After living in Germany for six months and traveling back for a month, we are back in St. Louis. We got back on Thanksgiving, and we’ve spent our time since then unpacking, cleaning the house, reading mail, seeing family, and getting back to work. I miss our trip already.
Rome was fantastic. We spent three days there between Slovenia and our transatlantic crossing on the Grand Princess, and we could have spent a lot more time than that. It’s a huge city with history and beauty (and Catholic extravagance) everywhere. We tried to get by with the summary from our Lonely Planet Mediterranean Europe book, but there was so much to see and comprehend that we bought another guide book just for that city.
The first thing was saw was the Roman Forum. This was much bigger than we ever expected. In other cities, we’ve been excited by seeing a block-long Roman city wall fragment, or seeing the remnants of an individual temple or baths. Those experiences were blown away by the Roman Forum. It has block after block of ruins of important temples, palaces, arches, and basilicas. It has to be seen to be believed (and it’s all free).
We also spent a lot of time at the Vatican, touring the amazing St. Peter’s Basilica, touring the Vatican Museum (full of hundreds of people ignoring the signs and taking flash photos of the Sistene Chapel, not caring that they are damaging the art that will be out of focus in their pictures), and even seeing the Pope. Seeing Benedict was interesting, with the 25,000 other people in attendance (I think most of them actually were Catholic). The Pope gave a message in Italian, German, Polish, Spanish, English, Latin, Klingon, and Esperanto, which was fairly impressive, although it meant that fellow observers stopped paying attention or being polite when their language was done.
Additionally, we saw countless other fountains, churches, squares, and bridges. It’s a very beautiful city with very good pizza.
From Rome, we took a 14-day cruise on the Grand Princess to cross the Atlantic. We stopped in Livorno, Italy (to see Florence); Cannes, France; Barcelona, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; Ponta Delgada, the Azores; and Bermuda on our way to Ft. Lauderdale. We had a mostly great time. The food and wine were wonderful, except the cheese desserts were disappointing. Being on the sea for so long was great, except when it was too rocky in the North Atlantic (Jenny discovered she can get seasick). The on-board activities were fun and we met some wonderful people, although the average age of the passengers was post-retirement. Some of the stops were beautiful, but the 6-10 hours per port afforded by a cruise itinerary is just not enough time really to see a city or get to know a culture.
Despite the minor frustrations, taking a cruise home was a relaxing and luxurious way to celebrate the end of our adventure of living in Europe. We’ll likely never have the chance again in our working lives.