Faith · Family · Food · Fun

The BEST Vacation Ever

Today marks 5 years since I got home from the BEST vacation I’ve ever gone on.

A friend of mine said he was getting a bunch of people together to go on a Trans-Atlantic Cruise. We’d leave from Ft. Lauderdale, FL and end in Rome, Italy {with a stops in Spain and France on the way}. There was a really good deal through Royal Caribbean {I think I paid $800 for my airfare and the cruise}. How could I say no?!

I didn’t say no. I said, “YES! I want to go!” A few of my other close friends decided to go as well. And some other people that I kind of knew but wasn’t really close to were joining us too. One of those people included John Hardman. {That name should ring a bell}

A little back story, we signed up for the cruise in August of 2010, and that same John Hardman asked me out on our first date in March of 2011. I remember thinking when we went out, “I hope this doesn’t get weird because we will be spending nearly a month together on this cruise! {Luckily, it didn’t get weird, it got AWESOME}

So we left at the beginning of May and were on the cruise ship for 8 days before we saw land again! It was surreal. Every day we’d walk around the cruise ship and be amazed at how large the ocean {and world} really is.

When we got on the ship we realized that probably 90% of the people on vacation were above the age of 50!  We were a little group of whippersnappers!  Some of them thought it was fun {like the gentlemen who loved to play shuffleboard with us} and some thought we were a nuisance {like the ladies scoffing at us during dinner}.

We spent most of the days on the ship either reading, sleeping, EATING, playing on the deck, playing cards, EATING, watching movies and shows, and EATING. {I gained 10+ pounds on this vacation}

Our first port was Tenerife in the Canary Islands. This was the FIRST time I had set foot outside of the United States of America. It was quite liberating and more exciting than I could have imagined. We went on a shuttle tour of the city and walked around. I bought a necklace made of stones from the island {including volcanic rock stones}.

Our second port was Palma de Mallorca in Spain. We went on a taxi tour here. We stopped at the Bellvue Castle, a bull fighting ring, a pearl shop, and then we were dropped of in the “shopping district”. This was probably my favorite port. It was fun to be able to speak a little Spanish and see such beautiful sights!

Our third port was Corsica in France. We had some REALLY good food here. For lunch we bought some fruit, bread, and cheese and picnicked next to the Mediterranean Sea. We also got some macarons and crepes!

After 13 days on that cruise ship we arrived in ROME! A place I had been DREAMING of visiting since 6th grade. We made arrangements to stay in Rome for 3 days. We rode the train into the city and immediately set out to find the Colosseum. It was raining  like crazy and only a couple of us had umbrellas. I remember riding on the bus and rounding a corner and then BOOM. There it was. This historic and storied monument was before my eyes. Not a picture in a book, not via Google Earth, not in my imagination. Because of the rain, there was no line to get in. We went in and started walking around and picturing what this would have looked like hundreds of years ago. It was magical. Especially when the sun came out and we had a beautiful rest of the day. Before heading home we ate delicious pasta carbonara and I about went to heaven over it.

The next day we went to The Vatican and to see St. Peter’s Basilica. This was a very spiritual day. It was humbling to see so many works of art testifying of Jesus Christ. I remember completely zoning our tour guide out as I fixated on hundreds of depictions of my Savior. Seeing the Sistine Chapel was surprising to me. I had heard it was smaller than many thought so that didn’t surprise me. They made sure we understood we could not take pictures, which didn’t surprise me. What surprised me was HOW MANY PEOPLE that were in the room. It made this moment a bit less spiritual. I wish I could have had more time to study this piece of art.

Afterwards, we got gelato and pizza and walked around until we found the Trevi Fountain. {I loved that we could literally stumble upon such beautiful and famous landmarks} I made sure to throw in my coin to ensure I’d come back to Roma one day. {I also made John do it} We also went to the Pantheon which was closed. Bummer!

 

Then we found the Spanish Steppes and John and I had some alone time standing at the top of them. At that moment I thought for the FIRST time, “I’m going to marry him.” He was so perfect in that moment. He had protected me through all this new stuff. He had made me laugh nonstop the last two weeks. He had shown me more affection and chivalry than I’d ever experienced. He was the one.

On our last day in Rome, we found the Boca de Verite, a chariot racing track, and then we rode the metro to some catacombs. It was a full and rewarding day.

John and another friend were going to a few extra countries before returning home. He was scheduled to leave at 4 AM the next day. We hugged and hugged before we said goodnight. I was surprised at how close we had grown as a couple surrounded by so many people. Before he left to go back to his hotel, he gave me a magnet with the Spanish Steppes on it. He told me he would miss me and that this would be our first magnet and that we would collect many others…together.

Three of my girlfriends and I left the next day around 8 AM. We were flying into New York City {another place I had not been} and were going to stay the night and part of the next day there before flying home. So we tried to do NYC in less than 24 hours!

We rode the subway with all of our luggage into Times Square, checked into our hotel, and then one of my friends and I RAN {in the rain} to the Gershwin Theater to see Wicked! We got there just after it had started. I was EXHAUSTED, but thoroughly enjoyed it. On the way back to the hotel we stopped to get some NYC street food!

The next day we went to 30 Rockefeller Plaza, The Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, and everywhere in between. We then rushed to check out of the hotel, ride the subway to JFK, and then headed home.

What an AMAZING vacation. It was filled with things I’d never seen and a realization of how different the world is outside of the U.S. {like people just throw trash in the street!, you have to PAY for water, you have to PAY to use a restroom}.

I will never forget the joy I felt as I got to check off so many things off my bucket list. I would highly recommend this type of vacation and wish I could go again!

 

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