Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 5--Olympia

This morning we woke up and had the breakfast buffet on the ship.  The breakfast was really starting to get old because there wasn’t much to eat and the food was just not good.  We ate and then waited for them to tell us that the boat had ported and we were able to enter the city.  We ported and then a tour bus took us in groups into the center of Olympia.  We were headed to the Olympic ruins in Olympia.  When we arrived we were dropped off at the top of the hill and then rocked down into the area of the ruins.  There were a couple of groups of tours and we were all standing outside the entrance waiting in the heat while our tour guides tried to figure out the tickets.  We continued to stand there and our tour guide was handing out tickets and was just handing them out to anyone standing there.  In the end, we were missing tickets and the tour guide kept saying that some of us must have moved groups after they told us not to and that was why we were short a ticket.  Once she got over that we were short a ticket and we weren’t getting in without them she got us the extra ticket and we were able to enter.  Again, the tour guide had a very thick accent and it was very hard to understand her and she talked a lot!  She took us around the ruins and explained what some of the pieces were prior to being ruins.  It was really neat to see the ruins and hear the stories.  After a little while, we took our own tour around the ruins because we couldn’t understand our tour guide anymore!  On the outside of the ruins was the Olympic track.  As you entered in, there were pedestals just outside the entrance.  These were where the cheaters had to stand and people would see these cheaters as they entered into the track. 

Once we were done with the tour they gave us some time to wander in the shops and then it was time to head back to the ship.  After we did some shopping in Olympia we boarded our bus and headed back to our docking area.  We decided that we wanted to do some looking around where we were docked.  We looked through some of the shops and then Caleb decided that he wanted to get himself a gyro.  He wandered off and I decided to sit on a bench and wait for him.  We were to be boarded at 5:00 and this was around 4:30.  I sat for about 20 min. and then worried that I had maybe missed seeing Caleb come back around and so I started going up and down the street looking for him.  We were needing to be on the boat in less than 10 min. and I was starting to get really worried.  I kept thinking about what we tell the kids when they get lost and wondered what Caleb would do if he was lost or looking for me.  I tried to stay in the open and was thinking that maybe I should just start heading to the ship.  As I was headed that way, Caleb spots me ( he is close to the entrance for the ship) and he is yelling my name to hurry.  You could tell he was panicked as much as I was that we were going to miss our boat!  All in all, we made it on time and learned our lesson about sticking together.

That evening we had our usual 5-course dinner and then went to the show on the ship that evening.

The Cheaters!

The Olympic Track

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Day 4--Bari

Day 4--- Bari was the destination for the day and we arrived in port.  We disembarked and decided to go it along for this day.  Bari had two destinations we were to hit and it was the Saint Nicholas cathedral where Saint Nick was laid to rest and the other was the castle.  Bari came in with low expectations but we really enjoyed just walking the streets and enjoyed the castle and cathedrals in Bari.  They had two and they were both neat to walk into and see how beautiful they were.  The cathedral set up was a main sanctuary adorned with gold trimmings and beautiful wood work all over.  Behind the pulpit for lack of a better/right term was a stair case that went below ground and there was another area it looked like to pray and worship.  However this area was very plain except for the pictures of Mary and Jesus and the candles that were lit in different areas.  The walk was a bit long but we did see most of the island as the castle and the cathedral of Saint Nick was on opposite sides of the island.  Overall we enjoyed Bari.  Once back on the ship we got ready for dinner and like every night went to eat was AO people where we were served a 5 plus course meal every night.  However that night the food for a second straight night was just OK.  That night I had to convince Kim to go to the theatre again but we made it by ourselves and we were entertained with a juggler, dancers, singers, and a Fabio like dude that spun to ball around and clicked them on the stage.  All of it was very entertaining and we enjoyed it.  After that it was off to bed.
This was a gas station along our walk.  Totally different than ours!

The castle of Bari

If you look really closely at the sign, it says there is no speed limit.

The church of St. Nick

A statue of Saint Nicholas just outside the church.

A view of the ceiling from inside the church

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Greek Isles--Day 1, 2, and 3

So I am going to attempt to log our trip to the Greek Isles, but it may take me a while!  My goal is to blog one day of the trip each day, but I am not making any promises!

Day 1--

We fly from Boise to Chicago and encounter a 5 hour layover.  After contemplating whether we should go into downtown Chicago we decided to just sit down and eat at our place Chilis.  We then waited 3 hours doing nothing and finally we departed to Munich.  In Munich we had just a short layover and we departed and arrived in Venice.  For once we had no issues on the flight and no issues with luggage.  So we count that a big win.  Once out of the airport AO had a gal take us to a water taxi that strolled about a main waterway to our hotel.  The hotel was very nice.  Apparently the Molino Stucky Hotel is a 5 star $500 a night hotel on the edge of the canal in Venice.  First impressions of Venice was it was a little dirty and the people are all smoking.  We went to our room to find we were given a suite!  This had a living area with a hallway that had a bathroom and farther down was the bedroom.  The room was very nice and the view was of the downtown area of Venice.  Very Cool!  That night we had our AO welcome dinner which was a buffett style with a little entertainment provided by 4 italian musicians.  The food was ok consisting of pasta, fish, chicken, etc.  After dinner we decided to go for a little walk.  Our area was actually I believe a separate land mass from Venice because I think we were surrounded by water and cut off from Downtown Venice by the canal in front of our Hotel.  So we strolled down the main road along the canal to see the shops and restaurants that lined the water.  It was a very pleasant night and we took quite a few pictures.  We did not sleep well that night due to the time change and the weird long flights and on and off sleeping we did on the plane.  Even though we were very tired.

Our hotel--The Molino Stucky Hotel

Views from along our walk

This was where our room was

Day 2—On the morning of  day 2 we had a breakfast buffet served by the hotel.  They had a lot of different food, but really the same stuff we have.  They served a lot of unique cheeses, had eggs that were really runny (Caleb said they tasted like a hard boiled egg that had been scrambled), sausage and bacon that just wasn’t similar to ours, and a lot of fruit.  All the grapes had seeds in them and everything was all just a little bland.  They didn’t ever have salt and pepper at the tables and you had to ask for it if you wanted any.  After breakfast we headed on our tour of Venice.  The city itself was just gorgeous and everywhere you turned you could take a picture of something unique and beautiful.  When we started the tour we started in the center of the city.  There were several black men selling these purses and they would bring the purse up to you and say “You want to know how much?”  I told Caleb to find out how much the purses were so I would know where to start with my bartering.  They told him 36 euro which was way more than I would ever pay, so we walked on and continued on with the tour.  We started with this one tour guide and her accent was so strong you could not understand her English and it was painful to listen to her.  They had given us earpieces that we could hear them through so we just switched stations and went to a new tour guide.  We started and Saint Marcs Square and they took us through the Bascilica.  This is where all of their government was held and all of their courts were taken care of in here.  It had a lot of history and information that was just overwhelming.  When we left, the guide took us through the prisons which was connected to the main building.  We then crossed over the Bride of Sighs.  They call this bridge that because they claim the prisoners would sigh as they passed over this bridge as they awaited their time to come in prison.  From there we went into the church there.  The church was all done in mosaic and it was absolutely amazing.  They wouldn’t allow us to take pictures in the church so we just walked through and enjoyed looking at the detail they had put into the church.  From the church they took us to the Marono Glass store.  They did a presentation for us of how they do the blown glass.  The gentleman made a vase and a horse in a matter of minutes.  They would melt the glass and then he would rotate, pull, and shape the glass in literally one minute and he would then have the item complete.  From there we were able to wander around a bit before they took us on the gondola ride.  AO had set up a gondola ride for everyone and we were on the boat with 2 other couples.  It was about a ½ hr. ride and they weaved you around along the different canals that just run endlessly through their city.  After the gondola ride we were on our own for the rest of the afternoon.  We wandered around with another couple from our group.  We went into a few shops and had lunch.  We had lunch at a little place inside the town and had some pretty good food.  Caleb had a Panini and I had some pizza.  They will charge you 15% if you sit down and eat, but if you take it and go, they don’t charge you anything extra.  This was the first time we had run into this!  We knew from then on to not sit J  After lunch we ran into another one of the men that was selling all the purses when we entered into the city.  He and I bartered a bit and by the end of it I ended up with one purse for 20 euro, which was pretty good in comparison to the 36 euro he had started at.  As we wandered back into town another gentleman was standing there selling purses.  He tried to sell another one to me and I tried to show him that I had already bought one.  He then proceeded to ask me which one I would like and I pointed to a few.  As he and I were discussing the purses another lady passed by and told me that it was a $1,000 fine to purchase.  The guy, of course, said that wasn’t true and continued on bartering.  As we were bartering another black man came by and told my purse seller that “they were coming”.  All of a sudden you saw this mass of black men carrying purses rushing past us.  My purse seller immediately told me I could have my purse for 10 euro (which he had already bagged up and put in my hand before I had even paid).  I quickly paid him and shortly after that a policeman was rushing after all these men and told me that buying that purse was illegal.  It was quite the experience.  From there we headed back to our hotel and went swimming in the pool.  The pool was on the roof of our hotel and you could overlook Venice while swimming.  It was beautiful!   When the pool closed we decided to head back to our room and get ready to have dinner.  Once we got ready, we both decided we were still full from lunch and decided not to leave our room.  We continued to get our bags packed for we were leaving the next morning to board the cruise ship. 

The Bridge of Sighs is directly behind us

This was the horse that was made by the blowing of glass.  The man made it in just minutes.

View from the pool

Day 3— The first day of the cruise.  We woke up early and was again water taxied over to the port holding our cruise ship.  It was called the MSC Musika.  It was a beautiful large cruise ship sporting lots of staterooms and many lounges, bars, a whole floor dedicated to restaurants, another floor containing two pools 4 hot tubs, fitness center, mini golf, tennis/soccer/basketball area, kids zone, casino, and theatre for live shows.  We settled into our stateroom which contained a bedroom with a small bathroom that had a tiny shower sink and toilet.  The room was not as small as I thought it would be as it held two double beds that were pushed together.  Outside the room we had a balcony that was very nice for fresh air and overlooking all of the ports we arrived at.  That night was a welcome cocktail party sponsored by AO and let’s just say people took advantage of it.  Following the party was dinner and it was one of the loudest dinners I have ever experienced, but everyone was having a good time including us.  Following dinner every night the ship entertained us with a live show.  We had just met a couple of new couples so they accompanied us to the show.  Their names were Ryan and Laurie, and Bryan and Dana.  The theatre was very nice but I think because of the alchohol or something everyone was a little bit antsy and after a couple of songs everyone decided to leave.  We explored the ship a little and found the casino and watched people lose money and a few win.  As with every night to follow we went to bed around midnight and that concluded the first day on the ship.

A view from the top of the ship as we leave Venice.

Another view of Venice.