Home Again

We arrived home on Wednesday after arriving in the USA on Sunday afternoon.  We spent the first night back with Aunt Max in Centennial, CO.  We certainly appreciated her being close by and taxiing us back and forth to the airport.  Neither one of us could make it awake past 7:15 that night.  Not only did we have 8 hours difference in time, but Greece had started daylight savings time the morning we left and we’d just lost an hour because we changed time zones the day before.  

On Monday we headed across town to Scott and Adrienne’s house in Golden.  They were between birthdays so we got to help them celebrate.  And Sylvia happened to be on spring break from kindergarten, so we got to bring her home with us.  Simon is still just a little too young to come home with us.  We’ll give him another couple of months!

Tuesday morning we headed down I-25 to avoid snow in the mountains and to be able to stop at Lauren and Jason’s new place in Los Alamos, NM.  They’ve got a cute little cabin in the woods right next to the golf course.  After a quick visit with them we headed to Albuquerque for the night.  We stayed with Diego and Luella at the always welcoming Aragon Inn.  

Wednesday we made our way home.  All was well, and the dogs even remembered us!

Fozzie, Sylvia, and Camo

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Santorini, Greece

We arrived near Santorini, Greece today.  There is no port here, so we had to be transported by boat, or tendered, from ship to shore.  A nice little boat ride lead to another interesting bus ride up to the top of the cliffs of Santorini and along the island to one of the two main towns.  This little group of islands was formed by a volcano some 3,600 years ago.  The area where the ship anchors is an underwater caldera. The islands are made up of mostly dark lava, so when you look up to the white buildings on the top of the cliff, it looks like there’s snow at the top.  The building styles on these islands changed after an earthquake in the 1956 that wiped out nearly everything.  Our guide told us that this is a very seismic area with little shakers about every six months.  All houses are now made of cement and the roofs are domed or flat to provide more elasticity. They’re painted white because it gets so hot here in the summer.  There are lots of grapes grown on the islands and over 15 wineries.  Grape vines are made into a circle on the ground and look sort of like the grape vine wreaths you get at Hobby Lobby.  It is windy on the eastern side of the island where the ground flattens out and the grapes are grown.  They keep the vines close to the ground to protect them from the wind.  But there was no wind today.  The sun was out and the temperature was perfect.  It is Greek Independence Day today, so we could have stayed to watch the parade, but decided to go eat Greek salad and bread and olive oil instead.  We took a cable car down the cliff to get tendered out to our ship.  We’ll be leaving soon to head back to Athens and the end of the cruise…

Last day Santorini Greece
Our tender arrives
Santorini Greece, homes amongst the cliffs
She is enjoying her wine
Our cruise ship anchored in the bay of Santorini
Why is everything so white?

Athens, Greece

Anthens is the largest city that we visited on this cruise.  Like any large city it was a busy, hectic place, especially since it was a national holiday there.  We visited a fantastic archeological museum.  Our time there was just not enough to see all of the artifacts they had which dated back to centuries B.C.  Some of the city streets were blocked off for the parades that were taking place, so we spent a little more time on the bus than we usually did.  We still got to go see the Acropolis.  We found that means the highest point in the city…and it was.  The Pantheon is up there.  There are other ruins very near there that we saw, too.  There were a couple of theaters that would rival anything that’s built nowadays.  It’s interesting to see how the archeologists define who’s who and what’s what in the ruins.  We should have studied up on Greek Mythology before we came.  

Description of horse and jockey pic right below.
The Pantheon
The women of Athens.
Pantheon
A view from the acropolis
An old Greek and his bride.
Pantheon under constant construction.
 

Katakolon, Greece–Near Olympia

Today we visited the ruins of the birthplace of the Olympics.  The most amazing thing about this place though is how ancient it is.  Most of the artifacts date from centuries B.C., and they keep finding more ruins as archeologists continue to study the area.  The area that is considered the original Olympic track was only used once every four years, just like we do now.  The amount of ruins is incredible.  We watched them work on rebuilding a place where Zues was honored using a forklift. Watching the men work on that with our modern machinery made it even more wonderous to see what had been built.

Our tour was over around 1:00 in the afternoon so we headed back to the ship for some lunch.  We’ve enjoyed going to the buffet on an upper deck where we can eat outside. It’s been in the lower 70’s the last few days and there’s been lots of sunshine.  After lunch we decided to go lay on the lounge chairs that are on out on the deck by the pool as we waited to leave port.  All of the elements of a great afternoon nap were in allignment apparently because the next thing we knew we were out at sea!  BEST NAP EVER!

Ruins at Olympia Greece
After crossing the finish line in the background
In front of the judges box (thumbs down)
The Finish Line in the stadium.
The high priestess. Only woman who is allowed to witness the games.
Ceremonial building in Olympia
Gymnasium for the athletes.
More BC ruins in Olympia.

Back to Corfu, Greece

Today we revisited Corfu, Greece.  We took a tour of the northern part of the island of Corfu by heading to the western coast of the island and following the coast around back to the city of Corfu.  Of course we didn’t just sit on a bus all day; we stopped and ate and drank several times along the way.  Needless to say, the views were spectacular.  The sea water here is a beautiful turquoise color and very clear and clean.  There are few sandy beaches.  The island is very rugged and covered with some citrus, but mostly olive trees.  

Our first stop was at an old monastery located on a hilltop high above the ocean.  It is an Orthodox monastery that still functions.  It was a lovely little place with pretty gardens and a variety of animals. We visited the church there.  It was small, but had amazing art work.  

Next we stopped at a hilltop restaurant that had a breathtaking view down to the sea.  We had to try the local ginger beer and baklava. Ginger beer is not beer.  It’s made with ginger and the local lemons, which are huge, and carbonated water and sugar.  It is very effervescent and spills all over the table not only when you open the bottle, but also when you pour it too quickly into your glass.  It was pretty good.  

Our third stop was at a tavern/restaurant on the northern coast of the island for lunch.  We had a typical Greek meal with a cucumber and tomato salad and moussaka for starters.  Then we had a piece of beef on pasta with a tomato based sauce that did not taste like marinara sauce.  It had cloves and nutmeg in it to change the flavor a bit.  Wine was served with the food.  For desert we had fresh fruit and coffee.  Thank goodness for the coffee or we never would have been able to stay awake for the rest of the ride.

Our last stop before getting back to Corfu was a lookout point across the Corfu Channel.  Across the channel is Albania.  It was a mile or two across the channel where we stopped, so it’s almost like we’ve been to Albania now!

We took a short walking tour of the old town of Corfu when we got back into town.  Several of the places we’d seen when we were here before.  We’ve been so many places on this trip that it was kind of nice to look at something again!  This city has a big promenade with a large grassy area where the locals play cricket.  Large grassy areas were not generally a feature in most of the ancient cities we’ve seen lately.  It was added when the British were in charge here.

Our ship left for the next port in the afternoon, so we had time for a nice dinner with the friends we’ve gotten to know on the cruise.

Olive trees cover the island. Some are up to 2,000 years old. Net is used to collect fallen olives.
Bells of the monastery.
This island comes right out of the ocean. Houses were built on the hills to protect from pirates. It makes for beautiful views.
Actual picture of the clearance our bus had getting through a town.
Enjoying some ginger beer and baklava.
Albania across the bay.

Kotor, Montenegro

Today we sailed through a beautiful fjord coming into Kotor, Montenegro.  Steep limestone mountains jutted out of the sea 1,000s of feet on each side of the ship.  It was exhilarating to see.  Our tour today was a walking tour of the old town, which was walled and full of churches.  It was also full of cats.  Apparently cats were brought in at some time in the past to control the rodent population.  You see them and many cat crafts and souvenirs everywhere.  The people  of the town have an affectionate relationship with their feral cats.  During our tour the guide mentioned several times that the climb on the city wall was worth the effort.  The walls of the city are about three miles long climbing up to the top of the mountains above Kotor.  Since we had much food and little activity yesterday we were determined to make the hike.  After ascending nearly 1000 feet we were rewarded with breathtaking views of the Kotor harbor and our ship sitting far below us.  The walk was rewarding, but our feet and knees were happy when we got back to the ship, which was docked just steps from the gate to the old city.  We enjoyed lunch outdoors up on one of the top decks of the ship and got ready to leave Kotor in the early afternoon.  

Rick and Kim at the top of their climb, 1000 ft above their ship in the background.

Taking a break during the climb.

Dubrovnik Again

Because our cruise was a double (we didn’t know it at the time we booked) we are revisiting a couple of ports.  Luckily they are two of our favorites.  Upon our revisit to Dubrovnik, Croatia we chose to go on a different tour.  It was called “Dalmatian Coast Wine & Food Tasting”.  If we would have known exactly what it was, we would have skipped breakfast.   We boarded a bus around 9:00 am and by 9:30 we were at our first stop eating and drinking.  We did get a demonstration on how they used to press the oil out of the olives, complete with a little horse pulling the press wheels around and around. Long day for a horse going nowhere. After we were fed wines, olives, cheeses, and always great bread with fresh olive oil. We will use olive oil for our bread a lot more often after this trip. Like the troopers that we are we partook and partook heartedly.  We reboarded the bus and traveled through miles of vineyards to a winery.  Many of the vines are so old that they are not grown on trellises anymore.  We were treated to wine and cheese at this stop. Back on the bus again we drove by a small cove that was full of oyster farms.  We stopped at a nearby village and boarded a little boat.  More wine and this time candied lemon and orange rinds and almonds.  We went out to a little platform in the cove where two men pulled some stings of oysters out of the cove and shucked them for us.  Even if you don’t like raw oysters, after a little squeeze of lemon, these were exceptional. So then back to shore to a restaurant in the little town for lunch!  We had a three course lunch of the local cuisine which included a desert made of macaroni.  Then back on the bus for a ride along the coast back to the ship.  It was pretty hard to stay awake the entire trip back.

When we got back to Dubrovnik we took a taxi over to the old part of the town.  We needed to spend the last of our Kuna, the local currency.  We had been told that no one but Croatians want Kuna.  Not even a bank.  It was amazing how many things you can find that are a little more Kuna than what you have or not worth the ones you do have!  Our shuttle bus driver back to the ship ended up with a tip.

Our host and his olive oil press with his pretty pony.
The olive press
Garden behind the olive press building
One of the many walled cities
Vineyard as far as the eye can see
Vineyard product
Restaurant where we ate lunch
Fresh! Oysters from a beautiful clean sea lemon juice only.