Tag Archives: italy

Med Cruise II: Venice 2, Electric Boogaloo

May 25, 2012 – Venice, Italy, Day 2

The next day, Day 10 – Venice (Day 2 of 2), was a little bit more Venice and it was wonderful. We only had a half day as the ship was requiring us to be back on board by 2. The agenda for our excursion was a gondola ride and free time, and that was pretty damn cool. When we got to where the gondola ride picked people up, we saw our first Hard Rock Cafe of the day, which was perfect, as I knew where to go when it was time to buy souvenirs. The gondola ride itself was very nice, and we shared it with a Filipino group, who ended up being very nice and funny. The ride actually went into the Grand Canal for a bit and it was right near the Rialto Bridge, which was exactly where I was hoping to go later on so it was good to see the perspective and figure out where it was.

After the gondola ride, we then had plenty of time to go souvenir shopping, which was fantastic. Found a few neat shops and hopefully picked up enough trinkets, although I really hate that part of the trip, to be honest. Ugh. We also got our last Italian lunch/meal in on the continent, and enjoyed a prosciutto pizza and a dish of spaghetti carbonara. Yum. We then got back on the ship, and after the whole process (boat ride to dock, walk to bus, take bus to the port terminal, process through terminal with passport, walk length of deck to Equinox’s entry, final security scan into ship) it was time to enjoy a half day at sea, but before that, enjoy the view of leaving Venice from our stateroom balcony. The approach in was on the other side, but you leave the same way you come in, so this time we got to see Venice from that amazing perspective. And while we were taking pictures and gawking at the amazing scenery, we heard some camera noises from our neighbor’s porch and saw a white camera that was awfully familiar. Turned out that the guy we met from our yesterday excursion was our neighbor as well! Yep, Dave was our neighbor in this trip. Crazy coincidences.

Larry & I embarked on a sure-fire way to battle boredom and we drank at the Martini Bar that afternoon. That’s when we met Chloe & Christian for reals and got a bit buzzed chatting with them. They’re a lot of fun. Dinner in the Silhouette room followed with another great meal but far too much food, as Larry ordered a second entree to see what their carbonara was like. Ugh. We caught the show (cute, funny magician) and after that, it was totally time to get sleep. Seriously.

Skiff Ride into Venice

Excursion:  Gondola Ride

Visiting the Rialto Bridge

Lunching in Venice

Returning to the Equinox

Leaving Venice

Afternoon on Equinox

2013 Mediterranean Adventure Pics

Med Cruise II: Ah, Venice! Pt 1

I had gone to Venice only once before, and that was with Wendy and Jason over a decade ago, back in 2002.  Even then, it was just for a brief half day, and from what I remember of that time, I wasn’t that impressed.  I know, I know….what the everloving what?  So heading into this two-day destination, I was honestly hoping it was just going to be merely tolerable.  It ended up being a highlight of the trip! I think Larry & I agree that we could easily spend so much more time in Venice, whether it’s for the food, the scenery of all the canals, the food….Ah, but I am probably getting close to repeating myself, as I’m sure I probably wrote something similar in my travel journal which is getting posted below.  Long story short, if Larry & I do an all-Italy tour, Venice will definitely be on it.  Along with Rome. And likely Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast (Portofino!?).    I just want to fly there right. now.  Alright, get a hold of yourself, Barnes!

May 23, 2013 – Venice, Italy, Day 1 of 2

Regarding the end of the day at Dubrovnik, I really can’t say what we ended up doing that night. ACTUALLY, I do remember now. After dinner, I ended up playing Blackjack that night in the casino, and meeting a few fun people and spending quite a bit of time at the table, hanging in there for a long long time. Met the couple, Chloe and Christian, as well as my Wendy-substitute, Jackie. The dealers were a lot of fun too, with a cute Luka and a funny Vladimir. I can’t believe I almost forgot that excitement. Larry watched for a little while but ended up going to bed while I stayed there.

The next day was Day 9 – Venice (day 1 of 2)!!! The forecast was for rain and yeah, that forecast wasn’t wrong. We weren’t getting into Venice until the early afternoon, so we had most of the morning to look out the windows and see that the weather had started off just merely a bit cloudy to getting progressively worse. Finally, when we got to within sight of land, it was pretty miserable. Larry & I went to the Sky Lounge which is up forward in order to at least see the approach into Venice, as by all accounts, the view as you enter the city from the cruise ship was fantastic. Well, unless you’re inside the Sky Lounge watching it through a rainy storm. UGH. As we got really close to Venice though, the Sky Lounge got really crowded and I was just like, fuck it, let’s go outside and get our umbrellas if we need to so we can actually get some decent pictures. Then, it happened. The rain tapered off. Then it freakin’ stopped. It was glorious. Right when we got to the Venice area where all the beautiful scenery was, the weather was almost perfect. Not blue skies, but gorgeous nonetheless.

Our Venetian Entrance on Equinox

The cruise ships have to park a bit on the outskirts of the city, so you have to take a tender to get over to the main touristic part. Our excursion for the day was touring St. Mark’s, the Doge’s Palace, and a glass blowing demonstration. We ended up getting in a bit late so the St. Mark’s tour was cancelled, but we did get a fantastic tour of the Doge’s palace, which is what I actually didn’t see with Jason & Wendy over 10 years ago. Loved seeing all the stuff from Assassin’s Creed 2 again. Ended up chatting with a guy who was by himself and was nice – Dave – while on the tour. At the end of the tour, after the glass blowing demonstration which was a lot like the Turkish rug thing in the first tour where they are clearly after your money, we parted from Dave but it was clear he was hoping for some friendship. Felt bad…

Excursion: Touring the Doge’s Palace

Excursion: St. Mark’s Square

Anyway, Larry & I went off on our own to have a dinner in Venice, and it was pretty great. Found a place decently reviewed by Tripadvisor and while the tables were nothing but close quarters (initially with some older French women who knew only a few English words), it was good food and a great waiter, handsome and funny. After that we wandered a bit but when it started to truly get dark, that was when we decided let’s head back to the ship as you never know when or where the “bad” district is. It was really nice to wander the city though, and we found a gelato store manned by quite a cute guy. The area by St. Mark’s had also started to get flooded a bit as the high tide had rolled in. We had heard an alarm earlier, but decided to just find food instead. Through it all though, it was clear that I had misjudged Venice from before. It is certainly a place where you can spend a good amount of time wandering the area and enjoying all the restaurants.

Wandering the Venetian Canals & Byways

Heading Back to Equinox Upon Nightfall

2013 Mediterranean Adventure Pics

Med Cruise II: The Gorgeous Amalfi Coast

Love jaw-dropping coastal scenery?  Amazing food?  Ridiculous roads and fearless drivers?  Yes?  Then you’re in California!  HA, I kid I kid.  But maybe that’s why I felt at home during this port of call on our cruise, the lovely city of Naples.   Before I end up repeating myself though, let’s just paste what I wrote and leave it at that.

May 20, 2013 – Drive of a Lifetime: Sorrento to Amalfi via the Amalfi Coast

We were back at the place where I nearly melted down because of my exhaustion and sciatica last time. The differences were present immediately as instead of docking in Salerno this time, we were in Naples proper. It’s a beautiful area – at least relative to places like Livorno. Our excursion this time was Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. We wanted to go back to Sorrento as it is a beautiful and fun little town. Didn’t have the desire to revisit Pompeii or Capri but the drive down the Amalfi Coast sounded cool. The first stop was Sorrento where we had time to wander, and we got a bottle of limoncello and some more pasta for cooking back at home. The weather was a little dreary but not rainy, so that was good. Sorrento was not the end of the journey though, as we then embarked on the drive of the Amalfi Coast.

Naples Arrival and Sorrento

The Amalfi Coast reminded me greatly of the portion of the Pacific Coast Highway where it’s precarious and white-knuckley as there are steep dropoffs and dramatic scenery. Except add in here that now the road is barely wide enough for one lane of traffic to comfortably drive – but there are two lanes expected to flow. So while you’re looking at the jaw-dropping scenery of things like the coast and cities like Positano and Praiano you’re also having to watch the bus driver navigate his enormous tour coach by the oncoming traffic, often making them back up and drive their cars as close to the wall as they can get. Unfortunately I don’t have many pictures of the drive itself as we ended up choosing the left side of the bus, which was a poor choice as we were driving south and basically the right side was the place to be. I was a bit bitter, but when we got to certain portions of the drive, I was actually a little relieved not to see the sheer dropoff. Better not to think about it.

Driving the Amalfi Coast

We ended up having a lunch at this beautiful restaurant in Praiano that had a gorgeous view overlooking the coast, where you could see Positano in the distance as well as the isle of Capri. Good food.

Lunch in Praiano

The drive continued for a little while until we got to the city of Amalfi, where we stopped yet again for some free time. At this point the weather had gotten a bit more dreary, and in fact, the rain started to fall a bit while in town. That didn’t stop Larry & I from getting our first gelato. We walked the city a bit before heading back to the harbor and eventually getting back on the bus.

Visiting the Town of Amalfi

The bus then took the main highway back directly to Naples, as our route was a big triangular loop. It was a nice journey and despite not getting the most scenic of seats, it was quite the experience.   Also, a big part of the fun for me on the drive back was they played all the “typical” Italian-themed music and songs you could imagine, including things like “Que Sera, Que Sera” by Doris Day, “That’s Amore” by Dean Martin, “Funiculi, Funicular” by Pavarotti….it was almost magical.  Until one of the old biddies on the bus was yelling that it was too loud.  NO JOKE.  She wanted to sleep.  UGH.

Naples to Sorrento to Amalfi

There was a stupid cameo factory visit shoe-horned in at the end – I guess some people want to buy that shit. I’m not among them. When it was finally time back at the ship, we had a little bit of time to relax before dinner. We were having dinner with Harriet and Doug tonight, and that was a blast, getting to know our favorite friends from the cruise thus far. After that, well, Larry & I continued the drinking. Boy, did we. Since we weren’t heading out on an excursion the next day, we figured why not. So after the few drinks of wine at dinner, we then headed down to the wood-paneled Ensemble Lounge where our first few rounds of cocktails were enjoyed while also enjoying the sounds of the various musical acts that performed, including North by Northwest (who apparently got sick since and have cancelled their performances) and the Strings Trio. Then it was time to go to the Martini Bar, where we got properly toasted. I drank way too much. Also saw Melissa and her friend Lacey this time. Good times, good times.

Back on Equinox in Naples

2013 Mediterranean Adventure Pics

Med Cruise II: Fabulous Firenze!

Let us continue the journey!  In this installment, we made it to the wonderful country of Italy and the completely fabulous city of Firenze, aka Florence.  This proved to be a very entertaining stop, although let’s be honest, you can’t “do” Florence in a day, let alone 7 or 8 hours of the day.  But for an overview, or a taste, if you will, it was pretty fantastic.  But I’ll stop being so chatty so you can read words written by me 2 months ago!

May 19, 2013 – Journey to Florence

I’ll try to keep this fairly linear, so I’ll first write up about yesterday’s events, which were on Sunday, May 19 in the Livorno, the port city of Florence/Firenze! The theme of the day was “Yay, Sun!” and thank God for that. It started off hopeful with it being just kind of grey as we awoke in the city of Livorno. Think Long Beach or Elizabeth, NJ when you think Livorno. It just sounds more exotic, that’s all. More Italian, actually, and that helps.

Anyway, we were booked on the Historical Florence excursion, which included a walk around the city but importantly included a trip to the Accademia, which is where Michelangelo’s David sculpture is. We had considered doing an excursion that did the whirlwind trip of not only the highlights of Florence but also included Pisa. From my previous experience with Jason and Wendy a decade ago, I felt fairly safe in saying that Pisa isn’t worth it. It’s just the tower. Photoshop yourself into it if you insist.

Heading into Florence

So we were on our bus with the wonderful guide of Serena (not sure if that’s the right spelling, but she assured us it was basically the same as the tennis player) and she was wonderful. It’s interesting to hear how the various guides sound out their words. She was very thoughtful and enunciated as much as she could. It’s about an hour drive from Livorno into Florence, so we had a chance to view the scenery from the bus, and to see how it went from the industrial port section into a nice Italian, Tuscan countryside, peppered with beautiful rolling hills. The weather had looked like it was going to be rainy once again but after arriving in the city, suddenly the rain stopped and eventually the sun broke through the clouds. Thank god.

We immediately went to the Accademia, which is probably a good thing as I know that it only gets more and more crowded the later it gets. I can’t write the words to adequately describe the experience of viewing the David, but just know that it is everything you’d expect it to be. Truly. It’s as big, if not bigger, than you expect it to be. Serena was able to provide quite a bit of insight into the creation of the David and provide a good artistic background of what the creation and revealing involved. It’s definitely a bucket list thing to do.

At the Accademia to see the David

Note:  Since you can’t take pictures of your own in the Accademia, here’s a shot from the wonderful Internet to peruse:

michelangelo-david

After that, we wandered through Florence, first walking by the Duomo (where was Ezio?) then down to the area by the Palazzo Vecchio and finally to the Ponte Vecchio. As I can attest, Florence is not really a city you can “do” in just an afternoon, but she was able to guide us through quite a few of the true highlights. You’ll see the pictures and see we saw quite a lot. After the Ponte Vecchio, we had lunch at a quaint restaurant nearby, getting a starter course of vegetable lasagne, then a beef slice, then a salad, and finally a delicious scoop of ice cream. Yum. After that, we headed to the Sante Croce church where Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Galileo, Rossini and many others are buried. Very cool. There was some free time afterwards and we went back to the Duomo to get some more pictures – not enough time to climb Giotto’s Tower, but that’s fine. Really.

The Duomo