Sunday, 11 November 2012

Italia Part 2 and Back to Spain

"Italia Part 2 and  back to Spain" We arrived back to the port of Civitavecchia on Oct 31st in the pouring rain. Two hump backs in rain ponchos trying to book our next movement north in Italy so we could hike Cinque Terra. ( five villages). All advice to us pointed to a train to Genoa to start. This turned out to be a mistake because we over shot the villages by 1/2,hour on the fast train and ended up having to go back the next day with the many stops, metro train for two hours! We did get a room for two nights in Genoa and enjoyed sightseeing there so it was not all bad.  Our full day trip to  Cinque Terra was not what we planned but enjoyed it just the same.There is a lot of trail damage due to a huge mud slide last year so we could not walk from village to village. We hopped on the metro train to get to each village but still had lots of  exercise just climbing through these towns. The day was cool and windy while we were there (Nov. 1 ), but it is easy to see what a charming place this would be to visit and hike in the summer. Our pictures show crashing waves with all boats up in the streets.  We had an evening train from Genoa to Milan on Nov. 2nd and another overnight train from Genoa to Barcelona.  On this last half day in Genoa  we saw more beautiful churches and the childhood home of Christopher Columbus. This time on our red eye train trip we had comfortable reclining seats on our overnight train ride but our sleep was interrupted with a police bust on two stow-aways plus interrogation of a few others. When they collect your tickets they take your passports too; so have time to have a good look.   Never a dull moment for the traveling Capers; good thing we had nothing to hide. :-) We arrived in Barcelona in the morning and walked the streets with our now very heavy packs ( remember the extra clothes for cruising) searching for beds . It was Saturday and many hotels were full. We ended up taking a hostel for three nights. This was a cheap option again and served to sharpen our anticipation of returning to the comfort of a cruise ship. We had a very nice 3 days in Barcelona. You could easily spend a full week there.  On our first full day Lori did the Gaudi sites that I had done in 2010 and I went to Montserrat. On the second day we did more Gaudi sites and a lot of city walking. On our last half day Lori did the Picasso Museum and I went to ParJuiic; collected our bags back at the hostel and treated ourselves to a rare taxi ride to the ship.  Well worth it now that we are lugging heavy packs plus hand bags. We are off to our transatlantic crossing now with 5 ports of call on Carnival, Breeze. This is the ship's inaugural crossing. We are hoping for calm weather. As I post this on Nov. 11th we are in  Las Palmas, Canary Islands. So far so good with the cruise. We are adjusting better to the cruise lifestyle. This ship is loaded with options for entertainment, exercise and relaxation so we will have a very nice grand finale to the big adventure.  Next post will be about the cruise and it's 5 ports of call.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Cruise to Africa

"Cruise to Africa" The 11 day cruise to Africa on the NCL Jade went by in a flash for me. Lori found the two sea days to get there and come back a little boring. I might have to sedate her on the 15 day Atlantic crossing.  We decided together to only do two ship excursions for the big events like Jerusalem in Israel and the Pyramids in Egypt and explore on our own on the other 4 ports of call. This was a wise balance of our time, shekels,Egyptian pounds, Euros, and the good old American greenback. (always carry the Euro and USA $ for back up) Our first port of call was Alanya, Turkey. We hiked to the Alanya Castle on the hilltop over looking the city and Harbour in the morning.  We had rain in the afternoon which hampered our walk about but Lori scored a haircut. Our second port was Limassol, Cyprus. I had an anxiety attack about missing out on something and jumped on an excursion at the last minute to see a castle, monastery and wine museum with tasting. Lori walked on her own and we both had a good day. I brought some bottled treats back for sharing the better tastes of the day. Our third port was Haifa, Israel and we made an excellent full  day of self tour together. We jumped on a local bus to Nazareth. We were planning on jumping onto a second bus so we could make it to the Sea of Galilee for a swim but decided we would not have enough time. We saw the church of Enunciation and a historic old  village of Nazareth that was very interesting. Once back in Haifa we walked to the Bahai Gardens and then to the Church built on top of Elijah's Cave. It was a long hike back to our ship and we sprinted the whole way so we could make happy hour.  Our fourth port was Ashdod, Israel. On this day we took a ship's excursion to Jerusalem which included a look out stop from  the Mount of Olives, Gethsemane and a walking tour inside the original walled city of Jerusalem and the Wailing Wall.  Our tour guide was a young Jewish woman who did a remarkable job of Israeli  and biblical  history. The tour took a lot of patience as everywhere we went there were traffic jams and the sites were very crowded with tourists. We both were happy that at least the weather was comfortable; to be in such crowded conditions on a hot summer day would be unbearable. Our fifth port was Port Said, in Egypt. We again did a ship's excursion  to see the Pyramids and Sphinx  at Giza. This was a long day as we needed to travel 2 1/2 hours by bus each way to get there. We also went to the oldest pyramid at Saqqara  and saw the tomb. We had an opportunity to go down inside a pyramid to the tomb. Lori and I gave it a go but I came running back after three paces into the dark , low tunnel. Lori made it all the way with a handful of other brave souls. She has guts for garters. We  also visited the buried city of Memphis with some remarkable statues of Ramses 11. On the trip to and from Giza our buses went in a convoy with military escort front and back. We again had a very nice and knowledgable Muslim lady as our guide.  On our sixth and last port of Alexandria we walked on our own again. We reluctantly accepted an offer of horse and buggy ride which did not turn out well at all. Lesson learned. We did have a nice walk along the East Harbor and a visit to their magnificent library/ museum. The walk back to the ship was done with some nervousness at a fast pace. The people were polite to us but we caused a bit of a scene which made you feel a little vulnerable. There are not many tourists in the streets yet and because the Muslims were enjoying a major religious holiday the streets were very busy with people. There was a feeling of wild west lawless at times with cars and people going in all directions in the streets and horses pulling carts and buggies, sometimes with kids driving them, neck and neck with taxi cabs. We were happy to make it back to the ship before dark.  Our two days of sailing back to Civitevecia, was more of the usual, lots of exercise activities to off set the over eating. We figure by the time we make it across the Atlantic we will be line dancing pros. We arrived back to the port of Civitavecchia in the rain and as I write this we are on the train heading to Genoa. It looks like we might get a few sunny days to walk Cinque Terra. Next chapter to come; "Italia Part 2".

Cruising to Africa

Italia, Part 1

"Italia Part 1"
We started our Italian adventure with a two night and one day ferry ride to Venice from Patras, Greece. The ship was a strange cross between a freight ferry and cruise ship.  As usual we chose the most economical yet comfortable travel option which this time was a shared 4 bed cabin; thinking it was similar to staying in a hostel. As we were waiting to board the ship we watched in disbelief as perhaps 40 giant shipping semi trailers disembarked. It was like a magicians hat with rabbits coming out. The ship had two levels for these mammoths. It suddenly occurred to us that this ship would be primarily sleeping truckers and that we might be sharing our tiny cabin with two burly snore masters. As it turned out we had the cabin to ourselves the first night and the next day a lady from Belguim joined us. This turned out to be a bit of a pain since she had just driven from Istanbul and was so tired she slept all day. This meant that we were tip toeing into the room when we needed something and could not relax in there for reading and manicures as planned. The ship had all the usual amenities but on a smaller scale than a cruise ship. The food was very good and we both enjoyed their Moussaka . 
When we arrived in Venice at 11:00
am it was overcast and cool. Our photos are not the best. It was nice arriving by boat down the Grand Canal and they make it very easy for tourists to transfer to the city centre.  As soon as we arrived we walked to the train station to book an overnight train to Rome for the following night. That complete we enjoyed our first Italian cappuccino; yeah, prices are back down to Spain level. Food and liquor prices were about double in Greece.
We then walked the streets till we found a reasonably priced hotel, still a short walk to the train station.The rest of the day was spent memories of Camino walking.  ( two round trips to San Marco square and back). We tried to see a musical show but could not find the venue . While back in the square at evening, instead  we watched a film crew shooting a scene for a movie. ( me hoping it would be George Clooney since he lives in Italy). We have no idea what the name of the movie is but a chubby comedian man seemed to be getting the dear John boot from his very beautiful girlfriend. She then struts off across the square past a gaggle of touristy looking extras strolling through.  It was not raining today but they kept hosing down the square so I guess in the movie it will be. I hope we will be able to track this film down on it's release. 
Our second day in Venice was again much walking about and shopping. I finally found a new pair of my favourite Mephisto sandals so I can " jettez " the very worn out old ones. That is a favourite new French word that I learned while on Camino. It means to throw away. Say it fast, don't think twice; just get rid of what you do not need. I left my front pack behind in Venice in exchange for a new tote bag with two matching purses; good bye Camino; hello cruising. 
We managed to have a gondola ride on our second day which was a treat.
Our red eye train trip from Venice to Rome was an unhappy situation of six travelers squashed into one cabin with no reclining seats. Oh well, can't win every time.
   On arriving early  in Rome we decided to take a real hotel room within walking distance of the train station with the assistance of a booking agent in the train station. We dropped off our bags and headed out to see Rome on the hop on bus.  Once we were able to get into our room and shower, we then split up for the day. Lori had not been inside the Coliseum on her previous trip to Rome and I wanted to do the Art Museum and Castle D'Angelo. My day did not work so well as most of the art was Religious in subject which I have already been saturated in and I ran out of time to see the castle. Lori thoroughly enjoyed her afternoon and  we actually bumped into each other in a restaurant near our hotel in the evening.
On the morning of Oct. 20th we left our packs at the hotel and did some last minute desperate shopping for a few extra cruise wear items. We then  caught our train for the one hour ride to our ship in the port of Civitavecchia. 
Next chapter to come; cruising to Turkey, Cyprus, Israel, and Egypt  ( 11 days)
Italia Part 2 will cover another five days after the cruise as we head up the west coast of Italy and finally to Barcelona.