Sunday, July 15, 2012

Farnborough Air Show

Friday Ray and I were discussing what to do this weekend. During the conversation, one of Ray's to see if we wanted tickets to the Farnborough Air Show. A bit freaky, but it was much appreciated.

The kids love air shows. It goes back to living in Seattle where we'd go to the air shows that had hydrofoil races in between flying demonstrations. While there were no hydrofoil races, the kids (including Ray) had a blast.

The first thing Ray wanted to see was the Virgin Galactic display. They actually had Space Ship Two there. We were surprised to find out just how soon they will be making tourist flights into space. Before next June Branson and his family will take the first flight into space, and thereafter the will start flying the 500+ passengers they have already reserved their space flight. Price to go up into space: about $225,000.

The kids loved all the rides they had. Misty especially loved all the toddler rides. 
Almost everything here was free, so the kids had a lot of fun in the family zone.

Misty loves train rides.

While zorbing sounded cool, the soggy field they played in got the kids all muddy :(

Neil spent an hour putting together a model airplane. 
He forgot to grab the paint kit to finish it at home though.

There was a toddler tent where they can crawl around in pop-up tunnels and make some crafts. 
This is Misty after she made her crown. At first glance this is just another cute picture of Misty, 
but look closer at her face and you can't help but laugh.

Misty got to see Peppa Pig and George....oink!

Ok this was CRAZY! The Mercedes had a kids driving course the kids got to go on. 

These are real cars that they are ACTUALLY driving.

Both of the kids surprised us at how well they handled the whole driving experience.

They both were able to move all around the obstacle course, including parking in reserve, without knocking over any cones. They also both claimed the instructor didn't even have to step on the brake (they were drivers ed cars).

Lexi after driving.

Neil after driving.

So one thing we splurged on was paying for Lexi to go on a helicopter ride. Nobody else was brave enough to go with her, but we made friends with some ladies in line who went up with her.

It was only a 5 minute ride, but Lexi got lucky and was able to sit up front.

She LOVED it! What a wonderful experience. Everyone was so 
exhausted by the end of the day from all the fun they had.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Med Cruise Day 10: Back in Barcelona

Ray's Journal

The ship pulled into Barcelona before 5AM. We woke up to the announcement that everyone needs to disembark. Such a sad day for us.
We took cabs to the apartment hotel. The hotel was actually ready for us [surprise]! Its always nice when things work out well. After check in we all kind of just chilled in the apartment for a few hours. Then we walked a few blocks to the shopping mall for entertainment. We found a dunkin donuts!! We also found a chinese buffet for spaniards. Angie and I were the only ones brave enough to partake (everyone else had Burger King) and the word Angie came up with afterwards was “interesting”. It was a culturally thought provoking exchange. They had hardly any of the same “Chinese Buffet” items we Americans are used to. For instance they had what appeared to be onion rings - they we round fried cod. They had what looked like fried chocolate - it was fried sushi. All of their shrimp foods had the shrimp cooked whole (shell and all with eyeballs etc). Their “postre” or desert bar was fresh fruit , nuts rolled in sugar, and flan.
The rest of the day was spent in the hotel trying to wait out the rain (so we could swim in the outdoor pool) and listening to the tuberculosis ward that lived in “Grandma’s room” of the cruise ship (everyone who had stayed in that room came home coughing). We all had to leave to go home tomorrow so it was a subdued day.

Angie's Journal

The cruise was over. We got dropped back off in Barcelona. I booked us an apartment which we all crashed at for awhile. I took a nap (gasp!) for a few hours. We went to the mall/grocery store and stocked up on the things we would need for the day and evening until our flights left in the morning. It was cheaper for us to stay the night in Barcelona for the night rather than fly out on Sunday. Anyways, the apartment we got was quite comical, esp. the bathroom. The place looked very new and fresh, but cheap as if everything was build from IKEA grade building materials. The bathroom was the worst as I think everything broke in there at one point during our overnight stay. 

The day was rather uneventful, but the evening was very LOUD. The Spaniards are a loud group of people, which we learned from our earlier stay in Barcelona at the beginning of the trip. Unfortunately for us we happened to be trying to sleep during the big Spain vs. Italy in Euro 2012. Every goal the whole town either shouted loudly (and these are some loud people), honked their horns, or shot off fireworks. Then when the game ended it was complete chaos. It is a surprise we got any sleep that night, but we had a complete understanding and appreciation for their siestas. 

Med Cruise Day 9: Marseille

Ray's Journal

The port call today was short due to sailing times. We only had 8 and half hours in port. That was shortened by even more us being lazy and getting a slow breakfast, then having to catch a bus to get into town.

Both Neil and Lexi chose not to go with us today - Lexi was still feeling very tired from her sunburn and Neil was just tired (something about staying up till 1 AM every morning but it was difficult to understand him since he was mumbling into his pillow).

The shuttle bus the cruise provided took us into town and dropped us off at the local marina (A nice place for people like me, but not what we were after today). We walked 2 blocks before we decided to learn from yesterday - we hailed a cab. The cab took us to the rent a car place efficiently and he spoke english pretty well. The rent a car was actually a passenger van with a manual transmission. The thing took a lot of gas to get going into first gear and had a really sticky clutch. It was a pain to drive - but it had great fuel economy!

Last night on our balcony
Angie did the best she could to plan today. There was very little information available online for this region of France. We intended to go to a normal french town and shop their market, but the one that got the best reviews online had no market. We were a little short of time so we couldn’t look into other towns. But we did some light shopping (of the baked variety) in Loirmarine. Then we left and drove to Cocuron where the Lavender drive begins. We drove several miles of it, but saw very little Lavender. I think Angie probably thinks the day is a wash, but it was nice to get out and see the beautiful French countryside with the love of my life.

We got back to the rent a car place and our cabbie was waiting for us. The turn in process was easier than any other I have ever had. The cab ride back to the boat, though was solemn. I’m not sure if it was just everyone was tired or hungry or if everyone was regretting that this was our last night on the boat; but the cab ride was quiet. 

Angie's Journal

The kids looked warn out when they woke up, and Lexi was still not feeling well from her sunburn. So I actually let the kids stay on the ship while my mom, Ray, Misty, and I went out to Marseille. Over this whole trip the older kids have shown just how grown up and mature they have become. When we got back, we even discovered that Neil stayed in the room to take care of Lexi.

We made it to our rental car much easier today since we decided to hail a cab from where the boat shuttle bus dropped us off. I felt bad for the families who decided to skip the shuttle bus (it charged a few dollar a person to ride) and walk from the ship to town. It was easily a 5 mile hike to anywhere. I realized then how grateful I am for not being THAT cheap lol.

Ray struggled a bit with the rental car, which ended up being a 9 passenger van for some reason. There was nothing small that would accommodate our original group size of 6. Anyways, we drove through the beautiful French countryside with all the vineyards and some mountains. I was hoping to see some Lavender fields, but the area was so beautiful I didn't care. Sadly we didn't stop for pictures much because we were on a time crunch. Well also Ray was the only photographer with us that day and he was busy trying to drive the monster van we were given.

This was the last day of our cruise. We had to pack up all our bags and set them out. No more port calls, no more all you can eat food, and no more stupid towel animals lol.

Med Cruise Day 8: Cannes

Angie's Journal
The morning went all wrong. The car rental company we had reservations with was not near the pier, as a matter of fact it took us an hour of walking to find them. When we finally found the place we realized Ray forgot his driver's license on the cruise ship smh. We realized our plans of going up to Grasse and having the girls make perfume while the boys explore a pre-historic cave were out. So to make the best of the day, we decided to head to the beach. Thankfully we had all our swim gear with us because we intended to go to a lake later on in the day, but with the beach right there we saw no need. 
In Cannes, and much of the French Rivera, is like looking into the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Many of our conversations were about the large yachts pulling in and out and wether they were the ones we saw on the Ridiculously Large and Expensive Yacht show (ok it might just be called Super Yachts or something). In order to do the beach in Cannes, we had to find a private beach and pay for our lounge chairs. Since we were saving a load of money from not getting the rental car, we enjoyed being spoiled for the day with a cabana boy, fruit cocktails, and good food at the restaurant. Of course the warm weather and cool water helped us enjoy the day as well. Ray took the older kids tubing at some point in the day too so they can could have some more fun. The private beach was nice because it had toys for the kids to play with such as pool noodles and sand toys. Just because the day didn't go as planned didn't mean we didn't really enjoy ourselves. I think we all needed a relaxing day after walking around Rome and Florence.
Ray's Journal

So the cruise Itinerary originally had us going to Nice, France instead of Cannes. Apparently, if one little [cheaply run] cruise company has a ship run aground somewhere, all the other cruise companies run scared and avoid it. Needless to say, Cannes may be great if your into Hollywood; but it is not set up for 3 mega cruise ships to port there.

We awoke to find Kathy was sick. She visited the ship’s doctor while everyone else ate breakfast to find that she was having a lung infection due to cigarette smoke (since everyone in Europe smokes and she is esp. sensitive to it). The doctor would not give her anything for it, he said just stay away from smoke filled areas and lay in bed all day. She instead asked to stay on the boat for the day and spend the majority of her free time that day in the spa and herbal steam room. She did and she says she feels better because of it.

We did not pull all the way into the port of Cannes, we took the lifeboats (dubbed tenders for this period) into the port docks. When we got to the docks we found buses for the paid excursions, but no other method of transportation was available - not even a Taxi cab! So we had to hoof it through downtown with no knowledge of where anything was. It took us 120 minutes to find the Hertz we rented from. This caused us to miss our appointments for both the perfume making and the caving. I was incredibly angry, but was finally smart and kept my anger in check so I didn’t ruin Angie’s day. Lexi, to her credit, was sorely disappointed but kept it to herself as well. I love my kids, especially when I can learn something good from them.

Once we found the rent-a-wreck company I found to my dismay, that I had forgotten to pack my drivers license in my bag of stuff for the day. I still feel like a horse’s rear-end for ruining Angie’s day (everyone else recovered from my mistake, but I’m convinced Angie did not enjoy the whole day the way she would have if we would have gone to the perfume making and lake district as planned).

With no ride and having missed 2 of the 3 planned events, we opted for a private beach (Angie is telling me to include, “With a Cabana Boy”). It was pretty nice, it came with its own lifeguard and sun seats with umbrellas. The kids played in the sea all day while Misty played in the wet sand all day. Angie mostly watched Misty as she was trying to give me some relax time. I took turns napping on the recliner and playing in the very chilly water with the kids. The piece of private beach we found also served lunch. After lunch I took the kids in a pull behind a ski boat. We all loved it! It was like a 3 man sofa being pulled by a wake boat. We can definitely get that once we are back in the States!

Angie and I made sure everyone had copious amounts of gooey SPF 70 on, but we all got a mild burn on some part of our bodies. Lexi, however, got a burn on her face and back which seemed to make her a little sick. From the walk back to the launch until dinner time she seemed sad and tired. After we ate she came to our room begging to see the doctor. I investigated and found that she was suffering a mild form of heat stroke. I took appropriate actions with the addition of both pedialyte and advil. She went to sleep less than 10 minutes later. I certainly hope she is okay tomorrow.

Med Cruise Day 7: Florence

Ray's Journal

The trip to Florence almost took longer than the amount of time we had to enjoy the city. We started with a bus ride from port to the train station (about 45 minutes); then took a train through Pisa to Florence [Firenze] (about 70 minutes). The total for that roundtrip was over 3 hours if you add in the waiting to get tickets etcetera. We had 3.5 hours in the city itself. We had enough planned to have lasted 6-8 hours. So we head-shedded and decided to cut everything except the Uffizi Museum.

The train dropped us off at 11:30 so we all opted to eat before we ventured into the city. We walked across the street and ducked into panini shops until we found something everyone could eat. For the first time in our trip we had found a place where no one in the place spoke English. Oddly enough, this made no difference in ordering or paying. I guess certain forms of communications are universal.
We stopped by a hotel for one of Kathy’s clients (who is coming soon), and picked up a tourist map. The map said we were only a short hop, skip, and jump away from the Uffizi so we jumped, hopped, and skipped to it. Along we the way we ran into the Duomo. This was one BIG chapel and adjoining building from so far back in time.

The Uffizi was a well decorated and lavish old building. The earliest addition to their collection (that I found) was from the early 15th century. This place has been collecting artwork for centuries (literally)! 

The security personnel were very child friendly. As soon as we cleared the metal detectors they rushed us to the entrance and then to the elevators [bypassing all the other people waiting in line]. The collection started with a huge assortment of roman statues and Renaissance models [oil paintings], then moved into the realm of renaissance nudes. The kids were good with the roman statues - they knew who a lot them were (there were no labels), but it was only with a studied eye that I could discern they were uncomfortable with the nude bodies. I remember being uncomfortable talking to my parents about stuff like that as 13 year old, so I tried the best I could to calm their nerves by discussing the “more risque” of them. I started with Braissque’s (sp?) “The Nude” and its associated conspiracy. They were both intrigued and it helped to ease them into the fact that we were all looking at art (and not have them thinking about nudity). At some point on the second floor [the beginning of the gallery] we saw the bridge in Florence which had burned and been rebuilt. 

After seeing everything upstairs we moved downstairs to see what all 3 of us kids wanted to see - The Medusa by Carvaggio. We had to walk through a lot of Biblical artwork to get there. Because of that I learned that Lexi really likes to know the story of each of the Saints (even though she isn’t a Catholic).
We finally got to the Carvaggio section. The shield front was exactly like we thought it would be. The back was so different from what we expected, though. All the leather was missing and there was a section of paint (which blended very nicely with the Rick Riordan Book - “The 39 Clues”).
The train ride home didn’t have the AC so it was a long and hot ride back to the cruise ship. Once we were there, Lexi and I took the time to do some rock climbing. Then Alexis and myself went to the rock wall. Neither of us was able to complete the wall’s 90 turns. Then Angie, Misty, and Myself went to eat and come back to bed.

Lexi starting her climb on the challenging side.
She didn't make it very far up because it was
an adult course and her arms weren't long enough.

Ray starting his climb
He didn't get much further than Lexi

Angie's Journal

We had two places we wanted to visit in Florence: Medici Chapels and Uffizi Museum. Unfortunately the boat required us to be back earlier than planned because of some security issue at the industry port we pulled into. We decided to skip the Medici Chapel and go for the Uffizi which is what the kids really wanted to see. It was a bit of a journey to the museum, but it was an interesting walk. Florence is known for their art, and it was displayed throughout the city in various means.

The kids really enjoyed the museum. Lexi and Neil were both in awe by seeing some of the master's works of art. They knew a lot about the artists as well because of what they have learned in school. I always love how I get more information out of our kids about things we see than the information plaques. There were a few pieces they really wanted to see in the museum, so as time drew short we found these special pieces. Since there was no cameras allowed in the Uffizi, we managed to take a picture from the roof top cafe that shows the Duomo.

After we got back to the ship, Lexi and Ray tried the rock wall. Both of them decided to do the challenging course, but it proved to be too challenging. Lexi was doing great until she realized her arms and legs were too short to reach over the up-side-down step. Ray has never been great at rock walls, so he didn't get very far either. While Misty and I were laughing at them, we watched the boat pull out of port.

Med Cruise Day 6: Rome

Angie's Journal

It was quite a journey, but we got to see Rome! How exciting. I must say that despite Rome's awesomeness, it was a hot and miserable day. To get to Rome the cruise dropped us off in the city of Civitavecchia. The first thing we see is the sailor statue that Ray and I love, so we got our picture taken. 

When we got off the metro into Rome we saw the Colosseum. That was quite a sight. We all just gasped a little seeing the iconic image of Rome. 

There was so much to see and do in Rome, we quickly realized it would take longer than the 6 hours we had to see everything. We cut out some things from our itinerary, but we still got to see a lot of Rome. What really amazed me was how the Roman architecture was still very prominent throughout the building. I guess I thought that most of the buildings would be replaced throughout time creating a variety of architectural design, but I am glad to see I was wrong. 


We found the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps, but we couldn't find any gelato near the Spanish Steps which completely goes against our "have ice cream every day of vacation rule" (the free ice cream on the cruise ship didn't count lol).

Back on the boat we took Misty to a Dora the Explorer Dance Party, she was so cute :)

Ray's Journal
Woke up to my alarm clock today. That’s not really important to this blog, but I use it to make fun of Angie because it means that her nerves lost the battle with her exhaustion so I got to sleep in. As expected, Neil stayed out too late last night at the teen center. He suffered through the day on only about 4 hours of sleep, but did so like trooper! He never once complained, and even admitted it was his fault so why should others have to listen to him gripe. I am so proud of his adult attitude and sense of personal accountability (even if I am a bit disappointed in his decision making skills - but hey, they gotta learn somehow).
Had a wonderfully cool breakfast. Okay, the breakfast itself was just regular food, but Misty took hold of a glass with both hands and drank from it while only spilling a few drops! It was so cool to watch her do it (Angie and I have been trying to have her drink out of open faced cups all week instead of solely relying on her sippy cup).
Took a bus to get to the train (slow train not a fast mover...) to get to the subway in Rome. Long trip from a city less than 40 miles away. Longer still when there are 8 cruise ships moored in the same dock space and all of their riders want to go to Rome.

Got to Rome and the metro (the subway) dumps us out right at the corner of the Colosseum. We just had to cross the street and we were in the lines for tickets. Luckily for all of us, Angie had done a significant amount of homework on this one - she had pre-purchased tickets for us all and knew that we didn’t have to wait in line to get to the reservations desk. Ain’t she the coolest?!

The Colosseum was awe inspiring. I got impart some knowledge to the kids, and they returned the favor. I love my kids! Unfortunately, it was such a 

hot and humid day, that we all needed some water 
- and there is no food or drink allowed. So we soldiered through over half of the colosseum before deciding to leave.
Instead of finding some water stand, we decided to call it lunch. So we went to local Pizzeria (Le Gladiatore Ristorante). Their pizza was true Italian - a tortilla shell like crust with some very fresh toppings cooked to perfection. Their lasagna was incredible! What a good choice we made! With everyone’s fuel and water tanks topped off - we went back to Palatine Hill and the Forum. We quickly decided it was just ruins and we wouldn’t have time to see everything else if we dawdled, so we went to trevi fountain. The walk there was enlightening... They still use the old cobblestone streets first erected by the Romans - for driving! That stuff still works as a flat smooth road surface which handles weight!
The kids tossed coins into the very crowded Trevi Fountain so they could return to Rome someday. Then we went to the Pantheon, but somehow missed it and found the Spanish steps (which should have been the last part of our tour). This worked out in the end though, as we were well behind time to catch the second to last train back in time for the ship sailing. We almost missed it!

Got back to the ship and showered quickly so that we could make it to “Dance with Dora” for Misty. Did I mention Neil didn’t make it past the gangway with us? He was gone before any of us knew he had left. But the rest of us went to the velvet go-go lounge (I know right?!) to watch Misty shake it and sing with Dora the Explorer. I had dance around the question asked by Lexi of why would a bar have a bed with a TV screen above it? -yeah it was that kind of place! Who puts that on a FAMILY cruise ship?!!! Misty had lots of fun and I got some good shots of her and Lexi dancing and signing. Then we went to dinner and bed for the night (well, Angie and I did - the girls stayed up playing go fish and makeup and what not).

Med Cruise Day 5: Capri

Angie's Journal

A guided boat tour around Capri was on the itinerary for the day. I spent a lot of time researching this before we left. Ray had thought it would be a better idea to save the money and just hire a boat for the day, but I thought it would be more relaxing to have a captain take us around the island. I am so glad I did because the company we ended up with was WONDERFUL!! They took such good care of us (which Ray describes in great detail later on). 

The tour started off by touring the rocky edges of the island. There was a few caves (or grottos as they call them) that we went into, and a few we got to swim in. The kids were loving the ability to swim with their snorkels and see straight down to the bottom because the water was so clear. Neil even found some sea glass he dived down to get. 

After a few swim calls we go to the most wonderful restaurant. The food and wine were delicious, but after drinking a glass of wine we realized that it was a much high alcohol by volume than we expected. There is nothing like a good lunch in an outdoor cafe overlooking the sea. Neil enjoyed watching the people on the beach climb up on rocks that they jumped off.

After lunch and another swim call, Misty had called it a day and took a nap. She loves boating just like the rest of us :) We made another swim called, and Misty woke up right before going into the Blue Grotto. That place was amazing and magical all at once. I could not believe we were lucky enough to get to swim in the grotto, thanks to our smooth talking captain.

At the end of the day we make one last swim call and turn the corner to see this lighthouse. Our captain explained that this was a popular place for lovers to come and watch the sun set. He showed us some pictures on his phone of how beautiful the sunset is from that location. Sadly we had to meet the cruise ship back in Naples, so we could not enjoy the sunset by the lighthouse.

Ray's Journal

OMG! Where to start?! This day rocked! Okay, so we started off poorly, with Kathy and Angie both waking up before 4AM. They suck! But that gave Angie and me time to relax and pack and be casual and in a good mood. It gave Kathy just enough time to get ready and pack before she had to wake up the kids. At 10 minutes before we were due to leave, I walked next door to give the girls medicine (lexi’s sinuses and Misty her Z-pack daily). I was greeted by the sight of Lexi still in bed and Misty still asleep! I thought for sure we would miss the only ferry to Capri. Then as we were all walking off the cruise ship, Kathy realized that she had forgotten her room key (how we get back onboard without customs/security searches).

Getting from the cruise ship to the ferry was incredibly easy. It was a very simple 5 minute walk. Fighting the crowds of 3 cruise ships and the slow people behind the counter who do not speak English was a bit of a nightmare, though! The ferry we wanted was not the only ferry, just the only one before noon. We made it with almost 5 minutes to spare before they cast off.

We got to the absolutely beautiful island of Capri and were able to walk straight to the cafe where we would meet our guide. Very little work involved! It wasn’t our guide we met, but the boss lady who owns the business and the only one who speaks English. She wanted to ensure that our tour of her island was wonderful. I’ve gotta tell you, the customer service we have received so far this trip is exceptional! The owner turned us over to her secretary who very speedily walked us over to the boat and introduced us me and Neil to our guide. I thought that Kathy must have stopped to window shop and Angie was going to make sure she made it to the boat, so I had no problem just standing there with Neil and Misty. Little did I know, that Kathy had stopped to exchange business cards and agendas with the owner, then in a fit to try and catch up had taken a misstep and fallen hard on the cobblestone. Oddly enough, at the end of the day I stumbled in the same spot - so I can easily se how she fell.
When I got tired of waiting for them, I sent Neil back to make sure they could find the boat. Just after Neil disappeared from my sight Alexis came running to me yelling that Grandma had fallen and was hurt. So I bade the tour guide wait a minute, and took off to see how badly she was hurt.

What I saw was a testament to the island of Capri - 3 cops, 2 store owners, and 2 boat drivers hovering over her with first aid supplies and helping to lift her into a chair at a nearby restaurant. None of them left her side until they were sure she was okay and didn’t need an ambulance.
When she was healed enough to hobble over to the boat, we all went to get onboard. The tour guide was compassionate and questioned several times if she needed anything to help her bleeding (little bitty cut on her knee) or pain.

Turns out the boat was a gorgeous old wooden center console inboard engine diesel jobber. Gorgeous! and very well maintained too. She purred when she idled and didn’t make much more noise under load. She had running benchwork down both sides and aft in front of the lounge deck, but she had an incredibly sized bow section with cushions and towels. All 6 of us were able to lay down in the bow with space to spare. And it was comfy even during some of the few bounces we had (such a calm ride).
Our tour guide was named “Nando” and was from Capri. He not only grew up there, but had little working knowledge of AnaCapri (the neighboring town on the other side of the mountain). He said AnaCapri was for the rich folks, not the type who would hire him or his company for an excursion. There three little beachside hotels around the AnaCapri side of the island which he showed us, and the mega-yachts anchored there gave credence to his story.

So we got to see a few grottos and swim in all of them (even the one whose website strictly forbids swimming in it!). Each of these had a completely different feel to it from the others. We stopped first at the Green Grotto. This was a cave which had opened up into a natural arch bridge of very small proportions. We swam through it and met the boat on the other side. Just around the bend from that we stopped and had a swim. Misty got in the water with me - boy is she hard to swim with in deep water! She is a large and fidgity rock! Some big wakes came up and made it unsafe to keep her in the water so we all got out and continued. The next grotto was called Sailor’s Grotto as it was a traditional place for fishermen to hove to or anchor in to escape a storm or take a break from fishing (hand fishing from a 10 foot dinghy is hard work). The kids loved it as it had a ceiling which looked like rocks fell down and created the cave (and could fall again at any minute) and there was a beach on the backside of it. It was a small, white pebble beach, but a beach which they could swim to. Neil spent almost 10 minutes following a school of small perch.

After Sailor’s Grotto, we came to Mary’s grotto. So named because it has a single stalagmite in it, but that stalagmite is shaped much like the typical Catholic representation of the Virgin Mary. In this grotto we learned from Nando that the island of Capri is one of the very few places in the world where orange coral grows at the tidal mark. He showed us this small but very brightly colored orange coral. It was interesting to see and know about.

Without swimming, we proceeded to Saints Grotto. This one was named because it has several stalactites which if you stretch your imagination can be perceived as a bunch of people in prayer. So that’s two rock formations which I was perfectly capable of seeing. I saw the described figures in both. Yet I still can’t see the woman praying in the rock wall at Yellowstone (see one of my original blogs - a YellowStone trip from our family move in 2005). Also, there was a large black scorch looking mark, which many of the local Catholics believed was put there by God as it resembles a cross. Again, we did not swim.

The next stop was not a grotto nor a swim call, but lunch. Lunch was at a large rock which grew out of the sea near a small town named Gioglio. This was a resort town only. On the rock, though, was a small bistro named La Sirene. They had some absolutely wonderful food! It was a bit pricey, though. The had an absolutely brilliant bottle of local white wine which we all just loved! It got the three of us just a little drunk!

We got back on the boat and went to the next stop, the world famous Blue Grotto. It’s website definitely stated that there was absolutely no swimming allowed in the grotto, but our guide asked the boatmen who took us and they said sure. So we were one of the last few people in the grotto today, and our boatmen allowed us to jump in and swim for just a few minutes. The water was a brilliant shade of blue with no bottom visible. It was cold and quiet except for us. All of us got into the water except Kathy [who took pictures]. On the way out, the boatmen started signing italian to us. It felt like we were being serenaded.

After the grotto we had nothing real left, but had some time to kill before we needed to meet the ferry. So our tour guide took us to an isolated stretch of shoreline (it had some kind of an avalanche or rock slide in the past few hundred years) and we swam around that for the remaining time.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end, so with heavy hearts and a decent case of sunburn, we disembarked the wonderful boat and Nando’s guide for the ferry. We didn’t go straight to the ferry though... We got sidetracked at a Gelato bar. It was a wonderful way to end a fabulous day of boating and swimming!

We got back to cruise ship with no hassles and we each went our separate ways - Neil left us before we even got back to the room (he actually said goodbye as he ran away). The rest of us showered and Misty and I left to eat chicken nuggets. Angie went for her final acupuncture therapy. She came back to the room looking happy and refreshed. I’m glad that the treatment worked for her!