Italy · My Thoughts · Travel

My Favorite Port: Santorini & Two More!

Looking from Santorini towards our cruise ship with Blue Dome Church - My favorite!
Looking from Santorini towards our cruise ship with Blue Dome Church

My favorite port of this Mediterranean Sea cruise was Santorini, Greece, the breathtaking city on top of the cliffs. Before Santorini, we visited two other ports: Kotor, Montenegro and Corfu, Greece. As I thought about these three ports and all the possibilities, I highlighted Kotor, Montenegro and Corfu, Greece and focus on Santorini.

October 7 — Kotor, Montenegro

As we moved in closer to Kotor, we enjoyed the gorgeous scenery as we came into a beautiful bay with the mountains coming closer and closer on each side. The tender was late because of port authorities.

This small country has an intriguing history. During World War II, President Tito’s presence was obvious. Montenegro achieved independence as a country in 2006.

For the first part of the excursion, we went to the city of Budva, considered the “Queen of Tourism.” We had limited time there, and I desperately needed a bathroom, so we had to buy a drink to use one. We walked through narrow paths that wove through the city.

Afterwards, on the way back to Kotor, we spent one hour in an expensive rug shop, listening to an informative presentation on the different rugs. I made the mistake of commenting on the beauty of one rug, and a hungry salesperson grabbed me and took me to another area to see more like that one. Again, I had to go to the bathroom, so I left Lin with this ambitious salesperson, which Lin didn’t appreciate. The price: $10,000 for a rug about 3 feet by 5 feet. Needless to say, we didn’t buy one!

When we returned to Kotor, we toured the fort of old Kotor, a fascinating historic city where we needed more time to explore! We saw a fascinating orthodox church, a cathedral that dated back to 1166 inside the fort. Lin found time to have another gelato, though!

When we tendered back to the ship in the early evening, beautiful sharp mountains surrounded us running down to the sea. As lights came on, we saw an ancient defensive wall lit up in the nighttime.

October 8 — Corfu, Greece

Corfu, one of the Ionian Islands, was gorgeous, surrounded by the azure blue Mediterranean! I dressed in a culotte dress in case we visited a church. Before we left the ship, I needed to exchange my money and get some Euros for the day.

The Old Fortress of Corfu - My favorite
The Old Fortress of Corfu

On our excursion, we traveled through the town of Corfu and enjoyed the tour guide’s tales about its rich history and folklore. The old fortress of Corfu sat sentinel on the hill.

As an English major, I loved when he shared Odysseus left his ship here and, legend said, it was petrified.

“Odysseus’ ship, which took him home from Corfu to Ithaka, turned to rock according to legend.”

http://i-greece.gr/news/corfu-homers-odyssey-and-odysseus-petrified-ship/

Another important fact he shared about Corfu—Prince Phillip was born there and we drove by his family’s home (mansion).

Evidence of how close we were to the building!
Evidence of how close we were to the building!

When we left Corfu, we traveled through a village, and the bus barely passed through between the buildings. Then we went on up a windy road to the top of a mountain where we shopped for souvenirs and enjoyed the view.

Beautiful view going up the mountain!
Beautiful view going up the mountain!
Mavromatis Distillery - My Favorite

On the way back to Corfu, we stopped at the Mavrommatis distillery where they made kumquat liqueur, a specialty of that area. We bought a variety of kumquat treats!

October 9 — Santorini Island, Greece

All of our ports took my breath away with their beauty—turquoise water and beautiful historic islands! But Santorini Island was my favorite!

At first, as we sailed closer, we saw white on the tops of the gigantic cliffs that looked like snow. As I zoomed in with my new camera, I realized the white was houses. Beautiful white houses trimmed in blue and blue domed churches covered the very top of the cliffs.

Hikers on a different island!
Hikers on a different island!

As we got closer, we saw a variety of boats in coves along the way. Lin, using his binoculars, saw a large group of hikers on one island as we passed. With my new camera, I zoomed in and saw what he was talking about.

Cable cars going up the cliff to Santorini
Cable cars going up the cliff to Santorini

This was another port where we tendered from our ship to the port because of the size of the Norwegian Epic. We knew we were meeting our tour guide up on top by the cable car.

I’m sad to say neither Lin or I knew about the donkeys you could ride up or down the cliff! We found out after we rode the cable car up! I would have loved to ride a donkey up—my ranch girl heart came out! But we had donkey encounters on the trip down.

The crowds at Santorini
The crowds

The cable car was quite efficient and effective, moving people up the cliff. We met our guide at the top and gathered our small group together, and went to their office. The tourists crowded the narrow walkways shoulder-to-shoulder between the busy shops, yet our tour guide said this is not the busy time of year!

Quickly I realized why our tour was called “Panoramic Blue Shade Tour”—blue domes filled Santorini! This was the first time Lin and I didn’t use a Norwegian excursion company. We had waited too late to book them before we left, so we worked with an agent and she booked several tours for the end of our cruise through Viator (viator.com), and we loved them, especially this one!

It was a small group of about twelve.

We had a fantastic young tour guide who told us why they built the houses on the top of the high cliffs. The cliffs are pumice stone, so the digging was easy. So, when you think about it—the houses are cave houses.

Here was another place in the Mediterranean where volcanoes played a big part. The most recent eruption was 1957!

The history of the Santorini fascinated me:

  • In the late 30-40s, they suffered a cholera epidemic. They white washed the houses with limestone, and it stopped the cholera.
  • In 1956, they had a big earthquake.
  • In 1967, they found many archaeological ruins.
  • In 1967, during a dictatorship, every house was painted white and the domes blue, being patriotic—the color of the Greek flag.
  • In 1974, the dictatorship ended, and the demand of painting houses white and domes blue ended, but the tradition continues.
Engagement Locks At Oia
Engagement Locks At Oia

We toured around Santorini, heading towards Oia, the village world famous for its sunset view. We were given time there to shop and relax. At the spot for sunset viewing, we saw hundreds of locks attached to railings. We found out couples put their “engagement locks” there, with their names and engagement date.

During our free time, we shopped and had a gelato. When we got back to the cable car line, it went on and on—the wait would have been an hour or more. We had already decided to walk down the path, but the line convinced us. What an experience that was! Several white-haired people made the same decision.

Donkey manure dotted our path, and we enjoyed several close encounters with the donkeys. They did have a halter and reins, but it did no good. The donkeys walked wherever they wanted!

By the time we got to the bottom, my legs felt like jelly, and I knew the next day I would feel it, but what a glorious end to our wonderful time in Santorini! We caught the tender back to the ship, and I relished the day’s amazing experience with blue domes in the horizon and donkey humor everywhere!

Finally,

My favorite port, Santorini, lives in my mind with bright blue domes and white washed buildings. Have you ever heard of Santorini? Have you ever been there?


News, News, News!

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

~My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? WON the 2022 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards in the Body, Mind & Spirit Category. Have you bought your copy yet?

~Wish You Were Here: A Novel by Jodi Picoult, one of my favorite authors, deals with the COVID pandemic in fiction as opposed to my nonfiction book. Check it out! Interesting story!

~MY FIRST AUDIOBOOK IS AVAILABLE: Go to Audible to buy my first audiobook, Let Me Tell You a Story. I’m working on Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? but have gotten stalled with shingles.

~Do you listen to podcasts? Here are three podcasts with interviews about my new book & some Flippo stories:

Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo meme

~Have you bought a copy of Flippo’s biography yet? Believe it or not—it’s been two years. Go here for your hardback or paperback: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

~For me, it’s Christmas all year long! Here’s a variety of Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

Italy · My Thoughts · Travel

Volcanoes: Ports 3 & 4 in Italy

Volcanoes! Our Mediterranean cruise continued to two Italian ports: Naples (Napoli in Italian) and Messina where volcano eruptions changed history, and a recent eruption captured our attention!

October 5—Naples, Italy—Visited Pompeii

Yes, Dean Martin sang “In Napoli” and that song ran through my head as we docked at 11:00 AM in his beloved city. We slept in that morning. I took our passports to be held by the Norwegian Cruise Line for this part of Italy. They handled this exchange efficiently, and I was in and out in minutes. We ate a late breakfast and enjoyed our leisure time. Before leaving the ship for our next excursion, we went upstairs and snacked on banana bread and an apple.

Once again, our tour guide wowed us with his knowledge. This time he shared about Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii which is where we headed out of Naples.

In 79 AD Mt. Vesuvius erupted, destroying the populace site of Pompeii. Mt. Vesuvius is still active, being a young volcano. It erupted the last time around World War II. They now have sensors around the mountain that can predict a week before any eruption activity.

We drove around the Bay of Naples and the guide let us know Naples is the birthplace of pizza! He also identified the island of Capri to the right and the Sorrento peninsula to the left as we traveled.

When we got to the parking lot near the Pompeii site, our group walked to a streetlight. There we found out a man in our group got himself locked in a bathroom in the parking lot which detained us. Our guide was not too happy with him. The guide shared so much information, but I immediately forgot it.

Before our Pompeii tour, we stopped in a shop and saw how cameos are made. I bought one made by a student which cost $56. A master’s cameo of the same cameo was $400! I bought this because my sister had bought one years ago in Italy and encouraged me to buy one too! She died this last week before I could share my purchase with her.

I suffered from dizziness badly on the tour due to my neuralgia, but Lin helped me a lot.

There were phallic symbols in many places—I remembered that!

Here are the 10 Most Fascinating Pompeii Ruins

10.Temple of Apollo

9. House of the Vettii

8. Lupanar – the largest of the city’s many brothels

7. House of the Tragic Poet

6. Forum of Pompeii

5. House of the Faun

4. Pompeii Thermal Baths

3. Pompeii Spectacula – the oldest surviving Roman amphitheaters in the world.

2. Villa dei Misteri

1. Plaster Casts

https://www.touropia.com/pompeii-ruins/

Body mummified by the ash—volcanoes
Body mummified by the ash

At the end of the tour, we went through a museum that housed the bodies mummified by the ash from the volcano. They appeared frozen in time with gruesome expressions frozen on their faces.

After the tour and returning to Naples, we didn’t see the sights the guide suggested: the fort, the Royal Palace or the Theater. I just didn’t feel well. But we enjoyed shopping inside the terminal and our shopping experience.

Here’s my haiku about this day:

Mt. Vesuvius

Erupted and destroyed

Pompeii! Lives shattered!

October 6—Messina, Italy—Mt. Etna

The next day started early again with another fantastic excursion and guide. As we drove through Messina in the early morning, she shared fascinating information:

Another day of dealing with nature’s destruction quality. Messina was totally destroyed by an earthquake then a tsunami! When they rebuilt it, they followed an international idea. This area of Italy—Sicily—uses the famous dialect of “The Godfather.”

When we left Messina, the guide identified Carrara, “The city is famous for some of the world’s finest marble, called Carrara, taken from nearby quarries and used by sculptors from Michelangelo to Henry Moore.”

https://www.britannica.com/place/Carrara

As we drove, she shared endless information: “Our region was Greek. Mt. Etna erupted twenty years ago. One thousand years ago, the Arabs found this area. Twenty thousand years, it was first founded by the Byzantine Empire.”

Savoca where The Godfather Filmed—volcanoes
Savoca where The Godfather Filmed

As we drove, she identified a medieval village on the top of a hill, Savoca, where they filmed part of “The Godfather.”

Mt. Etna Smoking—volcanoes
Mt. Etna Smoking!

Mt. Etna loomed in the distance as we drove, and the guide continued sharing information about this volcano, and we could see where it was smoking—eerie for sure!

Then we stopped at the Crateri Sylvestri Visitor’s Center for a bathroom break and a snack. Here she explained a lot about volcano eruptions and different types of ash and volcanic rocks. We walked around the top of the whole crater, and I struggled with dizziness, so I stayed away from the edge.

Lin on the edge of Crateri Silvestri—volcanoes
Lin on the edge of Crateri Silvestri

Afterwards, we went to the GIVAL jewelry store and saw a demonstration. Lin bought me beautiful turquoise earrings for our anniversary. They had a light buffet for us there, served on a tropical patio.

Looking towards the sea—volcanoes
Looking towards the sea

On the drive back, I took lots of sea pictures, but my camera’s battery died again!

When we returned to the ship, we napped, dressed up and ate dinner where they had live music. Finally, we danced! Several years ago, we had such a memorable time on the Norwegian Epic ship—this ship—because they had a fantastic duo who played a variety of dance music. We hooked up with the dancers and followed the duo all around the ship at the different venues. I had been aching to dance, and it finally happened.

Finally,

What a memorable day we had near smoking Mt. Etna. Our amazing guide snow skied alongside Mt. Etna when it was erupting! Wow! And Pompeii in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius fascinated me with its massive ruins.

Do you like volcanoes? I grew up near Capulin volcano in northeastern New Mexico and have always loved them.


News, News, News!

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

~My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? WON the 2022 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards in the Body, Mind & Spirit Category. Have you bought your copy yet?

~Wish You Were Here: A Novel by Jodi Picoult, one of my favorite authors, deals with the COVID pandemic in fiction as opposed to my nonfiction book. Check it out! Interesting story!

~MY FIRST AUDIOBOOK IS AVAILABLE: Go to Audible to buy my first audiobook, Let Me Tell You a Story. I’m working on Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? but have gotten stalled with shingles.

~Do you listen to podcasts? Here are three podcasts with interviews about my new book & some Flippo stories:

Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo

~Have you bought a copy of Flippo’s biography yet? Believe it or not—it’s been two years. Go here for your hardback or paperback: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

~For me, it’s Christmas all year long! Here’s a variety of Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A