Friday, December 17, 2010

Happy Pills and Smokin' Gladiators

Vacation time is fun time.  At least, it should be.  Often, I've noticed vacationers get so focused on hitting all the items on their mental To Do list that they forget the "fun time"part of their trip. Or--and this is a pet peeve of mine--they spend so much time taking photographs of those To Do list items that they don't actually enjoy them.

When I return home from a trip, I'm often teased about my vacation photography.  Not because the pictures are poor, but because I often use them in my Christmas cards, to create notecards, on my blog, etc.  But here's the thing:  I go on vacation to have fun, not simply to take photos.  But if the very act of taking a photo can be fun, or remind you of a fun experience, then I say snap away.

For instance, my dear husband's brother often calls my husband (a more crass term for) a horse's  hindquarters.  On one European vacation, I decided that, instead of taking photos of statues, I'd take photos of the backside of every horse statue I encountered.  The end result (so to speak) was one of the most hysterical visits I've ever made to Notre Dame cathedral.  When I turned my back to the cathedral to snap a photo of King Charles on his horse (which was also facing away from the cathedral), an entire busload of tourists whipped around with their cameras to see what shot they should be taking.

I can't even think of Notre Dame without thinking of those tourists.   It was hilarious.

Every vacation for the rest of that year, my husband and I entertained ourselves by snapping photos of the backside of every horse statue we saw (that's when we realized just how many statues there are of men on horses.)  We laughed ourselves silly every time we saw a horse statue.  Best of all, that Christmas, my husband and I presented his brother with a lovely photo book containing shots of horses from famous sites around the world--Versailles, Florence, Madrid, and yes, Notre Dame.  As you might guess, hilarity ensued when my brother-in-law realized the nature of the gift.

So today, I'm posting some of the fun photos from my last trip.  These were the result of those occasions when the mere act of lifting the camera to my eye to take the shot made me laugh.  Having photos like these are a good reminder that humor can be found anywhere--you simply need to look around.

In Barcelona:  A pharmacy guaranteed to make you perky.

And if the pills don't work, you can always mark your grave this way.

Then, have this guy walk all over you.  Yes, this was taken in a church, in the central courtyard.  He wanted to eat my camera.

From Tunis:  I assume this is where you put your money when you are praying it'll stay safe.

From Corsica:  What is this mannequin doing with her arm?  This was in a display of Corsican costume at Napoleon's birthplace.  I couldn't figure out how anyone would get far carrying vegetables this way.  Looks painful!

In Rome:  Proof that you can get gelati in any flavor imaginable.  I can't imagine eating some of these flavors (chocolate with hot peppers?  and what is "pera cheese?"), but if you wanted to, you could.

A not-so-subtle warning not to honk your horn.

And finally, a tattooed, smokin' gladiator.  (If you want a better look, click on the photo, then hit your back button to return.)  He was outside the Colosseum, taking a breather from having his photo taken with tourists.  But he was still willing to give me a smile.  I think this was the best photo of the entire trip.

 Maybe I'll have it made into a notecard.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Peace in Nice

Last stop on the 2010 Med Tour:  Villefranche, France.

My coffee-at-sunrise habit firmly entrenched, I watched a brilliant sunrise from my balcony, then shot this photo as the ship pulled into Villefranche, a beautiful little town located halfway between Nice, France, and Monaco:

As soon as we were off the ship, we bypassed the cafes (which were beautiful, but quickly becoming crowded with tourists streaming off the ship) and walked up the hill to catch the morning bus to Nice.  It only took twenty minutes or so to get into Nice, and the bus ride along the coast was gorgeous.  From the bus station in Nice, it was a leisurely walk through a park to the morning market, where we perused antiques before settling down to breakfast.  I absolutely loved the places we found along this alleyway, away from the crowds, where the only sounds were the grinding of coffee beans, the soft swoosh of pastry being shuffled from baking sheets onto waiting plates, and quiet French being spoken:

After breakfast, we wandered to the beach, then back through town to pop our heads into a couple of Nice's cathedrals before going back to the bus station for the quick ride to the village of Eze.  Eze le Village is a medieval town perched high over the Mediterranean, offering views from Italy to Nice on a clear day (which is what we were fortunate enough to have!)  From the bus stop, we walked through an outdoor market and peeked at a few vegetable stands, then at this display of spices, before making the long climb uphill to see the views.

Eze is a rabbit warren of alleyways, with quaint shops, inns, and restaurants tucked around every corner.  Doesn't this look like a fantastic place to explore?

It's a hike to the top, but the view is worth it.  Along the way, we guessed the value of the real estate not only due to the view and location, but because of the cars parked on the steep hillsides (if you click on the photo, it'll show a bigger image.  Hit your back button to return to the blog.)

And the water view:

After stopping at a tiny cliffside cafe for a drink, we decided we had enough time to head to Monaco for a late lunch and some sightseeing.  The bus ride from Eze (after we hiked back down, that is!) took less than half an hour.  Rather than take the bus all the way to the casino area, we hopped off just over the border, then walked downhill through a maze of apartment buildings and gardens.  The flowers hanging over the walkways were too pretty to resist.

I know that, as a tourist, one "should" see the casinos and the Grand Prix race course, but I preferred taking this route.  I visited Monaco once before, but it was pouring rain then and we were forced to stay indoors.  This time I wanted to see what Monaco has to offer outdoors, and to see the world in which most Monégasques live (hint: it's not in the casino.)  We stopped for pizza near the castle, and--surprise!--I truly think it was the best pizza I've had in my life.  (My husband ranked it at about #2 or #3...his #1 pizza place is in Sorrento, Italy.)  

We spent most of the afternoon walking, taking in the views of the waterfront and the million-dollar boats docked there before heading to the cathedral for a quick walk-through, and then to Monaco's famous aquarium.  While the aquarium is definitely THE place in Monaco for tourist crowds, the DH and I had just seen the documentary Oceans (VERY highly recommended!) and were in the mood to see some aquatic life.  (Note:  Prince Albert of Monaco was one of the sponsors of the film, and is also a huge supporter of Monaco's aquarium.)  The aquarium is breathtaking.  If you ever happen to be in Monaco (not that anyone "happens" to be in Monaco, but if you ever get there....) definitely visit its aquarium.

Afterward, we walked until we absolutely had to catch the bus back to Villefranche to make our ship's departure time.  But...I did manage to have one picture taken in Monaco.  (Proof that I really did go on this trip!)

We made it back to Villefranche with just enough time to spare to grab a final gelati from a cafe near the dock, which I think is the perfect way to wind up a Mediterranean vacation.

I wouldn't say the last day of the trip was my favorite location--I'd have to go with Corsica or Malta for that--but it was certainly the most relaxing.  No schedule, no Must Do List, no crowds, no rain.

Of course, the end of the vacation means a return to the writing schedule, but I'm fine with that.  Happier, in fact, for having left my desk for awhile to explore.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sweet Corsica

After a day of rain and wind in Lucca and Pisa, I awoke to this.  As Candace Olson loves to say on HGTV, "How divine."

Ajaccio, Corsica, has to be one of the most blissful towns on the planet.  Yep, mark it down as another place where I'd be content to settle for several months or even years.  Napoleon Bonaparte, who was born just a few blocks inland from this pier, is known to have said on more than one occasion that he'd know he was on the island of Corsica by the smell alone.  I believe it.  The island is full of rosemary, juniper, heather, thyme, and a variety of other aromatic plants that combine with the ocean air to make each breath intoxicating.  

Since the day we arrived just happened to be Napoleon's birthday, numerous parades and celebrations were scheduled.  A market (yippee!) was also being held near Ajaccio's main square, so I decided to wander through and shop.  I sampled local honey and nougat, perused dozens of tables of fruits, vegetables, spices, locally handcrafted jewelry, and soap.  Doesn't it look fantastic?  I loved the hat on the guy in the second photo.  To me, he looked like he'd walked straight off a postcard.

After spending our Euros in the market, the DH and I walked a few blocks to Napoleon's birthplace for a quick tour.  Quite a bit of the original furniture is in the house, there was a ton of information on how the family lived, and there was also a special, limited-time display of Corsican clothing from the era.  I love seeing historical clothing, so that was a special treat.  Unable to temper my writing research habit, I took copious notes and photographs.  

And check out Napoleon's bedroom.  The bed's original, but my guess is that he didn't have the torchiere lamp.

Once we were back outdoors, we debated going for coffee or walking toward the parade route.  When I saw these two heading toward the parade, though, I decided to follow.  

The closer we got to the beach, the more costumed men we saw.  It felt, for the next few hours, as if we'd truly stepped back in time to Napoleon's Corsica.  After the parade, we grabbed coffee and ice cream at a nearby cafe, went through the Musee Fesch (filled with art at one time owned by Napoleon's uncle, Cardinal Joseph Fesch), then walked along the beach.

After making one last pass through the market so I could purchase some vervain soap I'd seen earlier, we made our way back to the ship for what proved to be a highlight of our trip, a fireworks show to celebrate Napoleon's birthday.  We may have had the best viewing spot on the island.  

Now that I've fallen in love with Corsica, I've decided I must set a book there.  Not sure when it'll happen, but it will.

Next, the final stop:  Villefranche.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Italy, Day Three: Lucca and Pisa

Our third port in Italy was in the beautiful town of La Spezia.  Of course, I'd gotten on an up-before-sunrise schedule, so here's the sunrise shot of the day:

While it doesn't have the charm of some of Italy's more touristy waterfront towns--there was a naval ship in the harbor, and there are high rise apartments all over, rather than cute old homes--La Spezia's waterfront boasts a beautiful garden area.  We booked a private driver to take us to the medieval town of Lucca, rather than joining the ship's tour to Florence (I've been to Florence before, and couldn't envision spending two hours each way on a bus to try to cram the city's sites into one short day.)  Since we made it to the dock well ahead of our scheduled meeting with the driver, we walked around La Spezia and enjoyed the gardens.  It was the last bit of outdoor time we had before it started pouring rain!

I even tortured myself by perusing the town's real estate ads.  Someday...maybe!  Once we met our driver, he took us to the beautiful walled city of Lucca.  I'd never been to Lucca, but being history geek and the House Hunters International geek that I am, I loved the episode that was set in Lucca and looked forward to seeing the town for myself.  On the way, we went through the city of Carrara, famous for its marble, and looked at the hillsides where Michelangelo had selected the blocks he used to make some of his famous statues.  By the time we reached Lucca it was raining, but our driver had us covered (literally...he brought umbrellas for everyone, and he managed to park in a spot that was close to everything we wanted to see, so we'd spend less time hiking around in the rain.)  If you are ever in Florence, or are arriving at the ports of Livorno or La Spezia, and you're considering hiring a driver to take you around the area, consider this an A+ recommendation for Tuscan Sunshine Tours.  I travel a lot, and Franco's one of the best drivers and tour guides I've ever had the joy of meeting.  He has an easygoing personality--just what you want when you're on the go all day--and an amazing knowledge of and love for the region.  He offers a number of tours in and around Florence.  (If I'm back there again, I'm calling Franco!)

We spent the morning walking around Lucca, admiring its many cathedrals.  Even with the rain, the city is breathtaking.  Every time you turned a corner in the alleyways of the walled portion of the city, you saw another cathedral.

We walked through the Piazza Anfiteatro, a restaurant-filled square that used to be a Roman amphitheater.  Over the years, as the ancient amphitheater fell into disrepair, homes and churcheswere built on its stone foundation.  On the exterior of the square (which is actually an oval shape, due to its original construction) you can see some of the ancient stonework from the amphitheater.

My photos of Lucca don't do it justice.  The narrow alleys, beautiful cathedrals, and quaint shops are--to me--Italy at its finest.  I love poking my nose into little shops to see what's for sale.  This was one find, filled with all kinds of olive oils, wines, local mushrooms and tomatoes, and--of course--locally made pasta.  If you click on the photo to see it enlarged, it'll make you hungry!  (You'll just need to click your browser's back button to return to the blog.)

Franco gave us some time to wander on our own, so we explored a few more alleys and shops before making our way back to the car.  He'd staked out a parking spot near the monthly antiques market (we lucked out to be there on the right day) which gave us a bonus spot to explore.

Franco took us through a few of the smaller hill towns, stopping at two overlooks to let us get a sense of the area around Lucca, and giving us the chance to see acres and acres of sunflowers (the area near Lucca is well-known as a supplier to many of Europe's flower markets.)  He answered all of our questions about the farms, and even showed us a spot in a medieval wall where capers were growing (who knew?)

Finally, we made a quick stop in Pisa to see the Field of Miracles.  By this time it was pouring rain--tourists were fighting with collapsed umbrellas--so we ducked into a restaurant for a quick pasta and pizza lunch in hopes of waiting out the storm.  It was still pouring when we finished eating, so I snapped a few quick photos of the tower (yep, it leans!) and Duomo before we hightailed it back to Franco's car.  Since I've been to Pisa before, it wasn't a big loss to give it a quick glance and move on, given the weather. 

Franco took us back to La Spezia along a scenic route through the area's towns, rather than on the crowded highway, which suited us fine.  We made it back to the ship in time to dry off and clean up for dinner.  (Thanks, Franco!)

No sunset pictures this time, since it was getting dark.  But just wait until the next stop:  Corsica!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Italy, Day Two: Rome

There are two ways you can view the prospect of a day-long trip to Rome. The first way, which we found to be predominant on our cruise ship, is to panic at how much you want to do when you only have twelve hours in the city. The second way, which is my way, is to kick back and see what you can and leave the rest for another visit.

Here's the thing: I've been lucky enough to visit Rome four times in the last six years. On each of the previous three visits, I'd spent several days in Rome. I still haven't seen all there is to see in Rome. So why kill yourself trying to see it all in a day? Realize that you can't do it all, then focus on what you can reasonably do.

If there's one thing you've wanted to see your whole life--say, the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the Colosseum, or the Borghese Museum (I love the Borghese!)--then make that place your priority. If you finish with time to spare, move to the next thing. Or not. Rome is not a hurry-it-up place. I guarantee you, you'll have fun even if you're leisurely and miss most of the touristy sites.

Our cruise ship, like all cruise ships visiting Rome, docked at the port of Civitavecchia, which is about an hour away from the city. Rather than take a tourist bus from there to Rome, we took the port bus from the ship to where the (very long) pier meets land, then hopped off and walked a few blocks to the train station. Everyone in the station speaks English, and they're used to tourists asking how to get to Rome, so nabbing tickets on one of the frequent trains is easy. We got our tickets and were on board, heading into Rome, within forty minutes of getting off the ship. I loved seeing the coast and the villages on the way in--views that I think are better than those you get from a highway.  In many cases, given Roman traffic, the trains are faster than the busses, too.

Once in Rome, we took the Metro to the Colosseum. I've been there before, but I love walking through the Colosseum and looking across at the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill from one of the Colosseum's upper levels.

On this trip, we did a Rick Steves Audio Tour of the Colosseum, which we'd downloaded onto our iPods before leaving home.  The audio tour was easy to follow and worked out fine.

Another option--one I HIGHLY recommend if it's your first time in Rome--is to spend the money and hire a private guide from Rome Walks. We did this on a previous visit and thought it was worth every penny and then some. The guide who met us on that visit was a graduate student from the University of New Hampshire who'd been studying in Rome for nearly a year. He loved the city and its history, and it showed. He answered all our questions (as a history geek, I tend to have a lot of them) and took us to see the Colosseum, the Forum, and Palatine Hill over the course of one beautiful afternoon.  Best of all, he did it in a reasonable amount of time--we saw what we wanted to see, skipped what we didn't--and he was great at ensuring we didn't get caught behind massive crowds. Hiring the guide made the most of our time on that trip.  I've taken some of the company's group walks, too--their Twilight Rome Walk, as well as their Jewish Ghetto and Trastevere Walk--and would book another walk with them in a heartbeat. 

After we finished our tour of the Colosseum, we made our way past the Forum (the entrance has moved since the last time I was there, making it harder to cut through--so we ended up walking past it rather than through it) on our way to the Pantheon.  I adore the Pantheon and the square in front of it, so getting there for lunch was a priority on this trip.  I think it's a fantastic people-watching spot.  We grabbed pizza (not as good as the pizza in Sorrento, sadly), watched the tourists go by as we ate, then walked through the Pantheon itself before making our way to the Piazza Navona.  There was an art market going on, so after watching a group of kids play in the Piazza Navona's Bernini fountain, we spent some time wandering through the market and enjoying the sunshine.

We hadn't made any plans for the afternoon, so we debated going to the Vatican.  However, since the weather was so great and we wanted to spend more time outdoors, we opted to skip it on this trip and make our way to the Spanish Steps and then to the Trevi Fountain, which are also great people-watching spots (and near some good leather shopping, if you like shopping.)

First, however, we made a stop at my favorite gelateria, which isn't far from the Pantheon or Piazza Navona.  If you're ever in Rome, try the Gelateria Della Palma on Via Maddalena.  When you go inside, pay first at the register, then take your ticket to the ice cream counter.  There are more flavors than you could imagine, even some made with soy for those of you whose stomachs can't tolerate the real thing.  This photo shows about a quarter of their selections.  I couldn't fit it all in one shot!

They have some exotic flavors, like chocolate pepperonicini, but I'm partial to simpler ones like the strawberry or the mint chocolate chip.

After visiting the Trevi Fountain to throw in the requisite coinage (thus guaranteeing a return trip to Rome), we walked along the Via Condotti, up the Spanish Steps, then made our way to Termini to catch the train back to Civitavecchia.  We poked our noses inside a few of Rome's many churches (I HIGHLY recommend you do this anywhere you go in Europe, since you never know how beautiful or moving the scene may be inside) before making a pit stop at the Piazza delle Quattro Fontane to refill our water bottles at one of the four fountains so we'd have water for the train ride.  The last time we stayed in Rome, we were in a hotel not far from here, so it was fun to stop here again.

We probably didn't see as much of Rome as some of the other people on our cruise ship did, but we truly enjoyed ourselves and we weren't wiped out at the end of the day by trying to cram in as much as possible.  We even had a little bit of time to explore Civitavecchia before enjoying a late dinner and a phenomenal sunset.

Next on the agenda:  Italy, Day Three:  Lucca and Pisa

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Italy, Day One: Amalfi Coast

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Italy. The country is drenched in sunlight, boasts skiing AND beaches, and has what's arguably the best food in the world. There are big cities, postage-stamp sized villages, and everything in between. Even if it didn't have all those plusses, the history of the region alone would put it atop my favorite places list. (Then again, I'm a total history geek.) Part of why I chose this cruise was that it made three stops in Italy, one outside Naples, one an hour from Rome, and a third stop just south of the Cinque Terre.

Again, I popped out of bed at dawn to go on my balcony and watch the sun rise. This is just off the coast of Capri. I wanted to bottle it. The sky and water were some of the most beautiful shades I've ever seen.

Once we pulled into the port in Naples, we went through the large port building (all brand-spanking new!) to find our driver. Since I've been to the Amalfi Coast before, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to see and thought having a driver for the day would be the way to go. First, we went to Pompeii. I wanted to explore before it got too hot. Even though we arrived before 9 AM, guess what? Still too hot. We were out of there by eleven. The place was jam-packed, so I'm glad this wasn't my first visit there. Still, I enjoy it immensely. There's something new to see in Pompeii on every visit--the place is huge. It's sad to envision such a large city being devastated as Pompeii was.

After Pompeii, we took a leisurely drive along the Amalfi Coast. Though there are other places I'd go if I had more than a day, for our short stop we decided to hit Positano and Sorrento. The views along the Amalfi Coast road are breathtaking--even when there's fog, as there was the day we were there. (Thanks to our driver, who took this photo!)

He also stopped at a roadside stand so I could ogle the food. I love checking out what's for sale in foreign countries (as was probably apparent from my Barcelona blog.)

Most tourists seem to take photos of buildings, landmarks, or (gasp!) their families. Me, I'm all about the markets and food stands. (Though I can't remember ever taking a photo of my plated food in a restaurant, something I saw others doing on my cruise ship the entire week. It's never struck me as a Thing To Do.)

After grabbing some gelati--happy, happy, joy, joy--we made our way to Sorrento. The last time I was on the Amalfi Coast, we stayed in a small hotel here for three days, so I know my way around. We had a fabulous pizza lunch, then walked to the gardens near the main town square. Sorrento is known for its lemons and limoncello liquor. No wonder, when there are spectacular lemon trees absolutely everywhere.

Between the fresh food and the citrus trees, I think Sorrento must be one of the best-smelling towns anywhere.

Instead of having the driver face the crowded road back to Naples, we opted to take the ferry. I'm glad we did--and I'd do it again if I ever need to get from Sorrento to Naples--since the views were amazing. This was from high in Sorrento, walking down to the ferry:

And this was the view from the ferry itself, as we left Sorrento:

You know this setting will end up in a book, right? It's too beautiful not to spend my working hours revisiting in my mind. This is a big reason I love to travel. It's all fodder for the imagination.

Next up, Italy, Day Two: Rome

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Game One

I couldn't let the day go by without posting my pick for this year's World Series. Not only do I think the Texas Rangers will win, I think they'll win in five. (I'm tempted to say they'll win in four, but I'll hedge.) Though I'm obviously unhappy that my Rockies and Red Sox didn't make an appearance this year, I'm thrilled for the Rangers. I love seeing a team that's never been to the Series make it all the way.

I'm also cheering for the Rangers this year because they're the longtime favorite team of my writing buddy Emily March. Emily is a pen name of author Geralyn Dawson--if you're a fan of western romances or romantic suspense, search out her books written as Geralyn Dawson. They're phenomenal.

Geralyn's first book as Emily March, Angel's Rest, hits the stands in February. I've had an early look, and it's definitely worth pre-ordering.  (And if you like Colorado settings, as I do, then you're in for a real treat.)

In the meantime, Go Rangers!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Berber Tea in Tunisia

I'm not usually in the habit of getting up before dawn, but being on a ship with a sea view balcony beckoning seems to pull me out of bed earlier than usual. Again, I made it outside long before the ship made it into port. Glad I did. I spent about twenty minutes watching these two fishermen search for a place to drop their giant, rolled net. I think the three of us (and, presumably, the captain of the cruise ship) were the only ones awake.

Soon, we were pulling into port in Tunis. In typical Middle Eastern style, one of the first things you see (check the side of the building) is a giant picture of the country's president standing in front of the flag. When the DH and I visited Egypt a few years ago, we played a, "How Many Hosni Mubaraks Can You Count?" game as we went through downtown Cairo. I think we'd have been successful playing a similar game in Tunis.

After hopping off the ship, we boarded a bus for a guided tour. I'm generally a go-it-alone type, but figured that with the limited time we had in Tunis, and the limited research I'd managed ahead of time, a tour was in order. Our first stop was the historic Punic Ports. Today, it simply looks like a nice place to live (lots of gorgeous homes in this neighborhood), but I can imagine Hannibal leaving from here on one of his expeditions.

After walking along the waterfront, we made our way to the ruins of the ancient city of Carthage. I'd read that the ruins aren't that great; therefore, I was surprised by how much was actually still standing. You can climb down and walk through it all, then on to the waterfront to imagine how life must have been when this was a flourishing city.

I spent a good hour-plus, heat and all, exploring the ruins. Believe it or not, I actually had a picture taken at this stop!

From Carthage, we re-boarded the bus and went to explore an ancient ampitheatre, then went on to the St. Louis Cathedral to take in the view of the entire city of Tunis and its waterfront before heading to the touristy (but gorgeous) blue-and-white village of Sidi Bou Said. In Sidi, we opted to skip the shopping--which was where most tourists stopped--to wander the streets and admire the architecture. Wouldn't you love to live in a house with a front door like this one?

The entire village is filled with elaborate blue doors and windows adorned with fancy grillework. After walking through the park and peeking through alleyways at a few more buildings, we went to a Berber house that is open to visitors who want to take a tour and have some tea. While it was fairly touristy, I liked having the opportunity to see the layout and tilework of a Berber house. Despite the fact it was nearly a hundred degrees outside (it was about 2PM by this time), I couldn't resist trying the steaming hot Berber tea.

It was tasty, but given the heat, it wasn't hard to turn down the second cup! After enjoying the tea, I climbed up to the roof to take in the view across Sidi Bou Said, back toward Tunis. I stayed up there quite awhile, but only took a couple photos. I was too busy enjoying myself!

From there, we walked back to the bus. I didn't go into any of the shops, but did snap a photo of the outside of one, since I loved the colors of all the plates on display:

And I snapped a final photo of a gorgeous gate on one of the homes:

On the way back, our tour guide talked about the Tunisian system of government, the way its educational system works, and the role of women in Tunisia (more women than men in Tunisia pursue higher education...who knew?) I found it all fascinating.

My last photo of the day was taken just before sunset, looking back toward Tunis as the ship left the harbor. To the right of this island (with its phenomenal cliffs) was a huge wind farm. Our tour guide had mentioned that Tunis draws a lot of its power from the wind, so it was a nice way to finish the day to see the wind farm on departure.

If I'm fortunate enough to visit Tunisia again, I'll do it on my own. Tunis seemed pretty safe and easy to navigate, despite a lot of the overhyped warnings I'd read online before visiting. Most Tunisians speak at least some English and French, which means I'd be fine if I ever got lost--though sometimes, getting lost is when I have the most fun! If I were to go for more than a day, I'd try to arrange for one of the many tours out of town that go to the Roman ruins south of Tunis. I've heard that Dougga, in particular, is worth the drive.

Isn't it great when you leave a place with a head full of ideas for things you'll do next time you visit? In my mind, that's the mark of a successful trip!

Next stop: Italy!