This afternoon we are in Venice, and the cruise is over. Yesterday we sailed right into the city, and stood on deck 12, towering over the tile topped roofs, the canals, the vaporettos, and the gondolieri, as we went all the way to the cruise ship pier at the far end of the city. It was spectacular, every minute, although also a bit obscene and a lot embarrassing to be on a ship that was taller than anything in the city. That was not lost on us, to be sure. We arrived at noon, just as all the city bells began ringing in the campanile - not for us, of course, but nice choreography!
We got to spend one last night on the ship in port, and then this morning they got us off the ship early and we have been out on the streets ever since. We spent the day with Meg and Don, our friends from Santa Cruz, who will be flying on to France later tonight.
We leave for Parma tomorrow. Yesterday the weather took a brief turn for the worse, after a fabulous 2 weeks so far. We arrived in Venice in a blowing gale, very cold, and blustery. It even rained a little, and we were afraid it would continue, but today has been cool and sunny, just gorgeous. We went to Murano and looked at all the beautiful glass, wandered the mostly empty streets, and then returned to the main city. We found a wonderful trattoria and had a deeply delicious lunch of risotto, seafood, fresh and delicate salads, and a bottle of red wine. Yum! Later we wandered in the Jewish ghettto area, and finally to find our hotel, which is in a great location and has a room that is very good. Dinner that night was at a trattoria down a quite back alley, recommended by a friend. It was one of the most spectacularly delicious meals of the whole trip. My meal was a Zuppa di Pesce (fish soup) just bursting with fresh fish, shellfish, and exquisite flavors.
I don’t think you have heard from me since the end of our day on Mykonos. Since that time we spent a day in Athens at the Acropolis, then drove down the southern tip of the Greek peninsula to Cap Sounion, to a temple of Poseidon, located on a high point on the tip of the land stretching up above the sea. We had lunch near there in an elegant ultra-modern hotel, waded in the Adriatic, etc. The next day we were ‘at sea’ all day, and relaxing on board the ship in a variety of ways, exercising (we have to the way we have been eating!), reading, soaking in the tub, gazing into space. We even took a ballroom dance lesson (rhumba). That evening, all 14 of us in our little group had our first meal together in the grand dining room on board, the Olympic. It costs an extra $30 per person, but the meal was one of the most gourmet spectaculars I have ever had, and the service was unbelievable - 4 waiters for each table of 8 people! They choreographed every move, so that plates were placed or removed simultaneously for us on every course. Our favorite was the cheese course, when they wheeled out a cart of about 20 very fancy French cheeses and breads. Daniella mostly adored the fact that when she got up to go to the bathroom she was escorted to and from the restroom by a handsome young man in a tux who offered his arm! Naturally we all had to have a go, so to speak!
Biggest surprise of the trip, so far, has been Croatia. We absolutely loved it. Dubrovnik is a completely walled city on the sea, and very small, only 4,000 people live inside the walls. Streets are narrow and steep, and people are very friendly and charming. Our tour took us down the ‘Croatian Riviera’, driving south along the coast for about 40 miles along steep winding mountain roads, somewhat comparable to Devils Slide south of SF, and a little like the Amalfi coast in Italy. The place where we had lunch was a country inn next to a rushing stream with waterfalls, trout pools, shady pathways through forested lanes, luscious food and wine, and just oozing charm every which way. Croatia is very inexpensive, and probably one of the best kept secrets in Europe. We definitely would like to return there some day and see more of it. They are recovering from the war in 91-92, and we heard a lot about it and saw the damage everywhere, bullet and missile holes in walls, etc. Everyone seemed very sad about it, but resilient.
We are also finding that we are resilient. We have walked more miles than I could have imagined, eaten more meals than I care to think of, and explored wonderful places we haven’t known about before. We are having a great time together, and wake up each day so excited about this adventure we are having.