Our trip began in a flurry. Trying to be certain that we had all packed what we needed. Making sure that things on the home front were cared for. Making sure that we had all of our legal documents. Then of course to get us to the airport on time, the car checked in, the baggage checked in at a different place and all of the many details of traveling. We made it though. Our first flight to Atlanta was a breeze. Up and down and you are there. The next one 9+ hours was a bit more in depth. We flew business class tho (thanks Mom) so we each got our own little pods with beds that lay out flat, personal tvs and of course unlimited snacks, drinks and amenities. It was a dream. Really...the ONLY way to fly internationally.
The ship was ginormous. I think there was like 5600 guests. That is crazy. There was rock climbing, zip lining, a surf pool, like 12 pools, a dozen bars and at least that many restaurants and stores. We only had one day at sea so we really didnt get to enjoy it much. I did get to lounge at the pool (my favorite) and we played games in the game room. Mostly we just rested from what was already a whirlwind.
The nightly entertainment was phenomenal. This was in one of the shows we saw. If you look closely you can see the actors in the tree.
One of the theaters had an ice skating rink. So we got to see Monopoly and How to Train a Dragon both on ice. We also saw the Broadway production of Mama Mia. The comedy room was great and the improve shows on the Boardwalk of course were fantastic and fun.
Our first stop was in Naples. We had lunch at a wonderful little Bistro. The home of the pizza. It was really good. We toured Pompeii at the base of Mt. Vesuvius. The architecture and findings that they have uncovered are simply breath taking. This was a 1700s old mill that we saw as were looking down over a bridge. The thing about that country is they use every drop of real estate. Having property on a 87% slope is not a deterrent. This building was literally straight up and down. It of course has been abandoned and looked a little more than creepy.
It was really neat to walk along the sidewalks and under arbors that were filled with grapes. There was constantly fruit trees filled with mangalos and oranges and lemons and on and on. It was very much integrated into every thing. Of course there are orchards and gardens, but you'd still see Rosemary and Fennel and Lavender growing alongside of the highways.
This is Castel Sant'elmo overlooking Naples.
Barcelona was a beautiful city. We were not able to go inside of the Sagrada Familia but just walking around the outside was unbelievable. The attention to every single detail that Gaudi put into each piece is unreal.
One thing that we noticed on this trip is that EVERYONE looks good ALL THE TIME. Definitely no Walmartians there. Fashion is HUGE! Some areas even have posted signs with dress codes. This is a window at Dulce Gabanna store. VERY rich looking. What I loved most is all of the different kinds of shoes. The guys were all dressed just as stylish as the ladies. Definitely NO boxer shorts and baggie pants there. I bet those people come to America and wonder what planet they have landed on.
Here we are in front of La Almudaina Royal Palace in Palma de Mallorca.
That brings us to one of our most favorite parts of the trip. Marseilles and Cassis, France. First of all the countryside is GORGEOUS!!! This photo is of us on the edge of Cap Canaille which is 1292 feet over the water. That little town that you see in the distance is Cassis.
Yes, crazy daredevils exist over there as well. Rock climber that was just to our right as we neared the edge.
A better perspective. Yes. We were on the tippy top.
It was soooooo good for us to get away from the craziness that is ongoing in our normal lives. Spending time with the girls was a blessing all within itself.
This is the little fishing town called Cassis. Yes, it is the town that we were looking down on from the cliff. It was soooo charming and so sweet. Postcard perfect.
Notre-Dame de-la-Garde. This basilica is dedicated to the harbor. The entire church has mementos and tokens of gifts from the wives and families of the fishermen and other boatsmen that returned from the sea. It was extremely breathtaking to see each detail with the tiles, the paint and of course the architecture.
I have to tell you my funny experience with the public restroom in Cassis. First...they look like a vault. I went in. The door automatically locks you in there. Then these sprayers come up out of the floor and the toilet and along the walls and drench the entire room. So there I am....locked in. Being sprayed head to toe. Yes, I panicked and yes I screamed. Just when I was certain that I was going to die in the toilet the lights go out and the door is released. It was only afterward that I came out and read the sign that says the rooms are disinfected between each use. If I didnt have to pee so bad I would have cut my losses and walked on. However I decided to try one more time. This time I didnt get showered however I had no control over the lights nor the door. I have never peed so fast in my life! Upon getting back into the tour van everyone kept asking who had purchased soap, since I had acquired a lovely lavender scent in my escapades. One I can definitely laugh about now, but holy heck it scared the bageezus out of me at the time!
The street artists in Florence were amazing.
Of course the Pisa tower was great. It seriously looked like an amusement building. Again the attention to detail that went in to every arch is astonishing.
Pompeii was amazing. The fact that they have been able to recover anything from the mountain is unbelievable, as Mt. Vesuvius is literally overlooking the city. The remains are very interesting. Pompeii was a very promiscuous place and they strongly believed that the male member was a sign of fertility and prosperity. When we first got into town and noticed the street markets selling every size, shape and color of penis statues we were very taken aback. They had shot glasses, some with funny eyes and noses, some with wings, key chains, mugs and seriously I saw a purse that dawned this great shape. It was only after we went through the city and was informed by our guide of just how important they thought the penis was. They were carved into the street rocks to point the direction to the cat houses, they were sticking out of the walls, every painting and statue dawned a naked man and his member.
The large stones in the road allowed for wagons to pass the streets and for people to be able to cross over without stepping in the dredge of sewer and bathwater and waste that flowed out of the city through the streets.
We visited Tuscany next. BEAUTIFUL area. Yes all of the paintings and photos look JUST LIKE the movies.
We went to a wine tasting event and had lunch at a winery. It was incredible food. The scenery was spectacular and the people were soooooo nice.
St. Antimo's Abbey. When we arrived here the monks were doing their Gregorian chants. It was extremely cleansing and peaceful in there. Beautifully simple. Not that a building can make you any closer to God than a ladder can, it was very vitalizing to go here. Sitting in the pews and just "being" was an experience I will never be able to explain and certainly not one I will ever forget.
We found a darling Bistro in Rome that was so much fun. The waiters put on quite a show and kept us all laughing and smiling. The first time we went there I ordered Ravioli. He brought me out a small plate with 3 very tiny raviolis on it. It looked gorgeous as it was decorated and garnished. I thought, wow--I guess I ordered incorrectly. After all, ordering food there is ALWAYS a gamble. So I politely ate my 3 raviolis and then went on to help Hannah eat her pizza. The gentleman then came out with a ginormous bowl of raviolis laughing hysterically that I actually thought that was my meal. This particular one had a good time with Hannah and making her blush throughout the entire meal. We truly had fun and it sure made the meals exciting.
I LOVE this pic. OK, so it was really cold and VERY early in the morning but isn't she cute??
The Colosseum. I could dedicate an entire blog to this place. But I am going to try to get the gist in just a paragraph or 2. The size is amazing. The fact that they never charged admission to anyone was also amazing. The fact that there are over 80 entrances is amazing.
We were able to take a small group private tour down underground and see more of the behind the scenes of the great games. As you go on many tours you start to learn how each ones knowledge varies just a little. One thing however that all of them agreed on is that the movies are NOT how things were done. The precious movie THE GLADIATOR did a remarkable job of rebuilding and setting the stage of the actual venue but the games did NOT go as it says they did. This is one of the 62 elevators that lifted the fighters up to the arena. There was 4 slaves in the middle and 4 slaves on the bottom to push and twist the pulley system, lifting the cage up. There was often times lions and bears and other large animals. The strength that these men had to have was awesome.
Hundreds and hundreds of steep staircases led down into the underground.
The ingenuity that the early Romans had surpasses anything we have today. This raw arch shows the rocks wedged together. Nothing holding them together other than gravity and friction. It is still standing though. This particular area is under the reconstructed arena floor.
This view is from the 3rd level. On the far side you can see the arena floor. Closer to us they left it open so that guests can see down into the underground. The Colosseum held 50-70,000 people. The original flooring is still in the basement. They used a hearing bone technique to go with the surface of the land and also to withstand the impact of water and animals.
They had huge aquaducts to bring in the aqua games.
This is old Rome. The original city. Many of the popes coming into reign stole marble, tavertine and statues from the city to build their own monuments and homes. Since they deemed churches and anything relating to the church as holy that is about the only things still there and in tact. The great thing about this city is that they had the aquaducts that delivered the cleanest and most brilliant water ever, but they also had developed a sewer sytem so their streets were clean. America is such a baby in comparison. Were talking thousands and thousands of years ago that this city had a fully functional water system and we here have only had it a few decades.
This is the circus (derby). There used to be grandstands surrounding the entire track. Holding 150,000+ spectators to watch the chariot races.
This Paolo and Lya. Paola is a chef and taught us how to make pasta and the filling for ravioli and also how to cook Carbonara from scratch. The tips that we learned in the class and the food was amazing. They are truly gems of Rome and it was so neat getting to know them.
Much of Europe is an intense crazy ball of metro. People drive like crazies, park even crazier and do it all going 9,000 mph. Parking spot a little too tight? No problem, bumper car your way in to the spot. Get out, tuck your scarf into your jacket, click the alarm and walk on!
One of the greatest things we did was take a Segway tour. THEY ARE SOOOO MUCH FUN! We saw a hundred bazillion more sites all while riding along on our little toys. They are ridiculously easy to ride and a blast. Ahhh the power that one possesses when you toot your little horn and the pedestrians move out of your way. I really think I need one of these. I could chase chickens with it.
The Sistine Chapel is phenomenal. The sheer awesomeness that one man laid on his back with toxins and fumes to paint with absolute perfection is overwhelming. You are not allowed to take photos within the chapel. But even the art leading up to it is breathtaking. We toured the Vatican as well. The art, seriously....no words can describe it. This particular painting is on the ceiling.
A mummy is encased in one of the historical rooms.
I could post a gojillion more as we literally took over 5000 photos, but I wont bore you with such. Besides I think I will be editing them for decades to come.
Thank you to you Mom for inviting us on this trip of a lifetime. We will all three cherish the memories we made, the history we saw and the fun that we had. Thank you for being so understanding and compassionate of our current situation. It was a nice get away. I nice reprieve from our life. We are forever grateful for that.
I love you and am so grateful for all that you did for us.