Cruise – Day Three, Pisa

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We arrived on day three at the port of Liverno, Italy.  At this port, people had the choice of going either to Florence or Pisa.  Since we had been to the lovely city of Florence a few years back, we decided to go see something we hadn’t seen before, Pisa and of course The Leaning Tower.  Our tour was scheduled for early afternoon, which was fine.  What wasn’t so fine was the news we received the day before concerning our tour in Pisa.  After the horribly disappointing NON-stop in Cannes, we were then told that part of the tour of Pisa was cancelled.  We were supposed to do a tour down the “scenic Arno River”, but apparently the tour boat was broken.  No, there was not a replacement boat, we were just out of luck.  What can you do?  Grin and bear it, I guess.

We rode a bus from the port to Pisa.  It was about a half hour ride through some pretty unimpressive countryside.  Upon arriving in Pisa, we transferred to a trolley for our tour around the city:

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Everywhere we went, we were literally surrounded by fellows (and sometimes ladies) like the guy in the center of this photo, holding the umbrella.  They were selling umbrellas/parasols, bags, postcards, you name it!  I found that I could be polite and say “no, thank you”, they would walk away approaching someone else…. and then, two minutes later, they’d be back, practically begging us to buy whatever it was they had to sell.  I do understand that people need to make a living, but it was a bit annoying.  I never felt threatened or anything like that, however.   We rode the trolley through the small town of Pisa and ended up at the “Field of Miracles” where the Leaning Tower stands.

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Doesn’t look like it’s leaning too much in this shot.  No worries, it’s just the angle we were viewing it from.  It’s still leaning, for sure.  No surprise, we decided NOT to climb to the top.  We still got some pretty good views from below.

Ahhh yes, here’s the Leaning Tower, actually leaning!

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Also in the Field of Miracles is the cathedral and the Baptistry.  We did go into the cathedral and here are a couple shots.

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I had to take a close up of this one.  You so often see the crypts of important dead people in these old churches, but it’s rare to come across a see-through crypt.  Creepy.

Before long, our short tour of Pisa was done.  Next thing we knew, we were back aboard the ship, headed out to the Mediterranean once again.  I couldn’t resist snapping this shot of another cruise ship, leaving Liverno.

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As the sun begins to set, we have a bite of dinner (John had lamb chops and I had spaghetti bolognese) and then begin to look forwards to our next stop: Rome.  For the first and only time, hubby and I would be doing separate tours.  He signed up for the 10.5 hour tour while I did the less strenuous 5 hour tour.  This turned out to be a very smart idea.  For now, goodnight from somewhere near Liverno!

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Day Three, Final day in Barcelona

It was Sunday, and we decided to sleep in a bit and catch up on our rest.  I was pretty sure I’d heard thunder during the night, and when we woke, it was raining.  Oh well, can’t let that get us down.  After a snack at the hotel, the three of us decided we’d see what we could do to get to the inside of Sagrada Familia.  We knew there were “ways” to get a ticket – as our guide Christian had informed us the day before.  We just had to go to a certain bank machine – a special one that sold event tickets – and voila!  We would have our tickets without having to wait in line.   We hopped in a taxi, went to the Basilica and returned to the special ATM that we were shown the day before.  Wouldn’t you know it, the darn thing was not working (for the ticket part, anyway).  We then considered waiting in the regular line to get the tickets, but  it was raining and the line up went around the block, literally.   SO, we had to be happy with again viewing the outside of this amazing structure.  David snapped this photo of us in front of the church.

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This was taken with one of the newer facades in the background.  I really like this side, as it has a timeline of sorts, in sculpture, showing the last days of Christ.

Here’s a photo of two things of interest.  First you’ll see the two men embracing.  This depicts Judas kissing and betraying Jesus.  Next to that is the “Sudoku-like” set of numbers.  If you add the numbers up in any column, any direction, even diagonal or zigzag, it always adds up to the number 33.  The age of Jesus when he was crucified.  John was very impressed and made sure I got a close up of it.

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Well, the rain continued to fall and we were a bit disappointed that we couldn’t get tickets to go inside.  We grabbed another taxi and returned to the hotel.  David needed to be at the airport by mid afternoon for his return flight to London.  We just hung out in the hotel lobby and visited until it was time for him to catch a ride to the airport.  It’s never fun to say goodbye, but this time it wasn’t quite as painful.  We knew we’d be seeing David again soon, sometime around Christmas.

After he left, the rain stopped and John asked me what I’d like to do.  I replied that all I really wanted to do was to somehow get inside Sagrada Familia!!  He too knew that it was today or never…. so, we decided to attempt to buy tickets online.  The hotel manager was ever so helpful, and before long we were printing those tickets!  Back in the taxi for a return trip the the Basilica!  Since we already had tickets, we were able to bypass the (still) very long line.

The inside was sure worth the trouble of printing out the tickets and making a return trip!!  Apparently, Gaudi had a huge love of nature and the columns inside were made to look like stalks of a plant.  SO unique and interesting!!

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I loved how the light poured in through the window near the ceiling.

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All I can say is that this place was amazing.  It really grabbed us both with it’s unusual beauty and design.  If you look near the bottom of this next photo, in the center, you’ll see a round object, all lit up.  Believe it or not, this is Jesus, hanging over the altar.  The following photo will be a close up of just that.

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As mentioned before, the church is not completed on the outside, but the inside is complete.  They do not yet hold regular services in this part of the church, but they DO have them in a basement area.   Here’s one last look at the outside…

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After our wonderful visit to Sagrada Familia, we returned to the hotel, with plans to meander across the street that evening to “Patagoinia” for dinner.  They didn’t even open till 8pm!  Like I said, Europeans like to consume their evening meal quite late!   We enjoyed a leisurely steak dinner, knowing the next day we’d be boarding the long awaited cruise ship.

Mediterranean Cruise Day One – Barcelona

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Hello one and all!  I know I’ve not blogged in literally forever, but I’m back!!!  Since I last wrote I’ve retired from my job as a bedside RN in Neonatal Care after 35 years.  For a while, we hope to do some traveling, and my plan is to document it here.  In mid-September we did a 12 night Mediterranean cruise, embarking from Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.  We had cruised at least 5 times before, (Alaska, Mexico, New England, Panama Canal, Caribbean) so I felt like we were “seasoned cruisers”.  We booked this trip back in March and did LOTS of research about our ports of call prior to the big day.  Another exciting thing was that we cruised with our neighbors, Brian & Paul.  Here we are, pictured above with all our stuff (which I struggled to put into just two suitcases per person, one big and one carry-on) packed into Brian and Paul’s car.  We decided to take the shuttle down to SeaTac airport instead of driving and paying to park for 17 days.

It was a very long trip.  This is an understatement.  We knew it would be grueling and for a couple of “older folks”, it was.  If you consider the time getting to Seattle, the time waiting to catch our overnight flight to Amsterdam, the flight TO Amsterdam, and the flight from Amsterdam to Barcelona, the total travel time was about 21 hours. We arrived totally exhausted, but determined to stay awake until the normal local bedtime… which we succeeded in doing.

We arrived 3 days prior to our big cruise which was intentional.  We wanted some time not only to explore Barcelona, but also to visit with John’s son, David (who we hadn’t seen for over a year).  He lives/works in London UK. He arrived from London just minutes after we arrived from Amsterdam and we met up in the airport.  🙂  It was so great to get to have a couple of fun days with David!  First stop was our hotel, Hotel Indigo Barcelona.  Now I cannot take credit for finding this gem of a hotel… hubby did the research on this and we were all very pleased.

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Here is our room…. absolutely LOVELY and modern.  The bed was honestly the most comfortable hotel bed I have EVER slept on…. could this be because I was one very weary traveler?  Possibly, but this really was one great bed!

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Here is a view from our little balcony, looking down onto the busy street below.  We were on Floor 2, which in Europe really means the third floor.  They count the ground floor as “floor 1”.  My apologies to all who already knew that little piece of info.  We read on Trip Advisor that some folks complained about the street noise, but we weren’t bothered by that since the windows are triple glazed and did a good job of blocking out the all day and all night traffic.

Our first order of business, after securing our rooms was to get something to eat.  David got a recommendation from the front desk clerk for a non-touristy place for Tapas.  It was only a few block walk… which would have been NOTHING for normal people, but we were SO tired and my bad leg was also SO tired, that it seemed further.  Just for the record, I’ll say right up front that my bad leg was literally a PAIN IN THE….. well, hip, the whole time.  I now will fully admit that I should have had the replacement surgery back in March when I wanted it – no matter WHAT kind of implant they wanted to put in!  Yet, one cannot go backwards, only forwards, so I did the best I could with what I had (a degenerated hip joint).

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We sat outside at this nice, busy, non-touristy restaurant.  The weather was divine!  About 75 degrees here in the early evening (about 7 pm or so).  Oh, at this point I will mention that Europeans – or at least folks in Barcelona – normally eat dinner quite late…. like 9 or 10 pm.  That may be why this place was not yet filled to the max.  Anyway, it was here that I had my first CAVA (Spanish sparkling wine, mostly produced right here in Catalonia) which was delightful.  It seemed that it was the tradition to start dinner with Cava everywhere we went.  We had Tapas (an assortment of interesting appetizers) but unfortunately I didn’t snap a photo of them.  You will see later on that I enjoyed taking photos of meals…. but I digress.   It was also here that I had my first real Spanish Sangria!  Yum!

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Here’s a nice shot of David, just chillin’ over the Tapas and wine 🙂

After dinner we began our walk back to Hotel Indigo.  On the way we came across a place that I HAD to document! What the heck??

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It’s the OBAMA British Africa Pub.  They apparently serve “Ales, Stouts, Gin, and Rhum”.  I know this is not a great photo, but I snapped it while walking across a busy street.  Looks like an interesting place, eh?  Then we saw “him”.  Mr Obama himself, just lounging outside the establishment….

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No surprise, hubby had to go sit with “him” for a while.  I can only imagine what John may have said to our President.  Hmmmm.

From here, we dragged our sorry behinds to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.  We would need it as the next day was an all day tour of Barcelona and Montserrat.  Montserrat was where I nearly kicked the proverbial bucket …. but more on that next time!