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Our Serenade Story - Review Oct 10 - 22 Med Cruise

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Hi your review is awesome
May I ask a question re your cabin

We are travelling in a similar cabin with our 2 year old daughter in September - what was the bathroom problem you mentioned was this to do with the sofa bed? Emilie is too little to go on the pull down

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[SIZE="3"]After lunch, Sarah took Seth swimming, so they visited the water slide. Caitie and her Grandma attended the encore show with Brooks Aehron, where there was standing room only, and, according to Caitie, it was a fantastic show. Afterwards, Caitie decided to challenge her old man to a rock climbing race. We geared up and took our marks. When the race began, I was up the wall and making good time. I paused to find Caitie, for I didn't want to smoke her in the race, and realized that she was about to ring the bell while I was analyzing the competition. It is fair to say that she won. To me, the only reason to climb the wall is so you can rappel back to the deck. I kicked off from the wall and the anchor man controlled my descent in two short bursts. What a rocking good time! It was only when I got back to the bottom that I realized I shouldn't have attempted that climb. My ribs were so not ready for me to scale a wall, and I immediately regretted my actions. I took a few extra pain pills on day 5, and the next morning as well. [/SIZE]


[SIZE="3"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]Seth getting ready to slide.[/COLOR][/SIZE]


[SIZE="3"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]After a few slides, we moved to the main pool deck with the rest of the folks and enjoyed the beautiful Mediterranean sun![/COLOR][/SIZE]


[SIZE="3"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]Everyone had the same idea today, Soak Up The Sun![/COLOR][/SIZE]


[SIZE="3"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]Caitie, Grandma, and Brooks Aehron. He puts on a great show.[/COLOR][/SIZE]


[SIZE="3"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]Let the competition begin![/COLOR][/SIZE]


[SIZE="3"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]And the winner is CAITIE![/COLOR][/SIZE]
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[SIZE="3"]In order to recuperate from the climb, Sarah and I attended another wine tasting and this time I identified the mystery wine and won a bottle of champagne. The wine tasting cost 20.00 dollars a person, and we had a great time. And the samples were generous and tasty. The only problem I had was trying to hear the wine presentation, as the centrum was always soooooo LOUD! Ugh.[/SIZE]


[SIZE="3"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]The wine tasting seemed expensive at first, but after it was over I decided we would certainly be attending more on future cruises. The setting was much more intimate than tastings we have been to in the past on RCCL (aside from the loud centrum), the group was smaller, and the discussion of the wine was much more detailed. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I won a bottle of sparkling wine![/COLOR][/SIZE]


[SIZE="3"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]My prize from the wine tasting![/COLOR][/SIZE]

[SIZE="3"]Tonight was also our last formal night. We had a great dinner and decided to attend the show, but I don't even recall what show we watched. Apparently it didn't overly impress me. But not many of the shows did. I don’t really care, for my goal was to enjoy Europe, not the shows. They were inconsequential to me.[/SIZE]
[SIZE="3"]I was in significant pain that evening as we stumbled around our tiny stateroom trying to accommodate both kids back into the program. But we climbed into bed knowing that tomorrow was our last port call. But what a day it was going to be! [/SIZE]


[SIZE="3"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]My precious family![/COLOR][/SIZE]


[SIZE="3"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]Captain Rune was out and about tonight and was very happy to take a picture with the kids.[/COLOR][/SIZE]

[SIZE="3"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]All in all this was a spectacular day. We really didn't do anything, but the weather was brilliant and we were able to relax and really enjoy being at sea. We were both feeling a little bittersweet about our final port call. We did not want this cruise to end![/COLOR][/SIZE]
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[quote name='kimmy_bos']Hi your review is awesome
May I ask a question re your cabin

We are travelling in a similar cabin with our 2 year old daughter in September - what was the bathroom problem you mentioned was this to do with the sofa bed? Emilie is too little to go on the pull down


Yes, it was due to the sofa bed. When the bed is fully extended it is only inches away from the vanity area. It makes it very difficult to from the actual bed to the bathroom with the sofa bed pulled out.
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[SIZE="3"]Day 11 /Port 7[/SIZE]

[SIZE="3"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]I want to start this post with a couple of things that Will left out of his narrative. The day was overcast and drizzly, so we were afraid we wouldn't be able to see much but the weather cleared by the time we started out. We ate breakfast in the Windjammer because it was an early start. I booked this tour with Rome in Limo and will probably use them anytime I am in Italy and need a tour. They are fantastic at what they do.[/COLOR][/SIZE]


[SIZE="3"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]Our first views of Salerno.[/COLOR][/SIZE]


[SIZE="3"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]Breakfast in the Windjammer.[/COLOR][/SIZE]

[SIZE="3"]Sadly, our trip was winding up faster than we cared to admit. But we still had one stop left: Salerno and the Amalfi Coast, and then Pompeii. It would be a good day.

We arrived on the pier and met our guide for the day, Juan Pietro, or John Peter. I will reference him as JP for simplicity. He was a polite, balding man with salt and pepper hair who was helpful and good humored. On this tour Sarah's father, Mike, had his wheelchair/scooter, and JP was Johnny on the Spot in helping with the scooter, and was very conscious about parking in locations that would make wheelchair use easier. He confirmed our plans for the day once we were in his van, and he agreed it was a good plan. We were to tour the Amalfi Coast and spend an hour walking in Positano, and then on to Salerno, where we would have another hour to walk around, and he highly recommended a specific restaurant that they use frequently, and even bragged on the gelateria next door to the restaurant. We had a guide scheduled for Pompeii at 2:30 for two hours, and then back to the ship by the highway. Immediately, JP began contacting our Pompeii guide, Margherita, and advising her that we had a wheelchair so that she could make alternate plans for accessibility if necessary.

JP asked a very important question before we drove from the port, and that was, "Does anyone get affected by car sickness?" We had already given Caitie a pill for motion sickness, so we were golden. I also took an Percocet to aid my discomfort from riding in a vehicle with ribs that were still very tender. In truth, I was probably a little high, but I wasn't in pain. Let's roll!

Let me preface this portion of my narrative with a qualifying statement. I have driven the Pacific Coast Highway from Seattle all the way to San Diego, and, in my humble opinion, it is one of the prettiest drives one can take along a shoreline. That is, except for the Amalfi Coast. We have never, ever, seen a coastline so spectacular. Throw in the brilliance and charm of quaint Italian villages, and I would assert that you will not find a more pleasant drive in the world. The mountains thrust from the sea, leaving sharp cliffs, and fiords that rise sharply from the rocky Mediterranean shore. The hills and cliffs are lush with vineyards, olive orchards, lemon and orange groves, and carpets of beautiful morning glories and other flowers that are too wonderful to describe with the limits of my petty words and English limitations. Sometimes English is too inadequate to be functional. Watchtowers built during the 7th and 8th century are deliberately scattered along the cliff walls with the original intent of protecting the villages from the marauding Moors. Most of the towers have been converted to homes or restaurants, and they have commanding views of the prettiest country I've ever seen.[/SIZE]



[SIZE="3"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]Remains of a Watchtower.[/COLOR][/SIZE]



[SIZE="3"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]Isn't this a beautiful location?[/COLOR][/SIZE]
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[SIZE="3"]Throughout the millennia, the villagers have carved terraces into the cliffs and hills and planted various crops unique to Southern Italy, and Italy in general, and have managed to make that coastline the most charming of all the Mediterranean. JP told us he would stop if we asked him to, but to understand that the entire journey (about 45 minutes) was precarious, and a little dangerous to simply stop upon command. He knew of a great pull out along the route that was safe and offered the best views of all, and it overlooked the incredible village of Positano. He was right. The road is a bit treacherous, but he was a safe driver and we never felt threatened by anything he did. By the time we arrived at the pull out, Caitie was car sick, along with Seth, Grandma, Micah, and yours truly. I think my problem was connected to the pain killers I took, which complicated my car sickness. I was shaky and sweaty, and felt like I was going through detox. But, our walk in Positano cleared all of our minds and we were ready to drive again after the hour. The lookout was exceptional, and you will appreciate what it offers. A man selling fresh fruit had a stand where we stopped, and he was giving us samples of his fair. His fruit was excellent and very affordable.[/SIZE]


[SIZE="3"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]At the overlook.[/COLOR][/SIZE]


[SIZE="3"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]A View of Positano from the overlook.[/COLOR][/SIZE]

[SIZE="3"]After a few minutes, we continued another five minutes into Positano, and JP told us to meet him at 11:45. The eight of us scattered like quail when he turned us loose, and my family of four set out to walk to the beach, and then shop our way back to the road. For a hilly, cliff built village, it was surprisingly scooter friendly, and Mike and GeorgeAnne were able to tour many shops. We made it to the bottom without problem, unless you count being distracted by the incredible shops scattered and stacked along those narrow village streets a problem. We sampled limoncello and wine, and strolled casually through the clothing stores, curios, and knickknacks. One thing I intended to do on this last day in Italy was to find a wine shop that would ship a case of wine home to us in the US. I looked in every shop that sold wine on the way down to the beach, but found their prices to be a bit exaggerated, or touristy, if you will. Just beyond the church I followed the staircase and found a small supermarket that sold wine. I checked the prices and discovered that he sold wines from the 8 euro range all the way up to 800 Euros. He promised to ship to the US for only 60 Euros, which was expected. Most shops will ship anywhere between 40 and 70, depending on how much you order. Well, I ordered a case of 12. I picked up three bottles of limoncello and the store owner selected nine bottles for me that he highly recommended. All told, I spent 172 euro on 12 bottles, which averaged about 14 per bottle. I could have spent less, but I was satisfied with the selection made. The shipment was to be expected in 7 to 10 days. He also offered a guarantee that if a bottle was broken he would replace it. I think it was a good deal.[/SIZE]




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[SIZE="3"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]A few more pictures of Positano.[/COLOR][/SIZE]


[SIZE="3"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]Lemon Groves[/COLOR][/SIZE]


[SIZE="3"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]This is what awaits you if you walk all the way down the hill that is Positano. Not too hard coming down but make sure you have plenty of time to climb back up! That's my lovely sister, Micah, in the center of the picture. She made it down much faster than me.[/COLOR][/SIZE]



[COLOR="DarkGreen"][SIZE="3"]Enjoying the view![/SIZE][/COLOR]



[SIZE="3"][COLOR="DarkGreen"]Waiting to climb back up to the top.[/COLOR][/SIZE]
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By this time, our hour in Positano was exhausted so we continued along the coast for a few more miles to Sorrento, which is another fabulous town to visit. It is certainly bigger than Positano, as it had a population of about 25,000 residents. The city center was a bee hive of activity, and as hives go, it was buzzing. The barbarians had arrived en mass, so eight more barbarians had little effect on the city. JP gave us another hour to amble about, so our family group of four set off to wrap up whatever souvenir shopping remained. We sampled more limoncello, and were firmly committed to the tart liqueur. It was always served in large frozen shot glasses, and it was wonderful. As I mentioned, limoncello is tart. I really mean it. It is tart and then sweet. Actually, all at the same time probably, but your mind probably can't process such extremes simultaneously. Brace yourself for that first taste, and then enjoy that involuntary muscle spasm that occurs at the back of your tongue, followed by that slow burn. Ah, I would give anything to try it again for the very first time! Sarah bought some shot glasses for our purchases of limoncello, and we were wrapped up with our shopping. We spent our remaining time walking and snapping photos, and simply enjoying another marvelous Italian experience. We even stopped and watched a puppet show for a few minutes. Seth found a toy store, which was interesting to compare to a Toys R Us. Sorrento is a definite "must return to" town. We had a great time with the city, even though hoards of barbarians roamed the streets in tight gaggles that trickled rather than flowed. Despite it all, we decided, along with MacAurther, "I will return."




This is the square where JP dropped us off and picked us up in Sorrento. You could walk any direction from here and shop to your heart's content.










Buying Legos in Italy. According to my Lego authority (my 11 year old son) it was a rare set.




I don't know what this is but it was there with all the shops. Beautiful.




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Our restaurant was just around the corner from our meeting location and they seemed to be expecting us, along with several other tour groups and a spattering of locals. The restaurant was clean and charming, and went out of their way to accommodate us with our scooter needs. Their menu offered just about anything you might be interested in, but we focused on their pizza. Their prices were affordable, individual pizzas about 14 inches round, starting at 8 Euros. By the time all eight of us ordered our Cokes and one bottle of wine, and two bottles of water, our grand total was 92 Euro. Sadly, they had a Wi-Fi signal, but we could never get it to connect to our phones. I guess the server was overloaded, or something.


We left the restaurant and waddled into the gelateria next door. As gelatos go, it was tasty and affordable but not exceptional. I believe the small cones were 2 Euros each. In the grand scheme, those gelatos were "okay." We were pressed for time, so we hustled off to meet our guide in Pompeii.







Our limoncello toast. The limoncello was complimentary.

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When we connected with Margherita at Pompeii, we found her to be a very competent and efficient guide, who was thoroughly knowledgeable and eloquent. She had coal black hair and fit the image of a focused young Roman woman, which was tempered with her pretty smile. She was extraordinarily compassionate with Mike about his scooter and went out of her way to make accommodations where he could experience as much of Pompeii as possible. In doing so, she inadvertently cut our tour in half, but that was fine. We were all experiencing culture fatigue by this point and were content with our more focused tour than the grand overview. What we didn't see in volume she made up for in quality. She was very careful to make sure we all understood her and that she explained everything thoroughly. She was a charming and graceful woman, and we very much enjoyed her tour.


Pompeii is one of those places like Ephesus. There is simply no way to properly describe it. One must experience it. Unlike Rome or Athens, it is much easier to immerse yourself into the ancient Roman culture when you can actually enter the city itself. Much of Pompeii is preserved, with very limited reconstruction. As is true with most ancient archeological sites, only about 1/3 of the city is properly excavated. Who knows what future discoveries await us? I strongly recommend you take time to visit Pompeii, and I pray you are blessed enough to have Margherita as your guide when you do.


I would like to add here that my father was only able to do a portion of the tour of Pompeii. When we got to a point where his scooter would no longer work, our guide escorted him back out to a café to wait for us to finish. We knew going in that he was going to have difficulty in Pompeii but just chose to see what we could and enjoy what we could.







This amphitheater was as far as the scooter could go. Margherita escorted my dad back out of Pompeii at this point and we waited for her here.




Mount Vesuvius!!





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A few more pictures of Pompeii.





The mountain is ever present!




The casts of victims of the horrible event.




Treasures unearthed.


Once our time in Pompeii was complete, JP drove us back to the ship. By taking the highway, he had us back by about 5 PM, which made the drive roughly 30 minutes. Overall, our day with JP was a good day. He was a great tour guide, and will do well with you as well.


Thus concluded our final port day on our cruise. Sadly, this trip had to come to an end. I will offer these final thoughts about the Salerno port of call: If you intend to tour the Almalfi Coast, and trust me, you DO want to tour the coastline, plan it for the morning. If you wait too long in the day, you risk having the road be too congested with other traffic, and your guide may be forced to take you over the highway to get you back to the ship before it sails. You don't want to be "those people!" Also, don't try to tour the Amalfi coast in a tour bus. They simply don't fit on the road and you will be freaked out every three or four minutes from the extremely tight curves. It is a very, very curvy road. Marilyn Monroe was the model they had in mind when they designed the turns. Apparently.


Okay, if you ever want to see the quaintest of Italian living, and experience the charm of Italian art, food, crafts, and living, then Positano should be at the top of your list. Florence was one of my favorite cities to visit. Positano is my favorite village.



Juan Pietro


I don't remember too much about what we did on board that evening. I'm sure it was more of the same. Have a drink, go to dinner. I know we did see the show. It was the Backbeat Beatles and they were okay. Nothing spectacular. I think the kids spent the evening watching movies in the stateroom. We were all tired and ready to relax on our final day on board.

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Yes, it was due to the sofa bed. When the bed is fully extended it is only inches away from the vanity area. It makes it very difficult to from the actual bed to the bathroom with the sofa bed pulled out.


Thank you so much


Love your review - is getting me very excited x

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Uggh, lol! Your review has caused me to rethink my planned cruise! I have been planning a Venice to Greek Isles (no Turkey) trip in Oct. 2015 but Ephesus sounds wonderful! Now I'm being tempted to look at 9&11 day cruises out of Rome! Thanks a lot! :P Hee hee. Something tells me this might end up being Oct 2016 but that might well have happened even with the 7 day from Venice.


It is fun to see the review from both of your POV. Great job! Thanks for all the tips you've mentioned. Between you and Drama Queen I have learned lots! :)

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Uggh, lol! Your review has caused me to rethink my planned cruise! I have been planning a Venice to Greek Isles (no Turkey) trip in Oct. 2015 but Ephesus sounds wonderful! Now I'm being tempted to look at 9&11 day cruises out of Rome! Thanks a lot! :P Hee hee. Something tells me this might end up being Oct 2016 but that might well have happened even with the 7 day from Venice.


It is fun to see the review from both of your POV. Great job! Thanks for all the tips you've mentioned. Between you and Drama Queen I have learned lots! :)


Turkey was fantastic and Ephesus was one of the highlights of the whole trip! That being said, I would LOVE to go back and do an itinerary that includes Venice! :D I don't think you can go wrong either way!

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Sea Day 12


Our mood could be summed up in one phrase—our last day at sea. Although we were consoled with the fact that we still had one full day ahead of us in Barcelona, we were distraught that our long awaited Mediterranean cruise was coming to an end.


We began our day with breakfast in the dining room, and we were in no hurry to get up and get out. We had a very casual attitude about activities for the day. The kids spent most of their day in the arcade trying to use the free credits they had from the Crown and Anchor coupon booklet.


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Kids in the Arcade.


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Sarah and Caitlin did manage to attend the guest talent show, mostly out of idle curiosity to see the performance of Thriller, the project the guests had been working on throughout the cruise. They always seemed to practice in the Centrum, which helped contribute to the noise pollution. But, enough of my complaining about the noise. I can hardly hear it now. And, sitting in my office, I would give just about anything to be back on that ship, noise and all!


12244400183_fe016dcdd5.jpg010 by inmanfamily4, on Flickr


The Tropical Theater


12244790966_21ac6905de.jpg011 by inmanfamily4, on Flickr


Those brave souls who were willing to perform Thriller! We had so much fun watching their practice sessions in the Centrum the entire cruise, we just had to see the finished product!


I attended the last art auction on the offhand chance that I might win a painting in the final drawing. Throughout the cruise, the art staff would hand out tickets for various reasons, and then collected them on the final day, and drew one of them out of a hat. The winner won a painting of Santorini. Unfortunately, I bid on and purchased the same exact painting earlier in the cruise. I will have more to say about the art auction at the end of the review.


12244823236_9a2d8404d4.jpg006 by inmanfamily4, on Flickr


Will in the Safari Lounge, waiting for the Art Auction.

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Sarah half heartedly attempted to pack, but we knew we were going to do a major overhaul of our packing from our hotel in Barcelona, so this was a "stuff and go" method she employed today.


Unable to lift our spirits packing mostly dirty clothes, we decided to attend one final wine tasting and won yet another bottle of Champagne. We were batting a thousand for the competition, but since they gave out four bottles the odds were very much in our favor. The Wine Steward served us a Malbec that was terrible, and after everyone complained about the taste he opened several more bottles and discovered that the entire inventory of that particular label was bad.


12244380213_7e2312a152.jpg014 by inmanfamily4, on Flickr

Our glasses set up for the wine tasting.


Dinner was the usual round of goodbyes and photos, but the meal was nothing spectacular. Dining on Serenade was not my favorite memory, but it was better than the shows! Don't get me wrong, the food wasn't bad; it just didn't meet the standard I expected from my previous cruises.


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Kamal, our head waiter, was fantastic! He had a puzzle for the kids each and every night. They loved trying to solve his riddles!


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Our Waiter, Evelyn, and Assistant, Livingston were exceptional as always!


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Caroline, our room steward, was our favorite staff member! She has to be the happiest person I have ever met. You never saw her when she wasn't singing or laughing or making someone else laugh. She made our trip that much better just by meeting her!


After dinner, Sarah and I wandered the ship until everything was shut down, and then it was off to bed. The last sea day was almost as boring as my review of it!

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We arrived at Barcelona sometime during the night. On day 9 or 10 they had passed out an exit form (that was to be turned back in to guest services) and we were allowed to choose our timeslot for disembarking. We had no planes to catch, or reason to hurry, so we chose the last time slot, making our departure at 8:30 that morning. Sarah's parents chose to enjoy the late checkout, which meant they could stay on the ship until that afternoon. I don't know more about that particular option, but they were happy with it. Me, personally, I was ready to get off the ship and start exploring Barcelona again, and the 8:30 timeslot worked splendidly for that. Our check out occurred with minimal difficulty, and we were off the ship in less than 20 minutes, with our bags, and standing in the taxi line. (There was no Custom's declaration that I could identify.) The line for a cab was fairly long, but it moved quickly. We took our taxi straight from the terminal to Hotel Regina, and I think it cost about 25 Euros, more or less. The hotel was expecting us, and made the check in process painless. They didn't have our room ready at 9:30, but promised it would be ready within an hour. So, we left our bags with the front desk and walked a few blocks to a café that was already open for breakfast.



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Headed off of our beautiful Serenade!



12245337034_f49608b205.jpg001 by inmanfamily4, on Flickr

Hotel Regina



12244901145_c2866d5ff8.jpg002 by inmanfamily4, on Flickr

In the lobby. Room wasn't quite ready so they had a place to store our luggage.



Barcelona doesn't really get an early start on the day. In fact, the Starbucks, which was located next to our hotel, didn't even open its doors until 7:30, and even then, I was the only person moving on the entire street. So, we found that café and ordered more of that power-punch coffee and a few pastries, and waited an hour. When we returned to the hotel, our room was ready and we were able to explore again.



12245461846_4e7238af2c.jpg005 by inmanfamily4, on Flickr

This café was just around the corner from our hotel and served great coffee! I think the name was Balmes 12.



12245319584_131d7e63e6.jpg004 by inmanfamily4, on Flickr

The coffee in Barcelona was so very good! I could sure go for a cup right now!



12244871585_f7165193d9.jpg007 by inmanfamily4, on Flickr

By the time we got back to the hotel, our room was ready! We really liked this hotel. The rooms were spacious and comfortable and it was in a great location.

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Our main plan was to tour the Sagrada Familia, so we stepped onto the street and hailed a cab. The doorman at the hotel would have done that for us, but the cab rides are cheaper if you grab one off the street, as the driver starts the fare from the moment he receives the call. From our hotel to the cathedral was only a few miles, and the fare was not expensive. Upon arrival at the cathedral, Sarah immediately began to say, "oh, no." She said it several times. It seems that she forgot to go online and purchase our tickets to enter, and we were now doomed to stand in line with the general population. Ugh. Quite a negative turn to our day. So, we got in line, which wrapped from the front entrance, around the corner, and around the next corner. And there was no joy in Mudville. We talked about skipping the cathedral, but so many people insisted that we had to work that into our vacation, that we shrugged and committed to waiting. And while we were waiting in a line that took about an hour and a half, we realized that we also forgot our camera! Fortunately, we had our iPhones, which saved our bacon. For when we finally got into the Sagrada Familia, it was one of the most incredible places we've ever visited.



12245039563_dac1b95245.jpg010 by inmanfamily4, on Flickr

One side of the line to enter Sagrada Familia.


12244858955_977f97c2ee.jpg011 by inmanfamily4, on Flickr

Waiting patiently!


You might remember from the first of the review when I mentioned how disconcerting the architecture designed by Antoni Gaudi was? Well, the closer you stand to the cathedral, the more schizophrenic his work becomes. Half of the building appears to take on the shape of molten wax, while the other part seems be the constructed in Mine Craft. And how he manages to blend such contrasting themes is mind boggling. Not only that, the outside of the structure is NOTHING like the inside. There is no comparison.


First, let me tell you that there are restrooms available, but the line is a bit long. The restrooms are clean, though. They can be found on the outside of the cathedral, and at the entrance to the museum.


You will have several choices for various tours. Visitors can access the Nave, Crypt, Museum, Shop, and the Passion and Nativity towers. We purchased tickets to tour both the cathedral and the museum, and to ride the elevator to the top of the Passion Tower. I highly encourage you to ride the elevator to the top. That was an amazing experience.


And now—the cathedral interior. Gaudi used nature and Creation to reflect God's glory, and he does so masterfully. The first thing you notice as you enter the interior is the sense of peace that settles upon you, drawing you deeper into the room. The next sensation is that of awe. The Nave (sanctuary) itself is massive, and cavernous, and it suggests that it is an extension of eternity itself. The natural lighting and the columns work in concert to create the impression that you have stepped outdoors. The columns are designed to imitate trees, and the trees rise from the floor and became branches, which became a canopy, and the canopy is the ceiling, the top of which rises more than two hundred feet in the air. Your eyes immediately lift to the sky, and you stand in awe of the majesty that is the Sagrada Familia. Hundreds of people are walking and talking, but I immediately had the sensation that I was alone in the room, and that there was plenty of space for all of us.


12244948723_e1781f43f4.jpg040 by inmanfamily4, on Flickr


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We tried taking photos, but the building was so grandiose that our shots couldn't capture what we saw. Somewhere in the far corner, I could hear a choir softly singing a song which sounded like monks singing an ancient Latin hymn, and theirs was an angelic performance.


I began to take inventory of the room. On the farthest side, I could see a spiral staircase that looked as though it was the actual staircase to Heaven. The walls and ceiling were replete with magnificent stained glass that told the story of Christ, and documented the lives of many past saints.


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12245356136_77f50e10d1.jpg038 by inmanfamily4, on Flickr


I stood transfixed in my corner of the sanctuary, overwhelmed that human hands could have created such a masterpiece. I don't have a Catholic background, and I have only attended Catholic services that were funerals, so I've had limited exposure to cathedrals, but what I experienced in that Basilica fostered a yearning in me to worship God at that very moment. I know that God is not a building, and that the people are His true temple, but there was something Divine and inspiring in the Sagrada Familia, and my own wretched grasp of the English language leaves my desire to express those inspirations wanton.


Gaudi's desire was to honor God, and the sacrifice Jesus made for our sins, and what he designed was the greatest human achievement in that regard. Least I bore you with more of my efforts to describe the indescribable; I will continue our chronicle of the day.

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We toured the sanctuary for an hour, with our eyes continually uplifted. When our time came for us to explore the tower via elevator, I was somewhat intimidated by the simplicity of the elevator designated for our use. About ten people crammed into the tiny lift, and we were transported to the rafters and up into the tower itself. When we arrived at the top, the operator told us that we could return by the elevator or we could walk down the stairs to the bottom. Be advised, there are more than 400 steps from top to bottom.


12244975503_e1f34d0e98.jpg030 by inmanfamily4, on Flickr

The towers we would visit.


We stepped outside and quickly realized we were 250 feet high, which is about 25 stories off the ground. I'm not a big fan of heights. My stomach sank when I saw that there were no rails or safety precautions to prevent me from going over the edge and falling to the ground. Oh, it's a safe place; a waist-high wall guarded the path, but I felt very exposed. If one was so inclined, one could easily circumvent the path. The kids were eager to run to the edge and look over, and Sarah and I spent much of our time holding our breath! The pathway that traversed the spire was narrow, maybe 3 feet wide, and you have ample opportunity to gaze down upon Barcelona, which is sprawled out below you almost as far as you can see. Take note while you're standing in the spire that the mountain on the other side of the city, where Montjuic Castle stands, is the same height.


12244703785_a16fe87431.jpg066 by inmanfamily4, on Flickr

First you climb up a little ways.


12244686195_a9ec8d6fa6.jpg072 by inmanfamily4, on Flickr

This wall was not nearly tall enough!


12245096694_7e80cb364c.jpg078 by inmanfamily4, on Flickr

Every so often there was a little balcony you could step out on. A little nerve-wracking for mom!


I was satisfied with my time at the top rather quickly, even though the kids were buzzing about like they were born to be mountain goats. We wound our way back to the elevators and saw that another pathway led past them into a different chamber at the top. We followed some tourists into that chamber and quickly realized that we were now on the staircase the descended into the Nave.


12245271356_44be097734.jpg070 by inmanfamily4, on Flickr

Beautiful views of Barcelona!


We had no intention of returning to the sanctuary via staircase, but by the time we realized where we were, we were locked in to the journey. Another group of tourists were behind us who fully intended on taking the staircase, and there was no way we could step aside and allow them to pass us, so we committed. In Pisa, we climbed the tower and successfully navigated those stairs, which was roughly 275 steps. This can't be that different, right?


The bulk of the descent is a very narrow spiral staircase with very narrow steps, and no guardrails whatsoever. I was too fat to fall into the stairwell and not get wedged in the open space, but a smaller person could conceivably fit into the hole, and could, conceivably fall many stories. (Worst case scenario.) Why am I telling you this? Because, if you're claustrophobic, or climacophobic (fear of falling down stairs) you won't want to take this journey. I suffer from neither of those two phobias. But, if you remember from the very first of our review, I told you about actually falling backwards into an open stairwell and breaking my ribs? Guess what came flooding back over me while descending the staircase? I have never, ever, never, ever had an anxiety attack in my life, and I chose that staircase to break new ground. My heart began racing, and my breaths were labored, and I hugged the outside edge of that staircase as if I was trying to squeeze between the spaces in the stones. My legs were starting to become Jell-O and I had to force myself to continue the journey. I'm so glad I was wearing a pair of Depends. By this point in the cruise, I had used all of my pain meds and had no Valium left. (Insert frowny face here.) By the time we reached the sanctuary level, which was where I was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I was dismayed to realize that I still had another five stories or so to go. Holy cow! I was never so glad to be back in a church. Fortunately, we were now done with our tour, which was a relief because I had exhausted all of my adrenalin and had no more to spend. But, before I leave the staircase to … uh…Heaven (out of respect for the church), I want to tell you to take a moment and enjoy the view of the Nave from your vantage point. The view is completely awesome, provided you're not struggling with an irrational fear.


12245072934_ab487d2331.jpg085 by inmanfamily4, on Flickr

This spiral staircase went on and on and on! And the little curb on the side was just about ankle high. My 11 year old is on the smallish side and probably could have fit down the middle of it!

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