Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate in the U.S. I hope your dinner went well and you were able to enjoy being with your friends and relatives this year.
John and I hosted 10 people and the preparations were done a lot in advance so that actual Thanksgiving day was easier (except for all the dishes and glassware.) We set out a buffet style table and then sat at our dining room table for dining.
Since of course I forgot to take a picture of my plate because, yum, Thanksgiving, I am posting my leftovers night plate.
Everything turned out well and everyone brought something to share. Sarah made the onions, Jonathan made the broccoli and rolls, Ryan and Leigh collaborated on Martha Stewart’s macaroni and cheese, and Rose and John H. brought three delicious pies, pumpkin, mixed berry, and cranberry walnut.
Today we are taking a tour called the Flavors of Dalmatia. First we go into Split and so a walking tour Diocletian’s Palace and then we ride into the countryside to see a working farm which produces organic olive oils, sweets, and cosmetics. The second is basically a shopportunity.
I do not know what my notion of Diocletian’s Palace was but it was certainly not what we saw. Diocletian, infamous for creating quite a large number of Christian martyrs, had this palace built in 305 as a vacation and retirement home. It consisted of a palatial home, a mausoleum for him after he died, and a military fortification.
The palace continued to be used after Diocletian’s death in 312 and was still in use as late as 480. In the 7th century the expelled population of nearby Salona took refuge inside the now abandoned palace and organized a new city building their homes and businesses inside the basement and on the walls. So when you walk into the palace grounds you find a mishmash of shops and restaurants inside. It is kind of weird.
At this point it starts to rain very heavily and we battle our way down the narrow streets crashing into oncoming umbrellas. Our next stop is at an olive oil manufacturer. Along the way we see an Roman aqueduct which is still functional.
We get off the bus at the Stella Croatica factory in Klis. There we have a tour in the pouring rain. We are given snacks, a very fast tour of the olive oil museum, and the main event, time to spend money at the shop. We buy a bottle of olive oil. There are also candies, tapenade, and cosmetics which the owner, Pasko, assures us will make our skin wonderful and eliminate bags from under our eyes. He has obviously spent a lot of money developing the site and the pandemic did not come at a good time for him.
We are pretty weary and wet when we get back to the ship. We take a nap, have our accustomed negroni sbagliato which the bar team have perfected, listen to Allen, the guitarist, and have dinner at The Restaurant.
Our excursion today takes us to two wineries after a bus trip over the mountain and some exploration on our own in Dubrovnik.
Then we proceed to another winery where the owners had nurtured three vines after the devastation of the “Homeland War.” The entire area had been razed by departing armies. We listened to her long story in Croatian which was then translated. I accidentally nodded off a few times.
We have been to Dubrovnik before so we decided to just have a look around on our own. We go to a pharmacy museum that also includes some art, go into an uninspiring church, eat some lunch, and look out over the sea.
Time for a late lunch! It is a pleasure to have a quiet lunch with some of our favorite things off the boat. After a while the lunch food on the boat gets old.
We get back to the boat fairly late in the afternoon. It is good that we do not have dinner reservations until 8 PM. At dinner I order veal Marsala. It is not great. I mention to the server that the sauce does not taste much like a Marsala sauce. He, of course, scurries off to tell the chef. The chef comes out to talk to me. It is the same chef that John complained to about the duck. Now he wants to make something better for me tonight or some other time. I should have kept my critique to myself!
Today we visit Kotor, Montenegro. Kotor is a small, fortified town with a population of around 25,000. In fact in all of Montenegro there are less than 700,000 people. It was formerly part of Yugoslavia. We find that we have been pronouncing Kotor incorrectly all these years. It sounds like “couture.”
We are taking a guided walking tour of this small town and then we will do a little exploring on our own. Kotor was settled by Illyrians in the 4th century BC. The Montenegrins were ruled for a time by the Romans, the Venetians, had to fight off the Ottoman Empire numerous times, were part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, became part of Yugoslavia after WWI, and after the break-up of Yugoslavia, Montenegro became independent in 2006. Unlike much of the former countries of Yugoslavia, Montenegro achieved its statehood peacefully.
Our tour takes us through a series of charming squares. We also visit St. Tryphon’s Cathedral and a small museum.
At this point we depart the walking tour and decide to 1) have a beer in the place where we had one with Karen and George many years ago, 2) give a second look at St. Tryphon’s and a quick visit to St. Luke’s, and 3) eat lunch at a restaurant and have some traditional Montenegrin food.
Once we are back at St. Tryphon we buy a ticket to see the church museum, often the best place to see some interesting art. We also heard that the reliquary holding St. Tryphon’s head is there!
Now it is on to lunch. The guide suggested a restaurant not far from St.Tryphon’s. We order salad and grilled squid. John’s dish is Montenegrin style (stuffed) and mine (pictured) is not stuffed.
A word about the cats of Kotor, one of the emblems of the city. Cats had a very practical application in Kotor. Since the cats killed rats in this port city it helped protect the population from the plague. The city has adopted the many types of cats that exist here by feeding them and even providing small homes for them. The cats all look healthy and see the tourists as a way to get a small snack.
After lunch we head to the old church of St. Luke built in 1195. It is quite tiny with a single nave. In a side room there is a painted panel. It holds several full length portraits. I do not know who painted it or what year it was done but the folds in the material looks very 13th century.
After returning to the ship, we have some quiet time, have a drink and listen to Allen, the guitarist, and have dinner at the Chef’s Table. All the dinners at the Chef’s Table are repeats now but we still enjoy going there.
Today we are sailing partway from Malta to Kotor, Montenegro. The only exciting things to report are having bagels and lox for breakfast, eating some sort of lunch, playing a variety of games on the sports deck, seeing a large container ship on the horizon, listening to Allen, the guitarist playing some of the tunes that John requested, and eating dinner.
We played mini-golf, shuffleboard, and ping pong today. I was actually friendly to a couple of other people. The all important scores are Mary 2, John 2 in mini-golf (I credit playing a lot of miniature golf as a child in Asbury Park, NJ), Mary 7, John 0 in shuffleboard but to be honest we did not really know how to keep score, and John won ping pong 21-10. He is a hard man to beat at ping pong. Really though, the scores do not matter. It is all about the fun. (NOT)
In an effort to see everything possible there is to see on the island of Malta at least three times, we are signed up for two excursions today. On the first one, Malta’s Capitals, Old and New, we head into Valletta to do the city walk again followed by a trip to Mdina, the old capital. Our transportation is by our favorite bus line, Kop TaCo, obviously also the place where the police hang out in Malta instead of Dunkin’. Or, if you don’t elect me there will be a Kop TaCo bus on every corner. John and I like to amuse ourselves.
Mostly we see the same stuff as we did at the beginning of the first cruise but our guide gives us an interesting explanation of the Maltese language which has evolved through various conquests to contain Arabic, French, English, and Italian. It is a Semitic language basically but written in the Latin alphabet with some extra letters and diacritical marks.
Since Malta has been under siege quite a few times in its long history, our guide points out the silos for grain and cisterns for water that are underneath the pavement. In fact there is a whole system of underground “streets” where the Maltese hid during the bombings of WWII. Malta was the most bombed place in the war because of its strategic location, a great natural harbor, and the fact that the British had their fleet there.
Now we head off to the old capital, Mdina. It was mostly destroyed by the earthquake of 1693 and then rebuilt. It is home to only 280 people.
When we finish with this tour we decide to cancel the afternoon tour which would have been a walk around historic Valletta. We feel pretty expert on all things Valletta by now.
Here are pictures of our new cabin which is a lot like the old one but roomier and in the front of the ship.
Finally we finish the evening with dinner at Manfredi’s where we have an eggplant parmesan first course and a Chilean sea bass entree. We finish the night in the Explorer Lounge for some more upbeat music from the guitarist. Everybody is singing along to the oldies (since most of the people are oldies as well.) We are not permitted to dance due to COVID protocols.
An older gentleman wanders into the Lounge and asks us, “Is this the Explorer’s Lounge?” I answer, “Yes, and we are the Explorers.” Sometimes it is just too difficult to pass up these opportunities.
Since we were able to move into our new cabin on Friday we are free to join a special excursion for people who are doing what is called a “butterfly cruise,” or two back to back cruises. The excursion is called “Taste of Malta.”
The first thing we do is take a short ride to Hagar Qim, a site with pre-historic megalithic structures that date back 6000 years. These stone temples are among the most ancient religious sites on earth and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is a large stone structure dedicated to the Goddess of Fertility dated from 3200 B.C.Nearby are other temples. We walk through the site and our guide fills us in on what we are seeing.
Next we go to Birzebbuga, a typical summer village.We stop for lunch at a restaurant, Ferretti, in an old Knight of Malta fortress. We are really not expecting anything great but the food turns out to be really good. John and I want to eat all the flat breads but the other women at the table are moaning about how it is so much to eat and how they never eat anything, blah, blah, blah. So I feel like I have to keep my eating to a minimum. One woman is especially annoying and just talks a blue streak about herself. She and the third woman at our table are doing what I like to call the travel sweepstakes. She’s been here and they’ve been there and oh they have gone on so many cruises. John and I mostly keep quiet. I want to tell her to shut up but I control myself.
Then we proceed to Marsaxlokk which is pronounced Marsa-schlock, an apt name. Marsa means harbor and I can only guess that schlock means useless souvenir trinkets. We walk along the harborfront and look at an array of small boats and run the gauntlet of souvenir booths selling their schlock. No doubt most of the stuff is made in China.
We get back to the ship around 3:30 PM and unwind for a bit before taking showers and heading down for Negroni sbagliato time. I think the word is out that we tip in addition to the standard tip that you have to pay up front. All the staff is bending over backward to help us out and make sure we are happy. Even the guitarist comes over and asks us to make a list of songs we would like him to play and how he is going to take the note that John wrote him about our appreciating his playing home to his wife to read. It is all a bit embarrassing.
We eat at Chef’s Table and have a repeat of Asian Panorama. I am not going to post any pictures with the exception of the superb dessert which I forgot to take a picture of last time. John asks our waiter if we can have the duck a little less well done and the answer is that it is pre-made. Then the manager comes over and the chef and the waitstaff to see how they can make us happier.So now we are going back on Monday when the chef will make us a special duck. I think everyone on the staff will feel happier once we have completed our two cruises.
Our stop in Crete has been cancelled as the winds are blowing between 35 and 50 mph and the boat cannot dock safely. We had really been looking forward to learning more about the Minoan civilization and visiting the palace at Knossos. From the pictures of the archeological site it looked amazing. We will have to put the visit to the palace on our to-do list for the future.
We do make a stop in the afternoon on the other side of Crete where the wind is less fierce but there is really nothing to do there except shop. We opt to use the extra time recuperating. Actually that is mostly me with my aching hips, back, and knee from all the walking and stair climbing of the last few days.
So the only pictures I took where ones of food. On 9/30 we ate at the Chef’s Table and on 10/1 at The Restaurant. The dinner at Chef’s Table is called Lotus and it is our least favorite of the ones we have had so far.
Then we had a day at sea on 10/1 where we did very little. The internet was in and out, we watched a little of the Viking stuff on TV. We had to pack up all our stuff and move it to our new digs at the front of the ship. We like this suite much better. It is roomier and has a nice protected deck. If it stops raining and the pool on our deck dries up, we hope to have some outdoor time. Other than that ate lunch. And dinner.
We ate at The Restaurant after negroni time. The ravioli were good. The swordfish less so.
Today we visit the island of Rhodes. Like many of the Greek islands it has a complex history of early civilizations and conquerors. Rhodes is uniquely situated to control trade between Turkey and the western Mediterranean. So taking the profit motive along with Christian/Muslim intolerance and throw in the Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492 and you have a dynamic and sometimes tragic set of historical events.
As we walk through the old city we see festive and memorial squares, a bombed out cathedral, and the juxtaposition of the very old and more modern buildings.
The Knights of St. John of Jerusalem defended Rhodes in the siege of 1522 by the Ottomans. They were betrayed by one of their own and defeated. Most of their buildings have been repurposed.
The tour of the palace began with a trek up a steep staircase with no railings. It was pretty difficult for me and for many of our tour group. In the upper chambers there were mosaic floors which were taken from the island of Kos and cemented into the floor of this building.
Now we walk into the area which housed the Muslim population and their mosque.
Our tour is over and we are being released to go out on our own!! The first thing that John wants to do is get a beer and do some people watching. We settle into a table at Stergios Corner and each have a local beer called Zythos Vap. We are hot and tired from our excursion and this is the perfect solution.
We take our time strolling through the old city and back to the harbor.
Before dinner we head up to the Explorer Lounge for our Negroni Sbagliatos. Tonight they ask if we want our unusual usual. Allen, the guitarist, pats John on the shoulder. I guess we are becoming known amongst the people who hang out at the bar.
We have dinner at Manfredi’s tonight. We both have calamari fritti and then I have spaghetti vongole which is good but has too many extraneous ingredients and John has eggplant parmesan.