At several points along the journey I wondered what it would have been like to be a privileged Englishman in the 1700's who was on the Grand Tour. That must have been quite an adventure and privilege, packing all your trunks and having your servants carry you over the steep and rough terrain of the Alps. It certainly was an adventure for us in 2012 with the ease of jet flights, cruise ship, taxis and good friends.
Our adventures had some differences from the Grand Tour. One checked suitcase each, no trunks allowed. There were no servants to pack the suitcase unless I missed the point and that was me. Having said that, once we landed on that fabulous Celebrity Equinox cruise ship there were friendly and helpful staff at every turn. Therein lies one big difference. On the cruise ship we were the privileged, off the ship we were the hapless tourists unable to return the ATVs to the Santorini rental store because the street was being dug up and the roads were a maze of one ways. Oh yes and the boat was scheduled to leave soon. The situation was resolved when we went the wrong way up that one way street. On the ship we had no concerns about safety, off the ship we cringed as the drivers of Rome stopped inches from Greg's taxi door, and held our breath when the shoe shine fellow in Istanbul got a firm hold of Murray's hand and wouldn't let go. All of Rick Steeve's warnings were instantly remembered, too bad it was a moment too late. However it all ended without incident.
There were lots of things about our micro tour that have stood the test of time. Italian men are still charming and the Roman ruins are astounding. When we wandered down a tight cobblestone street and emerged into the sunshine of a piazza alive with the sights, smells, and sounds of a market it was easy to imagine it three hundred years ago. If you close your eyes for a moment in Istanbul while the call to prayers echoes off the buildings five times every day you can easily be transported to a time when those calls were issued without the aide of loudspeakers. Trudging along the lanes of Ephesus we stopped in the crushing midday heat and wondered which houses the apostles visited on their journeys.
We'll share more micro tour stories and photos the next few weeks, but for now we are so glad to be home on the swake. Fall arrived while we were gone and the leaves started to turn golden. Kanti didn't change a bit, she's still a big spoiled puppy. The fresh scent of pines and the cool night breeze is welcome after the smog of Istanbul with a population of sixteen million, and the stifling heat. I am relishing driving in my own lane, alone - as in no other cars trying to share it with me, free from the cacophony of honking horns in Rome and Naples. It was a fabulous trip, and made us want to return to some ports at a later date but I wouldn't trade my life by the swake!