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Day 1 Pics - Barcelona
Day 2 Pics - Boarding
Day 3 Pics - Cannes
Day 4 Pics - Florence
Day 5 Pics - Civitavecchia
Additional Day 5 Pics

 
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 Birthday. 

*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 Color".

To 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 today.

Next 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.  The Vatican.

That 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 Europe.

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 staff singing.

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 stone work.

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

The 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?

  1. The room was a lot bigger than I thought, similar in size to a Courtyard Marriott hotel room. 
  2. The food is pretty good.  (I had poor expectations from our Sandal's Honeymoon experience).
  3. They try to upsell everything.
  4. Soda's are expensive.
  5. The Welcome show is worth seeing.
  6. 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.

Pro's

  1. We used Kathy's Frequent Flyer Points to upgrade on all flights!
  2. We booked through a travel agency so everything was taken care of.
  3. I got 750 Euro's from the bank on Friday.
  4. Great on board food in first class!
  5. I watched 1/2 of the first season of Amazing Grace on my iPod on the plane.
  6. I have internet access at the hotel.

Con's

  1. Our flight from Newark was 1.5 hours delayed because the catering truck had an accident.
  2. 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.
  3. 15 minutes later a Flight Attendant slipped and let a bottle of water fly through the air dowsing me.
  4. 5 minutes after that Kathy spilt her water on me in the center console of our seats.
  5. During the meal services the Flight attendant dropped my silverware on me (2 knives, 2 forks and a spoon).
  6. The food service took 3 hours to complete, eliminating any chance for sleep.
  7. Kathy spilt more water on me when we landed.
  8. Google comes up in Spanish.

Gist

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

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 few hours.

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:  http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/albums-en/ramblas/

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 night.

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

  1. Barcelona is a beautiful city that appears to have a fair amount of international tourists.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 open bags.
  4. Tapas are great.
  5. Soda is expensive and comes in small cans.
  6. Make sure you get Euro (EU) coins ($1, $2) etc... so that you can tip properly.
  7. Siesta is great, a 3-4 hour lunch.  However, if you actually try to eat lunch during Siesta, the meal will take 3-4 hours.
  8. Barcelonans love ham. :)

 

 

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