is about the cruise Patricia and I and our friends John
and Mary Ellen Mohler, completed on May 8, 2004. It's
my custom to write one of these travelogues on each
of our trips to entertain our friends (we hope) and
keep a record for our own future enjoyment. As time
goes by, they seem to be getting longer and longer,
for which I apologize. One friend told us he hadn't
had a chance to read our “Fall Color Cruise”
effort because, "I haven't had a free weekend."
Unfortunately, this one's even longer.
BRIEF OVERVIEW: This trip covered 22 days and took us
to nine countries, although in two (England and Germany)
we never got out of the airport: to wit London Heathrow
and Munich. We flew into Venice on Wednesday April 21st
spending three days before boarding the Oceania Regatta
for a 14 day cruise with stops in Dubrovnik (Croatia),
Corfu (Greece), Sorrento (Italy), Bonifacio, Corsica
(France), Naples, Livorno, Portofino and Civitavecchia
(Italy), Monte Carlo (Monaco) and Marseille (France)
before finally arriving in Barcelona (Spain) where we
spent another three days.
like fun? It was! But, it was also tiring with only
two "at sea" days during the whole cruise,
one of which was devoted to packing our bags. We all
agreed we would have appreciated one or two more days
FLYER MILES: We've been hoarding United Frequent Flyer
miles for years. Until now we've used them to upgrade
to Business Class on long flights. We owned a couple
of hundred thousand United FF miles when they filed
for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy last year. That made us very
nervous about our mileage stockpile, so on our last
two trips we used the miles for the whole air fare,
not just the upgrade.
you're using FF Miles for free a ticket, you’re
at the mercy of the carrier about your flight schedule,
and you may end up on a "Travel Partner."
In our case we were assigned to an Air New Zealand flight
from LAX to London Heathrow, Lufthansa from London to
Munich and "Air Dolomiti” from Munich to
heard of Air Dolomiti? Neither had we.
first two legs went smoothly then in Munich we found
our Air Dolomiti plane to be a rather elderly propeller
driven aircraft that held about 60 passengers. Looking
at a map of Europe, you’ll see flying from Munich
to Venice you go over the highest peaks in the Alps.
were apprehensive, but, it turned out to be the smoothest
flight of the trip. As a smaller plane flying at lower
altitude it provided absolutely fabulous views.
we flew Lufthansa from Barcelona to Munich and connected
to a direct flight from Munich to LAX. Coming home it
took about 17 hours from beginning to end. Not bad,
as it had taken us about 20 hours to get to Venice,
thanks to layovers.
the other hand our friends, the Mohlers, whose miles
are with American Air Lines flew from LAX to Dallas,
Dallas to Raleigh/Durham, Raleigh/Durham to London Gatwick
and Gatwick to Venice taking about 24 hours. It was
even worse for them coming home.
advice? Use your miles for upgrades and book the flights
MATTERS: The Euro is now the currency for all the countries
we visited except England and Croatia. Currently one
Euro is worth about $1.20.
the pre-Euro days you dealt with multiple currencies
and multiple exchange rates. This led to a lot of costly
mistakes by us tourists. Several years ago a friend
of ours while visiting Lisbon, paid $500 for an alligator
wallet. He thought he was paying $50. A little later,
he decided it was such a good deal he went back and
bought another one. He didn’t find out he’d
put the decimal point in the wrong place until his wife
opened their Visa bill. Boy, was he in the “Dog
days are in the past. But, the downside is in those
“Old Days,” almost every merchant in Europe
would accept your “Yankee” dollars in lieu
of the local currency, now hardly any do. I used to
carry dollar bills to use as tips in Italy, now if you
plant one or even two on the outstretched palm of your
bellhop he’ll look at you as if you’ve just
spit in his hand.
the really “Old Days” a person could take
along Packs of Marlboros to use as tips, but no more.
Today, a Spaniard pays $2.40 for a pack of American
Cigarettes, about half the cost in California.
problem with the Euro, in my view, is there is no bill
denominated below a five. There are one and two Euro
coins, but except for pennies, nearly all the coins
are about the same size. You have to be careful.
major change is the proliferation of ATM machines. Now,
in any country in Europe, you can pop your ATM card
into a machine bearing any of the symbols on your card
and get Euros in cash – and at a very favorable
exchange rate. There are even ATMs in most major airports.
This has nearly done away with the need to carry Travelers
Checks or to exchange your currency into Euros before
we left I went into the Santa Ana Office of Wells Fargo
Bank and asked for $50 traveler’s checks. They
didn’t have any. I had never heard of a bank not
having a supply of traveler’s checks.
You’re not going to believe this, but, during
the entire time we were gone no one asked us about treatment
of prisoners in Iraqi prisons.
a single person asked about George Bush, John Kerry,
Bill Clinton or Al Gore. There was only one politician
they wanted to hear about, Arnold Schwarzenegger. In
Italy by Italians, in Spain by Spaniards and on the
ship by Australians (who represented about a quarter
of the ship’s guests), literally everyone wanted
to know about “Arnie”, when they discovered
we were from California.
a lot of graffiti in Europe even, tragically, in Venice.
Barcelona’s graffiti artists are particularly
prolific. We asked several people in different countries
about the graffiti and were told that political comments
represented a small percentage of the total.
not political, what was the message of these graffiti
artists? “Our Football (Soccer) team is better
THE NET:Before leaving, I spent a lot of time on the
internet researching our “ports of call”
and I found many websites devoted to Venice and Barcelona.
To research restaurants and accommodations I found Frommers.com
and Fodors.com to be very helpful. I discovered Expedia.com
provides critical “reviews” of Cruise Ships,
very helpful in deciding if we wanted to take this cruise.
You’ll be amazed what you can learn for free with
the help of your friends Yahoo and Google.
IN A NAME A question. Why do we call Venice “Venice”
instead of “Venezia” the way the Italians
English speakers simply ignore what they call their
cities and apply our own variations. So we have “Rome”
instead of “Roma,” “Naples”
instead of “Napoli,” “Venice”
instead of “Venezia” and, worst of all,
“Florence” instead of “Firenzi.”
point is, become acquainted with the real names of the
cities you’re going to visit , or you’ll
be lost when you look up at the Schedule Board in that
Italian Railroad Station.
This was my third trip to Venice, (Patricia has been
there even more often) and I hope we’ll be able
to go again and again. There is just something about
the place that mesmerizes you and draws you back. What
struck us immediately this time was Venice was swarming
with tourists, and “season” hadn’t
even started yet.
whine that their city is becoming the “Disneyland
of Europe,” indeed millions of people now visit
Venice every year, while the population of the place
has declined from a peak of about 300,000 to around
60,000 now. Most of the people who work in the City,
live in Maestre across the Lagoon because the cost of
living in Venice is so high.
We love the Piazza San Marco and selected our Hotel,
the “Bauer” to be close to it. It was an
excellent choice, our room had a balcony overlooking
the Grand Canal and it was a short walk to the Piazza.
Venetian purists hate the Bauer, thinking its architecture
too modern and out of place. But, don’t let them
talk you out of it. You’ll love it.
San Marco, the “Heart of Venice,” is huge,
about the size of 4 contiguous football fields. The
focal point is the Cathedral supposedly atop the grave
of St. Mark, himself, whose bones were rescued from
the Turks in the 11th Century. How they’re sure
they got the right bones in those pre-DNA days we can
Palace of the Doges, rulers of the ancient City State,
is adjacent to the cathedral and both are dominated
by an enormous bell tower. Around a hundred years ago
the tower collapsed. There was no earthquake or other
natural calamity to explain the tower’s collapse;
it just sort of “gave up” after about 900
years of ringing bells. Maybe it was the cumulative
effects of all those sound waves. The rebuilt tower
is sturdier, they say.
numerous in the Piazza than tourists, are the pigeons.
One of our guidebooks noted that if anyone would closely
inspect one of these birds, he’d find they’re
infested with lice. People buy bird feed to have their
photo taken covered with pigeons trying to pluck the
birdseed from their hands. Yuck!
same guidebook indicated that once, years ago, the Venetians
tried to thin the bird population by mixing specially
treated feed, designed to make male birds sterile, into
their regular feed. They covered the square with the
stuff. The pigeons, no where near as stupid as previously
thought, gorged on the untreated feed and left the rest,
resulting in a heck of a mess for street sweepers and
failing to alter the size of the pigeon population in
any significant way.
past years, however, the tourists flooding the Piazza
San Marco this time weren’t Americans and Japanese
– they were from other parts of the European Union.
The common currency and the “open borders”
have made visiting Venice by a Parisian like a Californian
visiting Las Vegas. No sweat.
has it British humorist Robert Benchly telegraphed his
travel agent on arrival in Venice, “Streets full
of water. Please advise.”
sets Venice apart from every other city is that it’s
not just on the water – it is “of”
the water. The city is a series of islands, separated
by canals. If you want to drive there you’ll have
to leave your car in a giant parking structure outside
Venice sinking? In a way.
water level in the Lagoon is rising which in winter
causes flooding, worse in some years than others. We
were told that in December of 2002 you could row your
boat across Piazza San Marco. But there was no significant
flooding this past year.
Venetians have moved most of their valuables to the
2nd floor of their townhouses and it is not at all unusual
to find the ground floor of a residential building completely
abandoned while the upper floors of the same building
are crowded with residents.
Minister Silvio Burlesconi, who has been in office longer
than any PM since WWII, has a plan to solve the problem.
But, Venetians are skeptical. The way I look at it,
if the Dutch can reclaim their land from the North Sea,
the Italians should be able to solve this problem. Maybe
they just need a Dutch Engineer as a consultant.
Venice, you walk. You can take a gondola ride for fun,
but that’s not the way you get around. There are
water taxis and a very dependable, low cost water bus
system that will take you where you want to go. But,
there are so many things to see in Venice, around every
corner is some new piazza to explore, it would be a
shame not to walk it.
visited the Museo Ca’Rezzonico, formerly the Villa
of the Rezzonico family and recently opened as a museum.
Most interesting were furnishings from the 17th and
18th centuries including an exhibit of pianos and harpsichords
from those periods.
attended a Vivaldi Concert featuring his masterpiece,
“The Four Seasons.” There is a small concert
hall in the Piazza San Marco where concerts of the most
popular Venetian music are performed nightly. As you
might surmise, Vivaldi was Venetian. The Vivaldi Concerts
are every other night alternating with Italian Opera
excerpts. We loved it. Two of the restaurants in the
Piazza also have outdoor orchestras which fill the Piazza
with music day and night. Are we having fun yet? Indeed,
day we strolled to La Fenice’, the famous opera
house, because our guidebook said it was surrounded
by antique stores. We thought there might be tours of
La Fenice’ available, but we were wrong and we
didn’t find many antique stores either, but we
did find the only new construction we saw in Venice,
a large condominium complex. We also found the home
occupied by Mozart during his time in Venice as well
as the home of his arch-rival Salieri just two blocks
we also decided to take a gondola ride. It cost about
$40 a person for the 4 of us to crowd into a gondola
and although we’d all done it before, it’s
always an adventure. Our gondolier didn’t sing,
but he did whistle for us and we did convince him to
join us as we all sang “That’s amore.”
The ride lasted about an hour and took us past most
of the City’s landmarks, including the Rialto
Bridge. We recommend it, but, don’t be surprised
if you see a dead rat go floating by. We did.
also shopped and shopped and shopped. Venice specializes
in the famous Murano Glass, the slightly less famous
Burano Lace, Carnival Masks, and of course, Italian
designer clothes and shoes. Happily they all accept
Visa and American Express.
IN VENICE: It’s said you can’t find a bad
meal in Italy. That’s true. It also might be said
it’s hard to find an inexpensive meal. There are
lots of little wine bars and pizza places that serve
excellent food. But when in Venice, nearly everyone
wants to go to Harry’s Bar.
and still operated by the famous Cipriani family, Harry’s
Bar was the Venetian home of Ernest Hemingway, and other
notables. The food is truly great, and many tables have
a view of the Grand Canal, but you can count on spending
$100 apiece or more for lunch. If you have to ask how
much a dinner might cost, you probably can’t afford
dinner, another restaurant we liked was Ristorante Alla
Borsa on Calle delle Veste. John and I had veal while
Patricia and Mary Ellen shared a pasta dish. All were
excellent and the bill was about $60 apiece, including,
of course, a bottle of wine.
Venice is Northern Italy, you’ll find more white
sauces than red. Surprise, surprise, one of the local
specialties is liver and onions, outstanding and unlike
anything you’ll get in the States. Another specialty
is Pasta Fagioli, the bean and pasta soup.
final word on Venetian food. The Italians want to savor
their food and don’t want to burn the roof of
their mouth in the process. So, most food is served
warm, not hot. Get used to it, you’ll like it.
PORTS OF CALL
Our first stop was Dubrovnik, Croatia across the Adriatic
from Italy. Until 1990 Croatia was part of Yugoslavia.
After the fall of Communism it was one of the first
states to declare it’s independence. The Serbs,
who were trying to hold the country together, declared
war on the Croatians and shelled Dubrovnik – the
first time in centuries the historic city had come under
enemy fire. The damage from the war has been cleaned
up and the medieval center of the city has now been
the former Yugoslavia broke up into pieces and there
are now six separate states where once was one. Prior
to World War I Dubrovnik was part of the Austro-Hungarian
Empire, then was made part of Yugoslavia (the name means:
the Union of all Slavs). Our guide pointed out that
the World Press keeps talking about “Ethnic Stress”
in the Balkans. She said, “It’s not Ethnic
Stress, we’re all Slavs. It’s about religion.”
And, indeed it is. The Croatians are Roman Catholic,
Serb’s are Eastern Orthodox and Bosnians are Muslims.
spite of the “Ethnic stress,” some parts
of Yugoslavia have come a long way since leaving Communism.
Slovenia recently joined the European Union and Croatia
will soon. Their major opportunity for economic stability
is tourism; so, they are very, very nice to you. Since
Croatia has a very large percentage of the coastline
in these parts, they’re billing themselves as
the “Adriatic Riviera,” and it is indeed
Dubrovnik, we took a tour of the old walled city. Built
originally in the 14th Century and rebuilt in the mid-17th
after an earthquake flattened the place, the walls were
aimed at protecting Dubrovniacs (no kidding, that’s
what they call themselves), from the Venetians and the
Turks who were vying for supremacy in the Adriatic.
They prided themselves on being great negotiators and
traders. That’s how they survived.
toured a Franciscan Monastery and the Cathedral. I asked
our guide if the Communists had allowed these old religious
institutions to function during their rule and she said,
“of course.” I told her when we visited
Russia we learned the cathedrals and churches that had
been shut down by the Communists and used as warehouses
and even arms depots. She said, “You must be mistaken,
the Communists were tolerant of all religions.”
the same guide referred to the Communist period, as
“The time when we were all equal.” No need
to wonder about her political affiliation.
the tour was over, while Patricia and Mary Ellen shopped,
John and I found an “Irish Pub” (no fooling)
and had a beer. Later we bought an ice cream cone and
listened to a street musician dressed like “Will
Scarlet” in the main square playing a mandolin
and singing the songs of Simon and Garfunkel, in English,
enjoyed our short visit to Dubrovnik and think you’ll
enjoy yours too.
Northernmost and greenest of the Greek Islands, Corfu
was our next stop. We were anxious to return to Corfu
since our Greek Island Cruise ten years before. This
time we elected to take a tour of the “Achilleon
Palace,” one of their major attractions.
as a sort of “getaway” for Empress Elizabeth,
wife of Emperor Franz Josef of Austria (the Emperor
never set foot in the place) the palace is dedicated
to the Greek God Achilles. After Elizabeth died by an
assassin’s bullet in 1892 it was purchased by
Kaiser Wilhelm who vacationed there until his fall from
power in World War I. Owned by the Greek Government
after that, for many years the palace was operated as
a Casino. The beautiful gardens were home to outdoor
roulette and card tables, which were featured in the
James Bond film, “You Only Live Twice.”
They claim it was the only outdoor casino in the world.
I have to admit I’ve never seen another one.
Palace has been restored and, for the last twenty years,
open to the public. Elizabeth had excellent taste, and
the place is beautiful. The gardens, focal point of
the tour, are dominated by a 20 foot statue of Achilles
who gazes down on a magnificent vista of coastline and
Corfu Town several miles away.
we returned to Corfu Town to do some serious shopping,
we found most shops closed – as in most of Europe,
shops close in the afternoon and don’t reopen
until 5 PM or so. Instead we sat in an outdoor café
and enjoyed some liquid refreshment.
major crops on Corfu are Olives and Cumquats, those
tiny citrus fruit that look like miniature oranges.
They are very proud of their Cumquat liqueur, which
we sampled, and their Cumquat marmalade. Try it if you
see it at Trader Joes, it’s great.
unique thing about Corfu, the streets seem to be home
to numerous very friendly, but lazy dogs. They lie in
the middle of the street in old town and everyone simply
walks around them. Occasionally a passer-by will pat
one on the head and get a friendly wag of the tail in
response. We never saw a leash on the Island of Corfu,
but, then, the dogs of Corfu don’t seem to need
the way, at the Port of Corfu there is a very well stocked
Duty Free Store, one of the few we found in a Port facility.
We love Corfu and will go back someday.
– CAPRI: Our next stop was Sorrento, one of the
most beautiful towns in Italy. Since we’d been
here before, we elected to spend the day on the Isle
a mistake that was, the biggest disappointment of the
a crowded hydrofoil ferry ride of about 40 minutes,
we climbed into mini-busses and traveled to the village
of Ana Capri at the top of the island. It was absolutely
mobbed with people, most also on mini-busses. John and
I took a ride on a Chair Lift to the top of the highest
peak on the Island. The view was great and we got some
terrific photos, but again, it was very crowded.
tour guide recommended a restaurant for lunch that,
he said, wasn’t a “Tourist Trap.”
It turned out to be a “Tourist Trap.” The
food was good, but the place was packed with other tourists
whose guide had promised them it wouldn’t be a
After lunch, Patricia and Mary Ellen tried to find bargains
while John and I sat in an outdoor café on the
main square, drank an $8 cappuccino and watched the
mobs elbowing their way past one another.
learned part of the problem, the annual “May Day”
celebration was near and many students were on “holiday.”
Like Ft. Lauderdale in the U. S.A., Capri is where Italian
teenagers go for “Spring Break.” John struck
up a conversation with one group of kids from Rome;
one girl had passable English and translated for the
rest. They were fascinated by John’s digital camera
and wanted their picture taken to see the result afterward
on the camera’s tiny screen. Luckily, John didn’t
tell them we were from California, or we might have
been there all day talking about “Arnold.”
the “girls” were finished shopping we stood
in line for 20 minutes waiting to get on a funicular
to take us to the dock, then spent another 30 minutes
standing in a huge line to get the next ferry. Naturally
it was standing room only. While we visited other crowded
places on this trip, Capri was the worst because it’s
a very small place and there’s nowhere to escape.
had planned to spend an hour or so in Sorrento, but
when the ferry finally docked it had begun to rain,
so we gave up and returned to the ship.
a final insult, that damned hydrofoil ferry went speeding
by, as our tender approached the ship, creating a wake
that almost sent a couple of old ladies crashing to
bye and good riddance, Capri.
The bad weather continued the next day and our Captain
elected to dock in Naples instead of tendering into
Amalfi as planned. As our original tour was also cancelled,
we elected to take a bus trip from Naples along the
Amalfi Coast to the little town of Amalfi. We were all
very glad circumstances forced the change because the
drive along the Amalfi Coast, especially with an experienced
Italian Bus Driver, is not only one of the most picturesque
and beautiful experiences you’ll ever have, but,
it’s an “E Ticket Ride,” as well.
had always heard that Naples was unsafe for tourists
and it’s true around the waterfront. However on
the short bus tour we took of Naples, we saw enough
to make us want to come back. A beautiful Palace and
Opera House, numerous museums and a spectacular Castle
which dominates the harbor all appear worth visiting.
And, I don’t need to tell you that Naples is the
birthplace of Pizza.
bus stopped at a “Cameo Factory” on the
way to the coast. Cameos are a very big industry in
Italy, and they are extremely well crafted and beautiful.
Naturally, we had to have one.
bus, climbed into the mountains covered with lemon and
olive trees. The sides of the mountain also seemed to
be cluttered with rolls of nets, which our guide explained
are spread under the olive trees at harvest time. It
turns out they don’t pick olives, they literally
shake the tree until they all fall off. The net catches
the olives when they fall.
we emerged onto the coast road, we were treated to miles
and miles of spectacular views. Our driver, Pasquale,
took hairpin turns in stride and numerous times had
to squeeze by other vehicles with only a fraction of
an inch to spare. Then, there were those insane Italian
motor scooters whizzing by. What fun!
finally arrived in the Village of Amalfi where we had
lunch at a very nice restaurant. John and I enjoyed
a “Glace” in the square while the ladies
shopped in great shops.
was not allowed to take the “Coast Road”
back, so we took a more direct route. And all agreed
the Amalfi Coast was a highlight of the Cruise.
CORSICA: If Capri was the biggest disappointment on
the trip, Bonafaccio was the most pleasant surprise.
A Mediterranean island, Corsica is part of France and
is close to the Italian island of Sardinia which you
can see easily on a clear day. It’s well known
as the birthplace of Napoleon, but, Corsica is also
a vacation playground for Europeans.
island is primarily limestone, which accounts for the
incredible coastline, carved by the sea. To it’s
benefit, Bonafaccio was built on a cliff, and the harbor
is almost totally hidden from potential enemies. The
fortress in Bonafaccio was at one time the headquarters
of the French Foreign Legion.
can walk up to the top of the island if you are a real
masochist. Most people take a little auto-train which
gets you up to the “Heights,” then you get
off and explore the place as you come down. A photographer’s
dream, you can get spectacular pictures of houses teetering
on the edge of the cliff.
though it was May Day, most shops in Bonafaccio were
open and we enjoyed exploring them as we strolled down
the steep streets. Finally we took an ancient stairway
down over 175 steps. How do I know the number? John
the harbor there is a wonderful little waterfront with
many restaurants on the water, and numerous shops to
tempt you. We had a great lunch at “Le Goulet”
suggestion on eating in France particularly if you don’t
speak French, most restaurants have a “Prix-Fixe”
menu which includes an appetizer, an entrée and
a dessert. Often included are the restaurant’s
specialties. As long as you’re willing to be a
bit adventuresome, just close your eyes and order the
special Prix-Fixe Menu. You won’t be disappointed.
At Le Goulet not understanding much on the menu, I ordered
Prix-Fixe and received steamed mussels, sautéed
calamari and crème caramel for desert. All out
of this world.
we left the restaurant, Mary Ellen discovered she left
her sweater and John went back to retrieve it. When
he arrived back at the Restaurant the owner introduced
him to a man he said was the “President of Corsica.”
John was impressed. The “President” wanted
to hear about Arnold Schwarzenegger.
was a beautiful sunny day, so we strolled the waterfront,
stopped for a “cool one” and took the tender
back to the ship.
go back to Corsica if we have a chance.
Our next stop was Livorno, which is the port for Florence
(Firenzi) and Pisa. Most of the prepackaged tours were
ones we’d been on before, so we opted to arrange
for a car and driver to take us to the ancient walled
city of Lucca.
thing about Lucca’s walls is that they are wide
enough to plant trees on top of them and there is a
footpath where you can walk completely around the city
without ever getting off the wall. There was a motorcycle
rally going on in the town when we arrived, but, after
awhile the bikers all went roaring off into the sunset,
returning Lucca to peace and quiet.
was Sunday, so most shops in Lucca were closed, but,
we did find an excellent little restaurant, “Al’
Olivo” where we ate a wonderful lunch. I had Tagliatelli
(spinach pasta) with artichoke hearts that was out of
we returned to the ship we spoke with some of the ships
passengers who had signed up for the package tour in
Florence. When they got there they discovered that the
Italian Museum workers were on strike and they were
unable to tour the Pitti Palace or the museum where
Michaelangelo’s David is on display. Bummer!!
workers do like to “flex their muscles”
to let us know “who is in charge” and it’s
not unusual to find some service you take for granted
is shut down because of a strike.
is a huge port. When we pulled in that morning we noticed
a gigantic cargo ship of the Grimaldi Line (Grimaldi
is the family name of Prince Ranier), unloading automobiles
which were being driven down a ramp and parked in a
nearby parking area. When we returned from Lucca, the
Grimaldi Ship was still unloading cars and now there
were literally hundreds of identical cars parked in
the parking area and the cars were still being driven
off the ship. Hours later when our ship left port the
cars were still being unloaded. The economy is “booming”
Civitavecchia is the port for Rome and many passengers
took tours of the Vatican, but, since we had “Been
there – Done that,” John and I elected a
tour of an Etruscan museum and “Necropolis”
or burial site in the nearby town of Tarquinia.
The Etruscans occupied much of the Italian peninsula
before the rise of Rome. They were traders and the museum
exhibited items found in the ruins of Etruscan homes
from Egypt, Carthage and Persia. Etruscan artifacts
indicate a close association with Egyptian culture and
they may have been descendants of Egyptians who came
to the Italian Peninsula about 900 BC.
the Necropolis we climbed down into several tombs to
see the intricate wall art. So far, 6,500 tombs have
been located in the area, but, only about 50 have wall
art, which was reserved for the very wealthy. The sarcophagus
in which a wealthy Etruscan was entombed was decorated
with a depiction of the “late lamented”
reclining on his or her side, a departure from other
cultures where the deceased is sculpted on top of the
sarcophagus flat on his or her back.
Etruscans flourished in the area from about the 7th
Century BC until conquered by the Greeks in the 3rd
Century BC. The Greeks in turn were conquered by the
Romans in the 2nd Century BC and soon the Etruscans
just sort of disappeared, assimilated into Roman society.
Don’t feel too sorry for the Etruscans, though,
they had taken the land away from the Villanovians,
about whom we know little.
our Etruscan adventure the tour took John and me to
an Italian Olive Farm, where we sampled local cooking
our tour guide here was interesting – an African-Italian.
Her Father was in Mussolini’s Army, which conquered
Ethiopia in WWII. He settled in Ethiopia after the war
and married a local woman. They and little Vincenza
fled Ethiopia when the Communists deposed the King in
1970. They settled in Tarquinia, her father’s
birthplace, where they all still reside.
– SANTA MARGHERITA LIGURE: At last bad weather
caught up with us. While we had a few drops of rain
in Sorrento and Amalfi, the weather had, by and large,
been terrific. When we arrived in Portofino it was raining
and as the day progressed, so did the intensity of the
rain. We tendered into Portofino where we quickly toured
the little town. We then decided to get a taxi to take
us to Santa Marghetita Ligure a larger town, a fifty-Euro
taxi ride away.
toured the Church in the Main Square and stopped in
several shops, but as the rain continued to get worse,
we sought refuge in an outdoor café – “Ristorante
Palma,” on the beachfront road. Here we took our
time eating our Pizza while we waited for the weather
to let up. It never did.
we called our Taxi driver to bring us back to Portofino
where it was raining harder than ever and the wind turned
our little travel umbrellas into junk in no time. We
finally made it back to the Tender only to find that
the seas were so rough the Tender couldn’t tie-up
to the ship. This was a bit unnerving for we 70 or so
rain-soaked tourists. After taking several cracks at
it and nearly crashing into the side of the ship, a
more experienced ship’s officer came aboard, and
taking over from the helmsman, took control and saved
us from capsizing. Another “E” Ticket Ride.
to say we were glad to see the last of Portofino although
we all agreed we’d like to go back on a sunny
PAUL DE VENCE: Our next stop was Monaco, home of the
famous Casino, Monte Carlo, named for the mountain on
which it sits, “Mount Charles.” We booked
an afternoon tour to St. Paul De Vence, a picturesque
little town overlooking nearby Nice.
In the morning we strolled into town to look around.
We stopped to have our picture taken at the Monaco Yacht
Club and saw some of the most impressive yachts we’ve
ever seen. The largest of these was the “Lady
Moura”, seemingly only slightly smaller than our
cruise ship, it had a special feature, a helicopter
parked on the bridge. I have no idea who owns the Lady
Moura, but I’d sure like his name and address
for our “prospect” list.
I wrote the above paragraph my Assistant, Theresa Beard,
looked the Lady Moura up on the internet. As you might
guess it’s owned by a Saudi Arabian businessman
Nasser Al-Rashid who berths it in Majorca. It is indeed
the largest privately operated yacht in the world at
344 feet. There are 5 larger yachts, but they’re
all operating as cruise ships. Unfortunately, my plan
to put Al-Rashid on our prospect list is too late as
his heart and fortune are already pledged to his alma
mater, the University of Texas.
is second only to the Vatican as the smallest country
in Europe, was preparing for it’s famous Gran
Prix and we wandered through a portion of the street
that had been set aside as the “Pits.”
get to St. Paul De Vence that afternoon, our tour bus
went through Nice, famous as a Riviera playground. Nice
has a wonderful long waterfront, but we saw no bathing
attire, as there is no sandy beach in Nice. The beach
is up the coast a ways at Cannes. For 500 years Nice
was under the protection of the Italian Duke of Savoy
and didn’t join France until 1860. Our tour guide
said Nice is more Italian than French and we certainly
saw more Italian Restaurants than we’ve seen anywhere
else in France.
Paul De Vence is a walled city on top of a hill overlooking
Nice, about a 45-minute drive from Monaco. It‘s
an artist’s colony, where Picasso and Matisse
painted and Marc Chagal is buried here. Numerous galleries
grace the narrow streets. It’s a great place to
shop and we found many opportunities to use our Visa
and I watched a group of men playing a local version
of Bocche Ball which they called “Petanque.”
It’s a cross between shuffleboard and horseshoes
using iron balls tossed or rolled with great skill by
the participants. There seemed to be a lot of tour busses
at St. Paul De Vence and I wondered if these local guys
were paid to play the game to entertain the tourists.
Not a bad way to make a Euro.
Our last stop was billed as “Provence,”
where Marseilles is the capitol, but as the second largest
city in France, an unemployment rate of 14% and a Muslim
population exceeding 40% it looks more like Algiers
than Provence. We took a city tour, which included the
church atop the highest hill in the area, Notre Dame
de la Garde, and enjoyed a fabulous view of the city.
We stopped by the Longchamps Palace and snapped some
photos but didn’t have time to go inside.
Our bus got caught in an awful traffic jam, thanks in
part to English “football” fans in town
to watch Newcastle play Marseilles. Because of the traffic
our scheduled lunch stop was reduced to about 40 minutes.
We dashed into a little Bistro hoping to get a baguette
sandwich, but it turned out to be Algerian so we had
Cous Cous instead. Very tasty.
the event we return to France one day, which we very
much hope to do, I think we’ll skip a return visit
THE REPUTATION: After 14 days of cruising we arrived
in Barcelona, a place we’d never been. We were
both excited, but apprehensive. Everything I’d
read about Barcelona told of a vibrant city, with a
terrific nightlife and a reputation as the Modern Art
capital of the World. The Picasso and Dali Museums are
at the top of every guidebook’s list of things
you “simply must do.”
problem is, Modern Art is not our “bag.”
We have spent hours in the “Met” in New
York without ever being tempted to visit “MOMA.”
We like the Impressionists, but, that is about as “far
out” as we get.
make things worse, “Night Life” for me ends
around 10 PM, just about the time Spanish Restaurants
are opening for dinner.
worry, Barcelona has a lot to offer to everyone, including
an old duffer like me.
TIME: Perhaps it’s because they are on the Western
edge of the European Time Zone, so that even in mid-summer
it’s still dark at 6 AM and the sun doesn’t
set until around 9 PM, or, maybe it’s just the
Spanish culture, but, no people anywhere keep the strange
hours the Spaniards do.
and Offices open Monday through Saturday around 10 AM.
They stay open until 1:30 or 2 PM, then close down for
3 or 4 hours, reopening in the neighborhood of 5 PM
and closing at 8 PM. Everything is closed on Sunday.
restaurants open at 9:30 or 10 PM and are not really
crowded until after 11 PM. Most nightspots are dead
until Midnight when things really get going until 3
AM or so.
wonder Spanish store clerks all seem to yawn when you’re
speaking to them.
OUR BARCELONA ACCOMODATIONS: We arrived in port on Saturday
morning and were whisked by bus to our hotel, the Princesa
Sofia. It is a very nice hotel, but we had trouble understanding
how it became a “4-Star Hotel.” The food
and service were excellent, but the rooms could have
used new carpet and drapes at least 5 years ago. Our
room reminded me of my last stay at the Sheraton Four-Points
major downside to the Princesa Sofia is it’s a
$10 taxi ride from the center of town.
But, then, everything in Barcelona seems to be about
a $10 cab ride from everything else.
AROUND IN BARCELONA: Friends who’ve been to Barcelona
advised us to use the “Underground.” It’s
supposed to be terrific and inexpensive. Unfortunately
I tend to be claustrophobic in subways, so we spent
a lot of time in taxis.
map of Barcelona says it all, instead of referring to
addresses as “321 Main Street,” for example,
it will say “Numero 321 a Diagonal 68.”
The major streets all seem to run diagonally to everything
else and when you’re riding in a taxi you’re
never really sure where you are. AND, don’t think
your taxi driver doesn’t know it. Several times
it cost us $12 or $14 to get somewhere that cost us
only $9 the day before.
tip if you’re planning on driving yourself - Barcelona,
like Lisbon, requires you to get over to the right in
order to make a left turn. Really!! We once ended up
driving around Lisbon for an hour trying to get to a
hotel we could see to our left but couldn’t seem
to get to.
RAMBLAS: The famous “Walking Street of Barcelona,”
in the historic part of the city, was our first stop.
It’s a street with a very wide cement strip in
the middle on which nearly everyone in Barcelona seems
to stroll in the afternoon and on this Saturday it was
mobbed. There were many vendors with permanent stalls.
Post cards, tee shirts and the usual tourist stuff were
on sale, but there were some unusual items too.
group of stalls offered live birds for sale. There were
your usual pet shop birds, from Canaries to Cockatoos,
but there were also exotic birds from all over the world
including one stall offering Emu chicks for sale.
were also street entertainers. In many parts of the
world from Buenos Aires to Paris we’ve seen street-mimes
who paint themselves and their clothing in an effort
to get you to photograph them, for a fee of course.
No where has this art progressed to the point it has
in Barcelona. There was a Gold Elvis strumming away
on his guitar lip-syncing the Elvis Songbook and a White
Angel complete with wings available for a “Photo-Op”
on the steps of the Cathedral. There were dozens of
others, seemingly every few yards along Las Ramblas.
is also shopping on either side, but you’d better
be careful as you cross the narrow one-way streets.
Cars and motor scooters have the right-of-way and they
get great satisfaction in “buzzing” tourists.
SIGHTS IN BARCELONA: Barcelona is second only to New
York City when it comes to great buildings to gape at.
On your first visit to New York, you probably found
yourself gaping at all the tall buildings. In Barcelona
the buildings aren’t so tall, but they are beautiful
you’ll find yourself strolling slowly, head tilted
back. This, thanks to an Architect named Gaudi.
was born around 1880 and worked through the first half
of the 20th Century. His buildings are everywhere in
Barcelona, no two the same. One tour guide referred
to him as the “Frank Lloyd Wright of Spain.”
I disagree; Mr. Wright couldn’t hold a candle
to Sr. Gaudi. His buildings have a Moorish influence,
a gothic influence and a modern influence all at the
same time, yet they are all unpredictable and beautiful,
too. No straight lines on Sr. Gaudi’s buildings.
He even started a Cathedral, “La Sagarda Familia,”
in 1896, which remains unfinished today and is one of
Barcelona’s biggest tourist attractions. They
now estimate it may be completed in 2050.
TO DO ON SUNDAY: Patricia and I like to attend Mass
in the Cathedrals of major cities, and that’s
what we did in Barcelona. The original Barcelona Cathedral,
was built in the old, Gothic quarter in the 14th Century.
The Mass, still conducted in Latin, was an all male,
all clerical affair. We thought there would be a large
group in attendance, but except for tourists and a lot
of very old residents there weren’t many there.
Western Europe has become so “secularized”
that you’ll seldom see young families in church
in any major city.
to our guidebook, there is an authentic Catalonian dance
exhibition following 11 o’clock Mass. We hung
around to watch and sure enough an orchestra appeared
and organized itself. We assumed there’d be a
costumed troupe of Dancers, not so – anyone who
wants just joins right in and there were about 50 folks
“high stepping” when we left. Whether they
were “Authentic Catalonians,” or not, we’re
not prepared to say. But they all seemed to be having
most stores are closed in Barcelona on Sunday, the Gothic
quarter, which we walked through after church, was packed
with open-air markets and street musicians.
The place was swarming with people. One band composed
of English kids played very good Dixieland, while one
of the kid’s mothers circulated in the considerable
audience selling CDs. The leader of the group was a
mini-skirted girl, the only female, who played a mean
clarinet. We dropped some Euros in their hat.
emerged from the Gothic quarter to discover we were
at the beginning of “Las Ramblas.” Even
though the street vendors and all the stores were closed,
there were still many folks out for a Sunday stroll.
That evening we arranged to go to a Flamenco Show at
“Cordobes,” a Flamenco Dinner Theater, on
Las Ramblas. The first show was at 10 PM, followed by
shows at Midnight and 2 AM, in typical Spanish tradition.
Naturally we attended the “early show.”
I’ve seen Flamenco shows in Spain, Argentina and
Hollywood. With 2 male dancers, 4 female dancers, 4
singers and 2 guitarists, this was by far the largest
and best I’ve ever seen. And, they perform on
IN BARCELONA: For us oldsters, who nod off by 10 PM,
eating in Barcelona can be a challenge. We did eat at
one excellent restaurant, “Bota Fumeiro”
which, because many tourists go there, was open at 8
PM. It is touted as the best seafood in Spain and you
won’t get an argument from me. It was great.
rest of the time we were saved by Tapas.
are becoming popular here in the States, touted as sort
of a snack. In Barcelona one can easily make a meal
out of Tapas served in “Tapas Bars” designed
to “take the edge off” your hunger in the
long period between lunch at 2 PM and dinner at 10:30
are actually single serving entrees. With a group of
four you simply order four tapas, and everyone shares.
Our first Tapas Bar was “Jose Luis Cerveseria”
on Saturday night. We shared Scalloped Potatoes, Fried
Brie, Shrimp Cocktail and Fried Cod, a very satisfying
Monday we did Tapas again, this time at “Txalaparta
Euskal Taberna” where we shared 2 kinds of Potatoes,
Asparagus, Prawns and Calamari plus a terrific home
made Flan for desert. It was great.
highly recommend substituting tapas for your evening
meal, unless you can adjust to those late night starting
Americans are surprised to find Spanish food is so bland
and not at all like Latin American. In Barcelona, however,
the food is more spicy and tasty than we found elsewhere
in Spain. We liked it a lot.
caution for oldsters, if you order “Decaf”
coffee in Spain you’re going to get a cup of hot
water and a packet of Nescafe. If you don’t like
it, find a Starbucks.
last thing on food, we always get a “Big Mac Attack”
when we’re away from home. After 3 weeks in Europe,
we succumbed on Sunday and ate lunch at McDonalds on
Las Ramblas. We’ve now in McDonalds on five continents.
Can anyone beat that? Does anyone want to?
SHOPPING FOR THOSE TAKE HOME GIFTS: Patricia and I spent
time at nearly every stop trying to find perfect gifts
to take home. We just couldn’t find anything appropriate.
Finally on our last day in Barcelona we went to a Lladro
store. You can always count on Lladro for the perfect
As a lifelong member of Rotary, which encourages you
to attend meetings of other clubs when you travel, I
looked up the Barcelona clubs on the Rotary International
website hoping to find a convenient club meeting.
found several Rotary Clubs in Barcelona and one, “Barcelona
Diagonal,” meets for lunch on Monday. So, I put
on my coat and tie, inserted my Rotary pin in my lapel
and grabbed a taxi to take me to the very nice hotel
where they meet. Barcelona Diagonal has about 25 members,
mostly business executives.
was another American Rotarian couple there that day,
from Boone, North Carolina. The husband and wife were
both past presidents of different clubs and were there
to celebrate the completion of a joint project between
the Spanish and North Carolina Clubs to provide voice-activated
computers for a home for paraplegic orphans. Talk about
having two strikes against you, being both an orphan
and a paraplegic, this home is the only one of its kind
in the world.
you're a foreign visitor it’s Rotary’s custom
to assign you a host that speaks your language to make
sure you have someone to talk to. My host was Jorge
Bernades, President of the company makes most of the
traffic lights in Spain. A very gracious man, Jorge
insisted I was his guest and refused to let me pay for
my own meal.
also traditional for a visitor to "exchange flags"
with the club he visits. I took along a banner from
my Sierra Madre club for this purpose and brought home
to my club their banner. I was asked to say a few words,
which I did, in English with a few words of my High
School Spanish. They were enthusiastic in response although
I was convinced few of them understood much of what
meeting started at 1400 (2 PM) with orange juice served
to members as they arrive. At 2:30 everyone sits for
lunch consisting of 3 courses: a salad, the traditional
Spanish Paella (rice and seafood) and dessert. Naturally
there was a different wine for each course. At 4:30
we were still having coffee and no one made a move to
leave. The typical American club meeting lasts no more
than 90 minutes.
and I sat at a table with several wives of Rotarians
who were there to act as hostesses for their American
female guest. Typical of many Spanish clubs, there are
no female Rotarians in Barcelona Diagonal. As soon as
the wives found out I was from California they wanted
to know all I could tell them about "Governor Arnold."
Jorge translated for us. One woman wanted to know if
"he is a better actor or governor." I told
her I never considered him a terrific actor, but I sure
did like him better than the old governor. Another woman
wanted to know if I could get his autograph for her
and was disappointed to hear I wasn't among Arnold's
love attending Rotary Clubs in foreign countries. I've
been to clubs in Canada, France, Australia and Holland
in addition to Spain. It's always the same; you come
away with many new friends.
BARCELONA: Would we go back to Barcelona? In a New York