Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wild Animal Park

San Diego, CA

Our youngest daughter turned 8 this month and wanted to take the photo safari at the Wild Animal Park in San Diego. It was an amazing day. We took a partially covered jeep throughout the Out of Africa and Asia exhibits and had the chance to hand feed a rhinoceros and giraffe. It is a once in a lifetime experience and I highly recommend it for the young and old (minimum age is 8 yrs. old).

Copyright 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Savoca, Sicily

Summer 2008

We decided to jump right into the stereotype of Sicily and take the "Godfather" tour... it was really interesting. We went to the town (Savoca, population 120) that they filmed the wedding sequence and the scene that Al Pacino asks the padrone for the hand of his daughter Apollonia. The village was chosen to stand in for the less-photogenic Corleone: also off-limits because the real Mafia were none to keen on Coppola's project.

The lady who owns the bar (Bar Vitelli) was in the scene with Al Pacino when he came to ask for the daughters hand and that bar was also the place that the wedding party walked to for the reception. She is still there greeting visitors today.

We visited Bar Vitelli, tasted their famous granita and my husband sat in the same chair that Al Pacino did over 30 years ago...

It was fun. The girls didn't really see the significance, but they will someday (when they can watch the movies).

Copyright 2008

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Ephesus, Turkey

Summer 2008

Ephesus was the biggest sleeper from our trip. It was fantastic. We had no idea what to expect and we were so pleasantly surprised. We went to visit the ruins at Ephesus to begin our day. The ruins are impressive and more intact than any we have seen until this point. The library was gorgeous (shown at the end of the road). And, the amphitheater was amazing. They still have concerts here... Elton John, Sting and many more have made the trip to play this historic venue (that holds 50,000-60,000).
We also visited the House of the Virgin Mary. It is believed that several years after the death of Christ, St. John brought the Virgin Mother to Ephesus and built this house for her (the actual building has been restored to what they believe it looked like from the structure they discovered). They have even discovered a baptism pool on the grounds. It is believed she lived in this house until she died at the age of 64. It was a beautiful place.
We also went to a carpet making demonstration, which was fun. We were quickly educated on the art of handcrafting carpets out of cotton, wool or silk.
All in all, Ephesus was one of our favorite stops.

Copyright 2008

Santorini, Greece

Summer 2008

Santorini is quite an amazing place. Santorini is essentially what remains of an enormous volcanic explosion, destroying the earliest settlements on what was formerly a single island. What was left behind was this gorgeous hilltop and this small island surrounded by the Aegean Sea. With that in mind, the main way to reach the island is by sea and head up the one road either by bus, donkey or cable car. We chose bus to go up and donkey to go down. The bus ride going up was a bit scary at times, but the donkey ride down was for the pure adventurer. So, after spending the day on the island and visiting a couple of quaint villages, having lunch, a stop at the black beach and some shopping, we headed to the donkey station. It wasn't until we actually sat on the donkey that our daughter decided she would not be going down the hill this way. So, instead of heading back up to catch the cable car (which would have been the wise choice), we decided to walk down the long, winding stone path -- with the donkeys... It was a memory! You can actually see the zig zag path on the hill that we took down in the last picture shown below.

Resting by one of the many churches -- great breezes up here

Enjoying the view

Black beach on the east side of the island

Black beach -- it was a bit chilly

The front door to one of the homes -- it's a little bigger than our 7 year old.

A great view at the top of the hill (our ship is in the background)

Gorgeous view

The donkey station

The zig zag road we walked down to return to the ship

Copyright 2008

Olympia, Greece

Summer 2008

It was great timing to visit Olympia -- a week before the Olympic games in Beijing. The ruins of the Ancient Olympic games were breathtaking. A few that we saw included the temple of Zeus, the gymnasium, the temple of Hera and our favorite, the ancient track. It was pretty amazing to stand (and run) on the same ground that the original Olympians competed on in 776 B.C.

The Temple of Zeus

The marble blocks where the winners were crowned.

The walkway and arch that leads to the stadium

Ready to race

Running and crossing the finish line on the ancient track

Cooling off on the hills for the spectators

Copyright 2008

Corfu, Greece

Summer 2008

Corfu was really interesting. We took a tour of the summer estate of Queen Elizabeth of Austria. She had a very tragic life and the statue of Achilles seemed quite appropriate to be on the grounds -- one in his glory and the other at his fall. The home was very modest by royal standards. She was apparently a very discreet Queen.
We made a stop at a tiny village that had a great view of an even tinier island called Mouse Island. We tried some Greek beer at this stop that everyone said we had to try since it is a local favorite. It does not have alcohol or taste like what we know as "beer," it is more of a really sweet lemonade/tang type drink. It was really good. They say it is great for motion sickness, which we needed with all the hairpin turns we took on this tour.
We also made our way to Corfu City and stopped for some ice cream and espresso. It was a really gorgeous town square.

The view from the Queen's estate.

Statue of Achilles

Mouse Island (in the background)

The town square in Corfu City

Copyright 2008

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Summer 2008

Our first stop on our whirlwind Mediterranean trip was Dubrovnik. Croatia is absolutely beautiful and the people are very kind. We stopped in a small village by a bay that was charming. We also were lucky enough to see a 30 minute presentation by local Croatian dancers. They were amazing. My husband and I were amazed by the water. It is a gorgeous cobalt blue -- we have never really seen anything like it. The Mediterranean Sea and Aegean Sea are really more beautiful than you can imagine. The only water we can compare it to is the water around the glaciers in Alaska. We loved it.

Welcome to Dubrovnik

Croatian dancers

Quaint village by the bay called Catvat

Catvat center

Copyright 2008