One week in Rome in our cute one bedroom apartment by the Vatican Museum

We rented a small one bedroom apartment in an older building about 15 min. walk to the Vatican Museum.  It is very cute and decorated in IKEA so we feel right at home.  Here are the photos of the apartment.  It is 3 stories up and so we are getting some extra workouts everyday…lolrome apt beds 5x7 smallapt rome balcony 5x7 small apt rome bath small apt rome dining small apt rome kitchen small apt rome sitting  smallWe have an extremely nice landlady Laura who got us in on time and has been very responsive to any requests. If you look carefully you will see a small washing machine in the bathroom ( we have to air dry but it is nice to have some clean clothes). It is a great place to plan our adventures in Rome.  More about those adventures tomorrow.

You can see more about the apartment at http://www.bbplanet.com/apartment-tutti-pazzi-per-roma-house-rome_s39080/en/ — some of the furniture has been changed but there are some nice pictures.

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Our last port on the cruise Alicante Spain on Spain’s east coast

The last port of call on our transatlantic cruise on the Celebrity Constellation was Alicante Spain.   It was a lovely city with mainly modern buildings, and city squares with tables and food in the sunshine.alicante Spain Santa Barbara Castle lookout 5x7 small

The main attraction was the Santa Barbara Castle. Santa Barbara castle alicante spain 5x7 small

“It’s one of the largest medieval fortresses in Europe and covers the complete summit of the Benacantil Mountain. Originally built by the Moors in the 10th century, the castle received its name from the conquest of King Alfonse the Wise that took place on 4th December 1248: Saint Barbara’s day ”  This is a photo of the great hall. alicante Spain Santa Barbara Castle main hall  5x7 small alicante Spain Santa Barbara Castle tapastry  5x7 small

They added on to the castle 3 times over the centuries and it is huge.  We wandered along the walls and the arches of this ancient site. This is a photo of their sundial, a very unique timepiece on the top of the castle walls.alicante Spain Santa Barbara Castle sundile  5x7 small

In my imagination I could hear the bells ringing to tell the village dwellers below that the evil invaders were coming into the harbor. I can see them grabbing whatever they could hold and running up the switchbacks to the castle for protection.  I hope they did not have to do that too much.    alicante Spain Santa Barbara Castle arch 5x7 small

Next stop for the cruise ship was Rome, our destination.

Rock of Gibraltar, our second port of call on the cruise ship Celebrity Constellation

This was our second stop on our cross Atlantic cruise on the Celebrity ship, the Constellation.  We landed in Gibraltar on April 19.  This post is so late because we had a slow and expensive internet connection on the ship.  We are now in Rome and I am  catching up on this blog.

Neither one of us had ever been to Gibraltar (part of the United Kingdom) before and we were really excited to see it.  It is a peninsula that is located at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea and has been of strategic importance to many countries over the centuries.  It has been a part of the United Kingdom since 1704.  I actually had to get up at 6:30 AM for the tour and the sun did not come up until 7:30 so I got these wonderful photos of the sunrise over the rock of Gibraltar. gib dawn rock 5x7 small gibraltar dawn 1 5x7 smll

We arranged this private tour ourselves and we had five other people join our tour. (if you want more information about how to do this see our last post , Madeira ).  Our group was very friendly and we had an awesome tour guide named Ronald.  Here is a picture of us getting picked up at the ship;our gib group small ronald gib guide 5x7 smallThis tour was 3 hours long and Ronald took us to the major sites on the peninsula;  the Europa Point lighthouse (where the Atlantic Ocean becomes the Mediterranean Sea), up to almost the top of the rock which is a nature reserve for the Barbary Apes.  I loved seeing these smart animals being free to roam in their troops; then nature reserves feed them a healthy diet to supplement  their natural findings.ape eating 5x7 small ape eating orange 5x7 cape europa lighthouse 5x7 small furry ape 5x7 small

A highlight of the tour was the exploration of St. Michael’s caves.  The caves were at least 700 ft. deep and filled with dramatic columns of limestone that they had lit with blue and green lights.cave blue lace 5x7 small cave green lace 5x7 small cave stalactites grn 5x7 small

Then we stopped at a castle that was built by the Moors centuries ago.  It had a great view of the Gibraltar coast line.moorish castle gibraltar 5x7 smallcoastline view from Gibraltar 5x7 small

Then we went to Mass in the Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned.  It was a lovely day.

Madeira – first port after eight days at sea; with photos

blue pealing boat 5x7 smallMadeira is really a charming and modern place.  We had joined a group of five other cruisers to take a private tour of the center valley of the island.

Note to future cruisers; we found out about how to do a private tour from cruisecritic.com …Look in the Forums for your cruise line’s Roll Call section, and find the thread for your voyage. About a month before sailing, or earlier, people will start to organize private tours. You find these by just Googling, for example, “Gibraltar tour.” Also check TripAdvisor. You can organize it yourself, or for the first time maybe join someone else’s tour. You end up usually in an 8-passenger van, see more in less time, and can get dropped off for shopping or food on the way back to the ship. And it’s usually about half the cost.

Madeiravalley 5x7 small walking to village 5x7 small is a volcanic island that reminded us of Kauai but more populated.  The housing style was Mediterranean ( white walls and tiled roofs) and full of large trees and flowers.  The tour guide Lionel was informative about the island and its history.  As you can see from the photos we went up to caldera of the former volcano and looked down into the little villages that are isolated in the valley.  To get to those villages you needed to walk down a trail ( I took a photo of a man walking down the trail) I think you stay healthy with all the walking up and down the hills.

Our guide took us to an old fishing village as part of the tour.  The photos of the boats and the guard dogs ( lol) give you an idea about how relaxed everyone was.3 boats no restriction blue pealing boat 5x7 small brown dog corr - Copy working dog 5x7 small

The tour was 2.5 hours long and Lionel dropped us off at the center of the city’s (Funchal) main market place.  We went inside to a cornucopia of fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts.  It was beautiful.  Lionel had told us the every free space on the island is gardened and that the island is self sufficient for many food items.  They especially grow bananas.dave and coast 5x7 small - Copy mediera open market corr small

Dave and I walked through the city and came upon some young women all dressed for the flower festival that was happening that weekend. In the main square of the city there were stunning flower displays on the sidewalk.  If this is the preview the festival must be something else.flower girls 5x7 small flowers st 5x7 small

We each had a gelato cone and shared a steak sandwich and Dave had a beer at an outdoor cafe across from the ship.  Amazingly the total cost of the meal was only; 11 euros with tip ( at the current exchange that translates into about $12).

As we were leaving on the ship the sun started to send rays through the clouds to the sea.  Got one last photo to share with you.  god rays 5x7 small gray sun rays 5x7 small

Almost to Madeira, speeding ahead in calm waters

We will reach Madeira tomorrow morning.  The sea has been calm due to our captain’s skill and some luck.  Here are some photos of the cruise ship.  The slot machines in the casino called Fortunes is a lie….that is where my pennies are being swallowed everyday!  The art on this ship is unusual ( see the bird pulling the worm out of the ground photo) . And there is a photo of the wake of our ship from the stern.  Hope you enjoy these glimpses of life on board the Celebrity Constellation.

bird worm art small library small wake back of ship small

We have one more sea day before we land at Madeira , an island that belongs to Portugal

We have been advancing our clocks one hour for the last 5 of 6 days.  This is jet lag on a ship.  I must admit it is easier than a 9 hour advance that would have been done on a real jet trip to Europe.  We are looking forward to our first port after 8 days at sea.  We have been enjoying the crossing and taking some ipad classes on board.  Amazing how much I do not know about how to operate the ipad that I have had for 3 years!  We are missing Brian, doggies and family.  More photos will follow.  The connection and price of internet in the middle of the Atlantic ocean is astronomical.

Clouds over the Atlantic Ocean

The clouds seem to be different here over the Atlantic Ocean.  We are in the middle of a giant area of water and the clouds are very white and very fluffy.  If you stand on our balcony you can see them being blown across the horizon by the wind.  Here are a couple of photos for you.

Life onboard ship: we do not normally eat in the dining room when we sail. It usually takes 2 hours to get served and to eat. The main dining room is crowded and noisy.  We prefer to eat in less time and whenever we are hungry.  This varies each day depending on when we have awakened and when we went to sleep.  So we normally eat up in the Oceanview buffet. This is the best kept secret on the Celebrity Constellation.  At the back of the buffet are these two handsome guys who will grill fresh fish, salmon, steak, chicken or a pork chop for you.  Your dinner is hot and the vegetables are crispy.  My favorite meal is a fresh Caesar salad, broccoli and carrots, and grilled salmon.  Yum, and healthy ondavid dinner small copy moon cloud small sunset buildings clouds small 2 handsome grill chefs small

top of it.  I find the desserts in the buffet not great so I normally skip that problem.  OMG, I might lose some weight on this trip! What a surprise.