Réserve Cousteau

One way to visit the Réserve Cousteau is to hop on the Nautilus, a glass-bottom boat for a ride around les Îlets Pigeon. From the beach, the boat looks like any other tour boat but once we approached the Les Îlets Pigeons the captain opened the hatch down to the keel and everybody descended the stairs to the benches and the windows for an amazing view of the sea. The boat leaves from the docks at Malendure beach and takes no more than ten minutes to reach the islands. By the way, Malendure is located on the west coast of the island of Basse Terre, one of the two largest islands that comprise Guadeloupe.

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Dubrovnik: Gem of the Adriatic

Dubrovnik crowd
Though it doesn’t appear so in this
photo, it was wall to wall people

Sure, there were tons of tourists, but that’s because it’s a beautiful city. I’m talking about Dubrovnik, and like Venice, it is well worth checking out despite the crowds. My wife and I spent two days there in early July and the season was in full swing. The main street (it’s all pedestrian in the old town) was practically shoulder to shoulder. At meal time, every restaurant was full, though this didn’t stop them from using barkers/cajolers to verbally drag you into their establishments. From the sound of it, there were visitors from pretty much all over the world. I was surprised, however, to hear so much Spanish. Wasn’t Spain supposed to be reeling from a financial implosion? Continue reading

Plitvice Lakes: The Most Beautiful in the World

Trail head and tallest waterfall

Getting to Plitvice Lakes National Park was a bit of a chore. Our intended means of transport was a rental car but when I showed up at Avis in Zagreb, they suddenly had no cars. I felt oddly special. We took a bus instead: a two and a half hour ride through what appeared to be a landscape of karst topography (that 7th grade geography class really stuck). We arranged to meet a tour group coming up from Split, visit the park, and with them return to Split: a four-hour bus ride. While we waited for Igor and the tour group to show up we ate our picnic lunch and leafed through a brochure from the visitor’s center. While getting the brochure, I inquired about the topography: Nailed it! Continue reading

Avis Zagreb: A Joke?

I had read about Plitvice Lakes National Park and seen pictures of it while planning our trip around the Adriatic Sea. The tricky part was getting there. I searched for a rental on the internet and actually found a car through Avis for 68 euros—a one-day rental with a drop-off at a different location for that price seemed implausible, but they did give me a confirmation number. Another odd thing about this rental was the office was in the middle of nowhere. Moreover, when I looked up the office on Google Maps before leaving home, I could see on the satellite image that there was no parking lot full of cars anywhere. I contacted Avis to confirm this was indeed where I should pick up my car and they assured me the address was correct.

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Tropea: A Beach Town in Calabria

View from New Paradise terrace: Lots of greenspace

Tropea is located on the Calabrian coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. It actually sits atop a bump on the toe of the boot. When I look at a map of Italy, this bump reminds me of a large corn. In any case, our visit to this seaside town was actually the culmination of a trip around the Adriatic Sea. Though Tropea is on the other side of Italy from the Adriatic, I’d come across some compelling pictures and wanted to check it out and get a general impression of Calabria while we were in the south of Italy. Continue reading

A Sybaritic Coffee Break

With the outskirts of Taranto about half an hour behind us and Sibari not far away to the south, my wife and I decided it was time for an espresso break. Spotting a gas station, I pulled off the road, parked, and we walked into a dimly lit room with a short coffee bar and two little round tables set off to the side with tall bar stools around them. To our "Buongiorno" we were greeted with two bright smiles—one from a man in his mid forties, the other from his young helper, a guy in his mid twenties—and an enthusiastic "Buongiorno!" both of which immediately lit up the place. These two fellas seemed to be really enjoying their job. Continue reading

Monopoli: Adriatic Jewel of Italy’s South

Sweep shot of inner harbor
One street in it’s beautiful

Monopoli was the town we chose to stay in while visiting Puglia; however, it was not because Bari didn’t seem interesting or centrally located: it was both. Rather, the lodging I’d found in Monopoli—40 kilometers down the coast—looked comfortable and it was equipped with a kitchenette. Moreover, the town itself appeared to have plenty of charm, at least from the photos I’d seen. Continue reading

Bari: Just a Ferry Terminal?

Plaza in the old quarter

Bari is located at the back of the heel on the boot of Italy. Because of its location, Bari, along with Brindisi, is for many travelers little more than a jumping off point for heading to Greece. Yes, it’s southern Italy, the deep south, and thus it’s assumed that nobody actually goes there for its own sake. It’s basically a ferry terminal and that’s it. However, when planning our trip around the Adriatic, I did some reading, checked out some photos, and became intrigued. Continue reading

An Unconventional Way to Learn Spanish

My first experience with a second language occurred when I was five years old. It was 1965 and my father had been selected to be a Regional Peace Corps Director in northern Columbia. That summer our family moved to Barranquilla, where we would be living for the next two years. Because a young child’s brain is more adept at language acquisition, I began picking up Spanish immediately. Soon my parents were asking me to interpret for them and I remember finding this extremely annoying. Continue reading

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