Monday, May 02, 2005

Come aboard, we're expecting you...

I guess most people don't walk up to their cruise ships with large backpacks strapped to their back. You know that we did (traveling freaks that we are!). It just made the most sense with a heavy bag and a long walk. At our table there is a couple from Ft Worth and a couple from Hawaii, and sometimes 2 female coworkers from Ontario. The ship's typical passenger is white-haired, fat, frail, with sunburned shoulders. She's wearing SAS shoes, he's wearing ivory Rockports. Mostly Americans, some British or Australian. What is it about the English tongue that makes us all so slow and fat? And very complain-y.

As we took the mandatory shuttle bus from the boat into town yesterday, we could hear a woman behind us say, "I wonder why they all hang their washing out their windows?" and, "When you look at some of these impressive old buildings, you have to think if they could have just continued to progress how far they could have come!" Yes, and maybe they could then be as superior as us. Grrr. The buildings she indicated were not Roman, but they definitely predated her country, full of washers and driers. These attitudes make us absolutely crazy; we just hope that at least by traveling in another country her preconceived notions of the world will change, just a little.

The food on the ship has been good but not fantastic. We are missing the Italian cuisine (and language) a bit. We are also very disappointed at how much we are charged extra for some things - like juice and bottled water - outside of mealtimes. We feel like the crew is always looking for a way to charge us a little extra.

Most of our fellow passengers are taking all-inclusive tours at the ports, where they drive you on a bus and then herd you around like a bunch of schoolchildren. The fees for these tours compared to doing it on your own astound us. Our fellow passengers are very impressed when we tell them about the places we've been via train or local transportation. I'm sure our smug demeanor will lose its luster once we arrive in countries in which we are not so familiar (ie France, Spain). However, we are determined to still travel on our own skills, and thereby really see the countries and not just the sights.

Mommy, its a good thing you didn't go on this tour to see Davide by Michelangelo. We arrived in Livorno (closest port to Firenze) on Sunday, Maggio 1. May Day. Tutto chiuso (everything's closed). Including David and the Uffizi gallery. Most of the people who went on these tours, however, still managed to enjoy the city, crowded as it was. We planned to take a train from Livorno to San Gimignano (little hill town with many towers) but because of the holiday schedule would have taken 2 hours one way on the regione train (many stops). Instead we decided to go to Pisa again.

It was a gorgeous cool sunny day, perfect for walking and seeing the leaning tower, and eating a delicious pizza - Anth's with prosciutto and mine with artichokes, olives (real ones - not rubbery - with pits) and fungi ('shrooms). Also insalate - no iceberg in sight - and a liter of cheap fizzy mineral water. Then we had a beautiful walk back to the stazione, over the Arno, licking gelato.

This morning we docked outside Portofino.

The town is so tiny, we have to take one of the lifeboats (quite large) into the port. It was another gorgeous morning, and the water of the Mediterranean is so turquoise and clear, you can see huge fish milling around the dock. Because Portofino is a bit of a posh tourist trap, we walked from there to Santa Margherita Ligure. The hike was 3 miles, partly in the woods, partly on a beautiful boardwalk hung halfway over the sea, and partly on the narrow 2-lane road (pericoloso!). We stopped at the edge of town for a refreshing cappucino (how we miss those on the boat!) and then hiked up to the center of town. We ate some of the best pizza of our life (Anth's was swimming in pesto)

in a little place with friendly owners and many locals. At the moment, everything is closed for the mid-day break, so we are unable to buy anything (we need another international phone card, vino, etc). The only things open are the cafes and gelaterias (too full for that yet) and luckily, this internet point.

Tomorrow's port is Genoa, and we plan to take the train to Cinque Terre, one of our favorite places on the earth (we have tiles in our kitchen that show our favorite 2 towns). After that, its 2 nights in Cannes - we plan to visit Monaco and maybe Nice, too.

Thanks again, you guys, for all your comments - we really enjoy your updates, too. If you haven't commented, its easy - just click the link below, and you can post anonymously if you don't want to register.


Emily said...

I agree with your distain for the "obnoxious American" tourists. It always amazes me that so many Americans can be so ego-centric and short-sighted. I'm glad you are able to go out on your own and enjoy yourselves.

Looking forward to just a 2-day work week! I'm driving to Austin Tuesday after work. I'll get there after your babies are asleep, but I'll try to post on Wednesday on my blog with an update on them for you.

Grandad said...

Sounds like you're having fun, and LOTS to eat.
We too are astounded at the price of water on board. We always buy a big bottle during the port calls and keep that in the cabin so we don't have to spend the exorbitant on-ship charge.......
How's the Italian vino?
We did a test pack run for me yesterday and no problem.
You have no idea how we look forward to your updates..
Keep 'em coming. I will be particularly interested in the Monte Carlo/Nice comments since I will be there, via Villfranche, in a couple of weeks.

Anonymous said...

From Mommy/Nana,
I love reading your comments - they are so entertaining and descriptive! You described the common cruiser very well, but we always saw "some" younger people traveling - guess you are not as lucky. Sorry the food isr definió al texto literario como una pelea entre lector y escritor; no fue el primero. Como es natural, preferimos los libros que nos dejan en la lona. Para que usted pueda leer algo que le dé batalla, yo me encierro en un largo entrenamiento solitario en el que escribo para mí, planeo mis ganchos, mis fintas, y sobre todo, me aseguro de preparar una pelea justa y sin fauls ni trucos sucios. Si trabajara pensado de antemano lo que puede gustarle a usted ¿Volvería, lector, a pelear conmigo, a sabiendas de que acostumbro tirar la toalla apenas empezado el round?ar conmigo, a sabiendas de que acos

Anonymous said...

From Mommy/Nana:
I love reading your blogs - they are so descriptive and entertaining! Your description of the common cruiser is right on although, we usually saw some "younger" travelers. Guess you are not as lucky as we were. Sorry the food is not as good as you had expected - probably because you two have such discriminating palates!!

I spoke to Marion again last night and she is a hoot! She is having a great time with your little ones. She keeps them very busy and outside most of the time so that by bed time they are tired and ready and end up sleeping the entire night through. She has a Great Colin Story for you. I look forward to joining in on the caretaking of my grandchildren on Saturday after getting Daddy off on his cruise.

Continue to enjoy your relaxation/vacation/anniversary celebration. Love you .........

Anonymous said...

From Mommy/Nana:
I have no idea what happened to my postings. The first time I tried to "Preview" my posting, I got locked out and was told the page was no longer available. So I went back in and re-typed my posting, did not Preview and when it posted, half is in some foreign language - what I do not know!??!? Sorry about that.