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Amalfi, Italy

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Amalfi Cruise Information (Click for more information)

Our Tour of Amalfi – 7 hours

Spectacular Amalfi Drive & Sorrento

One of Europeʹs most awe-inspiring roads, the circuitous Amalfi Drive is a thrill to travel on. You will follow its every twist and turn, as it threads the high, rocky sea cliffs and passes several picturesque villages clinging precariously to the steep coastline. The views of the Italian Riviera and Bay of Naples are breathtaking. This time of the year, the landscape is blanketed in bright-hued flowers, and the coastal air is fresh and tinged with pleasant aromas of the sea. Though you may never want the drive to end, you will soon find Sorrento to be the perfect complement. After a fascinating orientation of the town from your guide, you might enjoy watching the local artists demonstrate how they craft beautiful inlaid wooden objects. In your free time, there are plenty of cafes to enjoy lunch on your own and perhaps a Limoncello, a digestif made locally with lemons and sugar. 

Our bus driver on this tour was the best we had on all of our tours.  The views on the drive up to Sorrento were spectacular and the driver had to navigate some almost impossible turns while passing other vechiles including large buses.  There is actually a warning on the tour description – “The Drive consists of winding roads and is along the steep coastline and therefore can cause motion sickness.”   On more than one occasion, I heard Winsome say OMG and close her eyes – we were either on the edge of the precipice and/or another large bus was only a couple inches away from her window – see photo to the left where Winsome is taking a photo of the peope in the bus right beside her. Unfortunately, the road made it impossible to stop to take pictures along the way so the majority of pictures were taken through the bus window – which did not open.

While in Sorrento we visited the most amazing furniture store, Gargiulo & Jannuzzi, which designs, manufactures & sells the most incredible inlaid wood furniture.Each piece is unique and they will do custom orders. This is a fifth generation family business and the pride shows in their work.  Sadly, we did not have the time to purchase a piece we fell in love with but there is always the internet.

This picture taken from the bus came out better than expected as the camera captured the photographer reflection in the mirror on the side of the road.

Taormina (Sicily), Italy

May 30, 2012

Our Tour of  Taormina – 4 hours

What a joy to drive along the scenic winding road to Taormina, a town graced with an extraordinary natural setting and a delightful medieval character. Enjoy a guided walking tour along Taorminaʹs narrow streets past the famous Palazzo Corvaja, a beautifully ornate building whose construction began in the 15th century. A much older architectural wonder, the Greek Theater, dates back to the 3rd century B.C., a reminder of just how long Taormina has been a vibrant city. The theater was rebuilt by the Romans in the 2nd century A.D. and is still used for summer performances. Many people consider the view from the theaterʹs highpoint to be one of the most breathtaking in all of Italy, especially the sweeping panorama of Mount Etna. A leisurely stroll along Corso Umberto, the townʹs main street, takes you past many fine old houses and picture-perfect churches. Plant-lovers will particularly enjoy the Giardini Pubblici, The Public Gardens, with its crisscrossing cobbled paths through the lush exotic flora. 

Taormina was very picturesque with lots of uphill climbs & uneven terrain.  We enjoyed the wonderful scenery & strolling along the old streets.

The Trinacria, symbol of Sicily, is present in the flag of Sicily and also in the Isle of Man

Mount Etna volcano, Europe’s largest active volcano which has frequent eruptions.  The first eruption happened over half a million years ago and the last one was in April of this year.

Kusadasi, Turkey

Monday, May  28, 2012

Our Tour in Kusadasi, Turkey

Itʹs one superlative attraction after another on this tour, which begins with a scenic drive to the possible remains of the House of Virgin Mary. It is recorded that St. John the Apostle brought the Virgin Mary to Ephesus after the death of Christ and that she spent her last days in a small house. The dating of articles found at the site, which is now a church, lends credence to the belief that Virgin Mary indeed lived here. Ephesus is one of the most magnificent ancient cities of Asia Minor, and the wealth of Roman ruins here is absolutely astounding, especially considering that most of them havenʹt been excavated yet. You can walk among the ruins of the Odeon theater, public baths, the beautifully restored Celsus Library, and the Grand Theater where St. Paul once preached. The theater seats almost 24,000 people and has wonderful acoustics. In fact, it is still used today for music performances. Later, you will meander through the Museum of Ephesus, which houses an impressive collection of statues and other archaeological treasures excavated nearby. Following your included lunch, you will transfer back to Kusadasi where you can do some shopping or attend an informative carpet demonstration. 

The possible remains of the House of Virgin Mary was beautiful – unfortunately we were not allow to take photos inside.

Outside we were allowed to drink the holy water.  In the photo below you will see Winsome filling a water bottle with holy water as Lionel thought if he kept rubbing it on the bump on his head that it would shrink & eventually disappear & he would not have to do the surgery. Unfortunately, it did not have the desired effect and he had the surgery done on June 26.

The wishing wall, above, at the House of the Virgin Mary is where visitors can write their wishes or prayers and place them on the wall.

We walked through the beautiful ruins and after the long & tiring walk we were rewarded with a delicious Turkish lunch – especially the desserts.

The public toilets used in early Roman times were very special and gave a new meaning to the expression “cheek to cheek”

After lunch the tour ended with a demonstration of silk carpet making which is a very slow and tedious task – hense the incredibe price for which they are sold. Following that we had some time to explore the local stores before returning to the ship.

Santorini, Greece

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Our Tour of Santorini, Greece

Just reaching Santorini is a joy as you ride in a colorful local boat to Athinios and then join a motor coach for your driving tour. Before long, you will arrive at Santoriniʹs highest peak, crowned by the serene Mt. Profitis Ilias monastery. Here, you will have an ideal photo opportunity to capture the beauty of this gorgeous island, which is also called Thira. At the northern tip of Santorini lies the unique village of Oia, built on a dramatically steep slope of a caldera that formed after a volcanic eruption about 3,500 years ago. Many of its dwellings are nestled in niches hewn out of the volcanic rock. As you walk through its narrow cobbled streets, you might shop for handicrafts and artwork such as ceramics, paintings and semi-precious jewelry. Oia also offers spectacular views of Fira, the islandʹs other village, which you will visit, as well. During your travels, be sure to notice Santoriniʹs beaches, which are known for their black, volcanic sand. 

As you can see from the photos below the scenery in Santorini was spectacular.  Unfortunately, when we reached the highest peak of Santorini at the beginning of the tour, the fog was so thick it made photography impossible. This was probably the coolest it was on any of our tours.  We enjoyed walking the old cobblestone streets and exploring the many local shops – except for when we had to walk up a very steep hill covered in manure to get to the cable car to return to the tender pier.

Oceania Riviera Cruise Tours

We were very fortunate as we had amazing weather for all our tours.  We had no rain & lovely sunny, warm days but no intense heat which would have made the days that we had long outdoor tours unbearable.  Our deliberate timing worked out very well – missing the cooler wet weather in April/May & the extreme hot summer days which usually begin in mid June!  The ocean/sea was a little cool for swimming but guess we can’t achieve everything!

We will be doing posts & some photo galleries of each tour over the next few days.  Stay tuned!