Goodcookbecky's Blog

Letting the juices of life (or food) drip from my chin!


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25th Anniversary Cruise Part 7

In case you missed Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5  Part 6

June 10

Port Salerno, Italy  Tour of Pompeii

This was a morning I woke up with a sore throat and watery eyes – NOOO, I don’t want to get sick!  I had packed some airborne that I had started taking the day before when I first felt a touch of a sore throat.  I had packed cold and flu meds as well as Benadryl in the event that we would need them.  I read the symptoms of the box and decided my symptoms were more in line with those of allergies. I took two Benadryl tablets and went to breakfast.  My head felt in a fog and we went to our tour meeting point on the ship.  I was so sleepy!  If David had asked me again if I wanted to do the tour I would have said no, but because he did not ask… we went.  I fell asleep on the bus and missed the beautiful countryside on the way to Pompeii.  When we arrived, I was feeling slightly better and as the tour wore on, I was almost back to normal again.  David said joked that I was a living corpse – or a character from the movie “Weekend at Bernie’s”

I was overwhelmed by the size of Pompeii.  I guess I never really thought about the fact that this was a city that had been completely buried by ash – and seeing it in person made it become real.  Large market places, temples, and even a structure similar to a Colosseum all here!  What made it real was the fresco on walls , and beautiful ornate tile floors- these were people who appreciated the arts and had public bath houses and kitchens; even restaurants.

We saw a few bodies that had been surprised by the volcano.  Even a dog who looked curled up in pain and agony – frozen in time.  We could see Mt. Vesuvius off in the distance the top covered by clouds.

Our tour guide Jose, made this tour interesting and gave a lot of background to the history and beliefs of those in Pompeii.  I think Pompeii was one of our favorite tours.  We only saw a fraction of the city – we could have spent all day there to see more, but we came away having a better idea of Pompeii.

Pictured below some of the drive between Salerno and Pompeii and the wild flowers that grew around Pompeii. The tall trees are umbrella pines that grow throughout Italy and they are the source for pine nuts and used in their regional dish of pesto (basil, garlic, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese with olive oil)

Pictured below: Pompeii Ruins, Art, Tiled Floors, Mt. Vesuvius through an Arch, Bath houses.

Next: At Sea and Port of Kotor, Montenegro

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25th Anniversary Part 6

In case you missed it Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5

June 9

Civitavecchia was our Port (pronounced Chi-vita-vechia) nearly an hour from Rome where we toured St. Peter’s Basilica, Trevi Fountains, Colosseum, and Roman Catacombs.

Florence was a long tour and this day promised to be an equally long day.  Our first stop was St Peter’s – which was beautiful and ornate with lots of gold and painted art.  I suppose if I was a Roman Catholic this stop would have been more interesting.  I found little in this church that pointed to a risen and living Lord.  It was completely about the Popes.

We next visited Trevi Fountain.  Dave and I stayed back from the crowd to avoid pick- pockets.  There was no need for me to throw a coin in the fountain.  We enjoyed a few scoops of gelato at a shop nearby and took in the sights from the sidelines.

The Colosseum was large and imposing, everything I expected it to be.  It was amazing to see the levels of the structure and the arches.  The Forum was nearby but we received little information about it on this tour.

Our final stop was Roman Catacombs a 17 mile maze of graves – photography was strictly prohibited, so we do not have pictures of this stop.  We had a guided tour through the catacombs and saw roped off passages to the sides that were closed to exploration.. I guess they frown on losing tourists in the catacombs for fear they may become part of the attraction.  It was interesting to see though.

Pictured below: the Vatican, St Peter’s Basilica (3) Colosseum, nearby Forum, Gelato, and Trevi Fountain.

Next stop: Pompeii


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25th Anniversary Cruise Part 5

In case you missed it: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

June 8

We docked at the port in Livorno and took a tour bus through the Tuscany region to Firenze (Florence, Italy) which is an amazing city to visit.  We had a tour booked through Princess once again and walked our feet off in this city.  My phone told me we walked over 4 miles in Florence.  The time we had in Florence did not give the sites the appropriate time to properly take this city in.  We sped through the museums so quickly that I was taking shots of art as I was walking by at 3 miles per hour.  It really is too bad that we could not savor our time to really take it all in.  But the beauty of cruising is that you do get a taste of a lot of different places and maybe someday you can return and take things in at a more relaxed pace. Our tour guide Sophia was wonderful. We started with the Uffizi Museum and Gallery and saw works by artists like Botticelli. We were grateful for relatively shorts waits to get into the museums as once again it was hot and humid. From the Uffizi museum we got a great shot of the Ponte Vecchio bridge which captured the Old World charm of Florence. The statues at the Piazza della Signoria were impressive.  We loved the Piazza del Duomo, but no angle on our camera could capture the  full beauty of this church.  We loved the stunning design of the Baptistery and the beautiful bronze doors.  After a refreshing lunch in a restaurant, we continued to the Accademia museum to see Michelangelo’s sculpture of David.  I loved the detail of the veins on David’s hands and feet.  We were so grateful for the opportunity to see these amazing works of art in person.

Next: Rome


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25th Anniversary Cruise Part 4

In case you missed Part 1 Part 2 and Part 3

June 7

Italy! Hello, beautiful Italy!  I love languages and how they sound.  Growing up bi-lingual, I tend to have a knack for imitating the sounds of languages I am not fluent in.  Italian has a wonderful sound – I amused myself pronouncing words like Firenze, Portofino, Bella with my best Italian flair! I think poor David got tired of my interest in getting the sound right!  Italy is charming!  Our tour to Portofino was lovely and HOT and HUMID! We took a ferry from Santa Margarita to Portofino, which was, and still is, the playground of the rich and famous and is therefore overpriced.  Vendors were selling various goods, and I got suckered into buying a hat for 20 euros.  I am sure he picked them up for a song compared to what I paid.  But I needed a hat!  As the days passed by that overpriced hat became more and more valuable to me.  It gave me the much needed shade and unfortunate hat head bangs. David found a hat he liked in Portofino that was 15 euros.  These hats became our friends.

Portofino means Port of the dolphins (but it is too crowded with showy yachts to be a welcoming place to dolphins – as a matter of fact we did not see any dolphins or whales the entire trip.)

In Portofino, we enjoyed pizza and an ice cream treat called Paciugo which was vanilla gelato with strawberry sauce and fresh berries with whipped cream.  Our tour guide had recommended it and called it a “mess”.  The pizza came with four toppings – each of them on a quarter, separated and by the way I found out the hard way that the olives had pits – I nearly broke a tooth discovering that!  We enjoyed a short climb to see a beautiful view of the harbor.  The yachts were in a battle for one-up-man-ship like not seen before.  Portofino was much smaller than I thought it would be, but the beautiful painted buildings were charming and photogenic.

Pictured below: David and I in Santa Margarita, Paciugo, Pizza, narrow alleys, charming colorful buildings, cute row boats, lovely flowers, pricey yachts, and overpriced hats!

Next: Firenze (Florence)

 


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25th Ann. Cruise Part 3

In case you missed part 1 and part 2

I am writing this at 2 am because jet lag is not a kind friend… so excuse errors, I will do my best to catch them.

June 6

After another relaxing day at sea, we were in Marseille, France.  To be honest, I did not have very high expectations of this city.  And much to my surprise this city was enchanting and completely captured my heart.  The highlight of the trip was a 10 minute photo stop at Longchamp Palace and Fountains, which is now used as a museum;  the buildings and fountains are amazing! From there we stopped at Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde, where we had quite a few stairs to climb to get there. Our reward: breathtaking views of the city and port below! The tour we took was arranged through Princess Cruises and our guide Olivier was informative and helpful.  I scoured my brain to remember the few French phrases that I had learned in 9th Grade.  French people have a reputation for being aloof and uninterested in speaking English, but I found that if you smile and make an effort to speak to them that they are very accommodating.  The few phrases I knew came in handy when we ordered Nutella Crepes for lunch in the city center.  We had 20 minutes of free time and I had scoped out a little crepe shop from the bus as we passed through.  We returned to our ship and were still a little hungry so we indulged in the afternoon tea that was available on the Crown Princess.

Pictured below: day at sea, Longchamp Palace (3), Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde, Marseille,  wild poppies, enjoying Nutella crepes, a drive past an Arc the Triumph, yachts, afternoon tea on board the Crown Princess.

Next Part 4: Portofino, Italy.


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25th Anniversary Cruise Part 2

In case you missed part one.

June 4

We enjoyed a day at sea and recovering from jet lag before docking in Gibraltar.  We enjoyed exploring our ship and started to become familiar with locations of dining rooms.

Gibraltar is on the tip of Spain and part of Great Britain.  From here you can see the continent of Africa on a clear day.  The biggest tourist attraction is the Rock of Gibraltar which you will recognize from the Prudential advertisements.  On the rock are Barbary Apes.  These monkeys have been known to confiscate bags from tourists in search of food and have a reputation to sometimes climbing and even biting people.  (I have issues with Lorikeets landing on me at the San Diego zoo, so the thought of a monkey bothering me was going to cause me to need some mental health treatments.) We decided to not make ourselves a target for these thieves and took only a hidden money belt with some money and a credit card. We took the tram to the top of the rock and must to our surprise (near disappointment): No Monkeys!  We enjoyed the view of the Rock and took some pictures.  We enjoyed a cup of coffee at the restaurant and asked the waitress for recommendations of a good fish and chips place in town.  She declared Roy’s on Main Street to be the best place in town to get an authentic tasting, where we would head next.  As we were about to leave to go down the hill we saw two monkeys.  I managed to capture a picture of them not being too nice to each other and I had a healthy respect for these critters.  Gibraltar is delightfully British with classic red phone booths and authentic fish and chips.  Our time in port was pretty short and soon we would depart for Marseille, France.

Pictured: day at sea, Rock of Gibraltar, Barbary Apes, red phone booth, grave yard, and fish and chips.

Next: Part 3

 


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25th Anniversary Cruise Part 1

My husband and I celebrated our 25th Anniversary last March and we just returned from a cruise in the Mediterranean to celebrate the occasion.  We started in Barcelona and visited Gibraltar, France, Italy, Montenegro and Greece.  Because some of my family are not on social media, I decided to post some of the highlights of the trip here.

We departed from LAX on May 31st and landed in Barcelona, Spain on June 1st.  We flew with KLM and had a connecting flight in Amsterdam.  Unfortunately, there was weather delays in Amsterdam and our second flight was delayed by several hours. So instead of arriving to our hotel at 1 pm, we arrived at 4 pm.  We had purchased Parc Guell tickets for 5 pm in advance.  Of course we had to go to the Park despite our jet lag.  We hired a cab and were instantly transformed to being inside a computer game — narrow one way streets with mopeds and cars parked on both sides of the street with barely enough room for the taxi to pass did not intimidate our driver… he sped through the narrow lanes and David and I exchanged amused glances.  I felt like I was an active participant in our favorite original xbox game called Midtown Madness 2.  We enjoyed Parc Guell despite our jet lag (or at least have pictures to prove that we were there).  After an hour looking around we returned to our hotel where we collapsed into a heap on a comfortable bed to take a nap.

Pictured below: KLM flight and Parc Guell, Barcelona, Spain.

Tapas is something I researched before arriving.  We are not big fans of shellfish and snails and had studied up on some of the names of foods so we would know what we were ordering and what we wanted to avoid.  As Americans, who like to eat dinner around 5 to 6 the thought of eating after 9 pm was an adjustment.

The staff at the hotel were helpful to directing us to a good tapas restaurant a short block from the hotel after a refreshing 2 hour nap and shower.

Pictured below: Bar Velodroma where we enjoyed our tapas.  The waitress Natalia was wonderful at guiding us with our selections.  It was a lot of food, I have to admit, but we are so glad that we had this culinary experience.  We had small red peppers the were stuffed with cream cheese, local cured ham and cold cuts with toasted bread that was spread with garlic and tomato, potatoes brava (fried potatoes with two different sauces) Sandwiches with olives and Manchego cheese (locally sourced) Bomba (again fried potato with a center core of meat with sauces), croquettes and finished with Catalonian Crema for dessert.  It was a wonderful evening in Barcelona.  We fell into bed at 11:30 pm – completely stuffed and weary from travel.

Day 2:

June 2nd was the day we were to board our cruise ship.  We did not know what time the shuttle would take us to the port in advance, and we had purchased timed tickets to see the La Sagrada Familia church, but our scheduled shuttle did not allow that before embarkation.  If we ever are in Barcelona again, we will be sure to visit it then.  We did however get up early enough to grab a cab and go to the popular La Rambla shopping and tourist area.  We had heard that this area was a popular place for pick- pockets, so we took a bare minimum with us. But we really did not need to worry, as we were there early enough, that the crowds were low.  Some of the stores were still closed, but the market (Boqueria) was open and we spent a little time walking around and eating a second breakfast (this is normal in Barcelona  – the hotel had a wonderful breakfast buffet that we had taken advantage of, but we did buy ham and cheese to munch on as a mid morning snack before returning to the hotel for our cruise transfer.)

Pictured: La Rambla, Boqueria Market, Ham and cheese

Transfer to the cruise ship was at 10:30 am so we took a cab back to the hotel from La Rambla to get our bus to the port.  Embarkation was easy with little waiting.  The Crown Princess was an impressive ship that holds over 3100 passengers and 1400 crew members.

Pictured: Crown Princess (by Princess Cruises) Our cabin (A322) was a balcony room on the Aloha Deck with a comfortable bed.  We enjoyed the departure on deck with other passengers and live music. Departed port 10 pm. The end of a happy day.

Next Port: 25th Ann. Cruise Part 2: Gibraltar (part of the United Kingdom)