We arose early, the differences in time zones not yet acclimated into our circadian rhythms.
We bought some cappuccino and croissants, in an airport restaurant, and watched the giant aerial behemoths land and take off in this busy airport.
We climbed these ancient steps, enjoying the surreal experience of viewing the huge sculptures flanking the stairs headway and wondering at the many who had come this way throughout the ages.
Just up the rise, behind the triumphant arch of Constantine, we could see the now familiar broken circle of the remains of the coliseum. Hunger was gnawing at us, so we stopped at a cute little trattoria labeled a€?planet pizza.a€? We ordered two slices of pizza and continued on, walking the narrow streets as we munched on our pizza. We sat for a time, watching the tourists, and enjoying the sunshine and 62 degree temperatures. After lunch, we walked about the piazza, enjoying the controlled tumult and browsing the artists with their easels and the colorful souvenir vendors.
We were becoming foot weary from the line of march, but headed southeast from the Piazza Navona, in search of the fabled Pantheon. Soon, we turned a corner and stood still for a moment, appreciating the classic lines of the Pantheon, a former pagan temple that had been constructed in 183 A.D. From the Pantheon, we followed our map to the Via Corso and headed back towards that huge monument dominating the skyline, the Vittorio Emmanuel II, in the Piazza Venezia.
We walked the small and narrow streets nearby, looking in on the small vegetable and food shops. The ten oa€™clock bus into Rome looked like the Kowloon ferry at rush hour, so we opted to walk over to the train station to catch the express run into stazione terminal. At Stazione Terminal, we detrained and walked through the large terminal that connects the surface railways with the two principal subway lines which crisscross underneath Roma. Next, we came upon one of the ancient Italian Monsignors celebrating mass at one of the side chapels. Even the sophisticated stand here quietly unsure of exactly what they are seeing, but respectful of the idea that the remains of so noteworthy a historical figure lay just a few yards away in plain sight. We walked up the nearest boulevard to the Tiber, in search of one of the more storied edifices in Rome, the Castle San Angelo.
We emerged into a small courtyard, at the top of the castle, where a statue of St., Michael the archangel, stands ready to protect all with his sword and shield.
On our way down, we espied several small exhibit rooms where huge a€?blunder bussesa€? and small cannon of many sorts lay on exhibit.Their fired lead must have cut down many attacking marauders in ages past. We crossed the Tiber at the Ponte Cavour and walked three blocks over to the Via Corso.We were headed for one of the more spacious and beautiful Piazzas in Rome, the Piazza Del Poppolo. The Parkland is well cared for and looks like a pleasant spot for Romans to gather on a spring or summera€™s day. We stopped by a station restaurant and bought some wonderful vegetable paninis (sandwiches) for later. We enjoyed another swim in the hotel pool and then stopped by the hotela€™s atm for another 100 euros. We retrieved our luggage from the bus and stood in line for a brief 20 minutes of check-in procedures. We walked the decks, exploring our ship and enjoyed the lounges, shop areas and the many other nooks and crannies of entertainment and activity spread around the decks. Deck #11 aft holds a smaller restaurant called the a€?Trattoria,a€? and serves Italian food every night. We met in the Stardust lounge on deck #10 and got tickets for our 10-hour tour of the Tuscan Countryside and the fabled walled city of Siena.
As the tour bus careened down the highway, we looked at the pastoral scenes, of groves of olive trees and vineyards, dotting the gently rolling landscape. Marco walked us from the bus parking area to the Chiesa San Domingo where we met our local guide a€?Rita.a€? She launched into what was to be a colorful and informed narrative of the Sienaa€™s history and development. We walked through the narrow, cobbled streets and admired the well preserved walls and quaint shops that appeared around every turn. We walked slowly along the medieval streets, admiring the ancient framing and well preserved architecture. Just next to the Duomo, Rita pointed out an entire area that had been laid out to expand the church.
Marco led us to the ancient a€?Spade Fortea€? ristorante, on the periphery of the Piazza, for lunch. We still had time left after lunch, so we walked back to the Duomo and, for 6 euros each, entered the Musee da€™Opera, next to the Duomo.
The bus drove by the walled city of San Gimiano and we caught a glimpse of the open gates of what marco called a a€?medieval disneyland.a€? It looked like a great place to wander when the crowds were less intense. We dressed for dinner this evening in a€?business attire.a€?It was one of the two a€?formal nightsa€? on the ship. The seas were calm that night and we walked topside, enjoying the night air and each othera€™s company.We never lose sight of how fortunate we are to be with each other in these exotic and interesting locales. We passed through Recco, a Ligurian center for cooking, and then exited into the a sprawling town of Rappalo for the coastal ride into Santa Margarita, where we would take a small ferry to Porto Fino, the heart of the Italian Riveria. The Castello Brown is everything your imagination could place it to be, sited on the high promontory over a picture book Mediterranean village. In the quaint village below, we browsed the pricey shops, like Gucci & Ferragamo, noting the breath-taking prices listed in euros. The Canne waterfront surrounds the marina, a central square, filled with Sycamore trees, and replete with several cafes and their ubiquitous outside tables and chairs. We entered the A-8 Autostrade and drove through Nice and on towards Monaco, some 90 kilometers miles further along the fabled Cotea€™ da€™azur. From quaint and medieval EZE, we descended to the Middle Corniche Road for the picturesque ride into nearby Nice. From the Palais, Patrick threaded the huge tour bus through the narrow streets, fighting the Easter-morning, Mass traffic. I thought that I had a pretty good command of French, but at moments like these, it seems to desert you. Pat and John were accompanied by friend Joanne, a retired teacher, Al and his mother Cora, also from celebration Florida and the Two Australians, Mike and Carmen Harchand. Revelry aside, the injury was throbbing insistently, so we returned to our cabin, with my hand elevated in the a€?French salute but with the wrong finger.a€? The seas were running rough this evening, with ten foot swells and 25 knot winds.
We passed by the entrance to the Las Ramblas, the broad pedestrian promenade that extends into the city, and continued on. The first wonder that we passed is Antonio Gaudia€™s a€?Batlo House.a€? Built in 1906, it is several stories high and has a delightful facade of painted ceramic tiles. Next, we passed the Casa Mila, another Gaudi masterpiece, with its distinctive wavy and flowing, tiled facade. Then, we came to the sanctum sanctorum of architecture, the Cathedral of the Segrada Familia.
The four seasons and many other symbols are represented in this flowing montage that is more enormous sculpture than architecture. Restless, we wandered the decks, met and talked with the Martins and then found a nice photo of ourselves, taken in Sienaa€™s main Piazza, in the photo gallery. We stopped for a time, in one of the deck ten lounges, and read our books, enjoying the quiet mode of the ship at sea. We walked topside, enjoying as always the collage of sun, sea and sky, as we knifed through the rolling swells. The Devonshire spread ( as in butt the size of) still engulfed us, so we did another five laps around the deck # 7 promenade.
All passengers casually look up at a large electronic tote board that lists gate assignments. I could see the white cliffs of Dover as we crossed over the English channel and flew across to France. It seems that they had left an entire baggage cart, from our flight, at Heathrow during one of the a€?beat the clock a€? scenarios. Sounds of French, Italian, Spanish and several other languages swam around our ears as we sat musing about where we were.
At the top of the steps, we crossed a small terrace and looked down into the elegant rubble that is the remains of the Roman Forum.
Its several tiers, all filled with open arches, even now reminds me of the many sports arenas we had visited. Then, we set out over the very pricey Via Condotti, browsing the windows of Bvlgari, Gucci, Ferragamo and a score of other trendy shops.
We were tempted to enter the a€?Tre Scalinia€? and order a€?Tartuffo,a€? that wonderful roman delight that is a€?fried ice cream,a€? but passed on the opportunity in the interests of fitting into our clothes.
We wandered the back alleys, consulting our trusty map and once asking a merchant for directions.The trouble with asking questions in passable Italian is that the hearer assumes you speak the language fluently and rattles off a response in rapid fashion. We showered and prepped for the day.NCL was putting on a buffet breakfast in the hotel for the early cruise ship passengers. Three hundred and fifty cruise passengers had booked a few days in Rome and were expected this morning. We sought out and found the a€?Aa€? line that would take us up to the Vatican and the Chiesa San Pietro (St. We could see the walls of Vatican city up ahead of us and the huge dome of Saint Petera€™s against the skyline. Petera€™s held a long line of pilgrims, school children on holiday and other penitents from the four corners of the globe. We were debating where we would head next, when we noticed that the line had lessened for St. Petera€? stand in their wooded splendor, for all the world like an outsized throne for some race of giants. We sat through the mass understanding much and received communion, saying a prayer for Brothera€™s Paddya€™s repose. I said a brief prayer for all of those whom we had lost and moved on to the marbled hallway. It is a circular and high walled fortress that has served in different eras as a castle for the Caesara€™s, a prison, a church and now a stone monument to antiquity. A small pile of stone cannonballs lay next to what must have been the remains of a medieval catapult, used to bomb the attackers with.
A few tug boats and a single scull, powered by a lone oarsman, were all that broke the surface of this venerable and storied river.
We slowly climbed the winding steps, to its heights, noting the occasional bum sleeping in the park bushes. We walked along the parkway, dodging the odd service truck, and admired the imposing bulk of the Villa Borghese, sitting on a hill above us.
A group of Spanish school kids were singing happy birthday to one of their group amidst much laughter.
I signed up for an hour with the hotels internet station ( 20 euros) and sent a number of messages to friends and relatives across the ether of cyberspace. Then, we settled in with paninis, chips,acqua minerale con gassata and a good bottle of Chianti, while we read our books and got ready to join The Norwegian Dream for an itinerary we had long anticipated. On deck #12, aft, we found the a€?Sports Bara€? a small buffet-style restaurant that served all three meals daily. Like all liners, the boat is equipped with motorized, ocean-going tenders that are wholly enclosed and hold up to 128 passengers when full. It was followed with a nice spinach salad, a grilled tuna steak and a delightful cannolli and decaf cappuccino.
Its most famous Saint, Catherine of Siena, had been a dominican nun who was a a€?close associatea€? of the reigning pope in Avignon. Then, we walked into the small piazza that holds the most prized treasure in Siena, the Duomo Santa Maria da€™ Assumption. We fell in with and enjoyed the company of two colorful residents of Celebration, Florida, Pat and John McGoldrick, former Beantown (Boston) residents and fellow Irish Americans. Ensconced within are all of the original statuary and murals from the exterior of the church.As the marble became worn, throughout the centuries, artisans had replicated the original statuary and remounted them on the facade.
We elected to choose again the Trattoria for dinner, where we were seated with Ray and Sarah from Atlanta. Geographically, the rocky headland of Porto Fino separates the gulfs of Tivuglio and Paradisio. We enjoyed the colorful front street of nice hotels, shops and restaurants, as we exited the bus in the rain. The harbor area rings a small marina, with wonderful sailing yachts scattered amidst the smaller craft. Christiana took us through the commercial center of Genoa , stopping at the central a€?Piazza venti septembre, 1870a€? which commemorates the date of the Italian unification. A light rain and a 42 degree chill greeted us, as we stood topside to watch the Dream get underway.
The Mediterranean Sea sparkled a dazzling blue against the bright sun and lighter blue of the sheltering sky. Francois Grimaldi, the founder of the line, came to the area in 1297, with a small army of soldiers, all disguised as monks. We followed a nicely trimmed walkway to the a€?Rochea€? (rock) area, so named because it had literally been carved from the cliffside rock. The crenelated battlement of the original castle had been added to over the generations to produce an odd hybrid. Along the roadside, at several intersections, sit scale, bronzed models of Le Mans race cars, denoting the world famous auto race that roars through the streets of Monaco every May. We skipped breakfast and had coffee topside, admiring the Marseilles harbor and the surrounding mountains, in the bright, Easter-morning sun. It is now the second largest city and largest commercial port in France, with one million people living in the metropolitan area.
We set off from the port area, stopping first at the a€?Old Cathedrala€? in the a€?vieux port a€? area of the harbor.
A score or so of fishermen were minding stalls that sold fresh fish, everything from whole squid and lobsters, to eels. The kind and elderly woman, perhaps a nun in mufti, helped clean the wound, put antiseptic ointment on it and dressed it in gauze.
The city had erected three separate, exterior walls, for defensive purposes, as the city evolved over the centuries. Unfortunately , Antonio Gaudi was killed, in a traffic accident, at a young age and construction was interrupted.
Built for a 1929 world exposition, this elegant structure and plaza is now an art museum.
The theme for the evening was a€?American Presidents and their favorite foods.a€? We chose a Gerald Ford, Norwegian, salmon appetizer. We had finished packing the evening before, so we had time to stop at a nearby restaurant and had bagels and coffee, while reading the paper. Traffic was light, at the peace bridge and on the Queen Elizabeth Expressway, so we breezed into Torontoa€™s Pearson airport in 90 minutes, well in time for all of us to relax and check in for our afternoon flights. The plane was a€?sro,a€? every seat was filled.A few of the piccolo mostro (little monsters) squawked a bit during the flight but it went quickly enough. The neatly outlined farms, of the French country side, flashed below us in a well ordered array.
Once, this small area had been graced with rows of gleaming white marble structures, the business, commerce and affairs of much of the western world had been waged here daily. We dodged their insistent sales pitches and walked out onto the Via Imperiali, walking towards the Vittorio Emmanuel II monument.
The fascination of Rome is that you stumble upon these grand and ancient monuments so casually when you turn a street corner. We were headed in the distance towards the Fiume Tiber and the Piazza Navona, another famous gathering place and site of three majestic Bernini fountains.
We smiled, strained to understand and thanked the man for a€?su aiutoa€? (his help) As a parenthetical, I dona€™t know that we have ever found a people as gracious, patient and willing to help as we have the Italians. It has classic greek columns in the front and a large dome that has at its center and open a€?occulia€? that lets light enter the dimly lit church. You got so your ear could hear them approach and you knew you had to run like hell to get out of their way. We relaxed in the room, wrote up our notes and then went for an invigorating swim in the hotela€™s pool. Four blocks over, we spilled into one of the most famous squares in the modern world.The Piazza San Pietro was already crowded with pilgrims by mid morning.
We walked about the piazza enjoying the semi-circle of the grand columns with their statues of popes and saints standing atop them. A line was gathered near a tombed figure with an open, glass side, so we stood patiently in line to see what drew the attention. The frescoes on the walls, the gilded and painted windows and the wealth of two thousand years held us in awe.
I figured a mass and a lighted candle at the Vatican might give him some juice in the far beyond.
For 5 euros each, we entered and walked around the inside periphery of this two thousand year old castle. Off the courtyard lies a circular verandah that overlooks all of Rome.We sat for a bit and enjoyed the view, then found a tiny cafe where we had a cappuccino with other pilgrims who visiting the fortress. We retraced our path, down the circular ramp, and exited onto the esplanade along the Tiber, replete with cadres of africans hawking all manner of souvenirs. It is a functioning museum, with a collection of intersting sculptures and art works, but we were tiring with the day and wanted to push on. A swirl of languages provided an auditory bath for our ears, as we walked amid the crowds, enjoying the life and laughter of so many around us. We had to ask how the Italian key board works, to find the ampersand symbol that is used in e-mail addresses. The lobby was awash with businessmen, attending some conference or other, and hundreds of other cruise-ship passengers wandering about. The surrounding countryside was devoted mainly to agriculture, with many vineyards running along the coast. The papal states took possession of the harbor in the 14th century and it had evolved into the chief commercial port of Rome during unification in 1870.
We stood in our orange life vests, with whistle and water activated light, and listened patiently to the crew member assigned to us. It is our custom, when cruising, to have a drink at the topside bar and watch the ship leave port. We were seated at a small table for two and ordered a bottle of Meridian Merlot from a Ukranian wine steward named a€?Igor.a€? We exchanged several comments in Russian and enjoyed the conversation with him. Siena is south and east of Florence, a beautiful city of art and culture that we had already visited and enjoyed on a previous trip.
We stopped in the Piazza Tolomei, the home of the aforementioned banking syndicate, Monte Dei Pasche.
Finished in the late 1300a€™s, this Romanesque, white and green striped, marble epiphany, with roseate trim, is impressive.
A lively lunch, well seasoned with several flagons of the local Chianti, consisted of pasta and mushrooms in sauce, asparagus risotto, (no carne for four), cheese, green beans and salad,finished off with a ricotta cheese desert that was wonderful and accompanied throughout with aqua frizzante. Looking at these originals gives you an appreciation for the odd seven hundred years that the place had been around.
A huge, victory-arch framed three floral gardens that are dedicated to Christobal Colon (Columbus) and his three ships on their voyage of discovery to the Americas in 1492. The lights, of the whole amphitheater of Genoa, were twinkling in the dark as we eased from the harbor and set off Westward along the Ligurian Coast.
We drove down the grand boulevard, Avenue Crossette and viewed the huge hotels, the site of the international film festival and even a statuesque column to the emperor, Napoleon.
They attacked the surprised Genoese defenders and overwhelmed them, taking possession of the area and declaring it the Principality of Monaco. We walked along the Boulevard San Martin, passing two pricey homes that housed the royal daughters, and stopped to visit the Church of the Immaculate Conception. Reluctantly, we left the a€?Rochea€? area, with its palace and fairy tales, and returned to the bus.
We parked at another huge garage and took the elevators and escalators up to a small plaza that houses the Monaco Opera house.
Parked out front today, were an Aston Martin, two lamberghinia€™s, several Jaguars, the odd couple of lesser Mercedes and a row of other luxury cars, with an attendant to watch over them. Czar Nicholas of Russia, and Queen Victoria of England, and scores of lesser roalty, had been frequent visitors to the area. It is of green and white striped marble construction, like the church in Siena, but much less ornate.
We watched as several fishermen worked around their small fishing dories, cleaning and mending nets.
By now, I was recovering a bit and managed to remember enough French to thank her and say that she was a€?very kind for helping me.a€? I kept my hand elevated, in a position of a€?The french salute, but with the wrong finger,a€? as we walked around the grounds of the cathedral. Was this not the land from whence the phrase had originated a€?waiting for Godot?a€? We stopped by the a€?slop chutea€? for a salad and then sat topside for a bit, admiring the harbor on such a bright and sunny day.
Mary took over the job of transcribing my travel notes and agreed to take notes on the next few days tours, until I could manage to grip a pen well enough to write.
Portions of all three still existed and had been added to architecturally over the years in something the guide called a€?architectural lasagna.a€? It is a nIce turn of phrase. The a€?newer sectionsa€? of Barcelona are laid out in a geometrical grid, with broad boulevards and more green spaces. The streets in the area have ornamental wrought iron lamp posts and the buildings are adorned with ornate metal floral designs.
Originally planned as a 60 residence housing project for the wealthy, only two homes were ever built. It is flanked by a lovely parkland that stretches along the edge of this hillside and looks out over the city and harbor. We squeezed into a table with two charming Southern Belles from Kentucky, Sandy and JoQuetta. We were bouncing messages off satellites, all over the world, and in instant communication with friends five thousand miles away. At that instant, the entire passenger compliment, for that flight, drops what they are doing and sprints for the assigned gate, some as far as a 15 minute walk away.
Then, the Italian Alps crowded the skyline.They are hills of the craggy and black granite variety, much like our own Rocky Mountains. The line was long and passengers were annoyed,some engaging in delightful histrionics, replete with loud voices and wild gestures.
My minds eye could picture the parade of legions and cornucopia of other traffic that had passed this way before us in the 2700 years of Romea€™s history.
Now, it took an active imagination to look into the dustbin of history and see what once was mighty Rome. The Coliseum looked majestic, as we looked over our shoulders, like some ancient mirage that would vanish the moment we stopped looking.
We were headed to the most famous meeting spot in all of Rome, The a€?Spanish Steps.a€? They are a series of broad stone stairways that lead from the Piazza Espanga to the five-star Hotel Hassler, once the site of the Villa Medici, with its distinctive twin towers. We sat in a small park on the Piazza Venezia and looked out over the monument with its huge Italian flags wafting in the afternoon breeze. It was busy with flight crews coming and going and scores of other travelers from everywhere.The airport location is ideal for weary passengers arriving from all points of the globe. We sat down with a couple from Toronto and had a pleasant conversation.He is a retired fire fighter and she works in food service.
Long lines waited to get into the Vatican museum and its moist desired visual prize, the Sistina Chapella (Sistine Chapel).
The appeared for all the world like a semi circle of stone hawkers calling forth the faithful to come in and see what was cooking inside. We jumped into line and soon were admitted into the venerable wonder that is the church of St. We scurried over to the entrance to the underground crypt, thankful for the empty bellies of the many pilgrims who now donned the noon feedbag. A long marble hallway, opened every few yards into a grotto with a marble sarcoughogus that housed the remains of another Pope.
The stone work had been mended throughout the years, but reflected differing styles of stones and means of repair from the many eras of its menders.
The ornate facade of the Palace of Justice, just up ahead, looks like something from 19th century Paris, in its dirty-gray limestone majesty.
Part of the ancient wall of Rome, with its standing city gate, frames the North side of the piazza.
At its peak, we looked out over the Piazza del Poppolo and enjoyed the view of much of Rome. We found the subway entrance nearby and walked down into the bowels of Rome, to catch the a€?Aa€? train back to the terminal. At 9 A,M, we walked through the lobby and again dined at the buffet breakfast put on by NCL in the hotel.
The cabin was compact, but included a small sitting area, sliding doors onto a balcony and a small bathroom and shower.It was to be our home for the next twelve days. If you ever needed this sucker, in an emergency, it might well pay to know how to hell to get on board the craft. The powerful tug a€?Eduardo Roacea€? helped nudge the dream in a 180 degree pivot, so she was bow first and able to steam more ably from the congested harbor area. He was to be one of several of the mostly Phillipino and eastern European wait staff with whom we were to interact.
After dinner, we strolled the decks and now open shops (they close when in port) and enjoyed the comings and goings of the passengers in the lounges.
The Pisamonte range hemmed the flat coastal plain into a narrow strip of tillable land, where farmers grew large commercial crops of grapes, sunflower seeds, olives and wheat. She had been so venerated by the church, that when the Sienese wanted her body interred in the Chiesa San Domingo, Rome had only sent her head and a finger to be buried there, retaining the rest of her remains for veneration in Rome. We enjoyed the McGoldricka€™s company and were half lit from the Chianti when we emerged into the central piazza some 90 minutes later.
I am not much taken by religious art, but had to admire the pure artistry in stone so casually laid before us.
We were high in the hills and caught pictorial visages of the valleys surrounding Siena, San Gimiano and the nearby towns. Topside, we looked out and viewed the amphitheater of Genoa, that surrounds the busy commercial port.
A land road now reaches Porto Fino, but in the early part of the century, it had only been accessible by boat, increasing its attraction for those looking to a€?get awaya€? from it all. We saw a sign with an arrow for a€?Castello Browna€? and walked the steep and terraced steps leading above the village. It is impressive enough, but the real treasure, for Americans, is to walk by a simple grave stone, amidst ancient Monagasque royalty, embedded in the floor near the main altar.
We were having lunch in a€?La Chaumiere,a€? a picturesque, mountainside restaurant with a killer view of all of Monaco and the mediteranean beyond. Cap Da€™antibe, and the sparkling blue Mediterranean, are things you could look at all day. Along the waterfront, pricey hotels dominate the grand boulevard for a stretch of seven kilometers.
We much enjoyed the Martina€™s company and talked long enough for us to be the last ones in the Trattoria.
We had the option of a full day tour in Provence, but had decided that too many full day tours were wearing us a little thin. Byzantine in style, like sacre Coeur in Paris, it sits on the site of a much older church first established there in 1100 A.D. Elaborate gates , with decorative iron works guarded the palais.Three marble lions strode atop the impressive gates.
It stands high on the summit of a hill, and features a huge gold tinted statue of a€?Notre Dame,a€? Mary, the mother of Christ. It was the McGoldricks 24th wedding anniversary and we had been looking forward to joining them.
My right hand was swollen, black and blue but felt well enough to get through the daya€™s tour.
It is apparently the local custom for Godfathers to purchase ornate cakes for their godchildren on this day. The impression we got was of a very clean and well ordered city, with little graffiti, litter or urban blight. The three other facades of the church are radically different in design, all reflecting the dynamics of the Spanish church and government in different periods of the cathedrals construction. The ship gathered speed and we reluctantly waived farewell to a beautiful and unique city in Catalonia. Calamari, risotto with shrimp, penne pasta, cannoli and decaf cappuccino all accompanied a Mondavi Merlot. The stitches and wound looked icky, but the tissue was already showing signs it might grow back together. I uncorked a bottle of champagne, that the cruise line had given us, and we toasted our good fortune at being here with each other. The Caribbean flights all fly out of Toronto in the early hours of the day and the European flights in the early evening hours.
The hills were laden with snow beneath us as we soared over them.They looked cold, jagged and forbidding.
We had decided to eat at the Hotela€™s a€?Taverna,a€? rather than risk ramming around the area when we were this tired. We collapsed into a dreamless sleep of crowds, noisy children and the other bugaboos of travel crowding our heads. We dressed for the day and walked the half mile over to the airport terminal.Throngs of people were scurrying about. The remaining spaces are crowded by large brick apartment complexes, stretching all along the train line that runs from the airport to Rome. The painted frescoes and saints statues had replaced the many ancient and pagan deities that had once adorned the niches in the walls. We sat in the Antico cafe and enjoyed a cappuccino, looking out over the ancient Theater Marcello, another gracious ruin where the Caesars had enjoyed theater productions. The train was just about to leave the station, so we sprinted down the track and jumped on board just as the conductor gave the engineer the wave off.
Complexes of brick condos and apartments signaled the arrival of the local stations, which we breezed through without stopping. We had already viewed this wonder on a previous visit and were not ungrateful that we didna€™t have to stand in the two-hour long line. He had loomed large in my child hood and now I was here staring at his elegantly clad remains, like some rural Russian first encountering Lenina€™s tomb in Red Square in Moscow. A 60 foot high cliff, with grecian columned buildings, marks the eastern edge of the Villa Borghese and frame much of the remainder of the piazza. Then, we came upon the top of the Spanish steps and the storied Hotel Hassler and a few other four star and elegant small hotels. The winds were freshening and the waves were splashing high above the seawall, as we glided from port, waving by to Roma until we could return once again.
It is from these small range of mountains that the world-famous Cararra marble is quarried. The olive trees took thirty years to mature enough to yield sufficient fruit for a pressing.
Many were small walled villages from the middle ages, replete with castle walls, church and bell tower.
Nearby Florence and the beautiful walled village of San Gimiano also sit on this road and prospered from the pilgrims and commercial traffic that flowed along its length. It all sounds a bit grisly to us now, but it was the time-honored custom of the medieval church in Italy.
One large center and two smaller flanking triangles, of painted Murano glass, project colorful scenes of the Virgin Mary. The Piazza is cobbled, and slanted to funnel into a flat area just in front of the Siena City Hall. Oysters Rockerfeller, salad, lobster tails and peach cobbler, with merlot and cappuccino, were wonderful.
The Norwegian Dream would motor 118 miles North, to Genoa this evening, arriving by early morning.
The city is shaped like an alluvial amphitheater and carved from the surrounding mountains, like Naples far to the South. The bus traversed several large tunnels, through the surrounding mountains, in our passage south to the Ligurian coast. The coastal hills rose steeply, behind the narrow strip of road, as we motored past the Porto Fino headland and coasted towards the small harbor area that is Porto Fino.
Bougainvillea and other flowers were in bloom here and gave an aura of color and warmth even in the rain.
Flagons of Chianti and a soft, white wine accompanied fried mushrooms, pasta in pesto sauce, seafood lasagna, fried fish cakes (for the vegetarians.) Strawberries in lemon ice, with Decaf cappuccinos finished this tasty repast.
It is glass walled and occupies three terraces and the entire rear of the ship on deck # 9. It would be a long day for us, so we headed to the cabin to read and retire from another hard day of touristing. The wholea€? countrya€? is carved from the cliffa€™s side, with terraced sections up and down the mountain. It reads a€?Gratia Patriciaa€? and houses the remains of Philadelphia-born film star, Grace Kelly.
I smiled momentarily, remembering an episode from the Television series, a€?The Sopranos.a€? The main character had unknowingly parroted a remark he hard from his shrink, referring to a€?Captain Tebesa€? as an elegant place to visit.
Across the roadway , from the hotel and along the seaside, run a similar lengthy of beaches. Mary and I reversed course and walked along the marina and haborside, into the main square of Canne.
The waiter was too polite to ask us to leave, but I had been thrown out of enough places already to recognize the imminent nature of the a€?buma€™s rush.a€? We made our goodnights and returned to the cabin, to read and relax.
The guide wasna€™t doing any hand flips over the architectural style and there didna€™t appear to be any large crowds around on this, an Easter morning. Andre Dumas, a native of Marseilles, had written the a€?Man in the Iron maska€? using these prisons as his locale. Strollers, tourists and shoppers were already out and about the small a€?old harbor.a€? The restaurants were open, and the chairs put out, for the coffee drinkers. My hand was throbbing to beat the band, but hey, no one likes a whiner, so we went and were glad we did. A former Roman outpost, from the first century, Barcelona is now the heart of the Catalonia region of Spain. Gaudi offers a unique marriage of art and architecture that is elegant in composition and a delight to the eyes. The front facade rises in four towering and conical spires of dark brown sandstone, that narrow into tapered and brown-stone, laced pillars.
I could write several chapters on this elegant sandstone epiphany, but suffice it to say that it is a conceptual marriage of architect Antonio Gaudi, and painter Salvatore Dali. A large fountain, floral gardens and a well-ordered square complete and compliment this lovely square. I managed, in my best high school German, to tell the Germans that a set of my mothera€™s grand parents had come from Munich and that Buffalo has a sister-city relationship with Dortmund, a mid sized city near Dusseldorf. It was here that we encountered the curious version of what we were to call a€?beat the clock.a€? Terminal # 1 is the jump site for many of the shorter European flights from London. How the heck the luggage guys can figure this out and bring the right baggage to the quickly assigned gate appeared to be problematic, as we were to find out. We waited resignedly for our turn and then filled out the appropriate forms, with the besieged agent at the desk. We recognized the bleary look in some of their eyes and knew that they had just flown in from far away. Throngs of tourists, from all over the globe, swirled around us in a multi-cultural sea that was dizzying to the ear. The Romans had staged sea battles, gladiator contests and all manner of spectator sports in these halls. It was one of those magical moments when you are very glad to be alive and with a loved one. After our swim, we read our books and soon fell into the arms of Morpheus, where we slept like dead alligators in a swamp, for a blissful eight hours.
We crossed over the Tiber River and smaller streams, noting the unique triangular, truss-supports on some of the more rural bridges. We hung on to over head straps and looked out into the gloomy subway, eyes unseeing like the most veteran romans. We had purchased rosaries on a previous trip and wondered again at the whole a€?blessed at the vaticana€? scam.
I looked on amused and amazed at what i was seeing, as the temporal veil of two thousand years of recent history raced through my mind.
Inside, we followed the circular walkway that rose gradually up the 90 some feet into the air, to the castles battlements high above us.The ramp was designed to carry popes and caesars in coaches ,high above us, where they could be walled in from besieging marauders. Twin churches on antiquity, now banks, guard the entrance to the Via Corso to the South, and the rest of Rome.
Further down the parkway we knew lay the hotel Hassler at the top of the imposing Spanish Steps. We thought about stopping at the Hotel Hassler for coffee or a drink, but were convinced that they would recognize me for a scoundrel and give us the heave ho. We found a spot where we could hang from over head straps and enjoyed the ride back to the Airport. Nazaire France from 1991-1993 for $240 million dollars and originally named the MS Dreamward.
After dinner, the stewards would take whatever portion of the bottle of wine that you consumed and save it for you in a central repository where you could call for it from any of the several restaurants on board. Michaelangelo had been a frequent visitor in the quarries, to select blocks of marble for his sculptings. This treasured fruit would yield 19 kilograms of oil from every 100 kilograms of olives pressed.
I dona€™t think we, as Americansa€™ have much of an appreciation for this a€?quiltwork of principalitiesa€? that made up a region, each warring with the other over the ages. The Monte Dei Pasche, a commercial banking syndicate of Siena, had also become the bankers for the papal states and collected both interest on their loans and outstanding debts for the popes for centuries.
Around its periphery are a series of hotels, trendy shops and restaurants with awnings and chairs for tourists and Sienans to enjoy the Tuscan sun.
A series of large ravines, carved by glacial or ancient river action, were speckled with housing complexes and spanned by lengthy bridges, now loaded with morning traffic. We could see Castello Brown high above the village.It looks like a medieval fortress, but later proved to be but fhe fancy digs of a former 19th century British ambassador. Afterwards, we walked along the narrow harbor path, looking in the various shops and taverns facing the sea. Meridian Merlot accompanied a three-berry compote, a lemon fruit soup, salmon and risotto, with chocolate cake and decaf cappuccino.
Several eighty and hundred-foot power yachts lay at anchor in the upscale marina, attesting to the citya€™s glamourous reputation. The police were cordoning off a route from the Palace to the Church, for the royal family, and clearing traffic from the streets. Several flagons, of a decent , house, red wine, accompanied salad, pasta, cheesecake and cappuccino. We passed on the privilege and watched for a time the ebb and flow of tourists walking in and out.
Above the beaches runs an elevated promenade upon which throngs of natives and tourists were walking. It had been a long and enjoyable day, in a fairy-tale setting, that evaporated from our consciousness with the setting sun. Some places were elaborately laid out, with formal tableware, perhaps in anticipation of Easter Brunches later in the morning. The site had been built to commemorate the arrival of water, in underground pipes, to Marseilles. The sight lines, from the elevated promontory, were gorgeous, but our attention was a bit distracted.
The doctor was away from the ship, so she further cleaned and disinfected the wound and wrapped it in sterile gauge.
He didna€™t think much of the tissue would survive, but put five stitches along the underside of my ring finger, disinfected the wound, wrapped it in sterile gauze.
The entire front facade, beneath them, is engraved with images of the life of the Holy Family, the birth of Christ, the adoration of the Magi, the crucifiixtion and death of Christ and the last judgment.
After dinner, we walked the decks for a while enjoying the comings and goings of so diverse a population of passengers. Her English was better than my German, so we talked for a bit about the usual pleasantries.
The Apennines extend down the spine of Italy, appearing like some great skeleton on an exhibit, in a natural history museum.
We had some decent Chianti, very tasty caesar salads and bread, with cappuccinos afterwards. We watched amused at the scores of a€?smart carsa€? and compacts scurried in and out of the congestion, jockeying for position in the moving metal stream. I could picture the Romans arriving late, complaining of the heavy chariot traffic, as the sat in their assigned seats, waving at acquaintances and craning their necks to see what dignitaries now sat on the elevated dais. The Spanish Ambassador to Italy had once lived in a villa, just off these steps, giving them their name.
We admired the smooth marble and artistic workmanship and pondered for a time the march of civilizations that had come here to worship throughout the centuries, each praying to a a€?goda€? that they held dear.
Then, we were standing in from of a glassed-in sepulcher that reputedly holds the remains of the founder of the catholic church, the rock upon which Christ had built his earthly church, Peter, the fisherman. A tunnel even supposedly exited underground.It ran from the vatican, some blocks over, to the fortress where popes could retreat in times of attack.
We sat by the fountain, listening to a musical group playing nearby, and enjoying the whole panoply of activities that swirled around us in this huge meeting place in Rome.
We walked about, enjoying the many artists who were painting alfresco portraits of the tourists, much like the Place du Tetre, behind Sacre Cour, in Paris.
The first pressing is the most valued and usually labeled a€?extra virgin oil.a€? A killing frost had destroyed much of the local trees in the 1980a€™s. It gives rise to our fascination with castles, moats and the whole medieval mythology that surrounds such areas.
The syndicate was so successful that in later years the Siena City council had mandated that 50% of their annual profits were to be turned over to the city for a€?public improvements.a€? The annual rebate now runs to $150 million a year and funds much of the restoration of the medieval town.
Each year, on July 12 and August 16th, a colorful horse race is run around the periphery of this wide Piazza, with ten especially trained horses and jockeys representing parts of the city.
We laughed a lot, enjoyed the food and each othera€™a€™s company and made a nice day from a soggy one.
An interesting collection of brick-faced apartments, all shaped in the form of tan pyramids, caught our eye towards the shoreline.
Directly in front of the casino, and rising upwards to a level of the city some 50 feet above, are a series of terraced fountains and floral gardens all bedecked in colorful flags and pendants. We noticed that many of the stately older villas,along the roadway, were in some state of decline. The beaches sported colorful names like a€?Miami,a€? and a€?Opera.a€? In the Summers, this place must really rock and roll!
It was too chilly to sit in the outdoor cafes, so we walked the length of the area, drinking in the sights and sounds of a place that we would never perhaps return to.
A detachment of the French foreign legion had been stationed at this imposing stone edifice. He told me to a€? take two aspirins and garglea€? and come back in a few days to see how it progressed. The statue was supposedly pointing towards the West and the new world, but somehow, the statues orientation had been turned so he was pointing South.
They do things like that in Europe where centuries are relatively much shorter spans of time than in America. The homes, more Spanish style, Hansel and Gretel-type cottages, also feature elegantly tiled exteriors that are in the Dr. We sat for a time in the star dust lounge, but the entertainment was just as lame as our previous encounter. We had had the foresight to pack some essential in our carry-ons and werena€™t too disturbed at the loss of our luggage. The bus let us off on the Piazza Campodoglio, just behind the Vittorio Emmanuel II monument, that enormous a€?wedding cakea€? that seems to dominate all of the Roman skyline. We wondered again at the many parades of conquering armies that had this way trod, dazed captives, strange animals and other trophies of victory shepherded before them, to the delight of the cheering throngs.
The Romans had even engineered a means of stretching a huge canvass across the top of the structure, when the high sun of summer was beating down on the arena. They set out their chairs, under awnings, and wait for the tourists to come and sit in the Roman sun, dining and watching each other. I wonder if any of then considered the similarities of their exercise rather that the dissimilarities? The street was awash with people going to work and throngs more, even at this early hour, headed to the Vatican.
We had been here twice before, but stood silently in awe of Michaelangeloa€™s white-marble epiphany.
As in most situations, when you find yourself overwhelmed by what you see, it soon becomes normal. We always do a double blink when we find ourselves in places like this, to remind us that we are really here and not meandering in some day dream in a place far away. It was getting late in the afternoon and we were thinking about making our way back across the city to the stazione terminal and the train back to the airport Hilton.
The newer trees were only now approaching the proper maturity to deliver ripe olives for oil pressing.
On one hilltop, we espied the village of Monteregione, with its village wall and twelve turrets rising above the skyline.It is an outline much known in Italy and used on their former currency. A column stood in this piazza, atop which is the form of a she wolf, with two infants suckling her. That was to be the last time we agreed to a€?share a tablea€? with strangers when asked by the various maitre-da€™s. Along the many coastal areas, we noticed the old fishermena€™s homes, that are painted in various bright Mediterranean pastels.
We boarded and I stopped by the deck # 9 internet cafe to send a few message into cyber space. We were now on the a€?middle corniche (cliff) road.a€? Most of the coast, in this area, is a very steep hillside that slopes precipitously towards the Mediterranean.
The population of the Monaco is comprised of 10,000 French, 10,000 Italians, 5,000 Monagasque (natives) and a sprinkling of other nationalities.
The sun was shining brightly overhead, the Mediterranean sparkled blue in the distance and a fairy tale changing of the guard was in progress for a fairy tale prince.
We walked about the beautiful parkland, enjoying the flowers, the bright colors and the activity in and around the casino.
We wandered its narrow alleys, dodging other tourist who had been game enough for the walk. It was getting late and cooling off, so we walked back to the dock and stood patiently in the long line for the tender ride back to the ship. Looking out towards the fortress, on the very edge of the harbor, is a large stone arch built to commemorate French soldiers killed in the Orient.
Across the small plaza, from the Cathedral, sits a more modern building with a huge painting by Picasso, on its facade. Reliefs of fruits and vegetables, animals and other symbols of nature display a pantheistic overview of God and creation. It is these chance encounters, with people from everywhere, that really make a cruise enjoyable.
It is one of the pitfalls of travel.The airlines are usually pretty good about getting your lost bags to you in the next 24 hours.
Now, throngs of people from everywhere come by daily and sit on the stairs, admiring the view and enjoying the throngs that come to sit by them. We sat for a time near the a€?Four Riversa€? fountain and admired the artistry of the Master Bernini. Sadly, I informed them that it existed now but in their memories from that classic chariot race scene in a€?Ben Hur.a€? What was left was now a large rectangular park area, overlooked by the ancient palaces on the Capitoline Hill. We walked the length of the funeral chamber to its end where thoughtful officials had provided restrooms for the throngs.
It is always unnerving to sleep the first night at sea when there are high waves, until you got used to the rhythms of the ship. We stopped at a road side rest station called a€?AGIPa€? where passengers used the facilities and sipped cappuccino for 3 euros each. The entire effect of the cathedral is to catch your breath, at the artistic array of creations inside.Each had been created to show glory to god. Custom had dictated this as a means for the fisherman to espy their dwellings as they approached safe harbor and home. By now, we were puffing with the exertion and wondering how the various workmen got up and down these paths every day. It is traversed, from East to West, by three roughly parallel roads called appropriately, the a€?Lower cornichea€? (closer to the sea) the middle corniche ( which we now traversed) and the a€?upper cornichea€?, higher above us. This was a Hans Christian Anderson day-dream flashing before us in the brilliant noon day sun.
We found and entered an elegant hostelry called a€?Chateau de la Chevre da€™Or,a€? roughly, the a€?house of the golden goat.
Across the river, on the rise of a hill, stands an old stone palace used by the French Royalty at differing times. A smaller green-bronzed statue, of a maiden with her arms raised was erected, in front of the arch, to commemorate the French soldiers killed in North Africa. The bus driver and a colleague did a credible imitation of the three monkeys, pointing to the church above and saying a€?medicine.a€? We staunched the blood flow with tissues and a few antiseptic hand wipes.
My best guess if that the construction crew screwed up, at the installation, and it had been too costly to correct the error. Gaudi intended his creation to have 18 spires, 12 for the apostles, 4 for the evangelists, one each for Mary and Jesus. This hombre had one fertile imagination, that he was able to sculpt into brick and mortar in structures. We had momentarily mistaken the Capitoline steps for the a€?Spanish Steps,a€? until corrected by a friendly tourist. We walked out into the Piazza San Pietro and immediately noted the colorful costumes of the Swiss Guard, with their razor sharp pikes, standing before the entrance to Vatican city.
Supposedly Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome who had been suckled by a she wolf, had fled Rome and sought sanctuary in Siena.
It sure did keep your attention, as Rita commented quietly on the many artistic and cultural aspects of the works that we were observing.
Residents pay no income taxes, thanks to casino revenues, and are generally well heeled, even by Monagasque standards.
I had the presence of mind to think of the huge swelling of tissue to come, and managed to slip the large college ring, from my finger. Unfortunately for us, both the Dali and the Picasso art museums were closed on that Easter Monday. Now, it lay like an ancient and broken sign post pointing faintly to a grandeur that once was Rome. Throngs of other tourists from everywhere stood around us, as we too pitched coins backwards over our shoulders in hope of returning to Rome yet again.We had done this twice before and returned each time, so maybe the magic works. These hardy warriors are all trained infantrymen from the Swiss Army, who stand ready to rock and roll, with whatever comes their way, to protect the pope and Vatican City. They no longer asked for tips in the loo, they had sliding doors that only opened to admit one, if you inserted .60 euros in a slot . From this port, you can access Florence, Pisa and a bit further out, the medieval, walled city of Siena.
No one had really ever substantiated the claim, but it made for great symbolism and interest both to the natives and the tourists.
Christopher Columbus had been born and raised in these environs before he sailed to the new worlds for Espagna.
It was an elegantly manicured parkland from which to stare out over the sapphire blue Mediterranean. We repaired to our cabin to write up our notes, shower and prep for dinner with the Martins.
Perhaps this was because the allies had bombed the port area back to the middle ages during WW II? I had visions of sitting in an emergency room, at some French hospital, with the boat sailing away for Barcelona without me. Barcelona had been an interesting melange of Moor, Jew and Spaniard until 1492, that pivotal discovery year. We watched and enjoyed the tourists, from many countries, snapping pictures of the fountain and each other. In past ages, their duty had not been ceremonial in the many times that both Rome and the Vatican had been under siege, from some particularly surly invader bent on plunder and mayhem. Andrea Doria, a middle ages naval admiral, and figure of note in Italian history, had also lived here. The ship had several of the motorized tenders shuttling passengers back and forth from the shore. As we sipped pricey cappuccino (18 euros),we gazed out over the sapphire blue of the Mediterranean far below.
The doctor offered me pain pills, but i advised that I would probably be drinking several glasses of wine for dinner. Internal religious strife had generated the expulsion of the Moors and the jews from Spain that year. We had an opportunity to stay and visit the Las Ramblas esplanade, but were tiring from today's and the many previous tours we had taken. The buildings all around the piazza are replete with papal insignia and looked impossibly old to us, pilgrims from a land where three hundred years is a long time. We were seated by deferential waiters and ordered, in our best Italian, Minestrone zuppa, pizza, with aqua minerale and cappuccino. The guide mentioned something about him negotiating a treaty with Charles V of Spain, but it was getting a little too deep in Italian history for me to follow.
We entered our boat and waited until the craft filled with passengers, then slowly motored into shore, where our bus was waiting. Someone with our surname (Martin) must have either been on the ground floor founding this place or donated half of the land for its creation. Mary espied Phillip, our guide, and insisted that I needed some medical attention immediately.
We lunched at the four seasons, on deck #9 ,and then repaired to our cabin, for a well earned conversation with Mr. We ate slowly and enjoyed our surroundings and each other, never forgetting who we are and how far we had come to be sitting here under the Roman sun.The tab was a reasonable 40 euros. He walked me into the offices of the cathedral, turned me over to an elderly woman and skittled away, the weasel.
Fortunately, we had a very brief time to spend and had to leave before we put the money back into the machines.
Far below in the village, a small shed houses two donkeys who used to ferry people and luggage to this pricey Inn, in the mountains above Monaco. I guess it becomes more understandable, of their recent posture towards conflict, in the middle east.
It is here, in the village below, that we met and talked to Peter and Julia Martin for the first time. We had noticed them on a few tours and decided to ask them to join us for dinner this evening.
They agreed, perhaps wondering at the forwardness of yankees in soliciting social engagements. Manners got the better of them though and they agreed to meet us later in the evening for dinner.
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