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Greek trip – part IV

Links to all parts of the Greek trip

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

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Wednesday July 31
Arrived in Patmos at 8AM. Another sunny, hot day. We planned a down day today. Breakfast at nine. I had chocolate banana pancakes. A rare indulgence for me. Then we kicked back for a couple hours and headed into Patmos to explore the small town of Skala. And find lunch. I should mention the island of Patmos is famed because John is reputed to have written the Bible book of Revelations in a cave here. There were tours up to the monastery and cave.

We took the 11am tender in. This was the first time we used the Windstar tender. A bit choppy but we all got on and off OK. The town was tiny.

Pretty pastels

Main square. I think that’s a palm tree encased in a vine!

Loved this pink vespa! Need one!

We had done a bit of homework on restaurants and we wandered the streets dodging the vespas and motor bikes and cars. Oh and trucks and busses! No real sidewalks. All the recommendations appeared to be closed for lunch. No problem. We stopped for cool drinks on a covered hotel terrace.

Cindy had the prettiest cider which came with apple slices and a cinnamon stick.

My rose.

Then we randomly chose Ostria. It had a pretty covered dining area with trees. After we sat we noticed mostly Greeks eating there which was a good omen.

Our small, old man waiter (maybe the owner?) warmed to us through the meal. At first he tried to sell us the house wine but Luther persisted and we got a nice Greek white. Luther had pork gyros, Bill had pork Souvlaki, I had the pasta di mare, and Cindy had the pasta arrabiatta. Everyone liked their choice. Mine was the seafood and it had big prawns and mussels visible. But under the pasta was a lot more seafood in the sauce. Small shrimp, octopus, clams very yum. It was tomato based. I broke all the Italian rules here. Can you guess what I did “wrong”?
 

We had thick Greek coffee which was much like Turkish but not quite as strong. Obviously made the same way as the bottom was covered with sludge. We had small drinks on the house. A nice lunch for €67 for four with two bottles of wine.

Off to the ship on the tender. Later this evening, after dinner we had a crew talent show. Some were pretty good.
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Thursday August 1
Kalomeno. A new Greek word I learned. It means have a good month and is always wished on the first of the month.

Today was Santorini, the fabled, arguably most beautiful of the isles. We learned there would be eight cruise ships here today! Lucky for us most were pretty small. Not the mega ships. Santorini is pretty amazing. We woke up in the Caldera of a volcano, ringed with sheer cliffs. At first what looked like a dusting of snow on top of the cliffs resolved itself into houses…all white…atop many of the cliffs. The caldera is almost 1,000 feet deep so we can’t anchor and must constantly do some thrust to stay in place. We had booked onto a wine tasting tour. We would have seen very little on our own.

We took the port tender in, a much bigger boat. Then we met our guide and enormous bus. We were only 7 plus one crew member, Jesse, who came along on his day off. Our guide was Irena.

Bus trip up Cliffs of Insanity (you gotta be a Princess Bride fan)

We first visited the most beautiful town of Oia – pronounced ee-ya. It is the one most people think of when they think of Santorini. The one with the blue domes. And sparkling white houses. We disembarked our bus along with thousands of others from other busses. It was pretty awful. I would have turned left rather than right to give the people a chance to move on. But we followed the big tours and had to fight to get pictures from the view points. But I must say, it is unbelievably beautiful and I took quite a few pictures (of course!)

Houses tumble down the cliff. Pristine white. So inviting…

The view across the city

One of the famous blue domes. I Just love that brilliant blue sky against the white.

Main upper square church

Bougainvillea

Famous blue dome

Another down-hill view

Happy Oia cat

Stairs down, down…

Afterwards we met and reboarded our bus. We next visited the wine museum. It was on the estate of the oldest winery on Santorini. We had been passing growing things that hugged the ground which turned out to be the grape vines. They don’t trellis them and we were told they put specially shaped baskets under the vines to keep the grape bunches off the ground. I have to say, I never saw any baskets peeking out of these small bushes. The wine museum was obviously made by the family. Rather crude manikins were in dioramas depicting scenes of the evolution of wine making on the island. We were treated to a tasting of four wines; a white, red, a sweet dessert wine, and a vinsanto. We had a bit of a discussion about this as he claimed the sweet vinsanto was a protected name and no one else could use it. We explained that where we live we have Vinsanto too. The white was my favorite made from a local variety called Assyrtiko.

Next we visited a cooperative making wines from the grapes of about 1,200 farmers. We tasted two whites and a vinsanto. And last a small winery where we tasted a white, rose and a vinsanto. We learned the word for a toast in Greek is Yamas!

View of the caldera from a winery. The island nearest us and to the right is the new dome being formed by the volcano under us.

We bussed to the final stop Firá from which the cable car descends the cliff to the shore where the tenders dock to pick up passengers. We stopped for a subpar lunch and enjoyed the cable car ride down. They are made up of five individual pods that travel together like a train. Each pod holds six. We caught the tender back.

Firá above us. See the sad donkeys going up the hill. I hope people will stop using them so they will let these donkeys stop this horrible labor. They are underfed and forced to go up and down this steep hill in incredible heat with little water, carrying heavy people – over and over everyday. 😢

You can walk down the stairs. We took the cable car!

The big port of Firá tender.

Cliffs of Insanity as we leave Santorini. The “snow” dusting the cliff-tops?

Kevin my favorite bar man. Always cheerful. Bad photo, too dark and it’s the only time I saw him not smiling.

Sails going up!

At 6pm there was a demonstration of Greek dancing by four energetic young people in costume accompanied by a fiddle and accordion. Excellent and fun with most of the passengers learning the dances. Then a talk about our next port, Monemvasia.

This night was the grand BBQ. Always wonderful. We sailed out of the Caldera into the sunset. Afterward there were line dances. I think this group of passengers is the most energetic and enthusiastic of any we’ve been with. We even got to drink Greek wines with dinner tonight.
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Friday August 2
Last day. Monemvasia.  Sad. We had breakfast and rehashed our trip. We’ve all had fun. We didn’t arrive until 11am so the morning was free. They had demonstrations and tours scheduled on board. I took the galley tour to see the kitchens. It was interesting. All the menus are done by corporate. The head chef just runs the show. He does the final check on orders and oversees. They do the AmphorA main dining room as well as room service 24/7, breakfast and lunch, yacht club functions and also feeding the officers and crew. They have a separate cook for the crew. They are all Asian so they want it spicy! I wish I could eat with them 😕

We arrived at the Rock.

An enormous piece of rock that is compared to Gibraltar. There is a narrow causeway across to the “almost” island. And on the island is one small village. There is a castle up on top of the rock and the village is beneath it. But it is all called The Castle. The village has defensive walls ringing it in. It looks very defensible and it quite unique. We took the tender across and then a bus to the gate.

Just a few pictures of the town. Very different from the white and blue ones from before. Chimney.

12th century church

This is the main square with the church and up above, the castle.

Streets below

Streets

It was already lunch time so we wandered and looked in the shops. Lots of artisans and artists. We chose a restaurant and had a nice lunch. We shared Tzatziki and fava beans on bread. Then I had yet another Greek salad! They are so cool and refreshing in the hot weather. It reached 105 this day!

This cat reminded us all of our childhood cat, Smokey. He was acting hungry but wouldn’t eat beans, yogurt, cheese, ONLY meat. Not really THAT hungry!

View

Fava bean puree, nice and lemony. And Tzatziki, very cooling.

Kanoni, our restaurant. They were very nice.

I was saved by Greek Salads. They were the perfect “go to” lunch in the hot weather.

We bussed and tendered back to the ship. And retired to shower and rest up. I did most of the packing. We had to have the suitcases in the hall by 6:45 AM Saturday. We went up for our final sailaway. We had the music and the “time to say goodbye” song. And we had full sails!

The small town of Monemvasia, also called the castle. You’ll see a castle up above the town but note the walls surrounding it. The whole thing is called The Castle.

We went to the lounge for the Captains farewell address and a briefing by Pavlo for disembarking. All the people who had bought anything in Kusadasi had been entered in a drawing to win a Turkish rug. Well, I won it! I never win anything!

Crew farewell. A great group.

Then we went to dinner which was probably my favorite one on board. I had a seafood chowder and the lobster risotto. Quite good. Up on deck after dinner people were saying good bye to each other and prowling around the ship. It was perfect weather. A light breeze and nice temperature.
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Saturday August 3
Time to say goodbye 😕 Transport to airport in a bus for the 4 or us. Alitalia to Rome and then drive home.

🇬🇷 Trip recap.

  • Sad to say we did not complete the jigsaw puzzle they put out for us. First cruise I’ve been on where it didn’t get done.
  • The weather was hot and no rain at all. It was expected.
  • I was saved by the Greek salads. Amazing, cool and refreshing.
  • I was happy the sails were out all but the second day.
  • I missed Captain Belinda and found Captain Simon aloof.
  • I recognized many crew members.
  • The food was good enough but still not very exciting.
  • The staff was again excellent. It is the best part of the Windstar cruises. I hope Windstar appreciates that their success depends on these hard working and relentlessly cheerful people.
  • We learned 7 Greek 🇬🇷 words. Kaliméra, good morning; Kalispera, good evening; Kalomeno, have a good month; Efcharistó, thank you; Parakaló, you’re welcome; Yamas! Cheers!; Ne, yes.

My Best and worst list

  • Best Greek salad – Athens in Eat with Milton
  • Worst Athens food – rooftop restaurant in St George Lycabettus for dinner
  • Best Athens food – Scala Vinoteca
  • Best shore lunch – Captain’s in Mykonos and Ostria in Patmos
  • Worst shore lunch – Firá Santorini
  • Worst shore food – Ephesus dinner (catered)
  • Favorite stops – Mykonos and Nafplio
  • Least favorite stop – Patmos
  • Prettiest island – Mykonos and Santorini
  • Worst crowds – Ephesus and Oia on Santorini
  • Best cruise ship – Wind Star!
  • Best tours – Athens full day and Ephesus
  • Good thing – private transfers to from airport and harbor
  • Nicest people – all the staff on the ship. The Greeks we met in general were nice folks.

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When I return from a trip I’m normally happy to be home. I was happy to see my cats, who missed us, but I felt very sad the trip was over. That says a lot!

Greek trip – Part III – Kuşadası

Links to all parts of the Greek trip

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
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Tuesday July 30
Kuşadası Turkey. A new continent for me – Asia. And the farthest east I’ve ever been. It was going to be hot!

We got up early and breakfasted and headed down to catch the tour bus to Ephesus. We had a nice guide. Impressions of Turkey were favorable. The city goes up a small mountain and has the name Kuşadası in big letters reminiscent of the Hollywood sign. There are some pretty pastel houses up on the hill that shade from peach to pink, blue, violet and green. We drove out of town and the land was very arid and mountainous around a large flat plain. The plain had been the sea back when Ephesus was a thriving city but the river eventually silted it up. The land is very fertile. Lots of olives and fruit orchards.

We drove up into the mountains and way up on the very top stood Mary’s house – the mother of Jesus. It is said she lived about 9 years here at the end of her life. It is small and stone.

Then we drank from the holy water fountains. I drank the one for miraculous health recovery. Next to this was the wishing wall where people write their wishes down and put them on the wall hoping the wish will come true. We were told they periodically set the wall on fire to send the smoke from the notes heavenward.

We left there on our nice bus and went to Ephesus. Once it was was a city of 300,000 and was on the ocean as I mentioned. It thrived for 1,100 years (from 400 BC to 700 AD) until malaria killed most of the people or they left because of it. It lay buried for over 1,000 years until it was accidentally discovered by people building a railroad in the 1800s. Now it consists of a lot of bits and pieces waiting to be reassembled like a huge jigsaw. There are many parts that are nearly complete. The library is 80% original and is magnificent. They are also restoring the theater which is huge and held 24,000 people. There were a LOT of people here. Crowds. Way more than I expected.

Our guide. He was good.

One big, 3D jigsaw puzzle. Wow.

Original clay pipes carried water. Remember these are from 400 BC!

Unearthed Mosaic. Well preserved because it was buried.

Beautiful details in the next few.

The huge fountain

A little humor. These people didn’t mind not having privacy when going to the bathroom. Literally cheek to cheek. The gutter in front of the toilets had constantly running water in which people washed their hands after wiping…no toilet paper of course.

Finally the famed library.

Beautiful details. 80% original.

The large theater holding 24,000 people.

After that we returned to Kuşadası to the bazaar. Here’s where the trouble started. Windstar has a deal with two shops here. It guarantees the quality and authenticity of the products.

It started out with a demonstration of how they use silk from cocoons to make the thread. It is the second strongest natural fiber after spider web. They boil and soak the cocoons for several days. The woman showed how, with a brush she addled the cocoons which caught bits of silk which she made into a thread with several strands. Then she used a foot petal to roll it on big spools. They showed us the raw silk which is quite coarse and rough. Then they showed the beautiful silk after being treated and dyed. So soft. Next we went to the big carpet room. First they served us drinks and snacks. Turkish coffee and Rakeen a liquore. Or Turkish wine, or tea. Young men then rolled carpet after carpet out. The most beautiful carpets I’ve ever seen. They would spin them and they would transform into a different look. The same colors but much more intense. They were wool, or cotton treated like silk, or combinations or pure silk, even bamboo. I would have bought one but the cats would ruin it.

First she addles the cocoons which have been boiled and soaked for a couple of days.

Then she lifts the brush and several strands of silk have come loose from the cocoons.

Unfinished rug

Rug in progress

Unfurling the rugs. Amazing colors and variations.

We went downstairs where they had jewelry. Uh-oh. Cindy and I both ended up buying jewelry. Beautiful pieces. They treated us to lunch on the roof. Good Turkish kebabs, lamb, chicken, beef. Flat breads, roasted tomatoes and peppers. Rice and French fries. Very yummy. We were kind of a captive audience once we’d accepted lunch so we bought more than we ever would have. But these guys are GOOD. It’s really hard to say no.

Tee hee. In the bazaar.

Colorful stairs

Mosque

We returned to the ship. And relaxing before the big dinner being held in Ephesus in the library. Just for Windstar.

The dinner was in a magical place. Too bad about the food. I guess you couldn’t expect much from catered food. We arrived in six buses at the gate to Ephesus. It was much different from earlier in the day. The sun was still up but it wasn’t hot anymore and there was a breeze in the rows of pines lining the path. Stray dog and cat population was much in evidence. There was an amazingly cute kitten who was so tiny, and so friendly. I could have stuck him in my bag.

We walked up the old roads and got to the Library where they had set up tables seating eight each. We shared with a nice family from Toronto. Mom, Dad, a girl just entering her senior high school year and a boy just starting high school. They were all having fun. I was a little surprised about the kids because there is not a lot to do on the ship. We had assorted appetizers, bread, oil, a fried roll stuffed with cheese and spinach, and a veal stew with veggies. We all had fun feeding the feral cats. There were so many. I guess this is the way they make their living in summer. Heaven knows about winter for them 😢.

During the dinner a string trio played for us. Quite nice. Pavlo, our entertainment director gave a toast from the wall in front of the theater and when we all raised our glasses the lights came on in the ruins. THIS was magical. They were beautiful. And it was a lovely opportunity.

Tables set up in front of the Library

Magic, isn’t it?

Just WOW.

I took a ton of pictures on our way out. Only this one came out.

We returned by bus to the ship at about 10:30 to find all the crew out on the concrete pier with lit candles playing pounding music, and cheering and dancing us back on board. Later we figured out they had had a crew meeting and party. Quite a few of them had had a few drinks. One waiter, who shall remain nameless, was totally bombed. He looked at us with drunken eyes, forgot or got our orders wrong and when he did come with drinks he danced holding the glass high and sloshing half the wine out. He disappeared shortly later so someone must have noticed he probably shouldn’t have been working 😅 . I was amused and happy for them. They work hard and deserve a break. We watched sailaway and turned in.

A fun, if expensive day.
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Greece trip – part II

Links to all parts of the Greek trip.
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

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Saturday July 27
Another perfect day. We packed up and put our suitcases in the hall as we were instructed by Windstar. They would pick them up and transport them to the ship. We met Cindy and Bill for breakfast which was leisurely since the bus didn’t come until one. We went out for a shopping trip and I bought a new Swatch watch. Luther and Bill got some wine.

We met up with our bus and took about a 20 minute drive to Prateus, the port of Athens. We checked onto the ship and we were sorry to see Captain Belinda wasn’t our Captain this time. I did recognize many of the people in the crew, including the social director Pavlo from our Croatia cruise. He’s a hoot. The ship had been refurbished last year and its hull was pristine white. On our past cruises it looked quite rusty.

We headed up to our mandatory muster drill. And then waited for sail away, which had been delayed from five to six PM.

Sail away was disappointing. They didn’t play the proper music. And they began to set up for the Candles on deck dinner. So we moved to the front of the ship to finish our wine.

Athens tug helps us out

Later we met up for dinner in the main dining room Amphora. They serve a mostly American menu with grilled items and American steaks. They also seem to think showcasing James Beard winners recipes is a good thing. I say, not so much. I had the seared tuna appetizer which was very good. Then I had the grilled salmon which was badly overcooked. We moved to the front tables so Luther could smoke his cigar. A nice evening.
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Sunday July 28
We went to breakfast and took the little shuttle boat to Nafplio, which is still on the mainland.

Approaching Nafplio

Stopped for juice and water in a Cafe – took a selfie! Sisters!

Sweet little town, once we found the nice part. Very pretty little small primarily pedestrian streets. Many shops and things to see. We had lunch in Vasilis kitchen. We mostly had the salads. They were good. And we had the house wine. Bill had a beer.

Our lunch spot – aka Vasilis

Pretty streets

We waited in the Windstar tent for the boat back to the ship. Short trip.

This evening was the Captains reception. First we watched the Mykonos orientation film presentation by Pavlo. Then he introduced Captain Simon. He’s the youngest Captain at 32 in the company. The Wind Star is older than him, 33 years. And he introduced all his staff from assistant Captain, to Chief of Housekeeping. Later we went up for sail away. They unfurled 3 of the 4 sails, but only about halfway. There was a stiff wind so putting them up fully was probably not a good idea. In fact, they only left them unfurled for a short time. Then 2 of the 3 closed back up.

This night we had reserved Candles for the on deck dinner. It was our 50th and 35th anniversary celebrations.

We were treated to a beautiful sunset.

My watermelon and tomato appetizer.

Photo courtesy of Cindy

There were only a few tables on deck unlike our other cruises which had full decks. The wind was fierce. The waiters took pity on us and moved our table toward the center of the ship. This helped quite a bit. We had, among us, watermelon and tomato salad, carpaccio, salmon and shrimp. Then two had the grilled lamb chops, and two had the fillet steak. For dessert I had chocolate creme brûlée. And Bill had lemon tart. It was a good-ish meal.

We sat outside and Luther had his cigar. Afterwards we dropped in on the Karaoke in the lounge. Everyone was having fun. After we danced to “Girls just want to have fun” we turned in to bed.
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Monday July 29
Our daily program said it was going to be cooler today. But then the Captains morning announcement said it was going to be 95 again today. We had breakfast on the deck and stopped in the lobby for maps and literature about Mykonos, our island for today. It is THE party island in Greece. Pounding disco until after dawn. I saw a LOT of people limping around with skinned knees. But we went in the morning when everyone was still passed out. So it was nice.

We grabbed the shuttle boat into the port. Pretty ride with sparkling and crystal clear water. You could easily see the bottom.

The town shown white against the hills. All the houses are white adobe type material. They have brightly colored doors and trim. Stairways are colorful. The domes of the churches tended to blue or red. The streets were tiny pathways. But some small trucks managed to navigate them.

We walked north from the port along the shore and on a shopping street just in from the sea. At the other end we came out for the photo op of what is called Little Venice. Kind of a stretch but pretty nonetheless. Then we walked up the hill to see the four old windmills. They were used to grind grain. Heading back we got lost in the warren of little streets. We read the inhabitants built it with narrow and curving streets to better thwart any pirate invaders. It also thwarts us tourists! We stopped for drinks in the shade of a cafe. I apologize for the sheer number of photos below. But the town of Mykonos is ridiculously photogenic! And I just couldn’t leave any out!

A few of the churches are first

Next are doors and porches

A few streets…

Four restored windmills

View from the windmill hill

This is called Little Venice. A stretch. But it’s pretty. Moored Wind Star in the background. 

One of the many cats…  

After exploring until we ran out of town to see, we returned to the row of cafes and restaurants along the water. We chose Capitain’s for lunch. It was a broiling day. We were all very hot and sweaty. Capitain’s was billed as a place for sharing. We are not really sharers so we ordered for ourselves but we ordered a fava and pea purée dip with pita to share. The bread was hot and soft and the bean purée was lemony with lots of olive oil. Very yummy. One of us had the pork with mustard sauce, two had fried cod with garlic sauce, and one the raw fish marinated in lime and jalapeño with cilantro and sweet potatoes. I ordered the last one and I’ll say it was wonderful. Cool and spicy and zingy on my tongue. Great on a hot day. I asked the manager if they used cilantro in Greek food, and she said no. The chef is from Ecuador so the dish was from her country. Anyway you slice it, it was a fun lunch. We had Greek wines.

My fish

We caught the tender back to the ship with the returning tourers from Delos. A UNESCO heritage sight. We had opted out of that because of the heat. Showers and relaxing followed 🙂.

We were invited to the Yacht Club because we were returning cruisers. So we popped in for about 15 minutes. Then we headed up for sail away. They put all the sails out tonight. The ship is beautiful.

Then we went down for the briefing for the destinations in Kusadasi, Turkey, our next port of call. We decided to sign up for the Ephesus and the house of Mary, Jesus’ mother. She was said to have lived her last years there.

So, dinner was boring. I had the divers scallops and the shrimp. Afterwards we went up to the bridge to see how it all works. And relaxed with the last of our wine.
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Kaliméra From Greece

Another trip report so skip if you aren’t interested!

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We are back from our exciting trip. It was three nights in Athens and a seven day cruise on the Windstar line of the Greek islands and one stop in Turkey. My sister Cindy, and her husband Bill joined us. It was a joint wedding anniversary trip. We spent 3 nights in Athens and toured. Then seven nights on the Wind Star. Stops we made were: Nafplio, Mykonos, Kuşadası Turkey, Patmos, Santorini, and Monemvasia. Here’s a map.

I will break this up into pieces, since it is pretty long with lots of pictures. First Athens.

Links to all parts of the Greek trip.
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

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Wednesday July 24
We drove to Fiumicino where we had reservations at a parking lot to park our car. They took us to the terminal. Good thing as all public transport was on strike. Taxis etc. And lucky for us as the airlines were going on strike Friday.

It was a long day. Drive was a bit slow due to road work. We found our parking lot with no problem and took the shuttle to the terminal. We used the machine check in for luggage tags with help from a sweet Alitalia employee. Security took no longer than 10 minutes. You didn’t have to take anything out of your bag. No one had looked at ID or passports. This was somewhat of a test for us as our Permessi di Soggiorno are expired and technically we weren’t supposed to travel within the Schengen Zone. So far, since no one was looking at passports, we had no problem.

We had a nice lunch in an airport restaurant. Then we boarded our AlItalia flight. We lucked out with an empty seat in the middle. Arrival in Athens was on time. There was no passport control here either. I realize it’s all in the Schengen zone but still…no one ever even asked for ID!? We got our luggage and went out to find the Windstar driver to take us to our hotel. From landing to checking in at the hotel was 1 hour and ten minutes. The flight itself was 1.5 hours air time.

The room was small but nice. The rooftop restaurant was nice with great views of the Parthenon. Unfortunately the food was awful. And expensive. Cindy and Bill had a very long 36 hour trip. Late flight necessitated rescheduling with a long layover in Paris. Consequently a late arrival in Athens. We finally met in the restaurant for drinks and our dinner, their snacks. Dinner was pretty awful. I sent most of mine back. The interesting sounding appetizer was very bland. No discernible crabmeat in it.

Restaurant

View from restaurant

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Thursday July 25
We met for breakfast just about nine in the roof restaurant. Brilliant, sunny day and not too hot. We formulated a plan for our day while dining. We walked down the Lycabettus hill on which our hotel is situated and passed the parliament building. Along our way we visited a Russian Orthodox Church. We only learned this from a cab driver who took us back later. We went to Plotka. It’s a warren of small streets with lots of shops that mostly surround the Sacred Rock of the Acropolis. It is the oldest part of Athens. There were varying degrees of merchandise in the shops. Cindy and I each bought a small leather purse.

We decided to dine in Eat with Milton. It was on a busy corner but had nice tables and service with wine etc. Luther and I had the Greek salad which was beautiful to see and very good if a little different. Cindy tried the tomato salad. Bill got pappardelle in veal ragu.

My pretty (and delicious) salad

Lunch – us!

Back in a taxi to the hotel. Now resting. Dinner this night was at Strofi, recommended by a friend of Cindys.

Strofi has a lovely terrace. Nice Jazz was playing and the Acropolis in the sun was amazing. We snapped pictures throughout the sunset. The food was only ok. Appetizers were best. I had grilled octopus in olive oil and lemon which was very good. Two had the marinated fresh anchovies which they liked. Then for the main courses, one person had the grilled veal and said it was good. One had the pork in a pot, and two had the kid goat in parchment. The goat was pretty good – parts were tender and parts were dry. All the food was quite bland. It could have used some more herbs or spices.

Pictures of the Parthenon and the theater in sunset from the rooftop restaurant. Photos credit Bill Aldrich

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Friday June 26
This was the day of our big, full day tour of Athens. We had booked a driver and guide for just us four. It was great.

At 8am we met George, our driver in his shiny black Mercedes van. He was the man with endless bottles of water for us. He took us to meet our guide Catherine in the parking lot of the Acropolis. Hard to describe her. She is classically university educated in history. She was a fount of knowledge. We walked up to near the entrance where she gave us a small history of what we’d see. We walked up to the top and entered through the gates next to the temple of Athena Nike.

As we walked from the gate we could look down on the two theaters. The first one is still in use for concerts.

Note the modern building to the right. It is the New Acropolis Museum. You can see the top floor skewed to align with the actual Parthenon. It is also the same dimensions.

The Parthenon was the next. Always under restoration.

And the temple of Erechtheion which had the Porch of Caryatids. Six statues of women held up the small roof. These were replicas. The real ones were in the New Acropolis Museum.

There was a lot of history I won’t go into here. We stayed up on top for maybe two hours? It was hot but breezy and not bad in the shade. It was crowded at times but not terrible. Restoration is always underway. Hard work in the hot sun.

We descended the stairs to the parking lot where we were met by George. We traveled to the temple of Zeus. It was at the base of the Sacred Rock. Only eleven columns survive. But also there is Hadrians gate.

Temple of Zeus

Next we visited the old stadium where the Olympic flame begins its journey for each Olympics. It is huge and holds 70,000 people on its stone bleachers. It is built to the exact size of the previous ancient Stadium of the same dimensions buried under it. This old one is open only to archeologists.

Then we visited the New Acropolis museum. Amazing space. Built to seem as being outside. The top floor is skewed to align with the Parthenon up above and is the same dimensions. It is full of the statuary from the Parthenon. The friezes, the sculptures, all of the things from the building preserved inside. We got to see five of the six women statues from the Porch of Caryatids. The sixth is in the British Museum. The British carried off so many things in their “colonizing” or exploring phases. Our guide was incensed because they used bleach to clean the statue which ruined it. They did this recently without asking for advice from the Athenian experts. Shame.

Our dogs were barking and so we headed to a nice lunch in a taverna recommended by Catherine. I had an orzo shrimp dish. Good.

After lunch we toured the Agora. We learned that the Agora was primarily where government happened. There were elected officials who were required to be there to help the citizenry with any problems. It was also the main market place for the city. It was mighty hot by now and not much shade. We saw the Temple of Hephaestus, which is the best preserved ancient Greek temple from the Classical era.

Agora

Temple of Hephaestus

And then we tried to go see the changing of the guard. It was so funny, George tried so hard to get us there. But the traffic foiled him. We saw the last of it from the car.

We returned to our hotel and paid for our tour. And we gave our people nice tips which I could see were well received. The people here in Athens are all very nice.

We all had fun in Scala Vinoteca, our choice for dinner. We are wine people but not at all familiar with Greek wines. The wine steward recommended some very excellent wines. The food was innovative and delicious. I loved the mozzarella and burrata tomato salad. It was bursting with flavor. I had the smoked eggplant with squid. Beautiful fish. Two had the lamb tenderloin. One had the lobster croquettes. We opted not to have dessert but they wouldn’t take no for an answer and brought a chocolate and ice cream sweet to share.

A drink on our roof top bar and to bed. An excellent day. Stay tuned for Blog post number 2 soon!

Scarperia e San Piero, in the Florentine hills

Road trip!

We were feeling like we needed to get away for a bit so decided to go on an overnight trip to a town called Scarperia e San Piero. It is in the foothills of the Apennine mountains, north of Florence. We took the Angelo Giallo and with the top down, set out on back roads. We drove north to Città di Castello and then headed west up into the mountains. The roads were fun. The sun was hot. The stupid GPS sent us down an impossibly small, steep road but we managed to meet only one other car, thankfully! We arrived in the region called Mugello. I had not heard of it. But there are many places still new to me! It is a lovely region with many special things. One is a famous racetrack called the Mugello Circuit. It attracts car and motorcycle aficionados.

I had booked us into a B&B called Villa Manini in Ponzalla. It was an old fashioned place. We were on the top floor, naturally. It had a bedroom and a sitting room and two baths. Several closed doors indicated it could include more bedrooms for a family or group. Our proprietress, Angela, greeted us.

Here is the sitting room.

Bedroom

We had one disappointment. We had wanted to go to Antico Osteria Nandone, just near our hotel, but we had been unable to reach them on the phone for reservations. So we drove there just after lunch time. It was closed up. But there was furniture in the garden and I was sure it was not out of business. We tried again to call that evening with only the answering machine to talk to. So, we gave up on that idea and decided to try Fattoria il Palagio. It turned out to be nice. We were seated in the garden.

The doors are interesting with a little, tiny door in the big doors.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned the way we reserve tables here. Luther’s name is really hard for Italians to pronounce or understand. So, to simplify things we reserve under the name Luigi. Works out just fine and amuses people very much!

We returned to Villa Manini and enjoyed some wine in their pretty outside terazzo. It was fun because a nice thunderstorm was brewing with rumbling thunder and flashes of lightening. It got closer and the wind picked up. Wilder and wilder it got! Finally we retreated inside where our innkeeper had opened all the windows in our apartment and it was lovely and cool and I fell asleep listening to the storm.

The following morning we rose and went for the colazione included with our room. It was a typical Italian breakfast with coffee, juice and an assortment of sugary sweets. Get those kids off to school on a sugar high I always say! I’ve been amazed at how the Italians think a cornetto or a breakfast bar is a healthy way to start their day…and the children too!

We drove the couple of miles to Scarperia which is, and has been, famous for the hand forged knives they have made there for centuries. I had read about them at least a few years ago and saved the information. We’ve always needed steak knives so finally we were going to get some.

Scarperia is a small town of about 4,500 people. It’s flat and has a nice Centro Storico. There are nice little, mostly pedestrian, streets with coffee bars and shops. The people are very friendly and welcoming. Not at all touristy and very comfortable feeling. I could live there. It is also on a good train line with service to Florence and north to Ravenna.

Walking down Via Roma…because ALL roads lead to Rome! Pretty wrought iron piece.

Palazzo dei Vicari. It is a turreted residence built in the 1300s, with the piazza facing the front and the castle behind it. It was restored after a 1929 earthquake, redesigned to look more like Palazzo Vecchio in Florence; it’s actually believed that the two palaces were built by the same architect, Arnolfo di Cambio. The façade is decorated with many coats of arms of former vicegerents, or vicari. It seems they only served a six month term so there were a LOT of them.

From inside the courtyard.

Tributes

Tributes. These are outside and worn down by weather.

Outside the Palazzo.

Knives

So, on to our main errand of the trip. Knives! There were a lot of shops selling their own knives. I had my eye on one named Coltelli dell Artigiano, which we found right on Via Roma.

Display case. The knives are beautiful works of art.

Brochure.

I bought a set of six steak knives with horn handles.

I also had been attracted to their knives which were copies of old knives from particular parts of central Italy. This one is from Perugia. Elegant and simple, it is beautiful. It is a pocket knife so it folds.

Close ups of the blade. Decorative.

Back home

Last night there was a gala charity fund raiser in the Piazza. Thunderstorms rolled through about 8PM and I was afraid for them but they covered everything and all was well. They are probably used to that in the summer! It was obviously a black and white as most folks wore only those colors. They had a baby grand and music into the night.

Real Estate in Italy

Real estate in Italy is a totally different animal than in the US. Reasons why:

  1. it is not a good investment. You will be very lucky to recoup your money from purchase and any renovations you do.
  2. you cannot be in a hurry to sell. We are told allow average of 3-5 years to sell here.
  3. Italians and Americans have very different ideas about houses/apartments. What should be in it. How much you should pay for what’s in it.
  4. Italians inherit property over centuries. They all have multiple houses. They do not have mortgages. They do not buy houses because they do not need to. They are house rich and cash poor.
  5. The market is stagnant. Or actually declining.

I tell you this because we have listed our house. Not because we aren’t happy here. It is my dream house. It is just the way I want it. But, being realistic, we are aging and a house on the fourth floor (American), third floor (European) is not optimal for aging in place. There is no possibility of an elevator.

Today we had a nice, young Italian couple look at the apartment. Normally we get English and Americans looking. We have listed at two agencies, one British/international, and one Italian. The couple seemed to like it. It is interesting because all the Italians we know say an Italian would never buy this place. One, because it is too expensive. And two, because it is not to their taste.

I beg to differ on both points. First, we paid €20,000 more than we are asking (!) and we put another €65,000 into its renovation. So, perhaps we paid too much. But getting it with all the bells and whistles for only €230,000 is a deal. Second, we renovated and furnished it with all Italian finishes and products. Our kitchen is manufactured by Pedini — a well known Italian kitchen designer. Our furniture is all purchased here. It is Italian in every way. But maybe a bit more sophisticated Italian than many Umbrians are willing to embrace.

This all said, I am in no hurry to sell. I will be very, very sad to move away from here. And I am not sure where we will go. It all depends on what is available elsewhere when we sell. I have many new friends here in Umbria. A nice support system, and I would miss them. I am loathe to leave it. Except…and it’s a big except…Umbria is not what I call Stranieri (foreigner) friendly. We cannot get a Permesso di Soggiorno (Permit to stay) for more than a year, commonly 2 years elsewhere. We are told we cannot apply for the EU Long Term Residence Permit, supposedly available to all foreigners after 5 years of Residency. Why? It is an arbitrary decision by this region. And no recourse that we know of. So, moving from here could facilitate these things for us. A real conundrum.

Of course, I don’t expect to sell anytime soon. So we aren’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future. Rest assured, I will continue to write on NancyGoes from whatever location we land in, in Bella Italia. In case you’re interested here is our listing.

Spring Trip to Montefalco with Friends – redux

Oh for crying out loud! I pushed Publish by mistake so please look at this one as it will have text in it! Operator error!
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We had friends visit and help us out with a cat sit. We took them to a couple of wineries. The countryside in early spring was just incredible.

Early vines.

We visited Montefalco for lunch. Pretty walkways and doors.

Lunch was excellent at L’alchemista.

Trip to the USA

Well, we are back from our eventful trip to the USA mainly to visit my sister on Thanksgiving. We had an issue on our trip over with our expired Permessi di Soggiorno. I haven’t written about it but we continue to have the same problems renewing year after year. This year we put in for our new Permessi in early February, well before they expired in June. Here it is December 1 and we still do not have our new cards. It is the Italian way. But this time it has impacted us. The word had been until recently, we could travel on our expired Permessi with the Poste receipts showing we had applied for the new one. The issue is with travel from one Schengen country (alliance of countries with open borders) to another. This trip we were flying from Bologna to Vienna and then to the US. Since we were going THROUGH another Schengen country, Austria, the woman at the Austrian air counter said we couldn’t travel on our expired Permessi. The Postal receipt was not acceptable as a police document. In the end we were allowed to go since we were American citizens traveling “home”. This is an unwelcome development which will probably affect us on future travel. We will need to be mindful how we travel. On our return we went through passport control in Munich and we didn’t admit we lived in Italy rather we were tourists, which worked to get us home.

After a long travel day we arrived at my sisters house where she had prepared a nice green chili for us all. We hit the sack shortly afterwards.

It was a nice visit with me achieving my goal to renew my drivers license. We also cooked the Thanksgiving dinner together which was fun, and we had the Macy’s parade on TV and after that the dog show. Both of these have been fixtures in our Thanksgiving day since before our Mom passed away. Nostalgia. I’ve missed them. Luther got his football hit afterwards.

We also did some shopping and eating lunches out. I cooked one dinner. Cindy cooked all our favorite chilies, which are a taste we miss. We had oysters one day. We visited Montecello, Jefferson’s home, one day. It had been years since I’d been there. All in all a really nice time with my family.

We had planned a short trip to Williamsburg afterward. This has been “our” spot since we were young and broke. We have been back countless times. We stayed in one of the Colonial Homes which we had always enjoyed. The house we were in this time, the Peter Hay Kitchen was looking a bit worn. It needed a bit of TLC and a facelift. But it had a nice fireplace which we used both evenings while there. A lovely gentleman came to lay and light it for us and the first evening I didn’t have money for a tip. When we called the second evening I was happy to see the same man so I could make it up to him. To his credit he was as nice and helpful the second evening even though he probably could expect no tip based on the first night.

Williamsburg heirloom plant garden. They do a very good job trying to save heirloom breeds of animals and plants.

One day while there we drove north to the Middle Peninsula to visit a long-time favorite restaurant, Merroir, home to the Rappahannock Oyster Farm. It is on a beautiful point of land next to the marina in Topping VA. Wonderful fresh oysters and crabcakes. We were very happy campers.

View from Merroir

Crabcake

Unshucked oysters right from the dock outside.

The marina at Topping VA.

The return home from Dulles started well. We drove the 2.5 hours from Williamsburg to Dulles airport and dropped off our car. Then checked into United for our return. We got all comfortable on board. We were told there was a maintenance issue. OK, I watched a movie. The maintenance crew came onboard. The pilot told us the issue was fixed, they just did the paperwork. Then we taxied out. Where we sat for about an hour. Then we taxied back to the gate. Where they started letting people go off the plane. I had finished my movie. Finally after about 2.5 hours they told us that plane was going nowhere that night 🙄. So we all got off.

They eventually found a new plane, but not as nice, and we finally got in the air 5 hours late. Needless to say we missed our connection to Bologna. We heard a flight attendant say there were 181 separate connections from that one flight that were missed! Everyone at the Munich airport knew about the United flight that arrived 5 hours late. We went to a Lufthansa service center and they snagged the last two seats on the 3:40pm flight arriving at about 5Pm in Bologna. We finally got our car and headed home on the 2.5 hour drive home arriving at 9 pm, tired but glad to finally be home. Traveling is often not a lot of fun to put it mildly.

Now we look forward to our Christmas season in Umbertide. Always nice.

Visit to the frantoio!

Ely had an appointment at Frantoio Rossi at 7AM. She was second in line and good thing as it got crowded fast!!

Frontoio Rossi

The two vans were loaded full. They had 40 more cassetti of olives to process.

The unloading.

That’s a LOT of olives!

The hopper was full to the brim.

There is a turn screw at the bottom which feeds the olives out.

And they go up the ladder where a mighty wind blows off the leaves and twigs.

Next step the wash.

Calagrana had 880 kilograms of olives on this trip.

The olives go into these tanks where a really big screw type dasher swirls them round and round.

Watching the process.

Now we wait. It takes about 45 minutes to process the olives.

While we waited I took a few pictures of the process. This is the big dumpster where the sludge is collected. I was told it is made into animal food. The black heap is the sludge which falls from those three holes up by the ceiling.

The leaves are another left over thing. You think they don’t weigh much but they do add up!

This is the semi-chaotic scene about 40 minutes after we arrived.

Inside this is the master console and the big blue cylinder is one of the separators. It separates the water, sludge and oil.

Another byproduct.

This man is separating and weighing the oil into the tins.

Tins awaiting filling.

Finally our waiting has produced the results of a lot of labor. We helped just two days. Ely and Albie all by themselves worked the grove for four more full days. Ending up with 40 more cassetti coming in at 880 kilograms and 121 liters of oil!

Here it is!

Green gold.

All the work was worth it.

Calagrana will sell the oil under the lable of the Palazzo Bastia Creti, the estate where the olive grove is up above Calagrana. This is the new oil!

I will post again once I get some of this oil and taste it. Such a fun experience.

Trip Report – Scotland

Another Trip Report – long with lots of pictures – so skip if you are not interested!
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Four people. Me, Luther, my sister Cindy and her husband Bill met in the middle. C&B flew from Virginia to Edinburgh and we from Bologna for a rousing road trip around Scotland and it’s isles.

We arrived in Edinburgh airport at 12:15 and met up with C&B with no problem. We headed out to rent our car and off we went to the north, crossing the Firth of Forth. Great suspension bridge. We got off the highway in Dunfermline just because it was near and on the way. We were famished. We had a nice lunch in the guildhall and linen exchange. A historic hotel with a restaurant.

We headed north and arrived in Carrbridge which is in Speyside with no events. We passed some beautiful scenery along the way. Very stark.

We checked into our rooms in the Dalrachney Lodge. Nice little place with a gentle speaking innkeeper. Our rooms were nice with plenty of room and ours had an amazing bathtub with shower stall. Reminded me of a Victorian torture device!

We had reserved for dinner so we met up for wine in the parlor and to choose our food. The food was ok. Not great but passable.

Saturday June 16
Still gray out the next morning but we took a picture of the stone bridge for which Carrbridge is named.

Then we headed north and to do a scotch tasting at Benromach Distillery. Along the way we drove through vast moors, barren and wild.


They were funny asking who the driver was and we had to limit our tasting somewhat. Legal limit is .03. We also bought a drivers pack which allowed you to save what you couldn’t or shouldn’t drink. Handy! The scenery on the way was stunning. We went to Aviemore and had lunch at the Bridge Inn. On the Spey river. It was great with excellent pub food. A gastro pub.

The bridge the pub is named for.

After lunch we went to another distillery, Tomatin and tasted more scotch.

We again ate in the hotel. Luther was able to smoke a cigar outside and we finished all the bits of scotch from the tastings.

Sunday June 17
We decided to go to the coast this day and on the way visit a distillery. We went to Dufftown and on to Glenlivet Distillery. Good tasting. Bought some to bring home. And for Vera.

Glenlivit

Afterwards we headed to a coastal road which went through some beautiful scenery. The towns were full of pretty, what looked like, holiday homes. No tacky shops. In fact no shops at all! We stopped in a town called Findochty. We walked into the harbor and by chance found the only place at all doing any sort of business, the Admiral Inn. We decided to try it for lunch. It was goodish. We had Ale, or beer and some tried the neeps and we had chicken with hagis which we liked, surprisingly.

Laundry day – taking advantage of a seldom seen dry and sunny day!

Hagis.


We headed back looking for another distillery and finally stopped at Glen Grant. It was weird. They would only serve you whisky as part of an activity. You could take the tour of the distillery or tour the gardens. We opted for the gardens. The day was quite nice and the gardens were pretty.

We were mildly disappointed that we got a blend that was of indeterminate age but probably only 5 years and the other was 10 years. They were pretty good even that young. We headed home and had a picnic in our room for dinner and sat outside. It had been a nice visit in Speyside Scotland.

Monday June 18
We woke and had an 8 am breakfast. We said goodbye to our innkeeper, his wife and Archibald the spaniel. We all loved Archie. And he loved us. He stationed himself at the bottom of the steps for a tummy rub from anyone descending.

We drove north through Inverness and on up beside the North Sea.

We arrived in Thurso and did a little shopping for lunch on the ferry. We loaded our car on the ship and had our picnic sans vino as alcohol was prohibited.

We headed for Westrow Lodge after we debarked. It is a modern house with stunning views of the sea. And a wicked wind had come up gusting to over 50 mph. The house has just the two rooms upstairs and is a B&B. Our innkeeper is Kathy from Michigan(!). She’s lived there 25 years.

Our neighbors the cattle…

Cindy scaring away our neighbors…

We went to find a beer, badly wanted, in Stromness. We found the Ferry Inn just across from the ferry pier. Afterward we went to the small supermarket Coop. We bought ham, smoked salmon, roast sliced chicken breast, Camembert cheese wine and bread for our dinner tomorrow. Then we headed back for showers. Dinner that night was a place I’d found on the web called Foveran Restaurant with Rooms. Excellent place! Very pretty with walls painted shades of ivory and ecru. Minimally decorated letting the stunning views of the Scapa Flow outside the windows be the artwork. View 9:30PM from window.

We are just two days from the Solstice, the longest day of the year. And, since we are so far north the sun sets at about 11:30pm and rises at 3am. Between it is not really dark, more like dusk.

Tuesday June 19.
The winds roared all night, shaking the house. We arose and had breakfast, included in the rate, of your choice of bacon, egg, sausage tomato and mushrooms. Good enough. Then we were off to Scapa Brae, a prehistoric village that had been buried in the sand for thousands of years and was washed free in 1850. It dates to 4,500 years ago. The village was all made of stone with grass covered roofs. The inside of each house had a square hearth in a square depression bordered by flat, straight, thin stones. On the sides of the room were beds constructed much the same way which would have been filled with straw and animal furs. They even had a “dresser” on which to display their treasures proudly. And nooks for clothing and storage. The village was inhabited for 600 years and abandoned – reason unknown. But this is situated in a pristine location on a turquoise bay. The strong winds we endured whipped up amazing white plumes of surf.

Hearth is the square in the foreground.

Next we went to Stromness, the second largest town. It is a fishing town and ferries come in and out regularly. They have one shopping street which we explored. I bought some yarn from the famous Ronaldsay sheep of Orkney. I chose natural colors, undyed. We went back to the Ferry Inn. Nice lunch. I chose the lobster salad, consisting of half a lobster, served cold, nice composed salad and new potatoes. Perfect.

Next we went to the Ring of Brodgar. Standing stones. It’s age is uncertain but probably dates from 4,500 years ago. Older than Stonehenge! 35 of the original 60 stones are still there. We couldn’t walk among them like we had done on our last visit. They do have free guided tours where you can go inside. It is hard to convey the scale in photos.

We drove a short way down the road to the Stones of Stenness. We were pleased to see we could walk amongst them. They are awesome in their size. The Stones of Stenness today consist of four upright stones up to 6m in height in a circle that originally held 12 stones. The focus of the interior was a large hearth. The stones were encircled by a large ditch and bank, no longer there. The stone circle may be the oldest in Britain dating to over 5,000 years ago. They are thought to have been a major center or worship. There are also six burial mounds in the vicinity and the two rings (Brodgar and Stenness) are thought to have been once connected.

I left that one person below in this one so you can see the scale of these stones.

Me buffeted by the winds.

All of these places we visited are on vast plains or seashore so there is nothing to break the wind. The gusts made it hard to walk or even stand still to take pictures.

That evening we had a picnic in our room. Which was fun.

Wednesday June 20
We woke to sun, clouds, less wind and patchy rain. After another breakfast we headed toward Kirkwall, the largest town. But we saved it for later and passed through on the way to the Italian Chapel. This Chapel was built by Italian POWs during WWII. 200 were based at Camp 60 on Lamb Holm, brought to build the Churchill barriers between the islands. In 1943 Camp 60’s new commandant, and Father Gioacchino Giacobazzi, the camp’s Catholic priest, agreed that a place of worship was required.

The chapel was constructed from limited materials by the prisoners. Two Quonset huts were joined end-to-end. The corrugated interior was then covered with plasterboard and the altar and altar rail were constructed from left over concrete . Most of the interior decoration was done by Domenico Chiocchetti, a prisoner from Moena. He painted the sanctuary end of the chapel and fellow-prisoners decorated the entire interior. They created a facade out of concrete, concealing the shape of the hut and making the building look like a church. The light holders were made out of corned beef tins. The baptismal font was made from the inside of a car exhaust covered in a layer of concrete.

These next two look like stone but are just painted to look like 3-D carved stone.

Many prisoners had special skills, like iron working.

When his fellow prisoners were released shortly before the end of the war, Chiocchetti remained on the island to finish decorating the newly consecrated chapel.

It is a touching memento from a difficult era.

We returned to visit the famous Highland Park Distillery. Famous the world over. They only let you taste if you tour but the next one was over an hour later. The nice guy let us taste a wee bit of the two we were interested in. Luther bought a bottle.

In Scotland almost all the distilleries are built with these distinctive copper chimneys.. They use a stylized version on the signs of the Whisky trail.

Next we headed to Kirkwall, biggest town on the Orkneys. We walked it’s streets and did some shopping.

St Magnus Cathedral is it’s big sight but it was closed for a funeral. So we missed seeing it.

I was taken with the frieze

We found a nice pub with a friendly bartender where we had lunch.

My favorite beer.

My first fish and chips of the trip.

Next we headed to Scapa Distillery. We decided to take the tour which was quite good. At the end we tasted some of the Cask whisky straight from the barrel which was surprisingly smooth. And we headed back to the main building for three more tastes. The first was really just alcohol…what we’d call white lightening. Ugh. Next we tried one that was smooth and not made with peat. The last had been aged in barrels that had previously been used for whisky made with peat so it had a residual smokey taste.

Luther on the beach at Scappa.

A fun day. Headed to the B&B to rest and shower. Later we dined again at the Foveran restaurant. It is a very good place.

Thursday, June 21
Arose and breakfasted with Kathy, our innkeeper. Then we packed and got on the road to catch the 11am ferry. This was the hitch in a day of long driving. If we hadn’t had to catch a ferry we could have gotten an earlier start. As it was, we didn’t get on the road until one. The ferry trip was rough as the winds had, again, picked up.

We drove south the way we had come. We stopped at the Bay Owl Inn for lunch. Didn’t look like much from outside but it had gorgeous views from inside of the sea and a small bay. Lunch was good and we got going again.

The scenery was gorgeous the whole way. Scotland is beautiful. Indulge me here. I simply could not chose from these!

Look at this amazingly dramatic and stark scene!

Hiking path across the wetland

The GPS sent us down a road that turned into one lane with passing places. Lots of potholes. We finally arrived at the Edinbane Inn, a lively pub with rooms at about the worst possible time for them 7:15pm, slammed at the dinner hour. We finally got to our nice, but VERY small room, and then headed down to dine. It was starting to slow a little by then. The food was quite good. I was not very hungry. We retired to the outside picnic tables to finish our drinks and Luther to smoke his cigar. We were inundated with the notorious Scottish midges, or wee bastards as the Scots call them. Then to bed.

Friday June 22
Today we explored the north part of the island. But first we had an excellent breakfast at our Inn/pub. Scrambled eggs over toast topped with smoked salmon. Very yum. We headed out and up the west coast. The road was one-lane-with-passing-places and many, many very large and deep potholes. Also sheep. In the road.

We stopped frequently for pictures. We wished over and over for the sun to break through. But no go. We paid a visit to Kilt rock with its waterfall and farther along mount Skorr an ancient volcano which has eroded into interesting formations. Cindy, Bill and Luther hiked up toward the famous rock formations while I remained in the car.

Ever-present sheep.

Vista with wild flowers.

Home sweet home…to someone.

Nesting bird.

Kilt rock and falls

Old Man of Skorr

Foxglove.

The road came around to the east and down the other side ending at Portree, the largest city on the island. It was pretty mobbed with people. We found a very subpar place for lunch and headed back to our pub.

After a nap and a shower we went to the Ullinish country lodge or dinner. Got great write ups but I have to say it was not worth it. We had a hard time finding it as it was way down a long one-lane-with-passing-places road. The scenery was stunning. The place was quite formal and pretentious. It was a price fixed 4 course meal with only two choices of appetizer, two entree, cheese, and two desserts. We got French wines which were good. Too expensive and not my style anymore.

We returned to our Inn and enjoyed the wonderful Scottish music that was on this night. All local people who just show up to play together. The musicians were seated around a table and rotated in and out. Fiddle, bagpipes, guitar, mandolin, bass, several voices. Really quite wonderful.

Saturday June 23
Another gray day. After breakfast we headed out to visit the Talisker Distillery. It’s been around a long time and is way down a narrow, one-lane-with-passing-places road. It was mobbed. We found you’d again need to take a tour and then you could taste one whisky. Not worth it. We bought a small bottle. Cindy and Bill bought 3 miniatures.

Misty boats in the harbor

Back on the road in search of Scotland’s oldest Inn, the Stein Inn in the little town of Waternish. It was a perfect pub! Low ceilings and stone walls. Fireplace and pretty bar. We got our beers and decided on lunch. Mine turned out to be sub par. It was pretty basic. But we had fun.

We next went to Dunvegan to see Dunvegan Castle. Ancestral home of the McLeods. The oldest part was the castle keep built in 1320. Then thee or four other parts were added, including the Fairy Tower, which I loved. We toured the gardens which were large and diverse but we were attacked by the wee bastards! Horrible things. Got lots of pictures though.

Then back to Edinbane Inn for our afternoon pint and then for a nap.

We had dinner in the pub that night. The food was pretty good, not great.

Sunday June 24
We had breakfast and checked out of the inn. We had all come to like it, even if the rooms were very tiny. We had a long drive ahead of us to Edinburgh. As we left Skye the clouds cleared and we stopped a few times for photo ops. We had been sad to have no sun to get good pictures the whole time on Skye.

Our Pub

On the way off of Skye – finally sun!

These next ones are of the Five Sisters. Five peaks over 3,500 feet high just off of Skye on the way to the Ft. Williams area.

We stopped for lunch in Pitlochry, a bustling little town. Lots of tourists. We ate at the Old Smiddy Pub. We had a decent lunch and headed out again. We found our hotel, the Norton Country Lodge, with no problem and checked in. Nice place. Big comfortable room. Very close to the airport but quite bucolic all the same. We had decided to get a picnic for dinner that evening. We went out to shop and get gas.

After freshening up and napping we all got together for our last super. It had been a great trip overall. I think everyone had fun.

Monday June 25
Up at the crack of screech as my old friend used to stay for our 6:50am flight. By 5:15 we had checked out. Cindy and Bill slumbered on as they had a flight at a decent time. Things went downhill from there. The rental drop place had no drop box. Luther decided to wait the 10 minutes until they opened. I went ahead to check in. I went to the baggage tag place and our boarding passes would not scan. I had to go to the end of the terminal to get new boarding passes and a Visa check. Then back to the luggage place. Thank god Luther found me on my way back. We jumped the line as instructed. And then went to security. By now it was only 20 to departure and our plane had been boarding. Even the family line, which we used because I had my crutch, was packed. It took a while to get through. I sent Luther on ahead to tell them I was coming. I walked as fast as I could and got there where Luther had persuaded them to wait for me. The gate was closed and we were last to board! Just too much strurm and drang for me.

Let’s see, best and worst…
Best breakfast, Edinbain Inn scrambled eggs with salmon.
Best lunch, Aviemore in the Bridge Inn
Worst lunch food (for me) Stein Inn.
Best dinner, Foveran restaurant Skye
Worst dinner Ullinish country lodge. Too pretentious. Too pricy.
Best place to stay, we liked them all for different reasons. The most comfy was Dalrachney Hall. Westrow Lodge in Orkneys was comfortable if you don’t mind being in earshot of the owner and family. Edinbane Inn was one of a kind. How many times can you sleep in a pub? The last nights hotel was lovely but we had such little time there.
Best sights, the Orkney Islands.
Best scenery, the islands of Orkney and Skye
Best whisky tasting Benromach Distillery