Finally updating on my trip! Late is better than never!
Last week was Smith Family Vacation on a cruise in the Mediterranean. My brother works on the cruise as a singer in the shows and hasn’t been home since October 2013 so it was a fun opportunity to see where he lives and works! Pretty sweet gig if you ask me-get paid to travel the entire world!
My parents did the full two week cruise but I could only take a week off work so I flew in halfway through the cruise to meet them in Florence, Italy. As I have mentioned before, I studied abroad in Florence so going back was a dream come true! I always wanted to show my family where I lived and all that I did while I was there so I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to do so.
I landed in Florence on Saturday afternoon and did some sightseeing and walking around the city. I was surprised at how easily I remembered how to get around and quickly found my way to my old apartment, my favorite restaurant, and Piazzale Michelangelo. I knocked around and got strangers to take some pictures for me and watched the sunset over the Ponte Vecchio. It is by far my favorite spot in the city!
I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the necklace above and it is from BaubleBar. Also available in silver!
The next morning my family arrived via bus from the port city of Livorno and I met them at Santa Croce. It was a great meeting spot and I found them immediately. We had coffees at the café I would go to before class and walked around to all the Florence highlights. I had one surprise for my dad, who is also a USC alum, at Lion’s Fountain which is a pub that has college t-shirts all over the ceiling. I signed the USC shirt when I studied abroad so I took my dad to sign the shirt as well. We also found a NYU Tisch tshirt for my brother to sign! We knocked around the city a bit longer and then had lunch at Gusta Pizza with wine in plastic cups. What could possibly be better?
The next port was Alghero, Sardinia which turned out to be a hidden treasure. Getting there was an adventure in itself since we had to take tendering boats. The waters were rough that day and the older folks on the cruise (there were a lot of them) had to be carried onto the boats in order to get into town. The lady sitting across from me immediately had to use her inhaler the moment she sat down. I honestly did not think she was going to make it!
I don’t think any of us were expecting much from the port but it was actually marvelous. We knocked around the city and had a lovely lunch along the Mediterranean. It was GORGEOUS and the food was to die for! Nothing beats fresh seafood! Alghero is known for their coral so my mom and I got matching bracelets! The city was charming and had a lot of cute shops! I would love to go back one day to wander around more.
The next port was Gibraltar which everyone has probably heard about in geography class (the Strait of Gibraltar which connects the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean) but don’t really know much about. It is located between Morocco and Spain and its a British Overseas Territory (which I didn’t know).
The first stop on our tour of Gibraltar was the Pillars of Hercules which show the Ancient World and the Modern World maps. From this point you are able to see both Africa (on the left in the picture below) and Spain (on the right). We wanted to take a ferry over to Africa just to say that we had been but that was not an option. It was crazy to be that close yet so far away.
Next we went to St. Michael’s Cave which was pretty magnificent! The largeness of the cave was astounding! Walking into the cave we saw our first monkey which was quite aggressive to get food. The tour driver said the number one rule is not to feed the monkeys. We were not allowed to take any food outside of the car. Jacob, however, disregarded this rule and took his granola wrapper outside of the car and a monkey immediately followed him. Another monkey stole a woman’s lunch and ate it on the roof of the building.
The monkeys that are in Gibraltar are called Barbary macaques which are only found in Northern Africa. It is legend that the cave originally formed a tunnel under the water all the way to Africa and the monkeys came through the tunnel to inhabit Gibraltar.
The next stop was to play with monkeys on top of the Rock of Gibraltar. This was by far my favorite part of the trip – even though I was slightly attacked by one. The monkeys are very much used to being around people and they are all immunized and tracked (still not the most sanitary things though). They will gladly jump on your arms to pose for a picture or two. In my case, I made friends with a small one and he hung around for quite a while. At the end I was ready for him to go away but he was hanging on and eventually bit my kimono in order to hang on. I was not exactly thrilled but my family was hysterically laughing at me.
The final stop of the tour was the Great Siege Tunnel which is a tunnel dug in the limestone by the British during the Great Siege of Gibraltar in the late 18th century. This was an attempt from France and Spain to capture Gibraltar from the British during the American Revolutionary War. We walked around for a bit and saw the canon’s used but it was a quick stop. The tour guide then dropped us off in the city center where we walked around and shopped!
More to come in the next post about the rest of the trip and life on the cruise ship!