We were already in Kusadasi because we docked there the night before. The exciting thing about Kusadasi (besides being Turkey, which I think is an absolutely fabulous place to visit) was the fact that we would get to go into Ephesus, which has a lot of significance in the New Testament. It was really exciting to be able to go there and to walk the streets that the Apostle Paul walked. We were pretty excited about that. Our excursion was entitled “Highlights of Ephesus with Lunch.” You might have noticed that we tended to favor the excursions with food. What can I say? Our excursion departed first thing in the morning, so we got up early and went to breakfast in the formal dining room (because what fabulous girl turns 50 without being pampered?!) Enough said.

The description of the excursion was a, “tour designed to offer two major sites, the House of Virgin Mary and the City of Ephesus, with lunch. Driving from the pier through the Turkish countryside, you will arrive at the House of Virgin Mary where the blessed virgin is reputed to have spent the last years of her life. The site became famous after the travels of Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI. Outside is the fountain of our lady, providing the faithful water from the holy fountain, then you’ll take a 20 minute drive to the entrance of the ancient city of Ephesus that was built on a small hill with the entrance located at the top of the hill and the exit at the bottom.” So, off we went and were looking forward to it.

Our tour guide that day was great. On our ride up to house of the virgin, there were lots of olive groves. There was a little restaurant as you entered the area and a well that was fascinating because the opening of the well was dug in the shape of a key. I later learned that actually it wasn’t a well, but a baptistery with a keyhole shape. From there we walked uphill and saw a statue of the Virgin Mary climbed to what is reputed to have been her last home. Currently, a very small chapel occupies that space.

Outside of the house, there was a wire mesh wall in which the custom was to stick tissues and to say a prayer, which would be granted. We each took out a tissue and stuck it in the wall. Afterwards we walked to the Fountain of Our Lady, the water from which was said to be holy. Our tour guide gave us each a bottle of water, a map, a little Roman coin from the time when Ephesus was thriving, and a little clay water canteen. The idea was to take the canteen and fill it with water from the fountain. I just thought, “There’s no way I’m going to get that water home in my luggage and blah, blah, blah.” But I have to say that my friend Marjorie filled up her little clay jug and did just that. I felt really bad that I hadn’t done that because now I have an empty clay jug that really doesn’t mean anything to me. It would have been pretty nice to have water from the fountain. Anyway, I digress.

We headed back down the hill from the Virgin Mary’s house and then proceeded to the City of Ephesus itself. To walk in Ephesus where St. Paul once walked was a surreal experience. Now, I need to tell you it was incredibly hot that day. There was no shade and everything was dusty and dry, but it didn’t matter because to me it felt like reliving or at least experiencing what the folks who had once lived there might have experienced. It was pretty amazing. Our tour of Ephesus was quite long. Our tour guide was smart, she had an umbrella. Needless to say, we hadn’t thought about protecting ourselves from the sun in that way, but we did have sunscreen on (all three of us) and our bottle of water and with that we ventured forward.

As we entered the City of Ephesus, our tour guide told us that it would be a long, long walk and that was fine. As was true of an earlier excursion, we had the earpieces that were synchronized with her. She had a little microphone, the kind that you wear around your ear that wraps around front of your mouth. With that we could hear her even though there were many other tour groups around us. The first thing I noticed was how even though we were looking at ruins, it was clear that there had been a thriving city. We came to a rather large amphitheater and we were told that it was the place where the elite met to discuss the issues of the day. Right after we passed that, we saw a group of nuns and I thought, “If we’re hot in our tank tops and shorts and skirt, they must really be hot!” But we knew why they were there, too. We walked along with our tour guide and we could clearly discern the streets, including the columns had once served as street signs. Every now and then our guide would stop, let us take photos and catch our breath, and look out over the hillside. We saw the carvings on the pillars, written at street level to identify the business and houses. The long view of them was striking. Ancient walls covered with vegetation showed the tenacity of life as well and the tenacity of man’s creations. The walls still stood after all of those years. As we approached the library of Ephesus, we caught our breath. Even though there were throngs of tourists there, they did not detract from the amazing view coming down the hill towards the library.

On the way to the library we were able to see colorful mosaic tiles in the floor. The reason they hadn’t faded in all these thousands of years in the sun is because the tiles were made out of different types of material so that it wasn’t painted, but in fact the material itself held the colors in the mosaic. We saw homes from long ago as we continued our walk to the library, and the pillars along Hadrian’s way. As we continued walking, we came across a latrine and it’s pretty clear what it was designed for. We were able to take pictures of the long view of one of the main streets of Ephesus.

At last we arrived at the library of Ephesus. What an amazing site!. The library at Ephesus was one of the largest libraries of the ancient world. There were between 12,000 and 15,000 scrolls housed there in the Grand Library of Celsus in Ephesus. It was designed by the Roman architect Vitruoya and it was built in the memory of Celus Polemeanus who was a Roman Senator, Governor of the Province of Asia, and a great lover of books. He was buried beneath the ground floor in a lead container inside a marble tomb. A corridor behind the North wall leads to the vault. If you want to read more about the library of Ephesus, take a look at http://architecture.about.com/library/weekly/aa082201a.htm .

From the library, our tour continued past a very large coliseum . Unfortunately some of the members of our group got lost in there for a little bit including two teenagers who were with us. Our tour guide told us that there are still concerts held in that space and I thought how amazing it would be to be there in the evening with a cool breeze watching a performance there. Pretty amazing.

At just about at the end of our tour, we went to, what I would call an incredibly cheesy staging of supposedly Roman fighting or something. It was super corny. I felt a little bit of sympathy for the actors in their very hot costumes, but not too much sympathy as we had to stand there and pretend to be interested. Quite frankly they held up our tour since most of the folks in our tour group watched, while the rest of us were ready to leave and to get another bottle of water or get out of the sun. The “play” was there for tourists and that was great, but definitely if you’re there without a tour group, I would say it’s on the “skip list.” We exited Ephesus shortly after that cheesy show. Near the exit there were all kinds of vendors and we all stopped to buy some souvenirs. Then it was back on the bus to return to Kusadasi.

Once we arrived in Kusadasi, it was time for- well, yes, foodies- lunch and we were thrilled about that. We ate lunch in what looked like a train museum. It was called “The Wagon” and right next door was a minaret form which you could hear the call to prayer from the mosque. Lunch was absolutely fabulous. If you like Mediterranean food, you would have enjoyed this – fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, cheese, grilled chicken, very well seasoned grilled beef patties, all kinds of wonderful salads, and cool bottled water. It was delicious. Afterwards we had Turkish pastries. After lunch the bus dropped us off at the area right near the docks in Kusadasi. We had the rest of the day until the ship departed to wander around, so we went shopping. This was our first real shopping outing, but we were a little bit hot, so we weren’t the power shoppers that we usually are. We did manage to do a little bit of damage to our pocketbooks.

A couple of funny stories about our shopping spree. First of all, when we got off the bus we were very dusty because, as I told you, it was very dry, windy and dusty in Ephesus. I had some very flat plain black walking shoes on that were covered in the white dust of Ephesus and as we were walking past a shoe store, a vendor said to me, “Oh lady, your shoes, they are so ugly and they are very dirty, too. Please let me sell you some shoes.” We started laughing like, “Wow, that is maybe not the best approach to selling shoes,” – to tell a customer that their shoes are ugly and dirty, but we got a pretty big chuckle out of that. Then later, as I was by myself (my two compatriots had wandered off to look in different stores), I had meandered down a very narrow shopping passage and the vendor came out and saw me looking at shirts and said, “Hello lady, you don’t like that color? No problem, no problem. We have 1X and 2X. We have every size, every color.” Again, it really tickled me because it’s just not quite the flattering thing to say to someone who is thinking of themselves as “Fabulous at 50.” But he was so enthusiastic that it really tickled me. The last story about our shopping excursion is that the vendors targeted Marjorie and I saying, “Oh Beyonce’s soul sister, hey, come see what we have.” We enjoyed goofing off with them.

From what I’ve seen of Turkey (very limited I admit), I love it. I love the people. They’re warm, funny and colorful. I just love it. After shopping a while, we decided “Whoo, we’re pooped,” so we headed back to the ship. Walking back, a fish vendor offered me a ride on the back of his motorcycle. Our ship wasn’t leaving until 11:00 p.m., so he said, “Oh, come party with me. I’ll bring you back to the ship,” but I just didn’t think it was the wisest choice to make. I did get to take a picture in his fish stall. My friends teased me saying, “You can go with him if you want to, but you’re going to come back smelling like fish,” which again was not the most enticing thought.

We found a lovely little restaurant right by the water with a lovely view and there we ordered Turkish beer and appetizers. It was a great way to cool down and relax after a fun day in Kusadasi and Ephesus. Back on board, we headed down to dinner. This was our second formal night on the cruise. For each of the formal nights, we also took a formal night picture. As we ate our fabulous meal for “Fabulous at 50 women”, we looked out the window and said goodbye to fabulous Kusadasi. It had been a fabulous day. After dinner we went to see Bernard Waltz. He was described as Australia’s winning entertainer and he played a lot of classical piano music. I’m not going to call any names, but I’ll just say that two in our party nodded off during Mr. Waltz. They found him more than very relaxing. After his performance we headed up to the casino (believe or not) with Marjorie and she tested her luck there. Later, there was a nostalgia trivia game (we passed on that) followed by dancing to the hits. We went up to the disco and not much was happening, so we called it an early evening. That was day seven of our cruise and it dawned on us that day that we were more than half way done and we were very sad about that. But we all agreed that we were absolutely fabulous at 50 and that we made a very wise decision to take the our fabulous cruise.