Saturday, 25 May 2013

Med Cruise - It is all over - back to Spain (6)

So that was it..our suitcases had already been delivered to the plane, we gathered at the airport, again marshalled into our flight and back to Madrid. Overnight and we had enough time in the morning to catch the big exhibition by all women artists at the Canal Foundation about a protest on the subject of Generic violence mainly against women. There were works by luminaries such as Yoko Ono and Abramovitch and many more.

Then it was to the airport once again and take the Ryanair flight to Santander and home.
With our suntans and a thousand photographs to remember the cruise..

Med Cruise - Mykonos and Athens (5)

Another day another Greek Island - A whole day of sailing and the following morning we were moored outside Mykonos. Another idyllic island with narrow meandering streets and lots of tourist shopping and restaurants. Greece is supposed to be in a financial crisis. Not in Mykonos! prices were high, though one old lady in a patio outside a typical house tried to explain to me that the things were really bad. I tried to sympathise, but it turned out that her woes were not financial but with the rise in crime and theft.

We looked around at the tour guide spots, such as the wind mills, which were not in the best of condition, and the little Venice, which was also a bit run down and not really anything like Venice. Still in a small island where there is nothing much to write home about, the little things become important.

However it was a very pretty island, but we were soon back in the boat, the sun deck, jacuzzi, the cocktails, entertainment and a nice dinner.

The last stop was Athens and we had another excursion booked. After the experience at Istanbul this was again a good idea as we were able to pack in a lot of sightseeing in eight hours.The tour guide was a very informed man, who tried to give the tour party a thorough explanation of aesthetics and mathematics associated with the Acropolis and other mythical buildings, boring many to tears but fascinating all the same.
Olympic Stadium - Athens

 Aesthetics at the Acropolis

He was also very critical of Elgin (as one would expect since Elgin literally carved out the marble panels in the Acroplis and transported them to England) for his criminal activity, and to further annoy him (and the Greeks) one of the boats on which the marbles were being taken, sank and many of those priceless panels were lost for ever.
Marble panels at the Acropolis

If I remember correctly, there were some 60 or more panels and just one of them came up for auction, and fetched something like 50 million Pounds! Not surprised that they are now asking for them to be returned.

It was a thrilling experience to see all these monuments that we had heard so much about.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Med Cruise - Istanbul (4)

We were warned that the best part of our stop in Istanbul was the arrival at Istanbul, not to be missed, and it turned out to be quite a sight. The view of the city and its division between Europe and Asia is quite a sight. And to add to the fun the captain announced "Dolphin watch on left and right of ship". With the magnificent Istanbul and its mosques and minarets in full view, what appeared to be a hundred dolphins welcomed us, all jumping out of the water and swimming along with the ship.

Santa Sofia

 Topkapi Palace                                                

We had decided that with a limited time at our disposal it was probably best to take a city tour excursion instead of doing everything ourselves. Turned out once again to be a good strategy, as there were long queues at the Santa Sofia, the Blue Mosque and the  Topkapi Palace, and the excursions had special entrances which bypassed the queues. Later we learnt that those who tried to do it yourself, did not have time to enter the terrific buildings.

        Blue Mosque

It all turned out to be fantastic, and we were not disappointed.
About 500 passengers had opted for our excursion, so about 15 busses were arranged, with a lot of organisation of passengers and guides. We were number 5. Off we went and in about 8 hours we had seen the main attractions, been given lunch at a restaurant at the Topkapi Palace with very nice views over the city and no queuing except at the blue mosque where we had to wait a few minutes. While we waited a group of girls wanted to have a picture taken with me! Naturally I had no objection!

Blue Mosque

The Grand Bazaar

The monuments are truely exceptional, even though the number of tourists is frightening and everywhere all you see are people. Fortunately most of the beautty is up in the domes and the ceilings and coloured glass windows.
One needs several days to do justice to Istanbul, however we could not have done more with the eight hours we had.
Once again back to the ship, the usual routine and next stop Mykonos back in Greece..

Med Cruise - Marmaris and on to Izmir (3)

We woke up and there was Marmaris, another Greek Island right in front of our ship, not as spectacular as Santorini but looked nice. We took it easy in the morning once again and when the hordes had dissappeared we took to the land and a taxi ride brought us to the centre of the town.

At first there did not appear to be much to see, but then we headed to the old part of the town, and discovered that there were beautiful old alleys in the same tradition as in Santorini, but not as white and clean. There was a fort which appeared to be closed but no matter, we discovered some nice corners, and not a tourist in sight!

A further bonus was a very nice little cafe bar at the top of a house, with stunning views and free WiFi! I got to call Paramjit (My younger bro) to wish him a happy birthday! He seemed sleepy after a long flight home from Australia.

The next day we sailed on to Izmir in Turkey..

One of the mosques in Izmir

In the old town of Izmir our taxi is stuck in a jam that can go neither forward or backward. How we got ourselves out of there I dont know!

A bazaar in of the most famous of these has been installed in an old palace for the ladies of a Harem! 

We were soon back in the boat for more entertainment, more drinks and food all on the house..and on to Istanbul!

Friday, 17 May 2013

Med Cruise - May 6 Athens to Santorini (2)

The worst part of a cruise happens right at the beginning, as we soon learnt, as a thousand or more passengers make their way to their cabins. Long queues during the monday afternoon, and we were lucky to be some of the last passengers to arrive late in the afternoon. Evrything is planned to perfection so that there was a minimum of time between offloading one set of people and collecting the next set. Even the luggage was taken direct from the flight to the cabins with virtually no delays at the airport.

the cabin was nice and in a very good location, reflecting perhaps the presence of a travel agent in our party. We soon began to work out where everything was, and there was a lot of working out to do, let me tell you, from the various decks for restaurants and bars and the show rooms, pools, and the shops to be remembered. We headed for the bar for our first cocktails, and of course there were a lot of "let me invite you" jokes, as everything by way of food and drinks was included with the cruise. A nice dinner, a show and we were in bed while the ship made its way to Santorini, our first stop. 

 When we opened our blinds in the morning, there was this magnificent sight of a clifftop town set on a half moon of an island. Legend has it that one half of the island sank into the mediterranean several thosand years ago, and the sheer cliffs of the island is where the fault line would have been. Having mulled over whether to take an excursion or do our own exploring, we had decided to take it easy and leave after the morning rush to get off the boat. This turned out to be a great strategy as we could relax and the main town was just off the landing on the port. We took the complimentary boat ride to the port and started walking.

Santorini is a very beautiful litttle town, with the typical white house lined narrow streets for which the Greek islands are famous. We took a cable car to the hill top town, but the decision to take the thousand steps path on the way down was a bit foolish. What we did not know was that there would be hundreds of donkeys lugging tourists up the steps! Coming down those steps was quite an experience. There were more than a few sore legs after that descent!

Back on the boat, more entertainment, more drinks and dinner and we took to our beds with a smile on our faces while the ship made its way to Marmaris.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The Greece/Turkey Mediterranean Cruise - May 2013 - (1)

Montse, our family travel agent, came up with an offer for a Med cruise in the Greek Islands and Turkey, which we just could not refuse! So we pulled anchors (sorry) and made hasty arrangements to catch the cruise in Athens, which meant busses, planes, Madrid, more planes and arriving in Athens. There was a document bag with about fifty sheets with Bus tickets, Hotel vouchers, Ryanair boarding passes and cruise details and a lot more.
Anyway the day came and off we went.

4th May to Madrid
A bus ride to Santander airport and a Ryanair flight took us to Madrid..where we had just enough time to catch the Dali exhibition and also the Cristina Iglesias installations at the Reina Sofia. The hotel location was such that we could walk to the museum and also to the home of our friends Natalia and Leandro, who treated us to the most amazing lunch in the company of more Madrid friends. The next day we took the Pullmantur flight to Athens.

Cristina Iglesias installations at the Reina Sofia