Corfù, Greece

Our last day in Greece was on Friday. We decided to spend the whole day swimming at Palaiokastritsa beach.

This is the road that leads you to the Palaiokastritsa beach.
Palaiokastritsa is located in the north Ionian sea at the northwestern edge of Greece. The cool crystal waters are ideal for swimming and water sports. On most of the beaches, there are taxi boats, sun beds, umbrellas, motorboats, and canoes for rent. We went on a motorboat ride.
The boats take you through small coves as you enjoy the views of turquoise waters and the caves.
Had a wonderful time. This is one of the nicest beaches and definitely one of my favorite places in Greece.
Spent a few hours here swimming in the crystal clear water.
The rocks overlooking the bay were tricky to climb but simply divine.
The Greek islands are very special and I have lovely memories.
Before heading back to the cruise ship, I picked up this greek candy as a souvenir. I had eaten all of it before getting off the boat at our last port in Montenegro. The name “Mantolato“ comes from the Italian word mandorla (that means almond) and besides almonds it contains a lot of honey, a little sugar and egg whites’ meringue.

 

 

Athens, Greece

On Thursday, our cruise ship docked in the port of the city of Athens.

Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece and is one of the world’s oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning over 3,400 years and its earliest human presence starting somewhere between the 11th and 7th millennium BC. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state that emerged in conjunction with the seagoing development of the port of Piraeus.
A myth explaining how Athens acquired its name was well known among ancient Athenians and even became the theme of the sculpture on the West pediment of the Parthenon. The goddess of wisdom, Athena, and the god of the seas, Poseidon had many disagreements and battles between themselves, and one of these was a race to be the Patron God of the city. In an attempt to compel the people, Poseidon created a salt water spring by striking the ground with his trident, symbolizing naval power. However, when Athena created the olive tree, symbolizing peace and prosperity, the Athenians, under their ruler Cecrops, accepted the olive tree and named the city after Athena.
At the National Garden (Εθνικός Κήπος) which is a public park of 38 acres in the center of the Greek capital, Athens. It is located directly behind the Greek Parliament building (The Old Palace) and continues to the South to the area where the Zappeion is located, across from the Panathenaiko or Kalimarmaro Olympic Stadium of the 1896 Olympic Games.
The Panathinaïkó Stádio, or Kallimarmaro is a multi-purpose stadium in Athens, Greece. One of the main historic attractions of Athens, it’s the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble.
The Acropolis of Athens is an ancient citadel located on an extremely rocky outcrop above the city of Athens and contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Pantheon.
Standing in front of the Erechtheion, an ancient Greek temple on the north side of the Acropolis which was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon.
Standing above the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, it’s a stone theatre located on the southwest slope of the Acropolis of Athens, Greece. The building was completed in 161 AD.
The Acropolis is located on a flat-topped rock that rises 490 ft above sea level in the city of Athens, with surrounding views of the city. As you can see in my picture, it’s a very large city.
After a day of exploring Acropolis, I stopped in a cafe while I waited for the tour bus and had a Frappé coffee. In Greece, it’s a foam-covered iced coffee drink made from instant coffee (generally, spray-dried Nescafe), water and sugar. It was thick and delicious.
Before heading back to the cruise ship at the end of the day, we spent some time in the “Plaka”, which is a famous area for shopping and eating. I had another gyro at the Taverna Restaurant.

Santorini, Greece

On Wednesday morning, we arrived in Santorini, Greece.

Santorini is an island in the southern Aegean Sea, southeast of Greece’s mainland. It is the largest island of a small circular archipelago which bears the same name and is the remnant of a volcanic caldera. There is no docking port, so we had to arrive by tender.
The city of Santorini or “Oia” is a settlement on the north of the island at the top of the Caldera cliffs. The village is approximately 150 meters above sea level and to reach the top, we had to get on a tour bus, it took about 45 minutes to reach the city at the top of the island.
Almost everyone who has visited Santorini has taken a picture somewhere with this church in the background. The blue-domed church, is called “Anastaseos”, which means “Resurrection of Christ”.
In Oia there are two types of dwellings, the cave houses dug into the volcanic rock on the Caldera cliffs and the Captain’s houses. The cave houses used to be the Captain’s ship crews, whereas the Captain’s houses belonged to the affluent class of ship owners. Many of the churches in Oia were dedicated to sailors.
Another view of the village with charming houses in narrow streets, blue domed churches, and sun-bathed verandas. Its streets have plenty of shops, taverns, cafes, and other specialty shops. The busiest area is the main pedestrian walkway that runs along length of the top of the hill. At the entrance of the village is a car park where visitors can leave their vehicle and enjoy long walks in the picturesque paths.
You’ll need to bring your water and walking shoes and just walk and enjoy this beautiful town. I loved it here so much. I can’t wait to come back.
After a day of exploring Santorini, I had a nice Greek beer called “Volkan”.

 

Olympia, Greece

On Tuesday, we docked in the port of Olympia, Greece.

This is our cruise ship, the MSC Musica. It’s a European cruise line with passengers from all over the world. It’s the first cruise I have ever been on.
In Olympia, we visited the ancient Greek archeological site Olympia, a sanctuary of ancient Greece in Elis on the Peloponnese peninsula. It’s known for having been the site of the Olympic Games in classical times. These are the ruin remains of the Temple of Zeus.
The sanctuary of Olympia and its surrounding area are preserved in almost intact condition, from ancient times till today. In the sacred Altis, Zeus’ sacred forest, the same tree, and plant species are found, as in antiquity. When visiting the archaeological site of Olympia, you can feel the spirituality of the landscape.
The site of Olympia was once the most important religious and athletic center in Greece. It was also home to a 13-meter-tall statue of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, which is believed to have been destroyed in a fire.
After leaving the site of the ruins, we walked around the quiet little town and bought souvenirs.
I tasted olives and olive oils at one of the shops.
And of course, I had my first gyro in Greece! I say first because this is only one of many that I ate all over Greece!

Brindisi, Italy

The next day we docked in the port of Brindisi, a city in the region of Apulia in southern Italy, and the capital of the province of Brindisi on the coast of the Adriatic Sea.

We walked to Stazione Ferroviaria di Brindisi, the railway station bought tickets to Polignano A Mare.
It was an hour-long train ride to Polignano A Mare.
Polignano a Mare is a town in the Metropolitan City of Bari, Apulia, southern Italy, and is located on the Adriatic Sea.
We tried to visit the Grotta Palazzese restaurant for a glass of wine but it was closed for siesta.
The restaurant is carved out of limestone rocks with a view over the blue-green Adriatic sea. The restaurant has been enchanting visitors for centuries with its beautiful views of blue-green Adriatic Sea. This gives me a great reason to come back!

Venezia, Italy

When you get off the train in Venezia, the first thing you see is the Grand Canal. We finally made it to Venice, but couldn’t hang out because we had to get to the cruise ship for the next part of the vacation, (which is a cruise through Greece!). The cruise port is walking distance from the Venezia Santa Lucia railway station.

The Grand Canal, outside the Venezia Santa Lucia railway station.
This was my cabin, I had to share this cabin with two of my cousins.
Hanging out on our cabin’s balcony, as the cruise ship departs from Venezia, Italy.
View of the outer part of the Piazza San Marco, known as “St Mark’s Square”. It’s the main public square in Venezia.
Goodbye Venezia! See you when we get back!
The last part of Venezia that you can see as your cruise ship departs.

 

 

Padova, Italy

Today I spent the whole day in Padova, Italy. It was nice to walk around the Airbnb apartment and explore the town. While in Padova, I knew I had to visit the Cappella degli Scrovegni.

The Cappella degli Scrovegni, is a church in Padova, Italy. It contains a fresco cycle by Giotto, completed about 1305 and considered to be an important masterpiece of Western art.
The chapel is medievil chapel covered with frescoes which narrate events in the lives of the Virgin Mary and Christ. On the wall opposite the altar is the grandiose Universal Judgement, which concludes the story of human salvation. The chapel was originally attached to the Scrovegni family palace, built after 1300, following the elliptical outline of the remains of the Roman arena.
I was super-excited about visiting this chapel. On the left side of me, is Giotto’s “Cruxifixion” and on the right is the infamous “Lamentation of Christ”. Prior to this visit, I had only seen these panels in art history books.
I was so happy and inspired to be here, that I made another postcard to send to a friend back home.
Giotto’s Cappella degli Scrovegni is on the grounds of the Eremitani Museum, a Roman & pre-Roman artifact museum which also houses artwork from the 14th-18th century.
The Death of the Virgin Mary is a common subject in Western Christian art, the equivalent of the Dormition of the Theotokos in Eastern Orthodox art. This depiction became less common as the doctrine of the Assumption gained support in the Roman Catholic Church from the late Middle Ages onward. Although that doctrine avoids stating whether Mary was alive or dead when she was bodily taken up to Heaven, she is normally shown in art as alive. Nothing is said in the Bible about the end of Mary’s life, but a tradition dating back to at least the 5th century says the twelve Apostles were miraculously assembled from their far-flung missionary activity to be present at the death, and that is the scene normally depicted, with the apostles gathered around the bed.
After a day of looking at beautiful art, I walked to the local Farmer’s Market in the Piazza dei Frutt and bought some fruit.
At the end of the day, I met up with my cousins and we had dinner at Caffè Patavino in the Piazza dei Frutt. I have to say that this was the BEST PIZZA I EVER ATE IN MY WHOLE LIFE!!! It was so good, that I ordered another one to go.

 

Florence, Italy

From Rome, we got on the train to Padova, Italy. We arrived in the evening and spent the following day in Florence.

We arrived in the evening to Padova, Italy, where we spent the following three days in the cutest Aribnb apartment. This is the front entrance, on the left is the arched door that leads to the courtyard of the property.
This is the inside hallway of our apartment in Padova.
Took the train to spend the whole day in Florence. In the middle of the town square and only a few blocks from the train station is the Florence cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore. It stands tall over the city with its magnificent Renaissance dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. The cathedral is a Gothic structure built on the site of the 7th-century church of Santa Reparata, the remains of which can be seen in the crypt. Florence is one of my all-time favorite places to visit.
My next stop was the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, or “Gallery of the Academy of Florence”, it’s an art museum which is best known as the home of Michelangelo’s sculpture of David.
Afterwards, I walked over to the Uffizi Gallery, which is a prominent art museum located adjacent to the Piazza della Signoria in the Historic Centre of Florence in the region of Tuscany. This is one of the most important Italian museums, and one of the largest and best known in the world. It holds a collection of priceless works, particularly from the period of the Italian Renaissance. This is the “Fortitude”, a painting by Italian Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli, finished in 1470. Fortitude is the first recorded work by Botticelli. (the panel on the right) This work originally belonged to a set of seven panels representing Virtues, intended to decorate the Tribunal Hall of Piazza della Signoria in Florence. The other six panels are painted by Pietro Pollaiolo’s workshop.
Another of my favorite Sandro Botticelli’s great work, done for the Medici family, is the Birth of Venus. Actually, I love all of the Botticelli artworks here. Unfortunately, we do not know for sure which Medici it was painted for, or which location it was originally hung in.
Another favorite work of art here, among many, is the “Madonna with the Long Neck” by Parmigianino. This is typical of his later work, which was defined by unusual spatial compositions and elongated figures. The painting is also known as “Madonna and Child with Angels and St Jerome” but earned the name Madonna with the Long Neck because of the curious length of the Madonna’s swan-like neck. The subject of this piece is derived from medieval hymns which compared the Virgin’s neck to a great ivory tower or column. Therefore the exaggerated length of the Virgin’s limbs and those of her son and the presence of columns in the background of the painting, are symbolic of the painting’s religious value. I can’t stress how amazing it was to see every work of art here. I can’t wait to go back.
After a long day of enjoying renaissance art, I had a spaghetti dinner at Ristorante Orcagna in the Piazza della Signoria. Dinner with a view of the plaza.
And last but not least, before heading back to meet my family at the train station to head back to Padova, I had a gelato. No trip to Florence is complete without having gelato. I tried the cantaloupe this time.

Rome, Italy

Flew into Rome, Italy for one night. Doesn’t seem like it would be enough time, but it was.

The first place I visited in Rome was the Colosseum, which is an oval amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome. It’s built of concrete and sand and is the largest amphitheatre ever built.
From the Colosseum, we walked to Il Vittoriano, built in the early twentieth century and honours Italy’s first king.
Afterwards, we made our way to the Piazza di Spagna, at the bottom of the Spanish Steps. It’s one of the most famous squares in Rome and owes its name to the Palazzo di Spagna, seat of the Embassy of Spain among the Holy Sea. This is where I fell in love with these shoes and purse in the Valentino Store.
No trip to Rome is complete without a visit to the Fontana di Trevi in the Quirinale district. The Trevi Fountain is known as one of the most stunning fountains in the world. Throwing a coin from the right hand over the left shoulder will ensure that you will return to Rome in the future. This is my coin, hoping to return to Rome a third time.
I spent half of the next day at the Vatican City. The Cappella Sistina (Sistine Chapel) serves as the pope’s private chapel. The pope who commissioned Michelangelo’s frescoes in 1508 was Julius II, the nephew of Sixtus IV. Contrary to myth, Michelangelo did not paint on his back, but on a platform of his own devising that extended over half the area of the chapel and allowed him to stand upright. It was moved midway through the project. At no point could Michelangelo look at the work in progress from below, but he was still able to paint images on a vast scale from a distance of a few inches.
After leaving the Vatican, I saw these shoes and they were on sale so I bought them! I put them on and wore them for the rest of the day. They’re not Valentino, but they got bling and I got them in Rome!
Before leaving Rome there was one more artwork I had to see. “The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa” is the central sculptural group in white marble set in the Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria. On my last visit to Rome, I did not get a chance to see her so I came today. It was designed and completed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the leading sculptor of his day, who also designed the setting of the Chapel in marble. The church is beautiful and I am glad that I got to visit.

 

Helsinki, Finland

Two days later, we boarded the ferry out of Sweden to Helsinki, Finland.

On the ferry and off to Finland! You can see our hotel to the right side of the photo, it wasn’t too far from the ferry.
On the ferry, there was a lovely mural of the Vasa Ship in one of the stairwell hallways. I love this wall!
Woke up the next morning at sea to a delicious chocolate pastry and a cappuccino.
When we arrived, the first thing we saw was the Helsinki Cathedral. It’s a Finnish Evangelical Lutheran cathedral of the Diocese of Helsinki, located in the neighborhood of Kruununhaka in a plaza that is in the center of Helsinki, Finland.
A postcard that I watercolored for one of my friends back home.
In case anyone was wondering where the “Dinner in the Sky” attraction that is seen all over facebook was located, right here! In Helsinki, Finland. This was a block away from our hotel, and no I did not attempt to dine in the sky, it looked kind of scary to me.