Land of the Midnight Sun Cruise - July 2015Dispatches from Italy
16 – 19 Feb 2018.
Traveled to Puglia with some friends and saw some amazing sites and ate good food. What else is there to do!
Arrive at Bari airport then drove to Martina Franca to check into hotel. Visited some hangouts when our friends lived here.
Strolled the beach area and then had a surprise stop at a gelateria. They had spaghetti gelato a favorite of our friend. I had a massive banana split. Needless to say we all went away stuffed and with a smile on our faces.
A visit to Matera, a city on a rocky outcrop which includes the Sassi area, a complex of cave dwellings carved into the mountainside. Evacuated in 1952 due to poor living conditions, the Sassi now houses museums like the Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario, with period furniture and artisan tools. Nearby rock churches include St. Lucia alle Malve, with 13th-century frescoes.
Monopoli is known for the Baroque Monopoli Cathedral, featuring a tall bell tower. In its crypt is an archaeological museum with sculptures and ancient tombs. When you approach the Cathedral it looks like most every other church in Italy , then you walk in and are completely blown away. One of the most beautiful churches we have been in.
Lovely little centro. Had our first lunch there and it was outstanding. Our server was fun and the chef came out to pick our wine. Little winding alleys lead to fun spots to take in the atmosphere.
It’s known for its trulli, whitewashed stone huts with conical roofs. The hilltop Rione Monti district has hundreds of them. Built using what was available at the time. So entire trulli built without cement, just flat stones piled on top of each other.
More Photos here.
Bordeaux, Vineyards & Chateau River Cruise, River Royale – Uniworld River Cruises.
5 – 12 November 2017.
We sailed one of the world’s most acclaimed wine regions on three stunning rivers, the Garonne, the Dordogne and the Gironde.
Starting in Bordeaux, the “Pearl of the Aquitaine,” as the region is also known, in southwest France, to delightful Pauillac, the gateway to the Médoc wine route, and Saint-Émilion’s astonishing 12th-century Monolithic Church.
We tasted some Médoc vintages, visited the cellars of Premier Grand Cru in Saint-Émilion, and in Sauternes, meet the winemakers and enjoyed a wine-pairing lunch at Château de Cazeneuve. You can see more photos from trip here or from our photo gallery.
Day 1: 5 Nov – Bordeaux (Embark)
We arrived in Bordeaux the previous day and wondered about in the rain. The next day we headed for the ship which was docked right in the heart of the city. There were food markets on the promenade but alas it was also raining so we stayed on board and chatted with people and had lunch and dinner on the ship.
Day 2: 6 Nov – Cadillac
The French phrase “la douceur de vivre” is an accurate description of our time in Cadillac, known for its deliciously flavored dessert wines. We meet a local Sauternes producer and enjoyed a wine-pairing lunch at Château de Cazeneuve, a polygonal 14th-century fortress .
The Captain’s Welcome Reception, and Dinner was this evening.
Day 3: 7 Nov – Cruising the Garonne River and Gironde Estuary, Pauillac
In the morning we cruised the waters of the Garonne River and the Gironde Estuary before heading to the town of Pauillac, gateway to the storied Médoc wine route and the prestigious “châteaux road.” The legendary Médoc region abounds with prestigious wine châteaux in a dizzying array of architectural styles, as well as miles of grapevines stretching to infinity.
In the afternoon we took a scenic drive from Pauillac to the tip of the Médoc peninsula, past vineyards, including Château Latour, Mouton Rothschild and Pichon Longueville Baron, and through the villages of Margaux, Saint-Julien and Saint-Estèphe. We then stopped at Château Lynch-Bages for a wine tasting. An interesting fact about this region was that in 1855, Napoleon III asked for a classification of the best wines in France to give visitors, 60 Médoc wines were awarded Grand Cru status, out of 61 total.
Day 4: 8 Nov – Blaye, Bourg-sur-Gironde, Cruising the Dordogne River, Libourne
The morning saw us on a scenic drive along the Route de la Corniche Fleurie with a visit to Blaye Fortress.
This little road between Blaye and Bourg-sur-Gironde winds through picturesque hamlets with names like Pain de Sucre, Marmisson and Roque de Thau among them. There is limestone cliffs on one side, the Gironde river on the other. Fishing huts on stilts stand above the waters of the estuary, 19th-century stone houses built by sea captains sit along the road. Many of these captains traveled to far-off places and returned with exotic plants, which they planted in their gardens and along the road (hence the route’s name). But apparently the history of the cliffs extends far beyond the 19th century, people have inhabited the area for thousands of years. We returned to Blaye and took a tour through the 17th-century demilune-shaped citadel built by famed military engineer Vauban. The citadel contains the ruins of a medieval castle, houses, squares, streets, even a convent, all enclosed within stark walls.
In the afternoon the ship sailed to Bourg-sur-Gironde, which we explored on your own. We climbed the steep stone stairs rising from the riverbanks to the top of the village for a view of the confluence of the Gironde and the Dordogne, and then saw the medieval gates and the Moorish villa.
Day 5: 9 Nov – Libourne (Saint-Émilion)
The morning saw us in Saint-Émilion taking a walking tour with wine tasting.
The hilltop town of Saint-Émilion has exceptional architecture and historic vineyards. The Romans were the first to plant grapes here, and this was the first vineyard region to be protected by UNESCO. Of all the sights, however, the most extraordinary was the 12th-century church carved into a cliff. Only the tower is above ground, the rest of the church is subterranean. Its numerous underground galleries provided refuge during periods of strife, and include the grotto where St. Émilion, for whom the town is named, lived out his life in the ninth century. After touring Saint-Émilion, we visited the cellars of a premier Grand Cru estate where we again tasted some of the world’s most highly rated wines.
In the afternoon we just walked around Libourne.
Day 6: 10 Nov – Libourne, Cruising the Garonne River, Bordeaux
In the morning we visited a small winery run by the same family for generations. Then sailed to Bordeaux.
After dinner we got aboard an open-top bus for a view of the city illuminated at night.
Day 7: 11 Nov – Bordeaux
The morning we took a tram at the Quai des Chartrons to the Place de la Comédie, for a walking tour of the city.
Now for a History lesson – Bordeaux was the capital of Aquitaine in the Middle Ages and has its share of Gothic churches, it reached its apex in the 18th century. The splendid honey-colored stone buildings from this era make up a city core that UNESCO has designated a World Heritage Site. Trade with the French colonies built this district, furnishing vanilla, sugar, spices and cocoa to inventive chocolatiers and bakers, who used these goods to create iconic desserts. Chocolate, once a Spanish monopoly, became part of Bordeaux’s culinary heritage when banished Spanish Jews brought the art of chocolate-making to France.
The Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner was this evening.
Day 8: 12 Nov – Bordeaux (Disembark)
We disembarked the ship after eating breakfast. We then headed to our hotel in Bordeaux for one last night in the city.
Next day we took the train to Paris, then flight to Pisa and then train home to Lucca.
A great trip, beautiful scenery and way to much wine drinking.
(ps I stole lots of stuff above from Uniworld website. I’m a lazy writer.)
You can see more photos from trip here or from our photo gallery.
Adriatic Cruise – Rome to Venice Italy, Holland America Line – Westerdam.
June 28 – July 10 2017.
Day 0: June 28 – Civitavecchia, Italy
Set sail for Messina Italy.
(Sea miles 0 nautical miles, Total 0 nautical miles)
Day 1: June 29 – Messina, Italy
Cruising Strait of Messina
(Sea miles 296 nautical miles, Total 296 nautical miles)
Day 2: June 30 – Valletta, Malta
(Sea miles 151 nautical miles, Total 447 nautical miles)
Day 3: July 1 – Gozo (Mgarr), Malta
Tendered into port.
(Sea miles 13.7 nautical miles, Total 460.7 nautical miles)
Day 4: July 2 – At Sea
Day 5: July 3 – Kerkira, Greece
(Sea miles 376 nautical miles, Total 836.7 nautical miles)
Day 6: July 4 – Dubrovnik, Croatia
(Sea miles 213 nautical miles, Total 1,049.7 nautical miles)
Day 7: July 5 – Kotor, Montenegro
Tendered into port.
(Sea miles 41 nautical miles, Total 1,090.7 nautical miles)
Day 8: July 6 – Korcula, Croatia
Tendered into port.
(Sea miles 90 nautical miles, Total 1,180.7 nautical miles)
Day 9: July 7 – Split, Croatia
Tendered into port.
(Sea miles 102 nautical miles, Total 1,282.7 nautical miles)
Day 10: July 8 – Koper, Slovenia
(Sea miles 232 nautical miles, Total 1,514.7 nautical miles)
Day 11: July 9 – Venice, Italy
Pictured above is our ship docked next to a sailing ship.
(Sea miles 100 nautical miles, Total 1614.7 nautical miles)
Day 12: July 10 – Venice, Italy
This is one of the tenders that we took from ship to shore in a number of ports as we where to large to dock.
Left the ship in the morning and took the train back to Lucca.
(photos coming soon)
Trans-Atlantic Cruise – Florida USA to Rome Italy, Holland America Line – Westerdam
30 March – 13 April 2017
15 days from Ft. Lauderdale Florida USA to Civitavecchia Italy aboard the Holland America Line Westerdam. She was going into dry dock at the end of this cruise for upgrades. We will be on her again in a few months. Interesting to see the improvements. They where tearing the ship apart as we sailed.
Day 0: March 30 – Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US
( 0 nautical miles)
Day 1: March 31 – At Sea
Day 2: Apr 1 – At Sea
Day 3: Apr 2 – At Sea
Day 4: April 3 – At Sea
Day 5: April 4 – At Sea
Day 6: April 5 – At Sea
Day 7: April 6 – At Sea
Day 8: April 7 – Funchal, Madeira
( 3,286 nautical miles sailed )
Day 9: April 8 – At Sea
Day 10: April 9 – Cadiz, Spain
( 3,862 nautical miles sailed )
Day 11: April 10 – Malaga, Spain
( 4,020 nautical miles sailed )
Day 12: April 11 – Cartagena, Spain
( 4,222 nautical miles sailed )
Day 13: April 12 – At Sea
Day 14: April 13 – Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy
( Total 4,883 nautical miles sailed )
Left the ship in the morning and headed back by train to Lucca.
(Photos coming soon)
Rhine Discovery & Prague River Cruise, River Ambassador – Uniworld River Cruises
3 – 13 November 2016
2 days in Prague, then cruise from Nuremberg Germany to Breisach Switzerland to along the Main and Upper Rhine River aboard the River Ambassador.
3 – 5 Nov – Prague, Czech Republic
After 3 days of tours in Prague we boarded a bus to Nuremburg to catch our ship.
Day 1: 6 Nov – Nuremburg, Germany
Day 2: 7 Nov – Bamburg
Day 3: 8 Nov – Wurzburg
Day 4: 9 Nov – Wurzburg and Karlstadt
Day 5: 10 Nov – Miltenberg
Day 6: 11 Nov – Nierstein and Mannheim
Day 7: 12 Nov – Strasbourg, France
Day 8: 13 Nov – Breisach, Switzerland
(Photos coming soon)
Iberian Peninsula Cruise, Holland America Line – Koningsdam.
18 – 30 September 2016.
13 days from Amsterdam The Netherlands to Rome Italy around the Iberian Peninsula aboard the Koningsdam.
Including a pre-cruise stop in Munich Germany.
16 Sept – Munich, Germany
Day 0: 18 Sept – Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Day 1: 19 Sept – At Sea
Day 2: 20 Sept – Portland, England
Our first stop on cruise was Portland, which is located on the Jurassic Coast. You need to Google it to see some amazing photos. Best seen from the shoreline. Unfortunately we were not able to do it. We took a bus to the Portland Castle, built to protect from those pesky French and Spanish. Then the Portland museum and finally just walked around the shore and had lunch in a quaint pub.
Day 3: 21 Sept – At Sea
Day 4: 22 Sept – A Coruna, Spain
In no particular order we wondered about in a giant circle and visited the San Carlos garden, Torre de Hercules, and the Castle of San Anton. Had coffee and pastry at a small cafe near Torre de Hercules, it was definitely a locals only place. So good coffee and reasonable prices and No English.
Day 5: 23 Sept – Leixoes (Porto), Portugal
Ah, Porto, home of the finest Port in the world. Unfortunately the city was packed so badly all we did was sit in traffic as we drove around in the bus. Finally we got off and walked through the old town, had a unique sandwich and some port (of course) then back on bus to get back to ship before it left. A definite “we must go back” city. Off season!!!
Day 6: 24 Sept – Lisbon, Portugal
Wondered about the city. Took a Hop On Hop Off bus to see the main sites. At some point we just walked around and then back to the ship. Needs more than 6 hours to see so on next Porto visit a stop in Lisbon.
Day 7: 25 Sept – Huelva (Seville), Spain
The ship uses Huelva as a way to see Seville, but we had already seen it on past trip so stayed in Huelva and wondered around. Christopher Columbus set sail from here.
Day 8: 26 Sept – Gibraltar, British Territory
OK, so first impressions of Gibraltar, tourist trap!!!!! The main walk through the old town is nothing but tacky plastic shops. Then to see the Rock either an hour wait to take cable car up or splurge and get a van with driver/tour guide for twice the price. This works better, he tells you about the sites, and drops you off at each area. If you took cable car you would have to walk and its all up or down hill. Anyway saw the limestone caves of St. Michael’s, the Moorish Castle,and of course the Ape’s Den, home of the famous Barbary Apes. i.e. a bunch of monkeys everywhere you looked. A definite “no need to return place.”
Day 9: 27 Sept – Malaga, Spain
Day 10: 28 Sept – Cartagena, Spain
Day 11: 29 Sept – At Sea
Day 12: 30 Sept – Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy
(Photos coming soon)
16 – 24 May, 2016
We visited Copenhagen for the first time and were amazed at the beauty and brightness of the city. It is a very bike and people friendly place.
Lots more coming soon.
Arezzo, Italy – May 13 & 14, 2016.
So the Giro d’Italia went through Tuscany again this year. After some searching we determined the easiest place to see a stage was in Arezzo. About 30 minutes north by train. So we bought our train tickets, about 12 euro round trip for 2, and headed out.
This turned out to be a great place as the Giro went past us twice. Once by then up into the hills then back and past us to finish line.
More to come.
Castles along the Rhine, River Empress – Uniworld River Cruises
30 March – 6 April 2016
(Photos coming soon)
8 days from Basel Switzerland to Amsterdam The Netherlands along the Rhine River aboard the River Empress
Our trip began in Florence. We took the train from Lucca to Florence on Monday 28 March. Explored some of the city that night and then took the train to Milan, were we switched to a Swiss train that took us to Basil Switzerland on Tuesday 29 March, we walked around the city and had a nice dinner.
From near our hotel we took the metro to the port for our first day on board the ship. Then that afternoon set sail for Breisach. Another exciting journey has begun!
Day 2 – 31 March – Breisach Germany (Kayserberg and Riquewihr, France)
Docked at Breisach Germany and then took a bus to the postcard-perfect wine villages of Kaysersberg and Riquewihr in France. That evening we enjoyed a Captain’s Welcome Reception and Gala Dinner.
Day 3 – 1 April – Kehl (Strasbourg) France
The Alsatian town of Strasbourg has a UNESCO-designated city center with a magnificent Gothic cathedral and charming half-timbered houses. We took a canal cruise through the quaint Petite France district in the morning and a walking tour of Strasbourg that afternoon.
Day 4 – 2 April – Germersheim (Speyer) Germany
The medieval town of Speyer has a compact historic center boasting the largest Romanesque cathedral in Europe, as well as the Continent’s oldest mikvah—a Jewish ritual bath. In the morning we took a walking tour of Speyer and in the afternoon a tour of Heidelberg and its castle.
Day 5 – 3 April – Rudeshiem, cruising the romantic Rhine River, then Boppard Germany
We explored Rüdesheim and its famously narrow Drosselgasse before enjoying a wine tasting at a 14th-century castle. Returned to the ship for a cruise along the spectacular, UNESCO-protected Upper Middle Rhine—a 40-mile-long stretch of the river lined with castles. At the end of the day we had a guided stroll around the wine village of Boppard.
Day 6 – 4 April – Cruising the romantic Rhine River, Koblenz Germany
Koblenz is where the Mosel and Rhine rivers converge. The piece of land sticking out into the junction has been photographed countless times and we added to the number.
In the morning we had another few hours of scenic cruising, and then headed ashore for a tour of Koblenz and an aerial tram ride up to Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, which offered dazzling views of the Moselle and Rhine rivers. That afternoon we had a tour of the Marksburg Castle, the only castle that has never been destroyed.
Day 7 – 5 April – Cologne Germany
We had a tour through the narrow Old Town streets of Cologne en route to the city’s imposing Gothic cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inside this centuries-old pilgrimage site is a shrine believed to hold relics of the Magi—the Bible’s fabled Three Kings. In the evening we enjoyed a Captain’s Farewell Reception and Gala Dinner.
Day 8 – 6 April – Amsterdam Netherlands (disembark)
Last breakfast on board and then off to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport for flight home.
We flew to Florence and then a train to Lucca. Another amazing trip, we saw some incredible sights and way to much good food.
All dispatches in Norway Cruise 2015
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