Redefining help

Redefining help.

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Has a Hospice organization ever touched your life? Would you like to say, Thank You?

I know, this following post has nothing to do with travel what-so-ever… well I take that back, if you decide to find it in your heart to help me with my latest “quest” you will have to travel to the post office.. but other than that nothing else will be travel related…

I am posting this on my blog because Facebook has made it very difficult to create an “event” where I can say more than 10 words about something that I would like to invite my friends and family and acquaintances to undertake with me.

Some of you may know that I am a volunteer with the Hospice and Palliative Care, Charlotte Region organization.  While for many years I have visited with patients in nursing homes, hospitals or their homes and helped their family members with respite, since January of this year and the opening of the Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Southminster (LDHH-S) here in Charlotte I also volunteer every Saturday and take a shift at the House.

Knowing that the word “No” is not in my vocabulary (unless you are my kid or my boyfriend.. then No is always lurking) I was also asked to help out with the House and become their Donations Coordinator… what is that you ask? 

Well basically I see what is needed at the House, that we have no budget for, and I then search high and low for individuals, clubs, civic organizations, schools, churches etc etc that might be able to help me obtain these items.

The reason for this particular blog is that currently I am desperately seeking Prayer Shawls, the need is great in a 10-bed facility and since we are so new at this facility I currently am taking from our other House in Huntersville, NC

What is a Prayer Shawl?

Prayer shawls are given to patients in homes, long term care communities and at our Levine & Dickson Hospice Houses (LDHH). With each patient, they provide a little extra love for those who need to know someone is thinking of them. The hospice house is where we actually have the opportunity to make them part of a special ritual for patients. At LDHH a cozy prayer shawl is provided for each new patient admitted. These heartfelt gifts provide great comfort during the patient’s stay at the hospice house. The shawls also play an important role in the ceremony at LDHH, held by staff and family members, to honor the patient’s life after they have died.

The shawl that provided softness and warmth in life is lovingly placed over the patient in death. Twigs of rosemary, symbolizing remembrance, are cut fresh from the grounds of LDHH, tied with ribbon, and then hung on the door of the patient’s room. When it is time to escort the patient from the building, the lights are dimmed, a candle is lit, and with soft music playing, the staff joins the caregivers in a slow procession. Both the rosemary bouquet and the shawl are then presented to the family for tangible keepsakes of remembrance.

So as you can see, they serve a wonderful purpose in each patients stay and then for the family they are leaving behind.

What am I asking you to do? 

Do you knit?  Do you crochet? Do you know someone that does?  Do you have yarn that you are not using?  Could you make a prayer shawl and mail it to me?  Could you take that unused yarn and mail it to me?  If you live in the Charlotte area I will be more than happy to come and pick it up… but if you are out of town (and here comes the travel part) could you drop it in a box and mail it off to me?

If every one of you that reads this could make a shawl and send it to me I would have hundreds of shawls, more than enough to where I could then return the favor of the shared shawls with the Huntersville house.

There is no “set” pattern for a prayer shawl.. I just ask that it be between 20 – 24″ wide and 60″ long (it can be fringed or it doesn’t have to be).  I have just Googled “Prayer Shawl” and  you can find many free patterns online.  It can be one color it can be striped… and while it is being made I would just like you to remember how much it is going to be helping a patient or their family during an extremely difficult time… and beyond. 

I hope that very soon I will be seeing a slew of boxes filled with wonderful shawls arriving at this address:

8417 Southgate Commons Dr., Charlotte, NC  28277

Thanks so much for your time… please share this post with anyone that you know that might also be able to help with this project!  I am busy crocheting away as fast as I can but I sure could use your help!!

Take care!



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Cue the Crickets……

Chirp… Chirp… Chirp…..

Yes it has been pretty quiet around here.  My witty think-tank seems to have dried up.

Now I could say something like my daughter would say “No one else has been blogging very much either lately”… but then I would have to come back with “I don’t care what everyone else is doing…”  you know the drill with the teenagers and it doesn’t change with those middleagers either!

Maybe it is the barrage of political ads bombarding us on TV, in our mailboxes or those wonderful pre-recorded phone calls throughout the day.  Is it the change in the weather or the seasons or that pesky Hurricane Sandy?? (Someone owes someone $5 at the Hurricane Naming Center on that one)  Am I not eating enough fiber rich foods???  Who knows!

But I have to snap out of it right quick because in less than a week now I hop on that plane and fly off to Istanbul for what I know will be a wonderful cruise with Crystal on board the Serenity (ah… just the name relaxes me!)

So this is crunch time…. I need to buy a new suitcase, start monitoring the weather overseas, stop eating, try on all those clothes that I only wear when I travel, tell myself that I don’t know why I bought these clothes I don’t like the way that I look in them, then tell myself what does it matter I am never going to see any of these people again, pack everything up, go over my list a  hundred times and then that final step; obsess over whether my suitcase is over weight and if so what can I quickly take out of it at the airport.

And I wonder why I am so tired

Then I have to turn on the global function for my cell phone plan and turn off my paper delivery.  Turn on the international charging on my charge cards and turn off that little voice in my head that says “your daughter is going to throw a great big party while you are gone halfway around the world”  Turn on all my auto-reply messages that say “I am out-of-town but will return your email within 24 hours” and turn off my hearing so I don’t hear my boyfriend say “Why can’t we ever take a vacation that you don’t work during?”

Are you tired yet?

I know… none of you are feeling any sympathy for me.. I am leaving 2 days prior to the election so I am going to be missing out on all those calls, flyers and TV ads while you have to sit and listen to that pre-recorded phone message from Joe Blah Blah Jr. who is running for one of the 6 seats for county commissioner in district 12.  Big stuff.. hate to miss it… let me know how it turns out!

So depending on the internet access on board the ship and whether it will only cost a little or will cost me my first-born (who will be spending 10 days trying to get the stains off the furniture, gluing together my buddha collection and trying to die the cats back to their original colors), I will be blogging my way from Turkey to Greece to Italy.  If not stay tuned to a barrage of Blog postings from me telling you the tales of my trip.

I hope everyone has a great couple of weeks while I am out and about!

Cue those crickets again… Suzanne has left the Blog!

Chirp… Chirp… Chirp






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Inspirational Travel Quotes

Inspirational Travel Quotes.

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I need a Thesaurus or perhaps help from Dr. Seuss… Sicily.. hmmmm


Maybe I don’t take THAT much!

We are fast approaching our  next adventure… we leave home on the 4th of November (yes I did finally get my airline tickets… we are flying Lufthansa as I had hoped and we didn’t pay an arm and a leg.. just an arm!).  Being the Virgo that I am I am now in crunch mode.  I know that many of you just throw something in a suitcase the days before a trip but once I hit 30 days my “last-minute rush” begins.

Much is in the news lately in regards to Turkey… am I concerned?  I would be a liar if I didn’t say a little… but nothing seems to be happening near the towns we are going so right now I am hoping that our time spent in Turkey will be incident free.  We do have our trusty travel insurance though so if there is anything that does occur around Istanbul or Kusadisi we will be able to cancel our trip and be refunded what we have paid out.

So last week I told you a little about what we would be doing during our time on the island of Mykonos… after we visit Mykonos we will spend one day at sea as we sail towards the island of Sicily.  I was going to write about what there is to do on a ship while you are at sea… but I think that we have already discussed that numerous times.. what will I be doing?  Well I would like to think that I will be taking a little time and exercising or maybe relaxing with a spa treatment but who am I kidding?  I will be in the casino and either having a great time or complaining a lot!!

Taormina Sicily Italy

The town sits on Monte Tauro. No busses allowed so we will be walking up to the town.

So, our next port?  Catania on the island of Sicily.  This day we have chosen to take an excursion that will be bringing us to the town of Taormina and then off to Mt. Etna.   This will be a full 8 hour excursion as Taormina is about an hour’s drive from Catania where our ship will be docked.


Taormina Sicily Ionian Sea

Overlooking the Ionian Sea

Taormina is situated on the eastern coast of Sicily and is delicately poised on a level terrace atop Monte Tauro and situated high above the Ionian Sea.  While there we will be visiting the Greco-Roman Theater and also the interior courtyard of the 15th century Corvaja Palace.  The town is known for its narrow alleys and lanes bordered with bright flowers and shops.  Hopefully the weather will be mild and perhaps some nice fall flowers will still be blooming.  We will have some free time to look on our own.

Taormina Sicily

I love my alleyways!!

Taormina overlooking Ionian Sea

While this isn’t where we will be lunching… Maybe a nice cup of Espresso!

Mt Etna

Okay… it is still an active volcano with occasional eruptions… wish me luck!

After Taormina we will ride to Mt. Etna which rises to a height of 10,800 feet.  We will be lunching at the Restaurant La Contoniera which is located at an altitude of 6,200 feet and is surrounded by hardened lava flow.  Now I know from our trip a couple of years ago to Hawaii that regardless of what the temperature is when we dock on Sicily, when we venture up to the volcano it will be much cooler.

Mt. Etna

I am sure lava might warm things up a bit for us! The volcano on Maui was after all not active.

Mt Etna

This picture is a nice Segway for tomorrow’s port of Naples and our visit to Pompeii!

We are off to Naples for the final full day of our cruise.. there were so many wonderful choices of things to do.. but the biggest regret I had from my previous trip to Italy with my daughter was that we never ventured south of Rome to do Pompeii… so that will be our excursion and the topic of next week’s blog!

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“Me-Ka-Knows” it all so Let’s Make a “Delos”!

One day soon you will be filled Carbs!!!

Have I mentioned that I am currently on a diet?  Therefore I feel like the lack of sugar, preservatives and alcohol seem to be affecting me…. did I really need to come up with a title that plays off of both areas that I will be blogging about?  Maybe I feel like since last week with Ephesus and Kusadi not giving me anything to work with I had to be somewhat of an overachiever… either way you are stuck with this title….

Mykonos Town Greece from Harbor

What a sight to see when we wake up that day!

So let’s start with Mykonos shall we?  It is phonetic in the title, which may be helpful to some of you because I am quite frequently asked how it is pronounced… and for those of you that are reaching for your Atlas’ my friend Wikipedia can explain to you its location:  Mykonos is a popular tourist destination in the Greek islands of the Cyclades group, situated in the middle of the Aegean Sea. Mykonos is located south of Tinos, east of Syros and north of Paros and Naxos.  Gee, NOW do you know where it is? Tinos, Syros, Paros and Naxos… weren’t those the Greek reindeer?

So when you visit, what is there to do and see in Mykonos?

Mykonos Island Greece Windmills

Quite a change from my last Windmills trip to Holland!

The Windmills, (western part of town). From as early as the 16th century, the windmills are one of the most recognized landmarks of Mykonos. Once this island was a great producer of wheat and bread. The area of the windmills has a splendid view of Little Venice and is the most popular place in Mykonos to watch the sunset.

Mykonos Island Greece

We might just take a Three-Hour-Tour while we are there!

Little Venice (Alefkandra), (most western part of town). A district located at the sea, famous for its picturesque medieval two and three story houses, which stand like a wall above the sea, and their colourful wooden balconies. Little Venice is one of the most beautiful and romantic places in the whole of Mykonos and offers a fantastic sunset. You can reach Little Venice walking from the windmills down the stairs. It is only a five-minute walk from Fabrika bus station and there is a sign for it on the other side of the square.

mykonos beaches greeceAre you the type that if you are on island you must go to the beach? (I am not…) then Ornos, (3km south of Mykonos Town). Is a busy family and tourist beach. It gathers many for its sunbeds and umbrellas, and bars and restaurants. The sandy beach slopes gently into the sea. There are schools for sea-skiing and surfing. Ornos is easily accessible by bus from Mykonos Town (or walk along the coast road for about 30 minutes).  Or a bit north of Ornos is the beach of Korfos, suitable for wind surfing, but not for swimming or sunbathing.

Mykonos Beaches Greece

A more secluded option

Agios Ioannis (Shirley Valentine Beach), (4km south-west of Mykonos Town). Agios Ioannis is a small beach with snorkeling opportunities. The beach never gets over crowded and deck chairs are available to rent. Great tavern and cocktail bar very close. The beach offers a beautiful view towards the nearby islands of Delos and Rheneia. Agios Ioannis is easily accessible by bus from Mykonos Town. Next to Agios Ioannis is the small beach of Kapari, with a small nude section. This hidden beach is located north of Agios Ioannis, behind Agios Ioannis chapel, and then a steep walk downhill.

The beaches I mention are G – PG rated beaches and should be fine for everyone… there are plenty of R and XX rated beaches too…… I will let you find those on your own!

As you can see, the island is small, the town is small…  so do you need to set up an excursion from the ship?  If you just want to walk around the town and perhaps do a little shopping I would say no.. if you want to see a little of the island then perhaps taking a taxi round would be good.

Delos Apollo and Artemis

That is me on the left… we both lost our heads over this island apparently!

Matt and I are not big shoppers so while we will be doing some walking around and will probably drop in on the Windmills we are spending the bulk of our time on an excursion to the nearby island of Delos… where according to Greek myth was the birthplace of Apollo the god of light and his sister Artemis the goddess of the moon… so you could say that Matt and I are going to visit our old stomping grounds!  Delos is a UNESCO world heritage area known for its important archaeological sites.

Now Crystal does offer an excursion to Delos that lasts about 4 1/2 hours.  At a cost of $132.00 pp with that including the boat ride there and back, tour of the ruins with the services of an English-speaking guide… on the face of that you would think well that is a pretty good deal considering that the island is about a 45 minute ride there and then back etc.  But with a little “digging” I came up with what I hope will be a better option.

There are daily excursions from Mykonos Town except Monday, when the archaeological site is closed. (We are in port on Friday!!)  Boats leave at 9AM, 10AM and 11AM from the pier at the west side of the harbor, right behind the little church of Agios Nikolaos.  Boats return at 12:15PM, 1:30PM and 3PM.  The excavations are open from 8:30AM to 3PM, so our arrival at 8 am to the port of Mykonos means that we should have an early start so we can see it all.

Island of Delos Columns

Sure isn’t like I remember it way back when!

Now get this, the cost is € 17 for the boat trip plus € 5 for entrance (though free for students and € 3 for those over 65). A guided tour, departing at 10AM from the pier in Mykonos, will cost € 40 (including boat trip and entrance fee).   So all we need to do is make sure we are at the pier area in time for the 10 AM boat and we can have a guided tour.. or we can set out earlier and do it all on our own…   € 22 pp on our own or € 40 pp for guided… vs. $132.00 pp (which at today’s exchange rate is about € 103 pp)  Every little bit helps so this is a nice savings!

Do I recommend doing this in every port that you go to?  No way.. in some cities the sights are just too far from the ports.  But on an island like Mykonos where everything is so close and the fact that they have tours pre-arranged to Delos that run on schedules and we are in port from 8 am – 5 pm I would say it is a safe bet that doing this particular sightseeing adventure on our own will be stress-free, fun and best of all a huge savings!  Of course I will let you know how it all turns out… we know the saying “Best Laid Plans…..”

The cruise is almost over!

I can’t go home and cook and clean again! How can I stay on this ship?

Can you believe it…the cruise is halfway over!  We only have a bit of cruising around the Mediterranean Sea after this and a stop in Catania and Naples!  Then we will be on our own in Rome for a couple of days.  I think though that after Delos we will be ready to take a little break from walking around ruins until we get to Naples that is!

My next article will be covering our arrival to Catania on the island of Sicily!  Where we are planning a little jaunt up to Mt. Etna with a side trip to Taormina…. Last time Mt Etna erupted was 2001 and before that 1983… lets hope it will be sticking to its 18 year cycle!

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Nothing Rhymes with Kusadasi or Ephesus… bummer!

November 2012 Calendar

Please don’t use a Sharpie on your computer screen!

Okay everyone… grab your calendars and write down on November 8th “Suzanne walks around Ephesus”… (you don’t really have to do that.. but that is what I will be doing on November 8th…)

Another shout out to my high school World History teacher!  This time I say “Shame on you!”… why don’t I know about these historical areas of the world?  And if I don’t know them, I am sure that most people under the age of 25 definitely don’t know them! (But I bet they know ALL about the Jersey Shore!)

So… thanks Wikipedia for saving me and for giving me a reader’s digest version of the history and importance of Ephesus (of course I must interject some of my own comments among theirs)

Ephesus Turkey Ruins


Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor.  It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League (not to be confused with the Justice League) during the Classical Greek era.  In the Roman period, Ephesus had a population of more than 250,000 in the 1st century BC, which also made it one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean world.

Temple of Artemis

I guess they weren’t kidding when they said that the Temple was destroyed!

The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  Emperor Constantine I  rebuilt much of the city and erected new public baths. Following the Edict of Thessalonica from emperor Theodosius I,  (not to be confused with emperor Theodosius II) the temple was destroyed in 401 AD by a mob led by St. John Chrysostom.  (I didn’t realize that people who led destructive mobs could then become Saints… hmm, I think my mother might have lied to me!)

Celcus Library at Ephesus

Ruins of the Library

The town was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 614 AD. The city’s importance as a commercial center declined as the harbor was slowly silted up by the Cayster River.  It’s other “claims to fame” include:

  • Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Asia that are cited in the Book of Revelation
  • The Gospel of John may have been written here.
  • The city was the site of several 5th century Christian Councils
  • It is also the site of a large gladiators’ graveyard.
Ephesus Terrace Houses

The Terrace Houses still are amazing to look at!

Needless to say a major draw of Kusadasi is Ephesus… but our tour is only 4 hours which leaves us plenty of time to see this beautiful city.

Kusadasi Turkey

The beautiful Aegean Sea!

The city lies on the Aegean Sea and is tourist resort for mostly Northern Europeans, Balkans and Turks.  Now I know what you are asking “Where did they get a name like that?”  Glad you asked!  The name comes from ‘kuş’ (bird) and ‘ada’ (island) as the peninsula has the shape of a bird’s head (as seen from the sea).  Try to work that little bit of knowledge into your next dinner party conversation!

Kusadasi Turkey at Night

Hope those shops are open late!

We are in port until 11 pm so we will be able to, after what I know will be a delicious dinner, take some time to stroll the town and take in a beautiful sunset!

Kusadasi Turkey Sunset

I feel like you are not going to be thinking “Poor Suzanne, that girl has a tough job!”

How can this trip get any better?  Well grab your calendar again and on the 9th right down “that good-for-nothing Suzanne is walking around Mykonos, Greece today”!  Find out next week what our plans are for this Greek isle!

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This has nothing to do with the series I am doing on my next adventure to Turkey and beyond, but this blogger always has such wonderful stories and BEAUTIFUL pictures that I thought I would share this article with you. Enjoy… I LOVE lavender and still to this day regret going to Provence in May and missing them! Next time though!!

Victor Travel Blog

By Irina.

I’d like to visit France three times:

– In the beginning of summer, Normandy, when plump French cows are put out to graze on young, lush grass, and their milk smells of spring, which means that fresh, soft, young Brie cheese covered with flavored rind would be the highest quality. Moreover, Mont Saint Michel might look fantastic against the green-blue background of summer. Although I suppose this abbey looks wonderful on the background of leaden clouds too.

– In the middle of summer, Provence, to catch a sight of lavender fields.

– And in autumn for the New Wine Festival. Although maybe we would choose Italy for this event.

So, the summer vacation came up, and we decided to go to the south of France to seek lavender fields. Don’t ask me, “Why seek them? They are all over the place there.” As it turned out, to capture…

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It ain’t no bull that Istanbul!

Here we go… with just a little under two months before we set off on our next adventure if I want to make sure that you are totally bored with me and my trip then I better get cracking!  So let’s take a look at our first destination; Istanbul, Turkey.

Istanbul Turkey Skyline

Soon I can put a little dot on this picture that reads “I am here”!

Want to be wowed with my knowledge of history and such?  Way back when (okay so far not very impressive) Istanbul used to be called Constantinople.  Now, I have never professed to being an expert on ALL things.. just travel related things!  So I did what I do best in these instances and Googled!

Back in 1453 the seige of Constantinople and the subsequent capture of Constantinople marked the end of the Roman Empire, an imperial state which had lasted for nearly 1,500 years.  The fact that I didn’t realize that Constantinople played such an important part in the downfall of the Roman Empire I would like to blame on the poor schooling back in the 70’s rather than perhaps non-interest in my teen years…

So… a pretty important place both way back when and now…  We will have a good amount of free time in Istanbul… the first full day… and then the next day until the evening when our ship departs.  I am betting that my jet lag will be major as it usually is when going over the pond.  I try my best to get as much out of myself that first day without sleeping until the evening, trying to reset my inner clock, but after 50 years that clock is pretty stubborn.

But if so inclined here are some of the highlights that I might want to pay a visit to: (and with the help of my friend Google while some of these you might well know or have heard about, some of these will be brand-new (to you) ).

The Grand Bazaar:

Grand Bazaar Istanbul TurkeyThere are 5,500-odd vendors in the Grand Bazaar. Shopkeepers cajole and entreat passers-by in a dozen languages, determined not to permit visitors to indulge in such a non-commercial activity as sightseeing. You are not dealing with sales clerks but most likely the owners themselves, or at least a trusted brother or nephew. Many still pay their rent in gold – a hefty seven kilos per year for shops on the main avenue.

Grand Bazaar Istanbul Turkey

I already want one of everything!!!

Fortunately, the perception that hardcore hustling is bad for long-term trade has finally started to sink in among the bazaar traders. Visitors will find the Grand Bazaar a kinder, gentler place than it was years ago. But even the sagacious Mehmed the Conqueror, who founded the covered bazaar in the 1460s, would have been surprised by the plasma screens overhead in the bazaar’s 65 alleys.

Grand Bazaar Istanbul Turkey

I think I am already lost!

Serious shoppers should come armed with a notepad, a calculator for working out exchange rates and plenty of time – three hours is about the minimum needed for a purchasing expedition here. When you find something you like, jot down the price and the location of the seller. Then find the item elsewhere and get more quotes. Continue for as long as you have the patience.

Haghia Sophia:

Haghia Sophia Istanbul Turkey

What a gorgeous place!

Google to the rescue again!  Having never heard of this sacred building before, I came across a very interesting explanation Haghia Sophia Review.  I wanted to just do a little synopsis for you on the blog but after reading a couple of paragraphs I felt that everything was really pretty interesting and as I know what appeals to me might not interest everyone (I thought that the fact it once held the finger of that doubting Apostle Thomas was pretty cool…..) so for a quick read just click on the link.  It reads like a soap opera!

Haghia Sophia Istanbul Turkey

Topkapi Palace:

Topkapi Palace Istanbul TurkeyGlad to hear that this Palace is located right behind the Haghia Sophia… so see one see both.  The Palace was the hub of Ottoman power for over three centuries, until it was superseded by Dolmabahçe Palace in 1853. For lavish decor and exquisite location, it rivals Granada’s Alhambra. (I will have to be the judge of that though… when we went to Spain a couple of years ago I had thought that the Alhambra was magnificent).  But they say that at least half a day is needed to explore Topkapı and that

Topkapi Palace Interior Istanbul Turkey

Oh, oh… the Alhambra might have a rival!

given the high entrance fee you might want to take a full day to get your money’s worth.  We might be a little pushed for time so the must-see features are the Harem (although there’s an extra charge), Imperial Treasury and the views from the innermost courtyard.   Now the Harem?  I might never get Matt out of there!


The Church of St Saviour in Chora

The Church of St Savior in Chora

What beautiful work and so well preserved!

Often overlooked because it’s so far off the beaten track, for Byzantine splendour this church (also known as the Kariye Mosque or Museum) is second only to Haghia Sophia. Built in the late 11th century, its celebrated mosaics and frescoes were added when the church was remodelled in the 14th century.

Depicting all manner of Christian iconography, from the Day of Judgement through to the Resurrection, the works here are arguably the most important surviving examples of Byzantine art in the world, both in terms of their execution and preservation. Ironically, this Christian art owes its excellent condition to the church’s conversion to Islam in the early 16th century, when the frescoes and mosaics were covered over.  They remained concealed until their rediscovery in 1860.

Yerebatan Sarnici

Yerebatan Sarayi Istanbul Turkey

Eerie! But what a marvel of engineering!

Built by the Emperor Justinian at the same time as the Haghia Sophia, it was forgotten for centuries and only rediscovered by a Frenchman, Peter Gyllius, in 1545 when he noticed that people in the neighborhood got water by lowering buckets through holes in their basements.

It’s a tremendous engineering feat, with brick vaults supported on 336 columns spaced at 13-foot  intervals. Prior to restoration in 1987, the cistern could only be explored by boat (James Bond rowed through in From Russia With Love). These days there are concrete walkways. The subdued lighting and subterranean cool are especially welcome on hot days.  Look for the two Medusa heads at the far end from the entrance, both recycled from an even more ancient building and casually employed as column bases.

I hope that this article has peaked your interest a little more into Istanbul.  While the Grand Bazaar is a “must” there are so many other interesting places in the city and on the outskirts that Istanbul is a great destination for more than just a day or two… so many times when I am setting up a client with a cruise that starts or ends here… or a tour, they chose to spend some extra days on their own to discover the city… and you will find that the prices for tours and hotels in Turkey these days are very reasonable!

For more information you know where to find me!  Call 888 877 8464 or email me at or you can post a comment on the blog or visit my website at!

Next week’s blog will outline our next stop on the cruise Kusadasi, Turkey… so you know we will be talking about Ephesus!!

Ephesus Turkey

Ephesus Turkey


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What took me so long???

What are we still doing here???

I have been home from my last trip for a month and 2 days… and yet I haven’t made a peep about any future travel… so unlike me!

Well, peep peep peep…. my next jaunt has been decided upon, booked and mostly paid for (what is left?  AIRFARE!  I hate airfare pricing… even though I am a “professional” I still never know when is the perfect time to bite the bullet….)  I monitor usually for at least a good couple of months and hope that magically one day I will log on and find that the fares have dropped hundreds of dollars… unfortunately (or fortunately since it makes me stress out) I don’t have that much time for this trip…  we are less than 2 months away so I have to “you know what or get off the pot” soon.

Crystal Serenity

Our ship the Serenity! What a great name!

“Where are you going Suzanne?”  Well I am so glad that you asked!  We are off sailing on the high seas this time and not a river (I heard you all gasp!)  This go around we will be sailing with Crystal Cruises on their Crystal Serenity (With just a little over 1,000 passengers and a 2:1 ratio we will still get that wonderful experience that we are used to when sailing on the smaller river cruises).

A couple of years ago we sailed with Crystal on their other ship the Symphony so we are really excited to see how the Serenity differs!

And where will we be off to?  Well this is also a pleasant surprise that every port will be a destination that I have never been to!  I am just marking tons off my Bucket List with this trip aren’t I?

Crystal Serenity Istanbul to RomeThe name of the itinerary we chose is Crystal Getaways, which is a shorten itinerary from their Roman Empire Exploration cruise.  Crystal decided this year to offer shorter legs in conjunction with their longer journeys.  Perfect for those of us that can’t take 2 weeks off for vacation.  The original cruise was Istanbul to Barcelona.  Considering that I had been to the stops between Rome and Barcelona I opted to leave the ship in Rome and spend extra days there vs. on the ship.  I think it is a smart move on Crystal’s part to allow passengers to almost create their own cruise itinerary!

We will start off in Istanbul spending 2 days before we set sail to Kusadisi, Turkey (a nice day at sea sailing the Dardanelles).  Then a visit to Mykonos, Greece, a day of sailing the Mediterranean Sea then on to Sicily/Catania, Italy; Naples, Italy and ending in Rome! (now I have been to Rome but that was years ago and it was cold and rainy, hopefully this time it will be different).

Trevi Fountain at night

See, I brought Ilyse to Rome with me also… what a nice Mom I am!

We will spend a couple of extra days in Rome on our own so that Matt can see the sights.  And this just dawned on me, last time I threw some coins in the Trevi Fountain so I guess that really does work!  Look I am coming back!

So over the coming weeks I will be focusing on what to do in each of these ports, more information about the ship itself, what we will be doing in Rome afterwards and of course I will tell you the most important thing:  how much money did I end up spending on that damn airfare….  I can tell you right now, if I want to just change planes once on the way there and back I can only fly US Air and right now that pricing flying from Charlotte to Istanbul and Rome back to Charlotte is $1,900.00 pp.  So unless pigs start sprouting wings I guess I am going to have to suck it up and change planes a couple of times in each direction.  If I bite the bullet and do that I am looking at fares that range from $1,100 – $1,400  pp depending on the airline.  What is on my wish list?  Lufthansa… what is on my no-way-in-hell list?  Probably British Airways (last time I flew them I was really disappointed with the condition of the plane).

As always, if you would like any help in planning your own vacation you know where to find me!  Visit my website Champagne Vacations or call (888) 877-8464 or send me an email at!

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