Category Archives: Try

April 9-10 –Going home

Once at the CDG airport we were pretty tired. Our luggage had gone through to LAX so we only had our carry on’s and large purses, but that was plenty. Unwilling to search for the shuttle to the hotel we grabbed a cab. The travel agency said the Marriot was closest to the airport, but we passed several on the way, including a Sheraton which is actually attached to the airport. At least it was only a 20E ride and about 15 minutes. The Marriott was lovely with the softest beds and pillows, ever. When we checked in I realized my Visa card was gone, so I had Terry cancel it. I am pretty sure I left it in a machine at the Genoa Airport. We watched TV and caught the finale of Britain’s The Voice and then slept hard till morning.

We had coffee and caught the 8am bus for our 10:30 departure. The airport security was miles long and they decided my bag was too heavy. As Carolyn continued I had to go way back to turn in my bag. Good news, because it was a connecting flight there was no charge. Back at the first check point, they let me thru a shortcut and then I was on my way to find Carolyn. The lines were all moving so slow that I actually caught up to her. We boarded promptly and took off on time. Carolyn had bought some more gifts at the airport. On the plane, we were in the bulkhead with a man in the seat between us. Oh well, I am not sitting in the middle, so that’s the way it goes.

We had some ok food, chicken and cous cous and other stuff I ignored. I would really love a sweet right now, but have none.

My wonderful Bose ear buds ran out of charge and the noise on the plane seems so much more awful than normal, since I had a couple of hours of relative silence. I watched the Good Dinosaur, which I though was cute. It is a simple adventure story, no reason for the critics to be so harsh.

I ended up watching animated films all the way home. I did find ice cream bars when I walked around the planes kitchen. I got one each for me, Carolyn, and our seat partner. I also got coffee for all of us. Carolyn and I later spent some time in the kitchen stretching our legs and being entertained by a charming baby named Santiago.

Landing at LAX was quick but getting off the plane took a long time. Most people waited their turn, but some people shoved forward. We had to go thru customs, I was able to text Terry once before customs area blocked all cell use. The line was long but moved fairly quickly. It was interesting to see how the custom officers talked with some people a long time and just gave a quick nod to others. There was a large high school group on our plan and lots of overexcited parents waiting for them. The parents behaved as if the kids were being released from a kidnapping situation, lol. We finally got through and found all of our suitcases. Terry was waiting for us outside, he went to get the car while we waited curbside. The place was packed and it was frustrating for Terry to get to us. LAX is just too big and too messy.

We dropped Carolyn off and when we got home I managed to stay awake until 5:30, then I was out until morning.

All in all, a good trip, interesting sights cool souvenirs.

April 9 – Almost last day

Last night I stepped outside our room to check something on my luggage tag. I saw the woman in the cabin next door, crouching down and she looked at me and said “Madame I need help”. I thought she was sick, what she was, was, NAKED and locked out of her room. She had planned to sleep naked and shoving her suitcase out the door, it slammed behind her. Carolyn and I sprang into action. We gave her a towel to wrap around herself and brought her into our cabin. I called the desk and told them to hurry cause she was naked. Carolyn, who was wearing more pj’s than I waited by the woman’s door. When the steward arrived, he opened the door and Carolyn shooed him away. The lady, very giggly and embarrassed went back to her room, replaced out towel and thanked us over and over.

We thought this was the perfect last night, we giggled ourselves to sleep and occasionally giggle even today.

This morning we went to the International Breakfast, but mostly browsed the buffet and drank coffee. When we went to the meeting room we found Larry and Linda with seats saved for us. We were soon joined by Emmet and Andrea. The girls had left early to catch a train. We all chatted, fetched our passports and chatted some more as we waited for the announcement to leave.

With another round of hugs, Carolyn and I were on our way. We walked al long distance and got to the luggage pick up. Our luggage was delightfully easy to find and a nice Costa crew member with cute, curly hair helped us to the bus. The bus picked up a few people from another terminal and then we went on to the Genoa airport.

This is a tiny airport and we can’t check in until 3:45, so we are sitting and waiting, we arrived at 11:15. Oh well. We can’t leave our seats because this tiny place does not have enough eats for all the waiting passengers.

The airport offers 3 hours of free wi fi, which we are both using. I got us some ice cream and water, and then cookies and sprite. It is a long wait on hard chairs. We did have a nice chat with a young couple with two little kids. Carolyn also got a text from Keyane saying they had made their train and wishing us safe travels.

Tonight we stay at the Charles de Galle Airport Marriott. There is a free shuttle and we leave CDG Sunday morning at 10:30am. We arrive at LAX at 1pm and look forward to seeing everyone. Trips are fun, home is missed.

 

 

April 8 – ROME!!!!!!!!!

We woke up at 7:30, went to the buffet for breakfast and coffee. Then we went to our cabin for our stuff and met Linda and Larry at the bus meeting point. Our bus was C-12 and the trip was called Rome Total Freedom! The guide pointed put a few interesting sights on the way. Mostly it was farmland and lots of sheep.

As we entered Rome I was very excited, to see such old buildings, to know that people of myth and real life stood by these building so many years ago. Walking the same roads as Plato and Aristotle and Socrates. WOW!

Our bus dropped us off by the Theatro Marchano (sorry about spelling). Our guide also sold us each a “hop on hop off” bus ticket for the yellow bus. We went straight across the street to a café to use the restroom, and of course buy something for the privilege. I got a capichano and a tiny 2017 calendar with Rome pictures for 1E.

We walked a short distance, with my camera snapping frantically. Old buildings everywhere I looked, the history is so amazing, I can’t get over it. I feel like a character in a book, not as if I am really here.

We caught the bus and went to the coliseum. I cannot adequately describe the sensations I felt as I looked at this massive structure. Long before America, long before England, long before everything, this was built with hand tools and abilities that hardly existed anywhere on the planet. After staring hard and taking many pictures, we got on the bus again and headed for the Tivoli (?) Fountain.

On the way, we stopped for a bite. Larry and Linda shared a pizza and Carolyn and I each had gelato. Mine was a HUGE sundae, for 14E. My sundae had chocolate, strawberry, chocolate chip, lemon, whip cream, 4 cookies and bits of chocolate. Carolyn had a massive cone for 12E. Oh yeah, worth every penny!

With happy tummys we continued to the fountain. It has been recently refurbished and was sparkling white. I gently pushed through the crowd and got my picture taken as I tossed a coin over my shoulder. I would dearly love to return. From there we walked to the Spanish Steps. They are currently undergoing refurbishment, so they are fenced off, but with clear plastic panels, so you could see them. More pictures and I happily remembered the car bouncing down those steps in the great old movie “The Great Race”.

By now we had walked a lot and still had to get back to the bus by 4:45. With the help of a map and a few kind Italians we began the trek back. It was pretty far. We stopped for a restroom and more gelato. I had a coffee flavor, Carolyn passed and the others got gelato also. Carolyn and I began to lag far behind as we continued to the bus. Larry assured us he would not let us be left behind. As it turned out we got to the bus on time, as did everyone else.

I know I saw other wonderful sights, but I need to see my pictures for descriptions. I also bought two packets, for 1E each, of bookmarks fixed together like a calendar, very cool. I now have 24 bookmarks!

The drive back was about 90 minutes. Lots of passengers slept. When we got to port we had to park far from the ship, it was no fun to walk far again and security did not even check us. We went straight into dinner, all of us about 30 minutes late. We talked hard to each other, all agreed that meeting each other was a high point of the trip and we hope to continue our friendships. We took a group picture, with everyone’s cameras and after many hugs, said good night.

In the room, we finished packing and put our suitcases in the hall. We must be out of the room by 8 tomorrow and our transfer to the Genoa airport is at 10:15. Our flight leaves Genoa at 5:45pm and we arrive at CDG at 7:20pm. The travel agency made us a reservation at the CDG Airport Marriott. The cost is $125 and we expect our insurance to reimburse us for it. There is also a free hotel shuttle. Sunday morning we leave CDG at 10:30 am and arrive at LAX at 1pm  on Sunday – home sweet home.

I will add pictures to this and update some things once I have had a chance to hug my husband and pet my dog and get some sleep. I have so enjoyed having you all with me on this wonderful journey.

April 6 – Alicante, Spain

Yesterday was a sea day and there is not much to report. I did go to play one of the quiz games and Mr. Moustache and his friend were there, I sat with them. We only got 2 answers right and Mr. Moustache looked one up on his phone. I also played bingo, I did not win but it was fun. Carolyn was tired and stayed in the room dozing and reading.

Over all it was also a very frustrating (and then happy) day for me. On the night of the 4th, before dinner, I found a note canceling my Rome excursion, not enough English speakers. I was upset, mostly because Costa does not in any way let you know this is a possibility before you book. Tours get cancelled, I get that, but not for this reason. I spoke of my distress at dinner and after dinner we went to the show. The show was a mish mash of songs with nice costumes and even had a little mini Harry Potter skit. These shows offer a wide variety but sexily clad men and women seem to be a constant.

On the 5th, a sea day, I went to the service desk to complain. I was very upset. I told the girl I wanted her to know how I felt. I told her that I felt as if Costa does not want English speaking passengers. Nicky overheard and came rushing around the desk to lead me to a couch and sympathize with me. I know she understood my concerns, but I don’t think there is actually a way to explain to this cruise line how disregarded we feel. She made a few suggestions and comforted me, and Carolyn, who joined us, as much as she could. Carolyn said she would go into Rome with me, and my Facebook family sent me a slew of suggestions, but I was really unhappy about the entire situation. And then, my delightful table group changed everything! At dinner, Larry suggested we all get together and take a bus to Rome and hang out and see what we please. I was so delighted, especially since he came up with this idea partly to make sure I saw Rome. We agreed to all take the ship arranged bus and ate our dinner happily discussing it. Carolyn and I stayed for the show again and then went to our room, happier than we had been in the morning.

I want to be sure to be clear about this cruise line. The food is fairly good, though changes very little. And it is certainly abundant. Carolyn dislikes it more than I do, but we both love the ice cream. The crew are friendly and funny and helpful. The rooms and bathrooms are very well appointed. The public rooms are beautiful. The shows are fun and if you like to dance there are opportunities to learn and to dance constantly. The children have a lot to do and are very well looked after by the crew. There are several pools and millions of places to lie in the sun. The cities on the itinerary are fun and interesting and the excursions are very low priced. I feel as if I have made a really friend in Renata, a woman who works in one of the shops.

So, all that said, neither of us would use Costa again. We don’t like the disregarded feeling we get as English speakers. We don’t care for the multi language tours. We do not mind the fact that there are many languages on the ship, we have met many nice people who say hi in their native tongues and everyone participates in a bit of laughing sign language. But English is in such a minority that we feel excluded and as if we are not important or wanted. Perhaps this sounds complainy, but this is how we feel, we are enjoying everything as much as we can, we love our dinner friends, we adore our balcony and the crew is wonderful. We have seen many terrific cities and that is what we will mostly remember.

 

And now, today in Alicante:

Alicante was wonderful. We got into port about 1pm and our tour was scheduled for 1:30. We had slept very late and only got up and ready for lunch. I found and had sushi!!! They had smoked salmon sushi and gosh it was yummy. After lunch we went to our tour meeting spot. We were happy to know our crew member favorite Nicky, was to be on our bus. Irene and Bobbi were also on the tour with us. It was a German and English tour.

Alicante is a beautiful coast city, modern in many ways and yet still very different from home with beautiful architecture and tiled walkways. The promenade has a tile design to look like waves and it creates and optical illusion of higher and lower sections, even though it is flat. If you stare at the tiles it is very difficult to walk. Our bus tour drove around the city and then stopped near the city hall building. We walked around and ended up on the promenade. We were to have a taste of horchata and then be on our own for an entire 90 minutes. We skipped the horchata and headed straight for the shops. They were tented stalls all along this lovely walkway and the coast was just across the street. There were ice cream shops and restaurants also. We saw one ice cream shop that had a sigh that said it was the THIRD BEST ice cream in Spain. How hilarious is that?

We bought a few items and then had ice cream at an ordinary stand, I had coffee and chocolate gelato and it was delicious. We sat in the mild sunshine and really enjoyed our time. On our way back to the meeting place, we saw a very nice looking, shirtless young man painting a balcony railing. When I took his picture he waved and smiled. Continuing on, we stopped in a very American little ship and Carolyn bought a really nice scarf. Scarf prices here are so much more reasonable than at home.

Our bus group was on time, we are a smaller group than other tours, about ½ the bus is full. The bus drove up, up a hill to a place the guide called a fortress, and it is also called the St. Barbara Castle. The narrow road seemed to be about to scrape the sides of the bus, but did not. It was a little nerve racking. Once on the top, we began to walk along the fortress cobblestones. The age of this place is fascinating, I wish we had really old stuff in our country. The walls and ground show that it was all hand built. There were views in every direction of the entire city of Alicante as well as the mountains in the background. We came to a pretty area with benches and trees and Carolyn and others choose to stay there while the rest of us continued to climb up the fortress. In this area, there was a gull sitting on a nest at the foot of a tree. The spouse gull was nearby and when we got too close she would call out to him to protect her. We stayed a respectful distance and got to watch the two of them changes places so she could rest a bit and grab a bit to eat.

Further up the fortress were several statues along the way that were guarding the castle. They looked like archers and swordsmen and were fun to take pictures of. We also went in one room that had a beautiful mosaic wall made from shards of pottery found in the excavation of the area. I could not stop taking pictures of the scenery, the views were amazing and got more so as we climbed higher. On the top were cannons and by standing just so I was able to get a photo that looks like the cannon is aimed at our ship. The guide pointed out the bullring, another photo op.

Eventually we headed back down. I picked up Carolyn and we were all on the bus by 6. Going down the hill was scary, and the bus was crawling past the huge fortress gates.

We were soon back at the port and the busses were able to get very close to the ship, that had not been the case on our other stops. We passed a few gift shops and I was able to finally get some Alicante bookmarks. This is a city I would love to visit again, it is very beautiful, easy going with a lot to see.

By the time we got through security we went straight to dinner. Soon we were all eating and laughing and sharing our stories. Larry, when he ordered dessert, asked for the chocolate obsession WITH a scoop of ice cream, we all thought that was brilliant and as we gobbled it up, well, it was brilliant.

At dinner Courtney and Keyane told us they could not take the same bus because they had a Segway tour booked and the ship bus would not get to Rome on time. They got Andrea’s cell phone number so we can meet up when they are done. We picked Andrea because she and Emmett are currently living in Germany and we know her phone will work.

After dinner, Carolyn and I decided to skip the show, she is really tired and I have things to remember and write.

Tomorrow is a sea day and we will spend part of it getting most of our packing done. My plan is to put my little carpet in my carry on since it is folded small but still somewhat heavy. We also have a disembarkation meeting at 9:30 to explain all the procedures.

I was able to post Barcelona on Facebook and will add photos to the blog at home.

April 4 – Lisbon, Portugal

More about last night. I was sitting on deck 5 waiting for the show, I had finished typing and was simply sitting when a woman approached me. She spoke in French and when I told her I did not understand she switched to limited English. She asked me if I was by myself and I said yes and she invited me to join her and her friends. I went with her to her table around the corner, there were two men. On was young, maybe late 20’s and the other was older. The older one I sort of knew. He and his friend and I had been standing in line together and though we did not speak the same language we had fun pantomiming the long wait to each other. Then the shorter man, who had a moustache, reached and yanked a hair out of the taller mans arm and ran a ways off, laughing. Later I saw them playing a ship quiz game and I called out to their little group when I though I knew an answer, I was typing rather than playing. Turns out, the young man is the woman’s daughters boyfriend, and the man with the moustache is her and her husbands best friend and travels with them. The husband and daughter were asleep. Apparently Mr. Moustache had pointed me out to her and said there is the lady with the pretty smile. She told him to come talk to me and when he would not, she came and got me. I was flattered silly. I sat with them for a while and then left to see Keyane sing. Even as I type this, I smile.

As to Keyane, it was very exciting. The show is set up almost exactly like The Voice, the judges even have turning chairs. We had all discussed strategy with Keyane, she wanted to avoid being on a team with the Spanish singer, the Italian singer and the English singer. The others could not really sing very well. When the Italian singer came out, she did a pretty good job, faltering a bit at the beginning. The Spanish singer did My Way (again) and was very good (again). The English singer, Greg, was fine, doing Elton John. When Keyane came out, she was wearing leggings with holes across horizontally, and a white blouse. She sang Rolling in the Deep and she rocked it! Only 2 judges turned, so since she really wanted to avoid the Italian lady she had to go on Greg’s team. The Spanish singer was not a good strategy player and went on the Italian lady’s team, even though all 3 judges turned for him. When all had sung the judges stood with their teams and announced their choice. The Italian lady was picked (the ship is 75% Italian) and the Spanish man was visibly crushed. A man in a ball cap who couldn’t really sing very well was next and then the judge picked Keyane over Greg. We were so excited. Next they showed a brief clip of the 3 top singers and all of us who had picked up a voting device made our selection. There was a long, suspenseful few minutes while the host held the envelope and tortured us. And then it was announced; Keyane Won!!!!!!! We screamed and laughed and she was so delighted. Her trophy actually has some weight to it, it is a hand holding a microphone. WOW! What a night.

 

And now, today in Lisbon. We woke up at 7 and went to breakfast at the International Café. Carolyn had eggs benedict and I had a cheese omelets. It was nice to have real breakfast food for a change and we could order as opposed to getting it ourselves.

At 9am we were given our bus assignment and made our way off the ship. Larry and Linda and Emmett and Andrea were on the bus with us. This tour was in English and Spanish. The tour around Lisbon was really nice. The architecture is lovely and they have many large, imposing statues. Unfortunately it was raining, often very hard, and by the harbor the wind was blowing HARD HARD! The ship had given us all ponchos but they were so light weight, after watching everyone struggle with them, we left ours in our purses. We stopped now and then for pictures and I took a few from the bus window, but the rain made it difficult. We saw the President’s Residence which is pink. We went into a museum that had been the King’s Palace and walked through. The guide talked a lot about each room, and in two languages, so this part of the tour was much too long. Many of us wanted to walk through faster, but the guide was determined to keep us together. At the museum bookstore I got a children’s Portuguese coloring book and a flash drive that looks like books! Our last stop was by a pastry shop. There was a tiny store beside it, here I bought my bookmarks and a small Lisbon book with plenty of pictures. I wanted this because of the rain messing up most of my camera shots. In the pastry shop Carolyn got us each a coffee and a big chocolate chip cookie. So delicious! We then stopped at a pretty nice restroom and went back to the bus. As we walked to the ship from the bus we passed two tiny shops. In the first on I found these funny, round cloth things that are for little breads and a kitchen towel. This shop also had many cork products. I could not resist and bought the cutest purse, made of cork! Carolyn bought some items also.

Back on the ship we dropped off our stuff in the cabin and went up to the 9th level to get something to eat. The hot buffet had a bit of steak, potatoes, salad and spaghetti. Pasta every night at dinner is enough for me! As we looked for a table, Irene and Bobbi called us over and we all enjoyed lunch together. Those two are so funny, friendly to each other and bickering at each other in an odd but almost endearing manner. Carolyn and I each had ice cream bar for dessert and now we sit happy and comfortable in our cabin.

Tomorrow is a sea day, so I may not have much to post.

April 2 –Casablanca, Morocco

Our Casablanca tour was scheduled for 7:45am. We got up at 6:30 and time to get dressed and I made a quick coffee run to the buffet. We remembered our tickets this time and were soon walking down a very steep ramp to the port. A crew member helped Carolyn and I used my cane and went slowly. On our bus we had a young woman from Costa and a guide. Once again the tour was in German and English. The Costa member told me when I asked that the guide was telling all of us the same thing, but it took much longer to say in German.

We got off the bus soon after we got on and began to walk through a closed market area. The stench was bad and there were huge (no exaggeration) piles of trash everywhere. Our guide kept apologizing and explained that the people slept late on Saturday and it would get better. We did see people sweeping but it was still not great. This was again a Kasbah, and I think slum might be a better translation. We walked a long way with very little to see. There were some cats wandering around but no where near the amount we saw in Tangier. Also these were thinner looking. I did see some well taken care of dogs, I even saw someone grooming their dog in a park.

We came to a wider, more modern area of shops, but nothing really caught anyone’s eye. Then we went into an olive market. The smell was wonderful and the variety of olives was amazing. There must have 50 barrels divided into several stalls. There was no competition, the owners just sat and smiled as we browsed.

When we left the shop we strolled through stores with “set” prices. I wanted a children’s book for my collection and I really needed sunglasses. I had left mine in the room and it was a pretty sunny day. We continued walking and Carolyn found a terrific, leather bag that she bought and plans to use it with her carry on when we go home. I finally found a bookstore and bought a darling book about farm animals. It is of course in Arabic and opens right to left.

Back on the bus we went to see the Kings palace and an older palace that was now a city building. Again the tile work and lanterns are so amazing. We saw some of the inside and the courtyard before we went on our way.

Around this time the guide took us to a restaurant to use the bathroom. There were two, one was a hole in the ground and the other was a toilet with a broken flusher and no toilet paper. The smell was pretty bad, but one must do what one must do.

We next took the bus to visit the Mosque, it is the largest in the world except for the one in Mecca. It was a beautiful place and covered a large area. The current King’s father had it built to honor Mohammed and to employ the citizens. 26 thousand workers were involved the entire time. Part of it was built over the sea. We strolled around for a while and then went back to the bus. One of our passengers was lost, her husband and the guide and the crewmember all went searching. We lost about 20 minutes before the lost woman realized she was on the wrong bus and came looking for us.

We stopped for a wonderful, beautiful, delicious lunch in a Morroccan Restaurant. We sat at round tables but due to the language barriers we did little beside smile at each other and signal for the passing of food. The first set of dishes, set out for us to share were a variety of salads. There were shredded orange slices with a light flavoring of some sort, beets, cucumber with tomato, mashed olives and a tasty, soft orange colored thing. It was all yummy and we ate it with bread. Next they brought a large dish of cous cous with vegetables and a huge dish with chicken and olives. Everyone helped serve and pass food around. It was so good. I ate strange sauces and loved every bite. When all the food was gone they put a large platter of thinly sliced oranges with cinnamon in the center of the table. They also brought small, tasty almond cookies. There were 8 of us and they brought 8 cookies, but one man, large and pushy and rude took two, so someone did not get a cookie.

When we left the restaurant we drove through the “California” part of Casablanca, where we saw many beautiful homes, we also drove along the shore and saw McDonalds, with a big, outdoor beach seating area.

I asked the guide if we were going to see Rick’s Café from the Casablanca movie and he said yes. We drove by and stopped for outside pictures. Of course the movie was filmed on a studio lot, but it was still fun.

We were supposed to go next to a handicraft area but had run out of time. The bus dropped off two couples who wanted to continue to stroll around and the rest of us went back to the ship.

We had to take the ramp to walk up and a crew member assisted Carolyn, she looked very regal as she walked up on his arm. We went though x-ray, something we do each time we return to the ship.

Carolyn and I went back to our room to relax before dinner and we both napped. I did stroll up to the buffet to see if the ice cream machine was working. After asking daily someone finally told me it was by the “other” pool. I went in search, and found it, it is a vending machine. I got a Magnum bar for Carolyn and a drumstick for me. It was lovely. We also discussed our future tour plans and decided to book the tour of Lisbon for Monday but will do Cadiz on our own tomorrow. I also agreed it was foolish to not do the Rome tour and planned to sign up.

At 5:30 we went to deck 3 to await the 6:00 opening of the tour office. Carolyn walked over to the hospitality desk to get a copy of her bill. We are finding the billing VERY confusing and plan to go over it carefully before we leave the ship. As soon as someone got into the excursion line I got behind them and quickly behind me were another 20 people. A lady cut into the front, but the two people she cut off said nothing. I ordered for the Lisbon tour for each of us and the Rome tour for me.

Once this was all taken care of, we went into dinner. We did not know what the others were doing since we are in port until 10pm but soon Emmett and Andrea appeared and the girls a bit later. Larry and Linda had gone to Marikesch and did not get back. I had the special salted cod, a cheese plate and chocolate icecream. The cod was only so-so, very saucey, so I also got French fries, which I shared with Emmet. As usual, our group was the last to leave the dinning room, we all get along so well. Courtney and Keynae and Carolyn and I are going to taxi to Cadiz together tomorrow, we will meet around a 11 when the ship docks. Tomorrow is also the day Keynae will compete for the “VOICE OF THE SEA” contest and we will all be there cheering her on.

It is now 10pm and we are relaxing in our room. Carolyn is playing a game and I am typing away. I also downloaded my photos to the computer, but will post when I have a decent connection.

In our opinion, Tangier is more sophisticated than Casablanca and we all liked it better, but Barcelona, for Carolyn and I was the place we liked least.

Tomorrow – Cadiz, Spain

April 1 – Tangier, Morocco

We had called for a 7:30 wake up but what we got was a 6:15 wake up and we were rushing about before we realized the time. Our phones refuse to be on Morocco time so a wake up call seemed like a good idea. Oh well. We had time to get read and have a bite to eat and stroll over to Deck 5 to meet with the group. Unfortunately I left the tickets in the room so RAN back, went the wrong way and was gasping for air by the time I got back to Carolyn. She was chatting with Irene and Bobbi, sister-in laws who we enjoy talking to, when they are not bickering and sniping at each other. The four of us had our canes out as we walked a pretty long distance to board the bus.

On the bus we saw our dinner companions Linda and Larry. We sat behind them and enjoyed chatting now and then. Also on our tour was a very tall man, he had been the main reason we did not lose the tour in Barcelona, cause we could always see him, surrounded by his wife and kids. Also, Nicky, a Costa crew member was with us.

On the bus our guide began to talk, only in English, which was nice and he talked and talked. He used the word please as a punctuation mark, it was both funny and charming. He worked very hard at convincing us that Tangier is a very happy, diverse city where Jews and Arabs and Spaniards and everyone gets along. It was obviously important to him that we not be afraid and we go home to spread the word. He always pointed out the various religious buildings from synagogues, to churches to mosques. As I have always believed, when you look at these people, they are like us, with jobs and families and pets. Speaking of which, we saw at least 30 street cats. Unlike ours back home, they are not at all shy and lie in the sun and wander wherever they please. Most look sleek and well fed. I did see a dog on a leash but it was in dreadful condition and I quickly looked away. It was filthy and seemed very unhappy.

Tangier is a very pretty city, many white houses on hills, like in pictures from Greece. He kept comparing Tangier to California; the weather, the beaches, the American cars, the fancy homes of the rich, it was all California. We Californians were pretty amused.

Our first stop was the Kasbah. Unlike an Aladdin movie, this place is simply where people live, mostly poor people. He showed us the public fountain because most people do not have running water or electricity. This was picturesque and interesting and the walking was reasonable. I enjoyed this first time with my cane, not for balance, I was going pretty slow, but it was nice for up hill. I need to get a strap for my cane to put on my wrist.

Next we went to the Medina, the SHOPPING!!! Here was the part I both looked forward to and was afraid of, where the peddlers are in your face. It was fun, sometimes you had to say NO! in a loud, angry voice but mostly a few regular no and no thank you’s would suffice. I wanted to make a purchase from a peddler so I bought a bracelet for 10E and $2. I also bought a surprise for my sister Candy, so I can’t tell here.

But I must talk about Yasene (this is how he said it, spelling? No idea). He was always at the back of the group and became a personal guide for Carolyn and I. He never let us get far behind and he carried things for us and he was a darling. Yes, we know he gets cuts from the stores, but so what? He was incredibly helpful and kind. He made the trip perfect!

One of the nicer homes we walked past had been owned by Barbara Hutton and was currently owned by Margaret Atwood. We also passed a book shop and the owner was kind enough to step out so we could take a picture. They do NOT want their pictures taken. Yasene laughed and said just take it quick and rush away, but Carolyn and I did not bother people.

We stopped at a spice shop and one of the items was REAL Moroccan argon oil, I bought some as well as some Orange Blossom oil and a spice to stop snoring. The spice shop man also showed us a spice that takes off 10 pounds in 20 days, but I don’t think anyone bought it. Carolyn also made some purchases, but they are a surprise.

We then walked through a food market, lots of olives and skinned animals hanging from the racks. I saw, for the second time that day, a tall pile of very large, round breads, about the size of a medium pizza. “I want that” I said to Yasene and he bought it for me, called it a present. It was delicious, I offered it to many on the tour and we tore of hunks and munched as we walked. I could live on that bread, mmmmmmmmm!

The next stop was a very large store that sold a wide variety of quality items and accepted credit cards. Upstairs I was tempted and splurged on the purchase of a lovely Moroccan carpet, Carolyn who is familiar with these carpets knew it was authentic and that the price was very low compared to what it would be in the states. They packaged it in the most amazing way, it is heavy but so small and a young man sewed the package closed with a big needle and string. That alone was fascinating.

By now we were pretty tired, we had walked a long way and were “attacked” by peddlers every step. Irene said NO in a way that really sent them scurrying. I began saying “I don’t like it” to everything I was shown, that made the peddlers sad.

The money thing was odd because the peddlers will take anything, dollars or Euros or whatever. We had no need of Moroccan money.

We finally got back to the bus, after almost 3 hours, but we were not done. We exchanged a fond goodbye with Yasene, and tipped him very well. He had been carrying all of our purchases and handed them off to the tour guide so we did not need to carry them to the bus. Such a great guy. He seemed to know everyone we saw and when I asked him, he said everyone knew him, he was like coca cola. He also said he is a friend of Rick Steves and is in his books. (Every time we briefly lost sight of Yasene, Carolyn was sure he was off selling our stuff, but of course he was not).

We went on a drive through the “Beverly Hills” of Tangier to admire the beautiful homes. We saw camels by the side of the road but they were only there for tourists and we did not stop. A lot of this drive was along a beautiful coast line, off the Atlantic. We could see the Rock of Gibraltar in the distance. We had a very brief stop at a high point for pictures but the ocean looks pretty much the same from everywhere. Unfortunately my camera ran out of battery, darn me for forgetting to charge it, and though Carolyn still had some battery life in her camera, it is not a fast shot. I missed some photo ops but it had worked most of the time.

Our next stop was a cave that Hercules built, or so they said. It was a steep downhill with a climb to come back so Carolyn stayed in a small side place and watched some drummers. The cave was especially interesting because it had the ocean water of different countries that had flowed into it. Depending on where you stood in the massive cavern, you were in a different country.

Our final stop was a beautiful hotel called ________. Out by the pool they had real Moroccan tea for us and cookies. The tea was warm and very sweet, I loved it. The cookies were ok but they were gobbled up. There were also very nice, western style bathrooms for us. We sat around a lovely pool and enjoyed the respite. If I were to stay in Tangier, which I doubt I ever will, this is the hotel for me. The big downside is the strong smoke smell, but they probably had smoke free rooms for westerners.

And then, back to the ship. The guards at the harbor gate actually looked under the bus with mirrors before they let us through. In spite of this the busses are not allowed too close to the ship so we had a long walk. My carpet is very heavy and I was glad to get to the room and drop it.

Carolyn and I went to the buffet, which they had kept open because the busses were late. I had a drumstick and a few potatoes and Carolyn had a salad and we both had a few bites of pizza (bleh). The ice cream machine is still broken and though we should be grateful to avoid the calories, we are not! Then goodness for ice cream for dessert and I brought jujubes which we both snack on.

Carolyn is in the room, on the balcony reading and enjoying the sunshine. I went to the internet café to send yesterdays blog. I am now sitting in a salon where there is usually dancing. While I type they are playing quiz games. The first was a geography one and then a cute on where they showed pictures of people in traditional costumes and the participants need to guess the country. Sitting near me are two men I waited in the long excursion line with. They speak no English and I no French but we became friendly anyway. They are playing the game and I guess along with them.

Tonight, after dinner, we are done! We need to rest up for Casablanca tomorrow and I need to download our photos.

An Unexpected Outing

March 28 An Unexpected Outing

Savona, while charming, is small and we saw most of it yesterday so it was with relief that we made arrangements with Davide, our driver from the airport, to go on an excursion. Carolyn thought going to Milan and Lake Como would be great, so that’s what we did.

We set the alarm for 7 but woke up on our own. We went to the complimentary breakfast, wow! There was a hug assortment of food. Many different breads, muffins, hard boiled eggs, some fruit, sliced meats and cheese and lettuce and tomatoes. There were also many dessert type pastries. We both enjoyed ourselves. I had a hard boiled egg and several pieces of crusty French bread with jam. I also had coffee with hot milk. Carolyn made a little sandwich and also had some hard boiled egg. Our view was of the gardens and the sea, so lovely, even with rain coming down.

We went back to the room to gather everything we needed and met Davide in the lobby at 9am. Then we were off.

We decided to drive to Lake Como first and get to Milan on the way back. We drove for almost 4 hours. Along the way there was an accident. Davide slowed to ask the people if they were ok, they said yes, and then as we drove along he called the police to report it. Chances are they were tourists and I am sure that was helpful. He is a very kind man.

Soon after we and arrived at Lake Como in a drizzling rain.

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Davide showed us where to go and also where he would be. He sat happily in his car watching a movie on his ipad while we strolled around.

First thing was a trip to the bathroom and a coffee. This was accomplished at a small, outdoor café. No toilet paper. Oh well.

Then we took pictures of the Caduti Monument on the edge of the lake. It is a modern looking monument commemorating Como’s fallen of WW1, constructed in 1931 in a futuristic style and at 33 metres high is an imposing monument. We took some pictures and then walked over to the lakes edge.

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It occurred to Carolyn that perhaps we could get a boat tour of the homes on the lake. We walked along the harbor and asked around and then found a water taxi that would take us on a 30 minute tour. The cost was 50E each, and we were fine with that. The tour was very nice and we saw many of the beautiful homes. Unfortunately George and the others live far away on the lake on a private road and were too far for the boat to go. We enjoyed our ride anyway.

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Back on shore we headed back to the car, stopping to look at anything that caught our interest. There was a very well done European Resistance Memorial. This monument to the European Resistance Movement is dedicated to the many Europeans who were condemned to death – it comprises stones from the Nazi extermination camps and the tragedy of Hiroshima. We got several pictures but could find nothing in English.

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We walked and took pictures and ended up at a beautiful little building called the Volta Temple. The entire building is dedicated to the life and works of Alessandro Volta. He died in 1827 and the temple was built in 1928 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of his death. Volta was a great physicist and invented many things most notably the electric battery. It is a lovely building with excellent displays.

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We next returned to Davide and headed for Milan.

When we arrived in Milan, we were a little disappointed. It was not much to look at. Davide took us to the big shopping area known as Corso Venezia. We wandered about, but honestly, we could see the same, perhaps better, at South Coast Plaza. We did get gelatos, I got chocolate and Carolyn got chocolate chip. It was very cold, but so worth it. We stopped at a restroom in a place where the lower floor, known here as -1 level was like some odd hipster version of a Parisian Club without the smoke and booze, instead there were fraps and gelatos. Crazy man, crazy.

We next found a store called the HIGHLINE outlet. It was pretty cool, with designer seconds at very low prices. Carolyn tried very hard to love one of the Valentino purses (80E) but they just did not suit. I found that there is a designer who designs purses, shoes and wallets just for me. Each is inscribed “RB”. I bought a pretty Robin’s egg blue wallet with my initials on it.

We were pretty much done by now, so we stopped at an ATM to get more Euros. It was difficult to get into the locked ATM building, but we somehow figured it out. Once inside we each got 250E on our debit cards. Then we went to find David, waiting and watching his movie. He suggested we might want to eat before we left and we agreed. We went to a charming Panini Restaurant. Carolyn had a Madrus Panini which had turkey, lettuce, tomato, cheese and curry sauce and almonds. The roll was warm and crusty. I had smoked salmon on warm crusty bread. I also took one look at someone’s table with French fries and ordered them. The sandwiches were awesome and the fries were delicious and shaped to make a little boat for scooping ketchup. YUM!!!! Lunch was about 35E with tip.

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Davide was parked nearby and we were more than ready to come to the hotel. We got back about 6:20. We took some pictures with Davide, who we had become very fond of. We paid Davide 210E each, and well worth it. All together we spent 260E on a faboulous day! (Food does not count, one must eat). We were sorry to say goodbye to Davide, he was wonderful!

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We are now back in our room, in our PJ’s, tired and happy and looking forward to boarding the ship tomorrow.

Carolyn says; “I finally checked Lake Como and Milan off my bucket list, hooray hooray, it was a fantastic day. Rain, fog and all.”

A Day In Savona

March 27 Adventures

Once we were all dressed and ready we went to find food. Out the back of the hotel (we are on the street side) we were directed to a small building on the beach side where we could order food. We had a tasty gnocchi and more breadsticks than we needed. We also had coffee and water. The service and view were terrific, a pretty, windowed room and a gorgeous view of the Mediterranean Sea. This hotel is pretty spectacular and the price is so reasonable. In the US it would easily be $500 a night, but here we are paying 119E. A quick trip back to the room and then with coats and cameras, we were ready to go out. It was about 1:30.

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Our room with pretty blue lights. Nice and big!

We decided to take a cab to the center of town. It was 15E. Once there, we were able to visit the small Sistine Chaple. It is very pretty, not very small. We each lit a candle and then strolled around admiring the art and the sculptures. Because of the holiday, the entire  chapel area was not all open, but we enjoyed what we did see.

Then we walked to the huge, ancient Priamar Fortress. It was built in 1542 and is an amazing place, crumbling façade and stone walkways. It is also a museum, but today is Easter Sunday and the museum, and almost the entire town was closed. We walked all around the fortress and up on a few of the higher towers. Once we were back outside we also took pictures of the ruins of the monastery that used to be there as well as a few modern sculptures on the lawn. We enjoyed this very much, the oldness of the area is wonderful. We also saw, from the top of the fortress a COSTA cruise ship, so we now know that our ship will be very close when the hotel takes us on Tuesday.

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Carolyn’s hand pointing at a COSTA ship docked nearby.

 

Once we had looked to our hearts content, we crossed the street to have a coffee in Pizzeria Restorante, which must get many tourists but they speak no English. Of course, that’s fine, this is their country after all. I had an espresso, OMG, never again! Carolyn ordered the lemon gelato and we shared it. It was light and creamy and for a bowl they used an actual lemon. We also shared some water.

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We wanted to take a bus back, save a bit of money but were not sure where to catch the bus. I approached a table to ask if anyone spoke English. There were 6 people at the table and the young couple said they spoke a little. Carolyn took photos as they all gathered around the table, looked at our (useless map) and began a very long discussion in Italian with much disagreement. I finally said maybe we should taxi. The young man, who was somewhat bemused by his 5 female companions and their desire to talk about a bus for a long time, said, “good idea!” It was all not much help, but seriously fun.

We paid for our snack, it was 10E and tipped 2E. Then we began to walk in a suggested direction. We were worried about it getting dark and when we passed by an emergency ambulance place, we asked if they could get us a taxi and they were very nice and did so. When the cab came we told him our hotel and off we went. Though we were much closer this one cost 20E. We knew we were being ripped off, but by now did not care.

We stopped at the desk to get our key (we leave it when we go out) and are relaxing in our room with coffee. The balcony door is open to cool off this room and we are content. Later we will eat in the hotel restaurant. Much later because it does not open until 8pm. Our choices are limited because though we are on a nice beach, there is nothing nearby. In California the road by the beach and hotels would be filled with restaurants!

At about 7:55 we went to the Hotel Bistro to eat. They asked us is we had a reservation, we said no, after a long discussion in Italian they sat us at one of the “fish tables”. We were offered a menu in English and took it. The prices were extremely reasonable. Carolyn got a vegetable soup and I had stuffed anchovies. We also had a large plate of delicious bread. The soup was the best she has had in a long time.  My anchovies were fried and yummy, but tasted like any random fish, not salty at all. We also had sparkling water. It was 16E for the meal.Turns out the regular restaurant, which we did not think was open due to language confusion, had prices well beyond 16E, so we are glad we missed it.

(photos coming)

We are back in our pretty room, in our jammies, comfortable and ready for our exciting day tomorrow. We will leave for Lake Como at 9 in the morning. We plan on having breakfast first.

Carolyn says “beautiful city, so nice being back in Italy again.” Hope everyone enjoyed Easter. I did, I am licking chocolate off my fingers right now.”

More tomorrow……………….

Our Trip Begins

March 25: On our way

Terry drove us to the airport. We picked up Carolyn at 6pm. We had a brief visit with Carl and then were on our way. We were able to car pool on the way over and then Terry luckily had no traffic on the way home. Terry wanted to park and help us with our luggage, but that proved impossible. So we just stopped in the Bradley lot and got a luggage cart and said our goodbyes.

We looked into a seat change at the airport but nothing better was available. We had already paid $32 to switch to a row with only 2 seats, so that’s what we kept.

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At Bradley Intl.

In the terminal we quickly went through security, though Carolyn had her luggage searched. Back in our shoes we had coffee and I had a cookie while we chatted and waited. There was a wonderful art installation in sight and it was so fun to watch. It was a series of posts with screens on them and each country that used the airport had a few minutes of decoration on the screens. My favorite was the one from Santiago, it was the neck and a bit of the body of a guitar and the strings vibrated each time a note played.

At about 9:15 we went to our gate, visited the ladies room a few times and watched a huge growing line of passengers standing, but for no apparent reason. Finally I checked at the desk, and we did need to line up, but in a much less crowded section. In less than 5 minutes we boarded.

We sat in seats 44K and when I got there a lady was there. I told her it was my seat, she said she was using it to find stuff for her little girl, and nicely asked if I would wait. I did. When she finally moved. We stowed our luggage and I sat by the window. Carolyn got the aisle seat and had an entire seats worth of room next to her. Having only 2 seats is great.

We both took something to help us sleep and then played around with the various movies and other things available on our seat screens when, to our amazement, they served us dinner at midnight local time. Carolyn had chicken with rice, she got the last one. I got pasta in lobster sauce which I did not eat. There was also a grain salad of some sort that was good. The bread was good and the applesauce was tolerable. I ignored the brownie, bleh.

After they cleared all the dishes, they dimmed the lights and we went to sleep, sort of. Carolyn slept fairly well, I am not sure if I slept or not. I felt like I was awake the entire time, but it’s hard to tell.

We both got up at about 5:30am California time. We went to freshen up a bit and I got suddenly so cold I was shaking. The steward (our section has all men) gave me some coffee and worriedly checked the temp, but I told him I was ok, just reacting to being tired.

Back at our seats we sipped coffee and tried to play solitare on the screen, but it required more button pushing that either of us could stand, so we gave up. Carolyn played a game on her ipad for a while and I am typing.

We had breakfast on the plane, some sort of egg sandwich, but there were mushrooms in the same container, I did not eat them. The orange juice was yummy and the coffee was decent.

Once on the ground we got off the plane fairly quickly. The lady in the row in front of us was searching for a lost ring, so she was still there when we left.

Our luggage is going to Genoa without us, but even so, security made me throw my water away, even though I had to have been through security to get to where the next one was. Oh well.

We took a shuttle a long way to terminal 2-G and are not waiting for our 90 min. flight to Genova on HOP Regional. Once there a driver will pick us up (we hope) and take us to the hotel.

We are tired, but happy and excited.

Carolyn says she is very tired but it is well worth it.