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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More Israel and Greek Islands

Thursday, October 11th Jerusalem
The highlights of this day was the visit to the Garden of Gethsemane. The olive trees there are so old that some of them may have actually been there since the time of Jesus. It was a jaw dropping thought. We visited the Western (or Wailing) Wall. Did you know there are separate male and female entrances? The western wall is the actual base and wall from the first temple of the Jews. We also visited the Tomb of David with separate male and female partitions; the female portion only saw the feet portion of the sepulcher and the men's partition had the view of the head of the tomb.

Friday, October 12th Caesarea
Caesarea was King Herod's dream. He was an incredible ruler that controlled the eastern Mediterranean and survived numerous conflicts. He built this huge palace as a port palace. We were able to view many of the excavated ruins of the palace included the port with the retaining walls that were partially intact even though besieged by many civilizations and earthquakes.

Saturday and Sunday, October 13th-14th Haifa and At Sea
We took a break today and stayed in the room reading and relaxing.

Monday, October 15th Crete
Instead of visiting the Minoan palace of Knossos, we went up on the plateau and saw the agriculture of the last millennium. David, with his family history of farming, was fascinated. He said it was like Espinoza, Mexico except they didn't grow peppers. We saw the remains of many ancient metal and fabric windmills that were used for pumping ground water. The views from the top of the plateau were fabulous.

Tuesday, October 16th Santorini
We visited the Prehistoric Archaeological Museum with artifacts from 1690 back to 2590 BC and even older lava fossils from 60,000 BC. The pottery and wall painting were fascinating. The most interesting aspect of this place is that it is the cradle of our heritage. We rode the cable car up this huge cliff side and strolled through the old town markets, stopping to have a traditional Greek lunch before returning to the ship.

David and I kick back on our balcony after another hot day in Santorini. Just imagine us saying ahhhh..

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Greece, Turkey and Israel

Sunday, October 7th Rhodes, Greece
Since David and I had visited Rhodes before on other cruises, we decided to take a taxi into the old walled city to visit the
Archeological Museum of Rhodes.  It was probably one of the most primitive of all museums I've ever visited with many antiquities sitting out in the open unidentified and unprepared.  Some were placed in small alcoves of the old hospital of the crusaders that was the site of the museum.  It was interesting to see but could have been so much more so if it were better managed and documented.  From the museum, we visited a couple of shops, bought a couple of souvenirs and gelato before walking back to the ship.

Monday, October 8th Alanya, Turkey
David and I decided not to take part in a tour while in Alanya.  Instead I spent a wonderful day having a couple of spa treatments and catching up on my email.  I even caught an afternoon nap that was much enjoyed!  David went to the top deck to take pictures of the ancient dockside with the red tower.  This was the port where the gigantic statue was known to have been erected standing with one foot on either side of the harbor.  It no longer exists but would have been something spectacular
to see.

Tuesday, October 9th Limassol, Cyprus
The island of Cyprus is one David and I have visited before and I was very intrigued about the Turkish takeover of the northern half of this island republic as recent as 1974.  This trip we took a different route visited first the Unesco site of Choirokoitia ("hero-kwoita") inhabited from 9000 BC to 7000 BC by a people who built small round huts of rock and mud topped with wooden roofs.  Huts were built in small groups together on a hill and surrounded by a low wall.


From Choirokoitia, we drove to see the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.  It was covered on all the inside surfaces with ancient frescos.  Next door at the government office, children were painting murals of religious symbols.  It was quite an interesting site.

Later we drove to Limassol and walked through some of the center of town, having a pizza snack at a small local diner before moving on to return to the ship.  Some of the group took a short hike down a center street to see the Turkish checkpoint at the greenline. 

Wednesday, October 10th Massada and the Dead Sea
I feel I must note that Israel is serious about security.  They are the only country to which we've cruised in the past where the immigration and security staff required a face-to-face interview with each passenger before allowing us to disembark in their country.  That process started for us at 7:15 am.  A few minutes later we boarded our bus from the port of Ashdod toward Qumran, a trip taking over 1 1/2 hours.  We had a great guide named Shai ("Shy") who spoke perfect English and was
very knowledgeable on the region.  In Qumran, we visited the ruins of the Essenes, a jewish sect of only men revolting from the religious persecution of the 1st century BC.  These men practices ritualistic bathing frequently throughout the day but their most important legacy is that of writing and storing the Dead Sea Scrolls in a cave that has since been excavated. 

The cave where many of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found is shown here.

Our bus then traveled on to Massada, a site built under the direction of King Herod high on a mountain overlooking the Dead Sea.  The ruins have been partially restored showing the advanced aqueduct system and massive storerooms meant to sustain a large palace for an extended siege.  Unfortunately, they were overrun by the Romans and the theory is that all those remaining at the conquest committed suicide rather than become slaves to the Romans.  This tour on the extremely hot and dry mountain top took over an hour and we were all exhausted from the heat.

The next leg of this day's tour was to travel a few miles down the road to a resort named Hotel Lot on the Dead Sea (the artifically extended portion of the sea). We dined at a buffet lunch then allowed to swim in the Dead Sea or just relax at the resort for several hours before returning to the ship.

Tonight I'm looking forward to skyping with my son and his family.  I miss all my family so much including the 4 legged members.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Santorini, Kusadasi, and Athens

Thursday, October 4th Santorini
The Greek island of Santorini lived up to its picture postcard beautiful views of the white-washed buildings and bright blue domes of the churches.  There are actually many islands making up Santorini but the largest island is shaped like a comma because it is the outer ring of an ancient volcanic crater.  There are constant earthquakes in this area, but most of them are very small.  David discovered there was an earthquake there the day before we arrived.  Though certainly pictureque, it was very hot, even in early October.  The small areas separating the village buildings are little more than a sidewalk in width.  The huge tour buses nonetheless find ways on the main roads to get us up the huge steep paths from the harbor area to the cliff tops.  After viewing the view from many areas, we had a traditional lunch of white wine, fava bean hummus, sausage, cheese and bread before shopping in Fira and taking a cable car back down to the dock.



I like this newer thinner me, so I won't adjust the picture frame size :)

View from our cable car

It was a beautiful sunset this evening from our suite.
Friday, October 5th Kusadasi
This day was dedicated to the Voyager Club sponsored tour. Our group was divided onto two busses. David and I were riding with Jennie, Laura and Kirk on bus #2. We were taken to the House of the Virgin Mary for a short look around then we were taken to Epheseus. Each time we've visited these ruins we find the archeologists have made a great deal of progress putting the pieces of the mosaics, frescos, and ancient dwellings together despite the thousands and thousands of many times, tiny fragments. The weather was very sunny and hot. Though we carried umbrellas for shade, we still had to fight dehydration from the heat. The tour of Epheseus was followed up with a great luncheon at the Hotel Kismet with a tour of the sea. The shade and breeze were a welcome addition to the view.

Turkish dancers entertaining us for lunch

Turkish dancers entertaining us for lunch

Back on board, we dined in the italian dining area, Sette Mari for a last dinner with our friends before they disembark in Athens.

Saturday, October 6th Athens
David and I visited the Acropolis Museum on our own today.  The museum did a superb job in our opinion of displaying the artifacts in a way that allows us to build a picture of the historic surroundings around the artists and artisans of the time.  I'm particularly pleased with the parthenon portion of the exhibit that takes up an entire floor positioning the pieces of the artifacts that were found, either when the museum was created in the Acropolis, at the British Museum, the Louve or in some other location. 


Monday, October 1st
The weather was rainy and the port was socked in.  We had all planned to take a hydroplane boat into Capri today to see the views, but we decided instead to sleep a couple of more hours then tender into Sorrento for some delicious wood-fired pizza. 

The shopping was great there, too. 

Before pizza we strolled through the Hotel Victoria built into the cliffside. The gardens were lush and green and the view of the Cote de A'Zur glorious.

Tuesday, October 2nd
I stayed onboard this day to nurse a sensitive tummy but David went on with the group and took lots of pictures. I'll post a few here.
Sonny & Jennie at Lunch

David spotted this unique BBQ grill while shopping

Wednesday, October 3rd
This day was the much anticipated day at sea.  We were traveling from Sicily to Santorini. We had lunch on the sunny upper deck.  It was very crowded with sun bathers, swimmers, and diners enjoying the live music.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Monoco and Italy 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012
Our day in Monte Carlo was different this trip in that we traveled outside of Monoco to visit Cannes, Grasse, and St. Paul de Vence, France.  In Cannes, we strolled through their outdoor market and shopped.  The view was beautiful. 

Ask me what was so funny about this pay toilet booth in some future conversation.

From Cannes, we drove to Grasse where perfumes are created and sold.  Greg - Be glad you were not on this portion of our tour as your nose would not have survived the overpowering scents.

We ended the tour at St. Paul de Vence, a walled city that was so neat!  We had lunch at a neat outdoor restaurant then shopped till we were almost too late to catch the bus. 

Saturday David and I decided to take a day or rest missing the Super Tuscan Day.  Our friends said we missed a great day in Tuscan wine country.

Livorno, Italy from the ship
What a sail boat!

Sunday, September 30, 2012
We docked in Civitavecchia then instead of going to Rome for the day as we normally have done in the past, we took a tour into Castelli Romani (Roman Castles).  We drove past Rome and then to Frascati. The village was spread around a volcanic section south of Rome.  It was the location of a gorgeous lake in the crater of the volcano surrounding many scenic restaurants. 

Swiss guards at the Pope's summer residence

We dined at a very upscale italian restaurant that was memorable.  I had a mixed Mediterranean seafood dish cooked in a special bag.  It was a different style of italian seafood that wouldn't make a hit in the US I think.  It contained shrimp, fish, calamari, clams, and OCTOPUS!

Dinners on the ship were wonderful.  We've sampled the alternative restaurants multiple times and love them.  Prime 7 was the best!