Thankfully, our cruise pictures were able to be recovered by the photo guy at Shoppers Drug Mart. Yay! Also Jacob's 6th birthday pictures were on there too, so I'll start with that. Jacob turned 6 on June 7th, which, unfortunately, was while we were on our cruise, so we celebrated early. With Jacob, less is definitely more, so we just had some family over after supper for some cake and ice cream. On his 4th birthday, he started crying when we sang "Happy Birthday" and brought his cake to him, so we've kept it pretty low key since. Jacob is really into Pokemon right now, so I made a cake to look like his favorite character, Gastly. He seemed to enjoy himself.
Jacob and Dad
So onto the cruise. Be aware that this will probably be a long post, with a lot of pictures.
We left on Thursday June 4th after supper. Our flight to London Heathrow left Halifax at 11:45pm, and since it was international, we had to be there early. In case anyone didn't know, Brian's a big Pittsburgh Penguins fan, and game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals was being played as were driving, so he got me to slowly go through all of the FM and AM radio stations to see if we could find one that was broadcasting the game. Brian realized that XM radio (which we don't have) had exclusive broadcasting rights, but we did end up finding a very staticky AM sports station that was giving regular updates, so that's what we listened to until we got to the airport. Pittsburgh was up 1-0, I believe when we parked the car.After we checked our bags (what a difference when you don't have kids with you!) we went to our gate, and Brian got out his laptop and went on NHL.com to see how things were going. I, being the good wife that I am, took a little walk down the hallway to see if there was somewhere that had a TV with the game on. I found a bar showing the game, and I raced back to tell him, so we watched it til they kicked us out. (Bar closed at 10:30 but there were lots of people watching and we didn't leave until almost 11pm. The waitresses were ticked.)) Pittsburgh was up at 4-2 by that point. We went back to wait at our gate and boarded the plane. Brian had enough aeroplan points so he booked me a first class ticket, and since this was a conference for work, and airfare was a business expense, he booked himself a first class ticket. Can I just say, if you ever have the chance to fly first class, DO IT!! It was awesome. Especially on this particular airplane.
We each had our own personal TV, the flight attendants kept offering us OJ and champagne in glass glasses, not plastic. We got the hot towel, a little goody bag with travel socks, blindfold, lip balm, lotion, etc., and the best was that the seats could recline and lay down flat so you could actually sleep. Oh, and we got a substantial pillow and a heavier blanket. It was heaven. Brian actually asked the flight attendant if she could find out who won the hockey game, and she was able to find out that Pittsburgh won it 4-2. Brian and I both watched "Taken", although I regretted that the next day when I was so tired from staying up too late and the four hour time change. Above: Brian relaxing in first class.
Friday June 5th
We took the tube to St. Pancras Station, where we boarded the Eurostar train to Paris, where we were going to meet up with Brian's Mission President and spend the night, and catch a flight the next morning to Barcelona Spain, where our cruise departed. We met his Mission President at a fountain near Notre Dame, but we got off a stop too early and got lost, and couldn't figure out how to use the phones to call his cellphone.
Well, that's not entirely true. Brian knew how to use the phones, but for some reason, it wouldn't accept his credit card, it didn't take cash and we didn't have a phone card that they use over there. So finally, we just started walking and asked some guy at a cafe where this fountain was, he told us, and away we went. The fountain was in this square, where there was a hundred people milling about, but we found him, 45 minutes late. We waled, talked, well, they talked, I listened mostly, we got a crepe and he put us on the right subway to take us to our hotel. I wanted to walk around more and buy cheap Eiffel Tower souvenirs, but alas, it was not to be. Guess that's what happens when you're late. You'e short on time. Brian had originally wanted to leave a few days earlier and stay in France for three nights to visit more with Prez, visit a few places from his mission, and I have always wanted to see Versailles. But I talked him out of it. I was already having a hard time with being away 10 days minimum, because we had never left all of the kids before, for that lenght of time, and going halfway across the world. What if something happened? We couldn't just come home at a moments notice, and my Mom wasn't able to stay for 2 weeks, although Brian's parents had offered to stay with them when my Mom had to leave. Well as it turned out, it's a good thing we didn't go for longer. Brian's Dad needed a kidney transplant, his Mom was to be the donor, and we found out less than a month before we left, that the surgery would take place while we were away. I felt bad that I was cutting the trip short, but we'll just have to go back sometime. It all worked out. The surgery went fine, in case you're wondering.
Me, by the fountain.
Saturday June 6th
We caught a flight to Barcelona, hopped in a taxi (we don't speak Spanish) and showed the driver on our itinerary, the port we needed to get to. It was hard not to miss it. The cruise ship was absolutely humongous!!
Here's some pics of our stateroom.
It was bigger than I was expecting,
not that it was huge, but it was cozy.
Bathroom had a tiny shower.
The rest of it. Our window
overlooked the "Royal Promenade" which was the mini mall, and the windows were incredibly
soundproof. We didn't hear
a thing at night.
We walked around the ship, saw two pools (one was adult only, and I forgot to take a picture), a mini golf course, a sports court, rock climbing wall, spa, gym, different kids areas by age, mini mall, ice rink, 2 level theatre, 3 level formal diningroom, massive buffet, etc. Boy, they had everything! It was amazing. Our dinner time was at 6:45 pm every night and at the same table, which was quite nice. We were seated with a doctor originally from Russia but working in Hamilton, ON and another doctor from Niagara on the Lake, ON, his wife and their 12 year old granddaughter. We only ate with the Russian doctor that night. He went to the buffet every other night, but it was nice to be able to talk to people about what we each did during the day, what excursions we did, etc. All the staff were so nice. They couldn't do enough for you, and they came from all over the world. Our Head waiter was Italian, our waiter was from, oh, I forget. Somewhere in the Caribbean I think, and our assistant waiter was from Mauritius. Brian spoke french to him. He liked it. The waiter did, I mean. But everyone spoke pretty good english.
Sunday June 7th
Our first port of call was Valencia, Spain. I didn't love it. It was nice and all, lotsofhistoricarchitecture, huge, old churches. Oh, funny story. We were in this one church looking around. They had all the 12 sons of Israel going around the whole chapel, so we were looking at all the incredible detail, and were were getting close to the front of the church, and Brian was considering going up front, like really really up front, to look at something, and all of a sudden we heard this weird singing, sort of chanting, and this Catholic priest was coming out followed by all the altar boys I guess, and then it hit us. It's Sunday. Mass is about to begin. So we hightailed it out of there. It was embarassing because we were on the opposite side of the exit, so we had to cut across a row of pews to get out. We looked around, and it was bloody hot out, so we headed back to the ship about mid afternoon. There really wasn't a whole lot to see. I was super tired too. I kept nodding off.
We laid out by the pool and read until dinner. I brought "Twilight " with me to read for the third time. I actually saw a fair number of people reading the Twilight series. Brian had to check who had won the hockey game the night before. Pittsburgh got smoked. Not good. Tonight's dinner was formal dress. I had gotten a cute little black Evan Picone dress on e-bay before we left, for CAD$31, including shipping, exchange, everything!! I was way excited to wear it. Everynight had a different dress code.
Today we went to Palma de Mallorca (pronounced My-orca) It's an island off the coast of Spain.
This was probably my favorite port. Either that or Villefranche. I can't decide. We had booked an excursion that took us across the island to a place called Porto Cristo, where we stopped at the beach, and visited some underground caves.
Me at the beach. We stuck our feet in the Mediterranean Sea, and it was COLD!
I think the caves are among the largest in the world. We weren't allowed taking pictures down in the caves. There was the largest underground lake in the world, and we watched a classical concert where the performers were plaving their instruments on little boats while they were moving. It was kind of weird, but pretty cool too. After the caves, we stopped at a Pearl factory. Mallorca is world renowned for their pearls, which are manmade, but apparently they have some top secret formula where you can't tell the difference between their pearls and real pearls. I love pearls. They're classic, timeless really, and I was looking forward to purchasing some. I thought that since we were going to a factory, that the prices would be quite reasonable. Well, they weren't so much. Well maybe they were, but I'm kind of a cheapskate, so we didn't really think they were such a great deal. Brian remarked that of course if we were on a tour, that they would probably mark things up 'cause tourists would buy them anyway. So I had planned to go to a couple of pearl stores in Palma, that the cruise's shopping expert recommended. So after we got off the tour we got some lunch, and looked around the capital city, Palma. I really liked it.
There was a massive Cathedral. I think it has the longest aisle in the world, for real. No joke. We found an internet cafe, and checked our e-mail, and then we were going to call home. But then I realized that I forgot our calling card back in our room on the ship. Oops. Big oops. We headed back toward the shuttle bus to take us back to the ship, to get the card. It was starting to get a bit late, and we didn't have time to get the card, come back to Palma and finish shopping. Sucky for me.
Me in front of the main door. Huge, isn't it?
Left: Brian in the guard's post.
Tuesday June 9th
Today we were at sea, on our way up to Marseille, France. Brian had his conference all day, so I went to a seminar on how to boost your metabolism, at the spa. I laid by the pool and read, met Bri for lunch, and then laid by the pool some more and just relaxed. It was awesome. I saw lots of people with kids, and was grateful that mine weren't with me. I heard babies crying, and could say with absolute surety that they weren't mine. I almost didn't want to come home to reality. Does that make me a bad mother?
Wednesday June 10th
Today was Marseille, France. It's a dirty city. Very industrial. My brother in law, Mike served his mission here, and he told us not to bother spending any time in Marseille itself, so we planned to hop on a train and go to a town called Aix-en-Provence.
We got to the train station about 5 minutes after a train to Aix left. We bought tickets for the next train, an hour and a half later, and set out to find an internet cafe. There had been a hockey game the night before, so we had to check the score. For all we knew, Detroit might have won the Stanley Cup. Ol Eagle Eyes (that's me) spotted a cafe, so we went in and checked. Brian told me not to look, jokingly, in case I jinxed them. But the Penguins won. YAY!!! All tied up at 3 games a piece. We checked e-mails, I got some pics of the landscaping going on at home, (post about that later)and then we went to wait for our train, which was delayed, so when we actually got to where we were going, it was lunchtime. Half the day was already gone. Aix-en-Provence was a pretty town. We saw some churches, cool buildings, busted our butts walking so fast to make the most of everything, and on the advice of my sister, Keah, I got a 1 litre YOP. 1 whole litre! It was awesome. I should have taken a picture. I love YOP. I must say though, it did get a little much toward the end. We got some french pastries to eat on the train ride back. YUM-O! So good. And they came in the fanciest little boxes. I hated to throw them away. They looked expensive. I'm weird like that.
The ceiling of a cathedral. Beautiful.
Stay tuned for Part 2.