A Travellerspoint blog

Santorini, Greece

Donkey or tram?

sunny

I think the tram for Grandma. Well here is our test the seniors day. At first I was going to sat no way...but then changed my mind. We got a decent start with our Priority Tender Passes and were on shore very quickly. We got the first tram up the hillside. Doris was not impressed. She covered her eyes and was somewhat sweaty; bur once you are on there is no turning back. Okay so the first bit is a little jittery, but really it was quite fun. We had time for Joyce to get a hat, Tracy and I to get lost, and time for a coffee overlooking the caldera. Okay for those who know me, I had an iced Chocolate.
We were watching for Demetrius, but it was his wife Patricia who showed up. Patricia is German, born in Belgium, married a Greek and settled here. Wow! Demetrius took another group and thought Patricia would be great for our family grouping. A short walk away we found a blue air-conditioned van that was just perfect and we were off.
How can one describe the fantastic sights around the island? The humidity is high which means the horizon is a little hazy. Oia is beautiful, so many wonderful surprises around each white washed corner. There are 500 churches on the Island. Many are privately owned. As we passed one that was the church for the Saint Demetrius the lady who owned it was cleaning it. We chatted for a bit through Patricia and then the lady invited us in. It is very beautiful with ornate fixtures, wooden stalls along the sides for the men who sing hymns and various religious paintings on the walls. Patricia put some coins in the box and we lit candles. We lit candles for Jennifer, for Roger's Dad and Uncle Den. I told Patricia to tell her this was the highlight of our trip and for whatever reason I teared up.
We found the car and drove down into the fishing village and up the coast to a black sand beach where the locals go. Basically a few tourists go during the day and the locals arrive about five. There are caves in the coast hillsides where they store their beach stuff during the summer and their boats in the There are other caves in the hillside, but these ones were where their disposed of their dead. They now have traditional cemeteries, but they bury their dead standing up. You see many grapes here, but they grow low to the ground rather than suspended on supports.
We drove up the back of Fira to a house owned by Demetrius and Patricia. She showed us before and after pictures. It was a derelict dump when they got it for 15,000 Euros in 1993. They created a dining area out of the big oven, made skylights out of chimney's, added rooms, plastered walls, made or scavenged furniture and fixtures and made an amazing home. They added a guesthouse next to it. When they needed space to add a clothes washer, they just dug into the hillside. They now rent both places out and have built a new home further on.
We drove up to the winery for another amazing view of the caldera before heading to a family owned taverna. We settled on water, house wine, fried cheese, home fries, tzaziki, flava beans, Santorini Salad, eggplant salad, Imam, which is a stuffed white eggplant, tomato balls and Roger had fried sardines and some bread. Oh my it was all good!
It was now coming up to five hours on the road and time to head back to the ship. The line for the tram was not bad and we were on board in about 20 minutes. Doris had to cover her eyes again, but we made it down safely. You can of course walk up or down, but the donkeys have the right of way, plus they leave slippery deposits along the way. You can ride the donkeys, which looked a little iffy, especially the ones heading back down. They looked well fed and well groomed.

Posted by Mari Anne 08:05 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Rhodes, Greece

A good day to wander off the ship and get lost.

sunny 32 °C

Today started out a bit slower. I enjoyed a peaceful breakfast before Roger finally rolled out of bed and we ended up going ashore and leaving Tracy sleeping. The port at Rhodes is right by the old town. There was one other ship before us and by mid day there were five ships in port. Many people took tours or went to beaches. We walked across into the old town and Roger enjoyed an espresso and we got free Internet. We watched the town slowly come to life as hoards of tourists funneled through the gates. We checked back just before 10:30 and Tracy was still passed out so we went exploring, up one lane and down another. Rhodes is very different from Mykonos, more rustic and many places in terrible disrepair. Things are not the same box shape and the buildings are not all whitewashed. The town has been taken over by so many groups it has a huge mix of cultures represented. First Roman and Byzantine, conquered by the Knights of St. John, followed by Italians and Ottomans.
We came upon a grandmother sitting outside her place with her brand new little granddaughter, she was very proud to show her off. Further on we followed a tunnel that led to the moat and we wandered along there. We then followed a dog through another smaller tunnel and ended up...well inside somewhere. We continued on and eventually came to the moat again with a field of cannon balls of various sizes. Up a set of stairs we again entered the old town and began to make our way down towards the more touristy area. We saw a cool WWII vintage motorcycle with the rifle holster, saddlebags, and all as well as various other unusual vehicles.
The dog left us at this point and we began to see little shops including one selling doughnuts through her front window. We came to a little shop that caught my eye. The lady who owned it came from Paris and was selling hand crafted glass jewelry and olive woodcarvings.
We crossed paths with Joyce who was looking at the leather products and Doris who was checking out some textiles. We stopped at the wifi cafe and Roger ordered a big beer and I had a glass of wine. The beer glass was at least a foot tall and shaped like a naked women's torso. There must have been a litre of beer in there. Needless to say Roger drank it and was pretty useless the rest of the day.
Back on board we found Tracy at the trivia where she and a couple from Wales had won the game. We met up with Charlotte for a game of scrabble and 'Are you smarter than an activity director'. Tracy took the scrabble game and then she and Roger left for their dance rehearsal and my team of Len and Millie from our Ephesus tour and Marylou from the cruise critic group took the trivia. We nailed it with 26 out of 27. Jonathan and Mel of the activity staff got only 11 and the other teams were just behind us.
Tonight's dinner was great, Paolo had another trick for us and Adrian gave Tracy a pin of Peru's flag. Tonight will be some dance a game of cards and a good sleep.
We had not realized that Charlotte's husband is on the ship as well. He works in the Blu restaurant. They don't see much of each other, as their hours don't mesh too well.

Posted by Mari Anne 08:04 Archived in Greece Tagged greece moat rustic rhodes Comments (0)

Mykonos, Greece

A zen day.... Beach anyone?

sunny 28 °C

Happy Birthday Robin. Face book and text messages have been sent and Robin was wished a great birthday. I was going to say wish we were there, but the better choice would be, wish you were here.
Charlotte had given us Priority Tender passes so we got ourselves ready and we were the first ones on the first tender. Another ship arrived later and docked. To dock means a bus ride into town. I prefer the tender. We had wandered through the town as it was coming awake and found a beach and were in the water by 9am. We pretty much had the beach to ourselves the whole morning. Clothing optional beach as it turns out. We started wandering back and mad a stop at Nick's taverna for pop and espresso before wandering again. There are some old windmills on the point and we wandered into one. It stunk!!!! It was full of feathers; dead birds, eggs and when you walked up the stairs you met the birds and local cats. There are cats everywhere and many of them look terribly unwell.
The roads/lanes are various widths and pedestrians share the road with, bikes, something like a golf cart and cars. You just step to the side and let them pass. One car almost took the cloths off a window display as it squeezed by. One lane was so narrow I had to take off my backpack to get through.
The Island is only 33 square miles and the population is only 5,000 that swell with tourists who are there for the beaches and nightlife.
We did not meet him, but the town mascot is a pelican named Petro II, Pertos I was struck by a car some ten tears ago.
The houses are box like which is a little unusual for the Islands. The maze of streets is pretty standard as they were built this way to confuse attacking pirates. Villagers, who knew the town could lead the pirates into an ambush. While searching for the 'Chinese' store to look for some pants that the server at the taverna was wearing we stumbled into a little jewelry shop where we made a small purchase.
Finding our way back to the tender we had our usual salad and headed to trivia, as the seniors were nowhere to be found. We won the first game, but really there was only the three of us playing, although our score was pretty good. Did you know Thomas Jefferson was the first president to sit on a toilet in the Whitehouse? The second game was a tie and we had to have three tiebreakers to pull into first place. Jonathan from Mexico was our activity staff member. He speaks five languages, but he still has to work some as his dad spoke nine.
Turns out Joyce and Doris braved the tenders and had wandered through the stores at the port and arrived back a little later ready for a drink. I love that the Celebrity meets you at the dock with couches, tents, cold towels and a cold drink before you board. Ahhhh...I also love the looks from envious passengers on other cruise lines.
We caught the show Remix, it was good, some numbers were not very tight but this group is on a new contract and it will tighten up. The tapping was better than the other night. I was tired and drifted through some of it.
We moved to the entertainment court so that we could get seats for Joyce and Doris for the Dancing with the Stripes. Charlotte came over and already had our names down for the competition. We owed her for the tender tickets so we agreed. Roger ended up with a wonderfully talented young women, I got Boris and Tracy got the head chef. I danced off against Tracy and they did lifts and dirty dancing so there was no competition ... Tracy and the chef moved onto the next round. In Roger's group the couple that beat them went on to win the whole thing. It was wild and fun and some times it was even dance. Each group got three dances chosen randomly. There was cha cha, ballet, interpretive, bollywood, and so on, the final dance off was a merenge.
Tonight sitting on the veranda writing this it is hotter than last night and muggy. Time for sleep.

Posted by Mari Anne 23:37 Archived in Greece Tagged greece mykonos beach dance sunny espresso Comments (0)

Ephesus, Turkey

Ohhh Turkey... Big tour planned.

sunny 44 °C

Another early start in Kusadasi and our group managed to get together and all were on time. Bert and Jane from Charlotte, NC, Millie and Len from NY, Chris, Donna and Eldon from Florida and us. Isa, from Ephesustours.net met us on the dock and we walked through the stores to our bus. The bus was cozy and we could have had many more on our tour, but ten was ideal. The guide, Isa, was amazing, he used to teach at the university and is now working on his PhD and knew his history inside out.
The history of Ephesus itself is amazing, and the ruins were very cool. As grand as the ruins are in Athens, the ruins in Ephesus are spread out and more accessible. There were dogs and cats roaming about as at the Parthenon. While I could do a history class on Ephesus one of the best examples of Ancient Roman architecture, I will do highlights of our trip. The area gets very hot...it was 37 at 8:30 in the morning. It was 44 yesterday in the afternoon, so hats and water are encouraged.
We start at the top of the ruins and make our way down stopping to explore different aspects of the Ruins. It is not too crowded yet, our ship got in first and there are also people being bused from another port.
Part way down is the Terrace Houses, which many had not purchased, tickets to enter. These ruins were uncovered after having been buried for many years after an earthquake. The houses had artifacts, tile, marble and erotic art on the walls. Only a small percentage of the area has been
Near the end of our tour there was a short drama with trumpets, royalty, a sword fight and Dancers, short and cheesy, but fun! We headed down towards the bus where the usual sellers of trinkets await. They had Turkish Delight, the one fellow said 6 Euros, and then came down to two for 5 Euros, but then we said we didn't have enough, so one for 5 Euros. When we opened up our pockets we only had just over 3 Euros. So because Tracy is so pretty we got the box for that.
On the way home we stopped at a rug weaver's. They train young women after the age of 16. They served us a choice of Turkish tea, Apple tea or Rika. That is their local drink, which turns white when diluted with water before it is served, it has a licorice taste. The process to make the Carpets is very interesting and they showed us many carpets, cotton, wool and silk. It is very tempting, but not in our price range at this time. This is a government subsidized carpet training school. They say no child labour, but it is a cottage industry, so how can they be sure. In town we saw other carpets that were cheaper, again who knows who made them.
It is nice to have the streets a little quieter after Rome and Athens. People in France honk their car horns a lot. Not so in Rome or Brussels despite the tight roads with major traffic. It was very cool to watch our driver in Athens squeeze the bus between impossibly narrow turns and it is fun to watch the hordes of 'Vespa' drivers drive between lanes, on sidewalks and cut in front of everyone.
Back onboard we had time for a little trivia, lunch, nap, clothes washing, line dancing, and cards. Tracy is off to a rehearsal with Sansi, pronounced Shauncy, short for Sandor, for the dance competition. Doris and Joyce took care of themselves today going for a stroll through the port side stores and the duty free. Doris was very pleased with a hat she bought and a pair of sunglasses. They both came back with little pins with, I think, an owl with blue eyes, which is the local symbol of wisdom.
We are so happy with our wait staff. Adrian is so good to us and treats us with such kindness and fun. Paolo is a delight, much to our surprise he is in his 30s with three children. He does not much like ship life. They are long days and very little time off. He will be on until the new year and he thinks maybe longer. The money is good so the goal is about six years until he can retire from the ship. Today Paolo had tricks for us.... he set up patterns with candles and we had to figure out how to make the new pattern with only so many moves. Tracy and I nailed them. Roger did his disappearing money trick and the pencil through the hand, but was out of practice. Bad Roger!
We had a game of settlers of Catan and it was obvious people were getting tired. (I won). So after sitting on our deck for a bit, Tracy and I packed it in and Roger went odd to dance.

Posted by Mari Anne 23:36 Archived in Turkey Tagged houses turkey rica terrace delight ephesus carpets Comments (0)

Athens

A new country, a new language. It's all Greek to me.

sunny 36 °C

The day isn't over yet, but I have to do my notes when I can. I write this sitting on my balcony in the moonlight off the coast of Greece. So today is Athens. We did see the protesters camp, but things are quite enough for us to go into port, apparently a few weeks ago the ship did not go in, then the next time then were given cards with emergency contact numbers in case of an emergency. Anyway we did a ship tour just because that's the way things worked out. Joyce and Doris did their own sites of Athens for those with limited mobility and we did a drive by sites with the main stop at the Acropolis. So much history to see and it is so hard to keep it all straight. The ruins were pretty amazing and are being restored. You can see what has been done already because of the colour of the stone; the white stone would be the recent repairs. One thing is amazing to think about how slippery the rock surfaces are due to the thousands of feet that have worn the rocks down. The other thing that I found interesting is all the big, well-fed and unleashed dogs. They are there to guard. At night they will leave police alone, and workers but will go after the illegal immigrants who pilfer from the ruins.
We hesitate to call them Gypsies, but we are warned time and time again by the locals to not buy their products and to safe guard our personal items from pickpockets.
The temp is 36, but it is manageable. I managed to get into the WC during a lull. Just as I was warned, squat toilets and no paper.
We dozed a bit during the return trip. They dropped us off in Piraeus to get some stamps and mail some post cards. I also tried to get Euros, but no luck. It appears they have canceled my cards. Good thing I had a second one on the ship and it worked just fine.
Lunch, line dance, nap, lots and lots of water and Tracy and I took first place in the Bocce tournament. Roger and I went for a tour backstage where we learned about the audition process, rehearsals and life of a dancer and singer in the shows. One month of rehearsals to learn the big production shows and three more weeks if you are one of the dancers who fly. You may not gain or lose more than five pounds, as one of them said, you are a commodity.
We picked up Tracy from the Cha Cha class and headed to dinner. Another fun night with our excellent servers! More tricks tonight. The balancing pop can, the precut banana, and the pop can stuck in the can and the upside down glass.
The seniors have gone off to see the comedian, while we hit the dance floor and play the night away.

Posted by Mari Anne 11:38 Archived in Greece Tagged ruins athens dance dogs hot acropolis euros Comments (0)

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