Barcelona, Spain

June 7, 2019

This is our 4th time visiting Barcelona and we still haven’t even scratched the surface of this beautiful city.

Last night Ray told us there would be 9 cruise ships in port today.. Wow.  As it turned out, I believe there were 7, but the good news is that since our ship is small,we get the prime spot!

Here is the sail in picture.

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Today we wanted to see more of the Gaudi influence in Barcelona.  We have already visited the Sagrada Familia twice before, once when it was really unfinished (no roof, etc.) and then two years ago when it was amazing to see. It was begun in  1882 and is still unfinished!  So this time our sights were on La Pedrera and Parc Guell. Here are some pictures of the outside of the Sagrada Familia though, the first from a distance as it towers over the city and is its most distinctive landmark.

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We opted to take the hop on hop off bus to get the birds eye view of much of the city and then get off to explore these two places. 

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First of all, here are some of the sights of the city.

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They have a very efficient tram service here.

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And this little car is a GPS guided tour vehicle!

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We took the orange line to La Pedrera which was commissioned by Gaudi as a family residence and also had apartments for rent.  It is made up of two blocks of residences and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

The building resembles an open stone quarry flowing with shapes taken from nature.

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We opted for the fast pass which allowed us to bypass the long line to get in.  The courtyards are the first thing you see and the colors and design remind you of a tropical forest.

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You then climb the stairs to the roof terrace which is quite spectacular and unlike anything else designed at that time (1906-1912).

Some of the shapes have been finished with mosaics using broken tiles, stones, marble and glass. There are many skylights, stairwells, ventilation towers and chimneys and you could spend hours wandering around this space.

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The attic was next.  Here is where laundry used to be washed and dried.  It consists of 273 flat brick arches arranged to resemble the interior of the Biblical whale.  This area also contains a display of his work.  Here is a model of the design of the building – which he designed upside down.  You can see it right side up in the mirror below it.

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On the fourth floor, the apartment shows how a family lived in the early 20th century.

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Amazing place and visit, and a new appreciation of how Gaudi revered nature and how it inspired his creations.

We also went past another building, often considered one of his masterpieces, the Casa Batllo, but didn’t go inside.

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We changed to the green route on the bus and passed the 1992 Olympic site and the beaches. The white spire was the site of the Olympic flame. The information on the bus described that the beaches had become run down and not visited but when the Olympics were to come to Barcelona, they were all renovated and now are just lovely.

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Unfortunately when we went to the Parc Guell, it was sold out for the day (only 800 visitors per hour are allowed).  And it was a long uphill walk from the bus.  But I did get these pictures from the outside.  As seasoned travelers, we probably should have known to buy tickets ahead of time.  Oh well, next visit!

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After a long morning and most of the afternoon, we walked down the La Rambla,  one of the most famous promenades in Europe. It is lined with shops, restaurants and at the port, the famous statue of Columbus.

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We stopped for a very late lunch (4 PM) and then passed a food and wine festival on the way back to the ship.

Well, you can buy almost anything on La Rambla.  Who knew there were seeds for these varieties??

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Great day, you do need many days to fully appreciate this wonderful city. And we look forward to our next visit.


Posted in Europe, Food, June, World Cruise 3 | 1 Comment

Monte Carlo, Monaco

June 6, 2109

Our plan for today was a tour to Eze and Nice, France.  Unfortunately we got word a couple of days ago that it was cancelled. So we were just going to go out on our own and perhaps catch a taxi to Eze.  It turned out that Norm was feeling a bit under the weather, and at breakfast we sat with Mike and Maralyn, and she was also a bit under the weather.  So they had an extra ticket to the Monaco excursion and I accepted it with pleasure!

We haven’t been here in many years, so I was pleased to go.  Here is the view as we sail in.

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Monte Carlo is an administrative area of the Principality of Monaco widely known for its casino and Riviera location. It is home to the Circuit de Monaco on which the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix takes place.

Our guide was Gloria. 

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She told us about the Grand Prix as we traveled on the same road that the race is held on.  The cars travel at a speed of 150 K/hour and go around the road track 78 times. It was just held on May 26. They are still taking the viewing stands down.

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We also learned that Monaco is the second smallest country.  The Vatican is first.  It is 2 square kilometers (1 1/2 square miles) or 486 acres in size.  To put this into another perspective, the whole country would fit into London’s Hyde Park.  They are adding almost 15 acres in reclaimed land and are working on it now.

The population here is 38,000 of which 9,000 are citizens.  Citizens don’t pay any income or property tax but French Nationals do pay tax to the French government. Everyone pays the VAT tax of 19.6% which Gloria says contributes 52% of Monaco’s income.

People who work here cannot afford to live here.  They live in close by Italy or France.  Gloria is from Italy which is 20 miles away.

She said that housing can cost up to $70,000/square meter which is just over 10 square feet. She is asked why, if you pay that much, wouldn’t you buy a castle instead?  She says when you pay that much, you already have a castle!

They have the largest number of yachts in the world and indeed the harbor is full of them. 

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There is an interesting sailing yacht called the “Sailing Yacht A” which cost 400 million Euros to build (that is 20 million/guest!!) It is owned by the Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko.

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Our first stop was the Grand Casino. It was established in the mid 19th century by Prince Charles III and is the most famous casino in the world. It was established to fund the small principality of Monte Carlo.  The façade is neoclassical with an array of angels along the rooftop.

You must be appropriately dressed even when the casino isn’t open (and it is open for slots at 10 AM and tables at 2) and you have to pay a fee of 17 Euros just to enter. We were informed that video and photography are always prohibited but when we got there we learned that we could take pictures since a conference was taking place there.  What a bonus because the interior would otherwise be hard to describe and if you go, you most likely wouldn’t be able to take pictures!

Here are the rules and the map of the interior.

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Here are just some of the pictures.  There is a guided tour recording to describe the art, etc. Amazing, like no casino I have ever seen!  No time to stay for gambling but I would probably be too intimidated anyway.  These have to be HIGH rollers.

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In case you need a jacket…

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The building is connected to the Monte Carlo Opera House and the noted Hotel de Paris is just across the street.IMG_2142The opera house entrance.

IMG_2146IMG_2147IMG_2143IMG_2148The Hotel

And the front view of the casino.

IMG_2153IMG_2154IMG_2156The beautifully landscaped grounds

The conference is the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the year.  EY is celebrating the inspirational journeys of 60 entrepreneurs from 51 countries at the 14th World Entrepreneur Of The Year here at the Grand Casino. Here are some of the signs and sidewalk sayings.  Very coach-like!

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I visited the Saint Nicholas Cathedral (Cathedral of Monaco) where the first church was built in the 13th century but had to be torn down due to deterioration.  The new church was built by Charles III in 1875.  Here are some views of the interior, including the tombs of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier. They were also married in this church.

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Places to visit next time include the Oceanographic Museum which was the vision of Prince Albert I.  The museum is a repository for Jacques Cousteau’s original equipment.  He was the museum director for many years. The yellow submarine that he used is outside the museum.

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I also didn’t go inside the Palace of the Prince – not enough time to appreciate it.  It was the target of many attacks over the centuries.  The Grimaldi family had to act diplomatically to maintain the tiny kingdom and they are still the royal family although it is now a constitutional monarchy.  In the 17th century Prince Honore II began transforming the castle into a palace. The part that looks old is actually the newest addition.  ??? Why??

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We did see the changing of the guard at 11:55 which is a 10 minute ceremony.  The flag was flying but Gloria says that even though it traditionally meant that the Prince Albert II was in residence, he doesn’t want people to know if he is or he isn’t so we can’t go by the flag!

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Here are some scenes of Monte Carlo.

Many expensive cars too.

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Lots of great food and gelato here!

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This is how you call a taxi here?

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Norm was entertained all day from our balcony – the “yacht police” control traffic into the marina and boats are in and out all day.  We spotted these sailors late in the day.

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Nice visit and more to do next time!  Including Eze I hope.  We loved that place when we were here many years ago.

Posted in Europe, Excursions, Food, June, World Cruise 3 | 2 Comments

Livorno, Italy

June 5, 2019

Livorno is located in central Tuscany and is the gateway to Pisa and Florence.

Today we chose to go on a tour to Florence called “Fascinating Florence”.  It was a 10 hour tour and we were delighted to find out that there were only 10 people on the tour!  That made it a terrific day since the group was so small.

Here’s our sail in and the port.  There are a lot of ancient towers and walls in all of these cities.  Most of the walls have been destroyed but some pieces of them remain.

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Our guide was Antonella. The trip to Florence took about 90 minutes and she gave us a lot of information about Tuscany and Florence, which is the capital of this region in central Italy.

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Approximately 3 million people live in Tuscany and about 350,000 of them live in Florence.

The area is well known for agriculture, especially wine and olives and also for tourism in Florence,  Pisa, Lucca, Siena and San Gimignano.

We have been to all of those cities before on our trip to Italy with the family back in 2001 and really enjoyed them, so it is time to do some of them again. 

From the 13th to the 16th centuries, this era of creative freedom encouraged the genius of Dante, Donatello, Michelangelo, Giotto, Botticelli, da Vinci and Machiavelli to create some of the world’s most noted masterpieces.

Our first visit in Florence was the Galleria dell Accademia which contains the masterpiece – Michelangelo’s David.  Antonella encouraged us to study some of Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures which are in the same gallery.  Some were to be created for the Pope at the time, but they were never completed. The David is the only fully completed sculpture.

Here are the unfinished ones – which are genius in themselves.

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And the David is just amazing. Michelangelo studied cadavers to get every detail just right.  Antonella was so helpful as we studied this sculpture – she pointed out aspects such as the facial expressions that we might not have noticed in the same way. The sculpture was outside for 300 years before it was moved.  There was damage to one finger and a wrist which was repaired. There is now a replica in the spot outside where this original once stood.

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Another sculpture in this gallery is the Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna. Other paintings by Botticelli and Renaissance masters are in the gallery as well.

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The Accademia was first a school, so there is another whole area of sculptures that were done by students.  Some of them have holes in them because the students were studying proportion.

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Antonella took us on an extensive walking tour of the main sights in Florence.  She explained the influence of the Medici family who were bankers that gathered influence in Florence in the 15th century.  They were great lovers of the arts and of architecture and were wealthy so could contribute to the city in many ways.  They ruled as a political family and were the most powerful families in Florence.

This is their family crest which is found on many buildings in the city.

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Florence is called the “City of the Lily” and it gave birth to the Renaissance and changed the way we see the world.  The churches, medieval towers, Renaissance palaces and museums and galleries contain some of the most outstanding achievements of Western history.

Here are some examples.

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These are the famous  golden Gates of Paradise on the Baptistery of St. John.  You can’t get too close to them but even from a short distance they are impressive.

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The many churches are just amazing in the detail of the frescos, stained glass and paintings that adorn the inside and the statues on the outside.  The Duomo is the reddish dome in the first photo.

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And the Church of Santa Croce contains 270 tombstones that adorn the floors of the church along with the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli and others. It is a huge place.

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Of course we had a wonderful lunch in Acqua Al 2 which was recommended by friends on the ship. Then we had gelato at Antonella’s favorite shop.

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Here are some other sights from the city, including the ones from the terrace overlooking the city on our way back to the ship.

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This is the famous Ponte Vecchio  over the Arno River. IMG_1995IMG_1994

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Amazing day.  On the way back we went through the countryside – lots of vineyards and beautiful landscapes.

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Posted in Europe, Excursions, Food, June, World Cruise 3 | Leave a comment

Civitavecchia (Rome) Italy

June 4, 2019

Another beautiful day in Italy. We had some thoughts of going to Rome but decided against the long bus trip – 50 miles and lots of traffic, so it takes almost 2 hours each way.  We have seen the sights in Rome before but would like to have a longer time there than just a rushed few hours. Since it is embarkation day for the next segment, we would need to be back by 5:15 for the lifeboat drill.

Here’s the port in Civitavecchia.

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Today we opted for a tour to Bracciano Lake and a wine tasting which was a perfect 5 hour tour.

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He first thanked us for “not going to Rome” as almost everyone does from this port.  He also spent some time on the poor economy in Italy. Our lecturer, Adam Tanner, indicated that it is probably the worst situation in Europe, worse than Greece.  In the south of Italy, unemployment is up to 60% and about 200,000 young people between 18 and 35 have left the country for higher education and better opportunities.  And as many as 100,000 retirees have left in search of places to live that have lower taxes.  So the country is really far from recovery.  Pretty sad.

He also talked about the effects of climate change on their farming industry.  Many of the crops need to be harvested earlier and the weather does affect the farmers dramatically. 

The trip to Bracciano Lake was just beautiful.  There were rolling hills, lots of farms and sheep, olive groves, vineyards and hazelnut trees.

Luca said that the area was used for filming many of the “spaghetti westerns” of the past.

We passed this castle but didn’t have a stop there.  Beautiful.

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We drove around the lake to the small village of Anguillara.  We wandered through the village to the top of the hill where the church stands.  It was closed but we did see the charming homes, beautiful flowers and of course, the lake.

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We then traveled back around the lake and Luca and our driver Tony stopped so we could get a picture of another castle.  This is the one that many celebrities, including Tom Cruise, use for their weddings. Luca said it is bad luck, though, none of the famous couples are still married!

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The winery we visited is called Cento Corvi which means 100 crows. We only had 19 people on this trip and we were the only ones at the winery.  They served cheese, artichokes, olives, bread, two kinds of ham and olive oil and we tasted 7 different wines.  We chose one white and one red to buy and take back to enjoy on the ship. They were all pretty good.

The winery itself was very nice and we really enjoyed relaxing there.

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Back at the port and had a relaxing couple of hours before the lifeboat drill. The ferries here have comic characters on them! 

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We have a 10 hour tour to Florence tomorrow so a relaxing afternoon was really good!


Posted in Europe, Excursions, Food, June, World Cruise 3 | 1 Comment

Sorrento, Italy

June 3, 2019

We had a fabulous day in Messina, Sicily yesterday and the sunset was great.  Because we had a pasta lunch and lingered over it, we weren’t hungry for dinner so I got a salad and brought it back to the balcony to watch the sunset.  The volcano in the shot is called the Stromboli and it is one of the three active volcanoes in Italy.  It last erupted in January.

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Our next port is Sorrento which we hadn’t been to in more than 15 years – it was not on our previous world cruise itineraries.  We visited twice in the past.

The sail in was beautiful and the day was gorgeous. Sorrento is situated on a terrace overlooking the Amalfi coastline and the Bay of Naples. They don’t have a dock so we had to take the tender in to shore. The name Sorrento derives from a Greek word meaning “flowing” due to the form of the town which appears to flow over the limestone bluff on which the town stands, defining the edge of the cliffs. You can see remains of ancient structures in the stone face and also determine how high the cliffs are by the small boats at the bottom. Legend says that mermaids lured unsuspecting sailors to crash their boats on the rocks by singing their songs.

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We planned a lunch with our Around the World host and hostess, Steve and Tricia.  We have been trying to get a date together for the past couple of months and were pleased that Sorrento worked out.

We headed up the steep steps in the morning to explore the city before our lunch. Quite the climb.  There is a lift but we didn’t realize it until we walked to the viewing terrace area from the top.  We probably wouldn’t have used it anyway – we like the exercise.

We visited the most prominent churches.  First we went to the Basilica of Saint Antonino which was built in the 10th century. The entry has a 17th century Christmas crib with statues that are decorated with clothes made of precious fabrics and lace.  Saint Antonino’s tomb is located in a crypt below the church.

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We visited all of the churches around the town and here are some other pictures.  The marble and gold are amazing in every one. In one of the churches, there were flowers everywhere, probably from a previous wedding.  Workers were removing them.  I was tempted to take some back to the ship as they were so beautiful!

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We walked all around the town.  Here are some of the views and sights.  This area is known for its lemons and some of them are just huge.

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Some views from the top looking down.

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We thought this next guy was very clever, no head showing!  So we gave him a tip for a picture.

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How do you like the name of the shop – shopping victim!

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Lunch with Tricia and Steve extended well into the afternoon. We had Chianti, bruschetta and delicious pizza at an outdoor cafe called Blu Water. Then we moved on to another outdoor cafe for limoncello, which is renowned here.  Tricia and I had it with chipped ice and prosecco.  Delicious…

We were so focused on our overdue conversations, I didn’t get anyone to take pictures of us.  It was a terrific afternoon.

At night, because tomorrow is the day the segment ends and another one begins, it was Monday night at the movies and I saw Life is Beautiful.  I had seen it before but really enjoyed it being here in Italy.  Sad subject but just wonderful acting and the joy someone can bring to the worst situations.

Posted in Europe, June, World Cruise 3 | 1 Comment

Messina, Italy

June 2, 2019

Here are two  pictures of last night’s sunset, courtesy of Facebook and Fran Mayo. Thanks, Fran, just beautiful.  We had dinner with Tom and Alice in Toscana and saw just the pink sky.

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We have been to Sicily before, but not to Messina.  We woke to a rainy morning but the forecast was that it would clear by 10 AM, which it did.  Very comfortable temperature, I wore jeans and a jacket!

Here are some pictures as we arrived.

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We set out for a nice walk around the city and had a great time.

Messina is the third largest city on the island of Sicily and the 13th largest in Italy.  There are about 238,000 people living in the city proper.

Today is a national holiday here (Republic Day – like our Independence Day in the US, when Italians voted to end the monarchy in 1946 so their country could become a republic) so most of the stores and restaurants are closed.  The churches have Masses going on and we did stop in several churches.

We saw these fireboats celebrating Republic Day and heard there will be fireworks later tonight (but we sail out at 6!)

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The first one was the Cathedral of Messina which is on the main square of the city – the Piazza del Duomo.  This cathedral has quite a story.  It was built in 1150 and has had a series of tragic mishaps and destructive events.  Candles at a 1254 funeral set the building on fire, it was hit by earthquakes in 1783 and 1908 and then was burned again in 1943 after a bombing raid.  The dedicated people of the city rebuilt it each time. According to legend, England’s King Richard the Lionhearted worshipped here in 1190 at the beginning of the Third Crusade. 

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One of the highlights of this church is a clock tower with an elaborate astronomical clock that features a roaring lion and a crowing cock. The 12 minute event happens at noon and we made sure to come back in time for that. We also heard the organ at the end of the mass. I took some videos of the clock  but of course can’t load them here on the ship.

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There is also a beautiful fountain in this square. It was built by one of Michelangelo’s students and celebrates the city’s first aqueduct and Orion, the city’s mythical father.

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We visited several other churches as well as a memorial hall dedicated to those who lost their lives in WWII.  Very impressive architecture.

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We heard they just installed these statues on the long walk up to the Santuario Montalto.  I do not know the significance of them.  Some of the best views of the city are from outside this church.

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There are a lot of steps to climb everywhere!

Here are some other things we spotted on our walks.

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These mosaics are found on the sidewalks.

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The bakery windows are just amazing, beautiful pastries and marzipans.

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We had a hard time finding an open restaurant but finally found one.  Nice pasta, bread and salads for lunch. Love the picture of the clocktower on the plate!

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We had to get some of the roasted and sugared nuts from the vendors located all around the square. They smelled so good.

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Nice day in Sicily – tomorrow Sorrento. 

Posted in Europe, Food, June, World Cruise 3 | 1 Comment

Piraeus, Greece

May 31, 2019

Well, it is hard to believe that 5 weeks from today we will be home.  It always seems to go too fast, but we will savor these last weeks.

Today we docked at the port of Piraeus, the first chief port in Greece, the largest passenger port in Europe and the second largest in the world, servicing about 20 million passengers annually.  It is also among the top ten ports in container traffic in Europe and the top container port in the eastern Mediterranean. The city hosted events in both the 1896 and the 2004 Summer Olympics held in Athens.

Here are some pictures of our sail in.

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I never heard of the Battle of the Salamis – and of course it has nothing to do with sausage. I figured it must be important if they are celebrating an anniversary.  I looked it up and it was a battle between the Greeks and the Persians – the Greeks were very outnumbered but won anyway.  I guess that is why they are celebrating this anniversary!

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Piraeus is surrounded by the Aegean Sea to the east and the Ionian Sea to the west.  It is surrounded by mountains on 3 sides. 

We haven’t been to Athens in over 15 years in spite of our travels, neither of our previous world cruises came to this port.  So we decided to do a tour called the Best of Athens and Cape Sounion.

Our tour guide was Elaina, and she was very informative. And the weather was perfect, it has gotten delightfully cooler.

She spent quite a while on tales of the Greek gods and goddesses – legends to be sure and every culture has them. 

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We went to the Acropolis first because she said the crowds would be less earlier in the morning.

Athens has a population of 4.5 million people and there are 11 million in Greece, so a large percentage of the population lives here. 90% of the population is Greek Orthodox and there are many beautiful churches here.

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She also talked a lot about Greece’s financial problems.  When the problems came to a head in 2010, the minimum wage was cut almost in half, from 750 Euros per month to 400.  Retirement income was cut by the same percentage. Unemployment in this area was almost 60%. Prices went up so everyone was even more impacted.  Younger people either left the country (about 200,000 left) or were forced to live with parents, postpone marriage and families and search for jobs, which also impacted the economy to say nothing of happiness, and things were just as tough for the parents. Many stores and businesses were forced to close.  A dire situation which is slightly better now but they are hoping for improvement. Gas is between 1.60 and 1.75 Euros per liter which is over 6.50/gallon.

Tourism is about the only thing keeping them even a bit ahead and she says that occupancy in the island resorts is 100% in high season, which is great for them.

On our way to the Acropolis, we passed two of the Olympic stadiums and some beautiful harbors.

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The Acropolis.. how to describe it.  Norm’s oxymoron is “beautiful ruins”, and indeed they are.  This is the sacred city of the ancient Athenians.  The most important buildings were constructed by Pericles in the 5th century BC.

We entered through the Propylaea, the gateway to the winding path to the top of the Acropolis. Is this their guard dog?

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From here we went to the Temple of Athena Nike.

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The Erechtheion is a temple built as a shrine to Athena (and in case you didn’t know, Athens was named after this goddess), and the twin deity Poseidon – Erechtheseus. The most distinctive feature is the ingenious design of the six support columns carved in the shape of maidens.  Some of the original statues are on display in the Acropolis Museum.

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The Odeon of Herodes Atticus and Theatre of Dionysus are amphitheaters on the south slope of the Acropolis.  You can only view these, but performances are still held in the Odeon and those with tickets can go inside.

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The views of Athens from here are also quite amazing.

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The Parthenon sits at the highest point of the Acropolis, 230 feet above the city.  It was built to honor the goddess Athena and has been the model for thousands of buildings throughout the world.  There are some columns on display with the center hole visible.  Lead was used in these cavities to stabilize them.  Elaina explained that the historians have evidence that the way the columns and blocks were brought to this high point in the city was to use trees as rollers with the blocks or pieces of the columns on top and then roll them up the hill.  Painstaking work I would say, but the results are impressive all these centuries later. Restoration work is constantly in progress as you can see from the iron bars.

We loved that Elaina had us use the earphones so we could hear everything she described.

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We had time to explore the whole site.  The areas to walk around the structures are quite slippery and one of our fellow passengers did twist her ankle. 

You can see that there are a lot of people there, including school groups.  I asked if it was a typical crowd, and Elaina said it was quite light!

After our visit, we spent a bit more time on a scenic route in Athens on the way to our lunch stop at a Greek Taverna.  They are common all throughout the country.

These orange trees line the streets.  Elaina said they are really ornamental oranges and not suitable to eat.

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We saw Hadrian’s Arch, the tall gateway from 131 AD that connected Ancient Athens with the Roman quarters.

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We also stopped at the Panathinaiko Stadium which was the site of the first modern Olympics in 1896 and was built on the site of the original Olympic Stadium from 330 BC. 

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It was hard to get good pictures, but it is very impressive.

We also passed the Presidential Mansion which now houses the Parliament.  The guards today were in regular uniforms, but we spotted this man in similar dress to the formal attire that is worn during the changing of the guard ceremony.  According to Elaina, the shoes alone weigh 6 pounds each.

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Next we traveled to Attiki, northwest of Athens, for our lunch at the taverna O Moypoyzhe.  And what a lunch it was.  They could have fed twice as many people!  The white wine was mediocre but the food was amazing. We saw this interesting sculpture of an athlete on the way.

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Our trip to  Cape Sounion was so pretty as we rode along the coast.  There is some fish farming going on here. And the trees are pistachio trees!

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The Greeks chose their temple sites by considering both the natural beauty of the location and its appropriateness to the god in question. Cape Sounion is the site of the Temple of Poseidon which is located on a magnificent seaside cliff on the southernmost point on the Attica peninsula.  It is a perfect spot for a temple dedicated to the god of the sea!

You can see some of the Aegean islands.  The beauty of the surviving Doric columns has inspired countless writers and poets, including Lord Byron.

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We headed back to the ship and enjoyed a terrific Greek dinner buffet by chef Mario and his staff.

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There are so many ferries here that take people to the other islands.  Here are some sail away pictures.

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Bye, Athens and Greece.  We shall return!


Posted in Europe, Excursions, Food, May, World Cruise 3 | Leave a comment

Santorini, Greece

May 30, 2019

This was our first visit to Santorini and wow, did we love it. Here is our approach this morning.

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The buses going up the hills look like little caterpillars!IMG_1096

We have enjoyed every port in Greece on this cruise and in the past.  This is a tender port and because we knew that the cable car can have long lines, and walking up the donkey paths is slippery (you know why!), we decided to do a planned tour.  Our guide was Amadeus.  What a character he was!

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Santorini was formed from one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in history which occurred around 1600 BC.  The beautiful villages on top of steep cliffs offer some of the most stunning scenery in Greece.  It is an island in the southern Aegean Sea about 120 miles southeast of the Greek mainland. The population is about 16000 and about 5000 donkeys.  Amadeus made a point of telling us how stubborn and stupid donkeys are!

He also talked a lot about Greece’s financial problems.  They have a lot of tourism to Santorini which also has its down side as the towns can be quite crowded. He was quite funny but also sad as he described the financial conditions here.  Norm said it was like a Greek tragedy.

One of the surprising things he told us is that marble is prevalent here but there is no market for it anymore, so people pave their driveways with marble because it is cheaper than cement!

Another thing he pointed out and that we noticed is that all of the grapevines are small and close to the ground because of the fierce winds. The tree below shows how fierce it can be.

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We first traveled to the highest peak for a photo stop to capture the fabulous scenery.

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We went on to the village of Oia which is built on a dramatically steep slope of a caldera that formed after the volcanic eruption.  Many of the dwellings are nestled in niches hewn out of the volcanic rock. There are caves here used for wine, too.

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The beautiful landscapes of blue and white buildings are just stunning to look at and I couldn’t stop taking photos.  There are many small chapels that families build for the surrounding neighbors.

We had free time here to wander around the town and go into the shops and galleries.  Many unique items were on display here.

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We went on to Fira, the island’s other village.  Here we had as long as we wanted to spend. Great shops.. The last tender back to the ship was at 5:30 but the crowds for the cable car are long, so we walked all through the town and had a lunch overlooking the sea.  Very wonderful and relaxing. Then we took the cable car down to the tender port and went back to the ship.  Wonderful day!

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We love Greece – we will be back with more time to spend.  Tomorrow on to Athens.

Posted in Europe, Excursions, May, World Cruise 3 | 2 Comments

Rhodes, Greece

May 29, 2019

Today our tour was initially scheduled for the morning, but due to a few cruise ships scheduled to arrive the same time as ours, the tour was rescheduled for the afternoon.

Here is the view of city on our arrival.

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So, we got off the ship on our own and wandered through the city of Rhodes. We love it here.  The city is surrounded by medieval walls with seven gates and the cruise ship docks very close to the St. Catherine’s Gate.

The medieval city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988 and is very well preserved.  The walls were built by the Knights of St. John.

We walked through the narrow streets and as always, were just charmed by the sights.  Here are some of them.

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We eventually reached the magnificent Palace of the Grand Master.  This was originally a Byzantine fortress in the 7th century AD and later held the administrative center of the Order of Knights.  It was destroyed by an explosion in 1856 and later, in the 1930’s, was rebuilt by the Italians to be used as the home of the Italian Commander (during the Italian occupation.) Today it houses two large exhibits on the City of Rhodes. In one of them, no pictures were allowed but we could take them outside in the courtyard and in the second exhibit. The mosaics in the floors and the lighting fixtures were particularly impressive.

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We did some shopping – and there are many shops and restaurants here – and then enjoyed lunch back on the ship before going on our tour to Ancient Lindos.

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Our tour guide was Anna Maria.

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The trip to Lindos took about an hour and we learned a lot about Rhodes.  This island is one of thousands – only about 120 are inhabited. They get 300 days of sun a year so it is a really beautiful place to visit almost all year, although between April and November is prime tourist season. Only 15 of 5000 hotels are open in the winter. The temperature rarely goes below 50 degrees. Turkey is only 12 nautical miles away and there are ferries that go between  Greece and Turkey.

On our way, we stopped at a pottery showroom and watched demonstrations of pottery making and the painting of the finished products.

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Along the way, we saw lots of olive trees and also oleander, which Anna Maria told us is a poisonous tree.

There were some markets in Lindos and also the donkeys which you can choose to ride up to the Acropolis which means “highest city”. Only 700 people live in this city.

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Lindos is ancient town with well preserved 15th century buildings.  We climbed up to the Acropolis of Lindos which is a steep climb, but nothing compared to the Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan! The views are beautiful.

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The day was hot but not nearly the high temperatures we had in the middle east.  Very enjoyable return trip to Rhodes. We really like Greece. They are still experiencing financial problems though, and it is sad to hear. The people and the country are both beautiful.

Posted in Europe, Excursions, May, World Cruise 3 | 2 Comments

Limassol, Cyprus

May 28, 2019

This is our third time in Cyprus – so today we took a tour to the center of the island – to Nicosia – which has been the capital of Cyprus for over 1000 years.

The port of Limassol is the second largest city and has a population of 200,000.

Nicosia is the last divided capital city in the world after the fall of the Berlin wall. The northern side has been occupied by Turkey since July 1974 and the southern side by Greece. The division is called the Green Line.  Nicosia is the largest city in Cyprus and is still encircled by the old city walls.

Our guide today was Angela and as with most guides we have had, she was a wealth of information.

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Cyprus was a British colony until 1960.  It is the third  largest and third most populous island in the Mediterranean  with 850,000 people.

Tourism is their largest source of income, mostly British and Russian visitors previously but now many are coming from Hong Kong and Japan. They are very worried about the effect Brexit will have on their country.

They export potatoes, citrus fruits, olive oil, carob, halloumi cheese and wine as well.

In 2013, their largest bank collapsed and caused a devastating effect on the economy.  Prior to that, they realized the problems in Greek economy but it had never affected them.  Their unemployment rate before that was a low 3.5 % but it soared after the bank collapse to 18% and has never really recovered.

Angela talked a lot about how it affected her own family.  She has two sons who were unemployed for a long time and now one has work but makes very little money. We really unaware of the extent of the problems here.

Here are some pictures from the trip to Nicosia.  It was about a 60 minute trip.

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The last picture is from an excavation site. The one above that shows the water tanks that seem to be on top of every structure.

Our first visit in Nicosia was to the Cyprus Archeological Museum where the most significant collection of Cypriot antiquities is housed.  There are artifacts dating back to the Neolithic Age (7000 BC), Mycenaean relics and also early Byzantine.  There are ceramics, tomb monuments, bronze statues and coins that span 5000 years of the island’s history.  The most famous exhibit is the statue or Aphrodite from Soli, now the symbol of Cyprus. It is amazing what has been recovered from the excavations. Most of the statues are made from limestone which is prevalent here.

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The last one is the Aphrodite.

Here are some of the views of the old city walls.

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We then visited the Cathedral of St. John, built in 1662 by the Archbishop Nikiforos.  No pictures are allowed inside but every inch of the walls is covered by 18th century frescoes that depict biblical scenes.  Angela told us that people of that time could not read, so this is how the stories were told.  It is just beautiful. The outside just looks like an ordinary building, you wouldn’t know that it is a cathedral.  Due to the religious persecution of the time, people wanted a place to pray but wanted to disguise it.

Here are some shots of the outside, the bell tower, the Archbishop’s Palace and the courtyard.  You can see bullet holes on the outside of the nearby Archbishop’s Palace from the 1974 Turkish invasion.

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After this visit, we went to the area of the Green Line checkpoint but are not allowed over into the Turkish side. We had free time at Ledra street in the Laki Yitsonia area where the narrow streets are lined with shops, restaurants and galleries. Great gelato here, and also some fun signs.

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Great day – tomorrow we will be in Greece.


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