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Showing posts from 2016

Italy 2016 - Day 9

How much is there to see in Rome?A TON!!!(And we took a shot at seeing most of it!).The incredible Colosseum tour, the Forum, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Piazza Novona, Piazza di Spagna (and many other piazzas) and tons of churches (everywhere we turned!)
An amazing day in a wonderful city!  Tonight we had to our Farewell Dinner and then tomorrow we had home with new friends and wonderful memories.  Viva Italia!

Italy 2016 - Day 8

Some of us began our day walking with Fr. Gribble to see the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore.  It as spectacular. Plus, there was a Mass in a side chapel and a choir offering hymns in a second - a magical moment. Then we headed out to see Vatican City.The impressive St. Peter’s Square, the Basilica (including the Sistine Chapel), and the magnificent Vatican Museum – totally amazing!And, while there were no sightings of Pope Francis, his spirit certainly filled the area.  Plus, the square was set up for the canonization service for new saints.  Our guide Paola was so knowledgeable and kind - and able to maneuver us through the crowds relatively intact!!
Many of us returned to the hotel and (after vacating the hotel bar area) enjoyed a Picnic a la Roma on the steps outside.

Italy 2016 - Day 7

How could a week have gone by so quickly?!

Today we checked out of our hotel in Sorrento, boarded the bus and headed to Rome.Along the way we stopped at the incredible Herculaneum, which was also buried by the Mt. Vesuvius eruption that destroyed Pompeii in 79AD.It was a wealthier town than Pompeii and is better preserved. Despite having been rediscovered in the 1700s, 75% of the town is still buried, but what has been uncovered is amazing.

We also travelled through the Miglio d’Oro (Golden Mile) where the wealthy had their villas along a stretch of the Corsa Resina. We toured the Villa Camolieto which was beautiful and had incredible views of the Bay of Naples. And met our newest friend, the former mayor!

Sadly we had to say goodbye to he wonderful local guide Bernadetta before departing for Rome.  We then arrived in Rome and checked into the Grand Hotel Palatino, which will serve as our home for three nights.

Italy 2026 - Day 6

Today we visited the excavations of the lost city of Pompeii, which was buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79AD (after being founded in 6BC or 7BC). Its population was estimated at 11,000 people, and the city had a complex water system, anamphitheatre,gymnasium, and a port.
The objects that lay beneath the city have been preserved for centuries because of the lack of air and moisture. These artefacts provide an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city during thePax Romana. During the excavation, plaster was used to fill in the voids in the ash layers that once held human bodies. This allowed archaeologists to see the exact position the person was in when he or she died.
Pompeii has been a tourist destination for over 250 years. Today it hasUNESCOWorld Heritage Sitestatus and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy, with approximately 2.5 million visitors every year.

After lunch we headed to Naples for a city tour and saw the seaside castle, Castel …

Italy 2016 - Day 5

Another amazing day!!!

Today we travelled to Paestum for a guided tour of this former Greek colony, whose treasures are world renowned.The Temple of Poseidon was certainly a highlight!It is one of the best preserved Greek temples in the world and was constructed between 470-460 BC.

On the bus, Fr. Gribble spoke to us about 'little-known facts' about the Bible.  It was very informative and sparked conversation among those of us who were on the previous trip to Greece and visited Ephesus and Patmos.

After lunch we visited Salerno, which was originally Etruscan before becoming a Roman principality under the Lombards. It is famous for its university, the oldest public university in world, which was founded in 1224.  Many of us saw the cathedral and others ventured to the seashore for amazing views.
We ended the day being stuck in traffic due to an accident - but many laughs were had.  Upon return to the hotel a few travelers organized a cocktail hour (brig your own snacks) party whic…

Italy - Day 4

The weather caught up to us - a little rain did not slow us down though.....   Our tour director Anna and local guide Bernadette are being kept busy! After breakfast we boarded the coach and headed to one of the most scenic roads in the world – Amalfi Drive!

Our first stop was in Positano, a famous and elegant resort town. We continued our drive  to the town Amalfi and were able to visit the beautiful Cathedral of St. Andrew.It is a 9th-centuryRoman Catholiccathedralin the Piazza del Duomo in Amalfi. It is dedicated to theApostleSaint Andrewwhose relics are kept here.

Italy 2016 - Day 3

Holy smokes - we are lucking out in the weather dept!!!!  Picture perfect day!!

The Island of Capri is a beautiful and popular resort destination on the south side of the Gulf of Naples.

The city of Capri has been inhabited since early times. Evidence of human settlement was discovered during the Roman era; according toSuetonius, when the foundations for the villa ofAugustuswere being excavated, giant bones and 'weapons of stone' were discovered. The emperor ordered these to be displayed in the garden of his main residence, the Sea Palace. Modern excavations have shown that human presence on the island can be dated to theNeolithicand theBronze Age. Augustus developed Capri; he built temples, villas, aqueducts, and planted gardens so he could enjoy his private paradise. We were able to see the gardens first-hand!
Augustus' successorTiberiusbuilt a series of villas at Capri, the most famous of which is theVilla Jovis, one of the best-preserved Roman villas in Italy. In 27 AD, …

Italy - Day 2

What an amazing day!!!!   After a thunderstorm overnight, we enjoyed 75 degree weather and sun (before an afternoon shower).

This morning we enjoyed a breakfast at the hotel and then headed out for a tour of Sorrento.We stopped at the Museum of Correale which is situated in the 18th century palazzo at the end of town and had some amazing pieces - and views!.We then went through the hillsides of Sorrento and had a break for lunch.

Later we visited La Sorgente, a lovely agricultural farm belonging to the Marciano family.What a view of the city of Naples!We saw a demonstration of making mozzarella – and couldn’t resist tasting some for ourselves (along with some homemade wine and limoncello)…

Italy 2016 - Day 1

We have arrived!  All 44 of us made it to the airport in Rome via overnight flight and we met up with our tour director Anna and our driver for the day, Pepe.

On route to Sorrento we visited Caserta which is the capital of theprovince of Casertain theCampaniaregion ofItaly. It is an important agricultural, commercial and industrialcommuneand city. Caserta is located on the edge of the Campanian plain at the foot of the Campanian Subapennine mountain range.
Caserta's main attraction is itsRoyal Palace(listed as aUNESCOWorld Heritage Site). The palace was created in the 18th century by the Italian architectLuigi Vanvitelli for Charles IV to rival Versailles. It is one of the most visited monuments in the country. Inside are more than 1200 rooms, decorated in various styles. It has been the set for several famous movies such asStar Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace,Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones,Angels & DemonsandMission: Impossible III.
We then completed the drive …

Holland & Belgium - Day 7

Our final day before returning home.....

The ship docked in Antwerp and we started the day with a walking tour of the city.  Many of us went into the Cathedral of Our Lady, which is beautiful and known for its four masterpieces by Peter Paul Rubens.

There was shopping to be done - more chocolates anyone?  Additional sightseeing, although many of the locations were closed on a Monday.  Even more odd, most stores don't open until 10:00 or even noon.  We saw the old meat hall, the "Kasbah", the city hall and its famous statue and the fortress/original city wall.

Many of us then traveled to the city of Brussels.  The capital of Belgium and the European Union.  A city tour by bus gave us the highlights and then we explored the city on our own before returning back to the ship in Antwerp.

Tonight is our farewell 'gala' dinner and we are hoping it is a terrific way to conclude our wonderful trip.  We'd be remiss if we did not thank the VERY hardworking crew of the E…

Holland & Belgium - Day 6

We have crossed over from the Netherlands (not Holland) into Belgium and had another great day!

Very busy with breakfast early and an 8:30 bus ride into Ghent for a walking tour.  What a wonderful city!  And, on a Sunday morning, it was a bit sleepy.  For years Ghent vied with Antwerp and Brussels for the lead in Belgium's cloth trade.  Today it is better known for its architecture and historic interest.

In terms of weather, we saw it all - sun, warmth, cold, rain, clouds and even a hail storm.  Overall another good day, weather-wise even still.

We returned to the ship for lunch and then most ventured out on an excursion to Bruges.  (Some actually skippedlunch and took the train to Bruges on their own!).  Bruges is like stepping back in time about 500 years.  A true medieval city with magnificent Renaissance architecture surrounded by quaint canals and small cobblestone lanes.  There was a walking tour, a canal cruise and some free time - for shopping, more sightseeing or sampling…

Holland & Belgium - Day 5

Good morning from Veere!

Last evening we enjoyed our cocktail reception on board and then sampled 5 beers (with mixed reviews) during the beer tasting on board the ship.  We sailed overnight and are now docked in Veered, Netherlands.

Located in the Zeeland province, Veered is a quaint little Dutch town.  Previously a leading player in the European wool trade and then as a fishing town, it is now a small quiet place generating much of its income from tourism.

Many of us headed out on an excursion to the Delta Works.  This is an impressive engineering marvel working to keep the country safe from flooding.  There was a video and some ventured out (in the wind) to walk on the barrier itself.

Back on board (not before stopping at the town's candy shop) for lunch while we sail to Middleburg, the capital of Zeeland.

Holland & Belgium - Day 4

We have encountered some rain on our trip this morning....  a gloomy and a bit chilly arrival at Kinderdijk.  But still a great visit!  We had a local volunteer guide who talked about the windmills, the millers and water management.  We got to tour one of the mills still in operation - although some steep steps! 

We are back on board the ship and will have a lecture about the Deltaworks.  That will be followed by lunch while we sail for the small town of Willemstad for a walking tour (hopefully without rain).

This evening we have a reception for our group in one of the lounges, followed by a beer tasting/lecture for everyone then dinner and evening entertainment from in-house entertainer, Titi.  Last night after dinner we enjoyed a classical music trio - and they were terrific!

Holland & Belgium - Day 3

Today can be summed up in one word - FLOWERS!!!!!

We visited the magnificent Kuekenhof Gardens outside of Rotterdam.  And we have photos to prove it...

Holland & Belgium - Day 2

Another wonderful day in Amsterdam!

We started with a full breakfast on the ship - which, by the way, is terrific!  Everyone indicates that their rooms are spacious, staff is friendly, food is good and all the common space is up to par.  Check us out - Avalon Expression - at Avalon Waterways.

We then headed out for a canal cruise of the city.  Remarkable!  Our guides were friendly and knowledgeable.  Nearly 500 bridges criss-cross the city over all the canals.

Again, picture perfect weather - although a few showers just started (about 4pm our time).

After lunch we split up - several took an excursion to see the fishing villages of Edam and Volendam.  Others took a ride to Muiderslot - Amsterdam Castle.  Some simply enjoyed the beautiful day in a wonderful city.  A few may have even headed out on a bike tour!

We will have a genever (Dutch gin) and cheese tasting early this evening, followed by our nightly Port Talk and then the Welcome Gala Dinner (can't wait to see what's on t…

Holland & Belgium - Day 1

We have all arrived in Amsterdam!!!!

Actually, six of us have been here for a few days - and they have seen quite a bit of the city.  The rest of us are going to rely on them to point us in the right direction for the best sights, sounds and shopping.

Weather - nothing less than spectacular!  Probably 65 degrees and sunny with a breeze.  So nice - let's keep this up for the whole trip.

We have checked into the Avalon Expression and are awaiting the obligatory safety drill, welcome drink and staff welcome.

Several of us went on an excursion this afternoon to a quaint town outside the city and toured a windmill and saw the wooden shoe making.  Others spent free time in the city - trying to not get run over by..... BIKES!  they are dangerous.

Looking forward to a nice evening tonight and a full day in Amsterdam tomorrow, highlighted by a canal cruise.

Everyone here says hello to their family and friends back home - wish you were here.

Holland & Belgium River Cruise 2016

Soon our travelers will embark on the first river cruise for the Stonehill Alumni Travel Program.  Seventeen Stonehill travelers will join other passengers aboard the Avalon Expression for a week-long tour of Holland & Belgium.

Highlights include starting off with a few days in Amsterdam, a visit to the Kuekenhoff Gardens and a tour of the famous windmills in Kinderdjik and stops in Veere, Antwerp, Rotterdam and Ghent.

For details of the trip, visit Avalon's website: HERE

 We are also hoping to see lots of the famous tulips!!