Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 6 the epic continues: Taormina Sicily

Every guide we had was a delight for our private tours but Luigi's brother, whose name not a one of us could pronounce was the only one who gave us sweets! and he was a cutie too! Here we are in Taormino, Sicily which is just down the mountain from Castelmola. It is a much larger town with a lovely pedestrian shopping area. We parked Gene and Bill at a bistro and spent the next hour shopping for our Italian edition to our Cruise charm bracelets. Jo loved the idea of picking up a charm from each special place so we started in Barcelona and continued country by country.

Once we had shopped and roamed through the town, visiting the Roman ruins as well, we returned to the van and headed back to Messina. Our guide took us to the cathedral where a wedding was ending and the bride was beautiful outside the church. And then it was back to the ship and a day at sea as we headed to Mykanos, Greece. So, tomorrow...those of you who have not deserted this voyage...will also get a day at sea! I'm giving it a rest tomorrow. So stay tuned Friday morning for a visit to Mykanos!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Good thing our driver was a good one

We went from Messina up up up to the tip top of a mountain that looked across to Mt. Etna...or I presume so as that is what we were told. Unfortunately, the top of Mt. Etna was covered with fog and clouds. The road (to use the term loosely) up this mountain to Castelmola was a series of twist backs on a narrow two lane road with oncoming tourist buses at every curve. If we were not believers before this, we sure were quickly. And, it was raining!

The view was well worth the white knuckles. And did this tiny town so high up in the mountains pass our litmus test...OH YES! but someone would have to drop us off for the week and pick us up when it was over. There is no way we would ever attempt this drive by ourselves.

Our driver dropped us off at a central spot and we had a couple of hours to roam. Most of the shops were not open yet so we focused on staying dry and salving our tummies. Our first stop was a delight: Terrazza vista Etna owned by Ricardo, his sister and his mother. And we were promised the best cannolis we would ever have in our lives...and Ricardo was right. OMG! and I am not a person who is wild about sweets but these melted in your mouth in an orgy of chocolate, pure creme and sugar.
Oh, and Ricardo is wife hunting as he informed us. He says he needs a strong woman to help with the restaurant and the baking and who is preferably deaf so she won't hear a word his beloved Mama says. I thought immediately of Clare but she is still besotted with Enriquo, the Cuban cigar roller, down on the Sponge Docks...anyone interested?

From Castlemola, we headed back down the mountain to Taormina, Sicily. And this was another passer of our test...tune in tomorrow for the next exciting (or not) episode of Travels with Jules and E.

And dear readers who have persevered so far, Bless you. and I promise the end is in sight!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 6 Messina (Sicily), Italy Part I

Day 5 was Cititavecchia which is where people catch the trains and buses to Rome. Since E and I and Jo and Bill had all been to Rome before, we opted to just roam the town thinking it might be a pretty little port town...ah, no. We had read on line that the beach front walk offered some cute shops, a man made board walk out to a tiny island and a few other things to see and do. We found nothing. The entire beach front was torn up and a plaza was being built. We did go to a flea market but then headed right back to the boat for some pool and balcony time.

There was a storm at sea the night we sailed from Citiavecchia to Messina. It was raining when we approached Sicily but I managed to get a good shot of Stromboli, an active volcano (and I can't believe people actually live there!).

The rest of the pictures are from the ship as we were pulling into Messina. We met our guide right after breakfast and ...well, stay tuned for Parts II and III

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Day 4 continued...Pisa

After our morning in Lucca, we got back on the bus for the ride to Pisa. We hiked from the bus parking lot to the entrance of the piazza and stopped for lunch. The guide recommended a lovely little road side cafe that had a menu fixe and she was correct. The food was fresh, tasty and the wine locally made. After a brief introduction to Pisa, we were set free to roam on our own for three hours and what a delight. We took a pass on the standard, "here I am holding up the tower" picture and opted instead for one of the two of us on the steps to the cathedral with the leaning tower behind us.

Bill and Jo had been to Pisa before so they went into Florence where we had already been before. Poor guys. Some how Jo got separated from the rest of the tour group and despite Bill coming back to look for her, remained separated for four hours. Not one to waste time, she did find a beautiful leather purse so the entire day was not a waste. They finally did meet up with the group in time to return to the ship. We all headed up to dinner and called it an early night.

TODAY: the kids are coming over later with their friend, Dina and her boy friend who are in town from St. Louis visiting. The guys are all heading over to the local beer dive to watch the Rams play on one of the many tvs while we hang out at the pool here. The guys will head back here after half time and we'll bbq. E and I are babysitting the boys tomorrow after noon so the four of them can catch a few rays at the beach. Hope everyone has a great day.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 4 Liverno and Lucca, Italy

This was the only shipboard tour we booked and, while it was delightful, we much preferred the ones Jo set up for us with a private guide and vans rather than having to wait in the ship's theatre and the cattle call that entailed. Our guide was a delightful woman who had been born to Italian parents in Australia and moved back to Italy when she was in high school. She was informative and friendly and we were very impressed.

Liverno was the port city where the cruise line docks. It was very commercial and busy at the docks and our guide, who lived in Liverno, told us we would not be able to judge the city very well by where we were. She gave a bit of information about Liverno but we did not stop.

Our first stop that day was Lucca, which is a walled in medieval city. It has wonderful narrow streets, tons of both upscale and tourist shopping and we had a great cappuccino and sweet at a corner cafe when the rain started. We had umbrellas and were braving the drizzle. Surrounding the city is a raised wall. On the top of the wall, there is a walking/biking/jogging path and it was there that the rain stopped and sun peeked out of the clouds. The whole tiny city was shinning like a gem.

We were given some general directions and a list of attractions to see and given 3 hours on our own to explore. I really loved this tiny town.

Tomorrow, I'll take you to Pisa where we spent the afternoon.

I had such fun last night cropping at Posh with Diane and Jackie with a surprise visit from our dear Jean! It was so good to talk to all the gals there scrapping last night. Michele, the owner of Posh, has just gotten a shipment of new goodies in and I left a mite poorer as I usually do...too many great products in the store on a continuous basis.

I went by to see the boys and Little Mama before I headed to Posh and left Posh a bit after nine. Meeting Jackie and Diane Wed. to do it all over again! and Marathon Grill for lunch, I hope. Great light food and good company...who could ask for anything more.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Day Three: Villefranche (France)

Villefranche was one of our favorite places on the cruise. We pulled into the harbor for tending into the village while we were eating our breakfast on our balcony. The view was breathtaking and we could hardly wait to start exploring.

We had all elected not to take the side tours to either Nice, Monte Carlo or Cannes and we had no regrets at all. Most of the people who visited Monte Carlo to gamble did not fare well. At least we had trinkets to show for our spent Instead we followed a walking tour through the winding, twisty and very narrow streets, stopping to shop as we went. The entire town goes up a large mountain as you can tell from the photographs. Many of the streets can not be navigated by car as they are a series of steps going up up up and, believe me, it was much easier walking back down.

We found a little train much like the Conch Train in Key West that gave us a pretty good over view of the village, the Citedel, the two clothing optional beaches and the quay. The guide and driver was a bit hard to understand but using our walking tour print out, we figured it out for the most part.

We ate lunch at a cute little cafe and walked some more, ending up at the top and roaming back down for the second time but through other streets. I was sad to see our visit here end.

E and I use a criteria for judging a city: would we want to spend a week there? Would we want to rent an apartment or a villa with friends or by ourselves and reside in that place for a solid week. So far the answers have been

Barcelona: YES
Villefrance: YES

Tomorrow is Livorno, Italy with side trips to Pisa and Lucca (a walled medieval city).

Thanks for looking. Off to Posh Scraps in Palm Harbor tonight for the crop with Diane and Jackie. I'm still not feeling tip top but tons better than yesterday. Long plane rides and me do not agree I guess.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

We interrupt the previously scheduled program...

for this important update: here are the boys at 15 weeks. Little Mama is holding Landon in his favorite position and me with Colvin. The boys are laughing out loud now, smiling and chattering away. They are getting so big. Landon is a bit over 14lbs and Colvin is at about 12 and a half. They have such distinct personalities. The first single baby picture is Colvin and the last is Landon with one of the stuffed bulls that we bought for each of the boys in Barcelona.

Tomorrow I will post a few pictures from one of my favorite cities that we visited, Villefrance. Thanks for looking and for lovely comments!


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

.Day Two: Barcelona and sailing towards France

E and I rose early the next morning and threw open the French doors to our room. The day was cool and lovely and our view off our balcony scanned the rooftops of several buildings on the street. We breakfasted at the hotel and walked about a mile up La Rambla until Bill and Jo were ready to show us the city. And show us they did. My favorite part was the winding, twisty streets in the Gothic Quarter with small shops around every corner. We also went to a large department store that had a supermarket in the basement to get our two bottles of wine allotted us to take on the boat. We walked to the fountain piazza and spent most of the day roaming the streets. We had checked our luggage at the hotel and, as the ship was not leaving until 6pm, we had plenty of time to have lunch and see such things at the Gaudi building (the curvy strange looking one pictured below). We gathered our belongings, hopped a cab and headed to the docks late afternoon. We had preferred boarding so did not have to wait in lines and our room was lovely. We had the partition removed between our two balconies and toasted the start of our cruise with champagne we found waiting us. Dinner, some star gazing on the balcony and off to France.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day One: Tampa to Philly to Madrid to Barcelona...

Despite the long plane rides, we had short stops in between and arrived in Barcelona surprisingly refreshed. I am an Ambien girl due to my sleep problems...all age related I am sure so took one at take off in Philly and slept for six hours straight.
Here is the aerial view of Barcelona as we flew in.

Jo had booked us at a darling 'boutique' hotel right on La Rambla in the center of town. This is a boulevard that runs between two streets through most of Barcelona and this is the view from our balcony on to the boulevard which is lined with small outdoor dining venues.

E and I walked around while we waited for Bill and Jo to get up from their nap. And then we all shared a glass of wine, toasting to the days ahead. We ate at one of these little places too for dinner after walking down to the market...I think E was going through grocery shopping with drawl. It had been 3 days since he had last shopped you Poor guy, he was like a kid in a candy store without a penny to his name. He could look at all the great meats, cheeses and veggies but could not buy a single item...none of these were allowed on the ship!

We all retired fairly early so we would be rested for Day Two of our adventure. We had 3/4 of a day yet to explore Barcelona with Bill and Jo as our guides and then on to the cruise boat. I love love love Barcelona and all the windy streets in the Gothic Quarter and made my first purchase of the trip at a tiny dress shop there.

More tomorrow and, while the trip was simply amazing, it is good to be home! I will pick five only of my favorite pics of each place we visited so as not to turn this into a boring slide show by a dottie auntie if you know what I mean.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

One more day and we are heading home

We have had the best time on our cruise. Only one day of rain and that hardly slowed us down at all. Tomorrow we dock and spend a day with Jo and Bill in Barcelona and head for home the next day. Have been missing our family and friends and I sure am in need of some Nana smooching on the Twins. See you all soon and will post a few pics here and there of our favorite places of our trip!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Happy Labor Day weekend

Poor little Goofy, he knows something is up. We've had the suitcases out for a week to acclimate the cats to our leave taking. Jack has gotten very needy and Goof keeps plopping himself down on the suitcases with his mournful "don't leave me" look. Until I started filling it, this tote was his favorite place to nap.

I made time today to head up to Posh Scraps. I wanted to say goodbye to my friend, Jackie L, and I wanted to wish Laura best of luck with her awesome mini album class with the wonderful new Graphic 45 papers. He hubby, Bobby, was there to help her and it was good to see him again too! They are both the sweetest people!
I am excited also because Laura and I are going to be collaborating on a class for November at Posh that will incorporate Lumieres and Glimmer Mist.

and I've included a picture here of the owner, Michele, of Posh and Laura.

And it was a red letter day as the Fed Ex guy dropped off my gifts from Webster's Pages: if you have not seen the the new netting by Websters', make sure your lss orders it. Polka dots and designs and glitter and glam. Wish I had time to do a layout now before we go. Oh, and the ribbons are so pretty! Thank you Websters!

So we are off tomorrow. Our house sitter came by just a bit ago for an update and he is ready to move in. I got a lovely phone call from my dear friend, Clare, in New Zealand. The next big event is her visit here in January and Janet and I have been conspiring to come up with some fun things for Clare's visit.

If I get a chance, and the cost is not too much, I will blog now and then during our wild adventure to the Med. Meanwhile, have a great time!

Friday, September 03, 2010

I am grateful for...

The wonderful women in Book Club. Normally we don't have a meeting this time of the year but Gloria, before her fall and injury and now recuperation,suggested we all meet for a Gratitude Dinner this month. While our group was small and we missed those who were in recovery from falls and other injuries and those who were traveling, we still found so much to be grateful for.

We met at Bon Appetite in Dunedin, an elegant restaurant right on the water and the sunset was spectacular as was the dinner. I had the three course shrimp special with fresh veggies and rice. The salad was excellent and the raspberry mousse such a wonderful finish to the meal. Thank so much dear Connie, for driving Miss Daisy!

Errands to run today...library to return books, band to cash a check, and hoping to meet up with Becky to return her craft mats. Tomorrow we pack and the rest of today is to be spent in last minute cleaning jobs so we leave the house clean and shiny for our house sitter.

Even though my internet was out this morning, we seem to have it working again. It looks like the router may be going out on us but we'll deal with that when we get home from our travels.

The weather here has been lovely. The humidity has been way down but listening to the weather that may change. I dodged into TJ Maxx last night to pick up a black shawl for the plane trip and any other cool evenings we might have. It is pretty yet practical. I love TJMaxx.

Off and running...TGIF to everyone!