A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY

Day 1

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We had to skip going to Sochi, Russia. The port was closed to incoming ships due to high winds just as we were arriving. The winds didn’t affect our ship much, but travel to shore on our tenders (no large dock here) would have been impossible. So, we sailed back across the Black Sea and arrived a day early in Istanbul! So here are the bridges, forts and ferries of the Bosporus, as seen from the north side!

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The Galata Tower, our pilot boat, ferries, and sardine fishermen – with 15 million people living in Istanbul the roads and waterways are always busy.

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The Blue Mosque, distinctive with 6 minarets and so named because of the interior decoration of more than 20,000 blue Iznik tiles.

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A lot is happening here this weekend – so the streets are jammed! The Annual Tulip Festival, “Tur’ Başliyor (a bike race), a major soccer game and Istanbul is the 2010 Cultural Capital of Europe.

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The Basilica of St. Sophia, one of the world’s most famous religious structures.

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The Basilica Cistern, built by Emperor Justinian in 537 AD.

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The snack vendors were out in force.

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This guy had a great sales shtick for his ice cream!

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Outside of the Grand Bazaar in the Old City we found these charming mannequins. They look like they have been on a world cruise!

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The Grand Bazaar is the world’s largest bazaar with over 5,000 shops – a maze of lanes and alleys

Posted by Swenigale 23:57

ISTANBUL, TURKEY

Day 2


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Volumes have been written about this city where East meets West, the only city in the world spread over two continents. Is life a balancing act, perhaps suggested by this sculpture?

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More food carts (the sesame bread is wonderful!) and stairs to the Galata Bridge.

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Walking about on some of the side streets – see the potted cat?

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We took an afternoon boat tour to get a closer look at the two sides of the Bosporus.

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The Dolmabahçe Palace, on the European side – our guide said there is absolutely no difference between the European and Asian sides of the city.

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Fishing, fishing everywhere for very small fish.

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Cleaning the Bosporus.

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A vegetable market on the Asian side.

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A reminder of Fenway Park back home – this soccer stadium is right in the city – valuable real estate in the midst controversy.

Posted by Swenigale 06:43

ISTANBUL, TURKEY

Day 3

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The Canadian Navy docked near us.

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The finish line for the 8 day bicycle race

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Tulips actually originated in Turkey, not Holland! These beautiful plantings are in the gardens (now a public park) around Topkapi Palace.

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Ataturk and me

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More wonderful flowers in Gűlhane Park

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The towers of Topkapi through the Spring-bare branches

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So this is how those TV guys broadcast a bicycle race!

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Random street shots – we are not in Kansas, for sure!

Posted by Swenigale 06:44

KUSADASI, TURKEY

Birth day for Valena Katrin, our newest grandchild


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We arrived in the port of Kusadasi, Turkey. While we were having our breakfast onboard, our newest grandchild was making her grand entrance in the wee hours of a Massachusetts morning. Congratulations, mom and dad and big sister! Well done.

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We embarked on a jeep safari through the hills and valleys of Kusadasi.

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What do you call a herd of turkeys in Turkey?

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In Dilek National Park we explored the ruins of a monastery from the Middle Ages. It was once one of the most important centers for religious education. During periods of persecution it was also a hiding place for Christians.

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The site is said to have been in use since the beginning of Christianity.

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Looking out over the Aegean Sea – here, the Greek Island of Samos is just a mile away.

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It was a glorious day (and we hadn’t even gotten the good news yet!) –one with Spring flowers and whistling birds and blue skies.

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I guess it gets really hot here in the summertime, but it’s too cool for swimming just yet!

Posted by Swenigale 07:38

CATANIA, ITALY

Exploring Mt. Etna


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This picture is for you, Soren Joel! We arrived in the port of Catania on another foggy morning.

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Deciding on the perfect strawberry

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Mt. Etna is the highest and largest active volcano in Europe at almost 11,000 feet above sea level.

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Our guide said that the one good thing to come from Sicily’s past occupation by the Ottomans was that they learned how to terrace farm.

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Catania was wiped out in a lava flow in 1669. The latest flows were in 1983 and 2001.

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We hiked into the Silvestri Crater (from the 1983 eruption) at 6200 feet.

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Traveling back down Mt. Etna our tour stopped at a charming hotel for refreshments. Why do they always feed us ?!

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We had a chance to walk around the city of Catania, the economic city of Sicily’s richest area. See the curved balconies? We were told they were designed to accommodate a lady’s hoop skirt as she was serenaded by an admirer.

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If he was successful, they could be married here!

Posted by Swenigale 09:29

NAPLES, ITALY

On Our Own


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This is our view of Naples from the bow of the ship. We walked into the city, with the goal of visiting the Castle of St. Elmo, up on the hill.

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Sculpture is everywhere.

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We found the funicular that goes up the hill – love the sign on the door!

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Once up the hill, there are more levels of stairs and outdoor escalators!

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Great lemons, here!

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We are up on top and looking out at the Bay of Naples.

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Here is a view of the Castle walls, Castle church, and the city of Naples.

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You never know what you may see when you walk on the side streets.

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Castle Nuovo (please excuse our lack of detail – there haven’t been many “sea days” to catch-up on the blog).

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Umberto peers out from his place of restoration.

Posted by Swenigale 03:41

THE LAST SEGMENT

A map of the itinerary of the 7th segment of the world cruise


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As you may imagine, the airport closings in Europe have affected the plans of many. Some of the lecturers, entertainers, staff, and passengers scheduled to depart or join the ship in Rome have had their travel plans disrupted. I’m sure we’ll hear more of their stories as they are able to join the ship in future ports of call.

Posted by Swenigale 03:42

ROME, ITALY

On Our Own


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The monumental sites of Rome are all still there, just a “click” away on any computer, but not on our blog. Wisteria is in bloom; this archway caught our eye.

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Is there a car even smaller than the Smart car? Yes!

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Poppies are in bloom on Palatine Hill.

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Some bits of antiquity we have to include: the Coliseum with its 8o arched entrances and the nearby Arch of Constantine.

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The River Tiber flows around the Isola Tiberina.

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Daily life continues in the Eternal City. For thousands of years, tourists, merchants and pilgrims have been coming to this city built on seven hills.

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A daVinci exhibit featuring his mechanical inventions

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In the Piazza Navona, the Moro Fountain was built in the late 15 hundreds as part of the city water supply.

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We got sort of lost a few times – but major “markers” (like the Pantheon!) helped us get our bearings.

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I’m posing here.

Posted by Swenigale 07:36

LIVORNO, ITALY

On Our Own, again- sweet!


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We took a local bus to the Funicular –and up to the Sanctuary of Montenero.

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We had a panoramic view of the city and the sea. This site is a religious and pilgrimage center because the church houses a 14th century image of the Madonna, the patron of Tuscany.

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Under the Tuscan Sun

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In the historic heart of Livorno 17th century merchants designed canals and bridges, like a small Venice.

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Guarding the port entrance is the Old Fortress.

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We found a wonderful local restaurant, L’Ancora, and enjoyed a Tuscan Sunday dinner.

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The New Fortress, surrounded by canals, is connected to the Old Fortress by the city’s inland waterways.

Posted by Swenigale 07:38

BARCELONA, SPAIN - Day 1


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We had two sunny days in Barcelona, the capital of Cataluña, one of Spain’s seventeen autonomous communities. The Columbus monument stands at the port end of Las Ramblas, the pedestrian streets.

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Barcelona’s subway and train system was easy to navigate so we decided to go out of the city to the pilgrimage site of Montserrat on our own. We saw this fun bridge from our window as we sped out toward the mountains.

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The mountains of Montserrat must have been inspiration for Antoni Gaudi’s fanciful architectural style! The medieval monastery is situated in an area that had been inhabited by hermits since 1000 AD.

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The funicular up the mountain – really cool!

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A view from the top

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The basilica houses the 12th century “Black Madonna”.

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We took another cable car to go even higher. These preschoolers were on an outing with their teachers. Three teachers bring a gazillion tiny tots….

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….up here! Yikes! We bring them to apple orchards!

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A tip top view

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Looking back down - wow.

Posted by Swenigale 07:37

BARCELONA, SPAIN -Day 2

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Using the subways once again, we decided to find Parc Gűell. A series of escalators took us up to one of the park entrances.

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The park was designed by Gaudi and from its heights you can see the spires of his yet to be completed Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) church.

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This is so like Disney World.

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The style kind of grows on you!

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Gaudi was inspired by Nature – aqueduct columns look like tree trunks.

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Somewhere in the crowd is Gaudi’s famous fountain.

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We took the subway back to the port area and decided we had enough time to go up Montjuic Mountain – site of the 1992 Olympic Games. These are high-tech air cars!

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Barcelona has a castle up here and they have big plans for its future use.

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From the ramparts we seem to be so close to the Serenity, actually within firing range!

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Wow. Once again.

Posted by Swenigale 07:38

GIBRALTAR, UK

The Rock


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A rosy sunrise lights up the Rock of Gibraltar, a limestone mass almost 1400 feet high. (Some of the photos for this day were taken by a friend.)

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We took a tour that would bring us to the tunnels of World War 2 where thousands lived and worked deep inside the rock. See the website: www.discovergibraltar.com – it’s a fascinating story!

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When preparing for the defense of Gibraltar (land which is attached to Spain and is only 14 miles from the coast of Africa), everyone was evacuated except for men of working age.

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The Barbary Apes that roam the mountain are protected and fed by British caretakers. Gibraltar is a self-governing British colony and they believe Gibraltar will remain British only as long as the apes stay on The Rock. So they take good care of them!

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Because of its strategic importance The Rock was fortified with 30 miles of tunnels that were ground out of the limestone. General Eisenhower wrote, “Gibraltar made possible the invasion of Northwest Africa.”

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Our guide, “Smudge”, (AKA “Smith”) was stationed in Gibraltar in the military and decided to stay. He’s a proud Gibraltarian and said, “I love my job!”

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What? Another gun aimed toward the Serenity!

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The winding streets of Gibraltar are so narrow that our mini-bus driver had to get out and move a moped so that we could turn a corner.

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Beautiful.

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Classic.

Posted by Swenigale 08:35

LISBON, PORTUGAL

On the River Tagus


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The Christ the Redeemer statue stands on the river bank opposite the old city.

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Waterfront homes and buildings – many of which are covered in decorative tile.

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Lisbon was once the center of a great maritime empire and there are many major monuments and bronze statues commemorating their rich history and culture.

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Even weeds growing on roof tops are beautiful.

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The Castle of St. George crowns a hilltop overlooking the harbor.

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Beautiful tiles are everywhere – homes, sidewalks, and subway walls!

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Mid day pause and simple pleasures.

Posted by Swenigale 22:54

BILBAO, SPAIN

Delightful visit


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Early morning mists keep the countryside green in Bilbao, a city rich in history and culture. This was our first glimpse of the titanium-covered architectural marvel, the Guggenheim Bilbao.

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This is the Zubizuri Pedestrian Bridge – the walkway is made of glass.

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Architect Frank Gehry’s famous museum was opened in 1997 – guarded by this giant spider. It contains the world’s largest gallery and has been a huge financial success for the city.

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The riverfront is lined with pedestrian walkways, parks, and bicycle paths. The city is nestled among green hills.

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It was impossible to stop taking pictures!

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Lots of really neat playgrounds are scattered around.

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Hundreds of steps lead down to the Old City.

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Charming scenery, great weather – this is a city we would like to visit again!

Posted by Swenigale 14:32

LA ROCHELLE, FRANCE

Our Atlantic Call


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This was our last port on our fantastic voyage. We were blessed, once again, with great weather, so we spent the day exploring this former Protestant city.

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St. Saviour’s church, first built in the 12th century, has long been the sailors’ parish church.

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The old harbor is flanked by Tour St. Nicholas (on the left) and Tour de la Chaîne. In the Middle Ages, the towers were constructed to raise a chain to seal off the harbor each night.

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The Great Clock is a remnant of the old town wall, but reconstructed in 1746.

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Here is the Place de Verdun and the Cathedral – yellow city bikes are for rent in the foreground.

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The Old Market Square

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La Rochelle has a reputation for having great oysters.

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The Old City is full of half-timbered houses, beautiful old arcades, and cobblestone streets. The stones came to the city as ballast in ships from Canada in the trading days of the past.

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These are the three towers on the harbor – the third one is the Tour de la Lanterne, the former lighthouse and then prison.

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Out toast to you– thanks for “traveling” with us! It’s been a lovely cruise!!!

Posted by Swenigale 13:55

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