Monday, November 3, 2008

JFK

We are back on US soil! We have been up since 4:00 am Athens time so
it is 21:30 to us. We are at the gate but our flight isn't for another
hour. Looking forward to getting home!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Athens

We are now at the Sofitel at the Athens airport. I have checked out where we need to go in the morning and it is very close and seems straight forward. It will be a very early morning for us as our flight leaves at 6:40. We connect through Zurich and then on to JFK. We should arrive in RDU at 17:30 tomorrow evening. Looking forward to being back on US soil and with our family and friends. Our love to all.

Earlier in the day...
Today I have spent most of the day up on the Acropolis. I went out this morning and made a Starbucks run, so we had a light breakfast. The city was in full swing even at 7:00. I managed my way around pretty well. Mom opted to stay at the hotel as I was not sure of how uneven/steep the terrain would be on the Acropolis. Good thing because it was tough even for me! I ran into some people from the cruise, including Margaret. What a small world. We are packing up to head out the airport, so I wanted to go ahead and post. I will let the photos and video speak for itself. I can comment more on it later.


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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Just Added!

Please see below - I have added photos and video to some past posts. More to come!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Delos and Mykonos


I finally made it back to the ship around 18:00 and Mom had escaped from the room. I found her wandering around the ship. We worked on packing a little before dinner. That is such a monumental task when you’ve been gone this long. We decided to have dinner at the casual Terrace restaurant for our last evening and we had Margaret join us.
It was a bittersweet dinner. It wasn’t just our last dinner on the cruise, but it is nearing the end of our trip. We enjoyed dinner as much as ever.
I will miss my buddy who makes the pasta for us each night. He has been wonderful! The chef came over and gave us his recipe for the tomato sauce that is out of this world (Saint Benedicto tomatoes!). We then went to the Upper Hall for our last evening of live music. They played many of the favorites and ended with “Time to Say Goodbye”. We said our goodbyes and went back to get things ready. We were packed and had our bags out by 22:15. We called it an early evening as we had to get up early in the morning.

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I didn't blog about yesterday because we stayed on ship all day and then I had really bad motion sickness, again. I am not sure what is bringing it on all of a sudden, but I have missed 2 wonderful dinners thanks to it! This morning we anchored off of Delos, an uninhabited island which is an open air archaeological site. Mom stayed on the ship. I didn't do a guided tour, but decided to wander around on my own. The island used to be the political center of Greece 4-5000 years ago. There are of course lots of temples, especially to Apollo. The island was inhabited over thousands of years so there is a definite evolution to the sculpture and frescos. There are beautiful mosaics which are on display in the museum. We were only in Delos for the morning and set said at noon. I was back on ship by 11:30 and went to soak in some of the sun. It's wonderful how warm it is here, but the sun doesn't burn you. Mom stayed out of the sun as she was still very pink from yesterday.
We arrived in Mykonos only about an hour after leaving Delos. I let the crowds go on into the island and waited for a later tender. The island is eerily quiet as it is the end of the tourist season. The shops only open when ships are in harbor. The buildings are typical of those in Greece - white with blue shutters. Very picturesque. I am sitting by the water typing this and using some "found" wifi. I doubt that it will be enough to load any photos, but thought I would write a note. We sail for Piraeus tonight (96 nautical miles) and we disembark in the morning. We will make our way into Athens for a day or two and then fly home on Monday. It's hard to believe the month is almost gone. Happy Halloween to everyone!
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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wednesday - Santorini

Day 26 – Santorini
This morning came extra early thanks to us losing an hour overnight. We are back to being 6 hours off of EST. We had our breakfast in the room and had to be at the designated meeting location by 7:45. We took our tender over to shore. The island is magnificent. It’s hard to believe how it was actually formed. After our short tender to the island, we boarded a motor coach for the trip to Oia (pronounced Eia) which is on the far end of the island. We basically drove back and forth around hairpin turns until we reached the top. These drivers must have nerves of steel.
Santorini is composed of 3 islands – Thira, the main island, Thirasia, and Asporonisi. The island was once much larger but in 1450 BC the volcano called Strongyle erupted and caused the middle of the island to sink, thus creating the caldera where our ship was anchored.

Our first stop was the town of Oia. It has a population of only about 1,500 people and yet it has 50 churches, as you can guess, mostly Greek Orthodox. The town is very cute, but with 4 ships anchored and about 25 tour buses you can only imagine that the narrow streets were almost impassable. There were numerous steps and a tremendous incline for Mom to navigate. We only had an hour to take photos and to shop, but there really wasn’t time. I would like to have spent more time there.

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Next we went back towards the direction we came from and started climbing again. We were on our way to Mount Profitis which Is the highest point on the island, 550 meters high and home to 4 monks in a monastery. Monks were home, but we did get a sweeping view of the island below us. We could see the “cupcake island” named for its white strata at the top which looks like icing. It was here that we got our first glimpse of the grapevines that cover 60 percent of the island. We had not noticed them before as they looked like low shrubs on the ground. Since Santorini is so arid and windy they have to cultivate them in a way that suitable for this climate. They get their moisture from the humidity in the air. Most of the island is pumice which also absorbs any moisture in the air and provides it to the vines. Due to the wind, the vines are wrapped in a basket type manner with the grapes towards the middle in order to protect them. It is really fascinating. I did find some random vines which still had the grapes in the middle, though they were dried up almost like raisins. I took them back to the bus, where Mom was waiting (she did not want to get out at this stop due to the heights), and she promptly tasted one of them! She said it was very sweet and tasted like a raisin. Go figure!



We were then off to the Antoni Winery which was only a short drive from the scenic outlook point. Here we were greeted by the owner, Kostos Antoni who took us down for a brief overview of the winery. This is the oldest winery in the Cycladic Islands. We were taken out onto the terrace where we tried samples of 3 wines – a white, red, and late harvest along with bread, cheese, grape leaves stuffed with rice, and fresh tomatoes. We enjoyed the food and wine and of course the gorgeous views.
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After we’d had our fill it was again back to the coach to take us to Fira, the capital. We had a pretty tough walk from the bus up to the actual street. We ended up just sitting for a while and taking it all in. It was about 13:00 and we hadn’t had lunch, so we decided to try a restaurant recommended by our guide. It was called Ampelos, a very traditional Greek taverna. Mom had not been feeling the greatest, so she opted for the soup, but I went for the full blown Greek lunch of chicken Souvlaki, and wow was it great. Mom tried a piece or two and had to agree.

Lunch was a leisurely one, and now it was time to walk around the town. There must have been a hundred jewelry stores selling everything from gold to sapphires of every color. We bought a couple of items, but were primarily concerned with getting toward the cable car that would take us back down to the port. It was either the cable car, 538 stairs, or a donkey ride – we were opting for the cable car! Once we reached the embarkation point we realized how far down we had to go, and in only 2 minutes time! There were 5 cars, ours had 5 people in it. It is literally almost a straight down trip. I have video of it, coming soon! After safely reaching the bottom, we carefully got out and walked down more stairs to the dock. I think we must have navigated over 200 stairs today alone. I am truly amazed at Mom’s ability to get around on this difficult terrain. We boarded the “bobbing” tender and waited while they filled it like a can of sardines. The ride to the ship was not a long one, thank goodness!
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Once back on board we went directly to our stateroom and collapsed!
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It has been an amazing, but tiring day. I did go up on the top deck to take some photos as the sun set on Thira (the name for the main island of Santorini). We ended up cancelling our dinner reservation in Toscana as neither one of us is up for it tonight. Maybe tomorrow… We did get to talk to Dad and Hunter while we were in port. It is now 18:00 and we are getting ready to pull up anchor and sail for Rhodes. Hopefully the weather will hold and we can enjoy a day in the sun. I may head into town, but I think Mom is ship-bound for the rest of the trip! Today was such a wonderful day.

Tuesday - At Sea

Day 25 – At Sea
Today Mom awakened earlier than usual and was taking in the morning views of the sea. I woke up shortly thereafter and asked what time it was and she said 8:15, only 30 minutes until breakfast was to be delivered. It was a good thing because I was hungry! We were doing a few things around the room when she realized it was in fact only 7:30, so we had over an hour until breakfast. We called Bogdan and asked if we could go ahead and get our breakfast sent up. He was happy to oblige. He arrived very shortly with our food and some champagne – what a way to start the morning! We had a lovely breakfast, but decided we were a bit tired, so we pulled a “Dad” and had an after breakfast nap! Next thing we knew it was 11:00! The sun was shining and we headed out to the pool deck. Obviously everyone on board had the same idea. We had to opt for lounges in the shade at first until some opened up in the sun. By noon we were well on our way to sunbathing.
The sun seemed later than the actual hour and in fact sunset was at 16:35, the earliest I’ve ever seen it set. We did go in around 16:00 for tea since we had only snacked in the afternoon on a piece of pizza and a pineapple milkshake – the lunch of champions! Tea was nice, but again more crowded than usual. After tea we came back to our stateroom and it was already dark out. It was still hours until dinner, so we opted to watch a movie. Our evening canap├ęs arrived and we finished the movie in time for dinner. I guess we have had too many 5-course dinners as we are now opting for the casual Terrace restaurant onboard. Here we can have our nightly sushi and graze for the rest of our meal. We went to the Upper Hall to hear the string quartet and our friend Margaret joined us after her dinner. We sat and chatted until 22:30. Margaret was going on to the show, but we had to go up, shower, and get ready for bed. We were going to lose an hour this evening and we had to get up early for our excursion on Santorini tomorrow. I think we are starting to tire out!