This is a new stop for me — I had never heard about this part of the mainland, but it is an important area of the Peloponnesian Peninsula. The postcard entry for boats is seeing the Bouts island fortress — young by Greek standards, old by mine. The little island was built in the fifteenth century and has seen a lot of conflict in its day. Now it looks charming — a description I am sure would insult it’s builders. I gather that it was converted into a hotel for a while and then abandoned. It would make a fabulous place to stay.
We had coffee on our balcony and as far as romance goes — I would say do anything you can to get a balcony — and use it. Just sitting out there in the morning — taking in the view and taking time to get rid of the morning fuzzies — is centering. It helps that the coffee on the Quest is dark and delicious.
An hour plus later, after getting a little protein at the buffet on the floor above us, we took the tender into the harbor and saw immediately to our left a mini church — the first of many that we would see throughout the islands. The town is bedecked with flowers, colorful and cheerful. There is a promenade directly in front of the landing that seems to be the place to be for people watching.
Nauplion also has the winding streets of the other islands but seems more open, a bit more classically European. I concentrated my time on looking at shops in the town (not too much that was interesting except a worry bead store and museum that had some beautiful selections) and then took a tour out to the ruins of the castle of Agamemnon.
Some of our party rented a car and went up to see the 17th century Palamidi castle, which sounded smarter to me than walking the 999 steps. It’s an impressive building and I am told that there is the additional reward of a beautiful view — but I think it’s hard not to have fantastic views from almost any place you go on the islands.
I went to Mycenae to see what was left of its massive walls (the extremely dramatic and super chatty guide called them Cyclopean walls and I couldn’t get the idea out of my head that there would be one big eye in the center of them — but sadly, no.) The treat of seeing this castle is the Lions gate (two beautiful lions’ bodies, missing their heads but impressive nonetheless) and seeing the extensive layout of what was certainly a king’s palace.
Because of limited time I had to choose between this ancient site and the ancient Theater of Epidaurus in Epidavros — also about half an hour out of town. If I had to do it all over again I would choose the Theater if I only had time to see one of these places. The pictures of it show a grand theater, still used for plays by the classic Greek masters. Next time.
The sun is huge in this part of the world and while some of our group went to Karathona beach near the Palamidi fort, I didn’t want to go there in 90 degree heat. The beach group reported that it was a really nice sand beach with little development except for a couple of tavernas at the far end. The water was shallow and warmer than some other beaches that dropped off quickly into deeper sea. The privacy and simplicity of the place puts Karathona high on the romance index. (Most of the popular beaches on the islands are really crowded.)
Having had all the sun I could handle, I high-tailed it back to the ship — in time to get a knock on the door from “my” butler — with new choices of sweets and savories. This was a spread of pastries, but also cold shrimp, chicken wings and an olive and tomato salad. I could get used to this.
After having my “snack” on the balcony of my room, I had a nap for about an hour — an act that defines vacation to me. Then I took one of my showers for the day (it is impossible to stay refreshed in that heat without becoming obsessively attached to one’s shower) and spiffed up to have dinner at the captain’s table.
We all gathered for drinks first — and a superb Argentinian guitarist played music in the background (he actually deserved more of a front and center spot). Various guests arrived and finally, the captain, Leif Karlsson, a man originally from Finland but living in Sweden, greeted the ten of us. He was an extremely nice man who said he had been unprepared for the public meet-and-greet part of his role — but he did it well.
There were a number of world travelers at the table, including two mother and daughter pairs — one from Sydney, the other from Copenhagen. (I had a twinge thinking how nice it would be to do a trip like this with my daughter or son!) Next to us was a couple from Arizona who were on their fifth Azamara cruise in two and a half years! They had gone back to back — from Egypt and Israel to this Greek trip. They were retired and very at ease and happy with one another. Maybe retirement and cruises are the secret to a happy marriage.
Commenting on the international flavor of the boat, Captain Karlson remarked that the staff of the Azamara Quest covered 48 different countries. If you want inspiration to think about living a different life from the one you have, an international ship is not a bad place to go for ideas.
Shipboard entertainment is usually uneven. So far there had been a young attractive group singing Broadway musicals in the most canned way you could possibly imagine — and a magician who most people thought was very good. I did not have the energy to stay up for the magician or last through the singers, but one night a group of about fifty people watched the World Cup match between England and the USA. That was terrific fun — people were wearing their soccer shirts from various countries — but there was great enthusiasm for America as the underdog. When the USA got it’s only goal to tie the game, I could go back to my cabin and sleep contentedly.