805-312-6886

Secrets of the Ponte Vecchio


Ponte Vecchio

As the Nazis retreated from Florence during World War II, they blew up all of the bridges across the River Arno, except one: the Ponte Vecchio, which was evidently saved on Hitler’s personal orders. This was where he had met the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in 1938, cementing the “pact of steel” alliance. The Führer had been so impressed by the elegant “Old Bridge,” which had graced the spot since being built in stone in 1345, that he decided to save it. Instead, the German army blew up all of the ancient buildings on either side, so that the bridge could not be used by the Allies, but the Ponte Vecchio itself was salvaged for posterity.

Today, thousands flock to this glorious arched edifice to buy gold and silver from local vendors, much as they have since 1593, when the Grand Duke Ferdinando Medici ordered that metalworkers and jewelers replace the butchers and tanners who worked there. He wanted a more pleasant walkway and was offended by the stench of rotting meat and the pungent odors of hides that were cured in horse urine and washed in the river. A bust of Benevento Cellini, the most accomplished of all Renaissance goldsmiths, stands as a reminder of this great tradition.

In its heyday, like all bridges of the period, the Ponte Vecchio was bustling with merchants and crowded with domestic residences, taverns, and shops. Today, if you visit the bridge in the early morning or at night, when the vendors’ stone-walled stalls are closed, you can see city’s ancient symbol, a stylized lily (not unlike the fleur de lis), used as a decorative pattern on the metal hinges of all the wooden shutters.

But at any time of day, make sure you look up and spot the barred round windows in the top level of the bridge. Unbeknownst to most visitors, a secret passage runs above the Ponte Vecchio. It was added by the Medici family in 1565 so that they could get from the Uffizi to the Palazzo Pitti without having to weave through the crowds and risk assassination. It is known as the Vasari Corridor after its designer, Giorgio Vasari, and its circular windows are called “the eyes of Florence.” Through them, the Medicis could spy on their subjects and even eavesdrop on conversations. It was actually in this passageway that Adolf met Benito back in 1938, in order to hatch their plans in privacy.

Source: Secrets of the Ponte Vecchio


Cruising the Celebrity Edge

Having spent 7 days on the Celebrity Edge has spoiled me to cruise any other ship. We found nothing negative that would detract from a magical and awesome cruise experience. This ship is alluring, mysterious with her works of art and relaxing soothing music in the halls. My wife and I cruised (I should say experienced) the Edge December 16-23, 2018. That is the correct definition, this is not just a cruise it’s an experience.

Celebrity Edge App

Once at the new state of the art cruise terminal in Port Everglades, you will start to see the sleek designs, the clean lines and ease of embarkation. At 11am, the boarding process starts with the suite class and continues until all valued guests are aboard. Go straight to your stateroom, drop off any carry-on luggage, pick up your room cards and you are on your way to relaxation. The Oceanview Café (buffet) is open for lunch, for Suite Class the Luminae restaurant is open, Aqua Class – Blu and Concierge Class the Cosmopolitan dining room. Be prepared for mandatory Muster drill before the voyage.

Oceanview Cafe

Next start exploring the ship, I cannot recommend where; that is up to you. It may be staring on deck 4 where you will find Café Al Bacio a coffee bar for all coffee drinks. For connectivity opportunities there is the iLounge, just up the hall is the future cruise desk then make a left into The Club. The Club is where you will find multiple activities throughout the day and it turns into a cool night club in the evening where you can find dueling DJ’s or just dance well into the morning.

The Club

Main dining is split into four (4) different areas on deck 4 is Cosmopolitan and Cyprus Restaurants and on deck 3 is Normandie and Tuscan restaurants. Each have the same main dining menu, but each restaurant has a unique specialty different at each restaurant. We did try all four and fell in love with Normandie. Look to the Starboard wall to see the homage of wood panels from the original Normandie.

Normandie Restaurant

I do have to mention the public restrooms, there are no door handles, very Star Trek like with a push button and the door slides open. This is a better solution to combat germs as one can use an elbow to depress the white opaque button. I thought this was a cool feature, I just need my flip open communicator and fleet uniform.

With advances in technology come changes to the traditional way of doing things. For example, trivia is now electronic played on your smartphone via the free ship wi-fi. Understand, wi-fi that will allow you to surf the web, that is still a pay for item. The free ship wi-fi will allow you to access trivia and future interactive features propriety to the ship.

I highly recommend spending a few dollars for at least one specialty dining restaurant. Hint, book your specialty dining before the cruise through your Cruise Planner©. Two can’t miss venues, Dinner on the Edge and Le Petit Chef™. Dinner on the Edge is fresco dining amplified with a stunning views and excellent food. This specialty dining experience is only offered once during the cruise. Once on board you can book Dinner on the Edge, act fast as this reservation fills up quickly.

Le Petit Chef

Hands down the very best specialty dining experience on the ship, Le Petit Chef™. If you can only pick just one, this is the one that will delight all your senses. It’s part show, part culinary excellence and all whimsey. It is simply one of the most unique dining experiences in the world.  Your table comes to life as four chefs from around the world delight you with a creative dish from their home country. 3D animation transforms your plate and table into a theatric spectacle. The show is the center piece to this dining experience, the food does not take a back seat to the show. Each dish is not only creative but a treat for your pallet. Each induvial course is prepared to perfection.

One of the positives of this ship is the works of art at every turn. On deck three you can even peek at the hull of the ship. What company is brave enough to peel back her inner walls and show you her bare skin um, hull. It is an awesome thing to stand there and see the weld ribbons, rivets and builders’ notes or marks. Look for the brilliant blue painting that is spilling out from the frame onto the floor. Each stair landing mid-ship has interesting works of art from whimsical to mysterious. Even the elevators are adorned with a work of art giving each car a unique vibe. There is one work of art that can’t be missed, Avalon.

AVALON
AVALON

Avalon is the path to Eden, a space unique in nature playful and sinful. Eden is a not just a place on the ship (aft) it is a transformative experience unlike anything at sea. By day Eden is a place to relax, chill to read a book or divest your electronic devices and have a conversation. There is Eden café serving paninis, varied pastas and a carving station. Take in the aft view with a series of wrap around windows scaling three decks. Find your little space in Eden and relax. By the late afternoon, Eden is changing to a place where vibe is more specialty drinks (The Forbidden) and introduction to the Eden inhabitants as they perform. By night Eden is called sinful, a transformation where you will meet all the inhabitants of Eden.

There are not enough words or accolades that I can put into writing that will truly capture the total essence of the Edge. Every crew member we encountered mostly greeted us with a smile and greeting befitting the hour. Two stood out to us that made this cruise so heartwarming. At the Martini bar is Johannes, simply the best bartender on the ship. His infectious smile is the path to the caring way he treats each guest as if they were the only one at his bar. Our stateroom attendant Evita always greeted us with a smile along with our names each encounter. Our stateroom was always kept immaculate.

Another transformative space is the Roof Top Garden where during the day you can relax outdoors, sink into a comfy lounge or watch a movie on the huge screen. Satisfy your cravings with gourmet burgers, brisket, and BBQ at the Rooftop Garden Grill or drift away to the rhythm of live musical performances coming down to you from treetop sculptures. At night dance like no one is watching as a live band plays your favorite songs. Or just lie back on a comfy lounger and gaze up at the sea of stars above.

THE MAGIC CARPET

Now for what makes the Edge well…the Edge! It all about the magic Carpet, an extension of the ship that when on deck 2 is a stable platform for tendering, on deck 5 an extension of specialty restaurant Raw on 5, and on deck 14 it is a part of the retreat deck open seating with bar service. Sitting in one of the comfortable chairs on the Magic Carpet extended over the Starboard side is an exhilarating experience. What you don’t exactly see is the way the Magic Carpet is lighted on the exterior, being in port with the reflective windows of the cruise ship next to the Edge is when we got to see the light show.

There is so much to take in that a simple blog is just a teaser to whet your appetite for a different cruise experience. Throw out your thoughts of traditional cruising which might offend some long-time traditional cruisers, but that is why there are other ships. To enjoy the Edge come with an open mind and heart. I spoke to a few guests while cruising and found some of the older cruisers more in tune with specific items such as having the forward-facing lounge were a deal breaker. They just could not get over that there was not a forward lounge. However, there were seasoned cruisers that fell in love with the Edge. In any case, the Celebrity Edge has spoiled us. As we were to disembark my wife and I felt more like we were leaving a family of friends not a cruise ship.

Do you want to cruise on the Edge? Contact our travel professional for your Edge experience (805) 312-6886 or info@happyfeettravelclub.com


Explore Your Wine Backyard

Wine tasting rooms seem to crop up everywhere with the popularity of wine tasting growing with the Millennial Generation. However, wineries in areas where vineyards are close by are growing as well. It is not uncommon to venture into a business park and see winery. A small tasting room where offices once were and huge warehouse space dedication now to barrels of fermenting wine.

Ventura County has always been associated with agriculture and well, a vineyard is still agriculture. We may associate glamor with wine and why not, the wine lifestyle Is perceived as privileged. Let’s come back to reality, at the end of the day the vineyard is still farmed by people who lovingly tend to each vine. Least we forget what affects crops also may have an impact on grapevines, so next time you open that bottle of liquid goodness raise a glass to the farmer and winemaker.

 

Exploring local wineries not only supports the local economy, there is the possibly of building a relationship with the owners of the winery. Wine is a passion, and no one has more passion for wine than the winemaker. Once you sit down and have the winemaker explain the way they prepared, fermented or bottled the wine it adds a dimension to the wine tasting experience.
If traveling through the area, Ventura County, check out some of our local favorite wineries. It’s my blog so yes, I am playing favorites.

 

#1 Magnavino Cellars 961 N. Rice Ave Suite 5 Oxnard www.magnavinocellars.com

#2 Four Brix Winery 2290 Eastman Ave Suite 109 Ventura www.fourbrixwine.com
#3 Herzog Wine Cellars 3201 Camino Del Sol Oxnard www.herzogwinecellars.com
#4 Camarillo Custom Crush Winery 300 S. Lewis Rd Camarillo www.camarillocustomcrush.com
#5 Strey Cellars 951 N. Rice Ave Oxnard www.streycellars.com

 

Ok, that’s only 5 of the more than 30 in the area to visit. Each winery is unique and offer something for every wine style. Happy Feet Travel Club offers a weekend get-a-way for approximately $300 per person including 2 night lodging and private tours of 4 wineries of your choice.


Why multigenerational travel is popular

When was the last time you connected with your family? First, lets assume you want to be together with your immediate family. I’m not talking about the twice a year visits during a special occasion or the holidays. I am leading this conversation to taking a vacation; yes, spending a few days or longer with your parents, grandparents and siblings.

A few months ago, my wife and I spent a week on a cruise ship with her family, four generations. Mom had turned 80 and as part of her birthday present the kids pitched in for a cruise. We had our octogenarian all the way to the adorable 5-year-old. Of course, the 5-year-old child stole the show and captured the attention of the crew and fellow passengers.

This plan started almost a year prior to cursing our California Coastal, mutigenerational cruise. In this case, the trip was all about the experience of being together rather than the destination. However, seeing San Francisco at night from our balcony was a magical experience. Sailing under the Golden Gate bridge was cause for celebratory hoots and hollers. Maybe even raising a glass to toast our fellow revelers.

Generational travel is becoming more popular each passing year. A perfect way to get multiple generations together for a reasonable price is a cruise. We secured 5 cabins in a row each couple or family occupying a balcony cabin. None of our category of cabins offered the adjoining room feature; however, if that is your preference, we can arrange adjoining cabins. Step out on the balcony and you will notice the sides can open allowing access between the cabins. We asked our room steward to unlock the appropriate dividers allowing the 5-year-old to run freely and the convenience of arranging activities together.

The benefits of each couple or family having their own cabin is privacy and not having to share a room with a family member that may not have the same routines. Another benefit is the freedom to do separate activities and shore excursions. At the end of the day you can dine together and reminisce about the activities of the day and what is on tap for the rest of the evening.

Parents take note, cell service is not operational in international waters. There is onboard wi-fi, but it is not free and the cost for a family may be prohibitive. This translates to no smartphones at dinner, what a concept that a conversation might break out whereby freaking out the teenagers.

Think the children will not have anything to do, on certain cruise lines there are waterslides or rock walls along with other age appropriate activities directed towards the entertainment of children from 3-17. On the Ruby Princess they have Camp Discovery; The Treehouse for ages 3-7, The Lodge for ages 8-12 and The Beach House for ages 13-17. You should have no reservation about taking the children on your cruise, by the way, you need them for the generational picture.

This leads me to the most valuable benefit of cruising together. I witnessed four generations sit for their picture and my thoughts turned to family and the value of capturing that moment in time. No one was arguing, just four big smiles from four generations creating a perfect moment captured on film, well okay digital.

All too often I hear this phrase, “someday I will do…. with the family”. There is no price I can put on the experience of mom’s surprise when she entered her cabin and there was a bouquet of flowers with a Happy Birthday wish from all of her family. Or, seeing the wonder in the eyes of a 5-year-old mesmerized by the visual effects of a Broadway style production in the Princess Theater.

What does your someday look like?


Meet Me in the Cheap Seats

Recent events in the news has me thinking about what is not mentioned when it comes to airlines contracts of carriage. Did you book your flight online? By clicking the I agree or continue to pay button, you are agreeing to the fare rules, conduct rules and baggage rules. Yes, I said rules because that is the terminology used by United Airlines. American Airlines uses the term, Conditions of Carriage.

Read More …


We made it through…the Bermuda Triangle!

DSC_0067

Skirting the northwest part of the Bermuda Triangle we arrived safely in Kings Wharf this past week to the picture perfect Royal Naval Dockyard. The week of August 21 my wife and I decided to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary on a cruise to Bermuda, the same place where we spent our honeymoon.

It all started with an overnight cross-country flight to Newark, NJ. This trip was 60% familiarization (FAM) trip and 40% pleasure or something like that. The point is, when one of our clients asks about a cruise to Bermuda, we have the experience. So what has changed in 20 years since our first trip? Continue reading to find out. (Look for the link at the end of the blog for a chance to win a $5 Starbucks card.)

Read More …


Happy Feet Travel – Purpose with Compassion

giving back

At the start of our travel agency, we committed to giving back.  In our personal lives we sponsor a child through Compassion International as well as contributions to various organizations that are personal to us.

Read More …


Happy Feet “Hump Day” Happenings…What type of traveler are you?

 

[playbuzz-item url=”//www.playbuzz.com/ariele10/what-type-of-traveler-are-you”]

Learn what type of traveler you are, whether excited, lazy, or slightly odd. Are you the “make the best of it!” type or the “screw it, I’m done!” type? Find out when you take this quiz!

Read More …


Monaco F1 Races

Have you ever wanted to go see the Formula 1 Race in Monaco?  We are looking at cruising to Monaco in May 2017 with tickets to the Formula 1 race.  Interested? Leave your information at the bottom of this post so that we can let you know more details…

Read More …


Ever wonder why hotels don’t have a Room 420?

[playbuzz-item url=”//www.playbuzz.com/nancymcgovern10/why-hotels-have-to-avoid-having-room-420″]


© 2017: Happy Feet Travel Club, All Rights Reserved | Developed By WINCRED IT | Travel Theme by: D5 Creation | Powered by: WordPress