Friday, May 29, 2015

Greetings from Greece: Where We are Making a House a Home

The sun at 6 pm is far from setting over the mountains of Greece's Messina Mani.  It doesn't happen this time of year until 8:30 p.m. or so. We know, because watching it set is one of the treats we give ourselves each day.

We've been back in The Stone House on the Hill  for ten days now. It was our destination after an incredible month-long magic carpet ride through exotic places with wonderful new friends in our floating community aboard Oceania's Nautica. Already it is serving its purpose as a great European home-base for travel as our flight from Rhodes to Athens was only 40 minutes long - much better than that long haul back to Seattle!

Nautica in Alanya Turkey
As I wrote earlier, it was difficult to say goodbye to so many new friends and to close the chapter on that marvelous cruising adventure through the Far and Middle East. (Because the blogging programs are still not cooperating, I'll save the photos and tales of those Arabian Nights for future posts.)

The Stone House (far right top row)
For now we are settling into life in our Greek daydream-turned-reality. Much like I reported last winter, within hours of our arrival, the two 'neighborhood cats' greeted us.  One seems to be well cared for and has been scarce but "Tom"who is appearing regularly, is showing a bit of wear and tear. We've started doctoring his wounds and bug bites (and feeding him to fatten him up). Yes, such is life on 'the hill'.

Lemon tree wine patio taking shape

We are focused for the next few weeks on more projects -- those smaller dreams of 'what could be', now that the daydream of owning a home in Greece has been realized. It hasn't all been smooth sailing, but with each new challenge there has been a sense of accomplishment as well.  One big accomplishment was installing internet at the house - it took only about 40 minutes after an internet provider was found. I am writing this without angling myself and computer to hook into someone else's signal -- a major milestone!

This year's olive crop is making an appearance
On this Friday morning the skies are blue and butterflies of rainbow hues flitter between the blooms in the garden.  We've spent our time in the garden today while waiting for electricians, plumbers, and contractors - and an appliance delivery van from Kalamata. Projects, projects, projects - making a list and checking it more than twice. Our 'to do' list seems to shrink by one item and then grow by two items each time we look at it.

This rose is outside the guestroom entryway
We are taking time to smell the roses - literally and figuratively. Tonight we are joining our neighbors for dinner at a café in a neighboring village - our welcome has been warm in this small 'hood on the hill.'

I'll try to touch base a bit more regularly without becoming a nuisance for those of you who are kind enough to receive our writings in your inbox. (if you haven't signed up; just follow that link and do so on our homepage - it is free and not a subscription.  As always thanks for the time you've spent with us ~ happy and safe travels to you~

Linking with:
Travel Photo Thursday
Weekend Travel Inspirations

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Washington Gems: Lake Chelan’s ‘Ruby’

While we are in a state of transition between life in the cruise ship and The Stone House on the Hill in Greece we are without Wi-Fi so I am going to tell you about a gem of a place back in Central Washington State. . .(I wrote this one before we left, just in case this happened)

If you’ve ever visited Lake Chelan in Central Washington State, you’ve probably walked right past Ruby - you may not have given the old girl a second glance.

It is easy to take priceless parts of a place for granted when you’re en route to somewhere else. Here, in the heart of wine country, it is easy to be distracted by the 55-mile long glacier fed Lake Chelan on which this small town is located.

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That’s the way it has been with us for decades when it comes to Chelan’s Ruby Theatre, located on the Main Drag in The Scout’s hometown. Our visits, like those of so many tourists, are focused on sunshine and the lake and in our case, visiting family and friends.

Frankly, the thought of going to a movie while in town hadn’t even crossed our minds until our last visit. I was there researching an article for The Seattle Times.  I planned to include a mention of the theatre, so we toured the Grand Old Lady with its owner. . .

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Taken from under the balcony section
The theatre opened in the summer of 1914 at its present location, 135 E. Woodin Ave., and is believed to be the oldest continuously running theatre in the State of Washington.  Named after  Ruby Potter, the daughter of the first manager, the theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Over the years a series of managers and owners have been a part of Ruby's history.

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From top left: Concessions, foyer, front row seats and from the back of the theatre
Larry Hibbard, who along with his wife Mary Murphy, bought The Ruby in 2006, took over management of it in 2013.  Hibbard explained that the interior of the theatre is essentially the same as it was when built a century ago. The original pressed tin ceilings, plaster proscenium arch (framing the screen), its horseshoe-shaped balcony and fireproof projection room maintain its historic integrity.

In 2013 a new new concession area was completed, along with a bathroom renovation and installation of new digital projection and sound equipment.  With all that new though, they’ve still kept the old touches in the projection room as well:

PicMonkey Collage
From top left: computerized projection roon, film canisters, projector and Hibbard holding a film reel
We climbed up the stairs and crowded into the tiny projection room as Hibbard showed us both the new digital equipment as well as the film reels, vaults and projector of yesteryear.

Ruby cast her charms during that tour and we vowed, taking in a movie at The Ruby is going to be high on the ‘must do list our next visit The movies shown in this single-screen charmer aren’t first run, but they are pretty darn close.  And the admission is certainly right, as evidenced by the prices posted on the ticket booth window.  And do you like that ticket machine? It was made by a Chelan High School student as a shop class project many decades ago.  But as with all things Ruby, it is also a historical gem!

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Ticket booth at The Ruby Theatre
If You Go:

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Chelan is a 3.5 – 4-hour drive from Seattle. The nearest airport is 30 miles away in Wenatchee (commuter flights from Seattle fly to Wenatchee).
For tourist information and accommodations:
For Ruby Theatre hours and movie times (as well as a bit of history)

Thanks for being with us today.  We hope you’ll come back again soon and appreciate having you part of our travels.  Have you been to The Ruby? Any historical theatres near you? Tell us about them if you have the time. Use the comments below or sent an email.

Today we are linking up with:

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Marking time on The Red Sea

Having left Jordan a few hours early last night it seemed we had a bit of time to kill this morning so we cruised in circles on the Red Sea for a period of time before entering the Gulf of Suez.

We will transit the 120-mile (193.3kilometer) Suez Canal on Thursday; a journey of some 11 to 16 hours. You don't just sail through - you fall in line and await your turn.

The anticipation is so strong it fills the atmosphere on our Oceania Nautica. And again I am reminded that each time I say 'it doesn't get any better' the next day proves it does!

Egyptian desert
Speaking of days, we are at Day 29 of this cruise that seemed it would last 'forever' when we boarded four weeks ago in Bangkok, Thailand. We are less than a week away from the end of this magical adventure aboard this small ship that has become our world.  We've followed ancient Spice Routes and crossed the desert that Lawrence of Arabia made famous and still have yet to visit the Holy Land, Turkey and Greece.

"Where did the time go?" we've all been asking as we reluctantly talk of our plans for after the cruise.

This 35-night cruise, that sailed from Bangkok with a final destination of Istanbul, Turkey, actually began for some  in Tokyo, Japan. They will have sailed for more than 60 days at the trip's end. Several others are staying on the ship and sailing the next segment to Lisbon, Portugal before disembarking.

We, as you regulars here know, will 'jump ship early' in Rhodes and head to The Stone House on the Hill, AKA our place in Greece.

Aqaba, Jordan
While our ports of call have been an overwhelming and memorable kaleidoscope of cultures, religions, sights, sounds and smells, that have filled our heads and our hearts to the point of bursting; we've also been enriched by the people we've met on the cruise ship. Many of whom have become friends (and travel inspirations) with whom we plan to stay in touch after our floating world disbands and we all head to different points in the world.

"I love these people on this ship," said Ruth- a fellow passenger- one night, "they understand me and my love of travel - sometimes people back home don't." This live-wire who lives in the United States had recently spent four weeks in Israel.

Peter and Wendy - Luxor, Egypt
The people we've met ARE travelers - some who make us look like old stay-at-homes by comparison. One couple we've befriended is busy working on Chinese visas to be ready for another OAT (Overseas Adventure Travel) trip that will start soon after the cruise ends.  They plan a return to Cairo after disembarking in Istanbul. Many of our fellow cruisers are also regular OAT (land-based tours) travelers.

An English couple spent two nights at the same hotel in Yangon, Myanmar where we stayed . . .the old historic Strand Hotel (a place I'll tell you more about when internet allows for a few more photos). We simply researched hotels and booked them while aboard the ship. During a ride in to Phuket we discovered we were heading the same direction at the next port-of-call so we shared a taxi  and had two fabulous days in Yangon.

Departing Aqaba, Jordan
Oceania Cruise Lines has been superb about allowing enough nights in certain ports of call for such independent adventures. The ship also has offered some overnight packages, but welcomes the independent traveler as well. For example:

     *One group of independent travelers went from our port of call, Safaga, to Cairo, Egypt and
      spent time there, rejoining the ship a few days later in Aqaba, Jordan.

      *Several left the ship in Cochin, India and flew to the Taj Mahal, then rejoined the ship in
       Mumbai. Some went on a ship's tour and others planned their own.

We've participated in a mix of ship's tours and those we've booked on our own. While the ship's tours have been good, following a tour-guide's umbrella down the street like ducklings just doesn't compare to the thrill of the two of us climbing into a beat-up pickup driven by a Bedouin guide and setting out through the roadless sands of the Wada Rum - the vast desert you may recall from the movie Lawrence of Arabia.

This may be our favorite cruise routing ever and we'd do it again in a nanosecond, but even better, we've convinced ourselves that overland travel in Egypt and Jordan are possible. We are beginning the plans to return . . .

Thanks for joining us as our journey continues.  We appreciate your time, the wonderful comments you've left and your good wishes.  When I get back to internet land, I'll show you more photos of this amazing part of the world ~ you may not hear from us again until we reach Greece, where there may or may not be internet for a few weeks! Rest assured. We are well. We are happy. Hope you are, too!

Linking this week:
Travel Photo Thursday
Weekend Travel Inspirations

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Gulf of Aden: Somalia to our Left ~ Yemen to our Right

With hummingbird speed and size, they skim the surface of the sapphire sea in which we are now cruising.

Flying fish, they are called.

Sometimes in small schools and other times alone, these tiny entertainers are providing a continuous show as we enter the Gulf of Aden -- yes, that, Gulf of Aden, the one making headlines in recent days.

It is the Gulf where pirates have gained notoriety and where war ships recently gathered. Somalia on the Horn of Africa is to our left and Yemen on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula is to our right.

We've not seen land on either side - yet. Today though,with increasing regularity, we are passing more and more freighters traveling on this shipping route to and from the Red Sea and Suez Canal. Aside from the freighters, we've watched flying fish on this our first of four sea days it will take to reach our next port of call, Safaga, Egypt - our gateway to Luxor.

We were officially introduced to the Middle East with Monday's stop in Salalah, Oman. The exotic sights, sounds and smells didn't disappoint. While we'd left the humid Far East we hadn't left the heat. The sun was relentless as we walked the city's streets - some shops providing an air-conditioned reprieve and others being small ovens with no cooling systems.

Although brain-numbing hot, the dress for both men and women is conservative in this Arabian country. I posted this photo of myself on Facebook following our visit in Oman as an example of the conservative dress required to enter a mosque: womens' ankles, wrists and head must be covered and men must also have long pants and conservative shirts. Feet must be bare (yes, those tiles were hot). The rules are much the same for the Buddhist wats we visited in Thailand and the Hindu temples we entered in India.

The cultural differences, the astounding history we are discovering, the religions we are being introduced to are simply overwhelming. We find ourselves in need of 'de-compression' time back on the boat - to process all the incredible experiences we are having.

I had The Scout pose with our wad of  Indian Rupees before setting off to explore Mumbai on our own last Friday. We'd exchanged $100US and in return had a stash that filled my purse. ($1 = 63.2IND).  Currency calculations and shopping has been an inexperience in itself as vendors offer their wares with machine-gun-like rapid fire persistence and enthusiasm.

We find it difficult to believe that we are already more than half way through this amazing adventure - we really are much richer, even without those Rupees, for the experiences we've had on this 35-day Oceania cruise on board the Nautica.  We thank you for being with us. I have many more tales to tell about the Middle East, so move over Scheherazade, I may just top your tales that filled Thousand and One Arabian Nights.

For now, we have some flying fish and freighters to watch!

Linking this week with:
Travel Photo Thursday
Weekend Travel Inspirations


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