Day 11 – Athens and the Acropolis

We are here in Athens, city of Athena, birthplace of democracy, and home to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.  After arriving in the port city of Piraeus in the morning, we travel by bus (always a bus!) through modern Athens to the Acropolis, one of the greatest archaeological sites in the world.  It’s a beautiful day which we need for the walking and climbing up 80 steps to the top of the Acropolis (meaning high city) to see the Parthenon.  It’s not an easy climb; sometimes we use marble steps and sometimes it’s gravel.  The climb is made a little hazardous by the huge number of tourists, the most we’ve seen since Rome.

climbing to the Acropolis
climbing to the Acropolis

But we prevail, finally reaching the Propylaea, the monumental marble gateway to the incredible ruins.

scaffolding on the gate to Parthenon

the Propylaea, the gateway to the Acropolis

The marble from which all the structures were built came from a mountain twelve miles away, which we can see in the distance.  How the ancient Greeks quarried and hauled the huge pieces of marble twelve miles and then up the steep hill to the Acropolis boggles the mind and is an engineering marvel.  Today, marble used to restore the Parthenon is laser-cut to fit perfectly where missing pieces have not been recovered.  The  almost three-thousand-year-old marble is a pale, dusty yellow, but the new marble is pristine white, allowing you to imagine what the Parthenon might have looked like in the blazing sunlight.

a view of the new and old marble

a view of the new and old marble

the side of the Parthenon

the front of the Parthenon with the scaffolding visible

We can see the Ancient Agora, which means “a place of gathering” – the center of Athenian life and the center of ancient Greek democracy; it once served as a marketplace, civic center, and seat of justice.

looking at the Agora

a view of the Agora from the Acropolis

We can see below a massive rock where Peter preached.  Our guide (again, so good) explains how the Parthenon was built and describes the 40-foot gold statue of Athena that once stood inside the Parthenon.  In the early 1460’s the Parthenon became a mosque.  He tells about the explosion of stored Ottoman gunpowder that was detonated by the Venetian bombardment in 1687, destroying many of the columns and statues.  Inside the Parthenon today is a corrugated building housing restoration equipment and cranes used to reconstruct the massive columns.  Like Pompeii and Ephesus, we are amazed by the construction of temples, columns, streets and houses of the ancient world.  Hopefully, in ten years, the Parthenon will look as it did in ancient Athens. The views of Athens and the surrounding area are spectacular.

view of the Apitheater

view of the Amphitheater

Leaving (by walking back down the 80 steps) the Acropolis,we travel through Athens, passing other buildings of note.  The most interesting is the Old Olympic Stadium, built on the foundation of a 4th century arena.  It was here that the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896 and was one of the sites used in the 2004 Olympics.

Olympia Stadium

Olympic Stadium

We reach the Plaka, the oldest shopping district with cobblestone lanes at the foot of the Acropolis; today it is home to wonderful boutiques, cafes and local tavernas.  We find a welcoming spot at Hermion, a cafe with an outdoor vine-covered courtyard, a cool (as in weather) place for lunch.  We have Halloumi, a Greek cheese we’ve had before.  It’s a wonderful cheese to grill.  It’s served on tomato slices with some pesto; it’s delicious.  We order meatballs with tomato sauce and rice.  The size of mini-meatloaf, they are so flavorful and a bit spicy.  A glass of local white wine completes our wonderful lunch.

grilled Halumi with tomatoes and pesto

grilled Halloumi with tomatoes and pesto

meatballs with rice and tomato sauce

meatballs with rice and tomato sauce

We’ve had a wonderful day in Athens, seen one of the wonders of the ancient world and had a delightful lunch, all while enjoying a beautiful day. Another place to hopefully return to one day. Tomorrow, after our last day at sea, we arrive in Venice, one of the most romantic, intriguing cities in the world.   By the way, if you can’t get to Athens to see the Acropolis, you can travel to Nashville, Tennessee.  A full-scale replica of the Parthenon was erected there in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition.

replica of Parthenon

replica of Parthenon in Nashville

Day 10 – Evocative Ephesus with pictures

“You return from a trip, but not from a true journey.” ~ Regal Princess

If you’ve read the New Testament, you’re familiar with Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, one of the most quoted chapters.  We are here today to see another historical wonder of the ancient world. Again, we have an excellent guide, Hadim, who shares with us some interesting facts; for instance, Turkey shares a border with more countries than any other country in the world: Bulgaria and Greece on the European side and Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria on the Asian side. It is also bordered by the Mediterranean Sea on the south, the Aegean Sea on the west, the Marmarra Sea on the northwest and the Black Sea on the north. With some ruins uncovered as far back as 5000 B.C., Ephesus is in southern Turkey, about a 35 minute drive from the port city of Kusadasi, which, for most of its existence, was a sleepy little fishing village.  Today, because of the tourism coming to see Ephesus via cruise ships, it’s a large, thriving city.  At one time, Ephesus, after it was first a Greek city and then the Roman provincial capital, was a significant sea port and trading center.  The sea receded several miles, taking away its importance as a bustling metropolis, reducing its population from 300,000 in the 2nd century to a ghost town.

As we enter the city, you can sense what a major city it must have been.  It’s an archaeological wonder, with marble streets and once-glorious structures.  The Celsius Library housed thousands of manuscripts.  The Roman Imperial Temple of Hadrian is a testament to the Romans’ love of all things large and impressive. The Great Theater seated over 25,000; this is the site where in the 1st century Paul preached to the Ephesians to relinquish their pagan gods and accept Christ.  Ephesus attracted tourists even then and selling small images of the goddess Artemis was a thriving business; the merchants wanted nothing to do with the new religion that would affect their pocketbooks.  Because it was an open city where all religions co-existed, Paul came to Ephesus and, in spite of commercial opposition, made many converts before he was forced to flee.  Ephesus is also important as the place where the Apostle John brought Mary, the mother of Jesus. Although we didn’t have time, you can visit her house, a short distance away, where she lived out her life.  The Basilica of St. John and John’s alleged grave is here too.  Hadim makes a point of telling us that Muslims in Turkey do not adhere to any radical practices in other Muslims countries.  He also wants us to know that Turkish Muslims consider Jesus a prophet and appeal to Mary for healthy children.

Ephesus, in spite of all the tourists, is a serene and quiet place.  Surrounded by hills and pine trees, it was a progressive and educated city, with public toilets, fountains, and  the colossal Celsius library. It is always undergoing excavations to unearth more hidden treasures of an ancient time.

Our bus takes us back to Kusadasi, where we wander through the local bazaar.  I find a Pandora store and buy a charm for my bracelet; it’s an “evil eye” believed to bring good luck.  Along with Pompeii, Ephesus opens our modern eyes to ancient civilizations and makes us wonder about life 2,000 years ago.  Definitely worth the trip half way around the world.

Tomorrow we arrive in Athens, the third of our ancient world stops.

Fortunately, I’m now able to share some of the hundreds of photos I’ve taken of our travels.  Here are a few from Ephesus.

city view - Copy

some of the ruins at Ephesus

mosiac floor uncovered - Copy

uncovered mosaic floor in house

Temple of Hadrian

Temple of Hadrian

Nike relief

Nike relief

a house in Ephesus

the ruins of a house in Ephesus

The Great Theater where Paul preached

The Great Theater where Paul preached

public toilets with running water

public toilets with running water

marble street

marble city street

Day 9 -Intriguing Istanbul

I’d imagined Istanbul as exotic with men in long flowing robes and dancing girls in brightly colored costumes. Didn’t see any of that, but we did see the Blue Mosque (a 17th-century mosque renown for its 20,000 blue tiles), the Hagia Sofia (the first mosque in Istanbul, which was originally built by Constantine in 325 A. D., as St.  Sonia, the church of Holy Wisdom), and the Topkapi Palace (built on the ruins of Constantine’s Imperial Palace, but later the home of the sultans in the Ottoman Empire for 400 years). All are beautiful and impressive.  The famous Grand Bazaar was closed on Sunday but that was O. K. First, Istanbul is huge – about 14 million; the smaller, but more modern and developed side is the European side. The much larger part is in Asia. Formerly Constantanople, this city has been ruled by Byzantines, Romans, Greeks, and Turks. It has been the religious center of Christian and Muslim rulers. Being in our first Muslim country is a bit disconcerting; we see women in various stages of burkas, from just a head scarf to only eyes showing. Our guide assures us that those are not Turkish women but ones visiting from more conservative Muslim countries. Our guide is also outspoken about the fact that some factions in the country are pushing for more strict rules for women and that most Turkish people want to remain secular.  We women are required to put scarves provided on our heads to enter the Blue Mosque. Everyone had to remove their shoes.

The city is divided by the Bosphorus Strait, which connects the Aegean Sea to the Black Sea, and has been an important waterway for centuries. We take a boat ride on the Bosphorus and enjoy an traditional Turkish lunch on board – sounds very touristy, but the meal is very good. We are able to see government buildings, churches, palaces, and minarets from the boat, which shows the differences between the European and Asian sides.

We then are taken to a carpet showroom for a demonstration on Turkish rug-making. It’s really inserting to see a woman sitting on a low stool double knotting each piece of silk or wool for a rug. Work can only be done in twenty minutes intervals because of the intensity of the labor.  An 8 X 10 foot rug can take up to two years. That’s why Turkish rugs are so expensive.

A bus ride through Istanbul emphasizes the immense size of this remote, but important city in world history. It’s been a long day of eye-opening sights.

Tomorrow is Ephesus in southern Turkey, a destination I’m really looking forward to.

Day 7 and 8 – Relaxing at sea

After four straight days of excursions, bus rides and a lot of walking (6 days if we count our two days in Barcelona) and exploring, we’re ready for a relaxing day at sea. The weather is absolutely perfect: sunny and  warm, not hot, with a slight breeze.  This is cruising at its best: time to take advantage of all or none of the activities. There is something for everyone, from reading in the library or on deck, bingo – a major attraction that we love – working out in the fantastic fitness center, having a treatment in one of the most beautiful spas I’ve ever seen, playing in the casino, going to a seminar on art or learning how to play chess. There is always life music in the piazza.  I go to a Zumba class on Deck 18 in the sport court; what an experience dancing while cruising around the tip of Italy. Sweet Shark works out in the fitness center. After a quick shower, we meet for breakfast and then the first round of bingo for the day. Bummer, no winners.  We head up to the Lido Deck (16) and find lounge chairs and set up for a relaxing afternoon. I go into the Horizon Court, the restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There is enough food in here to feed an army: salads, sandwiches, meats, vegetables, breads, potatoes, Asian dishes, and, of course, dozens of desserts.  It’s all included, which is where you can get in trouble. People do tend to pile on the food. (The fitness director told us that the average guest gains 1- 2 pounds a day.)  I get a salad and head outside to meet Sweet Shark by the pool. He’s opted for a slice of pizza. We spend the day reading, listening to the music, and then watch the movie on the huge screen (Hitch with Will Smith). Tonight is formal night. Sweet Shark wears his tux and we have a great time before dinner watching everyone dancing and getting their pictures taken while the band plays in the piazza.  After dinner, we go to one of the dance venues and enjoy the music.  Tomorrow is the island of Mykonos.

When we wake this morning, we are supposed to be docked in Mykonos, island of white buildings and blue roofs. We’re still sailing. The captain comes on the PA system to tell us that the winds and high seas around the island prevented us from going there, so we have another day at sea. A bit of a disappointment, but we were only going to be there half a day. So what do we do? The same thing we did yesterday: bingo twice, Zumba, catch up on e-mail, and writing here.

Major note:  I realized that I accidentally wrote “St. Mark’s” instead of “St. Peter’s” about Rome. Sorry for the confusion.

Tomorrow is Istanbul and hopefully we will have good weather. That’s a place not to be missed. Istanbul is the only city in the world that strides two continents. Although Muslim, it’s a member of the EU and NATO, and the most forward and secular country in the Middle East.  How exotic!

Day 6 – Preserved Pompeii

We awake to view Naples, one of the major ports of southern Italy, and the home of pizza margarita. Our journey today takes us down the coast to Pompeii, one of the most famous places on earth where no one has lived for two thousand years. First, we travel by boat along the beautiful Amalfi coast. It’s a tranquil, beautiful ride from which we can view villages with homes, churches, and other white stuccoed buildings built into the sides of the hills. It’s really a beautiful coast and the quaintness adds to the allure. We arrive in the village of Amalfi, once a town of 60,000, but today of just 6,000. It’s a lovely place with shops and restaurants climbing up a main street. Outside one church with a hundred steps to the entrance a panoramic view of the village and the sea takes our breath away.

We take the same sea cruise back to our starting point and then head by bus to Pompeii. Before we enter the UNESCO World Heritage Site, we stop for lunch and shop at a local shop for Limoncello, which is made here from the zest of some of the biggest lemons we’ve ever seen.

Time stopped for Pompeii on an afternoon in August of 79 A. D.  Mt. Vesuvius blew its top and spewed ash and gases upon the city. Pompeii had been a very large, progressive, thriving Roman city. It was ahead of its time in terms of running water, public baths, and government. You can walk all over the site, which has been undergoing restoration since the late 1800’s. The city was laid out on a grid, which makes getting around fairly easy, except that you are walking on cobblestones and gravel. When we see the plaster casts of real people, especially a little boy, we are reminded that these were real people whose lives were snuffed out in minutes by the gasses and about 20 feet of ash. We walk into the homes of wealthy people as evidenced by the beautiful mosaics unearthed on the floors, gardens, and frescos on the walls. You can see stores, small homes, and fountains (one still with running water). The tracks left by horses and carriages are the basis of our railroads today.

i have to say that there is an awe about the place and a bit of sadness. Can you imagine your city wiped out but still preserved for future generations to view?  As excavations continue, we will learn more about Roman life before Christ and in the early first century.  I encourage you to come to Pompeii. It’s a one of a kind place.

Tomorrow is a day at sea and we’re ready for a relaxing day. Next stop is the Greek isle of Mykonos.

Day 5 – the Eternal City

Arriving in Civitavecchia, the port city for Rome brings back memories of our first trip here nine years ago.  After a ninety minute drive we reach Rome and are dropped right in St. Peter’s Square. We have already been alerted that Pope Francis, or Papa Francis, as our guide says is having an audience in St. Peter’s Square. The front of the Cathedral has a canopy set up for the pope and hundreds of people are seated and thousands more are standing to hear what is called “an audience”. Two jumbo screens broadcast the pope’s message and we see and hear him on it. Although we’re not Catholic, we are still thrilled by the opportunity to hear such a humble and beloved man. Of course, he is speaking in Italian and so we can’t understand him, but that’s O. K.  Unfortunately for us tourists, it means the city is packed today. On our visit here nine years ago, we saw all the highlights except two:  the coliseum, which was closed for renovations, and the Sistene Chapel, which we  just didn’t have time for. Our goal today is to visit those. Our guide has bought us tickets so we don’t have to stand in line for the Sistene Chapel, which is a good thing because the line stretches for blocks. The Sistene Chapel is actually part of the Vatican Museum and we walk through many rooms of paintings, statues, and tapestries. The art painted on the walls and ceilings is magnificent and a bit overwhelming, as you constantly have to look up. The crowds make for slow going, but eventually we enter the Chapel. If you’ve been here, you know that the sheer size and magnitude of it is incredible.  Michelangelo’ s Creation on the ceiling is surrounded by other frescos. You want to lay down on the floor to look up, but can’t. The fact that he climbed scaffolding many stories high and laid on his back to paint this depiction of God and Adam Is incredible. The colors are still so vivid. On one entire wall is the Last  Judgment which is three or four stories tall. The perspective and proportion Is a testament to the artist’s genius.  This is the room where the cardinals meet in conclave to elect a new pope. It really doesn’t look anything like it does in movies. We finally make our way through more rooms of  church relics and antiquities to out to St. Mark’s Square. The Pope has finished his audience, but the crowds are still in the thousands. We walk for a few blocks until we find a taxi and head over to the Coliseum.  We arrive in front of the Forum and, hey, there’s no line.  We buy our tickets to the Coliseum and walk along the Forum, which is below street level.  Once the center of Roman life, the Forum housed the Senate and government offices.  As we approach the Coliseum, it looks so much more impressive without all the scaffolding than it did nine years ago. A short wait in line and we’re inside.

Below us is the exposed area where animals and gladiators waited to fight for their lives. We climb to the second level for a view that is staggering in its vastness.  Thousands could watch the spectacle below. After circling around once and touching the ancient stones, we head out and down the street to a cafe. We enjoy a pizza with crispy crust, tomatoes and mushrooms with a glass of wine outside under a lovely canopy of vines.  Catching a taxi, we head back to the Vatican, where the Pope has finished his audience and we’re now able to get a better view of St. Peter’s Square. It is so huge and there is still a long line to get into the church. Thank goodness we did that on our last trip.

Tomorrow it’s on to Naples and Pompeii.

Arrivederci Roma!

Days 3 and 4 – meet the Princess and Provence

On Sunday morning we board a shuttle bus for the Regal Princess, the newest cruise ship on the seven seas. We arrived before lunch time which gave us all afternoon to explore the ship and learn our way around. When we first stepped into the three-story atrium, we are overwhelming by how beautiful it is; gold and crystal fixtures, stairways, and lighting catch your eye and pull it upward. Most of the shops, restaurants (Italian, steak and seafood), lounges and bars are on one of these three decks along with the spa and passenger services, casino and dining rooms. This is a huge ship with almost four thousand passengers. On decks 16 and 17 are the pools, outdoor bars, pizza cafe, and burgers and hotdogs as well as a fabulous fitness facility. The outdoor movie theater and basketball and sports courts make this the area for play, relaxing and fun.  It’s hard to explain just how beautiful this ship is.  I recommend you check it out at regal princess.com. After unpacking our bags and enjoying the view from our balcony, we get ready for our first evening. The ship sets sail for Toulon, France as a great band plays on the Lido deck (16) and we enjoy a glass of champagne to celebrate.

When we wake up in the morning, Provence greets us. Toulon is an important port for southern France and is the gateway for our day in Provence on our first excursion. We first travel by bus to the old city of Aix (X)-en-Provence, a place that I’ve read about and some picture books on. The old town is lovely, small narrow streets with little shops and, of course all signs are in French. We visit an old church whose simplicity and austerity is in sharp contrast to the Cathedral of Barcelona. The home of a once important citizen from the 17th century gives us an idea of what the wealthy lived like: tall ceilings, a large entry hall for greeting guests, and shutters set high in the walls to allow light and air in, but not the dust of the streets. The highlight is the village square where the daily food market is in progress. Fruits, vegetables, local cheeses and meats, and spices (I buy some pink peppercorns.) as well as lavender soaps and sachets are are sale. The venders will let you have a piece of cheese or sausage to taste.

We walk down the Cours Mirebeau, the main street,  a lovely boulevard with a fountain and large trees.  We then board our bus for Marseille, another major seaport city. (Julia Child lived here for a few years.). Marseille is a huge city and has served as a cent for commerce for hundreds of years. We love to have lunch on our own and find a nice brassiere on the waterfront. Sweet Shark and I share mussels and pome frites; they are really big and delicious.  A glass of Chablis completes the meal.  We remember that this is the same meal we had nine years ago on our first cruise in La Rochelle, France.

After lunch wow board the bus for a drive down the coast to a cathedral several hundred feet above sea level. The view of Marseille is amazing – you can now appreciate how big the city is. The cathedral doesn’t disappoint. Built into the side of the mountain on several levels, it soars into the sky. The statues and paintings are beautiful and the sense of a heavenly presence is palpable.

We return to our ship in the late afternoon and relax on the Lido deck as we sail from France and on to Livorno, Italy.  Bon voyage,  France. We’ll be back.

Day 2 – more Barcelona

Saturday morning we head down La Rambla, the main pedestrian street. We love the flower vendors and sidewalk artists. We find the Gothic Quarter or old town. The winding, narrow cobblestone streets barely are wide enough for all the tourists. Filled with shops and tapas bars today,  you can imagine the old stone buildings hundreds of years ago.  We come upon Placa Reial, a large plaza with a pretty fountain in the center and cafes on all sides. It’s a great place for people watching. We find a table at La Terrassa del DQ where we start off with Sangria Cava for me and Sangria Rouge for Sweet Shark. Both are delicious and refreshing. A bowl of silky smooth gazpacho filled with rich tomato flavor and a hint of cucumber paired with more bread and tomato start our lunch. We share an order of Iberico ham croquets and a Bomba Anec, a lamb croquette topping with pate. The entire lunch is a delight.

Heading back up La Rambla we spy the Barcelona Food Market, the most amazing one we’ve ever seen. A huge complex with hundreds of vendors selling fruits, vegetables, so many varieties of mushrooms, cheeses, nuts, spices, chocolates, candies – it’s overwhelming, but heaven for this food lover. Meats, chickens, even skinned rabbits, ham legs hanging from hooks. The most amazing part is the fish displays – so many types of fish, ones we’ve never seen – and the locals buying everything in sight.  I do purchase a bottle of local olive oil which I’ll share with my cooking classes.

Next we search out Bat Mut (pronounced moot), a place Sweet Shark read about that has the best patatas bravas anywhere. We weren’t disappointed. The crispy fried potatoes topped with garlicky aioli and spicy tomato sauce were indeed the best. The local wines and beers offered make this small intimate place a must stop. The cute Catalonian waiter helps too.

For dinner we go to Cerveseria Catalana which was a recommended by our hotel. It must be popular because it’s crowded but we find a spot at the tapas bar next to a lovely couple from Scotland who help us with our dining chooses. We start with a fig stuffed with a local cheese and topped with shredded jamon. Then calamari and aioli. Camembert coated in chopped nuts is a surprise treat.  Langostinos on a skewer with tomatoes complete our last tapas meal in lovely Barcelona.

We have fallen in love with this city – the food, the friendly people, the history, and the sense of liveliness, great wine, and the beautiful Cathedral of Barcelona which took our breath away with its gold-leaf statues and paintings – it’s such a clean and well-designed city.

Tomorrow we board the Regal Princess to begin our Mediterranean adventure and sail to France.

Adios Barcelona.

 

Days 1 – Beautiful Barcelona

We arrived Friday morning in Barcelona and are blessed with a beautiful sunny day in the mid-70s.  We arrive at the Hotel Calderon on  Rambla Catalunya. By 10:30 we are checked in and out on the street. The first thing you notice in the city are how wide and clean the main streets are. Every main street is a boulevard with wide pedestrian walk ways in the center and car traffic on the outside going each way.  Down the center of the walk ways are sidewalk cafes, vendors selling beautiful cut flowers, plants, seeds, art, and trinkets.  Very tall trees separate the pedestrian walk way from the traffic, softening and shading shoppers and tourists on La Rambla,  the main boulevard,  which starts at the port and continues through the heart of Barcelona. Shops, hotels, restaurants, banks and businesses line the streets.  We decide that our first destination is La Sagrada Familia, the amazing Antonio Gaudi-designed church that has been under construction since 1882.  It’s a long walk, but it gives us a chance to stretch our legs after the long flight and to get a feel for the city.  Fifteen blocks later we can see the top of the spires of La Sagrada Familia and the gathering crowd tells us we’re close. Suddenly the church looms over us. It is so much bigger than I’ve imagined.  Officially a basilica, not a cathedral, La Sagrada Familia was begun in 1882 and construction still continues, with completion planned for 2026, which is the one hundredth anniversary of Gaudi’s death.  It’s architecture is a mix of gothic and modern elements with carvings of saints and animals perched everywhere. It’s size is overwhelming.

We quickly dismiss going inside because the line for tickets winds around the block.  Looking forward to our first meal in Barcelona, we backtrack to a sidewalk cafe on La Rambla Catalunya near our hotel,  Cachitos. A glass of Cava for me and Chardonnay for Sweet Shark begins our lovely meal. All the waiters are helpful and speak English. We share several tapas, including the traditional bread rubbed with tomato.

After lunch we wander around La Rambla Catalunya and drop by another tapas bar, Cuitat Comtal, that is crowded; it’s easy to see why. The tapas on display are enticing and we decide to come back here for a first course of dinner. Across the street from our hotel we explore the inside restaurant of the outdoor cafe where’d we had our delicious dinner, Cachitos. It’s a beautiful place with multiple floors of bars and dining.  Definitely a site for dinner.  Back to the hotel for showers and a change of dress and we’re ready to hit the street.

We head first to Cuitat Comtol for tapas.  Our first tapa is grilled mushrooms and asparagus, which are delicious. Then we each have a beef skewer and a boiled prawn. Sounds like we’re having a lot of food, but each order is just a bite. Now we head up La Rambla Catalunya to Chachitos. It’s not quite 8:00 so the restaurant isn’t open. We perch ourselves at one of the downstair bars and share a plate of local olives. Heading upstairs for dinner, we are seated at a bar surrounding a grill to meet Frank, our cook for the evening. Fortunately Frank is from Barcelona and speaks perfect English. He treats us to grilled baby clams that are so small you eat them like popcorn. We follow that with patatas bravas, another tradional tapa – fried potatoes with an aioli and tomato sauce on top. Really good.  The star of the meal is grilled crab claws; the meat is so sweet and tender with a slightly smoky flavor. What a wonderful end to our first day in Bacelona.

 

Bucket list, here we come

Today is a day that Sweet Shark and I have been looking forward to for six months – an adventure to not just check off our bucket list, but savor the experience of travel, history, and culture, eating food and drinking wine in countries we’ve visited before and new places we’ve never been, seeing historical sights, some a thousand years old, hearing different languages, and hopefully, relaxing a little.  Today, we leave for Barcelona for two days, before boarding our cruise ship, the brand-new Regal Princess, which will take us to Venice.  Along the way, we’ll stop in Provence, Pisa, Rome, Naples, Mykonos, Ephesus, Istanbul, and Athens.  Along the way, I hope to share with you our adventure.  I’ll be using my new IPad, which I’m still learning about.  So keep watch for posts from across the world.

Bon Voyage!