Travel: Walk in the footsteps of the greats

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WHEN I was a schoolboy, my favorite subject was history. One of my heroes was Alexander the Great and I never imagined walking in his footsteps!

This was made possible thanks to Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines – Landmarks of Greece and Adriatic cruise.

The shore visit program was both innovative and exciting. I couldn’t wait for the experience they would provide – I was going to walk in the footsteps of the Greats.

We boarded the Balmoral, one of Fred’s small ships. Olsen Cruise Lines. It didn’t take long to feel the warmth of the staff and the friendly intimacy they create, its decoration represents style and comfort.

Our first two stops were Gibraltar, then Malta. We enjoyed our ship’s tours taking advantage of their highlights.

Balmoral sailed to Split, Croatia where we had a mountain village experience.

Traveling through beautiful countryside we arrived at the authentic village of Radovici, our host welcomed us to his 300 year old farmhouse and invited us to taste his home produced brandy – the walnut was my favourite.

He then served a delicious lunch using open fire cooking methods passed down from his ancestors, while being entertained by musicians singing traditional folk songs.

One night sailing to Dubrovnik, Croatia, after visiting the walled old town, we took a water taxi to Cavtat.

Argus of South Wales: The Little Cove of Cavtat, Croatia

The small entrance Cavtat, Croatia

This picturesque cove is a hidden gem surrounded by cypress and palm trees, an idyllic place to relax, all you hear is the gentle lapping of the water.

At sunrise the next day, we entered the beautiful Bay of Kotor, Montenegro. Our excursion to the national park near the top of Mount Lovcen at 1,780 meters above sea level. Driving was exhilarating on winding roads, with spectacular scenery; the national park reveals nature at its best.

Descending to the picturesque old town of Budva, built in the 6th century BC by the ancient Greeks, we strolled through the narrow cobbled streets and felt the presence of its history.

Argus from South Wales: our host in Dalmatian village, Croatia cooks lunch the traditional way

Our host in Dalmatian village, Croatia cooks lunch in the traditional way

Balmoral slipped out of the bay under a golden sunset, heading towards our Greek odyssey.

Volos, our trip to Pelion stopped at the village of Millies, we sat in a Greek taverna where we were served coffee, chocolate and brandy, a nice way to have elevens. Boarding a vintage train, traversing rock walls, traversing tunnels, canyons and steep drops, a great introduction to Greece.

Theseloniki, at the start of our city tour, we were greeted by the magnificent bronze statue of Alexander the Great, an icon of Greece, an important landmark. Other highlights include the great city wall built in the 5th century AD with a panoramic view of the city. The Archaeological Museum displays rare gold jewelry and ancient artifacts.

We were now halfway through our cruise and enjoying the amenities of Balmoral, mouth-watering meal menus, and terrific nightly cabarets and shows, including superb guitarist Declan Zapala.

Kavala, a charming town set in a stunning bay, with a backdrop of wooded hills descending to the waterfront, the old town of Panagia is a must to explore. Its streets are lined with colorful houses and an imposing castle, the contrast between modern and old architecture provides a distinctive blend.

Leaving Greece, we sailed to Kusadasi, Turkey.

Argus of South Wales: the impressive port of Malta

The impressive port of Malta

My excitement was building as we headed towards the great city of Ephesus. We first visited the house of the Virgin Mary, nestled on the mountainside surrounded by forest, where it is said that she spent the last period of her life. You can’t help but feel the peace and quiet.

A short drive to the city of Ephesus, entering through a very narrow path where legends such as Alexander the Great, Cleopatra and Mark Antony, Julius Caesar, Hadrian and Saints Paul and John walked. I knew I was following in the footsteps of the greats. Gazing in awe at the architecture and splendour, we were captivated by its history over the centuries. An incredible experience.

Back in Greece, you cannot visit Athens without discovering the marvel of the Acropolis which rises majestically above the city. This iconic temple built in dedication to the Greek goddess Athena around 2,500 years ago is a sight to savor.

Argus of South Wales: The Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

The Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

Below is the Plaka district, its charming streets are great for shopping, the lunch of moussaka and Greek salad was scrumptious.

The final stop on our Greek odyssey was Olympia, home of the ancient Olympic Games set in a lush valley. Olympia was built in 776 BC. BC in honor of the Greek god Zeus. The sites we visited included the original gymnasium, baths and track area where chariots raced and athletes competed, watched by 40,000 spectators, finally the Temple that Alexander the Great built; you couldn’t miss walking in her footsteps – another great tour of the ship.

On the way back, we arrived at Mahon-Minorca; our tour of the island took us to beautiful bays, coves, small coves and fishing villages. The countryside is characterized by its greenery, wild and cultivated flowers.

Argus of South Wales: the vintage mountain train to Palios, Greece

The vintage mountain train to Palios, Greece

Finally, Cadiz, Spain, and a walking tour took us to the atmospheric old quarter.

The shore excursions on this Fred.Olsen cruise allowed us to discover sites that would leave indelible memories. I never felt like a tourist, I was an adventure traveler.

A schoolboy dream come true, I walked in the footsteps of the greats.

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Braemar’s 17-Night Sunset and Mediterranean Cities Cruise M2314. Departs Southampton on June 15, 2023. Prices from £2,799 pp. Discover the beauty and diversity of some of the most enchanting destinations in the Mediterranean. For more details visit www.fredolsencruises.com or phone 01473 742 424

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