Český Krumlov

Český Krumlov - or Bohemian Crumlaw - is a remote outpost in the  Czech Republic located in the hills of the Southern Bohemina region, between Linz, Austria  and Prague.   It's small and a little hard to get to but is also considered one of the most beautiful places in Europe. 

The thing is, you can't get anywhere from Český Krumlov   It is connected to society with questionably maintained 1.5 lane roads (2 lanes is generous) for about an hour or 2 in any direction. When we were on our way there I cracked that it felt like the opening to the Horror movie Hostel, where a bunch of 20 somethings check into a Slovakian Hostel and don't check out. 

Turns out, the movie Hostel was filmed in Český Krumlov. Happy to report though, we returned home alive and not in the least bit dismembered.  

Pedestrian zone, with Krumlov Castle above.

Town square, a monument to surviving the Plague. 

Add caption

It snowed in Krumlov over Easter, the Easter weather being colder than on Christmas. 

Krumlov castle is huge for the size of the town. A stone bridge connects parts of the castle. 

Mastal Restaurant, an stable turned steak house

On Cold Mountain

Trapani, Sicily jutting out into the Mediterranean sea.  Looks warm and tropical.

All that blue sky and slue ocean...looks like you could sun yourself on those rocks.

The Tower of Ligny at the Western most point of Sicily,  bathed in an warm evening glow....

A place with all of this blue water and beaches....

Or with a colorful fish market....a place like this has to be tropical all year round, right?

Not exactly.

We haven't had a trip that has been a complete bust yet, and Trapani wasn't one...but it was close.  First off, it was unseasonably cold in Trapani - roughly in the 40s with a stiff wind all week.   We were hoping for warmer weather, but we can live with that...except that in Trapani cold weather isn't so common, so most of the buildings, including our apartment, didn't have any heat...I don't know how this is possible, but it was actually colder inside of the apartment that outside.   Have you ever spent three full days underdressed in 40 degree weather? It get's cold. 

We experienced a new phenomenon as parents....our kids actually asked if they could go to bed early at night to crawl under the covers and get warm.

We made the most of it. We wanted to visit the mountain top medieval town of Erice for example,  accessible by a picturesque cable car ride from the Trapani center...which naturally was out of order when we were there (seriously?)  Busses weren't running either (oh come on!).  So we paid a fortune to hire a car to drive us up all the way for  to the top for a day trip.   The car drove us to the top and dropped us off, agreeing to pick us up 4 hours later.

And the view from Erice over the coastline was great...not so bad right?

Until those menacing clouds moved in and started dropping sleet and snow all over the place.   You know what's colder that a 40 degree wind? A 30 degree wind with a pelting snow.   And by the way, on a 30 degree day with pelting snow Erice doesn't get a lot of tourists, so most places to hide inside were closed. .....so when does the cab pick us up again? In 3 hours and 45 more minutes?   
 We ducked into a restraunt. to grab some lunch.  It was way too fancy for our family, but we saw it had a fire and seated ourselves next to it.  I kid you not, that fire did not emit a single degree of heat perceptible by any of us (seriously? Now how can even fire be cold?)

Eventually the snow let up for a while  and a thick fog rolled in....
 And after the fog, rain, with a short burst of sun. Photos can capture sunlight.  They can't capture, however, a stiff freezing wind whipping through the alleys.   The only thing interesting about the sign on the wall the kids are inspecting below is that it was located in a ray of sunshine.   (Warmth!)
Sicily knew how to rescue the day though. We found a small pastry shop and ordered up a round of hot chocolate so thick the spoon floated in it and a Cannoli the size of a pipe wrench,  

Vacation saved...by the Cannoli.

And the central heating at the airport, where we arrived a full three hours early, to take full advantage.  It was really that cold.

Chapel of Bones

Chapel of Bones.  Built by Carmelite monks in the 1800s in Faro using the displaced bones from a cemetery on the church's construction site ....smaller and less well known than the  Chapel of Bones in nearby Evora, which greets visitors with a reminder of the transitory nature of life. "We, the bones that are here, await yours." and the following prose:

Where are you going in such a hurry traveler?
Stop … do not proceed;
You have no greater concern,
Than this one: that on which you focus your sight.
Recall how many have passed from this world,
Reflect on your similar end,
There is good reason to reflect
If only all did the same.
Ponder, you so influenced by fate,
Among all the many concerns of the world,
So little do you reflect on death;
If by chance you glance at this place,
Stop … for the sake of your journey,
The more you pause, the further on your journey you will be.

Ponte da Piadade

The Algarve region of Portugal has some some fantastic stretches of coastline, replete with private beaches, rock cliffs and grottos.      

 Some fun on an isolated cove beach.

 Small cave tunnel connecting one beach cove to another.
 This girl turned 12 the day we visited! That marks four different countries for her last four birthdays (US, Germany, Czech Republic and Portugal).
 We came a little unprepared for the nice weather, but four year olds do not understand, "You can't get wet because you don't have a swimsuit."

Where in the world is Faro?

SOME PEOPLE have said low cost carrier RyanAir is the world's most hated airline.   This is the airline,  after all, who threatened to charge customers for the use of airplane bathrooms. 

But it's also an airline that can take you all over Europe for approximately the cost of bus fare,  Later this spring we will fly our entire family round trip to Sicily for around 300 euros (occasionally they offer $0.01 tickets).  And if you follow the rules (and I mean carefully) they are fast, dependable, and on-time.   

And so because of that, sometimes we might just click buy on some really good ticket deals for an upcoming weekend, book 'em, and then around the time the confirmation email arrives in our inbox ask out loud, "Where is that exactly, and what are we actually going to do there?". 

Enter Faro.  By the way, that's in Portugal.    And it turns out there's stuff to do there.