Friday, October 1, 2010

Final Thoughts

Carolina’s Notes

I was not able to write in Palma because the chocolate overdose of the previous day at sea had taken its toll and I was in a sad state all day Friday. I did, however, get to bless many of Palma’s bathroom facilities with my presence. From what I observed through my nausea, Palma is a beautiful place. We disembarked from the ship smoothly and made it through the 9-hour daytime plane ride home a little sore but alive and well.

Overall, I would say the trip was a great success. We enjoyed excellent food, wonderful weather, awesome companionship, great locations, and lots of dessert. It was also comforting to reaffirm that I fit in and get along well with my new family. It was interesting to see where Jimi gets some of his characteristics; he definitely gets his easy going nature from his father and a streak of fun and adventure from his mother. We spent the most time with Skelly parents and they were excellent traveling companions. Spending time with John, Sarah, and Zoe was also really nice. Zoe is the best behaved 2 year old on the planet; she is smarter and funnier than many adults I know. John and Sarah luckily have the same sense of humor that I have, which makes them super fun to be around. I love vacations because the definitely have a way of making me grateful for the people in my life, the opportunity to see really awesome places, and for home when I return! Although it is hard to believe I will be back in Barcelona in 6 weeks for Round 3 of cruising out of Barcelona this year, which is a little silly. But I am not complaining….

Susan's Notes

Sunday, September 26

We had to get up at the “butt crack of dawn” as Jimi says. We developed a quite intelligent system for pushing, pulling and/or dragging our bags, the stroller and Zoe out to the waiting cabs for our ride to the airport. Apparently the roads in Barcelona, Spain don’t get slick in the rain as our cab driver was speeding quite fast to get us to our destination. I told Carolina it was like driving with Jimi but I could not yell at him.

As hard as people try, it is difficult to be happy go-lucky at 7 in the morning in an airport. Someone spotted the online check-in computer so Carolina and I ran to check in and get our boarding passes. Since there were 5 people on my ticket, Carolina and I developed a system to speed the process up – I typed in the information and she scanned the passports. The man standing there to help people chuckled when he saw us and realized what we were doing.

Airports are “hurry up and wait.” When we were allowed to board and found our seats we knew we were in for an 8-hour flight and when we would arrive it would be 6 hours earlier in the day. What that doesn’t do to a body! To amuse ourselves, John read the nutritional label on the Chicken and Cheese baguette they served us as a snack before we landed. The sandwich was made in April 2010 and expired in January 2011. After eating it, we determined that if the plane went down we would not need to be embalmed because we were already preserved. Anything to save money.

The three-hour ride from Philly was uneventful but tiring. We had a wonderful time and are happy we decided to make this journey.

Monday, September 27, 2010:
I looked on the internet for ideas for my next cruise.

Sarah's Notes

I swear that was the longest flight I have ever been on. You know its long when you look down at your watch and you feel like you have been in the air for 8 hours already and its only been 2. I have to admit though that my child gets two thumbs up for her behavior on the trip and the airplane. She did a fabulous job throughout except for a few small meltdowns which I am probably exaggerating.

I want to thank my parents for giving us the opportunity to go on this trip as a family and spend a week of quality time together with no outside interruptions (cell phones, email, etc.). I look forward to many more trips in the future with everyone. We all had a blast. THANK YOU!

John's Notes

I'll try to keep this short and to a few sentences. This trip to me personally wasn't far from magical. As I stated earlier this was a place that I often dreamed of and to come face to face with sites that I've only read about and seen on tv was surreal. Secondly it was good family bonding. We had just the right mix of together and alone time. We were able to share in both thought and laughter. The trip also served as affirmation that as much as I wold love to travel the world I miss home way too much. It was more than a treat to be able to walk the streets of such cool cities with Sarah and Zoe, the only regret being is that I wish Zoe was a little older so she could remember more, although I have a feeling this won't be her last trip overseas. Again I am always grateful and thankful and this trip helped to align me by taking me thousands of miles from home to remind me of what I have within the boundaries of my family.

Palma, Spain

Susan's Notes
Today ‘s tour was called “Palma in Depth.” Formerly called Palma de Mallorca, it is the major city and port on the island of Majorca and capital city of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands in Spain.

Our first stop was the Bellver Castle. This was the first circle castle in all Europe history. Zoe wanted to go inside to meet the princess. The castle is undergoing renovation and our stop was only to see the fantastic view of the island or in other works, a “Kodak moment.”

Our next stop was at El Pueblo Español. This is a quaint village to the west of the town that was made up of reproductions of important and characteristic old buildings from all parts of Spain. Many of them are occupied by craftsmen's workshops. It was here my granddaughter told me to “get out of here” as I took her to the restroom. She likes her privacy.

On the way to the cathedral, our tour guide warned us about the pickpockets that would attempt to befriend us on the grounds. She said they have perfected their trade so well that we would not know anything was gone until long after they were.

Palma is famous for La Seu, its vast cathedral originally built on a previous mosque. Although construction began in 1229 it didn't finish until 1601 and local architect Antoni Gaudí was drafted in during a restoration project in 1901. Since we toured the Gaudi house in Barcelona we were able to pick out the architecture Gaudi designed. The stained glass windows were magnificent.

Past the docks with the yachts that are bigger than the entire town on North Beach, Maryland, we boarded our bus to return to the ship. Our guide said the shops, if they were open on Saturday, would close for siesta and may or may not reopen.

On to the pool for dunk in the salt water. I just loved the way it felt except when Zoe splashed me in the face with it. To the pool – into the hot tub – back to the pool – what a life.

Our dinner was at the hottest place on the ship – a Japanese restaurant similar to Benihana. It was fun. While the cook was at the grill, the phone from the Tree Top Kids Club rang with a message that Zoe wanted her Mommy. John picked her up and she was mesmerized by the antics of the chef. After dinner, she wanted to go back to the club to say good-bye to her new friends.

John and I spent the last few hours in the casino (go figure!). This friendly woman started to talk to us and won all the money I lost that night as John and I watched in amazement. Such is life.

John's Notes

Mallorca was a nice final destination to our trip. It's a fairly large Island off the coast of Spain with beautiful coastlines and entertaining street mimes. We took a short tour, visited yet another cathedral, and headed back to the ship. Our last night on the ship included more eating. We had dinner at Japanese steak house and I think I am officially 0 for 5 in catching the chicken/shrimp that the cook throws. Jimi was successful. Zoe had one last night in the Kid's Club where she made her own personalized t-shirt and was able to say goodbye to her friends she made on the trip, including her friend Chloe from Great Britain.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

At Sea

Carolina's Notes

Today Jimi and I slept in til 10:30; it was much needed. My original plan for this trip was to complete and comprehend 4 chapters of the BCE section of the CPA because my next test is October 5th. Today I started on the first of the four chapters and did not finish. It is very difficult studying on vacation. So after about an hour and a half of studying, I ate more food and more ice-cream, watched a Battlestar Galactica, and took a nap. This, I believe, is how a day at sea should be spent rather than studying IRR, ARR, and NPV.

After my nap, I went onto the balcony. Our three rooms are next to each other and we figured out a few days ago how to open the doors between our balcony so we all have one large communal balcony now. This balcony reminds me of my parents bathroom growing up. Inevitably, my parents, brother, and I always ended up in their bathroom. It was like the family board room; lots of important decisions were made in that bathroom. So our communal balcony has been equally fun and a forum for making plans. You never know when Zoe is about to barge in and jump on the bed!

Dinner tonight was with the whole family at Papas Italian Restaurant, which was good. A chocolate buffet was advertised in the ship paper for 11 pm, which is way past my bed time but it was looking like I was going to have to tough it out. My strategy was dinner, casino, show, and then chocolate. I managed to only lose $20 for the hour I spent the casino. The description of the show tonight was a Spanish Dance Nd it sounded quite promising but I haven't been to a show since the horrendous magician so I was nervous. After moving seats 26 times, we were satisfied with our seats on the aisle in case it was awful so we could escape. The show was excellent! Not only was it well done and beautiful but they managed to pull off the dance in the first turbulent seas we have experienced on the trip. Chocolate Time! There were chocolate statues and 8 million different types of chocolate pastries. I had a little bit of each. I have a feeling tomorrow I will feel the consequences but for now all is good in the world.

Susan's Notes

Oh, thank goodness we have a day at sea. We were hoping to get some rest – and we did – a little bit. Spent some time by the pool – can you believe you can fall asleep with a band (amplifiers and all)playing next to you? It is possible if you walk 3 – 5 miles a day for 4 days in a row.

Our dinner at the Italian Restaurant was unremarkable. Apparently, someone took John Gee’s order so he did not get his food when the rest of us did. I got up to look for the waiter – instead of our waiter the host came over to see if everything was all right. Since the kids were appalled at the attention I caused I did not pursue getting our dinner free but I thought about it.

After dinner we went to the theater to see the Spanish Ballet Troup from Madrid. For some reason, the boat was rocking something fierce – the only time it did this the whole trip. We looked like we drank our dinner as we walked down the long hall to the theater but so did everyone else. In spite of the rocking, the dancers stayed upright and were VERY delightful to watch. A few times during the show, Carolina grabbed my arm to stable herself – I was worried I was going to have to grab my digesting food from the air.

To top the night off right – we went to the chocolate festival in the Garden Café. The whole place was full of chocolate items, candy, brownies, chocolate Leaning Tower of Pisa’s and Yoda. We feasted to our hearts delight! By the time we reached our chocolate “high” who cared how much the ship was rocking.

John's Notes

Our day at sea was fairly relaxing. We slept in, ate breakfast, of course I ate like it was my last, and then prayed for a little sunshine. We tolled around the ship and finally made it to the pool later in the day and Zoe and I went down the tube slide a thousand times again. We dined at Papa's Kitchen and had a very happy waiter. When in doubt just laugh, well at least he did. Other than that not much more to report other than I again took place in an absurd amount of overeating.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Port of Napoli

Carolina's Notes

Sorrento and Pompeii

I was totally exhausted this morning and was reluctant to go on our scheduled tour but am very glad I powered through because it was an excellent tour. Our tour guide was very good today, which always makes a big difference. Our port was Naples, which immediately makes me think of the mafia. A few hours before we arrived the BBC broke the news that nine officers in Naples were arrested in connection with a drug trafficking ring. This explained why it took us an extra hour than usual to be cleared at the port; they were short staffed. We bypassed the actual city of Naples on our tour (Sarah and John confirmed that the mafia is alive and well there). Instead we had about an hour drive through the region of Naples on our way to Sorrento, which really had beautiful views of the countryside, bay, and the isle of Capri. Some facts I learned along the way: pizza is ordered by the meter and the largest pizza they could make in their ovens is 9 feet and the locals eat pasta daily but eat the best pasta only on Sundays.

Our first stop was the center of Sorrento, where we had a brief demonstration on how to make inlaid wooden furniture design. We had some free time and walked around, had a cappuccino, and bought some souvenirs. Next stop was my favorite; the lemon/orange/olive farm was awesome. It was very beautiful and interesting. Lunch was delicious. Because Jimi and I don't drink, John and Susan ended up drinking one bottle of wine each and a healthy dose of Limoncello. I egged them on to finish the wine so they wouldn't waste it. It was entertaining!

The last stop was Pompeii, which was buried under 20 feet of ash and then another 20 feet of vegetation. The city was destroyed in 79 AD and rediscovered at the end of the 16th century. The red light district in 79 AD was well marked with flying penises pointing in the direction of the area. Once there, you would walk in and point to the fresco of the service that you desired. Of the 2 hours we were there and loads of history relayed to us; that is probably all I will remember. We had dinner at the French restaurant again and I may or may not have inadvertently offended some lesbians. Good Night!

Susan's Notes

Sorrento and Pompeii

If I die and reincarnate, instead of coming back like a golden retriever like I have always said. I want to come back as someone who lives in Sorrento, Italy. I have never seen larger lemons than the ones on the farm we visited for lunch. Among the thousand year old olive trees, we listened to Gina showing us how they make olive oil and Rosa showed us how to braid fresh mozzerala. Our lunch started with different kinds of cheese, sun dried tomato, salami, and olive spread on bread. After this they brought us a bowl of pasta that we washed down with mild white wine. For dessert we had cake soaked with Limoncello.

On to Pompeii. 2/3rds of the ancient city is still buried under ash from when Vesuvius erupted. It took awhile to understand the layout of the city but after awhile the very fact that is still exists is amazing. Two things stuck out: 1 the bakery and 2 the many red light districts marked by the most unusual artifact ever; I recommend you plug in Pompeii in your google search box to understand more. Upon arrival back at the ship, we were pleased to find out that Carolina passed the first CPA exam and vowed to make her study her for her next one tomorrow. After a dinner of French fries, Zoe went to the tree top kids club. This left the adults to go back to the French restaurant. We had a wonderful dinner and lively conversation. We were all very tired and were thankful that tomorrow the ship is at sea all day so we can rest. I spent a few losing moments at the casino and the returned from rest.

Sarah's Notes – FIAT = Fix It Again Tony

OK, so this is probably only funny to me because my childhood best friend in MI had a father named Tony and he worked for Fiat and they are also super Italian. 

Today we were in Naples;  this was one of the numerous funny things our tour guide said while on our tour of the town.  The guides names er…nicknames were Vito and Bruno.  Let me just mention that Naples is  like stepping into the scene of The Godfather.  Nine Police Officers were arrested yesterday on drug trafficking related gang charges in the city, so you get my point.  Could explain why when John went to the ships front desk to ask about a camera shop in town he could walk to because he and Zoe broke our EXPENSIVE camera lens she told him “I don’t advise you go for a run in town or even out of the port”.

Our tour was pretty low key.  We basically boarded a bus and drove throughout the town as Vito told us about certain things.  All in all it was a great tour to take with a child.  Vito even called out NCL for charging us “adult ticket prices” for Zoe.  So our excursion yesterday and our one on Saturday in Palma are free for her!  HOORAY! 

            Side note:  Our bus was a new charter bus, which is used by the Naples Soccer Team.  Vito told us to ignore the people waving at us because they more than likely thought we were the soccer team.  We had several waves.  I think I was the only one that found this amusing.
So where was I?  Ah yes, the tour.  So we drove around, stopped a few times for pictures (GRRRR…for people that had cameras, if she wasn’t so cute and he didn’t make such precious babies I think I may have killed them both) and then stopped at a bar for a beer or Gelato, which was included in the tour.  Zoe slept throughout most of the tour.  Of course she woke up for the most important part of the tour.  This was her second dessert in less than 3 hours.  Hell, we are on vacation and she is with her daddy, Uncle Jimi and Carolina who have MAD sweet teeth.  So  we are running with it.  She will get back on a normal eating schedule when we get home.  As long as she keeps eating a substantial meal of pasta or anything Italian (She told us she wants to live in Italy…..go figure) we are happy.

We got back to the ship and ended up taking a small trip to the waterslide and the pool.  Zoe has already informed us that Grammy and Gumpy need a slide at their pool.  I have a feeling she’ll work on that when we get home.  She ate a dinner of French fries (*insert Parents of the Year award here*) and then ended up at her second most favorite place – The Tree Top Kids Club (after a shower, of course)!

We said our goodbyes as our child ran away from us, without a care in the world her parents were leaving her and headed to Le Bistro, the French Restaurant with the “adults”.  If you were an outsider looking in you would think a bunch of 14 year olds were sitting at the table.  We practiced our best manners but occasionally our mouths spoke before they thought.  This happens to me frequently so I felt right in place, minus the Versace place setting that sat in front of me with ladybugs and butterflies on it.  Who does that?  Only Versace!

Dinner ended without us offending too many people (did I mention my mom and dad were sitting with us?) and we all headed our separate ways.  Jimi and Carolina to bed, Aunt Carolina needs at least 10 hours of sleep so we can continue on with our witty comments and Jimi just needs sleep; the kid always has.  My mom and dad; a different story, my dad was headed to bed and my mom snuck (once again) to the Casino.  When we  get back we are taking her to Gamblers Anonymous.  And John and I ended up at the piano bar with the Brit who only knows Billy Joel and Paul Anka songs for the second night in a row.  He is pretty decent and we were taking advantage of the Kids Club time we had. 

Today was a great day.  It was nice to have dinner that didn’t involve a buffet and to spend time as adults.  I am thinking of kidnapping Moon’s favorite Kids Club Counselors and taking them home with me.  

Tomorrow:  Day at Sea.
John's Notes;

A day or two ago I was flipping through the channels on the television and saw that nine police officers were arrested in Naples for drug trafficking and being associated with the mafia.  Welcome to Naples, eh?  As our ship arrived in port I diligently tried to repair our camera lens that Zoe accidentally broke in hopes that I could get a photo of the city.  Needless to say the camera is still broke and probably in worse shape than before I attempted my repair job.

The rest of our group took off for a day trip that involved eating cheese, watching the production of olive oil, and the consumption of bottles of wine from two of the  members.  The Gee’s relaxed on board for a while went down the slide approximately another twenty times and then prepared for our bus tour, which turned out to be not as “lame” as Aunt Lina said it would be… 

Our guide Vito and driver Bruno were pretty nice guys, quite possibly even pretty nice wise guys too (get it), they drove us all over the city and showed us many important sites.  Personally I enjoyed Vito’s take on illegal immigration and how the children should be punished for being delinquents.  Zoe had her cheeked pinched by every guy we passed and while we enjoyed a Peroni at a waterside bar she enjoyed yet more ice cream.  Our short tour was completed with a quick recipe for some type of crazy lemon drink that I will only share with those who ask.  Thanks Vito!  Forget about  it… 

For dinner we were treated to the French restaurant were I was quickly reminded that my bread must be placed on the “bread plate” and not on the main plate in front of me, thanks Carolina.  Dinner was good, the dessert was even better, and then we were even able to have the restaurant more to our selves after Miss Manners didn’t assess her surroundings.

The night ended sitting at a lounge bar having a beer, listening to a Brit sing Billy Joel on a piano with the silhouettes of strippers danced in the background. 

Zoe's Notes:

I just want to quiz Uncle Jimi – What is the name of the main river that runs through Rome? 
I know!
Today I got to go on the waterslide again.  I even got to eat more pasta and ice cream.  I went on a big tour bus and saw Naples and had even more dessert.  Mommy and daddy brought me back to the hotel and I ate French fries for dinner and then went to the kids club.  I want to live in Italy, except I miss Kendall, Aunt Caryn, and Grammy and Gumpy.  A lot.  I love my family but I want us all to be together.  Maybe they could move to Italy!!!   I think they would like it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Carolina's Notes

Today Rome was on the schedule and we had a private tour for all of us booked. Everyday we ask Zoe what city we are in and everyday she says "Barcelona, Spain". After an hour and a half drive to Rome, we picked up our braless tour guide and began our tour. I won't tell you all the details because I am sure you will hear it from my fellow travelers. I will just mention parts I find of interest.

The colosseum is always a highlight when in Rome. Skipping the line with a private tour guide is also definitely the way to go. The Colloseum is one of those places that really affects everyones hearts and minds because it's so enormous and cool. History always makes the best great stories. Another highlight was I had 2 gelatos in Rome today; strachitella and coffee if you were wondering.

The Vatican is also still amazing. We again luckily skipped the line and explored the museum, the Sistine Chapel, St Peter's Basilica and the Square. It was very crowded but nonetheless breathtaking. Our tour guide was telling us the the Papal officials were seriously considering shutting the Sistine Chapel to the public because it has become to overwhelming and want to preserve the masterpiece. I am glad I got to see it one more time because it truly is awesome. John Gee also noted as we walked by the gorgeous marble columns that he sold these replicas at home for $400. The pope meets with people of the public on Wdnesdays by appointment. I need to get John an appointment to sell the Vatican some fake marble columns and earn a he'll of commission.

Jimi and I were charged with watching Zoe alone for an hour while her parents were at dinner and grandparents were at the casino. So basically Jimi did not help me at all and after an hour I started to panic. I had already read every book to her several times, played Tom on the Ipad, and colored. We were running out of options, she was starting to get testy, and Jimi wasn't helping. An hour later, John and Susan came back and I was very RELIEVED. Maybe Jimi and I should wait on the baby thing......

Susan's Notes

Today was family day. We went on our special tour of Rome. After dealing with the morning traffic, we went to see ancient ruins and the Roman City Council. The Colesseum was spectacular; if you caught a quiet moment you could hear the crowd-all 80,000. Even observing the restoration was a site to behold. The most fascinating thing I saw today was the Sistine Chapel. Micheangelo's fresco on the ceiling is a masterpiece. I could have stayed there much longer to see all the different scenes. To think one person was genius to do all of that by himself. Standing beneath the balcony where the pope comes out to speak was another aha moment. I have seen it on tv but tv does it no justice. Our quick lunch in the square was well deserved nourishment for the energy was expended during the day. Of course, we stopped for gelato and rushed off to the van so we could get back to the docks in time. We wanted to beat the other 35,000 people back to the nine ships that docked her today. In some ways, I think the Romans know how we feel when all the tourists embark on Washington DC on the 4th of July. This short blog sums up a very long day and by the way I am ahead $75.

Sarah's Notes

HOLY ROMA!  This is one place I never thought I would visit.  The Vatican - WHOA.  The Coliseum – HOLY CRAP!  Just amazing.  I have no words to describe what I saw today and there was A LOT!  I highly recommend the woman who was our tour guide.

Standing in the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica and taking in the works of Michelangelo’s first fresco painting and witnessing the massiveness of the Basilica were things I never saw myself doing.  Stepping foot in and experiencing St. Peter Square and seeing the Pope’s office window and the place where he lives put me in awe.  The Coliseum was nothing like I imagined,  yet everything I did.  I could feel myself going back to the days of my Latin class in Middle School when we talked about it. Rome in general was AWESOME.

As Carolina put it, the Italians are lazy…..well our private tour guide kind of put it that way too.  Instead of tearing things down they just build on top of it.  Which, as you drive through the city is true.  There will be a half falling down building with apartments on top.  Crazy yes, safe, no.  Anyhow the city is out of this world and I look forward to visiting again some day.  I will because I threw a Euro over my shoulder into the Trevi Fountain,  which ensures my return someday!

Some observations:

Once again – Italians love some cigarettes.

They also love scooters.  I believe I saw my first scooter today that had a roof.  Don’t ask, it’s too hard to explain.

My child can charm anyone.

Gelato is NOT the same in the States.

When in the Vatican and in the museum do not look at a statue and say “he has a tail, lets go over there and see what the hell that is about”.

Cover your shoulders and knees and no cameras – it ain’t no joke.  Oh and no strollers in the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.

You think I have horrible DC traffic stories?  You ain’t seen nothing until you see the way they drive in Rome.  Just picture no traffic lanes and thousands of cars and scooters trying to merge onto a highway all at once.  Its bad.


Without a question I think I may have been in more churches on this trip than I have been in this past year (let alone his life – Sarah). Today we visited Rome, the most anticipated stop for me on this trip. It lived up to all its hype.

For those who don’t know my college education took a long and windy path but after many years I did finally graduate, it was with a degree in history. So making a stop in Rome on our cruise was very exciting. I will admit that I am a history major who can’t regurgitate useless dates and events but I was taught that you must understand the logic of those living during the time in order to relate. Our guide did a fantastic job of explaining events and answered many questions.

Two places we visited were the Coliseum and the Vatican. I am a huge sports junkie, so visiting the Coliseum was more than a dream. As we entered the arena, as much I tried not to, I had flashbacks of the movie Gladiator. Simply put this place is huge, probably close to the size of FedEx Field. Our guide said that at maximum capacity it would hold 80,000 people. The shear size and details put into this blew me away. To think that laborers were able to construct such a building is remarkable. This is a place I will never forget.

The Vatican was amazing. Words do not do justice to how beautiful and ornate this place is; I was taken back more than once. The Sistine Chapel was surreal. Michelangelo’s work was excellent. Listening to our guide tell us how, why, and when made this stop even more special. It makes no sense for me to try and explain how special this place is, it’s not possible.

We had a chance to see a couple others sites and finally ended our trip with an Italian lunch and gelato. A fantastic finish to a fantastic tour.
To summarize our short trip in Rome I would say incredible. Do I want to put on a gladiator’s outfit and fight the world? No. Do I want to become a Catholic and find myself? Not exactly. But most importantly what I found through today in Rome is a sense of unity and perseverance. These are two traits that I hold close and two traits that I think are important to living a successful and happy life. I learned today by setting foot on arguably one of the most historic laden lands we have on this planet is that by having pride in who you are well outweighs any obstacle you will face.

Finally a few observations I found interesting:
1. Italians are definitely good looking people.
2. Rome traffic may be worse than we see in D.C.
3. Goddamn scooters and smart cars are everywhere
4. There was no butter served with our bread
5. The Skelly’s, Gee’s, and former Felipe made it another day!

Zoe’s take on Rome

For some reason I think that I’m still in Barcelona or it’s some kind of trick question. I thought the Coliseum was pretty cool and totally fell asleep and missed the Vatican, who does that? I’m not sure if my Uncle Jimi will remember or not but the major river in Rome is the Tiber River.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Port of Livorno

Carolina's Notes

Today we arrived in the port of Livorno, which basically gives you 3 options: Pisa, Florence, or Cinque Terre. Jimi and I have already spent some time in Florence and Pisa, but he has not been to Cinque Terre and I was last there 13 years ago so that was our choice. Today we were on our own with the Skellys going to Florence and the Gees undecided. I am thankful we were alone because I spilled gelato on my shirt and tomato on my pants but I have been waiting for John and Sue to spill food on themselves. I guess it serves me right.

Today was a gorgeous day to visit Cinque Terre and I have the farmers tan to prove it. We visited 3 of the 5 towns and passed the other 2 by boat. We walked on lovers lane; a portion of the path that connects 2 towns and was covered in locks to signify couples strong and unbroken love for each other. Jimi and I debated using our only lock, a very nice swiss army TSA approved lock and decided not to; hopefully our marriage will survive but we can be assured that the contents of our luggage will make it. The day was wonderful! We got back to the ship and rushed to change four our 7 pm dinner reservations. We were also on our own for dinner tonight and chose a place that has my favorite meal ever; chicken fajitas. No matter where or how I travel from Italy to Ireland, I always find a way to get chicken fajitas because they are delicious. However, I was very responsible and I only had one dessert! I don't expect that trend will continue.

Susan's Notes

John and I spent the day in Florence. I fell asleep on the hour bus ride there and only woke up when he poked me to show me the blockbuster. Unlike yesterday, our tour guide did an exceptionally good job. The only time she rushed us was to get to the museum to see Michaelangelo's David because we had 1045 am tickets. The statue was magnificent. The way he could take a piece of inferior stone and turn it into David signifies that he was way head of the sculptors of the era. We left David to go the duomo.

The history behind the building was fascinating but what was more fascinating is that they only stopped cars from driving around it one year ago. The side was black from car pollution. Speaking of drivers in Florence, we had a 5 minute lesson on how to cross the street. The drivers there get points for killing people. We were told to stand on the curb, make eye contact with the driver, put your foot out like you will begin walking, and if he stops then you can cross. They will drive over your feet if you are to close to the car. Fortunately we came out alive with all our body parts intact.

Lunch was wonderful. The restaurant was in the basement of an old building. The water glass held 4 ounces and the wine glass held half a bottle. Our motto was, when in Florence, do as the Florentines. The tiramisu was out of this world. We finished off our wine bottle and continued our walk. I met a man from Oakton, VA in the bathroom, the communal bagni (toilets).......We had a nice conversation about beer and baseball. We discussed that communal bathrooms concept at a baseball park would prevent the men to wait so long for the women. However he thought that while the men waited for the woman, they could get more beer. We went to a cute little candy store. Most of the things I could figure out what they were, but the nice lady behind the counter deciphered the rest to which I said, grazie.

Seeing as Jimi and Carolina had me go back to the bank for more Euros for gelato. John and I found a nice gelato store and had lemon gelato. Who would have known that the gelato cost more if you sit down at the table in the store? Forgetting this I sat down and John yelled at me so I quickly got up and left to avoid the squatter fee. Once again we ended the day in the casino. John is up $100 and I am down $25.

John's Notes

Today I’ll take the liberty to write for the entire Gee clan. It was simply a day of chillaxin’. Our ship docked this morning in Livorno with trips to both Florence and Pisa. Since yesterday was a fairly busy day and tomorrow we will be in Rome we took advantage of an empty ship got in a run, and grabbed a few empty pool chairs and listened to some live music. Doing absolutely nothing is something that we as a family are not accustomed to; we are always on the go. Zoe is eating ice cream and cookies with every meal and I feel like I have gained 10 pounds. She has also met new friends whose names she can’t pronounce and is having a blast, she’s now a world traveler. As for me this is all kind of surreal, I’m a homebody without a doubt and knowing that I am six hours ahead of our time and thousands ands thousands of miles away from home makes me love it even more. Although just as I use my running as a tool this trip is just the same. I feel that I will return home with a better understanding of who I am and a tighter bond with my family, just as expected.

Tomorrow should be fun; the entire family will get to spend over ten consecutive hours together while touring Rome. While I will channel my inner gladiator I’m sure we all will be channeling our inner mediator. So far this trip has been much more than I could expect, and I can’t wait for the rest of it…

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Port of Monte Carlo

Carolina's Notes

Before I begin, it has been a bit of a challenge coordinating everyones posting but I have managed to now get everyones writings posted and up to date so if you back through previous days you can find everyone else's postings have been added. Today we pulled into port in Monte Carlo, Monaco. The whole country is half the size of central park. The city is preparing for the world's most lavish yacht show that begins on Wednesday. This was Jimi's heaven as far as "toys" are concerned. The yachts were beyond impressive and hundreds of feet long (one was the 11th largest in the world) and one was even entirely gold encrusted. Jimi came close to a heart attack when we saw someone driving a chrome encrusted Bugatti Veyron, a $2 million car. We took a walking tour and it was serious. It was 6 miles and it was more of a jogging tour. Our tour guide must have been in a hurry. Jimi and I were having a hard time keeping up and it looked like the old people were about to revolt and throw her over the Monte of Monte Carlo. Another entertaining aspect if our tour was a woman, about my age, who decided to wear heels on the walking tour. It was an extensive walk on cobblestone streets up and down steep steps. The name of the tour was "walking tour". She was also the victim of many jokes among our group. We saw the church that Grace Kelly and Prince Rainer were married in, the famous oceanic museum, the palace and changing of the guards, the F1 racing track, and the casino. But all I heard about were the yachts and cars.... I thought a lot about Nick today, he would have LOVED this place and been just as enamored with the toys as Jimi.

We made it back to the ship and took a wonderful 2 hour nap before dinner at the French Bistro. I had 3 desserts; profiteroles, ice cream, and chocolate fondue. My place setting at the end of my dessert looked like a chocolate massacre had occurred. A good night indeed.

Susan's Notes

I leapt over three people to get a table at the Garden Cafe. We went to the breakfast buffet in shifts. The food was good and Zoe ate a substantial breakfast, exactly what we were hoping for.

Off to our walking tour of Monaco. Our tour was number 3, which you had to remember very carefully because the tour guide was so far in front of you that the only time you saw here is when she held up the number 3 placard. What made everything alright is that the country is beautiful. Who has all that money? I would have loved to take a car and drove thru some of the winding streets to the top of the rock. The last stretch of the tour involved climbing a hill that must have gone straight up to God. The natives don't sweat but the Americans do. I have determined this is a natural cooling mechanism as when the warm ocean breezes blow over the perspiration, it cools the body. I am glad we did this tour. We all had fun. Carolina and Jimi stayed in Monte Carlo. Zoe, Sarah, John G, and I enjoyed ourselves in the saltwater pool, the big slide, and the hot tub. John Skelly took a nap.

The evening ended with a wonderful meal at a French bistro. Once again, it ended with multiple desserts (there were more today than yesterday). So far I have won $20 on the ships casino and John has broken even.

Sarah's Notes:

We’re here and it is GORGEOUS! So gorgeous in fact it almost takes your breath away. I have never been anywhere in my life like that except the Grand Canyon. There are mountains and yachts and Gucci, Hermes, Prada, they spoke French and a Royal Family. What more could you ask for???

We departed the boat for our walking tour excursion around 10:15. Our guide was so so. We spent a good portion of the tour listening to static from her headset. Once again Zoe participated and insisted she see the Prince. We walked up a path to the Cathedral de Monaco where Grace Kelly has a tomb. We saw Princess Stephanie’s home, the home of the Prince and the changing of the guards. Well sort of. Carolina and I are short so all we saw were 1000’s of people holding up cameras to take pictures.

Side note: Did you know its 50 Euro cents to use the bathroom in Monaco
and Italy?

Now you do. So hold it if you can. Anyhow….

We finished that part of the tour, walked passed where they are setting up the Monaco Yacht Show (Sept. 22 – 25th), the Grand Prix and then up this gigantic hill which puts the Naval Academy Bridge that John I run over with our running group to shame. The grade is literally probably 3-5 times more. Did I mention we both had run over 3 miles earlier in the morning? He last two places we saw was the Opera House of Monaco and the Casino which we were not able to go in unless we were dressed up…really dressed up. I hear its high rollers only. I swear I saw 3 Lamborghinis and I cannot even tell you how many yachts. One even had a helicopter attached to it.

We headed back to the boat because Zoe was getting antsy and it was hot. By the time we got to the bottom of the hill we climbed up she was fast asleep.

John's Notes:

Was able to get up fairly early hit the gym and run a few miles. It helped get the day started. Today we visited Monte Carlo, Monaco.

Without a doubt as our ship headed towards the port it is easy to see why Monte Carlo is so popular, simply beautiful. What I found most amazing was the not necessarily the architecture but how the buildings and homes were constructed.

We took a walking tour that covered approximately five miles. We climbed to
the top of one of the hills and would visit the palace where the prince resides. Everything about this place is great. The weather, the land, the port, and the feeling here is special.

The toys here are pretty special as well, the yachts, the cars, and the bikes we had a chance to view were mind blowing. Ducatis, Lamborghinis, and multi million dollar yachts around every corner had my head on a swivel the entire time.

Once we got back on the ship it was business as usual. We headed to the pool and hit the slide, over and over and over. Have I mentioned Zoe loves the slide?

So to sum it up Day 3 was a great success. I had a chance to visit a place that I have only seen in the pictures of magazines. I had the chance to walk up a steep hill with people that I care about, and experience a moment that only happens every once in a while. It was certainly an opportunity that I am grateful for, and a memory that will stick with me forever.

Zoe's Notes:

Guess what?!?! I saw a Princess house today and the changing of the guards and the Princes house. I also got to go down the big slide at the pool AND got room service for dinner; I also was in a Prince and Princess Parade at the Kids Club!