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Travelogue — Day 16 Wednesday, July 10, 2013

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.

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Travelogue — Day 15 Tuesday, July 9, 2013

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Twelfth Day of Cruise — Venice

Last day on the high seas.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Travelogue — Day 14 Monday, July 8, 2013

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Eleventh Day of Cruise — Second Sea Day

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Travelogue — Day 13 Sunday, July 7, 2013

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Tenth Day of Cruise — Athens/Piraeus

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Travelogue — Day 12 Saturday, July 6, 2013

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Panorama of Ephesus

Ninth Day of Cruise — Ephesus/Izmir

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Nathan in the Theatre in Ephesus

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

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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Interesting drainage tile.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.,

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Souvenir pictures of Ephesus.
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Travelogue — Day 11 Friday, July 5, 2013

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Eighth Day of Cruise — Istanbul

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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Travelogue — Day 10 Thursday, July 4, 2013

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Seventh Day of Cruise — Mykonos

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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….

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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.

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Travelogue — Day 9 Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sixth Day of Cruise — At Sea

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The cruise goes through two time zones — one for Spain, France and Italy, and the other for Greece and Turkey. Today is the first sea day (no port, at sea all day), and it falls between Naples, Italy, and Mykonos, Greece. So they had us shift our clocks ahead for the time change today. But since we are at sea, and could sleep in, it didn’t make any difference.

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We slept in, got up about 8:30, and got to Windows about 9:40 to dine for Breakfast (Breakfast seating only goes to 10 a.m.).  After that the kids went their separate ways, and I went to the pool to swim, while Betsy went to a presentation on emeralds at the jewelry shop, since she had put her name into a raffle to win some jewelry.

It was the best time of day to swim. There was another guy swimming laps, so I joined him, and managed to swim 20 laps — 10 each freestyle and breaststroke alternating. I didn’t have people swimming right in front of me until the last 3 laps or so.

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I hit the hot tub after that, then sat down to do some reading.  Betsy joined for awhile (She didn’t win the raffle, but had guessed the fake jewel correctly), and then I swam again before we went back to the room.

Isaac told us that Mom and Dad wanted to do lunch with us in the dining room, just the 4 of us, so Betsy did a tour of the ship for them, and we arranged to meet at 12:30 in Windows.

After lunch Betsy and I took a  nap, then I went swimming again while she wrote on the Raffles Terrace.  I joined her after my swim for some reading, then we headed to the room to get ready for tonight’s 7 p.m. dress up dinner at Windows.

(I should insert here that you have to “dress up” a bit to dine in the dining rooms, but tonight was the one night Mom and Dad wanted us all to really dress up and dine together.)

Windows had told mom that they couldn’t make a reservation at 7 p.m., so we just planned to show up.  When we got there, Mom and Dad were there, and we were waiting for the Gillespies to arrive.  Mom told us they had said they would have to seat us at two tables, but when we finally got inside, dad had arranged so we got one table, though we still had to wait a few minutes for it.

I ordered a chicken and seafood panella  that was surprisingly good with its assortment of seafood — shrimp, mussels, etc.

On the way back Betsy and I walked the Promenade on the Starboard side. Just before we entered mid-ship, a fit older gentleman there came up to me and said, “pardon me sir, I don’t know you, but you look very sharp,” to which I said thank you.

Betsy said, “I’m the one that is supposed to be saying that to you.”

During dinner everyone else mentioned going to the show tonight — Duo Amaury — so we decided to go see the gymnastic ballet.

They had a lot of costume changes. Most of hers were form-fitting body suits with exposed right shoulder, while his went from sweats and tuxedos, to shirtless with tights or boxer shorts.

Betsy noted how strong they both were, and that the guy had an interesting curvature to his spine.

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Travelogue — Day 8 Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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Fifth Day of Cruise, Port of Naples and Pompeii

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Another Raffles breakfast, so we can get off the cruise ship at 8 a.m. when we are docked and cleared. While eating breakfast we noticed the ship on the other side of the post terminal we were pulling into: The Norwegian Epic, younger sister of our Norwegian Spirit. It is the newest and largest ship in the fleet, while we are the oldest and smallest. Big sister and little sister crossing paths, though little sister is the older sister, and  big sister is the younger one.

Looking at the guide book last night, Steve’s guide said to purchase tram tickets in the terminal, and you could get day pass train tickets to Pompeii that included in-city travel.  I didn’t know if that meant it included the trams, but after reading the guide book last night, my goal was to get tickets before leaving the terminal and find out if they did cover the tram. But nothing at the terminal was open, and we didn’t see any trams anyway.  It seems like our departure time from the ship is always before the ports we are visiting are open.

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No tickets? no problem! The train station should be somewhere …. that-away.  We can walk. So we walked the approximate mile to the train station.

Walking the Naples portside to the train station does affirm that the tour book is right about one thing — Naples does have a much grittier feel to it than the cities we have visited so far, Nor does that impression change when we enter the train station.

I step up to a window and ask to purchase 4 round trip tickets to Pompeii. The lady doesn’t seem to communicate well, but we manage to purchase 4 tickets out, and 4 back.  Each is supposed to cost EUR 2.90 but somehow that adds up to EUR 33.60 not EUR 23.20. And it had to be cash, no credit, which seemed weird for a public place.

We tried to put the tickets in the machine to pass through the turnstiles, but it didn’t like them, so another agent assisted us by writing whatever validation on them that they do, and passed us through. There weren’t any signs up for Sorrento (final destination for the train that services Pompeii), for several minutes, then it said Sorrento binari 8, so we got on 8.  Just as we got loaded, and thought we were ready to go, suddenly everyone was getting up and off.  We were being switched to train number 7.

We were fortunate to get seats together on the way out, back to back, but as we went on from stop to stop, the train got more and more crowded. People packed into the section where the doors opened and closed to let people on the trains, until it became hard for people to get off, or more people to get on.  People had to push through them there to get to the aisles between the seats, where there was a little standing room.

There also seemed to be a lot of young bucks, or maybe I should say young cocks, that seemed to be accumulating and finding and forming themselves into a pack (pack of roosters?) in the standing area.  They were hitting and smacking each other in ranking and familiarly affection actions. Only one of them had the riding too low pants problem, but he was in our face most of the time.  Fortunately he had very high riding underwear that wasn’t having the falling down problem.

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Pompeii was another cash only ticket purchase. The city was interesting, but the street markings were not very helpful.  Took us a long time to realize that the numbers on the buildings were like street/block numbers, that kept starting over again at points that were not clear to us. And while the map would show street names so you could find intersections of certain streets, when you got to an intersection, the sign post didn’t show both street names — we were lucky if it has something that approximated one of the street names.

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Rick Steve’s book proved much less helpful here as well.  Some of his directions had us going past things we were expecting, and then his tour led us through blocked streets that it took time to find our way around.  We spent a heated half hour after stumbling onto the theatre when we couldn’t find the Temple of Isis, trying to find the Amphitheatre down streets that ended up being dead ends, even though the map told us that was the way to get there.

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We did learn some interesting social and structural items about the city and times.  There were a lot of series of raised stones in the streets.  Turns out the city washed the streets daily by flooding them with water.  The stones were stepping stones so people could cross the wet streets without getting their feet wet.  They were spaced a uniform space, to allow uniformly wide axled chariots to pass around them.

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There there were all the pillars of bricks we saw.  Seems all the  marble pillars in the city weren’t really marble.  Instead, they build the pillars of bricks, then made a marble pasted that the shaped on the outside to give the looks of a marble pillar.  Pompeii was a middle class city, and that was their form of middle class economy — making it look more expensive than it was.

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The train was much less crowded on the way back, though it took us awhile to get seats. There was a traveling accordion/drum/string band that played up and down the aisle and passed the plastic cup.  I put in a 1 EUR or 2 EUR coin, not sure which one I had.  I think it was the 2 EUR coin. I also got a couple of short video clips of the music.

Click Here to see the video and hear the music

After getting off at the last station, we found the walk back easier than going, and managed to work out most of the crankiness we had accumulated trying to find the Amphitheatre. We all got showers back at the ship, went up to Raffles and picked up a snack. Betsy and I went swimming and then used the hot tub, which was hot today.

Now we are writing on Deck 8 while Hector, assistant cruise director, is leading a trivia contest showing slides of various buildings around the world.

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Tonight we will be using Carly’s coupon to go to the Shogun Restaurant.  Reservations at 7 p.m. Nathan and Carly go on hers, and Betsy and I have to pay the extra surcharge.  I asked about the bottle of wine, and they told me we could substitute soda for bottle of wine.

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Well, the Shogun was a great enjoyable success! Carly had the Shrimp roll, Shrimp salad, fried rice with Shrimp, Mooshu Pork and Banana Pancakes with Coconut ice cream. Carly also ate a lot of my “glass noodles” as she called them.  I had pork ribs, Hot and Sour soup, that noodle thing, spiced lamb and Brule Crembrulle or something like that. We had no problem getting the kids each a can of Root Beer in place of the bottle of wine on the coupon.  I had two pots of green tea from the start of the meal through the finish.

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The wait staff was very attentive, and the environment was more peaceful than the main dining rooms.  There wasn’t the crush of people that there is in the main dining rooms.

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Posted in Travel

Travelogue: Day 7 Monday, July 1, 2013

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Fourth Day of Cruise — Port of Civitavecchia to Rome

Today Rome — the port I have been anticipating the most this trip. Why? Because of who we are meeting in Rome.

One of the clients I work with makes occasional trips to their office in Rome, so I asked them for recommendations on touring Rome. My e-mail got forwarded to the Rome office, where Fr. Marc Dessureault replied and offered to be our Cicerone — meaning guide — for the day. If I’d dare to dream, it is what I would have asked for. To have it offered, was more than I could have hoped for.

We got up with dual alarms — the wake up call on the cabin phone, and the alarm on my world clock alarm clock. Four showers and off to the Raffle Court terrace for breakfast, then off the ship in the first wave of people through the card readers.  I think we even beat a lot of the people with excursions.  The ship provided a free shuttle bus to get us from the ship to the entrance to the terminus — which is the guarded by an impressive stone  fort.

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Once we walked out of the port terminal, we walked along a coastal street to the train station.  In the seaside park beside the street was an unusual and unexpected statue of a sailor kissing a nurse. I am not sure why it is there.

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We didn’t quite make it to the train station in time for the first train, but the next one was only 25 minutes later.  We purchased the BIRG ticket, which gave us round trip fare plus metro service in Rome.

We had made arrangements with Fr. Marc to call and let him know how our schedule getting off the ship was going.  If we got to Rome early enough, he might meet us at the train station, if not, we would taxi over to the OMI house and meet him there. So after purchasing the tickets we found a public phone and tried to make a call.

You would think making a phone call would be easy.  But it wouldn’t recognize our phone card, wouldn’t take coins (though it had a coin slot), and had all sort of options to send faxes and texts, but no option on the LCD screen to actually make phone calls.

After about 5 minutes of that I gave up, since we only had 10 minutes until the train was to depart.

We made the train, and the kids dropped off to sleep fairly quickly — obviously they are already seasoned travelers!

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When we arrived at the San Pietro station in Rome, we found a phone, and tried to call Fr. Marc. No more success than before. So I quickly gave up and summoned a taxi. I showed him the address for Fr. Marc on the e-mail I had printed off, and we piled in and were off. A few minutes and EUR 6.40 later we were in front of the door for the Oblati Maria Immaculata

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Once inside we marveled at the nice grounds, the sort of quiet contemplative I should have expected, if I had known what to expect. The receptionist at the desk paged Fr. Marc for us, and we met him and others (Fr. Mauro and Sister Virginia)  and discussed our plans.

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Originally, via e-mail, we had discussed doing the Vatican in the morning and the Historic Center in the afternoon. But now that we knew we needed to leave by 4:30 via train, we decided to do the historic first, then lunch at OMI, and the Vatican after lunch.

Fr. Marc had us catch a bus to the historic center, and we walked through and around several sites. We saw the Coliseum from a distance.  Saw monuments to modern Italy, the Senate, etc.

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We walked into the Pantheon, which had quite a crowd, and got to hear a choral group singing some very wonderful religious music.  The acoustic there was good, as was the group, their music penetrated through all the chatter of the people.  They had good projection, which I discussed with Fr. Marc. He seemed to have some good understanding of musical support and projection.

But the most memorable part of our visit to the historical center was an old Roman drinking fountain. I could try to write and describe the experience, but instead I’ll offer this video explanation:

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Just click on the above photo of the fountain to go to the the video.Image

After the historic center we came back for lunch.  The OMI has a nice lunch room/cafeteria. The tables were nicely set, and one was reserved for us. We had a wonderful pasta with a basil sauce, lemon veal, mixed fried vegetables, bread, salad, a lot of fruits.

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The rest of those there wandered in and had lunch as well, as was their wont, in a very social, community-focused way. There was a family feel about it. We saw one gentleman that we had met on the bus, a student who had arrived in Rome to brush up on his Italian before starting college classes in the fall.

We learned that we were there during a summer break. Normally the OMI is its own small United Nations, with people from many of its 65 provinces from around the world eating and studying together in preparation for the various missions and ministries the OMI supports around the world.

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After lunch we took tea and coffee and went up to their rooftop on the fifth floor.  Like many people in warm climbs, the roof is a place to relax and get a cool breeze.  And the view was very nice of the city. You could see St. Peter’s and the historic center in the distance.  Good panorama.

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After lunch we took the bus to St. Peter’s Square. The line for the basilica seemed long, so we walked around the square taking in the sites available, before deciding to get in the line.  Though long, the line took only 20 minutes to get us through the security scanners.  We got to see where the Pope was announced, where he gave his audiences, all the chairs going up on the Square for the Wednesday audience coming up.

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We went in to St. Peter’s Basillica and got to see many statues, painting, the ceilings. Fr. Marc gave us a periodic running commentary about the various paintings,statues, and murals and artifacts, in our serpentine tour of the Basillica.  Image

For all the people outside in line, and for all the people in the Basillica, it didn’t really have a crowded feel.  The size and grandeur of the place gave it a presence.

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We left Fr. Marc after the Basilica, bought some gelato on our way to the station, caught our train at 4:30, and were back on the ship at 5:40. In plenty of time for the 6:30 all aboard.

We all went to the pool, where we found Kent and Carolyn, and then Isaac came by and said Mom and Dad wanted us to all got to supper at Windows at 7 p.m.

Dinner was fine, but for a couple disappointments.  Pecan Pie was on the menu, and many of us, including Sofia, ordered it.  But she got a fruit cup when it came out, because they couldn’t guarantee it was peanut free. She ended up in tears at that point, disappointment at the last moment change.  For the rest of us the disappointment was different, because it really wasn’t pecan pie,  it was pie with pecans on top.  Terribly disappointing. We think the European chef didn’t get the concept of all that corn syrup that makes up the richness of the American-style pecan pie. We discovered similar things with some other dishes on the trip — their European chefs had different ideas about traditional foods than an American would.

Now as I write, and contemplate, at the end of the day I find myself quite satisfied. I began the day with a lot of anticipation, and a little anxiety, about getting to see Rome, and especially meet Fr. Marc. The anxiety proved unfounded; the anticipation less than deserved. Meeting Fr. Marc and the others at OMI was truly the highlight I had expected it to be. The tour of Rome was fun and educational, but the lunch conversation at OMI was equally stimulating. It was refreshing talking with Fr. Marc about his calling and his Order, and their mission and lifestyle of  service.

Now to set the alarm for tomorrow morning — arrival in Naples and a train trip to Pompeii.