Posted by: dodsonislanders | September 22, 2008

Our last day… at sea.

This is our last day of the cruise. We caught an extra hour of sleep last night due to crossing, not the international date line, but rather the Greek/Italian time line. As rested as we were, Toni still jumped at the ringing phone, and pressed the hair dryer to her ear, ready to answer, “Hello.” Seemed to me something other than a lack of sleep was at work here. You will have to ask Toni what she was thinking. I am not going to go there!

It has been a rough day for all of us so far. We had breakfast while leisurely gazing at the deep blue sea (I cannot think what sea but who cares). Ah, Christel just informed me we are currently in the Adriatic. After that, back to our state “cupboards” to brush teeth, do some packing, and, …. We are now sitting in the Horizon Court on the 14th floor, not eating at the moment. Cup of coffee in one hand, eyes on the … Adriatic, and contemplating what to do next. The stress is becoming more than I can bear.

For now we have nothing more interesting to add. Hopefully, we will have a good internet connection in Venice. If so, more then. Ciao.

Posted by: dodsonislanders | September 22, 2008

Kalinika, Good Bye, Aufwiedersehn, Adjeu, Corfu.

The day literally began at 0-dark-30, oh boy! We crawled out of bed and found our way to the bus to cruise through the green pastoral landscape of Corfu which was much prettier than we thought, to see a monastery and church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. We were surprised at how lush it was especially after enjoying the starkness of Santorini and Mykonos. The water was crystal clear, all shades of blues and greens.

Back in Corfu town, rather that looking at more ruins, we ditched our guide and went off on our own, in search of some authentic Greek food before leaving the country. And did we ever find it! Can’t remember the name of the place, but who cares – the food was out of this world right on down to the four-cheese pizza a less adventurous person in our group ordered. We feasted on chicken in creamy kumquat sauce, sauteed tomatoes, cabbage wrapped dolmas, Corfu-style veal, and a loaf of fabulous Greek bread. Christel even grabbed the last piece of bread and ate it while walking back to the bus.

Back on the ship, we spent a couple of hours of R and R before we went to dinner to feast again, this time on lobster or beef wellington.

Posted by: dodsonislanders | September 22, 2008

From Antiquity and beyond…..

On Friday we were in Athens, home of the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Odeon of Herodes, and Atticus, where they still hold the annual Summer festival of Music and Drama. Everywhere we go there are ruins of some kind.

I must say, when you sign up for a tour here you must be ready to run a marathon. Our guide in Athens was a pretty young thing, who must participate in the “sprints” in her “other job”. Each guide tells us that being a guide is not their full time job, which is code for “we want a tip at the end of the tour”.

First we went to the Acropolis where we ran up 85 steps to the top. Mary stopped at about 40 and Toni made about 60. Had it not been for our Sultan ,”Big John,” those of us who are shorter, i.e. Pat F.

and Gina, would have been lost in the maze of people. The area was packed with tourists, like sardines in a can.

We made it to the top (John, Christel, Gina & myself) and have some wonderful pictures to show. They had an area at the top that was cabled off, but I saw some ladies sitting past the cables and asked Christel how they got up there. About that time we saw some people trying to climb over the cables, and the ladies sitting at the top came alive and starting screaming and yelling at them. They were guards! John thought one of them resembled a Russian Mafia Mama, so needless to say, we did not climb over the cables! This tour ended with a visit to a picturesque restaurant where we had a panoramic view of the Acropolis. It was one of those times where you feel like pinching yourself to see if you’re really here. Our waiter was serving all customers including a mother cat and her kitten. See picture.

On to Athens town for some shopping. There was some kind of protest going on in town and we were in traffic you cannot believe. Our guide said it was the worst she has ever seen. She decided we could get there faster if we walked and so the bus driver managed to charge his way to the curb to let us off the bus. Our guide led us on another sprint through heavy traffic and crowded walkways to what she called “our meeting place”. I waited in the middle of a crosswalk with traffic going in both ways to show those in our group having trouble keeping up, what direction the guide had gone. We all made it to the meeting place and were told we were on our own for 1.5 hours. I had an experience with an ATM machine, a bank employee, assist manager, and then manager. More to tell later on that, but suffice to say, it is not safe to use your ATM card in the area we were in. All is well though. John said God was looking out for me, and I totally agree.

Meanwhile, Don and Pat had a slower-paced day, and met up with a young couple who made it their mission to see that Donald saw everything he wanted to see. They were a military couple from the US, but that is Donald’s story so he can tell it when he gets home.

Back in our group in Athens, Christel and Mary went looking for a shop that sold Greek outfits for children. Mary bought her great grandchildren some of the cutest outfits. We are all excited to see them in them, but have to wait awhile since they are sized for 3 or 5 yrs of age.

Today John has a head cold and has been using Kleenex like he owned stock in the company. Between us we had 5 of those small purse packages, and by the end of the tour, he was out. But he just keeps on trucking. Toni had a supply of those hand wipes (of course) which he used often.

We had a wonderful lunch at a Greek restaurant where you could only eat with spoons. We were told that “in antiquity” the Greeks only ate with spoons. We did not let that us stop us from enjoying all the authentic Greek food. I even swabbed my plate clean with bread, it was that delicious!!

Well, it’s almost time to go on another marathon sprint through Olympia, so more later.

Pat Flagg

Posted by: dodsonislanders | September 22, 2008

Hey, it’s Otto man!

Today was Turkey (tomorrow is ham). Our guide, Zack, a somewhat corpulent middle-aged man of Turkish heritage, must have been an Olympian in a former life. Man, could he sprint. He carried a berburry umbrella and sashayed like Mary Poppins in drag. At each site, he jumped from the bus, and like the seven little dwarfs, the row of us tourists took off after him. We arrived at each site winded and while catching our breath, listened to his dissertations. I asked him at one point if he could slow somewhat as some of us were elderly and some of us were disabled. He said he had a schedule to keep. He parsed every phrase with “ladies and gentlemen” and I would have choked him to death if I could have caught my breath.

While on our way to Ephesus, we stopped at a place Zack claimed was Mary’s house (the mother of Jesus). We ran into Donald and Pat while leaving Mary’s house but were afraid to exchange words because we were sprinting to the bus to avoid Zack’s wrath. A couple from Canada was not so lucky.

Next was the ruins of Ephesus. Amazing and sobering. Zack informed us that the Ephesians were highly advanced and had indoor plumbing (we are talking bathrooms folks) and central heat. In the distance was the library, massive in size, and across the street from it was the bordello. Also in Ephesus, is an amphitheater that seats 20,000. It was built by the Ephesians (duh!). Sting, Elton John, Tom Jones, the Rolling Stones, and Pavarotti have performed there.

Next, Zack took us to what is claimed to be the tomb of the apostle John. Pat G’s group was told that a nun had a vision. A bunch of dudes studied the nun’s vision and ultimately decided this was the spot where Apostle John was entombed. Let’s hear it for the nun.

The best of the tour was saved for last. We were taken into town then herded into an upper room. This was not for our last supper or for anything like that, although we did share wine, beer, and other Turkish drinks that were disgusting. The upper room was windowless but air conditioned. It was full of carpets and we sat on wooden benches around the perimeter of the room and listened to an extended sales pitch on all the attributes of silk and woolen carpets woven by Turkish women. It is beneath men to do this job. Seems to me, slavery and chauvinism are alive and well in this delightful corner of the Asian world.

We happily returned to our ship where we celebrated Gina’s birthday. After all, today is September 17th.

Posted by: dodsonislanders | September 22, 2008

The sisterhood of the traveling pants…….

At the next stop, our ship anchored in the caldera, about midway between the mouth of the volcano and the outer lip of the crater the world lovingly knows as Santorini. I feel lucky to have been accepted as a member of this delightful group of ladies whose pants are definitely traveling. Adonis was our guide. Blonde hair, blue eyes, and a short shirt that exposed two of his six-pack. Mary was in seventh heaven (as were Pat F, Toni, Christel, and Gina). John felt neglected and rejected as the sultan of his harem. Picture to follow.



Adonis took us around the island, ending the tour at the Santo Winery. We were served Greek wine, cheese, and olives. Actually, the wine was just a taste (about a tablespoon in quantity). The little square of cheese and olive impaled on a toothpick did little to satisfy our ravenous appetites. Pat F now understands why so many of the men on Santorini are so slim.

Donald and Pat G went to the picturesque town of Oia (sounds like a campground to me) on the northern-most point of the island. According to Pat, the architecture was beautiful and the view of the crater was stunning. They even had a full Greek lunch in a Greek tavern. I bet they didn’t get an olive and piece of cheese impaled on a toothpick.

Posted by: dodsonislanders | September 22, 2008

We’re in Amalfi and we’re never coming home!

Well, here it is, early in the morning, and we’re docking in Naples. A totally charming place. Kinda reminds one of the auto plants in Detroit, Michigan. Very industrial, shipping containers all over the place, and that delightful aroma of a fuel refinery plant much as what you would expect to find in Martinez. We boarded the “short bus” and headed out of town. Shortly we were on the winding road to Amalfi. The landscape changed from industrial to lush almost instantly.

The road to Amalfi

The road to Amalfi

The road to Amalfi is about a twentysix-mile version of Lombard Street only with the bus inches from the edge. A plunge over the edge would surely lead to our deaths. The view was stunning, the air was pure and heavenly, the countryside was green and lush. After about two hours we arrived in the picturesque village of Amalfi complete with strolling musicians, quaint shops, and central a fountain where John had his first experience with Amalfi nectar (picture to follow). 

Amalfi Nectar

Amalfi Nectar

Meanwhile Don and Pat visited a four-acre farm located above Sorrento. They saw how a lady made mozerella cheese. Then they went to have a platter of cheese, tomatos, and salamy, all home-made, followed by tasing limoncello – oh yeah! It was so good Pat purchased a bottle she refused to share.

Next was Pompeii where we learned that the people died from the poisonous gases from the volcano, not from the lava. It was a very interesting tour – Donald was in seventh heaven.

Tomorrow Santorini…

Posted by: dodsonislanders | September 15, 2008

Onto the ship we go…….

We a, gotta onna shippa. Dis a big shippa and we a get a losta alotta. We a founda outa that inna Roma thata you adda O’a aftera every worda. Butta nowa we’a beena to Napoli, Naples to thosea who’a neava beena here. Inna Napoli, we’a hafta adda da “A” afta evva worda. Nowa, backa to englisha.

In Monaco, Gina and Pat had quite the morning adventure. They awoke kind of late and realized they were about to miss the tender for their Monaco tour. They ran to the tender after throwing on their clothes but sans shower, teeth brushing, and makeup. Halfway to land, the lead tender broke down (traveling in circles) and their tender was forced to stop. Needless to say, once they arrived in port, their bus had left, and there they were…stranded by themselves. So, they hopped back onto the tender to motor back to the ship. Princess Cruise Lines were princesses and gave them a booking on a later tour that was much better than the missed tour.

John, Toni, Don, and Pat G also went on Monaco/Monte Carlo tours. At the Casino in Monaco Mary touched a yellow Ferrari and a man came running yelling “Don’t touch that car!”. Everything was ostentatious and “in your face RICH”. We did have a great lunch at an outdoor café on one of the quaint side streets. Meanwhile, Pat and Gina were cooling their toes in the Mediterranean in Melton, France. You know, that place where all the women who should not be topless on the beach, are. Ya ever seen a sexy 80 something, 200 kilogram Frenchie? Makes those hairy Russian women sexy. That is France for ya.

Tuscany was next. We arrived in Livorno the next morning. What a lovely place. Ship containers all over the place. Photos to follow. Our first stop was Pisa. It started to rain, but did we have our umbrellas? Noooooo. So, we did the tourist thing with the Pisa vendors and purchased their three euro specials. Mine broke. Toni still has her’s and it is stunningly lovely. The rain came down like the proverbial horse Pisa on a rock. Lovely place, even in the rain. After Pisa, it was off to Firenze, Florence to all you mono-lingual yanks. During this portion of the trip, the Tuscan countryside was even more stunning that what we had seen in pictures. Photos to follow. Mary loved Firenze, naked statues of dead men all over the place. I was looking all over for statues of naked women but saw none. Oh, that is not entirely correct. I saw one but her head was missing. At least this is what Toni told me. I thought she was pretty.

My best to all, Big John!


Posted by: dodsonislanders | September 12, 2008


Arrivederci Roma,

On our last night in Bella Roma, some of us wanted to experience the night life and some wanted to stay in and veg. So John took his harem of four out for a night on the town. Christel, Pat, Gina and I joined our “sultan” and piled into a taxi for another exciting experience of flirting with death as we journeyed across the city. They have no lanes here and people turn when there is the slightest of space. In fact, scooters do not have to stop for red lights. Our driver informed us that there is at least one scooter death a day, mostly teenagers.

At the Piazza Navona, we felt like we were on a movie set. Two beautiful fountains, street artists, outdoor cafes, performers and a few gypsies dotted the landscape. We had dinner served by Mr Big. He was quite proud of the fact he looked like the guy from Sex and the City. Then we walked around the piazza and had gelato and the world famous, according to Rick Steves, death by chocolate. Then another exciting taxi ride back to the hotel where we were greeted by Mary hanging out of the hotel window and hollering at us as we got out of the taxi. I think she woke up the whole neighborhood. I know she woke up Pat and Don because they wanted to know what Mary was hollering about the night before. We are having a great adventure. More later.

Posted by: dodsonislanders | September 9, 2008

The Roman Holiday

September 9, Rome!

Georgio picked us up at the hotel driving like a kamikaze through Rome. Arriving minus accident at Vatican City – the Pope sends his greetings. Walter, our guide through the Vatican, and Mary (not the mother of Jesus) really hit off! Before long they were holding hands.

After viewing a million and a half paintings by dead Italian masters we moved on to the Sistine Chapel where we witnessed a guy being taken away for taking pictures when he should not have. He was a mouthy little guy who became quite mousy when the blue-shirted cops took him away.

After lunch we went to see the Trevi Fountain. It looked exactly as it did in the movie “Three Coins in the Fountain” with 3 million extras. We struggled to keep John out of the fountain since he thought it was 105 (NOT!), but Pat got a picture of his belly-button while he was taking a pic with his arms raised high. The girls tossed coins into the fountain which means they will come back soon.

Next was the Colosseum where the guys gave thumbs down and Pat was preaching to Mary and Toni. Gina, John, Pat and Donald braved steep steps to climb to the very top while the smart ones stayed below and rested.

On our way back to the hotel many famous sights flashed by our windows and our lives flashed before our eyes as our Italian guide drove like, well, like an Italian. We concluded our first day in Rome with the BEST gelato in the city.

More later.

Posted by: dodsonislanders | September 9, 2008

Flying High

Well here we are in Amsterdam. The flight from Minneapolis was long, 8 ½ hours. Uneventful except for the two episodes of people “tossing their cookies”. I don’t think the one guy who decorated the restroom located right behind Pat Flagg and Gina’s seats was eating cookies, unless they have liquid cookies somewhere.We have made it through customs okay. John Dodson has been kept busy because he is the one strong man helping 6 ladies., What a guy!

Christel has been busy with Mary. We have Mary riding in a wheelchair through the airports. Mary has whacked a couple of guys with her cane, accidentally she says, but I say if Mary is in a wheelchair watch out!

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