Monday, July 26, 2010

Well hello again. So since we last signed off, we have visited many a place. After Guernsey our next port was Le Havre, our gateway to Paris. The day started early and the drive long, but seeing the Eiffel tour and the Parisian skyline made it all worth it. Our guide Monique was lovely but not quite as lovely as our driver MoMo (So we had Momo the driver, Meme aka me , Emily, and MooMoo my affectionate name for Monique aka mum ) It was indeed funny having two Moniques!. Our time in Paris was limited so we made sure we saw as much as we could. Our first stop , L'arc de Triumpth, then we did a city tour on the coach seeing some of the splendid architecture that Paris is famous for. We stopped for lunch by the Notre Dame cathedral, you may of heard of it. Despite the heat, we all enjoyed a cruise along the Seine before we made it back to Le HAVRE . Our second day in Le Havre had us visiting the Normanday beaches. An emotionally day as we visited a cemetery where some kiwis were buried, the silver fern standing proud against the white gravestones.

Our next port was the Dutch town of Vlissingen /Flushing. Not too mcuh to see but lots of shopping.

Belguim was our next stop. We visited the beautiful city of Brussels with its spectacular square . Here we stopped for lunch, for the Wilsons it was a waffle each, Ewan was beyond devastated when his last mouthful fell to the ground. Monique kindly suggested that the 3 second rule applied... the waffle was good but not that good to be pick up off the street.

Brugge was lovely and we all enjoyed a canal ride .

Next port was the beyond depressing town of Tilbury! Luckily the town across the river was much more lively, and had a but more history to it. Pocahontus was buried here.

So then onto the big bustling city of London. That afternoon the group was free to explore. Some choose the Hop on Hop off bus. This would have been wonderful had it not been for the London traffic! Our second day in London , again everyone was free to explore.

Day three in London was day one of our 8 day 7 night tour of the Uk and Ireland. Day one we drove to Stratford upon avon to visit the house of Anne Hathaway and Shakespears birthplace . Our guide Gwen was lovely and the author of two delightful books explaining the origins of many phrases we use today.

From Stratford to Leeds . A quick tour of Leeds before visiting the Armoury museum and Harewood house. The drive from Leeds to Glasgow was long but the scenery lovely as we crossed over into Scotland. We made a lovely stop at Gretna Green to stretch our legs and refuel our bellys before continuing to Glasgow, which is where we are now. I am typing from bed , looking forward to tomorrow where we will visit Edinburgh.

Until next time , take care

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Enchanting France

Well here we are in Guernsey. It has been a wonderful journey so far! Our apologies for not posting anything sooner we have simply been having too much fun ( that and difficult Internet access )

Kuala Lumpur was humid and had the typical mid day down pour which luckily didn't dampen our spirits as we toured the city in the afternoon.Kuala Lumpur is really a modern city, with many amazing shopping malls, but really not as many bargains as you would think .

After a long flight we reached Amsterdam . A city that everyone fell in love with. It was great for Ewan and Monique to return to the Victoria hotel, as the staff recognised them!We were all warmly welcomed. To keep us all awake we visited the quaint villages of Volendam and Edam ( yes where the cheese comes from! )
We then had a lovely dinner at a favorite Turkish restaurant, the Ankara. Followed by the obligatory tour of the red light district.It is a worry that Ewan knows that area so well.
The following day we all enjoyed a canal cruise , which showed off some of the incredible architecture that the city has to offer. Then we boarded our home for the next 14 days the Prisindam. This is Ewan and Monique's favorite ship as it is a classic , small and intimate ship, while offering many facilities and activities.

Our first port was Lorient, Britany. Despite rain in the morning we all enjoyed the typical french market of Lamor Plage, many good bargains, with successful shopping.

Bordeaux was an amazing day. Our guide Sybill was wonderful! She brought the history of the area alive and of course we enjoyed the wines of Bordeaux and some typical French fare.

Off to Spain and the pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela. Amazing to see so many there who had actually participated in a pilgrimage to this sacred town.

Bilboa impressed us all and our guide Yolanda was wonderful. It is a city of contrast where the old meets creative new. It is a city that embraces the arts and the "Puppy" ( pronounced poopy by the locals ) was a highlight , as well as the amazing architecture of the Guggenheim.

Goes to show the importance of a great guide.

Yesterday was a day at sea and as Ross said a day of recuperation!The bay of Biscay was a bit rocky but not as bad as it is know for.

Today we are on the quaint island of Guernsey, in the town of St Peters Port.

Most of the boys have gone to the military museum and the lady's are no doubt enjoying the many sales!

Tomorrow , PARIS! Monique and myself are just a little bit excited!

We hope to be able to post again soon!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Windmills in Mykonos

our little windmill outside our hotel in Paros


what does one do on your day off... fishing off the back of the boat

egyptian tumbleweed plastic bags... Dennis at the pyramids

she has lead us into temptation... or a clever strategy from this Jordanian shopkeeper. It was a successful shopping spree, Janice got some lovely earrings, Angela a beautiful necklace as well as Monique

Friday, June 4, 2010

What else would you expect to see in Saudi Arabia


Oil Riggers of course

Oasis in the desert, cruising thru the Suez Canal


Just a peak, your heart starts to race as you catch a glimpse of the Treasury.

Colleen walking down the Siq to the city of Petra

Waiting for you


A beautiful and proud horse waiting to take someone into the Siq and the marvel of Petra

On the way to Petra...


Following the footpath of Moses...Aaron's Tomb is in the background

chanting Petra

Journey through time as young girls chant at the entrance to Petra. It was magic and enchanting
video

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Some of MY favourite memories

Some of my favourite memories

Rome was a beautiful day, our guide Simona was exceptional. She arranged for us to eat at her favourite restaurant. Of course typical Italian food- real Italian food! As our pizzas came out Robin looked at me and said, " I’ve never eaten pizza before”. I look at him in disbelief, how could he not have eaten pizza before! But yes, it was true. And so, his very first pizza ever was a true genuine Italian pizza. I’m pleased to say he enjoyed it.

Sri Lanka
Everyone on the bus in shock as we weaved through the traffic in Sri Lanka, buses coming straight towards us, motorcycles dashing between cars, trucks and buses. The buses racing between stops with people hanging off them. It was so scary it was funny

Tasting pineapple with chilli, umm it is good!

The elephant orphanage, seeing the elephants frolicking in the river. Then there was the amazing lunch and the vegetables that looked like green beans, but weren’t. Adrienne’s comment after eating one, “My mouth will be hot for a year!”

Ephesus
This is amazing, how did they ever build this? Seeing the boys’ gobsmacked in Ephesus.

This is not so funny, but poor Berwyn was so keen to visit the lace-making village in Cyprus and then fell asleep missing her tour. She was lucky and was able to catch another tour.

Adrienne, on the Greek Islands. Could she be more in heaven? The Greek Islands are heaven for our sun goddess.

Angela and her precious comments. I learnt so much…a lot I really can’t reveal. Thanks for the laughs Angela. Love your shopping style too.

That’s it. Adrienne and Emily are never allowed to go shopping together. Although they haven’t met in person yet, they are both magpies and if they were to shop together there would be no bobbles left.

The Greek ferries, what a mission. We couldn’t believe the lack of service and how they are so not geared for travellers with suitcases. Although we struggled with our bags the crossings to the different islands was incredibly beautiful.

Stockholm and looking around the Royal Palace with Janice, Yvonne and Anne, when Janice wanted to have a pick taken of herself in front of the Royal Chapel. As I took her camera and she got ready to have her picture taken, 2 Viking looking policemen came up to Janice and put their arms around her to be in the picture too. Her expression was priceless!

Simply can’t believe the calm seas we had all the way. The sunsets on the Indian Ocean.

Finally, “ I will never forget this”- Robin exclaimed as we sailed out of Stockholm.

Thank you all for letting us share your Journey of a lifetime… I hope we can explore some more of the world together in the future.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Some of our more memorable moments

Here are some of our more memorable moments that we would like to share:

Aqaba
Finally those with "partners" had the opportunity to have a "girls" night out. Men appear NOT to appreciate shops, in fact, they take the lead and march you down the street on the opposite side.
Five of us eventually had a chance to "SHOP". How wonderful!
For most of us, our interest was in jewellery- good stuff- bargaining and the opinions of others. Bonding of the sisterhood.
We tried to stay together but it was hard, some of us indecisive regarding choice. How did we stay together?
Our mainstay- Colleen, who was tired of shopping decided to have a break while the rest of us continues to flitter among the shops. Eventually, we wondered where Colleen had gotten to. We found her sitting on the side of the street chatting to a lovely Jordanian shopkeeper sipping a cup of tea he had offered her.
We all fell in love with his beautiful jewellery. He trusted Colleen so completely that he left his jewellery cabinets unlocked and wide opened in her care as we oohed at his collection. Perhaps it was a strategic rouse by this shopkeeper in the end. As we had fun and bought some wonderful "investment" pieces and certainly supported their economy.

From Angela


Funny Chaos

In Athens,took a cab to the Plaka, only to stop suddenly in the middle of the road among the traffic to be ushered into another cab to continue on my way- no explanation!

Real Delight

My idea of heaven...tasting real Turkish delight again!

Eating dinner at an outdoor restaurant by the sea at Paros. A lovely host and great company.

Anne Grant

From Auckland to Perth...
With 40 degrees heat to Singapore with its markets and Phuket's "James Bond Island" Wow is this really happening?
Onto Sri Lanka with its traffic and elephants, to Oman with its desert then it's Jordan-Petra, what an experience!
Through Pirate alley with a military escort into the Suez Canal, quite different.
Onto Egypt with the pyramids. am I really standing beside one?
Onto Cyprus with its quaint villages and lace makers. Then onto Malta with its spectacular entrance.
Next stop Rome and the Vatican and Coliseum. Cruising into Nice and visiting Monaco. How great!
Final port on the Athena before disembarkation at Portsmouth we call into Lisbon, with its vintage horse cart museum and picked up 210 English passengers stranded because of the ash fallout. What an amazing time!
Next leg Amsterdam with Dam square and red light district. Then we board the Costa Luminosa cruising to Denmark where the weather was appalling. Onto Sweden with its beautiful islands and Finland's old town.
St Petersburg with the beautiful Catherine's Palace and Estonia with tree lined streets.
What a wonderful tour... Thank you Ewan and Monique for making it possible.

Elaine

My first memorable moment was watching the sun rise as we sailed from Phuket. There have been many more since and even a few kodak moments, which has required a tight bond with my camera if you were to capture them. I often laughed at camera toting tourists, and now I have become one.
I have experienced many things on my travels, and the more I see of the world the smaller it seems to become. This was highlighted by a number of familiar faces and voices I recognised in the most obscure places.
My whole trip has been memorable and while we may express ourselves in different ways, we are all the same at heart.

Janice

The highlight of our trip has really been seeing Gallippoli and the wonderful treasures in St Petersburg. Each step along the way has given us fresh insight as well.
Jenny and Warren Harding

Turkey was certainly a highlight, the wonderful little shops the amazing variety and the business of it all. The way the young men called me mama and the respect that went with it. The apple tea, so delicious and needless to say the Turkish delight.

The Greek Islands were everything I imagined and more. So clean, I loved the close proximity they live in.
It was difficult to accept that we were on the ocean as all the way it was like a very big lagoon.
Seeing "Swan Lake" in Russia.
The ship was an absolute dream, meeting the different people, from other countries and being able to converse with each other with many jesters and facial expressions.

Tallinn
Getting off the ship, needing a quick loo, spotted a portaloo, opening the door to find a very large room, lovely loo, great handbasin and a heater. What else does one need. I'd like to take a sample home.
Margie Pearless.

Well coming to the end of a fabulous 80days in my life, thanks to Ewan and Monique. It is full of my memories. The greatest were being able to walk the ancient road at Petra in Jordan, celebrating my 70th birthday with new friends in Santorini, following a pamper morning in Ios. Mighty stuff!!
My disappointment that my failing knees meant that I was tail end charlie most of the time, especially on the stone stairs but a rear guard of sorts.
Also a second trip to Cairo doesn't put Egypt in my future travels.
I am thrilled to have seen so many countries blossoming into spring, this was a perfect time for travel, but I am very glad to call NZ home and appreciate that many people like the cruise ship workers may be travelling the world but don't see the foreign countries like the opportunity I have had to make new friends, visit ancient cities and return to family in the greatest little country on earth.
Safe travel, Good health, God bless Colleen

Just some of the memories

Sunday, May 23, 2010

From the Baltic

From the Baltic Sea

We have had the most amazing cruise in the Baltic Sea.

Looking back at our time in Greece there is no doubt that the Greek islands are beautiful. As mentioned before, we loved Paros and Mykonos, but Santorini was a disappointment. Although it is beautiful it is overrun with tourist, which included us. There are the white houses with blue roofs overlooking the ocean, but then that is Greece and you can see the same of other islands without the hordes of tourists. If you are visiting the islands, one day in Santorini is enough with more days on Mykonos and Paros would be ideal.

We celebrated Colleen’s 70th birthday on Santorini. It was a quiet affair in a wonderful setting with the sun setting on the Mediterranean. It was an honour to be there to celebrate it with her.

We survived the Greek ferries. Just!
As I may have mentioned they are really not designed for people with luggage. We had to struggle with our bags, lugging them up and down stairs, as well as just trying to get them on and off the boat. Thank goodness for Dennis and Ewan who helped everyone out. Thank you so very very much Dennis.

Amsterdam…

Yes, we did visit the Red Light district. I’m sure Angela won’t mind me telling you that she was so amazed by the girls in the windows, she had to get a better look and stared into one of the windows, only to have the girl tap on the window giving her a fright. We all laughed afterwards, including Angela, who then decided we should go into a sex shop. I won’t go into details but that was also very entertaining and educational.

The Costa Luminosa.

Boarding took a bit of time but when we finally got onboard we all went off to discover our new home for the next 12days. The Luminosa is a big ship with 2,826 passengers who all speak a different languages. We have calculated at least 7 main languages. Italian, French, Dutch and then English. So you have to listen to announcements in Italian, French and Dutch before hearing the message in English. It is part of the experience and makes us appreciate when we find someone who speaks English.

I think we all appreciated our 1st day at Sea, just to get familiar with the ship and relax. We discovered that poor Jenny has been walking on a fractured ankle all this time. The doctor on board who is apparently a lovely Italian lady who told Jenny to stay off her leg and has started her on a blood thinner to make sure she is not at risk for any DVT’s. The insurance company did not feel the needed for her come back home immediately. Jenny and Warren are making the most of the cruise and are plodding on. I know they are very happy they could stay on.

Our first day of rain. Can you believe it?
For those of us who have travelled from Perth it was our first day of rain in over 60 days. It was such a pity as it was our day in Copenhagen. Having been to Copenhagen before we were very disappointed for everyone as it is a fairy tale city, with enchanting canals and elegant buildings.

The hop on and hop off bus was a saviour. Although we could not wander about we were able to get a glimpse of the home of Hans Christian Anderson.

We had a day of fog the day after Copenhagen. It was kind of eerie to hear the fog horn and to not be able to see anything.

Stockholm

Stockholm did not let us down. The sail into Stockholm is breath-taking, there are no other words for it. The Luminosa sailed in so quietly we felt like we were gliding between granite islands covered with evergreens and birch trees When we eventually spotted Stockholm we were greeted by impressive spires and laced homes. The city stretches from Maleran Lake to the Baltic Sea, built on an archipelago of 14 islands connected by at least 40 bridges.

Stockholm is a walking city. The highlight being Gamla Stan, the old town. Many took the hop on hop off bus with the harbour cruise. It was maybe a bit on the expensive side but from all accounts well worth it. I think most of us got to see the changing of the guards. This happens every 2 hours with the main ceremony at midday. The guards are much more relaxed than their British counter parts. One of the guards was clearly enjoying the attention from some young tourists, lovely young girls of course. In saying that there is clearly a no go zone around them, so no cuddles.

The highlight, at least for Ann, Yvonne, Janice, Ewan and myself was the visit to the Vasa Museum, which houses the ship Vasa. The Vasa sank on its maiden voyage in the bay of Stockholm in 1628. It was discovered in the 1960’s and was refloated fully intact. It is a work of art. A definite most see if you are in Stockholm.

As Robin kept saying the sail out of Stckholm is something he will always remember.

Helsinki

In Helsinki Les, Cheryl, Robin, Lorna, Colleen and Elaine explored the countryside of Finland, visiting the picturesque village of Porvoo.
Helsinki however is a non-event really. The only attraction is the Rock Church. A church carved out of granite rock. It is an easy city to get around and is tourist friendly. The is an inexpensive Tram which does a wonderful circuit around the city, stopping at all the tourist sights.

St Petersburg.

The sail into St Petersburg is un-impressive. A reminder of the cold war era with military outposts and forts throughout the bay. It is a big industrial city with industry all along the bay as well. In saying all this, the wealth of Russia is showing itself with construction everywhere. There are 4 new passenger terminals in the port with plans for several more to accommodate 16 ships per day Imagine 16 ships with even just 1000 people, that’s 16 000 people in one day! They will have to so something about their roads ASAP if they want to accommodate that many people.

Traffic was an issue for every tour, but once at our destinations we were all in awe. I think the best tour all around was the tour of the city, the Neva River canals and the Hermitage. It was along day but amazing. Margie even had the chance to go to the ballet.

The famous Hermitage is one of the best art museums in the world, rivalling the Louvre.

The Peter the Great’s Summer Palace is an attempt to copy the Louvre. It does not quiet achieve it but the gardens and fountains certainly surpass the grandeur of Versailles’s and are really breathtaking.

Catherine’s Palace is also impressive, particularly the Amber Room. A room completely covered with Amber. The story goes that during WW2 the staff of the Palace hide the amber as the German’s were coming. Unfortunately some of the Amber was lost (stolen) before they were able to restore the room.

The one thing that is most evident is that St Petersburg’s is recovering from the Soviet era. With increased funding the wonderful palaces and buildings are slowing being restored.

Estonia- Tallinn

I think everyone loved Tallinn. Having gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Tallinn has embraced it’s medieval history, clearly understanding the value of it’s medieval ramparts and winding streets. Meander the old town you encountered people dressed in period customs selling their wares as you would imagine they did so in the 14th century. It was a magical day.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Magic Greece

We are sitting here in Mykonos, looking from our hotel over the Aegean sea and the whitewashed houses drinking coffee, the sun is shining and the temperature is just right.

Greece is just like the postcards that you see.
Samos was lovely but so far Padros was the most impressive. Our hotel was on the waterfront with a typical windmill just across the road. Each room had a view of the sea and the windmill. Our hosts were delightful, Maria and Cornelius. We were all invited to join them for Ouzo and nibbles as the sun set.
What can be better than ouzo, olives, tzatiki and bread overlooking a magical setting?

The villages on the island are exactly as you expect of a Greek Island. Most of us explored the village of Lefkes. A quiet little village overlooking the island, with white washed streets and with beautiful healthy cats as the only ones wandering the streets. We stopped under a tree only to be warmly greeted by a lovely greek lady who served us local white wine, which was delicious and then the most amazing greek salad. Needless to say the food is fresh and the most delicious food we have tasted.

Unfortunately, a few of us have come down with a 24hour stomach bug, but everyone is right now.

I'm sorry for not posting any more pictures. Internet access is difficult. However as soon as I can I will get some more pictures up.
Today is Ios and tomorrow Santorini.

We are wathcing the volcanic activity and trusting in our good luck so far that it will not interrupt any of our travel plans.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A moving day- Anzac Cove

The drive to Anzac Cove takes you through some beautiful and rugged land.

We visited the humble museum of Anzac Cove first. We were all moved by the story of the father and son who faught side by side.
It is hard to imagine the horror that was the Gallipoli campaign when you see the crystal blue water lapping peaceful on the shores of Anzac Cove and hear the birds singing and yet it is still palpable.
Margy brought poppies for all of us to leave at the Anzac Cove Monument. We drove to Lone Pine and to Chunuk Bair and gave thanks to our Kiwi boys who lay down their lives.

"having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons..." Atuturk clearly reflects how the people of Turkey feel. This is evident everywhere we have been, particularly by the young people we have met.

Turkey Greece and Baltic Tour

We have started on another adventure.
After a week touring a bit of France we headed back for Amsterdam and met up with Angela, Cherryl, Les and Robin and Lorna. We spent a lovely evening dining on pizza that we ordered in.
The next day we were all excited to meet Yvonne, Anne, Margy, Warren and Jenny at Amsterdam Airport on our way to Istanbul.

Istanbul greeted us with sunshine and perfect touring weather. We got the important things out of the way...1st stop the Grand Bazaar.
You really can't explain the Grand Bazaar. 4000 shops and 1000 different alley ways, lovely Turkish men trying to sell you their wares, just some many beautiful things.
We could trust Angela to be a shopping warrior, coming back with 3 bags after only 1 1/2 hours. We are so very proud of her!

The following day, touring the Hippodrome, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and to Palace was magic. The weather was perfect and the shear wonder of the fights and history had everyone mesmorised.
We finished the day witha visit at the spice market and then the tradtional stop for a beer under the Galata Bridge.
Our hotel was well located so we were able stroll along a beautiful promenade which was originally built druing the 1800's with French and Italian influence. Good food and good entertainment.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010




Some more pictures at last!




Athena to the rescue!

It was hard to believe that our time on the Athena was coming to an end. We were all very much enjoying having the ship to ourselves when 80 guests disembarked in Nice. The 260 remaining guests thought it was wonderful having our own luxury yacht (OK maybe not luxury, but nice just the same). Being the good sorts that we are, we saved 200 English refugees in Lisbon. The poor people had been stranded for a couple of days. They were shellshocked and bedraggled from their experience, but we made them feel at home. Although there was some talk about creating refugee free zones- this was pasticularly relevant for those who regularly participated in the triva games as everyone had "THEIR" seats.

Many if not most found the whole experience of having their travel plans disrupted terrible but seemed to be further upset by the fact that it was due to the volcanic activity. The fear factor of not being in control, that mother nature could reek such havoc and the uncertainty of not knowing when travel would resume was almost too much for some. In saying that they all had a wonderful few days on the ship and there is no doubt that many would cruise again.

Lisbon is always a beautiful city and you can detect some of its former glory when you visit the Belem Tower and Monument and the San Geromino Monastry. We had a wonderful day there and enoyed the traditional custard pastries... not only in Lisbon but that night...some had more that 3 servings but I can't name names. They know who they are, and I'm sure some of you can figure out who they might be.

Sailing into Portsmouth was bitter sweet in many ways. We were all ready to get off the ship but it was also sad to say goodbye to our fabulous waiters and cabin attendants as well as the friends we made on bord.
What was impressive as we sailed in was the amount of naval ships were there. The boys were very excited!

It was time to say goodbye to Clive,Joan,Dorothy and Norm. They were off to visit Dorothy's family and to explore more of Britain.

Robin and Lorna stayed in Portsmouth for the day and visited the naval museum, while the rest of us made our way to London.

Our hotel was lovely, great rooms and wonderful location. We dined at the little english pub across the road. It was good value at 9.90pounds for a 2 course meal. Exceptional value for London.

Janice set off early Saturday morning on her Cosmos tour of the UK.
Berwyn and Elaine set off on Sunday for their Trafalgar Tour fo Europe and Angela set off on her Trafalgar Tour of the UK too.

Colleen, Adrienne and Dennis followed us to Amsterdam and then onto France.

I must warn you that I am biased. France is beautiful, full of history, good food and great wine and a je ne sais quoi.
We spent some time in the north in Le Qesnoy, which is the sister city of Cambridge. This walled city was liberated by Kiwis in WW1.The city was and is still so thankful that the Kiwis can and liberated them from the German occupation but more importantly while doing so did not destroy the city, saving their treasured walls.
Visiting walled cities in Europe is a big tourism industry.
Le Qesnoy and Beaudignies (another small village close by) celebrate ANZAC day every year. We unfortunately arrived a day late.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Suez to Roma

Suez Canal, Egypt, Cyprus, Malta and Roma

Passing through the Suez Canal was a magical day. The slow passage following other ships sailing to destinations unknown between the dry Sinai desert and the green and lush Egyptian is magical. Looking to the Sinai desert you wonder how anything can survive there and why the Israelis would want it. You are then amazed at the lushness on the opposite side and remember it is being feed by the Nile.

How do you describe the Suez Canal? It is like one of those one-way bridges, where traffic stops and holds in a bay, in this case 2 big lakes while traffic passes through in the other direction. It was amazing coming along one of these lakes and seeing all the others boats waiting to go south while we continued our way north. We have some great pictures of boats waiting to head south, which look like they are beached on the sand. Hopefully we can upload those pictures in Nice.

It was a day for the binoculars and sipping a cocktail on the deck. We commemorated with Dorothy her passage through the Suez 40 years after her first time. She assured us that nothing much has changed.

Arriving late in the evening in Port Said we all took advantage for an evening stroll. There isn’t much in Port Said, just a big industrial city really. However it was interesting walking along the boardwalk and seeing young families, couples and teenagers strolling in the evening air. Of course, our ship was cause enough to come out to have a look. And yes, the hawkers were out trying to sell their wares to varying degrees of success. Angela did get a lovely leather bag.

Cairo, you just have to experience. You just can’t describe it. You start by having to wait for all the buses to be ready for the convoy and then you can head off, lead by armed guards. No, it’s not so scary and in fact practical to have an armed escort as you get priority at intersections and in traffic.

The drive to Cairo is a long one; our guide was informative and made the time go by quickly. We then picked up our Egyptologist. Randa was energetic and loved to talk. A good thing for a guide. The museum is always amazing and Randa was an excellent guide, bringing a lot of things to life and relating thing to our reality. Did you know that King Tut’s sarcophagus was made of gold and weighs as much as 2 elephants? The Egyptians were very clever and had folding beds with hinges just like we have today.

The legend of the curse of his tomb is no more than chemistry. As our guide explained the sudden death of the young king took everyone by surprise and thus his burial chamber was not ready for him. True to the belief of the time the king was sent to the other world with all that he would need for the other life, fruit, vegetables, bread, and wine. A deadly combination with the still wet paint and foods for the after life which created life threatening bacteria that was only looking for a bit of oxygen, which the got when the tomb was opened. And so the mystery of the curse of King Tut’s tomb has been solved.

Cyprus was a lovely day, especially if you like wine! We shared our wine the following day as we celebrated from a distance our twins, Samantha and Emily’s 21 birthday. Cheers girls!

The day at sea between Cyprus and Malta we had great fun on board. The Miss Athena competition was hilarious. Dorothy and Adrienne were nominated, willingly and not so willingly. The competition was full of fun. You will never believe what can be done with balloons. We tried to get pictures but they don’t do it justice. Once again Kiwi elegance, beauty, talent and eloquence won out with Adrienne being crown Miss Athena. Her numerous speaking engagements and opening ceremonies has not hindered her enjoyment of her grand journey.

Malta is the jewel of the Med. It’s beautiful fortified harbour is magic to sail into. Malta is an island with a lot of history seeping through every cobble and street. For some it was a walk down memory lane and a time to reminisce about our foolish younger days! Marsaxlokk holds wonderful memories for Dennis who was able to find where he once lived and people who knew about the boat he helped to build in the 60’s.

Rome, the eternal city, was an introduction to the bustle of Europe. We made good time getting to the outskirts of Rome but then it took us an hour to get to Vatican City. The crowds were amazing despite the early hour, and appreciated that we had organised priority entry into the Vatican. Our guide Simona was wonderful and very passionate about her city. The Vatican as the smallest country in the world is impressive in its grandeur and wealth. Walking through the halls and marvelling at the archaeological artefacts and works of art is breathtaking. The Sistine chapel is beautiful, although its beauty is marred by the crowds again. It is hard to image Michelangelo a sculpture who had never painted before, designing and painting upside down the awe inspiring scenes. What amazes even more and confirms his talent, as an artist is that he could not afford to make any mistakes and had to get it right the first time, as frescos are really coloured plaster and once dry you cannot make changes. Imagine!

Of course it is in the Sistine chapel that the cardinal elect a new Pope. You can well imagine how this chapel would inspire and remind them of the message of Jesus Christ and help them in the difficult decision they most bear. Indeed the Catholic Church is where it is today because of the decisions made there. Ummm, so we are reminded that they are only men after all and are subject to all the frailties the rest of we mortals suffer from.

St Peter’s basilica is impressive and humbling by it’s grandeur and beauty, reminding you of the glory of God. The history and the heart of the Christian religion is embodied there, from a simple place of pilgrimage to splendour of the world. No matter what your religious beliefs are the Vatican and St Peter’s Basilica forms an integral part of the fabric of our modern society.
By the time we had finished at Vatican City we were all shattered and ready for a drink and food. The lovely Simona organised for us to eat at her favourite restaurant for a truly Italian meal. We had REAL Italian pizza and local wine. Robin tasted his 1st pizza ever. I think he might be tempted to try it again.

From lunch we visited the Coliseum, inside and out. It is colossus and very modern in many, with sophisticated backstage equipment, like moving stages and pulleys for lower and raise platforms, not dissimilar to what we have today. Unfortunately it was a bit rushed as time was running out.
We then dashed to the Trevi fountain to throw in our coins and make a wish.

We regret to inform everyone that the gelato competition was a dismal failure. Clive, Berywn, Colleen and Ewan only consumed 1 gelato each. The record still holds at 6 gelatos in one day. Ewan remains the champion.

We really feel now that we are counting down the days on the boat. We have just left Nice where some of us went to Monaco, visiting the Palace and the tombs of Prince Rainer and Princess Grace, the picturesque Village of Eze with it’s medieval streets overlooking the azure blue waters of the Med. Of course there were some of us who almost ran off the boat to get their fix of French pastry and café crème. (Yes, that was Ewan and Monique).

We understand that there were some serious shopping conquests but this has yet to be confirmed. We have some serious contenders for best shoppers on this tour. Watch out Jenny (from our 1st tour, you know the one) you have competition.

I’m trying to convince Ewan that we really need a shopping tour…maybe next year!

Happy Birthday go out to:

Emily and Samantha- the twins
The triplets from Elaine and the rest of us
And to everyone else’s birthday we have missed while we are on our grand Journey.
We have been thinking of you.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Jordan and Petra

We would definitely love to come back to Jordan. A strikingly beautiful country with delightful and welcoming people.

The sail up the Gulf of Aqaba was amazing, one side Egypt, Sinai desert, Saudi Arabi and Jordan and in front of us Israel. With the history of the Old Testament surrounding us. Aqaba however is the Riviera of the Gulf of Aqaba, or at least working on trying to position itself that way. We were so fortunate to arrive in the late afternoon, so most of us eat quickly and rushed off the ship.
Taxis were waiting in anticipation for us to flood the dock and to make the most of the opportunity. They weren’t as pushy as in some places but like all good entrepreneurs they tried their best. Lucky we had done some research and were able to let everyone know what they should pay for a taxi into town.
Aqaba is a beautiful city. People come out at night to do their shopping so it was very lively with families strolling in the parks and going out for dinner.
There was a wedding and we saw the groom’s cavalcade go by with all the boys hanging out of the cars making a lot of noise.

What was most amazing is as we were walking by we saw 2 camels with riders sitting at a crosswalk waiting to cross the road, then crossing the road in the break of traffic and sauntering towards us. Adrienne was clever, rummaging furiously to get her camera out to take a picture. When she finally got her camera out, the camel boy (Arab for cowboy) stopped his camel, asked it to kneel down and got off so Adrienne was able to get her picture. He then wanted her to get onto his camel. It was a proposition that was hard to resist but she did. A lovely gentleman then explained to us that the government funds the camel riders as a tourism attraction. Camels crossing at, as crosswalk is a sight you will always remember.

Petra- a Wonder of the World!

The drive to Petra was striking in its rugged beauty. Looking out and the sand carved landscape, you can’t imagine how people or anything for that matter can survive, and yet for 1000’s of years they have thrived. It is a land steeped in biblical history with being the land that Moses crossed and where his brother Aaron was lewd from “the way” towards god by the Golden Horn. Aaron’s tomb lies at the top of a mountainous crop.

As you arrive at Petra it is a steep and winding road, where you hope you don’t loose your brakes. The entrance into the gorge, called Siq in Arabic, widens and narrows and winds this way and that with camels and horse drawn carriages making their way up and down the passage. Everywhere you look you marvel at the rock formation. There were many school groups and we had a magical moment when some young girls started to sign.

Advertising was alive and well in the time of the Nebateans (the people credited with the building of Petra). You can still make out what would have been signs for this way for the camels.
Although you know that the Treasury is just around the corner, you are still not prepared to see it when you take the last bend. You will all remember it from Indiana Jones and the temple of Dome.

We spend some time in awe in front of the Treasury. Many decided to head back, knowing they still to walk the 1.5kms back while a handful of us carried on a bit further to the amphitheatre. Along the way, some beautiful young ladies, who just wanted to talk to us and practice their English, approached us ladies. They were part of a school group and were in year 7. Their English was very good and they were very inquisitive. It was a special moment.

A few of us decided to try out the horse drawn carriage for the ride up while the enthusiastic ones walked back up to the entrance.

Lunch!
It was a buffet lunch with traditional food. Lots of dips, hummus, abaganoush, a salsa sauce that was divine, kafta (lamb mince kebabs), Persian rice (saffron infused with raisins and almonds) and of course desert which consisted of honey cake and traditional donuts dripping also in honey.
As Ewan and I kept saying it was divine!

The drive back was a bit more sedate as we were all exhausted.

Satisfying the shopping bug.

Aqaba has good shopping if you like jewellery, particularly silver and Lapis as well as other colourful stones.

And yes, we did some damage! Angela was so pleased to have finally been able to get some cash out so purchased 2 beautiful necklaces. Janice also bought a beautiful ring and earrings.

The Suez awaits. We will be joining another convoy, so the boys will all be out ship spotting.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Salalah Oman

Salalah

Saleem Alay kum (not sure if that is how one would spell it)

Peace be with you.

The traditional greeting in the Arab world. For most of us, Oman was our first experience of the arab world and a very surprising and pleasant one at that.

Our guide Ali was dressed in the traditional disdasha and cap. The disdasha is the long “dress” that you see men wear. He was a very smart man and understood the psychology of touring and men and women. What do I mean, you ask? The first place Ali took us was to the souq, arab for market/shop. Of course it was early in the morning so most of the shops were just opening. The men were relieved because the women could do minimum damage and yes the girls were pleased we got the shopping out of the way, pashminas being the purchases of the day and could then relax and fully enjoy the rest of the day. Very smart man!

Salalah is on the coast of Oman and so has more of a tropical climate, but none the less is surrounded by desert. Although Oman has oil and gas it is not as rich as it’s neighbours. The current sultan is credited for modernising Oman. The infrastructure is amazing and the place is pristine. The country side is stunning, imagine sparking sand and turquoise seas. It is a very religious land with Moses and Mohammed having passed through. Part of our tour was visiting the ever patience tomb of Job.

As one might think camels are everywhere and are very valuable. Farmers let their camels wander throughout the day and the camels bring themselves home at night. Believe it or not, they milk the camels too. Imagine milking a camel! Ever heard of camel bras? Yes they put a bra on the camels when they are lactating to stop their young from suckling. So there you have it… camel bras. Camels have right of way and we saw them everywhere, including on the road. Their equivalent of the kiwi traffic jam. If you hit a camel during the day there is a hefty fine, if you hit a camel at night the farmer is fined.

As we arrived back at the port, what looked like a small boat was off loading some cows that apparently came from Somalia. The boat didn’t look that big, imagine an ancient looking vessel, open to the elements, but it kept on discharging cows. We figured there must have been a couple 100 cows. An incredible sight.

All and all a wonderful and enchanting day.

We have just passed through pirate alley and all of the excitement of being part of a convoy and seeing the naval frigate sail close by and the Orion fly by. We did have a bit of real excitement when 3 fishing boats came zooming up. Everyone on board was on heightened alert. You will all be pleased that our Ukrainian security staff were on guard with water hoses and all.

We are now in the Red Sea sailing to Aqaba and the forgotten city of Petra.
It is tough, more sitting by the pool, playing games and eating.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sri lanka

Sri Lanka

How to describe Sri Lanka… well it would have to be indescribable!
I guess we were fortunate that we arrived on a Saturday, so the traffic was less then during the week and so it took us only 2.5 hours to do 70 kms.

Of course describing traffic is another thing people who have never been just won’t believe it. So you are driving along hurtling at 70km on a 2 lane road (highway would be stretching the imagination) sharing the road with tuktuks, trucks, motorcycles and buses. Now buses are interesting, there is no dedicated bus companies as such, rather buses compete. Imagine buses trying to complete for the next lot of passengers…speed is the key and you want to get to the next stop before the next guy, oh, and of course there are people hanging out of them. We had several near misses. Buses coming straight for you with a motorcycle in between and a cow on the side walk, no where to go, just close your eyes and hope you don’t hit something. Needless to say we survived the bus ride!

The country side is beautiful, rugged and lush. Getting on the road early we saw flocks of bats settling for a days snooze. They are huge and very impressive. We stopped at the pineapple village where we tried pineapple sprinkled with chilli salt. Gives a nice twist to pineapple. We recommend you try it. We then stopped at the cashew village and tried the freshest and best cashews ever!

Our drive up to Pennawella following the windy and subtropical hills to the elephant sanctuary. Magical is the only way to describe it. As we arrived the elephants were having a play in the river, rolling in the mud, wallowing in the water, moving bits of logs from here and there, babies snuggling to mothers and mothers watching over the little ones. Magic! We had the most amazing lunch along the riverbank while the elephants continued to play.
Did you know you can make paper out of elephant dung? Yep, very nice too. Doesn’t smell at all. They told us because elephants are vegetarians there poo is all fibre so great for paper. Who ever knew.

The drive back was no less harrowing as the drive to the sanctuary.
On the way home we saw a water buffalo sitting by the side of the road, a monkey dressed in velvet, turkeys entering a shop, elephants in a truck, people drying their clothes on the mud banks as well as on barb wire and a dog stop traffic.

Entry back into the port was interesting too. Sri Lanka is still on high alert so our van was checked thoroughly, mirror under the bus and all!
With some last minute shopping we boarded the ship and headed off across the Indian Ocean.

So here is a quiz:

1. What country was formerly known as Ceylon?
2. Can you walk a porcupine on a lead?
3. Do elephants travel by truck?
4. How do you pass 2 on coming vehicles on a 2 lane road?
5. What can you make out of elephant poo?
6. How do you get an elephant to cross the road?
7. Why did the turkey cross the road?
8. How do people dry their clothes
9. Is orange a colour of a coconut?
10. What do elephants love to do?

1. Sri Lanka 2. Only in Sri Lanka 3. Only in Sri Lanka 4.Close your eyes and pray 5. paper, of course 6. Just call 7. To shop of course 8. On mud banks and barb wire 9. Yes, good for drinking and as IV fluid 10. rolling in the mud

I will try to upload some pictures when we reach Aqaba. Unfortunately, the ship’s internet just can’t handle pictures.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Athena cruise to UK

Athena Once Again

We have been remiss about updating our blog, but then you know how it is, transfers, hotels, unpacking and sitting by the pool and lest we forget, breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and late night snack, it is hard to find the time to write.

We all arrived safe and sound in Perth, which is a beautiful city. Most of us did our own thing. Ewan and I walked to the jetty and then up to the botanical gardens. A steep climb almost needing climbing gear, but the view from the top was spectacular looking down and the city and the Swan River.

By our hotel there was this wonderful Korean restaurant. It was so popular that people were queuing to get in. Needless to say it was authentic and very nice.

The Athena greeted us with open arms. For those of us who sailed with her in November it was like coming home. (That is Colleen, Ewan and I) Many of our friends, Jerry our waiter, Silvo our breakfast waiter and George the cruise director greeted us warmly.

I do believe we are all into the swing of life on board the ship. Poor Lorna found the first day a bit of a challenge but has since found her sea legs and can be spotted at the rear of the ship chatting away.

Of course we must be feed at least ever 2 hours or we will starve to death. The food is lovely. We are, however a fit bunch and everyone is out there every day walking around the beautiful promenade deck. Les and Cherryl have spotted some whales and we had a pod of dolphins following us.
The entertainers on board are all the same as last year and just as amazing.
Everyone was speechless after the performance by Los Paraguayos. Silvio and Alcides are from Paraguay. Silvio is a big teddy bear and what you picture an opera singer to be. His voice, ahh his voice is amazing! He serenades everyone on their birthday- Lucky Dorothy and Clive who celebrated their birthdays on our 2nd day at sea.
Silvio’s partner Alcides is a wonderful musician too. I never knew the harp could be such a versatile instrument. From classical harp to a bass guitar and even a steam train. Really they are a highlight!

Day 4- Amazing entertainment

Christina, a lovely Romanian girl who was on the ship last November sang for us and we were mesmerised. She sang beautifully, even bringing tears to some eyes. Her rendition of Edith Piaf’s “Je Regrette Rien” and “La Vie en Rose” was superbe.





Day 5- Beach Party

After a hot and humid day it was time for a beach party on deck. It was a very hot evening but everyone joined in. We discovered we have some tinkle toes in the group. Norm is a fantastic dancer and keen to give anything a go and so is Clive. Lorna and Robin danced up a storm.
Ewan and Dennis also got up and danced much to Adrienne and Monique’s joy. We were able to practice the moves we have been learning. Everyone had a great time!

Day 6

A very important and memorable day for all.

We crossed the equator!

As per sailing lore King Neptune came aboard and we had to ask permission to sail his seas and get his blessing to do so. It was a long ceremony full of fun and merriment. For all those who have never crossed the equator they had to undergo a special ritual involving being marked by a siren and then being blessing by Neptune himself, which involves being doused with water, kissing a fish having an egg cracked over the head and spaghetti (I’m thinking the spaghetti symbolises sea weed). Neptune is all-powerful as it was raining before the ceremony and when he appeared the rain stopped- just amazing!

Day 7 Singapore

Last night was a special night as Colleen, Angela, Les and Cherryl were invited to dine with the Captain.

An early start, we docked at the cargo terminal, which is about 15 minutes by shuttle to the cruise terminal. The cargo terminal is mind blowing, you get the feeling that every single container in the world is there as well as all of the forklifts and high lift cranes which can lift up to 80 tonnes! It even has streets with traffic lights.

It was of course hot and 85% humidity.

Colleen, Angela, Elaine, Berwyn, Les, Cherryl and Janice joined us on a ½ tour of Singapore including the magnificent orchid garden. It was interesting to see Singaporeans doing their tai chi and exercise. Some did their Tai chi using swords. It was quite beautiful.

We got a brief glimpse of Little Indian and then onto the Colonial part of Singapore and of course ended up in Chinatown, where Colleen, Angela, Elaine, Janice, Ewan and I sampled real Chinese food in to authentic food court.

Our independent travellers seem to have had a great time exploring the city. It seem unanimous that taxis are one of the best ways to get around, fast and inexpensive.

The MRT is very efficient as well. The Cruise Terminal is a stop on the MRT so it is easy to get into Chinatown and Orchard Rd from the terminal. The terminal is also a shopping mall. How convenient!
Shopping… minor shopping successes, shoes, tops, nothing of note. I think we are saving ourselves for Phuket and the other destinations where we hope to find things that are bit more exotic.

Day 8- Day at sea
Life it tough!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What a wonderful year and so much more to look forward to!

Christmas has come and gone and a New Year is already well on it's way!
I'm sure everyone has enjoyed re-living their" Grand Journey" as you've regaled friends and family with your stories of the amazing places we visited, the places that dropped your chin and almost brought tears to your eyes and of course all the fun we had along the way.

For us it was being with everyone and sharing the experience with you.

2010 is going to be an amazing year, new destinations and also visiting some of our favourite places!

In March we will embark on our World Cruise on board of the Athena, we loved it so much we are looking forward to sailing with her again. We will sail from Freemantle to Portsmouth England, via Oman and Jordan. Can hardly wait!

April... The Greek Islands and Turkey and to add contrast join us on a cruise of the Baltic Capitals

Upon request-South America including the Galapagos Islands in June

July will see us in Europe, cruising the coast of France and northern Spain and most exciting of all cruising up the Thames, under the Tower Bridge to Greenwich! But wait there is more, we will explore the beautiful British Isles, Scotland and Ireland... but wait there is even more... the piece de resistance- South Africa!

Our brochure is out and of course find out about all of our tours on line
www.grandjourney.co.nz

We hope to see you join us!

The chicken dance or the Haka... you decide!

video While waiting for our bus, we liked to entertain. The chicken dance was a great way to warm up and get ready for the days exploration and to entertain the ship's crew and the Aussies... who thought it was the haka!