Archive for the ‘travel’ category

Up in the Air

October 17, 2015

AAThere was a time when I flew coast to coast almost every month, which made it a good thing that, for the most part, I enjoyed being Up in the Air.   Yes, it helped that with so many flights on Ameican Airlines came Aadvantage miles which allowed me to fly first class most of the time.  Some of the other airborne annoyances, like loud, inebriated businessmen or First Class chatterboxes were mitigated by my Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones and my favorite playlists in the mp3 player I always kept in my briefcase.  I’ve always liked the window seat because I find the world spread out beneath me, five miles or so down, awe inspiring.  I found I could get a lot of work … or reading … or writing done to the tune of my favorite music.  I’ve made some important decisions at 30,000 feet.  I’d look at people doing absolutely nothing for a six hour flight and wonder, How the heck can they do that?  The best in-flight song ever is, in my opinion, Derek and the Dominos’s Layla, by the way.  I’d love to know yours if you have one.  I suppose most people don’t have favorite in-air songs. (more…)

A Million Words

October 11, 2014

P1000739They say A picture is worth a thousand words.  That may or may not be true but the pictures in my high school history books were not enough to make me a history buff.  Perhaps if I’d visited Rome in my teens instead of in my seventies, I’d have been a more attentive student in Miss Matthew’s Ancient History class.   Perhaps Being there is worth a Million Words and nowhere was that more true than during our visit to Pompeii.  Traveling in a part of the world where there’s another impressive ruin around every corner, it’s easy to become jaded, to notice art and architecture but forget the human dramas seen by the crumbled walls and broken columns.  Pompeii was different.  The excavation of Pompeii left intact a more complete footprint of the city, its roadways intact and enough of the dwellings, shops and even a brothel still standing to offer the echo of the human pulse of the place.   I’d seen, in my history books, pictures of the plaster casts of the inhabitants who died in the storm of volcanic dust in 79 A.D. but seeing them in person and life-sized … some with bones protruding from the plaster … made the tragedy that occurred there very real.  The cast of a dog, contorted in anguish, perhaps told the story best.   I was touched in a way that history in words rarely touches me, much the way I was touched visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. (more…)

New Horizons

October 5, 2014

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On the Home Page of Older Eyes- Bud’s Blog is one of my favorite sayings, a quote from Marcel Proust: The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.  That this is my favorite saying says a lot about me.   For one, it says that I like stability, things that last like long marriages and houses that become homes as decades pass.   It says I have not been especially interested in traveling, particularly for extended periods of time, instead exploring my Inner Space and noticing beauty others miss in the nearby.  Below Proust’s axiom on my Home Page is my personal corollary:  Sometimes Older Eyes work, too.  To put it another way, older eyes can be new eyes.   I think that is the best thing about growing old gracefully … if you take time to realize that nothing lasts forever, things you may have taken for granted in your forties become the most lovely in your sixties and beyond, the very definition of new eyes. (more…)

Rome and Home

October 3, 2014

teatroWhen we planned our Mediterranean cruise months ago, the plan was to spend three days in Rome before cruising, then fly home the day the cruise ended.  But even though the ship arrived in port at seven am, there were no flights we could count on making so we booked accommodations at the Fiumicino Airport on Wednesday and a flight home Thursday Morning.  Yesterday, Wednesday, we had a nice breakfast in the Taste Restaurant on board the Epic served by our favorite waiter, Narcisco, then disembarked without a hitch … we were at the airport Hilton by ten.  Of course, at ten am, there were no rooms ready, so we checked our luggage and took the free shuttle to downtown Rome, near the Teatro Marcello, an ancient theater with modern offices above the arches.  By this time we were hungry and there was no restaurant in sight.   However, my friend Ron has an infallible radar for pasta and soon led us across the Tiber River to a tiny cafe tucked away at the end of a narrow street where we had asan nicola lovely lunch.  We then boarded a hop-on-hop-off bus for one more look at Rome with the onboard audio describing the neighborhoods in a choice of nicola8 languages.   You can’t turn a corner in Rome without finding an ancient site and before we reboarded the bus back to the airport, we wandered though a 16th century church, San Nicola in Cacera.  Lovely.  Back at the Airport Hilton, we drank Chianti in the lounge then had dinner in the hotel restaurant, reviewing our favorite vacation moments with our friends, Ron and Kerry.  We haven’t traveled with friends in a long time but it’s hard to imagine better traveling companions. (more…)

Pompeii and Sorrento

October 1, 2014

image When we awoke on Tuesday morning, the Norwegian Epic had already docked in Naples, known in Italy as Napoli.  Poor Napoli … cruise ships arrive daily into her port and bypass her for her smaller and prettier sisters, Capri, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast and for the spectacular remains of Pompeii.  We were no exception. We chose and excursion called The Flavours of Sorrento and Pompeii.   We had a quick breakfast then boarded bus number 19 with our guide Cinzia and headed toward Pompeii, about an hour away.  Even a history-hating student like I was fascinated by the story of the thriving city of Pompeii being buried under 20 feet of volcanic dust during an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.   The remains of the city are high on a hill above the parking area for the buses and required a walk up the steeply inclined stone road leading to the entrrance.  Cinzia, image probably noting the age of our group of cruisers, kept telling us, Piano, piano (slowly, slowly).  You are on vacation.  The climb, of course, was worth it … the remarkably preserved buildings, streets and artifacts give incredible insight into community that was buried under the ashes and the plaster casts of victims, including a pregnnt woman and a dog tell of the tragedy.   We saw houses, bakeries, wine shops and even the remains of a brothel. (more…)

A Day at Sea

September 30, 2014

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We chose to have dinner on the Epic each night in the Manhattan Room, the largest and most formal of the ship’s dining rooms (most formal means there is a dress code, albeit a very loose one.  Many people dress for dinner there which I like).   The Manhattan room is in the stern if the ship with large windows so most nights, we hear the engines roaring to life during dinner and watch the wake of the ship stretching back to the  port as we sail away.  Last night, we said good-bye to Barcelona.  The Manhattan Room reminds me faintly of the wpid-20140930_214810.jpgTitanic’s dining room (Muri shook her head when I said that) which I saw as a good thing … it had some elegance in this age of always casual.   Norwegian Cruise Lines specializes in what they call Freestyle Cruising, which pretty much means you can dine anytime and anywhere you want (except for the specialty, for-a-fee restaurants which require reservations), wearing whatever.  Freestyle cruising can be very nice when you are trying to arrange your schedule to make shows or when you arrive late from an all-day excursion, but with the lack of formal dining eating aboard loses some of its class.  Hence, we chose the Manhattan Room, where you feel like you are in a real restaurant.  The food has been good if not excellent with a wide choice of appetizers, entrees and desserts.  The service has been mostly excellent, partly because our travelling companion, Ron, has a gregarious nature and strikes up a conversation with everyone.  In the past on cruises with fixed dinner times and seating, we’d get to know the waitstaff and the others at our table, while with Freestyle Dining, that doesn’t happen.  Still it seems to work here on the Epic. (more…)

Shows

September 29, 2014

Today we arrived in Barcelona, Spain (if it’s Barcelona, it must be Sunday).  Things have gone swimmingly (whatever that means) so far but our day in Barcelona was abbreviated by a weekend athletic festival (in which many of the roads were closed for running and bike races) and an unexpected rainstorm that started late in the morning.  Fortunately we did get to visit the Sagrad Familia before the rains came.   This remarkable Basilica, designed by the Spanish architect, Gaudi, has been under construction for almost 100 years and is not expected to be completed until 2026.   There’s too much to tell you about Sagrada Familia, so I’ll just give you a link to a good description (here) … and show you a picture.

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La Palma, Majorca

September 28, 2014

image The Norwegian Epic arrived in La Palma on the Spanish isle of Majorca at one p.m.  Based on what we’d seen in the brochures … and what we’d heard on board (it’s just beaches, someone said) … I planned to enjoy a day on board and skip the tours.   However, from our balcony, I could see the massive Cathedral de Majorca across the bay and was intrigued.  Muri and Ron decided to stay on board, so Kerry and I set off on our own.  We found a hop-on-hop-off bus that toured the entire city and allowed us to get off at the cathedral.   Although the day was warm and slightly humid, riding on the open top provided a cooling breeze for the tour. La Palma is a lovely seaside city that mixes modern luxury hotels and picturesque streets lined with lovely residences and stylish shops.  Ancient walls and structures blend beautifully with more modern buildings surrounded along streets lined with parks and gardens. (more…)

Cannes

September 28, 2014

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I’d like to give you a fabulous post on our adventure in Cannes, France.   I’d like to but I won’t be doing so because we didn’t have an adventure in Cannes.   The Norwegian Epic was anchored off-shore, so we were tendered to Cannes on one of the ships lifeboats, where we had an hour or so coach tour of the city, after which we decided we’d seen enough.   That was probably in part the cumulative effect of 4 days of travel and forced march walking tours on one seventyish couple, but it also had to do with the city itself.   Primarily known for its film festival and the high rollers that attracts, the city’s main attractions are the film center where the Cannes Film Festival is held, the elegant hotels and apartments along the beach, and the a line-up of excllusive shops that would make Rodeo Drive blush.   Yes, there is a church and a castle of sorts at the top of the hill and some lovely gardens along the main drive but we saw nothing we needed to go back and see on foot, so we reboarded the tender boat and had a nice day on board.
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Florence and Pisa

September 26, 2014

wpid-images7.jpegIt’s Friday as I’m writing this but I’m going to tell you about Thursday when we took our first big excursion from the Norwegian Epic.  When we booked our cruise I was worried about the size of the ship … in particular how the large number of people lining up for dinner and departing for excursions would annoy me.  I’ll say this … Norwegian has mastered the art of managing large numbers of people.  Freestyle dining … in which there are no fixed dining times unless you want them … eases the lines for dinner.  And they’ve managed to master the art of moving large number of people in small groups.  The Epic docked in Livorno, an industiral port city that is roughly an hour and a half bus ride from Florence.  Even though there were perhaps fifteen buses of cruiserrs departing for the tour, loading was quick an efficient.  Luca, our tour captain, gave us some lessons in Italian, on surviving as a pedestrian in Italy and on negotiating for a good price.  He mixed in funny stories and interesting background on Florence and Pisa. (more…)