Vatican Museum and how to dodge tour groups

One of the hardest things to do when visiting the Vatican Museum is dodging the tour groups. They are everywhere and always blocking the photo you are trying to take. Fortunately, photoshop can take care of some of those photos where a person’head or smartphone popped into the frame at the last minute. But, if you walk with a cane, well, the crowds become more than annoying. My first word of advice, order your tickets before you go in order to avoid the lines.

Then, there are all the stairs –and these are everywhere! The best thing to do? Ask one of the many guards for a way around. There are hidden back ways, elevators and long corridors that can help you get through the museum and to the Sistine Chapel. Thesee hidden jewels show more parts of the museum with less crowds. 

Eventually, you do catch up with the crowds but you can use this to your advantage, especially if you can negotiate some stairs. Sereptiously join a group as they exit through the back door! This brings you to St. Peter’s Basilica without standing in the long line outside.

Of course, the tour groups are still there, but you have saved time from walking back through the maze of the Vatican Museum to the official exit, then walking along the wall to St. Peter’s Square, then standing in line to enter.

Of course, you can enter and stand in yet another line to climb to the top of the dome, bit I think I will pass on that experience.

Yet another castle #AtoZChallenge


Sometimes, it seems that there are so many castles!  This one is Egeskov and is still occupied but rooms are open to the public. The castle is built in such a way that the family could move to a separate halve, closing it off from anyone who might attack it.

There are also extensive grounds around it with different gardens, exhibits and other exhibits. One garden, Caroline’s Garden, is interactive, with various types of musical instruments like bells and drums that can be played. It was quite magical!

Xperiences #AtoZ Challenge


I love to cruise and a majority of my cruises have been on Celebrity, which they highlight a Xperiences. In fact, my favourite cruises — one around the tip of South American and one of the Baltic were both on Celebrity ships.

The staff is incredible and you feel you can stop and talk to any of the ship’s officers. During a particularly rough time at sea, one of the officers stopped me to ask if I was ok, as many passengers were not. He found me taking movies of the rough water and comparing it to surfing. He said I had to be the only passenger truly enjoying the adventure!

When not visiting ports, I love the Solarium — it is a quiet oasis on the ship and I find that it is one of the most relaxing places.

My favourite bar has to be the martini bar. It is centrally located and just a great place to meet people — and spent time “drawing” on the ice that covers the bar’s counter.

I don’t take a lot of pictures while I’m on the ship, so just go the the Celebrity website for more details!

I’ll be on the Celebrity Constellation in just a few days!

Wismar #AtoZChallenge


My visit to Wismar was part of the Mystery Cruise. Again, we did not know where we are going, but we were sailing very carefully through a narrow channel marked with buoys. The captain then turned the ship around in this very narrow space and backing the ship up into an even smaller docking area. the good news is that we were right in the centre of town. Very impressive!

The city centre had a farmers market and a very ornate fountain that was once the main source of water. This central plaza was also surrounded by buildings that represented various architectural styles.

Our send-off at the end of the day included a concert from a male chorus signing sea shanties and a gun salute.

eUtruscans #AtoZChallenge


Sometimes, in doing this challenge, you find yourself needing to get “creative” with the alphabet. That is my challenge for “U” this year. So, I am cheating a little with this post about the Etruscan Museum in Volterra (I always seem to pronounce the word as “eu-trus-can”.

The museum has a collection of Etruscan funeral urns organized chronically. The earliest examples look like large jars. The latter ones were ornately carved.

There is also a garden at the back of the museum that gives a great overview of Volterra and had some modern pieces displayed.

Sussex towns #AtoZChallenge


Sussex has a number of charming towns and villages to visit. I spent a day in two neighboring towns — Rye and Winchelsea. It was also nice that it was a bright, Spring day and a great day for photography.

One of the things I enjoyed in Rye were all the names on the doors.

Across from the “Door Opposite” is the Mermaid Inn. This is considered one of the oldest pubs in England. I loved the signed that said it was “re-built in 1420”. Inside the pub were a number of small public rooms, low ceilings and slanting floors. In an area that was probably used as a stable yard now has and outside patio — a great place for a pint or two.

From here, we continued wandering the streets up to the highest part of the town – giving us both a view of nearby Winchelsea and a beautiful church.

Winchelsea is very different from Rye. The streets are not as twisted and the church is very different. It is in the centre of the town with a large area around it, including a graveyard.






Rostock #AtoZChallenge


Rostock was formerly part of East Germany and was important for ship-building during the Soviet era. The guide I had for this journey was from Rostock. He told several stories about what life was like before and after German reunification. One story he told was right after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He and some friends decided to drive a town that had been on the opposite site of the border. The drive is about 100 kilometers. When they arrived and talked to some of the people there, he learned that, even though the towns were so close, no one knew about Rostock! I found this a fascinating insight to how little understanding there was about the what was on the other side of the Wall.

The central plaza of Rostock  feels very modern. There is a light rail transit system that cuts through the plaza. The central fountain is surrounded by very modern statures  representing Norse Gods. There was a a farmers market, selling fruits, vegetables and arts and crafts. Next to the market were several outdoor cafes, perfect for a coffee — or beer. I settled for an espresso, since it was still early in the morning for me.