all roads lead to rome

Ah, Roma.

But first we had to get there.  Luggage in tow, we disembarked the cruise ship, ready to explore my favorite city in the world.  The horrors of hauling our massive suitcases on and off trains still fresh in my mind, and two additional (and full) pieces of luggage in tow, I was determined to take a taxi into the city, even if my husband considered it a giant waste of 100 euro.  Perhaps it was sheer luck or perhaps Joey deliberately found the most repulsive taxi on the planet, but suddenly our luggage was loaded into a dirty, rusty, at least twenty-five year-old Fiat and Jabba the Hutt was behind the wheel.

This massive, wheezing blob of a man grunted and lit a cigarette.  I'm not sure what came over me, but I was already disgusted and unwilling to smell like an ashtray for the rest of the day, so I totally fibbed and said "Signore" and patted my belly as if I was pregnant.  He threw that cigarette out so fast I almost felt bad about my little white lie, but I figured it prevented him from his imminent heart attack at least for the rest of our drive.

Soon we were in Trastevere, where we checked into our hotel.  We spent the next three days exploring the parts of the city we hadn't seen the first time, including Trastevere and the Vatican, as well as re-visiting some of our favorites, including the Roman Forum and Trevi Fountain.  The last night of R&R we went back to the Cafe de Paris on Via Veneto, one of the first restaurants where we'd celebrated our honeymoon.  The pianist was just as talented and the meal just as romantic; it was a fitting end to an incredible journey with my best friend.
Click here for all of my Roman pictures.

the amalfi coast

Our cruise ship docked next in Salerno, Italy.  Initially we'd planned to take a ferry to Capri, but when we learned the ferry would take an hour and a half each way, my propensity to sea-sickness overruled our initial plans in favor of a closer destination: Amalfi.

Amalfi Cathedral
One cappuccino and one espresso later, we toured the grand cathedral, its cloister and chapel.   We drifted through the scenic sea-side town, stopping first for a Caprese salad and later for fresh lemon cream cake that tasted just like our wedding cake.

As we still had plenty of time before we had to meet the boat, we decided to take another ferry a little farther, to the even lovelier Positano.  We continued our gustation tour of the Amalfi Coast with some incredible pizza and lemon granita; in the meantime I found an incredible pair of handmade, hot-pink, Italian leather loafers.

In Positano
The ferry back to Salerno was completely miserable.  Dark clouds had rolled in, bringing with them bumpy waves on which we were stuffed like sardines.  I spent the entire hour with my head between my legs, praying I didn't have to take my pretty new shoes out of the yellow shopping bag to vomit.  But I made it to Salerno with all the food I'd eaten still gurgling in my belly.  We embarked on the cruise ship for the last time, headed to Rome for the final leg of our R&R.

As always, click here for the rest of my pictures from the Amalfi Coast.


After Kusadasi, we returned to the Greek Isles for a stop in Mykonos.  I really wanted to go to the island of Delos to see the Temple of Apollo; Joey graciously acquiesced even though all he wanted to do was lay on the beach.

We bought round-trip tickets for the ferry through the deep sapphire waters to the island.  Once on Delos, we waited in line to buy a ticket to enter the archaeological site, only to discover that credit cards were not accepted and the only cash we had was not enough to buy tickets.  Luckily, the elderly man operating the ticket booth was kind enough to accept our eight euros as payment enough.  His wasn't the only instance of kindness that day; after an hour under the hot sun on the remote island, we ducked into the cafe, hoping it would accept credit cards and we could buy a drink.  The cafe didn't take cards either, but the young man behind the cash register handed us a free glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice anyway.  I have to admit, I didn't find the "piles of rocks," as Joey calls them, nearly as impressive as the islanders' generosity.

Hungry and hot, we boarded the ferry back to Mykonos for lunch.  We spent the rest of the day zigzagging through the white-washed town, and Joey even managed to find time for a swim.
Click here for all of my pictures from Mykonos


Next stop on our cruise: Kusadasi, Turkey.  Pronounced "coosh-A-dah-see," this port was another hour away from the main attraction: Ephesus.  We left the port in search of a taxi to take us to the gorgeous set of Greek ruins.  After haggling with a few drivers, we got in a car for the beautiful drive away from the waters of the Aegean and into the hills of Asia Minor.

The driver dropped us off at the entrance of the ancient city; we agreed to meet him in two hours at the exit.  From there we began our walk along the same roads that St. Paul and St. John walked two thousand years ago.  I always find it amazing what kind of perspective travel adds to a history lesson; I wish that my catechism teachers had mentioned that the Ephesians in the Bible were real people and that Ephesus is an actual place, not just some abstract, hard-to-pronounce mystical city.

We then discovered that in addition to this,

what is considered to be the last home of the Virgin Mary is also near Ephesus.  Upon reuniting with the son of our driver (apparently he had car trouble and so he sent his twenty-year-old son to pick us up in a different car - I don't really remember how we managed to find this kid, but I do remember figuring that since we hadn't paid him yet, we should be fine), we drove further up the mountain into a forest to see the holy site.

Who knows if this was actually Mary's house, but we found the shrine peaceful and the wall of prayers to her moving.

We returned to Kusadasi for a stroll along the beach and through the bazaar, and a sampling of the tasty, taffy-thick, Turkish ice cream before re-boarding the ship.

Click here to see the rest of my pictures from our day in Ephesus and Kusadasi.


Besides returning to Santa Margherita, Istanbul was probably the city to which we'd both most looked forward.  Enigmatic, extravagant and exotic, Istanbul lived up to our expectations and more.  I only regret that  we had but two days, and we'd made the huge mistake of spending them on a tour bus.  We'd opted to take one of the cruise line's shore excursions to maximize our time, thinking that Istanbul would be difficult to navigate with the differences in not only language, but alphabet too.  We couldn't have been more wrong: Istanbul is as clean, modern and cosmopolitan as any other European city we've visited.  At least the tour was informative and took us to almost all of the city's main attractions.

We started at the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque or "new" mosque, since it was only built 400 years ago.  The largest mosque in Turkey, the Blue Mosque is an extravagant amalgamation of domes and minarets and tiles and colors and lights.  The cavernous blue and red and green tiled sanctuary is even more fantastical than its imposing exterior.  

We put back on our shoes and strolled across the Hippodrome to the Basilica Cistern, which dates back to the 6th century, and is definitely the coolest water storage facility I've ever seen.  We descended a large stone staircase and entered a dark and chilly underground chamber punctuated by a network of ancient stone columns and arches.  Astounding.

We ascended to the street, where we squinted from the glare of the intense sun.  We boarded the tour bus to the Spice Bazaar.  All of our senses were instantaneously bombarded with the aromatic fusion of cumin and cinnamon and cardamom and jasmine; the rainbow of mounds of spices, jellies, dried apples and dates; the calls of the storekeepers and the haggling of customers; the soft and sweet, marshmallowy Turkish Delight that we sampled at every stall; amidst the flurry of people swarming the 400 year-old gallery.    Suddenly starving, we inhaled a mouthwateringly flaky Napoleon of feta and spinach before the tour guide announced we were heading to lunch.

For some reason, either Celebrity Cruise or the tour company, we're not sure which, decided an "authentic Turkish lunch" was best held in some creepy Renaissance Fair-esque auditorium of the Best Western Hotel. At least the mezze was pleasing.

Our next stop was the famous Grand Bazaar, which is like the Spice Bazaar on ecstasy.  Enamored by the kaleidoscope of mosaiced lanterns, it didn't take much convincing to get Joey to bargain for one.  One lantern, one silver tea set and one new suitcase later, we darted through the crowd to catch the tour bus.  The tour guide was kind enough to call us honeymooners (I suppose the length of our union compared to that of most of the people on the bus would be relatively short), which seemingly excused our tardiness to the rest of the group.

Joey holding our tea set

The bus took us to a boat on the Bosphorus, for an afternoon cruise to the Black Sea.  Then we headed back to the ship for what was supposed to be a nap.  Exhausted from the sensory assault of the day, we ended up only seeing Istanbul at night from the deck of the ship.

The Hagia Sophia facing the Sultan Ahmed Mosque  

The following morning we reboarded the tour bus for the hard sell an "informational session" on Turkish rugs.  We learned why we should buy one hand-woven rugs are so expensive valuable.  Our next stop was Topkapi Palace, home to the sultans of the Ottoman Empire for 400 years.  The Palace allegedly holds the rod of Moses, the footprint of Mohammed and the sword of David, in addition to an impressive collection of jewels and an emerald dagger made famous in a 1960's movie.

From there we drove to our final destination, the Hagia Sophia.  First built in 537, the Hagia Sophia was initially a church, then a mosque, and now serves as a museum.  I'd always wanted to visit this mammoth beauty and the green and gold mosaics, massive iron chandeliers and elaborate carved stone did not disappoint.  As trite as it sounds, they really did save the best for last.

Click here to see the rest of my pictures from Istanbul.