A Travellerspoint blog

Reflections on a 12-Day Mediterranean Cruise

by Andrea

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These are my short reflections from the 12-day Mediterranean Cruise we took early June, in order of each stop.

Venezia: We meet again, 14 years have passed. This time there are more tourist crowds and the Rialto bridge is under repair. Still charming but our time is limited and you are too busy now.

Piraeus (Athens), Greece: I walked on ground, stone, and marble steps that have been around B.C. The columns, Athena, Zeus, Socrates, Myth, Art, centuries and centuries old. Still relevant and even revered today. The beautiful remains in this city, and the many visitors still pay tribute to this ancient place.

Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey: Walking on these marble and stone streets to me, felt as if I was walking in ancient prosperous times. Once closer to the sea, now four miles away filled in with delta. Caesar's and Apostles walked here. The theater (capacity of 2500) is where the great uproar over Diana of the Ephesians took place (Acts 19) , and musicians including Sting, and Pavarotti have performed here.

We attended a carpet loom demo showing hand-woven silk carpets, along with a Turkish snack, and we quickly became fond of a beautiful catalog style rug.
Side note: I didn't know exactly what Turkish Delight was until I bought some. It's pretty much a jelly candy rolled in powdered sugar. I tried rose, lemon, and pistachio with actual chopped nuts in it. It tasted good, but probably not good for my teeth.

Istanbul, Turkey: Hagia Sophia now a museum and the most important Byzantine monument in the world. The Grand Bazar's labyrinth of streets with over 4000 shops. A visit inside the famous Blue Mosque kept us dry during a torrential downpour under it's tiled domes. Everyone inside walking in socks, and women with scarf-covered heads. This mosque is a stunning spectacle with massive crowds.

Mykonos, Greece: White houses and buildings with blue trim and blue doors. White cement and stone walkways, winding streets, bougainvilleas, shops, cafes, and small beaches make up this quaint little island.

Naples, Italy: Napoli lived up to its reputation. Pompei was an impressive city of affluence and remnants. The body casts are a bit eery, but the preserved frescoes are colorful and inspiring. Vesuvius sits quietly in the backdrop.

Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy: Civitavecchia is a city with its own charm. We decided not to take a jaunt to Rome on this stop since we had been there before. We spent our time at a quiet pizzeria enjoying the obvious; pizza, wine, and wifi! We even skyped with our family here.

Livorno (Florence & Pisa), Italy: Livorno, another nice Port city. Half an hour by train to Pisa. Once you walk to the Piazza dei Miracoli (Italian: Square of Miracles), the four great religious edifices come into view: the Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Baptistry, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Camposanto Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery). The Leaning Tower resembles a layer cake in my eyes (I know, food food food). We only admired the exteriors and took our tourista photos. Once we did that, we were kinda done.

And now for a brief intermission on our way to France. Early that morning I awoke and hurried out to the deck to witness a sunrise on the Mediterranean Sea and wrote a spontaneous poem in response.

Mediterranean Sunrise

The fireball slowly rises
from behind the blue Mediterranean
brushing the sky with a peach tint and dusty red hues.
Shining its golden glow on the sea and
on to my face.
It continues awakening and lighting the day as we near
Toulon France, gliding along the Mediterranean blue.
There is a quiet brilliance to the dawn of this new day.
May the living rise, embrace, and embody the warmth and beauty
offered freely to us all. -- A.M.A.

Toulon, France: Quaint streets with a large outdoor marketplace. Tables of beautiful produce, and booths with clothes and accessories. Another unexpected, impressive port city that did not feel touristy or terribly noisy, however busy.

During the cruise we watched two good movies we hadn't seen. "Big Eyes" a biographical film about the American artist Margaret Keane which was interesting, and "The Theory of Everything" about Stephen Hawking. I can see why Eddie Redmayne won the Academy Award for Best Actor. We also took an Argentinian Tango dance lesson which was fun! We try to practice every few days so we don't forget the steps.

We dock in Barcelona and disembark our ship. The days of tranquil seas, a regular schedule of meals, and free entertainment has come to an end.

Posted by woa 09:21 Comments (0)

Let's Visit Salvador Dali's Home

George Reporting..

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Salvador Dali has always been an intriguing artist to me. Growing up, I remember him being somewhat scary and his artwork perplexing and disconcerting. As I evolved into an artist myself, I came to appreciate what he was attempting to do for art and the 'artist'. Dali was to 'crazy artist' as Dean Martin was to 'boozy crooner'. They both created personas that heightened their art and set them apart. Dali was never a phony because he knew the artist should be as free as possible. He was also a 'griefer' who spoke, painted (and acted) to truthfully for most people to bear. Whatever you think of his personality, his artistry was unmistakably unique and ground-breaking. I had always been influenced by his work but really didn't know how much so until I came here to Cadeques, Spain.

So lets pay a visit to Senor Dali at his casa in Port Lligat. You may tell him he is a 'great artist' but he'll probably say, "That's true... but you're still stupid!"

Begin with enjoying coffee and a croissant or perhaps a slice of pizza at the Dali statue located on the beach in the center of Cadaques.

Stroll up and over the crooked, stone street that leads to Port Lligat and look for Dali's white house among all the other white houses. Hint: Look for the house with the two silver heads on the roof.

Quietly amble up the steps leading to his front door.

Knock or bang loudly (depending upon your artistic temperament) at the front door because no doorbell is apparent. If so moved, shout "Hey Gala? Is Sally home!??!"

You would see this welcoming face.

Then you are welcomed (maybe) into this first room which was actually the only room in the house when Dali bought it as a young, struggling artist after being kicked out by his father.

After finding success, Dali expanded his one room house. Now you could be insulted and vexed in his new living room.

OR you could visit him in his studio.

Here was one of the last pieces Dali worked on. Apparently he was painting Bruce Jenner. It just shows you how ahead of his time Dali was.

As Dali made more money, he added several rooms accessible via strange hallways like this one.

One hallways will lead you to the serenity of his patio. Try to find the Michelin man if you can.

Or stroll through the large, terraced olive groves adjacent to the house.

Dali might ask you if you'd like a drink. If you say "Yes", don't be surprised if he knocks you into the pool.

There are strange rooms that double as art pieces every where on the property. This one is NOT the WC!

Here is Burning Man's father Sleeping Man.

Exit Dali's home and search for your pride/sanity in the waters just outside the house.

The End.

Posted by woa 12:42 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Game of Hide and Seek

George Reporting

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I awoke this morning in Cadeques thinking about my childhood. I don't know why exactly. Perhaps it was the sliver of morning light that stole into our 2nd story hotel room that reminded me that something beautiful and hidden awaited outside? As I drew the curtains, a typical Cadeques Spring morning revealed itself to me. Suddenly, I was recalling some feelings I had as a child. Feelings like the wonder of nature and the giddy mysteries that exist outside filled with fortunes awaiting to be discovered under some rocks or near a tree. My childhood imaginations created amazing adventures whenever the sky was clear, the sun was warm and the air was fresh with the smell of poetry.
I ventured out into the early morning alone, slowly creeping along the craggy, undulating 'lanes'(they are too narrow to truly be called 'streets'). I surfed the wave-like paths and touched every plant along the way as if I were a plastic bag pushed along in every direction by a quietly courageous wind. The more I explored, the more I sunk deeper into the notion of what childhood was like.
I returned back to the room and scooped up my wife for an early morning breakfast over-looking the boat filled harbor. As we ate, my eyes stared at the shoreline that disappeared then reappeared the farther I looked into the beyond. We decide to take an impromptu hike along the left shore banks to discover what this lovely town had to offer. After about an hour, I realized that this was quite possibly the most beautiful walk/hike I had ever done. In addition, I realized something new about why I was traveling so much this year.
Thinking back as a young child, I remembered how much I enjoyed playing 'Hide and Seek' with myself. I think I was usually trying to hide from anyone, people mostly, and I was also seeking something at the same time. I always felt there was some kind of treasure lurking just around the corner but in actuality it was the golden illumination of mystery that exists in your mind when your a child first experiencing the outside world on your own.
They say the first, powerful experiences you have as a child shape your entire life. History says Salvador Dali used to visit Cadeques frequently as a child. When you spend time walking along the Costa Brava shoreline, you begin to feel like you are on some strange, beautiful planet where bizarre forms and shapes jut out towards you from every direction. It's a planet where straight lines barely exist and where every path, lane, street and house seems to bend in weird ways like an expressionist painting. The clear Mediterranean waters are inviting but somewhat scary as patches of darkness are scattered underwater like big shadow-monsters. Even human built structures seem to have their own personalities and faces. The pockmarked sea rocks peer back at you, at certain points, like haunted skull/faces!

Because the winter weather here is a harsh cabal of howling winds, all the trees and shrubs contort outwardly in a shocking manner
as if performing a Moe Howard impersonation.

It was fascinating for me to imagine a young Salvador Dali hiking these very same trails and seeing the very same things. As an adult, my imagination was taking off with every step and I wondered what this would have looked like to me as a child.
Which brings me back to one of the reasons I am traveling this much. I've come to realize that I am trying to capture those aspects of childhood that were so meaningful then. Travel is my attempt to recapture the wonder, mystery and discovery in exploring the world for the first time.
One loses all that as you get older and come to see the world in that harsh light of reality that eventually destroys all your childhood illusions.
I always felt more comfortable on my own, away from the crowd, discovering some new hidden beauty around a new corner or a the water's edge. I now understand that that is my initial understanding of the world and one of the important ways I stay sane amid the insanity of human reality.
Dali returned to Cadeques as an adult and bought a few homes here. No doubt it was an escape back to the comfort of his childhood where he felt kinship with the strange, weird landscape that exists here. Moreover, I can even see how Gaudi and other Spanish artists felt comfortable working with the chaotic forms and shapes of the windswept Spanish Costa Brava.
Recreating your childhood, is that what it all comes down to?
For what reason am I trying to recreate my childhood? Fear of getting older? Fear of anxiety? Fear of losing my imagination? Fear of not living enough or fear of living too much?
Fear of death?
Fear of living too long?
Fear of death?
I've said that. *

  • Props to Raymond Carver for that last part.

Posted by woa 06:44 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Revisiting the first travel "Selfie"

George Reporting...

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This is our First Selfie taken aboard a water taxi way back in 2001 in Venice, Italy.
To me, a selfie is taking a picture of yourself at arms length with a camera. It is not the same as putting a timer on the camera and setting it down and running into place.

I think the main reason I took that pic was so not to bother other people to take the pic of us. Also, I think I was probably trying to impress, my then
girlfriend Andrea, with how many features my little palm-sized Sony camcorder had. That pic has been on my website since 2001, long before the
term 'selfie' was coined.

14 years later, we find ourselves on the way back to Venice, Italy to hop on a water taxi to recreate that moment. Why? Because it's a fun, goofy thing to do, that's why. Maybe we'll start a movement where folks will go back and recreate a 10-15 year old selfie of themselves? lol!

2015 Venice selfie

Anyway, we are in Venice to take our 12 night Mediterranean cruise. We found a great, last minute deal while in Barcelona and it includes many places we are dying to visit.

The Itinerary:
12 Night Grand Mediterranean (Venice To Barcelona)

Day Ports of Call Arrival Departure

1 Venice, Italy --- ---
2 Venice, Italy --- 1:00 a.m.
3 At Sea --- ---
4 Piraeus (Athens), Greece 7:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m.
5 Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey 7:00 a.m. 2:00 p.m.
6 Istanbul, Turkey 9:00 a.m. 7:00 p.m.
7 Mykonos, Greece 1:00 p.m. 9:00 p.m.
8 At Sea --- ---
9 Naples, Italy 8:00 a.m. 7:00 p.m.
10 Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy 8:00 a.m. 7:00 p.m.
11 Livorno (Florence & Pisa), Italy 8:00 a.m. 7:00 p.m.
12 Toulon, France 9:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m.
13 Barcelona, Spain 5:00 a.m. ---
A cruise like this is a great break from backpacking through different countries. For 12 nights, we can unload our bags once and take advantage of all the things a cruise offers including all meals, a gym and (most importantly) not having to make travel plans for several dayss.

We set sale on May 31 and may not have Internet for awhile so blog posts might have to wait. OR, we could be surprised at find that wifi is no big deal and we'll continue to post. Don't really know yet.

Wish us a "bon voyage". It's true that we take a piece of you with us on these trips and we'll stop and think, "Oh So-and-So would love this or this place is so like So-and-So". Cruises like this promises something for everyone. So set a course for adventure, Your mind on a new romance.
And Love won't hurt anymore
It's an open smile on a friendly shore.



Go Warriors!
Free Tom Brady!

Posted by woa 05:12 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

24 Hours in Milano

by Andrea

all seasons in one day
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We left the Albisola Superiore train station heading to Milan on Tuesday afternoon. During our train ride to Milan, some young guy starts yelling. He's on a phone having a loud and passionate argument, or perhaps a romantic meltdown. Naturally I get a little uncomfortable and say to George, "I might move to the next car." George says, "Stay here, don't worry it does not seem like a threatening situation."

I look behind me and see an older woman, who is possible the guy's mother sitting a few rows behind me. She talks to him seemingly to calm him down. However; he starts up again, on the phone yelling and moves to the next car, or the door between cars and we can still hear him arguing with Alessandra. This time it's anger and sounds of despair. Italy is a different culture and maybe this is no cause for alarm on my part. After all, I'm just over-hearing a passionate argument on a phone. If I were on this train in the U.S. I would definitely be more nervous because I'd fear this enraged guy, might be mentally unstable, might have a gun, and decide to shoot innocent fellow travelers just trying to get to their next destination. Frankly, George was impressed that the guy's voice carried that long without getting hoarse.

(Unicyclist Juggler in Milan traffic)

In Milan we schlep to our hotel a few blocks from the train station on a quieter street. We decide to head back to the train station and buy our tickets for the following day to Padua in advance. This is a busy train station. George takes a number. We observe these guys of different ages and ethnicity, and dress (from nice clothes, to casual, to torn pants) who approach travelers and help them use the ticket machines. They do not work for Trenitalia. They just try and get people to use the machines in exchange for a tip, or the change from a cash sale. They also sweep their hand through the change return slot on a regular basis. The give-away for us was when the police come through, they scatter, only to return a few minutes later. A good number of people just brushed them aside and used the machines on their own.

It is definitely faster to use the ticket machines, but if you pay with credit card a pin number is required. Nearly two hours later our number is called. At the ticket counter we purchase the tickets for Padua, and we can't get out of this large, old, beautiful train station fast enough.

(Look, a Moleskine store in the train station!)

We get outside and it starts to rain and we dodge three different guys trying to sell us an umbrella. The rain started getting a little heavier so we stopped for dinner at this Italian and Asian restaurant. By the time we finish the rain has stopped. We walk off our dinner a little, pick up a bottle of wine, and head back to the hotel. We sit on on the small balcony enjoying a cup of wine while the clouds grow thick and gray.


We begin to see flashes of lightening, and then actual lightening bolts, we hear thunder and think this is an electrical storm. The rain eventually returns heavily. It was fierce, but not terribly long. Just another unexpected storm.


The next morning is calm, clear, and the sun is out. Upon in arrival in Milan, we learned Milan is hosting the Universal Expo this year (May 1 - Oct 31), and decided to go check it out since we've never been to one. We continue to learn of rare exhibitions or events only when we arrive in new destinations! We take the metro and manage to get to the Universal Expo when it opens at 10am.


It's like a huge international convention. The theme this year is food & sustainability "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life". We only had five hours, not nearly enough time. We saw what we could, and were impressed with some of the installations, especially Israel with their 'Vertical Field'. There were some gorgeous displays in a variety of materials and mediums.


It was educational.

There was also a few 'Technogyms'

We agreed that the installation from the U.S. was non-impressive. Aside from hearing a recording of President Obama, it was video screens of nothing we stayed to watch, and nothing else to experience or engage in. Yes, a lot of countries had video components but with some tangible or different visual elements as well.


There was a 'Supermarket of the future'


Overall, a great experience and definitely plan to spend the whole day if you go.


That was all we had time for. Next stop: Padua Italy.

Posted by woa 00:10 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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