My mother recently returned from a two week cruise along the Mediterranean in Europe. When she first told me that she was taking this trip with a female friend, I thought it was a crazy and worthless trip — Barcelona, Nice, Cannes, Florence, Venice, Rome, Naples, Croatia, and Greece — each location for less than a day, sometimes for only a hours.
“Why not just go to one place?” I asked her.
Now that she has returned, and told me stories of her travels, I am less cynical about her cruise because, for some, it is an ideal way to travel without the hassle. If all you care about is a “taste” of a new locale, it is comforting to come back each night to your floating hotel.
I figured that it was seniors that mostly go on these types of cruises, but apparently I am wrong. Families enjoy this type of trip because the kids have activities on board. Young couples and groups of singles pre-arrange for a taxi or car service to meet them as the ship docked, and then sightsee at their own pace. The local driver can give them insights into the city that are more personal and accurate than the script read by the typical tour bus guide.
My mother had a great time, although, as I predicted, she could hardly remember what she saw in each city.
Her travel review of each city was amusing to me because it was primarily based on the brief overview she got from looking out of bus window and visiting tourist spots. That’s why you need to be wary when someone gives you their opinion of a city or a restaurant. You are never sure if the person view is solely based on something so individual, that it makes no sense for YOU.
For example, if you asked me if I enjoyed visiting Seville, one of the world’s most beautiful cities, I would say, “No, I hated that city.” But you would have to push me to get me to admit that the reason for my hatred of the city has nothing to do with the architecture or people, but with this hotel concierge who told Sophia and me to go to some “authentic flamenco club,” which ended up being terribly overpriced with atrocious food, and employed a dancer who was an elderly woman wearing a cast on her arm. I hate Seville.
On the other hand, imagine some guy gets laid in Podunk. That city could be now be THAT person’s favorite city EVER.
Are you thinking of taking a European vacation this fall? Here are a couple of recommendations from my mother:
Barcelona: “Loved it. So easy to get around. Amazing architecture. Saw the “King Tut” exhibit that I missed when I was in New York. Found a really cheap “chicken place” for lunch. Would definitely return.”
Nice and Cannes: “Pretty, but looked a lot like California by the ocean. Not essential to go back.”
Venice: “The most unique of all the cities I saw. The water didn’t stink like you told me it does in August. Elton John has a home there, but I think he mostly lives in Los Angeles. I didn’t see too many pigeons in St. Mark’s Square. I got tired from walking around because there are so many stairs. Everyone needs to come to Venice at least once in their life, although after a day, you’ve pretty much done it all, and can leave.”
Rome: “I have to come back to Rome. I honestly saw nothing because we were in and out of the city in a few hours. You cannot see Rome in a few hours. We went, we saw, but we didn’t conquer. The Colosseum is a marvel, but I didn’t go inside. I could spend a week in Rome. And I had a gelato.”
Naples: “I do not remember what we did there. Italians put olive oil on everything. Even at breakfast, they put their toast in olive oil. The pizza was very thin. I like the pizza more at Valentino’s in Queens. We went to a leather factory, but I don’t remember if it was here or Florence. It was way too expensive. But the leather was as soft as butter.”
Dubrovnik, Croatia — This was the biggest surprise of them all, because I hardly heard of the place. Very quaint. It feels like you are someplace exotic. The tourist thing is this giant wall, but it is very interesting. Not just a wall. And they also had an old Jewish section that I heard was very interesting, but it was too far to walk. Nice place to just relax.
Corfu, Greece — Corfu wasn’t particularly nice, and a bit dirty, but I took a bus trip up this mountain and it was beautiful. We kept on going higher and higher and then you would look down at all the white homes and the ocean behind them, and it was like a postcard. Or like that scene in Mama Mia. And then we went back.
Florence, Italy – I know Florence is very famous and important, but I was not impressed. The bus driver got lost. There were so many churches. Not that I have anything against churches, but there were TOO many of them. And we were supposed to see the David, so the tour guide brought us to see the David, and as we are all standing there, the tour guide says that is not REALLY the David, but a FAKE David, because they moved the REAL David inside to the Accademia because it was wearing away, and we didn’t have enough time to wait in line and see him, so the first thing that comes to my mind is, “Why are we standing around looking at a FAKE David?” And then, as we walked around courtyard some more, we saw ANOTHER David, and our tour guide said that this was a FAKER David, because at least the FAKE David was standing in the original spot where the REAL David once was once standing, so he was FAKE, but this one was FAKER. So, we never saw the REAL David and we never found out why he wasn’t circumcised, since he was Jewish, so my impression of Florence was colored by that. I don’t need to return to Florence.
Barcelona, Spain – A+
Nice/Cannes, France – B-
Venice, Italy – A-
Naples, Italy – B
Rome, Italy – A
Dbrovnik, Croatia – A-
Corfu, Greece – B+
Florence, Italy – FAIL