S: Europe 2011 Trip of a Lifetime
FC: Europe 2011 Trip of a Lifetime
1: Barcelona, Spain | After the lengthy plane ride, that went off without a hitch, walking through sweltering transit tunnels, and finding our hostel on a street that seemed a little sketchy in the dark, we were in awe. Finally starting our adventure! First step, wandering Las Rambles Street and finding tapas! The next day we made it to the Fat Bike Tours, here is Julie with her bike, and a picture of the cathedral. All churches are under construction it seems. | Arrived March 31, 2011
2: A continuation of the Fat Bike Tour. Riding along the streets to Parc de la Ciutadella where a young Gaudi helped work on the fountain. The top right is the outside of the Palau de la Musica Catalana, where we would return to later. Us riding along the street made for the world expo. Before the girls on a semester abroad crashed into each other, and the guide kept getting a flat tire. Also on the bottom left is the outside of the Bull Fighting Ring, more for the tourists.. It is a great example of the slack legal system in Barcelona.
3: Riding through the streets on the Fat Bike Tour. We then found our way up to Park Guell by taking transit. We became quite the pros. This was the fist outdoor escalators I have ever seen! I also damaged myself for this picture. Oh so graceful. The first Gaudi place we saw, Casa Mila. An apartment building. The bottom right is a picture of the roof, he never left a detail out, and made the chimneys a complete work of art.
4: Park Guell. More examples of Gaudi's famous architecture | The beaches of Barcelona, made for the 1992 Olympics to beautify the city in the world's eye | The night of April 1, we went to a flamenco show in the evening.
5: Construction begun in 1882, Antoni Gaudi being the main architect. It was not consecrated until November 2010. Construction is tentatively scheduled to end by 2026, the centennial anniversary of Gaudi's death. | Each side depicts a different facada. The Passion facade. | La Sagrada Familia | The inside of the church. Looking up at the ceiling. It was absolutely breathtaking.
6: Nativity facade | The alter | Gorgeous lighting thanks to the stained glass
7: The view coming down the extremely twisty stairs after going up in the lift. We were all quite dizzy after, but well worth it!
8: Casa Batllo Built by Antoni Gaudi between 1904 and 1906 for a middle-class family It is built like a 'house of bones' with very few straight lines. | This is looking down the central stairwell. The tiles go from dark to light blue to offset the light streaming in from the sky light. Even the ceilings were full of details which made the light features art in their own light. | The Barcelona Card, our metro card for our days in Barcelona. Also gave us discounts to many of the places
9: Casa Batllo's attic was really something else, super modern for it's time. | Going out to the patio from the dining room. Pillars in the middle of the doorway. Interesting?! | Me up against the mosaic 'dragon' up on the roof. | Another example of Gaudi's crazy chimneys. The stairs going up to the attic. Super modern and cool. I loved it.
10: el poble espanyol de barcelona | Farmer market type place. Also had a sculpture garden (with grass!), as well as an art gallery. All the little shops were in varied styles of architecture to reflect those of different areas in Spain
11: Palau de la Musica Catalana | We went to a concert on our last night in Barcelona. Showing up right before, we were able to get 50% off. The place is absolutely stunning, especially the stained glass ceiling. We got to see a traditional Spanish orchestra. Perfect way to spend our last night | Up on the top floor looking at the ceiling on the sides you can see the name of all the composers
12: The beautiful life jackets during our safety drill. I carried that water bottle the whole time. | Our first sit down meal on the ship, at the Toscana. Ate about 8 courses, each one completely satisfying. To the left, Julie on the dock enjoying our first meal before getting into our 'penthouse'! | Our room prior to rearranging the furniture | Boarding the Oceania Insignia! April 3, 2011 | We gave them our passports, they gave us this card. Of course I had Julie's picture for awhile. This became as valuable as gold over the next 10 days
13: Marsielle, France April 4, 2011 First day off the ship | Julie with the tourist train we took up to Notre Dame de la Garde.
14: Palais Longchamp
15: The walls of the metro system, all mosaic. After we figured out how to use the machines (with assistance!) | More of the Palais Longchamp. We were lucky enough to sit on the patio across the street to have lunch
16: Julie and I when we finally found them! | The Calanques | The boat tours were cancelled but at lunch we found a bus route in a bottom random corner. A long bus ride, & somewhat sketchy walk when we almost gave up many times, we finally found them! Well worth the effort!
17: la vieille charite | The Cathedral | Unfortunately the train did not work in order to take us to the other places, but we were able to walk to them ourselves before getting back to the ship, an hour early! | The Cathedral
18: Monte Carlo, Monaco April 5, 2011 | Walking up along the side of the cliff in the early morning. Beautiful gardens all the way up, we also ran into a local. 'Buildings Monaco, No buildings, not Monaco' | Julie
19: St. Martin's Garden by the Oceanographic Museum | Cathedral Grace Kelly was married in, and is now buried | Julie overlooking Monaco | 'Octopus' inside the Oceanographic Museum
20: The outside of the Oceanographic Museum with a view of St. Martin's Garden in the middle | Looking down at Monaco from the Palace | The very first submarine
21: Me in St. Martin's Garden | Julie and I looking out, during our picnic lunch by the Palace
22: Julie and I in the Exotic Gardens. A huge cactus garden. Much different then anything we have in Canada. They were actually quite beautiful and succulent. | Changing of the guards at the Palace
23: The Observation caves, part of the exotic gardens. We had perfect timing to go down. | These kids were absolutely adorable. 'When are you going to speak English?!' | It grows about 1 cm every 100 years. This is how much it has grown since the 1940's when they were trying to blast a bigger path.
24: Monte Carlo had beatufiul gardens. On the top there is Grace Kelly's Rose Garden, not quite in bloom yet. The water fall at the sculpture garden. Stunning orchids everywhere. The bottom is the Japanese Garden, a slightly offensive odour in the air I must admit however.
25: Their 'Footprints of the Stars'. Made for the famous football players. | Monte Carlo's shoreline
26: Expensive cars were absolutely everywhere, especially in front of the casino | Monte Carlo Casino | You can't go to Monte Carlo without experiencing the casino. Quite impressive from the outside with the water feature across the street. The tulips were massive! The blooms bigger then our cameras. The casino on the inside was slightly underwhelming, large rooms with tables. Nothing like the lights in North America.
27: Florence, Italy April 5, 2011 | We got there early so we could get into the Duomo. 'Shhhhhh silence!' | We ported in Livorno for our first taste of Italy and made it to the train after taking a cab. Those trains really are quite slick.
28: We did go inside the Accademia to see the real Statue of David. This was a replica on the streets of Florence. | There were poster on the streets everywhere. Very Mary Poppins like | The bell tower beside the Duomo in the centre of Florence
29: Ghiberti's Bronze Doors The streets of Florence, no vehicles were allowed in the centre of the city, instead there was horse and carriage with people strolling everywhere. I loved the feeling of it here. | These locks were along the river, and everywhere in Italy. It started a couple of years ago, you write the name of you and your love on a lock, secure it, then throw away the key- it seals your love forever.
30: Views of the Florence Bridge and Arno River, with Julie and I.
31: We got off on an earlier stop and took the Pisa bus to the Leaning Tower. Crazy how much it actually leans, you feel drunk going up. Unbelievable how much the stairs and everything is already so worn. | You almost forget that Pisa is actually a city. This is looking out upon it. | Pisa, Italy
32: My classic Leaning Tower pose with Julie and I at the top of the tower looking out at the scenery
33: Our day started early @ 5am, with room service to disembark @ 6am, only to wait around for an hour and then to find out that we could have walked to the train station. It was then time to take the train from Civatavecchia to Rome. | Our first stop was the Vatican and St. Peter's Square. The ceilings are absolutely amazing. | Rome, Italy April 7, 2011
34: More of the inside of the Vatican | More of the inside of the Vatican
35: The top of the Vatican. We took the lift up some of the stairs to miss the tourists, we then had just a few hundred more to go. The very top ones you actually have to lean with the shape of the dome. | We then took quite a little jaunt, only getting lost a few times (the streets are like sidewalks I swear), before we found ourselves in front of the Pantheon
36: Piazza Navona | The outside and the inside of the Pantheon
37: Trevi Fountain Julie and I in front of it. We then got around the corner to have our first Italian pizza before grabbing our Roma Pass to help with transit and quickly pass the line.
38: The streets of Rome, across the street from the Spanish Steps. I had to sit on them just to say that I had!
39: The Coliseum Construction started in 72 AD and was complete in 80 AD. Even though it was at the end of a very big day, that was sweltering. It was absolutely incredible to see just how big it truly is.
40: The Coliseum and the Roman Forum
41: This is what this girl walked around the Coliseum in. Too ridiculous. Then a beautiful sunrise the next morning.
42: Amalfi Coast, Italy April 8, 2011 | Our first day of using tender ships, it went fairly smoothly and we were very happy to see our driver waiting for us when we finally docked in Amalfi. This is Amalfi, then us driving along the coast before arriving in Ravello
43: We got to Ravello in the very early morning, the shop keepers were cleaning up the streets before opening. Super cute little town with the Italian scooters everywhere. I also loved the store sign below. What else do you need really?!
44: Driving along the crazy roads we came along a little fruit stand. These are the famous lemons they use to make Limencello, freaking massive. Then Mount Vesuvius, the volcano famous for taking out the city of Pompeii in 79 AD. You can see how much flatter it is on the left side. That is Jeanette, Julie and I in the center of the Pompeii square.
45: We had a private guide take us through Pompeii. The city was only found about 250 years ago, these are some of the pottery and other things excavated from the town as well as part of the main square.
46: The public toilets. They used sea sponge to wipe their bums. | They inject plaster into the forms since the bones and other body matter have decomposed, you can still see the structures. Pretty crazy. | The dog | The old man | The pregnant lady | Man covering his face
47: They didn't have normal street signs in Pompeii. Just pictures, the words have been added by the people excavating the city. They believe the goat means one way in that direction, and portering spots for the rich to have their goods delivered. | Inside one of the houses, normal houses had two sections- one for winter and one for summer, complete with separate dining rooms. One of the houses, owned by a lawyer was 30,000 sq. ft., it had sections for each of the 4 seasons. Wow!
48: The massage tables. The cow is a symbol of their political campaining, they used the symbols rather then names. The water well. They wrote three names on everything- first, last and nickname. | Frescos in the public bath/massage house beside the gym
49: Mosaics were everywhere. The smaller the detail, the more expensive it was. | Inside one of the houses dining rooms. You can still see the details in the frescos, painted with all natural colors.
50: More frescos and buildings throughout Pompeii. Below are the 'erotic' frescos.
51: The bull fighting mosaic and other bull fighting mosaics. The outside of Pompeii. | Along the coast of Amalfi, a super expensive hotel that actually used to be a cement factory.
52: Along the Amalfi Coast We were able to have a surprise stop in Sorrento, where we were able to wander the 'Old Sorrento' streets and shops and get some souvenirs before continuing on our way.
53: Looking down on Positiano, this place is absolutely breathtaking.
54: More views of Positiano from the road 'Little Italy', it was carved into the side of the road by a local to highlight the architecture of the area. At Christmas they put tea lights into them.
55: Along the sea at the bottom of Positiano this was our view as we ate a delicious lunch. | Lilacs were in bloom absolutely everywhere. Not only beautiful, they smelled amazing! | The car could only go so far down since the streets are so narrow, so we walked down the rest of the way.
56: We finished our drive along the coast. This depicts not only the beautiful coast, but also the black netting that was everywhere to protect the lemons. The three of us in front of our private car we had for the day! | The buildings and beach of Amalfi. We didn't really have time to go into the town, opting instead for some DELICIOUS gelato and a stroll along the water.
57: Taormina (Sicily), Italy April 9, 2011 | Our last in Italy. It was a short day and we really had very little planned. It turned into a perfect relaxing day. Exactly what we needed. | The chocolate covered strawberries that we got delivered to our room every afternoon by our butler, Relja (Ray)! | Our first views of Mt. Etna in the morning, the volcano is actually still active, and had a small eruption not long after we were there. The streets of Taormina. I loved the streets of Italy, so inviting.
58: The Teatro Greco ("Greek theatre"), with stunning views of the sea and Mt. Etna Even better that we got in free for 'Culture Week'!
59: Inside the Greek Theatre, with myself and Julie.
60: More views of the Greek Theatre
61: We strolled along through the Public Gardens, before walking through the streets and off the beaten path where we found someplace for lunch. That's me in front of our view!
62: On our way back to the ship we had a little extra time. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, especially for April, so we decided to walk down and walk in the water. Our first time actually touching the water! A little chilly I must admit but a lovely way to end the day.
63: Zakynthos, Greece April 10, 2011 | Our first day in Greece, and our first attempt at one of the cruise tours. Both were slightly disappointing. We started in the centre square of the town, pretty quiet. over half of it is closed due to the sad economic state in Greece. Unfortunately we didn't have time to go and see the turtles that are on the other side of the island.
64: Not everything was open yet since it was so early in the season, so we ended up going to see an olive oil factory. We then went up the hill, I fell asleep on the bus ride as there was not much to see. I will admit the panoramic views really were something else however, that's me at the top and Julie looking out towards the sea.
65: At the top of the hill was a bell tower and a monastery that we were not allowed to enter. Pretty, but I must admit watching that cat play with a sardine or some random reptile was almost the highlight of the day.
66: Santorini, Grecce April 11, 2011
67: This day was exactly what we were dreaming of. We had to wait for the tender ships, we were actually patient and got off first. After rushing to get to the top and running like mad without getting lost (a feat in itself really) we began our private tour. First stop, blue dome churches!
68: The same random alley that had the blue dome churches also had these beautiful buildings and doors. Absolutely beautiful! They use doors instead of gates to their yards.
69: Our driver Helen's favorite spot on the island. A quaint little port, with all the shop owners starting to get ready for the season. | Me touching the black sand of the beaches for the first time. It is actually much softer then I thought it would be.
70: The city of Oia. More fancy gates, and a dog soaking up the sun right on the edge of a tall balcony.
71: I could have taken a picture every step in this place. Myself and Julie totally living our dream!
72: More of Oia and the bell tower.
73: It was actually after Oia when we made it to the black sand beaches. Kind of cool that day but we just had to touch! We also got to go through Helen's home town. A small village of about 400, it was absolutely adorable with her stopping to talk to people along the way.
74: More of the black sand beaches and Julie exploring the coast line. We had an option to go to the top of the island or a winery. We decided to try out the winery since it was our original plan. SO glad that we did! In Santorini they grow their grape vines close to the ground to prevent it from the being destroyed by the wind.
75: Our first views of the winery, owned by George. He only sells it to the locals. He had a 4 month old puppy, absolutely adorable. The winery had been his grandfather's and he still makes all of the barrels by hand.
76: He showed us around his whole farm, complete with chickens, rabbits, hobby birds and a huge garden. He even gave us fresh peas! After tapping the barrels right in front of us for a little taste test of all the wines with a little snack we had to say goodbye. It was perfect!
77: After the tour we went back down the cable cars in Fira. We then boarded our fancy ship in the old port of Fira and were taken out to the volcano where we got to walk to the top.
78: After walking along the volcano we took the boat out to the hot springs. We found out there that you had to swim to them however, about 50-75 m in 12 degree water. Not going to happen, though Julie did test the waters. Back on the ship we got to see the Santorini sunset!
79: Our last day on the ship, and another new country. We started out in Kusadasi, where our guide was a little late but we made up for lost time! Off to the Virgin Mary's house first! Only the foundation is original. The holy spring water and the wishing well. Tie something off yourself with your wish, and if it comes true you have to return to the site to thank her! | Ephesus, Turkey April 12, 2011
80: Ephesus is another excavated and preserved city like Pompeii. The highlight was the library, it is thought that it was once the largest with the most scripts until Cleopatra came along with her womanizing ways and convinced the men to give her some for her library.
81: There were cats everywhere! Some guides even carried whiskas in their pockets to feed them. Everything around us was in bloom, stunning against the old architecture, including the 'Nike girl'
82: More of the library up close. The pie shape was their way of symbolizing God, it was all the letters combined. In front of the judicial buildings they had games to play- backgammon an old standby! The woman's left foot, a secret symbol for travelling men. It meant the brothel house was ahead on the left. Sneaky, sleezy men.
83: The lion's entrance into the theatre. | Their newspaper, they would chisel this down and rewrite it. You can see some early English in it, 'DISCUSS' The theatre that was used into the 80's with stars such as Elton John played there. | They had very aggressive shop owners trying to sell you things. You can not deny their honesty in their blunt signage however.
84: Part of our tour took us to a Turkish pottery place, that guy made all of that in about 5 minutes time. After a quick stop at the museum it was off to lunch. | We had lunch just for us at a Turkish country house. Absolutely stunning and made me miss home, it was very cool to be able to see inside somebody's home.
85: The food was incredible! We even took some back to the ship! Yum! The dogs were the highlight. I easily could've taken either one home as my souvenir.
86: Leather outlet where I somehow became part of a fashion show. | Turkish rug making school where they learn to make everything from scratch. | Getting the thread off the cocoons | They start learning with cotton thread. | Natural dyes that they use for the thread. The absolutely stunning rug we chose. An award winner, 2 years of full time work, only 75,000 TK!
87: Athens, Greece April 13, 2011 | We disembarked for the last time after having our last breakfast. We walked through the port without getting too lost, hit up the transit and were able to leave our luggage at Athens Studios (our hostel) before hitting up the city. We hit up the acropolis first, here is Julie and I in front of the Parthenon. A greek theatre and the Erechtheum. Which was my favorite building by far.
88: More of the acropolis site, Julie and I in front of the Erechtheum. We then walked through the Agora which is where the Temple of Hephaestus on the bottom left was. It was probably the most beautifully preserved building there. Most of them were truly ruins.
89: Changing of the guards in front of the Parliament Buildings. | Athens Central Market, meat market absolutely disgusting. It made me gag! | Water feature in front of the Zappion. The area of the 1st Olympics | Walking through the National Gardens we found these random turtles! | Remnants of the Temple of Zeus.
90: Nafplio, Greece April 14, 2011 | We had one free day in Greece we hadn't really planned. After deciding we were sick of ruins we decided to go to Nafplio. We were definitely not disappointed. We took our first Greek country bus, a large greyhound that seriously stops in the most random places. With very little research we got there only to discover we had a mere 15 minutes to climb to the top of the Palamidi Fortress. A lovely 999 steps. And go!
91: The pictures barely do the view justice. It was absolutely unbelievable.
92: At the top, we only had a few minutes to snap a few pictures and see as much as possible. It was at the end we discovered there was a whole area we didn't get to discover. Too bad, it was really something.
93: A church in the Fortress. We took our time going down in order to maximize our view. Can't believe how lucky we are to have decided to go here.
94: We strolled along town, trying to find food. Everything was in Greek, until we saw all the school children carrying gelato. We pulled a 'mom' & went for it. Perfect meal in the cutest little town. We then walked down to the cove where the school children and tourists were starting to come.
95: Too bad we didn't bring our swimsuits, although a cool day the beach area was beautiful! A local said it was like it's own climate, often 15 degrees hotter then town. An absolutely perfect day!
96: Sounio, Greece April 15, 2011 | Our last day of our trip, we had pre planned to go scuba diving. We had found the bus stop the night before, unfortunately the 'big orange bus' was no longer. After missing a couple of buses and Jeanette backing out we were on our way. We then got off at the end as we were told, with no scuba shop in sight. Wonderful. We tried using the phone, but it was out of order. FInally greek hospitality came to the rescue and this little shop owner let us use his cell phone.
97: After finally getting ahold of the scuba shop we decided that we should check out the Temple of Poseidon before they picked us up. Famous for it's sunsets I am somewhat sad we missed them, because after so many days, it really was just some more ruins.
98: The bay where we learned to scuba dive. Well I chickened out halfway through, but Julie continued with her one on one lesson. I still have the picture in my very sexy suit however!
99: After a long ride back on a city bus instead of the nice greyhound type ones, and me being shown how to fold my towel by an old Greek lady we made it back to Athens for the last time. Julie and I strolled through Plaka and the rest of Athens to buy some souvenirs and soak it all in before returning to the hostel. | Our last night we went back to God's Restaurant for their AMAZING mousaka and baklova! The next morning we packed up and were on our way, this is the view outside our bedroom on the last morning. Off to the airport, and after a quite stressful transfer in London thanks to our travel agent we made it home right on time, with many, many memories. Trip of a lifetime indeed.