14.08.2010 - 15.08.2010 33 °C
So, this will be my longest post, as I have put in some extra time. I've also brought down my little journal to add some other details I may have missed. Still no pictures, though.
So, first the update on Dubrovnik & Venice, and then I'll fill in some of the other gaps.
I was pleasantly surprised with Croatia and Dubrovnik. We took a tour that took us into the countryside, where we passed this beautiful little valley surrounded on all four sides (or so it seemed) by low mountains. There were lush forests of oak, olive, pine, cypress, citrus and other fruit trees (including my first time seeing pomegranates growing!). It was very relaxing. We visited a little art gallery in a little farm house, then went down into the valley to go to a house/restaurant for lunch. They had a trio of folk singers playing, and one of them looked a little like my cousin Tom - as some of his relatives hail from Croatia, I wonder if there was any family connection! It was a very relaxing day after all the travelling.
Dubrovnik - or old town Dubrovnik - is a walled medieval city, complete with moat. Or what used to be a moat - now it's a garden. It's imposingly grey, but has quaint little narrow roads (more like pathways; pathways of stairs) off the main road. It's right on the water, and is very small. Apparently it had to be rebuilt extensively after the war in the early 90's.
The young adults of Dubrovnik, despite having grown up in a time of war, seem full of life. It reminded me a little of Prague in that way. A youthful city. Things, however, were extremely expensive - they have a 23% tax on everything. Makes HST seem a little less intimidating, perhaps.
We had the right side of the ship for our cruise down the Grand Canal - actually that would be the starboard side, but it was the side with the best view. We didn't have to fight crowds on the upper decks; we watched from the balcony. When we went by the main church (I'm going to take a guess and say it was St. Mark's Basilica, but that is strictly a guess) they started ringing the bells for over 2 minutes. I had a little fun with the video function on my phone with that - maybe I'll get a new ring tone for my phone! (Or at least the alarm clock feature.)
Apparently our ship is the biggest ever to go through the Grand Canal, and it was its first time through, so we made history today. The captain had to do an incredible reverse parallel park job to get us into port. The entire boat cheered when he finally docked.
We took a shuttle boat to the main square which was incredibly crowded but beautiful! I took lots of pictures - the architecture is amazing. We walked along the canal too, and took pictures of gondolas and gondoliers, churches and bridges, windows and doorbells. (Well, I took pictures of doorbells - no one else seemed to find them as interesting as I did!)
And I found an incredible souvenir for myself that I'm sure many of you will not find as pleasing as I find it (although I know some of you who will) - a hand-made, leather-bound journal, complete with a leather strap. It has blank pages, so it's good for both drawing and writing. Moleskine, you're miles below this gem!
Now, let me go back in my journal to see if I can add anything about any other places...
I guess I could talk about the food on the ship. Dad, you would be complaining about the wastage. I can't even begin to imagine how much food gets thrown away each day!
We've done the dining room more often than I expected. I certainly am not a formal diner. Although there were only two formal nights, the dining room is still too formal for me. We had two waiters each meal - the same ones each night. One of them reminded me a little of Manuel from Fawlty Towers, but a little more sensible. I've had steaks, and lasagnas made of short ribs, and some amazing desserts - including the best dessert of all: Sachertorte, straight from Austria! Something I decided was really good three years ago during our Austria tour. To find it on the menu here was delightful. (It's chocolate cake with apricot ganache, under chocolate icing. But not just any chocolate cake - Austrian chocolate cake! Yum!)
We've also met many Canadians on this trip. Many of them are doctors. It turns out that the Canadian Medical Education system is hosting a conference on board this ship, so we've run into quite a few in the medical profession.
Of all the places we've been, I think I'd like to go back to Turkey, Croatia, and perhaps Venice (we don't have a lot of time here in Venice, as our shuttle to the airport leaves at 6:30 in the morning tomorrow). Definitely Turkey, though.
Well, my time is winding down, and I should be signing off.
Once again, I have no idea what the internet will be like in Amsterdam or London, so I may update, or may not. I will probably at least find an internet cafe in London (they were all over the place last time we were there).
Have fun, be good, and see you soon!