Posted by: martha sue | May 2, 2016

All through the night…

I put an extra blanket on my side of the bed last night — I should be taking off blankets in May! Anyway, it worked! I kept warm all through the night and didn’t wake up once. I think this means that I’ve survived the six and seven hours time difference that I’ve experienced since April 4th….

Posted by: martha sue | May 1, 2016

Home Sweet Home

We left for Barcelona/London on April 4th so it was so good to be heading to Heathrow airport for the flight home on April 28th. We were up early and got a taxi ordered to take us. The flight was uneventful which is the way we like flights to be. Our friend, Tom, picked us up at the airport in Moline and made our way home. It was such a good feeling to be back home. It’s always great to travel but there’s nothing like home…

We walked a great deal while we were on this trip – thought I’d share the week in London.

Our week in London...

Our week in London…

Steps for April 25, 26 and 27 were 10,841, 11,032 and 18,463!!

Posted by: martha sue | April 30, 2016

Last Full Day in London

We took the tube today to Hyde Park and walked through Green Park to Buckingham Palace to watch the guards march out in front. Another magnificent building in London… Green Park was gorgeous! The flowers were amazing.

Beautiful Flowers at Green Park

Beautiful Flowers at Green Park

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

Lots of People at Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard was over an hour away.

Lots of People at Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard was over an hour away.

Horses by Buckingham Palace

Horses by Buckingham Palace

We made our way back across Green Park to the tube station and took it to the District Line (Green) where we went North to Notting Hill. Our first stop was for a beer! I had the same kind as the other day… This was the most expensive beer we purchased while we were in London. Notting Hill is an affluent area of London — even though the beer was more expensive, it tasted the same…

Meantime - awesome cold beer.

Meantime – awesome cold beer.

We found Portobello Road and walked down to the market area. It wasn’t as unique as displayed in the movie, “Notting Hill”, but it was pretty cool. I did stop to take a picture of the Travel Bookstore…

The Travel Book Shop - Notting Hill

The Travel Book Shop – Notting Hill

On our way back to the tube station, we spotted this kiosk type building right in the middle of the sidewalk. Upon further investigation, we discovered it was a public toilet. Of course, Jay had to try it out..

Public toilet on Lonsdale Road

Public toilet on Lonsdale Road

For just 30 pence...

For just 30 pence…

Public Toilet - after 20 minutes the doors automatically open.

Public Toilet – after 20 minutes the doors automatically open.

We made it back to the tube station and took it south to Southfields station. we got off and since we weren’t sure how much money was still left on our Oyster card (forgot to check before we left the station), we walked the 15 minute walk to Wimbledon Tennis. Attending a Wimbledon tournament has always been on my bucket list! We were in London in April and there were no matches but they were getting the grounds ready and that was pretty cool to see.

We got to the Lawn and Tennis Museum only to have just missed the last tour. However, they did let us go in and take some pictures and walk around a bit. We also went up to the Wingfield Café and wandered through the gift shop.

Fred Perry statue at Wimbledon

Fred Perry statue at Wimbledon

Wimbledon Lawn and Tennis Museum

Wimbledon Lawn and Tennis Museum

2015 Champions

2015 Champions

Madison Keys is from Rock Island (just across the river from where we live), so we had to take her score on the board… She made it to the Quarter Finals and lost to Radwanska 6-7/6-3/3-6.

Madison Keys at Wimbledon

Madison Keys at Wimbledon

The Wimbledon Shop

The Wimbledon Shop

We took the 15 minute walk back to the station – it was an uphill trek going back — and caught the train back to our hotel. There we packed for tomorrow’s journey home and then headed out for a few beers at our favorite pubs to say farewell to the friends we made.

The Bell and The Bull were the two pubs we frequented the most in our few days in London…

The Bull was right next to the tube station

The Bull was right next to the tube station

The Bell -- was over 100 years old - not the same building, but on the same spot...

The Bell — was over 100 years old – not the same building, but on the same spot…

Posted by: martha sue | April 30, 2016

Day trip to Westminster area

The next day we took the tube from Hounslow, changed to the Green Line at Acton Town and took it to the Westminster station. We came out of the underground and our first sight was, of course, the Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben.

Big Ben and Elizabeth Tower

Big Ben and Elizabeth Tower

Our first stop was going to be the House of Parliament but it was closed. We checked later to find out that the week we were there it was only open for tours on Saturdays. But we got to walk around the site and that was good.

Next we found The Jewel Tower – this is the tower that is a surviving part of Westminster Palace from the fire in 1834. It was built to house the kings wardrobe and jewels in 1365.

The Jewel Tower

The Jewel Tower

We walked by Westminster School and around the other side of Westminster Abbey. It was magnificent!

Westminster Abbey by the Westminster Gift Shoppe

Westminster Abbey by the Westminster Gift Shoppe

We turned the corner and saw the long, long lines of people waiting to get into the Building. We, of course, didn’t want to wait in that line, for sure…

Long Line at Westminster Abbey

Long Line at Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

We didn’t get a very good picture of St Margaret’s Church… So here’s the sign…

St Margaret's Church

St Margaret’s Church

We left this area and walked to the Westminster Bridge to board one of the City Cruises on The River Thames — which we took to St Katharine’s Pier.

We took lots of pictures while on this cruise… Here are just a few…

House of Parliament and Big Ben as we sailed away on The River Thames

House of Parliament and Big Ben as we sailed away on The River Thames

The London Eye

The London Eye

The Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge

We disembarked at St Katherine’s Pier — our friend’s Liz and Don, recommended we have lunch at the Dickens Inn so we followed the trail and signs to the Pub… I had a sandwich and a beer. It actually snowed while we were in the pub. As a reminder, today was April 26th!

The Tavern Bar at the Dickens Inn

The Tavern Bar at the Dickens Inn

Beer of choice was MeanTime - loved the glass...

Beer of choice was MeanTime – loved the glass…

We found our way from the Dickens Inn to the Tower Hill Tube station and maneuvered our way back to Hounslow. It was a long day of walking and sightseeing. We stopped at The Bull pub which is just two doors down from the tube station and had a few cocktails before going to the hotel and on to the Bell. Our bartender friend was just getting off work so we had one and left. Decided to go back to The Bull as Jay wanted to try one of their curry dishes..

We finished up there and went back to our hotel to crash… Another great day in London!

Posted by: martha sue | April 29, 2016

Tower of London

The first tourist attraction we ventured out to see was the Tower of London. This was on April 25th. We took the underground tube from Hounslow Central to the green line (District) in Acton Town and took that to the Tower Hill Station. Got off the tube and wandered up the path and found signs that took us right to the tower. First trip a success!

Tower of London

Tower of London

We stayed here most of the day. The first thing we did after we waited in line to get our tickets was to enter the grounds and saw that there was a walking tour just beginning so we gathered round our Yeoman Warder guide more commonly known as the ‘Beefeaters’. Our guide was really good and knew his history about the Tower. These guides are required to have served in the armed forces with an honorable record for at least 22 years.

Walking Tour - Tower of London

Walking Tour – Tower of London

From the entrance our guide took us to the Bloody Tower, the Beauchamp Tower, the Tower Green and the Scaffold site where Queen Anne Boleyn was beheaded in 1536, and ended at the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula where Anne Boleyn was buried.

We left the tour and went to see the Crown Jewels – of course, no one is allowed to take pictures. Just know that they were magnificent! It took some time to go through this exhibit.

Guard at the Crown Jewels

Guard at the Crown Jewels

We left there and went through the White Tower. This is one of the most famous castle keeps in the world and is the oldest part of the Tower. We climbed up all four floors and saw lots of arms and armour on display.

Armor in the White Tower

Armor in the White Tower

The ravens – the guardians of the Tower. Legend says that the kingdom and the Tower will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the fortress. They say there are 7 ravens at the Tower today – we saw two…

Ravens at the Tower of London

Ravens at the Tower of London

We left the tower as it was just beginning to rain. We spotted a currency exchange station and decided to exchange some. The light rain didn’t last but 10 or 15 minutes. We then made our way back to the tube station – it took some time to find the correct path but we made it and got back to our Hotel late afternoon. We went back to The Bell for cocktails and after visiting with some of the locals, we headed to The Sun pub for supper.

My beer this evening was — Strongbow Pear. Well, one of them was this…

Strongbow, of course, in its own glass.

Strongbow, of course, in its own glass.

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.

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