Sunday, December 29, 2013


So.  We just got done with our first cruise. It was... AMAZING to say the least, but before I delve in, let me just get a little serious for a moment first.  Risa and I have struggled starting a family for the last... 7 years or so.  While here in Germany we decided to get some expensive (but not as expensive as in the U.S.) tests done.  Long story short, we can't have biological children.  Lame.  So, to soothe our aches and make use of some of the funds we were saving for invitro, we decided to go on a wild and crazy trip for our 8 year anniversary.  Woo!

The cruise we went on was through Aida - a German company.  This... was an interesting choice.  We chose Aida because my friends at work recommended it, and it WAS a phenomenal ship - no question. However, we probably should have thought about what it meant to be on a GERMAN cruise. All announcements, the daily schedules, the available tours, the entertainment, and of course the other passengers, were GERMAN.  This was a bit strange and isolating, but overall wasn't too much of a problem. The staff also spoke English so we got all the information we needed.  Still, would have been great to have English-speaking dinner companions. :)  Anyway - the cruise went to Spain, Italy, and France.  

First stop... and last stop - Majorca!  The coolest thing about Majorca is the "feel" of the place. It's a super-chill island town surrounded by ocean cliffs and good weather. Palm trees, desert flora, light-colored limestone, and fantastic food. It's a PERFECT place to just take it slow, stroll around, catch some rays, and soak up the atmosphere. We spent a lot of time just wandering around the narrow streets and sea-side walkways, enjoying Spanish pastries and the BEST hot chocolate in the universe. We also found an English bookstore run by an old abolutely crazy (and I mean bonkers) British dude where we bought a few books (surprisingly tough to find in Europe), and we managed to get ripped off for some shades and cheap souvenirs. We saw some amazing tourist stuff there too. The cathedral is a giant fortress of limestone with an ocean view, surrounded by elevated stone walkways.  It's absolutely breathtaking. Pictures just don't do it justice. There is also an amazing 14th century castle set on the cliffs of Majorca that we toured.  Other than the massive number of stairs that we had to climb to get there, it might have been the coolest thing I've ever seen. 

Then there was some time on the boat between stops, which was also awesome. The whole central section of the ship was a large open stage area surrounded by windows about 4 floors high where performances and shows took place.  The best part though was the food. Vegas-style buffets any time we wanted. In fact, the whole ship was kind of like Las Vegas on water. The pool area on the top of the ship was super cool too, though, it seems Germans are sun-starved because they filled up every square inch of that ship deck. :)   One of our favorite areas of the ship was the "reading area" - it was a large windowed section at the front of the boat full of couches, tables, and shelves of books and games. We played an amazing board game called "Elfenland".  It was hilarious - suffice it to say you get to ride unicorns and magic clouds to various elf towns. :)  There was also a 4D theater that was pretty cool, free food, a volleyball court, an arcade, free food, and free motion-sickness homeopathics that Risa had to make use of regularly. Did I mention free food?

Next stop - Rome!  Basically, 1 day was not enough time for Rome - there is SO MUCH to see. We scheduled a bus tour, but ended up only taking it for 1 stop. After we got off, we just walked from 1 amazing thing to the next for the whole rest of the day (which our feet complained about, but our eyes ignored them). Pizza at the Pantheon, Gelato at the Capital, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum... I'll just let the pics speak for themselves.  We were so busy we almost got lost and didn't make it back to the ship ontime. :)  

Next - Pisa / Florence.  Pisa was actually more awesome than we ever would have guessed.  It's much more than just a crooked tower.  It's a fantastic walled complex full of amazing medieval architecture.  Bam. 

Florence was also spectacular. The giant striped cathedral was overwhelmingly awesome, and it seemed that around every corner was a new castle-like building or beautiful old church.  The only trouble was: A) it was raining, and B) the tour guide was a joke. He not only spoke only German, but he was the slowest most boring guy I've ever met.  So... we ditched him and saw the city on our own. 

Now to Marceille.  To be honest, we weren't expecting a whole lot from Marceille. We had asked our French friends from Vietnam about the place, and the response wasn't mind-blowing - but the pictures online looked nice, so we just kept an open mind.  It turns out - Marceille was super nice! Just like everywhere else!  It's a coastal city with a gorgeous cathedral atop a tall hill overlooking the city / ocean. We took a really fun "train" tour to the hill-top. The train was really just a painted tractor pulling some carts with benches in them, but it was really fun. Of course the striped cathedrals in the city were amazing.  We could also see the island prison out in the ocean where "The Count of Monte Christo" takes place.  Awesome. Finally, there was a fantastic castle built on the cliffs with rampart walkways and amazing views.

I must add a note about the cathedral in Marceille. Although it was of massive scale and grandeur, unlike many cathedrals, it had very little "pomp" or gaudiness. There was a sublime peace that permeated the place, and it felt really wonderful. One could just feel the love that was put into creating the building. It was a perfect place to chill out for 30 minutes and meditate a bit.

Last stop... Barcelona! Well, technically we went back to Majorca for our LAST stop, but I can honestly say that regardless, the last stop was the best. I love Spain. There's something about the feel of the culture that really blew me away. It just seemed so relaxed, creative, loving... something. Anyway - Barcelona was breathtaking. Where to begin... it was a HUGE city. The place is super famous for Gaudi and his famous architecture. We saw several houses which he designed, as well as a park / neighborhood he designed called "Park Guell". My favorite, however, is a giant cathedral (still being built - he didn't get to finish it before he died) called "Sagrada Familia". It was like some twisted palace from a fairy tale. Something you'd expect to see in the Emerald City or something.
Aside from Gaudi's architectural marvels, Barcelona is also a super chill "beach" city. The water is nice, and the beaches are decent (although crowded). Surprisingly, one of the most spectacularly "grand" cathedrals I've ever seen is in Barcelona. It's by far not the biggest attraction of Barcelona, but it was amazing.
And to top it all off - Risa got to practice her Spanish! And for once, she wasn't crazy uncomfortable about not speaking the native language. :) Yay!

And that's it. It was a magical journey commemorating our 8th year of marriage. And - although we are super sad and frustrated about our failures at attempting to start a family, this was a pretty great trip that probably wouldn't have been possible otherwise. So - cheers!


Sherri said...

I'm so sorry for the loss you must feel. Sometimes things seem so unfair. I'm glad you got to treat yourself to a wonderful trip. I can't believe all the marvelous things you got to see on one vacation. Sure love you both.

Miranda said...

My mother, when she lived in Germany, always swore that the Germans were part lizard. It could be sub freezing temperatures, but get a little bit of sun out and they are all out sunbathing.