Beloved Siena – Dolly Travels

Author: , June 16th, 2018

Siena

Good morning, everyone,

As I prepare to return to Italy, I am reminiscing today about another of my favorite cities, Siena.

Siena is one of the Tuscan hill towns, situated just a short drive southeast of Florence. Between those two cities lies the vineyards and countrysides of Tuscany, where Chianti wine and those lovely Chianina beef thrive.

For me, as for most tourists, visiting Siena usually means visiting the area around Il Campo, the main piazza in Siena, along with the cathedral and sights within this ancient area. I will not describe it in minutes walked, for nearly every time I go to Siena, I get lost. That in itself is not a tragedy, for I know that eventually I will find my way. The reason I get lost is that the streets in this old city run up and down, around and around, for the streets, by necessity, follow the curves of the hills of the city. Little alleys lead to someone’s doorstep, or if I am lucky, out to another street that is more familiar.

The main piazza, Il Campo, is unique, for not only is it round, but it slopes down from the outer edges to the center, so strolling through the piazza is rather like strolling down the sides and around a giant bowl.

Siena Campo

The building you see here is the city hall and the city tower next to it. These structures were built in the 14th century a.d. The color of the bricks and most of the buildings here is that orange- red brick color that Rick Steves describes as Crayola’s Burnt Sienna” crayon color. (When I first read that description, I recalled from childhood wondering what “burnt sienna” meant; now I know.). Within the city hall now is the Civic Museum, a small but worthwhile museum. There is also a gallery of paintings and frescoes within the tower.

The most famous structure in Siena is the cathedral. I think that this is one of the most beautiful churches in Italy.

Siena Duomo

The church is enormous, consisting of many side chapels around the main part of the nave. Although the church is huge now, the original plans were for the church to be even larger than it is now. However, money constraints and a plague epidemic ended those plans.

Back at the Il Campo, one of my favorite places is the “Fountain of Joy”. The fountain looks more like a large pool, with water flowing out of the mouths of the stone wolves that sit right above the pool. Religious carvings are at the back of the fountain.

Fountain of Joy in Siena

A few years ago, I had read about the Palio di Siena, the famous horse race that takes place in Siena on two different days in the summer, July 2 and August 16. This race is a competition between the seventeen contrade, or neighborhoods, within Siena. In this competition, a horse and rider from ten of the contrade, race around the Il Campo.

In preparation for the Palio, Il Campo is changed tremendously. The lovely sidewalk cafes are replaced with grandstands for viewing. In front of those stands, a dirt racetrack is put down, encircling the Il Campo.

Palio in Siena

A drawing to select the ten contrade that will compete in the race has been done earlier. Those contrade select a horse and rider to represent them in the race. On the day of the race, both horse and rider are blessed by the priest of their neighborhood church. Then they proceed to the starting gate at the west side of the campo. When the signal is given to start the race, off they go, taking three laps around the track, for a total of about a mile.

There are no saddles on the horses; many times the rider falls off during the race, but if the horse finishes first, the contrada he represents has won the race. It doesn’t matter that there is not rider. It is a fantastic, wild few moments, climaxing weeks, days, hours of preparation.

I had the opportunity to witness this race a few years ago. It was probably one of the wildest events I had ever witnessed. I could not afford a seat in the bleachers, so I was one of the hundreds packed into a tight group in the center of the Campo. That center was separated from the racetrack by low wooden fencing.

Many of the horses, who are just ordinary horse, not race horses, did not want any part of the festivities. On the day that I went, the race had to be restarted several times due to errant horses: horses who wanted to leave, horses that bit other horses, riders thrown from their horse in that enclosed starting area. When the race did get underway, it lasted only a few moments, then the crowd went wild.

Siena, though, is more than the Cathedral and the Palio. It is a ancient town with many alleys and streets that beg to be explored. There is so much history here, not just in the museums, but in the many little cafes and shops, as well as the churches.

Siena is another of those magical Tuscan cities that is calling me back. I hope I will be able to write another blog post from the town when I am actually there.

So, until next time and a visit to another Italian city,

Ciao for now,
Dolly

Returning to Lucca – Dolly Travels

Author: , May 5th, 2018

Lucca - Dolly Travels

Good morning, Everyone.

Today I am remembering Lucca. Lucca is another of my favorite cities in Tuscany. To get to Lucca, I usually take a train from Florence and enjoy the city as a day trip. The older part of the city is enclosed within ancient Roman stone walls. One walks from the train station, across a busy boulevard, then on a path that takes you through an archway in the wall, up a few steps and you are in a totally different world.

This is part of one of my tour groups, my “ducklings”, as we walk up the path to go through the wall up to the old city.

Once inside the walls, the city is full of parks, pretty piazze and lovely little sidewalk cafes.

Churches are abundant. For the most part, there are no tacky sidewalk vendors or beggars. This old town is as popular with the locals as it is with tourists, for many fine businesses flourish on the inner streets. Via Fillulungo is one street with expensive stores; I only window shop on that street. However, there is a wonderful pasticerria on that street, so sometimes I do have to stop in there and get a delicious treat.

For me, of the most fun things to do in Lucca is to rent bicycles and ride around the top of the old wall, the ramparts. The path is about two and a half miles around, completely encircling the old town. There are two bicycle rental places within the walls, and one outside, near the train station. I don’t ride a bike, but I love to walk this path, as it is pretty, and I have a great view of the inner part of the city. From there, I can decide where I want to go next.

I don’t think I would ride a bike down one of the exits off the ramparts that leads to the old city, for even walking down was a bit treacherous. There are easier ways to get down. One important item to remember, is which exit to take back to the city, for there are four main “porte”, or exits. If you go down the wrong one, you may have a long walk back to the train station. The exit closest to the station, for your information, is Porta San Pietro. Remember that, if you go to Lucca.

Another fun thing to do is to climb Guinigi Tower. This tower, a remnant of the 15th century, A.D., has a garden with full size trees growing up on top. To get to the top is a bit of a strenuous hike; there are 227 steps. However, once you emerge onto that garden, you will have a stupendous view, not only of the old city, but the surrounding countryside.

Lucca

Lucca sits in the foothills of the Apuan Alps, or Alpi Apuane, as they are known in Italy. Over those mountains in the background, not too far away, are the more famous Carrara Mountains, known for its fantastic marble quarries.

The Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro is one of the largest in Lucca. I have been there when an auto show was taking place. Wow! Some of the most beautiful cars in the world are in Italy, and I think they all gathered in Lucca that day.

Or you can relax at one of the many small cafes that are on the fringes of Piazza San Michele. Usually, there are children playing soccer in the piazza. (I will insert a little side note here: children in Italy rarely throw a ball; they kick it.).

As with all the Italian towns, there is so much more to discover than I have seen; therefore, I need to go back and find some more wonderful sights. I still have not seen Puccini’s house, although he is one of my favorite composers, and he is a native of Lucca. I would like to stay overnight in Lucca one of these times, for every night there is a concert. I know I would enjoy that.

I am looking forward to going to Lucca once more time.

I will post more pictures of Lucca when I am actually there, in just a few short weeks. Until then,

Ciao for now,
Dolly

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels

Lucca Gay Travel Resources

Bolzano and the Dolomites – Dolly Travels

Author: , April 18th, 2018

Bolzano and the Dolomites

Today I want to tell you about Bolzano, in northern Italy. If you are traveling by train up to Bolzano from Bologna or other points south, you will notice a distinct change in the terrain, the look of the villages along the way, as well as the language of the people who live in this area.

Bolzano and the DolomitesAs the train travels further north, the terrain changes, becoming more rugged. Tiny villages are tucked into crevasses between giant mountains. Fields of hay are grown on the more flat areas, then there are apple orchards and vineyards. Some of the best white wine in Italy comes from this area.

This northern part of Italy once belonged to Austria. Most of the citizens here speak German, not Italian. The churches look more like the ones in Austria; in school, the children are taught in the German language. When there is a festival and the citizens dress for that, their costumes are Austrian in design; dirndls for the women, lederhosen for the men. The food, also, is different. The restaurants serve schnitzels, sausages, more potato dishes. While this food is delicious, it is not Italian food, as we know it.

Bolzano and the DolomitesA typical meal in Bolzano and the Dolomites: a ham hock, sauerkraut and a potato dumpling, with stone ground mustard to go with it. Beer is the preferred beverage, and in Bolzano, we found two very good breweries, both with restaurants.

From Bolzano, there is a cable car that takes passengers up to Oberbozen, as you saw in the earlier photo. That area is another very unique place to hike or ride mountain bikes. On one of my trips, some young men took their bikes on the cable car up to Oberbozen, then rode the trails down to Bolzano. There are trails for hiking or biking.

Bolzano and the DolomitesThe earth pyramids. These are unusual rock formations, found in the Oberbozen area. The rocks are unique. I don’t know if there are any of these anywhere else but in this region. Notice the rocks sitting on top of some of the peaks.

Hiking down to see these was a challenge for me, but if I had taken hiking poles, the trek would have been much easier. Hiking up was even more of a challenge.

Bolzano is home of the South Tirol Museum of Archeology, where the main attraction is a preserved body of a man that was found in some glacier ice high up on a mountain near the Austrian-Italian border. After extensive research, it has been determined that the man is over 5,300 years old. The museum is well done, with exhibits on three levels.

Of course, Bolzano, to me, is the jumping-off point for a stay in the Dolomites. I usually stay two nights in Bolzano, for it is an interesting town to me. But from there, I take a bus for a one-hour, exciting trip through winding mountain roads to Castelrotto, in the Trentino-Alto Adige region. I will post just a few pictures here, for the Dolomites will be another blog post or two.

Bolzano and the DolomitesOf course, there were bicycles. The trails are great for biking. I don’t know where that tractor came from, or where he was going.

That is a rare sight. Usually, there are just other hikers or bikers.

So I will say “Goodbye” for now. I will write more about Italy next week.

You can be sure that sometime, before the first of June, I will write about the Dolomites, for there is my “Happy Place”.

Ciao for now,
Dolly

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels

Bolzano Gay Travel Resources

 

Cinque Terre – Dolly Travels

Author: , April 13th, 2018

Cinque Terre - Dolly

Today I want to continue writing about places in Italy that I will visit on my next trip, which is coming up pretty soon. Cinque Terre is one area that we will visit, and we will stay there for a few days.

Cinque Terre is unique, in that the area is comprised of 5 villages that hug the Ligurian Coast. These villages are isolated from the main body of Italy by rugged mountains at their back and the sea in front of them. For centuries, the primary commerce of this area has been fishing and that continues. Now there are also vineyards planted on the steep terraces. Lemon trees grow wherever they can gain a foothold.

Cinque Terre - Dolly

That little red line on the western edge of Italy denotes the location of Le Cinque Terre.

Cinque Terre - Dolly

The villages, as viewed from the sea, look like colorful toy buildings that have been super-glued to the mountainsides. Corniglia, the middle village of the five, sits on a steep mountain. It is the only one of the villages that does not have direct access to the sea.

To get to the Cinque Terre, one takes a train to La Spezia, then change trains to a regional one that will stop at each of the small stations. The trip from La Spezia to Riomaggiore, the first of the little towns, takes about 4 minutes. The next stop, Manarola, is another 2 to 3 minutes, then Corniglia station is another few minutes; likewise, Vernazza then the last of the villages, Monterosso, takes 3 minutes from Vernazza. So, you can see, if you travel by train, the villages are very close to each other. However, many tourists come to the area to hike the trails that connect these towns.

There are two main trail systems here: the “Short Trail”, the one most familiar to hikers, follows the coastline for most of the hike; although the trail is usually high above the sea, the hiker has a scenic view from start to finish.

The second trail, the “High Trail”, runs above the towns, but the view from that high up is fantastic. That trail is longer, but as of this moment, that trail is open, while the Short Trail is only open from Vernazza to Monterosso, and possibly Vernazza to Corniglia. That depends on the weather and landslide conditions. The Short Trail has had sections closed since 2012, due to landslides, with no time frame in sight for getting them open again. That is sad, for those trails were such a remarkable adventure, and could be done from start to finish in a few hours.

In the past, for centuries, the only way to go from one village to another was by the trails, which were steep and not well-maintained. Therefore, when a tunnel was carved through the mountain that connected Riomaggiore and Manarola, the villagers could then visit with each other. More importantly, to some, the young people could form friendships and romances with young people from the other village. The path through the tunnel became known as the Via dell’ Amore, the “Road of Love”.

Cinque Terre - Dolly

This is the famous metal sculpture within the tunnel of the Via dell’ Amore. Note the padlocks on the railings. Supposedly, lovers would put the lock on the railing, then throw the key into the sea. That meant their love would last as long as the padlocks stayed on the railing. However, I noted that some of the locks were combination-type locks. What does that mean?

This part of the trail is now in a section that is closed, due to landslides. I hope it will soon be repaired and open again.

Cinque Terre - Dolly

Monterosso has the best beach area of all the villages. I love to come here, rent a chair and an umbrella for the day, and just hang out at the beach. The water is clear, and warm enough to enjoy a swim.

This area, Le Cinque Terre, is one of the most popular areas of Italy for tourists to visit. It has become quite crowded during the summer season, but I still like to be there. As I usually stay a few days, I find places to go that are quiet, when the main piazze are filled.

The older area of Monterosso is one place that I have found that is more peaceful.

I hope you have enjoyed my little travelogue about Cinque Terre. Put this area on you Bucket List to visit when you go to Italy.

Ciao for now,
Dolly

By Dolly – Full Story at Dolly Travels

Liguria Gay Travel Resources

“Two Summers on the Helen Marie” – Dolly Publishes a Book!

Author: , March 17th, 2018

Two Summers on the Helen Marie: Cruising the Inside Passage

We’re so excited for our friend Dolly – she just published her first book, a travel memoir:

I was a bit busy last week, so I did not get a chance to write a blog post; however, on March 1, I received the notice from Amazon that my book, “Two Summers on the Helen Marie: Cruising the Inside Passage”, had been accepted for publication.

The book is now available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.com.

I am very excited about this, as this is my first book to be published. Oh, yes, I am already working on another book about my adventures, which will be about traveling with Frank. That may turn out to be a hilarious comedy. At any rate, it will be interesting, especially for those of you who know us.

Today I want to post pictures and talk a little more about the first trip I had on the Helen Marie with my brother, Lee, and his wife, Rosey. I was not able to put pictures in the book. Well, I could have done that, but it would have raised the cost of production so much, I did not feel it was feasible. I am only going to write and post pictures today of the Alaska excursion, and on Friday, I will write a post and include pictures of the second trip, to British Columbia. There are just too many photos to try to include both trips in one post.

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at SOURCE

Alaska Gay Travel Resources

San Gimignano – Dolly Travels

Author: , March 12th, 2018

San Gimignano - Dolly Travels

Good morning, everyone,

Today I am thinking of San Gimignano. This is one of the hill towns of Tuscany. True to its designation, there are hardly any flat places in this town.

To get there, one would take a bus from Florence, change buses in Poggibonsi. You might have to wait about a half hour for the next bus, but you will have time for a cappuccino at the little cafe in the bus/train station. That is about an hour and a half trip, and a pleasant one. San Gimignano is probably the most accessible of all the hill towns, so it is a busy place. I have never taken the train to Poggibonsi, as I would still have to take the bus up the hill to San Gimignano. My bus ticket gets me all the way to San Gimignano.

Once you get to San Gimignano and get off the bus, you walk through a stone archway, up an old stone street, until you come to the main piazza.

As you walk through town, don’t expect any flat ground, for there isn’t any…well, in front of the restaurants where the tables are set up, that is pretty flat. But most of the time, you will be either walking uphill or downhill. The picture above is deceiving, for it really is going uphill.

This is a city of towers. There are 14 towers still standing, surviving from the 13th century. Tourists can now climb one of the towers. I tried it once, and had to turn back, as the staircase was built of see-through steel grating, and as the stairs spiraled up and up and up, it scared the heck out of me to look down the way I had traveled, and I could see the stone floor so far below me.

You can see the people on the tower on the right. If you don’t have a fear of heights, like I do, this is a marvelous experience, to be able to look over the countryside, and if the weather is absolutely clear, you can see all the way to Florence, for that city is only 25 miles away, as the crow flies, I do believe.

San Gimignano is busy, as I said, for many tourists are there in the daytime. I would love to stay overnight there one of these trips, and see how it feels in the evening and I would enjoy the quiet of the nighttime up there.

When I am in San Gimignano, I find places like this. I don’t feel the need to shop, unless it is at a shop where I can buy the salami that is made from the cinghiale, the wild boars that roam in the countryside nearby. That is one cold cut that I really enjoy.

However, for the most part, I wander through the cobblestone streets, through the tunnels, up the hills, and find neat little staircases.

At the main piazza, appropriately named Piazza dell Cisterna, there is the old well. This used to be the gathering spot for the locals, for most people had to come there to draw their water. It still seems to be the gathering spot for tourists, as it makes a perfect Meeting Point. Everyone should know where the well is.

There are many good restaurants and cafes in San Gimignano. There are gelato shops as well, and as I mentioned before, shops that sell the salami and cheeses. This town is also noted for its very good white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano. The red wine from this area is not so tasty; if you are a red wine drinker, order a Chianti from the other side of Tuscany, the area between Florence and Siena.

San Gimignano - Dolly Travels

Some of the salami with different cheeses and grissini, the little thin bread sticks. So yummy.

I hope I have given you a glimpse of San Gimignano; enough of a glimpse that you will want to go see this town for yourself. Despite this being such a touristy town, it still retains the old world feel, and if you venture through town, go up to the Rocco, a view point that has you looking south over the countryside, then go down away from the center, you will probably feel as I do, that this is a perfect hill town.

I will leave you now with this little slice of Italy. Arrivederci, until next time, when I will tell you about some other place that I love and will visit again in June.

Ciao for now,
Dolly

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels

Tuscany Gay Travel Resources

Old Town Puerto Vallarta – Dolly Travels

Author: , February 15th, 2018

Old Town Puerto Vallarta

Hola, once more.

This will be my last blog post from Puerto Vallarta this year. Next year, I hope to spend longer than a week. I love this town.

When I told the kids that I wanted to go back to explore Old Town Vallarta, Rob asked me, “What will you do there?”

“Oh, just walk around, and see what the Old Town is like,” was my reply. What I really thought was, it will be more “What can I learn by going back there:” Rather than what can I do there.

I took the bus to town again, by myself. I call it the “Chicken Bus”. Although no one here is transporting chickens, the buses look similar to the ones I have seen in other places of Mexico and Costa Rica, where cages of chickens were being carried on top of the buses.

The bus stop is on the street in front of our hotel entrance. The fare is 7.50 pesos, which is about 42 cents in US money.

After a bumpy ride, for most of the streets are made of cobblestones, and I am sure the buses do not have the best springs, I arrived in the main part of Puerto Vallarta, near the Cathedral of Guadalupe. I knew I wanted to go further east, into the old town from that church, so I followed the streets that Chef Julio had taken us on, the other day when we went to the Mercado.

There is a river that empties into the sea, at the southern end of the main part of town. This river, the Cuale River, creates an island called the Isla Cuale. Now it is a lovely park.

A staircase crosses the river on the north side, and leads to an upper affluent neighborhood, where Elizabeth Taylor lived, while she was filming the movie, “The Night of the Iguana”. That movie brought Puerto Vallarta to the attention of travelers, and as the locals tell me, that was the beginning of the town becoming a tourist attraction.

A statue of John Huston sits at the entrance to the park. That man was the director of the movie, “The Night of the Iguana”. He made the film here, as he had already fallen in love with Puerto Vallarta. In fact, his home was at Las Caletas, the beach where we saw “Rhythm of the NIghts”. He gave that property to the town of Puerto Vallarta.

As I walked further into Old Town, I saw the everyday life of those residents, going on quietly, without the hustle and bustle of the touristy part of town.

I found the Mercado again, and after a few more blocks, the streets ended, so I made my way back toward the main part of Puerto Vallarta.

At the very western end of the park, I found a small restaurant that served breakfast. Although it was almost noon, I decided to have brunch instead of lunch.

This cafe, called “Incanto”, had a guitarist playing soft music for the patrons.

On the other side of the river is another restaurant that was closed, for workmen were trimming a large bamboo tree that sat at the end of the restaurant. The roots of that tree were actually down at the river’s edge.

There was a man with a machete trimming a tree by the river. The branches fell at the river’s edge, and two more workmen went down there and piled the branches up. Then the machete man went down there and trimmed those branches into tall poles, and stacked them up . All the work was done with a machete. And it was all done while I was having my meal.

« Rhythm of the NIghts and Other Adventures in Puerto VallartaWarm Places »
Old Town Puerto Vallarta
January 16, 2018 by dollygoolsby
2 Votes

Hola, once more.

This will be my last blog post from Puerto Vallarta this year. Next year, I hope to spend longer than a week. I love this town.

When I told the kids that I wanted to go back to explore Old Town Vallarta, Rob asked me, “What will you do there?”

“Oh, just walk around, and see what the Old Town is like,” was my reply. What I really thought was, it will be more “What can I learn by going back there:” Rather than what can I do there.

I took the bus to town again, by myself. I call it the “Chicken Bus”. Although no one here is transporting chickens, the buses look similar to the ones I have seen in other places of Mexico and Costa Rica, where cages of chickens were being carried on top of the buses.

The bus stop is on the street in front of our hotel entrance. The fare is 7.50 pesos, which is about 42 cents in US money.

After a bumpy ride, for most of the streets are made of cobblestones, and I am sure the buses do not have the best springs, I arrived in the main part of Puerto Vallarta, near the Cathedral of Guadalupe. I knew I wanted to go further east, into the old town from that church, so I followed the streets that Chef Julio had taken us on, the other day when we went to the Mercado.

There is a river that empties into the sea, at the southern end of the main part of town. This river, the Cuale River, creates and island called the Isla Cuale. Now it is a lovely park.

A staircase crosses the river on the north side, and leads to an upper affluent neighborhood, where Elizabeth Taylor lived, while she was filming the movie, “The Night of the Iguana”. That movie brought Puerto Vallarta to the attention of travelers, and as the locals tell me, that was the beginning of the town becoming a tourist attraction.

Some of the homes up in that neighborhood now.

A statue of John Huston sits at the entrance to the park. That man was the director of the movie, “The Night of the Iguana”. He made the film here, as he had already fallen in love with Puerto Vallarta. In fact, his home was at Las Caletas, the beach where we saw “Rhythm of the NIghts”. He gave that property to the town of Puerto Vallarta.

As I walked further into Old Town, I saw the everyday life of those residents, going om quietly, without the hustle and bustle of the touristy part of town.

The apartments are newer, the streets are quiet. The tangle of electrical wires overhead is a bit disconcerting.

I liked this place. I think it is a restaurant below, but the tower had small tables and chairs on three levels. It must be a good place for Happy Hour, for a few people

I found the Mercado again, and after a few more blocks, the streets ended, so I made my way back toward the main part of Puerto Vallarta.

At the very western end of the park, I found a small restaurant that served breakfast. Although it was almost noon, I decided to have brunch instead of lunch.

This cafe, called “Incanto”, had a guitarist playing soft music for the patrons.

You can see the river flowing below the deck. On the other side of the river is another restaurant that was closed, for workmen were trimming a large bamboo tree that sat at the end of the restaurant. The roots of that tree were actually down at the river’s edge.

I don’t know if you can see him, but at the right side of the tree, standing on a 12-foot ladder, is a man with a machete trimming that tree. The branches fell at the river’s edge, and two more workmen went down there and piled the branches up. Then the machete man went down there and trimmed those branches into tall poles, and stacked them up . All the work was done with a machete. And it was all done while I was having my meal.

After my wonderful breakfast and the best cup of coffee I have had , I meandered back into town.

The peaceful River Cuale.

The Crown Dome of the Cathedral

One of the many sculptures along the Malecon.

I finished my day in town by walking the length of the Malecon, then I caught another “Chicken Bus” and made my way back to our hotel.

Later, as we were waiting for our dinner, at Victor’s at the marina., I had time to contemplate what a relaxing week we had enjoyed. Although we were active, we were never stressed. I enjoyed the non-stress times immensely.

So here I am, dreaming of my return to one of my favorite cities . Puerto Vallarta.

Adios, Puerto Vallarta, until next year.

A Puerto Vallarta Cooking Class – Dolly Travels

Author: , February 5th, 2018

Puerto Vallarta cooking class - Dolly Travels

Hola!

Once again I am in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, one of my favorite towns to visit. My son, Rob, and his wife, Amy came down with me to enjoy some sunny weather, and it has been a delight to be able to wear shorts, t-shirts and sandals again.

One day, Rob rented a car and the three of us drove up to a little town called Sayulita. That town is one of the Pueblos Magicos, a designation given by the government to certain villages that are unique in their culture, their pride in their community, and has some history or traditions, legends, that set the village apart from others. A village with that designation receives money from the government to make improvements where needed and to promote tourism.

Personally, I think the town has gone overboard on the tourism part of the agreement, for the little village was so crowded it was not fun for me to be there. At any rate, it is a pretty little town, on the beach, with apparently some of the best surfing waves of that northern side of Nayarit.

The waves are not very high at this point, but some amateur surfers were going to ride the little waves, if they could.

The meals were delicious. After lunch on the beach, we walked around the little town for a short time, but it was just too crowded with tour groups and other tourists to be enjoyable.

After we got back to our hotel, Rob told me that he did not ever want to drive in Mexico again, but I thought he did a good job. We had only driven a little over an hour each way, but I would not have wanted to drive, either.

Yesterday, we stayed in Puerto Vallarta. We went into town, and had cooking lessons at one of the restaurants there, called Gaby’s. Now that was an activity that I enjoyed immensely.

Chef Julio Cesar met us at 9:00 a.m. After preliminary introductions, he gave each of us and apron and a shopping bag, then led us on a trip through part of Old Town Vallarta to the mercato, where we bought fresh fruit, vegetables, dried chilies. While we were shopping Chef Julio told us about the food as well as some of the culture of Puerto Vallarta.

Chef Julio picked out some fresh peppers. Oh, yes, he did throw in some of those orange and green habanero peppers. I am certainly glad that Julio knew what he needed from this array.

After buying the produce we needed, Julio took us to a tortilleria, where we bought fresh masa. The ladies that ran this shop make everything from scratch. They soak the dried corn in lime water, then grind it into flour and make the masa. They also make tortillas to sell by the dozen, and the shop was quite busy that morning.

Back at the restaurant, we really got down to business. We made our tortillas from the fresh masa. That was an experience to remember, for as easy as it looks to make those little things, all sorts of things can go wrong. We did get a few that were not torn, but the nice thing about working with masa is that it is like Play Dough…if at first, they don’t turn out well, just roll the dough up into a ball again and do it over.

Chef Julio instructed me on making the strawberry masa for sweet tamales. Those were certainly different. We put the masa on the corn husks, then added fresh pineapple and raisins, rolled them up and they steamed while we made the rest of our dinner.

Our luncheon went on and on and on. We had chilies rellenos, mole chicken enchiladas, ceviche, swordfish empanadas, five or six different salsas, then our sweet tamales.

We left the restaurant after six hours of shopping, cooking and eating. We were all stuffed, but I must say, it was a wonderful day. I loved having this hands-on cooking experience.

After the class was finished, Chef Julio gave us a tour of the restaurant. It is a family-owned business, started by his mother and father many years ago. The family home was turned into the restaurant, and now they are expanding it. His mother was at the cash register yesterday and his grandmother was having lunch in the restaurant.

Chef Julio is going to email the recipes to us. I might be brave enough to try some of these at home. I might have to look hard to find some of the ingredients, but as much as I love to cook, that will be another pleasant, fun experience.

If you find yourself in Puerto Vallarta, and want to take a cooking class, I highly recommend Gaby’s. The restaurant is just 2 blocks up the street from the Church of Guadalupe, the main cathedral in Puerto Vallarta.

Now we are relaxing at the hotel, for tonight we are going on another cultural experience called “Rhythm of the Nights”. I will have to tell you about that tomorrow. (If you want, you can look up my blog posts from January, 2017 and August, 2017, for I had taken that tour on both those dates. ).

Adios for now.

Dolly

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels

Puerto Vallarta Gay Travel Resources

Manhattan Day Trip – Dolly Travels

Author: , November 25th, 2017

Manhattan Day Trips - Dolly Travels

I love to travel…everyone who knows me, knows that. How has it happened that I had never visited New York City?

Well, yesterday (Thursday, November 9), I got to enjoy a day in the Big City.

Frank and I are staying at a hotel on Long Island, as that is where all the activities around the Cradle of Aviation and the gala on Saturday night are happening.

From the advice of the hotel people and our new friends from the Museum, we took a taxi to the Westbury Station; one of the stations of the Long Island Rail Road. The train trip took about 45 minutes, letting us out at Penn Station in Downtown Manhattan.

When we emerged from the train, I was amazed at how large Penn Station is. All those trains carrying people to all the boroughs of New York. We exited the station right into the thick of things..panhandlers, myriad salespeople for the different bus trips, boat trips, different activities in the city. The tall buildings and moving billboards on the buildings. We walked along 7th Avenue, with me, looking at everything, just like a kid.

Crossing that first intersection, I had a good view of the Empire State Building. We debated about going up to the top of that building, since it was only two blocks away, but decided against that, as we had tickets for a matinee performance at one of the theaters near Broadway.

The weather was a bit nippy, but tolerable. I enjoyed the walk, seeing all the tall buildings, the Macy’s store that took up an entire block.

Who needs a newspaper? Just sit at a table in Times Square and read the news in Large Print.

Finally, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant near the theater. We had planned to have dinner later, after the performance. I just enjoyed “people watching” along the way.

We arrived at the Majestic Theater in plenty of time to find our places.

We had very good seats. This was the only photo I got of the stage. Soon, the cell phone police (the ushers) came along, pointing at cell phone offenders, to ensure that no one would photograph any of the actors or scenes.

The production was amazingly wonderful. The voices of the actors, the stage settings, all were magnificent, where we felt transported to that opera theater in Paris all those years ago.

Now, Frank and I both have the music still running through our heads.

“Just love me, that’s all I ask of you.” Or, “Music of the NIght”. Now you can have the music running through your heads, also.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable day. When we got back to Penn Station, night had fallen, but the city was definitely not dark.

That was my day in Manhattan. It was certainly a day I will remember.

Now we are back on Long Island, and we will be going to the Gala dinner and reception at the “Cradle of Aviation Museum” this evening.

I will tell you about that tomorrow.

Until then,
Ciao for now,
Dolly

Our Last Day in Florence – Dolly Travels

Author: , November 13th, 2017

Florence - Dolly Travels

Buon amiche,

Yes, I have to leave Florence again. This is always a sad day for me, for I love Florence, but, alas, I have to go away from my fairy tale world, and go back home again, and live my real life.

So, in parting, I thought I would leave here by giving you some pictures and commentary about my favorite city.

The other day, I just had to get out and walk all over the city. Frank is such an understanding, compassionate soul. He told me to go and enjoy myself.

I set out from the apartment, down our street toward the Duomo. I did not go into the mob of tourists, but turned to the right, found my way to the Arno by going through side streets and little alleys.

I just had to walk down via Tornabuoni, which has some of the most expensive stores in the the city. I don’t even own clothes fine enough to go into those stores, but I wouldn’t go into them, anyway; with their black-suited doormen, and the elegant men and women who are shopping there, I would definitely be a fish out of water.

I continued on my way, and crossed the Ponte Santa Trinità into the Oltrano area, the more bohemian neighborhoods of Florence.

I stopped on the bridge to take a picture of the Arno River, flowing underneath. It was such a lovely morning, I lingered a few moments to enjoy the serenity of that view, then I turned eastward, and followed the river for awhile.

I truly enjoyed being on the less crowded side of the Arno. Eventually, I turned south, walking through the Oltrano neighborhoods to get to the staircase that led up to the Piazzale Michelangelo.

Finally, at the top of the square is the bronze statue of David. He was worth the climb.

As I got to the railing, I could see so much of the beautiful city of Florence, with the Duomo in the background, the Church of Santa Croce behind the white buildings , the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza Signoria, at the left. As I took in the view, church bells all over the city started chiming the noon hour. All those bells, resounding over the city and up the hill to me, sent a delightful shiver up my spine.

On my way down the east side of the Piazzale, I came to the grotto. It used to have turtles in it, but they are not there any longer.

Soon I came to the river again, and followed to eastward to one more bridge, the Ponte S. Nicollo and crossed back to the main part of Florence.

In the early afternoon, I arrived back at our apartment building, but the day was still so beautiful, I had to go into the piazza just beyond, the Piazza S. Annunziata, and take a picture of Duke Ferdinando on his horse.

I had enjoyed a delightful walk, seeing so many of the places that I love. I knew that soon I would return to the city of Florence, for it indeed has become my second home, and one that keeps calling me back.

Fortunately, Frank was waiting for me, and we ventured out for an afternoon aperitif, while I told him of my day.

I will say, “Arrivederci ” now, for I have to pack and get ready to leave. Tomorrow morning we go to Rome, and stay near the airport there, and fly home on Wednesday.

I hope you have enjoyed this walk through Florence with me. I also hope that, if you have not been to Florence, you will see it some day, for it is a magical place.

Ciao for now,
Dolly