Monday, October 31, 2011
Sunday, October 30, 2011
We did a tour by 4-wheel drive vehicle today, and saw a very pretty, green island which today was very cloudy and/or foggy. The weather meant we had no sweeping panoramas but the towns, the lakes, the greenery were amazing. This is a nice place.
One of the fascinating things about this island is that most of the rural roads are lined with hydrangea plants about four feet tall. The flour heads, each the size and appearance of a brain, varied in color from white to pink to blue to lavender.
Some of the roads looked like the road down the west side of
The architecture is rather charming; tile roofs and white stucco walls which our guide Luis said were made of stone instead of wood. I asked how the stone walls tolerate earthquakes and he said “okay.” The islands are volcanic and there are
Experiencing Sao Miguel as cool and coastal, I understand why the Azores Portuguese who have emigrated to the Central Valley of California love to go to
Lots of cattle are grown, and milked, on
I don’t know what I expected of the
Saturday, October 29, 2011
At Sea, West of
Longish cruises tend to have older passengers, very few who still have jobs, even fewer children. Cruise ship lecturers range from great to awful. As a former lecturer I always go check them out. We have one of each on board this cruise.
Our awful lecturer talks down to the audience, as though we were a junior high general science class. We suspect that is what he taught for many years. Our excellent lecturer is a man named John Maxtone-Graham and his topic is ocean liners and later, when liners were no more, cruise ships.
Maxtone-Graham is perhaps the best lecturer afloat, he is simply a raconteur. Author of several books and arguably a world authority on the liners that connected Europe to
Tomorrow we visit the
Friday, October 28, 2011
The day is clear and warm.
We sailed into the harbor under a suspension bridge that resembles the
I spent a few years living and visiting in the portion of central CA that has many Portuguese immigrants. I’m wondering to what extent I’ll see things here which echo that experience – names and the like.
Yesterday we sailed down the Mediterranean coast of
We turned the corner at Gibraltar and immediately ran into rougher water as we eased into the southern reaches of the
Later…we spent the afternoon in
Our tour included a one-hour ride on a cute little street car – a real Toonerville Trolley. That is definitely the way to see the older parts of
These streetcars date back to the early 1900s and have been updated with electric doors. Mostly, they are still old technology that continues to get the job done. Examples include a tongue-and-groove bentwood roof and low-tech single-hung windows.
There is the normal quotient of showy big Catholic churches, plus the grand governmental buildings you expect in a national capital. The parliament building is particularly fine and the presidential palace (not a residence, only a workplace) has a great setting.
Many of the older homes are covered with glazed tiles on the outside, similar to what we would do with a kitchen backsplash or a shower wall. Except that
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
This repositioning cruise is scheduled somewhat later than in previous years, and the weather is a bigger gamble in late October than in late September. “Repositioning” is a term cruise lines use to describe the long, often trans-Atlantic or trans-Pacific, cruises which move the ship from where it spends the summer to where it spends the winter, or vice versa.
For example, both the Caribbean and the west coast of Mexico are winter cruising spots, so is anything south of the equator where the summer is our winter – South America, Tahiti or Australia/New Zealand. The Mediterranean, the Baltic, and Alaska are all summer cruising areas. Repositioning cruises move the ships from one area to the other, occur in spring and fall, and are favorites of long-time cruisers.
Tomorrow we spend the day at sea and day after tomorrow we will be in Lisbon, Portugal. We’ve not been to Lisbon; I hope for nice weather so we can see the city.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
We’d been to Pisa before and it is still an amazing place. It consists of three buildings within a walled enclosure, sort of a grassy park. There is, of course, the famous leaning tower. Many don’t know that it is just the bell tower for an adjacent, rather grand church.
The other two buildings are first the church mentioned above, large and in Romanesque style. The second building is a baptistery which is likewise large and circular in floor plan, with a domed roof. The baptistery is our favorite; it looks like a wedding cake made of Carrera marble.
We found one of the two places to sit in the entire multi-acre enclosure, a nice flat marble slab that forms part of the pediment for a column on the rear elevation of the church. We sat there looking at the baptistery for maybe a half hour, avoiding the Japanese tourists doing the trite “I’m holding up the leaning tower” photos. Question: why must all Japanese tourists act like they’re doing bad impressions of Japanese tourists?
Our second stop was Firenze, known to English speakers as Florence. It is not a Roman city, mostly built during the renaissance by the Medicis and their competitors, and like Rome it is not coastal. It was our first, and likely last, visit to Florence.
Old Florence largely consists of over-decorated churches, big “palaces” that look like bureaucratic warrens, and outdoor sculptures that appear classical but are really political in intent. Then there are the famous bronze door sculptures that were intended as biblical primers for illiterate Italians.
Our reactions? We were not impressed. The DrsC found Florence to be old, tired, crowded, cramped, and over-hyped. We were there on a Monday and the Uffizi Gallery is closed on Mondays. The Ponte Vecchio is unusual but not beautiful as many bridges in Venice are. Florence is not nearly as grand as Rome nor as beautiful as Paris.
The Firenze municipal police may be corrupt, but they sure have sharp looking uniforms. As the other DrC says, “the Italians have style.” On the other hand I have difficulty getting used to being charged for using public toilets. Europeans are proud of their socialized medicine but have no problem with capitalist crappers. Different strokes….
Sunday, October 23, 2011
I am sitting looking out the window at Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas which is moored nearby. We’ve traveled on the Navigator, also on a trans-Atlantic crossing. She’s the same size as our Ruby Princess but is frankly more attractive inside.
We’ve been speculating on why most Princess ships have essentially identical interior appointments. It is sort of boring; there is no sense of “let’s go exploring the ship” when you first board. Are Princess ships designed for boring people who want comfortable sameness in every ship?
Tomorrow our port is Livorno, aka
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Having seemingly put down
At least some of
The houses in
Houses had cisterns which caught rainwater to use for irrigation and washing, not for drinking and cooking. The cisterns worked in conjunction with the home’s atrium which caught rain and fed it to the cistern.
Friday, October 21, 2011
First, gondolas really are pretty cool, and the gondoliers exhibit casual skill in navigating in their rather specialized environment. Ours didn’t sing but did move us along with pushes delivered with his pole/paddle, his hand, or his foot. He also chattered in rapid-fire Italian with other gondoliers.
Speaking of “rapid fire,” hearing someone speak in another language often sounds like too many syllables in too little time. Here is an insight into why this is so. English has substantially more vocabulary than most other languages, more words to express specific meanings.
Have you been in
In order to say the same thought in Italian, French, or Spanish one has to include more modifiers and descriptors than we do in English. In English we tend to have a word that means exactly what we intend without requiring the modifiers and descriptors.
It is fascinating to see boats filling essentially all the roles that vehicles do on land. I saw an ambulance boat with flashing lights and siren. I saw police boats, construction boats, delivery boats, even a garbage boat. There is not, however, a direct aquatic equivalent to a motorcycle or bicycle, I suspect because the water is too dirty to directly expose one’s body to.
The buildings are old, and look it. We are told they all exist atop wooden pilings driven into the mud. Apparently during the period when
Buildings are not made of marble, even the fancy ones like churches, palaces, and the like. Reason: it is too heavy to be supported on marshy soil. Instead buildings are made of brick, which is supposed to be lighter, and limestone, ditto. The pollution causes the limestone to deteriorate and become dirty. There are a lot of restoration projects under way.
The Doge was the elected-for-life duke-equivalent who ruled
One of the ugly things about otherwise beautiful
I remember when smoking was common in the States and we didn’t notice second-hand smoke. We’ve become unused to it and as a result it’s obnoxious.
We’ve done something clever in the States vis-à-vis smoking that we didn’t do with regard to drinking. Instead of banning it a la Prohibition, we gradually restricted the places where it can be done. As this has happened, the number of people smoking has declined. I wonder if it would work with drinking alcohol?
Monday, October 17, 2011
As a small but busy harbor
Our tenders are dropping our passengers off near Diocletian’s Palace, which faces the harbor. This palace of a Roman emperor has an interesting story.
Diocletian was an emperor during the declining days of empire. He did for
When he died his encampment/palace became a fortified town into which the neighbors retreated to fight off the invading barbarians. Today that fortress is the skeleton, if you will, of the old town. Apartments, shops, a church, etc. have been built right into the old walls – Diocletian’s Palace is worth seeing.
There are a number of architectural features of interest, including material from
You can tell who relates to whom by seeing what alphabet they use: Russians and their friends use Cyrillic while Germans and their friends use the Roman. It is also the case that the Serbs and Russians are Orthodox while the Croats, Slovenes, and Austrians are Roman Catholic. Wars get fought around issues like these.
Honestly, the terrain looks like parts of
The main town or city is very old but at least some of the streets are straight and wide enough for two cars to pass. Speaking of cars, our taxi driver apologized for Greek driving but to these eyes it looked much more sedate than that of
Later…we sailed for
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Weather at this time of year is iffy – yesterday was beautiful and today gray and rainy. We’re in Corfu tomorrow and I hope we get beautiful again as
Absent the archeological site there isn’t much to do here in Katakolon; the ship is full of less-than-fully-gruntled paying passengers. People aren’t big readers these days so, unlike myself, most aren’t snuggled up with a good book. A lot of eating is happening, as well as card playing and conversation.
I’d think I’d be seeing many Kindles, and their ilk in use – nope, maybe in the cabins. The captain is running the bow thrusters while we’re tied up to the pier – can the wind be that strong? Our cabin is in the bow and it’s noisy.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Everybody raves about Mykonos, they say it is the pearl of the
I guess one could get excited about the architecture, if you are into stark white stucco cubes, scattered across a desert-like terrain. Ninety plus percent of the buildings have flat roofs and most of these have no downspouts for rain.
There are windmills, so I guess the wind sometimes blows, it didn’t today. I was reminded of several Mexican coastal towns that thrive on tourism: lots of sidewalk cafes of dubious cleanliness but excellent views, interspersed with shops selling Greek souvenirs made in
A problem the DrsC always have in
We also don’t read Spanish or Italian or German but can figure out how words might be pronounced, what roots they might share with English. None of that works in Greek, which uses the Cyrillic alphabet. We cannot guess at words’ meanings or even how they’re spoken.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Meanwhile the DrsC are enjoying shipboard life. The crew does the cooking, cleaning, tidying, drink-mixing, and entertaining; we do the consuming.
When you start out cruising you tend to avoid cruises with many “sea days,” days not in port. If you are a person who’ll love cruising, you’ll begin cherishing sea days and end up treating many port days as faux sea days, staying aboard while almost everyone else goes ashore.
The other DrC says these faux sea days are the very best because you have this enormous ‘yacht’ with a thousand crewmembers and hardly anyone to share it with. I begin to concur.
I have no idea if the claimed cost equivalence is true, having not done the math myself, but it is a charming idea if you don’t mind the occasional rough water – a feature not found on land. Our captain told a Cruise Critic© gathering aboard that he has two doctors and five nurses for a ‘community’ of just over five thousand people, a higher ratio than found in most towns and an attractive feature for seniors.
A thing you learn when cruising a lot as we have is ship terminology: fueling the ship is called “bunkering, no idea why. We've been bunkering today. If you have friends who cruise, give them the following good thought: “I wish you fair winds and following seas.”
I live in a largely Mormon community in Wyoming, although I am not a member of that faith. I find them the best neighbors you could ask for.
Any reluctance I have voting for Romney has nothing whatsoever to do with his faith. It is mostly about his willingness to move far enough left to be elected governor of Massachusetts.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
The DrsC have visited Santorini before, which is a good thing as the weather this morning is the pits - light wind and spitting rain. The ship is largely deserted as most of the passengers had tours scheduled (and paid for) and so are onshore in spite of the weather. Our plans were more flexible so we’ve stayed cozy and dry.
Later…the weather cleared up in early afternoon, good luck for the passengers with afternoon tours. We’re in
Greece is a country that very nearly went Communist at the end of World War II, would have done if not for the timely intervention of Harry Truman. We’ve described why this is so in an earlier blog entry. Those class warfare tendencies are still here, and can easily rise to the surface as they are doing now.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Day before yesterday we visited Monaco/Monte Carlo. The Monegasques make a big deal out of Princess Grace Grimaldi, nee Kelly, much the same as the Brits make a big deal out of Princess Diana, and for the same reasons: money.
Both Princesses are tourist draws, tourists bring and spend money without costing the visited country much in terms of resources. Oddly, the official painted portraits of Grace we saw in the Grimaldi palace didn’t do her justice, she was a truly beautiful woman as her photos show. I wonder what that portrait beauty shortfall is about?
We spent a lazy day on board yesterday as we’ve visited
Today we visit
Thoughts about cruise passengers: most are seniors and white. There are a few Asians and African-Americans, about 2% of the passengers. We see more African-Americans on cruises to the
Later…we did the
The Romans were amazing builders, they did architectural things nobody else at the time even came close to doing. They worked with cement, faked marble columns, did beautiful mosaic work, and had sophisticated systems for keeping streets clean and flushing. They laid building stone work “on the bias” – something nobody else has done, to this day.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
I suppose the search for another Reagan is over and it it time to settle for Romney. Let's hope he isn't another Bob Dole.
Monday, October 3, 2011
A majority of Americans expect Barack Obama to be a one-term president, an assessment on which, in past elections, the public more often has been right than wrong.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
There is considerable talk about the situation on Cyprus, with it's Greek and Turkish zones. Greek Cyprus has been admitted to the EU, nobody but Turkey recognizes the government of Turkish Cyprus. And there is a natural gas discovery in the seas nearby.
The EU doesn't much want Turkey as a member; Turkey doesn't much want to be an EU member. Turkey wants to be a leader in the Middle East. It is feeling more Asian and less European than it did formerly.
The bottom line: EU membership for Turkey is unlikely anytime soon. Hat tip to RealClearWorld for the link.
The hyperconnected world is now a challenge to white-collar workers. They have to compete with a bigger pool of cheap geniuses — some of whom are people and some are now robots, microchips and software-guided machines.
Washington’s war on wealth has brought a ton of regulations, restrictions and taxes that eat profits. The banks, naturally, look for other sources of revenue to make up the difference. Did you honestly think government was here to help?Government is a foot soldier in the class war beloved by Democrats.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
This is a great, great country that got so soft that 53% of electors voted for a ludicrously unqualified chief executive who would be regarded as a joke candidate in any serious nation.Steyn makes fun of presidential historian Michael Beschloss, New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Newsweek editor Tina Brown for having fallen for the Obama con.