Friday, September 30, 2011

Mediterranean Cruise - Day 6: Naples, Mt. Vesuvius & Pompeii, Italy

{These posts are taken from emails that I sent to the girls everyday during our trip.}

Hi girls!  We just finished our second day in Italy.  Today we arrived in Naples, Italy around 10am.  I watched the boat dock at the pier - it was very interesting.  The ship had to back in to the spot and there were several other cruise ships in the port.  It was almost like it was parallel parking in the port.

We did an excursion with the cruise line today so we got onto a bus in the port and drove through Naples to get to Mt. Vesuvius.  We stopped in a little jewely factory to see how they make a particular kind of jewelry - the cameo.  A cameo is made from a big shell that they import from the caribbean.  The master carver removes the outer dull layer and then draws a picture on the middle layer then carves away at the middle layer until the shiny under layer is revealed.  Typically the picture is of a roman emperor's profile or a woman's profile.  I bought a pendant necklace with a J on it and wanted to buy one for each of you, but they didn't have all of your first letters available.  Maybe if we ever come back i can find one for you then!  I almost cried - i was very disappointed because i think you would have loved the necklace!

When we were done there we drove to Mt. Vesuvius.  Mt. Vesuvius is an active volcano that erupts very irregularly.  It erupted in 79A.D. and destroyed the city of Pompeii with its ash.  The most recent eruption was in 1944 and at that time the lava flow destroyed all of the towns between it and the bay of Naples.  For some weird reason, they keep rebuilding cities in its path.  And every time it erupts the cities are destroyed again.  Right now the volcano does not seem dangerous - we walked around the crater and it seems pretty dry and dead, but there is a wisp of steam coming from the center of the mountain which means that it is still alive and active.  There are volcanologists that monitor the mountain at all time and will hopefully  be able to warn people to leave if they think there is danger of it erupting again.  It was a very steep hike up the mountain - our legs are soooo tired!

After leaving Mt. Vesuvius we went to the city of Pompeii.  Pompeii was destroyed by that eruption in 79A.D., but archeologists found it many years ago when they were digging and they have continued to dig and uncover much of the city.  Many parts of the city were preserved pretty well.  we saw a huge house, a roman bath, a brothel, a bakery, a restaurant, a fountain.  Lots of stuff.  The city of Pompeii is much, much larger than we imagined it would be.  we were there for 90 minutes and didn't see hardly any of it.  I think you could explore that ruined city for a full day!

When we were done there we took the bus back to the port of Naples.  By the way Papa - Naples doesn't have anywhere to go with their rubbish/garbage, so at night people drive up Mt. Vesuvius and toss it around there.  Mt. Vesuvius and Naples are FILTHY.  There is rubbish everywhere you turn.  Litter in the streets, in the grass, in the trees, everywhere.  Maybe veolia should take a trip over there from France and see if they can help out!!!

When we got off of the bus in Naples, we decided to walk through Naples for a bit and get some pizza.  Naples is where pizza was invented and since I have no desire to ever return to that dirty city, I didn't want to leave without having their pizza!  We walked and ate with a newlywed couple that we met on tour.  They got married on Labor Day weekend and are doing this cruise as their honeymoon.  We enjoyed our dinner with them!  The pizza was good, although daddy said he would rather have Chicago pizza any day of the week.  I think I would prefer the Naples pizza.

So now we are back.  Once again we almost missed the boat!  We came back to the ship and as soon as we got on they pulled the equipment back into the ship and we are leaving.  We are going to dinner in a few minutes and then to bed - we are exhausted!  Tomorrow we go to ROME!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mediterranean Cruise - Day 5: Livorno & Florence, Italy

{These posts are taken from emails that I sent to the girls everyday during our trip.}

Bon Journo from Italy!

We arrived in Italy early this morning.  The port where the ship docks is not very pretty - it is very industrial, which means that there are a lot of business warehouse buildings and machinery and rusty boats and equipment on the docks.  Livorno must be a working port, while the ports in France were more recreational (meaning, fun!).  Daddy and I got up and ran 3 miles again while our ship docked.  It was not as pretty as the other morning that we ran, but it was still fun to be running while the ship was moving and other cruise ships around us were docking, too.

We had quite an adventure today!  Florence, Italy is a very famous town in Italy because it has a lot of ancient/old churches and artwork by a famous artist named Michaelangelo.  Florence is 90 minutes from Livorno where the ship docked, so we had to get there somehow.  We took a bus from the ship to Livorno, then a bus from Livorno to the train station, then a train to Florence.  We had no idea what we were doing and we don't speak or read Italian, so it was amazing that we got to Florence!  

When we got there we walked from the train station to a museum that holds one of Michaelangelo's most famous statues - David.  We stood in line for about 20 minutes before we found out that the line was 3 hours long - and we didn't have that much time!  So we left the line and started off on seeing Florence on our own.  The biggest problems, though, were that it was 90+ degrees outside and there were so many people in Florence that you could hardly see anything or do anything because the lines were so long.  We got to the main pilazzo (square) and were overwhelmed by the people and the heat that we decided to have some lunch instead of fighting the crowds to see anything.  So we had some bruschetta (bread with diced tomatos) and a plate of cheese and a bottle of white wine, Ovierto.  It was deliciouso!  We enjoyed that more than waiting in line for anything!  

After that we explored the city a little bit and looked in some of the shops.  We started to walk uphill to see a garden, but figured out that we didn't have enough time to do it so instead we made our way back to the train station.  We did really good getting there in time for the train, but then the train ride ended in a city called Pisa and the next train to Livorno was coming later than we had hoped and we were worried we'd miss the bus back to the ship!  We ended up running into some friends that we met and who had taken the train into Florence with us and they were getting on the same train.  When we finally got to Livorno and found the bus, we got on and so did a ton of other people.  The bus was so crowded I didn't think the doors would close!  And it was still 90+ degrees outside and hotter inside!  And the stinkiness was back - but I think we were included this time!  The bus got us back to the place where we were supposed to get on the Royal Caribbean charter bus to get us back to the ship, but the last charter bus had left already, so we had to find a cab for 12 people!  It was really stressful, but it was a fun adventure!

After we got back we were still sweaty and sticky and exhausted, so we went to the bar with our friends and got some fruity drinks to cool off.  It was a fun day!  Daddy and I are soooo tired!  And I have a blister on my toe!  

Tomorrow we are going to climb a volcano that erupted a long time ago and completely covered a city called Pompeii.  we're going to climb the volcano and see Pompeii - it will be a 5 1/2 mile hike!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mediterranean Cruise - Day 4: VillaFrance & Nice, France

{These posts are taken from emails that I sent the girls every day during our trip}

It is 6:00pm here in France and 10:00am in Illinois.  You're sitting in school right now and we just came back from France and are going to rest a little bit before dinner at 9:00pm!  

We had a great day in Nice, France - Nice was much better than Toulon, France yesterday!  Our ship docked in the port city of VillaFrance, which has a really, really pretty marina that we could look at from our balcony.  We took a lot of pictures of the view to show you guys!  The ship couldn't get right up to the city, so it anchored in the water and we had to take a tender boat (a ferry boat) from the ship to the shore.  Once we got to shore we walked uphill for about 5 minutes and got on a bus that would take us into the city of Nice (pronouced Neece).  The bus ride cost 1 Euro for each of us, which is about $1.45.

When we got off the bus in Nice, we walked around for a short time to find the bus stop that we needed to get to in order to get back to VillaFrance later in the afternoon - we wanted to know exactly where we needed to be so we could get back in time (daddy is really good at planning our days here).  We found the right bustop at a large marina/port in Nice.  It was a beautiful area.  We walked down one side of the port and around the rocky shoreline and found another section of Nice that was absolutely stunning.  People were laying on the beach and swimming in the mediterranean sea.  We went down to the beach and were surprised to find out that the beach is made of ROCKS - not sand like our beaches, but rocks that are probably larger than the rocks that are in our landscaping at our house.  It was hard to walk on them, but we made it down to the water so we could put our feet in it.  The water made the coolest sound as it came on shore and rolled back out into the sea.  I took a short video for you so you could hear the sound - hopefully it works!  The people on the beach are different than the people on our beaches... here in Europe the men wear really tiny swimsuits, called speedos - they not like the shorts/swim trunks that boys wear here.  Also, european women lay on the beach without tops on their bathing suits so everything is showing that we try to cover in the states.  Its kind of strange to see people like that!

We sat on the beach for a short time and then got up and walked to an old ruined castle that used to be a fortress of protection many, many years ago.  There were a LOT of stairs to get to the top and it was pretty hot, but it was well worth the climb and the sweat because the views at the top were amazing!  We took lots of pictures of that, too!  At the very top of the fortress there was a big park with grassy areas to hang out in and a playground for kids and a big giant thing to climb on - which daddy and I climbed on just because we knew you guys would have loved to climb on it!  

When we got back to the bottom of the fortress we went back over by the port where our bustop was and walked down the other side of the marina to find a place to eat.  We had a nice plate of cheese, some bread and some wine - it was perfect!  After that we waited for our bus and went back into VillaFrance and walked around a little market area and had some dessert and coffee (daddy had an ice cream cone & I had a nutella crepe).  We had such a great day here in Nice and I decided that I would like to live here.  I think you girls would like it, too!  And good news: the people here do not smell as bad as the people in Toulon!  That was good news indeed!

So now daddy is making notes on our day so he can give them to Mr. & Mrs. Kalafut who are coming on this cruise in October.  I'm going to read on the balcony and then we'll have dinner at 9.  Tonight is a casual dinner, which means we don't have to wear a dress or a suit.  We talked to our waiter for a little bit last night: he is from the Phillipines (where Jenny grew up) and he is married and has a 2 year old son.  He works on the cruise ship for 6 months every year.  That is half of a year!  Can you imagine if daddy was gone for 6 months and didn't come home at all?  He talks to his family over the computer, but we would sure miss daddy if he was gone like that!  Another good reason to be thankful for Edward Jones, right?!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mediterranean Cruise - Day 3: Toulon, France

these posts are taken from emails that I sent to the girls everyday during our trip:

This morning we woke up early and went running on the pool deck. We ran 3 miles while the ship was getting closer and closer to the port. The sun was rising behind the clouds and it was really pretty to see while we were running. One funny thing that we saw was that one of the ship employees was on one side of the deck closing all of the beach chairs. And on the other side of the deck there was another ship employee opening every one of the chairs that the first one closed. That made me laugh every time we ran past them. After running we had room service breakfast on our balcony and looked out at France. 

We got off of the ship and walked around the port city for a while. It was pretty dirty and ugly and I'm convinced that no one here wears deodorant because I am always smelling sweaty people. After we figured out we were in the wrong place, we walked back to the ship and got on a huge bus that took us to Toulon, France. We walked through the marina and saw some really cool yachts and boats, then walked through a huge farmers market, which was actually just like the farmers markets that we go to, except they sell a lot of olives at the one here. Then we walked for about 35-40 minutes UP HILL to take a ride on a cable car to get the the top of the mountain so we could look down on the city and the marina. The view was beautiful! Up in the mountains it is Provence, France. This city is known for smelling like lavender, which I decided they planted to cover the smell of sweaty people. I didn't smell lavender, really, and was kind of disappointed, but maybe we weren't in the right area? The view was pretty, though. We had a snack at the top of the mountain - I had a brie crepe and daddy had a citrus crepe. Crepes are like really big, super thin pancakes that they fill with all kinds of things. Brie is a creamy soft cheese that was really melty inside the crepe. After that we went back down to the ship and now daddy is in a meeting and I'm writing you! Tonight we have the Captain's Dinner, which just means that we have to dress fancy.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mediterranean Cruise - Days 1 & 2

Everything went perfectly with our itinerary.  All flights were fine.  In New York JFK airport we had no idea what we were doing or where we were going and some other EJ people found us and directed us to Gate 3.  We found it, went to grab lunch and while we were there an older couple introduced themselves and we learned they were going on the cruise, too.  After some discussion we found out they were actually going on the Black Sea cruise - and were flying out of Gate 3.  This mean we had to figure out what gate we were actually going to fly out of.  It all worked out, was kind of humorous though.

Our flight to Barcelona was 2 hours less than I thought it was going to be.  I think it ended up being slightly over 6 hours.  We both watched 2 movies.  It was fine.  We landed at 12:30 on our bodies, but it was nearly 8am in Barcelona.  We met the Maritz people and they brought us to a little restaurant for breakfast.  
View of the city of Barcelona, Spain
from the village where we had breakfast.
We had 4 hours there and we were all wiped out and so incredibly tired.  Neither of us slept on the plane and couldn't wait to get to our room to take a nap.  The ship boarding was quick, but our room was not quite ready so we grabbed some lunch first and then went to our room.  We literally brought our bags in and dumped them in the middle of the room, checked out the balcony and then fell on the bed and took a nap.  I felt like I was pretty wide awake and told Dave that I didn't know if I'd be able to get to sleep.  Not sure that I even finished my sentence.  We slept for a couple of hours and were woken up by the announcements telling us it was time to do the safety drill.  I've never felt so exhausted... I did NOT want to get out of bed, just wanted to sleep, but knew it would make it difficult to get to sleep at night if I kept sleeping all afternoon.

We got up, went to the drill and then explored the ship.  Somehow after all of that it was already time to shower & go to the cocktail reception and dinner.  Dinner was at 9pm.  Afterward I was still more tired than I can remember being in a long time.  Felt soooo good to sleep! We've met a lot of nice Jones people already.  Its kind of nice because this was an add-on trip, so a lot of these people are younger or newer in the firm.

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