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The Amalfi Coast

Positano, Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

This was our last port of call on our 2017 Mediterranean Cruise.  I looked forward to it, partly because the last time we were there was our shortened cruise, and we missed our tour.  While we did hire a cab to take us up the coast, our only stop that day was in the town of Amalfi.  This trip, we planned to go further up to Ravello, and then stop at Amalfi and Positano.

Ravello, Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Ravello, Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I have a friend who spent a week in Ravello one year, and highly recommended it.  Our guide knew that the best time to get us there was early in the morning, and he took us in on back roads.  We basically had the beautiful little mountain village to ourselves that morning.  That was the last time we would see that kind of serenity for the day.

Ravello, Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Ravello, Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Ravello, Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I just walked around and made a few images.  I can see why my friend was enchanted with this little town and why it might be very relaxing to spend a few days here.

Ravello; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Ravello; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Ravello; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Ravello; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

 

I was pretty amazed, both times I traveled here, to see how they build these communities into the the rugged mountainside.  And each of them have sweeping and beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea.

Ravello; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

One surprise to me was how much this destination appears to have grown in popularity in 4 years.  We were there in 2013, about the same time of the year.  But this time, the crowds in Amalfi and Positano were at least double what we saw in 2013.  There is an incredible church in the middle of the square in Amalfi, that was nearly impossible to photograph because of the crowd of people.  I was able to get up over some heads and get a couple shot, and then isolate the tower.

Amalfi; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Amalfi; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

It was pretty clearly the tourists.  There were few people on the beaches, even though the temperature was well into the 80’s.

Amalfi; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Amalfi; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Positano, we were informed by our guide, is where the rich and famous go to be seen and to shop.  We spend only a few minutes here, walking down into the town among throngs of humanity, and high end retail shops.  We wanted to see if we could get a view of a church.  We weren’t really able to find a good view of it.  Most of my images were taken on the outskirts of Positano.  There road down into the city center is a kind of mult-circular, winding road.

Positano; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Positano; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

We finished out our day – and our cruise – dining in a nice restaurant on the outskirts of Sorrento, at a family-owned restaurant known personally to our guide.  Again, we enjoyed near-exclusive dining and wonderful, fresh, local Italian cuisine.

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Old Athens

Athens City, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

This was our third stop in Athens – once each cruise.  We have seen the The Temple of Zeuss, The Ancient Agora, The Acropolis, and The Olympic Stadium a couple times.  It was time to do something different.  So we took a cab from the port into old Athens, and met with our guide for the day, for a walking and eating tour (as if we hadn’t done much eating so far 🙂 ).

Athens City, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

The idea, here, was to see some of the old downtown that has been rejuvenating, and learn some of the Greek food traditions.  We started with Greek coffee and sweets.  Over the day, we had traditional souvlaki, an afternoon sweet treat, tasted some wine, honey and candies, and saw a couple of the taverns and downtown area.  We also walked through the meat and produce market.

The day did not really lend itself to photography, with tight urban areas and contrasty lighting conditions.  But I managed to snap a few shots.

Athens City, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

There are a number of very old churches in Athens, often uniquely juxtaposed with (or even within) more modern structures.  Our guide told us that they passed a law in Athens at some point which would protected these old churches, but the commercial value of the properties surrounding them was often so great that they would simple build around them.

Athens City, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

We ended the day with a more heavy, traditional entree; Mousaka.  I determined that I will one day try my own hand a cooking this delicious dish.  Once of the main ingredients – eggplant – draws a “love it or hate it” reaction from my friends and family.  I personally like it, but especially when prepared this way.  I have to say that there is very little Greek food I do not like.  We enjoyed our short visit, and agreed that we could come to Athens and spend a day or two, enjoying the food and the night life.

More Santorini


There were, of course, many shots other than the blue-domed churches.  As the view from our cruise ship shows, the Island of Santorini (which is composed of 3 villages) is entirely build along the top of the volcanic rock (the Caldera) which comprises the island.  Santorini is part of the Cyclades Islands, and is approximately half-way between Athens on the mainland and the Isle of Crete

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

In years past, the only way to the villages from the harbor was on foot, or by donkey up the steep, winding path shown to the left of the photo.  Pathways in the Village of Oia likewise show the steep foot paths down to the Agean Sea. The Greek Isles are full of white stucco buildings with very colorful accents, and often colorful flowers in addition.

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

The pathway up into Oia from the back side had traditional Greek windmills, and shops and homes that are very colorful and picturesque.  I am continually amazed at the Mediterranean methods of building shops and dwellings into the steep cliff faces.

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Like the other Greek Islands, the inhabitants of the Island like splashes of color and particularly, colorful, blooming flowers.

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

George took us to a spot that he believes is not well known to many tourists, but provides yet another sweeping view of the island.

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

He also opined that, although the blue-domed church images are sought-after and iconic, he believes this image is the next “famous” Santorini shot.

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

After seeing many gorgeous sights in Santorini, George took us to a local restaurant of the proverbial beaten path, and far from the tourist areas.  It was a beautiful, quiet, oceanfront restaurant with outstanding food and local wine.  Over the years, we have had a number of very good guides.  Indeed we have have an overwhelmingly positive experience with our guides.  But George will be one of the more memorable ones we have had, with a lively personality and a great enthusiasm for Santorini.  His quirky sense of humor can pretty easily be seen here.  I want one of these t-shirts 🙂

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

 

The Great Santorini

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I know.  Lame takeoff on “The Great Santini.”  But I have to say, Santorini was great, and everything I had hoped for.  This is the place where all of the images of the blue-domed, white churches are taken with the Mediterranean in the background.  And I took a lot of them.

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

When doing my research for this destination, I was dismayed to learn that many of these shots are not easy to find.  Having been there, I am not sure I agree with these readers’ assessment, but a little local knowledge goes a long, long way.  Our guide (“George,” for the second day in a row – not the same George), it turns out, did some time as a professional photographer, and he not only knew where the shots were, but when to get us there so the light was most flattering (within the parameters of our time on the island, of course).  If I were viewing these images as a third-party, I might be inclined to accuse the shooter of overuse of his circular polarizer.  But I did not have a polarizer attached.  The Aegean skies are just that blue.  Like the domes.

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

So, let’s get the blue-domed churches out of the way from the get-go.  It looks like Santorini will be a two-blog post.

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

We started the morning at a spot very near where George picked us up.  It was a spot that he said was not well known, but it was our first blue-domed church, with our cruise ship in the background.  A nice start.

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

George took us the opposite direction of most of the other tour groups, coming into Oia, where the churches and view are most prominent, from the back way.  Not only did this get us to the spots before the huge crowds came, but it was really the right place to be for the morning sun (though, as I have noted in previous blogs, we are rarely in a port during the best light of the early morning or late afternoon).

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Bumpy Rhodes

Bumpy Rhodes
Rhodes, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I was “mia” once again last week.  I took an unscheduled trip to Vermont to attend the memorial service of a dear friend, mentor, and second father to me.  New England’s fall colors were essentially done, by then, but it wasn’t a photo trip anyway.

Rhodes Harbor
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Bumpy Rhodes.”  Why that name?  Not knowing much about the island, we discovered a tour called “Bumpy Rhodes.”  The guides ran a couple old converted all terrain military vehicles all over the island, on many of its gravel back roads.  Some of them were military and some were park roads, but the guides had contracted for access.  Some of the places we went would not have been passable without this vehicle.

Mountain Top View
Rhodes, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Our Mediterranean cruise was, as noted earlier, denominated a “Greek Isles Cruise.”  With Malta and Mykonos, we were now right in the middle of the heart of the cruise.  Our next stop was the Greek Isle of Rhodes.  Rhodes seemed to me to be essentially rural and much of its terrain, rugged.  Honey bee hives were strategically placed all over the island, and we saw olive farms everywhere we went.

Lyndos
Rhodes, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

There were some areas in that were more populated, and tended to be resort type areas, with nice hillside homes, and pretty beaches.

Lyndos
Rhodes, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Our guide, George, told us that numerous celebrities have from time to time made Rhodes a vacation destination, including Anthony Quinn (who has a beach named after him) and  Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, who owned a mansion there.

Anthony Quinn Bay
Rhodes, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

On our way back to the ship, George stopped for a view which is a favorite of mine and asked me to make a panoramic image.  Now I just need to get his information and send it to him 🙂

Mediterranean Panoramic
Rhodes, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

All in all, we enjoyed our day on Rhodes, but I had been looking forward to our next stop for months.  Next up: Santorini

Old City of Rhodes
Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

 

The Med 2017; Islands that start with “M”

Mykonos, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Malta.  A place I don’t think I ever gave any thought about.  When we originally decided on the cruise, the second stop was Ancient Ephesus, in Turkey.  But cruise ships aren’t going to Turkey anymore.  Sad.  Our world needs to change.  But that’s for another time.  Malta:  my first and only thought was “The Maltese Falcon.”  Turns out there is a falcon native to Malta that middle eastern falconers were partial too.  Which is where any connection ends.  Heck, I doubt Bogart even knew where Malta was. 🙂

Malta
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos.  It is a Greek island, which is appropriate, since this was a “Greek Isles Cruise.”  We (my wife and I) were there once before, on our shortened, 2013 Mediterranean Cruise.  Mykonos is very small, so we didn’t book a tour there.  In Malta, we just didn’t know anything about it, and had no idea what to do.  So we had two relatively free days, with an “at sea” day in between.  which was fine, because things got pretty hectic for the remainder of the cruise.

Malta
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Photographically, Mykonos is a pretty great spot.  Malta was o.k., but not photographically inspiring.  So most of my images during these two stops were made on Mykonos.  Malta is its own sovereign nation.  It actually played a pretty big role for allies in WWII.  It consists of 3 walled cities.  We were able to see two of them from our moored cruise ship.  Being an island, it is obviously very much a maritime society, and we were impressed with the vast number of small pleasure craft moored in the many harbors around the island.

Mykonos
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos is one of the best known popular Greek islands.  It is a popular beach destination for the citizens of the Mediterranean.  Most of the island is comprised of either retail shops, hotels (which are built into the unique architecture), and private dwellings.

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

There are many backstreets, and all of them are created with the “cobblestone” look (which is really cement).  I am always take by the colors they use to set off the white stucco buildings everywhere.

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos is also famous for its distinctive windmills (though we did see them again in Santorini and Rhodes).

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

From my perspective, since we had been to Mykonos, I was keying for the next couple destinations, Rhodes, Santorini and the Amalfi Coast.  Some pretty great travel was yet to come.  Next up, Rhodes.

Sicily; 2017

Port of Messina, Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

After 4 eventful days in Venice, we boarded a train for Civatavecchia, the seaport for Rome, where we would board our cruise ship.  The  cruise was touted as a “Greek Isles” cruise.  But before we could get to the actual Greek Isles (there were 3 on our itinerary), we had a couple of prior stops; Sicily, and the independent nation of Malta.

Messina, Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

As I have noted here in the past, one of the downsides of cruising is that you usually only get one short day in every port.  Knowing very little about either of these destinations, we booked a private tour in Sicily, and nothing in Malta.  With a lot of ground to cover and a few hours, we had to choose some destinations.

Taormina Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

In addition to a little bit of time in Messina, we went to Taormina, the quaint and mountainous little town where some of the scenes in Francis Ford Coppola’s original “The Godfather,” were shot.  We happened upon this adorable little Dachshund being photographed.  At first, I thought it was somebody just photographing their pet, but as I looked more carefully, later, it was apparent that this was probably an advertising shot of some type (note the light being held to one side).

Taormina, Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

At the top of the village is a beautiful church, with an incredible view.  As we walked back down, I could see myself sitting and having coffee or lunch at one of the outdoor destinations and seeing the grand view.

Taormina, Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

We traveled to Mt. Vesuvius, where we saw the volcano from a distance.

Mt. Vesuvius
Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

We also stopped for some honey and wine tasting, before finishing our day back in Messina.

Messina, Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017