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.
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.
Today’s tour was the port of Kusadasi and the ancient ruins of Ephesus. We docked, which is a little easier than transport by tender.
Our guide Sarah had us at the ruins in no time and we would be walking down hill through the ruins to catch our bus at the bottom of the site.
There were a lot of tourists. Ephesus was a port city with defences. The port was up river from the sea and a combination of silting and earthquake damage led to its decline. It would have been a very impressive city in its day. They managed to rebuild the facade of the library which we entered and the amphitheater was huge although I didn’t climb up it as it looked a bit dangerous. After the ruins we were taken to a roman theme park tourist shop where a Turkish lunch of generous dimensions was provided. Outside there was a roman re-enactment of Caesar and Cleopatra complete with gladiator fight all designed to soften you up for the wares inside.
Then it was a trip out to the country to the village of Sirinc, supposedly a pretty village which I suppose it was although it was just more tourist shopping and then finally on to the obligatory carpet sale, very well done, but all I can think of is what the cats would do to such beautiful objects.
As we were wandering out a salesman with an Aussie accent asked Alison where she was from and when she said Aus he said “but you sound English” so Al returned the question and it turns out he used to live in Wollongong, practically next door.
Today’s tour was a long one but I did enjoy the ruins and the lunch was spot-on.
Finally it was back to the bus, on to the ship and Santorini tomorrow.
Our room breakfast arrived after 8. I was up and dressed early and could see coastline ahead of the boat as we are on the port rear of the boat.
We had to assemble in the theatre for our tour which started at 10.45.
The bus took us down the coast a bit to a lookout that overlooked the old walled city. There was an interesting story about the cursed island opposite which was a monastery but when Maximillian expelled the monks they burned candles and carried them upside down around the island dropping wax. According to legend anyone who enjoyed the island too much would die of unnatural causes.
We bussed down to the northern gate and our guide Barbara took us through the city which was for the aristocrats who had wealth to protect. Other city-states like Venice would attack from time to time but the defences and spying and diplomacy would be used to avoid trouble. The streets were worn smooth from all the foot traffic and the buildings rarely had balconies because they fall and kill during earthquakes. The buildings are built of limestone which looks white when it’s cleaned.After the tour finished, we had lunch at a local restaurant and then went exploring. We found the hole in the wall that led to a cliff side cafe that Bill and Jim had described to me. That was the place to sit and watch the sunset but we would have to be back on the boat before then.
We continued around the perimeter wandering the narrow streets and negotiating the stairs till we arrived back at the Main Street where Ali went shopping. Lachy and I amused ourselves outside.
Soon it was time to head back to the bus so we crossed the drawbridge and waited at the assembly area before boarding the bus and then it was back on board.
I liked Dubrovnik although I didn’t recognise any sites from Game of Throne’s Kings Landing.
Breakfast was served in our room at 8, so I was up at 6.30 for a shower and getting things sorted.
Breakfast arrived on the dot with juice, coffee and hot chocolate, pastries, fruit, toast and preserves.
I couldn’t eat it all.
We packed everything up and checked out, leaving the bags to be picked up later. First stop was the ferry wharf to get a ride to St Marks Square. It was quite a wait and by the time we got on board, half the morning had passed. The ferry was packed but I pushed into the centre where it wasn’t so and by the Rialto Bridge a lot of people got off and we even had seats.
At St Marks, the crowds were extensive. We wandered into the square and saw the long lines for tickets to the attractions and abandoned all hope. Water was bubbling up in the square and Lachy wandered into one puddle that nearly covered his boots. I wanted to check out the prices for coffee. Seated in the square, a coffee was 11euro while only 1.10 at the bar. We paid 28 aud for a pot of tea and two cups 23 years ago so prices seem to have dropped given the passage of time.
We wandered around the shops, bought some ice cream and took some photos.
The next plan was to walk back to the hotel. Lots of window shopping but the crowds were unbelievable. The other strange thing was all the Indian and African hawkers trying to flog stuff in the street making it seem more Morrocco or Goa than Venice.
We got back close to the Rialto Bridge and then followed the map to link up with our hotel.
Just short of the hotel Lachy was getting a bit grumpy so a quick stop was required for coffee and fanta.
We hit the hotel, grappled the bags and headed for the boat. It was tough going with the suitcase and tote bag and when we were near the station I asked Ali to stop for a break whereupon a porter appeared and offered to carry all the bags for 10 euro. Sold! And unburdened, I could barely keep up with him.
Soon we were at the people mover or cable train which gets us into the port and then it was another 500 metre walk to the departure hall.
We signed in, got through security and boarded, heading strait to the room, which is fantastic, being 1.8 metres wider that our pacific cruise.
We went to get a coffee and cake which was a shocker, and no gluten free treat either. No more paying separately for coffee for us.
Our dining time option was 8.45. We unpacked and watched a bit of telly while checking out the view from the balcony.
The boat departed at 6 and Ali and I made our way to the rear so we could get a nice view of Venice on the way out. The sight of these massive cruise ships gliding down beside Venice is bizarre as they tower over the surrounding buildings. It took quite a while to move out of Venice and after passing St Marks Square the crowds on deck thinned out. We descended to the small rear deck on level 9 to watch the sunset. There was a German mum with her young son in a check trilby and his new camera clicking away. It was a little bit of Augustus Gloop.
The sun set before we got out of Venice and then it started getting dark as the boat picked up speed.
Back to the cabin for a little telly and then going to the welcome show and then heading down to The King and I (Dining room) for our 8.45 booking to be looked after by Thomas and waitress Letitia.
The meal was served promptly with fish rilettes, salmon and a creme brûlée for me. I can’t remember the others.
It was pretty much off to bed after dinner, looking forward to our first stop tomorrow in Dubrovnik.
The cab was ready for us but when we got to the airport, the flight had been cancelled. Disaster!
There was a general strike in Italy and the only arrangement was a flight the next day that didn’t arrive till after boarding time.
We were at the head of the line which had quadrupled by the time options were being discussed.
Pressure was on to make a decision and as we discussed options I noticed that Zurich was the closest airport to Italy and I was pretty sure there was a train from there to Milan so we changed out tickets to Zurich and we were in the air a little after 7.
We flew over the snow covered Alps and descended through the clouds to a green postcard picture landscape of pointy roofed houses and green carpet wandering cows to cruise to a stop at the terminal in Zurich, Switzerland.
We flapped around the airport looking for flights but the cost would have been 650 euro each so I went to the rail office and we purchased tickets for 480 aud. for all of us. Because Lachy was 15, he got a free rail pass for Switzerland which he can use anytime up till 28 January 2015.
We went down to the station and boarded the train to Zurich Bahn Hoff where we changed to the Milan train. We had a 45 minute wait in the chilly morning air. The train rolled in and on we hopped, having two window seats and an aisle facing each other with a little table between.
The train pulled out and travelled through the outer suburbs and into the picturesque countryside.
We meandered along the base of a deeply gouged glacial valley often with a lake beside and towering snow-capped mountains all around. It looked like one of those model railway sets, so beautiful and picturesque. I just wish I had thought to wash the outside of the window before we left.
The journey to Milan was four and a half hours with most of it in Switzerland as you don’t cross the border till you get close to Como. I can see why so many celebrities flock to Lake Como as it was also very beautiful. A young girl joined our foursome at Como. When she sat down, she plugged in her laptop. I wish I had known the plugs were there as I ran out of battery on the camera.
At Milan it was a shift of two platforms to the Venice Train which seemed overbooked. There were people occupying others seats and a lot of shifting went on once places were challenged. I spent most of the journey sitting opposite my seat. Eventually the true owner of the one I was sitting in turned up and I had to oust the occupier of my seat.
There was a rather too-friendly young Iranian truck driver sitting next to me who asked lots of question in very broken English much to the bemusement of the very fashionable middle-aged Italian couple opposite.
The countryside from Milan to Venice wasn’t as interesting although I caught a glimpse of an old arch bridge passing Verona.
It was getting dark as we approached Venice and was fully dark by the time we left the train.
First order of business was a map so I set out and bought one for 3 euro.
Once we got our bearings we lugged the baggage through the streets to the hotel which was just a doorway between shops. I buzzed and the door clicked with the hostess descending the stairs as we entered.
Formalities performed, our room was the first one overlooking the street and we plonked our stuff down, thankfully to finally be in Venice after a hectic day of high drama and seemingly endless travel.
The room was gorgeous, very Venetian with chandelier, cut glass mirror, drapes and painted furniture. The room had a double, a single and a dining table and chairs so was quite roomy with a good bathroom.
First order of business was dinner and the hostess recommended a restaurant across the street. It was fully booked, but I asked about the empty tables out front and we were soon seated and ordering. Ali had scampi pasta while Lachy tucked into gnocchi with meat sauce and I had a calamari and scampi dish.
Ali and I went out exploring after dinner while Lachy relaxed in his Venetian boudoir.
Some shops had already shut and I was having trouble keeping my eyes open. Thankfully we made it back for a well earned sleep.
We got Lachy up and were at the bus stop buying tickets by 9.30. There are three lines on the hop-on, hop-off service and we started on red which took us up to Catalunya square to the accompaniment of a whistling bird commentary by the voice-over guy for all the cathedrals and Vueling Airlines too.
We crossed the square and joined the blue line to our first destination, the Sagrada Familia. When we arrived we discovered a large queue. The second shock is the queue was for the 1.30 opening and it was only 11.15.
There was a Scottish couple in the queue ahead that we had a long conversation with, but I forgot about Lachy who was quite bored by the time we paid, so we wandered over the road for a long Maccas lunch to try and calm the beast. We hit the site shop at about 1 and as soon as it turned 1.30 passed into the basilica.
Wow, what an absolutely spectacular structure. I felt I was in some sort of futuristic sci-fi set. It is the most unusual church I have ever seen and I thought quite beautiful.
After lots of looking and pictures it was back on the bus to Park Guell.
It was a bit of a walk up the hill and when we got there it was another problem getting into the display area. Tickets for the 5pm slot which was too late for us. We had an expensive snack and then wandered back to the bus to complete the blue line back at Catalunya Square. We went into Le Cort Englaise and shopped for some pants for me, then up to the cafeteria for afternoon tea accompanied by spectacular city skyline views and then it was back to complete the red line circuit which completed in the cold windy dark. It dropped us back close to the apartment and we immediately found a port-side restaurant for some splash-up nosh to finish off our Barcelona experience.
Back to the apartment to pack and be ready for the taxi at 5 am.