Monday, September 26, 2016

Excursions on Second Cruise by Margot Justes

The second one is also  a 14 night cruise, and on this one there will be 5 days at sea, the rest of the time will be spent visiting ports.  The lovely part is that I’ll be joined by lifelong friends for the 2 upcoming cruises. This is my first time taking them back-to-back...will let you know how that works out.

The first stop on this 2nd cruise from Rome, is Valetta, Malta.

This will be my second visit to Malta. It is beautiful, and a delight to tour, people are warm, and friendly, filled with history, and natural beauty, it is an amazing place to visit. We’ll stop to see the Hagar Qim Temples, that date back  to 3600 BC and described by the World Heritage Sites committee as "unique architectural masterpieces". This tour includes  a lunch at a local resort in Golden Sands.  We’ll visit the ancient city of Mdina, where St. Paul is said to have lived after being shipwrecked on the Islands in 60 A.D. Tour includes a visit to the crafts village in Ta’ Qali, filled with handmade items by local artisans.

Piraeus, the port of Athens.

I have been to Athens before, and have climbed the stairs to the Acropolis, the last time was in 2014.  For this tour, I opted for a walking excursion that will end in the Plaka, the touristy street, filled with cafes, restaurants, and gift shops. This tour includes a visit to the marble Panathenaic Stadium, the site of the first modern Olympic Games held in 1896.   

Ephesus, Turkey.

This one is a repeat visit as well, but the ruins are amazing, and well worth multiple visits.  I’ve extended this tour to visit the Magnesia Gate, the once-public steam baths of Scholastica, and Temple of Hadrian, the Great Theatre, one of the largest theaters in antiquity, and the  Arcadian Way, the main street of Roman-era Ephesus,  it is reputed that Mark Antony and Cleopatra once rode in procession. The tour will end with lunch at Cittantica Ephesus Park. I always look forward to sampling the local cuisine.

Mykonos, Greece is next.

I have visited Mykonos before, but instead of touring the Island, I took an excursion to Delos, an island about 45 minutes by ferry from Mykonos. Delos is an architectural site, filled with amazing ruins, it is an ongoing research facility, and a marvel to behold. The only people allowed to live on the island are the archeologists, and security staff. There is a museum on site, and the ferry brings the tourists in the morning and picks them in the afternoon. The winds can be quite brutal, and loud as they whip up in fury. The whole island is a magnificent ruin, and not to be missed. I may repost my Delos blog-it is unique.
This time I’ll spend the day in Mykonos, and hopefully find the wonderful Windmills, and stop for a cup of Greek coffee in one of the many cafes.  The ship docks within walking distance of the center of town. The main tourist street is along the shore, with water lapping against the stones, the souvenir shops lure you in, and for me a cafe and delicious Greek coffee always beckon.

Haifa, Israel

I lived in Haifa many, many years ago, and this will be an interesting visit. The school I attended is still there, walled in, high atop Mt. Carmel. The tour includes a visit to the magnificent topiaries in Haifa's Baha'i gardens, that were built on 19 terraces, and I hope to enjoy the panoramic city views from atop Mount Carmel.  That should bring back a few memories.

Ashdod, the port of Jerusalem, we dock overnight.

The first day I booked a long 10 hour tour that will take me to Masada, and the Dead Sea, said to be the lowest point on earth. I have never been to Masada, and am really looking forward to the tour. Since it’s such a long day, they have to feed us, and lunch will be provided by one of the resorts in the area, and it will be Mediterranean fare with the Dead Sea as a backdrop.  

The second day in Jerusalem will be spent in the city of Jerusalem.
The tour is called Eternal Jerusalem, all the key points of the ancient city will be covered, visit will include Yad VeShem Holocaust Museum, the Children's Memorial, and of course there is a stop  at the Jewish quarter of the Old City, the Western Wall, and the Tomb of King David.

Last stop on this cruise is Katakolon, Greece

Katakolon is rather small,  and offers a few of the customary tourist trinkets, but its main claim is that it is the getaway to Ancient Olympia, the site of the 1st Olympics in Greece. The ruins of the temples of Hera and Zeus-hopefully some of  the Greek Mythology I read ages ago, will come back to me.  The tour will end will local snacks and Greek Folk dances.

We again end in Rome, and the last cruise in this itinerary is the transatlantic one, it will take me back to Florence, Italy, Provence, France, Barcelona, and Palma de Mallorca, Spain. The excursions will not be repeated, I selected different places to visit, Europe is rich with history, there is so much to see that it is not a problem to revisit.  The last stop will be in Tenerife, Canary Islands. We cross the Atlantic, and spend 7 days at sea, relaxing before disembarking in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The best part, there is no jet lag, the time is adjusted daily while at sea.

Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
A Hotel in Venice

Monday, September 5, 2016

Shore Excursions by Margot Justes

This is a 14 night cruise, and we spend 3 days at sea, the rest of the time will be spent visiting ports.

The first stop on this cruise from Rome, is Salerno, Italy on the Amalfi Coast.  I’m heading to Sorrento, a coastal town that faces the Bay of Naples. The tour includes a stop in Amalfi, and lunch in town. It is a full day tour that will allow a bit of time on my own, to walk the narrow streets, and alleys lined with gift shops, restaurants, and coffee shops, both in Sorrento and Amalfi.

Last time I was in Naples, I took a boat to Amalfi and was able to see the coast, all the houses are perched on rocks, and the view from the sea is truly breathtaking. This time it will be a bus ride, and most likely a breathtaking ride for an altogether different reason, the roads are very steep and very narrow, but we’ll have Mount Vesuvius in the background. The tour promises a wood carving demonstration in Sorrento, always love to see the local artisans at work.

The second stop is Messina, Sicily, Italy. Along with a coastal tour, I’m taking an excursion that will take me to Taormina, an Italian resort town filled with history that includes a palazzo, and a Greek Theater, where the acoustics are said to be ‘dazzling’, and a view of Mount Aetna. Of course the town has-you guessed it-charming shops, restaurants, anything a tourist might desire.  Again, I’ll have a bit of time to explore on my own.

Third stop is Palma de Mallorca, Spain. I selected this tour because it offered Flamenco dancing-which I absolutely love. Many, many-I might as well stop here-years ago I saw Lucero Tena dance in Madrid, a truly memorable event. I even heard her perform on the castanets with the Madrid Chamber Orchestra. We’ll visit the Palace of Almundaina, La Lonja and the Cathedral, and visit the Bellvar Castle, 403 feet above sea level, with bay views,  we visit Son Amar, a 16th-century Mallorca manor house and UNESCO World Heritage site. There will be a marketplace, and the usual tourist accoutrements, restaurants, and gift shops. The tour ends with the Flamenco performance, and Sangria.

Fourth stop is Cartagena, Spain. A beautiful place as yet not fully discovered by tourists, but making quick inroads. I  was there in 2014, and the ship docked within walking distance of the center of town. I did not book a tour this time, but will go off on my own. There are some glorious Roman ruins that date back to 1st Century BC, and that is building up the tourist trade. One delightful souvenir shop that sells local wines and pottery, and of course lovely coffee shops, restaurants, and friendly locals.  There is a grand avenue perfect for a paseo-a stroll in the early evening, or any time.

Fifth stop is Gibraltar, UK. I booked the tour that would provide the most site seeing, and that will include the Strait of Gibraltar, and the tip of North Africa. It is primarily a walking tour of the city center, and I’m really looking forward to a bit of Moorish revival architecture in Cathedral Square. The tour promises I’ll learn a lot about the history, and I’ll have time on my own before returning to the ship. According to this tour, transportation back to the ship is not provided, I can only assume that the ship docked within walking distance, on the other hand I shouldn’t assume anything.   

Sixth stop is Lisbon, Portugal. I’ve booked a tour that will take me to Lisbon, Sintra, and Cascais. Supposedly 3 beautiful towns. This tour includes a 450 foot high view of Cape Roca in Cascais, with the rugged Atlantic Ocean below. We’re stopping for lunch in Sintra, and that usually means local specialties. The tour ends in Lisbon with a visit to the 16th Century Gothic Monastery Church, and Belém Tower.

Seventh stop is Cadiz, Spain This promises to be a tour of the Andalusian countryside. A walking tour in Cadiz, then a short bus ride to Vejer de la Frontera, a seaside town  with cobbled streets, shops, restaurants and beaches. Then a ride along the coast to Trafalgar Cape to visit a historic lighthouse, and on to Conil de la Frontera, another Andalusian resort town, with pine forests and overlooking the Mediterranean.

Eight is Ibiza, Spain-I accidently canceled my tour, and when I went back to rebook it, it was no longer available on line. It was to be a walking tour, and I’ll keep watch and see if it becomes available, otherwise I have to wait until I board the ship and hope there is a big enough waiting lis, for them to add another one. In the meantime I keep checking to see if something else appeals-so far not having much luck.

Ninth is Barcelona, Spain. I love this vibrant and lively city, and I’m happy to be going back. My next hotel book is set there, and more research is always a good thing. This is a walking tour, and I’ll visit a few of Gaudi’s masterpieces, among them La Sagrada Família, the magnificent architectural marvel, and visits to La Pedrera and Casa Batiló on the Paseo de Gràcia. I spent many hours visiting those places, and am looking forward to more. The tour also includes a visit to Barcelona's Medieval Gothic Quarter.

The last stop is in Provence, France (Toulon, is the port city) I booked a tour to Marseille, once we arrive, it is a walking tour, and will include a visit to Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica, seaside villas, and a visit to the old harbor.

To say I’m looking forward to this trip is an understatement. Hope you enjoy reading the brief descriptions of what the shore excursions offer at each stop.

Next back-to-back cruise will take me to Turkey, Greece, and Israel. I’ll post a list of those excursions next week.

Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
A Hotel in Venice