Friday, June 11, 2010

Cruise Time!

The trip we had all been anxiously awaiting finally arrived. We met my parents in Barcelona, Spain and ventured out onto the Mediterranean sea on a cruise ship!
Between volcanic ash clouds and the British Airways strike there were moments we thought we were going to have to walk to Barcelona. However, after a lengthy delay at Heathrow we did make it to the Novotel in Barcelona for two days of sampling Spanish culture and cuisine.
The girls loved the rooftop pool at the Novotel. We've found Novotel to be the best bet for family travel in Europe - always a pool and a kids play area.

The rooftop lounge was really beautiful with 360 views of the city.

My parents arrived from Canada the next day and we set out exploring.

I've always been fascinated by the architecture of Antonio Gaudi. La Pedrera is an apartment block designed by Gaudi and completed in 1910. Gaudi's lines are always curving and his attention to detail - right down to door handles - is amazing.

We're about to venture into the crowds of la Rambla.

La Sagrada Familia is Gaudi's masterpiece. The cathedral is due to be completed in 2025 and it will really be an amazing sight.
For now there are machines where the pews should sit.

The spires of the cathedral rise up over the city.

A visit to Barcelona can't be complete without some Flamenco! The girls were kitted out and loved their new outfits!

After a day at sea, spent in the sun and the casino, we arrived in Naples. the port isn't so pretty, but the Amalfi coast in the distance was intriguing.

Hannah shows off a Sorrento lemon - they're huge!

We decided our best bet as a family was to explore Pompeii, a short ride by train from Naples.

Pompeii was quite amazing - like walking back in time thousands of years. We hired a guide at the entrance and he walked us through the vast site showing us all the clues to what an advanced city it was before it was buried by the angry Mount Vesuvius.

The girls were quite fascinated by the ash-preserved bodies.

One of the most well-preserved spots was the bath house. The lighting was quite amazing - all from a small hole in the ceiling.

We saw almost all of Pompeii and managed to sample some excellent Napoli pizza (Naples is where pizza was born) before re-boarding the ship.

We had a lovely table right beside a big window in the dining room.
Mom and dad in the dining room.
Stan in front of the Trevi fountain.
Our next port was Citivecchia, an hour's drive from Rome. I've been to Rome and couldn't face dragging the girls into the city for a whirlwind tour, so Stan arranged a tour with some Americans from the ship. The group had an awesome day seeing some of Rome's top sights with an excellent guide.

The Vatican.

The Coliseum.

Meanwhile, the girls and I enjoyed a day of relaxation. Kids club for them. Deck chair for me. And a rendezvous in the room for pizza before daddy returned.

Next stop Livorno, Italy. The port is very close to Pisa and not too far from Florence. With kids in tow we opted for Pisa.
The train station had the most amazing Italian coffee - I was in heaven. The girls had fun playing with the beaded curtains.


More Pizza.
The famous leaning tower.

Of course we had to try our hand at the cliche shot.
After a day of walking the Italian streets in her flipflops, Mira had VERY dirty feet!

Next stop - Villefranche, France - the French Rivera. Stan and I decided to tuck the kids away in the kids club and do a little exploring on our own.

The ship was tendered in VilleFranche, providing a perfect photo opportunity from shore.

Villefranche is a lovely town, but quite small. We decided to hop on the train and go to Nice. I had been in Nice years ago and remembered it's stoney beaches and sunshine.
Family dinner in the dining room.

The girls made a charming little friend from Tallahasee, Florida - Mary Kate entertained them with her bubble gun.

When you ask my children what they like best about any vacation - it's always the pool. We try so hard to expose them to history and culture, and all they really want to do is swim - go figure!

And another adventure comes to an end. We said goodbye to my parents in Barcelona, but this time wasn't quite so sad as we realized that we have a mere six months to home time. It's hard to believe we've been here a year. Where has the time gone?