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Our Amazing European Adventure! Including 2 cruises and 7 days in Italy!

Our Amazing European Adventure! Including 2 cruises and 7 days in Italy!

Old Jul 23rd, 2013, 12:07 PM
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Gorgeous pictures. Now I must restrain myself from immediately booking a trip to Chianti. I, too, have been following along every day, and look forward to each new installment. Keep up the good work!

PS- Love Dad's hat. Go Phillies!
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Old Jul 23rd, 2013, 01:04 PM
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Wonderful experience including three generations. We've traveled but usually not with family members. Everyone got along OK I hope. Looking back what was a big highlight and were there any real problems? And what did the teens like best?
And also the seniors? Thanks for your effort to share...I always think the planning and the sharing are about as important as the trip itself. Each in its own way.
Bill in Boston
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Old Jul 23rd, 2013, 05:40 PM
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Reading54 - I'm still here! The weekend was super busy. And then work the past two days has unfortunately gotten in the way of posting about our next days! I'm working on the next pictures and hope to have them posted tomorrow! Thanks for hanging in there!

Msteacher - thanks for the compliment on pictures! We really loved out day in Chianti!

Bill- it was a great experience to travel with both the kids and my parents. We've done it before, but never for this long! For the most part we all got along really well. The kids actually got along better on the trip then they do at home! That was a relief!

I'll have to ask everyone what their highlights were. I tried asking when we first got home, but it was too soon I think! No one could pick just one or two special highlights! Believe it or not, everything really went so smoothly that the entire trip was nearly perfect! There were definitely places and things that were better than others, but I'm going to have to think about the highlights!
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Old Jul 24th, 2013, 09:05 AM
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Shell,
Do you have the link for the food tour in Rome?
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Old Jul 24th, 2013, 10:20 AM
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bxl4373 - sure! The link is for the food tour is:

http://www.foodtoursofrome.com/eveningfoodtour.html
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Old Jul 24th, 2013, 10:33 AM
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Shell - how much walking is involved in the food tour? and is it only from tasting spot to tasting spot or are there other stops involved?
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Old Jul 24th, 2013, 10:36 AM
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Ok - finally back to the report! I'm sorry for the delay - life just got in the way! Last week was my daughter, Megan's 12th Birthday, so this weekend we had some Birthday events going on. And then as I mentioned, work just got in the way the past few days! But hopefully things have slowed down a bit. On we go....


Friday, June 21st

Today we started the day with breakfast in Taste, which is one of the two Main Dining Rooms on the Epic. It was good. I had an omelet.

We would be docking in Provence, Marseille, France at 10:00 today and be in port until 7:00 pm, final on board at 6:30. It was nice to have a relaxing morning, but still a long day in port!

We have a day planned with Provence-Connection Tours, and we found our driver, Marcel, right away. He was very personable. You could tell right away how much he loved his job, he loved his country and he especially loved talking about the places he would be taking us. My dad sat in the front of the van and spent the day talking to Marcel about everything from the country, to the sites, to nuclear power to the school system in France! It was fascinating to listen to them. I think my dad found a kindred spirit! While Marcel was a good driver/guide, there were a few times where he got off track talking and took a wrong turn or two and I started to actually wonder if we’d get back to the ship in time once or twice!

Our first stop was Arles. It was amazing to me how you step out of the van and you truly feel like you’re in France! We had a short stop at the old Theater and then the Arena, or Colisseum. These are all Roman Ruins.

Then we had some time to walk around the little town. This is again another circular town set around the Colisseum. So quaint and charming with little shops and homes set in a circular formation. I again just “loved it here” as I mentioned several times to my kids who were walking with me! “Ok mom, we got it!”

Next we drove to Pont du Gard. This is a huge Aqueduct bridge from the Roman Empire. It was built in 1 AD and is the highest of all Roman aqueduct bridges and is the best preserved. It was quite a sight! Unfortunately Megan wasn’t feeling too well. I think she was a bit car sick. So Mimi and her stopped at the little café and had a snack. The rest of us walked up to the main viewing area for some pictures.

There was a nice park area there with what seemed like some school or camp kids on a trip visiting, and there were even some cabanas set up by the water.

Our next stop was Avignon. This was another town that had such a “French” feel about it! We first walked up to the Pope’s Palace. This really looked like quite a castle! Alex and I walked up to the gardens and had a great view of the Rhone River and the Avignon Bridge. Mimi and Grandpop followed behind. Keith stayed with Megan and sat in the square by the Palace.

We had about an hour to wander around here. This was where we would be eating lunch. Marcel recommended we find a quick “grab and go” type lunch so we would have some time in the area. I found a Panini that I liked – it was tomato and chevre cheese. No one else really found anything that appealed to them. Really? Finally of all things, Megan and Keith found cheeseburgers and Fries – are they French Fries? Alex found a four cheese Panini – like a grilled cheese. He was getting really grumpy at this point. He needed his food fill! He couldn’t find pizza and felt nothing would satisfy him! Thank goodness we found the Panini! He’s not the most adventurous eater! I’m not sure what my parents ate- by this time we had split up and met later at the van.

I really enjoyed Avignon and would have loved to spend more time browsing all of the shops and art stands!

Our last stop of the day was Les Baux. I think this was my favorite part of the day, and I just have to come back here! Actually to this entire region of France. Again – it would be uttered from me more than once “I LOVE this place!” Oh my goodness – the views! The shops, the fact that we were walking in a little village built into the side of a mountainside! We didn’t make it to the castle, and only made it into a few shops. But I’ll say it again – I loved it there! Charming! It seemed at the time I was taking many pictures, but apparently I didn’t. I think I was too amazed with the actual sights. I was just browsing and oohing at all of the little stores, sure they’re all geared towards tourists, but all of the soaps and perfumes and lavender! Just more reason to return - more pictures!

Megan went off with my parents and I was with Keith and Alex. Alex found a candy store and his day was complete! I won’t even tell you how many Euros we spent there! But that candy must have weighed a lot!

Every single day so far has been beyond perfect! This was no exception!

We made our way back to the Epic, with a few more wrong turns from Marcel. Crazy! We laughed about it, and I did feel assured since when we were in Les Baux we bumped into some people from our ship on a ship tour and we were leaving 30 minutes before they were. I felt we had a good cushion!

I’d heard some people on the ship and also read some reviews as well that some people were planning to just stay on board on the Marseille port because there wasn’t much to do. We ventured out into the countryside and it was one of the most beautiful days we had! The Provence region of France was gorgeous! We saw so much in this day! Our tour was spaced out perfectly – while sure it would have been great to spend more time in each place, seeing as much as we did gave us a fantastic overview of this region! I’m so glad we did what we did here!

Once we got back on board, none of our group of four had any interest in either Taste or Manhattan’s for dinner. My parents went to Manhattan. They liked it more there. We just found the menu to be rather limited. I almost felt like the choices were limited in the two Main Dining Rooms in a push to gear you towards the specialty restaurants. Which when we did go were very good for the most part. However, for a family of four, the prices did add up quickly. I will mention that since Megan was under 12 her meals were half price. Sometimes we had to remind the server again after the bill came and they had to take it back to adjust it, even though they had previously asked her age prior to her dining. But that did save some money.

The four of us had reservations tonight for Blue Man Group. We’ve all seen it before, so we know the show and we know we like it. Alex is a percussionist and he really enjoys that aspect of the show. Last minute, Megan decided to skip out and go to the kid club. Not a big deal since the show is not an extra cost. Alex and Megan had dinner in O’Sheehans before the show. We found the food there to be good. Nothing special and the serving sizes rather small. Once you know this, you can order more appropriately.

After O’Sheehans we split up - Megan to the kid club and Keith, Alex and I went to the show. We enjoyed the Blue Man Group, as expected. It was packed. It was nice to sit back, relax and just laugh. And then Alex went off to the teen club.

We went to the early show and then Keith and I went to Wasabi for dinner. It was really good and even though it’s a pay a la carte restaurant, we felt it was priced very reasonably and we left feeling very satisfied.

When we got back to the cabin, both kids were already back. Alex seems to like the Royal Caribbean teen club a bit more.

Tomorrow we visit Palma de Mallorca!

For this still interested in the tour costs - for the 6 of us the full day tour was 498 Euro.

The link to the pictures from Provence, France is here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tripsnp...7634768153528/
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Old Jul 24th, 2013, 11:20 AM
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Hooray... Another great post! I found the Pont du Gard to be much more interesting and beautiful than I expected to. Isn't it a lovely spot?
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Old Jul 24th, 2013, 12:00 PM
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Absolutely loving sharing your family trip.

My large and extended family and I will be planning a stay in an agriturismo in Tuscany for a week next year - and then various family will team up for more Italy on their own. Can't wait. In spite of all that could (and some things that will) go wrong, family trips are wonderful!

The food tour in Rome will definitely be on my list for our second week.

I'm looking forward to the rest of your trip.
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Old Jul 24th, 2013, 04:34 PM
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Another wonderful day and great photos! Glad you included the candy store. It was quite something! All I could think of when I saw the soft chewy stuff was the huge filling that fell out yesterday. (Dentist tomorrow--fun, fun!) These days I have to leave that good chewy stuff alone!
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Old Jul 24th, 2013, 05:18 PM
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You should be a photographer!
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Old Jul 24th, 2013, 05:19 PM
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Did Alex love all the medieval weapons in Le Baux?
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Old Jul 25th, 2013, 07:34 AM
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msteacher - I too found Pont du Gard to be a lovely area! I couldn't quite understand the draw of taking the time to drive to this aqueduct bridge. But once there I realized how they made it into this lovely park and this bridge is just huge! Such a engineering masterpiece! Keith and Alex took some time to walk down to the river and throw some stoned, got their feet wet. It's time like this that is often needed on trips like this! Just a reconnection with nature!

LCBoniti - We've enjoyed family trips for years. This one was the longest we've ever done and overall it worked out really well! I think a great advantage was that even though we spent our days together, the time spent on the cruise ships allowed us to split up. We did have some meals together - but the kids went their separate ways and we split from my parents. So time apart was key, with so much time together!

irishface - That candy store was amazing! It was a jackpot for Alex! He doesn't like chocolate, but give him the sugary or tart candy and he's in candy heaven! It was so colorful and there was so much variety! Somehow what he got even lasted a few days!

KL467 - THANK YOU!

HappyTrvlr - He LOVED the weapons! If he could have found a way to get them home - I think he would have bought every one he saw! I kept telling him - you can't take that on a SHIP! Or how will we take that on an airplane! ?? You can't even take a pocket knife on a plane! And it won't fit in your suitcase!
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Old Jul 25th, 2013, 09:17 AM
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They were huge, the size of a cottage, so no way to bring them home!
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Old Jul 25th, 2013, 02:10 PM
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Still enjoying this TR so much. Arles remains a great favorite for me so I'm glad you liked it also.
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Old Jul 26th, 2013, 07:03 PM
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Saturday, June 22nd

Today we will be visiting Palma de Mallorca! I had never even heard of this island until I saw the itinerary for the Epic.

We don’t dock until 1:00 pm and we are in port until 8:00 pm. Sure we’re in port for a long time, but I found the times to be pretty unusual. I didn’t want to do a ship tour and trying to find something “unique” here was difficult with this strange time frame. For example, finding a day out on a boat like the day we had in Crete, was a challenge, since we really wouldn’t be out and about until at least 2:00 – by the time we could get to a dock somewhere. It seemed sort of late in the day for a beach day too. I knew the family didn’t want to see cathedrals – so what would we do here in this Palma de Mallorca? We're not a good group to just wander. As you probably guessed by now! My mom especially needs a plan. She gets a bit nervous in a place she's never been without a definite plan. So I searched high and low and eventually found something quite unique for us! Our day in Palma de Mallorca began!

Well, here it is, I’m up at 8:00 am! I actually slept in a bit! Everyone else is still asleep. I checked the Daily to see what was going in this morning – it’s pretty much a half a sea day! I went to get breakfast in the Garden Café and enjoyed eating outside. Then went back to the cabin to get everyone up. Don’t waste this beautiful morning!

Keith and I went and got some chairs by the pool and I read. The kids went ad did their own thing. For a bit they played the big chess game out on deck. Then Alex went to the teen club. I believe they were doing some version of Pictionary. I think Megan went back to the cabin to get changed for our day out.

So, back to our day in Palma! We docked right on time and were off the ship by 1:15. Disembarking on the Epic was simple as could be, most days! The only confusion was at some ports it wasn’t always clear which deck they were using to walk off. This was a huge ship! Some days stairways were closed off that were open on previous days. I’m sure they made announcements, but we never heard them in the cabin. If there was a way to hear them, we never figured it out.

We ended up booking another tour with Tours by Locals. We had used this company in Florence as well. I had actually booked this tour first, and then booked the tour in Florence. In my tireless quest to find something just a bit different – I found Kym who was willing to customize our day to fit whatever we wanted to do. Which to be honest – I had no idea what that would be! I told her about our group, our likes and what we had already done this trip. She came up with a pretty darn nice day! We had corresponded several times leading up to the tour to confirm our plans and we met right on time. Her husband, George was our driver. As soon as we arrived she pulled out 6 hats for us and insisted that while they might feel a bit silly – it was our gift from her and let’s all wear them for the day. Ok – this was going to be a bit different, but fun for sure! She also gave each of us girls a fan to keep and to keep us cool. It was another hot day!

So what did Kym and I come up with for our day in Palma? Well – we didn’t plan on going to the tourist caves! First, we’ve been to caves before…and second, our day was going to be a bit more unique. And involve some Mallorcan food and wine! Tapas here we come! Somewhere along the emails I had mentioned to Kym that Keith was a chef, so she also had a part of the day planned for him as well.

Off we went! Kym was originally from California and had been living in Palma for years now. Her husband from Canada. They met in Palma and while George does the tours as a side business, I believe Kym focuses on them full time.

We drove out of the city and for about 30 minutes to an estate which was a beautiful winery. Yup, we’re doing another winery tour today! The daughter of the current owner, Isabella, gave us a fantastic tour of the property and of the winery itself. This was so interesting to compare to the winery in Chianti. This one was a small, family run winery as compared to the one in Chianti. This one produces about 46,000 bottles a year and only has their immediate family working there where the one in Chianti produces over 250,000 bottles a year and has a larger hired staff. However this one here was far more modern in its appearance. It was a newer production facility and I assume they will grow in their volume quickly! Wine is a big product in Palma and it’s very inexpensive.

After the tour we went to their beautiful gardens and had Mallorcan tapas and wine on the patio. This setting was so peaceful! Kym and George sat with us and we talked about the island and they told us stories about their lives. It was like dining with old friends!

I didn’t write down what we had to eat, but again there were cheeses, meats, and several other tapas items. If I remember correctly there were probably seven or eight different items to try. This time all of the food was brought out together. The wines were served in wine "courses". We tried four different wines I believe.

We left there feeling quiet satisfied! But our next stop was what Kym had planned for Keith. She and George are members of a food club and they often go to one of the more exclusive hotels on the island. She had arranged for the chef there to meet with Keith to show him the kitchen and just chat with him about “chef” things in general! I thought this was such a kind gesture. Keith always likes chef talk and it was such a nice break from the daily sightseeing! So we went to the Hotel Gran Son Net. We toured the lobby and common areas and then my parents and I sat on their lovely terrace overlooking the hills and towns while the kids swam in their beautiful pool.

Keith and their chef spent some time talking and just relaxing. He showed Keith their fresh herb garden, talked about where they get their wines, went over their menu… It almost looked to me like a job interview without the pressure!

When we left here we had a very short time to go into Palma for some brief souvenir shopping. The quest for the magnet, postcards and oh – the 3rd pair of Alex’s sunglasses was now cracked. The lens had popped out! Pair one, broke at home before even leaving. Pair two was left on the van we used to transfer from Rome to the Navigator, pair 3 – well, that has lasted us what – 2 weeks now! But now we’re looking for sunglasses in Palma. Found a pair for about 15 Euro. Ok – let’s let them last the rest of the trip please!

We all really enjoyed our day and I think Kym did a great job planning a unique day for us in Palma de Mallorca! It was much appreciated! It was a super relaxing day and we got to see a side of the island that I think a lot of cruise passengers probably don't get to experience.

We got back to the ship at around 7:00 and this perfect trip suddenly seemed to go awry. I only share this because one can’t possibly think that a family of six can possibly go away for 3 weeks with no stress right? Kids can’t get along for that amount of time can they? Parents, grandparents and kids together? Even a family of four sharing a tiny cabin on a cruise? Sure we've had our ups and downs even up until this part, but somehow we've all gotten along better on the trip than at home. Did I mention before that my parents live with us at home?? So there's a lot of together time. But I was really concerned before we left how my two kids, only 2 years apart - brother and sister - would handle these close quarters for so long. They have impressed me on this trip in an amazing way! They pulled out the sibling tolerance for eachother like they never do at home! Anyway...

Well – this is where it all went crazy… for just a bit! We got back on board and I didn’t want to spend the money on a specialty restaurant. Especially with the late lunch we had with the tapas. I didn’t really think about the fact that neither kid probably really ate that much at the winery. They are both fairly picky eathers. And they certainly didn’t drink the wine! I suggested we try Taste, which is one of the Main Dining Room - no cost restaurants. Megan wanted to go to Cagneys, which is the Steakhouse and is an upcharge restaurant. and I didn’t even know if we could have gotten a reservation. By now it was already close to 8:00 and I didn’t want to pay $30/person seeing I wasn’t even hungry. Well that’s when she had her meltdown. She may look like a pretty calm child, and she had been fantastic on this trip! But she is after all only 11 and this was a long trip with a lot of together time. At least Alex was going to the teen club and getting some space.

Well she hit that proverbial wall, it all came crashing down. I honestly was surprised that it took this long into the trip. But suddenly she started sobbing – she missed home, her bed, her house, her pets, she’s tired, she’s tired of Europe, she’s just tired of being on tours. She wanted to go HOME NOW! And there we had it!

So, being in this tiny cabin with Keith and Alex waiting on us and Megan crying, I sent Keith and Alex to Taste to check out the menu and told him we’d meet them in 20 minutes. I tried to calm down Megan. Meanwhile Alex comes back and says Keith doesn’t like the menu there, he’s going to the buffet. Ok…The last thing I wanted to do was go fight crowds for a table and have to find food I wanted in the buffet.

Finally, after what felt like forever the sobbing stopped and Megan agreed to try Taste. Alex, her and I went to the entrance, as soon as we got there, she started crying again and went back to the room. Oh boy. She just needed her time to get it all out I suppose.

Alex and I went to O’Sheehans. This is the "pub" type restaurant on the Epic. It's included in the cost of the cruise. It was fine. I got the Wedge salad, but without the salmon and it was really small. I ordered the chicken fingers, cut them up and put them in the salad. That made it more of a meal. After we ate, Alex went to the teen club – I think they may have been doing bowling tonight. I went back to the room where Megan had calmed down, Keith was watching tv and we convinced her to just get room service.

Not the end of the day it should have been, but this is a long trip and it’s bound to have some bumps along the road.

Everyone calmed down and by the time Megan went to bed, she was feeling much better. Now that the crying was out of her system I think she was good to go!

We could move on to our next adventure! Tomorrow we go to Barcelona!

The link to our pictures from our day in Palma de Mallorca is here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tripsnp...7634803642382/
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Old Jul 26th, 2013, 10:18 PM
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What a great trip report! I have just spent the best part of an hour reading it.
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Old Jul 27th, 2013, 05:07 AM
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As much as I love Europe, I, too, sometimes get homesick. Loving your trip report. After it is finished, I am going to study it in detail. You have been to so many beautiful paces that I have never heard of! Thanks for posting photos to Flickr. I know how time consuming that can be.
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Old Jul 27th, 2013, 05:45 AM
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I learned about the island of Majorca (or Mallorca) because that was where Frederic Chopin and George Sand spent a cold and miserable winter, and his health just further deteriorated. Since then I have been wondering what the island was like.
Enjoyed following along on your trip.
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Old Jul 27th, 2013, 06:47 AM
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i am enjoying this trip, too! planning rome/venice with my teen sons soon. would love restaurant names, gelato shop names, if there are some favorites!! planning on doing that food tour in rome you mentioned! we are staying in the pantheon area too, so your trip is really helping!! enjoying your photos too!! thanks for doing this!
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