My mother had always dreamt of visiting the Greek Isles, but by her 80th year had assumed that dream would remain just that. Now she is pinching herself wondering if she’s ever going to wake up – she’s still on a high after an exhilarating trip.
For me, it was an absolute privilege to be able to spend two weeks with a wonderful old lady, exploring the backstreets of Athens, gasping at the Corinth Canal and trying to believe that the blue and white buildings at Oia (on Santorini) were actual real. It was a special mother and daughter time that will be remembered for a long time (my husband was left at home in Sydney).
I won’t bore you with details of the long trip to Athens via Abu Dhabi. Instead we will imaging being whisked there as if we’ve pressed a button and been beamed across the world in a flash of light.
Thursday 5 July – Athens
It’s still sunny outside – very sunny – but all showered and ready for sleep by 7pm. It’s been an eventful couple of days. Just made it to the plane in Sydney after losing Mom’s toiletries, no sleep (lots of movies on plane). Looking forward to open space at Abu Dhabi – fat chance!! Very closed in, weird airport. Strange housing too – square blocks with square houses same size and position on block. Don’t want to live in Abu Dhabi.
Athens airport – not too far to walk, quickly through, driver waiting, glad I’d booked the transfer in advance. Lovely wide roads, clean, traffic light. Exit from airport reminds me a bit of Santiago. Enter old city (of Athens) – lots of graffiti but in a strange way even that seems clean.
Met Lia – my contact – at our apartment. Apartment not quite what I expected – risk of internet bookings – but good to have space. Lia took me for a walk to get bearings and then I went off for get some food (bread, cheese from Naxos, tomato and bananas). Mom rested. Was nice to have some time to wander myself. Very warm. Hope we sleep tonight. Good night.
Friday 6 July – Athens
Didn’t sleep too well last night – mainly noise and mosquitoes. But in bed from 7pm-6am so rested. The birds were our alarm clock – making a huge racket in the banana palm outside. Unfortunately I’ve come down with a sore throat so probably a cold on the way.
After a few teething isuses this morning, we settled in for a good day. First breakfast and coffee at the local bakery – with lots of talking – before a long walk past the Roman Agora and around the Acropolis to the Acropolis Museum. The museum was only 5 Euros entry and well worth it!! It’s built with the same dimensions as the Parthenon.
Afterwards, we set off down the road for a bite to eat – a place recommended by the apartments – and were rewarded with more views of the Acropolis and Parthenon. Mom enjoyed the white tablecloths and great service (and moussaka). I enjoyed the haloumi (that my husband had told me I had to have for him). Mom was exhausted so we made our way to the metro to head home. But did stop for a brief look at Parliament and Syntagma (Constitution) Square. Bought some cherries and apricots (1 Euro per kg) for our evening meal. Left Mom sitting on a restaurant stool (outdoors) and went for water and drinks (and got some nice Greek yogurt). We enjoyed our first visit to the apartments’ rooftop terrace for drinks before dinner. Bread and cheese from yesterday, fruit and yogurt. Very full.
Some Canadians moved in below us, so we had a chat to them on the porch as we sipped our tea. It’s a late night – 10pm rather than 7pm. Zzzzzzzzz!!
Saturday 7 July – Athens
Woke up to our bird alarm again. Tried to open bathroom window but was overwhelmed by the smell of garlic. There’s a garlic shop downstairs – never seen so much garlic. Counteract the smell by making some rooibos tea with vanilla – Mom doesn’t venture anywhere without her rooibos!.
The walk to the Grand Market through the local neighbourhood took us past cereal shops, spice shops and sausage shops (my husband would think he’d died and gone to heaven). Market was amazing! Meat, meat and more meat. And cheap. But the vendors were all smoking – yuk! Went to a funny little coffee bar for breakfast – pastries and coffee. It was run by 2 half-brothers – or so they said although I couldn’t see any resemblance. One had been to Australia and said he found Australians strange!
I had a walk by myself in the afternoon – and was picked up by a Polish guy. That’s a story for another day.
Dinner was a local affair. They didn’t know how to handle tourists as they don’t usually have them there- couldn’t understand how we’d found the place. It was full of locals.
I’m losing my voice –hopefully some sleep will help.
Sunday 8 July – Piraeus
Happy birthday Mom! She’s so excited sitting here watching the Wimbledon Men’s Final on her birthday. And that after a nice comfortable trip to Ancient Corinth with Nick our driver. Lovely guy (and pretty easy on the eye).
This morning was early rising to get packed, have breakfast and carry bags down the spiral marble staircase. The drive to Corinth was very pretty and lovely roads. We found out that there are no mosques in Greece – not allowed! Saw where Paul preached to the Corinthians. The Corinthian Canal is amazing – I don’t want to navigate ships down there.
We arrived at the port at 12 and getting on the ship was easy. On board we were greeted with champagne and piano music before heading to Windows Café for lunch. Ate far too much – particularly dessert. This didn’t stop me from having a slice of red velvet cake later when I went for a walk around the ship (I’ve been dying to try some one day!). I had a chat to the trainer at the gym – Dermot – and saw the running track. Very hot! The Drawing Room on level 10 looks an amazing place to relax.
Our room attendant is Malik. The staff seem great!
Off to lifeboat drill at 5pm which will disturb our tennis.
Mom was in her element at diner, enjoying the service. The waiters are excellent – and knew about Mom’s mango allergy and birthday. She even had a birthday cake with candles and was serenaded by members of the crew. She really is lapping it up. Opened door to stateroom to be greeted by balloons and a happy birthday banner.
Can’t get air-conditioning right – too cold – need to ask Malik.
Monday 9 July – Ephesus
Am really missing my man this morning. He would love this!
We’ve just docked in Kusadasi alongside the HUGE Ruby Princess. Fortunately our stateroom is on the other side next to a nice big yacht – Wind Spirit.
Already eaten far too much food and it’s only 8:40am. The smoked salmon for breakfast was enough for two.
The bus trip out to Ephesus was very scenic. We visited the house where the Virgin Mary was believed to have lived in her old age.
The walk through Ancient Ephesus was very long, very hot and very busy but good. And Mom did very well. We didn’t bother going to the carpet factory but headed back to the ship for lunch.
I did some shopping this afternoon and was harassed by every Turkish man around. Dimitri seemed the least pushy so got my business. Mom’s sunnies were 8 Euro – where they’d asked for 20. I was glad to get back to the ship!
Dinner was followed by a huge slice of carrot cake in the Mosaic café before the show. Our entertainer for the night was nuts – like the mad hatter – but a brilliant pianist and entertainer. Mom even made it past 11pm. Tomorrow will be good to get a rest day. Still no running / gym as very chesty and no voice. Will get fat and not fit!!
Tuesday 10 July – Kos
Docked @ Kos around 8am. Thought we were going to be anchored so a bonus. Our cabin is on the side of the ship that gives us brilliant views over the island, particularly the castle (save us the 3 Euro entry fee).
I went for a walk into the town around 10am. Not much to report. Lots of tourists and a few more rocks (the castle and the agora). Mom was happy to sit on the balcony watching the world go by, reading and writing her memoirs. I have a bit of a tummy ache in addition to my chestiness so a bit sorry for myself. Still haven’t had the gelato I’d promised to have so will need to have that soon.
Found out that our trip to Santorini is rated as strenuous even though my docs showed it as moderate. Was going to cancel but look as though our tickets may be non-refundable. So may be a slightly bigger day than planned. Also still need to reschedule for Sunday as we need to be off the ship by 9am. Gee, so many decisions and things to organise! In between trying to decide where and what to eat.
Can cancel the Santorini trip but sounds as though it shouldn’t be too strenuous. But have moved it to the morning before it gets too hot.
My friendly guest services man (Daniel) organised a second bag for us – usually 1 per cabin – so must go and say thanks. Mom and I had a short stroll into Kos into the afternoon – I gave her a quick tour of what I’d seen in the morning.
Captain Carl owes me! I went for a run in 32 degree heat and came back to no gangplank. The ship was being moved. I managed to scrounge some water and have a stretch. It was interesting to hear the captain over the radios giving instructions to the crew as they had to move the ship forward by some 10/15 metres.
Dinner service not as good tonight. Funny how quickly one becomes fussy. The dance / singing show – Voices – was very unusual and quite intense but excellent. Mom and I managed to stay awake but crashed afterwards.
Wednesday 11 July – Rhodes
Lots of other ships whens docking at Rhodes (Rodos). Again prime spot with views over the old town. Really no need to go ashore although I may take a walk later. Not so sure about a run after yesterday.
After breakfast while sitting have coffee at Mosaic Café, the tour person came past and recognised me – amazing after only one conversation with her the day before about Santorini. We also had a long chat to one of the cast members / singers.
It’s quite windy today – and very hot. Am getting blown about on the pool deck. Am reading 1 chapter, sleeping 1 chapter. Staff member brings me a banana sorbet – yum. Time to head back to room to collect Mom for lunch. Had caramel gelato – nice but not like the ones iRome. Will probably stick with the fruit crumbles I’ve been enjoying at lunch time.
The old town is very quaint – also very touristy. Lots of people, magnets, free wi-fi. Walked to the Palace, bought a bathmat for Mom and headed back to the air-conditioned ship for coffee. Our room is warm now as the sun is streaming in. Will change later once is sets (around 8.30pm).
Thursday 12 July – Santorini
Nothing like having lunch at 3pm. The 3 ½ hour tour to Santorini took us 5 hours door to door. But was it worth it!! The highlight was definitely the village of Oia (pronounced Ee-a) – absolute picture postcard beauty. The layers of volcanic rock making up the islands are amazing. And then the snow white houses perched on the top – the outer layer is apparently pesticide.
The visit to the winery gave us the opportunity to have a few rusks and cheese and the bananas we’d take with us. Otherwise our 3pm sandwiches and fruit cake at Mosaic café wouldn’t have come nearly quickly enough. The walk from the bus to the cable car was pretty tough so took it slowly in the heat. It was this walk that had led to the strenuous rating. The tender is a very civilised one, so all good.
Mom ended up with swollen ankles so we will definitely take it easy the rest of the trip and go straight to the airport on Sunday. Also will organise assistance at airports if we can. Will definitely make both our lives easier!
Mom didn’t make it to the piano recital last night – too tired – pity, but she only missed 4 pieces. He really talks more than he plays. But he’s very entertaining!
Friday 13 July – Crete
Just back from Crete for lunch. It really is a lot prettier than I expected. It reminds me of the villages at Cinque Terra. Little alleyways, coloured buildings and bougainvillea. Went around the shore a bit and the juxtaposition was amazing – run down swimming pools, abandoned buildings and land next to tourists swimming in rock pools. Found a few out of the way places to walk. Almost tempted to ride on one of the horse drawn carriages but decided I was happy to watch. The views of the ship from the shore were great.
Sat outside at Windows Café for lunch. Was lovely as it’s at the back of the ship which was angled towards Crete. This meant I could give Mom an explanation and save her the trip ashore. Had a leisurely lunch followed by a leisurely cuppa in Mosaic Café. A few more photos in between and an email to finalise arrangements for Sunday. All done!!
Tonight is Mediterranean buffer on pool deck – served by the officers – followed by a white night party. I must’ve known seeing as I brought a white dress. Should be fun even if chaotic and noisy. Although seldom too bad on the ship – 500 people rather than the 2500 on the Ruby Princess!
The dinner and party on deck was fabulous albeit unbelievably hot (no wind). Didn’t take photos. They’d decorated with white balloons and ice sculptures and moved tables from the buffet restaurant (huge effort!!). The entertainment was great, although the Greek dancing a bit monotonous. I eventually had those elusive dolmades – and they were worth the wait. And pistachio crème brulee was an unusual end to the meal. I turned down the crepes the officers were cooking.
A bit of dancing was fun, although meant another shower was needed before bed (because of the heat).
Saturday 14 July – Nafplion
Whew! Back on board sitting at Mosaic Café after a visit to Nafplion. Climbed 999 steps (I lost count!) to the castle, then had to climb some more there to reach the top. The views were spectacular.
Felt as though I was back in the big smoke. Nafplion is on the Greek mainland – the capital prior to Athens – and whilst quaint, not like the islands. And definitely not as friendly. No more photos – the card is full!! Now I can just relax and enjoy the rest.
Time to go and check up on Mom and have lunch.
Had a lovely lunch out on deck – relaxing. Then time to pack! Was relatively painless and we rewarded ourselves with coffee and banana cake. Something I was to regret later when I woke up in the middle of the night with an upset tummy. Spent some time after packing out on the balcony reading and then got dressed for dinner. The sun was a bit bright out on deck during dinner – depending on which way the ship was – but still good. Unfortunately I think I ate too much chocolate gelato – definitely the best gelato I had on the cruise.
Then it was off to the cabaret lounge for the crew farewell and final show. The show was great fun and finished in time for us to pack the final bits in our bags and get them outside the door before the 11pm deadline.