Travelogue — Day 16 Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Standard

Debarkation Day of Cruise — Venice

Well, waking up at 4 a.m. starts the day off long.  Went to Raffles for breakfast at 5:30  a.m. and got off the boat at 6 and paid 80 EUR for the taxi to the Marco Polo Airport. When we got there, the check-in desk wasn’t open for another hour for our 9:55 a.m. flight.

Mom Buss got really low blood pressure and momentarily passed out.  We located the first aid station downstairs and two people came upstairs with a wheelchair, took her blood pressure, took her down.  Checked her out.

While waiting I tried the check-in machines. They asked me to scan the passport, said I needed more documents, and to furnish one of the below documents — but listed a blank screen.  Two people who assist the people on the self-service machines tried to help me with the same result. So instead I stood in line and had the desk people sign us all in.

They said Mom Buss was fine, so they wheeled her in to the airport, and we got on the flight to Paris. Then we made the transfer in Paris for the Flight to Atlanta. They made her and Dad wait a long time before getting them on the flight to Atlanta. Dad said it wasn’t the best efficiency they were showing.

The Flight from Paris to Atlanta was also AirFrance.  They certainly fed enough, though I couldn’t get the chicken dish because they were out (the rest of the family had chicken). It was way too cold where I was, and Betsy was way too warm.  There was no adjustable air.

We all watched movies.  Nathan watched Oz the Great and Powerful. I watched Life of Pi.

We got through the multiple customs and passport checks in Atlanta, and got to our gate, with the flight delayed 37 minutes. We just moved gates a few minutes ago, and they say they will be starting loading soon.  We will see how that works out.

The short hop to Kansas City isn’t bad, but we learn from mom and dad that somewhere in the customs movement, via wheelchair, their camera from the trip got lost, and they hadn’t transferred any of the photos to any other device. So they will have to get pictures from we kids for the trip.  The one real negative from the trip, aside from mom’s health bout today.

I had had the same fear of losing all my photos, which is why we had bought the Chrome book, though on the trip I hadn’t figured out how to transfer pictures to it from the SD card (P.S. — afternote, figured it out now, simple DRAG, when I was trying to right click).

Got off the plane in KC, dad went for the van while the rest of us got the luggage.  After 10 p.m. by time we got home. Turned the thermostat down and went to bed. Trip done. Time to unpack in the morning.

And that is the travelogue — except for another day or two of some general comments and thoughts I have been jotting along the way.

Advertisements

Travelogue — Day 15 Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Standard

Image

Twelfth Day of Cruise — Venice

Last day on the high seas.

Image

Started this morning with a swim around 8:30 a.m., Found a pair of earbuds on the bottom of the pool. How somebody could lose those there I am not quite sure…

Image

And then came back to the room for showers and breakfast at raffles about 9:30. While at breakfast, or the Raffles Court Terrace, we saw a few dolphins jumping off the port side, before they were passed by the ship and left way to the rear of the ship.

Image

Then we spent 30 plus minutes online trying to get our boarding passes for tomorrow’s flight, only to be told that something for one or more person in our party required us to check-in in person at the airport.

Image

Now it is swimming and lolling around the deck at the pool before lunch and the cruise into Venice.

Image

We had time before the ship was to go through the canals to the port, so we went and packed up. Got the room done before 1 p.m. — wasn’t supposed to go through the canals until 1:30.  But when we got back up on deck, the ship had already gone through the canals, so we missed taking the pictures of the passing through.

Image

So we did Lunch at Raffles and waited for the all clear to go ashore in Venice.

Image

We walked into Venice,  The Port terminal is near the causeway with the mainland. Not there in ancient days, the causeway is a land-transport connection to the mainland, providing both rail, car and cycle connection.  You see a lot of cars and motorcycles, parked here in Venice.  It is the last place you will see either. Everything from here on is boat or foot. Not even bicycles — too many steps up and down the bridges for anything with wheels.

Image

From Piazza Roma we wended through side streets until we ended at the point east of the Academy.

Image

From there we walked back to the Academy bridge, and over toward St. Mark’s Piazza.

Image

After St. Mark’s we found the Rialto Bridge, and then along the grand canal to the next bridge, crossing it, and then crossing back again at the final bridge to Piazza Roma.  From there we took the people mover back to the Port.

Image

Between the Rialto and the port Nathan discovered this mask shop, where you could actually see the craftsman making the masks out of leather. Nathan had to take close-up pictures of one set of masks, because they reminded him of Bishop, one of the Armada Elite Officers in Pirate101.

Image

While in Venice we enjoyed the side streets best, and didn’t care for the unshaded streets or the high shopping districts.  A lot of nice Venice out there outside the shopping areas.

Image

Now we are back on the ship.  We dined at Gardens, I took a swim, played crazy 8s and chess with Carly and Nathan.  Betsy is back in the room sleeping while Carly and I are snacking at Blue Lagoon and Nathan is snacking at Raffles.

Travelogue — Day 14 Monday, July 8, 2013

Standard

Image

Eleventh Day of Cruise — Second Sea Day

Image

Did a time-change last night.  Got up just before 7 a.m., after going to bed about 10 p.m..  With the time change it was 10 hours of sleep.  I went to the pool and it was drained.  I checked the daily sheet and found it was supposed to open at 8 a.m..  At 8:30 it was still not full and covered with a net.  I found out later from the guy watching with me at 8:30 that it didn’t open until sometime after 9 a.m.

Image

So since I couldn’t get my morning swim in, I went back to the room, where everyone got their showers, and we went to breakfast at Windows about 9:40 a.m. Nathan didn’t want to go, and was dragging along the way, but recovered and was pleasant dining company during the meal.  I tried the Broiled Scottish Kippers, which was an interesting and nice change.  Small boneless (or at least small-boned) fish — smoked and salted.

Image

After breakfast I got my swim, and then watched Isaac play chess with Kent and then played chess with Nathan.  He did a very good job.  Took me a long time to finally beat him, and there were a couple of moves where I might have lost it.

Image

Then we went down to get our Passports back, and from there it was on to Windows for lunch for Betsy, Carly and I.  Nathan went on his own to Raffles.

ImageAfter that Betsy and I took a nap, and then I went for a swim.  Then I started looking for Carly.  She managed to elude us for 90 minutes of search before Betsy found her just before we were headed to a 5:30 supper at Windows.  It was a final dress up night — the last evening all 11 of us will be together on the trip.  Mom commented on how nice Nathan looked dressed up. We also commented on some of the haphazard service we got while dining during the trip.  I commented on trouble getting my hot tea until after the dessert course was completely done several times, for example, while mom commented on having trouble getting water reflilled, or even getting any refills on her iced tea.

Image

We had jut a few minutes to get to the evenings show — Elements.  It was a mostly full house, and the big surprise for us was that the show featured the acrobats and magician and assistant from earlier in the cruise.  They had a lot of costume changes to represent the Earth, Water, Fire and Air. Many of the costumes were quite sheer. For example, the guys had full-body suits for the Water section that were solid below, and solid on half the torso halfway up, but obscured nothing on the rest of the torso. Some of the other costumes gave the guys short shorts and showed a lot of leg, which was also paired with sheer black netting shirts.

Image

The end of the show was a parade of support staff and a round of applause thank you to them for us on the cruise.

Image

After that I put on my swimsuit for a swim — and had the entire pool to myself except for one short time where two people jumped almost in front of me and then got out.

Image
Now we are in the crowd of people doing the Chocoholic Buffet at Raffles.  Sort of an almost-end-of-cruise food extravaganza.

Travelogue — Day 13 Sunday, July 7, 2013

Standard

Image

Tenth Day of Cruise — Athens/Piraeus

Image

Got up at 7 a.m. this morning, and took a swim in the pool while Nathan started his shower.  I swam 10 freestyle laps, 10 breaststroke, and 10 combos of backstroke down and butterfly return. The pool was all my own the whole time.

From there I returned to the room, where everyone was getting showers, then it was on the way to Raffles Court for breakfast.  The boat was supposed to dock at 8 a.m., but didn’t get cleared until 8:30, which didn’t delay our 9 a.m. excursion.

Image

The excursion was led by Aphrodite, a short Greek Woman.  We got a description of a lot of various things on the way from the port of Piraeus to the Acropolis. Most of them weren’t very helpful. “a beatiful church,” the “elegant” this or that. They were the sort of statements similar to the information that led the Jeopardy competing computer to conclude that everyone was famous, but didn’t really tell you that much.

Image

Along the way we stopped at the original (1896?) Olympic Stadium of the modern era. Would have been nicer if we could have walked among the bleachers, but it was interesting to see, looking through the open end of the stadium.

Image

Image

When we got to the Acropolis, walking up the hill, we saw Mom sitting on a rock about a quarter of the way up the hill. Dad had gone on up, while she had decided that she had gone about as far as she could go.

Image

Our tour led us up to the hill, with a lot of details at several stops along the way.  Betsy saw Dad heading down as we were going in through one of the gates, and we saw the Gillespies themselves at the top of the Acropolis right as our tour guide was ending her spiel and giving us an hour to take pictures.

Image

The ruins and the view are impressive, and give you a real impression of the amazing things they were capable of doing. The tour guide had her own slant in favor of the Greeks, just as the Ephesus tour guide had his slant in favor of the Turks.  Athens was good, but I like the Ephesus tour better.

Image

Nathan and I both stood on Mars Hill, where Paul addressed the Greeks of Athens. I think I need to go over that passage with him, since he isn’t as familiar as he might be.

Image

From there we hopped the bus back, dropped our stuff off at the room, and dined at Windows for lunch.  Both of the kids wanted to dine at Windows instead of doing a pick up meal at Raffles.

Image

The afternoon has been drifting for the kids, writing for Betsy, and bouts of swimming punctuated by reading and writing by me.  Betsy, Carly and I also played a round of Pictionary, and I was going to play chess with Nathan, but he couldn’t wait for me to take a brief swim, so maybe we will play chess later.

Dad just walked by, talking about their day. They hired a taxi, which took them to the Acropolis, and a church on a nearby higher hill, the original Olympic stadium, and a restaurant where they had lunch. Sounds like they had a good day, and that the Taxi was a good idea for Mom.

Just an hour until we meet before going to dinner at 6 p.m. at Raffles. We decided to do Raffles for dinner, because we haven’t done dinner there before.

We ended up eating at Raffles with Mom and Dad, who came along and talked about their day.

The show was two instrumentalists who made their own instruments.  Quite a good show.  The bagpipes without drones was interesting.

Travelogue — Day 12 Saturday, July 6, 2013

Standard
Image

Panorama of Ephesus

Ninth Day of Cruise — Ephesus/Izmir

Image

Coast of Turkey near Izmir

Today we don’t get into Ephesus (port city is Izmir), until 11:30 a.m., so everyone is sleeping in.  We all got to bed about 10 p.m., and I got up just before 7 a.m. and headed to the pool for a swim.  It was a good quiet time at the pool.  I got in 10 freestyle laps, 10 breaststroke, and 10 laps that were backstroke down and butterfly on the return.

There was one lady swimming when I got there, and another guy joined us, then the lady left.  He struck up a conversation with me, asked me if I knew when the pool opened.  I told him I assumed it was 24 hours, but he said he’d seen a net over it earlier. We got to talking, until I learned his name was Dale, he was a high school teacher (History and Art), apparently doesn’t have kids, and grew up in Shawnee Mission, KS, from the ages of 3-10. He was born in Illinois (Indiana?) and now lives in San Diego.

Today’s tour to Ephesus was a lot better than expected. We were on bus 16 with Mom and Dad, the Gillespies were on bus 20.  There were over 500 people taking the Magnificent Ephesus tour.

Image

Tour guide Ilker in Ephesus

There was an hour ride to the site, during which our tour guide, Ilker, gave us history of the 4 different Ephesus sites, and of course, all the wonderful history of Turkey and the Turkish people.

Image

Theatre in Ephesus where Demetrius led the riot against Paul and the Christians.

Once on the site, we used the tour company’s (Tura Turizm — www.tura1966.com) wireless radio receivers to hear the commentary of our tour guide. It made the tour a lot more flexible and easier to keep up with.  He related a lot of the various things we saw to passages in scripture.

Image

Nathan in the Theatre in Ephesus

For instance, on the way there, we learned that Izmir was Biblical Smyrna.

Image

Meeting the Inlaws in Ephesus

On the way back we stopped for a tour of a Rossini leather outlet, and got a leather fashion show.  Interesting, but something we really would have just as happily skipped.  They did serve us refreshments during the show.

Image

Men’s public rest room in Ephesus

Returning to the ship I took a swim and then we dressed for supper.  It was the 6 adults at 7 at Windows.  The kids split by gender.  The girls dressed and dined at Windows.  The boys did Raffles. Now we are catching up our writing before going to tonight’s show — a presentation by the Norwegian Spirit Production Cast called “On Broadway” featuring numbers from recent Broadway shows.  We will see how much we enjoy and like it, based on the shows we have recently seen.

Image

Library at Ephesus, third largest of its day with 55,000 scrolls.

The boys are telling us about playing Chutes N Ladders today.  So sounds like they are having fun playing games — even “kids games”.

Image

Interesting drainage tile.

The Broadway show was good, but loud.  The earplugs were very helpful.

Image

One of the main streets of Ephesus.

After the show Nathan and I went up to Raffles for a snack.  While there, I saw Dale eating and talking to someone. I gestured in his direction and he responded in kind. I think he said the first word, and I came over and we talked.  He introduced me to his travelling companion, Jorge, and then we had a rambling conversation of at least 30 minutes about his growing up in Santa Claus, Ind, near Abraham Lincoln’s place, our tours and excursions, New York State and the Finger Lakes, etc.  He talked about the art presentations they are giving in the art gallery on the ship, and how they are helpful for him in teaching art appreciation.

Image

Can anyone translate this for me?

Found out they are in a cabin on deck 10 with a window.  We discussed my interior cabin and sleeping 4, and how it actually was larger than it looked in the online photos of the same.

Image

Nathan and I walking around Ephesus.

He was talking of getting up for a 7 a.m. swim, until Jorge reminded him that their excursion was set to start at 8 a.m.,

Image

Souvenir pictures of Ephesus.

Travelogue — Day 11 Friday, July 5, 2013

Standard

Image

Eighth Day of Cruise — Istanbul

Image

Today we leave the EUR zone, and have to pick up a lot of Turkish Lira to be able to tour sites.  Elsewhere we have been spending EUR on transport, but seeing the sites for free. Here we will be getting around for free (walking) but spending Turkish Lira for access to sites.

Image

So we pulled out 300 TRY from the ATM, and walked from the terminal to the bridge across the Golden Horn and into the old town.  The bridge had a lot of restaurants on the underside. They weren’t open for the most part on the way out, but on the way back they were, and we walked by a lot of waiters trying to get us to sit down in their restaurants.  If they’d only known that offering fish to Betsy is the best way to get her to NOT dine there, they might have tried another tactic.  Not that it would have done any better for us at that point, on the way back to the ship as we were.

Image

Steve’s book wasn’t helpful in several points today.  There were several times in crossing the bridge and heading on up to the Sultanhamet park that his writing assumed you did something or didn’t. We would discover later “now there is where we were supposed to be when he said that,” etc. But between the book and the maps we had no problem making it to the park.

His book said that the Blue Mosque would be closed longer over lunch for the midday services on Friday. Actually, it was closed all day until 2:30 p.m.  But we didn’t find that out until we saw the Gillespies and dad arriving at the park just after we did, and walked over to mosque where we saw the signs.

Image

So everyone decided to come back to the mosque later.  The Gillespies said they would head to the Bazaar, which was not on our itinerary.  We did the walking tour around the square, which started with the Underground Cistern, and decided to go into the cistern. It was nice and cool down there.  It was fun watching the fish.  We didn’t stand in the line to see the Medusa head.

Image

I have this feeling I’ve been in a cistern like that before.  Trying to figure out why.

Betsy said the pillars, without water, remind you of Moria, from the Lord of the Rings movies, in a way. Not sure it is what I was thinking, but I can see the comparison.

Image

From there we toured the rest of the outside walk, seeing the Egyptian and Constantine obelisks, and the snake head bronze without snakeheads. In the same area we found some nice shops, and picked up a couple of scarves to use as head coverings for the mosque.

DSC01141

Then we got in line for the Sofia. Ticket prices were higher than Steve’s said. The church had a lot of water damage on its ceilings and wall mosaics.  Some very nicely restored sections, and a lot of restoration still obviously in progress.

DSC01240

From there we walked to the Palace, and found that the price was too high for us to purchase tickets with the TRY we had remaining.  I had factored a buffer in, but not enough for both price inflations.

DSC01250

But it was getting close enough to time for the mosque that we wouldn’t have had a lot of time to tour the palace (2 hours minimum was recommended, and we only had about an hour until the mosque was open).

DSC01257

So we walked back to the mosque and waited for it to open, constantly getting directed around the building until we were on the opposite side to enter from what Steve’s instructions indicated we should enter by. They had loaner robes for the women, but Carly and Betsy’s scarves passed, so they didn’t need them, all they had to do was to take off their shoes, like Nathan and I did.

DSC01259

The inside was in excellent shape, since it is in continual use. But the murmur inside was quite loud for a place where people were supposed to be quiet. You could see why it was called the Blue Mosque, with the prevalence of the blue tiles.

DSC01286

When we exited we gave a 10 TRY note donation for the mosque and received a receipt ticket for the same.

DSC01288

Then we walked back to the ship. On the way down we stopped at a sweet shop I had seen on the way out, and I purchased everyone a small piece of lemon Turkish Delight from a log that she cut them off for us.  It was quite enjoyable, sweet but not sugary, as Nathan said.  Everyone was allowed to choose one more. Nathan chose apple, Carly something that she said was like a smore, and Betsy and I had a chocolate and Hazelnut pastry. That was more sugary sweet.

On the way to the boat we were along the final road leading up to the ship, and I saw a guy walk by and drop the brush from his shoe shine kit.  I said, Pardon, and pointed it out, and started to walk off.  He wanted to thank me and offered on him to shine the shoes, and his friend came along and did Betsy’s, and then Nathan’s.  Then he started talking about his expected child and a cesarean, and then talked about cost, and I heard 18, and tried to give him a 20 TRY, but he said it was 80, and then for both. I ended up giving him 120 TRY, what I had, and he took it.

Then his friend dropped his brush and we made sure he remembered it.  But it was probably a scam, because his friend would have reminded him of the brush if I hadn’t. I just should have given him the 20 and walked off. Just not smart about those things. That price is more than people were selling shoes for in Istanbul. No way people would be paying that much for a shine.

Back on the ship I got a swim and then we changed for supper.  Nathan dined at Raffles, while the other three of us went to Windows.

Kent and I then went up to Cagneys at 7, to make arrangements for paying for Mom and Dad’s meal there.  Tonight was the night they took our offer to treat them to the steak house.  Kent somehow let the staff know it was for their 50th anniversary, in December, which we were all celebrating on this cruise.  The staff came out and sang “Let Me Call you Sweetheart,” which was apparently Mom’s parent’s song, so it was really touching for her. And the staff told them what good son-in-laws they had. So that worked really well. They both apparently enjoyed their Prime Rib too.

DSC03139

We went to the show tonight — Marionettes. They were a very good show, but we were put off by three of the scenes, which involved stripping.  Why did they have to put those into a show that was otherwise very kid and adult friendly?

We found Carly at the Marionette show, then she went roaming afterwards, while I took another swim, and then Betsy and I had a snack at Raffles, where we found Nathan. After Betsy headed downstairs, Nathan found Carly, and she joined Nathan and I in finishing our snacks.  We had a fun time of guessing movies someone was thinking about, a sort of 20 questions game (we had also played that with Carly during dinner).

The one other comment I need to make about the day is the effect of my red goatee.  It seems to be a magnet for people trying to hawk things, whether the tour vendors or the waiters.  They make a comment about liking the red beard, then ask if I want a tour or to dine, buy, etc. It certainly isn’t the way to avoid them and be inconspicuous.

Travelogue — Day 10 Thursday, July 4, 2013

Standard

Image

Seventh Day of Cruise — Mykonos

Image

We got up early (5 a.m.) so we could shower, eat breakfast, and be ready for the first tenders heading to shore.  They started passing out tender tickets at 6:45 and we ended up on tender #3 around 7:30, getting to shore around 7:45.

Image

The tour book was right about the small twisting streets.  Everything was white with blue trim. We wandered up streets, twisting this way and that, and ended up at the Windmills.  It seemed to take a lot less to get to them than we had expected.

We took a lot of pictures there, then started climbing toward the “top” following the main road.  It kept seeming to go up and up, until we finally found a way heading down, along a twisting road that we thought we found on the map.

Image

We found another good scenic overlook, where some tour buses had let a lot of people off to look.  It was next to a building that looked like a converted windmill.

The other notable thing is that all the buses were packed next to a lot of full dumpsters. Outside the close port area of shops and swept streets, trash seemed to be the overriding theme, that and that things have been allowed to run down.  We found a large parking peninsula that was surrounded by sail boat docking ties. But they were all rusty, and the pavement in part of it was disintegrating.

Image

here is a link to video of us walking on the beach.

The other thing we did was take our shoes and socks off and walk through the foam  and water at the edge of the small Old Port beach area. So we can say we have been in the Mediterranean Sea.

And now it is 11:15 a.m., and we are already back on board.  Trying to decide what to do for the rest of the day….

Image

Kids went their own way for lunch, and Betsy and I dined at Windows.  We arrived at 11:55 and were seated immediately, even though they didn’t open until noon.

Before lunch we went to the computer room, paid for by minute access, and printed off our airplane itinerary, so we could give it to the guest services desk for debarking early on Wednesday to catch our plane in Venice.

After lunch Betsy and I took another nap, then I went up to the pool deck for a swim.  The wind was very windy, blowing water off the jacuzzi’s at the tables. There were about 18 people when I first got into the water, but within a couple of minutes only two of us were left, so I swam 20 laps — 10 freestyle, and then 10 elemental backstroke/breaststroke. I did backstroke down to the deep end (Because I could see the ladder to know I was at the end,) and then breaststroke back.

Mom and Dad took the kids for dinner, so Betsy and I dined at the Garden, before going to the Evolution of Magic show in the Stardust Theatre. All 11 of us were there, but in various groups.

After the show it was time for a snack, and then off to bed.

Image