Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pull up a chair this may take a while... the BIG trip

You did say you wanted this post Mudgett sized didn't you?

We had a very exciting family vacation starting on January 1st. Drew and Anna and myself headed on our way to Barcelona. We had paid to go on a no frills airline (one that is going to start charging people to use the toilet on flights less than 1 hour), yes, that much of a no frills airline. Anyway, I paid the additional few dollars and got us priority boarding. Well, apparently people who take this airline don't like to part with money very much and we were the only 3 priority passengers. So we had a private escort to the plane while everyone else was herded aboard later. We felt very first class (see what $5 can get you?). Anyway, after a quick 2 hour flight, no layover, we arrived in Girona, an airport about 1 hour outside of Barcelona.

I had read in the guide book that people in Barcelona consider it a public duty to keep children happy. Well as we were waiting for our limo (ie bus) to Barcelona a man walked up to Anna and gave her a little toy car. Well she could not have been happier. The entire bus ride (one hour) she was saying "car, car, car, car" as she rolled her car on every surface she could reach. At the time of this posting in April, she still plays with that car! After we reached Barcelona we took a cab ride to our hotel. All in all a much shorter commute than back to Maryland and Anna did very well.

I was excited to check out our hotel as we had booked one on Priceline. I was playing around and said that I would pay a pretty low amount of money for a 5 star hotel in a neighborhood near our ship. Priceline came back and said if I raised the price a little I might get one. So, with just a little more money, we got to stay in a 5 star hotel. I had never been in one before (but after going there, I definitely think our honeymoon hotel would be rated a 5 star place. What with the piano in our room and private hot tub and all). This hotel was awesome. It was on a little bit of land overlooking the water (and our cruise ship port). We had a lot of space. The bathroom included jets in the tub and a bidet, which I won't get into other than to say that for an 18 month old, it sure looks like a little sink, and just in case you were wondering, when it is turned all the way on it can shoot water all the way across the room. The toiletries they provided were pretty high end and included all kinds of things like combs, tooth brushes, etc. Things that you usually have to ask for in other hotels and often they are not very willing to supply. They had several channels in English and in a lot of other languages as well (probably not really worthy of mention but, we don't have TV at home so it is kind of a novelty, especially when it is in your own language).

[caption id="attachment_814" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Our Hotel Room Barcelona"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_809" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="View from our hotel room"][/caption]

A few minutes walk from the hotel was the main tourist street "Las Ramblas" after settling into our hotel, we took a stroll down the street. It was jumping! There were loads of people and a lot of things to look at. It was pretty cool. We stopped for a meal (I had paella) and then we got a bit of gellato, yummmmm. I think that was Anna's favorite part. OK, it was mine too! After a bit of exploring we headed back to the hotel.

[caption id="attachment_849" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Anna and I at Las Ramblas"][/caption]

The next day, we did some shopping and went to a few of the sights. We saw the Gaudi house. Which was the residents of an innovative architect. Unfortunately, only the basement was opened because the rest of the place is under restoration, but we were able to in for free because of that! And, the place was still amazing. Drew decided that one day when we have our own place (which is a conversation we have a lot, and the more things we add the place is going to be massive and completely not affordable if we were to include everything). Anyway, the basement consisted of a lot of brick arches, very cool stuff.

[caption id="attachment_811" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Waiting in line for Gaudi\'s house"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_813" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="On the Stairs at Gaudi\'s house"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_812" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Cool arches in Gaudi\'s Basement"][/caption]

Next we went to the cathedral. It was very beautiful and had an open area with geese and fountains.

[caption id="attachment_850" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The Geese in the Cathedral"][/caption]

The place that I found the most impressive by far, was the beautiful Magic Fountain of Montjuic. We only came across it by accident. I wanted to go and look at the building which is situated directly behind it, it has beautiful architecture, little did I know the most beautiful part was the huge fountain in front of it. The fountain is lite up with colorful lights and dances to accompanying music. It was one of the most impressive things we saw on the whole trip! It was that cool!

[caption id="attachment_818" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The Magic Fountain"][/caption]

[flv:http://teammudgett.net/blog/media/video/magicfountain.AVI.FLV 320 240]

The next day we decided to head to church for sacrament meeting and then off to the Picasso museum before we boarded the boat. The museum was free on the first Sunday of the month so there was a long wait. After touring the museum and realizing that most of Picasso's famous paintings are located in other countries, we felt that the museum was worth about the price we paid for it. Harsh, I know, but kind of true.

[caption id="attachment_819" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The most interesting thing at the Picaso Museum"][/caption]

Next, we went on to board the boat. We took a cab from the hotel to the boat. Check in was a breeze. No lines at all. I have had a lot of success with cruise line check-in since we realized that you don't have to rush to get there when the ship first allows you to board. We arrived at about 3:30 and the main rush to get on the boat was over, we still had another 3.5 hours before the ship left, so we weren't worried about "missing the boat" as it were. After we checked in we bumped into Drew's parents who after a flight with a long layover were now without their luggage. Reminiscent of my parents situation on their last cruise. Which brings us to my parents, we had booked an adjoining room with them. It was so great to see them! What a fun family trip, Anna was able to have both sets of grandparents to herself for almost 2 full weeks. Thats right 6 adults full attention plus the additional attention of about 3000 other passengers/crew members = one very happy 18 month old.

The ship was nice pretty similar to most NCL ships I would say. Our room was great to have a bathtub and couch. I didn't really like having a balcony as it scared me with little one. But it turned out to not be so bad, at least when it was closed.

[caption id="attachment_834" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Cruisin' Together"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_820" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Good Parenting 101"][/caption]

The first port we went to was Rome!
I am sad to say that Rome was not as exciting as I had expected. It may have had to do with the fact it was raining and there was a mix up early in the day causing us to wait in the rain for a while. But, it seemed dirtier and had a lot more graffiti than I pictured. I think if I were to go on foot it would probably be more impressive and if I had more than a few hours to explore the whole city that would be great too.

[caption id="attachment_852" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Our wet tour group"][/caption]

We went to the Colosseum which was disturbingly beautiful. It is amazing that such a large structure could last so long. It is also so sad that humanity would build a place such as that.

[caption id="attachment_823" align="alignnone" width="225" caption="Outside the Coloseum"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_825" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="In Side the Coloseum"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_824" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Anna checking out the Coloseum"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_853" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The Colosseum"][/caption]

We went out to lunch which was probably my favorite part of the whole day. We ate at a little family restaurant with home made pasta and delicious food. It was fabulous!

[caption id="attachment_826" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Lunch in Italy"][/caption]

We were able to take a quick peak at the pantheon. I wish we would have been able to spend more time inside of it, but maybe we will go back some day, right? Then it was off to the Vatican. I was very impressed by everything there. I had received conflicting reports about the hall of maps. According to my mother, she could have spent days in there. According to the Mudgett side of the family it was the most boring place ever. I ended up of course siding with my mother. That hall was amazing. Sure the maps, not so interesting, although I am sure our friend Jay would love it. But the paintings and the design of the whole room were breathtaking. Anna kept looking around and taking everything in.

[caption id="attachment_827" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The Hall of Maps"][/caption]

As for the Sistine chapel, I personally prefer the hall of maps, but hey, to each his own.

We were also able to go and see Saint Peters' Basilica. Which was a an incredibly beautiful place. Very ornate. Drew and Anna and I only stayed in for a few minutes because we wanted to go see St. Peter's sarcophagus. Anna did try and see if the Pope was home, but, no answer.

[caption id="attachment_828" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="St Peters Basilica"][/caption]

Lets face it, when is the next time you are going to see the remains of one of the Saviors twelve? It was amazing! They really used all of their precious things to make it beautiful (no pictures allowed. Then it was back to the ship, but not before a quick ice cream, it wasn't gellato but, still good.

[caption id="attachment_817" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Ice Cream outside the Vatican"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_829" align="alignnone" width="225" caption="St. Peter's Basilica"][/caption]

Our second port of call was Greece. Unfortunately my father caught a GI bug because 18 people came aboard the ship that were sick and didn't tell anyone! Hey, thanks, grrrrr! My mother stayed back as she wasn't feeling 100%. Greece was beautiful. We were able to go to the Acropolis and see the Parthenon. It was incredible being at the Acropolis! It is amazing that these buildings have survived for so long! We were able to look out from the mountain at one of the most beautiful vistas I have seen. Greece really is a really gorgeous place.

[caption id="attachment_831" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The first Theatre EVER"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_858" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Anna\'s favorite thing about the Acropolis"][/caption]

[flv:http://teammudgett.net/blog/media/video/annaattheacroppolis.AVI.FLV 320 240]

We saw where Zeus temple used to be.
[caption id="attachment_832" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Zeus\' Temple"][/caption]

We were also able to see:

[caption id="attachment_860" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Olympic Stadium"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_863" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The changing of the guards"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_861" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Anna\'s interpretation of changing of the guards"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_862" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="a LOT of birds that admire the changing of the guards"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_833" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Gyros in Greece!"][/caption]

After that, we had our choice between having an hour in the Acropolis museum or going shopping. Drew, Anna, and I opted for both. We did the museum in a half hour which was amazing. When they were building the place they unearthed some ruins and still build the museum there but instead of a solid floor, it was made out of glass so you could look down and see the ruins beneath, talk about cool. The museum only opened a few years ago and it sits in the shadow of the Acropolis.

[caption id="attachment_864" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Acropolis Museum"][/caption]

Outside the museum there are some kiosks for trinket shopping and we were able to grab some ice cream. Then we headed back to the ship.

Next day we were off to Turkey. My parents didn't make it this day either, sad. I was a bit disappointed with a couple things, but just a few. We were told we would not have time to stop for food so we needed to pack something to bring. So when we were in Barcelona we went shopping for non perishable snacks, as I have never heard of a cruise ship letting you take things off. Well, when you have an 18 month old going a whole day on snacks just doesn't cut it. We ended up being able to buy a few chicken wraps at a small place after our Ephesus tour, but what gets me is that we got back to ship over an hour early and the guide gave us a hard time about buying a snack! Ugh. We were also told that they would have a car seat for Anna and nope, no seat. Anyway, We went to see Ephesus which was soooooooooo cool. It has a ton of history, WAY to much to really describe but, everything from the Amazons to Apostles were in that place and wow!

[caption id="attachment_930" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Theatre where the Apostle Paul preached"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_917" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="...more commonly known as the Theatre where Anna Mudgett Performed all the little bunnies sleep"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_921" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Our little crew in the theatre"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_918" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Walking in Ephesus"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_920" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Team Mudgett in Ephesus"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_919" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Library ruins, Ephesus"][/caption]

After we toured the ruins we were able to go and see the terraced houses which are on the same site but have been being restored and excavated inside a building. They were really beautiful. There was a few different houses being restored. All of which were obviously owned by some very wealthy people.

[caption id="attachment_924" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="terrace houses, built between 1 BC and 7 AD"][/caption]

After that is when we were given 10 minutes to shop and use the toilet (this is where we got our snacks).

[caption id="attachment_923" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Forbidden snacks, in cool hats"][/caption]

Then we were taken to a rug making place and I guess when in Persia see how they make Persian rugs. But Anna fell asleep on the way there so instead of rug making I was able to see some guy come out near the bus and puke. But then Drew came out and switched with me. It was kind of cool to see how they make silk, but I never knew that they have to boil the worms and they die. I always assumed it was just like, I don't know, spiders webs or something.

Boiling silk works to get silk

The rugs were really beautiful but holy cow were they expensive. Unless, you consider $700 a good price for something the size of a mouse pad! Seriously! After the rug place we headed back to the ship.

Next day was a sea day. We went out to eat with everyone at a Tepanaki place. I was excited for Anna to have her first experience with the whole thing. But, I should have realized that it would be a bit overwhelming, especially when it was noisy. But, man oh man, was it delicious! I also went and learned a bit of belly dancing to prepare for our highlight port of Egypt, where we would be stopping the next day. The scary part of dinner was that someone went overboard. The ship had to turn around but they got him back on board safe and sound. We heard later that it was a teenage boy and he jumped off his balcony with a life jacket on. The were quarantined to their room and I saw the ambulance in Egypt waiting to pick them up.

Next, our BIG port. EGYPT! The day got off to a slow start, in that the fog shut the port down for the first 4 hours =(. So we missed out on seeing a lot of things in the morning. We had hired a private tour guide (there was much drama over that whole situation, but I digress) and even though we were originally going to head to Cairo on the first day (a 3 hour drive), they ended up switching it so we went to El Alamein (our second day excursion). When we got to our minivan, they handed each of the adults a flower and Anna received a bag full of gifts! A signing camel, a coloring book and colored pencils, and a drum.
What a great treat!

El Alamein for those of you who don't know was the turning point of WWII for the British allied forces. Basically before El Alamein the British lost every battle of the war. After it they won. As simple as that. We didn't get to see too much because everything closed early and since we got off the ship late, it didn't work out so well. At our first stop which was a monument (very cool looking from the pictures) Anna was a sleep so I stayed in the car with her.

[caption id="attachment_835" align="alignnone" width="225" caption="Memorial at El Alamein"][/caption]

The next place we went was to a museum. They were closing in 10 minutes but agreed to allow us 20 minutes to tour the place. It wasn't so big, but there was some interesting things in there. They had old uniforms and showed things the soldiers would have done, how they shaved etc.
[caption id="attachment_836" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Outside the Museum at El Alamein"][/caption]

After that we went on to the next stop which was the battle field, but it was closed =(. Our tour guide felt bad for us so she brought us back into Alexandria and let us poke about. We went out to eat at restaurant there, the food was pretty good, Drew told me about a month later he found a cockroach, a BIG cockroach in his food. He assures me that I didn't eat any of it and it took all of his strength not to react to it so that I was not aware. Instead, he took a swig of hand sanitizer which he said was worse than the problem but at least he didn't get sick, right? After we ate, we stopped by the Alexandria Library and walked around the outside. Anna had a lot of admirers. She even got a kiss on the cheek from a young man. They have a no children under 6 rule inside the place so we didn't go in. It was a really cool place, the architecture was beautiful. I am not sure when it was built, but it is only a few years old for sure. My parents went in and showed me some of their photos and it looked really cool (maybe next time we are in Alexandria...). Our tour guide used to work in the library so she did have a lot of information about the place.

[caption id="attachment_837" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The Library at Alexandria"][/caption]

The last place we saw in Alexandria was visiting inside of a mosque. I really wanted to see inside of one, as I LOVE visiting cathedrals, etc. (The Sacre Coeur, anyone?) The Mosque was a very interesting place. It was just a giant done shaped room. With beautiful artwork on the inside. Women enter one part, men the other and there is a removable wooden wall to divide them. Some people see it as sexist but Muslim women don't see it that way. Our tour guide was a well educated and confident woman, who is also Muslim. She was great to talk to about her religion as she was very open about it. We definitely learned a lot!
[caption id="attachment_838" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Inside the Mosque"][/caption]

The next day, was Cairo! The Pyramids! We stared off early in the morning and headed out on our way. Anna ever the trouper did pretty well. She got upset a few times, but was really pretty impressive for being so tired. We went to the Pyramids first thing. Man were they impressive. We all decided to go up and see the inside. It had a really low ceiling and lead the way up to a room which used to contain a Pharaohs Sarcophagus. It was a long way up. Joan said that someone asked her if it was worth it and she just said "your in the great pyramid!"" Hard to think some people would spend so much money to go on the trip and yet try to save the last few bucks on going inside. Now, it isn't for everyone. Anna did not go inside. It is not for anyone who is claustrophobic or has back or knee issues. But it was definitely something cool to do once. After we toured the place we walked around the outside of the Great Pyramid. Fred was amazed at home forceful the people selling things were. We (Drew and I) took turns watching Anna and I stayed outside with her while they were inside. Fred was amazed that I have a lot of the little trinkets people were selling. I didn't by anything. I was just very firm with my NO THANK YOU response, no biggy.

[caption id="attachment_839" align="alignnone" width="225" caption="TEAM MUDGETT!"][/caption]

After everyone was out and accounted for we headed to the Giza Plateau for a photo opportunity.
[caption id="attachment_840" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The Mudgetts at the Pyramids"][/caption]

Then on to the sphinx. WOW! It was amazing. It was beautiful and breathtaking. What a cool experience. Words can not describe what it is like to go to a place you have read about in history class and never imagined you would ever go. Especially a place that is so old and (insert synonym for amazing, here, tee hee). One really interesting thing that our tour guide told us is that a recent find revealed that the place (Pyramids and Sphinx) were not built by slaves but by well paid people who were doing it because of religious beliefs. They found that they had access for foods (like fresh fruit) that slaves never would have had access to. Interesting development.

[caption id="attachment_841" align="alignnone" width="225" caption="Sphinx"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_842" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Happy to see the Sphinx"][/caption]

After we left the Sphinx we headed to a little place where they reenact what life was like at the Pharisaic times. I chose this place because I really wanted some place that Anna could get a bit more knowledge out of that would be fun for everyone else too. And we got to cross the Nile (granted it was a small creek area of the Nile, but, hey its the Nile no less).

[caption id="attachment_869" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Anna and I crossing the Nile"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_867" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Anna and Drew crossing the Nile"][/caption]

While we were there they demonstrated how they used to farm, make papyrus, mummify Pharaohs, make things of Alabaster, and make pottery.

[caption id="attachment_870" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Farming demonstration"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_871" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Farming"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_872" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Farming"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_874" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Alabaster"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_875" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Making Papyrus"][/caption]

We saw how the rich would live, what a temple would look like and the kind of place a poor person would dwell in.

[caption id="attachment_876" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The Temple (a 1:20th scale model)"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_843" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Hands on inside the Temple"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_844" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Our Chariot"][/caption]

We also got to tour the King Tut "museum" area they had. They had detailed replicas of many things such as King Tut's tomb etc.

[caption id="attachment_877" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Mummy"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_878" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Treasure!"][/caption]

Not bad for one stop 2 hour stop. We had to run near the end for fear of missing our boat! The boat won't wait for you if you have a private tour, so we did not want to miss the boat. We headed out on our way after grabbing some food to take along.

[caption id="attachment_879" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="waiting for our food to be prepared"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_868" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Anna adorned with all of her new booty in the van in Cairo, not happy about the drive"][/caption]

One snag in the journey was that apparently there was a traffic accident that completely shut down the high way. We made it to the boat at 6 o'clock. Last boarding being 5:30. Six was when they were pulling out. Well, when they would have pulled out, had their buses been back. That's right, our awesome tour guide and driver were the first one back to the ship! She was so sweet and definitely sounded like she was going to start crying as she called her colleague to find out if they knew if any buses were behind us. I felt so bad for her. Anna was struggling too. The car accident added another hour on to the commute. Once we got back to the ship, we shopped around at the kiosks that were outside and were told by the ship staff that we could go for no more than 10 minutes. Which we adhered to, although when I realized the buses were not back yet, I kind of wanted to jump back in the van and head over to Alexandria library for an inside tour, but that was just a bit of a dream). So after a few minutes (and a few gifts to Anna, who gets free stuff like everywhere apparently) we boarded our ship. What a day! We went out to a specialty restaurant that night too. It was a French place. When we called for a reservation they said they could seat us if we came right then. It was around 6:30. The entire place was empty and I think we saw one other couple while there. I have never had such attentive wait staff before, but when you have a baby and are the only people in an restaurant, you get doted on. The food was good though. The reason the rest of their booked tables didn't arrive is that they were still not back to the ship. The ship did not depart from port until 8 pm!

The next day was an at sea day. Not much to do on that day, but after such a tiring few days, it was well worth it. I went for a morning run around the deck, but now was a bit more scared than before. Between having Anna and worrying about a toddler on a boat and the man overboard I was getting more and more fearful of being on the ship. We also had really bad waves in the middle of the night reaching 21 feet which apparently everyone slept through, except form Anna and I whole were holding onto one another terrified. The waves reached up to deck 7! A few weeks later 2 people died on a smaller ship when the waves reached 26 feet, so that gives you an idea of how much you get tossed about. Anywho, after a morning run, I think I ended watching a movie, and hanging out with the family, etc.

The next day was Malta. Which I knew nothing about but I heard it was beautiful place.

[caption id="attachment_886" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="From the ship deck as we pulled into port in Malta"][/caption]

This is the tour that I arranged myself. I just emailed a tour company told them the kinds of things that interest us and they put together a tour. We went on a wet walk through some palace gardens which were pretty. The best part was that Anna insisted on carrying her own umbrella and all you could see was a moving umbrella with little legs sticking out from under it. ADORABLE!

After the gardens we headed up to a craft village. They had shops that made all kinds of different things. We bought a vase and a penguin made out of blown glass. We also got Anna some trinkets. Then we went to a city called Mdina.

It was up there on my list of favorite places this trip. What a cool city. We walked around (Anna carrying her umbrella of course).

[flv:http://teammudgett.net/blog/media/video/umbrellaanna.AVI.FLV 320 240]

I saw a church and wanted to tour it. The ticket to tour the church came with a ticket to tour the church museum. We went through the church which was absolutely breathtaking. It was smaller than many most cathedrals that people normally tour, but simply beautiful. So different than St. Peters, so much smaller. It never ceases to amaze me how much time and work and money people put into building things for God.

[caption id="attachment_884" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Inside the church"][/caption]

After the tour of the church we decided to go ahead and check out the museum, after all, even though it didn't look like much. There were tiles and walls that were not fixed and construction stuff everywhere, but we decided to give it a go anyway. I am so glad we did. There was some of the coolest things in there. My father fell in love with the place. My favorite part was in a room that was had coins going back thousands of years. I mean they had coins that Jesus would/could have used, with Caesars picture on them. Holy cow! They had coins that went back MUCH further than that.

[caption id="attachment_888" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Walking through Mdina"][/caption]

We walked around a bit longer and then headed back to the van and off to see the Blue Grotto. I didn't really know what it was exactly until we got there. It is this beautiful formation high above the blue water where waves come and crash into it.

[caption id="attachment_882" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Blue Grotto"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_885" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Family at the Blue Grotto"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_845" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The Blue Grotto, Malta"][/caption]

Being there made me feel so nervous, it was so high! But it certainly was beautiful. Apparently Drew did not have the same feeling.

[caption id="attachment_890" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Anna walking on the wall near the Blue Grotto"][/caption]

Finally, we drove around a bit and headed back to the ship. Drew and Anna and I poked about for a while at the shops near the boat before we boarded. It was a really cool place.

The final day was an at sea day. Then we landed back in Barcelona. We said good bye to my parents :(.

[caption id="attachment_901" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Thank you Grandma and Pop Pop"][/caption]

Then headed into town to hang out for a while until our rental car was ready. We ended up walking to a park with Joan and Fred before they headed to the airport.

Once we got our car it was off to our Bed and Breakfast about an hour away near Girona. It took us longer than we thought to get there, but it was such a cool place. The house, Mas Abeli, was huge (the pictures are very deceptive), the owners did not speak English so it gave everything a more authentic feel, I thought.

[caption id="attachment_904" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Mas Abeli at night, only pic I have of house "][/caption]

Some things we learned were that apparently winter is not a time to stay somewhere in Spain unless you know if it is heated. Another thing to know is that meals in Spain happen at much different times than we are accustomed to eating. Finally, that Spanish and Catalan are COMPLETELY different languages. But, thanks to Internet interpreting programs, we were able to communicate, albeit slowly. We told our hostess that we would like have dinner at the house on our second night and she said it would be ready at 9. We must have made a face and said is that too early, or too late? We ten took the suggestion of 8. Now 8 pm for dinner is almost like midnight. We normally eat around 5 or 5:30. We went to a Carefour which is a European grocery store chain and bought some things to snack on while we waited for things to be opened. We went out to dinner the first night, but NOTHING was opened. Never saw anything like it. We figured that maybe it was because it was more of a summer place? Nope. It is because people eat so late there. We found an Indian place that served pizza that was opened and we went there. We have found Indian Kebab restaurants often serve Pizza as well, who knew! The food good and we got to watch Hindi Music videos. They were covering a lot of popular songs in Hindi. I even got to see "If you like you then you should have put a ring on it" performed in sari dress! How fun! When we finished our meal and left is when we started to see the streets getting a bit busier. It was after 8, so some of the babies were starting to come out, huh? What a different culture! Then we went back to the B and B and settled down to sleep. It was SOOOOOO cold! Next morning, we woke up and ate breakfast. Our hostess made it ready for us early.
[caption id="attachment_911" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Playing with Dolores\' toys while mom and dad eat breakfast"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_897" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="breakfast at Mas Abeli "][/caption]

After we ate, we both felt kind of sick. I Knew exactly why too. She had made a delicious sweet bread. Served hot cocoa, and several other things, including juice. I knew what was wrong because even though I don't have diabetes (at least not yet, fingers crossed) I know when my blood sugar is high and that was my problem. So, we set out to go see Girona. It was cold. We walked around for a little while and the tourist things were not opened yet, so we decided we needed to go into a coffee shop and get warm. We decided to go and get some hot cocoa (more sugar). I also ordered a ham and cheese sandwich to get more protein in me. When the cocoa arrived, I almost laughed. It looked like a cup full of melted chocolate bars, it was THAT thick!

[caption id="attachment_905" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="melted chocolate bars?"][/caption]

Delicious. I had about 3 sips I think.

Anna thought it was the best!

Drew couldn't even finish his. So you know how rich it was.

We spent a lot of time hanging out trying to keep warm, etc. There were even some people in there that had a small dog with them, which Anna thought was just great. After we were sufficiently warm (this was really the warmest we had been since the ship as no place seemed to have heat), we decided to walk around town. It was such a charming town. This is what I picture when I think of Spain. Narrow streets, old buildings, little shops with all kinds of treasures to discover.

[caption id="attachment_903" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Girona"][/caption]

There was a little river running through town too. Making it all the more beautiful.

We ended up taking a tour of the cathedral in the town, which was a lovely place.

[caption id="attachment_910" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="the top of stairs at the cathderal "][/caption]

We also ate lunch at a Pizza place, but it was a fancier pizza place than the previous night, and we ended up not eating pizza. And we were sat near the kitchen (extra warm!). Drew ordered a calzone and I had some Mushroom cream sauce pasta. Everything was delicious!

We also went up to see Salvador Dali's Museum. Which was about an hour drive away. Anna and I both passed out on the way there. Drew decided to drive an extra exit to go to France, even though we didn't have our passports with us as they were at the B&B, he thought it would be cool just to drive to boarder and turn around, he also thought it would be really cool to do it while we were asleep so we would never know. I woke up a couple minutes too soon I guess. So I was awake for our u turn.

[caption id="attachment_902" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="France "][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_896" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="back to Spain "][/caption]

He was right, it was fun. I didn't know much about Salvador Dali, but his stuff is really unique. Anna LOVED it. I did to. I am not a museum person, but his stuff was great. Everything was so creative and he used all kinds of mediums, it was definitely not room after room of the same stuff, which is sometimes how I feel at other places. Oh, and there were loads of pictures with belly buttons.

[caption id="attachment_908" align="alignnone" width="225" caption="I have on too!"][/caption]

On our way out of the Museum we stopped by the gift shop and Anna picked up one of the persistence of time magnets and put it on her wrist and said clock. We were shocked for a few reasons. One was that we never wear watches and where she figured out that it goes on your wrist was fascinating, the second was because not only does she recognize a clock and know the word, but she recognized a surreal clock. Impressive. We walked around town a bit after we toured the place. I grabbed a warm Belgian waffle with Chocolate sauce (which I fell in love with in Amsterdam) and Drew got some ice cream (why on the coldest weekend ever knowing we would return to a cold room, escapes me). Then we ventured back to the B&B. We put Anna to sleep and went downstairs for some quiet time by the fire and a delicious home cooked meal. And I Mean Delicious! It was so worth eating 3 hours later than normal. We went off to bed, as predicted, a very cold bed. Next morning We ate breakfast and spent a little time around Mas Abeli before heading out. We walked around and looked at the horse and donkey.

[caption id="attachment_909" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="the horse at Mas Abeli"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_907" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="our hostess Dolores and her horse"][/caption]

The dogs and birds.

[caption id="attachment_899" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="dogs "][/caption]

It was a lot of fun. We said our goodbyes to Dolores (our hostess) and headed out on our way home.

[caption id="attachment_912" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="waiting for the plane to board"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_894" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="I need a rest!"][/caption]

What an Amazing Trip!


  1. Great job. Looks like a great trip.

  2. I can't even remember half of my comments because that was so long. I'm glad that you posted it. It looks like the trip of a lifetime. I love the Sphinx photos. I love the u-turn, I just watched something like that on some show. (They went to Canada, I think.) The pictures have me even more excited to see you guys. Can't wait!

  3. All I can say is WHAT A TRIP!!! Wonderful narrative!!! Great photos, I really enjoyed reading it almost felt like I was there. Well, not really but wish I could have been! Love to you all!

  4. You put me to shame - at some point I'll post something about the trip, but you have great commentary about the trip, and your photos really help to show some of the experiences of the trip. I learned somethings I didn't previously know about - you should have said something about the waves - I've never been on a cruise where I experienced that before and it was a really intesting thing to go through, but I wasn't concerned. I'm glad we all got to do this trip together.

  5. Hey when do we start planing our next trip. How about South America or someplace else. Anyplace is good for us.

  6. Wow.. I love your travel photos! And I am still wondering if that hot cocoa qualifies as a drink or as a food. Well done, that must have taken awhile to put together.