Andorra is a very small country sandwiched between Spain and France. Thanks to our Elkhorn resort in Clear lake Manitoba we were able to book a nice quiet rural accommodation. We were surrounded by mountains and the mountain stream passed right out side our condo door. It was very relaxing and a good break from the hustle and bustle of the big cities. Andorra has cheap booze, cigarettes, gasoline and perfume. Lyane and Jessica purchased some channel perfume for really cheap that was poured out of giant container of it. So they were happy. We toured the city and visited a really neat spa and looked in the shops. It really felt like a small town in BC. Drew found a multiplex facility with an indoor hockey rink and for the first time said that he missed hockey. The week went by fast and we headed back to France over the desolate Pyrenees Mountains. This was the first time in a long time we felt like home.
After an overnight stay in Paris, we caught our flight to Athens. the weather was pretty good for touring, but not for beaching, so we spent everyday in the downtown area visiting archeological sites. The world-renowned Acropolis site home to the gigantic Parthenon did not disappoint. There is also a theatre that sat 40,000 people and a brand new museum that was well worth the visit. By far the best museum I have ever seen. Trust me we know museums! We were fortunate to be in Athens on a weekend because one of the most famous markets in the world occurs on Sundays called the Monastraki market. The kids really liked it because their was lots of junk to buy, more street entertainers and cheap food and candy. Again the street knockoff vendors were everywhere and we watched a half hearted effort by the Athens police to raid them. This time I was ready with my video camera, but really not much action. The cops walked after them and the vendors ran, so no one was caught.
From Athens we boarded our first ever cruise ship called the Norwegian Jade. We all loved it ! The kids joined the kids club and practically lived there while Lyane and I did adult stuff…… like dinner, then to the amazing on board theatre and then back to the room for a game of cards. I have to say the food was fantastic and the onboard entertainment was way better than expected. During the cruise, we stopped at several ports in the Greek Islands with the first being Olympia. It was very cool to see and stand on the first Olympic track and to mark yourself in the blocks that Greek athletes did in 400 BC. Lyane video taped us as Jess, Drew and I had a race in the 45,000 seat stadium. We were the only ones at the stadium at that moment and Jess won the race. What a great experience. Then we wrestled where the first Olympic boxing and wrestling took place ad I won. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone, but I didn’t want to lose in Olympia. Just kidding.
Then back on the ship to sail to Egypt. We were all pretty pumped about visiting Africa and seeing the Pyramids. We landed in Alexandria and we took a tour bus to Cairo to maximize the sites. When we arrived at the pyramids, we all rushed out of the bus to see that great structures only to be attacked by street vendors and scum bags. They immediately sensed Lyane’s inability to say no and swarmed. It was ugly ad we had to get ugly with them to get the hell out of there ! Then we promised the kids we would ride a camel at the pyramids, so we hired two camels for the four of us. Again, it was a great experience and the camels were cool, but stinky and it was very very hot out. Some time during the camel ride the camel vendors pick pocketed Lyane and we lost a bank card and some money. Man those guys are good. They could probably take the pants off a tourist without them knowing ! Oh well could have been worse.Part of the experience I guess. Then we went to the amazing Sphinx and a bunch of other ruins. The next day we did not go into town because it is so stressful with all the vendors and once we saw Cairo for a day, we had already had enough. Interesting, but what a dump ! 22 million residents with 7 million on one street ! Nice ! So, we stayed on the ship and swam in the sweltering heat in the onboard pool and ate from the buffet and bar every hour.
Then it was back to the Greek Islands to Crete, Mykonos, and Santorini. Wow, all really really nice places, but Santorini was our favorite. The town sits on top of a mountain and is famous for it’s white buildings with blue dome roofs. Very pretty and clean. It is said to be one of the most prettiest places in the world for sunsets and I would have to agree. We also took a tour and climbed a volcano mountain there. It was Ok, but one of those things you should do it you get the chance. We saw the craters and slight smoke rising from the active volcano. It wasn’t too hot, but you could probably cook a hot dog on it !
We arrived in Izmir, Turkey on Halloween day and we had to leave the ship two days early to hookup with our RCI Accommodations in the nearby town of Kusadaci. The kids were disappointed because there was a bid Halloween party on the ship that night and Turkey does not celebrate Halloween. We rented a car and drove to our condo. It was a really nice place with out door water slides and beach area. Unfortunately, the Turkish tourism season is over and there was nobody at the massive resort. The weather was off and on and we were able to tour when the weather was good. We did experience extremely high winds and rain one day and it was a bit scary. We then visited the oldest Turkish ancient site Ephesus. This is one of the most preserved sites in the world and really gave you a chance to imagine what it was like pre-AD. There is an ancient library on site still standing three floors high that is said to be one of the first libraries ever Then we drove to a little house now a church known to be that last living residence of the Virgin Mary. I know, I know, but they say they have proof and it is absolutely true ! There are full time Christians praying there as tourist pass through this quaint little church in the mountains of Turkey.
Man ! It is really hard to put it all into words and post this blog. Hopefully the pictures can do most of the talking. When ever we do not understand something at a site, we always say ” Oh will look it up oh google later Sometime we do, but there is so much to comprehend ! The kids are learning a ton. The world is their classroom as one tourist friend said, and that is so true.