Mediterranean Enchantment – 2009
April 26 - May 10, 2009
Updated July 4, 2009
By LEWIS NOLAN
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Thursday, May 9-10, 2009 –
Saturday and Sunday, Back to
had ordered an early delivery of breakfast from room service since we are debarking the ship at the
The ship intelligently scheduled its 1,900 passengers to leave in “flights” to minimize confusion and crowding. Our group departure was set for 8:15 a.m. But we managed to get off the boat a little early so we wouldn’t keep Franco from having to wait.
Neither of us slept particularly well on our last and 10th night on the boat. But we reflected that we had a really good time during the cruise since I was able to mostly overcome a persistent, deep cough, sore abdomen and muscle injury in my upper back. We saw some truly important and memorable sights judged critical to mankind’s advancement of western civilization over the last two millennia and more.
is scheduled to take us to the Westin Excelsior Hotel in
Franco again right on time, we quickly loaded our gear into his Toyota sedan
and sped off toward Rome on a divided highway. Traffic was fairly busy around
the harbor because of cruise and ferry traffic plus native use of fishing and
pleasure boats on the picturesque
think we luckily hit an ideal week-and-a-half of weather for this region, where
bad weather is mainly reserved for winter. It hasn’t rained except for a minor
shower or two early on our trip. Traffic thinned once we got on the northeast-bound
obliged us by making camera stops at the Pantheon, a huge stone temple the
early Romans used to worship their multiplicity of Gods, and a large complex of
gigantic, marble structures called The Mausoleum, where two early kings of
We checked into Westin’s Excelsior Hotel around noon. We were given a cavernous room at a reasonable price on the second of its sixth floors as part of our Northwest package arranged by our agent. It was ornately fitted out like a palace with 30-feet-long, ceiling to floor, Roman-style drapes and a rococo style ceiling decorated with fancy woodwork and plaster figures. The walls were trimmed in gilt with large swatches of red fabric containing gold leaf framed by intricate woodwork.
our earlier luxury hotel in
to the planning arrangements by our agent, Erin Bobbitt de Padilla of
Gulliver’s Travel in
This has been a great trip and despite my impaired mobility, it ranks up there among our best ones ever. But it’s a shame that the limitations on my getting around and my body’s occasional need for bed rest cut into Betty’s adventurous spirit in what for us was a new part of the world.
salvaged some of the afternoon by visiting one of the most photographed spots
“The site originally marked the terminal of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct, built by Emperor Augustus’ right-hand man and son-in-law, Agrippa, in 19 BC to channel water to Rome’s new bath complexes, ” Fodor’s said. Three Popes – including Gregory VII – oversaw the construction of this symbol of Imperial Rome. It is a magnet for tourists and is embellished by the legend that visitors who toss coins over their shoulders into the clear water of the fountain will one day return. Of course, Betty and I both faced away and tossed some change over our shoulders and into the fountain. We had been told that municipal workers would collect all the tourists’ deposits overnight and give it to deserving charity.
We purchased some souvenir refrigerator magnets at a nearby tourist shop.
impressed with the comfort and attention to detail provided at the Excelsior Hotel
and its staff, I decided to “play it safe” with dinner that evening. Rather
than eat in the hotel’s fancy restaurant, I ordered through room service a
cheeseburger with French fries to reduce the chances of any stomach problems during
the long flights back to the States tomorrow. I thought the club sandwich I had
for lunch at the hotel bar was good – but certainly not adventurous. The burger and a small bottle of Diet Coke (called Coco Light here
and elsewhere in
is to pick us up at 7 a.m. in the morning for the hour-long ride to the
Watching the BBC news that evening, this former newspaperman (15 years working as a reporter and later business editor for the Scripps-Howard owned metropolitan daily in Memphis, The Commercial Appeal), I was somewhat shocked at seeing how very different that London-based, global news service of BBC is in its reporting style as compared to the U.S. TV networks. I was somewhat annoyed by a big deal story about the impact of world tension on tourism to the Seychelles Islands that didn’t say or show their location.
Italian evening TV programming we saw that evening was largely devoted to a
show horse competition. I was surprised to see such little attention given to
Europe’s soccer mania, which seems to dominate the television programming we’ve
next morning, we could see out of large windows in our hotel room that dozens
of swallows were darting about nearby rooftops, evidently in pursuit of
insects. The absence of mesh screens on our windows told me that mosquitoes
must not be a problem in this part of
For breakfast, I made do with Betty’s leavings from a ham and cheese sandwich from last night, along with a bottle of expensive tonic water. At least I feel pretty good this morning, although a little throaty cough remains.
picked us up as promised early on Sunday May 10. We drove straight to the Rome airport
and boarded a big KLM jet for the uneventful, two-hour flight to Amsterdam. We
had enough time to shop for some wonderful Belgian chocolate sold in the huge
complex of retail stores and services in the airport. The flight over the