Posted by: martha sue | April 29, 2016

Mastering the London tube

The first day in London we stayed pretty close to our hotel – exploring the area of Hounslow. We walked to the tube station and picked up a map.

Hounslow Central Station

Hounslow Central Station

We then walked around some shops looking for an adapter – we have one that works in our hotel room but decided we’d like another. We checked at the hotel desk first but they didn’t have any left that would work for us. We checked several places but no one had any. Then we spotted this place that was putting power supplies on a table outside their shop. So we asked them – they didn’t have any adapters either. As we walked away, we both looked at each other and each of us had the same thought. Well, a power supply would work. They plugged one into Jay’s phone and it worked. It was a Samsung power supply so it would work for our camera, too. We bought it.

With that task completed, we decided to find a pub. And we did…

First beer in an English pub

First beer in an English pub

We chatted with the bartender to find out where we should go for supper — she pointed us to the pub – The Moon Under Water which was just a few blocks from there. We had a couple more beers and then headed out to find the place. I ordered fish and chips and Jay got the special beef dinner. It was very good.

Back at the hotel, we plotted out the tube stations to get to Central London and the points of interest for the next few days. Hopefully, it will be as easy as it was to figure out which trains to take.

Posted by: martha sue | April 24, 2016

Marseille, France

We were up early on April 23rd as we were getting off the ship – had to vacate our room by 9. There were only a few of us getting off the ship in Marseille — most stayed on to disembark in Barcelona. We made on our way off the ship and were told that someone would be waiting with our luggage and would take us to our taxi that would take us to the airport. We actually missed the person with the luggage and had to go back through the gate to get them. Then we found the NCL agent that walked us to get a taxi.

We made it to the airport in plenty of time to make our afternoon flight to London. Our taxicab driver didn’t know very much English and we don’t know French so we couldn’t communicate very well with her and she couldn’t tell us too much about the area.

Jay was worried that our luggage was overweight so once inside the airport we spent some time rearranging “stuff”. He found a place where he could get them weighed and mine was just under the 23kg limit. And his weighed 21.89kg. So we were good to go and went to stand in line to get our bags checked. We finally made it up to the counter only to be told that we couldn’t check in earlier than two hours before our flight! It’s only 12:30 p.m. and we can’t check in our bags until 2 p.m. We found seats and got out our kindles to read. There was a group of armed military that walked back and forth several times – right in front of us. We knew better than to try and take their picture.

We finally got checked in, made it through security and found our gate — boarded soon after we got there. Off to London…

Posted by: martha sue | April 24, 2016

Last day on the ship…

We had a relaxing morning on the ship on our last day. After breakfast, we used the time before our excursion into Cannes to pack. We were to meet at 1:00 p.m. for the excursion. I didn’t notice though that our ticket said that the meeting place was on the pier in Cannes not on the ship. Jay just happened to check the ticket again – it said we needed to allow 45 minutes for the tender into port and it was almost 12:25! We got ready and went down to deck 4 to make our way off the ship. There was a line already so we not so patiently waited for the tender to get there.

Tendering into the Port of Cannes, France

Tendering into the Port of Cannes, France

Port de Cannes

Port de Cannes

We made it to the meeting point in time though so that was a relief. Our guide on this excursion was from Germany but she has lived in the South of France most of her life. I don’t know how to spell her name but she told us that it sounds like the state of Utah so I call her “Utah”. We took a bus ride to Saint Raphael, France – one of the oldest towns in the area. She took us on a walking tour and then let us go off on our own for 45 minutes or so. We found a café right across the street from the harbor and enjoyed a glass or two of merlot while watching boats in the harbor. It was a very pleasant and beautiful setting.

Beach area in Saint-Raphael, France

Beach area in Saint-Raphael, France

The second part of our excursion was a scenic drive on the Golden Corniche. The road runs close to the sea and through one of the most beautiful areas of the French Riviera.

French Riviera

French Riviera

Coast of South of France

Coast of South of France

The Esterel is a coastal mountain range and is made up of red volcanic rocks.

The Esterel - coastal mountain range

The Esterel – coastal mountain range

We made it back to the port of Cannes to catch the final tender back to the ship. Jay snapped some great shots of our ship.

Norwegian Epic - our home for 16 days - April 2016

Norwegian Epic – our home for 16 days – April 2016

Once back on board, we finished our packing and then went up to deck 15 for the sail away party before dinner.

Posted by: martha sue | April 22, 2016

Pisa and Florence…

Our long day in Rome was followed by an equally long day in Florence – the very next day. We departed on our bus ride shortly after 8 a.m. on the morning of April 22nd. Our first stop was an hour away in Pisa to see the “leaning tower of Pisa”.

Our guide was Francesca and she gave us a history lesson on the way to Pisa. There was a lot of water under the ground in the area where it was built and they were only able to place the foundation 10 feet down into the ground. It took many years to get the bell tower built – construction was stopped several times before it was completed – and no matter what they tried, it still leaned.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa

The bell tower is one of the four buildings that make up the cathedral complex known as the Square of Miracles.

Church and Leaning Tower in Pisa

Cathedral Complex with Leaning Tower in Pisa

Leaning Tower Selfie

Leaning Tower Selfie

We were at the Square of Miracles for almost an hour and then met our group for the walk back to our bus. We got to a train crossing and the gate was down… waited for at least 15 to 20 minutes before a train finally arrived and passed by.

Stopped by a train - Pisa, Italy

Stopped by a train – Pisa, Italy

Once we got on the bus, our next stop was Florence — Firenze in Italian… We travelled through the city of Florence before crossing the Arno River arriving in the historical center.

Next stop - Firenze

Next stop – Firenze

Once in Florence, our guide walked us to the Santa Croce Square and told us this is where we would meet at the end of the day. We found a quaint local bar to have a sandwich and a glass of wine before we started touring Florence.

Church of Santa Croce - Santa Croce Square

Church of Santa Croce – Santa Croce Square

From here, Jay and I walked over to the Plaza Signoria — this is where the replica of David resides. We didn’t have tickets to enter the Academy of fine Arts where the original David was moved to get it out of the weathering elements of being in the open area of Florence.

Palazzo della Signoria

Palazzo della Signoria

Palazzo della Signoria  - Replica of David where the original once stood

Palazzo della Signoria – Replica of David where the original once stood

Next I walked up the street to find the Duomo – I had a map and hoped that I was going the correct way. I passed a lot of stores and kept on walking and then there it was… It was massive and beautiful.

Duomo

Duomo

The painting in the ceiling was breathtaking – I looked the Duomo up on the internet and found this description. “Giorgio Vasari’s frescoes of the Last Judgment (1572-9): they were designed by Vasari but painted mostly by his less-talented student Frederico Zuccari by 1579”.

Duomo

Duomo -Florence, Italy

Met back up with Jay in the Santa Croce Square where we met our group and made the way back to our bus. We got back to our ship and to our cabin by 6:15 — barely had enough time to freshen up, change clothes and make our 6:30 dinner reservation! I think we were 5 maybe 10 minutes late.

Posted by: martha sue | April 21, 2016

Our day in Rome…

We were up early the morning of April 20th to go on our tour to Rome — our meeting time was 7:45 a.m. It was over an hour bus ride to Rome from the port of Civitavecchia – our guide, Virginia, on the bus was very helpful in describing where we were going to be dropped off in Rome and where we were to meet at 3:45 that afternoon. We were doing the “Rome on Your Own” excursion – we read the description and some of the reviews about this excursion and thought this would be a good way to see it.

We were dropped off near the Colosseum or Coliseum and Virginia walked us to the entrance for the Palatine Hills – our afternoon meeting place. We bought tickets at the Palatine Hill and these tickets could also be used at the Forum and the Colosseum. We walked through Palatine Hill on our own as we didn’t see any walking tours right when we got there. This site is one of the most ancient parts of Rome.

Palatine Hill - Rome, Italy

Palatine Hill – Rome, Italy

Palatine Hill was the site of Rome’s first settlements – it is next to the Roman Forum. The first inhabitants felt safe because it was high on a hill.

Palatine Hill - remains of buildings

Palatine Hill – remains of buildings

We took lots of pictures while in this area – the Temple of Castor — only 3 columns survive. Our guide at the Colosseum told us that whole area became a quarry for building material used elsewhere in the city.

Roman Forum: Temple of Castor and Pollux

Roman Forum: Temple of Castor and Pollux

The Temple of Antonius was one of the few well-preserved buildings since it was transformed into a church and thus escaped the quest for building material.

Temple of Antoninus and Faustina

Temple of Antoninus and Faustina

The Arch of Constantine was dedicated in AD 315. This picture was taken when we were in the Palatine Hill area.

Arch of Constantine - Colosseum in background

Arch of Constantine – Colosseum in background

We left the Forum and Palatine area and walked over to the Colosseum – looking for an English walking tour. We found several – or rather, they found us. We avoided a few of them as they seemed like vultures! We finally chose one — he wasn’t the actual tour guide and led us over to the area where a group was gathering around a couple of different guides. He gave us a great deal of history about the coliseum – I wish I could remember everything he said! Like the other areas, after the coliseum was no longer being used it was a source for building materials. Holes can still be seen in many of the columns where lead and iron were extracted. The floor of the arena is completely gone. You can see the rooms where animals and gladiators stayed until they were hoisted into the arena through trap doors.

The floor area of The Colosseum in Rome

The floor area of The Colosseum in Rome

There is an area where the floor and several seats were restored to show visitors what the arena may have looked like back in the day.

The Colosseum - Rome, Italy - April 2016

The Colosseum – Rome, Italy – April 2016

After we left the Colosseum we set out to find the Trevi Fountain. We found an information area and asked which road would take us to the fountain. We had a map but it wasn’t detailed enough. The guy told us it was 10 – 15 minutes up that road – and he pointed us on our way. Well, we walked for more than 15 minutes and found another information area. Stopped to ask them if we were on the right track to find the fountain and they told us it was a long ways away. Across the street, Jay spotted some taxis. So off we went. We got in the taxi and he took us to the top area of a very narrow street and told us it was down that way. So we started down the street – it was really narrow. Cafes and restaurants lined one side of the street with outdoor seating. Shops of all types were on the other side. There was enough room for small cars to drive down the street – only one at a time though. Lots and lots of tourists were walking in the street and would have to move aside whenever a car did happen to come by.

We kept walking and finally saw a Trevi Fountain sign so kept on going reaching the end of the street and into a plaza area and there it was. It was magnificent. Pictures do not do it justice but we, of course, snapped quite a few.

Trevi Fountain - Rome, Italy

Trevi Fountain – Rome, Italy

April 2016 - Trevi Fountain in Rome

April 2016 – Trevi Fountain in Rome

We headed back up the street to find a taxi – decided to stop at one of the cafes for a glass of beer. We were given a “free appetizer” which turned out to be our lunch for the day. It was a dish of rice, beans, shrimp and broccoli and was quite tasty.

Street that we walked to find the Trevi Fountain

Street that we walked to find the Trevi Fountain

We left there, found a taxi stand area and was taken back to the Palatine Hill entrance with 30 minutes to spare. All in a all, it was a great day in Rome.

Posted by: martha sue | April 20, 2016

Naples walking tour

We began a walking tour of Naples at 8:30 a.m. on April 19. Our guide was Luca. He also did an exceptional job for us. We walked through several areas of the city – checking out a castle and ended up in a plaza where we took a 15 minute break to wander around by ourselves. The plaza was called “Piazza del Plebiscito” and the church in the picture below is Basilica Reale San Francesco di Paola”.

Basilica Reale San Francesco di Paola via Piazza del Plebiscito

Basilica Reale San Francesco di Paola via Piazza del Plebiscito

We then started the tour of the underground tunnel – The Bourbon Tunnel. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures during the underground tour. First climbed down 90 very steep and narrow steps. Our guide for this part of the tour was Fabiana with the help of Sara.

Volunteer guides Galleria Borbonica - Sara and Fabiana

Volunteer guides Galleria Borbonica – Sara and Fabiana

Fabiana was very knowledgeable and worked as a volunteer in the Galleria of Borbonica. There are 10 underground areas in Naples. This one was built in 1853 by Ferdinand II of Bourbon, who wanted an escape route from the Royal Palace to the barrack at Via della Pace. The work was never completed in his lifetime though. It was used during World War II as a shelter and even after the war people who were homeless lived there.

We walked past areas where there were stalls that were remnants of toilets. Even though the toilets were not completely intact, they knew that the stalls were toilets as one of them had the remnants of a flushing mechanism and in another stall was part of a porcelain bowl.

There were photographs posted in one area depicting families who lived in the underground after the war. One was dated 1946. Some of the artifacts were very small stoves, pitchers, and doll carriages. Part of a bomb that was probably a toy for a boy – so she explained. On the wall were scratches that could be read. One was from a ten year old boy with his last name etched in the wall. The volunteers at the museum decided to try to find this person and they did – he told them that he didn’t really remember much about the time there. He did take his grandkids down to the spot where his name was carved and he cried. He was 90 when he passed away. The volunteers were thrilled they located him and could talk to him.

They also searched and found other survivors. Some were angry and upset about remembering, while others knew what they had to do whenever they heard the air raid siren go off – grab some belongings and head to the shelters until the bombing stopped.

After the war, the shelter was also used as a dumping ground for impounded vehicles. Our guide told us that the cars were left there until the owners could pay the fines and get them out. She mentioned that since some cars and motorcycles are still there, the owners may not have had the money to get them out – I’m not certain if she was joking about this or not. She probably was.

Lucky for us, we didn’t have to climb back up the 90 steep steps we took at the beginning of the tour as we exited the tunnels at a different spot.

Our walking tour commenced back towards the ship. We stopped at another plaza – this one the Piazza dei Martiri where there are four statues of lions at the base of a column, each lion represents Neapolitan patriots who died during specific anti-Bourbon revolutions.

Piazza dei Martiri - Naples, Italy

Piazza dei Martiri – Naples, Italy

We continued walking through the city – taking in all the sights and sounds. Our tour ended at the Rossopomodore caffe where we were served pizza and a glass of wine. When we first read about this excursion, we thought we were going to get a slice of pizza or maybe two slices. This is what each person on the tour was served. It was delicious!

Margherita Pizza - Rossopomodoro Caffe - Naples, Italy

Margherita Pizza – Rossopomodoro Caffe – Naples, Italy

Our guide gave us the option of staying with him back to the ship or we could go off on our own. We decided not to wait for everyone and to wander back to the ship on our own – walking past the Bay of Naples – a very pretty sight.

Bay of Naples

Bay of Naples

Bay of Naples

Bay of Naples

Bay of Naples

Bay of Naples

Posted by: martha sue | April 18, 2016

Moving on up…

Well, the move to our new cabin on the second cruise went very smoothly. We left our packed bags in our deck 9 cabin around 9 a.m. and went up to deck 15 for breakfast. After breakfast, we took the elevator down to deck 5 to get our new key cards for our new “home” for this part of our journey on deck 11.

We decided to go see if our room was ready as they told us that those cabins that were going to be occupied by “back-to-back” cruisers would be cleaned and ready before any others. We found our room and opened the door and our luggage was there. So we unpacked. Jay finished first and decided to get off the ship. I finished unpacking and sat on the balcony to read for awhile.

Around noon, Jay called — he was up on deck 15 enjoying a beer. I had to find a cabin steward to let me out of the cabin area since they close all the hallway doors until all the cabins are cleaned. I went up to join Jay on deck 15 and while there I made our dinner reservations for the rest of the week.

He told me that getting off the ship was easy – they saw his “still on vacation” badge and just pointed his way off the ship. He went for a long walk across one of the bridges in Barcelona and then headed back to the ship. Again, he was just waved on by security, didn’t have to wait in any lines and didn’t have any issues getting back on the ship.

We “people watched” most of the afternoon and enjoyed the “sail away party” before going down to our cabin to get cleaned up for dinner.

A great day for the first day of our second cruise….

Posted by: martha sue | April 17, 2016

Towel family

Our towel family from the cruise…

Our towel family NCL Epic

Our towel family NCL Epic

Towel Family - NCL Epic - April 2016

Towel Family – NCL Epic – April 2016

April 2016 Towel Family

April 2016 Towel Family

Posted by: martha sue | April 15, 2016

Livorno, Italy

Our next stop was Civitavecchia, Italy but we didn’t get off the ship. It was a nice day to stay on board and just relax a little bit. I tried to work on some blog posts but the internet connection was really slow so I quit and just wrote a little in my journal. We also slept in a little while longer – we have been up every day so far before 7 and we are on vacation after all. We sat in the sun awhile and just enjoyed the ship – this was the warmest day we’ve had so far on this cruise. We’ve met some pretty interesting people on this trip!

The next stop was Livorno, Italy – we weren’t in any hurry to get off the ship – but we did go out after lunch. We just walked around the city center for awhile and then found a sidewalk café that had free Wi-Fi so we stopped for a beer and a wine – well, maybe 2 beers and 2 wines and used their free Wi-Fi to catch up on things going on at home and to write and answer some emails. We do have internet on the ship but we don’t have the unlimited plan so we have just been logging in to download email and, like I said, I tried to write some blog posts and upload pictures but it was just taking too long and used up too many minutes.

We have one more sea day on this cruise and then it will be time to move on to our next cruise. Yes, that’s right, we decided to do a back to back cruise so we’re not getting off the ship with everyone else on Sunday, the 17th. We just have to have our bags packed and we’ll be moving to a new room – going up two decks. We’ve been on deck 9 this cruise and will be moving to deck 11. We leave our bags in our current room and the stewards move them to our new room. We’ve been given name tags to wear that say “Still on Vacation”. We do have to stop and get new key cards that will have new room information on them. We don’t even have to get off the ship and, if we do, they say the tags and the new key cards will just allow us to get back on.

I’ll let you know how smoothly that goes in a few days. This cruise has been for 10 days and our next one is only six. We’ll be going to 3 of the same ports and 2 new ones. We have excursions planned for the first 3 ports and just one of the last 2. We’ll be getting off the ship in Marseille, France.

Posted by: martha sue | April 14, 2016

Pompeii Art…

When you first walk up the hill and follow the path to enter the Pompeii ruins, the first thing that you see is all these art formations.

They are massive and beautiful. They appear to be made of bronze or maybe copper – I’m certain that my niece, the sculptor would know what they are made of. I’m not certain they belong in the ruins of Pompeii… but they are bigger than life and are there.

We were told they were created by an artist named Igor from Poland. I didn’t catch the last name.

Pompeii Art on display

Pompeii Art on display

More Pompeii Art

More Pompeii Art

Pompeii Art

Pompeii Art

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