Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sun, Sand and Fun in the Mayan Riviera December 2007

Another trip to Cancun and the Mayan Rivieria for Peggy from Carlson Wagonlit Travel. This area of Mexico is one of our best sellers, so we always want to stay up to date on the changes in the resorts and what is new! Here are a few pictures and comments of some of the resorts that I saw. If you need more information give me a call a1-800-472-6855 or drop me an e-mail at Peggy@carlsonricelake.com

The Gran Palladium Colonial and Kantenah has large river like pools.
The Grand Sirenis below is a new entry into the Mayan Rivieria and has a very unique building style. Don't stay there if you don't like angles.
They have a number of small beaches and secluded coves great for snorkeling.
Sandos Playacar

The Barcelo Palace in one of my favorites in the Mayan Riviera. The beach is a beautiful 1/2 mile crescent shape. This property is one hotel out of 4 in the Barcelo complex. The pros are you have lots of restaurants to chose from as you can eat at all the hotels, but on the downside it is a large property and lots of walking. But with all that food, the walking was great!

This is the junior suite at the Barcelo Palace. Large and spacious! The Gran Bahia Principe was next..again a large lovely junior suite.
While the Gran Gahia Principe is further south, closer to Puerto Adventuras, the beach is very nice.

Hope to see you here soon!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Volunteering in New Orleans October 2007

Peggy was in New Orleans with the Presbyterian Church as a volunteer to help fix up a home. She did not know whether she would be hauling garbage, painting or cleaning walls. She ended up mudding and taping a home as you can see below. It was a wonderful experience and highly recommended for anyone who wishes to help.

This is the how high the water was in the back yard where Peggy is pointing.

These are the tents and facilities where Peggy stayed.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Island of Lana'i Nov 6-11, 2007

Four Seasons Resort at Manale Bay

The sixth largest of the major Hawai'ian Islands and one of the well kept secrets in Hawai'i, Lana'i lies off the western coast of the Island of Maui. Historically it was known as the Pineapple Island, due to the fact that up until recently, 16,000 acres of its land was pineapple fields that contributed to 90% of the total U.S. production. As time went by, Dole found it more economical to plant and harvest pineapple elsewhere. Lana'i's most precious natural resource is the warmth and graciousness of its people.

Peggy and I had the opportunity to visit Lana'i and stay at the Four Seasons Resort at Manele Bay. What a gorgeous property and it is mere steps away from the long arch of Hulupo'e Beach (named America's most beautiful shore).

Along this shore is Pu'upehe (Sweetheart Rock). The sunsets were glorious to watch from here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Passport ..Do I or Don't I need one?

Is this confusing or what! I get so many calls a day asking "Do I need a passport to go to Mexico, or the Caribbean or even Canada?" See the latest info on the government web site at


Keep checking as the rules can change mid stream!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Il eccelente avventura di Dave e Sue

It was certainly an excellent adventure for us in Italy and Croatia this month. With great weather, good friends to share it with, and outstanding sights to see, our Royal Caribbean cruise was everything we’d hoped for, and more.

DAY 1 Sat 9/1/07---We drove to the Twin Cities and boarded our Northwest flight to Amsterdam, beginning our 8-hour flight at 3:30pm CDT. When we landed it was 6:30am the next day in Europe. As usual, I didn’t sleep on the flight, but was able to catch up on movie-watching: “Kingdom of Heaven”, “Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer”, and the 1989 “Batman” in German. Also as usual, I’d brought along too much reading material so my backpack was already stuffed. How to find room for the books and magazines I’d buy? Guess I should use the Sony E-Reader that Sue brought that has over 80 books on it! Unbelievable, the technology today. Well, necessity being the mother of invention, we’d find a way.

DAY 2 Sun 9/2---The Amsterdam airport was a familiar sight, since we’d been there 10 months earlier when we stopped by on the way to Zurich to begin our Rhine cruise with the folks. Sue had bought a temporary VIP club membership so we were able to relax in their lounge, once we found it, and we dozed a bit during the 4-hour layover. At 10:30am our flight to Rome took off. Since it was KLM, we got cabin announcements in both English and Dutch. Have you ever noticed that spoken Dutch sounds like a record played backwards? Both of us snoozed most of this flight.
We landed in Rome at 1pm local time and our ride into the city to our hotel was waiting for us. We checked into the Atlante Garden near the Vatican, cleaned up and went out for a stroll, finding a very nice sidewalk cafĂ©, known as a trattoria, on Via Borgo Rittorio and had a delicious meal. Sue had pizze margherita and I had spaghetti bolognese. Italian pizza is very thin and they don’t load it down with toppings like we do in the US.
We dined both our nights in Rome at these places, one on the right, the other on the left. After our first night’s meal we strolled a couple blocks to St. Peter’s Square.

DAY 3 Mon 9/3---It was Labor Day back home, but the start of another work week in Rome. Traffic was heavy with lots of motor scooters and small cars, very few trucks, and more than a few tour buses. We’d booked our Rome tours through the hotel and an outfit called Gruppo Carrani, which sent a van to pick us up at the hotel and take us to the company’s office across the Tiber. We were in a small piazza, of which there are very many, and you can see it is a popular parking space.

Every scooter rider we saw had a helmet on, by the way. We got on a bus and went back to the Vatican, where we waited in a long line for our tour group to enter the Musei Vaticani, the Vatican Museum. It was early; they let tour groups in starting at 8:30am but the regular tourists have to wait till 10.

We moved right along, though, and once we got inside it was well worth the wait. They only allow non-flash photos in some parts so I was able to get a couple.

Inside the Sistine Chapel they allow no photography whatever and no talking, either. We were allowed 20 minutes inside. Before entering the guide had given us a short art lecture about how it was painted and what some of the major panels represent. This is an image lifted from Wikipedia’s article on the Chapel, with perhaps its most famous panel, “The Creation of Adam”. When you actually look upon the work of Michelangelo, there is no doubt you are seeing the work of a genius. And to think it is nearly 500 years old.


We left the tour group after exiting the Vatican, as our hotel was only a few blocks away, and wandered around the Piazza Rigorgimento, buying lunch from a portable “Snack Bar”, as they’re called. Then it was back to the hotel to freshen up and await our afternoon tour, to the Forum and Colosseum.
With another tour guide, we went downtown past the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II, which is a monument to honor Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of unified Italy. It is huge and houses Italy’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, among other things. But it is generally vilified for its pompous architecture and Italians sometimes refer to it as “the wedding cake” or “the false teeth”. US troops in WWII called it “the typewriter”.

Italy’s army since Roman times has not been known for a whole lot but they do make some pretty impressive monuments.

We stopped at the foot of the Capitoline Hill and up we went. This is the largest and most famous of the Seven Hills of Rome, and from it comes our word “capitol”. The Piazza del Capidoglio was designed by Michelangelo. The statue is of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, who ruled 161-180 AD and was known as a philosopher. This statue is a copy of the original, the only Roman bronze statue to have survived, which is in the nearby museum.

Then we crested the Capitoline and beheld the Forum Romanum itself. This was originally a swamp, but was drained around 600 BC, and it became the political, cultural and economic center of the greatest empire the world has ever known. The pillars to the right are the Temple of Saturn. At the foot of the temple is the Rostra, which is where famous speeches were made, including Mark Antony’s eulogy of Julius Caesar. Before the Colosseum was built, gladiatorial shows were held on this square, with temporary bleachers erected. The most famous of these was organized by Caesar in 65 BC, featuring 320 pairs of gladiators.

He also threw a huge banquet on the site in 45 BC, catering for 22,000 guests. The small columns are what remains of the Basilica Julia, erected by Caesar. We rested for a bit at the base of the temple, near the Rostra, before pressing onward. That’s Sue with the dark glasses in left foreground. We then proceeded at a slow pace through the Forum along the Via Sacra. Finally we came to the Temple of the Divine Caesar, erected by Julius Caesar’s successor, his nephew Augustus. Inside is the actual mound where Caesar was cremated after his assassination in 44 BC. As you can see, people still lay flowers on it.

On we went, exiting the Forum, exiting near the Temple of Vesta and the house of the Vestal Virgins. Vesta was the Roman goddess of the hearth and the Virgins were her priestesses. They were Rome’s only female religious authorities and quite influential, and in fact their intercession on behalf of Caesar saved him from execution by the dictator Sulla. Over my right shoulder you can see the ruins on the Palatine Hill.

From the Palatine we get our word “palace”. Roman mythology says this is where the city’s founders, brothers Romulus and Remus, were found by the she-wolf who nursed them. Several emperors later built palaces there.
It was time to see the most famous monument of antiquity, the Colosseum. Actually named the Flavian Amphitheater, our group was not scheduled to go inside, so we bailed out at this point and hooked up with another tour group, Romaround Tours. It was informative and very entertaining, including a presentation outside the gates by this gentleman.

We went inside and had a great tour. That’s our guide in the foreground on the left. If you didn’t have a guide, you could rent personal audio players and wander around on your own.
We had originally intended to walk to the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps after the Colosseum, but the day was starting to get to us so we found a cab and made it back to our hotel in plenty of time to clean up and head out for one last dinner in Rome.

DAY 4 Tue 9/4---We rose early and I hoofed over to St. Peter’s Square for a few final pictures. At one of the Vatican gates the Swiss Guards were already on duty. The square was already filling up with people getting in line to enter St. Peter’s Basilica, the world’s largest church; in its vaults are the tombs of the popes and that of Peter himself. Given another day in Rome, that

would’ve been on our list of things to see.

As it was, we met four more of our group of travel agents and friends at the hotel and boarded our shuttle bus to the port of Civitavecchia, where we boarded the Legend of the Seas and set sail, heading north along the Italian coast.

DAY 5 Wed 9/5---Our first stop was the picturesque coastal town of Portofino, along what is known as the Ligurian Coast. In the harbor was a huge yacht, flying a British ensign. Later we heard it was being used by Tony Blair, the former prime minister of the UK. We didn’t see him
in the village. That's Blair's yacht in the lower left of the left picture.

The water was crystal clear. On the way back to the tender that would take us to the ship, we came upon a gathering of uniformed officers and dignitaries near the entrance to a pathway leading up a hill. I asked an Italian naval officer what was going on, and he said they were inaugurating a new public pathway up to the Castela Brown, a small medieval castle on the hill. So after the ribbon-cutting we joined the procession and got some great views from the castle on the summit.

DAY 6 Thu 9/6---Down the coast we went to the port city of Livorno. This was the day we went a few miles inland to Pisa, to see the famous Leaning Tower, and there it was, still leaning.
After an hour or so in Pisa, our tour group went to the little coastal village of Viareggia to spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach. The day was fairly warm but Sue still wanted to make sure she wouldn’t catch cold.

DAY 7 Fri 9/7---This day promised to be one of the highlights of the trip, inland by bus to Florence. Some on the ship were going both days, taking the train early and late, but we stuck with the tour, which would give us about 5 hours in the famous city. We had already booked tours of its two most famous museums, the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia.

In the Palazzo Vecchio, near the Uffizi, you can see the replica of Michelangelo’s David. The Uffizi has the greatest collection of Renaissance art in Europe. From the Uffizi we went to the nearby Ponte Vecchio, the famous bridge over the Arno that is lined with shops selling jewelry. In the

middle is Sue, taking a breather.

Across the bridge were more shops and across from the Pitti Palace, Sue found a designer dress shop and I knew that I would be going to the Accademia myself. On the way I passed through a piazza containing Florence’s famous Cathedral and Giotto’s Tower.

At the Accademia, the Academy of Fine Arts, was the most famous sculpture in the world, Michelangelo’s David. Photos weren’t allowed, of course, but here’s the site from from Wikipedia with the true David.


Once again, the viewer knows he is in the presence of true genius. Up close you can see details like the tendons and veins in the hands and feet.
Our day in Florence was truly memorable, and not too many people stayed awake on the bus ride back to Livorno and the ship. We cast off that evening for our next port of call.

DAY 8 Sat 9/8---This was a day at sea, as we headed south. Sue and the other travel agents spent the morning in a seminar, so it was time for me to get in some serious poolside time. I was a finalist in the Mr. Legend of the Seas contest, but the winner had to wear his crown the rest of the day and evening, so finishing second wasn’t bad.

DAY 9 Sun 9/9---The island of Sicily, the Mediterranean’s largest, was our next stop. A few days earlier, Mt. Etna had erupted, and the smaller island of Stromboli had to be evacuated when its volcano also went up. But this day Etna was quiet and its peak shrouded in clouds as we disembarked in Messina. Our tour today was to the nearby town of Taurmino, renowned for is shopping. The Sicilian coast was spectacular as we wound our way up a mountainside to the town. From there, we got a good view of Etna.

It didn’t take long for the women of the group to hit the stores, but the architecture provided some interesting pictures as well.

We stopped for lunch at a nice little trattoria overlooking the Med. Credit Sue for finding this gem. Once again the meal was superb.

When the group rendezvoused at the town piazza, Sue and friends Kathy and Patty carried their spoils, and the satisfied smiles of happy shoppers. But I was pleased as well because we’d found a little art studio, appropriately named la piccolo galleria (the small gallery) on a side street and purchased a painting from the artist, Franco Pavone.

Back on board, we watched a beautiful sunset over the mountains near Etna.

DAY 10 Mon 9/10—Another day at sea, as our ship sailed through the Ionian Sea, around the boot of Italy and into the Adriatic. While Sue was in class again, I managed to stay busy, taking a swim, playing some ping-pong and reading. It was tough, but somebody had to do it. The ship had a walking/jogging track, with 4 laps per mile. Patty was one of the regular walkers. Another fellow from our group, just turned 65, was not a regular walker back home but decided to do some walking on the ship. By the end of the cruise he’d logged over 100 miles.

DAY 11 Tue 9/11---Known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic”, Croatia was a new country for us to visit. Formerly part of Yugoslavia, Croatia gained its independence in 1994 after a four-year war with neighboring Serbia. The Croatians are grateful to Americans for their help against the Serbs, and were happy to see us in the coastal city of Split. Not yet a member of the European Union, Croatia still uses its own currency, the kuna. One US dollar is worth 5 kunar, but the euro is worth 7. Croatia is also home of the necktie, and even though I’d managed to score some Italian silk neckties in Italy at very reasonable rates, I was looking for an authentic Croatian tie. Alas, they were all about 40 euros, and I wasn’t about to pay nearly $60 for a tie. Still, Split was interesting, especially its huge open-air market, which was inside the four-square-block Palace of Diocletian, built by the Roman emperor as a summer place during his reign from 284-305 AD.

At the pier waiting for our tender back to the ship, we saw that the Italian Navy had paid a call with one of its modern warships.

DAY 12 Wed 9/12---This was the port we’d been waiting for: Venice. The city is actually dozens of islands, and on the main island no motor vehicles are allowed. There are dozens of canals and some 400 bridges. Things are expensive, but one reason is that everything has to be brought over by boat and then hand-carted to its destination. Our first day we went over to the islands of Murano and Burano. The former is famous for its glass factories, and we got to see some of the glass-blowers in action. First, though, we all got up with the sun to see Venice as we pulled into our berth.

On the left is St. Mark’s Square, on the right the entrance to the Grand Canal. We went ashore and then caught a ferry to Murano.

This fellow took some molten glass out of the furnace and within minutes had made it into a horse.

The glass they had in the store was really beyond belief. No pictures allowed, of course.

After Murano, we took another ferry to the island of Burano, renowned for its lace. It was a very picturesque village and we had a very nice afternoon there, dining at yet another delectable trattoria.

Back to the ship to change, and then we were back in Venice proper for our evening gondola ride. We were told the profession of gondolier is handed down from father to son, although I suppose you could get in on it without patronage. These guys can really move those gondolas, although I wouldn’t care for them in rough water. But in the evening, through the narrow canals, it was really memorable. Our little flotilla had about a dozen gondolas, with four guests per boat and every third boat had a singer and accordionist. Yes, just like in the movies.

We disembarked after about 45 minutes and found a nice little trattoria, where the lasagna was other-worldly. Then we made our way back to St. Mark’s Square, where a small orchestra was playing “O Solo Mio”. I told Sue that it doesn’t get more Italian than this.

DAY 13 Thu 9/13---Our second day in Venice was set aside for shopping and sight-seeing. With Sue having found her designer dress in Florence, I was still looking to find my shopping goal, a statuette of a Roman soldier. Surprisingly, I hadn’t found anything suitable in Rome itself. But here I hit the jackpot, at a little shop that sold custom figurines and chess sets, a 15-inch brass figurine of Spartacus, made in Tuscany, and reasonably priced, too.
Venice itself was beautiful. St. Mark’s Square, which Napoleon called “the drawing room of Europe”, was full of people and pigeons.

Below is Ponte Rialto, a famous bridge across the Grand Canal, renowned for its shops. Just down the street to the right is the shop where I found Spartacus. We stopped for some hot chocolate at a trattoria along the canal and I got this view of the bridge.

And here we are, on Ponte Rialto, with the famous Grand Canal behind us.

Back at St. Mark’s Square, by now the day was in full swing.

This is St. Mark’s Basilica, a fine example of Byzantine architecture. It was consecrated in the 11th Century, and in a tomb inside are said to be the remains of the Apostle Mark himself, although recently a prominent archaeologist has suggested they might actually be the remains of none other than Alexander the Great. He has petitioned the Vatican to exhume the remains for examination, but no word yet on whether this will happen.

One other thing the Square is famous for is its pigeons. For one euro you can buy a bag of bird seed and here they come.

Venice is also well-known for its famous masks. If you’ve seen “Eyes Wide Shut”, the movie with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, you’ve seen some of the masks. Sue and I got masks on Murano and wore them to the ship’s Venetian masked ball that evening.
Mine is supposedly a Casanova mask, although to me I look more like Woody Woodpecker. The tie is one I got that day in Venice, the last and best Italian tie that I found.

It was a great couple of days, but we still had two more stops, so we set sail that evening for Croatia.

DAY 14 Fri 9/14---The city of Dubrovnik is at the very tip of Croatia, which is crescent-shaped country with Dubrovnik at the southeastern tip. Within a few miles are three other countries: Bosnia, Serbia and Albania. Dubrovnik itself is surrounded by a medieval wall.

Our tour today was a bicycle excursion through a valley some 30 miles south of the city, along the Adriatic coast. The scenery was breathtaking. We stopped at a winery and saddled up, then pedaled about 10 miles through the countryside, round-trip. Our guide was a 26-year-old Croatian named Duja (doo-ya), who was a teenager during their civil war and told us some heart-rending stories. This is one of the few remaining farmhouses in the valley that wasn’t completely destroyed by the invading Serbs, and as you can see it didn’t survive unscathed.

Duja told us the Serbs destroyed some 3000 homes in the valley, but we rode past many that were under construction. The Croatians appear to be an industrious bunch and aren’t wasting any time rebuilding their country. We stopped at a monastery, which had been gutted by the Serbs but rebuilt.
That’s Sue in the archway on the right.

Back at the winery, we had complimentary wine and bread, with many of us buying bottles to take home. In Dubrovnik, we said goodbye to our guide Duja, who as you can see bears a striking resemblance to a certain UW-Milwaukee sophomore of our acquaintance (our son Jim).

We had some time to explore the old city before returning to the ship.

Back on board, it was our last formal night so everybody dressed up for dinner, and our tables raised a glass to John Winters, the RCL exec who was our host and the instructor for the travel agents’ seminar. John and his wife Gretchen were excellent hosts and told some hilarious stories. There was never a quiet night at any of our dinner tables.

SAT 9/15---Our last day at sea, as the Legend exited the Adriatic and headed west through the Ionian around the boot of Italy. Etna had erupted again a few days earlier, but it was quiet when we transited the Straits of Messina in late afternoon.
A few words about the crew and passengers. More than 60 nationalities were represented among the crew, led by our captain, born in Argentina but living now in Sweden. To the surprise of many, our head chef was English, and since our food was uniformly excellent, perhaps that might put to rest the old tale that the English know nothing about good food. The waiters serving our tables were from Romania, Poland and Trinidad, and the head waiter for our section was Portuguese. Our room steward was a Filipino. For the first time on a cruise, we saw Chinese crew members, and even a few Americans.
The passengers seemed to be about 1/3 American, 1/3 British and the rest from all over, from as far away as Australia, New Zealand and Peru. Among the Brits were a group of 10 Scots traveling together, and the men all wore white dinner jackets and red bow ties on formal nights. One morning we had breakfast with couples from England and Turkey. Every day we were meeting people from other countries, so it was an excellent opportunity to get their perspective on world events and find out about their lives back home. Generally their opinions on the news differed significantly from what the US news media tells us Europeans and others are thinking. Imagine that.
It was also gratifying that we saw no demonstrations of anti-Americanism whatsoever anywhere we went, again contrary to what we might see on our TV screens. In fact, we heard from people in Italy and Croatia that they really liked Americans. One of our Italian guides, a gentleman of 73, remembered how US troops helped him and his fellow Neapolitans when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 1944. Our Croatian guide, Duja, credited American military aid as the critical factor in his nation achieving its independence.
Despite warnings about pickpockets and gypsy beggars, we never felt uneasy or threatened anywhere. Of course we took precautions, like not wearing jewelry on some days and keeping purses in front of us and wallets in front pockets. We probably stood out as tourists most of the time, but there were a lot of tourists everywhere, and not just from our ship, but from other ships and there were many Europeans, particularly Germans, and lots of Asians. My German and Italian got a workout on this trip. We could’ve used our son Jim, who speaks French and is studying Chinese.
There was never a lack of things to do on board ship during at-sea days, that’s for sure. The evening entertainment was first-class, especially one evening when an Italian tenor performed a tribute to the late Luciano Pavarotti, whose passing during the first week of our cruise was front-page news in Italy. But generally our days were spent around the pool. Here’s Patty, Kathy and Sue getting some rays.

One popular attraction on board was the 45-foot-tall rock-climbing wall. Here’s Patty scaling the heights.

I was the first one from our group to go up, and it’s harder than it looks. Sue declined, saying she didn’t want to break a nail. She would’ve made it, though.
That evening, Sue and I dined in the Windjammer, the ship’s casual dining room on the 9th deck, where we would take our breakfast and lunch. One great feature of evening meals here was the pasta bar, and a young Macedonian chef whipped up a made-to-order pasta sauce that was as good as any we had on the trip, ashore or on board.

DAY 16 Sun 9/16---Our last full day of the cruise was one of the most memorable. We came ashore in Naples and joined our group for an ascent of Mt. Vesuvius. This is the famous volcano whose eruption in 79 AD buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Our daughter Kim, who had studied in Italy during her undergrad days as an anthropology student at UW-Milwaukee, had made the climb and urged us to give it a try. Enzo, the elderly guide referred to earlier, was very informative as our bus negotiated some harrowing switchbacks to the drop-off point about 1000 feet below the summit. The climb from there was not the easiest but well worth it.

At the summit, another guide, an Albanian named Pasquale, took over. That’s him, in glasses, pointing out a feature. The crater was enormous, nearly a mile across, and still venting steam, as you can see in the middle of one shot.

It was hazy that day, so our view of Naples and the Sorrento Peninsula was pretty dim. At the end of the peninsula is the island of Capri, once known as the summer home of the Roman emperors, who communicated with Rome via an ingenious system of semaphore mirrors along the coast. Roman engineering was really remarkable.
After descending back down the mountain, we made our way to the ruins of Pompeii. This city of some 20,000 was buried in ash from the 79 AD eruption. To date only about a quarter of the city has been excavated, but what is visible is truly amazing.
Pompeii was an important trading city for seafaring peoples even before the founding of Rome itself, and did not fall under total Roman control until 80 BC. Wealthy Romans quickly discovered its agreeable climate and access to the sea, turning the city into a bustling metropolitan center with a vibrant economy and cultural life. Pompeiians were serious sports fans, too; in 59 AD a riot broke out between the home team’s fans and visitors from Nocera during gladiator games at Pompeii’s amphitheater. The fighting was so severe that the Senate closed the arena for ten years. An earthquake rocked the city in 62 AD, and 17 years later the city was buried in ash from Vesuvius. We have a detailed account of the disaster from the letters of Pliny the Younger, who wrote of the death of his uncle, Pliny the Elder, admiral of the Roman fleet in a nearby naval base.
The admiral had sailed his flagship into the teeth of the eruption in a heroic but vain rescue attempt, all the while dictating his observations to his secretary.
The first place Enzo showed us was the Quadriportico dei Teatri, the gladiators’ training ground next to the Teatro Grande.
The open-air theater was used for plays and musical performances.

Walking the streets of Pompeii is an eerie experience. None of the buildings are complete, of course, but enough of them remain to give you a very good idea of what Roman-era life was like. There were dozens of small shops, laid out very much like shopping areas today. The one with the bowls inlaid is actually what we would call a fast-food restaurant. Customers would choose their food from the various bowls.

The first house we actually went into is called Casa dei Ceii, which we think was the home of an upper-middle-class businessman, probably an Egyptian immigrant. The details of the paintings were still very visible. That's Enzo, talking in between the columns, as we stand in the atrium of the home. It was common for well-off Romans to have these courtyards in their homes, where they would greet and entertain guests.

We entered a public bath house, or what we would consider a spa. Public baths were a staple of Roman life, as much for their business value as health benefits. Sort of like how we treat golf. This is inside the Terme Stabiane, or Stabian Bath. In one shot you can see indentations in the walls were where the clients would put their belongings. In the other, note the intricate artwork of the ceiling.

The excavation of Pompeii began after its accidental discovery around 1600, but it wasn’t until 1860 that a means was found to actually preserve the bodies of those who had perished in the eruption. Giuseppe Fiorelli devised a means of making plaster casts of the cavities in the ash formed by the bodies. The first one of these that we saw was in one room of the bath-house.
To date some 1100 bodies have been recovered by this means, and casts have also been made of animals, trees and wooden objects, even loaves of bread recovered from the bakery.
I found another one in the Granai del Foro, the city’s granary located alongside the Forum. This building also contained hundreds of amphorae, the large jars Romans used to carry wine and other consumables, as well as other jars and artifacts.

We also visited a building where photography was not allowed. It’s called the Lupanare, and we would call it a brothel. Prostitution was legal in ancient Roman cities, and the name can be roughly translated to “den of the she-wolves”. Apparently the ladies would lean out of the second-story windows and whistle and howl at the men passing by below, enticing them inside. The paintings on the walls of this place were pretty graphic, so there was no doubt about what trade was practiced here. Our group had to wait its turn here behind a group of German high school students, who were very attentive.
Like Rome itself and most other cities of the time, Pompeii had its own Forum.

In the panoramic shot, you can see the pillars of the Temple of Jupiter in the background, with Vesuvius behind it. I’m standing in the Temple of Apollo. In the pantheon of Roman gods, which were largely borrowed from the Greeks and usually renamed, Jupiter and Apollo were the heavyweights.

Our time was running short; we had only a couple hours to explore Pompeii, and to get the full effect a tour of about 6 hours is recommended. That would be for the serious amateur historians and archaeologists, and for a somewhat cooler day at that. I was able to scoot a couple blocks to get this shot of Modestum’s Bakery.

The large objects in the middle are millstones, which were turned by donkeys or human slaves. You can see the oven, which was open on both sides. 81 carbonized loaves of bread were discovered here. Pompeiians bought this bread directly from the store, and the bakery also would send vendors with carts throughout the city to sell directly to homes, businesses and pedestrians. Bread was a staple of Roman cuisine, made from wheat very much like our own, and usually dipped in olive oil at the table. Roman politicians frequently distributed free grain to the people as a way to boost their popularity around election time. Nowadays we are much more civilized; we do it with earmarks to legislation.

Our time in Pompeii had come to an end, and so we made our way back to the bus and then to the pier in Naples, where the Legend of the Seas awaited us. After one final meal with our group, we retired, having packed after our return from the tour.

DAY 17 Mon 9/17---Up at 4:30am, which was 9:30pm Sunday night back home, we had one final breakfast in the Windjammer and then were off the ship and on our bus to the airport by 6:30, a very smooth disembarkation. It would be nearly 10pm in Wisconsin when we arrived home, after being up more than 24 hours. Sue managed to catch some shut-eye on the transatlantic flight from Amsterdam, but as usual I had to doze occasionally and otherwise read and watch movies; my fare on this leg included “A Perfect Murder” and "I, Robot".
It was a wonderful trip, and we would definitely recommend such a cruise as the perfect way to see Italy. We hope to go back someday, and perhaps we’ll see you there. As we say goodbye, enjoy this shot of the Legend of the Seas anchored off Portofino, with the Northern Apennines in the background.

Dave and Sue