European Tour – Day 18 – Barcelona

We docked early in Barcelona and had a quick bite to eat. We had an excursion scheduled so we got right on that. The bus took us into the city and then stopped a block of so away from the basilica Sagrada Familia. We were treated to a great tour around the four sides of the basilica with each having a theme. The construction continues but the project is to be completed by 2026 for the main structure and the area around it by 2033. We headed back to the bus and toured through some great neighborhoods with more Gaudi designs as well as some other great architects.

We continued the tour into the old part of the city where we saw one of the old royal palaces and some more churches. We passed a shop selling statues pooping and we learned that it was not an insult but an actual sign of good luck (due to use of such in the fields to fertilize crops).

We stopped for a coffee and tried the Catalan chorizo sandwich which is significantly different than what we know as chorizo. We headed back to the bus and continued the tour past the old bullfighting rings and up to the Olympic village on the hill where we got some great views of the city. The tour concluded and we were back on the boat for lunch.

After lunch I headed back into the city to walk up the hill to the old fort. It took about 75 minutes to make it up to the top, about 300m high. On the way up, I stopped at the Olympic pool to get some pictures of the city that we missed as the bus sped by. Beautiful. The old fort had some big guns and great views, and I was treated to some Gaudi inspired dresses in the old vaults. There were some other exhibitions going on as well. The city has had the fort or some version of it since Roman times.

I headed back down the hill by a different route (lots of stairs) and dressed up for a nice dinner. We were treated to a show on the boat of local Flamenco dancers, which was quite interesting. Great day. 12+ miles of walking

European Tour – Day 17 – Palma de Mallorca

The ship was in high gear last night as we headed south to Palma de Mallorca. We arrived just before noon and caught the shuttle to the old part of town. We first checked out the Basilica de Santa Maria de Mallorca. It is a massive gothic church that glows in the sun. The lines were short so we went in. It was not as ornate at other Basilicas although its chapels are well adorned. One was reconstructed by Gaudi after a fire. The Basilica had two really interesting things, these massive candelabras that were 3m tall and took 14 years to make. They only were placed on the altar for special occasions. I feel for the lads that had to get them up there. The other item was a statue of Mary that dated back to the 13th century (made from one log, something we’d never see from our lumber sources these days). Oh, and there were dead people in there too, including one arm bone from a saint (placed in a replica arm).

We wandered the streets, which were very narrow and not at all straight. Apparently this was common in the 1200s when this was all built.

We had a beer and mojito, and another beer and mojito near this old olive tree that had a gnarled trunk about 12 feet in diameter.

This was a short portion of day so we headed back to the busses. On the way we watched the peddlers pick up their stores on sheets and run off as the police patrolled the area.

European Tour – Day 16 – Sainte-Tropez and Grimaud

We got another early start today after porting. It was about a 90 minute ride to Saint-Tropez across the French coastal countryside. Tons of grape orchards and forests on each side of the road were interspersed with towns and forests. Simply beautiful.

We arrived at the port of Saint-Tropez about 9:30 and took a tour of the nearly empty streets and harbour area. There were more multimillion dollar yachts docked next to local fishing boats in the harbor. The walk through the town allowed some fantastic history and photos as we walked in and around the old city walls. The town was named after a man who was beheaded and his body was sent afloat into the harbor. (No body but a depiction of the event was presented).

We sat for a coffee and water at a cafe in the city center and watched the city come alive with locals and tourists. There is a distinct difference with the attire here than at other locations. People are out for a walk, a coffee, or shopping staying on off the fashion shows from around the world. I was glad I chose to dress more presentably than usual today, even though the Greg Norman shirt was a bit lower end here. lol.

We got to enjoy three hours of wandering before heading up the road about 20 minutes to a cute little town called Grimaud. We only had an hour here but it was a nice look at another canal city that needs to be visited again. Cool place.

We we are off to Mallorca for tomorrow. Having a blast.

European Tour – Day 15 – Villefranche Sur Mer

We started the day off slowly and enjoyed the peaceful marina views. The tender dropped us off in this peaceful little town and we walked around a bit before meeting this nice couple from Massachusetts. We sat for beverages with them and discussed the cruise, the USA, kids, etc. they were nice.

We continued the walking tour through the 2-3 streets with shops and restaurants. We found an old fort to explore that now was a hotel and conference center. There was a local wedding gathered there and we followed the procession back into town.

A while later we had hiked up the hill to the church but noted a mass going on so we just peered inside. The bride and groom were seated before the altar, apparently this was the wedding mass. We bowed out and headed back to the port.

We had lunch on the ship and relaxed away the afternoon napping and watching the yachts and boats pass.

European tour – Day 14 – Cannes, Eze, and Monaco

Today was a tender day and we had a tour scheduled so we were up at 6 to catch the 7:15 tour. Once on the bus we rode to the center of Cannes and were dropped off to walk around for an hour. There was a food market to wander through and we bought some cherries to snack on. There were tonned of lavender and rose packets on sale everywhere. Cannes was a place where sick people traveled to get well as the sun and air were better suited for TB sufferers, and a lot were artists like Henri Matisse and Anton Chekhov. It now is famous for the Cannes cinema festival.

We walked to the beach to gaze at the blue water. The beach had huge sand grains here that looked more like river stones, which were about the same size. lol.

We got back on the bus and drove up through the city and into the wealthy part of town with the amazing views. There were no opportunities for photos here.

We stopped at the town of Eze for a quick tour. And when I say quick, I mean we had 30 minutes, which really irritated me since this was the stop I wanted to see. We walked around a bit but never really got to see much before getting back on the bus.

The last stop was Monaco. We at least got a good tour here and a couple of hours for lunch and shopping. Monaco is interesting in that it is less than a square mile and has 40k people living there. We toured the Monaco Rock (palace area) and gardens. Very rich and beautiful. The cathedral is beautiful inside with the lighting and columns. And we saw where Princess Grace was buried (in the church, of course, with other dead people).

We also saw some of the streets and tunnels along the Formula One route. That is some tight racing.

And speaking of racing, part of the tour was watching in amazement at the skillful bus drivers here. We’d have a hard time with our cars and these guys navigate busses through the inches of clearance without hitting anything.

Back to the boat to get on the ship for a quiet evening. We rode the tender through a parking lot of yachts owned by the wealthiest people on earth. The big one was owned by a Russian billionaire that cost a cool $360 mil. (I wonder which church he’ll want to be buried in?) lol

European Tour – Day 13 – Ajaccio, Corsica

We made a stop in Corsica. We did not have plans for a tour, only to find a beach and get into the gorgeous water, and this is what we did. The beach was a 20 minute walk and we enjoyed it for a couple of hours. The water was a bit cool but not cold, the sun was warm and the sand was soft. We watched the swimmers, sailboats, and kayaks pass by for a couple of hours.

We packed up so as to not get too burned and found a beautiful cafe under some thick mulberry tree shade and had some lunch. We ordered some authentic French Fries (as we are now in France) and a Mozzarella and tomato salad with some bread (yes, French bread). The salad was delicious with the fresh mozzarella and olive oil and herbs.

We spent the rest of the afternoon browsing the shops along the streets and hanging out in the port city.

After dinner the ship was having a 4th of July party and balloon drop so we joined in to celebrate.

European Tour – Day 12 – Portofino

Our second stop, and last in Italy was the beautiful little totwn of Portofino. We had breakfast on the ship, caught a ride on the tender, and had a cappuccino on shore at a cute little cafe. We walked up the one road and did a bit of window shopping and then went on a little hike to the lighthouse and to an old castle.

The lighthouse was private but there was a nice cafe at the edge so we had a spritz and enjoyed the views. We walked back and stopped at the castle and paid the fee to view it. It had been converted to a villa, remodeled several times, and then sold back to the town where it is now open for viewing and for special events. What a wonderful place it would be to live.

We walked back down through the forested path (a steep descent) and sat in the post and watched the boats, a couple with a spirited dog, and the plentiful fish. What a beautiful day.

European Tour – Day 11 – Port Carrera, Lucca, and Pisa

Day 11 – Italy – Port Carrera, Lucca and Pisa

We had a late night watching a performer in the theater and then got up early to meet our tour to Lucca and Pisa. The morning weather is perfect here. It was 85 today and we know better than to complain about that.

First stop was Lucca, a walled city that used to have a moat. This city is different than other walled cities in that the wall was build after the Middle Ages around the old Roman city. Their focus was liberty for their citizens, free from the battles of the other regions. Turns out Napoleon ruined it all, but the set days it is famous for the city music festivals where Elton John, Rod Stewart, Ed Sheeran, and many others play. It has the remnants of the old Roman colosseum that was present in Roman cities, only this one has been rebuilt into apartments and restaurants. We even found where Starbucks stole their iconic symbol. Oh, and we saw dead people (this one is smiling). Cute place.

We then headed off to Pisa to take the tourist pictures of us holding the thing up. Out tour guide was great and explained that this area used to be a Roman port city and later a Christian center for all of the people coming in from the north. It has the largest baptismal basilica alongside the church. (You could not enter the church until you were baptized). The tower was near to see along with the thousands of people seeing it with us. I guess no one has ever found out why it leans or how to correct it. Some work was done in the 90’s and it now leans less than before. And they said it should be stable for at least the next 200-500 years.

We meet the tour group and headed Buck to the ship for some TLC and some dinner.

European Tour – Day 10 – Civitavecchia

Serenade of the Seas, Royal Caribbean Cruises.

There are not a lot of photos for today. We got up early, packed, cleared the hotel room, hauled our luggage to the corner, hailed a Taxi, and got a ride to the train. A cappuccino, orange juice, and some croissants and we boarded the train to Civitavecchia, an hour from Rome. A quick bus ride to the port and we checked in to the Serenade of the Seas, a radiance class cruise ship that will be 21 years old this month.

Serenade of the Seas is currently on its Ultimate World Cruise tour and we are joining a section of its Europe Journey, about 7 months from where it began in Miami on December 10, 2023.

We have settled in and enjoyed lunch, a beverage, and a quiet nap. There is a nice thunderstorm outside, Kathy is in for a massage, and I’m hanging out in the Solarium. Tomorrow is a Pisa and Lucca excursion and only a few miles of walking. We have been averaging over 7 miles per day, with 9.3 miles yesterday the high.

Not a lot of pictures today. But here are a few.

European Tour – Day 9 – Rome

We slept in a bit today and then managed to get the rental turned in without having to do a round trip to the airport. My fender scrape only cost $150, so not bad.

We headed for a brunch down the street and got the full tourist treatment. (It’s better to head off the path to get food and to find honest businesses.) lol. We ordered an omelette and a croissant, two spritz and a still and fizzy water (at 4€ each). It is funny because the restaurants make a big show of opening the water bottle for you at the table and pouring a bit into your glass, and some say “I’ll open and pour for you”. And we sat there and watched the waitress refill the bottles from a fountain and replace the caps from a stash on the shelf. It was filtered water but at least be honest about it. I left them a 1 star review on Google.

We decided to do some window shopping as the day heated up, before heading to the room to cool down and wait out the midday sun.

Later, we decided to get some food and then catch a tour bus to do a couple of laps around the city. On the way we hiked up the Spanish steps and stopped for a water and spritz. We met this great couple from Florida that had been touring similarly to us. They were wearing those bracelets that we were given to us by the sheister the first night in Rome that tried to steal money from me. We inquired about them and they said they had gotten them in Venice from an African peddler who showed them his kid who was having a birthday. lol. Same story. We recounted our story and we all got a good laugh.

Note: watch out for the African street peddlers walking around, striking up a conversation, showing you their kid, and telling you a relatable story, before offering free wrist bands and beads. They are looking to steal from you.

We had another spritz and met another tourist from DC who was here for a month to take a guilding class. It was time to catch the bus so we headed up and around the corner and climbed aboard.

We snapped pictures from the top floor seating and talked with a couple of gents from Texas who were touring the opposite direction as us on their vacation. They gave us a few sites to see in Paris that impressed them. There are a lot of Americans here.

The bus tour was nice and hot but we got some good pictures. We got off at the last stop, had a beer, some calamari, and a spritz and then made a short walk from a castle and the Vatican. Beautiful area. We did not go inside St. Peter’s because by then it closed, and you have to reserve tours days in advance. It was a beautiful site nonetheless.

And on a side note, after 14 years, we found a donor stand, so I enjoyed this regional delicacy. The donor is not Greek, it’s Turkish, made with chicken, and mixed with salad, yogurt sauce, and placed in a bread (like a taco). Delicious.