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...


  1. Angry Dan and Hungry Mandy can only remind me of a short story titled "Little Miss Bossy". Hmmm. It sounds like you are really enjoying yourself and taking in as much as possible. I especially like your story of the "real" gladiator fight and the train ride vs. a 90 euro cab ride. Really? INCHES? Did you take pictures? You must know that you have everyone's curiosity up! Glad you found a bag to add to your collection. Looking forward to reading about day 9....

  2. Can you take pictures of the pizza bar, the burrito bar, and the burger bar?