Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Mediterranean and Spain trip - my post is loooong overdue!


This was one of the lovely views from our room onboard Norweigian Cruise Lines - I think island may be Sardinia...we also got to see dolphins frolicking as we sat on our balcony one morning - what a treat.

I can't believe I forgot to blog about our trip. It was a reward for my husband and 20ish fellow co-workers and their spouses/siblings/children/significant others for 25 plus years of service at Levitt Safety. What a great recognition - but it tells you something about a company if people are staying there that long!
We started out our journey in one of my favourite cities - Barcelona! Curiously, the customs people didn't seem very concerned about all these Canadians landing in on them.

Fighting off jet lag we wandered the Ramblas and checked out the Gothic Quarter - Fraser and I found a vegan restaurant - much to our delight. The Ramblas has changed quite a bit - it is much more touristy. I didn't see any flower sellers or bird sellers or fruit/vegetable vendors as we did in the past. That being said it is always fun to wander around...

Each night on board we were greeted with different towel/nightdress animals...this was one of our favourites....


We are new to cruising and had a lovely room with balcony. I understand the appeal of staying in one place - that is having a regular place to lay your head and your clothing - it's not normally the way we travel. The ship was huge! 4,000 plus passengers and crew and a little overwhelming at first until we figured out how things worked...that is to say where our room was!

After an evening at sea and acclimating our selves to our new home we landed in Naples the next morning and it was off to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. I had always wanted to go to Pompeii and it was a thrilling opportunity. Many, many other people had the same idea and it was at times congested - though not that you could tell from the above picture. Our tour guide said this was NOT one of the busiest times. If you can I recommend going to the Pompeii exhibit at the ROM where you can see more artifacts and learn about the deadly eruption of Vesuvius. In fact many artifacts are in the museum in Naples. Our guide assured us that in fact, most people escaped the volcano's wrath.

Interesting note - you can see the ruts in the road made by chariot wheels and notice the stepping stones across the road...to keep onself above the mess as it were - although Ancient Romans were much more hygenic than citizens of the Dark Ages. Also indicated by the stones - one or two chariot streets...
Another interesting fact - Pompeiians enjoy "fast food" since most dwellings were too small to cook in they went out to streets such as this for "takeaway"...



In the shadow of Vesuvius...which is still active by the way...

Our niece Shannon has also been to Herculaneum the other town buried by the volcano which is also apparently fascinating - they are still working on excavating that site since it was closer to the explosion and lost to public knowledge due to the sands or earth of time.

Then, it was time to get back on the bus and enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the Amalfi coast....



Fresh limones anyone?

We had lunch overlooking the sea high up on the hillside and visited the town of Amalfi itself...

I'm not sure I would want to live there..the roads are, to make a terrible allusion as twisty as Fusilli! We did make it back to the ship a little late but they did wait for us...they were warnings that those who didn't make it on at the scheduled departure time would have to go to the next port and board there! In our case that would be Civitavecchia - the port closest to Rome.

We had been to Rome many years ago and true to form it was still its enchanting and chaotic self..several marches were going on - possibly to due with police or firefighter strikes/public services...

We didn't have any real agenda since we had seen most of the sites on a previous trip..just made our way over to the Borghese Gardens from Termini Station, looking for health food stores and a bite to eat..we did get some juice at a raw place we had looked up prior to arriving...

Eureka - a health food store near the Villa Borghese which also had some take out - we got a tasty wrap and supplies such as cookies (ha!), chocolate and alternate milks - since those were MIA on board ship. I felt like a pirate because we smuggled the food aboard "illegally"..but what else are two vegans to do? We quickly figured out that our best source of food was the Garden Cafe/self serve area since most of the sit down restaurants - which you needed a reservation for seemed mystified about preparing vegan food. Fortunately the head chef on board was South Asian so we had lots of lovely curries to choose from and of course salads, fruits, breads etc.

Some of our party chose to go the Vatican Museum and St. Peter's - alas it was closed due to a private papal audience.

Our next port of call was Tuscany! Because again, we had spent some time in Florence we chose to go along on a tour of the Tuscan hill towns booked by Chanel, the lovely and charming daughter of Monique Perrier one of Fraser's co-workers. We got lucky to be in the van with Maurizio who not only spoke English but at Chanel's prompting discussed his life in Italy, politics, religion etc. We visited the charming town of Greve in Chianti and two wineries...
The port of Livorno in Tuscany
Greve in Chianti - che bella!



Just thought I should show our room on board....
I might add I couldn't resist buying some delicious "Panforte" while in Tuscany and had a perfect espresso!
(For those who don't know Panforte is like a spicy compressed fruit cake).























Chanel and Monique enjoying the view...



If I had unlimited funds I think I would prefer to live in Tuscany compared to Amalfi. We sampled some wine here and I bought some saffron..


Francine and her sister Colette..

We stopped in a lovely medieval town on our travels..that's me walking down a street.




We had lunch at this winery and the food and wine was delicious! One of the servers was even vegan - so she knew what we needed!

And, because some on the tour were under the mistaken impression we were supposed to go to Pisa, Maurizio kindly made a detour for us...


In spite of myself I found it quite awe inspiring...


Our next stop - Cannes - where unbeknownst to us at least - the film festival was going on! Plus some rough weather and because the ship wasn't able to dock the lifeboats were used as taxis to take people ashore. Luckily for us we went in at 9:30 and returned a couple of hours later. The water was so choppy it bent the anchor and folks who came back a little later than us were stuck onshore in line for the lifeboats until they stabilized the ship and used the back up anchor.

We had lots of time to explore, see the papparazzi and red carpets, visit the MonoPrix for some snacks and Fragonard for me! I bought some perfume "Diamant" and soap Jardins de Fragonard - Heliotrope and Gingembre - which is heavenly. Fragonard is seemingly impossible to find and I fell in love with this fragrance house when we visited their main HQ in Grasse years back. Do check them out in France as they are not only beautiful shops with heavenly one of a kind fragrances - their staff are tres gentile, belle et chic - naturellement elles sont Francaises!




A fan's shrine to Sharon Stone....




Here is yet another towel creation...

And a beautiful sunset on some very rough seas..one of the staff said it had been the roughest he had experienced after working for the line for some years..

Because the choppy waters had delayed things..we only had a few hours in Palma de Majorca the next day, our last stop before heading back to Barcelona...




There was a farmer's market going on and we were obedient - not buying anything to take back..argh. Such yummy looking breads and olives too! We did buy some pottery.

One last towel animal before we said goodbye...


One of our buffet meals!





Next up..return to continental Europe and travels in Spain!

Post a Comment