"" Writer's Wanderings: October 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Monaco--Monte Carlo

One of our favorite ports on our Mediterranean cruise was Monte Carlo. Maybe because a girl can dream. The wealth kind of oozes here. It is seen in the cars, in the homes, in the buildings and gardens. And then of course there's the fairy tale story of Grace Kelly who came here to film a movie and ended up a real life princess.

Monaco is the second smallest country in the world--right behind the Vatican which is considered the smallest. It's coastline is 2.5 miles long and the country covers 485 acres (100 of which have been reclaimed from the sea). It borders France and the first part of our tour actually took us up to a vantage point in France that overlooks the city of Monte Carlo. The yachts looked big even from that view.

From there we went back to city and took a walk around passing the villas of Caroline and Stephanie and stopping at the palace to see the changing of the guard. We also entered the cathedral and passed by the graves of Prince Ranier and Princess Grace.

Attention single ladies: Prince Albert is still unmarried although we were told he does have a girlfriend. There is at present no male heir to the throne through him since his children have been born out of wedlock.

While we were waiting for the changing of the guard, we watched cars lining up for a sports car rally. I think Bob had his eye on one or two.

The Monte Carlo Casino of course is the major attraction because of all its colorful history and James Bond movies of course. We did not go in. There is a cover charge of $15 just to get in and a strict dress code. The doors were not open until it was almost time for our ship to sail anyway. We did take a look at the Cafe de Paris across from the Hotel de Paris on the same square as the casino. The Cafe was built years ago before women were allowed into the casino. They got to gamble there. Guess the casino saw that as profitable and eventually let women in as well.

The gardens were beautiful, the city lovely and clean, and we'd definitely put it on our revisit list--if we could afford it.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts

Today I'm blogging at our Scrapbook blog. It's all about The Christmas Story and how it sparks childhood memories.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cavtat and Dubrovnik, Croatia

In Croatia, we visited a resort area near Dubrovnik called Cavtat. Since the season is over, the place was only crowded with cruisers from the ship. We enjoyed a nice stroll around and found the church of St. Nicholas. It was pointed out that he was the patron saint of Croatian sailors as well as being recognized as the patron saint of children.

After the morning cappucino at a little sidewalk cafe, we boarded the bus again and went back to Dubrovnik for a taste of pastry and a small cup of orange juice accompanied by a culturat program of dancing. The dancers were a volunteer group that is quite famous apparently. They have been invited to go on tour in the States. The costumes were beautiful. Some of the skirts were heavily embroidered in gold thread and it was said that their clothing was authentic from the skin out.

Afterwards we walked down the main street of the walled old city we had seen from our drive to Cavtat. Take a look at our guide holding #21. Doesn't she look like a character from a James Bond movie?

And how about this couple? We're still smiling after 40 years of marriage and two weeks together on a cruise ship. Will it last?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Olympia, Greece

While at the port of Katakolon, Greece, we took an excursion to Olympia, site of the first Olympics that took place sometime around 600-700 B.C. An earthquake tumbled quite a bit of the columns in the temples. It must have been a big one since the sections of the columns indicate they were very large and heavy.

The stadium was like a shallow bowl with grassy sides. The area where the judges sat is still there and a "tunnel" much like the entryway of football stadiums is still there.

At the temple of Hera, the Olympic torch is lit for our modern day Olympics and begins its journey from here. The fire is started with rays of the sun on a mirrored bowl. Or at least it appears that way. If you watch this video, the fire starts awfully quickly.

As I walked among the old temples, I was reminded of the scripture verses that talk of the temple of the unknown god in Athens--the one I think Paul refered to in Acts 17:22-31. Paul said God, the creator of heaven and earth, did not need a temple in which to live. Again, as in Rome, the thought played in my head, "My God is bigger than all of this."

Once we were done touring Olympia, our final stop was at the Europa Hotel's banquet room where we sampled Greek food and were entertained with lively Greek dancers. These people know how to party!

Monday, October 20, 2008

On to Santorini, Greece

Probably the most beautiful port we stopped in out of the three we visited in Greece was Santorini. Here the tenders deposited us on at the base of a steep hill with three options for getting to the little town at the top. First was the option of walking. The trek may not have been impossible but it certainly was made less desirable by the second option--donkeys.

For a few Euros you could ride a donkey up the winding steep slope. Surprisingly this was a popular mode of transportation for many. I imagine the going up wasn't nearly as scary as the coming down however as we saw donkeys slide a bit every so often. There was no one following behind with a pooper-scooper so you can imagine the path. . .
The last option seemed best to us. The funicular. We took that to the top and were one of the first to explore the little town as the shops began to open. A large part of Santorinin is just little alleyways with beautiful white washed buildings with colorful bougenvilla draping the walls.

This was a port for a relaxing (but strenuous at times) walk. After exploring, we stopped for a cappucino at a restaurant overlooking the water. A beautiful picturesque place right out of the pages of any travel brochure. The pictures could never do it justice.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Truth in Advertising

This sign was posted in a market area near Ephesus.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Kusadasi, Turkey

Kusadasi was a wonderful and pleasant surprise. It is set in beautiful countryside and appeared very clean and much less frenetic than Italian cities. Just outside Kusadasi is the ancient city of Ephesus. Our day long excursion was a wonderful inspiring and educational experience. I will have a page on my website dedicated to it when I am able to get it published. I am able to connect and post at Blogspot but for some reason cannot get my website to publish. Ah, the perils of internet technology at sea.

After our morning exploring Ephesus, we were treated to a wonderful meal at a hotel in Kusadasi. The first course was a sampling of several different vegetable salads mostly with beans and tomatoes. Then there was a small cheese filled crepe, followed by an entrĂ©e of grilled meats—chicken, beef and a meatball of sorts, and more veggies. It was all topped off with fresh fruit and baklava. I enjoyed the baklava that was not as heavy as the Greek baklava I’ve tasted. The Turks make theirs with light sweet syrup rather than a heavy honey.

After our meal, we were entertained by a troupe of dancers in native costume. The men were quite energetic and athletic doing leaps and landing on their knees then turning circles on their knees. The ladies were elegant and graceful and of course, beautifully dressed in their gold and red trimmed white gowns.

This is a Muslim nation but they do not wear the veils and follow many of the fundamentalist regulations of the religion of Islam. There were many minarets around the city and while we did not hear it, others on the ship did hear the call to worship that came over the loud speakers at the top of the minaret.

Turkey will be on our list of return trips.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts--Sicily

From the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius in Naples, our ship moved south to Messina, Sicily, the large island that looks like it’s getting kicked by the boot of Italy. We were surprised at how close together the two land masses are. Our tour in Messina took us near the top of Mt. Etna, an active volcano. The latest large eruptions were in 1992 and in 2002. There is still a small eruption going on opposite of the place we visited and is only visible at night when the glow of the small lava flow can be seen.

This lava looks very different than what we have seen in Hawaii. It has much more iron in it and appears very red. It also seems to be finer—not as heavy as the lava flows look near Hilo. There are several craters rather than just one large one.

The area is also known for its honey production. There was every kind of flavored honey you could imagine. We were told the flavors came from the different types of pollen the bees made their honey from but I suspect some of the flavors, like strawberry, actually had flavoring added.

Moving on to Turkey. . .

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts--being read in Tuscany!

While visiting a farm/bed and breakfast/restaurant, I took the time to peruse my copy of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts. Overlooking the valley full of grape vineyards and olive trees, I couldn’t help but think of how those symbols play such an important part of the story of God’s plan revealed in the Scriptures. God as gardener. Jesus as the vine. The branches that are to bear fruit.

As we strolled through a walled garden in the little town of San Gimignano amid silvery green olive trees ripening with their fruit, I thought of the garden where Jesus prayed in Jerusalem. There were probably olive trees there as well. I remembered the olive branch as a symbol of peace. Jesus, that little baby we celebrate at Christmas, was foretold in Isaiah to be the Prince of Peace—a peace the world little understands.

Friday, October 03, 2008

A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts--Seen at the Trevi Fountain!

While scores of people tossed coins over my head, I opened my copy of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts again, this time in front of the Trevi Fountain. The fountain is fed by the amazing system of aqueducts built in ancient Rome. Trevi Fountain was completed in 1762 by Nicola Salvi. The main figure is “Ocean” who represents water in all its forms. The water gushes from 24 spouts and disappears underground to rush toward Bernini’s Four Rivers Fountain in Piazza Navona.

Legend, or tradition, says that tossing a coin into the fountain will ensure that you will return sometime to Rome. Bob handed me a quarter but since I was the only one tossing it and it was American money, we may not make it all the way back. Still, we can say we followed tradition. I think I like the Christmas traditions in our book a little better.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts--On tour in Rome!

In the midst of the ancient ruins of the Colosseum, I stopped for a picture opportunity with my copy of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts. The huge arena is fascinating. The floor is gone but the area below it is exposed for all to see. A maze of hallways and rooms extends from one end to the other where the animals were kept until they were lifted up by elevators to the staging area for gladiators to fight. Our guide said it was quite an exotic collection including not only tigers and lions but giraffes and other exotic animals from the far reaches of the Roman Empire as a way of showing the extent of the emperor’s control.

The actual name of the arena is the Flavian Amphitheater—really two amphitheaters stuck together to make the oval. It held around 50,000 and could be shaded by an enormous canvas awning that was pulled across the top—the original domed stadium.

No mention of Christians being eaten by lions but as we entered, there was a large cross standing before us with a plaque on it. I know no Italian and there was no explanation. I can only imagine.
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