Gdansk Poland

Gdańsk, Poland today is a busy tourist destination: near a beach, low cost for its euro zone neighbors, filled with good restaurants, great museums and a casino or two. In August the main streets of Gdańsk were filled with people celebrating an end to Covid-19 restrictions.

When I arrived bands were playing from city hall steps. Teenage vendors were selling balloons tiny kids “had to have.” Long lines were found at every window where ice cream was sold. It wasn’t always like this.

Balloons, beautiful buildings and a sunny evening.

World War 2 began here on September 1, 1939. Germany’s first invasion was an effort to reclaim territory it had lost at the end of World War 1. Gdańsk then was the German city called Danzig.

One of a great many reconstructed buildings in Gdansk.

Before the war ended most of Danzig/Gdańsk was completely destroyed. But here, as in other places in Poland, something amazing happened. In the years after the war ended in 1945, Gdańsk was rebuilt. I’ve learned that the city leaders decided to duplicate the buildings that had been lost. It was a wise decision.

Re-built and newly built Gdansk

Under the thumb of the Soviet Union, in post-war poverty, the new city duplicated the pre-war Hanseatic League city. The replacement buildings give every indication of having been built in the 17th century, not the 20th. They are narrow and 5-stories-tall. On the main streets of the city center apartment homes rise above commercial spaces. The ancient city hall was rebuilt. The famous, enormous brick basilica was rebuilt. The city gates were rebuilt. And every one of the reconstructed buildings is a true copy of those that were destroyed.

Every war-damaged building has not been replaced yet.

Being in modern Gdansk is walking through a minor miracle. I’m looking forward to returning.

And smarty-pants teenagers on the streets!

San Francisco

Yesterday while I was touring Cyprus with a new friend who is my tour guide here I mentioned having gone to San Francisco recently.  Surprisingly, she told me she had also lived there and we had fun remembering places we both knew.

I moved to San Francisco in 1974. I’ve never liked any place more. With a couple of brief exceptions, I had not been back there since I left in 1980. My “slow travel” journey for 2021-22 began there. AirBnB enabled me to find a good place to stay for a month at a reasonable cost.

More than anything else, discovering how little the city has changed in 40 years was a joy to me. I celebrated my birthday in my favorite restaurant. I had a beer in the same bar where my friends and I met after work on Fridays. In the first few days I took pictures of the places where my son and I had lived. I remembered street names and bus routes. It was fun to return to Golden Gate Park and North Beach and Chinatown and Haight-Ashbury. When I lived there I couldn’t really afford to shop in the fine department stores but I loved browsing in them. They are all gone now but the buildings they inhabited are still serving customers. One of the best days in the month I was there was discovering that the old City of Paris department store is now located inside Niemann-Marcus, with the glass dome intact. Every day was a good day!

Covid was continuing to keep people from going to their offices and other workplaces when I arrived on June 1st.  The streets were empty then but by the end of the month there was more traffic. Cable cars weren’t running while I was there but the bus and trolley system was serving the public as it always has. I was tickled by how many street names and bus route numbers popped into my head!

Going to San Francisco was the best gift I could have given myself.  I’m happy to share it with you in the few pictures posted below. If you want to see more, tell me in the comments section what you’d like to see. If I have a picture of it, I’ll post it or send it to you. If you ever lived in San Francisco, please write a note about your best memories in the space below.


Union Square in the shopping district.
China Town and North Beach are near neighbors, and the Transamerica Pyramid is not far away.
A view of Fishermen’s Wharf.
Since my time there the Ferry Building has been restored.
It hosts many retail shops and outdoor markets on weekends.
Dolores Park, in the Mission District and near Mission Dolores,
gathers crowds of players and picnickers on warm weekends.
After the picnic there’s great ice cream nearby.
San Francisco is famous for its colorful Victorian homes.
This is one of the best, found in Noe Valley.
I loved the mix of old and new buildings in the Financial District.

A New Orleans Weekend

For the Memorial Day weekend last year my brother Joe and his wife Susan and I met in New Orleans. It was one of the few important American cities I had never visited and I really looked forward to going there. It was not disappointing! We stayed in an AirBnB on a street of the narrow houses that New Orleans is famous for. The houses on this street looked like they had all been renovated since Hurricane Katrina created so much damage there nearly 20 years ago. Here are a few photos I snapped.

Here’s the famous church that’s the center of every visitor’s New Orleans.
We boarded a hop on/hop off bus here and toured much of the city.
We left the bus in the Garden District and
enjoyed walking past the old mansions there.
We walked all around the French Quarter on the second day.
There were too many cars, parked and trying to park, but we enjoyed seeing the colorful homes.
The best part of the trip was finding this small jazz band and the singer who led them on the street on Sunday afternoon. They were great!
We found Preservatio Hall but it was still closed
due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
We went to the enormous City Park where we enjoyed a break with strong coffee and beignets which are famous New Orleans pastries, similar to doughnuts.
Our last stop was at the Botanical Garden in the enormous City Park.

It was a fun trip, and a good way to begin my very long journey to many places I’ve wanted to see. I hope you’ll return. Next I’ll tell you about my month in San Francisco.


My Temporary Home in Larnaca

Although I intended to tell you the story of my journey in chronological order, my walk in Larnaca, Cyprus this morning convinced me to begin my story here. Maybe by tomorrow I’ll write about New Orleans, the first stop on the tour.

Cyprus is a small island, only 150 miles long and about 60 miles from top to bottom. That small space has been divided into two countries since a civil war and a Turkish invasion in 1974. The “green line” monitored closely by the United Nations divides the island horizontally. The lower half is mostly occupied by Greek-speaking Christians; the upper half by Turkish-speaking Muslims. The capital city, Nicosia, is divided. To enter northern Nicosia from the south it’s necessary to pass through two checkpoints, show a passport and proof of anti-Covid vaccination. It’s literally walking from one country into another one.

Larnaca is located on a huge bay on the southern shore of the island. The street behind the mile long beach is called (in Greek) “little palm tree street.” As one book says, the palms were very small when planted in the 1920s; today they are quite tall.  I’ll devote another blog post to telling you about the beach area. For today I just want to set the scene of my two and a half months in Larnaca.

My AirBnB apartment is about three short blocks from the beach.  It’s located just one building off Ermou street, the principal street in this section of the city. The best restaurants and most upscale shops in Larnaca are on Ermou Street. I really like my one-bedroom apartment. It’s in a 4-story building owned by a family. Theodora, the owners’ daughter, manages it now and does a fine job. She has been very helpful to me, giving me information and, on two occasions, driving me to the Lidl store a couple of miles away. Buying groceries was my primary challenge in the first month I was here. Now, in the second month, I’ve discovered two small shops selling groceries that I walk to carrying my orange English supermarket bag.

The Cypriot people are friendly. Because in the first 60 years of the 20th century this island was controlled by Great Britain, people study English throughout their school years. Almost everyone can understand me and converse with me in English. Most of the people in Larnaca are Greek but there are also many recent immigrants, mostly from Africa and the Middle East. There are also numerous women from Asia who are brought here to serve as maids to the upper class. (Recently I read an excellent novel about the Asian women in Cyprus. It’s entitled Songbirds: a novel and was written by Christy Lefteri, a native Cypriot.)

I have much more to tell you about this city and the island of Cyprus. This and a few photos is just the beginning.  My winter here has been warm and sunny – mostly – and I’ve been very happy here.


On New Year’s Day I was up first thing in the morning to watch the sunrise over the Mediterranean Sea.
The beach street is lined with hotels, apartment buildings, restaurants of all kinds, many of them familiar American favorites such as Burger King, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Starbucks, and TGI Fridays and more.
The oldest building in Larnaca is this 900-year-old Church of St. Lazarus.
At Christmas time the streets were decorated with lights.
This is the old market street, no longer used for selling vegetables and fruit
but still occupied by small businesses.
My favorite building in town, the hotel called Rise, has been painted in 4-story tall graffiti art.
I’ll be telling you all about this soon, and about the artist, known as Paparazzi,
who’s the guy reaching to sign his name at the left side of the building.

Making Up for Lost Time

I am now on a journey that will be 15 months long when it’s finished if all goes as planned. I’m mostly going to countries many Americans never visit and you’re invited to come along.  Small Eastern European countries are my favorites. I’m writing this from the island of Cyprus, a tiny island divided by politics into two nations. Civilized societies have existed here for more than 12,000 years. It’s fascinating and beautiful. Great winter weather too!

I began blogging “In My Suitcase” on August 1, 2014. At that time I was a travel agent and I wanted to share information about places I was offering to my clients. Since then I’ve visited and written about (on this blog) many countries in Europe and other places. Not long after Covid struck I was blocked and unable to post by a change in the blogging software. Yesterday I discovered another change made it possible for me to post again.

August 1, 2021 was the day I flew to Poland to begin this year in Europe. August 1, 2022 is the date I’ve picked to return to the United States. It’s been a year of travel, made possible in large part by AirBnB. I’ve made new friends in several countries. I’ve explored the large nation of Poland and plan to return to see more. In the months ahead I intend to visit Bosnia-Herzegovina.  I’m spending this winter in a tiny nation, Cyprus, and loving it.

In the time of Covid traveling has not been normal or easy. When I left home in May with the intention of visiting my family and returning to San Francisco and the west coast before flying to Europe, I thought we were finished with the Corona virus. I might not be making this trip if there hadn’t been a hiatus in the first round of Covid-19. At that time the airports were packed with people, many of them young adults. Lines to check in for a flight could involve an hour or more of waiting but it was definitely worth doing.

In Virginia I got to watch my grandson Charlie’s karate class and to meet my friend Sandi who had moved away from New Bern. In Ohio I was shown around Columbus by my newly retired brother Blaine and his wife Agi, during my first visit “home” in several years. I had time with my grandchildren Sarah and Colin in Michigan. That’s time I had really missed during 2021. I enjoyed time with my grandson Alex and learned about his plans for his new dog training business. I attended my oldest grandson’s graduation from Suffolk University, an event held in Fenway Park in Boston so there could be safe space around every participant. I met my great grandson Myles, the son of Chris and Amanda, for the first time!  Myles was born on the first day of the “lockdown” in Massachusetts. This 5-city tour ended with a stop in New Orleans, a city I had never visited. I met my brother Joe and his wife, Susan, there for a memorable Memorial Day weekend.

A bit earlier in Spring 2021 I drove to Atlanta to catch up with my husband’s daughter Patti, her son Andrew and his wife Jenna, and their three beautiful children whom I count as my great-grandchildren because I love them.

I promise to keep this blog growing, to share with you some photos of places I’ve enjoyed visiting, and to tell the story of my journey in the Year of Covid. Here are just a few photos taken at family events.


Now you can see my family photo album of 2021 but I promise future pictures will be about exciting places, not exciting people.

Bergamo, Italy

Today is March 27, 2020. For about two weeks most of the world has been self-quarantining, trying to avoid the novel coronavirus (Covid-19). The New York Times says today that Bergamo, Italy is the heart of the coronavirus outbreak. The Times features a report and photo essay about the misery there.

I once spent a few hours in Bergamo, making a stop for lunch between the Veneto and Lake Como.  It is one of the most beautiful and interesting cities in Italy and deserves to be better known for its cathedral and its delightful old town.  Here are some of the pictures I took in 2009.

A charming way to arrive in Bergamo.

A delightful sign and windows open to the sun and air.

Like most Italian cities, Bergamo’s old buildings were built from stone several centuries ago.

The main altar of the cathedral.

The beautifully decorated dome and arches above the nave.

Classic Italian design.


The street in front of the cathedral.

May we all be past this horrible pandemic soon.




My Northern Ireland Adventure

I’ve wanted to see Mount Stewart Garden in Northern Ireland for several years. I finally got there!  It’s said to be one of the ten best gardens in the world. It certainly is lush and perfectly designed. The estate is old but the gardens are largely due to the the work of Lady Edith Londonderry, a strong 20th century woman I’ll write about in a later post.

The house is grand. It’s a National Trust property. That organization has recently spent eight million pounds restoring the property. I took a quick look inside.

A view of the elegant central hall of the mansion house.

The hour was late when I arrived and I really was there to see the garden. The grounds cover many acres and flowers and trees bloom everywhere but the best views are found at the small lake, as you can see here.

Mount Stewart is located at the top of an inlet from the Irish Sea. It’s called Strangford Lough (pronounced “lock,” meaning “lake”). A narrow country road led me south on a peninsula to the village of Portaferry where I boarded a ferry for a ten minute ride across to a village called Strangford. That’s a word credited to Vikings who came here centuries ago. Both these villages are small and a bit isolated but really interesting, surrounded by nature and history.

The castle and a row of homes at the water’s edge in Strangford. An Irish castle is really a “tower house” — built in medieval times in a design to keep attackers out. There are many of them around Strangford Lough, an indication of many invasions.

In the village of Strangford I found a really good pub and restaurant named the Lobster Pot. I ordered the seafood chowder and was surprised to find a fat prawn on top and mussels and smoked haddock and salmon in the very good broth. It was a perfect meal.

Strangford, N.I.

In Ireland at this time of year, nearing the first day of summer, the sun doesn’t set until 10:00 pm so I had daylight for my drive to the hamlet called Kilclief where I had made an AirBnB reservation for a lovely cottage created in the restored schoolhouse. The owner has done a beautiful job of restoring this place, adding a fine kitchen and creating perennial borders around her double patio. It was a perfect place to spend the night.

Shirley’s AirBnB cottage has a beautiful garden.

The next morning I actually looked at my surroundings and discovered the old Irish castle, a lighthouse, the view across to Portaferry, and farmers’ fields along the edge of the water. In Strangford again I found breakfast in a small hotel named Cuan which is managed by nice people. For a few minutes I wandered around the village, taking a few photos. Then I was off.

A view from a place in Kilclief, just steps from the cottage.

Several people had mentioned that I should visit Castle Ward, another estate now managed by National Trust. When I approached it around 9:00 I thought I’d take a quick peak and be on my way.  Castle Ward is enormous, with gardens and woods and a grand mansion house. The old stables have become the tea room, the book store, the gift shop and more. There’s literally an old tiny village where the estate grounds meet the water in Strangford Lough, centered by yet another Irish castle. I walked for three miles around the estate, talked at length with some of the nice women working there, had a bite of lunch, spent a bit of money and didn’t leave until afternoon.

The mansion house at Castle Ward. It’s not the “castle” — that’s an ancient tower house built centuries ago.

I think I made a mistake in choosing my route back to the motorway leading south toward Dublin. On the map it was a neat straight line but in reality it made turns in every village and town. The most interesting part was finding towns built at the top of very steep hills.  It was a beautiful ride through the green Irish countryside but it took a couple of hours to drive the 39 miles to Newry.

A typical Irish country scene. So beautiful!

I really had a perfect couple of days, and despite six hours in the car each way, I’m really glad I found an adventure in Northern Ireland.


I’ve Looked at Clouds from Both Sides Now!

I’ve spent a little more than a year in Ireland and always had fine weather. Oops! Always until the past few weeks. Since I last wrote to this blog the weather has been cold, cloudy and very windy.  I can go exploring in cold and cloudy but winds over 20 miles per hour kept me inside for two weeks. The photo above, taken from the lane into the farm this morning, shows you how the clouds look when they roll in from the west. Here are a few more photos taken close to “home” recently.

The view from my bedroom window early one morning this week.

At the pond at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Garden and Arboretum. Note the white sky!

The garden gate here at Fruit Hill Cottages.

Another view from Fruit Hill.

One day this week the sky was blue and the sun was shining! I took a nearby ferry to the Waterford side of the river.

In the village across the river I found Mother McHugh! (She wasn’t home.)

Yesterday I walked through the woods at the JFK Arboretum.

One nice thing about clouds — they make good sunsets!

Libbie’s Gratitude Awards

By the time this journey ends in late June I will have visited 11 countries and 22 cities. Sometimes I flew from one place to another and sometimes I took a bus, but mostly I rode the trains around Europe. I am a woman in my early 70s with bad knees and one heavy suitcase.  It’s not a particularly large suitcase (middle size) but it weighs about 30 pounds when fully loaded.  In addition I have a computer bag on wheels that contains my small computer, my slightly heavy camera, a stash of tourist brochures and a tea pot purchased for five euro at the flea market outside my door in Palermo.

Reading this you’ve probably guessed that getting my luggage on and off all those trains was a challenge. The hardest part is that train stations in Europe are usually quite old and that it’s very often necessary to use stairs from the platforms to the street level. Some stations have become more accessible and have elevators (lifts) at each platform but most do not. This post is written to declare that people are good to one another everywhere!

For every train ride I took at least two people helped my with my luggage, getting it on and off the train. In addition, very often men would offer to help me on those stairs. Sometimes young women would give me assistance.  One I remember in particular was a girl scout (on her way to camp) in Lecce who took my bags down the stairs and onto the train. I remember, too, a woman who drafted her husband who was waiting for her on the platform to haul my bags up the stairs.

But the kindness I experienced didn’t end at railroad stations. I’ve written before about the young man who walked with me to the train station in Lecce with my bags. I didn’t tell you about the problem I encountered on the other end of that journey, in Bari. The railroad tracks divide the town and I walked about a mile with my luggage before I found an underpass – with about 40 stairs down and up again.  Luckily, as I stood there wondering if I could handle that, a delightful young man came along and swooped up my bags and carried them for me.  Not just under the tracks but all the way to my hotel, some distance away.

Sometimes a walk from a train station to a nearby hotel became more confusing than expected. In Trieste a young woman I asked for directions walked with me to my hotel. The same happened in Palermo.  My bus from Kiev to Odessa began its journey in Moscow and didn’t show up at 9:00 as it was supposed to do. A very nice young man waiting for the same bus spoke English well and kept me from panicking by verifying that the bus was on the way.

Only once did I nearly miss a train. In Colmar France I stayed in an AirBnB room at the home of a gentleman named Fred. It is a beautiful home and Fred is a fine host. He not only met me at the station when I arrived but also walked back with me when I left. Good thing for me because I had the departure time wrong. Fred ran ahead, carrying my bags, found the conductor and asked him to hold the train for me – which he did! Fred gets the AirBnB host of the year award from me for 2018.

My 2019 award goes to the husband of my hostess in Palermo. Her apartment was so perfect that on the day I arrived I asked to stay another week. That apartment wasn’t available the next week but she has another, in the center of the city, a third floor apartment. I agreed to rent it but asked if her husband could bring the car for my move the following Saturday. Not only did they help me then but Siria’s husband carried all my bags up three flights of stairs in one trip!

People in hotels and AirBnB hosts were often very helpful. A young woman at the desk of the Ibis hotel in Kiev was very good to me, helping me arrange trains and buses and a pedicure. The desk clerks at the Hestia Hotel Maestro in Tallinn were very friendly and helpful. The staff, men and women, at the Royal Street Hotel in Odessa were great! Hotel clerks everywhere were friendly and helpful but these in particular went “above and beyond the call of duty.” Taxi drivers were often welcoming, pointing out historic places and providing information about their cities.

Tourist office employees are always helpful but two in particular became “instant friends.” I arrived at the rail station in Lviv very early in the morning, having traveled overnight on a sleeper. I couldn’t arrive at my AirBnB apartment until 2:00 pm. During the hours that I spent waiting Anya, from the tourist office in the station, helped me in a number of ways. A couple of days later I went to the tourist office in the city center for a map. Oksana not only helped me with information and called a taxi for me, she walked with me the two blocks to the cab. A couple of days after that I returned to the tourist office and found both my “new friends” were working that day. Together they got me into another cab and on my way “home.” They are very bright, friendly young women who represent their city well.

Holidays stand out in my memory. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve I became very ill suddenly with a high fever. When she returned from work I asked my AirBnB hostess in Venice for aspirin. Instead of giving me that she called a doctor in the neighborhood who came to see me quickly. He wrote a prescription which Sylvia took to a pharmacy immediately. That medicine made me 100% better by Christmas day.

I was pretty unhappy in Rabat, Morocco on New Year’s Day. A young woman I met there, a physician, took me out for a long walking tour of her city. We visited the old fortress and the kasbah. She made a bad day good for me. (That’s my “guide” in the Kasbah at the top of this post.)

I’m sure I’m forgetting to mention people who deserve my personal Award for Good People. There were so many people who helped me. I think discovering the kindness of people everywhere was the best experience of my long journey.