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Pompeii and Pizza – What Could Be Better?

June 1st, we arrive in Naples.  I have let Brighid choose all of our tours for this trip, and I have to say, this was not my favorite.  She elected to stay in Naples, where we are scheduled for a tour of the Archeological museum and a visit to a pizza place for some authentic Napoli pizza.  This is, after all, where pizza was invented.

We arrived just around 9 to the Archeological museum, after driving around in a circle for about an hour through Naples.  The guide points out the Castle of the Egg and some other buildings that are somehow important in the history of Naples, but it really just feels like we’re going around the block a few times.

The museum features quite a collection of artifacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum, both devastated by volcanic eruption.  We spend a lengthy time admiring the mosaics, most of which are truly beautiful, but you can only look at so many with the same level of enthusiasm.  We are then taken into a room with a collection of statues and busts, but we find out that many of them in this room are merely reproductions, as the originals would have been destroyed in the volcanic eruption.  A small collection of black statues draws my attention.  They have alabaster eyes, most of which the guide says were long ago destroyed, but they are absolutely haunting when you look at them. 

One of the rooms in the museum is called Gabinetto Segreto.  The guide explains on the outside that we have a special appointment to go in, but we are being bumped up earlier because another group has failed to show for their time.  One of the gentlemen in our group is positively giddy with excitement about going into the Secret Cabinet, and I’m figuring there must be some amazing art in here.  I’ve never heard of it, but surely, with his level of excitement, there must be a Michelangelo or a DaVinci in here somewhere.  Okay, call me naive.  The Gabinetto Segreto was open to the public (anyone over the age of 14) in 2000, and houses a collection of erotic art.  Among the pieces here, a bed from a Pompeii brothel, along with wall tiles depicting various acts of a sexual nature that one could purchase from the ladies at the brothel.  There are penises (is that the plural for that word, anyway??) at every turn, and the guide says in ancient Rome, it was considered a great thing to have a giant stone carving of a penis grace the entrance to your home.  It was a symbol of protection, fertility, and prosperity.  I am thinking of having one installed, then asking the priest to come bless our house.  I wonder if he – and the neighbors – will see it the same way?   Oh, and that old pervert?   Way too excited to be going in to see this particular collection of artwork.  Especially with his wife in tow.

After our visit to the museum, we come outside to see a rather enormous police presence and a demonstration brewing.  We hop on the bus, which must now take  a different way out than he originally intended to, but we still seem to somehow be traveling in a circle.  We view the Castle of the Egg from a new angle, and the palace of some other big shot who is long dead, and we finally end up getting off of the merry-go-round to go to a little pizzatta for lunch.  We have a gorgeous view of the water and the boats as we enjoy a delicious lunch.  They serve us a salad that smelled out of this world, and I couldn’t help but eat a few bites of tomato.  The tomatoes were the closest I’ve ever had to Jerseys, and with the dressing, they were so good.  After the salad, we each got our own pizza – a good sized pie with thin crust, fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and a little green stuff sprinkled around the center.  The pizza was amazing.  No other way to describe it.  The flavors were fresh and the pizza was so light.  There was no oil pooling on top as on many American pizzas, and no oil slick underneath.  I ate one whole piece, without eating the very last bit of crust, and I ate the cheese off of another piece.  Brighid ate just about all of hers.  What followed was a dessert that looked like a brownie, smelled like heaven, and had a big dollop of deliciously flavored cream on top.  I told the waiter I didn’t want one, but he insisted I take it anyway.  Brighid ate the whipped cream from mine, and did her best to eat all of hers.  I took  a tiny taste of the cream – holy cow, it was delicious. 

We took another quick trip around the block, viewing again the Castle of the Egg from yet another angle.  We also see the home of the former royal family.  The home – a huge, Buckingham Palace sized place, is not used anymore except for the occasional important political meeting.  What a waste.

We raced back on the ship and dressed quickly, since it was nearly dinner time.  As always, it was a delicious meal.

After dinner, we went to the show.  Tonight, it was a piano playing magician.  Yep.  I don’t know either.  It made no sense.  His magic was okay – mostly card tricks, which were a little boring – and while he was a great piano player, his specialty seemed to be taking GOOD, classical music and putting his own deranged spin on it.  Not cool.

We visited the photo shop, bought a few pictures, and went to bed.  What a long day!

Yo Ho Yo Ho, Sailing, Sailing, and all that other Nautical Jargon

May 31st is our second day at sea.  We don’t have to get up to be anywhere in particular – although we have looked at the schedule of events and Brighid has her appointment for a make over at 11, with Dot to follow at 11:30.  We placed our breakfast order outside the door last night, and we are hoping to have breakfat delivered at about 8:30.  We woke up around 8, showered and dressed quickly, and breakfast didn’t end up showing up until after we phoned to check on where it was at about 9:15.  The breakfast is way more than we can eat – I had ordered scrambled eggs and hash, and there is a mountain of both, plus potatoes.  Brighid has a breakfast equally as huge, plus a plate of fresh fruit.  They gave us a plate with four different pastries on it, as well as two croissants, so we wrap most of that and put it on the shelf in the room to enjoy later.  There is also a yogurt, and a nice hot pot of tea.  We really eat way too much, but it’s a nice breakfast, watching the waves roll past us, and it’s very relaxing.

The makeover goes well.  Brighid looks her usual gorgeous self, and we buy a few of the products.  One of them is an Estee Lauder product called Idealist – I should have bought one for Brighid and one for myself.  You skin feels like silk after you apply it, and I like how it seems to even out things without a concealer to do all the heavy work.  very nice stuff.  The makeup on both Brighid and Dot is very natural, not over done, and makes them both look very cleanly done – no hooker makeup here.

Following the makeovers, it was lunchtime, so we headed upstairs to eat.  We had a full afternoon planned, so after lunch, Brighid made her way out to the pool to read some school work and I headed off to attend a lecture on how accupuncture can control over eating.  I found it very informative, and even ended up signing up for a treatment, but since the woman said it can take as many as three treatments to begin to see results, I ended up cancelling and may look into it when I get home.  It’s not that I overeat, but I do have carb cravings, and this may help.

When the accupuncture class was over, Brighid met me for an Italian language lesson.  The woman who gave the lesson is Spanish, and a lot of things she mispronounced.  Even though she had the paper in front of her telling her how to say stuff in Italian, she seemed to confuse it with Spanish.  The best one in the class was an Asian man, who not only corrected the Spanish teacher, but was the loudest and best at pronouncing everything himself.  All in all, not worth the time it took, but we did come away with a print-out of some handy Italian phrases, and since our next three ports are Naples,  Florence,  and Rome, we might need them.

The adult passenger talent show is up next, so Brighid and I headed there.  Only 4 adults tried out and they took all 4 of them.  The performances were just okay – two of them were members of the Solavita group.  One man, Mr. Hartleman, sang a very nice rendition of Moon River, but there was nothing extraordinary about any of the other performances.  The one young woman who played the piano made quite a few mistakes that even I, an untrained listener, was able to pick up, but you have to give them credit for even getting up on the stage.  Brighid REALLY wanted to dance, but you had to be 18 to audition.  She would have blown them away.

We sat for a little while afterwards talking to Dot and Russ about shopping, but most of the information is for Capri, and we don’t go there.  We have  a full day in Florence and won’t have time to detour to Capri.  I do love the little bells though, and hope we will find them in Florence.

By now, it’s getting close to time to get ready for dinner, and since this is a formal night, that takes longer to do.  Brighid and I head up to the room, and I hop in the shower while Brighid fusses with hair.  Her makeup is still perfect, so no worries there.  I bring the champagne Jim sent to dinner, and the sommelier exchanges that bottle for a cold bottle so he can serve it. 

After a delicious dinner, Brighid runs to our room to get changed into her black and white gown, because she wants a formal picture of herself in that gown.  It looks gorgeous, as it did the other night, so I don’t know why she didn’t get her photos done when she wore this dress before, but no matter.  She looks gorgeous in it now, too.  She then runs back to change again, because she doesn’t want people to see her in the same dress she wore the first formal night.  She’s so difficult sometimes!

The show tonight, starring the Celebrity singers and dancers, is called Classique, and it really is very good.  They work so hard and put in a great show every time we see them.

When the show was over, we headed up on deck so we could see Sicily as we sailed by and to catch a glimpse of Mount Etna.  From there, it’s off to bed.  We have another early day tomorrow with our stop in Naples.

If It’s Wednesday, This Must Be Athens

Wednesday, May 30th – we can sleep in today!   Yay!   It’s the first time the whole trip, and Brighid is snoring away.  The sun shines in at 5:30 AM, and when I wake up, outside my window is a group of scruffy looking men doing something nautical.  We are right at ground level, and evidently, VERY close to the sidewalk.  I get up and close the blinds, then go back to sleep until about 8.

My initial impression of Athens?   Like any major city in the US, except way dirtier and way more crowded.  Brighid and I got up, got dressed, and decided to eat out on deck 10 this morning.  This is the first time the scenery isn’t very appealing, but there’s a nice breeze blowing and we enjoy the breakfast anyway.  Because we don’t leave until after noon, we wander the ship, check out a few spots we’ve missed, and then head back to our cabin to chill out until lunch time, when we’ll go grab something quickly before we have to meet our tour group.  Brighid isn’t really hungry yet by lunch time, but she grabs a slice of pizza and I grab some soup and cheese, and we’re full for the time being. 

The tour takes us first to the Acropolis, which can be seen from quite a distance away.  On our way, the tour guide explains the city’s congestion on the roads by saying every time they try to build subway stations to improve public transportation, they unearth a new archeological find and the building is stopped.  She points out what was going to be the newest subway station, but where they found the ruins of an ancient public restroom.  The thing that is so odd here in Athens is how careless they seem to be about these ancient treasures.  You drive by this ancient find, surrounded by little more than cyclone fencing, and there is so much trash around it and disrespect for it, you can’t really appreciate being there.  The guide talks about how beautiful it is that Athens is such an interesting combination of ancient civilization surrounded by contemporary growth and architecture.  It’s not beautiful – I found it very sad.

We do not actually get to climb up to the Parthenon or anything on this tour, but we do get some beautiful pictures.  There are a few gypsies wandering around, so we are all warned to hold on to our personal belongings and told not to engage any of them.  After about 15 minutes, we head back to the bus and wait while a local vendor comes around to sell postcards and picture books of the area. 

From the Acropolis, we drive through the city and visit sites like the stadium where some of the 2004 Olympic games were held.  The bus drops us off at an area called The Plaka.  There is a ton of great shopping here – lots of souvenir stores, leather goods, jewelry, etc.  Brighid and I are looking for one store in particular, recommended by Jennifer, the shopping expert onboard the Millenium.  They are supposed to have a lot of souvenirs, and they do, although it takes us longer to find it than we had hoped it would.  We pick up souvenirs for everyone, and then head out to get Brighid some ice cream.  It is her mission to taste test ice cream in every port.  We find a little shop with a cute young Greek boy standing out front, and we decide that’s where we will get our ice cream.  This cute little Greek boy can’t do enough to help Brighid – opening her soda and everything.  It’s the highlight of her afternoon.

The highlight and lowlight of my afternoon occur right about now.  The first time we have seen Starbucks since we left Florida is right here in Athens, and I am so excited to have free time in the Plaka to grab my venti non-fat 7 pump sugar free vanilla latte.  Much to my great sadness, when we head into Starbucks in Athens, they do not have sugar free syrup 🙁   Brighid decides to torment me by getting her own sugar laden Starbucks drink, which she drinks right in front of me, telling me how great it is, licking her lips, slurping her cup.  I want to remind her that we will be in the middle of the ocean in the middle of the night tonight and they might miss the sound of her skinny little butt “falling” overboard.  But I suck it up and drink my water, which I tell her is just as good as the Starbucks.  I don’t think she buys it.

When our time is up at The Plaka, we head over to the bus for the rest of the tour.  We are taken to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – I really would have liked time for a few pictures here, but there wasn’t any.  We also see Hadrian’s Arch, parliament buildings, and other sites of local and national importance.  All of it is beautiful, but surrounded by all that is not beautiful, so it is a little disappointing.

We got back on the ship in barely enough time to change for dinner.  It was a very nice dinner, but I got a little nauseous by something, so left before dessert to try and wander around and walk off the full feeling.  I headed back to my cabin, where I found Jim had sent Brighid chocolate covered strawberries and soda.  I ran up to email him and thank him, and by the time I got back, I found two nice bathrobes and an assortment of nuts for me.  By the time I was about to turn the lights off and go to sleep, a beautiful bouquet of flowers arrived.  AND, a card to arrange for a specialty breakfast in bed 🙂   I get misty eyed and a bit homesick, but we’ll enjoy the breakfast tomorrow, as it’s a sea day!