Sunday, September 28 - Burlington to London

When the taxi in Burlington was later picking us up, we hoped it wasn't an omen. Apparently it wasn't because traffic was fine, we got to the airport in plenty of time and were upgraded to " World Traveller Plus" which is really Business Class -- very comfortable for the cross Atlantic trip.

Monday, September 29 - London to Rome

In spite of the comfort of the trip, Jan didn't sleep much. Larry got several hours, though, so was very refreshed. We travelled through Heathrow's new Terminal 5, so it was pretty much hassle-free. It's a beautiful facility with lots of high-end shopping. the flight to Rome was quick an easy, and surprisingly comfortable and spacious for tourist class. The shuttle we had arranged 8 months ago was waiting for us with a sign no less, and our friendly Australian/Roman driver Sergio kept us entertained on the trip to the Hotel Les Chambres d'Or. We're so glad not to be trying to drive around Rome! Mazes of very crowded streets many one-way kept him going a while before we spotted the hotel. Its entrance is very unobtrusive and the lobby/breakfast room/bar tiny, but very attractive. The staff are very friendly and helpful. After enjoying a complimentary drink, we were taken to our rooms, about a block from the lobby. A mass of keys will get us in whenever we are out and about.

The room is fresh and clean and comfortable - nicely decorated and with a view out the open window of a corner of the Vatican City in the distance. Thanks Lisa and Quintin for suggesting this place!! Jan napped while Larry got out the laptop and figured out the internet connection.

In preparation for this vacation I watched the movie Roman Holiday and the building our room is in is just like the one where Cary Grant had his apartment, though without his view. After our rest, we walked over to see St. Peter's Square - words fail!! And then we had an hour or so before the Basilica closed, so we wandered through it -- Again - no words!! Perhaps the most interesting thing was after we were out, we realized Larry left a camera case away deep in the cathedral. Because it had closed we had to get an armed escort back in to get it. The place was absolutely empty and errily quiet except for a choir which was rehearsing a recording in one of the chapel areas. Magnificent!

Dinner afterward at a small nearby restaurant was nice but not spectacular. We were tired enough not to really care. Back to our room before 9 pm to rest up for tomorrow - our hop-on-hop-off tour day.
Selected Rome Photos

Tuesday, September 30 - Rome, Italy

We certainly slept well in this very comfortable firm bed. Rome seems surprisingly quiet during the night, but there were very peculiar thumps and bumps inside the building. This morning we were ready for breakfast as soon as they started serving it at 7:45. Wonderful cappuccino to start the day, along with pastries and sandwiches. Then we walked to the Vatican Museum. We joined the queue about 2 blocks from the entrance but it moved quickly so we were inside in about 20 minutes.

By the time we left, the queue was much longer - about 2 hours, and continuing to grow. Inside we were stunned by the amount of priceless art in such large and beautiful surroundings. It defies description, and our photos tell only a miniscule part of the story. We both enjoyed this museum more that the Hermitage, but occasionally the lack of information left us wondering what we were looking at. Eventually we made our way to the Sistine Chapel, which was packed shoulder to shoulder and very warm. Guards were directing traffic and reminding people to maintain respectful silence - largely unsuccessfully. We both thought it was entirely unlike our expectations, but extremely impressive, of course. Afterward we wandered through a few galleries of contemporary art that we had entirely to ourselves. Eventually we found the beautiful double spiral staircase and made our way out ot the street.

We picked up our hop-on bus tour in front of St. Peter's and rode as far as the Coliseum, catching glimpses of many parts oft the city along the way. We have tickets for the Coliseum on Thursday, so just walked around the area and ate lunch from a street vendor. We walked all aound the outside of the Form/Ancient Rome and could see many of the excavated ruins. We picked up the tour again for a short hop to the Campidoglio where we admired a different view of the ancient city ruins.

Another short hop took us to the area of the Parthenon/Basilica of Mary and the Martyrs -- what an astonishing place!! It's been there for nearly 2000 years and is still intact and very beautiful. It was taken over as a Christian place, but still is in its original state otherwise. From there we walked to the Piazza Novorna here we had coffee, beer and biscotti while we enjoyed the passing scene. Then we wandered through the artists' vending areas and enjoyed their displays.

After a fruitless attempt to find the bus stop to rejoin the tour, we walked across the bridge to the Castel Sant Angelo - an impressive place. Then barely missing the tour bus again, we wandered back to the hotel, picking up supper makings at a deli. A drink in the bar, little walk in our neighbourhood and we're done for the day. Whew!! Saw lots and really enjoyed Rome today. More Selected Rome Photos

Wednesday, October 1 - Rome, Italy

We slept a bit later this morning and found the breakfast room quite crowded. The cappuccino was still quite wonderful though. We caught our last ride on the hop-on-hop-off tour before our 24 hours pass expired, and went the Trevi Fountain to begin our day. We arrived there with no coins to throw over our shoulder but enjoyed the early light on the fountain, and then set off for the Spanish Steps. We had difficulty getting the streets to match our maps so joined forces with another North American couple and found it fairly easily. We climbed the steps, enjoyed the view and then toured the Trinita dei Monti church at the top.

We strolled along the upper road to the gardens overlooking the Piazza del Popolo. On the way down to the piazza we discovered an exhibition of Leonardo Da Vinci’s works – primarily his inventions modeled with his original drawings.

We couldn’t get into the Santa Maria del Popolo church, so strolled on to the Mausoleum of Augustus (circa 28 BC). There’s a lot of excavation around it and we couldn’t get too close, but it’s certainly impressive.

Across the Cavour Bridge we hoped to find a café for lunch, but no luck. Too much construction. Eventually we made our way to Castel Sant’Angelo where we lunched on street food. We climbed to the top terrace of the Castel, to take in the astonishing views of Rome from that vantage point. By the time we came down again we were ready for a rest, so made our way back to the hotel.

We’ve walked a lot here, and so have interesting street-level impressions of the city – the amazing smell of good espresso on nearly every corner — the insane traffic and proliferation of scooters and small cars ( “Smart Cars” are the norm here ) – archaeological excavations everywhere and amazing antiquities - many men in clerical collars and women in habits everywhere.

Today we saw a nun with a sun visor over her veil. Mostly friendly, helpful people with patience for non-Italian-speakers - marble cobblestones – women in crazy high-heeled shoes and boots. How do their ankles survive? – everyone eating gelato – How do their waistlines survive ?

After our afternoon break we walked to the closest piazza and had a gelato ( before dinner ! ), then sat at the outdoor area of the hotel’s café. We got chatting with an interesting couple, named Marian and Harry, from Glasgow. They’re off to San Giovanni tomorrow and we’re looking forward to hearing how their experience there goes.

Now we must pack so we can make a graceful exit out of here early tomorrow. We’ll have to beg to store our luggage here until 2 when our transport to the ship at Civitavecchia arrives. We are off to the ruins of the Colleseum and Ancient Rome in the morning. Selected Rome Photos

Thursday, Octotober 2 - Rome, Italy

A bright & early start, packing up, breakfast at the hotel and off to the Metro to findo our way to the Colosseum - easy and pleasant. The Rome subway is modern, clean and smooth. The Colosseam is very interesting - it has stood for nearly 2000 years in spite of fires and being looted for building materials. A major restoraton is underway. We wandered then went into the major mid-city Palatine ares of ruins. It is vast, and once away from the edges, quiet and peaceful. There are tall trees and shady areas. A lovely museum of recovered artefacts - statues, mosaic floors, and wall sections, etc, from several different areas. We enjoyed wandering among the half and fully ruined walls and buildings.
Steps of many kinds and paths. Around lunch time we made our way back to the metro and to the hotel.
That's when the fun began. The concierge conveyed a message from the shuttle company that there was a rumour in the Port that our ship, the Braemar, had been diverted to Salermo, the Port of Naples. So we called the ship - busy signal repeatedly for 15 minutes - tried Fred Olsen offices in London and our call was put on hold and eventual dropped.
Finally we decided to simply go to the port as scheduled. When we arrived, a Fred Olsen rep. met us with the news that the ship was actually in Palermo, Sicily and we'd be joining it there. With 2 other couples we were driven to the Rome airport, handed tickets by another rep. and proceeded to check in.

Then it got interesting again - we had not packed for domestic flights with very limited luggage allowances, and instead of simply paying for the overage, the rep insisted we repack, right there in front of the line! Embarrassing to say the least, and since didn't really didn't understand the object of the exercise, somewhat futile. In any case we finally satisfied the agent. Then we were told to run! because the flight was boarding in 5 minutes. Security, fortunately was a breeze, and we got to the boarding area in plenty of time to join the line and board. In Palermo we were once again met by cruise line reps who showed us to our buses. There were people coming in on several flights, including those who had had to make their own way to Palermo from places like Barcelona, Spain.
So we waited onboard the bus for about 45 minutes, then a 50 minutes drive brought us to the ship, arriving about 8 PM. Check-in was quick and we found our cabin easily. We are most favourably impress with the accomodations - lots of space, closets, drawer, comfortable chairs, TV, fridge, etc. Finally around 10 we went for dinner as the last few passengers were arriving from the airport. It was delicious and the service was terrific. This is a lovely ship. We'll explore it more thoroughly tomorrow, though it will not be a day of cruising as planned but back to Italy mainland, Reggio di Calibrio, for the ship to replenish while we wander around town. Selected Rome Photos

Friday, October 3; Reggio di Calabria, Italy

Nice chat over breakfast with 4 stranger, then a bit of time to explore the ship before the safety drill. By late morning the ship was cleared (customs) and we went ashore at Reggio di Calabria 'on the big toe of Italy' as Larry says. It's not a very exciting place and the ship only stopped for provissions, but Larry got a couple of shirts which he needed and we had a nice stroll on the promenade which is beautiful. Lunch and more ship exploration followed by an illustrated talk on some of our ports of call coming up.

We had a cocktail reception with the First Officer (while the Captain got the ship out of port) followed by a formal dinner with everyone in formal wear. We met our table partners for the cruise. Very nice. Larry was greatly entertained by the 87-year-old Queen E lookalike beside him. We enjoyed a lively show in one of the lounges before setting our clocks ahead an hour and going to bed. ( Mac! now we are 7 hours ahead of you guys ).
3 Photos of Reggio di Calabria

Saturday, October 4; Katakalon, Greece

We slept in a bit this morning, so had to hustle to have breakfast before Larry went to a shore talk and Jan to line dancing followed by a quiz session. Didn't entirely disgrace myself in spite of the very British bias of the quiz. Then a quick lunch and off to Olympia. This site, the original start of the Olympics in about 275BC, is entirely ruins with the exception of the stadium. Three thousand years ago there were no seats for spectators, just gassy slopes and those are intact. We saw where the torch is lit for every modern Olympic games and learned that the ancient 'games' were very different and part of a 3-month truce from continual waring every 4 years. The museum holds stunning artefacts from the site. Then are largely preserved because it was inundated and covered in mud for more than 10 centuries. The port town of Katakalon is small but colourful and we enjoyed the beautiful view of its harbour from the ship. While we were at dinner the sun set most spectacularly. We enjoyed a spectacular 'Vegas-style' performance of music from the movies and then another quiz session before bed.

We enjoy seeing how the staff set up our bedding twice a day. My night gown is always laid out in some fancy way ( wish I'd brought classier lingeries!! ) and the pillows, duvet, bed spread etc arranged artfully.
Selected photos of Katakalon & Olympia
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