Showing posts with label Nautica. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nautica. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Souvenirs ~ Decorating The Stone House on the Hill

sou·ve·nir  [ˌso͞ovəˈnir], noun,
a thing that is kept as a reminder of a person, place, or event.

We long ago quit buying knickknacks, postcards, key chains and other nonsensical items on our travels. In recent years we’ve been cleaning out our Pacific Northwest home of such collections and discarding the travel memory clutter.
‘If we can’t eat it or drink it – we won’t haul it home’ has been our rule of travel.

We refocused and redefined 'souvenir' when we purchased The Stone House on the Hill and began decorating it. We wanted a home that reflected ‘us’ and might inspire and entertain those who stayed with us. What better reflects ‘us’ than travel? Why not start buying things for the house on our travels? Practical, or useful souvenirs, you might say. We've seen it used in those decorator magazines for years. . .

P1010802You long-time readers probably recall we had an extra suitcase on our Middle East cruise which was designated for those types of purchases and. . .then. . .

. . .added yet another filled with Turkish rugs.  We hauled more luggage that trip than we've ever taken anywhere! 

So many of you wrote saying you wanted to see our souvenirs and how they’ve been put to use in Greece, that I thought this week I'd take you on a home tour of sorts and show you where some things and have come from and where they are being used:


Let’s start with those Turkish rugs we bought at our last port of call, --  Alanya, Turkey, that magnificent place with the stunning old fortress wall --  on our Magic Carpet ride of a cruise through the Middle East last spring:

Alanya, Turkey at night from our Oceania Cruise ship Nautica
We purchased three rugs, one for in front of the fireplace, one for a hallway and one for the den.

PicMonkey Collage
Turkish rugs for the den, hallway and living room

Petra, Jordan - a favorite highlight of the cruise
One of my favorite rugs came from Jordan – where Petra and the Wadi Rum were highlights. The purchase of the rug helped support the foundations and charities that are favorites of Queen Noor. (Queen Noor of Jordan is an American woman who is the widow of King Hussein of Jordan. She was his fourth spouse and queen consort between their marriage in 1978 and his death in 1999.)
The purple and green in its design matched perfectly with the colors of our ‘guest level sitting room and bedroom’.
PicMonkey Collage
Guest room at The Stone House on the Hill
We also found an easy decorating item and souvenir to bring back is a pillow case.  The day bed in the guest room has pillowcases in the center that we purchased in Singapore. The goal is to fill that bed with ‘travel pillow cases’.

Pillow cases make great souvenirs
While in the guest level of our home, lets move into the sitting area and . . .


We went local and rode tuk tuks to see Cochin, India
Our first cruise port of call in India was Cochin, where we explored the town independently from the back of a tuk-tuk, similar to the one above. On one of our stops we couldn’t resist this throw and pillow that now decorate the beige couch in the guest suite.

Throw and pillow from Cochin, India


Safaga, Egypt our port of call 
Our introduction to this fascinating country of Egypt came with a cruise tour that took us from Safaga to Luxor and during that trip our guide told us the story of the importance of the Scarab beetle in Egyptian myths and legends. She held up a papyrus painting and I immediately ‘had’ to have one.  It only cost $7US and the framing (done in Greece) was another 20 euros – it is one of our favorites.

PicMonkey Collage
Scarab beetle brings memories of Egypt 
While 'de-cluttering' the Pacific Northwest, I happened upon some oversized postcards that I purchased several years ago in Provence, France. Instead of dumping them, I took them to Greece and got them framed (35 euros) by the two talented ladies who run my favorite gallery in Kalamata –  and they now are on display above the kitchen table.


A taste of Provence
While we’ve prided ourselves in purchasing ‘useful’ souvenirs for our Greek home, I have to admit – we did give in to temptation and filled our refrigerator door with . . .magnets, one from each country in which our Magic Carpet landed. They surround my favorite saying:
Life is not measured by the
number of breaths we take,
but by the number of moments
that take our breath away.
Now, every room in The Stone House on the Hill features something to remind us of those breathtaking moments!

Memories to take our breath away
That’s it for this week.  Thanks for coming along on the tour and we hope you’ll be back again soon.  I’ll do another post one day and show you some of the items we've found during our travels in Greece that now are part of our furnishings and decorations.  Do you collect souvenirs? If so, tell us about them in the comments below or shoot us an email!

Safe travels to you and yours~

Linking up this week with:

Mosaic Monday – 
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Monday, March 21, 2016

Alanya, Turkey ~ On the Turkish Riviera

It appeared we were docking below a medieval fortress and that pirate ships – the tourist variety -were plying the waters around our Oceania Nautica as we approached Alanya, Turkey.

Approaching Alanya, Turkey aboard Oceania's Nautica
These first scenes from the ship - when you aren’t quite sure what you are seeing are what we think keeps cruising exciting and will bring us back time and time again to the sea.

Nothing like fortress walls to spark the imagination - Alanya, Turkey

It was day 33 of this cruise that had begun in Bangkok, Thailand and taken us on a Magic Carpet Ride to new and exotic places in the Far and Middle East. We were headed to Istanbul, Turkey where most of the passengers would be leaving the ship.  We had made arrangements to disembark a day early* while the ship was in Rhodes, Greece, so this was our last full day of the cruise.

PicMonkey Collage
Ships of every shape and size - Alanya, Turkey
After the rushed and people-intense whirlwind tour of Israel the day before in Israel, we were looking forward to exploring this town on Turkey’s Riviera on our own. The ship was docked so that it was an easy walk into the heart of this tourist city. No metal detectors to walk through as we disembarked as we’d had in Haifa, Israel, no taxi drivers to negotiate with as we’d had in Oman, or tuk-tuks to climb aboard as we’d done in Phuket, Thailand and Cochin, India.

Oceania Nautica docked at Alanya, Turkey
Alanya, a very popular seaside resort town, according to legend was given to Cleopatra by Mark Antony back in 44 B.C.  It was during the Middle Ages that it rose to prominence under the Seljuks, who built the castle with its more than 3.7 miles (6 kilometers) of walls, 93 towers, 140 battlements and 400 cisterns. The Seljuks were a Sunni Muslim Turkish confederation that ruled much of Central Asia and Anatolia between 1071 and 1194.

The walls which once encircled numerous villages now have some spectacular homes within them.

Numerous homes are found within the old fortress walls - Alanya, Turkey
Not ones to shop for souvenirs, we had weakened our resolve a bit and set off to buy some Turkish rugs, as our Stone House on the Hill in Greece, was in need of floor coverings and it was our destination after the cruise. And when in Turkey, why not? Right?

PicMonkey Collage
Tourist town - no doubt about it - Alanya, Turkey
Located on beautiful gulf and  framed by the pine-forested Taurus Mountains, white sand beaches, caves and sea grottos are easily accessed from this town on the Mediterranean Sea.  Its location in the Mediterranean basin means rain comes mainly in the winter and summers are hot and dry. It’s Tourism Board uses a slogan, “Where the Sun Smiles” and that was certainly the case on our springtime visit.

The day and our cruise comes to an end - Alanya, Turkey
On board the ship, a pool party – “Sheik, Rattle and Roll” – the final event of the cruise, began at the same time as our 9 p.m. departure from Alanya. As we watched the lights fade into the distance it was time to start saying goodbyes friends we’d made among both staff and fellow cruisers. 

Our bags were packed - we were ready to go - Alanya, Turkey
As for those Turkish rugs, three of them were folded up inside that bag on the lower left in the photo above.  The large suitcase was filled with items for the house – many of which had been purchased along the way.

* Note: It was possible to disembark a day early but arrangements to do so were made before we before we started the cruise. Port authorities and cruise folks had to approve it. When they send the authorization, they remind you that you don’t get refunds for unused nights.

The route of our Magic Carpet Ride - Oceania's Nautica
Thanks for joining us on our Tales of the Magic Carpet Ride of a cruise. We’ve enjoyed your comments and the conversation our posts generated.  The cruise was an excellent way to see many countries that would have otherwise been difficult and costly to visit. We often use cruises as introductions to areas and then return later as was the case with Egypt. The cruise was our introduction and we returned for more last December.

So now -- like at the end of this cruise last spring -- we are off to The Stone House on the Hill.  We hope you’ll be back again next week as we have a lot to tell you about our little slice of Greece.

Happy and safe travels to you ~

Linking this week with:
Mosaic Monday – 
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Israel – Where Reality trumped Imagination

It was all there: places we’ve ‘known’ since long-ago Sunday School teachers introduced us to Bethlehem and its Manger; Jerusalem and its Tomb. Our young imaginations were unleashed by those lessons and stories, in turn, enabling us to create images of both places and people.

However, as a child the thought of ever seeing these places was really quite unimaginable.

Then, decades later, on a warm spring Saturday we found ourselves in Israel. Finally, those  imagined places would become reality.

Dome of the Rock

It almost seems sacrilegious to cram a visit to Bethlehem and Jerusalem into a single 12-hour period.  There is far too much to see and far too much history to absorb in such a short time. But sometimes travel reality trumps the imagined itinerary as well.

We’d lost one of two days planned for touring Israel when our cruise ship was delayed for a full day in transiting the Suez Canal. In order to see as much as we could in a single day that we had remaining, we signed up for a big-bus cruise ship tour (12-hour, $195 p/p). We’d depart from Oceania Nautica’s cruise ship, docked in Haifa, at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m.

DSCF3228First stop, some two hours away, was the Mount of Olives for a panoramic view that stretched out over the old –walled city of Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock and the sprawling modern city that has grown around them.

In this small, overly-crowded area we had one tourist tout leading a camel and offering rides; he competed for business with the man, walking along side his donkey carrying a sign that read, “Take a ride with Jesus”. For a price you could have your photo taken atop the donkey with the Jesus impersonator.

“We’ve got Egypt to the south, Syria to the North and Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan to the east. That’s the neighborhood. It’s a tough one. Thanks for coming to visit. I am sure you got those looks from family and friends when you said you were coming here.”  
                      - Our tour guide, as we traveled past Tel Aviv en route to Jerusalem
Obviously from the crush of tourists – all vying for the best view point, the best photo angle and the best selfie, there were a lot of people visiting despite real or imagined threats to safety. A parade of tour buses stretched for miles on this warm Saturday morning. The Israeli/Palestinian unrest wasn’t keeping everyone away.

PicMonkey Collage
Tour buses and taxis for as far as one could see at The Mount of Olives
Despite the gaggles of tourists everywhere we went, it was interesting to finally see places that we’ve ‘known’ all our lives; places like the Garden of Gethsemane, the site of Jesus’s betrayal and the magnificent Roman Catholic Church, known as the Church of All Nations (aka as the Church or Basilica of the Agony), that stands next to it. 

The Garden of Gethsemane
Church of Nations
We followed a maze of narrow pedestrian streets through Jerusalem’s walled old city. Being on a tight timeline and being jostled and bumped by competing tour groups and local shoppers we had no opportunity to stop at the inviting stores that made up this bustling souk. Our path led from the Wailing Wall to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher – on the Via Dolorosa, the route on which Jesus carried the cross to his execution (at least the route as it was defined later in history by the Crusaders).

PicMonkey Collage
Stations of the Cross on Via Dolorosa drew the faithful to touch the walls
I couldn’t help but think of the story of Jesus chasing the merchants and money changers from the Temple when he returned to Jerusalem for Passover when I saw this sign along our route on the Via Dolorosa . . .


We merged into other tour groups squeezing into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the place housing both where Jesus was believed crucified and his empty tomb. It was a claustrophobic sort of tour . . . but nothing as claustrophobic as our afternoon visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Our tour guide who'd been with us since boarding the bus and who provided most of our day’s narration was Israeli. Because Bethlehem is in Palestinian territory, another guide – a Palestinian – took over the narration and led the tour of that portion of the day’s outing.  She led us to the Church of the Nativity and Manger Square, both places where reality was very different from those Sunday School imaginary places. We went under the church to a stone-walled small room (not for the claustrophobic) and there peeked through a small hole in the wall at the room said to be ‘the manger’. As our slow-moving line inched past those who'd peeked into the manger, we decided the less time spent in this underground dungeon the better.
“Palestine and Israel talk of ‘quiet’ not ‘peace’ for the sake of tourism”            
- our Israeli guide
In addition to the Holy sites our whirlwind tour had taken us past lush agricultural fields and suburbs with towering high-rises that housed some of the world’s tech giants. 

Sadly, what may have been far more moving than scenes dating back 2,000 years, were those, like 'the wall'  that spoke of the present day:

Armed guards The Mount of Olives
The Gate between Jerusalem and Bethlehem
The wall separating Jerusalem and Bethlehem - Israel and Palestine
We'd had a long and interesting tour. Perhaps with fewer people and a slower pace, we'd have reacted differently to the sites we visited.  Many had told us in advance of our visit of their experiences in which they had wonderful - downright, moving - reactions to the place. We didn't. Someday, maybe, we’ll get a chance to return. We likely won’t go out of our way to do so.  There are many other places along our Magic Carpet Ride of a cruise route that we’d rather revisit.

The brief stop did spark an interest in knowing more of the story and for those of you history buffs out there, we highly recommend, Jerusalem, The Biography, by Simon Montefiore:

Product Details

Next week, we’ll conclude our Middle East cruise tales with a stop in Turkey. Then we'll be heading back to our other life at The Stone House on the Hill in Greece and we've got some road trips to take you on while there!  As always thanks so much for the time you spent with us – hope to see you back again soon.  Happy and safe travels to you and yours~

Linking up with:
Mosaic Monday – 
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Jordan’s Wadi Rum: Camping anyone?

It was somewhere between Jordan’s ancient rose-red city of Petra and meeting up with the Bedouin guide that the urge struck us. It’s not an unfamiliar sensation and most of you’ve probably felt it at some inopportune time in your travels. . .

Jordan's Wadi Rum
All that bottled water they’d been having us drink to stay hydrated had done its job, but now we both had a pressing urge to part with some of it. And the endless Wadi Rum desert-scape stretching out before us held little promise of any bathrooms appearing soon.

PicMonkey Collage
A turn-of-the-century Turkish train - Wadi Rum, Jordan
Well, that was until a small train ‘station’ – think “Lawrence of Arabia”  here – seemed to appear out of nowhere.  A train station that had a vintage Turkish train sitting on the tracks in front of it; one that probably had been in use back when the real Lawrence was traipsing through this part of Jordan.  The station-turned-modern-day-coffee shop -- with advertisements for its espresso drinks and undoubtedly, a bathroom inside -- was closed.

So we, along with another carload of tourists who had arrived, explored the train.

‘Not to worry’, our guide told us.  "You can use the bathroom at the Bedouin camp."

‘Right!’, I thought to myself.  We’d seen a couple of those ‘camps’ along the way. . .

Bedouin camp between Petra and Wadi Rum
. . .but then again there comes a point that one can’t be too picky or prudish when one travels.

P1010276So we climbed into that Bedouin guide’s pickup (you can read about that here)and set off into the Wadi Rum; first stop the Bedouin’s camp bathroom. 

And, here is where my Magic Carpet Ride tale takes a 180-degree turn. . .

The camp was amazing.

Posh. In fact, so posh I’m ready to return and do some camping – or better yet, glamping.

This Bedouin camp is designed for tourists, one of several the Bedouins have built and operate to provide accommodations to the growing number of eco-tourists drawn here. In this case, the facilities rival many we’ve seen in America that label themselves ‘glamp grounds’ (On the off chance you’ve not heard the term, ‘glamping’ it is short for ‘glamorous camping’. )

We walked through the restaurant/lounge area to reach the bathroom. . .

PicMonkey Collage
Restaurant/lounge at the Bedouin camp - Wadi Rum, Jordan

And as I opened the door in the tent-structure housing the “WC’s”, I thought I was seeing a mirage:

Ladies room - Bedouin camp, Wadi Rum, Jordan
With our pressing needs taken care of in the most luxurious of desert settings, we were off to explore the rest of this Bedouin camp:

A solar lighted walkway links the common areas above and the individual tents.

Tents at the Bedouin camp - Wadi Rum, Jordan
Can’t you imagine sitting under the stars sipping a glass of wine on your deck?

You can rent this tent - Wadi Rum, Jordan
And then retiring for the night in your own Bedouin tent. . .in a setting like this you’d almost expect Sheherazade to appear at your bedside, ready to lull you to sleep with one of her 1,001 Arabian tales.

PicMonkey Collage
Tent interior, bedroom and en suite - Wadi Rum, Jordan
If that cluster of tents was too crowded for you, they also provide some singles that are out a bit further:

For those wanting more solitude - Wadi Rum, Jordan
There was something magical about the Wadi Rum, and I am certainly ready to go back. Perhaps even in our brief time there we experienced what Lawrence of Arabia said best,

   “No man can live this life and emerge unchanged. He will carry… the imprint of the desert… and he will have within him the yearning to return…. For this cruel land can cast a spell which no temperate clime can match.” 
T.E. Lawrence*


Information about Jordan can be found at the country’s tourist site:

Photos in this post were taken at:

Map picture

Petra is to the north of Aqaba (the port city where our Oceania Nautica was docked for two nights as part of the cruise we took from Bangkok, Thailand to Istanbul, Turkey). It is an approximate two hour drive between Petra and Wadi Rum, both are marked with red pushpins on the map above.

(*Thanks to blogger friends the Traveling Solemates – I used the Lawrence quote from their site; they also are taken with Wadi Rum.)

Our 35-day cruise was coming to an end, but not before we transited the Suez Canal and headed for Israel, so we've got a few more Magic Carpet Ride tales to tell. Thanks for being with us. A big welcome to our new Google Friends and subscribers! Happy travels to you and yours ~

Linking this week with:
Mosaic Monday – 
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Exploring Jordan’s Wadi Rum: What are we doing?!

The afternoon sun was intense by the time we arrived and the wind had stirred up the desert dust. Jordan’s Wadi Rum looked as vast and unforgiving as it did in the epic movie, Lawrence of Arabia.

Sand storm brewing in Jordan's Wadi Rum
We’d spent the morning at Petra, the ancient rose-red city carved out of sandstone cliffs centuries ago. We were on a day-long outing -- booked long before boarding our Oceania’s Nautica cruise ship in Bangkok bound for Istanbul.  We’d opted out of the cruise ship’s tours offered in the Kingdom of Jordan. Instead, the two of us set off with a tour company’s driver who turned us over to local tour guides at Petra and  at Wadi Rum, with whom they contract for services.

Stretching for more than 278 miles (720 kilometers),Wadi (Arabic for ‘valley or river channel’) Rum is also known as The Valley of the Moon.  Our tour was through just a small portion of this expansive landscape, yet, that which we experienced seemed a vast, isolated world. 

A long lonesome road in Jordan's Wadi Rum
DSCF3193We left the main highway and were following a narrow road to nowhere it seemed, when in the distance we saw a beat-up old pickup along side the road. Our driver pulled up behind it and its driver, a Bedouin man with a red checked ‘shemagh’ (scarf) covering his head, came back to our car to get us. He was our next tour guide.

With sand swirling out over the landscape we opted to ride in the cab with him, instead of in the back bed of the truck with its rather firm seats. His command of English was a bit limited, but far better than our ability to speak his language.

With our original tour-company driver assuring us he’d meet us in a couple hours for our trip back to the ship, we were off!  In an old pickup. With a Bedouin driver. In the Wadi Rum. In Jordan. In the Middle East. . .

PicMonkey Collage
Setting off in the Wadi Rum - Jordan
. . .and when the pickup left the pavement and began bouncing over the desert sand, I have to admit that for several moments, my brain was bouncing as well.

It was silently screaming, “What are we doing?!?!” 

I had obviously let  my imagination get away from me – I’d listened to too many ‘well-meaning-but-overly-cautious-ones-back-home’. 

What were we doing?

Wadi Rum - Jordan
In reality, the time spent in that pickup traveling where roads didn’t go, may have been the highlight of the outings we had during our month-long cruise through the Middle East.

The Wadi Rum was designated a ‘protected area’ in 1998 and in recent years it has become a popular destination for eco-tourism.  Hiking, camel treks, rock climbing and camping bring thousands of tourists here each year. And that thriving tourism business is providing a new source of income for the Bedouin communities of the Wadi Rum. 

Still, with increasing tourism, we saw just one other tour 'truck' similar to ours in the distance and one other  Bedouin with his camels, hoping to convince some visitor to take a ride on his giant beasts.

Visiting with the camel-ride vendor - Wadi Rum, Jordan

Our guide knew his route – we’d have been hopelessly lost and turned around without him – and after slipping and sliding over the sand (which reminded us of driving in snow) he topped to point out some of the area’s ancient rock drawings carved into the sides of the sandstone and granite mountains that make up the Wadi Rum.

Ancient rock drawings - Wadi Rum, Jordan
Then on we bumped and slid through the sand, no markers or signs in sight but our driver with some innate GPS system it seemed knew which way to turn and when.

A portion of our route - Wadi Rum, Jordan
Amazing stretches of desert. And some of the astounding moments we experienced still bring goose pimples and smiles when we look at these photos. . .

Absolutely loved this and not a posed scene for tourists - Wadi Rum, Jordan
Time went far too fast and we ended our tour with a stop at The Seven Pillars of Wisdom landmark named for the book – by the same title – written by Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia.  Much of the award-winning 1962 movie, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, was shot in this Wadi Rum.

Seven pillars of wisdom - Wadi Rum, Jordan
Our time at both Petra and Wadi Rum was too short.  We wouldn’t combine the two places into a single day’s outing again.  Both are deserving of far more exploration. Should we return, we’ll do it in the early morning before that unrelenting Middle Eastern sun reaches its full intensity.

Any number of tours are available in the Wadi Rum and a good source of information is found at    Should we get back there, I want to camp out over night.  Next week I’ll tell you where I plan to camp! 

Just for the record: I did leave information in our ship’s cabin that provided the name of the tour company, phone numbers, our destinations and estimated time of returning to the ship – just in case something had happened to us (intended or accidental) or that might have caused a delay in our return.

Safe travels to you all and thanks to those subscribers who’ve alerted me to problems with Feedburner’s distribution of blog posts.  If you’ve subscribed but are not receiving posts regularly on a weekly basis in your inbox, please let us know in the comments below or send us an email to  Many thanks!

Linking this week with:
Mosaic Monday – 
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration


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