Friday, July 18, 2014

Viva Italia and the beautiful Cinque Terre!

Our final days on the fabulous Med cruise were spent in Italy. None of us have been to Italy and it did not disappoint at all! Our last 3 days were spent in the ports of La Spezia, Civitavecchia and Naples. We originally had planned to head into Florence via a private tour from La Spezia but after reading about the fabulous Cinque Terre we decided to skip the museum tours (I'm sure our kids were more than grateful) and head to the Cinque Terre.

It's really easy to tour that area on your own. We trekked to the train station through the lovely village of La Spezia, about a 30 minute walk from the cruise port, and jumped onto the train to Riomaggiore, the first town in the 5 villages. We traveled with a great couple that I met through cruise critic.com's forums that were on the same cruise as us. We had planned to do the Provence wine tour with them in Marseille but bummer we didn't make port.



This is a map of the Cinque Terre. At the bottom is Portovenere. If you keep going around the corner you will eventually hit La Spezia where we made port.





Walking through the cute town of La Spezia





We made it to the train station and headed off to Riomaggiore





What a beautiful little village that is literally straight uphill!





I made Tommy take this pic of this cute little old guy tending the flowers 
on his balcony. I wonder if he's lived here all his life... what a view to have day in and day out!




His wife came out to join him shortly after but we missed the pic...





walking up the street




there are vineyards and gardens along the cliffs of these streets and the huge hills
that make up the Cinque Terre. I can't imagine tending these gardens!



But I am happy to drink their wine!



Wish we could grow this at home!




We weren't sure there was anything left to see up top but Dan volunteered to hike up and check it out...
He's there in the red P shirt... Pittsburgh Pirates maybe? I meant to ask...Lol




Lucky for us he volunteered or we would have missed out on some seriously spectacular views 
like this one!




and this one...



and this!




Hiking around the upper part of Riomaggiore with Dan and his wife Bre and the kids




all of these little streets were so narrow with doors to people's homes
and cute little flower pots outside each one
I can't imagine living here - seems almost like a fairy tale!





We headed back to the train and hopped it all the way to the last town in the 5 villages, Monterosso.
We didn't have time to visit them all...just need to make a trip back here I guess!





We found a cute cafe on the water for lunch





Finally a shot of all 4 of us!




Monterosso was far more touristy and I believe where many people stay when visiting the CT.
Beautiful beach and swimming here











I took this from my seat at lunch...rough view





wish we had brought our beach stuff here!





Interesting paddle boats to rent!




this was a far larger village to walk around in








little street shops and cafes everywhere...





Beautiful gardens




and the world's best Gelato!!! That's Jen peeking out!







We jumped the ferry back so that we could see the Cinque Terre from the sea




such a different perspective





beautiful...bella!




Imagine living up there...





that is the train that connects all of the villages





we circled around to Portovenere where we had to take another ferry back to 
La Spezia and the cruise port





Big yachts in Portovenere




and very cute little boats!









back to La Spezia aboard the ship for a nice evening and dinner. 



the seagulls tagged along with us for a bit as we left port...




happy for some handouts!


We are heading to Civitavecchia tomorrow and our day in Rome.

That is quite an interesting story...tried to do our own "shore excursion" and save the big bucks
by not hiring the professionals... hmmm. Let's just say BIG MISTAKE!

Stay tuned for the next entry!




Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Barcelona and the French Riviera!

So we finally met up with Tommy at the airport in Paris en route to a weekend in Barcelona. What an unexpected surprise Barcelona was! My sister in law had always said to me how much she loved Barcelona but I never even really read up on it much, concentrating all of my time reading up on London, Paris, south of France and Italy. We LOVED Barcelona and would go back in a heartbeat!

We stayed at a beautiful hotel, Le Meridien, in an awesome location right off of La Rambla which is the big bustling avenue. We were directed across the street to a restaurant called Bar Lobo for an amazing lunch of authentic Spanish tapas! SO good that even the kids ate thinly sliced tempura eggplant and loved it. And real sangria... oh the joy of the real deal!



We hopped an open top hop on hop off bus tour to get a great overview of the city but most especially to see all of Antoni Gaudi's amazing architecture!



Including his most amazing feat that has yet to be finished, La Sagrada Familia













Then we headed off to the Park Guell, also one of Gaudi's amazing architectural feats









After a day of the hop on hop off bus tour you can see how enthralled Drew is 
with all of the sight seeing!




La Rambla avenue just outside of our hotel
beautiful area to walk by day or by night








One other reason to love Barcelona? Fantastic spanish wine for CHEAP!




We headed out for dinner and the kids were really enjoying each other's company...




well I was certainly happy to have reinforcements in the name of Coach Hoke back in my corner!



more pics from the park...



I'm a little out of order in my days but you get the gist...




Expensive dinner out on day 2 in Barcelona. I tried to find authentic paella but was unimpressed.
I should have gone for one of the places with signs out all over the streets instead of a "shee shee" type place... oh well we will just have to come back!
This is a city that we will definitely return to!


Cheers Barcelona! See you again next time!


SUNDAY:

We slept in, had a fabulous breakfast at Le Meridien then loaded up all of our luggage (it was a LOT since it was a 16 day trip for the kids and me...) then headed to our Mediterranean cruise onboard
Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas!




Huge very cool promenade with...wait for it... a WINE BAR! Yippee!!!











and a pizza place and Ben and Jerry's! Something for everyone!




Drew turned the big 17 on this trip so I surprised him with some birthday decor in his cabin




Drew being his usual goob self



We had the perfect setup with the kids in a balcony cabin and we had an adjoining junior suite which was very spacious and the balconies connected for one huge balcony!
Even more fabulous when we could CLOSE the door connecting us from the bickering kids! Ha!
Sunday we departed Barcelona and got the bad news that we would not make port in Marseille
where we had a fantastic wine tour booked to Provence. What a disappointment.
Ferry strike in Marseille. UGH. Everyone in Europe strikes at the drop of a hat we discovered but they really know what they're doing to strike during high tourist season!
So we spent a day at sea which as it turned out was a very needed rest from all of the touring we had been doing!




TUESDAY:




We arrive in Villefranche, France!

Beautiful!



This looks like it came off of a postcard but I took it with my iphone if you can believe it!




We tendered in to shore and walked to the beach




the beaches for the most part in the south of France and Italy are all rocky - no sand. Makes it
slightly less fun walking to the water and back! OUCH!




lunch at a seaside cafe and I finally got my moules et frites... mussels and french fries!
Mmmmmm!





we sat under an orange umbrella which is why we look like oompa loompas!!







then we walked through the village of Beaulieu sur Mer






I could live here... easily












back to the ship to clean up for dinner and have a glass or two of wine on our balcony!

Tomorrow we head to Italy and La Spezia!!

Au Revoir France!

A Bientot!