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Log of the trip (Blog) by Janice Hatt

Pacific Princess Cruise
Janice and Larry chose this cruise itinerary to visit some new ports on the Mediterranean but mainly to tour the Holy Land and spend 3 days in Venice, Italy .  Patmos and Ephesus provided surprise connection with new testament venues of John and Paul.

Venice to Israel and Egypt

This blog was posted day by day at veniceisrael.blogspot.com. This web provides forward day sequence, rather than the reverse of blogspot. Click to see the original Blogspot postings

Monday, April 26-30, 2012 Venice, Italy -Cruise
Tuesday, May 1 Ravenna, Italy
Wednesday, May 2 Dubrovnik, Croatia
Thursday, May 3 At Sea
Friday, May 4 Patmos, Greece
Saturday, May 5 At Sea
Sunday, May 6 Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa), Israel
Monday, May 7 Jerusalem/Bethlehem (Ashdod), Israel
Tuesday, May 8 Port Said, Egypt (for Cairo & Giza)
Wednesday, May 9 Alexandria, Egypt
Thursday, May 10 At Sea
Friday, May 11 Kusadasi, Turkey (for Ephesus)
Saturday, May 12-15 Athens, Greece
Thursday, April 26 - Burlington to Venice

We were packed and at the curb when the taxi came and our trip to the airport was smooth. However, we were sent to different security lines and lost track of each other at Pearson. Luckily we were re-connected in the boarding lounge. Our flight was delayed 40 minutes waiting for luggage removal which made us a bit anxious about our short turn-around time in Frankfurt. Otherwise an unremarkable flight.

 

Off we go

Friday, April 27 - Venice, Italy

Lufthansa agents met us at the gate and whisked us through underground passages by bus, getting us to the correct gate in time to catch the onward flight to Venice.  Once there, we easily located the water taxis and vaporettos.  A price comparison led us to choose the latter and we had an interesting trip across the lagoon to the Guglie stop. 

Luckily, we had a good enough map to find our way to the Boscolo Bellini Hotel.  We walked through a produce and fish market, over one of the lovely arched bridges and then along a narrow pedestrian street lined with shops and restaurants.  We left our luggage at the hotel and went walking.  The hotel is near the Grand Canal so we enjoyed watching the boat traffic and stood on one of the bridges enjoying the sound of all the church bells ringing at noon [ Says Larry: at that would be 6am in Burlington - no wonder I can't keep my eyes open ] .  We realized we'd been lucky - when we were dragging luggage the only bridge we crossed had ramps.  Most of them only had steps!

We ate a pizza for lunch at an outdoor restaurant at the side of the Grand Canal, then explored the Bus Terminal, the location of the People Mover that will be taking us to the port for embarkation on Monday, and then the train station.By that time, we were ready to go to our room and nap for a few hours.

When we awoke we decided to go wandering in a different direction.  We fond a store to get bottled water (e1.10 for 1.5 l vs e6 for 1.0 l at the hotel) and beer, then wandered into an obviously popular restaurant for a remarkable meal.  I had very simple spaghetti and Larry risotto with seafood.  Then we stopped at a gelato place for a treat before picking up vaporetto passes and heading for the hotel.

Nice, nice evening.  The views along the canals from the bridges are particularly great at night!

 

Walkway in front our hotel

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Saturday, April 28 - Venice

Breakfast at the hotel was very pleasant with quite a bit of variety. We had booked a city tour, so we boarded a vaporetto and rode out past the cruise port and across the lagoon to San Marco. We had a quick look, were stunned by the crowds, and found our way to the garden to join our tour.

It was a warm, clear day and we realized we'd left the sunscreen at the hotel. Yikes! We joined our guide for a walking tour that started in St. Mark's Square, included the Basilica (cutting the mile-long line) and went via a circuitous route to the Rialto Bridge. We got a good feel for the city and its history.

After getting some (extremely costly) sunscreen at a pharmacy, we crossed the bridge, window-shopped for a while and found a small restaurant down a side street. Another really good meal - caprese and french fries with local beer.

Finding our way back to San Marco was a challenge and we hit a few dead ends, but finally got there. We rewarded ourselves with a gelato and rested in the garden 'til our afternoon tour. That was a water-taxi tour of the city and Grand Canal. It was a great tour and our guide was most informative. More history and a sense of the city.

So many tourists! Turns out that this is a 4-day weekend celebrating the national holiday, so the place is absolutely swarming.

Last night through our open window we heard voices and the sound of suitcases rolling over paving bricks all night. Didn't keep us awake much though. Right now it sounds like hundreds of people out there. I hope most of them have somewhere else to go before bedtime!

We had seen a lot of Murano glass. Some of it's beautiful, but there's a lot I don't like at all.

Many buildings have glass mosaic tiles. Inspired! The gold and colours stay bright and don't wear off! The other thing we see everywhere is masks! There are traditional Carnival masks, modern ones and the doctor's (long nosed, with filtration) plague masks. They are available painted and decorated or plain.

Nice dinner at a restaurant next door to the hotel, a walk around the neighbourhood and bed. [Great day...but exhausting]

 

Entering St. Mark's Square

 

Click this link to Videos of our first day in Venice

Venice Videos - 28 April
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Sunday, April 29 - Venice

Our first objective this morning was to attend 10am mass at the nearest church. The breakfast room was crowded and the streets even more so. We arrived just as the service started and took our places toward the back. It was a large, old church with great sound, so we really enjoyed the music -- perhaps it was a choir or maybe just the congregation -- accompanied by a guitar. All in Italian, of course, so hard for us to follow, but parts were recognizable, and when everyone started turning, shaking hands and saying "Pace" we felt right at home!

Afterward we looked at the art on the walls and behind the altars. We discovered it is the Church of Sts. Jeremiah and Lucy. Lucy's remains are on view. We didn't look too closely. We could see that the walls and some of the art have been damaged in floods.

Next, we decided that for our one museum/gallery we'd go to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Since so many people are coming and going, the vaporetto line-ups were gruesome. "Let's just walk" we decided. Uh-huh. Turns out that even with 2 maps, navigation is nearly impossible. What do we expect in a city built on many many islands? And obscure street signs? And narrow streets? So, we went in at least one full circle, but finally ended up in a square with vaporetto signs and arrows. That made it pretty simple and at that stop there was no mob. Of course the vaporetto itself was like a low-floating sardine can, but a stop or 2 later we got off and quite easily found our way to the museum.

It's a lovely, serene place, with a sculpture garden (one Henry Moore & lots of others) and a few galleries, as well as a café. We wandered through all of them and found a few new-to-us artists who were quite interesting, as well as many familiar names.

From there we walked to the beautiful Basilica Santa Maria della Salute, which we simply walked around outside and admired.

Back onto the floating sardine can, and across to San Marco. We thought it was crowded yesterday, but today was at least 50% worse and I heard someone say it will be even worse tomorrow!

From there we started walking, following signs to the Rialto Bridge. Our quest was for a small gallery we'd both noticed the day before, with pictures in a style we enjoy. We'd dashed past it on the walking tour, so knew it was somewhere between St. Mark's Square and the Rialto. We got to the bridge without finding it. So we started back toward San Marco by another route. After about 15 minutes we turned back toward Rialto. At one corner I said "Let's just go to the end of this little side street before we quit. It was the last shop on that street! We found it and it was open and the prints were framed and affordable! Hooray! I got it!

Tired and happy we made our way to the nearest vaporetto stop and back to the hotel. After a brief rest, we headed back out. I wanted some Murano glass jewellery and we need dinner. The first store, where they had exactly what I wanted in the window, refused me service and closed the door in my face. Closing time! Luckily, a few doors further along they had something similar, less expensive and were happy to sell it to me.

We found a pleasant restaurant, enjoyed dinner and local wine, and wandered back to the hotel. The crowds were thinning out but still lots of action outside our window. It's interesting that in this city of water, there are few insect flying around. A couple of those that are, did bite me, but it's OK to keep the window open, and enjoy the sounds from the square and the view of purple petunias and yellow snapdragons in our balcony flower boxes.

 

On the warf in front of the Guggenheim Collection

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Monday, April 30 - Venice Embarcation Day

We spent much of the morning packing up, with a last little tour of the local souvenir market to find one last thing we wanted.

We checked out of the Bellini, left our luggage there and walked across the bridge, along the Grand Canal to have lunch in the same outdoor restaurant we had visited the first day.

We gathered up our bags, hopped on a vaporetto, travelled to Piazza le Roma and rode the People Mover to Maritima, the passenger port. As we set out toward the ships, we met a couple coming the other way. Pacific Princess? they asked. Yes, we said. Well, it's not at this port, it's at San Basilio. Where's that? We thought this was THE port. Not sure. Luckily, a gentleman nearby pointed out that we could see our ship, just not get there from here. So the 4 of us teamed up, went back on the People Mover to P. le Roma, had no success finding a vaporetto going to S. Basilio and finally hired a water taxi (thanks to Larry's initiative).

Nice little trip through canals and out into the Lagoon to the landing. From there, the process was simple and we were soon on board. Very nice ship, but showing some signs of age.

Our mini-suite is delightfully large and comfortable [free upgrade]. We could host a hall party! A "treasure hunt" helped us explore the ship. Before dinner, we had drinks in one of the lounges, tested the bartender with "Harvey Wallbanger" and he produced a perfect one.

For a half hour or so we sat in lonely splendour at our table for 8, but then another couple arrived, then another and right at the end, the 2 ladies to complete the group. They are all Americans from Oregon, California and North Dakota, but there are many Canadians on board.

In the evening there was a welcome aboard show, starting with a draw for various goods and services on board, and the introduction of the entertainment staff. Some good singing and dancing and a funny comedian.

Then we were leaving port, so we went back to our stateroom and out on the balcony. It had been raining so the streets were shining and glittering under the lights. Just beautiful.
 

Boarding the Princess Pacific

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Tuesday, May 1st - Ravenna and Republic of San Marino

Up early and breakfast on the aft deck as we pulled into Ravenna.

We joined our tour group for the trip to San Marino and Ravenna under cloudy skies and in a haze. Our first destination was San Marino, about 90 minutes away. During the bus trip we heard both the historical and the legendary version of the founding of the fortress at the top of the mountain. As we got closer we could see the three towers and the walls, and eventually we wound our way up to the parking area.

From there we climbed on foot. It reminded me of Mont St. Michel, in France. Many little shops and restaurants and steep cobbled streets. The church is just lovely, though only about 150 years old. We climbed to the first tower and along the "witches' walk" (still climbing) to the second. We chose not to climb either tower.

The views were spectacular and the sun came out for awhile. We sat outdoors and had a good lunch and some coffee while watching the ever-increasing number of tourists pouring by. We were glad we got there before it was so crowded.

Eventually we made our way back down to the bus and off toward Ravenna. This is an agricultural area and we saw a wide variety of field crops, orchards and vineyards along the way. Horse chestnuts, and something the colour of redbud are in bloom, as well as poppies, wisteria, roses and other spring things. And the mosquitoes are out! I have numerous bites that have turned into large welts. Of course the benedryl is on the ship.

Back in Ravenna we visited the Chiesa di San Vitale -- a beautiful 5th century church with the most astonishing mosaics. Worth the whole trip to see it.

From there it was a short walk to the Tomb of Galla Placidia, another marvel of mosaic art from from the 4th century. Absolutely awesome.

A brief stroll along the main street and it was time to go back to the ship. We had a great time at dinner with the 6 American table partners, and then really enjoyed the show in the lounge. A 50s & 60s tribute -- knew all the words to all the songs. Time for bed!

 

Along the walkway in San Marino

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Wednesday, May 2nd - Dubrovnik

Coming into Dubrovnik by ship, it's very easy to see why the Dalmatian Coast is so popular with tourists. Lovely villas cluster on the steep slopes above the beaches.

We joined our guide and driver for the trip out of the city to one of the small villages, where we toured a very old farmhouse. This was a typical multi-generational estate of a wealthy family. They owned and operated the only olive press in the area, as well as having their own olive grove and raising many other crops. Much of the building was destroyed in the war in 1991-1995 and has been rebuilt, but the oldest parts are intact. Now the family offers hospitality to tourists. And they are REALLY good at hospitality.

After a short introduction to the olive press and the old-style kitchen we were offered home-made brandy and dried figs as well as lively local music on accordion and guitar. Then we were shown into the dining room for a delicious meal of sausage, green salad, potato salad, lots of wine and apple strudel. The musicians played and sang traditional music then launched into international favourites and led us all in a lively sing-along.

Leaving the farm, we drove back into Dubrovnik where we had an hour or so to wander through the lovely old town and sit by the harbour. It was very crowded, but we found a quiet place in the old church and enjoyed its peace and beauty. Back at the ship we had dinner, then Larry went to see a mentalist show while I shopped, sat in the piano bar for awhile and relaxed in our room.
 

Coming into Port at Dubrovnik

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Thursday, May 3 - At Sea

A nice relaxed day. Early morning deck walk, some trivia, bingo, good lunch with a couple we'd not met before.

It was a formal evening, so we had cocktails with the Captain before dinner and everyone was togged out in their best finery. We mixed it up at our table so we were talking with different people than usual and we've all agreed to have dinner together Saturday in the upscale steakhouse. It's great to be seated with such an interesting group.

The evening entertainment of old songs and energetic dancers was fun and then we were ready for bed.

Two of the instigators at our Ship Table

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Friday, May 4 - Morning at Sea; Patmos, Greece

We spent the morning at sea, walking and joining the trivia contest and relaxing in our cabin.

As we approached the island we could see that it is one of those really beautiful places that do this part of the world. We anchored in the harbour and were tendered into the port. From there we boarded a bus and wound our way to one of the high points, toward the Monastery and citadel that top the mountain.

We didn't go that high but stopped at the Grotto of the Revelation, where St. John received the messages that were to become the last book of our Bible. He lived in this grotto for 1 1/2 or 2 years, in exile from Rome (Ephesus) for his activities as leader of the 7 churches in Asia Minor. We saw where he slept and the 3 cracks in the ceiling that were made by the sound of God's voice, according to traditions.

From there we climbed (by bus!) to another high point where there are windmills and a fabulous view over the island and the harbour. There were thousands of daisies in bloom up there.

We drove back down, along the coastline, admiring the many small and tiny churches - they are tucked in everywhere and also some are on uninhabited islands. Since the island was given centuries ago, to a bishop of the Eastern Orthodox Church, that is the only form of religion practiced here. Older, pagan, temples were destroyed and churches built in their place.

Our last stop was at a taverna at the other end of the island, where we enjoyed a beer and some cookies and a short walk to look down over the recreational beaches.

Back at the port we strolled through a few stores. Saw beautiful jewellery and clothing, but nothing we needed. We picked up some small souvenirs. Back onboard we enjoyed another great dinner and then a very funny comedy act in the Caberet Lounge.

Early to bed after another great day and memorial visit to Patmos. Island.
 

St. John's Cave of Revelations

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Saturday, May 5 -- At Sea

We had a quiet day at sea with some trivia and general relaxation.

In the evening Carlyn and Larry hosted our table in the Steakhouse and as always we enjoyed the company of this group.

Good entertainment in the Cabaret after dinner.

Our gang at Table 51, Princess Pacific

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Sunday, May 6 -- Israel: Nazareth & Galilee

We went ashore early at Haifa for a 2-day stay in Israel. It seemed like a bad start when Larry lost his hat before we left the lounge. He ran back for his other one, while I made my way to the bus. I had a few minutes chat with our guide, Moshe. Great guy,and wonderful guide. Larry got there before it began to be a problem, and we were on our way.

Moshe gave us a running account of where we were going, why it was significant and the related stories. We began in Nazareth, where Jesus lived much of his life. It was a village then, but now is a city. The kids were all running a marathon, so we saw many of them go by.

We stopped at a souvenir shop that has good washrooms, and there was a bit of shopping, then on to the Basilica of the Annunciation (built over the grotto where Gabriel brought the news to Mary) and the Church of St. Joseph (over Joseph's carpentry shop). These are beautiful places, but of course after 2000 years, not really recognizable.

We drove through Cana, where many of the shops have signs such as "Cana Miracle Wedding Wine". Not too respectful perhaps, but certainly amusing.

Capernaum is an area of ruins including a synagogue where Jesus preached. Nearby is a beautiful, modern "floating" church over the site of the home of St. Peter. Many implements and decorative columns have also been excavated at this site.

Perhaps the most moving moment of the day came when one of the members of the group (who must be a pastor, though I don't know for sure) read the Beatitudes to us, while we stood at the Mount of Beatitudes. Moshe had asked us to imagine it as it was 2000 years ago and described the scene for us. It became very real. This site is owned and run by Franciscan monks and is lovely and serene. The octagonal church is peaceful and light-filled.

At Tabgha we walked to the shore of the Sea of Galilee and visited the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter. This simple chapel marks the place where Jesus told St. Peter that he was the rock on whom the church would be built. Nearby is the much larger Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, but it is closed to visitors on Sunday.

Our lunch was at the Kibbutz Ein Gev, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee -- very nice meal. We had crossed a small stream that was up-river, but when we stopped at the Jordan River near its mouth at the Sea of Galilee, it was a reasonabe-sized but slow-moving river. The site is called Yardenit. This is not where Jesus is thought to have been baptized by John, but has been developed as a Baptism site for pilgrims.

We saw many people in white robes walking down into the river and immersing themselves. As well, other groups were praying, singing and having the water poured over their heads. More interesting for us, though, was the sight of huge catfish swimming around the area, and we even spotted one muskrat.

As we drove along, we could see the Golan Heights looming over us, and sharp contrasts between areas that are irrigated and farmed and those that are waste land. Moshe tried to give us an idea of what has happened, is happening and likely will happen to the borders of Israel. He is very optimistic that peaceful solutions can be found.

Suddenly, as we rounded a bend in the road, we could see Jerusalem! We drove first to a high point where we could see many of the landmarks, then to the lovely Dan Hotel. It was dinner time, and immediately afterward we re-boarded the bus to drive through one of the areas of the city where many Hassidim live. Moshe explained their way of life and some of its background.

Then we visited the Western (or Wailing) Wall. Moshe obtained permission for us to visit the synagogue. First the women, then the men. Along the tunnel leading into the synagogue we could see archaeological excavations into some of the oldest parts of the city and temple. We spent just a few minutes where the women were praying. Then we women went down to the Western Wall while Moshe took the men into the synagogue and out to the wall. At the Wall, men and women pray in different areas. The men's area is about twice (or three times) the size of the women's area, so our side was very crowded. I found it a very powerfully moving experience to stand and pray with so many, where so many have prayed for centuries.

Back at the hotel we were happy to shower and fall into bed.

Janice dipping into the Sea of Galilee

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Monday, May 7 -- Israel: Jerusalem & Bethlehem

After an early breakfast, we drove to the Mount of Olives and visited the Garden of Gethsemane. One of the olive trees there is thought to be about 2000 years old, so could have been there when Jesus was taken prisoner from there. Next to the garden is the Church of All Nations (Basilica of the Agony) with wonderful mosaics. The Rock where Jesus prayed is in front of the altar.

Next we drove to Bethlehem, in Palestine. The wall, the checkpoint -- all the evidence of the uneasy situation. But Moshe was able to stay with us and he was even able to get us to the front of the line in the Church of the Nativity to see the grotto where Jesus was born.

We still waited nearly an hour before we could enter. It is down a flight of steep slippery stone steps and we had to crouch to get near the manger area. When we came up from there, we went around and back down to another part of the same grotto, where a later scholar worked on a direct translation from the original languages of the scriptures to Latin.

We next visited a very classy souvenir shop in Bethlehem. There were lovely things to be had and most people bought at least a few. Interesting to see local handicrafts, including carvings and silver, gold jewellery as well as icons, huge decorative religious items and so on.

From there we moved to a restaurant, still in Bethlehem, where we enjoyed a very good meal. After lunch we went back through the checkpoint -- much more stringent, including an inspection of all our passports by armed Israeli guards. The graffiti on the Palestinian side reflects high feelings.

Back in Jerusalem we drove to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where we visited the site of Calvary, of the preparation of Jesus' body for burial and the tomb. It was crowded, confusing and hot in there to say nothing of the various climbs up and down worn, slippery steep stone steps.

From there we passed through narrow cobbled streets and alleys of bazaars and tightly-packed dwellings, more or less along the Via Dolorosa, eventually arriving at the Western Wall again.

Today it was much more crowded, and troops of young Israeli Army recruits were there awaiting their swearing-in. I wanted to tuck a prayer into the wall, so I made my way forward, found a crack and tucked it in. That was an extremely moving experience.

When we left the Western Wall it was time to return to our ship, which had moved from Haifa to Ashdod. Then a beer, late dinner, a Motown show in the cabaret, and bed.
 

Star is position of Jesus' birth in the Stable/Cave

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Tuesday, May 8 -- Port Said & Giza, Egypt

I visited here and went to the pyramids a couple of years ago, and after the long tiring time in Israel, I wasn't interested in going again. So Larry went alone, and I'll let him tell his own story of the day.

Meanwhile, I had a leisurely breakfast, then went to the spa for facial and foot reflexology. Nice. I drifted a bit, then had lunch. We needed laundry done, so I tracked down the Laundromat on board and did a load. The rest of the day has been spent trying to catch up this blog, with one small break for a trivia game. Only 5 of us showed up so we all won.

[Larry's story] Well it was the standard trip through Cairo - 3 1/2 hours from the ship. I decided this time to do the standard main largest pyramids in Giza' followed by the Step Pyramids of Saqqara. The main pyramids were nice to see again and certainly the crowds were far less. Last time there at least 50 buses; this time only 11 and 10 were from our own ship.

Wandered around by myself and was gravitating towards the one where you can walk into the middle. The guide warned us like last time how difficult it was etc. etc., and only do it if you must. So I arrived there as one chap my age was emerging. I asked how it was but he couldn't speak for a few moments, but finally admitted he was glad he did it but would never consider it again. I said: "my sentiments exactly". I asked if he wanted a picture with his camera emerging from the pyramid. He thought - a great idea as he had no-one with him. So he backtracked and got a few pics.

Lunch was quite a mess of people in a nice hotel: The Meridian Pyramids. Every tourist bus in town was there I think so I just grabbed what I could get near to and said that was fine.

Next we went to the Step Pyramids of Saqqara which is another suburb of Cairo. They are quite different, smaller and of course in steps. The actual surroundings were more impressive as there are many excavations of interest.

The trip back was a reverse of going in except we had to fight the rush hour traffic on the Cairo ring road.

Great fun after leaving Cairo and picking up our escort. Police front and back with lights flashing and sirens when necessary. No one stays in our lane, else we move them over quickly and crossroads were police blocked.

Back at 7:30pm. Unfortunately the variation that went to the Museum, vice the Saqqara, got even more Cairo traffic and held up our departure as we were to leave at 7:30pm.  It is now 9:45 and we are just away from the warf. Tomorrow - Alexandria, Egypt.
 

Amy and Karen at Giza

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Wednesday, May 9 - Alexandria, Egypt

As we pulled into the harbour we could see some lovely buildings and the customs and immigration building is beautiful (but very empty). There is a lovely garden and a quite orderly bazaar area outside the building but still on port property.

The city itself is crowded, noisy, has lots of crazy traffic and a certain amount of garbage in the streets. However, people seemed happy to see us, waving and smiling at the buses.[ It was clean and orderly compared to Cairo which was a disgrace ]

Our first stop was the Catacombs of Kom El Shougafa where we climbed down nearly 100 spiral steps to a labyrinth of tombs. The main chamber is wonderfully decorated, and there are many more going off in all directions. The boards that were part of the walkway were in very bad shape and the floor was uneven. But it was an amazing place, well worth the trip. [ the Roman/Greek/Egyptian wall carvings were in excellent shape, being protected underground. ]

Next was Pompey's Pillar which is impressive but has nothing to do with Pompey. Below it is what used to be the "daughter" of the famous Library of Alexandria. Those scrolls and manuscripts that survived the destruction of the bigger library were moved here, only to be later burned by the Christians. They must have thought it was all pagan or something. Such a shame.

Our last stop was the Alexandria Museum. It is a nice place and has interesting displays - much more comfortable than the one in Cairo. It is housed in an old palace that was nationalized after the revolution in the 1950s.

Then back to the harbour and the ship. Along the way we saw men sitting at tables smoking hookahs on the sidewalk, many bazaar areas, at least one burnt-out car,and lots of garbage. On one street a baker had apparently laid out his day's production of pita all over the sidewalk on thin paper. People were walking around and through it and nearby garbage was spilled across the sidewalk. I wish I'd gotten a photo.

We were very hungry when we got back to the ship, so grabbed a snack even though dinner was just 2 hours away.

 

At Pompey's Pilar

 

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Thursday, May 10 - At Sea

A very quiet relaxed day - a bit of of trivia and lots of reading. Larry walked in a "5k Walk for the Cure" around the Deck 10 track. Not many turned out for it but he said it was fun.

At the Captain's Formal Dinner in the evening only Lonney and Diane were at our table; the others had gone to the Italian restaurant. Great show after dinner with the new sing/dance group: Cinemagic ( movie music and wild dancing ).

Larry and the Asst. Cruise Director at the Race for the Cure

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Friday, May 11 - Kusadasi, Ephesus Turkey

Silly us. We were both convinced we'd been to Ephesus before, but when we got there we recognized nothing! It was a great tour. Kusadasi is a nice town and the countryside is interesting.

Ephesus is just amazing! We had been advised to visit the Terrace Houses, which are the most recently excavated area. Wow! So worth the more expensive tickets! Intact mosaics and wall art 2000 years old - meticulously uncovered walls and floors and some reassembly of pieces on site. All was very visible from walkways and stairs - some glass to allow viewing without damaging the original surfaces. The amphitheatre is magnificent. A member or guide on another tour took the stage and sang, proving the amazing acoustics. The library took longer to reassemble (17years) than to build in the first place (7 yrs), but well worth the effort as it is really a magnificent, imposing structure.

Back in Kusadasi we enjoyed a visit to a carpet store where we saw a carpet under construction. [ Yes, we did buy a carpet ].

We wandered through the bazaar on the way back to the ship. It was the last night on board and we exchanged contact information with our table mates, then we all went to the show in the cabaret followed by a drink in the lounge. We were so very fortunate to meet such an interesting and fun group of people.

Bags had to be out before dinner, so there was a frenzy of sorting and packing, especially [since we'll be 3 nights in Athens.
 

Strolling down the Main street of 2000 old town of Ephesus

 

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Saturday, May 12 - Athens, Greece

Early morning last-minute departure tasks, then off the ship at Piraeus. Finding a taxi was easy and we liked our driver. He updated us on the Greek political situation and gave us his number for any taxi needs while we're here.

We left our bags at the hotel and walked to the new Acropolis Museum. What a gorgeous and well done place! It's built over archaeological excavations, which are visible through glass floors and openings. Thousands of items found in the area are on display in a really attractive & interesting setting.

On the top floor are all the parts of the Parthenon that have become detached, displayed where they belong on a full-size display area that
mimics the layout of the building itself. The pieces that are still held in the British Museum (!) are reproduced and in their proper places. It's clear from the colour which are which. The Karyatids are in the museum and we got a good close-up look. They are undergoing cleaning and restoration right on the display floor, rather than risking more moving.

We had lunch at the museum and walked back to the hotel, where we retreated from the heat of the afternoon. At dinner time we took a cab to the Inter-Continental Hotel and met Diane & Lonney for dinner at a small restaurant near their hotel. It was good, local food, and fun. By the time we got back to our hotel it was time to put up our feet and relax for a bit before bed.

 

The New Acropolis Museum

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Sunday, May 13 - Athens, Greece

After breakfast Lonney and Diane met us here at the Divani Palace Acropolis and we walked to the Acropolis. It had been raining but luckily had dried up before we had to walk on slippery marble.

We wandered and admired, took lots of pictures and then started downhill the other way.

[The Acropolis is as fantastic as every, certainly one of the most impressive remains of an ancient civilization. The climb up was interesting as you see more and more of it as you rise. At the top it is so large that you search out good points to photograph the various elements. Also with the crowds you have to keep an eye on your companions else the large excursion groups will overwhelm.]

Larry and I had not remembered the Mars Hill or its story, [ where Paul preached after he drew crowds in the Agora ] so we saw that and then looked down into the ancient Agora [ Roman Market ].

Eventually we reached the Roman Market and continued downhill through very narrow cobbled lanes until we found a restaurant for lunch. A little urchin-girl "played" her accordion for us and posed for photos before the staff shoo'd her away. Of course we gave her some money, but we hung onto our wallets very tightly.

Many people were surging through the area and vendors were everywhere. All the same stuff we've seen everywhere along the way, with the occasional exception of hand-crafted items. Little open trains full of tourists passed frequently [ miraculously parting the crowd ].

After a leisurely meal we asked directions to PLAKA, the market and flea-market area.

On the way there we chanced on the site of Hadrian's Library, a huge complex, and wandered there for a while. The heat and sun were so intense that we found and used every available patch of shade.

Eventually we plunged into the market area. At first it was quite pleasant but as we went along it deteriorated.

Eventually we came out near one of the subway stations and plaza that was littered with garbage and appeared to be an area of homeless people's turf.

We got directions back to our hotel - surprisingly easy once we found the main road that circles the Acropolis. It was still a long, hot walk and we were glad to get back.

We picked up some beer and soft drinks at the convenience store and had a drinks drinks with Lonney and Diane in our room.

We asked our concierge for restaurant advice and after a bit of wandering lost, found Strofi, the place he recommended. It was terrific!! Good food and a fantastic view of the Parthenon at the Acropolis.

As darkness fell the lights came on gradually, until it was bathed in light. It was lovely end to the evening and to our time with Diane and Lonney.

They hailed a taxi to return to their hotel and we walked back to ours for an end to a great day.

 


 

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Monday, May 14 - Athens, Greece

We considered other options but decided that this would be day to wander Athens. We set out to find the subway, with the objective of reaching the Parliament Building by 11 for the changing of the guard. Never did find the subway, but walked there in plenty of time and enjoyed the spectacle of the comical precision motions of the event. I wonder what the origin of the high-stepping style is ?
 

We then wandered in the National Garden for an hour or so, enjoying its peace and the relative freedom from traffic noise.
Then we boarded a hop-on-hop off tour of the city. After a few stops we discovered Jean and Arturo from our cruise sitting a few seats behind us! They told us they'd loved the trip up to St. George's hill-top church via the funicular, so we added that to the plan for the day.

Beforehand, however, we needed sustenance, so hopped off near an area with lots of coffee shops and restaurants. Good meal and great people-watching. Saw another couple from our cruise go by.
 

Then we got info on how to get to St. George's, hopped back on our bus for a while, hopped off and found our way.  It's not a well publicized site, so we trusted our map and after climbing a very long steep staircase upward for about 4 blocks, finally arrived at the foot of the cable car/funicular.

At the top we had a panoramic view of the city, all the way from the mountains to the sea. We could look down on the Acropolis and were able to pick out many other places.

Once we made our way down and found our way back to our bus stop we were feeling quite ready to quit for the day but it was a long circuit back to our neighbourhood. So we saw some parts of the city 2 or even 3 times, and everything at least once.

We stopped at a nearby convenience store and got supplies for a picnic supper and returned to our room. We will be on our way home tomorrow.

 

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