Family Vacation : Paris Edition

Family vacations are a whirlwind - especially in a completely foreign environment with only a week to explore. The Catanzaritis made the most out of their time in Paris, packing in about as much of the sights as possible - and then some. A bateau ride, museums, prix fixe dinners, and even Versailles - have a look into their very first trip abroad.

Poetry by Giuseppe Catanzariti.

Catanzariti Selfie

An idle curiosity is born from

The prose of quotidian living

Piquing the mind at first

And then ever swelling

A nascent snowball cascading down a

Precipitous mountainside

Its momentum ever growing

Until it is time to go

Catanzariti bateau
Catanzariti bateau
Catanzariti bateau
Catanzariti Louvre
Catanzariti Louvre
Catanzariti Louvre
Catanzariti Louvre
Catanzariti Louvre
Catanzariti Tuilleries
Catanzariti Tullieries
Catanzariti Luxembourg
Catanzariti Opera
Catanzariti Opera
Catanzariti Sight Seeing
Catanzariti Genia
Catanzariti Crepe
Catanzariti Crepe
Catanzariti Latin Quartier

Human creation in all its splendor

And in all its handwrought glory

Enters the soul through the eyes

Before taking up a permanent

And warm residence in the heart

Where it is nurtured forever

Catanzariti Sainte Chappelle
Catanzariti Sainte Chappelle
Catanzariti Saint Chappelle
Catanzariti Saint Chappelle
Catanzariti Saint Chappelle
Catanzariti Saint Chappelle
Catanzariti Saint Chappelle
Catanzariti Orsay
Catanzariti Orsay
Catanzariti Orsay
Catanzariti Orsay
Catanzariti Orsay
Catanzariti Orsay
Catanzariti Orsay
Catanzariti Orsay
Catanzariti Orsay

Mementos for those who

Couldn’t come along

And for the itinerant patrons too

Simple physical keepsakes

To stimulate happy recollections

Catanzariti Shopping
Catanzariti Shopping
Catanzariti Shopping
Catanzariti Shopping
Catanzariti Shopping
Catanzariti Shopping
Catanzariti Shopping
Catanzariti Shopping
Catanzariti Shopping
Catanzariti Shopping
Catanzariti Shopping
Catanzariti Shopping
Catanzariti Shopping

Palatial monuments to the

Grandeur of revered leaders

Of finished states stand today

Despite the vicissitudes of time

So that every man might learn

That every man is born a king

Catanzariti Versailles
Catanzariti Versailles
Catanzariti Versailles
Catanzariti Versailles
Catanzariti Versailles
Catanzariti Versailles
Catanzariti Versailles
Catanzariti Versailles

Merrymaking is mortal

But memories are eternal

Never dying but ever growing

The towers and the churches

Beheld and felt firsthand

Are but earthly monuments

While experiences are cosmic

There can be no going back

Not as the same person

Left behind back home

As home has become nothing

More than a slippery notion

In our newfound selves

Catanzariti Leaving
Catanzariti Eiffel
Catanzariti Eiffel
Catanzariti Eiffel
Catanzariti Eiffel
Catanzariti Arc de Triompf
Catanzariti Notre Dame
Catanzariti Notre Dame

31 hours in Amsterdam and all I got were these damn puns

Take an overnight bus to Amsterdam for the day, they said. It'll be fun, they said. Well, yeah, it was fun. It was also a complete blur - and not entirely for the reasons I'm sure everyone here is now assuming. With just about 3 hours of sleep thanks to some of the least conscientious fellow bus-riders, we arrived in Amsterdam at the unholy time of 6AM on Sunday morning - so early, in fact, that there was no train to take us from the random Eurolines station to the city center for another 30 minutes. So it goes.

Upon arriving at the central station, we found ourselves on eerily quiet streets of the concentric canals. Having been in Amsterdam many times before, my biggest take away has always been how crowded the center is, so now being the only people on most streets was a pretty surreal experience. The deep haze seemed to exist solely to drive this point home.

The remainder of the day was spent in a sleepless stupor doing our best to make the most of the 6 hours we had before checking in to our hotel. Visited all the hot spots, naturally, and I may or may not have squealed when I discovered there was now a Primark in the city center. I also may or may not have had a bucket of water thrown on my from a high-up window - and no, I was nowhere near the Red Light district at the time.

Overall, our 31 hours in Amsterdam were well spent, if not only because of the three servings of cone frites I endulged in.

Cliche Amsterdam
Stedelijk Museum
Hazy Amsterdam canals
Oude Kerk
Gabled shadows
Amsterdam Market
cone frites
Henri Willig
Amsterdam pedicab
Amsterdam GVB ttram
Amsterdam commute
Amsterdam ferns
mineralen fosselin
window washer
Lady in red

back to bulgaria : sofia edition

Spending only a week in Sofia, I don't feel properly equipped to make a fair judgement on the city. But, it overall left a positive impression. With gorgeous Central-European inspired intertwined with Soviet and Byzintine archetectures, walking the city streets was a constant pleasant surprise. All pleasant until you happen upon a statue with eyeballs, that is.

The standout building is of course the famous Alexander Nevsky Cathedral which dominates the roundabout upon which it sits. Our Airbnb was literally on the corner, so we were lucky enough to get glimpses of it every day even doing mundane tasks like running to the grocery store. 

But for me, the best bit was a table in an outdoor market chock-full of vintage analog cameras, from which I walked away with a ФЭД-2 (FED-2) Soviet Leica clone. I've already run a roll through it, and can't wait to get it developed. Stay tuned!

Window painter - Sofia
Sofia Camera Table
analog heaven - Sofia
FED-2 Soviet Leica Clone
Chupa Chups - Sofia
Kubrick in Sofia
High noon - Sofia
National Assembly Bulgaria
National Assembly Bulgaria
Sofia Cathedral
Sunset in Sofia
Alexander Nevsky Sunset

skopje 2017 : the city planners must be drunk

Eclectic. Contradictory. Identity crisis. It's hard to describe the capital of Macedonia. Skopje 2014 was/is an initiative to modernize and give an identity to Skopje. Large structures were planned - some since completed, some still in the works - and statues were seemingly thoughtlessly placed in any available spot. It's as if the universe had some statues for lunch, and bad seafood for dinner - and the streets, bridges, and buildings of Skopje were the victims of this circumstance. I cannot adequately express just how many statues are here - I'm half convinced that there's a statue of me and you unceremoniously placed somewhere downtown. 

In addition to the surreal nature of open and completely empty plazas surrounded by modern government buildings pumping Christmas music in the +95F weather of August, the city, like many other Balkan cities, hosts an old Ottoman neighbourhood. Now a lively Turkish bazaar, one can get lost in the winding cobble-stoned streets, relax in a canopied courtyard and sip Turkish tea, or of course shop. The contradictions are not limited to Ottoman versus Western, though. No, no. The Western bits like to contradict themselves with Soviet-era concrete buildings sprinkled in to modern buildings of every architectural style - some so new that they look and feel like the backlot of a Hollywood movie studio. 

The charms of Skopje don't end with it's oddities. The sunsets have proven stellar. And we all know of my penchant for a good sunset

Skopje sweeping sunset
Orthodox Church Skopje
Orthodox Church and Mother Teresa House Skopje
Skopje Art Bridge
Stone Bridge Hotel Skopje
Cuba in Skopje
Skopje peering statues
Skopje Marriott hotel
Skopje sunset gradient
Chelsea London Phillips-3453.jpg
Skopje Turkish Bazaar from above
Turkish Bazaar Skopje
Skopje Turkish Bazaar courtyard.jpg
Skopje Turkish Bazaar worker.jpg
Skopje Turkish Bazaar calligraphy
Skopje Turkish Bazaar street cat
Skopje Post Office
Skopje golden hour

island living, island leaving which we saw two sunsets and one sunrise before reaching our destination.

days in crete

A month in Crete aimed to give us a break from stifling summer cities - and it achieved just that. Our days were spent sitting on the beach, watching the sun descend over the nearby mountain, and exploring our little bit of Heraklion's suburbs. 

Some days we ventured in to Heraklion, paying the paltry €2 to go into Koules Fortress where one can get a view of the entire city on one side, and the Aegean sea on the other. 

When it came time to leave Crete, we had decided to head to Skopje, the capital city of Macedonia. To achieve this would require either a stop over in Athens or Thessaloniki for a night, or 28 hours of straight travel. Not being ones to back down from a travel challenge, we went with the latter. To say goodbye to the land of souvlaki, we had our last meal serenaded under the umbrellas of Izmir Kebap - whose yogurt alone is worth the trip.

cretan sunset
everyones a model - heraklion fort
view from the fort
yellow jogger
from above
cretan suburbia
beach front pool
under an umbrella
minimal swim
waves of fire
no comments
izmir kebap
it's showtime

ferry to athens

Much like our ferry into Crete, the one going out departed at sunset to arrive in Athens at sunrise. Our ship in was a more modern version of this one, but the Wes Anderson and Kubrick vibes made our return trip slightly more interesting - and infinitely more creepy. 

sunset at the port
bae caught me composing
selfies across europe at sea
wave farewell
on the deck
waves gif
man and moon
desolate deck
mirror selfie
shining hallway
sunrise on deck
sunrise on deck
sunrise at port
smoke on the water gif
docking at sunrise

athens to skopje via thessaloniki

Arriving in Athens at 6:30AM, one is thrown into the hustle of an already awake city. Not having slept too well the previous night, we moved like zombies through the subway. Once disembarking the train, we followed my crudely drawn map that I had scrawled in my traveler's notebook the night before.

Finding our bus stop relatively easily thanks to my artistic prowess, we still had an hour and a half to kill - so do as the Grecians do, and sit in a cafe. 

The bus ride itself was challenging, clocking in at over 7 hours, and by the time we arrived in Thessaloniki we had already been in transit for 20 hours. With a quick hour layover at the Thessaloniki train station (where we were both dropped off by, and picked up by a bus), we headed back out on the road for the final leg of the journey. 

Four hours, an international border, and a time zone later, we had made it to Skopje - a land which has all the familiarities of our previous former Yugoslavian spots, but with an added touch of nostalgia in the form of some re-appropriated buses. Also large statues. So many large statues. 

breakfast in athens
bus to thessaloniki
thessaloniki text
thessaloniki train station
train spot
skopje bus
macedonian border
macadonian flag
no reservations bourdain in macadonian
macadonian countryside
for a good time call
everyones a photographer
sunset on the bus
london? no, skopje
warrior on horse

Rethymno you didn't

The bus ride from Heraklion to Rethymno is worth the €8 alone - half on the windy coastal roads, the other half high up in the cretan mountains patterned with rows of olive trees. Honestly, had Rethymno been a bust, we would have been happy to have just taken the drive. But, bust it was not. 

The Venetian influence over Crete is blatantly obvious in the windy streets of Rethymno - twisting and turning, only to open in small white-marbled piazze. Tourist shops and jewelry craftwork dot the tiny streets, reminding one of the Plaka in Athens, but with a forth of the crowds. A falafel and replacement wedding ring later, we found ourselves on a steep grade, panting in the 32C weather. 

To really hit that Venetian-vibe home, a dominating fortezza sits high upon a hill overlooking the Aegean coast. The fortress itself is one of interest with small alcoves and charming chapels on the grounds - but it is the view which is it's real selling point. All of Rethymno can be seen from the edges of the cliff, and the sea horizon looms in the distance. 

By the port, one can find seafood restaurants, a small lighthouse, and people's private boats. Swimming in prohibited, and after a quick dip of the feet, it became clear that it wouldn't be desirable thanks to the heavy stench which often is companioned by industrial ports. That doesn't take away from the beautiful blues and crystal clear waters. 

We caught a bus back to Heraklion in the early evening, vowing that the next time we come to Crete for an extended period, this is where we will make our home base. 

Heraklion to Rethymno
Rethymno streets
textiles and walks
Rethymno cafe life
motor bike
lights of rethymno
analog bike
here we are Crete
Rethymno fortress
Rethymno fortress chapel
chapel interior
fortress lookout
Rethymno fortress portrait
inside the dome
selfiesacrosseurope fortress
coastal road Rethymno
Coastal road Rethymno 2
Rethymno boats
trash boat
boats from above
man boat
pirate hole
basic sea feet
lone swimmer
Rethymno bus waiting space
Rethymno bus station
back in Heraklion

How about Souvlaki Land?

Plovdiv - Athens (via overnight bus)

The remaining days in Plovdiv were spent enjoying its crazy sunsets and trying desperately not to pass out from the oppressive heat by imbibing as frequently as possible in Kapana - our neighbourhood of choice. We had a 16 hour bus ride lined up, that would bring us all the way down to Athens - leaving at 13:45 and arriving at 5:30AM. To say I was impressed by this bus (Arda Tur) would be an understatement - having to hunker in anywhere for 16 hours can be claustrophobic, but it makes a big difference when someone comes by with foods and snacks at regular intervals. They even had inflight (indrive?) entertainment with the same 3 Simon Pegg movies on loop or an assortment of Eastern European music videos, for which I have a penchant.

Plovdiv Sunsets
Plovdiv Platz
Kapana Reflections
Plovdiv Bus Terminal
Arda Tur
Bulgaria by road
Pit Stop
Inside the bus

A day and a half in Athens

We ended up arriving a full half hour early in Athens at the ripe hour of 5AM. The sun had yet to rise, we were dropped off in what could basically be described as the middle of nowhere, as far as cities go, and fun fact: free and open wifi in Athens is, by my account,  not even a rarity - it simply doesn't happen (not even at Starbucks! Blasphemy!) But, we managed to wander ourselves toward the right direction, passing a just-opening fish and meat market, until we could finally see the peak of the Acropolis to use as a guide. Not able to check-in to our Airbnb for another 5 hours, and having not really slept on the bus, we napped in shifts in the shadows of the Acropolis. Moments like that are what it's all about, no?

After checking in and getting a settled (re: unsweatified) we wandered about, catching the changing of the guards at the Parliament building, and taking in a few cold Mythos atop a mountain whilst watching the sun set over the city below.  

The next morning, we headed up to the Acropolis around 10AM, which seemed like an ideal time weather and other visitor-wise. The scale and views alone were awe-inspiring. 

Fish market
Changing of the guards
Sunset in Athens
Backyard Athens views
Athens views
Athens Acropolis
Acropolis scaffolding
Acropolis workers
Human for scale
@selfiesacrosseurope - acropolis
Amphitheatre from above
Acropolis tourists
Acropolis view
the original sign

Athens - Crete (via overnight ferry)

After the Acropolis, it was time to head over to Piraeus to buy tickets for the overnight ferry to Crete, where we will be making base for the next month. I am thankful to this boat trip for two reasons: 1) I love boats. 2) I now know what a muster point is (assembly points, for the plebs out there.) 

It's an interesting thing, watching people try to entertain themselves on a 10 hour boat trip - some get excited when the onboard TVs are showing the live finale of Greek Survivor going so far as letting out an audible 'yelp' when it begins (this was my seat neighbour, by the by). Others spend longer than they normally do (I hope) getting that perfect selfie - I'm talking well over 30 minutes. Others find a quiet spot on the deck and watch the waves and stars pass by. Myself, I was a combination of the first and last - did you guys know there's some TV show (maybe movie) which stars very '90s people: Scott Wolf, Rachel Leigh Cook, and Eric McCormack? I do now. 

But, by far the most entertaining part of the boat trip was watching the sun ascend at a dramatic rate over the sea horizon as we got closer and closer to the Cretan coast. Upon arrival in Heraklion, we hopped a bus to our beach-front apartment and settled in for a month of soothing wave sounds from our balcony. 

Thissio colours
Thissio metro stop
Athens metro
waves gif
Piraeus Port
Buses at Piraeus
Piraeus gif
Smoke on the water
on board lighting
@selfiesacrosseurope - at see
fast moving ferry gif
on deck at night
sunrise at sea
Ferry morning
morning waves gif
Sunrise shadows
Sunrise on the ferry
Heraklion coast
Heriklion bus
Home sweet Crete
Crete views gif

Culture from day to night

Plovdiv will be the European Capital of Culture in 2019 - and they won't let you forget it. It's hard not to notice the seemingly overwhelming number of signs spotted across the city reminding all who walk the streets of this fact. Some more cynical visitors may have a good laugh about the pride they are taking in the honour, but take a closer look and it becomes clear that this is an honour well-deserved. 

I mentioned in my previous post that the city is full of ancient Roman ruins, one of which is still an active amphitheater - one in which even the likes of Attila the Hun took in a show. Of course, we had to take advantage of Open Opera utilizing the first century AD theatre. We snagged a couple of tickets to La Traviata for this past Saturday. 

The rain was on and off all day, threatening the show itself. But, as the time came closer, it seemed as if the rain would hold off - and as they say, the show must go on. About halfway through the first act, it began to rain once again. The orchestra and actors went as long as they could - even going as far as continuing playing their instruments whilst simultaneously pulling out their umbrellas. When that proved too difficult, they called a rain delay, and waited out the rain. The show began again, not missing a step, and only having to stop one other time in the second act. The cast, orchestra, and crew handled it like champs - not even letting flying props stop them.

It was such a surreal experience. Surreal and simply incredible.

Alyosha Monument
Spirit animal

After climbing the steep Bunarjik Hill to the Alyosha Monument in 85F (29C) degree weather, this kid (aka my spirit animal) responded in the only acceptable way. But, damn, that view.

Plovdiv from above
Plovdiv Together

'Together' - the slogan of Plovdiv Capital of Culture 2019

Blocked skies
Abstract Plovdiv
Silver tops
Fast Food
The Cube
Cyrillic Golden Hour
Grand Hotel Plovdiv
Shopping Center
Four Seasons
Sunset in Plovdiv
Plovdiv Times Square
Open Opera Plovdiv
Umbrellas at the Opera

They whipped out their umbrellas. I whipped out my camera.