Archive for October, 2014

October 9, 2014

7 Oct 2014 Barcelona by bus 2

Had breakfast at the A La Turkic cafe out the front of the hotel. Omelette with bacon, onion, cheese, tomato, toast and coffee for 8 euros was a bargain compared with the hotel at 15 euros. We book a tour to Montserrat on Thursday through the hotel. No rest for the wicked!

Onto the red bus for Mont Juic (Mount Jew) for a walk around. Off at the cable car for a ride to overlook the coast side (Telefericos de Barcelona) of the mountain. Not very exciting but the views are okay even though it’s a bit smoggy. Next we try the cable car to the fort (Teleferic de Montjuic). Cable car ride is good but the fort is a bit bland. Again the smog spoils the views. I take a look up top while Peter cruises the shops downstairs. In both cable cars you need to stand up so it is tiring. We have a rest then Peter gets the bus back to the hotel and I continue walking on the mountain. First stop is the Olympic stadium from 1992, the sport museum dedicated to Juan Samaranch then on to the Catalunya National Museum. On the bus again and off at Poble Espanyol which was the Olympic village in 1992 made from all the different areas of Spain. It was supposed to be pulled down but the people wanted it preserved and now it is an artisan village with lots of cafes and restaurants. There is nice jewellery, ornaments, leather goods but they are generally expensive. One stop for an ice-cream in a cafe then I catch the bus back to Pl Catalunya and walk back to the hotel.

Peter is sitting outside in a cafe having an enormous beer so I join him for a mojito. We sit for a while and eventually have dinner at a restaurant a little further along. Some Catalonian ‘bruschetta’ that the waiter instructs us how to put it together. Then an enormous plate of seafood paella to share. The table next to us is very friendly from Denmark, Also very drunk! The waiter gives us some champagne to share and we have a toast.

October 7, 2014

6 Oct 2014 Barcelona by bus

Slept in a little so had breakfast by 9am. Paid for the red bus tours west and east, and also a trip to the Pyrenees at Reception. Start the bus trip at the port on the red bus. No top seats but we wait and go upstairs. Stop at Pl Catalunya for lunch at Cafe Zurich. The waiter is a bit aloof but we eventually get ham baguettes and drinks. Jump on the green bus to do the east side but it’s not as good. Attractions are further apart. Each ride takes about 2 hours.

Spot a Flamenco show in the discount book they gave us so we race off after the bus ride to find it. Make it with 10 minutes to spare for dinner as well. We get a table close to the front with a good view. Well worth the rush.

Spent ages updating my photos and blog tonight. Must go to bed now!

October 7, 2014

5 Oct 2014 Disembarking in Barcelona

Up early after packing our bags last night. The last show was Nik Page, a singer from England. He wasn’t too bad.

Breakfast was packed with people. We had to share a table for the first time. The other occupants weren’t keen and didn’t speak English.

Off to wait in the Wheelhouse Bar (unfortunately it wasn’t open!) with the first lot of people of making their own arrangements. It is raining in Barcelona and they closed one gangway due to safety reasons. After about half an hour we were on our way. Down one flight of stairs and across the gangway. Walked straight out of the port, collected our bags and caught a taxi to our hotel, which is not far away. No customs, no x-ray scanning! Amazing.

We got to the hotel in about 5 minutes then realised we didn’t have an adaptor for all our electrical gadgets! After spending an hour in reception waiting for our room to be ready we went for a walk in amazing Barcelona. Down to the docks along La Rambla, which is a massive street with markets in the middle. Peter found an Irish pub with the rugby on so he stayed there and I kept walking. The streets are so long I didn’t even get to the end of the one the pub was in.
Back to find somewhere for lunch. Colon Cerveseria was in a lovely courtyard, one of many. I had a tuna roll and coffee.

We looked at the options of what to do in Barcelona and decided on a bike ride at 4.30pm, the tourist bus tomorrow, rest day and trip to the Pyrenees on Wednesday. To kill time we walked around a bit more. Lucky there are toilets in Starbucks and Hungry Jacks! We stopped at another park and found there were Roman ruins there (La via Sepulcral Romana). It was free to get in as it was the first Sunday in the month.

I took the Barcelona Ciclo Tour as Peter was too tired by 4.30pm. It went for 3.5 hours and we wound around 15kms in all the bike lanes and backstreets. Barcelona has some amazing architecture. Past the works of Gaudi, the Gothic Quarter, Old Harbour, park Ciutadella, beaches, markets and restaurants. After a stop at the beach for a wine we get back to the starting point where Peter is waiting for me.

Dinner is at the Hard Rock Cafe not far away. Of course we have to wait but when we get in our table is on the stage and a band sets up! Nachos and cob salad for me. Back to the hotel for a well-earned rest.

October 5, 2014

3 Oct Livorno (Pisa), 4 Oct 2014 Toulon, France

3 Oct 2014 Livorno (Pisa)
Peter got up early and had breakfast and a walk around. I slept in a little then had breakfast and went to the gym. They have all the machines I need. It is very well equipped.

Back in the room we have a new attendant cleaning so I go for a walk.

Our tour doesn’t start until the afternoon so I did a load of washing (necessary evil). Not my idea of a good way to fill free time! You use your cruise card to get tokens to work the machines. $3 per wash or dry. I had to go up 2 levels to find an empty machine though. They are on every level.

I watch Billy Joel in concert on the big screen on the top deck at 11am and Peter joins me there. Lunch at 12 noon. We sit and watch the containers moving around the port out the window.

Out at 1.20pm for our tour of Pisa. A full bus travels from Livorno (the port) to the parking area and we get in a little ‘train’ for our tour. Unfortunately it is a bit squishy with 4 to a seat on some rows. Our restaurant base (Il Turista) has free wifi and we are more excited about that than the tour! The ship’s internet is very slow and very expensive. I manage to update my photos and blog on my laptop in about 10 minutes while Peter looks around the town. The other recommended restaurant to eat at is Subway!

We meet at the white statue in front of the leaning tower for a selfie. He’s already seen everything so I walk around to see the Duomo, Baptistery and Campanile (the leaning tower since 1173), which is the cathedral’s bell tower, then meet him back at the restaurant. I bought a beautiful white cotton nightie from a little shop on the way. My nightie was turned into shreds in the washing machine (it had a rip in it already).

We all pile onto the ‘train’ again and do a whirlwind tour of the town of Pisa outside the old city walls. Onto the bus and back to the ship by 5.15pm. Not my favourite way of travelling but the walled city of Pisa is very beautiful.

We went to see the show ‘Bravo’ which included some opera and tunes from famous shows. They had a guest opera singer as well as the Princess singers and dancers. It was quite spectacular. I also went to see a murder-mystery whodunnit with some of the crew acting out the crime. The audience got to guess the killer. I guessed correctly but not the motive!

4 Oct 2014 Toulon
Up for breakfast. Just as well I didn’t see the chocolate buffet! Off to Bandol sur la Mer today by bus with plenty of others. We met another couple from Sydney who are also staying in Barcelona for 4 days. Travel to Sanary sur la Mer and have coffee at La Ptite Fbri’k. It is very busy as it is market day and the bus is restricted on where it can go. We walk along the foreshore and I go up high to see 10 stations of the cross. Then back on the bus to Sanary sur la Mer. They are gorgeous little French villages with big harbours and many yachts.

Back on the ship we stop for lunch. They have an enormous crocembouche (profiteroles) but we only have one each. I rush out again and hire a bike to go to the town of La Seyne sur Mer where the cruise ship is docked. It costs only 7 euros for 2 hours. It is a gorgeous day and I loved every minute of it. I pass a fort and mussel house in the bay and nearly get to St Mandrier but it is too far and I go back but not before I stop at La Corniche (sea road) to have a ponnes ou apricot tarte (apricot tart with custard) at a patisserie on the way.

Dinner at Symphony for the last time with Rinaldo, the waiter. Tried out the champagne we won in the trivia contest. Not bad! The waiters paraded bombe alaskas as is their tradition, thanked the staff and marched off. Then off to the last show – Nik Page – a singer and drummer from England. Not my cup of tea. Now I have to pack. Boo hoo.

October 3, 2014

30 Sep At sea, 1 Oct Mt vesuvius/Pompeii, 2 Oct Rome

30 Sep 2014 At sea
Met Peter for breakfast then off to boot camp at 10am. A few more crazy people turned up for it this time. Thought I’d be late as I still get lost on this monster ship. The class didn’t seem as hard this time although time will tell tomorrow!

Straight up to the Lotus Spa for a body and foot massage with facial special. After that off to the shop sale! Not great stuff, very junky made-in-china jewellery, scarves and clothing. I did get an el-cheapo watch with a massive face and a wind cheater at half price though.

Peter was watching a cooking demonstration while I was getting pampered then we had lunch together. Bit of relaxation time now before our second cocktail formal night.

I squeezed in a pilates class before getting dressed for tonight. Off to dinner at Symphony again. The waiter, Rinaldo, is very funny and gives us extra food to try. More formal portraits tonight. Only three before we go to the show ‘Spectacular’. They have two shows a night and they are both packed. We also went to see couples game show that was a bit of fun.

1 Oct 2014 Naples (Mt Vesuvius and Pompeii)
On the way to Mt Vesuvius we stop at Giovanni Apa who make cameos and jewellery from shells. Very elaborate and very expensive!
The bus continues to halfway up Mt Vesuvius then walk the rest of the way to the summit. It is very steep on rock and ash, so very slippery. Peter struggled a bit and I was stuffed coming down too. It is a spectacular view over the Bay of Naples. You can see steam coming out of the top of the mountain in the big crater. It is very barren with not much growing in the ash.

Back on the bus to see Pompeii. It is a massive city only unearthed in the 1800s. It was a working city in 79 AD. There is one long main street that held shops and houses. You can still what some of the shops were – a baker, a brothel (with pictures to show the services). Also a rich person’s house with garden and mosaic tile entrance. The men’s bath house still has a roof made of bricks and ornate ceilings. Most of the roofs were made of wood and were burnt by molten lava. Houses had two storeys so the tops were destroyed but the bottoms were preserved. Pompeii had running water that the inhabitants collected at communal wells. There was a massive town square that overlooked Mt Vesuvius and an arena. The street that led from the sea had marble chips imbedded in it to act as reflectors for seamen coming in at night! It is a fascinating place. We only saw a small portion of it. It was a very big day.

Perhaps too big. We had dinner in the buffet, went to see a violinist show (he was very good), I got a headache and went to bed about 8pm. Peter went off to the casino.

2 Oct 2014 Civitavecchia (Rome)
Boarded a bus bound for Lake Bracciano in the Etruscan countryside. Unfortunately the mike didn’t work so we had to get a replacement bus, which put us a little behind. Stopped to see the castle that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes got married then on to the lakeside resort of Anguillara, a medieval town that overlooks Lake Bracciano. I walked up to the clock tower for the views over the lake and Peter went around the lake to take the opposite view. We had coffee and ice-cream at Il Gabbiano on the foreshore. Then off to Tuscia wine country and Casalo Centi Corvi winery for some wine tasting, cured meats, cheeses, breads and olive oil. Wished we could take some home. The sauv blanc was very good! Back on the bus and back to the ship.

I took a side trip by shuttle into Civitavecchia for a quick look around. It was easy to remember the street to come back to – xvi settembre (16 September, my birthday!). I got closer views of the port and the medieval walls. Unfortunately the shops are closed until 4pm but I did find a wifi cafe close to the pick up point.

Off to dinner around 6pm then listened to Sail Away Tunes with the Emmanuelle Blanco Band at the Fountain pool with exotic cocktail, of course! Pub night trivia was a lot of fun. Not the usual trivia though. All the correct answers went into a bucket – or the funniest wrong answer. At the end one gets pulled out, and guess what? – we won a bottle of wine. I stayed for the Ye Olde Pub Night which was bawdy British singing and clowning around.