10/22/2018

Elusive Montenegro

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Where is this elusive, tiny country of Montenegro, Europe's youngest country; and our 29th member to NATO? Montenegro is a pocket-size country in southeastern Europe, on the sunny, southern coastline of the Adriatic Sea. Formerly, Montenegro was part of Yugoslavia, until the break-up in 1992, and became a sovereign state when over 55% of the population voted for independence in  May 2006.

Montenegro is often called the land of six continents for its geographic diversity. It’s a country that offers tourists, intrepid travelers, and holidaymakers a versatile vacation destination; where you can tickle the turquoise sea or enjoy the soaring, snow-capped mountains in the distance. 

Our destination today is the UNESCO-protected town of Kotor, the magnificent Bay of Kotor, and the enchanting Our Lady of Rocks islet in Perast.  Traveling just 95km from Dubrovnik, with our tour guide, Tina, we find these picturesque villages and islands just waiting to be unwrapped. Luckily, our driver, Vlado, has traveled the Adriatic coastal road for over 35 years, maneuvering the sharp hairpin turns and the steep switchback curves on this narrow road with ease, offering breathtaking views at every turn. 

Kotor is a very popular European vacation destination, a real gem, located in the southernmost fjord of the Adriatic. The most impressive structure in Old Town Kotor, dubbed "Little Dubrovnik," is its city walls, dating back more than 1200 years, reaching 4 km in length, and stretching up to the San Giovanni fortress, that stands 260 meters above sea level. Another medieval and Romanesque building worth stepping inside is the Basilica of Saint Tryphon, constructed in 1166, with twin Baroque bell towers, and an impressive collection of European art.

Kotor-Bay of Kotor, Montenegro
The second UNESCO site is a short boat ride from the baroque shore of Perast, in the stunning Bay of Kotor, Our Lady of the Rocks. A photogenic Roman Catholic church, built upon the only man-made island in the Adriatic by seamen who discovered an icon of the Madonna and child on a seaside cliff and vowed to honor her by building a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the patron saint of seafarers and fishermen.
Baroque shores of Perast, Montenegro
One significant historic treasure inside the church is the famous votive tapestry, the Holy Virgin, embroidered by Jacinta Kunić-Mijović from the quaint village of Perast. Legend weaves the story that it took her 25 years to finish, while waiting for her husband to return from exotic and faraway places.  A fabled story that she embroidered this iconic piece with gold and silver fibers and finally with strands of her own grey, aging hair. 

Nowhere else can you discover so much natural beauty, picturesque villages and pristine nature in such a compact area, as in Montenegro, another hidden crown jewel of the Dalmatian coast.  



J. Christina founder at Scribbles and Smiles, travel writer, and hobbyist photographer.  She writes a personal travel blog from North America. Christina (Christie) is married to John, a.k.a. Mr. Christie. Mr. Christie is right on-board with their travel jaunts around the world - sharing in their blogging endeavors. He supports, encourages, handles gadgetry and embraces the role of editor - hence, their bespoke pen name, J. Christina. 

*for this particular post photo credits: google images 










10/09/2018

Rising From the Sea: Dubrovnik


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Our summer journey began at the deep southern tip of Croatia, in Dubrovnik, the Pearl of the Adriatic. We navigated over 1400 miles, on this intrepid adventure, along the most magnificent stretch of Croatia, the Dalmatian Coastline. Sometimes, playing hide-n’-seek with the azure waters of the Adriatic Sea, other times, marveling at the soaring Balkan Mountains in the distance. Dubrovnik is a natural beauty – one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
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The walls of Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik hardly needs an introduction as one of the world’s most carefully preserved medieval walled cities in the world. From afar, Dubrovnik dramatically ascends up from the Adriatic’s cliffs edge, dangling precariously high above the sapphire sea, accented with its red terra cotta rooftops - offering an unforgettable dreamscape vista. 

Our guide, Zoran, a veteran of the Croatian Army, shares his city, regaling stories from his youth, the war, and the history of this remarkable UNESCO Heritage site. Beginning in Old Dubrovnik via the south entrance, and emerging through the historic Pile Gate, onto Stradun, the main street of old town. Slowly strolling, on this dry and hot day - destination the Rector’s Palace.

Today, the Rector’s Palace is home to the cultural history museum, where it contains invaluable antiquities and artworks from the 15th – 19th centuries. Still, today visitors can walk through the notorious palace prison, where the infamous Ilija Dadić, dubbed Dubrovnik’s Monte Christo, was permanently imprisoned after five foiled attempts at escape. Zoran points out historic Murano stained-glass windows that were destroyed during the Homeland War, and explains that the Venetian Murano glass company donated all the replacement stained glass to restore the windows to their historic luster. 
Murano stained glass
In 1991, after the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Dubrovnik was besieged by the Yugoslav People’s Army for seven months and the city suffered significant damage from the mortar shelling and bombs. A territorial war, that many only heard about on the national news, and local Croatians simply chose not to speak about this turbulent time in recent history. The repair and restoration of Dubrovnik’s historical and irreplaceable buildings took over ten years to complete, and reemerged as one of the top travel destinations in the Mediterranean.

Nowadays, in the pretty courtyard of Franciscan Monastery’s complex, the Romanesque cloister leads to the old Pharmacy Museum, one of the oldest in the world, where among the exhibits you can see various pharmaceutical tools, containers, grinders and similar utensils from the 7th century, from the once named, Republic of Ragusa. Stopping inside the Franciscan Monastery we admire the Romanesque cloister, from 1360, considered one of the finest features of Dubrovnik’s architecture. Consisting of rows of elegant double-pillared columns, embellished with reliefs of leaves, faces and animals.

Romanesque cloister - Franciscan Monastery
Dubrovnik has something for everyone in terms of sightseeing; historical city walls, churches, palaces and charming café terraces. And, for many Game of Thrones fans, climbing the Spanish steps by Saint Ignatius Church, where one of the most famous scenes was filmed. In Old Town Dubrovnik, the residents carry-on their daily routine, while residing along the long, narrow, lived-in streets, where climbing the ancient cobblestone steps are a day-to-day way of life, all amongst the throngs of tourists.

Thousands of tourists flock to Dubrovnik, arriving by land and sea, enjoying the magnificent beauty of this ancient city for the day; as many as a million tourists visit annually - all descending on this national treasure during cruise season, from March to November. As with all antiquities, preservation planning is in full swing in Dubrovnik; city planners are making strides to limit the frequency of cruise ships, staggering arrivals and departures. All making for a better visitor experience and to preserve this UNESCO treasure for generations to come. 

Dubrovnik is one of the most beautiful cities in Croatia, with its history, culture and historic monuments, obviously one of the best preserved and beautiful cities in the world. Croatia is just waiting for you to amble through its ancient cities, climb winding hillsides and discover small villages rich in history.



About J. Christina:


J. Christina founder at Scribbles and Smiles, travel writer, and hobbyist photographer.  She writes a personal travel blog from North America. Christina (Christie) is married to John, a.k.a. Mr. Christie. Mr. Christie is right on-board with their travel jaunts around the world - sharing in their blogging endeavors. He supports, encourages, handles gadgetry and embraces the role of editor - hence, their bespoke pen name, J. Christina. 

(Walking tour included old Dubrovnik, Rector's Palace, Bell Tower Clock, Orlando's Column and the Sponza Palace). You can find more about this adventure under the Travel Journal tab.


9/26/2018

Undiscovered Gem: Croatia

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What an amazing month-long journey discovering Europe’s unpolished gem, Croatia. Traveling the crossroads of central and southeast Europe, along the Adriatic Sea, exploring and hearing amazing stories of this once war-torn country.  Zigzagging through six great nations plus a very unexpected micro-stop along a tiny sliver of Bosnia and Herzegovina was an unforgettable experience.  As this adventure unfolded, many of you traveled vicariously, enjoying this grand journey right alongside us, sending messages and comments as you perused our postcard images on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.  Thank you for joining this grand journey!  #Croatia #Montenegro #Slovenia #Italy #France #TheNetherlands #BosniaandHerzegovina

This journey began slowing in Amsterdam while revisiting world renowned art museums, touring hidden, off-the-beaten-path museums and gardens, cruising the historic canals and catching trains out of the city.   Then it was time to hopscotch down to Croatia’s Adriatic Coast.  It began in the deep southern tip of Dubrovnik, then migrated northward, logging over 1400 miles, while navigating the most spectacular stretch of coastline in the world, the Dalmatian Coast.  Playing hide-n-seek with the sea on one side and catching a glimpse of the coastal Balkan Mountains soaring in the distance.   

Dubrovnik, Croatia
Traveling to the Republic of Montenegro was a real highlight, heading to the mouth of the beautiful of Bay of Kotor, the longest and deepest fjord in Southern Europe, where sailing by a small boat to the coast of Perast, where Our Lady of the Rocks, was waiting. Our Lady of the Rocks is a manmade island with a Roman Catholic church built by seamen to honor a vision of the Madonna and child. One historic element is the famous votive tapestry, embroidered by Jacinta Kunić-Mijović from Perast. It took her 25 years to finish, while waiting for her husband to return from exotic and faraway places.  Legend weaves a story that she embroidered this iconic piece with gold and silver fibers and finally with strands of her own hair. 
Perast, Montenegro
Continuing on north, the trip went along the spectacular Adriatic coastal highway, past old fishing villages and new resorts, arriving in Split, the second-largest city in Croatia, on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea.  Split is where the remnants of the Diocletian’s Palace still exist, a UNESCO site that honors Split’s Roman heritage.

Then, zigzagging inland reaching the much-anticipated Plitvice Lakes National Park, one of the oldest and largest in Croatia, where 16 terraced lakes flow with natural turquoise water and majestic waterfalls. Hiking the mountainous region is a real challenge on this wet, foggy, and overcast day. 

The Istrian Peninsula is shared by three countries; Croatia, Slovenia and Italy, allowing a smooth segue across the border into tiny Slovenia with ease, the tiny country with “love” in its name. The journey went winding westward along the glistening Istrian Peninsula, stopping at the Bay of Kvarner, near the popular 5-star resort town of Opatija, often referred to as Opatija Riviera for good reason. Truly a magnificent vacation destination created by the Habsburgs and still frequented by the Europeans.   It’s a beautiful town where you can reach out and tickle the azure Adriatic Sea, and enjoy Renaissance, Venetian and Gothic architecture that enriches the town's culture. 

After several hours the Julian Alps are within sight, rising up 2864 meters high at Mt. Triglav, continuing northwest, reaching Bled, Slovenia. Bled Castle dangles precariously high above the lakeshore with magnificent views and reflections in the mirrored lake waters. 

Before leaving Slovenia, visiting Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia is a must-see, where it’s still an undiscovered treasure.  Dragons are a prominent symbol in Slovenia, decorating historic bridges, castles and doorways. Ljubljana’s beauty is often compared to Prague with its eclectic mix of architectural beauty.

After a few nights, sadly, leaving Bled and her stunning scenery behind, making the final push-transitioning south to Trieste, Italy. Trieste is a seaport in northeastern Italy, sitting on a narrow strip of territory between the Adriatic Sea and Slovenia, only 30 km from Croatia border.

Nearing the end of the first 15 days of this three-part adventure, Venice, Italy is on the horizon. There were only a few days in Venice revisiting and strolling the Grand Canal and famous landmarks.  Sadly, saying arrivederci to Venice after a few nights  - pushing-on, making for the finale in Bordeaux, France for the next several days. 

This journey will continue with blog posts and images for the next several days and weeks to come, spotlighting several specific destinations.  It's a magnificent adventure with highlights to share and destinations that some only imagine. Continue your travels here on Scribbles and Smiles, while enjoying traveling through Croatia, a once war-torn country in 1991-1995, find the love in Slovenia and imagine romantic sights in Venice, Italy. 
 
About J. Christina:
J. Christina is founder at Scribbles and Smiles, travel writer, and hobbyist photographer.  She writes a personal travel blog from North America. Christina (Christie) is married to John, a.k.a. Mr. Christie. Mr. Christie is right on-board with their travel jaunts around the world - sharing in their blogging endeavors. He supports, encourages, handles gadgetry and embraces the role of editor - hence, their bespoke pen name, J. Christina.


8/21/2018

Discovering Croatia's Dalmatian Coast

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And we're off! Join our 2018 bespoke journey across six nations, kicking off in handsome Amsterdam, affectionally referred to as the Venice of the North, where we will step into  the world of Vincent van Gogh's art and cruise on  400-year-old historical canals, once again.

Amsterdam 2017
Travel  along with J.Christina by plane, tram,  foot,  private transport, and by European river cruise ship, all-the-while discovering postcard perfect destinations that will linger in your memory forever.
As our adventures unfold, wing on with us, as we  hopscotch  down to Croatia's Dalmatian Coast,
including stops in Montenegro and Slovenia where we will explore the length of this majestic Adriatic Sea coastline. 
Old Town Dubrovnik
Following the mid-segment of this sojourn as we overland along the Pearl of the Adriatic, traveling south to north, where we will cross the finish line into Venice, Italy.  It's a quick stop to regroup, reminisce about Croatia's sights and sounds, while admiring the glories of Venetian architecture while strolling along the Grand Canal.  Sadly, we will say arrivederci to Venice all too soon - pushing-on, making our segue on to Bordeaux, France. 

Join the finale! Come on along and explore with J.Christina in  Bordeaux, France, a city with a 2000-year-old history, often referred to as the "Port of the Moon."  We will celebrate our birthdays and toast our 25th wedding anniversary, while plying the waters of the Dordogne and Garonne rivers, onboard a European river ship.

Arm-in-arm let's complete this final bookend of our month-long journey immersing ourselves in southwest France - one ancient wine village at-a-time. Here we will stroll through picturesque hamlets, admire beautiful medieval villages, taste the terroir, and lunch in historic châteaux. Come on along, travel vicariously  from the luxury of your armchair to places some only glimpse on a postcard.   


Together we will create, capture and record countless shareable moments to last a lifetime. 

About J. Christina:
J. Christina is founder at Scribbles and Smiles, travel writer, hobbyist photographer and often a digital nomad.  Writing a personal travel blog sharing adventures from Europe and beyond. Christina (Christie) is married to John, a.k.a. Mr. Christie. Where Mr. Christie is right onboard with their travel jaunts around the world - sharing in their blogging endeavors. He supports, encourages, handles gadgetry and embraces the role of  editor - hence, their bespoke pen name, J. Christina.

After many years of intrepid travel, they thoughtfully opened their treasure-trove of European travelogues, artfully sharing with a worldwide audience. All-the-while, sharing the joie de vivre through their words and images, so others can travel vicariously. J. Christina believes smiling with your eyes is a beautiful thing.

You can read their most recent dispatches from aboard an elegant European river ship, sharing the allure of Europe’s great rivers and their capital cities. Or, follow them through serendipitous discoveries in the Cote d’Azur, where J. Christina captures the essence of a  perched medieval village. J. Christina’s work has been featured on France Today, Bonjour Paris, The Good Life France, and Perfectly Provence.






 








































6/18/2018

Gorbio: A Perched Medieval Village in the Alpes-Maritimes


Scribbles and Smiles JChristina
JChristina Team                    image credits: JillyBennettPhotograpy
Scribbles and Smiles by J. Christina
                                                         Gorbio, France                                         Photo Credits: Jacques Dufrenoy

Gorbio, France is a perched medieval village, high-up above Menton, in the southeastern corner of the Côte d’Azur. This picturesque village seems to be perched atop a quiet little secret, hence it seems to be forgotten by tourists. As with other historic perched villages, Gorbio has an impressive view, 354 meters high above the Mediterranean Sea. 

On arriving in Gorbio you will see the main square, the Place de la République. It’s a traditional French village square, where people congregate to chat and exchange pleasantries over a café; this is a village where everyone knows everyone else. In this square, history is rich and runs deep, here we find a celebrated 300-year-old elm tree. It was planted in 1713, to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht, returning the County of Nice back to the sovereignty of the Duke of Savoy.

With only 300 residents in the village of Gorbio, and 1000 total in the commune, it is an astonishing community of religious fêtes, festivals and celebrations. One is the Procession aux Limaces (Procession of Slugs), where after the olive harvest, snail shells are filled with olive oil and lit to illuminate the entire village on this night of festivities. It is where villagers celebrate the abundant olive harvest and await the processional through the village, led by the local Priest, all-the-while giving thanks to the Virgin Mary.

Scribbles and Smiles by J. Christina
Streets of Gorbio, France                          Photo  Credits: J. Christina


Gorbio tugs at your heart strings with its stunning views and medieval vaulted passageways that seem to lure you forward, for a closer peek inside. It’s a little storybook village with a beautiful history, lovely people, and the most charming maze of cobblestone lanes, and houses built from iconic stone, all festooned with flowers. Strolling the steep, winding stone paths of Gorbio is an authentic experience. It’s a lived-in village, seemingly unchanged from ancient times, where centuries old buildings and antiquities cascade throughout, i.e., the exotic fountain in the Place de la Mairie, built in 1882, and the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs de la Sainte Croix, built in 1445.

The village has a Michelin rated restaurant, Le Beau Séjour, owned by the Bracco family. The owners have captured the essence of French décor, in a canvas of French grey and linen white, creating a romantic ambience. The food is homemade with locally sourced ingredients, all composed from traditional recipes, such as rabbit, lamb and fish… along with the not-to-be missed apricot pie!


Truth is, there are many scattered hidden treasures along the Cote d’Azur: secluded hideaways, ancient ruins, and villages like Gorbio steeped in history. Discovering places serendipitously is the pleasure of travel.

Transportation: Zest Bus Line:   Bus 7 from Menton – shuttle bus- 22-25 passenger
Restaurant: Le Beau Séjour (cash only-March–October lunch only//July-August lunch & dinner-*closed every Wednesday)


About J. Christina:
J. Christina is founder at Scribbles and Smiles, travel writer, and hobbyist photographer. Writing a personal travel blog from the Midwest. Christina (Christie) is married to John, a.k.a. Mr. Christie. Where Mr. Christie is right on-board with their travel jaunts around the world - sharing in their blogging endeavors. He supports, encourages, handles gadgetry and embraces the role of  editor - hence, their bespoke pen name, J. Christina.

J. Christina’s blogging journey began before the word blog was trending, writing about European travel destinations on share-sites, forums and online journals. After many years of intrepid travel, they thoughtfully opened their treasure-trove of European travelogues, artfully sharing with a worldwide audience. Intentionally sharing the joie de vivre through their words and images, so others can travel vicariously. J. Christina believes smiling with your eyes is a beautiful thing.

You can read their most recent dispatches from aboard an elegant European river ship, sharing the allure of Europe’s great rivers and their capital cities. Or, follow them through serendipitous discoveries in the Cote d’Azur, where J. Christina captures the essence of a perched medieval village.

J. Christina’s work has been featured on France Today, Bonjour Paris, The Good Life France, and Perfectly Provence.

5/30/2018

Treasures of the French Riviera: Musée National Marc Chagall

Treasure of the French Riviera: Musée National Marc Chagall by J. Christina appeared on the digital magazine Perfectly Provence on May 30, 2018.   Perfectly Provence is a digital lifestyle and Mediterranean magazine for locals and visitors - focused exclusively on the South of France.  Please enjoy our post below. 

Situated on the south east coast of the French Riviera, Nice, France hardly needs an introduction as one of the most beautiful and sophisticated regions in the world. Nice is the second-largest city in the Provence-Alpes Cote d’Azur - often referred to as the Queen of the French Riviera. Whether you call it the Côte d’Azur or the French Riviera, this is a prime location for discovering historical  art and cultural highlights.

Artistic treasures and gems are bountiful in Nice. Many discreetly tucked away in peaceful gardens, up craggy hillsides, and even atop ancient ruins. Others scattered along the Mediterranean seascape. One remarkable treasure, perched high above Nice is Cimiez Hill.  From this extraordinary vantage point, Nice offers cityscape views where the azure Mediterranean Sea beckons you to explore more of the jewels in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur province.
Scribbles and Smiles J. Christina
At the foot of Cimiez Hill is the Musée National Marc Chagall, opening its doors to honor the talents and philanthropic generosity of this great Franco-Russian artist.  It is an extraordinary art museum that is the benefactor of the largest public collection of Chagall’s works, including seventeen masterpieces entitled, The Biblical Message.  In 1966, Marc Chagall originally donated the Biblical Message series to the French State, first being exhibited at the Louvre in Paris, and eventually making its permanent home in the upper-class neighborhood on Cimiez Hill in Nice.

With the collaboration of Marc Chagall, the museum’s architectural design includes a large airy, polygon shaped room, which exhibits the first of twelve biblical message interpretations – all edifying the first two books of the Old Testament: Genesis and Exodus.  The remaining five wall-size paintings – The Song of Songs explodes in fiery reds, telling the story of Solomon. All seventeen masterpieces render powerful spiritual and religious stories all told through Marc Chagall’s artistic color, passion, and whimsical symbols.  
Scribbles and Smiles by J. Christina
Abraham and the Three Angels

Follow link for additional Biblical Message images
The Musée Marc Chagall is a must see with its peaceful and light filled environment, and enriching art, all defined by his own imaginative style. The Musée contains decades of Chagall’s artistic career as he continued to work up to his death in March 28, 1985, in nearby Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France where he is buried.
The French Riviera is just waiting for you to amble through its winding hillsides, discover small villages, and climb its hilltops to discover a treasure-trove of artistic treasures.

Museum Access Details


Musée National Marc Chagall (website)
36 Avenue Dr Ménard,
06000 Nice, France
Tel: +33 (0)4 93 53 87 20
Transportation: Bus #15 or #22/ 1.50€
Entrance fee: 10€
Closed Tuesdays

About J. Christina:

J. Christina is founder at Scribbles and Smiles, travel writer, and hobbyist photographer. Christina (Christie) is married to John, a.k.a. Mr. Christie. Where Mr. Christie is right on-board with their travel jaunts around the world - sharing in their blogging endeavors. He supports, encourages, handles gadgetry and embraces the role as editor - hence, their bespoke pen name, J. Christina.

After many years of intrepid travel, they thoughtfully opened their treasure-trove of European travelogues, artfully sharing with a worldwide audience. Intentionally sharing the joie de vivre through their words and images, so others can travel vicariously. J. Christina believes smiling with your eyes is a beautiful thing.

Follow Scribbles and Smiles recent posts on Access Riviera,  Perfectly Provence  France Today, Bonjour Paris, The Good Life France, and  often from onboard an elegant European river ship - sharing the allure of Europe’s great rivers. Or, follow them on their journeys via Instagram.