We experienced Barcelona after the cruise when we returned from Venice. The smart people arrived a few days before the cruise which helped with jetlag. However, Barcelona is a richly cultural, artfilled city dominated by the most unique architecture in the world. Antonio Gaudi's influence is everywhere as is Picasso. The absolutely best introduction to this complex city is to take the Bus Turistic with it's 3 colored routes. You can buy tickets at your hotel at a discount. Each route takes about 2 - 2 1/2 hours and they give you earbuds to follow the narration at each stop. I think the narration was in 7 languages. At anytime, you can hop on/off the bus. We saw the first two longest routes but I got separated from my group for the last leg. Actually, it was okay since I was getting bored & needed some serious retail therapy. The Barcelonians are very friendly people who are fiercely proud of their city. We had no run-ins with pickpockets, but just in case, I kept my money in my front pocket and my pocket safety pinned shut.
This was fun as we toured the factory and saw how they made perfumes, soaps and oils. Upstairs was their store where I bought a large cake of olive oil soap. I am using it now and it's very rich and leaves my skin nice and smooth.
Menton Village Rating:
Menton is a small,vacation village by the sea. The bus dropped us off to do some shopping, but we did very little. We found a store going out of business and my husband bought a Monaco tee for a fraction of the price. Lots of little shops & stores selling junk.
Nice & Eze Rating:
I didn't realize that the ship was docked in Monaco for such a short period of time. It arrived at 11:00 & our excursion started at 1:00 pm. We drove up & down the Cote D'Azure and took in the lovely vistas. Unfortunately our tourguide (LoLo) did NOT have a good command of English. She was hard to understand. The tour left us no time to explore Monte Carlo which was a real shame. Nice was beautiful, more beautiful cityscape than Monte Carlo.
A short bus ride took us back into time to the medieval town of Lucca. Still surrounded by its original protective wall, Lucca is filled with narrow streets, old churches and it is the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini. We had already been to Florence several times, so we thought this would be a nice change and it was. The tone of the tour was slow, easy walking along level streets. At the end, we were allotted 45 mins. of free time.
We felt we would rather take the nearby train into Rome and explore on our own which is what we did. It was very easy and we took a taxi to the four things we wanted to see. By 4 o'clock, we were back on the train returning to the ship. By the way, should you decide to do same, buy first class tickets whenever possible. They're a little more but you get a lot more comfortable seats.
Despite the many times we have visited Italy, we have never been to Capri, so we made it a point to see it this time. We took a ferry to Capri and a public bus up to Anacapri. The winding road up with it's hairpin turns was scary. No wonder they call it The Mama Mia Road. Anacapri was teaming with tourists. We took the chairlift up to Mt. Solero which is a MUST. Unbelievable views of the Bay of Naples, i Folgana and Anacapri! We did not like Villa San Michele. It was underwhelming, but we found Chiesa San Michele with its beautiful tile floor. For 2 euro,it's the best bargain in Anacapri. Off in a separate room were small figurines of people doing everyday chores. The detail was fantastic as they depicted a butcher, fish monger, laundresses and just everyday people. Back in the main plaza, many retailers sell lemon scented everything, tee's and the usual tourist stuff. Took bus back down MaMa Mia and went back to ship. I would've liked Anacapri more if it hadn't been so crowded but there were many people packed into small spaces.
Unfortunately we never made it to Mykonos because the winds were just too strong that day. About 10:00 am the captain made the announcement. We had booked a trip to the beach and Ruby credited everyone back their money. I wasn't too upset since I was tired and could've use a restful day at sea.
The Blue Mosque was unbelievable. Ladies must have shoulders & knees covered & they're not kidding! We were surrounded by blue tiles of swirls,flowers,tulips tinted by sun through the stained glass. It will probably be the only time you see something as unique as this.
Grand Bazaar Rating:
Surprisingly I loved Istanbul. I was not expecting to see this modern, bustling city. Our guide, Sertan, was very informative. We saw a demonstration of how Turkish rugs are handmade.The weaving is done by hand and passed on through generations. Final stop was the Grand Bazaar which has been very modernized. Glass storefronts down endless corridors sold jewelry, leather,clothing,hooka pipes and boxed candy called Turkish Delight. Sheer size of bazaar was intimidating to say the least.Lots of sellers in the streets trying to get you to buy anything and everything.
Hagia Sofia Rating:
Onto Hagia Sophia monastery which was also nice, but not as nice as Blue Mosque.
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE DO NOT TAKE EPHESUS IF YOU HAVE ANY DIFFICULTY WALKING. We were misled by description that said it's a gentle downsloping walk. Well, it's not. Large uneven stones filled with potholes make walking downright dangerous and if it's raining, stay on the bus! Passengers who were not in shape returned to bus huffing & puffing! Actually, Ephesus had better ruins than Pompeii, but if you've seen Pompeii, be happy and skip Ephesus. Even our tourguide admitted that she has seen some pretty bad falls.
Basilica of St. John Rating:
A grouping of ruins that had no rhyme or reason. To me, it was a waste of time.
House of the Virgin Mary Rating:
As Catholics, this place had a certain reverence for us. Her final living place was small and simple. Takes less than 2 minutes to walk through. Outside people leave written prayers and requests in a nearby wall.