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Wendy & Rob from California, Fall 2003

After 13 days in Italy we boarded Holland America's Noordam. We started in Civitavecchia went down the Tyrrenean Sea up the Adriadic to Dubrovnic, then to Corfu, Malta, Palermo, Mahon and then Toulon & Setè, France and finished in Barcelona. We hope you will come along with us and see some of the things we saw and taste some of the tastes we shared. Buon viaggio.

This trip report was originally posted on SlowTrav.

Making our way OUT OF ROME to Civitavecchia, (Port for Rome)

* A small introduction about my writing ... As I write this Trip Report for ST, I am working from my first-ever travel journal. I did my entries virtually every day either over a glass of wine on a stone terrace or on a loggia that we were fortunate enough to have had with our room. Or over breakfast to add the things that happened the previous night. Once we were on the ship which is what this part of our TR reflects, I either wrote in the journal while sitting in the Crow's nest and watching the sea go by or I wrote while reclining on the bed in the late afternoons. I found I really enjoyed keeping my notes and putting everything down on paper.

Even though I will be going by my notes my tense will change from current-now to current-then to ... So please accept this invitation to read my thoughts and please excuse any poor grammar or spelling that there may be on this or any of the following pages. *

Thursday October 23, 2003

Our last morning in Rome, today we embark on the MS Noordam in Civitavecchia.

Awake around 10am, not bad since we went to sleep around 2 something. (We tend to hang it out in Rome, or most cities for that matter. This has actually been the first trip that we turned-in by midnight more than 2a.m.)

We have until 2 p.m. till we have to leave Rome. How much can we do in that time?????????

I still have to pack,.... and repack some of our stuff. After 12 stupendous days in Italy our bags are in a bad state.

[In post-trip-thought I did really well packing for a) the driving portion of the trip, with no laundry facilities for 8 days b) the Rome portion,laundry(shirts) and dry cleaning available, but nothing of Wendy's could be sent in because everything hangs to dry c) the Cruise portion.]

Everything that we wore in Italy will be worn on the Cruise, but a lot of things for the cruise were not needed for the land base part of our trip, but we had to get into the 'big' bags for Rome, so eveything was disturbed!

Okay, so it took a bit longer than I had expected ... 1 and 1/2 hours, before I could kneel on some of the bags and Rob could zip them closed.

I hear the clock ticking and I don't like it one bit. (Wendy stomps her foot!) :winkgrin: Where has the time gone???????? Oh yeah, that is in part 1 (Italy, October 2003). We have had such a perfect time in Rome and Tuscany, I really wish the clock would slow down and give us more time here. I guess next years' trip will just have to do. (And yes, we already know what we will be doing so as soon as we get home we will start working on that).

[Current-time: We did know what we wanted to do Oct. 2004 while on this 2003 trip, and we knew then as we know now 11-30-03 that ST will be a tremendous help for the new areas we plan on exploring.]

Okay, the bags are packed and we have N I N E T Y precious minutes till the taxi is at the hotel to drive us to the port.

Off to 'IL CHICCO' for lunch. Just up the cross street from the hotel on the other side of the V. Veneto, on V. Lonbardia. We stopped here the other day in the rain and took our panino's to go, (since they weren't set up outside). We usually have lunch here a couple of times each trip, but it didn't seem to work out this time (especially since we went to Ciampini on our first day in Rome). 'IL CHICCO' is a family run place, just up the street from the Excelsior Hotel, where we always seem to stay.

[Next year an apartment????????]

Giada was there. She is one of the daughters' of the family who own and work this WONDERFUL bar/lunch place :). We have watched her grow up and always take an annual photo together. It's fun to look back over the past five or so years worth of pictures and see the changes. This year her younger sister was working there, the mother runs the register and the father is behind the counter.

I love their salad of very fresh lettuces, cubes of mozzarella, carrot shavings, corn kernals, tomatoes and if you want, which I don't, you can have tuna on top. A bit of olive oil and balsamic, salt and pepper and I have a terrific salad to go with our paninos. Every single panino/sandwich/combination between bread, whatever you want to call these very ediable creations looks scrumptous. I tend toward a caprese on a pressed roll, Rob goes for the prosciutto and various cheese panino. We shared a split of chianti, 2 espressi and 2 grappas of course. €17.10 including 2 bottles of water. (€20 with tip) This is basically our last meal in Italy for this year.

Well, it is just perfect. The rain had stopped earlier so we were able to sit outside where they have 6-8 tables set up. This place is very busy at lunch with many standing inside at the counter and others waiting for the precious few tables outside, which are set up with unbrellas.

After lunch we made a quick stop at our local 'grocer'. Up the street from 'IL CHICCO' is a market run by two brothers (twins possibly). One is always so sweet, he helps me with the wine I buy from them. The other isn't as friendly and rarely smiles, though in the recent past, years he has gotten a bit more friendly. He was on holiday. I always enjoy myself in their place. (Market Prod. Esteri S. Domingo, Via Lombardio 11-T, 4740710)

I bought 2 bottles of 'Castello D'Albola' Chianti Classico, one to drink on the ship and one to take home and share with my sister who gets migraines. She is willing to try an experiment hoping that the low level or no level of sulfites won't trigger her head-to-hurt. We'll see.

[We ended up bringing both bottles home so we will see the next time she comes up to visit us, about the Italian wines from Italy, for drinking in Italy, if they effect/trigger her migraines.]

2:10 Okay, scurry back to the hotel and gather our bags and taxi up to Civitavecchia. The taxi was waiting for us when we returned so we made our farewells and a quick exit from the Excelsior Hotel.

A bit of a long ride and the driver went way beyond the Civitavecchia Nord exit. We tried to correct him, but he said there was an exit that kept you from having to drive through town. Actually there was, but we went 10km north of the regular exit and then back tracked maybe 8km's. So this didn't work, when he got us to the port he admitted that he had used that exit when he had traveled from the North. What a waste. And actually the town of Civi. is lovely, you go along the waterfront and by nice stores, past the fortress, Michalangelo designed now used for the military. Not open to the public unfortunately. This is a wonderful little fortress. All in all I prefer our normal route. Total fare plus extra bags and tip €190. YIKES!

Oh well, that's the end of cars and taxi's basically for the rest of the trip. We will be walking.

SHIP TIME!!! Well, the Italy phase is over and we now move to ship life.

Holland America Line-MS NOORDAM

She has been in service since 1984. She is a lovely ship. No verandahs. One dining room on one level. We've been on her, with this trip, 7 times. She has had the best itineraries in the Mediterranean over the last 3-6 years. Our Itinerary this time starts here in Civitavecchia, Italy (port for Rome)

[We always work it so that our ship leaves out of Italy each fall so that we get our Italy time too, this has worked very well for us and each year I seem to add more days to our stay. This year 12 nights-next year we're planning 17 nights. After the ship leaves the port...]

We have a day at sea passing STROMBOLI VOLCANO and we cruise past the AEOLIAN ISLANDS and go through the STRAIT of MESSINA. (Doing laundry)

Saturday we will be in DUBROVNIK, CROATIA Sunday we will visit the island of CORFU Monday - VALLETTA on the island of MALTA Tuesday - PALERMO on the island of SICILY Wednesday - sailing the STRAIT of BONIFACIO Thursday - MAHON, on the island of MENORCA one of Spain's BALEARIC ISLANDS Friday - ST. TROPEZ [NO SCRATCH THAT-TOULON, FRANCE due to bad weather]. Saturday-SETè Possibly rent a car and drive up to CARCASSONNE. [This is what we did and it is an absolute must for anyone who visits that area] Sunday November 2, 2003 - BARCELONA, and the end of our trip, because we fly home that day. But, today is Thursday October 23, 2003 and we are ready to begin this voyage.

Cabin 058. Table 125 - table for 2 near center with two tables for 6 near by us. Nice location, good table.

The ship seems to be virtually full and the passangers seem to be a well traveled group.

Frank Buckingham is on board for the different port talks and history forums about our destinations. Frank is brilliant. (I think of Bill Thayer and all the information he has to empart on us, and Frank is the same. It would be amazing to watch these two men in conversation together).

We haven't had the honor to sail with Frank Buckingham for the past couple of years and we had made a comment last year requesting they bring Frank back. I don't know if they listened or what the circumstances were, we were just so happy to have him aboard.

John Scott is the captain and his wife Susan is traveling with him as she always does. We met them last year on the Noordam. Both are very nice and we have had the priveledge to dine with them at the formal event and also on one evening Susan joined Rob and myself and Peter the Cruise Director for a quiet dinner.

Peter Daems, Cruise Director, Dutch - from Gouda pronounced Houda according to Peter. We have now sailed with him 9 times also, but on various ships with Holland America.

All-in-all this is going to be a great cruise. We like everthing. The ship and the itinerary are both just dandy.

[We like to cruise, we have the great fortune to be able to do 2 trips a year and though we try other lines periodicly, we prefer Holland Ameica Line. We like the fact that they have a history in cruising and carrying passangers across Seas. This is their 130th anniversary. Anyway we like ships! As well as Italy!]

The afternoon is given to unpacking what I just packed 3 hours ago and then doing our tour of the ship. We always end up at the 'Crow's Nest' with a split of Henkel 'champagne' watching out the front windows toward the breakwater. The Sea is rolling today, we suspect there will be a few not feeling too well tonight. :)

We have the boat drill at 4:30 and the ship drops Her lines at 5pm.

First night not much to write, I suspect my writing here will be basically on the ports not on ship life, but we'll see what happens as the pages unfold. For right now though I am going to move on to the next day, which is a Sea Day. So Buon Notte e Ciao.
Friday Oct. 24, 2003/ DAY AT SEA

Got up around 11. :)

Well, I guess we missed breakfast. Oh too bad! On todays agenda: 1)-laundry 2)-reading 3)-down time

Oh! it is so nice to have clean undershorts, socks, tops and polo shirts. Yippee! Our bathroom in our cabin is filled with my clothes hanging to dry. Rob's went into the dryer, but I don't do that with my 'dancewear'.

I had packed with this in mind, but it is still nice to know our clothes are all fresh again. Rob's dress shirts and slacks went to the ships cleaner this morning after we got up.

So now we can put a check next to the first item on our list ... lunch by the lido pool. Wendy - Lido buffet-fresh salad, gravlax - asparagus w/ prosciutto and Rob - had stir fry.

Ah a bit of reading and a bit of a nap ... A bit of reading and a bit more of a nap ... And on went our first full day on the ship. The Seas were only a bit rough.

Tonight is the first of two formal nights on this ten night cruise. We have been asked to sit at the Captain's table tonight and we look forward to it. We like the Captain very much and his wife will be there too. John is from New Zealand and Susan is from England. She teaches English to some of the crew or those who want to work on their English. She works primarily with the Indonesian staff from the dining room. She does a lot for the people who live on the ship for a-year-at-a-time working.

The dinner was lovely, the conversations never stopped and the other six at our table were all traveling together. A very nice evening with a delicious fare.

We started with:
1)- A plate with a trio of patè, prawn and caviar
2)- Onion soup with toast on top, (in the past this has been a pastry puff)
3)- Lobster tail in a light champagne sauce-Delicious and a new course for the Captains' dinner.
4)- Steak Oscar (Rob asked to have his without the crab)-This was very tender and had delightful flavours
5)- A small Ceasars salad set in a nest made from celephane noodles
6)- Chocolate trio Very yummy

After dinner we wandered around visiting the Explorers lounge for an espresso then to the Piet Hind for a dance. Horn Pipe later to meet up with Peter and Tommy Bond.

All in all a terrific first day!
Saturday October 25, 2003

'DUBROVNIK, CROATIA, "Pearl of the Adriatic." This walled city is included on UNESCO's World Heritage list for its beautifully preserved Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. Explore the city or travel to KORCULA, the birthplace of Marco Polo. ...' This was written in our documents folder provided by Holland America.

This is our first time in the Balkins.

We are up by 10:15 and off the ship by 11. There was a bus to take us from the new port to the center of town. Good thing since it was all up hill, about 2 1/2 miles. We have to be back to the ship by 5. This is not Slow Traveling in the sense we are only in port for 5-7 hours usually, but how long did we spend in the different daytrip spots in Italy? Going by ship though is Slow Traveling. We only unpack once and see different cities each day. In this case usually different countries. A real smorgasbord.

What a city! What walls! Now these are walls ... For €3 per person you can walk the walls. Takes about 2 hours. But more of our experience with the wall later. Nothing exciting ... next year!

On the Dalmation Coast in a country that saw a war only 9 years ago sits a gem. Dubrovnik, the old section of the city is clean, lovely and just filled to the brim with cafès. They say that Croatia in the next few years will have fully recovered from their war and will once again be THE Destination resort (On the TV in Italy and everywhere we went there are commercials for Croatia).

We walked around, photographed, went into churches and photographed them like crazy.

[I realized we went into more churches on this trip than on any other trip and the lesson learned was write the names down Wendy, What a dummy!!! another thing for next year].

We came across a piazza with their farmer's market going on. We stumbled upon it at its end, but were fortunate to see a bit of it. One of the specialties sold at several stands were lightly sugar-dusted figs, strung on string with bay leaves between each fig. Also there was a 'paste type' fruit/candy indicative to the area. I bought one of these flat blobs of 'fruit'. It was interesting ... not overly sweet, kind of tasted like fig, but it was made very clear to me it was not a fig item. If I can find the picture of it .... After going through the street market we stopped for lunch at a cafè that bordered the (market) piazza.

We had a light lunch at: BUFFET KAMENICE Gunduliceva Poljana 8 Dubrovnik vl. Niko Bore The menu was a bit limited.

We shared a platter of Dalmation smoked ham, bread, and Rob ordered spaghetti with meat sauce. I had a second order of the ham with a small salad and we shared a bottle of Dalmation red wine. Total bill € 30.

After lunch we walked a small portion of the wall. (As stated € 3 per person.) From there you can see where the roof tiles have been replaced, (war damage). The views are spectacular and the city has great rooftops. You can also see some structures which have been left as rubble. I assume this was caused by bombing. But overall the old city is lovely and clean and intact. You also have views of the coastline and Sea. The sun was shining and the water's surface was covered with 'sun pennies'.

[Next year we are going on another cruise which will bring us back to Dubrovnik. (Venice-Athens, with stops in Dubrovnik, Rab, Santorini,Kusadasi, Rhodes, Olympia ... finishing in Atens].

My plan for us is to go up the wall at the main entrance/gate and walk UP the steep side of the wall, go half way around then when we get to the other side go down the wall have lunch along their "old harbor" then go back up and do the other half of the wall. Well, that is the plan and it sounds like fun.

Afterwards we went back down and out the 'Gate', outside the walls and stopped at a cafè overlooking the above mentioned wall and overlooking the Sea. Rob had a pepsi and aquavit and I had a coffe with milk and also an aquavit.

Back to the bus at 3:45 which will take us back to the 'new' harbor.

Sailaway: We watched the ship leave from the lido, met a young couple that seems to have been wanting to meet us - Paloma and George from Mexico (City). They were very nice. Throughout the trip we seemed to keep crossing paths in the various ports. He was/is an architect so very interested in the old structures of the various cities.

For dinner-
course# 1-Wendy-shrimp/salmon terrine Rob- watermellon balls
2-W&R-chilled strawberry soup- (they have the best chilled soups, though I don't like the avocado. ugh)
3-W-mixed greens R-house salad 4-W&R- Lime herb rubbed chicken breast
Wine, coffee and cookies

We wandered the ship with not much going on. We did what will end up being a nightly thing: a stop in the 'Piet Hind' to listen to the band and maybe have a dance or two, and a stop in the 'Horn Pipe'.

Tomorrow CORFU
Sunday, October 26, 2003

Written in our document folder - "Soft, rolling hills and ancient olive groves punctuate beautiful Corfu, the second largest of Greece's IONIAN ISLANDS. If you would like to spend the day in the sun, there are superb beaches on the western part of the island, especially at PALEOKASTITSA. On the east coast is CORFU TOWN, a delightful mixture of Venetian, British and Greek influence. Sights of interest there include the CHURCH OF ST. SPYRIDON and the OLD FORTRESS, spendid views of MOUNT PANTOKRATER can be seen from the latter."

Now from us, Up at 10:15 ... off the ship by 11. We bussed into town. (Sounds like yesterdays schedule).

We hiked up to the 'OLD FORTRESS' where there is a lighthouse. It was a GOOD walk, along our way we found an old English Hospital/Barracks and explored it. Some interesting 'frescoes' on the walls. Battle scenes-Greek influence. All a bit exaggerated.

After our exercise it was time for some lunch. :) We ate along the 'LISTON', at: AEGLI Garder Restaurant Kapodistriou Str 23 Corfu We ordered:
1- a shared greek salad
2-W-Klefiko-(leg of lamb & potatos with onions, olives, mustard and feta cheese. A layered dish, very very delicious, R-Veal Sofrito-(veal scallopini with mushrooms in a white sauce) It was okay, not bad, just ...
Water-Kopith House wine coffee- sweet and STRONG- basically sludge ouzo-(on the house)
Total € 47.10 plus tip = 52.

It was a delightful lunch under the shade of the trees and unbrellas, watching the locals stroll by. And that is exactly what they do here along the 'LISTON'. Small children on their tricycles or 2 wheelers w/ training wheels, with parents strolling next to them. Families at tables ordering coffees and these wonderful chilled blended drinks with other family members stopping by.

[This is a culture who takes their time and enjoys themselves. Cheers!]

Not much time left before we have to catch the last bus back, so we walked a bit and Rob photographed and I bought a very nice selection of Baklava, from a place people were streaming out from, laden with boxes.


[I had purchased 10 pieces- 5 versions- 2 of each. We ate these over the next couple of days while we were traveling through the Med. (We didn't eat 2 of them, both the same- the ones that looked a lot like shredded wheat. I am sure it was delicious, we just never got to it.) The others definately put smiles on our faces and made our tummies happy, even if they didn't make our waistlines smile.]

We stopped for a last ouzo on rocks with water before returning to the ship.

[No we were not drunk]

Back on board- Watched our sailaway from the starboard wing above the lido. The weather is lovely and it is a perfect sailaway.

Quiet evening aboard ship. Cocktails at 7:15 with a few others on board and that is about it.

Monday, October 27, 2003

From the cruise line: "... on the island of MALTA, once the base of the KNIGHTS OF ST.JOHN. This architectuarally-suprb city has changed little since the 17th century and there are numerous opportunities for historical sightseeing. Some suggestions: ST. JOHN'S CO-CATHEDRAL & MUSEUM, the AUBERGE."

We've been to this delightful island, now, six times. We always enjoy our time here.

We had a bit of a mix up this time though, the clocks went back last night. We set the clocks in our cabin, but not our watches. We arrived into Malta by 12:30 PM, but we thought it was 1:30. Rob also thought we were leaving at 5 PM, (actually it was 6 even with going off daylight). So the original plan was to try and see the ancient stones, but we didn't think we had enough time. So instead we went into Valletta for lunch.

First though we went to a cellular phone store to see if we could get my phone to work. (I'd purchased a Nokia GSM phone with 900/1800/1900mhz before we left home and it worked in Rome at the beginning of our trip, and for the few minutes we were in Siena, but not since.) I kept getting a 'restricted code' warning and I didn't have a code to input, so we were a bit stumped. As it turned out all we needed to do was remove the battery. That reset it. If you leave the phone on 24/7 this can happen. I didn't know this, but Rob remembered somebody from AT&T telling him this could happen. Well, it is all a learning experience.

[As it turns out we really didn't have coverage most places we were and I will have to get a different phone next Sept. UGH!]

After the phone store we took a stroll along the lovely main street it's full length passing the Auberge, Museum and St. Johns' Cathedral and then we went to seek out lunch. We wanted to eat where we ate last year, MALATA, Palace Square, under the trees and listening to the live music, but the restaurant wasn't serving outside and we didn't want to eat inside. The inside is down below street level, it's really very cool. It is dark and cozy down there. The food was terrific, a very yummy pasta and delicious veal. But they weren't serving outside, and it was a lovely day and so we went in search of something different. We will return on next years cruise and try again.

We checked around and decided on : CAFE PREMIER-Valletta, Our waitress-Natasha Table #114

We chose this place (which is one of probably four cafès in a square on the main boulevard), because they also had tables under the arches of one of the buildings making up the square. The center was a mob scene and we wanted something a bit quieter. This table was perfect.

The food was fine, Natasha was difficult, but we 'worked on her using kindness' and she got better. We figured she had had only rude and demanding patrons that day and she didn't know what to make of us. We saw some very rude people out in the square. It all worked out and we even received a smile at the end.

The Island is swamped and over crowded with 'tourists'. The people who live there are lovely people and always so kind whenever we have an exchange. As a matter of fact, earlier I had asked a gentleman in front of a mens' clothing shoppe where to find a cellular phone store and he was so kind. He had given me directions, but we didn't go far enough and he came to get us and took us where he had meant. We hadn't gone far enough and were about to go off down the wrong street. He even had abandoned his shoppe to help us make the correction. That was very very appreciated.

Anyway, back to lunch:

Everybody who worked there seemed to be on the rush the whole time. Most of the people working there were from Malta, but a few like Natasha were 'transplants'. She was from Russia.

We ordered:
PRIMI- Aglio e Olio-there's with spaghetti and garlic, olive oil, herbs w/ onions and tomatoes. 5.50€
SECONDI- Wendy-Chicken breast marinaded-very bland, I added olive oil to the pounded chicken breast. 8.50€
Rob-Veal alla Milanese a pounded veal, breaded and seasoned 10€
both came with fries and salad
AFTER- espresso e grappa vino di cassa litre 6€
Total bill 45.12€ plus tip 50€ OTD

After lunch we walked around and basically did NOTHING. After all my hopes to FINALLY see the ancient stones of MNAJDRA and/or HAGAR QIM were dashed because of the time situation - we seemed lost.

After a while we thought we needed to get back to the ship, but we kept seeing tours from our ship JUST arriving for a city tour. The tour takes several hours because they go to: ST. JOHN'S CO-CATHEDRAL, THE GRAND MASTERS' PALACE, THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, and some even go to FORT ELMO. We've been to all these places, and we always enter the Church on each trip. We know how long it takes to do all this, so I finally stopped one of the guides and asked her what time they were to be back to the ship and she said 5:30. So much for us leaving at 5 like Rob thought, now we had time, but not enough to really go and see anything new. So we just sort of wandered. Oh to have known we actually had had time to go see something new, no I mean ancient. :-(

Just a bit on the Cathedral of St. John: it is a real beauty. The exterior is beautiful, but rather plain, the interior is another story. It is a terrific example of Eye-Candy! What a sight for the eyes.

Inspired by Italian architecture, designed by Gerolamo Cassar, this major Church is in the style of High Baroque. This Cathedral is one of my top 5 Churches of the world. The ceilings were painted by Mattia Preti, a calabrian from Taverna.

This Church is the home to Grand Masters and Knights of the order of St. John. The eight pointed Maltese cross is represented everywhere. It is rich with art, there is a Caravaggio and numerous works by the Grand Masters throughout the Nave and Chapels.

The entire floor is made up of the tombstones from the fallen Knights, their admirals and other warriors. There are 375 multicolored marble and stone inlaid slabs showing coats of arms, family names and the deeds and feats of these dead.

It is really something to see.

Well, back to the ship. We got down to the ship and there wasn't any line to board, but Rob wanted to take some photos. So off we go down on the dock, by the time he was done 5 busses had unloaded their cargo. So we waited along with Paloma and George, who had joined us. We waited for hundreds to make their way up the gang plank and go through security. UGH!

The ship left at 6PM on time!

We attended the Mariners party at 7:30. There was a full house for the repeaters party. Peter said there were something like 600 people attending.

About 6 or 8 people received their copper medalians and there were about 8-10 of us already with ours. That is 100 days on board Holland America (We have: R-246 days/W-225 days. We are almost at the silver level-300 days.) One man received his platinum. Imagine 750 days at sea aboard a Holland America ship. Makes us smile. Cruising is a definate form of slow travel. We are aboard ship anywhere from 10 nights to 18. You see tons with only one home so to speak. We love it.

Dinner was fine.
1-R.-egg roll W.-tuna carpaccio
2-R.-beef barley soup W.-chilled mango soup
3-House salad-both
4-Chateaubriand w/ bernaise-both
5-cookies and 1 warmed choc. torte

Explorers, Piet Hind and Horn Pipe

Palermo, Sicily tomorrow
Tuesday October 28, 2003

As per the line: ... historic PALERMO, SICILY, home to Greek temples, Norman castles, Arab and Byzantine domes and Baroque churches. For a taste of antiquity, visit the GREEK THEATRE (built in the 3rd century B.C. and later remodeled by the Romans.)

Okay, finally Palermo! We've been to Taormina and Messina for the island of Sicily and loved both, especially Taormina, but we've not been Palermo together, and we are very excited about finally getting here.

After much 'hand' talking, and with many different sets of hands, we hire a cab for 2 Hours. He is going to get 50€.

He took us first to the Catacombs. The Cappuccin Monks preside over it. There isn't a set fee to enter ... it is whatever you want to 'donate'!

This is one wierd place! If I correctly remember from when I was 14 (some 30+ years ago) and in Rome we went to the catacombs outside the walls, there were no mummies/bodies residing there. Well, here in Palermo, Sicily not only are there bodies, but they are still dressed and HANGING verticle on the walls!!! There is a whole 'gallery' of Cappuccin Monks looking down on those who pass through those halls. Their faces are all distorted and these mummies watch you. There is a hall of men and there are a few just for small children, also looking down on you as you pass. These children are all dressed - girls in their dresses and boys in pants and small jackets ... Only the Donne's were laid horizontally. Too strange.

I can't imagine bringing kids to see this. There were many families here, too. One with two small girls maybe 6 and 7 years old. This is a place where nightmares are created I am sure. But, Rob reminded me that his parents had brought him here. But he was a 14 year old BOY!!! (Rob had been to Palermo with his parents in 1961).

After the Catacombs our driver took us to the Palace, which had just closed ... so we missed that!

We stopped at the Main Church of Palermo, we thought that maybe we would search out a cafè and nibble afterwards, but as we stepped out of the taxi there laid a dead dog under a green tarp, so much for a caffè let alone a nibble.

We went into this beautiful, if not austere, Church. The inside is also a bit austere except for the altars and crypts, which were made from stone such as lapis and malachite. These were most impressive. The floors had an inlaid footprint of the zodiak. We took our respective feet with the bull and the crab. Good images.

After we left the Church, we went back to the ship to meet with Peter and Tommy, whom we were to meet with at 12:45 for lunch, ashore.

The four of us walked 2-3 blocks from the pier to eat at: LaMensa di Aladdin specialita Couscous Ristorante/Pizzeria Via Emerico Amaie, 59 Palermo

Peter wanted pizza and this place looked perfect ...

The pizza oven seems to only be up for dinner, not at lunch time. We stayed anyway.

We shared:
1 platter each of-
1-Trittico con Crostino € 6.50 carpaccio tuna and salmon
2-Brik della Cassa €3. light pastry wrapped potato w/chives and torno
3-antipasto caldo €3. different cheeses deep fried. The carpaccio was good as was the Brik. But the cheeses were too deep fried for me.
Secondi- Wendy-Gnocchi in a cream sauce w/ ham - this was very rich and I enjoyed every bite. Hmmmm €6. Rob Peter and Tommy-Spaghetti Bollengese €?
We drank:
2 litres of vino di cassa-rosso
1 litre aqua con gas
1 litre flat water
4 espresso- which were served in silly little plastic cups much like the ones the dentist gives you to swish out your mouth with.
2 limoncello- P&T 2 grappas-R&W
total bill for loads of food was only €80.

We took lots of photos in the restaurant, with permission of course. I got a couple of the owners 3 year-old daughter eating a bowl of pasta. Charming. One of the wonderful things about digital photography is that when you take a photo of somebody you can instantly show them and they get to see the shot, whereas with film you have to process, reprint and MAIL the images. Over the years we have done this, but it seems like many times the mail portion of that equation doesn't get done. At least this way if you don't e-mail the image or reprint it and ship it at least they have seen the image and that many times is enough.

After lunch we all left together, stopped for a gelato and then Peter had to return to the ship so Rob, Tommy and I stopped at the bar by the piers for a last grappa each, we won't be in Italian waters anymore so no more Italian ports/stops.

The bartender did a juggling act for us with espresso cups and shot glasses. Pretty funny. A very good example of 'major testosterone'. (sp)

By our own admittance we were very silly in this, a foriegn, port. Probably not the port to be silly, but there you have it.

We had a great time.

But, Palermo is a filthy city and I see nothing that will bring me back. If we do return on a ship we will either go outside of the city or stay on board. This is just from our experience and our opinion.

We came back on board, returned to our cabin, showered and stayed in. I do believe we were a bit DRUNK! Not us!

We ordered sandwiches at 8:30, no way are we going out and about the ship tonight. We watched 'Being There'. Always a fun film. Then we surfed the TV waves and went to sleep around 1 am.

The only "wished we'd had" was a cookie plate.

So we had a quiet night. No problem.

Who says we have to go out every night just because we are aboard a cruise ship!

Tomorrow is a sea day. Goody. And if we are hung over no problem there either, we have nothing penciled in on our calendar anyway.
Wednesday October29, 2003

'Scenic cruising of the STRAIT of BONIFACIO'

Up around 10:40. Showered, washed hair and went on deck.

Rainy day. We did settle in the Lido area, but moved around a bit to avoid the spray from the rain.

Todays special event is the Bar-B-Q. The weather did not co-operate. We did the Bar-B-Q anyway, corn on the cob, grilled salmon, chicken on skewer, Hawaiian beef/steak ... It was fine. The highlight of the lunch hour was the passing between Sardegnea (Sardinia) and Corsica (the Staights of Bonifacio). We started the passage around 1:30. Beautiful Islands. This is the first time to go through these parts of water. We have sailed passed Corsica before, even been to Corsica, but not by Sardegnea.

The coast line was quite magnificent durning parts of our passage. Villages could be seen along the coast, some being poured upon others in the sun. Villages dot the coastline. These Islands are also rather mountainous, while we were passing by their peaks were up in the clouds. A very special passage.

2:30- up to the Crows' Nest, to catch up on the journal and to stay warm and dry. Long Island iced teas at 3:45. Met a nice couple from NJ while up there.

Tonight is the second formal. We decided to get ready and go out long before dinner tonight. Usually we are running a tad late and rush through a cocktail if at all. We started with the Crow's Nest (back again, back again, jiggedyjig), but the only seats available were 2 chairs turned into the room,(looking directly towards 3 couples-very uncomfortable) and there wasn't even a table to go with the seats, so we decided to skip this room and go see about the Peit Hind.

This room is also very full. No tables so we went to the stools at the bar. We realized we don't get out before dinner on formal night usually. We need to on future cruises. Everybody is dressed up and all look lovely. The evenings often go by so quickly that I don't see many people, actually. This is nice.

Both rooms have live music before dinner, the first CN has a piano player and the PH had a dance combo. The dance floor was packed.

After cocktails we went to dinner:
1-W-prawms, crab leg, smoked white fish R-fruit
2-W-ciopino R-cream of asparagus
4-W-filet and lobster R-filet
5-cookies and capps.
6-W-poire Helenè R-peach melba

After dinner we went by the Explorers lounge, but nothing was going on. We figured on formal night when the strings play in the dining room and for the dessert extravaganza, they don't play their regular room.

So on to the Peit Hind, they were playing a game ... Choose a song from the long list of songs the Manila Quartet has on their play list and if it was picked you won a bottle of champagne. We didn't play, but we did dance. Peter joined us, then Tommy.

One of the high points of the evening was Peter got up and sang 'Just the Way You Are'. He did great! what a voice! Why didn't we have our camera?

(Peter is the Cruise Director, we have sailed with him now 9 times over the past 7 years, maybe. He is Dutch, from Gouda, and this is only his second year as CD, for many years he was Assistant Cruise Director. We are very happy for him. He is terrific at what he does.)

To top the evening off there was a great lightening thunder storm going on outside. (Thank goodness it wasn't happening inside.) We even heard a major boom Peter said he has never heard thunder before within the ship.

Lovely evening ... tomorrow MAHON, MOANORCA.
Thursday, October 30, 2003

'MAHON, MENORCA. This spectacular little city provides you with a wonderful introduction to Spain's Balearic Islands. These islands were strategically important to many different cultures, from the seafaring Phoenicians and Carthaginians to more modern European powers. As soon as you explore the lovely town of Mahon, you'll soon understand exactly why this this scenic spot was in such high demand.'

Another new port for us. We don't have any real plans other than to walk and have a bit of lunch.

Awake at 9:37, up by 10 and out by 10:47. Off the ship, had a hick-up or two. Rob went back for a sweater then I went back for something I always wear, but had taken off last night for a rare occasion.

We walked up to town. This is a lovely colonial city. (Reminds us a bit of Sal Miquel-Azores). We stopped for a caffè con leche then walked around. Nice stores, beautiful streets. The pastries look delicious. Didn't have any!!!!

There was a lovely, rather large square with caffès and restaurants all around. A place for children to play and over by the water fountain-for both human and canine there were some wonderful and whimsical bronze statues, one of a dog, cat and bird, one with a little girl. Also in this square there were other works of art and sculptures, such as poles in graduating sizes if I recall correctly. It is a lovely 'park'. (No grass)

The streets wind around, and we would find ourselves in an unexpected courtyard or small square. There are a couple of lovely Churches in and among the neighborhoods, both very sedate, and of course the large Cathedral in the main part of the city.

I bought a couple of 'pashminas' inside the Mercato. A very nice center with everything from herbes-ceramics-scarves-fruits/veggies/meats/cheeses ...

Around 1pm it was getting closer to lunch time, so back to the ship for a pit stop and then back along the marina in search for a place for paella. We are in Spain after all!

Going south along the marina in search for lunch we went a ways but found:
Restaurante Portobello Arden de Levante 219-Mahon N.I.F. 07884810
A lively restaurant with seating outside, thankfully today they had the sheer front and sides down to protect us from the chilly temp. outside.

We ordered:
1-gazpacho for both of us. They brought the base of soup with a platter of tomatoes, cucumber & raw onion so you could put just the amount into your soup you wanted. €4.50
1A-potatoes alioli €3.50 basically potato salad. potatoes w/ mayo, needed salt and pepper desperately.
2-W-Paella mixta €11. w/ meat (chicken, pork) and shellfish (muscles, shrimp and calamari
R-Paella mixta €11. carne only
2 bottles of water-aqua con pequeña 1.80
@ vino-Il Somo 2002 Rioja tinto dela casa €9
caffe leche
R-anis seco W-hierboes dulces (sweet)
Total bill €56.10+tip

This Hierboes or also spelled Hierbas comes dry and sweet. This is a very nice apitivo or digestive. Light and herb flavored with a hint of annis. It was a lovely lunch, I am glad we kept walking around the Marina toward the end. It seemed to me to be mostly English patrons, down for holiday?

The sail away - We were docked aprox. 3 miles up 'river', it was a delightful sail away where tappas were served and we opened a bottle of wine, which we drank along with the setting sun.

[We see that on our next visit to Manorca we need to see if we can go out to the Fortress/Military base. Quite specatacular. Don't know if we can get in, but we should do some homework to find out. It went on for quite a bit of our sailing down to the sea on our port side. Great fortressing. Looks like loads of fun to explore.]

Back to the cabin by 6:25 for a toes up and time to catch up on the journal.

Tonight is an informal night. We had a nice dinner, finished off by the traditional Baked Alaska.

*ST. TROPEZ has been called due to bad weather. Winds expected to be between 35-40 mph and St. Tropez was a tendering port. SO! Instead we will be calling into TOULON, FRANCE. That is okay by us, it means another new port for us! We were looking forward to ST, but this will be somewhere new. How exciting! So instead of lunch along the marina/port of ST we will just have to find something in Toulon.
Friday, October 31, 2003


We are in TOULON, FRANCE instead of ST. TROPEZ, FRANCE. It was a rainy day, it actually never rained very hard, just consistantly, and enough for us to use our unbrellas, thank goodness we carried them with us. And we did wear our raincoats. It was mainly a nuisance.

We walked along the waterfront which is filled with cafès, and then we walked into the old section of the city. There was a street market going on. Everything was being sold there from socks/t-shirts/new clothes and old. Of course there were fruits and veggies, spices and olives. We bought a small amount of green olives which were delicious. Spiced with sundried tomatoes, fennel branches, red peppers, lemon ... Very yummy.

Around 1 we went back down to the waterfront for lunch. We chose a place called: BRASSERIE LE FRANCE- Port De Toulon 304, Ave de la republique

We had a bottle of 'Côtes de Provence 2001' bottled by L'Estandon Prestige € 12.50
We shared a plate of Spaghetti Bolinese (their spelling) € ?
R-Entrecote grill (steak) €8.50
w-Entecote con roquefort €10.5
Total bill with tip of 5€ - €49.
The service was fine, he was very friendly, and we got to watch the marina flow over the walls and flood the walkway along the marina. There is a little 'open' train that goes along the city and drops off/picks-up people. It was a hoot to watch all the 'tourists' getting on and off of this train, soaking wet! I mean really!!!

After lunch we went back into town and walked around some more. We didn't take many photos today, not much to shoot, even though it is a lovely town, our photos were primarily table shots. Toulon is a major Sea port and The major Navel port for France. There is a very modern shopping center with everything you might want or need.

We found everybody to be very kind toward us. As a matter of fact, several people in stores talked to me in rapid french, mistaking me for being French. Nice to fit in wherever we go.

On our way back to the ship we stopped for a glass of Lillet, but they didn't have any (let alone know what I was talking about), so we had some anis with ice and water. We are actually getting tired of drinking. I guess that means it is getting to be time to go home. Soon enough. Tomorrow we are in Sète then Barcelona where we will fly home.

Once back on board we found out that Peter was able to arrange dinner for us with the Captains' wife and himself. The captain was supposed to join us, but we had a 8:45pm sail away and dinner was at 8:15, so he needed to be on the bridge. And he had 'guests' aboard from the main office. We had a delightful dinner. Susan is very interesting and she talked about what she does while on board. She sails full time with John (the Captain). While on board she teaches English to the crew members. Mostly the diningroom staff. She works with the nurses and does a myriad of things. Never a dull moment in her day.

A lovely evening spent with friends, tomorrow another French port, Setè, and we are going to have quite an adventure. Can't wait!
Saturday November 1, 2003

According to HAL - "Arrive SETE, a lively town in the LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLON region of FRANCE. Stay and explore Setè, or take an excursion to nearby CARCASSONNE, europe's largest Medieveal fortress. Built to withstand sieges, this self-sufficient complex contained within its walls a mint, a wheat-grinding mill, an open-air theater, and lovely ST-NAZAIRE CATHEDRAL."

Peter arranged, on-line, to rent a car from Hertz in Setè so we could drive up to Carcassonne. It is also Peters' birthday, he is 38 today. Tommy is also joining us. This should be a very fun day.

(Last night we gave Peter an early birthday gift, a 2004 calendar with images of our coast line ... along the Monterey/Pebble beach/Carmel and Big Sur coast line. We have found that these are nice gifts, something everybody can use and the area we live is really a slice of heaven and we love to share it with our friends. Also, calendars are easy to pack!

We walked from the ship along the canals of Setè to the car rental agency. This was housed in an obscure building along one of the main canals. Easily missed. We stopped along the way at a patisserie for a few croissant to be consumed on the drive. We mustn't get hungry now!

Peters' French is very good and it made the renting of the car much easier. We were fortunate enough to get a new Passat and it was great. Our drive was 137km from Setè to Carcassonne.

The ride was really a 'trip'. Peter and Tommy singing duets and in harmony. Tommy grabbing our video camera and turning it on to himself and on us. The countryside was beautiful. It was a quick trip, only an hour and ten minutes from the port. We drove up without much trouble finding the Citè. The road signs are really good, and it is important to know your exit #'s such as 27 or on-ramp #38 ... Rob was in charge of the map. He is a really good navigator/map reader, I guess from all those years of doing rally's.

What a place! It's hard to believe this citè is old, it's just too perfect!!! As we drove up, Rob commented on how the walls and towers of Carcassonne looked like they were right out of Walt Disney's magic kingdom. (They just weren't white walls.) I am about to give a bit of the history of this place, I am copying the information from a book I purchased (CARCASSONNE Editions ESTEL-BLOIS) while there for the day and I will be skipping over a lot of information:

"The history begins back in 118 B.C.: founding of the Roman colony of Narbonne by Licinius Crassus.
3rd century A.D.: after the first Barbarian invasions, construction of a wall flanked by towers for the protection of the colony of Carcaso.
406: the Barbarians overrun Gaul.
412: the Visigoths occupy the city.
711: arrival in Spain of the Arabs who make incursions into Septimania as far as Carcassonne.
725: Carcassonne captured by the Arabs.
1067: The fief of Carcassonne falls to the House of Barcelona, soon superseded by Trencavel, Viscount of Bèzoers
Circa 1130: Construction of the Count's Castle as we know it today.
1216: Simon de Montfort enters Toulouse.
1229: the Treaty of Paris puts an end to the Crusade, annexing most of the county of Toulouse.
1247: Permission is granted to the exiles to occupy the left bank of the Aude, site of the present lower town. Louis IX has an outer rampart built, behind which the inner one is restored.
1270-85: Philip III the Bold, his son, completes the works undertaken in his father's reign. Henceforth the city is impregnable.

"The city of Carcassonne is worthy of all the treatises on the art of fortifying towns from the Roman Empire to the introduction of artillery which required the revision of defensive techniques in the 15th century. Here we can find the town walls of the Gallo-Roman cities; the feudal architecture of the 12th century is represented by the Count's Castle; and finally, King Louis IX and King Philip the Bold have left us a model of military architecture which remained valid until the time of Charles VII."

There are two rings of fortified walls with the keep /castle within these walls. The outer wall is lower and, I think, has 21 towers and the inner wall the taller of the two has 27 (30?) towers - there are more towers for the chateau-Cour d'honneur. The Cathedral is to St. Nazaire and St. Celse. (It was closed when we tried to get in.) There is a large open air theatre. You can walk the entire wall and go through all sorts of tunnels. What a place for kids to play and use their imaginations. Actually, it wouldn't take much of an imagination ... this place is really special.

There was no car traffic allowed with-in the walls, foot traffic only. There is an exquisite hotel (5*?) and there were a few cars, so residences must be allowed to drive inside this fortified citè. We entered by way of the Narbonne Gate, having parked outside the walls in the main parking lot. €3.50. You pay as you enter. (We didn't need the ticket that was released from the machine to get out, as we thought we might.)

What a lovely place. We walked over the drawbridge, and an empty mote, up the main street. Lots of brick-a-brack shoppes. One store with a lovely display of cookies, we didn't stop to buy anything. Another shoppe with 'swords and stuff', several with postcards ...

'Hear ye? hear ye? Come all you fools and buy my junk!

We walked up two blocks maybe, and came across a lovely piazza with different caffès and restaurants, the tables all covered by large shade trees. We stopped for 2 cappucinos, 1 DBL espresso, and 1 coke= €13.70

Afterwards, we walked around and came out to the outer walls. We walked along them for a short while, then along one of the middle concentric circles to the Church, which was closed till 2 pm. We are here on All Saints Day, November 1st, 2003.

We all checked out the hotel, sorry I can't remember the name, but it is the only one there, It was pricey - DBL was in the high 400 €, delux w/ balcony 650 €.

Ah, lunch time. We came with a couple of recommendations and decided on one of them. We ate at 'CHEZ SASKIA'. As it turns out it is attached to the hotel.

We had:
A litre of Vin Rouge de Maison and 2 litres of water
As it turned out Peter and I chose the same thing and Rob and Tommy had the same thing.
Peter and Wendy: Menu Saskia € 23.
1-Chestnut and mushroom (cepe) soup. A fabulous creamy soup with deep rich flavors, lightly drizzled with olive oil. Oh YUM. Even now, over 4 months later I can still taste the flavors. [I started this part 2 back in late Nov.]
2-Casoulillè (sp) with duck and sausage in white beans. I tend not to eat duck or rabbit (they are my friends), so I ate the beans and sausage. It needed salt desperately ... I don't usually add salt to things. I cook with it, but sparingly. I would say this dish was okay, but the soup was outstanding so as casoulilles go, this might have been terrific to those in the know.
3-Creme Brulee with lavender topping. One word- YUMMMMMMMMMMM
Rob and Tommy:
1-Scambled eggs. This was not your regular scrambled eggs ladies and gentlemen. It was not only presentation perfect, but Rob loved the three variations of eggs. Each version was re-placed into the hollowed out and top-off egg shells.
version 1-egg with chive
2- egg with smoked salmon. Rob actually liked this and he doesn't like fish period and
3- eggs with caviar. He liked this too, but he does 'do' caviar. There were strips of toasted brioch on the plate.
2-Pork Chops that were sliced into strips and piled criss-cross on the plate, then drizzled lightly with a reduction. Rob said this was incredible, and as he just said to me (March 2, 2004) he doesn't usually do 'French food'.

[It's true, we eat a lot of Italian food, lots of fruits and veggies day to day, and we eat meat on the week-ends. But, we don't do sauces - if we are somewhere where the dish is going to be saucy we get it on the side. So go figure that Rob loved his very 'French' meal.

The total bill came to 100.10€. Not bad for such a lunch. We treated and Tommy got the tip. He left 10€. It was a lovely restaurant with beautifully decorated rooms. We sat in the room right off the entry. Near the large round center table which held cheeses and some delicious looking tartes. I mean tortes!

It was a shame we didn't have more time to linger. The staff was only a bit aloof at first, but very nice and at the end when we were a bit tight for time they did all they could to help us. A definate place to return and a place to suggest to all.

Delicious food! Lovely setting! Beautiful Dining rooms and good service. A very good value, four ate and drank with desert for 110.1€

After lunch we had about 30 minutes, on the outside, to get back to the car to go back to the ship.

We poked around, but just didn't have enough time. The only purchase made were 2 wax candles carved to be cats, for 5€ each to be taken home for gifts to my two cat lovers.

Okay, now the mad dash back to drop the car off and get ourselves to the ship.

We passed 5 busses on our way back which made us feel safe. But by the time we refilled the car with deisel (17€) and dropped the car off (100€) we had to run to the ship, it was 5pm. ALL ABOARD was supposed to be at 4:45 with the ship sailing at 5:15. It was late, (thank goodness,) due to the tour busses. Only two more needed to unload after we got to the gang plank.

A bit too close for comfort for everybody. Peter was to do a presentation at 5pm.!!

This was our last port, last place to visit before docking tomorrow morning and flying out of Barcelona International. This has been the best trip yet, I think. We say that every time, but it's true.

We had the best food ever ashore and in Italy. The drive was a delight, here and in Italy. Peter was aboard. Tommy was here. And we knew the Captain and his wife from last year on the Noordam.

I'm going to do another entry to follow all the high points or memorable things that happened in these past 22 days.

We started to pack and then went to the Sports Deck to watch us sail away from the port of Setè. One two-suiter done.

A lovely departure. We were docked in an amazing way - to leave we had a tug at port bow and port stern and they literally pulled us out sideways. We were just tucked right on in the berth. Very cool!

We walked down to the upper promenade and then returned to the cabin to finish packing. The goal was to be finished in time for dinner so we could enjoy our last night aboard. WE DID IT!!!! Arrived to the dining room by 8:22 with tips ready. Only 7 minutes late and all six suitcases and four carryons were sealed and ready to go. Phew!

At the end of dinner the diningroom staff always sing an Indonesian song wishing everybody a safe and farewell journey home and wishing that we might meet again. Just like the Baked Alaska is a tradition on ships so is this song being sung on the last night on all Holland America ships. We find it very charming and yet another reason we love HAL. Traditions count!
Disembarking and home we go

Well, this will be a short page for a change.

The ship docked early in Barcelona and we were two of the first off the ship, it was only 7am and the air was crisp and clear. We had a 10am flight to catch.

We collected ALL our bags, being this is not the kind of traveling where you can go with carry-on, only. At least WE can't travel that way. That's a challenge at the best of times, but with twelve nights in Italy and then a ten night cruise with formal nights and semi-formal nights we were our usual pack-rats.

After collecting our six suitcases and carrying our four carry-ons we grabbed a taxi, stuffed the trunk to the point of having to tie the lid down and off to the airport we went.

One of my carry-ons was filled with the bottles of grappa that we had picked up and so that was considered precious cargo and pulled behind me carefully.

We arrived at the airport and got checked in without a hitch. Up to the lounge for a while to wait till we could board.

We always appreciate the European airports. They are clean, brightly lit, original in design and have terrific shopping potential.

We found a couple of comfy seats and did a short toes-up. After a while, I saw a nun fixing herself a cappucino and followed suit and fixed Rob and myself one too, and we had a chocolate croissant to accompany it.

We were ready to board the flight soon after that. Our flight was going to make a stop over in Madrid to pick-up other passangers. We didn't have leave the plane so we waited as they stocked the kitchens and boarded the rest of the passangers for the flight to JFK.

The flight was comfortable and the service was excellent as always in the front of the plane. We slept some more and ate when food was brought around. And of course we took advantage of the free flowing champagne and wines. We tried the various wines, whichever was appropriate for the course they were serving. Delta does this special 'tasting' of wines from around the world. We always like this part best. And of course we enjoy the sundaes.

Our flight landed into NY at 3:55pm, we had just less than a two hour layover till our flight to San Francisco left. We went through customs where I declared all our alcohol and my clothing purchases, but they let me go without charging any fees. That was just fine with me!

After customs and replacing our bags on the conveyer that would put our bags back into the system, we headed up to the lounge and made our calls to let our respective parents know we were back into the country.

We had just enough time for a couple of finger sandwiches and a glass of champagne before we boarded our last flight home.

Home .........

The last segment of our trip home was very uneventful, an easy flight and we arrived into SF on time-9:29pm. All our bags made it, yippee and we had decided to have a car and driver pick us up and he was there and waiting for us, too.

Last year was the first time we had a car and driver meet us at the airport on our return, and it was so much easier on Rob. Usually we get in around the same time and after all the flights and change of time and having to get up really early that day, Europe time, having another 2 hour drive is difficult. Sometimes we have had to switch drivers a couple of times, because I am tired too, so we do half hour stints behind the wheel. But, this is such a nice way to finish a trip, having somebody else drive us home.

Home ....

We arrived to a dark and cold house around midnight. Into the door, turn all the lights on and straight to the heater, then bring the bags in and say goodnight to the driver and we fall into bed.

I expected to be absolutely dead the next morning and I wasn't disappointed. I had faxed a grocery order to our small market and they delivered everything by noon. (I always have a list ready to go into the fax machine before we leave so all I have to do is dial and send on the morning of our return. It works like a charm everytime.) The order was mostly fruits and veggies and the makings for cabbage soup. Time to purge!!!

We slept off and on through-out the day and had the next couple of days off to adjust to the 'real world'. It took those days to unpack and get organized and after the fifth day we went back to work.
Looking back

Looking back to our fall trip, what were the high points and what were the low points?

Today is March 18th, 2004. I started THIS trip report which is part 2, back on November 30, 2003. The first part being the first days in Italy before the cruise and that part was posted months ago.

So, now I have to rely on my memory, at first thought there weren't any 'low points'.

Before we left for the fall trip we were a bit concerned on how the Europeans would treat us. In all our past trips everyone to the person had been extremely friendly and helpful when we needed help. I can only remember on one occasion at a restaurant in Rome where some other 'tourists' blatantly stared at and laughed at us, in front of us. We just smiled and stared them down and they stopped. But that really is the only time when someone was down right rude toward us. But, after this war that is going on and with our French ports we were a bit concerned. But, as some members on the message board at SlowTrav had stated that if they were nice to us before there wouldn't be any differences this time. And everbody was correct. The quality of service and the friendliness by all just made this the best trip yet.

I found out writing this trip report that we eat a lot and I guess we took every opportunity to stop and have a glass of wine or grappa. We drink at home, have a nice glass of vodka over rocks, or a martini, or a bottle of wine. We might finish our evenings with a shot of grappa on our nights off, but we don't drink as much as when we are traveling.

Thank goodness, we would be the size of a house if we did. But really, I ask you ... how can you go to Italy and not drink?

When I started writing this, the very first page asks if your trip was based around, shopping, sightseeing, museums, food ... I learned that we are foodies! And for that you won't get any apologies from me.

We enjoyed some absolutely wonderful meals, snacks, panino's and gelato. Without my notes I can't recall a BAD meal. Most of the people who helped us were friendly and open from the get go, only Natashia in Malta had a 'bad' attitude and even with her we received a few smiles at the end of our meal.

Another 'bad' point was our not getting to see the ancient stones on Malta. Our fault completely, but a good lesson with dealing with daylight savings time.

Next 'bad' point - my GSM phone not working in Europe. This is probably the biggest 'one' and if that IS the worst thing that didn't go right we are very lucky.

So, I buy yet another new phone for next year and I get it right this time!

I learned to keep better notes when going to the many Churches. Like the names dumby-Wendy. I did really well with my notes at the different restauants, now to do it with the sites we saw every day.

- Rob didn't have enough shirts for the driving portion of the trip, which was back in the first half of the trip. That was really part of part 1, not this section, since we had laundry facilities on the ship.
-I could have used more scarves.
-I took too many dance pants, tops and underwear. And way too many day skirts. The weather was just a bit too cold most of the time, but who knew before hand? Last year we died from the heat and this past summer Italy and all of Europe died from the huge heat wave, (literally).
-Polos' were fine for tuscany, but not Rome.

-Rob needs to take Euro's with him, purchasing them from our bank before we go. (I had made arrangements with the bank so I had €500 with me.)
-Don't bother with travelers' cheques!!!! You get clobbered with fees and exchange rates. Of course the exchange rate is going to be there, but the fees! Y I K E S!

Guide Books
-We took way too many! We had 4 different books just for Rome,- 'Eyewitness', 'Insiders' guide', 'Secrets of Rome' and one other. Next year just the 'Eyewitness' which we like their format the best.
-I did do pretty well with buying books as we went along, so our library really grew.

Bug Stuff
-Take 'Off', anti-itch cream, the citronella plug in that I bought at the farmacia in Rome, my eye mask to cover my eyelids so that those nasty blood sucking creatures don't get my eyelids! They do everytime, I need to get a clue, really.

-Didn't like Palermo, but so what, we don't have to go into town again, been there done that! If we get off the ship, assuming one of our cruises in the future calls in Palermo, we go to Monreal [sp] or Pelligrino or just stay on board and do laundry or relax. Make it a 'slow travel' day.

-the catacombs !
-Loved Dubrovnik and can't wait to get back next fall. (We have booked our trip, everything from all the places in Italy we will be staying in and the cruise. Some of the ports will be repeats to this one and also returns to ports we've been to in past years. But, Dubrovnik is on next years itinerary, along with a stop on the island of Rab, also a Croation port.)
-Loved our time spent under the trees along the Liston in Corfu enjoying a delightful lunch.
-CARCASSONNE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Awh inspiring, and right up our alley. We must return, and also return to 'Saskia' for another meal. I want more of their soup.

I hope that you have enjoyed our trip with us. I have really enjoyed sharing it with you. I have learned that I like keeping notes, and though it has taken as long to put this together as it took to paint the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel in St Peters' I finally finished. I just hope you are all still awake, and don't need glasses because there was so much to read.

Now to do some restaurant and hotel reviews. Another daunting task. But what a task. No complaints here.

So for now, Adiós, Bonsoir, e Ciao

Wendy and Rob Mari

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