Mediterranean Cruise, FIRST HALF

Well, it’s been a while since my last entry. I’ve been busting my butt, let workouts slip away and just totally driven since I wasn’t going to be around for all of August.

I am currently on a Mediterranean trip, 22 days at sea visiting various countries and islands in the Mediterranean.

We started out from Newark on August 2, we had a evening flight, left around 5PM and would arrive in Rome around 8 AM, keep in mind Rome is 6 hours ahead of NJ. Needless to say the flight was tough. I’ve been to Europe several dozen times, most of my time has been spent in western Europe on cycling junkets, Tour de France, Vuelta, Het Volk, Paris-Nice, Paros-Roubaix, and a bunch of cycling camps on Mallorca. This would be my first time really exploring the Mediterranean or anything not in Western Europe.

I am traveling with Michael, Rachel and Michael’s mother Nancy–basically the ‘usual suspects.’ Halfway thought the trip Rachel would leave and Michael’s father, Kevin and his friends would come on board. We got into Rome and although I should have slept on the flight I just couldn’t even though I took and Ambien, didn’t do anything to me. I watched several movies and just listened to music for the most part.

Once in Rome we stayed at a really great hotel, great spa and huge pool we went swimming in lieu of going to sleep. We actually had to stay up most of the day otherwise we’d really feel the jet lag. Nancy said she was going to take a nap and then just full on fell asleep and that was the end of it for her she was OUT (more on that later). Rachel, Michael and I went to explore Rome, Michael has been there before, he knew his way around pretty well. We took the subway for the most part, Rome is surprisingly easy to get around. I am confident my next time to Rome I will have no problems getting around.

We went to a bunch of places while in Rome, The first day we went to the Vatican Museum which was pretty interesting. Evidently the Vatican Museum houses so many antiquities from forever, only a portion is even on display, it really was spectacular. We went into the Sistine Chapel, something I never realized was that the chapel were all made for individual families, they would go into the Vatican and use those rooms to worship. Evidently the Sistine Family were ‘big ballers’ because they had Michelangelo paint the ceiling of their chapel.

Each chapel was decorated by the individual families by whomever; needless to say it was quite impressive. I was a little annoyed we made it all the way to The Vatican and we didn’t go into St Peter’s Square–one member of our party was whining so much about being tired we didn’t make it inside even though we were a mere few feet from it. I really do regret not taking a tougher stance on it and going in there. Well, that’s always an issue when dealing with a group right?

After bringing Rachel back to the hotel, Michael and I went to theRoman Coliseum was just an awe inspiring place. I couldn’t believe how big it was and I was actually walking in the, much of it is what we’ve seen from the outside and inside, but it was just so awesome to see this thing that was built all those centuries ago and it’s still around. What I never really realized was that the outer ‘ring’ of the Coliseum had been destroyed over the centuries, what we actually see on half is the inner ‘ring’ without the exterior cover on it. ‘They’ have done remediations to stop the building from falling apart, but to look at it and walk there was something else. Directly across from it was The Arch of Constantine which was awesome also, but it was covered with scaffolding, but still a sight to see nonetheless.

We went to The Pantheon on Sunday prior to going to the ship. We sent our bags with Nancy and we did some exploring in Rome as I hadn’t been there before. We also saw Trevi Fountain, and walked around there area. The weather was HOT, I felt like the sun was right on top of me, the only solace was it wasn’t humid. Afterwards we went to Civitecchia where we would get on the ship. The Pantheon was an old Pagan church which was converted to a Catholic church, which is why it wasn’t destroyed. The dome was us huge, to think how old the building was and they didn’t have the modern building techniques we have today it is a Ariel that it was built–hell not only was it built but it’s remained relatively intact despite its age!

The ship is the ship. If you’ve been on one you’ve been on all of them. As soon as went on board the feeding started. One of the good/bad things about being on the ship is the food. The last cruise around Thanksgiving I ended up LOSING weight and Eileen, Caroline and Merry ended up GAINING weight! LOL!

One thing about traveling with Michael is that he always watches what I eat. I figure it’s vacation and it’s also a slight vacation from fitness, I don’t get crazy but I do try and watch myself, I definitely eat better when on a cruise than when I’m at home since I’m to lazy to cook at home. Michael really guilt trips me when I am eating, I’m not going to complain too much as he did help me lose 140lbs, I figure I’m still a little bit ahead of the game anyway, right? 😉

Also, Michael always has a workout plan for me, again, I am guilt tripped if I don’t workout, so I just do it, otherwise he is impossible to live with. It’s one of those things that it sucks while doing it, but once the workout is over there is a humongous sense of accomplishment. It’s good that he keeps me in check, but annoying also, when I get back I really want to hit it; I have to get rid of this belly fat! Yes, Gregg Cook, I know HEAVY LIFTING!

Our first stop was Corfu, tiny little island. We hiked up to the top of this ‘castle’ structure. It’s amazing hiking now so much easier to go up and down places without all that extra weight. I really am proud of myself when I make it thru these things. It is HOT all the time seemingly, and walking around in this heat is no joke, it does really suck, but I power thru because this is seemingly the trip of a lifetime to an extent, I hate saying that because I know I’ll be back with a different motley crew!

The second stop was Kotor, very interesting. The old city of Dubrovnik is a medieval walled city, really cool to walk around in there and there are shops and bars and of course there is the huge climb up to the top of the mountain. We walked up and there were some sort of stairs there but good enough for 1 person single file, if people were walking up and down at the same time someone would have to give way and walk on the rocky trail adjacent to it, wasn’t terrible, but it always seems like I would get a good pace going and then someone would be coming down.

It was HOT, did I have to say that again? We made it to the top and there was a huge sense of accomplishment as well as the great view of the harbor. We went down an alternate way, come to find out it was a path that we weren’t supposed to go down, but it was definitely much more interesting than going down the same way we got up. When we got to the bottom we were walking around and saw a bar where they had HARD CIDER–woo hoo! We sat there for a while I had three bottles and Michael had two beers, definitely worth the stop, my legs and Michael’s legs were shaking, it was quite the hike up and down!

The third stop was Dubrovnik, we went into town, again another walled city. We walked around, our grand plans included going to the beach, it Nancy, Rachel and myself ended up going to eat and Michael went to the beach. We were only there for a few hours, good thing too, I am sure there were plenty of things to do, we could have hiked along the wall of the city, but after the previous day I wasn’t much for hiking, even though this time it would be easier since everything was pretty level.

Our fourth stop was Venice, we were there for two days, we got in pretty early. It was really cool coming in as we went past most of the city and saw a lot. It truly was spectacular to see the city, just to imagine its like an island, actually it is an island. The first day we went to the Doge’s Palace, the Doge was like the ‘King’ of Venice, the palace was totally overboard and ostentatious as one would expect a Palace to be, we happened to be there the same time as the Manet exhibit which we went too. I don’t have much to say about it, as I’m not a big fan, but it was cool to see.

St Mark’s Square was totally overrun with tourists, Michael wanted to go into St Mark’s but the line was HUGE, and need I say it was FRIGGING HOT! We bought a 36 hour pass for the water taxis, which were in the self pretty cool. The taxis are just like trains, but boats! I was worried about being pick pocketed while on their, I had this routine of checking all of my pockets on chalantly–lol.

We decided that we’d get up early and go to St Marks on Saturday morning, was a great plane, we were amongst the first group to get into the church, was pretty cool. The church was pretty cool, the floor settled like in waves, the floors was off limits, evidently there are services that go in there. It was pretty cool, but the really cool part was going upstairs and walking around, there were so many artifacts and cool history of the church it was quite amazing. It was nice walking around on the church roof with the view of the square, the line to get in was HUGE, then we realized it was Saturday, hence more crowded than most days. Afterwards we walked back to where the ship was docked, it wasn’t a bad walk, we stopped at a cafe which had Wi-Fi and had a drink and some desserts.

One of the crazy things about travelling is getting WiFi, it is ridiculously expensive on the ship, doesn’t really make sense to get it, so expensive! So the first thing we do is try and find WiFi as soon as we dock, usually there’s some at the port, but usually know something is going on when you see a bunch of people there just standing around using their iPhone’s. It’s ridiculous, by this time WiFi should be included in the price of your trip, I for one would pay a couple hundred dollars extra for unlimited WiFi.

Our fifth stop was Katakolon, which is the site of the ancient Olympics! Everyone who knows me well, knows how much I live the Olympics and just the whole process of becoming an Olympian and achieving their Olympic dream. I not only admire the winners, but I also admire ALL those that compete, because as we know only a handful of people will ever win, it he victory is in competing. Our tour hide was very prepared, she was very funny, think ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding,’ all the cliches including the word origins…and there you have it. We saw where the athletes trained and the Temple of Zeus which had a giant golden state of Zeus, think the Lincoln Memorial in DC, was spectacular from the descriptions, obviously the staue is LONG gone. In front of the temple of Zeus was the staue of Nike, which had been moved into the museum.

We went into the original Olympic Stadium, which was 2 Herculean steps, approximately 620 meters each. It was pretty simple looking, just dirt and graduated mounds on either side, evidently each city-states would sit together. Its hard to believe this was the idea for the Coliseums we have in the US, definitely supersized everything! The athletes competed naked, to make sure that no women competed. It was quite amazing. The founder of the modern Olympics Pierre Decoubertain(sp), said he wanted his heart to stay in Olypmpia, when he died, his heart was urged in Olympia and his body was buried in Paris, pretty amazing and cool. This was probably me of my favorite days, I so LOVE the Olympics!

Our sixth stop was in Santorini, Santorini is interesting as it was the center of the Minoan civilization, which was wiped out when when I volcano basically blew up the island and it sunk to the bottom of the sea. There are remnants of the island left today, the volcano is still active, as the ship tendered in the caldera, and we took ferry boats in. We had to hike up the mountain frm the bottom, there were three ways to get up to Thira, tram, donkey or hike. I wanted the hike irregardless, the tram line was huge and the donkeys didn’t make me mondo jovial to jump on them, we we hiked up thru donkey dung and donkey traffic up and down the swithbacks, evidently there are 588 steps.

We got to to the top and took a bus to the beach. The sand was black, I sat around under the umbrella to mitigate the BLAZING HOT SUN, then I decided to go into the water. Michael told me the sand would be hot, but I didn’t listen and the sand was so damn too I nearly burned my feet off, holy shit was it hot. I tried walking fast so as to look cool, but when I got into the water my feet were on fire and I just couldn’t get it out of my head, the sand was so HOT–it really ruined it for me, I just stayed under the umbrella and actually fell asleep. Nonetheless it was great. We took the bus back to Thira and hiked down the mountain again, trying to dodge donkey dung all down the trail.

Our seventh stop was Athens, all I can say is The Acropolis is truly an amazing feat that has to be seen. We went to the acropolis Museum first, went thru and half way figured out it was a replica of the Parthenon, with recreations of the facade and a little history about it. All I can say is that Lord Elgin should be tarred and feathered for what he did to the Parthenon. Look it up, but it is a shame! The views were spectacular and the site itself was amazing, all I can think of is whatever you think of the Greeks, whether their worship of pagan Gods you agreed or disagreed with, there is no way the Temple should have been destroyed, it was just amazing and spectacular. The place was a work of art, simply incredible. I will not even try to describe it in detail because I will leave out the details, definitely get to Athens when you have a chance.

This was also the last stop of the first leg of the cruise, Rachel would be leaving, Kein, Michael’s father and Kevin’s friend would be coming on board.