Despite not wanting to eat I did go to the store yesterday and got everything I need for Thanksgiving. I'm doing a roasted turkey breast (since its already in the bag so I don't have to touch the raw meat!), fried potatoes with garlic and rosemary, steamed brussel sprouts, steamed asparagus, dinner rolls and Wick's sugar cream pie for dessert. There will be leftovers. Considering the touchy tummy I'll probably have lots of leftovers. Which is fine, I'll just freeze half the turkey breast or use it for soup or something.
Yesterday I started working on the vacation pictures. I just meant to caption Greece...three hours later I realized I hadn't moved, needed to pee, and had finished all 700+ pics. Guess I was on a roll. Expect to start seeing pics show up here soon. Not right now though since I'm at work and should really be, ya know, working.
Have I mentioned that this is the project from hell? So it was before I went on vacation and so it is now that I'm back. It wouldn't be so bad if the TPTB were more interested in working towards a successful solution rather than winning at office politics. Unfortunately politics is the name of the game around here these days, especially when working with an outside vendor. Its all about winning, not about doing what is right. Kind of sucks since it makes the rest of us feel like we're being set up to fail.
On that note I should get back to it.
The plan for today is to laze about on the couch, drink more hot tea with honey, play some Bejeweled, and pretty much ignore the world. Its not like I can answer the phone, yo. So email and text communication only for now. Work tomorrow should be interesting.
I doubt I'll be upright enough to do any work on the vacation pictures today. I know, I'm a slacker. But sick girl is sick so ya'll are just going to have to wait.
But here's another teaser for ya:
Woke up this morning with no voice. No voice at all. Sometimes I can manage a slight croaking sound but otherwise nada. I got a sinus infection in Rome on Tuesday, flew back with it (boy was that not fun), but it didn't seem that bad until last night. Woke up a lot with the coughing and unable to breathe thing. Today I feel OK other than worn out and, you know, no voice. So there is tea with honey and couch time.
The pictures have been downloaded from the camera to the PC. That is as far as I've gotten. Don't expect much from me this weekend, OK? But here's a teaser:
Let's see, I left off after Egypt, correct? Well the 18th was a sea day as we made our way to Israel. Sea days are relaxation days and after Egypt I definitely need to recharge my batteries. There was basically a lot of hanging out, reading, etc.
Saturday 10/29 - Haifa Israel
Our tour today was an all day affair to Jerusalem. Before anyone makes any cracks, yes the city is still standing. My presence as the Dark Child of the Universe did not cause its destruction. Thank goodness - I would have felt really bad about it if it had. The trip from Haida was a little over two hours on the bus then we arrived in Jerusalem. our first 3 stops were observation spots for taking pictures. One of the stops was pretty much the closest we could get to The Temple Of The Rock. Great pictures but getting on and off the bus so much kind of sucked. Then a kosher lunch at a nice hotel followed by a stop at The Church of The Agony and the Gardens of Gethsemene. The gardens are really, really small, which I wasn't expecting. Just a tiny grove of olive trees, some hundreds of years old, with some nice paths and flowers. A monk was there with a small groups of kids and their parents harvesting the olives. Everyone was laughing, smiling, having fun. We couldn't go into the garden, of course, but it was nice to see that the monks let some people in.
The Church is beautiful and very serene. Several members or our group were moved to tears - not surprising since most of our group were really religious and saw the tour as a pilgrimage. I have some nice pictures of the inside of the Church. We not only were allowed to take pictures but there was no prohibition on using flash, which seemed odd since as a place of worship there were signs everywhere about being silent but not one about using flash.
Our next stop was the Old City. We were only about 10 minutes into the Old City when one or our group got lost. The rest of us had to stand around in the street (no cars in the old city) for about 20 minutes while our guide went off in search of the man. He found him. No explanation of where he'd been but everyone's guess was that he either looked into a shop or was pulled into one by the vendor and when he looked around we were gone. The same thing happened after our visit to The Church of the Holy Sepulchure. Our guide counted everyone and had a full group when we left, then about 10 minutes later got a phone call on his cell from another tour guide - seems two of our people were still back at the Church with another tour guide! When Eyal finally got back with them they had a new package from one of the stores. So we had to wait around for them because they were shopping and got separated from the group. Stupid people. And Rude!
Anyway, the Old City is pretty cool. I didn't get much our of The Church of the Holy Sepulchure, mostly because it was so crowded you could barely move. The walk through the Old City was nice though if a little nerve wracking. The streets are up and down, lots of steps, and the limestone has been worn over the centuries by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims. It was slippery in some places. I mostly liked the Jewish Quarter. I think this was more because were were there on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, so that quarter of the city was quiet and uncrowded since everything was closed. Our walk through the Jewish Quarter took us to the Wailing Wall. I went to the women's side with the rest of the ladies in our group. Several prayed, touched the wall, etc. I stood back with one of the other women and just kind of watched. The place is holy to a lot of people and I just didn't feel right going up to touch the wall. Finally, after the Wailing Wall, it was back to the bus and the long drive back to Haifa.
Sunday 10/30 - Caesarea
Today we did a half day tour of the ruins of Caesarea, the city built by Kin Herod the Great. Only about 30 minutes from Haifa so the bus ride was tolerable. I'm really sick of buses, let me tell you. Whereas Jerusalem was ok but not really my thing the ruins of Caesarea were totally my thing! Our guide, Sharon, had previously worked there after getting her first degree so she knew every single nook and cranny plus all the good stories. Some in our group definitely weren't getting as much out of it - when we neared the end and had a choice to continue touring or shop they wanted to either shop or leave. Luckily the rest of us over ruled them and we continued on with the tour. I loved the place. The history, the stories of King Herod, the ruins. I have some great pictures, which I can't wait to post.
Monday 10/31 - Haifa
This was the day we were supposed to go to Ashdod but stayed in Haifa due to the small issue of the Palestinians launching rocket attacks on Ashdod. Yeah, I'm glad we stayed in Haifa. Every other cruise ship was there as well since everyone that was going to Ashdod changed their plans and docked in Haifa instead. There were seven or eight ships in port all at one time. Dad and I stayed on board. We thought about going to the Ba'Hai gardens but I didn't think I was up to the walk. After Jerusalem and Caesarea I was pooped. So we went out on deck to read and sun for a while. It was a nice day, if a bit cool, but I still got sunburnt! Ooops!
Tuesday 11/1 was a sea day. I didn't do much other than read, and nap. :-)
Wednesday 11/2 - Rhodes
We didn't schedule anything for the day, no tours, but we went into the old town of Rhodes on our own. The main streets in the old town are all shops and restaurants, very touristy, but once you get off them onto the side streets it is a really cool place. Cobblestone streets, hills, lots of cats and dogs everywhere. We went up to the top of the hill to The Palace of The Grand Masters. Most of the fortress was destroyed in the mid 1800s in an explosion but was rebuilt and restored by the Italians as a palace for Mussolini (he never stayed there). The mosaics are just absolutely amazing. Lots of Roman era mosaics, many from the island of Cos. I hope my pictures do them justice.
After we went to the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes. Oh my goodness - I was in HEAVEN! It isn't a huge museum but it is done very nicely. The building is the old crusader Hospital so the building itself is a historical wonder. The collection is wonderful with lots and lots of pottery, including a lot of full pieces that have been put back together. I was like a kid in a candy store! I have lots of pictures - there was only one room with a sign that said photography was not allowed so I pushed my luck and took pics in the other rooms. Plus the museum has a lovely garden area too.
Thursday 11/3 - Kusadasi (Ephesus)
Our last scheduled shore excursion, today we went to The House of the Virgin Mary, The Church of Saint John, the Ephesus Museum and to the archaeological site of Ephesus itself. Lots of people everywhere as it is the end of the season and there were at least three ships in port. The House of The Virgin Mary is up a mountain and is really a wonderful site. The house has been lovingly restored and while the lines moves through it very fast the place feels holy. It doesn't hurt that this part of Turkey is absolutely beautiful. Next we went to the archaeological site of Ephesus. Again, I was in heaven! The site is huge - even more so when you realize that only a small part of it has been excavated. Many of the buildings have been lovingly restored by the Turkish and Austrian archaeologist working at the site. Our guide, Sybel, warned us before we got there that while the site is amazing it is also dangerous. There are lots of people starting and stopping, taking pictures, looking around - and the street you are walking on is marble! Marble that has seen the passage of thousands of feet so is very smooth and slippery. There are also steps in many places (also marble). And the place is subject to earthquakes so some of the marble slabs no longer lie flat but are tilted up. Sybel told us that there is an ambulance at the site every day and every day it gets used because someone isn't looking where they are going and takes a spill. We saw one young man near the Celsus Library that had done just that - the EMTs were with him and the ambulance took him away. There are stairs leading down to the courtyard of the Library - most likely he was looking around or taking pictures and took a step - and nothing was there. Luckily none of us lost our footing.
The Ephesus Museum was great as well. A really amazing collection of the sculpture from the site, some of it monumental. We saw the Ephesian Artemis, which I studied in school, so I was happy! And we were allowed to take picture! Again, I'll post those once I get home.
We had a nice lunch at a hotel, stopped by the Church of Saint John, and went back into Kusadasi where we had a carpet demonstration. I loved the carpets - such beautiful colors and patterns. There was a blue and white one that I wanted to see closer so the guys were trying really hard to sell it to me - normally $8000, for me only $4800! I said no, no, no, which got a lot of turkish in response. I'm sure they were laughing at me and calling me not so nice things in Turkish. But who cares? I'm on vacation and I'm not going to spend five grand on a carpet on a whim.
Friday 11/4 - Gythion
We are at anchor off the shore of Gythion Greece. Dad and I aren't going ashore today. We decided to take the day off and rest up today and tomorrow in preparation for Rome. So here I am blogging our trip. I'll likely spend the afternoon reading, then dinner in the Lido since tonight is a formal night. Tomorrow it is charging all our electronics, packing, etc. Then Sunday we dock and spend three days in Rome. I've already taken something like 500 pictures - and they let you take pictures in the Vatican Museum! I expect to have 750-800 pictures to go through when I get back. And that doesn't count Dads!
This is probably my last post until I get home.
Barb and Wanda - I'm having trouble sending email from the ship so please copy off and share with everyone at work. Thanks!
First things first - It is Monday October 31 and we are supposed to be in Ashdod, Israel but we are not. We are still in Haifa. The Palestinians have been launching rocket attacks on Ashdod so our Captain kept us here in Haifa for a third day. Pretty much every other cruise ship with a scheduled stop in Israel is also here as no one is docking in Ashdod right now. The ships that aren't here probably went to Cyprus.
We are safe and leave at midnight tonight for Rhodes, Greece. So unless Lebanon decides to get involved in the situation (when Hezbollah launches rockets at Israel they tend to hit Haifa) all is well.
Monday 10/24 - Delphi
The day was cool and somewhat overcast, which actually made for a good day to be climbing all over a mountain. Our first stop was a Greek Orthodox Monastery dedicated to St. Luke (not the Luke from the Bible, another one). The place was originally built in the Byzantine era and there are ruins and even some buildings that date back to that time. There are two churches, one right next to the other, and the youngest is still hundreds of years old. Both are just amazing with wonderful mosaics, frescoes and icons. The monks allowed us to take pictures as long as we didn't use flash - both Dad and I were able to get some very nice shots. The location of the monastery is on the side of a mountain, looking down into a deep valley with pine, Cyprus and olive trees, with more mountains all around. I now understand the meaning of "pastoral setting". The place is amazingly beautiful and so peaceful.
Next we wet to Delphi and our first stop there was the museum. I was a kid in a candy store! Everywhere I turned there was a piece that I'd studied in school! Athanasia actually let us spend quite a bit of time there but I still could have spent longer. And we were allowed to take pictures! No flash, of course, but the museum is modern with lots of natural light so most of the pics came out very well. I was taking pictures of The Koros (two status of young men, very famous) when one of my tour mates teased me about taking pictures of their naked backsides. I explained that I wanted to be able to show that the Greeks sculpted in the round - each side being detailed, not just the front. And besides, they have really good butts!
After the museum we finally made it to the site of Delphi itself. Talk about climbing a mountain! Totally worth every twinge in my poor put upon knees. Athanasia was a great guide, giving us the background of the buildings, making us think, and letting us take our time to really take it all in. I didn't cry but I had the goofy grin on my face again. Walking the Sacred Way to the Temple of Apollo was such a moving experience - I've studied the site in school and read books but nothing beats actually being there.
I intend to go back to Greece sometime to spend more time in Athens and Delphi as well as see more of the country. Athens was grey and far more modern than most people think. Yes there was trash from the recent sanitation strike but amazingly the Greeks kept the piles contained around the dumpsters so the trash wasn't taking over the city. Lots of graffiti though. Some of it is really very good too. I definitely liked being out in the countryside more than in the city though. Mainland Greece is beautiful. I can't wait to see the islands.
Tuesday and Wednesday were sea days so we didn't do much. We did a wine tasking on Wednesday, which was a lot of fun. Otherwise we just read and relaxed.
Thursday 10/27 - Egypt
What can I say about Egypt? Well, in a word, it sucked! Egypt is dirty. I mean really, really filthy. There is trash everywhere, piled up on the streets, in the parks, blowing everywhere. Everything stinks from the garbage and the pollution. Our guide told us that the government doesn't provide enough dumpsters and trash cans and people don't want to walk to find one so they just dump their trash anywhere they want. It is disgusting. And the traffic! If there are traffic laws in Egypt I didn't see any evidence of them. There are no street lights, no signs, and everyone drives like a monkey on crack. I have never been so terrified in my life. It is a miracle that we only saw one accident (although it was a bad one with a car flipped over). Cairo was just dirt, trash and the cacophony of car horns, screeches, and screaming in Arabic.
I would like to saw that the Step Pyramid at Sakkara, the Pyramids at Giza and the Sphinx were amazing but honestly? I couldn't really pay attention to them. Everywhere tourist go there are vendors, hawkers and just plain con men trying to get your money. If you stop to take a picture or just to take it all in they swarm on you. Bookmark - one dollah! Headdress - one dollah! Papyrus - one dollah! I take your picture - one dollah! You say "No Thank You" to them and they just move the the next item in their pile. plastic pyramids, pens, t-shits, statues, etc. They don't leave you alone, they follow you around, they don't take NO for an answer. At the panoramic point at Giza, the only place where you can get a pic of all three pyramids together, they were extremely aggressive - two even touched me, grabbing my arm to get my attention so they could try to put something in my hands. This is one if their tricks - put an item in your hands, say no, no it is yours my friend, refuse to take it back, then demand money for it. I refused to take anything and this one guy just kept pushing it at me until Dad came up and said "She said no now leave her alone" and pulled me away.
I don't like crowds at the best of times and these guys just pushed all my panic attach buttons. I still don't know how I didn't end up running back to the bus to hide. And if another one of the bastards had touched me I'd be in an Egyptian prison because I would have hit him.
The only highlight of the day was on the way back to the bus after the Sphinx when one of the vendors was trying to get Dad's attention and said "I give you one thousand chickens for your woman!". Luckily Dad ignored him - I'm not sure what I would have done if he's started negotiating! Personally I was offended - I'm worth far more than one thousand chickens! Where were the camels?
I still love Ancient Egypt and intend to continue studying it but I doubt if I will ever go back to modern Egypt.
Next up - Israel.
First let me apologize for the delay in getting these out. I've been busy! :-)
Friday - Travel FailWe started out well, the flight was on time the last time we checked, our driver picked us up on time, we got the the airport on time - and found out our flight was delayed from 5:30 to 8:00! Which meant we would miss our connection in Madrid. After some work with a ticketing agent we basically had to stick with our delayed flight and take a later flight out of Madrid. The flight out of Dallas ended up leaving about 9 pm. Six hour layover in Madrid - thankfully it is a nice airport with lots of shops to wander around in. The flight to Athens was on time (thank goodness) and they fed us...some sort of pressed mystery meat that Dad and I decided was Spanish Spam. Arrived in Athens at 11 pm where a driver picked us up and took us to the hotel. Checked in at 5 till midnight so technically we still made it to Athens on Saturday.
Except the hotel didn't have the packet for us from our tour group so we didn't know what time to meet them to go to the Acropolis in the mornng!
Saturday - Acropolis and the New Acropolis Museum
Since we had no idea what we were doing, when we were doing it, or where we were supposed to meet Dad and I got up early. Ouch. We finally connected with the right people and got our itinerary. At 9 we met with our group and our tour guide, Athanasia. I expected to cry when we got up on the Acropolis and I was face to face with the Parthenon for the first time. I didn't, probably because there were so many people! I did have a stupid goofy grin on my face the entire time. The Parthenon is huge! I mean I knew how big it was from school but knowing the number of columns on each side and the dimensions in meters is nothing to standing next to it. The whole site on top of the Acropolis is just really amazing. I'd love to spend more time there. And the view of Athens from the top is breathtaking. Athens from the ground is gray and dirty and full of traffic. Athens from the top of the Acropolis is a completely different city.
There were dogs all over the Acropolis and the surrounding area. Athanasia told us they are strays that the city catches, spays or neuters, immunizes, tags, and then sets back loose. One of the people in our group asked who fed them and she said "everybody". None of them were thin or starving and they were all as friendly as can be. After that I noticed lots of stray dogs everywhere we went in the city.
Next up was the New Acropolis Museum and I have to come back to Greece if only to spend more time in this museum. They found a Byzantine age village while building the museum so the bottom floor is all glass letting you see into the ongoing excavations, which have now reached an even older level as they continue to dig. The selection of pottery, my specialty, is a bit weak but the statuary from the votive offerings left on the Acropolis is stunning. I could spend a day in that room alone. The piece de resistance is the top floor where the pieces from the Parthenon are. The remaining pieces of the frieze, metopes and pediments are there, the marble aged and yellowing. Pieces that are in the Greek collection but aren't in a good enough condition to be displayed are represented by reconstructions in the same kind of marble as the originals, the marble a whiter color as it hasn't aged. The rest of the pieces are missing and are represented by blank spaces. If the piece was destroyed in the explosion in the 1800s then the space may have a description and a line drawing. if the pieces was taken to London by Lord Elgen and is in the British Museum then the space is empty - just empty - no description, no nothing. the Greeks want their treasures back and they aren't subtle about it.
The room for the Parthenon marbles is the exact same dimensions as the Parthenon itself and is flooded with light. If the British Museum's excuse for not returning the marbles is that Greece has no decent museum in which to house them then that excuse no longer floats.
After we left the museum several people went to the Plaka but Dad and I were feeling our travel fail day so we headed back to the hotel for lunch and a rest. I ended up taking a long nap instead of just "resting". So no Plaka for us. Next time.
The food in Greece was wonderful. We had a pizza for lunch one day with artichoke, mushroom and kalamata olives that was to die for. The tzatzki, spanikopita and the lamb were all the best I've ever had. We only had one meal that was only so-so and that was on Sunday when we went to Delphi. That will be in the next post, along with Egypt, which I'll write up soon!
We had no plans for Thursday, which after spending two days in Venice was probably a good idea. We ended up driving around the area with C- and visiting some of the little hamlets near Santa Lucia. First we went up to Mezzomonte, a small village half way up the mountain, thus the name which means half mountain. There really isn't much up here. I kind of expected to walk around and explore but C- just took us to the church and then back to the car. The view was nice though.
( Cut for lots and lots of pictures. )
The next and final entry will be on Udine (Friday) and our last day in Italy (Saturday). See you there!
Yes! Vacation Recap Blogging is back!
Our second day in Venice dawned bright and sunny. Really, we had the most amazing weather the entire week. It was great. After breakfast and checking out of the Don Orione the three of us (Dad, C- and I) headed back to Piazza San Marco. Since Dad and I missed the Basilica the previous evening we decided to try again. We got in line and waited for the doors to open at 9:00. I wasn't all the excited to see the Basilica - I'd been there before, after all - but I don't remember the place being that huge or that beautiful. We skipped a couple of the side chapels but did pay the extra Euro to see the main alter. Wow. Just Wow! I don't have pictures - Like many of the big tourist attractions in Venice there were signs everywhere prohibiting photography. That didn't stop most people, some even using flash, which just irked me to no end.
We also went up to the loggia and looked out over the Piazza. The wind and tides were up so I could see water coming up in the square. Venice didn't flood while we were there but we did have pools of water in the Piazza and water in the Basilica during high tide. Look closely at the picture and you can see the pools of water.
View of the lagoon from the Loggia:
After the Basilica we crossed the Piazza to the west side and went to the Correr Museum, included in the Museum pass we'd gotten the day before when we went to Palazzo Ducale. The Correr Museum was nice but I will say that it isn't the best museum I've ever been to. We didn't get to the Archaeological Museum, which was were I really wanted to go. I did like the Neo-Classical collection at the Correr as well as the exhibits on the history of Venice. Some of the old maps were huge! I can't remember if the room with all the majolica plates and bowls was here or later in Udine (Dad probably remembers). That was one of the high points for me among the museums we went to. First, I love majolica. Second, most of the themes were allegorical instead of religious so the classicist part of me was having a ball identifying the characters and myths from the iconography. Yes, I am a geek.
After the Correr we made out way once again through Piazza San Marco - now crowded with tourists and OMG what a nightmare. I was never so happy to get out of the crush. We made out way to a cafe near San Zaccaria and had pizza! I had a lot of pizza this trip. Om nom nom. Then it was off to catch a vaporetto out to the Cimitero (cemetery) at San Michele. This was one of the things on my list that I really wanted to see as I'd never been there before. The place is beautiful and so peaceful. I didn't get to spend much time wandering through the oldest part (where I was doing my best to translate the latin on the crypts) as we headed off in search of Ezra Pound's grave. We followed the signs to the right area....and couldn't find it! Dad and C- were looking everywhere, trying to remember the placement of the tomb from the map at the gate. I was just kind of wandering around, not really knowing anything about Ezra Pound. I was more interested in reading the tombstones. It was while doing this that I ended up stumbling over Pound's tomb. I'd taken it more for a plot of garden than a grave and it was only when I got up close to it that I saw the marker. Someone had placed a note on the grave and held it in place with a blue feather. Kind of cool.
We also found Igor Stravinsky's grave. Devotees had left mementos there as well. Dad has pics - If he says it is OK I'll post them.
After San Michele I was pretty much beat. After getting off the vaporetto back at the San Zaccaria / San Marco stop and making out way up along the Grand Canal (I can't remember if this was a Riva or Fondamente - big wide street that runs along a large canal) in a vain effort to avoid the crowds of Piazza San Marco I was ready for a nap. No such luck. We wanted to get to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum before leaving Venice. Luckily by this time all three of us pretty much knew our way around the part of Venice between Piazza San Marco and the Academia Museum so we made really good time. Once over the bridge Dad spotted the way to the Guggenheim and then we were there. C- went off to see the special exhibit while Dad and I went through the standing collection. I wouldn't call myself a huge fan of modern art but I do have a soft spot for it, probably since I paint abstracts myself. The Guggenheim collection is smaller than I thought it would be but man, what depth! There are really some amazing works here including some Jackson Pollock pieces that are just amazing. And the Sculpture Garden is definitely a must see. Some really stunning work here.
Again, no pictures. Sorry. Dad has some, I think, and I may post some of those later.
Time for dinner then picking up our luggage from the hold room at the Don Orione. A short vaporetto ride to the station and then a mad dash to catch the train (not my idea - I would have been happy waiting for the next one, thank you) and we were on our way back to Santa Lucia. The train ride back was kind of quiet. I think we were all tired. And I was kind of cranky after feeling rushed all day so I was keeping my mouth shut so I didn't take it out on anyone.
Next: Gargazzo, Polcenigo and Mosquito Bites! Oh My!
On the third full day of our Italian adventure Dad, C- and I got up, made sure we had everything, and headed out to the train station at Sacile. ( Read more... )Next up - Venice! day two where we finally get to the Basilica San Marco, see the Correr Museum, watch the water rise in Piazza San Marco, and go to the Peggy Guggenheim museum.
( Read more.... )After the walk we had a nice dinner then Dad, C- and I packed our overnight bags and prepared to spend the next couple of days in Venice!
Despite flying with a sinus infection my travel karma was actually good this time - no major flight delays or maintenance issues, no lost bags. Yes, I was breathing a big sigh of relief when we landed at Venice's Marco Polo airport only about an hour late and with all our baggage.
This is long so I've put it behind the cut.
More on these observations will likely come up as I go through the remainder of the recaps. Next up: Walking around Santa Lucia, an old goat, hiking a mountain, and Venice!