Tuesday, December 22, 2009

12/22/09 Finally, I am finding a few moments to update this blog! Actually, I have been dealing with a bad cold and really haven't had the energy to do much of anything. Currently we are parked at the Miccosukee Indian Casino on the outskirts of Miami. Bob & Nancy Colbert and Nancy & Jerry Hurley were parked with us here for 2 nights and prior to that, we were all in the North Fort Myers area, where we parked at the Elks. Here is a picture of Nancy & Jerry:

And one of Bob & Nancy:

So we have been having excellent social times with them, and catching up on all the happenings since the last time we were all together. Of course, group Happy Hours and potlucks were in order, so we have not yet shed the pounds that we acquired on the last cruise. Now that we are alone, we will have to start working on that!
I promised in the last few quick updates to post some pictures and a bit more information about our recent cruises, so I will try to lace the narrative in amongst the pictures.
As soon as we arrived in Barcelona, on Nov. 20, we checked into the Casa Billy bed and breakfast place in the L'Exiample region near the Plaza de Espana. It was easy to get to using the inexpensive aerobus (5 Euro), and turned out to be a great place to stay because it isn't so touristy so the costs to eat and drink in the restaurants are much better than in the Gotic area near the Ramblas. Our English friends John & Trish Holden, whom we met on our Africa trip in 2008, had flown in for the weekend and they joined us for dinner and a stroll in the area.

Besides catching up on each other's news, we walked over to the Plaza Espana where there was a wonderful expanse of fountains which had changing colored lights, making them seem to dance.

In fact, there was going to be a free music and light show using the fountains later in the evening, but we were seriously jet-lagged so we missed it.
The next day we boarded the Celebrity Century for a week long cruise in the Mediterranean. This was our first cruise on Celebrity and we were very impressed with it. Our first port was Cannes, and the day we were there was somewhat overcast with rain threatening so we didn't poke around the town very long. It is a very expensive place to visit, but charming with a Sunday market and some buildings with interesting embellishments:

Genoa was the port that was substituted for Portofino when they decided it might be too windy to tender there. We were delighted with this small city and spent a lot of time walking around admiring all the fabulous buildings and soaking up the ambiance. Along the waterfront there was an old wooden ship near the world-class aquarium:

A lot of the buildings are very old, yet so ornate and beautifully restored:

One of the delightful parts about wandering around towns in Europe is soaking up the charms of everyday life, such as looking at the markets, window displays, cafeterias, food stalls, etc. Here is a picture of the bread display in a fast food place which also served spaghetti and pizza:

Genoa has a section which is a designated UNESCO world heritage site because of the desire to preserve all the palaces, built several hundred years ago. There are more than a hundred in this town because it was so wealthy and powerful at one time.
Back on the ship, we had to get gussied up for formal night:

The next day, we toured Pisa and Lucca in a rental car with a couple we met at the Cruise Critic meet and greet. We had been to Pisa in 1989 when we had the kids with us for the summer in a camper van, but we were OK with seeing it again.

Then we drove to Lucca, a city with the old part totally enclosed by walls.

The walls are so wide that it is easy to walk around on the top on a pedestrian road. It is also the city where one of our favorite opera composers, Puccini, was born and raised, so there are statues of him here and there, and this picture:

Of course, it is an easy city to walk in and there are lots of fabulous buildings to see as well:

The next port was Rome but we skipped it because we have spent quite a bit of time there already and we wanted a day off.
Our favorite port was Naples because we had never been there before and it was easy and inexpensive to get to Pompeii on the train. Earlier in this blog I explained that Pompeii was the city that was covered by toxic gases and ash when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. We spent hours walking around this fascinating place. I will let the pictures and captions tell the rest of the story:
The Main Square in Pompeii:

Some of the smaller houses on one of the main streets in Pompeii:

There is a whole storehouse area full of artifacts, although a lot have been transferred to the museum in Naples:

There are casts of several people which were made when they discovered areas where people had been trapped and the organic parts had disintegrated, leaving a mold. Here is one of them:

There is a brothel which has about 5 small rooms with a cement-type bed in each, and some fairly graphic mosaic pictures on the upper walls, showing the sexual positions which the prostitutes were available for. These included oral sex, and woman on top positions.

Sometimes the ceilings were fairly ornate also. This is from one of the temples:

Some of the houses of the wealthy had mosaics in the entryway or the courtyard. Here is the one from the "Dog" house:

It was easy to see that life must have been pretty good for the wealthy people, who had fairly large houses with courtyards and servants. Not such a good life for the slaves who had to do all the work, service the brothels, etc.
The first cruise ended in Barcelona where we had one day and night which we spent in a hotel where we were joined by our good friends Diane and David Wilson. Then we all boarded the Voyager of the Seas for a 2 week TransAtlantic back to Galveston.

This cruise was mostly to have more fun times with all the friends from the Around the Horn cruise in Jan-Feb. The first port was Catagena, Spain where we went exploring and shopping with Diane. Here is a picture of Diane & Elaine with all the Boy Toys who were shopping too. From left to right they are Sergio, Reuben, Diane, Elaine, Martin & Roger:

The next port was Funchal, Madeira, which we greatly enjoyed, having never been there before. The whole town is loaded with picturesque pedestrian streets with fancy stonework:

There was a very colorful market near the fish market:

Tenerife, the Canary Islands was the next stop and also a place we had been before. Diane went with us to do some shopping because this is a duty-free port and there are lots of small shops with really cheap clothes. The view from the ship really shows how dry the island is, although the weather was quite nice the day we were there. The Canary Islands are VERY popular with Germans as a vacation place because they have warm weather year round.

Next we had 6 sea days in a row, which we all greatly enjoy because they are restful and there are interesting activities on the ship. Of course, there were at least 3 formal nights during the 2 weeks and here we are dressed in our "wedding outfits" for one of them. Married over a year and our clothes still fit!

Here are some pictures of the cruise friends from Around the Horn in some of their finery, because I know the friends who didn't come will like to see them:
David & Diane:

Father Dale & Gail:

Carol & Byron:

The Boy Toys: Roger (seated), Jack, Martin, Sergio & Reuben:



Daryl & Patrick:

Rick & Denise:

Pene had a birthday while we were onboard and we all celebrated by going to Portofino's, the specialty Italian restaurant. Thanks again Patrick and Daryl for treating everyone!

Here is a picture of the gourmet dessert we were served. Yum:

One of the delightful parts of cruising is getting to know new, fun people. On this cruise we were pleased to acquire three new table mates for dinner: Jim & Jan Sylvester, and their friend Sharylynn Shoe from Baton Rouge.

These three had fun each evening turning Jim into Rachel, a charming and talented woman who made the finals of the kareoke competition. Here is a picture of Rachel with Elaine:

Here is another picture of some of the beautiful women on this cruise:

Anika and Jennifer were another couple from Belfast who added a lot to the fun. Anika (dark hair) won the kareoke competition and both of them were fabulous dancers.

When we got back to Galveston, we needed to get to the Houston airport. Dale's partner, Richard picked us all up and after a delicious Mexican lunch, deposited us at the airport for our flight back to Orlando.

When we got back to our rig at the SKP park in Bushnell, we were delighted to find 5 couples we know from the past camping there. So we had a happy reunion with the Kesslers, Bornkamps, and Knapps in the picture with us:
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When we later moved to North Fort Myers again, we got to have another nice dinner with our old friend, Alma Montgomery. She had done some knitting for us and we had a little Christmas gathering which was fun.

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