My husband and I filled the big car with kids and luggage, got in the car, and drove south. Ever since we decided to move early last winter, I have been marvelling more and more over the beauty of southern Germany and all things south of it: the intensifying greenness of the Allgäu, the first glimpse of an Alpine peak, the unexpected bright turquoise of a mountain lake. And just observing from my passenger window that gradual architectural shift from Schwäbisch to Tirolean to south Tirolean to Italian reminded me that travel is just as much about the journey, not just the destination.
We were happy to make it to our first destination though, which was a hotel close to the Venice airport. I still had to struggle with a bad WLAN connection there to send editorial notes and changes for the German Way Expat Guide manuscript which I am editing, but it was still a relief to have the 6.5-hour drive behind us and know that the rest of our holiday was in front of us.
We just needed to get on that boat.
We were so happy to find, amongst the other 1500 plus passengers, my parents who had flown in from the States and my aunt who had flown in from Korea. We’re always eager for any time with them, and I continue to be so grateful that all three of my kids have such a loving relationship with all of their grandparents and that my husband and my parents have a close parent-son relationship. Otherwise, being on a ship for 11 days together would be hell.
This was the second cruise together (first one with my aunt), and we already knew how wonderful it is to step on the boat and just let go. The only stress or rush the whole time is making it to the 8:00 yoga class in time. Before our first cruise with my parents, we weren’t sure if this would be our thing, and while I continue to enjoy other forms of travel, why protest, quibble or resist the comforts of cruising, especially when it so easily accommodates multi-generational travel so well.
Water is my husband’s element. He finds it extremely relaxing to be on the water and so long as the waves don’t get too rough, we all enjoy the gentle rocking and the hypnotic effect of the rich blue sea.
Being on a cruise ship is a win for everyone. As I mentioned, the kids love seeing their grandparents and get to share a cabin with them. This time my middle child was the only one in a cabin with the grandparents. I wasn’t certain if she’d be happy there for all 11 days of the cruise, but when I asked her at the end how it was, she said, “GREAT!” It’s nice to get 100% for a change. Plus she and her sister didn’t have to negotiate who would sleep on the top bunk. They each got one.
I also love that the kids get a boost in their Korean vocabulary and pick up a tale or two about Korea or Korean culture. My mom brings Korean language hymns to teach them to sing. This is a great idea since my kids love singing so much. Stella, my comedian, cracked herself up switching out words she knew with new words that sounded similar. For instance, instead of “jeong-mal gi-bbeo-yo” (really happy), she was singing, “yang-mal gi-bbeo-yo” (socks happy). Another great memory formed together.
We also got to celebrate my son’s third birthday which fell on Easter this year.
At the formal dinner that evening, the staff gathered to sing him “Panjang Umurnya,” the Indonesian birthday song which we still sometimes sing at home two months later. (Here’s a nice video of what this experience is like.) At my dad’s request, our accommodating waiter gathered a large group of staff who brought along their makeshift instruments (dome dish cover and spoon) to give Lenny a heartfelt birthday salute. He physically shivered with pleasure when they finished. Bless his adorable little heart.
I gave the kids books which my parents had brought over as Easter/birthday gifts. I will be posting a review of some of the books we received soon.
And of course, the other large part of the experience were the places we saw. Here is a complete itinerary fof the 11-day Adria cruise we were on. I’ve also selected a few favorite photos of the sites we saw.
- I’d like to go back to Sicily. It’s been on my travel wish list for more than a decade. Messina was nice to see, but I know that we barely scratched the surface of this interesting island.
- Malta – well, I’m glad I can cross this off of my list. It has a reputation of being a bit dull, and I’m afraid that I have to agree. It’s a shame because it is situated at a cultural crossroad and has north African, Italian and British influences. Perhaps with the right guide, there’s more to experience beyond the environs of the port of Valetta, but for the time being, I’m going to focus on other Mediterranean destinations.
- Corfu and Cephalonia – I’m not convinced that these are great destinations for cruise ships. I love Greek islands, and I think to enjoy and appreciate them, you have to have a number of days on an island and have access to transportation to explore some of the tucked away, magazine-shoot scenic beaches and other sites. I also don’t like being part of this brigade that invades and overwhelms the small port cities for the day.
- Kotor, Montenegro – Montenegro has also been on my wish list for years. Lots of fading Venetian glory. It rained the day we were there which was too bad, but I’m coming back for sure. The parents of a childhood friend of my husband moved back to Montenegro run a pension on the beach not far from Kotor, so this is serving as another reason to make good on my promise to return.
- Dubrovnik, Korčula, and Split, Croatia – This was the second time in Croatia for my husband, Vera and me. We had spent a beach holiday in Brela in 2008 when I was pregnant with Stella. We enjoyed it but couldn’t see as much as we wanted. We saw more of the cities this time, but all of the spectacular natural parks surrounding Split in particular remain unexplored to us. We also would have liked to have hired a car to Mostar, but that didn’t happen on this cruise. My parents were pleasantly surprised by how lovely former Yugoslavia was and how much there was to see. I think these countries remain a well-kept secret to most Americans. I’m looking forward to going back for another holiday, perhaps when the kids are bigger and we can do more day trips.
- Venice – Well, what more can I say? Venice remains one of the most beautiful and romantic cities I’ve ever been to. I was struck by how inspired I felt while walking through it, despite the crowds. We made the mistake of not bringing a stroller for Lenny. After being such a good sport for all of the other harbor day visits, he was done – too tired to walk any further. We also lost my mother on Piazza San Marco for about 30 minutes! So we didn’t end up seeing much. But it was enough for me to stand in the middle of that square, in the shadow of the Campanile taking in the chaos of children chasing pigeons in every direction, chop orchestras playing nostalgic oldies but goodies from cafes north and south of where we stood, and the chiming of the clock tower.
Allow me to leave you with that lovely image.