Stan Halpin: Blog en-us (C)smhalpin [email protected] (Stan Halpin) Wed, 26 Jul 2023 02:02:00 GMT Wed, 26 Jul 2023 02:02:00 GMT Stan Halpin: Blog 91 120 Back on the road soon… After 60+ years of travel with photography always an element in the trip, I still am looking for the tools and workflow that will allow me to process and share my photos without carrying along a computer and satellite dish…For reasons I may get into over the next few weeks as we prepare for and then embark on our next adventure, I really don’t too much extra burden on this trip. So, we’ll see how this Blog fits into the scheme….


[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Wed, 26 Jul 2023 02:01:33 GMT
Testing -

One of many cats seen in Ephesus ruins...

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Mon, 03 Jul 2023 12:58:15 GMT
Blog test… Indiana Farm - 1969Indiana Farm - 1969

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Sat, 13 Nov 2021 16:47:45 GMT
Day 1 – back in Paraguay! Screenshot Arrived today in Asuncion from DTW via ATL and São Paulo. Very long very slow process to purchase visas on arrival. Taxi to Gran Hotel del Paraguay, which stirs some faint memories from our first arrival and first stay here in May 1953. Then we stayed here several weeks while Dad looked for housing.

The Gran Hotel is still a fading elegant lady, though maybe in better shape now than then. We’ll be here another four days this time…

Click below to view my shared Lightroom album: (5 shots from today)

By the way, the tall buildings in the neighborhood did not exist in 1953; I don’t believe there was anyplace in the country with more than six-eight floors…

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Wed, 27 Feb 2019 16:07:38 GMT
South America – 2019 trip preview In two weeks we will be headed off on our next long trip: Paraguay, then Iguazu Falls, on to Buenos Aires, then aboard the Celebrity Eclipse around Cape Horn and up the western coasts of South and Central America to San Diego California. I will have my cameras along! And some new tools for handling/editing images along the way. Stay tuned…

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Tue, 12 Feb 2019 08:21:42 GMT
Ending of our Nov-Dec 2018 Travels: Day 40 – Rainy day in BA

Our last day for now in this complex city. Beautiful buildings, nice people, crumbling sidewalks, dog droppings an ever present hazard. Low prices, good food and beer and wine. Too many people living on the streets. Heavy traffic, horns honking and sirens blaring. This is one of those places where people stand in line at ATM’s or bus stops; no bunching or shoving or cutting-in… We enjoy BA and look forward to our next visit.

Rain and thunderstorms limited our activity today. Took a cab to what has been called “the second most beautiful bookstore in the world.” El Ateneo, an old elegant theatre repurposed as a bookstore and cafe. We had an early leisurely lunch, then took advantage of a lull in the rain to walk back towards the hotel. Our arranged ride will be here soon to take us to the airport for our overnight flight home. Sad to have the trip ending, but looking forward to being home!





[email protected] (Stan Halpin) BA Buenos Aires El Ateneo Tue, 11 Dec 2018 11:17:19 GMT
Day 39 – Buenos Aires A beautiful sunny day in BA! We walked to the nearest Post Office to mail some things home [helps keep the weight of the suitcases under control] and then walked to Cafe Tortoni, a famous coffee house, 160 years old. Then walked the length of Florida street (pedestrian-only shopping street), then walked back to our hotel in late afternoon. About eight miles altogether. Little shopping, mostly looking… Early evening we took a cab to La Cabana restaurant in the Puerto Maduro district to join some new friends for a great dinner. Then the four of us went on to a “speakeasy”. Too noisy, loud music, crowded. A quick retreat to a quiet neighboring cafe and we finished a good day with more conversation and good wine.

20181210-K1A_426820181210-K1A_4268 20181210-K1A_425320181210-K1A_4253 20181210-K1A_424820181210-K1A_4248 Port in BAPort in BA

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) BA Buenos Aires Tue, 11 Dec 2018 11:01:08 GMT
Day 38 – Nearing the end… … the end of this adventure. Arrived Buenos Aires, at breakfast waiting our turn to disembark. Anticipate a few quiet days in BA and then back home. It has been a good trip, and we have met several new friends.

Once we finally got off the ship and to our hotel, we wandered to and through the miles-long Sunday San Telmo street market. Bought a few gifts for people back home…

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Argentina BA Buenos Aires Sun, 09 Dec 2018 02:28:00 GMT
Day 35 – Santos We spent a fairly quiet day in this unremarkable industrial port city. Our more ambitious fellow cruisers opted for a long drive to the Sao Paulo, but it seemed that the value of big-city venues were out weighed by the travel time and distance. So instead we took a long shuttle ride to an over-the-top modern shopping center in the Santos downtown. Meg bought shoes. Then a walk to and along the beach, a pause for refreshments, and back to the shuttle for the ride back to the ship. (Notice Santa climbing the side of the apartment building…)

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Brazil Santos Thu, 06 Dec 2018 11:52:32 GMT
Day 34 – Rio de Janeiro An early morning sail-in to this beautiful city. After a slow chaotic departure from the ship, my group of eight met our delightful tour guide Leis. Another one of the exceptional tour guides we have booked through Tours By Local. We went to the top of Sugar Loaf, then the Corcovado for a closeup of Christ the Redeemer. Onward for some photo stops of famous beaches, a brief visit to the modern Cathedral, then back aboard. The morning’s chaos and delays led to a delayed departure, giving us great views of the city on the sail away!

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Rio Thu, 06 Dec 2018 11:31:34 GMT
Day 30: At Sea Crossed the Equator today! Beautiful Frigate birds, crowds of people at the Crossing ceremony, a good view of the line as we went over, and a shot of one of the bar staff…

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Sat, 01 Dec 2018 09:17:29 GMT
Day26 – La Palma, Gran Cararia

Adding this a few days later after many many sea days. It is all a blur…

in Las Palmas we did a bit of walk around the shopping area, found a nice pair of shoes not in stock in my size. Oh well. On to Old Town, a nice lunch, a little time in the house where Columbus stayed when passing through. Las Palmas seems a nice place, but quite large. There are quite a few ex pats from UK and Europe who spend winters here.

[Update - In September 2021 a major volcanic eruption occurred causing much destruction of property and the eventual evacuation of 7,000 residents and tourists. As I post this up date two months later, the lava flows continue... Photo below copied from an AP source] 

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Canary Islands La Palma Sat, 01 Dec 2018 09:10:59 GMT
Day 25 – Lanzarote, Canary Islands After an uneventful sea day, we arrived midday in Lanzarote. I am still not sure of the local region, this grouping of islands. We have stopped in The Canaries before, but it seems that where we were before is not where we were today, nor is it where we will be tomorrow. A small flock of Canaries… So we joined a few others for an excursion to the north side of the island. Basically a drive-by of a lot of interesting volcanic and sea-side-village scenes, with stops at a couple of points in a large lava tube, and then a cactus-garden stop. This could be an interesting vacation destination. Selected images attached…

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Canary Islands Mon, 26 Nov 2018 11:53:25 GMT
Day 23 – Cartagena Spain We had a leisurely start in this lovely historic port. Walked by a Marina, past old city walls, and up to an old castle/fortress. Now it is a great museum with information on the many many times the city has been destroyed and rebuilt. Views from atop of a Roman theatre, etc. Then we walked down to the main shopping street to snack and watch the locals enjoy their Saturday outings. The highlight might have been the wedding, which we photobombed?

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Cartagena Spain Sun, 25 Nov 2018 08:40:30 GMT
Day 22 – Barcelona Today was the end of the first leg of our back-to-back cruises. Many of our newfound friends departed for home, though there are 180 passengers continuing on. We left the ship about 10:00am, took a cab to the Sagrada Famila. Cloudy, some drizzle, some light rain. We walked around the exterior trying to make sense of this mad structure.  No luck! I think I need to buy a book.

We took another cab to the Picasso museum, went only as far as the gift shop. Too long a line at the ticket booth. On down the street to a very nice little restaurant for tapas and wine, a bit of a wander, and back to the ship. A good day, but less rain, more sun, would have been nice!

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Barcelona Spain Fri, 23 Nov 2018 09:28:24 GMT
Day 20 – Malta: Mdina & Valletta After a relaxing sea day, we had an intense long interesting day on Malta. We joined six others and guide Mario for a very thorough visit to many areas of the island. Narrow streets, open countryside, fishing villages, cathedrals, The Blue Grotto, a Maltese Falcon… A good day! And we were back aboard with ten minutes to spare.

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Malta Thu, 22 Nov 2018 22:42:56 GMT
Day 18 – Dubrovnik (For those just coming aboard this blog, Day xx in the title refers to the number of days since we began our current epic trip, first to Spain, then around the Med and Adriatic seas, and soon onward across the Atlantic to Buenos Aires.)

Following our long long day trip to Mostar yesterday, today was a day to leisurely explore the walled city of Dubrovnik. The day was cool but warm enough, some clouds and light rain late afternoon, but a nice day all in all. We took about two hours to walk around the wall, had a nice lunch in an alleyway off the Main Street, wandered some, looked at shops, bought a fish (a small sculpture, not an actual fish!), and took the shuttle back to our ship…


[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Dubrovnik Thu, 22 Nov 2018 03:22:36 GMT
Day 17 – Ston Croatia & Mostar Bosnia-Herzegovina We were pleased to join an all-day excursion arranged by a fellow cruiser: from Dubrovnik Croatia to Mostar in the neighboring country of Bosnia-Herzegovina, with a stop along the way in the ancient walled city of Ston, once the world’s premier producer of salt. In Mostar we had a guided walk which included the lively street market and, of course, the Old Bridge.



[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Mostar Ston Mon, 19 Nov 2018 10:08:17 GMT
Day 16 – Zadar, Croatia A pleasant small town, quite lively on a Saturday morning, many families out walking with young children, teenage girls roaming the shops along the main drag. The old area we were in was almost entirely a pedestrian zone, traffic free was nice. We did a wander around the town and adjacent park, then had a late lunch at a very nice restaurant near the Sea Organ. [Must be heard to be believed. A series of underwater pipes fill and empty with normal wave action. As the sea water comes and goes, air in the pipes is pushed in or pulled out through various air vents. Interesting sounds are created. Like magic!]

... a few images from around the town…



[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Zadar Mon, 19 Nov 2018 09:50:39 GMT
Kotor, Montenegro (Day 15 – part 2) The old city of Kotor has many stone block buildings, narrow alleyways, the requisite places of worship. Nice enough, but not a place I am enthusiastically planning to revisit. There were several trips on offer involving a drive to the interior for waterfalls and other natural scenery, but we didn’t have enough time. My previous post included some of my cat images from the day; below are a few more images of the town itself.

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Kotor Mon, 19 Nov 2018 09:22:14 GMT
Cats of Kotor (Day 15 – part 1) Today we spent in the lovely old city of Kotor, Montenegro. Fascinating place with a complex history. And many cats. More on the city later. But first, some images of the cats…

Oh. One dog also. Tired looking dog. You can imagine what his day is like, one of the few dogs in a city overrun by cats!

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Kotor Fri, 16 Nov 2018 19:32:00 GMT
Day 13: Naples A beautiful day in Naples hosted by our friend Gianfranco. He met us near the port and led us on a grand walking tour of mostly the old city. A lunch stop at his favorite restaurant, a glass of wine at a small bar near the port in the late afternoon, many interesting sights along the way. This was Gianfranco’s birthday; next year we’ll be back for a day on my birthday.

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Naples Fri, 16 Nov 2018 07:59:36 GMT
Day 12: Civitavechia (Rome) In Livorno, we skipped the usual (long) trip into Florence as we had recently spent several days there. In lieu of Florence we had our delightful Hill Town excursion. In Civitavecchia we also skipped a long ride into Rome and instead had a quiet day in the port town. Our big adventure was a long interlude in the post office, just waiting in line to mail a package… It is an attractive town with a nice cathedral and other attractions.


[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Civitavecchia Thu, 15 Nov 2018 09:10:51 GMT
Day 11: Livorno Italy A great trip with 4 others to the hill towns of Volterra and San Gigiimianano. Arranged through Tours by Locals. The views were great, the towns were interesting,  the guide/driver was entertaining, and a good time was had by all. So glad Cheryl and Jeff and Sheri and Johnnie were able to join us!

E23ECE4B-188E-48D4-810F-900DBE027387.jpegAF29F404-D7B0-4174-B08B-B8BC4BBD20249D69DC02-A8FC-4ADC-862B-64AAE36293F1D56B0078-3389-4A09-AF03-34B27FAF31E9E521E23B-834B-457C-A2C8-8D5A6013FBCF.jpegA great trip with 4 others to the hill towns of Volterra and San Gigiimianano. Arranged through Tours by Locals. The views were great, the towns were interesting,  the guide/driver was entertaining, and a good time was had by all. So glad Cheryl and Jeff and Sheri and Johnnie were able to join us!


[email protected] (Stan Halpin) San Gigiimianano Volterra Thu, 15 Nov 2018 07:05:36 GMT
Day 10: At Sea Another placeholder…

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Thu, 15 Nov 2018 06:28:38 GMT
Day 9: Embarkation Having serious problems uploading from the ship – this is a place holder for now…

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Wed, 14 Nov 2018 16:15:00 GMT
Day 8: To Montserrat and beyond I had set up a “shared tour” through Spain Day Tours, destination Monserrat and then on to a Cave (aka Spanish Champagne-like bubbly wine) producer. Meg and I, plus, via the Cruise Critic Roll Call, Stan and Jeanne, and Jeff and Cheryl signed up. The company added another 5-6; disembarking MSC cruisers. Canadians.

But we did have a good group.

Drove to Montserrat , Guide Joe gave us a quick recon, and we headed up the funicular for higher views. Back down in time to grab a prime spot for the Boy’s Choir short performance. Then a tumble back into the van and on to a small Cava winery. Housed in a very old house. Interesting venue, good wine, even for those like me that are not wild about bubbly wine.

Back to Barcelona and we all went our separate ways. A good day, great scenery, interesting cultural tidbits scattered in our path along the way.

A few of the images…

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Sat, 10 Nov 2018 10:46:01 GMT
Day 7: Back to Barcelona Leisurely morning; finished packing, stroll around the Plaza Major neighborhood, check out, cab to the Madrid Antoche station. A wander through the indoor tropical garden, then onboard a RENCFE high speed train. (Most of the journey was at 297-298 km/hr). Taxi from Barcelona’s Sants station to our hotel in the district near the Cathedral and the Picasso museum.

A few images from along the way and from our late-afternoon stroll in Barcelona…

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Thu, 08 Nov 2018 13:24:08 GMT
Day 6: Prado Museum Our intent was to first visit the Royal Palace but when we walked over we found this:

A verrry long line to get in. Plan B. We walked on to the Prado and spent the day there. No photos allowed, but a few quickies along the way to and from.

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Wed, 07 Nov 2018 13:30:25 GMT
Day 5: Toledo and back. I had arranged a guided visit to Toledo through Spain Day Tours, the same outfit who had arranged our flamenco show & dinner yesterday evening. Sharon and Van, who will be on our upcoming cruise, joined us for the day. An uneventful drive down from Madrid, plenty of historical commentary along the way. We met our guide Ignacio who led us through the old city, with great attention to the intermixture of Moorish, Jewish, and Christian influences on the buildings and their decorations.

A fascinating city, I won’t attempt to capture its complexity here. It is worth a visit!

A few select images from the cathedral and other parts of the town…

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Tue, 06 Nov 2018 14:37:12 GMT
Day 4: Gray outside, brilliant inside We walked through a misty slow cold rain this morning to the National Gallery, the Reina Sophia. Arrived shortly after opening, no line at the ticket office. Proceeded to Gallery 206 and neighboring galleries, home of Picasso’s Guernica and related works. Very moving. The crowds began to build, random couples plus small guided tours with intense guides and school outings with what seemed to be 2nd graders, senior high students, and several levels in between. Kudos to the teachers who were finding a good balance between teaching “proper museum behavior” while encouraging exploration and creative appreciation.

We had a to-die-for cheese plate and a glass of wine at the museum cafe and walked back to the hotel. Some sunshine… Spent some time in the room regrouping, then onward to a pre-planned Flamenco Show and dinner at El Corral de Moreria. Used cabs to and from in concession to the still windy and chill weather. The food was excellent, the dancing was awesome! Limited photography allowed there or in the museum earlier, but I do what I can.

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Mon, 05 Nov 2018 14:52:01 GMT
Day 3: A beautiful day in Madrid A slow start ( I blame it on jet lag; a bit of laziness may have also been involved.) We got to our hotel’s buffet breakfast just before closing time; afterwards we packed up and headed first to the Plaza Mayor to wander through the weekly gathering of stamp and coin vendors. onward to the El Rastro street market, a gathering covering many city streets and plazas with vendors of clothing, jewelry, antiques, ripoffs, etc. My first encounter with the acclaimed Madrid pickpockets. I won.

Then up to Plaza Sol, back toward Plaza Mayor by a different route. Some tapas in a nice restaurant, then onward to the Mercado San Miguel. Maybe it used to be a Mercado, but now it is a high vibe tapas and wine center. We’ll revisit! A bit more wandering through the afternoon chill, then back to the hotel to regroup before dinner.

A few more impressions of this neighborhood…

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Sun, 04 Nov 2018 11:03:51 GMT
Day 2: First day in Spain Up at 0700 Friday, went through the usual business of cleaning up & packing up. A goodbye to our cat and out the door by 0930. Rental car turned in, luggage checked in at DTW by 1230. Smooth flight to JFK at 1530, onward to BCN at 2030. All in all, smooth, comfortable. Except that Delta Comfort class seats have gotten smaller.

Arrival in Barcelona around 0930, quick walk through of immigration, luggage retrieval, customs, and on to our waiting cab. Arrived Sants, the Barcelona main train station by 1045. AVE high speed train to Madrid 1250 to about 1550. Short cab ride to our hotel near the Plaza Mayor in the heart of the city. Settled in, did a walk around the neighborhood, had some light dinner tapas. Long day! Great weather throughout, cool temps, sunny…

Tomorrow is for rest and recovery, probably some leisurely exploration of this section of the city.

Some first impressions of Madrid:

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Europe Spain Sat, 03 Nov 2018 14:43:06 GMT
Before leaving home… I not only did what i could to clean the many fallen leaves from our lawn, but we spent some time on the new “canopy walk” at Whiting Forest (Dow Gardens, Midland).

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Fall Color Sat, 03 Nov 2018 11:35:04 GMT
Weather happens Headed for Spain in two days, precursor to our Celebrity Eclipse cruise around the Med and Adriatic, then on across the Atlantic to South America. Before I booked this epic trip, I had different plans. We would go to Italy in mid October, do a Greek Isles cruise or similar on the Constellation, then some time in Northern Italy, Venice, etc. before taking a Transatlantic from Rome to Florida. Then this itinerary was published, I canceled the original bookings and switched. If we were on the original schedule, we would right now be coping with very bad weather in Venice…

Lets see if this link  is still alive, a news story about the weather…

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Wed, 31 Oct 2018 06:39:09 GMT
Transatlantic cruises? I just pontificated on Cruise Critic, talking about Transatlantic cruises, when and how to choose which one. This was in response to a specific question about whether others waited until after final payment date to take advantage of possible price drop.  Thought I would share those thoughts here…

The things I consider when looking at transatlantics or other repositioning cruises:

1. What time of year? Early fall or late fall? Early spring or late spring? Weather conditions?

2. Start point. End point. Are these places I would like to spend extra time? Our first TA was from Southampton to San Juan. Great! Visited friends and relatives pre-cruise, spent some quality time in San Juan post-cruise. Our most recent was Civitavecchia to Lauderdale. Good time in Florence for a few days before heading to the port. Easy to get out of South Florida quickly post-cruise.

3. Cruise line. Available lectures, games, whatever, which will amuse us and keep us from boredom on multiple sea days? Not a big issue for us, we can find plenty to amuse ourselves, but some will go stir crazy.

4. Cabin availability? We like to pick our own. Particularly on longer trips.

5. Price?

There is a site that keeps a list of Transatlantics. You could look there for possibilities. See how they might fit your priorities similar to above.

I have adopted the strategy of booking almost as soon as a desired itinerary is announced. I then watch the price, get my fare adjusted down if/when the price drops. If I had a bit more flexibility I wouldn’t mind a last minute booking either. Biggest downer might be the higher air fares with a late booking.

I sometimes read horror stories about cruises being ruined (and maybe lives being ruined forever!) because of a cabin issue. Too hot, too cold, too noisy, no good shows on TV, bed too hard, bed too soft, whatever. I like to choose, but I’ve booked “guarantees” as well. You are on a cruise. People waiting on you hand and foot. Plenty of good food, drinks. Interesting other people around you. The ever changing ocean as far as you can see. Brilliant stars at night. How can one not be happy no matter how bad the room is?

[Update a year later... In 2020 we will be doing 2 or three Transatlantic cruises! The first is a traditional repositioning cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Southampton. But then in August we will go from New Jersey to Dublin with stops in Nova Scotia and Iceland. And maybe we will return to the U.S. on the same route. For this/these Transatlantic cruise(s), it is definitely all about the ports-of-call.]

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Planning Tue, 23 Oct 2018 19:44:10 GMT
And more video… Tonight we watched a few more Rick Steves videos (available online through PBS or Rick Steves’ site). The Madrid and Toledo episodes were both good shows, but unfortunately the Toledo show also included time on three other cities in that region. We also watched a segment on Tuscan Hill Towns; this link will take you to a short discussion of Volterra and Gigignano, towns we will be visiting from Livorno next month.

[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Sun, 07 Oct 2018 19:21:44 GMT
Planning ahead A quiet Saturday evening, a good time to dip into the Rick Steves archives on PBS. We just watched an episode from season 4 on Tuscan hill towns and from season 8 on Dubrovnik and vicinity. Nice appetizers for our visits soon to come!

24 Oct, 2018
Had a recent discussion with friends: where would we like to travel?

My bucket list:
– Re-visit Alaska
– Norwegian coastal cruise
– Cuba?
– Antarctica? More than a drive-by, which we have done.
– African Safari?

Already booked and to be done in the next two years:
– Madrid, Toledo, Barcelona
– Dubrovnik
– Re-visit Buenos Aires
– Re-visit Paraguay and the sites I knew as a young pre-teen
– Iberian Peninsula (w/ visits to Bilbao, San Sebastian, Malaga, the Alhambra…)
– New Zealand
– Re-visit Australia (Southeast)

We’ll see if we are physically and fiscally able to do this.

[Update, a year later... New Zealand and Australia have been moved from our planning list. Cuba has been declared off limits to us, so that is off the list. We are giving serious thought to the Norwegian coastal cruise, thinking that may happen in May or June 2021. Meanwhile, in April of 2020 we'll do a Transatlantic from Florida to England, in August 2020 we'll cross from NJ to Dublin via Nova Scotia, Greenland and Iceland, and maybe cruise back on the same route. October 2020 we're booked for a New England/Canada Fall Colors cruise. We will keep on keeping on!]


[email protected] (Stan Halpin) Future Cruises Planning Sat, 06 Oct 2018 18:15:37 GMT