We are back from Europe, suffering from jet lag and not enough sleep. Here are some impressions I'm left with as a result of our trip.
Let's start with really trivial things. At the end of the cruise we flew from Athens to Paris. In Paris we were driven to the Trianon Palace, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Versailles outside of Paris. There were black limos and people who looked like security around the outside of the hotel. Inside, a man was complaining that he had been stopped while taking photos on the hotel grounds and wanted to know why. We didn't pay a lot of attention until later when we read that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West had toured the Chateau De Versailles on Friday ahead of their Florence wedding in Italy and it appears they had stopped at our hotel. Not impressed? Neither were we.
There is one suite on the 6th floor of the hotel which we were fortunate to have reserved. It had an outside roof balcony with a surrounding view. A very comfortable hotel. We decided to eat at the hotel Gordon Ramsey resturant, which is their top one. We elected to eat the fixed menu several course dinner. Seven small tasting courses. Very interesting combinations served in unique ways. My own view was that only some of the courses were excellent and the whole thing was both over priced and underwhelming.
The spontaneous kindness of people is always impressive. In Greece on the island of Mykonos I was leaning against a wall in a small plaza area waiting for Lita who was in a shop. After a while a man near me walked across the plaza to a small shop and came back with a chair which he sat down and invited me to sit in. He spoke passable English and we talked about waiting for wive shopping. Later, on a small island in Greece, we were talking to a woman who was painting the stairs to white washed apartments about a taxi. She called on her cell phone for one and after we had waited for a while she went inside and came back with two chairs for us to use while waiting.
This was an international cruise. There were many more people from Australia, New Zelland, Norway, Germany, and the Balkans than from the United States. Lots of different languages being spoken throughout the ship.
From Barcelona we sailed to Palamos Spain and then St. Tropez. From there to Corsica. While St. Tropez and Corsica had very interesting things to see, I was most impressed with the 200 foot high clock tower in Messina Sicily. At noon the church bells are struck by two ten foot bronze statues. The lion then lets out three loud roars while waving a flag and wagging his tail. The rooster flaps his wings, raises his head and crows loudly three times. Ave Maria begins to play and figures move from inside the clock to around and back inside again. It is all very impressive.
In Sorrento we had a driver take us from the ship to the five star Hotel Il San Pietro just outside of Positano Italy. We renewed our wedding vows in the small chapel at this hotel many years ago and have stayed there several times in addition. With only 62 rooms, all with private terraces with stunning sea views, this hotel is unique on the Amalfi drive. The same man, Mitchelli, has been at the drive in level for years. He remembered us and took our photos in front of the chapel.
Of course, just driving on the Amalfi drive is an adventure. This narrow road, right on the edge of a high drop off straight down to the sea far below, is narrow and has cars randomly parked along the road making it even more narrow than it is. Worse, there are many tour buses, cars and scooters requiring space with hairpin turns along cliffs high above the sea. Every hair pin corner, and there are many, seems to have a tour bus too wide to proceed with someone backing up. Buses honk their horns to warn they are about to come around a corner. The narrow road passes through small towns with a sidewalk against the road and cars passing within a few feet of the walls of the buildings. One also has stunning views of the ocean below, small villages, lemon trees, olive trees and a variety of beauty to see.
We went on to Ravena where we have stayed in the past. There was a band playing (not sure why) and lots of people. We went on to Amalfi where we looked around and took photos. The driver then took us back to Positano and on up into the hills above the town on a narrow road to a resturant high over the sea and above the town. There was an image of the famous Italian saint, St. Padre Pio above steps to the eating area. No menu. Platters of wonderful food brought to the table. Truly excellent Italian food. From there back to the ship.
By the time we got off the ship in Athens we had traveled 1600 nautical miles with only one night of rough seas. Since the onboard shows started at 9:45 pm I confess we failed to attend even one of them. Great service on the Seabourn as always. The worst part of the trip is my difficulty in dealing with jet lap as I get older. I feel blessed we were able to make the trip, but I am very glad to be home in little Gig Harbor.