I love this and think every parent should read it, again and again and again.
Thank You Tracey Lau!!!
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I love this and think every parent should read it, again and again and again.
Thank You Tracey Lau!!!
For my bachelorette party we did pole dancing and it was the greatest workout I have ever done. So great that the next day my sister and I couldn’t move. Not from the drinking, but from the pole dancing.
So about a month or two ago I went looking for a place I could do pole dancing. (I get bored in my exercise routines pretty easily and am always looking for something new.) I ended up finding a place 10 minutes away from my condo – DivaFit. As I started to explore their website I discovered that along with pole dancing they offered a silk aerial arts class. Think Cirque du Soleil……
So last night I went for it…..
So we started the class with warm ups – My arms were in pain before I ever touched a silk. We did these abs exercises that were unheard of. I asked the instructor if she had great abs and she said oh yeah, an 8-pack. And I believe it. After warming up I learned how to climb up the silk. In fact I learned two different methods for climbing the silk. I could get about a third of the way up the silk. My right foot was burning from continuously wrapping the silk around it. Now it burns, is bruised and a chunk of skin is missing.
In the picture above I am leaning against what they call a hammock. Basically it is a knot in the silks. From this position I would have to pull my legs up, relying solely on my upper body and flip myself over with my legs spread eagle. This took multiple attempts!!!!
Ta-Da!!!! (On a side-note they asked me if I wanted to take pictures at the end when I thought I was going to die. I wasn’t going to do it and then someone said you are going to want these for your Facebook page. I’m glad they encouraged me to do it.) From this position you could do all kinds of stuff. Here are a few examples, please keep in mind this was an intro course.
I hope you were all impressed – because I am!!! The coolest thing that I did, which unfortunately there is not a photo of, is the diaper roll. A hammock was created much higher up than the one you see in the pics above. I then jumped face first into the hammock. (Imagine a lion jumping through a hoop at the circus.) I then had to flip myself over onto my back and do the spread eagle pose. From this position I had to wrap my legs around the silks and pull my upper body up. Basically the silks are wrapped around my upper thighs (it looks like a diaper) and I’m holding on to the silks with my hands. The instructor then says put your arms out to the side and lean forward and you will flip. She then explained that my arms were going to catch me so if I pulled my arms in I was going to fall. I was scared!!!!! But I went for it and it was one of the best rushes ever – it was like the best roller coaster you have ever been on.
So as I type this I cannot lift my arms higher than my shoulders. It hurt to lift the fork at dinner and even more to brush my teeth this morning. At my mother’s suggestion I sent my husband to get BenGay and he wanted me to sleep on the couch last night because I reek of the scent of wintergreen. My right ankle is killing me. And my abs hurt when I sit or laugh.
So was it worth, absolutely. Will I be auditioning for Cirque du Soleil, hell no. I always say I’ll try anything once – and I did!
This is what I want my hair to look like!
Image from People.Com
I don’t think I’m asking for to much, do you?
Honestly, Turkey was never on my list of places to see – but when the opportunity arises, what are you going to do, stay on the boat?
We went on a private half day tour with Hello Ephesus on a tour of Ephesus and Artemis Temple. Hello Ephesus had come highly recommended from Cruise Critic. The tour was really nice and we had a good time. Unfortunately the people on Cruise Critic and Hello Ephesus left out details of the additional stops we would be making, which made for an interesting ending.
Ephesus, although in Turkey, was an ancient Greek city. In the 1st Century BC it was the second largest city behind Rome. Rome survived, Ephesus did not. Ephesus is now an entire city of ruins. What Ephesus does have over Rome is that you can climb all over these ruins, which is pretty cool to walk roads over 2000 years old.
When I say a private tour, I mean very private! It was just Kenny and I, the tour guide and the driver. We felt like superstars or at least I did. The tour guide met us at the Kusadasi Port and then it was about a 25 minute drive to Ephesus. On the way she told us about Turkey – the geography, the people, religion and so on. It was very interesting, especially since I knew nothing about Turkey.
Once we arrived in Ephesus it was very nice to have someone purchase our tickets for entry to the ruins and to give us tidbits along the way. And now I will share a few with you.
The other perk of the tour guide was having someone someone, who wouldn’t run off with your camera, to take pictures of Kenny and I.
The neat thing about Ephesus is that despite not making it to the 21st century Ephesus did make it through a few classic periods. Some of the columns are Doric, others are Ionic and then others are Corinthian. Have you seen a sky so blue?
This was the main road through Ephesus. At the top of this road (basically where I am standing) there were two pillars very close together. These two pillars were what prevented carts or animals from coming on to the road, only people. The road was lined with busts of important and prominent people. At the bottom of the road you can see the Library of Celsus. (Look at all the tourists!)
On the way out of Ephesus you walked through a shopping area. Man after man came up to us trying to sell us a book about Ephesus or Turkish Dates. You could even have your picture taken with a camel. They were relentless!
The Temple of Artemis. Or what’s left of it. We had to drive from Ephesus to the Temple and to be frank, it was not worth it. Before the trip I was trying to decide between the Temple of Artemis or Virgin Mary Church and I followed people’s advice. It was a waste of time in my book.
OK, so there are no pictures for this part of the trip, but this part of the trip provides the best stories. After The Temple of Artemis the tour guide asked us what time we had to return to the boat, which made me suspicious. And then she said that she was going to take us by a leather factory and a carpet factory to show us Turkish industries. (These are the additional stops I did not know about) I could see where this was going and I could also see the look Kenny was giving me even though I was trying to avoid his line of sight. He eventually mouthed, “did you know about this?” To which I mouthed, “no”. I did a mental rundown of who knew where we were and what tour we had gone on and what paperwork we had left in our stateroom that would lead someone to us in the event we didn’t make it back.
The first stop was the leather factory. I felt a little more comforted when I saw a bus, then I realized it was leaving and I felt like I was going to throw up. They directed Kenny and I into this huge room with a runway and all these chairs for a “private fashion show”. You know the last episode of Project Runway when they are at New York Fashion Week? Imagine that setup but half the seats and only two people watching. So then the rave music starts and guys and girls started coming down the runway with leather jackets with numbers on them. So I thought ok, it will end soon. Then one of the male models comes out and grabs my hand (I should mention I had a “snot rag” in my hand because I had a sinus infection) and takes me into the back. I’m thinking, if these people don’t kill me, Kenny is going to. They put a leather jacket on me and Mr. Male Model and I walk down the runway and he spins me and then I have to do it by myself. Normally I would enjoy being the center of attention, I would have worked the runway! At this moment I’m trying to figure out how much money I can spend on a leather jacket to get us out of this situation without Kenny killing me in the end.
So the fashion show was over and we head into the showroom. This is when the guy says “no pressure” and he honestly meant it. We later discovered that this and the carpet place were recommended by the cruise ship. Kenny of course found a jacket he liked, it was $2,000. That’s when I thought I was going to kill Kenny. Luckily another bus full of succors showed up and Kenny and I left and we felt relieved.
Oh wait, we still had to go to the carpet factory. We were a little calmer now after making it out of the leather factory. And to be honest we had talked about buying a rug.
The carpet factory turned out to be really cool. We saw the silk worms in a big barrell of water. We watched how they used a tiny broom to get the silk off and then how it was spun and dyed. We were able to watch some of the women at work making rugs. In Turkey 3000 women make the rugs, it is purely a woman’s profession. It is unbelievable how they can determine the design from a little cheat sheet. (I wish I had taken a picture)
Kenny and I were then taken inside and shown the award winning pieces. And then the sale began and it was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. We were in this huge room sitting on benches covered in rugs and these guys would come in and throw various sized and kinds of rugs at us. The owner would explain this is silk on silk, this is silk on cotton and so on. They carpets would be rolled up and they would just throw them at you and the rug would perfectly land at your feet.
The first one I saw that I liked I asked for the price and I believe he said $8,000. So then I asked about another smaller, non-silk one and I believe he said $400. I knew this was more than Kenny wanted to pay and I won’t bore you with the details but we got him down to a price that was manageable to us.
Once we said “we’ll take it” I’ve never seen people move so fast. One guy wrapped it up and put it in a carry on bag. A lady came out of no where to run the credit card. Another lady came out to provide us with the documentation. And the owner was giving us little evil eye pins. It was crazy!!!!
So what do you think? We chose this one because the colors are natural, no dyes. The different designs have different meanings that are symbolic to the Turkish culture. It’s a great souvenir that we will have for forever!
And then it was back to the port because Kenny was not going to open his wallet again. When we arrived back we noticed that another Royal Carribean ship had joined us at the dock.
(Sorry for the delay, these take a while to type and upload.)
This cake from And Everything Sweet makes me think of my brother Austin.
Oh how he was obsessed with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (I’m singing the song in my head as I type it). The cartoons, the action figures, the real life movie – my mother still has a TMNT bowl that my brother ate cereal out of every morning.
This cake was for a one year old, so I guess the turtles are in again. Maybe my mom can hook my brother up this year. Surprisingly, I don’t ever recall a TMNT birthday cake.
On the cruise we had a total of four days at sea. So what did we do on a day at sea?
We passed by active volcanoes.
Of course on sea days – we sat by the pool, or when we got up to late to get a seat deck 12. And when you sit by the pool, you must have a drink!
We also did one of my favorite things – Climbed the Rock Wall!
One night the cruise had a “White Night” where everyone was supposed to wear white and they had a “White Party” by the pool. And of course they had a yummy buffet!
Along with the “White Night” they had a “Disco Party” in the Centrum one night. Unfortunately my pictures didn’t really come out. There was singing and dancing and a performance by the Village People, also known as the activities staff, cruise director, photographer and guest relations.
Our first and third days at sea were also the formal nights. We had a total of 3 formal nights but Kenny and I only went to two. Here we are at the first one.
And here we are at the third one (we skipped the second one).
Oh and in case you were wondering which was the lobster night, they don’t do the lobster anymore, they do jumbo shrimp. Kenny was very disappointed.
As you may or may not be able to tell we are at a table for 6 and we are sitting alone. Don’t be sad! We originally had a British honeymooning couple at our table. On the third or fourth night we noticed they were missing and we thought they had just eaten dinner somewhere else. Then on the formal night they weren’t there, but I knew I had seen them getting photos. We soon found out that they had made friends and had moved to another table. Which was a-okay with us because he was very annoying and we liked having all the attention at the table. The food was not as good as we expected. Although I was a very big fan of the cold fruit soups. (For some reason I crave cold fruit soup at home a lot. And the cruise was the first time I had actually had it.) Strawberry with mint was my first, Kenny swears it was just strawberry daiquiri mix.
Remember the champagne and cupcakes? In addition to those we also received canapes on the first formal night and petit fours and chocolate covered strawberries. A treat to us from us!
Our last treat to us from us (Royal Caribbean Romance Package) was breakfast in bed.
Every night there was a different show – and surprisingly they were really good. There was a magic act, singers, dancers, a Motown group, the Rat Pack and so on. We treated ourselves to “bar service” every night. On the last night the waiter looked at Kenny and said “jim beam and coke, right?” That’s when I realized it was probably a good thing we were going home the next day. These are pics from the last night.
Day 4 on the Brilliance of the Seas Mediterranean Cruise – Rome. Once again we did not dock in Rome, our port of call was Civitavecchia. And once again Royal Caribbean offered an excursion where you could be bused to and from Rome. And once again we decided to go the cheap route and take the train.
The ship lets you off at the port and then you take a bus to the edge of the port/town. From there you turn right and walk down the main road until you get to the train station. Our train tickets were 18 euro – over $150 in savings. I think the train is definitely the better move.
We walked from the train station to the Colosseum. It was about a 30 minute walk. Around the Colosseum is so much history and ruins, so we spent some time exploring while avoiding the gladiators.
From the Colosseum we walked towards the “Spanish Steps”. I put it in quotations because later in the day we learned they really weren’t the Spanish Steps. Whatever it was, it was beautiful and we got some great photos. Oh and we got in trouble for sitting on the steps – security started blowing a whistle at us – troublemakers!
Kenny was the planner for our day in Rome and he really wanted to go to Villa Borghese. It was one of the few places I hadn’t been to before in Rome, so I was up for the ride, the really long, feet hurting ride.
Along the way we detoured to the Trevi Fountain. It was unbelievable how many people were there – craziness!
Lunch in Rome was very momentous. That is where Kenny had “THE BEST PIZZA EVER” (can you hear the trumpets, cause we can). It was a Quattro Formaggio pizza, which is basically a cheese pizza. And it was the best pizza ever.
At most of our meals wine and beer were cheaper than a soft drink, so of course we did a little mid-day drinking. We generally got a bottle of water, still no gas, as well. We loved sitting outside for lunch and people watching.
After lunch it was time to continue on to Villa Borghese. Please keep in mind that we had been walking non-stop for 3 days straight, my legs were in total agony, I did not think I had it in me. But I knew Kenny wanted to see it so I pressed on. After climbing the mountain or hill, depending on your point of view, up to Villa Borghese we were welcomed with this amazing view of Rome and St. Peter’s Basilica.
Villa Borghese reminded us a lot of Central Park. You could rent bikes or carriages or you could enjoy the walk, which we did.
I then reached my breaking point and insisted on a train ride home. Kenny got us to the closest Metro Station and for a euro each we took the metro to the Train Station. Then we had to climb 10 sets of stairs with the crowd to get from the metro up to the train. And when we finally made it back to Civitavecchia, I was rewarded with gelato.
Later that night on the ship we enjoyed an AMAZING sunset.
Tomorrow – At Sea
Day 3 on the Brilliance of the Seas Mediterranean Cruise – Port of Call – Florence. Ok, so the port of call was Livorno and from there you could explore Pisa or Florence. Obviously we chose Florence.
Florence is about an hour and a half trip from Livorno. Royal Caribbean offered an excursion where they would bus you to and from Florence, it was about $200 for two people. We decided to go for the cheaper version, the train.
We got up nice and early and were one of the first people off the boat. We walked pass all the expensive buses towards the taxis. We ended up sharing a taxi to the train station with a group of 5 people and it ended up costing us 5 euro a piece. The train tickets cost us 26,80 euro for two, round trip – much cheaper than the excursion!!!!! (Italian Trains and Ports)
The train ride was about an hour and forty-five minutes. When we arrived in Florence we checked out the schedule to get an idea of how often trains went back to Livorno, which turned out to be every 30 minutes.
Our first stop was the Duomo. We got there so early it hadn’t opened yet, so we weren’t able to go inside. We stopped back by on our way back to the train station in the afternoon and were able to go inside. Tip: Ladies have to have their shoulders covered or they make you wear paper dresses.
I once again relied very heavily on the City Maps 2Go iPhone app to get us around Florence. From the Duomo we headed to Piazza della Signoria. Where we saw a few very famous statutes.
I know it is demented but I absolutely adore this statute. The detail and emotion that is conveyed is unbelievable. The grotesque display of guts hanging from Medusa’s neck and from her body just sucks you in. I am in awe of the craftsmanship and beauty of something so deplorable.
We found a little cafe off the Piazza della Signoria for a morning snack. Kenny was very impressed with how quickly Italians would come in for an espresso, stand at the bar, drink it, and move on with their day in about 5 minutes. Kenny wasn’t ready to completely conform yet so we grabbed a table for a coffee and a hot chocolate (my favorite) and this yummy little donut.
After the gnash we headed towards the Ponte Vecchio – which is the famous bridge you often see in pictures of Florence with all the buildings on the bridge, that look like they are barely hanging on.
Kenny wanted to explore the bridge and I was very surprised because I knew all the buildings were jewelry stores, and I thought he knew that too. I was starting to think he wanted to get me something sparkly. I should have known better, because half way across, he asked if all the shops were jewelry stores. Clearly he had missed the memo. If you get the chance though, it’s pretty impressive window shopping.
After the Ponte Vecchio we headed to the Ufizzi. I had purchased tickets online, which basically allows you to reserve a time and then you pick up your real tickets the morning of. I would definitely recommend purchasing tickets to the Ufizzi online because at 11 the line was already pretty long.
The Uffizi is made up of primarily religious art. My favorite paintings were Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Primavera.
My favorite thing about Italy – GELATO!!!!!! I had read in one of the travel books that the best gelato was at Gelateria Vivoli. So of course we had to go. I consider myself a gelato connoisseur and the way that I determine the quality of the gelato is by having strawberry flavored or in Italian- fragola. The Gelateria Vivoli had the best fragola gelato I have ever had. It was unbelievable!!!!!!
Part of the gelato thrill is seeing the amazing displays.
Throughout the trip there was this ongoing issue with converting money. A couple days before we left we realized that our credit card company was going to charge us a conversion fee, about a dollar, for every transaction. So we decided we would convert more cash and just pay with cash. Well when I went to Bank of America, they informed me that you have to come in early and request the foreign currency and then they will have it in the bank 3 days later. We didn’t have 3 days. So we figured we’d convert at the airport with Travelex – what a ripoff?!?!?! We converted and then did the math and got our money back. They ended up being 10% lower than everywhere else. On the cruise ship the exchange rate was about 70 cent for a euro.
While in Florence Kenny saw this hole in the wall (literally) that offered a really good exchange rate, so he went for it.
You can see why I would be concerned about the authenticity of the euro’s we were given. We spent them and no one questioned us so I guess it worked out. We also used a hole in the wall exchange place (Cambio) in Naples that gave a really good rate. So the moral is go to your bank early, the ghetto fabulous places have good rates, if all else fails the cruise rate isn’t that bad, the airport exchange is robbery!
Here is my moment of honesty, I had a second gelato before the train station. And this one Kenny declared the best gelato.
The flavor was Kinder Chocolate. I’m guessing most of you are like, what? Kinder is a brand of chocolate in Europe and one of their specialties are Kinder Eggs. They are chocolate eggs that have a little prize on the inside. Yes the prize is fun, but the chocolate is so unbelievably good. Kinder Eggs are very difficult to find in the states (choking hazard) although I have been able to a time or two. We brought Kinder Eggs home to Kenny’s niece and nephew and for my brother. My brother is a very big fan.
And that is pretty much our day in Florence. Tomorrow – Rome
Day 2 of the Brilliance of the Seas Mediterranean Cruise. Our first port of call was Villefranche, France.
We quickly learned that on a Mediterranean cruise your port of calls were “gateways” to other, more popular cities. From Villefranche you could travel to Nice or Monaco or Eze or Monte Carlo or a combination of those cities. I had the luxury of previously traveling to all of those cities before and knew that I wanted to share Nice with Kenny.
At Villefranche we had to tender to the port. Which means we didn’t directly dock at the port, we took a smaller boat from our ship to the dock. It was on a first come first serve basis. The ship arrived early which meant that the tendering process started earlier, which through a loop in our plan to be on the first boat out. We were probably on the 10th or 11th tender, which got us to land around 11:30 am.
From Villefranche we took a train to Nice. We used instructions on how to get to the train station from Tom Ogg. The easy directions on how to get from the Villefranche port to the train station: when you come out of the port building make a right and walk down the street. You will pass the buildings in the picture above on your left hand side. You will see a sign for the “Gare” which is the train station. You will climb a set of stairs on your left hand side (they may be hidden by the tree). About halfway up you will see a tunnel, go into the tunnel and into the building to purchase your tickets. A round trip ticket from Villefranche to Nice was 3,40 Euro. Be sure to validate your ticket in the yellow box before boarding the train. If you are going to Nice, go back through the tunnel and make a right to make the rest of the way up the stairs.
Once we got to Nice we walked from the train station towards the water. It was about a 30-40 minute walk and Kenny was very concerned that I was lost. But I knew where we were going the entire time. I used the iPhone app City Maps 2Go, which I highly recommend. Prior to the trip I uploaded maps for the cities we were going to visit and pin pointed the places I wanted to see.
Our first stop in Nice was Cours Saleya, the flower market. Because of our wait for a tender we were a little late, but a few stands were still open.
We then walked along the Promenade des Anglais towards the Musee des Beaux-Arts Jules Cheret. The beaches in Nice are stone, not sand. There are restaurants on the beach that rent out chairs and umbrellas for the day for about 20 euro.
There is no more beautiful place than Nice!
Along the way we stopped for lunch. Kenny had a huge pizza and I had gnocchi. Oh how I had missed good gnocchi. When I spent a semester abroad I ate a lot of gnocchi and always bragged to Kenny about how good gnocchi was in Europe and how you just couldn’t get good gnocchi in the states. He took one bite and understood completely what I had been talking about for the last five years.
After lunch we made our way to the Musee des Beaux-Arts Jules Cheret. It was a long walk and the museum is at the top of a winding road, it was a bit torturous. The museum was nice, small, but nice. And it was free to Americans, which is always a plus. After the museum we leisurely walked back to the train station.
On the train ride back we kinda just guessed which train. Actually we just followed people we recognized from the cruise and hoped they knew where they we were going. We jumped on one that was going towards Monaco and luckily it stopped in Villefranche.
I cut our time in Nice a little short because I wanted to make sure we made it back to the ship. So we had some time to kill in Villefranche. And I was not leaving France without having had a crepe. Oh how I love crepes!!!!!
Kenny had a beer, his version of dessert. He ordered the beer and then the waiter gave him two options that we didn’t understand. This went back and forth until we finally understood that one option was Monaco, so Kenny went for that. What he got was a red beer, which was sweet, and different, but he still drank it.
This was our view for lunch, not too shabby!
We stopped at the first creperie we saw when leaving the train station. While exploring the city we realized that we should have explored a little first before settling on the first place we saw. There were a lot of cute little restaurants hidden throughout Villefranche.
We made our way back to the port and onto a tender and back to the ship.
When we made it back to the ship we were welcomed with Champagne & Cupcakes. A treat from us to us!
Tomorrow – Florence
So two weeks ago my husband and I left for a 12 Day Royal Caribbean Mediterranean Cruise. I thought I would share for family and friends pictures and stories of our vacation. And for others tips and tidbits that we learned along the way. Either way I hope you enjoy the next few blog posts about our awesome vacation.
So we left on August 29th and flew from Dulles to Heathrow and then on to Barcelona. We flew British Airways, who I love, because of the tea and of course their accents. We were able to sleep and get acclimated to Barcelona time on the first flight. Then we had a 5 hour layover in Heathrow, which drove me bonkers. I learned that a 2 hour layover is about all I can handle. Our flight from Heathrow to Barcelona was delayed 40+ minutes. Side Note: I had originally booked the flight so that we arrived on the same date as the cruise left. After a lot of anxiety and more money than we wanted to spend, we changed the flight. I was very happy that we did when we were sitting on the plane and the minutes were passing us by, because this would have been our flight the next day.
We made it to Barcelona Airport and made our way to the Hotel Transfer Bus. My first dumb moment is I was looking for the Marriott bus because I knew we had used our Marriott Points. I was asking the Renaissance bus guy if he knew where the Marriott bus was. I don’t speak Spanish, he didn’t speak English, you can imagine how it was working out. Eventually I just showed him the reservation and guess what it said, Renaissance!
The hotel was nice. An interesting thing about the hotel, when you walked in the room you inserted your room key into a box which turned on the electricity to the room and when you left you pulled it and everything turned off. Very green!!!!
The next day we woke up and took the hotel’s shuttle to the port. Once at the port we checked in and waited to board the ship – Brilliance of the Seas, our home for the next 12 days.
We didn’t have breakfast so the first stop was lunch at the Windjammer. This was our view for our first lunch.
After lunch we explored the ship until our room was ready at 1:30.
And now a tour of the ship – or at least the parts we took photos of.
The Solarium – also known as the adults only pool.
The elevators reminded you what the day of the week it was – So cool! (I initially thought each of the elevators was named a day of the week – another dumb moment)
The glass floor on Deck 12 that looks down into the Centrum
Our Stateroom – where the magic happened (just kidding)
Tomorrow – Villefranche