Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Port of Call: Piraeus (Day 5)

We entered the port of Piraeus with clear blue skies and pleasant weather welcoming us. Piraeus is one of the largest ports of the Mediterranean and one of the busiest in the world. 21 million passengers, 26,000 ships, 6 million tons of general cargo and 1.4 million of containers pass through each year. It is certainly one of the crucial points of the Greek capital.
Piraeus roughly means "the place over the passage". It is approximately 45 - 60 minutes ride to Athens. The train station is about 15-20 minutes walk from the port.
And so we disembarked and started walking to the train station. We looked back and saw that there were tour buses waiting for those who signed up for organized/guided tour. But there were a lot of people like us who wanted to visit Athens on their own.
It was indeed a lovely day. It was a pleasant day to walk; I wouldn't have minded just walking around this city. At the far end of this road, there were a lot of taxis waiting for cruisers. While we always wanted to take the train and we had done our homework and how to do Athens on our own via the train, husband out of blue asked one of the drivers how much to Athens. The driver quoted something that was a bit high. Hubs countered with a more manageable number and the driver surprisingly agreed! See it never hurt to ask, right?
Even though the price quoted was manageable, we asked the couple nearest us if they wanted to share a cab, just because. My husband is Mr. Congeniality, did I forget to mention that? So it was easy for him to approach total strangers and strike up a conversation. Here though, he approached the right couple who agreed to the price. Imagine splitting the price four ways? That was better than taking the train, seriously.

And because the couple are also on the same cruise with us, we chatted throughout the drive. And can you believe that me Ms. Drive By Shooting could only manage to shoot this one the entire length of the drive? Of course the driver took to the highway and there wasn't anything to photograph out there.
Thankfully my husband captured this adorable architecture (church?) when the cab entered Athens.

I had arrived in Athens and pretty soon would be walking the same road as the Greek gods and goddesses :D

Monday, March 29, 2010

Room Service, anyone?

As Day 4 was winding down, I was feeling more lethargic than relaxed. The sea breeze had picked up and was much cooler. I may have caught a chill or something. Sitting to dinner with a roomful of other diners did not appeal to me at all. Thankfully, husband wasn't feeling up to dining out either so we called for room service.
The salad looked wimpy, or must be due to the subdued lighting in our cabin. But don't be fooled by the blah image, it was very good starter. The leaves look very soaked, but I didn't think there was too much dressing there.
I have sworn not to eat any more lobster. I was successful for five years, until that day when I chose lobster and halibut for my entree. The sauce had just the right amount of richness to it, even though it looks rich on the photo. The halibut was outstanding. The lobster? I haven't had a lobster that blew me out of the park. Where can I get a good lobster??????
Hubs chose duck confit for his main dish. It was outstanding. I've never had any duck meal that I didn't like :D
The creme brulee was as expected good, although I don't eat too much of it.
My dessert of choice is this cappuccino mouse. Just delicious.

I hoped that this meal would be substantial enough for the day we are going to have tomorrow.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Day 4: Second Sea Day

Following a full day of Rome, this sea day on the 4th day of the cruise was somewhat welcome. I needed a sea day to rejuvenate after a whirlwind day of touring the Eternal City. We awoke late as we are wont to do on sea days and grabbed a little eats while we sat comfortably inside watching the sea from the glass window of the buffet restaurant. I was surprised we were cruising so close to land. We were told during embarkation that during the entire cruise we will only be 2 hours away both ways to land so there really is no danger (according to them). But still this was the first time that I saw land close enough to shoot.
The reason we were on the buffet restaurant that early in the day was that we anticipated seeing a glimpse of Mt. Etna. It was advertised that this sea day we would be cruising close enough where we could see Mt. Etna on a clear day. And this is what we captured through the glass window.
On sea days, there is so much things to do on board. This is the deck that people take for walking or jogging. This is also where the board games (chess and checkers) are located. Aside from DIY activities, there are various activities that one can join in. There are game show/quiz/talent, etc. The library is open and you can even get wifi signal from there. The bball court is open as well as the pingpong table. There is spa and gym and bingo and casino.
We chose to sit on the lounge on deck 7 with a book and listen to the music that's drifting from the pool area where there was a bbq and live music going all afternoon. Then husband felt some hunger pangs. He asked if he could fix me a plate. I said I wasn't hungry (shocker!), but I could use a drink. So he left me on the chair reading a book and fetch him some eats and me some drinks. And we chose to nibble and sip the rest of the day away. After all, tomorrow is a big day ---- ATHENS.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Time To Head Back To The Ship

Who would go to Rome and not buy rosaries or other religious souvenirs? Well, us, that's who. My mother who is the one I buy gifts (pasalubongs) specifically requested us not to get anything at all. She has been getting rosaries from Rome from people we know who go to visit Rome and she said she has enough. Imagine that! But we looked anyway.
We allotted time for more shopping. This time for friends and co-workers. You think friends would like a Caesar bust or a Roman soldier's headdress?
Then my friend asked what else do we want to do? My husband wanted to see the Spanish Steps. Just our luck it happens to be a little walk away, we don't even need to take a bus. The steps have been featured in travel mags as this glossy, clean, and sparkly set of steps. What I saw was a bare, naked, simple steps filled with people. It looked dirty. I think my friend sensed our disappointment. She said during the Christmas season (which was a few weeks away), they hang decorative flowering plants along the side and make the steps really pretty with lights too.
Things we checked off our list while in Rome: eating Gelato, pizza, octopus salad, spaghetti (did not remember to take pics of the last three)
and enjoyed a cup of cappuccino.

We asked to be taken back to Termini to catch our train to Civitavecchia. We arrived early - was afraid to miss the train, it's the only one that's going back today. We kept checking the screen for the schedule of our train, after the cappuccino, it was posted so we got to our feet and walked the length of the station. I said goodbye and extracted a promise from her that she will come and visit me in California next year - which is this year. I hope that happens because I can't wait to show off my neck of the woods too.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Three Coins In The Fountain

My friend asked where else I wanted to go. Since we already decided to skip Sistine Chapel, hubs and I said Trevi Fountain.
We took the bus. My friend was ready with bus passes for both of us. It was a short ride. I loved that we alighted two blocks before our stop - I was able to walk the streets of Rome.
When we reached Trevi Fountain, it was packed. Impossible to get a good shot - full length shot. And the shadows crept in early too. Regardless of the blah photos we took, I console myself with seeing the fountain in person as opposed to taking a very good photograph. I did toss a coin or two in the fountain, hoping that Rome will call me back to her bosom some day.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

More Interior Shots






I am getting dizzy flipping from one album to another (we took 3 cameras) organizing shots. It's been 4 months and I haven't organized my Mediterranean Cruise photos. Somewhere I remember a Pieta image, but I cannot find it now.

We spent enough time taking photos. However, we didn't have any left for Sistine Chapel - which really leaves me heartbroken. But I knew that there are some sights that will be missed, I just didn't realize it's going to be the Sistine Chapel.

Hubs and I planned to hop on another tour bus to complete the route, but my friend wouldn't let us. She managed to get a yes from us to let them take us to where ever else we wanted to go and take us back to Termini to catch our train back to Civitavecchia.

So for now, bye bye Vatican. Thank you for the memories.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Pictorial Tour

The central nave looking at the altar - impossible to take photos without people.
Located at the crossing and directly under the dome is this large Baroque sculpted bronze canopy known as Bernini's baldacchino. The designer of this canopy (italian: baldacchino) is Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
I saw a quiet spot where the marble is magnificent and the people are nowhere in sight or my line of vision.
The interiors leave you feeling overwhelmed with sensory assault, but you would not want that attack on your senses to stop. I wish I had time to spend gawking and enjoying every square inch of this magnificent basilica.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Let's Go In

We walked around the square and managed to snap some shots, but eventually it was time to go. My friend asked me what I wanted to see. St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel I said. Since we were closer to the the basilica,we decided to do the basilica first. I spotted this lovely columns and the lamps. Been contemplating on doing a series on lamps/lamp posts later.
We passed by a fountain, which if it wasn't for this photograph I wouldn't know we passed by it. I was too engrossed in our conversation that I believe it was gut instinct on my hands to point and shoot. Needless to say, this was a point and shoot image, no thought behind the photograph at all.

Climbing up the stairs we were told to go the other way because we were on the wrong line or something. I am not a good resource on this trip my dear friends. I am not worried as I know many of you have been here many times and you know what I failed to mention and you'd tell me in your comments, right?


We spotted the Swiss Guards and I stopped to photograph.


Now the it's time to see St. Peter's Basilica. I jokingly told my friend that I came here to specifically ask for a special "blessing".





Monday, March 08, 2010

Finally

St. Peter's Basilica

Finally, the bus stopped in Vatican City. From my perched at the upper deck of the bus, I could easily see my girl friend's head. I have never been this excited to see any of my friends before. I don't why I was this time around. I almost flew out the of the bus, but stopped long enough to tell the lovely Victoria Canada couple that we'll catch them on the boat tonight. They were on the same tour bus with us.

Obelisk
My friend and I hugged, then introductions were made with the husband/significant other. I was happy, very happy to see her. We grew up in the same small town in Central Luzon. Our houses were 1.5 blocks apart. And so the chatfest commenced.

St. Peter's Square
You could just imagine how sightseeing wasn't my priority here. I have not seen my friend in a loong time. So when she volunteered to show me Vatican I said yes right away. Of course that meant I wouldn't be able to cover the place with much focus, but that was a small price to pay for a chance to be with a very dear friend, who also happens to trust me enough to make me her son's godmother.


What I didn't know because for two days prior to my arrival in Rome I was unplugged was that she had arranged for our other friends to call when I get in so I/we could all chat over the phone. I'm sure we made a weird picture to everybody, two women yelling on the phone in foreign tongues on the streets of Rome. I love my friends but I was a bit pissed when one of my male classmates/friends kept asking, "Come on guess who this is?" over and over. When I kept replying I don't know, I don't know. I can't recognize your voice. He would say over and over again, I'm the cutest boy in class :D Apparently, I didn't find that funny at all :D So I asked my friend who is the cutest boy in class. She didn't find it funny either :D

Just kidding, we still have our sense of humor even though we aren't 16 anymore. Friends are just so precious and I have to thank Facebook for this meet up.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

And The Bus Rolls On

We passed by this structure that I couldn't identify because I wasn't listening on the audio you see :)
And into another structure that's imposing and caught my attention, and google wasn't any help at all in identifying it. Maybe you can help.
Then we crossed the Tiber River and saw the Bridge of Angels that leads to....
Castel Sant'Angelo or Mausoleum of Hadrian. Next stop - Vatican.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Colosseum

Did you know that the Colosseum was designed to hold 50,000 spectators and it had approximately 80 entrances so crowds could arrive and leave easily? Now that's pretty clever.
Did you know that the facade of 3 tiers of arches and an attic story is about 48.5 m (158 ft) tall - roughly equivalent to a 12-15 story building?
Did you know it's not in my "must stop" list? I know, I know. It's one of those decisions that must be made. In a short time frame to visit a place, one has to hit the spots. First one must identify the spots. In my case, I had one - Vatican - where I planned to see St. Peter's Basilica and of course where I will meet my high school girl friend. I was very excited to be in Rome because of her. We haven't seen each other in ages.

Stay tuned.