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.

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