Crete’s Neat! Who Knew?

I fully intended to wrap up this Golden Circle saga in 2013 and begin 2014 with a fresh assault on your literary sensibilities.  In my own defense, however, may I point out that even failing this objective, I am still way ahead of George Lucas and his announced twelve Star Wars episodes (coincidentally, the number of posts in this series).  Come on George, pick up the pace!

Regrettably, all my good intentions to wrap this up in 2013 went decidedly south, not unlike my ambitious New Year’s resolutions . . .  and yes, I do realize it is only January 7th, thank you very much.

Lighthouse in Chania, CreteMy last port of call before returning to Civitavecchia was perhaps, in some ways, the most surprising of all.  I’ll be honest, after scintillating Sicily, awe-inspiring Athens and exhilarating Ephesus, my expectations were not very high for conventional sounding Crete.

I opted not to do a structured tour and instead decided to hop a city bus that took me to the old part of Chania.  I set off with high hopes of buying one of those Uncle Si Robertson growing beards.  You can imagine my disappointment when one of the locals on the bus pointed out (with uncalled-for disdain I might add) that we were going to Chania, not Chia.  Having already sprung for the bus fare, I decided to make the most of my day.

Public market in Chania, Crete   Olives in Chania, Crete

I noted upon stepping off the bus that we were in front of the Agora, a huge, cross-shaped, indoor public market.  Reassured that I could always find directions back to this massive building and thus the bus stop in front (under no circumstances does one want to view the sailing away of one’s cruise ship from the dock), I decided to set off with nary a compass, map or any intelligible plan of attack . . . sort of the way I have approached my entire life.  The second picture above is a concession to my fellow lovers of Greek olives!

Resisting for the moment the urge to sit down in one of these comfortable looking green chairs and let Chania pass me by, instead of visa versa, I continued to amble down narrow streets lined with quaint shops and various eateries.

Sidewalk cafe in Chania, CreteThe pictures below represent a nice study in contrasts!  The first house I took note of on my walk through this charming city had alabaster white walls and second story windows set off by black wrought-iron railings.  It had beautifully carved wood doors and was classically framed by small trees.  As you can see, it was the picture of orderliness and care.   Not so, the second house. May 20th, House in Chania, Crete1941 marks the day the Germans started aerial bombing attacks which rained down significant damage upon the Old City.  I don’t know for sure if this second house was left as it now appears as a testimony to that destruction but I suspect that to be the case.

The bloody Nazis were very adept at wreaking havoc and raining down destruction.  Their meteoric rise to prominence, which thanks to God and the US military flamed out in a few Old house in Chania, Creteshort years, is one of history’s saddest chapters.  Sorry, that is more than enough time devoted to those sadistic miscreants.

On a more uplifting note, I am rather certain that there are guardian angels in heaven whose sole responsibility is to guide the steps of clueless travelers as they wander aimlessly through strange surroundings.  In spite of the fact that I headed north from the Agora for no particular reason it was only a short time before I stumbled upon the most picturesque part of the city, the Venetian port of Chania.  From a strictly utilitarian point of view, it was never very viable as a port being small, shallow and vulnerable to north and west winds.  (Strangely, I also have been called small, shallow and susceptible to just about everything but that doesn’t need to be explored here.)  Crete is, in fact, a fascinating destination and I hope my travels permit another and much longer visit in the future.

Chania's Venetian PortTo close out this series on an amusing, some might say disgusting note, any idea what is going on here?  For the record, these are not my feet dangling in the water.   Actually, thisFeet exfoliation in Chania, Crete is touted as an excellent form of exfoliation.  To quote the poster, the Garra Rufa fish have an enzyme in their saliva called diathanol which has healing properties.

So how did I spend the last couple of hours in my last port of call on the Golden Circle odyssey?  See for yourself below.

It is the quest for moments like this which motivates all of us who restlessly wander the wide world.  We ask only for a few priceless moments to pause, to reflect, to drink a local beer while we drink in the incredible surroundings and to pretend for a brief span we haven’t a care in the world.   Such moments are not just gloriously lived but gratefully relived whenever we rummage through the corners of our minds.

Relaxing by the Venetian Port of Chania, Crete

As we come full circle (pun intended) and move on to new adventures, I would love for you to take a moment and share your thoughts through a comment on this post.  I know full well that everyone has not been blessed to travel as widely as I have. I write these words in the hopes of giving you a small taste of the experience and inspiring your zeal to see as much of this amazing planet as resources, time and the grace of God permit.

2013 In The Rearview Mirror

OK, today is the last day of the year . . . not exactly a breakthrough scientific insight I grant you.  Nonetheless, for me that simple realization sparked another:  To wit, if I plan to cast a backward glance at 2013, at least the blogging portion of it, before 2014 barrels in with a roar, it is pretty much now or never.  For those whose instinctive reaction was to scream “Never”,  I can only say, “If I had wanted your vote, I would have mailed you a ballot!”   (Forgive me.  I love that snarky little rejoinder and this is the first opportunity I have had this year to work it into this blog.)

Not to worry.  This post is going to be to soul of brevity.  All the heavy lifting was done by others as the following sentence reveals.  “The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.”  If you have been pining for a statistical summary of Travel By Terry to the point of clinical obsession, this post is for you!   If you are simply so bored that even the prospect of wading through this data sounds mildly amusing, this post is perfect for you as well.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,700 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

What say we meet back here in 2014 for more rollicking good fun?

Let’s Talk Turkey: Ephesus To Be Precise

Note to Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, prime minister of Turkey:  I realize it was my first time to visit your fine country but the official greeting committee, shown below, which you sent to welcome me when I stepped off the ship was so much more than I was expecting.  Simply having President Abdullah Gül standing there offering me a cup of Turkish coffee and presenting me with my medal while the military band played the İstiklâl Marşı (Turkish National Anthem) was more than sufficient . . . and even slightly embarrassing for a man of my notable humility.  (Note to reader:  Unfortunately, the picture of that historic moment was snatched out of my hand while feeding an overly aggressive sea turtle from the aft deck.) 

Turkish greetingBut let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  By now, you know the drill.  First we look at one of my favorite aspects of the Navigator of the Seas and then I regale you with fascinating and occasionally true stories of my exploits at the latest port of call.

A FAVORITE FEATURE

“Those are my principles,” Groucho Marx once famously said, “and if you don’t like them–well, I have others.”  One of my own principles is that I never over indulge.  It may have happened once or twice that I was over-served but I think we can all agree, that is hardly the same thing.  Nonetheless, I must admit, I do enjoy the fruit of the grape from time to time.

Vintages on the Navigator of the SeasThere are few better places to sip a mellow Malbec or sample a crisp Cabernet or imbibe a saucy Shiraz or . . . I think you get the idea . . . than Vintages on the promenade deck of the Navigator of the Seas.  This cozy gathering place features more than 60 vintages in their 600 bottle cellar.  Frommer’s has a very nice review of this venue midway down the page here under the heading Public Areas.  Be honest, doesn’t just looking at this inviting image make you yearn to be sitting there right now?

A PORT TO PONDER

For those of you whose biblical knowledge is a trifle rusty, Ephesus was a city visited by the Apostle Paul in his evangelistic journeys and a place which bears the name of one of his epistles.  Just so you don’t embarrass yourself at the next Sunday School pot luck dinner, okay, the Epistles were not the Apostles’ wives!  The epistles were pastoral letters written to burgeoning congregations of Christians in places like Ephesus, Thessalonica, Corinth and Philippi.

Ephesus was built on a small hill with the entrance at the top and the exit at the bottom, a rather unusual design.  That reality is clearly illustrated from this picture.  It is not at all difficult to imagine this main thoroughfare crowded with people from all over the world 2000 years ago just like it was on the day I snapped this picture.

Ephesus, TurkeyIf you would like to view the many pictures I took during my stroll through Ephesus (too many to post here) just visit this site.  (Tip:  The pictures are in chronological order just as Houses of the Wealthy in Ephesusare these Golden Circle posts.)  This is truly one of the most amazing excavations anywhere in the world.  There is a large covered area where massive excavations are underway to unearth “Terrace Houses”, also called the “Houses of the Wealthy.”  These impressive homes were built right into the side of Bulbul Mountain opposite the Hadrian Temple.

This is a picture of the Grand Theater where the Apostle Paul once preached.  It is the largest extant theater from the ancient world with a seating capacity of 24,000.  Just think of it as the “Cowboys Stadium” of Ephesus' Grand Theaterantiquity.   If you have never been to Ephesus, you owe it to yourself to make the effort.  If you have even a remote interest in the ancient world, this is a must see.

For those who need an additional incentive to make the trek, like shopping for example, take note of this head scratching sign that I could not help but notice in the small shopping bazaar just as you exit the ruins to return to the motorcoach park.

Sign in Ephesus market

I am thinking about adopting the slogan for this blog: “Genuine Fake Blog Posts!”  What a great disclaimer against charges of false advertising.

Athens: The Eye Of Greece, Mother Of Arts And Eloquence

If you like the title of this post, be sure and look up John Milton when you arrive safely on “the other side” and shake his hand. He has been over there for more than 300 years signing autographs so he should be almost caught up by now. The phrase comes from Paradise Regained (1671), Book IV, line 240.  My little gray cells have taken off early for the Christmas holidays and the best I was coming up with for a title for this post was Athens Is Really Neat . . . not exactly Miltonian in its rhetorical splendor.

Following Sicily (see previous post) our next port of call was Athens.  In just a moment I will tell you (sadly with none of the lyrical brilliance of John Milton) just how fascinating it was. But first, let’s take a stroll around the Navigator of the Seas and focus on what I am calling in this series of posts:

A FAVORITE FEATURE

Navigator of the Seas' Two Poets PubThese good folks, whoever they may be, are sitting outside the Two Poets Pub. (I am not that great a judge of age but I am pretty sure the lad on the left needs to be carded!) Here is a nice little YouTube video taken by a guest who was obviously having a good time back in May at this pub. It is a great place to sample a pint (or two) from all over the world.  They Famous Beer Quoteshave a very clever and informative menu with categories such as: Good For What Ales You, I Just Like The Taste, Brawny Browns and Second Cousins.

There is a section shown here with a lot of very funny quotes.  If you can’t read the small print, call me and I can book you on the next sailing of the Navigator out of Galveston for a mere pittance and you can read the entire menu while plying the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  I love the etymology of words and sayings and from this menu I learned this little gem.  “In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts.  So in old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender used to yell at them to mind their own pints and quarts and settle down.  This is where we got “Mind your P’s and Q’s.”

A PORT TO PONDER

Quite obviously, in the time remaining, I am not going to be able to do justice to one of the Our guide in Athens marvels of the ancient world.  But here are a couple of highlights.  We were extremely blessed  to have such a knowledgeable and erudite guide for our day in Athens.  I would be only too happy to share her name with you had I not managed to lose her business card somewhere between Athens and Ephesus.  Dear lady, if you recognize yourself, send me your contact information and I will update this blog post!  What I especially appreciated is that she spoke slowly and methodically which permitted even my plodding mind to keep up!

We spent most of the morning on the Acropolis.  This picture, taken as we descended from the Parthenon itself, gives you a sense of how all the edifices built upon this famous hill dominated, and still dominate, the entire landscape.

Descending from the Parthenon

As you can tell from this picture below, the Parthenon is in the midst of substantial renovations.  The ravages of time and modern pollution have taken a heavy toll.  The Parthenon was dedicated to Athena, the patron goddess of Athens.  At one time there was a magnificent golden statue of her standing in the midst of the Parthenon.

Parthenon in Athens, Greece

This model from the museum will give you an idea of how it looked in the ancient world.  Model from the Acropolis Museum

Following our tour, we ( a couple of busloads of my closest friends and I) stopped off for a delicious lunch of traditional Greek food at one of the many restaurants nestled between shops in the Plaka district.  This happens to be one of my favorite cuisinesRestaurant in Athens for those of you who are assembling a scrap-book of all my preferences and peccadilloes.

Following lunch and a brief time to browse the shops, we made our way to the breathtaking new Acropolis Museum. I could have spent hours in there.

All in all I would have to say, it was a great day . . . and a Greek day, as I think about it!  I was worn out from all the trekking about but also very inspired.  So, as I was taking a long shower back in my cabin getting ready for dinner, I decided to do a little carving with the bath soap and my toe nail clippers.  Not too shabby, huh?

New Acropolis Museum in Athens

Picture It, Sicily 2013

First things first.  Apologies are no doubt due to the late Estelle Getty who famously portrayed the fictional character Sophia Petrillo-Weinstock on the hit TV series The Golden Girls for the shameless rip-off in my title of one of her most popular comic devices.  She would start a sentence “Picture it, Sicily 1922″, or some other year, with a hilarious story inevitably ensuing.  Thanks Estelle, for all the laughs.

Marina in Massina, ItalyYou needn’t expect this blog post to meet, much less exceed, the high comedic standard set by that show.  Fortunately, regular devotees of Travel By Terry probably figured out mid-way through my initial post to keep their expectations lower than a world champion Jamaican limbo dancer.

The next few posts will recount my recent voyage through the Mediterranean on Royal Caribbean’s incomparable Navigator of the Seas.  In each post, I will relate one of my favorite aspects of the ship, i.e. A Favorite Feature and describe one of the enjoyable ports of call, i.e. A Port To Ponder.  In that fashion, keeping to two simple points, even my readers on Ritalin can stay engaged.

A FAVORITE FEATURE

Did I mention that I celebrated my birthday on my Golden Circle cruise?  Possibly not.  Did I mention which birthday?  No chance in #@%$*!  In any case, some of my dear friends invited me to share a birthday dinner with them in the Chops Grille which immodestly but accurately touts “the best steak on the high seas.”   If you are not familiar with specialty dining on Royal Caribbean cruise ships, it is the opportunity to upgrade your dining experience from merely great to gourmet.  Take a moment and watch this video!

Chops Grille on Navigator of the SeasThere is a modest up charge of $30 per person for the experience but because I am blessed with magnanimous friends (thanks Tim and Margo!), I did not have to bother my pretty little head with that pesky detail.  The food was sumptuous, the wine delectable (thanks Roger!) and the convivial atmosphere delightful (thanks to the entire table!).  Even if it is not your birthday and you are not accompanied by friends from whom you can con . . . ahem charm an invite, you still owe it to yourself to visit one of the two specialty restaurants during your cruise.

A PORT TO PONDER

Our first port of call was Messina, Sicily.  After perusing my handy Royal Caribbean Shore Excursion guide, a settled on “Taormina On Your Own“.  (There were eleven choices by the way!)  I did this for two reasons.  The price was easy on my pocketbook which, by this point in my travels, was getting lighter by the day.  Also, I figured staggering around through a small village like a vagrant looking for a cigarette butt was well within my limited capabilities.  As it turned out, I couldn’t have been happier with my choice.

I amused myself no end by taking pictures of things that for some odd reason you were not supposed to photograph, like this shop window.  I suspect that this was actually a little Sicilian reverseTaormina, Italy shop window psychology to get you to stare at their window.  If that was the case, all the little signs with X-ed out cameras had the desired effect as I found myself unable to withstand the temptation to take a picture.  The same is true, apparently, of the guy on the right.

Speaking of signs, this little jewel caught my attention.  Who would Street sign in Taormina, Italyhave thought that flashing, Mardi Gras style, was a huge law enforcement issue in Taormina? The tiny print under the top image says, “Circolare a torso nudo – Do not go bare-chested.”  Considering it was about 40 degrees that day, a violation of that edict might have proved very interesting, if you catch my drift.

Taormina is an absolutely charming village.  It is an excellent place to get your cannoli fix, as I must confess, I did!  On the edge of this quaint village is a magnificent Greek theater built in the 3rd century B.C.  This tour offers a relaxing three hours to tour the shops, stop off for lunch at a sidewalk cafe and, on a clear day, view the snow-capped peak of Mt. Elba.

Taormina's Greek TheaterI may have missed the mafia tour called, “In The Godfathers’ Footsteps” but I live with no regrets.  I walked in my own footsteps and had a wonderful time doing so.  And just for the record, I kept my shirt on the entire day . . . sparing me a fine and the entire populace a grotesque visual!

My Trip / The Ship / A Tip

Those of you who have been paying attention . . . just for grins let’s kid ourselves and assume that’s 100% of you . . . will have noticed that this recent series of blog posts has been called “Golden Circle 2013″.   I’m curious.  Did that unfamiliar term cause you even a moment’s pause or did you just shrug your shoulders and mutter “Whatever” like some bored tween being asked to clean his room?

Picture from my balcony on Navigator of the SeasGOLDEN CIRCLE 2013

Not that it happens all that frequently on these pages but there happens to be a perfectly logical reason for the use of this term.  Every year our franchise organization, Travel Leaders, sponsors a reward trip for some of its top performing franchisees called, not coincidentally, the Golden Circle.  To qualify you have to be willing to sport a gold belly button ring of no less than twenty-four carats.  (OK, I’m being silly.  Fourteen carats is perfectly fine.)   Actually, you just have to be the creme de la creme of the travel industry, able to dispense expert advice, draw upon decades of distilled experience and resolve prickly problems all without breaking a sweat or mussing your hair.

This year’s trip was a seven night Mediterranean cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas in and out of Civitavecchia, Italy, the port near Rome.  More about the cruise ship momentarily.  But why, pray tell, did I fly to Rome from Dallas-Fort Worth by way of Dubai?  For those who can still afford a globe, even a cursory glance will reveal this is not exactly the most direct route.  In fact, it is 14 hours from DFW to Dubai and another 5 1/2 hours from Dubai to Rome.  I promise I was not amassing frequent flyer miles.  I did it for the perfectly sane reason all of us travel zealots do what we do.  I succumbed to a new destination’s allure, a new airline’s ambiance and a new culture’s attraction.   The travel itch, mon ami, simply has to be scratched!

Navigator of the Seas PromenadeNAVIGATOR OF THE SEAS

The Golden Circle cruise was aboard the Royal Caribbean vessel Navigator of the Seas.  The cruise that I was on was the penultimate cruise before the Navigator left the Mediterranean for its new home, Galveston, Texas.  Would you believe that the reason for this repositioning was that I struck up such a fast friendship with the captain that he wanted a home port nearby where I could continue giving him little navigation tips to enhance his career?  No, I didn’t think so.

Would you believe that I wrote an entire post explaining this move back in May?  You should!  It was called Travel Industry Proposes, Royal Caribbean Disposes.  Read this post and you will learn that not only is the ship coming to Texas but will be undergoing an extensive dry dock revitalization.  In upcoming posts as we sail from port to port, we . . . that is the we of majesty in case you didn’t notice my toe ring . .  will share  more about this charming vessel.

Sidewalk cafe in Ladispoli, ItalyA TIP

Being slightly intoxicated by the holiday spirit(s), I have magnanimously decided to share three tips for those contemplating booking a Med cruise!   First tip, never ever book your flights to arrive the day the ship sails.  That is a sure-fire recipe for unnecessary stress.  Arrive at least a day earlier. as I did.

Secondly, if you are sailing from Civtavecchia (near Rome), you might want to consider booking an overnight stay in the charming little town of Ladispoli.  (Bonus tip:  the accent falls on the second syllable.)  I stayed at a modest but perfectly suitable little place called the Hotel Alle Tamerici which offers a very cozy restaurant.

Tip number three.  So how do you get from the madhouse known as Fiumicino Airport in Rome to the tranquil Italian seacoast?  I’m glad you asked.  You simple contact Raffaele Rispoli with My Cab In Rome.  Raffaele is a charming and knowledgable denizen of that region of Italy and will gladly spirit you wherever you need to go.  Here is his website and email address (rrispoli at gmail dot com) if you would care to avail yourself of his dependable services.

Did this blog post ignite an all-consuming urge to experience even more?   There are two possible responses to that impulse:

1)  Take two aspirin, lie down and see if the feeling subsides

2) Click on this link where you can view over 200 pictures I took on my Golden Circle trip

Check back soon to hear about our first port of call.

Should I Dubai Before I Die?

Here is my variation on a well known, eighteenth century children’s prayer . . . with humble apologies to the original author:

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

Should I Dubai before I die?  To make that choice, I must know why!

The world contains innumerable grand and glorious places to experience yet each of us has been allotted a finite amount of time to explore its mysteries.  This quandary is madeShould Dubai be my next destination? considerably trickier by the fact none of us knows exactly how much time we have before we shuffle off this mortal coil.   The nearer we draw to that inevitability, the more acute the decision-making process becomes.  I am certainly closer than many of my readers.  About the only consolation I have found so far in growing old is I no longer have to worry about dying young!  Granted, it’s not much but can you say that?

The question I would like to posit in this post is this:  Should you add Dubai  to your “farm list” (as in “before you buy the farm”)?  Sorry, I just couldn’t bring myself to use that other overtaxed, ubiquitous phrase (you know, the one that involves a lower appendage striking a milk pail).  Since I am not a fan of authors who raise questions but offer no answers, here is my never humble opinion:  YES, you should!  I can think of several compelling reasons but in the interest of brevity, here is one of the best.

In Dubai You Can Experience Arab Culture In A Secure Place

I must tread lightly here so as neither to offend nor be misunderstood.  The mention of the religion of Islam and the Arab world in general sparks a plethora of emotions here in America.  Because of the tragic yet undeniable reality of radical Islamic terrorism, many in this country are left in a quandary. They are caught between curiosity and even admiration for one of the world’s oldest and most erudite cultures and a totally understandable apprehension about sating that curiosity in a safe fashion.  For you folks, I have wonderful news.  Dubai is the perfect place to visit to learn more about this culture in a safe and secure environment.

Experiencing Arab hospitality

One of absolute highlights of my brief trip to Dubai . . . I think I have spent more time writing about Dubai that visiting it . .  was a stop in the old section of the city called Bastakiya.  My intrepid guide Susan with Desert Adventures (more about both below) led me to the extremely ??? structuremodest structure you see in the picture to your left called the Bastakiya Majlis.  Before entering she explained that you never knew who might be relaxing within from a humble tradesman to a member of the royal family.

As we entered, we were greeted with what can only be described as effusive hospitality of the sort you identify with the legendary Bedouin custom of Diyafi where even an enemy must be given shelter and fed for a few days.  I was warmly greeted by a handful of men and immediately asked by the man in the picture above, I believe his name was Ahmed, to join him on the mat where he was seated.  I was quickly brought some tea, a little afternoon treat and invited to hold the Hookah pipe which I believe they call Shesha.  The gentleman then began to tell me how he had served in the military and how richly God had blessed him and his two devoted wives.  I used to quip that I had a child and two wonderful wives at home but Ahmed was serious!  I have no doubt, had we had the time, he would have gladly passed the afternoon sharing conversation and extending hospitality.

Gold Souk MarketI wish time permitted me to share many more compelling reasons for making Dubai your next destination.  Since it does not, I point you to the Desert Adventures website which describes just a few of the many available options with this paragraph.

You could be discovering wrecks in the ocean, seeing the world’s tallest tower, attending a diva’s concert, trying your skills at belly and salsa dancing, or going to the theater, feasting on an mouth-watering Arabic buffet in the desert, swimming with the dolphins, dinner cruise on an Arabian dhow, dune bashing, exploring heritage sites, shopping, setting up a business, or even skiing – yes, in the desert! – are just some of the things you can do. The list is endless.

Dubai's Gold Souk marketBoth of the pictures directly above were taken in the market called the Gold Souk.  When we send our clients to Dubai, we use the gold standard of middle east inbound tour companies, Desert Adventures.  Susan Jorehri, whose impeccable knowledge of the destination was earned through more than a decade of local residence, could not have been more kind or informative.  When you get ready to plan you next trip to Dubai, contact our Travel Leaders offices.  Working with Desert Adventures, we will make sure your “farm list” experience is golden!

The One&Only Time A Royal Mirage Is A Real Oasis

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a mirage this way. “Something (such as a pool of water in the middle of a desert) that is seen and appears to be real but that is not actually there; something that you hope for or want but that is not possible or real.”  With apologies to the famous lexicographer, quite obviously Mr. Webster has never vacationed in Dubai.  (Being dead for some 170 years, Noah, is hardly an excuse.)  It may be the One&Only example of this phenomenon but I am about to tell you about a mirage that really is an oasis.

One&Only Royal Mirage, Dubai

One&Only Royal Mirage lobbyOne of the first things you need to understand about this sprawling 65 acre resort is that it is very much three experiences in one setting.  The three very distinct environments are named The Palace, Arabian Court and Residence & Spa.  The overview page on their website does a masterful job of describing the unique characteristics of each section.

There are few hotel lobbies that literally stop you in your tracks when you enter.  This, however, is Lobby of the One&Only Royal Miragecertainly one of them.  I am thinking seriously of reworking the entry way to my tract home with a similar skylight.

Speaking of my own humble domicile, I may have to get my attorneys involved with the architects of this property who shamelessly stole the landscape plans to my own back yard even down to the bullseye fountain in the foreground.  Surely they realized the first reaction people were going to have is “Wow, just like Terry’s yard”?Royal MIrage viewTo say the accommodations are stunning doesn’t even begin to do them justice.  I was shown this room just before the guest arrivedRoyal Mirage accommodations.  Let’s be honest.  How would you like to arrive from a long journey to this?

I would love to tell you whether this is a picture of a Prestige room in the Residence, a Prince suite in the Arabian Court or a Superior Gold in the Palace but to be perfectly honest, after seeing so many spectacular rooms in all three sections and with hunger pains beginning to nip, my little gray cells had started taking an early Qaylulah, the Arabic version of a siesta.

Perhaps detecting the famished look in my eyes, my delightful guide Vanessa Thodda, Senior Sales Manager at the resort, suggested we pause for a brief repast.  A twist of the arm being wholly superfluous at this point, Vanessa (who reminds me of Cheryl Lobo, one of our top agents), Susan Joehri from Desert Adventures (more about this great company in the next post) and I found our way to the Eauzone in the Arabian Court section shown below.  The sumptuous fare and elegant surroundings were only surpassed by the convivial company.

Eauzone Restaurant at One&Only Royal MirageThe formula for a world-class property is not that complicated even if it is not easily duplicated.  You take a stunning setting, add elegant accommodations, include delicious cuisine served in a variety of stellar venues, throw in a world-renowned spa and add a pinch of gracious service and warm hospitality. Voilà!  You have the oasis in the desert you have always dreamed about.  And, despite its name, it is no mirage!

Check back in soon to learn why Dubai is must see destination.  After that final Dubai post, we will board Emirates for the next leg of our journey.  Next stop, Rome.  Actually, Ladispoli but more about that later.

One&Only X 2 = Double Delight

We can’t all be Issac Newton I suppose (although, I must say, I do love his fig bars) but here Fmaous mathematician Isaac Newtonis an equation so rudimentary that even I can grasp it.  If a single One&Only Resort is  magnificent, then ipso facto two One&Only Resorts are twice as delightful, right?  Unless, that is, you insist on dragging out that confusing expression “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” in which case you have me totally lost.

Setting mathematics quickly aside for something I do understand, let’s talk a little travel.  As I trust you have noticed, I have been writing lately about my latest junket, the first stop of which was Dubai.  While I was there, it was my privilege to visit not one but two amazing gems of the Middle East.

ONE&ONLY THE PALM, DUBAI

To give you a feel for the opulence, the picture below is me standing in my bathroom in the Presidential Suite drawing my bath.  Just kidding!  This is actually the lobby but you do have to admit it is quite breathtaking.  (In point of fact, the sumptuous bathrooms do feature oversized freestanding bathtubs as you will learn below.)  If you need a sense of perspective, I am six feet six inches tall and exquisitely sculpted not unlike the iron lattice-work in the background.

The lobby of the One&Only The Palm, DubaiEvery square inch of this property oozes stylish luxury.  This is especially true of the public areas such as the dining rooms and bars.  The resort features a marina (of course) and one of my favorite spots is the 101 Dining Lounge and Bar pictured below with a panoramic view of the marina and the Dubai skyline.  When they told me the dress code was “smart casual”, I was a little concerned about flunking the entrance exam but they graciously let me in with a provisional pass.

101 Dining Lounge and BarThe other two elegant dining venues are called Stay and Zest.  Said together they sound to me a little like a command you might issue to an over-exuberant puppy, “Stay, Zest!  Down Stay at the One&Only Palm, Dubaiboy!”.   Setting aside the bizarre way my mind works, these are two extraordinary restaurants.  To cite their website, “Different seating arrangements including a sharing table area as well as a unique Pastry Library concept are key to the restaurant’s DNA.”   That works out extremely well for me since it appears consuming pastries in obscene quantities is deeply imbedded in my personal DNA.  Zest is the primary dining room for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I particularly like the outdoor seating by the pool in the midst of beautiful Moorish style gardens.

This amazing resort offers you your choice of accommodations in three locales: the Manor House, Palm Beach Mansions and Beach Front Villas with various categories within each.  I started this post with one of my lame little jokes about the lobby.  Just to prove that I was indulging in only a slight exaggeration, here are pictures of The Grand Palm Suite with its sumptuous bathroom in the Mansion section.

Typical Manor room Bathroom in One&Only The Palm, Dubai

Be sure and spend some quality time in the world-famous One&Only Private Spa featuring every amenity you can imagine and several you probably couldn’t!  I will return shortly for the second part of this post that will describe the One&Only Royal Mirage.

Before I go, however, I would like to invite you to visit this site where I have posted over 300 pictures from my Golden Circle 2013 travels.   There will not be a test at the end so don’t feel obliged to look at all of them.  The first link in this paragraph will take you to the picture album and the second link to all the posts in this category in case you would like to catch up with my most devoted (some might say, demented) followers who slavishly read every word I write.

Fond Of The Frond: Dubai’s Iconic Palm Island

Most people who know anything at all about Dubai have heard of or seen pictures of the iconic Palm Jumeirah Island.  If not, you should watch this fascinating YouTube video about its construction.  I find the accomplishment mind-boggling even taking into consideration that my mind stays boggled a fair portion of the time anyway.

Palm Island, Dubai UAEThe entire structure is an engineering marvel but considering my occupation (you know, travel savant) you won’t be surprised to learn that my favorite portion is the outer ring called The Crescent.  As you look at this picture, the structure in the middle of the Crescent and dominating the landscape is Atlantis.  I published a post about the resort a few days ago which can be read here.

On the extreme right (eastern end) of the Crescent is another great resort, Anantara, which I will tell you about in this post.  On the extreme left (western end) of the Crescent is the One&Only, The Palm and at just south of The Palm is the One&Only Royal Mirage.  I will tell you about the latter two in a subsequent post.

Whew!  Now that we have north, south, east and west pretty much covered, let’s take a brief visit to the incomparable Anantara.  As you will soon discover, I like pretty much everything about this hotel but among my favorite features are the villas out over the water.

Anantara Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa.If you can pry your eyes off all the “beautiful people” in the foreground (and I use that term in the loosest possible way), you can see the majestic over-the-water villas in the background.  In case you care to do a quick reality check on my judgment in this regard (never a bad idea), I direct your attention to a post on The New York Times Travel blog that was published just two days ago, can you believe it, on the very same subject.  Those shameless bugggers over at the Times have spies everywhere trying to scoop me!   (Note to Shivani Vora.  I just linked to your post.  A reciprocal link would be nice.  Just sayin’.)

Now I want you to close your eyes (never mind, that won’t work unless you are a camel, and a literate one at that, and can read this post through your eyelids).  OK, just imagine yourself floating aimlessly on a pool float in front of your swim up bungalow when you suddenly feel the need to slake your thirst.  Do you paddle over to your domicile, clamber out and retrieve a drink?

Anantara Dubai The Palm Resort & SpaDon’t be silly my pampered friend!  You are on vacation and this is the Anantara, after all.  See this little boat with the ice chest?Beverage boat at the Anantara  Your boat butler will simply paddle over to you and offer you the refreshing beverage of your choice.  How cool is that?

Another thing you are going to enjoy about this luxury property is the dining options.  Crescendo offers international cuisine in a dazzling open air setting.  According to their website, Mekong “evokes a feeling of the Far East with a melange of traditional Oriental ingredients . . .”  It sounds inviting.  It seems like forever since I had a really good melange.   Perhaps most surprising of all is Bushman’s Australian Restaurant And Bar.  This venue even features a Salt Guru (no, really) to help you select the perfect salt variety to compliment your meal.  I don’t know about you but I have had a Salt Guru on retainer for years. 

Night falls on the Anantara DubaiSadly, the sun is setting, not only on another glorious day at Anantara Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa, but also on another of these masterful posts.  Wipe away that tear little buckaroo.  I will return very soon with another thralling installment.   That is sort of like thrilling but more captivating!