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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Corfu, Greece

Dear Family and Friends,

The day after visiting Montenegro, our ship docked in Corfu, Greece.  Corfu is an island off of Greece's northwest coast.  

The town of Corfu was close to where we docked.  Chuck and I spent a few hours in the old city that was all pedestrian only cobblestone streets.

Below are some pictures of our laid back visit.

The first thing we noticed is that there were a lot of leather shops.  It is interesting that the older we get the less need we have to purchase.  However, we enjoyed looking at all the  beautifully crafted leather items.

I asked this local gentleman if I could take his picture.  He looks exactly like what I have pictured in my mind of how a Greek man looks.

We were definitely in the tourist section of town.  All kinds of shops with wares to tempt the shoppers.  Below is a cute shopping bag that caught my eye.

Of course they had shops offering local goodies.  This pastry was being fried right in front of the store.  It looked so good, I had to try.  It looks so much better than it tasted.

I would have been better off with the baklava instead.

They also had a lot of shops that featured ceramics.  All of the items in this picture are pitchers.  

Below is tourist Chuck in his Chinese t-shirt and Ecuador sweater.  

We looked at the local offerings of fresh fruit.

This is a typical side street.  

More ceramics for sale.

The plaza where we stopped for lunch.  It was very charming and lunch was delicious.  

Last view of the old town of Corfu before we headed back to the ship.

Our next stop was Katakolon, Greece.  I will share about that stop in my next post.


Monday, December 3, 2018

Our Cruise Begins

Dear Family and Friends,

The four of us took the train from Rome to Civitavecchia, about a thirty minute train ride. Civitavecchia is the port city for Rome. I have one complaint about the train station there.  There are no elevators from the platforms to the underground walkway that takes you from the tracks to the station.  People, including us, were lugging their heavy suitcases down and then up the stairs to get into the station.  

It seems to me the city of Civitavecchia would add elevators, knowing that many people arrive by train to board cruise ships.  If the city is too poor to do this, then it seems that the various cruise ship lines, that use that port to begin and end their cruises, would band together and make that improvement to the train station for the convenience of their passengers.

We took a taxi from the train station to where our ship, the Holland America MS Koningsdam, was waiting.  Once we were there we got aboard with the least effort we have ever had boarding a ship.  I guess our timing was perfect, no lines anywhere.

The Koningsdam is one of Holland America's newer ships and we found that the state rooms are improved.  The bathrooms are larger and the showers are big.  Another difference is that the theater has surround seating.  No balcony.  Good viewing from most anywhere.  The theater didn't seat as many people, however, they performed three shows a night instead of two.  Chuck and I both really liked the improvements to the ship's design.

We set sail about 6:00 pm and after an early dinner, Chuck and I were in our cabin sawing logs.  

Our first port of call was Dubrovnik, Croatia.  The next day was a sea day.  This was perfect for us, we were glad to have the much needed down day after the previous two weeks of non-stop touring.

During the night I came down with a stomach virus.  I called the desk and they sent up the ship doctor.  He gave me medicine and also quarantined me to my cabin for the next 24 hours.

Since I could not leave my cabin, I could not go ashore in Dubrovnik.  It was a bummer, but to be honest, I didn't feel much like walking the old city of Dubrovnik anyway.  Luckily, Chuck was not quarantined and he was able to go ashore.  That evening, I was feeling much better and the quarantine was lifted.  

Our next port of call was Kotor, Montenegro.  I woke up feeling great and eager to get off the ship.  

Here is Chuck standing in front of the welcome to Montenegro sign.

Kotor is on a bay so we decided to begin our trip with this tour bus that took us around the bay to the other side.

Even though it was an overcast day, the sights were lovely.

This is a man made island in the Bay of Kotor.  It has a church, Our Lady of the Rocks, built on it.

I don't know the name of this church, but it is lovely, sitting right on the bay.

Below are the domes of a Serbian Orthodox Church.

After our tour around the bay, we ventured into the old town of Kotor.  The fountain below is located just outside the walls of the old town.

Once inside the stone walls of the city, the first church we saw was St. Tryphon Cathedral, which dates back to 1166.

We wondered through the streets of old Kotor.  They wind so much that one could get lost.  There were many nice plazas like the one below.

And there were many tunnels.

Another plaza.  Notice the wash drying on the balcony of the building.

It was at this plaza we noticed steps going up.  We decided to climb them and see where they went.  After climbing up, up, up, we met some people coming down.  We asked them how far to the top and they said about 45 more minutes.  Whoa, not for me.  

We did climb a little further and I was able to get these shots of the bay.

If you look closely in this picture, you can see our ship in the bay.

Kotor has a large population of cats that have become a symbol of the city.  They city has several cat stores and a cat museum, as well as the Cat's Square.  Water and food is left throughout the city for the cats to feed on, and cardboard boxes are often arranged to be a place for the cats to sleep in.

After touring the old city, Chuck and I found a wonderful little restaurant on the bay.

Chuck scored with a nice size bowl of mussels.

As we were going back to the dock to get back to our ship, I saw a tourist saying goodbye to one of the cats of Kotor.  

We had a great day there.  I was full of gratitude that I was healthy enough to enjoy it.  

Our next stop was Corfu, Greece.  I will share about it next time.


Sunday, December 2, 2018

Quick trip to Rome.

Dear Friends and Family,

I took a week off from posting.  Just needed to take a break.  There is no better place to take a break than being at home here in Cuenca. Getting some dental work behind me has helped to put me in a better mood for posting.

After two great weeks in Verona, taking day trips to other places in northern Italy, it was time to move on.

We left Verona a couple of days before we were to embark on our cruise.  The ship left out of Civitavecchia, which is the cruise port for Rome.  

We left Verona a little early because Jim had never been to Rome.  We spent a couple of nights in Rome before going to the port to get on our cruise ship.

To be honest, by now I was ready to get on the ship so I could have a little down time.  There is a lot to see and do in Rome and to be quite honest, we were all needing some down time.  We decided our best option was to see Rome sitting on top of a tour bus rather than on foot.

This was the third trip to Rome for Chuck and I so we felt quite comfortable just taking a sight seeing bus to see the highlights of Rome. It seemed to meet Audrey's and Jim's approval also.

Most of the pictures I have to share with you were taken from the top of the moving bus.  Not the best advantage point but yet some photos came out pretty good.

After boarding the bus, the first sight we passed is one of the most famous sites in Rome....the colosseum.  The colosseum was constructed between the years 72 and 80 AD.  It has suffered some damage from earth quakes and stone robbers, but has held up remarkably well to be 2,000 years old. It is one of the new 7 wonders of the world.

Tourists were visiting it by the thousands.  When we were here before, there were tourists but it was nothing like this.  So many more people are traveling now.  

Of course the vendors love the crowds.  

Next to the colosseum stands the Arch of Constantine.  It was constructed between 312 and 315 AD.  As many monuments of the world are, this one was constructed to honor a military victory.

To the left of this arch lies the Palatine Hill.  The Palatine Hill is the center-most of the Seven Hills of Rome.  The significance of Palatine Hill is that it was here that Rome was founded under the direction of Romulus.  It is the site of the Lupercal Cave where folklore says the twins Romulus and Remus were found by the she-wolf Lupa and raised by her.

In later years, the hill became a residential district attracting the nobility.  The nobility believed that the air was cleaner at the top of the hill, and they were less likely to catch the diseases of of the poorer classes at the bottom.

This is the entrance to Palatine Hill.  

Another photo of some of the ruins of Palatine Hill that over looks Circus Maximus.

I took this picture from the tour bus.  Not sure what the building is, but it is part of Palatine Hill.  

As our tour bus made its way through Rome, we passed this familiar site.  Altare della Patria (Alter to the Fatherland).  It is one of the newer sites of Rome.  Construction began in 1885, it was inaugurated in 1911 and fully completed in 1935.

With the rise of Fascism in 1922, it became the site of military parades of the regime headed by Mussolini.  The monument, largest in Rome, has been controversial since its construction destroyed Medieval homes.

Some of the locals kiddingly refer to it as the "wedding cake," "dentures," or "the typewriter."

Nearby is the church, Santa Maria di Loreto, a 16th century church. 

Here is a picture of an ancient Roman obelisk as well as Chuck's hat.  Behind the obelisk is the church, Santa Maria Maggiore. 

This is a picture of the Moses Fountain.  This fountain was built in 1585 to celebrate the completion of an aqueduct.  Moses is in the center and is striking a rock from which water is flowing.

Below is a picture of the Supreme Court of Italy.  Built between 1888 and 1910.  This picture is of the front of the building.

Here it is from the back.  I thought it was an impressive building.

The closest we got to the Vatican was this bridge where I captured the dome of St. Peter's Basilica in the distance.

This is just a random shot of Rome from the top of the tour bus.

This picture is from the front of a calendar for sale in a tourist shop.  The calendar has pictures of cats in Rome.  Didn't buy the calendar, but glad I got the picture.

The only place we got off the tour bus was a nice restaurant we saw.  We had a lovely lunch together and then finished our tour.

Before we knew it, it was time to leave Rome.  Here we are waiting for our train that took us to the port.  Cruise time here we come.

I will share about our cruise ports on future posts.