Thursday, November 19, 2015

Cannes to Majorca, Lazy Days

The last time I stopped at Cannes while on another cruise, I found it pretty much the same as I also found it this time, really pretty to look at and nothing to do unless it was after three in the afternoon.

We took our time getting off the ship, and that proved to be a mistake for any site seeing because the new docking leaves the cruise ship further from the sites of Monte Carlo, at least an hour drive.
Monte Carlo offers the site of the St. Paul’s, the Cathedral where Princess Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier, also their burial site and a pretty cool changing of the Guard at the Prince’s palace, everyday just before noon. There is also the Casino of Monte Carlo, a scene set in James Bond movies, but also doesn’t open before noon, and only for slots, no table games until 3 p.m. Next time, we plan better.

We strolled around the yachts that we knew we could never afford and eventually stopped at anther Irish pub,
Quay’s, where we signed a few dollar bills and pinned them to the wall, along with all the other tourists, had a few pours of Middleton from our Irish bartender Jason and ventured back to our ship, lounged the afternoon with lunch at O’Sheehan’s, the pub type restaurant on the cruise ship and napped for rest of the afternoon as we prepared for our next stop Palma Majorca.


We did not leave the ship in Majorca. From the view on my balcony, it was beautiful scenery, but didn’t look to be the type of terrain for strolling around, and we didn’t think there would be any Irish pubs. Some of our group briefly checked out the port and found that it was more a stopover for the crew to do some personal shopping.

We lunched at O’Sheehan’s and napped some more before heading to Barcelona.

Next: Barcelona and the Balcony Class structure, and an English Pub.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Leaning Tower of Pisa still Leans and on to Florence

From Rome to Florence,  the following day was no less entertaining. 
This was my second visit to Florence and I still have so much more to go back and see.
The cultural sites are so rich in history and it is awe inspiring when one looks at the marvelous architecture that still stands over the centuries. 

From Livorno to Pisa, we stopped to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa to do the requisite faux photo of trying to hold the tower up… it’s still leaning. Although years of engineering brainstorming and rehabilitation have stopped the tower from leaning and it's actually gaining a few centimeters of straightness, it still leans. It wouldn't be the “leaning” tower if it actually got straightened!

After Pisa we stopped for lunch of antipasti and light appetizers and washed it down with a couple bottles of brisk Toscana blends.

Onward to Florence. 
The piazza squares in Florence are populated with wonderful tchotchke venders selling anything from tiny little Pinocchio puppets to 'fine' leather goods. 
Along the marketplace in the square I found this…. He has a ‘twin’ that used to reside in the center elevator lobby of the old original Strawbridge and Clothier flagship store on the corner of 8th and Market streets in Philadelphia.  His nose is shiny because you are supposed to rub it for good luck. Il Porcelino, the little boar.
On the Ponte Vecchio there is an entire strip of Jewelry shops offering some of the finest Italian gold. I almost made a purchase for myself, but resisted because I totally have to go back and visit so much more of what Florence has to offer.
What happened to Tayler and her injured ankle from the Sistine Chapel? She hobbled her way in and out of the stores, made a designer purchase or two and managed to not get injured while spending and shopping. 
The travel to Florence through the Tuscan Valley is at least an hour, so it’s difficult to so much in a short day. So I must return again. Still to see is the Uffizi Museum, the Bargello, and maybe the Academei, where the original David sculpture by Michelangelo resides. However, there are replica Davids everywhere in Florence and they ALL look the same.

We ended the day with a pint of Guinness at an Irish pub and went on our way back to Livourno. We found several Irish pubs along the way and just as in Ireland, they only serve beverages, no food. Pubs are for drinking and conversation, nothing wrong with that!
Tuscany Sunset

Next stop; Cannes and another Irish pub.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Life we Claim we Didn't Sign Up For: Naples to Rome to Gaze at the Sistine Chapel, Just Like Michelangelo

The Life we Claim we Didn't Sign Up For: Naples to Rome to Gaze at the Sistine Chapel, Just Like Michelangelo

Naples to Rome to Gaze at the Sistine Chapel, Just Like Michelangelo

From Naples our journey continues as we travelled to Rome. Once again, our drivers from Best limos in Rome came through, assuring we got the most out of our travel time. 

Our first stop was the Vatican piazza, which turned out to be the best stop of the day. 
We unknowingly had come the Vatican while Pope Francis was holding one of his weekly public audiences. We were all emotionally charged at such a once in a lifetime event. We found ourselves closer to the Pope here in Italy than we could when he was in our own home city! 
Granddaughter Tayler announced that she would probably have her wedding at the Vatican and that she was confident that her PopPop would make it happen, when the time came for said wedding. I told you she was entertaining.

Following that awesome experience we moved on to the Coliseum, lunched on antipasto, pasta, wine and finished our meal with some home-made limoncello.

On to the Vatican Museum to gawk at the beautiful but gratuitous wealth on display in the galleries on the way to the Sistine Chapel.

If you’ve ever been to the Sistine Chapel you might understand that although it is indeed spectacular, in the middle of the day it is not much short of a cattle herd of people and not every culture is brought up to understand the meaning of (invading)body space and common courtesy.  

The journey to visit to the Sistine Chapel is riddled with numerous contiguous galleries and up and down stairs, to which Grandaughter Tayler fell victim to all three of the previous noted gripes. As I ventured through the herd of visitors I was called back with a vocal alarm, “Mike and Joanne Costantino… Tayler fell and is hurt.” We turned around to find Tayler lay with a badly twisted ankle, trying valiantly not to cry. 
As it happens she was shoved by someone like the previously mentioned human beings that lack body conscious road courtesty, and she stepped over Tayler and meshed in with the human herd, without hesitating out of concern or apology. Yeah, she was a rude bitch and her companion was not much better.

Although photography is forbidden in the chapel, I previously found an opportunity to aim and shoot with my cell phone. While waiting for the wheelchair, I asked Tayler if she wanted me to try to capture a shot of the ceiling with her phone.  She replied, “I’ve already seen the ceiling, just like Michelangelo, ON MY BACK!” More entertainment.

The guards in the Chapel attended to Tayler immediately. We decided to wait for a wheelchair and wheeled her out to our waiting drivers. However, because we got separated from the rest of our group, they got turned around and found that they had to walk around the rotunda to get back to our rendezvous point. That sucked. 

Our adventures continued with the insane driving that only Roman natives seem to be able to manage in a calm non-chalant manner. After a horse and carriage almost sandwiched us, a puny frog green Fiat, side swiped our vehicle, but everyone continues without pause or concern and we navigated our way to our cruise ship, with a limping Tayler, icing her ankle and praying for a healing in time for the ext day's foray into Florence, where she intends to shop, even if she has to buy a set of crutches from the ship doctor.

The Life we Claim we Didn't Sign Up For: Journey: Barcelona to Naples

The Life we Claim we Didn't Sign Up For: Journey: Barcelona to Naples

Friday, November 13, 2015

Journey: Barcelona to Naples

Travelling is always about the Journey, and can be so much more than the destinations. That’s always been my mantra, “it’s all about the journey.”

We formed a group of friends and family for a cruise on the western Mediterranean.

For this trip we have a group just one shy of a dozen folks, with my granddaughter Tayler being the ‘youngster’ at the tender age of 19. For the most part of this trip Tayler has been equally entertaining and entertained.

We started in Barcelona, where we spent a day trying to adjust our body clocks by wandering down and around La Rambles and munching marvelous tapas at Guell Tapas Restaurant, which we found down a narrow street, not far from a most conspicuous porn establishment, that also proved to be a valuable landmark for other members of our group looking to catch up with us.

After Barcelona our next stop is in Naples. Good Karma was with us as we soon found our hired driver from Best Limos in Rome was the very same one we travelled with 5 years ago, Ivo Franco. I highly recommend Best Limos in Rome, they took excellent care of our group.

On this day our group was split up between those wanting a trip to the ruins at Pompei, while the rest of us went the other direction to the beautiful city of Naples, to see the St. Gennaro Cathedral , the San Carlo Opera House, and Via San Gregorio Armena, the Nativity street where you can finds hundreds of artisans and their workshops building nativity scenes of all sizes and all the trimmings to go along with it.

In Naples you will have the best pizza ever. And we did while at the Nativity street section.

While visiting the church of San Giuseppe Moscati, I stumbled upon a brass doppelganger of one of our sled hockey friends, Dennis Senk.

 Pretty weird....

The Teatro di San Carlo was a beautiful opera house and the last stop to tour of Napoli day before a delicious late lunch on the harbor.

Next stop, Rome.