Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Guest Post: Part 2

May 26: Italy, Part 3. Naples. We docked within easy walking distance of the downtown area so Rob and I took it upon ourselves to take a brisk morning walk exploring the streets. Unfortunately, Naples disappointed me. Maybe it was just an off day, but the town itself seemed like one huge "bad" area. Garbage everywhere, lot's of negative attention, dirt and grime on every street corner. The area seemed poverty stricken and in need of some TLC. Luckily my day turned around when we jetted off for our tour to the ruins of Pompeii and a hike up Mt. Vesuvius. For those history buffs, you already know Pompeii's tragic story: In 79 AD neighboring volcano Mt. Vesuvius erupted and buried Pompeii under 4 to 6 meters of ash and pumice. An exact death toll remains unknown, but it is thought approx. 1500-2000 people died from the raining ash. Their remains can still be seen to this day, the outline of anguish on their faces and even the belly of a pregnant lady who perished. Today it's a very popular UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with remnants of old buildings and stone casts of Mt. Vesuvius' victims. After a delicious pizza lunch, we concluded our day with a hike up the volcano, which remains one of the world's most dangerous volcanoes due to its unpredictability. It was a tough climb, very steep and rocky even with the help of our bamboo walking canes. The view from the top was incredible, both of the crater itself and of Naples down below.

May 27: A much needed day at sea spent eating and sleeping! May 28: PARTY CENTRAL! If you've never been to Mykonos, you couldn't go fast enough. This little island of Greece is one happening place not to be missed. We docked at 8AM and I was puzzled to hear shouts, loud music and tons of laughter at such an hour. Noticing my confusion, a local man informed me that this was just the sound of the people from last night finally leaving the night clubs for some rest. It was a Monday. At 8AM. And they were just going home from what sounded like quite a crazy all night party. Mykonos is famous for it's stunning white structures, nightlife, food and atmosphere. Rob was in dire need of some fun (no ruins, no museums, no tours) so we rented a scooter for a lowly $10 Euros and spent our day zooming around the island from beach to beach. The photos don't do it justice. The sand is white, the water is the most amazing bright blue, and there is a fabulous carefree vibe throughout. The beaches are NOT a place to take the kiddos: there is plenty of drinking, loud music, nudity, you name it. But I can confidently say it is the most fun you'll have in a very long time! WOO HOO!

May 29: Istanbul, Turkey. Today was THE most anticipated stop of our trip. I could barely sit through breakfast I was so excited. Num num num, HURRY UP, num num num. My wish list for Istanbul was extensive: Sultanahmet Square, Underground Cistern, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar, and the Spice Bazaar. Unfortunately, Topkapi Palace is closed on Tuesdays, so I will just have to return someday to see it from the inside *smile*. Armed with guidebooks and maps, I had felt confident we could see everything ourselves up until three days before our departure. I got nervous and hired a local man named Hal to take Rob and I on a personal tour. This turned out to be the best decision possible. Hal met us at the cruise ship terminal, drove us to Sultanahmet Square and from there we walked. And walked. And walked some more. We skipped every line possible (and boy, were they long!) and got the best, most personal tour imaginable. We lunched with Hal at a Turkish restaurant called The Pudding Shop, which, if you google it, is rather famous. Hal told us wonderful personal stories about growing up in Turkey and also what modern day life is like there for him and his family. Everything about Istanbul exceeded my expectations. We ended our day in the Grand Bazaar and I've never felt so overwhelmed in my life. There were over 3,500 shops to explore and needless to say time ran out. I came home lugging an extra suitcase filled with fabric, pillow covers, Turkish apple tea and other souvenirs from our day. I think Rob was relieved... imagine the damage I could have done with a full day at the Bazaar.

May 30: Izmir, Turkey. I had no idea what sort of landscape to expect before we arrived in Izmir and it was a total surprise when our big gurgling ship pulled into the port. Izmir is the third largest city in Turkey with a population of approx. 3 million. Despite its size, it's nestled among tall steep hills covered in a sea of green forest. We hopped in a taxi and drove past Konak Square, through the neighborhood of Karşıyaka and onwards to the Balcova Thermal Hotel. Nestled up against the mountains, this hotel and spa has wonderful green hot spring pools, a top of the line spa center and even a water park for the young at heart. We put on the mandatory bathing caps and spent our day soaking up the minerals and removing all the toxins. (insert Izmir pics here) May 31: Heraklion, Crete. This was a complete surprise. Our scheduled itinerary called for a stop in Piraeus (Athens), Greece today but our ship captain changed it to the port of Heraklion on the island of Crete instead. His reasoning was very understandable although there was some rather long faces on board that day. Athens was on a lot of wish lists, and would have been on mine as well expect I'd already had the privilege of visiting there during my flight attendant days. Crete is the largest and most populous of all the Greek islands and has a very diverse geography of mountains, bright blue sea water, deep gorges, lakes and rivers. Heraklion is the capital of Crete and has a population of around 131,000. We rented another scooter and spent the day exploring on our own. The beaches were breathtaking and it was wonderful to stop at one, swim, get back on the scooter and then stop at another! Rob even managed to find his way to an aqua park called Water City which appeared smack dab in the middle of nowhere on top of a windy hill. Despite being so remote, it was packed and my husband was happy to have found some thrill rides for the remainder of our time. We finished with a walking tour of Heraklion and a much deserved cold drink.

 June 1: SO sunburnt from yesterday's antics in the sun. My chest is the color of a ripe tomato. Day at sea, spent faaaaarrrr away from the pool. June 2-4: Italy, Part 4. VENICE!!!! VENICE VENICE VENICE VENICE VENICE VENICE VENICE!!!!! VENICE!!! The arrival into Venice was spectacular, there are no words to describe. We sailed right through the center of it all. Cameras were snapping, jaws dropping, lots of excited yelps. Since we spent several days here, I booked two tours for us. One, an evening tour of Venice that began at the Rialto Bridge and explored narrow streets, canals and the day to day life of its residents, concluding with a gondola ride down the Grand Canal. And two, a day tour of Doges Palace, Bridge of Sighs, and St. Mark's Square. Take my word: it is not possible to take an ugly photo in Venice. There is opportunity at every corner for a National Geographic cover. The city is full of fascinating history and has the most amazing intimate feel to it despite the mass crowds. I ate my way through many a gelato as we sat in wonderful cafes along the Grand Canal. Rob and I couldn't stop smiling, ear to ear. This was a wonderful conclusion to our Mediterranean adventure.


June 5: Home. Reality. Garden needs water, kiddo needs attention, laundry is unthinkably stacked, meals need to be cooked and bills paid. And most importantly, my dearest friend is gone. Her house sits empty (I've checked, just in case!!). When I left, she was still here. When I came home, she had gone off on her own adventure. Thank you Jocelyn for your kindness, your thoughtfulness, listening, laughing, sharing, our late night visits, and being there through the ups and downs of day to day life with me. More then you will ever know, thank you. And being your friend for years to come is better then any trip this world has to offer.

1 comment:

Mrs. R said...

I loved reading these posts, we were stuck at the ferry terminal as the ferries were having "mechanical difficulties". It was a perfect way to pretend I was somewhere other than there!