May 30 Victoria to Rome.  

As I had posted previously, I am off again on another journey….again with the Women’s Travel Meetup.  This time we are traveling to Rome and going on another cruise but this time it is in the Mediterranean…..for 15 days.  Again we are traveling with Oceania but on a larger ship, the Riviera.  She is much larger but still very mush smaller than a lot of the other cruise ships on the seas.  I’ll elaborate on that in a bit. 

Our first leg of the journey was just to Vancouver…..uneventful really.  We had enough time to enjoy a very nice lunch in Milestones.  I started out by being somewhat “good” by having a salad, but oh my what an awesome salad.  We’ll see how long that lasts.  

Next leg was a nine plus hour. Flight with Air France.  A first time flying with them.  It was quite nice.  Food and drinks were included.  It’s rarely that that happens anymore.  Pamela and I sat in the bulkhead seats…..middle seats of middle section (3+4+3 across), so that she had leg room for her 6′ plus frame.  You should see the two of us together.  Mutt and Jeff.  It was again a first for me with no seat in front of us to support the tray.  The tray came out of the arm which cuts down on the width of the seat.  Any narrower and I could not get my wide self into it.  Not for me, the most comfortable arrangement ….especially for a nine plus hour flight.  I have decided, although there is not much chance of getting around if I want to travel to far away lands, that I don’t like those long flights. It’s not that I don’t like flying.  It’s just that it takes to darned long.  This flight, cuz we were flying into time, called for us to sleep.  Just as I finally drifted off, a couple women not far away from us, started talking in very loud voices.  Woke us up for the remainder of the flight to Paris.  Inconsiderate for sure.  Grrrrr!  We arrived in Paris with very little time to change planes.  You know the routine I am sure where you have to hike for miles and miles only to have to go through “border patrol” that has line ups that are a mile and half long and our other flight is already boarding.  Some people are stressing out when there really isn’t a thing you can do about it.  We made it…..probably cuz there was a delay leaving Charles DeGaulle Airport.  Wow, what an ultra modern facility!  Beautiful…….and huge!  The next leg was to Rome airport.  Only 2 hours this time but a long time since getting up in the early morning hours of the day before.  After picking up our luggage, we went walking and walking trying to get to the Best Western shuttle bus.  And then it was waiting for forever for that bus to come and get us.   Incidentally DO Not assume that because it is a “hotel” shuttle that it is free.  Not!  10 Euros times 8 for literally a 5 minute drive. Again some people are getting excited for something that is just a fact of traveling.  Don’t assume anything.  Ask first.  I think by the time we got checked in it was 2 o’clock in the afternoon of the 31st, Sunday.  We are all exhausted but decide we cannot wait for the hotel restaurant to open for dinner at 7 so we all trek into the smallish town area.  There is now the 11 of us.  Shirley and Jim arriving in from Nova Scotia and Jeanette (my roommate) from New York.  They were at the hotel when we arrived.  Our 12 th is still in hospital in Vancouver.  We are sorry that she is there and not here for her and for Pamela (cuz she is having a room all to herself).  At least she doesn’t have to be all alone.  All she has to do is go out the door for the rest of us and her Mom and Jim.  Anyway, we walked into this town that is along side a canal that has lots of fish boats and sailboats tied up.  There was all kinds of nets and all the rest of the gear that is necessary for fishing, all along a sort of malecon.  The street had a whole string of outside, sidewalk cafes.  Not exactly the kind I would envision is like in Paris but nice just the same.  We started out with Prosecco (3 Euros for a small bottle) and food predominately made with fish.  Most everyone enjoyed theirs except me, but then I am not particularly fond of fish.  A few of us bought large bottles of Prosecco to take on board the next day.  Incidentally, Oceania does not mind you bringing on liquor to drink in your stateroom.  Not so for other cruise lines.  This cruise may cost a little more but others nickel and dime you to death for everything especially liquor…..well not exactly nickel and dime. We then headed back to the hotel walking along the canal.  That was nice.  It is not too hot….just nice.  We get back about 6 pm that is like 9am Victoria time but OMG we are all so tired since we basically had not slept for over 24 hours.  I think I crawled into bed at 6:30 and was out like a light.  We had not even bothered to go into Rome at all……just too bagged.

It is now Monday, June 1st….the day we start our cruise.  We get our breakfast included ( good but cold) and mega number of cups of coffee.   Good!  Had to put 2 shots to make a cup but great.  Then it was taking the shuttle ( this we had prepaid so was not a surprise) to Civitevecchia, the port city for Rome.  It was probably at least an hour and a half drive to get there.  We just sailed on through check-in…….not like Rio.  Of course we sort of queue jumped because we had all upgraded to concierge so you then are allowed to do that. 

This ship is very lovely.  The reception/concierge/destinations area and grand staircase is really exquisite and so much larger than the Regatta.  The staterooms are really a whole lot larger as well.  Can you believe 100 square feet larger plus the balcony is bonus.  Marion and Joyce have the room next to Jeanette and myself so we had the room steward open the door that separates the two on the balcony.  We even have a full bathroom with soaker tub and separate shower, granite floors and walls.  Gorgeous!  Because we all upgraded to concierge, we have access to the private deck at the rear of the ship with a thalassotherapy pool, sauna and steam room.  The weight room is huge but I believe it is open to all, upgrade or not.  All this quite posh but maybe not as glamorous as in Vegas style as some of the other ship but then we don’t have to contend with huge populations.  This ship has a maximum passenger quota of 1250…..twice the size of Regatta.

Milazzo on Sicily was our first port of call.  We were tendered in.  The almost entire group of eleven minus one, went on the same excursion.  We head out driving along the coast towards Taomina.  The very mountainous countryside is lovely with masses amounts of bouganvilla and oleander everywhere, mountain top villages (built for protection because they are so high up and of course the vantage point) and beaches in little strips along the coast.  As i said, these villages were built on the top of mountains.  The bus drove a fair way up the hill but then when we got out, we had to take an elevator up I believe 7 floors and then had to walk some more.  This village is absoltely gorgeous beong used as a resort town since the 19th century.  It is so well preserved with outside cafe and bars and lots of shops.  I guess i must have been sleepin when we were told that there was an ancient theatre at this site as well.  I didnt realize until it was too late.  I only got to the gates.  Apparently is it was originally built by the Greeks but then the Romans built atop it.  From there, we went to see a lava river.  We are quite close to Mt. Etna.  Etna is not just one sole peak but many.  If i remember correctly, every time it erupted it made another peak.  When we got to Taomina, we actually could see the top of it but later when we were leaving, it was shrouded in clouds.  Next stop was to a winery.  Needless to say we all purchased.  I would come back here to Sicily.  Leaving later, we sailed through the Messina Straits.  We were in the dining room at the time so didn’t get to see it but from the sounds and jerking of the ship, I would say it was extremely turbulent.  I could see through the windows that it was quite narrow with land close on both sides.  
Kefalonia is the name of our first stop in Greece.  It is an island in the Ionian Sea.  Argostoli is capital.  Previous to 1953 earthquake the population went from 130,000 to 38,000 after.  I guess the residents decided it was a good time to get the heck out of Dodge.  That earthquake devistated most of the islands buildings.  Consequently most all buildings are post 1953.   One thing that they noticed after was that in the case of the churches, what the earthquake did not destroy, the bells in the bell towers did.  As a result when rebuilding, the bell towers are separate.  

It seems that they are building fish farms all over the world including here where they breed sea bass and sea bream.  Apparently the fish stocks had been depleated before so  I guess there was no lose to their wild fish.  It is a big source of income here as are bees and thyme flavoured honey.  Not much else is a money maker for this area besides tourism.

This area is very mountainous but really not all that high.  Maximum 1100 metres on Mt. Eons.  The lower sides of the mountain have trees growing that they call Kefalonia Firs.  They are quite dark so they call the mountain the black mountain.  You also see a lot of Cyprus trees.  The Venicians used to strip all the branches and cut them to use as the poles to tie up the gondolas to because they are absolutely straight and probably resistent to decay.

British in 1809 came … Built bridge across lagoon at Argostoli 

Myrtos beach most photographed

Sami town 3th largest 

Scorpios is the name of Onassis’ island.  Maria Callas his previous lover before Jackie Kennedy, lived here.

Ithaca 5 largest Ionian island seen off coast home of Odysseus

Loggerhead turtle 15 yrs before reproducing 50-70 eggs endangered only 1 in 100 survive…males forage. 48 males in harbour last year. Only place males will be in groups

Monk seal endangered as well

40 x 160 metres -Melazzani lake 39 actually

40 feet deep- salt water fed but returns almost totally fresh water

Through the swallow holes near argostoli und3rground to melisma I lake to littl3 lake then to ocean again at Sami from 100% salt water to 50% fresh
Limestone based so soak up winter water in caves so sprout springs

 Summer may to 5/6 months : 20-22-24 to 28 in June 30 in July 30 in August sept into 20s October 15 jan/February 1-8 deg. Some snow 

.kephalonia fir tree…black Xmas tree

Cafenion local coffee shop where locals gather

Mt. Enos 11,000′

St. Gerasamus patron saint—body never decomposes

1.59E / l.
48 different varieties of grapes

Ravolo med. dry white wine

 

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