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:

Headed Back

So after a month in the USA it’s time to head back to Europe. Posting this from The Raleigh airport waiting for our flight to Miami where we will overnight tonight before flying to Lisbon and on to Copenhagen tomorrow where we will board Norwegian Breakaway next Friday. That’s Mike’s Mom on the phone beside Mike in the picture above and below.

After much effort, she got everything she “needed” into a rollaboard and a backpack. While it took awhile, she was determined not to pack in the medium sized suitcase that we kept suggesting. She said she wanted to travel the way we were. The sad thing is she has no room for any souvenirs. Not sure how that is going to go for a shopoholic!

We had great visits with friends and family (and the doctor and dentist) over the month at home.

It started with Claudigras, our friend’s Claudia birthday celebration at Seabrook Island,SC. We had a great long weekend with too much food and drink. Claudia even got a tiara to wear though it got cattywhompus after a few of the drinks!

During Claudigras we got to see my brother and his family who live in Charleston. Hard to believe the kids are so old…..especially since I’m not!

We had a short visit with Sam and Yost in Williamsburg mostly to discuss plans for their visit to Porto to see us in October.

We visited with our cruise buddies, Peggy & Lowell in Lynchburg overnight to finalize our plans for our week in Italy before we all board Norwegian Star in Rome in November for the transatlantic trip home.

The next weekend our friends from Durham, Scott and Robert came up to Mike’s mom’s lake house at Smith Mountain Lake. It was very relaxing to sit and have coffee in the morning and cocktails in the evening with the mountain as our view….or floating in the lake.

Labor Day weekend, our friends from Raleigh, George & Doug joined us at the lake for another nice weekend.

We drove to Salisbury to visit Cousin Martha for lunch earlier this week. Had some good western NC BBQ. Yum!

While we have had a wonderful time at home, I think we are both excited about our first visit to the Baltic region (well except that overnight in the airport for Mike’s birthday 😂) and showing Lois around Lisbon after our cruise.

Headed to Valencia.

6:45 alarm reminded me of what I like about retir…..ahem, not working. What an awful time to have to get up!

We had our last cruise ship breakfast for awhile then Mike dealt with an accounting issue-jeez, we are in the same cabin, on the same credit card but Viking loaded all the obc to Mike’s account and none to mine. So he had lots of credit and they were getting ready to charge lots to me.

Then an easy leaving of the ship, rolling our bags off was a breeze(though compared to larger ships the color coded bag groups was pretty small and it wouldn’t have been the cluster I’ve seen elsewhere , quick stop at immigration to welcome us to the EU- 180 days starts today….so it appears we have plenty of cushion. Then a $24.61 cab ride to the train station. Arrived about 8:45 for our 9:30 train and now we are onboard headed to Valencia!

Last Night.

It’s 10:07 somewhere off the coast of Spain between Valencia and Barcelona on the last night of our cruise and the puzzle still isn’t done! We have our bags and backpacks packed (there is a little bit of room yet we don’t think we have gotten rid of anything so we are a bit concerned) and unfortunately they still all weigh a ton! But that awful part of the last night in a cruise is done. We aren’t setting our our bags as is usual since we can roll ours and so we are hoping to make an early getaway to catch our train back to Valencia.

Had a fun day there in Valencia. In the morning we visited Oceangrafic which is a great aquarium in the cultural and science complex designed by Calatrava. Longtime followers will remember a bridge in Buenos Aires and the new transit station in New York also designed by this Spanish architect. The entrance building below even has a shimmer wall like Raleigh’s Convention Center.

Then we went to the center of the City in time for today’s Mascleta-the shooting of daytime firework and cannons or something that made the loudest sounds I’ve ever heard. Today was the big one. Reminded both of us of Times Square in New Year’s Eve. Between the crowds in the streets and lining the balconies I suspect there had to be 100,000 folks. Frankly I don’t understand the point of fireworks you can’t see but both the Valencian’s loved it.

From what I understand, this was the real start of the party they will be having through Sunday-amazing how having a blog makes whole towns throw festivals to welcome you! Anyway, below are some of Las Fallas we saw-there are hundreds (and most are huge) around the city. And all will be burned on Sunday at midnight!

After the Mascleta, we stopped for a sangria and some olives (never imagined we get that many for 1.5 euros) before heading back to the ship on the last shuttle from town about 4:40.

A quick soak in the spa for me (Mike got to spend more time) and it was off to get my feets massaged. Remember that onboard credit we had to spend? Mike got a haircut, I got my dogs rubbed. Omg. If I could have that happen everyday life would be even better than it already is!

We then put a load of wash in and headed up for final night of cocktails and sushi. So tasty. Then Mike moved the clothes to the dryer while I got us a table in the restaurant. Dinner was fine but nothing worth wasting data on pictures for.

Did see fellow cruisers and crew all day and saying goodbye is hard. Even though you barely have met, connections have been made with some-acquaintances with others. But we have all shared an experience- generally a good one and in then case of almost everyone we would love to sail with them again. In a few cases, we may actually see each other on land-got a lovely invitation to Scotland from a lovely lass and her hubby if 40 years today!

Anyway after lots of hugs, some awkward, most not and “safe travels” we are ready to move on the next step in Mike’s & Clay’s adventure!