Sunday, October 27, 2013

Viaggi a Roma! (Part Duo)

When we last saw our our fearless, yet overly punctual travelers, they had boarded a train in Rome.  They had just over 4 hours to make their ship, but they weren't on the train to the Cruise port, having mistakenly jumped an earlier train on the same track- one headed directly to the Rome Airport; a 37 minute express train.

"37 minutes?! Son of a (redacted)...!"  With my adventuresome spirit momentarily quashed, and my navigational travel skills having failed me miserably, I quickly tried to regroup.  My frazzled brain quickly calculated the time we had left- 37 minutes to the airport, maybe 5 minutes in the station, 37 minutes back, that'll put us back in Rome shortly after 3PM.  I knew it was an 84 minute train ride to Civitavecchia so the only variable I had to worry about was what time the next correct train departed.

To make a long story (with far too much math), short- we made it to our ship with about 40 minutes to spare. Traveler Tip:  Bring a small towel or handkerchief if you're traveling there outside of winter- it's warm, humid, and you will probably sweat a lot.  Another Traveler Tip: Avoid the locals in the train station trying to help you with your bags or with directions to your train- they're either looking to snatch a bag (probably not), or an expensive handout (most likely).  Yes, it would have been worth the investment the first time we were there that day, but who asked you?

Norwegian Epic
We had a fantastic time.  Port calls in Livorno (Pisa), Marseilles France, Palma de Mallorca Spain, Barcelona Spain, Naples, and back to Rome.  We did everything onboard- the water slides, the casino (lost a bit), the bowling alley (nearly broke 200), the shows (music, comedy, and the Blue Man Group), trivia contests (won 2 of 5), shopping (a little), dining (too much), and drinking (just a bit - outside the room that is).  Traveler Tip:  http://www.rumrunnerflasks.com/ (worked great).  I did hit the gym 5 of 7 mornings to keep up with my intake though.  I won't go into the countless things to see and do on the ship, at least not in this post, but if you're interested in the Norwegian Epic, one of the world's largest cruise-liner, take a look here.

Pisa was nice to see, but like many people had said, it was somewhat overrated.  We did get the requisite pictures of the wife holding up the tower, and me pushing it over (holding it up is so overdone). But after that we walked back to town to catch the local city bus back to the port in Livorno.  Of course we got on the wrong bus- the one coming from Livorno, vice back to it.  That did earn us a nice tour of the back country- some place called Tuscany.  A nice sympathetic Italian woman took pity on us after figuring out we were trying to get back to our ship.  She had the bus driver stop, she got out and took us by the hand to the bus stop across the street, and said "Bus, Livorno," pointing back the way we came.  She could have said something disparaging about my nav-skills, but she fortunately didn't know about my past history.

 Some contractor got sued for this
Cathedral Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseilles France
Beautiful Architecture inside and out
Marseilles from the Cathedral
Marseilles is a huge port for France.  The Cathedral was a memorial for the hundreds of ships that had been lost off the coast, with models of the ships, nautical themed religious icons and lamps, and plaques dedicated to the crews and the maritime industry in general.  Getting up there was interesting.  After waiting at the bus stop for the ride up the hill, we noticed that we'd see a couple of the local buses, but most of the routes either weren't running or were way behind schedule, including ours.  The wife asked a local and was told that in France, they are always striking and the bus we needed may show late or not at all.  Once at the top via more expensive transport, we found the bus- sans driver.  All in all, a great port- lots to see and do.  The wife and I had a nice time walking around the Vieux Port (Old Port) area which is in the center of the picture above.

Le Seu- a Gothic Roman Catholic Cathedral in Palma
 Palma de Mallorca is a Spanish city on the island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean.  It was probably my favorite port due to the beautiful architecture- a mix of Gothic, Roman, and Arabic, the warm weather, a great lunch of Tapas and Sangria, and the ease of getting around, partially due to my limited, but sufficient Spanish.
Park Güell- a unique creation by Antoni Gaudi'
The Park's iconic dragon
Vast and varied architecture throughout the park




Sagrada Familia- I thought it looked like the cathedral was melting

Gaudí's Casa Batlló

Barcelona was a bit hectic- a lot to see and do, and everything was spread out across the city.  In order to cram in as much as possible, we chose to take a city tour with a open-topped bus which we could get on and off almost anywhere.  We skipped trying to enter Sagrada Familia- another Gaudi creation, due to it being a Sunday and entrance was free, therefore the line to get in wrapped around the block.  Parc Guell was a trek up a hill, where we found a place that would make Dr. Seuss think he was hallucinating.  The park entrance is a chokepoint which is apparently a haven for pickpockets, but we kept our heads on a swivel and our hands on our wallets.  Once at the top of the park, we were rewarded with a wonderful view of the city.  

After a day at sea, the next stop was Naples Italy.  Grittier than the more touristy cities in Italy, it was our plan to visit the ruins of Pompeii.  The excavations there are amazing and somber- with the ruins showing the excellent urban planning that took place, yet the tragedy that killed everyone there in such a sudden way- the explosion of Mt. Vesuvius. 
Bodies were covered and preserved in ash
The city's infrastructure included an amphitheater,
 public baths, a coliseum, and even fast food shops.
 

Two-thousand years old, yet still in better condition than
San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium
The streets would be flooded daily to keep it clean, so stepping stones were built into each street.



After the tour of Pompeii, we visited the birthplace of Pizza in Naples.  It was very crowded and had an hour wait, so we can say we ate next door to the birthplace of Pizza.
Lunch at D'Angeli had delicious melt-in-your-mouth pizza and a very friendly staff.
Leaving Naples for Rome- last night on the ship.

Rome was to follow, and the more exciting part of the trip in my opinion.  We had five days ahead of us and a well-planned itinerary if I do say so myself-more churches with amazing art and Roman architecture that confirms the old adage- "They don't build 'em like they used to." I was also looking forward to the great food, wine, and little chance of getting on the wrong trains or buses, mainly because we'd be walking everywhere.  Stay tuned for another exciting adventure in "Viaggi a Roma!"

9 comments:

  1. I had a heck of a time on the trip, but I'm also enjoying writing about it- lucky to have the forum. Sarge is a good man for sharing the space.

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  2. Excellent story, great pics. ...fearless, yet overly punctual travelers... is a great line, I might steal, er, borrow it someday.

    Flattery will open many doors my good Tuna. But your stories have opened this door on their own merit.

    And a Part Three? Oh mercy me! I can hardly wait. We've got a mini-series underway, I love it!

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  3. Brilliant, especially the photos. Words are fine, true, but ya know what "they" say about pics. A thousand words apiece, easily.

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    1. If a picture's worth a thousand words, video must be worth a million. But I'm not sure how to upload those.

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  4. LOL, Tuna. It reads like one of those forced-march "If it's Tues. it must be Belgium" vacations. But the pics look like you're having fun, so better that than not at all.....one of the nice things about a 3-yr tour in USAFE was that one could leisurely enjoy many of the tourist "must see" places (But of course there's so much to see it would really take a solid 3-yr long full-on vacation to truly see and properly experience it all Norway to Greece .. I had a spinster Aunt that came the closest. She never married to stay home and take care of her ill Father. When he died he left her everything and she spent it all on travel--and good for her!--two 'round-the-world cruises, a Scandinavian Fjord cruise, a Middle-East Holy-land tour, a South Pacific sail, etc. I have a pic of her on a Camel in her late 70s, lol. She even WALKED up the entire Washington Monument in her 80s when the elevator was broken, lol A tough old bird.)

    (PS: All this was done in the 50s. When we would visit her as kids she would regale us with slide shows of her trips,)

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  5. Great pics, and I thought Notre Dame in Marseilles was just a 'tad' gaudy... But that's just me... And didn't you get enough underway time in the Navy???

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  6. VX- definitely not a forced march- just a port a day for 6 days, which we leisurely took in. I think it only seems forced because we saw so much in a short time. I envy your Aunt. I'll just have to travel the world twice like her, but slowly over the next 40 years..

    Old NFO- very true, but only on big gray ships with lousy food and no nightlife. These ships have better looking shipmates, especially the one in my cabin.

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  7. I'd love to see Rome. One day I will. And these pics definitely re-lit that fire. Thanks!

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