Archive for May 2016


Ignoring chronological order, I’m writing about the most exciting thing first. Many years ago, arriving for the first time in Europe, I was on a National Student Association tour spending eleven days on Holland America’s Line the s.s. Volendam, most recently having been used as a troop ship in WWII. Facilities were far from luxurious, but how perfect an eleven-day crossing for a bunch of ready and excited students. As it happened, we couldn’t disembark in Rotterdam until some paper work was finished, so my roommate and I volunteered to do some necessary typing. As we performed our clerical duties we pulled into the harbor, and the first thing I saw was “the clock.’ It is firmly fixed in my memory as my first and very exciting sight in Europe. I don’t know if that’s true of Harriet and Justine who shared the adventure with me, but for me it was a marker.

And two days ago I saw the clock again as we celebrated the naming of the new ship of the Holland America Line, the m.s. Koningsdam, complete with dedication by Queen Maxima, a special trip to the Rijk’s museum, and fireworks. That’s when I saw the clock again, as we pulled away from the dock. Now atop what has become the New York Hotel, it was the clock that marked my first visit to Rotterdam and Europe when it then crowned the Holland America Line building. I don’t know if Harriet and Justine would have shared my excitement, but I was thrilled with the full circle.

A special treat for those of us on board was an evening at the Rijk’s museum, with a fantastic guided tour in small groups. So much to learn, and so much that tied into the excursions we had enjoyed and the things we experienced on land today.

As for other neat things we’ve done, before leaving the Koningsdam, we enjoyed two more land excursions: One to Gouda of cheese fame (pronounced “Howda” with a guttural “H,”) and another to Edam. Both delightful small towns. I much prefer small towns to big cities.

But now that we are back on land, spending a couple of days in Amsterdam (where I am experiencing the “full circle sense” again) I am enjoying this city. The road: many widths. The bike lanes, the wait-for-the-trolley-and-bus lanes, the trolley and bus lanes, and the car lanes.

Quite a venture to cross the street.

I confess that yesterday I spent every spare moment dozing after starting another round of antibiotics with the return of “the cough!” and getting very little sleep before disembarking. But in between we enjoyed lunch at the music hall followed by a rousing concert (which did keep me pretty roused.). Handel’s “Water Music,” and Shostokovich.” A beautiful venue, and amazing how much difference the orchestra and the acoustics can make. The orchestra enjoyed a long and well deserved standing ovation.

Today, though, was blessed with the effects of a good, long sleep, and then off on our own expeditions – in the pouring rain: First Rembrandt’s House – a joy in itself and tying together so much of what we had been experiencing and learning. Then, followed by lunch in a nice dry spot, came the Jewish museum and then the Portuguese synagogue. So much visual pleasure. So much to learn. So much to think about.

And now, with a special Hello to Harriet and Jus, that brings us up to a rather hasty update.



















Yesterday we had A lovely trip to a small down in Normandy –just amazingly beautiful. And today we had another wonderful excursion to another small town on the sea. Today it rained, poured actually, and I loved it. Yes, the wind blew our umbrellas inside out and our raincoats and cameras got wet, but we’d been told there is often rain and wind in the area, so I really enjoyed lapping it up.

Why a bonus? Because today we were supposed to be in La Havre, but the ship had to spend another night here in Cherbourg because of strikes that would tie up the roads in La Havre, preventing any excursions away from the ship. So, another day here in this lovely area.

Tomorrow we move on to Rotterdam. All kinds of celebrations are planned in honor of this new ship, including a dedication by the Queen.

We’re nearing the end of the trip, but we have three days to look forward to in Amsterdam after leaving the ship before flying home. The end of the cruise always makes me feel sad.

At any rate, I plan to keep you posted until my paid WiFi plan runs out.

Posted May 19, 2016 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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That I haven’t written much here is a good sign – busy cruising and enjoying it,

Some days not so great, but others that are amazing.

Our visit to Civitavecchia (Rome) turned out to be not so great. I don’t like cities, and we’ve already been to Rome, so we didn’t bother to bus into the city. Doug did plan to visit Ostia Antica (sp?) on his own, — always an opportunity for photos. But it turned out the directions he received on how to get there had been correct two years ago, but not now. So he and his camera wandered on shore for a while. In the meantime, I got some work done on “My Father’s House,” (Writing, that is. Not carpentry.)

And Gibralter was no great shakes either. We had been to the top of the mountain on our previous visit, so this time we planned to walk into town on our own. I returned to the ship when I found nothing but high end jewelry stores with some equally high end leather for sale. Got a little more done on “My Father’s House.”

But then came our stop in Cadiz. What a joy! We visited beautiful white villages –“white” because the buildings are really white. Much to photograph partly on guided tour and partly free time. Now that’s the kind of pleasure that traveling is all about.

The next day in the town of Obidos, outside Lisbon, Portugal, we enjoyed equal beauty, though not with equal spirits of adventure. Doug climbed the ramparts etc., collecting photos. I stuck closer to the main route. I’ll just have to include some pictures when I get back home. Unfortunately, as I think I told you earlier, I forgot to bring the cable connector to my computer. Doug has been downloading them for me onto his PC, so, once I come into possession of a thumb drive, I’ll be able to get to work at editing. (“editing” = mostly deleting the disasters.)

I can’t share the same sense of excitement about our free time visit yesterday to Santiago de Compostelo outside Vigo Spain. It’s my own fault, I guess, but I got bored with the expensive and not so expensive shops of jewelry and religious souvenirs. And I must confess, I long ago reached the point where I feel that “I’ve seen one cathedral I’ve seen them all.” (See what I mean. My fault). It was fun, though, eating lunch at a restaurant there. Lovely food, beautifully served.

I loved what I saw of Spain – and it was really Spain. Like the early days of traveling where people felt no need to Kow-Tow to Americans’ limited ability to understand languages other than our own.

The best part of that day was a cappuccino at an outside café in the company of three lovely young Irish women.

And that, nutshell style, brings us up to date. This is our last full day at sea. I love it, though I wish there were more.

And I look forward to the rest of our days before winding up in Amsterdam for a three- day stay there before heading home.



A sea day yesterday. I love sea days. Another sea day tomorrow. I love sea days.

And today no scheduled excursion so I’m staying on board while Doug goes off to enjoy an independent journey here in Civitavecchia.  He’ll bring back interesting photos. I chose to stay behind, I have a lot of years on him and can easily be a drag, though he won’t say so.

I’m lovin’ every minute – happy we still have more days ahead to enjoy.

e-mail access costs an arm and a leg, so I don’t do as much as I’d like to in the way of specific responses. Let me just say a big “Thank you” here to the folks on Twitter who have been tweeting and re-tweeting the stuff about my “Figs & Pomegranates & Special Cheeses.” And by the way, the Kindle price is now $0.99 – a great opportunity to enjoy a good read and, if so moved, write an honest review on

I’M CRUISIN’   15 comments

Happy to say I’m back to my traveling self and enjoying every minute.

First, thanks to all of you who left me such kind messages when I wasn’t doing so well. They all really helped.

Now I’m too busy having fun to write in much detail, but a quick run-through. 4/28/16 in Naples, not feeling so great, but still enjoyed the eight-hour drive along the Amalfi Coast. Silently, but still as loud as silence requires, I repeatedly sent out the message that Carol was sending enthusiastic greetings to her relatives in the area. I hope they caught the vibes.

Other standouts: the catacombs in Palermo on the 29th. Fascinating. And on the 30th the Phoenician/Roman ruins of Nora.

Then, whew!, a breather at sea on May 1 – a recuperation, get sort of settled-in day. I love days at sea, but still no time for gambling.

May 2 found us “strolling” on the upper rock – Gibralter. Other’s call it a “stroll.’ For me it’s hurry up to catch up with the crowd, but I didn’t get left behind, and I did enjoy the experience. And walking is so good for my back.

Then Oh My! What a beautiful city is Seville. I mean, really as stunning as advertised. Major beginnings of my musings about the way one culture gets built upon the fading, conquering, and/or destruction of the one before it. Such beautiful Moorish buildings which the conquering Christians re-utilized as their own. Starting with the Romans (or earlier), one can only be aware that each culture thinks it is the never-ending height of culture. The “living end,” until they learn they are not the ultimate. Can’t help but think of our own assumptions about the permanence of our current culture.

Than came the amazing visit to the Picasso museum in Malaga with a super knowledgeable guide. I even came away with an understanding and appreciation of Picasso – working right up to the last day of his life, with still so much left to do. How very short is our individual span.

May 5 made even more concrete the awareness of cultures building on cultures with the beautiful – and fairly recent –excavation of the Roman theater. So many lives; so many cultures; so much confidence in one’s own importance, built one level atop another. What’s next?

Yesterday and today we’ve been in Barcelona, with a city tour yesterday highlighting the fascinating and unusual architecture of the city’s hero, Gaudi, like structures I’ve never seen. Unfortunately, I wasn’t pushing the button hard enough on my camera, so I didn’t get lots of photos I thought I had. Doug has promised to gift me with a couple of his, though.

And today was a visit to the Black Madonna at Monserrat. Spectacular views at the top. Amazing bus drivers in whom we put our trust. ( I remember reading “The Black Madonna.” I can’t remember if Monserrat was one of the sites the author visited in her pilgrimage.)

And tomorrow, a day at sea. One of my favorite things, but a frustration for Doug who likes to be on the go.

Celebratory things are coming up as the maiden voyage of our ship the Koningsdam is recognized, with Christening activities toward the end. I’ll try to get better about reporting.

Once again, thanks for all the nice messages you sent. And believe me, it does feel good to be back to my self.




No, not seriously ill, but miserable enough to render me basically good for nothing. So I’m writing this now to explain why none of you wonderful people have heard from me. My intentions were good. I had promised my house sitter to post regular accounts of this trip. Instead I was exhausted from coughing myself out of sleep for at least a week and a half. Closest thing I can remember is whooping cough as a child, tho’ not officially that. Then followed a period of sleeping constantly and feeling lousy in between. My nutritionist won’t like it, but I finally saw the ship’s doctor for an anti-biotic.

I have managed to squeeze in some excursions which I hope to blog about later. (But both my cameras needed a battery recharge, so no great videos to offer.) I think I’m recovering. Planning later today to participate in a walk on the Rock of Gibralter. Pushing it.

So I just finished going through almost a thousand e-mails. Presumably every room on the Koningsdam has WiFi access, but our cabin is the last one in the rear of the ship, and it doesn’t quite reach us, so I have to travel to other parts of the ship to log on (to my very expensive package.)

By the way, with all the wonderful food, my appetite has gone underground. Oh well, I expect things will pick up, and I’m glad I’m here.

My real purpose is to tell all you who have tweeted and re-tweeted things about me and “Figs & Pomegranates & Special Cheeses” that I greatly appreciate it and would, under ordinary circumstances, be thanking you. So please accept this as my thanks.

And thanks, too, to you who have commented on my blog who haven’t yet received a reply. And the newsy folks who have sent me interesting e-mails to which I may never get to respond.

Life is good. I have to be grateful that being sick is such a rarity for me. I think the last time I felt this awful (except, maybe, for the accident) was when my daughter was two and I taught through a bout of viral pneumonia until my Doctor finally ordered me home and to bed. What a relief!

Anyway, thanks. I hope this reaches you, and the next blog will be much more joyful.


Posted May 2, 2016 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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