The trip was amazing (I took just shy of 300 over 350 pictures – the scaled down version can be found here), but I am glad to be home. We all decided that fourteen days on a cruise ship was just a bit much – ten would have done just perfectly.

I shall relate the rest of it at a later date since, although the clock says it is almost midnight, which is a perfectly reasonable time to go to bed, my body is still on European time and it feels more like 6am.

Which is also a reasonable time to go to bed, depending on what you have been up to šŸ˜‰

The Trip

We adjusted fairly quickly to the six hour time difference when flying there, but I think it was only because the overnight flight afforded us the luxury of tricking our bodies into thinking more time had passed when really only three hours had passed. Our bodies returned the favour the next day by sleeping for fourteen hours. But it was the day at sea, so it was petty much wasted anyway.

For most of the trip, people kept speaking to us in Swedish and other Scandanavian languages. I’m not sure why they assumed we were Scandanavian (there were about 100 or so on board, but there were also over 3000 from the U.K., so the safe money would be on “English-speaking”). People also assumed that my brother was my husband, which was a much more disturbing assumption.



2:03 PM Ajaccio, Corsica | practising their cult ]

Not enough time in Corsica, that’s for sure. Although we arrived at the early morning hour of seven o’clock, we are now already three hours into our return sail to Mallorca, arriving there tomorrow morning, where we will hop on a plane for another ten hour journey home. We had just enough time in Corsica to take a tour around the city of Ajaccio (another coach) and around the tortoise protection centre just outside of town.

It seemed like a pretty little town, judging by the five hours we were in port. Our tour guide gave us the run-down about all the haunts of Napolean, who was born in this town. She also gave us a bit of the history of the town, showing us the area where most of the English visitors who came during the cold winters would stay, including the Anglican church that was built specifically for them so they could continue to “practice their cult” while vacationing here.

I think our guide needs a new French/English dictionary.

And now, unfortunately, it is time to start the arduous job of packing up all my clothes. It’s taken me two weeks, but I have just about forgotten how I managed to get it all into one suitcase in the first place.

Photos of Olbia and Ajaccio.



5:11 PM Olbia, Sardinia | the land of happy ]

In Latin, Olbia means “happy”. And I am happy to be leaving this port.

Olbia was a pretty town, but really didn’t hold enough to make our eight hours here in port worthwhile. If we had gone on the coach tour of the Costa Smerelda (at almost $100 per person!) I’m sure we could have occupied our time a little more easily, but we’ve spent far too long in coaches and far too much money on this trip already šŸ˜‰

Instead we walked the town, which took a grand total of just over an hour, and read on the deck for a while before making another venture into town in an attempt to buy stamps.

“Un francobollo per Canada, per -“

No. Finished. All gone.

“… Grazie.”

Neat and tidy, no fuss, no muss. No stamp either, but at least this time I wasn’t cursing under my breath.

We also spent a bit of time watching the crew marathon, which was taking place in the port area. Unfortunately, neither of our servers were running in the race, and I actually recognised very few runners. I guess with 540 crew on board that really isn’t too surprising, but over the course of the last two weeks I think I’ve seen most of the crew that are in public areas (the engine crew I obviously haven’t seen) and we were told that there were quite a few restaurant staff in the race so I was expecting to see a few more faces that I knew.

Tomorrow we make our final stop in Ajaccio, Corsica, before heading balk to Palma for our flight home.

Two weeks has gone by much too quickly.

Photos of Olbia and Ajaccio.



7:21 PM Naples, Italy | frozen in time ]

The lovely town of Naples served as a jumping off point today for our trip to the ruins of Pompei.

One couple we met earlier in the cruise, when they found out we were planning on going to Pompei, commented on the serene feeling that you experience there. They obviously did not go on a day when the tourist helicopter circled above constantly, making you feel like you were at the centre of a police hunt. I did get a slightly creepy feeling up my back when I saw the plaster casts of some of the victims of Pompei … but I still took photographs of it, only because it’s hard to believe that this really happened so quickly that people would be caught half sitting. The site itself was too large to walk in the two hours that we were there, but we did get to see a fair amount of what has been excavated (approximately twenty percent of the city is still under the seven or eight feet of ash and sand that originally covered the area). It was quite interesting to see how built-up the city was – they had “fast food” shops even then, and the colours of some of the murals and mosaics were preserved quite well in deep reds, golds and blues, despite the passage of almost two-thousand years.

On the way back from Pompei, our tour guide explained the driving rules in Italy: “If you are going into town, be careful when you cross the street. The crosswalks and streetlights in Italy are for decoration only.”

Photos of Naples.

8:14 AM Naples, Italy | now that’s talent ]

It is quite amazing to watch someone turn a 704 foot long vehicle around and back it into its “parking spot”, almost as easily as backing in a car.



11:09 PM Messina, Sicily | I didn’t think my feet tan was *that* dark ]

I think I’ve finally become tired of being a tourist.

We took another coach ride to Mount Etna today (I think we’ve spent half our trip in coach rides to one place or another) to see the steaming lava. We saw no lava, but we did get to walk in and around one of the Silvestri craters, and to see a steaming pile of rocks from the eruption of last year. And even though I heeded the warning to wear closed toed shoes because of all the ash in the area, my feet still came out looking quite a bit darker than when we started the journey.

In the afternoon (after washing our feet) we wandered around the town of Messina, where we struggled with the post office to buy four simple stamps for postcards.

“Quattro francobollo per Canada.”

Four? Four. Canada? Canada. Four? Four. Four? Quattro. Canada? Canada. Internazionale.”


We finally got the stamps, but somehow ended up buying “priority” stamps instead of standard stamps. Postcards must be very valued in Italy.

Photos of Messina.



6:44 PM Valletta, Malta | would you like to buy a horse? ]

We docked in Valletta three hours early, which was both good and bad. The good part was, that gave us more time to do our shopping before the stores closed for the afternoon siesta. The bad part was that Valetta is a very quaint (read: small) little town – we walked it all and did our shopping in less than two hours. Which then left ten hours to kill.

The reflexology sessions my mother and I booked took an hour and a half of the time, which was somewhat of a relief. I’m still not 100% sure what I thought of the whole thing. It’s all about clearing blockages so your body can work at its full capacity. We were warned that sometimes you will feel a little “ill” after – for example, if your sinuses are blocked, then afterwards you may have a runny nose, but I felt downright sick just after my appointment. Which might mean that I was very blocked??

Still with nothing to do, and wanting to get off the ship, we went to an “interactive show” (movie) about the history of Malta, which I fell asleep in, but which took up another hour and a half by the time we walked there and back. Lunch took another hour.

Everywhere we went, people either asked us if we would like a taxi, or asked us if we “would like to buy a horse” – meaning, of course, to take a ride in one of the horse-drawn carriages. I was tempted to see how much they wanted for their horse, but really, I don’t think I could fit a horse into my carry-on luggage very well anyway.

Photos of Valletta.



6:08 PM Mediterranean Sea, part 2 | crossing the Mediterranean again ]

My brother and I did a wee bit too much celebrating on Friday night, helping the Irish girls say goodbye to the ship, so Saturday was pretty much a write-off and we didn’t get to explore the northern side of the island as we had planned. Such is life.

Today is another day at sea, which means another day trying to find something to occupy your time. Last Sunday was a little easier, despite the storm, as we slept for more than half the day. Today was a little harder since we were all rested up, but my mother and I went to a reflexolopgy seminar, which lead to us each booking a full-length session tomorrow. I’ll let you know what I think about it – I’ve always been curious about “alternative” medicines, but at least with this you get foot massage out of it, if nothing else. Plus, it’ll eat up another hour of our time, since we don’t dock in Valletta, Malta until noon.



7:26 PM Barcelona, Spain | 9 miles of walking ]

I think I might have found the origin of the word “gaudy”. While walking around Barcelona today, we came across several buildings and designs by the artist Antoni Gaudi, including the Casa Batllo, which looked like it had been splattered by paint, and the Casa Mila, a house on a bender. The most notable of Gadui’s works is the Temple de la Sagrada Familia, a church in the centre of town that is somewhat … uncharacteristic of a church. To tell the truth, it seriously reminded me of stalagmites.

After walking all the way to the church to snap a picture (it looked like a shorter distance on the map), we caught the metro back to the coast to make our way up to Montjuic, where we rode a cable car up the rest of the mountain to the Castell de Montjuic. We didn’t have the time to wander around the Olympic Stadium or other Olympic sites on the mountain, so instead we hobbled back to the ship and rested in the comfort of the pool.

Tomorrow we dock in Palma, Mallorca, marking the end of our first week of cruising.

Photos of Barcelona.


18.9.03 10:31 PM Villefranche, France | Nice is nice ]

We took a scenic tour along the coast of France today to the town of Nice, where we wandered in the flower and fruit market, then to the tiny town of Eze. Nice was nice (the tour guide’s joke, not mine), but Eze was the highlight of the day for me. It is a tiny little town, situated on the top of the cliffs overlooking the Bay of Villefranche. It was so high that all items in and out of the town had to be carried there by hand or by donkey, but it certainly had a spectacular view of the land around it. The streets were narrow and wound their way around the city, acting more like stairs than streets. Unfortunately, I could not find the stairs to get to the very top of the city (unaware that you had to go through the “exotic garden”, which cost another three Euros, a fact I only found out once we had left the town), but it was still a very interesting site, if not for historical reasons. Afterward we wandered around the town of Villefranche, where I spotted this funny statue by an artist called Volti. Unfortunately, the museum didn’t open in time and we had to return to the ship before we could view any more of his works. We peered through the gates and could see that they all were of the same style, so it might have been interesting.

Photos of Villefranche.



10:31 PM Livorno, Italy | can you please make up your mind ]

I think my computer battery is on crack. Not only does it now go from 99% charged to 0% charged in the blink on an eye, it also goes from 7% to 99% in two blinks of an eye.

6:17 PM Livorno, Italy | mommy, why is that statue naked? ]

Yup, still love Italy.

Today’s trip took us to the lovely city of Florence, home of Michaelangelo’s David; the largest stone dome, El Duomo and the Battistero that people were Baptised so they could enter the church of the Duomo; Ponte Vecchio, a very famous bridge; and Chiesa St. Croce, which contains a peice of the cross of Christ and where Michealangelo, Gallialio, and Gallialio’s father are buried. Well, except Gallialio’s middle finger, which is in the Musea de Science, also in Florence.

We were a little disappointed in Florence at the beginning because everywhere you turned there were tourists! I know, the irony of a tourist being bothered by the number of tourists is amusing. But it was annoying since it made it very hard to take any pictures. It also didn’t help that we decided to do Florence as part of a tour, which meant we were following a man with a little wooden sign, trying to take pictures and follow the bouncing sign through crowded streets at the same time. Our impression of the city was lifted quite a bit once the tour ended and we were able to wander the city on our own.

And we did actually spot the leaning tower and duomo in Piza’s Miracle Square from the highway on our way to Florence. Unfortunately, we went by it too quickly on the way there to snap a photo and neither my mother nor I could find it on the way back, despite our vigilance in watching for it.

Photos of Florence.

7:50 AM Livorno, Italy | bella, bella! ]

Due to technical difficulties, this post was delayed by a day. It seems that my computer battery has decided that it no longer likes holding a charge, so it goes from 99% to 0% in about two minutes flat. Very strange. And, of course, the warrenty runs out right about … now.

I love Canada, but if I ever had to move to a foreign country, I think Italy would be high on my list.

Rome. was. gorgeous.

One of the things that surprised me most about the ruins of Rome are the fact that they are smack-dab in the middle of all the bustle of the city. You see the Colliseum … and you see the six lane road running around it. It makes it almost more exciting, the way you can just turn a corner in the middle of all these shops and houses and run into a few-thousand year old ruin.

We started our journey in St. Peter’s Square, which is where the Pope addresses the masses on special occasions. Today was not a special occasion so, although there were masses, there was no Pope. We then made our way into St. Peter’s Basilica, where we were treated to the opulence of the gold-encrusted everything. Unfortunately, the lack of light made picture-taking a little hard, so we only spent a minute or so inside the Basilica itself.

We then wandered through the city towards the Pantheon, which again, due to the lack of light inside, was not the best for capturing on film. But still impressive none-the-less. I did get a funky picture of the light pouring in through the hole in the roof (when it rains outside, it rains inside) which my mother and brother then shamelessly copied since they thought it looked so nifty.

The next stop on our list was Il Vittoriano, generally referred to as the “wedding cake”. I don’t really understand why, but it has something to do with all the columns on it.

And finally, we made our way to the Roman forum, which just blew me away. We didn’t shell out the bucks for the map of the place (we really should have, it’s so expansive) so all I have is the pretty pictures. I still didn’t take half the pictures I really should have, since we were running out of time and still wanted to make it to the Colliseum and a few other sites before making our way back to the coach.

The Colliseum is exactly as you imagine it would be, except for the aforementioned highway that runs around it. We paid the ten or so Euros to get inside, just so we could walk where the ancient Romans and gladiators had trod. You could see the catacombs that were beneath the ancient floor, and they had built a replica of the floor on one end so you could see how it all fit together. It was somewhat disappointing that the seats were not preserved, so you had to use quite a bit of imagination to picture what it would have been like to watch a match in those times.

With little time to spare, we left the Colliseum and made our way to Trevi Fountain, which was so overcome with tourists we did not have a chance to get anywhere near enough to the fountain to throw our coins in – one coin means you will return to Rome, two means you will get married. I like to think that I threw a coin in in spirit, so I will return to Rome one day.

We made one more stop at the Spanish Steps, which were a little of a letdown after the succession of other sites. As we passed by one of the buildings on our way back to the coach, a worker yelled something down to me – the only part I really caught was “Bella! Bella!”.

I have no idea what he said but damn, it sounded nice in Italian. šŸ˜‰

Today we are off for a tour of Florence. We decided to skip the Piza part of the trip since so many people have said it doesn’t really live up to the hype.

One thing I learned is that Montreal drivers really aren’t that crazy compared to the mayhem that is driving in Rome. For the life of me, I could not see where most of the traffic lights were. They just … weren’t. Cars pulled out when there was the least chance of getting hit, and blocked traffic to make their turn. Pedestrians really aren’t that much better. We got very good at following the Italians as they stepped into the middle of a four lane street with only a few white lines on the road to signal that this was indeed a “pedestrian crosswalk”.

Photos of Rome.



6:02 PM Mediterranean Sea | sleeping the sleep of nauseous people ]

It seems that all we do on this ship is eat and sleep and occasionally wander around looking at sights through the windows of buses.

2:25 PM La Goulette, Tunasia | Carthage ]

Last night was the midnight chocolate buffet, which made it a little hard to get up by 6:30 this morning to make our tour into La Goulette, Tunasia. We drove through the ruins of Carthege, that old Roman enemy. Unfortunately the tour was more of the “driving by” kind and less of a “stop and explore” kind.

Several of the passengers have been on this cruise previously, so we’re getting quite a bit of unsolicited advise on where to go. No-one we talked to really thought much of Tunis (“What’s the best thing about Tunasia?” “Leaving.”) but I thought it was quite a pretty town. And for all the warnings we got about entering a “Muslim/Arab” country and how we should be careful to not dress in a “Western manner”, the people were really nice and, for the most part, dressed more “risque” than the passengers. Although the tour guide did say that Tunasia was one of the most, if not the most, progressive Arab country.

My favourite thing was all the white and blue houses. Unfortunately the bus was a little too quick for me to get the shots I wanted to get.

Photos of La Goulette.



3:40 PM Mediterranean Sea |
not so sure about this cruise idea anymore …

Days at sea are generally boring unless you love casinos, bingo, or lying on the deck in the sun. Casinos are great, but I have no money to lose these days. Bingo can be fun if you have the right people but, alas, the people who frequent the bingo games on ship are of a slightly different age range than myself so it makes it a little less thrilling. And the rain squalls currently pounding the deck have made the sun disappear and the ship rock to a rather nauseating degree.

Thankfully, today is our only day at sea for this leg of the trip. And hopefully today will also be the only day of rain. šŸ˜‰



10:44 PM Palma, Mallorca |
and we’re on!

After a ten hour journey, we’re finally here in sunny Palma, Mallorca, a lovely island in the south of Spain.

Our first stop after dropping our stuff on on the ship was to take a walk up to Castell de Bellver, a castle at the pinnacle of a hill overlooking the town of Palma. My brother and I made a little bet to see how long it would take us to walk up the hill – he said 45 minutes, I said less than that. I think I would have won had we actually had a map to guide us to the castle. Instead, we decided to just weave our way up the streets of Palma in the general direction of where we thought the castle was. We took a few mistaken detours, but all in all we managed not too badly to stay on course.

What we didn’t expect when we got there was the flights of stairs required to get from the gate to the property to the actual foot of the castle (and I say flights only because we didn’t think to count the steps on the way up, each time believing that it must be the last set, and we didn’t bother to count them on the way down, just wanting to get to the bottom. And I’m really bad at estimating these kinds of things.) After climbing to the top, we found out there was an admissions fee for the castle itself, so we just walked the grounds a bit and then made our way back to the ship to get ready for dinner.

Photos of Palma.