The day started with a terrific breakfast at our terrific hotel. I found it funny that they had an automatic latte and espresso machine, and a jug of what they called “American Coffee.” The American coffee was super black and dark, not quite what we would refer to as American. The beautiful part of having coffee in Italy is the heated milk.
It is my dad’s birthday today, he would have been 81 (I feel like I’ll be adding years to what he might have been for the rest of my life). We stopped in San Gimignano, an incredible hill town outside of Siena, and walked the streets, with my mom falling in love with leather bags (she bought two), Mellissa falling in love with leather bags (she bought two), and me falling in love with a leather jacket and scarf (my mom bought me my birthday gift early).
Then we stopped at a family winery and drank and ate a lot, bought a great deal of wine and I got poured back on our bus for a nap. And one must note that Mellissa and her family like taking photos of me passed out. They may need therapy. Just saying…
Next stop, a very important job of holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Well we just got back, and yes, we saved the tower while we were there. We left the job of holding up the tower in the capable hands of other tourists.
Now we are heading to La Spezia the second most important port in Italy.
It was hard to believe we are in Italy yesterday, even though we visited my favourite place the Pantheon on a walking tour. We also visited the Spanish Steps (that are not Spanish) and the Trevi Fountain. This trip started today with day one of the Flavours of Tuscany and the Enchanted Cinque Terre. Ask my feet. They know.
I’ve heard friends talk of Tuscany before, how it is the gem of Italy, the green and the wine and the cheese and the sheep and all that jazz. But I need to be honest with you. It is all true I’m afraid.
Stop one was Montepulciano, a hill top town that will take your breath away, not just because there is a lot of uphill walking. It is magic. I took out my camera and shot some pictures and the looked at them. Pictures do not tell the story. You have to experience it live and in person.
The next stop was to was Pienza, famous for Pecorino cheese.
Now we find ourselves in Siena where we just arrived at our hotel after a great tour of the city. There was a twice-a-year market festival going on so it was especially great seeing all the people and all the chaos.
We are at our hotel chilling out before our dinner. I just had a chat wwith Mellissa’s dad saying this would be perfect if I had a beer to drink while I chill. Then I opened the bar fridge and voila! Perfection!
Well we are now at the Edmonton International Airport, just about to depart to Toronto to meet up with my mom and then hop aboard a KLM/Air Italia flight to Rome.
Mellissa and I debated over our clothes for a bit more time this morning, and had some very sad moments when our dogs thought they were going on a trip. Now we leave the city behind feeling sad about my little buddies Phin and Westley. They like their babysitter so everything should be better when she comes over with treats later.
Off we go. See you all in Italy! Ciao!
“The State Department alerts U.S. citizens to potential risks of travel to and throughout Europe following several terrorist attacks, including the March 22 attacks in Brussels claimed by ISIL. Terrorist groups continue to plan near-term attacks throughout Europe, targeting sporting events, tourist sites, restaurants, and transportation. This Travel Alert expires on June 20, 2016.”
Well that about sums up our upcoming trip quite well I think. We are a week away from a trip that will bring us to a few problem areas of the world. There is heightened security at the Rome and Amsterdam airport (we’ll be at both), and I am pretty sure every European country is on edge.
Oh and did I mention we will be in Istanbul Turkey? In today’s Daily Mail more warnings…”More terrorist attacks may be ‘imminent’ in the Turkish cities of Istanbul and Ankara, the Foreign Office warned today.”
It happened on the last trip too where we were going to be in Tunis Tunisia in April 2015, but a bombing in the tourist area of Tunis on March 18 killed 22 people, including 20 tourists, most from a cruise ship. So our itinerary changed and we didn’t visit Tunisia.
Mellissa and I were talking today that normally we try not to let this kind of threat get to us. But this one is different. I’m feeling a bit unsafe over this trip. I’m nervous I guess. But I also am excited to see things I’ve yet to see.
People have said to me that we can’t let the terrorists win. OK sure, but you also don’t want to put yourself and the ones you love in harm’s way.
While I’m a bit surprised Holland America hasn’t cancelled our Turkey stops (yet) I am also happy that there is still a chance we get to see Istanbul. Just two years ago Istanbul knocked Paris from its number one spot as the world’s top destination. Now it is number five, with over 12 million visitors in 2015. I want to be a positive statistic in Istanbul. Here's to a safe and satisfying visit!
I've been on a few cruises in my day, but never on a new ship on its maiden voyage. All of this is about to change as we head toward an April 2016 departure on Koningsdam, the new addition to Holland America's cruise line. Koningsdam (Koning means King in Dutch) is a new class of ship, bigger with over 2600 guests and over 1000 crew—and bigger means new venues, new restaurants, and new experiences. I'm very excited.
Another added part of this trip is the addition of Mellissa's family and some of their friends, and the inagural Holland America cruise for my dear mother and her big adventure to places she has always wanted to go. In fact she hasn't been back to Europe since she found herself in a camp during the war. So her return will be under better circumstances for sure.
You can view our full itinerary on Mellissa's excellent blog. The short and sweet version is a pre-cruise tour of Tuscany and the Cinque Terra and a post-cruise visit to one of my favourite places, Amsterdam.
And finally, I wanted to set up something that I can tell you about when it happens. My mother tells me that while we are on the cruise something will happen that will leave me "gobsmacked." I have warned her that it takes a lot to gobsmack me. In fact I don't think it has happened yet in my life. What will astonish me on this trip and leave me mind boggled? I have no idea. She's keeping it secret.
You'll be the first to know what it is. I promise.
MEDITTERANEAN BLOG Hi all. There is a quote on my homepage that says, "I haven't been everywhere but it's on my list." My words to live by. I want to see it all. On this trip we will see Turkey, Greece, Croatia, and Albania. All places I have not been. So time to take a few off my list!