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BILL MORRIS MAZATLAN Photo Album

KEN GIBSON Mediterranean Cruise

 

TRAVEL TRIPS PHOTO ALBUM by Bill Morris
Posted Dec 22nd, 2018.
I hope you enjoy this new "less words" format for vacation photos.  CBC vacationers are welcome to send their recent pictures without the need for a long story!


MAZATLAN

After 15 years of taking winter vacations in Puerto Vallarta, we decided to check out a new vacation spot. PV has become a very popular destination for travellers from Canada, the US and Europe. With this popularity comes crowding and rising prices.
We chose the Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay in Nuevo Mazatlan, the sister hotel of Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan in the hotel zone. The Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan, although closer to town with a better beach, was under major renovation. The trip was less costly and less crowded than a similar trip to PV .

Statistics suggest that Mazatlan is about 3 deg cooler on average and gets a little over half the rainfall that PV gets. Mazatlan is also about twice the size of PV but has way fewer restaurants and cafes.and is about 11% less costly to live in. One big difference is PV has about 3 times as many flights from Canada as does Mazatlan. Mazatlan is very popular with snowbirds from Canada.

Below are some of the photos from our November trip.

Click HERE.

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TRAVEL TRIPS by Ken Gibson
Posted November 18 2018

MEDITERRANEAN CRUISE 2001

                                

Here's an invitation to come along with us down Memory Lane on a Mediterranean Cruise on the Golden Princess in September 2001, starting in Barcelona, Spain with stops at Monte Carlo (Monaco), Livorno (for Florence, Italy), Naples (for Pompeii), Venice, Athens (Greece), Kusadasi (for Ephesus, Turkey) and ending in Istanbul with 2 days at sea in between. "We" (photo below) are left to right Ken Gibson, Annie Guimaraens, Maggie Davis, Annie's friend Wendy Boden, and Bruce McDonald. What a motley crew!

                      

Following our Air Canada flights from Vancouver to London (8 hrs 57min) and then on to Barcelona via British Midlands (2 hours), Bruce and I decided to spend 3 nights in the Spanish sea port partly to relax after the long flight and mostly to explore Barcelona, the capital of the Spanish Catalunya region. As you know, Catalunya has been engaged for years in an ongoing struggle for more autonomy in Spain. We were booked at the Hotel Sant Augusti while Maggie, Annie and Wendy stayed at the Hostal R Ramos, both close to the famed shopping district of Las Ramblas, a 1.5 km boulevard, popular for its myriad of stalls and markets. Here we probably bought the booze to take on board and consume in our cabins.

The formost tourist attraction in Barcelona is La Sagrada Famelia (Expiatory of the Holy Family), the extraordinary unique "temple" created by 31 year old eccentric architect genius and Catalan Modernista, Antoni Gaudi, with building started in 1882, and here in 2001, on and off, it is still not even half built! It is exclusively financed by private donations. The 4 skyscraping towers were designed to hold tubular bells, capable of playing complex music at great volume! When asked why he lavished so much care on the top of the spires which no one would ever see up close, Gaudi said "The angels will see them." George Orwell called it "one of the most hideous buildings in the world" whereas Papal Nuncio told Gaudi "Maestro, you are the Dante of architecture." On the fashionable Passeig de Gracia, inventive Catalan artists the Modernistas (a version of Art Noveau) were trying to create a specifically Catalan architecture, looking back to the medieval Golden Age. Here you'll find Gaudi's finest secular building Casa Mila built 1909 -11. Notice each building has different architecture ... absolutely stunning.

Our first stop was in sun-drenched Monte Carlo in the Principality of Monaco, playground of the Rich and Famous, when we were taken in tenders off the ship to shore and later brought back on board by 6:30pm. Did you know that Monegasques don't pay taxes as all revenue comes from tourism and gambling? Bruce and I split from the ladies and checked out the casino, the Royal Palace and city centre before taking a local bus up to the pretty medieval village of Eze. Bruce has always been a lover of palm trees, hence this photo. The next day we docked at Livorno, Italy, took the shuttle into town and then I took the train ride of 90 minutes to Firenze (Florence), the cultural capital of Italy. That left me only 2 hours to dash around with my camera and who should I pass but Annie and Wendy, licking ice creams cones while sheltering from the drizzle! It's difficult to choose which photo best represents this picturesque ancient city and I decided on the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio ("Old Palace"completed in 1322) which houses outdoor magnificent copies of Michelangelo's David (set up in 1504) and Bandinelli's Hercules and Casus (1534). There is almost too much choice to photograph when walking around historical Florence with its marbled architecture and with its streets permanently crowded with tourists. I've never ever had time enough to line up to go indoors to explore.

On September 5th we docked at 6:30 am in Naples, described as "chaotic and crime infested, racked by politicians, poverty and inefficiency," but also the place where family, food and religion reign supreme. It was founded by the Greeks in 1000 BC, and though there are old buildings to explore, my interest was in heading to the ruins of Pompeii which fell victim on early morning August 24th 79 AD to Mount Vesuvius' eruption, raining dust, stones and lava on the countryside. Pompeii was buried within hours, many of its inhabitants killed by falling rock and asphyxiating gases. In nearby Herculaneum, the town suffered from superheated mud. That evening, the volcano's internal walls disintegrated, sending further torrents of ash over the town. Only two days later did a little light return to the region. Body casts formed by hollows left in the hardened tufa by decayed corpses depict their final moments of horror. Among the surviving buildings, the remarkable 20,000 seat Anti teatro, built in 80 BC, is Italy's oldest surviving amphitheatre.

We had our first full day at sea on Thursday September 6th.when we explored the variety of offerings aboard. Each day we would receive a daily guide to Cruise activities, including "Entertainment Tonight" with lists of entertainers, what's on at the Princess Theatre, Explorer's Lounge, Vista Lounge, Skywalkers Nightclub, Atlantis Casino, Bar News and Information, Lotus Health and Beauty Spar, Today's Big Screen Movie, Boutique's on Board, and the list is endless. And of course there are details of the cruise and upcoming locations. Then there are the daily three delectable calorie-laden meals as well as other locations as to where to snack. Booze is expensive on board and we'd have drinks in the cabins especially prior to dinner.

I never get tired of wandering through bewitching Venice and on Friday September 7th we sailed into Venezia, and what an impressive entry it is as we watched from on board while the ship docked at mid-day. This was the only city where the ship stayed docked till the following day, thereby giving us an evening and night to explore. And where we docked was just a 5 minute walk to St. Mark's Square, the heart of Venice with the Basilica Di San Marco. Venetians stole the body of St. Mark the Evangelist from Egypt in 828AD and brought it to the Doge who then built the Basilica for it. St. Mark's officially became Venice's Cathedral in 1807. Up above the entrance in the centre of the building you'll see the Quadriga. The 4 gilded bronze horses were stolen from the Hippodrome in 1204 when Constantinople (Istanbul) was sacked during the 4th crusade. Napoleon had them moved to Paris in 1797 but they were returned after the fall of the French Empire. These are copies and the originals may be seen in the basilica's museum.

Anyone visiting Venice doubtless will have their photo taken with the Ponte dei Sospiri in the background. We know it as the Bridge of Sighs which connects the Doge's palace with the prison on the right. The two tiered Bridge's most famous person to cross from the Palazzio Ducale to the cells of the Palazzo dei Prigioni was Giacomo Casanova "for affront to religion and common decency" and from which he eventually escaped. Also anyone visiting Venice will definitely travel down "the finest street in the world with the finest houses," the Canale Grande, running 3.5 kms through the city, with a depth of about 6m and width ranging from 40m to 100m. Annie,Wendy and I took the traghetto all the way up the Grand Canal and back ... awesome. We sailed past over 100 palazzi (mansions) dating from the 12th to the 18th century and under 3 bridges, the best known being the Rialto Bridge. Completed in 1592, the architect sank 6000 pylons to build the span. When the others had gone back to the ship after dinner, Annie and I wandered around St. Mark's Square, listening to the music of numerous groups playing light jazz at the outdoor restaurants under a full moon. Magical! The ship departed at 1pm and we were at sea for the next day and a half. None of us visited the casino. We were lucky with the weather throughout the cruise.

The next port of call on September 10th was at Piraeus, Greece, arriving at 9:30 am and we disembarked and took the train to Athens. On arrival we headed for the Acropolis, the heart of Athens and the site of the Parthenon, the Propylea, Temple of Athens, Nike and the Erectheion. The hilltop site drew some of Greece's earliest Neolithic settlers. By 1400 BC, the Acropolis had become the most powerful Mycenaean city. People actually lived on the Acropolis till the late 6th century BC, but by 510 BC it was declared to be "the Province of the Gods." Pericles built it as the city of temples and dedicated it to the cult of goddess Athena. In 1687 the attacking Turks caused gunpowder to explode, creating massive fires. Currently the menace is acid rain which is dissolving the marble on which the monuments are built. The Plaka is the Turkish quarter of Athens and a mecca for tourists shopping. Here Wendy, Annie and Bruce are snacking before going shopping! The ship left at 7:45pm bound for Turkey.

We were arriving in Kusadasi, Turkey at 7am and leaving again at 5pm and in between we were scheduled to visit Ephesus, one of the most fascinating archeological sites and once the capital of Asia Minor. This was also our last stop before Istanbul where we would finally disembark. This was the second time I had been to Ephesus and it was just as awe inspiring as it was the first time. It is without question the best preserved classical city on the Mediterranean. Ethesians believed Amazon Queen Ephesia founded the city of which at present only 4 to 5% has been excavated successfully! Extraordinarily well preserved are the Great Theatre and the Celsus Library, the grandest building dating back to 110 AD and which housed 12,000 scrolls in niches around its walls. Less grand and of less interest is where I'm sitting. It's the public toilet 'for men only' where the marble was warmed by slaves who sat before their masters arrived!

This was 9/11 and as we boarded after touring Ephesus, I noticed an unusual amount of passengers staring at the ship's monitors, and out of curiosity I looked and wondered why they would be watching what seemed like a disaster movie. I was shocked to be told that this was in actuality a horrendous attack by terrorists on the World Trade Centre in New York which was covered in smoke and flames. We stayed glued to the TV sets all evening.

                                                    

Finally on Wednesday September 12th, we reached Istanbul at 12:30pm, looked around the city and returning to the ship for a final dinner before disembarking the following morning and heading for our hotel. A Greek colonizer named Byzas recognized the possibilities of a trading centre at the narrowest crossing point between Europe and Asia and he founded his town, Byzantium. Then it was renamed Constantinople in 330 AD by Emperor Constantine and in 1453 Mehmet 11 renamed it Istanbul, the capital of the mighty Ottoman Empire. Of course we had to see all the historical sites including the stunning Mosque of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the Imperial Treasury (with an 86 carat diamond), and even the mini-city Covered Market of the Grand Bazaar, also called the Spice Bazaar, built in the 1660s and locked at night. It sells "genuine fake watches" which I was tempted to buy! We stayed for three nights at the Hotel Turkoman in the Old City. In view of the events of Black Tuesday 9/11, we were concerned about our British Airways flights back to London and were anxious to leave in case the troubles escalated and airlines cancelled flights as they had with flights into the USA.
Overall this had been a perfect cruise, due largely to the interesting ports of call and congenial friends, and Bruce has reminded me unnecessarily of how much and how many times I enjoyed my meals! We spent the next 11 days relaxing at Johnings, my brother's thatched country cottage in Woolstone, Oxfordshire before our return to Vancouver on September 26th. In closing, I would highly recommend the Mediterranean cruise to anyone looking for an initial introduction and exploration of Europe.  I love History as you can tell!

                                      

      


PLEASE CLICK ON PICTURES BELOW TO ENLARGE AND THEN SCROLL THROUGH THEM WITH THE ARROWS.

 For those unfamiliar with Mazatlan, this map shows some of the locations referred to in the photos below.

For those unfamiliar with Mazatlan, this map shows some of the locations referred to in the photos below.

Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay Resort where we stayed. 20 acres and 378 rooms. Lots of safe walking at night, large clean rooms, many pools and good restaurant and buffet

Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay Resort where we stayed. 20 acres and 378 rooms. Lots of safe walking at night, large clean rooms, many pools and good restaurant and buffet

 Late November and the Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay was already prepared for Christmas.

Late November and the Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay was already prepared for Christmas.


 Looking south from the northern tip of hotel row. The large white hotel on the left is the RIU, the second major resort heading south.

Looking south from the northern tip of hotel row. The large white hotel on the left is the RIU, the second major resort heading south.

 Generally the beaches were flat and easy to walk on. This is in front of the Pueblo Bonito.

Generally the beaches were flat and easy to walk on. This is in front of the Pueblo Bonito.

The RIU Hotel quite affordable for a major resort.

The RIU Hotel quite affordable for a major resort.


 The Peublo Bonito, sister hotel to the Emerald Bay, was under construction and that is why we stayed at the sister hotel.

The Peublo Bonito, sister hotel to the Emerald Bay, was under construction and that is why we stayed at the sister hotel.

 Sun set at the Pueblo Bonito.

Sun set at the Pueblo Bonito.

 Local bar with many Canadians watching the Grey  Cup.

Local bar with many Canadians watching the Grey Cup.


Pulmonias ...an open air taxi. Taxis there are not metered and you barter for the fare. There are normal closed taxis but we thought we would try one of these. A very rough smelly ride is what you get so we chose regular taxis after this ride.

Pulmonias ...an open air taxi. Taxis there are not metered and you barter for the fare. There are normal closed taxis but we thought we would try one of these. A very rough smelly ride is what you get so we chose regular taxis after this ride.

 The Malacon walkway. It was still partially closed at this point after major renovations.

The Malacon walkway. It was still partially closed at this point after major renovations.

 The Malacon from street level. Still very quiet because of the partial closure still in effect.

The Malacon from street level. Still very quiet because of the partial closure still in effect.


 Hotel Freeman rooftop deck and bar/cafe. Great view of the "Old Town" from here.

Hotel Freeman rooftop deck and bar/cafe. Great view of the "Old Town" from here.

 Menu (in peso) for the rooftop bar. (sorry, a bit hard to read)

Menu (in peso) for the rooftop bar. (sorry, a bit hard to read)

 Old Town.

Old Town.


 Malacon and Old Town

Malacon and Old Town

 Old Town

Old Town

Market near Machado Plaza

Market near Machado Plaza


Market near Machado Plaza.

Market near Machado Plaza.

Restaurant in Machado Plaza

Restaurant in Machado Plaza

View from the room. Yes there is an ocean view but hard to tell with the trees.

View from the room. Yes there is an ocean view but hard to tell with the trees.


Large rooms and much larger 1 bedrooms also available

Large rooms and much larger 1 bedrooms also available

We had a kitchenette but being an all inclusive, we only used the fridge to keep water cool.

We had a kitchenette but being an all inclusive, we only used the fridge to keep water cool.