World’s Largest Light Show

Beginning in May 2023, the world’s largest light show, a stunning, fully-immersive sound and light show at Ayers Rock Resort, Australia, will explode as never seen before anywhere in the world. It combines ancient Anangu storytelling and state-of-the-art drone and laser technology. Shows will continue until December.

Anangu are one of the oldest continuous cultures around the world. They have been custodians of Australia, and its many stories are passed down from the  Mala people. Called the Wintjiri Wiru experience, or beautiful view to the horizon, Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia worked closely with the Anangu to bring this colossal event to life.

The Wintjiri Wiru experience was designed and produced by the world-famous RAMUS Media Architecture Studio. One thousand luminous drones will lift ancient Mala images to the sky and shine on Uluru (Ayers Rock). These will be accompanied by narrations in Anangu native languages, and a soundtrack featuring traditional Anangu music will be performed by Anangu members.

The Mala Story

The Mala story will be the first Indigenous story of its kind to be shared on this scale and frequency and is important Tjukurpa. Tjukurpa has many complex meanings and is a philosophy that links Anangu to the environment and their ancestors. Tjukurpa stories talk about the beginning of time when ancestral beings first created the world. These stories contain important lessons about the land and how to survive in the desert, as well as rules for appropriate behavior.

Tjukurpa stories are also used like maps as they tell Anangu where important places are, how to travel from one place to another, and where and when to find water and food. These stories are not simple since they represent complex explanations of the origins and structure of the universe and the place and behavior of all elements in it.

The Mala People and the Rock

Legends tell us the Mala people originated in North Australia and migrated south to the center of the country. There they were drawn to this large, monolithic rock (Uluru) and decided to make it their home. Two Wintalka men approached  while they were setting up and invited them to their inma (ceremony) The Mala people said they had begun their own ceremonies and these could not be stopped.

The Wintalka returned to their home angry at being put off, so they created an evil spirit – a huge devil-dog called Kurpany – to destroy the Mala inma. Two groups of frightened Mala people fled to South Australia where they live today.

The Anangu people are aborigines who descended from the group of Mala people who remained at the rock. They consider the python (woman) and poisonous snakes (man) to be sacred. Their history has never been written but instead passed down orally. Stories, art, dance, and song are the transmission vehicles keeping their history alive today.

Even now, their centuries-old art remains inscribed on Uluru. Many shelters in the rock exhibit the etchings that the Anangu carved into the rock. These were created by mixing water, animal fat, and minerals to allow their art to shine with bright reds, yellows, and oranges.

The Anangu actually own the Uluru and continue to use it for their worship experiences. They believe the rock is alive, being the resting place for their past spirits. They belief this rock (known to most of us as Ayers Rock) began forming 550 million years ago becoming one of the world’s largest monoliths. Fortunately, this protected area has been made into a national park and climbing the rock is not allowed.

Collaboration with the Community

The fantastic light show has been created by RAMUS studio in collaboration with the Anangu people. These people advised on the visuals, named the event, narrated their story, and produced the music. The show is displayed on a specially-built platform on top of a sand dune within sight of Ayers Rock. Special seating was devised for viewing the event.

For three hours, as darkness begins to rob the light, viewers are offered canapes and cocktails followed by a gourmet dinner featuring native ingredients and Australian wines. The show begins with full darkness. A second, shorter show of one hour with light refreshments is offered each evening also.

The Anangu people have been central to the execution of this show, guaranteeing its authenticity and sharing their cultural and spiritual history. Located at Australia’s most sacred center allows for an illuminating and captivating experience and is offered until December 2023. Accommodations may be reserved at the Ayers Rock Resort. The resort also houses the Wintjiri Arts & Museum space where you can watch local Indigenous artists create their masterworks. Experience both the working museum and this most significant light show with a trip to Australia.

Fact: Ayers Rock was made a national park in 1950
©: Other than sharing, the contents of this blog are copyrighted and cannot be used in any other way without permission.

Three Forgotten Capitals of Europe

Paris, London, Berlin. All well-known capitals in Europe. Others are not so well known but probably should be. Many tourists never explore three of these forgotten capitals because they do not venture far enough east. Three forgotten capitals of Europe can be reached in a row.


Start with Europe’s newest country, Kosovo, and enter its capital Pristina. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 and is recognized as sovereign by most countries except Serbia. Consequently, you would be wise not to travel from Kosovo to Serbia. Start in Servia if you want to also travel to Kosovo. Kosovo measures 4,203 square miles and has the largest population of ethnic Albanians outside Albania.

Many empires from the 4th century forward ruled what is now Kosovo. The country sits in the center of the Balkan Peninsula and its capital Pristina is a major crossroad to any travel in the Balkans. The city was the capital of the Serbian state in the 14th century and is now a capital again in its own country.

Soma Book Station, Pristina, Kosovo –

At first glance, Pristina appears to have nothing to offer. Its old style architecture, reminiscent of Russian occupation, is heavy and unattractive.

National Library, Kosovo

One of its newest buildings, the National Library, has gained a lot of attention for its architecture. Consider it beautiful or ugly—the choice is yours.

A popular site is the Newborn Monument, a political statement in 10-foot high letters celebrating Kosovo’s liberation from Serbia, similar to the city name monuments found in Central and South American countries. It was unveiled in bright yellow letters on the day of independence 2008. The plan is to repaint it in some fashion each anniversary date. It has been painted with the flags of countries which have recognized the independence of Kosovo. Another year it was painted with barbed wires indicating the difficulty Kosovans were having getting visas to other countries. Another year the decoration was clouds. People have also  written their names or messages all over the monument, and the graffiti artists have had their say.

Pristina, Kosovo

Another popular attraction is the Cathedral of Saint Mother Teresa, honoring the saint who born in Skopje, the former capital of the Kosovo. Pristina also has named a street in her honor.

Kosovans love the United States for supporting its independence when other countries turned their backs. In particular, they love Bill Clinton and have immortalized him with a statue and huge portrait on a tower wall. There is even a Hillary clothing store.

You need not spend a long time in Pristina, but you should not skip the newest European capital.


Travel south and you will come to the small country of Montenegro. Its capital city is Podgorica, traceable to the Stone Age. The city has experienced control by empires and desecrated by wars. In 2008, Montenegro declared its independence and Podgorica, given its size (containing 30% of the country’s population) and location away from the Adriatic Sea (reachable by tunnel) was made its capital city. Montenegro measures 5,333 square miles.

Podgorica, Montenegro

Many cultural institutions call Podgorica home. These include the Montenegrin National Theatre and the City Theatre, the latter including children’s and puppet theaters. Four major museums reside in the city alongside the former king’s castle and chapel which have been turned into an art gallery.

Millennium Bridge, Podgorica, Montenegro

Podgorica is alive with many sports stadiums for football, basketball, in addition to soccer fields. Some of the city’s most notable citizens have been football players. The varied architecture of the city exemplifies its history, from the Ottoman Empire days to contemporary times. Podgorica was bombed 80 times in World War II, destroying much of the city. Today, recovery includes a wave of new building projects, giving the capital a newer face.

A focal point for tourists has proven to be the Millennium Bridge spanning the  Morača River. It was designed locally by a professor of engineering and has become the city’s most prominent landmark. It opened in 2005 on Montenegro’s National Day at the cost of seven million euros. The bridge carries two lanes of traffic and walkways on each side.

Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ

The second most popular attraction is the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ. Construction of the Cathedral began in 1993 and took 20 years to complete. The tower holds 17 bells, the heaviest weighing 11 tons. You should not miss this Orthodox Cathedral with its elaborately decorated interior.

Montenegro is small, with the Adriatic on one side and mountains on the other. You can cross from one to the other in an afternoon. Where else can you experience such diversity in one or two hours?


One more stop as you head toward the Mediterranean is Albania and its capital Tirana. Albania is the largest of these three countries, measuring 11,100 square miles. It sits on both the Adriatic and Ionian Seas with the Albanian Alps and other mountain ranges crisscrossing the country.

Like its counterparts to the north, Albania has survived competing empires and declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912. After World War II, Albania became a satellite state of Russia, which consequently dissolved and the country became the secular state it is known to be today, though freedom of religion is guaranteed.

Tirana, Albania

The capital city, Tirana, sits in the middle of the country, surrounded by mountains. The city was founded in 1614, though the area has been  inhabited since the Iron Age. It has seen power movements from the Serbians and Russians since its independence. Following the collapse of the communists, Tirana has gone through political unrest, explosions, earthquakes, and rebuilding. Tirana and Albania seem always to be on the edge.

Clock Tower, Tirana, Albania– Ahmed Mulla

The center of Tirana is Skanderbeg Square which houses on its sides most of the important buildings of Albania. A clock tower in Italianate style and the only mosque remaining of the eight built during the 18th and 19th centuries sideline the Square. Not the largest monument but the most important is the statue of Skanderbeg, the commander who ousted the Ottoman Empire. The Square is the major cultural center of the city.

Prior to World War II, Albania had been under Communist rule with Enver Hoxha as Prime Minister. Because of Hoxha’s paranoia, he populated the country with bunkers against would-be invaders at 5.7 bunkers for every square kilometer. Today, some of these bunkers has been turned into museums, hostels, and other housing. The largest of these is the Bunk’art, built to hide the full government forces and is now an art museum.

Bunker – The Guardian

Tirana, and Albania, had been closed to the world until the end of World War II, making it an isolated country. The consequences are that the country is very welcoming to tourists, wanting to catch up with the rest of the world.

Tirana reveres its cultural arts: music (especially singing), storytelling and literature, embroidery and lace making, woodworking and furniture making.

Today, Tirana is a vibrant city with a youthful influence. There are major Albanian cities to the north and south of Tirana, but this capital city should be on the itinerary of all Eastern European travelers.

Traveling in Eastern Europe should not be overlooked. The Balkan countries offer lower cost food and accommodations from Western Europe. The Balkan countries have beautiful, varied terrains at every turn in addition to many cultural opportunities. You won’t do wrong to put these capitals on your next itinerary.

Fact: Balkan is a Turkish word for mountains
©: Other than sharing, the contents of this blog are copyrighted and cannot be used in any other way without permission.

No Wheels on Hydra Island

The Greek island of Hydra, a ferry ride from Athens or other communities along the Peloponnese coast, has banned all wheels on the island. The result is a walkers’ paradise. Hydra is a jumping-off sport to visit other islands in the Aegean Sea’s Saronic group. The name Hydra comes from ancient Greek meaning water.

Hydra Town

The island is famous for its picturesque architecture; most of the mansions have been turned into museums which you can visit. Walk the many paths crisscrossing this small island (10 miles long) to view the many gorgeous ocean views and the old monasteries. Get lost in the alleyways and admire the many bougainvillea which dot these passageways. Drop back down into Hydra Town (or Hydra Port) and visit the Museum of Historical Archives at the port. Among the interesting exhibits are paintings, manuscripts from the revolutionary period, ship models, and rare books. At the end of the day, join into the vibrant nightlife the island offers.

Hydra Island appears to have been, and continues to be, a mecca for the religious. There are six monasteries and 300 churches on the island (with a lot of bells ringing). An ecclesiastical museum is housed at the Church of the Assumption. This church in typical Greek white color was established in 1643 and has a bell tower made of pure marble. It serves as Hydra’s cathedral. Rivaling the religious are the Merchant Marine Academy, the first in Greece. There are many bastions or cannons surrounding the port, a reminder of its tumultuous 18th century.

No Wheels on Hydra Island

In 1960, the island banned wheels of any kind—cars, trucks, bicycles, motorcycles, even baby strollers—to protect the cobblestone streets which are too narrow and steep. Exempt are garbage trucks and ambulances. Instead of any motorized vehicles, residents and visitors are limited to water taxis, mules, donkeys, and horses for traversing the island. This has produced mixed feelings from those who need wheels to operate their business. There are those who are in favor of protecting the environment and the charming nature of the town. Whichever the opinion, the town fathers are resolved to keep the ban in place.

Since there are no wheels on the island, the best activities are hiking and swimming. The island is hilly with many trails lending beautiful seascapes and leading to some of the several hundred monasteries and chapels. The Greek Orthodox churches dominate the island.

Hydra Island contains other small villages or settlements besides Hydra Town (see Discover their beaches, which you may reach by foot or water taxi. You will find restaurants at these spots. Other beaches are scattered along the island’s shore, perfect for privacy. Scuba diving and deep diving are popular sports on Hydra since there are reefs and underwater caves to explore.

Shop and Play

Rafalia’s Pharmacy

You should not miss shopping at Rafalia’s Pharmacy, the oldest in Greece run by the same family. The pharmacy opened in 1890 in one of the old mansions. Here you will discover various beauty products such as soaps, lotions and cologne using old traditional recipes from Greek formulas. Perhaps you can visit their mansion next door. When you get hungry, there are numerous restaurants catering to tourists and residents alike.

The residents of Hydra like to party. They have festivals throughout the year. These can include folk dancing, fishing, boat races, exhibits, and/or lectures. Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter are three days of religious festivities topped off with fireworks.

Famous People on Hydra

Hydra has a population slightly less than 2,000. Many famous people have lived here over the years including Canadian song writer Leonard Cohen and singer-actress Melina Mercouri. Author Henry Miller’s most-hailed book, The Colossus of Maroussi, an impressionist travelogue, is set on Hydra. At least 11 films have been made on Hydra. Two of the most famous are Boy on a Dolphin (1957) starring Sophia Loren, and Phaedra (1962) starring Melina Mercouri and Anthony Perkins.

Leaving Hydra

Hydra Harbor
Hydra Harbor

Hydra is the gem of the Saronic group of islands. It is both chic and bohemian. Don’t let the No Wheels on Hydra discourage you. You can enjoy the beaches, mansions, churches, museums, and restaurants, as well as rustic outdoor hiking or ambling the back streets and pathways. There is much to experience, see, and do on this island, so you will not want to leave. Should you leave, throw some coins into the harbor. The superstition—which has proven true for some—is if you don’t throw those coins into the water, you will never return to the island. Take heed.

Fact: Hydra may also have been named for the 9-headed serpent in Greek mythology
©: Other than sharing, the contents of this blog are copyrighted and cannot be used in any other way without permission.

How to Cruise for Less Money

Repositioning cruises offer travelers an exciting and cost-effective way to travel around the globe. This happens when cruise ships make a move from one seasonal port to the next, often in response to weather changes or increased demand. Read further to see how to cruise for less money.

What is a Repositioning Cruise

A repositioning cruise refers to a cruise which moves from one port to the next. These cruises usually last longer and offer more varied itineraries than standard cruises, which allows travelers to discover new places. There are two types of repositioning cruising: transatlantic crossings or repositioning in the Pacific. Transatlantic crossings are between Europe and Americas. Repositioning cruises within the Pacific, however, are between Asia and the Americas.

Repositioning cruises might journey to uncommon and even exotic ports of call as a cruise ship relocates to a new region. They are available most months of the year and include itineraries such as Alaska to Hawaii, Alaska to the Mexican Riviera and transatlantic sailings between the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. Some sailings transit the Panama Canal.

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria –

For example, Alaska’s cruise season only runs from May to September, which means during the off-season months, the ship will be sailing around to another region of the world. In April, a few weeks before Alaska’s cruise season takes off, a ship will embark on a repositioning cruise sailing from Asia to Alaska, where it will remain until September. Subsequently, another repositioning cruise will open up, this time heading back towards Asia, where it will stay during Alaska’s off-season.

The Benefits of a Repositioning Cruise

The benefits of taking a repositioning cruise are numerous. For starters, repositioning cruises are often significantly cheaper than traditional cruises, making them a great option for travelers looking to save money. Ships sailing short seasons in Alaska, South America, Canada/New England and Europe will always be repositioning at least twice a year.

Additionally, repositioning cruises frequently offer longer itineraries which allow travelers to spend more time exploring new destinations. These itineraries also may include visits to ports of call not typically included on traditional cruise itineraries.

Another advantage of taking a repositioning cruise is the opportunity to travel during the off-peak season. During this time, cruise ship crowds are significantly reduced, making it easier to enjoy the on-board amenities and activities. Furthermore, because these cruises are typically longer in duration, they provide a more relaxed and laid-back atmosphere, which can be a great escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Further Advantages of a Repositioning Cruise

Additional opportunities may be:

• They are affordable, because cruise lines prefer to drop their rates instead of sailing empty ships.
• They are less crowded, because families with school-age children usually only travel in the summer.
• You receive the same level of service, fabulous food, and entertainment options you would find on a regular cruise.
• There is no shortage of activities to keep you from boredom.• You may visit several fascinating ports before the actual cruise even commences.
• You change time zones gradually – an hour every day or two – making disembarkation seamless for your system.

Booking a Cruise

It takes some research to plan a repositioning cruise. It is important to think about the experience you want when choosing a cruise ship and line. Certain cruise lines are more suited to families. Others cater more to solo travelers or couples. You should also be familiar with the route and ports of call. These details will help you plan your shore excursions and determine which attractions and activities you would like to enjoy during your trip.

Tenerife, Canary Islands –

Repositioning cruises can be tricky to find on booking sites. They may be referred to as repositioning cruises or transatlantic or transpacific cruises. When ships reposition between ports in the U.S. and Canada, the one-off, one-way itineraries might not be labeled anything special beyond Caribbean or Pacific Coast cruises

Using the Internet is the best way to find these cruises. This site offers 25 cruises where you can choose the cruise line, the specific ship, dates of the cruise, length of the cruise, ports of departure, and ports to visit. Simply plug in your wishes and create your own itinerary.

Another choice is to look at the top seven repositioning cruises. This site gives extensive descriptions of the cruises and also ranks them; however, you may have to do some digging to find their repositioning cruises. An alternative is to use a travel agent who may have more detailed information.

On Board Your Cruise

Since repositioning cruises have to travel such long distances, they tend to be lengthy cruises, lasting anywhere from 13 to 19 nights. On the other hand, some ships travel a straight course to their destination without making any stops. For the longer cruises, you will have ports-of-call along the way.

On a transatlantic sailing, port stops could be in Spain’s Canary Islands or Portugal’s Azores Islands. A repositioning cruise from Southern California to Vancouver before the Alaska cruise season might sail up the Pacific Coast and visit cities like San Francisco and Astoria, Oregon.

Portugal’s Azores –

Some people love cruises which have numerous stops so they can quickly check off a list of countries and only unpack once. But if you think of sailing as leisurely, lazy days, a trans-oceanic repositioning cruise might be your best choice. This huge stretch of time is a great opportunity to crack open books you’ve been meaning to read, launch into a knitting project or, finally, have time for daily workouts.

Further Considerations

Once you have selected your cruise line and ship, it is time to book your accommodations. The type of room you choose will have a significant impact on your overall experience, so it is important to consider factors like location, size, and amenities. Some repositioning cruises offer the option to book a suite, which provides additional space and luxury.

The on-board experience during a repositioning cruise is often different from a traditional cruise, as the focus is more on relaxation and rejuvenation. However, there are still plenty of amenities and activities to enjoy, including dining and entertainment options, as well as shore excursions and other activities. It is important to research the specific cruise ship you will be traveling on to get a sense of what to expect.

Ponta Delgada, Azores –

There are also challenges to consider when taking a repositioning cruise. The length of the journey can be a significant factor, as some repositioning cruises can last up to several weeks. Additionally, the limited number of port calls can be a drawback, as travelers may not have enough time to explore each destination. Seasickness and motion sickness can also be a concern, particularly for those who are prone to these problems.


A repositioning cruise offers as much if not more than a standard cruise offers, yet at a reduced cost with the possibility of visiting fewer common ports of call. These cruises can be shorter or longer than regular cruises, but they still offer the same amenities to a smaller size passenger list. The next time you desire a cruise, consider the off seasons and find a repositioning cruise. You won’t be disappointed.

Fact: On a repositioning cruise, you can save up to 75% of the cost of a standard cruise
©: Other than sharing, the contents of this blog are copyrighted and cannot be used in any other way without permission.

[Note: This article was written at the request of a reader. I am happy to consider requests for future articles.]

Today is Valentine’s Day

Today is Valentine’s Day. But who is St. Valentine? The Roman church recognized three martyred Valentines as saints. One of these, St. Valentine of Rome, was a priest who performed marriages against the dictum of Emperor Claudius who had outlawed marriage. Claudius declared single men made better soldiers than married men, so he would not allow men to marry. Valentine opposed Claudius’ dictum, performed marriages, and was killed for doing so.

Another Valentine, St. Valentine of Terni (also Italian), during his imprisonment for having helped others escape the brutality inflicted on them while imprisoned, fell in love with a young girl who often visited him. At one point, he sent her a message signed From Your Valentine, an expression still used today. This is a beautiful story but cannot be corroborated. This Valentine became quite popular outside of Rome in today’s England and France.

The third St. Valentine emigrated from North Africa to Rome, where many North Africans helped form the Roman world. Little is known about this Valentine except he would have been a black man. No romantic associations have been linked to this Valentine.

Who is the real St. Valentine? All three were martyred, but only the first two (above) were associated with romance. History has come to associate the first Valentine of Rome as the saint of love. This Valentine was beheaded, today an unlikely association with love. In actual practice, since we know so little about these men, all three have merged into one person known as Valentius, a name meaning strong or powerful.

Origin of  Valentine’s Day

Every year throughout the world, Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14th. It is a day to express love and fondness to another, often with chocolate, wine, roses, greeting cards, or other gifts. How did these expressions of love come about, and why on this special day?

Valentine’s Day is shrouded in some mystery. February has long been associated with romance, even though the reasons are not clear. The Day has elements of both Christian and secular Roman tradition deriving from the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, a feast day celebrating the god of agriculture as well as the founders of Rome—Remus and Romulus.

On this day, a goat was sacrificed and its hide stripped into ribbons, dipped into the goat’s blood, and slapped gently against women and crops to promote fertility for the year. Hence the color of red associated with Valentine’s Day. Single women in Rome would write their name on a slip of paper, drop it into an urn, and single men would draw out a name for their future wife.

Museo del Cocoa Cuenca

In the Fifth Century, the Church outlawed this secular practice when Pope Gelasius declared February 14th to be St. Valentine’s Day. Residents of England and France also chose the middle of February to celebrate romance, having witnessed this as a time when birds began their mating season.

The Earliest St. Valentine’s Day Greetings

Love and romance were not always associated with Valentine’s Day. The first linking of these passions to February 14th occurred in 1375 when Geoffrey Chaucer wrote his poem Parleament of Foules” (modernized to Parliament of Fowles). Since Foules indicated birds or fowls; the reference to the mating season of birds is clear. Chaucer wrote, “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.” This poem is now considered to be the first reference to love on Valentine’s Day.

The oldest known Valentine written greeting was composed in 1415 by Charles, French Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture during the Battle of Agincourt. Later, King Henry V hired John Lydgate to compose a greeting which he sent on Valentine’s Day to his wife, Catherine of Valois.

musical chocolates – museodelcacaocuenca


Long associated with Valentine’s Day is the cuddly little half-dressed cherubic character with his quiver of arrows. He was not always depicted as cherubic. Cupid originated with the Greeks as the God of Love, a stout macho man named Eros. It was the Romans who turned him into the sweet baby angel we think of today.

In both civilizations, Cupid carried arrows tipped in gold and lead. The fable tells us he shot the gold-tipped arrow into someone to arouse their desire or the lead-tipped arrow to ignite their disgust. He shot his arrows into both humans and gods, manipulating their emotions as he saw fit. One telling of the fable states  Cupid shot a gold-tipped arrow into  Apollo to cause him to fall madly in love with Daphne, followed by a lead-tipped arrow at Daphne to cause her to be disgusted by Apollo. Eventually, Daphne turns into a laurel tree and Apollo can do nothing but wear a crown of laurel leaves.

Today is Valentine’s Day

St. Valentine would undoubtedly be surprised to see what his day has become. Today, chocolate and roses reign supreme. Have you been hit with one of Cupid’s arrows?

Fact: The first mass-produced valentine cards appeared in the 1840s
©: Other than sharing, the contents of this blog are copyrighted and cannot be used in any other way without permission.

The Loneliest House in the World

If no one ever visits a house, could you not call it the loneliest house in the world? In this era of noise and congestion, you might dream of getting away from it all and visiting this house. Yet, nobody almost ever does.

The house is isolated and hard to get to, but there must be a way. You would have to prepare for an arduous task, traveling by plane, ferry, and then by boat. If you get there, you will find a house built in 1953, as well as a small hut.

The house is totally off-grid.  You would need to bring your own food and supplies. You would find yourself four miles off the coast with little electricity, no indoor plumbing, and no running water. However, you would have a sauna fed by a rainwater collection system.

The coast is Iceland and the island is Ellidaey, 110 acres of isolation. During the 18th and 19th centuries, a handful of people lived there in homes with thatched roofs and sod walls but, in the 1930s, they gave up and moved to the mainland. It is a mystery as to what became of their dwellings. The only house today was built as a hunting lodge, also used by bird watchers and biologists. The second building is a storage hut used by the biologists to store their equipment.

Today, the island is a nature reserve to protect sea birds, Perhaps a few intrepid fishermen go ashore. Hunters come occasionally to hunt puffins, the only inhabitants on the island. Hunting puffins is legal in Iceland. Otherwise, occasional adventure travelers take up residency to experience the rugged life, the natural beauty, and the loneliness.

The journey by boat is fraught with danger, as the weather is unpredictable and the seas rough. You would need to be an experienced boater or get a qualified guide to get you out to the island.

Are you ready for peace and quiet? Could you cope with loneliness? If so, start forming your travel plans and your agenda for spending time in the loneliest house in the world.

Fact: Iceland is one of the last countries in the world to have human settlers
©: Other than sharing, the contents of this blog are copyrighted and cannot be used in any other way without permission.

Want to Live on a Cruise Ship?

If and when your traveling days are over, you may want to put down roots in the ground somewhere. But what if your roots stayed on the surface and that surface were water? Yes, you could live on the water permanently. No more suitcases, no more packing and unpacking. But how?

Become a globetrotter and live on the sea on a cruise ship. You would never have to pack a suitcase again. Carry it once to your room and then store it in a closet. You might have the choice of cooking your own meals or having them available in a restaurant or even delivered to your room. Would you like some entertainment, a workout room, a book to read, or a doctor to visit? These would all be available to you.

See what one family chose to do.

Don’t forget: you’re not confined to the ship. The ship will make ports-of-call and you can get off to explore, shop, visit a new culture, or regain your land legs. You don’t have to go to any of the exotic places on your own; the world will come to you.

The MV Narrative

There are a number of permanent-living cruise ships sailing the world’s oceans with some less expensive than others. You can occasionally rent or sublease an apartment, though more likely you would need to purchase an apartment or condo. You may be able to rent out your unit when you choose to leave the ship for a period of time. With ownership, you can also leave your legacy to your family or others. Life in a ship’s condo is similar to life in a conventional condo.

The MV Narrative

One ship seems to be getting all the buzz of late. This is the MV Narrative being built in Croatia by the Storylines Company. The ship was expected to be sold out by the end of 2022, ready to set sail in 2024. You may not be too late to get on board, however. The MV Narrative includes 547 residences of varying sizes, 20 dining rooms and bars, a micro-brewery, 3 swimming pools, a bowling alley, a hydroponic garden farm, an open-air fitness center for racquet sports, a yoga studio, a track, and a 10,000 book library.

Your new home could contain one to four bedrooms, or you might choose a studio or a penthouse with prices ranging from $400,000 to $8 million. You may purchase a unit outright, although there are a limited number of 12- and 24-year leases available. Another option is to pay an all-inclusive annual living fee from $65,000 to $200,000 to cover all your needs, including food and any needed maintenance. On a monthly basis, your living fees start from just $2,152 or an average of $3000 a month. The Narrative prides itself knowing that other permanent-living cruise ships charge even more for similar accommodations.

Factors to Consider

Despite all the fun of living on a cruise ship, it is not for everyone. It is an expensive proposition and, if it is not affordable for you, you might think of taking it on as a goal. There are a number of factors you would need to consider.

  • It is costly, generally more costly than living on the land. Your expenses onboard will include your room(s), food, and activities both on the ship and your adventures on shore;
  • There may be a size limitation to  your accommodations. You may be sharing space with another person. Can you live in close proximity with even a spouse?
  • It may be difficult to find privacy if you are sharing your accommodations with another. Even the ship itself may be noisy and possibly crowded;
  • Transferring your accustomed life style to living onboard may prove difficult, as you may not find all the amenities that are common to your life. The stores may not have all you want, and the facilities may not include activity rooms that you are used to, such as a gym or other recreational opportunities;
  • If you believe that you might find some part-time work while cruising, you will probably be disappointed. Ships generally hire professionally trained individuals to service their passengers. If you did find some work, the hours would likely be long and arduous.
The MV Narrative

You must weigh your options carefully, know your capabilities and faults, how easily you adjust to new environments, and whether or not you can be away from family and friends.

When the ship sets sail on its first 1,000 day itinerary, you may expect to visit six continents and spend a month off the coast of Italy. The ship will generally spend 3 to 5 days in each port. There will also be a day or two each month when the residents will be able to choose the next port.

Do you want to dream or plan, or are you ready to set sail? If you pursue a marine life, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Fact: Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas is twice the length of the Washington Monument
©: Other than sharing, the contents of this blog are copyrighted and cannot be used in any other way without permission.

How to Get Around Cuenca – Part Two

Getting around Cuenca is fairly simple using 4 wheels, 2 wheels, or 2 feet. Last week, I discussed using cars, taxis, and light rail for daily transportation. Today, I will tell you about using buses, bicycles, and walking.


The bus system in Cuenca, or Moovit, is quite extensive and up to date. There are 475 buses crisscrossing the city until about 10:00 pm. Like the Tranvia system, you buy a $1.75 card to which you add money. Purchase your card at one of 4 offices in the city, and later look for a red sign in shops where you can go in and add money to your card. There is a map showing where these stores are and a map of the routes at the tourist office opposite Parque Calderon.

Get on the bus at the front, swipe your card for a $.30 ride, and exit toward the rear. The stop names are announced on each bus. The integration of one card you can use on both the Tranvia and the buses has started to take place and will be fully developed as the year proceeds.

Each bus has signs in the front showing a route number along with the start and end points. The  Moovit system operates with an interactive app which you can download to your phone or computer.. The system can suggest routes to destinations of your choice. You can select your route, find stops, determine how long your trip should take, and even learn how far you will need to walk to your destination after departing the bus. Wi-Fi is available on the bus for you to use your app when traveling.


Bicycles in Cuenca are very common as the city fathers have been very proactive constructing bike lanes throughout much of the city. Called ciclovías, these bike lanes parallel major roads and run alongside the rivers. They often  double with pedestrian paths, so the bike rider must be careful when coming upon a walker. These bike lanes may be cement stretches or gravel paths, and more lanes are being improved or added continually. Riding a bike is one way to combat the congested streets.

Don’t have a bike? No problem. Bike rental stations are scattered throughout the historic district and popular parks. Join the BiciCuenca program for a low fee and then pay a quarter for a 30-minute ride or $10.00 for a full day. First, register at the BiciCuenca office along the Tomebamba River and deposit $8.00 for a card you can use at any of the rental stations. A secret is to pay the quarter for a 30-minute ride, check the bike in and then pay for another 30-minute ride. Otherwise, a 60-minute ride is 75¢ or $2.00 an hour thereafter.

If you download the app, you will be able to see the amount of money on your card and find the number of bikes available at the stations. After your ride, simply return the bike to any station.


The cheapest and most scenic method to traverse Cuenca is to walk. Cuenca is mostly a very easy walkable city, as much of it is flat with only a few hills, while steeper hills lie outside the city center. There are, however, stairways between 80 and 90 step leading from the Tomebamba River up to El Centro. A couple of these have ramps in addition to the stairways. Three of the rivers have walkways running alongside in park-like settings, often with children and adult exercise equipment for your use.

Cuenca’s sidewalks are not uniformly constructed as many of these are old and may have broken pavement, holes, or other obstacles with which to contend. Consequently, these sidewalks are challenging for the impaired or those needing a wheelchair. Other stretches are newer and a pleasure to walk.

In Ecuador, pedestrians do not have the right of away. At corners, it is essential to look for turning cars before stepping into the street. Legally, you may jay walk with care.

However you chose to get around in Cuenca, you will have a positive experience, see the sights, and easily get to your destination. Cuenca is one of the safest cities in South America, which allows you to have an even better exposure to the city.

Fact: Cuenca employs a team of 1000 people who keep the streets and sidewalks clean, 7 days a week
©: Other than sharing, the contents of this blog are copyrighted and cannot be used in any other way without permission.

How to Get Around Cuenca – Part One

If you stop in front of a porch in Maine where two old men are sitting in rocking chairs and ask for directions, you will undoubtedly get the answer, “You can’t get there from here”. There are challenges to getting around Cuenca, Ecuador, but there are also solutions. Your choices are car, taxi, Metro (or tram), bus, bicycle, or walking.


There are approximately 858,000 cars (excluding 8,000 taxis) in Cuenca with a population of 436,000. In Chicago, there are approximately 1,731,600 cars (excluding 7,000 taxis) with a population of 8,901,000. This results in fewer people per car in Cuenca compared with Chicago, but there are more taxis in Cuenca than Chicago. My conclusion is there are too many cars in both Cuenca and Chicago. Might this not be an example of our problem with greenhouse gases?

The center of Cuenca and some of its close-lying areas are composed of predominantly one-way streets. Given the number of cars, there is more driving, faster speeds, and excessive gridlock. One-way streets are necessary in El Centro because the streets in this old part of town are narrow. Because of the one-way streets, going from point A to point B may require going around several blocks to arrive at your destination; hence more driving. High speeds are the results of traffic lights being coordinated to lessen the amount of stop and go. In Cuenca, from 2021 to 2022, the number of vehicle registrations grew 7.2% from 152,676 to 163,598 while the population grew 2.11% . It is this excess number of cars which result in the gridlock.


Taxis are a popular means of transportation because they are usually readily available and the fares are inexpensive. With more taxis than Chicago, it is often easy to flag a ride. There are also popular phone apps for requesting a taxi. You never have to tell a taxi where to pick you up. You open the app and a map appears giving your exact GPS location. You will receive an estimated time the taxi will arrive and you can watch a car icon traveling the streets on its way to your location.

At times, however, it is difficult to get a taxi—on holidays when fewer taxis are operating and when it is raining and more people are soliciting taxis. All taxis are required to have a visible meter so you know the cost of your trip. Generally, a taxi ride within Cuenca costs $2.00 or $3.00. Drivers also expect a tip, so you can round up the meter charge. Uber and other cars-for-hire are not allowed in Cuenca.


Not to be outdone by the taxis, the metro or light rail system (called Tranvia) also offers an option of paying a fare with an app. Your charge will come from your local bank account. With the large number of tourists in Cuenca, it will probably only be a matter of time before the payment will come from any bank.

Jorge Moscoso, the Tranvia Director, predicts the use of the app will increase ridership by 20%. Currently, the Monday-Friday riders amount to 19,400. The Tranvia is new in Cuenca with only one 11 km line starting at Parque Industrial via the airport and ending at the Rio Tarqui. There are 27 stops along the way. taking about 35 minutes, but expectations are more lines will be developed in the future. You can purchase a card at the Tranvia office or various other locations for $1.00. You then insert your card into pay stations at various metro stops and add money to the card; you cannot use cash on the metro. The normal fare to ride anywhere on the line is $.35 (or a discounted fare of $.17 for students or senior citizens with a cedula). Without the card, expect to pay $1.00 per ride.

For the more intrepid, I will discuss bicycling and walking as well as the bus system in the post next week.

Fact: Getting around Cuenca is quite easy
©: Other than sharing, the contents of this blog are copyrighted and cannot be
used in any other way

World’s Best Liveable City

Every year, the world’s most liveable city is ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) which is the research and analysis division of the Economist Group. This London-based group tracks monthly country reports, gives five-year country economic forecasts, and provides industry and service reports to countries for their liveability score.

You may remember in last week’s post, World’s Best Villages, I suggested we have a contest to name the world’s most liveable large city. I was surprised no one came up with the right answer. Continue reading to discover the most liveable city.

Livability Factors

Over 30 liveability factors are considered for each city. These include stability, exceptional healthcare, arts and culture, favorable rental conditions, low crime rates, education, minimal pollution and clean air, and world-class public transportation. Others have rated our mystery city for its parks and vineyards.

The city in question received a score of 100 in all areas but one—environment. The reason is UNESCO put this city on its endangered list for its plans to build more high-rise buildings. These plans will impact the nature of the city, obstructing the views, and crowding more people into a smaller land area where there are already already 2 million inhabitants.

The Covid pandemic altered the yearly list of most liveable cities with most falling in the ranks. The city in question was ranked number one in 2018 and 2019 but fell to 12th place in the 2021 rankings. Regaining the top spot in 2022 produced the superior rating during 3 of the last 5 years, still an impressive feat. Despite Covid, two countries had cities rising to the top ranks—Australia and New Zealand. They placed severe border controls resulting in its citizens having few Covid restrictions.

Have you named the city yet, or do you need more clues? Try these.

More Clues

The term Smart City has recently been coined to denote a community which uses data collected electronically to manage assets, resources, and services to improve the efficiency and liveability of an urban area. Listen to Peter Hanke, the Executive City Councilor of this city’s Smart City program say, “Our strategy is to underscore development in the face of climate change. We are working to achieve climate neutrality by 2040 to achieve an advanced quality of life for our citizens.”

Hanke goes on to say his city has been a model for social housing, a term applied to low rent or affordable housing, where the landlords and builders have a social conscience for their occupants. Along with the building projects, the city has placed an emphasis on open space with the result of 53% green space—its many parks.

You have probably guessed by now the city in question is Vienna. Vienna has worked hard to achieve this ranking (Covid aside) and continues working hard to retain the top spot. Its contenders, according to the 2022 rankings, are:

2. Copenhagen, Denmark

3. (tie) Zurich, Switzerland, and Calgary, Canada

5. Vancouver, Canada

6. Geneva, Switzerland

7. Frankfurt, Germany

8. Toronto, Canada

9. Amsterdam, Netherlands

10. (tie) Osaka, Japan, and Melbourne, Australia

Note the top nine cities are either in Europe or Canada, and no city in the United States made this list. Except for Japan, no cities in Asia or in South America made the cut either. Cost of living seems to be one liveability factor which has not been addressed. I think the list might change if this were factored in.


What do you think of when you think of Vienna? I suspect most people would choose the arts—fine art, architecture, drama, and music. Are there others? There are over 100 museums in Vienna, a high number but low in comparison to other major cities in the world. For the architecture lover, Vienna has a stunning and eclectic mix of historic, modern, and contemporary buildings.

Vienna also has some of the best German- and English-speaking live theater. The Burg Theater is the pinnacle of German classical drama, and the English Theater is the oldest English-language theater in Europe. Yet, I wonder if most of you would chose music as your first choice for the arts in Vienna.

Vienna is often called the City of Music for its many musical attributes. Both Mozart and Beethoven called Vienna home, as did Mahler, Schubert, Haydn, Brahms, and the Strauss family (the Vienna waltzes). Also famous are the Vienna State Opera, the Vienna Boys’ Choir (and the less famous Vienna Girls’ Choir).

The city is also called the City of Dreams, referring to its famous psychiatrist, Sigmund Freud. A famous food item found throughout Vienna is the Sachertorte, a chocolate cake filled with apricot jam.

The fact this best-known city receives 6.8 million visitors a year speaks well for all of the attributes it has to offer. Are you ready to pack your bags for Vienna?

Fact: Vienna, not France, invented the croissant
©: Other than sharing, the contents of this blog are copyrighted and cannot be used in any other way without permission.

Verified by MonsterInsights