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.

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

With a Little Help From My Friends

TRAVEL THERE: THE REST OF THE VOW RENEWAL CEREMONY

Enjoy the slide show, it is formatted for your phone, because according to statistics, that’s where most of you are reading this blog.  The images show you how perfect the setting was, how much fun we were having and how well we all cleaned up.

More Vow Renewal Tidbits

Each of my friends contributed to the ceremony, by reading a verse from the beautiful cards I had made for them.  They kept their card as a souvenir and the cards we read our vows from are in my scrapbook of the day.

Viktoriya read Psalms 37:3-9, which includes my life verse: 

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.

 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
    do not fret—it leads only to evil.
 For those who are evil will be destroyed,
    but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

My friend Melanie read from 1 Corinthians 13, which is known as the love chapter:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,  does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.

Jim read one of Bill’s favorite verses about marriage, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.  For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.  Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?  And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.

A Highlight of the Day

Then my beloved friend Deborah raised her beautiful voice and sang the special song we’d crafted for the day, and she sang it a Capella.  The music was the romantic song most famously sung by Celine Dion, “If I  Fell in Love.”  It was the song Bill and I danced our First Dance to, at our wedding reception.  However, the words were mine and the voice was Deb’s.

When you fell in love / It was for forever / A fairy-tale kind of love

In a restless world / Like this is / Love is ended before it’s begun / And too many moonlight kisses / Seem to cool in the warmth of the sun

When you gave your hearts / It was so completely / The two hearts became as one

And the moment when you felt that / Magic, wonder, awe/ Is when you fell in love / Always

When you fell in love / It was for forever / A fairy-tale kind of love / Oh, the fairy-tale it never ends

In a restless world / Like this is / Your love began and never ended / And your many moonlight kisses / Are just warmed by the light of the sun

When you gave your hearts / It was so completely / The two hearts became as one

And the moment when you felt that / Magic, wonder, awe / Is when you fell in love / When you fell in love / When you fell in love always

The Reception

To the photographer’s chagrin, the reception did not offer up all the photo opportunities she hoped for.  There was no cake, because I insisted the included cake be served as dessert at dinner.  There was no garter or other silly traditions.  There was champagne, but not as much as I had ordered.  (See, I knew they weren’t getting all the details right!)  They delivered the champagne at dinner, but that wasn’t my plan.

What the photographer might not have known was that I didn’t want her at all.  Bill abhors the whole idea of professional photography on a cruise ship.  You might think this is odd for a professional photographer, but he’s sees it as just another gimmick to pull more money out of his pocket.   I anticipated him having a meltdown over the cost of the photos and I was right, but that’s for another post.

For now, I’ll just invite you to the Normandie for dinner.  We’ll go there together next week.

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

Absolutely Perfect Ceremony

TRAVEL THERE: MY DREAM COMES TRUE

In life, some things are worth it and this was.  Did it cost more than it should have? Certainly!  Had it been more trouble than we imagined?  Absolutely?  I could criticize all the ooops and frustrations for days, but in the end, we had a perfect vow renewal ceremony.

Our Vow Renewal Ceremony

There was no spot on that ship that could have been more perfect for our ceremony than the balcony of Eden.  Bill and I entered the space through a set of double door and were greeted by a most beautiful sight.  The weather was perfect, the ocean was royal blue, the sky was turquoise and in a beautiful sunny spot, our friends waited for us.  Joy radiated off every person there, but none more so than the bride and groom.

We hugged, giggled, took photos with our phones, had photos made by the professional photographer, gave everyone their cue cards and in no time at all, the officiant was there.  Ranee, the event coordinator, lined the others up for the ceremony and Bill and I were placed at the edge of the balcony space.  Pachelbel’s Canon in D rang out, just as it did on our wedding day and the ceremony began.

The officiant was Eddy, the cruise director.  He was a jolly sort of fellow, always rousing up the crowds and to tell the truth, I was a little afraid he would jolly up my ceremony.  I had taken the original Episcopal wedding ceremony script and altered it to fit a vow renewal.  I wanted solid commitment, not silly jokes.  I also worried that he was not clergy and hoped he’d pull off the prayers in a way that would be relate-able, whether he believed them or not.

Once again, I worried for nothing.  The ceremony was lovely.  Eddie did an admirable job working his way through the fairly lengthy ceremony I’d pulled together, with true solemnity.  He even had tears in his eyes at a few points and at the end, he said it was probably the most heart-felt ceremony he had done.  He also said he could tell a lot of intent and devotion went into it.

Since this is my blog and most of my readers are my friends, I am going to indulge myself and share our declarations of intent with you, because they tell the whole story.

Eddie: Jane, 25 years ago, at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Dallas. TX, the Reverend William R. Bryant asked you, “Will you have this man to be your husband; to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love him, comfort him, honor him and keep him, in sickness and in health; and forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?” On that day you said, “I will.” Have you, in fact, done these things?

Jane: Yes, I have done these things.  We have lived together after God’s ordinance in the Holy Estate of Matrimony in Texas, in the cities of Garland, Dallas, Plano Wylie and Heath, and in the state of California in the cities of Los Osos and Pismo Beach.  Together we have traveled much of the world.  At other times he traveled from away from me, but even then my heart was his.  I have loved him deeply, every day, though some days were difficult.  I have comforted him through sorrows, sickness and loss.  I have honored him at every opportunity in private and public.  In sickness and in health, I have stood by him.  I have gladly forsaken all others, for no one could be as dear to me as he is.  After all these years, he is still the handsomest man I have ever seen.  Twenty-five years ago I was in love with him and dared to commit my life to him.  Today I can say, through it all, that affection has grown into an evergreen love which cannot be extinguished.

Eddie:  And Jane, all these years later do you willingly and joyfully renew this commitment.

Jane: Yes, willingly and with joy I renew this commitment to my beloved.

Eddie:  Nabil, after being married for 25 years, what would you like to tell your bride?

Bill: When we first met your beauty caught my eye.  Your intelligence and intellect intrigued me.   I admired your generosity towards your friends and family. I witnessed your high morals and boundless love for God.  I waited all my life for that one special woman, and God told me it was you – and I listened.  Since we tied the knot 25 years ago we’ve been through many joys and tribulations. We made the most out of the good times, but that was the easy part.  We’ve been through many storms together and with God’s grace we managed to hang in until the storm blew over, however long it took; kudos to you for hanging in.  Thank you for doing your best to please me, thank you for being my friend and thank you for loving me. As for me, I love you and always will!

We went on to make the traditional vows Eddie had quoted in his question to me.

My dear friends also participated, but I will tell you about that next week.

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

The Vow Renewal Excitement Builds

The Celebrity Edge Pool Deck

TRAVEL THERE: BRUNCH, THE SALON AND MORE

Eventually, we did leave our cabin on our special day at sea.  First stop was the buffet, where we found Deborah and Viktoriya.  I was a nervous wreck and absolutely nothing looked good to me, but since we planned to have champagne later on in the salon, I had to eat something.  I know I was acting weird.  Deb and Viktoriya were afraid Bill and I had a fight, but nothing could have been further from the truth.  I was just tied up in knots.

Things Begin to Come Together

My gown made it back to our cabin.  We had a meal.  The vow renewal countdown began.

While we’d been having brunch, the bed had been made and the cabin had been put in order, so I began to lay out all the paraphernalia for the ceremony, both Bill’s and mine.  Bill was antsy to get out and start enjoying the pool, so I released him, but not before I had quizzed him mercilessly to make sure he knew when he had to be back to the cabin.

Next, it was time to take my shower.  At least I didn’t have to try to do my own hair and make-up.  I was nervous as a cat.  After my shower and toiletries I sat down to read, but couldn’t comprehend anything.

Finally, I gave it up and decided to do my waiting in the salon.  I grabbed my bag of hair ornaments and jewelry and made tracks there.  The salon didn’t help, because none of the girls were there yet and the people who worked in the salon had no clue I was coming apart at the seams.  Anyone who knew me would have been able to tell, but strangers couldn’t.  I should have called one of the girls and told them I was in desperate need of hand-holding, but I knew at least one would show up soon, so I waited.

Let’s Have Some Fun

Finally, my bestie showed up with a bottle of champagne and suddenly everything was OK.   She was right on time for her 3 PM appointment, but I felt like I’d been waiting for ages.  The champagne was a perk we earned with our Concierge Class cabin.  There was a flutter of activity, because there weren’t any glasses in the salon, but that was soon remedied.

I have a suggestion for Celebrity.  You need to make drinks a little easier to obtain in the salon.  I’d planned on adding a bottle or two to the one Deb had brought along, but there was really no way for that to happen, without going to a bar, so we just made do with the bottle among the four of us.  Thankfully, Viktoriya wasn’t partaking which make the bottle go a little further.

They started on everyone else before me.  That made sense, but it left me with nothing to do and you don’t want an already nervous person not to have anything to do.  Soon, however, the champagne took effect and we were reminiscing about all the years we girls had been together.  Melanie and I had been roommates in college and I’d met Deb in my twenties, so we had a lot of reminiscing to do.

Let’s Fix the Bride

At 4 PM I climbed in the salon chair for my “bride’s hair” appointment.  It still appeared to be the very same thing the other updo girls were getting, even as it was happening.  So, if you do indeed, ever have a ceremony on a Celebrity cruise ship and you get your hair done in the salon, don’t pay extra for bride’s hair.  I’d asked for clarification seven ways from Sunday, but couldn’t get a straight answer for the extra cost.  Here’s the answer: It’s just another updo.

In the end, I loved my hair, but I felt as if Melanie actually had the most elaborate do.  She had braids!  I had wanted braids in the beginning, but after I bought my dress I felt a sleeker look was more in tune, but I was still a little jealous of Melanie’s braids.

Deb and Melanie headed off once they were all gussied up. Viktoriya and I had our make-up done together.  I had only teared up once and that was because there were so few of us.  I had hoped more friends and family could come along.  I understood why they weren’t there, but a part of me wished for that backyard ceremony I had originally dreamed of.

The Dream Begins

Released from the salon chair I went back to our cabin and was greeted by my very handsome groom.  He was already in his tux and he helped me get into my wedding finery.  Together we made our way to Eden for the event we’d been planning for a year.

Come back next week for all the details!

 

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

A Late Start to a Big Day

TRAVEL THERE: OUR BIG DAY AT SEA

Usually, when I think of cruising, I think of leisurely days spiced up with exotic activities.  That’s not at all what this cruise looked like.  We’d been at a dead run since before we left and even though we’d only made it to one of our ports of call, before this day at sea, the 10.5 hour shore excursion had taken a toll on us. 

Mr. Bill Sleeps In

Though he’d been a good sport so far, I realized I had used up a lot of my vacation-stress banking account with my husband.  He needed down time and alone time – or at least alone with me time. 

I am an early riser, regardless of when I go to bed or need to wake up.  Mr. Bill is not. On a routine day at sea, I go to the gym, stroll around the decks and perhaps check out the buffet, before I come back to see what Mr. Bill is up to.  Since this was not a routine day at sea, I opted to catch up my journal and do a little reading.  Only it turned into a lot of reading and as Bill continued to sleep soundly, I began to get nervous about the how the rest of the day would turn out.

A Nervous Bride

As I lounged around the room I began to enumerate the many things that could go wrong.

  • The meeting with the event coordinator had not gone well and I already doubted she understood all the details I wanted.
  • I turned over the beautifully hand-lettered pages with the vows, scriptures and lyrics for the ceremony to her.  What if she misplaced them or forgot them.
  • They had come,  as promised, to take my gown to be pressed, but as of yet, it had not returned to our cabin.
  • I had a list of all the appointments we girls had in the salon, so I felt confident they would happen, but what if the stranger messed up my hair that I had left long just for this event.
  • What if the make-up artists made us look like clowns.

Thankfully, Bill woke up before I was able to get too crazy, but with him awake, now I had to hide just how worried I had become.  He  decided he wanted to lounge around some more before going to the buffet for a meal.  I was desperate to escape the cabin, but cooled my heels and pretended all was well.

Not Loving the Endless Veranda

On any other cruise, much of this angst would have been resolved by going out on the balcony.  I would slide open the door and be in my own little space.  My Celebrity Concierge Class Cabin came with what they called an Endless Veranda, which is supposed to be a wonderful innovation, but in truth is really no veranda at all.

To give them their due, it does make the living quarters a little larger, but if you really enjoy your balcony, as I do, then it’s not going to cut the mustard.  The Endless Veranda is a large floor-to-ceiling window at the end of your room.  The top half can be raised with the push of a button.  However, when you push that button, the window takes a while to raise and all the while, it is making a noise to match its effort.  Definitely not a good thing to have happen while your husband is sleeping, just a few steps away, on the day of your much anticipated and very expensive vow renewal.

With a sliding glass door, I am quietly in and out before hubby even has an opportunity to be disturbed.  In lieu of my sliding glass door, they did have a sort of room separator you could use, but that raised yet another problem.  The furniture they installed next to the floor-to-ceiling window was so large, there is no way to close the separator without doing a whole lot of furniture moving.  I have been told by their local rep that they got new furniture which negates this problem, but it was a big problem on this particular day.

We did, eventually head to the buffet, but I will tell you about that next week.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Museums, Shopping, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Back to Naples

Happy nappers on the way back to Naples

TRAVEL THERE: WRAPPING UP THE DAY

Our ten and a half hour baptism by tourism was drawing to and end.  We were treated to one more shopping opportunity.  This one had to do with Limoncello liquor and came with another restroom visit, but this restroom required an entry fee.  Bill didn’t realize that when he he headed up the stairs.  A small personal drama ensued.

Lost in Pompeii

So, we heard all about the wonders of Limoncello and several people bellied up to the bar to take some home.  Bill headed to the restroom, but I didn’t need to go, so I browsed around the little shop near the bottom of the stairs.  Bill was supposed to get me on his way out, but somehow a restroom that required euros damaged his thought process.  He headed out of the place and forgot all about me.

After I’d looked at everything in the store about 75 times I started to wander around a bit.  I had someone check the restroom to see if Bill was inside.  I walked every inch of the building several times.  I kept telling myself that he wouldn’t have left without me, but it became apparent that he actually had.

The ‘being lost’ rule in my family had always been, stay where you last saw someone, because if you start wandering around you’ll never be found.  The lesson had stuck with me and even though it was apparent Bill was nowhere in the building I kept walking around looking for him.  Problem was, Bill was not in my family of origin, so he didn’t know the rules.

I finally worked up my nerve and wandered outside to look for him.  He was nowhere in sight.  I finally saw some people from our bus, but no one that I knew.  I strolled over to chat them up, hoping my desperation didn’t show.  Before too long other people from our own little group began to show up, but none of them was Bill.  I was relieved, because others had seen him since I had, but I still wanted my husband.

He showed up happy as a clam unaware that I was on the edge of being distraught.  He hadn’t missed me, didn’t realize he’d abandoned me in the shop and he felt no remorse about the terror I had been dealing with.  It was all well and good to tell me everything was alright, but it wasn’t doing anything for the adrenaline pumping through my veins.

We climbed back on the bus to go back to Naples and I tried to get back into the rhythm of having fun, but it had been pretty upsetting. I did eventually get over it, but if you’ve had a similar experience, you know that you really, really want to be mad at someone for something, even though you know there’s really no need for your angst.

Back on Board

Once back on board the ship, some of our group visited the always-open Oceanside Buffet for an afternoon snack, but food didn’t even sound good to me.  I went back to the cabin and got gussied up for the evening.

Bill and I love on board entertainment, so we caught an evening performance in the theater called Kaleidoscope.  It was much better than the Whitney Houston thing – very Cirque de Soleil.  I know the Bagleys were still very much involved in the whole Art Gallery scene.  They were always showing up at the last minute saying they’d been there picking out frames or arranging shipment or whatever.  I’m not sure what the girls got up to, but they really liked having drinks and people-watching.

Dinner was at the Tuscan Restaurant, which meant we ate Italian.  Exhaustion had set in and I couldn’t tell you what I ate or whether I liked it or not.  My journal says we had a perfectly lovely evening, so I’ll have to leave it at that.  After the meal, some of us went to Eden to see something called Revelation, but it was late and we were tired, so we didn’t stay long.

The next morning was our day at sea, the one in which we’d celebrate our 25th Anniversary with a Vow Renewal.  Come back next week for that for sure!

 

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.

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

Sojourn in Sorrento

TRAVEL THERE: PIZZA IN THE PIAZZA

Though I deemed it worth the visit, Capri had been very hot and very crowded.  Now, we had ferry ride back to the mainland.  That’s OK, we all needed a nap.

Better Than Before

It wasn’t a jet foil we took to Sorrento.  It was much larger and all the seating was downstairs. It was pretty much superior in every way you can imagine.  The hordes of Asian tourists we’d had with us on the way to Capri were nowhere in sight and no one, including Bill, was sea sick.  He didn’t take any chances, though.  He closed his eyes as soon as he boarded, so he was the first of us to fall asleep.

Though Bill fell asleep first and stayed that way longer than any of us, he was not alone.  We were all snoozing.  Bill just happened to be the only one I caught with my camera.

Sorrento

Welcome to Sorrento

Like Capri, Sorrento was a bit of a logistical challenge.  There was a small part of the village down by the shore, but the part we wanted, the Old Town was up a pretty steep road.  So, we trotted from the dock to a small square, where we waited while Paolo went for our transportation.  We climbed the hill in a small van and minutes later we were on another small square.

We were whisked from the van to a shopping opportunity, disguised as a craft demonstration, only everyone saw through the ruse.  It was a woodworking shop where they did elaborate wood mosaics.  We stood politely through the demonstration and appreciated the lovely merchandise, but no one in our group had come prepared to purchase a convert-able gaming table or a huge grandfather clock.  The establishment did offer restroom facilities, but our group took care of that on the ferry.

It seemed Paolo was impatient with these “shopping opportunities” he forced on us, but it’s all part of the tourist game and we appreciated access to nice toilets.  Once we were released from the shop, we were given free time for eating and shopping.

The Value of Proximity

Right next to the shop was a restaurant with a nice patio.  We were thrilled to take a seat under it’s awning and relax on dry land.  We ordered up cold Bierra Morettis and hot Napoli pizza.  They served french fries with the pizza, which we thought was weird.  However, we were hungry after our long hot morning and nap, so it didn’t matter.  We compared notes about the cruise so far and had some of the best moments we’d had yet.  I’ve included a video to prove it.

Soon it was time to load up on our bus again.  Our next destination was Pompeii.  I longed for one of those private early morning tours of the site, which avoid the heat of the day and the crush of tourists, but we only had one day in Naples and I was glad I had not missed Capri or my piazza-side pizza in Sorrento.

Enjoy the short video and get a feel for the enjoyable time we were having.  Then come back next week and we’ll look at the ancient ruins of Pompeii.

 

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

Giardini di Augusto

The Farglioni from Gidini di Augusto

TRAVEL THERE: A MOST BEAUTIFUL VIEW

I couldn’t find much back story to Giardini de Augusto.  A rich European industrialist is responsible for its creation and it is the primary attraction in the town of Capri.  History is not all that makes a site worth visiting.  I’m glad I went.  If you get the opportunity, you should, too.

Watch for It on the Left

If you go on your own, you can probably just follow the crowds across the town to get from the Piazza Umberto I.  In the final stretch you will need to be a little more careful.

A Lemonade Stand on Capri

There’s a perfumery on this path and not far from it, this lovely lemonade stand.  Can you believe the size of those lemons?  I was told they are organic and they are the size of a grapefruit.  Once you see these two landmarks, keep a close eye on the left.  A very small entry way and an equally small bule tile sign are all that warn you that you have arrived.  I’m quite sure the small street continues to who knows where, but you want to stop at the garden.

Views to Die For

The three stone in the picture above are the Farglioni or Stacks, as seen from the Augustus Garden.  It really is an outstanding view – one you could spend a day enjoying, but it’s not all that’s there.  It’s nothing grand and expansive like Dallas’ Arboretum & Botanical Garden.  Just a verey well kpt little garden where tourists come to take pictures.

Once again, I wished to be there without the tourists.  Even though I am not a fan of lemons, I was tempted to try Capri’s version of the concoction and perhaps shop in the perfumery.  It was nice to contemplate sipping on a refreshing drink and enjoying the view.

Here’s what I mean.

More Crowds

Back to the Piazza

Paolo had cut us loose in the garden with instructions to be back at the Piazza at a certain time.  We’d lost Deb and Vik somewhere along the way and we couldn’t find them in the garden anywhere, so we had to assume they’d already headed back.  Bill and I took our leisure strolling along with the Bagleys.

We began to appreciate Paolo more and more.  We’d wondered why he’d raced at such a pace across the island, but it soon became clear.  For one thing, this sidewalk had not been nearly as crowded as we made our way to the garden.  For another, the temperature was rising with great speed.  It was downright hot.

The crowds are concentrated at the gardens and in the Piazza.  Between the two points we were able to stroll along in relative peace, even if we were very, very hot.  The town of Capri is lovely.  I wanted to linger, buy a gelato and do some shopping, but my companions just wanted to get back to the Piazza.

The line for the Funicular was still daunting!

At the Piazza the Bagleys peeled off in search of adult beverages and public restrooms.  Bill and I went to the assigned meeting spot and enjoyed the view.  Eventually, everyone was back together.  Paolo showed up with our return tickets for the funicular and told us what time to meet him at the ferry for Sorrento.

Once down at Marina Grande, we split up again.  The Bagley’s were still interested in adult beverages and I believe the girls were shopping.  Bill and I wandered down a side street and got some great pictures.  Below you’ll see a mixture of the photos we took in the Piazza and some from the charming side street.

Next we’ll take the ferry to Sorrento, so come back next week.