Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Farewell Barcelona (Aug 31)

This morning we wandered to find some breakfast on our way to the meeting point for the bus tour to Sagrada Familia.

We were able to photograph it outside when we first arrived in Barcelona and had our hop on/ hop off tour.  But I've been anxious to get inside based on what I've seen of his exterior architecture.

And I wasn't disappointed!  I actually was moved to tears when I entered this church.  It is not a cathedral because it does not have a sitting bishop.  I didn't know that before.

I was speechless at the light that entered through its windows.  A virtual rainbow from yellow through to blue/green on one side and from yellow through to orange and red on the other wise.  Our tour guide Anna-Louisa was extraordinary and she explained the symbolism of the colours.  The yellow/blue/green side represents nature.  The red represents the blood of Christ.

There is too much to really explain about this place and its designer but if you are interested in finding out more about Antoni Gaudi, I'm sure google will help you.

One thing Anna-Louisa did mention was that Antoni Gaudi was in line to be sainted but it could take 40 years.   She said that his qualifying 'miracle' was that he interceded for a blind young girl whose site was restored.  I think this building is a miracle.  The mathematical genius of the architecture, coupled with his understanding of light left me awestruck.  In my books, this was the most beautiful building of the entire trip, and we saw some gorgeous buildings.

We have to get up at 3:00 a.m. to find our way to the airport for our 6:30 a.m. flight home, so for now, Arrivederci! Au Revoir! and Good Bye!


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

And back to Barcelona (Aug 30th)

We woke up docked back in Barcelona.  We had to have our luggage packed and outside our cabin door by 10 p.m. last night so we could make a quick disembarkation at 8:00 a.m.

We enjoyed our last breakfast in the Windjammer Cafe.  Stacey, our evening wait staff was working in the Windjammer that morning. 

They work incredibly hard and most of the staff on board from all over the world (their name badges show their country of origin) are working on the ship seven months at a time with no days off.  Our two wait staff were there to send money home to family.  When Stacey shared her story, I cried.  She is a single mom with two girls, aged 3 and 11.  She hails from Jamaica.  Her mom is caring for her children while she is here serving us,  excellently I might add.  She is absolutely delightful and gave us her undivided attention throughout the cruise.

I won't forget her.

Tomorrow we have a reservation to visit the Sagrada Familia, the famous church designed by Antoni Gaudi.  It is still under construction and not expected to be complete until 2026.

Looking forward to that!  Until then, time to rest up from all that walking.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Provence (Toulon), France

Now to a country where at least the language is somewhat familiar!

We arrived in Toulon at 8:00 a.m. and once again, we decided to see where our feet could lead us.  We were hoping for a hop on/ hop off bus and found this quaint little 'train' that took us on a quick tour through Toulon managing to get down walkways that a regular bus couldn't.  It was fun.  It was open air, low to the ground and we did manage to get some good photos.

Beautiful harbour.  Reminescent of our harbour if the naval base was closer to town

We strolled through the open air market after the bus tour was over and then sat down for our daily cappucino.  This one got top marks as being the best on the trip!  We enjoyed cappucino at every port.  We also enjoyed a few more things like pizza, pasta and creme brulee in Venice (and cappuccino of course), and more pizza in Rome, and gelato a few times, but our main focus was cappuccino and we weren't disappointed!

Tomorrow we sail back to Barcelona where we will be spending another two nights awaiting our September 1st flights home.  It's been a LONG vacation with lots of sights, flavours, smells and sounds.  I'm officially home sick and can hardly wait to get on that plane.

It's been a great cruise!


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Taste of Florence (Aug. 28)

We docked at 7:00 a.m.  This was another very long walking day.  We were off the ship at 8:00 a.m. and met our tour guide at the bus on the shore.  After a 90 minute drive into Florence, we began our walking tour culminating in time on our own to explore, shop and eat if we wanted to.

Florence was my favourite of the Italian cities we visited, with Venice in second place and Rome in third.

I was in particular looking for leather.  I wanted to find a bag but came home with a whole ensemble including shoes.  The Vendor gave me a package deal.  He likes Canada.  Or it was a good line.  In any event he got my business.

The bag is hand painted leather with the matching wallet.  When I spotted the shoes he told me they didn't have many left.  I asked him the size of the display pair.  41 he said.  Well, let's try them.  Perfect fit!  So they came home with me.

So very pleased with these acquisitions!

Until the next port!


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Rome in a Day (Aug. 27th)

We were greeted with a very hot day in Rome.  We booked an excursion called "Rome in a Day".  Let me tell you, it can't be done.

We took a coach from the ship which dropped us off at the Colosseum.

In 37 degree C heat, we didn't fancy waiting in hour long lineups in the sun to get inside so we just appreciated it from the outside and followed our guide's instructions for the walking tour.  We did end up seeing St. Peter's Basilica from the exterior and St. Peter's Square, more ruins, churches, cobblestone streets, and other ancient landmarks.

Vatican City/St. Peter's Square

Trevi Fountain

Shopping Mall

Spanish Steps (and no we didn't climb them)

It was a bit surreal, kind of like you are looking at an extravagent movie set.  While I appreciated all of these sites, the heat made it a difficult day. We walked our little footsies off  and were glad to see the coach at the end of the day to take us back to the ship. Oh yeah, the bus broke down so in total we were on three buses (coaches) that day. 

We *could* have had a full day private car with a guide for a mere $1,350.00 per vehicle.  I'm satisfied.  I've seen, and appreciated Rome.  We did get some information on the ride back to the ship and saw some more from the windows of the coach.

I'm looking forward to Florence!  They say the leather is to die for.  Stay tuned!


Friday, August 26, 2016

Salerno, Italy - August 26, 2016

We had a day at sea where Bonnie had scheduled her video workshops from Craft University.  Unfortunately we slept in and miss the whole morning segment. I think we needed the sleep more but missed being with our group.

I did manage to get a selfie with Bonnie in front of her Spanish Rose quilt (cruise project) and her unfinished Hexie project.

On some evenings, the group would gather (without Bonnie) and sew together on the cruise projects.  We met some great ladies from all corners of the USA and one from Norway and our other Canadian.

Sydney from Alabama showing me her technique for hexies to avoid seeing stitches from the front.

Where quilters gather, there is talk, laughter and friendship.

We woke up on the Amalfi coast and a lot of our group went on various tours/excursions to Pompeii, Sorrento, the Island of Capri, and Positano.  We once again decided to do a walkabout on our own in the little town of Salero.  Each excursion is upwards of $90.00 so we chose carefully and decided that when we could wander on our own and find local tours, etc. that we would do that.  What we wanted to avoid is taking an excursion hours away from port and being left behind by the ship due to snafus with the local providers.  Royal Caribbean will wait if one of their approved providers has a problem getting back on time, but if you happen to be late because you were on your own, you better have your VISA card ready to book a flight to the next port!  This caused me a lot of anxiety so we chose to do Rome and Venice and Florence excursions and the rest on our own.  And I'm so glad we did.

Here are a few pictures of Salerno.

Next stop is Rome (port is Civitavecchia), and 1.5 hour bus ride from port (hence using the approved transport).


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Half day in Split, Croatia

We once again had the privilege of sailing into port in the daylight as we arrived in Split at noon on August 24th. We had just a half a day in Split so once again, we decided to just wander on our own to see what we could find.

But first we decided to have breakfast in the diningroom when we heard they serve Eggs Benny!

Unremarkable but I loved the grilled tomatoes every morning!

I had heard that Split was quite beautiful and while I agree that there was some natural beauty, in my opinion, Montenegro was much more beautiful.

Covered market

Bougainvillea - my favourite Mediterranean flower

Intrigued by their long, flat brickwork

Scored my son a shirt from the Game of Thrones shop

Promenade back to the ship

Tired roommate.  It was over 30 C

and this guy greeted us on our return.

Now we have another full day at sea ahead of us as we head south towards Naples, Italy.

Back to Italy we go!


Monday, August 22, 2016

Overnight sail into Venice, Italy

We left Montenegro at 5:00 p.m. and woke up at sea.  We had the morning to ourselves to sew, explore the ship (Brilliance of the Seas), read, or just relax and breathe in the Mediterranean air. I decided to sew on my hexie project from home.

Sewing at Sea

We arrived in Venice at 3:00 p.m. and we made sure to be up on the deck to watch the view of the City while we made our way to port.  It was surreal.

View coming in to port from inside the Solarium

We had to take a shuttle boat from the ship to the cityfront.  This whole waterfront of Venice is dotted with water taxis, shuttle boats and yes gondolas.  The one question I am asked by everyone who knows I went to Venice is, "did you take a gondola ride".  The short answer is 'no'.  It wasn't particularly appealing to me and at 100 Euros, the temptation to say "oh what the heck, let's do it!" wasn't there. I'd rather save my money for leather in Florence!

We booked an extensive walking tour with the lovely Monica for our second day in port.  Monica had a lovely Italian lilt to her voice and an equally excellent command of English.  We followed her through the Piazza San Marco (St. Mark) neighbourhood featuring Doge's Palace which was magnificent, over many bridges,  St. Mark's Cathedral, also magnificent, and finally the Murano Glass Showroom.

Doge's Palace

The Marzipan was incredible but we were forbidden from bringing food on the ship. :(

Small shops abound.  Waiting for Florence for leather shopping!

Bridge of Sighs is the solid higher bridge

After the walking tour, we had time on our own to wander and explore and eat before we had to take the shuttle boat back to the ship.

Spaghetti and Meatballs (quintessential Italian food).  Just had to!

New friend Suzy from Florida

Best creme brulee I've ever had! Period!
And that was Venice!  Unfortunately, we were so exhausted that we were in our cabin resting when we sailed out in the evening so we missed the city at night, fully lighted.  From our friends' photos, we realized we were sorry to miss this.

Next stop is Split, Croatia!

Until then,