Tuesday, November 6, 2012

On Holiday (The Longest Post Ever)

It’s been quiet around my little blog lately.
That’s because we’ve been…

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Of the Mediterranean, that is.

Hannah was off school for the “half term break,” so Shawn took the week off work.
At the last minute, and I do mean the absolute last minute, we found a deal on a cruise that just couldn’t be passed up.
We made our reservations on Friday morning for a cruise that set sail on Sunday. 

Because if nothing else, we are spontaneous. 

Saturday evening we drove to Brussels, stayed the night and caught a flight Sunday morning to Rome.  From there, we took a shuttle to the seaport town of Civitacecchia, Italy and hopped aboard the ship. 
A simple typo caused a bit of confusion (and hilarity) when we were looking for our shuttle transportation because they spelled my husband’s name “Shawn Face.”

(Our last name is not Face.  But it made me laugh and I called us Mr. and Mrs. Face for the rest of the week.)

Once we got the Face Family straightened out, we were on our way.

Our itinerary for the week included: Livorno/Pisa, Italy; Genoa, Italy; Villefranche/Nice, France; Toulon, France; and Barcelona, Spain.

Cruise map for Royal Caribbean 6 Night Mediterranean Cruise (14825)

On our first night aboard, we celebrated our sweet girl’s 5th birthday.  She wore her special “Birthday Girl” ribbon and the crew brought a cake and sang to her.

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I simply cannot believe that she is 5.

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The next morning, we made our first stop: Livorno, Italy.
Apparently, Hannah wasn’t as excited about the Tuscany region as her parents were.

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Until we arrived and she got to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or “The Leaning Tower of Pizza,” as she called it.

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Shawn told her about the gravity experiment that Galileo conducted from the top of the tower.   She wasn’t all that impressed, but more concerned that the entire thing was going to fall over.

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Second stop: Genoa, Italy
Lovely little town, it was, and we took a short walking tour.  Our itinerary provided lots of amazing excursions, but we opted for the shorter, less strenuous ones which was 
a good choice for this pregnant mama and 5 year old.  We saw a lot, but also didn’t have to rush.   We could spend the mornings touring and the afternoons and evenings relaxing back on the ship.

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And then.
This happened.

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After setting sail from Genoa, we were approaching what the captain said would be a “violent storm,” with “hurricane-like conditions.”  
Just perfect.
“We’re going to be encountering waves and swells approximately 8 to 9 meters,” he said in an accent. 

I looked at Shawn. 
“That’s like, um, 28 foot waves,” he said.
(I didn’t even have to ask him to do the meters-to-feet conversion for me.  He knows my metric system weakness well.)

And then I may have whispered a cuss word.  And crawled under the covers and had a pregnancy-hormone-related meltdown.

So, the captain turned the ship to face directly into the storm to minimize the movement that we’d feel onboard.  For the next 20 hours we rode it out, with constant updates from the crew that we were safe and that ships were designed to handle a bit of roughness from the sea.  This also meant that we had to skip our port in Nice, France because the waters were just too choppy to dock.

Of course, none of this even phased Shawn and Hannah, who carried on with their vacation activities as if this were totally normal and part of what’s included on the itinerary.

Since it was also Halloween, they had Trick-or-Treating for the kids.  I didn’t pack a costume for Hannah because we flew on RyanAir.  If you’ve ever flown on RyanAir, you know exactly why I didn’t pack anything extra in our suitcases.  If you haven’t, here’s the deal: tickets are seriously cheap, but if you go over the ridiculously light weight limit on luggage, by even one fraction of an ounce, they charge you an outrageous fee.  And by then, well, you should have just flown on a regular airline and paid more for your ticket and gotten free peanuts and a Coke inflight. 
But whatever, Hannah didn’t mind.  She was more excited about the candy.

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The next morning, we woke to this:

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Blue skies and nothing more than tiny ripples in the sea.  So we ate breakfast and hopped on a motorboat to the beautiful town of Toulon in the South of France.

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(When you say The South of France, you must say The South of Fraaaawnse.)
(Because pronouncing it any way other than Fraaaawnse is just all wrong.)

We walked a good distance through the harbor and promenade until we came to the Téléphérique, or cable car that would take us to the top of Mont-Faron Hill.

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Once we reached the top, we hiked around a bit.

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And took a family picture before taking the cable car back to the bottom.

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We made it back to the harbor just in time for the very last motorboat back to the cruise ship. 
The next day we spent at sea, swimming and lounging poolside.
Our final stop was Barcelona, Spain.
We disembarked the ship and dropped our luggage off at the airport, which turned out to be a little more of an ordeal than we had planned.  Now, listen.  I took Spanish for four years in high school and four years in college and long story short - ALL EIGHT OF THOSE YEARS in las clases de español were worth it for this moment because I knew the phrase esta perdido, (it is lost) which saved us a bunch of hassle and our entire lot of luggage being, well, lost.

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(She always rides in style at airports.)

Once our luggage was sorted out, we said VAMANOS and headed to our first stop - the most famous landmark in Barcelona – The Sagrada Familia.

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This basilica is pretty much a mess because they’re always doing construction on it.  It’s supposed to be finished in 2026. 

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Then we looked even more like tourists and took self portraits from the top of the Hop On/Hop Off Bus.  (Yes, the same one I made fun of in Luxembourg.)

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We saw a few more famous Spanish sites.
Casa Milà…

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…and Casa Batlló before returning to the airport and our unlost luggage.

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It was an uneventful flight to Lux and thanks to my husband, all of our suitcases were packed and arranged in a fashion that put us at the exact maximum weight allowed by RyanAir without a fee.  We showed them.

Now we’re back in Luxembourg and have regained our land legs and returned to our regular schedule.

If I don’t say it enough -
To my husband: thank you, thank you, thank you for working so hard and giving us the opportunity to go places and see things I’d never imagined.  Thank you for sharing my love of travel and all of the little (and big) things you do to make our trips so much fun!  

Oh, and if I fail the glucose test in a few weeks, this may be why.
The dessert buffet aboard the ship helped put an end to the aversion I was having to sweets.
Apparently.

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3 comments:

  1. You have a flair for writing. In particular, travel writing. Love your blogs and of course, seeing pix of the 3.5 of you! This "hoff term" turned out to be quite a little adventure for your lovely fam ~ glad you're making the most of your time abroad.

    Love you tons and miss you ~

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  2. That is definitely a whirlwind vacation! And some of my favorite places. Hopefully you'll get to go back and see Nice.

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  3. WOW!! That looks like you had an amazing time!! What a wonderful experience!

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