26 July 2010

Honeymoon – Day 11 – Vatican City, Italy

We got up and grabbed a cab to Catelo San Angelo, just outside Vatican City.  The castle was a beautiful museum to explore.
When we finally made it to the Capela Sistena, we looked up, expecting the famous “finger of God” painting to fill most of the ceiling.  Imagine our surprise when we saw it… just one among many paintings on the ceiling.
Of course this photo doesn’t exist, even though it’s an iPhone non flash photo, since we weren’t allowed to take photos in the chapel.  But then again, it’s possible I stopped in at a confession booth on the way out. 😉


25 July 2010

Honeymoon – Day 9 – Traveling to Rome

We docked in Civitavecchia, Italy this morning.  Jess and I headed to breakfast before debarking to make our way to Rome.  The good news is that I FINALLY found the cheese in the Ham and Cheese Omelet.  See below… 
OK, OK, I only found the cheese because I put it there myself.    I was never able to actually get a Ham and Cheese Omelet on the ship.  It always turned out to be a Cheese Omelet instead.  Nonetheless, we enjoyed our final ship bound breakfast and then debarked for Rome.
We debarked with Wendy and Dale Rutherford, our new made friends from Scotland.  The four of us made our way to the train station where we caught the train to the Rome Termini.  The Termini is the central train terminal in Rome, kind of like a hub is for an airline.  Now on our way from Rome to Civitavecchia we took a car.  It ended up costing us 150 Euros.  Taking the train saved us a bundle.  Cost 9 Euros.  The train ride was hot and uncomfortable, but we were chatting with Wendy and Dale so time passed quickly.
Once we got to Termini, we were looking for an information station.  There wasn’t any to be found anywhere.  We walked up and down the terminal, but couldn’t find anything.  Finally, we were so hot and muggy, we decided to get something to drink.  There was a McDonalds right outside and across the street.  I proceeded to stand in line to get a Coke and a milk shake.  I had to check the name twice during the 10 minutes I was waiting for two drinks because the McDonalds I know isn’t that slow.  Oh well… 
Finally, Jess and I decided to grab a cab to our hotel, the Cardinal Hotel St. Peter.  Cost 20 Euros.  We booked into our room.  It’s a lovely room.  We only wish we could keep the AC running to cool the room when we’re not there.  See, the room is powered when your room key is inserted into a slot reader inside the room.  When the key isn’t in the slot, the room has no power… but that’s OK… it’s green. 
We spent the rest of the day next to the pool, planning our excursions for the next two days and recharging our batteries.  We decided to do Ancient Rome the next day, followed by Vatican City the day after.


Honeymoon – Day 10 – Ancient Rome, Italy

We woke refreshed and ready to explore!  We had bought what’s called a “Roma Pass” at the Termini the previous day.  The easiest place to get your Roma Pass is at Tobaci (tobacco) stores.  The Roma Pass gives you 3 days of travel on all public transportation such as rail and bus, as well as free entrance to two museums and discounts at subsequent ones.  The best thing about the Roma Pass however, is that there’s an express line for it at museums.  This can save you a LOT of time at the Colosseum.
We were having trouble figuring out the bus schedules in Italian the day before, so I made the command decision to simply cab it.  It’s way less stress and besides, cabs aren’t that expensive in Rome as they are in the US.  We got a cab ride from our hotel to the Circo Maximo (Circus Maximus) where the chariot races used to be held.  The ride cost us 35 Euros.  Now even though that is still pretty reasonable, I think we got taken a little bit on that ride.  I’ll explain later.  Back to Circo…  This used to be a glorious structure that looked something like this:
The Circus used to entertain as many as 300,000 raging fans in it’s hey day.  I guess you could call it the Nascar of ancient Rome.   Nonetheless, there isn’t much left these days.  This is about all that remains today.
circo maximoIMG_5562_4_456E32C0
An aerial view of Circo Maximo and a ground view.
From Circo we were adjacent to Palatine Hill where emperors such as Augustus had their palaces.  Lots of awesome things to see here…

The 102 degree heat was a major drain on a physical level.  We had some more sights to see.  We had about a mile hike to the Pantheon, followed by a half mile hike to Fontana de Trevi(Trevi Fountain) and lastly another half mile hike to the Spanish Steps.  I wasn’t sure we could make that hike in the searing heat.  I noticed a Taxi zone and headed over to a group of drivers chatting in a group.  I opened with “Buon giorno.  Pala inglese?” and found a driver, Fabrizio, who spoke decent enough English.  We negotiated with him to drive us to our remaining spots, wait for us while we get out and take photos, and then finally drive us back to the hotel.  I have to say, the most comfortable we had been in Rome, was in the cool air conditioning of Fabrizio’s cab!


24 July 2010

Honeymoon – Day 8 – Ajaccio, France

We got to Ajaccio and Jess and I were both beat.  As we looked out over the city from our balcony, this is what we saw…
See anything worth exploring?
Neither did we.  So we decided to stay in, sleep, hang by the pool and recharge our batteries for Rome.


18 July 2010

Honeymoon – Day 6 – Toulon, France

Hmmm… Toulon… Ummm… well… it’s a naval port.  It’s the home base for France’s Mediterranean fleet.  Other than that, it’s not really a tourist attraction in my opinion.  Oh yeah.  The French men might want to learn some manners.  Generally speaking, when walking down a street, it’s good manners to yield to a lady coming the opposite way.  Three French guys walked down the street, line abreast, and refused to yield, forcing Jess to step into the street.  Of course, the do seem to yield to imposing, unyielding South African Americans! 
Anyway… photos… there aren’t many because as I said, it’s not really a tourist town.


Honeymoon – Day 7 – Genoa, Italy

Ah, beautiful Genoa.  There is so much to see here.  We also found the shopping to be very affordable here.  Again Jess and I headed out on our own.  We saw the castle on the hill, the Castello D’Albertus, and hiked our way up there to go see it.  We found out that its Monday today.  Guess what.  Museums are closed on Monday.  Now why couldn’t we have docked in Toulon on Monday instead?  Anyway, picture time…

The coast of Portofino.
Good bye Genoa. Next stop Ajaccio, France.


15 July 2010

Honeymoon – Day 5 – Palma de Majorca, Spain

We visited Palma today.  A beautiful city indeed.  We chose to forego our excursion fees and do our own thing instead.  Mostly this was because we didn’t want to be herded like sheep again, but we also needed to find Jess some tennis shoes since she forgot hers at home.  From our cabin balcony, we could see the cathedral as well as a castle on the hill.  Jess and I have a thing for castles.  You could say its our theme.  We decided, given the timing of the arrival, to have lunch in Palma.  We went ashore with Wendy and Dale (new Scottish friends we made on the trip) and caught bus 31 to Centro de Palma.  Wendy and Dale split off and did their own thing while Jess and I had lunch at a sidewalk cafe.  We had also discovered that we docked right at the the start of siesta (2-5 PM daily) which the Spanish observe religiously.  Most shops and stores are closed during this time, but a few were open.  Definitely something to consider when planning your trip excursions.  Nonetheless, we found an open shoe store and Jess was able to get herself a nice pair of Nike shoes.
Observation of the day…
  • Europeans don’t really accept plastic (VISA, Mastercard etc.) that much.  They’re more about cash.  I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but back home, you can drop me anywhere with my VISA and I’d be fine.  In Europe, you better plan to have cash on hand.
  • I really LOVE this siesta idea.  Taking a break (lunch + nap) from 2 PM to 5 PM sounds like an awesome plan to me.  I wonder if we could import that back into the USA with us? 😛
Time for pictures…


14 July 2010

Honeymoon – Day 4 – La Goulette, Carthage, Tunisia

We docked in Tunisia today. Jess and I are both disappointed that nowhere on our cruise, with the exception of our port of entry (Rome, Italy), are we getting stamps in our passports. Oh well. No biggie I guess.
Anyway, Tunisia is the site of ancient Carthage… the home of Hannibal and the source of the three Punic Wars starting around 200 BC in Roman history. We were in another group outing today because we had already booked and paid for it, but we were lucky. We got Mr. Wish as our guide. A very knowledgeable and talkative guide. We had a great time ashore. Jess has concluded that she loves the barter system shopping of Tunis! Without further delay, here’s some photos:


11 July 2010

Honeymoon – Day 3 – Solerno, Italy

We are on the 3rd day of our Honeymoon and as always, we have LOTS of photos to share.  Today we docked in Solerno, Italy.  We got off the boat and headed for Pompeii.  Wonderful site to visit.  Jess and I discovered today that we don’t like to be hearded around like sheep.  We were on a guided tour with a little Italian lady as our guide.  The tour was for both Italian and English speaking passengers.  So my latest observations:
  • Italians don’t queue.  There is no such thing as a queue (or a line) in Italian culture.  Pushing and shoving in one great big mass, is the way it’s done here. 😉
We love the cruise on MSC Lirica.  I would issue a word of caution to potential travelers though.  If you decide you want to be on guided tours, only book one day in advance.  We believed the hype of “limited seating” and booked excursions for most of our days.  We realized after the first, that is just wasn’t our cup of tea.  We have too much of an exploring spirit to be led around in groups.  We decided to keep the La Goulette tour but cancel the reset.  We were told that, even with 48 hours plus notice, we were NOT going to get a refund on our excursions.  Oh well.  That’s a loss of 106 Euros in Palma de Majorca alone!  Damn!  So be warned.  Trips don’t fill up as advertised and is more likely to be cancelled due to lack of interest than overbooked.  Just book one day ahead.
OK, OK, enough of that.  Time for pictures…


10 July 2010

Honeymoon – Day 2

OK.  It is day 2 of the honeymoon and today we’re boarding the MSC Lyrica.  Of course being the technogeek I am, the first thing I did when I got on board was to get hooked into WiFi and test connection speeds.  It turns out the ship’s internet is provided by a British provider.  As you’d expect, connection speeds on a ship are quite slow.  Here’s what we are getting:
So what new observations have I made today?  Here we go…
  • It seems Civitavecchia beaches have no sand.
  • Restaurants, including pizzerias do NOT open until 5 or even 6 PM.  Europeans eat late!
  • I haven’t seen a morbidly obese person yet.  OK.  I saw one, but I’m not sure she was Italian.
  • The Hotel Borgo Del Mare (formerly the Hotel Bramante) where we stayed overnight, serves the best damn cappuccino I’ve ever had!
  • Jess forgot all her tennis/comfortable walking shoes and I forgot my shades.  They do NOT sell tennies on the ship.  High heels and flip flops here we go.  As for shades… starting at 90 Euro, I think I’ll just squint. 😉
OK, photo time…


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