Sunday, August 28, 2016

Touring While on a Cruise by Margot Justes

I often wonder how most people tour a foreign city. How do they prepare? Is everything left to the tour company, with that extra half day on their own? Or simply venture out on an adventure? Or is it a combination of both?

In cities, I combine both, guided tours, and equal time on my own. I book specific tours, rather than  leave everything to an escorting tour company. In my youth, I did my own thing, and didn’t much take tours, but now my attitude has changed, and I think it is due to age.

Now, I’m ready for an easier way to travel. I still pick what I want to do on my own, and when to book tours, and what kind.  More and more people travel, and the ‘must see’ places are often packed to capacity, and it is easier to get in with a tour, the Vatican is a perfect example.

To be honest, as many know, cruising is my favorite form of travel now. I pack and unpack once, see a little of a lot, and have a care free vacation.

That being said, I always stay in the embarkation city at least two days, it depends on time, cost and if I’ve been there before. During the cruise the site seeing is limited, and I choose the excursions offered by the cruise line that fit my interests. Most often they’re excellent tours, there is a little independent time, and almost always there is a certain perspective from the local tour guide on the visit.

I'll be in Rome in less than two months and have already selected specific sites I do not want to miss. I've visited Rome before, last time was in 2014, but in a grand city like Rome one can’t possibly see everything, and even repeat sites offer new perspectives.

My favorite form of transportation in Rome is walking, but a guided walking tour is a good start, and keeps me from getting lost, unless I wander off, that has been known to happen. It is an excellent way to get acquainted with a city, along with a lecture on the sites, history, there are the occasional personal observation offered by the guide.

A map is very handy, if you know how to read one, for me that is a useless effort, I can't read maps, and if on my own, North happens to be wherever I'm facing-not a good thing. However, I'm not afraid to ask a stranger for directions, and I do carry a small city map  with me, after being told which way to go and where to turn, I can generally find my way.

A few years ago I was in Berlin with my daughter, she was there to do research, and I had the days to myself. One morning I wondered about the city, and of course I got lost but in the process I discovered some wondrous little side streets, stopped for a delicious cup of coffee, and wound up at Check Point Charlie, from there it was an easy walk back to the hotel, met some nice people, and I had a terrific time.  I have no ideas how I found Check Point Charlie, it suddenly appeared in front of me.

I also took a bus, and forgot to validate the ticket, and to add insult to injury it was going in the wrong direction, nothing seemed familiar. I originally took the bus from the hotel stop to the Egyptian Museum. I showed the bus driver the slip of paper with the name and address of the hotel, he dropped me off at the next stop, and pointed across the street to the bus stop. I don’t speak German, he didn’t speak English, yet we communicated. He was exceedingly kind.

I digress, back to Rome, along with a visit to the Pantheon, probably built between 118 and 125 AD, the gloriously preserved  building is a must see for any tourist.  There are a few sites that always beckon back. I will miss the Tivoli Gardens, because of the late arrival of my flight-couldn’t be helped.

An evening walking tour in planned, Rome is magnificently lit at night, and reflecting shadows and shimmers give it a romantic atmosphere. The Trevi fountain sparkles as the water cascades down. It is breathtaking. It’ll be a romantic look at Rome, I’m a romance writer after all.  Of course given Rome's age I'm sure there are a few ghosts and goblins scattered around, and I aim to find them with the help of a guide of course. In the evening I stick to guides like the proverbial super glue.

The must see stuff I do first, and I leave myself some breathing space for the unexpected treasures, a cafe, a sit down on the Spanish Steps, a small neighborhood church, an art gallery, all those delicious incidental discoveries that are so memorable.

This time I’m taking my smart phone with me, and hope to post a few pictures. I’ve already arranged to have the international app downloaded by my provider, and the rates didn’t seem too extravagant. I picked the least expensive plan that will suit my needs. Interestingly enough the app will not work in Israel, most likely due to security, and also Tenerife, because of technical difficulties.

It seems that everything is in place for this trip, all that is left is the packing. All the cruise excursions have been booked on line, and surprisingly many have already been sold out. A shelf in the closet is dedicated to random things that will be needed, and forgotten if not set aside.

In the next blog, I’ll share some of the descriptions of the tours I booked.

Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
A Hotel in Venice
A Fire Within

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