a fuller life

adventures… eats… laughs… life

Europe 2012 – brought to you by the letter F, the letter U, the number 1, and your eye :)

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1I have to start out saying with this one that we made life long memories and had amazing times with such fantastic people that I don’t even know how I am going to do this trip justice with words and images… but I’m no quitter, so I’ll give it a go.

Also, if you’re easily offended, are looking for more fact than foolish, are a know-it-all who is considering wasting time correcting me, or just get bored when people tend to ramble… now’s the time to wander off and read the dictionary or play with your pet rocks… if you stay, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

2PS: The daily subtitles will mean nothing to you unless you were there… and maybe not even then… so accept it and move on 🙂

Day 1 – Thunder cats are go!

One of our adventures just wouldn’t be complete with some kind of minor air travel-related mishap. This is bound to happen when you live in a city that has one airport, which has one room with four doors – and it calls those doors gates. Usually our issues don’t happen from there, since it’s normally pretty smooth to get a dozen flights in and out in a day… but sometimes you get lucky. Check in on our flight in the afternoon – all systems go. After our friend drops us to the airport (thanks Cam, you’re the best), we notice our first flight is cancelled. Fair enough – we don’t have to be in Venice until Sunday and it’s Friday night… we can make it work. Fortunately, that one plays pretty smoothly. Another plane from a nearby city stops to grab those of us headed to Montreal and we’re off about an hour later than planned. Suitcases weigh nowhere close to the weight limits (this sentence included solely for the benefits of my pals that do things like travel with suitcase scales, have to lug many bags for many folks, or who needed a separate bag just for their shoes). Some young guys who had never flown before and who seemed to be en route to a bender weekend somewhere keep me amused for the short flight. Tight connection in Montreal (a run or miss the next plane kind of connection, and we’re good at those at this point since flights from the3 Maritimes land in the ghetto section of any airport and we have to walk 6km to civilization). We’re the last ones on board the next flight with time for a quick pee… can’t ask for more than that I guess. We switch to Lufthansa in Montreal for the rest of this part of the trip. We couldn’t pick our seats in advance because it wasn’t Air Canada… oh well… and when we get on the plane, Greg is sitting behind me, so I can’t put my seat back without crushing his knees. Awesome. Watched a couple of movies and then tried to sleep, arms crossed a la casket style. Greg stayed up and drank free beer. Due to the time change (five hours ahead) and the overnight flight, proceed to day 2…

Day 2 – Reinventing the dog diaper – maxi pads or shamwows?

Arrive in Munich on time, proceed through passport control, attempt to explain the difference between G and H to a girl that doesn’t speak English, give the security lady a tour of my camera gear, restroom stop, some fresh orange and carrot juice and we’re off. Flight to Venice was short, sweet, and uneventful… and they even gave us a KitKat (um, yuck). Our luggage is about the last off the spinner in Venice, but it arrives and that’s good enough for me. The line for lost luggage at an airport 4was the longest we have ever seen… and if the other option is to wear hideous Carnival-branded clothing for days (sorry Rudy and Xochilt… glad you got yours back sooner rather than later), I certainly won’t complain that ours was just slow. Two of three ticket machines aren’t working properly in the arrivals gate, but eventually I find the one that works and get our bus tickets (I saved €1 buying those in advance you know)… we find the bus, and we’re off to Venice. Bus stops at Piazzale Roma, hotel is 5 minutes away by foot, rooms aren’t ready since the hotel is jam packed and seems to only have one house keeper. No big deal… nice terrace out back with free wifi, so we have a beer and sit and relax. Hours later, room still isn’t ready, but we’re too tired to do anything else… so more sitting and a bit of walking… and then the room is ready… and our beer was free and the staff was terribly apologetic 🙂 Italy sucks at beer, so most everywhere in Italy we ordered beer, it was a 5German beer… which is fine with us, since they rock at beer. Watched some Americans send back their delicious espresso for instant Nescafe… wtf.

The four of us split one room, since Venice is stupid expensive and we were only there for a night. We had a bed, 2 cots, and a weird kitchen thing hidden behind a metal blind… bathroom had too much stuff, everything was painted with flowers, and if you like that kind of “old world clutter” look of things, this (and likely every Venice hotel) is the place for you. It was a place to sleep and brush our teeth – it’s all good. There was also a random small platform that led to the window… it became a suitcase shelf. Had a nap and waited for the rest of the gang to arrive. We head out to take a little walk and meet some of the gang out front (Clayton, Teri, Nance, Tom, Karen, Mike)… and Clayton tells Greg 6I’m his woman (this is likely about where all the weird meeting of people starts for Greg hehehe) as Alice and Bill arrive. We give them the tour of the room, check in with Mich and John and make some supper plans. Pasta and beers as big as our head, and then we head off to St. Mark’s. We had best intentions of heading down early to see the ship sail in to and/or flood Venice, but we had beer as big as our head. I forget the name of the place – but the food was good and it was close enough to the hotel. We also found gelato (yes, I had lemon, as per usual) and it was delicious.

We get our first glimpse of the Breeze all lit up en route to the square on the vaporetto… St Mark’s is flooded when we get there, and we take the road less travelled (i.e. the DRY route) to get around to see the other side… much better than trudging through the water, which we overheard many times resulted in itchy skin… well, it’s likely part sewage, so no shock there… regardless, lots of people seem to feel the need to make out in it. Ahhh Europe! In typical St Marks fashion, there were some bands playing and loads of people walking around. We didn’t stay that long… was getting late and we were tired, and we headed back to the hotel. Met some more friends at the vap stop. At the hotel, we nerd it up on our devices because of the free wifi and apparently Al and I weren’t that tired since we stayed up talking for ages.7

Day 3 – Cruise ships sink Venice!

Up when we got up and had some free breakfast at the hotel. They had a decent spread, which included a big bowl of fresh cherries – hooray!!! And we rocked a self-sponsored decorate your own cappuccino competition… We puttered around the hotel and then headed off for the ship around 10am with about a thousand of our closest friends. Alice and Bill did some more exploring in Venice. People mover to the ship was easy peasy… finding the luggage drop off was a clusterf, since the person pointing you to it was telling people the wrong place… but we’re clever and we found it. Check-in was pretty slow… nothing like when we embarked in Rome and it took 2 minutes. We had to wait nearly an hour just to be called to get in the line to check in (I think we were zone 7). Check in was fine, but manual (computers were down I think)… but there was free water… handy since I was roasting! …. and there was another wait after that to get on the ship. We ran into Sharon, Frank and their friends, so we sat around and had a nice chat. Within the next hour, we were on the ship. Boarded from deck 0 (which was the case every day on this ship except the last)… rooms were ready since we were the first official voyage, 8so we dumped our stuff and wandered off to find some food. We gave Guy’s Burger Joint a go, and to be honest, I have no idea what the hype was about. I’ll preface my food comments now with we can and do cook, so fast food nation holds no appeal to us… but I’ve had WAY better burgers. Chatted with Joe, Angela, Clayton, and Teri while we ate… met Ruth as well. Convinced Clayton and Teri to come to the cocktail party at 1:30 since our other friends wouldn’t make it and we had the tickets already paid for.

Cocktail party started at 1:30 (by day 2 I’d lost track of the time, so don’t get used to this much detail…) and was all you can drink for an hour kind of thing. We all got our $12 worth I’m sure. It was in the Liquid night club, and we claimed the corner – AKA the VIP area – and pretty much hung out there for the whole time we were there. I had the 9best intentions of socializing around, but people kept coming to me… and I didn’t want to leave Greg surrounded by strangers since he didn’t know anyone in advance… but it was all good. We didn’t pay any attention to the strange speeches, watch Calvyn break the rocking piñata Marjam brought, wear any tshirts etc. We sat in the corner and chatted and drank. Ruth was a drink acquiring rock star, and no one ever went thirsty since they dropped off drinks by the tray-load.

We stayed in the night club drinking for a few hours, met up with old friends and new ones… heard some great stories… (Paul, you have the best stories… EVER… and if I ever find myself working near a metal detector and can’t figure out why it keeps going off, I’ll be sure to ask if the person has a sandwich wrapped in tinfoil down their pants to keep it warm!)… muster drill next… was in the dining room… chatted with some folks from Australia… then grabbed the camera and headed up top for sailaway. Greg adores 10coming in to and leaving port… sometimes I watch, and sometimes I don’t (read this as I’m sleeping)… but sailaway from Venice is pretty impressive (possibly it’s my favourite way to see Venice, since I don’t like it like everyone else does… it’s only ok)… watched our way out with Tricee and Mikey… took some photos… and then off to find out if we have luggage… and I find a shiny plate of chocolate strawberries and treats from Greg… as per tradition… a most excellent tradition indeed. Dinner schedule was changed to accommodate sailaway (which they didn’t announce, but which was apparently in the Fun Times… which we didn’t read… oh well)…. Gave us time to unpack and shower and stuff. Dinner was at 8:45, getting in was irritating as it always is on the first night. Tricee arranged us to take over a big chunk of the back of the main section on the bottom floor (aft dining room), so our group had 3-4 tables there. We were at dinner for twenty years and the food was cold. We deemed our table the drama free zone… it worked for the most part the whole trip. The best waitress I have ever had in my entire 11life was working the section next to ours… so close!!! Boo! I was indifferent on our servers… they made no effort to get to know us, and we returned the favour.

Drinks at the Red Frog with Rena and Alan for a bit… quick chat with Dinesh and Carlinton (some of our faves from the Magic), and then off to bed… I forget when.

Day 4 – That motherfucker was DEAD!

First stop, Dubrovnik Croatia. I love this port. It was my favourite last time. We weren’t getting in until noon, so we didn’t rush to get up and at it in the morning… puttered to the dining room for breakfast… en route to a table for two 12because we’ve have way more bad luck than good luck with strangers while eating on cruise ships (the few times we sat with new folks, they were racists… not cool)… but we hear our names being called out from across the dining room… so off we go to have breakfast with Joe, Harry, Gwyn, Tom, Karen, and Nance (there may have been more… it was early… I forget)… pretty sure Ing and Ruth stopped for a visit. I have no idea if we did anything else this morning… if we did, it wasn’t memorable and there’s a good chance it involved coffee 🙂

Met the gang and got off the ship as soon as we could… Carnival hadn’t quite perfected the art of getting people off a new big ship yet at this point (later in the week they started to have separate gangways for their tours and the rest of us)… and I got a kick out of this bitchy American family (they had been at our hotel as well, and we heard them say where they were from, so I’m not just assuming they were American) complaining loudly about how Russians (there was a big group of Russians on our sailing) have no manners and how they should teach their kids to be more polite – meanwhile they were plowing through everyone and everything in their path to get off the ship… I dig irony… grabbed some taxis and headed to the cable car place… that was a genius move, since it got 13stupid crowded right after we got there (beware the stickers)… spent some time admiring the views of Dubrovnik from up high (awesome!) and back down we went to walk the walls. Found the wall entrance with a lot less stairs than the one at the other end by the Pile Gate and up we went. There was much foolishness, walking, climbing, and picture taking… met up with some folks we knew here and there. Took us a couple of hours since we weren’t in a big hurry. Stopped on the water side here and there to watch some crazy people jump into rough seas (it was smooth like glass the last time we were there)… consider this foreshadowing.

Finished the wall and headed off to a spot (it had Aquarius in the name) we spotted from the wall (it’s handy for that, for sure) to have something to eat. I tried some black risotto with clams… and beer. Greg had a giant platter of fish… and beer. Beautiful spot, nice and shady (which was great because it was quite hot on the wall)… then we found ice cream… I had coconut… it was yum. Walked down the Stradun (horrible shopping street, since we don’t shop much)14 and grabbed a taxi back to the port at the other end. Mich and I turned the rest of our Croatian money into beer (mmm Ozujsko limun), and then got back to the ship exactly in time for them to open a new line so we didn’t have to wait at all to get back on and our beer didn’t get all warm 😛 I wager a nap came next, because naps are good for you. PS: This was day one of the Salmons almost missing the ship… and the CD swears this isn’t a joke he does every time.

We had dinner. It was fine. I don’t enjoy the singing maitre’d (this would be Ken). We were at a giant table where it was hard to talk to people at because it’s loud in the dining room in that centre main section and the staff persists in singing. A ninth person joined our table this night and stayed for the rest of the cruise… Ing’s son Herb – awesome, like his mom. And apart from the obvious reason for joining us (that we’re 15also awesome), there’s more to the story… with foreshadowing there always is. Apparently when we were watching crazy people jump into rough seas, it was crazy people we knew. Seems the jumping in part worked just fine. The getting back out of the water along a jagged, rocky coastline – not so much. Let’s just say there was a multi-person rescue required, and some first aid. There was video. You won’t see it. I laughed when I looked more closely at my pictures… the gang was all just getting to Café Buza, pre jump. We wandered off along the wall before we saw anything more. So anyways, apparently once you help pull someone out of the water, it encourages you to want to eat dinner with them. Tada! My stories always have a point, I just sometimes forget to include them. Blah, blah… dinner…16

There’s one thing on a cruise ship that is as awesome as a sea day… a night BEFORE a sea day! This was one. We drank… on deck 5… in the pub, in the club, in the hallway, outside on the deck – but not at the piano bar, because the crowd controlling it were not for us… and I get tired of the same 10 stupid songs over and over and over. People came and went. There was shots, and disco balls, and the boy with the winged shoes dancing in a cage (raising a tent, hehehe Tricee :P)… my complete rhythm-lacking self even did some dancing. Deep meaningful conversations on the comfy couches outside… went to bed in the wee hours of the morning… a few others went for relations, pizza and/or picked a fight or two… or something. Bill – untuck that shirt. We also got Paul’s version of how the afternoon at Café Buza went down… hence today’s blog subtitle.

Day 5 – Apparently there was no ridiculous conversation today, since I have no subtitle 🙂

17Sea day!! Morning involved food of some sort I imagine… I think maybe we tried the deck 5 bbq and it was shit… unless you really love salt, and then maybe you would like it. Meet and greet was at 1 I think, and we went… I had met so many great people already, I decided to go… but it’s the first one I ever went to and I suspect it may be the last. I’m not a huge fan of CC (and get ready for me to start generalizing here, but it is MY blog afterall 🙂 … there’s too many malicious, know-it-all jerks that live on that board that it really overshadows how many great and helpful people there are on there. I’ve travelled enough (land and cruise) at this point that I don’t really go there for information, and if I answer a question someone asks (on a rare occasion when I even read one), I don’t appreciated being corrected… I have access to Google and a perfectly functional brain, so I can figure stuff out on my own… so I had given up on CC long ago… but I knew some people going on this cruise in advance and I knew they would be on there…. so I gave it a go, and for the last few months before the cruise, it sucked up a fair bit of my time… and it’s not really time I have to spare… sorry, rambling… anyways, meet and greet was fine… I wasn’t really all that social… I just hung out with the friends I already made. I’m not really a team player for that kind of thing… I’m not down with wearing beads and bracelets and tshirts, but it’s nice that people make the effort like that for those who like it… and Denise I did wear some red beads just for you 🙂 … I love people, so I’m all about the meeting of new 18ones… but I don’t need to be branded in any way to do it. Calvyn and John (ACD and CD) came to the event and had a quick talk and took a few pictures. They both seem nice enough to me, but they aren’t celebrities… and even if they were, I still wouldn’t care… so I didn’t pay much attention. There was a group photo… I didn’t see it or buy it…. so I have no idea how it turned out. Denise brought me a present (giant pumpkin seeds and some organic chocolate – you rock Denise!) … we didn’t linger after this one… and I don’t remember much else about what we did that day… as it should be on a sea day… I’m sure much napping was involved… and I know we spent some time chatting to Dinesh in the pub, and we had a bite to eat there. I had brought Dinesh some M&Ms (since he shared his with me on the Magic), so I had to deliver them 🙂 We also ate supper and went to the pub. This was also the one elegant night we had. I hate “elegant” night, but I did get a nice compliment from Tricee (who looked lovely as well). We checked out Hasbro the Game Show as well… it was lame.

Day 6 – Is that a gyro in your pocket?

19Let me just start here with HOLY SHIT!!! I finally got to see the Acropolis!! *happy dance happy dance*… ok, right… dancing is not really in character for me… but you get the point… now back to the start. So it took forever to get the hell off the ship this day… apparently Carnival had sent someone to Greece weeks in advance to get this sorted, but apparently that didn’t play out… they also needed the passports of all non-American/Canadian/EU residents (ahem, Joe… your fault I think)… so we waited until they let us leave finally, took a shuttle to the other terminal, and found our guide… and off we went… this one was us, Alice and Bill, Tricee and Mikey, Clayton and Teri, and Libby and Grant. Someone from the other couple was unfortunately sick and quarantined, so they weren’t able to come with us. Our tour guide was Nikos, and he was pretty great…. and it was early enough in the trip that we didn’t all need to sleep in the van everywhere we went. First up, we drove out to Cape Sounio to visit the Temple of Poseidon. I overheard various people (not from our group) saying that they wished they had skipped that and had more time in Athens, but I absolutely ADORED this place. The views along the coast line are amazing…so perfect… it was everything I imagined… I’ll even read some history on it, and I pretty much NEVER do that. Nikos told us a story (I adore mythology and interesting historical bits that don’t involve memorizing dates) 20on the way back about how some king sent his son away to fight some war, asking only that when he sailed back that he change the colour of his sails if he was still alive… the son won the battle and sailed back, but forgot to change the colour of his sails, and the king jumped off the cliffs here tragically…. not uplifting, but interesting… and I listened, which I suck at (with tour guides… not in real life) and kind of like the time years ago when I borrowed Dad’s car to drive to another city and I was supposed to call home when I got there… but I was so excited to see my friends that I forgot… and Dad worried… and then got mad… and wouldn’t let me borrow the car again for ages… but fortunately, he likely just watched TV and didn’t jump off anything… anywho… this place is awesome… if you have a chance to go there, do it. We left before the stickers showed up, which was nice… but we did get to see Mich and John 🙂

21En route back to Athens, we stopped at Zaxos Grill for some lunch… the gang had gyros (when in Greece)… and I had Greek salad… and yes the menu actually said “Greek salad”… and it was in English… which means it’s a tourist spot… but the food was awesome… and affordable… and there was beer… and the best feta cheese EVER. Seriously. EVER. Not the garbage we get here. EVER. Yep, I got that excited about cheese. EVER!

Next stop – Acropolis. It wasn’t anywhere near as busy as I thought it would be… and it was nice and hot (but with a breeze, being on top of the hill and all)… I was struck immediately with how big Athens is… I knew it was big in my brain, but knowing it and seeing it are not the same apparently…. 4.5 million people or something. We explored the site, including the staging and machinery… bound to happen, I know… reveled in the historical significance of it, hung out with friends (we technically had 4 vans of people we knew through the same company, so bound to run into friends 🙂 … I know very22 little of this history of this place… (tho I’ll read it now)… but I know it’s old, it’s awesome, and I touched it! Seeing it in the distance as we were heading up to it was brill, seeing it up close and walking around up there is beyond words… and since it’s beyond words, I’m stopping my pathetic attempt to describe something amazing.

After meeting back up with Nikos using a cleverly devised strategy where we would call him and he wouldn’t answer the phone so we wouldn’t have to pay crazy European roaming charges, we headed off to the Temple of Zeus… or what remains of it. This site is also awesome – though most of it was recycled into roads. Such a shame how much awesome old stuff has been destroyed over the years. Our ticket for the Acropolis was good here too, but it was closing soon so we had to rush it a bit. Definitely worth a visit.

24Back in the van, I asked Nikos about the white church on the hill… this, apparently, is Lycabettus Hill… the highest point in Athens… the church is dedicated to Saint George (Agios Georgios)… yep, I looked that up… but I really did listen this day, for the most part…. so highest point in Athens obviously means the best view in town… and Nikos took us to check it out… it was a bit of a climb but worth every bead of sweat (the gym is my friend)… AMAZING. There’s no buildings more than 9 stories tall in Athens, so the city stretches out in every direction as far as you can see… until you meet hills or the sea… neat to see the Acropolis from above as well. Of course there was some vendors selling trinkets up there, like everywhere else… and there’s now a cafe type place up top… which doesn’t seem to be normal to a church, but Greece needs the money right (too soon?)… so it’s all good 🙂23

We saw a few more sites from the van en route back to the ship… Athens Parliament with the changing of the guard, and some pretty amazing looking buildings. I will be back to Greece (Athens and all the amazing islands). The port here is huge, with ferries the size of cruise ships… so Greek Islands here I come (someday).

Supper and pub… then we took in a couple of the later at night comedy shows – Al Ernst and Jorge Solano – I didn’t find either of them funny…. and I wasn’t in the minority.

Day 7 – A reading from the Big Book of Figs

25Today we landed in Izmir, Turkey… complete with landing card that we had to hand back in at the end of the day since it’s not part of the EU. Getting off the ship went much more smoothly today. Tricee arranged us a fun tour for this port, and we were with her and Mikey, Alice and Bill, Gwyn and Harry, and Wes and Liz… and now is a good time to point out that I’m not Christian and that anyone referenced in any version of the bible is a fictional book character to me. Everyone is entitled to their opinion… this is mine…. and why am I rambling about this? Because our first stop was the Virgin Mary house… well, the newer tourist version built on top of what is supposed to be the Virgin Mary house… and this, to me, was an interruption from my nap and a chance to go pee. I promise I kept my blasphemy to a minimum. Here you paid your fee (well, ours was included in the tour, so I don’t know what it was or if there even was one, but likely so… stood in line (fortunately, this was short)… walked through a room that had an altar, and more importantly SEVERAL donation boxes, and walked out the other side. No talking allowed, and no pictures (not that there was anything to take pictures of), and you were 26welcome to borrow one of many shawls used previously by people you don’t know to cover your shoulders… because somehow shoulders are offensive. I wore shorts and a tank top. They didn’t care. FYI. You could light a candle, for whatever reason it is that people do that, and you could donate/buy/just have a scrap of fabric/paper (I have no idea here, I didn’t do it) so you could leave a wish on the wish wall. Not my thing. The bathroom had a funny sign and was out of TP. Back to the van.

Next stop, Ephesus. This is a pretty amazing archaeological site… best enjoyed when there isn’t 6 other cruise ships in port in a country where apparently there is nothing else to do but come here (and buy rugs)…. but still awesome. It was also crazy hot with no shade… but dry heat, which is good… and if you are a genius like Alice, you can find shade standing behind/near/beside loads of pillars that are randomly scattered around. So our driver was Farouk (sp?) and the guide was Melissa. I found her irritating personally, when she was talking to everyone, since she was far too interested in going to the US… but she was fine to talk to one-on-one. I did pay attention when she said a rocking 2 story house with a water view in Turkey is only about $50000 USD though. So yea, Ephesus… it’s a big site, and I think for the most part, unless you really like rocks 27or history, you just want to see the library down at the bottom of the hill… and the terrace houses…. but we spent quite a long time here. It’s interesting to see, but you need more time… we did get a tour of an old bathroom (where you could take a poo with all your friends – if you are a man – and there was a pool of boiling flowers to something to cover the smell… last one out cleans the trough) and an amphitheatre as well (at this point, I have seen several “ruined” amphitheatres and they look like stadiums, but made out of rock and without the beer stands and shitty hot dogs 🙂 I did enjoy seeing poppies growing all over the place… nice bright red amongst rock and dry landscape. I did not enjoy being there at the same time as so many other people. The library bit was awesome. The terrace houses were pretty amazing… so much history… and the patience it must take for the people that are trying to piece tile slabs back together must be extraordinary. At all entrances to the site there is stuff you can buy… as one would assume. We bought orange juice and a slushy, cause it was hot and we were 28thirsty (and tired of water)…. but they had Turkish Delight for sale… for whatever price you could bargain it down to.

We promptly informed Melissa after this that we were hungry… I’m thinking she was hoping we would just forget, but we did not… and we refused to go somewhere touristy, so she called around and sorted something out…. Something I expect that was still touristy, but the food was good and the price was excellent… and there was only one other group of people there… so it’s all good. It was called Amazon Bistro – super Turkish right 🙂 Loads of tasty food, and beer, and the best of all, they brought us apricots freshly picked off a tree for dessert. Yum!!

29After this, we loaded back into the van for the final stop of the day – the basilica of St. John… I had no idea what this was, seeing that the only thing I cared about was Ephesus… so I was figuring proper church, and was pretty delighted to find out it was more rocks… because I like rocks better than churches. Churches make me uncomfortable… unless they are really old and have great light, and then I get over it. So we explored some more rocks, though we weren’t there really all that long… and that’s ok… because it was hot and we were all tired and we were due for a nap (honestly, you had to nap if you wanted to see the sites all day and socialize at night… otherwise you would die… honest 🙂 … running joke for the day is that we would stay everywhere for 14 minutes. Back to the ship, hand in the landing cards, and off we go. Unfortunately, we found out later that the other van booked with the same company as us (well, that one was really a bus) didn’t get to have lunch and had to go to the carpet factory instead. No thank you! Oh, and apparently Turkey does everything better than and/or has stolen everything from Greece… I slept through that part. There’s also a castle for donkeys on top of a hill (Greg has corrected me here, cause I was sleeping… it was protected by donkeys and not for them, which I guess makes more sense) and I made a note about Burger King, but I don’t know why (Greg also to the rescue – there was an overpass 30that was made out of a Burger King)… must have been sleepy, because I certainly didn’t eat there or anything.

After supper, since the next day was a sea day, we stayed up to all hours yapping and drinking on the promenade deck… which was awesome, because on this sailing they had a hell of a time regulating the temperature… it was too effin hot most places… or in the places I wanted to spend time… like the dining room and the pub… and in the rooms at night it was hot no matter what you set your control to. Anyways, there was a big gang of us and we took over the promenade… Tricee and Mikey even cracked out the apple pie (this means moonshine)… again… woohoo!! And the night likely ended in pizza 🙂 … And I think this was the night some 12-14 year old tried to pick up Alice with some smooth lines about his Dad and Italian pizza… Bill, you better watch out.

Day 8 – Fuck you one eye

31I’m pretty sure I slept just about this entire sea day, waking only long enough to eat several times. Pretty sure at one point Greg magically appeared with some food in the room – because he is awesome. In fact, I can’t remember a single thing about it… so I’ll think about it and come back. Oh, we tried bonsai sushi and completely underestimated the portion sizes… but it was pretty yum for cruise ship sushi and prices were fine… but I could do better on the green tea cupcakes 🙂

K, I thought about it some more… translation, I found the strange note I left myself about this day… and I don’t have much more to report. There was a strange dinner conversation about do it yourself circumcision kits (I was there, and I still barely remember)… and we went to the comedy lounge to see one of the two UK comics this night… I thought he was pretty funny (Tom Pepper I believe). Mikey has the best laugh EVER… and thanks for redoing the actions I couldn’t see because of the pole Tricee! If you hadn’t, what would we have done for the rest of the trip when we needed to do something stupid in a picture!32

We also did a quick tour around the ship in the morning to see some of the new features. I took a few pictures. It’s a nice ship, but I cruise for the ports… Nicest of all the Carnival ships I’ve been on though… I like the new less busy colour scheme and all that and I prefer the larger classes of ship. I like that the Red Frog pub appears to be a bit bigger, but they need to figure out the sound in there better since you can’t hear anything when the guitar players are in there… and we like to talk, drink AND listen to music. (Guitar players came over from the Magic – Timmy and Will, and a guy named Chris as well… liked them all, but wished Danny had have been there as originally planned). If they would stop letting people play bean bag on deck 5 by the pub where people want to walk (that would be cool)…and to stop calling it corn hole, which sounds mental, would also be cool. We don’t spend much time up top, but it looks pretty much like the Magic, but with some more stuff. We didn’t try the thrill theatre, we were only in the main theatre once, the atrium looks to be smaller again on this one, but I’m not sure. There’s more stores it seems, but we don’t use those either. Meh – I’m even boring myself with this.

33Day 9 – Taormina is Taorfunna!

Sicily today… and we’re zombies. We had an early start today, and we met our guide pretty early… embarrassingly enough, I don’t even remember his name… but I think it started with L… but he was great. Rough for him for the first bit likely, since we (us, Alice and Bill, and Rena and Alan) were kind of … asleep. So the first few stops are a bit of a blur… Naxos first… we didn’t stay long, but we walked around a bit… and our guide suggested we get espresso… though none of us did. There was something Olympic-y for Rena to pose in… which is fitting, since she’s an athletic rock star… And then up into the hills… lots of driving today, but it was worth it. One of our stops was a winery, and the guide even suggested that that might be too early and that we should maybe skip it… but no, silly guide (I mean driver here, habit). We stopped at a neat monastery with a great view of a slightly smoking Mount Etna… and a bird shit on my arm. Greg thinks it was a sign. 34But there was a conveniently located water spigot… and none of it actually got on my clothes… so it’s all good (it’s lucky, right Al! – a bird shat on her on the ship earlier in the trip)… Great graveyard here… I find those fascinating, which is a bit odd since I don’t care for churches and generally not for statues either… but places where graveyards have big monuments, I dig. Weather was great, so we lingered here and chatted for a bit. And then back off on the winding Sicilian roads… next stop, Castiglione… well, a view of it from a different part of it… but that’s fine… there’s so many wicked looking villages on hills in Sicily, there’s no way you can see them all. Driver L pointed out Savoca at one point as well… which is awesome… I was there last time and I LOVED it. We also stopped somewhere where he pointed out some Godfather movie-related stuff, but since I’ve never seen them and all the others haven’t seen them in ages, that was pretty much lost on us and he gave up on those references. We also stopped to see Alcantara Gorge… but it was too early in the morning and none of us felt the need to go down and 35explore it… worth going back to… especially if you have time to do some proper outdoorsy activities. There was a store with stuff there… we bought nothing… but they had a fresh orange juice vendor machine. Yep, different things impress me.

Next stop – Gambino Winery… we got there a few minutes too early, so they needed to sort out a few things… so we wandered around the grounds. I was there in 2009, and it’s still just as nice. We had a nice wine tasting (well, wine tastes like poison to me) and some eats… which included some more poison (olives) and meats, breads, and cheeses… towards the end, the girl left a bottle of wine… and it was polished off… and then she brought over 2 more full ones and said good luck 🙂 Great service! Much wine was consumed, and I was only slightly jealous… and more was purchased (and made it home unscathed). At one point, driver L told us we needed to get going if we were going to have any time to spend in Taormina. In hindsight, 36we should have stayed at the winery… Taormina sucks. All tourist shops (tho I did get a tasty pistachio nougat thinger there … and we had our first “hello titty” shirt viewing)… and another amphitheatre, which we didn’t bother to pay to enter. Tried gelato in a cannoli shell, which I don’t really recommend… kind of ick, the shell… but the gelato was yum (cherry… see, not lemon)… Greg found Messina beer. We had 45 mins there I think, we were ready to leave in much less. Back to the ship, much more perky than when we set off… (translation, everyone was buzzed but me)… oh, and in the place where we bought gelato… the mister charged Alice and Bill too much for something and then corrected themselves… see, not everyone is out to screw tourists…. especially nice ones 37likes us. Cause we never yell loudly in English at people, assuming that makes people understand better 🙂

Lots of our dinner mates went to one of the pay restaurants for supper (I think the Italian place maybe this night), so there was only a few of us around for dinner… and the ship wasn’t rocking that night… so we didn’t stay out very late… well, not to the wee hours of the morning anyways. There was another night were people went to the pay steak house, and we just joined up the tables and all sat together (i.e. we brought Wes and Liz to the dark side).

Day 10 – Parla engliano?

Today was an adventure in finding our tour guide. We walked off the ship and walked out the gate – no guide. We 38called the guide, he said take the bus, and we did… and ended up in the center of whenever we were – Olbia I guess. So we called him again, somehow got him to where we were, and off we went. Our guide was Claudio, and he was awesome. It was us, Alice and Bill, and Mich and John on this one. The first part of the tour, we stopped here and there for some scenic views of coastal Sardinia – Claudio was great at letting us stop whenever and whenever we wanted (and we did not have to go to the cork “factory” – sorry Lib). He pointed out what some of the other islands were. First official stop was Costa Smerelda… and while the views from afar are beautiful, the resorty place where we stopped briefly was horrible…. and I’m pretty sure Claudio heard me announce that area with it’s stupid expensive stores was horrible, and the tour only got infinitely better from there. We didn’t stay there long fortunately, and Claudio explained that with the downturn in the economy, now normal people like us could probably afford a beer there… previously priced at at least €25 a glass… and now for the low, low price of maybe around €10. Next!

39Next stop, wicked place on the side of the road near from ruins for a picnic. Now we’re talking! Claudio brought us quite a spread… more bread, cheese, and meat than anyone should likely consume… some wine… some homebrewed plant mixture that tasted like burning… fresh veg… tasty olive oil… and fresh ricotta with honey for dessert. We were all stuffed when we left, and no wine went wasted (well, not by me… because I still don’t drink wine… but not at all either). Just as we were lingering after the meal, a bus showed up… and we all packed it in super fast to get out of there before the stickers took over the place. And Claudio rocked keeping us away from stickers from the rest of the day.40

We stopped briefly at a winery next after looking at some ruins out the window of the van (none of us felt like paying any more money to see piles of rocks, so a view from the window and some brief history from Claudio was good enough). Snagged some wild fennel out the window driving down the road. Winery was closed as it got ready to host some more lemming… er, cruise tours… and we just took a look around. Claudio explained some interesting stuff about Sardinia to us (and I listened… that’s twice on this cruise… a record for sure)… it has about 1 million people and 5 million sheep, but it buys lamb from Poland. The main square of the city where we docked is decked out in cheaper Chinese granite, even though Sardinia is known for granite. Sardinia can also produce enough wind and solar power for all of itself and even all of mainland Italy, but they’ve been effectively told to fuck off… someone must have a deal with someone else 41somewhere. All very foolish, and interesting… so goes the ways of the world I guess.

Next stop, a bar with a vew… Claudio obviously had a better read on us by then… bring on the espresso… others had drinks. Nice spot, great view… good times just sitting around chatting and enjoying the beautiful weather. Part of enjoying your vacation is not being go, go, go all the time… and we’ve mastered a decent balance at this point (and we all get thirsty sometimes… and we all work incredibly hard in the real world, and so have mastered enjoying ourselves immensely on vacation). After the bar, it was back to the ship. Claudio gave us a deal on the price once we got back to the port, even though we were all happy enough to pay the original price. He just got it back as a tip anyways. And we found the building we were supposed to meet him at in the first place… 5 minutes by foot away from the ship… and there was a bus running… though why in the world you would take it (unless you have mobility issues), I have no idea.

At supper we saw the infamous video of Cafe Buza cliff-jumping and I pretty much had to watch through my hands… 42they totally downplayed that one, and I pretty much just wanted to hug Mikey, Herb, and Paul at the end. Yikes! Had the best intentions of going to see the other UK comic in the lounge, but missed it while chatting and drinking in the pub… some passenger took over Will’s slot playing there, and he was HORRIBLE… HORRRRRIIBBBBLLLLEEEEEEEEE!!!! And kept saying just one more song… and played for over an hour. Now that I think of it, I’m not sure why we didn’t just leave… we tried to convince Linden to pull the plug, but no luck. At one point Will just left. What’s sad is that guy is likely going to go home and tell everyone how he was rocking the pub, filled to capacity, on the ship… which will vary from reality, where he about cleared the place out. For the record, I don’t think they should ever let passengers perform on cruise ships… the one night where they have a talent show I can skip is plenty. And more importantly… if you have a friend and they are a shitty musician, singer, dancer, 43juggler, painter, nuclear physicist… be honest with them and TELL THEM. You couldn’t possibly do them a better favour. I wouldn’t want to go through my whole like thinking I rock at something, only to have people thinking I suck the whole time… though, really… I may not be the best example here, since I don’t care what people think of me at this point anyways… but you know what I mean, right? 🙂

Day 11 – Did I tell you the story about my Dad’s balls?

Rome day… Michelle expertly arranged a bus to take a big load of us to Rome, so we didn’t have to pay Carnival’s rip off prices for the same… but so we could sleep instead of using public transportation… that’s smart thinking. Small hiccup… the mister driving the bus apparently thought the best place to park it was behind a building in between some transport trucks. It took a while, several emails, much exploring, some phone calls and some internet surfing, but Paul stepped up as rock star and found it (wait a second, he was the one that found our bus to Rome last time too… handy). Apparently the mister emailed Michelle and told her, despite her telling them not to email her. Oh well.. it all worked out in the end. By the time we left on the bus, I was awake enough that I couldn’t go back to sleep… so Greg and I had a nice chat with Melissa en route.44

Bus dropped us near the Colosseum and eight of us set off on our Roman adventure… two of us had been before, we had mobile maps and Alice and Bill had a GPS thinger… so it was all good. We did a whirlwind tour of the Colosseum (inside), walked by the Forum, stopped for gelato at Trevi fountain (mandarin this time… again, not lemon), hiked up the Spanish steps, ate some lunch at Campini near the steps (only ok… and watch out for the Roman turtle pickpockets)… we ended up with the more expensive, English tourist lunch menu, but not the end of the world (don’t feel bad Joe, it’s all good). The restaurant had free (slow) wifi, but Angela taught us about the Spanish steps… except for the part I remembered from before – that they were built by the French 🙂 Apart from that, they are “famous” because they are wide. That is lame.

We split off in two groups after lunch – the going to the Vatican museum and the not going groups (cover your eyes… there is no fucking way that I was going into that horrible fucking place ever again, not even for Greg… and I love him madly… that’s how much I hated it last time … it 45was also way too hot for pants and shoulder coverings that day)… so along with Joe and Angela, we checked out the Pantheon (and went inside so I could see the oculus this time – it was night last time), hiked through Piazza Navona (I still dig that fountain, and no popes were drowned during our visit… look at me, rocking a pop culture reference!!), and off to see Castel Sant’Angelo… I wanted to see Bernini’s angels during the day… pretty neat. And… since we were so close to the Vatican and Angela and Greg had never been before, we walked up to the square and stayed for five minutes… sorry Joe 🙂 We’re team players for sure. After that, we found Angela a luggage sticker and then took the scenic route back down towards the Colosseum (also taking pictures of things Angela is taller than… like a traffic light and a dump truck… I love foolish pictures), checked out the Forum from up high, and that kind of thing. We had to be back at the bus by 5:30, and we had some time by the time we made it back there… so Greg and Joe wandered off a bit (i.e. tried to enter the Forum from the exit which was a no go) and Angela and I walked around and yapped mostly. Back to the bus after that… which was much easier to find this tme around… and waited for the Salmons to get back (er, Alice, Bill, Mich, and John)… but they were only 2 mins late. It was all good. Back to the ship after that, and we had a lovely chat with Mel and Melissa on the bus… 48don’t forget ladies, we live in Canada where there will be soccer soon and we expect to be visited! Was probably around 7:00 by the time we got back, so no time for a nap… had a shower right away since I was sunburnt to shit (it looked worse than it was, didn’t hurt, and I was back to normal 2 days later… but at least Grant had some company in the lobster club now… and as far as I know, Joe didn’t try to bite either of us… but really, I can only speak for me with certainty)… I have a lovely tourist style tan with fun lines now.

So, dinner was fine… we were supposed to leave at 9:00 and we hadn’t left yet… and that, maybe, was the sign of things to come. Shortly after that, the announcement came (while yet another passenger was singing in the dining room… better than the first, but only slightly)… duh duh duh duh… and as soon as it did, I said sea day… and I was 46right. BUT THIS STILL DOES NOT MAKE IT MY FAULT. So… apparently, due to someone effing up something somewhere, even though Carnival says they booked it a year in advance, there was nowhere for us to dock in Livorno the next day. So, that meant sea day. From there they were deciding if we would go to Livorno the next day or if we would skip it and carry on as planned. So, as a non-giant-money-grubbing organization, here’s what I would have done… I would have called Livorno and cancelled every ship stop I had there for the rest of time (across all of the lines that Carnival owns) and made a point of the situation (there was a cargo ship in the spot we fit in and reserved, and they would not move it… possibly this was a screw you for that other sunken Carnival ship, who knows)… then I would have tried to find another place to stop for the day, and I would have carried on with the other ports as planned. But here’s MY opinion of how a giant corporation played it out instead… we did loopdy-loos in rough seas for the day instead, but we got a $50 credit pp that we drank away in the pub the night before (and that was fun too, and I’ll get back to that in a second)… we went to Livorno the next day (because Carnival would make loads of money from excursions to Tuscany, Pisa, and Florence from there because apparently no one just stays in Livorno), and then we lost half a day in Monaco (which is fine, because Monaco 47fucking sucks), and we lost Marseilles completely (which also sucks, because we had fun plans for there… but we’re also smart enough to book with companies that don’t expect you to pay in case of the ship not docking… so all you people that persist in telling people that you have to take ship tours or else you are going to die, shut up… cause you’re wrong)… I maintain this is still not my fault (just like us missing Monaco last time was not my fault). I blame Herb and Marjam.

Anywho, we accept that when travelling, things don’t always go as planned. So we took our $50 OBC per person to the pub and turned it into beer tubes… and we had a lovely night of drinking and socializing and pizza on a night when normally we would have gone to bed at a reasonable hour because we had another early start the next day – and for the record, making the pizza to order instead of handing you the shitty stuff that tastes worse than the box pizza normally comes in is infinitely better… so well done Carnival. And I was always nice to the pizza guy, because that poor bastard has the worst job on the ship… because it’s open late at night and drunk people love pizza.

49Day 12 – Mustard Red Frog jesus zombie

Sea day equals sleeping… so there was sleeping… bought an FCC… hit the dining room for lunch and had a burger that was way better than the burger joint and a sundae… more sleeping… ate dinner, and hit the pub for a bit… where Greg, Herb, Bill and I valiantly drank our way through a tube we didn’t order and then more sleeping.

The map channel on the ship was funny… showed the ship just going around in weird loops… looked like the captain was drunk. It was quite rough in the morning (I was mostly sleeping and that kind of motion doesn’t bother me), so maybe not the best weather for a sea day. Still. Not. My. Fault.

Day 13 – Technically she didn’t say no, roadside hookers, and a deck chair fortress

The Livorno day formerly known as Monaco. Having done Florence and Pisa last time, I opted for a different route this time and hired a driver to take us to Cinque Terre. Our driver’s name was Marzia, which she somehow thought was a complicated name… I don’t get it. Anyways, we headed off to Porto Venere via twisty turny roads, and she kept50 waiting for the other vans… I had no idea why until we realized the driver in the other van didn’t speak a lick of English. Oops. And it wasn’t a big deal since they were full of our friends. Since we had booked the vans (and Pisa tickets) for the day before, it was pretty rock star of them to switch it all to the next day for us. At Porto Venere (nice little seaside town), we had a bit of time to walk around while the driver checked to see if the ferry was running. Since we have eyes and could see that it was pretty rough, it was not… and since I don’t feel like being smashed against some rocks most days, that was likely best (note to friends, smashing against rocks equals bad!).

So we (us, Alice and Bill, Mel and Melissa, and Scott – poor Paul and Michelle ended up in the other van – sorry guys) drove to the first town of Cinque Terre (Riomaggiore)… we didn’t stay there long at all… we bought a train pass and walked the Via Dell’ Amore to Manarola. The driver suggested which trains we should catch but we decided to ignore that and do our own thing (and that is pretty much how we roll, all the time… I don’t listen, remember). We are perfectly capable of reading train schedules 🙂 So we stopped and had some lunch at a place down by the water… awesome pizza (mushroom and prosciutto)… Greg had some other kind… and beer… and dessert (lemon semifredo)… delish… food was great… prices were great. After that, we walked around Manarola some more… I covet their citrus and fruit trees… it’s a beautiful village… would have been great to see from the water, but I’m certainly 51not complaining. I’d love to go back and start at one and walk clear through to the end of the five villages… a bit more off the beaten path kind of thing… but Tre Terre instead Cinque Terre will have to do, for now.

Took the train from Manarola to Monterrosso (skipping Corniglia, which is up much higher than the others, and Vernazza, the most damaged during the flooding last year, in the interest of time). Monterrosso looks to be the most touristy, and we didn’t care for it as much (and wtf died in that train station bathroom?)… we explored a bit by the beach, and waited for the rest of our group at the end so we could head off to Pisa… we customized the day to be able to do both, since several of my friends wanted to see Pisa and climb the tower.52

So back in the van for the drive to Pisa. Pretty sure I slept through that one. Got there… maybe around 4:30, and people had tickets to climb at 5:00… so us non-climbers wandered around, which was nice actually since I didn’t have time to look around last time. Scott and I checked out the other buildings at the site, and they are pretty amazing actually… and then we head back over to the tower to see if we could see our friends. They made it up half way pretty quick and then were stopped there to let some other people down. I did what I could with some pictures from the ground, and the break allowed them the perfect time for a little fu1i picture posing. Paul called it quits from there, the others continued up. So we wandered off and found some Duff beer (good find Paul) and waved to the others at the top. It took some of our group a while to get back down since some morons apparently thought the narrow stairway in a leaning tower was a good place to 53sit. Made a hilarious attempt at getting Greg to pose with the tower after that, and then back to the van and back to the port.

En route to the port, our driver was kind enough to point out the random hookers along the side of the motorway near the American army base. Very random, and pretty sure some of them were dudes.

Some exciting news at supper… Mel and Melissa got engaged. Congrats you guys!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! To the comedy club after supper, first guy sucked (Mark Simmons… wasn’t great on the Magic either)… second guy sucked more (Mutzie) and we left five minutes in.54

Day 14 – This is not France

I was slightly bitter and cranky today… partly because I was really looking forward to our stop in Marseilles (I’ll go some other day, not the end of the world) and partly because it was incredibly hot and Monaco is boring and stupid. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why anyone finds that place amazing. They could have sailed by there and let us take a picture and that would have been good enough for me. I could travel around the world for years on the money it takes to dock a boat in that harbour for a DAY.

Some explanation – I don’t care about the lifestyles of the rich and the famous, I am pop culture stupid, I think all people are created equal, I don’t care about your clothes, and I am not the least bit pretentious. Short version – I don’t belong in Monaco. Granted, if I could afford a swanky yacht, maybe I would have one… but I wouldn’t dock it in Monaco when there are so many more interesting places to go. So, since we lost half our day in Monaco, we met Alice (she needed some more meat :P) and Bill for breakfast in the 55dining room and then we headed out. We took a little boat across the harbour, and then walked along the formula one route for a bit until we got to the casino. This was at about 9 in the morning, and the casino opens at 2… but since we had to be back on board at 2, it was this or nothing. So we looked at it and wandered on. We didn’t have much more of a game plan than that… but we did have a map… so we took the bus around with some old ladies… got off about 5 minutes away from where we started in the first place… walked around… split off from Alice and Bill… they climbed some stairs to see the palace… Greg and I walked around the wall thinger and looked at the views… stopped and watched some Russian tourists take about 40 pictures of themselves inside this picture frame looking thing… amusing 🙂 And then we headed back to the ship… so spent about two hours in Monaco and was pretty much done with it. We should have gone to France…56

A high point of going back to the ship early was that it wasn’t crazy busy in spots we tend to avoid normally… so we dumped our stuff and wandered off to explore some more. We had some tasty lunch at the Indian place, watched some yachts come and go, found a comfy clamshell on Serenity deck… good times… got some gelato on the ship… wasn’t bad (and not lemon for a change), and some coffee… spent the rest of the afternoon drinking in the pub and visiting with our faves (and tipping them, since they were the only people on the ship we tipped)… Mich, John, and Greg went through a couple of pitchers… I had planned to have a nap, knowing I would be up late with friends since it was the last night. At this point, Greg was also a few days in to getting sick, so the afternoon at the pub did him in… he barely made it through dinner, and then he went off to bed.

Mikey, thank you for never sicking Ken on me… Herb, nice to have you there to suffer through the performances with.

58So we finished the cruise up with a bang… everyone we could round up showed up in the pub and we drank, and laughed, and took some pictures… good times for sure, and watching Ruth feed beer tubes to Tomas and Joe (who suggested something so foolish? oh, wait, that was me) to people was a laugh… Greg even wandered back down for a beer around 2:00… we didn’t stay much longer than that, since I had to pack up our stuff at some point… boo!!! It’s a quick enough process though.

Marjam, Uli, Joe, Nance, Herb, Ruth, Tomas, Gail, Lytton, Tricee, Mikey, Mel, Melissa, Rudy, Xochilt, Libby, Grant, Angela, Dana, Paul, Michelle, Alice, Bill, Rena, Alan, Mich, John, Clayton, Teri, Gwyn, Ing… and anyone I missed… thanks for the fun times… (and if I missed you, it means nothing… just running out of steam here … and the order of names is completely irrelevant here)57

… and Tricee, thanks for letting me vandalize your Breeze yearbook 🙂

Day 15 – Who doesn’t like unknown fluids?

There’s no sleeping in on debarkation day since there’s an announcement every five minutes… they started before 6am, so we finished packing, found some breakfast (had a nice table beside a family from BC and had a nice chat), and self-debarked around 8 ish… the taxi line was run super efficiently by the police (despite the CD constantly insisting that we better get off the ship before rush hour… i.e. get off so we can clean up the fucking mess you lot made on our ship before the press we’ve flown in arrived), and we had no problem quickly getting a cab for 4 people to our hotel on La Rambla (€15 total for all of us and bags).

59It was before 9 when we got to the hotel, the lift wasn’t working (as to be expected in Europe… it looked pretty dodgy anyways)… so we left the luggage with the hotel and wandered off…. and now we stop here for something very important… I HEART BARCELONA!!!!

With no plans but a night bus tour with the gang later that night, we opted for the hoho bus route, and surprisingly I had a pretty good idea of what was going on from last time. Got our tix and hopped on the blue line … got off at Sagrada Familia… it was still nice and early and no crazy crowd yet so we decided to go in… didn’t have a chance last time. It is frigging amazing. So wide open and intricate… Gaudi must have been a very interesting person I think… but getting hit by a tram doesn’t seem like much of a way to go. I’m not sure I can do the inside of this structure justice… the light in there is amazing, I love the stained glass… I was mesmerized by how it reflected off the organ pipes in the back… so much to look at… I love it… so glad we went in… 60Greg/Alice/Bill… thanks for hanging in there while I walked around staring at the ceiling! The jesus parachute at the front is a bit odd though… and 4 star toilets 🙂 For the record, we were in Europe for over 2 weeks and I never once had to pay to go to the bathroom… it can be done, and I’m not a camel, so don’t believe the hype.

Caving to North American urges, we stopped for some Starbucks next… cruise ship coffee is so shitty (tho the pay stuff is better, and the blond girl from Bulgaria (she had a long name that started with L that I never did quite get) that was always at the cafe was awesome possom)! And then off to Parc Guell. It’s a really nice place… I dig all the tile work… it was pretty packed when we were there, and getting hot… but there was a nice breeze at the top, and nice views of Barca from up there… watching the “high-tech” criminal enterprise kept us amused. It’s amazing what people will go through for the chance to sell cheap crap to tourists.

61Next stop – paella, pizza, and beer at some hole in the wall… it was fine, nothing amazing… and then back on the bus. We finished the blue route without getting off again, knowing that by now our rooms at the hotel should be ready… and it was definitely past nap time.

So the hotel was a shithole for sure, but it had a great terrace out back and there was a lot of us staying there, so that part balanced it out. It also had a 24 hour buffet (a bit dodgy, but fine), as well as free beer, wine, and wifi… so it’s all good. The rooms were small and pink, and it took us a day to figure out the air conditioner (the lady at the front had to turn it on from the desk)… we didn’t bother to unpack or anything… just sifted through the suitcase when we needed something. Hap a rest… sat around on the terrace chatting with friends … wandered off early evening to find some tapas… I forget the name of the place, but it was only a few blocks from the hotel and had Ciudad in the name (less than helpful, I know)… we had montejitos, fried fishes, 62stuffed peppers, clams, prawns, delicious mushrooms and asparagus… and an AMAZING dish with peppers, eggplant, and goat cheese… the place had lots of locals, which is always a good thing. Had some dessert there too… it was ok…

Back to the square after this to catch the bus for our night tour… the gang was pretty much all there already and had somehow managed that we would pretty much commandeer a whole bus since there was so many of us (40 maybe)… our guide was horrible… it was an English tour, but her English was bizarre…. when we could ever hear her, she would say the strangest stuff… it was like she was reading part of the time, and like she was talking to herself (with a mouth full of peanut butter, or marbles, or whatever) or a wall the rest of the time… I deemed her the robot nerd guide… make a clap 🙂

The best part of the tour by a lot was the stop to the fountains at Montjuic… pretty fun to watch… I took a few pictures at the start, but then just sat and watched them… I did that a lot of that this trip… I spent a lot more time just looking… and just randomly took pictures here and there… I still ended up with loads, but not nearly as many as usual… it was awesome. Poor Greg had a hard time on the bus, since short people took the tall 63people seats… but likely he’s used to it at this point… being sick wasn’t helping either I am sure. He’s such a trooper 🙂

Back to pink-land and to bed after that.

Day 16 – Today’s blog subtitle is brought to you by Mel, but none of us remember what she said that was so funny 🙂 (Edit: And maybe she didn’t say anything funny at all, but we still love her… and Michelle has some memory foam with too good of a memory!)

Last time I was in Barcelona, it was a holiday and the Boqueria market was closed… and lots of other stuff was closed… and this time, it was not. So we munched some fruit at the hotel, said ciao to Tricee and Mikey (sad face. 64cause they are awesome), and headed out to the market after that… had some breakfast and ate our way through… I love this kind of place… had some carrot orange juice (finally, some food that is like the food I eat/drink in real life) and cherries!!! Bought a few treats to bring home (chocolate stuff mostly) and that was that. Dumped some stuff at the hotel, checked out a few sketchy pharmacies trying to get Greg drugged up (with no luck, so thanks for the temp drugs Al) and headed out to give the red line route on the bus a go. We got off in Montjuic to check out the Olympic stadium area (took some pictures of athlete foot prints on the walk of fame for Melissa)… watched some track and field that was going on… back to the bus… got off a bit later and tracked down some lunch down by the water (mmm noodle paella…) and then some dessert (mmm gelato… tiramisu and vanilla cookie… see, no lemon again this time)…. Greg was fading fast by this point, so we finished off the red line (it was also crazy hot out) while Alice and Bill headed off to the zoo. Found a non-sketchy pharmacy and got Greg some drugs… Greg had a rest while I chatted on the terrace with Ruth and Joe and whoever else came and went. Gwyn, Melissa, Joe, and I trekked back down to the market and got some more gelato (mango and coconut this time), I found Greg a sandwich so he could have some supper), and then back to the hotel… where I found Greg having some brandy… he 65said he was being polite LOL.

Greg had nothing left in the tank, so we drugged him up and he went back to bed… the rest of us (well, a big gang of us) went out for dinner… food was only ok (had pasta), but the company was great (Michelle, Paul, Scott, Marjam, Uli, Melissa, Mel, Grandma, Herb, Alice, Bill, Mich, and John)… good stuff… thanks for the German menu lessons Marjam… had some MORE gelato on the way back (I don’t remember what I had… I just know it wasn’t the weird smurf “tastes like blue” kind that Uli had… ick)… wandered back to the hotel for more terrace time… and completely forgot to say bye to Marjam and Uli… I likely would have cried, because they are awesome… so it’s just as well… and to Michelle and Paul as well… who I think I sort of just assumed would be coming back with us for some reason, even though they weren’t staying at our hotel. Oops. Sorry guys… you know I love you 🙂 … and disappointingly, I have barely any Paul creeper faces in my pictures, so we’ll have to do better next time!66

Sat around for a few hours chatting… Ruth had recruited some random strangers… an American who now plays football (not soccer) in France and a girl that didn’t speak English… I think she recruited them by yelling up to their window LOL… chatted with Mich, Melissa, Mel, Scott (and even Frank online), Ruth, Herb, Angela, Joe and whoever else came and went… had a few drinks… and then off to bed in the little pink room with my poor sick husband.

Day 17 – Insert random Spanish obscenities here … and an expired flight plan

Our flight wasn’t until nearly 1, so we didn’t really have to get up early or anything… so we had something to eat at the hotel and sat around talking with Joe… didn’t take much to repack since we didn’t bother unpacking. Most of the gang had gone home already at this point, or weren’t at our hotel… around 10 we checked out and had the hotel get us a cab… that didn’t work and we just said fuck it and went and got one ourselves… it should take about 20 minutes to get to the airport, but when the city blocks off at least four common ways to get there, not so much… our cab driver was having a fit (in Spanish, of which I only understood about half)… and it took about 50 minutes to get there… not really leaving us that much 67time to check in for our flight… even though we left plenty early. Ooops.

So once we finally found a clear path to the airport, the cab driver doubled the speed and off we went… he should drive formula one or something 🙂 Air Canada line at the airport was stupid long, and they had no self check-in machines. Awesome. Well, at least all the rest of the line also wanted to go Montreal. So got all checked in and all that and headed to the gate. We didn’t even start boarding until after we were supposed to have left, so I guess we weren’t in any real danger of missing the plane. Turned our coin Euros into muesli bars from the machine, found a sandwich somewhere (and some water) to take with us, and sat around and waited. Finally we got on the plane, and happily we had the two seats on the side to ourselves.

So we sat. And we sat. And the captain told us someone forgot to sign some log. And we sat. Finally they turned the entertainment system on at least so we could watch movies 🙂 And then we got our log signed (after two weeks with this lot, even this sounds dirty), but our flight plan had expired so we had to wait for another one. Got that, and off we went. If nothing else, our 6 hour wait in Montreal had just become about four. Flight was uneventful (watched four movies), except that everything they offered us to eat contained olives, and olives are poison. Oh well. Safely to Montreal, cleared customs with no issues (we literally brought back 60 Euros in stuff between to the two of us for two plus weeks, so that part is easy), got our luggage and68 plugged it back into the system for the next connection. Got some shitty airport food to eat and some Starbucks, had a quick chat with Mare when I ran into her on her way home from Sicily, looked to see where our next gate was… and some more adventure… last flight of the trip – CANCELLED!! Yay (said in an exhausted way, because that’s what we were at this point… since we weren’t sleeping on purpose, so we could get back on our time zone faster once we got home). We don’t get worked up about this stuff… we travel a lot and we know how it works… so off to the desk to find another way home.

So here’s something you’ve likely never read before… we had a rock star working the Air Canada desk… it took her at least 30 minutes, but she routed us another way that would get us home… and found our luggage in the bowels of the airport and had that sent to the proper plane without us having to do anything… and she even gave us a meal voucher… we had already eaten, but it’s the thought that counts right. So, off to Toronto we went – which is the opposite direction from home. Made the flight no problem (she gave us the awesome lots of leg room seats that normally cost extra), slept through it… did the normal walk to the ghetto part of Toronto airport where flights to the 69Maritimes leave from, got some water, did some waiting.

Boarded the final plane for home, sat through some more delay where a broken plane was in the way and needed to be moved, and finally got on the way. Slept through this one. Finally got home around 1:30 am… luggage made it, cab home, quick visit with the kitties, and off to bed. And that’s the trip.

We had so much fun and saw many amazing places … and I just don’t have the verbal chops to do it up proper… but we couldn’t ask for anything more in a vacation. I got to spend 2 weeks with my best friend and see amazng places… and maybe, just maybe, we have something in the works to have some more fun with some of these folks and see some more great places next summer. Now point me to the closest gelateria.

Safe travels… ciao!

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One thought on “Europe 2012 – brought to you by the letter F, the letter U, the number 1, and your eye :)

  1. I read this one again and it is nice to have a commentary of the trip through someone else’s eyes. OMG….I totally laughed out loud! I totally forgot about the guy all dressed in white with winged shoes. Thanks for the memories and being an awesome travel friend!!!

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