Itinerary of the Damned

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Please note:  the above title is tongue-in-cheek.  I am not serious; I am rarely serious – except of course when I’m yelling at my kids.

In five days, Brilliance of the Seas heaves her large bulk out of the port of Barcelona with about 2,000 intrepid tourists aboard for a 12-day cruise.

In February,  I obsessed about packing as much culture, sights, and fun  dammit, into each port of call on each day.  I went to the library, I faithfully copied down names of places and neighbourhoods, restaurants, and gelato stands.  I am still looking for definitive information on decent public toilets in the cities we’re supposed to visit.  (I think I found it yesterday – there are none.)

Now, in the few days left, I’m chanting a new mantra:  wing it.  I am failing miserably at this mantra but I say it determinedly anyway.  I  must prove to my family that I can take one vacation in their lifetimes where I DO NOT have a series of nervous breakdowns.  Really.  I can do this.

We have little choice; we cannot afford the expensive off-shore tours offered by the cruise line. We are severely allergic to “guided tours” anyway.  We don’t mind a bit of exploring (as long as our tummies are full and bladders are empty before we start).

Let’s take Rome as an example. Rome was not built in a day; nor can it be seen in one.  Any grandiose plans I might’ve had about seeing every relic and church were long ago shelved and replaced  by a more realistic approach.

Here I must profess and declare my love for Google’s “Little Yellow Man.”  I run away to a foreign  city with him daily.  Yesterday afternoon, he and I had a rather pleasant time in Rome as I attempted to map out a walking route.  Let’s face it:  just walking in Rome can yield amazing sights.  We’ll try to see two major sights in the morning, eat lunch in a nice trattoria, and then hit a couple of sights in the afternoon.  I plan to end with a splash in the Trevi Fountain.  Every time I see a gelateria, I plan to eat some.  I predict the kids will become addicted to Bomba di Crema.   I’m hoping the walking will even out the caloric intake.

Athens, oh Athens.  I hope the entire city is not on strike while we’re there.  Even if we just see Poseidon’s Temple and the Acropolis, it will be fantastic.    Athens stresses me more than Rome  – I have no hope of being able to fumble through the Greek alphabet.  Deciphering their signs will be next to impossible.  As much as I hate to say it, a guided tour might not be a bad idea here…

In Nice, France, I’ll be on the beach, followed by an authentic Salade Nicoise and a carafe of vino.   Santorini offers more in the way of sightseeing but the logistics (boat tender, cable car, donkeys?) make me nervous.  I found one website that highly recommended the donkey ride up the steep mountain into town in lieu of the cable car.  That actually sounds kind of fun and the pictures would be hysterical.  Yes to donkeys…unless they’re on strike too.

We dock in Salerno, Italy which offers access to Naples and Pompeii.  We say “No” to Naples (sorry, birthplace of pizza) and “Si” to Pompeii  via the Amalfi Coast.  I fantasized about motoring up the coast in a rental Ferrari, wearing chic black sunglasses with my hair held back by a Hermes scarf…  then I remembered the two children.   I’m sure Hertz can hook us up with a nice sedan .  I am not sure how many petrified remains the kids are going to tolerate.  I predict we will not tarry long in the shadow of Vesuvius but a leisurely visit to Portofino sounds fine.

This trip is a big deal for us and the bottom line has got to be FUN.  If that means missing some “important” sights, then so be it. There’s a hill overlooking Florence that I want to climb; the website says its basically nothing but a car park but it yields the most fabulous views of the city – I can picture us standing there, snapping photos and just drinking it all in, the Duomo glowing in the summer sun below us.  Winging it could be just fine.

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