Tim & Angela Wandering Europe – June, 2014 – Part A

For this trip I’ ve been doing our daily updates on Facebook, but I thought it would be good to put together a summary of roughly the first half of our current trip from Heidelberg, Germany to Madrid, Spain.  I’ll not do a day by date report; rather, I’ll prepare this report by major stopping points.  Also, there are many more pictures than I am imbedding in this blog.  Those can be found at:  http://timmer.smugmug.com/Travel/Europe-June-2014  

If you want to know about any of the pictures, email me at tkbowman@gmail.com and I’ll attempt to answer your question.

OVERVIEW – May 26 to July 4ish, 2014

This trip was planned to be a clockwise circle from Heidelberg, Germany where our bike is stored, down to Albertville, France where we would visit friends who are studying French in preparation for moving to Togo as medical missionaries. From there we would head through the French Alps to Monaco to see where the rich and famous play. Barcelona would be our next major stop, and this stop would be a scouting trip for a longer visit in October when we plan to return before boarding a cruise ship to Tampa, Florida. Madrid was the next goal and the plan was to stay with missionary friends, The Thornburgs, for a few days. Leaving Madrid, we’d head for Granada, Spain, Gibraltar, Seville, Spain, and then ride north through Portugal, re-enter Spain and ride east loosely following the famous Pilgrimage road before turning north along the west coast of France before returning to Heidelberg where we’ll store our bike until the next visit. If the time works out, we may be able to see other friends in Marpent, France (north of Paris).

Heidelberg, Germany & Horizons Unlimited Gathering

Upon our arrival in Frankfurt we found the shuttle bus to Heidelberg and quickly became re-familiar with the Knopf Tours facility and re-acquainted ourselves with Stefan Knopf, the owner. Our BMW R1200GS was exactly as we left it 2 years ago except that it now had new tires, a factory recall had been accomplished, and new rear brake pads were installed along with a new battery.

Fresh Tire
I installed the new FUZEBLOCK power distribution device, cleaned up some wiring, installed a volt meter, and Grip Puppies, and we were set to leave. A friend from the States arrived to pick up his Gold Wing to begin a trip around Europe as well. We enjoyed a nice dinner together.

When I set up this year’s trip, I discovered that Horizons Unlimited (www.horizonsunlimited.com) which is a group devoted to international motorcycle travel was going to have a 3 day German gathering 30 minutes north of Heidelberg. So we decided to attend. It was a full on camping event in a cow pasture, with presentations at night about various aspects of world motorcycle travel.

Campsite at the HUBB Meeting

I gave one presentation on storing a motorcycle somewhere in the world and using it as a touring platform and a second presentation on riding off pavement in Montana. Both presentations were well received and that led to many new acquaintances and tips about where to ride.  While at the event, we took one day to do a loop ride in the area which took us to Regensburg which has a dragon museum.

Dragon Sculpture

Worms and its famous cathedral also made it on this ride before we made it back to camp.

Wurms Cathedral

Ludwig, one of the attendees for my Montana presentation was quite emphatic about a route to Albertville, and assured us that we would not be disappointed. One of our mantras for travelling is to follow local knowledge if at all possible. So on Sunday, 6/1 we broke camp, and followed Ludwig’s suggestion on the route over Furka Pass, and we were not disappointed. The first few 180 degree right hand uphill corners were intimidating, but lots of practice made them easier as the ride progressed.
Here’s a few views from the top of the pass.

Furka Pass Summit
Angela at Furka Pass

To say riding these passes was breath-taking would be an understatement. The natural beauty and the engineering marvel of constructing the roads was so impressive.
Taking this route was a bit longer than my original plan, so we secured a room in Brig, Switzerland and enjoyed a nice pizza dinner.

The following day’s ride into Albertville was equally beautiful with several more really nice passes. On this day’s ride there was some sort of bicycle event going on, so besides the many curves, we were constantly passing the bike riders. But of course we were being passed by the many sport bike riders who think it’s Le Mans. But they were courteous but aggressive riders.

Albertville, France – 6 Days

We initially thought that we would be in Albertville only a few days to visit with our friends, the Molsee’s, but on the third day there, I became quite ill with some sort of flu like symptoms. Our stay ended up being from Monday through Saturday which allowed for the bug to work its way out of my system. Besides lots of rest, we were able to be faux grandparents to the Molsee’s boys and one of the highlights was walking each day to the bread store where 4 loaves were sold for the price of 3. Only 3 loaves usually made it back home!  Even the next to youngest was eager to be pushed to the bread store as he knew what would happen on the way back.

Albertville is a delightful French town which was host to the 1992 Winter Olympics. There are still some traces of that activity, but for the most part the town is back to being a nice little French town with a quaint old section, a modern railway station, and what we are seeing all over Europe: infiltration of American fast food restaurants.

Angela at the Albertville Train Station

Before I became ill, we were able to take a little ride out to Beaufort which is noted for cheesemaking and up to a nice dam before being chased back to our home base by rain. Trust me, riding these narrow and twisty mountain roads is no fun in the rain.

Beaufort Cheese Factory
Lake Roseland Dam high in the Alps

On our last full day in Albertville, we went to a nearby community, Gignon, for a car show. Pictures of that show can be found at: Car Show

Ethan, our host, dropped us off at the old walled city which is just outside Albertville when we walked around it before returning to the Molsee’s.

It was great to spend time with the Molsee’s and encourage them in there upcoming journey to Togo. It was also inspiring to be around other young missionaries who were studying French in preparation for their service in the French speaking world. Sunday morning found us enjoying a last meal together before they drove to church and we continued our journey towards Monaco.

Monaco & Beyond

The roads down to Monaco were not as technically challenging as the roads into Albertville, but it was still quite enjoyable to be riding in the French Alps. We had hoped to make Monaco in one day, but that simply didn’t happen. We found a campground with a pool in Digne, France; and the refreshing dip was not a disappointment. Dinner was a mile or so walk into town where we found a pizza truck with a stone oven inside. Dinner was consumed sitting on a bench watching the traffic pass by (and there wasn’t all that much!)

We rode the non-toll road into Monaco and found ourselves a parking spot in a motorcycle only parking spot in front of the Auto Club of Monaco and right in front of yacht harbor. Since this Monday was a holiday, it wasn’t open, but there was lots of memorabilia in the window displays. The actual course for the Grand Prix of Monaco is held on the city streets and we were able to ride much of it. Nearby was a grocery store and some cool liquid refreshment and sandwiches provided an excellent break from the heat.


Our BMW in Front of the Automobile Club of Monaco
Pirelli Flag over the GP of Monaco Course

Since Monaco is so expensive to stay in, we did a couple more loops and took a low road along the coast heading west toward Nice before heading north to Draguignan where we secured a hotel room at the la Victoria where the proprietor provided us with secure off street parking. There was a festival of some sort going on, and many of the streets were blocked off which made navigating somehat challenging. We walked into the core of downtown and found dinner at a sidewalk cafe before heading back to our room.

The Rhone American cemetery is located here and upon our departure, we located it and did a tour and paid our respects. There was a group of French school children there that morning and they were excited that Americans were there visiting the cemetary. They were also amazed that I was born a year after many of those buried here were killed. It certainly gave them a sense of perspective.

Rhone American Cemetery

Freedom is not free and is no respecter of religious faith.

Our route took us by Avignon and Angela wanted to sing and dance on the famous bridge of the same name, so we pulled into an underground parking facility, locked up our helmets and jackets to the bike, covered it and up to the square. There was a little tram taking tourists around, so we took that before finding our way to the bridge for more pictures.

Angela Dancing on the Avignon Bridge
On the Avignon Bridge

Heading south out of Avignon, I searched using the GPS and found a campground near the village of Vallabregues. While the proprietor wasn’t especially friendly, there was a Dutch couple that arrived just as we did, and we enjoyed some very pleasant conversation about European travel. There was no internet. They were travelling with a car and mobile home. After a refreshing swim, we had a VERY leisurely open air dinner in the village and didn’t make it back to the campground until after 11pm and we still needed to set up the tent!

More delightful French roads led us to our next camping spot at a place called Le Fun on the Mediterranean at Fitou. Judging by the name alone, I didn’t quite know what to expect, but they had wonderful campsites with electricity, an Olympic sized swimming pool, internet (free for an hour at the bar/little store). The ground here was rock hard and stakes were hard to drive in. The campground was virtually empty and 16 euros rate (it was the going rate so far) was good. For dinner we rode into the village and ate at a little hotel which specialized in serving mussels. I initially missed this, but after having a nice dinner, we were served an appetizer size serving. They were wonderful.

After a short ride along the Mediterranean, crossing from France into Spain was a non-event, except that the police presence in Spain dramatically increased. Since we needed fuel, we found a fueling station on the Spanish side of the border, and used that opportunity for a lunch break as well. Angela expressed her pleasure at being able to once again just speak and think in Spanish and her confidence was readily apparent.


Having now ridden in a number of large European cities, upon our arrival in Barcelona I wasn’t fearful about riding there. We initially didn’t know where we would stop, but we knew that we didn’t want to camp. Using a McDonald’s restaurant as a place for a break, we used the WIFI to scout the lodging opportunities. We like Ibis hotels and found one nearby. Upon arrival there, the rate was 222 euros! No thank you. We headed further into town and found another, but it was booked; however, the desk clerk checked on another nearby location and found us a room. And off we headed for a about a 15 minute ride.

Upon checking in, we unloaded the motorcycle, took cooling showers and headed out to explore the area around us. There was a restaurant in the park across the street the seafood menu selections were intriguing, so we ate there. Yummy.

Angela wanted churros and chocolate (thick chocolate), so we sat out in the evening air and enjoyed those before retiring.

The next morning at breakfast we met an Austrian young fellow who was also a motorcyclist who was here for the Moto Grand Prix races. We enjoyed much pleasant converation before we excused ourselves and learned where the subway station was and caught a train into the central city where our normal custom was to ride the hop on, hop off bus. We quickly found it, and rode the three routes for the day. Since this was a scouting trip for a planned return trip in October, we located the cruise ship terminal and even enjoyed lunch near there. It was a fun city to become acquainted with and we have a number of things we want to see upon our return.  There’s lots of unique architecture as shown by the following pictures:

It is worth mentioning that this day was Friday, June 13, Angela’s birthday and while we were enjoying dinner we were interrupted by loud banging of drums. It seems that Andalusion fire walkers were about to begin a parade that included the the use of fireworks as part of their rituals. Of course, Angela partied along with them.

The Birthday Girl and her new friends


Heading out of Barcelona on the A-2 highway (not a toll road), we were treated to cool temperatures and vistas not unlike Colorado or Wyoming or New Mexico. The road surface was excellent and with a speed limit of 120kph (about 74mph) we made good time to Zaragoza which was the most northern capital of the Moorish times. We rode around the city looking for lodging before eventually taking a break at McDonald’s to be able to use WIFI. There was an Ibis hotel nearby so we headed for it and it turned out to be right across the river from the historic old part of the city which was hosting a large festival. Since the day was still young, we joined the event and walked across the bridge with its display of very antique armament and toured the old city area including the Roman ruins.

Large Crossbow

Of course, Angela had to find another new and attractive friend who had just kissed her.

There was a pretty extensive section of Roman wall.

Roman Ruins Wall



With Madrid now figuratively in sight, we left Zaragoza and continued on the A-2. The temperatures were a bit warmer, but as long as we were moving, it was wonderful.

About an hour outside Madrid we stopped for a lunch break. There was this interesting rock formation nearby that was not unlike those found in Arizona or New Mexico.

As we pulled up to the location that the GPS said was our friends’ home, Rose Anne was just getting out of their vehicle! How providential. We unpacked the motorcycle into a shopping cart; I parked the motorcycle and we all headed up to their apartment where we cooled off. As it was a Sunday afternoon and they had nothing else planned for the day, we spent the time getting re-acquainted and enjoying some ice water together until bedtime. We explained that we would like to spend a couple days touring Madrid and possibly do a day trip to Toledo before leaving on Thursday. Would this work out this way?

Finding the subway wasn’t hard although it was 3/4 mile walk away, and the train quickly got us downtown. Coming out of the subway tunnel, our first view was of the Golden Arches. We bought a 2 day Hop On, Hop Off bus ticket for 25 euros each compared to a 1 day ticket for 22 euros. We spent Monday riding the bus to get the lay of the land. Here’s a few pictures.

Clean and neat subway station
A Cathedral;
Bullfighters stay at this hotel. No Joke.

Yes, it’s really slanted!
At the Madrid Real Cafe (Soccer Stadium)
Tourism Mexico Exhibit. Very colorful

On Tuesday we chose to visit the Naval Museum (an excellent history of Spanish naval activity), the Egypt museum (closed but excellent views of the city, and from 6-8pm, the Prado art museum where we were in search of the Diego Velasquez paintings. No photos could be taken in the galleries. We used our 2 day pass to get around to these locations.

Naval Museum
Columbus landing in the New World Painting

We hired a pedicab to take us around the Retiro Park.  Here’s our driver cutting up a bit.  He’s an actor as well.  And he was a really good guide and driver and was in possession of NYC pedicab license!!

Angela and our driver at the Crystal Palace.
One of many nice peacocks in the park.

Upon our arrival back at our hosts, I asked if we could spend one more day on Thursday as a non-activity day before heading south on Friday. That was fine with them. That left Wednesday open. With a little research, we determined that a day visit to Toledo would be worth our while.

Wednesday morning found us navigating the subway with a transfer to a second line to the bus station location (Eliptica). At Eliptical, we quickly found the direct bus to Toledo, purchased round trip tickets for 20 euros total for 2 of us, and boarded the bus for the 50 minute journey. The 1/2 hour high speed train is also an option, but it only goes once an hour, is more expensive, and the bus travels every 30 minutes.

Toledo is a ‘must see’ city. We toured the cathedral and the El Greco museum, both of which were excellent. The city was in final preparations for the celebration of Corpus Christi. There were all sorts of banners and decorations. We even took the little tram tour which was excellent. There was so much more to see, but we just didn’t have time to take it all in.

The streets in Toledo are generally quite narrow (think donkey cart width) and the city has been under Spanish rule since the 1100’s, and the city is known for the production of bladed weapons which we certainly saw plenty. El Greco, the famous Greek artist, lived here and his works are displayed both the Cathedral and the Museum as well as other locations. Prior to the Spanish and Moorish rule it was also a Visigothic capital.

Tapestries out on display for the Corpus Christi celebration.


Roman Bridge leading to Toledo


Main Toledo Gate. Only the two side passage ways are used any longer.


Inside of Main Cathedral


El Greco Museum

On this down day (no riding or sightseeing), we watched the installation of the new king Philipe VI (nice pomp and circumstance on many of the roads and sites we visited earlier in the week. I also updated this blog and our picture website.


We’re both loving the cultural experience of being in Europe again. In Barcelona and Madrid, one can look around and by looking at people and their mode of dress think that one is in America. Eating the local food is a very enjoyable cultural experience. The roads in the Alps are a real treat to ride from a technical standpoint, and the roads in Spain are in excellent condition. In the larger cities, the Hop On, Hop Off Buses are an excellent way to get the ‘lay of the land’, and public transportation is easy to master. Gasoline isn’t cheap: about $8 per gallon. It’s best to park the motorcycle and use the widely available public transportation. June is considered the ‘off season’, so camping is inexpensive at around $20 per night. Ibis hotels in the larger cities are nice as they have locked and secure underground parking (about $10 per night extra fee).  In terms of navigating, it’s a bit of a challenge but not insurmountable when the GPS doesn’t correspond to the paper maps.  I do use the paper map to give me a general sense of direction, although they are virtually unreadable while riding.  Speaking of paper maps, one of the better ones that we received was from Ibis hotels.  It’s got enough detail without being overwhelming.

We’re looking forward to the rest of the trip. Stay tuned.

Day 1 – Tuesday, 5/27 – Home to Heidelberg

This year’s first European trip began with our 1:30pm Monday, 5/26 departure from Seattle on Lufthansa 491 to Frankfurt.  The flight wasn’t full so we were able to secure our seats easily.  Like always, the gate agents were rechecking the weights of the carry-on luggage and aggressively enforcing the one bag and 18 lb restriction.  The flight left on time and 9 hours later at 8:30am we landed in heavy overcast in Frankfurt.  We easily found the TLS shuttle to Heidelberg.  The driver initially told us it would be a 45 minute wait as he had confirmed passenger.  During our wait we were joined by two ladies from Morroco who were on a 4 day Heidelberg holiday.  One lady was a pharmacist and the other spoke no English.  We enjoyed great conversation with them.  At 11:15 our driver retuned and said that the plane was late, but it wouldn’t be long.  40 minutes later he returned with 3 passengers, one of which was in a wheelchair.  They refused using the van claiming it was to theirs; the driver countered with a display of the order form that indicated no special arrangements.  The interchange got a bit heated with the driver’s facial color turning red.  In the end after another 20 minutes, we were finally able to depart for the one hour journey south to Heidelberg.
It was like ‘déjà vu’ all over again to be heading south on A5 at over 80mph (per my GPS), while in the fast lane cars were passing us at over 100mph.  Soon we were in Heidelberg and the driver dropped off the two ladies at their hotel on the Neckar River where the sights evoked more strong memories of our previous trip.  Our driver then dropped us off at Knopf Tours where we were soon greeted by Stefan, the owner, and shown our room next to the kitchen (great WIFI location).  Stefan and I then found our stored panniers, top case and the CPAP machine that I left accidentally on our previous trip.  Stefan moved the big GS outside our room where I immediately began to prepare it for our upcoming trip.  New license tags were affixed, a charging port was installed in the trunk, and a couple of bottle carriers were installed on the panniers.  Angela did her first bit of shopping and returned with some new clothes. All the while I was fighting sleep deprivation and finally at 6pm local time and a cold cut and cheese dinner, I gave up and went to bed and slept soundly for 4.5 hours.  I was then awake for a couple hours, fell back asleep for a few hours before repeating this cycle again until getting up for good at 7am.  This next day would be one of finishing the installation of the Fuzeblock, and installation of our Bluetooth headsets.  
Stay tuned for more.

Re-Visiting a Place from my Youth

Back in the 1950’s, we used to visit the Sultan Basin to fly fish and camp. In fact we did it so extensively to the point that for many years afterwards I wouldn’t eat trout. But the memories of visiting that area are indelible. The whole area was protected because it is a watershed for Everett’s water supply. One had to wear hip waders and camp in very specific locations. My memories include hiking up a road and encountering a complete steam donkey which was used in early logging days. Then there was the time that I was wading in the river casting my flies (dry fly fishing was the only acceptable method). As I rounded the corner of the stream, a bear was crossing the stream. Both of us were spooked and each of us headed separate directions very rapidly. There is also the memory of the 50 mile ‘bike hike’ each way from Seattle that two friends and I took to Olney Creek campground (no longer present). Below is a photo of the bridge at that location. Then there was the incredible hike up the side of the mountain to Lake Isabel, and the firewood gathering trips in the 1948 Ford F-3 pickup with a flathead 6 and unsynchronized gearbox.

Olney Creek Bridge (Lower)

In 1965 the Culmback Dam was finished and our beloved fishing area was forever gone, and my family never returned. Except that I drove up there once or twice.

Fast forward 50 years and I’m riding motorcycles and particularly dual sport motorcycles. I have had it on my ‘bucket list’ to ride my motorcycle up to the lake. Along comes the rally that involves snagging pictures of certain items one of which is a ‘glory hole’ which is the part of certain dams that the water exits. I remembered that the Spada Lake dam had such a glory hole. So I put plans in motion to visit the dam by motorcycle.

For this trip, I’m riding my Yamaha WR250R dual sport motorcycle. This motorcycle is capable of both freeway speeds and off pavement riding. It’s only 250cc in engine size. I headed out from our home via the freeway system and in an hour so so reached Sultan, WA. Just east of Sultan is the Sultan Basin Road. I turned left at the light and headed up the 12 miles of paved road. I marveled at all of the development that has occurred since I first traveled up there. Some things were still the same. There was the long hill with the 90 degree corner that we sailed down in 1962 on our bicycles and hit over 50 mph. Winters Lake is still there and it was named after a pioneer family that homesteaded there. The Winters’ became our landlords in Alaska and it was through them that we originally came to visit the area after we left Alaska. My memories of this couple are of a kind and gentle couple. I still have a book on the history of WWII that they gave me as an 8 year old boy as I was always reading it (even at such an early age).

After reaching Olney Creek, the road follows the creek up the hillside through a series of switchbacks and a bridge. Eventually one gets to Olney Pass and there is a required check-in. Here’s the WR at the check-in point.

Olney Pass

The road splits at this point with the right fork heading east along the lake shore and the left fork heading to the dam. I took the left fork, and rode down the manicured gravel road to the locked gate near the dam and its ‘glory hole’. Here’s a photograph of the road conditions.

An Example of Rolled Gravel

I snapped a required photo at the locked gate to document that I had ridden to the location, and then walked 1/4 mile down to and across the dam where I took photographs of the water exit and the ‘glory hole’

End of the road

Culmback Dam Outflow

Culmback Dam Glory Hole

As my wife and I had other plans for the evening, I needed to scoot back home and hopped back on the WR and rode back out the way I came in and once again savored the sights and memories of yesteryear. On the return ride home, I even took the opportunity to ride some familiar secondary roads like the Ben Howard and across the Cherry Valley through Duvall before eventually connecting up with WA520 and I405 for the final miles home. Yes, it was a short but good 140 mile day filled with all sorts of memories.

Until next time . . .

Down Under 2014 – Days 15 – 21


Day 15 – 2/2 Sun – touring the Market & Cruise Departure


We woke up from a short night’s sleep and packed up our belongings, 

checked out of the hotel, but learned that we could store our luggage for $2/ bag.  So we stored our bags, and headed out to explore the nearby Chinese market.  This particular market was located in a 4 story building.  The first story contained about every imaginable consumer good as well was a fruit and seafood market.  It was like being transported into a real Guangzo market.  We wandered the aisles, and it was interesting to note the higher prices on certain items near the outside while prices on the same items on the inside aisles were less expensive.  On the upper floors the goods became higher quality.  Finally, on the 4th floor there was a full Asian food court. After these few hours of browsing we wandered over to the Haymarket Hotel to do some last internet activity.


Sidney has a nice free central business district bus shuttle (#555), which we caught down to the Central Quay (pronounced ‘key’ to board our cruise ship.  There were lots of passengers queued up to board and we joined the queue.  The boarding process went very smoothly and our checki-in clerk noted that she was born on the 13th like Angela and that my birthday was the inverse (31).  We boarded the ship and found our stateroom (#1031), grabbed a quick first meal on the Lido deck 9, and then departed the ship to do some more touring of The Rocks area nearby.  It’s named The Rocks for its distinctive rocks.  There was an open air market which we toured along with a free museum about early history of the area.


It was then time time to reboard, and after a protracted Lifeboat drill, we departed on schedule at 6:30pm.  Our first dinner was followed by a nice musical program, touring of the ship, and settling in to our stateroom.  This cruise’s stateroom was an inside nicely sized room which we really like with possible exception of limited storage space.


Day 16 – Mon 2/3 At Sea & The Seahawks Win the Super Bowl


When we booked the cruise we didn’t know if the Seahawks would be in the Super Bowl or if the game would be carried on the ship.  But we learned that not only would the ship carry the Super Bowl, there would be a showing on the big screen in the Queen’s lounge.  At breakfast we ate with some Denver fans ans we wished each other good luck.  it was very interesting to be two od no more than a dozen Seahawk fans in a room full of Denver fans.  From the first snap error, the Seahawks totally dominated the game and the Denver fans slowly trickled out as the game progressed.  Near the end of the game, a Denver fan asked me to pose with him in a celebration picture.  After the game ended, we did the picture; and it was fun.


It was very interesting to see all of the post game TV adoration of the Hawks, and after the evening dance performance we watched a replay of the second half of the game and more post game commentary.


Day 17 – Tue – 2/4 Back in Melbourne


This morning found us back in Melbourne where we just spent a few days last week with Elizabeth.  We disembarked the boat and purchased transportation tickets to get downtown ($14 each) and good for all day and round trip.  Once we reached downtown, we were greated by local representatives who guided us to the $5 all day Hop On Hop Off bus.which started at 9:30am.  We discovered that there was free WIFI at our outside location, so we took advantage of that before boarding the shuttle.  We rode the shuttle as far as the Victoria market where we got off and toured this very large and interesting dry goods and produce market.  It had similar items to the Chinatown market that we visited several days prior.  We hopped back on the bus and rode it around the loop to the beginning where we got off to find some thing to eat.  We found that something at Lord of the Fries a local hamburger shop like Jack in the Box.  While the burger was teensy, we loved the fries and none went to waste.  We walked a few blocks down the street to the Immigration Museum and found that it was free for us seniors!  Score.  And it was good.


We hopped on the free tram and rode it about halfway around the central core of the central core of the city to visit the Gaul (jail). This was a bit of a depressing visit as it focused on the hanging aspects of the penal system.  There were death masks on display (these were taken after every execution), as well as display of a gallows.


We walked a few blocks and caught a direct light rail tram to the ship where we reboarded about 20 minutes before the on board time.  As we were awaiting departure and enjoying dinner, the Captain announced that our departure would be delayed a couple of hours or more due to the high winds.  In the end we were delayed about 5 hours as the winds not only did not diminish, they increased.  


Day 18 – Wed – 2/5 At Sea


This was a leisurely sea day that included a late breakfast, an early Marimer’s Society (Holland America’s affinity program) brunch, listening to digerydoo, a very nice dinner with Ralph & Neomi from California, excellent evening entertainment by a Texan who played a masterful piano set of Andrew Lloyd Weber, Beattles, as well as guitar and singing, and comedy.  The evening concluded with the Indonesian crew performance that concluded around midnight.


Day 19 – Thu – 2/6 – Hobart, Tasmania


Today was a planned long stop in Hobart, Tasmania from 8am to 10:30pm.  This port is the second deepest major port in the world second only to one in Sri Lanka.  We had visited it back in 2000 when we came to Tasmania to attend the graduation of Elizabeth our exchange daughter  from law school.  Since we had previously visited much of Tasmania, we decided to focus this day on seeing just Hobart and possibly connecting with Elizabeth’s family.  


We left the ship at 8:15 and headed for the town’s information center.  On the pier we were greeted by the town’s deputy mayor who advised us of the free WIFI at the Old Town Hall, for which we graciously thanked him.  At the nearby information center we learned that there was a narrated 3 hour city tour and a slightly more expensive Hop On Hop Off bus.  We decided that the 3 hour tour would be best for us. While waiting for the bus, we walked across the street to the town hall, where we utilized the free Wifi for 40 minutes or so.  


The tour was nice and took us to places we had been before as well as several new places.  We were able to get off at the Cascade Brewery, the Tasman Bridge overlook, and the Royal Botannical Gardens.  Each were very worthy stops, and at the conclusion od the tour, we connected with Elizabeth’s mother, Lana, and her sister, Virginia, and had a good Fish & Chips meal at the waterfront.  Virginia then drove us back out to the brewery where we met up with our 2pm walking tour called Louisa’s Walk.  This re-inactment walk from the Cascade Brewery to e Women’s Factory about 1/4 mile away.  I had booked this tour on-line and didn’t know quite what to expect.  The story was acted out in short presentations on the walk to the Women’s Factory (really a women’s convict  prison from the 1800’s that’s now a world heritage site).  Without giving away the plot, I will say that we both independently thought that it was hands down the best tour that we have ever taken.  We were totally emotionally engaged with the story and identified with Louisa as she portrayed her struggle from dealing with abject poverty in England following her husband’s untimely early death, her ‘conviction’ for petty theft, transport to Van Dieman’s Land, imprisonment, and subsequent release.  Again, if you make it to Hobart, don’t miss this tour.


At 4pm, Virginia picked us up and drove us out to her home where we visited with her and Lana, Peter and their girls.  Later that evening she and Lana drove us back to the pier where we said our goodbyes and shared hugs and reboarded the Oosterdam around 9:45pm (45 minutes before the deadline).  We enjoyed some ABBA music for bit before going out onto the 3rd deck railing to enjoy the departure and the pilot transfer.  We also met a couple Hobart ladies who had just boarded the ship for the cruise to New Zealand.


Day 20 – Fri – 2/7 – At Sea


We arose fairly late and made a 9:15 time for our New Zealand immigration check.  This was one of the most thorough of the border checks and involved a detailed questionnaire and an inspection of our shoes and a straw hat I had purchased in Manley.  The rest of the day was spent somewhat leisurely and included being a co-winner of the ring toss, and listening to another digerydoo presentation. At dinner we had a large table of 10 people  from Albuquerque, Perth, Sydney, and Canada.  The gals from Canada got quite interested in our travel tips and how lightly we were able to travel, and they strongly suggested that i sign up to do a presentation.


Day 21 – Sat – 2/8 – At Sea


We must have been tired as we didn’t get up much before 10am (keep in mind we’ve had 2 time changes ahead over the last two days).  We went to several lectures, grabbed a quick lunch, and I played trivia (took 3rd with my team from Perth and Wisconsin), while Angela did Dancing with the Stars.  A nice dinner (with the best dessert of the cruise – chocolate of course) was had with a father & daughter from Wisconsin and two elderly widows from Guernsey.  The evening entertainment was Lance Ringnald, a USA Olympic gymnast who amazed us all.  His physique was amazing after 15 years away from the competitive world.  Our evening concluded with Majority Rules, a trivia game that our team ran away with the prize.  E next day was going to be early so we were in bed by 10:30pm.



Down Under 2014 – Days 9 – 14


Day 9 – 1/25 – Saturday


It was a lazy day to wake up at Quamby.  We finished our packing and joined the family for a traditional Aussie breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, tea, & fruit juices.  What was strange was that the bride and groom joined us and quite humorously JP’s (the groom) tshirt had printed on it ‘All Night Long’!


On our way to the airport, Lindsay took us on a sightseeing tour of the area where he farmed in the early years of his career.  All too soon we were at the airport where Elizabeth, Rhett, Ethan, Angela, and I said our goodbyes, checked in and boarded our Virgin Australia flight to Melbourne.  This flight was about an hour long, and after collecting our luggage we drove the 45 minutes or so  to their home in the southern suburbs.


After settling in and enjoying some nice Thai takeout food and playing with Ethan and watching the Ladie’s final in the Australian Open, we crawled in our first night’s bed in Melbourne for some restful sleep.


Day 10 – 1/26 – Sun 1/26  Dandenong National Forest


Our out trip this day was a short drive to the Observatory at the top of the Dandenong Mountains,  there were nice vistas and Angela and I decided to take what we thought would be a short hike to the side of a plane crash in 1937.  The trail signage was woefully inadequate, and we got lost along with some other folks.  As we made our way back to the start, we spotted what looked to be the correct route.  So, we, along with another Aussie couple decided to try to find the commemorative plaque.  And we did!  And we took the requisite documentary photos.  We then continued on the path to what we thought would be the start of the trail.  It turned out to be the long way back, and I even hailed a car to ask if we were walking the right direction.  We were, and we eventually connected back up with Elizabeth and Rhett.


Returning home, we watched the men’s finals of the Australian Open before retiring.


Day 11 – Mon 1/27 – T-20 Cricket Match


At the Melbourne Cricket Club Stadium, The Melbourne Stars were to play the Adelaide Scorchers I. A T20 cricket match.  The T20 is a shortened version which lasts around 3 hours.  We parked downtown and walked along the Yarra River alongside the site of the Australian Open at the Rod Laver Arena and a number of practice courts.  The cricket stadium is like an American football or baseball stadium and was quite nice.  It seats around 100,000 people but there were only just over 18,000 people at the match.  Melbourne won quite handily, but Adelaide made a go of it towards the end.


Day 12 – Tue 1/28 – Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary


Today was projected to be hot and it sure was!  But we headed out to the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary to get out Koala and Wallaby and Tasmanian Devil fix.  We started the day out with a platypus demonstration which was quite interesting.  We then walked around and found the most adorable Koalas and the Tasmanian Devil.  We numbers of other Australian creatures, but most were very lethargic due to the heat.  


On the way home we stopped at a local restaurant for a late lunch (tea) which was owned heirby some of their friends after which we went out to their farm for a short visit.  Arriving back at home, it was time for some swim time in their pool which we all found positively refreshing.  This was the first time I had been swimming in years.  Afterwards we enjoyed a very nice lamb dinner which had been cooking in the slow cooker all day.


Day 13 – Wed 1/29 – Puffing Billy Steam Train


For me this was one of the highlights of our Melbourne stay.  Surprisingly, overnight it rained and the temperatures dropped considerably and it was quite overcast.  Due to the popularity of this event, we left early for Belgrade  to purchase our tickets, and we were first in line.   A cruise ship had delayed their guests’ arrival so they ended up hooking up two steam engines and 4 more cars and putting that group on our 10:30 departure.


The ride up the narrow gauge track though the forest was scenic and the wafted coal fumes cernly excited the sensory apparatus.  The cruise ship passengers got off at Menzies Creek to reboard their tour busses, and they missed the best stop, Lakeside.  At Lakeside there is a cafe, paddle boats for rent, nice picnic grounds and walking paths, plus a model railroad display (closed this day).  After having a little picnic, we re-boarded the train for our one hour ride back to Belgrave.  Google Puffing Billy for more info on this must do tourist item,p


Day 12 – Thu 1/30 Train to Sydney


We had previously decided that we would travel from Melbourne to Sidney by train so that we could see the Australian countryside even though it was more expensive than flying.  Rhett graciously drove us to the Southern Cross railway station where we found our train.  With our pre-assigned seats D-19 & 20 and settled in for the planned 12.5 hour ride.  There were stops roughly every 45 minutes or so and the city names were totally charming like Wagga Wagga.  The food on board was reasonably priced with no item priced more than $9.  We had also brought on a liter of soda, apples, carrots, cheese, and Shapes (a popular Aussie backed cracker that’s really good tasting).


As the day progressed, arrival times started slipping due to the outside temperature being 105f and the driver was required to reduce speed so as to not create problems with the track.  Just before Campbelltown, I saw a wallaby or a small kangaroo.  Angela then saw some camels.  All along the route there were lots of cattle, horses, and thousands of sheep (many of which scampered away from the train as it passed).  About midway, our car’s air conditioning quit working, and we were allowed to move to another car, which was welcomed.


Upon our 8:30pm arrival in Sidney, we departed the station and spotted our hotel a few blocks away in the middle of Chinatown.  Lots of people were out walking and we checked in to The Great Southern Hotel before venturing out for an evening stroll.   A couple blocks away we spotted a $10 steak and free WIFI.  Score!  We also found the Capitol theatre where The Lion King is playing to sold out crowds! Back at the hotel, we began a nice night’s sleep.


Day 13 – Fri 1/31 Hop On Hop Off bus day


We walked back to the train depot and located where to purchase our Hop On Hop Off Bus tickets.  The ticket clerk was super friendly with lots of suggestions.  With our passes, we boarded our Bondi tour bus for the eastern suburb tour including the famous Bondi Beach.  This loop took about 1.5 hours.  We then boarded the downtown Sydney tour which took 2.5 hours instead of the scheduled 1.5 hours.  Back at the rail station, we grabbed a quick bit of lunch and then reboarded our downtown Sydney tour.  We rode this one to the National Maritime Museum where we toured the replica of Captain Cook’s ship Endeavor plus a destroyer and submarine before touring the inside exhibits.  This is a nice museum.


As we came out of the museum, we spotted the Hop On Hop Off bus and boarded it.  Since it was close to their shut down time, it only carried us backed to the Circular Quay which was about 2 miles from the hotel.  No worry, we’ll just catch the free #555 bus back.  But then we discovered that that route doesn’t operate after 3pm on Friday’s.  So we decided to walk back on Pitt street. Along the way Angela spotted the Westfield Sky Tower, so we decided to go up it.  There were lots of Asian tourists up there and the sunset and other views were wonderful.  It sure added a different perspective to the bus tours.


After the Sky Tower, we continued our walk back to the hotel with a stop at an interesting Asian game arcade, and then a return dinner at the $10 steak dinner place.  It did not disappoint!!


Day 14 – Sat – 2/1Trains, Ferries, & Opera


Today we purchased a $22 ‘multi’ transportation pass that allowed us to travel on the light rail, bus, and many public ferries. Just the one round trip ferry was most of the cost of the pass, so it was a no-brainier.  So we headed for the world famous Sidney Opera House and took the tour.  We happened to purchase our ticket at an outside booth and got right in with a small group and an enthusiastic tour guide.  There are 5 theaters (3 small multi-use venues, a concert hall, and an opera house.  We were permitted to photograph everywhere except where there were sets setup.  At the conclusion of the tour we inquired about available tickets for the opera, The Magic Flute.  There were some, so we bought them.


We then hopped on a ferry over to Manly and walked out to the Manly beach and enjoyed a nice kabab wrap and souvenir shopping before returning to the Circular Quay where we caught another ferry to the Darling Harbor.we were trying to see the fish market, but we ran out of time, so we caught the train back to the hotel to change clothes for the opera.


Another quick light rail train ride got us back to the Opera House where the permanent was very good.  Our trusty train then took us back to the hotel, but first we enjoyed a nice 11pm Thai dinner.  Then it was a restful sleep.


Down Under 2014 – Days 5 – 8


Day 5 – Tue – 1/21/2014


Yes, the next day is Tuesday as we gained a day on our 14 hour overnight flight to Sydney.  Arriving in Sydney, we breezed through customs, checked in for our next flight, and then rode a transfer bus to Terminal 2, the domestic flight terminal.  After about an hour and a half wait, we boarded our Virgin Australia flight for the hour and 23 minute flight to Launceston.  Much of the overwater flight was cloud obscured, but as we approached the Tassie coast, we enjoyed scenic views of the island state.


Elizabeth was there to greet us at the airport and we enjoyed a 2 hour drive west to Burnie where we ate at the Cafe on Wilson (the family owned cafe) and re-acquainted ourselves with Lana and Lindsay and one of their daughters, Maggie.  We then drove over to Elizabeth’s in-laws, Tony and Julie, where we met Elizabeth’s husband, Rhett, and her 2 year old son, Ethan.  We enjoyed a nice visit there before driving to Lana and Lindsay’s home out in the country outside Burnie.


We enjoyed a quiet dinner with the Gillam’s, and showed them pictures of our recent trip to the Holy Land before retiring around 11pm.


Day 6 – Wed – 1/22


Our first full day in Tasmania began with breakfast at home and we met Elizabeth and family at the Cafe.  We took a little walk down to the local museum, Maker’s Workshop, and then we went up to FernGlyde Park in search of a platypus.  And we found one!  Super cool.  The afternoon was spent shopping and me getting a haircut from a chatty young lady.  We took the Gillam’s out to dinner at the Mallee Grill, and then returned home for a quiet evening watching the Australian Open and discussing American politics.


Day 7 – Thu – 1/23


Today we packed up and the clan moved to the Launceston area in order to do final wedding preparations.  We arrived outside Launceston at the Tasmania Golf Club where we met up with many of the family members from both the bride and groom sides.  It was a wonderful buffet lunch after which we drove about 20 minutes to the Quamby Resort where the wedding will be held.  We helped do final set up preparations before enjoying some social time .


What’s the Quamby Resort like?  Think Downton Abbey.  It was built in the mid 1800’s and has that classic old English quaint charm.


We then drove about 15 minutes to Hudspeth, where we are staying in a single wide trailer in a motor home park like a KOA.  We procured some food at the local convenience store and Angela and I took a few miles walk down to and along the East Esk River.  Back at the cabin, we watched some more of the Australian Open tennis event before retiring.


Day 8 – Fri – 1/24 – WEDDING DAY


Following a very restful sleep, we met up with Peter and his 4 girls for a sightseeing trip to see the monkeys at the central city park in Launceston.  Upon our arrival I noted that the National Car Museum of Tasmania was located across the street.  So I split off from the group and spent a bit over an hour there taking lots of photos and enjoying the Tasmanian auto and motorcycle history. Later I rejoined the others and went over to see the Japanese Macaque Monkey exhibit which was quite nice.


We headed back to the wedding site at the Quamby Estate (think Downton Abbey) with a quick lunch at a little cafe near Quamby, assisted in final preparations, checked into our quaint appearing room, and changed into our wedding clothes.  The outside wedding was lovely and was held under sunny blue skies.  Kate was radiant.  The post wedding cocktail time was spent in pleasant conversation with Bill & Vicky, and it was followed by a sumptuous BBQ meal and many speeches, toasts, and finally the cutting of the cake and first dance.  We sat with Lindsay’s sister throughout the evening, and eventually we retired around 11:30pm after watching the brilliant stars in the clear Australian sky.


Down Under 2014 – Days 1 – 4


Day 1 – Thu – 01/16/14 – Departing home


It was an early and foggy departure from Seattle heading for Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) where we would catch our direct flight to Sidney.  Our friend, Bob, picked us up at 5am and our Alaska Airlines flight departed virtually full and almost on time just after 6am.


For this trip we are spending a few days in Sidney before dying to Tasmania to attend Kate Gillam’s wedding near Launceston.  After that we’ll fly to Melbourne and spend several days with Elizabeth Edwards, Kate’s older sister and a lady we hosted as an exchange student 10 plus years ago.  From Melbourne we take a train back to Sidney, do some more visiting, and then board a cruise ship for a two week cruise to New Zealand.  After the cruise, we fly home via Honolulu.  It will be a month-long trip over-all.


Upon arrival in Los Angeles, we rented a hotel room for the day at the Travelodge (more comfortable than waiting in the airport) to wait for our flight.  We then returned to the airport for the scheduled 8:30pm flight which was then delayed for an hour.  We were numbers 20 & 21 on the standby list, and 17 got on.  So it was then an hour wait to retrieve our luggage and return to the hotel around midnight to consider our options.  There was another flight out but ended up with only one seat left.


So we decided to purchase seats on the Sunday 8:30pm flight to remove the uncertainty of flying standby.  We extended our hotel stay through late Sunday afternoon. Decided to rent a car, and turn Sydney into Disney on Friday.


We’re looking forward to returning down under and seeing New Zealand for the first time.  Stay tuned. 


Day 2 – Fri – 1/17 – Turning Sydney into Disney


With our rental car we headed for Anaheim to visit Disney’s California Adventure.  We hadn’t been there before, so it would certainly be an adventure for us.  We ariived and parked the car n the new to us parking garage, and boarded the tram which dropped us off at the front of the Amusement park.  


We purchased our day passes and entered the park and began a walk around to gain familiarity with our surroundings.  We acquired Fast Pass tickets ( a free way of not having to wait in line) for the Grizzly Rapids ride, and proceeded to get in line for the Soar ride where we met a local couple who was very pleasant to converse with plus they gave us a tip to take rides as ‘single’ riders to shorten the wait times.  Soaring is a simulation of flying over California in a hang glider.  It’s a very real appearing simulation, and turned out to be my favorite ride.  We then returned to the water raft ride ( we got wet ), a small roller coaster ride, a race car ride patterned after the movie Cars, a Mexican dinner, a swinging Ferris wheel ride with two gals from Tacoma, a hanging but exhilarating chair ride, and we capped the evening off by watching the water show ‘World of Color’.  Jets of water are projected upward, and colored lights and images are projected on the water and singing and music are played as accompaniment.  It was very good and a nice way to end the day.  For thr second day in a row, we got back to the hotel after midnight but it was a good day.


Day 3 – Sat – 1/18 – Museum Day


Southern California has many museums within a short distance of our hotel.  We selected to go visit the Petersen Automobile museum which was about 6 miles away.  I had visited it some years ago, so a re-visit was appropriate.  it’s only $10 to visit the museum, but we elected to upgrade to the (a 90 minute guided) Vault tour for an additional $20.  We visited the first two floors on our own and then started the Vault tour.  The Vault tour takes one down into the storage area where seldom seen cars are stored.  No cameras were permitted (not because the cars hadn’t been photographed, but because they didn’t want any photography of security measures).  The vault collection is amazing and I’ll recap it later.  One vehicle is so valuable that it will never be on display.  They won’t risk it being scratched.  I heartily recommend taking the Vault tour.  After the Vault tour, we visited the learning center on the 3rd floor before heading on a walk up Wilshire Blvd. to visit at least one more museum.


We lived near this location for a few months back in 1970, so it was fun to reminisce.  A few blocks east of the Petersen museum is the Labrea Tar Pits.  At that location there’s the Page Natural History Museum, so that became museum number 2 for the day.  It’s a very good museum which documents the findings of this local site and they have hundreds of thousands of fossils with many hundreds of thousands more to be classified.  Google the Page museum and the LaBrea Tar Pit for more information.  The museum closed at 5pm and we walked back to our car, and decided to have a hot dog dinner at Pink’s which was just a few miles away.  Pink’s a Hollywood icon where people stand in line for an hour or longer for their choice of many varieties of hot dogs.  We met the couple in line ahead of us, and ended up eating outside with Major and Jill.  We had lots of pleasant conversation, and Major gave us a tip to have breakfast at Roscoes Chicken & Waffles.


We made it back to the motel much earlier and discussed what to do for the next morning before returning the rental car by noon.  What would that be?


Day 4 – Sun 1/19


We took Major’s advice and found the local Roscoes and enjoyed the chicken and waffles.  We then pointed the car for Manhattan Beach which was about 15 minutes away.  Since we had only about an hour there, we walked out on the pier, watched the surfers, and visited the acquarium located there.  By the way, Manhattan is the home of Beach volleyball, but there were only a few games going on this Sunday morning.  Following a short walk up the paved walkway, we returned to the car and drove it back to the rental car facility and turned it in.  Since our motel was only about a mile away, we walked back to the motel where we began watching the day’s 2 playoff football games.


Since we had to be at the airport for our flight, we checked out of the hotel, took the shuttle to the airport, checked in, and found a sports bar to watch the remainder of the game.  It was exciting to watch it, and quite a crowd began watching.  There were lots of Seahawks fans and the win was well celebrated.


We later boarded our flight and began our 12 1/2 flight to Sydney.


Marmaris, Turkey (10/30/13)

“It’s 4 in the morning and somewhere . . .” are the words to an old country music song, and that was one of my my first thoughts when the low battery chirp started at 4am.  After deciding to not fix it myself, I called for help and soon a friendly steward was there to remove the battery until morning when it could be replaced.  But that did it for my night’s sleep.

As the early morning sun peeked itself over the horizon, we entered the bay of the port of Marmis, Turkey.  We don’t have specific plans for today, we’ll be simply exploring.
After a leisurely shipboard breakfast, We toured the castle (built in 1522 and destroyed a number of times) and museum.
Marmaris Panorama from the Castle

and walked through the maze of the Old town bazaar area (huge) before enjoying a nice Turkish BBQ lunch (actually grilled) at DEDE’s on promenade that is on the shore of the harbor.  The veggies were the best I’ve ever had.

The ship is about a mile walk from the bazaar and we used the WIFI at the cafe for a few hours while watching passers by.   I’m getting to like these Turkish lunches!  And of course, ice cream for dessert.
Turkish Ice Cream for dessert along the waterfront.
Marmaris Harbor
I had been looking all day for some small ziplock bags or a small resealable bottle to safely store some cinnamon I had purchased.  I looked in several grocery type stores before trying a fishing tackle store.  There Angela found a product  being sold in a ziplock bag and we showed that to the proprietors, and they gave us a few.  In return I gave them each one of our stickers, and they seemed appreciative.
We did some more walking in the non-touristy commercial area to take in some of the local color before walking back to the ship.
Back on board the ship, it was time for me to iron some clothes for our first formal night; take a cooling shower; and then I took some photographs of the harbor area, and we watched a belly dancing demonstration.
Belly Dancing Demonstration. A whole lot of jiggling going on.
 And with three short blasts of the ship’s horn, we left Marmaris into the glowing sunset of the Agean sea.
Departing Marmaris, Turkey
This night was formal night and we ate in the main dining room, La Fontaine.  We were joined by guests from Ottawa, Ohio, and Georgia all of whom were ‘professional cruisers.’  They had all done multiple longer than 10 day cruises, and the Georgia couple had done a round the world trip.  We capped the night with the Captain’s toast and two viewings of the main singing entertainment (both of which I fell asleep in – 4 in the morning plus a warm and dark room caught up with me big time).

Kusadasi (Ephesus) Turkey (10/29/13)

One of the important stops for us on this trip was to be able to visit Ephesus.  After breakfast we made our way to the tour bus where our guide, Ergin, a Turkish gentleman, met us.  After a long wait for some guests who never showed, we were finally cleared to leave for Ephesus which is about 30 minutes bus ride away. Given that this was our first time in Turkey, all of the sights were brand new.

Below is a water park that we passed by.

Turkish Water Park
Entering Ephesus


Ephesus was one of the important cities noted in the New Testament including Paul’s confrontation which led to his expulsion.  Ephesus was a fairly large seaport city located between two hills and was destroyed in an earthquake around 600 AD.  There was also significant plundering over subsequent years.  Also silting and landslides also helped further cover  the ruins.  Presently, only about1/8th of the city has been excavated.  Below are a few scenes from our walking tour.  I’ve captioned the pictures.  For many more pictures, please go to the full gallery at my gallery.

Squeezing a fresh Pomegranate drink.
Enjoying Same!
Looking down the Main Avenue
Nymphaeum Traiani (offered as a memorial to Artemis by Tiberius Aristion & his wife in the early 2nd century (126ad)
The Library
The Main Street paved in marble and granite. Consider what it took to do this without modern machinery!
The Theatre with wonderful acoustics
As we took the tour, it was surprising to see all of the cats who were very friendly.  Here’s a couple of my favorites.
Stately Cats!
More Stately Cats!
The cats are not fed by anyone, but survive by controlling the rodent population.  They are also extremely friendly!
 It also really surprised me that they had running water and sewers.  We took lots of pictures and pretty soon the tour was over.  We re-boarded our bus and headed to our last stop at a Turkish rug outlet where we saw how silk was extracted from cocoons.  It was fascinating.  Each of the little cocoons has about a mile of silk thread and the girl in the background demonstrated the extraction of the silk.
Silk Extraction Demonstration
We then walked the bazaar area for the afternoon.  We found a nice Turkish restaurant and enjoyed a very nice Turkish meal including some Turkish baklava followed by ice cream.
Ice Cream in Kusadasi, Turkey
We then continued our walk and including some time on the waterfront before heading back to the ship in time for our 7pm departure.  Today was Turkish Independence Day and there were lots of Turkish Flags flying along with other memorials including this one.
Memorial on the Waterfront
If you ever come here and only have only time to do one thing, SEE Ephesus.

Prinsendam 2013

We subscribe to a travel agent’s list server and periodically he comes out with really good deals.  This one caught our eye because it was longer and involved cruising the Mediterranean and then doing a trans Atlantic cruise.  It was also very short notice (less than a month from the notice to departure.  So we made the reservation and began our planning and preparations.  This cruise starts in Athens, Greece (never been there!) and ends in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  It’s what’s called a re-positioning cruise as the cruise line wants to “re-position” the ship from one part of the world to the other for the respective cruise season.  In this case our vessel, Holland America’s MS Prinsendam, sails the Mediterranean during the summer and the Caribbean and South America during the northern hemisphere’s winter.  So they offer very good deals to fill the ship for this type of voyage.

What we like about cruising is the simple fact that each night’s lodging is in the same place.  There’s no packing and unpacking.  Then there’s the food and entertainment!  On the downside, we’re stuck with the ship’s schedule, and generally we don’t have more than one day in a port of call and one is limited to visiting areas that are nearby the port. Plus we have to leave our motorcycle behind!  For this trip and for the first time, we have a room with a porthole.  Normally we stay in what I lovingly call “steerage”.  Steerage is my term for an inside lower deck stateroom. There’s no window.  However, since we generally spend only sleeping hours in the room, a window isn’t important to us and we’re not claustrophobic!  Originally we were booked into a handicapped room with a window, but the beds wouldn’t combine, so we requested a room change which our travel agent (www.travelwithalan.com) was able to accomplish.

Cruises also offer a wide selection of shore excursions (they can be expensive) and we selected a number of those, but we’ve also learned over the years that we are adventuresome enough to do our own research.  A major part of that research is to utilize the Rick Steves guides (Europe Through the Back Door).  Rick is a PBS personality who leads tours all over Europe, documents them in wonderful television programs, and provides excellent travel advice on his website as well as in written form.  He also puts on a one day travel fair in Edmonds, WA during the winter to promote his approach.  It’s very much worth checking out!  His website is www.ricksteves.com.  This year’s is on Saturday, October 26 (our travel day to Athens!) so we’ll miss it!  He may have one later in the Winter.

Our next stop is our departure from SeaTac airport on a British Airways 747 on Saturday evening for a 9 hour flight to Heathrow Airport in London where we’ll transfer to a Boeing 767 for our direct flight to Athens.  At Athens, we’ll have an overnight stay and do a city tour before embarking at 5pm on Monday from Athens for Turkey.  The weather during the day is projected to be in the upper 70’s and even hotter in Israel.

Stay tuned, and Bon Voyage.