Saturday, September 28, 2013

Med Cruise: Dubrovnik, Part 1

Here comes the part Mom has been waiting for:  Croatia!  Why?  Because her father was Croatian.  Well, up until the '90s he was Yugoslavian, but after Yugoslavia broke up we turned into Croatians.  Lee and I had a discussion about which part of me was the 1/4 Croatian part as we walked around Old Town Dubrovnik; can't be the language center of my brain because the only word I can immediately recognize is chocolate--which means a.) I am my mother's daughter and b.) chocolate is pretty much the same in every language.  So Lee and I decided that one of my legs must be the Croat part, we just couldn't decide which one.

Anyway, Alexis was asking in the comments on my last post what cruise line we were on (Princess) and it occurred to me that I hadn't shared some info about just the cruise itself, so I'll do that at the end of the post for those of you who have already had enough of my blah-blah and just want to see the pictures.

 First pic:  a selfie.  Fear not, you'll see lots of pics of that fort behind us.

The first thing we did (after taking our selfie) was get some cash.  Croatia isn't a full member of the EU yet, so they still have their own currency, the kuna.  We didn't really have a handle on what the conversion rate was so we just got 100 kuna to start with, only to discover that's less than like twenty bucks.

But I took pictures of it because I thought Mom would like to see it.  We did save a little bit of currency which I think is still in the bottom of my backpack.

I had the camera for most of the day this time since we were in my homeland (giggle).  After we got cash, we headed for the city walls to circumnavigate the Old Town.  This fort was off to one side and I took so many pictures of it that while we were flipping through them all when we got back, Lee and I started saying "Fort....fort....fort" every time a pic of this came up.

Dubrovnik has a pretty interesting history as a maritime power (hit the link to see the Wikipedia page); in more modern times, it was heavily bombed in 1991 by Serbia as part of a 7-month siege.  So there's the key for the following map:

Click on it to enlarge the picture.  Even post-9/11, it's difficult for me to imagine being in a city under attack, much less under a months-long siege.  I think a lot of Americans probably have that same difficulty since, except for 9/11 and isolated events like the Boston marathon bombing, we don't really have experience with that...when America goes to war, it's not on American soil, you know?  Sobering thoughts.

I took about a dozen pictures of the flag to get this one : )


The Old Town is very...orangey from above : )

Now who's that handsome devil? ; )  I think we try harder now to get pictures with us IN them as opposed to just taking pictures of the places we go.

I don't think I'd like to be that dude in the kayak pulling all those other boats.



There's a good section of the wall along the coastline.  It had quite a few stairs, but it was nothin' on the Great Wall of China--but really, what is?  ; )

There's a building that hasn't been reconstructed yet.  I would not at all mind getting to see some other places in Croatia, and I'd love to go to Sarajevo and take pictures of the Sarajevo roses.


There were just a couple of places up on top of the walls where you could get refreshments or buy souvenirs--of course, at inflated prices because they know they've got you then--there's only two or three places you can exit the wall so they can charge you whatever they want once you're up there.

Lee wanted to take pics of the grapes so he could tell Jamie and Carrie that's what he expects their vine room to look like.

View down a narrow alleyway...we walked through the city quite a bit too, and a LOT of the streets are teeny-tiny like this.  The ground here ain't flat either so lots and LOTS of stairs everywhere.

Cliff-side cafe, anyone?

Lee said we should take this guy's picture for Carrie, though I'm not sure why he thinks Carrie wants to see some old dude sunbathing in a leopard-print Speedo?

I'll take Lee over an old dude sunbathing in a leopard-print Speedo any day!

That's more of Dubrovnik; we spent our whole time in the Old Town though and didn't go out into the more modern parts of the city.  I kinda looked for a Starbucks to see if I could get Mom a Croatia Starbucks mug, but we didn't find any.

Ok, so cruise info!  We were on Princess Cruise Lines, and our ship was the Ruby Princess.  I've only ever been on one cruise before, which was a 7-day Caribbean cruise with Disney in 2005, so that's the only thing I can compare this one to.  Lee told me that Disney has spoiled me for any other cruise line, and although Princess was very nice, they just couldn't touch Disney because Disney is SO over-the-top spec-fabulous.  But the Princess crew was very nice, the food was good (but not smack-yo-mama great), and the amenities were nice too.  One thing I did love, they've got a giant movie screen above one of the pools and during the day they play movies or concerts or whatever that you can watch while lounging in the pool or hot tubs; at night, they close off the pool and put nice pads on the deck chairs and hand out blankets and you get to watch "Movies Under the Stars" and that was pretty awesome.  They even come by and ask if you want popcorn or cookies and milk.  Our first day at sea, we watched the Princess Bride in the afternoon, and in the evenings we watched Iron Man 3, Skyfall, and Now You See Me.  It was kind of like a drive-in movie but on a boat (and I miss drive-in movie theaters!).  Hey honey, I think we need a movie projector and some nice patio lounge chairs so we can watch movies in the backyard when it's nice out...

Anyway, this cruise was 12 days, which was honestly a bit too long for us.  We were almost always off the boat between 8:00 and 8:30 every morning, and we walked around A LOT at every single port, so I think by the time we got to the last few days we were just kinda tired, and at that point the ports were starting to blur together a bit.  I think next time we'll limit ourselves to more like 7 days.  One thing we did that worked out very well for us:  we looked up each of the ports in advance and plotted out what we wanted to see and where we wanted to go.  Lee also looked up how to get around places at each port too, and printed out some maps, so we had a pretty good idea going in exactly what we were going to do each day.  We got to see a lot more stuff by having some of it doped out ahead of time and we didn't feel like we were missing out on stuff just because we didn't know it was there.  So there's my two cents.

Next up:  more Croatia pics!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Med Crusie: Venice, Part 2

I was checking my email this morning when Vader wandered in with my Eiffel Tower pajama pants draped over his back.  He didn't say why he got dressed up this morning, but it made me laugh : )

So here we are with Part 2 of the Venice pictures.  I left off last time while we were up in the campanile just because that was the halfway point in the pics I wanted to share, so we begin today with a bird's eye view of Venice.

Photo props to Lee, who took all the pics while we were up in the tower.

We happened to be up in the tower at noon and soon discovered that the bells do toll on the hour, though this one clanged so many times I'm pretty sure it was sixty o'clock.  And it's L O U D too.

I don't think we got a really good picture of the Bridge of Sighs the first time we were in Venice, so I told Lee that's what I wanted to do.  Lucky for me it's just around the corner from the campanile and St. Mark's Square.

This one is just a bit down from the Bridge of Sighs and it's supposed to be the Kissing Bridge--it's good luck to kiss your true love as you pass under the bridge on a gondola.

Soooooo I took like thirty pics of the bridges as gondolas and motorboats went by.

This column is just in front of the Doge's Palace, and I thought it was funny to see the pigeon roosting on the winged lion's head, so I snapped the pic.

On the side of St. Mark's Basilica.

There's my Lee!  I can't wait to have him back home in a few days.  It was weird to go from spending 24/7 with him for two weeks to several weeks of him in another country.

I wanted to get a really good shot of the Rialto Bridge, so we walked down that direction and then discovered that the only way to get a great, unobstructed view would be to take the picture from the middle of the Grand Canal.  But I tried to get an interesting one anyway.

Not exactly a postcard shot, but what can ya do.

We walked through a little market while looking for Lee's mythical pizza place and I espied this at one of the stalls--does it look familiar?  The thing that tickles me even more about this print is that it actually has my parents' hometown on it--Porterville, California!

This is Lee's mythical pizza place; we took a photo this time so if we go back to Venice again, we'll know exactly what it looks like, if not exactly where it is.  Last year, it took us to find it; this time it was like 20 minutes.  But a piece of pizza is 2.50 and a Coke is the same price, so for just 10 euro you get a good lunch--the pizza is really good.  And you know how now Coke has that "Share a Coke with Friends" marketing campaign on?  We shared a Coke with Giada and Nicolo.  (The week after we got back from the cruise, I got two more Coke bottles, this time Natalie and Natasha.  I told Lee we should have twin girls and name them that, and he just looked at me funny.)

Another canal reflection shot.

So, our cruise ship pulled out of port during golden hour, that time just before sunset when the light is extra-warm and it makes for great pictures, and it did a fly-by (sail-by?) of Venice on the way out to sea.  We stood out on the deck and Lee got a bunch of shots of the city as we went by.

See, it's all gorgeous except for that super-tacky Gucci ad.  And I thought Gucci was supposed to be high-class.

Dunno who this chick is, but she's in a lot of our pictures.

I know this is out of chronological order, but we take all our selfies with our little camera, so here we are at the Indiana Jones church.  I love that Okinawa Island Girl shirt!  It's got a pink gecko on it under the purse strap.

There we are up in the campanile when we were half-deaf after the tolling of the hour.

That's it for Venice, next up is the one Mom is eagerly awaiting--Dubrovnik, Croatia!  Cheers for now, peeps : )

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Med Cruise: Venice, Part 1

As promised, I'm starting with the cruise pictures today.  We started out in Venice, and for reasons passing my understanding spent two days there--not that I don't like Venice, I do, but wouldn't you think that perhaps two days in Rome would be better?  Venice is pretty small.  Plus we'd already been there before, but the nice part about that is that a.) we could just wander around and relax and not worry about getting to see specific things and b.) we found Lee's favorite cheapo pizza place for lunch.  So we just wandered and got some pictures.

I like the light effects on the underside of this bridge.

Nice reflection in the water, and look how pretty the colors are between the blue sky and the orange buildings.

For some reason I thought this line of teeny-weeny socks was just cute : )  We wandered around the less-touristy side of Venice on our first day, and saw lots of buildings with laundry lines strung up across the streets, two and three stories up.  These socks were on the second story.

And here's the Indiana Jones church, where X marks the spot!  Except that they only used the exterior for filming; the interior was a set, and there are no crypts in Venice because they'd all be underwater.  But we found the church this time by accident.  I got a postcard at a shop just off to the right and sent it to my parental units.

In the movie, you see Indy, Brody and Ilsa go by a green awning, and there on the left you can see the green awning.  It's a boat that seems to be pretty much permanently stationed there and they sell fruits & veg from it.

And of course here's my handsome hubby : )  You can tell who had the camera on what day depending on who's in more of the pictures.

Just thought this was picturesque with the flowers and the bridge.  Unfortunately our golden light wsa starting to fade by the time we took this one so it's a bit dark.

It's a door handle!  A really cool door handle!

We walked by the Indiana Jones church again the next day, so you can see the church on the far left and the boat with the green awning on the right.  When Lee and I were in Venice last year, we had lunch at a restaurant on the ground floor of that building on the far right, facing the boat.

Umm...I think we just liked the colors in this one?  And the next few.

Ornate facade of another Venetian church.

Speaking of ornate Venetian churches, this is St. Mark's Basilica.  I think Lee got some interesting angles this time around.  We didn't go in the church again, but it is beautiful inside.

The one thing Lee wanted to do in Venice the first time was go up in the campanile (bell tower) that's facing St. Mark's, but we didn't do it then so we decided to go this time.  This winged lion is on the railing at the front of the campanile.  The winged lion is a symbol of St. Mark, who gives his name to the basilica (I think they have some relics from St. Mark inside, which is the churchy way of saying they've got random body parts purported to have belonged to a saint...though if you believe *all* the hype, some saints must have had at least thirty fingers...) and he is the patron saint of Venice.

View of St. Mark's Square from atop the campanile.  Really, those giant billboards are beyond tacky.  Just wait till you see the Gucci one later on.

More views from the campanile...

And that's it for this time around.  More Venice pictures up in a few days, so ta-ta for now!