Casting off!

We are finally on our way from Barcelona. Won’t be able to post until St Marteen on 17 th of November. Talk to you all then!

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Modena. (Or is there ever too much chocolate?)

not sure why (bad Spanish Internet? But all the pictures in this post aren’t loading. So sorry but here is the text.

We left Milan early in the morning and headed towards Modena our next resting spot. But first we had a hilltop town, two more lakes and a castle to see.

Our first stop was Bergamo. Mike and I had visited here last June so when we arrived and found parking near the upper city (Alta Citta) impossible, I dropped Mike, Lowell and Peggy (hereafter M,P&L) off at the upper gate and I drove to the lower gate of this walled city and sat in the car while M,P&L walked through town. They went into the Duomo but otherwise basically did a quick walk through.

From there we headed to Iseo ( on Lake Iseo) for a quick stop on our way to Lake Garda.

Peggy had selected Sirmione as our next stop. This town is on a peninsula that extends into Lake Garda. At the midpoint is the peninsula is Castello Scaligero which was built in the 14th century.

The medieval town and lake surrounding the castle are beautiful and could easily be used for a Disney movie.

We had a delicious lunch. Mike and I halfed and halfed lasagne and a local cod dish with polenta. While tasty I was disappointed that the polenta was grilled and not more liquid. Unfortunately we were both apparently too busy eating to take any pictures. sorry.

After lunch we continued onto Modena. Due to parking issues in Sirmione we needed up leaving later than planned which meant it was after dark when we got to Modena. We had difficulty locating our airbnb (the holiday festival and one way streets only raised my frustration level) but after a couple of phone calls to the host we finally found the right address and checked into our lovely home for the next two nights.

The apartment was located within the historic center which made driving difficult and after that stress of the previous night my passengers suggested and I readily agreed to trashing our plans to visit Verona and some other nearby towns and instead spend the next day in Modena.

Of course, after we discovered that there was a chocolate festival literally at our doorstep with vendors’ stalls for the next eight or ten blocks we knew we made the right decision! For dinner that night we basically had chocolate albeit not shoes or handcuffs!

The next morning we visited the Grande Plaza with the Duomo and the City Hall. We also went inside to the the “historic rooms” of the City Hall. Including a very old organ.

From the main square it was only half a block to the city market. As usual incredible sights, smells and tastes-including porcetta and prosciutto!

It had started sprinkling as we left the market so we headed towards the Ferrari Museum. Along the way we passed the Ducal Palace which was covered in scaffolding-but here it is as well a the view from it across its piazza towards Duomo.

Enzo Ferrari was born in Modena and started his empire in the building below which houses a display about his life and various engines.

The old garage is surrounded by a modern building which was inspired by the boot of a Ferrari.

The main display has cars from all eras. The space itself is very interesting-sloped floor from top to bottom in a curve and with a huge projection system where they show a film on Ferrari’s life and the history of the brand and team.

Of course there is a gift shop and Cafe which was in the curved part of the building looking out on the historic garage.

As always I love the juxtaposition of ancient and contemporary:

After a wet walk in the rain Back to the apartment we called it a day and ate our market purchases for supper.

I am posting this from the Barcelona cruise terminal after a beautiful day. I’ll do a full Barcelona post in the future but here is a teaser of the inside of Sagrada Famila. OMG it’s astounding. What a change from when we were here in the mid 1990s and it didn’t have a roof or windows or full height columns! (Oh, no filter used!)

They had the hole in the ship repaired when we got off this morning and were in the process of painting it but Mike just texted from onboard and the rumor is we may not be leaving until tomorrow. No biggie-what else do I have to do?

There’s a hole in our ship!

Two weeks or so ago we relieved an email from Norwegian Cruise Lines informing us of an itenerary change. Rather than arriving in Barcelona at 5 am on Wednesday and departing at 5 pm, we would arrive at 6 pm Tuesday night (today) and not leave until 8 pm. This change was required “in order to complete some technical repairs not impacting the safety of the ship”. No skin off our backs, extra time in Barcelona sounded fine by us. But wondered what was going to be repaired.

After we docked, Clay was sitting in the room at the desk with the balcony door open and was startled by the window washing apparatus going by with its driver who laughed and waved when Clay screamed like a girl. Turns out the apparatus was being moved to help out with this repair but we didn’t realize it until after dinner when we returned to the room to find the side of the ship bathed in work lights, two cranes and a hoard of hard hats lifting a crankshalf into a newly cut hole in the ship (above the waterline thank goodness) and two other hardhats grinding away on the removed hull portion presumably preparing it for reinstallation.

You can’t tell from the pictures but there a section of deck inside the hole has been removed so that the new crankshaft can be delicately maneuvered to the lower deck. Clay took the pictures below, some from our balcony but most from the pier. While ashore he got to talking to a retired nuclear plant engineer who had pictures of the old crankshaft sitting (in five pieces) on the pier in Civittivechia before he boarded. Apparently it had been cut into chunks aboard and then removed through already existing openings. According to this guy, the ship has five generators, three for the engine (need two for full speed), one to run the ship, and one spare. So I guess they were right when it said it wouldn’t affect safety.

Fingers crossed that they don’t drop the crankshalf before they get it fully aboard…or drop the hull portion overboard before they get it rewelded onto the ship!

But at the rate they are going-the crankshaft is now inside the ship (it is 11:10 pm) it looks like Norwegian had done great planning and logistics.Though I’m sure some folks will be complaining about that noise and lights. I hope the grinding is about done so I won’t be one of the complainers.

Views from the pier:

The view from our balcony:

Helsinki

Our stay in Helsinki was relatively short-8 am arrival and all aboard at 3:30 pm. We elected to do the HoHo bus for ease of seeing as much of the city as possible in the time available.

We rode to the center of the city to the esplanade and the daily market where we had a hot chocolate as it was windy and chilly. Even though we thought it was cold, there were a number of people swimming in the floating pools-even the unheated one!

We then climbed up the hill to the Russian church because why not!

We then reboarded the HoHo and rode back around (past the ship) to the Rock Church. This relatively new space was drilled and blasted into solid rock. Its roof is a combination of metal and glass.

The time to get back to the ship was getting close so all the HoHo buses were quite full. I ended up riding back sitting on the stairs!

Helsinki was a beautiful city and I was most impressed by the variety of architecture-historic and contemporary. I hope we can get back sometime to really explore it.

St. Petersburg

We had a great two days here in the royal capital of Russia. It is a huge city and has much to see, too much for just two days.

We had joined one of the two private tours arranged by one of the folks on our Cruise Critic roll call. Ours was with “Hey Russia” and I was very pleased with value received.

Our guide Daria and driver Guinea (not right but that is how it was pronounced) were both friendly, very helpful and accommodating. The van was new and more than large enough for our group of 15.

The only problem with the tour is that everything is rushed in order to get even a glimpse. Imagine going to Paris and trying to see the Louvre, Notre Dame, another Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, a boat ride down the Seine, riding the metro and going to Versailles and another Versailles all in two days. Oh and at the sane time as a zillion other folks are all trying to do the same. Anyway, glad we did what we did but hope I get back someday in Winter when all the sights are free and supposedly empty!

Below are some of the many many pictures we took. It is a beautiful city and has beautiful structures most of which have been restored after destruction during wars and revolutions. Peter and Paul Church at their fortress.

The Hermatage, formerly a palace, now a huge museum. I did like that each room was decorated to reflect the art within it.

Church of the Spilt Blood

Boat ride on the Neva River

Metro

Peterhof Summer Palace

Catherine’s Palace including a very quick walk through the Amber Room. The palace interiors are a replica as in addition to war and revolutions, a fire destroyed much of the building. It is still impressive!

Tomorrow Helsinki….I need a sea day!

Warndemunde

We are sitting inside this lovely building in Schwerin waiting for our train headed back to the ship which is waiting in Warndemunde.

We had a lovely day despite a rain shower (“get the umbrella out of the backpack Mike, it’s not there Clay, didn’t you pack it? I thought I did, sorry”. Cut to three hours later we’ll after the rain. “Oops Clay I just found the umbrella, you did pack it!”) visiting Schwerin which is the Capitol of the state of Mecklenburg.

It’s a lovely city of approximately 100,000 and we were here during their Saturday market where we saw a really cool wood fired grill.

We had a delicious lunch in a cafe just before the rain came. Lois had tomato soup & a puff pastry with veal in a creamy sauce, Mike had grilled pork in an amazing mustard cream sauce with Arby’s potato cakes and I had onion soup and a thick slice of bread buttered with smoked ham and pickles. And beer-obviously Lois wasn’t a fan of Mike’s and my beer.

We came here as it is the location of the Schwerin Castle or palace. A royal house has stood here since 974. There have been many renovations and replacements since then. The palace we toured was a renovation/addition done in the 1800s. The building served as the duke’s palace until the royalty was abolished after World War 1. Since 1990 it has served as the parliament of the state. The castle is located on a small island on Lake Schwerin.

After the castle we rode the train back to Warndemunde. We missed the four o’clock train but got on the five o’clock. We almost missed our connection in Rostock as we were sitting in the platform for the train to Von Warndemunde not just Warndemundemude. Thankfully Mike saw our real train one track over!

After that short ride we made our way through the cruise festival-bands, food trucks, etc and back onto Breakaway. For the finale of the festival, there were fireworks as AIDAmar led the two ship parade out of the Warndemunde-Rostock harbor. Quite an exit-could they have been that happy to see us leave???

Due to slow data speeds I was unable to publish this post until after we arrived in rainy Tallin,Estonia. We had a lovely relaxed sea day yesterday and are currently finishing breakfast after which we hope to survive the rain enough to visit the medieval town here. However, 15 minutes after the ok to go ashore they closed the gangway due to the arrival of Sapphire Princess so unless you were on a Norwegian excursion you are currently stuck on the ship. Given “all aboard” is 4 pm, we are only going to have a short visit.