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Monthly Archives: June 2016

Venice and Beyond…

The final stop in our cruise took us back to Venice, one of our favorite places in Italy.

The most crushing thing about our return was learning that our favorite restaurant, the one we had been dreaming of returning to for a year and a half, was closed on the only night we were there! Egads!

I told you we live for our stomachs! Heeheehee! But at least it is still in business, so we’ll just have to go back again!

Almost as bad, was that we hit rain, as well, so our view of the canal from our water taxi was from huddling inside, so I took minimal photos. But no fear, I DID take some!

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Once we got off the canal and onto the streets, the weather cleared a bit, and without the shell of the water taxi to distort the photos, the pictures got a bit better.

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In our few free minutes, we headed directly for a cafe and some espresso. Um. The best.

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Now THAT’S how an empty cup of espresso should look…

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I was sad to see the cruise come to an end, and sad to not have longer in Venice, but there were more adventures right around the corner…

 

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Just a short distance north of Kotor, was Dubrovnik, and where Kotor was all about the scenic beauty (at least for me) Dubrovnik was all about the walled town – very, very impressive.

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The old town is surrounded by a continuous fortified wall, running 6365 feet. You can walk the whole thing (up and down and up and down) and we did! Amazing! We were there on a warm day, and I can only imagine how difficult it must be in the heat of summer. I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any hotter!

We started out in town, and my camera just clicked away – so many cool things to photograph!

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Then it was on to the wall…

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Notice is many pictures that there are differences in the roof tiles… In 1991 and 1992, during the Croatian War for independence from Yugoslavia, there was an incredible amount of shelling from the hills. Nearly all the roofs, and some of the buildings within the walls were either destroyed or damaged. Our guide told us that France donated the roof tiles to rebuild, but I’ve been unable to find substantiation for that. If true, it’s kinds cool. But regardless, most of the restoration as taken place, and you can see the difference.

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Our reward for a great walk? The best flan we’ve ever had and a refreshing glass of orange juice…

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It is worthy to note, that although my primary love of Dubrovnik was the city, their coastline is beautiful, too…

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Croatia…Yet another amazing place that wasn’t even on our radar.

 

 

 

 

 

Kotor, Montenegro

Huh?

Yeah, that’s pretty much what I said. I mean, who has even HEARD of Montenegro?

Well, it’s no wonder. It’s actually a very new country, with a very long history.

It was a republic within the former Yugoslavia, joined at first to Serbia, and independent only since 2006, but founded back in the Roman days.

Its coastline is ruggedly beautiful, and a bus tour of the area takes you up narrow, winding roads for gorgeous, unspoiled views. We were there on an overcast day, and as beautiful as it was, it must be REALLY incredible when the sun is shining.

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Montenegro is a very poor country, and its tourism industry is in its infancy. The old town is interesting, but not spectacular. Right now it’s a bit of a sleepy little village, with lots of room for growth, and someday will probably be a lot more crowded as it becomes more developed.

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Greece (sorta) and on to Bari, Italy

We did actually set foot in Greece, twice, so I’m going to count it as having been there, but I was not thrilled with the ports, and didn’t feel like we came even close to seeing what Greece is all about (so we’ll have to go back, right?)

Our first stop was supposed to be Zakynthos, but the seas were too rough to tender in, so we had to find a port, instead. I don’t even know what the name of the place was, but it seriously was not worth getting off the ship for, and I wasn’t off for long. Mr. Tattered didn’t even bother. I did get a photo of the flag, some crazy writing, and tried some ouzo in honor of an old friend, Nick Mavrides, who fed it to me back in my old Rotarian days and was impressed I could swallow it without coughing! Heeheehee!

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Our second stop was in Corfu, and although it wasn’t quite as bad, they really had to reach for an outing, and we took perhaps the worst tour of the whole trip. I did take a few photos, but really, not worth the effort to show you.

So, Greece, the REAL Greece, is still on my list.

Our next stop was Bari, Italy, on the eastern coast of Italy. Our tour took us to Sassi de Matera, a cave village now a Unesco World Heritage site, but once a slum, the shame of Italy.

It is quite a bus ride away from port, and we were beginning to wonder what we’d gotten ourselves into until we arrived. What a hidden gem. We’d never seen anything like it.

Picture, if you will, the time of Christ. In fact, “The Passion of the Christ” was filmed there.

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The whole village was built into side of the limestone rock. Not built of blocks of rock, but the rooms were actually dug into the soft limestone, then in some places built out from there. It is so hard to describe, and the pictures really don’t do it justice. It’s one of those places you really have to see to appreciate, but I’ll try.

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We spent hours going up and down hills on cobblestones to get the best views.

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One of the buildings, rather than being lived in, was set up as a museum so you could see how people lived in them…

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I was fascinated by the water collection system… You know me and the crazy things that strike my fancy!

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By the 1950’s, the whole area had deteriorated into a slum and eventually it was condemned. The Italian government relocated the entire population (approx 16,000 people) to the surrounding villages.

Then in 70’s, people who had grown up in the Sassi began to come back to see where they’d come from, and a movement was begun to rehabilitate it. Today it is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and over 3,000 people live and have retail businesses there.

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It is immensely impressive, and if you’re looking to add to your bucket list, you might want to consider Sassi de Matera. In the world, it’s pretty unique.

Father’s Day 2016

This year the whole family decided to spend Father’s Day in So. Lake Tahoe. For us, being with both of the kids and their families was a perfect way to spend the day.

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We started with breakfast at the buffet at Harrah’s. I took no photos – you’ll have to imagine it for yourselves. I, myself, came away as pure as the driven snow. Fortunately breakfast is not my favorite meal of the day, and my willpower is strong in the morning. My companions cannot say the same, but I’ll leave the stories for them to tell. Or not. I will say it was simple carb heaven, and prime rib is now Josh’s favorite food. He has expensive taste!

From there we waddled walked to the Heavenly complex, and Josh’s fine taste emerged once again – he LOVED the Ferrari at the mini car show!

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Can’t go to Heavenly without a gondola ride.

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We stopped at the mid-point to enjoy the view and take some family photos.

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They’ve put together quite a few summer activities at the top, but we just wandered. The kids amused themselves with the few remaining spots of icy snow.

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Daddy was a good sport and let the kids pelt him with ice! They just giggled and giggled. I love that sound.

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Back at the bottom, Josh experienced being in two states at once! He thought that was pretty cool.

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And I took the time to sneak in a few more photos.

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Bea is the only one of the grands who will still pose for me!

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All too soon, Alex and his family had to leave so he could get back to work on Monday, but it was a fun visit.

The rest of us stayed for the next week, but it was pretty low-key. Well except for Kerry, who biked ALL THE WAY AROUND THE LAKE! What a stud. 72 miles of up and down. At altitude. We are majorly impressed. Makes my little 3 mile hike in spite of being sick seem inconsequential!

Village of Taormina, Sicily, Italy

Combining my love of charming villages and ruins made Taormina a perfect tour for me!

Getting there along the coast was half the fun!

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The village off in the distance had me licking my chops!

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The village was the definition of charming – cute flower boxes all over the place, interesting decorative elements, inviting shops, cafes…I could have spent hours just walking along the cobbled streets taking an unbelievable number of photos. Oh, wait, I did!

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The ancient theater was magnificent. It is called Teatro Greco, but the ruins are primarily Roman, as the Romans rebuilt the theater on top of the remains of the Greek Theater.

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I really hated to leave – I could have stayed a LOT longer than we did!

 

Pompeii

At the half way point of the cruise (10 days down, 10 to go) we took a break. We were in Rome (actually a 2 hour bus ride away) and since we’d already been there and weren’t looking forward to so much time on a bus, we took the day to do some laundry and be bums. It was nice to have the ship pretty much to ourselves for most of the days – not a lot of people were doing the back to back cruises, and of those that were, most went on the trip.

Bright and early the next day we docked in Naples, and headed off by bus to Pompeii, and had the worst weather of the trip, thus far. It rained cats and dogs, but fortunately just for a short period of time, then it was back to dry and just a little cool. Perfect walking weather.

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Pompei was one of the trips we were most looking forward to. Some of the iconic remains were on loan to other entities, but what we saw was pretty amazing.

Of course we expected excavated remains of the village, but they’ve added modern art to the area which for some people was a distraction. I loved it. The artists did the pieces in a way that, if you didn’t know better, you’d think they were actual pieces from the time. I found them to be incredibly moving.

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The remains themselves were spectacular.

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Pedestrian walkways – elevated so they didn’t have to walk in muck!

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