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    Europe Travel

    A Visit to Knossos Palace, Heraklion Crete

    Knossos Palace, located on the island of Crete in Greece, is an ancient archaeological site. It holds great historical and cultural significance. Knossos Palace is believed to have been the center of the Minoan civilization for thousands of years. The Minoans are one of the oldest and most advanced civilizations in Europe. Come with me on A Visit to Knossos Palace, Heraklion Crete.

    Knossos Palace

    British Excavation

    Knossos Palace was first excavated in the early 20th century by British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans. Evans team uncovered a complex of interconnected buildings that showcased the grandeur and sophistication of Minoan architecture.

    Knossos Palace

    Minoan Architecture

    The palace complex covers a vast area. It is made up of multiple levels, courtyards, and rooms that served various functions. The architecture of Knossos Palace is characterized by its intricate layout, colorful frescoes, and advanced engineering techniques. The palace featured large storage areas, workshops and living quarters. Important ceremonial spaces, indicate it was not only a royal residence but also a political, administrative, and religious center.

    Throne Room

    One of the most iconic features of Knossos Palace is the Grand Staircase. The staircase is adorned with frescoes depicting scenes of religious rituals, daily life, and mythical creatures. The frescoes provide valuable insights into Minoan culture and beliefs. In the central courtyard you will find the “Throne Room”. Here a stone throne is believed to belong to the mythical King Minos.

    Archaeological Findings

    The archaeological findings at Knossos Palace have shed light on the sophisticated lifestyle of the Minoans. This ancient civilization included skilled artisans, traders, and seafarers. The palace had an extensive network of trade connections with other civilizations in the Mediterranean. For generations the region contributed to the prosperity and cultural exchange of the Minoan society.

    Knossos Palace is surrounded by beautiful hills

    Heraklion Archeological Museum

    A visit to Knossos Palace, Heraklion Crete should include a visit to the Heraklion Archeological Museum. Opened in 1933 it underwent a major renovation between 2006-2013. The museum houses a vast collection of artifacts from Knossos Palace and Crete dating back 5000 years. It is considered one of Europe’s best museums.

    Vessels for storage of wine, olive oil
    The museum houses thousands of precious artifacts
    One of the museum’s most important artifact is this draught – a board game made with gold and precious stones. It clarifies the importance and hierarchy of Knossos Palace

    Unknown Tragic Fate

    Despite its grandeur and prosperity, Knossos Palace met a tragic fate around 1450 BC. Historians believe it was destroyed by a catastrophic event, possibly an earthquake or invasion. For centuries the ruins of the palace lay buried, only unearthed and reconstructed in the early 20th century. This sparked a renewed interest in Minoan civilization and its enigmatic legacy.

    Many frescoes or partial frescoes have been moved from the palace to the museum to preserve and protect them

    Today, Knossos Palace stands as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors marvel at its ancient splendor and explore the mysteries of the Minoan civilization. The site continues to be a source of fascination for archaeologists, historians, and enthusiasts who seek to unravel its secrets. A truly remarkable ancient palace that played an influential role in shaping the course of European history.

    A Visit to Knossos Palace, Heraklion Crete

    Knossos Palace and Heraklion Archeological Museum tickets can be purchased online or at the gate. Tour guides are available at the entrance of the palace for hire. A self-guided app that provides excellent information is a great option. It’s recommended to plan ahead if visiting during the busy summer season. We visited the first week of April, which is the beginning of the busy season. We purchased our ticket at the gate and there was no line at either Knossos Palace or the museum.

    If you need to spend a night or two in Heraklion, we enjoyed the boutique hotel Vespera. Lovely, large room, great breakfast and helpful staff.

    Thanks for reading my post A Visit to Knossos Palace, Heraklion Crete. We love it when you pin, comment and share our blog posts. Thank you. See last week’s post Dear Chania and Western Crete.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson

    The Story of One Man’s Personal Pandemic Battle

    Throughout the world, each person’s individual experience with the global pandemic was different. Many people felt anger, fear, helpless. Others dug in for a long haul and tried to stay positive. Children and young adults suffered sadness and loss. This debut novel by Rustin Thompson is one man’s story of desperation. It is raw and will resonate with many. Here is my book review Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson.

    Covid in 2072

    Thompson starts the novel in 2072. More than fifty years have passed since Covid One and the planet is now under the siege of Covid Four. The pandemic has never really gone away, and tens of millions have died, mostly those unvaccinated. This world fifty years in the future was partially foretold by writers after the 2020 Pandemic. But at the time, these writers could not find a publisher. No one wanted to read about what they had just lived through. But fifty years on, one man’s story is told. The story of little known author Richard Duvall.

    Covid in 2020

    Richard Duvall finds his life in limbo, feeling unconnected, immaterial and depressed. Suicide has crossed his mind. The pandemic has really hit home in Seattle and Richard and his wife Beth are feeling the pinch. Already suffering malaise as a sixty-something man battling a sense of irrelevance, the pandemic brings Richard to the brink.

    Richard’s tiny bubble of family, a handful of friends and a couple of neighbors is what keeps him going while political stupidity flows like a river through the United States.

    Covid and Mental Health

    It’s no secret how many people throughout the drama of the pandemic had similar feelings as our protagonist Richard. Even four years on, mental health issues related to the pandemic persist. As do ongoing staffing issues, economic issues and supply issues. Hard Times in Babylon made me think more deeply about my own personal experiences of the Pandemic. Though I never felt suicidal I certainly had fears. I feared for the collapse of my country. I feared for the collapse of the banking system and supply chain. And I definitely feared for my children and their futures. Addressing these fears and acknowledging that other people suffered similarly is a good tool to healing.

    History Repeats

    For thousands of years plagues of all kinds have taken entire populations. And yet, life goes on. Books like Cloud Cuckoo Land and Station Eleven, two of my favorites, look at how past and future generations deal with fear, hunger, violence, plague, anarchy and life expectancy. Despite Covid and our current unstable political situation, we still are living in some of the best of times. What comes next? Thompson ends his book in 2072 with a frightening speculative scenario about Covid Four. But will Richard Duvall survive Covid One as he teeters on the edge of depression and personal tormoil? His story in 2020 ends with a hopeful phrase;

    So much life. All around us. So much life.

    Book Review Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson

    Thank you for reading my book review Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson.

    Thompson is a Seattle based author and has self-published this first novel. I have known him and his wife for many years. Getting published is a difficult task and I congratulate him on his efforts.

    *****Five stars for Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson.

    Read last week’s book review A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay. We love it when you comment, share and pin our book reviews. Thank you.

    Europe Travel  --  Island Life

    Dear Chania and Western Crete

    Island Life on Greek’s Crete Island

    Location: Chania Crete Greece

    Dear Chania and Western Crete. What a lovely surprise you have been during our three week visit. I want to apologize for arriving with low expectations. You were so much more than I could have dreamed of. I also want to apologize for all the islands that have come before you…I just didn’t know how wonderful you were. You ticked all the boxes and I know I will be back. Dear Chania and Western Crete, how do I love thee? Well let me count the ways;

    1. Crete

    Rethymnos Venetian Harbor
    Olive tree outside of Chania estimated to be 3500-5000 years old

    Crete, the largest Greek island, known for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture, was infatuating. The home to ancient ruins and significant Minoan archaeological sites as well as beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and picturesque villages nestled in the mountains. Your cuisine is a highlight, featuring fresh seafood, olive oil, and local herbs. The people of Crete are known for their hospitality and traditional music and dance and are so welcoming.

    Rethymnos Fort offers spectacular views of the White Mountains and the Mediterranean

    2. Chania

    Chania (pronounced Han-ya) was a perfect choice for our three week stay. We had two couples joining us from the states for the first week of our stay, so we booked an amazing four bedroom historic stone home about 15 min from the center of Chania. Now we are already discussing staying in this Airbnb again. We rented a car on arrival to be able to thoroughly explore all you have to offer, having a car is recommended. Chania has an airport, and so does Heraklion and you can also arrive on the island via ferry from Athens or other Greek islands.

    Our Airbnb
    We loved our Airbnb
    Even in the cool spring the pool was beautiful

    Chania is a charming coastal town, known for its picturesque Venetian harbor, narrow streets, and historic architecture. The town has a rich history, with influences from the Venetians, Ottomans, and Egyptians. Chania offers a mix of cultural attractions, vibrant markets, and beautiful beaches, making it a one of the things we really fell in love with.

    Venetian old town in Chania
    Chania harbor
    Old Town Chania after dark with a full moon

    Things We Enjoyed in Chania

    On our first day we hired Roussos from Alma de Crete to show us the beautiful city on foot. Our four hour tour also included so much food tastes – we needed no other meals that day. We learned from Roussos the fascinating history, cultural insights and local cuisine. Thank you Roussos, your tour helped us start our love affair with Crete.

    Watching filo dough be made by hand
    Fabulous local seafood at the market, Chania
    Cathedral of Mary in old town Chania

    We also did something else special in Chania, we learned to make beautiful mosaic art from famous local artists. I highly recommend this activity when in Chania – perfect for groups, families, kids or just couples like us. Look what we made! Not only did we make a great souvenir we met lovely local people. Learn more about it here, Marinella Mosaic Workshop.

    Marinella Mosaic Workshop
    A perfect souvenir in the works
    All smiles with our Masterpieces

    3. History

    Dear Chania and Western Crete, your history is fascinating and beautiful. We loved the Venetian feel of Chania and Rethymnos, the historic stone farm houses scattered through out the countryside and mountains, the ancient amphitheater in the hills above Rethymnos. We marveled at your culturally rich monasteries, fortresses and ports.

    Rethymnos Harbor
    Mosque dome at Rethymnos Fort
    Chania Lighthouse after dark
    Historic chapel in the middle of nowhere

    Crete, your rich history dating back to the Minoan civilization makes you one of the earliest advanced societies in Europe. Who knew? The island has been influenced by various civilizations, including the Mycenaeans, Romans, and Byzantines. You played a significant role in Greek mythology and was a strategic location in ancient times.

    Aptera Amphitheater near Chania
    Dating to 1537 Gouveneto Monastery is one of the oldest in Greece. A definite place to visit.

    4. Hiking

    Chania and Western Crete offered excellent hiking opportunities for this outdoor enthusiast. The region features diverse landscapes, including mountains, gorges, and coastal trails. One of the most popular hikes is the Samaria Gorge, a stunning natural wonder that attracts hikers from around the world. We explored the White Mountains, hiked to ancient ruins, and enjoyed panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea along the way.

    Hiking at Falassarna
    Goats joined us for a hike in the White Mountains
    A beautiful day to hike at the Gouverneto Monastery high about the sea
    White Mountains

    5. Beaches

    Even during the spring, the Mediterranean beaches of Crete are beautiful. We marveled at the turquoise water of the beaches on the coast between Rethymno and Chania. We hiked the rocky cliffs along the beaches of Falassarna. And we swam in the blue ocean and walked on the golden sands of Elafonisi. Come summer we understand your beaches are packed with guests, but our love affair with Crete began with deserted beaches, and crystal clear water.

    The beach on a windy day at Falassarna
    Gorgeous weather at Elafonisi
    Elafonisi known for the pink sand, though it’s not as pink as it once was

    6. Oh the Food

    Cretan cuisine is a highlight of this island, featuring fresh and flavorful dishes made with local ingredients. Thank you Crete for the olive oil, herbs, and seafood – staples in Cretan cooking. Traditional dishes like dakos (barley rusk salad), lamb with stamnagathi (wild greens), and kalitsounia (sweet cheese pastries) were delicious, reflecting your rich agricultural heritage and Mediterranean flavors. Oh and the wine. Wow.

    Outdoor oven at Veerna’s Kitchen Cooking School
    Veerna helps us with the dough

    Dear Chania and Western Crete we could not get enough of your delicious, fresh and local food. We learned to cook six local dishes with Veerna at Veerna’s Kitchen Cooking School in Chania, one of the highlights of our visit to Crete. Veerna and her family have created an amazing place to gather, learn and enjoy. We highly recommend every visitor to Chania spend time with Veerna learning about Crete cuisine.

    Amazing stuffed vegetables at Veerna’s Kitchen Cooking School
    Raki with Dakos
    Boureki is one of Chania’s regional dishes, very much like Potatoes Au Gratin

    Delicious Dining

    During our island visit we ate at some remarkable restaurants that I must mention here, creating more memories of our time in Western Crete. We highly recommend all of these;

    Carte Postale when visiting the historic monasteries outside of Chania, Carte Postale is a perfect destination for lunch or dinner. With a beautiful view of Chania, the food was remarkable and so was the service.

    Braised lamb so tender at Carte Postale
    Feta and Wild Greens Salad, Carte Postale

    Raki Ba Raki we stumbled upon this place while visiting Rethynomo and what a treat it was. Great food and ambiance too.

    Meze Platter at Raki Ba Raki
    Marinated Anchovies at Raki Ba Raki

    Ntounias Slow Food – farm to table slow food cooked without electricity over wood stoves specializing in Chania regional cuisine. Don’t miss this. We almost missed it because I could never reach them on their website, but eventually called and got someone. Although when we showed up for our reservations I didn’t really think we needed it. They also have vineyard and farm educational tours. We dined on bouriki (see above), roasted goat, eggplant salad, fava beans and their own wine. Service was amazing!

    Tamam our guide Roussos recommended this restaurant for authentic food and we went as a group of six and had a spectacular meal. Located in an ancient building in the Venetian area of Chania, it was a perfect mix of delicious, historic and great service too.

    Perfect Moussaka at Tamam
    Meatballs at Tamam

    And Seafood

    Salis, right on the beautiful harbor in Old Town Chania, we loved the view, the food and the service was excellent as well. Great wine list too.

    Warm brocoli salad was amazing
    Local Corbfish was delicious

    Argentina Kapenekis about 30 min from Chania is the lovely beach town of Kissamos. We enjoyed a late lunch with waterside view and a wide selection of fresh caught fish and lovely preparations. If you like seafood this is the place for you.

    Spicy Shrimp Saganaki
    Beautiful view

    Dear Chania and Western Crete

    We hope you will welcome us back again with such open arms as you have during our March visit. Thank you for your kind people, and rich and full list of things to keep us busy…but also for quiet days, with filtered sunshine and the sweet smell of lemon blossoms.

    View from our Airbnb
    Greece – colorful and quaint

    How do I love thee? So many ways. I will return. Efcharistó Crete!

    Thank you for reading my blog post Dear Chania and Western Crete. We love it when you comment, pin and share our blog posts. Thank you.

    Next week I will tell you about our visit to the ancient Knossos Palace in Heraklion Crete. Be sure to come back to read about that.

    Chania Venetian Harbor after dark

    See last week’s post Athens for First Timers – A Beautiful City.

    Also you might like our post My Favorite Greek Food here and The Cyprus Test Kitchen here

    See our post Island Hopping From Antiparos here

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay

    Like many novels, Reay creates two separate story timeliness to propel this Cold War story forward; one that begins in 1954 and one that begins in 1980. Here is my book review A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay.

    Vienna after the War

    Ingrid Bauer has lost everything and everyone she loves. Her beloved Vienna is in shambles. And so she agrees to a brief courtship and marriage to a Soviet embassy worker and they move back to Moscow where he accepts a promotion.

    But timid Ingrid finds everything about the Soviet regime difficult. Including her husband who she now suspects is working for the KGB. When she gives birth to a daughter, she realizes this secretive Soviet world is not what she wants for this darling little baby to grow up with. And so she secretly reaches out to the British embassy, where she was secretly born, and begins a life as a spy.

    Moscow at the Height of the Cold War

    Anya, a bright and aspiring student from the Soviet Union, has spent four years in the coveted Foreign Studies Initiative at Georgetown University. During her time in the USA she has pretended to be German, because the USSR and the USA are definitely not friends. She has also fallen in love with an American, although she knows she must cut the relationship off, as her time to return to the Soviet Union approaches.

    Anya struggles after she returns, and begins to question the oppressive regime. When her best friend is murdered by the KGB, Anya vows revenge and becomes a spy for the United States.

    On a Collision Course

    As these two stories unfold, it’s clear these two remarkable women are headed for a collision course. But what does that mean? When a act of treachery in Eastern Europe puts them both in extreme danger, something, or someone will make a decision that will change everyone’s lives forever.

    Book Review A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay

    I really loved this book. I enjoyed a novel about the Cold War era…a topic not often explored. The writing is very good and I was intrigued throughout. *****Five stars for A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay.

    Thanks for reading my book review A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay. See last week’s book review A River We Remember by William Kent Krueger here.

    Europe Travel

    Athens for First Timers – A Beautiful City

    Location: Athens Greece

    Despite the title of this post, I had actually visited Athens once before. But that visit, just a few hours tour from a cruise ship, was somewhat of a disaster. So, when I had the opportunity to visit again, 17 years later, I was excited. I knew Athens could be fantastic, and I set out with fresh eyes. Over a two and a half day visit, I fell in love with this ancient and remarkable city. Here are my thoughts; Athens for First Timers – A Beautiful City.

    Athens for First Timers – A Beautiful City

    Seventeen Years Later

    Our first time in Athens, we arrived via a cruise ship as part of a Mediterranean cruise. We booked an excursion to the Acropolis during our one day in port. It was a disaster. The bus was awful. The Acropolis was crowded. Our tour guide was boring. Everything about the day was a bust. We were disappointed because my hopes for this city had been so high.

    Fast forward 17 years and we are a very different kind of traveler now. Having been around the world, seen ancient sites large and small, we knew we could do this city on our own. We did, and Athens was redeemed in our eyes. So let me tell you what I recommend for Athens for First Timers – A Beautiful City.


    Athens For First Timers

    We arrived from Barcelona a little late, but the Athens airport was easy to maneuver and we were in a taxi with our luggage within 30 min of landing. Taxi service from the airport to downtown is convenient and cost about 45 Euro. Our driver was friendly and helpful and spoke great English.

    We chose to stay at the NLH Kerameikos, a small boutique style hotel centrally located to everything. This hotel is not a high end fancy place, but it was perfect for our needs and our budget and included an excellent breakfast and helpful staff.

    Once we checked in we headed out immediately. We had pre-booked entrance tickets to the Acropolis Museum online. We wanted to start with the museum, before we spent time actually visiting the Acropolis. The museum in it’s current configuration was opened in 2009 and provides an excellent overview of the ancient and recent history of the UNESCO World Heritage Acropolis and Parthenon. I highly recommend you do this museum first. We were there in March and it was not crowded at all, but be aware the summer months can be very busy. Definitely book your tickets in advance.

    Acropolis Museum
    Acropolis Museum

    After several hours in the museum we took a leisurely stroll through the Adrianou Pedestrian area back towards our hotel and chose to have dinner al fresco at Kosmikon. Although this area is quite touristy with lots of shops and restaurants, we found the food exceptional and the service excellent. I enjoyed roasted lamb and my husband had a Cretan Pasta with mushrooms. A great start on the delicious cuisine of Greece.

    Mushroom Pasta

    Day Two

    We planned to save the Acropolis for our final day, and laid out a plan for day two that included everything else we wanted to see.

    It was recommended to us to purchase the Athens Combo Pass for 7 of the archaeological sites in Athens, including the Acropolis. In the off season, which was when we were traveling, the pass can be purchased at the entrance to any one of the 7 sites for 33 Euro per person (more in high season) and you have five days to use the pass. Because we were not sure how busy the sites would be, we headed to one of the less popular sites, Kerameikos, to buy our combo pass first thing in the morning on day two. It was very quiet with very few other visitors. So we purchased the passes and walked right in.

    During peak season, you might consider purchasing the Combo Pass online ahead of time, because the rules are different. In peak season you either buy online, or at the ticket entrance to the Acropolis. Once you purchase the ticket at the Acropolis you must enter immediately. Summer is very busy and entry to the Acropolis is by timed-specific entry. Another good reason to travel shoulder season. Be sure to do your research for the time frame you are visiting. Learn more here.

    Views from everywhere

    Throughout day two we visited five of the 7 sites. We did not make it to Aristotle’s Lyceum so I can’t comment on that. Also, of all the sites, the Kerameikos was my least favorite and also the least well cared for with minimal interpretive information. If you are short on time skip it. Here are the ones we loved;

    Ancient Agora

    I loved this big and diverse area, a classic example of a Greek assembly, commercial and gathering area. Not fully excavated even today, the Ancient Agora is estimated to have structures as ancient as mid 100’s CE. The impressive Temple of Aphrodite was my favorite.

    Temple of Aphrodite
    Ancient Agora

    Roman Agora

    The Roman Agora, estimated to have been built around 10 BC after a promise by Julius Caesar, has still not been fully excavated. The columns here are very impressive. This site is much smaller than the Ancient Agora and very beautiful.

    Roman Agora
    Roman Agora

    Hadrian’s Library

    Built in 132 AD by Roman Emperor Hadrian, this typical Roman Forum Architecture includes a high wall and decorative columns surrounding a pool in the middle. Definitely worth a visit.

    Hadrian’s Library
    Hadrian’s Library

    Temple of the Olympian Zeus

    This is a former colossal temple at the center of Athens. It was dedicated to “Olympian” Zeus, a name originating from his position as head of the Olympian gods. Construction began in the 6th century BC.

    Temple of the Olympian Zeus

    Additionally we wandered through the “Plaka”, Athens’ oldest neighborhood now catering to tourists with small restaurants and shops. We enjoyed a coffee and took lots of photos.

    At the end of this lovely day we had a delicious Greek dinner at Hermion in their outdoor garden. We enjoyed a wide variety of local favorites such as moussaka, dolmades three ways, and olives.

    We headed back to our hotel for a rest just as it started to rain. But we rallied later, raincoats in hand, to go see the Acropolis view after dark. We headed to the rooftop bar very near to our hotel called A is for Athens. While sipping a gin and tonic we marveled at the beauty of the city at night, and the ancient Acropolis. What a place it is.

    What a view from A is for Athens Rooftop Bar

    Day Three

    After all we had seen and learned, we were ready to get up to the mountaintop and the Acropolis. The word Acropolis means high place. I really wanted to see it without the crowds, so we got up early and were in line by 7:45am for the 8:00am opening. There were twenty people already ahead of us in line on this chilly March morning. It was definitely worth getting there early. The photo opportunities with so few people in the morning sun was fabulous.

    Acropolis Erechtheion

    The history of this place is incredible and I take this paragraph from because it so eloquently sums it up;

    The Acropolis of Athens is one of the most famous ancient archaeological sites in the world. Located on a limestone hill high above Athens, Greece, the Acropolis has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Over the centuries, the Acropolis was many things: a home to kings, a citadel, a mythical home of the gods, a religious center and a tourist attraction. It has withstood bombardment, massive earthquakes and vandalism yet still stands as a reminder of the rich history of Greece. Today, it is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage site and home to several temples, the most famous of which is the Parthenon.

    Beautiful morning light
    The North Entrance

    Meet the Evzones

    After about two hours of enjoying every aspect of the ancient Acropolis and Parthenon, we headed back down the south side and back out onto the Adrianou Pedestrian Way. The weather had turned quite chilly but we headed to the Parliament building off of Syntagma square to watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The guards are known as the Evzones. They make up a special unit of the Hellenic Army, also known as Tsoliades, who guard the Monument of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Hellenic Parliament and the Presidential Mansion. The monument is a cenotaph created between 1930 and 1932, dedicated to Greek soldiers who were killed during times of war. Changing of the guard happens on the hour daily. Definitely worth a visit to experience their unique march and historic dress.

    Evzones Changing of the Guard
    Evzones Changing of the Guard

    City Bus Tour

    By this time on day three the weather had taken a turn and it was very cold and wet. We decided to do a hop on hop off bus tour to get out of the weather and to enjoy a city tour of some of the sights we may have missed. This is something we do occasionally in cities, especially for the audio part and to get the lay of the land. We did not get off the bus, we just stayed on through the entire tour. It is a really good way to orientate and we learned some new things. We also discovered a couple of areas we might want to visit if we every get back to Athens in the future including the National Archeology Museum and the Benaki Art Museum.


    We ended our third and final day in Athens in the Psirri neighborhood close to our hotel, at the highly rated Bandiera restaurant. Since our day had started early, we were hungry for an early dinner and, despite the chilly day, we enjoyed sitting on the outdoor area under the heat lamps. The food was excellent and so was our server. We enjoyed the most amazing salad as well as fish and lamb.

    Lamb at Bandiera

    What a wonderful visit we had. Time to head back to our hotel to pack and prepare for our VERY early morning flight to Crete. Farewell Athens. Thanks for showing me how wonderful you can be. Athens for First Timers – A Beautiful City.

    Farewell Athens

    Thanks for reading this week’s blog post Athens for First Timers – A Beautiful City. See last week’s post Andorra – The Heart of the Pyrenees. Stay tuned as we continue our European travels through Crete, Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia. Thank you!

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger

    I have enjoyed three other books by William Kent Krueger; Lightning Strike and Ordinary Grace as well as one of my all time favorite reads This Tender Land. Today I present his latest – here is my book review The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger

    Murder in a Small Town

    The theme of a murder in a small town isn’t a new one, but Krueger manages to capture the small town feeling so eloquently in this novel. It’s 1958 and the story begins when the body of the towns wealthy, arrogant and mostly disliked Jimmy Quinn is found in the Alabaster River. But Quinn didn’t drown, he was shot.


    Sherriff Brody Dern begins the investigation, as he deals with his own emotional scars from his time in the war. But he is focused and sees clearly that the murder scene has been set up. But by who? The small town has a surprisingly large cast of characters, given how just about everyone disliked Quinn.

    At the top of the suspect list, at least to most of the racist folks in town, is Noah Bluestone, a WWII Veteran and Native American. Bluestone’s Japanese wife, who is also discriminated against in the post-war era is also a suspect.

    Throughout the investigation Brody is assisted by a former deputy, an eccentric attorney, and a newspaper editor, each dealing with their own demons and life tragedies. Quinn’s family is also suspect, none of them seeming overly grief stricken about the murder of Jimmy Quinn.


    Can this highly charged murder get a fair trial in a small town such as Jewell Minnisota? Only a few level headed townspeople as well as two teenage boys can keep an open mind as the investigation comes to a violent end.

    Book Review A River We Remember by William Kent Krueger

    Although not my favorite Krueger novel, this book captured by attention and was easy to read. Five stars for A River We Remember. See last week’s book review Lincoln on the Verge by Ted Widmer

    Thanks for reading my book review A River We Remember by William Kent Krueger. We love it when you comment, pin and share our book reviews. Thank you.

    Europe Travel

    Andorra – The Heart of the Pyrenees

    Location: Andorra la Velle

    Andorra, officially known as the Principality of Andorra, is a small landlocked country located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain. With an area of just 468 square kilometers, Andorra is one of the smallest countries in Europe. Despite its size, Andorra boasts a rich history, stunning landscapes, and a unique cultural heritage. Andorra – The Heart of the Pyrenees.

    Welcome to Andorra

    Third Time’s The Charm

    We had considered visiting Andorra on two earlier occasions; before starting the Camino de Santiago and on a previous visit to Barcelona. Both times the logistics just didn’t work. So the third time is the charm. We had a few days to fill before heading to Greece, and a quick visit to Andorra seemed a perfect fit.

    Andorra nestled between France and Spain

    Mountain Majesty

    The country is known for its picturesque mountainous terrain, making it a popular destination for outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking, and mountain biking. Andorra is home to several ski resorts, including Grandvalira and Vallnord, which attract tourists from around the world during the winter months.

    Beautiful day for hiking
    Hiking in Andorra la Velle

    Andorra’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism, with visitors drawn to the country’s scenic beauty, duty-free shopping opportunities, and vibrant cultural festivals. The capital city, Andorra la Vella, is a charming town with a mix of historic architecture and modern amenities. The city is also known for its quaint shops, bustling markets, and delicious local cuisine.

    Andorra la Velle

    Our Brief Visit

    We took the regularly scheduled Andbus from Barcelona which was convenient and comfortable (although I wished for a restroom). The three and a half hour bus ride started at the Barcelona Airport and ended at our hotel for the bargain price of $75 per person roundtrip. We spent three nights at the historic Hotel Pyrenees. The nightly rate in March was $80 for a comfortable room that included an amazing breakfast. If you plan to ski you might want a car, but for our brief visit we knew we could walk everywhere we wanted to go in the capital city of Andorra la Velle.

    There is wonderful dining and shopping in Andorra la Velle and we engaged in a little bit of both. I highly recommend two restaurants when visiting that we enjoyed;

    Spanish Tapas at Izai

    After a long travel day we ended up at this amazing restaurant right across the street from our hotel. We were looking for an early dinner, so we were presented the Tapas menu and what an unexpected treasure this place was. Absolutely delicious from tuna sushi to charcuterie. I highly recommend you visit Izai.

    Authentic Mexican at Cantinita de la Adelita

    We walked past this Mexican restaurant in the morning and the menu looked amazing so we tucked back in later in the afternoon. Spectacular selection of authentic Mexican treats in the heart of Andorra. I highly recommend you visit Cantinita de la Adelita.

    Izai tuna sushi
    Izai Charcuterie
    Amazing guacamole at Cantinita de la Adelita
    Tacos at Cantinita de la Adelita

    We did a lovely hike on a sunny but chilly morning on the Rec de Sola trail above town, giving us views back across the valley. We walked through the town and did a bit of shopping. Then we took some time to visit the Church of Santa Coloma is one of the oldest in Andorra. Dating to the pre-Romanesque period, it was built between the 8th and 9th centuries and has a rectangular nave and quadrangular apse. Its current appearance comes from the refurbishment carried out during the 12th century, when the four-storey Lombard-style circular bell tower was added.  It is one of the most photographed places in Andorra.

    Church of Santa Coloma
    Pedestrian shopping area
    A River Runs Through It – the Gran Vilira
    Caldea Spa

    On our final day in Andorra la Velle we spent several hours at the famous Caldea Thermal Spa. Many people come to Andorra la Velle just to experience this state of the art and beautiful facility. We bought tickets that included dinner at Blu Restaurant, and for $18 we were amazed how good it was. Then we headed to enjoy all of the pools, spas, ice baths and saunas. Caldea also offers classes and massage and much more. It’s an absolute must when in Andorra la Velle.

    Dinner at Blu Restaurant Caldea
    Dessert with a view
    Caldea Spa
    Enjoying the grapefruit pool, just one of many options

    The Heart of the Pyrenees

    Despite its small size, Andorra has a unique political system known as a diarchy, with the President of France and the Bishop of Urgell in Spain serving as co-princes of the country. Andorra is also known for its low taxes and high standard of living, making it an attractive destination for expatriates and retirees.

    Overall, Andorra is a hidden gem in the heart of the Pyrenees, offering visitors a perfect blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and outdoor adventure opportunities.

    The Gran Vilira runs through Andorra.

    Thank you for reading my post Andorra – The Heart of the Pyrenees. See last week’s post When in Rome and stay turned for more upcoming Europe posts as we head next to the Mediterranean.

    Don’t miss last week book review Lincoln on the Verge

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