We are excited that we will cruise the sea that the Romans called "Mare Nostrum," our ocean. We are expecting to sample the history, the art, and the cuisine of the world that for 2000 years was the center of the world.
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  • Day24

    Aix en Provence: Capstone of the Tour

    November 28, 2013 in France ⋅ ☀️ 37 °F

    We took a bus tour from the port at Toulon, France up to the town of Aix-en-Provence with our guide Olivier. We had a leisurely walk through the old town, and enjoyed its Roman and medieval structures. Afterwards we had several hours to ourselves. At Olivier’s suggestion we went to a stand-and-snack cafe and ordered a ham, cheese and mushroom crepe. It was delicious, even though we had to eat it seated at an empty sidewalk cafe in the cold and wind. We bought candy at an upscale candy shop that specialized in a local delicacy, callisons, that a nobleman once had made for his unhappy wife. We tried it. It wasn’t bad. Then I got a cream horn and some serious coffee, which warmed me up for an afternoon of people watching. The high temperature only got up to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. As we returned to the ship, Olivier showed us a mountain range where Christian forces once stalled a Muslim invasion in the eighth century, Mont St. Victoire. The high, white cliffs of this marble range, also provided subjects for Cezanne’s paintings. In fact, he so enjoyed the light in this location that he bought a home that allowed him to see the daily changes in the mountain’s illumination. We returned to the ship in time for supper, where we said good-bye to our messmates and packed so that we could be ready to board the airplane in Barcelona the next morning for the flight back to the United States.Read more

  • Day23

    Pisa: Quiet Grandeur

    November 27, 2013 in Italy ⋅ 🌙 41 °F

    We drove west from Florence to arrive in Pisa just as the sun set. We passed the quarries where the Carara marble was mined for the greatest statues in history. We saw the famous Leaning Tower, the Campanille of the Cathedral, and we saw a glorious sun set over crimson marble. It was a breathtaking end to a day of monumental discoveries.Read more

  • Day23

    The Art of Florence

    November 27, 2013 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 39 °F

    Our guide Elizabetha was an art major as well as a guide, and she explained that the genius of Michaelangelo's statue of David lies in his face. Unlike its predecessors, which show a bloody head of Goliath, this statue shows David's face at the moment of decision: "Let's do this thing."

  • Day23

    Frigid Morning in Florence

    November 27, 2013 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 39 °F

    Florence is unspeakably beautiful. A lovely bus ride from Livorno to Florence took us through a most beautiful part of Tuscany. I was surprised that the ancestral villages of Vinci, and that of the Bonaparte family are less than five miles apart. From a point overlooking Florence we saw the old city square, the Church of Santa Maria della Fiore, and the Church of Santa Croce all in one view. I was particularly impressed that this last church contains the graves of both Michaelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.Read more

  • Day22

    The Flavian Amphitheater

    November 26, 2013 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 46 °F

    In the afternoon we visited the Colosseum (properly called the Flavian Amphitheater). Glenda was troubled by the many tragic deaths that occurred there. The drive back to Civitavecchia took us through the south gate to the city, which is still standing, along with a portion of the old city wall. Just outside the wall, we saw the appropriately named Church of St. Paul Outside the Walls. This church, according to an old tradition, covers the grave of the Apostle Paul. We returned to the ship around 6:00 P. M. in time for a late supper with our messmates.Read more

  • Day22

    Lunch at Hotel Bernini

    November 26, 2013 in Vatican City ⋅ ⛅ 45 °F

    Our drive to the Hotel Bernini for lunch revealed more information about Roman imperial history, as we drove down the street where Julius Caesar’s birthplace once stood. The hotel was modern, clean, sophisticated and trendy. The meal was superb. A delightful little girl named Sophia was there with her parents, with whom Glenda struck up a relationship. The rooftop garden made an excellent place for photographs of Rome. We walked to the Trevi Fountain and discovered Yum-Yum Style Pizza, a place we must visit again.Read more

  • Day22

    Treasures of the Vatican

    November 26, 2013 in Vatican City ⋅ ⛅ 41 °F

    We started with a 90 minute bus ride from Civitavecchia to Rome. Guide Monica showed us the old fort at Civitavecchia, built by Michaelangelo. We came into Rome via the old Aurelian road to see first the Vatican Museum. Some of the exhibits are exactly as I remember them in 1971. Others, including a new visitors’ reception center, were changed for the Holy Year celebration of 2000. The weather was very cold and windy. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel has been cleaned since I saw it some forty years ago. It is utterly magnificent. Perhaps it was the weather keeping crowds away, but our guide said that in twenty-eight years she has seen the Sistine Chapel as empty as it was for our visit only once before. Next we went into St. Peter’s Basilica. As always, it is so opulently, overwhelmingly beautiful that words fail to describe it. A quick visit through St. Peter’s Square still reveals the obelisk which the Romans stole from the Egyptians. The Vatican keeps it because it stood in the Hippodrome, and was a witness to the martyrdom of St. Peter.Read more

  • Day21

    Herculaneum, Last Refuge from Vesuvius

    November 25, 2013 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 57 °F

    I awoke to a beautiful sunrise over Mt. Vesuvius. An 8 A. M. visit to Dr. Dylan Belton had him removing my IV port, and giving me two more boxes of different antibiotics. At breakfast we had a wonderful conversation with a group of women who are co-workers at the Princess Lodges in Alaska. The doctor said I could go into Herculaneum. Our guide, Giaconda, led us on a wonderful tour, during which the weather turned very cold and windy. At the end of the day quite a few of the excursion groups returned to the ship late. Many of the passengers who left the ship in the morning were unprepared for the cold. At supper I tried to make conversation with John, the horse trainer from England, about horse racing and odds making. Tomorrow, according to Glenda, we begin the “Rome Death March,” an all-day excursion to the Eternal City.Read more

  • Day20

    Recovery

    November 24, 2013, Ionian Sea ⋅ ⛅ 64 °F

    Enormous relief! When I woke at 5:00 A. M. my temperature was normal, and I felt like myself again. I had other IV’s at 8:00 A. M., 2:00 P. M. and at 10:00 P. M. At 2:00 my attendant was nurse Margie. Rohen administered the IV at night. All other times today I was in bed. I had a good conversation at dinner with Pat, the nurse, about bioethics. We continued to pass through rough seas and thundershowers on the way back to Naples, and entered the Strait of Messina as we went to bed for the night. While I was still running a fever, I dreamed there were two Muslim women, all dressed in black at the foot of my bed. As it turned out, I was looking at my own knees in my black jeans.Read more