Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Check Your Juice Box Carefully

We found some new juice boxes at the grocery store in town.

We got the Capri-Sonne (Capri Suns) at the compare.

Monday, June 24, 2013


Riley and Mary got these souvenirs in Siena--a great little bag to remember Italia...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Burnt Siena

The cruise ship was back in port first thing Sunday morning, and we were to be off the boat by 8:00.  Our drive home was about 5 hours, and at about the halfway point was Siena--one of the Tuscan gems.  So we thought it would make a good lunch break (There's a sad story--we used Rick Steves' guide to pick our lunch restaurant, and while yes the food was good--well at least the food they brought us!  They completely lost Ted, Cory and Mary's pizza orders--and we were kind of tucked in a corner, so we were doubly forgotten about.  Riley, Lucy and I left, shopped, came back and they still hadn't gotten their pizzas.  Disappointment!).

Once a rival of Florence, the Black Death ended up bringing about Siena's downfall in power and influence.    However, similar to Assisi, this tragedy allowed the medieval part of Siena to be preserved almost like a time capsule.

Now, while it's no longer competitive with Florence in size, it continues to be a favorite place for visitors, and is known for the annual Palio races held in July and August.  The 'contrade' (neighborhoods) in Siena are each represented by a horse and rider who are blessed by the churches in their neighborhood.  They then race through the packed square of the town while townspeople cheer and wave their respective neighborhood flags.  We haven't attended--perhaps we will this year (although we seriously feel like we are running out of time!)  We walked down this neighborhood, which had flags proudly displayed along the streets.

In the square (which is really not a square, but amphitheater shaped),

is the Piazza del Campo, is a Palazzo Publico, the public palace, or municipal bulding.  There's also the Torre del Mangia, the bell tower, prominently standing next to the Palazzo Publico.

A few streets over is the Duomo.  From the outside, the Duomo looked strikingly similar to Florence's giant Duomo, and we could definitely see that the towns had once been very much arch-enemies.  We did not go into the Duomo--a long line, an entrance fee, the beginnings of rain and the promise of yet another 3 hours of driving were all major factors in that decision.

Oh!  I almost forgot...we also went the Basilica of St. Catherine--and inside was her HEAD!  This excited Cory and freaked Riley out (yes, we have a teenager).  No pictures were allowed inside, so I have no evidence (although Ted might have bought a postcard for his Godson, because what boy doesn't like a saved head?).

Rick Steves suggests that Crayola was inspired by Siena when naming their red-brown clay colored crayon Burnt Sienna.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Crete Finale

So the last pictures from our visit to Chania, Crete include some of the seaside pictures with what is claimed as one of the oldest lighthouses (at least according to the card that came with the t-shirt and postcards we bought at a little boutique--we did not go to the lighthouse, nor did we research it).

This was also described as a Venetian Port--well we've seen and done that, so no big woop, but it does look like Italy...

And our lunch!  A fresh Greek salad with olives, cucumbers, tomatoes and feta.  It was delish!  Some local beer, bread and bruschetta to top it off.  Yummy!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Crete--Quiet Beauty

Another side of Crete, the part that didn't disgust Riley, looked positively peaceful.  I won't clutter this post with a lot of words.  You can just pretend you're taking a quiet stroll through Chania, Crete.  You might even stop at a cafe for a coffee and people watch for a minute or two.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Crete Market

Our final port of the cruise was the island of Crete.  This was after two days in a row of major sightseeing stops (Athens and Turkey), and the three younger kids decided staying on the boat with the kids' club was probably more fun than anything we could drum up on Crete, so they stayed.  Riley saw the opportunity to spend a day with her parents alone and snatched that up fast!  However, after our first stop, the old market, I think she might have wished she had chosen differently.

Now, I realize in the grand scheme of markets (especially for our friends in Japan), nothing here was that exotic or crazy, BUT it was absolutely disgusting to Riley, which made it all the more fun for me!  Here are some of the things she saw.

Sides of pigs being schlepped in from a truck

Chickens--hanging upside down whole, with heads and feet

 Rabbits--skinned, except for their "lucky" feet (see the far left animal)

Animals skinned with their bushy tails left

Snails--in the shell, alive and netted so they might not escape (although a few had).  Maybe we should have tried the escargot offered on the ship!

There was also regular, tame things--like coffee!  This is for our friends at Noble Coyote Coffee Roasters (my personal favorite is the Honduras Cafe' Bejucales).

AND, Riley got a beautiful sundress from this market that she wore to our last formal night dinner.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Shopping in Turkey

Our "Ephesus Deluxe Tour" included lunch at a place that doubled as a carpet sales pitch.  We enjoyed our lunch which included several cold salad type dishes and some kebab meats with rice--and Efes beer, the local brew.

Then we were given an informative lesson on the art of the Turkish rug.
From the silk worm cocoons
The kids were each given a souvenir silk worm cocoon to take home--they're now oddly scattered around the house.

To the making of the carpets by hand

To the stunning examples.

We managed not to buy any of these rugs.   Not only that, but we also managed to not ask how much one would cost.

From here we went on to a ceramic shop where we were schooled in their ceramic art as well.

From the man who precisely shapes the clay into a lid for the jar he just made

To the people who decorate and paint the individual pieces by hand.

We managed to come away with 3 plates that look lovely on my tiered plate rack.
This picture has been oddly distorted--like it's on wide screen or something.  Really, the plates are a normal circlel!
The guide offered to take us to a textile shop where we could get some more knowledge on the art of clothing, but Ted called uncle on the shopping trips.

Instead, on our way back to the boat we made one more quick stop where we could see the site of the Temple of Artemis--one of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World.  One column remains.  Also in view was the Basilica of St. John, some sort of medieval structure and a modern community and one other time period's structure (which I cannot recall--maybe a mosque?).  Kind of neat

From there it was back to the ship

A great day in Turkey

Mary's House

Another highlight of our visit to Turkey was this hilltop home--the likely sight of the Virgin Mary's final home.  The surroundings were beautiful, although the time of our visit was incredibly windy.  We could not take pictures inside the small chapel.  It had two rooms--the first being a chapel/shrine type area, and the second thought to be where Mary would have lived and slept.

As you left the building and continued down the path there was a water fountain, believed to have holy, healing water and a wall filled with scraps of cloth and papers with people's wishes or prayers.

What a beautiful place