At the end of my last Italy trip we spent 1 night in the Umbrian town of Orvieto, Italy. Orvieto resides on top of a large volcanic tufa. The city was started during Etruscan times and the location chosen due to its safety from invaders. Upon arriving to the city by train, you have the choice to ascend to the city center by bus or by funicular. For our arrival, we chose to take the funicular.
From the city one can experience spectacular views of surrounding areas.
Most spectacular in the city is the city’s Duomo. This gothic church has one of the most magnificent facades that I have ever seen. So many details were put into the decor of this cathedral.

The facade was restored in 1995 so now all can clearly see scenes depicted on the outside.

Also amazing are the wall sculptures that depict scenes of the old and new testament.

Some of it can be quite disturbing, especially the hell scenes.

You will also notice many statues lining around the rose window.

These bronze doors were added in the 1960’s.

Metal statues with the symbols (Angel, Ox, Lion, Eagle) of the Evangelists appear on the exterior.

The glittering mosaics pick up light during parts of the day to make a spectacular vision of the church.

Also noticeable are other symbols such as the  Star of David located in the front of the church.

Inside the church are some frescos of the life of the Virgin Mary among many other notable works.

The outside of the cathedral is very ornate but you will notice the interior to be much more simple in design.

Orvieto Unground

Besides the duomo another amazing part of Orvieto is the the Underground. The underground consists of caves under the city that were originally used by the Etruscans.

While underground we learned one of the caves was used to make olive oil .

For a time the caves were used as a cellar.

Pigeons were kept for food. It is still a dish to be found in the region.

Great vistas from the underground.

More pigeon caves

Tranquil path outside the underground

Also in Orvieto we visited an archaeological museum with artifacts dug up locally.

Orvieto proved to be a good choice for a short visit before returning home. I advise one to stop by if you happen to be touring central Italy. You will not see many cathedrals quite like the one here. Additionally the underground tour is a unique experience as well.

Touring Crete

As part of our honeymoon tour package we stopped at the greek island of Crete. Crete is a rather large island and our sightseeing was concentrated in the city of Heraklion. We only got to see a small part but Crete was much less island vacation like than the islands of Santorini and Mykonos. However there was still plenty to see in Crete.

Upon arrival to our hotel, they gave us a honeymoon gift.

We also had a pretty nice view from our room.

While in Crete, we visited the ancient palace of Knossos. Knossos is an ancient Minoan civilization that is one of the oldest in European lands. We wandered around the grounds with its very well planned rooms and halls. Some has been reconstructed to look as it once might have. Fresh frescos have been painted (some of the originals exist in a nearby museum.

Taking a break from sightseeing we stopped in some local cafes in Heraklion. The city has a bustling cafe life. Many young people spend their afternoons and evenings at outdoor cafes. They either slowly sip an ouzo on ice or enjoy fancy coffee drinks. We made sure to carve out some time to participate in this as well.

Morosini Fountain (Lion Fountain)

Later we visited the archaeological museum. Archaeological Museum of Herakleion contains a large collection of Minoan art and artifacts.

Museum visitation is exhausting. We took at break at a nice cafe. We ordered some snails and the restaurant was nice enough to give us a free dessert.

We finished our visit with the Koules Venetian fortress. This fort for some time served as a Turkish prison among other things.

New Orleans Cemetery

There is something about old cemeteries that keep drawing me in. When I visit a town and I find there is an old famous cemetery, I add it to my to do list.
One great place to visit cemeteries is New Orleans. We visited the Saint Louis Cemetery and took part in a voodoo tour.

A man that works in the cemetery told us about how the tombs are reused by families. Bodies are placed in a wooden box in the tomb and sealed up. The New Orleans heat “burns” the body. A year and a day later the tomb is opened again and the remains are pushed back make room for the next in the family…..

Tombs are quite expensive but in the long run it can be quite economical since tombs can be reused over and over again by the family.

Separate but equal

Homer Plessy tomb of the Plessy vs Ferguson fame is buried in this cemetery.

We also did a voodoo tour.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church as part of the tour. It is the oldest surviving church building in New Orleans. It is visited by Catholics and some practitioners of voodoo.

And I saw these Lela dolls. What?!?

We met a real life voodoo practitioner (Sorry no pictures).
We learned about Marie Catherine Laveau, the famous voodoo practitioner. We visited the mausoleum where Marie Laveau is buried, in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1.  Tourists mark X’s on her tomb and leave offerings if their wish is granted. I have yet to ask her for anything but I may someday.

Anyone want some oreos?

Some more cemetery pictures

 Film site of Easy Rider

Flamenco in Sevilla

While in Sevilla we wanted to make sure we saw authentic flamenco while we were there. All recommendations told us to go to Casa de la Memoria. We booked our show in advance and attended one night. No food and drinks are served for the show; you were there for a performance only. I knew we would not be disappointed.
There were two dancers, one male and one female. The female was not outfitted in the traditional flamenco dress (see example below).

Instead she wore pants. The pants allowed us (the audience) to see her leg movements more clearly. I think I liked this better.

They were both excellent. The show was amazing. The were accompanied by some very talented musicians. At the end they all came together to play some traditional music.

I believe they switched locations since we visited. Be sure to visit their website for the most up to date information on shows www.casadelamemoria.es (change language to english). Make sure to make reservations  – it is a popular show.


A girl from the Orlando Lady Crafters (a group I am a member of) has habit of planning wonderful gatherings. We recently met and she invited me to her most recent gathering – Belgium night.
Orlando Lady Crafters do not knit; we are a group of ladies who are interested in craft beer. The range of experiences in the group go from home brewers ready to start their own brewery to newbies who are just now venturing past ciders. It is a lovely group of ladies that I’m glad I know.
For Belgium night the idea is that you bring a Belgium beer to share for tasting and a Belgium dish. Not many of us were familiar with Belgium food past mussels with fries or Belgium waffles. I did some internet searches and came across this recipe for stoemp. Stoemp is a mashed potato dish mixed with some vegetable. It is supposed to be the quintessential comfort food. I chose it partly because it seemed simple to make and partly because I have never cooked with leeks before. I pretty much stayed on recipe except the addition of more garlic….I always add more garlic.

We always try to use organic ingredients whenever possible. Here is the bounty from whole foods.

Since it was my first time with leeks I did some internet searching for proper preparation. You are supposed to cut off the dark green leaves (I have saved them for soup stock later). I left too much green in my first cut so ended up cutting some more off later. Instructions on the web say to slice the leeks down middle and then 1/4 way from there to make it easier to clean the inside dirt. After cleaning I sliced it into small slivers.

While the potatoes boil I prepare the leeks.

Leeks are sauteed with onions, garlic and butter (butter yum).

Potatoes are fully mashed

After the leeks are translucent the broth and cream is added according to instructions. Once the liquid is cooked down it all mixed together and topped with nutmeg.

I really liked the recipe. I just wish I choose red potatoes instead of the boring light brown ones. I would have added more salt too, especially since I was making it for others (we salt much less at home). I did get some praises so I might keep this one in my recipe book for comfort food times (holidays, etc).