Thursday, May 24, 2007

Internet at last!

Hi again everyone,

When Laurie & Lionel ... our sailing hosts ... told us that Internet was difficult to find over here, we didn't quite believe them. Until we arrived in Sardinia, all of our hotels had complimentary internet computer for us to use. In Cagliari; we actually met folks who had never even heard the word "internet"... can you believe it?

Anyway, after boarding Sea Whisper, we waited out the Mistral winds in the relative shelter of the Madellena Islands. Then we visited Napolean's neighbourhood and spent a couple of nights in Bonnefacio. Cruised up the west coast of Corsica and anchored in a secluded bay and swam off the boat in beautiful blue-green water. Over the next 24 hours, we completed our trans-Mediteranean crossing, and then survived the act of performing Mediteranean Tie with 25 knots blowing on our beam!

We re spending our last couple of days in a small village called Thoule, just across the bay from Cannes, where the famous International Film Festival is going on. This suits us just fine... we got caught in the Cannes traffic on our way here and have been avoiding the place ever since:

Today is our last day... we re off to Biot to find some pretty blown glass and we have managed to score a fine bottle of Chateau Neuf de Pape for this evening!

This will be our last entry.

Hope you are well,

Can somebody please try to arrange some sunshine for us when we get home? We don t want to lose our tans :-)


Thursday, May 3, 2007

Making memories.... (Santorini, Athens, Sardinia)

Hi folks, CJ here...

It's been a few days...and it's time to catch up. First let me finish off a bit about Santorini... We really enjoyed our stay there...and, as many of you noted, there were just a 'few' stairs involved... safe to say our stair-climbing muscles are getting a good work out. The colours of Santorini were amazing... I think we've finally agreed on what colour to paint our house trim.... And, Ron, I think of you almost every day as the cazillions of motor scooters...everywhere... zoom back and forth. All these places, Santorini, Athens and Sardinia are loaded with scooters... for one thing, they're the only vehicles that can move about with almost no problems. We rented a car in Santorini for one day..and drove for miles. We pretty much drove as far as you could, and then worked our way back... checking out the beaches and back roads along the way. It was a lot of fun. We also had dinner in a fabuous restaurant called Nikolas's...where we sat next to a family not only from Ladysmith, but from Kathy's school... old friends as it were... Mel, it was the 'me too' story in real life. Did I mention the driving yet? In all these places when you drive, you have to fit in... that means driving like a lunatic... far too fast, far too close to the car in front of you...without a care as to what anyone else is doing..and quite prepared to jerk the wheel left or right at a moments avoid smunching some poor pedestrian or idiot bike rider..... I fit right in!!! so far so good... and I'm driving in Sardinia. I know I've jumped all will try to sort it out now.

We enjoyed Santorini. There's many stories to tell...but we have to save something for dinner will move on.

We spent a whole day in Athens.... and that was pretty much enough. We put miles on our running shoes (on a very hot day) hiking up to the Acropolys (sp?) and all that goes with it.... we've photos to show at some point. We were only in Athens for a day, and left early the next day (again we tempted fate by dragging our luggage down the road, down into the subway and off to the airport...).... flew out of there and off to Cagliari, Sardinia. Being the troupers we've become, we lugged our gear onto a bus and headed into town... then, following our directions we bobbled (bobbling is what your wheeled luggage does as you drag it up and over stones, rocks, cobblestones, etc..... without a care) it up the cobble stone roads (did I mention uphill?) for several blocks...and to our B&B. Luca, our host, was magnificant... a truly nice man (we've been blessed with wonderful hosts throughout our journey). He spent an entire day (the next day) guiding us through and about the 351st parade and celebration of St. Efisio. The parade is the largest religious parade in Europe. Decorated carts, pulled by bulls, from each village for miles.... with all the men and women in costume (handed down father to son, and mother to daughter) and each village being different and more proud than their neighbours.... and horses all decorated with their very proud riders...again, all representing their villages. It went on for over 3 hours... the grand finale being the bull-drawn carriage carrying the effigy of St Efisio.... it's a long story but this fellow refused to allow Christianity to be banned in Sardinia and, for his troubles, he was beheaded 351 years ago. Since then, every year, the island has celebrated and remembered.... it was truly amazing to be part of that.

We're now winging our way north (in the rain...first we've had) by car... (yup, I'm driving agian). We meet Sea Whisper in Olbia (north-east coast of Sardinia) on the 7th..... and, until then, we hope to do some touring in Sardinia.... will head across to the west coast tomorrow, then up and across the top before meeting up with the boat.

We've lots of photos and Kathy will post them when she gets a chance... We've found that internet is not that common here in Sardinia and you may not hear from us so often over the next few weeks.... We've loved hearing from those of you that have had a chance to write.... we've definitely has some home-sick time.... even tho' we're having fun. We are also getting pretty good at doing laundry in bathroom sinks and hanging it up to dry on our portable clothes line.... seems self-serve laundromats haven't become very popular here either. Anyway, please know that you're in our thoughts... we miss you all..... take care and thanks for checking in....

We'll be onboard Sea Whisper as of May 7th...and probably not able to blog much after that.... Probably get back to you when we hit France..... around the 20th. Take care....

Lots of love,

Carolyn & Kathy

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Santorini shots

Hi folks,

Here are a few nice shots from our Santorini visit.

First, there's CJ, the quintessential tourist on board the fast catameran ferry from Crete to Santorini.

We paid 15 Euros extra for "business class" and shared the upper deck with 2 other couples. Two friendly crew members served us frapaccino's during the trip. The rest of the passengers were packed like sardines below. We got some "inside scoop" from one of the crew, about the sunken cruise ship off the Santorini port.

and here's the view through our toes in our "upgraded room" at the Blue Dolphins:

Amazing vistas along our walk into Fira

and a nice group shot with Cathy, one of our fellow hotel-mates (from Australia):

We enjoyed a lovely visit to the Santos Winery, sampled some nice white wines with a plate of bread, cheese and olives and enjoyed the amazing view.

And then finished the day watching the sunset at Amoudie (below Oia) at the north tip of the island. This is a very active fishing port, and we were able to watch the fisherman come in while eating dinner at one of the little tavernas along the port.

Three nights in Santorini and then up early (no one mentioned the beautiful Santorini sunrise!) to the airport and off to Athens.

hope you're all well, 'till next time,

K & CJ.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Arrived in Santorini

Hi folks, Kathy here...just a quick post for now, as we've just spent 1 1/2 hours in an internet cafe uploading photos (ok,... and listening to nice music and sipping wine while we worked...)

Just wanted to let you know we've arrived in Santorini. Had a very comfortable ride on the fast Catermaran (2 hrs) and the Blue Dolphin is wonderful (thank you Carole & Wendy for the tip!). When we arrived, the fellow at the hotel reception informed us that our room had been "upgraded" to a Jacuzzi suite! Aside from the beautiful big tub with jets, we have a balcony looking over the harbour, the volcano (island) and the rest of the village below. The extra bedroom serves just fine as a "dressing room"....

OK... so we've uploaded a few photos (attached to the earlier posts), so please go have a look. Just to give you some added motivation, you'll get the rare chance to see CJ in a skirt (first and last time this decade, she says).

Hope you're all well. Thanks to all of you who've left comments, it's great to know that you're out there reading our posts.

K & CJ.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Crete, Chania et al...

Hi all,

CJ here. (Kathy's off shopping:-) It's a beautiful day and we're in a beautiful place... let me tell you how we got here. On Saturday morning (early) we flew from Istanbul to Athens...and then to Chania on Crete. Helen (wife of Kirk : friends of Laurie and Lionel) met us at the airport. She was just great...showed us about Chania and gave us lots of information and tips about traveling in Crete. Chania has a really pretty little port/harbour. Kirk was away sailing/racing for the weekend but returned home Sunday afternoon.
Here's the amazing view from Helen and Kirk's rooftop... CJ and Helen were watching Kirk come around an island off Chania in the sailing race.
We joined the sailing group for a marvelous lunch at a local was great fun and good food. Helen and Kirk were wonderful .. shared their home with us and drove us all over as we sorted out a car rental and other domestic things. We decided to hire a car and take off on Monday morning (which we did) in order to do what we do best - explore by following our nose. We set off Monday morning - brilliant blue sky and sunshine...and drove south from Chania through some beautiful interior territory (olive groves, sheep, goats(shepherds 'n all), mountains, valleys, narrow winding roads) to the south coast... guided (as usual) by our gastronomic needs... we had a super lunch in a beautiful little village called Sfakion (something like that)... the water colours are amazing and, being just before the main season, we had great service and a choice of tables... We then carried on along the coastal road (still narrow, still winding, but oh so beautiful)...and drove ourselves to Plakias... another town (somewhat larger but a lot like a cross between White Rock and Birch Bay) which had been out destination. We'd heard of a place called Anna's Apartments (look it up on the 'net).. located in a village (Mirthios) up the mountain and overlooking Plakias. We found them. Anna's was a good as their web-site photos...but they were fully booked...except (our luck holds) for one apt. available for only 2 nightes...just exactly what we needed... You can picture this: There we were at 1630 yesterday, sitting on our little stone patio with a cold beer in hand...gazing out over the most magnificant vista of blue, blue water...wind-whipped in some places but as aqua-marine as you can imagine.... lazing in the sun.... and then, when we were good and ready... it was shower time...and then, when the mood took us we were off to the local Taverna - right across the road - rumoured to have great food.... And we did... and it did. It's kind of neat here... when the waiter comes to welcome you.. he also invites you into the kitchen to view the daily specials.. it's a great way to help decide what to order.. no surprises... Oh yes.. one more thing before signing off... Kath and I are conducting our own personal survey of Raki vs. Ouzo vs. Grappa.... we've learned that Ouzo is best served throughout the meal...having diluted it with some water and using it to cleanse your palat between tapas...whereas Raki is ingested after the meal.... just to make sure it stays down I guess... anyway, grappa awaits our attendion in Italy.... Oh and one more thing..we've changed our plans a bit.. decided we've had enough museums and ancient sites for a little while and have decided to go from here to Santorini (by fast cat) for a few days (and to shorten our visit to Athens)... so, if you're looking for us we'll be at the Blue Dolphin Apts. (we'll let you know how the cruise ship recovery operation is going). On Santorini.... from Thursday to Sunday... and then we head to Athens to connect with our flight for Rome.... Guess that's it for now...ttfn..xoxo CJ and Kathy

Here's a picture of some of the beautiful flowers in bloom in Plakias.... so THAT's how geraniums are supposed to grow!

And here's a picture of CJ in the (required) skirt at our visit to the Moni Prevelli monostery. near Plakias. The monks in this monostery (at great risk to themselves) helped the allied forces evacuate from Crete after the German's invaded during the battle of Crete in WWII.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Last night in Istanbul

Hello our friends....well, the time has come to finally try and fit everything back into our packs.... We've had a very interesting time here in Istanbul...some good, some 'interesting'. On the 'down' side, Kathy and I have learned that neither of us is very comfortable in confined quarters with carpet salesmen and other salesmen...pushing aggressively into our 'space'. Having said that, we still ventured into the 'Grand Bazaar' and made our way through the throngs of shoppers and sellers and hawksters.... Some were friendly, most were quite aggressive... but in our own Canadian way we tread as softly as possible as we wound our way through the very intricate 'two step' required to survive this 'adventure'. We found the Spice Market (having braved the tram and highways - jaywalking...rather jay-running - a must) to be somewhat 'softer' in the approach of the sellers and actually, for the first time, bought something...not much mind you..we seem to be saving our pennies for Greece, Sardinia and France...

On the 'up' side.... after accepting we are not natural 'shoppers' and didn't really care to purchase a carpet, we backed off into the side-curtains and 'took a breath'. We walked along the seaside...rather the side of the highway, bordered on one side by the confluence of the Sea of Marmera, the Bosphorous Sea and the Golden Horn... Check it out on your atlas if you can, cuz we have never seen such a busy water-way.... ships of all sizes... freighters three times bigger than our cruise ships, fishing boats the size of our dinghies ... and ferries of all sizes whizzing back and forth... The freigher captains 'drive' their ships just like the taxi drivers here...full speed ahead, then a hard right and...damn the consquences... the wakes criss-crossing the water would cause a 'normal' sized sailboat to broach. And there were naval ships at anchor, and soldiers with uziis guarding who knows what...very important we're sure... for instance, at the palace we toured this afternoon (summer home of the last Sultan)... there were armed guards at posts all around it and formal 'changing of the guards' on a regular basis.... and woe betide anyone who took photos without asking. Now.... let me take you to an entirely different place...

When we got back to our hotel this afternoon, the sun was on the terrace, the beer was cold and our feet were, you guessed it, off to the terrace with a cold beer we went. Kind of handy that it's right across the hall from our room. Anyway, there we sat enjoying the sun and the view of the still very busy harbour...and right in front of us (well actually a few blocks away,,,but still close) a pod of dolphins moved through the area.... there is no doubt in our mind that this Sea of Marmera still supports a lot of fish...actively feeding seagulls, dolphins working back and forth along the shore...and very active fish markets - attest to that observation.

I've probably talked too much...and don't want to bore you... so will wind up now. We've had a good time here in Istanbul.. certainly have experienced the 'old town'... did I tell you about the calls to prayers (at 0515, 08ish, 1715ish and 2015ish)... ? There are loudspeakers on the towers surrounding each mosque...and they blast out the 'call to prayers' which is a very interesting blend of 'song'.... Anyway, tomorrow is a new day and we must finish packing... we've had a good time and/but are both looking forward to some calm and some quiet..hopefully on a warm beach in Crete. Helen and Kirk, folks Laurie and Lionel met along theway, are going to meet us at the Crete airport and 'keep' us for a day or two... help us rent a car and figure out where to go and what to see...hopefully it will mostly be warm sand, blue skies and cold beers.

Will write again when opportunity arises... not too sure when that will be.... Hope you're all well. Lynda (Dee) got your e-mail thanks.... Hugs to everyone.... xoxoxo CJ (and Kathy)..

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Surviving Istanbul Taxi Drivers

Istanbul is a huge contrast to Vienna.

The Viennese are very nice and treated us well, but they are quite reserved.

Our hotel desk fellow "Mahmet" has been like a big brother to us (and to all the other guests)... when we first arrived, he insisted on carrying our luggage up the three flights of spiral stairs and then invited us down for a drink and a chat. He sat us down with a glass of Turkish tea (chai) and showed us all sorts of options for what to do during our stay... recommended an honest carpet seller and a few good restaurants to try. Mahmet used to be a manager of a hostel in another, more southern city of Turkey, which is where he learned to speak English. That is why he speaks with a very distinct Australian accent... since most of the guests there were from Australia. It's funny to hear a Turkish fellow say "no worries, mate!" :-)

We just got back from dinner at a "Meyene" style restaurant (Turkish Tapas) across the Gallata bridge (other side of the Golden Horn) from the old city of Sultanahmet where we are staying. We had a wonderful meal and met a Parisean family who have been walking everywhere. It seems that they have walked further than many people go by tour bus!

The taxi drivers here are crazy! The restaurant arranged for a taxi for us, so we didn't get ripped off coming home. (Marg H. ... you'll remember that infamous New Year's Eve taxi ride back to our "home stay" in Costa Rica, where the return trip cost us 8 times the trip to the restaurant?) Anyway, we figure that, for Turkish taxi drivers, the most important part of the car is the brakes, followed closely by the horn. It was a very fast trip, with most of it being on the bumper of the car ahead of us. We had to focus on looking out the side windows, 'cause looking straight ahead was too scary!

We're here for two more full days and then leaving for Crete on Saturday. Looking forward to some time at the beach. (It's really cold here - we had rain today!).

We took a few nice photos of the Ayasofya Museum/Church , Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace today... will try to upload them to share with you tomorrow.

Gardens and fountain in front of the Aya Sophya.
Flowers and K in front of the Blue Mosque.
take care everyone... hugs and kisses....