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Endeavour Comes to LA

A fairly historic day in Space History today as the Space Shuttle Endeavour takes its last “flight” around Los Angeles today.  Apparently the pilots of the jumbo jet were given free reign to tool around California today with a loose flight plan, including two swoops around the Santa Monica area.  Guess what that means?  Prime rooftop viewing platform!  Here are my pics from this amazing afternoon:

The view of where we expected Endeavor to show up
The view of where we expected Endeavor to show up21-Sep-2012 11:48, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 4.5, 9.815mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
And sure enough, there's Endeavor in the hazy distance
And sure enough, there's Endeavor in the hazy distance21-Sep-2012 11:50, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 5.8, 18.8mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100
 
You can start to make out the real shapes of the shuttle as well as the F-18s
You can start to make out the real shapes of the shuttle as well as the F-18s21-Sep-2012 11:50, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 5.8, 18.8mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100
21-Sep-2012 11:51, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 5.8, 18.8mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100
21-Sep-2012 11:51, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 5.8, 18.8mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100
 
21-Sep-2012 11:51, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 5.8, 18.8mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100
Such a great shot and I can't believe how close it was to our rooftop
Such a great shot and I can't believe how close it was to our rooftop21-Sep-2012 11:51, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 5.8, 18.8mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100
It's right there!
It's right there!21-Sep-2012 11:51, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 5.8, 18.8mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
 
21-Sep-2012 11:51, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 5.8, 18.8mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
This is the second loop around Venice and Santa Monica after the shuttle did a low flyby of LAX
This is the second loop around Venice and Santa Monica after the shuttle did a low flyby of LAX21-Sep-2012 12:01, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 5.0, 12.056mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
21-Sep-2012 12:01, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 5.8, 18.8mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
 
21-Sep-2012 12:02, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 5.8, 18.8mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
21-Sep-2012 12:02, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 5.8, 18.8mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
Not as close by as the first loop but still pretty amazing
Not as close by as the first loop but still pretty amazing21-Sep-2012 12:02, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 5.8, 18.8mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100
 

Great Couch Looking for a New Home

Hi – I’m Hobie’s trusty living room couch and have been a treasured part of his living room family since 2009.  He’s taken great care of me but apparently he is looking for something in a different style.  Is there anything wrong with me?  Nope.  He’s just fickle and wants a new look.  P’shaw.  I’d love to find a new home though, so if you or someone you know is looking for a great sectional couch, please let Hobie know.  He’s asking $400 for me and honestly, that’s a great price.

19-Sep-2012 17:51, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 160
19-Sep-2012 17:51, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 160
19-Sep-2012 17:52, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 100
 

Hobie doesn’t have a delivery service though so I’d definitely need a ride to my new home.  Obviously I’m coming with all the brown pillows because they’re part of me and Hobie can’t have them.  So there!

 

Santorini, Greece (2011 Trip) Pics

August 31, 2011 – Santorini!

Our first port o’ call!  It was exciting to explore a place that neither of us had ever been to before – especially as that place was Greece.  It had always been one of my favored destinations and one that I hadn’t yet been to, so to not only finally make it there but while on this ridiculously luxurious ship – pure bliss.  In the morning, we awoke to the ship still moving yet outside there were scattered little Greek islands.  They weren’t islands that make you think beautiful and unspoiled – more like the volcanic remnants of what used to be there, which is in fact the case.  Santorini as it is today is basically the remnants of what used to be a huge island that blew up in a giant volcano.  Now it’s an archipelago – many think that this was actually the basis of the legend of Atlantis.

Anyway, Santorini is what many people would think of in terms of a Greek Isle….at least in terms of the countryside and bleached-white architecture situated on dramatic cliffs with stunning Med views.  As the Equinox approached the city of Fira on the coast of Santorini, it became clear that what looked like white-topped cliffs was not due to geology but the city itself.  It clings on the side of these massive cliffs and as you’ll see in the later pics of this post, it ends up affording the town an unbelievable view of the water.  Simply breathtaking.  There is actually no harbor big enough for a ship our size, not to mention the fact that Santorini is a very popular cruise ship destination.  Hence, Equinox docked out in the water and we were taken ashore by multiple skiffs.  This was our first excursion experience and it was almost nerve-wracking to get assigned your tour group number and anxiously await your number to be called.  It finally happened though and after a quick jaunt to the shore, we met our guide (a very beautiful Greek woman – you can see her in the photos if you pay attention) and were ushered on to our bus.

Arrival into Santorini

When we woke up the next morning, we were in the middle of the Greek Isles!
When we woke up the next morning, we were in the middle of the Greek Isles!31-Aug-2011 13:00, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
31-Aug-2011 13:00, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
31-Aug-2011 13:00, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
 
31-Aug-2011 13:01, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
31-Aug-2011 13:02, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
31-Aug-2011 13:02, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 125
 
As we got around this island, you could start to see the other cruise ships
As we got around this island, you could start to see the other cruise ships31-Aug-2011 13:04, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 3.5, 7.152mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
All of them headed where we were: Santorini, Greece
All of them headed where we were: Santorini, Greece31-Aug-2011 13:06, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 4.0, 7.815mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
31-Aug-2011 13:06, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 3.2, 6.491mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
 
31-Aug-2011 13:06, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 3.2, 6.491mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
One day we'll come back in a yacht, too!
One day we'll come back in a yacht, too!31-Aug-2011 13:08, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 3.2, 6.711mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100
All that white topping?  Those are the towns.  Yeah, they built up high.
All that white topping? Those are the towns. Yeah, they built up high.31-Aug-2011 13:09, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 5.0, 11.381mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100
 
31-Aug-2011 13:22, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 4.0, 8.48mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100
You go to the Equinox Theater to get your excursion sticker so you know where to go
You go to the Equinox Theater to get your excursion sticker so you know where to go31-Aug-2011 14:09, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.05 sec, ISO 1600
31-Aug-2011 14:16, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 3.5, 6.932mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 800
 

The bus immediately went up the scariest fucking switchback road I think I’ve ever been on.  As I mentioned, there are ridiculous cliffs around the entire island so to actually see the interior of the island, you have to ascend the cliffs.  UGH.  It was nauseating how high we ended up going and seeing how high above even those massive cruise ships we were.  That torture blessedly ended and we ended up driving across the island and through many volcanic-soil-based orchards and vineyards.  The landscape, at least up there, reminded me a lot of Southern Calif0rnia, besides the volcanic part.  Our first stop was to the highest point of the island which afforded us views of the entire Santorini.  It was a beautiful and HOT day, so the views were spectacular.

Bus Ride Up to the Highest Point

That's our ship way back there while beautiful white Greece architecture is in front
That's our ship way back there while beautiful white Greece architecture is in front31-Aug-2011 14:35, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 160
We boarded a bus and started up a road that went up....
We boarded a bus and started up a road that went up....31-Aug-2011 14:35, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
....and up.....
....and up.....31-Aug-2011 14:35, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
 
....and up....
....and up....31-Aug-2011 14:36, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100
...and UP....to the point where it was scary to look over as the bus was huge...
...and UP....to the point where it was scary to look over as the bus was huge...31-Aug-2011 14:38, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
...and the road was tiny.....ugh...still have flashbacks.
...and the road was tiny.....ugh...still have flashbacks.31-Aug-2011 14:40, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100
 
Volcanic soil is great for growing things, as long as they're planted low
Volcanic soil is great for growing things, as long as they're planted low31-Aug-2011 14:44, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100
31-Aug-2011 14:47, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100
31-Aug-2011 14:51, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100
 
31-Aug-2011 14:51, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 160
As you can see, we ended up driving to to the top of the island
As you can see, we ended up driving to to the top of the island31-Aug-2011 14:54, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100
It afforded us a dramatic view of nearly the entire island.
It afforded us a dramatic view of nearly the entire island.31-Aug-2011 14:55, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100
 
Larry at our first stop on the bus
Larry at our first stop on the bus31-Aug-2011 14:55, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100
31-Aug-2011 14:55, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100
31-Aug-2011 14:55, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100
 

The second and longest stop was in one of the more ancient cities of Santorini, Pyrgos.  This is basically the city you imagine when you think of Greek Isles.  The stunning white architecture with pops of blue here and there led to all of us in the group being slack-jawed at the beauty.  Our guide took us on a walking tour through it and while it was extremely beautiful (you can see the pics – I didn’t choose that top photo above for no reason) it was muthafuckin’ hot.  Holy god it was hot.  So glad I had a hat and we brought water as otherwise your ass was going to pass out.  Don’t mind me though – it was totally worth it.  We were taken to where the old fortress had once been and saw its ruins along with all these gorgeous little step-filled corridors.  Sigh….it was so beautiful.  Could totally imagine going back there just to vacation and chill the fuck out.

City of Pyrgos

Went to the town of Pyrgos for our second stop and for a walking tour
Went to the town of Pyrgos for our second stop and for a walking tour31-Aug-2011 15:20, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 160
WAs pretty much the idyllic, prototypical white-walled Greek town you imagine
WAs pretty much the idyllic, prototypical white-walled Greek town you imagine31-Aug-2011 15:21, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 3.2, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
31-Aug-2011 15:21, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
 
31-Aug-2011 15:21, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 3.5, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 160
Beautiful blue skies contrast amazingly against the buildings
Beautiful blue skies contrast amazingly against the buildings31-Aug-2011 15:21, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 3.2, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 125
31-Aug-2011 15:22, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
 
31-Aug-2011 15:22, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 3.2, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 125
Lots of neat, meandering narrow passageways through the village
Lots of neat, meandering narrow passageways through the village31-Aug-2011 15:24, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 320
It was hot, and very nice in the shade
It was hot, and very nice in the shade31-Aug-2011 15:24, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 400
 
Had to wear my hat a lot this trip - blazing sun is no friend to bald spots
Had to wear my hat a lot this trip - blazing sun is no friend to bald spots31-Aug-2011 15:25, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 125
31-Aug-2011 15:26, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 3.2, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
31-Aug-2011 15:26, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 3.5, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
 
31-Aug-2011 15:27, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 3.5, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 400
That's our Greek tour guide, standing in front of the entry to the walled part of the original Pyrgos
That's our Greek tour guide, standing in front of the entry to the walled part of the original Pyrgos31-Aug-2011 15:29, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
Yeah, it was spectacular.  Just hot and humid as hell.
Yeah, it was spectacular. Just hot and humid as hell.31-Aug-2011 15:30, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 3.2, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 125
 

This excursion wasn’t JUST a visit of Santorini – we also got some authentic Greek food for lunch!  We went to this great little restaurant with a beautiful view and met some new people for the first time the entire trip.  There were some great couples that we ended up seeing frequently over the cruise, but this excursion was very fortuitous as we ended up meeting Amy at lunch.  Larry & I were kind of the chatty ones at the table and over some topics, it was clear we got along fabulously with Amy.  Trying not to be too awkward about it, we ended up asking Amy if she wanted to hang out again during the trip.  We definitely ended up doing so many times – I think even that night we did as we went to our first cruise ship show and met up with her afterwards to play craps.  That’s when we found out she’s in the advertising industry too!  Small world.  Back to the story though, it was a great lunch and I ate most of the food, surprisingly.

Lunchtime

Our next stop was at a restaurant where we got to have lots of good snacks...and wine
Our next stop was at a restaurant where we got to have lots of good snacks...and wine31-Aug-2011 16:16, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 100
While eating, a weird humidity-caused cloud rolled in.  I started thinking about The Mist
While eating, a weird humidity-caused cloud rolled in. I started thinking about The Mist31-Aug-2011 16:57, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100
Larry, with Amy over on the right.  We bonded over lunch.
Larry, with Amy over on the right. We bonded over lunch.31-Aug-2011 16:57, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 320
 
More Greek volcanic vineyards
More Greek volcanic vineyards31-Aug-2011 17:00, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 3.2, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 400
 

It was then time to head to our last stop, the city of Fira.  This was the city you could see from the cruise ship and is basically the other city you’d think of when you think of the Greek Isles:  the one that has the ridiculously gorgeous view of the Mediterranean.  Le sigh.  It was mesmerizing to just stare out from any of the myriad walls, balconies, or alcoves and just gaze out.  By this time, the sun was down a bit and the afternoon was growing long, so it wasn’t as terribly hot.   Our tour was also over at this point and our guide gave us our “return tickets” which earned us passage on the Suspended Tramway back down to the docks.  Let me just say….I loved Santorini, but this last part nearly ruined the excursion.  Basically, that tramway is one of two ways you can actually get back down to the water where the skiffs await to return you to the ship.  We were told that you could also walk the stairs down the cliffs.  I won’t claim that I am super athletic or the opposite, but I envisioned either falling or suffering from muscle pain due to thousands of stairs down. Plus, we had been warned that the path reeks since donkeys are also going up and down those in case you want a ride.  So after grabbing an ice cream up top to cool off, we went for the Tram.  As did all the other thousands of people there.  Like I said way before, Santorini is a huge cruise ship destination and there are many more tour groups than just from your ship.  We ended up having to wait about an hour to finally get on the Tram, all while roasting in the sun since there wasn’t any cover.  Long afternoon.  Yet finally, we got on the tram, I momentarily freaked out as I HATE those kinds of trams especially when you’re that high up, and got back to the skiff and then the ship.

City of Fira

31-Aug-2011 17:05, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 200
Our last stop was getting dropped off at Fira
Our last stop was getting dropped off at Fira31-Aug-2011 17:17, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
It's the city jaw-droppingly on the coast
It's the city jaw-droppingly on the coast31-Aug-2011 17:19, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 4.0, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 160
 
Looks like something out of Lord of the Rings, to be honest
Looks like something out of Lord of the Rings, to be honest31-Aug-2011 17:19, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 125
Hard not to be happy when you're in paradise
Hard not to be happy when you're in paradise31-Aug-2011 17:19, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 3.5, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
31-Aug-2011 17:20, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 4.0, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 320
 
Santorini was once a single island, but it's volcanic, so there's now an archipelago
Santorini was once a single island, but it's volcanic, so there's now an archipelago31-Aug-2011 17:25, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 3.5, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
That island in the center is the former center of the island
That island in the center is the former center of the island31-Aug-2011 17:25, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 5.0, 7.152mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
Again...how awesome would it be to stay at that hotel???
Again...how awesome would it be to stay at that hotel???31-Aug-2011 17:26, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 3.5, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
 
Our ship's on the left
Our ship's on the left31-Aug-2011 17:26, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 5.0, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 160
Could easily come back here
Could easily come back here31-Aug-2011 17:27, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 4.5, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
Had some time to wander the streets for souvenirs and our first Greek gelato
Had some time to wander the streets for souvenirs and our first Greek gelato31-Aug-2011 17:34, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
 
Had to wait in an ungodly line for the cable car down
Had to wait in an ungodly line for the cable car down31-Aug-2011 17:52, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 3.2, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 250
There were burros too, if you wanted to ride them on the steps
There were burros too, if you wanted to ride them on the steps31-Aug-2011 18:10, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 5.0, 11.606mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100
31-Aug-2011 18:10, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 5.8, 18.8mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100
 

Once back on the ship, the captain mentioned that the Greek sunset at Santorini was not to be missed.  So after changing and showering, Larry & I rushed up to the deck, used our fantastic drink passes and welcomed the gorgeous Greek sunset with some fine cocktails.  It is nice to be on vacation!

A Greek Sunset

Back on the ship, you can see the walking path etched into the cliff
Back on the ship, you can see the walking path etched into the cliff31-Aug-2011 19:26, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 4.0, 8.48mm, 0.013 sec, ISO 100
31-Aug-2011 19:26, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200
Our first Greek sunset approached, and as the Captain had told us, it was spectacular
Our first Greek sunset approached, and as the Captain had told us, it was spectacular31-Aug-2011 19:26, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
 
Our weather was freaking wonderful
Our weather was freaking wonderful31-Aug-2011 19:30, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
31-Aug-2011 19:30, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 160
Sunset
Sunset31-Aug-2011 19:31, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 5.6, 17.972mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 100
 
Perfect time for a drink
Perfect time for a drink31-Aug-2011 19:33, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 160
Right, Larry?
Right, Larry?31-Aug-2011 19:47, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 250
Cruise Ship central over here
Cruise Ship central over here31-Aug-2011 19:47, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 125
 
Enjoying the pool instead of going onshore was definitely the choice made by many
Enjoying the pool instead of going onshore was definitely the choice made by many31-Aug-2011 19:47, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 200
Larry was ready to call it a day
Larry was ready to call it a day31-Aug-2011 19:53, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.025 sec, ISO 800
I was ready to call it a margarita
I was ready to call it a margarita31-Aug-2011 19:53, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 500
 
31-Aug-2011 20:04, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.025 sec, ISO 1600
31-Aug-2011 20:05, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.067 sec, ISO 800
31-Aug-2011 20:05, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.067 sec, ISO 800
 

2011 Mediterranean Trip Pics Index

Athens, Greece (2011 Trip) Pics

September 1, 2011 – The Ancient City of Athens

The Birthplace of Western Civilization!  The Parthenon!  The Acropolis! Needless to say, I was extremely excited to see Athens.  Along with the Hagia Sophia, The Parthenon was another building I’ve imagined visiting my entire life and this trip was going to help me fulfill that check box. SWEET.

The morning of our arrival in Athens, we woke up already there.  It was interesting to find ourselves already in a brand new place and really not have a clue where we were.  At the time, I didn’t think you could see Ancient Athens from where we were – I discovered I was wrong, after getting back from our excursion.  The port for Athens is known as Piraeus and it would be like driving from Long Beach to Downtown LA in terms of comparable distances.  The first order of business was a bus ride along the Piraeus coastline along with commentary from our tour guide, who knew the ins and outs of Athens, that’s for sure.  I couldn’t tell you much at all about what I saw writing about it nearly a year later.  Luckily I’ve captioned most photos as applicable.

The approach to Athens clearly indicates that it’s basically just another big city, much like you’d see in the U.S. or in most parts of Europe.  It’s not particularly picturesque and kinda pedestrian, if you permit my blase attitude.  Only when you get close to the ancient areas do you start to see the “money shots” if you will.  Once in the downtown area about 45-60 minutes later, you can start looking out the window and having your mind blown.  The ancient quarter is awesome.  The Acropolis is truly a sight to see, and can be seen from miles away, as it is a big hill crowned with ancient historical buildings.  Throughout the rest of the city are scattered other majestic sights, like ancient Olympic stadiums, ruins of temples, amphitheaters, other historical hills….you could probably spend another day enjoying the sights.  At a leisurely pace.  Beyond that, Athens is a typical bigger-than-medium dirty city.  Nothing wrong with that, but it kind of clashes with the other island-ic parts of Greece where it’s quaint and staggeringly gorgeous (see Santorini and Mykonos).

Leaving Piraeus for Athens

After getting driven around the ancient part of the city, our walking tour of the Acropolis began.  As it also did for THOUSANDS of people.  It’s not surprising this is a hugely popular place to go.  Yet when it’s balls hot outside, the last thing you want to do is be crammed with every other foreigner and move at a snails pace.  Alas, that is the price to pay to experience the divine.  🙂   You basically queue up in a long crowded line up the steps of the Acropolis, funneling through a central ancient gate that then opens up on the expanse of the Acropolis proper.  It’s a fantastic view though, as you go ever higher and get an ever better view of Athens.

Climbing the Acropolis

But yeah, once you get through that gate, that’s when it was all worth it….as there’s the mother-bleepin’ PARTHENON.  It really is staggering and impressive and not-at-all disappointing.  It is sad to see the condition it’s in, but if you read up on the history of the building (which is entertainingly told in “The Secret Lives of Buildings”), it’s amazing there’s anything left of it all, what with all the explosions that have taken place in it.  Larry & I walked around the site, taking it all in.  At least up here there is room to breathe even if it’s still crowded.  Yet it was really really hot that day (go figure, it’s hot in early September in the Med!).  We only had so much time and then it was time to rejoin the group bus, as we then were headed to the “tourist” quarter called the Plaka.

The One and Only Parthenon!!!

The Olympics Stadium

At the Plaka district, we were given a few hours on our own to just explore the area and buy souvenirs/crap.  It was also up to us to get some food, so Larry & I wandered into the heart of the Plaka ville and found a Greek restaurant to indulge in some touristy samplings of Greek food.  At that point, we were ravenous and the food and Greek beer were AMAZING.  After getting a bit of energy restored, I had wanted to visit the New Acropolis Museum.  The museum is brilliantly designed as it is built on top of ancient ruins where the old Plaka city used to be…but what’s cool is that the museum is literally propped above the ruins, and the floors are glass so you can look down and see where there are excavations occurring.  The museum is also situated at the foot of the Acropolis and aligned the same way as the Parthenon.  Why is that neat?  Because the museum has all the original remaining sidings of the Parthenon in order to better preserve them.  Basically, you’re seeing fake friezes on the Parthenon structure as there’s little way to protect them out in the open effectively without shutting the Parthenon down.  So you get to see the structure and a fairly idealized form of the remains, but the real stuff is in the museum.  It’s a great way to see all sorts of Greek antiquities, but don’t take a picture inside there!  NOT ALLOWED, as I found out.  Oops.  Lots of great stuff to see there, and it’s air-conditioned.  Hallelujah.  Also very interesting are the many scale models of the Acropolis throughout the last few thousand years, through it’s initial construction, it’s transition into different purposes and religions, and how it came to look the way it does now.

Plaka and the New Acropolis Museum

I was very happy to have finally visited the Acropolis for myself.  It’s a very worthwhile thing to see and experience – I would like to have visited other spots throughout Athens, but honestly, I don’t feel like I missed out on too much.  Maybe one day we’ll be able to swing back through there.  After our free time was up, we jumped back on the bus and drove the much quicker highway route back to our gigantic ship.  It fairly quickly took off at that point, and from our room we could watch the whole process unfold as the ship un-docked.  There were some hot dock workers to look at too…that wasn’t bad at all.

Back at Equinox

One thing about our cruise experience itself that was a bit frustrating at first was the dining experience.  No one ever showed up to our 8-person table!  Ever.  So we were the lepers, apparently.  It wasn’t this night, but I think maybe the next when they finally sat us at a 4-person square table that 2 people could sit at and not look stupid.  We didn’t eat every night at the main dining room, but let me tell you, the food there was fantastic.  The waiters, servers, and sommelier were amazing.  A very great experience, that is for sure, once we finally got our own table.  I think it’s just that people now have different options, including other restaurants throughout the ship, along with a Flex Eating thing that sells out immediately long before the ship sails, in which it’s like a restaurant and you can eat just with your party.  I think a lot of people don’t like the idea of having to eat with the same people every night, especially if you end up hating them.  Ah well….their loss, as Larry & I are AWESOME dinner conversationalists.

2011 Mediterranean Trip Pics Index

2nd Day at Sea (2011 Trip) Pics

2nd Day at Sea – Sept 2, 2011

This isn’t a long post as really, there’s not much trouble you can get into or sights to see, but still, it was a cool day at sea.  Why?  Because we were headed through the Sea of Marmara on our way to Istanbul and you could see land on both sides the entire way there.  And that land was Europe on one side and Asia on the other.  It was pretty cool.  At one point, the captain of the ship announced that on the shore we were passing by was the original site of Troy.  That’s pretty awesome.  I couldn’t tell for sure what I was looking at but I can still claim that I’ve seen Troy….technically.  Maybe I can’t identify it to save my life, but still.

During this day at sea, the cruise line wisely helped the passengers pass the time, offering lots of different activities.  We had signed up for an international wine tasting, which is always a good way to get drunk.  Especially when you can keep “sampling” wines repeatedly, and there are 12 to taste.  It was a lot of fun, even when the one Riesling on offer, which was from France, was god-awful.  It was terrible.  But there were plenty of other good whites and reds, along with lots of cheese and crackers.  Yum.

Basically though, it was a really nice day to relax, take in the scenery rolling by, and enjoy the wonderful temperature while on a gorgeous, luxurious, state-of-the-art cruise ship.  Life was definitely good that day.  And now, for the pics:

On days at sea, you just wander the ship and hang out
On days at sea, you just wander the ship and hang out02-Sep-2011 11:31, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.013 sec, ISO 320
Pool view again
Pool view again02-Sep-2011 11:31, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100
We were on the 11th floor and you can't quite see all the way down
We were on the 11th floor and you can't quite see all the way down02-Sep-2011 11:34, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.013 sec, ISO 400
 
In another region of the ship, where you can see multiple decks.  That's the Martini bar.
In another region of the ship, where you can see multiple decks. That's the Martini bar.02-Sep-2011 12:41, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.2, 4.3mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 200
And you can see dancing lessons too. And hot dance instructors.
And you can see dancing lessons too. And hot dance instructors.02-Sep-2011 12:42, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 200
On this day, we also signed up for a worldwide wine tasting.
On this day, we also signed up for a worldwide wine tasting.02-Sep-2011 14:32, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 125
 
The Captain told us that we could see Ancient Troy out there...
The Captain told us that we could see Ancient Troy out there...02-Sep-2011 14:57, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 4.5, 10.485mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 100
Not sure what to look for
Not sure what to look for02-Sep-2011 14:57, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 4.5, 10.485mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 100
The assorted crowd who had paid $20 to taste a lot of decent and some crappy wine
The assorted crowd who had paid $20 to taste a lot of decent and some crappy wine02-Sep-2011 15:03, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 200
 
02-Sep-2011 15:03, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 250
Smelling the bouquet
Smelling the bouquet02-Sep-2011 15:07, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.04 sec, ISO 800
Bottoms up
Bottoms up02-Sep-2011 15:08, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.04 sec, ISO 800
 
We were at the back of the ship in the Tuscan Grill Italian specialty restaurant
We were at the back of the ship in the Tuscan Grill Italian specialty restaurant02-Sep-2011 15:35, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
A very delicious restaurant, by the way
A very delicious restaurant, by the way02-Sep-2011 15:35, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.0, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
02-Sep-2011 15:35, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS, 2.8, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 320
 

2011 Mediterranean Trip Pics Index