Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Welcome to the French Rivera

TRAVEL THERE: CANNES, CAP D’ANTIBES AND NICE

The French Rivera surprised me.  I thought my favorite day would be Florence, but it turned out to be this day.  Travel always brings surprises.  Come enjoy this day with us.

Relaxing and Fun

Don’t faint.  We didn’t have a single museum or historical site to visit today.  I’d done some research and hadn’t been able to find much to get excited about it.  In fact, I had lobbied for a bus tour to some Provence Villages or a tour of the Provence perfume industry.  I was voted down and I am so very glad.

It was another early morning gathering in the Theater and then a ride to shore on a tender.  From there, we boarded a bus.  The tour guide was in a dead heat for last place with the lady in Florence.  In fact, this one didn’t even rate as a tour guide.  She was more like a room mother on a field trip.  Nice, but not much else.

Cap d’Antibes, the “S” is Silent

We got off our bus in Cap ‘d Antibes.  Our guide trotted down the street a bit with us, pointed us toward a cobblestone path and then told us when to come back.  

The picture above shows us wandering along the water’s edge unchaperoned and not quite sure what we were looking at.  If the view had not been so fantastic we might actually have minded, but we didn’t.  We could have gone to the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, but we didn’tWe could have gone to a Pablo Picasso Museum, but we didn’t.

Instead, we decided to find a sidewalk cafe and just enjoy ourselves.  It turned into a bit of a trudge, but the weather was ideal, the scenery was amazing.  I particularly fell in love with the house with the blue shutters.  I am quite certain I could spend several weeks there, reading great books on the patio and enjoying the view.

Eventually, we found a sidewalk cafe and to our delight, there was a sort of street market going on.  Since we didn’t have a guide, I can’t tell you whether it was the usual thing or just something happening on the Thursday we were there.

We communicated our dining needs to our waitress and were glad they had a restroom we could use.  We had our coffee and/or sodas and then headed back the way we came.  There had been a sort of Farmers Market going on and we decided we wanted to mingle a little with the locals.  Except for a pickpocket thinking Viktoriya’s bag was a potential target, we enjoyed the time we lingered there.

Too soon, it was time to meet our non-guide.  I would have happily continued to wander Cap d’Antibes.  At the meeting point, by a marina, local kids were having a go at something that resembled a boccie ball game.  People wandered back in a leisurely manner, but I had none of the hurry-up attitude I usually possess.  You know, let’s hurry up and see this so we can see the next thing.  I could have sat there for an hour watching the kids and their game.

Eventually, we sauntered back to the bus and headed to Nice.  I couldn’t imagine that Nice would be any better in any way than Cap d’Antibes, but I was also too lazy to begin some sort of campaign to stay, which would involve figuring out how to get back to the boat.

Nice was nice, but, as I had anticipated, it didn’t beat Cap d’Antibes for me.  In fact, of all the places we went on this cruise, Cap d’Antibes is the one I would be the quickest to return to.  Yes, I need to go back to Rome and see all the sites I missed.  I’d like more time in Florence.  I think Capri has the potential to be wonderful.  but Cap d’Antibes?  I just want to go be there.

However, I didn’t get to, at least not yet, so come back next week and let’s take a look at Nice.

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.

Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Celebrity Cruises’ CEO is a Nice Lady

TRAVEL THERE: RUBBING ELBOWS WITH A BIG WIG

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, CEO of Celebrity Cruises, is not the reason I went on the Wine Tasting/Prince’s Palace Shore Excursion, but she certainly made it a special event for us, because she is a very, very nice lady.  She’s also a great hostess.

Hostess with the Mostest

This picture may not look like much of anything to you, but in it we are getting the star treatment.  We’re up on the mezzanine and the waiters are bringing us refills and snacks.  That’s not happening on the main floor.  You see we’re on the mezzanine with the Lutoff-Perlo family!

As we entered the Wine Palace, a very nice blonde lady, who matched the picture we’d seen on a brochure, was greeting everyone, but we sort of dodged the receiving line.  As I said, we weren’t there to rub elbows with the CEO.  We were there for the yacht club and the palace.

Before long however, the nice blonde lady made her way over to us.  She wanted to meet the couple who had the vow renewal!  How did she know we were the couple who had the vow renewal?  Well, come to find out, she had been in the salon herself, while us girls were in there having such a good time.  The salon was a fairly small space, so she would have had a hard time missing us.

She was, as the CEO, very interested in how our ceremony went, if we’d liked the salon services and such.  I raved about the team in Florida, the folks in the salon and Eddie, the cruise director. I did not mention my meltdown on the first night, because I didn’t know whether the problem had been caused at the Florida end or the Edge end and I didn’t want to be one of those passengers who is best known for their complaints!

The Egypt Connection

But the lovely Ms. Lutoff-Perlo, who asked us to call her Lisa, was interested in more than our opinions of the crew.  She wanted to hear a little more about our marriage journey and that’s when she found out Bill is Egyptian.  Come to find out, her husband, Andre, was also born in Cairo.  Lisa immediately went to find him and brought him over.

Bill and Andre hit it off immediately.  They started comparing notes about where they lived, went to school and the like.  It was sad to discover Andre left Egypt decades ago and never returned, because he is a Jew.  That’s a sad legacy for Egypt.  I have been to what was the Jewish quarter and the beautiful synagogue, that is now a museum, because there is no longer a congregation of Jews to support it. Andre understood, better than most people can, what Bill’s family suffers, as members of the Christian minority.

About that time Lisa said, “Why don’t you guys go upstairs to the mezzanine, to meet the rest of the family?  That’s where they are hanging out.” So, that’s what we did.  We wanted to see what the rest of the Wine Palace was like and Lisa had been so gracious, we certainly wanted to reciprocate her hospitality.

We went up the stairs en masse, went through the introductions and had a nice chat with her wonderful family.  What we didn’t realize was we’d just entered an entirely different level of service than we’d had below.  Downstairs, there was a table set up to serve tastes of wine and on it was a platter of snacks.  Upstairs, we were brought our own bottles of wine and plates of assorted snacks were delivered. Yep, the star treatment!

Next up, we climbed back into our black celebrity-style SUV’s and headed for the Palace.  Come back next week and go with us.

ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Monte Carlo Redux

TRAVEL THERE: DOING MONACO RIGHT

While I may never get a chance to undo my unglamorous daytime visit to Monte Carlo, I did get to have some time in the city without regrets.  In fact, I traveled to the Prince’s Palace in a caravan of black SUV’s with the CEO of Celebrity Cruises.  I thought that was pretty cool.  Join me for this very fun shore excursion.

Opportunity Knocks

Our originally booked shore excursion in Monte Carlo never really had the Museum Girl Stamp of Approval.  Then one day, not long before the cruise, I got an email informing me of new events aboard our cruise ship.  The CEO of Celebrity was going to be on board and there were going to be special events just for her.  I’ll confess, I’m not a very good groupie, even of people like Samantha Brown that I adore.  I’ve seen her in person, but I wasn’t willing to stand in line to meet her personally.  I don’t go to concerts.  I don’t collect autographs.  I don’t buy sneakers based on a celebrity spokesperson.  So, the idea that I had the opportunity to meet a corporate big wig meant virtually nothing to me.

However, when said corporate big wig can provide me with access to something I would like to do, that I’d have no access to otherwise, well then, said big wig has my attention.  So, when Celebrity invited me to a wine tasting at the Monaco Yacht Club and a private showing of the Prince’s Palace, well OK, I’m in.  The price was a bit of an ouch, $304 per person, but I was still holding on to $151.20 of on board credit, so with Bill’s permission I booked it – as did the rest of my crew.

Meet Me at The Club

The Club on Celebrity Edge wears many hats.  At night, it’s an uber-cool disco that plays host to various entertainment, including acrobats.  During the day, it serves as a meeting place for shore excursions.  For this very special event, The Club was our gathering spot.

I could tell right away this was not going to be your run-of-the-mill shore excursion.  No brightly colored stickers, guides with signs or earpieces for this shore excursion.  Instead, we were given attractive metal badges in the shape of the Celebrity “X” logo.  Ours were orange.  I don’t know about everyone else.

From The Club, we made our way down to the tender-loading area and on to the port. No wandering around lost this afternoon.  Instead, we were shown to our celebrity-worthy, luxury black SUV.  

The Monaco Yacht Club Wine Palace

So, they had me at Yacht Club and sealed the deal with Wine Palace.  The Celebrity website said, ” Revel in the late-afternoon sunlight as it illuminates the terrace of the Wine Palace of the Monaco Yacht Club.”  I want to tell you it really was a lovely event, but I also have to tell you that whoever wrote that sentence had never been to the Monaco Yacht Club Wine Palace.

I imagined a lovely open air terrace, in the harbor of Monte Carlo, with the salt-flavored breeze lifting my hair from my shoulders.  Waiters would wander among us offering tasty tid-bits while a sommelier offered sips of wine.   What I got was a small two-story wine boutique with not so much as a balcony.  It was a nice wine boutique, but I have no idea what it has to do with the Yacht Club.  It is, however in the same building, so what do I know.

After I let go of the picture they had drawn for my imagination, I was able to have a very special time, but I do wish I hadn’t had to do the mental exercise.  Things got better from this point and I want to tell you about it, so come back next week.

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.

Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

The Monte Carlo Tourist Train and Me

TRAVEL THERE: NOT THE MONTE CARLO I ENVISIONED

Since travel is my very expensive hobby, rather than something I’ve figured out how to get paid for doing, I spend a whole lot more time dreaming of what I might do, were I to visit a destination, rather than actually visiting said destination.  That’s OK, because I’ve found, contrary to all the hype, doing what you love as a job, does not free you.  It just turns your passion into a chore.  That being said, this tourist train was not the visit to Monte Carlo I’d had in my head.

We Found the Escalator and This Train

In spite of our seemingly endless wanderings, we did find the escalator to Monte Carlo and it dumped us right at the Jacques Cousteau Museum and Aquarium.  Had Museum Girl been in charge, you know what would have happened.  Instead, right across the street was this very obvious tourist train.

I’ll confess, I’ve been on many of these tourist trains in my life.  My mom had a nose for them.  I just haven’t been on any in the last few decades.

In fact, a few years ago, on this very blog, I made fun of the people who rode around Linz, Austria, on a rather uglier tourist train.  I had spent the day visiting the wonderful little town of Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic and I felt quite superior.

Funny how the fates will pay you back.  Seeing Monte Carlo, from the seats of this very red and white train, was much more “not me,” than being on one in a backwater town like Linz.  I hadn’t spent a lifetime dreaming about Linz.  Monte Carlo was a different story.

Trolleys vs. Tourist Trains

While I have avoided tourist trains, I have been on a lot of free (or at least cheap) trolleys, which are painted just as gaudily as this train.  The difference is, with the free trolley, I’m sitting there feeling very clever for finding free/cheap transportation.

I feel somewhat in control, because I have done my homework and know exactly where the train will be going and where I will get off.  In addition, I am wearing some fashionable ensemble I’ve chosen, rather than running around in my lounging pajamas and a pair of flip flops, that I’d just thrown on for breakfast.  I’m protected from the sun by one of my signature sun hats.  I also have on make-up and am carrying a handbag with all my necessities, including a tour book with a map.

In Monte Carlo, one of the most glamorous cities in the world, I was stripped of all these trappings.  I was about as unglamorous as I can remembering being (outside of my own home), maybe in my life, and I felt it very strongly.  Sure hubby and I weren’t exactly havingone of our best days, but it was nothing compared to my internal struggle.

Laugh All You Want

You, my faithful reader, may be laughing at me right now.  “Who cares?” you might ask, “Get with the program,” you’d advise, “and make the best of it.”

That would have been the reasonable thing to do, but who says humans are reasonable.  I manage to be reasonable most of the time, but this was Monte Carlo.  Who saw me at less than my best mattered not at all.  What did matter to me was that a dream had been shattered and the chance that I’d get a do-over are slim to none.

Sitting with my friends, in an open air restaurant in Sorrento, eating an authentic Neapolitan pizza and drinking an authentic Italian beer – that’s what I live for.  Making our way around Vienna, on our own, and seeing all the things I had on my list – that’s travel to me.  Finding the amazing White River Falls in Oregon, which most people have never even heard of, is one of the favorite moments of my life.

Being stuck on a tourist train in Monte Carlo, looking more like a scatter-brained soccer mom than myself?  Well, that’s travel, too, but I hate it.  The dream I had of Monte Carlo was replaced with the reality I made that day.  It’s true – I went back to Monte Carlo, later in the day, appropriately dressed, accompanied by the CEO of Celebrity Cruises and had experiences your average cruiser never gets, but even so, the red and white tourist train felt like a mistake.  It still does.

To make matters worse, I was at odds with my very wonderful husband who had made all this possible.  One or the other of these conundrums I might have been able to pull off with aplomb, but the two together made my visit to Monte Carlo a low point on my vacation. 

Why It Matters

You may wonder why I am taking the time to tell you all this, especially in my usually upbeat travel blog.  Well, I’m thinking there may be a whole lot of you out there who have a Monte Carlo Tourist Train moment in your memory.  Things were so bad on your very expensive vacation you decide you’d just stay home in the future.  Please don’t do that!

For every amazing, wonderful high point in my travels, there is at least one pretty awful experience that could have turned me off travel forever. In between those two points are many, many mediocre, inconvenient or downright boring experiences.  In other words, if I counted the number of stellar experiences and compared it to the non-stellar, I’d be staying at home the rest of my life.

But travel is in no way like the latest political poll.  It is not the number of good experiences in relations to bad experiences that you have to count.  It is the value of those splendid travel moments you must hold on to.

  • Will I ever forget standing in a bakery, in a small Bavarian town, with some of our dearest friends, watching hail completely fill the streets; when moments before we’d been sitting in the sun enjoying a street cafe?  The answer is no.  The next day we visited Neuschwanstein, and while I enjoyed it, I remember the smells in the bakery better.
  • Or the day in St. Thomas with my bestie, slightly buzzed from banana daiquiris, singing some reggae song about the days of the week, at the top of my voice.  Truly a favorite moment in my life.
  • The list goes on and on and on.

My Monte Carlo Morning was not one of my best travel moments, but it cannot ever negate all the wonders I’ve enjoyed, even if it were multiplied geometrically! Come back next week and I will tell you about my train ride.

Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Out of Synch Ashore

TRAVEL THERE: LOST IN MONTE CARLO

Everything went great with our spontaneous visit to Monte Carlo, until our tender hit the dock.  To my right, I could see a stairwell leading into the city.  Only, with bad knees, neither Jim nor Melanie wanted to take that route and my friend Deb hates stairs with a passion.  They’d heard there was an elevator/escalator somewhere and we were on a mission to find it. 

The Escalator Fiasco

I have to tell you we spent the better part of an hour looking for that escalator.  I could just feel Bill’s anxiety level rising and the higher his went, the higher mine crawled up the scale.  To boot, I felt like I was wearing my pajamas out in public, which is not good for my psyche.  It’s true I’m vain, but in this case, it had more to do with indoor clothes on an outdoor adventure.

If it had just been Bill and I in Monte Carlo, we would have either gone on to Guest Relations or I would have convinced him to go to the room and get my travel guide or maybe both.  I would have changed into clothes that made me feel a whole lot better about walking around the glamorous city.  There would have been no friends to jump on the elevator with, but I would have also put on a little lipstick and mascara, gotten a handbag with some id and a credit card.  With the basics in hand, I would have felt a whole lot better about venturing ashore in a foreign country.  We also might have made it to our photo studio appointment, which would have made me feel a lot less guilty – or at least cancelled it.

As it was, we were trotting around following a bunch of people who obviously didn’t know where they were going and it made both Bill and I fairly insane.  We wandered around some buildings in the port for awhile and then headed in the opposite direction of the town, as you can see in the picture above.

At one point, Bill stopped and tried to address the situation with me.  He pointed at our friends going away from Monte Carlo, he pointed to the ship and he pointed to the city.  He reminded me we’d paid a whole lot of money for the afternoon shore excursion and he didn’t want to miss it.

I may not have responded to him in the most appropriate manner possible.  I’d sized up the situation and even though it looked as if we were headed away from the city, I felt pretty sure once we crossed the bridge, we’d be going up and would back track to where we needed to be.  While my response probably could have been better, I was frustrated myself.  I couldn’t fix his anxiety and I knew that was the main problem.  I couldn’t fix mine either, and that was another problem.

We carried on, but we were on thin ice as we passed this nice pebbly beach.  Neither one of us was perfectly happy with the situation, though our reasons for it were probably totally different.  Try as we might, we were unable to fix ourselves and make the best of it.  We were just not in synch and having an audience didn’t make it any easier to fix things.

We continued our tour of Monte Carlo with our friends and I will tell you more about that in next week’s post, but I’m done talking about the dissonance.  Next week, as you read about us going through the motions of touring the city, just remember, we could barely talk to each other.  It wasn’t as much fun as it should have been.  It got better, as it always does, but for a while it was distinctly uncomfortable.

 

 

Accommodations, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Missteps in Monaco

I love to travel, but I’d be the first to admit it can be stressful and falling out of step with your traveling companion is not all that hard to do.  On most of our trips, we can point to the place where things did not go as smoothly as we might have wished.  On this Mediterranean Marathon, Monte Carlo was our trouble spot.

Imprecise Planning

For days now, we’d been working hard on having a good time.  I had anticipated, by the time we reached this mid-point of the cruise, we’d be in dire need of an easy day.  We’d gone back and forth several times on how we should spend the our time. 

For the sake of our finances, I had suggested we just do Monte Carlo on our own, since it was a pretty small place.  Then, perhaps after dinner, we’d check out the possibility of going to the Casino.  Yes, that Casino, where James Bond and various other movie characters so often hang out.

However, Bill always prefers to have a guide for the sake of security.  So, we booked a nice bus tour that would end up in Eze, a medieval hilltop town someone had recommended to us.  Then, we unbooked it, because an evening event was offered that we couldn’t pass up.  We were back to seeing Monte Carlo on our own, if we were going to see it at all.

We decided to play the rest of it by ear, which is always a dangerous thing, but I didn’t know exactly what else to do.

An Easy Morning

Things started out quite well.  We slept in a little, enjoyed the buffet for breakfast and then went on a photo safari.  This is usually one of our favorite things to do on a cruise.  We spend most of our days at sea covering every inch of the ship we have access to, taking lots of pictures and nibbling throughout the dining rooms.

This photo safari started like many others, but we weren’t at sea.  We were moored in the harbor of the beautiful principality of Monaco.  The gorgeous city of Monte Carlo was beckoning to us.  We just weren’t sure what to do about it.

The Dissonance Begins

Suddenly Bill wanted to go ashore.  I wanted to accommodate him, but I didn’t have so much as a brochure or map when he began to pepper me with logistical questions.  All I could tell him was we were supposed to go to the photo studio in about an hour to see our ceremony pictures and that the evening shore excursion would start shortly after 3:30.  He didn’t care about either of those and I didn’t even know exactly what time it was to guess how much time we’d have.

He decided we should go to Guest Relations and see if we could sign up for a shore excursion or get some information.  We were standing at the elevator to go up to Guest Relations when I heard a familiar laugh.  The door opened up and there were all our friends!

Being Spontaneous

Our friends were headed down to catch one of the tenders and go ashore.  Bill and I looked at each other and jumped on the elevator.  About all we had were our room cards.  I had on what might loosely be called lounging pajamas, a pair of flip flips and not even a touch of makeup.  I’d pulled my hair back into a ponytail.  Bill had on standard tourist gear and thankfully had his billfold in his pocket.

I tried to get a message to the photographer that we had been kidnapped, but communication is not easy on a cruise ship.  Back at the room I might have been able to find a number for her, but we didn’t go by the room.  I also had a guide book for Monaco in the room, but it wasn’t doing me much good there.

We were off with nothing that even looked like a plan.  I was immediately aware that we were headed for trouble, but I didn’t know of anyway to head it off.  Come back next week and see how things pan out.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Trudge, Trudge, Trudge; Sweat, Sweat, Sweat; Rinse & Repeat

TRAVEL THERE: FLORENCE, THE HARD WAY

“Mommy, I’m not having any fun anymore!”  That’s what I felt like saying, only my mommy wasn’t there.  In fact, I lost her several years ago.  I thought she’d be so pleased I was getting to visit Florence, but I’d gotten to the point where all really wanted to do was hang out at the pool.

No Pool!

Remember way back at the Boboli Gardens when everyone was hungry and little grumpy.  Yeah, well, we’ve been stomping all over the place since then.  We’re all drenched in sweat and lots more hungry than we were on the other side of Ponte Vecchio.    

Guide lady kept trudging ahead of us, complaining about the heat and waving herself with her “12” sign.  The shore excursion I’d been so excited about had turned into a march through Hades.  We’re trudging around all these teeny tiny backstreets, sweating like pigs and trying to ignore the grumbling in our stomachs.  I’m still mad I didn’t get to see the Boboli Gardens.  If we’d gotten lost in this maze, I think we’d still be there.  Things were not pretty.

Piazza Santa Croce

Then suddenly we were in familiar surroundings.  We were near the spot  where the bus had let us off.  Sitting at my desk, looking at a map of Florence, I can track the places we went that day.  What I can’t figure out is how the guide turned it into such a miserable hike.  It’s only about 300 yards from the Piazza della Signoria to the Piazza di Santa Croce.  Not much more between Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Pitti.  I’m telling you we walked a lot further than three football fields to get from Signoria to Santa Croce.  It’s like when you’re in Vegas and you can see the sign for where you are going, so you decide to walk, only to find out it was miles away.

Guide lady cued us up in front of a trattoria.  We filed inside and obediently sat where we were told.  Finally, we had gotten a break.  The food was good.  Fresh pasta, a pork dish, potatoes and wine in a wine glass that kept getting filled.  For dessert we got panna cotta.  Some were disappointed, because tiramisu had been promised, but not being a fan of coffee, panna cotta suited me just fine.

With an attitude adjusted by copious glasses of wine, I was ready to make the most of the rest of my day in Florence.  I probably should have visited Santa Croce, but we’d passed a Pinocchio store on our way to the restaurant and several wanted to visit.

According to guide lady, there was supposed to be some sort of demonstration at the galleria next to the trattoria before we boarded the bus.  Like good little tourists we lined up for it.  Again, I should have gone to Santa Croce, but when your hot and a little sleepy from wine, you don’t always make the best decisions.  As you might have guessed, it was a thinly veiled shopping opportunity.

We were all ready to get back to the boat when we boarded the bus.  We went back the same way we came and the view hadn’t gotten any better.  If you go to Florence, I heartily recommend the Palazzo Pitti, but figure out another way to see it, besides taking the Renaissance Vacation.

Enjoying the Evening

Back on board, Bill and I cleaned up and went to the best entertainment we experienced on board the Edge, Hot Summer’s Night.  It was a “Cirque de Soleil” style romp, loosely based on Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s Night Dream.  So very glad we caught it, but sad others missed it.

This was the evening some in our party were having dinner up on the Magic Carpet with the CEO, so it was just Bill, Deb and me, having dinner in the Cyprus Restaurant.  Really a nice meal.  The others enjoyed theirs, too, so it was a delicious meal for all of us.

After dinner, Bill and I headed down to the theater to see the Love and Marriage Game.  Perhaps you remember that Bill and I were contestants in a similar game on the Vision of the Seas back in 2018.  I was very glad to be on the other side of the stage this time.  I still can’t believe we shared some of our secrets with an entire cruise ship.  The Edge version was much the same.  They must all go to the same school for this stuff.

Next it was time for bed, because Monaco was the next day.

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.