Sunday, October 12, 2014

Packing for another cruise!

Doug found a great deal on a Medierranean cruise - on very short notice! - so we're packing to leave Wednesday. Our 14-day itinerary starts in Rome, and includes Malta, Argostolian (on a Greek island), Jerusalem, Haifa, Kusadasi (Turkey), Athens, Sicily and Naples. Afterwards, we'll visit Andrea and Michael in Frankfurt, then fly home from Berlin. We're traveling with our regular travel buddies, Mary and Michelle. It will be a blast!

I'll miss the World Series, so if the Giants beat St. Louis, I'll ned you to keep me posted on their progress. It's 2-0 in the bottom of the NLCS game 2, 4th inning right now.

I hope to blog as we go, this entry is just to be sure I could remember how to get into this site!

Thanks for following ...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor, Montenegro

Today is our first day of rain, and it's still gorgeous! This is a beautiful ancient town on a bay, with steep mountains rising behind and on three sides. We had a wonderful time walking the old city in a light drizzle, then stopped for a drink and to catch up on email at a cafe on a lovely plaza - with free wi-fi. The wi-fi on the ship is 75 cents a minute, so we haven't been using it!

We had a marvelous lunch in the old town: goulash (the best ever!!), fish soup, and Montenegro steak, a thin piece of pork, topped with a thin slice of ham and cheese, then folded and grilled. It was all delicious! And since we're on vacation, we also had some of the good local wine. Now it's time for catching up on my notes and a nap. Tomorrow: Dubrovnic.

Split, Croatia

Split, Croatia
October 26, 2012

Old town Split is quirky and interesting. Although we have a Rick Steves tour book, we decided to hire a local guide, Nick, and he turned out to be great! We paid €10 each for a two hour tour and it was worth every cent. His cynical yet humorous take on his country's history and future was sobering and provided a different perspective on capitalism, which he seemed to think is the cause of the ruin of his country - and he's probably right. He says that tourism, while saving his town from ruin, has also caused all the locals to move away, as the profit motive is now the reason for every decision regardless of the consequences to its citizens. Kind of like the US. It's always eye-opening to talk politics with locals and hear their thoughts about the impacts to them and the world; it seems like Americans are the least politically aware people in the developed world.

Split is a wonderful mashup of Roman, Renaissance and modern architecture. We loved just walking the narrow, cobbled streets and picking out the various genres. Nick pointed out one wall with three windows, stacked vertically: one from Roman times, one medieval, one from within the last hundred years. He explained that Croatians are not wealthy enough to replace all their windows at once, so they will do one at a time. It's actually quite charming. He also led us into a private set of apartments and showed us the shared kitchen sink (a plastic bucket arrangement) and shared toilet. Sobering.

Next we stopped at the Poseidon restaurant, whose fleet of fishing boats provide a bounty for their fisherman's platter, supposedly for two but plenty for the four of us. Two whole fish, a lobster, two squid, a dozen or more whole shrimp, and several dozen mussels, plus I probably forgot some. Totally delicious! All for €39, roughly $50, including a couple of beers for Mary and a carafe of wine for the rest of us. Of course, we still had dinner just a few hours later!

I haven't mentioned the food on board yet, but it is excellent.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Finally some photos

Here are a few photos: leaving home, meeting our grand-nieces, Venice!  I hope to post more later, we are having technical andtime issues.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cruise 2012: Venice to Rome and more

We are in Venice! Molto bene! We arrived an hour or so ago, and are having a glass of wine in our apartment while we start some laundry. After looking around at the local restaurants, the one we like has too long a wait, so to the grocery - more like a 7/11, just a few staples - for pasta and pesto!
The trip has been perfect so far! Our afternoon in Seattle was quiet, just a walk through Pike's market, and then we went for oysters at a crab place, where we ended up eating halibut collar, clams and sushi at happy hour prices. Several glasses later, we went back to our hotel to watch the presidential debate and get to bed early.
Up at 4:30 to catch our flights to NY, Madrid and Marseilles! We caught a few hours of the baseball game between uneventful flights. (Go Giants!!!!) Catching the bus to Aix was a piece of cake, and we had time for a nap at the Cardinal Hotel before meeting Andrea, Ambri and our adorable 6-week-old grand-nieces for a drink at Place Richelme. I can't adequately describe the pleasure of meeting these adorable babies and seeing our nieces while enjoying a kir in Aix! Life is very, very good.

We spent all day Friday and Saturday in Aix, drinking coffe in the mornings to help with jet lag (the worst I've ever experienced), then playing with babies in the afternoons and evenings. Doug has thousands of photos of them! Did I mention how cute they are? We went out for a wonderful dinner the first night, then fixed dinner at Ambri and Giuliano's the next two nights. Try as we might, we could not eat at a reasonable hour - dinner at 10:30. And we can honestly blame the babies for one of those nights! Photos to come - we are still working out some technical issues.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

Today is our last full day in stunning Costa Rica. We got up early for our hour+ drive to catch the 9:00 ferry. It takes longer to drive here, because the potholes in the roads (even if they are paved, and most are not) are huge and require careful navigation. We arrived at out hotel in Allejuela at about 2:00, just in time to unload our things and get organized before heading off with the hotel’s owner/chef Nhi (pronounced “nee”), who took us on a tour of the big market here. Allejuela is the second-largest city in Costa Rica, after the capitol, San Jose, and the market is wonderful! We tasted zapote (mamey sapote, my new favorite fruit), caimito (star apple, delicious and amazingly beautiful), and drank pipas, the liquid found in an immature coconut, drunk through a straw inserted through the husk. We saw many other exotic (and not so exotic) fruits and vegetables: pejivalle (peach palm, said to be loved by the Ticos and not so much by the rest of us), mangos, papayas, figs, water apples, several varieties of avocado, pineapple, blackberries, small red bananas, watermelon, cantaloupe, passionfruit, starfruit, citrus, and much much more! We also tasted fresh and smoked cheese that showed up in our salad later. Doug got some great pictures and we had a wonderful time. Nhi also bought eggs and fish, and now we are resting up, waiting for her to turn all this bounty into our dinner. I’m starving!

Later note: the fish Nhi bought for dinner is called cusk-eel – not an actual eel, but similar in appearance.  Dinner was marvelous! We had a luscious faux-spinach salad, I think made with Malabar spinach – not a true spinach, but grown in warm climates or in summer as a spinach substitute. Its leaves are thicker than true spinach, and it has a similar flavor. The eggs we bought at the market had been hard-boiled and topped the salad, along with a tangy vinaigrette. Slices of the smoked market cheese and toasted bread were the perfect accompaniments.

The main course was the cusk-eel, poached and served on a bed of pureed sweet potato, with grilled carrots and green beans on the side. The fish was silky and luscious, a variety I would seek out again. The sweet potato and veggies were cooked to perfection! We were stuffed.

And then they brought out dessert. An ├ęclair so light and fluffy it had to be held down with a filling of blackberries and a topping of chocolate sauce. Those of you familiar with my tastes know that I rarely eat dessert – and yet this was so wonderful I ate (almost) all of it! No one talks about the food when you plan a trip to Costa Rica, and yet I have to say I was impressed at every meal – and the scales show it. Another meal to live for!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

This was an adventurous morning for the women on the trip – the caretaker of this beautiful property, Marvin, took us on a 3 ½ hour tour, along with his son Josue (maybe 8 or 9?) and the cutest little dog, Perlita. Marvin speaks only a few words of English, and luckily Judie is pretty fluent in Spanish, because he knows so much about the flora and fauna and enjoys sharing his knowledge with us. This was quite a hike, much more so than we expected! It started on a neighboring property, down a hill so steep we had to hold onto saplings to keep from sliding down the slope, and in fact some of us did part of the descent on our behinds! At the bottom, we carefully crossed the creek by balancing on a fallen log, then continued through the jungle, watching birds and tasting the wild things Marvin found for us: wild limes, culantro (similar in taste to cilantro), hearts of palm, a dried berry that is used for stomach problems, the membrane between the seeds of the carao seedpod (a beautiful, long brown pod a little like a tamarind – good for high blood pressure). Each time, after we took a bite, Marvin would say “muerte!” (you’re dead!”), teasing us with una broma, a joke. He is funny! Eventually we ended up walking right down the middle of the creek, which had us in stitches because Judie had just carefully water-proofed her hiking boots. We saw many wonderful plants, including sour orange, sapote, and guanaba, plus the ceiva tree we have admired so much from our beautiful patio. All along the way, as we hiked down the middle of the creek, Marvin lifted big rocks, looking for crawfish. Yikes! Too bad he didn’t find any. He says he and his family come out after dark with flashlights and have better luck finding them. I can’t imagine being out in the jungle after dark! There are so many wonderful and different noises – we saw and heard kingfishers, herons, woodpeckers, wood creepers, squirrels and monkeys, including a pregnant one. The howler monkeys have babies year-around here, and we’ve seen lots of little ones. They are so cute! At the end of the hike we saw a hive of tiny bees, with the most interesting little tubular entrance to their hive – I meant to take Doug back to get a good picture of it and I forgot. Dang. We talked a little politics, too; there are border problems with Nicaragua, analogous to the problems we have with Mexico. About 30% of the population of Costa Rica is Nicaraguan (I think I understood that right, I don’t guarantee these figures), and in the little town we are staying in, 4 of the 8 families are Nicaraguan.

In the afternoon, we drove down the coast and checked out the surfers at Playa Hermosa. What a beautiful beach! The waves are consistent and not too big, so it’s a perfect place for beginners, they say. It sure looks like fun! Maybe next time.

Later, Marvin brought over his private collection of antiquities he has dug up. They are not Mayan (no Mayans in Costa Rica), but from around that same time and they are amazing! Pottery bowls, figurines, all wrapped in newspaper and stored in a bucket in his house. They seem museum-worthy to me! Amazing.

Tonight we had leftovers and loved every bite!