A Travellerspoint blog

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1. Pippy's Dippy

"Shh, sweetie, you have to sit down"

Venice, Veneto, Italy
Friday, June 12, 2015

The longest time associated with a journey is that spent awaiting its commencement. And so it was with this. Beryl, hereafter referred to as B4 (Big Business Beryl Beth) and I, newly engaged, have planned and are now beginning our longest journey away from our respective homes together. We have made many trips but, until now, not taken what one would call a true vacation.

"Two weeks," says B4, “is the longest vacation I've ever taken.”

“In how long?” I ask.

“Ever.”

I hesitate to tell her about the longest vacation I have ever taken. Readers of this series of stories about my travels can tell her what I am hesitant to admit. But then, I do not bear the responsibility she does and I have supporting me many who, more competent than I, are able to keep the wheels at home turning as they should.

For a woman who, first thing every morning, checks yesterday’s sales and margin numbers, this will be an interesting test. I hope to help her check only the tallies of her experiences each day and leave the business, for a short while, to others. Preparing for this day she has worked a series of twelve hour days and subsisted on short spans of sleep. She is ready for rest and I intend to provide it but in an adventuresome manner.

Should you decide to follow along with this blog, you can grade my performance. Frankly, however, it is only her grade for which I strive. It is her approval alone I seek.

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After last minute scurries of packing and lost seat assignments, we are right on time to: leave the Sulgrave, arrive at Kansas City International Airport, depart on USAir 4464 at 11:32 to Philadelphia, hunker down for last minute paperwork at the Admirals Club and, finally, to depart on USAir 714 at 6:35 for the overnight non-stop to Venice.

Our Airbus A330 was assembled in France and, as I write this first entry the time is around 7:00 in the morning and we have just reached landfall over her birthplace in Calais after having crossed the English Channel, flown over Britian and Ireland, over the North Atlantic, over Gander Newfoundland and after having made our way from Philadelphia north over New York, Boston and Maine.

The transatlantic flight is billed as eight hours and thirty minutes and we are comfortable in business class seats 6C and 6F, “Privacy Shells” that occupy the center of a one-two-one configuration in the front of the plane. There are seven rows with row seven’s window seats reserved for off-duty pilots to sleep.

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Seat 4C houses a young lady, Sam, of approximately six years life experience with a piercing voice and non-stop vocabulary. Her appearance requires me to summon Pippy Longstocking to my mind's eye. She is only partially supervised by her doting mother and aloof father along with a grandmother who is quite amazed at the wonders of this aircraft and unconcerned about the mayhem created by her children’s daughter.

The little one is sleeping now as we are approximately two hours from landing in Venice. I am tempted to walk past her seat, two rows ahead of me, while yelling back at B4 as she awakens from what I think was satisfactory slumber in spite of the din. I will not do that, of course, but only because of the startling effect it would have on my fellow travelers. Believe me, if it were only Ms. Longstocking and myself seated here, she would not be dreaming Goodnight Moon.

I watched a wonderful French film on the flight, half before falling asleep and the remainder upon awakening this morning. “Diplomacy” is adapted from a play and I missed seeing it during its short run at the Tivoli in Kansas City. It is the story of a Swedish diplomat who talked a German General out of destroying occupied Paris during the final hours before it was liberated by the Allies. As long as you are comfortable with subtitles, I recommend it highly.

Flying at just over 500 miles per hour, we are on a smooth journey of 4,300 miles with a scheduled arrival in Venice of 9:23am local time. That is 2:23am back home in Kansas City. It is minus 64 degrees centigrade outside as we buck a slight headwind at an altitude of 39,000 feet. We will be landing eighteen minutes behind our scheduled time in part due to a lengthy taxi back in Philadelphia.

The cabin of the aircraft is dark except for the glow from my laptop and a similar one eminating from the laptop of B4 on my right. I know what she is doing. She monthly pens her “Warren Letter” providing a narrative of the state of the company. I suppose he won’t know that it is early morning over France where this month’s issue is being composed nor will he care. That is not to say that he would not be pleased to know that B4 is taking a vacation; on the contrary, the two of them seem to have a warm and even affectionate relationship.

The cabin lights have just this moment been illuminated. We are exactly 90 minutes from landing and the breakfast service is now commencing. This is a fun time on a long flight if you are the observer who has been up for a bit, already having made your way to the lavatory for brushing of hair and teeth and straightening of mussed clothes.

To my left is an Italian man who graciously traded seats with me prior to departure so that B4 and I would be seated next to each other. He is still sleeping, sprawled on his back, left knee cocked, blanket pulled high over his head. To our far right, a young woman yawns and stares stupefied at the seatback in front of her having completed only a couple of hours of sleep peppered with Pippy’s piercing pronouncements.

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My primary flight attendant server, Al, is a black man who, even without the haircut, reminds me of television’s Mr. T. Initially gruff, he instantly warmed when I asked his name while we still on the ground in Philadelphia. He shook my hand and we have been on a first name basis since.

On these long flights, business class travelers have a choice of departure meals. You can dine course by course of opt for the express meal served all at once. I always choose the later so that I can quickly recline my seat into the clever bed configuration and get as many hours of sleep as are possible. My tally was shorter than I would have liked on this flight due to…

WE INTERRUPT THIS MESSAGE FOR A BULLETIN. PIPPY HAS AWAKENED. SHE IS SLOWED NOT A BIT BY HER SHORT SLEEP. HER CLUELESS FATHER, ABRUPTLY AWAKENED, IS PRESENTLY ENGAGING IN LOUD CONVERSATION WITH BOTH HER AND HER MOTHER WHICH REQUIRES EXTRADORDINARY VOLUME. MOM IS AT MINIMUM FIFTEEN FEET AWAY FROM HIM AND WITH THE NORMAL CABIN NOISE INTERFERING, PROPER CONVERSATION REQUIRES SEMI-SHOUTS TO BE COMPLETED. PIPPY IS CLAD IN GREEN POLKADOT PAJAMA PANTS, A T-SHIRT AND BARE FEET WHILE SPORTING BRIGHT PINK HELLO KITTY HEADPHONES ATTACHED TO A VIDEO DEVICE OF SOME SORT AND IS NOW LOUDLY AWAKENING GRANDMA AND EVERYONE ELSE IN BUSINESS CLASS. COFFEE, ANYONE? (The Italian beside me has just now bolted wide awake)

You are familiar, I suspect, with “the headphone phenomenon.” When one is wearing headphones, one compensates when speaking, raising volume to compensate for whatever is being blasted into one’s ears. To the headphone wearer, that makes perfect sense. To everyone else, it is either distracting, unnerving or outright outrageous. With Pippy, it is the latter. She owns her parents and they have given up when it comes to controlling her. I suspect her first word, rather than DaDa or Mama was “No.”

As I watch Al make his way down the aisle toward me with his cart, he says, “Shh, sweetie, you have to sit down.” Pippy is oblivious but Al keeps his cool. He is a big man and in appearance unlike any flight attendant I can recall. Bearded, he wears his short sleeved uniform shirt open two buttons at the neck so that his crucifix is properly framed as it lies in a snug bed of chest hair. A well trimmed beard frames his face as his thinning crop of head hair betrays his seniority. I suspect that, at this point in his career, nothing fazes Al, that he has seen it all, and that he awaits the day when he can leave all this behind. He has thirty-one years at this job, he tells me. “It wasn’t planned that way,” he says as he rolls his cart to the next row after having provided me with scrambled eggs and a cup of coffee.

The eggs, having been scrambled many hours ago, then refrigerated and then re-heated are the consistency of grits and, by my estimation, inedible. B4 agrees and swaps hers for an elaborate fruit plate option which is quite good. I break my Atkins diet induction period at this moment and enjoy the abbreviated side dish of fruit which salvages my egg plate. That represents the first sugar I’ve had in a long while.

Three weeks ago, I tipped the scale at a worrisome 196 pounds so I reengaged with my trusty Atkins diet giving up all carbs, all sugar and alcohol while consuming strictly protein, green vegetables and salads. I am proudly at 180 as I begin this trip and I plan to return home two weeks from now still at that weight.

With a cruise in my future, I have my work cut out for me.

There will be more details about that as we progress. The overview is this: we will spend tonight in Venice at the Hotel Moresco, board the Norwegian Jade tomorrow and begin a seven night journey stopping at Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos and Olympia before returning to Venice where we have reserved three nights in an apartment secured through AirBnB. This is our first time using this internet lodging scheme and we are both excited and anxious about how it will turn out. We will depart Venice for London where two more AirBnB nights in a West End flat will bookend our chance to see Brian Sears play Elder Cunningham in the London production of Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales theater. I saw him in the role for one performance in New York and he defies the stereotype that Arnold has to be a fat nerd. Brian plays him as a skinny nerd and it works beautifully. From London we fly via Dallas back to Kansas City two weeks from today.

Welcome aboard. Please ignore my musings if they annoy and enjoy them if they amuse secure in the knowledge that I enjoy writing them for me if not for you.

I pray that Pippy and her entourage are housed at someplace other than the Moresco.

Posted by paulej4 10:24 Archived in USA Comments (0)

2. Canals and Bridges and Masks; Oh My

What to do? "Let's buy some eyeglasses!" "And purses!"

Venice, Veneto, Italy
Friday, June 12, 2015

The line at Italian customs at Venice Marco Polo International Airport was long and chaotic but fast moving. At immigration, after what can only be described as cursory glances at our passports and flourishing pounding of the rubber stamp, we have landed. B4's checked bag has arrived at the carousel before we do. There appears to be no customs inspection and we emerge through the glass doors to a throng of awaiters, many of whom hold signs with their guest's name emblazoned. One of those is ours. A handsome young Italian man who speaks almost no English (only fair since we speak no Italian) whisks us off to a shiny black car and makes the 30 minute drive to Plazzale Roma where he parks and beckons us out.

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With him assisting, we walk five short minutes to the Hotel Moresco. We cross Rio Novo canal via Tre Ponti footbridge and roll the bags for two short blocks. The Moresco is located at Sestiere Dorsoduro, 3499, Venice Italy. www.hotelmorescovenice.com It is a charming small inn with great service and serviceable rooms. We recommend it. e9e63340-2f23-11ea-b044-972e2ba9d3d9.jpge9e3e950-2f23-11ea-95ee-d9b475b3a479.jpge9e3e950-2f23-11ea-83e0-a3b53f401ad4.jpg

We are greeted warmly by hotel staff who take our passports for check-in formalities as they usher us to the garden outside so we can enjoy a prosecco as they do the paperwork. This is the first drink I’ve had (among many to come on this trip) in over two weeks. It is particularly refreshing. The garden is breezy and pleasant with the only real noise emating from over the wall: the sound of inboard motors on water taxis streaming by. Lemon and lime trees (we think) surround us as we lounge on a couch beneath an umbrella. Our room is ready but we hesitate to leave this idyllic setting.

WiFi connects, we do a bit of housekeeping on the web. American/USAir rescheduled our return upcoming on the 25th to provide us with an undesirable five hour layover in Charlotte so B4 works to reroute us in a more efficient manner. She finds flights that are more efficient on the return and that’s that.

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We’re off to explore. Venice abounds with mask merchants. The Carnival of Venice, held annually in a fashion similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, celebrates the 1162 victory of the "Serenissima Repubblica" against the Patriarch of Aquileia, Ulrico di Treven. What better reason to wear as mask could there be? A grumpy King of Austria ruled this area for a time and in 1797 outlawed masks. They reappeared and now appear for the festival and at private feasts. In any event, you can buy them large and small, inexpensive and outrageous, scary and welcoming.

This is a city resting on over 100 small islands separated by canal after canal after canal. Bridges span the canals and the only time a walker rises much above sea level is when he climbs the stairs of a bridge. The architecture here is, with just a few exceptions, ancient or aging as it seems are most of its quarter million residents. Venice is the capital of the Veneto region of Italy, both named for the Veneti people who arrived in the 10th century…before Christ. Romance abounds here as do cruise ship passengers who flood the streets now in much the same way water is supposed to do as global warming gradually inundates this place. We don’t suppose we will live long enough to see that.

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Venice does a brisk business in the eyeglass frame industry and, as B4 passes each one, her resistance falls until she cannot stand it. She buys a funky pair of round frames ordered to house prescription sunglass lenses. We’ll pick them up when we are here after our cruise.

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Accosted by an aggressive seller of faux designer purses as we crossed the Accademia Bridge over the Grand Canal, B4 can only say “No,” so many times before succumbing. Selfie photographers congregate at Piazza San Marco but we find more interesting sites at random spots along the canals where green grocers set up shop and appliance delivery crews drop off dishwashers for the locals.

large_e9e792d0-2f23-11ea-a669-856c3f32caad.jpgLunch is a Margarita Pizza and a glass of Chianti. The Fitbits we both wear register well over 10,000 steps, some of it in crowds and some of it in isolation. Our feet are sore from our great circle route which took us round and about through neighborhoods both residential and commercial. The temperature is hot but no too hot and, from time to time, we come upon a street or alleyway where the breeze sweeps us up in a cooling embrace. We pledge not to rest until bedtime to facilitate a rapid adaptation to the seven hour time zone change.

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As I write this from the garden at the Hotel Moresco with B4 at my side (as is the welcoming bottle of Tre Ville Prosecco left as a gift for us in our room) it is 6:30pm meaning that Kansas Citians are pondering their lunch destination while B4 and I think about where we will have dinner. We are fading fast. Ceasing activity even for a few minutes is a bad idea if a traveler doesn’t want to fall victim to jet lag.

Our plan is to find a piece of fish.

Posted by paulej4 10:53 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

3. Arrivederci! Venezia

We'll be back in a week...

Adriatic Sea, Splitsko-Dalmatinska, Croatia
Saturday, June 13, 2015

When she, who rises at 5:00am or earlier, is, at 8:30, still abed (after having extinguished the light at 10:00pm the night before) you know the idea of being on holiday has been embraced. Couple that with the fact that she is less than half a day from experiencing a seven hour time zone change and the restful sound she makes before awakening amazes all the more; jet lag is no match for her. B4 has slept the sleep of a non-CEO. There was no trainer to meet before dawn; in fact, no fitness center to beckon. There were no sales numbers to anticipate and analyze, no meeting to chair, no Warren letter to pen., no "Phone-A-Friend" discount to negotiate, no jewelry favor to work on, no lease to ponder and no personnel to motivate, educate, elevate or terminate. There was for her only the Hotel Moresco's bed and pillow shrouded in a darkened room serenaded by a humming blower, all perfectly suited to her immediate needs.

From the dim light of my computer screen as I scoured google news, she moved not at all; unaware of the glow or gentle keyboard clicking. Venice has had its way with her. Yes, there was a full bottle of prosecco last evening and good fish to eat. Yes, the ten-thousand step goal from yesterday was surpassed and yes, the sleep of the previous night was short and in an aircraft. Still, with all those contributing factors, I dared not dream that she could or would relax so completely so rapidly. She is happy; therefore, so I am.

Breakfast at the Moresco is in the lovely garden where the songs of birds are occasionally interrupted by the low groan of a passing boat in the canal that lies over the high brick wall. The sun shines but we are in the shade and the temperature has yet to break 75 degrees. There is good American coffee—as much as we like—along with fried eggs and crispy bacon and flakey croissants and toast and her first taste of Nutella (rejected as being merely chocolate and morning is not the time for chocolate).

966d6ab0-2f25-11ea-a669-856c3f32caad.jpg97060130-2f25-11ea-9fd2-3f781e9d4100.jpgThe woman at an adjacent table has a diamond and emerald ring but it is I who takes notice, not her. B4 is on the iPhone, true; but her interest is in the U.S. Government’s OPM hacking difficulties and how that might impact her beloved son. Finally, much later than I had imagined, she looked for the sales numbers but they were not there. Usually posted around four in the morning, she had to stop and compute whether they were late or she was early. It was the latter but it didn’t feel that way.

Ah, holidays. This is one reason to travel. You get to leave your burdens behind. She has. It is good.

FLASH FORWARD: At 7:10 this evening, from our Stateroom 9000 balcony which is front facing, I remind B4 that we have 8:00 reservations at Cagney’s, the steak place. She says, “Very well, I will go get ready.”

“What do you have to do?” I asked.

“Fix my hair and change clothes and check email,” she says. OK. So, I was just a tiny bit wrong on the vacation mindset thing.

BACK TO REAL TIME: We were twenty minutes late vacating room 103 at the Hotel Moresco for no good reason at all. We are just not in a hurry. Check out time is noon and our phone rang at ten after inquiring after our intentions. At checkout we had several questions for the concierge regarding our return to Venice one week hence. Ursula has recommended a trip to an island (90 minutes one way) and Alana has recommended a cooking class (high on Beryl’s list, barely registering on mine) and several say go buy Murano glass. In any event, we’ll be back and we shall see what we shall see.

We walked, or should I say we towed our bags, two blocks, over a bridge spanning a canal, up a pathway, through a narrow walkway and on a bit until we reached the “People Mover” where 1.3 Euros per person buys a ride on a tram to the Bacino Della Stazione Marittima, or the Martime Pier where the Norwegian Jade awaits. Moored adjacent to the Jade is the Royal Caribbean Splendor of the Seas, the Cunard Queen Victoria, two MSC vessels and an Italian ship the AIDA something or other. That means that six cruise ships were in port this day. That’s fifteen thousand—or more—tourists all headed to Piazza San Marco and other leading “must-sees.” It’s no wonder that I have read that the cruise industry is both bane and boon for Venice.

966e2e00-2f25-11ea-83e0-a3b53f401ad4.jpg970bf4a0-2f25-11ea-9f3b-d98480b4ee88.jpgUpon arrival at the embarkation point for the Jade, we are spotted as Suite Guests and shuffled off to a private registration place for passport checking, photo taking, credit card swiping, and, after a bit of confusion, swept aboard with an escort who deftly maneuvered our carry-on bags. The entire procedure took thirty minutes or so and we are privileged in that regard as other non-suite guests are cued in a more cumbersome manner.

9000 is front facing, a place where I have never before sailed. Our stateroom is larger than that to which I am accustomed with a sitting area and a table with four chairs occupying extra square footage. At the front of our habitat is a window and not a sliding glass door as is customary but, instead, a wooden hinged door. Opening it, we find that it leads to a steel bulkhead door with a giant unlocking lever. Operating it after a few false starts it swung open to reveal a very large patio with two chaise lounges and a bench beyond which spanned a 180 degree view of where we’re going. The massive door makes us wonder about exactly what the elements must do to our exterior space when we’re under way. That revelation awaits us.

We enjoy lunch and a drink and soon it is time for the mandatory lifeboat drill. As all ship’s services shut down, we make our way to muster station A9 which is in the balcony of the Stardust Theatre where we spend twenty-two minutes for what turned out to be a thirty-second demonstration of how to don a lifejacket. 967029d0-2f25-11ea-a032-fda816a5a158.jpg966f1860-2f25-11ea-8262-fbf4a148cf33.jpg970712a0-2f25-11ea-b002-f3bfb13d6426.jpg9707fd00-2f25-11ea-84ca-c1e7893eb859.jpg967707a0-2f25-11ea-9dd6-c70ca38084ba.jpg970fc530-2f25-11ea-8797-21f7b9a85523.jpg

That complete, we made our way back to 9000 where we uncorked the complimentary bottle of champagne, finished unpacking and, as we sailed, walked to our spacious lookout position and watched Venice slide by as we maneuvered the Grand Canal to the edge of the breakwater and beyond. We communicate, but not well, with our front-facing-suite neighbors and then decide it is time to make ready for dinner.

Our discounted passage includes both the “Unlimited Drink Package” (a risky perk) and the “Specialty Dining Package.” In advance, I have booked a different specialty restaurant for each night. Tonight is Cagney’s Steakhouse.

We both opt for the bone-in rib eye which is, frankly, delicious and succulent and tender and flavorful. I am impressed. We talk business. It is a wonderful evening as we ponder the future of the jewelry business as malls decline and what must be done about it.

Then we are off to the sailaway first night show in the theatre. The singers sing and the dancers dance and the jugglers juggle and the “Fourevers” croon and the cruise director preans and pontificates. Next we stroll to the piano bar where the guitarist is performing Beatles, Queen, Eagles, Beach Boys and more. After a bit of him—he’s quite good on his steel-stringed guitar enhanced by an iPad which is doing amazing things—we do one circuit of the outside promenade deck and head to bed.

The day, finished I thought, is wrapped up instead with a check of email for B4. She is concerned. A shooter has broken the normal Saturday afternoon shopping at the Coral Ridge Mall in Iowa. Her associates managed to drop the gates and alarm the store but had no time to drop the cases or pull merchandise. They left for safety under the direction of mall management. B4 is parental in her reaction to this caring about her people and not worrying about her merchandise.

The forecast is for rough weather in the wee hours so B4 dons a seasick patch in anticipation of rocking and rolling overnight. Me? I can’t wait. I always slept well in a hammock.

Posted by paulej4 11:02 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

4. Jadriatic

21 times around? People will stare.

Adriatic Sea, Splitsko-Dalmatinska, Croatia
Sunday, June 14, 2015

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Sailing a southeasterly course of 136.6 degrees, the Jade's track requires us to set our clocks ahead one hour. Upon awakening, it is 8:30 local time well into the Adriatic Sea midway between the east coast of Italy and the west coast of the Balkan Penninsula. Leaving the Gulf of Venice at the far north of the Adriatic, to our port side we pass Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro and Albania before breaking out through the Strait of Otranto into the Ionian Sea and the Mediterranean. We can see none of these as they are beyond the horizon as is the coast of Italy to our starboard. The Adriatic, about 100 miles wide for most of its length, was heavily used around 229 BC by ancient Roman galleys to transport goods, animals and slaves. But historians say there were settlements along its shores dating to around 6000 BC. Countless wars have been fought here, empires built and destroyed here, lives lived and lost here.

The weather over night was milder than predicted or we slept so soundly that if the Jade rocked overnight, we were unaware.

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B4 has been well and truly accosted by the Spa. There is La Therapie Hydra-Lift Facial D'Excellence at 11:15 followed by Elemis Absolute Spa Ritual at 12:45. This leaves barely enough time for a leisurely morning of coffee (outside on our large patio) from our (unusual) in-room Lavazza Blue Coffee Machine and, then, breakfast outside at the Great Outdoors buffet on deck 12. From there, we grow awake to our wake.

Later, I walk while B4 relaxes. The seas are "slight" so Jade is reasonably steady under foot. My goal is two hours or eight miles, whichever comes first. There is a walking track on deck 12 (1 Lap equals 332 yards so it is 5.5 laps per mile) but I prefer the uncrowded and shaded promenade on deck 7 (1 Lap equals 668 yards so it is 2.67 laps per mile). My iPhone has been preloaded with podcasts galore so I will catch up on Terry Gross and Ira Glass and Alec Baldwin as I circumnavigate the ship twenty one times. If you haven’t listened to Baldwin’s podcast “Here’s The Thing” from WNYC, you should. He is a gifted and intriguing interviewer who chooses interesting subjects.

B4 returns to 9000 around 3:15pm, not surprisingly, famished. She beams from her luxuriating. Whatever it is they do during an Absolute Spa Ritual must be a fine tonic (even though the Absolute isn’t vodka). Email calls her first. “Yesterday was a very good day,” she says, “but not enough to pull the week. The margin was very good. Good.” On that note, she retrieves her ring from the safe where she’s stashed it and we’re off to lunch.

We have a rendezvous for a 5:30 drink at the Blue Lagoon on Deck 8 with “Lisa” and her husband Paul who sports a brand new aortic valve. I frequent a social media site called Cruise Critic when I am destined for a sailing adventure. There I found posted an invitation from Lisa to share a car and driver for tomorrow’s day in Corfu and I accepted online. B4 and I will meet them to arrange logistics before they have an early dinner and we prepare ourselves for a late one. Our port time at Corfu is 8:00 tomorrow so it makes sense to have our ducks in a row tonight. Lisa says to meet at 7:45am at Star Bar so we shall.

9000 is a mixed bag.ffd21710-2f27-11ea-9d21-d14cfc98c0e2.jpgffcaeb20-2f27-11ea-afd1-ab810dce3173.jpgff2ef940-2f27-11ea-9f3b-d98480b4ee88.jpgff336610-2f27-11ea-83e0-a3b53f401ad4.jpgff327bb0-2f27-11ea-84ca-c1e7893eb859.jpg It is large but in need of a makeover. The most quaint accessory is the glass ashtray affixed to the bathroom wall allowing one to smoke a cigarette while answering nature’s call. The fact that smoking is strictly prohibited in all staterooms is lost on it. The fancy in-room coffee maker is a first for me on board ship. We have a tub. Our closet is quite large and can be accessed from the dressing area and from the short hall to the passageway door. There is a love seat that will accommodate a third passenger. But, most interesting is the fact that you can hear the performance taking place in the Stardust Theater below us. As I write this, the four singers 4Ever are rehearsing. If one wanted to go to sleep prior to the final curtain of the late show, one would be annoyed at that feature.

Tonight’s reservations are at French Restaurant Le Bistro on deck 6. Specialty restaurants aboard are all subject to a cover charge. Cagney’s is $30 per person while Le Bistro’s is $20 per person. For us, there is no charge as we booked using a promotion which included unlimited specialty restaurant meals. That is thanks to Ava Ng at VacationsToGo.com. Should you be thinking about cruising, I suggest you check that site and, if you decide you wish to contact someone there, I enthusiastically recommend Ava. She’s great. For example, before running our final payment for this cruise back in March, she double checked for new promotional pricing and came up with a scheme where we lost $200 in onboard credits but gained a $1,400 discount on our suite. Let’s just say she earns her keep.ffd3c4c0-2f27-11ea-b065-634ad9f8ac15.jpg

After our meet with Lisa and Paul we sat and listened to "Piano Tunes wtih Maaike in the Atrium." Maaike plays his piano tunes on the guitar. He's really good. Dinner tonight at Le Bistro was excellent. The show was 4Evers who delivered Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody in a fantastic way. I was really surprised.

Posted by paulej4 11:12 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

5. Corfu, Corfun, Corfubar, Corfu

A taxi, a taxi; our kingdom for a taxi...

Corfu, Ionian Islands, Greece
Monday, June 15, 2015

Forty miles long and 20 miles wide, Corfu is a mountainous part of Greece heavily populated by shoreline resorts. Italians, French and British rule preceded its unification 1864 with Greece. Like much of Europe and the Greek Islands, there are Byzantine churches, lots of whitewashed cement houses, old fortresses and temples. The streets meander. large_8f7c3cf0-2f29-11ea-9d25-adfdfcaf6944.jpg

Mentioned in Greek mythology, Poseidon fell in love with a beautiful nymph and stole her from her mother and they married. She bore him a daughter. I guess everybody lived happily ever after. Except for all the wars. From the time of the Ottoman Empire, fortifications were built in an attempt to not only protect the island but to have an impact over who could navigate the nearby waters. The Venetians defended against the Ottomans multiple times. Turks first pillaged the island taking 20,000 hostages as slaves and later were repelled but the British were not; they took over after the Napoleonic Wars. It was not until 1864 under the Treaty of London that Corfu was Greek.

When Italian fascism collapsed in 1943, the Nazis took over after bombing by the Luftwaffe destroyed the Jewish quarter Evraiki and other important neighborhoods and buildings. The Italians capitulated and the mayor became a known Nazi collaborator who oversaw the passage of several anti-semitic laws. But, at this exact time in 1944, the Allies bombed the island again as a diversion from the Normandy invasion. The Gestapo committed one final atrocity against the remaining Jews, rounding them up and imprisoning them at the old fort of Palaio Frourio. Many were sent to Auschwitz and few survived. A significant portion of the local population gave refuge to 200 Jews who escaped the Nazis. A prominent section of the old city is called Evraiki (Jewish Quarter) in recognition of the Jewish contribution then and now in Corfu City. One active synagogue boasts 65 members who still speak their original Italian language. Still, trouble is present: on April 18, 2011, the synagogue was firebombed but there was only minor damage and no casualties.

You may (or may not) recall that the 1994 European Summit was held here.

We were up early, at Cagney's on deck 13 for breakfast a bit after 7:00 and still waiting for our eggs at 7:35, tapping our feet because we were to meet Lisa and Paul at 7:45 in Star Bar (also on deck 13) and we wanted to chew rather than gulp our food. We chewgulped and made it in time to be escorted by Concierge Bruno Dentone via express elevator down to deck four. After scanning our "FreestyleCard" the computer acknowledged that we were leaving Jade and we were on a shuttle to go find our driver for the day, Spiros. When in Corfu, use him or his brother at First Class Limo and Taxi Service, dskordoscfu@gmail.com. Their website www.corfulimo.com will help you make arrangements. For €200, the four of us had Spiros and his Mercedes at our disposal for five hours.

All good. But don’t expect to see much. This is a mountainous island and there are lots of narrow curvy roads through small villages but if you were expecting ancient Greece, you’ll be disappointed. 8f845340-2f29-11ea-9442-792d0cc76b1e.jpgYes, there is Agelokastro, the fortress guarding the coast and there is another old fortress in Corfu Town but, frankly, if you failed to go ashore, you wouldn’t miss much other than the hospitality of Spiros and his fellow Corfans(?) Corfuians(?) Kungfuians(?). Corfuscians say…

Corfu survives on tourism and there are trinket stands and small hotels everywhere you look. And if you are in the market for a fur coat, Corfu may be a stop that you don’t want to miss. Apparently fur is a big item for the Russian tourists. The other industry on the island is olive oil. You see olive trees everywhere along with trees bearing figs, peaches, oranges, lemons, and limes. No one would starve in Corfu, you can just pick from the trees all the fruit you can eat.

8f7bc7c0-2f29-11ea-8e1b-a5ff05243164.jpg8f7fe670-2f29-11ea-84f7-e5565de7f771.jpg8f7a1a10-2f29-11ea-8f97-c95d13e33e96.jpg8f7f2320-2f29-11ea-87d9-a14fcd56e75a.jpg8ee68ca0-2f29-11ea-84ca-c1e7893eb859.jpg8ee21fd0-2f29-11ea-9f3b-d98480b4ee88.jpg8f920ee0-2f29-11ea-ba96-d55a79a4c789.jpgMy favorite part of the day was at George’s Cellar about halfway through our morning where Spiros sliced some bread and tomatoes along with some feta cheese and we enjoyed a snack as we watched George hawk his homemade wine and olive oil along with ice cream bars (you could choose from Nico Status or Nico Scandal.

Sure, we went to the Monastery of Paleokastritsa but I wouldn’t call it a must see. Sure, we went to the overlook above the airport (seriously) but we’ve seen planes take off before (True, not necessarily beneath us).8ee29500-2f29-11ea-9d21-d14cfc98c0e2.jpg8ed4d960-2f29-11ea-83e0-a3b53f401ad4.jpg The scenery from the various hilltops and lookouts was great but no match for what comes tomorrow in Santorini. As we finally headed back to Corfu City, B4 and I remarked that we’d like some fish for lunch. Spiros face lit up and he said we should see his friends (yeah, sure) at Porta Remounda Tavern at Moustoxidou 14 in Corfu City. We did. It was great. Grilled octopus, a Greek salad and a red snapper made a perfect lunch and it was, as Spiros had promised, scrumptious. It was also €52 but, hey, you only live (on Corfu) once.

At 2:00, we headed back to the taxi stand a few blocks away, confident that we had plenty of time to get back to Jade as it was moored only about ten minutes away.

One thing to know about travel is this: there may be no taxis standing at the taxi stand. In Corfu City, the taxi stand is about sixty yards long. Nobody knows where the “line” is supposed to begin or end so people simply walk to the curb at some point along that length. It quickly becomes clear that this is chaos and only those who are most aggressive and at the very beginning (rather than as it would be in the U.S. at the very end) of the taxi rank had any hope of getting a cab. Compounding this arrangement was one other quirk: there were no taxis. Or, should I say, very few.

At one point, a very concerned lady approached us—after we had been waiting for ten minutes or so and finally positioned ourselves to be most likely next for a ride—and asked if this other couple from the U.K. could go in front of us as they had been waiting a long time. Well, all of us had been waiting a long time. The problem was this couple was elderly and the woman was in a wheelchair and they had about them an aura of desperation bordering on panic. Almost.

Anyway, we shared with them and we all made it to the pier with 20 minutes to spare. Lines were long but the weather was nice and, once we cleared the “throng,” B4 calmed down from what can only be described as significantly mounting stress.

The day was fine but it would have also been fine had we simply lounged by the pool or, minimally, taken a taxi into old town for our lunch and come back to the ship.

The most interesting fact about the entire day, frankly, was when B4 received a text from a friend who, along with his family, was aboard the Regent Seven Seas Mariner moored across the pier from us. He said he watched our ship dock this morning after they had tied up. We plan on seeing them Saturday night in Venice but did not know that our itineraries would overlap here on Corfu.

We are wondering—as I write this it is time to sail—if anyone got left behind at that sparsely manned taxi point which would result in a delay for us. But no; all arrived as required and we sailed on time, headed for Santorini. It is a long journey; we don’t arrive until tomorrow afternoon at 1:30.

Dinner tonight is at eight at Teppanyaki. Showtime at 9:30 in the Stardust is the singers and dancers of the Jade. They compete with the Bee Gees Tribute with Carlos at Magnums. How Deep is Your Love (for the Bee Gees)?

One interesting fact: You know the TV picture from the bridge that is broadcast on your stateroom TV? The one that shows where you’re going? Well, check out our screenshot.large_8f878790-2f29-11ea-8614-e7ccaa785569.jpg

Posted by paulej4 11:31 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

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