We will visit with
Larry and Manuela
Larry and Manuella
click to enlarge

2015 France and Mediterranean Cruise Diary and Photos

Here's our cruise diary for 2015 - enjoy!

We had to pass on the 2015 Spirit of the West Cruise which we really missed this year but an opportunity came up that we wanted to take advantage of. Kathy's Dad and Manuela invited us to come for a visit with them in France. We decided that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it was also so close to other countries on our bucket list, that we decided to go! We hope you enjoy the following diary as we head to Europe.

See the map below (or scroll down).
Go to the Itinerary below (or scroll down).

Kathy and Mark
on holiday! Kathy and Mark on holiday
click to enlarge

Alsace Wine Route in France   Emerald Princess in the Mediterranean

Above left is the Alsace Wine Route in France where we will be staying in Manuela's house from May 3rd to 8th.
Above right is the Emerald Princess which we will board for a Mediterranean Cruise from May 9th to 16th.

Diary for May 2015

The following photos will all enlarge if you click on them.

April 2015

Just before we left we started a project - something to keep Harry busy.

We put in the floor joists & had the lumber here & the windows ordered.

Old siding off, new foam board and siding back on as far as we can go.

Window out, wall gone, materials on hand, & a trailer for working platform!

Harry said he's bored when he stays here ... so we asked him if he could turn what used to be a window into a bay window while we're away!

May 1st

Red and Helen took us to the Kamloops Airport and took our car home.

Harry sent us this with a note
all set up ready to start in AM.

Kathy's nieces and Victoria's
boyfriend Matt took us to breakfast.

and then a walk through a nearby park - beautiful weather so far.

It didn't take Lauren long to find an ice cream truck in the park!!

Matt took this photo of us on one of the bridges in the park.

Kathy using every spare minute to try and get her course started.

That's one honkin' big plane! We figure it's the 747 we'll be on.

May 1st & 2nd
Red and Helen met us in Kamloops for lunch before they took us to the airport and then took our car to their place. Nice flight to Calgary (free wine and beer) but bumpy enough on descent in Calgary that Kathy said it reminded her of the hammering on the waves when whale watching in a Zodiac! It was hilarious watching her try to drink her wine! Beth and Larry picked us up at the Toronto airport and we had a bottle of wine with them and Larry's sister Cathy and her husband Steve. They also bought our hotel room. They left at 4:30 am (or some time way too early anyway) and we slept in :-). Kathy's nieces Lauren and Victoria, and Victoria's boyfriend Matt took us to brunch and then a stroll in a local park before giving us a ride to the airport ... and here we sit - 10 hours from now we should be in Frankfurt, Germany - still hard to believe!

May 3rd

Signs in the airport were good & we found our luggage & the train station.

The signs in the train station were a little different but we managed ok.

Here comes our ICE train right on time & we're here in the right place.

The train ride from to Offenburg - couldn't believe all the farm land.

Hard to take pictures out the window when you're traveling at this speed.

Kathy got this looking down the isle through the door into the next car.

Manuela & Larry drove us to France ... across the Rhine and Autobahn.

and there in the middle of the forest was the Oberjaegerhof Restaurant.

Larry & Manuela outside the beautiful restaurant with gardens all around.

The restaurant is built in the typical
half timbered style of this area.

Manuela ordered Tarte Flambee which is similar to a very thin crust pizza.

Gewurztraminer - one of the many white wines that the area is known for.

From lunch we headed to Lipsheim and Manuela's amazing 1920s house.

Our cool bedroom that Manuela had all painted up special for our visit.

Looking out our bedroom window we see the neighbour's huge old barn.

Manuela's car that they said was too small worked great for our tours.

May 3rd
We arrived in Frankfurt almost on time and found our way around the airport with no trouble - all the signs are in both German and English. Once in the train station they forgot their English but we still found our way to the right track, the right train, the right car, and even the right seats. Manuela and Larry were right on the platform in Offenburg waiting for us. They then took us to a not so little restaurant in the middle of the forest for a great, typical local lunch - a great way to start seeing the real France. After lunch we headed into Lipsheim and got a tour of Manuela's house and yard - built in the 1920s and really a cool place!

May 4th

The streets are so narrow but full of interesting little shops.

Manuela took this on a little side street in Strasbourg.

They then took us to this huge old church - so impressive.

Huge stained glass windows and so many of them on all sides.

We then went to the Strasbourg Museum - this is a king's bedroom.

All the rooms, like this library, were all set up as original.

In one room they had a great collection of old clocks like this one.

This old 20 foot high clock was a full multiple year calendar and a clock.

All the rooms were huge in height as well as size and seem to go on and on.

The outside of the museum - photos don't do justice to the size of things.

Robert this one is for you - lunch on the river with a "Fischer" beer.

Our table was on a deck with the river between us and the rest of town.

2nd from the left in last photo. The attic was open to air to dry hides to tan.

The next block ... and on and on go these cool old buildings.

We've been eating as the locals do - yummy. These escargot were awesome!

And French Fries for lunch! ... followed by this Creme Brulee.

We were going on a river cruise but the water level was too high.

Downtown Strasbourg with the big old church in the background.

Manuela picked up some fresh bread and some quiches for dinner.

Then we went back to tour inside the church - this is the enormous clock.

Like the clock the church's organ is enormous ... and gorgeous.

and more gorgeous ... looking straight up outside the main entrance.

Not sure how they do it but even in the middle of town there are trains.

Back at home we used a rental saw to do some yard trimming before dinner.

May 4th & 5th
Manuela and Larry took us to Strasbourg and an awesome day of sightseeing. The old Strasbourg church, the Strasbourg museum, lunch in a local restaurant with local favourites, back to a tour inside the church, and then a drive through downtown! After the day of sightseeing we went to a rental outfit and rented a long handle mini chainsaw and a blade type weed eater. We trimmed some of the growth back on a lot of the hedges, shrubs, etc, and the next morning we spent with the weed wacker knocking down some huge blackberry growth areas. We returned the rental equipment and stopped at a local food market for some fresh food for lunch. We then took Larry's brand new chainsaw and did a bunch of dead wood trimming from the fruit trees.

May 5th

Trimming up some of the trees with Larry's new chainsaw.

Some of the dead branches in the fruit trees were pretty big.

We got them all thinned out with the dead wood gone.

Note the piles of blackberries from last night with the weedeater.

This is Morgane Gaessler and her one year old filly Calyss.

We had a great visit with Morgane - here I'm leading the filly in.

Just like Canadian horses she liked her butt scratched too :-).

Very well cared for horses and the grass was thick - wish we had that.

Gilles, (we met with Morgane) asked if we wanted to see sauerkraut made.

That was cool ... we saw the whole procedure start to finish.

Sauerkraut for export. They use about 800,000 heads of cabbage a year.

This machine, cores the cabbage, separates the good leaves, and shreds.

May 5th
After the chainsaw work we headed to a horse boarding facility. Manuela and Larry had met the local bank manager and one day saw her out riding her horse so stopped and talked to her. Manuela said we were visiting from Canada, and owned horses, and we were invited over for a visit. Good timing as she had to be home to meet the vet so we showed up too. Morgane Gaessler was very friendly and we spend quite a bit of time with her and her filly Calyss who is a year old. Morgane owns the filly's mother too and jumps and does dressage. The guy who owned the stable, Gilles, was there too and asked if we would like to see the sauerkraut factory next door ... he ended up giving us a full tour which was awesome - how many people get to go on a sauerkraut processing plant tour!!

May 6th

There always seems to be a bakery close by to get a fresh lunch.

The houses are so old & so close together & built to last forever.

But behind the concrete fronts there are beautiful back yards.

Sitting out on the deck for lunch before we head out for more sightseeing.

We then took in a fascinating raptor show on the way up to an old castle.

They had a lot of different birds of prey - all types and sizes and shapes.

Jill this one's for you ... he was so close to us - amazing to see their size.

This is the largest type of vulture in Europe - I can picture Bunch chasing it.

This bird (???) catches a snake then stamps on it to kill it.

The hunting instinct - this bird caught the meat at high speed in mid air.

and really enjoyed it's reward once it pinned it down.

The eye of these birds is so intent - just like a border collie.

An old castle was the back drop and birds flew to the windows to rest.

They even had different owls flying to the trainers for treats.

Very much like our Great Grey owls at home but slightly different.

Using a rock to break open the shell of this fake ostrich egg.

The view from the raptor show of one of the many little villages below.

And a vineyard right over the wall from where the show was held.

There's that border collie look again but I think this head is bigger.

From the bird show we carried on up the same hill - way up the same hill.

A super view from here & the Rhine River & Germany in the background.

Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg is a medieval castle located at Orschwiller.

Harry I tried to bring you home a sword but they had them fastened down too well.

One of the draw bridges spanning the moat around the castle.

This shows the workings of the draw bridge with the 18 inch chain links.

Kathy found a gun to play with ... not sure who/what she's aiming at.

The castle seemed to go on and on with multiple sections everywhere.

Wow ... now that's a gun. Here we are 2 or 3 very large stories up.

Big doors are huge but the little people doors must have been just that.

The foundation is natural rock ... but can you imagine building this?

and on and on ... just a very massive and impressive rock castle.

This wing is built in the half timber style so common in Alsace.

Basically this says that the first mention of this castle was in 1147.

Route des Vins - the tiny bump on the right hand peak is the castle.

On the Route Des Vins we happen to find a winery - imagine that!

Anke and James - this is a wine press! and the bigger one is inside.

Well we're on the Route des Vins I guess we'd better taste the wine.

Then Kathy found the kegs and tried her darndest to get some.

We ended up buying our two favourites - a Gewurztraminer and a Muscat

Ah ... seeing this on the roadside we're starting to feel more at home.

While walking to dinner Kathy found a horse across the fence to pet.

Our first red wine since we left Ontario at dinner with the neighbours.

Kathy had cordon bleu pork and I had a local style veal - both awesome!

The neighbours, Armand & Astride, invited us to join them for dinner.

May 6th
Another awesome day in Alsace, France. After breakfast and lunch at home we headed south to Orschwiller. Here we saw our first castle which was actually the site of an amazing raptor show which had many different birds of prey swooping through the crowd and landing on the trainers for treats. Further up the same hill we came to Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg a restored medieval castle - truly amazing! All of this is in the area known as Route des Vins (Road of Wines) and so of course we had to stop and do some tastings. It's all white wines and some really nice ones. Back at home we walked through town with the neighbours who had asked us if they could take us out to dinner. Her cousin owned a local restaurant and so we drank and dined Alsacian style ... just like the locals.

May 7th

Like locals we went grocery shopping, wow! Fish as far as you can see!

The variety of food was amazing ... the store just never seemed to stop.

Every section in the store was like the cheese section - absolutely huge!

I have never seen so many different types of cheese before ... in my life.

This is the sign over the deli which had everything and a whole lot more!

Cheval Roast. If you don't know I won't tell you, but it's common here.

and my favourite section in the store ... not that we had a clue what to buy!

The poor little Polo should have been a pickup after that grocery store run.

Its nothing to see a tractor driving right through downtown.

Just like its nothing to see a red tile roof in any of the towns.

It still really amazes us as to how much farm land there is though.

Apparently it is very unusual to see a stork standing on top of its nest.

Town after town ... and all so neat and tidy and so cute.

Oh ... I'm thinking that we might not have dressed appropriately.

The Royal Palace, in the tiny town of Kirrwiller is this humungous theatre.

La Revue Des Merveilles a live show Manuela saw advertised on TV in BC.

No problem ... the blue jeans fit right in and look fine :-).

Brasserie Fischer, not bras, brewery! Where our lunch beer came from.

Our drive home was fine ... glad we weren't headed north though.

Meanwhile things are looking pretty good at home !! :-).

May 7th
Breaksfast and then some real local Alsace stuff ... grocery shopping! It was quite an experience - we thought Costco was big - they got a long ways to go. Then after lunch Manuela drove us north through Stasbourg to a little town called Kirrwiller and the The Royal Palace where she had tickets to a live theatre show. It was great and to think a humungous theatre in the tiny town like this. We saw a lot of country between home and the show in Kirrwiller and it still amazes us how much farm land is around.

May 8th

Alsace is known for its asparagas like it's wine - but white asparagas!

The white asparagas needs to be peeled as the skin is tougher.

A neat little store in the farmer's yard - actually beside the house.

I can guess at this point what we might be having for lunch today :-).

The farmer sits at one end and puts the asparagas into the peeler.

It goes through the machine itself with water spraying on it.

The blades look like a carrot peeler and the lasers see the heads.

At the other end they go into water for the customer to take out and bag.

This old tractor caught my eye - this is my kind of Porsche.

The tall stalks are Le Miscanthus - harvested like silage but very dry.

This is their furnace which is auto fed like pellets but with Le Miscanthus.

This place has 5 or 6 tractors and tons of different equipment in the back.

This particular piece is used for hilling the asparagas rows.

Everything is hiding behind this huge cool old barn.

This machine cuts the asparagas to length and then sorts it by size.

The sizing is done by a computerised photo process.

May 8th
After breaksfast Manuela said she wanted to go and get some asparagas (another local food for us to try). It was a "back yard" business and looked pretty neat - we love the little local markets. Well the first farmer running the peeler saw I was interested and proceeded right away to explain how it worked - funny things work the same in French as they do in english :-). Just as we finished another old farmer drove in on an old tractor and of course I had to go see what make it was - it didn't look familiar ... turns out it's a Porsche! Cool. This farmer (we think may have been the owner) again saw my interest and proceeded to give us a tour of just about everything he owned - it was great ... and like I said about the sauerkraut ... how many tourists get a tour of an asparagas growing farm and it's processing components?

May 9th

Train station in Offenburg - figures a strike & "our" train is cancelled.

After finding our way to Frankfurt we found our hotel to be great.

and after a day like that we both really needed a bottle of wine!!

Especially the one that did the worrying - and had to do homework!.

Frankfurt airport - we had to take a bus from our terminal to the plane.

In Barcelona, Spain - and the first sighting of the Emerald Princess.

We checked in on the trot and then left in a taxi to explore.

This photo and the last were in a park that we had read about - pretty nice.

In the 70 acre Parc de la Ciutadella of 1860 we saw quite a few old buildings ...

In the last photo Castell dels Tres Dragons and this is the Arc de Triomf.

On our tour we saw this - Museo Taurino (where they had bull fights).

We also saw La Sagrada Familia - which was what we started out to see.

Weekend of the Grande Prix so lots of hot cars like this Ferrari here.

This is a Gaudi ... a lot of architecture
in Barcelona is by him.

Another example of some of the cool buildings in the city.

We found Placa de Catalunya, the centre of old Barcelona.

From the centre we started our walk down La Rambla to the ship.

Karen had said we had to walk La Rambla so we did - she was right!!

Shop after shop, booth after booth - including a block of flowers.

Karen also said we had to have a sangria on La Rambla - we did :-).

Kathy helping this old time sailor out with his spy glass.

Selfie Time!! In front of this Christopher Columbus monument.

We picked out two bottles of wine on the way back to the ship.

Ok! time to relax with a bottle of Spanish wine before dinner.

May 9th
We had a quiet afternoon after having another beautiful meal prepared by Manuela. We had a great time with Dad and Manuela! The Alcace region of France is wonderful, and they were excellent hosts and guides. Hope they don't miss us too much! Thanks again for everything you two! Then off to the train station for our 6:30pm reservation, where we found out our train was not coming ..... they were on strike and only running on a half schedule. Oh dear! No problem! The next train came in 15 minutes, and after 3 transfers, we made it to Frankfurt where we got our hotel, did computer stuff and went to bed. Caught our plane, got to Barcelona, were greeted by Princess staff at the airport, and were onboard by 2pm. Had a rushed, but great few hours in Barcelona with a little cabby tour guide. Barcelona was everything everyone said it was! We were back on the ship for sail away at 6pm. Ahhhh, almost like home. Tomorrow we'll be back in France but this time in the area of Provence.

May 10th

An early 6:00 am start as we pull into Marseille, Provence, France.

Again agriculture is huge - fruit trees, grapes, lavender, olives, hay & grain.

From our bus we also saw quite a few fields like this of poppies.

Hard to get photos of horses beside the road but we did catch these donkeys.

Our first stop was here at Lourmarin which dates back to 1480.

Lourmarin was full of these cute little streets and buildings.

I think a good town for motorbikes although most drove cars (little cars).

We were lucky as the flee market is only open Tuesdays and Sundays.

Starting to feel at home once again as we watched this guy cut his hay.

Traffic circles are at every corner and so are street signs to the next town.

We climbed through the mountains on some pretty narrow twisty roads.

The towns here seem to be built right into the rocks on the side of hills.

Beautiful country & every town has a church that can be seen for miles.

Group pink 2 - following Stephanie as we walk into L'Isle-Sur-la-Sorgue.

The Nougat was to die for - we only had to pay for it though.

Jill & Robert told us about these two places so we went - good tip!

Lavendar (last photo) is a big crop here and there's lots for soap.

The market we went through was huge and had a little (or a lot) of everything.

Totally a cute little town with the canal running right throught the middle.

The canal powered these paddle wheels that were used to crush grain.

Hostellerie Le Chateau is where we all went for lunch and it was super.

While we waited we walked up to the head waters for the town's canals.

A cute little restaurant where we ate lunch - coquelet (small rooster).

There was an antique market today as well and it was as big as the market.

Wine and candy (my kinda store) - the aroma of the candy making drew us in.

Rock walls everywhere - and note where the car and garage are.

There were tons of orchards - one of the biggest crops in the area is olives.

Through the bus window looking back at a bridge we just drove under.

Single axle truck on duals & three axle trailers on wide single wheels.

We got in a quick swim in one of the ship's pools as we left Marseille.

It was a long day - Kathy saving time drinking wine while she dries her hair.

We dressed up for our first formal night (first in a long time).

May 10th
An early morning start! Up at 5:45am, and ready to get off the ship at 7:00. About an hour bus ride thru some amazing agricultural country - hay, grain, poppies, fruit trees, grape vines, olive, cherry, apples, etc - the area of Provence produces 60% of France's food. We drove to Lourmarin at the base of the Luberon mountain range - a lovely village of narrow streets, gardens, and a Renaissance castle that dates back to 1480. Back on the bus, we drove through the Luberon range - a mass of rock and twisty, and a very narrow road. Got stuck in one little village where a car was parked illegally and the bus could not turn the corner. We could have reached out and touched the buildings on both sides. We arrived at L'Isle Sur-la-Sorgue, Island of the Springs - a mini Venice, with canals and water everywhere. The source is an underground spring with an amazing lake and river runner out of it. Lunch in a restaurant was traditional French cuisine - coquelet. The trip home was amazing again, with views of small, old villages built into the mountain and on side hills. It was a long, hot day but really loved the area and the people. Back to the ship, in time for a swim before dinner and formal night. Homework, and bed about midnight - and we're off to Italy!

May 11th

Natural shape of the pine trees make shade & the trees produce pine nuts.

We reached the old city wall of Pisa by bus and had about one hour inside.

The Piazza dei Miracoli or Square of Miracles - everything is marble.

Like all the churches from the past the marble detail is stunning.

Photos don't do justice & or show the colour in these solid marble buildings.

Remus & Romulus suckling on
the Wolf a 5th century symbol of Rome.

Here it is - the Leaning Tower of Pisa took over a 177 years to build.

It's been leaning ever since the start of construction in 1173.

Lots of little stores ... this one sold wine & pasta - yummy looking!

Both here in Pisa and in Florence we saw lots of horse and buggies.

Along the highway there was tons of agriculture and miles of nurseries.

Florenece - a city of never ending beautiful buildings & statues.

Another one for Robert - this time a local Peroni beer!

Love the local ristorantes - a cheese platter with pear & honey.

We watched the Gypsies while we ate but they, luckily, never bothered us.

In Florenece - everywhere you looked there were sculptures and/or statues.

Hard to describe how enormous the columns and structures are!

This is a copy as the museum where the real David is closed Mondays :-(.

We're on Ponte (bridge) S. Trinita, Ponte Vecchio (Olde) in the background

Bikes & motorbikes are the way to go here but amazingly cars are ok too.

Duomo & Baptistry. The bell towers were always a separate building.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Again photos don't do justice.

Engineers are still trying to incorporate some of these designs.

The Duomo ... spectacular but hard to photograph it's so high up.

One of the many old city walls that seem to go on forever.

Heading to the ship and looking back
on the gorgeous city of Florence.

After lots of walking in hot hot weather it's now time to head to the pool.

The back of the ship & Billie and Hugh's pool with not a soul in it.

May 11th
Another 6:00 am alarm and hurry to the bus where we leave the Port of Livorno and start our bus tour of Pisa and Florence. A very scenic drive through the farm country of Tuscany (again we can't believe how much agriculture there is here) to our first stop, Pisa. We had an hour here on our own to walk and take photos. Next, back on the bus and off to Florence where we had 3 hours to walk on our own. We found a nice little curb-side ristorante and ate and drank local products, which we love to do. We saw one sign with the word Eataly ... so true! We've been lucky with nice hot weather and after many a mile on foot the ships swimming pool is a perfect end to a day - before more food that is.

May 12th

We hadn't seen a lot of cattle until now but we did see quite a few near Rome.

Pretty cute apartments - except for the 12 lane highway under the balcony.

The hwy from Civitavecchia to Rome even looks like an engineering marvel.

The shops in St Peter's Square show that Rome is the centre for Christianity.

A massive, endless wall around Rome
- entered St Peter's Square here.

After a look around the square we got a ticket for the hop on hop off bus.

It takes in the major sights but we did walk except for some longer runs.

This is Piazza Navona with it's many intriguing statues and fountains.

One of several fountains that are a celebration of Baroque style.

Standing high in the Piazza Navona is the beautiful Church of Saint'Agnese.

Looking up the incredibly tall marble columns to the church's organ.

The Pantheon is the world's largest un-reinforced concrete dome.

The Pantheon, built about 27 BC, is one of Rome's best preserved buildings.

The height in the center and the diameter are the same at 142 feet.

The narrow streets and tall buildings everywhere never seized to amaze us!

Even with Kathy standing at the base you still can't see the true size.

In a little alley we found Ristorante Antica Roma & sat down for a bite.

For Robert a Birra Moretti which like all beers we've tried was great.

and we also have one beer, one wine - this time Friui Grave Cab-Sauv.

I had a seafood spaghetti and Kathy a tortellini - both were super.

The Spanish Steps looking from Piazza Spagna - Kathy's about 3 flights up.

We climbed to the top - this is looking back down to the bottom.

A great view from Piazza Trinity dei Monti at the top of the Spanish Steps.

From here we walked as far as you can see to Saint Marie Maggiore Basilica.

Saint Marie Maggiore Basilica - another incredible Roman church.

The buses are billboards - a movie on one & a clothing store on the other.

The street signs, when there are any,
are high up on the building corner.

From the church we took the bus for the next leg - to the Colosseum.

The Colosseum - amazing - absolutely unbelievable!

The bridge we used when we left the ship - we take the next bridge back.

Buses have special underground parking with no cars allowed.

Back on our bus and heading for the ship - these are olive trees.

Even back at the port the history and old buildings are amazing.

We have enjoyed our balcony during the little time onboard the ship ...

and the pools are great - especially after some really hot days of walking!

Now out of the pool and off to supper while we're still in Eataly.

May 12th
Another 6:00 AM start which we're getting pretty used to. From the port city of Civitavecchia we head to Rome on a big tour bus. Once in Rome we swore there must have been, with no exaggeration, 1,000 tour buses or more and there were people everywhere. The bus dropped us, or at least the tour guide, left us in Saint Peter's Square in front of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel. From here we were on our own for a few hours. We bought tickes for the Hop On - Hop Off bus and went to explore Rome. We got off at the first stop and wandered through Piazza Novona - impressed already and our day hadn't really even started. Here we decided we'd walk and checked out the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps. We then went to see the Trevi Fountain but were quite disappointed when we got there and found it shut down and being renovated. It must be beautiful when operating! So with Kathy reading the map and me reading street signs, we'd done pretty good so far ... now to find a stop for our "Yellow Bus" hmmm no signs anywhere! We finally figured it out and at Saint Marie Maggiore Basilica hopped on our bus and headed for the Colosseum as our time was quickly running out. An amazing day for sure!! We had a great time, and back on the ship the pool felt really good - and so did another awesome dinner in the Emerald Princess's Divinci Dining Room.

May 13th

A sea day today and after the last few days of walking we're ready!

As we round the tip of Italy the pilot boat comes out to bring us a pilot.

The pilot boat alongside - we have to go through a narrow shallow straight.

So this is the toe of the boot of Italy on our left as we sail past.

We hit the pool early and had the whole thing to ourselves - perfect!!

And now for a dip in the hot tub before breakfast ... this is the life!

And hardly a soul around and no one even near the hot tub or pool.

A coffee from the coffee bar & we sat back on our deck before breaky.

May 13th
Today is a sea day and although we planned to sleep in we both woke up early anyway and decided to go for a swim before breakfast - perfect, as we had the big main pool all to ourselves and a choice of two hot tubs with no one around. We then stopped for a coffee to go at the coffee bar and came back to our deck to watch Italy pass by as we head for Montenegro. Kathy did homework most of the day and I got caught up with this diary. Formal night tonight and the menu looks awesome. We'll head for another swim now, then a quick shower and steak, lobster and prawns!! We were joined tonight by Pat & Sharon (Maryland), and Mark & Olivia (from England).

May 14th

1290 nautical miles from Barcelona we entered this beautiful bay.

We're at Kotor, Montenegro - this
is the wall that surrounds Old Town.

This is one of the three entrances through the wall into the car free town.

Kotor is said to be the best preserved walled town in the Mediterranean.

Sitting on top of the over 1000 year old, 20m high, 5 km long, & 10m wide wall.

The river coming through Kotor with the little falls along-side the wall.

The roads are all very polished, uneven, stones & are mostly marble.

This is the start of our hike up to the fortress that overlooks Kotor.

We're part way up the stairs and already the view is spectacular.

Old Town Kotor directly behind me & one of the new parts around the bay.

Part way is the church we figure may be to pray you make it to the top.

Holy crap - look at all those stairs still ahead of us yet to climb!

We can see the top now but we still have a long, long way to go.

We thought the view was good before, and we're still not at the top.

Possibly the steepest stairs we've ever been on - quite a hike.

This is about half way to the top when looking at the left photo!

We found little nooks and crannies everywhere along the way.

The view is awesome ... and check out some of the stairs below us.

There's stairs for people & a path beside for pack animals the entire way.

The Emerald Princess looks pretty small way down there in the bay.

We made it - all the way - they say that there's 1000 stairs!!

Looking down behind the fortress wall you can see an old abandoned town.

One had to watch where they walked - I'm on a path here ...

A perfect view of Kotor's Old Town and the river running through it.

We were one of four cruise ships - that's ours way out to the right.

Back at the bottom we found this little wine shop & got one local bottle.

We love the shutters & cobble stones in these narrow road ways.

There's lots of restaurants but the Hotel Montecristo caught our eye.

They had tables in front and behind the hotel but we elected to sit upstairs.

Another local beer for Robert - Niksicko, and a local red wine, too.

We split 2 appys - this is a mushroom and shrimp risotto - yummy!

This is an assorted cheese appy - several different types - also yummy!

This is downstairs in the hotel - a very nice little hotel.

Leaving the hotel we came to another gate - this one with a draw bridge.

Outside the wall there's a marina - draw bridge on the right!

That was enough of modern (about 2 minutes) - now we're back in Old Town!

Jill ... we haven't been very good at dog photos this trip so here ya go.

Back in the Old Town square where we started, right inside the gate.

The Old Town wall meets the ocean in both the bottom left & right corners.

Back to the Emerald Princess after a very enjoyable day in beautiful Kotor.

The weather has been awesome, this is the most chop we've seen the whole trip.

Ater 1000 stairs & an all day walk we hit B & H's aft pool to swim & relax.

Our two favourite wines on board - & tomorrow will be the last of them :-(.

Dinner as we sail through the channel leaving Montenegro.

May 14th
Not quite as early a start today and we had a leisurely breakfast while they dropped the tenders at Kotor, Montenegro. We got off our tender about 8:30 and started our own walking tour. Kathy had found an app for her phone that did walking tours in various cities and we followed the one for Kotor all day - it even had a GPS in the program. We did a quick walk through the beginning of the "Old Town" and loved it. We had planned to climb the stairs and could see them going up the hill at the back of Old Town. They didn't look too bad, but we thought we'd better go before lunch - before we got too tired :-). The church looked to be about half up and when we reached it we were still doing ok - we met a lot of folks that were heading back down though - they'd had enough of stairs. About half way from the church to the fortress we realized the church was closer to the start of the stairs - way closer! On we went. At every corner we thought we were getting the best view of the day ... until we saw the view at the next corner. The whole way there were stairs (very narrow and steep where 2 people couldn't pass) and along side was a sloped path which we surmised was for donkeys or some other means of freighting. I walked the path a lot of the way but coming down the path was harder - quite slippery and the rocks would slide from under your feet because it is so steep - Kathy had to stay to the stairs. An amazing place, the fortress - and talk about views - wow!! The town itself was incredible, too - so cool with it's shutters on every building and the streets so narrow. Kotor streets were originally built in the form of a maze for defence purposes - it's said that even the locals can get lost walking around town. One thing we really noticed is how friendly all the many merchants were in Old Town Kotor ... add this to the beauty of the place and it explains why there's no doubt that Kotor, and Montenegro, was one of our favourite stops in the Mediterranean/Adriatic.

May 15th

Kathy trying to get done while we're at sea & before her deadline.

She did take a break long enough to hit the wine bar for a sushi lunch.

We had 2 new-to-us wines - a Garnacha, Artazuri & a Schioppttino, Sgubin.

We had several nicely presented sushi dishes - this is one of them.

May 15th
A sea day and a day to relax - and pout a little as it's our last day :-(. We slept in this morning but still managed to hit the swimming pool before breakfast. It was a little cooler this morning though, so we switched to the hot tub then headed for the buffet fairly quickly. After breakfast Kathy hit the books and I started to get caught up with the diary again. For lunch we hit the wine bar in the atrium where they have sushi - good sushi! We tried two new (to us) types of wine and really enjoyed the Schioppttino, Sgubin (don't ask me). We have to have our suitcases packed and in the hall before dinner tonight. In the morning we have to be up early again as we have to be done breakfast and in the disembarkation area by 7:00 AM. Unfortunately we will have no time in Athens as the shuttle takes us directly to the airport where we will fly Athens to Montreal and then Toronto ... which sucks except that we get to see Beth & Larry and the girls again.

May 16th & 17th

About 4:00 AM we arrived at Piraeus, Greece - we were still sound asleep :-).

We got a couple of photos as we drove through Athens on the bus ...

... but this is about the extent of our Greek experience (next time:-).

The problem with this, is it means we're real close to leaving Europe.

Beth & Larry picked us up and we had a 6 star room for the night.

This is the 1st time we've seen this
house - beautiful back yard ...

... with a really nice big deck over looking the pool & gardens.

The interior is just as nice as the outside, too ... a beautiful house.

More dogs Jill ... 2 really well behaved dogs waiting obediently for dinner.

Thank's Beth & Larry (we had nothing to do with the empty wine bottles).

Beth and Kathy doing our flight check in, etc, on their computer.

As we leave Toronto ... we wished we could have spent more time here.

Looking down on Edmonton where we had a brief stop & a quick lunch.

Decending into Kamloops where Red & Helen were awaiting our arrival.

A pleasent surprise was awaiting us at home with the new bay window.

pretty much complete except the siding outside and the drywall inside.

May 16th & 17th
We had another early morning as we arrived in Greece and were in the first group to leave the ship. A bus ride to the airport was unfortunately the only sightseeing we were able to do in Greece - oh well next time :-). We had a bit of a shock when we sat down in the plane for a 10 1/2 hour flight and saw that there were no TVs in the plane!! They told us after the fact that we could have downloaded their app and been able to watch TV on our laptop but by this time we had no Internet access ... they did have ipads you could rent for $10 ... errrr! In the end the girl gave us an ipad each & quietly whispered to us that she was supposed to charge us $10 each but wouldn't (everyone around us paid). Must have been the way I smiled at her :-). We tried to get a little sleep on the plane, had a pleasant flight to Montreal and then Toronto, and were greeted with open arms by Beth & Larry. They took us back to their place - the first time we had been at this house - and treated us to wine and Italian type cheese and meat plates ... we thought we were still in Europe! Another early morning ... at 6:00 AM B & L took us to the airport where we flew to Edmonton, then Kamloops. Red and Helen were there waiting with our car. We dropped them off at their house and headed home. Bunch, as usual, was happy to see us but Meggie, as usual, rolled her eyes and asked what we were doing home - oh well Meggie Harry will be back here in three days when we head to Merritt for the BC Cattlemen's Convention. Were we glad to be back home? I guess - it was nice to hit our own bed ... but I'm sure we could have handled another week or two in Europe, too!

Our Itinerary!         Top of Page

1 prior

  • April 30th Tax season ends ... at least until we get back home!

Day 1

  • May 1st 10:00 am head to Kamloops and meet Red and Helen. Lunch then 2:50 fly Kamloops to Toronto. 11:35 pm arrive Toronto and meet Beth and Larry. Overnight with them at the Hotel Carlingview Toronto Airport.

Day 2

  • May 2nd Beth and Larry leave for Costa Rica early morning. We spend the day with Lauren and Victoria. 6:40 pm leave Toronto and fly to Frankfurt.

Day 3

  • May 3rd 8:15 am arrive Frankfurt, Germany. Take train from Frankfurt to Offenburg where Larry and Manuela will pick us up and drive us to Manuella's place in Lipsheim, France

Day 4 to 8

  • May 4th to 8th Spend these days with Larry and Manuela in Alsace, France. They have offered to tour us around and we will see the area known as Route des vins d'Alsace between Strasbourg and Colmar, France. See the map below

Day 8

  • May 8th Larry and Manuela take us back to Offenburg, Germany where we catch the train to Frankfurt and over night in the Park Inn by Radisson Hotel.

Day 9

  • May 9th 10:15 am fly from Frankfurt to Barcelona, Spain - 12:20 pm arrive Barcelona. We meet a Princess Cruise shuttle that will take us to the Emerald Princess to check in. Hopefully we will have time after check in to see some of the sites in Barcelona. Here's the plan: Barcelona walking tour ... Port - Las Ramblas - La Sagrada Familia - Parc de la Cuitadelia before final boarding at 6:00 pm. At 7:00 pm we set sail on Emerald Princess for a seven day Mediterranean Cruise.


Day 10

  • May 10th 7:00 am arrive in Marseille, Provence, France. Bus tour Lourmarin & L'Isle-Sur-Sorgue (7:30am - 4:30pm). 5:00 pm departure.

Day 11

  • May 11th 7:00 am arrive in Florence / Pisa, Livomo, Italy. Bus to Pisa for 1hr - Florence for 3hrs on our own (8:00am - 5:30pm). 7:00 pm departure.

Day 12

  • May 12th 7:00 am arrive in Rome, Civitavecchia, Italy. Bus to Rome - walking tour on our own (8:15am - 5:15pm). 7:00 pm departure.

Day 13

  • May 13th Sea day. I think after the last few days we're really going to enjoy a day of nothing - swimming pool and deck chairs!

Day 14

  • May 14th 7:00 am arrive in Kotor, Montenegro. Walking tour on our own (8:00am - 5:00pm). 6:00 pm departure.

Day 15

  • May 15th Sea day.

Day 16

  • May 16th 4:00 am arrive in Athens, Piraeus, Greece. Shuttle to airport for 11:50 am fly Athens to Toronto. 6:23 pm arrive in Toronto meet Beth and Larry and overnight at their place.

Day 17

  • May 17th 8:55 am leave Toronto to Kamloops - 12:52 pm arrive Kamloops. Approximately 4:00 pm arrive at home.

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Here are two maps - the left map showing the Route des vins d'Alsace, France, and the right map showing
all seven ports where we will be on the Mediterranean cruise - the numbers on the map reflect the itinerary day.
Click to enlarge.

Route des vins d'Alsace
Route des vins d'Alsace, France
click to enlarge

2015 Mediterranean cruise
all seven ports where we will be on the Mediterranean cruise
click to enlarge

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