I couldn’t have been more excited to really explore Spain, France and Italy. We had a big group of 8 ready for a new adventure. As first timers, a cruise in my opinion is the least stressful way to cover a bunch of ground in Europe while not having to worry about planning activities & travel arrangements crossing many languages. Every morning we would wake up in a new location ready to venture out.
The history of Barcelona lured me into its elegance. We walked throughout the city taking it all in – Las Ramblas was like walking through a history book. We indulged in massive beers & tapas, which we had no idea were tiny portions so we had to stop twice for dinner. We even took an excursion just outside the city to the impeccable, hillside monastery of Montserrat and enjoyed the funicular to the top. The most memorable stop was a huge fort near the Olympic village that was a replica of old times – just stunning to get lost in and ponder about life back in those days.
Italy really clued me in to how young the US is and I eagerly wanted to learn so much more about ancient times. Climbing Mt. Vesuvius in the bitter winds, visiting the Pompeii ruins, walking ancient cobblestone streets, drinking obscene amounts of wine….. it was divine and we craved for more.
We arrived in Rome on the day of a taxi strike but were able to navigate the labyrinth of streets to take in some of the iconic sights – Trevi fountain, Pantheon (my fav), St. Peter’s Square, Colosseum and numerous bakeries.
We goofed off at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which had more to do than just climbing all the stairs, and pigged out on the best pizza and ice cold Peroni that we’ve ever had just one block away.
I looked forward to the France portion of the trip, where we stopped in Marseilles, got close to the island depicted in one of my fav movies the Count of Monte Cristo, took an excursion into Monaco to visit the castle, walked the poker room in the Grand Casino and drove the beautiful coast up to the historic city of Eze (my fav old time city perched on a mountain top with old cobblestone streets leading to an astounding view). But my top memory was the bay where we docked for this day – Villefranche. I have dreamed of this city overlooking the bay of crystal clear water and all sizes of boats, and know I will make it back there one day to rent a flat for a month. Bet on it.
And the trip didn’t end upon arrival back in Barcelona, as we hopped up to Paris for a few days to take in the sights and hit Disneyland Paris (cast members just can’t resist). I do remember multiple croissants daily, churches that will blow your mind at the intricacies and grandeur…. the rest is a blur but I no doubt must go back.
Even if your journey doesn’t include Disney, make sure to explore this part of the world and it’s rich history…. I promise you won’t be disappointed and walk away yearning for more.