Really tried to keep this short . . .

It has taken us a long time to fully catch up from our trip. We both hopped right back into work the day we got home and then went to Niels’ family reunion the weekend right after. We have finally caught up on sleep, laundry, and organizing our 800+ pictures.

I could easily create an entire blog to our trip, and I have been debating how to show and tell without being boring Brenda, or by writing tons of text. So I decided to whittle down our pics and post just a few from each of our ports. I feel like none of our pictures really do what we saw justice.

Our ship, the group.

Dave, Julie, Lizzie, G-ma, Me, Niels, David

Marseilles, France: Most authentic experience.

Niels’ step-dad has family in a little village in Uzes, France. So, Instead of going into Marseilles we decided to take a 2 hour drive to see his uncle Bob and aunt Pat. Uzes is one of the most hidden and charming places I have ever seen. We had a very authentic French lunch in their home.
Main St. in Uzes

Pont de Guard Aquaduct
They taught us that in France, people typically eat meals in 4 courses and there is a definite strategy to the order so you can get the best combination of flavors. We ate: melon and prosciutto , duck and rabbit pâté, tuna and egg salad with roasted red peppers, baked brie and French bread (how appropriate, right?)

The coolest part about Bob and Pat’s home, is that Pat is an artist and she creates ALL of their home décor from junkyard stuff. She is so original and hip and she is over 70! I especially appreciated her kitchen. I love how cool her spices look, my picture does not do justice.

It was well worth skipping out on all the tourist sites to experience a authentic glimpse of life in France.

Florence: Most colorful port.
Spending our first anniversary in Florence might have set the standard a little high. Florence was such a colorful city. I loved all the fresh fruit stands, all the yellowish buildings with different color shutters and all of the intricate details on all of the buildings and cathedrals.

The corny Pisa photo is a must. Nice face Niels.

The David’s.

Istanbul: Most colorful, most friendly. The favorite.

Honestly, who goes to Turkey? It is truly a random hidden treasure that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Our 4 main attractions:
The Grand Bazaar is basically a Turkish version of an American Swap meet but 1,000 times cooler, larger, and cleaner. It is a maze of some 4,000 booths, and endless tunnels. It would be an absolute nightmare to get lost in. The men there are shameless and yell ridiculous pick-up lines for fun . . “Where’s Charlie? Aren’t you his angel?” . . . “Hey lady you dropped something” . . . (I look down and then back up once I realize I hadn’t dropped a thing) “You dropped my heart.”

Getting tipsy on Turkish apple tea and Turkish delight.

We were anxious to finally use our bargaining skills somewhere. Turkey does not use the Euro, so we could get more bang for our buck.

Turkey is notorious for their carpets and their ceramics. It sounds kind of boring but it was so neat to see how hard these people work to make their goods. There is so much detail in everything. Niels’ parents dropped a pretty penny for a very nice 14 foot Turkish rug. Talk about a souvenir.

The Blue Mosque:
The next most popular mosque in Turkey besides Hagia Sophia. Obviously named for its blue tones throughout its Mosaics.

The guards made me and Lizzie put on Pashmina scarves to cover our immodesty. Such hussies.

It is custom for these poor little guys like this one to dress like kings and come to the mosque the day before they undergo circumcision. He’s smiling today . . .

These are just a few of the little children paparazzi that encircled me and Lizzie, because they were so excited to see blonde Americans. They were snapping pictures of us on their phones and they all told us we were beautiful. Yet another reason Turkey was my favorite place.

Rome: Most impressive city.
It was hard to see even just a part of Rome in only 8 hours. Our main sites were the Coliseum and St.Peter's Basilica.

Wild poppies were everywhere!


You can see here a little bit of the stage where the gladiators would fight, and then all the chambers beneath where they would wait before they went out to fight, and where they kept all the wild animals that they would throw in the arena to fight the gladiators.
St. Peter’s Basilica:

Did you realize that The Vatican is an 110 acre city-state that has about 850 residents, has it’s own government, own political system, own money, and everything else really? Well, I didn’t.

We didn’t go inside because of lines but it was neat to see from the outside too. I wish I could have gone in to see the Sistine Chapel, but that too would have been a day’s trip in itself.

Athens: Not sure what label it city.



View of Athens: The only other place I have seen this kind of density of buildings is Mexico. It just goes on and on.

Mykonos: Best food, funnest to look at city.
Mykonos was exactly how I imagined Greece would be. So very unique. EVERY building was white, and outfitted with mostly blue or some other really vibrant color accents.

It was kind of hard to get around the city becasue all of the roads and alleys were very narrow and we almost got ran over mutliple times by Vespas or by these little electric 3 wheeler trucks that barely fit their roads.
Oh, and Greece wins best food award hands down. Gyros and Baklava = de-lic-ious.

Ephesus: Least favorite port, still cool though.
We were pretty toured out by this point, but still had a great time here.
Supposedly, this is where Mary (mother of Jesus) spent the last weeks of her life.

Their wishing wall. Write a wish stick it in a wall . . . very superstitious.

Remains of the Ephesus, a very clever and brilliant civilization.

Their grand stadium. They obviously had no audio or microphones which amazes me that they had the acoustic ability to have performances of this size. Niels’ grandma was laying on the guilt trip thick and would not leave until someone sang in the stadium. Lucky Lizzie.

Watch her bust out Amazing Grace here.

Yet another harsh reality of adolescence was when I learned about the birds and the bees and that storks didn’t really bring people babies. Naturally, I just dismissed that they were even real at all. . . well, they are. They were all over Turkey.

Their Women’s bathroom sign is so much better than the standard American stick symbol in a dress.

The only souvenir I wanted to bring home with me from the entire trip . . . this tiny, tiny kitty sleeping in a drain.

Pompei: Most fascinating city.

Crash course on Pompei - it was destroyed, and completely buried by a volcanic eruption in 79 AD and it was accidentally rediscovered 1700 years later.

The Volcano Mt. Vesuvius

My main take away was that Pompeii was a very morally decrepit society. I guess it makes sense if you stop and think about it, but I didn’t realize that prostitution is the oldest profession recorded. Pompeii was very obsessed with their “sign of fertility", the phallus. They used them all over their city as arrows like this one to point to their red-light districts where women would work in brothels. Our tour guide happened to be overly excited about this whole concept and spent a lot of time telling us things that made us all feel slightly awkward.

Remains of the people from the eruption. So sad.

She was pregnant.

Venice – Most charming, most romantic.

We pretty much sailed to all of our ports in the middle of the night, and we would wake up in a new city each day. Venice was the only exception. We actually got to watch pull into port and it was sooo cool.

I have always heard people say that Venice is a city on water, and yes, I have seen Italian Job. But once again, the whole concept didn’t really sink in until I saw it for myself. It is a whole other world - no cars, no highways. Just water taxis and gondolas, mostly. It was so crowded and very hard to walk around; way too many people.

St.Mark’s Cathedral

Apparently, the word hasn’t spread to Europe that pigeons are actually flying rats and are ridden with disease. People were paying money to buy seeds and have pigeons eat off of them. Some people would even lay down on the ground and completely cover themselves and the birds go nuts. I don’t get it - at all, in fact.
In America, this kind of shenanigans goes on reality shows like Fear Factor.

I was really just taken away by every corner and canal we turned down. Just so picturesque

This is The Bridge of Sighs. Basically it connects Doge's Palace, a very fancy golden palace, to a prison.

This was supposidely the prisoners last chance to see light for several years. The picture on the right is looking out from inside the bridge.
Inside Doge's Palace.
The best part of Venice . . . seeing Stanley from The Office.