Het Scheepvaartmuseum (Museum of Maritime History) and NEMO Science Centre

Well, I’m all museumed out. 😀 I have two days left here and two more museums on my list, but I’m ready to let them go. I have work to do tomorrow and Wednesday, I want to give the house a good polish as I’ll be leaving early on Thursday.

I definitely won’t be getting to Haarlem to visit the Ten Boom house because… I had a bad fall today and I’m not as ambulatory as I’d like. 🙁 I slipped on a slick surface while trying to avoid some of the billion out of control brats at the Museum of Maritime History and went down really hard. If it had been my bad knee, I know it would have dislocated. I just know that if I had let my health insurance lapse, it would have been worse, because that’s how things tend to go. As it is, I don’t think I need X-rays or medical treatment, but I may reassess in the morning. I’m RICEing (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) tonight. It was only about 4KM to get home from the museums and I ended up getting on a tram, which was a good move. I really banged it hard. 🙁

At any rate, off to the Het Scheepvaartmuseum! I can’t believe I almost skipped this one!

To get there, I decided to cut through the park near my flat, but did so on a different path and found an information placard about it. As it turns out, it is Vondelpark and basically Amsterdam’s answer to Central Park! It was created in 1834 as a place for riding and strolling. It is in an English landscape garden style meant to mimic natural landscape. The Vondelpark was designated a national monument in 1996.

I went down the street with the posh shops and noticed this shop name Stone Island that sells cold weather gear. LOL

I found myself at the front of the Rijksmuseum.

There was a magnificent house across the canal. I want to live in a house with a tower! 🙂

Here’s another interesting house I passed on my walk. I was going to do the museum of architecture, but, really, I’m museumed out. 🙂

So Anne Frank does have her own street!

I got to the Maritime History Museum with only a few wrong turns and barely any extra mileage, much better than when I was using Google Maps to navigate. It helps that Amsterdam does technically have a grid pattern and that street names are continuous rather than changing every few blocks.

I liked the tile and brick on this one.

I really looked forward to visiting the replica of an old ship!

The Maritime History Museum appears to be floating. The main entrance is around the side to the right, facing the picture. It is built over hundreds of Norwegian piles.

There’s the NEMO Science Centre nearby. I knew its shape was impressive, but not that impressive! More on NEMO later.

You enter the Maritime History Museum into a magnificent courtyard that is covered with a glass roof. There’s a desk for folks with a Museumkaart to sign in and get an admission bracelet, map, and instructions. Bit of a queue today, but better than at the ticket desk!

I went into the basement to stow my things in a locker. Loved the contrast of the teal with the red brick.

The basement was a bit of a maze.

The barcode on the bracelet is scanned at the entrance of the locker room and you are assigned a locker, which is locked and unlocked electronically.

To my surprise, I was really hungry by this point, so I checked out the café prices. They were better than at most museums I’d been to, so I scrapped my plans to have a late lunch after my tour and ordered food. My coffee came with a meringue that I will confess I ate. My problem is really more with the yolk of the egg than the white. To the left of the coffee is “coffee milk,” which is beige. I’ve since learned that it is evaporated milk, which is not sweet the way condensed milk is. I was grateful to see it as all the coffee drinks with milk were significantly marked up, but I got charged for a black coffee, and the portion was about four times as generous as expected. I went with the cheapest thing on the menu, a grilled cheese with ham, that had this really good melty white cheese and a side of ketchup. It was a lovely lunch in a beautiful café on a gorgeous day.:D

This museum has an audio tour, which I didn’t find as polished as at other museums. For one thing, the player never stopped nattering and would just repeat itself ad nauseum. The stops were also not well marked and it was rather a treasure hunt to find them. But I would never have gotten as much out of the museum as I did without it.

From the courtyard, you can go to the east, north, or west, with south being the exit. I started in the east, which has the actual exhibits.

I was inordinately amused that emergency in Dutch looks like calamity.

There was a big window on the first floor landing with a great view.

I started with the yacht models as I was still looking for stop number one of the audio tours.

Still looking for stop one, I moved to the next room, in which I spent the most time of my entire visit: the atlas room. It was pretty much my idea of heaven. Here is one of the nine volumes of the Atlas Mayor, which started in 1662, and was available in Dutch, French, German, Spanish, and Latin. Here, it is open to a city map of Amsterdam, dated 1649.

Someone told me the first stop for the audio tour was all the way back downstairs at the entrance to the East Wing, so down I went and then I had be directed to a rather well hidden audio point….

As it turned out, the atlases were the first room I was meant to visit. I learned that the Atlas Mayor is the pinnacle of Dutch cartography of the Golden Age and the result of two centuries of map-making and compiling atlases.

Some of the atlases on display are ancient. This map dates back to 1482. What was most fascinating was seeing the maps become more and more accurate, and especially seeing North America take shape.

The atlas above was scanned and I could flip through it. Entirely coincidental that I photographed a scan of the map above!

Just like with the iBooks app, you can literally flip pages. I spent a lot of time on this display. You could even email yourself your favourite maps.

England and Scotland, as understood in the late 1400s.

All the exhibits are dim and you have to press this little lightbulb to get enough light to read the text.

More volumes of the Atlas Mayor.

I then went back to the exhibit of yacht models. Notice that this one is on skates, for sailing on ice.

This is considered one of the finest in the collection for its craftsmanship and mahogany. I find it rather looks like a violin.

There is a third room that is not part of the official tour. It has a table set with china and the walls are lined with rows of cupboards. Curious, I opened one of the cupboards.

Ooh! Each cubby had a silver item.

I headed up to the second floor, admiring the construction of the building.

Next up was a maritime art gallery. To be honest, it started off as a lot of the same to me and I wasn’t really that keen to learn about the various battles, like the Battle of Gibraltar depicted in the scene below. I really was museumed out. 🙂

This one was stylistically interesting to me. Notice the sea monster?

Now, this was interesting because I’d never seen a pen painting before. It’s all done in pen and ink with perhaps a few brush strokes for sky and shadows.

Here’s another one, with a closeup on a whale:

Seascapes like these were in demand around 1650, when the Netherlands became a maritime superpower.

Notice how shiny this one is. That’s achieved with linseed oil. 🙂

I loved the design of the gallery. The paintings appeared to be floating over empty space, but it was just black mirrored flooring.

This was the first exhibit I’ve been to that explicitly talked about how the grey climate here contributed to the dark and subdued colours of classical Dutch painting. Let me tell you, two weeks in Amsterdam in winter and Rembrandt makes a lot more sense to me!

This one rather reminded me of my favourite Monet, with that little burst of light in the centre.

A very calm day with no wind. Can you find at least two clues that tell us that?


We then got to more modern paintings and my interest was piqued as there was more colour.

Next stop, navigational instruments, another spectacular room.

I learned all about astrolabes. I had no idea that they are so rare, that most were melted down, and that the ones still in existence were usually found in shipwrecks.

I learned that depth finders had a bit of wax at the end of them to collect sediment from the ocean floor to give further navigational information.

Next up, the naval decorations.

All the figureheads pointed towards this display, which was of rushing water, complete with sound. Standing in front of the display case, I really felt like I was on the prow of a ship cutting through the ocean.

I loved the variety of figureheads and their expressions.

Gritted teeth and scared eyes.

And just… LOL!

Like downstairs, there was a room off the official tour, this one with squashy armchairs and photo albums. I picked a chair at random and found that my photo album was about the Arctic in Norway.

The third floor is not on the floor plan, but there was nothing telling me not to go up, so I did. 🙂

I got a good view of the roof from above.

Now, it was time to head out to the ship!

This ship was overrun by disorderly brats who were shrieking. Mexican, Balkan, and Spanish children are so well behaved and orderly that this was a shock. I explored as best I could, but it really wasn’t as much fun as it should have been.

This is the orlop deck, which accommodated 200 sailors and soldiers crammed in around personal effects.

I headed up to the first level of the exterior deck and the captain’s quarters.

Guest quarters were a tad cramped.

Compared to the captain’s quarters. I could not stand up in this part of the ship, however.

I went down into the hold, where the shrieking of the demon spawn was echoing, so I hurried back up.

This ship dates back to 1900 and was an icebreaker.

I was able to view the Royal Barge in its own boathouse. It was built for King William I of the Netherlands between 1816 and 1818. He didn’t use it, but his successors did. It was last used at the silver wedding anniversary of Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard in 1962.

Coming out of this exhibit is when I fell. 🙁

I went back in to visit the West Wing.

Even if I hadn’t been sore, my brain was about to explode, so I went very quickly through an exhibit about the Golden Age of the Netherlands and one about whaling.

We were able to go into this giant whale.

The final exhibit was a game that looked like a lot of fun and had a grown-up version, but it was overrun with kiddos, so I didn’t even try. I went all the way back to the basement to fetch my coat. Green dots are free lockers, red dots are occupied, flashing green dots have been opened by the scanner at the entrance. Neat system.

I was really sore, but still wanted to go check out NEMO.

I made it most of the way up this staircase, but took the elevator back down.

Amsterdam looked like a painting…

The lineup into the science centre was absurd. I’d done my research and knew that I would not spend much time there, so I decided to see if I could jump the queue with my Museumkaart. Yes!

The NEMO Science Centre is a giant interactive playground meant to teach kids about science. If you plan to visit Amsterdam with children, put this one on your list!

I didn’t bother going near any of the interactive stuff since it was all too busy, but I did catch a few interesting static exhibits. These wooden figures were meant to illustrate the structure of different crystals.

These are primitive batteries, but work more like capacitors.

There was a neat display of old technology, like this 1980s model of CD player.

There was a very graphic multi part sex exhibit. I love how Europeans are not prudes.

I liked the models demonstrating creative sexual positions.

And this exhibit where young and old could practice French kissing.

In an exhibit on more futuristic tech, I found this hat with solar panels woven into it. Can you imagine something like this in Mexico? I’d never have to worry about charging my phone!

There was an exhibit about how solar cars are becoming the norm in the Netherlands and there is an increasing number of charging stations.

I only stayed about 40minutes, longer than I expected I would! I was ready to get off my leg by this point, but I still took the time to capture a few more images of the building’s incredible exterior.

I walked along the water a bit towards Centraal Station, where I could get a tram straight home. I knew I wasn’t up to walking 4KM on that knee. 🙁

This friendly guy (gal?) came to say hello.

How did it get up there?! And why is it not strapped down better?!

I found a whole neighourhood of folks living on the water. By the way, I learned that some canal dwellings are houses on piles while others are boats. The boats are more expensive to live in because they have to be periodically hauled out of the water and their hauls scraped and repainted.

People have real addresses with post boxes.

I bet this person doesn’t come home drunk…

Interesting floating pagoda.

This is a hotel right near Centraal Station.

Back at Amsterdam Centraal.

I got in and got my knee on ice. I researched places nearby to go have dinner, but ultimately decided to just pick up a frozen pizza at the supermarket as well as a few other sundries. I’m glad I didn’t try to go any further than that. I was annoyed that they don’t accept credit cards and I had to give all my remaining cash, which was supposed to get me through to Thursday. So now, I have to make another withdrawal, which will cost me 5CAD. Should have gone out for dinner after all. *wry grin*

Accident notwithstanding, this was another great day of Amsterdam museums! I ended up viewing 257.04CAD worth of museums for just 87CAD. So I think I got my money’s worth out of the Museumkaart! 🙂 I do wish I had gone out of Amsterdam one day, but it just didn’t make sense to do so when I had so much here to keep me occupied. The Museumkaart really was a smart purchase as I’m not sure what I would have done with myself otherwise since work was so slow and I’m on a tight budget. I’m also glad I didn’t get a transportation card and so was motivated to walk as much as I did. I got to know my part of Amsterdam very well and saw things I wouldn’t have noticed from a tram. I have two days left and if my knee cooperates, I want to go explore a bit more of West Amsterdam, where I’m living, since it shouldn’t be too cold…

A Salvaged Day in Kotor

Let me tell you, I’ll take the adhan at 5:30 am over church bells at 8:00 am any day… I had a late night and that was a rather rude awakening! I tried to go back to sleep, but failed. So I got up and my only thought was food. I woke up in the middle of the night to raid the peanut butter jar! I can’t believe I’ve woken up twice in as many nights to eat. I’m pretty sure I’ve never done that in my life!

I’m in Kotor for three days and there’s endless rain in the forecast. Today seemed to be the lightest day of it and my best bet for heading out and exploring as it would also be the warmest day. Moreover, I needed food! It made sense to go find some breakfast and then come back with some groceries as there is a conveniently located fridge right by my hostel room.

I debated what to wear as I knew I was going to get soaked and settled on my iPanema sandals (gals, remind me to do a shoe review), a pair of jeans, a long-sleeve top, my fleece hoodie, and the “rain coat” that was wonderful in London but has since failed me. 🙁 I thought I might be able to pick up a cheap umbrella “in town,” about 3KM away. I specifically picked this hostel because it’s walking distance to Old Town Kotor, so I was in the mindset of walking there this morning, needing a leg stretch after yesterday’s long bus ride. The rain had let up somewhat, so I figured the stroll would do me some good. I obviously get stupid when I’m hungry because any sane person without adequate rain gear would have taken a taxi to as near an umbrella shop as possible. No… I walked the whole way, it started to pour halfway there, and I arrived soaked in Kotor.


The directions to my hostel said it’s above the cemetery. Literally!





Even English-only speakers should be able to recognise what part of this sign made my French self cringe.

Let me pause here to say that I’ve never been a fan of umbrellas as I tend to be in climates that are rainy and windy. I don’t really have a lot of extra room in my luggage, so I decided I would get a cheap folding umbrella along the way if I needed one. Today was apparently the day. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So how did I come to be in Kotor? The Serbian couple I met in Zemun told me about it and it seemed a good alternative to very expensive Dubrovnik as a scenic destination on the Adriatic Coast. I had hoped this would be a bit of a working holiday by the sea, but it’s not looking that way yet.

The mist does give Kotor quite a bit of atmosphere. Here, I am approaching the walled Old Town.



There are three gates into the city. This is the main one.







I wandered a bit looking for that elusive place that serves both real food before lunch and coffee. I was shocked that I found it, a cosy restaurant called “Museum Cafe” that serves a full menu all day and knows how to make me a coffee with just “a little” milk. I had two coffees by the time my delicious balsamic vinaigrette chicken and roasted veggie wrap came. The food did me a world of good! But, of course, going back out into the rain was uncomfortable and I felt chilled after the warmth of the restaurant.

In my wanderings to find food, I’d spotted the Maritime Museum and decided that if I could find it again very quickly, I would head there. Otherwise, I was going to find a food store and head home to change.

Old Kotor was purposely built like a maze for defensive purposes and is full of alleys going off in all sorts of directions. One of the things I looked forward to was getting thoroughly lost and disoriented in it. I figured it would be easy because I never did manage to truly orientate myself in Baščaršija, even with all the walking I did in it. But for some reason, I had no trouble with orientation in Old Kotor today, probably because it’s so small. So I refound the museum without any trouble. It is inside a beautiful old house.

The entry fee of 5Eur surprised me, but made more sense when I learned that that included an audio guide.

Let me digress here for a second to say that Kotor is very expensive compared to what I’ve experienced since coming to the Balkans. I don’t know if this is because of the touristy location or because they use the Euro, but I would feel the pinch if I was here for any length of time and trying to keep up the pace of the last few months. Western Europeans seem to find prices cheap, but they are expensive by what I’ve been used to. 1Eur is 1.53CAD (almost at par with USD), so something like a cab ride that is “only” 5Eur is almost 8CAD. I found bathrooms, ice cream, and groceries to be comparably-ish priced to what I’ve been used to, but coffee, beer, and restaurant meals have been high.

So back to the museum. There are two large floors of exhibits, plus a few things to see on the ground floor.  I was thrilled when I was told to, “Please, make many pictures!” But here’s a tip: do not get too close to the exit door with your audio guide or it will start shrieking and the museum personnel will get very cross with you…

I headed up the first flight of stairs to start my tour. The walls were lined with old maps of the area.




The exhibits are themed and of high quality. I was very impressed by this museum. There wasn’t a ton of signage as you get most of the material from the audio guide So I don’t have much to remind me of what things are and all the interesting stories I heard, sorry. Guess you need to come to Kotor and visit its Maritime Museum for yourselves. 🙂 The audio guide, by the way, was really good, narrated by a native English speaker and quite entertaining.



This guy was interesting. He was a slave of the Turks for eight years and eventually rose up against them.




Some of the shields of Kotor.








I had never heard of lemonwood before today, but a bit of Googling tells me it can refer to many different species from all over the world, so I still have no idea what this furniture is made of!


Original flooring. Stunning!





This is an oil lamp, not a candlestick.



I love this painting!




I had never seen black on white “blue willow” before! For those of you who haven’t been following me since forever, I used to collect blue willow china in my pre-RVing days of travel and still have it all.





If I ever get a “forever house,” I’d love to get a desk like this as a statement piece for my office!


Amazing pottery from “the Orient.”









The little boy in this painting? He would become the best known photographer in the region! What an amazing overlap of time periods. He was born the year photography eventually started (1830s, I believe).



I have to say that firearms used to be works of art…







This is Herceg Novi. Another gorgeous painting.








Here, I am on the second floor of the museum.




This captain circumnavigated the globe!






My favourite thing about history museums is seeing period documents showing the mundane details of daily life at the time. This is a travel permit/log book for a sailor.


A navigator made this incredible log book with exquisite drawings detailing the Bay of Kotor and environs.










This painting is almost photographic in nature!



Especially when compared to this one!


This top floor was dedicated to maritime education, as symbolised by this painting of a captain with his students.


Notice all the modern, for the time, tools of the trade.


A French atlas of the ports of the Mediterranean.









Here’s my audio guide. You hold it up to your ear to listen.







I took a second to peek out the front door to see if it was still raining. Yes. Harder. So I went through the museum a second time!









The museum covers maritime history in the area through the Second World War, so you get photographs of captains in addition to paintings.


You can see in my reflection that I took off my top layer in the hope that my fleece would dry out a bit… I have to say I was shocked by how comfy my jeans were, even when wet. I tend not to like to wear jeans because I don’t have the body type for them, but I went to a jean store and had a professional look me over and find the best style for me. So I have “skinny jeans,” which are rather like socially acceptable leggings. I’d avoided jeans all summer, but am rather happy to find them now as I’m getting rather sick of my skirts!



I thought it was neat how the lock on this door is curved.




It was still pouring when I was done, so I decided my day was done. 🙁 I managed to get a picture of the exterior the museum and then ducked into a conveniently located full service grocery store almost right beside it!


I picked up a few things to leave in the fridge by my room and I came out of the store by its exit door to find myself facing another store that sold cheap foldable umbrellas at a price I was willing to pay (5Eur).


I wandered around a bit more, but I was soaked through. My bottom half wasn’t uncomfortable in the least (not even my wet bare feet!) as it was quite warm (in the low 20s), but my shoulders were for some reason. I conceded that the weather had won and that it was time to back to the hostel.








I had no trouble getting a taxi and the ride was just under 4Eur. I had the driver let me off at the bottom of a very short hill to save him the trouble of trying to turn around at the top. I got in one last picture before I hurriedly headed off in direction of a hot shower when…


I got “ambushed” by the owner who offered me coffee!!! I wasn’t that cold, so I happily accepted and went to wait on the covered terrace. She brought me a small pot of coffee (about 1.5 mugs worth), milk, sugar, and this:


The mandarins come from her garden! They were fresh picked this morning! After I enjoyed my coffee and thanked her profusely, she sent me upstairs with the fruit! I just had several pieces of both fruit with my picnic supper. YUM. I think the purple things are a sort of prune. She said they come from the store. I like them too. 🙂

I had a hot shower and changed into dry clothes, which included my second pair of jeans! It was that or my skirt, and, let me tell you, a heavy soaking wet skirt wrapped around your ankles isn’t very comfortable!

Then, get this, the sky freaking CLEARED. The forecast had been adamant it would be 100% rain for 10 days straight and was worsening, not improving. Yet, after about an hour, the rain hadn’t picked up again! So I decided to head back out and try to get a bit of dry time in Kotor.

There were cruise ships in port.


What an unusual cemetery!



It is about 2KM to the end of my road and the limits of Kotor and then about 1KM to Old Town. I barely got away from the hostel when a man pulled over and offered me a ride. Funny how this is something I’m okay with here in the Balkans, but would never consider back home! It’s just part of the culture. The man spoke English, was very nice, and had no “creep” factor. He said he would drive me to the end of the road/to Kotor town limits as his house was right at the corner, and that’s what he did, saving me about 20 minutes of walking.

Can you see the fortress?


How about now?






Since it wasn’t raining, I was able to enjoy my amble and actually notice things, like these fish in the river by the entrance to Old Town.


Kotor’s Old Town is a UNESCO heritage site. I was starting to understand why!



The old town is roughly triangular in shape. It must be incredible to live here. Can you imagine trying to give directions to your house?!


What a difference sun made!


So many alleys leading into squares!


This is where I had my breakfast.













This is the way up to the fortress. I wasn’t shod for that and didn’t want to get caught on slick rock when it would start pouring again, so I didn’t head up.




This is their garbage truck! There are a few golf carts for folks to get around, most of them being affiliated with the hotels.



It took a bit of work, but I finally found a restaurant that was happy to serve me a late lunch. One of you lovely readers who knows who she is sent me a gift this week that was expressly for a meal out, so thanks for lunch today! 😀

I was going to go with some sort of seafood, but couldn’t believe the prices. This is grilled veggies (same as what was in my wrap this morning — peppers, eggplant, and zucchini), with chicken breasts, and smothered in gorgonzola sauce. I had picked out a pasta with shrimp even though this is what I really wanted (I mean, gorgonzola!), but when the server came to take my order, he asked if he could make a recommendation. I said sure and this is what he pointed out! It was almost half the cost of the pasta, so it was a no-brainer. I did not eat the potatoes since the garlic bread was so much better (but, no, I did not eat the entire basket of it!). It was a pretty pricy meal by Balkan standards, but still quite reasonable (almost 20CAD with the beer).

Eggplant is not something I normally eat. I remember eating it once 20 years ago when I was in Colorado and possibly more recently (within the last 10 years) in an aunt’s ratatouille, but that’s it. It’s something I’ve been wanting to experiment with and with today’s experience with it being so positive, I’m further motivated to cook with it!


After lunch, I noticed that not only was the rain still holding off, but it was getting quite warm. I had a lunch to work off and inappropriate shoes be damned, I was going to climb to the fortress! I took a few detours along the way to the entrance, though, to make sure I covered as much of Kotor Old town as I could!































I like to send my friend Bast a postcard from every country I go through. I was unable to do so in BiH as I never found postcards for sale nor a post office. It seemed like their postal system is a mess as they have two. So I was hoping I’d have better luck in Montenegro. Well, what do you know, there were tons of postcards and the post office was open on a Sunday afternoon! The clerk stuck the stamp on the card for me and even mailed it herself instead of sending me out to the mailbox.


Kotor is known for its stray cats and there are a lot of collection boxes set up to support their feeding. The cats are necessary — I saw a rat evading a flood this morning!


The cats museum sounded interesting, but it was closed today.









I finally circled back to the entrance up to the fortress. 3Eur entry fee. I started to climb…









And climb some more. I was surprised by how “grippy” my iPanemas were and not as inappropriate for the climb as a rude man made them out to be.








There were often long columns of people coming down. I got out of the way when I could.


You can really see Kotor’s triangular shape here.


There was a woman selling cold drinks out of a cooler at this church. I decided that if she was still there on the way down, I would pay the hefty surcharge for a cold bottle of water to reward her enterprise for getting the cooler up there!







The climb wasn’t too difficult thanks to my Bulgarian conditioning, but I was not dressed for it at all as it was getting super hot! What a contrast to the morning!


















I still had a surprising amount left to go when I checked the time and saw that it was past 5:00! That was it for me! I knew that even though it was blazingly sunny out (!), the sun would start to set any minute and it would get dark fast. There was no way I was going to pick my way back down to the bottom in the dark in the shoes I had on. It would have been great to reach the top, but I thought I wouldn’t get to climb at all and I was quitting for a valid reason, so I was okay with turning around.

The descent was slow and much more difficult. The water vendor was still at the church and a bottle was 1.50Eur. She accepted 1.20Eur as that’s all the change I had and would have otherwise had to pay with a tenner. Dang was that water good! 🙂

I knew I  was taking a taxi home and with the guy this morning having a hard time giving me change off a 10Eur note, I decided to get an ice cream to break my bill. Ice creams tend to be very small, hence why they’re cheap, so I was shocked by how much the gal piled into my cone, thinking I’d been had. No, my cone was still 1Eur! She was very put upon with me for paying with a “large” note. Even the gal who sold me my umbrella this morning did not have 5Eur change for my umbrella. I am going to have to figure out a way to break my two remaining 50Eur notes! My host says there is a grocery store five minutes in the opposite direction from Kotor, so I’ll head there tomorrow for more food and see if they’ll break one of the notes.

Here’s the map of Old Town found outside of it by the main entrance. It’s much smaller than I expected. I’ve covered the whole of it.


I wandered a bit out front and along the water after coming out of Old Town.









The parking fee structure at a shopping centre was unusual. The bottom language is Russian, but, dang, it is super close to Bulgarian. I was bemused on the climb to the fortress that I noticed the Russian/Bulgarian word for “caution” (внимание) before the English word! On the way, I chatted with some Spanish, American, and French folks and frequently said “Excuse me” in Serbian, so I can say that I used six languages on my climb! 😀


I found a taxi stand by the mall and got one there knowing this was the point of no return for getting a taxi. My written instructions for getting to the hotel got destroyed after my bag got soaked (and transferred dye to everything!), but the driver knew where the hostel is and spoke a bit of English anyway.

Here is my host’s mandarin tree… and her lemon tree!!!


The carpark is over her apartment!


Kotor Old Town was as beautiful as I’d hoped it would be. All I wanted was one clear afternoon to explore it and I got it. The odds are ever in my favour!

There’s lots to see and do in the region, but I never meant for this to be a tourist stop because of the higher cost of living. The point was to get to the shores of the Adriatic and just breathe a bit. So what I’m hoping for is a work project to cover the next two days, but I know I can’t count on anything tomorrow as it won’t be Monday in North America. So I’m probably plop myself down on the terrace to catch up on bookkeeping and other admin tasks and also start working on a few blog posts I’ve been meaning to do. I also need to figure out how I’m going to get to Skopje!

I’ll be back to the shores of the Mediterranean before I know it!

A Day Full of Treasures

I decided to split up the work due tomorrow so that I could take this afternoon and tomorrow morning off. I wanted to go to town to try a restaurant, the reviews for which I stumbled upon on Trip Advisor, and also go to the bank and the grocery store. Tomorrow is riding, of course. 🙂

I wound covering a lot of ground today! Here’s a bird’s eye view (click to embiggen).


I started by walking from the embaracadero to Parisina in Centro (red line at the bottom). Parisina is a chain of fabric stores. I wanted something to cover the surfaces in the office because, surprise, a plastic table cloth was unsuitable to cover a desk in a hot humid climate! I forgot just how inexpensive fabric is in Mexico and realised as I browsed that I didn’t have to get something that would to have have another purpose later because I would be paying so little.

I wound up with some super cheap cotton in colours that sort of match the bedspreads on the twin beds in the office:


I love the purple flowers and that’s quite probably my favourite shade of blue. It was only $40 (3.25CAD or 2.50USD) for two metres! Aesthetics were the only reason to cover the tables. This house is like a prison, with its neutral colours and the bars on the windows, so it’s proven very difficult to make it cozy and homey. This year, I’m adding colour where I can and that is making a huge difference to how happy I am in the house.

I then crossed the street (Benito Juárez) to catch the bus to the Golden Zone. The Sábalo-Cocos ‘local’ bus passed before the ‘tourist’ bus that goes up Avenida del Mar and that was my sign that it was finally time to figure out this bus route because it’s the one that goes by the big Waldo and passes Soriana (multiple ones, I was to learn), Home Depot, and Mega. The ‘local’ buses are super uncomfortable, with hard plastic seats that are so close to the ones in front that my knees are bruised from the ride, but the cost is only $7 versus the $10 for the tourist bus.

Go back up to the map to see the ride I got taken on (blue)! It was a long one, but very educational. What really impressed me is that I knew where I was at all times and was able to correctly guess when we were about to turn onto Rafael Buelna. Now, I know that I can catch this bus at the big Ley or Waldo, or even Soriana or Mega, and take it back down to Juan Carrasco/Gutiérrez Najera if I have only a bit of shopping and don’t mind walking from the intersection to the embarcadero. But the route is way too long to make it worth taking it back from Soriana or Mega with a ton of groceries.

Once we hit Camarón Sábalo, I knew to get off in the vicinity of Panamá so I could head to Playa Gaviotas.

I’ve seen the ads for this guy a few times. I doubt his name is truly Dr. Backman, but, then again, I once knew an electrician named Yvan Laprise (literally sounds like the French for “he sells the electrical outlet”), so who knows!


The restaurant didn’t open till 1:00 and it was about 12:30, so I wandered around in super touristy Mazatlán, saying “No gracias” a lot to vendors.

Being so early, I decided to check out the “Seashell Museum” (Museo de Conchas), which is really a store full of tchotchkes, with some tiny exhibits upstairs. But you HAVE to go there because of the fountain! I think I stared at it for a full 10 minutes and I’m very annoyed I only had my crappy iPhone camera to capture it!



That fountain is a Work of Art. I couldn’t find an inch of it that didn’t absolutely delight me. If I were ever to buy a home by the sea, I would commission an artist to build something like this with seashells for me, perhaps a bathroom counter.

Then, I wandered around in the general area looking for the restaurant, Zab Thai. The address and the claim that it is near the Seashell Museum helped me narrow things down a bit, but it was extremely hard to find. I asked a few people, but no one could be bothered to help if I wasn’t a customer. I finally had the bright idea of putting other businesses into Google so I could essentially triangulate the location I needed and found Zab Thai at the end of a very lonely looking alley:


An alley that leads to a beach:



An alley that holds another business named “Lucky Bastard”!


I went into the restaurant, which had an English menu but a server who was quite happy to serve me in Spanish. They had just opened and I was the only one there. They apparently do more takeout than eat-in business. The reviews I’d read claimed that Zab Thai is the place to go for authentic Thai in Maz.

I just ordered the chicken Pad Thai, but asked for two stars of spiciness out of three (!) and, for the first time, requested no egg. Pad Thai is something that I crave all the time, but which I haven’t had much luck finding to my taste in quite a while. I can’t articulate what it is about Pad Thai that makes it to my taste or not, I just know what I like.

When the meal arrived, it was alarmingly red:


(I can’t believe I’m still traumatized by that ketchupy Pad Thai I had on Jarvis Street in Toronto 15 years ago! :D)

I took a tentative bite and almost fell out of my seat. This Pad Thai was perfect. The flavours were just right and I think the red might have come from Sriracha, with the spice level being just right for me. When it was a bit too much, I nibbled on some of the cabbage. I do have to say the chicken was a bit bland, but that’s just being nitpicky. I can’t believe I found this meal in Mexico. I’m pretty sure this Pad Thai is the third best I’ve ever had, after the ones at Siam or Bangkok Palace in Ottawa, Ontario, and the one at the Starfire in Skagway, Alaska! Pad Thai with chicken or pork was just $95! I think with shrimp or a mix was $115. Either price is a bargain for such a great Pad Thai. I find it interesting that two of the best I’ve ever had have been in such tourist trappy-type destinations.

Then, it was time to go to the bank (red route at the top). On the way, I passed this place that has never been open before and so I’ve never noticed it:


That’s a drive-thru beer pickup place, folks. And I thought ‘Muricans are ridiculous (and terrifying) for having drive-thru liquor stores…

I cut across the McDonald’s parking lot and came across this RV from France!



I actually waited a few minutes, hoping to catch the drivers, but gave up.

The walk-in ATM at Scotiabank was down, but, thankfully, their drive-thru one worked. My landlady is going to be so happy to get her December rent early. I don’t think I paid December rent till the 15th or even 20th last year (which I had told her on the day I moved in and she was okay with).

Look at what Soriana had: LEMONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


But check out the price compared to the little round limes:


The Persian limes that look like green lemons were $14 a kilo, still a much better deal. That picture was worse than the one above. I have no idea how people take lovely pictures with their iPhones…

I decided to take a chance and buy some meat (went with hamburger) and saw this in the freezer. I don’t think I’ve ever seen rabbit sold at the grocery store before!


One of the things on my list was chocolate almond milk for a recipe, but they didn’t have any on the shelf, which surprised me since the little Ley has it and Soriana had every iteration of the plain. A store clerk tapped me on the shoulder, had me turn around, pointed to a pallet in the centre of the aisle, and told me they were having a two-for-one sale on almond milk, one plain bundled with one chocolate!!! $44 for two containers was a steal! I started stocking almond milk last summer for cereal and am glad it’s so inexpensive, even here in Mexico, since I’ll be able to use it to make fruit smoothies!

From Soriana, I took a taxi (green) back to the embaradero. I decided to walk home on this side, sorely underestimating how heavy my shopping was (thanks to the beer I bought in town, which I’ve never done, because I knew the City Deli would be closed, and the almond milk). But there was a ton of traffic (possible funeral procession), so I actually wound up getting home faster than I would have in a taxi, even with all my rest stops!

It’s been a rich, full day!

Checking Out Port Aransas

Thursday promised to be grey, not the best weather to go out gallivanting, but off I did go, leaving around 8AM. I got fuel and then drove straight to Aransas Pass to catch the free ferry to Port Aransas.

One of the goals of this trip was to see what it would be like in an RV and to scope out the boondocking spots. I’d already made the decision not to move Miranda there, but I wanted to know what I would be missing.

The ferry was very tight. I did see a ginormous fiver come off the ferry ahead of me, but I would not feel comfortable taking my rig on there as there is zero room for error.

Port Aransas is bigger than I thought it would be and full of colourful unique storefronts (see the gallery below). First stop was the Marine Science Institute, where there are a few free displays. They sometimes have free educational lectures and movies, too.

I met a wonderful lady traveling from Minnesota. We gabbed for ages and she was delighted that I’ve been through her state a few times and could easily point out her town on a map. We talked a little about my travels and she asked me if I’d ever been to Alaska, wondering how hard it is to get there. I explained that the Alaska Highway is super easy to drive and that there’s no need to over prepare to go north. She actually took some notes. I hope she gets up there some day!

Next, I came upon one of the many RV boondocking beaches in the area. You need to pay to boondock and you can only stay three nights out of every three weeks.

I drove out to another beach south of town. Both locations were lovely, but the ground was very soft and the tides more likely to come up very high. I really don’t feel like I’m making a mistake not detouring to Port Aransas to boondock, but I’m glad I checked it out.

I’d asked S for a lunch recommendation and she told me to try the pizza at The Gaff, so that’s where I went. Woah, what a place… It’s a shack (and that’s a kind way of putting it) with a pirate theme. It didn’t feel too clean and I’m not convinced the pizza maker washed her hands once between everything she was doing. That said, the experience was worth it and the pizza not bad! I was only able to eat a couple of slices and I took the rest with me. I knew it wouldn’t survive the trip to Harlingen, what with the truck sitting in the sun, but I was able to snack on another couple of slices and found that this is a pizza that’s best served lukewarm. I loved the sauce and cheese, the crust was so-so. The server had just started working there and had everything under control. We had a nice chat and she said that I should come on a Saturday night when they have beltsander races! I would never have tried this place had it not been recommended to me and I’m so glad I did!

It was coming on to 1:00 when I came out from lunch, so it was time to move on. Next stop, Corpus Christi.

Aim Low Insurance in Aransas Pass; the name struck me as funny.

Aim Low Insurance in Aransas Pass; the name struck me as funny.

Driving towards the Port Aransas ferry.

Driving towards the Port Aransas ferry.

The road to the ferry is lined with instructional signs for using the 'ferryboat.' My favourite was 'the ferryboat's capacity is whatever it can safely carry.'

The road to the ferry is lined with instructional signs for using the ‘ferryboat.’ My favourite was ‘the ferryboat’s capacity is whatever it can safely carry.’

Good thing there is a little boat on the instructions, or I would have serious doubts about my GPS!

Good thing there is a little boat on the instructions, or I would have serious doubts about my GPS!

Waiting in line at the ferry. I was signaled to go 'thataway' with two fingers waving, so I deduced (correctly) that I had to go into the outer lane.

Waiting in line at the ferry. I was signaled to go ‘thataway’ with two fingers waving, so I deduced (correctly) that I had to go into the outer lane.

VERY tight squeeze on the ferry.

VERY tight squeeze on the ferry.

Leaving Aransas Pass.

Leaving Aransas Pass.

Port Aransas

Port Aransas

Ferry heading for Aransas Pass

Ferry heading for Aransas Pass

Port Aransas

Port Aransas

Desserted Island Ice Cream

Desserted Island Ice Cream

Marine Science Institute.

Marine Science Institute.

Sculpture outside the Marine Science Institute.

Sculpture outside the Marine Science Institute.

I really enjoyed this display that showed the teeth of sharks that swim in these waters and offered humorous commentary on their diet.

I really enjoyed this display that showed the teeth of sharks that swim in these waters and offered humorous commentary on their diet.

There were a few aquariums with live fish.

There were a few aquariums with live fish.

Cute grumpy fish.

Cute grumpy fish.

Nearly invisible flat fish.

Nearly invisible flat fish.

Yummy red snapper.

Yummy red snapper.

You are so delicious smoked!

You are so delicious smoked!

More hiding fish.

More hiding fish.

"Come on, inner peace. I don't have all day!"

“Come on, inner peace. I don’t have all day!”

I had never heard of 'sea beans' before today. They are seeds that are carried to far away lands by sea currents.

I had never heard of ‘sea beans’ before today. They are seeds that are carried to far away lands by sea currents.

More about sea beans.

More about sea beans.

A variety of sea beans.

A variety of sea beans.

More sea beans.

More sea beans.

One of the RV boondocking beaches.

One of the RV boondocking beaches.

One of the RV boondocking beaches.

One of the RV boondocking beaches.

One of the RV boondocking beaches.

One of the RV boondocking beaches.

One of the RV boondocking beaches.

One of the RV boondocking beaches.

One of the RV boondocking beaches.

One of the RV boondocking beaches.

View from one of the RV boondocking beaches.

View from one of the RV boondocking beaches.

I missed a turn on the GPS and came upon this. Best store entrance ever.

I missed a turn on the GPS and came upon this. Best store entrance ever.

Second best store entrance ever.

Second best store entrance ever.

Another boondocking beach.

Another boondocking beach.

Another boondocking beach.

Another boondocking beach.

Another boondocking beach.

Another boondocking beach.

Sea turtles are endangered.

Sea turtles are endangered.

Rules for boondocking here, including have a permit and stay only three days.

Rules for boondocking here, including have a permit and stay only three days.

The sand was a little soft in spots.

The sand was a little soft in spots.

The Gaff Pirate Bar

The Gaff Pirate Bar

I wouldn't have ventured in this place if it hadn't been recommended to me.

I wouldn’t have ventured in this place if it hadn’t been recommended to me.

Decent pizza with good conversation.

Decent pizza with good conversation.

Gulf Islands National Seashore, Santa Rosa Island, Florida

Today’s trip was conceived in 2004 and planned in 2005 before getting postponed because of Hurricane Katrina. I was planning my first real holiday of my adult life and, like most housebound folks, had only a few weeks’ vacation a year, and not always at the most opportune time. This trip was supposed to take me to Savannah (which I saw in 2008) then New Orleans (where I’m heading tomorrow!) by way of Pensacola because it was in proximity to Florida’s former capital that I had wanted to see the Gulf of Mexico for the first time.

I really need to look at maps more rather than just make itineraries with Google and my GPS because I had no idea that my current itinerary was taking me less than an hour and a half from that location, the western tip of Santa Rosa Island near Pensacola Beach. I’m just glad I clued in with enough time to make the detour!

While I’m sure there are lots of lovely things to see and do in Pensacola and Pensacola Beach, I just wanted to walk the pure white sand beaches of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and tour the ruins of Fort Pickens.

The trip to Pensacola Beach (a separate community from Pensacola, btw), was super quick and easy as the casino sits at the exit I-65 southbound folks can take as a short cut to Pensacola. There is a $1 toll to get onto Santa Rosa Island and an additional $8 to visit the Fort Pickens site.

Sunshine state my ass!

Sunshine state my ass!

I'm really here!!!

I’m really here!!!

This is NOT the Gulf of Mexico, but a bay.

This is NOT the Gulf of Mexico, but a bay.

I just wanted a picture of my truck next to palm trees. :)

I just wanted a picture of my truck next to palm trees. 🙂

Definitely going the right way!

Definitely going the right way!

Long bridge to Gulf Breeze.

Long bridge to Gulf Breeze.

Cross Gulf Breeze, another bridge, a toll booth, and I'm here!

Cross Gulf Breeze, another bridge, a toll booth, and I’m here!

a lunar landscape

a lunar landscape




Just as I envisioned it...

Just as I envisioned it…



I frolicked in the surf, wading waist deep! The water was cold, but I was seriously tempted to swim a little!

I frolicked in the surf, wading waist deep! The water was cold, but I was seriously tempted to swim a little!



Approaching Fort Pickens

Approaching Fort Pickens

The fort was built for homeland security in the early 1800s.

The fort was built for homeland security in the early 1800s.




The fort is extremely damp, with mould being rampant. The public washrooms are soggy, too.

The fort is extremely damp, with mould being rampant. The public washrooms are soggy, too.







The fort is full of fun tunnels and dark corners to explore. I'm not claustrophobic per se, but I found that stooping to explore that left tunnel was a little breath catching.

The fort is full of fun tunnels and dark corners to explore. I’m not claustrophobic per se, but I found that stooping to explore that left tunnel was a little breath catching.







This is a long tunnel that seemed to go on forever -- in pitch darkness.

This is a long tunnel that seemed to go on forever — in pitch darkness.


Thorny plants, beware!

Thorny plants, beware!

Geronimo was held captive here.

Geronimo was held captive here.


Water cistern.

Water cistern.



Note the double arch construction to keep the foundation from sinking into the sand.

Note the double arch construction to keep the foundation from sinking into the sand.







The fort within a fort, painted glossy black.

The fort within a fort, painted glossy black.










This display shows how long garbage stays in the water before decomposing.

This display shows how long garbage stays in the water before decomposing.

plastic bottles, 450 years

plastic bottles, 450 years





A swimsuit from the early 20th century, when people started going to the beach.

A swimsuit from the early 20th century, when people started going to the beach.





There's an RV park right next to the beach.

There’s an RV park right next to the beach.

Boardwalk leading up to the beach.

Boardwalk leading up to the beach.



Still pinching myself.

Still pinching myself.







 Note to self: your sandals are the block spots on the beach!

Note to self: your sandals are the black spots on the beach!


The sand was very comfortable to walk on, not cold at all.

The sand was very comfortable to walk on, not cold at all.






The road out.

The road out.

I have more about today, but I seem to time my casino stays with the seafood buffet, so you’ll just have to be patient. I just hope I don’t drown on the way into the casino as the sky has finally opened and it is pouring rain out there!