Traveling: Independence Day in Venice

Happy 4th of July! Let me tell you a funny (to me) story. As we’re standing on the bow of the ship, pulling into Venice, our cruise director comes on the intercom and wishes us Americans a happy Independence Day. Now, at this moment, we are literally in a small channel, overlooking the entire city, seeing the canals and small boats of Venice, for the first time for either of us. I turn to Kurt and jokingly say, “Oh, who can think about 4th of July right now. We’re in Venice!” These high school girls next to me, who have been valley girl talking like crazy, turn to me and say, “Who cares about America?” like I’m a terrorist. I say, “Oh, I’m American, I’m just talking to my husband…you know, we’re in Venice, it’s so beautiful…” They then proceed to talk about how patriotic they are and started singing I’m Proud to be an American (which, according to them, was made after the 9/11 attacks). I know that Kurt hates when I get into altercations with people, so I just keep my mouth shut and enjoyed the sights of Venice, but I really want to slap them upside the head and tell them not to join in conversations where adults are talking.

View of Venice from Carnival Breeze

View of Venice from the Carnival Breeze

Anyway, patriotism aside, we enter Venice (Venezia) today. We are able to get off the ship around 1:30pm, and after taking some pictures of St. Mark’s Square, we decide to walk quite a ways to across the canal where the Peggy Guggenheim museum is. St. Mark’s Square is easily the most crowded place we’ve come across on our trip; actually, Venice in general is crowded. The Guggenheim museum, since it is out of the way, is blessedly less crowded. Inside we see several Picasso’s, Miro’s, Dali’s, a Chagall, Magritte’s, Pollack’s and some other nice work of arts. There is an outside area right on the Grand Canal (granted, almost every place in Venice is along water), but it is such a beautiful spot to sit and relax. The sad thing about the canals in Venice is that they are dirty, with trash building up against the buildings in the water. Still, it’s really cool to see the boats like cars on the water, with everything from water buses, to water taxis, to private boats. In the city, there is absolutely no cars whatsoever…I didn’t even see Vespas.

St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco)

St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco)

St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco)

Symbol of St. Mark, the winged lion, which is everywhere in Piazza San Marco.

Clocktower in St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco)

Clocktower in Piazza San Marco

Canals filled with gondolas are a common sight in Venice

Canals filled with gondolas are a common sight in Venice

Grand Canal in Venice

Sitting along the Grand Canal, outside the Peggy Guggenheim museum

Joan Miró - Dutch Interior II (Intérieur hollandais)

Kurt’s favorite painting: Joan Miró – Dutch Interior II (Intérieur hollandais)

After the Guggenheim, we walk to the Rialto Bridge. Kurt didn’t realize how big it is, and it actually has shops and such along it. We then make the long trek back to St. Mark’s Square, and decide to grab a bite to eat. We first sit along the Square, before realizing that they charge an extra 5.80 euro per person because of the “bands” the restaurants have playing. Nope! We quickly get up and go out of the Square and find another restaurant, Kiro. I get cheese gnocchi while Kurt gets Penne All’Arrabitia. Boy, is his spicy! Since all the water comes in bottles, we wind up spending 42 euro at this restaurant. We way exceed our budget in Venice.

Rialto Bridge

Rialto Bridge

cheese gnocchi and Penne All'Arrabitia

Cheese gnocchi and Penne All’Arrabitia…equally delicious!

We then try to go to the Church of St. Zachariah, which is the final resting place of St. Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, but they are closed for mass. Most things at this point are closed, as it is 6pm, so we just head back to the cruise ship. By the way, to take a water bus from the cruise ship to St. Mark’s Square is 15 euros a piece. And since we plan to going back again tomorrow, that is 60 euro we are going to spend purely on the water bus. I definitely feel a bit ripped off with that, but we just arrived too late in Venice to see everything in one day. We missed eating at Blush tonight since we are in Venice so late, so we grab a few late night snacks on the Lido deck. Let me tell you, the roast beef they have is so tender and it just falls apart. Very surprised at how good it is! Hopefully our second day in Venice is a fulfilling as the first.

Traveling: “Winter is Coming.”

We awake around 7am to get ready to go to Dubrovnik, Croatia. This is the port I am looking forward to the most, because not only is my favorite television show filmed here (Game of Thrones), but it’s also in Eastern Europe, a former Yugoslavian country, and just the most exotic of places. The first thing we do after taking the shuttle to Old City is buy tickets to climb the City Walls. It’s over a mile on top of basically an old fortress surrounding Old Town. Dubrovnik is right on the sea, so the views are gorgeous, though the walls are not shaded and there are many, many steps. According to my pedometer, we climb over 30 flights of stairs today! I keep picturing scenes from Game of Thrones, and call things I see “The Red Keep” and “Maegor’s Holdfast.” Kurt, who is terrified of heights, won’t get too close to the walls and when the path becomes very narrow, he becomes a little freaked out. So of course, when there is some open space, I have to jokingly act like the wind is making me fall.

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Traveling: First Fun Day at Sea

Today is our first Fun Day at Sea. We sleep until about 11am, our first sleep-in. After eating lunch on the Lido, we go to the Ovation Theatre to watch The Marriage Show. There is a cute old couple married 62 years that comes up to the stage. They are so funny! He sings this great song about laughing things off and they tell a hilarious story about how they met. Then four honeymooning couples go up and do some funny improv with our cruise director. After that, we decide to play our first game of bingo. With our cards, we get some pull-tabs. Kurt wins $25, so his stuff is free. I win nothing, naturally. Bingo is horrible, I never even came close. At least we get to play 5 games of it.

We then get ready for elegant night. Kurt looks very handsome in his suit and I wear my black and blue dress that I had bought for the Backstreet Boys cruise. This dress has come in handy many times, I’m so thankful that I bought it! And if it wasn’t for my friend Donette suggesting Dress Barn, I never would have found it. We walk around to different picture stations and take some formal pictures. Hopefully I’ll like at least one photo of us so we can have a nice, fancy photo. Like Kurt said, the last time he dressed up was at our wedding!

Carnival Breeze Elegant Night

I love my husband

Carnival Breeze Elegant Night

Beautiful day, beautifully dressed, beautiful vacation

Dinner at Blush is pretty good. I have West Indian roasted pumpkin soup and barbecued St. Louis style pork spare ribs (which seems weird having on Elegant Night…who wants to eat finger food while dressed fancy?), while Kurt has alligator fritters and lobster tail. Just like the shark Kurt had a few days ago, the alligator fritters are edible, but nothing special. Dessert is an alright apple fritter for me and a delicious cold strawberry and cream soup for Kurt.

lobster tail

Lobster Tail

St. Louis Style Ribs

St. Louis Style Ribs

Apple Fritter

Apple Fritter

Strawberries and Cream Soup

Strawberries and Cream Soup

During dinner, the captain makes an announcement. Some poor lady is in desperate need of medical care beyond what the ship can give. We wind up having to make a stop in the middle of the Adriatic Sea, sort of close to some Italian islands, and the Italian coast guard came and got her and her family to take to a real hospital. I don’t know what is wrong with her, but I hope she’s okay. What a terrible thing to happen on what’s supposed to be a glorious vacation! Luckily for the ship, this didn’t jeopardize our arrival time in Dubrovnik, Croatia. So tomorrow, on to Eastern Europe and a new and exciting country that I can’t wait to explore for the first time!

Italian Coast Guard

Italian Coast Guard taking away the poor passenger

Front of Carnival Breeze

Beautiful view from the front of the ship

Carnival Breeze

Kurt enjoying our Fun Day at Sea

 

 

Traveling: Rome, Trivia, and Soccer

We wake up and make our way back to the train station from our hotel in Rome (which is only a few blocks away). We accidentally bought the wrong tickets yesterday, and we aren’t supposed to use them for today (they were a one day only pass). We think about just getting on the train anyway, but I am too chicken, and we wind up buying two train passes back to Civitavecchia (10 euros). Lo and behold, just like on the way from Civitavecchia, they do not even remotely check our tickets. Honestly, we could have saved money both ways and just hopped on the trains, because no one cared either way. Oh well, at least we’re honest!

Hotel Everest in Rome

Kurt leaving Hotel Everest in Rome

We meet a couple on the train going back to the Carnival Breeze, and they live in New Orleans! What a small world. We talk to them a bit about different Nola things and different cruises and such. Finally back on the boat, Kurt and I eat some lunch on the Lido deck, before relaxing a bit. Before we take off, the cruise director makes an announcement for anybody that has not checked back in yet. Unfortunately, a few people took a wrong train and end up going to Milan and missing the boat. They have to take a plane to catch the boat in Dubrovnik. I personally think it’ll be cheaper to take a train there, or even the ferry across the Adriatic, but what do I know?

We go to the Ocean Plaza on deck 5 to just sit and relax. We wind up playing 5 games of trivia (totaling 2.5 hours). We come in second place twice, but that 1st place piece of ship alluded us. We go to dinner at Blush again, and having skipped it two nights in a row, our waiter is very happy to see us again. We assure him that we didn’t abandon him, just spent a night in Rome. For starters, Kurt has steamed duck pot stickers and I have Vietnamese pumpkin and chicken broth, which is quite delicious. Dinner is sirloin steak for me and seafood stew for Kurt. The sirloin, which I order medium, comes out well done and pretty tough. Definitely not the best steak I’ve ever eaten.

After dinner, we stake out our spots on the Lido deck to watch Spain vs. Italy in the final game of EURO 2012. I had bought an Italian flag in Rome from a very awesome shop with a great older gentleman who was quite funny. He asked me which flag I wanted, and I gave him “the look.” He said, in a thick Italian accent, “What? I am Italian, and I am for Spain!” I assured him with a name like Cristina Cavicchia, I was decidedly for Italy. So donning my flag, as the game finally commences, it becomes glaringly obvious that Spain is just the better team. Poor Italy is 0-2 by halftime, and once Torres comes in for Spain around 70′, we go down 0-4. Not to mention, we use all of our subs and have to pull out another player because of injury, so we are only playing with 10 people. Needless to say, I have a sad this night. At least Spain breaks some records and makes some history with their win.

Traveling: A tower that leans

First things first…Italy beat Germany! It was glorious. Balotelli scored the only two goals, but in the last 4 minutes of the game, Germany was able to kick in a penalty kick. Luckily, they weren’t able to score again, and Italy won 2-1. July 1st is the final EURO 2012 match between Spain and Italy. Everyone is betting on Spain, but Italy defied everyone’s expectations thus far, I know they can do it again!

Balotelli after scoring the 2nd goal against Germany in the EURO 2012

Balotelli after scoring the 2nd goal against Germany in the EURO 2012

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Traveling: The smell of lavender surrounds us…

Today our port is Marseilles, France. Having gone to bed at 8:30pm last night and having some jet lag, I wake up at 3am wide awake this morning. Finally, after some serious Angry Birds, I take a shower around 5:30am, then Kurt and I go get breakfast. Our excursion to Avignon meets at 6:45am, so we have plenty of time for cereal, pancakes, bagels, and egg sandwiches. At around 7:30am, we are on the bus, on our way to Châteauneuf-du-Pape & Avignon to see the Palais des Papes.

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Traveling: Carnival Breeze, our Mediterranean home

We made it! After a very long (9 hour) plane ride, during which I might have received around 3 hours of sleep (and poor Kurt didn’t sleep at all) we arrived in Barcelona right after 9am this morning. The airport is stunning, with lots of open space and made almost of all glass. There is even courtyards outside to relax. We easily make it through customs and get our luggage, then quickly find the Carnival cruise transfer to the pier. I am very pleased at how easy and smooth everything is, and our bus ride to the pier is less than 20 minutes. Although the airport is on the coast, and obviously so is the pier, the way there is pretty much through an industrial area. So we didn’t get to see much of Barcelona, but we’ll remedy that in 12 days when we come back!

Spain from the Plane

Spain from the Plane

The ship itself is humongous. We are on deck 7 in an inside room. We immediately come into our room at 11:30am when we board the ship and I go to sleep. Little did we know, we are not supposed to be in here yet! We kind of sneak around the Carnival people and go up the elevators…well, the cleaning crew starts freaking out and knocking on the door. I am already asleep and Kurt tells them so, but they insist on taking our ice bucket to sanitize it. Never did get it back yet…but that’s okay, I did get another 3 hours of sleep!

Carnival Breeze dinner table at Blush

Carnival Breeze dinner table at Blush

After our safety drill, we semi-explore the ship. It truly is a beautiful ship, and so many people are enjoying it already. Somehow, our dining reservations get screwed up. We are supposed to have late dining at 8:15pm, but on our sail and sign cards, it says 6pm. We realize that this is a blessing in disguise, as we have a lot of early mornings, and if we have late dining, we wouldn’t be finished until 9:30pm, which is when I’d want to be in bed if I have to wake up at 5:30am to be ready by 7am. Plus, we receive one of the best tables, at the exact end of the ship, against the window, with a panoramic view of Mediterranean. We are seated at a four person table, but our waiter says no one is scheduled to sit with us. So we get an awesome table to ourselves at the better time. Thank goodness for mistakes in our favor! Kurt has the spring rolls for a starter, which sweet and sour shrimp as a main dish, while I have cream of sun ripened tomato soup with herb croutons and a flat iron steak. Dessert is the glorious warm melting cake, with vanilla ice cream. I do not even like chocolate and this dessert is just a warm, gooey, heavenly mess.

Sun ripened tomato soup with herb croutons on the Carnival Breeze.

Sun ripened tomato soup with herb croutons.

Warm Chocolate Melting Cake from the Carnival Breeze

Warm Chocolate Melting Cake

In all, today was sort of a blur, but we did get some good food and views at dinner. Hopefully this headache I currently have goes away, and tomorrow we’ll be having fun in Marseilles, France, with a visit to a winery and to Avignon to visit the Palace of the Popes!