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.
La Sagrada Familia is Gaudi's masterpiece. The cathedral is due to be completed in 2025 and it will really be an amazing sight.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The famous leaning tower.
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.
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.
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!