Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Honeymoon Days 12 - 16

Day 12

Our last Port, and last full day of the cruise were spent in Marseilles. I had read on the cruise critic forums that a free shuttle brought guests to the Old Port area where there was a fish market, flower stands and other local shops. So as we walked off the boat and found out the shuttle was 12 euros each, I was beside myself. Apparently some cruise lines must charge people for the shuttles upfront as part of the overall cruise price, so that all the shuttles are free. It’s smart for them because not everyone takes the shuttle into the Port. I was really outraged about this nickel and dime stuff. Not just because we were spending $36 to go into a town that I didn’t really have an action plan for, but because it made us go through euros quicker than we had planned. Every time you take out money, you get charged for it, so if I had known that we were going to spend nearly 100 euro just to get in and out of the ports, I would have taken more out at once.

Anyway, the Old Port area was a 20 minute ride from the new port where our ship was docked, so at least they weren’t charging us for a shuttle when we easily could have walked. We arrived in the Old Port just in time for the fishing boat to start unloading their spoils. It was interesting to walk around and see all of the locals buying fresh fish for dinner that night, alongside some of the prettiest bouquets I have seen in a while. We walked through the streets and stalls and then turned up toward Fort St. Nicolas. It was closed to the public, but you could hike up pretty high to the lowest fortifications and get a great view of the old port just absolutely packed with sail boats.

As we walked back down through the streets, I did some shopping - lavender soap from the nearby region of Provence, and shoes. We walked all over the streets of Marseilles shopping for shoes. They were really cheap too, I mean literally like $12 for an adorable pair of shoes. It was very confusing because Dan was telling me I could buy as many as I wanted. Does that sound like Dan to you? I only got 1 pair though, apparently everyone in France has the same size foot as me, so they didn’t have very much in my size. One shop that we waltzed into was quite expensive. Louis Vitton - we probably could have gotten a keychain for like 75 euros, but it hardly seemed worth it when the crazy street vendors in Livorno were selling knockoff purses for about 15 euros. Also, everyone knows I would never own something like that. 2000 euros to carry a bag with someone else’s initials all over it? No thanks.

We got back to the boat around 5 or so and enjoyed a fairly calm night. We had to pack all our stuff and tag it so that someone else could carry it off the boat for us the next day. The most fun part of the evening was probably the 45 minutes I spent in line to get the paperwork to secure our VAT refund. The boat charges you upfront for the Euro zone tax, and then you have to get the paperwork on the boat to get your refund in the airport. The line was quite long - apparently, no-one wanted to leave their money in Europe.

Day 13

The Cruise director said that everyone had to be off the boat by 9 a.m.. Carnival turns these boats around in a matter of hours. Isn’t that nuts? They get 4000 people off the boat, they clean it and set it up for the next 4000 people within a matter of 3 hours, that’s insanity! Anyway, we woke up at 6 so that we would have plenty of time to eat and be ready for our debarkation time of 7:30. I was pretty bummed to be getting off the ship. It was the end of sunny lounging, the end of outrageous amounts of food, and the end of English… which is something that I really enjoy.

It was all so seamless, I mean we didn’t stand in line, we didn’t wait for our bags, we just walked right off, “ding”-ed our cards for the last time, picked up our luggage with ease and got into a cab. I know it seems like a silly thing to be so impressed by, but if you have ever undertaken some kind of corporate event, or wedding or anything like that, you get very impressed by things that are well-coordinated.

Our cab driver had a bit of a struggle finding our next hotel - he said he had never been to that street before and it was on the outskirts of Barcelona, near the University. But they let us check it early - 9 am early, and our room was in fact a suite. We walked into what looked like a conference room and got very confused. But around the corner were a separate bedroom and living room complete with a free minibar.

Dan decided to take a quick nap while I tried to figure out how it was possible for me to have gone over my 300 MB data plan in a matter of 4 days, so that was a fun way to start things off. In case you were wondering, I still haven’t figured it out.

When I went back into the room to find Dan still sleeping, I complained about how bored I was and said we should get busy in Barcelona for the day. So we walked to the metro and headed downtown to find one of the shops I wanted to visit - Art Escudellors. They only sell products made in Spain, specifically, Spanish tiles. I bought some decorative letter tiles to spell out Sadlon, since Dan says I have to change my name the moment we get home. Dan really liked that store, he said it was quite a good time to look at tiles for 30 minutes. I was able to make it up to him by going to his favorite new place in Barcelona, a hole-in-the-wall pizza shop where we had 2 beers each, an empanada, and 2 slices of pizza for 7 euros.

There were 2 other shops that I wanted to go to, but since it was Sunday, they were closed. In better news, Sunday is free museum day in Spain - after 3:00. So we headed to the Picasso museum where we learned about the artist, and his life in Barcelona. At the end of the exhibit, Dan and I both concluded that he “just kinda gave up.” I figured that maybe he got sick of painting, so he started getting wild with it and charging outrageous prices thinking “there is no way people will buy this garbage for this price, and if they do, then I will be filthy rich.” My favorite Picasso, Mujer con Mantilla, was a good example - I thought - of when he first started to get experimental, but way before he got out of control.

I guess some people like that stuff, but personally, I figure I could do it, then it’s not art.

It was pretty late in the day when we finally got around to having dinner - pizza, in case you couldn’t guess. We sat outside drinking casually while everyone around us tried their best to kill themselves and give me emphysema. Stupid Europe, letting people smoke all over.

Back at the hotel, we found 3 English channels on the tv - BBC, CNN and RT, which is a Russian channel. Google “Estonia” and “Bronze Night” if you want a disturbing history lesson sometime. Speaking of lessons, the last ever bull-fight in Catalonia took place in Barcelona on day 13. There were riots in the streets after it was over. Apparently there is still some attachment to the notion of bullfighting as a cultural tradition. But the animal rights activists don’t feel the same way.

Who didn’t see that one coming?

Day 14

We did not get up early enough to have breakfast at the hotel. Instead, we had to walk across the street to Starbucks where a CafĂ© Mocha is not at all what you think it is going to be. We ate light and got moving towards Montejuic - or at least towards the general area. Turns out, you can’t really “hike up” the mountain. At least not in the way Dan and I thought you could - on a trail. There are, however, 4 different types of public transportation you can use to get there. We walked all over the area trying to figure out how to get to the fort at the top, only to find a metro stop about 80% of the way up. Dan was not pleased with me for making him hike, and he didn’t find the “challenge” to have been worth it.

But once we made it to the top, we got a great view of the port, the beaches and the rest of the city. I thought the hike just made it more interesting. Though, when the color from my tank top stained my t-shirt because of the excess sweat - I did get a little irritated.

After a shower back at the hotel, I had to drag Dan back into the city center. He wanted to lounge, but I was starving, and anxious to buy more shoes. We took the metro downtown again, where I thought I might die because I was so hungry.

With luck, as we climbed out of the metro up to street level, there were some familiar golden arches just begging for me to come inside. And so we did, and it was great. I really love McDonalds - I might have a problem. But I knew it would be inexpensive, and it would fill me up.

Then I was able to secure another book, in English mind you, at the FNAC bookstore. And finally, to really make the day worthwhile, I bought 2 more pair of shoes. The first pair, which are brown boots, are rather uninteresting. But the second pair - so exciting - are authentic, made in the shop I bought them from espadrilles. If you don’t know what an espadrille is, they are the rope-soled shoes that sometimes have ribbons that tie up your ankles. The pair I bought do not have the ribbons, but they are still very cute… but you already knew that, because you know that I wouldn’t buy ugly shoes unless they served some great function.

Anyway enough about my shoes. We finished the night with gelto and beers in the Plaza Catalunya, just people watching. Here are some of the comments we made (to amuse yourself, guess who said what):

“These people are just not proportioned. Look how long her torso is compared to her legs?”

“Seriously, everyone here is going to die from lung cancer. I just can’t understand it.”

“Can you imagine how crazy it must have been here in the 80’s?”

“Did you see that? That homeless guy just drank out of the ½ empty cup!”

“There are no really fat people here. I mean seriously look - not one.”

“Where do you suppose all of these dogs pee?”

Day 15

We had to check out of the hotel by 12, but our train to Paris didn’t leave until 8 p.m. Unfortunately, there was not a whole lot we could really do. So Dan sat in the lounge working while I melted out at the hotel pool. It was a good thing I found that English book, or the day would have been really boring. Instead, I read about the history of Britain, which is something that I’m sure everyone finds as riveting as I do.

We had a great lunch at a place that reminded me of panera. It was cured ham with cheese on a slim baguette smooshed with tomato pulp and garlic. Seriously, so delicious. I feel bad for these Spanish people who come to America and order a ham sandwich - because it simply cannot compete. Another thing that they probably find terrible in the US: orange juice. Everywhere you go in Barcelona, they made fresh squeezed orange juice.

I had wanted a sandwich and chips for lunch - can you tell I’m ready to come home? So I was pleased with the sandwich, but I was really excited later on when we had salt and vinegar chips for dinner. Oh yes, we treated ourselves to a top-notch meal on the train.

We left the hotel with all of our luggage stuffed into this little taxi around 6 p.m. The “concierge” had suggested we leave at 6:30, but I figured it was easier to be early than to miss the only overnight train to Paris. So we arrived at the station around 6:30, put our bags through a metal detector and walked through the door right onto the Platforms. From the time we got out of the taxi to the time we sat down near our train platform, we had walked 50 yards and passed about 2 minutes. So I guess that’s a lesson on traveling out of Barcelona via train from the Estacio de Franca. No need to arrive early!

With our excess time, Dan walked down to a little grocery store and purchased the chips, and some questionable pre-packed items that I will never eat. We sat around for a while and finally boarded the train around 7:45. We had our own private “car” with 2 bunk beds. We barely squeezed all of our luggage in there, but it worked well. We had been saving the one netflix dvd we brought over with us to watch on the laptop during the train ride. That was a good call by Dan, we would have been exceptionally bored if we didn’t have that. I would highly recommend bringing dvds if you plan on taking an overnight train.

We were a bit worried about sleeping through the night, what with the really loud train, and the weak air conditioning, but after some Tylenol pm and bendryl, we managed to sleep. Granted, both of us woke up a number of times, but it wasn’t that bad, I would say it was a fairly inexpensive way to get from one place to another and get a night’s sleep while traveling. Our two tickets for a private car cost $350 and included breakfast. Flights would have been faster, but we were able to keep our luggage with us and only spent about $75 more to take the train than to fly. Keep in mind, if we had flown, we would have had to get a hotel for the night. Finally, we were on the last leg of our trip.

Day 16

We woke up on board about an hour before we arrived in Paris, with just enough time to have breakfast and for me to get really grossed out in the bathroom. Not to get graphic, but there is only 1 toilet per car.. Men stand to pee, and a train doesn’t stay still. Yah, it was nasty.

In Paris, we got off with all of our luggage and walked to Avis which was right outside the station. Then things got rather interesting. We were able to get a car that would fit all of the bags, unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly what we had hoped for.

My phone was dead and we were over the data allotment anyway, so no google navigation.

Avis was simply out of GPS devices.

There were no automatic cars.

No maps.

The car had a manual transmission.

We were able to secure directions from the man behind the counter. He printed us out a mapquest or something. However, he printed them out in French.

Can you see where all of this is going? Does anyone remember why I spent so much money buying Dan a GPS 6 years ago? Because I didn’t think our relationship could handle any more stressful rides in the car with me giving directions and Dan shouting at me the whole time. So this was shaping up to be really interesting.

I think all of my warning about how terrible it was going to be made Dan feel sympathetic, because he managed to not yell at me until after we got to our hotel. Yes, we made it, no getting lost, no Angry Dan appearances, just a relatively painless set of guesses and boom, we made it!

When we arrived at the Hotel, our room wasn’t ready o we decided to go for a little walk in the park nearby, and then sat down to lunch at the restaurant that is in the hotel - which is more like an Inn. Lunch was good, we didn’t really know what we were ordering, since the menu was in French, but Dan ended up with a cheese, potato and salmon casserole, while I had smoked ham and gooey cheese (not my favorite thing) on top of thick French bread. The portions were out of control huge and I don’t understand how Dan was “starving” only 4 hours later. I guess the nap we both had after lunch really worked up his appetite.

At this point in the trip, it is worth while to note that we are both a bit cranky, so naps are generally a good idea.

Anyway, post nap we decided to go out and find the French Westinghouse and see where I could catch a train to Paris. After a few mishaps, we did figure out where he had to be on Day 17. We also had dinner: pizza with “buffalo wings” if you want to call them that, and French fries.

I am really sick of pizza. Especially the “pizza” that is served in some of these places we go to eat. But it’s easy to order and Dan likes it, so whatever.

We returned to the hotel where Dan had to kill a GIANT spider that crawled in our window. Also, I’m fairly certain that he is not happy with my decision to sleep with the windows shut tonight.

On day 16, I’d rather be hot than get eaten alive by a French spider.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Honeymoon Days 9 - 11

Day 9

The ninth day was spent in Messina, Sicily. Once again I had no big plans for the day, except to get off the boat, walk around and shop a bit. Those plans didn’t really go over well. When we got off the boat it was about 11 or so, and we had been forewarned that siesta was alive and well in Sicily, so we had better get to the action before 1. It didn’t matter… nothing was open at 11 either.

Messina was one of the few ports that was right downtown in the action, we didn’t have to take a shuttle anywhere. So we just started walking in the same direction as all the other people until we came upon a Cathedral. Much to my enjoyment, there was no entrance fee, so we walked in. It was absolutely amazing, I mean the kind of cathedral that makes you want to actually go to church. The ceilings were one massive work of art, as were the mosaics, the silver alter, the wooden carvings. Everything was stunning and meticulously maintained.

As we stepped outside into the plaza, the bell tower began tolling and we got quite the show. I videotaped a part of it, little figures were coming in and out of the tower on a circle and the music - Ave Maria - really added to the whole scene. People just stood and stared, it was the prime example of how music adds emotion.

After the “show” was over, we decided to just keep walking around waiting for anything to open. Instead, we happened to see the dome of something and decided to try and make it up to the dome. After quite a hike - we had to climb up and over a tree that had fallen down - we made it up to the top of the hill to Cristo Rey (?) not having any idea what it was, we went inside. We still don’t know exactly what it is, but it did offer the best views of the port and of “the boot” portion of Italy.

The way we got up there was clearly not the way we could go down, so instead we took a nice stroll through the sketchy side of town, passing all kinds of shacks pieced together with corrugated plastic. It was quite a site to see. Before too long we were back on the main streets, wishing something would open. Luckily, it wasn’t long before we passed an open “bar” if you will, that served gelato alongside any alcohol you’d like. What a dynamic duo? Those Italians… they know what they are doing. I had some gelato - chocolate chip I think, and could finally say ciao to Italy. That was on my list to do, since you can’t seem to walk 10 feet in Italy without passing a gelato shop.

We got back on the boat (since everything was still closed) and found ourselves with a spare 4 hours. So naturally, I walked over to the spa. Luckily I was able to sneak in a massage and mini facial. We hung around on the back of the boat watching the sun sink into the water until dinner time.

And then Dan gave me a volcano.

Here’s how that happened… The Captain of the ship agreed to take a small detour past the island of Stromboli where an active volcano had been erupting recently. The Cruise Director told people around 9:00 or so to go up on the open decks as we would be driving past the volcano. We were in the middle of dinner, so I didn’t want to go. Dan went up to check it out and said he couldn’t see anything, but that I should go look. I didn’t really want to because I figured in the middle of the night, there was no way I could see anything, but Dan forced me to go.

Up on deck, you could see the lights in the village and not much else. I wasn’t sure where to look so my eyes just trailed off. But then, way, way up high, a little spark flew and people “ooohed” like crazy. Before too long, I could make out the outline of the volcano - it was gigantic. I had been looking at least 100 yards too low. About 2 minutes later, a sizeable spray came out of the volcano, lasting about 30 seconds. Then some of the lava flowed down the side, all the way to the water. It was at that point I noticed how close the boat was - within 150 yards I would say. That was intense! And of course, I didn’t have my camera because I had come from dinner and had to go right back to dinner.

When I got back down to dinner, Dan was waiting. I could hardly contain myself, as I smiled from ear to ear telling him about what I had said.

And when I was done, he said “you’re welcome.”

Day 10

Day ten was our “fun day at sea”. We slept in late, and then spent a majority of the day sitting out under the sun reading. A very relaxing day, indeed. The only note of interest is that Dan made a friend.

I had just asked Dan from a few lounge chairs away if my pictures had finished uploading. The older man next to me started asking me if I was using the onboard internet, and wasn’t it terribly slow? I began telling him about using the data on my phone to make a hot spot and he started asking some questions about where I was from, etc. With all those questions come the inevitable “what do you do” and “who are you here with” type questions. Once I mentioned that Dan was an engineer, that was it - the guy (whose name is Joe) just kept talking to Dan and drinking with him. When the waiter bought another round, he had accidentally charged it to our account instead of splitting it up. So Joe said he would find Dan and buy him a drink because he had to go to dinner.

Dan and I both got a little sunburned, as neither of us thought to bring sunscreen. But that was pretty much it for Day 10, and it was nice.

Day 11

Day 11 got off to a rough start - we had no interest in getting up and then, I lost my card, which is the only way on and off he boat. So after I got a replacement and we finally got down to the port, we found out that we had to pay to get out… so we went back into the ship to gather everything we might need for the very short day we had in Palma de Mallorca.

With my cameras and our bathing suits, we paid our way out and arrived via shuttle at the Cathedral. Again - you had to pay a fee to see inside, and we decided that it wasn’t worth it to spend the beautifully sunny day inside when there were sandy beaches and the Mediterranean so close by. So we stopped in a few shops to pick up some souvenirs and then walked down to the beach. The funny thing about Palma de Mallorca is that its one of the very few places on earth I have been to, that is exactly as I imagined it would be. Big worn wooden doors and beams against a smooth plaster wall, accented with beautiful ironwork and colored with bright pink hibiscus. Palm trees, the hot sun and the teal blue color of the water - it is a beautiful place.

It was 12:30 or so, and Dan didn’t want to be in the sun long, since his sunburn did not go away like mine had. So around 2, after a nice swim, we headed back to the ship. We had just sat down to lunch on board when Dan’s new friend Joe found us and sat down with his friend.. Dan. They bought a few buckets of beer and chatted us up about their lives back in Cincinnati. They were quite amusing, these two old retired guys. They were telling us about their grand “regatta” race they had organized in their condo association. Apparently they had talked it up to the other residents for weeks before showing up with their remote control boats. Within minutes of the start, however, all of the boats were either crashed into something or ruined. One man’s boat (which had required some advance reengineering) had started to go down, so he put on his full waders and chased after it.

We ended up having to part with Joe and Dan to go to the Past-Guest reception to secure our free drinks, but they made for an interesting afternoon. After the reception, not much happened. It was a very calm night, we made our way through the Balearic Islands, which are really amazing by the way, and as we moved I couldn’t get over how calm the water was. I mean seriously, it looked like glass… like Columbia lake first thing in the morning before anyone gets on. I must have taken 10 pictures of the water to show how smooth it was.

We went to dinner where I finally was happy with one of our meal options: filet! I don’t know why they waited so long, but it was worth it. 

After dinner we had one more to-do before heading back to the cabin. Can you guess what it was?

We made a deposit on our next cruise.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Honeymoon Days 4-8

Day 4

Day four was actually rather uneventful, except for two things: 1. We got on the ship and headed to sea. 2. Angry Dan met Hungry Mandy. It got ugly.

Our wakeup call was at 10:30, which seems a little ridiculous, but its much harder to adjust to the time difference than one would think. Dan says he was up before the wakeup call everyday, but I could barely open my eyes. We packed up our 5 pieces of luggage, our two backpacks and my purse and checked out of the Hotel. We got a cab to take us to the Port, which was about a 12 euro ride. But apparently, they charge quite a bit for luggage, because the total came to 20 euro.

Dan moved our luggage into a corner and then, all of a sudden, angry Dan came to Barcelona. It seems that he had expected me to go find out what was going on, but he never bothered to open his mouth. So Mandy was expected to be a mind reader… And at that point in time, Mandy was  quickly transforming into Hungry Mandy, which is never good. Then Angry Dan asked where were the boarding passes- but hungry Mandy didn’t have them, and all sorts of fireworks exploded from there. Eventually though, both Angry Dan and Hungry Mandy made an exit after lunch on the lido deck. I think it was about 2:00.

The ship is quite large, and has a lot of really cool features: a water park as well as slides, a piano bar, 2 dining rooms as well as 2 restaurants and the red frog pub, which serves a special beer that you can only get on board. There is an cute adult only area with big lounges and hammocks. Not to mention all the other lounge areas on board. There is a sushi bar and a burrito bar, a deli, a Mongolian wok place, an Indian food place, a burger bar (which includes stuff for nachos) and Dan’s favorite: the pizza bar.

We set sail at 5 p.m. and waved goodbye to Barcelona. The night was calm, we read on deck; all the while Dan constantly bragged about his kindle, trying to convince me I needed one too. Maybe an hour later he witnessed me drop my phone and I think it reminded him of why I read regular books.

After dinner we sat in our room waiting for a movie to come on the movie channels. Supposedly they start a movie every 3 hours, but I swear we watched the same 10 previews like 100 times before finally falling asleep.

Day 5

The wakeup call scared me again on day 5. I was in a dead sleep when it rang at 8:30. Dan said he had been up since 7. So we sat around waiting for room service, cause Lord knows we need to eat before we leave the room to eat. That’s what a cruise is all about: gluttony.

After our second breakfast, we set foot into Monaco, one of the smallest countries on the face of the planet, in fact, only the Vatican is smaller. But, what they lack in size, they make up for in docks for the world’s most expensive private yachts, and most registered Bentleys and Ferraris per square mile.

We spent the morning checking out oversized yachts, walking through a Japanese garden and laying on a pebble beach. I took my first swim in the Mediterranean, and it was nice. Super salty, but cool clear water (not Atlantic cool, just a nice refreshing temperature) - and a reflection that is the prettiest shade of blue ever. Dan took the liberty of throwing pebbles at me one by one, then he smooshed them into my skin and asked for $100 for the “hot stone massage” he had given so thoughtfully.

After it got too hot to stand being on the beach, we headed back to the ship for lunch and a quick change before getting back on land to see the exotic garden and the cave/grotto in Monaco. We took the local bus, which was quite nice for a bus, but it still had its fair share of ripe smelling Europeans. What is it about deodorant that is so repulsive to some of these people? Anyway, we arrived at the garden and paid our 7 euro to enter.

Best value in Monaco, without a doubt! (aside from the beer, for which Dan happily paid 2.2 euros per can) The views were stunning, the plants were beautiful, but really, the most impressive thing to me, was the amount of planning that had to go into that kind of undertaking. After my very feeble attempt at planting, I can only imagine the kind of work that had to go into that garden. It was spectacular.

The cave on the other hand, I was not so fond of. I found it to be gooey and slimey and a little gross. Does it impress me that a drip turns into a stalactite at the rate of 1 cm per 100 year? Well no, not really, but the stalactites that were long and icicle like? Yah, those were impressive. Gooey, but impressive. But I think I will probably harbor some cave anger for a while since I nearly split my head open after slipping on the stalactite goo. My charming husband had forgotten to take my hand and lead me to safety. Fortunately after giving him a lesson or two, he “spotted” me the rest of the way to the boat, and practically all the way back to the room, in case I should slip again.

After the gardens and the cave, we hopped on the bus to come back. But our awesome bus driver decided we didn’t need to stop where we told him we wanted to… you know, as the stop pre determined by the dept. of transportation for the country of Monaco. So that was fun. We made it back to the boat with about 20 minutes to spare before they took up the gangplank and headed out to sea.

We showered for dinner and then were quite embarrassed when the waiters brought over a lit cake singing “Happy honeymoon”. Know what might make it happier? If the workers from trenitalia decided to strike next month instead. Tomorrow the strike will keep us from seeing Florence, but if it keeps us from Rome on Monday… oh boy. Hungry Mandy will turn into Mrs. Angry Dan Sadlon, and God only knows what will happen then.

Day 6

In light of the strike and our inability to get to Florence without spending a small fortune on taxis, I told Dan we could get a late wakeup call. It didn’t end up working out too well though, because the Captain started making all kind of announcements when the ship docked at 8. Then all the people wandering through the halls were noisy, and finally (about 10 min. before our wakeup call came) housekeeping knocked on our door to see if we were still in the room.

So after we waiting for the wakeup call, we headed up to breakfast and decided that we could at least pay the 5 euro to get out of the Port and into the downtown area of Livorno. As we walked off the gangplank though, we were pleasantly surprised to find bus seats available for a 2:00 trip to Pisa for 15 euros each. So we decided to get back on the boat, eat a little bit more and wait for 2 o’clock to roll around.

When the bus left the Port, I was expecting to see something resembling a cute little port town with very few shops. All the cruise workers told us there was nothing in Livorno, but when you come from Columbia, CT, you think “well there has to be something more than Columbia”. And yet… there really was nothing.

The journey to Pisa must be EXACTLY the kind of thing that the tourism dept. for Italy goes crazy over. It was ugly, it smelled really gross (thanks to the oil refinery we passed) and anything that could be covered with graffiti, was. About 2 minutes before we got off the bus, things got real interesting when it started to rain. So everyone stepped off the bus and was immediately bombarded by umbrella salesmen. For 5 euros, you could get a really awesome umbrella, you know, like the kind you could find in the dollar store back home? But, we really had no choice, so Dan bought a nice purple “umbrella”. In my opinion, he should have at least bought one that had the famous Italian monuments all over it, but oh well.

Together we huddled under the umbrella and walked the ½ mile up to the Pisa area. I’m not quite sure why they have to drop you off so far away, but they do. The buses go in one certain spot, and the tourists and instructed to follow one another up to the main attractions. This is good enough advice on the way in, when there is a mass of people leading all the way to the tower and cathedral. On the way out, however, it is much, much less helpful. I’ll get back to that.
As we walked on, we could tell that we were getting close by the amount of cheap slovenlier stands that began to cluster on every corner, the most exciting of which had leather handbags. When we finally arrived in the correct area, the rain was really coming down and I was scared to take out my camera. Un fortunately, there really isn’t anywhere to hide from the rain, because the only enclosed buildings were one of two varieties; jam packed shops rife with smelly, wet tourists or cathedrals, etc that charged an entrance fee.

So we snuggled up under our umbrella as it began to fall apart quickly. The nylon came loose from the metal prongs, which you would then have to avoid so as to not get poked in the eye. This was especially entertaining when the wind picked up and flipped the umbrella inside out. All in all, it was very amusing to try and keep our things dry. For this reason, I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures there.

This all sounds like it would make for a terrible trip, but actually it was quite fun. An additional obstacle that added humor was my inability to walk unassisted on the marble tiles that surrounded the tower and the cathedral. The shoes I wore have literally zero tread on the bottom, they have been so lovingly worn for the past 2 years that I’m afraid I might just wakeup to find a hole in them one of these mornings. Anyway, Dan would have to hold me up as I literally skated across the wet tile. Whenever possible, he would bring me over the edge so that I could walk in the stone gutter-area while he held my hand from the nice tile (which was raised). It looked like a picture that could have been labeled “how to let your woman know her place in society, 1943.” But it gave us a good laugh anyway as Dan joked about having to carry around and support his helpless wife. This is probably the main reason we decided not to climb up in the tower: it could have been a real hassle if I went over the edge because of the wet marble. And in Europe, they don’t bother with safety rails or any of that nonsense.

So when we had enough of standing out in the rain, we started to try and walk back to the bus. As we passed the 3rd or 4th tourist stand carrying purses, I couldn’t help myself any longer and talked an Indian man into giving me the leather bag I wanted for 20 Euros. As you might imagine, Dan was very excited about the purchase as well. The first thing he wanted to know was when I would use it, and how long it would be before it joined the rest of my purses in the big barrel upstairs. In my defense, the barrel is holding purses that  have been collected since I was like 10. Most of them sit there looking sad and worn and are never used again. But, there are a few that I rotate in and out from time to time (which is the reason I save them all). Most notably is one leather satchel my Uncle Rob brought me from Italy nearly a million years ago. Its big enough to hold a phone and some cash, but not much else, and it has a long strap that can be slung across me and not just over the shoulder, so it’s very useful for traveling. Anyway, point is: I got a new bag and it’s very cute.

We kept walking in the direction we thought was right, but since there was no hoard of tourists in front, we weren’t really sure were to go. Next thing we knew, a big group was following us. Dan decided that this was confirmation we were going the right way, but what if they were just following us because they thought we knew where we were going? Anyway, we made it back to the bus just in time for another episode of “buy that knockoff purse”. There was a man standing outside our bus window trying to sell knockoffs. I was sure to not make eye contact, but the lady in front of me was not so lucky. After a lot of hand motioning and some hysterical antics on behalf of the salesman, she did end up buying one. For the 15 euros she paid, all the people in the seats around her got a great show…

Back on board we warmed up in the hot tub and had another calm night with dinner and a movie and prepared for our big day in Rome.

Day 7

We woke up very early on day 7 so we could have the whole day in Rome. It was exceptionally hot for the morning, so we decided to bring a backpack with our extra clothes for the Vatican. We were an hour late into port, so we didn’t get off the ship until 9:30. I know it’s the second time I’ve used this phrase, but we got the best deal in Europe on day  7 when we paid 9 euros for an all-day metro, bus and train pass. So we took the bus from the ship downtown, then we walked to the train station where we literally had to run to make it in time. The ride was about an hour and a half into Rome (not including the 30 min trip from the boat) after which we caught the metro to the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. Amy told me that one of the best tips she got about Rome was to buy tickets for the Colosseum and the Forum at the forum, thus avoiding the hour-long line. Amy had read this in a tour book when she went to Rome a few years back, and I’m fairly certain that’s what the other 75 people in front of us at the forum were thinking as well. We only waited about 20 minutes, so it worked out.

It’s pretty wild to be walking around in the forum and stroll through a domus knowing that 2000 years ago, someone was in there making breakfast. That the senators and Emperor Augustus strolled the very same streets discussing their plans to rule the world. We didn’t have an audio tour, and none of the descriptions were in English so it was hard to really understand the layout. I was probably too excited anyway… to see the Colosseum.

Its quite an overwhelming structure, and with the excavation and revealing of the dungeons, it was really impressive to me. How could people have built something so precise without the technology we have today? Of course everyone knows what happened there: the Gladiators would fight the animals or other Gladiators. Most of them were slaves or prisoners of war, criminals, etc. But there were a few who did it just for the glory and fame. The Romans would enter the colosseum with their wine and some small meals and just watch the violence unfold.

We did get the audio tour, but with the current exhibition on Nero, I don’t think it was really worth it. There were only a few pieces of information on the tour that I didn’t already learn from the exhibit. I did get a laugh when the English tour guide on the other end of my phone-looking device commented on the way people were seated: senators, the emperor and the wealthy citizens sat closer to the action, while the plebs sat in the nosebleed seats. Some ancient practices just don’t change much, do they?

We learned all about how the gladiator fights fell out of vogue in the late 400’s, and were replaced with hunts for animals using skilled weaponry. Eventually, the colosseum just stopped being used and started to crumble. One thing I learned from the audio tour was that the place was ransacked for marble and travertine to help build St. Peter’s Basilica and the rest of the Vatican. This was just absurd to me - how could they just steal history like that I wondered. But at the time, it was probably just the “green” thing to do. Why go to the trouble of getting new marble all cut and shined when there was a big pile available over by the Forum? Makes you consider what future generations will think of some of the moves we are making today. The colosseum continued to be taken apart piece by piece until the 1750’s when the Pope decided to make the place holy to recognize all of the Christian martyrs that had given their lives inside. Although no evidence has surfaced to prove that Christians were persecuted inside the Colosseum, it was something that happened publicly in Rome during the Colosseum’s history. Since the mid 18th century, the thieving of marble stopped, and eventually, the Colosseum was turned over to the city to be excavated and preserved.

As we finally walked back out onto the streets of Rome, it was nearly 4:00, and we knew that by 5:15, we had to be on the train back to the Port. Luckily though, we were just in time to see a real live gladiator fight. Apparently, about 4-5 men dress up in gladiator suits and offer to take pictures with tourists (for a fee of course). Well, what I assume happened was one gladiator started posing for pictures on another gladiator’s turf. A scuffle ensued and then the Polizia showed up. No plastic swords were drawn or anything, but still, how many modern day people get to see gladiators fight outside the colosseum? And for free!

By 4:15 we had approached the Trivoli fountain and felt the pangs of hunger, so we took a brief stop to eat…. You guessed it, pizza. When that was done and we finally got down to the fountain, it was mobbed. Absolutely packed with people and for the first time, I felt exactly the way my mom did on our Disney vacation back in 1996, like I was on MY vacation and who the hell were all these other people ruining it for me? Like the other women were doing, I tossed a nickel over my shoulder into the fountain and made a wish. I haven’t figured out the significance yet, but hopefully it’s not another fertility statue incident (see tales from the first Euro trip). I was bummed that I couldn’t sit there and take it all in without a million  people all over, but maybe on the next trip to Rome?
The scene was exactly the same at the Spanish Steps - too many people, too little time. It was just about 4:40, and it seemed like there was absolutely no way we could do anything besides stand in line just to get a look at the Vatican walls without having to miss the train, never mind the boat. Next time.

So we got the train back to port and were waiting for the bus to bring us to the ship and he told us it would be at least 15 minutes so we took a stroll out onto the break wall. The waves were really big and I couldn’t believe how they crashed onto the stones. The scene was made all the more picturesque by the fact that the sun was setting behind the water (don’t get that in CT). So Dan suggested I walk out a bit and he would take my picture. I walked out just enough to not get wet, but when it was Dan’s turn, he felt a bit more daring. As he ventured all the way out the end all I could think was, “he is going to get soaked or swept out to sea.” so I shouted “you’re going to get wet!” but he didn’t seem to care. It wasn’t more than 30 seconds after that a giant wave came and crashed hard on the rocks, spraying all over him. Be sure to check the pictures, it’s hilarious!

We were back on the boat and went directly to dinner as a storm moved in. The captain ordered everyone off the top decks and told people to stay off of the balconies. I don’t know how windy it was, but the boat moved a lot more that night than it ever did before. They were supposed to air a movie on the big screen that night. Instead they put it on the movie channel…. Guess what it was?


Day 8

We landed in Naples around 7:30 and had a very limited agenda for the day: 1. Eat pizza somewhere in the city, as Naples is supposedly the birthplace of the world’s favorite dish. 2. See the ruins at Pompeii.

Getting from the Port to the ruins was an adventure. First we had to walk by about a million taxi cab drivers, who were all trying to get us to use their service. “It’s a great deal, for you, special today, 90 euros.” Are they insane? The best part is, they were standing right next to me at the information booth when I asked how to get to Pompeii and the person told me to take a tram then a train to the tune of 8 euros each.

But what makes it funny to note all of this, is the fact that people do get off the boat and pay these cab drivers 90 euros to take them out there. Maybe those people don’t care about spending money. Maybe they are afraid they will get robbed on the train, or maybe, just maybe, they know how blazingly hot and uncomfortable the train is. If so, they could have given me a heads up.

For a difference of 74 euros though, I still would have taken the train (Paul, that’s 90 euros for the cab minus 16 euros for both of our train tickets). The trains are not the least bit air conditioned. Nor do the windows really open. And, it’s really hot there. Like, mid 80’s. Plus, when you carry a backpack full of camera gear everywhere, that adds to the heat. Then, you get stuffed into a little corner of the train with about 90 billion other people packed in. If you get freaked out by small spaces (like some of us do) then it would bother you. When you add the heat and the lack of circulating air, it’s really quite terrible. Don’t forget stinky people (cause there’s always at least one). And suddenly it feels like they are all stealing your air. Also, this was weird… there was a couple near us, and the woman had some weird thing going on with the hair on her arm - it was literally inches long, INCHES I SAY! And it was touching even though she was half a foot away. Then her husband kept saying, “only 16 more stops honey!” (they were going to Pompeii too) and I almost had a breakdown.

Apparently, I belong in the woods. The cold woods with no other people around to make it hot or to breathe my air.

Finally, we arrived in Pompeii to find the audio tours sold out and the 2 euro map completely unreadable. But still, it was impressive. I can’t imagine how these people must have panicked when the top blew off of Mount Vesuvius. I know that this isn’t ironic, but it’s something - the good thing about death by volcano, is that it preserves everything under layers of ash. Things from Pompeii were excavated in exactly the spot they were when it hit the fan. Nothing was worn down around the edges, or cracked from years and years of use or abandonment. It was all left exactly the same so that the excavators and the archeologists saw a picture of life in Pompeii the day that Vesuvius erupted.

There are still frescoes and words written in Latin on the sides of shops. Countertops and pots are intact, it’s really very impressive to think that all those things have survived nearly 2000 years, and that by the hands of meticulous archeologists, they have been unveiled. I’m such a history nerd.

Towards the end of the day, we started to go blind on ruins, so we took an earlier train back to the port area. By 3:00, Dan was drinking Italian beers and we were sharing a real Napoli Margarita pizza. It was good. Probably one of the top 5 ever, but I prefer something a bit closer to home. It may not be the birthplace of pizza, but New Haven is definitely the birthplace of DELICIOUS pizza. Additionally, I would like to add that I think my Mom’s pizza is excellent and she can make it for whenever she wants.

Once we had accomplished all we set out to do in Naples, we got back on the ship just as the clouds rolled in.  I’m fairly certain they are following us…. So to warm up, we jumped in the hot tub again before dinner. Once we left port, the shops opened so after dinner Dan decided it was time to go buy yet another watch. Apparently he doesn’t own one with a brown leather band… well, he didn’t before tonight anyway. I also made a purchase, but mine was out of necessity. I had dropped my deodorant on the bathroom floor on day 7 and it smashed into a zillion pieces. In Rome, I tried to buy some, but it seems that they either don’t make any kind of stick deodorant, or they just didn’t carry it anywhere I looked. I did see spray bottles that looked like body spray. This could explain a lot of smells in Europe.

My deodorant cost me 9$ on the ship…not the best deal in Europe.

For the photos...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Honeymoon Day 2 & 3

After we went to bed yesterday around 4 p.m. I thought we would sleep through until this morning. Turns out Dan had very different plans. So around 9:00 p.m. he woke me up to announce that we had to get up and eat something. It was a violent wake up too, he was thrashing around trying to make enough motion and noise so that I would open my eyes.  Anyway, we headed out to get some food. We stopped in at this little corner place, half underground where I was excited to order tapas. Dan on the other hand, got a pepperoni pizza. I order the patatas bravas, and was talked into the jamon (ham plate) by the waitress. She also asked me (in spanish, of course) if I wanted "croquettes" and I said no.  I even did the universal sign for no (which is to wave your hands sternly at waist level.

Guess what I ended up with?

So, sitting there with my fried potatoes (Mom and Dad, think Maine breakfast potatoes) covered in a creamy, spicy, orange colored sauce, my smoked and cured plate of ham, and a plate of "croquettes" (which is apparently tomato smashed into a slice of french bread toasted with butter on top). Basically, enough food to feed a small country. I am gonna say I ate half of everything, but Dan will argue that point. Everything was delicious, but I definitely didn't order all of it. Dan finished his pizza and we strolled around a bit before heading back to the hotel. We watched some soccer for a while and then I read my book, took a bendryl and went to bed. I'd say it was about midnight.

We got a pretty late start on day 3. Latest start ever you might say, I'm embarrassed to say what time it was, so let's just move on. On the itinerary was the Las Ramblas area, and I wanted to catch a little art market in front of the Cathedral. Yes, that's actually what they call it, "la cathedral" like there is only one in town.

We stopped to have breakfast at a cute little place named Buenas Migas. We both ordered "flapjacks" which were actually part granola bar, part cookie bar and 100% amazing. They came with a cup of yogurt, and I bought a glass of the best lemonade I have ever tasted. The label on the juice explained that it was local, and you could taste the difference. Dan didn't like it all, said it was too tart, but come on, I used to eat lemons as a kid, so it was a dream come true. I will definitely get more before we leave. Anyway, breakfast was great and I find that I can make out most of what the waiters/cashiers keep telling us in Spanish. Which is nice, you know, to think that those 4 years of classroom Spanish weren't a complete waste. I speak to them in English and they just talk back at me in Spanish.

Before long we had walked down to the Cathedral and seen that the art market was actually an "antiques" market... or better yet, a very very expensive flea market with a ton of old junk. After my experience at Brimfield last Sunday, I had no interest at all. Besides, it was time to learn about the history of Barcelona inside the Museum of the City.

This was actually really cool, and took up a pretty good chunk of time. The exhibits started with he first settlers of the area around Bareclona, Montejuic. These were Iberian people who nestled in the hills around the current port/city area. Slowly the city grew for about 500 years until it was invaded by Rome during the course of the Roman war against Carthage around 218 BC. With the Roman soliders came the Roman way of life, communication with the outside world and Latin. "Barcelona" as it is known today was really born when Emperor Augustus settled Barcino between 15 and 10 BC.

About 90% of the Museum was dedicated to explaining the Roman civilization of Barcino, since the excavated city was on display a few levels beneath the museum. It was pretty cool walking around the old Roman city, being able to touch some of the stone works that have been in place for over 2000 years. Dan even admitted that it was interesting. The only thing that I thought was strange about the whole excavated part, was that the museum admitted that it had used some materials to reconstruct the area that were parts of different areas during slightly different time periods. In some of my pictures you can see "plaques" or carved stones, just randomly stacked into a pile of rocks to make a wall. That seems very strange to me, like they are cheating or something. I guess I am just a purist.

The strangest part, however, was when the middle ages hit Barcelona and the English part of the tour just abruptly ended. No audio tour, no translations. Just the middle ages in Barcelona... in Spanish and Catalan. So we strolled through the remaining artifacts, and ended in a church (not the Cathedral) but a whole different church that is obviously no longer in use. Anyway then we walked out onto the streets to see a mass of children paying soccer in a plaza. Backpacks were laid down to mark the goal. They are seriously obsessed with soccer over here!

After a very long time in the museum, we walked over to Las Ramblas, which is the real center of the city, but also the center of tourism I would guess, because there were tacky little touristy shops everywhere carrying FC Barcelona scarfs and shot glasses and post cards, etc. We just strolled along and took it all in, ended up down at Port Vell. I had in my itinerary that we wouldn't go to Port Vell until tomorrow before the cruise left, but we walked around anyway, looking at boats and people, etc. There were a ton of people sitting around feeding fish and seagulls. It was such a feeding frenzy among the fish that it sounded like someone has installed a hot tub and turned on the jets to full blast. Water was splashing all over the place. Same thing with the seagulls, all squawking like crazy.

As we walked along the water, we someone managed to get ourselves in a VIP area of the Audi sailing cup of Barcelona. The competitors all had their boats lined up, people were getting interviewed for tv. And there we were, stuck in the middle while guards were standing at gates not letting other people in. Luckily, we managed to escape because I was hungry. We sat down at a little cafe along the water and split a chicken sandwich. Dan had a beer, I had a coke made with real sugar, not corn syrup. Tasted exactly the same though.

Right before we got back to the hotel, we stopped at a corner store for Dan to buy some Budweiser. I said I would drink one, but when we got back to the hotel, the sun was setting and I wanted to check out the rooftop area. So we went up (beers in the backpack, just like Brussels) only to find a bar when we got there. So Dan ordered us two beers, but I decided I wanted sangria instead. Again the language barrier ended up costing me a few euro. Within 5 minutes the bartender had delivered a small pitcher of sangria with two glasses. Knowing I was in over my head, I had to recruit some help. So Dan ended up drinking half, and I drank had (though he claims he had more). Turned out to be 5 glasses worth of sangria, costing 16 euro. As you might imagine, Dan was not pleased with me. We talked about the dogs and his softball league and what he would have done if he was in charge of planning the honeymoon instead of me; which really turns out to be nothing - he claims he would have either a. not had time or b. forgotten to plan something. Though I am pretty sure that after we paid for my pitcher of sangria, he silently vowed to never leave me in charge of vacations ever again.

As we returned to the room, he took out the Budweiser to punish me. He told me that I said I would drink one, so I had to. That bring us to now. Tomorrow we get on the boat, and we have to check out by 11 a.m., which means we have to get up a substantial amount earlier than today. So it's about 10 p.m local time, but its time to shower and go to bed.

pictures, day 3. The route we walked....

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Honeymoon Day 1 & 2

When I wrote the check for the dog sitter on Monday night, I had to count up how many days we would be gone. Answer: 19! So even though Tuesday and Wednesday blended into one day for us, they are technically, two separate days. Here we go.

As you may have guesses, Monday was a nightmare. I know Monday doesn't count, but I just want to let it be known that the day before we were leaving it was 8 p.m. before I even got home, and 9:45 before I started packing. VERY humble beginnings.

On Tuesday morning my Mom showed up 10 minutes early. I was still in pajamas, Dan was in the shower. It must not be a vacation for us if we aren't somehow running behind schedule. Luckily, as I may have mentioned to both my Mom and Dan a few days prior: it's Bradley, we do not need to get there a full two hours early! So about ten minutes after my Mom bid us a bon voyage, we were sitting at Gate 20 counting down the minutes til our flight left. 120 of them, to be exact. Luckily, the surprises started immediately as I was usher onto the flight with the 10 other passengers to experience my first propeller plane flight. Luckily, it was pretty awesome. When there are only 11 people on the plane, you board and go. And then you land and go... none of this sitting around business that I dislike so much. As we walked onto the tarmac in Toronto, Dan suggested I bundle up, because Canada is cold. He didn't however, warn me about the wind, so my travel pillow went flying. I should have just let it go... stupid useless pillow - but I'll get to that later. Dan rushed me inside because he said the abominable snowman would get us if we didn't hurry. I guess Canada is just like that - I'll ask Ben some time.

So three days later we had walked into the main part of the airport and settled in for our 5 hour layover. Usually, this is the kind of thing that drives me out of my mind, but since I had no time to plan our honeymoon when I was busy with the Plan C wedding (thanks Irene) I was grateful to have a moment to do some searching and put ideas down on paper. The itinerary I came up with is pretty bare, but it's a start. My plan (once I got on the flight) was to go to sleep. Unfortunately, the flight left at 6 p.m. EST and landed at 1:30 a.m. EST... not exactly prime sleeping hours. The plane was freezing cold, the seats are way too small, the travel pillow didn't work out because the seats had those tiltable headrests (which also stink), and the book I am reading was just way too interesting. I think I did fall asleep for about 45 minutes right at the end.

Why do I put myself through this? I was thinking. I'd rather be home with my dogs in my comfortable bed watching a movie with Dan. And then I thought of all the other honeymoons we should have taken: honeymoons that would include the dogs, and not require overnight transatlantic journeys.

But then, just as we began to dip down under the clouds on our decent into Barcelona, the sun started to peak out from behind the horizon. And it was a beautiful assortment of pinks and oranges and purples.. then I caught my first glimpse of the Mediterranean - a perfect turquoise shimmering under the rising sun. And I found a little wave of energy as day 1 officially closed when we landed.

So then, day 2 started in customs, which actually went quickly and before I knew it, we were on a bus bound for the city center. At 5.3 euros each, I don't know if I'd call it a "deal", but I'm sure it was way less than a cab. From the Pl. de Catalunya, we walked to our hotel as Dan swiftly grabbed the maps and navigated. After the last trip to Europe, we certainly didn't want me in charge!

As we walked, I thought, "We could be in NYC right now." Everyone looked so American, and aside from the street signs being on the buildings instead of at the corner of the street, it felt like NY, only cleaner. My initial plan was to go all out and do the things on the itinerary on day 2, but without any sleep in me, I just wanted to get into our room and close the blinds and snooze. Unfortunately, our room wasn't quite ready at 9:0 a.m. (barcelona time) so we left our luggage and started off to Casa Mila and the other famous works of Gaudi, including La Segrada Familia. When we arrived at Manzana de la Discordia, I balked at the 19 Euro entrance fee. Was it really worth it for us to spend nearly 60$ to go into this house? The answer was no, especially since I was afraid that La Segrada Familia would be more... and that was what I really wanted to see. So we stopped for Dan to have a croissant and some juice while I sipped the "coffee" that came with it. WTF Europe? Why do they always give you juice AND coffee? Why not offer more substantial choices than just a simple croissant and let people pick between coffee and juice? we could have gone elsewhere, but Dan was too hungry and I was too tired to bother.

When we finally got to La Segrada Familia, Dan had already lectured me about my shoes (which have a slight heel), the way I was carrying my camera, and the fact that I was walking too slow. Should be a fun honeymoon, I thought. Anyway, the line to get in was wrapped around like 3 sides of the block, so we just stood there and continued to sweat... because Barcelona is hot. Not hot like humid and gross, but hot like the sun is baking you and there is noooo breeze to be had. To my surprise, we didn't wait more than 20 minutes before we were in trying to find the English Tour. We missed the first part of it, but it was fine because there was also a museum under the church that provided us with the same information. Why get the information twice, you ask? Basically, we jumped on the 11:00 tour, and got a 1:00 "lift" ride to the top, so we had an hour to kill in the middle, and if we left the church, we couldn't get back in.

The Basilica (which it is officially as of Nov. 7, 2010) has been under construction for almost 150 years now. Originally, the plans were for a Gothic church, but when Gaudi came on the scene in the 1880's, everything changed. Things got all gaudi-fied and crazy. The bell towers are simply insane... well, the 9 that are currently up, 10 more still need to be built. Since his tragic death by tram in the late 20's, the basilica has remained under construction... even despite the outbreak of the Spanish civil war in 1936 - when most of the plans and models for the church were destroyed. It's actually really impressive to see, even with all the cranes around, and men sliding down ropes into the nave. The tour guide said that builders claim it will be finished in 20 years. That will certainly be a sight to see! Hopefully someone figures out a way we can travel like the Jetsons by then, because I'm not so in love with flying to Europe as it turns out. By the time our tour was finished, Dan and I sat down in the church waiting for our "lift". We both started to do that thing, where you are almost asleep but then your head falls down and wakes you up. It was kinda embarrassing... for me at least - I don't think Dan has ever been embarrassed.

As it turns out, the lift wasn't really worth the extra time or euros. There aren't any really good views from the top, and where there were decent views, there was always some other selfish tourist just standing there, not letting anyone else see anything. So we came back down the lift after about 4 minutes up in the bell towers, and started the long walk back to the hotel.

We agreed that sleeping would be beneficial for our next day. Then we also kinda decided (over pizza) that there was no reason for me to cram in a whole bunch of stuff "just because it's there." I may have had a travel revelation at that little table... but it's still too early in the trip to see if I will take the laid back approach or not. I just don't have the excitement I did on the first euro trip. Then again, my feet were absolutely killing me at this point, and I'm really tired for staying awake for the past 27 hours or so. I was surprised the whole way back that Dan didn't yell at me for walking so slow. At the end, I saw him shake his feet a little bit and it made me feel a little bit like saying, "oh sure, lecture me about heels, but you wear your boat shoes all over the country..."

Maybe I will save it for tomorrow.

Pictures from Day 1 and 2 are up! or, see where we walked.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Tomorrow, we leave for Barcelona. Here is the problem with that:

1. I have no clue what to do once we land. I have zero planned activities.
2. I can't figure out the TMB website, so I don't know how to get from the Airport to our Hotel.
3. I still don't know what day we are coming home, or from what country. I also don't know what state we are flying into.
4. Haven't checked in to our flights or our cruise.
5. Still need to pack and do about 10,000 other things.

This is without a doubt, the most stressful honeymoon on record.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Wrapping Up

So it’s all over and done.

About 3 weeks ago, I was counting the days til it was all over. But then on the way up to Maine last Wednesday, I was scared about it being over – I thought I would be too sad.
But now I just feel relieved, and anxious to get on with my regular life. There was so much work that was done for this wedding that it really put everything else on the back burner for a long time. As we relaxed at my Nana’s house on Monday afternoon, my Mom and I reflected on some of the work that we did for this wedding, and I decided to compile a list. So here it goes, starting from the very beginning to the best of my knowledge... I am certain that I left some things out!

1.      Made the invitations for the engagement party
2.      Relationship timeline – engagement party
3.      Love Story scrapbook – engagement party
4.      Dad sheet rocked the basement wall for the e. party
5.      Mom painted the wall, and the stairs
6.      We made fabric curtains and panels to beautify the basement
7.      Mom cooked a ton of food
8.      I made my jewelry for the e. party
9.      I think I made thank-yous for this party too, but I can’t remember
10.   Tin can lanterns that were never used
11.   Thank you tags that were never used
12.   Fabric flowers for the cake stand
13.   Cut out some paper flowers for the invitations that we couldn’t make
14.   Mom did the following (and probably more) for my Shower:
-        Table runners
-        Baking
-        Invitations
-        Centerpieces
-        Trivia
-        Bags that were given as prizes
-        Flowers that were part of my gift
-        Found and oiled old cutting boards for cheese
-        Ironed all of the table cloths
15.   Bought 120 place settings: dinner and salad plate, bowl, cup and saucer.
16.   Made fabric folders to keep washed dishes safe and clean
17.   Washed all those dishes and then hand-picked each place setting.
18.   I made my jewelry for the wedding and attempted a headband that didn’t work out
19.   I made for my girls for the bridal shower:
-        Monogramed beach bags
-        Ribbon edged towels
-        Bikini bags
-        Koozies
20.   Those STUPID welcome bags!
21.   The following paper-related items:
-        Tags for the welcome bags
-        Cards for the welcome bags
-        Itinerary and area guide for the welcome bags
-        Wedding programs (for 2 weddings!)
-        Save the dates
-        Wedding invitations
-        Collection and stamping of postcards
-        “Card s” and “photo booth” signs
-        Cupcake flavor sign
-        Tags for the mason jars, inclu. Sign
-        Thank yous for the shower
-        Snack pack tags
-        Labels for trail mix in welcome bags
22.   Scrapbooks on tables with photos & descriptions
23.   Cookies and packaging in welcome bags
24.   Paper origami stars that hung
25.   Adirondack chairs for Nana
26.   Painted, sanded and scrapped 2 rattan chairs and 1 bamboo couch
27.   Sewed cushions for bamboo couch
28.   Gramma painted wooden table signs
29.   Mom and Dad made wooden table signs
30.   Dad made giant directions sign
31.   Ground up balsam and made balsam bags (stamped, sewn)
32.   Bought all lanterns and removed glass (red) added bows (white)
33.   Tried various cooking projects: whoopee pies, blueberry cookies, chocolate covered blueberries, lollipops.
34.   Sewed and embroidered blankets for weenie roast
35.   Made necklaces and earrings for each bridesmaid
36.   Mom made little clutch purses for each bridesmaid
37.   Made bracelets for our musician cousins
38.   Mom made the table runners
39.   Collected wedding paraphernalia from family
40.   Tied ribbons and tags on each and every mason jar
41.   Made the cupcake stand
42.   Made the photobooth and the tissue poms in it
43.   Mom fixed her old garter and made a new “toss” garter.
44.   Bought, washed and ironed the napkins/towels
45.   And then there was the related, but not directly wedding work:
-        Painting the farmhouse
-        Painting the porch and the fence
-        Building the road
-        Mowing the grass a million times near the river
-        Planting the flowers
-        Building the deck (hired out)
-        Building the wheelbarrow (and painting and then ruining)
-        Cutting trees and stacking wood by the river
46.   Packed and then brought all that stuff to Maine.
47.   And then we switched the venue and in the course of 2 days:
-        Bought $150 worth of potted plants which got wrapped in burlap
-        Cut birch trees to tie onto the posts
-        Strung big lights
-        Set up tables and chairs and bar, etc.  (after we moved them from the other building)
-        Set up all the wedding paraphernalia and the photo booth
-        Set an example table
-        Moved the stuff that was in the way to the other side of the building
-        Covered benches with fabric
-        Set out all the mason jars, etc
-        Strung and hung the origami stars
-        Had the strongest helpers  move benches over to our new wedding site
-        Bought a ton of lanterns, and other decorations to beautify the space
48.   Meanwhile, the Sanborn men were down by the river cutting up all the trees that fell from the hurricane and making the place pretty for the weenie roast
49.   Arranged and secured the canoes and organized the group trip down the river
50.   Hung beautiful hydrangea wreaths on the barn windows

      And when it was really over, we spent the entire next day cleaning up, which included washing those 120 place settings, drying them and then packing them up so that they could come home, where they anxiously await their next wedding!