We took a cruise from Barcelona with ports in Naples, Rome, Florence, Marseilles, and Majorca. From Naples we went on an excursion to Pompeii; a city that was destroyed when Mt.Vesuvius erupted in AD 79. It was amazing to see the tiles that remained from the more prominent homes, as well as the original outdoor "barbecue grills," and ovens that were relatively intact. Our tour guide told us how a loaf of bread was found in the oven almost two thousand years later.
Remarkably, two male bodies were preserved beneath the ash, and encased for all to see. Our friends told us to look for ancient phallic symbols that pointed to the brothels, but our guide only singled out one that was carved out on the street. By the time I got through the large crowd to see it, another group descended upon it, and their guide decided to include me in the conversation. This made my children very proud.
In Rome my husband thought we should take the train and Metro to the Colosseum. I thought that we could see more sights if we took a taxi, but he felt that it would be more of an adventure by train. The boys sat a few rows ahead of us, and struck up a conversation with travelers from another cruise ship. They were disappointed by the food on their ship, so they spent most of their free time dining out. Our older son hoped that they would have sightseeing tips, as they had previously visited some of our upcoming ports. Instead, they proudly displayed pictures of their favorite meals in Spain and Italy.
When it came time to change trains we frantically ran around the train station. Finally, an older gentleman helped us find our way. Though he didn't speak a word of English, he continued to chat with my smiling husband until we reached the Colosseum. At the end of our tour it started to pour. Then it cleared up on our way back to the train. My husband was thrilled that we found our way. I wanted the boys to have gelato at the Trevi Fountain, see the Spanish Steps, and visit the Vatican, as this was their first trip to Rome. Unfortunately, like my husband the weather didn't cooperate, and we ran out of time.
|Sporting our lovely rain ponchos|
The next day we took a mini-bus with a group from our ship to Florence and Pisa. Florence was delightful and we had perfect weather. Fortunately, my husband ordered the tickets ahead of time for Michelangelo's David, otherwise, it would have been a two hour wait. We all appreciated the intricate details of the statue which was fascinating from every angle. The elegant shops were surrounded by Renaissance architecture, and I would have loved to have spent more time there.
This was the second cruise we had taken as a family. The first one was a Caribbean cruise when our older son was a senior in high school. Though the drinking age was only eighteen, he was still seventeen and couldn't go to the clubs or casino with his friends. Our younger son ended up having a better time, as he could play basketball or go on the climbing wall, and still hang out in the teen club. Now our oldest son is twenty-four and his brother is twenty-one, so nothing was off limits on the ship. We always had dinner together followed by a show or a game in the casino, and then they would go off with their new friends while we collapsed.
Our first stop in Israel was to see my mother-in-law in Jerusalem. We didn't arrive until after ten pm, and she still had a full spread waiting for us. Her sister lives across the hall, and they both were thrilled to see us. Our younger son remembered that he had seen photos from his dad's high school yearbook on his last visit, so they started going through other photo albums. It was wonderful watching our boys interact with my mother-in-law, as if no time had passed since their last visit.
|The Western Wall|
We also visited the caves of Rosh HaNikra located in the Western Galilee. This is where Israeli and Lebanese officials signed the Armistice Agreement in 1949. Though the boys enjoyed the spectacular sights, they loved hearing about my husband's family history. His cousins were wonderful hosts who filled the car ride with fascinating stories about where their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles fled after World War II, and how they eventually settled in Chicago only to return to Israel after their children had families of their own.
Though my husband's aunt has only two children, she has eighteen great-grandchildren, so most of them were busy taking care of their young families. His cousin even tried to fix up our older son, but I think my mother-in-law realizes that it will be very difficult for them to come close to reaching that number. It was still nice catching up with the handful of cousins who were available.
If you ask my sons what their favorite sight was on the trip, they'll tell you watching their ninety year old grandmother who only weighs around eighty five pounds, eat a six course meal with gusto. She is very serious when she eats, and will only consume healthy foods in a particular order to promote good digestion. Who knew that we would be able to accomplish so much without ever leaving my mother-in-law's dining room table?