Knight’s Templar (Tomar, Portugal)

Our first stop on our trip through Portugal and Spain was Tomar, Portugal. There, we visited the Convent of Christ, which was originally a 12th-century Templar stronghold (the convent was founded by the Order of Poor Knights of the Temple, or Templar Knights, in 1118). The Convent and Castle complex are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The convent entrance is in Manueline style, which usually means it incorporates maritime elements and representations of the discoveries brought from the voyages of Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral. The window of the Convent of Christ (which is in many of the photos in this portfolio) is also a well-known example of Manueline style.

The Romanesque round church is a Roman Catholic Church from the castle (charola, rotunda) was built in the second half of the 12th century by the Knights Templar. The castle was built around 1160 on a strategic location, over a hill and near river Nabão. It contains gothic painting and sculpture.

This was a great way to start off our trip.

Thanks to Fodor’s Travel Guides, Trip Advisor, and Wikipedia for the great lessons that helped me to plan and summarize this trip.

Saint Hallvard Inside doorway of Oslo Cathedral by Steven Michael Martin

Oslo Cathedral, Norway

Oslo Cathedral (Oslo domkirke), formerly Our Savior’s Church, is the main church of the Church of Norway Diocese of Oslo.  The present church dates from 1694-1697, and replaces two former churches that burned and fell into disrepair.  It is the church the Norwegian Royal Family uses for events.

Christmas in Winchester 2015

We decided that we would celebrate Christmas together in Virginia this year. The houses in Winchester were decorated more than any place I’ve ever seen. And the highlight was on Christmas Eve, when the Luminaries were lit all over town, lighting up all the streets. Even Santa came to have a look.

We went to mass in a couple of places in Maryland (The Basilica & Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes in Emmitsburg, and the Saint Anthony Shrine in Emmitsburg). For any curious Catholics out there, the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton pays tribute to the life and mission of Elizabeth Ann Seton (August 28, 1774 – January 4, 1821), the first native-born citizen of the United States to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.

Notre Dame Paris

Paris – Notre Dame

In 2019, after the massive fire that destroyed much of Notre Dame, I went back to my raw photos and found a lot more pictures that I have now added to this portfolio. Such a sad story for a beautiful historically significant place. I’m am forever grateful that I woke up super early the morning I took these pictures to be one of the first to enter the church. I remember being one of only a handful of people in the church at the time. It was worth the couple miles walk to get to it!

Chartres Cathedral

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres is a medieval Catholic cathedral located about 50 miles  southwest of Paris. It is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The current cathedral was mostly constructed between 1194 and 1250.

We drove to Chartres from Carcassonne and couldn’t miss the big spires from a couple miles away.  They looked like they were rising out of the farms in the area.  Pretty neat.  I had been to Chartres once in the past, but it was nice to see the church renovated in several parts to look brand new rather than 800 or so years old!


Carcassonne, a Medieval city, is the largest fortified town in Europe.  The Romans fortified the hilltop around 100 BC.  Carcassonne became strategically identified when Romans fortified the hilltop around 100 BC.  The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

We arrived at sunset and left after sunrise the next morning.  I had to see the city under both morning and evening light, but that wasn’t enough…I also wanted night and star shots, so I didn’t sleep very much that night!


Sagrada Familia

This has to be one of the coolest churches I have ever seen.  It is impressive for those that are religious, or interested in architecture, or fascinated by modern engineering projects, or those that just like colors and shapes.  I spent a few hours there in daylight and at night.  I would love to spend even more time there because every time I blinked I saw something new and different.  It is peaceful, and dreamy, and interesting.  When I saw this church in 1998, I remember parts being uncovered.  They made a lot of progress in 17 years!


What a great way to celebrate 43!  Randy and I met up with Kathy Hayes, who had the great idea of getting tickets to see U2 in Barcelona.  We had to miss the concert in Boston a few months ago, so we gave away our tickets.  It all worked out perfectly because I got to see the show in such a memorable way.

Barcelona is a beautiful city.  Much of the architecture is inspired by Gaudi.  I didn’t post Sagrada Familia photos in this portfolio because it deserves an album of its own. You will see why!

La Rochelle

La Rochelle is a seaport town in the Poitou-Charentes region of France. The city has a long history of fishing and shipbuilding. It is from La Rochelle that my Mom’s Cormier family left France in 1644.

About 1634, Robert married Marie Peraude (Perreau) at La Rochelle. They had two sons, Thomas born in 1636 and Jean in 1643. Like most migrants from France to New France and Acadia, Robert arrived in Acadia as part of an employment contract for a term of three years.

“Robert Cormier’s contract signed in La Rochelle on January 8, 1644 and by which Robert Cormier, vessel’s carpenter, Marie Perraude, his wife and Thomas Cormier, elder son, dwelling in this city, shall be compelled as they are promising, to get on the first day upon the first request, aboard the ship le Petit Saint Pierre, of which Pierre Boileau is the master and to go in Cape Breton Island, New France Country and to work for Sieurs Tuffet, Duchanin and deChevery as vessel carpenter and to do other things which could be ordered by Sieur Louis Tuffet, commander of Fort Saint Pierre in the said island and to this end, they shall be compelled to obey and carry the orders during the three next and consecutive years., commencing on the day of their embarkation and ending on the day they will re-embark for their return, the said three years done and over. And this for and on condition that for each year they will receive the sum of one hundred and twenty Tour’s pounds, having already received in advance the payment of the first year made by the said Sieurs Tuffet, Duchanin and deChevery and the balance will be paid or made to their order five months after the return of said ship, deducting for what they will have received in the said island and it is understood that in case the said Cormier and his spouse do not obey or revolt against the said Sieur Tuffet and/or other governor’s clerks, they shall be deprived of their wages in whole and kept responsible for all damages and interests. The said parties for the accomplishment of these agreements, having assigned one and other all their present and future belongings, and real estate, made in LaRochelle, this Eight day of January 1644. Attorney Francois Marcoux and clerical secretary Martin deHarrabilague, both residing in this city.”

Nantes – where the Martin Family comes from…

Martin Family, you must read this…

…this is the city from which the Martins originated in France.

The story is as follows…Robert Martin was born in 1600 in Nantes, Bretagne (Brittany), which is now part of France. He died in 1666 in Port Royal, Acadia (which is modern day Nova Scotia). In 1634, when he was 33 or 34 years old, he was married to 14 year-old Marguerite Landry (daughter of Jean Claude Landry and Marie Salle). Marguerite was born in 1617, also in Nantes. They are the couple that left Brittany (from La Rochelle) to settle in New France, which was Acadia (now Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Northern Maine). It is estimated that they came from France in 1632. From there, three generations lived in Acadia, followed by Quebec, New Brunswick and then finally Maine (Frenchville, St. Agatha, and then Van Buren).

So, in case you have ever wondered what France looks like in the region that they come from, I give you some photos of Nantes. It was a really beautiful place…some have called it the Venice of the West because it had beautiful waterways. Nantes was the historic capital of Brittany during the city’s golden age in the 15th century. The town’s wealth came from shipbuilding and commerce and was once the busiest port in France.

The pictures I took are mostly from the Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne. This was the home to the Dukes of Brittany during the golden age of Francois II and his daughter Anne. Henri IV’s Edict of Nantes, which gave freedom of worship to the Huguenots was signed here in 1598.

The rest of the pictures are mostly from the cathedral of St. Peter in Nantes, where Francois II and Marguerite de Foix are buried. On September 9, 1488, Duke Francois II died, leaving the duchy of Brittany to his 10 year old daughter Anne. Three years later, Charles VIII, king of France, forced the young heiress to marry him. When he died three years later, she returned to Nantes and commissioned the tomb. She remarried the new King of France=, Louis XII in the Chateau de Nantes.

Dinan, France

Dinan is a Medieval city; one of Brittany’s best preserved old towns – more than 600 years old. Many buildings date from the 12th through the 18 centuries. Personally, I liked the church. In the 12th century, a crusader Rivallon le Roux pledged that if he survived, he would return to his city to pay for a church dedicated to Christ. The Romanesque and Gothic St-Saveur Basilica is the church he funded.

Mont Saint-Michel

Le Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy is a small island with a population of 44 people! Sitting at the top of the fortifications is a monastery. While we were there on a rainy day, an orchestra was playing in the monestary. Until recently, the island was accessible only during low tide, making it a defensible position – incoming tides stranded or drowned those that didn’t belong there! Because of this natural defense, the Mont was not conquered during the Hundred Years’ War.

Mont Saint-Michel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The featured picture, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, was demolished during the Soviet period, and later reconstructed from 1990–2000.  The rest of the photos were equally thought provoking and brought me back to a time when I was young and completely fearful that the Soviets were going to threaten our existence and our future. Some of my favorite sites included St. Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square and our trip out to Moscow University.  I also liked the view of the Moscow International Business Center and the cityscape from the Western side of the city.


We went to Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas Eve.  Tucked away in the middle of Israel, in the Palestinian Authority is the place where Jesus Christ was born.  Machine guns, war zone, conflict…all quite different from what one might expect in a place that is where these religions were born.  This was one of my most memorable holidays I’ve ever had.

Masada, Israel

Link to Wikipedia

Masada is an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel situated on top of a mesa. Located on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, it overlooks the Dead Sea.  Herod the Great fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE. According to Josephus, the siege of Masada by troops of the Roman Empire at the end of the First Jewish–Roman War ended in the mass suicide of 960 people, the Sicarii rebels and their families hiding there.