A Travellerspoint blog

Dubrovnik & Venice

sunny 33 °C
View Europe 2010 on tracebc's travel map.

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.

Yesterday: Dubrovnik

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.

Today: Venice

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!

Trace

Posted by tracebc 08:08 Archived in Italy Tagged cruises Comments (1)

Corfu today; sea yesterday; Athens the day before

sunny 34 °C
View Europe 2010 on tracebc's travel map.

We're still having marvelous weather! Athens was warm, but all our tours are early in the morning, so we're back on board before the real heat hits.

The Acropolis is much bigger than I expected, actually! I thought it was just the one building - the Parthenon - but there's quite a bit on the hill! I was daunted by the description of the tour warning that there would be 150 steps, but the tour guide took it so slow and stopped several times along the way that it was really nothing.

I don't know if I'd come back to Athens. The acropolis being the only thing I was really interested in, I've been there, done that.

Today, in Corfu, I went on a different tour than Darrin and Evelyn - they toured the city; I went to the beach. I wasn't coming all the way to the Mediterranean not to put my feet in the water! The beach was absolutely beautiful, and we went through some pretty ancient olive groves (more like olive forests) along the way. Olive trees are incredibly interesting! I also got a closeup of a bee - a GIANT bee - in a flower. Although I had to step through some little burr-y things to get the shot. They stuck to me for a bit. The sand was incredibly warm, and the sea was refreshing.

Tomorrow: Dubrovnik. Next day: Venice. We're there two nights, and then our cruise is over. Then on to Amsterdam and London.

Later!

Trace

Posted by tracebc 05:27 Archived in Greece Tagged cruises Comments (0)

Ephesus and Santorini update

Hot!

sunny 33 °C
View Europe 2010 on tracebc's travel map.

Santorini, or the city of Fira on Santorini, looks like a city made of marzipan draped over the top of the island, from our ship. It's very pretty, but the heat made really enjoying it difficult. We looked forward to coming down the cable car and going back to the ship! (I know - so many have said Santorini is beautiful, but it certainly is not my favourite place on the tour!)

However...

Ephesus is. My favourite place on the tour.

All I can really say is "wow." Now I know why I was looking forward to it! It was hot, but our tour guide took us from shady spot to shady spot on our walk through Ephesus itself. We started off the day by going to the house where Mary was thought to have lived the last of her life, and then entered Ephesus. I don't know how many pictures I took, but it was a lot. Just to think that this is where Paul walked - these are the things Paul saw - is amazing - and I've been there now!

The shopping here is good too. Souvenirs and little gifts were cheap and plentiful (unless I'm giving you one, then it was REALLY expensive!) and walking through a Turkish bazaar is a cultural experience!

I should go so I can save some minutes for later on in the cruise.

Athens tomorrow, then a day at sea, then Corinth, then Venice. (I think.)

Tata for now,

Trace

Posted by tracebc 03:47 Archived in Turkey Tagged cruises Comments (1)

A facebook note...

Turns out I can't access Facebook from the boat without first letting them send a text message (which I cannot retrieve) from here. So, if you have a message for me, I'll check my email or the notes here.

:)

Posted by tracebc 01:28 Comments (0)

At sea somewhere between Naples and Santorini

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View Europe 2010 on tracebc's travel map.

Our drive to the port was pretty! The driver pointed out the house where he lives along the way - it was a little house in a farming area outside of the city. He played "Arrivederci Roma" on his stereo on our way.

This ship is full of luxuries...on the excessive side of things. As soon as we boarded, an attendant squirted our hands with hand sanitizer, followed instantly with someone handing us glasses of champagne, and as our rooms were no where near ready, we went up for lunch. Wow. If you could think of it as a lunch food, it was there.

We finally left Rome at around 6:00. After dinner, I skipped the evening show that Darrin and Evelyn went to, and instead watched the sunset on the Mediterranean from our balcony. Much better than a show. Of course, I recorded the whole thing through pictures, which will come later. It was awesome just watching the sun sink into the horizon, and then watching the sky go from yellow to orange to red to purple to black. I don't think I want to go to any shows on board as they conflict with this time! (Although I'll probably go to one or two.) Then, later on, I saw a shooting star. It was beautiful!

Next morning, as we neared Naples, and the boat had turned so we now faced the sunrise, I watched the sun emerge over Mount Vesuvius. Another awesome sight (once again recorded in pictures).

We took a 9-hour tour that went to Sorrento and along the Amalfi coast. We didn't really explore Naples at all. Sorrento is a cute little town with a lot of touristy-type stores along the narrow streets. From there, we started going along the coast which is, a little disappointingly, like driving to Whistler - except for the fact that the road is too small for a big bus to pass by a little car without some tense moments in parts. There were little grottos filled with stalactites and stalagmites along the way, which was nice, though. I also saw groves of olive trees, fig trees, of course vineyards, and other little orchards. Cypress trees (I think that's what they were) are very picturesque here as well.

We went to lunch at a little hotel along the way, where we had homemade canelloni, followed by chicken with real, fresh mozzarella. Then we continued along the coast to another little town where we stopped for a while and after a quick walk went to the promenade and soaked up some warm sun. It was perfect weather - not too hot or too cold!

After going through a cameo factory, we headed back to the ship. After dinner, we played one game of bingo ($10 a shot; they only had one game) and Evelyn won $303 American dollars! She forced $50 of it onto me, which is why I decided I could splurge a little more for the internet connection. I may be able to make two updates, if I type fast enough. They stayed for the show afterwards, but I went back and watched the end of the sunset and the stars again. I also watched Mars set. The only way you can tell where the horizon is at night is when a star (or in this case planet) gets extinguished. Which is exactly what it looks like.

Today we are at sea all day. I am going to go up and sit in the sun and read. That's my entire plan for the day. We'll see if anything else crops up!

Tomorrow is Santorini, where we hear things are INCREDIBLY hot. We're only there for 3.5 hours, though (although we can stay a bit longer if we want), so it should be tolerable. Then Ephesus the following day.

Must go! The sun awaits!

Love to you,

Trace

Posted by tracebc 00:51 Archived in Italy Tagged cruises Comments (0)

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