Love at first sight Photo Essay: Ljubljana, Slovenia

In September 2014 I went on a spectacular tall ship sailing with Starclippers. We were scheduled for six ports of call and I was least excited about Slovenia as I knew nothing about it and knew no one who had been there. I decided that I would do the day tour to the capital of Ljubljana without really knowing anything about it. It’s actually one of my favourite things about traveling solo … you can do as much or as little research as you wish. I had done very little (none actually) on Slovenia. I like doing zero research because then I have zero expectations. Now, it doesn’t always work out for the best, as sometimes research can be a good thing, but this time, it was perfect. After a couple of hours by coach from the seaside town of Porec, in land to Ljubljana, our group hopped out and started walking toward city centre. It was a crisp, sunny autumn day. The sun was shining, everyone was a little chilly but the fresh air made me feel alive. I can’t quite pin-point it, but every once in awhile I fall in love with a city and this one was love at first site. Immediately I noticed the beauty of the old buildings – a mix of various periods of famous architecture. I’m not a history buff so knowing the difference between Gothic, Romanesque and Baroque architectures is not my strong point, but whatever the mix is that presents itself in Ljubljana is undisputedly beautiful. Take a look for yourself from the Ljubljana Castle to the city’s dragon bridge, the detail, history and strength show through. The streets were old, steeped in history but wide and open interchanging with newer style architecture. A large section of the main core is pedestrian only and the streets were impeccably clean. I had 2 – 3 hours on a group tour to learn about this lovely city, along with taking in a local lunch of sausages, wine and potatoes. The quick overview didn’t even begin to scratch the surface. It did, however give me the yearning to go back, not just to Ljubljana, but to Slovenia in general. Check out some of my favourite pictures below.

If you are interested in a Slovenian adventure, drop me a message. I’d be happy to set you up with an interesting small group tour, a tall ship sailing that has a Slovenian stop or help you with your own custom itinerary! stucker@tpi.ca

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Falling in Love with Sailing – Part 2

SAIL-AWAY

WOW! I had no idea I would be so completely amazed and in awe by the beauty of the send off. The sun had already set and sunset itself was kind of lack-luster, but when the music started, the deck filled with people, the deck hands started raising the sails and the Captain started commanding the ship, it was a magical, beautiful moment. It was then that I started to get excited about my big adventure. There had been too much stress leading up to the trip, that until I saw the sails of the ship I don’t think I really believed it was happening.

With the sails raised we started our slow sail through Venice, seeing St. Mark’s square off one side of the ship and the Molino Stucky hotel (where I almost stayed) off the right-hand side. With the sail-off anthem playing and the beauty of the lights and sails against the dark blue night sky, I got a little lost in my own little world.

Molino Stucky in Venice

Molino Stucky in Venice

The process probably takes about half an hour to 45 minutes and they do the sail-away ceremony every single night that you leave port. For me, it did not lose its charm. I watched every single night, even when it was cold and misty. Looking up up up as the sails come down, spread out and begin to catch the wind. Every night I spent 30 – 45 minutes lost in my own thoughts, amazed at the beauty and gentle power of the wind in the sails.

A couple of nights I actually helped the deck hands with the process, not that I feel I really did a lot, but I learned how to coil the rope properly and how to let the rope out slowly. I felt like it was an insignificant task, but yet there were six or ten different staff doing the exact same thing at different stations on the boat, so it couldn’t have been worthless. And I got to chat with one of the staff from Goa, India. He was really a great guy and so friendly! Sorry I made your job more difficult Shalesh! Glad you could at least have a laugh at me. (I admit, coiling rope shouldn’t be difficult, but somehow, it just wasn’t my thing!)

 

Deck hands raising the sails

Shalesh showing me how to coil rope (making fun of me actually).

Even though the process is the same every night, the light is different and the port is different. Some nights departure is after dark and the sails are raised into the dark night sky full of stars, other nights they are raised just as the sun is setting. Each night with a beauty all its own.

Royal Clipper Sail-Away from Venice

Royal Clipper Sail-Away from Venice

Royal Clipper Sail-Away from Venice

Royal Clipper Sail-Away from Venice

Each night I noticed something new, found a new process to watch or just simply breathed in the calm energy and beauty of the sails lifting to the sky as we were lulled away to our next destination.

Most people congregated at the front of the boat (bow) where the Captain was commanding the ship and where passengers could take turns learning how to steer. Although I didn’t take a turn at the wheel, I photographed several of my group mates giving it a shot.

Deanna steering the ship

Deanna steering the ship

 

Michelle steering the ship

Michelle steering the ship

Francine steering the ship

Francine steering the ship

Captain Sergei

Captain Sergei

Florentina steering the ship

Florentina steering the ship

What a different atmosphere from a regular cruise ship where you only interact with the wait staff. All around, staff on the ship, were wonderful, fun, friendly and accommodating. After all, I’m sure that Shalesh probably had to redo all of my rope coiling after I turned my back!

Royal Clipper Ropes

Royal Clipper Ropes

On our last sail-away from Porek, Slovenia the last tender to the boat was at 6pm. 6:30pm was set for sail-away. I arrived back on that last tender as I had been on a tour of stunning Ljubljana and our tour had run late returning. I didn’t even go to my room when I returned, I went straight to the sun deck for send-off because it was golden hour and I just knew it was going to be simply beautiful.

When I arrived on deck, I went to the bow where there were surprisingly few passengers. Just one or two. I thought it was unusual, but convinced myself it was just early and people would come in a few minutes. Then the music started and deck hands were everywhere working away. I was busy snapping a few pictures and taking it all in, but felt like I had missed something because no one was on deck!

Slovenia at sunset

Slovenia at sunset

Porek, Slovenia at sunset

Porek, Slovenia at sunset

Just then, one of the deck hands said to me ‘Why are you here? Why aren’t you out on the tender?’ I said ‘What tender?’ He pointed to the tender that was already out in the water staring back at the beautiful Royal Clipper with sails being raised in the setting sun. A perfect moment and I was missing it. My heart sank instantly. Then he told me that there was another tender and hurried me along to go catch it. And I did just that. I arrived at the second tender just on time.

I suspect there had been announcements earlier during the day on board, but because I arrived on the last tender back, I had missed them.

As we moved away from the ship to a better vantage point on the tender, the beauty of the ship, the perfect sunset and the beautiful week I had enjoyed on board all culminated together for a fantastic memory.

Royal Clipper at Sunset in Slovenia

Royal Clipper at Sunset in Slovenia

IMG_8717 IMG_8714

Royal Clipper at Sunset in Slovenia

Royal Clipper at Sunset in Slovenia

I sat on the tender with 30 or so other passengers who were equally enamored with the beauty. Our two staff members, the tender Captain and Shalesh (deck hand) did a great job taking us to all of the best vantage points to see the beautiful Royal Clipper as she started to sail away.

We were treated to the opportunity to sail along beside her, to see her with the sun shining on her and the sun setting behind her. I climbed all over the boat, standing on seats, poking my head out above the top and standing precariously on the edge to take a few photos. I think my jaw was open the entire time as I just could not even believe I was part of something so stunning.

Royal Clipper at Sunset

Royal Clipper at Sunset

Royal Clipper at Sunset in Slovenia

Royal Clipper at Sunset in Slovenia

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, we were taken to the bow of the ship in our tender where about 14 of our crew members walked to the very tip to give us a grand send off with a bow and wave. An amazing end to a very memorable trip.

Royal Clipper send off wave

Royal Clipper send off wave

Royal Clipper send off wave

Royal Clipper send off wave

The next day, I went back on deck to find the deck hand who had pointed me toward the tender, to say a huge thank you for telling me to go as I definitely would have regretted it if I hadn’t caught that second tender. Thanks to his extra care, I shared in one of the most beautiful moments of the entire trip. He didn’t have to tell me about it, but he did and I am most thankful. The sunset was beautiful, but if it hadn’t been for the exceptional staff, I would have missed out.

What do you think? Are you ready for an adventure with Star Clippers tall ship sailings? I can’t wait to do another one. I’m not a fan of cruising, because isn’t adventurous enough for me, but somehow sailing has completely captured my heart.

If you are interested in more information on Star Clippers and the beautiful ports that I visited while I was on this seven day Mediterranean Cruise, please feel free to contact me stucker@tpi.ca

I have access to the latest and greatest deals on these amazing sailings from 2 for 1 to no single supplement sales, right through to on board credits and extra amenities.

I would truly love for you to have an experience as wonderful as I did.

A quick note. I am not being paid to write this post. I simply adored my travels with Star Clippers and believe they are an amazing company with an interesting background, amazing ships, unique and fun products. I’m sure if you try them you will not be disappointed! I will be a repeat customer for sure.

The Wind in her sails

When a good opportunity presents itself, you should just take it … You’ve all heard that advice before, right?
Grab all of the good opportunities that you can and be whisked away by what might be the most amazing journey of your life. Sometimes that is in the form of a job opportunity, a un-planned, but much anticipated child, a broken-hearted stray that finds it’s way to your home …

All of the love, learning and happiness that can come from these opportunities abounds, just be open to it.

And, funny how when you are looking for opportunities and put them out to the universe, sometimes the universe lifts you up and takes you along like the wind in her sails …

Ah yes … I’ve literally been talking to the universe. Now that you think I’m officially crazy, that’s ok. Being ‘Normal’ is overrated anyway.

Everyone knows about the law of attraction and surrounding yourself with positive thoughts and positive people. Not everyone believes in it, but most people know about it. For me, I’ve been busy planning my upcoming travels. Several times I’ve said ‘oh I wish this …’ … Then I take a moment, stop and think about it and then just put it out there. I don’t know how or why it works but sometimes those wishes come true.

When I originally made the decision to go travel this fall, my loose plan was Central and South America. However, I called it the Unplan because I wanted my plans to be fluid and be able to change. I didn’t want to be tied into any commitments too far in advance because I knew that while planning for approximately eight months, my thoughts would change. And, they have.

A friend and fellow photographer from Norway who I traveled with in Burma, is now living in Vietnam. When I was in Vietnam on my photo tour in April, we went for coffee and got caught up. A couple of months after that, he put me in touch with his ex-boss, an Australian fellow who was living in Turkey. Through various discussions, this little Canadian girl gets invited on a tour of Turkey. Now, I wouldn’t say that Turkey is top of my list for places to travel, but certainly in the top 20 countries. The problem was that the tour would only be available in October which is when my Peru: Through the Lens Photo tour was scheduled for. Flying from Europe to South America with one or two days leeway before leading a photography tour was do-able, but not ideal. None the less, I took the opportunity that presented itself. Can you not see how the universe was working for me?

My Unplan for Central / South America then evolved to unexpectedly include Europe. Not many people from Nova Scotia travel all the way to Europe for just seven days and I wasn’t planning to either! Again, my unplan evolved into covering some of my other top-list countries. Namely, Croatia and a little bit of Greece since I was in the area anyway.

I spent hours researching and trying to put together options for dates and tours that would fit into the timelines that were set out. I had my loose schedule and tours decided on and my flights on hold and then two things happened.

1. With only a few people signed up for the Peru tour and only a few days before the deposit deadline, I made the difficult decision to post-pone the photo tour and look at dates in Spring of 2015. This would give me more time to sell the trip. After all, there was lots of interest in the tour, but many people weren’t able to go on short notice either due to vacation time or finances.

2. The day that I put all of my flights on hold, I received a late afternoon phone call that changed the Captain’s course. The rep from Star Clippers was on the phone, so excited she could barely contain herself. The exact trip that I had previously inquired about, was being offered to a select few agents who had shown interest in their products and she was calling to invite me to be one of her special guests.

I didn’t even know what to say! Of course I had to *think* about it, because I’m not overly impulsive … but honestly, what was I thinking about? When an opportunity presents itself, you take it.

I hesitated a bit because I get sea sick very easily. I’ve been horribly ill on several big ferries, mildly ill on many others and inconsolably ill on a ferry crossing from Miquelon to Saint Pierre and also when I did a Norwegian Cruise from Boston to Bermuda. In all fairness though, Boston to Bermuda is a rough crossing at the best of times and we were riding the tail end of a hurricane in September 2006.

I love the water though! I love the wind in my hair and the raising of the sails. I go out on the calm Halifax harbour a couple of times every summer and occasionally out with friends in their boats and I never get sick. I’ve been on lots of 1/2 day boat tours in various countries and I always seem to be ok, although sometimes a little nauseous.

The thought of sailing intrigues me. The opportunity to climb to the top of the crow’s nest and see the view from that high scares me, but I can’t wait to do it! Maybe I’ll learn to tie some knots and assist in hoisting the sails. It’s an open-deck policy on board, so I can’t wait to chat with the staff and hear about life on the water.

I love vacations where you unpack once, but get to do lots of exploring. Cruises, sailing and river boats are great for this. With a big long journey and lots of moving around ahead of me, the thought of being home-base on a boat even for just a week makes me happy.

I also can’t wait to share my first time sailing experience with all of you! I’m excited to take pictures and uncover stories to blog about.

Now back to this whole big universe of ours … in March 2013 I wrote my Adventure & Travel Bucket list – Subject to Change. This is from just over a year ago. Here’s what I had on my list (and notes as to what I’ve accomplished).

1. Me to We Volunteer Trip (Kenya or India) – It is at the top of my list as it is extremely important to me, yet I don’t expect to go on this adventure until 2014. UPDATE – Still very interested in this, but Africa is not on my 2014 list.

2. Vietnam – including Sapa, Mui Ne, Halong Bay, taking part in the Full Moon Festival, cycling in the countryside.
UPDATE: I’ve now been to Halong Bay and participated in the Full Moon Festival in Hoi An.

3. Burma / Myanmar – I really want to go before it becomes an in demand destination. Cycling is on my to do list here as well as lodge at a monastery (not a hotel). UPDATE: Amazing destination. I visited in August 2013. I got to cycle and visit monasteries, but did not stay in one.

4. Croatia – including Split & Dubrovnik UPDATE: Will be visiting Dubrovnik and Hvar in September 2014. Split will have to wait for me.

5. Spanish school (Guatemala / Belize / Honduras / Nicaragua) UPDATE: This is still on the tentative list for Winter / Spring 2015. Or, I might just continue Spanish school in the Dominican Republic as I’ll be there in December 2014 / January 2015.

6. Gorilla Trek (likely in Rwanda)

7. African Safari (South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania or Botswana)

8. Cape Town, South Africa – because of Nelson Mandela

9. Hot Air Balloon ride – over Cappadocia, Turkey or the Maasai Mara, Kenya UPDATE: I will be doing a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia, Turkey in October 2014. Super excited. Definitely one of highlights that I’m most looking forward to.

10. Bhutan – Because of the happiness factor

11. Celebrating New Year’s in another country UPDATE: I will be in Dominican Republic for New Year’s Eve 2014 & ringing in the new year!

12. Italy – Tuscany / Venice UPDATE: September 2014 I’ll be visiting Venice and Tuscany!

13. Greece – Cinque Terre UPDATE: Cinque Terre is not in Greece! Apparently a year ago I didn’t know that. It is five communities on the northwest coast of Italy. I had seen photos and want to see it in person. Apparently I just didn’t know where ‘there’ was! I’ll be visiting in September 2014.

14. Colombia UPDATE: I’ve decided not to go in 2014, but this is really high on my list and there is a good possibility I’ll be there in early 2015.

15. Morocco

So, a full year ago I was dreaming of these 15 places and now I’ve visited many of them and have many more of them on my fall travel schedule. This is not at all by chance though. I started looking at options, talking about wanting to go, asking questions, doing research and then things started coming together. I had decided that Turkey / Croatia and Greece would be my Europe travels for 2014, based on the opportunity in Turkey. Then that day when my rep from Star Clippers called, I added a couple more weeks and now my Italy travel dreams are coming true too! The universe is working in my favour. Let’s hope she’s kind on the sea-sickness front as well!

I feel like it is time for me to be the Captain of my ship and let the wind lift my sails.

Star Clippers – Royal Clipper
– The largest full-rigged sailing ship in the World.

PLANNED
Sep 18 – Depart Halifax (my flight is booked!!!)
Sep 19 – Arrive in Venice (9:05am)
Sep 19 – Explore Venice – activities TBD
Sep 20 – Embark on the Royal Clipper – My itinerary
Sep 21 – At Sea
Sep 22 – Kotor, Montenegro
Sep 23 – Dubrovnik, Croatia
Sep 24 – Hvar, Croatia
Sep 25 – Rovinij, Slovenia
Sep 26 – Piran, Slovenia
Sep 27 – Return to Venice
Sep 27 – 29 – Venice

UNCONFIRMED
Sep 29 – Oct 2 – Tuscany (Florence / Siena)
Oct 2 – 6 – Cinque Terre
Oct 6 – 7 – Rome

Feel free to leave comments with your favourite preventative tips for sea sickness. Believe me, I’m not going without taking something! I certainly don’t want to be ill and not able to enjoy this fabulous journey.