Holiday 7.

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.
JJ

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Holiday 6.

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.
JJ

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Holiday 5.

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.
JJ

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Holiday 4.

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.
JJ

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Holiday 3.

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.
JJ

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Holiday 2.

Arising leisurely at 9, I showered and while Ali did likewise, I went down and got coffee. We had the gear for bacon and eggs and stirred the beast with the lovely aroma and sound of the sizzle.
We decided to leave Lachy and headed out for a stroll up La Rambla. Consulting one if the many lamppost maps we eventually found our way to the Picasso museum in a tiny side street and lined up for tickets along with a great many others. It didn’t take too long before we were wandering through the gallery.
The gallery exhibited some photos from a photo journalist that had befriended Picasso who was particularly moved by his pictures from the civil war.
There were paintings from Picasso’s earliest training right through his career. I particularly like a series on the pigeons in his dovecote and the obvious influence of the French impressionists but I thought the exhibition lacked a signature piece to anchor it.
The most striking painting was of the female dwarf which looked a bit scary.
Afterwards we had some tapas at the street side cafe opposite the apartment and then veged till dinner.
Instead of going for dinner I picked up some pizzas downstairs and we watched telly, a bit of a treat for me after 5 weeks without.
That was a bit of a cop-out but after the stress of the Camino it was nice to just relax at home so to speak.
Tomorrow we will go on the sightseeing tour.
JJ

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Holiday 1.

The alarm sounded at 8.09. I was already awake using Ali’s phone. I don’t have to walk. We get up and Ali heads to the shower as I had one last night. Lachy is in a blissful state of inertia.
We head down to breakfast leaving the inertia alone.
I put together a ham and cheese roll for Lachy and have coffee, juice, fruit, yoghurt and a little tortilla for me. Ali adds toast. It’s nice not being hurried out the door before dawn.
After feeding the beast we exit the cave and go shopping.
The old town has these very narrow alleys board erred by multi-story narrow buildings that often have roller shutters, so that the street looks completely different when shops are open versus closed.
This morning is quieter than Monday. We browse a few shops looking for a signature piece to remind us of the experience.
There’s a Galacian artist that produces cats in a picassoesque style so given we came across so many gatos in the last week we purchase.
Back at the room it’s rousting out Lachy and heading to the check-out.
We leave our bags and head into the monastery’s church to pay for a look. The monastery was a teaching university and as well as the ornate alter pieces, chapels and choirs we also saw taxidermy including an echidna, scientific equipment and an extensive pharmacy dedicated to caring for arriving pilgrims.
There was also an extensive set of printing blocks for producing illustrated books.
We stopped for a final coffee and cake and then it was back to the hotel to collect bags and book a taxi to the airport.
There isn’t anything thrilling about waiting for planes.
We were there in plenty of time and the flight to Barcelona went quickly.
Grabbed a cab and headed into town. The first thing you notice is a huge castle like structure dominating the hill on the left side of the motorway but as I got nearer it became apparent that it was a cemetery. The driver was a bit to keep to join them.
The apartment was fantastic. It was close to the port end of La Rambla. We settled in and went down to shop at the little supermarket and Ali made a nice home-cooked meal and we watched a little TV. Lachy was in veg state and draped himself all over the couches. It was a beautifully laid out apartment with two bedrooms two bathrooms a full kitchen and a washing machine so after a bit of fiddling we started pumping some loads through. Soon it was bedtime and we had two days of beautiful Barcelona ahead if us.
JJ

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