Saturday, October 31, 2009

Things I didn't do, that I should have... general cleaning, clearing the garage for the Tib, switching out my summer/winter clothes, running the pressure washer empty, cooking the chicken I thawed, logged back in to my work computer.

So what DID I do today? Sadly, very little. I love Halloween, but I just don't feel it. I went out and used my uber coupon for a 31 cent dunkin donut, I ran through a couple stores, and I went to a couple movies. That's right - a couple. I'm in a funk and I was trying to escape it in a story line or two.

This afternoon I went to Saw VI. It's another sequel, what's to say? But it was good enough for what it is. Then this evening I went to see Paranormal Activity the movie with the tag "don't see it alone" - like I have a choice. So there I sat in the sea of friggin couples and look at me I survived. It barely gave me a minor jump at the end. Eh. Major let down in my book. Time for a bowl of cereal (late dinner) and curling up with a puppy or two or three.

Friday, October 30, 2009

This week has been a bit stressful. I'm almost caught up with documentation on one project... almost. Not quite. As for the other project, delivery early next week and some late Friday glitches encountered. Isn't that always the way? Either way, I needed the massage I had this evening even if I did need to come back and keep working instead of napping such that I could go hang w/ some peeps in celebration of halloween. I guess I should just go to bed then. I'm beat!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The girls and I had some company yesterday which spurred an impromptu Vixie walk. It pooped her out yesterday, but she's fiesty again today. More posts to wrap up the recent cruise posted! I still don't have Beth's pics of me, so it will be a while before I post photos. Not tons to say as of late - just trying to get some basics done around the house and sleeping more than usual. Hopefully it will help me fight off all the colds going around.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I've added afew more posts this evening and I'm still far from caught up on here. At least I got my butt in gear and got the fan club website updated! Now to fold and put away the clothes I washed a couple days ago. The cold weather we've come back to has most definitely inspired hibernation desires.

I'm not going to fret about not getting lots done in the evening. Frankly, I am, as expected, behind at work on both projects and struggling to get back up to speed, and for one have nothing with a deadline outside of work to worry about. As such, I'm going to allow myself to be a bit of a bum at home, I've earned it. That said I have a fuzzy girl staring at me from about 3 inches away, I think it's time to go lay down and cuddle with my fuzzy butt.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Worry not, I'm back, just putting off posting because I know words will never capture everything we saw and experienced.

Since returning I've hit my bed pretty early the past two nights and slept for 12+ hours. At this point I think I'm back on track from jet lag and feeling rested from the interesting return trip. My sinuses on the other hand are being real pissers - but I'll blame returning from 70 degree weather into 30s and rain for those issues.

Anyhow, I've posted a few of our stops worth of information, and there is much more to come!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Our last day onboard was at sea. It was a pretty quiet and slow day, but it was also a rough one! The waves were pretty large, but this was no where near as rough as it was when I was on Empress. Regardless, come late in the day the end of the cruise got "extended" a wee bit. I'm returning a beach towel to the front desk when they comment on a couple of passengers that had their life vests. I stepped back, waiting for Beth, and took in part of the conversation that unveiled that a couple windows were broken out on the third floor.

By the time Beth and I got up to one of the lounges the captain was broadcasting that we did have some broken windows and that there was no concern and they were working to repair the windows. That was all well and good until around 5something in the morning, right before our wake up call was set for. At that point the announcement came through that we had to slow down due to the damage we incurred and wouldn't be in Barcelona until noon time. Well, since our flight was at noon that was a big "oh shit". I guess I'm rolling straight into October 13th with this post, as it all kind of blends together.

For my anti-versary we were delayed as all hell. Kindly however they opened up the telephone lines and internet connections to allow us to (attempt to) get our reservations changed. Once we finally got a line we learned that everything out of Barcelona was booked and would put us behind by two days. Our next alternative (thanks to Kirk's quick planning) was to go out of Madrid, but that too wasn't until the next day.

So, we're taking a train to Madrid. To save a few bucks we took the overnight train, which was cheaper than the three hour express train, and covered us from needing to get a hotel in Madrid. I've got to say that the wait in the Barcelona train station for 9ish hours before the 9 hour train ride was slow slow slow. The train wasn't bad, but a bit of an irritation for me. Even though all four of us paid for first class, Kirk and I didn't get sleepers, the chairs didn't move too much, so it was hard to sleep.

The prize of that was getting to see the stars as we went through the countryside. Not even out on the farm was there such an uncontaminated view of the night sky. I've never seen so many and so bright stars in my life. It was quite soothing given the tiring situaton.

We got into Madrid on the 14th, and waited some more before the long flight. I got the bum seat on the flight with a little bit of a larger guy on the side of me, a chair that didn't want to go back, and a lady in front of me that clearly didn't like me leaning my forehead/pillow on the back of her chair. Again, I didn't get much sleep. But then we were back in the states, Filthadelphia to be precise. It was a bit strange to pay for things in dollars instead of euros at this point. A short wait and we were on another quick hop to Baltimore.

You'd think that the final leg would have been a nightmare, but the drive back to Johnstown wasn't too bad and went fairly quickly. Home at last at darn near midnight. I was suppose to be off work that day to go get the girls, luckily Cozy Inn is flexible and I was able to get ahold of them and they tended to the girls for an extra day. Instead I took the 15th off to get my fuzzies.

As normal, they spent several days tired as could be. Saffy was so happy to see me and more than content to cuddle with me each evening for the next three days. I, much like the girls, was tired as could be, and ready to go to bed at 7pm the next two nights. It's just been in the past few days (today is the 26th) that I've been up to 11pm+

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Our last port - Naples. What you read is true, Naples is dirty and rather unappealing. Worse still on a Sunday - when NOTHING is open. Luckily we had already planned on heading to Pompeii. Pompeii was amazing. The bodies were bitchin. I can't believe how large it is. I did a report on Pompeii in elementary school, it's been a draw ever since.

This was our only day that was even slightly rainy and it was barly drizzling for part of the day and overcast. This was also the first train trip where we saw the famed thieving/begging children on the trains. Shameful that parents would use their kids like that.

After returning from Pompeii, and boy were my feet aching from the large stone streets etc we headed for Da Michelle to get some authentic pizza. But, as mentioned, most everything is closed there on Sunday! We found it, but the gate was down. We headed across the street to another pizza shop where Beth and I shared a margharita con bufalo za that hit the spot!

From there we wandered back towards the ship, stopping in one store where I snagged some limoncello to bring home and the two little shops in the port as they were our only option to get my standard shot glass and postcard.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A day at sea - once again, not a moment too soon. I slept until nearly noon. After a nice calm lunch we headed to the art auction, which is where I spotted my Gockels. I wanted something special to commemorate the trip and now that I've got my Simon Bulls it was time to go for a Gockel. Too bad I don't have the cash to drop on a Peter Max. Instead of one, I ended up with two on a package deal, spent more than I wanted to overall, but I am happy. I'm still waiting for them to arrive, but I think I know where they're going. Both are heart shapes, but one is a liberty piece.

The show on this particular evening wasn't one that enthused us, but we went anyhow and am I ever glad I did! It was a Beatles tribute band and they were phenominal - heck, Paul and John really looked like Paul and John. They really reminded me how much the Beatles did that I do enjoy. I need to get a best of CD or something.

Friday, October 09, 2009

And then there was Athens! It was a breeze to catch the bus and then the train we needed to get to the Acropolis. Actually, we got off the train at the bottom, the non-traditional stop and immediately worried as it looked straight up to the Acropolis, but we pressed on with the recommendations and found that the back entrance led to a slight grade that wasn't busy at all - perfect.

The bummer here is that much of the monuments were in a state of repair or reconstruction, but they are still quite impressive. Go figure half of the work being done is to repair attempts to maintain it from years ago. Leave it up to modern man to screw up amazing things. After a brief delay due to separation issues (I'll leave that story to Beth to tell) we got around to see the Acropolis, Erechtheion, the Odeion of Herodes Atticus, the Parthenon, parts of the Roman Agora, Hadrian's arch, and the temple of Olympian Zeus.

Then there was, as most stops, some shopping along Plaka and then we stopped at a small outdoor eatery for some local food. It wasn't the best and sure didn't seem super "authentic" but it was decent grub. Better still was the freddochino I had which was the pick me up of caffeine I needed. This stop didn't seem as rushed as many others, perhaps we were settling into a pace or perhaps there just wasn't as much to cram in.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

We tendered to Santorini and hopped on the cable cars up the hill to Thira. From there we found the bus station and headed to Oia (twice, but that's another story). Oia was quite picturesque and offered lots of shopping. We wandered through Oia towards the coast and I convinced the gang to haul down the 300ish stairs towards Ammoudi Bay. I had notes to find some places down there that didn't seem to turn up, but it did offer some nice views. We also encountered one of the many dogs of the islands that was out wandering. She seemed to take to us and acted as our tour guide - leading us along the water. After taking a moment to fill my hands with water and share with our girl "blackie" we took to the overwhelming mass of stairs back up the side of the mountain.

From there we were back on the bus and heading towards the red beach. Walking along the water we did get to take in some black sand and eventually came along the red sand beaches. They are definitely a challenge to get to, but lovely.

Back to the main town and time for my very favorite part. There are a few things in this world that put a smile on my face, even fewer still are things that make me giggle like a little girl continuously. This was one of those things - we took the donkeys back down the mountain side to the tender boat. What a ride!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

As we left the port in Kusadasi Turkey we immediately found our tour guide from EKOL and we were off to see Ephesus. We really lucked out, our guide was not only knowledgeable, but he was experienced in archeology and worked on site for quite some time. They also picked us up in a quite large BMW van.

The ruins of Ephesus are amazing and really give a feel for how things may have looked. The best part, by far, was the Terrace Houses, which they are still in the progress of uncovering. Then again, they theorize that there is many years more of uncovering to do in the area. The Terrace Houses had so many painted walls and mosaics that were still intact. Definitely an excellent tour.

Now, everyone always complains about the stops to push carpets on tourists, but they're expected in Turkey. Our first stop was at a leather coat manufacturer where we had a private catwalk show of some of their offerings while enjoying a sip of Turkish apple tea (which was quite good). I did it... I bought a leather jacket and I am totally in love with it. It's unique, it's me, and it's an awesome memory of this part of the trip. We also stopped at a carpet factory and yes, I of course adored the most expensive style/coloration. It was neat to learn how they make them and I had a cup of Turkish coffee here that warded off the afternoon slump, but we all left blissfully carpetless.

Now, back to the port for some shopping. THAT was a treat. They were every bit as pushy as they are in Jamaica, which I loathe. Seriously, you'd think they'd learn/recognize that with some people the less pushy you are the further you get with them. The few places that offered help and left us alone are the ones I went into.

The coffee didn't hold off sleep long. We headed back to the ship a bit earlier than we needed to where Kirk and I fell asleep by the pool in the Solarium until the horns of both a neighboring ship and our own blared. Later in the evening as we chilled to some karaoke Kirkus taught me how to play backgammon.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Since we didn't arrive in Mykonos Greece until around 2, I had a scalp massage with frangipan oils. So, I headed off the ship to our excursion to Delos with a rather greasy head. The boat ride to Delos demonstrated the reason why Mykonos tendering often is a problem, there were waves... on the starboard side of the boat we got sprayed from water coming across from the port side.

It was interesting to learn about the heating and cooling systems, and the bathroom facilities that were creatively made for the housing in such ancient times. The med around Greece is such an incredibly dark blue. It's as blue there as Ireland is green and that says a lot.

When we got back onto Mykonos from teh excursion sunset was imminent, so we didn't have much time to take in some of the area before we decided to head back towards the ship.

Monday, October 05, 2009

At last we had a day at sea instead of going at 100 mph and killing our feet. Needless to say I slept late. The rest of our day was laid back including the art auction, a nap, and a pedicure to sooth my aching tootsies. We then went to the captains reception before our formal dinner and hit the show which was a magician.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Today the ship docked in Civitavecchia - which is about an hour or so jaunt to Rome, Italy. I do have to state that getting around via train in Italy is fantastically easy. As we popped out of the metro station we immediately saw the Colloseum. One thing very striking about Rome is how the ruins just seem to be intermingled with the rest of the city, like they built around it all.

As we headed towards the shopping streets we happened upon a strange little parade who's purpose remains unknown to us still. From there we headed to see the Trevi Fountain and then the Spanish Steps (even though the steps were fairly lame in the grand scheme of things). The McDonalds in Rome is well spoken of for being quite unique in its decoration to fit in with the surrounding area. So, I admit it, we went to McD's in Rome. The decor was a disappointment and it wasn't much special, it was actually a fairly cruddy McD's. Yes, we ate there - I'll glame the fact that we were just hungry for that forbidden vacation faux pas.

Back on the metro we headed to St. Peter's square piazza/basillica. Since we were in Rome on Sunday the Sistine Chapel was closed. Boo! This also meant the Pope addressed the crowd earlier in the day, which is why we aimed for arriving there later in the afternoon. We did spend a good bit of time taking in the ornate basillica and I dropped a post card for mom in this sovereign nation's mailbox.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

One of many early days for us on this cruise today we docked in Livorno, a working port - which was a royal PITA. We opted to use the ships shuttle which didn't run immediately from our arrival in port and delayed our movement into Pisa and Florence. Sucking it up we did our best to get things in and we were off to Pisa.

We arrived late for our 10am climb appointment but were lucky enough to get squeezed into the next climbs. It was one heck of a hoof for my out of shape ass, but it was a worthy climb. I marvel at how worn down the marble stairs are. I didn't "feel" the lean during my climb as much as some of those who's comments I read about when doing my research. Because we were already pretty behind and Florence was calling we didn't spend much time in the Field of Miracles, instead we hoped back on a bus and a train.

In Florence we realized we couldn't see David and still get back safely in time. So we lost our reservations there, sadly. We did however walk by the Duomo and down to the Ponte Vecchio over the Arno river. Here we took in some gellato, which was good, but no where near as much as it is raved about, nor was it as good as the ice cream in France.

Friday, October 02, 2009

We headed straight into Nice (France) from Villefranche, hoofing up the hill to the bus. After being turned around ever so slightly we found our bearings and walked along the Prominade des Anglais and spent a few minutes on what the (silly) French call a beach. Their beaches are rocks... not sand, not pebbles, rocks.

From there we walked along the street markets to the main gardens and headed back towards the bus station. By accident we happened upon an ice cream place that was highly recommended, where I had lavender ice cream that was to die for. It tasted "how purple should taste". That was the best way I could describe it and Beth agreed with my odd account.

Back at the bus station we hoped a ride to Eze. The ride alone was quite the site with stunning, sharp rocky cliffs, tunnels carved through the mountains, and houses clinging to the hillsides. The medieval streets and cobblestoned walls were beautiful in Eze. Eze is all shops today, but it was quite a neat experience. As a reminder of France I purchased a unique red and white polka dot skirt that I fell in love with on first glance. A quick snack while waiting for the bus back to Nice allowed me to snag a basic miel (honey) crepe even though crepes aren't regional to that area.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

We focused our pre-cruise boarding morning along Las Ramblas taking in the performers and sites. Thanks to some of the recommendations I found during my research we experienced what I think was not only the absolute best cup of coffee I've had in my life, but also a delightful pastry called a xixo at Pintoxo in Mercat de Sant Joseph. The market was amazing, we spent a good chunk of time just taking in the hams, other scary parts of meat, fresh fruit, and other fresh items.

After quite the challenge dragging our luggage through the metro system (stairs... oy) we got to the pier around 4:30. Now, the ship wasn't to sail until 7 and our paperwork said all aboard was 60 minutes prior to sailing, but they were already taking down signs when we headed aboard!

Our room was a bit larger and more comfortable than what I was expecting. Perhaps I have been trained to expect less due to some of the older/smaller ships I've sailed. She is in the same class as Serenade, the ship my mother and I took to Hawaii so many years ago.

We lucked out with our stateroom attendant, Wendy, and waiter, Anabelle, who were both superbly on their game and personable. We were shocked to see a welcome aboard show that featured more than the standard fluff and spank inforama, instead they featured a circ de soleil act which was just amazing to watch.