07/08/12: New Me

I’ve been back for a while now. I still haven’t typed up all my entries, but they’re written. Looking back, I feel older. Maybe I was this age before, I just didn’t notice until I let go of my past and began enjoying my present and anticipating my future. I know I’m not the most adventurous person. In fact, I’m not very adventurous at all, I’m a dreamer. This trip gave me the courage to keep dreaming, but to also live those dreams. Now, my sense of adventure involves people, so living my dreams would entail getting lost in a city, finding a local, getting unlost, and doing it all over again. I want to meet as many strangers as I can. I don’t want to climb a mountain or kayak on a river, I want to sit in a cafe someplace new and talk to someone new. I want to be in a place long enough that it’s not new any longer. And then I want to move on. I want every one and every thing to be new because I am new. I am brave, strong, and independent and I’m ready to show myself and those doubters who’s boss.

Hint:
It’s me.

06/07/12: Venice, Italy

Sitting at breakfast, it was hard to believe our trip was coming to an end. Though we had only spent 10 days together, it felt like a lifetime. After finishing our breakfast, we said our last goodbyes and took the last of our pictures before going our separate ways to find taxis.

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Since we were in Venice, we booked water taxis to take us from the ship to our hotel and from our hotel to the airport. While we were waiting for our taxi, I thought I had left my small jewellery box on the ship. It took some distressed eyes and a bit of panic for the security men to call the guy that spoke the most English. Even then, it was tough to explain that I had a boarding pass while I was in Turkey and I just got off the ship. Maizie and the Doctor were leaving, so they helped and the man that spoke English took my passport to the ship to verify I could come back onto the ship. Luckily, they let me back on. I ran through and checked my room and, unable to find anything, I hoped my box was buried deep within my suitcase (it was). After that misadventure, we got in our water taxi and went to the hotel. We were too early to check in, so we put our stuff in the office before heading out to walk around. Right outside the hotel, my sandal broke, so I had to go change shoes (though I would’ve rather gone barefoot) before we finally set off. We started by walking over to the Grand Canal where we took a touristy gondola over to the market. We got some cherries, nectarines, and peppers before continuing our walk.

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We found a place to sit and munch while gramma and Lea decided what to do next. We decided to take the water bus to the stop near our hotel and get lunch before checking in. I had potato noodles for lunch (they were good) and declined the wine. After lunch, we check in to our hotel and had a half-hour siesta before deciding to go over to Piazza San Marco. We went up to the top of the clock tower before trying to go into St Mark’s Basilic, but that was closed.

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In place of that, we went to the Museo Correr and ended up seeing the Klimt exhibit instead of the Museo Correr. It was still neat to see the exhibit on the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt and his various artsy friends. After the museum, we stopped for milkshakes and coffee before stumbling upon an opera. We had an elaborate snack before going to the opera concert. It wasn’t a fancy opera, but it was still incredible.

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After the concert, we got real dinner by the hotel, did some last-minute shopping, had a cup of gelato, and went to bed. We had to be ready to get up at 4a the next morning.


Interested in more photos? You can see all of them from Summer 2012 and from Italy at my Flickr page!

06/06/12: Sibenik, Croatia

Instead of taking the excursion offered by the ship, we decided to take a taxi to the Krka National Park. The park had a river running through it and a few waterfalls to see, so we walked along the footpath. The footpath was more like a narrow (but not too narrow) wooden bridge that spread across the entire park. There were a lot of tour groups but (with the exception of our shipmates, who were returning), we were all going in the same direction. Since we were all going the same way, we managed to stay well in between the large tour groups, so we weren’t overcrowded by them. The river and the trees were beautiful, but the best part was the lack of biting bugs.

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Once we were nearly through, Gillian found a cave that she went into (I stood on solid ground and took the pictures).

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While we were standing there, we ran into the Australian family, but they went on ahead of us. We left the cave area and climbed a lot of steps to a flat look-out area. The Australian family was sitting up there, so the two girls had to show me the view. Naturally, when I started taking pictures, they wanted to, so I let them. After we finished climbing the stairs to get back to where we started, we met up with our taxi driver to go back to port. Once again, we lucked out with taxi drivers because this one took us to a lookout that looked over all of Šibenik.

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Once we were back on board, we started to get ready for the captain’s send-off cocktail and our last dinner on the ship. I went over to talk to Christiane before the presentation of the crew and, once the conversation was no longer in English, I went to sit with the Australian family. During the presentation, I ended up with two little girls in my lap, so clapping was interesting (Billie “helped” me clap). After the crew presentation, I went over to talk to Maizie. Together, we realized we were supposed to be on the deck, so we joined hands and ducked through the crew. After the captain’s speech and the compulsory champagne (which I avoided), we went down to dinner and got pictures with the staff before everyone else came down.

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At dinner, we four sat with Roger and Steven and his family. When Maizie came down, we added an extra chair to the “English-Speaking Table” for her.

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After dinner, we had some cocktails (I had grapefruit juice) and chatted before everyone (except, of course, Steven, Ben, and I) went to bed. The three of us sat up and chatted while I did some homework. After such a long day (and with the thought of our early rising in the morning), we went to bed around midnight.


Interested in more photos? You can see all of them from Summer 2012 and from Croatia at my Flickr page!

06/05/12: Hvar and Korcula, Croatia

We started out quite early for Hvar (the “H” sounds like “K” – Kvar), so the town was quiet when we got off the Zodiacs.

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While Lea and gramma tried to figure out where we were on the map, Gillian and I went into a cute little shop that had a lot of neat things and handmade jewelry. I wish I had gotten something from that shop before we left, it was really neat. After we left the shop, we went over to the famous church and looked at all the relics that were in it. After we left the church, we wanted to walk up to the fortress, but it was a one hour walk both ways and we only had two hours left. Instead, we walked around and stopped in as many shops as we could (not many). We then walked to a restaurant that had an aquarium in the floor; we were going to have tea there, but they weren’t open yet so we went next door. After tea, we got back on the ship and had lunch on our way to Korčula.

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Korčula wasn’t much bigger than Hvar, but there was a strip of shops. We walked around Korčula for a while before we got back on the ship. We really didn’t do much in either town because there wasn’t really much to do. It was a nice break from hurrying from place to place, though.

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The night’s entertainment consisted of the Liars Game where one person tells the truth and the other two tell a lie and the audience has to ask questions to figure out which story is true. It was tough for us English speakers to play because the other players were French, but I sat next to Christiane who would translate if Jacques forgot. Even though I didn’t know what was going on a lot of the time, it was still fun sitting next to Christiane.


Interested in more photos? You can see all of them from Summer 2012 and from Croatia at my Flickr page!

06/04/12: Dubrovnik, Croatia

Today we went back an hour and didn’t dock until late, so we all got to sleep in. They were intending to anchor outside Dubrovnik’s Old Town, but the weather was too bad for the Zodiacs to make it safely. I like docking a lot better than taking the Zodiacs because we can just get on and off without having to wait for the Zodiacs to come pick us up. However, we did have to wait for the bus to take us to the Old Town. When we were there, there were about 3 huge cruise ships in port, so the Old Town was crowded. We walked around and did some shopping (I found a bookstore that had the Harry Potter books in Croatian, so I got one) before we got back on the ship for lunch.

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After lunch, I checked on my class and went to talk to Simon, the shipmate that checks everyone in to the ship. After everyone woke up from their naps, we went back into Old Town with Roger. We walked over to the base of the mountain where we got into the gondola that took us up the mountain on a wire. The view from the top was incredible – we could see the sea and all of Old Town.

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After we went back down (22 or more per car), we went up and walked around the wall that surrounds the Old Town. The wall was about a mile long and had a lot of stairs, some that took us up into watch towers. After we walked around the wall, we were all ready to eat; we found a restaurant with wifi, so we checked in with our families while we ate.

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After dinner, we stopped and got crepes because we were missing them on the ship. I went off on my own to see if I could find a bracelet to add to my collection (I couldn’t) before arriving back at the table just in time to leave. We took a taxi almost back to the ship, but the taxi wouldn’t take us past the security since there were five of us in the four seats. Thankfully, it was a nice night. We got back on the ship in time for disco night. Since disco came too late for the majority of the passengers and too early for Ben, Steven, and I, not many people were dancing. When we started to disembark, Jean-Marc, a woman that spoke no English, and I watched the shipmates get ready. After we were on our way, I talked to Christiane, Jean-Marc, and an old Frenchman and his Brazilian trophy wife before going up on the pool deck where Steven, Gillian, and Ben were talking. The ship was on really rough water, so when the boys went back downstairs, Gillian and I went to bed.


Interested in more photos? You can see all of them from Summer 2012 and from Croatia at my Flickr page!

06/03/12: Paraga, Greece

We got up early this morning, Gillian and I. Though we didn’t get up as early as Lea and Gramma. We had breakfast before donning our swimsuits to go to the rafting on the Acheron River. We went from Zodiac to shore, shore to bus, bus to Acheron. The older of the Australian girls (Emily, 7) sat with me on the way up; we looked for our ship (but didn’t see it) and various animals (we saw cats, sheep, cows, and goats). Once off the bus, we started walking towards the river. According to the mythology, the river Acheron is where the entrance to the Underworld is, though it was further down than we were. Once we got to the river, we took off our shoes and waded in. The water was so cold it hurt my ankles and calves. I hung back from the more adventurous crowd (I stuck to the shore instead of going all the way in), but Jacques was nice enough (or obliged) to hang back a bit with me. I did manage to summon up the courage to cross the current that ran perpendicular to how I was walking, though I bet I was the slowest. We waded around and took a few pictures before heading back to where we came from so we could get on the rafts to go down the river.

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I was in the front of the raft next to the Australian grandma; Ben and Jacques were behind us with the mom and two girls in the back. Steven said their raft nearly flipped but, thankfully, because I was in a raft with the pregnant woman and the two kids, our ride was much smoother and more suited to picture-taking. The rafting was “heaps” of fun, as Emily described.

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After we made it down, we sat outside and had squares of Spanakopita (finally!). I was extremely glad I got to eat some Spanakopita before leaving Greece. After our extra half-hour of rest, we returned to the bus to return to Parga. Back in Parga, Gillian and I walked through some of the little shops before going to dip our toes in the water at the beach.

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I talked to the shipmate that was stuck on shore waiting for the Zodiac for a bit; I’m sure he gets bored just hanging around waiting for us. Once we got back to the boat, I went from place to place reading before having high tea with gramma, Lea, Gillian, and Roger. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve mentioned Roger. If I have, be patient; he’s traveling by himself as a photographer, though his wife is going to meet him in Barcelona for vacation. He’s from Seattle and he goes on cruises and takes pictures to sell to the company.

After high tea, I hung around the hip waiting for dinner. Dinner was a grand affair (of course), then we returned to the lounge for cocktails before going to bed.

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Interested in more photos? You can see all of them from Summer 2012 and from Greece at my Flickr page!

06/02/12: Corinth Canal and Itea, Greece

Today, we opted to try to find our own way up to the ruins of Delphi. Thankfully, we didn’t depart from the ship until afternoon, so I go up early enough to see us go through the Corinth Canal and to have breakfast before I went back to sleep for a couple of hours. The Corinth Canal was cool; it was a very narrow canal with very steep rock walls on either side of it. While I was taking pictures of it, one of the wait staff (Ron) took a picture of me before he insisted I take a picture with Reynaldo who then insisted I take a picture with Ron. Just after that, Gillian came back, so Reynaldo took a picture of the two of us before taking one of just Gillian.

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After I got back out of bed, I showered and got ready for the day just in time for lunch. After lunch, I read my book while waiting to hear what we were going to do once we were off the ship; if we were going up to the ruins, I would need to change my shoes, if we weren’t, I wouldn’t. We did manage to find a taxi that would take us up to Delphi, so I went to change my shoes before we set off. Once we got to the site, we were told that the area between the theatre and the stadium would close in twenty minutes, so if we wanted to see the stadium, we would have to hurry. And hurry we did. Gillian and I booked it up the mountain so we could make it to the stadium before it closed. We blew past all the other sites (and the tour group from our ship) in an effort to make it up to the stadium. Once there, we saw that we probably could have made it by walking, but we wouldn’t have felt so accomplished. Alas, we couldn’t go down into the stadium, so we took pictures from the top and had a nice (presumably German) man take our picture.

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Once we had enjoyed the breeze, caught our breath, and marveled at the view, we started back down the mountain. This time, we stopped and admired the archeology on the way. We managed to find gramma and Lea again, so we walked down together.

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It’s amazing to think how old everything that’s left is; everything that we’ve seen on Delos and at Delphi was built before America was even discovered. Our history seems like such a long time, but it’s so short compared to everyone else’s. Once we were back at the bottom, we found our taxi driver and waited for him to wait for us. We mutually waited for about thirty minutes before we realized he was ready when we were. On our way back to the dock, he pulled into this big area that over-looked the mountains and the groves and the sea.

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He told us, in very broken English, that our shipmates wouldn’t see the same thing because they just got back on the bus and went straight back. Once back on the ship, we sat out by the pool before getting ready for dinner. After our four-course dinner (which was cut off before tea so we could see the Europa bridge), the night’s entertainment was dancing. I pretty much danced the night away. I started by teaching the two little Australian girls (Emily is 7 and Billie is 4) how to disco and do the sprinkler. Then I and a bunch of other passengers did the Twist (and then the Twist Again). I think after that, Jean-Marc danced with me and then I learned to Madison with Christiane. Once I finally got the hang of the Madison, I kept running into the piano before the song ended. Then I danced with Jean-Marc again before everyone except Steven, Jacques (the very-cute, very-French host), one French woman, and I went to bed. We kept dancing until 11:30p or so before we went to bed, too.

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Interested in more photos? You can see all of them from Summer 2012 and from Greece at my Flickr page!

06/01/12: Delos and Mykonos, Greece

This time, we managed to sign up for the ruin tour on time, so we had breakfast on the ship before going over to Delos via Zodiac. Zodiacs are inflatable boats with engines that take us from the ship to port when the ship can’t just go itself.

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On the Zodiac to Delos, we were surprised at how calm and clear the water was. Even though I was sitting on the side of it, I managed to take some nice pictures of Greece.

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The houses are all white with colored doors, so when they’re crowded together on an inhabited island, it’s really beautiful. Delos island, however, is uninhabited, so it’s dotted with ruins instead of houses. Delos was considered a sacred island, so no one could be buried or give birth on the island. It’s the birthplace of Artemis and Apollo by the mortal Leta; since the children were the children of Zeus, Hera made the birth very difficult. Once bother were born, a palm tree sprang up to signify that they were Gods. Even though it was a sacred island, Delos was still an island with a lot of merchants and traders that used it as a port. It was amazing to think that the house frame that is now ruins was built before 0 BCE and is still standing.

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After the tour, we walked back to the port and took the Zodiacs back to the ship. There, we had lunch and sat outside on the pool deck before we arrived in Mykonos. Unlike Delos, Mykonos is very touristy and very inhabited. We didn’t sign up for any tour of Mykonos, so we just walked around the town. Mykonos was like a real-life maze, every turn we took combined with every other turn continuously brought us back to the road we started on.

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We did manage to wander our way up to a windmill past some shopping before wandering up to another windmill. When I say ip, I mean up. There were so many stairs to climb to get to the windmills.

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When we wandered back down, we ended up right back where we started. We decided to take a break for some cold refreshments before trying to find the cathedral and the maritime museum. After wandering around, we found the folklore museum and the cathedral.

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Once we left the cathedral, we wandered some more until we found more windmills that were all right next to each other. We got some goofy pictures before heading back down the island for dinner. We ended up back on the same street at a restaurant that faced the main thoroughfare and the water. I tried to get Spanakopita, but they weren’t serving it anymore. I’m not sure what I ended up with, but it was some sort of meat alternative that was very good. After dinner, we still had an hour and a half before the 9:30p (and final) Zodiac. Once back on the ship, I took a hot shower to scald my sunburn before going to the lobby to watch some karaoke. Gillian only sang one song and Steven sang two, so just about every other song was in French. After such a sun- and hike-filled day, I went to bed.


Interested in more photos? You can see all of them from Summer 2012 and from Greece at my Flickr page!

05/31/12: Dikili, Turkey

Today we started with breakfast on the ship before going to a lot of presentations (or what felt like a lot). The first presentation was about the excursions that are hosted by the ship’s company followed by a long explanation of navigation and its history by the captain.

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Cool melon animals for breakfast!

After that, we had a little bit of time before we got off at Dikili. The town was a lot smaller than Istanbul and a lot less English-speaking. Since we didn’t sign up for the ship’s tour of the ruins, we tried to find our own. Apparently, no one speaks English in Dikili. Lucky for us, one of the young men outside a shop had quick access to an online translator, so he was able to tell us that it’s too early in the year for tours. With that, we wanted to find a way to go up to them anyways, so gramma and Lea went back to the ship to get the information about the ruins while Gillian and I stayed in the town and waited. The two of us walked through a very tiny flea market before going to people-watch in a little square. After ten or fifteen minutes, gramma and Lea came back and we decided to just walk around the town and see what we see.

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He was very proud of his fish

It was a very quiet town that reminded me a lot of Wilmington. The slow, beach atmosphere combined with the smell of salt water gives the impression that the beach is just waiting for tourists. After we wandered around and stopped in a shop, we went to get our last cup of Turkish tea before heading back to the ship.

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Goodbye Turkey, goodbye tiny, delicious tea! 🙁

During our tea break, Gillian wanted to order some baklava, but they didn’t have any. The waiter, who spoke almost no English, tried to point out an alternative. The description in English he pointed out translated as “mushroom oven”, so we got it. Our mushroom oven ended up being a creamy, peanut-butter dish. It was almost like peanut butter Fluff (melted marshmallow) heated up and served.

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The four of us in front of the ship – Le Levant

After we got back on the ship, Gillian took a nap while I worked on Things before the Captain’s welcome cocktail at 7:30p. We got nice and dressed up for it and then had dinner at 8p. It was a set seafood-based menu starting with Lobster bisque followed by salmon slices in a sauce; next was the scallops and prawns followed by the main beef course (which I substituted salmon in). Last, but not least, was chocolate dessert followed by tea. (Lobster bisque: no; salmon slices in sauce: no; scallops: NO!; prawns: maybe sometimes.) After dessert, we went to the lounge to play guess that song (or Name that Tune, depending). I didn’t know any of the French or English tunes, but one lady on my team did, so we still won. The people that work on the ship are really nice. The maîtres’ is always trying to get me to eat and he always stops to chat and make sure we like the food. The wait staff are very hardworking, but they remember our names and always talk to us if we talk to them. It’s a bit tough sometimes to talk to some of the other patrons because we don’t speak French and no one will sit with us because they’re intimidated to try their English. We’ve had a few brave souls venture to our American table, but not many. Tomorrow: Greece.


Interested in more photos? You can see all of them from Summer 2012 and from Turkey at my Flickr page!

05/30/12: Istanbul, Turkey

After waking up later than we anticipated, we packed up our stuff and checked out of the hotel before going over to the Topkapi Palace Museum (Topkapi Sarayi Müsei). On the way there, we stopped outside the Hagia Sophia (but decided not to go in) and a clothes shop (which we did go in). I found a pair of Turkish pants that I liked, but I could only get them down to 30 Turkish Lira from 55 (which was all my money), so we left the shop empty handed. We finally made it in to the Palace Museum after the shop detour and a little confusion regarding tickets.

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The Palace Museum
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The Palace Museum

The parts we could see were very intricate and surprisingly intact. There were a couple of places where there was construction, so we walked through some plywood barriers. Then we stood in a very long line, but we didn’t know what it was for. As Gillian pointed out: if it was boring, there wouldn’t be such a long line! The line turned out to lead to the treasury rooms where a lot of historic treasures (like pendants and writing boxes and thrones) were on display. The security guard kept changing his voice to tell people to keep moving and he managed to be in two of the three treasure rooms. There was a beautiful balcony that overlooked the city and the water, so we struggled to get a spot for a family picture. Luckily, the man we asked to take our picture took it very seriously and managed to not get anyone else in the picture.

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A great photo of all of us!

After we left the palace, we tried to find Derviş again, but couldn’t. Instead, we found a place where a man sold his paintings and a nice tea shop that had a lot of cats. After tea, we tried to find the bazaar so we could get some Turkish tea and a bracelet with the Turkish good luck symbol. We found ourselves waylaid by (another) Turkish man with a carpet shop who told us we were going the wrong way. We weren’t going the wrong way, so we ended up walking a circle just to go past his carpet shop. As we were walking, trying to find the bazaar (still), we found a shop that sold almost every type of luck bracelets, so I got one there. Once done with that, we made our way back to the hotel to leave for the cruise ship. As we were re-packing, I realized I forgot my camera at the shop. Lea and I booked it back to the shop where, very luckily, my camera hadn’t moved. With that crisis averted, we said goodbye to the guy that worked across the way from our hotel before catching the tram to the port. We managed to get on the right tram, but it didn’t go all the way (which we didn’t realize until it turned around one stop before ours), so we had to get off and then on to another tram. Other than Gillian getting her backpack closed in a tram door, we didn’t have much trouble getting all our luggage on the tram. Once we got off (at the right stop), we ran into a very nice Turkish man who brought us straight where we needed to go. As we went, he didn’t take us past his shop (surprise!) and he gave us a slight tour on the way. We managed to get on the ship no problem and had a little bit of time to get unpacked before the mandatory safety meeting. Then we had very little time before dinner.

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Me in our room

At dinner, we sat with a French couple (Christiane and Jean-Marc) and an Israeli lady (Maizie). The French couple were very nice, though Jean-Marc didn’t speak much English. Maizie didn’t talk much, but it was nice to sit with such a variety of people. I’m not really sure what I had for dinner (soup, salad, fish, pastry) because the menu was in French. After dinner, we went out and sat on the couches in the lounge with Christiane and Jean-Marc and another American from Minnesota. Stephen (Steven?) is traveling with his mom and step-dad because he’s been in Albania with the Peace Corps for the last two and a bit years. He said he hadn’t been home yet, but his mom and step-dad met him in Albania before they traveled to Istanbul to get on the ship. We sat there and talked for the length of a drink before heading to bed.

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Gillian and I on the deck saying farewell to Istanbul!

Interested in more photos? You can see all of them from Summer 2012 and from Turkey at my Flickr page!