Friday, November 30, 2018

Thailand's ancient capital of Ayutthaya: A great place to "Thai" one on

Three Wats in Ayutthaya, Thailand, the country's ancient capital
   (Courtesy: Tourist Authority of Thailand)
AYUTTHAYA, THAILAND – Once known as Siam, today it is called Thailand, a mysterious, exotic and colorful destination filled with floating markets, saffron robes and massive Buddha statues. Welcome to a land of wats, chedis, pagodas and stupas

To the people of Thailand, the ancient city of Ayutthaya has long been the spiritual heart of the nation. Here visitors discover the greatest treasures of the kingdom where they are able to connect with the past and better understand Thailand's heritage. Simply put, these are the "Thais that bind." 

Sitting Buddhas at Ayutthaya
 Tourist Authority of Thailand)
Located just over 50 miles from Bangkok, travelers can access Ayutthaya by train, car or taxi but another pleasant method is by boat along the Chao Phraya River.

Here riverboats glide silently along Thailand's interstate waterway with its impressinve picturesque temples dotting the shoreline.

Founded in 1350, Ayutthaya was the second major capital of Siam (Sukhothai being the first). During its five centuries of dominance, Ayutthaya was regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the world until it was ransacked by the Burmese in the 18th century.

Early center of Thai commerce
Tourist Authority of Thailand)
As a center of commerce, Ayutthaya attracted trade from Europe as well as Asia. Traders went in search of luxurious materials and Thai rice which, at the time, was recognized as the ultimate commodity of its type in a category all its own much like the standards set by Beluga caviar and Dom Perignon champagne today.

Thanks to its strategic geographical position, Ayutthaya flourished as and island surrounded by three rivers that linked it to the Gulf of Thailand. Accessibility from the outside world was critical to Ayutthaya's prosperity with the seafaring explorations of the Portuguese being the first traders to arrive in the 16th century.

UNESCO World Heritage Site --1991 Wat-Yai-Chai-Mongkhon 
(Courtesy: Tourism Authority of Thailand)
Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, Ayutthaya, with its close proximity to Bangkok, is an ideal place for a day trip.

Among the most popular, and best preserved, temples in Ayutthaya is Wat Yai Chai Mongkon. At just over 200 feet in height, it is possible to climb the steps to the base of the chedi to get stunning views of the city.

Reclining Buddha - Wat Yai
Chai Mongkon (Courtesy:
Tourist Authority of Thailand)
Here you will encounter row upon row of Buddha images done in the Sukothai style. Wat Yai Chai Mongkon gets its importance in Thai Buddhism because it was the monastery of the monks who journeyed to Ceylon to study.

Note that chedi and stupa, are used interchangeably to denote a mound-like structure used as a place of meditation containing relics that typically contain remains of Buddhist monks or nuns.

A Buddha's pose is important
(Courtesy: Tourist Authority of Thailand)
Though generally unfamiliar to visitors, especially from the West, Buddhas are typically posed in either a sitting or a reclining position. Look closely however, for it is the poses and gestures of the statues that give them their significance.

Each mudra or "pose" represents a particular event in the life of the Buddha with five specific depictions being among the most common.
Buddha's final hours
Tourism Authority of Thailand)

Often travelers will encounter a "reclining Buddha" which is another mudra representing Buddha during his last hours signifying his tranquility and detachment from worldly desires before passing to Nirvana. As with other Buddhas, a reclining Buddha, though more rare than its sitting counterpart, also featuresspecific gestures and poses that are meaningful.

A great example of a reclining Buddha in  Ayutthaya is Wat Lokayasutharam. This huge 137-foot stone image is unusual because its head perches on a lotus leaf rather than her hand or a pillow.

The word wat basically translates to "Buddhist or Hindu temple" in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. In this case, the Wat Lokayasutharam complex today is more of a ruin than a temple with the exception of the remaining Buddha. Even so, the sheer size of the Buddha is well worth a visit.

Wat-Chaiwatthanaram was the site of royal ceremonies
(Courtesy: Tourism Authority of Thailand)
Among the most famous temples at Ayutthaya is Wat Chaiwatthanaram where royal ceremonies were carried out by the kings.

King Naresuan the Great (1555 –1605), one of Thailand’s best loved monarchs, helped free Ayutthaya from the Burmese. Here he is depicted astride a horse with a base that highlights his accomplishments including an image where the king wrestles a crocodile.

Plenty of souvenirs
Tourist Authority of Thailand)
As visitors stroll through the alluring grounds of Ayutthaya, they often notice numerous roosters scattered throughout the park. Legend has it that Naresuan gambled his freedom with a Burmese prince on a cockfight during the time when he was held captive by his arch enemy. In tribute, visitors frequently leave model roosters at various temples throughout Ayutthaya as offerings of thanks.

Though badly damaged in 1767 after the fall of Ayutthaya, Wat Phra Sri Sanphet still represents the largest and most grand of the ancient city's temples. So legendary was its beauty that it became the model for the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok.

Wat Maha That is the most photographed Buddha at Ayutthaya
(Courtesy: Tourist Authority of Thailand)
Finally, there is little doubt that the most famous, and most photographed, Buddha image is Wat Maha That in which a carved Buddha head has become enshrined within the trunk of Bhodi tree as an  eternal tribute to its surroundings.

Living proof that a visit to Ayutthaya, Thailand is a place where "its 'bark' is worth its bite."

Friday, November 23, 2018

Thanksgiving spirit lives amid the rages of World War II in Angoville, France

Tiny church in Angoville, France became a hospital during WWII
Angoville Church is a unique memorial to the living and lives saved rather than lost (Photo:
ANGOVILLE, FRANCE — On Thanksgiving weekend, here is a World War II story from France that reaches into the soul to express what our American holiday is all about.

In a small church, less than an hour's drive from the site of the largest amphibious invasion in history, two medics braved the horrors of war in the hamlet of Angoville, France to save the lives of nearly 80 American and German soldiers in June of 1944.
Les-gougins-Manche-La-Dune-de-Sainte-Marcouf  near Agonville in June, 1944 (Courtesy:
Normandy is a region dotted with literally thousands of personal vignettes of survival, courage and sacrifice that ironically demonstrate the goodness of man even when surrounded by violence and bloodshed.

(Travelers planning a visit to Normandy will find a wealth of information regarding D-Day sites, gardens, chateaux and more at the comprehensive We Love Normandywebsite.)

Utah was one of five D-Day
beaches (Photo: Taylor)
Situated just north of Utah Beach, the village of Angoville-au-Plain is so small it doesn't even rate a place on most maps. For most visitors to Utah Beach today the church still remains relatively unknown. Yet here, in the dawn of June 6, 1944, it became a larger than life story of bravery and dedication by two young soldiers during an intense battle to destroy the strategic German military route between Cherbourg and Paris.

Medics Robert Wright and Kenneth Moore saved 80 lives during
the D-Day invasion (Courtesy: Rockville Citizen)
Kenneth Moore and Robert Wright, both medics with the 101st Airborne Division that had parachuted behind Utah Beach, set up a makeshift hospital in the 11th century Angoville Church to provide medical care for 80 Allied and German troops and one child during the fighting.

Surrounded by the infamous bocage or "hedgerows" which greatly slowed Allied progress to the interior, Angoville found itself in the center of intense fighting.

The two docs
searched for wounded
For three days, the two doctors braved open countryside in search for the injured. Each soldier who was found was taken back to the church and given medical attention. With only the pews of the church available to serve as operation tables, the pair of medics provided care for soldiers from both sides with one stipulation, no weapons could enter the church.

Thus what was usually a sanctuary for reflection became a "sanctuary of life."

Kenneth Moore later vividly described the events of the first evening:

“By the evening we had 75 of them (wounded personnel and one local infant, in the church). Our own folk had come to tell us that they could not stay any longer.  So we were left with the wounded. A German Officer soon arrived and asked if I could tend to his wounded too.  We accepted. During the night the churchyard was the scene of another battle. 

"Two of our casualties died. But among those I could tend, none lost their lives. I tended all sorts of wounds, some were skin deep but others were more serious abdominal cases.”

Despite the onslaught, the brave, determined young medics tirelessly continued their mission, working day and night to save the lives of the fallen soldiers.

Interior of the Agonville church
(Courtesy: Normandy Excursions and Tours) 
In one instance, German troops forced their way into the church, but quickly withdrew when they realized that injured soldiers from both sides were being treated. As the Germans departed, they placed a flag upon the church door. It was the Red Cross flag; the international symbol of medical aid.

Mortar shell came through the
roof   (Courtesy:
Even after a mortar shell crashed through the ceiling, cracking the floor below, the surgeons continued to pursue their efforts.
Fortunately the shell did not explode, although it did cause some further minor injuries.

Shockingly, two German soldiers who had been hiding in the church belfry, gave themselves up to the doctors on June 7th.

Bloodstained pews are permanent reminders of the temporary Angoville hospital  (Courtesy:
The scars of the three bittersweet days still linger in the Angoville Church. Not in graves or memorials, but in the bloodstained pews that are a permanent reminder of what occurred there in June, 1944.

Stained glass
(Photo: Sheryl

Inside the church, commemorative stained glass windows have been installed to honor the two medics and the 101st Airborne Division parachutists.

The events of those three days had such an emotional impact on the life of Robert Wright, that he requested to be buried in the small cemetery beside the church.

Bureaucracy raised its ugly head at Wright's request making it almost impossible to honor his wishes.

In the end however, the doctor prevailed. 

Some of his ashes were smuggled into France and buried in the churchyard at the site of the unofficial headstone which simply reads "R.E.W." Wright's initials.

Marker honors Robert Wright
Just outside the church, across the road, stands a memorial. As in so many villages and towns throughout Normandy two flags eternally wave in the coastal breezes; one is French, the other American.

What is so profound about this particular memorial that makes it different from most of the others is that it is not etched with a list of the dead.

Rather, this is a memorial to the living; a celebration of lives saved rather than lost.

French and American flags pay tribute to the heroism of Robert
Wright and Kenneth Moore  (Courtesy: Nrmandy Then and Now)

It all happened in an obscure little village tucked within  serpentine country roads and the rural landscapes of Normandy. A place known as Angoville-au-Plain.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Cooking school at Hacienda Petac is a recipe for good taste

Hacienda Petac outside Merida, Mexico offers exquisite culinary delights  (Courtesy: Hacienda Petac)
Merida, MexicoHacienda Petac is an elegant private estate situated just 30 minutes from Merida in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and light years away from Taco Bell.

Hacienda Petac has built its reputation as a food lovers dream destination thanks to hands-on cooking classes conducted in  its state-of-the-art kitchen.

Breakfast in bed
(Courtesy: Hacienda Petac)
But that's only half of the story, because without the regular excursions to nearby markets to shop for ingredients, it would be impossible to work the culinary magic of the destination.

So popular has Hacienda Petac become that notable chefs are now creating tour packages for small groups wishing to immerse themselves in the fascinating world of Yucatan cuisine.
Chic accommodations and tranquil surroundings are a trademark
(Courtesy: Hacienda Petac)
Rounding out the experience by not allowing "too many cooks to spoil the broth", visitors also have an opportunity to tour the Mayan ruins at Uxmal, enjoy a picnic at a hacienda museum, explore the wonders of Merida and swim in one of the region's numerous cenotes.

A cenote is a natural pit or sinkhole resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes the groundwater beneath. The pools are particularly common in the Yucatan region where they had important religious significance for the ancient Maya civilizations.

Fine dining is the standard
(Courtesy: Hacienda Petac)
Incorporating flexible concepts to adapt to the needs of virtually any touristic lifestyle, Hacienda Petac can arrange all-inclusive packages for foodies who wish to organize their own small groups that include accommodations, cooking classes, drink demonstrations, market tours and much more. In addition, the resort staff provides first rate service with personal attention to every need.

Singles or couples need not miss out either. Hacienda Petac offers a selection of 6-night travel programs through several tour operators that include their cooking immersion classes as well as excursions.

Cooking at Hacienda Petac is a hands-on experience
(Courtesy: Hacienda Petac)
Tour de Forks will feature Michelin-starred celebrity chef Anita Lo with February dates called "Cooking in the Yucatan." Says Lo “Travel is one of the most obvious ways to expand your palate and integrate new flavors into your cooking.”

If there are too many things on your plate in February, Edible Destinations has year-round itineraries where guests can digest the region's best recipes in hands-on side-by-side classes conducted by gifted Mayan chefs.

Chorizo burrito
(Courtesy: Hacienda Petac)
All it requires is an adventurous spirit and a "taste" for travel.

The masterfully restored Spanish colonial estate of Hacienda Petac nestles on 250 protected acres with a capacity for only 14 guests. Better yet, it can only be booked by one group at a time, ensuring the fact that when you stay at  400-year-old property you have the whole place to yourself.

Each of the seven bedrooms is spacious and elegant
(Courtesy: Hacienda Petac)
Seven spacious bedrooms, housed in three separate buildings, are beautifully appointed with soaring ceilings and oversized showers and tubs designed from polished native stone.

Other amenities include a heated pool, spa, gym, game room, media salon and a chapel available for weddings.
Bright colors add to the magic
(Courtesy: Hacienda Petac)

Throughout the villa, walls have been painted in richly pigmented hues of ochre and cornflower blue using traditional methods. Handcrafted textiles and antiques mixed with modern furniture lend warmth and authentic charm.

The heart of the property is Casa Principal, home to the dining room, bar, library and several shady terraces which are crisscrossed with trails that are ideal for bird-watching and leisurely strolls.

Mayan ruins are a favorite day trip from the resort
(Courtesy: Hacienda Petac)
Off grounds tours include Mayan temples and ruins, a wetlands reserve with a flamingo colony, the colonial city of Merida and, of course, the talcum powder sand beaches of the Gulf Coast.

Swim in a cenote, a sinkhole created by limestone bedrock
(Courtesy: Hacienda Petac) 
Located just a half-hour's drive from Merida Intenational Airport, four major airlines provide service to the area; Aeromexico, American, United and Westjet from Canada.

Hacienda Petac can also provide transfers from Cancun for an additional fee.

The bird dock at Hacienda Petac at sunset awaits a new day
(Courtesy: Hacienda Petac)
For the ultimate escape, filled with the luxurious solitude of living in a private estate where you and the staff are the only humans in a pristine wilderness, it might just be worth your while to see what's cooking at Hacienda Petac.

After a visit to Hacienda Petac you're sure to come a way with new knowledge of what constitutes "good taste" Yucatan-style.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Reflections of World War I at the In Flanders Field Museum

Devastation of Flanders during World War I
(Courtesy: Imperial War Museum)

YPRES, BELGIUM -- For the Baby Boom generation and younger, the First World War is, in many ways, a ghost of the past because World War II dominates with reflections of parents and grandparents who fought so valiantly to preserve our liberty and freedom in the 1940's.

All the more reason the In Flanders Fields Museum in Belgium is a permanent reminder that we should never forget the tragedy of "The Great War."

Cloth Hall as it looks today
Located in the renovated historic Cloth Hall of Ypres (pronounced "ee-per"), the In Flanders Fields Museum tells the dramatic, heartbreaking story of World War I in the West Flanders region of the country.

In Flanders Fields Museum is a reverent place. Like similar sites such as the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, it is a place of solitude, a place of peace, a place of quiet, a place where visitors pause to solemnly consider the echoes of conflict a century ago.

Cloth Hall during WWI
(Courtesy: In Flanders Fields

The death and destruction of the "Great War" still linger 100 years later. Here more than 600,000 fell. Here more than 425,000 graves and names etched on memorials that dot the landscape trace the horrors and devastation of human insanity.

Each museum visitor receives a "Poppy Bracelet" as they enter. Poppies are the symbol of the WWI conflict in Flanders, northwest France and Gallipoli where constant bombardment disturbed the soil and brought the seeds to the surface.

Fertilized by the nitrogen in the explosives and the lime from the rubble of destroyed buildings, combined with the blood and bones of millions of men, horses, donkeys, dogs and other animals, the soil where they died became a place where poppies thrived.

Exterior of the In Flanders Fields Museum  (Photo: Taylor)

The bracelets activate a chip which selects the appropriate language for each visitor, relating the personal stories of four individuals who dramatically tell their tales in vivid video detail. It is perhaps the simplicity of their narratives that is so mesmerizing.

Each narrator stands alone with a neutral background as they describe the personal intimate details of their experiences. There is no music. No fast editing. No computer gimmicks. Only the solemn remembrances of four people who enter the frame, then softly, almost painfully, relate their accounts before disappearing silently into the darkness.

Artillery shells and other weapons are on display
(Courtesy: In Flanders Fields Museum)
The exhibition focuses upon the invasion of Belgium, the first weeks of mobilization, the four horrifying years of trench warfare, the end of the war and the permanent remembrances since.

Trecnhes at Hill 62
(Photo: Taylor)
It is the intent of the In Flanders Fields Museum to encourage visitors to view the actual sites themselves. Places like Sanctuary Wood Museum Hill 62 where guests can walk through trenches that remain in the Belgian countryside. Places like Essex Farm and Canadian Hill 62 Memorial where a sculpture of a brooding soldier looks down upon landscape architecture designed to recreate the first use of gas warfare in combat.

The city of Ypres, officially known as "Ieper" in Flemish, was completely leveled during the war and then rebuilt stone by stone afterwards. Thus no building in the city today is more than 90 years old, though they have been lovingly restored to their original appearance.

Visitors are always reverent, silent and in awe of the displays
(Courtesy: In Flanders Fields Museum)
One of the more dramatic displays in the In Flanders Fields Museum is a diorama that incorporates moving colored lights to highlight troop movements and battles in the region.

Appearing as amoeba-like blobs of light shaded to represent the combatants and their movements, the lights glide across the 3-dimensional exhibit, combining into larger bubbles of light or dividing into smaller ones.

Mounds of mud were home
(Courtesy: In Flanders Fields
In the end, the most telling aspect of the exhibition is the futility of the conflict where one side pushes while the other retreats and vice-versa in a perpetual tug-o-war of death.

The In Flanders Fields Museum is much more than a reflection upon the past, however. It is designed as a personal cultural and artistic representation that conveys a  universal contemporary message of peace.

Ypres, in fact, is known as the "City of Peace" for obvious reasons. As the museum reminds us, the "nature of war does not change in time."

The Bell Tower is now open
(Courtesy: In Flanders Fields
Until recently the Cloth Hall Bell Tower had been closed to visitors, but has now been re-opened as part of the tour of the refurbished museum. Be warned, there is no elevator, so guests must climb 231 steps to reach the top.

If successful however, they are rewarded with       a high-angle view of the many of the Ypres Salient battlefields that dot the landscape.

In military terms, a "salient" is a battlefield feature that projects into an opponent's territory.

Cutaway 3-dimensional model of battlefields and bunkers
(Courtesy: In Flanders Fields Museum)
The Ypres Salient was formed by British, French, Canadian and Belgian troops in a defensive effort to halt the German incursion in 1914. Surrounded on three sides by German soldiers, the allied troops occupying the salient were vulnerable to attack.

Museum hours vary according to season. Winter hours from mid-November through the end of March and Sundays are from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Between April 1 and November 15 closing time is an hour later at 6 p.m. There are also holidays when the museum is closed; December 24-25, December 31-January 1 and January 7-21, 2019.

Admission for adults is 9 Euros, visitors 18 to 25 pay 5 Euros, ages 7 to 18 are admitted 4 Euros and under 7 get in free. There are also group rates for a minimum of 15 guests but they must be booked in advance.

Washing up in a trench was part of the daily routine
(Courtesy: Saskatchewan Military Museum)
In Flanders Fields Museum is a great place to begin an understanding of the Baby Boomers "forgotten war." Once there it will be forgotten no longer, for it is a visit that will be forever etched in your memory.

Friday, November 2, 2018

On the high seas to every continent with Silversea Cruises in 2020

See the world as never before with Silversea's "Legends of Cruising" in 2020  (Courtesy: Silversea Cruises)

CHARLOTTE, NC Silversea Cruises will embark on one of the most ambitious world cruises in history at the beginning of 2020 when it will become the first passenger shipping line to visit all seven continents.
Silversea Whisper will be refurbished and ready to sail the world
(Coourtesy: Silversea Cruises)
Along the way, Silversea Whisper, which will undergo major renovations for the journey, will dock in 62 ports in 32 countries in 140 days. With the starting fare at $62,000 and rising to a quarter of a million dollars for the best rooms on the ship, the "Legends of Cruising" itinerary will be among the most luxurious adventures of its kind.

Last week we reviewed the first four segments of the cruise (segments are not as yet being sold, leaving five legs to highlight for modern-day Magellans seeking to circumnavigate the planet.
Sydney Opera House
We begin with Stage Five in Sydney, Australia bound for Singapore. Sydney Harbor with its world famous white shelled Opera House is always abuzz with activity where thousands of yachts glide silently over deep blue waters. Blessed with dazzling beaches, a sunny climate and friendly people, Sydney is a great place to embark on a sea-going adventure.

Balinese dancer
(Photo: Taylor)
Bali, the only non-Muslim island in Indonesia, is a great place to "eat, pray and love" amid a myriad of pristine beaches, terraced rice fields and gorgeous dive sites. There are seemingly more temples than people filled with traditional dancing, rituals and local crafts. It's more than enough to give you a "Bali High."

Not far away is Java and the ancient city of Semarang, one of Indonesia's oldest towns. In 1677, it became the headquarters and the seat of the Dutch governor of the northeast provinces. Semarang's usefulness as a port waned due to the gradual silting up of the harbor and, by the 19th century, Surabaya had eclipsed Semarang as Java's premier port.

The harbor in Singapore is alive with color and activity
(Courtesy: Silversea Cruises)
Shaped like a flattened diamond, Singapore is just 26 miles east to west and 14 miles from north to south. Near the northern peak is the causeway leading to West Malaysia—Kuala Lumpur is less than four hours away by car. At the southern foot of Singapore is where you'll find most of the city-state’s action with its futuristic solar-powered "supertrees," that serve as vertical gardens.

Segment Six of this deluxe sailing travels from Singapore to Mumbai, India with visits to Thailand, Sri Lanka and Cochin, India among other ports of call.

Phuket is a favorite destination for visitors to Thailand
(Courtesy: Silversea Cruises)
Phuket is one of the region's economic powerhouse with more than 6 million annual visitors. If you've never been to Phuket, you will likely love it, however returning visitors are discovering a new island that eagerly greets the next wave of tourism. Koh Phuket is linked to the mainland by a causeway, and the rest of the world by an international airport.

Sri Lanka's capital and largest city, Colombo is a microcosm of the island nation with fine restaurants, lively nightlife, good museums and beautiful Buddhist temples. The beach resort of Mt. Lavinia is only a short taxi ride from  downtown and offers a golden, sandy beach with breathtaking sunsets. By the way, there's no need to  look for a little detective with a slovenly raincoat, this Colombo has an identity all its own.

Typical daily street scene in India (Photo: Taylor)
If you're a "people person" India is the place for you. Once known as Bombay until 1995, Mumbai  encapsulates the dynamic, chaotic parts that make up modern India.

Here you'll find everything from succulent street food to haute cuisine, bargain-basement bazaars to the finest haute couture, humbling poverty to staggering wealth, sacred temples to hedonist nightclubs and, of course, people, people and more people.
Roadside barber shop in India
(Photo: Taylor)
Mumbai is India—vibrant, hectic, frustrating, enervating, and exhilarating. It is a city of extremes, described perfectly by the title of the popular film Slumdog Millionaire.  

Segment Seven of Silversea Whisper's elegant world cruise is transitional as the ship begins to sail into more familiar destinations en route to the Civitavecchia, better known to most of us as Rome.

On the way, the lush landscape around Salalah is the intriguing result of a quirk of nature that is uniquely situated in the path of the Khareef or South Western Monsoon. Covered in fine mist this portion of the Dhofar Coast receives frequent rain from mid-June through mid-September. When the monsoons cease, the entire coastline is a verdant stretch of waterfalls, rolling grasslands, and thickly wooded wadis (riverbeds) thriving beside rapid mountain streams.
Oval Forum in Jerash, Jordan

Today, Aqaba is a resort town on the Red Sea, but in the movie Lawrence of Arabia it was a strategic military location in Jordan. Over time it has built a reputation for being one of the best sites for snorkeling in the world.

Travelers doing the entire cruise will also transit the Suez Canal as well as the Panama Canal.

The Suez Canal opened under French Control on 17 November 1869, establishing a gateway from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea that enhanced the colonization of Africa for the next 50 years as well as facilitating World Commerce.
Taormina's ancient Greek theater is still active today
(Photo: Taylor)
The medieval cliff-hanging town of Taormina in Sicily has natural beauty that is difficult to dispute. The views of the sea and nearby active volcano, Mt. Etna, are panoramic  perfection. Writers including Goethe and D.H. Lawrence have extolled Taormina's beauty almost since it was founded by the Greeks in the 6th century BC.
Kissing the Blarney Stone
(Photo: Taylor)
This leg ends in Rome before embarking on Segment Eight on the way to Dublin, Ireland.

One way or another Barcelona's infinite variety of street life with its nooks and crannies of the medieval Barri Gòtic, the ceramic tile and stained glass of Art Nouveau facades, its music and food will find a way to grab your  attention. The capital of Catalonia is a banquet for the senses, with a beguiling mix of ancient and modern architecture, tempting cafés and markets and sun-drenched Mediterranean beaches.

Travel like the locals on the little yellow trams in Lisbon
(Photo: Taylor)
Rome isn't the only European city with seven hills, Lisbon, Portugal lays claim to the same number. In the oldest neighborhoods, stepped alleys whose street pattern dates to Moorish times are lined with pastel-colored houses decked with laundry. Here and there, miradouros (vantage points) afford spectacular river or city views while grand 18th-century black-and-white mosaic cobblestone sidewalks border wide boulevards.
Gorgeous Irish wilderness
(Courtesy: Silversea Cruises)
The grand seven continent adventure concludes by sailing from Dublin to Amsterdam with a visit to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Since hostilities have ceased in the north, this part of the island has witnessed rapid popularity for tourists. With the Titanic Museum, Giant's Causeway and world renowned linens, Belfast has become a major player on the world stage of wanderlust.

With its quaint pastel wood houses, historic wharf, winding cobblestone streets and Hanseatic relics, many visitors fall in love with Bergen, Norway's second-largest city. It doesn't  hurt that Bergen is the gateway to Norway's majestic fjords either.

Norway's Flam Railway is a
must-do excursion
(Courtesy: Silversea Cruises)
In addition, one of the most scenic train routes in Europe, the Flåm Railway, chugs high into the mountains in this region between the towns of Myrdal and Flåm.

Yet another seven hill city is Edinburgh, Scotland for which Charlotte Bronte once wrote, "Edinburgh is to London as poetry is to prose." Edinburgh is one of the world's stateliest cities and proudest capitals, making it a striking backdrop for the ancient pageant of history which exists in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle as it peers down upon Prince's Street and the famed Royal Mile.

Edinburgh's castle dominates the city  (Courtesy: Silversea Cruises)
The final port of call is Amsterdam with its 17th-century Golden Age city center and remarkably laid-back atmosphere. Built on a latticework of concentric canals like an aquatic rainbow, Amsterdam, like Venice, is also known as the City of Canal. Amsterdam however, is content to live within its own moonlight serenades and its former glory.

Amsterdam is a great place to finish the round the world cruise
(Courtesy: Silversea Cruises)
There you have it, 140 days to every continent on the globe.
Time to start saving your money. There's still more than a year before you sail and Bon Voyage!