This is where I intend to chronicle my first real vacation, our
Barcelona Cruise in May of 2008 in honor of my wife Kathy's 40th
*Disclaimer: I can't promise that I this will be up to date
or that we will remember to bring the camera for any excursions.
If I do you will see it here. Click the links on the left to
see our pictures.
Day 5 - Civitavecchia, Italy (Rome & the Vatican)
Click here to view the
day 5 pics.
On Day 5 we got up early to go on our ten hour tour of Rome.
Rome is about 45 mile from port and it took us a good hour to get
into Rome with traffic and a rest stop.
To be honest, I was a little skeptical about Rome. People
talk it up so much and so far in the trip stuff that I had seen to
date was not over the top - nice but not overly impressive.
I liked the Village of St. Paul with the cobble stone and Medieval
Architecture etc... The Tuscany country side was beautiful but
having grown up in New Orleans, it really wasn't more impressive
than St. France and St. Patrick's Cathedrals downtown or the many
plantations along the Mississippi River. Up to this point it
was pretty much, pictures from the Travel Channel, "Live and in
my great surprise, Rome and the Vatican utterly blew me away.
The city is incredibly beautiful and you can feel the full force of
history oozing out structures all around the city. Our first
stop was the Coliseum. The Coliseum is massive. Much of
the marble and exterior stones have been removed. All that is
left is an enormous skeleton of the immense area. Looking down
into the Coliseum, I was awe inspired and now truly have feel for
the day to day society that operated in this structure. The
floor is gone and you can see the subterranean passages where
slaves, trainers and the logistical structure to support the games
were housed. It gave me a new appreciation for the scale of
what happened here and the Roman Empire in general.
Our next stop was the Roman Forum. The place where
government flourished and ruled the empire. The ancient City
of Rome housed at one time over 1 Million people and after the fall
of the empire whole sections of the city fell into disuse. So
much debris and dirt piled up over the ages that many structure were
under as much as 30 feet of dirt as recently as 100 years ago.
Many structures were used at that time and had doors put in etc...
that are now 30 foot above the ground. The Italian government
is now taking a much more comprehensive view of the historical
structures and continue to find new structures and historical pieces
we went to the center of Rome for a little shopping and exploration
of the city. The market had an incredible fountain as its
center piece. We picked up a few souvenirs and Kathy explored
several leather shops and purse stands. We picked up some
gelato and were ready for lunch.
We stopped for lunch at small restaurant down a side alley and
had a beautiful 3 course meal with some Chianti. The people
were incredibly nice and the meal was great. After hanging out
for about an hour and a half, we were ready for our next stop.
had a powerful affect on me. Which in hind sight, shouldn't
have been too surprising, as I was raised a Catholic in Louisiana.
St. Peter's Basilica was incredible. The scale of it is
immense. The architecture is incredible and the raw beauty of
everything is over whelming. It's a true testament to amount
of beauty that human effort can create in the name of religion.
The artifacts of Michaelangelo are awe inspiring.
This is truly something that one needs to see for one self in
order to understand the impact of the place. The sense of
history and significance is powerful.
Being some what over come by the experience, I purchased some
rosaries made of crushed rose petals and some St. Joseph &
Christopher medals for the girls. Kathy got a small carved
angel to put in her buffet at home.
At the end of the day, we were some what tired and happy to head
back to the boat. The ride was about one and a half to two
hours with traffic. Kathy took 106 pictures.
We have a day at sea tomorrow. This was our last stop in
Day 4 - Florence, Italy (Port of Livorno)
Click here to view the day 4 pics.
In the morning we arrived in port at Florence, Italy. We
were slow getting up and did not get out of bed until 10:00 am.
Kathy and I took a 1/2 day Tuscany Wine Tasting Tour. The
Tuscany country side was beautiful. We drove out for about an
hour to the Borgo La Torre Vineyard in Montecarlo, Italy. We
took a tour of the Winery, did a wine tasting with cheese and Olives
and hung out at the Villa for the day. The Vineyard was also a
bed and breakfast resort and had two small dogs with incredible
personalities, who followed us for the day to hang out and possible
catch some scarps of food that might fall off the tables.
Kathy got some bottles of Olive Oil and wine from the vineyard
and we were back on the boat in time for dinner.
Day 3 - Cannes, France
Click here to view the day 3 pics.
Click here to view the wait
We came into Cannes at 7:00 am. It was crowded because the
famous "Cannes Film Festival" was going on. There were several
large yachts in the harbor and one had a helicopter on it. We
did not see any big stars.
We took a 4 hour tour of a perfume factory and the medieval
village of St. Paul. The perfume factory was interesting, but
I eventually grew weary of smelling the perfume. St. Paul's
was an awesome site, we enjoyed walking the shops and exploring the
The French seemed extremely nice. There was less English
here than Spain, be we were able to leveraged Kathy's French from
Canada to get by.
I think we are pretty much screwed for language in Italy.
Should be fun.
Tonight is "Formal Night" on the ship. Kathy is extremely
excited. Looks like, we'll dress up for dinner then be off to
dancing, karaoke and the Dungeon to hang with Fred.
formal night dinner was nice. Everyone was dressed up, some in
tuxes. We had a Brittish couple at our table in Ball Gown and
Tux. Barry, the husband took his tie off to match the yanks (3
of us in sports coats and ties). The waiter staff put on a
singing show, 200 people with different accents singing "Amore".
After dinner we went dancing at the Dungeon and hit the
Casino. Kathy could not get up on time the next day.
Day 2- Boarding the Ship
Click here to view the day 2 pics.
Not much to tell here. Kathy and I had breakfast at a deli
outside the hotel (Jason is fascinated with hanging meat - Chinese
restaurants, Barcelona delis). Caught a cab to the ship.
We were in a Jr. Suite, the cheapest suite (Kathy wanted a balcony
for her birthday trip), but received priority boarding as a result.
We reached the boat at 1:15. Went thru check in and were on
the boat by 1:20. Our luggage arrived with in an hour and we
were comfortably in our room.
We had dinner, met the people who will be our table for the
entire cruise and went to the welcome on board show. There are
3500 people on board, 600 Americans, 500 Spaniards, 400 British, 300
Irish, 70 Canadians.
My first impressions of the ship and cruise?
- The room was a lot bigger than I thought, similar in size to
a Courtyard Marriott hotel room.
- The food is pretty good. (I had poor expectations from
our Sandal's Honeymoon experience).
- They try to upsell everything.
- Soda's are expensive.
- The Welcome show is worth seeing.
- Cruises are set up to be very social.
Day 1- May 18th 2008 - Arrival and Exploration of Barcelona
Click here to view a short
view inside our Tapas Pub.
Click here to view the day 1 pics.
- We used Kathy's Frequent Flyer Points to upgrade on all
- We booked through a travel agency so everything was taken
- I got 750 Euro's from the bank on Friday.
- Great on board food in first class!
- I watched 1/2 of the first season of Amazing Grace on my
iPod on the plane.
- I have internet access at the hotel.
- Our flight from Newark was 1.5 hours delayed because the
catering truck had an accident.
- Once on board the plane, the catering containers were not
sealed properly as people rushed to put them in and the food
flew all over the floor and hit me as we took off.
- 15 minutes later a Flight Attendant slipped and let a bottle
of water fly through the air dowsing me.
- 5 minutes after that Kathy spilt her water on me in the
center console of our seats.
- During the meal services the Flight attendant dropped my
silverware on me (2 knives, 2 forks and a spoon).
- The food service took 3 hours to complete, eliminating any
chance for sleep.
- Kathy spilt more water on me when we landed.
- Google comes up in Spanish.
Kathy and I made it to Barcelona with a minimum of negative
circumstance. There is a 7-hour time difference here (ahead).
We did not get much sleep on the plane but we arrived in Barcelona
at 9:30am secured our car and checked into the hotel with no
problems. My Spanish has been passable here and the locals
seem to appreciate our attempts to use their language.
Today is International Day. I am not sure what that means.
However, half city was in some large foot race. Many people in
their work clothes or street clothes with Marathon like number signs
on them. As result there was no traffic and we were admitted
to the Picasso Museum for free. We spent the early morning
walking the Ramblas and exploring the Picasso Museum. At about
3:00 we headed in for a nap.
The Ramblas is one of the items that is highly recommend for
Barcelona. It's a long street of say 10 blocks or so where
there are shops, carts and entertainers. Many knick-knacks
food etc... Each block appears to have a theme. The
first block was out door stands with pets (birds, bunnies, turtles
etc...). The second block was flowers. The third was
portrait artists. The fourth was jewlery etc... We also
saw some sort of collectible bazaar with stamps, coins etc...
All in all, the Rablas is Barcelona's answer to 6th Street in
Austin, or Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
It was fun and we will explore to night side of The Ramblas in a
The Picasso Museum
The Picasso Museum was crowded and well attended. Kathy
seemed to enjoy it, but it was essentially a 1000 pictures and
paintings that I would not buy. I'm not really much for art
museums and could literally do one in 5 minutes. We have
successfully checked this box on our list.
You can see more about the Ramblas here:
Barcelona by Night
Kathy and I walked through downtown for about 30 minutes.
We decide to have dinner at a Tappas restaurant/pub. tapas are
small appetizers sort of like a cross between dim sum and sushi.
Fortunately I've been on a quasi diet and have gotten used to small
portions. The pub was filled with people about 30% spoke
English. We hung out there for about two hours and called it a
Tapas is truly a great culinary experience. I highly
recommend it to anyone visiting Spain. We might have a Tapas
party when we come home.
We'll do some shopping down town tomorrow morning then we are off
the for the boat.
I have succumb to jet lag. It's 5:15 am here, but 9:14 pm
at home. I believe Kathy has a 7:00 am wake up call. I
better hit the hay.
Summary for Barcelona
- Barcelona is a beautiful city that appears to have a fair
amount of international tourists.
- If you try to speak Spanish, the natives will immediately
convert to English if they speak it and make your transactions
go better. They genuine seem to appreciate attempts to
work with in their culture.
- The Ramblas is full of pick pockets, get a money belt, keep
your stuff in your front pockets (and your hands). Be
careful when you stop for shows. Do not walk around with
- Tapas are great.
- Soda is expensive and comes in small cans.
- Make sure you get Euro (EU) coins ($1, $2) etc... so that
you can tip properly.
- Siesta is great, a 3-4 hour lunch. However, if you
actually try to eat lunch during Siesta, the meal will take 3-4
- Barcelonans love ham. :)