Greek Isles Cruise continued – Santorini

Greek Isles Cruise continued – Santorini

The first full day was a sea day – just water all around. Well, we did go through the Straight of Messina (the small bit of water between the toe of Italy’s boot and Sicily) – but I have better pictures on the return trip.

Then it was Santorini day!! The morning was a sea day, and we had a late departure. It was a tender port – meaning we were not at a dock but anchored off shore and shuttled to shore in small local boats. Because people not on ship-based excursions want to get off ASAP, they do tickets for tender boats for the first 2 hours – after that no tickets needed, it’s just first come, first served. My experience with tender tickets for Kotor was a clusterfuck, so while I had an excursion and as such did not need a tender ticket, I headed up to the pool deck to see how it went this time.
[​IMG]

It was amazingly organized! I was a little worried about the clump at the front, but it turned out they had ropes up with some switchbacks so it was organized in spite of looking like a clump.

Soon, we were able to start seeing land. This is looking back (and zoomed in) on Oia (pronounced EE-ah)…
[​IMG]

And here we are, anchored off Thira (aka Fira)…
[​IMG]

I went to the meeting point for my excursion, we headed to our tender boat, and we were off!
[​IMG]

This was the boat – a kaiki – that we took to get to Nea Kameni, the volcanic island in the middle of the caldera. (When she had a massive eruption between 1642 and 1540 BCE, it created the caldera, destroyed the city of Akrotiri, the island that is now Santorini, and the coast of Crete…and is thought by some to be what destroyed and lost forever the mythic city of Atlantis.)
[​IMG]

After some discussion (loud discussion) between the captain and our guide (apparently there were more people than originally scheduled and that required a different permit?) we were allowed to board and we were off.
[​IMG]

The captain was pretty much exactly my image of a Greek sea captain…
[​IMG]

We pulled up to Nea Kameni…right next to another boat that was docked. A line was fed through that boat’s rails to tie up, and we walked across that boat to land.
[​IMG]
[​IMG]

Apparently that’s how it’s done in Greece.

After getting a map, a return time of 3:30, and some instructions…
[​IMG]

…we were set free to hike the trails at our own pace.

[​IMG]

[​IMG]

[​IMG]

[​IMG]

[​IMG]

[​IMG]

[​IMG]

[​IMG]
She is not extinct – indeed there is monitoring equipment all over the island. Her last eruption was in 1950, and there is some thought that she is due for another big eruption in the possibly not-so-distant future. There are sulfur vents around, and this was one of them. You smelled it before you saw it.

[​IMG]

[​IMG]

My (very bad) attempt at imitating Diana’s stance on the cliff just before diving off in Wonder Woman…
[​IMG]

[​IMG]

I really wish I had gone back down a small but steep hill to get the other angle on this equipment, because from behind, it looked just like Wall-E…
[​IMG]

[​IMG]

I finished hiking on Nea Kameni, and headed back to our boat – again, climbing over another boat to get there.

After a very hot and sweaty change into my bathing suit in the small and not ventilated bathroom on the ship, I treated myself to some diet Coke.
[​IMG]

We headed to the hot springs. The brown water is not silty but made that shade from the sulfur jets which heat it.
[​IMG]

We all jumped in and swam to the springs. I liked it better in the cooler water though…
[​IMG]

After getting changed again, I treated myself to a Malibu and diet.
[​IMG]

After getting back to Santorini, we got passes for the cable car up and back, so I headed up to Thira…
[​IMG]

The view was amazing!
[​IMG]

Donkeys are an option to go up, but many people don’t like it because of the treatment of them.
[​IMG]

The streets are super narrow…
[​IMG]

I bought some souvenirs from this shop…
[​IMG]

The line to the cable car was RIDICULOUS and not super organized, so I decided to walk down the 587 stairs.
[​IMG]

[​IMG]

[​IMG]

After finally getting some food and hydration in me (“open seating” on the ship meant that I did not have my regular serving team, and it took the team I had forever to locate my pre-order (being gluten-free, I pre-ordered my dinners each night) in spite of me giving them all the information they could possibly need – lesson learned: if I am ever on a RCCL ship again and there is open seating, I will just go to the buffet that night), I watched the sunset. Santorini sunsets are about as famous as Key West sunsets.
[​IMG]

It was a great day!!

Advertisements
The ship – Jewel of the Seas

The ship – Jewel of the Seas

So here’s a little about the ship we were on. Jewel of the Seas is in the Radiance Class of ships for Royal Caribbean. I like this size – you feel like you’re on a ship and not a floating apartment block. It doesn’t have a ton of bells and whistles, and that is just fine with me.

There were a few things here and there – food and eating gluten-free was not quite up to my experience on Brilliance two years ago, but I didn’t starve; the entertainment was not great other than Tango Buenos Aires (which I had seen on Brilliance). But our stateroom host was good and our service team in the main dining room was generally good – our assistant server was AMAZING and we both encouraged him to reapply to Disney (he had before, but they told him he needed more experience – he is ready now and will be amazing if he applies and gets hired!!)!

Some pics…

The Ship – Jewel of the Seas…
[​IMG]

We entered on Deck 2, right at the entrance to the “I-95” crew hallway.
[​IMG]

Then it was up to the Windjammer (their buffet) for lunch. And the first of many curries I could have had through the week…
[​IMG]

We went to the spa and did the tour and entered the raffle – which I later won. Again. I won the grand prize 2 years ago on Brilliance, and when they drew this time and said “Deck 9! Elizabeth S!” my reaction was “You have GOT to be kidding me…” I never have that kind of luck anywhere else. I did a facial that night (my first ever) and it was nice, but…I really hate the sales pitch at the end of on-ship spa treatments.

Our muster station was in the theatre, so that was nice – inside, sitting, and air conditioned!!
[​IMG]

I somehow failed to take any pictures of our cabin (bad, bad Beth!!!), but here are the aft and forward views from the balcony!
[​IMG]

[​IMG]

I don’t usually go with a balcony because I’d usually rather be out and about, but it was a nice splurge for this trip.

The adult pool area is called the Solarium, and it has a retractable roof. This was the first time I had ever seen it open – which it was pretty much every day.
[​IMG]

The pool was busy for Sail Away, and it was pretty busy every sea day. It was also VERY busy when the World Cup matches were on – especially when Brazil was playing as there was an all-ages Brazilian tour group as well as…you guessed it…a group of 15s. The girls were amazingly well-behaved and quiet (other than match time) compared to their WDW-going counterparts. And they were all very subdued the day after Brazil was eliminated.
[​IMG]

I did love these officers on the stairs dancing at the Sail Away party…
[​IMG]

This is looking down into the Centrum from Deck 13…
[​IMG]

There is a rock climbing wall that has hours. I do not know if there is a fee or not, but I know you have to sign a release (parents sign for under 18s)…
[​IMG]

Our first day was a sea day, and I went to an “Art History in 30 minutes” seminar (mainly for the free mimosa). I did take a picture of this slide. Impress your friends at trivia with Picasso’s full name…
[​IMG]

The main dining room has 2 levels with the top being My Time Dining (make reservations for any time the MDR is open – or don’t and take your chances as to how long you’ll have to wait) and the lower being 2 seatings of traditional dining.
[​IMG]

[​IMG]

Here is the closest I have to a picture of the cabin…
[​IMG]
Our towel animal that night was a ray without a tail, and I had just finished the chapter in Circe where she visits Trygon, the great ray of the seas, to ask for his tail for a spear for her son Telegonus (which ultimately killed Odysseus). I was reading the book (which I LOVED) on my nook, so our stateroom host had no way of knowing that. One of those weird coincidences. And yes, Stitch came along on the trip.

Rome!

Rome!

So June 28 I headed to JFK – VERY early because I was trying to make the run to the subway between bouts of rain which were only supposed to increase as the day went on. I knew I couldn’t swing Business Class this trip (I spoiled myself rotten when I flew to Barcelona 2 years ago), but I couldn’t really stomach the thought of doing regular Economy. So I compromised on American’s Premium Economy! It was nice!

One interesting note – I am gluten-free due to a wheat allergy. I’d called to note it on my reservation. I am technically not allergic to fish, but I don’t eat it as it has made me gag ever since I choked on a bone when I was in elementary school. It never occurred to me to add “No fish” to my food request on a plane. Who would think they’d serve something that smells that strongly on an enclosed thing like a plane, right?

The flight attendant puts my food in front of me and I smelled it immediately. Fish. And not just fish, but fish on RAVIOLI! For the gluten-free meal! No notation that it was gluten-free pasta. Big time fail, American! I was going to just eat the salad and rice cakes, but the flight attendant checked and was able to get me the beef and vegetables dish they had in Business Class so I had food to eat because she was not comfortable with me having ravioli on a “gluten-free” meal. (Incidentally, on the flight back to NYC the snack was a salad with COLD FISH on it. So note made – when I call American to request gluten-free meals in the future, add on no fish to that request!)

Other than that, the flight was good. Soon I was landing in Rome!! I found my way to the Leonardo Express to Termini Station and headed off.

C had gotten in the day before and was able to get the same room for her one night and our two nights, which was awesome! It meant I had a room to shower the travel grime off in before heading out to explore!

We stayed at the Hotel Liroco, which is walking distance (though a bit confusing) from Termini Station. One thing about Rome (and many European cities I’ve visited) is that they don’t “believe in” street signs. There MIGHT be a marble slab in a building indicating the road, but not always. It can make trying to navigate without using GPS or a mapping thing on the phone (didn’t want to run up my bill using data once I figured out how to actually use the international service) a challenge.

You have to walk up stairs to get to reception at the hotel. If you need help with luggage, I think there is a bell to ring and they will help you.
[​IMG]

The elevator is TINY, so if there is more than one of you or with a lot of luggage it may take multiple trips.

Our room was small (as most in Europe are), but functional. Sadly, the only picture I have is with one bed unmade and my stuff all over the other one as I’d just gotten in and was unpacking, but it gives you an idea of the room…
[​IMG]

It had a great view of the piazza in front of the opera house though!
[​IMG]

The arched door next to the gold signage said “Disney Hut” – but there was nothing Disney in there. We looked (we are both Disney people). We also laughed that the street on the other side of our hotel was Via Napoli.

The first day, we walked around to see some things like…
[​IMG]
The Spanish Steps

[​IMG]
The Trevi Fountain! I was very happy there was actually water in it! Two years ago, they were cleaning it on my port day in Rome (not the big closure…this was just a cleaning). I threw my three coins in…

[​IMG]

We went to this place I’d discovered before to eat…
[​IMG]

Yes – that’s right! The ENTIRE MENU is recreated gluten-free!!! It is AMAZING!!!

More wandering after food, and we came upon
[​IMG]
The Vittorio Emanuele monument.

And…
[​IMG]
The Colosseum. We only walked outside today as we had a tour the next day.

My second day started with a tour of the Circus Maximus…
[​IMG]

[​IMG]

And the Domus Aurea – Nero’s palace, which has been buried and built upon and is now being excavated. A friend from church told me about it, but warned me that they only do tours a couple of days a week. Saturday happened to be one of them, and I managed to snag a ticket! It was super cool!
[​IMG]

[​IMG]

[​IMG]
This room was cool as we sat on the boxes and put on Occulus virtual reality goggles (is that what you call them) and through VR experienced what the palace might have looked like back in its glory.

[​IMG]

[​IMG]

[​IMG]
This is a model of how they plan to recreate the park above it so that future damage to the structure does not occur. (There is a pine tree whose roots are ruining some of the frescoes now). It is an active archaeological site and only open a couple of days a week for tours. We had to wear hard hats, and the information with the ticket said to be prepared for much cooler temperatures.

It was a very cool experience. Figuratively and literally.

C and I met up for a tour of the Colosseum and Roman Forum…
[​IMG]

[​IMG]
Steep stairs

[​IMG]

[​IMG]

[​IMG]

[​IMG]

[​IMG]

It was a good couple of days prior to the cruise!

Let’s take a trip!

Let’s take a trip!

About a year and a half ago, I decided to look at some different travel options for a big summer trip. In 2016 I’d done a 12-night Mediterranean/Venice cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas and had a good time. I made a list of places I want to go some day (it’s long, trust me) and started looking at options. Cruising is high on my list of favorite vacations – I love being able to unpack once and see multiple places

Greece was high on my list. I’ve always been fascinated by Greece – probably in part due to having grown up (until age 8) in Nashville where there is the only full-sized replica of the Parthenon – and a cruise seemed like a good way to see several different places.

But most of the cruises included Turkey (not on my list of places to go) or Montenegro (ok, but I’ve been there) or some other European stops. Then I found it!

A 7-night cruise that departed and returned from Rome and sailed ONLY to Greece – Santorini, Mykonos, Piraeus (Athens), and Katakolon (Olympia) to be specific. On Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas (a sister of the Radiance and Brilliance which I have been on and enjoyed)!

I wasn’t using Jacki or Mousefan Travel yet (I know, what took me so long???), but I found a good deal – no downpayment up front, Hilton Hhonors points, decent price – through Hilton Hhonors Cruises, so I called and booked it!

Dates were set! And if you know me and travel, that is about ALL that gets set is the dates! I was going to be solo, but that’s ok. That’s my usual travel style!

Then Wonder Woman came out, and I was even more excited! And then at some point my friend C said (after seeing it) that she was super jealous of me going – so I said I could check and see what the possibility of adding her would be. A few emails later, and she was signed on too!

I found us a hotel in Rome – no changes this time since someone else was involved – and we began planning! It seemed like July 1, 2018 (embarkation day) would never come!!

Yes, yes. It’s been too long!

Yes, yes. It’s been too long!

I re-started this blog with the best of intentions to write more regularly.

And now here I am – school is out, I’ve traveled to Rome and Greece, I’ve spent two weeks doing my civic duty on Grand Jury, and I’ve driven my travel agent (Jacki with MEI-MouseFan Travel) batty with all my changes to my upcoming quick trip to Disney… And no updates.

I’m sitting here, less than a month from school starting back up (21 days, 13 hours, 51 minutes as of this typing per my ReminderPro app) and wondering where the summer has gone! And where to start back up with this!

I guess the best thing to do will just be to jump in. I’ll try to start with a post (or maybe a few – because that could be a super long post) about my big trip this summer – not here. In its own post.

Talk soon!

starting over

starting over

It’s been a while.

A few years, actually.

So it’s time to start over. Kinda.

I pondered deleting the old entries, but decided against it. They are my thoughts then – and while I’ve not read back over them, I’m sure much still applies to some degree. So they will stay.

But I will start anew.

I’ve learned things since I last posted. Things about the world – some of which I wish I hadn’t learned. Things about myself. Some things have changed radically, others have come full circle.

I’ll address some of these in later entries. Promise!

For now, I’ll start with my title… Why those three characters? Like Belle, I want adventure in the great, wide somewhere. Like Hermione, I love my books and learning. Like Mulan, I’ve become a semi-reluctant martial artist.

Perhaps a strange trio to some minds, but there you have it. Some Disney, some Harry Potter. Some introversion, some action. Lots of questions. All heart.

And all a little me.

For past readers, welcome back. For new readers, welcome!

Let my Gluten/Wheat-Free life begin!

Let my Gluten/Wheat-Free life begin!

Or at least my Gluten/Wheat-Free life for a couple of weeks while I experiment with going GF/WF to see if perhaps that allergy test was right.

Ok, let me back up since I realize I never blogged about the whole start of this thing. Last August, when I was at the beach with my parents, I noticed I was a little wheezier than usual – something I attributed to the nasty air filter that hadn’t been changed in a while. I also noticed that my chin was burny and itchy a lot of the time, especially after eating, and that it was kind of broken out. I figured that might have been some weird sunscreen reaction and new face cleaner seemed to clear it right up. I didn’t really think anything else about it.

Until I got home, went for a run one morning, came home and made my peanut butter banana smoothie that I usually drank. Within about 15 minutes of drinking it, I noticed that I was getting wheezy and my chin was doing the burny-itchy thing again. The only common denominator in what I’d eaten then and at the beach that I hadn’t had between the beach and that moment was…PEANUT BUTTER. Googled allergic reactions to peanuts and bingo…it seemed to fit.

So I got an appointment with an allergist and immediately cut peanut products out of my diet. The allergy test didn’t show a reaction to peanuts, but my doctor said that they didn’t always pick up allergies, but given my reaction, avoidance was best. The tests DID show a wheat allergy. Which I didn’t buy into. I’ve eaten stuff with wheat in it my whole life and never had a problem. My doc said if I wasn’t having reactions, it could be a false positive so not to worry about it. (Other things that showed up were milk and eggs…ditto in that they haven’t shown any issues.) There of course was the possibility that I truly AM allergic, but the reactions have been so mild I’m just used to it as “part of life”.

Life was continuing on as normal. I’ve read stuff about GF diets, but most of them said that unless you’re celiac or allergic to wheat you probably wouldn’t get any benefits from it. Still, for some reason this weekend, I started wondering about doing a GF/WF experiment just to see. I decided to clean out the stuff I’ve got with wheat, and then replace it with GF/WF stuff just to see how I reacted. Starting yesterday.

Well, breakfast was a Luna protein bar before my run – that’s gluten free anyway, but I eat them because I like them. Breakfast was rounded out with grapefruit juice, water, and coffee. Totally GF/WF. Then lunch began the clean out: Trader Joe’s chicken drumettes (which are breaded), and Trader Joe’s Mac & Cheese (uh, DUH). Veggies and dressing also – all GF just by nature. Well…

Yep. Within 15-20 minutes I started getting wheezy. And guess what one of the wheat allergy symptoms is (when not celiac, which I’m not as I don’t have the intestinal issues)? Wheezing.

Thankfully Trader Joe’s has a great return policy. So this morning I loaded up the whole wheat pasta, the cereal, and the meatballs (with bread crumbs and therefore not GF) and took them back to return them and get GF foods. Mission accomplished. One thing I’m noticing is that I think this will help me eat better period as while it’s not impossible, it’s a lot harder to find GF/WF junk.

So the GF/WF experiment begins today. I’m going to be a lot more conscious of my wheezing and stuff to see if my theory (and the allergy test) is correct. Also note how I feel. Yay!