Author: neila

Back home with some great memories

Well folks; this is the last post of our fantastic Mediterranean cruise with our Neil’s sisters and their husbands. For those of you who have followed the blog – we hope you enjoyed it. For those who have just discovered it – take some time and have a browse through it.

We’d love some feedback so please let us know using the comments box on each post.

We met so many lovely people on our trip which we would love to catch up with again some time in the future. We didn’t get a photo of all of you but here are some…

One of the funny things we experienced was the present our stateroom steward left every evening on our bed – a “towel animal”. Here are some to check out…

Dubai Desert Drive & Dinner

We crammed a lot into our second day in Dubai visiting the Dubai Mall & Aquarium in the morning and then, in the afternoon, a 6 hour desert 4×4 drive followed by drinks & dinner in the desert with entertainment thrown in.

4×4 Sunset Safari

This tour was organised with a company called Arabian Adventures and selected the Premium Package (AU$823 per couple) which put us in a Jeep Wrangler with another couple and was an all inclusive (drinks etc) deal. We chose this one over the Standard Package (AU$656 per couple) as it offered a heap more and we would not have to sit in the “way back” seats in a Land Cruiser (no good for bad knees).

The desert drive

The 1st stage of our trip was in a Jeep Wrangler driven by Ravi along with our other passengers Martin & Joanne (from Ringwood East – about 5km from our home – wow). The 1st thing to be done is to deflate the vehicle’s tyres to 10 PSI before we hit the sand dunes. It was pretty good and with about 20 Landcruisers in convoy we headed out into the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Several of the Landcruisers got bogged but Ravi just powered past in our Jeep (LOL – as I own a Landcruiser at home).

Here’s a video of part of our drive…

Camel Ride

Part of the experience was to take a short trip on a camel. So we thought “why not” and saddled up for a bit of fun.

Belly Dancer

While we began our dinner in the desert with something can only be called a gastronomic experience (sooo much delicious food) as a lovely young lady performed a belly dance for us. She also got Merrisa up for a bit of a dance and was so impressed she asked Merrisa if she was a dancer.

Fire Dancer

Our next piece of entertainment was this guy who flung, swung and twisted fiery ropes and sticks with can only be described as stunning and dangerous. He was so good at the art of fire twirling.

Cape Twirler

We could not believe it when another entertainer arrives with this cape full of LED lights and he begins to twirl it above his head. Wow! It was amazing and it was only when he invited us up to have a try at twirling it that you realise how heavy it is. This guy must be sooo strong!

Here’s a video of part of the cape twirler’s act…

The night concluded with a thank-you from us to the team, a drive back to the depot where Ravi re-inflated the Jeep’s tyres.

Dubai Mall & Aquarium

We crammed a lot into our second day in Dubai visiting the Dubai Mall & Aquarium in the morning and then, in the afternoon, a 6 hour desert 4×4 drive.

A deal was struck; I would visit the aquarium while Merrisa would do some shopping. It was a bit like the bloke going to Bunnings while the woman shopped.

Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo

The Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo is a hell of a lot bigger than you’d expect. The 10-million litre Dubai Aquarium tank, located on the Ground Level of The Dubai Mall, is one of the largest suspended aquariums in the world. Just viewing it from the outside whilst walking trough the Dubai Mall is quite impressive but you must buy a ticket and go-inside.

There are so many ticketing options available. I purchased the “Dubai Aquarium & Aqua Nursery” ticket for AED155 (AU$62) which gave me access to the Aquarium Tunnel, Underwater Zoo, behind the Scenes tour & Underwater Observatory. It took about 1 hour and was totally awesome.

Here’s a couple of short videos taken in the aquarium…

As you enter the Aquarium experience they take a couple of photos with a “green screen” backdrop and then as you leave you can pruchase them. These are mine…

Dubai Mall and Fountains

The actual Dubai Mall contains over 1,200 shops and food outlets. I caught up with Merrisa after my aquarium experience and we had some lunch then took a stroll out to view the Burj Lake and you definitely cannot avoid the 163 floor, 828m towering Burj Khalifa building which just fills the view above the lake. It is hard to believe but a new tower is planned to be built in Dubai which will be 100m taller than the Burj Khalifa and a model is displayed it the mall – very impressive.

We were lucky enough to experience the fountain display which was absolutely enthralling. The water spouts cascade and wave through the air in synergy to classical music. Here’s a short video of our experience…

1st day in Dubai

Leaving the MS Koningsdam in Rome we left the rest of our F.A.B. team (Andrew, Janis, Clint & Leanne) and flew off to Dubai for a 3 night stop-over before heading home to Melbourne (Australia). Staying at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

The Splash boat tour

Our 1st day in Dubai started by us sleeping in and nearly missing breakfast (at 11:am)! Finally getting our act together we looked for something to do as the following day we were booked into the “desert safari drive” so onto TripAdvisor for things to do in Dubai and we found what looked to be a nice boat trip around the waterways checking out various sites of interest.

The thing we did not realise the tour was on the “Splash boat” which meant we were about to get wet, which we did, not only from the waves but also from a rare thing in Dubai called rain! We were drowned but had an absolute ball – thoroughly recommend the 90 minute trip as it’s a hoot.

Jumeirah Beach Hotel

After we had dried off on the way back to the harbour we called in to see our niece Kate’s in-laws, Trevor & Robyn, who were staying at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. Wow, what a fantastic hotel! I know where we will stay next time we are in Dubai (and they picked up a special web deal too). It totally smashed our lovely Grand Hyatt Hotel, being right on the beach and massive grounds and facilities. We even had a tour of the place in a chauffeur driven golf cart – a truly beautiful location, with the 7 star Burj Al Arab Jumeirah Hotel next door.

Naples – Italy

Today we arrived in Naples at 7:00am after our “sea day” and were up very early for the 10 hour onshore tour of Capri, Sorrento and Pompeii. This was really the 1st time in over 22 days that we faced a bit of rain.

Isle of Capri

Off the ship at 7:30am and onto the hydro-foil for a 1 hour trip to Capri. Then up the funicular to the main part of the island for a walking tour. At the top of the funicular was a piece of amazing street art by the artist Seo Young Deok – a woman made from bicycle chains welded together, absolutely stunning. The scenery is spectacular from the top and the stroll through the town was fantastic. Back at the marina the peculiar taxis’ caught our eye – small cars turned into min-limo’s with roller-blind type roofs.

Sorrento

Back onto the ferry and off to the town of Sorrento. Here we had lunch at La Lanterna restaurant for a taste of traditional Italian food. Then down the road for a demonstration of wood inlaying at A.Gargiulo & Jannuzzi, who have been in business since 1852.

Cameo Factory

One of the downsides of an organised tour you more than likely will stop-off at some commercial facility on the way. This trip took us to the Cellini Cameo Factory for a demonstration on making cameo broaches (from sea shells). You naturally have to travel through the sales area to view the demonstration.

Ruins of Pompeii

Leaving Sorrento by bus we headed for the archeological site of Pompeii. Pompeii was a pretty special place to visit. Our fantastic tour guide really spelt out what occurred when Mount Vesuvius erupted in the year 79AD. This cataclysmic event buried the entire town instantly killing all of it’s residents, basically where they sat or slept. Click here to read more.

Leaving Naples

We were presented with another fantastic sunset as we left Naples bound for our final destination of Rome.

A “sea day” – Mt Stromboli Volcano

A “sea day” is where the distance between 2 ports is too far to reach it over-night so the passengers pass the day playing cards, lazing by the pool etc or spending some time updating their travel blogs (like me) – cost is US$24.99 per day for Wi-Fi access!

The big highlight today was passing the island of Stromboli with it’s active volcano. Stromboli is a small island in the Tyrrhenian Sea (maplink), off the north coast of Sicily, containing one of the three active volcanoes in Italy. The island’s population is about 500. The volcano has erupted many times and is constantly active with minor eruptions, often visible from many points on the island and from the surrounding sea, giving rise to the island’s nickname “Lighthouse of the Mediterranean”.

The last reported eruption was in August 2019 following another in the previous month. Now it’s smoking a lot with the occasional spurt of lava but upon checking my photos (below) I found the lava is still running down the side of the mountain into the water.

My brother in-law, Andrew< and I spent well over an hour waiting to capture “that shot” of the volcano spewing forth lava. Even one of the chefs was there (hope someone was cooking the food) and our drink waiter, Allen, was concerned that we were missing “happy hour”. Here are the results…

This is a ABC news video found on YouTube of the eruption in August 2019…

Valletta – Malta

Arriving in Valletta (capital of Malta) is even more spectacular when you do it via the sea. The walled city was established in the 1500s on a peninsula by the Knights of St. John, a Roman Catholic order. We had no pre-booked tours so opted to the favourite option of the “hop-on hop-off” bus.

Mosta

First stop was the town of Mosta where we visited the Rotunda of Mosta (church) where a WWII 200kg German bombed crashed through the massive dome landing on the floor in front 300 people, attending morning mass, who were left unharmed as the bomb didn’t detonate.

Mdina

The next stop on our travels was the walled city of Mdina, which served as the island’s capital from antiquity to the medieval period. We took a stroll through the beautiful streets having lunch in the scenic Fontanella Restaurant on top of the city walls.

The old city of Valletta

We took a stroll through the streets of the old town prior to re-boarding our ship. This was a tremendous thing to do as it really showcased how old the city really is with a fair bit of decay in some of the buildings, but a lot of rejuvenation happening at the same time.

Canons go bang

At 4:00pm each day they perform a ceremonial canon blast from the fort in the harbour. Check it out…

Check out the small boat on the harbour

Sail-away

Our ship sailed at 11:00pm which gave us a final look at this brilliant city under lights.

Catania – Sicily, Italy

Arriving into the port of Catania on the island of Sicily, we had a pre-booked tour to visit the Mount Etna volcano. The tour guide we had would have to be the best so-far; he had all of us in stitches of laughter from the outset and his knowledge of Mt Etna and the history of Sicily was brilliant. The visit concluded with some locally made Canollis.

Following our visit to the volcano we finished the tour with a visit to the GIVAL jewellery factory, with every man exiting the bus in fear of his wallet being emptied.

We arrived back to the ship just as it was getting dark after travelling trough a massive thunderstorm which also included hail. The lighting show continued after we got back on board and I managed to capture some shots from our balcony…

Corfu – Greece

The island of Corfu was one of the bucket list items on my list. The day started out with our ship pulling into port along with 4 other large cruise liners, which would lead to approximately 16,000 cruise passengers hitting this small island along with other tourists arriving by other means. Considering the staggering numbers we faced we actually enjoyed our time here.

We jumped onto the “hop-on hop-off” bus (took 45 minutes to get on) as we had no pre-booked tours. These buses are a great way to get a quick look at a town. 1st hop-off was at the Kanoni Cafe which has stunning views over Kanoni & Mouse Island and the airport below.

Next stop-off was the Old Fortress, originally built in the 6th century AD and has had many modifications made since then. One inclusion was the the little church of St. George, built in 1840 by English (the one in the photos looking like the pantheon). The views from various points around the port are simply stunning. You can even see a “dint” in one of the walls caused by a cannon ball at some stage.

Back to the ship after a fairly exhaustive day walking around the town of Corfu on our 1 day visit.



Korčula – Croatia

The town of Korčula (pronounced Kor-shoo-lar) on the island of the same name (was a very short stop-over). We had pre-booked a tour of a winery in the hills with an expected time to take in the town after but due to the tight timetable all we did was bus it to the winery (a small building in a country town) have a couple of sips of wine then back on the bus and onto the ship. A very disappointing visit to what appeared to be another lovely location.

At least the sunset sail-away did not disappoint with some great photo opportunities…

Koper – Slovenia

We arrived into the town of Koper with no tours booked and just decided to take in the sites of the town. A very fortunate decision as it turned out to be the annual food festival in the city called Sweet Istria (Sladka Istra) with local traders and farmers exhibiting their goods. Pre-purchased coupons allowed us to sample many of the beautiful goods available.

After a day of food sampling and checking out the town we meandered back to the ship for yet another beautiful sunset sail-away as we headed toward our next destination.

Split – Croatia

So many people have said to us “oh you’re going to Split – you will love it!” and they were absolutely correct. The day began as we docked with a breathtaking sunrise over the coastline. Split is a pretty typical ancient town with fortresses built on hilltops etc.

It was a shame that we only had one day here. We booked into a tour of Krka National Park with it’s numerous cascading water falls. Wow, what an amazing place, which was backed up by the enormous number of visitors (and this is supposed to be “shoulder season”). Totally recommend a visit as there are so many cascades, thousands of fish and very pristine. We also took a look at the watermill where they used to do their washing in the olden days.

A nice video taken by Merrisa of the waterfalls in Krka NP…

Some more links…

Kotor – Montenegro

Kotor is a fortified town on Montenegro’s Adriatic coast, in a bay near the limestone cliffs of Mt. Lovćen. Characterized by winding streets and squares, its medieval old town has several Romanesque churches, including Kotor Cathedral.

Arriving early into the port of Kotor we had to use tenders from the ship then board our tour coach for the trip up to the village of Kopito via the Kota Serpintine Road (maplink) which is rated as one of the most dangerous hairpin roads in the world. The most famous part of the road is a stretch of 8.3km long, pretty steep, with 25 hairpin turns. Along this section, the road starts at an elevation of 458m above the sea level, and ends at 881m.  Over this distance, the elevation gain is 423 meters.

Lunch in Kopito was had at Restoran Santa Montagna with a serving of locally produced foods along with a refreshing Nikšićko beer. As we were leaving we discovered this beautiful insect feasting on flowers – check out the photos below.

After lunch we travelled back to Kota via the tourist mecca of Budva (maplink), known for sandy beaches and nightlife. In Kota we strolled through the old walled part of the town taking in magnificent views of the forts on the mountain above as well as beautiful cathedrals.

Back to the ship via tender (check out photo of the guy driving the tender LOL) and the ship sailed away into the sunset which concluded a fantastic day in this beautiful location. On the way we passed the famous islands of Our Lady of the Rocks and Saint George.



Dubrovnik – Croatia

Hello Dubrovnik

We arrived in Dubrovnik to an overcast morning and a weather forecast of 100% possibility of rain. Thank goodness it ended up no rain but sunny.

Dubrovnik is where a lot of the Game of Thrones series was filmed and we headed out to a “game of Thrones” theme tour. Our tour guide carried a book which she used to associate locations we visited with scenes from the series.

Trsteno Arboretum

The gardens which are contained in the Trsteno Arboretum is filming set in the Tyrell’s High Garden in Kings Landing was done (along with a lot of CGI enhancements). They are truly beautiful.

Dubrovnik Old Town

The old town section of Dubrovnik is where a lot of the Game of Thrones locations were filmed; such as the where Cersei Lannister walked naked down the street of shame, the Red Keep and the battle of Blackwater Bay etc

Cable Car of Dubrovnik

We rounded out our day with a trip on the cable car to the summit above the old town. The view is absolutely stunning and worth the 25 Euro. We then returned to the ship which finally sailed for our next port at 11:30pm that night; we were fast asleep after a very exhausting day chasing dragons.

We sailed out of Dubrovnik with yet another amazing sunset

Salerno – Italy

Salerno was to be our stepping off point to the Isle of Capri and Amalfi Coast but the weather had turned bad and our tour was cancelled due to rough seas. We also heard later in the day that a landslide had closed the Amalfi Coast rode as well.

Therefore we were left to our own devices and took a stroll through the city visiting the beautiful St.Matthew Cathedral (also called Duomo) built in 1084 AD. Yet another spectacular cathedral to check out.

Then it was back to the ship via a lovely small park for drinks on the rear deck (as per normal) to prepare for the last leg of our cruise back to the port of Rome (Civitavecchia)

A “sea day” – lunch with the captain & deck games

Today was what is known as a sea day with no port reached today between Santorini and Salerno.

Being “2 star” Holland America “mariners” we were invited to lunch with the captain. This was a lovely occasion and we got to listen to some facts about cruising with Holland America (our cruise line).

We filled in the afternoon with a game called Shuffleboard on the deck of the Koningsdam. Girls v Boys and the girls triumphed 2-0. We also had a go at the outdoor gym (think that was the only time anyone did so.

Santorini – Greece

We woke just after daylight to find ourselves sitting off the coast of the island of Santorini.

Wow! This was not what we expected to see, with these massive cliff faces crowned by what we first thought was snow but on closer inspection we discovered were actually white buildings. We were sitting off the town of Thira. Santorini is actually situated on the rim of a very old volcano which is said to have erupted in 1646 BC.

This has to be one of the bucket list items that needs to be ticked off on a visit to the Mediterranean. It is a very majestic and spectacular location. We visited both the town of Thira and Oia (pronounced ee-aa).

Here is a great video of the Santorini Funicular taken by Merrisa…

Rhodes – Greece

We also had no pre-arranged tour for Rhodes and just winged it around the town itself. As my sister Janis had been here twice before she acted as tour guide.

We began our “self managed tour” with a trip on the hop-on hop-off bus and found that out of 12 stops the guy only stops twice. So we naturally got off on the stop we began with (LOL).

There are some lovely beaches here but no sand so it’s a bit rocky on ya bum! We took in the following sites…

  • The town centre with it’s market stalls and foreshore
  • The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes; built between the 7th century (citadel); 14th century (palace) AD
  • The mouth of Mandraki Harbour, adorned by statues of a male and female deer (Elafos and Elafina) symbols of the island – standing on columns which were built by the Italians to symbolize the actual deer they brought to Rhodes to rid the island of snakes.
  • The above deer are also reported to be where the The Colossus of Rhodes statue was located (one of the ancient 7 wonders of the world)

Mykonos – Greece

Our ship pulled into Mykonos and anchored offshore. We then were tendered into shore. We had no organised tour here and just strolled around the town, taking in the sights.

The city is very “white” and totally packed with tourists but we managed to take most of it in. The streets are narrow and the shops are many; Merrisa loved it. It is amusing watching the motorbikes and small trucks navigate these streets winding in and out of the tourists.

We loved the windmills and even got to pay 5€ for a picture with a donkey.

Some links…

Kuşadasi & Ephesus – Turkey

We arrived in the port of Kuşadasi (only stop we had in Turkey) just as the sun was rising on what promised to be another day of adventure. First to visit the house where the Virgin Mary once lived, then to the historical site of Ephesus followed by silk rug weaving in the town.

The Port of Kuşadasi

It was a glorious entry to this port, as the sun rose over the hills behind the town. Kuşadasi is a beach resort town on Turkey’s western Aegean coast. Kusadasi has a typical Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters. The city is bathed in sunshine for 300 days of the year.

Virgin Mary’s House

The belief that the Virgin Mary had spent her last days in the vicinity of Ephesus and that she had died there, focused attention on a nun named Anna Katherina Emmerich who had livid in the late 18th century (1774-1820). The efforts to find the house were greatly influenced by her detailed description of the Virgin Mary’s coming to Ephesus, her life and her last home there and the characteristics of the city although she had never been to Ephesus. (read more on Wikipedia). Outside of the house there is a wall where people ties prayer messages. It is totally full of small paper prayers.

The Ruins of Ephesus

The ancient Greek city of Ephesus was famous for its Temple of Artemis (near present-day Selçuk), which was recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. After a messy period of conquest and reconquest and after the population was moved from Selçuk to the the present site, Ephesus became a Roman city in 133 BC. The restoration of this historical site is expected to take at least another 50 years! It was a massive site and worth the visit.

On the return trip to Kuşadasi we stopped off to check out Basilica of Saint John and Ayasuluk Fortress; built around the year 500AD. The site is really great and the views are brilliant.

Silk Rug Making in Kuşadasi

The tour of Kuşadasi we took also took us to a shop where the owner presented us with a talk on the ancient art of silk rug making which apparently started in this area centuries ago. He told us that his business was now the only one who still produces silk woven rugs. An average size rug (1.2m x 2.4m) would take approximately 28 days to complete. We spoke to another person who attended a similar presentation in another store who heard the same tale (LOL).

Departing Kuşadasi

Leaving Kuşadasi we were treated to beautiful views of the town and then a glorious sunset

The Acropolis

Before our Acropolis tour even began we were witness to a collision between an tourist in a rental car and a massive bus in the carpark of the Acropolis site.

Our guided walking tour then began as we climbed the 80 steep steps through the Propylaea, the monumental gateway to the Acropolis, which extends 150 feet across its western side. From here, the views of the city of Athens below were incredible.

Beyond the Propylaea, on the highest point of the Acropolis stands the Parthenon, one of the greatest monuments of ancient civilization. Dedicated to the virgin goddess Athena, the white Pentelic marble temple was built 446 – 437 B.C.

The Erectheum is situated on the most sacred site of the Acropolis, where Athena and Poseidon are said to have held a contest to decide who would be Patron of the city. Here were the graceful Porch of the Caryatids, which features replica columns of marble maidens supporting the roof of the temple. The originals can be seen at the Acropolis Museum.

The Agora

Part of the Acropolis tour also took in the Agora, which was a central public space in ancient Greek city-states (maplink). The literal meaning of the word is “gathering place” or “assembly”. The Agora was the centre of the athletic, artistic, spiritual and political life in the city. The Ancient Agora of Athens is the best-known example.

The central building we visited at the Agora was a museum containing multiple artifacts from ages ago.

We finished off the tour at a lovely restaurant by the name of Chocolat where they served up a small feast of many Greek dishes. It was yum.

Arrival in Athens

Our ship docked at 8:00am and there was a mad rush for everyone to get off to begin their shore excursions. The ship’s crew handled this with ease. Very soon we were all on our respective buses and into the mayhem of the Athens traffic.

That evening we were treated to a display of traditional Greek dancing on the Koningsdam’s main stage. Fantastic energy and colour displayed by the troupe was incredible and the audience totally loved it.

Katakolo, (Ancient Olympia) Greece

Our 1st port of call was the Greek town of Katakolo; is a seaside town in the municipality of Pyrgos in western Elis, Greece. It is situated on a headland overlooking the Ionian Sea and separating the Gulf of Kyparissia from the rest of the Ionian.

Ancient Olympia

Our 1st “shore excursion” for the cruise saw us visiting the ancient Olympia Archaeological Site. Although just a chaotic heap of ruins today, the site is truly impressive.

Olympia was the place where the first ancient Olympic Games took place. These games were held to honor god Zeus and included a series of athletic competitions with representatives of all the Greek city-states. In fact, it was a great honor for a city-state to give birth to Olympic winners, whose only prize was a olive branch.

Kourouta Beach

Following our tiring and hot tour around the ancient site of Olympia we were spirited away to a lovely beach on the Mediterranean coastline called Kourouta beach.

It was lovely and the sandy beach was a surprise as we were expecting to be walking on rocks. Lunch and a couple of swims and then we headed back to our ship.

Katakolon Harbour & Dinner

Took a lovely stroll around the Katakolon Harbour to check out the little fishing boats, very cute. Would hate to be out on rough seas in these boats.

Also managed to get some awesome photos of our ship as well.

That evening was the Koningsdam Gala Dinner so we all got dressed up and headed out for a wonderful evening with a six course meal – a belly full for sure.

Tour of the Koningsdam’s Kitchen

The ship offers many different types of activities whilst you are at sea. Today we took a guided tour of the ship’s kitchens where they prepare food for the 2,263 guests and 981 staff.

Everything is extremely clean and sterile, as you would expect. Here are some facts about the average weekly consumption of food on board…

Meat and Meat Products 17,690 Kilograms
Poultry 3,130 Kilograms
Fish 1,479 Kilograms
Seafood 1,814 Kilograms
Butter and Margarine907Kilograms
Fresh Vegetables 8,165 Kilograms
Melon 1,814 Kilograms
Dairy 5,678 Litres
Eggs28,000Pieces
Sugar 1,134 Kilograms
Individual Sugar Packages43,400Pieces
Rice for Crew 1,043 Kilograms
Flour 2,359 Kilograms
Potatoes 1,814 Kilograms
Ice Cream 1,060 Litres

Our cruise begins

Today we leave the city of Rome and board our cruise ship MS Koningsdam to cruise the Mediterranean for the next 23 days. Wooppeeee!

You can follow our cruise ports via the Itinerary or Trip Map pages.

It was a smooth check-in and before you knew it we were underway having drinks on the read deck as we sailed off into the sunset

Rome’s Forum & Colosseum

Wow!! I have dreamt of visiting the Forum & Colosseum in Rome since I was a small child and this was definitely ticked off my bucket list. We took a tour with a wonderful lady by the name of Zander who was so knowledgeable. If we had undertaken this by ourselves we would have missed so much about this historical place.

The Forum was built at the end of the 7th Century BC and was considered the centre of Rome. This is where the first parliaments developed.

Construction of the Colosseum begun around 7 AD and could house approx 50,000 people. It was a place of battle where humans and beasts battled each other for death and glory. The even filled the place up with water and staged sea battles in it.

TIP – you must begin with the Forum and finish with the Colosseum.

Catacombs of St. Callixtus

A visit to the Catacombs at Callisto was something recommended to us but to be honest this was not something that I would put on my bucket list.

The history of this place is pretty amazing. The Christians of Rome began to excavate their own community cemeteries (known today as ‘catacombs’) at the beginning of the second half of the 2nd century AD, when a few wealthy families, having been converted to the Christian faith, donated their lands to the Church (read more here).

No photography was allowed at this site but you can find some on Google.

Vatican Tour

We pre-booked a tour of the Vatican with a fantastic guide called Michaelle (Michael) whose knowledge on the subject was worth the spend. Express entry was a bonus too as the waiting line was well over an hour – we went straight through (bonus).

The history of this holy place is truly amazing. The artwork and construction of the various buildings was stunning. Michelangelo’s work in St Peter’s Basilica is absolutely stunning and the crush of people in the main hall is massive.

I took a heap of photos here and culled 80% of them but these are the ones I just had to keep…

Around Ancient Rome

Our 1st full day in Rome involved a personally guided tour for our F.A.B. group around the older parts of Rome in the morning. Taking in…

  • The Aventine Keyhole (AKA Secret Hole) – a large door in a wall which, when you look through the key-hole you can see St Peter’s Cathedral. Pretty cool – check out the photo below.
  • Circus Maximus is an ancient Roman chariotracing stadium and mass entertainment venue which was the first and largest stadium in ancient Rome and its later Empire. A concert venue these days for Rolling Stones, U2 etc.
  • Pyramid of Cestius; the only “Egyptian” pyramid in Europe and the legendary tomb of Remus
  • Several cathedrals whose name I forget, but were absolutely stunning.

Raffles Hotel – Singapore

You cannot visit Singapore without paying a visit to the famous Raffles Hotel (maplink) for the popular Singapore Sling.

After queuing for about 30 minutes we finally entered the historical “Long Room” and settled in for some peanuts and a sling. We couldn’t believe the amount of discarded peanut shells on the floor. Apparently part of the tradition at Raffles is to shell your peanuts and drop the shells on the floor (check out the pictures below).

The drinks arrived and we totally got into it but only had one each as they come in at $33.00 each. One more item ticked off the bucket list.

Singapore’s Merlion

The Merlion is the official mascot of Singapore, depicted as a mythical creature with a lion’s head and the body of a fish. Spouting water from its mouth, the Merlion statue stands tall at 8.6 metres, weighs 70 tonnes and located in Merlion Park on the edge of Marina Bay.

We were in Singapore in 2002 and shortly afterward the Merlion was relocated from what used to be the mouth of the Singapore River to it’s present location. The relocation process was pretty tricky and makes for an interesting read (Wikipedia). We took a stroll from here to Raffles for a Singapore Sling.

Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay

Cloud Forest

This magnificent indoors garden is an absolute spectacle. There are different types of spectacle too – the flowers; hidden artwork and sooo many selfie taking people.

There is so much colour everywhere you look. Some of the hidden art is brilliant with monkeys, dragons and characters carved out of the bases of huge trees.

Another aspect to the enjoyable experience are the views through the glass dome to the “Supertrees” and the bay; once again spectacular.

Floral Dome

One of the attractions at the Gardens by the Bay is the Floral Dome which is the 2nd installment of internal gardens. This is a “wetland” type of environment with a central mountain containing multiple water cascades. Truly beautiful.

Sky Walk

We took the sky-walk among the garden’s “Supertrees” and it did not disappoint. The views are amazing and it really puts the massive scope of this development into perspective. This is an engineering marvel.

The Supertrees dominate the Gardens’ landscape with heights that range between 25 metres (82 ft) and 50 metres (160 ft).

Floral Fantasy

Another fantastic display of floral art. This was our last stop of the Gardens.

We then closed out the visit with a light-show in the “Supertrees Grove”

Some links…

Singapore’s Chinatown

Off to check out Singapore’s Chinatown today to take in the colours and flavours of this important part of visiting Singapore. What a fantastic place to visit, even though we only touched on a small part of it we totally enjoyed the experience.

Some links…

We’re on our way. Woohoo!!

Our F.A.B. (Fischer.Alexander.Brown) Tours group headed out of cold old Melbourne this morning headed for warm Singapore on our QANTAS A380.

Arriving in Singapore we were spirited away by our trustee driver to the Orchard Road Hotel. A quick unpack then saw us head off to the Australian High Commission for a couple of beers with our old neighbours, Doug & Larissa, from Melbourne. It was a fantastic way to kick off the trip and a great catch up with fantastic friends who we haven’t seen for ages.