| Thursday June 14, 2018
We are back from a 21 day trip to Europe. I plan on documenting the highlights of the trip. On June 4 while in Italy, sadly we were informed My Mother Vivien passed away. It was a good thing though since for the last 5 months she was in a lot of pain..................
May 21: Pat and I took off from San Francisco on a flight to Paris then to Barcelona on business class. The food was dismal but the seat area was nice. There was an Air France strike but supposedly it was not to affect Charles de Gaulle Airport. But I guess the people who were scheduled to fly at the other small airports needed to find flights at de Gaulle SO it was a mess when we landed. We were stuck there for 4 and a half hours and we were moved around to several different gates. We finally arrived in Barcelona at about 7pm their time. We had a driver scheduled to pick us up and take us to our hotel but it took us about 45 minutes to find him. He had a shiny new Mercedes! Traffic and driving in Europe is still an adventure. Everyone drives fast!! The driver went into a large turn where side streets were at many points. He tried to force his way through a crowded area and a driver on his right slammed into him, we did not feel it but there was a crumpled fender left. Obviously we were delayed another 20 minutes. We finally arrived at our hotel about 8:30. Of course we were exhausted after being up for 21 hours. We did not want to look for food then so we settled on a drink and wine.
May 22: The next morning we went to a small diner of sorts for breakfast. We had some ham on baguette and a frittata something. OK food but not too interesting.
At about 9am we headed off to the best tour of the trip!! First we went and saw the Guell Park, finished 100 yeas ago: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Park_G%C3%BCell............This was designed by Antoni Gaudí. I have to rate this as the most impressive piece of architecture and structural engineering I have ever seen. Look it up, there is no way to read or look at pictures and appreciate the enormous achievement. This was my favorite experience of the trip!!
After that our tour took us to a church in progress, Sagrada Familia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sagrada_Fam%C3%ADlia First started in 1883 and continued by Gaudi. When Gaudi died in 1926 it was only one quarter finished. Today it is still being constructed. Pat enjoyed it even more than the Guell Park. I thought it was very impressive but I am not much on churches. I must admit it is the most complex church I have ever seen. It is extremely high and the people are in the process of adding a higher structure. This is another thing that can only be appreciated in person.
On our trip, we decided not to eat too much, but in Italy later in the trip, it was hard to control our selves since the food was outstanding. This second day we ate too much. We had lunch at 1pm and it consisted of a seafood paella and a tuna salad for Pat. The rice was cooked perfect, crunchy. For dinner we went for tapas with an Asian flair, crab and raw tuna tacos, fried calamari sandwich, foie gras pate, beef tenderloin with pasta and scallops with artichoke cream.
Friday June 15, 2018
I want to digress from food and excursions today. The most interesting and stressful two days was when we disembarked in Venice on June 3.
I don't know if anyone who reads this diary is 75 years old or older like I am. I found out right away, for me I could not keep up with the constant walking, especially up stairs..........My back was in big trouble but I had to trudge a long and right away, Pat said I was not a good companion!! I complained constantly but she had to put up with me. We would go into airports and Pat would be ahead of me in a few seconds by twenty steps..........
So the most stressful days on the trip started in Venice. I loved Venice and Barcelona and it would be nice to be transported back there in a time machine.
What I like about being home is I can do what I want. I know where every thing is. What I like about trips like this one is it makes memories. My Mother Vivien made the most memories for me when I was young. I spoke at the funeral on Tuesday and I will try to duplicate what I said sometime in the future, for me........memories. I digress
On June 3 we arrived in Venice. I may go into more detail later. So we were there and it is all water transportation or Walking!! We had a tour planned to the St. Mark's Basilica (Church) and the Doge’s Palace. I went into the church but it was way too hot with no air movement. As I said before I am not into churches. After one hour of heat and humidity, I decided to head back to our nice suite in a very high end hotel that looked out where we could see all the different boats transferring people around.
We got to our hotel late in the morning and stored our luggage for a later sign in to our room. We started the excursion with very little sleep. I hate Airports, way too much walking. Our tour started at 2pm. After an hour suffering through stairs in stifling heat and then out of the church and to the Palace, I was ready to head back, Pat wanted to complete the next two hours of the tour. Pat told me it is a long way back!! With little sleep and only wanting a Campari and Tequila, I was obsessed. Pat looked at me and said "Do you know where it is? Then she asked do you see it across the way by that green building? Then she said do you know what the hotel is called? I looked to her and said NO? So I listened to her and figured it would be easy. I needed a drink!!!
So at 3pm, I started on the hardest journey of the trip. Sure I saw WATER Taxis coming in and taking passengers all over the place but I had no idea how to ask someone to take me to the hotel.
I could see off about 2 thirds of a mile the hotel across the water, I knew I had to get there. I figured it was only 1 mile by walking around and over a bridge!
I started walking and looking at times to see the nice green building next to the hotel. I walked for 5 minutes and I then knew I needed to take care of my back. (By far the most pain on the trip was from my back) I sat down on a bench in a small space where a group of people were having fun.
So I sat on this bench to take a break for a minute at most and a lady sat down next to me so I assumed she was only up for a few seconds and I had taken her place. She was so nice when she sat down backwards and did not know I was there. She spoke no English but we laughed and I was on my way.
After a third of a mile, I saw the first bridge of many. I had to climb up stairs grabbing on to railings, avoiding people taking pictures. I realized these bridges are for Gondolas to move under. Venice is a fairy land!!!
There wasn't only stairs. Every so often there would be no place to go and then I saw people going around corners. I once went down an opening to the water where I saw the green building now close across the way, about a few hundred yards. So I saw many Water taxis, only a few Euros cost but there were so many people around, so I went back to the walkway.
I moved on and took a small break, standing and then sitting for less than a minute, I had to find my Tequila and Campari.......I figured I was hopefully half way there. It had been 25 minutes. I struggled up and down stairs and it seemed I was walking around in circles. We would be directed in a maze through stores and narrow walking ways where there would be only two people across. I found it so interesting I will never forget.
After wandering around for 50 minutes, I asked a lady who looked like American where the large bridge was? And she said yes, straight away. The long bridge about 3 blocks long was not what I thought. There was a path up many steep stairs which was very narrow. It looked temporary and was made of wood. I made it across to the other side and started walking back to the left where I hoped to see the green building and then our hotel next store. Again I wandered through narrow walkways which seemed to end and then there would be a right turn through another cramped walkway. Finally I saw the green building with the high tower and then finally our hotel entrance. I was home after an hour. I have no idea how far I traveled, I assume with all the turns and stairs, it could have been 1.25 miles. Soon I had my Campari and Tequila.............
5:00 Pm: Now I want to talk about June 4. It was a very hard day for me. We had to get up early to catch a short flight to Naples. We were picked up at 7am with a water taxi. We were dropped off at the airport with no instructions on where to go. It took a while with a lot of walking to go through security and find the gate. BTW, with my metal knees, I was frisked everytime at security, no fun................We took off at 8:20 and arrived at the Naples airport at 9:30. We were transported to our hotel and we were happy to hear our room was ready. Everything went down hill from there.
We were told we had a message from our daughter Kate and saw it said there was a family emergency. We called her even though it was about 2 in the morning her time. It was confirmed what I feared: My Mother had passed away. We were scheduled to tour two wineries in the afternoon and so we settled in our room to take a rest. Right away I was not happy. The room was very warm so I fooled around with the air conditioning control with no help. We called downstairs and they sent up a nice person who did not speak English. I do not speak Italian. He gestured everything was fine. In the mean time the temperature went up to 85 degrees. I asked for a new room and the clerk sent up another person and he agreed the air was not working.
We were moved to a smaller room but I hoped to be happy. No way!! The air was still not working. at 2:30 we headed off to a nice tour at an Aglianico winery. After the tasting the driver thought he was going to transport us off to the next winery right away where we were supposed to have dinner. I told him I had to change to long pants at our hotel. So he took us back to the hotel and we arrived at the second winery at 5pm.
We were put in a room that had to be well over 80 degrees and I had on long pants and a nice shirt. There was a lot of Italian speaking confusion with our driver and several other people. Finally a nice lady came in and said our tour was for 7pm and dinner at 8pm. She moved us to another area that was marginally less hot. She poured us some sparkling wine and left us alone. After the bad news about my Mother and suffering for hours in hot rooms I decided i would not wait for another hour and a half in this hot room.
I said to the lady I am sorry but we need to go. The dinner was prepaid by our travel agent but obviously poorly planned since the driver had no idea what to do. The nice driver drove us back to our hotel. We headed up to our room at about 6:30. By that time the room had warmed up to close to 90 degrees.
Eventually we went down for a nice outside dinner in the hotel restaurant. It was much cooler there with a nice breeze. We were the only ones at dinner. We saw many people off in another outside stage like area. We were told there was a 40th birthday celebration. We had free entertainment until one in the morning. After dinner I informed the hotel receptionist that we would not stay for another night. The stay for the next day was already paid for and also a driver was to take us inland for another 2 hours there and back to two high end Aglianico wineries. We contacted our travel agent and with a lot of back and forth we were told we could have the driver for June 5 to take us anywhere we wanted.
I had contacted the hotel in Sorrento and fortunately they had a room for us ahead of our planned stay on June 6. We ended up staying at this great hotel for three nights. In all we had to pay extra for a dinner on June 4 and the extra night stay in Sorrento which cost us $800. The air conditioning at the hotel in Sorrento was wonderful and the food there was fantastic so well worth the extra money to me. I will go into more detail about our stay there and also describe the wonderful food.............
Monday June 18, 2018
OK, back to the beginning................
May 23: We were picked up at the hotel in Barcelona and transported to our ship. It was a mess getting on the ship!!!!!!!!!! I had been on Princes Cruises and had problems checking in but this was a bigger problem. I felt bad for them but it was obvious they could not figure out how to get 3000 people on the ship.
Pat was not in favor, but I had booked the Owners Suite. So do you think we were directed to a skip the line check in...............no way.................
We found out right away, we would have to get into a long line that took about 30 minutes to come up to another area so we asked can we skip the line and move to a shorter line because we have the Owners Suite? No way
Finally after 15 minutes more we asked another person in a bigger area and he directed us to an area that had short lines. The problem was, we were in the line for handicap persons and others. It took another 15 minutes and we came up to the counter and the stressed out person told us we were in the wrong line................
We were moved over to the line to the left with no one there in line and no one to help us. Soon someone came by and whisked us off to a nice room and our appointed Concierge greeted us. She was very nice and got us a dinner reservation at the French Restaurant and I was impressed. I had escargot and other nice dishes that I will go into more detail later.
Right now I have to work on our details for the bottling of the 2017 10 Month wines. I have to order labels and I should have done it before we left. Now if looks like we won't be able to start bottling until July 17 or so. That should not be any problem, I have not vacation plans for the next several months...........but I may head out somewhere after bottling!!
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