Cruise Day 3: Rome aka Roma

This morning we woke up in Civitavecchia, Italy. It’s a port about 1.5 hours outside of Rome (unless you’re our bus driver, who managed to plow down enough cars to make it in about an hour). Since I have never been here, I chose to do the group tour “Highlights of Rome”. When I read the description, it was basically “hit these few cool places and have some time to wander around”. With traffic it was more like “hit these few cool places and if you’re lucky you get a chance to pee”.

When I got on the bus, I met another solo traveler, Lottie (GOT A NAME THIS TIME). She was from Atlanta, so we stuck near each other for the duration of the trip. Our first stop was to Colosseum. I’d read some about it, and I knew it was smaller than most people think. I wasn’t overy surprised by how small it seemed compared to pictures. We didn’t get to go in (time constraints), but got to snap a few neat pictures here and there.

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Our tour guide was a 77 year old native Roman. He was born at the start of WWII, and had all kinds of neat tidbits about the city. He pointed out all of the things that happened during WWII under Mussolini, including where Mussolini stood when he declared war. He tended to wax poetic, but considering he was dropping knowledge bombs everywhere, it was more like keeping up with what was pouring out of his brain than getting a whitewashed version.

Our next stop was the Trevi fountain. Looked just like the pictures.

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The thing that was not like the pictures was how mobbed it was. This goes for the Colosseum as well. Everything was swamped with visitors, everywhere we went. It wasn’t so much a personal experience as it was floating on a sea of humanity catching glimpses of things you wanted to see. Just a tip: our guide said November and February are the quietest months to visit all of these attractions. The crowds were notable because anybody that knows me is well aware I don’t do crowds. I was probably more stressed about the large amounts of people bumping into me, which kind of killed my experience.

After that we visited another square, and then we headed to the Pantheon. It was actually less busy, so there was some time to enjoy the views.

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We herded onto the bus after that, and then took a trip to Vatican City. We didn’t actually go inside the Vatican or visit the Sistine Chapel, but we got to walk through St. Peter’s Basilica, and then visit the square. Again, mobbed with people.

That said, I did walk through the doors that forgive all sins (if you are Catholic, like me), so I essentially picked up a do-over on this trip! That counts for something. Wonder how long that will last.  Here’s my eyeball in front of St. Peter’s square:

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I think my only gripe (and this applies to the previous year of travel as well), was the lack of free time. There wasn’t any. We were constantly moving from point to point. My preferred travel method is to be taken somewhere, have the points of interest listed with directions, then set free to do my own thing. When I booked this trip I thought that was what was going to happen. Not so much. Next I’m I’ll bite the bullet and just do it on my own.

Since I was more or less a loner on this trip, I wound up taking pictures of myself. I refuse to invest in a selfie stick, so instead I settled for various pictures of me in front of things, showcasing one or more eyeballs.

On another note, it seems my alone-ness has captured some of the staff. The bartender asked me if I was having fun, as he had only seen me show up to order my wine and then hide in corners to write on my computer. I chatted with him a bit to let him know I was ok and mostly just doing my own thing.

I do miss home. But I’ll be back there soon enough. Still lots to see. I’m really excited for France. That’s on Friday. New experience!

As I write, we are sailing out of Civitavecchia and on our way to Florence. Since I have visited Florence already, I’m going to take a wine tour. Hoping to return completely sauced. Also hoping to find a nice box of wine to ship home.

Some things of note:

The pine trees they have here are weird. They trim them into umbrella shapes. I guess cone-shaped isn’t their thing.

The weather still reminds me of San Francisco. Cool and humid, unless you’re standing in the sun, which immediately turns you into baked soup

Hair is still a total tragedy. Humidity 1; Me 0.

I think I hurt my tooth in one of my Bonine-infused nightmares. I tend to clench my teeth, and I think I overdid it. It’s been aching a couple of days, and I can’t eat on that side of the mouth. It’s not an immense pain, but it’s worrying me enough to schedule a follow up dentist visit when I get back. Talk about timing. I had my last checkup 3 days before I left. I’m telling you, this trip is out to get me.

Cruise Day 2: Naples aka Napoli

There isn’t any seasickness factor this time around. Maybe the Bonine stretched longer than I thought. Maybe it’s because the seas are very calm, so there’s not a whole lot of back-and-forth on the ship. Either way, I feel fine. May suck down one more before bed just in case. Just so I can enjoy the ensuing nightmares.  My dreams on Bonine have been nuts.  I had a dream one of my nephews was trying to become the next Messiah and disrupting a concert I had with Toccata.  WEIRD.

I didn’t make it to the Solo Traveler gathering yesterday, and at this point I’m so pooped I’m not sure I’ll make today. That’s fine. I’ve tried to make it a point to talk to random people. As some of you know, I’m not a chatty person by nature so it’s taken some doing. There’s lots of activities on this ship so bonding with the person you sat next to is a thing. I was having lunch today and had a great conversation with a couple of really sweet gentlemen from Florida, who shared pictures of their menagerie (which included two parrots). Today I learned that female parrots will lay eggs if you pet them on the back.

Our port today is Naples! I didn’t know much about Naples. Port city. Mostly tourist industry. Pompeii or Capri if you want to make the trek. For this stop I opted to take a tour of Naples on a bike. My group included 4 other people – two from Canada, one from Germany, and one from Israel. I’d like to spin this as a glorious fantastical tour, but it was pretty boring. Since we were on bikes, there wasn’t a whole lot of chatter. Just huffing and puffing. The Canadians weren’t impressed with the gear (helmet problems). The Israeli dude thought the whole thing was too slow (he was a super biker). The German didn’t say much at all, but we chatted a bit about where I lived in the US and about his travels through Europe. Overall, I did love the bike part.

Biking Naples

We just plowed through and got to see more terrain than we would have on foot, and avoided the traffic. Got to climb a castle. Got a good workout. My Apple Watch was very happy with me today.

Since we mostly stuck close to port, I didn’t get to see much of Naples beyond the shopping areas. And the shopping part bored me. It was all clothes, watches, and jewelry. The architecture is definitely something to behold. It’s this bizarre mixture of (mostly) old and some new. When we got off of the ship, there was a whole area cordoned off. They were building an addition to the port, but had to stop because they ran into old ruins. They’re being excavated now. The guide said it will take about 10 years to finish the site. We saw the ruins through the fence – looked like old city walls. That was neat.

We mostly rode along the shores. Saw a couple of neat points.  We visited a castle and climbed to the top, where I saw an idea for turning my future home into a fortress.

Cannons on the top of the castle

We actually ended the ride early, at which point Super Biker Israeli Dude (apologies, nobody told me their names) insisted we get our 4 hours in. So our lovely bike guide took us through the Spanish Quarter as a bonus. After we were done, I marched myself down Toledo street to see if there was anything worth buying (no) and went back to the ship for a late lunch.

The early return was good timing. Shortly after I arrived it started pouring rain. I had my late lunch (see note about the Florida couple with the parrots), then retired here to write more, harass Eric, and potentially nap. It’s a little after 5PM now, so the ship will be sailing off soon. I’m probably going to turn in early and try to get some early exercise in before I get more exercise hiking around Rome tomorrow! Even as a lapsed Catholic, I’m excited to see Rome and the Vatican.

Cruise Day 1: I’m on a boat

Today is the 3rd day of my vacation (if you include the aborted first day).

When I got up in the morning at 5:30 AM, we were floating out somewhere in the Mediterranean. Cool. It was pitch black. I made some of the in-room coffee. Caught up on news. Posted my first post for this trip.

So a couple of catchup items from yesterday:

I had purchased a little bottle of Dramamine for this trip. I had remembered the last cruise I was on – I was super seasick the first day when we were powering up the coast to Alaska. Since the first day on this ship was powering our way down to Italy, I figured it may be good to have it and dose myself first thing in the morning. Well, after digging through my luggage several times, it appears I had forgotten to pack it (go me). I still have no idea where that little bottle went. I checked it off of my list!!! So I had to go down and buy some Bonine from the gift shop (boo – $$$$$$).

Since we have no port today, I had decided last night I would get up, have coffee, chill a bit, then go to the gym and try to get in a run because I haven’t had time for a week (seriously, my LONGEST non-running stretch in months). That was a great plan, until about 2AM this morning. I stretched in my sleep, pointed my toes, and got a huge charlie horse. Agonizing. That muscle in my calf still hurts. Since I have to go bike tomorrow, I decide to give my poor calf a rest, and instead chose to hike the ship. I should have stretched before bed last night. Planes, man. It’s always the planes.

Moving on…

I kept part of the plan for this morning. Had my coffee. Watched the sun come up from my balcony. Hiked the ship. Ate a very small meal for breakfast because I wasn’t quite sure if it was safe to eat or not (barfing potential rating: 5 of 10).

I hiked the entire ship (I get to use the word hike because I took the stairs). Looked at every attraction onboard so I knew where it was. Got my bearings. Checked the intertubes for updates. Found the Grownups Lounge (18+, no kids squalling nearby) near the end of my hike, so here I am now writing the first half of this update while I chill.

Overall, it’s pretty decent here. Typical cruise activity fare. There’s a solo traveler meet up this evening, so I think I’ll go check that out. Maybe I can make a friend/buddy. I’m also thinking I may go and slater on some sunblock and put on my running gear, then come out here and bake in the sun. I’ve got some more walking to do as well. I’m going to try to get in 3 miles of it so I can feel better about missing the run this morning.

The Vacation Debacle

This is a lot of words, but damn. It’s was a crazy couple of days.

A few months ago I decided I needed a really nice relaxing vacation, preferably seeing something I haven’t before. My Travel Agent Extraordinaire Lisa Chady and I put together a marvelous trip on a cruise ship through Barcelona, France, and southern Italy for my adventure this year. There was a crap ton of planning, including lots of time for me to be chill and not rushed. Everything was perfectly laid out. I had lists and everything ready to roll. Because you know me. Anal-retentive.

You know what they say about Best Laid Plans.

The Fire Debacle

On the day of the journey (Friday morning), I woke up bright and early. I had planned to leisurely drink my coffee, pack the last few bits of things, then drive out to the airport. Those plans were immediately squashed. The first thing I saw when my alarm went off was a message from Brian: “The news said they shut down 580 because of a fire. You might have to go through Tahoe”.

Mind you, 580 is the highway through Washoe Valley, and the best way to Reno from Minden. So I made coffee and hit the internet. Fire in Carson City. Ok. Fire in Tahoe. Ok. I messaged him back and said I didn’t see that. I then turned up the Google-fu and there it was: Fire in Washoe Valley. Few minutes later was the twitter bomb from Nevada Highway Patrol about the closure.

M’fer.

So my leisurely morning was reduced to total and utter panic. Panic shower. Panic brush teeth. Panic throw the rest of the stuff in the suitcase. Panic grab a banana for breakfast (this is important later). Panic find alternate route – which was a royal pain in the ass because it was raining/snowing/windy all over Tahoe. So I chose Virginia City. Saw how long the ride would take, tacked on time to that trip because I figured I’d be one of a bazillion people doing it due to the road closure. Panic hug dog. Panic hurl bags in car.  Pray I’ve got everything, and hit the road an hour earlier than I planned.

Now, at this point I’ve hardly slept for two days. I’m just exhausted. But damn the world, I was catching that plane. And wouldn’t you know, I hit the Reno Airport an hour and a half before flight time.

The Flight Debacle

I park my car, then start scooping stuff out of my car to go in. In the middle of that I check my phone and THERE IT IS: My flight plan was Reno to Los Angeles to SFO, then SFO to London. The Los Angeles to SFO leg was canceled due to weather. GAWD.

Fueled by 1/2 a cup of coffee and zero sleep, I begged the ticket agent with sad tired eyes. And wouldn’t you know it, he found a flight to Oakland with more than enough time to take BART to SFO and catch my London plane. I WAS SAVED!

The Banana Debacle

So I check in my bag, head through security, and clear the TSA hurdle no problem. As I’m sitting there reassembling my torn apart carry on gear and putting on my shoes, it hits me: WHERE IS THE DAMN BANANA I PACKED FOR BREAKFAST?

It’s in my damn car, that’s where it is. In my car, sitting in long-term parking in the sun. Where it will remain for TEN DAYS. DAMMIT. I groan inwardly, march myself back out to long term parking, retrieve the banana, eat it, throw the remnants away, and return to the terminal for TSA round two.

The Flight Debacle Part II: Electric Boogaloo

Get through security a second time. I’m relieved. I have an hour before boarding, so I grab myself a bagel to finish off breakfast, and sit down for some much needed rest (at this point, I’d been running around like a crazy person for 5 hours).

…and I’m halfway through my bagel when I hear “Attention passengers of flight blah blah blah, it has been canceled. Please see your ticket agent“.

M’FER OMFG

At this point I’m completely out of options. NO OTHER FLIGHTS are getting to Oakland or SFO in time for me to catch the London flight. To make it 800x worse, the wind picked up (those of you familiar with Reno, the wind gusts are awesome), and they were canceling flights left and right. It was entirely too late to jump in the car and haul ass to San Francisco to make it in time for my flight.

Luckily for me, I have travel insurance. Between them (with a lot of hollering) and some handy help from Lisa, I managed to get a series of flights that would get me to my cruise ship in the nick of time to board.

So, 7 hours after I arrived at the airport in Reno, I get back in my car and drive home. Thus ended the first day of my vacation. I ordered pizza for dinner. That made it somewhat better.

I Still Made It

The next morning I get up prior to the butt-crack-of-dawn (3:00 AM) and drive myself back to Reno. Road was not on fire (YAY). Flights weren’t canceled (YAY). Three flights and 24 hours later, I magically appear in my cruise ship cabin in Barcelona, Spain. I was completely and utterly wiped out. But I’m here.

Whew.

Melting Brain

My big goal this last few months has been “making space for myself”, per my therapist.  Finding who I am.  Doing what I need to do to feel comfortable.  And I have been doing that.  Until orchestra hit with a vengeance.  I was doing just fine balancing work, the new Man Friend™, and daily practicing.  A few weeks ago my peaceful balance was disrupted by orchestra-related performances.  I’ve pretty much found myself on almost a month straight of rehearsals, concerts, and panic reed making to replace the reeds I ran into the ground this last series.

But hey, I got my face on a poster so there’s that!  Said poster:

oboe

Anyway, I’ve kind of felt a bit of a crunch, and find myself back at my “old” stressed out self.  Lashing out.  Feeling tired.  Feeling super overwhelmed.  I do have much better mental tools to handle it now, so when I hit those walls I’m able to push back and pick up without crumbling.

There are so many things that are better.  I can now go and face people in person.  I feel this driving need to get out of my house at least once a day – even if it’s just for a run.  I can be social.  I don’t feel so crushed or broken.

I’ve run face-first into some memories from my previous relationship lately.  It wasn’t the whammy I was expecting.  I’m not hurt anymore.  It doesn’t cause me distress.  I’m more analytical.  And today I threw out something that’s been nagging me.  And you, you unfortunate reader of this blog, will get to relive some of what I had put up with.

So when you move someone into a very small house, you find you need places to put shit.  In this case: the bathroom.  It’s super small, and not a lot of storage.  So I got this rack to put in the bathroom.  Stuff went on it.  It was good.  Until the other person comes home blackout drunk at 1AM.  He went out and got trashed, came home, decided he had to pee.  Because he could hardly stand up straight, he grabbed the rack, and then he fell over.  And took the rack and everything on it with him.  Oh, and somehow on the way down he pulled the lid off of the toilet.  So after the racket woke me up, I went into the bathroom to find the rack knocked over, all of the stuff on the floor (or broken), and the lid from the toilet shattered.  And a very blasted man who should have thanked his lucky stars he didn’t break his neck.  I was lucky that day to not be treated to another angry drunk tirade.  He went to bed and passed out, while I got to clean everything up.  Since then, I’ve looked at that rack and hated it. I hated the memory.  I hated that it was there when I didn’t need it anymore.

Today it went in the trash.  That felt so good.

So on to some updates:

  • Yep, shit ton of orchestra
  • Duet with Josue went amazingly well.  He’s the best duet partner, tons of fun!  We have one more performance, then we put Bach to bed
  • Man Friend™ is definitely a thing.  I’ve introduced him to a few of my friends.  He’s fun.  I enjoy the time we have together, even if it’s brief some days.
  • My yard is a disaster.  Oh god, a huge disaster.  I need help!
  • Running is still spectacular.  Improvements are very tiny, but overall I’ve cut off tons of time per mile, and tons of weight.  Definitely a correlation between how much weight I carry and how fast I can run.
  • Weight in general is under control.  I’m still on the chunky side, but a lot thinner (two sizes), and I’ve got stamina for days.  I feel good.
  • Salem has not run off again. She’s less grounded now, but I keep an eye on her.  She also managed to “lose” two of her collars.  Pretty much the worst cat.

That’s all I have to say today.  I know the post meandered, but my reminder to write went off this morning so this is what you get.  Enjoy!