Thursday, December 5, 2013

Noordam 2013 - Highlights of our Mediterranean cruise

In the summer of 2013 we cruised the Mediterranean on Holland America's Noordam from Barcelona to Rome. This was the itinerary we were supposed to have. Instead of La Goulette we had a stop in Cagliari, Italy.

You can read a blog-per-day here at In this final blog about our 2013-cruise we post some of the highlights. You can click on the links provided to read the individual posts.

In Barcelona we were very impressed by Gaudi's Sagrada Familia...

Sagrada Familia facade

... and Parc GuelWe loved the beautiful mosaics and the view when you walk up in the park.

 Park Guell

Another highlight, little over an hour from Barcelona, is Montserrat.

The Monastery seen from the mountain

Palma de Mallorca is so beautiful. 

Sa Llotja

Castell de Bellver

A favourite in Marseille is the Hospice de la Vieille Charite.

Hospice de la Vieille Charite

After missing Monte Carlo due to the bad weather, we arrived in Italy. Beautiful Lucca and Pisa.


Piazza Amfiteatro in Lucca

In Pisa of we visited the Field of Miracles, but we also walked through the rest of the city to the Piazza dei Cavalieri and the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina.

Piazza dei Cavalieri in Pisa 

Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina in Pisa

Great views in Cagliari, Italy.

Arch at Bastione di Saint Remy

Palermo was nice, but very crowded.

Piazza Pretoria

In Naples we hiked up mount Vesuvius...

Crater of Mount Vesuvius

...and we enjoyed Pompei


Pompei Forum with mighty Vesivius in the back

We ended with an couple of days in Rome.

Inside the Colosseum (panorama)

Our home during this trip was HAL's ms Noordam


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Noordam 2013 - Day 19: The journey home

We got up at 5 am. It was not as crowded at the breakfast buffet as the other days. No wonder, who gets up this early when on vacation. Well, we do because our flight leaves in a couple of hours…

So this is going to be our last post for a while. If you want to read our whole blog, please do so at We blogged about the preparation, the first day in Barcelona and the rest of our cruise on the Holland America Noordam.

The same driver that brought us to the hotel was there to pick us up. We were a bit early, the luggage drop-off was not open yet. We had to wait quite some time.

Waiting at the airport

We were on the plane with a lot of nuns from Cameroon. They were touring Europe. Finally we also saw a familiar face, a colleague of Joost was on the same plane.

When we arrived in Brussels we were very disappointed in the weather. Only 17 C (62 F) while we left Rome at almost 30 C (86 F). And it was raining, something we had not seen since Monte Carlo.

Brussels has a great airport. When we arrived at the luggage belt, our suitcases just arrived. We walked to the car that was parked just outside the terminal. Before we knew it, we were on our way home.

We hope you enjoyed reading about our cruise and the days before. More to come, next cruise !

Joost and Jolanda

Kim and Rhodé

Noordam 2013 - Day 18: Our last day in Rome, Italy

We started our day with preparing for the flight home. Our flight only leaves tomorrow, but we checked in already so we could get the seats that are marked green (the better seats) at Seatguru. We printed our boarding passes and are all set to fly. But still a full day in Rome left to enjoy.

The public bus brought us to the Forum Romano. Rick Steves has a great podcast tour in the Forum. Of course you sometimes see only the lower 10% of some pillars that once were a temple, but nonetheless great to see.

Forum Romano

Forum Romano

Forum Romano

Forum Romano

Forum Romano

Forum Romano

At the end of the Forum is the Arch of Titus. It is built by Jew slaves and dedicated to the end of the Jewish state in 70 AD. We never realized how long the Jews were actually stateless.

Arch of Titus

The Forum connects to Palentine Hill. Nice buildings and a remarkable number of trees and bushes. Really beautiful. 

Palentine Hill

Palentine Hill

Palentine Hill

While we walked there, we heard Kim scream. A bug had found her, probably some bee or worse. We tried to suck the poison out immediately, but it still left a large red bump.

A bus brought us from Palentine Hill to the Mouth of Truth (La Bocca della Verita). Legend says that when you put your hand in the mouth, it will bite your hand off if you lie. We saw a lot of honest people, no accidents.

Mouth of Truth (La Bocca della Verita)

Across the bridge over the Tiber is the Jewish Ghetto. A giant synagogue is at the entrance. On the other side of the street a church, with an aim to convert the Jews to Christianity.

Jewish Ghetto

Jewish Ghetto

Synagogue in the Jewish Ghetto

After a drink in the Ghetto we walked to the Area Sacra del Largo Argentina. From the looks of it just another excavation and not even the best one. But if you walk down the stairs you see what it really is: a refuge for street cats. The volunteers take care of some 250 street cats. Their main goal is making sure they are sterilized. But if an injured of ill cat is brought in, they take care of them as well. We played with the cats for a while and were impressed by the excellent care the volunteers give them. They also have some cats with a neurological disorder. They walk like they are drunk. They are so cute. If you are in Rome, do visit the cat forum. You can check them out (or even better: donate) at

Cat Sanctuary

Close to the Pantheon we had our daily pizza. Afterwards we visited the Pantheon. We were there last time, but this time we take a little more time. We saw the graves of Rafael (the artist) and the first two kings of Italy (that only exists as a country since 1870). The third king is not burried in the Pantheon. He collaborated with Mussolini in WWII and had to leave Italy.


Pantheon (panorama of the inside)

Obelisk opposite the Pantheon

We walked to Piazza Navone with the beautiful fountain from Bernini and the great church of Sant' Agnese in Agone.

Piazza Navone

Now that we have been visiting several sites from Angels & Demons, we took the bus to Santa Maria della Vittoria (just opposite the street of Fontana dell'Aqua Felice). Amazing how many beautiful churches there are in Rome.

Fontana dell'Aqua Felice

Inside Santa Maria delle Vittoria

The bus and metro took us back to the hotel. We loved Rome, but tomorrow we fly back home… 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Noordam 2013 - Day 17: Rome, Italy

We slept in this morning. No need to get out early. Our hotel won’t sail away if we don’t return in time. We enjoyed our buffet breakfast and took the bus and metro to the Colosseum.

First we visited one of Rome’s many Basilica’s: San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains). The church has also a statue of Moses and of course the Reliquary containing the chains of St. Peter.

Inside Basilica’s San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains)

There was a long line at the Colosseum. The tip you read on the internet is not to buy your tickets at the Colosseum, but on the other side of the road at palatine Hill. However we saw a giant line there as well so we just joined the line at the Colosseum. We should have bought tickets online. However, it was not even that bad. We only waited for half an hour. During the waiting time we could see the stacked stones that the outer part of the Colosseum is made of. We were impressed to read that in ancient times 50.000 people could enter and leave the Colosseum in just 15 minutes.

The Colosseum

Inside the Colosseum

Inside the Colosseum

Inside the Colosseum

Inside the Colosseum (panorama)

Once inside we were impressed by the size of it. Of course the intent of the Colosseum was a bit bloody. However, very impressive. From the top ring you have a good view on the Forum Romano.

View on the Fomum Romano from the Colosseum

View on the Fomum Romano from the Colosseum

The Colosseum

After exiting the Colosseum we took advantage of our bus tickets. It is not a very long walk to the Monument a Vittorio Emanuele II, but since we enjoy unlimited use of all metros, trains and buses we just took a bus.

Monument a Vittorio Emanuele II

Lunchtime, so we tried to find a restaurant. This time we were luckier than yesterday. We had the best pizza ever at Bar Rudi, just opposite the monument. We ate in a back room, decorated with pictures from paintings of Monet.

The Monument a Vittorio Emanuele II was supposed to have an elevator to take you to the roof. So we followed the sighs to the elevator. We walked one staircase after another. We thought the elevator was a joke and they made us walk upstairs. The elevator did exist, but only after a lot of steps.

Statue on top of the Monument a Vittorio Emanuele II

The view after you get out of the elevator is very rewarding. The monument is probably the highest point in the city, so you get the very best view from here. We love the eternal city!

View from the Monument a Vittorio Emanuele II

View from the Monument a Vittorio Emanuele II

View from the Monument a Vittorio Emanuele II

View from the Monument a Vittorio Emanuele II

View from the Monument a Vittorio Emanuele II

We took even more stairs down and had ice-cream at Vacanze Romane. We remembered the excellent quality from the last time we were here. It is close to Bar Rudy, so we have our favorite pizza and ice-cream conveniently close to each other.

Our next destination was a short bus ride away, but the tram would follow a nicer route so we took the tram in order to change on another tram. Unfortunately the other tram was substituted by a bus, so we had a far lesser interesting route instead. But we did get to see the ancient Pyramid.

We ended up at Basilica San Clemente. The church is built in the 11th century AD. In it is the choir from the older church from the 6th century AD. That older church is underneath the current church and was destroyed in 1084. They excavated it and we visited it too. You could even go deeper in the Roman ground, even lower than the level of the groundwater. Underneath is a residence that was also used as part of a temple of the cult of Mithras. At this level there are also remnants of a clandestine church from the time before 313 AD when Constantine declared freedom of religion. So there are actually three churches on top of each other: the clandestine church, the first basilica and the current (second) basilica.

A couple of minutes walking from the basilica is another basilica: San Giovanni in Laterano. This is the church of the Bishop of Rome. The bishop of Rome is none other then the Pope. Once again a beautiful church.

Basilica San Giovanni in Laterano

On the other side of the street is the Scala Santa (the Holy Stairs). Pilgrims climb the stairs on their knees while praying.

A long but great day in Rome. Tomorrow our last (full) day in Rome.