Sunday, May 11, 2014

Back to Venice (And Canada)

We arrived in Venice early on the last day, but were not disembarking first, so we made it up to the Lido deck for breakfast. We happened to be sitting next to a couple that was also from Ontario and after chatting a bit, we learned they were from Sault Ste. Marie and the husband was an instructor at Fleming College, where Erin went to school. He taught Erin’s program and knew him very well!

After disembarking, we took the train into Venice to get on another train to the airport. The departures area of Marco Polo Airport was very different and much more lavish than the arrivals area where we started the trip by waiting quite a while for our travel companions.

We took a short hop to Rome and had to go through a passport check where a rude Italian man tried to cut in front our group. I explained that there was a line and he seemed pretty surprised to be told to wait by a young woman. Then he tried to pretend he did not speak English and finally that he was in a rush and should get to cut in. It turned out he was on our flight, so he was in the same rush we were.

We also got to experience a bussing facility to take us out to our plane in the middle of the tarmac. This was my first bussing experience and it was crowded, had limited seating and the lines for any type of food or drink were crazy long. After getting to our Alitalia plane, its airworthiness seemed a bit sketchy and it also had broken seats, broken entertainment systems and our Italian friend. Mom and I just tried to sleep the whole way home, which worked pretty well. After landing in Toronto, we finished off with our drive home to London and all proceeded to pass out for many hours.

Overall, it was an exciting and interesting adventure. We came home with many memories, stories and lovely souvenirs (including my bruise, which had become a beautiful rainbow in the two days since it happened).

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Over My Head (Cable Cars)

Our last stop on the cruise before returning to Venice was Dubrovnik, Croatia. It was a beautiful day and really made all of the quaint, red-roofed houses on the hill pop. We decided to start our day by taking a taxi to the cable cars.


After that, we headed down to the fort on the water to wander around the old town. It was getting to be incredibly hot and we had had many busy days, so Stephanie and Tanya went to walk the walls while the rest of us decided to stay in the town and wander around.


We all meandered back to the ship in our small groups, had ice cream and headed to dinner. Afterwards, we split up to pack, make a few stops around the ship and try the show (opera, which we left shortly into because we realized we were not big fans of opera). I also got in one more hot tub, leading me to come up with the list below.

Top 5 Reasons That Evening Hot Tubs Are the Best:

5. No children splashing and/or jumping on you.
4. You can float however you want and take up the entire hot tub.
3. Being able to see the stars as you’re floating and relaxing.
2. No one turning the bubbles on without your permission.
1. The surprised look on people’s faces when they realize there is a person by themselves just chilling in the hot tub.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Last Greek Island

Our final stop in Greece was Corfu. The island had spent years under different rule, so while it was part of the country of Greece now, the buildings showed a lot of Italian, French and British influence. We started off by wandering the streets and picking up some souvenirs.

We eventually ended up down at the water, where Uncle Brian walked through the fort and the rest of us explored the courtyard areas along the sea. It was just a short stay at the port, as we were off to Dubrovnik the next day and we had to cover quite a bit of ground (water) to get there.

It also happened to be my mom’s birthday, so I had asked our stewardess if she could make my mom a towel animal while we were out and I set out a card I brought along. My mom was definitely surprised! Since there was still a lot of the day left, we headed up to the pool. I had not yet tried out the waterslide and was excited to do so. It did not turn out very well though because, unfortunately, a misbehaving child did not wait until I had gotten out of the way before he came down and I ended up with a big, awful bruise! That was the first and only time I used the slide. Even though we had dinner in the dining room (and mom had some giant prawns), I also decided to try out the room service for a late night snack that night.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Do You Understand This?

We arrived in Athens and had booked a tour company to give us all a private tour of the city. Things did not quite work out as planned though and the company was nowhere to be seen when we got off the ship. We tried to get in touch with them, but they did not seem to have any record of us booking with them. Luckily, we had not yet paid them a fee, however, they did not have anyone else available to drive us around for the day. We did spot some tour vans off to the side, so Aunt Esther went over to negotiate a deal with them. It worked and we met Dimitris.

Dimitris was quite a character, explaining that he was often called upon to tour around the rich and famous when they visited Athens. He even showed us a decades old American newspaper with a story written by someone who had used his services. It was pretty hard to believe, but we played along with it. We started off by visiting the Zea Marina. As we drove there, Dimitris was telling us about a local philanthropist, Aristotle Onassis, who directed his estate to be used to build and operate the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre in honour of his son who was killed at a young age in a plane crash. Each time Dimitris explained something to us he asked “Do you understand this?” This would become a common phrase throughout the tour.

Next we went to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. We got there just ahead of many of the other tour buses and Dimitris parked illegally, so that we would have good access to the area and be able to move onto our next destination easily. Stephanie also found a cat roaming the grounds. It was really odd to see the juxtaposition of the ancient ruins right in the middle of the city. Often in photos it seems like they are off on their own in isolation, but they were really in the centre of it all!

Next we headed to the Acropolis, which we could actually see from the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Dimitris explained to us that “polis” meant “area of” in Greek and “acro” meant “height,” so Acropolis meant a high area in Athens. He also drove us right up to the entry gate, even though everyone else was getting let out at the bottom of the hill and having to walk up. He seemed to get away with everything! There was the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (an amphitheatre), the famous Parthenon and the old Temple of Athena.

From there we went to the Panathenaic Stadium, used for the Olympics, followed by the “Heel of Athens,” the highest lookout point in the city. We also got our pictures taken with the Presidential Guards and had to be serious when doing so.

After that, our tour was complete, but Dimitris offered to take us somewhere with bathrooms and drinks for a break before we headed back. We arrived at a store and they offered us pop and ouzo (I passed on that) and they also showed us around their souvenirs. We bought some jewellery and trinkets and could see that Dimitris and his friend had a good system going! While we started off not knowing how the day would go due to the missing tour bus, it turned out great, was very informative and was certainly a unique experience! 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

And They Catch Me Ridin' Donkey

Well, this was the dream. After so many years of reading, watching (and rewatching) The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, we finally made it to Santorini! We were the only ship in port for the day, which was a good thing, because we had to be tendered in from the middle of the caldera. Being tendered in meant we got to enjoy some stunning views of the cliffs during the crossing, though.

We took the clichéd method of transportation, donkeys, up the cliff to reach the village. Although, when we arrived near the top, we were curtly told to get off. I guess they had to keep the donkeys moving with all of the cruise ship passengers. We climbed a bit further to reach the village and decided to look for a driver to take us around. We found an enthusiastic minibus driver that took us and a few other visitors around to see the sights of whitewashed houses and blue domes. We also got to see the low-lying side of the island with its sprawling green fields.


After being dropped off, we wandered around the village some more and enjoyed some snacks from a local bakery. We also saw a house being constructed, which was neat! From there, we decided to head back down to the water, but we used the cable car this time. When we made it down, I decided I was swimming in the caldera, even though it was still pretty chilly in May. All in all, it was a magical port!