19 May 2019

It's All An Adventure That Comes With a Breathtaking View - Sundays in My City

That song was in my head the entire time...

I've climbed countless towers (with countless hundreds and hundreds of stairs) and hills, often early in the morning for the best light, to get that "must see" view of the town square or the old town or the country side. 

I've also had to decide whether that "must see" is really worth it.  Who hasn't read about a "must see" only to find it somewhat disappointing. Or, read that the "must see" is disappointing and then having to decide if you'll feel like you missed something if you don't do the "must see" even if you know there's a good chance it will be disappointing (my recommendation...save your money and don't go to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland!!).

So, this brings us to the City Walls in Dubrovnik, Croatia.  With numerous additions and modifications throughout their history, they have been considered to be amongst the great fortification systems of the Middle Ages, as they were never breached by a hostile army during this time period. In 1979, the old city of Dubrovnik, which includes a substantial portion of the old walls of Dubrovnik, joined the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. The walls ring the city and are over a mile in length.

It was hot and crowded when I visited Dubrovnik. I had already read that if you want to walk the walls you should do it first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds.  I was there when they opened and it was already warm and there were several other people waiting.  NOTE: There is no shade!  Wear your sunscreen!!

To get to the walls you have to climb some steep stairs.

Dubrovnik is the site of Kings Landing for those Game of Thrones fans so some of these views might look familiar.

Oh, good, more stairs...*sigh*

This city is so small and so crowded with tourists that it can be hard to remember that ordinary people live here (although it's getting harder for them to afford to do so because prices are being driven so high due to aforementioned tourists). Imagine thousands of people walking past your window every day...

Cruise ships. Dubrovnik has limited the number that can come each day but that just made the companies go to larger ships.

Was it worth it?  Well...
  • There were definitely some amazing views! That said, it's not for everyone:
  • It's not for the faint of knees! 
  • It would have been nice if it had opened earlier in the hotter months (hey, Dubrovnik Tourism Board!!) because it was hot and I started as early as was possible.
  • Definitely go early if you're going because by the time I was done I could see that it was packed for those just starting. 
What "must sees" have you done? Which have you skipped? Which did you do that you wish you'd skipped?

Sundays In My City

21 April 2019

Reflections - Sundays in My City

I was in Amsterdam for a couple days and I woke up at 4:30am and couldn't get back to sleep. So rather than fight it I went out and took pictures in the early light.  There was almost no one out and about and it was a good chance to work on getting the good shots of the reflections in the canals.

Amsterdam remains my favorite city although it's popularity as a tourist destination is increasing, even in the off season, which makes me enjoy it less due to the crowds everywhere. So it was nice to walk around while everyone else was still asleep.

On one hand, I'm glad more people are getting to experience European destinations but cities like Amsterdam and Venice and Paris and even less-well-known cities like Dubrovnik are starting to suffer under the strain of coping with so many tourists. Venice is talking about limiting the number of tourist who can enter per day.  Dubrovnik put a limit on how many cruise ships can dock each day (although that just made the cruise companies go to larger ships).  I don't know what the answer is. I know it's not a simple solution. 

Sundays In My City

26 January 2019

Preparing to Move...Again. Tips and Tricks and Lessons Learned

I'm moving again.  This will be my 7th move in 15 years (5 of those were with at least one dog and 3 of them involved crossing an ocean with two dogs)).  I've learned a thing or twenty. 

Mind you, I'm fortunate that a team of people comes to pack all my stuff, load it into crates and then on to a truck (possibly from there onto a boat) and then delivers all to my new destination.  They will even unpack it (but sadly, they won't put it all away) if I want. If you're doing it yourself, more power to you and best of luck!  Most of these tips and tricks and lessons learned will still apply.

This will be my first inter-Europe move.  I'm heading back to the Netherlands. If you've read anything on this blog you're probably aware that I love the Netherlands (minus the weather) so I'm really happy to have the chance to go back.

First things first...Put on your favorite podcast or Broadway musical soundtrack or whatever gets you up and moving.

I recommend this (although be warned, it's hard not to just sit and watch it!!):

Some of these are things that should probably be done regularly but...

1. Survey the fridge, freezer and pantry.  Unless you're just moving across town, figure out how to use up anything that's open before you go. Movers won't pack open food. This might mean getting creative or making a family dinner where everyone is eating something different. Find people to bestow your half-used bottle of ketchup and open jar of capers to.  Your local Freecycle group is great for this.  I once posted, "Half-used and open fridge and freezer contents," and people wanted them.  Don't assume they just need to be thrown out!

2. This goes for bathroom items and cleaning products as well.  Use up lotions, shampoos, etc.  If you need to buy laundry detergent, avoid buying the jumbo bottle if you only have 2 weeks left.  Again, give away anything unused. 

Pro tip: When you think that tube has been squeezed (squze, squozen) to the max, cut it open (but be careful because those cut edges are sharp!).  There's more left in there than you think! This is just a good, in general, money saving tip!

I filled those two travel-sized containers with what I got out of these "empties."

3. Plan to wash comforters, curtains, area rugs, dog beds...  This might require a trip to a laundromat where they have those giant washing machines.  If you have pets, many laundromats don't let you wash pet beds in their machines so you might have to seek out a place that does.

4. Go through that basket of gloves and hats and scarves that sits by the door.  It turns out I have no less than 15 pairs of gloves!  I certainly don't need that many!

5. Obviously sort through the closets, dressers, bins under the bed... No need carting along jeans that haven't fit for years or shirts with stains (although those make good rags for cleaning).

6. If you're doing an overseas move you'll probably have some stuff going into storage.

Pro tip: I found it really useful to get colored tags (I found red and green but any two different colors would work).  I tagged everything that was going to storage Red and everything going with me Green.  This meant I wasn't running around answering "stay or go" from the packers a million times. 

It also forced me to really think about what I'd need during my years away and what I could do without.  It helps to know things like 110V lamps work just fine with a 220 bulb and a plug adapter.  No voltage converter needed. Taking your Vitamix might seem like a good idea (because you simply can't live without it) until you realize what size voltage converter you'll need and how much energy that will consume. 

7. Gather up all your important documents (passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, social security cards, titles, deeds...) and valuables (grandma's pearls, for example) and make sure those travel with you. Don't forget your pets.  Get copies of their vet records.

Pro tip: Take pictures of EVERYTHING.  If you really have time, make an itemized list.  Keep these records with you. A colleague of mine lost everything when the moving truck with all his stuff (except those super-important things he had in the car with him) caught fire somewhere in the mid-west. Imagine trying to remember how many sets of towels you have. And then multiply that by everything you own.

8. Same goes for medications (again, don't forget your pets).  Also, make sure you have enough with you to cover until you can establish a new doctor and prescription.  Ask your insurance if you can get a 3-month supply instead of just one.  Also ask for a vacation override.  This allows you to fill the next month or 3-months without waiting.

9. Think about comfort items.  Will you be staying in temporary quarters (a hotel, someone's basement)?  Do you have a pillow or blanket, a pair of slippers or favorite coffee mug that you hate being without when you travel? Once again, don't forget about your pets and anything that will make the transition period easier on them.

10. Make sure you're wearing shoes!!  I learned this the hard way.  I don't wear shoes in the house because I don't like wearing shoes.  The packers literally packed ALL my shoes.  They had to go through the truck to find a box of shoes so that I didn't have to go barefoot! 

Pro tip: clear out a closet and put everything in there that you don't want packed and carted off (those important documents, your suitcases, and at least 1 pair of shoes!). Lock it or put a big sign on it so that the packers understand that they aren't to touch the contents. 

Having moved so much over the years I've gradually pared down how much stuff I have and I try to get rid of more each move.  I'm far from being a minimalist but if we really look at what we have versus what we use/need...  Moving is a good excuse/motivator to purge.  Especially if you're doing the packing and hauling yourself. But even if you aren't.

There are plenty more things I've learned and if you have specific questions leave a comment.  I do not enjoy the process of moving but it has, maybe, gotten a little bit easier after doing it so many time.

What are your tips, tricks, and/or lessons learned from big, or small, moves?

Sundays In My City

NOTE: If you're moving overseas with pets, start the process early (minimum more than 30 days before departure). Go to https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel and find a USDA certified vet (and hope the government isn't shutdown!). They can give you all the information you'll need and you will need them to do your paperwork.  If you're going to an island (Hawaii, Japan, Australia) the process is way more involved (these islands don't have rabies and want to keep it that way) and you need to start a lot earlier (sometimes 6 months in advance)!!