Barcelona, Spain

Two days in Barcelona is just not enough. What a bustling city full of life with so much to see! There are so many piazzas closed off to traffic for people to hang out, eat, and people watch. Tapas, little appetizer restaurants, are a main staple here and thanks to an article my mom found in Diablo Magazine, we found some incredible ones, thanks Mom! Without a doubt, the best seafood we’ve had on this trip. They have a secret to seafood preparation better than any I’ve ever had in the states.

Another big surprise was largest food market we’ve ever seen in the world. I was totally mezmorized. It’s the size of an airplane hanger, filled with food stalls, each specializing in meats, fruit, candy, nuts, etc. The seafood is so fresh that the fish are still talking, the crabs are still clawing, and the lobsters are still fanning their tails. I took this pic of them setting up at 6am, as I’m heading out of town. These people really know how to eat and enjoy life!!

The Boqueria
The Boqueria
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Monte Carlo, Monaco

This is such a wealthy city where the entire community looks like it was frosted by a baker who thought all the buildings were petit fours. It feels like you’re living inside a pastel colored wedding cake. The buildings are so perfectly restored and beautifully decorated with angels and scrolled metal balconies. The yachts are some of the biggest in the world. I saw a guy waxing the boat exterior…I’m sure by the time he makes it around the boat, it would be time to wax again!

 

Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo

Cinque Terre, Italy

We docked in Livorno today…hard to decide which way to go…Florence to see some of the world’s most famous art, Pisa, to see the leaning tower, or visit 5 tiny towns nestled in steep cliffs along the Italian coastline known as Cinque Terre. We close the latter. We got to these little villages by boat, each similar but each with its own little unique setting. They are all sherbet colors, stacked on top of each other, on tiny, twisting roads accessable only by walking. They all have incredible beachfronts. The last one had rainbow striped beach umbrellas and chairs lined up, stretching as far as the eye could see which was breathtakingly beautiful.

These residents are farmers for the most part, and have terraced these incredibly steep cliffs to harvest olives and grapes for olive oil and wine, but all must be done by hand because no machines can go on these cliffs.

The food here was fabulous, antipasti, spaghetti with mussels and clams, and pesto with a nice glass of chianti. We have been told that Italians make 256 shapes of pasta, each designed specifically to hold the perfect amount of sauce. When you break your spaghetti, you’re creating another size…like 256 sizes isn’t good enough for you? You gotta go create another size? If they thought spaghetti should be shorter, they would have made it shorter!!!

Since hitting Italy, we have discovered Italian gelato and wow, is it fabulous!!!

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Rome, Italy

Rome is such a fabulous city. Its such a mix of ancient city with every corner enhanced by talented artists. Hard to pick one one photo to share with you. I’m choosing Trevi Fountain…it’s hard to imagine that the hand of man can create this kind of beauty!

We did Rome own our own today and surprisingly we made it back to the boat before the boat sailed! That’s no small task considering who I had as a navigator. Believe me, 2 couples missed the boat two cities ago! Yikes!

Trevi Fountain
Trevi Fountain

Sorrento – Pompeii, Italy

Buon giorno from Italia! After a day and a half at sea,  we have landed in Naples. Sorrento is a charming cute city with the best ice cream!! To get there its an hour drive along this beautiful Amalfi coast. The beaches are really interesting in that they are set up off a cliff, with winding staircases, perfectly aligned striped beach umbrellas, and wooden, striped changing rooms, like a movie from times gone by.

We left civilization to head to the ruins of Pompei in the afternoon. The entire city was buried beneath the ash of the Mt Vesuvius eruption in 79AD. It was only uncovered 170 years ago which is why its in such good shape. These people must have been very wealthy since so many of them had complete fresco painted walls and mosaic tiled floors in every room! I would have fit right in with all the red painted walls in their homes!

It must have happened really quick…they have casts of people exactly as they died…one guy was sitting down on the floor with his eyes closed and holding his nose trying not to inhale the fine ash that eventually swallowed the entire city under 25 feet of ash.

Of all the ancient ruins we’ve seen, this one really gives you the sense of what an ancient city actually looked like.

Don’t believe everything you hear about the food on cruise ships. Chuck thought he’d go easy so he skipped breakfast yesterday, but had two lunches, the full American buffet, and then the Oriental buffet. It looked so good we had to just taste a few things at the second buffet. Two snacks came later that afternoon, choosing from an array of desserts, and a sampling of sushi while we listened to a motown tribute in the lobby of the boat. Donna called and told us that she and Tom had sneaked up to the buffets which had completely switched the food to an Indian and Indonesian buffet, which was not to be missed. I was laughing at her knowing that they had gone for more food, but on her advice, we snuck up there for a small sample. You try to be good and just taste, but its sooo good you end up going back for one more taste, even if you’ve already eaten and you know dinner is right around the corner. Finally, it was time for the sit down dinner where Chuck and Donna both ate melon fruit soup, asparagus with bacon and hollandaise sauce, a salad, veal ravioli with porcini cream sauce, and the main entree which was austrailian lobster tail with king prawns. If you think that’s a lot…wait!! There’s more! If you finish your entree, you are free to order another! Chuck and Donna both had seconds, and then thirds on lobster tails! You’re not going to believe it, but after all that, they both had dessert too!! Such is a day at sea on a cruise boat.

Sorrento coastline
Sorrento coastline

Istanbul, Turkey

Having zero expectations of this place, what a surprise of a city. It’s a great mix of old and new together. Its quite modern and ancient at the same time.

It reminds me a lot of Kristen’s show Aida where the royalty here were sultans who wore caftans and baggy pants like the arabian nights. We went to the biggest indoor bazaar in the world, 4000 shops under one roof. Yikes!! The most popular items for tourists are handmade carpets and jewelry which are all absolutely beautiful. This seems like a very wealthy city. Chuck bought me a fabulous authentic Turkish bracelet for 1 euro ($1.36 cents) and says he’s completed his duty of getting me a memorable piece of jewelry from a foreign land.

Its also very wierd to be in a city that has gone thru so much in their history. At one point they were a Christian nation, but eventually became a Moslem nation practicing Islam. It is so strange to go into a mosque and see no graphic images of any kind inside. No Jesus, no saints, no prophets in the stained glass windows. There were images of Jesus and Mary, but they were covered over with plaster when Islam came in, but have since been uncovered once again. Turkey is 99% Islamic, 1% Christian with about 25,000 jews. There are a few women wearing totally black with only their eyes showing which is quite radical in this 90 degree weather, and any more women wearing scarves to cover their heads.
On the cruise side…they never cease to amaze with the food, entertainment, and activities. In the buffet restaurant, each night is a different surprise theme…one day was Greek, yesterday was Mexican, and today was Indonesian. Of course the food is 99% fabulous and impossible to resist.

The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque

 

Ephesus, Kusadasi, Turkey

200,000 people lived in Ephesus including St. Peter, St. Paul, and the Virgin Mary. (St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was likely to have been written here). What remains since this time of Christ is truly remarkable to have lasted for so long.  The remnants of carvings of the columns, the marble entryways, and details in the stone shows that this must have been truly magnificent when it was a thriving city. It is where St. Peter, St. Paul and the Virgin Mary chose to spend the latter part of their lives. The amphitheatre here seats 25,000!  It was so interesting to walk the streets known only to me through reading the Bible.

Ephesus Library
Ephesus Library

Athens and the Acropolis

Two days at sea and we finally docked in Athens. A hot 95 degrees.  Seven cruise boats dock at the same time sending 20,000 tourists ashore all at once so you can imagine what its like when all the tour buses drive to the Acropolis at the same time. Its amazing how the city is built all around the ruins which are on the mountain peak at the center of the city. Its hard to comprehend that this was here 1500 years before Christ.  Wear some shoes you can walk in.  It’s a little bit of a rough hike, especially when you have thousands of other tourists walking along with you.

Had a great, authentic Greek lunch of lamb and potatoes in lemon sauce, gyros, moussaka, and dolmas in the Athens bazaar.  It was a great place to stroll and people watch.

Back on the ship and headed for Istanbul.

Acropolis
Acropolis

Beautiful Venice

Hello from beautiful Venice!! This is such a magical place but no picture can capture the splendor of this fantasy city. I would have liked to stay longer in this picturesque place.

On the ship now. Two days at sea before hitting Athens, the first stop. Sailing away along the coastline of Venice was truly spectacular.

Cruising is a strange phenomenon. I feel like I’m outside observing the experience and haven’t really come to grips with the fact that l’m in this strange world along with all these other people who are sharing your vacation with you.
The ship is an extravagance that’s difficult to comprehend. Everywhere you turn there is a pool, a band, a theatre production, a karaoke contest, outdoor movies showing avatar today,while you swim in the pool, a nightclub, a casino, a demonstration, a class, all operating 24/7.

The food is all beautifully presented, with no limit to how much you can have, and it is also available 24/7. Everywhere you turn, there is food, food, food. When you’re in the pool, there is all you can eat pizza and ice cream, and cookies and milk from servers that come around without even leaving your lounge chair. This is going to be the most difficult part of the trip, because its all so good.
The waiters have to be fluent in many languages…many speak Italian, Spanish, French, and German.
My blackberry is not compatible with the wi-fi system on the boat so l’m not able to connect to the internet at all when the ship is at sea. The ship also charges by the minute so probably just as well. My only alternative is thru my roaming feature, so I’ll only be able to connect periodically when the ship docks at a port to send and receive emails.

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Cruise to the Mediterranean

We’re off today on our big Mediterranean Cruise adventure! I can’t believe we will be in Venice tomorrow.

I’m a little show to get on the bandwagon about cruises.  I always thought they were 1) for old people  and 2)  We’ve been afraid of any place that offers all you can eat all day long.  That’s way too dangerous for those of us who love to eat.

I don’t know how much Wi-fi we will have cruising.  We will be traveling with Princess Cruises.  I’m sure it will be a first for us in many ways.

On the high seas with Princess Cruises
On the high seas with Princess Cruises