On this, our last day on the ship (sniff), we woke up at 8:30 to watch the ship pull through all the canals.
We ate breakfast on our balcony while others on the ship went to the bow to have complimentary Bellinis as we greeted Venice, our final city.
After breakfast, I went back to sleep until 1100, while Rob stayed on the balcony to watch the ship pull in.
The Queen of the Seas
The City of Water
The City of Light, under a veil of fog
The City of Bridges - okay, I'm done with the nicknames!
A manmade island full of buildings and trees
Isn't she beautiful? *sigh*
We finally passed Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square)
Little man on campus
Isn't it cool? I loved this kind of view.
When we were both up, we showered (I'm always finding it necessary to make you aware of this, for some reason), dressed (that too), and went to catch a waterbus to Piazza San Marco. We tried here to take a gondola ride - the one and only thing I really wanted to do in Venice, and one of the main things I was looking forward to on this trip - but the cost was 80 Euros and we just didn't have it on us. Oh, I was so sad.
And so what do you think we did next? Yep. We walked to the café that was right next to the gondolas (don't go there) and had a soda. We paid 7 Euros each for a small one. Of course we sat somewhere with white tablecloths, which should have given us our first clue, but apparently we missed it.
Then we went back over the little bridge and did a little souvenir shopping.
I just love masks! I had already bought some Venetian glass, in the form of a pen, for a Bunco prize, and we didn't have the packing space for any more. Otherwise, I'd have loved some.
And that, my friends, was all the time we had left for sightseeing (boohoo) in Venice. We caught the waterbus back to the ship. Thankfully, we made it to the right stazione on the first try.
Arrivederci, Piazza San Marco!
Oh, man. What a quintessentially Venetian sight. I wish that were me...
More of the Venetian waterways; surprisingly, we didn't find anyone swimming. Or is that not such a surprise?
Arriving back at our stazione to disembark the waterbus and huff it back to our ship. This was another extremely hot day, and the walk was not short.
When we returned, I was hungry for lunch and went up to the Lido Deck to have one last yummy Caesar salad. Rob, however, was very antsy about the time and our need to get to the airport, and he was being a right pistol about it. Finally I threw down my fork and stormed out of there. It was our only tiff on the trip, and it was shortlived, but man, I wanted that last salad!
We went to our stateroom and packed up the rest of our stuff, and then without further ado, we simply walked off the ship for the last time. I wanted to cry then, and I want to cry thinking about it now. It was a marvelous, wondrous journey, and I've been so glad to share it with you all here.
However, it's not quite over yet!
It was a long walk in the broiling sun to the taxis, but fortunately a pier worker drove over and picked up our luggage, and delivered it to the taxi station for us, so we only had to carry ourselves around the stazione. We waited about 20 minutes and didn't see a single taxi ready to take passengers. Then Drew and his parents, from dinner the other night, arrived on the scene. Drew is in law school and is doing a monthlong summer course in Austria; he needed a ride to the train station.
When a taxi arrived, I offered for him to share it with us. We would drop him off first and then proceed to the airport. Rob was chomping on the bit about this a little, but I hushed him. After all, we had plenty of time. Also, the driver charged both of us less money than we would have spent alone.
Once at the airport, we were dropped off into a mass of confusion. European airports do not make any sense, from my perspective! Okay, okay, we figured things out a little bit. Here are a few rules: Do not arrive until exactly two hours before your flight time, even to go internationally. No ticket counters will serve you. Since we had arrived three hours early for our flight to Madrid, we had an hour to figure the rest out! Once it's two hours or less from your flight time, then you look on the computer screens for your exact airline and flight number, and it will tell you exactly which counter(s) are open for your needs. So, I hope that helps someone out there. They all (Venice, Madrid, Barcelona) worked the same way.
The flight to Madrid was short and sweet. We had no problems once we got to our gate.
However, from there, we had quite a few problems, and it was a lucky thing I spoke Spanish, because I used an awful lot of it there. If you speak a little Spanish, tell them "màs despacio" - "more slowly" and you'll be able to understand them, too. Our problem was that we had a 14-hour (or so I thought) layover, overnight, and we needed somewhere to crash without worrying about being pickpocketed or having anything else done to us. The obvious decision was to get a hotel room. Actually getting to one proved not to be so simple. We asked the información people, we asked multiple taxi drivers, we even hopped on a shuttle bus - all to be told they couldn't take us to a hotel.
Finally, we decided to board the next hotel's shuttle that stopped at the bus stop and get on with it, already.
Well. That turned out to be for the Madrid Airport Hilton. We looked at each other, having an idea what that would cost, and then hopped aboard. Oh, well! We needed to go somewhere. I did, especially; I was about to cry for having a potty emergency!
To call this hotel "swanky" would be a bit of an understatement. It was ultramodern and had a pricetag to match. We spent 200 Euros on the room, for what turned out to be a ten-hour layover (oops, calculation error with all the mixed up time zones). Rob kept bemoaning what we spent on basically a nap, a shower, and a snack. Oh, well. One last hurrah before we buckled down... This was our suite. It was posh. And I'd asked for the cheapest accommodations possible.
The very cool bathroom sink
The open restaurant, four floors below us.
Every detail of the hotel was really cool, and I wished we could have stayed there longer. I couldn't give you enough details, nor take enough pictures, to do it justice. If you're ever in Madrid, at least spend one night there!
We ate a very expensive dinner at that restaurant, when all we ate were sandwiches and fries. I paid about 10 Euros to get online for an hour, but the computer died after half the time because there were no 110V outlets, and they didn't have any more converter sets available. Maybe if we ever go back, we'll still have a half-hour balance?
Then we went to sleep until 0400. We slept the sleep of the just. The just plain tired. (Edward Abbey)
Because the shuttle didn't begin again until 0600, we had to call for a taxi back to the airport. More Euros down the drain! The Madrid airport was no less confusing than the Venetian one, but I've got it all figured out by now. We finally got ourselves to the correct gate, after some trouble, and away we flew back to our starting city of Barcelona.
In Barcelona, because we were changing airlines, we had to retrieve our luggage, recheck it, and get to our gate in the space of an hour and a half. We made it! The 8-hour flight to New York City was less comfortable for Rob, who couldn't sleep, than for me. I slept the entire flight, except when it was time to eat or drink something. As soon as they took my garbage, bam! I was out like a light again.
It was such a relief to get back on American soil after the discombobulation of the whole trip past two days of travel. I could kiss the first person I heard with an American accent! And I could call home without worrying about roaming charges! And I could spend my American dollars in my crappy American economy! Rob was less excited than I was to be there, but he was a little bit, because it was his first time in the Big Apple.
We went through customs and had to claim and recheck our bags once again. Ugh. Then we went for lunch and had horrible service. Ah, home. We did a little shopping at the airport's Discovery store for the children, since we felt they would expect a little more - and better - than what we'd gotten them in Europe. And we were right, those toys were the biggest hits upon our return.
On the tarmac, we waited two hours (!!!!!) with no air conditioning, drinks, or relative comfort before we were finally given the clearance to take off. That blew. But finally were were in the air for the fourth and final leg home!
Rob was tired and cranky when we arrived in Norfolk, but I was happy and chipper at last to see the children and, of course Stim (Stephanie and Tim, our friends who took care of the children). The children ran to us, and all of them were in tears. They missed us, too. And Stim missed us - or at least their peace and quiet!
Rob collected our bags while the rest of us caught up, and then we packed into the van and headed to our house. First, Rob went to get a haircut so he could be back 'in regs' for work the following day, while I opened all our packages and showed off all the goodies we'd brought home for the children, ourselves, Bunco, and Stim. Lots of oohs and ahhs - some of them from me. Hehe.
Then, when Rob returned, we had a chance to use all those shot glasses I'd purchased! We'd brought a bottle of Ouzo from Greece and Limoncello from the top of Mt. Etna, Sicily. I poured a shot of the ouzo first for the four of us, and I counted to three. Steph pounded hers first, then Rob. While I drank mine, Tim swallowed his. I pulled away my cup and asked Tim if he'd drank it. His eyes were red and watering as he choked out, "yeah." It was freaking HILARIOUS. That ouzo was NOT good, on my list of tasty alcoholic things to drink.
Then I poured out shots of the Limoncello. It was much better. More palatable. But still, not a fruity piña colada. I miss those. I miss days of waking up, looking out at the Mediterranean Sea. I miss breakfast in bed. I miss delectable six-course meals. I miss having to speak in Spanish. I miss touring the Tuscan countryside, the lava-covered mountain, the canals, and oh, all those Sprites in all those cafés.
Rob misses not doing dishes! He misses being pampered. Being called "Sir Bob," he says to be funny. He misses being in countries where people realize they don't need a giant freakin' automobile. He misses having me all to himself. Awwww.
Hope you enjoyed it! I did!