Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sail Away Captain!

The best thing that one can do while working in hospitality is go some place where people are hospitable to you... and if that means stepping aboard a cruise ship well so be it. To be completely honest, this was my first big trip on this 13 month adventure... which means this was back in Jan... which means that I am eight months too late with this blog post. So sue me "better late than never" is a wonderful and very much used saying in my life. Cleaning my room. Doing the dishes. Blog posts. Better late than never.

When a group of girls decide to have a week away from real life, booking a cruise in the middle of Jan is the way to go. Cheap cheap cheap! Of course it will be raining and freezing most of the time, but so be it. Also choosing a cruise line that may have recently had a shipwreck and stranded some people in the ocean will get you a GREAT deal! Our beautiful, but dreary cruise went to Rome and Genoa, Italy; Marseille, France; Barcelona, Spain; Tunis, Tunisia; and Palermo, Sicily. Even though they were all amazing stops my favorites were Barcelona, Rome and Tunisia, so let's stick with those shall we?

Rome, Italy- It is funny what you remember and what you don't of one of your first trips after seeing 15 other countries, even more cities, and countless other international famous landmarks. I wrote St. Ignatious- so beautiful took my breath away. I'm not doubting that it did... I just don't remember the church. However, ask me about the Church our Savior of Spilled Blood in Russia and I could talk your ear off. I really don't mean to brag, this is just me sharing I swear. Anyways, there is a fantastic night time free walking tour that meets by the Spanish Steps (some of us may have gotten the movie poster, Roman Holiday right by those steps... a lifetime purchase I assure you) and tells you a whole lot about this beautiful place called Rome. And if you go to Rome during Christmas time, there will be a Christmas tree right in front of the steps, so really it blocks the entire view. Not cool Christmas, not cool. Saw the church with John the Baptist's head (something to write home about), Piazza Colonna which is actually a person's tomb, no one can did more than 3 feet deep in Rome without archeologists just in case they find something or someone historical, Queen Margaret buried in the pantheon was the one responsible for the marghertta pizza (bless that woman), etc. Such good info for the small price of a tip. Do it.

Also walked over (actually may have been the metro) to the Colosseum. Absolutely stunning. Huge, extravagant, takes your breath away... still talking about the Colosseum thank you very much. Also walked around the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The French, they really go all out. So huge to walk around and so many steps! One of my favorite pictures taken thus far was on the Tomb of the Unknown soldier (well not actually on, but definitely on those steps). We then took the metro (or walked) to the Vatican City to see the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica. Of course the one day that we are there... the Vatican museum and church was closed... how does that work?
 Concerning the Vatican, I do have to say that I was there 11 years ago.. and google images full screen it is pretty top notch, so pick your battles. However, I will always remember St. Peter's Basilica. Gold. Colored Marble. Columns. Everywhere. Google images full screen does not do it justice! There is a Mary and Jesus statue by Michelangelo which is so elegant and the workmanship is impeccable. Sometimes I wish I took Art History in college.. I might be able to tell you all more than.. well it was made out of marble.

Last stop: Trevi Fountain! I can't tell you what I wished for when you traditionally throw a coin over your left shoulder into the fountain....but I can tell you that the gelato wasn't good... thanks a lot Disney not all your wishes do come true. So Rome- you can be there as long as you like you will always only scratch the surface. Don't get frustrated your just never going to see it all.

Cruise: All you can eat food 24/7. All you can eat fancy food- almost 24/7. Getting bumped up to a balcony room- great. Even though it rained almost everyday- still great. Having someone ask if YOU are loving your vacation- best moments ever. No matter what they say everyone needs a little TLC. .. and if that includes all you can eat desserts it's an automatic win over.

Barcelona, Spain!

I remember loving it 11 years ago and what do you know I loved it again 11 years later! It helps that it was a beautiful day and one of our friends on the trip had just been to this city, so she knew exactly what to do in out eight hour time slot in Spain. Segrada Familia, one of the weirdest but refreshing experiences/churches I've seen. Gaudi started this church, but had planned for it to take longer than his time frame (aka his life) and have had others add their own way of architectural perspective to this church. We did not go inside, but just the outside I wish I had a tour. It looks 50% Gothic block like, 50% sand castle, 100% intriguing. We then bargained for a cheap taxi ride to the Gaudi park. Definitely reccomend this! Mosaics everywhere, a column space to get lost in, a fantastic view of the park and city, and little walking paths that take you who knows where. Fun for kids fun for us adults who act like kids.

Even with very limited time in barcelona, one must always go for tapas (ours was Txa Pela). Little appetizers upon appetizers upon appetizers that then become a meal. Paired with sangria it is delectable. And for a cheap price why not try those foods that you would normally make a face at if you saw on a menu? Now saving the best for last- the market within La Rambla! La Rambla is this fun street to walk down with the tree branches hanging all over, souvenir shops every two stores, and even a pet shop on the street. Not sure I liked the rat section right there. Anyways, there is a food market that sells anything and everything (every part of an animal's body you can think of), chocolate, and.....drum roll please...
fruit juice/smoothies. May not sound amazing, but they are so good! Every type you can think of is available and only a euro! A bargain if I ever heard one. Now here is the secret: go at the end of the day when they will have to throw them out anyways. You pay for one and then they give you another as a gift. Buy two and they go crazy. Greatest. Thing. Ever. My first stomach ache from too much fruit juice. Was it worth it? Of course. My favorite was blackberry and coconut. I didn't even finish my five...do I still regret it to this day eight months later.. yes yes I do.

Last stop Tunis, Tunisia; AFRICA!

My first time in Africa.. this was a big day. We really didn't know what to do in this city, so we splurged and got the all day tour. A good decision to say the least. We were greeted with beating drums and men on camels. Welcome to Africa!
First, went to the Medina- Old Town. Blue and white everywhere. Blue doors, blue windows, blue everything. Also, like Morocco they would have prayers played on loud speakers (used to be from a man and now from a cassette I am told)  throughout the city several times during the day. I love that. Very well known for their perfumes, so naturally we were taken to the perfume shop and were sprayed with countless perfumes (we smelled good by the end of that tour I'm sure) and told how they were made. The famous one is Jasmine- the country's flower. Do I still regret that I didn't get one? Yes. Next the carpet shop! Saw a woman making a rug- from a stencil you may say. No no from memory I will tell you and yes it was perfect. A full carpet takes 6 months to make. More patience in the world those people have. The carpet store was in an old King's palace... sat on his bed no big deal. Went up to the top for a panorama view and it just struck me as funny that here we were in Old Town and clearly the buildings are  unlike any in America, yet the majority have satellite dishes. The old and the new mixed together.

We survived the Bazaar. So I have survived Tunisia's Bazaar, Morocco's Souks, Turkey's Bazaar, and New York City- I'd say that's quite the accomplishment. Next we went to Sidi Bou Said- the Santorini of Tunisia! All blue and white buildings with flowers growing all over the sides. Pretty perfect. Last stop- the Roman Ruins.  Is that the exact name... no, but eight months later I really couldn't tell you so hey the Roman Ruins! We walked through the ruins of an arena where they held gladiator fights... creepy. So different than the United States. The U.S. would have it all roped off and you could only see it from afar, here we took pictures standing where the animals would have been let out. No. Big. Deal.

A cruise is a great way to start traveling. You have a warm, safe bed to come home to, meals prepared for you with no dishes, and (not so free) entertainment aboard the ship! A great start to this journey, amazing company, and no work for a week- can't beat that! Five countries in nine days. Wowza this is not real life. And to think my next trip would be Morocco. 

Quote for the blog- this is a long one I fully realize. And to be completely, totally, 100% honest I haven't even seen this movie. Sorry Mr. Roth, but I do love the last three sentences. I hope you're happy and if not I hope you have the courage to change something to make it so.