Archive for September, 2012

Day thirteen: Monday, September 3: Going home

September 5, 2012

We got up early as our friends Jonathan and Dave from San Diego had reserved a private van to take us to the airport as they also had a mid-day flight.  We arrived at the airport 45-minutes later which contrast sharply to the multi-hour, insanely crowded train odyssey we had last year at the end of our cruise.  We checked-in, did a little last minute souvenir shopping to spend our last Euros and boarded our flight to London’s Heathrow.  We connected smoothly to our flight to San Diego.  We arrived in San Diego tired, but fine, our luggage; however was delayed.  We had dinner at El Cuervo (we always crave Mexican food when we are traveling outside the U.S.), picked up some groceries and went to bed.  Our luggage arrived Wednesday mid-morning, so all is well.

Day twelve: Sunday, September 2: Palermo, Sicily

September 5, 2012

Today we began a little earlier as we were only in Palermo from 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.  We self-guided ourselves through the city with David from San Jose.  We took an hour-long walk from the port to the Catacombs of the Capuchin Friars, where more than 8,000 mummified bodies of monks, noblemen and citizens are dressed in their original 15th century clothes.  The most interesting is the body of Rosalia Lombardo, almost perfectly preserved though this baby girl died in 1920, at the tender age of two.  It was interesting that people were definitely physically smaller than they are today.  The church is still used today and Sunday services were in progress as we were departing.

We also saw the Teatro Massimo (the opera house), The Royal Palace Pretoria and the Piazza Pretoria.  Since it was Sunday morning, Palermo was very quiet as most were in church.  As the day went on we saw more people, but most shops and restaurants were closed and we were told ‘no Wi-Fi on Sundays.’  Palermo is not clean; we noticed trash, graffiti and periodic unclean smells.

Palermo alley

Palermo archway

Palermo church

Palermo intersection

Palermo street

Palermo Teatro Massimo, Opera house 1

Palermo Cathedral

Palermo Cathedral 1

Palermo Cathedral arches

Palermo Cathedral art

Palermo Cathedral clock tower 1

Palermo Catacombs

Palermo Catacombs 1

Jared and Matt, Departing Palermo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day eleven: Saturday, September 1: Valletta, Malta

September 5, 2012

Today we did a self-guided tour of the small Island nation of Malta.  Our first stop was St. John’s Co-Cathedral, which is an excellent example of Baroque architecture.  The church is ornately decorated and features haunting Caravaggio paintings.  Our next stop was the Casa Rocca Piccola, a 400-year-old estate that is still owned by the descendants of the original family.  The elegant home even features a WWII bomb shelter.  We then meandered around and did a little shopping, followed by lunch at a local restaurant featuring traditional Maltese cuisine.  Malta is a mix of British, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern culture.  My lunch consisted of a platter of sun-dried tomatoes, ratatouille, hummus, olives, cheese, salad and bruschetta.  Malta is clean and beautiful.

The evening’s entertainment was Dixie Longate, a very funny drag queen who integrates a Tupperware demonstration as part of her comedy act, mostly used as props during her routine.

Malta port 3

Malta steps

Matt, Jared, Kevin and Bill, Malta

Jared, Matt, St. John’s

St. John’s altar

St. John’s altar close up

St. John’s altar, side view

St. John’s candles

St. John’s Cathedral

St. John’s Cathedral, Malta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St. John’s interior arches

St. John’s looking toward altar

St. John’s looking toward altar 2

Tomb, St. John’s

Casa Rocca Piccola ceiling

Casa Rocca Piccola china closet

Casa Rocca Piccola hand carved table

Casa Rocca Piccola hand carved table 1

Casa Rocca Piccola Murano chandelier

Casa Rocca Piccola Summer dining room

Casa Rocca Piccola Summer dining room close up

Casa Rocca Piccola, portable ‘fold out’ altar

Jared, Casa Rocca Piccola WWII bomb shelter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day ten: Friday, August 31: Sea Day

September 5, 2012

Today we slept in and had a leisurely breakfast on the very back of the ship with a view of the gentle sea.  The Celebrity Equinox is the sister ship of the Silhouette, which was the ship we were on last year.  The ships are very beautiful and feature a lawn area, chilled martini bar, an indoor solarium pool with thick cushions on teak wood deck chairs and plenty of elegant places to sit.  The cabins are also very nice.

We sat by the pool and enjoyed the expanded brunch buffet in the main dining room for lunch.  The evening’s entertainment was Andy Bell from Erasure.  He gave a fantastic performance and his voice is as great as it was 30-years ago.  The evening dance party was 80’s.

Day nine: Thursday, August 30: Depart Istanbul

September 1, 2012

We decided to treat the second day in Istanbul as a ‘sea day’ and not do any touring.  We slept in and then I went to the Starbucks near the dock to ‘re-connect’ with the outside world.

As I set my backpack down, I overheard an exchange between an angry customer and the Starbucks cashier just after she paid for her coffee (one of several such exchanges during my visit).  Evidently the only way to aces the free Wi-Fi is to input a Turkish cell phone number into the Website and then a text message is sent which you then need to enter into the Website.  I then noticed a local woman helping a fellow tourist access the Internet this way.  She very graciously offered to help me as well.  I offered to buy her coffee, but she said ‘No, it was my pleasure; it was nice to meet you.’  I was so impressed with the woman’s kindness.  I wondered how many Americans would stop what they were doing and spend several minutes entering information into a Website, waiting for a text message, then entering in a code to help two strangers.

My Starbucks experience encapsulates my impression of the Turkish people.  Everywhere we went they offered us tea, even in the restaurant after we had paid the bill, we were offered tea as a way to welcome, or in this case, thank us.  Turkey is very clean, we didn’t notice any graffiti, trash or homeless people.  It also features good public transportation, including a light rail system that reminded us of the Portland light rail system.  Istanbul also includes dedicated bus lanes to move passengers through the heavily congested streets.

In the afternoon, as we sailed away from Istanbul we relaxed by the pool, chatting with friends.  That evening we met Ethan and Ralph for drinks at the Martini Bar.  We ordered the Martini flight which featured the bartender combining six martini shakers nested into each other.  He then slowly tipped them horizontally pouring them into six junior martini glasses from about 18 inches above the glasses not spilling a drop.  It was quite impressive.  The martinis were good.  We then had dinner with a large group of 12 friends from San Diego, Boston, Toronto and Milan.  Mattea from Milan toasted ‘to the cooperation of the countries’ which I thought was an appropriate toast for the day.

The evenings dance party theme was ‘Olympic Overload.’  Bill and Kevin dressed as horse jockeys.

Ethan, Jared, Matt and Ralph at Martini Bar

Bill and Kevin Olympic Overload Party