perhaps a holy person died and was buried on the spot. Believers came to this site to pray.  A church was built. More people came.   The believing flock became the first tourists.  In those days the only reason to leave home was to go to war or go on pilgrimage.  Sometimes a penance of traveling to a particular holy place to pray, repent and receive forgiveness was given to the sinner. The penitent had a lot of time along the way to think things over.  The road was not easy. Some would be killed along the way and would never return to their homeland. The Holy Land was too far for most.  Rome was a good choice, centrally located, and the Way of St James or the Camino de Santiago through France and Spain was best for others. Most of the people could not read or write.  Story telling frescoes, awe inspiring churches rising to the heavens to meet God and the bodies of saints brought the people to the churches. My adventures to following the saints in books began with………

Sant Bartholomew

Sant Bartholomew

A Stolen Tongue by Sheri Holman, documents the travels and travails through the journals of Father Felix Fabri to find his spiritual mate Saint Katherine of Alexandria. Her  broken body parts are scattered in several churches and have gone missing.  He carries her dried up tongue in a pouch around his neck. He needs to find her. Need I say more?  Who would not want to know what happens along his path? I was hooked.

Over the years I have read  The Holy Feast and Holy Fast, Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women by Caroline Walker BynumHoly Holidays; the Catholic Origins of Celebration by Greg Tobin,  Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday?: The Catholic Origin to Just About Anything by Michael P. Foley, Catholicism for Dummies by John Trigilio and Kenneth BrighentiThe Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, and just about every book written about the Way of St James or El Camino de Santiago. I have studied the saints……. and their

Magnificent Corpses. This book written by Anneli Rufus is a travel book with a difference.  It encourages you to seek unheard of places contemplating on life and relics of life and what we regard as holy.  Anneli focuses not only on the saints, but on  the people who come to see them. She follows fifteen of the saints through Italy.  So what does this all mean?  If you build it and believe it,  they will come.  And we do. Abundantly.

Church, Milan, Italy

Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy

Easter or Any Time in Italy

The Duomo in Florence Italy

The Duomo in Florence Italy

Italy Sep _ Oct 2009 163

Easter……..I thought I would share some pictures with you. It has been cold in the south the entire month of March to me. No rabbits, no eggs, no peeps. The birds are hardly looking for a mate. Or have they found their mate and are trying to stay warm? This is why I love Italy.  On every corner you are reminded of God, of something bigger than you.  In Rome there are nuns and priests everywhere all the time.  There are Cardinals in their bright red robes and some in magenta huddling in groups to discuss who knows what.  There are masses of people in the churches or waiting in line to get into church.

Italy Sep _ Oct 2009 507The smallest church will have the most fantastic art. But, what I like are the statues, crosses, stained glass windows, icons, churches big and small, bells ringing and the small memorials on the sides of buildings and at crossroads in the countryside.  The Italians say, “God is always watching and it is a good way to remind you to choose between good and evil.”  I like to think of it as God is always watching over me.  He is everywhere in everything.  I like to be Italy Sep _ Oct 2009 534reminded.
In a very small Italian village, Montisi, just a blip on the map, my husband and I took a narrow steep paved path from the car park up the hill.  At the top was a tiny stone church perched on the cliff.  Here on the front of the church was a stone with a map of the village etched into it. In Italian it read, “you are here.”  The path took you to the church and back down making a circle.  A beginning with no end.  Have a blessed Easter!

Italy Sep _ Oct 2009 494Italy Sep _ Oct 2009 424Italy Sep _ Oct 2009 499Italy Sep _ Oct 2009 498Italy Sep _ Oct 2009 504Italy Sep _ Oct 2009 428Italy Sep _ Oct 2009 313Italy Sep _ Oct 2009 364Italy Sep _ Oct 2009 497Italy Sep _ Oct 2009 232

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