Tag Archives: travel

Crete, Greece

A few weeks ago we visited the lovely island of Crete—Greece’s largest and most populous.  We began our trip in Heraklion (Iráklio), Crete’s largest city, then continued our island exploration with visits to Chaniá and Réthymno, Crete’s second and third largest cities, respectively.  Here are the highlights…

Kules Fortress

Koules Fortress (Rocca al Mare) in Heraklion’s Harbor

Kules Fortress

Koules Fortress

Known today by its Turkish name, Koules, the Venetian Fortress of Rocca al Mare, dominates Heraklion’s (Iráklion) harbor.  The massive structure, built by the Venetians in the 13th century, once served to protect the entrance to the port.

Ágios Títus Church


Saint Titus Church (Ágios Títus)

Converted from a mosque to a church in 1923, Heraklion’s Saint Titus Church is dedicated to Crete’s first bishop and protector of the island.  The skull of Saint Titus is preserved inside.

Knossos1 Knossos2 Knossos3 Knossos4
The ancient Palace of Knossós, just southeast of Heraklion, was home to one of Europe’s oldest civilizations, the Minoans.  The palace was the main center of politics and culture in Crete from around 2000 to 1450 BC (as well as home to the legendary King Minos and the famed Minotaur).  The massive residence consisted of about 1400 rooms, some of which have been reconstructed by British Archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, who discovered the palace in 1900.

Chaniá

Old Town of Chaniá

Chaniá

Chaniá’s Venetian Harbor

Chaniá, located along the north coast of the island, is divided into a modern city and an old town district. We spent much of our visit walking around the historic old town and strolling along its picturesque Venetian harbor, but did venture into the city center for a wander through the impressive, indoor municipal market (Agora).

Agiá Triáda Monastery
(Monastery Church)

Agiá Triáda Monastery 
(Monastery Church)

Built in the 17th century, the tranquil Holy Trinity Monastery (Agiá Triáda Monastery), located in the Chaniá regional unit on the Akrotiri peninsula, is one of the main historical monuments on the island.  The Monastery is well-known for the wine and olive oil it produces and sells.

Réthimno

Réthymno Old Town

Réthimno Venetian Harbor

Réthymno Venetian Harbor

The atmospheric old town of Réthymno, bares some resemblance to Chaniá’s old town, only smaller.  It is considered one of the best preserved old towns in Crete.  Its beauty, charm, and sense of tranquillity, along with its lovely Venetian harbor is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy a meal at one of its many seafood tavernas.

Fortézza

Fortézza

The massive walls of the 16th century Venetian fortress, Fortézza, dominate the city of Réthymno.  Through decades of ongoing restoration work several buildings have been restored.

CreteBeach

One of Crete’s lovely beaches.

And that concludes our Cretan holiday….sandy beaches, beautiful mountains, delicious food, unique history, and pleasant people.  Sas efharistó, Crete!

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Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul

Recently we visited the transcontinental city of Istanbul, Turkey.  Divided by the Bosphorus strait, Istanbul is where Europe and Asia meet.  It is Turkey’s largest city as well as one of the largest cities in the world by population.  We had a grand time exploring the fascinating sights of this multi-layered metropolis.  Here are the highlights from this historical city…

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace, Gate of Felicity

Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayi) was the main residence for the sultans of the Ottoman Empire from the 15th- to the 19th-century.  Its unique architecture, beautiful courtyards, and incredible collection of treasures make Topkapi Palace one of the top sights in the city.

Dolmabahce Palace

Dolmabahce Palace

Dolmabahce Palace

Dolmabahce Palace – View from the Bosphorus

Built in the mid-1800s along the Bosphorus, Dolmabahçe Palace (Dolmabahçe Sarayi) served as the administrative center of the late Ottoman Empire as well as the home for some of the last Ottoman sultans.

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

Hagia SophiaI nterior

Hagia Sophia Interior

The Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya), a Christian church-turned-mosque-turned museum is considered one of the world’s greatest buildings.  This impressive Byzantine structure, with its magnificent domed ceiling, vast interior, and glittering mosaics, was completed in AD 537.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque

Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque)

Widely known as the “Blue Mosque” for its blue tiled interior, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii) is one of a few mosques in the world with six minarets.  This striking structure was built in the early 1600s just south of the Hagia Sophia.

Hippodrome

Hippodrome

The Hippodrome was once the gathering place and sporting center of the city. Usually associated with Roman Emperor Constantine, it was originally built by Emperor Septimius Severus in AD 203.

Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

Head of Medusa

Head of Medusa

The impressive, column-filled Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayı) lies beneath the city of Istanbul.  Constructed in AD 532, the cistern provided water for the Great Palace of Constantinople (which no longer exists today).  Of its 336 columns two are supported by stone-carved heads of Medusa, their origins unknown.

Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar

The massive Grand Bazaar (Büyük Çarşı) is one of the largest covered markets in the world.  It is a labyrinth of shops selling everything from jewelry, textiles, pottery and, of course, souvenirs.

Spice Bazaar

Spice Bazaar

Turkish Delight

Turkish Delight at Spice Bazaar

From Turkish delight to saffron, oils to dried fruit, Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı) is a dizzying array of colors, flavors, and people.  Let your taste buds do some shopping…
[Turkish delight (Lokum) is a traditional flavored gelatine dusted with powered sugar.]

Turkish Food

Turkish Food

And finally…
Lavas “puffy” bread with various dips and vegetables—a delicious way to end a fabulous trip.  Teşekkürler, Turkey!

Valencia, Spain

Recently, we spent a wonderful (sunny) weekend in Valencia, Spain.  As the country’s third largest city, there is plenty to see and as the “home of paella” there is certainly plenty to taste.  Here’s a look at this friendly, vibrant city through our lens…

Mercado Central

Mercado Central

Mercado Central Interior

Mercado Central

As one of the oldest food markets in Europe, Valencia’s fascinating Central Market (Mercado Central) sells a tantalizing variety—from fruits to meats to wine and baked goods.  The striking building, with its domed ceilings, colorful tiles and ceramics, is worth seeing (even if food is not on your mind).

Plaza de laVirgen

Plaza de la Virgen

At the center of Valencia’s historic district is the bustling Virgin Square (Plaza de la Virgen), once the forum of Roman Valencia.  Surrounded by cafes and landmark buildings, it’s a great place to people watch.
[The photo above shows the Turia Fountain in the foreground, the Basilica of the Virgin of the Helpless on the left, Valencia Cathedral in the center with its bell tower, the Miguelete, in the upper right.]

Valencia Cathedral Altar

Valencia Cathedral Altar

Valencia Cathedral Aisle

Valencia Cathedral

Consecrated in 1238, Valencia Cathedral (Iglesia Catedral Basilica Metropolitana de Santa Maria) is an architectural beauty.  Designed primarily in the Gothic style, it also contains Romanesque, Baroque, and Neo-Classical elements.  The Gothic Chapel of the Holy Chalice (Gothic Capilla del Santo Cáliz), near the main entrance, is said to hold the Holy Grail—the chalice Christ sipped from during The Last Supper.

Museo del Patriarca

Museo del Patriarca

The Patriarch Museum (Museo del Patriarca), housed in the Royal College of Corpus Christi Seminary, was founded by Saint Juan de Ribera in the 16th Century.  The museum contains a wonderful collection of paintings, including works from El Greco and Francisco Ribalta.

City of Arts and Sciences

City of Arts and Sciences: L’Hemisfèric (foreground) & El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia

With a modern architectural complex located in a city founded in 138 BC, it’s no wonder Valencia is often described as a “city of contrasts”.  Simply striking on a bright, sunny day, the City of Arts and Sciences (Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias) contains several fascinating structures, including a cinema, planetarium, science museum, oceanographic park, and an opera house/performing arts center.

Playa de las Arenas

Playa de las Arenas—one of Valencia’s city beaches.

Being the birthplace of paella, it wouldn’t be a proper visit to Valencia without feasting on this delicious rice dish more than once.  However, in true k&mk fashion, we forgot to take a photograph.  Apologies.  I can assure you it was terrific.  We enjoyed seafood paella (paella de mariscos) at a restaurant along Playa de las Arenas (photo above) as well as traditional Valencian paella (paella valenciana) in the city center.  Muy bueno!

And just a few street scenes to close…

ValenciaStreet2 ValenciaStreet1 ValenciaStreet3

Muchos Gracias, Valencia!  We had a great time.

Lagos, Portugal

After a pleasant visit in Porto, we traveled south towards Lagos, with the sun leading the way.

About midway through our drive, we stopped to visit the Monastery of Batalha (Mosteiro da Batalha) in central Portugal.

Batalha Monastery

Batalha Monastery

Batalha Monastery

Western Facade of Batalha Monastery.  Statue of Nuno Alvares Pereira.

This massive monastery was built to commemorate the Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385.  Taking almost two centuries to construct, this Gothic structure is a marvel.  It was a fascinating stop on our journey to Lagos.

Lagos is located in the Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region.  The Algarve is a popular tourist destination known for its sandy beaches, great golf courses, and picturesque coastline.  Lagos is one of the most visited areas in the Algarve.  It is a historic seafaring town, dating back some 2000 years.  Although our visit was brief, we managed to soak in some sun and a bit of the charm from this attractive, seaside town.  Here are the highlights in photos…

Lagos4 Lagos3 Streets of Lagos Lagos1

With its cobbled streets, coastal character, and relaxed vibe, Lagos is a wonderful  place to relax (although I hear it has a vibrant nightlife, especially in summer).

Old City Walls

Old City Walls (Constructed in the 16th Century)

Lagos Marina

Lagos Marina

Ponta de Piedade

Dramatic Cliffs of Ponta de Piedade.

Just hanging around

“Local Line Up”

Obrigado, Lagos…for some much-needed sun!