Today we were getting a tour of Bethlehem.We were excited to see the ancient streets and the Church of the Nativity which is the oldest church in the Holy Land which is still being used today.Driving through the Judean Hills and seeing the Valley of Elah, which gets its name from the Elah tree, a type of oak tree that produces turpentine.I’ve read that biblically the valley is known as the area where David fatally wounded the fearsome Philistine warrior Goliath with a stone plucked from the nearby Elah Brook.
We finally arrived in Bethlehem, the birthplace of David and Jesus.We took a tour of the Church of Nativity.We looked through the trap doors on the wooden floor and saw the original mosaic tiled floor below.We also saw the low Door of Humility that prevented anyone from entering the room without bowing, and the grotto, which is supposedly the birth place of Jesus.
We drove from Haifa into the Judean Hills to get to our first stop which is Mt. Zion. We arrived at Mt. Zion and visited the Room of the Last Supper, where according to tradition Jesus’ last meal with his disciples and the descent of the Holy Spirit took place. On the ground floor is the Tomb of King David, which is one of the places most visited by the people of Jewish faith. Next up we saw the Dormition Abbey, a beautiful structure with a high domed bell tower.
After getting a bite to eat, we began our walking tour of the old city. Entering Jaffa Gate, we walked past some of the most sacred sites in religious history. We passed by a cool bazaar which was very colorful. We saw the Christian Quarter which is right next to a part of the famous Via Dolorosa, believed to be the route Jesus took as he carried his cross to Calvary. We also saw this golden topped Dome of the Rock. This breathtaking shrine is considered the third holiest site in Islam. One of the wildest things that we saw while walking were these big round metal bins that are used for suspicious packages found.
The next stop on the walking tour was the Western (Wailing) Wall, the holiest site in the Jewish world. We wrote a prayer on the piece of paper and John stuck it in the wall. The wall is believed to have been the closest to where the Holy Ark once stood. We also had the chance to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. High on top of the hill known as Golgotha, the church marks the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.
One of the things that I love that Oceania Cruises does in certain ports that we are in they decide to entertain us while boarding the ship, they had a lot of the crew members lined up and were clapping along with music being played by the band that is onboard.
Our second stop on the itinerary was an exciting one and a nerve wracking one.Israel is always on guard because of the threat of terrorism in the Middle East. We were told that we can’t get our passports stamped in Israel because when we get to the other ports on our itinerary they wouldn’t grant us entry. We were given landing cards and a photocopy of our passport.John and I are both religious I am Greek Orthodox and he is Catholic so visiting Jerusalem today is something we both have always wanted to do.
It is believed that Jesus lived, preached and performed his miracles in this beautiful place.It might not be exactly where we were but it sure is close. The first stop on tour was the top of Mount Carmel.We had a great panoramic view of Haifa.After taking great pictures of the city, we headed towards Nazareth the place where Jesus spent his early years.We saw the amazing Basilica of the Annunciation, one of Christendom’s most revered shrines and the largest church in the Middle East. The Basilica is built on the same sight where the Archangel Gabriel revealed to Mary that she would be the mother of the Messiah.We were mesmerized by the grotto where Mary had lived. A 170’ high cupola that rises high above the upper church adds to the Basilica’s grandeur that allows the interior to be lit up by natural light.
Next stop was the Church of Joseph, which is built over the chambers that once housed Joseph’s carpentry shop where Jesus worked with him.From here we went on a small walking tour through the colorful bazaar past Mary’s well, a white stone fountain that serves as a shrine commemorating the Virgin Mary.
After boarding our tour bus, we headed through a town called Cana, the place where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine.Then we moved on to Tabgha, where Jesus later multiplied the loaves and fishes.
Next stop on tour was a trip to Capernaum located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee; this is considered the center of Jesus’ ministry while he was living in the area. We had a chance to see the synagogue with a lovely mosaic floor which was recently discovered.
Our last stop was Yardenit baptismal site where the River Jordan separates from the Sea of Galilee. We were lucky enough to see a few baptisms happening while we were there.
Flying to Greece to visit my godmother, Roula, and godbrother, Basili. It is exciting; I haven’t seen them since September 2000 I was looking forward to a great reunion.
John has heard so many stories about them but has never met them. Unfortunately, my lovely Godfather Evangelos passed away a few years ago he was an unbelievable person. He was Greek but was born in Egypt, and he spoke nine different languages. He had so many great stories enough to last a lifetime.
We flew into Athens two days before we were supposed to board the cruise ship for our 18-day voyage. Our itinerary was from Athens, Greece to Dubai, UAE. This was the first time I was going to be on a cruise which made me nervous and excited. I wasn’t sure how I would do with the rocking of the boat at night so wish me luck. The next day we had a private tour of the city. I had seen all the monuments already, but I thought it would have been a good idea to hire a guide to explain things better especially dates and facts.
The first place we visited was the Acropolis sitting high above the city. You can’t miss this archeological site. It is truly spectacular to see it in person. I just can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to erect these structures. We primarily spent most of the time at the Acropolis and at the museum there is so much to see. I have posted some pictures of the main monuments that we saw at the Acropolis such as The Parthenon, Temple of Hephaestus, the Erechtheion, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus & the Theatre of Dionysus.
When I was younger, you were able to walk up to the Parthenon and touch it, but over the years people were destroying the structures with graffiti, so they have all of the monuments roped off.
We also had a chance to visit Syntagma Square it was right by our hotel when we first arrived in Athens it was at night, so John didn’t get a chance to see the soldiers guarding the building, so we made sure he saw that. After the tour, we decided to meet my godmother and godbrother for dinner at one of the local restaurants that Roula loved.
The one disappointing thing was that we were staying at Hotel Bretagne and that is right next to the Parliament building, and at night there was a lot of protesting going on. The people were breaking off marble from the surrounding buildings and throwing them at the presidents home.
Growing up I had family that lived in South Africa I always dreamed of one day visiting them and figured that would never happen because Africa is so far away. When I started dating my husband in 2008, I had told him that one of my good friends Tina had just moved back to her hometown of Nelspruit which is a town in South Africa. The last thing she told me was that I had an open invitation to visit her whenever I wanted to, as soon as I told John that she extended an invitation he jumped at the opportunity and started planning the trip the next day.
The flight to Johannesburg is 20 hours we flew from JFK to Atlanta, GA to catch our connecting flight from there we flew to Dakar where we had to get out of our seats while security checked the plane. The last thing we wanted to do after flying about 15 hours was to be hassled to check the plane. Either way, after they checked our plane and we refueled, we were off to Johannesburg. Finally, we arrived at our first destination after 20 hours.
Unfortunately, our luggage didn’t make it in time, so we were without our belongings for one day. We checked into an amazing hotel called the Four Seasons Westcliff. This hotel embodies luxury and style. With its beautifully landscaped gardens and sitting high above you have a fantastic view of Johannesburg’s suburbs. It is breathtaking. A must see if you are traveling to South Africa.
After checking into the hotel, we had to take a drive to the local mall which was the last thing we wanted to do to get a change of clothes. The concierge advised us to take security with us, and we told them that we would be okay without the security, but they insisted which kind of made me nervous even though I grew up in Jamaica, Queens and John grew up in the Bronx. If you are unfamiliar with New York, Jamaica is not the best part of Queens. I had to go through metal detectors every day to get into my high school, so I was used to being in a bad neighborhood. I survived so I guess it can’t be that bad. We didn’t spend too much time at the mall because it was nighttime and we still needed to have dinner and get settled in and rest since the next day we were flying to Mpumalanga. Follow us along our journey next stop four day on Safari.
On our tour I think I was the only person who was Greek, so I was able to communicate with the tour guide in Greek which was pretty cool.
Our first stop was at Kourion where we had a chance to see the Greco-Roman theater formerly used to host gladiator tournaments and the House of Eustolios, with well-preserved mosaics and baths.
Our next stop on tour was the rock which is the birthplace of Aphrodite, goddess of beauty and love, in Petra Tou Romiou and hear of ancient Greek legends. There is a picture of it below.
Next stop on the tour we visited the small harbor town of Pafos (Paphos) which is part of UNESCO. While in Pafos we visited the House of Dionysos which was from the 3rd century AD which is famous for the unique mosaic floors that look pristine. I found to be the most impressive stop throughout the entire day. The mosaics are considered to be the finest in all the Mediterranean.