Thursday, October 28, 2010

It’s Crazy Out There

We returned from our two-week trip to 80 degree highs in Alabama and to these blooming in the yard.

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That’s an iris.  Mine normally bloom in March or April.  What in the world is going on out there, and do you suppose they will bloom again when it really is spring?

iris 003 We did get some much needed rain this week, and it is supposed to be colder this weekend.  Will be interesting to see how the iris that are already blooming and these yellow ones that are about to bloom survive.  I’ll let you know.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Athens—The Acropolis and More

After disembarking the Regatta this morning at the port of Piraeus, we boarded a bus for our tour of Athens.  Following a brief city tour, our guide took us first to the Acropolis Museum for a look a some of the artifacts found there.

Then it was time to get up close and personal with the Acropolis itself.


As you can see, we had an absolutely gorgeous day for sightseeing.


After checking into our hotel, the four of us headed out to see if we could find Thamasis, a restaurant recommended by Sophia, one of our fellow travelers.  The directions provided at the hotel were excellent, and after a little help from a couple of shop keepers, we were soon enjoying souvlaki and washing it down with Mythos.

We made it back to the hotel in time for the 5 p.m. changing of the guard at the Greek Parliament, just across the square from our hotel.


I think these guys must have studied dance somewhere down the line.

The answer to yesterday’s trivia question, “What Biblical event tends to support the superstition that 13 is an unlucky number?” is the Last Supper (there were 13 in attendance).

By the way, I was expecting the Razorback game to be over with before bedtime last night, since it started at around 11:30 a.m.  I wasn’t counting on two lightening delays.  Thanks to Ben for texting me the updates.

Tomorrow, it’s back to the U.S.A.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mykonos—With a Side Trip

IMG_2535 Today we have been anchored in the harbor at Mykonos for our final port of call before disembarking tomorrow in Athens.  It’s hard to believe that our two weeks are almost over.

After tendering ashore, we met our guide for the trip to the island of Delos, a 30-minute ferry ride.  Delos is a small uninhabited island but is crammed full of ancient Greek ruins.  Although it was a bright sunny day, the winds were fierce, and we huddled together in our hooded jackets as we listened to our knowledgeable guide describe what we were seeing.


The ferry ride back to Mykonos was more than a little rough, and LBeau got a little green around the gills.  However after a lunch of Coke and bread (the rest of us enjoyed a delicious fish soup), he rallied, and we spent an hour or so exploring this seaside village of white stucco houses, shops and churches.



The answer to yesterday’s trivia question, “The best dog is the __________ because it feeds the hand that bites it” is, of course, the hot dog.  Today’s trivia question is “What Biblical event tends to support the superstition that 13 is an unlucky number?”  Answer tomorrow.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Kusadasi, Turkey—The Ruins of Ephesus

Today’s post will be brief.  It’s been a long day, and it’s way past my bedtime in this part of the world.  We are on our way to Mykonos, Greece, after being docked all day at Kusadasi, Turkey.

This morning we visited the ruins of ancient Ephesus.  Words cannot begin to describe how spectacular this site is, and pictures do not really do it justice.  You just have to see it for yourself.

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Can you find the famous swoosh in this carving depicting the Goddess Nike?


We learned that the Turks like to tell it like it is.  Not only do their cigarette displays state simply, “Smoking Kills” (no surgeon general mumbo jumbo for them), but there were these signs prominently displayed on some of their shops.


The answer to yesterday’s trivia question, “Which sitting president never threw out the first pitch on the opening day of baseball season?” is Jimmy Carter.  He’s been a popular answer during afternoon Team Trivia.

Today’s trivia question is a fill in the blank.  “The best dog is the __________ because it feeds the hand that bites it.”  I’ll have the answer tomorrow.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Santorini—A Panoramic Tour

Today we are anchored just off the coast of Santorini, one of the most beautiful of our ports.  After tendering ashore, a trip that was more than a little rough, we boarded buses for a tour of this volcanic island.

Our first stop was at the highest point on the island for a photo opportunity.


Next stop was the village of Oia, where we enjoyed our morning cappuccino.  At the suggestion of Rick Steves, LBeau and I also ordered Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts.  Not only was the yogurt delicious, but the restaurant gave us beautiful views of the blue topped churches that Santorini is noted for.


Finally the bus took us to the town of Fira.  The four of us decided to have lunch in a local restaurant before heading back to the port.  There are only three ways down from the old town—walk more than 600 steps, ride a donkey or take the cable car.  We opted for the latter.


The answer to yesterday’s trivia question—What does the acronym ZIP stand for?—is Zone Improvement Plan.  A couple of you had the right answer.

Today’s question is “Which sitting president never threw out the first pitch on the opening day of baseball season?”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Crete—The Palace of Knossos

IMG_7150 Rise and shine, it’s a beautiful day on the island of Crete.  From our port at Agios Nikolaos, we traveled about an hour to reach the palace of an ancient Minoan civilization.

The Palace of Knossos is an important archeological site consisting partially of the excavated ruins and partially of restored areas.  It attracts lots of visitors and was covered with people traveling alone or in groups with a guide.


The answer to yesterday’s trivia question, “What Paris attraction draws the largest number of visitors annually?” is Disneyland, Paris.

Today’s question is “What does the acronym ZIP stand for in Zip Code?  I’ll have the answer tomorrow after our visit to Santorini.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mystra—The Last Byzantine Stronghold

IMG_2142 Dawn showed the makings of a good day as the Regatta docked in Monemvasia, sometimes called the Gibraltar of Greece.  While Susie and Wayne decided to stay in town, LBeau and I boarded a bus to visit the Byzantine ruins in Mystra.

After about an hour and a half drive, we made a “technical stop,” as our guide called a potty break, at a restaurant near Sparta.  The courtyard was filled with orange trees and quite a few of these were feasting on the ripened fruit.  I don’t think we grow them quite this large in Alabama.

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The ruins of Mystra lie on a hillside.  Our guide opted to have the bus driver take us near the top, so that we could work our way down the hillside.


Along the way we visited three churches and a nunnery.


We were tired when we finally returned to the ship, but after a brief rest and afternoon tea, we were ready for Team Trivia, where we finished second.

Yesterday’s question was “What did Belgium, Luxembourg and The Netherlands adopt in 1977?”  The answer—Daylight Savings Time.

Today’s question is “What attraction gets the most visitors annually in Paris?”  I’ll have the answer tomorrow.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Zakynthos—A Not So Panoramic Tour

Today’s excursion was entitled “A Panoramic Tour of Zakynthos,” but clouds, fog and rain made the views somewhat less than spectacular.  That didn’t keep us from journeying across the island, however, where we toured a Greek Orthodox monastery.


IMG_7100 Today’s cappuccino break was accompanied by walnut cake.  This specialty of the cafe, recommended by our guide, was a dark cake filled with ground walnuts and drenched in local honey.  Susie and Wayne opted for the whipped cream topping.

IMG_7112 Back in Zakynthos town, we decided to have lunch at a local restaurant rather than on the ship.  Thanks to the reader who recommended that I try kebabs.  LBeau and I both ordered them, and they were delicious, and the tzatziki sauce for dipping was yummy.  And thanks to Taziki’s, I actually knew what the tzatsiki sauce was.

Back on the ship, we won this afternoon’s trivia contest.  The question for today is “What did Belgium, Luxembourg and The Netherlands adopt in 1977?”  I’ll post the answer to this question tomorrow, and the answers to yesterday’s questions are at the bottom of this post.  Feel free to post your answer to today’s question in the comments.

IMG_7123 After trivia, we headed to the bar for high tea.  The Good Susie swore that she was only getting tea, but as you can see, the Bad Susie couldn’t resist this cream filled pastry.  By the time I snapped this picture, she had already finished the cream cheese sandwich.

Now for the answers to yesterday’s trivia questions.

1.  What country has the lowest birth rate?  The Vatican

2.  What one word is in the middle of Strawberry Fields in Central Park?  Imagine

3.  Who was the first American president born in a hospital?  Jimmy Carter

4.  In mock apple pie, what ingredient is substituted for apples?  Ritz crackers

5.  In internet shorthand, what to the letters AFK stand for?  Away From Keyboard

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Trivia Time

After kicking butt in “Name That Tune” the first evening, the four of us decided to try “Team Trivia” the following afternoon.  We’re hooked and have been participating each day since.

So far we’ve tied for first one time and finished second on the other occasions.  The team that’s hard to beat has a couple of young girls and several Brits on it, which gives them a broad range of knowledge.

Here are a few questions for you to ponder.

1.  What country has the lowest birth rate?

2.  What one word is in the middle of Strawberry Fields in Central Park?

3.  Who was the first American president born in a hospital?

4.  In mock apple pie, what ingredient is substituted for apples?

5.  In internet shorthand, what to the letters AFK stand for?

Feel free to answer in your comments, and I’ll provide the correct answers tomorrow.

Delphi—It’s All Greek to Me

IMG_7043 Today the Regatta is docked at Itea, Greece, and our excursion was a 30-minute trip to Delphi to see a major archeological excavation.

Among the ancient ruins is the Temple of Apollo, home of the famous Oracle at Delphi.  Too bad we couldn’t have visited this site yesterday.  Maybe then I wouldn’t have been up at 3:30 a.m. looking for the results of the Arkansas-Auburn game.

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Stopping in the town of Delphi, we got a panoramic view across the valley filled with olive trees.  The port of Itea is in the distance.


Thanks to everyone who tried to keep me up to speed with the ballgame.  I finally had to go to bed at halftime.  Looks like that was a wise move.  To all of my Auburn friends, I hope you run the tables, and that means beating you know who.

By the way, we had a whole bunch of happy Wisconsin Badgers at breakfast today.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Corfu, Greece—A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

IMG_6986 Up before dawn to enjoy breakfast prior to our morning excursion, we held our breaths as the sun began to rise.  With a little luck it appeared to have the makings of a good day.  And indeed it was.

After boarding our bus at the port of Corfu, Greece, we headed to the western side of the island to Paleokastritsa.  A winding one-lane road took us to the Paleokastritsa Monestary.


The interior of the monestary was heavily adorned in the icons of the Greek Orthodox tradition.


Outside we found gorgeous views of the coastline of the Ionian Sea.


On the way back to Corfu Town, we detoured to Kanoni for a bird’s eye view of the Mouse Island and the airport.


Back in town, our guide gave us a brief walking tour of Corfu Town.  Then the four of us settled in for our daily dose of cappuccino.  We’ve decided that a cappuccino machine would make a great Christmas present, but LBeau says he’s going to start with a mocha pot.

With such beautiful weather, Susie and I even broke out the capri pants, and we found time to enjoy reading and sunning by the pool.  Meanwhile, I’m already getting nervous about the Razorback game at Auburn, which won’t kick off until 10:30 p.m. for us.  I don’t see how we can possibly stop Cam Newton.  If I wake up in the middle of the night, I may be calling one of you to get the score.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Kotor, Montenegro—More of the Same

IMG_6911 Today we were docked at the port of Kotor, Montenegro.  In case you haven’t figured it out already, the weather was more of the same—wet.  That didn’t keep us from venturing out on an excursion, but we did make sure to take our umbrellas this time.

After a 30-minute bus ride, our first stop was at the seaside village of Budva.


IMG_6933Once again, we discovered that the best way to escape the elements during our “free time” was a coffee bar and a good cup of cappuccino.  We just didn’t realize it would be such a big cup.  Not the best idea when you’re operating on limited potty breaks.

Back in Kotor, half of our group decided to head back to the ship, but the four of us continued the tour.  We entered the sea gate of the old city very near where our ship was docked, and began a leisurely stroll through the narrow streets, visiting the Maritime Museum and the Cathedral of Sveti Tripun.


Some of the best photo opportunities of the day came when we sailed from Kotor at 5 p.m.  Passing by this church, the ship’s captain blew our horn, and someone at the church responded by ringing its bell.


Finally we did a U-turn around these two tiny islands, and made our way through the narrow passage was that would take us out of the Bay of Kotor.


Tomorrow, Corfu, Greece.  The weather is not looking promising.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dubrovnik—Rain, Rain and More Rain

IMG_6878 Greetings from Croatia, home of Davor Rimac, a member of the 1994 Razorback National Champions basketball team.

The word for the day was “wet.”  It was overcast and foggy as we docked in Dubrovnik, but a light drizzle began as we set out on our afternoon excursion.  Our first stop was the old city inside the ancient city walls.


From there we journeyed to a small seaside resort town.  As we enjoyed cappuccino at a small sidewalk cafe, large umbrellas protected us from the elements as the rain began in earnest.


IMG_6906Our day ended with wine tasting accompanied by local cheese and prosciutto.

Here’s hoping for better weather tomorrow when we visit Kotor, Montenegro.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Venice—Queen of the Adriatic

IMG_1884 After an overnight flight from Atlanta to Amsterdam, we arrived in Venice about mid-day Tuesday.  Upon boarding our ship, the Regatta, Susie, Wayne, LBeau and I made our way to the Terrace Cafe for lunch.  The day was clear and a little cool as we got our first views from the deck of the ship of this city of 60,000 residents and 20 million tourists.


Before departing home, LBeau had researched the Vaporetto, Venice’s system of water buses.  So after unpacking for our two-week cruise, the four of us headed out to explore Venice on our own.


The number 2 line took us from our ship to the station at San Zaccaria.  From there it was a short walk to Piazza San Marco.  The white and orange building in the photo above is a Vaporetto station.


A member of the ship’s staff had assured us before we set out that there would be plenty of signs to direct us to the famous Rialto Bridge.  Sure enough, we found it easily and got our first view of the Grand Canal.


After dinner at a nearby restaurant, we made our way back to the Rialto Bridge where we boarded a water bus on the number 1 line for a ride along the Grand Canal.  It was a beautiful night with a crescent moon over Venice.


Today’s guided excursion took us back to San Marco Piazza where we had a guided tour of the Doge’s Palace and the Basilica San Marco.  We learned that St. Mark is buried there but only because the Venetians stole his remains from his original burial site in Alexandria after he became the patron saint of Venice.


IMG_2018 We said goodbye to Venice late this afternoon.  As we set sail at 4 p.m., Susie and I enjoyed a Belini, invented at Harry’s Bar in Venice.  It was good, but for my money, you can’t beat the Leaning Belini at Macaroni Grill.

Tomorrow Dubrovnik, Croatia.