The JoC 2011 ABC Tour included a 10 day Mediterranean cruise on board the ms Noordam and included ports or side trips to Livorno, Lucca, Pisa, Monte Carlo, Nice, Eze, Barcelona, Montserrat, Palma de Mallorca, Valldemosa, Soller, Tunis, Palermo, Segesta, Erice, Naples, the Amalfi Coast and Sorrento.
That was just the cruise. No wonder so many photos were taken.
Of course, there were two recovery days in Civitavecchia after 31 or so hours of travel from Canberra before the cruise and four days of further recovery in Rome after the cruise, followed by two days in Singapore for retail therapy prior to arriving back home.
With over 1500 photos considered worthy of public viewing, these are but a small example of what is available.... unless y'all drop by for a slideshow of course!
The following includes many of the images in our A3 sized Tour Photobook, printed by albumworks. Thumbnail images (left side) are linked to larger versions and each location has it's own photo page.
A series of flights later, we finally arrive at Rome's port city of Civitavecchia for a couple of days of recovery, prior to sailing on the Noordam for our 10 day cruise. First impressions of Italy were "mixed". Great coffee, of there is no doubt, but everything else was more or less a "work in progress" - with no-one working.... Post Office security is a real conversation starter! Here are some photos from around town and on-board before we depart.
Our first tour after our first night at sea included the walled city of Lucca in the Tuscany region of Italy. First built by the Romans around 177BC. TIme was against us, so our visit was short lived as we had to get over to Pisa so our tour guide could make more money. Photos are limited and were rushed... realised late in the day, that Lucca was made "famous" by those intrepid car testers from BBC's Top Gear during one of their recent challenges.
The second half of our first tour, and after a hike from the bus parking area, managing to clear the hawkers from North Africa and dodging the Gypsies, we finally made it into Miracle Square. OK, the number of people was kind of off putting, but the view from the archway was simply "stunning". A five (5) hour wait to get into the Tower (after booking) wasn't considered due to our tour guide's need for ca$h.
Our second cruise tour day and a complete 180 degree change from the bits of Italy seen so far. Clean, organised and an eye opener as far as what "money" really does look like. This day is divided into 3 parts, with Monaco being the first, with photos from the morning and later in the afternoon shown here. Simple things impress me and the coach driver "dropping the clutch" at the start line of the F1 GP, was quite a fun moment, considering the size of the thing.
Part 2 of second tour. If this is France, I'm pretty impressed with the place! Can't say much about the so called beach however. I mean, how can rocks be called a "beach"? Blue and clean sea water however with lots of naked nymphs (and some not being classed as nymphs) were to be observed laying on the rocks catching some rays. We were lucky to observe the French education system being disrupted by a teachers strike... even that was impressive!
Part 3 of second tour. On the way back to Monaco we stopped at the village of Eze for lunch and some free time. Karen went shopping. I humped it up the nearby yahma to have a look see at an old fort, while making my way through an extensive array of gift shops and eateries located within the old medieval village. Funny how I noticed a de-fib at the bottom of the hill, when I really needed it at the top of the thing!
The cruise spent 2 days here. This is the first of 3 tours. We both could quite easily come back here some time in the future and see more of what Barcelona and the region has. A wonderful place. This was called a "Tapas Tour". Anything that included food and a beer on a hot day is got to be good!.. But, sightseeing was the early order of business with Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Basilica and La Pedrera being the, er, "different" standouts.
Barcelona's 2nd tour. OK, not my cup of tea, but I left very impressed with the music and skills of the cast. Our tour guide was chuffed, saying we had jagged a night when 2 of the best in the business were in the show. (for my money, the support dancers were better) Managed to get some fair photos, considering I couldn't use the flash I'd carried from the other side of the planet!
The Monastery at Montserrat was Barcelona's 3rd tour on our second day in port. Managed to shake hands with the Black Madonna... never thought that would happen, afterall, who's the Black Madonna? Now I know. Again, impressive coach driving skills shown, although the roads were wider than those in Monaco.
The Valldemosa Monastry on the Island of Majorca, circa 1400. This is part 1 of a day tour which included a short concert of Chopin music, which most people got terribly excited about. The guy playing missed a note in one of the pieces - so I reckon he was a ringer for the real piano player. Anyhoo, another twisty bus ride, with a stop for photos, got us to part 2 of the day.
After Valldemosa, we headed to Soller by the sea for lunch and a hoot of a train ride through the mountains to pick up the coach for a return to the ship. Some spectacular coastline and 1000+ year old olive trees along the way. Our guide, "One", even pointed out the worlds largest football stadium along the way... so large, it had never been filled! I think people from this part of the world are related to Canadians and Australians... same sense of humour. Love the place. Want to go back.
The Arab Spring, or the Spring Revolution, call it what you like but Tunisia will be the better for it. Both of us wish them the best for their future. Now that the paid political rhetoric is out of the way... Tunis = different, but our guide was a real sweet talker and would make a very comfortable living as a stand-up anywhere in the world, from introducing us to his cousin the carpet maker to explaining the political and archeological history of his country, he had us in the palm of his hand and in stitches the entire time. A most enjoyable day... just don't mention the toy camel! Photos are from the Bardo Museum, Carthage and the village of Sidi Bou Said.
Sicily and the Mob was nowhere to be found. This is part 1 of a 2 part tour. Fancy finding a Greek temple on an Italian island... Never quite finished, mainly due to the original inhabitants sucking up to the wrong warlords and getting their collectives taken over by the Carthaginians way back in the olden days. il Tempio has literally stood the test of time, surviving the waxing and waning of civilizations and numerous earthquakes, regardless of what the builders thought after the contract was cancelled, it was built to last.
Part 2 of our day tour. Getting here was most interesting... should never have looked out of the coach window while going up! Erice, or Eryx, was again conquered by those pesky Carthaginians way back in 400BC or there abouts... it later became a Middle Age fort city which today is bursting with shops and a world famous pasticceria called "Michele" and views which on a clear day... you know the rest. The local Church was impressive as well... number 2 behind St Peters, in my humble opinion. Figured out what ABC Tour means yet?
Karen did all the fine camera work on this day, not bad from out the back of a bus. Was pretty squeezy on the roads and the coach was a smaller type. Scenery was impressive, but general opinion was the French Riviera was the better place.
(also the Sistine Chapel - "no Photo allowed!!") Karen had organised a guided tour for our 2nd day in Rome after our cruise, so we acted like the locals and hopped on the Metro... easy! But then, if we thought Pisa was crowded, we had not encountered the Vatican Museum yet! I'm sure I elbowed a couple of people in the head along the way taking photos. Most impressive part of the Museum was the Map Room... for some reason, I couldn't get a good shot of it. St Peter's... yep, No.1 on the ABC Tour, no doubt. Who had the bright idea to build a HUGE church to impress the masses anyway?
Followed by an Irish beer in an Irish Pub... a day of highlights... including another protest march. We had it all. We Metro'd it over to the 'seum to meet our guide for the half day. It rained for the first time and it was a hoot watching the North African immigrants whip out their umbrellas to sell at greatly inflated prices once the first drops fell. The Pantheon... an easy No.3 on the best church index.
If we weren't at the Vatican or the Colosseum we were walking around looking for the steepest steps to walk up/down and over the roughest piece of cobblestone we could trip over just to get there.... usually looking for a public WC and a coffee shop, not necessarily in that order along the way. Lots of highlights. One was my pillow for a siesta in the afternoon, another was gelato shops that sold birra.. these guys have it all. Buy a gelato for the kids and a birra for yourself all at the one place.. ..with table service to boot. How civilised this place is!
Did not see a great deal of Singapore and we must make our way back one day. We thought Darwin had humidity... nope, wrong! Two tips... 1 - Orchard Road and 2 - Haggle. Not necessarily in that order. Very clean and neat. And I found an Irish Pub!
All photos © Wayne L. Jones and Karen J. Jones.
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