USA Day 01

We’ll, I’m back for a brief trip with family to Orlando Florida to visit with Laura during her stint at Disneyworld.
Packing went sort of OK but I really finished it this morning.
Got up at 6 and started packing at 7. Brother Robert arrived on cue to drive us in and we had a fairly smooth passage through departures and are now comfortably seated in a food court with a two hour wait till flying time.
Erin and Lachlan are doing well although a little edgy and Ali is a paragon of efficient direction.

The flight to Orlanda was pretty good. Lachy and Erin had seats next to the middle exit door and we were immediately behindthem on the window so Ali could stretch out as there was a gap between Lachys seat and the door. I got a free coke but that was about it. 

We landed about 9.30, picked up our luggage and boarded the Disney shuttle. The trip was 45 minutes with Saratoga Springs the last stop. I snapped a shot of the magic Kingdom sign just in time as we went past in the bus. It was near 11.30 by the time we made it to our room. Strangely not tired, we stayed up chatting with Laura till about 2am. Laura looks incredible and so full of energy. We slept well into the afternoon of the next day. 

Day 02

Up showered and dressed we wandered over to the Turf Club. Saratoga Springs has a style that reminds me of classic American movies about horses except there is an absence of the usual aroma. There was some twenties Musial on offer and a very casual atmosphere. We took the ferry boat to Downtown  which is a Disney, open to the public, shopping and eating district that also has a balloon ride, Circe de Soliel and movie theatres. We went for a stroll through the shops prior to eating. Lachy and I split off to let the girls have a shop, while we wandered through a few ourselves. Lachy began asking quiz questions which led to an extensive discussion of Metal Gear Solid. As far as I can tell, there was a boss but he was killed by another who became big boss, or just boss. Someone lost an arm. There was a guy called Snake. The technology was very advanced possibly alien but set in the sixties. One guy had a Russian sounding middle name. I’m not sure who were the goodies or if in fact anyone won. We waited. Lachy can read naval signal flags apparently.  

Met back up with the girls who had spent most of the time looking after sick Erin. It was getting close to Dinner. Laura had booked us into the Boathouse. We had an inside corner and not long after sitting, Erin wanted to swap because of the passing traffic. Florida is hot and muggy. I picked Salmon and a nice Californian Sauvignon Blanc.  After a nice meal we rejoined the ferry back to Saratoga Springs for a little cuppa.  

Day 03

EPCOT stands for experimental prototype community of tomorrow. We took the motor coach shuttle from Saratoga Springs and arriving about 11. Upon entry there was a big line-up at spaceship earth so we started with the art shop followed by the Coca-Cola shop where one could sample some unusual flavours from around the world……nothing unusual in Australia apparently. 
  
Day 04

Got up early to catch the shuttle to Alamo car hire. The guy totally up sold me to a Chevrolet Suburban which names the Kluger seem like a toy. I couldn’t get the satnav working but made it home anyway

Day 05

Universal

Holiday 13.

The guy at the hotel recommended the Caio Roma bus so after breakfast we headed up to the Vatican and on the way were approached by a tour guide and purchased tickets for the hop-on hop-off as well as the colosseum. First stop was the Trevi Fountain which was covered in scaffolding. They kindly put a walkway over the empty pond so one could get close to the sculptures but it was a bit of a disappointment.
Next stop was the Spanish Steps. I have to say they need a hit with the K’Archer. Lachy sat at the bottom but Ali and I climbed to the top, fought off the Indian selfy-stick hawkers and took some snaps and then grabbed Lachy and headed back to the bus stop where we had to wait nearly 45 minutes for the next bus during which time a dozen buses from the other companies cruise past. We decide to go straight to the colloseum given the unreliability of the service.
We had to phone to find the meeting point for the tour and it was typical Italian chaos as the tourists were herded by the guides into language groups but eventually we set off. The first stop was Constatines patched together triumphal arch and then we entered the big arena. The guide was kinda funny making what he thought was amusing comments and waiting expectantly for a reaction which he mostly didn’t get. The structure is amazing and even in its ruinous state, it’s possible to imagine the grandeur of it in its day. I asked about the pattern of holes in the walls and it turns out they held metal clips which held on all the marble cladding which has been recycled over the years into other projects.
When we exited, I was expecting we would enter the Palatine Hill but for the extra 6 euro what we got was a running commentary from outside the fence which was fair enough for the money. We ended in the town square and headed straight for the bus which thankfully didn’t take too long, although it was a surprise to hear from the conductor that this was the last bus as we were told the service would run for another 90 minutes, not that you would see much in the dark. We headed back to St Peters with the intention of going inside but Lachy dug his rather sore heels in so a trattoria was found and the beast fed. The restaurant was staffed by Indians and the meal was Ok but the atmosphere was more Goa than Rome.
Back at the hotel we picked up the Vatican Museum tickets for tomorrow and headed to bed.
Movie not withstanding.
JJ.

Holiday 12.

Up at 7 for a shower and I managed to get Lachy down to breakfast by 8.20. They had some scrambled eggs and tiny cooked cabanossi. The machine cappuchino was respectable and they even had some rice cakes. Lachy was able to enjoy a croissant and Ali had some cereal and fruit.
We went back to the room and packed our bags, checked out, stored the luggage and then began exploring. First stop was the Ponte Vecchio. Lots of tourists and expensive jewellery.
We wandered up to the Uffuzi but the line would have been 300 metres long and it wasn’t even open yet.
Instead we lined up for tickets to The Palazzo Vecchio. We wandered through the rooms used by the Medicis to govern Florence. There was extensive mural painting as well as paintings, statuary and some interesting pieces of furniture. The main hall was massive and could have held thousands.
Lachy was getting restless so we stopped for lunch at the Il David restaurant for pizza, gnocchi, chips, coke and beer.
We then wandered through the market stalls and streets up to the Duomo which Lachy hadn’t seen and then beyond to a whole street of market stalls eventually ending up near the railway station.
Everywhere you go there are African and Indian hawkers trying to sell you crap. I found it really detracted from what should have been an Italian experience.
It was time for coffee and afterwards, we explored Santa Maria Novella which had a nice chapel and a courtyard garden that was surrounded by priest graves.
It was getting late so we returned to the hotel and retrieved our luggage and walked back to the train station, arriving a good hour before the train.
The station was absolutely packed with people and we had to wait until 10 minutes before the train arrived before they indicated the platform.
I spotted the change and we headed down to platform 11 and soon the train pulled in.
On we hopped and settled on for the 90 minute ride to Rome Termini.
The train pulled out and proceeded to speed up. Darkness fell quickly and we were soon hurtling along at 249 kph.
It took 90 minutes to get to Rome and a terrifying 20 minute can ride had us at the Hotel Tango. The room had a bathroom and sitting room downstairs and a mezzanine bedroom. Lachy’s bed was the settee downstairs. We had some snacks with us from the trip and were bushed after a big day so it was bed time in preparation for exploring tomorrow.
JJ

Holiday 11.

So many people eating breakfast at 6 that we had to eat outside. We were ready on time and descended to level 1 and were amongst the first to exit. The people mover hadn’t started yet so we hoofed it all the way to the station.
Found a seat and had some decent coffee. We were well early for the train and managed more coffee and a nestle peach tea for Lachy. The platform number flashed up about 15 minutes before departure and off we went. The tickets were marked economy but when we got to the train it turned out to be first class, a very nice way to travel.
Complimentary drinks and snacks and plenty of luggage storage and only three seats across.
The train hit 217 kph in the first stretch. Why don’t we have these trains in Australia?
We were a little late into Bologna but on the next leg, the trip was mostly in tunnels with the occasional glimpse of mountain scenery as we burst from one and plunged into the next. At one point I saw 257 kph on the screen.
The train pulled into Florence about 11.35 so we grabbed a cab to the hotel.
The entry was a big set of wooden doors with a buzzer. Inside it was up the stairs and lift to the second floor for reception and disappointment.
Despite having a confirmed booking there is no room for us. Some confusion over another Jones guest.
The receptionist was aghast and ushered us into the lounge while she sorted another hotel.
This was done and the room would be ready shortly so we headed out to a rather extravagant lunch.
I had risotto, fish, chianti. Lachy had spaghetti and the fish while Ali had steak and chips florentine style. The place was empty at 1 but absolutely packed at 2 when we left.
We returned and grabbed our bags. The hotel paid for a taxi to take us over the river and we were soon in our new arrangements that although not beautiful was a perfectly acceptable multi room suite and 50 euro cheaper than the plush one.
Lachy was bushed by this time, so Ali and I headed up to the Duomo and joined the line for the cathedral. We were inside fairly quickly. This was another different experience, not as beautiful as Burgos but very open and airy with massive columns and modest decoration on the inside.
The exterior is clad in exquisite green white and red marble. We then joined the queue for Giottos Bell Tower. You can climb the very narrow staircase in stages as there are platforms every 100 steps or thereabouts. At the third stage, the bells started ringing and the noise was exceptionally loud. I could feel the vibrations in my chest. Even after 414 steps you still don’t get as high as the Duomo. It was very crowded at the top but what a view.
When I made the exit, at the top step I raised my hand in a victory cheer which raised a bit of mirth in the crowd waiting to get in.
Now it was dark so we headed off to search out the Accademia and the statue of David.
We were there after 5 minutes walk and 40 minutes before closing. Inside, we entered a gallery on the left and at the end was David. The shock is it’s about 2 or threes times larger than life size. The caption says after viewing this statue, there’s no need to look at any others because it’s perfect and it certainly is impressive. The Accademia also has an extensive collection of early religious art in addition the the sculpture.
It was time to head back and grab Lachy for a simple meal after the extravagance of lunch but we ended up with another gastronomic delight accompanied by some Pinot Grigio and for Lachy, the largest glass of Coke I have ever seen. For desert Ali and I had florentine ice cream in contrasting presentations mine was white plate, black square serviette, spoon sprinkled over with cacao, Ali’s was black plate, white triangle serviette, spoon sprinkled over with icing sugar. Very elegant for a trattoria and quite delicious.
We returned to our functional if not beautiful suite and watched a 70’s music show, the only thing in English before I hit the hay.
JJ

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Holiday 10.

It’s sailing day back to Venice. Late start, nearly missing breakfast at 10.20 as they began clearing the food shortly after we were seated.
Ali and I then went to the internet lounge to check out itinerary items for the remainder if our trip, successfully licking the credit card while trying to buy some tickets.
We lunched late also as they began packing up as soon as we got there.
While watching a movie back in the suite, I noticed I had cell coverage so I rang westpac and Ali successfully got the card sorted out. The banking security assumes that you have your phone working normally while away but nobody in their right mind would run a smart phone on international roaming and data roaming as the cost could run to thousands.
The solution is to get a roaming sim which works by using VoIP to connect you to numbers in your directory. It does this by accepting your call instructions as a text then finding the number and calling you back.
We should have been a little better organised when it came to this but it seems to be sorted now.
We ate early in the dining room and stopped at the shop to pick up a watch that Ali had some links removed from and then went to the farewell show and then it was time to pack.
I managed to catch up on my blogs and post too although adding pictures is slow.
Lachy is really missing the internet so I had to let him back on for the remainder of our 24 hour purchase.
Now it was bedtime as I needed to be up at 5.30 to shower so we could breakfast at 6 and disembark at 7.30.
JJ

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Holiday 9.

Another docking and Lachy came this time. Our guide Toula gave us a running commentary on the half?-hour trip to the site. This part if Greece is quite verdant and the surrounding country was mountainous. There were olive trees everywhere and rubbish too. The ruins were cool, clean and well shaded with lots of trees. Toula took us around and explained the purpose of the larger structures although little remains with carved limestone scattered everywhere. Most impressive was the temple of Zeus where they had reconstructed one of the columns which was massive. Toula took us to the stadium and then we had about half an hour of free time before the museum tour, wandering back up through the ruins and trying to imagine what it was like. The museum tour was interesting from the point of view that Toula reflected on how much more skilled the Greek sculptors were that the Romans that followed and I agree. Next was a short bus ride to the obligatory shopping.
We then had an ice cream treat before joining the bus back to port. I think Lachy really enjoyed the day and it brings to a close our shore excursions.
Back on the boat I answered a knock on the door and it was Doug, the guy from the Santorini queue, returning the 5 euro with a nice note.
We went fine dining at 6.30 and then watched a singing quartet in the Centrum doing show tunes before heading into the theatre for the evening show. The Centrum performers had real voices.
Tomorrow is a sailing day before arriving back at Venice Saturday morning.
JJ

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Holiday 8.

Wow! Santorini looks spectacular perched way up on top of the cliffs. There were two other cruise ships anchored alongside ours. This tour was by tender, although not our boat,s tenders but the local ones which were quite roomy.
Lachy was a bit tour-weary so we left him on the boat.
We headed over to the new port and took a bus up to the top where our guide Penny showed us to a winery. The view was spectacular and Ali quite liked the bottle of sweet wine so we bought one. Because of the climate and geology, the vines are trained into a basket-like circle close to the ground. This is so the leaves can absorb moisture rising from the ground and so the leaves and branches on the outside protect the fruit on the inside from harsh winds.
Then our tour went to the other end if the island to the village of Oie.
We had free time so we wandered the narrow streets to the old Venetian fort and then headed back to the other side where we bought spanakopita and ice cream.
On the way back to the bus we also bought coke and chocolate and some sesame coated nuts.
Penny explained the Atlantis legend and the discovery of Minoan-like culture in the archeological digs but it seems there is not enough funding to really progress in this field in Greece.
When we arrived at the capital Thera where the cable car was there was a mad dash up a steep hill to the cathedral but as soon as the guide bid us farewell we went and joined the cablecar queue. Which proved to be quite long.
We got chatting to an American couple ahead of us. They were a little strange but had money changing problems so I gave them 5 euro to buy the cablecar ticket.
The ride was very steep but my seat was looking at the cliff. I’m just going on the looks on the faces opposite me.
When we were coming through security they took the alcohol off for storage. Apparently it’s returned on the last day.
Well Santorini was fascinating and spectacular and tomorrow it will be ancient Olympia.
JJ

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