Friday, June 16, 2017

Santorini, Greece!

Arriving by cruise ship, you take a small “shuttle” boat, known as a “tender” from your floating hotel to the shore. If you look closely at the photo below, you can see a zig zag line up the cliff, just about in the middle of the picture. That is the walking path/staircase! There was such a long line for the cable car to the top, that it was not worth standing in line in the hot sun. So, grab a water bottle, hat, and sunscreen for the hike up!
The views were gorgeous, and the donkeys I didn't ride sure looked tired. No water in sight for them.
I know a tourist rip-off when I see one, but sometimes you pay too much for the best “tzaziki” on the planet (cucumber yogurt dip) with fresh pita bread, in exchange for a rooftop terrace table with free wifi and a rest room! I’m sure that outside of town, snacks would have been less than half the price, but it sure was a nice break in the heat of the day.
While other cruise passengers may have booked excursions or even taken the public bus to other places on the island, walking through narrow passages of Fira and admiring local arts, crafts, and cats, was an enjoyable way to spend the day (did go on excursions on 2 other islands).
My observation about this cruise was that the time in port seemed to short. Maybe I’m becoming more European after living here for 2+ years, but 6 hours on Santorini was not enough. The woman who sits next to me in my German choir went to Crete for a week! Now, I’m not sure about spending an entire week on the same small island, but I could probably figure something out if I had to (down time, day trips, etc.). We actually had less than 6 hours per port, once you figure out the time it takes to get from your ship to the destination, such as tenders, hiking up a cliff, or taking a 20 minute bus ride to old town (Dubrovnik, Croatia), plus getting back in time before sailing!
I’m still grateful for the opportunity to enjoy the sun, food, and local culture! Stay tuned for photos from Mykonos next.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Venice: only somewhat off the beaten path

The best part of planning a vacation (for me) is researching the destination, and hoping that the decisions you make ahead of time are the right ones, leaving enough undecided for spontaneity. Maybe some of you can arrive in a city without hotel reservations, but I like reading reviews and looking at maps to find a good place to stay. It feels great knowing where to go when we arrive, and having some idea of what to expect.
Because the weekend before our cruise was a festival weekend in Venice, we elected to stay on the nearby island of Murano in a larger, quieter room, at a better rate, compared with Venetian hotel rooms. I would highly recommend staying on a nearby island unless you become seasick on water. We had clear directions on which water transportation to take from the airport to the island of Murano, and we wheeled our luggage to the B&B without climbing over canal bridges. Even if you don’t stay on Murano, go see it if you have time. The first evening, we just walked around Murano and had a terrific dinner of asparagus soup, pasta, and of course gelato!
The next morning, we took another ferry boat over to Venice, just a short distance. We walked 5 miles that day, through clean, narrow alleys, along the grand canal, and cut across lovely, sunny squares with restaurants and cafes. The prices of most meals and snacks were high, since we wanted to sit down for a few minutes and use the establishment’s restrooms, rather than grabbing a snack on the run. Portable sandwiches and ice cream cones are not too pricey.
Although I don’t mind bargaining, the gondola rides were a fixed price, and gave us a good view of every building’s back door. There were plenty of touristy shops with souvenirs made in China, but we were thrilled to discover some gems of truly local wares, such as a tiny place selling ONLY items with BLACK CATS on them. HELLO!!!! The artist who painted some of the items had a black cats in Venice calendar, which I will turn into framed prints after each month in 2018.
I wish we had longer in Venice, but it was a wonderful chance to add a few days to our cruise vacation. We didn’t mind at all that the boat from Murano to the cruise terminal took over an hour, stopping at many points of interest all around Venice. I wouldn’t consider staying anywhere else other than Murano in the future.