Transatlantic

While we haven’t yet finished our month at the lake testing the waters (no pun intended) for this becoming our home base, Mike got an email with too good a deal to pass up. So we are booked for a transatlantic cruise at the end of March. It is the same cruise we did last year to begin our retirement year. We will be sailing aboard Viking Sea from San Juan to Barcelona. We were on Sky last time but all of Viking’s ships are almost replicas of each other so we should know our way around.

Lois (Mike’s Mom) will be joining us for the cruise and for a few days post cruise in Europe. Our plan is to fly into San Juan the day prior to the cruise so Lois can see our 51st state. We hope to spend 4 nights post cruise in Barcelona followed by 4 nights in Rome before flying back home as she has been wanting to see the sights in both cities we have talked so much about.

We will have to buy the flights to Rome but otherwise the flights are all included in our cruise fare which with all our loyalty and referral discounts is $2,650 per person. Not bad for 14 nights, three meals a day (including beer, wine & soda). Pavlus, the travel agent we have used recently is providing each of us with $300 of onboard credit which will cover our daily service charges (tips) and the few drinks we will buy. We are currently waiting to see if Viking will allow us to fly home from Rome in their dime or if we will have to fly ourselves back to Barcelona. We are both excited about sailing on Viking again and showing Lois two of Europe’s great cities.

Upon our return, we believe we will be staying close to home and will probably do some road trips…maybe even out west as neither of us have visited the Grand Canyon.

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And so it ends.

Somewhat of a change from our March 3rd departure picture (below) and our return last night in Raleigh (above) which ended the first part of our retirement adventure.

We just got back to Danville thanks to Lois (and her boytoy Jerry) who picked us up this morning.

We will be in Danville until December 17th when we will leave on a road trip through Kentucky and Arkansas headed to New Orleans for Christmas with Mike’s brother’s family followed by going to Charleston to visit with my brother and his family. We will be back in Raleigh for New Year’s Eve.

After that we don’t know what our next adventure is going to be but hopefully we will figure out our plans for 2019 during our Christmas road trip.

I intend to post some summary thoughts about our trip as well as a comparison review of our two transatlantic cruises in the coming days.

In the meantime, best wishes for a great Holiday season!

Miami.

After a lovely 14 days (including yesterday morning when we passed by the ship and boat above) we docked this morning around 4am in Miami.

We have to get off the ship and go through immigration at 10:30 (but the luggage doesn’t) and then will be able to reboard after the coast guard finishes some sort of Welcome to the USA ship inspection.

Hopefully it will go smoothly but the ship is setting our expectations very low. They say it will be 1 pm at the earliest.

Land Ho!

Saw the first land in eight or nine days this morning as we arrived in St Maarten. Two RCL ships docked here too- Serenity of the Seas is behind Jewel of the Seas. SOTS left Barcelona a day before us-I think they stopped in the Azores on the way here.

Crossing was uneventful and relaxing. Read all my books (as did Mike) and had to borrow one!

It’s hot and humid! Wandered onto land for a bit, but now back aboard headed to the pool. Love a day with most everyone off the ship!

Sagrada Familia.

Mike and I visited Barcelona in the 1990s as part of a whirlwind 10 day trip that included Madrid. At that time, Sagrada Familia only had Nativity and Passion entrances, and the towers associated with them. There was no roof over and hardly any columns in the nave. We had intended to visit the interior when we were in Barcelona last May with Mike’s brother and his family. However, I apparently failed to hit the purchase button to buy the tickets so we wandered the outside while they toured inside.

Thankfully we had a second chance and we really enjoyed our morning inside the basilica. I rarely get emotional over architecture but that wasn’t the case here. It is an incredible building. On a macro scale it is powerful but the details are really striking. No matter where you look, you see something new, innovative and inspiring. Unfortunately the pictures can’t give you the full impression. If you have the opportunity, please go. I know we hope to be around to make it back after they complete it (only 10 more towers to go!) in 2026…of course I think when we visited 25-30 years ago they hoped to have it done by 2010 or something…so we will see how it goes.

Below are pictures of the altar, the nave including the incredible effect of the stained glass windows.

We also visited the sacristy, the space used to store the priests supplies and vestments and where they prepare for mass. As a former altar boy, where we used a closet for a similar purpose, I hope you will trust me when I say Gaudi created the most beautiful space I’ve ever seen-he also designed the storage units.

As some readers may recall, when we were in Barcelona previously we had a wonder tapas experience at a little restaurant near our hotel and the Triumphal Arc, Elsa y Fred. Six other couples from the larger Cruise Critic that rode the metro together from the port to the church joined us to walk to the restaurant for lunch. While delicious, Mike and I agreed we wished we had of just ordered tapas rather than the meal of the day. Each of the three courses had two offerings so we had all six dishes and just halfed and halfed then between us. Of course we had to have their delicious octopus..and it was just as good as we remembered!

Appetizers were a delicious pea soup and a salad.

The main dishes were risotto with seafood and a really tasty sausage plate. Unfortunately no pictures of dessert.

After lunch we headed through the Gothic Quarter towards La Rambla, the pedestrian street that runs for many blocks. Along the way we happened upon a beautiful performance palace. I would like to go back and tour it’s interior. We also happened upon an ancient church which was the polar opposite (by just as impressive in its simplicity) to Sagrada Familia.

After getting to La Rambla, we wandered it back towards the port. All in all a wonderful day and a good walk-5.9 miles!

While I used the port terminals WiFi to post some overdue blogs, Mike went aboard and learned we wouldn’t be leaving as scheduled due to the weather predictions at Funchal. I’m writing this a week later in the middle of the Atlantic and the ship is still full of rumors as to whether it was the weather or the repairs that delayed us. Who knows and frankly I don’t really care.

We discussed using the extra day in Barcelona to explore some more of the city but that long walk the day before took it out of us and after not waking until almost 10 am, we elected to treat it as a sea day and do what we now do best. Nada!

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?