Cruising

I started this blog with the intent of recapping adventures of the last three years before we return to our real life in the States. Only six days remain until we make the long trip across the pond. In fact, I’m writing this surrounded by luggage, boxes of items to donate, and party favors for Saturday’s farewell soirée. I won’t even come close to blogging everything I wanted to in our short time left as ex-pats, but I’ll continue once we’ve settled somewhere in the greater Washington, DC area.

And now, a post I have really been putting off writing since I’m not sure how to break it up: The Cruise.

Angie, Jen & Gary, and I had fairly low expectations for our first port call: Bari, Italy. And we were right. It’s a pretty town, but there wasn’t much to do, everything was closed since we were there on a holiday, and we knew “free” drinks awaited us back on board the ship.

Old Bari Port

Next up was Rhodes, Greece.

Rhodes, Greece

We visited the Acropolis of Lindos and St. Paul’s Bay, where it is reported the apostle landed during a storm.

me, Angie, Gary & Jen

Lindos, Greece

Gary tried a local beer at each stop on the cruise, and since I hate to see a guy drink alone, I did too.
he enjoyed a local beer at each port

Jen got a tip from our tour guide and we headed to Hatzikelis Fish Taverna for what is the best lunch I’ve ever had in my entire life, hands down. Rather than show us the menu, Vasileioi, our fantastic waiter, took us into the kitchen to show us what was fresh and ask us how we’d like it prepared.

Jen & Gary

We shared an eggplant appetizer that each of us now duplicates on our own grills many times each summer. That day, I had mussels:
my entree

Dessert was Baklava and oranges that I think were handpicked minutes before we ate them:
Baklava and fresh oranges

Cats begged (and were fed), octopus hung drying on a line above our table, we drank wine, and of course, we laughed. I’ve considered going back to Rhodes, just to eat there again. And some day, I will.

Jen, Gary, Vasileioi, me and Angie

Our next stop, thanks to an itinerary change necessitated by the Arab Spring (maybe someday we’ll visit the Pyramids?) was Ephesus, Turkey. It’s one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and is likely where the Gospel of John was written.

Odeon

Ancient Ephesus Theater

Just a short ride away was the church built on what was the Virgin Mary’s house (Photography is prohibited inside, and I didn’t take many photos outside as I was a bit overwhelmed.)
Virgin Mary's House

Back in the port city of Izmir, a Kurdish Rally was underway.

After a local brew (which I drank while I e-mailed my U2 BFFs: I am in a bar in Izmir, Turkey and they’re playing One!), we made our way through the thousands of riot police (Thousands. I am not exaggerating!) and eventually, we were safely back on board thanks to Gary’s map reading/lady herding skills. “I CAN’T SEE THE BOAT, GARY!?” Is still a catchphrase we utter when we’re confused, lost, or just trying to be funny.

Didn't want Gary to drink alone

Kurd rally

Turkish Police

Our next stop was Ahthens, Greece. I couldn’t believe we were touring the sites I studied in my high school Latin class:

The Acropolis
The Acropolis

me at the Temple of Athena
The Temple of Athena

Angie, me, Gary and Jen at the Parthenon
The Parthenon

Parthenon
The Parthenon

Tiny Angie
Angie at the Temple of Zeus

And we saw a changing of the guard at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Evzones changing the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Next up was Olympia, Greece where we learned all about Architecture and the Ancient Olympics from our slightly crazy tour guide.

Our crazy, hilarious and informative tour guide

Palaestra

ready to race in the Olympic Stadium
Gary and I ran the distance in the Olympic Stadium!

And finally, we made it to Dubrovnik, Croatia. Sadly, somewhere along the way I picked up a major sinus infection. So while the photos from this last stop look familiar, I don’t remember much other than feeling so bad that I cried at lunch. Sorry, travelmates!

Fort Lovrijenac, Dubrovnik
Fort Lovrijenac

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

Angie & Gary
Angie and Gary enjoying cocktails at what is supposedly Bill Gates’ favorite bar (not pictured: my mental breakdown.)

There are so many terrible cruise stories in the news right now. Luckily, other than my (non-cruise related) illness, all I have are fantastic memories.

breakfast on our balcony
We had breakfast on our balcony every day,

some entertainers after the show
we saw a show every night,

view from cabin 9187
And we had tons of relaxing fun.

Welcome to Paradise

Big D and I planned to visit the beaches of Normandy on D Day for months. I spent hours on the couch planning out our route, booking hotel rooms and trying to hire a tour guide. Thankfully, the guide sent us a message explaining what a terrible idea it was to visit WWII sites on the busiest day of the year…  “Most of a tour on June 6th will be spent sitting in the car park that the roads around Normandy will have turned into, staring at the back of the car stuck in front of you. You will most certainly not be spending much time looking at any sites.”

We moved on to Plan B! I spent even more hours online, cancelled the France reservations, mapped out new routes and made even more hotel reservations near Lake Como, the Cinque Terre and Lake Constance. The trip would include a lot of driving. And here is where I should note that we do not drive well together. My dad was 70 years old when he taught me to drive. And his are the techniques I still utilize to navigate the highways and byways of the world: Little Old Man skills. I prefer a large space cushion between our vehicle and everything around us. Big D likes to be close enough to the car in front of us to change their radio station himself. So after careful consideration, he told me he did not way to take the trip, either.

Thanks to the assistance of a travel agent (why didn’t I start visiting a professional ages ago!?) and  the assurance of TripAdvisor, we were on to Plan C and off to the Grecotel Kos Imperial. Could all of those reviews be accurate? Or was it all too good to be true?

An early morning flight from Frankfurt, a bus ride on which I was nervous since nobody spoke English, and a few hours later, we arrived at our island paradise. As we stood in the lobby, I felt the weight of the world slip away.

This was our first view of what was to come:
First glimpse

Could it all really be as good as they made it look on their website? Yes. Yes, it could:
one of the four pools at our resort

So for six glorious days and five rest filled nights, we did what is completely unusual for us: Nothing. Well, almost. We ate a lot (I had feta cheese and capers with every meal!) and we drank even more.

We got to know the staff: Efi at the pool restaurant. Natalia at the pool bar. Dimitri at the lobby bar. And since we are the only Americans they’ve so far this year (!) they all treated us like rock stars.

Big D took some windsurfing lessons (and determined he prefers body boarding.)  I read a fantastic book.

One day, we chartered a sailboat (skippered by a 20 year old kid named Billy) who took us to nearby Pserimos where we barbecued and later swam to shore to drink local beers.

day trip to Pserimos

We followed Dimitri’s advice and visited the town of Zia for a fantastic dinner of eggplant and lamb, local wine, and lots of tasty desserts.
dinner at Oromedon in Zia

We stalked a fellow guest who resembled our good friend Eric and tried to snap secret pictures of him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But mostly we did this:
Swim-up bar

And this:
Almost time to go

Beautiful scenery. Delicious food. Frosty cold drinks. But really, what I’ll remember is spending quality time alone, together. We napped. Reminisced. Laughed. Plotted and planned.

We know how lucky we are and we appreciated every minute of it.
resort pool

These and lots more photos are over on my Flickr page.