Corfu Greece – Day Nine – Mediterranean Cruise Vacation

Day nine was the Greek island of Corfu. The stop there included a visit to the Achilleion Palace and the old town.

Just a note to the thousand of people that read my blog. OK, the hundreds of people that read my blog posts. OK, just a note to the shut ins that are forced to read my blog. While the Achilleion Palace is a nice place to visit, it can be very, very crowded as all the tours seem to arrive there around 9am. Everybody wants to visit the popular locations early in the day, the problem is everybody does visit the popular locations early in the day. As we discovered later on the cruise in Venice, a late visit to a popular tourist site my get you greet you with a lack of tourists at one of the more popular tourist attractions. That was the case during our visit to the Doge’s Palace. At times there was nobody in the courtyard, and the big room had at most 20 people in it during our visit.

A gorgeous blue and red sunrise off the Greek island of Corfu as seen from the balcony.

One of the many cruise ships we encountered along the way.

On our journey through the Mediterranean we encountered many cruise ships.

The website says, the “Empress Elisabeth built the Achilleion palace to escape the tragedies of her life”. It was later purchased by William II. 

Some of the amazing designs at the Achilleion Palace in Corfu, Greece

The grand staircase that greets you as you walk inside.

A very large painting hangs above the staircase in the Achilleion Palace, Greece

Some of the interesting statues that grace the venue.

One of the many statues in the back courtyard - Achilleion Palace, Greece.

If everybody is facing one way taking a photo, always make sure to look the other way just in case a not so obvious photo opportunity exists. Everybody that walked by this statue with a camera took a photo from the front. I choose the road less traveled and made an image from the other side.

The other side of a statue is not always photographed. Achilleion Palace, Greece

He must have been somebody important as they made statue of him - Corfu Greece.

The sign mentions a free taste of Corfiots Kumquat. I didn’t try any.

The sign on the wall offers a free taste of Corfiots Kumquat - Corfu, Greece

The Museum of Asian Art.

The Asian Museum of Art near the Old Town of Corfu, Greece.

A wonderful sunrise in the morning, and wonderful sunset in the evening.

A colorful sunset seen from a balcony of the Holland America ship m/s Zuiderdam

__

Argostoli Greece – Day Eight – Mediterranean Cruise Vacation

Day Eight would be our first of many visits to Greece and the Greek Islands. If you are wondering where day seven went, it was spent as sea, and I did not take one photo that entire day. Day eight was at Argostoli, Greece and included visits to the Drogarati Cave, Melissani Lake with a lunch stop at Ampelaki restaurant for some traditional Greek cuisine.

Argostoli Greece

Down the steps to the Drogarati cave which was discovered 300 years ago and was open to the public in 1963.

Steps to Drogarati Cave

You can see how big the cave is by looking at those rather smallish looking human for a sense of scale.

Inside the Drogarati Cave

A quick ride around Melissani Lake.

Melissani Lake Cave

After our shore excursion was done, it was time to sample some of the local cuisine. As I had experienced a slight bought with food poisoning the day before, I wasn’t going to chance eating anything I didn’t know in a new country. So with that in mind, I went with a old stand bye of french fries. I don’t know what the condiments were, and I didn’t try them.

Greek French Fries

We did sample the Greek dessert  Baklava.

Greek Baklava

__

European Vacation – Mediterranean Cruise – Part One

I had planned to post the entire Mediterranean trip in one big blog post. Turns out it would have been a REALLY BIG blog post. So the trip will now be divided into three posts. You can view the Rome portion of the trip which includes Day 1 through Day4 at the link Rome Vacation.

DAY FIVE

Our first morning at sea greeted us with a wonderful sunrise. Maybe the best of the entire trip.

The sunrise on the Mediterranean sea viewed from the balcony of our room on the Holland American ship ZuiderdamThe first port of call on this eleven day portion of the cruise would be Messina, Italy. As you enter the port you are greeted with a large statue with the Latin words “vos et ipsam civitatem benedicimus” beneath it. If my Latin is correct the sign says, “We bless you and your city”. Of course since I took French while in Junior High, my Latin could be a little off.

This 7 meter tall Gold Madonna statue in Messina, Italy port.

The day’s excursion was to the town of Taormina and the ancient Greek theatre. The trip there afforded views of Mount Etna which is an active volcano and depending on the current eruption has a height of 10,922 feet.

The active volcano Mount Etna - Sicily ItallyArches that are hundreds if not thousands of years old, and as always surrounded by lots and lots of shopping for the tourists.

Arch in the town of Taormina, ItalyThe rules for driving are a little different in Italy than there are here in the states. If there is a road, you can drive there no matter how many tourists are walking on that road.

If there is a road you can drive on it in Taormina no matter how many tourists are walking on the road.Even if the church is small, it’s done up big time.

Even very small churches have amazing designs - Taormina, Italy

 

DAY SIX – Malta

Day Six began with the beautiful views of the Valletta, Malta port. What I learned cruising around the  Mediterranean is that if you have a wonderful port location, somebody at some time has tried to invade your county over the last many thousands of years. To prevent those marauding hordes from invading you either need your city/port to be protected by walls, or a castle, or a fort on the hills. The port city of Valletta, Malta is protected by walls that look glorious in the early morning sun.

Early morning sunlight on the walls that have protected the port city of Valletta Malta

The early morning light hits the many boats in the port of Valletta, Malta

After you take the about 7 story elevator up to the town you are greeted with a wonderful view of the port and all the cruise ships docked their. Our ship the Zuiderdam is behind the Wind Surf ship and has the dark blue hull.

A ride up the lift gives you a view of the port and the cruise ships docked there.

If you see just one thing in Valletta, Malta, you must see St. John’s Co-Cathedral. So as you walk in the breath taking beauty and splendor of the church amaze you. From a review of the church by afeeney, “The Knights of Malta were not a modest bunch and once the Baroque Era started, they set out with a firm will and a tremendous fortune to make this one of the most stunning and splendid cathedrals in the world. They succeeded.”

First view upon entering St. John

Amazing ceiling at St. John

Gold on the all the arches in St. John

View of St. John

Every building should have canons in front so that you can pose with them for photos.

Canons in front of building in the city of Valletta, Malta

This is what you would tell the ship’s doctor when you make that emergency visit complaining of stomach pain, “It seemed like a good idea at the time”. Sorry, but if you have another 20 days on the trip of a lifetime, trying the Rabbit Liver salad is a bad idea. Same goes for the Pasta Seaurchins.

Rabbit liver salad, pasta seaurchins and other interesting foods available at Valletta, Malta cafe.

 

__

European Vacation – Italy – Greece – Croatia – Turkey – Malta – Montenegro – Rome – Mediterranean Cruise

It was planned as the trip of a lifetime for my wife and I, and it was. What follows is a day by day account of the trip with a “few” photos from the more than 6,000 I took to illustrate many of the amazing sites we visited.

The fountain in Piazza Navona - Rome, Italy

DAY 1

As most European countries are in Europe, every trip there starts with a long flight. In our case it was a 3 AM wakeup and a 7:30 AM flight from San Francisco to Washington DC, and after a short layover on to Rome. The only thing of interest about the flight to Dulles airport in Washington was that after the plane landed we couldn’t get into the terminal. The plane pulled up to the gate like normal. Everybody immediately stood up as though us folks in Economy were somehow magically were going to get out of the plane quickly. Then after 5 minutes of everybody waiting to get off the plane, a stewardess informed us there was a problem with the gateway that we are suppose to use to get into the terminal. It was stuck 2 feet from the jet, and we have no communication with the people working the gateway. So at 35,000 feet we have communication with the ground, but at the terminal we have no communication. OK. If you are thinking, why didn’t they just move the plane that had traveled 2500 miles another two feet, that option was out of the question as the cargo doors had already been opened. After 25 minutes of sitting just 2 feet from the promised land, the gateway was somehow moved those last 2 feet and we arrived in Dulles airport in time to make our connecting flight.

You are here.  A photo of the plane’s entertainment/location device showing where our flight was at the time.

The screen shows the location of our flight from Dulles airport in Washington DC to Rome, Italy

Once the plane lands at Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport it’s off to customs for my first real use the my passport. I’ve had to carry it before on other trips, but this will be my first time being questioned about why I’m visiting the country, ( business or pleasure ) and having my passport stamped. Well not so much. On the walk to customs all the members of our flight were joined by passengers from another flight walking to customs. This customs thing might take a while. Well not so much. The airport has about 10 agents working the custom’s booths and after they scan your passport and look at you for 2 seconds, you are through to Italy. No stamp, no questions, just NEXT.
Our transportation to our home for the next three days at the Visconti Palace was ready and waiting. The first thing you notice about driving in Rome is that driving and talking on your phone while holding it seems to be the law of the land. Our driver certainly upheld the law of the land. We arrived at the hotel around 10 AM and were allowed to check in early. So day one really begins now. After a very early wake up in America, about 2 hours of sleep during those 16 hours in the air, it’s now GO TIME as we have 3 days to see Rome.

The first stop on the well planned excursion in Rome would be the Piazza del Popolo and the new car obelisk. In reality the obelisk there is aEgyptian obelisk of Ramesses II. But it is having repair work done and it was sponsored by a new car company which had their ad at the base of the obelisk. The new car obelisk was much easier to remember than Remesses II. Working our way through the city our next stop would be the Pantheon. From there, it was short hop to the Piazza Navona which is where the first image in the post was made. Then off to the Campo de’ Fiori market and finally back to the Pantheon for a photo op and then back to the hotel for the end of Day one phase one.

Our search for food once back to the hotel led us to Miss Pizza just around the corner. We didn’t know at the time that this would be the first of many trips to Miss Pizza. With a few minutes rest and some food in our bellies it was time for phase two of day one. The first stop for the evening portion of the day would lead us to the Spanish steps where the wife and I shared a very good and very pricey Gelato. Now with some sugar to fuel our quest it was off to the Trevi fountain. It too was under repair, but the spender of the site was still apparent. Because the site was under repair they had set up a temporary “fountain” where you could throw coins. It wasn’t quite as impressive as the original as the photo below shows.

The temporary coin fountain display at the Trevi Fountain in Rome Italy

This is a photo of the Column of the Immaculate Conception. If my map skills are correct, this is just a few hundred feet away from the Spanish steps.

Night photo of the Column of the Immaculate Conception in Rome Italy

By now it was 9:30 PM local time, and time for dinner in the Piazza del Papolo. This photo shows our seats and view from the outdoor cafe we ate at. At 7:30 PM when we first passed this location the cafe was full with people seating in these seat staring into the sunset. Didn’t quite understand that. On the left of the photo you can see both Santa Maria dei Miracoli and  Santa Maria in Montesanto churches. It was then back to the hotel and the end of a very, very full day.

Outdoor cafe in the Piazza del Papolo with views of both Santa Maria dei Miracoli and  Santa Maria in Montesanto churches

DAY TWO – the Vatican - Castel Sant’Angelo

After a very long and hectic first day, day two was “planned” to be a little more sane. On the other hand you have this expression, “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry”.
Our tour of the Vatican started at 9 AM. On the map it looks like you can walk to the Vatican from our hotel. And you can walk to the Vatican from our hotel. It’s just that there are very few straight streets and square intersections on the road from our hotel ( the Visconti Palace ) to the Vatican. We did make it to our meeting place outside the Vatican for the tour. Then it’s the 10 minute line to get in. That is the short line for the tours. The regular line was said to take hours. Once in your tour guide has to purchase the tickets and it’s suggested to be a good time for a bathroom break.

You must look at the walls and ceilings to view all the amazing paintings in the Vatican

It’s 9:30 AM and you have your ticket and are ready to go. Since the Vatican Museum can be a little crowed, our tour guide used “whispers” as they are called in Europe to give us information. I’ll be honest, most of the way through the tour I used the radio/headset to keep in contact with our group and once the group was too far away you couldn’t hear the tour guide and it was time to catch up with the group. I was there to take photos. I could read about everything the guide was saying, but most likely I will never be there again to take photos. So I took lots and lots of photos.

You have your ticket and now your are ready to view the Vatican museum

Vatican CeilingAmazing color both on the wall and ceiling of the Vatican Museum

Our tour inside the Vatican museum ends with the real big event, that of course being the Sistine Chapel. No photos are allowed in the Sistine Chapel. There are signs EVERYWHERE saying that. Then there is the guard that mentions it quite loudly about every two minutes. So I have no photos of the Sistine Chapel to post.
After the Vatican tour, you we went into Saint Peter’s Basilica. You thought you saw some amazing stuff on the Vatican tour, but for my Euro’s the size and beauty of everything in St. Peter’s Basilica was more amazing. Did I mention it was amazing? Did I mention it’s big and amazing? In these photos it looks like it’s not so crowed. It is.

Dome in Saint PeterChurch pews in Saint Peters BasilicaMarble floor graces St. Peter

It looks like an amazing statue, and it is. I’ve included the 2nd photo with the gentlemen in front of the statue to show the size of the statue.

Stunning statue inside Saint Peter

The size of the statue can be seen as the gentlemen standing in front can be used for scale

Gold leaf on the ceiling - Saint Peters BasilicaThe light streaming through the dome highlights the beauty of the display on the ceiling - St. Peter

Once the tour of St. Peter’s Basilica is done you walk out into St. Peter’s Square.

Clouds of St. PeterAfter a quick cab ride back to the hotel, it’s once again time for Miss Pizza of Rome Italy.

Miss Pizza is just around the corner of the Visconti Palace Hotel

Now with some fuel in the tanks, it’s off to Castel Sant’Angelo which is in easy walking distance from the hotel.

The sunny shinning on a statue of an angel outside Castel Sant

The best sign I saw on the entire trip. It took me a moment to figure it out. If you have never been to Rome, you would know there were selfie stick salesmen at EVERY tourist attraction. Now you know, and the sign prohibits selfie stick photos. GOOD.

No Selfie stick photos allowed

Sometimes the signs aren

Sometimes when the weather turns bad, wonderful photos can be made. The very light rain provided a rainbow and great light for a photo of Palace of Justice.

The light rain and sunlight created a rainbow over Rome Italy

The Palace of Justice at twilight - Rome Italy

DAY THREE – the Colosseum – Roman Forum – St. Paul’s Basilica outside the Wall

Lesson learned from Day Two. Take a cab if you aren’t sure how to get there in Italy and your tour starts a 9 AM. So the day started off with a cab ride to the Colosseum for our extended tour of both the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.

Storm clouds over the ColosseumAs I’ve seen plenty of pictures of the Colosseum, I had a pretty good idea what it looked like. What I found most impressive and what you can’t see in most photos is the size of the stones/marble that comprise the Colosseum. The photo below presents one with an idea of how large the stones were. This photo was taken near the top of the structure.

 

The amazing size of the stones used to build the Colosseum

Once through the Colosseum and Roman Forum our next stop was to be the St Peter In Chains Cathedral. We found the church pretty quick and easy on our own. So of course it was closed from 1 pm to 3 pm. As it was 1:20 pm is was time to move on. A quick walk back to the Colosseum and a cab to us to our next stop, that being the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Wall. 

Basilica Saint Paul Outside the Walls exterior view

Interior view of Basilica Saint Paul Outside the Walls

Interior of Basilica Saint Paul Outside the Walls - Rome italy

The view inside the chair room. I doubt that’s the real name of this room.

The room of chairs in Basilica Saint Paul Outside the Walls Interior photo of the great hall in Basilica Saint Paul Outside the Walls I posted this photo of pretty much the same shot with people in it to give a sense of the size of the building.

People in the photo give a sense of scale to the interior of Basilica Saint Paul Outside the Walls The clouds that had been building for the last several hours finally started to bring the predicted rain for the afternoon. Turns out that wild and wacky driving that takes place in Rome doesn’t work quite as well when it rains. I was surprised how much slower the cab ride back to the hotel was. By the time we reached our hotel, it was pouring. That was OK for us, we were pretty much done for the day. As it was pouring rain and the hotel doesn’t serve lunch, it was out to find some food. Surprise, surprise, it was once again back to Miss Pizza for lunch as a walk anywhere else might have involved getting quite wet.
Lucky for us the rain only lasted for 2 hours, and we were back on our way to see what we could see. Day three ended with a walk back to the Spanish steps and then dinner at a different outdoor cafe at the  Piazza del Popolo from Day One. There was a Bride and Groom that seemed to have been just married at the Spanish steps, so of course I took a photo.

Bride on the Spanish steps in Rome ItalyCloud filled sunset at Piazza del Popolo in Rome ItalyNight view from an outdoor cafe at the Piazza del Popolo

DAY FOUR – last day in Rome

I woke up early  and figured it was go time once again as I had only another 4 hours in town before a bus ride to the ship.

The early morning sunlight hits a statue outside the Palace of Justice in Rome ItalyThat’s 6:14 in the AM.

The Erboristeria clock says the time is 6:15 AM
Early morning shadow of tourist running around taking photos. OK, it’s my shadow.

Early morning shadow of tourist taking photos in Rome Italy

Morning sunlight shines through other buildings onto the Palace of Justice - Rome

Rare photo of the Brown river showing it’s Blue color. It is actually the Tiber River, but if you have ever seen it in person, you would think it was the Brown river.

Bridge over the fiume tevere in Rome Italy

Statue on bridge over the fiume tevere.

Another view of the Brown river.

Trees and sun light on the fiume tevere

One more view of the Palace of Justice in Rome. I think this would be considered the back of the building. Pretty fancy for the back of a building.

Back of the Palace of Justice in Rome Italy

 

 

 

[…] I had planned to post the entire Mediterranean trip in one big blog post. Turns out it would have been a REALLY BIG blog post. So the trip will now be divided into three posts. You can view the Rome portion of the trip which includes Day 1 through Day4 at the link Rome Vacation. […]

__