Friday, November 22, 2013

A Sea Day

After adventure after adventure after adventure, we were definitely ready for a sea day. We were cruising on the Celebrity Silhouette and it's a very nice ship. It was high time we enjoyed it a little.

Actually, we really didn't do much except relax. And it was so great. We went to the pool and swam for about 10 minutes before Stella got kicked out. Her offense? She was wearing a swim diaper. Honestly. The nerve of that girl. With swimming out we headed back to our cabin to relax. Stella played with the camera cables while wearing her new soccer shirt we bought her in Croatia.

We put Stella down for a nap and Mr. Frisby decided to join her. I headed back up to the pool where I found Gaylene, Tracy, and John. And, we had a very enjoyable afternoon. As we lounged in the sun, pool butlers would come around with refreshing wet towels for us every so often. Soon, Tracy and John headed up to the grill to get a hamburger. Why? Because they could. As I recall, it wasn't really lunchtime. But, you could just walk up and get a hamburger and fries and it didn't cost anything. So, why not? While they got food, Gaylene and I lounged in the sun. Soon, another guy came by passing out little ice cream cups. Naturally, we each took one (when someone hands you an ice cream cup while you're lounging poolside on a cruise ship, you don't say no) and after a few spoonfuls, we wondered whether it might have alcohol in it (since we don't drink). It was delicious, so we decided not to worry about it and ate it anyway. After the ice cream, I decided I needed a hamburger, too. I wasn't hungry, it wasn't lunchtime, and we would soon be heading off to a delicious dinner in the dining room. But, the hamburger was just a few steps away and it doesn't cost anything, so why not? Besides, how often do you get to enjoy a hamburger poolside on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean Sea? Probably about as often as you get to enjoy ice cream that may or may not have alcohol in it poolside on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean Sea. There are just some opportunities that you don't pass up.

Don't worry - the hamburger was tasty.

At some point we did get in the pool for a few minutes, but it was such a relaxing afternoon that it all kind of blurred together.

After awhile it was time to get ready for dinner. It was the second of our formal nights, so we had to put on our best. These two clean up pretty nice, don't you think?

After dinner, we snapped some pictures of Stella enjoying one of her favorite spots on the ship. This little "nest" was right next to the elevators, so we passed it multiple times a day. Usually we were in a hurry to get somewhere so we would just breeze past it. But whenever we had a few minutes, we would stop so Stella could play in it.

And that was our sea day. It was a much needed break and got us recharged for the next few ports we had coming up. Since this is a shorter post, I'll post a few pics from other good times on the ship as well.

After our day in Kotor, we decided to go to one of the specialty restaurants for dinner instead of the main dining room. We decided on the Lawn Club Grill. It's a very casual, mostly outdoor restaurant up on one of the top decks where there's a lawn area. It was a great pick because we were able to enjoy the sunset and the beautiful scenery as we sailed out of the Bay of Kotor. Here we are enjoying the lawn area before we sat down to eat.

The restaurant is unique in that you can help with making some of your food if you want. Like the flatbread.

Stella quickly squirmed her way into the hearts of the wait staff and was given her own little apron. She also squirmed her way into the hearts of the other restaurant patrons who cheered and clapped as they put her apron on. Pretty exciting for an almost-two-year-old.

The food was delicious and it was a great meal. We ate at another specialty restaurant as well while on board, but that was on Stella's birthday, so that will be for another post. For now, another photo of Stella in her little "nest".

Kotor, Montenegro

I knew nothing about Montenegro when we booked our cruise. Then, while watching Casino Royale, we noticed that part of the movie takes place in Montenegro. The landscape looked breathtaking in the film, so I was super excited about going there. Then I found out that, although parts of the movie take place in Montenegro, none of the movie was actually filmed there. I guess someday I'll have to go to the Czech Republic.

Fortunately for us, the landscape of the real Montenegro was also breathtaking. I volunteered to do the planning and tour-booking for this port, so I did lots of research. There were some really cool looking places that I wanted to see and Montenegro is a very small country, so it seemed pretty doable in one day. Unfortunately, Montenegro is also a very young country and not well-known, so it's tourism industry is just getting started. This posed several problems, the largest of which was that I couldn't find anybody willing to take us to the places I wanted to go. There are a few typical tourist stops in Montenegro and all of the tour guides that I contacted would only take us to those places. Most of them I wasn't interested in at all, but since we had no options, we went to them anyway. Fortunately, the one place I was most interested in is a big tourist stop, so my Montenegro dreams were fulfilled.

One of the cool things about Kotor is the sail-in. While the Bay of Kotor isn't technically a fjord, it looks like one, so the scenery is beautiful as you sail through it. I woke up early that day so I could go up to one of the forward decks to see it all.

It was well worth the early wake up to see it. In this next pic, you can see fortification walls going up the mountainside above Kotor. You can climb them and I thought that would be cool to do if there was time after our tour of the other sites.

Kotor was another tender port, so after docking and tendering to the pier, we found the taxi drivers we had booked and began our adventures. Our taxi drivers were just that - drivers. They weren't tour guides and couldn't give us a ton of information on the sites we were going to. Were I to plan it all again, I would've tried to find actual tour guides that could've given us more information on the sites. But, I did the best I could with the information I could find on the internet and, though we didn't get a ton of information, our drivers were nice and we enjoyed the scenery immensely. Our first stop was Perast, a small town about 20-30 minutes from Kotor. The thing to do in Perast is to take a boat out to this little island with the Our Lady of the Rocks Church on it.

As you can see in the pic below, it's a tiny island. And it's a tiny church. They say the island was formed when some sailors sailing by a long time ago saw the Virgin Mary in the water at that spot. They threw a rock in and every time sailors went by that spot, they threw in another rock. Eventually, those many rocks became the island you see today. The only things on the island are the church and a restroom. I wasn't interested in seeing it, but it was on the tour. Unfortunately, it ended up eating some of our time because there was a big tour group inside the church when we got there, so we couldn't go in until they were done. And they took awhile.

This is looking back at Perast from the boat.

After our stop in Perast it was off to Mount Lovcen and the Mausoleum of Njegos. This was the one thing I was adamant about doing, so I was super excited. We went back through Kotor and up a very steep and winding mountain road. It had 25 hairpin turns and, while I found it exciting, for many people it's pretty scary. Our drivers stopped at one point so we could take some pictures of the bay below. It was an incredible sight.

That's our ship in the middle of the bay.

I told you - incredible. After our photo stop, we continued up the steep and winding road to Lovcen National Park. The scenery was beautiful. Lots of mountain meadows with little villages here and there. We eventually got almost to the top of Mount Lovcen before we had to park and make our way to the top on foot. At the top of the mountain is a Mausoleum where a guy named Njegos is buried. It's quite an elaborate mausoleum with a winding staircase going up the mountain to it and even a restaurant about halfway up. This next pic shows the top of the mountain with the mausoleum on the right.

It was quite a climb to the top, but the views were, once again, breathtaking.

Somewhere along the way we got behind in our schedule, so we had to hurry from Mount Lovcen to our next destination. I thought that would be Montenegro's historical capital, Cetinje. However, aside from a quick stop to change a diaper, we flew right through it. Cetinje was another place I was actually interested in seeing, so I was little disappointed that we didn't have time to stop. But, my Montenegro dreams had been fulfilled at Lovcen, so I was okay with it. Our next stop was Budva, a very touristy coastal town known for its lovely beaches. Except, here again, we didn't really stop as we were out of time. No matter. I didn't care about seeing it and actually the drive there was beautiful, so I was fine just enjoying the scenery as we drove along. We did stop quickly to see the islet resort of Sveti Stefan. 

Looks cool, doesn't it? We thought we would be able to actually see what it was all about, but it's all part of the very posh resort, so you can't really go there unless you're staying there. So, it was a nice photo stop and, unfortunately, one that wasted a lot of time. Oh well. As I mentioned before, my Montenegro dreams had been fulfilled, so I was really fine with whatever.

After our photo stop at Sveti Stefan, it was back to Kotor. We finished our tour, paid our drivers, and then had some time to kill in Old Kotor before we had to be back at the ship. Kotor was actually a lot cooler than I thought it would be. We all kind of went our separate ways and we thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the town. There was no time to climb the city walls, but I was okay with it because we had gotten spectacular views going up to Mount Lovcen.

While wandering around Kotor, we started noticing cats. EVERYWHERE. We would turn a corner and there would be a cat. We would turn another corner, and there would be two cats. We would enter a little square and there would be five cats. It was a little hilarious and a little disturbing all at the same time. I mean, they were everywhere. Apparently the "cats of Kotor" are actually a thing. We started noticing shirts and other paraphernalia in some of the tourist shops that referenced all the cats there. It was only fitting that I snap a photo. I actually got some photos with multiple cats in the shot, but they were all blurry so you'll have to settle for just one.

And, in Kotor's main square, Stella enjoyed one of her favorite hobbies during our trip - chasing pigeons.

After exploring the old town, it was back to the ship where we enjoyed a beautiful sail-away at sunset.

As you can see from the pictures, Montenegro was stunning. We enjoyed our stop there and had fun seeing it all. But, I think I would've been able to enjoy Montenegro more if I were able to explore it on my own. There were some really cool looking places I found online that I would've liked to have seen, but they were off the beaten tourist path. Maybe as tourism grows in Montenegro, it will be easier to see stuff other than the typical tourist fare. I've made lots of mental notes in case I ever return.

Next up: finally - a much-needed sea day!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Our sail-in to Dubrovnik was quite pretty. I woke up a little early, as I tended to do most days, and headed out onto the balcony to check out where we were. We were just coming into port and I was greeted with a lovely view.

Dubrovnik was another port where we had to take a bus from the port to the city. And it was another port where we didn't have any tours planned and would just be checking out the city on our own. The main thing to do in Dubrovnik is to walk along the city walls. There are a few gates to the walls throughout the city, so we followed Tracy to the one that was supposed to be a little less crowded and had a majority of the climbing at the beginning. We entered the city and headed down the main drag to the gate we were looking for. Inside the city walls, it's only pedestrian streets and they were loaded with pedestrians even fairly early in the morning when we got there.

We made a bee-line to the gate and climbed up onto the wall. We were immediately rewarded with spectacular views of the sea and the city.

Before we left on our trip, we learned a little bit about the places we would be visiting. One of the interesting things we learned about Dubrovnik was that it was heavily bombed during the Yugoslavian war in the 1990s. Much of the city was destroyed. But, after the war, they rebuilt the city using the same materials and in the same style. You can tell which roofs are old and which are new by their color, as in the photograph below. It was very interesting to walk along and see just how many of the roofs had been rebuilt.

We immediately began climbing more as we walked along (we did indeed pick the right gate - most of the climbing was right at the beginning) and were glad we were walking that section of the wall in the morning. As we walked along and climbed higher, the views got more spectacular.

Stella wanted to be carried and pretty much only by me, so I got to do the walk carrying an extra 25 lbs of weight. She got fussier and fussier as the day wore on.

The walk probably took us two to three hours. By the time we finished, I was pretty tired. If Stella hadn't been having such a rough day, I think it would've been a lot easier. But, we still had a good time and Dubrovnik really is a beautiful city.

Sometime near the end of the walk, Stella fell asleep for a little while. We carried her along and then she woke up when we finished. We could tell the poor little girl was exhausted. We decided we better get some lunch, so our group split and we found a little restaurant where we had lunch with my parents and Julie & Terrell. We sat down for lunch and Stella immediately fell asleep on Mr. Frisby's lap.

While we waited for our food, I snapped a picture of this cool backstreet just up from where we were sitting.

As we finished lunch, Stella woke up and we realized she was running a fever. No wonder the poor girl was having such a rough day - she felt terrible! After lunch we wanted to drive up the mountain behind Dubrovnik to get a bird's eye view of the city. We found some taxis and away we went. The views were spectacular and we even had to take a little detour since part of the road up the mountain was being used as a movie set.

After our jaunt up the mountain, we headed back to the city where we did some shopping. We looked around for awhile and bought a few things and little Stella was such a trooper. After awhile, though, enough was enough and she had had it. We headed back to the ship so she could sleep.

After her nap, she seemed a little better but was still running a fever. We went to the dining room for dinner and after we got seated and ordered our food, I had Mr. Frisby go to the infirmary to buy some Tylenol for her. He came back and we proceeded to give her a dose. In the midst of taking it, the poor little thing threw up all over. We immediately headed back up to our room to take care of her. Our awesome waiter had our dinner sent up for us so we had our dinner and then got Stella in bed. She seemed to feel immediately better after she threw up and by the next morning, she seemed like nothing had ever happened. This was great news. It's worrisome enough when your kid is sick, but when they're sick and you're thousands of miles away from their doctor and accessible health care, it's way worse. So, I was quite worried that night and quite relieved when she was as good as new the next day.

In spite of Stella not feeling well, Dubrovnik was great and we enjoyed our day there. Whew - are we tired yet? We're only halfway done!