Architecture, ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Fashion, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Breakfast Snooze and Cruise

TRAVEL THERE: SNOOZE, THE QUARTER & MORE

The next morning gave us the chance to try yet another breakfast place recommended by the Phoenix New Times: Snooze, an AM Eatery.  We visited the location at the Kierland Commons.  We totally endorse the New Times choice.  There are multiple locations in Scottsdale and Phoenix so don’t miss it.

Scottsdale Quarter

The Quarter imagines itself to be superior to its “Commons” cousin across the street.  The Commons is upscale.  The Quarter endeavors one ups-manship.

Though the Quarter is just across the street from the Commons, it’s a busy thoroughfare that separates them, so we moved our rental Jeep to a closer position.

One of the anchor stores is a huge, monolithic gray block.  Upon exploration, we discovered it was a Restoration Hardware showroom.  You don’t buy anything there and load it up in your car.  You lounge around on ginormous furniture and let gracious salesladies talk you into letting go of enormous amounts of money.

We confess, we’re not your basic Restoration Hardware customers, so we didn’t realize they had transitioned into this showroom format over the stores we’d visited in the past.  However, we had a lovely time hanging out there.  The restrooms were spectacular!

One of those gracious salesladies chatted us up about their transition to showroom and said some of their showrooms actually included a sort of restaurant, where they hosted dinners.  One imagines exactly how much money you’d have to invest in Restoration Hardware goods to be hosted in their dining room.  For all we know, common people like us might be able to go in there and pay for our meals, but we got the idea that wasn’t the point.   

She also said they had a surprise coming to Dallas.  I don’t know how much of a surprise it is, since a June 2019 edition of The Dallas Morning News announces the location with a restaurant is coming.  However, a quick look at their website doesn’t mention the potential restaurant, so one wonders if it is a victim of Covid.

The Quarter Beyond RH

The RH was lovely and I’m guessing we spent an hour enjoying their store.  It was a lazy sort of morning – a filler before what was to come next.  I was happy as a lark, because later in the day, we had reservations for Afternoon Tea at the Phoenician Resort.  In the meantime, I was perfectly content to wander around the Quarter.

Though the Quarter presented itself as an upgrade to the Commons, I noticed they had more in the way of empty retail spaces than their cousin.  The RH showroom is the only store we actually wandered into, but we did stroll throughout the complex, noting a number of restaurants we’d love to try out.

This is sort of where we started talking about our next trip to AZ and saying things to suggest that while we wouldn’t have time for everything on this particular visit, we’d be back to the Greater Phoenix Area sooner rather than later.

Enjoy the pictures below of the Quarter.  It was a lovely development and I hope it thrives through Covid and will actually be there next time we go to the area.  After taking the pictures, we had to get back to the resort and get all dressed up for the afternoon activity.  Come back next week for tea.

 

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, International, Music, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Visiting Monte Carlo’s Prince’s Palace

TRAVEL THERE: THE GRIMALDI’S PRINCE’S PALACE

Black SUV’s whisked us from the Yacht Club to the Palace.  That’s probably the last time I’ll be able to say something like that about my own travels, so perhaps it was worth the splurge.  Since we weren’t actually VIP’s, they parked about a block away, near the Cathedral and we strolled over to the palace.

Visiting the Palace

Virtually anyone can make day visits the palace during the summer and fall, as long as it’s not Grand Prix weekend.  However, the tourists are shuffled off at closing time.  We had after-hours access, which means we went to the same places, just at a different time.

The Grimaldi’s were gracious hosts to us cruisers.  We didn’t see any of them, but they gave us the run of the state apartments and provided some very nice young ladies to act as guides.  The run of the state apartments did not include taking any pictures, so to see what we saw, you’d have to go to the website.  My general impressions were the apartments showed a great amount of good taste, a good bit more than some of the gaudy displays of some state apartments.  However, they were at the same time smaller than most I’ve seen before.

For Americans, this palace is almost a must-see, because evidence of our own American fairy tale, Princess Grace of Monaco, is in plain sight.  Having just watched a Hallmarkish commoner-meets-and-marries-a-prince movie last night, I know we are still very much in love with the story of this lovely lady.

Photo Opportunities

Before and after the tour we were welcome to take photos of the outside the palace.  The red carpets and kneelers are not part of the every day look.  They were setting up for some kind of religious ceremony and around the corner at the cathedral there was a lot of activity, so no telling what that was about.

All that was left was to get back into our SUV’s and travel back to the ship.  Our day in Monte Carlo was over.

Grabbing a Show and Dinner and a Show

Back on the boat, Deb, Bill and I went to Hype with Marcus Terrell at the Theater.  We weren’t much impressed.  His greatest asset was volume, but he was surrounded with lots of energetic gyrating dancers.  Nothing as fascinating as Hot Summer’s Night we’d seen a day or so ago.

After the show, it was time for dinner and all of us met for dinner in the Cosmopolitan.  It was the same menu they had offered for their embarkation lunch.  This is the weakness of their dining plan.  Sure you have a variety of dining rooms, but once you’ve eaten in one, there’s no reason to go back.  That’s probably because they are trying to encourage you to drop a few bucks in their specialty dining rooms, but with all we’d spent already, that wasn’t happening.

Our companions were ready for bed when the meal was over, but Bill and I wandered into the Club and saw an acrobatic show called Mirage.  It had some good parts, but their tricks all began to look the same after awhile.

Still not ready to call it a night, I pulled the daily newsletter out of my purse and unfolded it.  They had something called the Color the Night White Party happening on the Resort Deck, so we decided to check it out.

I don’t know about you, but I am just about done with the whole White Party thing.  Isn’t it time to let that one die a natural death?  The Edge was trying to jazz it up some, with a variety of colorful lights, but as you can see, it’s a pretty dead scene.  I must not be the only one tired of White Parties.

I think if there had been anything else to do, we might have continued to wander, but it seemed the ship was rolling in its sidewalks – unless you wanted to sit in some bar and rack up some beverage billing, so off we went to bed.

The next day our stop was Cannes.  Come back next week and I’ll share my favorite shore excursion with you.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, International, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Tourist Tales of Monaco

TRAVEL THERE: SCENERY TO DIE FOR AND A CASINO

There’s a reason Monte Carlo is a playground for the rich and famous.  Everything is pristine, beautiful and very, very expensive.  I rode along in the tourist train, eyes wide open, taking pictures as fast as I could with my phone.

Gawking at the Other Half

All the boats are yachts and all the cars dreams on wheels.  Beautiful people stroll along the streets with tiny little well-groomed dogs and chat with one another in shady cafes.  It is not crowded.  Normal people can’t afford to be there.

The train left their parking area across from the Jacques Cousteau Aquarium and first wandered down a hill past the harbor where all the yachts were docked.

The streets wound around the harbor offering spectacular views, like this shot Bill got of our ship.  I rode along, primarily people watching and not paying too much attention to where we were, because Bill had informed me we’d be staying on the train and hurrying back to the ship.  That was fine with me.

Quick, Get Off the Train

Suddenly, Bill was impatient with me, because I was not getting off the train.  I thought all that had been decided.  I knew our friends were getting off to go to the casino, but I failed to see what that had to do with me, since I was under the impression we were going to stay on board.

Things had changed and I hadn’t gotten the memo.  Soon the whole crowd was standing on a sidewalk deciding what to do.  Without map or guidebook I didn’t have a clue.  I was just there.

The crowd trotted off and we followed.  Come to find out, we were headed to the Casino.  I hadn’t wanted to be in Monte Carlo in my lounging pajamas in the first place, but I really had no desire to go hang out in the Casino during the day with all the tourists.

I had hoped we’d get all dressed up and visit the Casino in the evening.  I understood there was only a slim chance of this, but it’s what I wanted.  I’m still allowed to dream.

The Casino

We went up the stairs, had our bags checked and entered through a bunch of fancy glass doors.  The lobby is all about giving tourists someplace to hang out so they can say they have been to the Casino in Monte Carlo. It is also the only place the tourists can go.

Here it is.  This is what it looks like.  The building is absolutely gorgeous, but you can’t see it for all the tourists and the giant gambling display.  I couldn’t help but wonder whether the beautiful people glide past this in the evening or they just have the display up during the day.  I guess I’ll never know for sure.

The Rest of the Tour

After wandering around the lobby, snapping a photo I shouldn’t have and taking a potty break, we went back outside, waited for the tourist train and rode back to our starting point.  Finding our way back to the infamous escalator was easier than finding it in the first place.

At the dock, the tender loading station was set up with beautiful flowers, cold washrags and lots of fruited water.  In spite of my chagrin at being on a tourist train, looking my worst and my disappointment at being a tourist at the casino instead of a patron, I still have to admit, it was a gorgeous place.  Enjoy these photos and come back next week for a different sort of look at Monte Carlo.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, International, Museums, Road Trips, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Bummed About the Boboli

TRAVEL THERE: WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT’S TOO HOT?

If I am being honest and I always like to be, I have to admit the opportunity to see Palazzo Pitti was one of the highlights of my life.  I didn’t realize just how much I was going to love it.  I still regret not seeing the David and the Uffizi Gallery, but the Pitti was pretty amazing.

Heading Outdoors

That’s how I was feeling as we abandoned the Palazzo for the  Giardino di Boboli However, something was happening around me that was going to put a dent in that.  When we disembarked our bus on the edge of Florence’s Old City, it was still the cool of the morning.  It got less cool as we tramped around the city and by the time we got to the Palazzo, we were grateful for the air conditioning.

As we strolled through the Palazzo, the temperature had strolled up the thermometer.  As soon as we entered the garden we were in a stifling hot day.  I wished that the guide had started here, but it was too late for regrets.

We were all taking pictures of the amphitheater at the edge of the gardens when our guide announced it was too hot to see the gardens.  Talking about hot, I was ready for a melt down.  Sure I was happy to have seen the Palazzo Pitti, but I’d given up Michelangelo’s David for this garden and she thought it was too hot. If I hadn’t dumped the guide in the Palazzo, then this was certainly the time to walk away.

Being part of a group that is traveling together gives things a different perspective.  If Bill and I had been alone on this one, I think I might have dumped the guide and the shore excursion.  Bill would have balked, because it was getting time for lunch and he’s a little wary of striking out on our own on foreign soil.  However, this was the Boboli Gardens she was so casually dropping from our itinerary and I was upset.

Off We Go

The rest of my group was all for dumping the gardens.  While I just might have been able to convince Bill to play truant for the balance of the day, after canvassing the others I realized I was in the minority.  I adjusted my attitude and followed the guide out to the Ponte Vecchio.  Not only did we have the scalding heat to contend with, but while we’d been enjoying the Pitti Palace hundreds of tour buses had been belching their passengers into Florence’s Old City and it seemed as if most of them were hanging out on the bridge.

This was the photo opportunity we were promised earlier in the day, but our guide either forgot or didn’t care.  She was speed-walking across the bridge and Bill was none to happy about it.  Every time he lingered to get a photo, he’d look up and see a sea of tourists but not our guide with holding up her sign with the number “12.”  He was none to happy.

Piazza della Signoria

Bill and I managed to keep up with our guide, but only barely.  Once over the bridge, we trotted a few more blocks and found ourselves in the famous Piazza della Signoria.  People who had watched the Medici mini-series (like me) knew immediately where we were.

Guide lady did allow generous time for picture taking in the piazza, but by now it was really hot and we were really hungry.  I was all out of sorts, because I hadn’t gotten to see the Boboli.  Florence was not anywhere close to being  my “most memorable vacation yet,” but everyone else was as hungry and hot as I was.  Not much cheerful chatter was going on.

The day is far from over, but I’ll stop today’s post here.  Come back next week for the rest of Florence.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, International, Libraries, Museums, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Pitti Palace is No Pity Party

TRAVEL THERE: WANDERING THROUGH THE GLORIES OF PALAZZO PITTI

For a family which dominated a city for so many years, it’s amazing that nothing is named after the Medicis.  Whatever something was called when they took it over, and they eventually took over almost everything, from the Cathedral to government offices, they continued to use the name the building already had.

In the Palazzo Pitti

Entering the Palazzo was like turning back time.  The rather mundane exterior gave way to so much interior glory that almost a year later I am still trying to wrap my mind around it.  Magnificence is everywhere.  What would be the highlight of the collection in your average museum is just a whatnot on a sideboard at the Medici’s home.

What I am trying to tell you is that every surface, every floor, every wall, every ceiling – absolutely everywhere you look is something glorious.  We started out in some huge hall with larger than life tapestries.

Soon after we were wandering through the hall you see above.  Then we went through gallery after gallery after gallery of some of the most amazing paintings, sculpture and decorative arts you might ever have the opportunity to see.

You have to remember, I’m not exactly a neophyte in the world of art.  I’ve been to the Louvre and the  Jeu de Paume (before its impressionists works were moved to the Musée d’Orsay) in Paris.  I’ve seen all the major museums in London, like the British Museum, the Tate and the Victoria and Albert.  I’ve been to Ludwig’s castles in Germany and palaces throughout Austria.  I’ve spent days in the Cairo Museum and strolled through the Gettys a number of times.  I’ve made pilgrimages throughout the US to see the great houses of the rich and famous from Mt. Vernon to the Biltmore to Heart Castle.  These only scratch the surface and still the Palazzo Pitti blew me away.

This was somebody’s private home.  This was their private art collection.  They weren’t kings or popes or even emperors (with the exception Peter Leopold).  Most of them were Cardinals and Grand Dukes.  Just as they managed to live incognito in Florence without having everything named after them, they lived in this amazing palace as grand dukes and controlled the world without claiming title to it.

Absolutely Awestruck

The good news is, for a little while it didn’t matter that we had a lousy guide. I just wandered through the rooms trying to take it all in.  Though our guide didn’t have much to say, she did sort of usher through the Galleries, always reminding us we had more things to see.

I should have just asked our guide what time we needed to be at the bus and dumped her for the balance of the day.  Nothing else she drug me past in our tour of Florence was as amazing as the Palazzo Pitti. But that’s hindsight.  Though loving every minute of the Palace, I was also very excited about seeing Boboli Gardens.

The gardens are what’s up next, so come back next week and find out what happened there.  In the meantime, I will leave you with these glorious images from Pitti Palace.

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, International, Libraries, Museums, Road Trips, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Livorno to Florence

TRAVEL THERE: THEY LOST ME AT LIVORNO

This wasn’t my first cruise, so I am aware of the fact gateway cities can be pretty disappointing.  As a disappointment, Livorno did not disappoint.  The day got better, but never as good as I hoped it would be. 

“90-Minute Drive Through the Beautiful Tuscan Countryside”

Newsflash: the highway we took to Florence didn’t take us through the beautiful Tuscan country side.  It was a highway.  We could have been circling Detroit.

Though the Celebrity site did not tell me specifically to be expecting an ultra-luxury bus, the shore excursion I picked was a Celebrity Discovery Collection Event.  According to Dallas’ Celebrity rep, these tours were worth the extra you paid to be a part of them.  Perhaps he didn’t intend to give me the impression I should expect more in every aspect of the tour, but we had a more luxurious bus in Cancun.  The Celebrity vehicle was adequate as tour buses go, but I wished for my Cancun Passion bus.

Our first stop was not Pitti Palace as advertised.  Instead, it was a convenience store. Apparently, we needed a pre-Florence potty stop, so the alarms started going off in my head.  Things were going downhill fast.

The pay phone is just a little bonus.  They have them all over the place in Europe.  Try finding one state-side.

So, riding along in our adequate bus, we soon figured out our guide was no Paolo.  We’re not sure whether she just left her personality at home that day or she simply didn’t have one at all, but after the charming and erudite Paolo, she was a real disappointment.

“Your first stop takes you to the decadent Palazzo Pitti.” 

Well, I’ve already told you about the first stop and it was no Palazzo.  Our next stop was not a Palazzo either.  We’d obviously arrived at some lovely place in Italy, but it was not the Pitti Palace.  No, we were about to hoof it to the Pitti Palace via the rest of Florence.

Initially, this “stroll” wasn’t so awful.  It was nice to stroll among the picturesque by-ways of Florence and when she wasn’t running off and leaving all of us, our guide did have a few salient facts to share with us.  We stopped by the Uffizi Gallery and even though we didn’t get to enter, it was fun to learn it was once the home and workrooms of the Medicis and charming to see the artists setting up.

After a little more circuitous wandering, we came to the famous Ponte Vecchio across the Arno River.  The guide who had been strolling through the city, as if we had hour to linger over every detail, suddenly picked up the pace, at the point I would have been happy to amble.  She assured us we’d get more time on the bridge later.

Though we knew she was no Paolo, we had not yet learned she was untrustworthy, so we continued to trudge along behind her.  Then suddenly, with no kind of signage or gates to tell us, we were at Pitti Palace.  It was a sort of odd palace.  Right in the middle of things, no gate, no moat, just a multi-story facade, and while it was imposing, it was in no way magnificent.

I’ll leave you here for today.  Once inside, Pitti Palace makes up for it’s rather dreary exterior.  Come back next week and we’ll explore the wonders of Palazzo Pitti together.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Libraries, Museums, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Florence Fascinates

TRAVEL THERE: FLORENCE WAS GREAT. TOO BAD THE SAME THING CAN’T BE SAID FOR THE RENAISSANCE VACATION

There is no one more susceptible to great marketing than someone in marketing.  Our shore excursion to Florence is a perfect example of that.  The photos and the copy sent me on flights of fantasy no walking tour of Florence could have, especially with the below par tour guide we were assigned to that day.

What It Should Have Been

The Celebrity website said, and I quote, “Florence, Italy is the birthplace of The Renaissance, and the site of your most memorable vacation yet. From the 13th to the 15th centuries, a profusion of poets, painters, sculptors, and architects flooded into Florence and produced the era’s most groundbreaking artwork. Departing from the port of Livorno, your excursion in Florence begins with a 90-minute drive through the beautiful Tuscan countryside those legendary artists once traversed. Your first stop takes you to the decadent Palazzo Pitti. Also known as Pitti Palace, this architectural marvel is one of Florence’s signature monuments. The Palatine Gallery lies on the first floor, and contains a broad collection of 16th and 17th century paintings. Its most iconic piece of art is likely the portrait of Maddalena Doni by Raphael in 1506. Next, you’ll visit the Boboli Gardens. While accurate, the Boboli Gardens are more than your standard garden. Boboli is actually one of the greatest open-air museums in Florence. The park boasts sculptures, fountains, centuries-old oak trees and more. As the garden that inspired European royal gardens like Versailles, there are few better examples of “green” architecture in the world. From here, your vacation in Florence takes you to Piazza della Repubblica, the most beautiful town square in the Tuscany region. This brief respite offers the opportunity to wine and dine before continuing onward to the Signoria and Santa Croce Squares.”

What I Imagined

I envisioned a luxurious bus ride through a gorgeous landscape.  I assumed the bus would drop us off in front of the Pitti Palace.  I hoped we’d have hours to wander all the galleries of the palace and then wander some more through one of the most beautiful gardens on earth.  I was sure we’d need to stroll around a little bit to get to all the sites mentioned, but what’s a little walking, right?  Besides I was so laser-focused on the Pitti Palace it was all I could think about.

What I Gave Up

Florence is a city you would needs days and days to see properly.  The list of must-see attractions is daunting.  Take the Uffizi Gallery for instance, one of the most prominent art museums of the world.  Then there’s Michelangelo’s David, housed in another museum you’ve probably never heard of, but a piece of art I’ve wanted to see all my life.  And the Duomo,  famous as one of the most important cathedrals in the world, for the history that was lived there, for the artworks housed there, but most of all for its miraculous dome.

With all this to look forward to I allowed myself to be distracted by some great marketing.  Don’t get me wrong, Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens are magnificent by any standard, but what they were selling me about the shore excursion isn’t what I got.

So, come on back next week and I’ll tell you how it went.

Accommodations, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

Bridal Dinner in the Normandie

TRAVEL THERE: THE FUN JUST DOESN’T STOP

It was over.  The Vow Renewal Ceremony I’d been planning for so long was now in the review mirror.  With that behind me I set out to enjoy the rest of our cruise, beginning with dinner in The Normandie.

The Normandie

Dining on the Celebrity Edge was fun.  With four complimentary dining rooms to choose from, rather than the usual one, you had variety, but what you gained in variety, you missed out on personalized service.

The Normandie was touted as the cream of the crop with a French twist.  I can’t think of a single thing that was wrong, besides the anonymity of it all.  We showed up and they had the usual flurry of figuring out our beverage plans.  The menu was divided into the three sections the other menus had.  I don’t remember being wowed by any of the offerings, nor do I have a clue what I actually ate.

Except for dessert.  I do remember dessert! The Aisle to Isle package offered a small cake for the bride and groom, but I had them upsize it to include plenty for everyone.  Like many wedding cakes it was more beautiful than it was delicious.  Fondant makes for pretty cakes, but is there anyone who actually likes to eat it?

The Company

While I might not have a lot to say about the restaurant, the company could not have been better.  I sat there at that table feeling like the luckiest girl in the world.  I feel that way often, but rarely with so many reasons.

We were on an amazing ship, headed to incredible destinations, with the best of friends.  We were celebrating a wonderful 25 year marriage and had pledged to continue to keep the promises we had made so long ago.  I am married to the handsomest man in the world and he loves me, in spite of all my flaws.  And did I mention what great friends I have.

Just as I can’t remember exactly what I ate this evening, I can’t recall exactly what we talked about around the table, but I know it was seasoned with a lot of laughter.  The picture of us all gathered around that table will forever stay in my mind.  The actual photos we took don’t do the evening much justice, but I’m adding them so you can enjoy them.

Turning in for the Night

There’s one more picture to show you before we move on to the next day.  Cruise ship towel animals might not seem like a big deal to you, but among the many cards spread about the room, explaining what things were, what was complimentary and what we’d have to pay for, one card explained why Celebrity no longer entertains their passengers with towel animals.

I’ve written cards and letters like that before.  When we were forcing technology down people’s throats, we used to start all the letters with, “To serve you better…”  Only we didn’t care whether it served anybody better or not.  It was just what we said.  The letters should have said, “Hey, we’ve found yet another way to cut corners, but there’s no way we’re going to pass any savings on to you, so get ready for this new thing we’ve dreamed up.”

Celebrity’s note about the towel animals began with “In order to preserve the planet…”  That’s the new phrase they came up with that everyone seems to buy into.  The towel animals were cute, but it did just sort of become yet one more schitick, and it had lost its luster.  If we had kids, towel animals might be more interesting, but I really didn’t need a new version on my bed every time I returned to the room.

However, with the absence of nightly towel animals and being made aware of Celebrity’s desire to save the planet, we were quite appreciative that they broke their own rules and gave us a couple of swans that evening.

And that’s where I’ll leave you.  We’ll be up early the next morning for Florence, so be sure to come back next week.

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, International, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Pushing on to Pompeii

TRAVEL THERE: FINALLY POMPEII

A short bus ride from Sorrento took us to Pompeii and you guessed it, another shopping opportunity.  This time it was cameos and they had my attention, but first I had to visit the restroom.  On the way out, I did peek at a few of the price tags.  I quickly realized the amount represented was one I was unwilling to pay for more jewelry.  I love the stuff, but I have so much of it I go years without wearing some the pieces.  Others in our group did submit to the temptation of the beautiful pieces of handiwork and I’m glad they did.  Obligatory shopping out of the way, it was time to visit the ruins of Pompeii

Paolo is wearing the white hat and blue shirt near the center of the photo.

Best Guide Ever 

So far, besides the heat, crowds and seasickness (none of which Paolo had any control over) we’d had a pretty good day of touring.  I’d figured out that we had a pretty darned good guide.  He had a great personality.  He spoke impeccable English.  He actually cared about his tourists and was proactive about seeing they had a good day.  Obligatory shopping was available, but not shoved down our throats.

So far, there hadn’t been much in the way of historical information to pass on, but what he had shared was at least reliable and polite.  However, it wasn’t until we actually entered the ruins that I figured out just how extraordinary he was.  This guy was a professor teaching Italian history at some Italian university.  He could have had us calling him Dr. Paolo, but he just wasn’t that pretentious.  It was sort of like we were a group of American acquaintances and he was showing us around for the sake of friendship.

As soon as we entered the ruins, it became something completely different.  We were in a place that he loved and was very knowledgeable about.  He shared his information with us like a boy proud of scoring in futbol.  I heartily wished I had a whole day to spend with him at this site, rather than just time for a quick stroll through one section.

How amazing this place is!  You must go.  It’s not like Capri – get there if you’re nearby.  No, this is put-it-on-your-bucket-list good.  Start making definite plans to get there.

I wish there was a way to share just how good Paolo was.  He made the place come alive.  He explained what a building was used for.  If it was a home, he described the sort of person who would live there, what his schedule for the day would be, what he would wear, what he would eat, who lived in his home with him, how to know whether he was important or not, who came to visit at what time and where the owner would go when he left his home.  He talked about the kind of food served in cafes and the bread baked in the bakery ovens.  He pointed out architectural advances and items we use in our buildings today.

I soaked it in like a sponge.  I wish I’d thought of recording him so I could listen to all he said again.  I loved walking around the city and though it had died many centuries ago, it still seemed to vibrate with energy.

I’m rambling now.  I will show you some photos from the ruined city to spark your imagination.  If you join us next week, I’ll get us back to the boat for some Italian food.

ART, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Getting the Little Details Right

Vow Pages at the Ceremony

TRAVEL THERE: THE FINISHING TOUCHES

Have you ever watched a TV show called Four Weddings?  It’s a game show where four brides are pitted against one another to win a fabulous honeymoon.  If you’ve never watched it, don’t bother.  It’s pretty snarky.  I know, because we did watch it for a while.  Most of what I got out of it was the things I absolutely didn’t want to have in my vow renewal ceremony on the Celebrity Edge.

Group Participation

There are many things I didn’t want in my ceremony.  I didn’t want any of those rituals like unity candles, sand ceremonies, jumping over the broom or crushing the wine glass.  I love traditions, but I think it is a little weird to take things out of their context and plop them in willy nilly.  What I did want was a ceremony that focused on our commitment to God in our marriage and our relationship with our friends.

Both of those purposes were served by having our friends participate in the ceremony.  Together, Bill and I chose meaningful Bible verses for our friends to read on the big day: my favorite verse from Psalms, his favorite from Ecclesiastes and the traditional love chapter from 1 Corinthians.  There were many other verses we love, so it would have been easy to find another one, but I had something special up my sleeve for my best friend.

Beautiful Music

When I met my bestie, she was going to SMU for a degree in opera.  What a voice!  One of my great joys in life is going to church with her and hearing her sing all the wonderful old hymns.  I had no intention of letting it go to waste, but I did want what she sang to be something special and unique.  I wanted to somehow pay homage to her beautiful voice, our friendship and the 25 years of marriage Bill and I have have shared.

At our wedding reception, the song for the First Dance was Celiene Dion’s “When I Fall in Love.”  It was a big hit at the time and was probably the First Dance at most of the wedding receptions that year.  I thought revisiting the song would be a nice touch for the vow renewal, but the lyrics just didn’t fit.  Yes, we fell in love all those years ago, but the song for our ceremony should celebrate the fact that we’ve traveled beyond falling in love.  Together we’d endured the storms of life and nurtured a love that truly was forever.

First, I made sure that Deb would, in fact, be willing to sing and that “When I Fall in Love” was a song she would tackle.  Since she’s classically trained, her voice is not geared for some pop music.  Dear friend that she is, she agreed to take on the task, but there were still those lyrics.  Well, I’m not a writer and a published poet for nothing.  I wrote my own lyrics, but I’m no lyricist, so I wasn’t sure whether they would fit or not.  Bless Deb’s heart, she made it work.

The Final Touch

Whether it is a TV show or a live wedding, I hate the part where a groom digs through his pockets for a wrinkled piece of paper or the bride whips notecards out of her dellecotage.I wanted something more substantial, more of a keepsake.  What’s more, I didn’t just want it for the vows.  I wanted it for my bestie, so she’d have the words I’d written in front of her.  I wanted it for the Scripture the other attendants would be reading.

A lady at my church is a calligraphy artist, Lettering by Lydia, and she agreed to pen the pages for me.  When we had that conversation, Deb had not yet confirmed the lyrics would work and Bill and I were still debating the actual words of our vows.  So, along with the deadline Celebrity Cruises had tick, tick, ticking away, now I had Lydia desperately wanting me to give her the words so she could get her work done.  No pressure, right?

When Lydia agreed to pen the lyrics, verses and vows we talked about various types of papers, but In the end I chose 12X12 scrapbooking pages.  The content was penned onto a white lacy page.  Then I adhered the lacy page to dark blue papers to match the dresses of our attendants.  Finally, I decorated the pages with small paper flowers, pearl-ized ornaments and rhinestones.  They were pretty, if I do say so myself!

Just a few more plans and I can start packing!