This is the "super excited we are on a plane from Houston to London, then to Barcelona Spain where we get on a cruise boat to Italy" picture! My face wasn't quite so happy after 21 hours of travel:) Danielle and Jonathan are the spoiled youngest children...the older siblings and spouses got to go to reliable old England to meet Michael's family:) Our British family came to us a few months ago so dad said they could pick another place....lucky kids!
Booking a foreign hotel is a bit frightening, but Michael found us a tiny apartment right in the heart of Barcelona with great reviews and an American price point...good job honey! We even had a small terrace to enjoy the city hustle and bustle at tree level:) Having a Spanish speaking son-in-law was a bonus for touring around the city!
Jonathan studied a bit of Spanish architect Antoni Guadi in school and led the way on a trek around the city to see two of his fantastic structures. The first was Casa Batllo, with it's colorful tile, mask like terraces and rolling structure face, this was the most unique building my eyes had ever seen...until the next Gaudi building!
The building right next door was beautiful in more of a traditional Spanish style...I am in architecture heaven here! The heavy gothic trim is an amazing feat of craftsmanship.
Michael is a Nutella addict. Most mornings find him spreading a generous layer on his English muffin then topped with raspberry jam! This gigantic jar caught his attention and it was only after I was uploading the pictures that the detox sign was noticed...how ironic!
Strolling along the streets in Barcelona was pleasant in the perfect sunny afternoon. A local florist, a Kimbo sign (nick name from my boys:-\...and beautiful turquoise shutters with decorative iron terraces caught my eye.
After the promise of "one more block" several times from Jonathan, we finally arrived at our second Gaudi monstrosity. I am not usually a whiner about long walks but remember we have been traveling for 21 hours straight with no sleep! I am happy to report that I did not strangle the son-in-law and that the walk was worth the unbelievable building before our eyes! This is the Sagrada Familia Basilica which has been under construction for 100 years since the first stone was laid. Michael commented that Antoni let his imagination run wild!
The other side of this monstrosity looks like something out of Tolken book! Look these buildings up online...my pictures do not do this justice. You really have to see it to believe it!
Ironically, we ate Italian food in Spain...Danielle did love the cutting tool:)
Vision of the Seas, Royal Caribbean cruise boat
We packed our bags, bought some pastries for breakfast and began a trek through Barcelona to our cruise boat. Crossley's tend to do things the hard way as my mother-in-law says... The British are a thrifty lot and walking instead of hiring a taxi is a matter of national pride;-}
We did take a detour to see this gorgeous gothic cathedral. There was a festive air around the square with a man blowing bubbles to delight the children and another playing a beautiful rendition of Ava Maria....each hoping for coins in their tin close by.
Danielle & Jonathan took a tour of the cathedral enjoying the gold leaf ceilings and roof top view of the city.
As we came to the seaside it became apparent that a bridge would be part of our trek to the boat...I soldiered on with my suitcase secretly "throwing daggers" at the back of Michael's head:) In his defense he did offer to take it off my hands, but Texas girls don't admit defeat so easily!
We had a funny shock when we finally got our room (which I thought was 2 rooms) to find that their definition of a large stateroom for 4 really meant a tiny room with ceiling mounted bunk beds for parents and small children;-}
Never mind...room arrangements are trivial...we are cruising the Mediterranean!
The Mediterranean sea! Even though this is the place of the famous Cannes Film festival, there wasn't much to do! We just walked to a scenic lookout and around the town. Our highlight of the day was a Nutella crepe, and fresh authentic french bread! I was proud of the hubby for keeping his French insults to a bare minimum:) The English and French have a long history of mutual dislike!
The blues of the Mediterranean sea and sky are such pleasing and varied shades of blue. This is especially true considering we live on the muddy brown Mississippi mud Gulf of Mexico! "Tendering" back to the cruise boat from Cannes, I am happy to say I have now been to France:)
Rome is impressive in our modern world of skyscrapers, massive malls, and theme parks, but I can only imagine how very overwhelming and humbling it must have been to walk here in it's original glory and power. We negotiated a "skip the lines" tour to see the Vatican museum, and the famous Sistine Chapel ceiling. (which we were not allowed to photograph)
This sphere in the vatican courtyard was the inspiration for the "Deathstar" in Star wars:)
In the Vatican museum the ceilings are painted, embellished with gold leafed, and covered in plaster figures. The artistry is ancient and often tells the stories of God's dealings with man.
Intricate tapestries adorned the walls telling stories of Christ. Imagine the skill required to create such an art piece out of thread on a primitive loom!
This museum corridor ceiling went on continuously for the length of about 3 football fields. The exceedingly elaborate ceiling with copious amounts of gold leafing was a sight to behold!
I absolutely love columns, and these giants flanking the doors of St. Peter's Basilica did not disappoint!
Danielle was especially excited to see St. Peter's Basilica which was unbelievably beautiful in ornate detail. It would have been an extreme honor, a life's work and legacy to work on such a structure.
How majestic these columns stand, a testimony of the power of Rome.
Ancient ruins of the Roman Forum would have been a showcase of temples, basilica's and grand public spaces. Built in the 7th century, this sight would have been much plundered for stone and marble.
Behold the Colosseum! This is as close as we could get with our time limitations. Truly a marvel of ancient architecture I shudder to imagine the terrible events that took place in this structure. There are many things about ancient Rome that we will do well to leave in the past!
Instead of official tours, we tend to walk, take public transportation, and walk some more...it's the British way. I so wish my pedometer was with me on this trip! The nice thing about foreign public transportation is the added "authentic" experience.
Pompeii is 44 acres of excavated city, 22 of which are available to tourists. Seeing this ancient city was in amazing shape considering it's volcanic destruction by Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD
These stone streets were flooded each day from the aqueduct to keep the city clean.
Beautiful fresco painting inside this home give us a small glimpse of the glory of Pompeii!
I couldn't resist these bright and cheerful poppies growing inside what would have been the floor of a home:)
I was in love with these huge bronze statues until we realized they were a modern decorative addition!
These are the Roman baths which had heated floors, and 3 different rooms with 3 different temperatures!
The most sobering part of our visit was seeing the bodies of the citizens of Pompeii as they fell when the volcano erupted and buried the city under 13-20 feet of ash.
After running for the train, finding out we were at the wrong station and running to the right station, we caught the train back to the boat with only 4-5 minutes to spare which made coming back to the port and seeing our ship all the more comforting:)
A highlight of our trip was seeing British niece Becky who married Rocco the Italian then had an adorable baby Elena! They traveled by car, ferry, and train just to meet us for a few hours!
Wanting to visit rather than do the "tourist thing" we decided to take a bus ride up the coast. We went to a cafe and enjoyed some delicious Italian treats including this cannoli!
We all were entranced with this beautiful little piece of heaven! I especially loved this picture of Elena gazing up at Jonathan:)
Becky always keeps us laughing! The day was cheerfully sunny, the sea cold, and the family bonding delightful!
There is something so enchanting about coastlines, something so calming about water, and something soothing about a big blue sky reflected in the sea!
As I am finally finishing this post on June 6th, I am longing to go back to Venice. The beauty, grandeur, and dreamy setting of this most unique city has captured my heart!
Before we could enjoy the gorgeous sight above....there was more trekking through the city wit our suitcases:) Do you see a theme here....
As the city is sinking, buildings are being flooded 100 times a year! Some of the bottom floors of palaces have grass growing in the bottom floor.
A realist, in Venice, would become a romantic by mere faithfulness to what he saw before him.