Friday, August 30, 2013

Labor Day Weekend

I am getting an early start on laundry today so I can spend some of the long weekend doing fun stuff. Last year I spent this weekend on lots of trip planning and research. This year I will be working on our Shutterfly photo book.

Photo taken in Dubrovnik, July 5, 2013

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ghiberti's Doors: The Baptistery of San Giovanni (Firenze)

As we neared the end of our Florence and Michelangelo tour, we stopped by the Baptistery of San Giovanni to admire what Michelangelo called The Gates of Paradise, the gold doors crafted by Lorenzo Ghiberti from 1425 – 1452.  One of the boys commented that he was hoping we would see it because he had watched a video about the doors in his AP European History class which means he knew more about them than the rest of us.


We couldn’t get close enough to get a full picture of the panels on the doors, but hopefully you can see enough to identify the scenes depicted.  From the top left, moving across: 

A.      Adam and Eve

B.      Labors of Adam, Cain and Abel

C.      Noah

D.      Abraham and Isaac

E.       Jacob and Esau

F.       Joseph and Benjamin

G.     Moses

H.      Fall of Jericho

I.        David

J.        Solomon and the Queen of Sheba


This is another of the places where we had a quick stop in Florence that warrants more time to admire.  But since that’s not in our immediate plans, we’ll have to travel there virtually.  The Museums of Florence website has a fuller description of the history of the Baptistery and its beautiful doors as well as detailed photos of each panel.  Definitely worth the look.







Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Florence and the Arno River

We had such limited time in Florence and there was so much to see that I knew there was no way we could do the city justice.  When we got back to the ship late that afternoon, I felt underwhelmed by our tour even though we actually saw quite a bit; I just couldn’t process it all.  But as each day passed and I looked at our pictures, read over material we had from the cruise line and our tour guide about Florence (or Firenze as the Italians call her), I realized that we saw quite a bit more than I thought we had, even though most of it was externally.  Also, with the crowds, there was much externally we didn’t get to see.

One thing about Florence is that while there are many museums, there is much to see outside of the museums.  One example of that is Piazza della Signoria where you can see many statues including a replica of Michelangelo’s David.  You may exit from Piazza della Signoria through the not-quite-a-courtyard of the Uffizi Gallery and stop to admire the statues of famous Renaissance artists on display.

As you pass under the bottom of the U-shaped Uffizi Gallery exterior, you’ll come alongside the famous Arno River which divides Florence and tourists cross via the Ponte Vecchio.  We were there on a busy Saturday in June and because of the crowds, our tour guide walked us near the bridge but didn’t take us across it even though that was supposed to be part of our tour.  However, we did linger long enough to take some photos of the Arno River before heading off to the Accademia di Belle Arti Museum to see the original David.

The longer we’ve been away from Florence, and the more I’ve read or seen references to this Italian city, the more I am certain that I would like to visit Florence at a less busy time of year.  Our guide suggested that for those interested in making a return trip to the city, the winter months, while cold and dreary, are some of the best times for viewing the museums.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Our Calendar Arrived!

We got our 2014 Calendar in the mail yesterday that I made using photos from our trip.  It was super easy to make; the hardest part was picking out which photos to use.  We look forward to reliving our trip each month as we turn the pages.  In addition to adding your own photos, you can personalize any of the dates with birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations, even future vacation days!


If you’re looking for something to do with your vacation photos, you might want to look at photo items like calendars, books, cards, even household items. A friend just put some photos on a coffee mug from his Whale Watching trip to Alaska.


I have only used Shutterfly for photo books and now, a calendar, so I can’t attest to any other company, but our experience with Shutterfly has been positive.  Click here to learn more about making your own calendar at Shutterfly.  (We are not affiliated, just satisfied customers.)


Monday, August 26, 2013

Pastizzi: A Maltese snack

While in Malta, our tour guide suggested that we make sure to try a local snack known as pastizzi.  The pastizzi is a pastry filled with either ricotta cheese or mushy peas.  You can find these from local cafes or street vendors, and they cost less than a euro a piece.  We bought ours to try from the snack stand in the Upper Barracka Gardens before heading back to the ship.  While it was tasty, I don’t think we’d have to have one every day.  But they are definitely worth the try; we had a ricotta one.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Photo Set: French Riviera

Our day in France found us porting in Villefranche sur Mer in the French Riviera.  We took a ship-sponsored tour titled Monaco, Monte Carlo, and Eze which was a bus tour to each of the three towns / villages with a little bit of guided tour and a whole lot of free time in each place. 

We were there on a Sunday so we couldn't go into the cathedral in Monaco.  We had to rush through the palace in Monaco which was a little disappointing as I would have enjoyed a bit more time to look around, but we were hoping to catch the changing of the guard so some of our rush through was self-imposed, never mind the bazillion other people in the groups they had enter at the same time.  And when we exited the palace, there were so many people in the courtyard that we wouldn't be able to see anyway.  The garden was beautiful and we enjoyed walking through.  The day was overcast so our photos aren't as stunning as sunlight would allow.  We found a place to eat pizza for our lunch, not really what we would have chosen for a lunch in the French Riviera, but we had limited time and were afraid a sit-down cafe would take too long.

Monte Carlo was mostly closed as well with just a few places open - the Casino, which we didn't enter as we weren't appropriately dressed for even entering the lobby, plus the boys were too young, and the cafe beside the casino where we went to the walk-up window for the most expensive gelato of the trip.  The shops were all closed and there wasn't much time to venture away from the Casino area. 

By the time we got to Eze, the clouds were beginning to accumulate which just added to the whole overcastness of the day, but we trudged on.  The boys were beat by then and wanted nothing more than to go back to the ship, but we had another hour plus of "free time" in Eze.  We trudged around the village which was pretty cool and had several shops (open) and lots of winding paths.  The views were lovely, and the village was quaint, much like you might expect.  After we descended from the village to the bus parking area, we found the tourism office had free wifi and a nice place to sit.  I've made sure to post about this every time I've written anything about our time in Eze because if we had known about it from our reading pre-trip, I would have parked the boys there with their electronic devices and internet access and they would have enjoyed the break and allowed DH and me to spend a little more time poking around the shops.

The town of Villefranche is easily walkable and on our second cruise, DH and I spent part of the day doing just that.  There is free wifi for a 20 minute increment in the terminal area where the tenders drop off and pick up.  You'll see a lot of cruise staff using it - in fact, that's why I even noticed it was there.  The train station is a 10-15 minute walk from where the tenders drop off - the signage is clear for which way to go.

I think Villefranche is the prettiest of all the ports we stopped at. 

You can find our photos from the French Riviera portion of our trip in our Photobucket.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Name those spices: A quiz

Grocery shopping is quite different in other countries than where we live in the US.  Or at least it seems that way in the cities that we visited in Europe.  I thought perhaps it was because we were visiting large cities, but we found similar shopping experiences in smaller towns and villages as well.

What’s different is that while we often have “one stop shopping” where we can buy meats, fruits, vegetables, breads, dairy, eggs, canned items and convenience foods all in one super-store, we noticed that in the areas we were, there was the butcher shop, the bakery, (and no, not the candle maker – LOL), the fruit and vegetable stands, the fresh fish right out of the water.  We noticed that people would shop on their way home in the evenings, picking up only what they needed for that night’s dinner.  Everything was so fresh.

So when we did encounter  a store that was reminiscent of a US grocery store, we had to go inside.  We looked for familiar items as well as to see what was “strange” to us.  There was a fresh meat area, fresh cheese and dairy, and fresh vegetables and fruits.  There was even an area where you could get fresh herbs and spices.

I’m not much of a cook so I don’t know my herbs and spices, but I thought these looked cool.  I took pictures of them thinking I would Google them when we returned to see what they were, but my Googling  didn’t turn up an answer.  So, dear readers, if you can identify these for me, I will be ever so thankful.  Leave your answers in the comments.





Thursday, August 22, 2013

We saw that on vacation: Linking our trip to school work

We have been fortunate to be able to travel with our children over the years and every time they learn something at school that relates to where we've been, I say "And that's why we make these trips..."  Being able to see sites or hear stories of places from local guides makes the history come alive for us, and for those times when our experiences collide with their coursework, I am thankful.

The boys started back to school this week and they each have a full load of courses - and the cool part - to me, anyway - is that they each have two classes that relate to our Summer 2013 travels. 

Both boys taking Latin 2, picking right back up where they left off in May.  Our visits in Pompeii and Rome relate to their class as they will be studying not only the language, but the culture and history of civilization.

The older one is taking AP Art History.  We spent some of our time in Florence looking at works of art and statues that may be covered, and as he's beginning the class, I've learned that architecture is also included as part of what they are studying.  We definitely saw a lot of architecture on our trip.

The younger one is taking AP Euro History, which the older one had two years ago.  While we were on our trip, the older one occasionally pointed something out that he had learned about, either through reading, lecture, or video, in the course, so we know that his brother will have some moments to reflect on our summer while studying.

What the beginning of the school year means for me is that while I may want to post each day, the reality is that there will be days I don't get one written.  My intent is to continue posting related to traveling, particularly about the ports we have visited, or cruising, with some other topics from time to time.  We hope you'll stay with us.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Public Convenience

One of the stops we made on our tour of Malta was at a fishing village where there were tables full of local handiwork. But also at this stop was a restroom which was helpfully marked as a public convenience. We had learned to ask for a toilet or water closet but never would have thought to look for a public convenience. It would have been inconve isn't to need one and not have it.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Keep your eye on the clock

You know that expression, keep your eye on the clock?  One of the disadvantages of cruising is that while you are out enjoying the beautiful port cities, you have to keep your eye on the clock so you don’t miss the ship’s departure!

I was looking through a new friend’s photos of her visit to Malta.  We were on the same cruise, yet she saw so many different things than we did.  I was thinking how I wished we had more time there, and even with having two chances to visit, each time we had our eye on the clock so we didn’t venture too far or linger anywhere too long.  Her photos showed me that, coupled with my overall sense of liking the country, Malta is one place I do want to go back and stay a while.

We’ve often said that visiting places via cruise ship is like having a sampler tray; you can have a bite or a taste of something new, but for the things you really like, it leaves you wanting more.  That’s why our next visit to Europe will be land-based.  Or maybe we’ll combine it with a Viking River Cruise!


Monday, August 19, 2013

Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco

Even though it’s been over 30 years since her death, the people of Monaco still hold Princess Grace in high esteem.  And they want their visitors to know her.  While wandering the streets, we came across signs with photos of Princess Grace, like an outdoor museum.  This photo was exhibited outside the post office in Monaco town.


This fall, the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, will host an exhibition of her life.  Titled From Philadelphia to Monaco: Grace Kelly – Beyond the Icon, the exhibit will run from October 28th through January 26th.  You can find more information about the exhibit’s only US stop at


Credit for today’s post spark goes to one of our new friends from our Venice cruise. She is a big fan of Grace Kelly and shared an article about the upcoming exhibition from The Reporter on her Facebook page.  The photo is ours.



Saturday, August 17, 2013

Disney Magic Cabin 6114

Here is a picture of Cain 6114 on the Disney Magic. It has two twin beds that are put together to make a king-sized bed, and the sofa flips over for a just-narrower than twin. There is a berth that folds down from the ceiling which you can see in the upper left of the photo. There is a steamer trunk for extra storage. The small coffee table in the middle can be moved around. The curtain in the middle of the room can be drawn for privacy. The tv is by the desk on the right. And the verandah is just through the glass door.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Athens, from the Acropolis

Before we planned our trip, I thought the Acropolis in Athens was a building alongside the Parthenon (which I used to confuse with the Pantheon which is in Rome), but in reading about Greece, I learned that the acropolis refers to the highest hill, the point where an ancient city had its citadel and what has now become a spectacular viewing point to see the expanse of the city of Athens. There are continual efforts to preserve this important historical and architectural landmark for generations to come.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Photo Books

Last year, a friend of ours sent us several beautiful photos while he was traveling out west.  I saved the photos and uploaded them to Shutterfly and for his birthday, which was shortly after his vacation, I presented him with a Photo Book made from the pictures he had sent.  It was so easy to do and turned out beautifully, so we are going to make one for ourselves from our Mediterranean adventure.


There are several photo sites on the web that you can use, but my experience has been with  It’s free and easy to set up an account, and once that’s done, just upload the photos you want to use in the photo book.  For me, I will end up loading more than enough because I want to have options when I’m working on the layout. 


For the photo books, you can choose the size of the book (we are doing an 8 x 11) and how many pages you include is up to you.  You can put as many photos as will fit and you can add as much or little text as you want for telling the story.  You can choose the background colors, styles, fonts, embellishments to make the photo book just the way you want it.


What’s great for us is that MyCokeRewards sometimes has an offer for a free photo book where you just pay the shipping cost; that’s how we made the photo book for our friend last year and how we’re making the photo book this year. 


In addition to photo books, places like Shutterfly offer many options for putting your pictures on stuff, whether it’s iPad cases, cups, magnets, or our favorite, a calendar!


We’re working on ours – when we get it done, if I can figure out how to share it here, I will.  In the meanwhile, I’m flipping through a bazillion photos to find our favorites (several of which you, our readers, have already seen).


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

St. Peter's Dome: An Optical Illusion in Rome

While in Roma, our driver from Rome In Limo took us to a place where there was a beautiful view of St. Peter’s dome, but the closer we got to it, the further away it appeared.  Our driver was delighted to show us this optical illusion that was a wonderful surprise to us.


You, too, can experience this by making your way to Via Nicolò Piccolomini and driving towards the end of the street.  Watch carefully and the dome will appear to move backwards as you approach. 


If you won’t be in Rome but you want to see this effect, Google Maps in Street View does a great of illustrating this phenomenon.  Plot to Via Nicolò Piccolomini, Rome, Province of Rome, Italy and then switch to street view by using the little yellow man and have him point to the northeast.  Notice the size of the dome in the distance, then gradually move down the street and see what happens!


Photo Courtesy of Rome In Limo



Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Disney Cruise Line changes policy, prohibits smoking on balconies

Disney Cruise Line doesn’t allow smoking in the staterooms, and beginning November 15, 2013, they are prohibiting smoking on the stateroom balconies.  This is a much welcomed change for many guests.  There will still be limited designated smoking areas on board, outdoors on the upper decks in specific locations, and in designated areas on the lower promenade deck (Deck 4) from late afternoon until early morning.


We always sail with a balcony, regardless of which cruise line we use.  We enjoy using the balcony to people watch in ports, to have some daylight in the early morning while the teenagers are still sleeping, to read away a sea day afternoon.  But when you have someone in the cabin next to you, or even as far away as three cabins forward who is smoking, the smoke smell can linger on your balcony and drive you indoors.  What we typically do is go inside when someone is smoking; after all, it’s been allowed.  But occasionally we find ourselves near someone who is ALWAYS smoking on the verandah which means we can’t enjoy our verandah because of it.  So this is a welcome change for us.


Disney Cruise Line’s new policy can be found here.


Sunday, August 11, 2013


We were driving home from our trip to Rhode Island today when DH remarked that a month ago we were driving home from our Mediterranean adventure which reminded me that two months ago we were driving to Atlanta to begin our trek.

It's hard to believe that this brings us to the end of the #BestSummerEver!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Atlanta-Hartsfield International Terminal

Our flight to Barcelona left from Atlanta's Hartsfield International airport. The last time we flew internationally, they had just begun the new international terminal so our flight had left from Terminal E. But this time Terminal F was open and wow, what a beautiful terminal and relaxing place to wait. You can see how spacious and modern the area is with plenty of comfortable seating and places to charge up your electronics.

We had taken a hotel shuttle to the airport and just told the driver which airline we were flying. We didn't think to mention that it was an international flight, so we checked in at the main Departure area and took the Plane Train all the way across the airport. When we entered Terminal F, we realized that we could have checked in right there and not had to trek across the airport.

The new terminal has some restaurants but there is a wider variety at Terminal E's food court, so we took the Plane Train back to E for our pre-flight dinner and then relaxed in F until time for the flight.

DH and I had the opportunity to fly through Atlanta's airport in the last week. We had a 3 hour layover, so we went down to hang out in Terminal F away from the hustle and bustle of Terminal B. Plus our mifi that operates off the Sprint network didn't connect in B, but I knew from our previous experience that there was excellent reception in Terminal F (perhaps because it wasn't competing for bandwidth).

When we left from Barcelona, we noticed that once you went through security for international flights, you were basically trapped in the gate area with only a McDonalds and the duty-free shop. The nice thing about Atlanta's airport is that there are plenty of restaurants, shops, and services in each of the terminals so you can move freely between them. From now on, when we have a longer layover in Atlanta, we will be waiting in F for part of that time.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Mystic Pizza

While in New England, we made a trek down to Mystic, Connecticut.  Ever since I saw the movie Mystic Pizza in 1988, I said if I ever went to Connecticut I wanted to get pizza there at the Mystic Pizza (56 Main Street).  So 25 years later, I did.

And just like when we had pizza at the Pizzeria de Gaetano in Naples (Via Cassanova, 109), I had to get a picture of the sign and the pizza. The pizzas are different, but both delicious. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Camels in Newport, RI?

We spent a few days in Rhode Island for a conference that DH was attending. One morning while he was in session, a new friend from our cruise to Greece who lives in the area picked me up at the hotel and took me to Newport and the surrounding area. We had a wonderful time catching up and sightseeing.

While driving past the mansions in Newport, something in the distance in one of the yards caught my eye. "Was that a camel in their yard?" I asked my friend. We made a quick turnaround so we could go back and look again, and sure enough, there was a Daddy Camel, a Mommy Camel, and a Baby Camel. But instead of being real camels like the one we saw outside Ephesus, these were only topiaries.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Teleferic de Montjuic

While in Barcelona, we wanted to explore the Castle of Montjuic, so to get there, we got off the Bus Turistic hop-on, hop-off bus and took the Teleferic-de-Montjuic, a cable car the lifts you from the street level to where the castle is.  The view on the way up shows just how dense Barcelona has become, but once you are at the top, it feels like you have all the open space in the world. 

The cable cars are slow moving and don't stop for boarding, so be prepared to step on quickly to allow your whole group to load (max of 8 passengers per car).

You can reach the Teleferic de Montjuic loading points in several ways, listed on their website here:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Gondolas in Rhode Island

We spent a few days in Providence, Rhode Island. There is a large Italian influence in parts of the city, and one of the entertainment options is a gondola ride. Having been in Venice, Italy, recently, it was hard not to compare a gondola experience along the Grand Canal with a similar one on the same river where WaterFire occurs several times a year.   We looked up the price and while visitors to Rhode Island may think they are pricey, they are actually comparable to those offered in Venice.  

So if you have been to Venice and missed a gondola ride, never fear... You can always visit Rhode Island's capital for an authentic experience. For more information, please visit

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Florence, in books

A few years ago, we got our first Kindle and along with it, a friend of ours gave us a copy of The Monster of Florence. I had not read it, but today I was looking for something to read, and having been to Florence recently, I thought this might be a good time to begin. I read Dan Brown's book Inferno after being in both Florence and Venice and found that my time with the book was enhanced because I could more easily visualize the places Brown described. I am just on Chapter 4 of Douglas Preston's true story of the Monster of Florence and already have paused several times to have DH read the passages describing scenes in Florence that we saw.

This is one of my favorite things about traveling... When I read something about a place I have been and can see it from the description of the author. It really comes to life.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Florida car in Monte Carlo

We were looking at pictures from our trip today and my niece noticed this Ferrari driving on the Grand Prix course has a Florida license plate. A long way from home, but I'm sure the driver had such a thrill just being on the raceway.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

What's that statue in Venice???

When we arrived in Venice, we were in awe of the buildings and views along the waterfront as our ship was guided through the waterway to her berth.  While our attention was drawn mostly to the starboard side of the ship so we could see San Marco Square and the apex of the Grand Canal, we were slightly distracted by a sculpture we couldn’t quite figure out on the port side just outside the church of San Giorgio Maggiore.


As our afternoon tour took us back down the main waterway towards Burano, we passed it again, but it wasn’t until we were on the way back to the ship that our guide addressed it.  You see, this wasn’t a sculpture, but an inflatable replica of Marc Quinn’s marble statue of Alison Lapper displayed as part of an art exhibition at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini which runs through September 29, 2013..  Alison Lapper is an artist who was born with no arms, and in 2000, Quinn created this image of her at eight months pregnant.  The inflatable version, titled Breath, has been a source of contention amongst Venezians since its installation along the waterfront.