Recently, I was privileged enough to embark on a 2 week long cruise through the Mediterranean. Throughout the tour I got to visit five breathtaking countries and experience their culture up close and personal. So here are some pictures and details about each place. Just as a slight disclaimer, this will probably be the longest post I will ever write, so I apologize for how lengthy it is, but I just could not hold back my excitement!
Barcelona was the first stop of the trip where we mostly explored the downtown area which was predominantly the shopping and food district of the city. There were so many cafes and shops to explore and was overall a great way to start our trip! Throughout the downtown area there was a unique blend of modern and historical buildings. It was abnormal to me but I was yet to realize that this was what I should expect of all the cities I was yet to visit. Aside from the outstanding array of shopping choices, the most amazing thing that caught my eye was the colourful lit up building (at right). Walking by it during the day was nothing out of the ordinary but evidently, at night was when it truly came to life. Next stop, France!
Aix En Provence and Marseilles, France
Our time in France was very limited, as we only had one day to explore. So, to make the most of the time we had, we booked an excursion that would provide us transportation to both Aix En Provence and Marseilles. Sadly, we actually have zero pictures of that day. Although the sights were remarkable, it was pouring the entire day and we were so rushed from one location to another that pictures were scarce. However, both places were magical and Aix En Provence was especially beautiful walking through the main square underneath a canopy of trees. Marseilles on the other hand provides us with a breathtaking view of the waterfront from a basilica at the top of a hill. A lesson I learned from this one day was to make sure that I would brush up on my French when I get home, because the struggle was real. After all that, onto Italy!
Florence was to say the least…crowded. There were so many people everywhere, and the buildings were all so close together. I never truly understood how much talent driving requires until I visited Florence. Aside from that, Florence was wonderful. The first image to the right shows the Basilica of Santa Croce. With no exaggeration, this basilica was ginormous! Amongst all of the cramped buildings arises this massive piece of architecture presented in front of a square filled with eager tourists. Inside, one can find buried some of the greatest minds Italy, and the World has ever encountered; such as Michelangelo and Galileo. Beside it is a statue that was my personal equivalent to the Statue of David which was unfortunately not a part of our itinerary for that day. Finally there comes my dream as a shopaholic…the Celine store. Words cannot express the passion I have towards attaining the trapeze bag. So to finally see all of the Celine bags presented altogether in one location was too much to handle. For all of you holding your breath to find out what happened, no I did not purchase anything but that just means I have another excuse to go shopping again right?…Now onto Rome we go!
Rome and Vatican City
Of course I was more than excited to visit Rome. Again, we only had one day to explore the city so for that reason, I feel as though my experience may have been slightly hampered. Don’t get me wrong, the Colosseum was incredible. I cannot come to terms with how such tremendous structures were built given the nearly non existent means of technology during that time. The Vatican was also incredible. The paintings on all of the ceilings and the amount of detail that went into every aspect of the buildings was mind boggling. But at the end of the day, all of these places were top tourist destinations, so as beautiful as it may be to view Michelangelo’s masterpiece on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, it is hard to truly enjoy it with hundreds of people being ushered by you at once. Nevertheless, I was able to snap a few pictures and my favourite of the day was the one where I was able to catch the light as it shone through the window at the top of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. This building was built with such a large scale in mind that even the some of the statues which appeared small at first glance, topped over 9 feet up close! Overall, a must-see when visiting Rome.
Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, and Capri
This trip started off quickly as we docked in the port of Naples and were quickly transported to the Ancient ruins of Pompeii. The two highlights of Pompeii was first, the road (middle) which if you look clearly, have three large boulders in the middle. Astonishingly, the boulders played a very important role in acting as what we today call speed bumps. The carriages back in those times would have to slow down enough for their wheels to maneuver themselves around the boulders. Already, there were so many signs to show how advanced this city was. Furthermore, the fountain (at right) was used not only for drinking water but, the water would also cascade out the top of the fountain to wash the streets. Then, another purpose for the three large boulders was to act as an elevated sidewalk for when the streets were being washed!
We then moved onto Sorrento where a traditional Italian lunch was waiting for us in a restaurant located in Sorrento’s main square. Lunch was delicious and gave us the energy we needed to finish off the day on the island of Capri.
In order to get from the main square towards the ferry that would take us to Capri, we had to descend from the top of the hill, down towards the water. Finally, the bottom of the hill offered us a view of city’s oldest hotel, “Excelsior Vittoria”.
The last place we visited for the day was the island of Capri. This was one out of two of my favourite places throughout this trip! The view was breathtaking and after a 5 minute cable car ride to the top of the hill, this shopaholic was rewarded with all the brands one could dream of; from a massive Salvatore Ferragamo to Louis Vuitton and Prada, all of which was surprising considering that the island was so small. Finally, there was a beautiful garden (at right) hidden behind all of the shops which not only gave us some peace and quiet but more views of the entire island!
Another trip favourite was the island of Mykonos! This island was so dreamy filled with crystal clear blue waters and white houses. Believe it or not, it is actually against the law to construct a house on the island that is NOT white! Not only was the scenery unbelievable but we were also lucky enough to tour the island on scooters and ATV’s! It was one of the best memories of the trip and is definitely a place I am going to have to visit again…and that time, I’ll make sure to stay longer than a day.
Istanbul and Kusadasi, Turkey
As I recall it, ’twas a Sunday when we docked in Istanbul, Turkey. Not only was it hot hot hot, but because it was a Sunday, the Grand Bazaar was also closed. Nevertheless, we were able to entertain ourselves walking down one of the city’s main streets where there were tons of shops, and you guessed it, shwarma! To be honest, this was not one of my favourite places as it was very very crowded and there were just so many hills to climb! However, the next stop in Kusadasi reintroduced my excitement for being in Turkey!
In Kusadasi, the Bazaar was open (thankfully) and we were able to fit in a little…just kidding, a lot of shopping. Before coming to Turkey everyone on the trip had already wanted to purchase some pashmina scarves…and pashmina scarves we bought. Our entire group pretty much cleaned out the store for a great deal after some hard bargaining. Throughout the city one will see continuous reminders of how significant the meaning of the Evil Eye is to the citizens. Not only were there countless souvenirs embellished with this superstitious symbol, but also their streets and walls. We finished off the day with a delicious seafood dinner by the water. I would most recommend trying the seafood while in Kusadasi if anyone visits. If you do not know where to go, everyone there is super friendly and most will speak of understand English (which is so helpful).
Another popular tourist destination, Athens was very crowded. But this time, we actually booked a bike excursion which allowed us to arrive at multiple locations without having to walk through the scorching heat. We got to see various historical sites (photo at far left), and got a great view of the Parthenon (middle); once a grand temple worshipped by Athenians was destroyed during a war by the Ottoman Turks during the 15th century. After a long day, we were able to enjoy some traditional Greek snack foods which wrapped up our day in Athens.
To end our 12 day voyage through the Mediterranean, we arrived back in Italy, in the beautiful city of Venice. It was unbelievable to see how the citizens of the city could only travel around by boat or what they called “boat taxis”. Nearly no cars roamed the streets, however, we were presented with a plethora of gondolas at every turn (at right). Something else that was also limitless was the amount of murano glass merchandise available at every corner. From bracelets, to vases, to keychains, you name it, it was made from murano glass. It was a gorgeous city filled with so much history and I would go back without hesitation (as I am assuming anyone would).
Thank you so much for reading this post (essay really), I hope it was somewhat helpful if anyone was looking to visit these places anytime in the future. It was definitely a trip of a lifetime and I am so fortunate to have been given the chance to be a part of it. Until next time!
– J. Vo