Arrivederci, Italia and Goodbye, Royal Princess – (The Last) Day Twelve in Venice

Day eleven was our second At Sea day.  It was cooler along the Adriatic than I would have liked.  I wished to sit up on the Deck 16, sunning myself and reading a book, but the wind and clouds forced me to move on to Plan B.  So I worked out and then took a much-needed nap.

Day Eleven At Sea

Day Eleven At Sea

Our final stop on this cruise is Venice, Italy.  We started navigation down the lagoon around mid-morning, and we docked close to noon.  The views coming into Venice were absolutely spectacular, made even more amazing because we watched them from my great-aunt and uncle’s balcony on the bow of the Royal Princess as we celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary with champagne and hors d’oeuvres.

It was just the six of us touring Venice together on this final day (Mom, Dad, Sisters B and C, Kid A, and me).  The rest of our group went over on their own.  We took a short bus ride, followed by a water taxi to shore.  We wandered around the streets of Venice for quite some time.  We definitely got lost for a while, but apparently you are supposed to do that.  I liked Venice best when we were alone on the meandering, narrow streets, passing small cafes and shops and houses.  We even walked past an artist quietly painting inside his studio with the doors open so he could enjoy the beautiful day.

We loosely followed our map of the city and ended up getting gelato near a church (Fun Fact: there are more than 140 churches throughout Venice and the lagoon islands).  We also took a famed gondola ride.  By that time we had gotten lost in the crowds once again, especially when we reached the restaurants, shopping, and Piazza San Marco.

I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I loved the city of Venice.  The architecture was spectacular.  The views were breathtaking.  I don’t know how else to say it except that Venice left me with a really good feeling inside.  Being surrounded by the water was peaceful and calming and romantic.  It made me want to come back to visit.  And it made me miss Sheepdog so very much.

And what perfect timing, because early tomorrow morning we disembark the Royal Princess for good and take a ten-hour flight back to Philadelphia International Airport.  Following a three-hour layover, we will fly to Atlanta, where Sheepdog will be waiting to pick us up.  We gain six hours traveling westward, which will make it a 30-hour day, but that means we get to go to bed at a reasonable hour once we’re back on Eastern Standard Time.

So, now it is time to say farewell to all of the incredible places we have visited over the past two weeks.  It has been an amazing trip, filled with memories and laughter, long lines and swollen ankles, and more than a few bottles of wine and vodka.  Most importantly, we got to experience it together as a family.  Well, minus the too-pregnant-to-travel Sister D.  The trip just wasn’t the same without her.

Now when do we start planning our 2014 African Safari?

Arrivederci, Italia and Goodbye, Royal Princess

Arrivederci, Italia and Goodbye, Royal Princess

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Getting So Much of the Not Having of the Sleep – Day One in Barcelona, Spain

“I feel like I am going to DIE,” I whispered from 17F across the plane seats as we jetted toward Spain.  It was midnight to my body, Eastern Standard Time, and I had been upright for 18-plus hours.  Kid A, my sisters, and I had flown into Atlantic City from Atlanta the day prior, then traveled on Monday in a monsoon by bus-limo to the Philadelphia Airport to take a flight to Barcelona, which would land 8AM on Tuesday.  I hadn’t gotten a wink of sleep.

"There's a colonial woman on the wing!  She is dressed in traditional colonial garb." - Annie, Bridesmaids (2011)

“There’s a colonial woman on the wing!” – Annie (after she mixed alcohol with Xanax during a flight to Vegas), Bridesmaids (2011)
P.S. I really took this photograph on our flight from Atlanta to Atlantic City.  Isn’t it so cool?

“It’s like when you have a newborn!” exclaimed Sister B, who was against the window in 17A.

From 17 D, Sister C agreed.  “Yeah, I would trade just about anything for some sleep right now.”

Kid A had been sleeping in 17C for three hours.  Teenagers can sleep anywhere.

We were so jealous.

“I would trade my first-born for a reclining pod in First Class,” I admitted.  “And conveniently, she is on this plane with me.”

There was no one in 17E, but we still couldn’t get comfortable enough to rest.  And there were miles to go before we would sleep.

We arrived in Spain to beautiful weather… it was bright sunshine and 80-plus degrees outside.  After waiting and gathering our luggage, and a quick power nap for me on a cold, marble pillar nearby, we boarded a short shuttle to our port of departure.

Conveniently, we were able to go to our rooms on the ship earlier than expected.  Our luggage hadn’t arrived yet, but we quickly got the lay of the land and saw the room we would call home for the next twelve days at sea.  “Tiny” was a generous description, especially with three of us sharing a berth, but no matter.  This was going to be an adventure!

The Royal Princess was scheduled to push off later in the day.  We weren’t due to be on board until 5:30PM, so several of us decided to tour Barcelona for the day.  We took a bus into the marina district and we walked from there.

For those of you still keeping track, none of us had slept since a couple of nights prior.  And we were getting a little punch-drunkety.

We made our way through the narrow, crowded streets as we held our purses close to our bodies.  We walked around with cameras pointed at the architecture and other unique sights in an attempt to capture the feel of the city in just a few short hours.  All I could see was graffiti, discarded McDonald’s wrappers, some fairly unsafe construction, and a lot of other tourists.

It is weird what sleep deprivation can do to you.  I was exhausted on a cellular level.  Yet, I still thought it was beautiful.  And I was in Spain.  Amazing!

After much walking and a little window shopping, we finally found the Museu Picasso.  I remember seeing paintings and vases and pitchers and sculptures, but I only saw them with my eyes, not with my heart or soul.  I didn’t feel any connection to the artist at all.  Utter and extreme weariness trumped everything at that point.  My dad sat on a bench by the gift shop.  He sighed and said he  thought he was missing the art gene.

untitled-1937-11

“Picasso used to say to me, ‘The smell of opium is the least stupid smell in the world'” – Jean Cocteau

Really and truly, how high was Picasso when he painted that?

Eventually, it was All Aboard.  We also desperately needed showers.  So we checked in and we scrubbed and rinsed the travel off of our bodies just in time to follow the crowds to our assigned Muster Stations for a quick safety drill.

We were barely still standing upright as we carried our bulky, orange accessories down to a dining room, with the rest of the people with whom we could potentially share a life boat or a deserted island for the rest of our days.

A message was delivered via loudspeaker from the ship’s captain.  He sounded exactly like the school principal from the television show Glee.  Every night for the rest of our cruise, when the captain would address the ship from the bridge, I would make the same comparison and think what a wicked shame it is that that talented Cory Monteith boy died earlier this summer.  Oh, Finn… such a waste!

During the rest of our practice at Muster Station F, we sat at a table with a mother and her daughter.  The teenage daughter was not yet unplugged and she was fiddling on her phone.  The mother was lost in her own thoughts, but likely hearing Sister C, Kid A, and I as we mumbled how completely and utterly tired we were.

I had become completely nonsensical at that point.  I said something to Sister C and Kid A about “getting so much of the not having of the sleep,” and they burst out laughing.  They knew exactly what I meant because they felt it too.  We were totally sober, yet completely intoxicated by our sleep deprivation.

Hey!  Maybe I did get something out of the Picasso Museum.  Do I smell opium in here?

Wish me luck for tomorrow…