06/10/13
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Passionate Shopping

Ivan, Lil Dave, Denise, Ken and I had breakfast in the apartment on June 10, 2013.  Denise made us breakfast with rice cakes and boiled eggs.  I filled out postcards during breakfast.

It was time to go shopping.  Denise bought too much stuff on holiday, so she wanted to buy a new rolling suitcase.

Ivan went in search of a cool jacket he saw at Zara in Ibiza.  He found one that he liked better, but they didn’t have his size.

Pasta Bar was our stop for lunch.  We love this place since you can customize your own pasta dish.  I had a tasty spinach tagliatelle with pesto, spinach and rucula.  Lil Dave really enjoyed his banana gnocchi.

We walked to the Travelbar.  We were going on a free walking tour.  Our guide was an interesting fellow named Iseph.  He was very passionate about the history of Barcelona.  Ivan and I wish our history teachers were as interesting as him – we probably would have learnt a lot more.

Our group listening to Iseph

He took us around El Call which is the Jewish Ghetto and The Gothic Quarter.

We went to the oldest synagogue in Europe.

Oldest European synagogue

It was so interesting to hear about Barcelona’s history, the Jews in Barcelona and Barcino which was the name of the early Roman town of Barcelona.

He told us a story about Eulalia who was tortured to made an example of because she wouldn’t recant her Christianity.

Tribute to St. Eulalia

She was placed in a barrel filled with glass shards and rolled down a hill.  The barrel was opened and you would have expected her to be mince meat, but miraculously she was still alive.  She was later named a saint.

Iseph believes that you should experience Barcelona by looking up.

Looking up in Barcelona

It’s true since there’s so many interesting things to see up above like statues and church facades.

We saw the City Architecture School which features an early Picasso artwork.

Early Picasso

We saw Neri H&R which is a restaurant in a square which was used in the Cristina Barcelona film by Woody Allen.

The group stopped at the beautiful Palau de la Música Catalana.

I missed the beginning of the story about the crapping statues called caganers.  It has become a Christmas tradition.

Pooping statues

You can find many statues taking a poop like the Queen, Barack Obama, Betty Boop, Elvis, futball stars and even Spongebob Squarepants.

I highly recommend this free walking tour especially if you get Iseph.

We left the tour a few minutes early since we were all so tired from walking around.  Ivan gave him a tip from us and we were off to do more shopping.

Ivan found a cool suit jacket at Zara.  He didn’t find the other one he wanted, but maybe he can find it in Manchester later in our trip.

Denise and Ken found a big blue suitcase at a souvenir shop.

Ivan and I dropped off Denise and Ken at the Sant Josep de la Boqueria market.  I went to find a store I liked while Ivan went to an internet café to print out our boarding passes for our flight tomorrow.

Ivan put in the GPS a store that I liked, but not the one I REALLY wanted to go to.  I was a bit peeved and put in Urbarna’s address.  I was thinking I shouldn’t bother going the half mile, but didn’t listen to my thoughts and trekked all the way there.

Unfortunately, Urbarna was closed which sucked – I should have remembered that it was Monday and a lot of places are closed in Barcelona on Mondays.  I was hot and trying to rush back since I had been gone awhile.

I found Ivan near the market and he was worried about me.  He kept running back and forth from the shop to the market trying to find me.

We relaxed for awhile back at the apartment.

Got a taxi to La Placa Reial.  We were going to see flamenco at Los Tarantos.

The flamenco show is 30 minutes for €8 per person.

A woman dancing flamenco

I love watching the women twirl around.  The main star was a guy who was a great dancer.

Flamenco at Los Tarantos

Flaamenco is exciting to watch because the singers and the dancers are always so passionate.  Ivan and I wish we knew Spanish because we have no clue what they’re singing about.  This was a great show which was very cheap compared to many of the other flamenco shows which can be about €50 each.

Dinner was at Mercat Princesa.  It’s the cool place with lots of cooking stations that we went to with Alba.

Mercat Princesa Mekong Station

Denise and Ken got a few dishes: mushrooms with scrambled eggs, tomato soup and fried rice.  Ivan and I enjoyed mussels, patatas bravas, shrimp, tapas and a goat cheese salad.

Ivan's ready to eat!

Denise and Ivan went to look at the desserts at the front of the restaurant.  They brought back tiramisu and brownies.  Ivan and I had some of the tiramisu.  Denise liked her brownie.  We saved one of the brownies for later.

We went back to the apartment.  Denise, Ken, Lil Dave and I watched a funny, cheesy movie about a chimp who learns how to skateboard called Most Vertical Primate.

06/5/13
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Rome Food Tour

At 6:40 am on June 5, 2013, there was a loud knock on the door.  We assumed it was room service.  Another knock was heard, louder this time.

It turned out to be two Security guards and Terry Gattis.  They informed Ivan that he had to leave the Norwegian Epic cruise ship by 7:30 am by order of the Capitan.  Ivan asked why… but was just told to pack his stuff and get out by 7:30am. Nothing in writing..nothing from the captain..nothing official whatsoever.

We had to leave early anyway as we had a food tour book in Rome, so were planning to be off the boat by 7.30am anyway regardless of the fact that we were being kicked off the boat.

We were actually ready to leave by 7:15 pm, but then they started saying that we COUDLN’T leave as officials had to come. They blocked us in the room and kept Ivan prisoner there.

I went to tell Denise and Ken that we would meet them at the train station and there was trouble, but I didn’t go into detail.

Finally, left at 7:45 am.  We didn’t get anything in writing.  I bet they’ll claim that we voluntarily left the boat and there’s no record of it.  They also didn’t help us with flights which they said they would.

We got a shuttle to Civitavecchia and walked to the train station.  We missed our food tour because of the stupid commotion and ended taking the later train.

We got a hotel room near the train station at Hotel Hollywood.  They were very friendly to us.

Thankfully, Ivan rescheduled our food tour for later today.  We went to the Vatican to meet up with Ivan’s family and D.

St. Peter's Square

We walked around the Vatican in St. Peter’s Square.  I sent a postcard from the Vatican to my sister-in-law.

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I took pictures while Ivan tried looking for Denise, Ken, Neal and D.  He called them and they were waiting across the street.

Everybody popped into a souvenir shop that has a toilet and lots of Catholic related souvenirs.  I bought a few things for my family.

We said good-bye since they walked around Rome for hours and wanted to get back to the cruise ship.

Ivan thought it was a good idea to stop for an espresso since we were going on a food tour later.  The café we stopped in had cool décor.

Cool decor in the cafe

It also sold lots of books and old pictures.

Ivan and I stopped at a bar to have a glass of limonchello.  It’s fun to walk around the streets of Rome and find a nice place to have a drink or something to eat.

We walked to Piazza Farnese to meet up with our guide for the Rome Food Walking Tour which took us through Trastevere, Campo di Fiori and the Jewish Ghetto  Her name was Francesca.  The group consisted of just me and Ivan.

One of our first stops was at Ruggeri Delicatessen which is an old grocery store in Campo di Fiori.

Me with salami

I got to try the salami and we both tasted the bufala mozzarella and pecorino romano.  The mozzarella is so fresh.  It’s not refrigerated  and should be use within two days.

Our next stop was at a Forno which is a bakery.

Lots of things to try at the Forno

We tried the pizza bianca which is really popular.. which we’re not really sure why since it’s only bread with olive oil on it.  We found it really boring.  Ivan and I also tried bread with tomato on it.  I tried bread with mortadella which is ham that’s flavored with spices.  The mortadella was mild and tasted good.

Walked through the Jewish Ghetto which is now a luxurious place to live.

Fontana delle Tartarughe

It’s always sad to hear the stories about the Jews that were taken away because of the Nazis during World War II.  There are plaques in the road in front of the houses that states what happened to the people who lived there.

We stopped at a little unassuming restaurant for supplì and fried cod.

A tasty supplì

Supplì sounds like it would be soup but it’s actually a fried rice ball with tomato sauce.  Both tasted great.

Francesca was full of knowledge about food and the history of Rome.

A street in Trastevere

Our last neighborhood was Trastevere.  I love this part of Rome since it’s a beautiful area with lots of greenery.

Our second to last stop was Sette Oche in Altalena Reclamavano la Cena – whew! that’s a mouthful.  Ivan and I each got a bowl of Cacio e Pepe pasta.  It’s a dish with lots of Pecorino and pepper.

Me with tasty cacio e pepe pasta

It’s one of my favorite pastas in Italy.  Ivan and I enjoyed our pasta with a lovely glass of red.

It was off to a gelato shop called Fior di Luna.  Our guide told us that we could pick 2 or 3 flavors.  Ivan tried strawberry and chocolate while I got banana and dark chocolate.

Ivan with his gelato

The banana was so good – it tasted like I was eating a banana.  Yummy!  It was a sweet way to end this great tour.  I recommend this tour if you want to try lots of great Italian food.

We were so tired and stuffed, so we headed back to the hotel.

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