Dropping by Marseilles and Florence
Royal Princess at sea: After sailing overnight from Barcelona, we entered the Port of Marseilles, France and after breakfast, we went down to ride a bus to downtown Marseilles. It was a short 15-minute ride from the cruise ship terminal. What we didn’t expect was that four other huge cruise ships arrived also in Marseilles almost at the same time. But there were no container vans lining up to meet the ships. Rather it was a long line of tourist buses that went to meet all the cruise ships. The Port of Marseilles apparently is the biggest cruise ship terminal in France.
I was in Provence 20 years ago when my wife’s cousin once worked in Nice where he brought his two BMW big bikes from the US. That was an unforgettable trip back then. It was only on this trip that I realized that from Marseilles, you could visit the Pont du Gard Bridge, a 2,000-year-old Roman Aqueduct that served the City of Arles. I recall that this city still uses its old (although smaller) Roman Coliseum. It is not far from Avignon, the second Vatican during the time we had two Popes. It is also not far from the town of Carcassonne, a walled city that inspired the Sleeping Beauty castle.
Another unforgettable place I once visited in Provence was L’abbaye du Thoronet, an abandoned Cisterian Abbey built in the 12th or 13th century. But the Cisterian monks abhorred having a grandiose Gothic Church like the Norte Dame Cathedral in Paris and they constructed a very simple church but with one exception. It was one of the best sound proofing of any church in the world.
It is a fact that all their tour guides are either a soprano or operatic tenor because they would bring their guests in the site where the altar once stood and start singing and their voices would come alive because of the great soundproofing that the monks put in that Abbey. I wanted to come for a return visit, but the travel time meant that I could not visit Marseilles.
During our four-hour visit to Marseilles we took a hop-on, hop-off bus ride around the panoramic view of the old Port of Marseilles. The only hitch was, with four cruise liners arriving at the same time, the food and bus services in downtown Marseilles was overburdened. Marseilles is the biggest French port and the second biggest in the Mediterranean. Also let me warn you that taking the bus to downtown Marseilles cost $16 per person. Nothing is cheap in a cruise; even the water in your cabin would cost you $2 per small bottle. Yes even the wi-fi costs $65 bucks!
From Marseilles we sailed early evening to our next destination, the Port of Livorno, Italy. But apparently the weather was so bad that the night before the strong rains and floods stopped the railroads from operating. The Port of Livorno was were we disembarked to visit Florence (Firenze) and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Fortunately, I visited this place five years ago. But a taxicab driver convinced us that if we convinced other passengers to ride with us, he would take us to Florence and with so many passengers on board the Royal Princess we only paid $50 per person and we stayed in Florence for at least four hours and the taxicab picked us up later and brought us back to the Port of Livorno.
Florence will always be my favorite medieval city. The taxi stopped at the main square, the Piazza Sta. Croce, which is where the Ill Duomo, where St. Peter’s Basilica Dome was built. Its Baptistry in front of the Church is famous for its beautiful glided bronze doors. In this church is where the final resting place of the famous names, Galileo Galilei, Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Dante (of the Divine Comedy fame) are buried.
Just a few minutes walk up ahead you will end up in another famous Piazza della Signoria, the government center of Florence. This is where you will see a copy of the statue of David (I think the original is in the Louvre in Paris) and a great statue of Perseus who cut off the head of the Medusa and other statues like the famous rape of the Sabin women. One thing I missed five years ago was to visit the Da Vinci Museum… and this time around I made sure that I wouldn’t miss it. They call it the Da Vinci Experience and tickets cost 10 euros with a seniors discount.
Basically this museum features exhibits of the designs of Leonardo Da Vinci, which they actually built in a smaller scale. It is there that you can see the drawings of Da Vinci turned into working models. Then a documentary of the art of Da Vinci is shown inside a theater and there you can see the genius of Leonardo Da Vinci.
So it was back on the hour-long taxi ride to the Port of Livorno and on schedule, the ship sailed for the Greek island of Katakolon, to a place called Olympia, the site of the first ever Olympic games 3,000 years ago. We sailed the whole day and night before reaching this island. So in the meantime we enjoyed what the Royal Princess had to offer. Hopefully by next week we can give you more information on this cruise.
* * *