Monthly Archives: August 2020

Amalfi Coast

Courtesy Ricksteeves.com

Well it was another gorgeous sunny day when our little ship the Nautica dropped anchor just off Amalfi, Italy. Larger ships would not likely be able to do this as easily, if at all. We were in for a treat: the Amalfi Coast.

The Amalfi coast connects several picturesque towns perched on a steep cliff with a narrow winding road in between them. It is located on Italy’s west coast in the southern Province of Salerno overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. A popular tourist destination and World Heritage Site, author Gore Vidal lived here and John Steinbeck wrote a short story called Positano. The area is known for production of limoncello liqueur made from lemons grown in terraced gardens all along the coast. It was truly a beautiful place to visit and explore.

We decided to do our own thing today. We walked off the tender boat and explored the town of Amalfi. It starts with a small beach, colourful boats and then one heads steeply up hill. We enjoyed seeing the quaint houses and how people lived on a day to day basis. We kept going up and up and found a discount market to shop in. Turning around we slowly descended to the town piazza and gazed at the magnificent late baroque styled Duomo di Amalfi (St. Andrew’s Cathedral).

It was time for some adventure. We hopped on the local bus for a ride to Positano about 10 km away. This was one of the narrowest insanely picturesque highways we have ever been on. The bus roars along at full speed honking its horn as it enters each corner so whoever is coming the other hears it coming and moves over just in time! On and on when we went honking our way to ever more gorgeous views!

Finally we came to Positano with its beautiful little beach, restaurants and shops. Truly a picturesque town, we wandered around and had lunch in the warm sunshine at a spot overlooking the beach. We thought we could see the Isle of Capri in the distance. We wanted to spend a lot of time here just soaking it all in.

However, it was soon time to head back so we took a water taxi and enjoyed looking up at the steep sights. Another day was almost over. We had loved every minute of it and were filled with much gratitude and amazement.

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Athens

Athens is a big hot busy place
Piraeus port city of Athens
This is common in busy cities like Athens

We arrived with much anticipation at Athens, ready to see it in all its glory. It was a hot sunny day as we boarded the tour bus after walking off the Nautica. The bus angled its way down narrow crowded streets 8 km into Athens. It was a long long drive delayed by heavy traffic and congestion. We recall it took most of an hour. Finally we arrived at the Acropolis. It was very very crowded! You had to really pay attention and watch your step on the steep stairs going up and down.

Our guide got us tickets and we listened patiently to him giving us much detailed information for what we were about to see. I think though we eventually wandered off among the ruins, eager to see and take photos of one of the most iconic buildings ever, the Parthenon.

Words cannot capture our rapture when we made our way around the site and marveled at the beauty of the Parthenon. Built in the 5 century B.C., it was a symbol of the power, wealth and elevated culture of Athens. It was the largest and most lavish temple the Greek mainland had ever seen. Today, it is one of the most recognized buildings in the world and an enduring symbol of Ancient Greece. An eternal tribute to Athena, the patron deity of Athens. It was severely damaged in 1687 when an Ottoman ammunition dump inside the building was ignited by a Venetian bombardment. You are not allowed to touch any part of it and it is being slowly restored.

We then headed back down to the city to tour the Temple of Zeus. It is a former colossal temple in the centre of Athens. It fell into disuse and was pillaged in an barbarian invasion in 267 AD,

We were then dropped off in the tourist area of town for some sightseeing, shopping and lunch. We had the best Greek salad you could imagine as we were serenaded by a lively group. We soon found our way back to the bus and then in traffic to the ship, ready for relaxing again onboard. Athens is a big busy hot city that we would love to come back to someday for sure.

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Santorini

Ahh…Santorini at last

As our little ship the Nautica moved towards Santorini we were very excited. Who hasn’t seen images of this iconic Greek island with its white buildings and blue domes perched high on the cliff overlooking the deep blue sea? We could hardly wait to disembark and sample these eye treasures.

Then the captain’s voice came over the speaker: “We’ve encountered some trouble. The port had just been closed due to high winds today. The tram has been shut down and we will not be able to disembark. We are truly sorry but it’s beyond our control. Instead we will take you on an extended cruise around the island so you can see Santorini from all angles. Once again our apologies for this situation.”

Darn! Of all the places for this to happen, it had to be Santorini. We had noticed the whitecaps and the fact the ship was rolling a bit more than normal, but we were truly surprised and disappointed. So we spent the day cruising around the island. There was free gravol available at the desk and the sick bags were put out by the elevators etc.. I think we felt a little queezy at times that day but our discomfort soon passed.

So this gives us the opportunity to talk a little bit more about the Oceania Nautica. The most important aspect of a cruise for many people is the quality of the food. Next usually comes the quality of the service and then the comfort of the cabin. The destinations and other facilities on board are the bonus. Oceania Cruises ranks near the top consistently year after year in consumer ratings and is known for having the best onboard dining experience. We agree!

In addition to the Grand Dining Room (breakfast, lunch or dinner), the Terrace Cafe (breakfast or lunch) and the Waves Grill (mahi mahi lunch) there is the Polo Grill (filet mignon and lobster tail) and Toscana’s (pastas and salad). Of course there is also 24/7 room service, Baristas specialty coffee bar and daily afternoon tea time with all the trimmings. Here are more details. It was a true gourmet experience with amazing choice and variety for a small ship (684 passengers as opposed to 4000+). We enjoyed many a fine meal with wine! Unlike mass market cruise lines, there are no upcharges for the specialty restaurants and “O” permits you to bring on board all the wine and spirits you can carry, for personal consumption in your cabin or for a corkage fee at the dinner table.

We will leave you now with a few more pics of life on board Nautica. It was difficult to find anything not to like. It was Santorini at sea lol!

Santorini – Not!

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Delos and Mykonos

Nautica off the coast of Delos

On a perfect Aegean Sea morning our small ship dropped anchor and we were tendered in to the ancient island of Delos. I think larger ships would not have attempted such a delicate operation but perhaps so. Delos is one of the most important historical, mythological and architectural sites in Greece. The Ionians arrived here in 1000 BC bringing the worship of Apollo. Uninhabited today, it is revered as the birthplace of Greek gods Apollo and Artemis.

It was a crash course to be shown these ancient ruins and instructed in Greek mythology. We had to watch our step though as it was very rough territory strewn with rocks. The highlight was the magnificent Terrace of the Lions, guarding the birthplace of Apollo, the God of archery, music, dance, truth, prophecy, sun, light, healing and poetry. Artemis was the Greek goddess of hunting, wild nature and chastity. She was the sister of Apollo and the daughter of Zeus and born here to their mother Leto.

We headed back to the ship in time for lunch and then a short cruise to neigbouring Mykonos. We were now in the Cyclades group of Greek islands known for their beaches and whitewashed clifftop villages. Mykonos is dry and barren but its sandy beaches and dynamic nightlife make the island one of the most popular in the Cyclades. It was under Venetian rule from 1207 but eventually flourished as a self-sufficient society.

Mykonos

Known as the glitziest island in Greece, we were indeed in for a beautiful afternoon wandering around the intricate shopping streets, the waterfront bars and restaurants and hitting the town beach, all within easy walking distance.

Mykonos Town is a tangle of dazzling white alleys and cube-shaped houses. It was purposely built this way to defy the wind and pirates. One can easily get lost in the maze of narrow streets, shops and colourful bars and restaurants. It was truly the quintessential Greek island. We enjoyed some beach time with friends Judy and Bruce, visited the Folk Museum, saw the still working 16th century windmill and of course had a beer or two in “little Venice”, the colourful bar area overhanging the sea.

Truly a gorgeous place to visit this Mykonos, we would love to come back someday and stay awhile.

Artemis is one of the most venerated of Greek god’s. Her temple was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient world whose ruins are in Ephesus. She vowed to remain a virgin and help mothers bare the pain of childhood. She also was good with bow and arrow and became the goddess Diana in Roman times.

A famous myth about her according to Lamar Ronald Lacey’s The Myth of Aktaion: Literary and Iconographic Studies, is that Actaeon was the hunting companion of the goddess who, seeing her naked in her sacred spring, attempts to force himself on her. For this hubris, he is turned into a stag and devoured by his own hounds. However, in some surviving versions, Actaeon is a stranger who happens upon her. According to the Latin version of the story told by the Roman Ovid having accidentally seen Artemis (Diana) on Mount Cithaeron while she was bathing, he was changed by her into a stag, and pursued and killed by his fifty hounds. Different tellings also diverge in the hunter’s transgression, which is sometimes merely seeing the virgin goddess naked, sometimes boasting he is a better hunter than she.

Artemis courtesy Ancient History Encyclopedia

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