As part of our recent cruise, we took an excursion on the island of Cozumel. While most tourists seldom leave the dock shopping mall, we found wonderful surprises on our island tour. We started at a Mayan archeological site that showed how the Mayan’s used Cozumel island as a sacred place for weddings. There were temples, a ceremonial altar for the newlyweds, and even a purification sweat log for the brides.
We continued our tour to a beautiful rocky undeveloped beach where we played in the sand and surf. We learned that over 80% of Cozumel is jungle and only the perimeter of the island is inhabited.
We finished our tour at the Mayan Cacao Company and learned how the Mayan people used cacao and how it was and is made into wonderful chocolate today. Great excursion!
We were fortunate to have recently taken a cruise that gave us a day in Havana, Cuba. Long closed to visiting Americans, we were welcomed with open arms by the people of this beautiful island. While there are visions of a long ago hey day of the 1950s still to be seen, the city and her people show how resilient they are in the face of difficulty. There is beauty everywhere, with rich historical significance as well as new construction. We would love to go back and stay for a longer visit.
The view of the harbor is spectacular in the morning sunrise as a statue of Christ welcomes ships to port. The Colon Cemetery was a highlight of our visit. Cubans do not pay for funerals at the Colon Chapel or internment in the crypts, they only pay for flowers. The crypts are reused with previous users being place in catacombs under the cemetery to make way for the newly dead. There is only so much space on an island. The workmanship of the Italian Carrara marble monuments is some of the finest I have ever seen. The park like atmosphere reminded me of ancient cemeteries where the living “visited” their lost loved ones.
Street markets are a common site as well as American Classic Cars from the late 50s. Most of these cars a lovingly cared for and used as taxis or for private tours. Revolution Square is a large central gathering place for events like the recent funeral of Fidel Castro. There are permanent reminders of the “revolution” everywhere as well as centuries old structures like the fort that guarded against pirates in the 1500s.
The locals are proud of their history as well as their newly constructed Capitol Building and elegant Grand Theater. My husband and I are very glad we were able to see this wonderful city and meet some of her warm, welcoming people.
On our trip to Dallas, Texas, we visited the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens for the first time. Although they are in the heat of the summer, the gardens were full of blooming flowers and lush green landscapes. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and I would highly recommend a visit when in Dallas.
Our final day in Paris began with our morning meet up in front of our hotel. We saw more great views on our walk to the Orangerie Museum to see Monet’s Waterlilies and had a wonderful tour of the museum. We then visited the Orsay Museum which is in a turn of the century train station. It still has elements of the beautiful train station but is an amazing museum with all manner of art.
We had to visit a patisserie for a chocolate eclair in the afternoon and then meet our tour group for a farewell dinner. After a wonderful meal, our tour guide Marie surprised us with a celebration of champagne toasts in front of the Eiffel Tower lit up against the night sky. It was a perfect ending for a great week. Au revoir Paris!
We spent an entire day at the Chateau of Versailles outside Paris. It was a beautiful warm spring day and we enjoyed being outside the city. The palace was truly impressive with lots of gold, rich fabrics and marble. The gardens are manicured with strange shaped topiary shrubs and beautiful fountains. There are several small mansions away from the main palace called the Trianons.
We were able to make it back to Paris in time for a lovely dinner at a street cafe to watch the sunset with the Parisians.
We were fortunate to visit the Cluny Museum of Medieval Art while in Paris. It is a small museum, but houses a wealth of pieces from that period. It is situated on the site of a previous Roman Frigidarium Bath – a cool place to escape the summer’s heat. The oldest known statues found in Paris are displayed here and date back to the first century A.D. During one of the French Revolutions, the people chopped off the heads of the statues of the Judah Kings that stood in front of Notre Dame. The heads were saved by a faithful Parisian and unearthed in a garden a few years ago. The museum also houses the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. They are truly beautiful and well preserved. We toured the Marais District which contains many layers of Parisian history.
We had a wonderful dinner together featuring Onion Soup, Escargot and Beef Bourguignon then finished our day with an evening cruise on the Seine. The views of the beautiful buildings at night from the river is truly breathtaking.
Today we took a walking tour of Montmartre to get the flavor of the small mountain on the outskirts of Paris. It originally began as a place to mill the stone into powder and wheat into flour. The area was also a magnet to artists. It was a place for fun and art. The Wall of Love has “I love you” written in over 500 languages. Fitting for Paris – no? There is a wonderful story about the Man in the Wall that is part of the culture here. The buildings are fit into small spaces and adapted to the hilly terrain but still beautiful. The crowning glory at the top of the hill is the Sacre-Coeur Basilica. A beautiful church with amazing views of Paris.
In the evening we had a tour of the highlights of the Louvre. We viewed the ancient city walls excavated underneath the original palace and then viewed some of the most famous paintings and statues in history. The Mona Lisa is still smiling and we are all the richer for having seen these masterpieces. I could have stayed in the museum for days – weeks, but alas our tour continues with more wonderful experiences to come.
Today we explored where Paris began – the Ile de la Cite – the island in the middle of the Seine River. We began by walking through the ancient streets and visiting Saint Chapelle. It was originally created as a private place of worship for the king and his household and while it is small in comparison to the great cathedrals of Europe it is very grand. The interior of the upper chapel is covered in stained glass windows depicting the stories of the Bible.
We then went to the great lady, the Cathedral of Notre Dame. It is truly an impressive piece of architecture and a moving place of worship. The gardens surrounding the cathedral offer beautiful views of the building and inspiring meditation areas including a more recent statue of St. John Paul II. The interior of the cathedral is awe inspiring with the massive nave, beautiful Pieta at the main alter, wonderful stained glass and amazing small chapels surrounding the nave. We completed our day with a walk through the Latin Quarter.
We arrived in Paris and had some time to get acquainted with our neighborhood and viewed the sites from the Eiffel Tower. There are little flower shops, produce markets and patisseries on the street next to lots of cafes with outdoor seating. A simple lunch here is a gastronomical experience with everyone taking pride in the dishes they create. While it has a totally different feel than London, it is truly a magical city.
Our final day in London began with a trip through Kings Cross Station (to see the 9 3/4 Platform to Hogwarts) on our way to The British Library. There is a permanent exhibit of amazing printed documents in all areas of interest from music to politics to religious works.
We then went to The British Museum to see the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles (from the Parthenon in Athens) and a number of Egyptian items.
We took a ride on the London Eye with amazing views of the city including Parliament and Big Ben,then headed off to our Farewell Dinner at the Ebury Wine Bar. We traveled with a great group of people, sharing our interests and experiences along the way. Our guide was witty, knowledgable and wonderfully caring and inclusive. We loved our trip to London and look forward to visiting again.