It’s been more than a little crazy the past few weeks with visitors, vacations and beautiful weather. There was one open weekend between all that stuff but the temperatures hit 20+ and when it’s warm and the sun shines in Holland you get out and enjoy it. The madness has settled for a bit and I can catch my breath until the next round. As I want to look back on it all some day, let me hit rewind and recap Mom’s visit.
Like last year, Mom wanted to capitalize on my living in Europe so we planned a trip for her to come visit for Mother’s Day. While in the planning stages it was clear she wanted to go to Italy – maybe Venice or Tuscany. After searching and researching it seemed a cruise would be a great option to see a lot without the hassle of repeatedly packing and unpacking as we would on a driving or train trip. In the end we picked a 7-day cruise beginning and ending in Venice with stops in Croatia, Greece and Turkey.
Mom arrived on a Thursday and the very next day we left for Venice arriving a day before our cruise to get time to wander the city. We allowed time on either end to explore the city and do as every website and guide book suggested – get lost, just wander. Venice was a nice city and we enjoyed walking, taking the vaparetto and visiting Murano, but living in Amsterdam for the last 18 months I must say that I prefer our canals and boats to theirs. Sorry Venice.
Dubrovnik, Croatia: Most definitely a place that has evolved to cater to cruise passengers, the main area is full of tourist shops and restaurants. As we did not book a tour of Dubrovnik or any surrounding areas, our time here was spent walking the main drag and taking the cable car to a high point above the city. Unfortunately it was a foggy day so finding the right moment to snap a photo of the city below was difficult. The highlight of this stop was finding Buza Bar which sits just outside the city wall and overlooking the sea. It was a bit of an adventure to find, but when we saw the archway in the wall and the blue just beyond it was immediately worth the effort. We sipped our Croatian wine and enjoyed the views until it was time to head back on board.
Piraeus (Athens), Greece: This was the one site we did pre-book a tour as it is some distance from the port to Athens and the acropolis. From the port we took a bus to the stadium where they held the first modern Olympics in 1896 and had a quick stop for photos. From there we drove through Athens and up to the Parthenon. Our tour guide was great giving lots of history on Greece, Athens and this historic site. It was amazing to see but not quite as awe inspiring or impressive (to me) as Rome and its ruins. The tour ended in the Plaka or old town which was just another tourist trap full of shops and restaurants. The highlight here was lunch as Mom and I shared mousaka and a Greek salad then baklava for desert. Yum!
Izmir, Turkey: We headed straight for the bazaar area at this stop. I had pictured an indoor market with people selling all kinds of things from rugs to hookas to who-knows-what. It wasn’t quite what I’d imagined, but was a sight nonetheless. The bazaar was actually a maze of small, twisting, numbered streets lined with vendors selling anything you could want – most of it knock offs of famous brands. It was too easy to get lost and turned around and once we’d seen a few streets worth of shops we felt we’d seen it all. We did manage to walk out with tasty natural dried apricots and apple tea.
Split, Croatia: They saved the best for last. Just cruising up to Split, it was already the most beautiful port of our journey. As we arrived on shore we noticed an open top bus and decided for a last minute tour to get the lay of the land. We drove around the city but also around the coast getting to see more than we would have otherwise. Beautiful blue water of many shades, white sandy beaches and green landscapes made Split somewhere I’d want to go back to explore. After the drive a tour guide walked us around the old city giving great history and anecdotes then we were on our own for the last couple of hours for lunch and souvenir shopping.
I must say that the cruise was better than I’d expected from the food to the service, the ports and the weather (not that the cruise line could have done much about that). Mom and I had a great time relaxing, exploring and just spending time together. For two people who thought they’d probably never make it out of North America, it’s been great to now have our count of European adventures up to three.
And now a riddle to tease the next blog…
Q: Why did two Americans and one Canadian cross the border?