JenSop: The Singing Travel Pro!

Idealist. Dreamer. Singer. Explorer.


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Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Earlier this month, Miloš and I headed to Palma de Mallorca, a Spanish island in the Mediterranean Sea.  We’d been meaning to go for the past few years now, but never were able to make it work.  After hearing such wonderful things about this historically rich and lovely city – we had to see if for ourselves.  We have friends/colleagues who spend part of each winter in Palma, and we wanted to make sure our visit overlapped with their time there as well.

(A big thanks to Barbara, Marco, Robert, and Chiara for sharing your time with us while we were in Palma! We had such a splendid time!)

Here’s a brief summary of our time in Palma de Mallorca and some of the major sites we experienced.  Some restaurant reviews, too!

First – a handy map to show us where to find Palma – and just because I love maps! 🙂

Mallorca is the largest of Spain’s Balearic Islands, and recorded history of the island officially dates from the year of 123 BC, when it became part of the Roman Empire.  In the 6th century, it was controlled by the Byzantine Empire, and later it was under Moorish rule.  It then came under the Crown of Aragon, and throughout the ages, it had quite the history of falling victim to piracy.  Such a varied background lends itself to a city with beautifully diverse architecture and rich culture.  The old town is made up of narrow streets, full of cafes and shops.  The old private homes have ornate inner courtyards, and the majestic cathedral lies along the town’s imposing city walls.

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(Scroll to the bottom for restaurant reviews!)

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Oddly, flights from Zagreb to Palma are limited, and of course require a layover.   Our only choice that did not involve an overnight layover (that’s right!), was an early morning flight.

We arrived in Palma in the afternoon, and were pleased to see our home for four nights – an airy loft in the center of the old town.  Here’s a view out of the window:

Our street in Palma

On our first night, we met up with Barbara and Marco, and their daughter Chiara.  They took us on a short walking tour of part of the city, culminating with a visit to Bar Abaco – one of the city’s most famous bars.  It’s bedecked in elaborate decor, while standard classical music hits play in the background, and a roaring fire keeps guests warm.  A visit to Abaco is a must-do for all new tourists in Palma.  We had a nice time enjoying our daiquiris and great conversation.

Bar Abaco

The next day, we wandered the town and explored part of the city and its fortress walls. It was an official holiday -Balearics Day.  As a result, there were craft and food tents all along the city.   We also took a long walk along the sprawling marina.  Many shops and restaurants were closed for the holiday, so we were lucky to find a well-reviewed restaurant that was still open that night. Here are some photo highlights from our day:

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On the next day, we started out with a short walk to the marina, then met up with Barbara, Marco, Chiara, and Robert at a coffee shop along the Passeig del Born. That was followed by a walk along the old streets, finishing at the Plaça d’Espanya.  We had a very late lunch, as our dinner was booked for later that night.  In this part of the world, it’s customary to eat a late lunch, as well as a very late dinner.  Many restaurants close between 4:30 and 8:30pm each day.

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On our third full day in Palma, the plan was to meet up again with Barbara, Marco, Chiara, and Robert by the fish market.  Here we were to pay a visit to the oyster bar for fresh oysters and champagne.  It was my first time trying oysters, and I admit that I was a bit apprehensive at first.  However, I’m always willing to try new things – and it was Robert’s first time trying oysters too, so I wasn’t alone in being a newbie.  Miloš’ stomach was a little iffy that morning, so he passed on the oysters.  I’m definitely glad I tried them, but I don’t think I’ll be having another one soon.  I think perhaps they’re an acquired taste.

After oysters, we went for a walk along the city walls.  We said good-bye to Robert at the edge of the city, and continued walking along the seaside with Barbara, Marco, and Chiara all the way to the next village in the El Molinar area.  It was a lovely sunny day, and after saying good-bye to our friends, we had lunch in the village.

When we finished our lunch, we walked back to the apartment and freshened up.  We grabbed a taxi up to Bellver Castle, and hiked down the hillside after exploring.   At just over 700 years old, this castle is definitely worth a visit!  Miloš and I have seen many castles throughout all of our travels, but this one was certainly a highlight.  Not only does a visit here offer amazing views of the city below, but the castle is extremely well maintained, with exhibits within the different rooms along its circular courtyard, providing some education along the way.   Entry into the castle is 4€  per person, and our taxi ride was about 10€.  Tickets are available at the far side of the castle.  If you’d like to hike down afterwards, there is a well-kept stairway that leads down the entire hillside right across from the castle entrance, with a beautiful church about half way down.  On our way back to the old town, we stopped for a drink at one of the restaurant bars along the marina.  The evening was getting cool, and we headed back to the apartment to pack for our early morning flight back to Croatia.

Here are some photos from our third full day in Palma:

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DINING HIGHLIGHTS

We had some excellent meals while in Palma – you can certainly eat well in this city.  Here’s a look at our dining experiences:

Cafe Murada

We had lunch here on our first full day in Palma.  The restaurant is built into the edge of the city walls.  We snagged the only non-reserved table left in the place.  Service was excellent, and the food was just as good.  We started with a pear and goat cheese salad that was beyond delicious.  We shared it, but after tasting it, we wished we had ordered one for each of us!  We also shared a pizza and some grilled scampi.  Overall a wonderful meal at a restaurant we would love to revisit!

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Restaurante Peix Vermell

We were very lucky to find this restaurant when so many others were closed for the holiday.  It had a great rating on Trip Advisor, and we  were so glad it was open!  We shared another goat cheese salad, which was very good. (Although the one at Cafe Murada was even better!)  Miloš had steak, and I had pasta with clams and garlic. The server made a fantastic wine recommendation, too.   The wine glasses were huge!  The overall service was top notch. Our server spoke several languages – not just English for me, but Croatian for Miloš! Very impressive.  We’d recommend this place to anyone!

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Cappucino Cafe 

This seems to be a high end chain located around the city.  We stopped at the Palau March location, along the city walls near the cathedral.  They are open during the siesta afternoon hours, serving food and beverages.  I wasn’t too hungry, so I just had dessert (banana and caramel pie), while Miloš had a chicken with quinoa risotto.  He raved about it – really excellent.  Plus, in all honesty, the ambience and setting are fantastic.

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Asador Bolixe Cocina Esencial

This steakhouse is a little bit of a walk outside the center of the old town, but it was rated highly on Trip Advisor, so we made a reservation.  Service was good, but our server didn’t seem to speak English well, so it was lucky that Miloš speaks some Spanish.  Miloš had steak, and I had the lamb chops.  Even though the chops had a good grill flavor, they were a bit gristle-y.  Not a poor meal, but our others were so great, that this paled a bit in comparison.

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Trattoria A Tarantella

This was the Italian restaurant where we ate in the little village just past Palma proper. We shared a mixed salad to start the meal – it was hearty and worthy of sharing.  We each had a pasta entree – mine was an excellent spaghetti aglio e oglio: simple, tasty, and a bit spicy.  Miloš had spaghetti with scampi.  We ate out on the outdoor terrace in the sunshine.  A nice place to eat!

We had a wonderful time in Palma, and would love to return!  (And other cities in Spain are also on the list!)


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Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia – Fall 2016

Many of my regular readers will know that Miloš and I have made a few visits to Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia; it’s definitely one of our favorite places!

Our previous visits were in winter, when the park was an amazing winter wonderland, and in spring when the weather was warming up and buds were starting to form.

(CLICK HERE FOR PLITVICE WINTER WONDERLAND)

(CLICK HERE FOR PLITVICE IN SPRING)

Our most recent visit was in October 2016. (I’m just getting a chance to post about it now!)

The weather was pleasant, and the entire park was open for exploration. (Parts of the park are closed off in the low season.) As I’ve mentioned before, Plitvice is about a two and a half hour drive from Miloš’ hometown, so it’s a very manageable day trip for us.  It was definitely the most crowded time of our three visits, with many tourists sharing the trails with us.

There were still a few colorful leaves on the trees, but most had already fallen.  I can’t help but think that if we had gone two or three weeks earlier, we might have witnessed more of fall’s spectacular colors.

There are a number of marked trails that you can follow, and we chose to take a walk all the way up to the farthest marked point of the lake area (map left), and then take the little shuttle back to the look out area that leads back to the starting point. (Starting point at map right.)

Map of Plitvice Lakes hiking trails

Map of Plitvice Lakes hiking trails

 

We started out at Entrance 1, and noticed some friendly local residents right away, trying to beg for treats at the little cafe…

 

Cats of Plitvice

Cats of Plitvice

 

When you first clear the entranceway and look upon the main falls, it’s truly a sight to behold: both majestic and delicately beautiful.

 

Main falls at Plitvice

Main falls at Plitvice

Posing with the main falls in the background.

Posing with the main falls in the background.

 

We walked some of the familiar trail segments we knew from previous visits, but also were happy to explore new sections of the park.  Posted below are some photos of our day’s adventures!

(Click on any of the photos to see an enlarged version.)

A few quick tips:
-Comfortable shoes are a must
-Bring water (definitely) and snacks. (A small bag or light-weight backpack is helpful.)
-Hike during the day, and clear the park after it closes
-Walk with caution, as there are no railings on most trails
-Dress accordingly for the weather – layers are recommended

 


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Olde Towne Carolers 2016 Season in Review!

It’s always hard to believe how quickly the time flies by, but it’s already mid-February!  January was an incredibly busy month of travel, so I didn’t get a chance to post the highlights from OTC’s 2016 season!

2016 was our busiest season to date, with a full schedule of regular performances at Longwood Gardens, along with repeat appearances at Skytop Lodge, Christkindlmarkt, Shoppes at Wyomissing, Lehigh Country Club, The Outlet Shoppes at Gettysburg, Shop-Rite Stores, Philadelphia History Museum, and The Promenade Shops of Saucon Valley.  We were happy to perform again on WFMZ Channel 69 News, and return to the Quakertown Tree Lighting, the Chester Valley Golf Club, Glen Eagle Square Mall, Belle Reve Senior Living, Macy’s, Brandywine Senior Living, Daylesford Crossing, as well as many repeat private functions throughout the region.  We also added some great new clients like DiBruno Bros, The Snow Forge Festival, Willow Valley, the Union League Golf Club, the Nassau Inn, the Cherry Hill Mall, and the Holy Redeemer Hospital.

Our Boston team reprised their appearance at the end of summer for “Allston Christmas” for the bfresh Corporation.  During the holiday season itself, they performed for places such as the Berklee College of Music, the York Golf and Tennis Club in Maine, Olde Towne Liquors, the Vesper Country Club, Mark Hall Design, Benchmark Senior Living, and many other joyous private functions!

Don’t forget to book early for the 2017 season to get your best pick of dates!

OldeTowneCarolers Website

Here are some photos from our busy festive season!

 


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Olde Towne Carolers’ New CD is out now!

Exciting news!

Olde Towne Carolers announces our new CD, entitled “Sing We Noel.” The album includes fifteen holiday songs, with a range spanning from the Renaissance to the 20th century.

Here’s a look at the song list:

1. Sing We Now of Christmas / Noel Nouvelet
2. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
3. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
4. Silent Night / Stille Nacht
5. Patapan
6. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
7. Joseph lieber, Joseph mein
8. Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen
9. The Holly and the Ivy
10. Good King Wenceslas
11. The Wexford Carol
12. Remember O Thou Man
13. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
14. Auld Lang Syne
15. In the Bleak Midwinter

The album will be available soon through all the standard online retailers, but if you’d like to get your copy sooner, just drop us an email and we’ll get a copy mailed out to you! (info@oldetownecarolers.com)

A big shout out to the singers of OTC for a great project, as well as Jennica Musselman for her amazing graphic design work, and Dave at Morningstar Studios for putting the tracks together!

OTC CD with bleeds.indd


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Pure Nostalgia: Music at Christmas Time

When you think of Christmases past, what most sticks out in your memory?  Running down the stairs on Christmas morning?  Freshly fallen snow outside your window? Or maybe it’s baking cookies with your grandmother.  Put together, all these things can fill you with the happiest of nostalgia. 

But nothing can put you in the holiday spirit quite like the music of the season.  When the tree is lit on Christmas Eve, and all the lights are out in the house, and the fire is crackling….the right song just takes you back to the most special of times. 

Growing up, it was always a tradition in our house to play The Vienna Choir Boys first thing on Christmas Day.  My dad liked to pull out his mother’s old record, and we listened to those same carols every year.  To this day, it’s not Christmas to me without the Vienna Choir Boys!

And there are other songs that simply remind me of family times together, decorating the tree, or making our own Christmas ornaments.  When I was a kid, I LOVED “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays” because of the lyrics mentioning “Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie!”  Then many years later, the song had renewed special meaning when my young niece kept wanting me to sing it to her over and over.

I think these are all reasons that I decided to start my own Christmas Caroling company.  I loved the nostalgia of holiday music, and I loved singing it!   What could be better than to spread that joy to others and remind them of their own happy Christmas memories?  I wanted to make it easy for people to hire Christmas carolers – I wanted them to experience the beauty of live Christmas music.  Whether it was for an office holiday party or a concert at a retirement home, we could be an integral part of the delight and cheer of the season.  Add the Victorian Caroling costumes, and you have the perfect package!  Olde Towne Carolers delivers it all!

This holiday season, when you’re out shopping and feeling the stress of everything you have to do, if you happen to see Victorian carolers stroll by, singing your favorite holiday melodies… stop for a moment, leave the modern world behind, and reconnect with the child inside you who loved Christmas and everything about it!

Olde Towne Carolers

Olde Towne Carolers

Thinking about hiring Christmas carolers this year?  Olde Towne Carolers is available anywhere in the Northeast United States:

Philadelphia Carolers, Lehigh Valley Carolers, New Jersey Carolers, Boston Carolers, Connecticut Carolers – we’re there for you!  We’d love to be a part of your holiday celebrations!  Visit the website today: http://oldetownecarolers.com/


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Oslo, Norway

Oslo, Norway

Milos and I recently both had some time off between tours for a few days (at the same time!), and it made more sense for me to head up to Norway to meet up with him, as his tours are taking him through Scandinavia this season.

We had three full days to explore and spend time together.  (I got there late in the evening on day one, so I’m not counting that, and on day five, we both flew to Copenhagen so he could get ready for his next tour.)  But days two, three, and four were just for us!  🙂

I had never been to Norway before, and was excited to see what Oslo had to offer.  With our limited time, we wanted to focus strictly on the city itself and not try to venture out on any day trips out of town.

First, a few things about Norway and its capital, Oslo.

Due to its far-north latitude, we certainly didn’t have to worry about the heat, despite it being the end of July.  During our few days there, it averaged in the upper 60’s to around 70 degrees fahrenheit.  In the evenings, we definitely needed our jackets.  Bear in mind that Oslo is “southern Norway.” Milos goes all the way to the north cape on one of his tours, where he needs his heavy winter coat even in summer.

There really were an enormous amount of blonde people – everywhere.  I read that about 80% of Scandinavians are blonde. And after my visit to Norway, I totally believe it.    Except for my short height, I really felt like I blended in there.  Haha!

Almost EVERYONE speaks English, making it easy for tourists.

The country has a great deal of wealth due to its oil industry, which is also the reason Norway is not in the EU.  (It IS a member of the Schengen, however.)  It is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, which is a downside for tourists, as everything is EXTREMELY expensive.  Plan for this if you’re making a trip there! $$$$

There are SO many electric cars in Norway!  If you purchase an electric car there, you don’t have to pay tax on it, you get free parking, you can drive in bus lanes, and there is an amazing infrastructure of charging stations.  As a result, over 22% of new car sales in Norway in 2015 were electric cars.  Pretty impressive!

Oslo is also the home of the Nobel Peace Prize, which is given out in the city’s town hall every year in December.  (The only one not awarded in Stockholm.)

The city is very modern, with just a few examples of old structures.  Much of Oslo has gone through some destruction during its history, most recently in WWII.  As a result, most buildings are very modern-looking.  Overall, Oslo is very clean and the people were friendly.

What are some of the sites we explored in Oslo?

We walked around the city to get a feel for its orientation. There is a big main street going through town with lots of shops and restaurants, called Karl Johans gate.  As you approach the area near the royal palace, the area opens up with a park running along the side of the street.  The palace itself is surrounded by green areas where everyone is free to walk around and enjoy the space.  We spent some time wandering through the gardens, just relaxing and enjoying our time together.

Along the water, there’s an area called Aker Brygge, which is also full of restaurants and shops.  (But mostly restaurants!)  It is bookended by the Nobel Peace Center on the city end and the Modern art museum (Astrup Fearnley Museet) on the other end.  We walked this area each evening, and had dinner there twice. 

Opposite the bay/marina from there is the Akershus Fortress; a medieval castle that was built to protect the city.  (Disney fans will recognize the name, as it is used at the Norway pavilion in Epcot in Disney World!)  It is well preserved and fun to explore.  You can get a great view of the coastline and the city from up there! 

We visited the Viking Ship Museum, which is home to the remains of three viking ships from approximately 1100 years ago!  Amazing!  We got there via the Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing Bus. 

We also visited the famous Vigeland Gardens, renowned for its sculptures.  Vigeland wanted his art to be timeless, so the figures are all nudes.  Clothing represents specific eras in time, so the artist decided to forego dress of any kind in his creations.  One of the most famous sculptures is that of the “angry boy,” who is stomping his feet in protest to something he doesn’t like. 

And while at Vigeland Gardens, we stumbled upon a Bruce Springsteen Concert!  The concert was scheduled for the evening, but Bruce was doing an initial soundcheck, which we got to hear. I thought it rather funny that a musician who I consider “local” to back home was there half way around the world at the same time as me!

We also paid a visit to the National Gallery, home of Munch’s “The Scream.”  I won’t pretend to be an art historian or expert, but we enjoyed our time taking in the paintings and other art on display.  Milos and I had a few shared favorites among the paintings, and I especially liked the fairy tale room, with the painting of the young princess in front of the castle being my top favorite. (Called “Prinsessin” by Hanna Pauli.)  A plus side to the National Gallery (besides all that awesome art, of course) – free admission!

Here are some photos of our adventures in Oslo!

General Pics Around Town:

 

The Akershus Fortress and Castle Complex:

 

 

 

 

Royal Palace and Queens’s Garden

 

 

Viking Ship Museum!

 

 

 

Vigeland Park and Sculpture Garden

 

 

 

National Gallery.  Some of our favorites:

 

 

Some fave dinner/lunch spots:

 

 

 

And a farewell pic from the airport!  Troll!

 

Last minute troll pic while still in Norway

Last minute troll pic while still in Norway


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Our Very Own Happily Ever After

May 28th was a fantastic day – we had our wonderful wedding in Milos’ hometown of Crikvenica, Croatia. (At the Hotel Marina in Selce, to be exact.)

 

The planning started even before we got engaged (back on Feb. 13, 2015), as some of you might remember from previous blog posts.  I chose a color palette of lavender and mint green, and I got some wonderful decorative items while back in the U.S. during winter and spring.  I was so pleased with how the hotel made our modest decorations come together in such a beautiful and elegant way.

 

Our wedding day weather was warm and sunny with happiness all around.  Of course we had lots to do – the week leading up to the wedding was crazy stressful.  I had just gotten into town after my two week tour on Monday evening (5 days before the wedding), but Milos had been there a few days already and had  started getting things in order.  But no matter how well prepared you are, there are always last minute things to keep you busy leading right up through the wedding day.

 

The ceremony was on the “beach” of the Hotel Marina: a flat concrete area on the water’s edge.  We bought an archway that was decorated with flowers to serve as the “altar” at the end of the aisle between the beach umbrellas made of palm fronds.  Our reception was just above on the lower terrace of the hotel itself.

 

Despite the stress and busy-ness, everything came together spectacularly.  The florist created some gorgeous bouquets – mine looked exactly like the photo I had shown her from Pinterest.  The photographer was professional, easy-going, and exceptionally talented.  We were able to choose the photos for our album AND get a full USB stick of ALL 800-something of our photos just days after the wedding.  The hotel served delicious food and also organized a gorgeous yet simple wedding cake – again, exactly to my specifications.  (And it tasted great!)

 

My friend and bridesmaid Rebecca was a super woman – not only doing my hair, but my sister’s and her own all within our limited given time frame.  We also sang a super duet during the ceremony to “Panis Angelicus.” My sister ran around and was a great wedding day assistant.  All three of my dresses made me feel beautifully bridal, each in their own special way.  (I’ll categorize the three as feminine boho (#1), elegantly classic (#2), and comfortably sexy (#3).

 

Milos looked so amazingly handsome in his light grey suit and lavender tie.  We took some awesome pics together: some near Kastel in the middle of town, some near the seaside park by his childhood house, and some at Lanterna – an old fisherman’s house on the sea.  And of course, we got great photos of people having fun at the reception on the terrace.

 

I didn’t have a lot of folks on my side make the trip to Croatia, but I was so grateful and appreciative for those that could.  We had a FANTASTIC time reliving our younger days out on the dance floor.  (I had put lots of good dance songs on the list from the 80’s and early 90’s.)  The party went until 5:30am, when the few of us remaining decided to take a quick swim in the sea as the sun came up.

 

The most important parts: everyone had a great time and we are now so excited to start our lives together as husband and wife.  After all, a wedding is only a day, but a marriage is a lifetime.  And we are so excited to have that lifetime together.  ❤

 

Here are some photos from our happy day!