Category Archives: Greece

Out Trips to Greece

Travel Itch

I miss Europe. I love the mix of culture, cuisine, antiquity, and beauty that we have found in Italy.

We have excursions planned for this fall and next spring that will be novel and exciting. The Amazon will no doubt present its own set of adventures. Peru and Ecuador are mysteries to us. It will be amazing to visit South America and dust off a bit of Spanish. (can you feel the but…)

I miss Europe. I do. I had planned our last trip to Greece and Italy to continue for another two weeks. We cut short. I was told the weather in late June and into July and August gets oppressive. With some depressing grumbling, I changed plans and literally yanked our last two weeks of our Tuscany trip. In retrospect, I am glad I did. I flagged on some of our walks in Florence in late June. It was hot, still reasonable but hot. If July gets still hotter, I am so glad I came around and dropped the last two weeks.

Our plans for the next year: this fall, winter, and next spring are complete.

Next fall we are planning to return to Italy for a few months. I’ve started looking into villas for rent around Florence and Rome. We’ll use a villa as home base for our excursions into the Italian hillside and coastal towns. I can relax, content in the knowledge that we’ll be returning to Italy soon. Troubling though, I would also like to do some island hopping in Greece. On our cruise we found that there is an extensive ferry system throughout the Greek Islands. It’s not difficult to see Greece by ferry. Perhaps we’ll fly into Greece and wend our way back to Italy.

There is so much to do. We hope to visit Alaska by RV; tour China and Thailand; revisit Africa a few more times; visit friends in the south of Spain; visit family on Madeira Island; tour Ireland; drive through Eastern Europe, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and into Germany; visit Paris and tour the south of France; go skiing in the French and Italian Alps; drive through the Old South, the South West, and North West; canoe in Ontario. That’s just for starters. I have a scrapbook of places we hope to visit tucked away. Every time I come across an amazingly beautiful location or an adventure that’s not life threatening, I paste it into the book. I’ve done enough wacky and dangerous things in the past that I’m no longer interested in pushing the safety envelope. “Moderate” danger is ok. A charging elephant, canoe on the Amazon, bare boat cruising, diving with hammerhead sharks without a safety net, those are all OK by me. Class IV white water kayaking, technical rock climbing, or base jumping are “right out”. All this would be possible but for Ellen whose sense of “safe adventure” is clearly a subset of mine.

I truly hate the word, “blessed”. It smacks of a religious sense of “blessed by God”. As an atheist, that drives me crazy. I would rather say that decades of hard work, some risk taking, and a bit of luck made travel and adventure possible for us. We have the opportunity to enjoy ourselves after retirement. We will.


Our Photos, Did You Notice?

Did You?


Michelangelo’s David is NOT in Corfu!

Some of the shots in Istanbul were out of order. The Blue Mosque appears in two sequences, though we only visited once. That’s not egregious. Worse I had neglicted to remove photos from the root directory, Europe2015, when the subdirectories were created. That too is not egregious. However, there were a significant number of photos attributed to Corfu which clearly should be placed in Florence.

I have also included hi-res images and links to them from the thumbnails. The hi-res images can be downloaded.

All is right with the world now, or at least all is right with one vastly small part.


The Parthenon and the British

I’ve just been going over our photos and moving some of them to our photo gallery. I am struck by the number of slides from the Athens Archeological museum that are plaster reproductions of stone pieces in the London Museum. Fully 60% of the Parthenon was torn from the building, packaged up, and shipped to London where they were sold to the British Government.

What a rip-off. If Greece could get Britain to pay a fair market value for the stolen pieces, they would not have a monetary crisis with the European Union today! Fat chance of that happening.

I’ve added photos we took while visiting Patmos, Rhodes, Santorini, and Athens in that order. Left to be added are Monemvasia (fantastic), Katakolon with a trip to Olympia the home of the Olympic Games, and Corfu.

We stop in Dubrovnic, Triluke Bay, and Venice in the next few days. We are meeting Marcus and Alexandra in Venice. They are flying down from their home in Germany to spend a short weekend with us before we move on to Florence.

Tonight we have a John Stackhouse lecture about Venice, a meet the captain reception, dinner, a piano recital featuring one of the guests, and dancing late into the evening

As I”ve probably said earlier, we have met some truly fascinating people aboard. People with whom we will stay in contact. Some may visit us in San Francisco. We may visit others in Boston, Melbourne, England, and New Zealand.

We need to have “retirement” cards printed up with our info on them. “Elder Gypsies” Ron and Ellen blah blah…. One couple beat us to it by giving us their retirement card. We had a hilarious conversation over dinner with a proctologist and his wife and friends last night. We nearly closed down the restaurant, but remembered that Paul Adams, the comedian, was playing in the Salon and we boogied on over. Adams was hilarious; too. We called it a night without dancing. This morning Roz said that she got Rob to dance last night, “That never happens”.

Another thing that often goes unconsidered. On a cruise, the itinerary is entirely in the hands of Seabourn (in this case). All we had to do was make it to the ship on 6/6. All has been taken care of for us since then. On 6/20 we’re on our own again. Seabourn will be a hard act to follow. I only hope there are no significant hiccups in our remaining itinerary!

Sailing Away to Dubrovnic,

Ron & Ellen

Seabourn Day 12, Corfu morning

We will not join a tour today, choosing to walk the city instead. Steaming into the harbor at sunrise was stunning, though there are two quite large cruise ships ahead of us. It will be busy ashore with at least 4500 newly arrived guests. The good news is Seabourn is usually an hour ahead arriving and the large ships depart an hour or two earlier.

I ran and did some weight training this morning before bringing cappuccinos down to our suite. We spend an hour at the bow as the Odyssey docked with the pilot driving the ship. Expecting some quiet time taking in the view, I was pleasantly surprised that we spent the whole time talking to a couple from Melbourne then a couple from Boston. Two weeks is long enough to go beyond recognizing fellow guests to getting to know them. We avoided “red sox” again this morning and hope to continue doing so. Apparently that couple was at the captain’s table for dinner after the reception and he talked through the entire meal At the end of the meal he said, “Boy you Aussies don’t talk very much, do you?” To which one of the guests at table responded,” We do, but we couldn’t get a word in edgewise.”

We’re off for breakfast just now. The buffet is glorious in the variety of fruit, grains, meet, cheese, and cooked delicacies.

Bon Chance


We’re back from a walk around the old fort and Corfu. It was very hot today starting around noon. The fort is a fortification with a moat and a causeway inside. On display are a few canon and mortars from the 1700’s. One French, one British, and one Venetian with two Venetian mortars. The Venetian canon was obvious in its workmanship. Where the other two canon were strictly functional, the Venetian canon was beautiful to behold. The two mortars shot 20 inch rounds around 600 meters. The French canon shot 3.6 inch rounds 1.9 miles. The British canon shot 5.5 inch balls 2.6 miles, but the Venetian canon shot 6 inch balls 2.7 miles. The views from the castle walls was very impressive. Corfu is a sailing destination with many marinas and a surrounding sea dotted with white sales against the deep blue sea. Corfu is also a tourist destination. On the busy main street the tourists and locals were evenly numbered, but that was with “only” three cruise ships in port. It can get much busier.

I recommend visiting the old fort and stopping at the cafe for a draught beer and some moussaka. Both are very good. The terrace is shaded with a wonderful view of the bay.

Corfu has a number of up-scale shops if you wander past the street facing the park across from the fort. You can find practically anything you want from a cheap bracelet to a Versache design. We walked the shopping district and found our way back to the cruise ship without taking a shuttle. It was hot. I recommend taking a shuttle as the walk back to port is not shaded.

We had a good day in Corfu, but without any ancient ruins or museums and without snorkel and mask.


Seabourn Day 11 evening

Tonight we are meeting with Rob, Roz, Tim, Tina, and Tony and his wife. We’ll meet in the Observation Lounge on deck 10 in the bow. The plan was to head to dinner, but Paul Adams is performing the the Grand Salon at 6:30. He is a very very funny comedian whom we will not miss. I expect we’ll go directly from the Observation Lounge to the Salon.

I’ve been considering tips lately since we’ll be going ashore “permanently” soon. Seabourn states that tips are not required in a number of places in their literature. They do not discourage tipping; rather suggesting that if service was extraordinary, a tip would be appreciated. I have already given a small token of my appreciation to Olivia, the gal who makes our cappuccino each morning. Maria runs through our suite at least twice a day making the suite look just like we stepped into it for the first time. She has done an amazing job. Jovan is our morning breakfast guy. Each morning we sit in his service area, talk about the port we will be visiting or about family and friends. Breakfast is buffet style; we get most of our breakfast foods ourselves, but Jovan gets my eggs each morning. Then there’s JP. JP knows everyone’s name, all 450 guests on the ship. We banter with JP about the food and enjoy his warm bubbly sense of humor. All the staff are outstanding in the way they make each guest feel at home, and provide personal attention for all. Olivia, Maria, Jovan, and JP stand out among a sea of outstanding people. We will reward them for their attention to us.

Seabourn is a one of a kind cruise line.


Seabourn Day 11, Nidri Greece

I was bummed yesterday and dropped into a funk, really. We received a disembarkture form asking what plans we have made or if we would like to make plans to have our luggage forwarded to an airline or hotel. Bummer. We’ll be getting off ship in a matter of days. This is a serious downer.

For years I poopooed cruises. Well “they” can take cruises, I’d rather make my own plans and perhaps do a bare boat sail through Greece. Or, a cruise is not for me, too many “old people”. Or, I’m not one of “them”. Well surprise, I AM one of “them”. WE are “THEM”.

This has been fabulous. The Greek Islands we visited are … incredible, beautiful, there are not sufficient superlatives to describe the experience. United States, founded 1776, Ephesus, founded who knows when, dating back to 500 BC at least. The statue that Michelangelo used as a model (one model) for the statue of David in 1600 Ad, located in Athens was sculpted from stone in 400 BC! This is (as our whale watching friends suggested when I overused the tag “awesome”), this is AFA! We will come back to some of the islands we visited to see sunrise and sunset without the cruise crowds. Bear in mind, we would not have discovered some of them if we had not taken a cruise. Darn cruise crowd, oh wait, that’s us!

Today was Nidri. Yes, Nidri. Not very well known. It’s a small port that cannot handle large cruise ships. The Seabourn Odyssey is a small ship by cruise line standards. It sails with 450 guests and 330 crew. Some cruise liners accommodate FIVE THOUSAND guests.

So Nidri. Nidri is a town close to Skorpios. Now Scorpios was made famous when Onassis wed Jackie Kennedy, becoming Jackie O.

We off loaded from the Odyssey and boarded a local charter that took us past the small islands and past Scorpios. We visited a sea cave large enough to house and hide our boat and big enough for it to turn around within the cave. We next visited a stone and pebble beach. Ellen and I had heard that we could get fins, snorkel, and mask from guest services if we asked ahead, which we did. Brilliant!

Not so brilliant for me was walking the length of this pebble beach bare footed. It hurt, really hurt. We walked to a semi-cave at the end of the beach, threw our gear down, and discovered it was covered in guano. Not so good, that idea. The clear cool water made up for any trouble we had before getting in.

Our captain is on the horn: 25 miles to open water water, then heading north past the east coast of Greece arriving at the port of Corfu around 6:45 Am tomorrow port side. We are starboard side and should get a view. High pressure is moving east, winds from NWN and 77 deg. Wonderful weather.

Our swim was refreshing, then back aboard to motor to Skorpios, Onassis’s Island. The island passed to Onassis’s daughter some years ago. She in turn leased it to a Russian tycoon who has closed the main port of the island. We were taken to a very private beach where Jackie O liked to swim. This was a sandy beach and much more “feet friendly”.

Getting out and about in a small boat and swimming some was the highlight of today’s adventures. It is remarkably beautiful in these islands. The water is very much the same temperature as San Diego’s water, perhaps warmer. It is cool getting in, but comfortable to be in the water for an hour or more.

We are now back board the Odyssey and will meet a few of our new Australian friends for drinks and dinner. We’ve met people from England, Walnut Creek, Lea Jolle, Australia, and New Zealand all of whom have been just tremendous.

We did meet one couple who I will not describe in detail less they find this site and recognize themselves. They are non-stop talkers, demanding, high maintenance, and thoroughly boring. At dinner a few nights ago, the hostess mentioned that there was a couple looking for guests to join them. I immediately thought, “Ah, this is “them”” and told the hostess that we would prefer a quiet dinner alone. There is no way in hell I would volunteer to spend an evening with those two. I’ll never know if it was that wanted the company, but it was not worth the risk IMO.

When embarking on a cruise, it is best to avoid getting attached to any group or clique to start. You can easily wind up with complainers or inconsiderate boors. Slow immersion and getting to know your guests while taking tours or over coffee in the morning is best. Most everyone is gracious, funny, witty, and accomplished on a Seabourn cruise. There are the occasional exception.

Tomorrow, in Corfu we are “own plans” though we may join a 4×4 tour of the island.


Seabourn day 10, Katakolon port and Olypmia

Last night’s dinner after the Captain’s reception was fabulous. I had foie gras Ellen had a beet salad and we both had veal tenderloin served over a square of potato with a wonderful wine reduction. The deserts were amazing.

This morning we awoke in the port of Katakolon in the Peleponnese. We spent the early morning working out, me running and lifting weights in the gym, Ellen stretching in our suite. I brought cappuccinos down to the suite, Ellen went to the Colonnade for breakfast and we headed out to the tour of Olympus at 8:15. The day was warm and growing hot already.

Our tour guide was well versed in Greek mythology and explained the lineage of many of the Greek gods and some of the Roman along the way. The entrance to Olympus opens into the palaestra, part of the gymnasium used for training wrestlers. It, like most of the site, lies in ruins. The temple of Zeus, the baths, and the temple of Hera are all in ruins. One column of the Temple of Zeus was rebuilt at a cost of $500,000 euro. The plan to rebuild the front six columns was abandoned. It was great fun walking from one ruin to another listening to our guide describe both the history and the mythology of the site. Women and children were not allowed in the Stadium during the month of training or the five days of the games under pain of death. One family won repeatedly, a woman’s farther won, her husband won 3 times, and she wanted to train her son. She dressed as a man and entered the Stadium as her son’s trainer and helped him train. Her son won his competition and in tears his mother ran to him, but her disguise dropped away and she was revealed as a woman.

She begged the judges for her life asking how they could condem a woman to death when she was following her own law and helping her son win. She was not put to death, but thereafter the trainers, and judges had to enter the Stadium naked. Nakedness was required of the athletes already.

This is historical fact.

We enjoyed our tour of the ruins, but the tour of the archeological museum was more fascinating. Unlike the Parthenon’s museum, each piece in the Olympic museum was original. Greece is seismicly active. The Temple of Hera was destroyed by an earthquake in the 4th century Ad. It is thought that earthquakes are responsible for most of the destruction of Olympia. The statue of Hermes with the baby Dionysyus which was damaged in an earthquake in 1983 which broke the baby’s left arm. This statue is thought to be the inspiration for Michelangelo’s David two thousand years later. There is an uncanny resemblance between the two statues.

We returned to the small town of Katakolon had a very Greek lunch of salad, tzaziki, bread, and Alpha beer. We met a newly wed couple who flew from Ft. Lauderdale to Oia, spent a few days in Oia before catching the Odyssey to Venice and a Boston attorney and his wife who embarked in Athens for the trip to Venice. The newlyweds were bubbly and very happy with Seabourn service. The attorney and his wife were fun. We discussed Boston, travel, nuclear energy, and electric cars though not in that order. After hardly eating a bite, we had to cut the conversation short to actually eat.

Later we returned to the cafe for fee wi-fi, but spend most of our time sorting photos and not actually uploading anything. After returning to the bad, some of the off-loading of photos is underway (but at a price!).

Seabourn Day 9, Monemvasia

Monemvasia is a medieval town on an island connected to the mainland by a causeway build over an ancient bridge to the island. Monemvasia is a charming sleepy town. We skipped the bus tour inland to Mystras, a UNESCO site, and chose to visit the town before the temperature built. The bus ride to Myrna was over an hour one way.

With two of Seabourn’s busses off to Mystras, there were relatively few Seabourn guests touring the town. The Odyssey was the single cruise ship anchored in the harbor.

The approach to the island is dramatic with numerous other islands to starboard as a singular large chunk of land came into view with high steep cliffs all around. A v-shaped softening of the cliffs just behind and above the town marks the cobble stone path to the ruins at the top. The old city walls are intact and the city looks to be intact, though Monemvasia has been overrun by numerous invaders in its past.

Monemvasia means literally one entrance. There is a single gate through the walls and into the city. The walk to the old town from the port was pleasant. The water in the Greek Islands is clear with beautiful turquoise and blue shades above the shallows. The bottom is visible and the water inviting.

Ellen and I really enjoyed walking the streets and getting away from the main street with its tourist shops. Refreshingly, there were no barkers saying “here please”. This was very low key with extremely friendly people.

We made several attempts to find a way to the ruins up high on the plateau, but the path to the top was closed. The ruins are under renovation. We did find a path that led up to a small chapel in a cave about half way up the cliff face. The path was cobble stone that became gravel and sand, then steps carved in stone, then stone bricks placed as steps getting a bit more difficult to navigate the further up we went. Toward the end, the locals had built a stone wall against the cliff with a narrow walkway barely wide enough for one person. The drop-off was dramatic and not for the faint of heart. The reward was a view over the city to the ocean with gleaming blue sky, azure sea, and the Odyssey sitting on anchor in blazing white. A small wooden gate sat against the cliff face, be coning to us. Inside was a chapel setup in a cave with a make-shift alter and icons. We lingered a while both outside the chapel and within before starting down. A New Zealand fellow arrived ahead of us and another fellow arrived after. Most people stopped at the first rocky area, opting not to risk a fall. Ellen was a trooper going up and scrambling down “effortlessly”.

Speaking of troopers, We have met some wonderful people. We have grown quite fond of two couples: Rob and Roz and Jim and Tina; all from Australia. Tina had a hip reconstruction two months ago and has a hard time walking. She uses those short crutches with grips at hand level and an extension that wraps around your forearm. She walked the entire Ephesus site in Rhodes and the Acropolis and the Museum at Athens.

We had a conversation with the New Zealand fellow atop stone wall to the chapel about travel and how travel changes people. We all agreed that traveling and experiencing other cultures makes us more tolerant of others and more critical of ourselves. It breeds an understanding of “other”. We hope to spend more time with Tim and his wife over a drink or two one evening. He sailed Seabourn to Antarctica and I want to pick his brain. He said, “I hope we don’t bore you with our photos from that trip.” We have experiences to hang his photos on and that give us a reference point. We’ll “get it” and not be bored.

We needed to restore our supply of toothpaste and other mundane “stuff”. Returning from the old city, we spend half an hour or so walking the new city in search of a “super market” and any hidden gems. We were at the outskirts of the city and asked a local if he spoke English. “Not very well, but my wife she speaks very good English. How can I help you?” He directed us to a market back the way we had come then to our left. These people are genuinely friendly. After turning left we found a sign that read “Super Market” and it was very much a super market, but scaled for the size of the population and very Greek. It was air conditioned, an extra bonus.

While Ellen was shopping, I found a truly amazing Greek bakery that had all kinds of baked goods from bread to baklava. When Ellen finished we bought two sesame squares and two walnut baklava pastries. They are scrumptious.

We are underway now, headed to Katakolon and another adventure. Amazingly each stop on our cruise has been so different than the last that each experience is new. Consider taking a week of individual one day vacations each to a different exotic island and stacking them back to back for two weeks. That is exactly what this trip is. It is also exotic eye candy for the mind.

Monemvasia is another destination I would gladly revisit for four days along with Mykonos and Oia. Ellen is warming to the idea of staying away traveling for a few months! Two for now, but I’ll be working on two to three as a possibility.

We are very pleased with our adventure as it unfolds. Tonight is our second captain’s formal dinner. Time to get my suite and bowtie out!


Seabourn Day 7, Piraeus and Athens

This morning we arrived at the port of Piraeus. Piraeus (Peray Us) is the commercial port of Athens where the Odyssey docked this morning. I was up a bit early and took two cappuccinos to our suite. The cappuccinos are really good aboard ship.

At dinner on restaurant #2 we were told to book a signature evening in the restaurant. There are two dinner “types”; one is a pre-arranged menu, the other is a “signature” menu. The pre-arranged dinner limits the chef’s creativity. We experienced this in that the first “cocktail” which was actually a fruit dish was excellent. The first course was even better, with very well combined flavors in unexpected ways. By comparison, the main course fell flat. It was good, but nowhere up to the quality of the earlier courses. Our waitress suggested that we book a signature dinner next week. Making longish story short, this morning we booked a signature meal at 7:30 mid-week.

Then it was off to a hurried breakfast (the fruit selection is amazing and varies day to day) and we shuffled aboard a bus for the ride to the Acropolis and the Parthenon. Athens has been over run so many times that little remains of the Greek ruins today. For the Parthenon, the worst transgression was perpetrated by a British gentleman, Elgin Marbles, who carted off 60% of the Parthenon to England. He hoped to become wealthy selling the massive stones he transported back over an eleven year period. England paid him thirty two thousand British pounds. A goodly sum, but not the wealth he expected. Worse, the stone carvings are priceless and now in the London Museum.

The tour of Athens was good. On the down side, very few of the original ruins or artifacts exist today. Much of what we viewed were reconstructions. Even the Parthenon is a reconstruction of the original that the Persians destroyed sometime in the first century AD. Granted, the reconstruction was an ancient one. The Parthenon was shelled by the Turks much later and one side of the Parthenon was destroyed.

The Odyssey left port and we are headed to Monemvasia. As we are continuing on to Venice, we are “in transit”. About half of the guests departed at Athens. There was a mandatory safety drill at 3:15, a spa raffle at 4:15, an “in transit” cocktail party at 5:00, a lecture on “what be a pirate” at 5:30, and a rundown of all the tours available on this leg of the cruise at 6:30. It has been a busy afternoon and evening. We’re off to a semi-formal dinner in the restaurant now. It’s 7:50 pm. Tomorrow we’ll be walking the streets of Monemvasia!

Dinner was fabulous this evening. I started with a beef carpaccio, which had a myriad of flavored sauces drizzled at the plate edges. Ellen had a duck breast appetizer that also had a wonderful sampling of flavors on the plate. My veal piccata Milanease was very good, but Ellen’s beat goat cheese ravioli was superb. Then there were the deserts. Sugar-free vanilla and chocolate mousse with sugar caramelized raspberries, mint, and sugar glassee.

This mornings excursion to the Acropolis was fun, though two couples stood out as trouble. One woman pigeon holed me as we headed to the bus and complained that she should not have booked the second week, she was bored, was I on my second week, she had not seen me last week, did I like her new red hat she purchased in Santorini, isn’t it just the perfect hat, oh and can I help her with her smart phone. Geez, complaining about what is for us a wonderful cruise visiting some very amazing places. I assume she was hanging out by the pool the entire time.

Later when we arrived at the Acropolis, we had to climb a series of stairs. Somehow she and Ellen wound up together ahead of our group. Ellen found her way back, to the group. We didn’t think anything about it until two hours later we exited the Acropolis and a head count showed that she was missing. Funny, her husband didn’t seem to know or care that she was gone! WTF? We waited for her to show up for a while, then we headed off the the Archeological Museum without her. I heard later that she turned up on the Odyssey. All of the guests we’ve met thus far are really wonderful and well traveled people. This gal is one to be avoided. There is another couple that loves to complain. As one fellow said to me, “I’d rather be happy than wealthy” I agree.

At dinner this evening just as the main course was placed on the table, the red-hated woman showed up at our table to apologize for holding up the bus and continued to regale us with tales, including statement that she was a beautiful woman. Like where did that come from. Geez, just let me enjoy our dinner together. Luckily this is unusual behavior. I’m hoping we can avoid her and her argyl socked husband in the future. Let them glom onto some other couple.

To night’s show was a comedian, Paul Adams, a British comedian. He was very funny and entertaining. The show was over far to quickly. Tomorrow we don’t have an excursion planned. We can have an unhurried breakfast and wander the streets of Monemvasia.

Seabourn Day 6, Santorini, Thera and Oia

After visiting Rome, Istanbul, Mykonos, Kusidasai, Ephesus, Patmos, and Rhodes, we were concerned that Santorini might be a disappointment. The other islands we visited were far more interesting than I had expected. Oia may be the most photographed island in the world. Some people think going to the Greek Islands is a lot of lying on the beach sipping a cold one. And they can be that, but why to to Greece if you can do that at home?

Having high expectations for Santorini and with the other islands being such a treat, I was concerned that Oia would be a let-down. How could Oia compare with its hype and the reality of the other islands? How??

It did. Oia is the most beautiful place I have ever visited. The tourists crowd the main shopping street. Just drop off the main boulevard, walk down or up 80 or 120 steps and you are in your own personal heaven. We stopped at a taverna overlooking an iconic blue domed church. We had the floor to ourselves until a mother and daughter from New Zealand happened in. We had a wide ranging and lively discussion with them of New Zealand, travel, San Francisco, where we have been and where we are going. They flew from New Zealand to San Francisco to get to Istanbul, then took a cruise to Athens on a different ship, and will fly to New Zealand via Tokyo with a brief stop-over. They will circumnavigate the world. All the while we soaked in the magnificent view from Oia (pronounced Eee-ah).

One of the things that makes Santorini and Oia most fascinating is the island of Santorini is crescent shaped. It is the largest island comprising the caldera of a volcano that exploded around 1400 BC. This is the largest caldera in the world. There is what looks like a cinder cone that is an island in the caldera center. It is an active volcano and still growing.

The Odyssey pulled into the caldera, which is over 1200 feet deep, early this morning. It is an amazing feast for the eyes. The towns of Santorini are built on the top of the caldera walls, historically to make it difficult for pirates to pillage the towns. Now they are just difficult to get to. The houses are traditionally white with blue doors, blue window frames, and with blue domed churches.

We took a tender from the Odyssey to port and boarded a bus that took us to the monetary, the highest point on the island. The east side of the island is very flat with black volcanic beaches. Originally the whole island was flat and circular, but over time the cinder cone developed into a volcano that blew it’s top leaving the caldera remnants abutting the flats east side. The high point of the island is 2000 feet above sea level. The rim of the caldera is 1000 feet high.

I for one was vary grateful that we took a bus from the sea level port and did not have to take donkeys or walk up from the shore. After visiting the monastery atop the mountain, we were taken to Oia. Our tour guide wasted about 15 minutes of our shore time in Oia going on about where to meet and what to see and do in Oia. We left him still talking and went off down the main shopping Blvd to the right and the windmill toward the end of the island. We very quickly tired of the crowds, opting to take stairways down and away, taking dramatic photos as we went.

The photos we took will speak for themselves. On our way into Oia, our tour guide pointed out Brad and Angelina’s house just outside the town and visible behind a not insignificant wall. He, our tour guide, said that they come to the island by helicopter each year in July and stay for a week.

After a very brief two hours in Oia, our bus took us back to Thera, the town above the sea level port and the capital of Santorini. There are three ways to get from Thera atop the caldera and the port: walk the switch backs, take a donkey on the switch backs, or take the gondola. We were given tickets to the gondola and our plan was to get to the gondola and head back to ship before the hoards headed out. One very good thing, there were no hoards. Only two small cruise ships were anchored in the caldera, ours and one that sailed from Israel. Even at that the shopping boulevard was crammed with tourists. I could not imagine Oia with three or five thousand people milling about. Ellen and I were pooped when we hit Thera and wanted to get back to the Odyssey to relax. The temperature was only 80, but the humidity was 80% and it felt much hotter.

Finding the gondola was easy and we queued up. When setting up to board the string of gondolas, the gal ushering us said, “Just two more here”. I was next in line and Ellen pushed through moments later to join me. This apparently set off an older woman who wanted to be with her friend, clearly not her husband, who was queued for the same car. He and she and another friend went on and on discussing how the gondolas worked, that she could get down in the car just beside this one (the gondolas are a sets of 8 cars each holding 6 people that go up and down the cable together), The husband was explaining in a foreign language that I do not understand that we’ll all arrive at the same time, there’s no difference if she rides this gondola or the one she was assigned, and this went on and on. We did not need to know the language to understand the conversation. She was adamant that some great tragedy had just unfolded and she had no intention of getting in the car to her right. She was getting in this car. Period. I was astounded at the vehemence with which she defended her wounded honor. I was thinking, If I get on this car with this woman I’ll wind up in a Greek jail for assault or worse. This was pettiness at its worst.

Eventually, the set of cars arrived and sure enough, she was the first one on the car. Ellen said, “I’m not getting on that car with her”. I agreed and we stood where we were, back against the wall as everyone allocated a car boarded. At last the doors on the gondolas closed and the woman’s husband looked at us and beckoned us in as if to say, there’s room come on in. I waved “bye bye”. He shook his head and motioned to the seats. I waved “bye bye” as the gondolas began moving.

The gal who organized boarding walked down and asked why we didn’t get aboard. I explained that one woman was being rude and we’d rather wait. We exchanged a knowing smile, she said “life is too short for that” and we waited for the next car. This was not really a problem, I prefer not to deal with intransigence where possible.

With six to a car, three more people were ushered to join us. Two woman and a fellow. We talked with the women for a while, when the guy said, “TESLA! ,Do you drive one?” I have been wearing my Tesla hat the entire trip and this was the first guy to mention it. “Yes, I do, but it is my wife’s car” It turns out that this fellow was involved with Volvo and Saab automobile design. He had driven a Tesla at an event in Colorado when visiting his daughter and he loves the car. We had a great discussion about cars until the gondolas arrived. The view from the gondola put conversation to rest, at least for a while.

This evening we had dinner with a group of Aussie’s who we’ve hit if of with, then saw a comedian at the Grand Salon. The comedian was funny. Our friends are fun, thoughtful, and quite accomplished. Again the conversation was wide ranging and included a discussion of Tesla and electric automobiles, construction in Australia, and community work in Africa. There was some discussion about Tesla as well.

Another couple we became close with is disembarks tomorrow at Athens and heading home soon. It is sad to see friends you are just getting to know, leave. One day not so far from now, it will be us. The Australian couple will travel through to Venice which will be fun.

As for photos, the internet connection aboard ship is flakey at best and not friendly for high def photo uploads. Tomorrow we will take a tour of the Acropolis, the Parthenon, and Athens. On a on-tour day, we will lug our PC to a cyber cafe and upload a bunch of our Rhodes and Oia photos.