Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Greece: “Dance? Did you say, ‘dance’?”

“Dance? Did you say, ‘dance’?”
-- Zorba asked his boss in the closing scene of the 1964 movie, “Zorba, The Greek”
“Dance? Did you say, ‘dance’?”
We asked our friends who suggested we join them at a local taverna two weekends ago to watch a Greek dance troupe who’d be performing there.  It wasn’t one of those ‘tourist’ performances promoted far and wide. Here, the owner told patrons. Patrons told friends. They told us. That’s the way it works in Greek villages.
One of the benefits of staying in another country for a period of time – whether owning or renting – is that you can begin to immerse yourself in the culture ~ food ~ music ~ the rhythms of life.While we’ve certainly enjoyed the food and drink in Greece, we’d not had the opportunity to enjoy the songs and dances.
But on this particular evening all that was going to change. The sun was just setting, wine was flowing freely from pitcher to glasses, food had been ordered when the music began. . .
PicMonkey Collage

Tah-dah-dah-dah-da. . .The music brought forth the dancers. Step, raise the arms, snap the fingers. . .
Oh, Zorba would have liked this. The audience began clapping in time to the music. 

“OPA!” The dancers called out. “OPA!” the audience shouted back. Napkins twirled.

“Throw your napkins!,” our friends told us (they do that instead of flinging plates, these days).

OPA!! How I loved that word each time I called it out.  It is an expression, a joyous Greek exclamation. It downright makes you happy to yell, “OPA!” (Go ahead, try it a few times.)

PicMonkey Collage

What I didn’t realize at the time, but do now that I’ve researched the word, is that OPA!  is also an invitation to come join the dancing, circle dancing, in fact. An invitation to come join in. . .uh-oh.

The dancers twirled toward our table. . .as if they were coming for us. No, not to us. Not in a crowded restaurant.  Four of the eight at our table were tapped. It was time to throw caution to the wind – to make Zorba proud.

We did our best. We circled. Stepping right. Stepping in. Stepping back.

Move right. Arms up and intertwined. Then clasp hands. Same steps. Arms raised as we moved to the center of the circle. “OPA!” we called out. Dance back. Repeat. Repeat and repeat again.

Our friend takes center 'stage'
We untrained dancers began sweating. Hands were slippery, wet with sweat. Clothes clinging. Still we danced. Our food arrived at our table just as the song was ending. We started to return to our seats. “Another dance, Zorba! You must dance,” said the real dancers.


The sun had set and food was being consumed by our spouses back at the table – but we continued to dance. We twirled. We spinned. We sweat some more. And we laughed, oh, how we laughed. (I think I even heard Zorba laughing.)

And I know you are hoping to see evidence of this Greek dancing debut, but it wasn’t captured by any cameras at our table. (The Scout was barely able to watch the dancing – he certainly didn’t want to record it for posterity.)

So the best I can do is to add the photo of the Dance Troupe plus Two (me and my friend, Sue):


That’s it for this week.  Thanks to the dance group, me.bou.da (Melina’s bouzouki dance) for a most memorable evening and introduction to Greek dance at Kastros Taverna in Kardamyli. You can find them on Facebook at me.bou.da Katakolon or dancing their way through The Mani in the Greek Peloponnese.

Again, a big thanks for the time you’ve spent with us. And a welcome to our new subscribers! Hope you’ll come back soon – we are headed to the hills in Greece and will show you some of the off-the-beaten-path treasures along the way.

Linking this week with:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Greece: Chasing the Dream ~ Catching a Nightmare?

“What a dream, living in Greece! (But I have to wonder, with all the ‘news in the news’ about the economy are you concerned about the future of your investment/life there?)
This comment was made by a reader of our blog in response to our post about this spring’s stay at The Stone House on the Hill. I suspect that question, or similar ones, have crossed the minds of many of you who’ve been following this adventure of ours in Greece. 
Perhaps it is time I quit writing about chasing daydreams and talk a bit about catching reality. 
For those newcomers to TravelnWrite, we bought a house in Greece last December; less than a month before the country’s election resulted in new leadership and new approach to its debt agreements. It wasn’t long after the election that Greece and its European lenders entered into a boxing match of words – the type of which can send world markets on a roller coaster ride as result of a single remark by either side. The verbal sparring continues nearly six months later.
The Stone House on the Hill
But as one American media recently reminded the world: The ‘day of reckoning’ for Greece is fast approaching. June 30th is the day of reckoning. . .so it seems by the headlines.
Will the two sides work out a solution to the debt repayment that leaves both claiming a win? Or will the talks have a final breakdown? Will Greece leave the European Union? Will it return to the drachma? Will banks Greek banks close for a time? Will currency controls be put into place? (Meaning limits on how much of your money you can withdraw from your bank account, like what happened in Cyprus a few years ago). Do Greece and its lenders have a ‘Plan B’ for carrying on after June 30th – no matter the direction it goes?
So many questions; so few answers. Our guess is as good as yours.
Yet the scope of speculation seems to grow each day. Recently we’ve learned a new acronym: PIGS, (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain). It is used when contemplating the possible domino effect if Greece were to leave the euro-based world. After Greece, those other three could be the next to go. . .and that could produce some rockin’ and rollin’ in the world markets. . .
As much as we love Greece, we are ‘outsiders’ – we see a small slice of its whole as we go about our rather carefree life here in The Mani. We are aware of the vast number of scenarios that could play out because we do follow a number of media reports.
In the meantime, here we are, “The Americans” who own a home in a country that could be on the verge of economic collapse.
We’ve not spent our days fretting about what could happen as we’ve been too busy working on the house and garden. When not working, we are usually spending time with friends – other ex pat types – and then we are too busy sharing tales of our experiences in our adopted country to wring our hands and break out in a sweat over the future.
What we know is that we’ve already booked our return for this fall. We are talking about olive harvest. We know of two sets of friends planning to visit then.
That is not to say we haven’t given thought to ‘the situation’. So while I don’t have any answers for you, I do have some thoughts to share, so come, let’s take a stroll through our olive grove and chat:
* The truth is that had the sale not finalized in December, we would not have purchased our ‘daydream home’ here until later. We’d have taken a wait-and-see approach (and from what we see, we’d likely still be waiting).
* The reason is the uncertainty:  You need to pay in full the price of the home at the time of purchase. In our case, our money was converted to euros and wired from the United States and sat in our Greek bank account for several days before the scheduled closing. With the present uncertainty we wouldn’t have risked our funds having been converted to euros, arriving at the bank, and while sitting there facing the possibility of currency controls being implemented (as described above) or or risked devaluation on the off chance Greece did switch to the drachma during that short window of time.
*You’ve probably read of ex pats and Greek depositors who are withdrawing money from banks in large amounts – thus adding to the economic problems.  I can assure you that we have been among them, leaving only an amount in our account which will cover automatic utility withdrawals while we are not here. But unlike those who’ve moved their funds out of the country, we’ve spent ours here on purchases and improvements to the house.
* We didn’t ‘bet the farm’ on this purchase. If forced to walk away from this investment, you wouldn’t find us singing for donations on a street corner at Seattle’s Pike Place Market (or counting on this blog for income).
* In reality, if we weren’t following the economic reports in the world media about Greece, we’d never know that anything was amiss based on the amount of tourists who are filling the villages around us.That street in our Agios Nikolaos village (Wine and Watching) I showed you two weeks ago has been made a one-way street during the day and closes completely each evening – after that big bus I photographed lumbers through on its last trip of the day– so that cafes can fill the street with tables to accommodate the many tourists.
* On the flip side, Greek media is reporting that privately-owned tourist rentals are down 50 percent this summer because of the economic uncertainty.
* Construction cranes dot The Mani landscape with new home and hotel construction. Whether those building feel their property is safer than other investments or if they are optimistic about economy recovery is difficult to speculate.
* Greeks sipping coffee fill the tables at the hip, modern sidewalk cafes lining the pedestrian plazas in Kalamata. There is no appearance of hardship among them. However, there are a number of old and young who approach with hands outstretched asking for money (this isn’t new, they were doing so last winter).
*We’ve watched a soccer field here get a new surface and a basketball court be added. Yet,we are told that children have passed out at schools in the area because of hunger and that some families are leaving their children at churches in Athens as they are no longer able to feed them.
All are slice-of-the-pie observations or hearsay – as an old newspaper reporter, I know neither is a reliable source from which to make conclusions about Greece’s economic situation.

I chose our olive grove for this reality post for several reasons. It is a happy place for us; one of our favorite places on the property. It represents the daydream; both chased and caught. And it represents permanence – some of the trees are nearly a century old. They were here long before the house and us, The Americans. The olive tree endures through the centuries – much like we suspect Greece has and will.


You just can’t predict the future. And that’s one reason we chased the daydream.  That plane that shuttles us between Seattle and Greece could go down. . .One of us could have a health crisis that would cut this adventure short. . .Greece could leave the European Union. . .Oh so many things out there in the uncertain future. . . It is simply another good reason to enjoy today!

“Every man has his folly, but the greatest folly of all … is not to have one.”
Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek
That’s it for this week from The Stone House on the Hill.  Thanks for being with us and the interest you’ve shown in our adventure here. I know a number of ex pat and Greek friends read TravelnWrite so I am hoping they will share their thoughts and observations in the comment section below (on the blog’s homepage for you who subscribe and receive just the post).
Our time here is again too soon drawing to a close.  We’ll be heading back to the United States and I promise then I will start writing of our Far and Middle East travels and show you the changes we made to our place in Greece.
A big hello to our new followers and subscribers!  And happy travels to you all. Thanks so much for recommending us to your friends and for sharing our posts with others. Can’t tell you how nice it has been to read your comments and emails while we’ve been gone!
Linking this week with:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Here Comes the Bride, Wedding Guests . . . and Tourists

Just like kittens, wine glasses and sunsets, I can’t pass up a good wedding photo. Can you? It doesn’t even have to be anyone I know, as evidenced by this post. And I am seldom alone in my efforts –  other tourists seem to be as taken with the scene unfolding before them as I am.

I should have this shutter-finger reaction because I am a romantic and love weddings. But I don't. We simply enjoy watching the drama surrounding those perfectly posed wedding photos. Those images that will lock the day’s events into picture-perfect history.

Destination weddings have become big ticket tourism in the United States.  Gone are the days of the traditional church wedding with the couple jetting off alone for a honeymoon destination – nowadays the wedding, the guests and honeymoon merge into one far-away affair.

PicMonkey Collage
Undeveloped lagoon at KoOlina; the alter for a wedding in the photo on the right

Hawaii is one of the destination that attracts thousands to its sandy shores for the all-inclusive wedding and honeymoon events. A research manager for the Hawaii Tourism Authority, quoted in an on-line news article, reported that 27,000 Japanese couples married in Hawaii in 2010.


That’s not surprising based on what we’ve seen there recently. At KoOlina, the resort on O’ahu’s west coast where we spend several weeks each winter, there’s a steady stream of limousines bringing wedding parties to the small wedding chapels strategically located throughout the development. Each chapel just footsteps from one of the four lagoons that are on the property. Often times the wedding photos include backdrops of semi-naked sun-basking tourists like the one below. It was taken front of the wedding chapel located next to Disney’s Aulani Resort (that high rise building in the background is the former JW Marriott Ihilani, soon to be Four Seasons).
KoOlina Wedding
Depending on number of guests and amenities (like bridal bouquets, chairs for guests and photographers) the prices quoted on the KoOlina Weddings web site range from $5,600 to $9,000.  Not bad when compared to the average cost of a wedding alone in the United States being somewhere in the range of $28,000 to $30,000 (depending on the source of your statistics).
Oahunorthshore2013 004
KoOlina wedding
We’ve been spotting destination (and a few local) weddings almost everywhere we’ve been in recent years. Like our cruise ship stop in Catania, Italy where the wedding party dog stole the show from the bride and groom:

PicMonkey Collage
In Greece we happened upon weddings in small villages as well as the big city.

View of Kardamyli's Historic old town - Peloponnese, Greece
From our hotel room in Kardamyli a small town in the Mani region of the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece we overlooked the old town section with its newly renovated tower.  One day while admiring the view we couldn’t help but notice a flurry of activity among the historic buildings.  A closer look, showed us what was happening: wedding photos.

Kardamyli, Greece
During a stop in Athens, we  headed to the Acropolis – one of our favorite strolling places in town.

Athen's Acropolis
As we strolled its perimeter and approached the nearby Areopagus or Mars Hill, we noticed far more tourists clamoring on it than we’d seen on earlier visits.

Areopagus is the hill from which St. Paul preached about the identify of the “Unknown God” to the Athenians in 52 A.C; a time Athens was occupied by the Romans. It is named for Ares, the god of war, (known to the Romans as Mars). Ares, as the story goes, was tried on this marble hill for the murder of Poseidon’s son who had violated his daughter.

Areopagus, or Mars Hill, Athens, Greece
Zooming in on the beehive of activity, I realized we were witnessing yet another ‘destination wedding’ photo shoot – this one a stumbling, bumbling affair as groomsmen swayed back and forth trying to get a foothold on the uneven surface. Several times they rescued the bride and her dress as they jockeyed for a position in front of the camera and out of the way of other tourists.

Ooops, almost. . .

Not quite ready for that photographer (hidden behind the bush to the left) to snap some photos. . .


No, not yet. . .enough! We couldn’t watch anymore. We continued our stroll.

As interesting as it sounds, I don’t think we could have done a destination wedding, way back when we married. How about you? Destination wedding? If so, where was it? Or where would it be?

That’s it for today from us.  We’re still busy with projects at The Stone House on the Hill and will tell you more about it and our cruise in future posts. But with June being the 'wedding month' I thought I'd share some of these wedding moments with you. Thanks for your time and welcome to all of our new followers!! Happy Travels to you.

This week if the internet gods are with us, we are linking up with:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox  
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Bit of Wine and Watching in the Afternoon in the Village

We’ve been a bit preoccupied with ‘house things’ since arriving in our part of Greece’s Mani two weeks ago today. 

Inside and outside - projects. 
Errands and deliveries.
Repairmen and installers.

Yes, turning that daydream of ours into what we envisioned for The Stone House on the Hill required some focus. But we’ve seen the proverbial  ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ and are slowing our pace on projects.

IMG_20141224_045608_653 For a treat every so often after chores are done, we’ve headed to our village, Agios Nikolaos (St. Nicholas) to join the cafe culture ritual of ‘watching’.

‘Watching’ isn’t limited to people, but includes cars, buses, bikes and the like. What ever passes by is fair game for ‘watching’.

(That is ‘Ag. Nik’ in the distance - 4k away – our closer village, Ag. Dimitrios doesn’t have a cafe or taverna.

In our case, we sip a bit of wine as after all it is usually 6 p.m. or later – the time of day we consider evening, but considered by locals to be afternoon. The sun doesn’t set until about 8:45.

Main Street in Agios Nikolaos

I wanted to have you join us on one of these outings. So I picked an afternoon/evening at our newest bistro in town, Bistrot Rock Cafe. Run by a lady named Ellie (who runs a restaurant, Ellie’s, two doors down) it offers inside seating but we prefer outside seating on either side of the main road that runs along the water’s edge. A perfect spot for watching:

Settled in for 'watching'

We order our wine here by the pitcher, a miso kilo of krasi to be exact, or a half liter of wine. These are our some of our favorite Greek wines – served from a barrel or, these days, a cardboard box – and they usually cost no more than 4 euros.

Bus from Kalamata

We instinctively pull our feet back as the bus from Kalamata eases past us on the southbound run at 7:10. And if we are still there, pull back again as he returns heading north to Kalamata a half hour later.

Bus stop in Ag. Nik

The bus stop is right across the street from where we are sitting and is marked by the KTEA blue sign right under the word Gregg’s on the cafe canopy. We watch arrivals and departures.

We watch the 'watchers'

From our spot we can also watch the town locals gather in those blue chairs right at the edge of the port so that they can watch the fishermen prepare their boats and set out for a night of fishing. (In the morning, they sit in those same places and watch as the night’s catch is sold.) Now if you look closely, between the third and fourth post from the left you will see our Stone House on the Hill. Okay, so I admit, I often remark, “Can you believe that is OUR house up there?!?!?”

A quick visit
Now some of you might be rolling your eyes and thinking, “How boring could that be?” But it is a great way to get to know schedules, and people, like the little old man who rides his bike to the port every night about 7 and is called “El Capitan” by the locals. We are beginning to recognize the three boys who ‘Drag the Ave’ on this stretch of road; their bike chains clanking as they pedal past time and time again. We watch the motorcycle pull up so that the waitress can hug and kiss the wee ones riding on it (yes, they do stack them on it without helmets; just don’t think about it).

This ritual of ‘watching’ is one of the enchantments of Greece as far as we are concerned. It drew us here. And it will keep us coming back, time and time again.  Glad you could join us! Thanks for the time you spend with us – and happy travels to you and yours! Have you had similar Greek or other European village experiences?

Note: I just learned that it wasn’t our travels that knocked me off Live Writer, it was a system-wide glitch that has just been corrected by the techno whiz kids at Microsoft and Google.  So this is a test run to see if the glitch is gone. Hopefully, I’ll be able to start posting photos from the Far and Middle East ports of call we visited prior to coming here.  Please do come back soon!

Linking up this week with:
Travel Photo Thursday
Weekend Travel Inspirations

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.

Add caption
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. . .

DSCF2867 (2)
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.

PicMonkey Collage
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!

PicMonkey Collage
Ticket booth at The Ruby Theatre
If You Go:

Map picture
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


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...