I didn't post on my blog that I was going on vacation, because it's generally a bad idea to tell The Internet when your house is going to be unattended for 2 weeks. But I went away for two wonderful weeks (okay, admittedly it was one really great week and one rather okay overall week) and now I am back.
My husband and I, along with our friends and neighbours, went on a transatlantic cruise. The cruise left from Rome (well, actually Civitavecchia, which is just outside of Rome) and stopped in Toulon (France), Barcelona, Cartagena, and Malaga (Spain), and Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Toulon was gorgeous, even though we stopped there on a Sunday and most things were closed. I'd love to go back to France some day. Cartagena was probably my favorite stop in Spain, with Barcelona running a close second and Malaga a very close third. Spain was just gorgeous!
Tenerife was a bit less interesting than the other places on account of there being very little to see in Santa Cruz. If you want to see Tenerife, you pretty much HAVE to book a tour and go at least an hour or two outside of the city limits. Since we didn't really have time to do that, we just wandered around the city. We ended up at the Nuestra Señora de Africa market. It was pretty interesting.
But without a doubt, the highlight of the trip was the day and a half we spent in Rome.
Rome is a beautiful city.
Don't try drive a car there. You'll probably die. But if you walk and/or take public transit (don't even try a cab...seriously...drivers are batcrap crazy, there are no lines on the roads and rules seem entirely optional), Rome is incredible. H and I did a tour of the Vatican first thing in the morning on our first full day in the city. We booked our tour through Presto Tours, which was a little bit expensive, but gave us the best value for our money. The tour groups are kept under 15 people so the tour guide can keep track of you and give you better one-on-one answers to your questions. We bypassed ALL the lines, and got to see all the highlights of the city. The Vatican is simply too big to try see it all on your own, but we enjoyed St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museums. At least...we saw some of the Vatican museums. There are a lot and it could take you several days to try do it all on your own.
In the afternoon, we took the subway over to the Colosseum, where we did a combined tour of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Palantine Hill. Our tour guide for the Colosseum was not very good, but the guide for the Forum and the Palantine Hill was really excellent. I wouldn't recommend doing the Palantine Hill or the Forum on your own unless you are a major history buff. The palace that covered the Palantine Hill was quite enormous, but it really just looks like a bunch of rubble in places, and there are parts you wouldn't even realize were part of the palace unless you had a guide telling you "This was part of the palace." You'd completely miss the throne room, and the impressiveness could easily be lost, considering how absolutely enormous it originally was.
As for the cruise. Well, I might be biased in my opinion. I'm not much of a sailor and quite prone to motion sickness. I was sick on several of the days we were at sea. But on the days I was well, I was rather underwhelmed. I'd love to do another cruise. We probably will. I'm not sure I'd be much inclined to sail with Royal Caribbean, though. The value of service for the money paid was pretty underwhelming. When you pay a certain amount of money, you expect your dishes to be clean (especially in the fancy dining room), your waiter to be pleasant (the assistant waitress was wonderful, though), and ...well, you'd rather not find dead (drowned) insects in your salad. Eww. The information on the shore excursions ought to be accurate (at one point, we were informed that we'd be arriving in Malaga on Labour Day, May 1). The entertainment was underwhelming. The buffet hours were odd, the buffet food was the same Every Single Day! And it was decidedly NOT allergy friendly.
But I loved Rome. I need to go back some day!
Pictures are forthcoming. There are a lot and I need to sort through my favorites.