Thursday, March 9, 2017

Europe

Europe - June 21-July 5, 2016


View from the London Eye

London
First thing we did when we landed.... well we actually hit a few bumps to get into the hotel room and shower, and get ready... but as soon as that little issue was resolved, we rushed to figure out the trains, got played for fools, then were helped by someone who was very kind, got our money back, then found the right train.  We got off and the first thing we see is Big Ben! I have to say, I don't think I have ever felt more excited to be on an adventure.  We rushed to walk over to the London Eye because we had RESERVATIONS! But of course, we were easily distracted by cars on the opposite side of the road, drivers on the opposite side of the car.  I mean come on!  This really did look super cool.  Now the London Eye, I don't know how to describe this other than a big ferris wheel, with views of an entire city, oh yeah... and I sipped champaign and had a photoshoot while doing so.  Classy AF!  Once we had that amazing experience, we were kindly escorted to a wonderful bar, The London Eye Lounge, where we had some delicious Belinis.  This was our first chance to actually take a breath and let the reality sink in that we were in LONDON, we were sipping champaign drinks, and we finally had begun our Europe trip. And with the helpful and sweet waiter's recommendation of Anchor Pub, we were on our way to walk along the water front and ended up at this awesome pub where we watched the  Euro cup game, Italy vs Republic of Ireland. (and by some miracle we actually were cheering for the right time) Ireland scores to win the game and everyone in the bar is loving it! Fish n chips, let me tell ya, I never thought I would like these and boy was I wrong!  I'm not sure if its pub food, or if it's the fact that those were actually awesome, but man those were good. And it helped that I had some bomb cider to go with it.


Big Ben
Everything is smaller in London. Bathroom with a shower that spills out pretty much upto where the toilet is. (Oh sorry, the loo, which by the way... no one ever called it that while we were there.)
I'm in love with this place. It's regal architecture. It's river walk. The people and their accents.
On the last day before we came home, we returned to this wonderful city.  To close the trip on the same note we started was the greatest way for it to end.  Not to mention I had the most phenomenal Pot PIE! and more great cider..... and walked to see Buckingham Palace! Beautiful place by the way.


Barcelona 
Staying in the Catalonia quarters of Barcelona was an absolute charm. With scattered buildings designed by Antonio Gaudi. The Bacílica de la Sagrada Família. Parc Guell. The wonderful accents of the Spanish people. But besides the spectacular views I encountered, the food was absolutely amazing. We arrived on the day they celebrated Sant Joan. There was a festival of sorts infront of the Bacílica and music and fire and fireworks everywhere. We were directed on day one to a wonderful local Tapas restaurant where just about everything was amazing. To the point that I was able to photograph the sangria and once food came I complete gave up on photos. And though the second day there was a holiday, we were lucky to find a corner restaurant that was still open and enjoyed a delicious breakfast. I had a Bikini (pronounce it B- kee- nee with a pause between each syllable) it's basically a ham and cheese sandwich which has been grilled. And paired that with cafe con leche. So satisfying in the most simple way. We headed out and figured out our way through the bus system and got to Parc Guell where unfortunately the Gaudi area of the park was sold out for admission (guess i'll have to go back for that one). But we wandered the remainder of the park and found absolutely stunning areas to photograph. We had a tour of the Bacílica which had an amazing and detailed story behind it. With every small detailing being thoroughly thought out and architected. The Bacílica dedicated to Jose Maria y Jesus. The pillar down the middle of the church represented the line of David all the way to Jesus. The entire church design revolved around the story of Jesus. The stain glass colors inside the church representing the birth in the blue and green and transitioning the the red representing the death of Jesus. After our tour, we visited Las ramblas, a walkway through the city that lead to the port. The final morning we enjoyed chocolate con churros and some crepes. I was not ready to leave this city, but it was time to doc the ship.

Sagrada Familia


Parc Guell




-THE CRUISE-



Cartagena, Spain
We had  our first stop in Cartagena.  We did not have much planned out but that allowed us to explore the town, do some shopping, take some pictures, and enjoy some good food.  This town had a sense of art and wonderful architecture which had the new incorporated into the old.  We saw a wonderful little church which was built in the beginning years of the town.  And I was finally able to have some Paella!



Gibralter, Great Britain
Gibralter was an interesting concept to grasp.  On the southern tip of Spain, belonged to the English, however the people wanted to belong to Spain. This place is most known for its Monkeys which are freely hanging around the Rock of Gibraltar.  We unfortunately did not make the trip up there. Which really just lead to more shopping and we ended up heading back to the ship early enough for a cappuccino before realizing we were having our Captain's dinner that day instead of the following day like we expected.

Marseille, France
I ate french fries in France.  I ate a crepe in France.  I saw beautiful men in France.  I bought soaps in France. And I perused a museum with a Pablo Picasso exhibit in France.  Marseille is a beautiful place which we got to walk around and explore a bit.  There was definitely more to see than we got the chance to.  This city seems to have so much to offer.  Definitely will have to return.


Milan/Genoa, Italy
I felt like Julia Roberts in eat pray love. Unbuttoning my pants to allow for more room for food. If any place could ever satisfy a fat girl's dreams it was definately this place!  The first meal I had was in beautiful Milan... and it was PIZZA! Italian's know what's up with the food!  Milan was not only satisfying my love for food, but visually, I had never seen a city so beautiful.  It had this sense of sparkle to it. The city's buildings were so intricately designed.  We took a tour through the city. Saw so much of what Milan has to offer.  We stopped at the Chiesa Di Santa Maria Delle Grazie where I was blessed to see the original Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci himself.  It was so interesting because they are so strict about what is allowed in this room where the painting has survived all these years.  The Church has such an interesting history and the painting itself has been kept in amazing condition.  We were not allowed to talk much, the room is temperature controlled and only a number of people are allowed in to the room through chambers that help keep the temperature controlled.  And dear Lord people, DO NOT USE FLASH! You will be shunned... yelled at! In Italian! After this we were taken to Galeria Vittorio Emanuele II.  So many designer shops and such a beautiful structure.  This is where the infamous Bull tile is at.  Of course, I took a spin (on his balls, poor little guy), for good luck!  Right outside of the Galeria, Duomo (the Milan Cathedral), which I was not allowed inside of because although I had a sweater to put over my dress, it was just above my knees and that was not an appropriate dress length (WOW! rolls eyes as she remembers).  However, from the outside, this is an amazing Cathedral, absolutely beautiful sight, just breathtaking!

The Last Supper
Duomo (Milan Cathedral)
Galeria Vittorio - The Bull


Pisa/Florence, Italy
Our ship doced in the Tuscan area of Italy and we had a lovely scenic drive to Pisa.  We drove through a city by the Sea.  Hillside estates.  Greenery everywhere.  I am seriously at home in the Tuscan Region.  We got to Pisa just early enough to beat the crowds and get decent pictures, which by the way is not easy... how do people get it so exact??? We had to do some major angling and were pretty much close to sprawling out on the floor just to get the angle and the whole building in there just right!  But it was just so cool to see this beautiful leaning tower.  Originally built as a bell tower for the church across the way, however, do to the ground structure, began to lean a bit each year and still continues to do so.
Pisa

We board the bus again and head out to Florence.  This is such a beautiful town.  The streets reminded me so much of the Mexican towns I've seen.  We visited the David by Michelangelo, which is a huge sculpture and made so perfectly detailed (and yes, R rated.... but lets appreciate the art people).  I so wish we would have had time to see more in the museum, it was just filled with so much art and we hardly got to see any of it.  Florence is a beautiful city separated by a river, one side is filled with rock paved streets and buildings connected and so close to the others, the other side, homes separated by fences and greenery and it was just a sight to see that I so wished to explore.  I cannot wait to go back and explore it some more. I have a feeling it will be a city that can steel my heart.
Florence
The David


Rome, Italy/ Vatican City
Roma, how I loved you.  We stayed so close to so many things.  Vatican City not but a few blocks from our hotel,  walking distance to pizza restaurants, gelato shops, and really not too far from all the history that is held by this beautiful city.  The few days that we spent here could not have been enough.  We explored the first night, ate some pizza, and Saint Peter's Square (the Vatican's plaza), walked a bit, had some amazing cappuccinos (coffee is something else here people... its just amazing and now I'm a coffee drinker because of it), saw the end to a game of Italy vs Germany.  This was such a cool experience listening to the locals chant as well as some German tourist as we all watched the game in the streets outside of a small restaurant.  Of course I felt horrible when Italy lost in PKs.... the emotion in these people's faces, man you have to love futbol.
The first night was definitely one to set the mood for the rest of the stay.  We were so curious to it all. The next day I had the experience of a life time, I witnessed Pope Francis come out onto a window and say a blessing, and although it was all in Italian, I could feel the love he urged of his people.  I felt as though his presence was a true blessing, one that could last me a life time.  The emotion I felt being there as we all filled Saint Peter's square, said a prayer for peace and unity, and received his blessing is something I could never describe.
We continued the day with more exploration, more churches, more Piazzas, more pizza, and of course more GELATO!! (again, no shame)
The following day was filled with an 8 hour walking tour of Rome. The Colosseum is an amazing structure that still stands today and I cannot tell you why or how, but it still looks like new with just a few missing pieces on the outside.  We walked through some old ruins through out the day, walked to the Trevi Fountain, which was being cleaned for a fashion show.  So I didn't get my Lizzy McGuire moment.  (so sad) We had a quick visit to the Pantheon.  A building lit only by natural light through a hole on the ceiling.  The whole idea of this place was pretty neat, very beautiful inside and out.  And we ended the day back in the Vatican.  Now let me tell you, I have never seen something so beautiful.  We were able to see the Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michelangelo himself, in the Vatican.  I wish this was something we were allowed to take pictures of because the ceiling is magnificent.  Again, many rules, had to have our shoulders covered, had to be silent, and no pictures what so ever.  There were many more rooms filled with art. The Church itself was such a magnificent building to see.  The marble floors had me in awe.  I hated having to leave Rome.  I felt like I just was not done looking at it all. So much to see and so little time.
Saint Peter's Square
Pope Francis Blessing
Piazza Navona
The Colosseum
The Colosseum
The Pantheon
Trevi Fountain

I came back home freckled faced and somewhat golden from being under the Tuscan sun.  It was like my very own book of Eat. Pray. Sleep.  The only love I encountered was that for the countries I visited.  The people I encountered.  The accents I heard.  And the food I ate.  This was quite a journey, a journey through my dreams.

-Andrea