Thursday, September 27, 2018

A Mediterranean Cruise finale ~ Rome

How do you spend three days in Rome...the historic city that ranks among the world's most visited places?

 Let's start by getting there.

We disembarked from our cruise ship in Venice and took a cab to the train station.  Never mind that the driver could not speak English and we could not speak Italian. We got to the train station...although it was not the one listed on our tickets.  No worries.  We figured things out and played cards while we waited for the train.  Did you know that it is much easier to 'figure things out' when we put six heads together?  It was a fast train to Venice...too fast to take photos of the Italian countryside as we whizzed by.

Once in Rome, we were only about a 15 minute walk from our hotel...which was off a back alley near the Coliseum.  That 15 minute walk took us much longer than 15 minutes though...since we were led astray a few times while toting our suitcases.

The Coliseum was most impressive.  It is the largest amphitheatre in the world.

We did not have advance tickets but went first thing in the morning...before the long line-ups.  

We were on a 'self-guided tour' of sorts...Lovella had the Rick Steves guide book in hand and kept us informed as we strolled.  It worked well!

Built in Roman times as a space for holding public events, the Coliseum is most famous for being the home of gladiators, who would battle it out in front of large audiences of up to  80,000 people.

It was rather sobering to know that early Christians lost their lives here. This cross was erected to commemorate the Christian martyrs.

Next to the Coliseum is the Arch of Constantine ~ a triumphal arch built in 315 AD.

When in what the tourists do!

Eat pasta and pizza and Caprese salad.  Always dine at a sidewalk cafe.

And if the chairs are sure to stop!

Visit the famous fountains of Rome.

Spend some time at the Piazza Navona...a beautiful piazza square surrounded by restaurants and shops, street artists, painters and musicians. And fountains.  Four of them!

Apparently no trip to Rome is complete without a visit to the Trevi Fountain.  We were on a self-guided walking tour (wandering aimlessly) and  just stumbled upon it. Massive, lovely, old and and a steady source of income for charity (the coins tossed into the water are collected nightly).

Be entertained.

Stop and listen for awhile.

Be sure to visit the Pope.

And if  the street entertainers don't make you smile...he will!

Have no there are sentries on duty at every corner.

Walk everywhere...on cobblestone streets through narrow alleyways.

Have gelato at least once a day.

Look up...and see the ivy.

 And if you need to take a prepared to pay.

Check out the largest statue in the city...that of King Vittorio Emanuele II on a horse.  It is 40 feet high and stands in front of a monument built in honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy.  From the terraces of the monument we enjoyed great views of the city!

Be sure not to leave Rome until you have seen the Pantheon.

We just sort of happened upon this amazing place by accident...

...and were quite surprised that we could tour the Pantheon without tickets. This Roman temple was commissioned during the reign of Agrippa (27BC - 14 AD) and and completed in 126 AD. It is one of the best -preserved ancient Roman buildings and has been in constant use over the years. After almost 2000 years it is still the world's largest un-reinforced concrete dome.

And last but nor least...when in Rome one must see the Vatican City.  And the Sistine Chapel.

We had pre-booked a tour to avoid having to wait in line..but found ourselves in a queue at every step of our tour.

The Vatican museum has a vast collection of old and famous art but on the courtyard is a modern sculpture that caught my eye.  It is known as the 'sphere within a sphere'...the inner ball represents the Earth and outer ball represents Christianity. It stands in stark contrast to everything around it.

Visitors to the Vatican come from every country, faith and walk of life.

After some four hours we had 'seen it all' and exited the Vatican through St. Peter's square with its 284 columns that flank the square. It was a quiet day on the square...upwards of 300,000 people gather here for major events.

Farewell to Rome...and on to home.

Thanks for joining me as I re-capped our Mediterranean adventures...our journey 'back in time' in so many ways.  If you missed our other ports of call, click on the links: Venice, Croatia, Greek Islands.


Friday, September 21, 2018

A Mediterranean Cruise ~ the Greek Islands

And we are visit the islands of Greece.

Don't worry. I won't take you to all 6,000 islands.  Just a few!

Our first stop after Croatia was the island of Crete. 
All was calm as we sailed into port...and I had a hard time imagining the vicious storm that the Apostle Paul found himself in when he was shipwrecked here 2000 years ago. 

We so enjoyed our time in Chania...
a city on the northwest coast of Crete known for its Venetian harbor and waterfront restaurants.

We saw the town like real tourists!

We walked narrow streets lined with shops and restaurants and visited the nautical museum.

Many sections of the inner city wall still standing today were built in the 6th and 7th century by the Byzantine Empire. 
The outer wall was built in the 16th century by the Venetians.
There is so much history in this part of the world!

Next port of call...


...known as a 'whitewashed paradise' for good reason.

All the shops and walkways are white...and clean.

Standing at the entrance to  Mykonos is the chapel of Panagia Paraportiani...
apparently one of the most photographed churches in the world.

The clergy was out on the town!

The four windmills overlooking Mykonos were built in the 16th century and used to mill flour until about 100 years ago. 
They are a main tourist attraction. 
I have no idea how I got a photo without people milling about.

Not everyone comes to look at windmills or churches...
or even to shop. 
Some come to sit on a bench and soak it all in.
In good company! 

On a super hot day we visted all the main attractions of Athens...
with a wonderful cab driver as our tour guide. 
We never did any of the tours offered through the cruise-line and always found cabs (vans) that could accommodate six of us that came with a personal tour guide. 
It was the best option!

The Parthenon ~ a former temple at the Acropolis dedicated to the goddess Athena.
Construction began in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at the peak of its power.
Now that is old!

The Acropolis is a cluster of ancient ruins situated in the center of Athens...
another Unesco World Heritage site.
Strong fortification walls have surrounded the summit of the Acropolis for more than 3,300 years. That's hard to imagine!

From our viewpoint at the top of the Acropolis we could see Mars Hill just below us...
with some tourists gathered on top. 
The hill became well known for the sermon delivered by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament to the philosophers of Greece.  (Acts 17)

We visited the Panathenaic stadium ~ the Olympic stadium. 
It is built entirely of marble, has a capacity of 45,000 (but the record attendance was 80,000). 
It was originally built in the 6th century BC and rebuilt a few times since. 
The stadium hosted the first international Olympic Games in 1896 and again some events in the 2004 Olympics.
It really is 'a miracle in marble'!

We missed the changing of the guard at the presidential palace but checked out the officer on duty...
who seemed to be taking his job very seriously.

Then we visited the tomb of the unknown soldier in front of the old royal palace just as the changing of the guards ceremony was happening there. 

It's a whole lot of pomp and ceremony. 
They don't even look remotely happy about wearing their costumes...
not that I blame them.

Hadrian's Arch was erected over an ancient road in 132 AD by the Athenians as a tribute to the Roman emperor Hadrian.  Things were built to last!

After our time in Athens...we sailed on to Santorini.

Once we were ashore we opted to take the cable car up the cliff rather than riding the donkeys up the stairs.
From there we caught a bus to the village of Oia......
where things looked just like they did on all the pictures I had seen.

White buildings.  Blue roofs.  Blue skies. Sunshine. That is the postcard.

This is the real thing.


We found a cafe on the cliff that looked out on that view and soaked it all in.

We shopped, explored...

and made way for donkeys. 

And when it was time to head back to the ship...
we walked down the 300 steps to the marina with intentions of catching a water taxi back.

We were all smiles until reached the bottom and discovered there were no boats heading back to the other end of the island. 

Oh. Oh.

We were most grateful to the local who pulled a few strings to get a cab to come down that very steep slope to retrieve us and then deliver us back from whence we came! We knew the cruise ship would not wait for us if we were not back on time.


 I knew nothing about this island...the last stop on our Greek Isle tour. 

It is a small town in western Greece...
with its claim to fame being that it is the nearest port to Olympia,
 the ancient site where the Olympic Games were born in the 8th century BC. 
That is why cruise ships stop here. 
But we opted to skip the tour of Olympia (despite all the very persistent pleas of the tour guides) and spend our time in the little Greek beach town instead.

 Quaint.  Lovely.  Very Greek through and through.  

As we sailed out of the port of Katakolon we bade farewell to all things Greek. 
We were bound for Venice once again. 

But first....another day on our floating resort.

Where they deliver fruit snacks to the chaise lounges on the upper deck.

Where every night is dress-up night with good friends.

And where there is always a good reason to laugh!

Where one eats well every day.
More than once...
but especially at dinner.

And after dinner...
we watch the sun set from the promenade deck.

When the photographer will not take 'no' for an answer...
we oblige by posing as a team. 

Good friends.
Good travel mates.
Good times.

Good memories of our Mediterranean cruise of 2018!

And so ends the cruise
I'll be back with a post about Rome...
our last stop before heading home.

Thanks for joining me!