August Daily Photos – Group Three

Ooopppsss….I was so wrapped up in finishing the posts about my Mediterranean Adventure that I totally forgot to post the last set of Daily Photos for August! So, here, on the 7th of September, is that final August grouping!

I DID THIS GOOD THING….

….mowed the lawn!

I LOVE THIS VIEW….

ON MONDAY’S I…..

…..shop!

I SAT HERE…..

….watching a boat go under the Ingersoll Street canal bridge!

I LIKE TO EAT….

…with my friends at the Busy Buddies monthly meetings!

I HAVE TO…..

…..go stand under this bucket when it dumps…..what fun!

I WORE THIS….

…hat under the Tuscan sun!

ON WEEKENDS I….

…visit with the family!

I WATCHED THIS…..

….Outlander!

I BELIEVE…

…I got the best sandwich on the O’Lacy’s menu!

This is my seventh year doing the Daily Photo Challenge every single day – with a few exceptions. In January 2016, I started it all with just challenging myself to take a photo of something interesting or creative every day….then, in January 2017, I came across the Fat Mum Slim Photo A Day group where I got a topic list at the beginning of each month from this lady in Australia and people all over the world posted photos they took representing the same topic each day and have been doing that ever since! Sometimes I add limited run or seasonal things, like Lenten Daily Photos or Advent Daily Photos or Black and White Challenges or others I happen to come across.

I have enjoyed doing it…..it has, for the most part, given me a nice creative outlet! But, at times, I find myself just snapping anything that could fit the topic without getting creative or using something from my archives – technically not against the rules – the group doesn’t specify that the photo has to be taken THAT day, but it was my personal rule…..broken from time to time.

Anyway — for a while now, I’ve felt like it is FORCED…..boring…….not something I find creative or enjoyable anymore….and my photos reflect it!!! So…….I finished out the month of August and decided to take a break for a while and see if I miss it……maybe I’ll go back to just snapping photos of things that catch my eye cause they are interesting or creative or just fun – I don’t know – we’ll see if I can give it up or not!!! LOL But, for now, as Ross Geller would say, “I’m on a BREAK!” 🙂

That is NOT to say I’m taking a break from blogging or posting photos…..just a break from the Daily Challenge! So, keep checking for new posts and see what I come up with!

2022 Mediterranean Adventure – Barcelona and Corsica

This is my 7th and final post of my Mediterranean Adventure Series – Barcelona and Corsica!

The fifth and sixth ports on the seven day Norwegian Epic cruise were Barcelona and Corsica. I’m combining these two because I have the least photos and info on them in comparison to the other ports. I’ll also use this post to do a little wrap up of the adventure at the end. So…..here goes!

Barcelona

Barcelona is the capital and largest city in the Catalonia community in Spain. The Port of Barcelona is a transport hub and one of Europe’s principle seaports and busiest passenger ports. It is located on the northeast coast of the Iberian Peninsula facing the Mediterranean Sea. we arrived in port about 8:00 and had to be back on ship no later than 5:30 pm.

This cruise did something I’ve never seen before – other cruises may do this, but I’ve never experienced it. There were TWO starting points for this cruise – I was on the one that began and ended in Rome. Another large portion of the passengers were on the one that began and ended in Barcelona. So – it was confusing that morning, as some passengers were disembarking at their final port and some were just leaving for excursions for the day with multiple times to leave the ship based on what excursion you were on – you had to pay close attention to where to go and what to do, depending on which group of passengers you were with. Then, later in the day, some were getting on for the first time and some were returning from a day in port – again, you had to pay attention to where to go because it was a different process depending on which passenger group you were with. I assume it was the same confusion in Rome when we got on for the first time. Although, getting off for the last time in Rome was really easy — we just followed the directions of where to go and we were off (those just leaving for the day may have experienced some confusion, like in Barcelona, but we didn’t). Odd, but they made it work and we all seemed to get to where we needed to be when we needed to be there.

Sadly, I was not totally impressed with Barcelona……But, I only have the excursion I chose to blame. The description sounded like just what I wanted – a good overview of the city with some entertainment. It was supposed to be a city bus tour with stops at some of the most iconic sites in Barcelona, time in a Spanish village, and a Flamenco show. Nice, right? Well…..the bus tour really didn’t show us much of the city – just what we saw as we drove through to our one actual stop. The guide didn’t talk much about what we were looking at – to be fair, he did tell us some interesting things and pointed out a few points of interest, but not like most guides who talk non-stop about their city. He did point out the location of the 1992 Summer Olympics that was held July 25 – August 9, 1992 in Barcelona.

We made one stop. We parked on a side street and got off the bus. Then, we walked several blocks to see a famous church – nothing really to see along the way – just stores like any big city. When we got to La Sagrada Familia Church, we learned that it began being built in 1883 and is still not done. The city of Barcelona has the original designs and specifications and is finally working to complete it. It was gorgeous!!! So much detail – incredible. Unfortunately, our tour didn’t include going inside and it was Sunday morning, so when we got there, we could just look at it from the street.

It really was amazing and had quite a story, but it would have been so much better if we could have gone inside. Then, we were given time to shop. But, again, it was Sunday morning, so the only places open was a souvenir shop and a place to get coffee and sit outside. I went into the souvenir shop and got my refrigerator magnet and then got a bottle of water and sat at the cafĂ© till we were ready to walk the several uninteresting blocks back to the bus. While I sat there (and on the walk to/from the bus) I noticed that the city smelled like an open sewer. There were a couple young children on the tour and they kept asking their dad why it smelled so bad – I wondered the same time – LOL. I also noticed the heavy police presence – several spots had police men standing in pairs in bullet proof vests holding army guns – that was a bit alarming, to say the least. So, what we got to see of the city was not that enjoyable – just another big city. It would have been nice to be taken to other important spots or been given more information along the way. But, we only really did a drive by of the location of the 1992 Olympics and the stunning church. The rest was just another big city….and an intimidating one, at that.

Some other photos I took from the bus along the drive:

After we left the church and shopping time, we went to “A Spanish Village”. The excursion description sounded like we were going to an actual village, but it was a tourist attraction. Once inside, there were several “neighborhoods” that represented the various regions in Spain. It was very nice, but very touristy – I would have preferred to see some of the actual places that were replicated. It was there that we saw the Flamenco show and were served chips, crackers, water, and sangria – more on that later.

Photos from “A Spanish Village”:

The entrance

There were lots of shops and places to grab a bite to eat, but, again, I really would have preferred to see more of the city and surrounding area.

The Flamenco show was very nice – they had two dancers (a guy and a girl), a guitarist, and a singer. I’d been to a Flamenco show in Cozumel, Mexico many years ago on my very first cruise and LOVED it, so I was really looking forward to this. I think if I hadn’t had that previous experience, I would have really enjoyed it. But, as it was, it was a bit of a let down for me. The other show I saw had a lot of dancers that did a variety of dances and cultural demonstrations – wonderful! This one was just the two dancers who did some dances together and some each on their own. Every dance looked exactly the same and every song sounded exactly the same. It lasted about a half an hour and we were left to wander around the “Spanish Village” on our own for a couple hours. Again – a very nice day, but disappointing based on what I expected.

When we arrived back in port, I was able to capture this photo of our ship – first time I could get it all in one shot. The Norwegian Epic is a humongous ship!!!

I got back on the ship and had dinner at the buffet. The entertainment that evening was the final “Epic Beatles” show in the main theater (first for those who joined the cruise in Barcelona). So glad I got one more chance to see them.

Since this was the first night for those who joined the cruise in Barcelona, the cruise director also introduced all the officers – each department head. I saw this on my first night, but didn’t take a photo, so liked that I got another chance to take one.

Corsica

Our final port was Ajaccio, Corsica. Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 18 regions of France. It is the fourth-largest island in the Mediterranean and is located southeast of the mainland of France, just north of the Italian island of Sardinia. Corsica is the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte – he was born there in 1769 and he became one of the most important impacts on the history of France, and Europe, in general.

We arrived in Corsica at 11:15 am and had to be back on board no later than 6:00 pm. I didn’t get off the ship in Corsica. The excursion I chose – “Scenic Vizzavona & Corsican Snacks” – was sadly canceled, as was most of the other excursions for this port. Apparently, there was a shortage of guides and bus drivers, so they were not able to operate all of the planned excursions. (I guess the shortage of dependable workers is a world-wide post-Covid problem) They did leave two available, but they were both long walking tours that didn’t really interest me. I could have gone off ship and did some exploring on my own, but we were in port for a short time (in comparison to the other ports) and I Googled the area and it didn’t look like there was a lot that interested me within a reasonable distance from the port. I didn’t feel comfortable venturing out too far on my own in case I got delayed returning to the ship on time.

Besides – I was really tired after two full days in Rome and five days of port exploring…..I actually welcomed the chance to just relax and get packed up for the trip home. But – I got some photos of Corsica from the upper most deck – the Sky Deck and some other shots from around the ship. I grazed at the buffets off and on throughout the day and enjoyed some time by the pool in the sun.

From what I read and saw from the ship, Corsica is mostly mountains and forest – mountains make up roughly two-thirds of the island and forests cover about 20% of it. The excursion I had planned would have taken me into the forests and mountains for views of the Mediterranean and trails highlighting various plant life, trees, and wildlife. That would have been nice.

So, this is how I spent my day in Corsica:

Breakfast

The evening’s entertainment was the Broadway Musical “Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert” – a wonderful and lively musical about three drag queens traveling across the Australian Outback in a broken down bus….very funny and good! Then, I had a reservation at the Ice Bar – a lounge where everything inside is a frozen ice sculpture and the room is kept at 17 degrees F…very “cool” – LOL!!! I ended the evening with a snack before heading back to the room for bed. I needed to get some sleep for the next morning’s early disembarkation time (6:30) and long day in airports and airplanes!

Final Thoughts

This trip was amazing – a thrill of a lifetime, for sure! Several bucket list items checked off….several new and amazing experiences…….fun and adventure overload!!! What an amazing way to celebrate my tenth cruise!

Favorite Port: Monaco! Hand Down! I absolutely LOVED Rome, Florence, and Pisa and they were right up there at the top of the list, but Monaco was just….well, different and just stunning.

Least Favorite Port: Barcelona – I did enjoy what I got to see, but it was a disappointment from what I expected from the excursion.

Best Single Experience: Standing in the Sistine Chapel looking up at Michelangelo’s ceiling – it was awe-inspiring to stand there knowing that an artist of Michelangelo’s caliber had painstakingly painted images depicting the major biblical stories – mainly from the Book of Genesis – covering the entire arched ceiling in the chapel over 500 years before the day I stood there gazing at it. What an overwhelming feeling of emotion!

What Would I Do Again: Tuscany!!! Visiting Pisa and Florence was a nice “taste” of Tuscany and enough to check it off the bucket list, but I still want to see more! I’d like to take a trip that allows me to spend several days exploring all around the Tuscan region. Guess that will go back on the bucket list with a slightly different focus.

Lessons Learned:

  • ALWAYS pack a sweater!!! Even if you’re going to the Mediterranean in August and thing there is no way you’ll need it so you should just save the suitcase space!!! Off ship and outside on ship, it was BRUTALLY hot – upper 90’s, lower 100’s. BUT….the venues on ship – the dining rooms, the theater, the lounges – were FREEZING! A sweater would have been nice. Also, when I decided not to take one, I thought I can just buy one on ship, if I need one – I’ve done that many times. Well…..there were none to be found! So…..ALWAYS pack a sweater! (Think I’ve said it enough that I’ll remember it next time? hahaha)
  • The Norwegian Epic is the largest ship I’ve ever been on…..I’ve decided I’m not a huge fan of the mega ships. I loved the cruise, the ports, the entertainment, etc…..just prefer the smaller ships that are easier to get around and not so overwhelming.
  • Out of my 10 cruises to date, I’ve been on Norwegian twice – this one and the Hawaiian cruise I did in 2020. Norwegian has some pretty incredible itineraries, so I may very well choose then again, but they aren’t one of my favorite cruise lines. I miss some of the features I look forward to on cruises.
  • Europe is AMAZING and I want to see more of it. But, I have to remember that seeing Europe means a LOT of walking and climbing with uneven surfaces and cobbled streets. I need to be sure to be prepared for that on future trips.
  • Don’t be afraid to change it up — the choice to go with a Studio Cabin over my usual Balcony Cabin was a good one! While I still much prefer a Balcony Cabin for most cruise situations, the Studio worked out great for this cruise and left me with more money to spend off ship.
  • Research excursions beyond the descriptions – that excursion in Barcelona was a big disappointment and starkly different than the description implied. I usually read the reviews on all excursions, but there were NO reviews on any of the ones for this cruise. Now I know that if there are no comments to help with my decisions, to look further.

Over all — an amazing adventure that I will never forget! So thankful for every minute and every experience and every memory.

2022 Mediterranean Adventure – Mallorca, Spain

Post # 6 of my Mediterranean Adventure Series – Mallorca Spain!

The fourth port on our Norwegian Cruise Line Mediterranean Cruise was Mallorca (pronounced “My-orca”). We pulled into port at 1:15 in the afternoon and had to be back on board no later than 7:30 pm. So, it was a late start, which allowed me to sleep a bit later and have a relaxing site down breakfast in the dining room.

What do I have to do to get someone to cut my banana for me every morning? hahaha

The port was in Palma de Mallorca, which originates from an old Latin phrase “insula maior” that means “larger island”. The Romans and Spaniards would use this phrase in ancient times to refer to the island because Mallorca is the largest island in all of Spain. Over time, the phrase was mispronounced – the British pronounced it Majorca while the rest of the world pronounced it Mallorca, causing it to eventually have two spellings for the same island. I Googled the two spellings and read that Majorca is the Anglicized version of the Spanish spelling Mallorca. Interesting! As stated earlier, it is pronounced “My-orca”. Mallorca is in the Western Mediterranean and is part of the Balearic Islands.

Views as we pulled into Palma de Mallorca

The shore excursion I chose was a bus tour through Palma, time exploring the village of Valldemossa, and a stop at Bellver Castle – a medieval fortress with a distinctive circular shape.

Mallorca is famous for it’s pearls – both natural cultured pearls and exquisite manufactured pearls. So, it was wonderful that the free time spent in Valldemossa included access to a high quality pearl shop with some of the most stunning pearl jewelry I’ve ever seen…..and, a discount for the cruise ship passengers. I didn’t get myself any pearls – I have pearls that are very special to me, including a nice string of Mallorcan pearls. But, I did get a small pair of cultured pearl earrings for each of my great-nieces – neither have pierced ears, yet, but these will be their first nice set of pearl earrings when they are ready!

Palma de Mallorca

The following are views of Palma from the bus and of the country side of Mallorca on our way to Valldemossa. Palma is a resort city and capital of Mallorca.

We passed many almond and olive orchards along the way.

Valldemossa

Our time in Valldemossa began with a walking tour of the most famous landmark in the village: Valldemossa Charterhouse. The original complex dates back to King James II of Mallorca who built a palace for his son, Sancho. It became known as the “Palace of the King Sancho”. In 1399, all the royal possessions of Valldemossa was yielded to Carthusian Monks and turned into a monastery. Saint Catherine of Palma – Patron Saints of Mallorca – was born at the monastery in 1533 and died there in 1574. The monks made changes and additions to the complex and resided there until 1835 when it changed to private ownership.

After the Monks were expelled from the property in 1835, individual cells became available for rent. Composer Fredric Chopin and his lover, French writer Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, better known by her pseudonym George Sand rented a three room cell with a garden in the winter of 1838-1839. Chopin composed many of his great works while living there and Sand later wrote “A Winter in Majorca”.

The bust is of composer Fredric Chopin

Our guide

After the tour of the Valldemossa Charterhouse, our guide showed us the pearl shop that offered the discounts for cruise ship passengers, where they gave us a little talk about Mallorcan pearls, and then left us to explore on our own. It was another brutally hot day in the high 90s, but there was a nice breeze and lots of shady areas to get out of the heat, so it was actually quite pleasant. I wandered around the village and relaxed with a cold bottle of water. It was a lovely day and I enjoyed Valldemossa very much.

Bellver Castle

Our stop at Bellver Castle was brief…..it was built in the 14th century for King James II of Mallorca and is one of only a few circular castles in Europe. It was used as a military prison in the throughout 18th century and into the mid-20th century and is now a tourist attraction and home to Palma’s history museum.

We got back on ship in time for dinner before the evening’s entertainment. Dinner was a mixed review in the main dining room…..the roasted butternut squash soup and the salad with candied walnuts and sliced pears were really delicious!!! But the prime rib was awful…..I couldn’t cut it – hurt my hands trying and the one bite I could tear away from the main piece took forever to chew…..so I ate the potatoes and crispy onions and left. They asked if it was alright – I lied and said yes, I just didn’t feel hungry. Should-a told them but I know they would have felt bad and tried to make me something else and I was fine with what I had……

The evening’s entertainment was AMAZING……another epic Beatles show, but this time it was in one of the clubs – the Cavern Club, named after the original Cavern Club in Liverpool where the Beatles used to play before they got super famous! It was cozy and nice to see the group up close in that setting. I sat with a couple other ladies – both from England – who told me they were huge Beatles fans “even though they broke up before we were even born”……hhhmmm – talk about instantly making me well aware of my age! hahaha

The show ended about 11:00 and I thought I was exhausted, but due to a coke at the show and being all wound up by the music, it was well after 1:00 am before I was able to close my eyes and get some sleep. Another awesome day!!!

Next port I’ll write about will be the last two — Barcelona and Corsica.

2022 Mediterranean Adventure – Monaco

Post # 5 in my Mediterranean Adventure Series – Cannes, The French Riviera, Monte Carlo, and Monaco.

The next port – third stop on the Norwegian Mediterranean Cruise – was Cannes, France – our first French port. I was looking forward to this port as it checked off two major items on my bucket list – visit the French Riviera and visit the home of Princess Grace of Monaco. Excursions on this port covered Cannes, Nice, Monte Carlo, and Monaco with some other options around that area of the French Riviera. The excursion I chose was a 7.5 hour “Monaco on Your Own” tour. The bus took us to the parking garage that had access to the top of the “rock” where Monaco is located – more on that later.

Cannes is a tendering port – the large cruise ships are too big to dock in the port, so they anchor out in the sea and passengers are tendered in smaller boats into the docks. We arrived at 7:17 am and had to be back on the ship no later than 4:00 pm. My excursion began at 8:15 am.

Selfie on the tender waiting to sail to the docks…..

One of the other tenders so you can see what they looked like

Views of Cannes in the French Riviera from the tender

Scenes from the bus window on the way to Monaco

The Rock of Monaco

Monaco

WOW…..the highlight of the trip was Monaco!!! I loved Rome and Tuscany, but Monaco was simply STUNNING – immaculate and perfect!!! It is the second smallest country after Vatican City. It is officially Principality of Monaco and classified as a sovereign city-state. Monaco is bordered by France on the north, east, and west and covers an area just shy of one square mile. Monaco City sits high up on a rock (known as the Rock of Monaco) overlooking the French Riviera and the Mediterranean Sea. From inside the parking garage the bus had to park, we took two escalators, one elevator, and one more escalator to get up to Monaco City. We drove through Monte Carlo, which is also part of Monaco and located at the base of the rock, to get there. Monte Carlo is, of course, famous for gambling and the Formula One Grand Prix road race…..the bus driver let us know when we were at each of the critical points on the race circuit. There was a young fan on the bus, so the driver stopped at the starting point and took off making the sound of a race car gaining speed in the microphone! It was cool and definitely thrilled the young lad!

French is the official language and the euro is their sole currency. Although not officially part of the European Union, they do participate in many of the EU policies. Monaco is widely widely recognized as one of the most expensive and wealthiest places in the world and is the most densely populated sovereign city-state in the world.

Monaco got a lot of media attention when Prince Rainier of Monaco married American actress Grace Kelly in 1956. It was a fairy tale romance that captured hearts world wide and gave America a princess to call their own. Princess Grace was loved the world over and there are many references to her throughout Monaco. The couple had three children – Princess Caroline, Prince Albert, and Princess Stephanie. Princess Grace died in 1982 at the age of 52 from injuries from a car accident after suffering a stroke and losing control of her car. Her teenage daughter, Stephanie, was with her in the car. She suffered some head injuries, but survived the accident. Prince Rainier never remarried and died in 2005. The current Prince of Monaco is their son, Prince Albert, who took reign after his father’s death.

I took in all the sites of Monaco City and Monte Carlo via a hop-on-hop-off tour. I also wandered around Monaco City and had lunch at a little outdoor café across from the Palace. It was an extremely hot day, but there was a beautiful breeze up on the rock and lots of shade, so it was actually very pleasant to walk around and enjoy the amazing little country.

Here are my photos from an incredible day in Monaco.

The first thing you see when coming out of the elevator / escalator garage is the Monaco Oceanographic Marine Sciences Museum. Jacques-Yves Cousteau was the museum director from 1957 to 1988 and the museum is home to much of his work.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s submarine

 

The church where Prince Rainier married Grace Kelly and where they are both buried in the Grimaldi family vault.

The Royal Palace

The palace guards were cuties……just sayin’ LOL

The view from the palace was amazing!!!

The courtyard across from the palace has shops and restaurants. There are more markets and restaurants throughout Monaco City and below the rock in Monte Carlo, as well.

Just some of the HUGE yachts docked in Monte Carlo – the mega rich visiting the French Riviera

I ended my day in Monaco with lunch at a little café across from the Royal Palace. I had blueberry crepes with a peach, strawberry, and apple juice smoothie. YUM!!! After lunch, I strolled back to where I took the escalators and elevator back down to the bus to return to the ship. I wish I could have spent days there just sitting and enjoying the beauty and history.

Once back on the ship, I capped off my day in France with eclairs for dinner’s dessert in the main dining room – YUM – crepes and eclairs in France!!! Dinner that night was OK. I had the the coconut shrimp with orange marmalade for my appetizer – I thought orange marmalade was an odd choice for a dipping sauce, but it was actually quite good! But I wasn’t crazy about the main course – pecan crusted turkey medallions with some kind of greens and couscous under them – not bad, but nothing to write home about.

The entertainment that evening was the Epic Beatles Through The Years show – awesome!!! They same songs and had a few costume changes for each era of Beatles music – the early years, the Sgt Pepper years, the Abbey Road years, and the psychedelic years. During costume changes, they framed the next set with other songs of that period and photos and news that showcased the times! It was really amazing.

Not sure why, but I craved a snack in my cabin after I got my jammies on and tried to wind down from the excitement of the day. A dear friend gave me a box of my favorite Lorna Dunes to take with me, so I opened them up and had my late evening snack!

I slept like a baby – exhausted from my memorable day in Monaco.

The next post will feature Majorca, Spain!

2022 Mediterranean Adventure – Pisa and Florence

Post # 4 in my Mediterranean Adventure Series – Pisa and Florence

I have wanted to see the Tuscan region of Italy for as long as I could remember! Then, along came the movie “Under The Tuscan Sun” and it became an obsession…..a major life goal……one of my top bucket list items…..I HAD to go to Tuscany sometime before I “kicked the bucket”! So, our second port on the cruise was the one I was most looking forward to and it did not disappoint!

Of all the places I spent time in during this trip, Tuscany is the one I want to return to — stay right there for a few days and take taxis to places where the busses can’t get close and get advance reservations and skip the line tours of places I didn’t get to see inside. What a wonderful experience it was and how much more wonderful it could be!

The second port on our cruise was Livorno – a port city on the Tyrrhenian Sea on the western coast of Tuscany, Italy. The main areas of focus for shore excursions were Pisa and Florence – a few others, but most of the excursions involved one or the other, both, or in some combination with other stops. We arrived at Livorno port at 9:30 am and had to be back on ship no later than 8:30 pm.

The excursion I chose was a 10 hour tour called “Florence and Pisa On Your Own”. A bit of advice from someone who learned the hard way — when anyone in Europe says “short walk” or “just a couple blocks” or “just over there – 5-10 minutes tops”, you need to understand that they walk everywhere and what they mean by a short walk could be very different than your idea of a short walk! hahaha I chose this tour because the description said it was a bus tour with stops at Pisa and Florence and time to explore on your own and at your own pace at both locations. On our first stop in Pisa, the guide said the bus is not allowed to be any closer than the designated parking area and we will walk about 20 minutes to the Leaning Tower and back…..it ended up taking about 25 minutes! When we got to Florence – same thing – however, the guide noticed there were five of us ladies of a certain age that struggled with the walk in Pisa and ordered us a taxi – we had to pay for it, but for three euros a piece, we were driven to the primary spot in Florence and another three euros a piece took us back to the bus. What a wonderful thing that was….things always work out the way they should!!! I feel like I am voicing a big complaint, but, really I’m just explaining my experience – it was a small thing in the grand scheme of things and it was sooooooo worth it to get to see what I saw and be in some of the most amazing places in the world!

View of the Port of Livorno from the ship

PISA

The walk from the bus to the Leaning Tower was a challenge, but it was doable – I got there and back – and thoroughly enjoyed the time in the courtyard with the tower, the cathedral, and the baptistry. This was our shortest stop, but it was ample time to enjoy this amazing place.

Pisa is a city located at the mouth of the Arno River in Tuscany – central Italy.

The group stopped to look at olive trees in someone’s yard on the walk to our destination

A small market place along the wall that surrounds the area where the cathedral, etc. was located

A wall surrounds the Piazza del Duomo

A shot that shows the Baptistry in the foreground, the cathedral behind it, and the bell tower (Leaning Tower of Pisa) behind that.

Because of the large crowds, long lines, and needing to have a reservation to enter many of the buildings on this tour (both Pisa and Florence), I did not get to enter any of the buildings, but it was still so amazing to just be there.

The Baptistry, a round Romanesque style building built in the mid-12th century, is dedicated to St. John the Baptist and stands opposite the west end of the Duomo (medieval cathedral). It was built away from the cathedral because in the time of Michelangelo and Galileo, you had to be baptized before you could enter the cathedral. It is the largest baptistry in Italy and stands a few centimeters taller than the cathedral’s bell tower (the leaning tower).

The Cathedral and the Campanile (bell tower)

The Duomo (cathedral) construction began in 1064 and it set the model for the distinctive Pisan Romanesque style of architecture. It is dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta (St. Mary of the Assumption).

The Campanile (bell tower), more commonly known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, is located behind the cathedral. The reason the tower leans is because of the ground it was built on – copied from Wikipedia, here is the explanation: “The last of the three major buildings on the piazza to be built, construction of the bell tower began in 1173 and took place in three stages over the course of 177 years, with the bell-chamber only added in 1372. Five years after construction began, when the building had reached the third floor level, the weak subsoil and poor foundation led to the building sinking on its south side. The building was left for a century, which allowed the subsoil to stabilize itself and prevented the building from collapsing. In 1272, to adjust the lean of the building, when construction resumed, the upper floors were built with one side taller than the other. The seventh and final floor was added in 1319. By the time the building was completed, the lean was approximately 1 degree, or 80 cm (2.5 feet) from vertical. At its greatest, measured prior to 1990, the lean measured approximately 5.5 degrees. As at 2010, the lean was reduced to approximately 4 degrees.”

You can NOT go to the Leaning Tower of Pisa without taking some variation of this photo!!! haha

There are 296 steps with no elevator to reach the top of the tower — one tour I could have taken included climbing the tower……no thank you! LOL But, I did do my part to keep the tower from falling while we were there — I am strong like bull…..I held the tower up, even if only for a few minutes! hehehe (pardon the “hat hair”, but I didn’t want the hat on for this photo – even though it left me sweaty hat hair)

We had a meeting time and place to gather for the walk back to the bus – it was in the market place and the actual spot was called “The Meeting Place CafĂ©”! haha I took some time to look around at the various vendors and sat to have a cold drink at the meeting place while waiting for the others.

There was even a Caffe New York!!!

A display at the Meeting Place CafĂ©……couldn’t resist taking a photo of this huge flute of wine!

Seen from the bus on the drive to Florence

FLORENCE

Florence is the capital of the Tuscan Region. It is the most populated city in Tuscany, with 383,083 inhabitants in 2016, and over 1,520,000 in its metropolitan area. Florence was the center of medieval European trade and finance and one of the wealthiest cities of that era. Florence plays an important role in Italian fashion and is ranked in the top 15 fashion capitals of the world. It is famous for Tuscan and Florentine leather products.

When we arrived in Florence, it was another 20-25 minute walk to/from the bus to the primary spot where we were left to explore on our own. But, as I said earlier, a few of us had the pleasure of being taken from the bus by taxi…..we were dropped off at the Michelangelo Florentine Leather Shop where we’d meet up with the others.

Before the guide left us to our day, she took us in the leather shop for a demonstration and talk about Italian leather. By participating in the demo/talk, we got a nice discount on any leather goods we purchased in the shop. I bought myself a beautiful pair of lamb skin leather gloves lined in cashmere — sooooo nice and they fit…well, like a glove!!! I also bought a couple gifts.

Forms used to hand make shoes

This purse was originally commissioned to be designed for Princess Grace of Monaco (Grace Kelly) – it was hand made for her at this shop when she was in Florence on location filming “To Catch A Thief”. They now sell handmade replicas of the “Grace Kelly” bag for several hundred euros.

Aside from just spending time in Tuscany, I wanted to be sure to see the original Michelangelo’s David. But, the guide told us the museum required advance reservations to get in and it is a very long, uninteresting walk to get there and unless you knew to get a reservation, you likely would not be granted access — the lines for impromptu reservations would be extremely long and no guarantees there would be ANY open reservation times. So…..I didn’t get to do that.

Living the dream Under the Tuscan Sun!!!

I hung out in the square, browsed the shops, had lunch, ate gelato, and just really enjoyed being there – what a thrill and it was a beautiful day – HOT – be beautiful!

Where I had lunch – the BEST meal of the entire trip – maybe even of my entire life!!!

I started my lunch with Bruschetta – Tuscan bread with fresh tomatoes, olive oil, and basil – AMAZING!!!

And, then had the rigatoni with sausage……OMG……I’ve never tasted anything like it and doubt I ever will again!!! It had the most incredible flavor….I can’t describe it — it looks like such a simple dish, but the flavors were complex and everything was cooked to perfection — unbelievable and indescribably delicious!!!

I don’t know if it was just cause it was hot and the water was so cold, but everywhere I went for the entire trip I especially loved the bottled still mineral water — it tasted so much better than any bottled water I’ve ever had! Amazing!

They also had some of the most beautiful varieties of pigeons I’ve ever seen!

I watched this lady feed the pigeons by hand — they all took their turns getting morsels from her!

I noticed this lady looking out her window at the tourists wandering around in her square

The following are shots I took around the square as I shopped and sat to “people watch” and enjoy my day:

I stopped in for gelato at a wonderful sweet shop:

This gelato was AMAZING – nut cream flavor – tasted like hazelnut with swirls of chocolate and bits of nuts

When we returned to the bus (again – a few of us were were lucky to get the taxi back), the guide told us that we were so timely in getting back that the driver was going to take a detour on the way back to the ship so we could see more of Tuscany — the views were awesome!!! We made one stop and weren’t allowed off the bus, but I had a window seat on the right side of the bus and got the view overlooking Florence from a high upper class area — incredible!!!

Back on the ship, I caught my first sunset — all the other nights, so far, I was so exhausted I fell aslep before sunset or I was inside having a late dinner or watching a show!

It was late when we returned, so I just grabbed some fruit from the buffet for “dinner” — nothing could have topped that lunch and gelato in Florence and I really didn’t want to taint the memory of it with an inferior meal! LOL The show that night was “Burn The Floor – a ballroom rebellion” – a very energetic show of ballroom dancing through the years – very good! After the show, I crashed for the night!

So that was my most wonderful and magical day in Tuscany…..a dream come true…..a day I’ll never forget!!!

The next port will be in the French Riviera where I spent the day in Monaco……so that will be the next post in this series.

2022 Mediterranean Adventure – Naples and Pompeii


Post # 3 in my Mediterranean Adventure series…..Pompeii!

I’ve been so busy catching up and I had house guests, so I’ve been bad about getting the posts written for this series. This is the next post in my Mediterranean Adventure series and will focus on my day in Pompeii.

The first port on the cruise was Naples, Italy. We were told when in Italy, it is called Napoli, not Naples – they said that “Naples” is in Florida! hahaha Napoli is the capital of Campania and is the third largest city in Italy after Rome and Milan. Napoli comes from the Greek word Neapolis which means “new city” or “new town”. It was originally given this name by its early Greek inhabitants in the 8th century BC.

We arrived in port at 6:16 am and had to be back on ship no later than 4:30 pm. Possible sights to see while in this port were Napoli, Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast, Isle of Capri, and Pompeii. I chose to do a 4 hour “Pompeii On Your Own” tour that started at 8:15 am. A bus took us from the ship to Pompeii with a guide who talked about what we were seeing along the way – so it was also a Napoli city tour – and what we could expect when we got there. She then walked us from where the bus had to park to the site and showed us where to get audio headsets and where to go, etc.

I have to start by saying I didn’t get full enjoyment out of this day and this port….it wasn’t the port or the tour’s fault – it was all amazing – I’ll get into that in a bit!!! But – the night before – just before I settled in for the night – I got an email from my brother saying he got a call from the kennel that my beautiful Megan was staying at saying that she was going down hill fast and they didn’t think she’d last till I got back. Megan was 16 and was definitely showing her age of late, so I told him to take her to my vet to get her opinion. I’d been expecting the need to say goodbye to my sweet girl, but not quite this soon – she was old, but still doing well for her age. So, I got up that day in the port of Napoli knowing that in a few hours when it was morning back home that I would be getting a call that was likely a confirmation that she was in her final hours or days. So, I went on the tour – I considered canceling it and staying on ship, but there was nothing I could do – everyone was sound asleep back home – and I came a long way to miss out on something so iconic!!! When I returned to the ship, I waited for the call…..and, yes, my vet confirmed she was in final stages of kidney failure and she could keep an eye on her for a few days, but it would only be to watch her decline. My brother did what he knew I wanted – to not allow her to suffer and hang on for no possibility of a happy ending – and they helped her cross the rainbow bridge. It was OK — I was expecting to say goodbye – she was 16 and had a long and happy life with me and she was loved so incredibly much. She was not alone – the folks at the kennel were awesome and my brother and vet were with her, holding her as she passed, so she was loved till the very last second of her life. It is hard whenever we lose our fur-babies, but being 5000+ miles away when it happens brings “difficult” to a whole new level! Anyway – I say all this to explain why this post may not be as robust as other posts about amazing adventures I’ve taken. It was a difficult day and my heart just wasn’t in it.

So – back to the adventure!

Seen from the bus as we left the port

I was so looking forward to Pompeii and it didn’t disappoint. I had a bit of trouble with the tour — first, it was a VERY long walk from the bus to the site and then another VERY long line and walk to get in. Not to mention it was brutally hot at 98 degrees!

I took my time and walked a little and sat a little — it was about 98 degrees!!!

The first day of the cruise was in port in Rome waiting to sail and an overnight journey to Napoli, so I had recovered from all the walking and climbing that did me in after the visit to the Vatican and the day before wandering all around Rome. But, it didn’t take long for my knee and back to start screaming at me. Then, the audio headset I got was in some other language – I think Italian, but I wasn’t sure. I found out later I could change it to English, but the guy who gave it to me didn’t tell me that and I didn’t discover it wasn’t in English until I was well beyond the line and entrance area. So — I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. Couple that with all I could think about was the phone call I was going to have to deal with when I got back to the ship and it kinda put a damper on the day.

HOWEVER:

It was still the most amazing feeling and so cool to be standing in a place that was destroyed by a volcano in 79 AD…… 1,943 years ago……and it’s ruins are still there telling their story……mind blowing!!! I got as far as the entrance to the city and the view of Mt Vesuvius in the distance and was overwhelmed with emotion and sense of awe. I could see that going any further would not be good on my knee and back, so I sat there and just took in the idea of what happened there almost 2000 years ago. We think we have history here – 200+ years, but going anywhere in Europe and other countries show us just how inferior that timeframe is. WOW!!!

I would have tried to go a bit further, but I took my time so much that it was getting late and I didn’t want to miss my bus back to the ship — I was concerned if I really messed up my knee, I wouldn’t make it back! But, it’s OK……I was somewhere totally incredible and loved every minute of what I did see and the overwhelming emotions!!!

So – if you didn’t pay attention in history class… Pompeii was an ancient city located in what is now the commune of Pompeii, near Naples in the Campania region of Italy. Pompeii, along with many villas in the surrounding area, was buried under 4 to 6 meters (13 to 20 ft) of volcanic ash and pumice during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Largely preserved under the ash, the excavated city offered a unique snapshot of Roman life, frozen at the moment it was buried. The eruption lasted for two days. The first phase was of pumice rain lasting about 18 hours, allowing most inhabitants to escape. That only approximately 1,150 bodies have so far been found on site seems to confirm this theory and most escapees probably managed to salvage some of their most valuable belongings.

Beyond this ridge are the remains of an entire city – homes, churches, forums, etc.

Mount Vesuvius looming in the distance….still an active volcano with the last eruption occurring in 1944. It is considered one of the most dangerous volcanos in the world because of the hundreds of thousands of inhabitants in the area that could be impacted should it have another major eruption.

View of Napoli from the ship

I returned to the ship and went to the buffet for a light lunch to wait for my brother’s call. After, I found a nice spot in the sun on the deck to get a handle on the emotions of the day….it was quite the rollercoaster ride, for sure!

Dinner consisted of Singapore Pork Potstickers and Hawaiian Pork Belly with mashed yams – VERY GOOD!!! I skipped dessert – I was exhausted and went to take a quick nap before the evening show – which I ended up sleeping though.

It was an amazing experience — do I wish things had gone different so I could have seen more of the ruins? Absolutely! But, I was there and it was incredible!!!

Next port I’ll write about is Livorno – Pisa and Florence in the Tuscan region of Italy……spectacular!!!

2022 Mediterranean Adventure – The Cruise

Post # 2 in my Mediterranean Adventure series…..The Cruise!

This adventure all started because I saw a friend posting photos of a cruise she was on. The photos were all of places that I still had on my bucket list and they were so amazing! I messaged her and asked her what cruise she was on. She told me it was on Norwegian’s Epic and was a seven day Mediterranean cruise. So, I looked it up and fell in love with the itinerary…..the the current deals! Like WOW!!! I gave it a lot of thought over the next few days – could I afford it, could I get away, when would be the best time to go, etc….I finally decided to just bite the bullet and go! I picked a week that had the best rates and I booked it! I ended up sailing August 9-16.

The Norwegian Epic – docked in Barcelona

The cruise began and ended in Rome, Italy and consisted of seven ports in seven days. The itinerary included stops in:

  • Rome, Italy
  • Naples, Italy
  • Livorno, Italy / Florence and Pisa
  • Cannes, France / Monaco
  • Palma Majorca, Spain
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Corsica, France
  • Rome, Italy

Bucket List Items to be checked off:

  • Take a Mediterranean Cruise
  • Visit Tuscany
  • Visit the French Riviera
  • Visit the home of Princess Grace of Monaco
  • See Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel

This was my first cruise since I cruised the Hawaiian Islands in January 2020 – just before Covid hit and changed the travel world! I considered another cruise late last year and this spring, but I wasn’t ready, yet…..I felt like the cruise lines were still feeling their way through the post-Covid era and it just didn’t feel right – yet! But, I was ready when this opportunity came up! Also, the negative Covid test requirement to be allowed to return to the US had been dropped and the negative Covid test requirement to get on the cruise ship was set to be dropped before my boarding date. So, that stressful step was no longer a concern. I still had to have proof of vaccination before I could board the ship, but that was no problem at all. So, I’m back on the cruise scene and so happy about it!

I do want to make note of a few MAJOR disappointments on this cruise……First and most importantly – NO TOWEL ANIMALS!!! I absolutely LOVE towel animals – some cruises leave one every day, some every other day, but this one didn’t do any at all….I kept waiting to find one and was not a happy camper when I got to the last night and didn’t get a single one! Second — NO CANDY ON MY PILLOW!!! My room steward was awesome and he did do turn down service every night and was very attentive…..but, he didn’t leave a single piece of candy on my pillow for an end of day treat…..yeah, not a happy camper about that, either! And finally, NO lobster night or formal night! Sad!

Two big changes the cruise line(s) have made – at least Norwegian, can’t speak for sure about the others – post-Covid that I hope they continue on with regardless of what else goes back to “normal”:

1) The boarding process – you used to arrive at the port whenever you wanted to up to the final boarding time. It usually resulted in massive lines and crowds. Now – you sign up for a boarding time and they only allot a certain amount of people for each time slot. I felt it went much more smoothly and it resulted in our rooms being ready much quicker – they used to clear rooms by deck, now they clear them by the boarding time slots.

2) The muster drill – you used to have to gather at your muster station all at once at a specified time before the ship could sail, listen to the safety instructions, and be checked in that you were there. Now, you watch the safety video on-line prior to getting to the ship, the web site verifies you watched it, and then, when you get on ship, the first thing you do is go to your muster station to get your key card scanned to prove you know where it is and off you go! There is a drill later in the day before the ship sails, but it is only for anyone who didn’t follow the instructions and do what they were supposed to do. Sooooooo much better!!!

So, let’s get on with it – all about the cruise ship!

I started the trip with two days in Rome – see the post called “2022 Mediterranean Adventure – Rome, Italy” for more on that. Then, Tuesday, August 9th, I boarded the Norwegian Epic to start the cruise part of the trip!

Pulling out of the Port of Rome

I did something a bit different for this cruise. I usually choose a balcony cabin – I like sitting on the balcony in the morning with a cup of tea, at night to watch the sunset and relax, or to read during the day on “at sea” days. I just really like having the balcony. But – it comes at a cost! I am usually a solo cruiser – my travel buddies don’t always like to do cruises and I do, so I typically go them alone. The cost of any cabin is based on double occupancy, so a solo cruiser generally has to pay roughly double what it would cost if there was a roommate to share the expenses – of course, sometimes you can find deals that bring that down, but that’s the basic idea. But…..now, many of the cruise lines are offering solo cabins – Norwegian was the first to do this, from what I understand. Norwegian calls their solo cabin “Studio Cabins”. They are smaller and only inside – no ocean view and no balconies. But, they do have some benefits – first, they are priced for single occupancy….next, they are in their own section of the ship that can only be accessed with a studio key card…..and, finally, the section has a Studio Lounge that is only available to those who have a Studio Cabin – it has ample comfortable seating to read, mingle, etc., games and chess boards, a TV, a bar, and a 24/7 coffee / tea station with snacks. So — since this cruise didn’t have any “at sea” days and all the cruising between ports was at night, I decided to give the Studio Cabin a try. I ended up liking it — oh, I still missed my balcony, but, given the right cruise and situation, I would choose the Studios again! My cabin was comfortable and all I really needed and the lounge was a nice perk.

The room is 100 square feet with a bed, ample storage space, a desk, a sink, a shower, and a water closet (toilet in a room with a door). I did have one complaint on my first night – the mattress pad was hard, lumpy, and had a hard binding around two sections that was bunched up causing much of the bed to be painful to sleep on. I told the room steward – said I understood they needed to protect the mattresses, but was there anything he could do to make it more comfortable? He asked if I could get by one more night and he would find a solution the next day (I caught up with him towards the end of the day after my first sleepless night). I said yes……the next afternoon, he showed me that he changed the pad and it was perfectly comfortable from then on! Don’t be afraid to mention issues to your room steward – they are more than willing to help if they can!

All the photos that look “blue” is due to a blue ambience lighting in the hallway…..

My room steward – Nurdiantara Yatiman – he was awesome!

I did three review videos that I’ll include at the end of this post, if you’re interested in more details about these studio cabins.

Some other photos from around the ship:

All the officers of the ship – the department heads – introduced by the Cruise Director

That’s Corsica in the background

I have mixed reviews of the food on the ship. The buffet had a lot of very good options – tons of fresh fruit that was amazing and a different theme each night. I also had a voucher for one specialty restaurant that I used on my first night and it was AWESOME. But, the main dining room was a disappointment. I remember feeling the same way on the one other Norwegian cruise I was on.

All these plates were from the buffet — fruit, ice cream, breakfast — all very good!

For my specialty dining night, I chose Cagney’s Steak House – EXCELLENT!!! I had a shrimp cocktail, a delicious ribeye steak cooked perfectly with a baked potato, raspberry creme brulee, and a glass of Riesling. It was all so delicious!

For the main dining room – the first night I had the Singapore Pork Potstickers and the Hawaiian Pork Belly with mashed yams – VERY GOOD!!! The next meal I had there started out good with coconut shrimp with orange marmalade – awesome – and ended with delicious eclairs, but the main course was pecan crusted turkey medallions with some kind of weird mess under them – not a fan! But, the last time I gave the main dining room a try was the last straw…..I got the roasted butternut squash soup that was OK, a salad with candied walnuts and sliced pears that was delicious, and the prime rib – I was really looking forward to it and it looked so good……but, I couldn’t cut it – it actually hurt my hands trying – and the one bite I did get torn away to eat I had to chew forever before I could swallow it. So, I left it and went up to the buffet and got some fruit and ice cream! hahaha

The entertainment on cruises is always top notch! But, this cruise went way above top notch! They had a group called “Epic Beatles” – a Beatles tribute band and they were amazing! They played in the main theater three nights – each a different show! And, there was a lounge on the ship called “The Cavern Club” after the original Cavern Club in Liverpool where the Beatles used to play when they were getting started. They did two shows there – a “Sgt Pepper” show and an “Abbey Road” show – I missed the “Sgt Pepper” show cause it was a rough day and I fell asleep. But I did catch the “Abbey Road” show and it was wonderful! I sat with two other ladies who both said they were major Beatles fans “even though they broke up before we were even born”…..hahaha!!!

I saw two other entertainment shows that were both really good, too — both announced that photography was prohibited, so I only have photos of the posters. One was called “Burn The Floor” and was a musical about ballroom dancing through the ages. The other was “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” – a Broadway musical about three drag queens traveling across the Australian Outback in a broken down RV – very good!!!

Another really cool club was the “Ice Bar”! I was curious about it and made a reservation for one evening – so glad I did! It was fun! It is a room that is kept at 17 degrees F. Everything in there is a frozen ice sculpture – the bar, the seats, the glasses, the decorations – everything! They give you a poncho and gloves and you’re allowed to stay inside for up to 15 minutes and have up to 2 drinks. I chose the non-alcoholic “Day at the Beach” – strawberry puree, pineapple juice, and lemon juice — sooooo good!!! What a fun experience!

That’s me behind the bar that kept changing colors!!!

A few other ships I saw in various ports:

So, that’s the cruise……every day we did a different port and that’s what the next few posts will focus on…..watch for the specific posts for each port coming soon!

VIDEOS

Here are some videos — first, the finale number of the Epic Beatles in the main theater performance:

And, here are the three review videos I did about the Studio Cabins – Part One is the Cabin, Part Two is the Lounge, and Part Three is the Verdict:

PART ONE – The Cabin:

PART TWO – The Lounge:

PART THREE – The Verdict:

2022 Mediterranean Adventure – Rome, Italy

This is the first of a series of posts where I’ll share all my stories and photos about my wonderful adventure cruising about the Mediterranean Sea. It was a trip I always wanted to do and when I saw a friend posting photos on Facebook of many of the places still on my bucket list, I checked it out…..and did it!!! The trip was a Mediterranean Cruise – 7 ports in 7 days covering Italy, France, and Spain. I technically visited five different countries, since I visited Vatican City and Monaco – the two smallest countries in the world as part of my time in Italy and France. The cruise started and ended in Rome.

With the issues with air travel, lately – all the cancellations and delays – I decided to go early. I left on Saturday, arrived in Rome on Sunday morning, and got on the cruise on Tuesday morning. If there were any delays, it wouldn’t have impacted getting to the ship on time. But since everything went like clockwork, I had the pleasure of spending Sunday and Monday in Rome. That is the part that this post will focus on.

My hotel in Rome was amazing! The Hotel Homs is a Four-Star designer hotel in the heart of Rome – just a block or so from the Spanish Steps and other highlights of Rome. I got a really good deal on Expedia. It was comfortable and in a great location and they had a nice buffet breakfast!

They had a bidet – I’ve never used one – nice! And a heated towel rack.

I was there two nights and kept thinking it was strange that the room didn’t have a full length mirror!!! Then, the morning I was leaving, I happened to turn around and – BAM – there it was……right there on the wall in plain sight – not hiding – not on the back of a door……right there – no idea how I missed it……unless someone came in during that last night and put it there! hahaha

Right across the narrow street, there was a wonderful restaurant. I ate dinner there both nights – it was close, convenient, the food was amazing, the price was reasonable…….and……the waiters were absolutely adorable and wonderful flirts!!! LOL

The first night, I had linguini with prawns and cherry tomatoes and the second night I had pizza with spicy salami – both with a glass of Moscato.

I arrived Sunday morning too early to check in, so they stored my bags for me and gave me some directions for places I could walk to.

First up was the Spanish Steps in Spanish Square – just a block or so away. The Spanish Steps is a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the bottom and Piazza Trinita dei Monti and church at the top. There are 135 steps! And, believe it or not, I made it up and back down them! It took me a while……they are nicely spaced, so it wasn’t a difficult climb and I stopped often to make it a leisurely climb. They are stunning and the view from the top of the fountain below is really special.

The 135 steps start there behind the fountain and go up to the first landing, then arch around to a second and third landing before reaching the church at the top.

View from the top looking down at the fountain!!! WOW!!!

About half way……one of my breather stops!

The church at the top

There was also another set of winding steps up the “back way” that I took to get down during my walk around the area – there were no security guys telling me I couldn’t sit down for a few minutes on these steps – hahaha:

So…..I spent the rest of the day wandering around the area and I took a hop-on-hop-off bus to just take in the sights.

Of course, I stopped for a gelato — it was VERY hot and this refreshing dish of mixed berry gelato in an air conditioned shop was the perfect solution!

I wanted to see the Trevi Fountain, but never found it — even when I got off at that stop on the Hop-On-Hop-Off tour and went the way they told me……it was obviously much further than it sounded. Everyone I asked about anywhere I went throughout the entire trip said “oh, just over there, 5-10 minutes tops”….yeah, right! hahaha I even tried to take a taxi…….saw one at a taxi station and asked if he was available and he gave me a big grin and said yes, so I asked if he would take me to the Trevi Fountain. He said, “oh, no, Bella…..that is not far….save your money….walk…..you walk to Trevi Fountain…..save your money!” I tried to tell him I didn’t mind paying for the ride, but he was trying so hard to be helpful and keep me from wasting my money – it was funny, but also so very sweet!!! He just said “it is right over there – 5-10 minutes, tops”…..after I already walked about 15 minutes after the last directions I got! hahaha So, I never got to see it! But, that’s OK!

I got back to the hotel and asked for my bags so I could check in and they said they were already in my room! Nice surprise! I was so soaked from being out in the brutal heat that I peeled off my clothes, got a shower, and went across the street for dinner. That first night, I had the linguini with prawns and there was a lady sitting at the table beside me – we struck up a conversation. She was a flight attendant for Delta and was from Brooklyn. We talked about a lot of the places we both had been and it was lovely talking to her.

After dinner I laid down for “just a few minutes” – I was pretty tired after a very long overnight flight and a full day of walking around Rome. I planned to go back across the street for a glass of wine under the stars, but I woke up at 1:00 am! Guess I was really tired! I put on my jammies, turned out the lights, and slept through the rest of the night.

The next morning, I had breakfast at the hotel and caught a taxi to the Vatican – I had a skip the line ticket to get in to Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. WOW – what a day that was! I spent most of the day there. Vatican City is a 110-acre independent sovereign country inside of the city of Rome. It is mostly, but not totally, bordered by a 39 foot tall stone wall originally designed to protect the city from the political threats of the Romans and other religious enemies. It is where the current pope and approximately 800 others reside. It is the smallest sovereign country in the world.

Michelangelo’s Dome on St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City

The following photos were taken in the courtyard prior to entering the Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums are a maze of rooms and buildings with wonderful works of art, artifacts, mosaic floors, and intricately painted ceilings. Several courtyards connect the buildings

Our tour guide – she was amazing!

The view of Rome from one of the rooms in the Vatican

Next on the tour was the Sistine Chapel — no photography or videos of any kind are permitted in the chapel, so I have nothing to show you here. But….suffice it to say……it was breathtaking!!! I was surprised, though – from photos I have seen and stories, I imagined it to be a huge church. It’s not! It is actually a sort of large room with benches all around the perimeter of the room and the crowd is mostly shepherded around in a circle to view the ceiling. It is totally incredible — nothing I have ever seen has done it justice and I’m in a way glad I couldn’t take photos – they would never have done it justice and may have marred my memory of how amazing it really is in person! We were also told to be silent while in there out of respect for the reverence of the room…..of course, people have no respect and talked throughout with the Swiss Guards repeatedly announcing “Silence!” and “No photos!” – it was sad, but I didn’t let it stop me from enjoying my time in this awesome place.

We then went to St. Peter’s Basilica. That, too, was an area where photographs were prohibited. It was also so beautiful and peaceful and just an amazing experience to be there.

We exited through St. Peter’s Square:

When I got done, I was so tired and sore —- several hours of walking and climbing did me in! I had planned that if it didn’t take too long to go through the Vatican, that I would also go to the colosseum, but it was getting late and I just wanted to get back to the hotel.

There was a small square outside St. Peter’s Square that had some vendors, so I sat and had a cold bottle of water to “people watch” and recoup a bit. Then, walked to the taxi station about 5 blocks away to catch a taxi back to the hotel.

So….that’s my time in Rome! I didn’t get to see everything I hoped to see, but that’s OK – I got a nice taste of Rome and truly loved everything I did get to see!

I kept reminding myself that Rome wasn’t built in a day and there is no way to see it all in two days….that’s all I had and I think I did pretty good with the time I had.

The next morning I boarded the cruise ship……so, the next in the series will be about the cruise!

August Daily Photos – Group Two

So….as you’ll see from the photos in this group…..I recently returned from an adventure in the Mediterranean Sea – Italy, France, and Spain! Those blog posts will show up here in the next few days. But, for now, here are the August Daily Photos I took during the trip.

I LOVE…..

….taking airport selfies to kick off my adventures!

I MADE THIS…..

……I made it to the top of the Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy!

I WORK HERE….

….well, not “ME”, but this lady does – she was our tour guide in the Vatican!

I HELD THIS…..

I WROTE THIS….

I SAW…..

…this lady feeding the pigeons right out of her hand in Florence, Italy!

I LIKE TO DRINK….

….ice cold water on a very hot day!

I STOOD HERE……

…..in Majorca, Spain

I DO THIS ON SUNDAY’S….

….go to church…..in Barcelona, Spain!

I ONCE……

….took a nap on a lounge chair on the pool deck of a cruise ship in the Mediterranean Sea!

I NEVER…..

….pass up a cool treat!!! (back home)

I WENT….

…..grocery shopping!

I READ THIS…..

Watch for my Mediterranean Adventure posts……but, for now, that’s all there is!!!

August Daily Photos – Group One

August is here……and, so I post this first group of Daily Photo Challenge pics on this rainy Friday morning!

I AM….

I LOVE THIS COLOR…..

I WALKED HERE…

I LIKE TO….

…read while I eat

I LOVE THIS TIME OF DAY….

…..peaceful, quiet mornings…even rainy ones!

Have a good day!