Tuesday, 24 October 2017

8 Cities, 5 Countries, 2 Weeks...Our Mediterranean Holiday!

It's been almost 2 weeks since we got home from our Mediterranean cruise holiday and I just don't understand where the time has gone! I swear the clock moves faster when you get home from a holiday for some reason...

As the title of this post states, during our holiday we visited a grand total of 8 cities (or towns, perhaps...) across 5 different countries all in the space of a 2 week holiday. This is part of the reason why cruise holidays appeal to me, because there is SO much of the world I want to see...I feel as though a cruise allows me chance to see more places than choosing one destination would. Admittedly you may not get chance to spend a great deal of time in each place, but a day in each is usually long enough to get a taste for each destination and to know whether it's somewhere you'd like to visit again for longer in the future.

For the first 3 days of our cruise, we were at sea as we sailed through the infamously choppy waters of the Bay Of Biscay (having sailed it before I've never found it to be too bad but it was quite something on this cruise and the ship did move a fair bit!)...I know that people must wonder how you can fill 3 days at sea in a row on a ship so my last post was all about the many things there are to do on board...you can read it here if you missed it, or you can take a look at my video diary of those first 3 days here.

On the 4th morning, we docked in our first port which was Malaga in Spain.

Malaga is somewhere I've been keen to visit for quite a while as until recently I had some family members living there and I've heard a lot about it...when the ship docked we went up to the top deck to take a look at our surroundings and we could see a beautiful beach just footsteps away from the ship so we decided that we'd have a beach day.

Although we're quite spoiled with lots of lovely beaches in Devon, you can still never really turn down a beach day can you?! It seemed the perfect relaxed start to our trip, and a good chance for the boys to run free and let off some steam...the beach was a shingle one so not quite as comfortable as it looks in photos and the weather was a little too hot for me (I'm not just not a hot weather type of person!) so we only stayed for a couple of hours, but still it was a lovely place to sit and watch the world go by and the boys really enjoyed it.

Afterwards we stopped for some ice lollies and had a little walk into the town, before returning to the ship to use the pool and cool off.

The following day we hit our second port, we were still in Spain but this time we were in the picturesque city of Cartagena. We decided to just go for a wander around as there wasn't anything specific we wanted to do there...to be honest I had expected this port to be a bit of a dull one and thought we'd just get off for a quick photo and get back on the ship, but instead we found ourselves exploring some absolutely stunning churches, admiring the architecture around the city...and making the most of the shops too! (I found a Sephora...score!!)

Another day at sea followed and then on Day 7 we arrived in the country I had most looked forward to since booking the holiday, the one country that has been at the very top of my Must See list since childhood, Italy!

Our first stop in Italy was Civitavecchia which is the nearest port to Rome - we wanted to make the most of our time here so had booked an excursion through the cruise line, which meant a coach picked us up first thing in the morning and drove us the hour and a half journey into Rome itself.

First we were given a panoramic tour of the famous sites of Rome such as the Colosseum, and then we were dropped off to explore the city on our own.

During our time there we wandered around the Vatican city (we didn't go inside unfortunately, I had been so tempted as I'd really have liked to see the Sistine Chapel but I wasn't sure it was something the kids would be so keen on just yet) and the stores there (and indulged in a delicious gelato of course!) before heading to the Trevi fountain where we tossed a coin in...as legend says that if you throw a coin into the fountain then you will one day return to Rome!

Afterwards we stopped in a charming little trattoria where we had our first taste of Italian cuisine...we filled our faces with the most delicious pizzas (and me with a yummy pasta dish!) before heading back to the coach, full and exhausted!

The following day, we remained on Italian soil but this time we awoke in the beautiful region of Tuscany...again we had booked an excursion through the cruise line so it was another start and another coach journey from the port of Livorno to Pisa.

In Pisa we were given an hour to explore which was ample time as there wasn't much here other than some souvenir stalls, a cafe or two and of course....the infamous Leaning Tower!

Although there wasn't much there, Pisa was one of my favourite stops on the holiday as it was somewhere I had desperately wanted to see ever since I was a child. I've never really been one for Landmarks but Pisa has always stuck out for me, and so I was thrilled to get the chance to take photos there...the good old "Holding up the tower" poses had to be done of course!

After we were done, we headed back to the coach for the journey on the Florence. We were dropped off next to the stunning Ponte Vecchio where we then made our way to one of the main squares Piazza Santa Croce.

We headed for lunch at a lovely little restaurant named Casa Toscana where the boys covered themselves in spaghetti bolognese and I enjoyed the most amazing lasagne that has ever been made!!!
After lunch we explored the shops and sights a little .... and indulged in yet more gelato of course!

The following day we arrived in the South Of France to visit Toulon...I'll be totally honest, after two long and busy days in Italy we were all a bit too exhausted to really make much of our visit here! Looking back it would have been nice to take the little land train into town and explore a little but we were all just too tired, so we just had a little walk around before getting back on board and lounging by the pool!

Another sea day followed and then we arrived in our penultimate port which was Gibraltar. We were really undecided on whether or not to go up the Rock but I'd heard some real horror stories about the apes and I knew the kids wouldn't be keen on them getting too close, so we decided to give it a miss this time and just have a wander around the town instead.

Unfortunately I didn't find Gibraltar to be all that pretty so I haven't got any photos from our day there.

The main thing that impressed me about Gibraltar was how cheap the alcohol was! I bought a big bottle of Bells Whiskey for my Dad for the amazing price of £6, bought some knickers in M & S and stopped at a toy shop before heading back aboard! Oh actually we did also bump into an old friend of Jons too....very random how you can be practically in Spain but yet also, in England bumping into old friends and buying Bells at the same time?! Quite a strange place!

Our final port was one that we've visited before...Lisbon in Portugal. Again we were in two minds about what to do here as we knew there was a huge aquarium not far away, but having already been to the city and wanting to make the most of the last port day on board (when the ship is the quietest!) we decided against it and again just had a short walk before getting back on board.

And 3 sea days later, we arrived back home....5 countries under our belts (I wish they still stamped passports as the boys would be quite impressive already!) and looking forward to our next trip aboard the fantastic Independence Of The Seas.

If you've cruised before, what have been your favourite places to visit? If not, would you be tempted?

If you'd like to see a bit more about our time in Spain, check out our latest holiday video over on YouTube...more videos coming soon!

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