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Friday, October 24, 2014

Cruise of a Lifetime: Day 2 Rome – Michelangelo and the Colosseum

Our first “excursion” of the cruise was to Rome and it was jam-packed with amazing sites!

Our first stop (after a 90 minute drive) was The Vatican. I did not realize these 44 acres are a country unto themselves with the Pope serving as king. Speaking of the Pope, he was going to be giving a mass that day so we were anxious to see all it had to offer before everything shut down. 

The Vatican Museum was very impressive, but what I came to see was the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo. This chapel is the Pope’s personal chapel and he does not have to share it with the rest of the world. We were instructed that no talking and no pictures were allowed inside, so I cannot share with you the visual of this spectacular masterpiece, but I can say it was overwhelming.

I can share Michelangelo’s Pieta which is in St. Peter’s church which is huge! The Pieta is now behind glass because a mentally unstable person took a sledge hammer to it years ago, but it is still impressive.
Mary’s young face, which always confused me, was finally explained. It is said that Michelangelo wanted to capture the eternal youth and beauty of Christ’s mother. The rest of the church was breath-taking in it’s own right.  Everywhere I turned were giant paintings, except they weren’t paintings. They were mosaics! Truly amazing!

After this stimulating visual, we took a short tour of Rome before stopping for a real Italian lunch complete with pasta, veal and Tiramisu (I had two helpings of the last :-). Then we were off to the Colosseum.

Wow. I said this word a lot on this trip. To be standing inside such a complicated work of architecture built in 10 years from 70AD-80AD and to know what went on inside was profound. The Colosseum originally had statues in ever outer archway, a covered roof, and three tiers of spectators. 

We were able to see where the animals were kept for fights and a partial floor had been rebuilt to give us an idea of how it may have looked over 2,000 years ago. Aristocrats and the emperor provided “shows” when they wanted to spend the money as the entire operation was very costly and it was free to the public.

This was a great introduction to Rome and start to the cruise. I couldn’t wait to continue. Once back on board it was time to go to dinner, see a show, and stop in one of the on-board venues for dancing and drinks. But it was another early night because once again we had an early start the next morning for our excursion on the Amalfi Coast of Italy.

Always, Lexi

Next: Day 3 – Sorrento and Pompeii

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What's New on Television

         In my last post, I wrote about everything I love about autumn….the coolness of the mornings with just a hint of briskness in the air, the falling leaves (though I really don’t get to see them, living in Phoenix, where it’s still in the mid-80’s as I write this) and all the other things this time of year brings, but there’s another reason I like Fall…the new shows are on television.

          Now, since I’m a busy woman (and I know you are too) and my time is limited, I will admit to watching at least one episode of a new show just to see if I like it (and I’m very discerning….not everything makes the cut…I just don’t have that kind of time). The crop this year seems to be pretty good, but only two have really kept my interest. The first is Forever (which reminds me a great deal of the Highlander series….I adored Adrian Paul! Oh, those dreamy eyes! Those muscles! And the sword fighting! Sorry….I got a little carried away there). The main character in Forever has lived for over two centuries – you see, he can’t die and stay dead so he puts his many years of living to good use. He is a Medical Examiner in New York and he solves crimes with a detective partner. I really like this show. The characters are engaging and the storylines are good. 

          The other show that has caught my interest is The Pinkertons. It’s set just after the Civil War so the costumes interest me quite a bit (that’s the period I write in) and most everyone knows about the Pinkerton Detective Agency, but do they know about Kate Warne? I researched her extensively while I was writing A Scandalous Woman (my character, Joey Darling, wasn’t a detective, but she wanted to be and actually helped solve a few mysteries―without her father’s knowledge―all while falling in love with the handsome Braeden MacAllister!) but I digress. Kate was one of Pinkerton’s best operatives, a master of disguise, who helped prevent an assassination attempt on President-elect Lincoln prior to his taking office in 1861. She continued working as a detective with Pinkerton until her death in 1868. This series brings her to life for me and that’s one of the reasons I watch.

          Has anything of the fall schedule struck your interest?

As always, happy reading (and watching)!


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cruise of a Lifetime: Day 1 At Sea – Dining on the Ship - Book Giveaway!

The first day of the 12 day cruise was a day at sea. This was helpful as it gave us time to familiarize ourselves with the boat. We had a stateroom with a balcony on the 9th floor. Luckily, there were maps of the boat at each elevator bank. There were two banks of elevators on each floor both forward and aft so 4 banks of 4 elevators on each floor. There were also stairs for when we wanted exercise or to avoid waiting for an elevator. There were about 2,000 passengers and 1,000 crew members on this cruise.

Of course, on a cruise, the food is plentiful and varied and always available. So we immediately made ourselves acquainted with all the dining areas.
There was the Oceanview Café for buffet style around-the-clock food and then the main dining room for two seatings at dinner unless, like us, we had select dining which meant we could eat whenever we wanted during their open hours. The dining room was open for lunch and breakfast at specific hours depending if we were in port or not and that was general seating.
The wait staff was excellent and we had the same crew (4 in all) in the dining room which meant they anticipated what we wanted and gave us extra food to try when they thought we would enjoy it.

There were also the specialty restaurants that required reservations and an additional fee. There were 4 in all and we only tried 2 as we really enjoyed our dining room crew. We tried both the Tuscan Grill and Murano’s, the French Restaurant. We thoroughly enjoyed our meals though having 6 people wait on us at Murano’s was a lot for us. However, we did enjoy the table side cooking of our lobster there :-)

We did take a tour of one of the galleys in the dining room on that first day.
Our guide was the Executive Sous Chef who, though he had worked for Celebrity Cruise Line for a long time, had boarded the ship the day we did. He was from Jamaica so we felt right at home :-)  My husband even helped out answering a question from one of the guests when the Chef didn’t have the answer. My husband is a certified auxiliary chef for the Coast Guard :-}

Luckily, my awesome husband bought the recipe book of all the meals that this boat prepared, so I can have this food whenever I want! Well, more like whenever I want to go off my diet. He also had the book signed by the Executive Chef, other sous chefs, the Captain of the boat, and everyone who waited on us be it Shore Excursions, dining, or bar staff. 

We got to bed relatively early that night as we had to be up by 5:00am to be ready to visit Rome!

Since it is Sunday here on Happily Ever After Thoughts, I think it only fair that I should give away a copy of my latest book Cruise into Eden to one lucky commenter. So leave a comment for a chance to win!

Always, Lexi

Next: Day 2 – Michelangelo in The Vatican

Friday, October 17, 2014

Cruise of a Lifetime: Barcelona, Spain

OMG! I just returned from 15 days overseas! It was an amazing trip so I am going to share some of the highlights here on Happily Ever After Thoughts. 

First Days – Barcelona:

Our first priority after checking into Hotel Espana right off Las Ramblas was sleep. Hey, it was a long flight across 7 time zones :-}
But then we started to explore. The one place I just had to see was the Erotic Museum. Seriously, how could I, an erotic romance author, go to Spain and not see this museum. I had no idea what to expect. 

It was fascinating. Everything from paintings on walls from Pompeii and Herculean dating as far back as the 4th century B.C. to porn movies from the silent movie era to Picasso paintings. From Roman sex toys to 1940’s contraptions to modern day Guinness Book record holders for sexual acts. Yup, they have those. Who knew? 

The museum even had a sex garden that featured Betty Boop.

The streets/walkways of Barcelona were lovely with wonderful eateries and shops. 

We became “regulars” at a coffee shop nearby and had fun exploring the waterfront not far from where we would board our cruise ship. 

I admit to having a Starbucks chai while near the water, but it had been a long time since I had treated myself to a chai :-) 

I also forewent the Tapas for lunch and tried to stick with salads, knowing I would gain weight on the cruise ship.

Of course, we couldn’t resist the rooftop pool of our hotel or the lovely breakfast they delivered. 

We also went to the Jamon exhibit and learned how this delicacy is raised and cured since my husband has a particular interest in cooking and foods. The walk-through audio/visual experience was interesting, but the tasting of 6 types of Jamon was even better!

 After a couple days, we were ready to get started on our 12 day cruise of the Mediterranean. Truly a cruise of a lifetime. 

Always, Lexi

Next: Day 1 – The Boat