I’m in my room on NCL Epic. Rm 7021. My friend Steve Kouba left it in good condition with some clothes, wine, reading materials, etc… Thank you Steve!
Peter Moran has quickly become my friend and partner. Originally from Buffalo NY now Pittsburgh PA Yeah! We went out in Barcelona last night. Such a beautiful city! So many woman of all kinds. I am curious why woman love Barcelona. Well I know, I love it here. But it interesting that there are definitely more woman then men in this city. Which is nice:-) - Chica Bonita:-)
My room is small but nice. I have a window which is really a porthole. I have a nice queen size bed, maybe a twin, lots of cabinet and closet space, desk, TV, DVD player, fridge, good internet connection (in this port). I’m unpacking now:-)
Listening to Joni Mitchell “Both Sides Now” great song:-)
I just had lunch with Pete and Matt and Mate from the comedy string show (both from UK). Nice guys. Then Pete gave me a quick tour of the ship. HUGE is all I can say. 19 floors, 7,000 people crew plus guests! Mate said it’s the biggest ship in The NCL fleet and I believe it. Very nice ship, not a boat:-) Lots to see and do.
Back in my room while they do “the drill”.
Just did a quick one hour workout before the show. Back to room, quick shower, and dressed for success:-)
Backstage getting ready to go on. We have a nice big dressing room right behind the stage. Matt and Pete are my piano show partners on the Epic. Just had a quick sound check. Great sound guys and the stage sounds big and full. I am excited to play a new stage with new people. Always exciting before the first show.
The show was fun. Lots of energy, humor, and music. The audience sits in seats that fill the room and the stage is in a corner opposite wide open doors to the people walking around the ship. It’s a four hour nonstop show with the three of us rotating with a 40 minute break each. Matt’s main instrument is the violin. He plays the piano, bass, drums, and sings. He has a very sharp mind with music, lyrics, numbers, and all kinds of various information. Pete is a really good player. You can tell he’s been playing the piano for a long time. He knows a lot of songs, and jokes. He also plays the drums and bass in the show. We are a good team!
August 5, 2014
Tonight I played drums on two songs. First time ever playing drums onstage in front of an audience. I wasn’t terrible and it was fun!
August 6, 2014 NCL Epic - Civitavecchia Italy
Today was another incredible day. Didn’t sleep well last night. Lots of noise starting at 5:00am as the crew pulled us into port. My cabin is the very front of the ship but there are two cabins further forward than mine and they more get more noise than me:-) It’s a nice officer’s cabin. I have a little porthole window and a very comfy queen size bed. This ship is the largest in the NCL fleet I’m told. We have 7,000 people on board, crew and guests total.
I set my alarm for 9:30am to go to Rome with my new friend Pete (fellow pianoman). I read Rick Steve’s book about Rome as I was laying in bed and decided we didn’t have enough time to do it right. We pulled into Civitavecchia and from you leave the ship, take the shuttle, and catch a train to Rome it is about 2 to 3 hours total one way. So you need to leave early to get the most out of the day and return in time to catch the ship before it leaves at 7:00. You don’t want to miss the boat:-) I am always corrected that it is a ship by crew members.
So I woke up, grabbed some breakfast. The food is fantastic on the ship. The whole crew does a great job! I am putting on some weight as all the food is free and the beers are cheap in the Crew Bar:-) I wrote a note explaining that today Rome was not in the cards and why and posted it on Pete’s door. I didn’t want to wake him.
According to Trip Adviser the best “thing to do in Civitavecchia” is to go to The Ruins at Le Terme Taurine. So I waited for the shuttle from ship to transit center. It took about 20 minutes to get us there. I asked the hosts there how to get to Le Terme Taurine. They said it was 3 or 4 kilometers. I said OK I’ll walk. They seemed shocked. They gave me some very rough directions and I started off.
I realized right away that I was over dressed in black cargo pants and black t-shirt. But I had my bottle of water:-) I got into the town center and asked directions from a man on a bicycle. He was shocked that I was walking. He said it was 3 or 4 more kilometers and gave me better directions and off I went. It was all uphill the hill as you get to beautiful gated houses. On the way the streets were littered with trash and the sidewalk was either nonexistent or crumbling. I was walking in traffic much of the walk. It took about 45 minutes until I was at my destination. It was nice walk.
The gate was locked and there were signs that guard dogs were protecting the site. I thought they must be reopening soon. Maybe they were taking a siesta. I looked around at the scenery and decided to rest in the shade of a nearby tree. Some skinny cats came crawling out but kept there distance from me.
I almost dozed and started actually looking for a place to lie down comfortably but it was rocky and the grass was dry, brittle, and abrasive. I walked back up to the gate and to the right there was a hand drawn sign that said ULTIMO INGRESSO ORE 13.00. My first Italian lesson and I knew what it meant: Final Entrance 1:00PM. I looked at my watch and it said 1:30pm. I laughed.
So I stretched, took some photos, and took my time walking back to the shuttle and back to the ship where I drank a few cold beers by the pool and fell asleep.
I have tonight off so I ate dinner, worked out, went to the steam room and sauna. I’m back in my room and I think I’ll turn in early as soon as I finish writing:-) Lots of love Rich
August 7, 2014 NCL Epic - Livorno Italy
Last night I was so tired I took a swig of water and fell asleep typing at my computer with my mouth full of water. I crawled into bed and passed out around midnight. I woke up to the ringing shortly after that and knocking on my door. I knew it was my fellow musicians rousting me from my sleep. I answered the door and said in for the night. I spent the next four hours reading, playing music, and otherwise killing time until i fell asleep again. Such is life at see:-)
We docked in Livorno and I had a big breakfast outside on deck 14. There are 18 decks on The Epic!
According to Wikipedia Livorno is the most economically depressed town in Italy. It’s heyday was hundreds of years ago when the Medici’s declared the city a tax free zone and people moved here from across Europe. It was severely bombed by the allies at the end of World War II. I took the shuttle bus into town and walked the streets. I found an outdoor market with lots of inexpensive clothes and stuff so I bought a few things I needed like sunglasses, since I lost mine… again! I can’t seem to hold onto sunglasses.
I walked back to the town square and saw on the posted map that there is a 400 year old fort in Livorno. So I walked to it along beautiful canals filled with small boats. Very pretty on a beautiful sunny day:-)
I found the fort and walked in. The sign said that after WW II many people were homeless and that people lived in the fort up to 1968. A lot of young people hanging and that’s where I would be if I grew up in this town. Lots of grassy areas with dogs playing, cats lounging, and guys playing soccer. I walked the perimeter of the wall until and found a friendly cat that let me scratch it’s neck and he curled up with me and went to sleep. When it was time to go I left my friendly cat on a park bench and found a gelato stand. Had a great cone of Pralines and Cream and I took the shuttle back to the ship.
Back at the ship I went to the spa. This time I really spent some time there. First I went to the sauna. I have been to many Saunas in Holland. Many are beautiful with gardens and nice restaurants. And I love the fact that they are co-ed and all nude. But this sauna on The Epic has a glass wall 14 floors above the sea with an amazing view. As we pulled away from the Italian coast the sun was setting over the water. I was in awe and feeling immense gratitude for everything in the world.
After the sauna I went out of the sliding glass doors to a relaxation area at the rear of the ship. The view from here is the best on the ship. So I’m sitting there on a lounge recliner in my white bathrobe and I just start giggling at how amazing this trip is. Then I went inside and tried all the water pools and water massage things they have and they have a lot. Different pools with all different kinds of bubbles. My favorite is one which kind of climb up and lay on submerged metal tones that form a king of bed and millions of bubbles come up all around you and you can quite literally go to sleep without fear of drowning. They have huge faucets of varying shapes that pour high pressure water continually and you stand under them and get a water massage. Very clever:-)
After a couple of hours in the spa I was ready to go to work. We had a good crowd. The other two piano players, Matt and Pete, are really good musicians and multi-instrumentalists. They are very funny too. The show goes by too quickly. The stage is nonstop energy for four hours. We tell jokes, sing songs, and have the audience singing and clapping all night until 2:00 in the morning. Then Pate and Matt come to my room for a nightcap and we sing more songs for another hour.
August 8, 2014 - NCL Epic - Cannes France
Today Pete and I had breakfast together outside on deck 14. I like Pete. He’s funny and a very good musician. We’re about the same age and from Pennsylvania. We talk about our lives and stuff. It’s a nice breakfast.
We take the lifeboat from ship to shore and disembark at Cannes. This is a beautiful coastal city in The French Riviera with beaches, hotels, and restaurants. Pete and I walk around town and gradually make our way to the beach. It’s very crowded. I tell Pete my plan for the day is to lay on the beach all day. We say ovoir, yesterday it would have been arivaderchy. I find a spot between the water and the street and lay down next to a beautiful topless woman. Gotta love France. The water is great and I swim out to little island of rocks and lay in the sun for a while. I remember that I brought a few Guinness and ice and I start to get thirsty. So I swim back, open a beer with the bottle opened attached to my bathing suit (brilliant!) and I drink, read, and I sleep the day away.
I catch the 16:30 lifeboat back to the ship. I went to my room and took a nap for about an hour. I went to the fitness center on deck 14 and had a good workout. I read The Pianist my first couple days on the ship. Now I am reading Cowboys and Indies, a birthday present from my good friend Rich Joss. It’s a history for the record industry. I’ll have my reviews of both books later. I am now in my room. Pete just called and I am meeting him in the crew bar and then we are going to watch the Beatles tribute band. I’ll say it again, Life Is Good:-)
August 9, 2014 - NCL Epic - Palma on island of Majorca Spain
Slept in (again!). Got up in Palma, on the Spanish island of Majorca/Mallorka (pronounced Mayorka). Walked from ship to main street along harbor. 100’s maybe 1,000’s of boats in the harbor. Beach looks like a long walk. I rent a bike for 10 euro and ride bike path for about a mile and find a nice beach. Here most women are topless. It’s nice for an hour then I ride east for a few miles. Very many nice beaches further east. Cute restaurants. On ride back I venture up the streets into old town to the north, away from the water. Again winding narrow streets. A fort and a huge church that again says Gaudi. Did he make them all? To be back on the ship by 6:00 I must go. I return the bike after a ride through town. Beautiful. After I return the bike I walk toward the ship. Matt (another pianoman on ship) is crossing street. We walk to smoothie shop and sit outside and drink our smoothies. We talk a while. A guest from ship (from Russia) sits and talks music. The three of us walk back to the ship. The I work out and enjoy the sauna until showtime. The spa is incredible. The view from the sauna and the rest area at the back of the ship are overwhelming as we leave the port. Another good show. Matt has a clever dry sense of humor and is a violinist, vocalist, pianist, drummer, and bass player. Pete is funny and also is a vocalist, pianist, drummer, and bass player. After the show we talk in my cabin. Pete starts talking about politics after we agreed not to. It’s obvious we are complete opposites. I tell him I don’t want to talk about politics and we say goodnight at 4:30am.
August 10, 2014 - NCL Epic - Barcelona Spain
Alarm went off at 7:30. I got up, showered and at 8:00 was getting my free crew bicycle. It’s a decent enough mountain bike with front shocks. Yeah! I had breakfast and took off.
1st stop the hotel I stayed in my 1st night last week. Went on the internet. Road bike to beach. Mob scene. too crowded. Road all the way south along beautiful palm tree lined beachfront bike path. Very nice. Turned left into the city and found a nice fruit stand. Bought some peaches, nectarines, and water all for under 3 euro.
Made my way up to La Sagrada Familia. One of the most amazing churches in the world. Mobbed with tourists. locked up bike and spent some time walking all around.
Back on bike road up Av De Gaudi to Hospital Recinte Modernista De Sant Pau. Not like any other hospital I’ve ever seen.
Then I road up steep hills. Made my way to some dirt trails high on top of mountain at Parc Del Guinando. Incredible 360 degree views of the city sprawl. Road up to the top. Closed fence at top. I was dripping and didn’t come all that way not to go in. I locked up the bike and crawled under the fence. I was at the top of Ture De La Rovira at 262 meters above Barcelona. Holy shit! The best views of this incredible city on the sea! Then I read back down the hill to Avingude Diagnal and cut to the left. Road by Torre Agbar, a beautiful modern building. Another long tree lined street with huge pedestrian and bike path, cars on either side. Wound up at Parque De Diagnal Mar with tubular sculptures, lakes, birds, and bridges. I came to the beach as planned all along:-) I locked up the bike and dove into the water! It was incredible.
I took the bike path all the way back to the hotel and went online one more time. The internet is sketchy on the ship. I had to be back onboard by 17:00. It was 16:55 when I checked in at security!
August 11 2014 - NCL Epic - Sea day
Slept until 14:00. Had breakfast and sat outside writing in my journal. Then I worked out and saw the Fourever operatic show. Ate dinner and now I’m in my room writing this entry. it’s 23:13.
August 12 2014 - Pompeii Italy
Today I went to sleep at 5:00 in the morning. I was up late doing laundry. The best time, the crew of ober 1,000 is not doing laundry from 3:00 to 5:00 in the morning and I was not tired. But I had to get up at 7:45 to get the train to Pompeii. So I did. I woke up, showered, went up to 15 for a big breakfast, took 4 apples, and headed off the ship. Broke my sunglasses (that’s two pair of sunglasses in my first week and a half on board:-) lost my water bottle:-( and boarded the train to Pompaii. Beautiful ride. Not the nicest of trains but for 5.80 euros round trip it was perfect. Between the sea to the west and Mount Vesuvius to the east. I was listening to Lucinda Williams BLUE and I was again moved to tears by this place. The train was hot but the windows were open. It was not too crowded and I gave my seat to a couple with a lot of luggage. We pulled into Pompeii station and I was very tired. The lack of sleep was hitting me hard. As soon as I got off the train there was a guy selling guided tours and in my exhaustion I said yes. Not something I normally do. I like to go it alone and explore and discover. But as I was tired I said yes. It was only 12 euro. So a woman guide was assigned to us and she was interesting. She spoke english with a very different kind of accent and vocabulary. Very exaggerated and she was very smart when it comes to Pompeii.
So there were about 10 of us in our “family” as she called us:-) Pompeii is so well preserved and protected. It is like being in Pompeii on August 24, 97. It is so strange to write that but that was the day time stopped in Pompeii. Unlike other old cities that have modern life going on Pompeii is isolated and protected. Nothing happens in Pompeii except the old theater is used for modern productions. That would be something I would love to do; to perform on the 2,000 year old stage at Pompeii:-)
The streets are made of large stones that are difficult to walk on. 3 or 4 large stones define two way streets and one or two large stones define one way streets. There are chariot wheel ruts in the roads and water from fountains runs in the streets where raw sewage used to run. The houses and shops that lined the streets were not that different then many cities today and you can easily imagine a bustling city of 12,000 people living a busy life here 2,000 years ago as if it was today.
Our first stop is Quadriportico de Teatri, a small grass square surrounded by columns that was a place of gathering to socialize. All the bronze statues were taken by the Spanish, we are told, after 1492. Second stop the beautiful theater, Teatro Grande. We are told the wealthy and powerful sat down in the good seats. Middle class males in the average middle seats, and woman, slaves, and gladiators sat way up in the cheap seats. I ask what life was like for women and our guide says, “Not very good.”
Then we go to the baths. or saunas called Terme Stabiane. The ones we saw were just for men and very impressive. Then we walked to the red light district Lupanare. The drawings on the walls depicted different acts of love making, some more expensive than others. Across the street was the hotel where you would go to make love after selecting a prostitute and a position. Then we went to the Foro, the town square. We saw the casts made from people as they died on August 24, 97. A pregnant woman probably 15 years old, a person covering their face, as everybody died of exficiasion. A wealthy man we know because the clothes and accessories he wore and a slave because of the lack of. I’m told people lived to be 30 or 35 years old. Most woman had babies between 12 and 15. Mount Vesuvius is always looming over Pompeii to the east. This ended our tour.
I spent the rest of the day walking the streets as if I lived there 2,000 years ago. Strolling in an easy manner, whistling like I was just a local and working my way through the winding streets, past houses and store fronts, which were often one and the same. I made my way east to the wall that protected Pompeii. I love the trees and foliage in Italy. The gardens in the houses are beautiful and very well maintained. Many pieces of artwork and mosaics are well preserved. Fountains (many working) on street corners tell the name of the street. The modern city of Pompeii is outside the walls, kept at a good distance. Walking around the wall really brings you balk to a quieter time and you can imagine wearing a tunic and walking there.
My next stop is the Anfiteatro, it’s the stadium. It is in amazing condition. Aside from the grass and vegetation growing everywhere you could imaging gladiators and sports taking place right now. Vineyards are still growing in the old fields where they grew 2,000 years ago. Mills and ovens where pizza was made still stand.
There is so much still to see but I have to be back on the ship by 6:00PM. I leave Pompeii and head to the train station, passed all the tourist shops. They tell me at the station there is a problem and the train out of Napoli is not running at all. The train into Napoli is running. So I walk ingot he small station and under the tracks to the Napoli bound train. The platform is already crowded. We wait for almost an hour and the platform is jammed. I fell asleep sitting in the shade. As the train approaches we all move like cattle and cram into the train. I meet a young couple from Ireland. The train stops constantly and we make it back to Napoli at 5:38pm. I walk quickly across the city and get on board the Epic at 5:58pm with two minutes to spare:-) I go to 15 and eat, go to my room and sleep, and go to my show at 10:00pm. What a day! What a life:-) It si now 3:28am and I am going to sleep. Tomorrow (today) I am going to Rome:-) I am happy.
August 13 2014 - Rome Italy
I went to bed early, 3:30am, and set my alarm for 6:45. My iPhone is not showing the correct time. Luckily I woke up at 7:15 automatically. Ran upstairs, grabbed some coffee and breakfast and headed to the Epic Theater where I was given my instructions for going on my tour of Italy today. All I had to do was direct guests to the gangway and I was good to go. We had a nice coach ride to Rome and I slept most of the way. We arrived in the underground parking garage at The Vatican. You come outside and go around the corner and there it is, St, Peter’s Square and Cathedral. We aired in a long line that moved pretty fast. No one with exposed shoulders or women with short shots are allowed inside. I guess the old men in charge can’t handle a little skin.
The church is huge and ornate with lots of paintings, sculptures, and details. The swiss guards are on duty outside. Something about religion doesn’t sit well with me. I am not that crazy about churches so I walk around, take a few a photos, and find a coffee shop. I order a slice of apple pie and coffee. The tour gets back on the bus and we head to The Coliseum. I realize on the way that I forgot my iPhone at the coffee shop. I go up front and ask our guide where the next stop is. He says Fontana Di Trevi. I ask them to stop and let me out and I tell them I will meet them there.
I find a taxi and tell him to take me to St. Peter’s Square. It’s actually a beautiful day and I roll down my window and hang my head out the window. It’s a nice city and the traffic’s not bad. We pull up to the coffee shop, I ask the driver to wait. Mt waiter has my phone, yay! I come back out and we drive across Rome to Fontana Di Trevi. It is being cleaned and repaired and is covered with scaffolding and has no water. SO I walk around the area and meet up with my group. We take a lunch break and I find a nice little spot with launch special, for 9 euro - a beer and some fried seasoned balls of dough. I have a couple beers and my waiter does not charge me extra, still 9 euro. So I give him ten.
Then we regroup and walk to the Pantheon which is amazing. Then down the street to Piazza Navona, a beautiful part of Rome that was an old chariot race track. It has beautiful fountains, all of which you can drink from and a hot day like to day it is welcome. The restaurants and gelato shops are everywhere. I get a nice chocolate gelato and walk to the Former Hall Of Justice on The Tiber River. It is massive with a sculpture on top. We board the bus and head back to Civitavecchia and board the ship. Rome is a beautiful city and I feel like we packed a lot in one day. I look forward to coming back and seeing more:-)
August 14, 2014 - Florence and Pisa, Italy
Went to Florence in the morning and Leaning Tower of Pisa in the afternoon. We had a funny Dutch guise in Florence. He clearly thinks Florence is the most beautiful place in Italy and he gave us an exceptional tour. of some of the highlights. As with all the places I've been, one day is not enough time to see everything.
I'm burnt out now! Drinking a beer in care next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Too many tourists to even walk. I had to hide in this place and now it's packed. At least my little table is just me:-) My iPhone and my Bose, my little sanctuary. A lot of Kuwaitis, Chinese, Spanish. The people selling tourist crap are everywhere. One grabbed a guy by the arm as he walked by. This one heavy Chinese teenager has not stopped playing his Sony potable playstation since we started out this morning. I am listening to Stairway To Heaven. I've heard this song thousands of times and I never get tired and sometimes I hear something new. I little slice of heaven Drinking good Italian beer. Birra Moretti. The only black people here are the people trying to sell shit to the tourists. These muslim women are covered in clothes. Long sleeves, long pants, hats and scarves. Some have so much clothing in this heat it's unbelievable. And they look very serious. Don't smile much. Francesca our tour guide is frustrated with our group. She said she does this everyday from April to October. Some of the muslim women are wearing "fancy hats" (as they say in Ireland) Straw hats with colorful flowers on top of their scarves. The muslim men wear shorts and T-shirts. I don't get it! This bus is packed. I'm done with guided tours for a while. I like exploring by myself.
August 15, 2014 - Eze France and Monaco
Today was incredible. I went to bed at 5:00 in the morning. I stayed up with Matt (cellist), Matt Tobin, and Pete Moran celebrating Pete's birthday in Matt's cabin. Woke up at 7:30, has breakfast, 8:30 meet on 5th floor, took the 8:45 tender to Cannes, and hopped on 9:00 bus to Monaco. I slept as we drive along the coast of the French Riviera. I woke up in Eze. Beautiful small town on top of massive rock outcropping with a medieval town on top with winding passageways containing small shops and cafés. Incredible views too. Then we went to Monaco. I was blown away with this idilic country. Spellbinding in its charm and beautify. I've never been anywhere like it. I walked around the church where princess grace and the royal family is buried and the royal palace. Then through gardens overlooking the city, harbor, cliffs. The oceanography museum and headquarters is an amazing building built into the sea. Cliffs. Jacques Cousteau was the director from 1957-1988 and lived across the street next to princess Stephanie and her sister. The views in 360 degrees are spectacular. We got back on the bus and drove down the hill to Monte Carlo. The guide tells us that there are 36,000 residents but only 6,000 real residents of Monaco. There is no tax. You must have at least 150,000.00 euro in a bank account. And you have to spend at least three months a year in Monaco. Monte Carlo is where the Rich go to play, dine, and gamble. We saw where the Grand Prix race course is right through the city. The famous Fairmont hairpin turn. Then we climb the steps to the Monte Carlo casino and the most opulent square. It reeks of money. The casino is a beautiful and ornate building with the Hotel de Paris next door. They charge ten dollars just to walk in the casino so I walk onto the Hotel de Paris. It is so gorgeous and they have two pianos. I ask one of the hosts at the restaurant who to talk to for a job. He writes down the info of who I need to contact. I have to play here! I walk around the city. There a few other hotels I really like: The Hermitage and the NOBU Fairmont Hotel. I need to write to all three hotels here on the Cote D' Azur. I sit in the park on front of the Hermitage and notice a gallery called the Opera Gallery. I go in and walk around the first floor, very nice. The salesman follows me upstairs to the second and third floors. I introduce myself and his name is Demian. They have incredible works ad art by Picasso, Chagall, Renoir, and many more I don't know. All incredible and all for sale. It's like a museum where the art work is for sale. I stay there talking to Demian until it is time to get the bus back to the ship. I can't wait to come back here. Made the 5:45 tender and in my cabin by 6:00. What huge day and it's not over yet. Workout and spa then dinner and I'm going to see a few shows tonight. Blue Man Group, a comedian, and a band. Now that's a big day!
August 16, 2014 The EPIC La Palma Spain Island of Majorca
I was feeling a cold coming on at 2:30 this morning after the Blue Man Group Crew Show, which was fanfuckingtastic! I knew it was going to be a party night but I exited stage right and went to my cabin. I got on the internet and got very sleepy very quickly. I crawled into bed with parties going on in cabins to my left and my right. I knew I would be no good to anyone, especially myself, if I went. I curled up in bed with my eye covers on and ear plugs in and slept until my alarm went off at 7:45am to get a crew bicycle to ride on La Palma. I waited in the crew gym for half an hour. I finally walked down I-95 until I found someone sitting at a table with stuff for the crew. I asked him who to contact about the crew bikes and he gave me the ship to ship phone extension. I called and the woman who answered told me it was not 8:15am it was 10:15am. My iPhone is not on the correct time for some reason. It was too late to get a bike. So I went back to my room and I slept until 16:00! I worked out, went to the spa, had dinner, and we had a great show.
August 17, 2014 Barcelona, Spain
I got to bed right after show, woke up with alarm at 7:45. I had to try a couple of bikes. I take the bikes I think are ok up from 5 to 7 deck where the outdoor jogging track is. Then I ride them to see if they are ok or in need of repair. After a couple tries I choose a bike. I take it back to my cabin and I went back to sleep until 10:30. Then I had breakfast on 15, which is always chaotic, (so many people trying to get breakfast!) and I got off the ship by 11:30. I rode through the terminal and out onto the embarcation area. I rode up and over the bridge that connects the port to the mainland. I ride past modern sculptures and classic buildings. I ride along Barcelona’s waterfront until I find a cute little Jamaican coffee shop with free internet. I went online for a couple of hours. I walked outside and looked up to the horizon and I saw a huge church on a mountain top off in the distance to the west and I knew in an instant that that was where I needed to ride.
I rode upwards through the streets of Barcelona on a Sunday, so the streets were not too busy and most of the shops were closed. There was something going on in a few of the neighborhood streets. There were small fairs going on in blocks of the city for young people. The first one I came upon had an incredible forest of trees and fruit, hand painted and made from paper and cloth, of all different shapes and sizes.There were all kinds of kid activities like bobbing for apples and a stage for performers. I rode on and the next neighborhood was decorated in all kinds of, what appear to be, theatrical characters. Same kid activities. I don’t know what is going on or the significance of anything but it is beautiful.
I ride my way up to Avenue of Tibidabo. There is a blue cable car. I follow the tracks up to a very nice and expensive neighborhood. The houses are amazing, both old and modern architecture. I wind up at Parc De La Font Del Raco. I ride on dirt trails ascending steeply, some paved roods, up to Parc De Collserola (Pla Dels Maduixer), It is beautiful dirt trail that climbs though the woods, a bridge over a vernacular, and up towards the church and park I can see at the top. I ride to an apparently abandoned beautiful building deep in the woods with gardens and waterfalls called Jardins del Viver de Can Borni.
I continue up the trails, dripping in sweat, and ride to the top and the views are much better and even higher than the fort from last week. The views are 360 degrees and breathtaking. The church is magnificent. The strange thing is that there is an amusement park built right at the entrance to the church and, today is Sunday in August so, it is packed. I stick around longer than I should because I need to be back on board the ship by 5:00PM. I figure if I leave by 4:00PM I should make it back in time. I am standing next to one of the church bells when it fucking starts chiming 4:00PM in my ear! I walk around and take a few more pictures, the view is unforgettable.
I ride down through the streets of Barcelona, stopping at a fruit market and working my way back to the waterfront. I ride through every red light. Finally I arrive near the water and I am waiting at a red light with some cops on motorcycles. I start working my way out into the crosswalk and one of the cops rides up to me and starts talking to me in a serious spanish voice, and I recognize “poco y poco”. I realize he wants me to stop creeping out into the intersection. i apologize and go back to the white line.
I make it back over the bridge and onboard at 5:05. Crew time back on board is 5:00 so I am 5 minutes late but nobody says a word:-) A helluva life I have, I nap, I work out, I eat, I nap, and I go to our show, which is a lot of fun!
August 18, 2014 - Sea Day between Barcelona and Napoli
Sea days are kind of a drag because the ship is packed with 7,000 people who can’t get off. You can’t go anywhere or do anything without people everywhere. So I I got up, showered, and had breakfast on 15 and now I am in my cabin playing music and writing at my computer.
I am listening to LIVE FROM THE HEART II making notes on the stories between songs. I am using this sea-day down-time to finally do this. I have been traveling so much that I have not been able to do much about it. It’s 19:00 so I will go to the gym and workout, go to dinner and a show.
Tomorrow we are in Napoli and I plan on mountain biking to Mount Vesuvius.
August 19, 2014 - Napoli and bike ride to Mount Vesuvio
Best day ever!
I woke up early, got a decent crew bike at 8:00am and went back to sleep. I woke up around 11:30 and had breakfast. By the time I got off the ship with my bike it was around 12:45. I went outside the ship to the port and asked the lead taxi driver in a long line of taxis for directions to Mount Vesuvius. He looks at me and shook his head in disbelief and said, “It is 25 or 30 kilometers.” He says I should take a taxi. I say, “I am healthy and I like to ride my bicycle.” After asking two or three more drivers who also shake their heads I finally get one to tell me that if I follow the main street and go south it will take me to Vesuvio. Locals do not call it Mount Vesuvius or Mount Vesuvio. They just call it Vesuvio.
I plan to be at the top of Vesuvio at 4:00 and return to the ship at 4:30. I leave the port at 1:00pm and take the main road south. It is the worst, bumpy, crumbling, potholed, and damaged road I have ever driven on. It is made of small square bricks and large rectangular stones and it is terribly uneven and falling apart. Trash is strewn everywhere along the curbs. I make my way south through the city while my hands are vibrating into numbness and my ass is already sore. Entering the suburbs of Napoli I pray the roads will improve, but they don’t.
The sea is visible to my right from time to time between buildings. The colorful neighborhoods are cozy with clothes hanging on lines everywhere and small shops line the thoroughfare but are mostly closed. The roads winds on and on. Some places the road is closed with wire fencing for repairs but I don’t see anyone working on the roads. I ride my bike around the fences using the sidewalks.
I keep my eye on Vesuvio when it pops out though the buildings to the southeast. I follow my instincts and keep riding due south until I feel like I am almost parallel to the mountain. I ask a man for directions and he says to go one more kilometer and then turn left and follow the winding roads all the way up to Vesuvio. I thank him and ride on. I calculate what feels like one kilometer and turn left at a square with a busy street. I start to climb. The roads heading up are smoother and paved. That’s a relief!
I ride up keeping Vesuvio in sight and following what seems to be the most direct line and the most major road. I come to the highway and am relieved to find that I have ridden directly to an underpass which will let me go under the highway to cross. Then the road goes up passed a gas station. I go inside and ask the attendant if I am going the right way for Vesuvio. He says yes so I smile and thank him.
Now the road gets steeper and winds around businesses, houses, and restaurants. I come to one intersection and there is a hand written sign pointing the way. I love Italy:-) It is hot and I am starting to feel the climb. The views are starting to get good. I pass a pomegranate tree but they will not be ripe until the winter. There modern statues scattered throughout the ride. After a few more kilometers the forest surrounds me. From here on up this mountain is all national forest and protected land. The trees form a beautiful tunnel in places that provide a peaceful reprieve from the sun.
I brought water and apples and after a long stretch of turns and climbs I stop at an abandoned old building and rest. Every once in a while a tour bus or line of cars goes by. A few bicyclists come down and wave to me as they ride by. I am sweating heavily but feeling good. SO I continue and keep a steady pace. It feels like it’s getting steeper and more difficult. I notice writings on the street and eventually come to “KM - 3” on the road telling me that I am three kilometers away. I ride on and it’s getting tougher. The views are killer! Then KM-2. By the time I get to “KM ULTIMO 1,000 MT” I am really feeling it. I ride on breathing very heavily. There are cars and buses parked everywhere as I arrive at the entrance to the peak.
I pull my bike up through the gift shop at the entrance and enter though an open gate. The woman there points to my bike and shakes her head and finger. I lock it up to the wooden fence, buy a ticket for 10 euro, and start to walk up the trail to the top. It is loose sand and gravel. The views of ancient lava flows and Napoli are powerful. After a few long switchbacks I reach the summit! It is exactly 3:56pm, I am four minutes ahead of schedule:-) You stand at the edge of this famous cone and look directly into it, the volcanic hole, knowing it is still active and dangerous but it seems very old and peaceful. Hardly threatening, like an old killer that has lost it’s malevolent behavior a long time ago. But has it? No.
I feel great having ridden up such a long and strenuous course and to stand at the top of
Vesuvio. That is life. There are no pictures that can capture that. It’s a combination of the experience of being in this significant place, the overwhelming views, and knowing that I got here on my own power through great physical endurance as I said I would. Doing what you say your going to do and setting that bar high! I sit on the edge, eat my apples, and drink water.
After finding Pompeii in the distance you can’t help but feel how unlucky they were to have the wind blowing toward them that day on August 24, 97 at 1:00pm. It’s further away from Vesuvio than I thought. As the volcano slopes down you can see the protected forest spreading out from the base like fingers into the modern city. The ancient lava flow is very visual.
It is 4:30pm and I have to get back to the ship. I walk quickly back to my bike. There are wild dogs sleeping all over the place. The ride down is epic. Just a winding smooth road down in and out of the forest with views of the sea, islands, and Napoli. I am singing Dean Martin and howling at the top of my lungs! I get back into the city and the roads get rough. I find a little fruit market and buy a few plums and nectarines. I sit in a chair on the sidewalk and eat them with immense pleasure. It’s almost third world here. It seems poverty and simplicity are the way of life. I wouldn’t change any of it. It is charming and real. The markets are very sparse and inexpensive.
I make it back to the ship at exactly 6:00, just in time. I shower, hit my bed, and sleep for an hour. Then up to the spa to sauna and hot tub. Then it’s dinner and a show. What a fucking incredible epic day!
August 20, 2014 - Rome
Today I took the train from Civi to Rome. Civi is a bit of a run down port city. The train was a nice full air conditioned double decker. Upon arrival I checked for return times and found many choices. I walked outside and was pleased to find myself in the middle of the city. I walked around a few streets. Many interesting buildings, restaurants, hotels, and shops. I went to the National Museum and stayed for two and a half hours.
To say there were a lot of statues is a ridiculous understatement. Hall after hall, room after room, floor after floor of 2,000 year old statues, some older! Really amazing. Mosaics that once were floors are now mounted on the walls. Complete houses and rooms are reconstructed. One of the most interesting things is the first calendar that is mounted on a wall. It is incredible tha they were able to figure the 365 day calendar complete with leap year.
I left the museum exhausted and overwhelmed but happy and hungry. My Rick Steeves book recommended a few restaurants nearby. The first one I went to had a sign in the window saying they were closed for the month of August. The busiest tourist month of the year! Ahh Italy:-) The work to live not live to work. I like that. I found a little sidewalk cafe and had a warm sandwich, large beer, and cake for 8 euro:-)
I walked back to the train station, which is a huge beautiful modern building, and caught the train back to Civi. Shuttle bus back to the Epic and got on board just in time. No show tonight.
August 21, 2014 - Livorno
Today I spent with my friends from Howl At The Moon and Blue Man Group. We met at a sidewalk cafe called Cafe Duomo with free Wifi. The waiter was fantastic. Unusual for Europe since the waiters don’t work for tips and they can be apathetic. This guy was so enthusiastic. He remembered what my friend Pete liked to drink and he hadn't been there for a year!
After a few hours and the best gnocchi I have ever had Pete and I spent a few hours walking around the city. It is a beautiful city with canals and squares and forts. We found this beautiful church and went inside. Beautiful paintings cover the dome. Some of the paintings are from the 16th century. It’s like being in a museum. Incredible! Walked slowly across town, more statues and squares and caught the shuttle bus back to the ship. Worked out and went to the spa. Lightning storm off the back of the ship was beautiful.
August 22, 2014 - Cannes
Today I met up with David a singer and drummer who performs in Fourever, an operatic show with four singers. After I did laundry we caught the tender to Cannes. I wanted to walk around shops and markets. I followed my instincts and chose one of the many winding streets that leave the beach and go up into town.
We walked up a beautiful street crowded with people and shops and restaurants. I noticed a beautiful necklace in a window and stepped closer to look at it. I said to David let’s go inside. We went in a were talking. The man behind the counter said, “Where are you from?” I walked up to him, introduced myself, and said, “I am from The States.” He said his name was Alberto and that he was going to Las Vegas next month and he was very curious about it. It turns out Alberto is not only an incredibly fine jewelry maker who owns three shops he is also an incredible singer and dancer who has been a very successful performer. I introduced him to David who is From Napoli but now lives in Barcelona. Alberto is originally from Italy. The two of them hit it off right away. We spent an hour or two with Alberto and we talked about music and things and agreed to stay in touch and I will stop by there next week when we are back in Cannes.
Alberto walked with us through town and eventually said goodbye. David and I walked around window-shopping and found a cafe with free wifi. Eventually we had to get back to the ship. It was very windy. The tender got tossed all over the place. When we got back I grabbed a beer and went out onto the front deck. I had never been there. It’s only for crew and closed to guests. It was empty. The wind was incredible and views of Cannes and the surround French mountains were beautiful.
August 23, 2014 - Palma Mallorca
I love Palma. Today I got up and got a bike and went back to sleep. I spoke with the captain and we agreed to ride together today. Unfortunately our plans got lost in translation. We agreed to ride at 1:00. I called him at 1:00 and he said he needed thirty minutes. I told him I was in my cabin working on music and I would call. I called him at 1:40 and got no answer. I got my bike and left the ship. I asked the hostess at the end of the ramp if she had seen the captain. She said he was there at 1:00 looking for me and left. Oh well.
I took off and found a major highway and followed it for about a mile inland. I got off at an exit and found a side road that took me into the forest. I found a bunch of trails and dirt bikers all over the place. I tried to ride the trails but the bike is not that great, I had the wrong shoes, and no helmet. So I found my way to the beach. It was called Pelican Beach and very crowded. I laid down for a while and ate a few apples I had brought. Then I went back to my bike and met a few crew members. They were curios about getting bikes. I told them where and when to get them. I told them that if go east along the water there are many nice less crowded beaches further out of town. I got on my bike and headed east. I found a nice cove with a beach a few people. That’s where I spent the rest of the day
When it was time to go I rode back to the ship and headed to the gym for a workout. Then we had soundcheck at 9:00. I had alate start so I went to the spa too. Tonight was Matt Tobin’s last night on the ship. He’s been on for seven weeks. We had a fun show with many guest performers form all the other shows. After the show we went to a cabin party until very late. Matt and Pete are great guys. I love being with them. I will miss them both.
August 24, 2014 - Barcelona
This morning I woke up around 11:30 a little hungover and went to 15 for breakfast. I came back to my room and Michael Johnson was knocking on my door. He replaced Matt. Tonight will be our first show together. Now I am at Starbucks in Barcelona doing some interneting:-)