Wednesday, February 23, 2022

And now...

When we arrived home we were intending a trip up to Washington state to visit my wife's brother.  He is alone since his wife passed away and was going to have knee surgery which would require that someone be available 24 hours a day.  However, on the 10th he called to say the surgery was going to be delayed until later in the year.  Since we were going to leave on the 11th we were glad to hear from him.  I have to admit it was rather a relief because we were both wanting some 'at home' time.  

So, what to do?  Of course we went out to lunch.  What else does one do to celebrate?  And, at the end of the lunch my wife asked "How about going over to the dog shelter and see if there is anything there?"  Do I have to say more?  We went to the shelter and were shown two animals.  The first was a young German Shepherd; about two years old and full of steam!  She was way too fast for us old folks.  The second was a Shar-Pei, four years old and a little calmer.  Hmmm.  The little guy had just had surgery to remove his testicles and had a cone around his neck to keep him from licking the injury.  He was found by animal control on Christmas Day.  He didn't have a microchip; no one had called to ask about a missing Shar-Pei so he was up for adoption.  In the end we asked that they keep him a couple more days until he could be without the cone then we would take him home.

The pound uses some sort of computer name-game thing to come up with names for stray animals and this poor little guy got named 'Goose'.  There is no way we were going to let that remain his name but we thought that 'Gus' might work.  He'd been called with that G word for a month or so and we hoped that the hard G would help him with his new name.  Anyway, now we have a new dog!

We have no idea whether or not he is actually a Shar-Pei or just partially but he does pretty much look the part.  That first photo was of him while still in the pound.  Here he is in our living room.

Of course now he is chipped and filled with shots and all that so there is no way he can get lost.  He is pretty stubborn and doesn't know any of the 'necessary' dog things.  We are working on his name, the commands for come, sit, down, heel, stay and whatever else.  He is smart enough but really wants to do what he wants to do; not so much what you are suggesting!

So this morning we woke to a surprise:  snow!  This is like the third snow we've had in the thirteen years we've been here so we are all excited.  It is only about an inch and a half and will be gone before long but, hey, it's snow!  

So that's all the news that is fit to print from here.  Thanks for stopping by.  Keep washing those hands and stay safe!

Update:  10:00 and the snow was all gone.  The mountains still look nice and white but in the valley it is dusty as usual.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

More travel!

 Well, time for more cruising news.  I left off at Valletta where we heard a lot about the Knights of Malta.  Actually the Knights were in the history of almost all the areas covered by this cruise.  This is from Wikipedia:  "commonly known as the Knights Hospitaller  was a medieval and early modern Catholic military order. It was headquartered in the Kingdom of Jerusalem until 1291, on the island of Rhodes from 1310 until 1522, in Malta from 1530 until 1798 and at Saint Petersburg from 1799 until 1801."  Long story short:  there were early Christians all over this area.  Gee whiz!

Anyway, our next stop was the town of Heraklion.  I must admit to never having heard of Heraklion on the island of Crete but like everywhere else history goes way back here including the Knights.  We visited a museum with all kinds of ancient things on display.  

This was a mockup of what the city was supposed to have looked like.  There were lots of pieces of pottery and such.  

The harbor defensive fort.

We didn't realize it but there had been a rare winter snowstorm while we had been at sea.  From here on we would be seeing snow at least in the hills and our guides had to point it out!

Our next stop was Rhodes and it is one of the cities we did look forward to seeing.  As usual the ship came into port in the early morning and we were up to enjoy the views.   


This was the center of the old city after bombing in the early part of WWII.  

We took a tour that walked us through the old city.  It was certainly amazing.  

 The second day we took a bus tour that took us to some of the resorts on the eastern side of the island.  Tourism is clearly a big draw for Rhodes.  We even found some snow on the side of the road!  LOL  


 We also got to stop at a beach bar for a lovely Ouzo Mezes - a shot of ouzo and some snacks.  Now that was fun!  As you can see from my dress it wasn't exactly wonderful weather but not nasty either.  And, yes, we did wear our masks all the time when on tour.

Our next stop was called Ephesus, Turkey however what it should have been called is Kusadasi, Turkey.  You could take a tour out to the ruins of Ephesus but they were closed because of the pandemic.  We did have a nice time.  


Kusadasi is apparently quite the tourist town in the summer.


We got to visit the remains of a Basilica that at one time held the remains of St. John and see the exterior of the Isa Bey Mosque.  The Mosque is in the center of the photo and the Basilica remains are above and to the right of it.  We were not allowed to enter the mosque because of the pandemic.
The remains were removed from the tomb some centuries ago.


Our last island stop was Santorini.  It is one of a number of islands forming a circular archipelago that is the remains of a caldera.  It was kind of cool being on the ship in the middle with islands all around.  



We took a tour of the island.  They are famous for having donkeys to ride up the cliffs to the main part of the island:  we just took a bus that zigzaged back and forth around hairpin turns.  Aside from that, the island is lovely and we enjoyed seeing it and one of the towns.  


Tourism is the only real employer on the island.  Most everything is brought in from elsewhere; they even have to import their drinking water.  These houses are not for local folk; they are all rentals for visitors.


We did get one last day in Athens.  We moored up looking right at the city.


Of course, we found a museum to tour!  There were lots of statues and things in the museum.  

 My wife did find one thing to zoom in on!  LOL



Yep, we could see the Acropolis from a distance but that was about it!  If you wanted to see it upclose you needed to be on a different tour.

And then we got to get up for another early flight!  The time we met in the bar area about 04:30 and went to the airport with a dozen or so other people.  Some of the people on the ship had gotten up to leave for the airport at 02:30!  It was flight to London where we had a LONG layover then on to a flight to Las Vegas. 


It was about 7 pm when we landed in Vegas and shortly after 8 by the time we got home.  All in all a great trip considering all the stuff going on in this world.  And that brings us home on the 2nd of February 2022.  OMG.  How did it get to be 2022?  Will there be more?  Oh yes!  Hang in there.

Thanks for stopping by.  Keep washing those hands!

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Oops! It's been a while!

 It has been a month and a half since I updated the blog and, as usual, I have an excuse or three.  This time it is travel:  yep, we've been off traveling again.  Yep, another cruise on Viking.  This time we hit ports in Italy, Malta, Crete, Turkey and Greece.  In two weeks!  Yeah, you get only the slightest taste of these countries but it is an introduction. 

Actually, now, because of the whole COVID thing there is a lot less contact with the places you are visiting than there used to be.  And the whole thing was a paperwork nightmare.  Let's start with the PCR test within 48 hours of your flight.  Of course that's in Las Vegas and cost $250 each.  But we passed!  So it was hop on a flight to London; leaving at 5 in the morning.  


If you were staying in the UK you'd need to do paperwork for them but we were just passing through so no problem.  But we did have to do paperwork for Italy.  Of course it was close to 9 p.m. local time when we landed in Rome.  However Viking had 2 people waiting to greet us; and a driver to drive the 40 minutes to the ship; and an officer to check our documentation prior to boarding the ship; and a ship's officer to escort us to our cabin and get the first of our DAILY PCR tests.  Wow.  And the whole thing, all 5 people, was just for the two of us.

There were new rules about being on board the ship.  First was that daily PCR test:  before eating or drinking anything you had to spit into a tube.  I never thought I had a dry mouth but I sure think that now!  Filling the tube to the little line was difficult every morning.  But it was just something you needed to do.  You would get a message overnight that you had passed the previous day's test and if you were going ashore somewhere that required it you would get a paper copy that said you passed..  Of course masks were required at all times except when eating or drinking.  Well, I'm pretty overweight so that gave me quite a bit of mask-less time.  LOL  Still, the staff would stop people who'd forgotten the rule.  The final rule was that you couldn't go anywhere on your own.  When you got off the ship, you were with a tour or you didn't get off.  In the past most tours would have time for you to shop in the local businesses:  not this time.  If you were really lucky you might shop in a museum shop but that was it.  In actual fact, most businesses were closed anyway.

So we get onboard the ship.  We have been on the Viking Sky before so the ship was familiar to us.  In the morning we went up to the Explorer's Lounge on the 7th deck at the bow of the ship.  It has a great view of course but what blew us away was that there was only one other couple in the room!  There was the guy handing out rolls and such, there was the waitress ready to bring you anything from water to wine but there were only 2 other customers.  That was weird and it was our introduction to the fact that the ship was perhaps 25% full.  The ship normally carries 930 passengers; for this cruise it was in the 250 range.  They had the full staff; just not many guests!  It was something we eventually got used to but it was certainly weird.  Let's just say that a dirty dinner plate didn't spend much time on the table!

It was kind of chilly for sunbathing but the lounges were set up with towels and all but no takers.

The ship had stops in Rome, Naples and Messina in Italy.  Then we had a couple days in Valletta, Malta.   The we got to visit Heraklion, Crete for a day followed by two days in Rhodes, Greece.  A day in Kusadasi, Turkey followed by a day in Santorini, Greece and a day in Athens.  Clearly you are getting only the faintest whiff of what these cities are like.  Indeed, we didn't get to see so much that it is just painful however it does give us ideas for future independent travel.  

I must admit that we just didn't tour Rome at all.  We have been there before and after the previous day's travel we wanted some quiet time.  So our first stop was Naples.  Again we've been in Naples so we took a tour that just took us out into the countryside around the city.  Pompei would be the other choice but again we've been there. 

The photo of the Tirrenia is our only photo from Rome!

Here is a view of Naples.  From the fortification on the top of the hill you get the impression of ancient wealth in the area.

Another of Naples.  Imagine all those apartments! 

This is from the far side of the bay.  When I took the picture I thought that it was the Viking Sky way over there but it isn't.  And that was our trip around Naples.

Messina was our third port and it was the first time either of us has been in Sicily.  On this trip the ship tried to come into port early in the morning and Messina was quite lovely in the early morning light.


We took a tour that primarily focused on the cathedral and it's amazing astronomical clock.  It really is quite amazing with moving statuary and a perpetual calendar.  

Valletta is the capital of Malta and quite rightly is very proud of it's heritage.  We took a walking tour of the old part of the city then got on a bus that showed us some of the outlying areas.  The second day we took another bus tour just checking out some of the ancient ruins and modern buildings.

The harbor has fortificationson both sides.  There were even some where the ship was berthed.

Also right next to the ship was this tiny church.

We took a walking tour of the town.  There were lots of references to the Knights of Malta.  They began as a medical support organization and ended up governing a lot of places.  There were nice buildings and Tritons' Fountain is really very nice I must admit.  

Well, that's half our trip so I'm going to give it a break and come back with the rest of the trip in a day or so.  Have a good one and keep washing those hands!