Saturday, December 8, 2007

On the move again - Look out Philippines!

It's been a busy fall, getting back into the school routines, back to hockey (big kid, little kid and Dallas Stars) and theater. Alex had a lead in his school production of School House Rock Live. As soon as I get it off the video camera, I'll get some video posted.

Oh and did I bury the lead?

Celebrating the 2007 World Championship Boston Red Sox. I never expected to say that once in my lifetime, let alone twice in 4 years! My brother and I made it up to Boston to the victory parade. He wasn't able to make our parade trip in 2004, so it was great to see him experience the euphoria of an entire city of likeminded crazies for the first time. I'm still looking for two tickets to Opening day if anyone has a hook up, you know where to find me. I promise they won't be wasted on a band waggoner! I'm hoping Alex and I can have a little Boston adventure this April.

Soon, we are on our way to the Philippines for the much hyped Dorado/Sese family reunion. This is going to be the longest flight times Alex and I have experienced, so we'll let you know how that works out. We have 17 hours in Tokyo on the way over. We'll also keep you posted on what we can cram of Japan into our lives in that short time.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Alex in Dear Edwina at the Labyrinth Theatre

Our rugrat inherited his parent's performing bug. This summer he had the chance to perform in 2 shows, The Music Man and Dear Edwina. Dear Edwina is a musical based on a live advice column to Edwina Spoonapple. In this clip, Alex is Ziggy Montega, seeking advice on how to manage money. His Steel Drum band raised money to travel to a competition, but ended up spending it all on a Game Boy sale. Please forgive the YouTube compression.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Info on Blog

A function of this blogging software is that the newest post is shown first. If you want to follow our trip from the beginning, you'll need to scroll down and start from the bottom up!
Enjoy, Mickie

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Here are links and info for the tours and port transportation we used:

Venice - Doge's Secret Itinerary (15 Euros each; tickets thru they also sell tickets; 3-day Transit pass 30 Euros each

Dubrovnik - Took ship's shuttle to Old Town; walked City Walls (accepted Euros)

- Rented car for 40 Euros at Spiridakos Rent a Car

Athens - Cab to Metro station (15 euros) then train to Athens (3 Euros each for all day pass); Acropolis tickets 12 Euros each (gets you into many other museums)

Naples - with Marcello - 600 Euros for 8 plus 100 Euros for guide at Pompeii (entrance tickets to Pompeii 11 Euros each)

Rome - with Maurizio - 600 Euros for 8 plus 120 Euros for guide at Vatican (entrance tickets to museum 13 Euros each)

Florence - Cab to Pisa train station (with picture stop at Leaning Tower) for 75 Euros; train from Pisa to Florence 13 Euros for 2 adults, 1 child; train from Florence to Livorno 15.25 Euros for 2 adults, 1 child; 20 Euros cab from Livorno Centrale train station to ship

Villefranche - Bus to Monaco (1.30 Euros each one way); train from Monaco to Villefranche (2.40 Euros each one way)

By Request - Our Cruise Voyage Map

Saturday, June 9, 2007

From Gondoliers to Segways: Last Stop Paris

Paris and Back to Reality

The underlying theme of any vacation that has you moving from place to place is transportation.

Cars, Taxis, Gondoliers, Vaporettos (pubic water busses), Tender Ships, Buses, Cruise Ships, Trains, Subways, Shuttle Vans, Eurostar, Big Planes, Smaller Planes and finally a Segway.

The only modes I think we missed were prop plane and broom.

Paris was a pleasant surprise. My fear of the French had driven me to attempt to research as much of the culture as time would permit. Alex and I took 20 hours of French language classes as well. Many thanks to our great French teacher, Benedicte!!!!

Here's the link to the Alliance Francaise du Nord du Texas who put us in touch with Benedicte:

Either this research and study made the go trip smoother, or the reports of French terrorizing Americans is highly overrated. We found everyone we met to be extremely kind and more than willing to help. Perhaps the effort to communicate in French first made the difference. Most conversations would begin in French, but in most cases by the time we'd exchanged our 2nd set of sentences, the response back to us would be in English and we’d complete the conversation in English. At least their question wasn't in English, "what do you mean?", everyone appeared to understand me. I did find it especially gratifying when I could buy train tickets or breakfast all in French. Our trip in on the Eurostar was fairly uneventful. Given we left at night, and the darkness fell quickly, we might have missed the 20 minute trip through the chunnel if it wasn’t announced. The trip was fast and smooth. Security measures require much of the same check in procedures as on a plane (X-ray and metal detectors), but the process still seemed a bit more civilized then at the airport. This is the way to go from London to Paris. The beauty being that you go from the center of London to the center of Paris. We prearranged a taxi at Gard du Nord given that we were arriving close to midnight and we weren’t sure what to expect. We overpaid for the privilege and next time we’d just hit the taxi stand and save $50 Euros. A short trip to the Hilton welcomed us with an upgrade to a “relaxation” room. I few jets in the tub and a couple of bottles of salts and creams count as “relaxation”, but the room was nice.

The next morning we walked to the La Defense station right outside our hotel. The morning began with Alex making a discovery. Even tough there was a McDonald’s they had no hash browns…but he found a new love. Pain au Chocolat. Basically a chocolate croissant, but he was very gratified to find he liked a local food. He even brought 3 of them with him for the trip home. The metro system is as easy to use as advertised. There are many stops, so you are never far from where you’d like to go. Our first stop was the Musee D’Armee (Army Museum). Alex was in history heaven. The museum has a very large collection of weaponry dating from the 10th century forward. They had several rooms dedicated to WWII with lots of uniforms and artifacts on display. We took the tour of Napoleon’s tomb. This is a little guy with a big ego. His instructions for burial were executed several years after his death, but he got his way. His tomb is made of the same royal red marble of the Roman Emperors and family we saw at the Vatican and is placed in the room, so that you must lean over the railing and “bow” to him to see his tomb from the 2nd floor and look up to see it if you are the first floor. His tomb is in a beautiful church, originally the reserved only for personal mass of the French monarchy.

The next stop was the one I was most looking forward to on the trip. The Musee D’Orsay. Another opportunity to view in person the hand of Van Gogh. This visit did not disappoint. Several stunning examples of the mad genius at work; vibrant and beautiful as always. The museum itself wasn’t very crowded (based on the horror stories we had read about), but were happy to have our Paris Museum passes ahead of time and skip the very long line for tickets. A quick lunch at the museum café was just what we needed to recharge our batteries. Even this little cafe had fantasic food. After a stop back at the hotel to change, we made our way to the south leg of the Eiffel Tower to meet up with our Segway guide. After quite a long walk to their shop (next time we’ll ask to meet them at the shop directly) we took our short Segway class. They were a big scary at first, as it is a bit like balancing on a log, but within 5 minutes you are zooming around like you have been doing it all your life. We had a great 5 hour tour all around Paris with a stop at a café for the obligatory Croque Monsieur (basically a grilled ham and cheese, apparently a French delicacy, but yummy none the less). It was quite surreal to be doing Segway doughnuts in front of the Louvre, but we have the video to prove it. We ended the night watching the hourly twinkling of the lights on the Eiffel Tower. The monument is much more beautiful at night. The next morning we started the day with a visit to the Opera Garnier. My son was quite surprised to find inside the grand staircase from Phantom of the Opera. He walked up and down singing “What a way to run a business”. I love my kid! He had to go find the "Phantom's Box" and have his picture taken in front. The highlight of the visit was the view of the Chagall ceiling. Unexpected and beautiful against the neo-baroque architecture of the building.

The rest of the day was spent hitting the highlights, Notre Dame, a quick boat ride down the Seine and walk down the Avenue des Champs-Elysees. We made long walk to the Arc de Triomphe. We had planned to take the elevator to the top for the view, but we found after arriving that the monument was closed for a ceremony for Vietnam (or as they called it Indochina) War. We had hoped to stay for the ceremony but it was going to be too late for us to get back to catch our Eurostar train back to London.

Paris was very beautiful, but after several days of walking the city streets, it almost seemed too beautiful. The continuity of style created by Haussmann, under the direction of Napoleon III, creates one beautiful vista after another. It needs a bit of "character", a bump in the nose or a crooked grin. I think you must live in the city for a few weeks to really uncover the true gems.

The only city in the US that I can even compare it to would be Washington, DC. Given the time the founding fathers, especially Jefferson spent in Paris, you can see the influence when it came time to create our Captitol. Also, let's not forget the original architect of DC was Pierre L'Enfant, a frenchman.

We arrived into London quite late again, and had an enjoyable visit with our London driver to the spartan but servicible Travelodge outside of Gatwick.

Luckily we arrived early to the airport, as the baggage belts were all down at the check in counters. We were trapped in a sea of baggage and people as they brought luggage cages on trolleys to deal with the mounting piles of checked baggage. We actually ended up waiting on the ground in the plane an additional 2 hours while they made sure all the bags caught the plane. After the long flight home, we were quite happy to be home. Our house seemed mansion like after spending so much time in fairly cramped quarters. We ran out for Mexican Food and marveled at the wide open spaces and huge vehicles in our parking lots. Yup, everything is bigger in Texas. I’m sure Dallas would be just as interesting and foreign to the people we met in Europe.

Sitting back it’s hard to take in all we have seen. This cruise really gives you the highlights of the history of the western world. It was a perfect vacation; giving us both a great appreciation of the beauty of the rest of the world, while at the same time making us fully appreciative of the blessings of our home. God bless Texas!

That’s all for now!

Mickie, Frederick & Alex


Frederick and Alex on Segways in front of the Louvre

A Texas Alex in Paris...

Alex Paris

Monaco: Disneyland for the Rich and Famous


Ok, I admit it, we went to Monaco just so we could say we’ve been to another country. We didn’t have any expectations for this port. We should have went to Nice, but we had to get that virtual stamp on our traveling passport. I’ll spare you the details but nothing went well on this stop. This city makes San Francisco seem like the Bonneville Salt Flats. It's one giant posh StairMaster. Here is where the transportation system is unreliable. The bus was 45 minutes late and full to the brim when it arrived. We decided to take the train back and instead of running every ½ hour they ran every 2 hours. We shopped in a mall that had Dolce and Gabbana sneakers for 3 year olds. The chandelier in the photos is from the mall. We saw an actual Maserati dealership, not every day you see a gaggle of Maserati’s in one place. This place looked like Disneyland for Paris Hilton or Donald Trump. We walked by the casino and the other obligatory stops and got out of dodge. The train was crowded; I climbed up on a ledge by the door to overcome my claustrophobia. When the train did stop, no one would move to let us off, we had to push our way off the train. I guess this is why we are called pushy American’s …..we have no choice unless we want to stay on the train forever. So not many pictures at this stop. The Disney Magic was in port with us, so I snapped a few pictures of this beautiful ship. We met a few of their passengers on the bus stop and they all had great things to say about this vessel. Interestingly, none of them had their kids with them, they all wanted to stay on board in the kids program.

Speaking of kids program’s, I can’t say enough about Celebrity kid’s program on the Millennium. Alex couldn’t wait to get back to the ship get back to the program. He said it was much better than Princess in terms of the actual space for the kid’s, the things to do at the space and the involvement of the counselors.

We had a day at sea and then it was off the ship at Barcelona. We had a big travel day head of us, flight from Barcelona to London, 1 ½ hour cab ride from Gatwick to Waterloo Station, 3 hours on the Eurostar through the Chunnel and then a cab to our hotel. I’ll catch you up on Paris next.


Leaning Tower of Pizza and Olive Garden Inspiration

Pisa and Florence

Ok, this is why you come to Italy, to see the leaning tower of Pizza………No No Pisa. Come on, you’ve all made that joke as a kid, admit it.

Today we decided to be risk takers. In spite of all the ship's warnings about the unreliable Italian trains, we took the risk and took the train to Florence. It’s an 1 hour 45 minute train ride from the port of Livorno, but weighing the $600 for the 3 of us for the ship's tour, we decide we’d spend the money we are saving on a flight to Monaco if we miss the ship. We’ve done every port on our own and saved huge piles of money. I say the ship's tours are for people with more money than brains and time to do the research. We were told that 85% percent of cruisers take the ships tours. That seems high, but I guess that’s ok by me if they are making oodles of money off them and not me. We caught a cab to Pisa, had him wait 5 minutes to get pictures and then had him take us to the train station. We got right aboard the train to Florence. Pretty countryside, it looks like Napa Valley. Once at the Florence train station we stopped at the obligatory Mc Donald’s to stuff Alex with enough chicken nuggets to sustain him through the day. This is the city of Michelangelo and Da Vinci. Their stamp is everywhere and of course that medieval Kennedy clan the Medici’s, they had a hand in the city as well. The Duomo or the cathedral they built amazing. The size and intricate multi colored marble work that covers the entire structure is not possible to grasp in photos. It is right in the heart of a crowded city, so getting any distance or perspective to take a decent photo is difficult. This is the city where Michelangelo’s David lives. The shopkeepers who cater to the tourist trade have a good time putting his nasty bits on anything, aprons, teeshirts and underwear. This is very embarrassing to an 11 year old. I offered to buy Alex the underwear at every corner, but he wouldn’t take me up on it.

The best part of the day was the trip to the Cathedral Santa Croce. Inside Bad Bad Leroy Brown is buried, no...... but they do have Galileo and Michelangelo entombed there. Some serious brain power there.

We walked our legs off in this city and made it back to the train station, just in time to catch the 2:30 train, on time and back to the ship without a hitch.

After spending 5 total days in very different parts of Italy, you walk away with an understanding of how even today, Italy is held together by only a political system. This isn’t something that was apparent to be prior to going there. As a country, Italy is younger than the United States (1871). Still today everyone who lives seems to truly identify themselves by the region they live in and not their country. I don’t think even Texans have this level of regional loyalty.


Alex strikes again.....

Alex Florence and Pisa

Roma: Heaven to Hell in 5 miles

Vatican to the west and Coliseum to the east

After a good night sleep we shared another tour this time to Rome. It is not possible to see Rome in 7 hours, but we tried. Our guide allowed us to cut the mile long line to get into the Vatican and spend some time in St Peter’s. Am I supposed to feel guilty about cutting lines at Catholic HQ? I guess it’s true, the first shall be last and the last shall be first….as long as they have a good tour guide. (Whew, no lightning bolts, I always hoped God had a sense of humor as well.)

I was not prepared for the feel of awe and inspiration that overwhelmed me when we entered St. Peters. It is stunning. We definitely want to come back and explore the museum further. We had hoped to see the Sistine Chapel, but we were not sure it was going to happen. (no pics allowed there). Our guide also managed to get us a look inside as well. It’s hard to enjoy it as it is very crowded and the guards expect silence. Of course with 200 people packed in like sardines it doesn’t happen and every 5 minutes the guards clap and yell silence. It felt like kindergarten. Every painting at the Vatican is the live version of the ones in the old gilded bibles. All instantly recognizable. You can spend days in the Vatican Museum and still not see it all. Catholics do know how to put on a show.

From the Vatican we made our way over to the Pantheon. Originally rebuilt in its current form in 125AD, it was remodeled in the 2nd century. This building was significant because it was the first Roman temple to be open to the common people. You aren’t prepared for the size of the columns or how well preserved it is. Even though all of the marble façade was seized by the Pope to front churches, the beauty of the structure still exists. It was saved as it was converted to a Catholic Church in the 7th century and still serves in that capacity today. It is the best example of a Roman Temple in existence today.

We all hopped back in to the van and took a ride over to the Trevi Fountain. It’s pretty and it’s famous and the history behind bringing water to the city with ancient technology is interesting, but it merits about 10 minutes of your time. This is what we gave it and then moved on to more important things………..LUNCH!

We went to traditional lunch spot for Roman office workers. It was Saturday so the restaurant was just happy to have customers. I must say again, Italians know how to do lunch. I’m getting used to this wine with every meal deal. There really is something different in the flavors. It could just be an expectation but everything tastes exceptionally flavorful, even if it is very basic.

We had a few hours left before we had to leave to make the hour drive back to the ship; (don’t want to be left behind!). Our driver took us to the Coliseum. There was a national ceremony earlier in the day, so we were happy it was open. Again with the brick, I never expected the coliseum to be made of brick. It’s an impressive structure considering when it was built. I’ve been to a lot of stadiums in my life and you can easily see the layout in this one and imagine the crowd flowing through the public spaces. It’s still hard to imagine a society with so little concern for human life, but who knows where we’ll be in another 300 years. Perhaps they started with Reality TV as well.


Monday, June 4, 2007

Italy in 3 days

Whew!!!! Sorry to have been away so long. We have been going for 3 days straight, 6AM to Midnight each day. No, not complaining, just explaining!

Naples, the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii, Rome, Pisa and Florence in 3 days. We are a pretty tired bunch, but the history we have experience cannot be measured.

Three really amazing days. We shared a driver with 5 other people who took us on a tour down the Amalfi coast. Every town had a name of someone I knew or an Italian restaurant I have been to, Constiglione, Positano, Sorrento…etc…… It was like the Waterbury, Connecticut Italian Festival on steroids. (This is where I grew up)
Southern Italy, Naples and the surrounding area is the Italy we all are familiar with. This is the area of pizza, spaghetti and meatballs and the mafia. There is good reason for it. 40 Million Southern Italians have immigrated to the US in the past 100 years. A good 20% must have moved to Connecticut. Our driver said everyone who lives there has someone in their family who as moved to the US. His family is in Jersey, but surprise. It’s crazy and crowded but fun. The views along the road that traverses the coast were stunning. A mix homes taken over for tourism and homes of locals who have not yet sold out. We had lunch atop the hill in Ravello overlooking the ocean. The food was out of this world; mozzarella, antipasto and pasta like I’ve never tasted. The Italians know how to do lunch. It was a meal that we will always remember.

Just a quick insight our guide shared with us. He spent much of the day lamenting how chaotic the government is, and how they have done little to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them. Everyone here lives day to day, with no care for tomorrow. We went through a toll booth and he asked us to watch the meter. First it said 1,90 Euros, the driver paid and it quickly went to 1,50 Euros. The deal is that larger van’s must pay the higher price, but it is at the discretion of the collector to register the charge. The collector collects the 1,90 then rings it up as 1,50 and pockets the difference. All day, every day. Everyone knows it happens and it is just accepted. This was just one of the many examples he shared of the culture. So many things make so much more sense now.

We made our way to Pompeii in the afternoon. It was quite hot. Fascinating, but I had hoped to see more of actual life. Most spots were just empty shells as everything had been moved to the museum. I think next time we will go to Herculaneum as it is said to be more well preserved. Alex loved it and was allowed to bring back some pumice stones from Mt Vesuvius. What was surprising was how much brick was used. Even many of the columns were made from brick and then covered with bakeries. A stop at the bakers shop and at some of the wealthy homes made the trip worthwhile. Our driver said there are cities under all the area towns, but no one wants to find them as the no longer have access to that land, it becomes an archeological site.

It’s time to get ready for dinner. I’ll catch you up on the rest of the trip later on. I’ve got the Rome and Florence photos ready so I’ll post them as well and get you the details later.

Amalfi Coast


Here are Alex's shots from the day....

Alex Amalfi and Pompeii

Thursday, May 31, 2007

What’s So Sardonic About the Sardonic Gulf?

Ok it’s really Saronic….not sardonic…..that would be different now wouldn’t it?

We spent the day in Athens, Greece, which is in the Saronic Gulf.

This is where it all began, a couple of hundred years to dream up world changing sacred and intellectual ideas. Some ideas have flourished thousands of years later and others are now relegated to myth and legend. The same society that created the foundation for democracy also believed that their protector was a woman god (ok, not a bad start) who was born from her father’s head (that’s where you lost me).

It makes you wonder what ideas we hold today will be mocked thousands of years from now.

Athens has what every great city needs, location, location, location. But it looks like someone just dropped incredibly ugly concrete buildings everywhere. It stuns from the blue water of the harbor in spite of itself. Very populated and very very loud. Did I say very loud? Good! But loud in a nice way, not a Bronx kid of way, more in a bunch of college kids on spring break kind of way. These are happy people having a good time.

Walking though the streets I was transported right back to the Greek pizza restaurant I used to work at as a teenager. Hellas, Hellas I heard everywhere I turned.

When I first viewed the Acropolis with my own eyes, all I could think of was,
this is the place that I used to color on the placemat of so many of my dinners as a kid. The entire day was the adventure I dreamt about while I waited for my pizza and looked at the pictures of the places the restaurant owners were so proud of. The Greeks had a good corner on casual dining in the area of Connecticut that I grew up in. I couldn’t find an Athenian Diner though, no Spartan’s Pizza, no Pizza Castle, but of course we did find the Athenian McDonald’s. This thrilled my Alexander the Great to end.

Speaking of my Alexander, he took to the city right away and so did everyone who asked him his name. He looked at the Parthenon and proclaimed it his own, as if he were the conquering Macedonian hero himself. We risked the wrath of the acropolis museum curators to get a picture of the 2 Alexander’s the Great in the same shot. (One is a bust done several thousand years ago and the other live, I kinda think they look a bit alike).(I guess you are not supposed to “pose” with the antiquities, who knew?)

It was also an unexpected thrill to see the Dionysus Theatre. This is where theater was born, hosting opening nights for Sophocles and Euripides. Alex was thrilled to peer down a wide shaft behind the stage area and see tunnels. He exclaimed, “Hey Mom, look! It’s an ancient backstage!” They probably had to be quiet back there, back then too.

There was a group of older teenagers sitting in the seats, taking turns, standing up and reciting monologues to each other. So idealistic!

Alex was also amused by the ancient public toilets, that’s right in the 11 year old boy’s wheelhouse of funny.

We were also amused by the wit of the Emperor of the occupying Romans, Hadrian. This beautiful arch stood for hundreds of years with the inscription, “This is Athens the ancient city of Theseus.” If he had spray paint, I think he would have blacked it out, but instead he had inscribed on the other side, “This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus.” To the victor go the spoils.

Were also amazed at what appeared to be ancient piles of rubble. We learned from our guides that much of it was actual unused building materials, due to flaws or things they just discarded. How do you think the environmental lobby would look upon landfills that survive 3000 years? I don’t think my plastic grocery bag is really going to make it that long.

It’s a sea day tomorrow and off to Pompeii. Till then, Hellas!


Here's a link to Alex's photos from Athens and Santorini. This is what the view is like when you are less than 5 feet tall.

Alex Athens & Santorini

Blue, blue my love is blue........

I don’t think I ever appreciated the real inspiration for the 128 count box of Crayola Crayons before. I mean how many different colors of blue can there be? Since we sailed into the Aegean I stopped counting! I’ve always been a purple person, and lately more lime green, but these happy blues have left their mark. This ocean is a blue I never imagined.

I know this batch of photos from Santorini has many redundancies. I couldn’t help myself. This is how an artist must feel when she’s found her muse. The camera just kept finding something more beautiful in each new picture. Today I felt as if I was living in a Thomas McKnight painting.

I pray heaven looks like this.

Santorini Island is actually the top of a volcano. The eruption 3,500 years ago is said to be the world’s largest explosion. It killed the entire Minoan civilization on Crete over 75 miles away. What exists now is the sea flowing into the caldera, where our ship was docked. Picture Mt St Helen’s underwater, with just the top sticking above the water. The towns sit perched about 300 feet above the water, directly up sheer cliffs on the west side. To reach the towns, you can walk to the top, or ride the cable car or ride the donkeys. Be sure to check the scale on the picture of the switchbacks heading up the mountain. The best take on this is from the comedian Ron White in “You can’t fix stupid.” Look for it on HBO.

Ron White: So we make it to Santorini, and Santorini is on the rim of an ancient volcano. And for 2000 years, folks, the only way to get to the top of the rim on the port side of the island was to take a donkey 800 feet up these switchbacks, takes forever. Until 5 years ago, somebody installed a tram that does the same thing in 18 seconds. And I was shocked to see the donkey guy still in business because he had the worst sales pitch I had ever heard in my life. He says, "You can take the donkey to the top of the rim, or you can take the tram. It is the same price." That would be my biggest secret if I were you, buddy. I'd be lying to people as soon as they got off the ship. "The donkey is $3.50. The tram is about 2800 Euro."

We rented a little car and drove all over the island. We had breakfast at Mamma’s House. Mamma is famous for her yummy American style breakfasts. She’s a Greek who used to be a nanny in American when she was younger. She loves American’s and is just an overall character. An experience.

After spending the afternoon ogling the beauty of Oia on the far north end of the island (where most of the great pictures are from) we drove down the backside of the mountain and spent some time on the black sand beaches. The sand was incredibly soft and to top it off there were free pumice stones just for the taking! (Hey gotta save some money on this trip!).

Just enjoy these pictures. I know some of them are beautiful, but trust me, they do not even do this place justice. I’m already trying to figure out how I can get back there.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Video from Murano Tour

We've managed to find a free, albeit slow WIFI connection in the port of Athens. I'm trying now to put up some of the video we shot. Here is a quick minute or two from our glass blowing demonstration in Murano.

Monday, May 28, 2007

There is more to Croatia than Dr. Luka Kovac on ER

Yes, I will admit that prior to yesterday the only thing I knew of Croatia was Goran Visnjic from ER was from Croatia. And there was that war we tried to ignore in the early 90's. But after today, I have a new curiosity about the country. I guess that is the whole purpose of travel, to expand your world.

Backtracking a bit, last night was the sail away from Venice. It's about an hour and a half of beautiful Venice vistas.

The history of Venice was interesting, especially the convoluted government they established. They had layer upon layer of checks and balances. Lots of intrigue and mistrust. A cautionary tale for us…. 1400 years of existence, 1100 years as an independent rich and free republic and just shut down when Napoleon came to town at the end of the 18th century (actually May 12, 1787). They voted the last Doge out of office and handed the keys to the French. The Austrians took over for a bit and then in 1866 Austria handed Venice to the newly formed republic of Italy. It took a few hundred years for all the glory that was the Venetian Republic to fall apart. They didn't recognize that 2 important events, the fall of Constantinople to the Turks and the Turks subsequent blocking of their trade routes as well as da Gama opening up the east via the west would sap them of their power in a very short time. As we walked through the Doge's Place and the massive Grande Council's chambers, I could not help but think of tourists a thousand years from now trudging through the US Capitol building's House of Representative chambers and learning the history of what was America. We did hear the interesting story of Casanova, how he was imprisoned at the Doge’s Palace and his own detailed description of his escape. I’ll have to pick up his memoirs to get a real slice of 1st person history.

Earlier in the day we caught a Vaporetto to Murano. Back in the 11th century, for safety reasons the Venetians banished their glass makers to the neighboring island of Murano. Venice has a long history of glass making. In fact, if a tradesmen was caught sharing the secrets of glassmaking with an outsider, it was an offense that was punishable by a long stay in the jails inside the Doge’s palace. We took a tour of one of the furnaces and we were able to watch a glass master whip together a vase and a small horse in about 10 minutes.

Last night was a first formal night. We pulled out the tuxes and evening dress, but we really weren't in the "formal night" mood just yet. We were still dragging from the scorching Venetian days and travel. We have 2 more formal nights left so; we'll be sure and do the whole picture thing later in the cruise. We had a real treat for dinner. Our tablemates for the cruise are a 30ish couple from London, Jon and Tracy. Jon is actually the guest port lecturer on board with an academic background in history. He's been on Celebrity for the last 8 weeks through all of their Europe itineraries. We spent 3 hours at dinner and they just flew by. Even Alex and he swapped stories about WWII. I am so incredibly jealous of his job. He gets paid to live on the ship in a regular cabin (not a crew cabin) and his only responsiblities are to give 3 lectures on the sea days. I spent some time asking him how he came upon this job. He created a sample lecture and presentation on several ports of call, then he auditioned for an agent that books talent for cruise lines, spent a few years doing it on local British lines and then moved over to Celebrity. He doesn't have any special training, just a history degree and what he has taught himself. This seems pretty much like a dream job for me. I've got 6 years before Alex goes off to college.........hum..............!!!!!

This morning we arrived in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Croatia is a newly formed and thriving democracy, one of the remnants of Yugoslavia. The weather was beautiful, a refreshing change from the 95+ of Venice. Dubrovnik was an independent medieval commune and eventually became a free republic. It reached its golden age around the 15th and 16th century. During that time they built a walled city which is still inhabited today. Dubrovnik is one of the few remaining examples of a medieval walled city. It's a total time warp, until you step inside a restaurant or a shop (which is modern). We spent the first 2 hours climbing to the top of the wall and walking the wall that encircles the city. Alex was in heaven exploring the fortifications, towers, hot pitch spouts and cannons. The views of the red tiled roofs from the top of the walls were stunning. The actual landscape reminds me of the California coast. As we sailed away this afternoon, I was looking back at the coast and you if you changed the buildings, made the water a bit more polluted, you could be staring at the Malibu hills. I hope the pictures do it justice.

You can hardly believe the just 16 years ago this city was being shelled by the Serbs from the land, air and the sea. The city was under siege for almost 2 years without water or electricity. Hard to imagine this was just 1991. We picked up DVD of actual footage from the war. Now on the DVD screen was mortar rounds landing and exploding on the same streets we had just walked on 2 hours earlier were. The same waters I am sailing through now, just off the coast, were filled with warships. I've never been this close to war before. 16 years isn't yesterday I know, but think about it, unless you have actually served in wartime, any battlefields you have been near were probably at least 40-50 years in the past and most likely 100 or more years in the past. It made the Normandy beaches seem like ancient history.

The have done an amazing job getting the city back to its original state. You can see the contrast from the wall, of the newly replaced roof tiles and the old roof tiles. Some of the damage is still evident in shell scars on the buildings, but this is a town that is rising.

Everyone was amazingly nice, the food was fantastic and their were hundreds of interesting shops, nooks and crannies to explore. This is a time and place I will learn more about when I return home.

Well it's time to get ready for dinner. Alex is having dinner with his new buddies in the Kid's program. Look like it's parent's night out. We have a sea day tomorrow and then on to Santorini.

Till then...I leave you with pictures from the Venice sail away and Dubrovnik.....go ahead Google Croatia and learn more about this slice of frozen history........... Love to all, Mickie

PS: Hey if you are reading this let me know...drop a quick comment!

Alex’s Venice Sail Away

Alex Dubrovnik

Venice Sail Away and Murano


Friday, May 25, 2007

Internet Connection at Last!

We are on the ship. I never thought I'd be so happy to watch CNN in my life. We travel 1/2 way around the world and have to fall asleep to Walker Texas Ranger in Italian.

I will miss the Italian infomercials! I hate to judge a whole country on their infomercials, but whew....pretty darn gullible! LOL

We're melting ! It's so hot! It's about 15 degrees hotter than we expected. Cooking in the 90's+. And you know how I love the heat! We'll hope for cooler weather as the cruise continues. It was supposed to be just 75 to 85 degrees.
I'm breathing now. All the luggage made it from Dallas to London to Venice and to our cabin. No need to try and find clothes. Good thing, as there isn't much to be found here. It's definitely a different world. All the clothes shopping is of the Rodeo Drive variety. Lot's of tiny specialty stores...they have not been Targetafied..try to find a supermarket, you have to shop at 10 different stores just to put a meal on the table. Also, nothing is open from 2 to 7PM. It appears to work for them.
Ok...let's catch you up.........
We waited at Gatwick after arrival for 4 hours. We ventured out of the BA club in search of some lunch. Let me just say the Gatwick is in desperate need of some kind of fast food. We waited too long to go eat and assuming that we could get it done in a hour...ehhh not so much. Just sit down restaurants or pre-made sandwiches. Alex was a trooper and said he'd wait till we got to Venice.
Short 2 1/2 hour flight to Venice was easy and stunning. We flew directly over Switzerland and the Swiss Alps. We tried to capture it through the plane window but we couldn't do it justice. We just had to sing, "the hills are alive with the sound of music...........

Everything couldn't have been easier!
We landed in Venice, a quick passport stamp, no questions and then watched each bag drop off 1 by 1. Our hotel shuttle was waiting and Alex and I went off to the hotel with a few bags. Dad had to stay behind with the remaining bags and catch a cab. (no we can't travel light! )
At the the hotel, we just tried to stay was 5:30PM and we were pretty hungry, but we had to wait till 7pm for things to open. After a nice dinner at the hotel we crashed at 9:30PM.
The next morning we were up bright and early, 5AM (hey in Italy I'm a morning person!) Gotta love the time change. We were out the door by 8 and off to Venice. I've got 2 sets of pictures from this section. One section is Alex's and the other is the set that I took. Enjoy.
We'll get photos of the ship and tomorrow's sail away. We leave for Croatia tomorrow.

Having a Ball, Wish You Were Here! Mickie

Alex’s Venice Pictures

Med Cruise 07 Start and Venice

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

We've made it to Venice!

We are here accompanied by all of our bags! Happy Happy! Joy Joy! We don't have internet access, except in the lobby of the hotel. We'll catch you up on everything when we get on the ship Friday afternoon.
TaTa for now, Mickie

And damn this italian keyboard!

Breakfast with the Queen

Ok, we aren't actually eating with the Queen, but I'm guessing that we are eating breakfast closer to her than anyone who is reading this blog. Departure from DFW went off without a hitch. Due to the blessings of frequent flyer miles we were able to fly over to London in business class. The 9 hours goes by quickly when you can spend 2 of it eating dinner, then catch a movie, then recline the seat flat for 5 hours of decent plane sleep. We arrived in London at 7AM local time....which is like 1AM in Dallas. We were surprised to find out that we had to go back through security, even though we are just changing planes. We had to negotiate the "not as polite as they sound with their cheeky wee monkey accents" BAA (the British TSA) bag nazis. One bag per person.(nope that purse..that's a bag, no personal item here) now we have to cram everything into our one rollaboard each. Ahhh but here is the catch, that one bag has to fit in a sizer! lol!!! Quick strategy has Frederick distracting the Nazi by testing his bag in the sizer....(it just fits, with a bit of wiggling), whilst I slip on by behind him. just to get through the XRay Nazi. No loading up your tubs beforehand here. You walk up with your goodies and set up your tubs right at the entrance. Ah chit chat and a big smile....made it through here as well.

So we have 5 hours to wait till our flight to Venice. I keep sending out positive energy to the tarmac.....luggage make your way to the Venice plane!

One of the best perks of flying in Business Class is access to the BA lounge. At Gatwick it's quite spacious and comforting. As I type Alex is curled up in his Red Sox windbreaker, on a leather couch, half dozing off and half watching a WWII Battleground on his PSP. Frederick is out like a light on the chair next to me and I just got through catching up on the Red Sox post game show I TIVO'd while we were in the air. God bless the team who invented the Slingbox! Slingbox rules! Oh and yes Sox beat Spankees 7-3 ! Manny jacks a 3 run homer off of Mussina in the first and they never looked back. It's a another great day in Red Sox Nation.

I'll try and get some pics up as soon as I take some. All three of us having slept on a plane are not fit for visual blog consumption. Say your blessings that you are just reading this and not seeing us (or smelling us) right now.

Next Stop............Venice!

Love to all, Mickie

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Alex at the Pop Concert

Our little guy put on his 60's duds and did his best Davy Jones tribute at the his school's Pop Concert. Enjoy!

Before We Go Forward, A Quick View of the Past

As we scurry around to gather things to pack, finish up our loose ends at school and work, we thought we'd take a moment to look at our last Dorado European Vacation. Here's the link to shots from the last cruise we took in 2005. On Princess' Grand Princess we traveled from London to Southhampton, England to Brugge, Oslo, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Hamburg/Berlin and Normandy.

London & Bruge, Belgium

Norway, Denmark,Germany,Netherlands, France

Europe Cruise, More Pictures II