A Travellerspoint blog

October 17 Livorno Italy

Today would be the start of our Rome in Limo tours. I had researched and knew I wanted to do Rilo tours while in Italy. A year before going Melody on our cruise critic page wanted to do the same. Rome in Limo specialize in luxury car hire and tailor made personalized tours in Rome, and throughout Italy.Melody said she would take charge and in no time we had our group of 8 set for 3 days. Connie from Pennsylvania and Ava her exchange student from Switzerland from 20 years ago. Melody and Dan from Nova Scotia she is a nurse and he owns his own lobster boat. Jack and Lori from Pennsylvania, Lori is Connie's younger sister.We ended up getting along great. Everyone was prompt in getting back at meeting times.

RILO was such a great way to see alot in one day and you could structure what you wanted to see. Sabrina would be our driver for today.Livorno is in the Tuscany region of Italy is ideally located for exploring some of the most beautiful cities in Italy, including Florence and Pisa. Tuscany is made up of hills, fertile valleys and sandy beaches that follow along the West Coast. Pisa is located in the central Italy on the Arno River 12 miles from Livorno. It is most famous for the leaning Tower of Pisa.Sabrina checked what our plans were and we were off to see the leaning Tower of Pisa before all the tour groups arrived.

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Our group chose to go to a winery next.IMG_1998.jpglarge_DSC_2206.jpglarge_DSC_2212.jpgDSC_2177.jpgDSC_2163.jpgDSC_2166.jpgDSC_2173.jpglarge_DSC_2189.jpg90_IMG_2007.jpg

We headed to Florence next.Florence is the home of the Renaissance and birth place of modern world. Noted for Uffizi gallery and the Accademia home of Michelangelo's David.

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Sabrina took us to this whole in the wall Fratellini is a informal eatery where the little brothers have served peasants 29 different kinds of sandwiches since 1875,Sabina ordered and we sat on curb with locals to eat 4 Euros a sandwich.

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We headed to Accademia to see Michelangelo's David
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Sabrina had one last stop for us a Gellato local shopDSC_2269.jpg

Posted by Cindygad 15:26 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

October 16 Villefranche, France

Villefranche, France is also known as Villefranche-sur-Mer. It is the gateway to the one of a kind French Riviera. This Bustling little town has its own charm. You are very close to Nice, Cannes and Monte Carlo.

I wanted to head to the Eze le Village. Floating high above the sea is a flowery and flawless village. There are boutiques, steep cobbled lanes and magnificent views.

Today was a tender day. We had priority tender since we are Elite on Celebrity. We got off around 0900. The train station is hidden but Jim found it and we bought our tickets to EZE.DSC_2022.jpgDSC_2021.jpgDSC_2023.jpg

Well the setback today all buses were on strike. We planned to take the bus when we got off the train.l I had read there is a trail you can walk called Friedrich Nietzsche,We found a local man and he showed us where to start.IMG_1952.jpg
We met another couple who was waiting for the bus and we told them the buses were not running today.They decided to hike the trail too. They were from Canada and spoke French as well as English.The hike took us over and hour. It was very rugged and not much shade. We had brought plenty of water. Jim said we are going where?????? I said up there!!!
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We stop at a very small cafe and I had some brewed tea and Jim a soda.90_IMG_1957.jpg90_IMG_1958.jpgIMG_1960.jpg90_IMG_1961.jpg

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After we were done the Canadian couple found us and wanted to share a taxi to train station. Their names was Diane and Daniel we hired a private taxi for 25 Euros each. We felt is was worth it not to have to climb all the way down.

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Tonight we ate next to a couple from Normandy Gorge a retired chief engineer of water vessels and Anne a Rn who had broke her arm just before trip Jim had some really good salmon called comfy only cooked to 60 degrees on wood plank. We were tired and had long day tomorrow so went to bed at 9pm,

Posted by Cindygad 09:45 Archived in France Comments (0)

October 15 Marseilles France

Today I did not have much planned so we headed to dining room for breakfast. I had the feta Greek omelet with grilled onions that would end up being one of our favorite breakfast.We sat next to Carlos and Lois from Canada.

Marseilles is located on the Gulf of Lions on the southeastern coast of France.We wanted to head to Notre Dame dela Garde that dominates the city from its position.

We chose the free port bus that was available outside the main gate. The cruise wanted to charge 25 a person for scenic boat transfer,Of course I was too tight to pay that, In no time we were on our way. When we got off we needed to find the bus stop to get to the old port. Carlos and Lois the retired teachers teamed up with us. I like to explore places on our own but sometimes things can go wrong. Most of the time everything went smoothly but today was the first glitch in plans. Our lack of language barrier was a problem, we would be lost for about one hour before we found the bus stop and correct way to Marseilles. We had many laughs with our miscues along the way. We walked miles but the view was worth the effort.We hiked up to Notre Dame and had a lovely day,

Marseilles is located on the Gulf of Lions on the southeastern coast of France.We wanted to head to Notre Dame dela Garde that dominates the city from its position.
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Getting back to the ship was much easier.We went up on solstice deck and rested on big orange beds. Ate lamb chop, Jim had salmon on smoked wood and apple crunch pie. We danced til 1130, met Gordon and Mona from Canada and would end up dancing with them several nights.

Posted by Cindygad 07:36 Archived in France Comments (0)

Start Equinox cruise today October 14

Up early to head to Park Guell before cruise. Took taxi arrived at 0800 when park opened had tickets before that were 7 euros each. We were here as sun was rising. Gaudi intended this 30 acre park to have 60 houses a gated community. It flopped! It is a colorful park with mosaic medallions all over even making a snake rail at the top. There are wonderful walking trails that you do not have to pay to walk. The park itself was a disappointment to me.DSC_1904.jpgDSC_1903.jpg

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We took taxi back and shopped a little. Took taxi to port and was on ship quickly 1215. Went up to deck nine but could not get in room yet, Went to library to get books and then to bar.First time we have the classic drink package, DSC_1912.jpgDSC_1917.jpg270_DSC_1915.jpgIMG_1946.jpg180_IMG_1949.jpg270_DSC_2122.jpg

We dinner 730 had select dining. We got seated in back for table for two but close enough could talk to table next to you. We loved our waiter and assistant waiter and would request him every night.IMG_1933.jpg

We went dancing that night to house band Mood Icons who we liked and danced to them almost every night

Posted by Cindygad 05:57 Comments (0)

Barcelona and Mediterrean cruise for 35th Anniversary

Much planning and research has went into our first Mediterranean Cruise.Jim is afraid this will be the trip from Hell. Time will tell. Left home on Friday October 10 at 0900, Left car at Thrifty and took their shuttle to O hare. Ate at Chili's for lunch and left 220 flight to Miami we had short layover and left at 635 to Barcelona. I took a sleeping pill but it did not work, our volume did not work for headsets so made for a long flight. They served us two meals.

Arrived in Barcelona at 0930, luggage all made it and we were off by taxi ti HCC Regent, Taxi 35$We checked in but room would not be ready until later. I had booked online for 150 Euros a night that included a nice breakfast. They locked our luggage up. I went to bathroom to freshen up. Map in hand and we were off.to La Boqueria Market. Well this should of been quite easy to find but we made quite a few wrong turns, Asked for directions several times and kept getting lost. Jim who normally is quite good with directions was getting very frustrated and said I knew this would be the trip from hell. Would all of my planning and many hours of research be going askew? Well finally and English speaking Barcelonian took pity on us and walked us the 6 blocks to market. We sure had been lost. We arrived at the market. It was Saturday around noon and it was packed. We walked around and it was fun to see all the locals buying produce, fish, nuts , chocolates , Iberian ham etc.

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Next off to try our first Tapas at Pinotxo Bar just off to the right as you enter the market. Famous Juan is making the coffees. We waited behind a couple for empty bar stools and grabbed the first available. Hold on this would be our first of many Tapas.

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The Ramblas is one of Europe's great people watching streets that runs through the heart of The Old City from Placa de Catalunya down to the harborDSC_1474.jpg

DSC_1476.jpg We heard loud chirping and the beautiful parrots were up in the tree.

We headed back to check into HCC Regent we had booked a simple, clean room that we felt served our purpose and loved the location. We were glad we had chosen the breakfast included that started at 7 am. We found it a great way to start our morning. it had cereals, yogurt meats, fruit, onion tart, toast, bagels, and many sweet treats of wonderful choc filled croissants and other pastries.You could chose to have eggs or American bacon made to order.

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A Free Walking Tour through the ancient narrow streets of one of the most charming medieval districts in Europe. Discover the secrets behind the stones of Barcelona's Gothic Quarter. Walking bean tour with guide Ruth started at 430

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We had to leave tour early to make our food lover tour. We took a taxi to Casa Mila or La Pedrera. We was early and Casa Mila was being reinivated we were unsure where to meet but would later find our group on the corner. There would be two other couples and a single girl that was starting her bike tour tomorrow. Edwardo from France would be our guide and we were off on our adventure into Tapas. It started at 730. We walked to our first stop which I did not get the name. We had a table in the back. The first stop takes place in a local “after hour bar/restaurant” very well-known by the people of Barcelona for its good atmosphere; this is where we will start our tour with a few appetizers and drinks. Here, we’ll familiarize you with the basics of our culture’s approach to dining

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he Food Lover Tour, as the name suggests, is first and foremost a tour created for lovers of good food—‘foodies’ wishing to explore the local cuisine who want to enjoy their stay in Barcelona while having fun and avoiding the typical tourist traps. Where the locals go, we go! This tapas tour is a very laid back experience with a few stops including a gastronomic dinner in the local and most loved areas in Barcelona. You’d like to know where we go and what we eat? Come and join us on the Tapas Lover Tour. it was 89 Euro's apiece and well worth it.

At our second stop we’ll continue enjoying appetizers, but these will be quite different from our first stop. We’ll taste succulent, heartier tapas paired with typical drinks that form the identity of our Spanish and Catalan culture and are very appreciated among the locals.

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Various types of cheese from Spain Portugal and FranceThe final tapas experience is a proper gastronomic and gourmet dinner. The Food Lover Tour has been granted access to some of the “most coveted” and “must see” restaurants in town. Sit down, relax and enjoy a true culinary adventure for foodies, including the best fresh local foods, seasonal meals, wine pairings and great company. Time to enjoy! Welcome to Barcelona and welcome to the Tapas Lover Tour!

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We finished our wonderful tour at 1230 AM Edwardo wanted to take everyone out for a drink but I had hit a brick wall and we took a taxi back to HCC.

Day two Sunday October 12

We slept in till 8 and felt refreshed. We left at 1015 for walking bean tour of Gaudi. These to[iur were great to get a start to see what you might want to see more of in the future, Our guide today was Catherine, 90_IMG_1782.jpg

A Free Tour through Gaudí's eccentric life and a discovery of his most magical buildings around Barcelona. Marvel at his work ending at his unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia. Catherine said was he a madman or genius?

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It has been called "a fairytale in stone" and "the house of yawns". Today, nobody doubts that Casa Batlló is the architect's most magical building. From knights in shining armor to traditional festivals, all is included in Gaudí's imagination.

The first project for Gaudí's patron and his first masterpiece. Situated in the midst of the old city, Palau Güell shines out amongst the surrounding buildings. Find out about Gaudí's beginnings as an architect and his unusual approach to the design DSC_1546.jpgDSC_1547.jpgDSC_1548.jpg270_DSC_1550.jpg

We were pleased that the tour would show us how to use metro. We bought a met 10 for 10 Euros that we could use now and share later between two people.DSC_1552.jpg270_DSC_1569.jpgDSC_1564.jpgDSC_1563.jpg

The unfinished temple, Gaudí's obsession and the symbol of a city. The Sagrada Famila is like a storybook that is missing many pages. Find out about the temple's past, present and future and hear about the architect's tragic end. Our tour finishes here with the hope that someday you'll see Gaudí's dream realized.

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Our tour ended here and we had bought tickets to enter Basilica de la Sagrada Famila at 2 with an English speaking tour guide at 3 pm and enter into tower at 430. We bought tickets on line and the were 23.80 Euros apiece.

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Antoni Gaudi Labored on the massive Sagrade Familia for 43 years from 1883 until his death in 1926.
Nativity Facade the theme is Christ's birth and new life.Passion Facade story of Christ's torture and execution.
The Nava and Glory Facade this will represent how the soul passes through death, faces Last Judgment avoids the pitfalls of Hell, and finds it way to external glory with God.

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To the left of the door is a grid of numbers always adding up to 33 Jesus age at the time of his death.
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Two towers I choose Nativity elevator takes you up 215 feet.You also cross the dizzying bridge between towers and you walk all the way down

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We walked back to hotel with a stop for some Galetto

Ate dinner a few blocks away that someone on Tripadviser had recommended. We had to wait about 20 min but got a seat up at the bar.

Monday October 13 today would be our adventure taking all the public transits to get there.We took the metro from Diagonal and train station at
Pl Espanya train station. We had to wait for the 0936. A girl helped us to by the Trans Montserrat ticket for 27.50 Euros.We had packed a light lunch sandwich from pastry shop and apple. We had decided to take the cable car up and was lucky it was a clear day until we got to the top we were engulfed in white pillows of clouds. The cable car first started in 1930.DSC_1690.jpgDSC_1691.jpgDSC_1692.jpgDSC_1697.jpgDSC_1699.jpg
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Montserrat is a mountain near Barcelona, in Catalonia, Spain. It is the site of a Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat, which hosts the Virgin of Montserrat sanctuary and which is identified by some with the location of the Holy Grail in Arthurian myth. "Montserrat" literally means "jagged (serrated) mountain" in Catalan. It describes the peculiar aspect of the rock formation, which is visible from a great distance. The mountain is composed of strikingly pink conglomerate, a form of sedimentary rock, popular with climbers.

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Whether you are religious or not, visiting the Black Madonna at Montserrat is a spiritual and worthwhile experience. You will join in line with a group of people, many of whom have come as pilgrims to the statue - the atmosphere is electric. Chances are you will have to wait to see the Madonna. However all of this can serve to enhance your visit - make the most of the opportunity to take in your surroundings. The stairway leading to the statue, plus the room and altar in which the statue sits are ornate, golden and pay tribute to the wonder that is the Virgin herself.

The Black Madonna is sometimes referred to by other names, including 'The Virgin of Montserrat' and 'La Moreneta'. The statue sits behind a sheet of glass. However, one of her hands that is holding a sphere (which symbolises the universe) is not behind the glass. It is tradition for you to kiss or touch the Virgin's hand whilst opening out your other hand to Jesus.

The whole of Montserrat is built around facilitating the worship of the Black Madonna in the Basilica. The Black Madonna was believed to have been carved in Jerusalem at the beginning of the religion. It is a wooden sculpture. It is one of the most famous Black Madonna statues in the world and in 1844 Pope Leo XIII declared the Virgin of Montserrat the patroness of Catalonia. Black Madonnas can be found all over the world, If you are interested in the history of the concept of the Black Madonna and its various depictions, it is worth a visit to the Montserrat Museum where there is a whole section dedicated to its art and history

One of the most common questions about the Black Madonna is why she is black. The dark colour of the Virgin's face is the reason why locals have nicknamed her 'La Moreneta' ("the little black lady"). Contrary to popular belief, she is not black due a portrayal of a Black African Madonna. The blackness also does not come from a dark colour in the wood or from earlier coverings in paint. It is known from historical descriptions of the Madonna that she has simply darkened over time
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The first account of there being a Boy's Choir at Montserrat dates right back to 1223. Around the seventeenth and eighteenth century the music school at Montserrat really began to gain in importance and recognition.

Today there are about 50 boys in the Boy's Choir at Montserrat. They are also educated in other areas of academia whilst they are schooled at Montserrat. Not only do they perform in Montserrat, they have also given concerts in several countries around the world.
They still believe that their most importance task is singing daily in Montserrat Monastery's basilica (see below for the times of their performances). They sing counterpoint and Gregorian chanting - For Jim and me this was a disappointment. We waited 40 minutes the church was packed and they only sang two songs.
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Next we were off on St Joan Funicular to the top 270_DSC_1768.jpg
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We loved the hiking and could of spent more time at the top. We hiked for about 2 hours we were blessed with perfect weather for viewing the rock formations.We arrived at 1030 and left at 330.

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Tonight we ate at a restaurant that was recommended by someone on trip adviser. This was walking distance to HCC hotel. We arrived before 8 and this place was packed. A mixture of locals and tourists. We waited about 1/2 hour for table but enjoyed watching people and the tapas as they went out.
I started with 1/2 picture of sangria. It was the best I have ever had and could of drank the whole picture.DSC_1867.jpg potatoes braves and seasoned vegetables IMG_1896.jpg
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We enjoyed talking to honeymoon couple from California

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187497-d1006766-Reviews-De_Tapa_Madre-Barcelona_Catalonia.html

Tuesday October 14

Posted by Cindygad 05:51 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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