Travel Checklist

Home Checklist
  • ________Arrange for pet and plant care
  • ________Stop routine deliveries
  • ________Make your home seem lived-in while away by putting lights and a radio on timers
  • ________Turn down thermostat
  • ________Leave keys and itinerary with a friend
  • ________Lock windows, garage, and doors

Before Leaving
  • ________Guide books and maps
  • ________Passport and visa(s)
  • ________Foreign currency of your destination country
  • ________Credit cards
  • ________Travelers checks or ATM card
  • ________Insurance: Trip Cancellation/Medical
  • ________Personal Identification
  • ________Photocopies of documentation
  • ________Birth Certificate (if necessary)
  • ________Marriage License (if necessary)
Basic Essentials
  • ________Appropriate Luggage
  • ________Luggage Locks & ID Tags (Do NOT Lock checked baggage)
  • ________Appropriate Clothing
  • ________Comfortable Footwear
  • ________Rain Protection
  • ________Camera and Film (Place film in carry-on baggage)
  • ________Telephone Plugs for Modem
  • ________Small Flashlight
  • ________Travel Alarm Clock
  • ________Small Binoculars
  • ________Brimmed Hat or Visor
  • ________Reading Materials
  • ________Playing Cards/Games
  • ________Address Book
Maintenance Items
  • ________Batteries for camera and flashlight
  • ________Mini Sewing Kit (place in checked baggage)
  • ________Travel Iron or Steamer
  • ________Sink Stopper
  • ________Folding Scissors (place in checked baggage)
  • ________Laundry Soap Packets
  • ________Laundry Bag
  • ________Ziplock Plastic Bags
Medication
  • ________First Aid Kit
  • ________Aspirin/Pain Reliever
  • ________Cold/Sinus Medication
  • ________Diarrhea Medicine
  • ________Laxative
  • ________Insect Repellent
  • ________Contact Lens Preparations
  • ________Antibiotic Ointment
  • ________Alcohol Wipes
  • ________Sunscreen
  • ________Motion Sickness Medicine
  • ________Personal Hygiene Items
  • ________Personal Prescriptions
Toiletries
  • ________Comb/Brush
  • ________Toothbrush/Paste
  • ________Dental Floss
  • ________Shampoo
  • ________Blow Dryer
  • ________Deodorant
  • ________Lotions/Creams
  • ________Cologne
  • ________Lipbalm
  • ________Towelettes
  • ________Shaving Cream
  • ________Towel/Washcloth
  • ________Earplugs

Greenland

This is as close to Greenland that we will probably come for many years.   Maybe in the summer it would be cool to check it out the icebergs and glacier.  Greenland’s coast looked great with it’s many valleys, bays and villages.  We passed over the southern most edge of Greenland on our way to Canada.  Our flight into Europe from Canada was apparently on this same course.  I guess we flew over when I saw the amazing green auras.  The northern lights were moving rapidly around the sky in shades of green from as far as I could see.  I suspect those lights are why this place was named so.

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Sudbury, Nickel Capital Of The World

Sudbury Bush Planes
Sudbury Bush Planes
Planes Taking off from Lake Ramsey in Sudbury

Sudbury is the gateway to the North. It is located about 400 km north on highway 400 which eventually becomes Highway 69. Stopping in Barrie for dinner is a standard ritual as most people like to get out of Toronto as soon as possible to avoid traffic rush. As you drive into Sudbury I notice that it has definitely gotten greener since the last time we were here. There has been a massive re-greening process that has been going on for the past couple decades spearheaded by the mining industry that destroyed the land in the first place.

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This city was known for it’s moon like landscape as it was devoid of trees and most top soil. The city of Sudbury is located on the rim of a large crater that was created a couple hundred million years ago. The meteor impact brought a lot of minerals near to the surface in large quantities, especially nickel. There are probably a hundred mines in the area operated by either Falconbridge, now called Xtrata or Inco, now Vale Inco (lots has changed in 3 years since my last visit). During the process of refining the ore to extract the minerals a fuel was needed in the burning process. Trees were dumped into these long trenches and the ore trains would drive up to the edges and dump the ore from the mines on top. The wood was then burnt and the sulfur exhaust was given off crept along the surface killing everything in it’s path. Over the years the process has been improved and refined.

In 1970 the Super Stack was built to help push that noxious gas up into the jet stream. This helped reduce the air pollution in the city and pushed it further away. This change contributed to many things including acid rain that has killed many lakes hundreds or thousands of kilometers away. You can see it’s devastating effects in Killarney Provincial Park which is about 80 km south. You can see the Super Stack from about 40 km outside the city as it’s about 1500 feet tall. Mining has been a major part of the city for the last 125 years. It will be for many years to come as the prices and demand for minerals continue to increase worldwide.

The city also boasts things besides it’s mining achievements. There are lakes everywhere that are wonderful for swimming, boating or fishing. Bell Park is one of my favourite (getting my Canadian spelling on) swimming beach with a great place to jump into the water or to have a picnic under the trees. Our first time there this trip there was a thunderstorm as we started down to the water. Our swimming time was cut short as lightning hit the top of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Center which is located just next to the park (many of us were born in that hospital). The hospital of my birth will soon be closed as a new hospital is being built just down the road. I am proud to say that the patriarch of the family has contributed to the construction of many of the buildings in the city including Laurentation hospital, Science North, Laurentien University, Cambrian College and numerous mining industrial complexes. We would meet him often at this park during the summer months for lunch and sometime tour these buildings during construction or renovations.

The surrounding countryside is great for mountain biking, hiking, picking blueberries and building forts in the summer. In the winter it’s great for cross country skiing, snowmobiling, sliding and with all the lakes ice fishing too. You always run the risk of running into wild animals and sometimes they stroll right into the yard.

Sudbury is on the south rim of a large valley. The valley is a huge flat plain with great farming and many rivers. The Vermillion River is one that snakes through the center of the valley and is one that we know very well. We have canoed almost the entire river on many occasions over the past 30 years. Another beautiful river is the Onaping River which flows into the Vermillion. The Onaping Falls has been painted in many seasons but some very famous Canadian artists but I can’t remember who at the moment. All around the valley is great places to camp, fish and enjoy the outdoors. We didn’t have a lot of chances to do that since it thunder stormed every couple days.

Caltagirone

We stayed in this picturesque,  hilltop city for a few days while we explored the west side of Sicily.  The town is known for a few things.  For many centuries it has produced quality ceramic tiles, masks, sculptures and vases.  The town center displays them with masks on the walls next to a long staircase with each stair featuring a different style tile pattern. It is also known for the high concentration of Roman Catholic churches, there are over 100 of them in this quaint town. Most of them are used once or twice a year on big holidays or the church patron’s day.

We stayed in a little apartment on the one side of town.  It was decorated in an older style of Italian furnishings.  We used this as a place to sleep while we did day trips to Syracuse to the south, Agrigento to the north and to an ancient Roman villa of Casale.

We enjoyed many home cooked Italian meals.  They were simple yet very enjoyable.  I must have gained 10 lbs in the week were there.  All the women loved the girl and always wanted to hold her, feed her and show her things.   We spent many of walks just visiting with the locals.

In this little town our friend’s parents live.  We visited their country house and it was beautiful.  We played soccer on the field, swam in the pool and wandered around the grounds admiring the orchirds, chickens and ducks.  The dog was happy to have us around and followed us everywhere trying to get us to play with him.

Taormina, A Legendary Town

Taormina has been in existence for over 2500 years. It sits high up on the hills above the salty Iaoian Sea with a ancient Saracen Citadel above it.   The citadel is not in good condition but The Greek Theatre is.  It was started by the Greeks and expanded by the Romans over the next 5 centuries.  It’s incredible location overlooking the ancient port of Nexos makes a beautiful stage backdrop.

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Our journey into Taormina took us past Mount Etna, a 10,000′ + active volcano’s with lava flows we can see from the road.  We drove 1/2 hour through a couple long tunnels to get to the beach house.   We stayed in a beautiful 4 story beach house overlooking one of the prettiest bays in the area.  The water was definitely salty but very warm.  It was a great place to swim and the girl loved to play in it.  The beaches were not sandy like we are used to but a rocky beach which was a nice change. We wandered up into the city and enjoyed the walk through town.  The view from there was spectacular.   There we saw one of the narrowest streets in Italy. You shoulders brushes the walls as you walk.   We spent many hours sitting on the porch, enjoying the view. While in Toarmina for those few short days we visited a few restaurants and bars.  The one restaurant just down the street was wonderful.  We had a great time and the food was excellent.  We also checked out a bar in a little village about Taormina.  It was a 4 story bar with an amazing view of the lava flows and Catania.  The bar was nice and has occupied the place for over 150 years.  The decor of the place caught me a bit off guard and we thought it was funny. After visiting that place we decided to take a drive up the mountain.  It was very dark and cold, so we didn’t even feel like getting out of the car.  We couldn’t see anything and we didn’t have a light to help guide us up to the lookout.  We headed back down the mountain and home to relax in the warmth by the sea.

Fiery and Fabulous Florence

Florence, or as the Italians call it “Firenze”, was like something out of a vivid dream where you were taken into the past, yet it still exists today with it’s epic churches, ornate palaces, an ancient fortress and striking, historic homes that blend one or more of these elements, oftentimes adding a modern twist. The days were unseasonably hot for October and because of that the evenings were just barely comfortable. Staying near the train station made for easy access to everything and all of the amenities but the humidity forced us to take shelter between noon and 6 p.m. The early evenings cooled down the air just enough to allow us to begin our explorations of the city center and try the local cuisine.

Everything is picturesque and it’s not too difficult to imagine what things must have been like centuries ago in this bustling, artistic city centre.  We began our trek through Florence, as soon as the temperature would abide, by wandering up and around to the other side of the river to a local eatery for an ultra-creamy gelato, (the kind only Italy is best known for), and a crisp, tasty proscuitto panini, consumed in just that order.  After a quick cappuccino on ice, we followed the river up to the next bridge and in towards the Duomo.

The Duomo itself causes you to just stop and take a deep breath while absorbing the complexity of it all.  The tile work is intricate and mesmerizing.  Inside you’ll find perhaps the most beautiful tile work seen anywhere in Europe, maybe the most beautiful on Earth.  Nearly in shock, we wandered inside and around the plaza looking for treasures in the surrounding marketplace and little shops.  Finally, hunger once again got the best of us and we began to look for places to have dinner.  The aromas wafting out of the pizzerias was irresistible and we unconsciously set our minds to having one.  It did not disappoint.  Some friends had warned us that there wasn’t any good food in Italy.  We were a bit worried because we are picky eaters but we let our noses do the choosing in Florence and didn’t have a bit of trouble, especially when we went a little out of the way and off the beaten track.

Also, we still can’t figure out why people don’t like traveling with children.  All throughout Europe, but especially in Italy and France, the owners, waiters, waitresses and other patrons made an extra effort to interact with us and it made what might have been just another trip to Europe a magical experience for us all. Our little one year old was always happy and kept herself busy entertaining the owners and staff, and vice versa, so we used that time to relax and enjoy our first of many flavorful pizzas in Italy.

The Italian people are so loving towards children that we sometimes couldn’t hardly get a block down the street without someone wanting to hug or kiss our little girl.  It really took some getting used to, but we’re learning to trust.  Certainly perfect strangers wanting to pick up, hold, and take your child around the restaurant, bar or hotel isn’t commonplace in the US or Canada, but it is here and when in Rome… or rather, Florence, do as the Florencians do!  It also afforded us both a moment to eat… together!  We always kept a watchful eye on her, of course, but somehow it made us feel a renewed sense of caring in people, which, these days is refreshing to say the least.

The next day began with a quick grocery trip and transitioned into seeking refuge in artsy studio apartment we rented for the remainder of the hellacious heat of the day, until the evening’s reprieve.  On our way to dinner we did a bit of last minute clothes shopping, and found prices in line or just slightly above those found in US, depending on what you were looking for, and then embarked on our twilight trek towards the Fort.  It’s tall tower is a Florence landmark and can be seen throughout the city.  Underneath it sits the famous, stunning statues of Neptune and David.

Being so lifelike, had they begun to move one would have just thought it was another talented street performer who somehow made themselves a bit larger than life. Someone had mentioned that they are replicas, due to their popularity there is a fear of vandalism, but certainly some of the other statues in the area are the genuine articles.

The Neptune and David statues are in a busy, open courtyard where people gather in large numbers to listen to the nightly entertainment, which, of all things, is comprised mostly of American music! We began to wonder when the rumored impromptu opera was going to begin, but, alas it did not. Perhaps the heat kept the tenors away?  However, there was a high end karaoke machine, accompanied at times by live musicians, which allowed for an extensive repertoire of the Beatles, and a plethora of American bands, to be performed.  They won out the night and the crowd.  There are certainly other types of art and music events held at this plaza on a regular basis, but the evenings we were there it was rock and roll all the way with talented vocalists from all over the globe.

On the edge of the plaza is an Italian restaurant, frequented by locals and expats which is always a good sign when choosing a place to chow, where we had a wonderful spaghetti pasta with meat sauce that was identical to Mom’s recipe!  There was no difference what so ever.   Everyone always enjoyed Mom’s pasta sauce.  She makes it for us, OK, me… religiously when we go back to Canada to visit.

Our last full day in Florence consisted of wandering about checking out the statues in the daylight, heading across the river on the ancient, two level bridge for another wonderful meal while listening to string instruments being played in the street.  It was a hot, beautiful time in Florence.  We will definitely hit the museums next time and plan to get reservations months, if not years, earlier as we missed seeing the original David and some others… but we had to have a reason to come back, and what a great reason it is!

The Duomo, originally designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, is an amazing work of art inside and out. The inside of the dome is a beautiful mosaic with 44 wonderful stain glass windows.

The Duomo is one of the centerpieces of Florence. Below the Duomo is the evolved remains of many versions of former churches.

The Duomo in Florence, Italy is a beautiful structure made from Green and Pink marble panels bordered by white. The building was started at the end of the 12th century and continued for many years. The dome is a landmark and is recognized throughout the world as a symbol of Florence.

The Arno River that cuts through the center of Florence is beautiful and was the source of water for the city. This day we are seeing pickup soccer happening on a pitch right at the water’s edge. The two story bridge with the shops underneath is known the world over and is located just downstream.

We checked out of our place on Tuesday morning and took another high speed train down to Rome.  Our flight left that evening for Sicily.  We wanted very much to check out some of the sites but the distances were too great in that hot weather.  We instead decided on having a beer and gelato then doing some more treasure hunting.

We hopped onto another train to take us the 30 min drive into the airport.  We made the trip in plenty of time to wander around the airport a bit.  We particularly thought the wine bar was a good idea for all airports.

Our plane took off without a hitch and we were in Catania in just over an hour.

Agrigento – Greek Temple in The Valley of Temples

One Sunday afternoon from our base in Caltagirone we set out to Agrigento and it’s famed Valley of the Temples.  The weather was hot but it was overcast which was nice.  We strolled around this hilltop in a valley that was covered with ancient Greek temples and other ruins.

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We wandered through them marveling at how well they were preserved. It is said that the Tempio Della Concordia is one of the best preserved Greek temple in the world.   In total there are over 20 ruins that run the length of the hill.  We explored and touched the stones and pillars of Tempo Di Ercole.  The dimensions were impressive and with a prominent spot on the ridge had a beautiful view towards the sea.

These temples had a spectacular setting.  Aligned East West on a cliff looking out to sea.  Over the years they have been converted to Mosques and Churches depending on who was in power.  Some were toppled by earthquakes over the centuries and the stone was used in new buildings.

They now are closely protected, like other ruins in Italy, structural  enhancements have been made to reduce further degradation and collapse.

We left after the moon started to rise.  They were getting ready to close the park to prepare it for a wedding and ballet concert.  People were in for a magical night.  We just had a great experience connecting with the ancient world.  We had visited Greece and didn’t have to leave Sicily.

In the valley of the Temples near the sea is where the Greeks built many temples over 2500 years ago. Near this ruined one is the best preserved temple of all.

The Louvre Museum

The Louvre Museum Map

The Louvre Museum is located in central Paris in an old palace that holds Napoleon’s Luxurious apartment. The museum is so huge that it is divided up in several ways. It is spread across four or five floors depending on how you look at it, The Pyramid Hall, Lower Ground, Ground, 1st and 2nd Floors. Those floors are then divided up into sections called, Richelieu, Sully and Denon. The museum collection includes Oriental, Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Paintings, Sculptures, Prints, Drawings, Objects d’art and Arts of Islam.

The Louvre Museum Map
The Louvre Museum Map

Denon

This section holds:

  • Italian and Spanish Paintings
  • 19th-Century French Paintings
  • Apollo Gallery, Crown Jewels
  • Italian, Spanish and Northern European Sculptures
  • Geek Etruscan and Roman Antiquities
  • Roman Egypt, Coptic Egypt
  • Arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas

Richelieu

This section holds:

  • 14th – 17th-century French Paintings
  • German, Flemish and Dutch Paintings
  • Northern Schools
  • Medieval, Renaissance, 17th and 19th-century Decorative Arts
  • Napoleon III Apartments
  • French Sculptures
  • Mesopotamia, Antique Iran Islamic Art

Sully

This section holds:

  • 17th, 18th, 19th-century French Paintings
  • 17th, 18th, 19th-century Drawings and Pastels
  • 17th, 18th-century Decorative Arts
  • Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities
  • Phoraonic Egypt,
  • Ancient Iran, Arabia, Levant
  • History of Louvre, Medieval Louvre

The Collections

Oriental Antiquities

This department presents the civilizations of the Ancient Near-East, Which go back to 7000BC and succeeded one another in Mesopotamia, Iran and the countries of the Levant, an immense territory stretching from the Mediterranean to India

Egyptian Antiquities

Created by Jean Francois Champollion, this department illustrates the art of Ancient Egypt from two different view-points; a chronological circuit, from the earliest times to Cleopatra, and a thematic circuit illustrating certain aspects of Egyptian civilization. Two sections devoted to the Coptic Egypt and Roman Egypt complete the display.

Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities

This department includes works from three ancient civilizations: Greece, Etruria and Rome. On the ground floor, a chronological circuit, based on marble statuary, contains works starting from the third millennium BC up to the 6th century AD. The collection on the first floor is organized according to the techniques and materials used: bronzes and jewelery, silverware, glassware, figurines and terracotta vases.

Sculptures

European Sculpture, from the Late Middle Ages to the mid-19th century, is to be found in this department. The collections, which mainly include French works, also contain many significant pieces from Italy, Spain and Northern Europe.

Objects d’art

The collections in this department come from every era: items from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, decorative arts from the 17th and 18th centuries, the Crown Jewels, 19th century items and furniture, Napoleon III apartments, etc.

Arts of Islam

Works of various Mediterranean countries, from Iran, Central Asia and India, which formed the lands of Islam are exhibited in this department. Some of the works are from the royal French collections. Most of these are ceramics, metals, ivories, woods, carpets and paintings dating from the 7th to the 19th centuries.

Prints and Drawings

Access to the Graphic Arts Department, consisting of the Drawing Cabinet (more then 100,000 works), the Edmond de Rothschild Collection and an engraved copper plate collection, is by prior arrangement only. The very fine but extremely fragile works are on display in regular temporary exhibitions and on a rota basis in the museum’s main exhibition rooms.

Learn more about the Louvre Museum in Paris by visiting their website.

Museum Details

Reservations must be made in advanced for groups of 7 or more. The museum is open every day except Tuesday and certain public holidays. The main exhibitions are open from 9am to 6pm. On Wednesday and Fridays the museum is open till 10pm.

The price per person is 9 euros and entrance after 6pm is 6 euros. Free admission for everyone under 18. Free admission for those under 26 on Friday evenings only. On the first Sunday of every month the museum is free of charge to everyone.

The museum has an 420 seat auditorium that features Archeology, art history, literature, cinema, and music: symposiums, lectures, films, concerts and performances for young people.

Food and drink available at the museum is located under the pyramid. There is a gourmet restaurant, Le Grand Louvre, a few cafes & tearooms, and a cafeteria.

General Information Call : 01 40 20 53 17

Cardona – Medieval Castle

The Castle Walls & Towers

Cardona Castle’s history and mystique certainly make it the most amazing medieval fortress in Catalonia.

Sometimes the most romantic, exciting thing you can do is to plan as little as possible while on vacation. We decided, on this tour, until we got a feel for the region or city we were in, we would fly by the seat of our pants as much as possible. A good example of our “going with the flow” would be our stay at Cardona Castle. We saw another castle on the scenic drive to Andorra from Barcelona. It was sitting there in the mist on the side of the road, beckoning us to take that exit. Fortunately, or not, we drove past it, but we knew from that moment that a castle was certainly on our list of things to experience while in the Europe.

Stories

So, upon our return from Andorra we found ourselves making last minute reservations at www.parador.es which has an English version, and got quite the deal for under 30’s that night as well. Now Naia isn’t under 30 anymore… but Dan was still 29, until the end of November and needless to say, we took them up on their offer. So, it was not only one of the most hearty, history-rich fortresses around, it was affordable as well, and with the exchange rate, it was certainly a welcome gift from the powers that be. Winding up the long drive to the top allows you to see 10 miles around or more and, as expected, the sunset was spectacular. The building itself dates from the second century and it was strategically built next to a watch-tower over the Saline Valley. It belonged to the most powerful dynasty ruling between the tenth and seventeenth centuries. The Folch dynasty, heirs of Charlemagne, built this fortress, within the area that was known as “Marca Hispanica” (Border between the Spanish territories and the Muslim ones.) The Folch family ruled all the region and they owned at one point a total of twenty ports. Not too shabby for the good ol’ days, or now!

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The fortified, 9th Century fortress, within which the Parador (hotel) is located, conceals a 2nd Century tower and an 11th Century church. Inside the solid stone walls are comfortable, nicely decorated bedrooms, some with four-poster beds. The sparkling clean, marbled bathrooms are spacious, modern and well equipped for the tired traveler. Donned with an ample sized bath/shower as well as hair dryer and other amenities, like quality, yes actual quality shampoo/conditioner/lotion samplers we would actually use, the proprietors pulled out all of the stops. And why not? Frankly, we feel that doing something for the sheer enjoyment and use of the guest is the mark of a sharp hotel owner. The fact that they’re not wasting money on something you won’t use, because it’s not high enough quality, is smart. Also, it proves that they aren’t just for show either. The furniture in the drawing room was inspired from medieval times and helps to set the tone of the hotel. Throughout Cardona the antique furniture and rich decor works quite well with the castle itself. The reception is a beautiful space where there is internet access and cozy couches to regain your strength from a hard day of exploring the area.

When the sun went down, our stomachs woke up and hunger set into full gear, motivating us to take a quick shower to wash off the dust of the day’s explorations before we sought out our dinner. Someone was using the elevator, so we took the steps and couldn’t resist letting our minds wander once again to imagine what it must have been like to live back then… to hear the footsteps of soldiers in the stairwell… the sounds of children playing… Suddenly, we snapped out of our fantasyland when we heard the clinking of silverware and waiters popping corks, instantly causing us to be transported to the present. Upon arriving to the enormous dining area it is easy to imagine a grand ball taking place in the festively decorated dining room. We sat in the back corner and had the pleasure of simply feeling the room full of happy people eating the lovely fare and making merry. The holiday season was upon us and many people there were taking a long weekend break just before the Christmas rush set in at home. The Catalan cuisine is heavily influenced by an assortment of fresh forest mushrooms and a wide variety of homemade sausages and olives, all found locally. The dishes were deliciously prepared and gratefully enjoyed. The “butifarra con mongetes”, (sausage with beans), was lovely, as was the rest of the meal. The service was good and the staff was very friendly and it was quite apparent they were genuinely happy to be there, another trademark of excellent management and care taking of employees. Most staff we encountered at Cardona spoke English at least well enough to have short conversations and give directions and recommendations, which is always a plus as well.

Feeling happily, perfectly satiated, we retired for the evening as Asha was falling asleep in Dan’s arms and it was certainly time for us to examine the insides of our eyelids as well. The mattress and pillows were refreshingly comfortable and morning came too quickly. We were up early and went to the buffet breakfast, which offered a plentiful array of fresh juices, breads, fruits, yogurts, deli meats, sausages, eggs, muffins, croissants, jams, jellies, and more. It was tasty and we ate heartily before we embarked on a “special mission” to get pictures from all over the castle.

Dan’s second, OK… his third big love is History. He got “that look” when he found out that Cardona’s role in the War of Spanish Succession was amongst the most important to be played by any Catalan town. We spent about an hour or so going all over the castle taking pictures from the inside and outside. Out of windows, doors, off the top of balconies, snapping from all directions, trying to capture the feeling of the castle in shade and light. Showcasing her beautiful, if slightly rugged, charisma and class. The strategic and military importance of its fortifications enabled a resistance to be mounted in advance of Bourbon forces on several occasions during the conflict. The scene of this resistance was the town of Cardona itself and the castle.

Yes, before Naia could set up the first shot, Dan was heading up, up, up the stairs to the top of the tower with Asha, a giggling, one year old little explorer, on a quest to figure out which way the intruders must have approached. He continued on, musing about what it must have looked like and how the residents would have taken refuge in the castle and fought alongside the soldiers to defend it. He went on to tell us of three challenges that stood out as being particularly important amongst the events that took place here during the War, such was their magnitude: The siege in November and December 1711, the battles in August and October 1713 and the final capitulation of the castle, on September 18th 1714, a week later than that of Barcelona, when the rest of the country was already under the control of the Bourbon army. Looking out from the castle and it’s archer’s positions, you can just imagine, it must have been an amazing, harrowing time. We were seeing in our minds’ eyes showers of arrows zipping by us, hoping we wouldn’t be the unfortunate targets whose marks were hit.

The story of these three episodes goes something like this… Following the orders issued in Calaf by the French Duke of Vendome, Lt. General the Count of Muret went to Cordona with 25,000 troops. He took the town on November 17th, 1711, but not the castle, which was bombarded with cannon fire for thirty-four days. Imagine being shelled for thirty-four days and you will understand why we were taking all of the pictures. It is a fortress, indeed. During one of the fiercest engagements over the control of the castle, which took place at La Querosa and Els Escorials, Colonel Pere Muntaner-Damon i de Sacosta, who was in command of the castle’s troops, lost his life. Miraculously, despite this potential wrench in their plans, the troops held on for more than a month, until December 18th when the siege was finally lifted, thanks to the arrival of a large allied force commanded by Marshall Guido von Starhemberg and English General James Stanhope.

In August and October 1713, coinciding with the siege of Barcelona (1713 – 1714), Catalan troops under Manuel Desvalls, Military Governor of the castle, resisted two new offenses by the Bourbon forces under the Count of Montemar. Finally, on September 18th 1714, Manuel Desvalls i de Vergos was obliged to surrender the fortress, under the same conditions as those agreed for the capitulation of Barcelona on September 11th 1714.

We would like to return to Cardona Castle in the future to experience some of their seasonal offerings and to hear more of the stories of the many battles and those heroes and heroines of history we so often take for granted. Until next time, via con Dios Cardona!

{tab=Hotel / Accomodation}

Some of the hotel rooms have charming canopy beds. Pits, towers, walls and gothic features come together with a predominantly comfortable décor and Catalan-inspired mediaeval furnishings. Book Now!

  • Address: Castell de Cardona, s/n
  • Town/City: 08261 Cardona, Barcelona
  • Telephone: 00 34 938691275
  • Fax: 00 34 938691636
  • E-mail: [email protected]
  • Constuction style: Castle
  • Credit cards: American Express, Diners, JCB, Visa, MasterCard
  • Director: Jaime Sebastián Sánchez
  • Chef: Manuel Cubilla Moga

GENERAL SERVICES

  • Air Conditioning
  • Bar
  • Bureau de Change
  • Conference Suite
  • Credit Cards
  • Distance to Airport: 100 km.
  • Distance to Port: 100 km.
  • Distance to Train Station: 32 km.
  • Heating
  • Life
  • No animals allowed
  • Restaurant
  • Satellite Dish
  • Shop
  • BEDROOMS
    • Canal plus
    • Double Rooms (double beds): 5
    • Duplex: 2
    • Minibar
    • Places: 106
    • Rooms with Lounge Area: 3
    • Safety Deposit Box
    • Single Rooms: 2
    • Telephone in bedrooms
    • Television
    • Twin Rooms: 42
  • REST AND RELAXATION
    • Gym
    • Sauna

Dining & Food

Catalan cuisine is served in the dining room including aubergine terrine with pig’s trotters, selections of sausages and especially barbecue dishes with the braised lamb shoulder a highlight.

Eat like a true king at the Parador’s medieval dining room: Aubergine terrine with pig’s trotters, selections of sausages and specially barbecue dishes with local braised lamb shoulder a highlight Patatas enmascaradas (potatoes served with butifarra sausage and garlic) are a speciality. Hungry?

Activities

  • Solsonés Route (15 to 40 km.)
    • Romanesque architecture.
    • Museums.
    • Cardener fountain.
  • Cardona town.
    • Salt Mountain.
    • Cardonal Mediaeval Centre.
    • Salt Museum.
    • Romanesque architecture.
  • Montserrat (45 km.)
    • Montserrat Monastery.
    • Museum.
  • Parador.
    • Romanesque church from the 13th century.
    • Cloister.
    • 2nd century Minyona Tower.
    • Walls.
  • Bages Route (15 a 45 km.)
    • Romanesque architecture.
    • Museums.
    • Planetarium
  • Berguedá Route (30 a 60 km.)
    • Pyrenees.
    • Romanesque architecture.
    • Museums.
    • Llobregat fountains.

Local Festivals

  • Carnival: February, Solsona, 22 km.
  • Cardona annual festival: second Saturday in September, Cardona.
  • La Patum: Corpus, Berga, 31 km.

Europe, A Quick Introduction

Travel Through Europe

Travel Through Europe

Our travels to Europe started in late August 2008. It would be my husband’s first adventure on another continent. The trip we dreamed up would allow us to experience a good overview of the western side of the continent, visit the major western cities like Amsterdam, Paris, Florence, Rome, Barcelona and Madrid in style, but without having to sell our first born to do it. Since we had our cute little eight month old baby along for the trip, this was imperative! I had already been to England, Ireland, Denmark, Germany, Northern Italy and the South of France. We wanted to make sure we didn’t repeat any spot I’d stayed in already so that the trip would be equally exciting for both of us. We had an incredibly tight schedule. We had to be back in the U.S. to go to North Carolina to meet at our friend, Bud’s beach house in Nags Head. My family would be meeting us there in a mere 6 weeks. Looking back now, our journey to the EU was simply incredible and we definitely are planning on going back, maybe even living there.

Below are the countries and the places we visited during our trip of a lifetime in Europe. The countries and the cities listed are in order of visitation. We visited 8 countries and 9 major cities if you include the Vatican and Vatican City as ones. We spent at most only 6 days in one location which made the trip seem to go by pretty fast.

Netherlands

We started our tour of Holland by staying in an apartment in Amsterdam, on the canals, for a few days to shake off the jet lag, which is a formidable opponent, then moved onto Kampen and the province of Overijessel. Our reasons for visiting this area were numerous but the main reasons were friends who lived there and the fact that Dan’s father lived there until he moved to Canada at age 7, right after WWII. We then traveled down to the south of the Netherlands to Maastricht to check out one of the oldest cities in Holland. We made Maastricht our base for day trips to Cologne and Brussels.

Germany

Cologne was our only stop in Germany and it was for just one day. Our goal here was to visit the cathedral, eat some good German sausages and sample the beer. We had a great day and it was a packed one with lots of adventure.

Belgium

We spent only an afternoon in Brussels but it gave us time to taste some Belgian beer and waffles. We spent a good bit of time wandering around the city in search of the peeing boy, (Yes, that’s right., a peeing boy is a major tourist attraction, go figure!), the Palace and Central Square.

France

Sadly, our only stop in France was Paris. I must say how much Paris had changed in ten years. I had only had a layover in Paris on my way to the Cannes Film Festival the last time I was in France. I was lied to by someone who worked for the airline I was taking and thank goodness I knew enough French to understand and… ahem.. correct the problem. France has changed so much, I was shocked at how kind, helpful and interactive everyone was. We had four days in total to spend here, two days at the start of our trip and two days near the end of our 6 week trek. We explored the city during the day with the help of an excellent guide, Emmanuelle, whom we met at dinner our first night there. Our second trip on the return leg we reunited with our new friend, Emmanuelle, visited the Lourve, went to a birthday party and saw an old friend from C.A., Greg Corinth, who was in Paris visiting relatives.

Italy

We arrived at our first stop, Florence, by high speed train from Paris. We explored only in the evenings as the heat was pretty incredible during the day. After staying five days, we then headed down to Rome for an afternoon while we waited for our flight to the island of Sicily. We were met by our good friend, Giovanella at the airport and the adventure began immediately. If you have ever driven or ridden in a car in Italy, you know what I mean. Although we spent most of the week white knuckled, driving in the car, a week spent in Sicily was just not enough. Amazing doesn’t even come close to describing it’s treasure chest of spots. There simply weren’t enough hours in the day to stop and pour over relics, take photos of architecture and art in all of the places we wanted to do so. We toured through some absolutely beautiful places like: Taormina, Caltagirone, Agrigento and Syracuse. Our friend, Giovanella and her family, gave us the grand tour and treated us to the best of everything. It made me fall even deeper in love with Italy and it’s people. We then flew back to Rome to explore the eternal city. The fountains, buildings, ruins and piazzas must be seen and experienced by everyone. The beauty of this country is truly a global treasure which must be preserved.

Vatican City

Although this country / city is located within Rome it has a much different feel then the rest of Rome. The piazza, museum, cathedral and fountains are definitely worth the couple days we devoted to it. While in Rome, we stayed just outside the walls of the Vatican and passed through St. Peter’s Square everyday.

Spain

From Rome we flew to Madrid. Our time in Spain was divided between Madrid, Barcelona and Cardona. We didn’t exactly have a plan, but it worked out perfectly. We couldn’t have done a better job had we gone to all of the toil and trouble of planning it months in advance. Our first full night in Madrid we saw the Real Madrid football game, (Be sure to bring a gas mask because the plumes of cigarette smoke can ruin a great night and the next few days, if you have allergies). Then, a few days later, we met up with Margaux, an old friend of mine who just so happens to be one of the few well published, American wine and food critics in Spain and she gave us two days of city tours and introduced us to many local people and cuisine styles too. Having spent a few days in amazing Madrid we were off to Barcelona, which is a beautiful city with a plethora of amazing architectural feats designed by Gaudi. We didn’t have a lot of time in the city as we were on a mission to visit the countryside and Andorra. The only time we rented a car on this trip was to travel between Barcelona and Andorra. Magical Spain allowed us to fulfill another lifelong dream. Both of us had always wanted to stay in a medieval castle. The parador, (castle in Spanish), we stayed in can be found in historical Cardona.

Andorra

It is a beautiful mountain country, very small and wedged between France and Spain. It is pretty much only accessible by road so we drove in from Barcelona. The drive was a mere few hours, but it was some of the prettiest scenery on our trip. The mountains were calling to us the entire way. Mist covered some and others stood proudly into the clouds above. Our main goal in Andorra was to visit the amazing Caldea spa for my birthday, detox my throat, sinuses and lungs from the smokers and auto exhaust while relaxing, away from the busy cities where we had been spending a good portion of our time. We stayed in our timeshare, a chalet, which we had reserved many months prior. It was the off season so the restaurants, stores and streets were quite empty. It was a nice change. We enjoyed a few days exploring, tasting the local fare and driving around before we headed back to Spain, eager to stay in our first castle.