Sunday, November 22, 2009


What can I say about Athens? Well. . . it rained. Perhaps I should really say. . . IT RAINED!
This was the place where we had the least effective tour guide, partly because he spent more time telling us not to get lost, where to meet and how to find the group if we did get lost; and partly because his slurred manner of speaking and heavy accent made it very hard to understand anything he said. All while the rain was pouring down on us in a deluge and we got increasingly wetter and colder. He did give us some information about the city, the Acropolis and the Parthenon but I'm afraid it was overshadowed by what would happen if we mislaid "the tour group".

The Parthenon was impressive by it's sheer size! And the other Temple (the Erechtheum) and the huge number of ruins waiting to find a place in the Acropolis puzzle were amazing. Mind you by that time we had been set free from "the group" to explore on our own and the rain had stopped for a bit.
The view of the city from the Parthenon was impressive and we had the added bonus of having a dark sky and and bright rainbow against which to take our photographs.

Looking down at the amphitheatre.

You can see a bit of the rainbow in this picture. This portion of the Erechtheum is called the Porch of the Caryatids.
On the way back we had a different view from the bus window.
Did I mention that it rained?
Perhaps we'll go back to Athens someday and see more of the city. I know we only saw a small portion of it's sights and I know that spending more time here on warm, sunny day, would give us a much different perspective.
Next port - Ephesus.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Amalfi Coast and Pompeii

After boarding our cruise ship "the Grand Princess" we sailed down to Naples. Upon arriving at the port we took a bus trip along the Amalfi Coast (south of Naples) and then toured the ancient city of Pompeii.
The trip along the coast was spectacular. The road was very winding, narrow to the point of being one way in many parts, had very narrow or no shoulders at all and was often built cantilevered over the cliffs. We were fortunate (?!) to have chosen seats on the ocean side of the bus and often could see straight down to the rocks and sea 1000 feet below our bus window. What a ride! All along are towns built on the rocks descending to the sea and terraces planted with olives and lemon trees.
The Amalfi is known as one of the world's most beautiful coastlines and we fully agreed.

Notice the highway hanging in mid air over the side of the cliff!

This rock is aptly named "Madonna and Child".

The Tyrrhenian Sea is aqua blue and so clear we could see the bottom.

We spent a couple of hours walking through the town of Positano, browsing the shops and walking the narrow streets of this seaside village. The sun was bright but the wind was chilly.

After lunch in a very lovely hotel, we were driven to Pompeii. Pompeii was first settled in the 4th Century BC and was later conquered by the Romans in the 2nd century BC. By AD 62, it was a prosperous town. That year an earthquake damaged a good part of the town but people had no idea that the defunct volcanic mountain above the town was any threat to them. They rebuilt the town making it even more beautiful than it had been before the earthquake. However in August AD 79 Mount Vesuvius errupted causing panic, death and destruction. The whole town was covered in 30 feet of volcanic lava and ash. Over the years that ensued, rumours abounded of a city full of treasure buried in the ground but it wasn't until the 18th century that nearby Herculeum and Pompeii became the site of extensive excavations. Today we can walk the streets of Pompeii and can see the beautiful architecture, the sophisticated water systems and detailed paintings and mosaics that decorated the public buildings and private homes.

I remember being fascinated by ancient history back in high school and reading all about Pompeii. Visiting this city gave us a vivid understanding of how people lived almost 2000 years ago and brought history to life in a way no textbook or history course could do. What a gift to actually visit this place.