A Travellerspoint blog

August 2010

Palermo, Sicily

31 August 2010

overcast 77 °F

street in Palermo

street in Palermo


This is our first excursion that we wished we were not on. The Palermo walking tour was a big flop. We got ear pieces so we could hear the guide over the traffic but it didn’t work that well. The wind made it fuzzy and the initial walk was through a not very beautiful part of town. And guiding about 38 people across the streets is not very easy.
Mafia monument

Mafia monument


We did pass a monument to the people who have died trying to fight the mafia.
church in Palermo

church in Palermo


Our guide showed us a bunch of churches but there were so many people you couldn’t really see what he was pointing out.
sculpture in palermo church

sculpture in palermo church


The result was we never really knew what we were supposed to be looking at.
fountain of Shame

fountain of Shame


Another stop was the fountain of Shame. This was meant to be in Florence but they didn’t want it so Sicily bought it. Here we had a break for cappuccino and bathrooms.
lamp post in Palermo

lamp post in Palermo


When we started walking again it just went downhill. We zoomed past the market and had another break at the Opera House. It is the third largest in Europe behind Paris and Vienna.
market in Palermo

market in Palermo


Near here there was a market that we got some humongous grapes to snack on. Every few feet in the market was a fish vendor and they all had swordfish hanging by their nose and cut in half :(
swordfish

swordfish


By noon we were meeting again to walk back to the ship and our lunch. Unfortunately the greater population had also found out that you don’t have to eat in the crowded tercafeteria. We ended up with some French people who weren’t ready to order so our table ended up being served last.
We passed the rest of the afternoon by the pool with a daiquiri and mojito. Dinner came and went and can you believe Curt actually ordered the swordfish!!!

Posted by ErinDriver 09:24 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Mt. Vesuvius

30 August 2010

overcast 75 °F

vesuvius from the bus on the way home

vesuvius from the bus on the way home


Today we were blessed with a sleep in day but we over did it a little and missed our gym time and the dining area that is a bit more calm. Instead we had to fight what felt like the entire population of the boat for our breakfast at the buffet. We made it out alive but took some time by the pool to relax afterwards.
Vesuvius on the way there

Vesuvius on the way there


Our excursion today is Mount Vesuvius so we head out with the bus to the mountain. The drive makes it look as if it was not a very good day to do this tour. You can't even see the top of the volcano.
Curt starting the hike

Curt starting the hike


Our guide looks a bit on the heavy side to be guiding a tour up the volcano but we have no choice but to go along with it. He is very knowledgeable about Naples and Mt. Vesuvius which in fact did not destroy Pompeii. He explains how it used to be one giant volcano but when it erupted in like 79 AD it became two peaks and destroyed Pompeii.
view from start

view from start


Now the peaks are Mt. Somma (which he says is responsible for Pompeii) and Vesuvius. It is still an active volcano and monitored daily.
hole of vesuvius

hole of vesuvius


The prediction is that the next explosion will be pretty damaging because the hole is closed over causing a greated pressure build up. Approx. 1 million people live around the volcano and don’t seem too worried.
active steam of volcano

active steam of volcano


You can see steam coming from one point on the volcano demonstrating it is still active.
dog at the top

dog at the top

Just like Greece there are random dogs running around everywhere. After about 45 minutes of hiking and stopping for photos you reach the highest point and the location where you can see Pompeii. Postcards are available with a special Mt. Vesuvius Stamp. After a short rest we head back down and wait atleast 15 minutes for our guide to get to the bottom.
Curt and I on Vesuvius

Curt and I on Vesuvius


The bus takes us to a little restaurant where we get a piece of bruschetta and a shot glass amount of white or red wine.
Next stop for some reason is a place that makes cameos. They carve them our of shells. By the time we got off the bus the English speaking group had moved off somewhere and we missed it. Of course there was an area where they were selling their works.
Back on the boat we have another like five course dinner followed by a show of ice skating and a girl winding herself around a rope. ??? Don’t ask me??

Posted by ErinDriver 08:59 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Portofino, Italy

29 August 2010

sunny 80 °F

our view of Genoa port

our view of Genoa port


Our port today is Genoa, Italy but our excursion took us to Portofino for a few hours.
St. Margherita Ligure

St. Margherita Ligure


After a 45 minute bus ride we arrived in the adorable port town of St. Margherita Ligure.
Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus


This port was decorated with another monument to Christopher Columbus and an adorable coastline.
boats in St. Margherita Ligure

boats in St. Margherita Ligure


A ten minute ferry took us from here to Portofino.
first view of portofino

first view of portofino


This is a VIP island but I’m not quite sure why.
yachts

yachts


It is beautiful but small and can barely fit the yachts that are bigger than the houses. It is decorated with Hermes, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and amazing jewelry stores. Our guide told us that this region of Italy – Liguria loves to eat focaccia bread and cappuccino for a snack mid morning. We tried some formaggio focaccia but I can’t say I’m a big fan. I substituted for some strawberry gelato.
church in Portofino

church in Portofino


The Church of St. George was on a hill here in Portofino and provided amazing views and Kodak moments.
view from church

view from church


pink mongoose??

pink mongoose??


Down by the water there was a row of these pink moongoose or something. They were so odd and out of place I had to take a picture.
portofino view

portofino view


Our return trip was the same and we spent the afternoon getting burnt by the pool before dinner. The show tonight was Excalibur which was short but entertaining. One guy did a handstand on one arm while balancing on the head of his partner. The gymnastics were pretty impressive.

Posted by ErinDriver 08:08 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Marseille and Avignon

28 August 2010

sunny 75 °F

old port of Marsaille

old port of Marsaille


Our excursion today started on a bus with a drive past the Old Port in Marsaille. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to get out a take photos because it looked adorable with a local fish market. Our first stop was the Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Garde.
view over Marsaille

view over Marsaille


The views over Marseille and the harbor were gorgeous but incredibly windy. I spent most of the time trying to keep my dress from flying up over my head.
Chateau d' If

Chateau d' If


There is also a view of the Chateau d' If which is the jail in the Count of Monte Cristo. I spent like a month reading that book because an excursion was offered to the prison. When we got on the ship this trip was cancelled :(
offerings in cathedral

offerings in cathedral


The Cathedral was actually quite interesting with ships hanging in succession from the ceiling. These ships along with plaques and photos were donated by fisherman, for example, who the Lady of the Garde had protected. It is considered a Neo-Byzantine church by the architect Esperandiu between 1853 and 1864.
bridge in Avignon

bridge in Avignon


Next we were on to Avignon which was approx. 1 hour drive. This town is a walled city with the Rhone river right outside the wall. This bridge is a famous one in this town but stops halfway across the river.
elephant art

elephant art


For some reason there was really weird art all over the place, including in the palace.
outside palace of the popes

outside palace of the popes


Our tourist site here was a tour of the Palace of the Popes. For several years the Pope actually lived in France. They were convinced to move to Rome but some did not want to leave. For this reason several years passed with a Pope in Rome and one that was recognized in Avignon.
courtyard of palace

courtyard of palace


This is more like a fortress because the Pope’s were so afraid of attack. The windows of the building are very tiny and high which caused greater protection.
pope's window

pope's window


This was the window that the Pope would use to speak to his people in the courtyard below.
doors at Palace of the Popes

doors at Palace of the Popes


I just thought these doors were pretty neat - and huge!
Lunch was on our own so we went very French and had pizza and pasta at an outdoor café. A little time was left to walk around the town and have some of the best soft serve ice cream I have ever had.
ruins in Avignon

ruins in Avignon


We passed these ruins in our walk but other than this it was mostly the same shops you see most everywhere.
After the tour we prepped for our dinner and the Michael Jackson tribute show. Apparently they really like him in Europe. Since he was American I figured we had to go.

Posted by ErinDriver 05:02 Archived in France Comments (1)

Park Quell

27 August 2010

sunny 95 °F

Park Quell

Park Quell


After a hostel breakfast we got on the metro toward the Park Quell. It is a 20 minute walk after the subway exit but worth the walk.
welcoming cross

welcoming cross


Gaudi continues to impress with his park that was intended to be an upscale neighborhood. It flopped in those days because the old ladies wanted to live near the downtown. Supposedly the surrounding area is full of upscale neighborhoods at this time.
tiles

tiles


gingerbread house

gingerbread house


The entrance is marked by 2 adorable gingerbread looking houses and a grand staircase. Up the stairs are beautiful tiles, the famous lizard statue seen everywhere and a snake fountain.
the famous lizard of Barcelona

the famous lizard of Barcelona


At the top is the area of 100 columns that was intended to be an area for selling produce. Now they sell cheap bracelets and fans.
DSC02395.jpg
To the left is the “lava tube” or perfect “surfing wave”. It was hard to get a photo without anyone else in it.

Curt on ergonomic benches

Curt on ergonomic benches


The benches in what I suspect was the central courtyard are ergonomic and decorated with tile. There is a beautiful view over Barcelona.
View over Barcelona

View over Barcelona


egg bed on cruise

egg bed on cruise


Our room is gorgeous with plenty of room and we dress up for the “formal dinner” despite seeing other passengers in t-shirts. We are at dinner with two couples from Canada who speak French. Why do Americans have to be the dumb ones who only know one language?
First dinner on cruise

First dinner on cruise


We have so many courses at dinner I can’t even count them - bread, seafood bisque, puff pastry with scallops, king prawns for me and steak for Curt and baked Alaska for dessert. So far the ship is amazing – I am writing this on our balcony as the ocean goes flying by.

Posted by ErinDriver 04:32 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

Sagrada Familia and Casa Batllo

26 August 2010

sunny 102 °F

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia!!! I love saying that word and it is our first visit today. We were tipped off by good old Rick Steves that it was less crowded and a shorter line if you went early. That little tip paid for the guide book because when we came out the line was wrapped around the enormous church.
carving on front of Sagrada

carving on front of Sagrada


The entrance of the church had very block like statues which told the story of Jesus.
entrance to Sagrada

entrance to Sagrada


This pillar was also at the entrance. It had a lot of meaning but I forget all of it now.
stain glass window of Sagrada

stain glass window of Sagrada


This was by far the coolest chapel/cathedral/church I have ever been in. The place is unfinished but still gorgeous. It will be worth a trip back to Barcelona once it is finished.
pillars looking like trees

pillars looking like trees


Antoni Gaudi designed the church and most of his other works with nature in mind. The columns of the church were made out of three different stones and made to look like trees with branches while the ceiling looks like leaves.

front of Casa Batllo

front of Casa Batllo


On the way to Casa Batllo we find a place for a quick lunch. Casa Batllo is Gaudi’s most famous work with a tile roof that represents a dragon’s back.
dragon roof

dragon roof


All of the walls are curved with beautiful stain glass windows.
bone window from inside

bone window from inside


The ceilings are arched and he even carefully designed the room for the water tanks.
balonies of Casa Batllo

balonies of Casa Batllo


The front has colored tile and balconies that look like masks.
window of Casa Batllo

window of Casa Batllo


The columns look like bones in the front of the house. The building is huge and after these two sites our legs are exhausted.
So we head for churros again but guess what – It is only 1430 and the place doesn’t open until 1600. So with empty tummies we go to rest our legs in the room.

After a nap we set out again with more success for the churros con chocolate that were yummy. Next we strolled with Boqueria which is a big market for meat, vegetables and fruits. We chose a place here for tapas and wine with good conversation. A stroll along the Ramblas ended the night.

Posted by ErinDriver 10:21 Archived in Spain Tagged architecture Comments (1)

First day in Barcelona

25 August 2010

sunny 100 °F

Barcelona makes me smile today. But not until we find the hostel – BCN Hello Hostel. At first we thought this was the city of steps because the subway we were on was so long and complicated to get to. Eventually, and without being pick pocketed, we found the place. It’s no great shakes but we don’t stay long in our room anyway.
Plaza Catalunya

Plaza Catalunya

I know we aren’t supposed to eat early in this city but I was hungry and the places along the street were open. We had paella and pizza while we developed our plan of action. A trip down the ramblas for churros was unsuccessful because the place that was recommended did not sell them after 8:00. I settled for dunkin donuts instead.

Posted by ErinDriver 09:56 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Fish Fry

22 August 2010

sunny 97 °F

Everybody went to Aunt Linda’s church this morning in Greenville. After this Curt and I went to get our shopping fix and his sister headed back to Portand.
DSC02239

DSC02239


For dinner we had a fish fry by the lake in the backyard. The fish were actually bass and perch caught out of the lake.
DSC02235

DSC02235


It was a great way to end our time in Georgia. The next two days will be travel as we head back to Germany and then the next day to Barcelona.

Posted by ErinDriver 09:53 Archived in USA Tagged food Comments (0)

Day of Rest

21 August 2010

sunny 100 °F

Aunt Linda's house

Aunt Linda's house


Rest Day today – well as far as activities go – curt and I ran 10 miles in the insane humidity of Georgia in August. Within minutes we were soaking wet but we finished.
Curt’s Grandparents came back for another visit and BBQ. Pork BBQ, fried okra, fried green tomatoes, broccoli salad and bread was on the menu. It was quite a different menu for this yankee.
DSC02195

DSC02195


Somehow we collected everyone in one spot for a group photo before spending the afternoon resting, recovering and trying to keep cool.
DSC02221

DSC02221


DSC02174

DSC02174


I also got to spend some "dog time" with Mr. Big Ears and Lola who are Aunt Linda's most friendly dogs.

Posted by ErinDriver 09:41 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Georgia Aquarium

20 August 2010

sunny 95 °F

starfish

starfish


Curt and I had tackled the Jacques Cousteau aquarium in Monaco and one in New Zealand but had never been to the largest in the world – the Georgia Aquarium! The family loaded in to two cars and headed back to Atlanta for some fish gazing. The place really is impressive once you get past the price of admission. Luckily Georgia seems to like the military and we got a discount.
Beluga whale

Beluga whale


The aquarium has a tank with two gorgeous beluga whales. They play classical music over the sound system while you watch the whales “dance” to the music. I probably could have watched them the entire day.
The organizers of the place really were creative. A crawl space was designed through the penguin encloser so it seems as if you are swimming with them.
sharks

sharks


Another tank has three whale sharks along with a large variety of rays and other sharks.
ray in divers bubbles

ray in divers bubbles


Divers go into the enclosure and talk with the audience.
ray and whale shark

ray and whale shark


The fish and rays like the bubbles the divers make so they do flips and swim very close to the people.
Lionfish

Lionfish


Apparently someone let some lionfish into the rivers near Atlanta and they are now causing a lot of problems. I also learned a little tidbit it seems like I should have known in Mozambique when we were swimming around with them – they are poisonous! There back fins are like hypodermic needles!!!
albino alligator

albino alligator


Somehow they also found two albino alligators.
All of us were smoked after a few hours in the aquarium so we had lunch a Johnny Rockets. After this the group split up. Curt, Erica, Justin and I went shopping and then to dinner with a couple of their friends at a bar called Tap. The food, company and drinks were good but unfortunately after awhile my tank went dry and I was just exhausted.

Posted by ErinDriver 09:29 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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