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Showing posts from April, 2019
Our last day in Rome is a day of churches. I lose count of the how many we see total throughout our four days in Rome. There are standouts of course (St. Paul Outside-The-Walls, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva), but in my head a lot of the rest have merged into one, impossibly-full structure. Even Sarah has to make notes on her phone to keep all the names straight. (And she's more than welcome to share them here.) We return to the cat sanctuary, so we can do something nice for the kids who have been beyond patient. For the four days in Rome, they've walked forty kilometers and complained almost not at all. They've been really amazing. We also stop at the Trevi Fountain, where everyone throws coins and ensures their return one day. Back near the hotel, we spot a McDonald's and decide to give the kids a substantial lunch for a change, rather than apples, chips, or pizza with hotdogs in it. McDonald's, at least while we're there, happens to be the most popular restaura
It's Sunday and Sarah has identified a few churches that hold mass in English. The closest is Trinità dei Monti which is the church at the top of the Spanish Steps. As we walk, we see dozens of joggers - it's the only day we see any joggers, so apparently Sunday is Runday in Rome. Every runner we see, regardless of age, runs at a fantastically slow pace, and it makes me feel all smug and superior knowing that I can run upwards of 7 kilometers per hour - until I remember that everyone here is running on cobblestones and probably would prefer to keep their ankles unbroken. We hike the steps only to find out that the mass times advertised online don't line up with the real life mass times. So we hike back down to another church and attend mass in Italian. After this, we have a long walk (is there any other type in Rome?) in the direction of the Colosseum. We pass the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument - the wedding cake building - which was built in honour of the first king of
On cruise ships with Sarah’s dad, we often talk about what would be the worst job to have. Leaving personality preferences out of it, laundry staff often tops our list. So far in Rome, the worst job I’ve come across is the poor bastard who was the take care of the breakfast room at our hotel. I say this because the room is about twelve feet wide, maybe thirty feet long, and seats about twenty people. It’s like serving breakfast inside a toy submarine. Despite the close quarters, the food is very good: pastries, yogurt, cereal, bread with honey or Nutella, prosciutto, and cappuccino. We’re taking the subway to the Vatican today. All nearby stations are closed due to escalator repairs, so the day starts with a bit of a hike, but we eventually get to an open station and we’re at our destination soon enough. The line to get inside looks about half a mile long, but it’s sort of now-or-never. The next day is Palm Sunday (which will be insane), and following that is Monday, which is a
Disembarkation is as easy as can be. The only thing that goes poorly all morning is that Teddy wants to take picture of some of his friends but we only track down one (Kaveh). There’s another kid, Drayson, that Teddy’s hoping to find, but it doesn’t pan out and he’s pretty upset. He does eventually rally. As far as every other aspect of getting off the ship, it goes absurdly well.   At baggage claim, our bags are right there and easy to find, then apparently it’s You Don’t Need To Pass Customs Day in Italy because we just waltz straight from International Waters onto land totally unimpeded. And then even though we’re off the ship 30 minutes earlier than expected, the shuttle we arranged is already waiting for us. Our driver is a middle-aged woman who is lovely but also chatty AF, and poor Nonna volunteers to sit up front with her. By the end of the hour-long drive from Civitavecchia to Rome, Nonna manages to squeeze in about four words. (And these words are si, si, preggo , and si.
While our first day in the Med was completely smooth, things got choppy on the second day. About 7am, the boats started rocking and rolling – and it’s the worst seas we’ve had so far. Susannah complains about a sore throat, and we assume it’s from the cough she’s had for a few days. Veronica is feeling very green, and Sarah’s mom is rough also, but Teddy is surprisingly fine. We decide that everyone would benefit from fresh air, and just before we get out of the cabin, Susannah stumbles into the bathroom and barfs. The sore throat is actually nausea, but once it’s out, she’s right as rain. Everyone gets a little breakfast in them, and the greenest among us have a walk outside, and everyone is basically okay again. We spend a lot of time with Kaveh today, who I haven’t mentioned yet. He’s this very friendly kid travelling with his family, and his parents let him roam freely (as long as he meets them at given times). So he just sort of roams and makes friends and hangs out with wh
We get off the ship soon after receiving the all clear. We’re in Valencia, and our destination is the Oceanographic, which is an aquarium and aquatic preservation area, and we have to get there well before it opens to we can be first in line for tickets (and skip hordes of people in the process). Sarah is wise in her planning. She hands me twenty euros and arms me with the name of our destination in the instance that all five of us can’t fit in the same cab. And she’s right, we have to take two cabs. If not for her, when we got separated I’d just waving a toonie at passersby, crying, “Need help! Find wife!” Out of the cab, Sarah holds our place at the gates while I walk around with the kids. When we come back twenty minutes later, there’s about 200 other people waiting. The gates open, we’re the second family to get tickets, and we’re off to the races. We start at the outdoor ponds where we see sea otters and huge sea turtles. There’s actually a pretty big turtle area, includi
Today, we sail into Alicante, Spain, and because the ship doesn’t actually dock until 11am, it’s the first day that we can really sleep in with gusto. So of course, the kids are all up at 8. I’m woken by Teddy talking a mile-a-minute about some Hot Wheels track that he wants to get when he gets home. He tells me all the features, the pros and cons, what tracks it can be combined with, insanely specific details about the commercials they’re featured in. I listen patiently with half an eye open. Sarah (no one’s definition of a morning person) puts up with about two minutes of it before going, “RAAAAAAGHHHHHHH!” until Teddy takes the hint. We take our time with breakfast and then sign the kids into the kids’ club. Even though we’re docking soon, they’ll be such a crush of humanity trying to get off the ship all at once that we plan to stay until after lunch. Sarah and I go back to our room and watch music videos for, like, a really long time. We discuss whether we should do one of
It’s our earliest rise yet, but not accompanied with a time change, thankfully. We’re in Gibraltar today, and Sarah has set us up with a ship-based excursion called Upper Rock Tour for Families. It’s a bit of a slow start in the ship’s theatre as we wait for them to call our group number, but eventually we’re off the ship and on the tour bus. Our guide is Chris, a Brit who has spent the better of part of forty years in Gibraltar. He is smart, loud, totally engaging, and probably the best tour guide we have ever had. The tour starts straight-off, and as we drive towards the cable car station that will take us to the top of the rock, Chris shares some facts about Gibraltar: the population is around 30,000 and it’s about 2.5 square miles; seaborne trade and online gambling are the top contributors to its GDP; the city’s been witness to something like 16 sieges; the British captured it from the Spanish in 1704; and the Spanish captured it from the Moors three centuries prior to that.
We suffer through the final time change of the trip. It’s Sunday, so we’re due to go to church, and the kids leave claw marks in their mattresses as we haul them out of bed.   By the end of Mass, we’re all pretty fully awake, so we have breakfast, and everyone’s off to do their thing. After two days off, I make my victorious return to the gym. Previously, my favourite type of person at the gym is the really fit old person. My new favourites are fit people working out in ludicrous ways. Today, there’s an older dude with one leg up on a railing, almost in a full splits position, doing bicep curls. I’d mock him if not for the fact that he’s absolute brick shithouse and clearly onto something the fitness community won’t figure out for another few years. It’s the first day in a while where I feel like I have reasonable chunks of time to myself. Do I avail myself of the ship’s services? Do I explore? Make new friends? Live life as it’s meant to be lived? No. I watch Netflix. And I
It’s day two of choppier water – nothing serious, just a constant rocking motion. We all take a bonamine in the night and then another in the morning, and I end up in a brain fog the entire day. They’re supposed to be non-drowsy, but it’s the same thing that happens to me when I take non-drowsy allergy medication. Maybe it’s psychosomatic, but man, I feel like I just woke up from a knockout punch, and the feeling lasts for the entire day. Maybe the rest of my party had a gay old time, but it was a total wash for me. It’s breakfast, nap, lunch, nap, dinner and after-dinner drinks (where I’m thinking about sleep non-stop), then finally sleep, where I am a Viking. The only other noteworthy thing is that I take Veronica climbing and she goes up the wall about twelve times. There’s a very nice couple there who run climbing camps in South Carolina, and they say a number of lovely things about her technique and her determination, and we all cheer her on like mad.
After six days, we reach land! Actually, none of us are all that desperate for land because sea days have been treating us just fine, thanks so much. (But neither are we unhappy to reach land.) We’re in Ponta Delgada, Azores. The last time we were here was nine years ago during another Transatlantic, and the water was so rough that they couldn’t dock the boat. The navigation crew tried their best for about half an hour, but then had to give up and sail on. The poor crew was stuck on the boat for nine days straight. It’s better seas this time and no trouble docking. We have no excursions planned and no real agenda, just a wander around the city and some souvenir shopping. The Azores are an archipelago of volcanic islands that are part of Portugal (though 1,500 kilometers away from Portugal proper.) Ponta Delgada is the main port of the Azores and it’s the largest municipality on Sao Miguel Island. It’s a beautiful city – the buildings and largely black and white brick and the d
First day with no time change, but we’re still a little sluggish. The kids haven’t adjusted to the timing in either the morning or the night. We head off to breakfast and note that barf bags have been made available near all staircases, which is not a great sign. The water was like glass the day before, and while it’s a little bit choppier today, no one comes near to yarfing. After breakfast, it’s another brief kids’ club, this time because we spring them early so we can go see Mary Poppins Returns. The ship has a small theatre that seats maybe eighty people. Even though the movie is playing six times today, we just barely get seats – three between the five of us right in the front row. But it’s fine. The movie is really good. Enough nods to the original without being slavish to it. (One of my favourite parts is a short run of notes from the “Tuppence a Bag” song played at just the right time.) The girls really love it. Teddy and I both get a little nauseated from the rocking of
It’s the fourth day in a row that the clocks have gone back and it’s taking a toll on the kids. Even Teddy – who bounds out of bed most days – tells me to go away when I try to wake him. But I know the kids will holler at us if they’re late for kids’ club. And they are late. And they do holler. During the day, the kids’ club has these short windows of operation: 10am to 12pm, then 3pm to 5pm. I can admit this far into the cruise that those hours kind of suck. Celebrity at least had three-hour chunks of time (along with the many other ways their programming seems to be better). On a day like today, it’s almost not worth dropping them off as they’ll be in there for just about an hour. As a parent, that’s time enough to do exactly one thing. Read for a bit, sit down for a leisurely coffee, have a real quick nap – pick one of those things and watch the clock the entire time (naps are especially unrestful). It’s getting colder as the boat heads further North. Sarah gets the hero award
It’s the first day that the kids reaaaaaaaly sleep in. Sarah’s parents knock on our adjoining door to let us know that it’s 9am and they’re heading off to breakfast. Veronica wakes first but we have to shake the other two awake. (We’d let them keep sleeping but they’d be outraged if they missed a minute of the kids’ club.) We get mobilized, shove in breakfast, and the kids are off to where they want to be. I go to the gym, which I’m totally loving, by the way. I realize that my models of fitness are changing. Once upon a time, I wanted to have Brad Pitt’s physique. But I’m getting into my mid-40s and I’m looking more and more into the future. Now, I see these fit, old people and I think I want to be them one day. That’s right. You: wildly-bearded octogenarian running laps. You: grizzled older broad into you sixtieth minute on the elliptical. I want to be you. Between kids’ club and kids’ club, the savages get caught up on homework and then reluctantly shower. I catch up on blo
The night before, Sarah`s mom suggested that the other three adults could have breakfast in the main dining room. We say, okay! Unfortunately, the room service breakfast we arrange for her and the kids arrives way early, so morning comes a little quicker to their room than ours. Sarah`s mom manages our savages while the rest of us head off. Breakfast in the dining room is a nice change, because there is no greater meal fatigue than breakfast buffet fatigue. We end up talking about statistics for an hour (and for neither the first nor the last time during this trip, I think: who have I become? ) Back at the room, there’s an announcement over the PA – something about a redirection in course, but none of us really catch it. We’re all wondering what the hell is going on, but Sarah’s mom figures out that it’s an April Fools bit. It’s sort of a groaner, but then she hands us a mock version of the daily activities pamphlet that accompanies the jokes, and it’s legitimately very funny. Th