Author Archives: thegatorgal

About thegatorgal

I am a retired communicator with backgrounds in news and corporate communications. Photography is my area of focus as I shoot for my own amusement and in some cases amazement. An image captured in time in the right light appeals to my sensibilities and gives pause for reflection.

Paris Remembered

Random vignettes are my favorites, particularly when the curve of an arch is appealing, a cityscape defines a place, a moment captures the humanness of people, or in a few instances, where iconic images cannot go ignored. These photographs are memories I take with me from my travels to reside in my photo files. Here I curated portraits of Paris to share in this final post from the City of Light. Do any appeal to your sensibilities?

2 Women on a Bus

Two women on a bus

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe


Bistrot chairs

Chimneys copy

I love the chimney pots of European cities

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À la Mère de Famille chocolate shop, since 1761 and still in the same location

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Spiral staircase in the old chocolate shop. Spiral staircases are ubiquitous in old Paris shops because space was at a premium and many were in narrow quarters

Demo 2

Our apartment was a block from Bastille Square, where we went everyday to catch a taxi or a bus. We encountered this peaceful pro-immigration rally one day on our way out of the neighborhood as they marched through the Bastille.




Girls on Phones

Ho hum, just another palace. These teens perch along the walls of the Royal Palace, have a snack and text their friends, I imagine. Paris is sooooo boring!

Skateboarder on Phone

I wonder if the girls are texting this boy, just a few yards away

Eiffel My guys at Eiffel Tower

My guys at the Eiffel Tower

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The Eiffel Tower is much larger than one might think. Its base is firmly planted alongside the Seine.



Graceful Street Lamp fb

Graffiti 2

Give me some good city graffiti any day

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Graffiti Street Scene copy

Guy on Street fb

Who says Parisians aren’t friendly?

I Love Paris


Liz on HOHO

I love seeing a city from the top deck of an open HOHO (Hop On Hop Off bus). Great perspective.

Louvre Pyramid

I.M. Pei’s iconic glass pyramid, the entrance to the Musée du Louvre, the worlds largest art museum

Louvre Inverted Pyramid

I.M. Pei also designed the inverted pyramid located underground in the Carrousel du Louvre shopping mall in front of the museum. Savvy museum-goers know to enter the museum through the shopping center rather than the big pyramid, to avoid hours-long lines (and to purchase  tickets in advance on the museum’s website.)

Louvre chocolates

The museum’s gift shop offers chocolate pyramids.

louvre Dancing

In the Roman and Greek sculpture wing, I can almost see the statues dancing with the young people in the room.

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Elevators are few, tucked away and not easy to find. Better be ready to climb stairs, like this graceful stairwell, at the Louvre.

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Workers stop to admire Mercury


Mona Lisa Fans copy

Visitors pack the Mona Lisa room to get a glimpse of this famous Renaissance woman

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All eyes, cameras and cell phones are on the Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa Woman

This visitor was taking a selfie with the Mona Lisa in the background. I wonder if Leonardo da Vinci would have found her as interesting as I did.


Even the Metro signs in Paris are decorative

Mossy Urns

Père Lachaise Cemetery

nd Two Stained Glass

Notre Dame Cathedral

nd Votives

nd Windows horiz

Paris 5 story copy

It’s hard to beat a Paris balcony for design

Paris passages Arch Ironwork

Roof copy

Rue de Lesdiguieres Lamp copy

Our apartment was on the rue de Lesdiguières, with this lamplight seen from our balcony

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The Seine is a commercial 482-mile-long waterway that flows through Paris and separates the artsy Left Bank from the Right Bank, drawing Parisians and visitors to the river’s edge to relax and enjoy the scenery or take a scenic cruise for an hour or two.

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sr turreted bldg on seine

Streetscape copy

Street Lamp and Windows

Yellow Diner

Tom and Liz

Hey, thanks for coming along on our 2018 family trip to Barcelona, Sicily, Malta and Paris!






Paris Passages!

The Covered Passages of Paris are the City of Light’s little secret, and one I am happy we discovered with our local guide, Sarah. She showed us another era of Paris that is alive, and not in a museum. Well, alive for now. They are diminishing by the day, a sad situation indeed.

These skylight-covered galleries are the epitome of Paris, and best described by the site World in Paris – Enjoy Paris Like a Local:

“By the end of the XVIII century, town planners created a labyrinth of commercial covered walkways across the city with beautiful stained glass ceilings, mosaic works and iron latticework, all bathed in natural light. Apart from its dominating merchant role, they were also the new bourgeois’ favorite stroll, the place to show up and socialize in its endless cute cafes, restaurants or small theaters.

“Over the years only a few covered walkways survived. Restored to its former glory, they are nowadays real Art Nouveau/Neoclassical architectural gems and if you know where to look you will find delightful ancient boutiques, cute cafes and other curiosity shops. These charming Parisian walkways, totally free to visit, are the perfect shelter for a rainy day but also a trip back in time to the wonderful Belle Époque.”

While there were once 200, that number of covered passages has been reduced to about 20, and six or seven remain in good condition. Unfortunately, in its zeal to “modernize,” these lovely passages will soon be gone by way of the buggy whip. If you get to Paris, take a couple of hours and do a walking tour of these unique spaces.

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The Passages are on the ground floors of the buildings where they are tucked away. Today, people still live upstairs. This spiral staircase leads to a private apartment.

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These old-fashioned book covers are right at home in the Passages.

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All the fixtures, including many tile floors, are original in the 200+ year-old spaces. The gas lamps are now electric.

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Frédéric Chopin and George Sand began their nine-year affair at the Hotel Chopin in the Passages.

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The Musée Grévin is a wax museum in Paris, begun before the invention of photography. The wax figures of notables of the day enabled the commoners to know what their leaders looked like.

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Another spiral staircase leading up to a private apartment, occupied to this day.

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Passages Wolf.jpg

A winged wolf. Your guess is as good as mine. Anthony posted a picture of it from his iPhone and within seconds he was subjected to an ad for Purina Dog Chow. Really.




A Mind-blowing Art Show in Paris

Well, I’ve just had my mind blown. And in a very good way. Thanks to my cousin Jenny who alerted me to a fabulous exhibit of Klimt and Hundertvasser at the Atelier des Lumières going on now. If you will be in Paris up to Nov. 11, 2018, the is a must-see.

The Atelier des Lumières uses 140 video-projectors and 50 Nexo speakers with controlled directivity for an immersive experience that has the digitized images of world-class artists exploding with color. The process ushers art into a new world.

The former foundry, a cavernous space, is the canvas on which 3,000 works of digitized art are projected to music in a half hour light and sound show. Visitors wander through the images projected on the walls, floor and even themselves. One is enveloped in moving, melding art. We become part of the art.

My stills don’t do the exhibition justice, but I present them to give you a taste of this mind-bending technology.

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Viewers are caught up in the projection, making them part of the art

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The digitized images are projected on a plain dark walls and floors, bringing the space alive with art.

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Visitors appear to be in a modern urban setting, but it is projection on the walls and floor.

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Not to diminish the exhibit, but some of the images projected give the feeling of a carnival atmosphere. The images move and meld and segue to powerful music.

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Viewers up on a gallery are silhouetted against the projection on the wall.

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This almost looks like a Paris street scene, but it is a small group of viewers standing against a wall.

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Lumineres Viewers.jpg

The viewers become part of the art.

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Lumineres Women.jpg

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

The finest example of French Gothic architecture is embodied in the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on the right bank of the River Seine. The church is among the largest and best-known in the world. One hundred eighty years were spent building the cathedral from 1163 to 1345. Damaged and repaired over the centuries, its blended designs and additions are attributed to various architects who led the progress during their careers.

The cathedral is free to enter, and the long queues to enter move quickly, as the cathedral is so large, one wonders where everybody went when once inside.

Chances are you may have visited Notre Dame. If so, enjoy a revisit. If not, here is a glimpse of the the iconic cathedral.

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Chris photobombs Notre Dame Cathedral

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Queued up to enter the cathedral

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Security is evident


Outside entry

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Front facade

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One of three renowned rose windows in the cathedral. It measures 31.5 feet in diameter

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Open Window.jpg

Praying Bishop.jpg

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Papal tomb






One cannot come to Paris without visiting the colorful area on the hill, Montmartre. It is primarily known for its artistic history, the white Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Sacre Coeur, on its summit and as a nightclub district. What a combination. To get to the cathedral, it’s a bit of an uphill walk from where a taxi or bus drops you off. Then you reach the real hill, and the option of a funicular. We chose the latter. There were four of us, totalling eight tickets round trip; however, purchasing 10 tickets was cheaper, so we bought 10 and gave two away to the startled couple in the queue behind us.

At the top, turning right you reach the base of the basilica grounds, with the basilica looming over the city and a great view of Paris. Turning right from the funicular, one wends one’s way up the cobbled street to Place du Tertre, rimmed by cafes and artists, painting and sketching for tourists eager to take home an original work of art.

Near the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the twentieth, during the Belle Epoque, many artists had studios or worked in or around Montmartre, including Claude Monet, Pierre-August Renoir, Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso, Camille Pissarro and Vincent van Gogh.

Below in the lower part of Montmartre is the famous nightclub district and the historic Moulin Rouge, where its signature Can Can is still offered nightly.

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Sacre Coeur Cathedral, built from 1876 to 1919

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The hill at the base of Sacre Coeur offers a bird’s eye view of the City of Light. Below, a niche in the basilica and the Virgin Mary.


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Place du Tertre

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Artist 1.jpg

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The nightclub district of Montmartre

Moulin Rouge

The Moulin Rouge, home of the Can Can. Built in the 1880s, the original building burned down in 1915. Today it is a popular tourist destination who come to see the entertainers, much as they did 100 years ago and earlier.

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Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris

We wanted to visit Molière, Eugène Delacroix, Georges Bizet, Frédéric Chopin, Honoré de Balzac, Marcel Proust, Georges Seurat, Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, Isadora Duncan, Gertrude Stein, Colette, Edith Piaf, Marcel Marceau, Yves Montand and Jim Morrison, so we went to the Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, where they are buried. T

Turns out we are not the only ones who enjoy a good cemetery crawl. It is often hailed as the most-visited cemetery in the world. Estimates of the number of people buried here range from 300,000 to about 1,000,000. The remains of Abelard and Héloïse (who died in 1142 and 1164, respectively) are reportedly the oldest identifiable bones in the cemetery.

At 110 acres (with more than 5,000 trees), it’s both the largest park and the largest cemetery in Paris. Needless to say we didn’t manage to visit all the notables; however, Anthony found Jim Morrison’s grave, which prompted a rare selfie and the remark, “Finally, a selfie worth taking. R.I.P. Jim.”

Cemetery Entrance




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19th century grave.jpg

Bedstead Grave.jpg

abc at jim morrison's grave

Anthony pays homage to Jim Morrison’s grave with a rare selfie

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This feels a little creepy

Church Grave

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Dead Rose.jpg


Emblem.jpgGraves and Vines.jpg

Dried Grasses.jpg


Iron Angel.jpg

Step in, s’il vous plait

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An open crypt, unkempt

Purple Pots

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Stairway to Heaven




Woman's Head.jpg

Madame oversees her grave

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St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Malta

I love cathedrals. I love to be in them, I love the architecture, I love the history of each and every one I have visited in many countries. Then there is St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta. Just Wow.

St. Johns Co-Cathedral is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. It was built by the Order of St. John between 1572 and 1577, and designed by the Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar, who designed several of the more prominent buildings in Valletta. In the 17th century, its interior was redecorated in the Baroque style, and the interior of the church is considered to be one of the finest examples of high Baroque architecture in Europe.

Come inside:

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St. John's Apse

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The carving was all undertaken in-place (in-situ) rather than being carved independently and then attached to the walls (stucco). The Maltese limestone from which the cathedral is built lends itself particularly well to such intricate carving.

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The whole marble floor is an entire series of tombs, housing about 400 Knights and officers of the Order.

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St. John's Side Chapel Arch.jpg

The Cathedral contains nine rich chapels, one dedicated to Our Lady of Philermos and the rest dedicated to the patron saints of each of the Order’s eight languages.


Borrowed from the Internet, this photo is of the outside of the cathedral. It’s simple lines and design belie the ornate interior behind the heavy doors.

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The Occhipinti Winery in Sicily

Fourteen years ago, a young woman in her twenties envisioned a winery of her own. Her poetic approach to growing grapes has created a small, successful business that is married to the windblown land that gives her vines life. Organic. Non-irrigated in this dry climate. The grapes flourish, as does the young business belonging to Arianna Occhipinti outside Vittoria, Sicily, It exports 90 percent of the wine, including to the United States.

In her own words: “Everything begun fourteen years ago in the Fossa di Lupo area. A place where the land in the evening becomes redish and is brushed by the Ibleian winds and leans on one side of a road: the County Road 68. A county road like many others, but with a special past. It was once a stone narrow path; three thousand years ago it connected Gela to Kamarina, it travelled- as it still does – through the Cerasuolo di Vittoria roads hills and from Caltagirone continued to Catania and Lentini. There, squeezed between heaven and earth, that road also marked my destiny.”

Arianna Occhipinti was destined to make good wine. We toured the vineyard, the processing area and enjoyed the fruits of the labors at a long table, tasting four varieties along with cheese, olives and bread.

Let’s enter the vineyard and the winery:

Winery Guide

Vineyard guide

Tree and Vineyard


Winery guide in vineyard copy

The wind blows all the time here, creating a climate good for grapes as it dries the humidity from the air and soil.


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Vineyard guide explains the workings of the winery to Anthony and Chef Gaetano

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A 4,000-year-old olive tree in the vineyard

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Christian, Debbie and Tom at the winery


Wax copy

The wax used on the bottle necks of certain varieties

Wine labels


Bottles in window

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The tasting room

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Chef Gaetano ponders a red






Ortygia Market in Sicily!

We followed Chef Gaetano through the market stalls of the colorful and lively Ortygia Market across the short bridge from Siracusa on Sicily’s southeast coast of the Ionian Sea. At the foot of the market, by the sea, one is greeted by the cries of the vendors selling everything from cheeses to meat and fish to wines and spirits and spices. We sampled tidbits here and there and I bought a half kilo of dried tomatoes to take back home, which they vacuum packed, plus a bag of delicious dried mango.

One musical fishmonger, in particular, brought out his guitar when he saw Gaetano, who never travels without his harmonicas, and the two made beautiful music together.

And speaking of making beautiful music together, lunch after the market was alfresco n the Piazza Duomo, where a bride and groom emerged from the church to street accordion music of the theme from “The Godfather.” It’s Sicily!

Here’s a taste of the Ortygia Market:


Market Stall.jpg



Blood Oranges.jpg

Blood oranges

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Anthony makes a deal for dried fruit


Debbie Vendor Tom

Debbie and Tom cozy up to the octopus stew maker

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Sting Rays copy

Sting rays. It’s what’s for dinner.

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A smiling sting ray

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Squash Blossoms

Squash blossoms. Batter and fry them up. Who knew?

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Vendor in Turban

A vendor

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Should I have told her I’m from Florida, the Orange State? Nah.

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Gaetano makes conversation with a colorful market patron only to discover they both lived in San Francisco in the ’70s not far from each other, but in different years. As they identify different streets, Gaetano says, “There was a whorehouse there run by a woman named Sally.” The man says, “I KNEW Sally. But I wasn’t a customer.”

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Apartments above the streets of the market


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Chris photobombs the Duomo di Siracusa, the Sicilian Baroque cathedral of Syracuse and a UNESCO World Heritage Site

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Here comes the bride, emerging from the Duomo

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The Duomo Piazza is Ortygia’s core city center. The cathedral is on the right. We lunched under the umbrellas on the left. 

Eating Truffles in Sicily!

We are here on Chef Gaetano’s Annual Culinary Tour. We keep coming back for more, and this is our fourth trip to this Italian island. This time we are in the southeast of Sicily headquartered out of a boutique hotel near Siracusa.

Food is all around us, and Chef Gaetano makes sure we experience the unusual. Yesterday it was truffles.

How to eat truffles for lunch:

  1. Go to a high, cool forest in Sicily.
  2. Have a truffle dog with you.
  3. Also have a Michelin Star chef on the hunt.
  4. Follow along as the dog sniffs and digs out a truffle from the spongy forest floor and and carries it to his handler.
  5. Repeat as often as necessary until you have the required amount for lunch for 16, including the guide and driver.
  6. Leave the forest and drive to the village of Palazzolo and Chef Andrea’s establishment, Ristorante Andrea.
  7. Enter Chef Andrea’s kitchen and watch him scrub and prepare the truffles and create truffle courses to die for.
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The truffle dog with his handler, ready to find truffles in the moist forest floor.

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Our group, excited to watch the talented truffle dog sniff and dig out the delicacy.

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Truffles fresh from the earth

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Anthony with the amazing truffle dog and his handler

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Michelin Star Chef Andrea prepares the truffles. The end result is very thin shavings.

Chef's Daughter in Kitchen

Chef Andrea’s 13-year-old daughter works in the family restaurant and is developing culinary skills under her father’s tutelage.

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First course: eggs and truffles

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Pasta and truffles

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A special vegetable dish for the vegetarians in the group, starring eggplant, squash and other tasty veggies.

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Black pig and truffles. We saw this black Sicilian pigs last year at a black pig farm in northern Sicily. Prosciutto come from this pig.

Main course

Entree: Pistachio-encrusted pork. All the food prepared in Chef Andrea’s kitchen is local, right down to the truffles.

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Dolce! A wonderful dessert of ricotta curd and truffles, served on olive oil and cookie crumbs off to the side.

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Bravo, Chef Andrea!