We started in Barcelona. The first day felt so long because of the time change, and I don’t remember that much of the first day. But I do remember that we stayed at the Gaudi hotel, and I had a refreshing nap. My favorite food that I ate in Barcelona was paella, to which I give four starts. Typical paella is seafood and rice but I got one with chicken. My favorite site I saw there was Gaudi’s unfinished church. This was a wonder of architecture because all five sides were different, with each looking like a different church.
From Barcelona, we boarded a cruise ship, the Liberty of the Seas. The first place the ship docked was Marseilles, in France. I think that out of Barcelona and Aix, Aix was my favorite. When we got off the ship at 1pm, we got on a bus that delivered us to Aix, where we saw three churches: roman, romanesque, and a mix of gothic and baroque, all built in different centuries. Baroque means like fancy pantsy and elaborate decorating. Inside of the church there were two different organs… or at least it looked like two. One was real and one was fake. They made a whole fake organ just to make the church look balanced!
The second place we went to was city hall, which inside the gates held a courtyard. The first floor used to be used — or maybe still used — for horses. The top two layers were offices. Around Aix, there are a lot of outside cafes at fountains, exactly 101 fountains. The main fountain around the rotunda was charming with many carved designs on top of it. I hope to go back.
From there we went to Nice, where along the way we passed “Millionaire’s Bay” and saw the homes of Elton John and Queen Victoria, amongst others. We arrived at St. Paul Devence, which is an old walled Renaissance city. There were once twelve cannons guarding the outside of the city, but only one left today. Once we entered the city, I was surprised to see that inside of all of these old buildings, there were modern shops. This showed the mix between the ages, with old stone on the outside and white modern stuff inside right next to each other.
When enemies used to attack the city, the residents would climb up in a tower via a ladder, which was pulled up by the last person. On the outside of the tower, there were stairs which wrapped around, but were only as wide as one footprint. I’ve seen this in other places I’ve visited, like Santorini, and it was interesting to see this technique employed in other cultures as well.
As our boat traveled into Italy, our first stop was Florence and Pisa. That day, we were awoken at 6:30am to get on the bus to drive to Pisa. It was a beautiful drive filled with sunflowers and countryside and white marble mountains. Once at Pisa, we walked awhile to the gate of the medieval wall, past some shops, and into the Square of Miracles. In Pisa, we saw the Leaning Tower, which from different perspectives and views looks to be leaning at different angles. If you only see it from one place, or the wrong place, it doesn’t look like it is leaning at all. Then we saw the dome with was covering the Baptistry, and the main plaza, the Piazza. It seems like every Italian city has a torre (a tower), a duomo (a dome), and a piazza (a plaza).
Some of the main sights we saw in Florence were the Ponto Vecchio (the bridge where they sold gold), the statue museum, and the cathedral. The cathedral was very pretty and had a bit of Michaelangelo’s graffiti, the first place they actually called it graffiti. It was actually a carving of his face. The statue museum had the Fountain of Poseidon and the statue of David, and Theseus holding Medusa’s head. P.S. Never look at her face or you’ll be turned to stone!
The next place we went to was Rome, my second favorite stop on the trip. Once there we discovered the Colosseum. In most of the pictures you see, about a quarter of it is not there, but right now they are cleaning it and adding new stone. Then we explored the Forum and the “wedding cake.” As we have our Washington Monument, they have the wedding cake, called that because it is all white and has tiers.
Later in the afternoon, we went to the Vatican and saw St. Peter’s Square. Inside the church was too busy, but we saw the Obelisk and learned how it was originally made for the pharoahs. We saw the window that was the Pope’s room, and the window that led to his study.
In every place in Italy, we had margherita pizza. Rome’s pizza was my favorite because it had the best cheese, and a crust that was flaky and not to crispy or too chewy. It was the perfect amount of everything.
Another place we went to was the Davinci Museum, which held an interactive display of all of his creations. One of the reasons I liked it was because it was a hands on museum where you could touch all the pulleys and gears and manipulate them yourself.
My favorite place to go was Pompeii, our last port. This was bittersweet because we were not going to any more ports, but on the upside we would be spending the entire next day on the ship with all of its fun activities. My order of favorites of the ports we visited were Pompeii, Rome, then a tie between Barcelona and Florence/Pisa, and then Aix-en-Provence, and St. Paul Devence. Here is why I liked Pompeii the best: the ruins were so intact to the point of it being almost unbelievable. I always think it is interesting when you know you are standing on history, in this case stones from Mt Vesuvius. Their water came through pipes made from lead; isn’t that scary? A style which I saw in many places was also there: there was a hole in the roof where the rain fell into a basin, and made a nice pretty thing when people came in. It was practically saying, when people walked in the door, “Yay, I’m rich, I have a fancy little pool.” All of the cement is still holding all of the walls together but the rooms burned doors with the hot lava, so you have to imagine that the roofs are still there.
We spent the last day on the ship, where there were many choices of activities. I spent my time on the flo-rider, an imitation of a surf wave that you ride on a boogie board. The goal is to get up on your knees and stay there. I did it twice, but mostly I wiped out. Some of the other activities include going swimming, scaling the climbing wall, and the ice skating rink.
One of the greatest things on the ship was the food. There was always a sit down or buffet option, and there were new choices every night. I probably ate about 10,000 calories a day! Another highlight of the ship were the shows. My two favorites were In the Air, a cirque de soleil type show, and Encore: an Ice Spectacular, because of the sheer wonder of how they do all those tricks on ice.
I owe a debt of gratitude to my Grandpa Walter and my Grandma Shelly, who took me and my brother on this trip around Europe. It has been a family tradition that when the youngest of the pair turns ten, they take the kids on this fantastic voyage. I have been waiting a long time for this, and it was even more fun than I could have imagined.