ALL ROOMS WITH PRIVATE POOL

June 12, 2011 in GREECE | Comments (9)

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Beach at Porto Elounda

ELOUNDA PENINSULA ALL-SUITE HOTEL

Pride and Joy of the Kokotos family – but very different from Elounda Mare  described in previous blogs. 

Architect Spyros Kokotos & CEO Eliana Kokotos helped to launch Elounda area as Crete’s luxury mile with Elounda Mare and its romantic pool bungalows. Next to be built was nearby Porto Elounda with large shared pools, more activities and easier prices  – appealing to families. Then in the mid 1990s Elounda SA Resorts launched their most luxurious resort – Elounda Peninsula All-Suite.

It is all suite accommodation, all with pools. It was far more urban in feel and attracted lots of newly moneyed people who felt comfortable with everything brand new and contemporary. The intention was to draw people who wanted to be seen. But it ended up being even more of a hideaway than Elounda Mare – albeit without the maze of paths in flowery gardens.  A really attractive breakfast room with view over the water is hardly used. People like to dine in suite. Guests seem to have a habit of moving in to this home from home and can stay months. Husband jet-sets on business and wife and kids bury themselves in the Peninsula and its luxuries.

The property has only 66 suites. The Club area includes a wine cellar, a home movie theatre where, for example, the British Royal wedding was watched by guests.

WHERE TO STAY

The presidential suites along the waterfront appeal. All with sizable waterfront pools and private sea access, albeit rather adventurous  access as far as I could see. From stone platforms with sunbeds above the waves a ladder drops onto the turbulence of waves slapping on rocks. Some do offer access to the beach and no doubt a less adventurous descent.

Décor is attractive with blue and green giving a fresh spring and water feel. Built on different levels – dining area looking down on lounge and its huge windows, light and views.

But surprisingly the gardens on the terraces seemed a bit austere, unlike the perfect gardens at Elounda Mare. No doubt a signal that this hotel is more for citytypes.

Unfortunately I didn’t see the spacious junior suites with pools on the beach front. Not did I see the Peninsula Palace suite …. a “Royal Grand Suite” and the “Peninsula Residence” can be combined into this vast waterfront hotel suite.

The top accommodation I saw was the Royal Grande Suite (costing a sum afforded by celebrities). This is vast, with contemporary modern simplicity of uncomplicated space and hi tech features: lift (elevator), hammam, sauna, indoor pool with tropical garden – as well as the large outdoor pool and terrace. The living room brings church like awe with its very high roof and tall windows – and tall chimney. The dining room with long table is on a higher level and looks dizzingly down on the lounge. The nice surprise was the indoor pool with tropical banana palms – the worst surprise was the body’s guard’s room with separate entrance – Why did it have to be so small – to stop him getting uppity?

The lead-in type – “Collection” suites (1, 2 and 3 bedrooms) – also have blue and green décor. Built on two levels – all have distant sea view looking down and over the presidential and other suites. They all have pools in front but tall walls to give privacy makes them feel very compact compared with the Presidential.

PORTO ELOUNDA

A resort for people who want to meet other people, be active and enjoy children’s facilities. Spa is vast and impressive. There is also a super high tech conference facility for 5000 people. Beach is a sandy crescent around the inner edge of the yacht harbour backed by grassy area with sunbeds. Pools.

Facilities shared by all three Elounda SA Resorts include: Kid’s area, dive club, tennis courts, two yachts for charter, 9-hole golf course, and yet another Greek Orthodox chapel and shopping centre. 

Altogether there are 7 restaurants between 3 resorts, and 5 bars.

The lobby at Port Elounda is kind of empty and echoing, as if one doesn’t want anything in the way of the children.  Actually very relaxing for parents – less public property for them to destroy. 42 deluxe rooms have been newly renovated and were clean and bright with wide sea views – balconies have been given glass walls to improve the view. The Executive suites are most livable, with plenty space and big decks and big pools. The tall khaki coloured walls create privacy cutting you off from other pools. I was also shown a junior suite interconnecting with a suite, and sharing the same pool.

I can see that Porto Elounda is great for families on a budget. Elounda Mare is still my favourite – and I am not alone. Elounda Mare was fondly voted in again in 2010 onto Conde Nast Gold List, among the top 20 in Europe according to Conde Nast USA.

See my previous blogs and pix by myself and Aleah.


AFLOAT AMONG NATIONS

May 30, 2010 in Mediterranean | Comments (19)

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The towering figure of MSC Magnifica

(This is a wrap-up on the earlier posts onboard MSC Magnifica on the Mediterranean – 24 April to 1 May.)

MSC Magnifica is a gleaming white, brand new queen of a ship with a vast interior loaded with everything you expect on a cruise – from pools, bars, restaurants and shops to gym, spa, casino, cinema and a theatre that holds 1500 people. Towering up to the 13th and 15th floors, the boat offers 1500 cabins most with private balconies.

We  cruised for seven nights – an adventure in multicultural living.

The ship bubbled and simmered with voices, like a veritable Tower of Babel. Occasionally a loudspeaker would boom into higher life, like a god in the sky:  “Bonjourno”.  Italian would be followed by English, French, Russian and other tongues.

In the a la carte restaurant included in the fare, we found ourselves among quiet Swedes needing to shout a little to compete with the background of more talkative nations. In the buffet restaurant the voices seemed to ricochet everywhere.

But we had our retreat – our cabin high up on the 10th floor was a pleasant and comfortable home – with wall to wall windows and drapes, and the luxury of our own balcony where we sat in sun and wind  away from the crowds on the decks. The bathroom had place for our make-up and the shower was always hot. At night we fell asleep with the sound of the waves.

Other places where luxury of calm prevailed were the spa, hairdresser and beauty salon and some decks that mysteriously remained quiet.

Magnifica has a happy lively feel – but since the main thrust is touring, the partying is quite serene. You are tired at the end of the day, and after a long dinner  plus one of the nightly shows,  you take a few drinks at the bar, browse in the shops,  or sip some decaf – and head to bed. And . I didn’t see a single drunk person – quite a contrast to some cruises I might name…

The route 24 April to 1 May brought a tantalizing taste of different cultures – inviting further travel to  Venice, Bari, Katokolon, Izmir, Istanbul, Dubrovnik, Venice… and tours took you to ancient ruins like Ephesus and Olympia, cathedrals, mosques and markets.

Tours were well organized in an Italian kind of way, considering the vast numbers to get off the one or two gangplanks on arrival at ports. For those of us who chose to go our own way, freedom was sweet, but a little overshadowed by the fear of not getting back to the boat in time (and the difficulty of finding where the boat would dock).

MSC Magnifica is in pristine condition, and they have thought of everything to provide luxury – except perhaps the reception. They need not one, but 10 reception desks to get up to luxury level for all those 2500 passengers. It’s hard to be caring and answer all questions when you have such a pressure of people, and such a range of passenger nationalities.

There was so much to do and explore onboard that you could spend seven nights there and still not see it all.  My favourite spot was one of the deck bars where I drank hot, fragrant latte macchiato (only 1.9 eur), with nut icecream on the side. The air under the retractable glass cover was relaxingly humid like a Finnish sauna, though the noise level was more Italian. There was also a vast deck with glass sides for shelter, and others higher up. Hundreds of sunbeds were dotted around ( usually taken) and bubbling Jacuzzis and imitation palms added a kind of lazy lushness here and there.

The décor is extraordinary – kind of art deco fringed with glitz. The theme is waves and ripples, so the walls all curl and sweep around, and every surface is decorated with wave-like mouldings and textures, with colours changing as new spaces open, and little lights studding the roofs. It does suggest action – and action there was.

All the time something is going  on with 2500 passengers being treated to nightly bands, ensembles, concerts, gala dinners, markets…and the all important ”travel agency” where you crowd around some girls trying to rapidly sell tours. A constant topic of conversation at meals is what tours you will do at the next port. We shared information as information was hard to come by.

Passengers – who are they? Italians were the biggest contingent, Croatians, Swiss, Germans, Austrians, Swedes  – those are the ones I met. But I heard Russian, French, Spanish … and others I cannot name.

Age range on our cruise was wide – with very few young singles, but lots of couples with young children (playroom, children’s pool, underwater world, video arcade). There was also quite a contingent of active pensioners – who enjoyed the tours, dressed up for dinner, watched the shows and sunned on their balconies when time was over, looking very healthy and rosy….

I met a Swiss woman Margaretha Weber who flew her daughter back to Zurich from Istanbul, as she felt there were too few people her age (18) – and felt the disco at midnight was too late after all the early risings.

A little questionnaire I carried out among 6 Swedish passengers gave the reception the lowest points:

Average number stars  out of 5:  Service 5, Shows 5,  Ship facilities 4.8, Cabins  4.3, Food 3.9, Reception 3. Most excursions were considered good.

Service refers to mealtimes. There were four restaurants (one buffet and one a la carte were included in the fare). The waiters, all from Bali I was told, were totally attentive and tried so hard you wanted to cry on their behalf if they made a mistake.

For a day by day account – see the old posts under the blog written on MSC Magnifica.


Day 7 – Dubrovnik

April 30, 2010 in CROATIA | Comments (0)

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In the night we navigated past Corfu, which our daily cruise newspaper tells us has a Byzantine, Venetian, French, Italian history (many cultural influences, like all the countries and island states in these waters ). I woke to a glorious sunrise in an iridescent pink in a wide band over the horizon. The day dawned clear and cold (some 12 degrees). Breakfast did nt work well as I went alone, sat without being told where  to sit and thus had no waiter in charge of my needs. Asked by Aleah to bring her a gluten free croissant, my attempted order brought me plates of gluten free cakes, but still no breakfast. Tea, yes. Juice (not very fresh in taste), yes. But nothing on the menu. I felt abandoned, hungry… finally as leaving met Jose, the special needs man, and told him I was looking for a gluten free croissant for Aleah.  Waited, feeling the day pass…brutal to feel a day pass waiting when it is the last day of a trip. Finally the very obliging man returned to report the gluten free croissants were unfortunately finished. Thanks you I said.

Next I tried to get my totally marvelous coffee. Bar closed he said – it opened at 9. I did not look at my time – it was probably only five minutes to wait, but I went to Sahara buffet/coffee bar, and ordered my usual latte macchiato. Hot I said, not strong. I think they thought I said not hot. For the first time I got lukewarm coffee as they serve it in Sweden – unfortunately. They kindly called a waitress to take me to a table outside, as I told them the buffet was too noisy. It is. Very noisy. The a la carte restaurant is a hidden corner of sobriety in comparison. I think all the most impatient, volcanic natured people go to the buffet and must communicate with equally forceful eruptions of words.

The covered deck was a bit quieter but I did watch in amazement as this Italian (?) family communicated all talking at the same time, and the man projected his voice with a constant stream of words and the mastery of an Italian tenor.

Blue sea. Beautiful blue sea swishing past. Our cabin is so peaceful. Sun illumantes our very own balcony. This cruise could have been wonderful if the weather had been kinder, with most time spent on the private balcony to the harmonious sounds of the sea.

We came into the port an hour later than expected, so I tried to phone Calvados Luxury Club who have organized a hotel inspection and a tour. No connection. Finally at the 11th hour used Aleah’s phone to send SMS.

We were met by a driver in a BMW.

Taken up to Hotel Bellevue by the Calvados Luxury Club driver. Very attractive position, light lobby and beautiful views from every level, with the hotel lift taking you down to the sandy/pebbly beach, where one corner is private. The public can get to the beach down some steep steps. The gorgeous view through glass walls was the main feature of the spa pool (included for guests).  The terrace adjoining the restaurant and bar, where you can take a drink or eat breakfast, was also uplifted by the view of cliffs, greenery and turquoise water.

For images of Hotel Bellevue see the page under Luscious Luxury (images by Binah Creations).

We were shown the presidential suite and various categories of room all graced by sea views and the little turquoise bay. The standard category does not have a balcony, while the superior and deluxe all have balconies where you can soak in the Mediterranean (Adriatic) sun and landscape. The furnishing is minimalistic and in quiet tones. Seemed very plain after FS Bosphorous of course… not many hotels  can compete with that.

Our guide Al arrived … Al….

Two hour tour – lots and lots of history … saw a very baroque church from the 1600s before the earthquake, a Franciscan monastery (6 still live there upstairs) downstairs cloister around a garden, and the house of government also built in the middle ages. The rector was voted in and had a month long term of office (locked in). Pink room….

Exhausted now— sitting in the lilac lounge by a coffee bar… string quartet Spanish or Italian traditional songs, explains Aleah…the listeners in easy chairs clap.


Day 5 – Istanbul

April 28, 2010 in Mediterranean,TURKEY | Comments (7)

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The Four Seasons Bosphorus in Istanbul.

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Four Seasons at Sultanahmet

7.30a:  The boat glided in to the pier on the Bosphorous on the European side.

Cutting winds greeted us and sent Aleah back for a jacket. Still we walked to a taxi rank and got a ride to Four Seasons Bosphorous for 5 euro, in time for our 8.30 am appointment with the sales manager.

What an exquisite hotel. Only 18 months old (though the building dates back to days as a palace in the 18th century – Ottoman empire).

Four Seasons Bosphorous stands grandly on the shores of the straits. For all its age and tradition, it feels light and open.  A sweep of paving stretches from the front of the former palace (with fountain) towards the surprisingly sparkling blue and turquoise water, bobbing with small boats crossing between Asia and Europe. The odd working boat heads towards the Black Sea up or down the straits.  A swimming pool by the Bosphorous and a gigantic spa in the hotel give a resort feel. The hammam in the spa is remarkable for the aesthetics.  Here one can lie on a marble slab with inlaid motif under glittering blue glass light shades and details, and enjoy exfoliation, scalp massage and so on. The mosaic spa pool was also an aesthetic addition to the joys of rejuvenation and relaxation. Oriental mystery pervades the whole spa.

The interior décorof the hotel is a harmonious blend of old and new, with special items of furniture and a set of rare 18th century etchings to add to the sense of history. Fresh details to touch the heart and  sensibilities included a table totally erupting with pink orchids from glass vases.

We saw 3 room types. No guarantee that the room type featured in the images will look just like this as all are different.

Garden rooms looked very pleasant and roomy with a cumba (a traditional bay window with seat) and the usual spacious Four Seasons marble bathroom. But when we looked at a one-bedroom suite facing the Bosphorous, the garden suite (costing about one tenth) shrank in the memory. The bed of the Bosphorous Palace Suite was on a loft-like shelf, from which you could see the boats on the waterway. The desk with an Apple Mac invited work or communication, while the sofa was even more inviting in a corner with view. The two bedroom Bosphorous Palace Suite suite was impressive too. The roof suite with the angles of the roof and a terrace with view had loads of cosy atmosphere and charm.

Our breakfast was delightful, in terms of view and content, service and charm (though they had no almond milk to soothe the dairy free guests  – only soya). Over breakfast, Serkan told us that  the newer Four Seasons Bosphorous (only 18 months old) was doing very well and stealing guests fast and furiously from their other property Four Seasons Sultanahmet. That seemed surprising in view of the Sultanahmet property’s  amazing position close to so many attractions. But of course the Bosphorous property is new, serene, magnificent, and 10 minutes from designer shopping. ( So the best thing to do is to stay at both properties, at least two days each…)

Now we would see the older property in Sultanahmet. A mere 20 minute taxi ride took us to Four Seasons Sultanahmet, as it was a fairly peaceful time of day (1030).

A former prison situated between Blue Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia, the FS Sultanahmet is older in feel than the other FS, with more Moorish  or medieval details. A cloister- like corridor has arches with a Moorish flourish. In fact the building is not really so old. Just dressed that way. Its mood resonates with the past, ascetism and mystery.

The downstairs rooms we saw were rather dark and deep in mood, but very spacious. We saw two more rooms.  A former warden’s room, the deluxe suite, with separate lounge, had a cosy, quaint and traditional air, with stairs up to the usual lavish bathrom. What lingers in the memory is the remarkable presidential suite. One would not call it cosy, of course, with a dining table for 8 or 10, and a lounge suite to hold as many. What makes it so memorable is one of the  balconies which has a view over the Aya Sofia mosque (once the most be3autiful church in Christendom) . Here you could enjoy room service and the grace of the domes and minarets.

The public terraces give a view of  both  the blue mosque – and the Aya Sofia.

The concierge at the hotel advised us to go first to the Blue Mosque – as prayer time was about to start (noon) and they would close the mosque. Just a few minutes’ walk took us to the Blue Mosque. The queue was not too severe. You take off your shoes and put them in plastic bags. My skirt was too short so I was presented with a  wrap around cloth with Velcro fastening.

Inside we found a corner less troubled by the crowds. A row of short women with headscarves lined the rail that holds the onlookers from the mosque praying area.

There is a moment of wonder as the different patterns of the mosaics high above, sweeping round the domes and pillars, combine like an orchestra to make one big feeling in the stomach. There is only one god, I whispered to Aleah.

The sad thing though is that they have put machine woven quite ordinary carpets down now. All the Swedes at our table have been in Istanbul long ago … and remember it most for the blue mosque and its carpets. On the floor there were all handwoven mats – each individual – old –and there were piles and piles of them. The other disappointment is that they now hang a shield of lights between you and the view of the heavenly domes.

The other “problem” of course is the crowds. Some gawping, many in groups with a voice telling them what they are seeing. It could be anything. Most people throng in the central area – like a railway station.

Noon was approaching, so trudged out with our shoes in plastic bags to put them on and continue our tour of Istanbul. Aya Sofia from the outside looks very much like something in metaphorphis – which it did over centuries, morphing from Christian to Islam – and now the Christian mosaics being released from under their Islamic cover in a labour of 20 years. We didn’t get to see it – the most beautiful church in Christendom  – as we were deterred by crowds outside  and also in the grip of need to see the Grand Bazaar.

Again I had a little feeling of disappointment, for a lost something. It was a den of total intrigue when I last visited “want to change money – want to change money” … and I remember  carpets spilling over into the alleyways – people sitting on carpets, smell of carpets, colour, weave…dealing dealing.

Strangely we preferred the market in Izmir as a “cultural” experience. This is just for tourists, Aleah said. In Izmir he people go there.

Yet there are beautiful things there in the Grand Bazaar – just too much stuff – 4000 shops. And not all good quality. The leather people were out in force again: You want to buy leather?And those seeking contact for whatever reason:  German? Italiano? Where you from?

We felt rather hemmed in between being nasty and being nice, between self protection and human politeness.  But you couldn’t be too nice. Give an inch and they will take a mile. If you answered you came from Sweden, that was not enough. Why you talk English? How long you here? My brother has a shop. Or:  You from Sweden? – I am Chinese! So you hurt them or insulted them by not answering them, and they insulted you.

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Day 4 – Izmir

April 27, 2010 in Mediterranean,TURKEY | Comments (2)

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A wild night, says Aleah waking up and pulling off a black eyeshade. “Ooooooooooooooh…did you  hear all that creaking and groaning?”, she asks, and sighs as she forces herself out of bed.

It was the glory and power of nature on show through the night, gusting and billowing around our gigantic ship, seizing it and squeezing it so the door onto our balcony shrieked. This morning the balcony floor (high on the 10th storey) is wet with spray or rain.  Now a low grey-green sea is running past with a smoky grey-green of Turkish mountains looping the bay as we swish slowly into the port of Izmir.

Tall modern buildings are stacked like white bricks together and up the mountain side. So far – looks like an intimidating tourist destination. Finding the old town might be a challenge. No wonder the main tours offered by the boat travel agency take you out of town.

Look at that strange modern glassy highrise up on the hill, says Aleah pointing through our rain or spray splattered door.

Meanwhile the boat keeps on drifting away from the city against the mountain. We are off to breakfast….

15.16 AT SEA

The sea is running in the wind, with little white tops on the waves – greenish grey. Sky pale blue and patches of white and grey cloud. We are following the Turkish coast north, lost in a haze but caressed into white shimmer here and there by the afternoon sun.

We had a wonderful day in Izmir.

Our choice was to take a tour to Ephesus (57 eur) a city tour (43 eur) or a St Johns Monastry and Mary’s House (54 eur). Or to do it yourself…

It was hard to decide. Mary’s House sounded a bit unlikely to have belonged to Mary. Ephesus very tempting – a well preserved ruin of classical importance. We love old stones with history, even if they have fallen and the history forgotten. But it seems a bit hard to imbibe the slow vibrations of thousands of years while a guide announces in many languages a few facts learned by heart.

With this hopeless prejudice ruling, we chose the city tour –  do it yourself version.

Chaos swooped around us like seagulls chasing bait. Taxis circled around and people shouted. We were denied one of the taxis close in, as they were offering a tour. So with a German couple in tow (unable to speak English) we dodged little yellow taxis out to a busy road. The price should be 10 euros from the port by government regulation, so we announced our price and were bundled into a car without working seatbelts. Then he seemed to join a race to pass as many cars as possible along the dual carriageway following the promenade. Sudden turn and back along the road to Konak Square.

It was a bit of a surprise. A rather forgotten and forlorn place, loved most by pigeons. The beautiful clocktower is faded and needs a good clean; there is no water even in its basins/pools, and no handles on the taps.  The small mosque in the square looked abandoned too. But with faded charm, worth seeing…

From there we followed the boat people who had arrived by bus on the tour into the mazes of streets of Kemerati  Bazaar and fortunately lost them and ourselves.  Narrow lanes curved and wound around – no sense of direction remained. Shoe shops galore. Young men were shouting. Want leather jackets? Want jeans? Please come in. Sprechen sie Duetsch? Dutch?   Bits of what we read on the internet came back to me – hustlers, don’t catch their eye, keep walking.

But for all the advice we did catch people’s eyes, kind eyes and kind people. A man with moustache invited us into his shop – we said no we were looking for a café (to sit down and try to decipher where we were, having totally lost sense of place and time).  He then lead us through the maze to an area of little tea houses around one of the larger mosques. We chose one that looked so cosy, seats lined with woven patterned Turkish carpeting. He left us there with the words – you can come to my shop later if you feel like it.

Tea house in Kemeralti Bazaar, Izmir

 Later, lost time later, we passed him. Did you enjoy? Did you buy! Not buying anything I said gruffly … but undeterred by my frozen style he said warmly – are you still  looking for a cafe. You be my guest.  Come have some Turkish apple tea. How much does it cost? I asked. No he said — we are Turkish – if you are my guest you pay nothing.

So again we sat on the patterned carpeted seats and he entertained us with hot apple juice (tea?) and his stories about his visit in Finland – the closest he could come to Sweden. Finns know nothing about cooking, he spent most of his time shoveling snow, and the men are drunk 4 days a week…

Here he is…

Our tea house guide, expert on Finns

 

The clock tower in Konak Square


Day 3 – Katokolon

April 26, 2010 in GREECE,Mediterranean | Comments (0)

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Our gigantic cruise liner came in silently into the tiny deep water harbour of Katokolo. The long brown beach sweeps round the bay from a little stretch of waterfront cafes. Behind is a green hill, from which comes the sound of life – insects, birds and the crowing of a rooster. The beach is used by the locals as a road. From the balcony of our cabin high up on the 10th floor, I see a car creep slowly along the sand, on the way to one of the houses nestled along the long beach.

1230 HOURS

Back on board after a visit at this serene little town with its tavernas on the quay and street of markets. A taste of Greece. Fortunately the crowds were bussed off to Olympia or stayed onboard to suntan and use the Jacuzzi. We ate brunch on the quay by turquoise water, blue and white tables, little fishing boats, friendly people and, needless to say – to the right loomed our pristine cruise ship, towering into the sky. Magnifica.

The locals get a boost of income from visiting boats, and welcome us as spenders. But I guess little Kotokolo and its few overnight visitors breathe a sigh of relief as we go.  An American-Greek woman in a café says to her companion – see I told you. They would all start running back…. Happy triumphant tone. Now they would be in peace. I would love to have lingered on there. Plenty of wifi – every café…

1300 HOURS

Gliding out of port. My feet in a pool of water that they left after the big cleaning trolley came groaning past on the outside. Katokolo fades, but a brown stream follows us and curls as we turn. Mud or silt is being churned up.

Now we glide over glittery deep and  luscious blue.

I sip coffee at a bar on the deck, and taste spoonfuls of the world’s best nut icecream – all at reasonable prices (1.9 eur for the latte macchiato, 1.5 euro for two icecream flavours).

Macchiato onboard Magnifica is magnificent, magnifique, magnifik or whatever you might say in a number of languages. Language on this boat richochets like echoes from the tower of Babel (as every announcement on board is multi-lingual).

They serve really hot coffee with a taste as good as the aroma of roasting beans. Not even my Italian coffee bar in Stockholm has coffee that tastes this Italian or this good.

Five star coffee in mild afternoon sun.

Bars grace the decks as is essential on a cruise ship. There are two, three or four sunbathing decks with wind shelter, one with a glass roof and the smell of warm chlorine in the air mingled with the shouts and squeaks of kids and teenagers. One of the Jacuzzis is not monopolized by the teens.

NIGHT

At sea. Deep swishes of sound, deep water, strong wind, open sea. Gusts of wind. The boat rocks, especially up here on the higher levels.

This was the captain’s cocktail party and gala dinner.

So we dressed up.

What a nice evening.  Aleah, looking so exotic in long spotted muslin gloves, gauzy black dress, 20s strings of black beads, high heels and her hair in a long plait with a gauzy black rose at the back. Me in the little black dress /from H&M  with its nice cross over neckline, Zoul jacket, black tights over lace stockings. And my white hair of course breaking the blackness.

The cocktail party was after the dinner for our session – for the late diners it was vice versa. You got a glass of champagne and the chance to be photographed with the captain. Ran into the Swedes from our table – 3 couples. The man who sat opposite us and had so little chance to chat with us, couldn’t resist approaching – tell me your story.

Couples began dancing, but we continued our mission of information fact finding: Back to the jewellery shop to speak to our new Turkish friend. What was the name of the square in Izmir? We asked.

We joked that he was our travel agent, and he told us a funny story. A woman came up to him to ask him “Where are we now?”

“On the open sea,” he said.

“ No exactly where …I must know,” she insisted.

He went off the captain and came back with a map for her to show where the boat was. “Oh,” she said. She had been asking reception for days. “But you in the jewellery shop know. Amazing…”

Finally he remembered the name of the square in the old town. Konak square, and the name of market Kemeralti bazaar. We were so touched at all his trying.

He is a blue-eyed Turk with naturally bouffant wavy hair and pale skin. Yes I know he says … I do not look like a Turkish man…strange. The usual joke about “what was your mother doing?” did not seem fitting for someone who was most probably a Muslim.

So here we are at close to midnight back in our cabin. It will be Pelle’s 50th tomorrow.


Day 2 – Bari

April 25, 2010 in ITALY,Mediterranean | Comments (0)

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We could disembark at 10am. Confusion at the port. We had decided not to do a tour and asked all in sundry the way out, the way to go.

Hard to find out how far we would have to walk – of course the tour people don’t have time or inclination to tell you that.

In fact it was a very short way. But intimidated by intimations of distance, we were easy prey to a jolly little tourist train parked nearby,  which would circle the town. You were to get half an hour at three stops.  Began a conversation with a nice Italian woman from northern Italy – me no Italian – she no English, helped by  French man.  Fun.  Adventure.

We met a world full of contrasts. Pockets of cruise passengers in little groups here and there. But otherwise the life of Bari on a Sunday came vividly to us. It was the best possible day to visit Bari after all…

Firstly the Catholic Church. Full of the magic of incense. Devotees sitting on the pews in the magnificent basilica. A little embarrassing to invade as a tourist, yet immensely moving to watch.  A sermon was in process by soft spoken priest. Spoke as if to himself or to God. Down in the vaults mass was in swing with rich harmony. In another church in the square, an old woman with scarf beside me sang along in parts, adding to the sounds from the small choir, creating stereo sound in a haunting  mass. I could have cried –  it was so moving…

Walking. Narrow streets with the aroma of washing powder. Sunday is wash day. Washing draped between walls in narrow lanes, over balconies – flapping everywhere. Pasta out to dry too, home made pasta on wooden stands by front doors.

Little square. Piazza. Children children children – bambinos – on tiny bright enameled bikes, cycling round and round while mothers watch through open doors, emitting wafts of the Sunday lunch. Pasta out to dry…

A MATTER OF STARS

In our cabin.

Luxury cruise – and the natural question considering my job is how much luxury?

Aleah and I keep giving stars to things.

Here are a few.

Meet and greet. 3 or 4 stars. Nice smiles, nice bus, but no champagne or fruit juice…. We were very thirsty.

Arrival at the port: As we walked into the huge departure hall Aleah said: this is very Viking Line. A huge hall full of people. Half an hour in the queue perhaps – but at last we came onto the boat. Felt a bit like we were a flock of sheep being herded, suggested A. Three stars. Two?

First meal. Buffet on the 13th floor. Three stars we agreed. Giggle giggle. Kept comparing with the Viking Line.  Giggle –  why compare with Viking Line – we meant Silja Line.

Our cabin small but very nice – normal beds, artwork, and best of all private balcony. That we suggested was four star, as they had forgotten to change the towels.

But then we found the five stars. Coffee and ice cream at a bar on the deck were  as good as you can get on the five continents and seven seas. Finally, after a nice (four star) a la carte dinner and a long day that stretched from Sweden to the Adriatic Sea, we fell asleep to the  sound of the  sea –  more than five stars. What else do you call the element of life? Nurturing  SOOTHING … calming …even in the middle of the night.


CRUISING THE MED WITH MSC

April 24, 2010 in SWEDEN | Comments (0)

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Eight days and seven nights afloat or exploring Mediterranean towns in four countries,  in a vast white ship called MSC Magnifica . Gleaming white, brand new queen of a ship with a vast interior to explore, loaded with features, dripping with décor, patterns and textures; pools, bars, restaurants, shops, gym, spa, casino, cinema and a theatre that holds 1500 people. Towering up to the 13th floor, the boat offers 1500 cabins most with balconies.

Join us day by day…