Sunday, September 25, 2022

2022 Greece and Turkey - Day #9 - Istanbul

THE BEST OF ISTANBUL
Historic Areas of Istanbul

"With its strategic location on the Bosphorus peninsula between the Balkans and Anatolia, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, Istanbul has been associated with major political, religious and artistic events for more than 2,000 years. Its masterpieces include the ancient Hippodrome of Constantine, the 6th-century Hagia Sophia and the 16th-century Süleymaniye Mosque, all now under threat from population pressure, industrial pollution and uncontrolled urbanization."

A scenic drive takes you across the Galata Bridge into the heart of Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey and the capital of the Ottoman Empire. 

You'll see the Byzantine Hippodrome, once the heart of Constantinople's political and sporting life, and the setting for an array of games throughout the history of the Byzantine Empire. Monuments on the site include the Snake Column from Delphi and an Egyptian obelisk taken from the Temple of Karnak at Luxor. 

Visit the Blue Mosque, also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. This 17th-century marvel was built to rival and surpass the grandeur and beauty of nearby St Sophia and is a true study in color. It displays a multitude of domes, semi-domes and graceful minarets on the exterior, and inside more than 20,000 shimmering blue Iznik tiles in more than 50 different tulip designs, as well as 216 stained-glass windows.
 
You'll enter the awe-inspiring Topkapi Palace Museum, a huge walled complex that hugs the Bosphorus Strait. This former palace of Ottoman Sultans is now a museum displaying an extraordinary collection of art, artifacts, and jewels, including the famed Topkapi Diamond. The windows promise breathtaking views of the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara. 

Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant; then you'll visit St Sophia, the Mosque of Divine Wisdom. It was originally built by Constantine the Great, and later rebuilt by Emperor Justinian to be the flagship church of the new empire. St Sophia is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture and is rich with mosaics, marble pillars and coverings. 

The Spice Market or Egyptian Bazaar was constructed in 1663 as a part of the adjacent Yeni Mosque complex, to generate funds for the upkeep of the mosque. This was an avant-garde concept at the time - light years ahead of the not-for-profit fundraising game. The Spice Market is the best place to purchase spices familiar and exotic, whose pungent aromas bear little resemblance to the supermarket variety, as well as fresh Turkish Delight, caviar, and a fascinating array of teas before you return to the port. 

Walk back to the coach with any purchases in hand. 
Please note: Expect dense traffic conditions in Istanbul. This tour is offered to guests who cruise ends in Istanbul or in-transit guests. Modest attire is required; knees, shoulders and midriffs must be covered and shoes must be removed to enter mosque(s). Shoe bags will be provided. There is no visit to the harem section at Topkapi Palace.

As has become my routine on the ship, I wandered up to the Observation Bar to get coffee, enjoy the sunrise and watch the ship sail into port. With the Seabourn Encore docking in Istanbul this morning, a lot more people came up to watch the ship dock.

For the first time on the trip, we had room service. Sharon had oatmeal, while I had pancakes.

The plan for the day was a long seven hour excursion. We met the bus on the dock just before 9 am.

Fighting the traffic, the first stop was the Hagia Sophia Mosque. Although the excursion was supposed to include the Blue Mosque, it was closed for renovation. Originally a Greek Orthodox church, the Hagia Sophia has changed between being a mosque and a museum since the fall of the Byzantine Empire. It is currently a working mosque. It was built by the eastern Roman emperor Justinian I as the Christian cathedral of Constantinople for the state church of the Roman Empire between 532 and 537. The mosque contains a number of columns that were taken from the Temple of Artemis that we saw at Ephesus!

From there, we walked to the Topkapi Palace. From the 1460s to the completion of Dolmabahçe Palace in 1856, it served as the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire. It was the main residence of its sultans until the 17th century.

Both sites were crawling with people. Sharon turned to me while we were in the mosque and said "we are not in Kansas anymore."
After the palace, we walked to a Hilton and had a nice Turkish lunch. The hotel had originally been the residence of a government official. We ended sitting and talking to a couple that were starting their third week on the shop (Larry and Sandy).

After lunch, we had a fairly long wait while the bus tried to navigate the traffic. We eventually wound our way to the Spice Bazaar. Sharon bought some Turkish Delight and tea for the dinner party.

As we were heading to a store with knockoffs that the guide recommended, a fight broke out in middle of the market. About a dozen guys were beating on each other. Sharon had gotten a little in front of me and the fight essentially happened between the two of us; splitting us up. Sharon ended up in a store, while I backed up against the side wall. The market was packed with people. It took a while to get the situation settled down. A couple of times things started to abate, but then exploded again. Connecting back up with Sharon, we continued to the end of the market and looped back to the tour starting point on the outside. The guide said that she had never seen anything like this fight happend before...

Getting back together with the excursion, our last stop was the Rüstem Pasha Mosque. Named after Rüstem Pasha, who served as Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Suleiman I, it was designed by the Ottoman imperial architect Mimar Sinan and completed in around 1563. The mosque marked a substantial deviation from thw traditional Ottoman architecture as it relied heavily on İznik tiling instead of favouring a more sparse interior.

The area around the Spice Bazaar was just packed with people. Back on the bus, we were back at the ship about. 4:15 pm.

We spent a little time in the Observation Bar watching the ship sail away from Istanbul. The amount of boat traffic was amazing.

After the long day, Sharon wanted to have room service. We got a couple of hamburgers.

Just after we went to sleep, Jack tried to call. We called him back via Facetime. I have been surprised at how good the internet has been on the ship. I paid for a premium package for the two weeks that allows us to connect four devices.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

2022 Greece and Turkey - Day #8 - Troy

Troy
Top 3 Reasons To Book
  • A scenic panoramic drive and boat trip
  • The ruins at Troy
  • Troy's imaginative and fascinating mythology
Archaeological Site of Troy

Troy, with its 4,000 years of history, is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. The first excavations at the site were undertaken by the famous archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1870. In scientific terms, its extensive remains are the most significant demonstration of the first contact between the civilizations of Anatolia and the Mediterranean world. Moreover, the siege of Troy by Spartan and Achaean warriors from Greece in the 13th or 12th century BC, immortalized by Homer in the Iliad, has inspired great creative artists throughout the world ever since.

A 45-minute boat trip brings you from Bozcaada, where you'll drive to the ancient city of Troy. Dating back some 4,000 years, Troy started as a Bronze Age settlement before Greek, Roman and Byzantine rule, and finally ending up in ruins.

Pick a path around the ruins, which include ancient carvings, dwellings and an amphitheatre. Your guide will share interesting information about the ancient city, including the myths and legends for which it's famous.

Return to the boat; then, cruise back to Bozcaada.

My morning routine has settled into wandering up to the Observation Bar about 6:15 am. I have coffee, watch the sunrise, enjoy the view as the ship sais into port and work on the blog. The port for today is Bozcaada, Turkey.

With Sharon feeling under the weather, we had breakfast on the Colonnade. She ended up making a decision to skip the excursion.

I have to be honest; I didn't really understand where Troy was. Catching the tender at 9 am, the excursion boarded a ferry. It was a thirty minute ride to the Turkish mainland. From there, the group boarded a bus for a forty-five minute ride north to Troy.

The city sits on top of hill with a view of the Aegean Sea entrance to Dardanelles Strait. Like Ephesus, the original port has been silted up. The ocean is now several miles from the city.

We took a guided tour of the ruins. The guide said that only about 10% of the city has been excavated. As you would expect from a 4,000 year old site, it is pretty rough.

After the tour, we wound our back on the bus and then the ferry. The ferry back was a little bit of a zoo. Apparently, it was the last ferry of the day and it was packed with people. The area around the ferry terminal was jammed with cars that weren't able to get on the ferry. We had to get off the bus and walk 1/2 to the ferry.

I was back on board the Seabourn Encore about 3:30 pm. Sharon and I headed up to the Observation Bar just after 5 pm to watch the ship leave port.

We had dinner in the Colonnade. They served an interesting buffet of Indian food.

I finished the night going back and forth between deck seven on the back of the boat and the Observation Bar on deck eleven at the front of the boat watching the ship sail through the Dardanelles Strait. At one point, the strait is less than 0.75 of a mile wide.

Friday, September 23, 2022

2022 Greece and Turkey - Day #7 - Skiathos, Greece

Up early, I sat in the Observation Bar and drank coffee. I watched as the sun rose and we sailed into the port. Sailing through the Greek Island has been spectacular.

This was one of the few days that we didn't book an excursion. Moving slowly, we had a late breakfast in the Colonnade.

Eventually, we caught the tender to the island and wandered the city. After the choas and crowds of Mykonos, it was a welcome change.

We had a glass of wine at Bourtzi. Bourtzi is a tiny peninsula that divides the Skiathos port into two distinct parts. It used to be a fort which was built by the Gizi brothers who ruled over Skiathos back in 1207. There is a retaurant at the tip of the peinsula with a great view.

We had lunch in the old port, including sardines and octopus. The food was very good.

Wandering back to the ship, I went to the gym, lifted weights for thirty minutes and walked for forty minutes on the treadmill.

Getting cleaned up, we went up to the Observation Bar to watch the ship leave part. Repeating myself, watching the ship sail through the Greek Island has exceeded my expectations.

We finished the day with an early dinner at the Restaurant. It was a fixed menu, including:
  • GIN MARINATED SALMON [cucumber, avocado, orange, pink grapefruit & caviar];
  • OVEN ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP [parmesan cream];
  • ARTICHOKE & CREAM CHEESE RAVIOLO [porcini foam];
  • BLOOD ORANGE SORBET [apricot champagne splash];
  • HERB ROASTED TENDERLOIN OF BEEF [beef confit, parsnip puree, parsnip crisps, truffle] or BUTTER ROASTED COD [seafood tortellini, kale, rainbow carrots, lemon dill caviar butter sauce], and;
  • AMARENA CHOCOLATE MOUSSE [citrus cream, raspberry gel, crunchy meringue].
Sharon had beef, while I had cod.

With two days with longer excursions coming up, we crashed early for the second night in a row.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

2022 Greece and Turkey - Day #6 - Mykonos, Greece

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With Sharon sleeping late, I wandered up to the Observation Bar for some brewed coffee. Eventually, I rousted Sharon about 7 am. We were scheduled for a beach excursion at Ella Beach. With Sharon feeling a little under the weather and the weather outside cloudy and cool, we decided to pivot. There were no spots available in the Strolling Mykonos excursions so we decided to explore the town on our own.

We caught the tender into Mykonos about 10 am. Using a map and directions on my iPhone, we did a Rick Steves walking tour. With its narrow winding streets, Mykonos is very interesting. Unfortuantely, the city was packed with people. There were five cruise ships in the harbor. As we wandered along, Sharon did some shopping.

After the walking tour, we hunted down a jewelry store that Sharon wanted to visit. Then, we retraced our steps to revisit a couple of stores. Eventually, we went back to an out of the way restaurant that we had found. We had sea bass (branzino) for lunch. It was very good, but expensive.

Taking the tender back to the ship, Sharon took a nap. I went to Deck 5, soaked in the whirlpool and read my book.

We had an early dinner in the Thomas Keller Restaurant. You can only book a reservation in this restaurant once during the cruise. I had a CLASSIC CAESAR SALAD [Prepared Tableside], while Sharon had a SUPER-CHILLED ICEBERG LETTUCE SALAD [Applewood Smoked Bacon, Marinated Cherry Tomatoes and Blue Cheese Dressing]. We spilt a ROASTED FREE RANGE CHICKEN AND THYME JUS.

After two fairly late nights, we crashed very early.

I enjoyed the visit to Mykonos, but like Mendocino and Maui, I am done with MyKonos...

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

2022 Greece and Turkey - Day #5 - Ephesus, Turkey

Exclusive Lunch in Ephesus, Terrace Houses & St John's Basilica
Top 3 Reasons To Book
  • An exclusive open-air picnic-style lunch inside Ephesus
  • Ephesus' great theatre, Celsus Library, Hadrian's Temple
  • The terrace houses; at Ephesus
"Located within what was once the estuary of the River Kaystros, Ephesus comprises successive Hellenistic and Roman settlements founded on new locations, which followed the coastline as it retreated westward. Excavations have revealed grand monuments of the Roman Imperial period including the Library of Celsus and the Great Theatre. Little remains of the famous Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, which drew pilgrims from all around the Mediterranean. Since the 5th century, the House of the Virgin Mary, a domed cruciform chapel seven kilometers from Ephesus, became a major place of Christian pilgrimage. The Ancient City of Ephesus is an outstanding example of a Roman port city, with sea channel and harbor basin."

Showcasing the religious history of ancient Turkey, your day starts with a pleasant drive through the countryside to visit the city of Ephesus. The stunning structures here, dating predominantly from the later Roman period, include the façade of the Celsus Library and Hadrian's Temple. The Sacred Way was one of the main thoroughfares used by the Romans.

You will also visit the Terrace Houses located opposite Hadrian's Temple -- a newly-excavated residential section of Ephesus. The wealthy and important people of Ephesus used these houses, so they are finely decorated with mosaics and frescoes, giving a true impression of the ancient lifestyle. Those on the upper slopes of Bulbul Mountain are reached by steps, and the roof of one house forms the terrace of the one above it. Continuing from the library to the end of the marble street, you can look up at Ephesus' impressive amphitheatre where St Paul preached to the Ephesians.

In the town of Seljuk, you will visit the ruins of the Basilica of St John. The Basilica had a cruciform plan with four domes along its longitudinal axis and a pair flanking the central dome to form the arm of the cross. The tomb of St John was placed under the central dome.

Visit Solmissos-- a setting that, to some, is a shrine; to others it is a mere curiosity. It is reputedly the home of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. Archaeological evidence shows that the little house you will see here dates from the 6th century AD, but that its foundations are indeed from the 1st century AD. This ties in with the commonly held belief that Mary moved to Turkey after the crucifixion.

Enjoy a delicious and exclusive picnic-style lunch at the site of the Harbor Baths in the heart of Ephesus -- an amazing opportunity to rest and refuel among some of the most famous ruins in the world.

Returning to Kusadasi to enjoy a optional carpet demonstration and some time for shopping. Explore the town and return to the pier at your own pace.
I have started every morning going to the Seabourn Square and getting a couple of Americano Coffees. For the first time on the cruise, we are docked in the port rather than using tenders to get ashore; the Seabourne Encore is docked in the Turkish port city of Kuşadası.

We had a light breakfast at the Colonnade. Wandering down the gangway, I was surprised to find that our excursion included only nine people and the transportation was a sprinter rather than a bus.

The first stop was the the Basilica of St John. St. John was buried in the Basilica. From there, you can see a single column marking The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World..

The second stop was the The House of the Virgin Mary. It is believed that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was taken to this stone house by Saint John and lived there for the last years of her life.

The third stop was the Romain city of Ephesus. The ruins were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We did a guided walking tour that included terrace houses. We had an private lunch on the Harbor Road.

For the fhird day in a row, we had a guide. Unfortunately, this guide was a little harder to understand than thre first two.
The final stop back was back in Kuşadası was a carpet making demonstration. Thankfully, they weren't able to sell Sharon any carpets or jewelry!

We had a early buffet dinner in the Colonnade. It was a zoo. Everyone was getting an early dinner in order to take off for the complimentary evening excursion.

We finished the day with an excursion back to Ephesus. Almost everyone on the ship caught buses back to the site. Seabourn had a classic music concert set up in front of the Great Theater. After the concert, we jumped on the first bus back to the ship.

We crashed about 10:30 am.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

2022 Greece and Turkey - Day #4 - Crete, Greece

Extraordinary Knossos in 3D Augmented Reality & Archaeological Museum
Top 3 Reasons To Book
  • The Palace of Knossos, administrative center of the Minoans
  • The labyrinth built to confine the fabled Minotaur
  • Ruins of livingrooms, storerooms, workshops and a theater
Your first destination on this full day tour is the renowned archaeological site of the Palace of Knossos. This locale was once the religious and administrative center of the Minoan world.

Explore the labyrinth built to confine the fabled Minotaur -- a mythical beast born out of the unnatural union between King Minos' queen and a bull. Legend holds that the king fed his enemies to this monster until the secret of the labyrinth was finally unraveled.

A guided tour takes you through the ruins of the palace complex, now excavated and partially reconstructed to offer a better understanding of the complex labyrinth. View the living quarters of the monarchs, the storerooms, potters' workshops and the theater.

You will see the ruins in a most extraordinary fashion, with the aid of Augmented Reality Software (AR). Augmented Reality combines the camera's content with a virtual one. In other words, it is a mixture of the real-time video and many different virtual elements. AR essentially enables you to simply point the tablet's camera at various locations of the site and view them in their original form, as they once stood thousands of years ago. It is an amazing way to view the site as both the ruins of today and the complete, whole buildings of yesteryear. Relax over a typical Cretan lunch at one of the finest restaurants in town.

Next up is a visit to the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion -- one of the most important museums in Greece with a notable and complete collection of artifacts from the Minoan civilization. All the main artifacts are on display -- the Phaistos Disk, the Snake Goddess, the Bull-Leaping and King of the Lillies frescoes.
Both Sharon and I were up very early. We were moving around about 5 am. We haven't completely adjusted to the time change yet.

We had a quick breakfast at the Colonnade. We had to be at the Grand Salon at 7:45 am. They put us on the first tender to Agios Nikoloas. Loaded on a bus, it was more than an hour ride to the Palace of Knossos. The guide did a running commentary the whole way talking about the island and its culture. I really enjoyed getting a chance to see so much of the island.

We did an hour and a half guided tour of the palace. The palace was at its peak between 1,700 and 1,400 BC, almost 4,000 years ago. As a result, the site is pretty rustic.

We had ear pieces to listen to the guide and a tablet with a 3D representation of what different parts of the palace would have looked like in its heyday.

I will be honest; I expected a labyrinth. The site does not have a labyrinth. The guide indicated that they referred to the palace with its maze of small rooms as the labyrinth...

From there, we went to the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion. We did an hour plus guided tour focusing on the Minoans section of the museum.

We had a late luch at Parasties in Heraklion. Getting back on the bus, it was almost an hour and twenty minute ride back to the dock in Agios Nikoloas.

Getting a tender back to the Seabourn Encore, we were back on board about 30 minutes before the ship left. This time, we watched ship leave from our balcony.

The dress for the evening was formal. We got cleaned up and dressed. We had a drink at The Club bar. Standing in line at The Restaurant, the couple behind us was a couple that we had met at lunch [Joe and Laurie from Pleasanton]. They joined us for dinner. I had seared Tuna, while Sharon had Beef Wellington.

After dinner, we went to the Grand Salon and watched part of a comedy show. I was falling asleep. We ended up crashing just after 11 pm.

Monday, September 19, 2022

2022 Greece and Turkey - Day #3 - Pátmos, Greece

Discover Patmos highlights
Top 3 Reasons To Book
  • The Grotto of St John - the Book of Revelation ground zero
  • The UNESCO World Heritage site Monastery of St John
  • 300-year-old Simandris House; a rich collection of antiques
The small island of Pátmos in the Dodecanese is reputed to be where St John the Theologian wrote both his Gospel and the Apocalypse. A monastery dedicated to the 'beloved disciple' was founded there in the late 10th century and it has been a place of pilgrimage and Greek Orthodox learning ever since. The fine monastic complex dominates the island. The old settlement of Chorá, associated with it, contains many religious and secular buildings.The small island of Pátmos in the Dodecanese is reputed to be where St John the Theologian wrote both his Gospel and the Apocalypse. A monastery dedicated to the 'beloved disciple' was founded there in the late 10th century and it has been a place of pilgrimage and Greek Orthodox learning ever since. The fine monastic complex dominates the island. The old settlement of Chorá, associated with it, contains many religious and secular buildings.

Journey to Patmos and the Grotto of St John, where the Apostle heard the voice of God, saw the future, and wrote the book of Revelation. At this most sacred spot on the island, St John the Theologian spent 16 months in exile. His simple cave is now a chapel and place of pilgrimage. The iconostases built into the cave depict St John's visions and the spots where the saint slept, wrote, and heard a great voice, as of a trumpet. Continue on to the Monastery of St John the Theologian, built on an ancient acropolis. The monastery's massive 15th-century walls and 17th-century battlements looming over the town belie an intimate and peaceful interior of arches, inlaid pebble stone floors, and whitewashed buildings.

The charming Chapel of Christodoulos is profusely decorated with frescoes, and the old Treasury, now a museum, displays a breathtaking collection of jeweled chalices, crowns, crucifixes, vestments, and old manuscripts.

Stroll through the winding streets of Patmos, where houses dating back to the 16th century are linked by a maze of steps and lanes interspersed with small squares. The silent, shuttered villas are mostly owned by Athenians.

Visit the 300-year-old Simandris House to see its rich collection of antiques and architecture that presents an interesting combination of the Oriental tradition and the Western fashion favored in the 19th century.

Wind down at a local taverna. Channel your inner Zorba as you sample tasty mezes (appetizers) with Greek wine or ouzo, and enjoy a traditional Greek dance demonstration,
The trip has already exceeded my expectations. Watching the islands go by as we sailed into Pátmos was entralling. Pátmos is part of a series of seventeen islaands. We had a quick breakfast on the Colonnade with a gorgeous view.


We have early excursions planned for the next four days. Today, we are discovering Pátmos, including the grotto where St John was supposed to have written the Book of Revelation. The guide did a very nice job at each stop

After the stop at the tavevna, Sharon and I wandered the commercial district. Sharon did some shopping. About 1:30 pm, we caught the tender back to the Seabourn Encore.

We relaxed in the suite and took a nap. Eventually, we got cleaned up and headed to the Observation Bar. We watched the ship sail away from Pátmos.

Sharon and I had an old English dinner in the honor of Queen Elizabeth at the Colonnade. We got a great table right on the back of the ship watching the departure and sunset. The weather was beautiful.

For starters, I had LANCASHIRE HOTPOT, while Sharon had the CREAMY GREEN PEA SOUP. For mains, Sharon had PAN FRIED DOVER SOLE [Lemon Caper Butter, Young Spinach, New Potatoes], while I had ENGLISH CUT ROASTED BEEF [Sautéed Vegetables, Yorkshire Pudding, Jus Natural].

Still adjusting to the time change, Sharon and I wandered back to the suite and crashed early.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

2022 Greece and Turkey - Day #2 - Piraeus, Greece

I have always said that my super power is that I can always sleep. My kryptonite is that I can't sleep sitting up on planes. The ten hour flight from Chicago to Athens was rough. Letting Sharon take the aisle, this may be the worst international flight I have ever had.

We were on the ground in Athens at 7:30 am, about 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Getting through customs and picking up our luggage went quickly. It is amazing how well the Apple Air Tags works; you can see your luggage pretty much real time.

Shawna had a arranged a driver to pick us up. He was waiting when we exited the baggage claim area. It was about a 45 minute drive from the airport to the port. Our ship, the Seabourn Encore, was docked and unloading paasengers.

Part of the challenge is that our broading time for the ship was supposed to be 3:20 pm. We weren't sure how we were going to kill six hours. Talking to the Seabourn staff at the port, they said we could drop our luggage after 10 am and then co'me back after 12 pm.

Wandering the area near the port, we didn't find much open on a Sunday morning. We ended up at an odd cafe-bar along the main street.

We got back to the pier just after 12 pm. We breezed through the check-in. The rooms weren't ready yet so we sat in the Colonade and had a glass of wine. Without 30 minutes, they announced that the rooms were ready.

We are in suite 738. After picking up the room keys and watching the safety video, we wandered the ship to figure out where everything is.

From the time that we left home on Friday, it took us 36 hours to get on board the ship. Suffering from a short night's sleep on Friday and very little sleep on the overnight flight, we fell asleep for an hour or two.

Getting cleaned up, we went to the Observation Deck. Looking out of the front of the ship, we watched as we pulled out of the port. I was a beautiful sunet. Afterwards, we wandered to Land & Ocean for dinner. I had short ribs and Sharon had salmon for diner.

After wandering the 7th deck a bit more, we crashed really hard.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

2022 Greece and Turkey - Day #1 - To Athens, Greece

I set an alarm for 2:55 am, but Sharon was up and moving around about 2:30 am. Taking a shower and packing up the room, we were down in front of the hotel about 3:45 am. Our original intention was to take an Uber to the airport, but it was taking too long for one to arrive. We ended up taking the 4 am hotel shuttle.

With one other shuttle stop, we got to the airport about 4:20 am. Checking the bags and getting through security went relatively quickly. We used CLEAR, but it really didn't save us much time.

We boarded a 6 am American flight from San Francisco to Chicago. On this leg, we have an aisle and middle in the exit row of a new 737-800. The flight pulled away from the gate a couple of minutes early.

The flight landed in Chicago about thirty minutes early. Coming from Heathrow, our connection was already there. After a quick glass of wine and a snack, we boarded the flight to Athens. We cleared the second of the two hurdles that I have been dreading: the connection in Chicago.

It is a ten hour flights with an eight hour time change from Chicago (a ten hour time change from Sacramento). I am writing this using the wireless on the plane somewhere east of Newfoundland. It is just past midnight in Athens.

I am never flying American Airlines again internationally. This is a cattle car.

Friday, September 16, 2022

2022 Greece and Turkey - Day #0 - San Francisco

Friday morning, Sharon and I went to Carbon Health to get a travel COVID test. It came back negative for both of us! This is the first of two hurdles that I have been dreading...

Orginially, we had a Saturday morning flight from Sacramento to Chicago. At some point in the last couple of weeks, this was changed to 6am flight from San Francisco to Chicago! Scrambling, we made a hotel reservation near the San Francisco Airport and arranged through Shawna to have a car pick us up and take us to the hotel on Friday afternoon.

The car picked us up at 2 pm. It was a relatively quick trip to the airport (2 hours 20 minutes). We are spending one night at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront. We stayed here on the way to Europe in 2016.

After getting settled in the room, we had a drink at the bar. Catching an Uber, we met Jack and Jason for dinner at Cafe Figaro in Burlingame. The boys had some adventures with trains getting to the restaurant.

We split an order of Calamari Fritti [Fresh squid breaded, fried and tossed in a garlic lemon sauce served with cocktail sauce or chipotle aioli] as an antipasta. I had Spaghetti alla Bolognese [Pasta in homemade all beef meat sauce], while Sharon had Vitello ai Capperi [Veal scallopini with capers, lemon and butter sauce].

Catching an Uber back to the hotel, we crashed early. We have a very early start tomorrow.

One footnote, I started packing for this trip on Sunday. I am probably better organized than any other trip. At nineteen days, this is going to be one of the longest trips that we have done.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Spoiler Alert - The Mandolarian - Season Two

While Sharon was on her New York, I binge-watched season two of The Mandolarian. Sharon and I had watched season one in the fall of 2020. After watching the first episode or two of season two, Sharon gave up on the show.

Season one of The Mandalorian premiered on Disney+ on October 30, 2020. It consists of eight episodes. A third season is scheduled to be released in February 2023.

I didn't enjoy this season as much as the first season. I thought the obligatory battles scenes in every episode started to be a little repetitious, but they stuck the end of the final episode. I didn't see Luke coming...

Watching The Mandolarian movitated me to watch The Book of Boba Fett. I have finished five of the seven episodes; I was surprised to see episode five focus exclusively on the Manolarian...

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Grant

My book for August was Grant by Ron Chernow. It fits into my long term project to read books about all of the presidents. I also read Cherhow's biography of Alexander Hamilton.

I read the Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant in 2005. I had forgotten that Grant was stationed on the West Coast in Humboldt and Portland after the Mexican-American War. After he left the miliary, there was a four-year period of failure so excruciating that Grant skipped over it altogether in his Memoirs.

I was left with two general observations about the Civil War. First, the body count in some of the battles is almost inconceivable. Five to ten thousand men were killed in some of the battles. The war claimed 750,000 lives, more than the combined total losses in all other wars between the Revolutionary War and the Vietnam War. Second, the politics of the generals is fascinating; there was a whole dismal parade of career hacks and self-promoting political generals on the Union side that Lincoln had to weed out.

Grant had the misfortune of presiding over America in the corrupt Gilded Age. Despite conspicuous blunders in his first term, notably cronyism and the misbegotten Santo Domingo treaty, Grant had chalked up significant triumphs in suppressing the Klan, reducing debt, trying to clean up Indian trading posts and experimenting with civil service reform.

I was surprised by Grant's post-presidential life. He and his family spent two years and four months roaming the world. When Grant returned to the United States, there was a failed attempt to nominate him for a third term. Living in New York, he got wound up losing everything in Ferdinand Ward's giant ponzi scheme. Stricken with throat cancer, Grant wrote his memiors which were published by Mark Twain's publishing company.

At the 960 pages, the book was load. Although the repeated debate about Grant as an alcoholic gets old, I enjoyed the book.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Robert H. Nooter

Robert H. Nooter, 96, died from complications of a stroke on September 3, 2022 at his home in Bethesda, surrounded by family.

Bob, also affectionately known as Noot, was an international development leader with the US Agency for International Development and the World Bank, an ethnographic art collector, museum volunteer leader, and an avid tennis player, even into his 90s.

Mr. Nooter worked at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for most of the 1960s and 70s, rising to the rank of deputy administrator and serving as acting administrator for a year. He was mission director in Uruguay and Liberia and was assistant administrator in charge of the economic programs in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos during the Vietnam War. Among other responsibilities, he started the economic assistance programs in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Syria after the 1973 Sadat-Begin agreement.

In 1980 Mr. Nooter joined the World Bank where he was the resident representative in Tanzania, country officer for Sudan, and deputy department director for East Africa. As a World Bank consultant following his retirement, he worked on assignments in Africa, East Asia, the Caribbean, Ukraine, the Baltics and the Caucuses.

While in Liberia in the 60s, he and his artist wife Nancy, developed a passion for ethnographic art that continued throughout his life. In addition to an extensive collection of African art, the couple collected traditional art from the Native American peoples of the American Southwest, Plains, California, and the Northwest Coast/Alaska; Ethiopian religious art; Russian icons; Japanese scroll paintings; and traditional art from Tibet, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines. The Nooters often lent their art to museum exhibitions and frequently welcomed visitors to their home collection in Washington, D.C.

He and Nancy donated art to the National Museum of African Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters Museum in Baltimore, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He assembled an extensive collection of Caucasian flat-woven textiles (kilims, horse covers, bags, and sumac rugs), and wrote the book Flat-Woven Rugs and Textiles from the Caucasus, published in 2004.

Robert Harry Nooter was born in Webster Groves, Missouri on July 14, 1926, graduated from Webster Groves High School and attended Purdue University before entering the Marine Corps in 1944. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1947.

In 1951-52 he served as a Marine Corps First Lieutenant in the Korean War where he received a medal of commendation for his leadership during combat.

In his early career, he worked at the Nooter Corporation in St. Louis for 14 years, before joining the Kennedy Administration in 1962 to work at USAID.

Mr. Nooter was a board member or trustee of the National Museum of African Art (for 30 years, twice serving as chairman), the Textile Museum in Washington and the Museum of African Art in New York. He was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Haji Baba Society and the Cosmos Club. His papers, including his Korean War letters and USAID materials, are housed at the Library of Congress.

He was also the patriarch of a large family. He was predeceased by his loving wife of 73 years, Nancy Ingram Nooter, and his daughter Mary "Polly" Nooter Roberts. He leaves behind daughter Anne Ruch (Scott) and sons Tom Nooter (Alice), William Nooter (Elissa Free) and Rob Nooter (Barbara), son-in-law, Allen Roberts, 12 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren. Noot was the primary caregiver for his wife, Nancy, for the last several years of her life.

A memorial service will take place at the River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 6301 River Road in Bethesda on Sunday, October 9, 2022 at 1:30 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, https://vmfa.museum/ .

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Sharon and Tom's 2022 New York Adventure - Day #13


Up at 3:30 am East Coast time, Sharon and Tom drove to Albany International Airport and dropped the rental car. They caught a 6:00 am American Airlines flight to Chicago O'Hare.

On the ground on time in Chicago, they ended up sitting in the plane on the runway for an hour and forty-five minutes due to weather. There was lightning in the area and ground crews weren't allowed outside. As a result, they missed their connection.

While it continued to pour in Chicago [see 49ers versus Bears NFL game], Sharon and Tom worked with American to figure out how to get home. Initially, they were automatically rebooked on a 5 am flight on Monday morning. Eventually, they got scheduled on a 1:39 pm American Airlines flight to San Francisco. The flight didn't end up leaving Chicago until 2:42 pm.

I drove to San Francisco to pick them up. Thankfully, the traffic was light. With one quick stop, it only took two hours and fifteen minutes.

Parking in the hourly parking, I caught up with them in the baggage claim area. It turned out that their luggage somehow was in Dallas?!?.

It was fairly easy drive home. By the time we got Tom's keys at Eric's house, dropped Tom at home and got some food, it was after 8:30 pm when we got home.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Sharon and Tom's 2022 New York Adventure - Day #12


Sharon and Tom spent the loin's share of the day hiking in Saratoga Spa State Park. They covered seven miles.

They finished the day with dinner at the Salt and Char restaurant in the Adelphi Hotel, a farm to table steakhouse. With a very early start home tomorrow, they crashed early.

Friday, September 09, 2022

Cisco Executive Briefing Center and more

Leaving the house just before 7 am, I headed to Santa Clara. It was a remarkably easy drive [80 to 680 to 880 to Tasman Drive]. I took me roughly two hours and fifteen minutes. It was a much easier trip than the last time. Over the years, I have made a lot of trips to the Cisco Executive Briefing Center.

I spent a couple of hours looking at Cisco video conferencing solutions. I am trying to figure out the right solution for our boardroom.

After a quick bite to eat at Cisco, I headed to the Microsoft campus in Mountain View. I was frankly disappointed with this stop. I am trying to find a room that I can show our business leaders, but I was underwhelmed by the Microsoft room configurations.

Back in the car just after 2 pm, I headed home. The world is a parking lot. It took me three hours and twenty minutes to drive 143 miles [880 to 680 to 580 to 205 to 4 to 5 to 50]. Waze did something interesting in Tracy. Just as the traffic was coming to a stop, it routed me north to Highway 4; section from 205 to 4 to 5 was an interesting drive.

Sharon and Tom's 2022 New York Adventure - Day #11


Sharon and Tom started the morning with breakfast at Cafe Mutton.

Checking out of the hotel, Sharon and Tom spent the day visitng the Thomas Cole Historical Site and the Olana State Historical Site. The later was the home of Artist Frank Church.

They ended the day at the Adelphi Hotel in Saratoga Springs. Sharon and Tom are spending two nights there. They had dinner at Boca Bistro sharing Paella Mixta [Calasparra rice, chicken, Chorizo Bilboa, clams, calamari, mussels, shrimp, scallops, cauliflower, red & green bell peppers, peas, tomato, saffron, paprika] .

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Sharon and Tom's 2022 New York Adventure - Day #10


Thursday morning, Sharon and Tom toured the Vanderbilt Mansion. Sharon and I both read Anderson Cooper's book Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty. The mansion features in several chapters of the book.

In the afternoon, they took a boat tour on the Hudson. Sharon described it as a bust.

Sharon and Tom finished the day with a tour and dinner at the Culinary Instuitute of America in Hyde Park. They had dinner at the America Bounty Restaurant.

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Sharon and Tom's 2022 New York Adventure - Day #9


Sharon and Tom started the day at Val-Kill, the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site.

Afterwards, they stopped at Milea Estate Vineyard for local New York wines and charcuterie.

From there, they visited FDRs house at Hyde Park.

They finished the day with dinner at Le Petit Bistro, another farm to fork restaurant.

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Sharon and Tom's 2022 New York Adventure - Day #8


Sharon and Tom picked up an Avis car in Midtown and drove out of the city. It was raining hard as they drove north from Manhattan.

After stopping at the Sleepy Hollow cemetery, they went to West Point. Sharon and Tom ended up spending almost three hours at West Point. They stopped at the Visitor Center and then got a pass to drive through the campus. Sharon said that she was very impressed.

They are spending the night at the Beckman Arms Hotel in Rhinebeck. Sharon visited the area in 2005 when Liz was working at Omega.

Sharon and Tom finished the day with dinner at Terrapin. The farm to fork restaurant in rhinebeck is located in a former church. Tom had Taste of Summer Pasta [Gemelli with a daily assortment of farmer's market vegetables and camembert sauce].

Monday, September 05, 2022

Back to Carmichael [Boys Weekend - Day #4]

Although I had thought about getting a hotel at one point, I decided to just crash on the fold out couch at Jack and Jason's apartment. With everyone moving slowly, I eventually wandered to Souvenier Coffee and got some coffee for me and pastries for the boys.

Looking to beat the heat and the Labor Day traffic, I rolled from San Francisco about 8:40 am. I made a half an hour stop in Orinda for a quick visit with Drew and Carmen. I was back in Carmichael just before 11 am.

Sharon and Tom's 2022 New York Adventure - Day #7


Sharon and Tom's plan for the day was to walk the Highline and visit Little Island. Taking refuge from Labor Day crowds and oppressive humidity after walking the Highline, they ended up at the Fig & Olive.

They stopped for for tapas and basque wine at Mercado little Spain in the Hudson Yards. Tom noted you could really do the equivalent of a pub crawl walking Highline and popping down to street level for little pubs and taverns.

They finished the day with dinner at Quality Meats Steakhouse. Tom said that some good came from Covid; they got to dine in their own animal themed street cabin with a ceiling fan and giraffe wallpaper and lamp. The giraffe's head is sticking out the top of shade.