herculaneum.

In the year 79 A.D. Mount Vesuvius erupted.  At the time it had been dormant for 800 years, so I imagine that the residents of the nearby towns had no idea what was happening or how to react.  Following the eruption, the town of Herculaneum was buried under 50 – 60 feet of ash.

You can see Vesuvius in the background of that photo, the mountain that has blown its top.  You can also see that Herculaneum sits about 60′ below the ground level of the current town around it.

While our ship was docked in Naples last November, we toured Herculaneum.  We were happy to be out enjoying the sunshine for this tour!  Plus, there is just something amazing about walking around a town that was last populated almost 2,000 years ago.

Did you know that fast food is not a modern invention?  Herculaneum’s residents could visit the thermopolium to purchase ready made hot food and beverages served from counters.

Public baths were also very popular at the time.  Few people could afford a private bath in their home.  The public baths were open to everyone regardless of class and the one in Herculaneum had separate areas for men and women.

In last week’s post I mentioned that most of the mosaics, furnishings and other artwork from both Herculaneum and Pompeii have been moved to the archaeological museum in Naples, however some mosaics are still intact like the Neptune floor in the public bath.

And the amazing mosaics surrounding the garden court of the House of the Neptune.

Many structures were also decorated with beautiful frescoes.

Sadly, many of the residents of Herculaneum fled to some underground boat sheds to shelter from the eruption.  They thought they would be safe in these cave-like structures.

But nothing could have protected them from the surges of extreme heat from the volcano.

These skeletons weren’t excavated until 1982.  Prior to their discovery it was thought that the people of Herculaneum had managed to escape.

It’s sad that the people living around Mount Vesuvius met with such a terrible fate, but at the same time it created such a unique opportunity to study what life was like 2,000 years ago and it was fascinating to tour Herculaneum.  If you ever are in Naples, Italy I highly recommend taking the time to see it!

people of mature age and respected morals.

The third port of call on our recent Adriatic cruise was Naples, Italy.  This was also the third time I’ve been to Naples.  The first time I went to Pompeii with my mom and sister, the second time I went to Capri with Mr. Q and my bff, so this time we decided to visit Herculaneum.

But our tour of Herculaneum was in the afternoon, so that left us the morning to do something else in Naples.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here yet, but we were lucky enough to have the ship’s port lecturer at our dinner table on this cruise.

Let me elaborate for those of you who may not be familiar with cruising.  When you book a cruise these days you can usually decide between anytime dining or a set dining time of either the ‘early’ or ‘late’ seating.  If you choose a set dining time, you can also choose to be at your own table for two (or however many are in your party) or you can roll the dice and choose to be seated with strangers.  When Mr. Q and I travel alone we prefer late dining and as large a table as we can get.  Mr. Q is a social butterfly/extrovert and the more, the merrier in his opinion.  And the ‘late seating’ always gives me time for a nap before dinner 😉

I’m always a tad nervous about the possibility of ending up with unpleasant dinner companions, but so far we’ve always been lucky.

Once again, we were quite fortunate this time.  We were at a table for 8 with three other couples.  The first couple was from Canada and were retired from the travel business.  The second couple was from Connecticut currently, however they had immigrated to the U.S. from Moldova (a former Soviet republic) back in the 90’s.  I have to say, Nathan and Svetlana were the nicest people.  We had to work hard to understand them through their still rather thick accents, but it was worth it.  Mr. Q was in heaven because he loves Russian literature and Nathan was clearly a fan as well.  The third couple, Ken and Leslie, were from England.  We were well into our second dinner together before Ken fessed up that he was the cruise’s port lecturer.

How convenient to have the ship’s expert on our ports of call right there at our dinner table every night!

It certainly came in handy for Naples.  When we asked Ken (not to be confused with my neighbor/handyman Ken) what we should do with our morning in Naples he recommended visiting the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli.

He explained that all of the really good stuff from both Pompeii and Herculaneum is at the museum.  Most of the items that you see at the sites themselves are reproductions.  Naturally the originals have been sent to the museum to be protected.

Plus the museum is within walking distance from the ship, or just a short and inexpensive taxi ride away therefore it would be easy to visit in the morning before our tour.

So after breakfast that morning Mr. Q and I headed out on foot to the museum.  It was a bit longer of a walk than we anticipated, but maybe that’s because we had to stop and have coffee at a small sidewalk cafe along the way.  Italian coffee is the best!

I was highly amused by this poster plastered on the wall along our route.

I would never have admitted it out loud on the streets of Naples, but pizza with pineapple on it is pretty much the only pizza that I like.  Shhhhh, don’t tell the Italians!

We were greeted just inside the door of the museum by a young man offering a personal one hour guided tour in English, but it was €60 which seemed a little pricey.  In hindsight, we probably should have at least rented the audio guides which were only €5 each, but at the time we didn’t think we needed them. We hadn’t realized that many of the printed explanations in the museum would be written in Italian only.  Luckily some of the more major exhibits were also explained in English, but I’m sure we would have gotten much more out of our visit with the audio guides.

Also just inside was this model.

It was roped off and surrounded by people working on it though.  I wish I knew more about what is was, but I haven’t been able to find any info on it at all.

Of all the pieces in the museum, I was the most impressed by the mosaics.

It’s really hard to appreciate these in photos.  The one above is only about 2.5′ tall or so, it’s not an entire wall sized mosaic as it may seem in the photo.  So look again at how incredibly tiny those pieces are that make up the mosaic, and the detailed shading in the design giving it a three dimensional look.  Here’s another …

I can’t even imagine the patience it would require to place all of those tiny little pieces!

These little niches likely held small statues, but perhaps they were the inspiration for the telephone niches of the 1950’s!  Who else remember those?

They didn’t just have small mosaics in the museum, they had huge mosaics too.

This is the Alexander Mosaic.  It was a floor in the House of the Faun at Pompeii and it dates to around 120 B.C.

 We also stumbled across a section of the museum called the secret cabinet.  Port Lecturer Ken had warned us about this area … or did he simply tell us that we should be sure to see it?  I’m not sure which now.  Believe it or not, until the 1960’s the items on display here were ‘only accessible to “people of mature age and respected morals”, which in practice meant only educated men’ (Wikipedia).  I’m sure that Mr. Q and I are of a mature enough age, but not so sure about those respected morals.

Anyway, they let us in.  In fact I was even able to take photos at will.  I debated sharing a photo or two here, but I don’t want to end up on some sort of restricted internet list or anything.  I also don’t want to offend the sensibilities of any of my readers.  But if interested, be sure to check out the Wikipedia entry here to read more about the sorts of items that were found throughout Herculaneum and Pompeii.

We ran out of time to see anything more at the museum after that, so we grabbed a cab out front and headed back to the port for a quick lunch before heading out to Herculaneum.  I’ll be sharing that next Wednesday, so if you’re enjoying these travel posts be sure to check back then!

eze in the off-season.

I veered off track a bit with my Wednesday travel post last week and skipped ahead to the end of our Adriatic cruise, but now I’m back on track and today I’m sharing what we did during the first half of the day while our ship was docked in Monaco.

We took a ship sponsored shore excursion to Eze, France.

Eze is a small medieval hilltop village just across the border from Monaco.  It probably took us less than 30 minutes to get there, so it’s not far.  I’m not really sure of the exact timing because our very charming tour guide kept us entertained the entire way sharing interesting tidbits about both Monaco and Eze.

Once again I’m wishing I had a drone so that I could show you the amazing location of this pretty little village using my own photo.  Coincidentally, I was just reading the December 2018 issue of Martha Stewart magazine and guess what?  Martha has a drone.  She uses it to take photos of the sweeping vistas of her own property.  I don’t really think I need one for that, but it sure would be fun to have one for travel.  In the article she claims that drones are ‘more accessible and affordable’ these days.

Regardless, I doubt I’ll get a drone anytime soon.  Plus, I suspect Martha’s definition of ‘affordable’ is slightly different than mine.

In the meantime I’ll borrow this next photo from the web just so you get a feel for the location of Eze, which is perched at the top of a hill overlooking the sea.  You can see the church in about the center of the photo, and above it just a little to the right at the very top is the exotic garden.

Eze has been on my bucket list since the last time we went to Monaco, which was about 10 years ago.  That time we didn’t make it to Eze and I really regretted it.  So when I realized this cruise made a stop in Monaco I knew I had to get there this time.

The only downside to Eze is that it tends to be terribly touristy.  I always say that the reason why places become touristy is because they have something fantastic to offer.  People start talking about the place because it’s uniquely charming, or interesting, or historically significant and then word gets out and everyone wants to go there.  Suddenly the place is overrun with tourists.

But here’s the trick to visiting really touristy places, go in the off-season.  These captivating little alleyways can be thronged with people in the summer, but they were practically empty while we were there.

We stopped for a cup of coffee at this lovely cafe and were literally the only people in the place.

Granted, probably at least half of the shops were closed.  But that doesn’t matter one bit to me, I’m not a shopper when I travel.  I’d much rather spend my time running around taking photos rather than shopping.

While in Eze, we toured the Église Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption d’Èze.

This church was built between 1764 and 1778 on the ruins of an original 12th century church.

I thought the interior had a very French look with all of the gold, pale blue and crystal chandeliers.

Our guide pointed out the permanent arm holding a crucifix coming out from the pulpit.  Do you see it there in the photo above?  I’m not sure I would necessarily have noticed it otherwise.  She said that the priest’s arm got too tired holding up that heavy crucifix so he had a permanent one installed.  I’m not sure if that’s the true story behind it or not, but it was entertaining.

Le jardin exotique d’Eze is located up at the very top of the hill above the rooftops of the village.

  The first time we were in Monaco and visited the Jardin Exotique de Monaco, I was surprised to find that it was mainly a garden of succulents.  That time I was expecting something entirely different, a typical french garden like the one in Giverny that was featured in so many Monet paintings.  But this time I knew what to expect.

I have to admit cacti and other succulents are not my favorites.  I much prefer a lush cottage garden.  But the views from le jardin exotique d’Eze were spectacular.

I don’t think I would have enjoyed Eze nearly as much if we had visited during the summer, but seeing it in November was fantastic.

Not only were there fewer tourists, but the fall colors were beautiful too.

So I say if you ever have the chance to visit Eze in the off-season, and you enjoy charming little medieval French villages, definitely go for it!

traveling back in time.

I had originally planned to share the story of our recent Adriatic Explorer cruise in chronological order from start to finish, but today I simply had to jump ahead to the end.

Why?

Well, two reasons really.  First of all, our visit to the Luigi Bevilacqua workshop inspired a craft project that I want to share with you later this week.  And second, I just couldn’t wait any longer to share this post!

People always ask, ‘what was your favorite part of your trip’ and the answer this time is definitely our tour with Luisella Romeo, a private guide in Venice.

Let me start at the beginning.  Shortly after we booked our cruise, Mr. Q was chatting with someone and she mentioned having toured this incredible workshop in Venice where they still make velvet fabrics by hand.  She said it was one of the coolest places she’d ever toured.  When Mr. Q mentioned it to me, I was intrigued.  Right around that same time, not only was I looking into hiring some private guides for our trip but I was also looking for something unique to do in Venice.  Since we were going to be there on my birthday we were willing to splurge a bit on something special.

That was when I found Luisella Romeo’s website.  Her carefully curated selection of tours looked fantastic and her website was so beautiful, so I checked her out on tripadvisor.com.  She had over 650 reviews and every. single. person. rated her as excellent and many wrote positively glowing reviews.  This is almost unheard of, right?  I mean it’s nearly impossible to make everyone happy.  Usually there is at least one incredibly picky customer that you simply can’t please, but not so with Luisella.

So I contacted her via email and asked if she could arrange a tour for us that would include the Luigi Bevilacqua workshop.  Several exchanges of emails later, we had an itinerary planned and everything arranged.

Luisella met us in Piazzale Roma at the end of the Venice People Mover.  The People Mover is a monorail system that has just three stops, the Tronchetto parking island, the Marittima cruise terminal and Piazzale Roma which is pretty much the entry point into Venice for most people.

Luisella was so charming and enthusiastic right from the start.  I knew we were going to have an amazing morning with her.  She started off leading us through the Piazzale Roma which was thronged with people coming and going.  But after just a few moments we were deeper into the Santa Croce neighborhood on some nearly empty … um, what do you call them? surely not streets … alleys?  corridors?  sidewalks?  passageways?

Whatever you want to call them, there is just no other city like Venice!

Luisella led us up to this very unassuming building.  Once there I’m pretty sure she used a secret password or some kind of coded knock on the door.

This reminded me of that moment in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when Willy Wonka opens the door to reveal the magical wonderland of chocolate inside.

Only instead of chocolate, this place was filled with delicious velvet fabrics.

And one of the other things that caught my eye immediately was this old door that was just tucked behind some equipment.

You can probably just imagine how badly I wanted to dig that door out and get a better photo of it (and then possibly tuck it into my suitcase to bring it home with me), but instead I reminded myself that we were there to see some velvet weaving, not a fabulous old door.

Once upon a time there were as many as 1,200 weavers in Venice making silk fabrics.  However, over time such things as Napoleon’s decree that such fabrics should be made in France rather than in Italy, as well as the industrial revolution and the invention of mechanized production methods, contributed to the downward slide of hand weaving velvet out of silk threads.

Then along came Luigi Bevilacqua in 1875 and he saved several 18th century wooden looms from their imminent demise.

It’s tempting to think that I took that photo in a museum, but this is no museum.  It’s a functioning velvet weaving workshop.  There were a couple of women working on the looms while we were there, although I didn’t take their pictures.

One of the many challenges facing the Luigi Bevilacqua workshop is finding craftsmen who can maintain and repair these looms.  Clearly they need a ‘Ken’, or more accurately they probably have a ‘Ken’ but simply don’t know what they will do when he gets too old to continue working on the looms (I can totally relate to this feeling).

By the way you guys, this was a completely private tour.  It was just Mr. Q and I, our guide Luisella and the Bevilacqua employee who was a lovely woman named Anna who only spoke Italian.  Luisella translated everything for us.

The first thing we saw were all of the patterns.

Don’t quote me on this, but I think our guide said they have more than 3,500 patterns.  The patterns are made with punched holes in cardboard.  Each hole in the pattern corresponds to just one thread.

Honestly, I am totally unable to comprehend how these pieces of cardboard with holes punched in them translate to these gorgeous patterns of velvet …

but somehow they do.

All of the silk threads that are used in making the velvet are hand-knotted onto bobbins, and each bobbin is individually weighted to maintain the proper tension (you can see the little lead weights hanging from each one).

The number of bobbins depends upon the complexity of the design and can range from 400 to as many as 16,000!

And then the weavers take these threads and turn them into this.

It really does seem as though there is some kind of magic at work.

Before the end of our tour we learned the difference between ‘cut’ and ‘curly’ threads.

The ‘curly’ threads are uncut loops of silk while the ‘cut’ threads started out as ‘curly’ threads but were cut by the weaver.  The same color of thread can look so different depending on whether it is cut or curly.

After seeing all that goes in to making this fabric, and learning that a weaver can only produce about 12″ of fabric in one day, I quickly realized that this beautiful handmade velvet was never going to be in my price range.  So I wondered, who buys it and what do they use it for?

Originally the velvet was mainly used for either upholstery, draperies or wall coverings.  Can you just imagine what it would cost to cover an entire wall with this stuff?  Customers have included the White House, the Kremlin, and the Göteborg Stadsteater (that’s City Theatre) in Sweden.  But these days some high end designers are using the velvet for clothing and accessories as well.

At the end of our tour we stopped in at the tiny little showroom where there were some items for sale including handbags and belts.  The one handbag I asked about was €1,500 (or about $1,700 American).

Yep, definitely out of my price range.

Still, it was amazing to tour the workshop and learn about the process of making these beautiful velvet’s.  It was perhaps the closest thing to traveling back in time that I’ve ever experienced.

This beautiful hot pink velvet on a gold background inspired me to try something creative, so be sure to check back on Friday to see how it turned out!

And if you happen to be traveling to Venice any time soon, I can’t recommend both Luisella and touring the Luigi Bevilacqua workshop enough.  They are absolutely worth the splurge!

the only thing that makes you richer.

I recently read a quote somewhere that said travel is the one thing you can spend money on that only makes you richer.

Hmmmm.  Well, that and possibly gambling in Monte Carlo.  But that’s definitely not guaranteed.  I wouldn’t know though because we never actually made it to the Casino de Monte-Carlo while docked in Monaco, the 2nd port of call on our recent cruise.  Instead we took a side trip to Eze (which I’ll share in another post) and then spent the afternoon wandering around Monaco-Ville on our own.

In contrast to our first port of call in rainy Genoa, we woke up to a lovely sunrise and blue skies on day two.  This was the view from our stateroom balcony.

For those of you not familiar, Monaco is 2nd smallest country in the world.  The only one smaller is the Vatican, which apparently technically qualifies as its own ‘country’.  Monaco encompasses a mere .78 square miles although it has been growing recently as they continue to reclaim land from the sea.  It is bordered on three sides by France and by the Mediterranean on the 4th side.  I suppose France would frown on them trying to expand on those other three sides, so the sea it is.

Monaco also has the world’s lowest poverty rate, highest number of millionaires and billionaires per capita, and most expensive real estate.  Accordingly Monaco also has one of the largest police forces per capita in the world, and thus an incredibly low crime rate.  And trust me, it shows.  By the way, I say ‘accordingly’ not because Monaco has expensive things to protect, but because a large police force is expensive to maintain and Monaco can afford to do that.

There was such a difference between Genoa and Monaco.  Genoa was dark, moody, gritty, and I’ll admit just a little intimidating, not to mention overcast and rainy.  In contrast, Monaco was bright, clean, very welcoming and sunny.  Yes, it’s possible that the weather had something to do with it, but I think it was more than that too.

Our ship was docked in Port Hercules, which is an incredibly convenient location.

I took that photo from Le Rocher (the rock) or Monaco-VilleMonaco-Ville is the historic district of Monaco that contains the Prince’s Palace, the Oceanographic Museum, St Martin Gardens and the Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate where Grace Kelly is buried.

As you can see, we were the only ship docked that day.  When I was originally posting about this trip I mentioned that we were going in the off-season because it’s cheaper and less crowded.  The trade off is less predictable weather.  Our plan definitely paid off here.  It was a beautiful sunny day with temps in the 60’s, and there were no crowds anywhere.  Mr. Q and I practically felt as though we had the entire place to ourselves most of the time.

From the dock there is a series of elevators, walking paths and escalators that take you to the top of Le Rocher.  How cool is that?  They made it incredibly simple to just hop off the ship and start exploring Monaco.

Here is part of the path that takes you there.

And here’s the view looking over that little wall.

The people staying in this place must have an amazing view of the sea …

And aren’t those aqua shutters to die for?

Although we didn’t take the time to go inside, the Oceanographic Museum looks amazing from the outside.

It’s a gorgeous building that is built right into the side of the cliff.

This is one of those moments where I wish I had a drone.  As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.  But since I don’t have a drone, I borrowed this next photo from the web so I could just show you how amazing this place is.

Incredible, right?

Once we made it to the top we wandered around in Jardin de Saint-Martin a bit.

Next we took a look at the Prince’s Palace.

We missed seeing the changing of the guard, which takes place every day at noon.

We walked around the cathedral, but didn’t go inside there either.  It was such a lovely afternoon and we didn’t want to waste any of it indoors.

And I have one last lovely building in Monaco-Ville to share with you today, the Palais de Justice.

Tourists aren’t allowed inside this one though, so I don’t have to feel bad about only having seen the outside.

After a very pleasant afternoon wandering around on Le Rocher, we made our way back to our ship where once again we enjoyed the view from our balcony as we sailed away.

We’d been sailing back out to sea for about 30 minutes when the strangest thing happened.  Our ship turned around and went back!

I’m fairly sure this has never happened on any cruise I’ve ever been on.  Had our captain forgotten something back on the dock?

The captain made an announcement at that point, there was a medical emergency of some kind on board and we were turning around to meet an ambulance boat that would off-load the person and take them to a hospital.

So we said goodbye to Monaco once again, but this time feeling a little bit sad for whomever it was that had a medical emergency only two days into our itinerary.  That being said, it is nice to know that if you ever have a serious medical issue on board a cruise ship, they are willing to turn that ship around for you!

Be sure to check back next Wednesday for the third installment in my Adriatic Explorer series!

 

rainy days and mondays.

The very first port of call on our recent Adriatic cruise was Genoa, Italy.  If you know your geography, you’ll realize that Genoa isn’t on the Adriatic at all.  Instead it sits on the northwest coast of Italy south of Milan on the Ligurian Sea.

We arrived in Genoa on a rainy Monday morning and I’m not gonna lie, we still hadn’t quite recovered from the almost 20 hours of travel we endured the day before and the overcast, wet conditions didn’t help matters much.

Nonetheless, we were not going to let rainy days and Mondays get us down!

If you’ve been paying attention to my posts about this trip you may realize that initially we were planning to visit the aquarium in Genoa.  However, a few weeks before we left I’d been doing some web surfing and I discovered a company called Do Eat Better that was offering street food tours.  Although Mr. Q and I are hardly ‘foodies’, we thought a street food walking tour might be a great way to see Genoa with a local, so we booked it.  For just under $65 each, we got a 3.5 hour walking tour with five stops for food and/or drink included.

Can I just say, thank goodness we did this.  This tour probably saved our day in Genoa.  As Lonely Planet says, “Italy’s largest sea port is indefatigably contradictory, full at once of grandeur, squalor, sparkling light and deep shade” and that is a very apt description.  On a gloomy November day, the deep shade of Genoa’s narrow, dark alleyways is not terribly inviting.

I’m not sure we would have enjoyed wandering around Genoa on our own in search of that sparkling light.

But we didn’t have to.  Our lovely and personable guide, Marina, met us near the Neptune Galleon which was just a short walk from where our ship was docked.  There was just one other couple at our meeting point and they were also from our ship, although we hadn’t met them yet.

Here’s a little q-tip for you regarding cruising.  After you’ve booked a cruise, check out the roll call page for your specific cruise on cruisecritic.com.  You can post messages for other passengers that will be on your ship.  When I initially found this street food tour I saw that it required a minimum of 3 people to operate, so I posted the info about it on cruisecritic.com hoping that I would encourage other passengers on our ship to sign up.  Sure enough, Sharon and Bill saw my posting and booked the tour.

So the five of us headed into town and to the first stop on our tour, a local focaccia place.

We started with the simple olive oil and salt-based focaccia alla genovese which originated in Genoa.  It was warm and fresh out of the oven.  We tried the plain version rather than the focaccia with cheese and olives shown above.  Since my stomach was only just starting to wake up and get used to the time difference, this was the perfect thing for beginning our tour.

Our next stop was a local Sciamadda where we tried something called Socca or Farinata.

Farinata is made with chickpea flour, water, salt and olive oil.  Marina explained that it starts out as a fairly liquid batter that solidifies as it cooks and turns this lovely golden yellow.  The bottom gets nice and crusty.  It is served plain or with pesto or Stracchino cheese.  I have to admit, I wasn’t particularly a fan of this dish.  But it was interesting hearing how it was made and giving it a try.

Our next stop was back towards the waterfront where we tried the local seafood.

Keep in mind that this was specifically a ‘street food’ tour.  Most of the dishes we tried were things a local would buy from a small shop and then eat on the go.  This was fried calamari and shrimp that was served in a paper cone with some lemon wedges and it was delizioso.  Mr. Q loves seafood, so he really enjoyed this stop.

After the seafood, we headed uphill towards the Porta Soprana, or one of the gates into the city.

Sidebar to my local readers, I’m not sure what the TC logo on top of that building was for, but it sure did make me feel at home 😉

Nearby we found Locanda Tortuga which was our next stop where we tried focaccia col formaggio, or cheese stuffed focaccia.

Oh my gosh you guys, this stuff was so good.  You could have it plain, with some thinly shaved Parma ham on top, or my favorite, with pesto alla genovese.

Yum.  This was by far the most delicious pesto I’ve ever eaten.  As it turns out, Genoa is known for having the best pesto in the world and that is because there is a specific variety of basil that grows in that region and it gives the pesto alla genovese its superb flavor.  Apparently the basil we grow here in the U.S. is simply not the same at all.

I loved the pesto so much that I later purchased several jars of it to bring home.  I’m obviously going to have to hoard it and ration it out as long as possible!

We did sit down at this restaurant and enjoy a glass of wine with our focaccia col formaggio.  We also were able to watch the focaccia being made by this guy.

After leaving Locanda Tortuga we headed towards some of that grandeur that Lonely Planet was talking about.  Via Giuseppe Garibaldi is lined with palaces that were build by the Genoese aristocracy during the Renaissance.

This street is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Many of the palazzos are open to the public as museums, but unfortunately like many museums throughout the world, many are closed on Monday’s.

This is definitely something to keep in mind when planning a trip, especially if it’s a cruise and you’ll be in port for one day only.  Make sure that the things you want to see are open.  In addition to many museums being closed on Monday’s, in Europe most shops and other things are still closed on Sunday’s too.

Despite not touring any of the palazzos, we did get to admire some glimpses of their beauty like this one.

I couldn’t resist getting just a little bit closer …

Naturally the final stop on our food tour was for gelato and coffee.

If you’ve ever been to Italy you know that gelato beats ice cream hands down.  It’s creamier, more dense and has a richer flavor even though it’s actually made with less cream or more milk so has a lower fat content.  Regardless of the technical details, it’s yummy.  I had Pistachio and Almond.

By the time we finished our Street Food Tour we were stuffed!  The jet lag was rapidly catching up with us, and it was starting to get dark (it gets dark early in November), so we headed back to our ship on foot.  Marina gave us directions and we were easily able to find our way.

If you are planing a trip to Italy any time soon, I can’t recommend the Do Eat Better Experience enough.  In addition to the tours they offer in Genoa, they also offer tours in many other Italian cities.  At the conclusion of our tour, they sent me an email with an offer of a 10% discount for my friends.  Just use the code DEB4FRIENDS when booking.

This post was not sponsored in any way by Do Eat Better, I paid full price for the tour and all opinions shared here are my own.

Be sure to tune in next Wednesday when I’ll share our 2nd port of call, Monte Carlo!

of mice and men.

And bam!  Just like that we’re back home from our whirlwind vacation.  Trips like these always go by in the blink of an eye.  One minute you are trying to make sure you remembered to pack everything, and the next thing you know you are back home in your own bed and wondering how it went by so fast.  But I have a confession to make, I’m always happy to be back home again in my familiar surroundings.  I’m also anxious to get back to my painting!

Don’t worry (although conversely, do worry if you aren’t into travel posts), I plan to share all of the details of our Adriatic Cruise much like I did last year with our Norway/Scotland cruise.  I’ll post about a different port each week until I get through them all.  I think some might even take more than one post because there was so much to see!

If you are one of those people who would rather poke your eye out with a sharp stick than look at someone’s travel photos you may want to avoid my blog on Wednesday’s for the next several months.

But for the rest of you, I’ll be saving one of the most awesome things we did for last.

We hired a private guide to take us on a tour of the Luigi Bevilacqua artisanal weaving workshop in Venice where they still make Soprarizzo velvet by hand using 18th century looms.  It was incredible and I’m looking forward to sharing more details of that with you guys.

I’ll start the travel posts this week with the details of our Street Food Tour in Genoa, so be sure to check back on Wednesday for that.

But in the meantime, today is a special day because it’s my fifth blogiversary.    I started q is for quandie on November 26, 2013.  At the time I remember thinking that if my blog lasted five years, I’d be lucky.  It seems like so many bloggers come and go, and believe me I can totally understand why.  Blogging is a time consuming activity and if you are hoping to make a bunch of money doing it, you are likely to be disappointed.

However, as it has turned out, I really enjoy blogging.  I love almost every aspect; the writing, the photography, the interaction with my readers, the brainstorming to come up with creative ideas for posts and of course the furniture painting and other projects that I blog about.  In the end, even if I wasn’t blogging, I would still be refurbishing furniture.  So as long as I keep that up, it seems to go hand in hand with blogging.

The one incredible benefit that I never anticipated when starting my blog has been the opportunity to work with some great companies like Homestead House Paint Co (which also includes Fusion Mineral Paint and Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint), Dixie Belle Paint Company and Prima Marketing.

So in anticipation of my blogiversary I reached out to all three of these companies and asked them if they would be willing to help me celebrate five years of blogging by providing some of my favorite products that I could include in a ‘give away’ today.

They all very graciously said yes.

However, you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men.  Something always manages to go awry.  I was hoping that all of the items would arrive in the mail while I was gone on my trip.  My neighbor Ken was in charge of keeping an eye out for delivery trucks and bringing in any packages so they wouldn’t sit on the porch.  I told him to expect at least three boxes, if not more.

Unfortunately the only box waiting for me when I got home Friday night was the one from Homestead House, so that left me with a conundrum.  Even though I was planning to have just one giant, fabulous prize for my blogiversary post today, I didn’t have everything yet.  So, should I delay my blogiversary post?  Or should I break it down and have multiple giveaways?  Maybe one per week up until Christmas?  The more I thought about it, the more that sounded like a great solution.

And this way I can pay homage to each line of products individually and focus on why they made it onto my list of favorites.

It makes sense to start with the first paint line that I really fell in love with, Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint.  One of the first pieces I painted with MMS milk paint was an antique oak buffet that I had in my piano room.

I painted this with Kitchen Scale and then used Miss Mustard Seed’s Hemp Oil as a finish.

That was the start of a long line of pieces painted in this same combination.  I love the way the hemp oil brings out the vibrant color of the Kitchen Scale.  I also love that hemp oil is so simple to use.  I apply it with a cheap chip brush and then wipe away any excess.  Another incredible feature of the hemp oil is that it is totally safe for both you and the environment.  In fact, it is even food safe and can be used to rejuvenate your wooden cutting boards.

Another MMS color that I absolutely love is Linen.  It’s the perfect creamy white.  Not so white that it makes other whites look dingy by comparison.  It’s a white that plays well with others.

I’ve used this color on a countless number of pieces over the years as well.

Another favorite of mine is the Miss Mustard Seed’s lavender scented furniture wax.  It really makes the work of waxing a piece so much more enjoyable when you’re surrounded by the relaxing scent of lavender.  And the MMS wax is so creamy and smooth, making it easier to apply.  I also love the fact that it does not contain aromatic hydrocarbons making it safe for indoor use in the winter.

This was a limited edition product and I’m not sure how readily available it is anymore, but I was able to snag a jar of it for my giveaway (thank you Miss Mustard Seed)!

I’ll also be adding a couple of things to this giveaway that I picked up on my trip including a Nadalina (a prize winning Croatian chocolate maker according to this article) chocolate bar in dark chocolate with Adriatic Sea Salt.

That little wrapped item that looks like a bon bon is actually lavender soap, also from Croatia.

Plus I’m including an Italian decorating magazine called Shabby Style.  You know I love checking out the foreign decorating magazines whenever I’m traveling.  I picked this one up at a news stand in Ravenna, Italy.  In case you are wondering, no, I don’t understand a word of Italian, but I still enjoy looking at the photos.  And apparently some things are universal, such as an admiration for vintage glass tree toppers.

And a love for worn, chippy, painted finishes on furniture.  As they say, it adds un tocco romantico e nostalgico alla stanza.

You could easily achieve this look using Miss Mustard Seed’s milk paint and I think the color is very similar to her Grain Sack which is a white with a grey undertone.

So to recap, today’s prize includes:  the Italian magazine, the Croatian soap and chocolate bar, Miss Mustard Seed’s Kitchen Scale and Linen paint, a 7 oz. lavender scented furniture wax and 250 mL of hemp oil.

The basic rules:  to be eligible to win today’s prize leave a comment of any kind on this blog post.  Your comment must be left on the blog, not on Facebook or Instagram.  You are not required to follow my blog, although it would be awesome if you did!

Normally I make a point of answering every comment left on my blog.  If someone takes the time to leave a comment, I like to acknowledge that.  I usually only get 10 to 20 comments so it’s easy to fulfill that promise.  But I suspect I’ll get a few more comments on this post so I’m going to warn you up front that I may not be able to answer each one, so I hope you guys will cut me some slack on that this week.

I will randomly draw the name of a winner for today’s prize from all of the comments left on this post by Friday, November 30, 2018 at the stroke of midnight (U.S. Central time).

The fine print: no purchase necessary, you must be 18 years of age or older to win, void where prohibited by law, the number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning, approximate retail value of prize is $110, if the prize is not claimed by Sunday, December 2, another name will be drawn at random to win, blah, blah, blah.

Good luck!