Monday, May 27, 2013

Venice, Italy!

Sail-in Venice, view from Deck 10
Sail-in Venice, view from Deck 10
Sail-in Venice, view from Deck 10
Sail-in, Venice, view from Deck 10

George, master glass blower....

Island of Burano

Maria making lace on the Island of Burano...

Painted houses on the Island of Burano....

We arrived in Venice, Italy, Sunday, May 26, 2013. First morning photo, 11:45AM. The day was gorgeous, bright, sunny, in the mid sixties. A great day for touring. A light jacket just in case. Venice is an archipelago, of one hundred and five islands and each has a church of it's own. It is nicknamed, The Queen of the Adriatic Sea.
We booked a tour to the islands of, Murano and Burano. Murano famous for glass blowing and Burano for lace making and it’s brightly painted houses. 
We first enjoyed a sail-in narration by the tour director of Holland America, Tom. Tom, explained the history, architecture and many facts that pertain to this magical city. It is one of the most beautiful sail-in ports, of all that I have ever seen, Tom said. I could not agree more. We secured railing space on the tenth deck. The view from this height incredible. Tom’s narration could be heard through out the ship. 
My being was in harmony with my creative soul. My passion for beauty and the genius of the creator now satisfied. Venice is the fiber of canvas, a painting that lives and breathes. I have now witnessed the genius of man.
Overwhelmed by it’s beauty, people just starred without saying a word. Spell bound and gripped into the moment. My curiosity and sense of adventure now on high alert!
We had lunch and then our tour began at 2:30PM. We took a water bus to the island of Murano. Francesca was our guide. It was so cool cruising on a small boat, looking at Venice from a different perspective.
There we enjoyed a master glass blower, George. George is seventy four and a true artisan. Murano glass is truly beautiful and it takes years to learn the process. 
We then motored to the Island of Burano, famous for lace making and watched Maria turn simple thread into fine art. There is a great deal of skill combined with patience to create one small item. Very labor intensive. Maria truly loves her craft. The painted houses made this a magical and colorful place, a feast for the eyes. We strolled through the town square. 
Well folks enjoy the photos and I am a bit tired. Tomorrow we are up early for disembarkation and then a train ride to Rome. Not sure how much blogging I will be able to do on our land tour, but you know I will give it that old college try! 
I have had over 5000 page views during our journey. The most I have ever had in a thirty day period. I am thrilled that you have followed our journey. It has been my honor to share our adventures with all of you! 

Pin It!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Dubrovnik, Croatia!

Old City
Old City
Old City
Folkloric Dancers
St. Blaise Catholic Church...
Old City

Panoramic views....

Panoramic views....
Panoramic views....

We arrived in Dubrovnik, Croatia, Saturday, May 25, 2013. First morning photo, 7:10AM. Very picturesque and mountainous views, a light rain was falling. Rain jacket for sure! We turned our clocks back one hour and are now six hours ahead of EST.
Croatia, is located on the Adriatic Sea and is nicknamed, The Pearl of the Adriatic. Croatia is a very popular tourist destination and relies heavily on tourism. The language is Croatian and the currency is kuna. They would accept credit cards and also euro, but you have to ask for your change back in euro. They may or may not have it. We had just enough euro to buy one scoop of gelato apiece, no change required. The calorie gods were with us! 
There are over 1000 islands in Croatia, however only 65 are inhabited, according to our guide Emanuel. We booked a tour through Holland America to the Croatian Riviera. 
We first toured the Old City of Dubrovnik. The walls around the city are towering and were built to protect the city from it’s enemies. We have visited a few medieval villages and fortresses and none can compare in height, to the walls of the Old City. 
The main religion here is Roman Catholic and there are thirty Catholic churches in Dubrovnik alone. St. Blaise, is their patron saint and there are many statues of St. Blaise about town, Emanuel said. 
Walking through the walls of the Old City, was an awe inspiring experience. I have never seen such a great deal of limestone all in one place. It must have taken many years and man hours to cut limestone blocks and then place them strategically. This would be a great subject to google. The churches and alleyways were filled with tourists. Shops and cafes were bustling with business. 
We then experienced a folkloric dance and music of the region. Very entertaining, the costumes and energy of these young people, most impressive. 
We took a nosebleed ride up the mountain to the village of Cavtat. Stopping at a panoramic viewpoint along the way. Breathtaking! The red tiled roofs, enhanced the electric blue of the Adriatic Sea. A very beautiful view of the Old City and mountainous landscape. We had 45 minutes to view the seaside town of Cavtat. Very quaint and serene. We visited the local church and later strolled along the promenade. 
Now I’m not complaining, but, refreshments were supposed to be served with this tour and they were not. Like I need more freaking refreshments, at this point in my life. Figure I could walk across Europe, swim the Atlantic and I just might work off some of the calories I’ve consumed, in the last twenty eight days. Can’t blame my thyroid on this one, kids!!! I Will say something to the excursion department, but not expecting any refunds. Just like to get what we pay for!!! 
The sun did finally make an appearance and it was very warm. An occasional cloud would meander by and cool things down a bit.
The ride back to ship was relaxing and we enjoyed lunch aboard ship! 
Tomorrow back to Venice, our final day! We have a tour booked to Murano and Burano, we stay overnight here. We disembark on Monday, early morning, then taking the train back to Rome. We stay overnight in Rome, at the same hotel where we will meet our land tour on Tuesday. Nervous about the transition, but will just try and go with the flow. 
Yes I can, I know I can! 

Pin It!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Corfu, Greece!

such a cutie...he danced away...
a lovely lady...proud of her fresh bunch of rosemary...
love the artistry of the hanging laundry...
So kind...
Fish Spa...
strolling along the waterfront.....
OPA!!! Look at their you think they know of the chicken dance???
dancing in the streets...
gratitude candle....
love old windows....
gorgeous architecture...
Ride anyone??? Hubby said no before I could ask the price... he is such a romantic
Good bye sweet people of Corfu...

We arrived in The Port of Kerkira, on the Island of Corfu, Greece, Friday, May 24, 2013. First morning photo 8:35AM. It was bright, sunny and yes, finally warm. The port was breathtaking, very mountainous, a light fog added to it’s mystique. Corfu is the fourth largest of the Greek Islands. 
We decided to stay in town and just be. No tour, history, palace, castle, ruins, bones, or otherwise. Just find a cafe, sit and rest, walk or stroll, enjoy the locals and whatever gifts the day would bring. 
Well folks, if there was ever a place to jump ship, this was it! We discussed going back to the ship grabbing our passports and running for the mountains. It was the best day ever. Actually, it was all about the people of Corfu. 
Their kindness, warmth and positive energy, contagious. Most of the the buildings had been here for centuries, holding their dignity well. We discovered small lane ways and narrow streets, filled with the most gorgeous shops one could imagine. There was something for everyone on our souvenir list. Anything from a bar of soap to the most incredible jewelry. You're going to love the soaps kids! Shop owners would greet us, shake our hand, ask where we were from and bless us and our families, upon leaving. No purchase necessary. Some would talk of family living in the United States. I haven’t done much shopping, we had hours to meander. We had to be back at the ship by 4:30PM. 
We met an elderly woman carrying some fresh rosemary! I asked if I could take her picture by pointing to my camera. She gave me a great big toothless smile and a hug to accompany it. She even posed. I welled up, she touched us both. 
We then met a group of six Greek Orthodox priests. I asked the priest with the biggest hat If I could take his picture. Sorry, I don’t know the hats proper name. “Why would you want to do that,” he asked? He grabbed my hubby and said, take it! Wow where the heck was I? Another priest in the group looked straight at my camera and made a sign, of which I was not familiar. Snap, Snap, snap! 
I asked a local to view the photo and what it meant. It startled me a bit! It meant, peace, love, health and a  long life, for me and my family! It was a blessing, she said! Phew!
I learned to say good morning in Greek, Kalemeara. So now, a well educated Greek wannabe, I wished everyone, calamari. Realizing my error, when someone said the fish market was down the street! YIKES! 
I captured a small child dancing to the music of his father and uncle. He was just adorable. People were dancing in the street! We did too! The energy infectious! 
Hubby got caught up into a strolling group of musicians and singers. He did the chicken dance! 
We passed by an open fish spa! Yes I said fish spa. I had heard of this, but never actually saw one in action. Thought it to be gross! Small tropical fish, eat the dead skin off your feet. Come in, come in, the young woman beaconed. Clients assured me that it felt great. Ten euro, for fifteen minutes, what the heck! I’ve done some pretty weird stuff in my life but this one took the cake. It scared me at first and everyone had a good chuckle. It felt kind of prickly. Think I’ll pass on another though! 
We visited the Church of St. Spryidon. Here we lit a candle, grateful for our blessings and asked that our children and grandchildren be blessed. Another tearful moment. 
We enjoyed lunch at a small cafe, discussing our grand getaway! 
Needless to say we are back aboard ship and will never forget this magical day! We love Greece and most of all it’s people. OPA!!! Or is it Oomph? 
Whatever! It's all Greek to me! 

Pin It!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Katakolon, Greece

original Olympic Games were held here...
The Temple of Zeus...
The Ancient City of Olympia...

Ride up the hill,  2 euro
Zorba Dancing
Zorba Dancing
The handsome group...great show
Zorba the Geek does the "Chicken Dance"... the man can still make me laugh...

We arrived in Katakolon Greece, Thursday, May 23, 2013. First morning photo 7:10AM. It was very foggy and windy as well. A chance of rain was in the forecast, however, warm enough for a light jacket. 

My first observation of the port was that it was smaller by comparison to others, no industry. The landscape hilly, not mountainous, or at least in this area. Now in the Adriatic Sea, the water more of a Caribbean blue.
We booked a tour through Holland America to The Ancient City of Olympia & Zorba. Katakolon is the Gateway to the Ancient City of Olympia, the birth place of the original Olympic Games in 776 B.C.
Our tour was ahead of schedule, we left port at 8:20AM. Our guides name was Maria Helena and our driver Alexis. 
Maria was extremely knowledgeable and very understandable. She spoke non stop for about two hours, it was evident how proud she is of her heritage. 
Driving though the countryside it was noticeable that this was an impoverished area. The people here rely heavily on tourism, Maria said. Homes were sporadic and in disarray. Old cars were laid to rest in open fields and in run down concrete structures. No livestock insight, we passed many olive trees and vegetable gardens during our forty minute ride. Depressing, I thought. 
The hills were growing into mountains the further east we drove. There are ten million people in Greece and five million live in Athens. This is typical Greece, outside of Athens, she said. 
Obviously, Olympia is the main attraction here. There were at least thirty tour buses visiting the site.  A very large area, where you really had to use your imagination to visualize, what had been. We visited the Temple of Zeus, Maria explained volumes of information and mythology associated with the games. I expected to see a large colosseum where the games were held, however it was a large sandy area with grassy slopes. As many as forty thousand spectators could enjoy the games, held here every four years. She said athletes came to win, not to participate. The site was preserved very well and a beautiful place to visit and learn.
We then drove to a rest area with water closets, coffee and pastries. The usual gifty, touristy type of items available. A bobble headed statue of Zeus was not on my souvenir list. 
We then drove to a restaurant for a light lunch and some Zorba dancing. This was a highlight for me, as I love to drink in the culture of the people. The dancers and the music were incredible. We enjoyed every minute of it and you know who did the chicken dance!!!
We were dropped off at the town square, a ten minute walk from the ship. Many passengers, from now two ships, were enjoying the shops, cafes and restaurants.
The residents were very friendly and warm. We never saw a police officer. Maria said people were very honest here. There were several wifi cafes with no purchase necessary to use it, along the main street. We have to keep reminding ourselves that we are now seven hours ahead of EST. Certainly don’t want to wake anyone back home in the US. We did anyway! Sorry kids!
We enjoyed our day and mostly the people of Katakolon. 
So happy to inform you... they have gelato here too! YUM!!!

Pin It!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Messina, Sicily

The Port of Messina
Village of Taormina...a feast for the eyes...

We arrived in the Port of Messina, Sicily, Tuesday May 21, 2013. First morning photo 8:45AM. The day was overcast and very windy, a jacket for sure.
We booked a transfer through Holland America to the Village of Taormina. It was tempting to stay in town, as there was a lot to do there and only a short walk. We stuck to our original plans and were so glad that we did. Our tour would depart at 11:45AM.
Our guide’s name was Christina, she was excellent, she spoke clearly with a Italian/British accent. Italian’s use a lot of r’s when they speak, coming originally from Boston, Massachusetts, where r’s are non-existent, we were sometimes confused by the dialect of some of the guides. Not so with Christina!
Driving through the countryside was a bit disappointing. The mountain sides were brown and looked very dry! I don’t know this for sure, but it seemed like there had been a lack of rain for quite some time. The landscape painted with factory like buildings and apartment like very old and dated structures. No steeples or castles that I could see. Keep in mind however, that they all faced the Med. 
On the rosary bead scale of ten, I would say that this drive was a six, compared to the Amalfi Coast drive, the day before. Still a Mama Mia, Hail Mary journey, none the less. Twisting and turning on two lane roads, on up the mountain. Of course, crazy drivers on their way down. 
What were we in for, I thought??? We arrived in Taormina, forty five minutes later and took an elevator up to level seven. Thank goodness we did not have to climb stairs on this one. Still not very impressed. We walked through a terrace with beautiful views, things looked promising. The temperature had risen and perfect for touring.
Look to the right, Christina advised. There are three sections, it should take about twenty minutes to walk to the last courtyard, she said. Was she kidding!
That right turn brought us to a medieval village that we meandered though, for two hours. We could have spent several more hours here. Very large in comparison to others we had visited.
Once again I was suspended in a time warp, captured in a fairy tale. Churches, cafes, overlooks and the smell of delectable delights filled the air. Street venders and artists were selling their wares, musicians played their instruments, people sang along. The shops were incredible but expensive. This is where my investment in camera equipment pays off, I explained to hubby! I’m too busy taking pictures to shop. Look at all the money I am saving you! Priming him for that new wide angle lens! 
Sicily is known for it’s cannoli’s, we split one. Delicious! A gelato shop beaconed us in, we had some! Refreshing! Sicilian pizza, o so incredibly good. Basically we ate our way though the village, happier than two little pigs in s__t! Thank goodness I had on my elastic waist pants! 
I have a passion for old windows and flower boxes, they accented the stucco structures that lined the streets, as far as the eye could see. I had to keep mindful of the uneven roads, while shooting up!
Well folks, another day in fantasy land. Our ride back to the ship relaxing. Passengers who stayed in Messina for the day were disappointed. A great deal of traffic, they wished they had booked a tour! 
A welcomed sea day on Wednesday, then off to Greece. We may have pillaged our last gelato shop. Not sure if they serve gelato in Greece, but I’m willing to bet they have something to replace it!!! 

Pin It!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...