Rotterdam Ancient Discoveries 12 days Oct. 2011

Check out our cruise highlights travel 12 days in 8 minutes with visits to Athens, Piraeus, Rhodes and Gythios in Greece, The Pyramids of Cairo Egypt, Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee & Nazareth in Israel, Ephasus Turkey and Rome Italy

With special thanks to our new and fabulous friends Noel & Pat Bell! Noel was our videographer on board – enjoy!

More of Noel’s videos on YouTube are here

Cafe Nikki – Santorini Greece

After traveling from Seattle and checking into Villa Rose, we wanted something to eat and traditional Greek was what we had in mind. The hotel recommended a small place a couple blocks away named Cafe Nikki. What a treat it was to a couple travel weary people.

The restaurant has about 10 tables inside and a few more outside, we ate inside. I think we were the only non locals in the place; this is nearing the end of the tourist season though. We do like to do more local things than spend our time in totally tourist areas and businesses. So the place seemed perfect to us.

The Menu was traditional Greek all the way. We ordered the following, (I posted recipes for these dishes in Cook with Dave, so look them up):

Tzatziki – had carrots in it
Tomato Balls – A Santorini specialty
Calamari with Orzo – from my experience this is a tricky dish not to over cook the Calamari, but it was done to perfection for us.

We split the dishes and it was more than plenty for the two of us. We didn’t order dessert but Nikki brought us each a plate of Greek Yogurt with honey on it. Might sound strange but it was amazing. You get the sweet of honey and the tart of Greek Yogurt at the same time. Try it you will like it you can trust me on this. Just simple and amazing at the same time. I should say a bit more about Nikki.

This is Nikki’s restaurant and she runs the show. What a character she is too. Everyone there is really busy and very attentive too. We really enjoyed tasting REAL Greek food once again and this was a perfect place to experience it again.

If we can fit it in we will be back there before we leave. If not…we will on our next trip for sure.

Back in Santorini


We flew to Santorini today and were met at the airport upon our arrival by the hotel we were staying at. We are staying at the Villa Rose, a great small hotel, we will cover them in a review separately. But we can tell you here that it is a great place, great owners, and just a nice place.

After we unpacked in our room we took the recommendation of the Hotel for a traditional Greek dinner. We went to Café Nikki, it was only a couple blocks walk. What a great place and great food too. Look up the review on Café Nikki to see more details about the place. The Villa Rose has a review too so check that out too. I can tell you this much right now, we like both places.

The day after we arrived we went on a tour by boat. We went to several islands just off the coast that used to be part of Santorini before the volcano erupted. It was a great day, lots of sunshine and we even hiked up to the crater of the volcano too. It made for an interesting view of Santorini, one that we had not seen before even after as many times as we have been here. We will get the pictures up fairly soon.

We made a stop at the hot springs on our tour and many of the people on our boat jumped off and swam over to the springs. What a sight that was. Some were good at it and some…well lets just say they all made it. There was only one that they had to bring him a life preserver to use to finish swimming back to the boat.

All in all a great start to our visit to Santorini.

The second day, we will just kicked back a little and explored the town. Read that bead shop and the many stores by the cliffs.

There was a protest going on too. The police were out making sure things remained safe and calm. There was a sign across part of a road in town that said they were part of the Wall Street protests. We saw it about 10:30am when we walked by it. About 11:30am I thought I should walk back and take a picture of it to show you what the protest was like but alas, it was over and the sign was gone. Business went on as usual, except right in the immediate area of protest. No one said anything about it or seemed to be bothered about it either.

We ended our day in town by stopping at a bar / restaurant and having a drink before walking back to the hotel. Ok, we had two drinks, the view was just captivating looking out and down over the caldera. We could see the cruise ships that were in port, all tendered to shore. By the time we had are second drink or so all of the boat people were heading back to their ship. Amazing how much that cleared up the streets of people.

Athens Arrival

Long flight and stayed at the Sofitel Hotel by the Athens Airport for the night. Nice clean place with comfortable rooms. We found that if we wanted something to eat, or wine perhaps, it was MUCH cheaper to walk across the street to the Airport and buy from the shops there. It seems that many locals also buy at the stores too. It reminded me of the Amsterdam Airport where they also have a major train station combined with the airport. The shops there were like a Mall inside the airport. It isn’t that scale in Athens but the prices at some of the Airport shops in Athens were not at all like what you see in the US.

I purchased a bottle of Greek Wine for 7 Euros and a 1.5 L of water for 85 cents at the Greek store at the Airport and walked back to the hotel. I think the best price for a bottle of Greek wine at the hotel was around 30 euro and we don’t want to talk about the price of the miniature water bottle.
Not much more to say about Athens right now, it was just a rest stop on our way to Santorini. We will be back to Athens in a few days though.

Just remember when you are in Greece, don’t expect things to be followed literally. Most rules are really suggestions; after all, we all aren’t all the same so there is a reason to follow the rules / laws. Let me give you some examples.

When at the airport in Greece, pick any airport they all work the same way, they call that they are loading the plane from the rear forward and to board when your rows are called. They call “no loading rows 15 through 29”, and everyone starts boarding. Oh and they do not have a concept of a line either.
Yet another example, smoking, surprisingly is not as common now as it used to be. Well, at least there are signs saying No Smoking. But that might really be for the table that it is by and the next table will be smoking. Years ago we were taking a small plane from an Island back to Athens and they were giving the usual lecture about no smoking on the plane. But the cockpit door was open and both the Pilot and Co-Pilot were chain smoking with smoke just pouring out the door into the passenger area.
Don’t get us wrong, we just really enjoy Greece, every time we come here we have a wonderful time. Just remember you can’t use what is normal where you live and expect it to be the same in Greece. Every country, and sometimes areas within a country, has their own cultures and subcultures. So just recognize it and adjust.

One other tip, don’t over plan your trip, keep your options open. Don’t expect schedules to be the master here, expect things to change and not fit your plans. Be surprised when everything works to your plans and expect the unexpected and you will have a great time.

There is a lot of talk about strikes right now and protests. I know from friends it is hitting the news a lot. But from here we aren’t seeing much, but we haven’t been to downtown Athens as yet. The locals say everything will be fine in a couple days as that is what the people striking have said it will last. You see from what we are told, strikes are planned and have a planned duration. They are done to make a point and that is it, back to normal after that. In the states we are used to strikes that when started we don’t know how long they will last. But that isn’t the case here. We asked about if the strike will continue on the weekend because we intend to go back to Athens on Saturday. Everyone says don’t worry it will be over before the weekend. Will see – we will keep you posted.

HAL Rotterdam Private Tour Israel – 3 days 2 nights 10-29-11 through 10-31-11

Cruise Critic Roll Call – 27 days Athens to Ft Lauderdale

Sailing on HAL Rotterdam in October? We have a private tour organized.

Current cost is $990 for three days per couple – cost will go down based on our group (currently we are three couples)

hotels/entrance fees/meals/tips are in addition but should be reasonable

we have a private driver, van and guide for the entire three days and will be staying in town (off the ship) for two nights.

About our guide:

Adrian Wolf
two university degrees in addition to the official tour guide license (two year academic course).
served in the IDF (army) for six years, rank major and another 20 years of 40 days active reserve duty.
Lecture to various organizations and groups Member of the Israel Military History Association Have an intimate knowledge of the infra-structure and workings of the country.
Wrote a book A Chronology of Israel which is the standard English text-book used by tour guide students the tour guide who takes tour-guide students on a professional tour to show what/what not to do and say both a licensed guide’ and lecturer

the tour (as of now) – we are seeing quite a bit more than what HAL Is offering and of course being smaller group we are flex in what we do:

Day 1 29 October
Meet on the quay at Haifa port. Drive to view the Bahai’i Gardens in Haifa from the top and bottom of the Carmel mountain. We drive passed Megiddo where according to Christian theology the final battle will take place (Revelations 16:16). In Nazareth visit the Church of the Annunciation constructed over the site where the Angel Gabriel told the Virgin Mother she will give birth to the Messiah (Christos).
Drive passed Cana where the First Miracle took place (turning water into wine).

At the Sea of Galilee we visit the home of Simon/Peter, Church of the Multiplication, Church of the Primacy (where Jesus walked on the water), and Mt. of Beatitudes (where Jesus preached to the masses). Optional Baptism in the Jordan River.

Head along the Jordan Valley to visit one of the prime sites in Israel, Beit She’an, a magnificent Roman city. Learn of its importance in history, the bathhouse, cardo, theater and amphitheater where gladiator fights actually took place- the cages and tunnels have been exposed.

Drive along the Jordan Valley and learn about Israeli agriculture in the desert.

Jerusalem overnight.

Day 2 30 October
Jerusalem in detail
Get brief background to the history of the passed 4000 years. Learn about the basis of all three monotheistic religions.
Enter the Old City. Visit the Armenian, Jewish, Muslim and Christian quarters. This will include the Western Wall, via Dolorosa and Church of the Holy Sepulchre, homes of Jews before the destruction of the Temple in AD70. See remnants of the original Byzantine Church (4th century) and the gate of Jerusalem, where Jesus exited before arriving at Golgotha.
Options. Explore the tunnels in the City of David. Mt. Zion churches.

Drive around the city to see the various suburbs and learn about the political, economic and social problems.

Afternoon

A private tour of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum.

Evening – walk downtown Jerusalem, see the Walls of the Old City.

Day 3 31 October
Drive to the Dead Sea, visit Masada and learn of the Jewish War against the Romans. Swim at the Dead Sea. Time permitting we can drive to Tel Aviv and then to the port at Ashdod.

Ireland – Not to Miss

Picture perfect - park in Adare

Picture perfect - park in Adare

(in our opinion, which we think pretty highly of)

Some of our favorite places in Ireland to visit

Adare Manor We have stayed here both times we have visited Ireland and LOVE the condos. Self catering means you can cook what you want (if you want too). Downtown is an nice walk past thatched roof cottages, this lovely park (pictured above) and a beautiful church.

Dingle some of the most breath taking scenery you will see on the coast of Ireland

No trip would be complete without a trip to the Cliffs of Mohr

Get in touch with Tim about driving you to any of these places. Tim we have known since our first visit to Adare, you can relax and enjoy the scenery with him at the wheel – he’s a wonderful guide too!!!

Some great places to eat in Dublin:
If you love steak – this is a must do Darwins the staff are outstanding like the food.
And our favorite so far La Cuvee lovely wines, great staff and we can bet your evening here will be just delightful!
Good World Chinese in the temple area – great food, great service warm and friendly staff = a perfect evening.