After a busy and exciting week in Barcelona, Donna and I headed to Amsterdam where my cousin Margriet and her husband Han picked us up and took us to their home in Rhenen, a small town about an hours train ride from Amsterdam. It had been many, many years since I had visited Holland, so it was wonderful to get a chance to revisit the sights and see my Dutch relatives again!
The first tour that Donna and I took was to the Zaanse Schans windmills, and the cute little towns of Volendam and Marken.
Around 1920 there were only about 20 windmills left of the 1000 that had made the Zaan district the oldest industrial area of the world. On March 17th, 1925, windmill society De Zaansche Molen was founded to preserve the mills for future generations. This society now owns thirteen industrial windmills; it keeps them in excellent condition and operates them regularly.
Next stop was at the quaint little fishing village of Volendam with the harbor full of classic sailing vessels and rows of brick houses featuring great examples of 17th century Dutch architecture. We toured the Volendam Museum that contained many memories of the rich history, culture and folklore. It held various works of art by many artists, authentic interiors, varying thematic displays and a photo gallery. As a child I remember my Grandfather wearing the same hat and eye-glasses. It really brought back good memories.
We walked along the canal, went to a cheese factory (of course!) and ate in a café along the waterfront before taking a 20 minute boat ride to Marken.
Marken has a population of less than 2,000, but traditional architecture abounds! We walked along the tiny paths running through the village to a wooden shoe factory where a local traditional clog maker demonstrated how a simple block of wood could be transformed into a wooden shoe in minutes.
The next day we went into Amsterdam to take a canal cruise and see some of the sights.
We walked through the floating Flower Market, visited the Rijksmuseum, floated along the canals, then took the train into Utrecht, my very favorite town in The Netherlands, to meet Margriet and Han for dinner.
Utrecht is one of Netherlands’ oldest cities, with a compact medieval center set out around canals unique to the Netherlands: there’s a lower level where warehouses were located in the 13th century, now converted into restaurants and bars, giving the canals a split-level character and meaning that visitors can enjoy a meal or a drink down at water level.
While the canals form Utrecht’s restful core, and where I fell in love with the city, elsewhere the city is busy reinventing itself. Construction was everywhere. Roads are being turned back into the canals they once were and a new train station was nearing completion. It is home to Utrecht University, one of the oldest in the Netherlands and one of the largest in Europe with a student population of 40,000. This city is a must to visit!
At Holland’s water village of Giethoorn, the loudest sound you can normally hear is the quacking of a duck or the noise made by other birds. It is so peaceful, so different and has such simple beauty that it hardly seems real as you gently glide along small canals past old but pretty thatched-roof farmhouses. Its nickname is “Dutch Venice”. In the old part of the village there are no roads (though a cycling path has been added) and all transport is done by water over one of the many canals. You can turn down a “side street” (another small canal) and drift under a wooden bridge where an elderly resident may be strolling over to see a neighbor. The lakes in Giethoorn were formed by peat farming to heat the homes, and are a mere 3 feet deep. What a special treat it was to experience such a place.
We could not visit Holland in the spring without visiting the Keukenhof gardens, the most beautiful spring garden in the world! There were more than 7 million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths in bloom, with a total of 800 varieties of tulips.
After visiting the Keukenhof gardens, I sadly dropped Donna at the airport as it was time for her to return home. I hopped on the train and headed back to Rhenen to rejoin my cousin and her husband, and to prepare for our next leg of my trip, Ireland and Northern Ireland.
After a wonderful week in the Algarve in Portugal, Donna and I hopped on a plane and headed to Barcelona, Spain to spend our next week. What an exciting and busy city! We stayed in an apartment in the center of the city, just a block away from the Plaza de Catalunya.
A short walk around the corner was the cathedral where we watched street performers.
The Plaza de Catalunya is a large public square, and the city’s busiest square. It’s located between the old city and the Eixample district where nine streets meet including the Rambla and Passeig de Gracia. The beautiful square is surrounded by trees and home to several works of public art and monuments…and pigeons! It’s an absolutely lovely place to just sit and relax, but is also a main stopping place for public transportation and tour buses.
There were so many things to see in this bustling city, and we saw as much as we could in the time that we had. Here are some of the highlights of the city.
I was surprised while going through the Picasso museum. I have always known of Pablo Picasso’s abstract forms of art, but had no idea he had so many other forms. It was enlightening to see the phases he went through as he struggled with his life and art throughout the years. The museum has more than 4,300 works of art from Picasso’s early years of apprenticeship and youth to his ceramic works later in his life. I discovered that we shared the same birthday, October 25th! And that he died in 1973. I was 22 years old. How did I not know that?
Built in 1929 for the Worlds Fair, the Poble Espanyol (meaning Spanish town) is one of the biggest attractions of the city. The outdoor museum features exhibits on contemporary art, with streets, houses, parks, theater, school, restaurants and artisan workshops. It was a great way to spend a few hours.
La Boqueria is an enormous indoor market with a stone floor and metal roof and one of the largest and most famous marketplaces in Europe. In 2005 it won the prize for the best market in the world. Many of the stall owners are 3rd and 4th generation traders. Everything under the sun is sold here. From bull’s tails and black eels, to hand-made pasta and seafood, to meats and cheeses, and on and on. At the entrance to the market are Jamon shops where I purchased some of the best Jamon iberico I’ve ever had. It was at a premium price, but what a treat!
The Agbar tower is the headquarters of the Barcelona water company, a building of ever-changing colors that has become the third tallest building in Barcelona and the new symbol of the city. The Columbus Monument was constructed in 1888 as a tribute to the discovery of the New world (America) and to mark the Universal Exhibition of that year. Columbus stands on a pillar adorned with images of Africa, Asia, America and Europe.
Of course while in Spain, one MUST go to a Flamenco performance!
Another must, if you don’t see anything else while in Barcelona, is the absolutely fascinating Sagrada Familia. In 1882, the foundation stone of the project conceived by Francisco de Paula del Villar, the first architect of the church, was laid. A year and a half later, Antoni Gaudi took over the works and turned the initial project around to create, all these years later, an outstanding, innovative church, which is still under construction today.
At present there are two completed facades adorned with motifs taken from nature and Baroque decoration and 8 completed towers. After Gaudi’s death in 1926, the building continues following the plans and models he left behind. The hope is that the construction will be complete in 2026 which marks the centennial of Gaudi’s death.
The interior of Sagrada Familia is as fascinating as the exterior. Everywhere you look is impressive. There are pillars that resemble thick trees and the ceiling is a remarkable vaulted structure where the “branches” of the trees meet. The intimacy combined with the spaciousness is that of the forest. The light from the ceiling of the central part of the church illuminates the rows of tiles and makes the green and golden triangles shine. It’s an absolutely beautiful, abstract, unique, fascinating place to visit.
Casa Mila, also known as La Pedrera, is one of the Barcelona buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi It was built between 1906 and 1912. All of Gaudis buildings are unique and most unusual! Arc de Triomf was built for the Universal Exposition in 1888 as was the Expos main access gate.
Casa Amatller and Casa Lleo-Morera stand together with Gaudi’s Casa Batllo and is called the “Block of Discord” because of its unique architecture.
Casa Batllo was originally built by a middle class family and in 1904 Gaudi was commissioned to refurbish the building. Casa Batllo reflects Gaudi’s playful side and the strange and fantastic style he is known for. The exterior, covered with a mosaic of colored glass and ceramic fragments, was made to curve and bend like a wave.
The top of the building looks like the back of an animal, generally referred to as a dragon. It appears to have scales and a spine adorned with round pieces of masonry which seem to change color as you look at it from different angles.
The interior of Casa Batllo is just as fascinating as the exterior. There is a staircase banister which looks like the spine of an animal; a room that is decorated to look like it’s under water; relief glazed tiles; a wooden elevator which still functions; a huge central skylight; stained glass; mosaics and unexpected details in every corner.
And from the tiny balcony high atop Casa Batllo, we will say good-bye! We are now off to The Netherlands!
How time flies! I’m just getting around to posting about my wonderful vacation to Europe that I took in April of this year. I traveled to five countries in four weeks. It was fantastic and I saw so many wonderful things!
I started in Portugal with my friend Donna. We stayed in the Algarve, the southern coastal area of Portugal. This is the second time that Donna invited me to join her in her condo in Albufeira.
Of course we had to have dinner just up the street at our favorite restaurant Donaldos
We drove along the coastline and visited some places that we missed the last time we were there. There are so many beautiful beaches! These are just a few.
Praia Da Oura is the beach just steps from the condo. It was relaxing walking along the water and discovering all of the rock formations. What a beautiful place!
Praia da Marinha with its golden beach and magnificent cliffs is one of the most beautiful beaches of Portugal, and is considered one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in Europe, and one of the 100 most beautiful beaches in the world! I can definitely see why!
Praia de Carvoeiro, a traditional, small fishing village originally surviving on tuna catches now has, not surprisingly, become a popular resort. The beach town has a beautifully sheltered sandy bay and spreads out just in front of the square with cliffs protecting it on either side. I love the stucco buildings with the terra cotta roof tiles we saw all throughout Portugal.
Another of our favorite restaurants is Vivaldos, a seaside restaurant just steps from our condo along the boardwalk. We were thrilled to find that there would be a Fado singer one evening. Fado music, originating along the waterfront in the early 1800’s, speak of life, struggle and passion. It is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and is infused with a sentiment of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia. It is beautiful to listen to, and to watch the expressions of the lovely singer.
The Castelo de Silves is a castle in the town of Silves. Built between the 8th and 13th century, the castle is one of the best preserved of the Moorish fortifications in Portugal, the most important Moorish fortification resulting in its classification as a National Monument in 1910. It was fascinating to see the archaeological excavations, and to imagine how the people lived all those many years ago. It is believed that around 201 B.C. the Romans conquered Silves, transforming it into a citadel of their occupation, and commercial center that prospered for the next five centuries.
While in Silves we also visited the Municipal Museum of Archaeology of Silves. The exhibition begins with an array of prehistoric artifacts dating from the Paleolithic period (1,5000,000 to 10,000 BC) to the Modern Period (15th to 17th centuries).
The picture above shows a gravestone in the upper left from the Iron Age (7th to 2nd Centuries BC), a head in the upper right from the Christian Medieval Period (13th – 14th Centuries) and some vases from the Bronze Age (2nd Millennium BC).
In the center of the museum, and the reason the museum was initially built, stands a Cistern-Well discovered in the 1980’s. The shaft with a diameter of about 8 ft. surrounded by a 4 ft. wide spiral stairway gallery covered with a semi-circular domed ceiling. For lighting and ventilation purposes three semicircle domed windows were open between the gallery and the shaft. Access to the water was accessed through the circular opening. The well was constructed of red sandstone.
Now we’re off to Spain! My next post will tell of our adventures in Barcelona!
Contrary to popular belief, dogs that pull on the leash while being walked do not want to be pack leader, top dog, alpha, or dominant over their human. There is a much simpler explanation: dogs love to be outside, and the walk is a stimulating and exciting part of their day, so the desire to push ahead is very strong.
A leash, though vital for safety, can also be frustrating for a dog, because being ‘tied’ to a person essentially stops a dog’s ability to act naturally. That being said, all dogs should be taught how to walk on the leash in a positive way without being jerked, yanked, choked, or shocked, so that walks can be enjoyable for everyone.
If you are overpowered by your dog’s pulling and can’t start teaching for fear of being pulled over, there are humane equipment solutions to help modify the pulling while you teach your dog to walk appropriately:
- A chest-led harness is a perfect training aid, as it takes pressure off a dog’s sensitive neck area by distributing the pressure more evenly around the body. When the leash is attached to a ring located on the chest strap and your dog pulls, the harness will turn his body around rather than allowing him to go forward. This harness is great for anyone who needs extra help, because safety must come first.
- Some dogs are so strong that a canine head collar is needed, which acts the same way a halter does on a horse. Whenever the dog pulls, it automatically brings his head around. Head collars can help in severe cases, especially with pregnant women or elderly clients, but dogs need time to habituate to them, as they can be uncomfortable at first.
- Avoid the use of choke or prong collars, as these devices cause pain and significant physical damage to your dog’s neck.
The Stop and Be Still Technique
- Leash pulling is often successful for the dog because the person inadvertently reinforces the pulling by allowing the dog get to where he wants to go when he pulls. But you can change this picture by changing the consequence for your dog.
- Whenever he pulls, immediately stop and stand completely still until the leash relaxes because your dog either takes a step back or turns around to give you focus. When the leash is nicely relaxed, proceed on your walk. Repeat this as necessary.
- The Reverse Direction Technique
If you find the preceding technique too slow, you can try the reverse direction method.
- When your dog pulls, issue a ‘let’s go’ cue, turn away from him, and walk off in the other direction without jerking on the leash.
- You can avoid yanking by motivating your dog to follow you with an excited voice to get his attention.
- When he is following you and the leash is relaxed, turn back and continue on your way.
- It may take a few turns, but your vocal cues and body language will make it clear that pulling will not be reinforced with forward movement, whereas walking calmly by your side or even slightly in front of you on a loose leash will allow your dog to get to where he wants to go.
- You can also reinforce your dog’s decision to walk close to you by giving him a motivating reward when he is by your side.
- Vary the Picture
- Once your dog is listening to you, you can vary the picture even more by becoming unpredictable yourself. This requires your dog to listen to you at all times, because he never knows when you might turn or where you are going to go next.
- Instead of turning away from him when you give the ‘let’s go’ cue, reverse direction by turning toward him. You can turn in a circle or do a figure eight. Any of these variations will get your dog’s attention.
- Do not forget to praise him for complying, because the better you make him feel when he is walking close to you, the more he will choose to do so.
What Not to Do:
Do not yank your dog around. While it might be tempting to use your dog’s leash to correct him, rely more on teaching him what to do than correcting him all the time.
Article By: Victoria Stilwell, Positively.com
It’s kind of like the classic Lassie trope where Lassie’s able to communicate that Timmy’s trapped in the old well with a few barks and head nods.
Only it happened in real life, and the dog’s owner wasn’t named Timmy.
Thursday, first responders near Hazleton, Pennsylvania, were lead to a 79-year-old man who’d fallen and struck his head during a hike. The man was trapped there for over 12 hours, according to crews. And he might have been trapped there for longer if it weren’t for his dog, Guy. Crews, alerted to the man’s general location by 911, had been searching for three hours when they heard Guy.
“We stopped at an embankment. We didn’t think we would be able to drive up. The county was telling us he was up there. We were starting to debate, if we could get up there [then] how are we getting down,” Matthew Marsicano of Hazle Township told WNEP16.
Guy left his owner’s side, found the rescue crew, and more or less showed them a safe path up and down the embankment.
“The dog ran up the bank, would stop every 20-30 feet and look back and start barking,” Marsciano continued. “As we got [the man] loaded up and started carrying him down, every time we carried him the dog was whining right at our feet. We would have to stop to not trip over the dog. When we put him down the dog sat right next to him.”
The unnamed man was released from the hospital Friday and reunited with Guy, who presumably has a lot of treats in his near future.
Written by Alex Heigl, People Pets
How many cats do you know that love to ride in a car? The fact is, cats aren’t dogs, and most cats are unlikely to ever enjoy a car ride the way some of their canine counterparts do. The goal of my blog isn’t to convert your cat into an easy rider, but since cats have to ride in cars sometimes, my goal is to describe a few simple actions you can take to make the car ride less stressful for you and your cat.
Unfortunately, cats and car rides are inevitable. While cats don’t have to commute to work every day, according to the AAHA-AVMA Feline Preventive Healthcare Guidelines, cats should be taken to the veterinarian at least once a year. Anyone who has ever ridden in a car with a meowing, stressed-out feline knows how unpleasant the car ride can be for everyone involved. The solution involves understanding the underlying problem. For most cats, the only time they are ever in a car is when they are placed in a carrier and taken to the veterinarian where they are examined from head to tail by a total stranger, have their temperature taken rectally, and may even get shots! So can you blame them if they don’t like going in a car? It’s not like getting into a car ever means a trip to Disneyland to see the world’s biggest rodent. Nope! For most cats, the car means one thing and one thing only — a trip to the doctor to get poked and prodded.
So what can you do to make the car ride more enjoyable for everyone involved? Here are a few tips:
Prepare your cat for the car ride Make sure your cat has current identification tags before he leaves the house. I am a firm believer in microchips and ID tags for all animals, even indoor-only cats. As a shelter vet, I have seen way too many lost cats and heard too many stories about cats getting lost while going to the vet. Some cats will try to dart out the door the moment they realize they are going to the veterinarian. Others try to escape from their carrier if the carrier door is not properly secured. So before you go, make sure your cat has a collar, ID tags, and ideally a microchip.
Your cat should be secured in the car Keep all traveling cats in a carrier. This is for your own safety as well as your cat’s safety. It is not safe to have your cat roaming freely in your vehicle while you are driving. Your cat could become frightened and dart under the brake pedal or accelerator, possibly causing an accident. In addition, having a cat jumping around the vehicle is a dangerous distraction. To be safe, always keep your cat in a secure carrier.
Get your cat acclimated to the carrier before the trip Can you imagine being awoken from your afternoon nap by someone grabbing you, and then cramming you into an unfamiliar box while you are kicking and screaming? Well that might describe how our cats feel when we put them in a carrier to take them to the vet. It’s easy to see why cats might hate going in a carrier. So instead of sneaking up on them and forcing them into the carrier, we should strive to make the carrier a more positive experience. Bring the carrier out a few days ahead of time so that your cat can become accustomed to it. Leave the door of the crate open so he can explore as he pleases. Spray the interior of your cat carrier with a synthetic, feline pheromone-product. These products have been shown to decrease stress in cats. You can also put some of your cat’s favorite treats or catnip inside the carrier so that your cat associates the carrier with a positive experience. Avoid treats if your cats is being fasted for anesthesia or special blood tests. Make the carrier more inviting by placing a cozy blanket from home and your cat’s favorite toys inside. Putting familiar objects inside will make the carrier less foreign and more inviting.
Take short car rides with your cat first Practice makes perfect. Start by sitting in the car with your cat in his carrier for just a few minutes, then go back inside and reward your cat with a treat. Then go on short trips, like going around the block, in order to acclimate your cat to being in a carrier and in a car. Remember to always reward him after the drive, so that he associates car rides with positive experiences.
Know when to get help for your cat If you’ve tried all of these things and your cat still goes crazy whenever he goes for a ride in the car, get help! Ask your veterinarian if a sedative might be helpful for your cat before car rides. To avoid car rides altogether, ask your veterinarian if he makes house calls.
Written By Dr. Ruth MacPete, DVM
Pet Health Network
Consider factors such as cleanliness, experience, and first aid training when looking for the right groomer for your dog.
By Kat Merrill / Mar 16th 2016 / Dogster.com
I recently moved and needed to find a groomer for my German Shepherd Lola. First stop: The only grooming salon in my new town. Immediately upon opening the door, I was assaulted by the foulest odor. I don’t think the place had ever been cleaned. One down, many more to check out. While it might be tempting to choose the cheapest place or the groomer closest to home, you should find the right place for you and your pet. Here are the five most important things to look for:
- Make sure the place is clean
Sure, grooming is a hairy business, but that’s no reason for the place to be dirty or smell bad. Are the floors clean? What about the tools they use? And how do they clean/sterilize those tools? There is no way I would’ve taken my Shepherd inside the above-mentioned place. Animals already get tense when they encounter new situations. Can you imagine how that smell would make a dog feel? And if the groomers don’t want you to see where they actually do the work, go back out the door.
2. Make sure the groomer has experience — what kind and where she got it
“Experience is a must, particularly if you have a difficult pet, have very high standards, or want a haircut that requires a lot of skill,” said Lucia Scordamaglia, who groomed dogs, including three of my German Shepherds, and cats for Petco for seven years before leaving to work in health care. “Since there are very few state regulations on grooming training and licensing, and no federal regulations, you will often find that individual groomers have vastly different backgrounds when it comes to where and how long they have trained.
“Ideally, look for someone who has been through either an on-the-job, mentor-based training program or a grooming-school program. You should also look for someone who has been out of school or training for at least a year. Most groomers gain the bulk of their expertise by having been on the job for a number of years.”
3. Make sure your groomer is a true animal lover
Most of my Shepherds have been rescued and have had some bad experiences. The last thing they or any pet needs is someone who doesn’t have patience, who isn’t kind in his touch, or who doesn’t enjoy the job. My Shepherd Lola can’t stand loud voices, so it’s important her groomer talks to her in soft, gentle tones.
“If you meet a groomer who seems to be uncomfortable around your dog or other dogs, then they likely won’t be a good fit and are probably best avoided. Most of us groomers love animals so much we will snuggle your dog when they come in and take all the kisses we can get,” Scordmaglia said. “Dogs are emotional creatures, and they can sense when someone is wary of them or angry. Having a groomer who is calm and happy around your dog can help keep their grooming experience happy and can help their behavior during the process.”
4. Make sure the groomer has medical or health training, as accidents can happen
“Finding a groomer who has basic training in dog health, first aid, and CPR can be critical,” Scordamaglia said. “If something happens to your dog while at the salon, it may be your groomer who saves their life. Check that they have policies and plans in place for how to handle a potentially life-threatening situation before it occurs.”
She also pointed out that groomers often notice potential medical issues first.
“Groomers usually see your dog a lot more frequently than the vet, and because the grooming process is up-close and personal, they can often notice changes (lumps in the skin, rashes, ear infections, broken teeth, behavioral changes, etc.) that may need medical attention before they become obvious,” she said. “I once noticed a small lump on the elbow of a dog I groomed regularly. The dog’s owners hadn’t noticed it but said they would check it out right away. The next time they came in, they thanked me and told me the veterinarian removed a lump. Thankfully, it was benign. They were grateful I had found it because if it had been cancerous, it might have saved their dog’s life.”
5. Make sure your groomer has knowledge about pets and is willing to share it with you
“A good groomer will want to share their knowledge and experience with you and answer questions you might have. If a groomer is seeing your pet regularly, they should be able to give you recommendations each time you come in about maintaining your dog’s overall health and well-being,” Scordamaglia said. “Your groomer may notice that your dog’s breath is getting a little stinky and that his teeth have some plaque buildup. They should recommend ways for you to help manage this at home as well as letting you know when it may be time to see the vet. A groomer who is uninterested in discussing things with you or never gives you reports on how your dog is doing may indicate that their interests are not in the right place and they may not be giving your dog the kind of attention and care she deserves.”
Now that you’ve found the right groomer, shoot for consistency.
“Once you find a groomer that you and your dog like, it can be very beneficial to stay with that groomer,” Scordamaglia said. “Groomers who regularly work on a specific dog create a special bond and relationship with that dog. This makes for a better grooming experience for both the groomer and the dog. Many injuries to dogs and groomers come from working on an unknown dog. A dog may have aches and pains we do not know about or may bite because the groomer did not know that he becomes aggressive when someone touches his belly.”
About the author: Kat Merrill is a writer who considers it a blessing and a privilege to have been owned by five German Shepherds so far. She also had two cats, a beautiful pair of rats, and many fancy goldfish over the years. Although Kat started out as a cat person, she now considers herself a dog person who is dedicated to rescue animals. A former newspaper reporter and editor, she is now writing a series of children’s books and has recently started a blog at katsuniverse.com. You can also find her on Twitter @katsuniverse and on Facebook.