Tuesday, July 28, 2009

2009-06-21 Italy Trip - Venice Day 2

Today we had a buffet breakfast and went back into Venice for some last minute sightseeing and shopping. We took the shuttle boat to just down from St. Mark’s Square and hoofed it into the square and through the archway under the clock tower. Karen and Eva wanted to shop at a jewelry designer’s trunk show and I wanted to see the Rialto Bridge. We dropped the womenfolk off at the jeweler’s and took off through the rabbit warren leading to the Rialto. Sometimes there were printed signs saying “Per Rialto” with arrows, and sometimes there was spray paint saying just “Rialto” with an arrow, and a couple of times it was hand written on a piece of paper and securely taped to the wall.

We finally arrived at the bridge and it was worth all the work it took to find it. It is truly inspiring since it was built in 1591 and has shops built right into the bridge. We walked over the bridge and there was an open air market on the other side with mostly souvenirs. We browsed for a while and then it was back over the bridge to find our way back to St. Mark’s Square. On the way we met the girls coming the other way so we took them back to the Rialto and then it was back to the square –right after stopping for some gelato. There’s always time for gelato.

We had a late lunch at the buffet, and most of us took naps. Eva and Audrey went to the spa and Eva got a great new hair style.

For dinner I had the scallop risotto, the shrimp scampi, and the tiramisu. Tolga gave us some more puzzles: two triangles, move one stick to make four triangles. He also gave us a word puzzle: “Ted is the son of Tom. Tom is the _____ of Ted’s father.” Give up? It’s “name”.

He told us of the boy driving with his father when they had an accident and were taken to the hospital. The father was in one room and the son was in another. They brought the doctor in to operate on the boy and the doctor said, “I can’t operate on this boy, he is my son.” How can that be?

The answer is that the doctor was his mother.

It’s an old gender thinking example and I am sorry to say that none of the females at our table guessed it. He left us with another one:

“10 10 10 = 950”
Add another line and make the statement true.

We had a late night buffet that had to be moved from the pool to the Windjammer Café due to the weather. It was quite a spread with lots of carved fruit and melons.

Answer: "10 TO 10 = 950"

Per Rialto...

Finally! The Rialto Bridge.

Justin, Scott, Ryan on the Rialto Bridge.

On the other side of the bridge.

Shot through the market to the bridge steps.

Venetian masks.

Leaving the Venetian Lagoon.

Shhh... Late night buffet.

The rest of the pictures are here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

2009-07-21 Tuesday - Veggie Day

We received our first box of organic fruits and vegetables from Absolute Organics. It is quite a mixture:

2 eaRed Onions
1 lbCherries
1 lbWhite Grapes
2 eaHaas Avacados
3 eaEars of Corn
1 bunchSpinach
4 eaBananas
3 eaRed Plums
1 pintOrange Cherry Tomatoes
5 eaGala Apples

Combine that list with the goodies we bought at the farmer's market on Saturday and we are STOCKED.


(If anyone wants give them a try be sure to tell them I sent you!)

Friday, July 17, 2009

2009-06-20 Italy Trip - Venice

View Messina to Venice Italy in a larger map
Google maps doesn't do oceans...

I woke up at about 2:30 to use the bathroom and Stephanie informed me that her head was splitting with a headache. I gave her some Advil and Karen said she had the headache all day and that Stephanie was too stubborn to take anything for it. Unfortunately this is pretty typical since Stephanie hates taking medication. Luckily, it was gone by the time we got up.

I woke up at 5:20 and couldn’t sleep so I went to take a shower and realized the ship was listing hard to port. After showering I went up on deck nine (the sheltered deck) and it was mayhem. Deck chairs were leaping off the floor and sailing through the air at (literally) breakneck speeds. A small smattering of rain was falling(?) sideways and crew members were frantically chasing down the errant chairs. One poor guy was chasing his long-handled dustpan for a few moments. Looking out at the angry Adriatic it was as grey as the sky and full of white caps. My first thoughts were of Karen since she doesn’t do rough seas well and we had booked a tour of Venice on a small shuttle boat with a gondola ride as part of the package.

During the next fifteen minutes the weather calmed a bit and we made our way inside the seawall into the Venetian Lagoon. We cruised right up one of the main channels and eventually docked inside the city. During the time we were traveling inside the lagoon, I was busy on first the port and then the starboard side snapping pictures and videos. It was unbelievable! Even with the gray, threatening skies.

After about forty minutes of snap-happy picture taking I joined the family in the Windjammer Café for a buffet breakfast. Some nice tidbits followed by some oatmeal with brown sugar and walnuts and a second cup of tea. Ah, the life! I was the last one at table and struck up a conversation with a man from Manchester England. Nice guy.

Justin had strawberry pancakes. Somewhere in the jungle a monkey danced.

We boarded our tour boat and the wind and white caps were still going strong, even in the lagoon. I didn’t want to sit in the cramped cabin so I climbed the stairs to sit on top in the open. It was windy and little bit chilly, but it was wide open and gave me great views to photograph. Our tour guides, Monica and Adrianna commenced to tell us about the area and we headed to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore to see the church there. This church was designed in 16th century by the architect Andrea Palladio. “It is a superb example of neo-classical design and a masterpiece of ecclesiastic architecture. Perfectly proportioned, the exterior is made of red brick and white marble. The interior, simply decorated, houses two of Tintoretto’s most important pieces: ‘The Last Supper’ and ‘The Gathering of Manna’”. (Taken from the Royal Caribbean tour book.) It was a great church. The marble mosaics on the floor all had 3D optical illusions, the Tintoretto paintings were phenomenal (he painted ‘The Last Supper’ at age 92 and it was the largest and last canvas he did). The monk’s choir seats behind the altar were amazing as well –ornately carved with cherubim and seraphim in dark wood.

We set out again (all too soon) to the island of Murano to tour one of the forty-eight glassworks on the island. We visited the Marco Polo Fornace where two masters demonstrated making beer glasses for us. It was quite impressive and they made it look so easy. It reminded me of pottery since they also spin their media, just horizontally.

After the demonstration, we went upstairs to the showroom and were told not to pay attention to the marked prices since they were retail and we could get a better deal from the employees circulating through the rooms. Karen spotted a beautiful horse that turned out to be more than $10,000.00 The employee we asked about it led us into another room with smaller horses that were (only) $1800.00. I was pleased that Karen was actually contemplating purchasing one of the smaller horses since she never buys anything substantial for herself, especially for the sheer joy of owning it.

She ended up not buying the horse, but picked up some glass jewelry instead in the shop downstairs.

Next it was across the canal and down to our gondola ride. There was some talk of canceling the ride since the gondoliers said it was too windy earlier in the morning, but by 12:30, it was a go.

We could only put six in a gondola at a time, so Karen, Eva, Audrey, Stephanie, Meredith, and I got in one and Scott, Pop-pop, Justin, and Ryan got in another. Our boat listed to the starboard side (do you see a trend here?) and when we first got out into the main channel of the Grand Canal, we sideswiped a tour boat. I was videoing the action from the bow and since I was sitting backwards didn’t realize how close we were until we actually hit the boat. It’s on video, but a bit jumpy. Once we got into a side canal, things got much smoother. I was amazed at the way the gondolier used his whole body to pilot the boat. He uses his long oar, kicked off bridges and buildings with his feet, and ducked under some of the lower bridges. He made it look easy, but it was some hard work, especially with a cigarette. BTW, it seems like almost EVERYONE in Italy smokes. I guess they haven’t heard that it’s bad for you yet, eh?

When we got back on land, we broke off from the tour which was heading back to the ship and made our way towards St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco). Adrianna said to head toward the Accademia Bridge. There are a lot of small restaurants there for lunch. She told us to cross the Accademia bridge and then turn right and come all the way back up that side of the Grand Canal to St. Mark’s. Once in the square, we should face the waterfront and go left over three bridges to get to the place to catch the shuttle back to the ship. More on that later…

We went to the Accademia bridge and ate at a café right at the foot of the bridge. We had Napoli style Pizza Margherita (cheese and sauce) and mineral water (naturale, no frizzante) or Coke by preference. The food was good, but it was pricey and we decided we are more fans of American pizza. During lunch I had the time to stop and reflect with Karen that we were sitting in an outdoor café in the heart of Venice eating pizza. It washed over me like an epiphany. I thanked her for dragging me out of my small life in Charlotte and making me see some of the world. Let’s face it, without her making it happen I would never leave a ten-mile radius. Sad, eh? Just looking through the 300-400 pictures I took today as I copied them to my laptop made me misty-eyed again thinking about the amazing things we had experienced so far. Life is indeed sweet and way too short. Thank God for Karen. She is the best thing that ever happened to me in SO many ways.

Back to Venice. We crossed the Accademia bridge, turned right and walked for what seemed like forever through narrow passages, wide piazzas, and lots of bridges. We were worried about the bridges with their many steps since Pop-pop is forced to use a walker and he needs help on the stairs. We were worried about tiring him out and he is always worried about being a burden which he never is. Karen stopped in a shop on the way to St. Mark’s and picked out a nice glass clock with many colors in it to hang in the kitchen. We asked the shopkeeper if we were close to St. Mark’s and he walked to the front door of the shop where he pointed up to the bell tower standing above the next buildings. He told us to go through the arches he was pointing at and we would be in the square (at last!).

Before I get to St. Mark’s, let me point out (depressingly) that very close to St. Mark’s Square we passed a Hard Rock Café and a Burger King. A BURGER KING. We (Americans) are truly polluting the world (culture).

St. Mark’s was everything I had hoped for and more. The only daunting part was the huge stage being erected at the end away from the basilica for some upcoming show and the construction fencing around the bell tower. It looked like they were fixing the paving stones around the bell tower. The square itself, is huge and the buildings are very ornate. Most of the side facades are black from the pigeons and the pollution, but the exterior of the basilica is in the process of being cleaned and renovated. Quite amazing inside and out. I was a bit annoyed there was no photography of any kind inside the basilica, but I was a good boy and kept the lens cap on my camera. I may have to purchase a book of pictures.

We stood for a while in the square and hand-fed the pigeons with them alighting on our hands to eat the crumbs we held out for them. That was fun.

When it was time to go we faced the waterfront and headed left. We counted three bridges we had to cross to the shuttle. Remember the shuttle? We could not find the shuttle landing anywhere. I even scouted out crossing a fourth bridge to no avail. Karen found the shuttle between the second and third bridge, so it was only TWO bridges that we needed to cross. I apologized to everyone, but Adrianna DID say THREE bridges. Oh well, on the shuttle and back to the ship.

We ran to dinner at 18:30 and I had the Mediterranean Pie (spinach, tomato, and feta), the Steak Diane, and the berry cobbler. Stuffed. Meredith had the linguine with Marinara and the world tilted off its axis once more. Tolga, the head waiter from Turkey left us with a toothpick puzzle. Start with four squares and move two toothpicks to make three equal squares. None of us could figure out the secret.

Tonight they showed “Paul Blart, Mall Cop” in the lounge. The kids and I had rented it and found it to be pretty stupid, but we went down there anyway to spend some time relaxing. About a half hour into it several of us were nodding off, so I excused myself and went to the computer lounge to catch up a bit. I also looked up solutions to the toothpick puzzle Tolga had given us.

When I came back to the room at ~22:50, everyone was getting ready for bed. Meredith’s bunk is attached to the wall between our room and Scott’s and Ryan’s bunk is on the same wall. We recently found out if they toss and turn it bounces the other bunk around. By pushing on Meredith’s bunk, I can watch the wall move 3-4 inches so we had some fun with it tonight. I would give it a shove and we would hear Ryan exclaim, “Whoa!” from the other side. It gave everyone a case of the giggles for a few minutes. It’s always nice to have a family yuckfest.

I have spent way more time updating this than I had planned so I am going to bed at 1:00.

Venice! From a gondola.

Uncle Scott and the boys.


Pizza break at the Accademia Bridge.

The eating of the pizza.

The best gelato in Italy.

Ask them!

St. Mark's Square.

St. Mark's Basilica.

The rest of the pictures are here and here. I had to break them into two parts.

2009-06-19 Italy Trip - Sea Day

Breakfast at 8:00. Had eggs over easy and corned beef hash. (Justin had blueberry pancakes again.) All three girls decided to sleep in since we are cruising today. On the subject of cruising; we are CRUISING! It’s amazing how fast the water is zipping by and how much the ship is vibrating and yawing. We were discussing that since we have ~700 miles to cover, they have not refilled the ballast tanks or put down the stabilizers (depending on who you talk to) after leaving Messina.

Worked most of today on my laptop –nothing new to report there.

Went to lunch with Karen in the main dining room. Sat with three other couples: One from Tennessee, one from Wales, and one from Queensland, Australia. Interesting conversation since the Wales folks originally said they were from the UK, and when pressed, they said Wales (map). The Aussie man said, “Funny, I don’t remember Wales acceding to the UK…”, to which Mrs. Wales said, “Oh, you picked up on that, eh?”. Turns out several people just gave them blank stares when they told them they were from Wales. Seems a lot of people are unaware that Wales is a country. Oh well.

I had a wonderful salad –you go to the salad bar and tell them what you want. They put the ingredients into a steel mixing bowl and at the end, chop them with a pizza cutter, and transfer it to a serving bowl. Brilliant! Especially when they have things like arugula, radicchio, mozzarella, shrimp, smoked salmon, grilled chicken, etc. Ordered the asparagus and turkey spinach wrap. Had a B 52 melt for desert. It looked like an upside down cupcake and had molten chocolate inside it. Imagine a really big chocolate chip cookie, warm from the oven. I don’t remember much after that. I must have blacked out for a time.

When I came to, we were talking to the Aussie couple about Royal Caribbean cruise ships. It turns out that they have been on several of them and there are several classes of ships. We are one the smallest class (I know! It’s huge to me!) which I believe they said was Brilliance. The next one up is Radiance, then Monarch and Freedom. Karen and Eva were on a Monarch class ship in Bermuda last year since it had an ice skating rink and two story mall promenade. The new Oasis of the Seas will launch in December 2009 and will be the first member of an entirely new class of ships. Our ship holds 2076 guests, and the Oasis will hold 6200! Mr. Aussie said that they will be in Long Beach at the end of the year and he is hoping to find a way to manage to take the maiden voyage on the Oasis which will be sailing the Caribbean.

I mentioned that I knew they weren’t British when Mrs. Aussie ordered iced tea. I told them that I have some British friends that can’t abide the thought of iced tea and consider it an abomination. Mr. Aussie said that the British consider entirely too many things to be an abomination and to remind them that they, in fact, did not invent the stuff. He also pointed out that the people that DID invent it do not put milk and sugar in theirs. I got a laugh out of that because I drink my tea with milk and honey or sugar.

Had Asian roast duck for dinner tonight. Meredith had salmon –the universe is somewhat back in balance, although she didn’t finish it and said it tasted “fishy”.

After dinner I did more work and then Scott, Eva, Karen, and I sat and discussed Pompeii, Venice, and possible future cruises. After that, I went out with Eva while she had a cigarette and we saw what at first looked like a dozen cruise ships in the distance off the starboard side. Eva suggested I get the binoculars and once I did we decided that at least six of them were oil platforms. Duh, we’re in the Adriatic. There was a large thunderstorm off the starboard side as well and we saw some dramatic lightning, but it was so far away we never heard the thunder. I hope the storm is not a portent of tomorrow’s weather. We continued cruising at ~21 knots.

Eva wanted to try her hand at Pop-pop’s slot machine from last night so I went for moral support. She burned through her twenty dollars in about fifteen minutes –I’m sorry for Eva, but it’s nice to know I’m not the only one.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

2009-07-15 Quick Break

I got a real kick out of this. I hope you do too.

Back to Italy soon. (Venice!)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

2009-06-18 Italy Trip - Messina, Sicily

View Livorno to Messina, Sicily in a larger map

Up early and down to breakfast getting ready to go to Messina and on to Mt. Etna. Had Eggs Benedict. Justin had blueberry pancakes (I know!)

Took a 2 hour ride on the tour bus (number 13) to Mount Etna. It was quite amazing to see all the lava flows. There was a large eruption in 1908, and another in 1983, and more in 2001 and 2002. A whole town of 550 was engulfed in 2002, but luckily nobody was hurt. We walked around one of the dormant lower craters and took lots of pictures. One thing that intrigued me was that while we were on the most barren part of the craters, we were absolutely inundated with lady bugs and another type of beetle. There was no vegetation to speak of apart from the small cushions of low flowers (the first colonizers after the lichens) and I didn’t see any aphids on the flowers (lady bugs love aphids) so I couldn’t figure out why we were being covered in lady bugs. Another mystery for another time…

After returning from the tour, we grabbed a buffet lunch on the ship and ventured out into Messina for some more touring and perhaps a bit of shopping. We went to the Messina Cathedral which had been destroyed six times by earthquakes and wars and rebuilt each time to look like the original design. The clock tower was installed in 1933 and is the largest astronomical clock in the world. It has LOTS of moving statues that come out and perform on the hour, half hour, and quarter hour. The best show is at noon, but we were too late for that. We paid € 3.50 to climb the stairs (Eva says she counted 264) in the clock tower and it was quite a feat in the heat. We got to watch some of the movements from the inside on the quarter hour and the way it was designed to move and even make the figures “walk” was astounding .

Next to the clock tower is the Fountain of Orion which commemorates the completion of the aqueduct. It's a beautiful fountain and I found the Latin inscription online that adorns it, but cannot find a translation. Anybody? "NILVS ECO ICNOTVM SEPTENA PER OSTIA FESSUS HIC CAPVT IN CREMIO ZANCLA REPONO TVO"

We were told by our tour guide, David, in Pisa to try the cassata and granita (gra-NEE-tah) in Sicily. I had two granitas and found them very refreshing. Interesting that the one on Etna was vanilla and € 3 and the one in Messina was limone (lee-MON-ay=lemon). It was much better and only € 1 in a small gelateria (jel-a-ta-REE-a). Very refreshing on a day when the face is melting off your head.

Back to the ship for dinner : baby shrimp cocktail with caviar, hard boiled egg, and Belgian endives (I LOVE endives), followed by medium rare roast beef and chocolate bread pudding. Meredith had Asian rice noodles and shrimp (I know! Things are falling apart!)

After dinner we went to the duty free shops and nosed around for a while. Uncle Scott and Pop-pop went to the casino and played quarter slots. Pop-pop hit for six hundred quarters ($150). He kept playing for ~2 hours winning enough to keep him going. Uncle Scott hit for 155 quarters and kept going until he was only $3.25 ahead and quit. Pop-pop cashed out with $139. Way to go! I dumped $20 and at one point had doubled my money, but like a good tourist, put it all back in and walked away with nothing within fifteen minutes. I offered to treat everyone to pizza to celebrate their winnings (it’s free), so we went to the pizza buffet at 23:30.

Going up Mt. Etna.

Karen and Stephanie on Mt. Etna.

Like the surface of the moon...

Messina from the top of the clock tower.

The rest of the pictures are here.

2009-06-17 Italy Trip Sea Day

Slept through breakfast this morning. Stephanie and Meredith went up to the Windjammer for the buffet and brought back yogurt for me and fruit for Karen.

Met up with Scott and the boys for the first lunch in the Romeo and Juliet restaurant. They had a salad bar where you choose the ingredients and the staff makes the salad for you in a steel mixing bowl. At the end, they use a pizza cutter to cut it up and mix in your choice of dressing before transferring it to the serving bowl. Quite nice. I had the beef and avocado fajitas and carrot cake. Justin had chocolate/banana crunch cake. No wonder he climbs the rock wall so well. We asked Tolga why there was no octopus on the menu and he said we should have octopus cream pie. He quickly recanted and said, “That would be gross”.

We are at sea today so I am trying to get some work done in the computer study.

Big dinner tonight. Most of us had the pork loin and it was so tender we could have cut it with a fork. Meredith had salmon.

After dinner we went to the theater and saw the Swing Time review performed by the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers and the Legend of the Seas band. It was very nicely done with some very talented performers. After that, a quick trip to the room and back to the theater for the “Love and Marriage Game Show” which was basically the old Newlywed Show with four couples married: 7 days, 4 years, 28 years, and 52 years. It was a lot of fun and we laughed pretty hard at some of the antics on stage. Uncle Scott bought me and himself a Heineken draft. Thanks Uncle Scott!

We decided that Justin climbs that rock wall so well because he eats so many bananas. We called him “banana boy” but soon changed it to “monkey man”.

Hector making his "fish face" with Stephanie.

The view down the Centrum.

Pop-pop and Uncle Scott.

Sunset on the Mediterranean.

The rest of the pictures are here.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

2009-06-16 Italy Trip - Pisa

Went to breakfast at 7:00 and asked for Robert’s table. The hostess told us that she hadn’t seen Robert this morning and that he had a big mouth and she would have heard him if he was there today. Apparently he was working the buffet today. We had Lloyd and (someone else) and still missed Robert. Justin had banana pancakes.

Worked on computer for a while, went to lunch buffet at Windjammer Café.

View Livorno to Pisa, Italy in a larger map

Went to Pisa with the Royal Caribbean tour at 13:15. We rode a bus with David (DAH-vid) guiding the tour. On the way he pointed out the maritime pines which are the strange, umbrella-shaped pine trees that grow here. Pine nuts (pignoli (pin-YOL-ee)) come from the pine cones of these trees. We passed the huge Camp Darby, a US logistical base established after WWII. It houses about 200 American and Italian troops and is mostly a depot for equipment and vehicles.

Upon arriving in Pisa we had about a 20 minute walk to the piazza since tour buses are not allowed into the historic section. We followed the big “22” sign David was holding up as he walked. We were to have another guide at the cathedral, but they didn’t arrive, so David continued the tour with us. He was VERY knowledgeable of the culture and history of the area and I thought he was an excellent tour guide.

At one time in antiquity, Pisa was the port city of the area since it was on the delta of the Arno river and an important commercial port. Since then the delta has filled and Pisa has been supplanted as the main port by Livorno.

He showed us the different architectural styles of the baptistry, the church, the cemetery, and the famous bell tower. It was started in 1063 and the whole structure was influenced by Arab architecture since the Pisans were the last defense against the Arabs who had already taken Sicily and many parts of Italy at the time. The Pope charged the Pisan navy with pushing back the Arab hordes.

The first floor of the baptistry was built in the accepted Romanesque style with open, rounded arches and the Arab style of using different colors of stonework to make stripes. The second story was added more than 100 years later and shows the gothic influence with closed, pointed arches. The third floor is also in the gothic style. Finally the roof is half lead and half ceramic tile since they ran out of money for the leading.

The church has five new arches added to the front of it since the Pisans didn’t think it was grand enough. Much of the stone was re-used from old Roman buildings and since the stone masons usually couldn’t read, the engraved words on the old stones are upside down or sideways. There was a fire in the church in ~1260 and most of the inside was gutted including the mosaics on the floor. It was rebuilt in the Renaissance style of the time, so it’s quite a mixture.

The cemetery was started in the Romanesque style and finished by a gothic architect so it has a mixture of the two styles.

The famous bell tower leans because of the sandy, wet soil upon which it’s built. Nobody knows the architect that built the original tower since there are no records of it. It was a very short tower until it was modified later. The Pisans were so proud they built their cathedral outside the city facing the sea so travelers would see the grandeur of their cathedral first.

A poet once came to the area and after learning the mottled history of the buildings dubbed it the “Field of Miracles” since it was a miracle the buildings were finished.

We stopped in a small café and Scott, Eva, and I shared a bottle of wine from the area. It was nice and we enjoyed it in the 90 degree heat.

There are MANY illegal immigrants from Senegal here that try to sell sunglasses, hand bags, belts, and watches to tourists in the streets. They are polite, but sometimes politely insistent.

We resisted the temptation to take pictures of ourselves pushing the tower back and instead opted for several group shots at its base. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to climb the 294 steps inside the tower since the line was too long.

We were held up in traffic and barely got back to the ship in time for dinner. I had the Tuscan white bean soup, a wonderful Coq Au Vin, and dark chocolate/hazelnut tart. Meredith had salmon.

Stephanie and Justin climbed the rock wall and Justin won the race both times. He climbs really well. We think it might be all those banana pancakes.

At 21:00 we went to the magic show in the theater and then off to the toga party on the pool deck. We all wore togas and had another amazing buffet from 23:30 to 0:30.

Maritime pines.

Piazza del Duomo, Pisa.
(Baptistry, church, bell tower)

Drinking some wine in the shade.
(Scott, Eva, and me.)

The gang at the foot of the tower.

Toga party!

The rest of the photos are here.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

2009-06-15 Italy Trip - Livorno

Cruised to Livorno overnight.

View Portofino to Livorno, Italy in a larger map
(Google maps only work on land...)

We started with a breakfast in the Romeo and Juliet dining room. Stephanie was wearing a shirt with peace signs, Audrey had the word Love on hers. Meredith was wearing her “Hard work never killed anyone, but I’m not taking any chances” shirt and Ryan one with the angel of death on it. I made the comment that we had Peace, Love, Sloth, and Death sitting at the table with us. Walt and Xuong were waiters –we missed Robert and Anca. Justin had banana pancakes.

Went ashore on shuttle bus to City Center and shopped the huge farmers market. Bought cookies and Audrey shopped for shoes. Inside the building as we were rounding a corner I heard an elderly woman drop a coin. She was having trouble locating it and I picked it up for her. She said “grazie mille” which I took to mean “a thousand thanks”.

Scott started talking to a couple from CA on the steps of the locked church in the Piazza Grande. They were cruising and then going to drive to Germany to visit his sister who lives there. They told us where an Informacion de Tourista was and we told them were a Farmacia (pharmacy) was located.

Got directions at the tourist information kiosk to a pizza place (real Neapolitan pizza) on the other side of the Piazza de la Republica. Couldn’t find it. Found a piazza with two large statues and no pizza parlor. Walked back to the small piazza we found upon leaving the bus and ate pizza at a small café called Titty de la Puce. (Had Tweety Bird on the window. Apparently it's the the way they say "tweet".) Good pizza – square cheese for Karen and kids. I got covered (crust on top and bottom) pizza slice with “ricotta e spinaci” which was really “SPINACI e ricotta”. Very good, though.

Scott, Justin, Ryan and I went to “Farmacia de 24 Hours” (pharmacy) to look for batteries for Scott’s camera. Apparently pharmacies ONLY sell pharmaceuticals in Italy. They sent us to “Ovesimo” down the block. When entering Ovesimo (a clothing store), we realized that the escalators inside the store led downstairs to “Standa”, a supermarket. We found the batteries (and Oreos!) and Scott tried to pay for them with a 50 Euro note. The cashier said “No” and for a moment we thought the batteries cost more than 50 Euros. Turns out she couldn’t deal with a bill that large and wanted us to use a smaller one. Scott gave her a 10 Euro and she said “una Euro” so she could give us a 5 back. Apparently there are no 1 Euro notes, only coins and they are harder to deal with.

Went to the Piazza Grande to catch the number 2 bus to go to the Funnicolare Montenero (funicular) at the shrine on the mountain. A very kind gentleman that spoke no English showed us where and when the bus would arrive. After asking him, he informed us that we were in Piazza Grande, and that the piazza I had gone searching for the pizza parlor was, in fact, Piazza della Repubblica. Oh well.

As for the Piazza della Repubblica, from the wikipedia Livorno entry: "In Livorno there is an important square called "Piazza della Repubblica" that contains two important monuments of Italian politicians. Thus, this square is also a bridge: in fact, under the bridge there is an old, big canal. Piazza della Repubblica is the largest bridge of Europe." You can see that here. Another picture here. Finally, one of mine.

View Livorno to Funicolare Montenero in a larger map

The bus ride to the Funicolare di Montenero was uneventful and we enjoyed the funicular ride with the help of a woman from just east of London who has lived in Livorno for ~2 years. She told us how it operated (it's fully automated) and where the best lookouts were for photos at the top. The views were spectacular and we could even see our ship in the harbor. There was a candy stand at the top which had many great treats for 2 Euros each and we bought several. Ryan exclaimed that this was heaven. I told him that we weren’t quite that high.

Came back down, caught the ‘other’ number 2 bus after the first driver told us (in Italian) that he was on break for 10 more minutes and the other bus was leaving in ~1 minute. We sprinted to the other bus and rode it back to Piazza Grande.

Karen, Eva and I stopped in a bakery (next to McDonald’s) and bought SEVERAL cookies and pastries. The person behind the counter spoke some English, but the owner didn't. The owner asked if we were on the boat (with wave-like hand gestures) and asked if we were going to Roma. I told him we went to Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure, and here and that we ended at Rome. He asked if we were going to the "Il Vaticano" and going to see "Il Papa". I said "si". Lots of "grazie's" all around and we dashed off with our treats.

On the shuttle bus back to the ship. Short nap and off to dinner. Hector said I must be "that missing guy". Ordered the Mediterranean seafood salad with shrimp, octopus, bitter greens and a slice of eggplant –great choice. Mistakenly ordered shells in marinara sauce, Scott ordered pork medallions and they brought him lamb chops. It worked out well since I took the lamb chops, Scott got another pork plate and several people used my shells as a side dish. Pop-pop had been asking for strawberries on his ice cream all week and tonight Hector delivered. He also stated that he had “risked his life for those”. He is quite a character. The head waiter, Tolga (from Turkey) told us about eating octopus since they eat a lot of octopus in his part of Turkey. He said that you have to use a spear gun to kill it and then beat it on the rocks to get the “juice” out of it and tenderize it. (The "juice" apparently makes the suckers work... whatever.)

Zucchini at the farmers market.

Uncle Scott, the director of "Camp Snoopy".
Ryan, Stephanie, Scott, Justin, Meredith.

In the Funicolare di Montenero for the descent.
Stephanie, Audrey, Justin, Scott, Meredith, Ryan.

The rest of the photos are here.

Friday, July 3, 2009

2009-06-14 Italy Trip - Portofino

Arrived in Portofino overnight.

Breakfast with Robert and Anca serving (both from Romania). Had a blast with them. Justin had banana pancakes. I told Robert that I just wanted to stay at table. He said no, that I had to go and that I should go now. We laughed.

Went ashore in tender boats 9:30

Explored Portofino, caught 82 bus to Santa Margherita Ligure – ended up at the train station and had to walk back down to the piazza. Mass was in progress, so we didn’t get inside the church. Shame, since it’s apparently one of the world’s most beautiful churches.

Had gelato dipped in rich, dark chocolate. Molto bene! Got water from another gelateria and heard Amy MacDonald playing on the radio –in Italian! Audrey shopped for shoes.

Met a family from Evergreen, CO (Dave). He’s a pharmacist who now works on the local hospital’s pharmacological computer systems.

Met another couple on the return dock. He lived in Perkasie, PA when he was very young, moved to Teaneck, NJ for his formative years and played baseball at Teaneck High as a relief pitcher. The only game he ever got to pitch was against Bogota every year since their team was awful (1950-54). He and his wife lived in Charlotte, NC in 1967, then moved to CT. They are moving to their house in NH soon. What are the odds of meeting someone who lived in Perkasie, Teaneck, and Charlotte?

Missed dinner – formal. Hector sent up cheesecake for me. Meredith had salmon.

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Santa Margherita Ligure

I found some raku in Santa Margherita Ligure.

The rest of the June 14 pictures are here.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

2009-06-11/13 Italy Trip

As you might have guessed, our family took a two week trip to Italy. We went with my in-laws and there were ten of us all together ages twelve to eighty. It was the trip of a lifetime and I tried to document as much as I could with photos and videos since I don't know when or if we'll ever have the opportunity to return (although there has been some discussion on working towards another trip in 2011...). I have kept a daily journal during the trip and will post the days in order along with a few pictures and links to the rest of them. Hopefully it will be interesting to someone besides me.

Let's dive in...

Thursday, June 11, 2009
Drive to PA 19:30 to 23:30. Stopped in Staunton, VA.

Friday, June 12, 2009
Drive to PA 7:30 to 13:30 to in-laws houses.
Catch shuttle to airport 14:00 (just made it!)
Catch plane to Rome 18:30 to 8:30 (that's PM to AM)

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Saturday, June 13, 2009
Catch shuttle from Rome to Civitevechia 11:30
Board Legend of the Seas 13:00
Had lunch in Windjammer Café (buffet).
Cruise from Civitevechia 18:00
Skipped dinner. Too full from lunch and need more sleep. Everyone came back and raved about it and Hector the waiter from Chile.

On the airport train in Rome.

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To the port of Civitavecchia on the bus.

At the port.

Cruising into the sunset on the Legend of the Seas.

Ciao, Civitavecchia...

The rest of the June 13 pics are here