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Long Standing Communities

January 26th, 2015 No comments

1) Weirds: Apparently the new must have item for the well appointed tourist is the selfie-stick. We were approached by not one or two vendors of same along our route to the Coliseum yesterday but literally dozens of hucksters all with variations of the same. Unlike some of the other tourist gear- it seems that anyone not with one in their hand was fair game.
There I am, with my Canon 5D Mark III. It is not a small camera. Obviously I am not taking pictures with my phone. They STILL try to sell me one. After saying NO in several different languages I quit saying anything at all. When approached, as his mouth opens I just raise my camera and an eyebrow or two, then shake my head. They back off. Not completely stupid…

After stoping at the Pantheon (which I kept mispronouncing, adding an “r’ or so and ignoring the response of “not here, that is Athens” and in any case doesn’t have anything more to do with gods/goddesses since being taken over by the Catholics ?14? Centuries ago…) George and I walked toward the old Jewish Ghetto area. Clearly labeled (mostly by all the Restaurants with various versions of Kosher, Ghetto etc in their names). As it turns out, once the restrictions on where Jews could live were lifted, most moved out. Today, given the location in the city, only the extremely poor who couldn’t afford to leave and the very wealthy who can afford to move back are in the area.

The main Synagogue is here along with an extremely well presented museum. Current estimates (most likely formed from the rolls of those who have paid membership in the Jewish Community of Rome) is that the population is ~ 13,500 about 4,000 are from Libya. The community itself is one of the oldest of the diaspora and dates back more than two thousand years. The history is long and complicated depending on the Romans/Christians/governments/Popes/Crusades/etc of the time. For example: 1492 when the Inquisition hit Spain, Jews fled and were welcomed in Rome where the Spanish origin Pope….

None of it makes sense, but then issues of prejudice, persecution and fear never do. The community survived WWII in spite of the Nazis taking over the Italian government in Sept 1943 although not without serious deportations and deaths in concentration camps. Like everywhere else, there were heroes and villains. The main synagogue is still here (minhaq is Italian and old). There are also numerous other synagogues so you can find the liturgy of your interest (Sephardic, Libyan, Askenazik, plus others). Most are still constructed along orthodox lines with separate women’s sections.

We headed toward the river and walked along it. Since we were so close we detoured to St Peters Square and the Basilica. I looked in the shops (rosaries, books, icons, statues, paintings…). The Church is not dumb – any tourist can pay for the privilege avoiding the 2-3 hour line for the cheaper Basilica entrance. So not my thing, we returned to the river, crossed back to our side and headed back to the hotel (20,601 according to the FitBit).

I now need to get logged in for my flight tomorrow. It is a long way to San Francisco via Zurich…

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Behind the Walls

January 25th, 2015 No comments

Everywhere in Rome you look there are walls. Not the simple house walls that are familiar to most Americans. Here there are freestanding, surrounding and/or part of a still existing edifice. Some are found meters below the current street level in ongoing archeological excavations. Others are simply part of a house; which house might be hard to determine, but part of a house.

Perhaps the most famous walls are those forming the Coliseum where it is not just the iconic outer walls but the warren that existed below the floor, now visible to those visiting this particular historical site. Given the number of people posing everywhere with their cameras and selfie-sticks, I don’t think the fate of gladiators, lions or early Christians ever crossed their minds.

Again today we walked (17,557 according to my supposedly reliable FitBit), Wandering down this road and that, detouring around a bit of free standing wall, I had to wonder at the centuries that passed since someone (probably slaves) had started its construction.

For most of the day the weight of the city seemed to increase as we walked from one century into the next, then back across millennium in modern clothing and sturdy shoes so unlike the sandals and fabrics of years gone by. We missed the persecutions and Black Plague in our journeys but were captured by pasta…..

Walls and edifice photos to follow when I have decent internet.

Oh, and in follow up for the snerts and snickers: There really couldn’t have been much there if a fig leaf no bigger than the palm of my hand could cover everything. OTOH, if you “know” you are a god it probably wouldn’t have matter since snickering would never have been allowed….

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Two for one & a bonus of Pantheon

January 24th, 2015 No comments

If you are easily offended by comments on Italian/religious art please stop reading right now and hit the as the rest of this post has absolutely nothing to do with tolerance or political correctness.

Seriously.

After leaving the ship early via walk off and sharing a cab to the train station (20€/taxi & 10€/2 on the train) Salli and I took the 0640 to Rome Termini. Since George walked over from the hotel I was once again able to prove that I actually have a husband.

The Rome planning I left to George which might explain my present total and complete amazement. We first wandered over to the Palais Borghese which is now devoted to art. I could not imagine that there were actually that many fat baby paintings much less male religios figures with and without spikes/thorns/clothing/other people …. Oh yes. And to balance it we had the whole (or major part) of the Roman pantheon engaged in various activities with rape and flogging well represented.

Then there are those paintings and statues with and without fig leaves. I will end this section with the question: is a man without a penis still a god?

Moving on, the next stop was the modern art museum. Again, like the Istanbul Modern, some was fabulous and other paintings I just didn’t get. If some one had labeled them as middle school art projects I would not have known the difference.

FYI, Trevi Fountain is currently under renovation. There is a complete set up of elevated walk ways which had the horde shuffling along Zombie like in single file to take their pictures of scaffolding, plastic sheeting and the occasional visible extremity.

I was Museumed out for the day. Plenty of marble buildings with curlicues, Roman Numeral dates. There are enough religious statues and crosses to give me a complex.

We wandered around for s few hours more before heading back to the hotel. My FitBit is saying 19,725 steps.

That should be enough.

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Oh, drat. Its raining in Naples

January 23rd, 2015 No comments

Within the thoughts and plans I had for Naples today not even once did I consider the factor of rain. I failed to read the bulletin last night which quietly mentioned a “chance of rain” along with 11*C. Perhaps it was optimism? Or maybe the absence of rain until yesterday? In any case, even with damp blowing in from the balcony and the pool deck empty I never seriously considered the implications for today.

Somehow I don’t think riding along in the top of the HOHO is going to be all that comfortable. Interesting, yes in terms of seeing my endurance for being a duck. But not for enjoying the coast or taking pictures of the country side. Those going up to Pompeii should have an “interesting” experience.

Did I mention my failure to pack an umbrella? Not that we don’t have a good dozen strewn across two continents. But to pack one? First trip in about 10 that I have failed to pack this particular essential and obviously the one time it counts.

George should be landing in Frankfurt about this time. His love message from me will consist of the umbrella question with an offer to visit the terminal shop here in Naples which just happens to feature a wide variety from the purely functional to the cheerful and ridiculous.

(Reply – no, he doesn’t have one either. But I don’t know what I was thinking. He will be in Rome by this afternoon and without umbrella. I don’t get there till tomorrow. Oh well, one can’t have too much protection can one?)

Being brave, I attempting the HOHO. Made it the first 30 minutes on the Blue line before the cold and the spitting bit of rain drove me downstairs on the bus in time to claim the last seat. Those that waited longer both got soaked and had to stand.

Since it was an hour to the next bus on the Red Line (around the city) I elected to find the coffee shop, decent speed WiFi and dry out…. Will give me the whole afternoon in the cabin to resort, pack again and contemplate the morning..

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No, wait! not tomorrow

January 22nd, 2015 No comments

I don’t depart the ship tomorrow, it is the day after. Having a port stop on the last day of the cruise is more than a little bit disconcerting for me. We are in Naples again tomorrow and I am planning on getting off, taking the HopOnHopOff for a leisurely if not smooth ride down the coast. This means I have to pack today after 19 days in the same cabin. Getting everything out is easy. Attempting the jigsaw puzzle that clothing, shoes and birthday presents is something else. I pack fairly light but still have a number of things that never saw light unless a drawer opened. Clothing not worn, yarn still in wrappers with the ball band in place

I finished a couple of hats and a cowl but nowhere near what I had planned. Might have something to do with reading a couple dozen books rather than listening to audiobooks. Might be due to the lack of a craft group. In any case, I gave both yarn and needles untouched which will still need a ride home.

One of the other cruisers and I have decided to split a cab to the train station in the morning. No, wait. On Saturday morning. Just because I am packed does NOT mean we disembark in the morning. But you can tell I am confused.

It has been about three times today that I have made the same error.

But as long as I am not standing at the elevator tomorrow morning luggage in hand I should be fine.

Not tomorrow, Saturday. Right?

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Also in Istanbul

January 21st, 2015 No comments

Today we are at sea (as well as tomorrow) as we sail to our last port stop in Naples.

Rather than head back to the old city again I elected to hike up the hills on this side in a effort to find the tower and perhaps take a leisurely stroll down the main shopping street. Three km of pedestrian zone? No? Well part of it at least.

It turned out to be fairly easy. Straight up the hill from the Tophane tram stop. Past the very friendly chocolate lab and sunning cats. Avoiding the garbage trucks on their pickup rounds and the occasional taxi flying down the hill oblivious yo the uphill spikes set across the road at reguksr intervals. Street so narrow there is barely room for a pedestrian on the sidewalk to either side of s passing vehicle.

Suddenly, there I am facing a street busy with antique appearing trams, service vehicles and bustling shoppers. Turning away from the harbor I start to stroll.

Once again chestnuts are on offer at practically ever corner. The other food vendor carts start to multiply as the morning slips toward noon. There are sales everywhere with prices clearly posted; often less than those in the Bazaar. Since haggling leaves me cold, I find this more comfortable.

I pass the Greek Consulate with its meters high picture of sailing vessels on the wall while music pours from a nearby bookstore at deafening levels. All the usual suspects of international store chains are here: Gap, Diesel, Medianart, BK, the non-Scottish restaurant, LaCosta, Swatch….what you don’t see are carpet shops or leather goods. If that it what you want, I think everyone – local and tourist alike – heads to the Grand Bazaar area.

I turned at the monument and flowersrket to head back down the hill. You can find just about anything to eat from honey soaked baclava through kebabs, kebabs, smørbrot to elegant sit down meals with wine. Alcohol is freely and plentifully available. Remember what I said about a modern, secular country? I passed the catholic church set back behind iron gates. The short sturdy women of indeterminate age only distinguishable from their Muslim counterparts by how they wear their head scarves.

I finished the afternoon at the Istanbul Modern. Normally Art museums are just not my thing perhaps due to an over exposure in 1972 while backpacking in Europe. I take it all back. It was more than worth the time. Presenting modern art from the end of the Califats through today the exhibits were intelligently presented. Providing enough background to understand both the artist and social context. Obviously I hadn’t been aware of how integrated the Turkish artists had been in the Paris Art Scene at the turn of the last century. Nor how many women were involved and respected during that time. Government grants provided subsidies for study abroad to the best. It is notable that all the ties appear to be to the West.

Some of it I like, some absolutely not with a fair amount of I just don’t get it sprinkled between.

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Cruising the Bosporus

January 20th, 2015 No comments

At night the Bosporus is a dark ribbon winding between two brightly lit shores. The cruise terminal is near the Galata Bridge (well around a kilometer or so which qualifies as near) and about 30 km short of the Black Sea. In a rare attack of common sense last evening I elected to spend some of my otherwise less than useful OBC on an cruise of the Bosporus.

I won’t give you literary or lyrical prose a la Alice Hoffman. It was cold, windy and brilliant. Our bus took us from ship side across the bridge to the dock on the peninsula. As an aside, we are on the European, not Asian, side of the city where over 65% of the 15 million people live and work. An additional more than two million commute to European side via ferry, two bridges, subway. There is s second subway tunnel under construction along with a planned four lane car tunnel. Personally I don’t think it is going to make a difference in the sane traffic since either more residents of the Asian side will attempt to drive to work or more will move to that side to take advantage of newer housing and less crowded living conditions. London has the right idea: tax driving to the point where only public transport is affordable. Bicycles aren’t an option, not with these hills

Where was I?

Ah yes, freezing my face off on the river with a couple of guides and two bus loads of my very best friends. We sailed first up the European side of the river past brightly lit palaces built by Sultan 3? (depending on the palace – 32, 36 or other. When the Sultans reign stretched about 600 years give or take a few decades it is for school children and historians to know. The Republic was established ~ 1933 so at least one positive political occurrence that decade. All the expensive and name hotels are located along with the main shopping areas on this side of the city. There are mosques a plenty most built in what was referred to as the Ottoman Style. We passed an Armenian Orthodox Church. There are several Christian churches serving most of the 20k who live in Turkey (Ankara area as the Capital for most of them). There are 21 synagogues serving the 18k of 20k who make Istanbul their home.

We traveled north toward the Black Sea past the houses of the wealthy packed like tenements along the shore. We passed a huge fort which is now used for open air concerts. Turning around past the bridges we could see the lights of humanity stretching off into the distance. We cruised back along the Asian side which is obviously less dense in population before crossing back to the dock on the old city side of the river.

It wasn’t till I was on the bus that I could unclamp my fingers from the camera. Having both hat and hood, I blame my shivers on the wind. Even so, I’d do it again in a heart beat. Should I make it back to Istanbul I would like to cruise all the way to the Black Sea again.

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Istanbul – a city of shopkeepers?

January 19th, 2015 No comments

They line the bridge on both sides of the Bosporus avoiding only the center section where the fries run. Men of mostly older ages with poles, reels, bait pails and styrofoam chest starting full of ice when they arrive to preserve the hoped for catch It is up to the pedestrians to avoid the casting just as it personal responsibility not to stand in the center of the sidewalk interfering with the flow of hurrying people. The cars are topside as well while the tram runs in the middle shaking the bridge as it crosses. There are restaurants on the lower level complete with waitstaff aggressively accosting everyone walking past while extolling the virtues of their freshly caught fish.

At this time of day it seems to be mostly men on the street with the air reeking from their unfiltered cigarettes. After heading up hill toward the Grand Bazaar there are more and more couples and women. The young are strolling; infected with smart phoneitis and oblivious to their surroundings. Cats and carts with roasted chestnuts. Mosques, schools and shops; the old is intermixed with the new featuring marble, glass and Burger King.

It’s a nice hike. I am sort of following the tram tracks. I pass Haga Sofia, the Blue Mosque, the Archeological Museum, the Mosaic Museum. The sidewalks become more crowded as it gets later. Inside the Grand Bazaar I wend my way through alley after shop. All the merchants are shilling their goods. Avoiding eye contact and if forced to answer I am using a polite but firm no thanks in German. The method seems to work as many of them start scrambling for the right pitch.

But I don’t need souvenirs, carpets, mosaics, purses, bags, shirts, jackets, leather goods and certainly not antiques. There are head scarves and shawls everywhere. There are not that many women here with head coverings. A few who do are dressed traditionally, but there are a lot of bright colors and cheerful patterns worn by young women in jeans and motorcycle boots. Did I mention the ubiquitous leather jacket? In normal colors plus Russian decorated with fur and glitz?

I hiked back to the ship in afterwork traffic just ahead of the falling dark. Feeling pretty good about the 10 km hike out, back and around I was no pleased to find my FitBit had once again lost its charge in less than two days.

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Kusadasi, Turkey

January 18th, 2015 No comments

or “I didn’t go to Ephasus again”

There is the smell of fish in the air as I leave the ship this morning so it should be no surprise to see the fishermen lined up along the sidewalk along the harbor. As I walk toward the fort the air is crisp and cool. My answer to why the fort seems to be in good shape is easily answered as I get nearer. Relatively modern in construction, there is a barrier across the road while a flag flies high overhead. Yes, 20th century and in use, probably as government or military. As I continue up the coast road I revise my age estimate. A few holes in the outer walls has thinking WWII.

Seeing the lovely modern houses and villas and resort hotels just over the rise reminds me of how modern Turkey can be and why (as my phone reminded me this morning when it asked me to chose a new Auslandsdataplan ) I keep forgetting it is not part of the EU. One of the traditional jokes around NATO was the we should consider ourselves a success simply from keeping Greece & Turkey from war. Now, looking at the respective financial states of the two countries it seems obvious that fear and prejudice on the part of the EU is rather stupid in the financial sense. Just like we should not judge Mexico (in the US) based on drugs, bus boys, or Tijuana so should we not judge Turkey on religion, putzfraus or sanitation workers.

Walking back down the hill I decided to walk out to the fort anyway. And as it turns out, revise completely my earlier thoughts. The base of one tower is obviously centuries old. The building itself is closed for renovations. I was not wrong about the bullet holes although it might be more proper to think of them as machine gun spray given their distribution in the foundation rocks.

The secret to exploring the main part of town is to walk briskly and avoid eye contact. I have strongly considered buying a blue tooth ear piece and striding along babbling in pig Latin with it turned off just to get some peace. Kasadasi resembles St Maarten only with mosaics imbedded in the sidewalk. Skin colors vary but the pitch is the same: jewelry furs leather goods fashion coffee. Separate the tourist from their €/£\¥\$. And as it turns out, the Jade is the only ship through this month. That does make the merchants more than willing to bargain; taking the price below that which I remember from Istanbul two years where the market is rich with European tourists. What is even better is that many jewelry and watch shops have “genuine fake” right in their advertising script painted on the marquee.

Interesting sidebar: NCL has changed their OBC policy. Non cash from the cruise line itself can’t be used for the daily service charge. It can be used for “extra tips” and all the usual on board stuff. All of which means the concierge, the butler and the Sushi restaurant are going to get lucky!

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Pireaus

January 17th, 2015 No comments

Rather then fight traffic and lose an hour each way, I elected to stay local today. Pireaus is a city. Bustling with business, chandlers, and people. It is an interesting combination of old and new. A lot of money has gone into upgrades in the last few years. Sidewalks, large glass-steel-marble buildings most of which unfortunately have empty eyed shop space looking for tenants. We docked at Terminal B which is about 1 km around the central harbor from downtown. I passed beautiful Greek Orthodox churches on the way along with parks, luggage and watch shops.

While making pass along a side street i stumbled upon two needlework shops with a side line in worsted weight bright acrylic yarns. But their threads, beads and notions were top of the line. In the same area it was a combination of old and new. Narrow shops with goods displayed in front, like shops clustered. Herbs, spices, dishes, hardware, cookware. There was a small shop for it overseen by bored young family member, middle aged aggressive family or smiling toothless elder. I wandered through a couple of amazing toy stores. Given the amount of child costume “stuff ” the equivalent of Fasching/Mardi Gras must exist inside the Greek Orthodox as well. Jumbo was amazing; four flours starting with toys and costumes through paper products, part supply, household goods & cleaning product ending with gardening. No catnip seeds. I looked.

This is really Greece. Not remote villages catering to tourist and putting on dance shows but the kind of city where people live and work. Older men sitting in cafes with their coffee and cigarettes, fish markets, stores for the necessities of life and business. Young people riding their motorcycles and mopeds helmetless through the street while everyone jaywalks. Not the high end Harley, BMW crew in full leathers and helmets mind you irrespective of country on their license plates. Apparently money does connect to brains in some cases. Along the harbor and across from all the ferries are the port agents, travel agents. Ferry offices and ticket sales interspersed with cafes and the inevitable “men’s” clubs.

If I was going to spend a day here and didn’t want tired feet at the end I would take the HoHo Bus. Two loops each over an hour and extremely inexpensive.

Oh, and in case you forgot yours, there is a young man selling towels outside the train station.

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Katakolon

January 16th, 2015 No comments

16 January 2015 – katakolon, Greece

A small town as such locations in Greece go. The sidewalks appear to be new in the last several years complete with textured insets for the visually impaired. The main section next to the dock is heavily weighted to souvenirs and cafes with a few clothing shops interspersed. The gauntlet of independent tour operators, taxi drivers and sales personal is extremely polite as such crowds go. They have signs but are not in your face as is common in the Caribbean.

There are two small museums in town: one on musical instruments, the other claims ownership of over 300 early inventions as Greek. Guess that South America, China and the mid-east aren’t important…. Almost as much fun as the class of ~30 school children (best guess as they never stopped moving long enough to be sure of an accurate count) who had invaded just before I arrived at the door. For 2€ it was a reasonable bargain although the translations were a bit interesting.

I wandered the town which is small and seems mostly a stepping off place for the port and home to a motley collection of smaller fishing vessels. Hugh season is April-Sept with only 1-2 ships/month off season which may explain why the welcome mat was out at 0800. This maybe Greece, but not being open for the tourists is lost money. I finally found an ATM. Taking a hike about 1km out of town I found a hole in the wall local Mercado. They had a few items I wanted; later finding the shiny new shop in town with most of the same products at 20% higher. Also Prominently featured here as well as in many other local shops are olive oil products. Oil to wood to soap and a variety of cosmetics in between.

I enjoyed the day of no pressure, a walk along the sea wall and even the mailing off of a few postcards. Note to self, it’s ok to get the self stick stamps even if they feature Rudolph. The Greeks don’t place a decent amount of glue on their regular stamps. I am more concerned with them falling off than with some crime unit identifying me from saliva. After all, I signed all the cards…..

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Back at Sea

January 15th, 2015 No comments

15 Jan 2015 – back at Sea

Yesterday I returned to the ship in time for lunch. In truth I had planned to spend a bit of time in town but after a 20 min walk failed to find an ATM I decided to just hang it

There has been a significant turn over in passengers. I believe we are just about out of Russians after the 700+ from last week left. What is more important than announcements only in
English, German and Italian? Not that I really minded the French, Russian and Spanish. The age distribution has changed. European schools are back in session. So this 10 days instead of 429 passengers aged 16 and under we will be traveling only with the Auusies and the under 6 set. Ought to be a lot quieter.

I have been reading a lot. Now perhaps it is time to haul out the knitting? Really stupid to bring yarn and not to use it.

What else? Ah. Cruise Critic in a few minutes.

And Stomboli is still active. Notice the village at the foot of the peak?

Stromboli

Stromboli

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In Transit

January 14th, 2015 No comments

Back in Civitavecchia today. I have finally learned how to spell it, but can’t pronounce it when needed without stumbling. Go figure, it just shouldn’t be that hard.

Bailed off the ship early and hiked back to the hotel which I stayed at before the cruise started. The people there are lovely and I enjoyed several hours of WiFi and a cappuccino.

Unlike cruises which start and end in Fort Lauderdale, almost no one on the Jade seems to be local. Yes, you can walk off yourself but it seemed like less than 50 people took advantage of that fact. There were only about 10 of us on the shuttle bus to town. I suspect the rest had either private transfers arranged or an early ship’s transfer to the airport.

Walking through town early is interesting. There is good street lighting, but absent sidewalks where you need them most (bridge over an underpass and water). This is important because sunrise is not until about 0730.

Tomorrow will be a sea day, then we start the Eastern swing with stops in Greece and Turkey along with a stop again in Naples on the way back. I get a few more sea days for knitting and reading this time around…..

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Naples

January 13th, 2015 No comments

image

One can think of Naples as quintessential Italy. Or not. Like most of the port cities along the western section of the boot, its history is long, complicated and often bloody. Today it is probably best known as being the originator of pizza and the jumping off point for Pompeii. But in reality its documented history stretches back almost three millennium when founded by early Greeks.

What followed were a series influxes and invasions starting with Romans and followed by Goths (and no, black clothing and white face makeup not included) and Byzantines. Very early Middle Ages involved the Normans and became part of Sicily. From then followed a number of invaders, cultures and languages including the Schwabs, Angevins, Aragonese and Catalans by the mid 1450s. From then Naples became part of the prize booty between Spain and France with a side trip into Austrian possession.

For those who may have forgotten, Italy as a country only became a reality under the leadership of Garibaldi (1860s). You can still see damage from WWII bombings and machine guns in some of the buildings.

If you walk into the city be prepared to brave the ruffians and flocks of mopeds. There are those who bus down the coast to see Capri and Sorrento. Others take a tour to Pompeii. Last time I was here I enjoyed seeing the excavation at Herculaneum (from where just about everyone escaped due to advanced warning and being on the coast. Boats are quite useful in such a case).

I prefer just a walk in the sun.

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Palermo

January 12th, 2015 No comments

It is a lovely day. Sun reflecting off buildings and water.  There are buses, carriages and a fleet of really aggressive taxi drivers just waiting to pounce beyond the gate.

English? No problem. German, no problem (note , said in English).  I ignored them all to go on my way with no particular destination or perhaps an Archelogical Museum in mind.

 

Not so some friends who wound up jammed in the back of a small taxi with a mad man for a driver.  They did see the main cathedral while riding white knuckled through the city.  They also found their drivers English was pretty much limited to trying to get more money than agreed and the ubiquitous “no problem”

 

glad that I had been on foot, I enjoyed lunch back on the ship before settling in to read on the balcony.  Unlike a few of our previous ports, we are docked at the city, facing in the direction we will be leaving   So I can sit on my aft balcony, look directly over the city and scurrying passengers.  Book and cup of tea in hand.

No postcards or magnets today. Just not willing to brave the shopkeepers

 

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Jazz Brunch

January 11th, 2015 No comments

11 Jan 2015 – Jazz Brunch

It is not like I have been paying much attention to either the date or the itinerary, but something should have triggered last night in my mind when I saw a mention of today’s Jazz Brunch.

In fact it wasn’t till about 0800 this morning when the penny dropped.

We are still motoring along.

There is lots of water out there.

There is a good distance between Spain and Palermo at 20knots.

Brunch … Ya think it just might be a sea day?

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Cagliari

January 10th, 2015 2 comments

Italy. A completely new port to me so I do what any good mountain goat should do and head up the hill for an overview. It is winter but the sun is shiny along with a freakishly strong wind. Which, with my luck is blowing down the mountain and out to sea making a light weight persons trek up the hill energy burning to say the least

It’s all narrow streets, steep angles and buildings which I think have never been repaired post WWII. There is a drone of mopeds in the background. While not demonstrating much in the way of art, I have to acknowledge a certain amount of admiration for the graffiti crew who have managed tags on abandoned walls 10-15 meters up without obvious footholds or lifts.

There are palaces of the Italian inner courtyard style and dozens of church related buildings with domes abounding. The amount of marble and granite is just astounding; reflected sunshine in a few areas is close to blinding.

The early peace and quiet of narrow streets and local shoppers gives way to the multilingual horde from the ship posing by themselves or alone complete with selfie sticks.

I’m headed back down to the city center then walk out to the historic areas along the coast. The wifi here is free and city provided. I am now about to see how it feels about uploading and downloading files.

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Day 7 @ Sea

January 9th, 2015 No comments

It is rare that I take cruise as port intensive as this. My modus operandi is repositioning cruises for reasonable prices loaded with sea days prime for work, knitting and reading. So what am I doing on the Jade? Enjoying a cabin to myself, a bed that I don’t have to make, a bathroom not shared with others (did that growing up for years and when deployed. Just no longer my thing )

And then there is the lovely continental buffet in the morning augmented by French press decaf and anything from the grill should I so desire. Evenings the Garden Cafe has Ben offering a serious selection of both Adian and Indian choices making the dining rooms irrelevant.

The Cruise Critic get together was today featuring a cheerfully disorganized group of people a number of whom I have been seeing regularly at breakfast. I met an interesting librarian from Kansas City in a conversation about leadership development and team building (320 employees, multiple branches and budget I think is the same anywhere ). Then of course there is “Cruise Geography” where a woman from Jerusalem and I tried to identify our overlapping Celebrity Cruise from 2014/2014.

After that ? A nap won over the fitness center …..

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Going nowhere fast

January 8th, 2015 No comments

docking a few minutes early I was all set to snatch a quick breakfast before heading into town

Then I decided to wait until it was light out which meant that I didn’t have to hurry quite as much. Chatting at breakfast with a lovely woman from Australia who is traveling with her mum, it was mentioned that they had homeless chocolate covered strawberries.

We simply can’t have that now can we?

Picking up strawberries, conversation and a trip back to the cabin; it is now almost 1000.I look out my balcony. The Aquarium is visible with the bridge cables behind it. From this distance one can imagine all sorts of strange objects and impressions.

Most importantly, I don’t feel a burning need to hike there. I don’t need to shop. Although aggravating, I am managing with my iPhone. So I need to go where ? $12 shuttle from this industrial port to town ? Through a rather questionable area to the aquarium ?

Or take a nap so maybe I can return to the local time zone ? Or eat strawberries ?

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Day after Dreiköningstag

January 7th, 2015 No comments

For those who might be wondering – the Christian holiday of Epiphany might be more familiar. Think of Black Friday in the US. That is right – it is the single largest day of sales in Spain and here I am in Barcelona St bling through crowds like an idiot.

Didn’t stop me from dropping through “All you knit is Love” hidden on a back street near the Picasso Museum ( no sale) or Desigual where practically everything was on sale.

I wasn’t alone in this insanity; one of the lovely knitters from the Legend this fall had dropped me a note via Ravelry. She was in Barcelona for a few days along with the owner of her local yarn store (visiting with a daughter working in a nearby country). Anyway, we braved the crowds. In fact, I wouldn’t have ventured into the Desigual sale at all if it hadn’t. Been form them.

In return I introduced them to the magic of El Corte Inglais free WiFi in the cafeteria where you can sit for hours sipping your 1,50€ cup of cafe con leche. After doing major damage to my Amazon account by purchasing a few more books by Heather Graham and pulling the audio of Foxglove Summer which was just released in the US I am headed back to the ship.

Valencia in the morning and at sea the day after.

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Toulon, I didnt

January 6th, 2015 No comments

It was a fine and crisp 6*C when we docked this morning at the commercial port 10 km from town. Amazingly enough, the ship offered a free water shuttle into town. If I was going to be cynical, I would say that there are not enough commercial buses to hire and tours make more money. The water craft hold 200+ which means more people travel at a time and fewer trips need to be made. It takes more time to board and disembark than it does for the trip.

I looked out there, clean and shiny across the bay. I thought about the weather and the cold breeze. I considered that when I was here before I saw the town, the museum of interest to me and really don’t need anything from the market.

I walked the ship, stopped in the library and took a nap, saving my energy for the hike into Barcelona from Berth A or B tomorrow.

Cabin numbering systems

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Monaco

January 5th, 2015 No comments

5 Jan 2015 – Monaco

It takes more than money and style to feel comfortable in Monaco. For me, I just don’t have either the sense of entitlement or arrogance to pull it off. It is a sterile feeling place; all polish, marble and clean as if no one dares to litter, much less wear last years fashions. There are multiple pedestrian cross walks without either signals or lights. Those who live here just walk across confident that no one would dare challenge their right to go where whim directed. The stores all have consistent signage without glitz or neon. Classy one might say.

It is easy to see which of those on the street are resident here, and who commutes into the city to work. The slender, elegantly dressed with expensive haircuts and designer glasses are a sharp contrast to those dressed for obvious cleaning or construction work. The second group primarily speaking with each other in an Eastern European language, not languid French.

I walk along the route of the Grande Prix which I saw both live and on the large screens in May of 2011 which now feels like another life or perhaps the start of my current one. Along the way are all the expensive yachts complete with navigation systems and satellite communications. Homes of record are not just local or Mediterranean like Malta, but London, Grand Caymans, Sydney, Cairns of the type that start in the low seven digits.

I passed where the Christmas Carnival and Market had been held. Even in tear down mode everything was clean, well maintained and orderly, not the usually scruffiness seen by light of day.

Walking, I took a few pictures before riding the elevator down to the water front and strolling back to the ship just as hordes were headed out to explore the city. The tourists are easy to recognize. They are in pants, jeans, sweatshirts carrying backpacks and wearing ball caps and running shoes not to mention cameras hanging around their necks. Not to be confused at all with those who live here.

I don’t expect many paid the 10E + for a cup of coffee. No chain coffee shops, no pseudo-scottish restaurants here. In defiance, I headed to the eatery on ship and had tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.

 

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Pisa

January 4th, 2015 No comments

It’s 1000 and white stone gleams in the sunlight. Tourists flock with selfie sticks and expensive cameras. The museums and the tower are about to open; I can see the lines
Just starting to snake forward to disappear inside structures hundreds of years old. Down the blocked off street is part of the old city wall with souvenir and leather good tents lined up ready to separate the dazed from their cash. Everything of course is made in Italy. Too bad several merchants forgot to remove the China stickers.

I hadn’t planned on doing anything other than wandering Livorno today. But it is Sunday and neither NCL nor the port provide a free shuttle to town. As it is a working port, although no one seems to be working today, walking out is not allowed.

Just as I was about to return to the ship I was politely accosted by a couple of Canadians from Ottawa. They needed one more person to make up a van for the day. Pisa, the countryside, a couple of small towns. And me without my camera. Also in the group, a family from Santa Barbara with a couple of delightful young girls.

The Tower

The Tower

image image image

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Mediterranean Break

January 3rd, 2015 No comments

I am detouring to NCL for the next 21 days.  Traveling as listed below in and around the Med both west and east. Solo in case there was any doubt.

NCL Jade

NCL Jade

 

ITINERARY

DAY DATE PORT ARRIVE   DEPART
Sat Jan 3 Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy 5:00pm
Sun Jan 4 Florence / Pisa (Livorno), Italy 7:00am 7:00pm
Mon Jan 5 Monte Carlo, Monaco 8:00am 5:00pm
Tue Jan 6 Toulon, France 9:00am 5:00pm
Wed Jan 7 Barcelona, Spain 8:00am 5:00pm
Thu Jan 8 Valencia, Spain 8:00am 5:00pm
Fri Jan 9 At Sea
Sat Jan 10 Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy 8:00am 5:00pm
Sun Jan 11 At Sea
Mon Jan 12 Palermo, Sicily, Italy 8:00am 5:00pm
Tue Jan 13 Naples (Capri), Italy 8:00am 6:00pm
Wed Jan 14 Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy 5:00am 5:00pm
Thu Jan 15 At Sea
Fri Jan 16 Olympia (Katakolon), Greece 8:00am 4:00pm
Sat Jan 17 Athens (Piraeus), Greece 7:00am 5:00pm
Sun Jan 18 Ephesus / Kusadasi, Turkey 8:00am 6:00pm
Mon Jan 19 Istanbul, Turkey 1:00pm
Tue Jan 20 Istanbul, Turkey 8:00pm
Wed Jan 21 At Sea
Thu Jan 22 At Sea
Fri Jan 23 Naples (Capri), Italy 8:00am 6:00pm
Sat Jan 24 Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy 5:00am

 

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Don’t ever take

January 2nd, 2015 No comments

Italian Train at night. At least not one of the long distance ones.

Back tracking a bit – in spite of my Swiss flight being delayed out of SFO more than 80 minutes we managed to arrive in Zurich close to on time. Pretty good considering that Zurich was suffering from the snow and fog that seems to be the winter norm for them.

 

Well, that is obviously NOT SFO

Well, that is obviously NOT SFO

Even more amazing was that I actually managed to get from the far end of “E,” through Passport Control, and to the far end of “B” in sufficient time to actually make my connecting flight! And yes, these two gates are as far from each other and in distant terminals as is physically possible while still being in the same airport. So there I am, standing around waiting to board. One of the gate personnel comes over to ask if I am traveling alone.

Yes. Oh, she says after looking at my ticket – I was looking for someone to upgrade who is traveling by themselves. Not me, I was already there. But told her that I had been standing in line behind a young woman who was traveling by herself and pointed her out. A few minutes later, this slightly dazed young woman brain dead from her LA->Zurich flight came over and thanked me. She is headed to Italy to meet relatives….she had been dreading this last leg of the flight.

Arriving in Rome, and hiking forever to Baggage Carousel 10 I thought I was just about home free. Checking at several of the transfer counters with late night charges the cost of a transfer was totally and completely unreasonable.

And here is where my saga with the train began.

It is 11E. One takes a train from the Airport to Rome Trastevere, changes to the FR5 and gets off in Civitavecchia. In theory.
1) I was told Train #3. It was actually 3343 from track 2.
2) At first I attempted to sit, but it was so crowded and the women next to me so loud I couldn’t hear the announcements. Standing in the entry way with a goodly size crowd might not have been as comfortable, but I could read the electronic station sign and actually hear the announcements.
3) I figured out which stop was Trastevere and got off. Then there was the challenge of trying to figure out which platform for the next train.
4) Italy doesn’t do big permanent placards on the platforms like -oh, France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium….. but that particular station apparently does have permanently assigned platforms to certain destinations.
5) Platform 2 looked like the right place to be.
6) about 20 minutes later a train pulls in to this platform and everyone piles on. The Platform monitor only has the end destination city and no train number. The train is not displaying a number. The electronic signs in each car give the car #, the train speed, inside temperature and outside temperature and the useful information that the lavatories were out of order.
7) There are no announcements over the tannoy
8) there is no running sign of stations
9) there are no placards up indicating train route or any other useful information.
10) about three stops later a conductor comes by. No – doesn’t speak English, or German or French. but yes – Civitavecchia is on this line. And he leaves. A stop later he comes by again. I inquire “how many more stops?” He replies 4-5.
11) Another stop later he comes by and holds up three fingers.
12) three stops later I get off. Looks like the right place. Looking back at the train – the conductor is standing there nodding at me. I think he wanted to make sure that I was gone.
13) Most of the stations (including my destination) did not have discernible signage visible from either the platform or train.

So there you have it. Made calling my hotel and getting them to call me a taxi a breeze after that!

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So here I am

January 1st, 2015 No comments

at SFO in the United Lounge. So goes the year the same way it starts? Not flying United however, I am on Swiss this time and off to a non auspicious start. First, I must have left my ID card on the bed at home (meaning Heidelberg) which meant I was unable to use the USO Lounge. This mattered because my flight so far is already known to be 70 minutes delayed.

Swiss, not being completely foolish, then proceeds to open the check-in desk at 1615 rather than 1525. I suppose I should be thrilled that they didn’t delay any further than that. Suitcase was a heavy 17 kg which must be related to my two new pairs of shoes and a goodly quantity of yarn and magnets. Business class was fairly empty so they were offering upgrades at a reasonable price. I can only hope that no one with a screaming kid takes them up on the offer. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the same offer for first class…… I have always wanted to do that but am totally and completely unwilling to spend that kind of money on a flight. You know how many cruise days I could get for that kind of money?

The lounge is provided by United. I am simply grateful that they have a decaf setting on the coffee machine so that I can help myself with impunity. Baby carrots, crackers and single wrapped cheese chunks round out the available snacks. Obviously, United is cheap.

The phone and the iPad are charged. Knitting is organized. Now all I have to do is survive the slight, make my connection in Zurich and catch the train to Civitavecchia. Nine hours – I can manage nine hours times zone change, can’t I?

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Safely arrived

December 19th, 2014 No comments

My alarm went off incredibly early this morning. Given that the extras which found their way into the “take with” pile (and the fact it is rather dark before 0600 on a December morning) both hiking to the train station and taking the train didn’t seem particularly bright.

But Lufthansa has a contract shuttle bus service from the Crown Plaza Hotel in Heidelberg to Frankfurt airport which seemed like a more than reasonable way to get to the airport. So Bev and I loaded up, took a cab to meet the bus, boarded the bus and disembarked in front of Terminal B.

We managed to get up to the departures floor after skipping non-working elevators. I dropped off luggage to include those self-same three umbrellas which I have been dragging along since Spain and then the fun began. I am headed to the US, Bev is headed to Copenhagen. I am departing from Z; she is leaving from A. Now you can transit between the two @ Gates A 14 & A 17. None the less, I was hassled by security and the Lufthansa Senator Lounge people who just couldn’t understand why I wanted to spend a few more minutes visiting with Bev and having a coffee or two while we were at it.

Boarding the plane was a snap after that. The flight was fine, once we finally took off.

This handsome guy picked me up at the airport. After that, much of it is a blur because I was pretty tired and not sure where or who I was.

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Maybe ready, maybe not

December 17th, 2014 1 comment

(try two – the first vanished which hasn’t happened to me in a while)

Procrastination has to end sometime and I hit my limit about mid-morning. Since I am leaving for San Francisco tomorrow I really need to finish packing and attempt to find places in all the luggage I am schlepping for my clothing and stuff.

Yes, I did send George with one bag of things for the kids but it certainly did not all fit into one bag. So here I am with a second bag packed for everyone else. Gummi bears, cookbooks, chocolate, various assorted fabric things, and some wool for friends in California (yes, you know who you are). The bag is not exactly light, but I can lift it. Besides since I have really excessive limits with Lufthansa, I see no reason not to take advantage of them. Duffle bag with stuff. My suitcase with some clothes, lebkuechen, nutella, a bottle of coke (don’t ask). The extra backpack as carry-on (which actually belongs to George) is stuffed with the rest of the goodies. Since the front section will hold a computer I am thinking of stuffing mine there since my normal backpack has all those essential electronic items like the extra GPS, cameras, chargers, lenses and yarn for padding. Oh, yes. Meds, cables and connectors, can’t forget those.

Now if I could just settle on which knitting projects for the flight, I would be all set. A couple of things are on fine, metal double points and I just don’t see risking losing needles to the security personnel. I can always start another hat on circs. Or a shawl, not that I don’t have enough of those.

Wait, I know! A Cowl to go with my hat! I have plenty of black and white…. which I might not be able to see on the airplane. Gee – I think 0500 is going to arrive awfully soon…..

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Three Days in Vienna

December 6th, 2014 No comments

or is it four? I always get confused between what seems like an honest estimate of how long I have been somewhere and what one would find on a travel brochure.

We arrived mid-day on Wed and are leaving on Saturday. By a “real” count it means a slight bit more than three full days as one would count by the clock spent in this interesting city. From a tours & travel point of view I am sure it would be advertised as “Four Days and Three Nights in ……” since we arrived on Wednesday and are leaving on Saturday having spent the three night in between soundly asleep in a comfortable hotel bed.

For those of you who know my music predilections, it should come as no surprise that I spent no evenings listening to fat ladies caterwauling. For that matter, we didn’t go to any theater or concerts either. George was here primarily to work, leaving only today as his for scouting around the city. I had a bit more luxury and had spent a fair number of hours hiking around in the old part of the city.

Which lead of course to repetition today when we went for a stroll (14K+ steps…..) I neither bought nor ate chocolate but did get a chance to see Dorotheum which is probably best described as three floors of auctionable items and the Continental answer to Sotheby’s. There are more paintings on the wall than in most museums, an extensive china exhibit/items for sale, figurines galore, jewelry and weapons (rifles, pistols & revolvers – go figure). Should you have extra cash lying around – there is an auction on 19th Century Oils & Watercolors on the 9th, Stamps on the 11th and all those previous mentioned hunting/sport/collectable weapons on the 13th. Just in time for the Christmas Holiday you could perhaps invest in collectable toys on the 22nd.

None of this sounds exciting enough for me to cancel my planned trip to the US on the 18th. Which lead me to my reservation to/from Germany. Which is going to need the return flight altered since I thought I had made it for end Feb and instead it showed up as March (at which point I will be in Uganda). Oatmeal for brains or just inattention?

Perhaps everything will look better with sleep?

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the plan falls apart

December 5th, 2014 No comments

I had this afternoon all planned out. When I returned back to the hotel after hiking all over in the inner city of Vienna I had a task list. Update all of you so it didn’t look like I had completely fallen off the planet. Finish up the green hat and start on the crazy orange. Consider knitting cowls to match both of the above. Put together a Roll Call for a Feb Cruise.

Unfortunately for all of the above good ideas – I stopped at Thalia on the way back to the hotel. I saw their fiction section upstairs yesterday but failed to check it out since I hadn’t see any indication that they carried anything for English Language books. Today I decided that I was willing to pick up a German version of a familiar book. So what do I find when I go upstairs? No German, but the UK versions of popular fiction: Mysteries, Thrillers, Romance, Fantasy and SciFi.

FoxGlove Summer was sitting there on the table as bold as you please.

new plan for the afternoon!

new plan for the afternoon!

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Going Home

November 29th, 2014 No comments

more than ready here to go home. There were all these people earlier in the week talking about how cheap it would be to extend since there were cabins left.

I was quiet. Doing one of those – WHY would I want to do that? I am done being a tourist in the Caribbean except as they are incidental stops on a trip across the Atlantic or through the Panama Canal.

So here I sit waiting on my flight in New Orleans. Whining because there isn’t a Star Alliance lounge in this terminal. From what I can tell, Delta seems to run the only lounge

From here I go to Newark for a plane change. My United flight to Germany just happens to be a code share. LH 403. Now, I wouldn’t do something like that on purpose, now would I ?

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