Easter Cruise: Istanbul and Dubrovnik

  As long as I have been in Spain, I have been wanting to go to Istanbul. Much further east than most of the places I have traveled to, it always held some sort of mysterious feel to it. We went in a tour group from the cruise with a native guide. Thank goodness because I can’t imagine if we had just tried to bumble around on our own (although we are quite capable explorers). The city is way larger, way busier than we could have handled. Even though real tourism season hadn’t yet begun, the Istanbul was covered with tourists. Standing in mile-long lines, we hit the highlights of the Topkapı Palace, the Blue Mosque, and the Hagia Sofia. After a required short stop in a rug store (which were actually incredible), we haggled our way through the Grand Bazaar, walking out with way too many ceramic plates. We got a little carried away, but when I’m happily dipping my chips and dip during football season in my colorful ceramic bowls, I will think of this place. 

Inside the Blue Mosque
Outside the Mosque
Blue Mosque

Hagia Sofia
Inside the Hagia Sofia- built in the 500s!!!

Grand Bazaar

View of Istanbul from our (lucked-in) room balcony

   The most surprising stop of all the trip belongs to Dubrovnik. This city was incredibly beautiful. The historic part is small, but you can walk along the city walls and see amazing views of the coast and the red tile roofs of the town. Walking along the walls, I could not stop taking pictures. I would highly recommend this place to someone looking for a European trip a little off the beaten path. It’s worth the visit.

Welcome to historic Dubrovnik!


Walking along the walls


Don’t you want to be here??


More from the cruise: Bari and Ephesus

  After checking off the Correr Museum, the San Marcos Basilica, and the Doge’s Palace, we made our way to the harbor to board the boat for the week. Sailing on the MSC Divina, we got on early so we could have time to explore all the floors of the boat. (One of my favorite things when cruising!) On another note, whenever my mom and I travel together, usually some really lucky thing happens. This time, we arrived and we informed that the regular room that we had booked was overbooked and they had moved us into a room with a balcony. A balcony!! Nice start to our sailing trip.
  Our first stop was in Bari, a small Italian city. There wasn’t too much to see here; the main sight is the Church of Saint Nicholas (Santa!). The following day we were supposed to go to Olympia, Greece, but unfortunately, the water was too rough to tender in. We spent the day rocking and rolling on some pretty big waves, but hey, there is plenty to do to entertain yourself on these boats so we weren’t bored. Ephesus, Turkey was the following city and we did get to disembark from the ship! We took a guided tour that included the trip to the ruins of Ancient Ephesus and the House of the Virgin Mary, where, according to the Catholic faith, she ascended into Heaven. (Here is a handy link from wikipedia if you want to read more about it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_the_Virgin_Mary) From there we went to the ruins and impressed by the remains of such a developed ancient city! Check out some pics…

Pool on the ship. Too bad it was too cold to use it.

Hanging with the original Santa Clause in Bari, Italy

Basilica of Saint Nicholas, Bari, Italy

Mary’s house in Ephesus, Turkey

Adding a wish to the wall outside Mary’s house

These must be really good quality fake watches. Not every place has them, you know.

City ruins of Ephesus

Nike. Can you believe this carving is thousands of years old?!

What once was a library

With all the carvings and details, these place must have been truly incredible. 

Easter break cruise!

Spring Break Cruise, embarkation city: Venice
   Last week was our Holy Week break from school. For all practical purposes, Euro Spring Break. For my week off, my mom met me in Venice and we went for a cruise in the Mediterranean. We hit the ground running like we always do- mapping out each day, consulting our travel bible (tour guide), walking our guts out, and just plain seeing everything. Traveling with the Dean girls is not for the faint of heart. Aside from all our preparation, Venice is one of the rare places on earth where you actually want to get lost. Each side street is so inviting. It’s an explorer’s heaven. We arrived to our hotel in Santa Elena, by the public water bus. Santa Elena is a little further out from the main drag, but a few stops on the water transport to San Marcos.
  To orient ourselves, we spent a nice hour drinking overpriced coffee in the San Marcos Square and reading up on all the sights. Already booming with tourists, this plaza serves as a primo people watching spot. Saving the museums and churches for the next day, we started hiking in the direction the Rialto Bridge. We didn’t get too far because we discovered shopping. We were drawn into the stores, checking out all the Murano glass items- and we liked it all! Going from store to store comparing prices, we stocked up on Murano glass wine openers, stoppers, and flower vases. By the time we reached the Rialto Bridge, it was already dark. This was partly due to the shopping, and partly due to the fact that I could not manage how remember how to get there from San Marcos from this summer. We traced and retraced our steps over the same handful of streets before finding paper, hand-written signs pointing the way to the bridge. A nice gesture by some poor local tired of being asked the way.
   To conclude our first night of the grand adventure, we found some cute pasta restaurant to have our quintessential Italian meal. Day one, success.