Sunday, October 21, 2007

Life on the boat

Hands down, cruises are our favorite way to travel!!! You get to see so many places without packing and unpacking over and over. We love it also because there is nothing but family time - however you want to spend it. We went on the cruise with our friends the Lousbergs and both their sets of parents as well as the Bradleys. The top picture shows Caleb at the Kids Club on pirate night. The second picture shows our family with the Bradleys at the life boat drill. Cameron and Sydney are in the picture below at one of our dinners. The bottom picture shows me singing with a man named JP. He was fun to listen to and plays by ear. We did a few duets over the course of the cruise and helped me relive my performing days :-)

Egypt (continued)

Egypt was absolutely amazing - to say the least!!!! We had an amazing tour guide named Ashraf. He is an Egyptologist and holds 4 degrees....2 bachelors, 1 masters and 1 doctorate. He does lectures at the Cairo University and works on excavating in his spare time. To say that he is passionate about his work is an understatement. As you can see the top picture is at the Sphinx. The next picture down is of Cameron on the donkey.

Another quite interesting part of our trip to Cairo was that it coincided with Ramadan - the holy month. They fast from sun up to sundown - no food or water. As we travelled back to the ship that night after the tour all the mosques were lit up like it was Christmas or New Years. After sundown, they feast! As the sun went down, we mentioned to our driver that he could stop and eat the food that he'd brought from his igloo, which he did.
The next picture is of 2 men praying. They pray 5 times a day where ever they may be. The bottom picture is our guides favorite picture of the pyramids. While in Cairo, we also visitied Saqqara and the Step pyramids. We were also able to visit a store where they make papyrus. We got to watch a fascinating demonstration of how they make it.

Cairo (Alexandria), Egypt

Egypt was by far our most favorite and last stop on the cruise. After traveling these past couple of years through most of Europe as well as northern Africa, we've finally found the common denominator that links the world together - McDonalds (top picture) and Coke (bottom picture). They are in EVERY country we've been in

Anyway, the middle 2 pictures are at the Giza pyramids.

Limassol, Cyprus

Here we are in be honest, it was our least favorite stop of the whole cruise. For us, there wasn't a lot real exciting to see. The top picture is of the kids at an olive press. The next two pictures are of the ocean and then the last is of one of many mosaics we saw while there. Cyprus is an independent country with a high standard of living. Their pound is almost worth as much as the British pound.

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Rhodes, Greece

Here we are in Rhodes, Greece on our 6th stop. We docked right outside of the Old Town. The first picture shows the outside walls. The next picture down shows the boys' favorite part....the street of knights. The third picture down shows us inside the palace of the knights. The last picture is overlooking the ocean. Once again we're in awe of the beauty of the ocean. It was a great day!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ephesus (Kusadasi), Turkey

OK, I am in love with Turkey. I'd heard that Turkey had beautiful beaches, and now I'm a believer. The water was one of the most beautiful colors of blue I've ever seen....ok, now that that's done, our next stop was in Ephesus, Turkey. We took a tour that included seeing the house of Mary in which John the Beloved had taken Mary to live. The top picture is a picture of the baptismal font near Mary's home where they performed baptisms by immersion.
The next pictures are pictures of the ruins of Ephesus where Paul preached.
Our tour guide mentioned to us that a few years ago that they discovered through DNA that the American Indians are descendents of that area.....very interesting.....can we say Book of Mormon?

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Sevastopol, Ukraine

The 4th stop of our adventure on the Black Sea was to Sevastopol, Ukraine. The boys went on their own adventure and saw the submarines of Balaklava. Sydney and I took a tour to the Crimean Riviera. We went to the Palace in Alupka. The 3rd picture down is inside that palace. That piano is a piano that Rachmaninoff (sp?) used to play on. The most fascinating part of this tour for me was at the Livadia Palace. (The bottom picture shows the outside of it). This was the summer home of the Romanovs (sp?). It is even more famous for the Yalta Conference towards the end of WWII where Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill came to sign the peace agreement. The second picture shows the table they sat at to sign it.

I was so fascinated with the beauty of Yalta and the Crimean Riviera. The mountains and the ocean next to each other were one of the highlights of this stop in the Ukraine.

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Odessa, Ukraine

Our third stop was in Odessa, Ukraine which is called the Paris of the Ukraine. It was definitely a beautiful city. We can't really tell you much about the city. We didn't take a tour on this one, and the maps that the ship gave us didn't match the streets there - oh well. So, we wandered a lot. One of the things that absolutely cracked us up were the agencies marrying off Ukrainian women to Americans, etc. There were signs everywhere which more or less said, "Choose a Ukrainian woman to be your wife...cost includes honeymoon night at hotel with a translator"! (Wow! What a steal!)

The top picture is of our kids and our friend's kids Luc and Jack. The middle picture is of our kids, Jack and Luc and a Ukrainian kid that popped in for the picture. The bottom picture is a beautiful building there in Odessa.

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Varna, Bulgaria

The second stop on our cruise was in Varna, Bulgaria. We went up to a Medieval Orthodox Christian monestary called the Aladza Monestary that was built in caves about 17km north of Varna. The first 3 pictures show parts of that. Our guide drove us around and took us to the Golden Sands beach resort. We were in shock to learn that there are beach resorts in Bulgaria. It was a beautiful town and would be a lot of fun to go back and visit. The last place we visited is in downtown Varna. As you can see, the bottom picture shows some gypsies. Apparently, the gypsies are a huge problem in Bulgaria. While we were eating lunch in Varna, there were gypsies around that our guide warned us about who steal anything they can. There were police around trying to protect, but there's only so much that can be done!

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Istanbul, Turkey

The first stop of our cruise was in Istanbul, Turkey. What a fascinating city it is!!!! Call me clueless, but I had no idea that part of Turkey was in Europe and part was in Asia. Istanbul happens to be on the Europe side. The first place we visited was the Topkapi Palace. It was the home to the Sultans of Turkey. The palace is beautiful especially with the intricate tile and designs on the inside of the buildings and the huge courtyards on the outside. It even houses (supposedly) the arm of John the Baptist (which we saw) and the staff of Moses. The first picture shows the outside of the palace.

The most famous and well-known mosque in Istanbul is the Blue Mosque which is pictured behind our family in the second picture. (George Lucas liked it so much he used it in one of his Star Wars films which Cameron and Caleb thought was sooooo cool!) The Blue Mosque was so crowded from tourists that our tour guide took us to a different mosque so that we could go inside and see what it was like. The bottom picture shows us with our guide in the mosque. We had to remove our shoes to go in. Before the people are allowed to enter and pray they must all wash themselves before entering. The muslims pray 5 times a day. If they pray at the mosque then it's "better" (according to our guide). They don't have to pray at the mosques, though. There are mosques everywhere, every few blocks. We were able to witness when they made the call for prayers from the minarets. All of this was so interesting in light of all that is going on in the world today.

The picture with the round blue circle is a symbol you see all over Turkey. It is something that is displayed everywhere to ward off the "evil eyes".

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Athens, Greece

We arrived in Athens, Greece on September 5 . We happened to be there 1 1/2 years ago, but the Acropolis was closed the one day we were there. After dropping all our baggage off at the hotel, we jumped on the subway and headed for the Acropolis. It was amazing! It was a beautiful sunny day. At the top of the hill of the Acropolis we were able to see all of Athens. One of the best parts of Greece is the food. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it mmmm..............................

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