Home » Posts tagged 'Playbill Travel' (Page 2)

Tag Archives: Playbill Travel

Travel 2017: Strolling Through Paris: Day Eight

One day.

If you had only one day to explore one of the world’s most famous cities– how would you approach it? Would you try to see all the important landmarks? Take a tour? Explore on you own?

There’s obviously no real right or wrong way to do it. You just have to go with your gut instincts.

Today was our one full day to discover Paris. Actually, we only had eight hours before a champagne river cruise on the Seine– the kick off for our Playbill Broadway cruise which officially launches tomorrow from Avignon. We had dinner reservations booked immediately following, so we had to make the most of the day.

I had ideas of where I wanted to go– but was determined I wasn’t going to get bogged down (and in a rush) with a packed itinerary. I just wanted to experience Paris and with few strings– let it happen organically.

At breakfast, we FINALLY got to see our friends, George and Mary. They are the easiest couple to travel with– and so much fun!

Michael was feeling a little under the weather, so when Mary and George said they’d accompany me on the first leg of the journey– he chose to stay at the hotel and rest.

So we headed out, uphill, in the direction of four places I’d included on the master list of places I’d like to see.

 

Holy Trinity Church in the 9th Arrondissement.

 

Montmartre. Montmarte was the trendy neighborhood of days gone by. Writers and artists such as Hemmingway, Piccaso, and Van Gogh once spent their days here. Though considered touristy today, I found the area quite charming and peaceful. Corner parks, tree-lined streets, cafes, street vendors– all culminate in a rather exciting, yet tranquil experience. I wanted to see the iconic windmill of Moulin Rouge, the I Love You Wall, and Sacre Coeur— in addition to just soaking in the atmosphere of Montmartre.

 

The world famous, Moulin Rouge.

 

Moulin Rouge in Montmartre.

 

One of the many charming, city squares in Montmartre.

 

The I Love You Wall is the new Love Locks (more on this later) of Paris. Le mur des je t’aime is where love comes together in every language. Artist Frédéric Baron with the help of  Claire Kito (oriental calligrapher) created the 612 tile mural described as “a link, a place of reconciliation, a mirror which reflects an image of love and peace.”

The phrase “I love you” is written 311 times in 250 languages with splashes of red representing parts of a broken heart.

You can visit the wall (free) at Butte Montmartre, Place des Abbesses, in the Square Jehan Rictus, Paris.

 

Full view of the I Love You Wall by Frédéric Baron.

 

I Love You Wall- Frédéric Baron. In Square Jehan Rickes, Paris.

 

Me at the wall.

 

Near that square is Eglise Saint John de Montmartre. So many churches in Europe (unlike the U.S.) are open for prayer and visitation, all day, 7 days a week. We couldn’t resist stopping and admiring its architecture.

 

Eglise Saint John de Montmartre.

 

Inside Saint John de Montmartre Church.

 

Stain glass windows in Eglise Saint John de Montmartre.

 

 

“The Three Little Pig”- a street view in Montmartre.

 

As we strolled through the streets, I thought we might view the Basilica of Sacre Coeur. We were already too close to it to find an unobstructed view. We came across a steep staircase– and with only a little convincing, George and Mary agreed to make the climb. This led to two more steep climbs that took us directly to the base of Sacre Coeur. There is an incredible overlook here with an expansive park below.

 

The Basilica of the Sacret Heart of Paris, most commonly known as Sacre Coeur.

 

One of several talented buskers in front of Sacre Coeur, providing entertainment for visitors.

 

In front of Sacre Coeur is this beautiful park and overlook with gorgeous views of Paris.

 

The overlook was the most crowded spot we visited in Montmartre, but that wasn’t a drawback– there was a carnival like atmosphere in the air.

George and Mary had been there before but it had been 30 years ago. Both agreed that it was worth the climb to experience it again. I was just happy to be there with them. Michael would have loved this spot too– but not the climb!

 

Mary and George at Sacre Coeur.

 

We then began the steep descent, heading back in the direction of our hotel, taking different streets, continuing to explore as we went. It was the perfect way to spent part of a day in Paris.

 

There were three sets of steep stairs we had to travel to get to and from Sacre Coeur.

 

One of many cozy little cafes frequented by locals.

 

A fresh fruit market in Montmartre.

 

Notre Dame de Lorette is a neoclassical church. Built beginning in 1823.

 

Académie Nationale de Musique.

 

Another view of the beautiful architecture of the Académie Nationale de Musique.

 

Returning from our beautiful morning stroll, approaching our hotel, Hotel Scribe.

 

When we got back to the hotel, I only had time to freshen up, get Michael and then we headed back out in the direction of the River Seine and the Île de la Cité. One of two remaining natural islands within the city of Paris.

 

 

A Paris cozy park.

 

Many news, art and souvenir vendors line sidewalks overlooking the the River Seine.

 

The Louvre.

 

We passed the Louvre and reached Île de la Cité and spent some time at Notre Dame de Paris. Featuring French Gothic architecture, it was completed by 1345, survived damage during the French Revolution, and received its first major restoration in 1845.

It’s a beautiful cathedral. Even though there are usually long lines of visitors waiting to get in, they move very quickly. Visiting is free, although there is a charge if you want to climb the narrow stairs to the bell tower. (Which we didn’t do.)

My one regret– in our effort to keep moving, was that I forgot to find Paris Point Zero. It is the marker that supposedly designates the exact center of Paris and France. It is the point from which all distances in France (from Paris) are measured.

 

 

Notre Dame Cathedral.

 

The iconic window of Notre Dame.

 

Inside the the glorious cathedral.

 

Sanctuary lamps inside Notre Dame.

 

 

Looking up at just a small sample of the many beautiful stained glass windows in Notre Dame.

 

From there, we walked along the River Seine until we reached the Square du Vert-Galant and Pont Neuf bridge. The square is a park honoring Henry IV of France. The Pont Neuf bridge is the oldest surviving bridge across the Seine.

 

Statue of King Henry IV located behind the Place Dauphine.

 

River Seine from Pont Neuf.

 

You may have heard of Love Locks on the Pont des Arts bridge. The affixing the locks to the bridge was used to symbolize love. In just five years the bridge was covered in locks. Officials feared for the weight and damage they were causing the bridge.  They were removed– an estimated million padlocks, in 2015. Well, they are reappearing on other bridges, including Pont Neuf.

 

Love Locks on the Pont Neuf overlooking the Seine.

 

Thousands of locks of love can still be found on bridges in Paris.

 

Reaching the bridge quicker than we expected, we had some time before the rest of the group would arrive for the Playbill Champagne River Cruise. We walked around the point of the island and enjoyed the views from Pont Neuf– just soaking up the atmosphere.

We met our friends at the boat launch and prepared for a lovely cruise on the river. The private event was organized by Playbill Travel.

Janet and Ken arrived, having been delayed a day by a flight cancellation, and we were all thrilled to be reunited.

 

Beautiful afternoon for a boat ride on the River Seine.

 

Institut de France and the Pont des Arts Bridge.

 

Palais de Justice from the River Seine.

 

Michael and I as we pass the Eiffel Tower on the River Seine.

 

Our very dear friend Janet, happy to start her birthday celebration.

 

Musée d’Orsay.

 

The incredible view of the backside of Notre Dame Cathedral.

 

After we got off the boat, we had a little time before our dinner reservations to wander Pont Neuf. We also had a birthday surprise for Janet. There was a quaint little vintage jewelry store (Jeanne Danjou et Rousselet) on the island where we had a gift– wrapped and waiting for her. Janet loved the surprise.

We had found the store online (back at home) and picked out a vintage necklace, as a gift from all of us– that they graciously agreed to hold for us to pick up in person. Michael and Mary went in the store with Janet while George, Ken and I watched from outside the shop window. They even resized it for her on the spot.

Our restaurant was just around the corner, on a square where a number of people were playing Boules (Bocce in Italy).  We arrived promptly at 7 pm at the charming and historic, Restaurant Paul for dinner. The food and the service was great– a perfect birthday celebration for Janet.

 

Our wonderful dinner location- the historic Restaurant Paul.

 

After dinner, we caught the sun setting on the Seine. A stunning combination of color and light playing off the water and bridges as day turned to night.

 

Sunset in Paris over the River Seine and the Pont Neuf Bridge.

 

We got back to the hotel and packed so we’d be ready for our early morning transport to the train to Avignon.

I added at least another 9 miles walking today. A pretty fulfilling experience. My own unique introduction to Paris, the City of Lights.

 

Travel Date: May 20, 2017 Saturday (Day 8)

London, Paris, Amsterdam and Broadway on the Rhone

It’s hard to believe this day is finally here! We started planning this trip in February 2016 when Playbill Travel announced their inaugural river cruise. This will be our first as well, while it’s our fourth vacation built around a Playbill Broadway Cruise. This ship, Uniworld’s S.S. Catherine,  holds about half the passengers of the Broadway at Sea cruises from the past few years. This cruise actually sold out before it could go on sale to the public.

We weighed some options and building around the cruise, we came up with a pretty exciting trip. Nineteen days in Europe, start to finish. We start with five days in London, then take the Eurostar train to Paris for three days, followed by the Broadway on the Rhone River Cruise and finally three days in Amsterdam before flying home.

So here’s a quick preview of our trip:

London

Having just visited last September, we saw many of the historical places of interest and found how easy it was to get around using the Tube. This time we’re seeing nine shows (yes, nine shows in 5 days) in the West End. We’re staying at the incredibly beautiful, St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel again which connects directly to the Eurostar at St. Pancras International. When we’re not in the theatre, we hope to visit a few of the museums and places we didn’t have time to get to on our last trip.

Paris

Our first time. So many things we’d like to see and do– but we’re keeping our options open so we can focus on enjoying the ambience of the city. Hotel Scribe will be our home base for a few days. We’re definitely making a trip to Versailles, must see the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, we’re seeing the show at Paradis Latin and have a short champagne cruise through Paris on the Seine. I’m really hoping to spend time in the Montmartre district and make a quick visit to the island of Grand Jatte. We’ll probably skip the museums this time and have to plan a longer stay in the future to experience more of what Paris has to offer.

Broadway on the Rhone

Sponsored by Playbill Travel, this Rhone river cruise starts in the south of France and visits: Avignon, Arles, Tarascon, Viviers, Tournon/Tain L’Hermitage, Macon and Lyon. World renowned sommelier Jean-Luc le Du will be on board, sharing his love and knowledge of the wines, cheese and chocolates of the region. Evenings will feature entertainment by Broadway veterans Rebecca Luker, Paulo Szot, Liz Callaway and James Barbour, accompanied by Grammy and Emmy Award winning Music Director, John McDaniel.

Amsterdam

At the top of my bucket list of places to visit has always been the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. We’ve already booked our tickets. We also booked a half day trip to Zaanse Schans, Voldendam and Marken in the Dutch countryside. Windmills anyone? There are also several museums and a canal cruise we hope to enjoy, not to mention the necessary stroll through the infamous red light district,  known around the world. I think we’re too late for tulips but you never know!

 

I’ll be posting what I can, when I can on social media as well as blog posts of our daily activities– though they may be posted later, depending on time and Internet availability. I hope some of you will follow along– join us on our journey!

 

 

Travel 2016: Day Thirteen – Bonifacio, Corsica, France

Bonifacio is a French commune (city) on the island of Corsica (Corse). It is a fortress city with a modest population of just under 3,000 inhabitants. Though it has a Roman origin, the island changed hands several times and in 1769 was conquered by France. Still, it retains much of its Italian culture to this day.

We tendered in from our ship to the gorgeous little harbour, nestled among the high cliffs of the island. From the port, we took a short train (tram) ride– uphill, to the top of the city sitting high above the sea.

Plaque commemorating the house where Napoleon had once lived.

Plaque commemorating the house where Napoleon had once lived.

After a rather long-winded introduction, our guide took us through the narrow streets of Bonifacio,  pointing out several churches and showing us some of the more breathtaking scenic spots. Along the Rue des Deux Empereurs we saw where Napoleon lodged (1793) and where Charles V had lived (1541), across the street.

Bonifacio has the feel of a resort town, full of history with many quaint shops and restaurants.

Once we were oriented, we were on our own to explore. George, Mary and I chose to take a boat ride from the harbour along the coast while Michael did some shopping along the docks.

As you can see from the pictures, the scenery is just gorgeous. It was all enhanced by perfect weather and great company to share it with.

 

The rocky coast of Corsica.

The rocky coast of Corsica.

 

Looking out at the Mediterranean Sea.

Looking out at the Mediterranean Sea.

 

Michael, George, Mary and I in Bonifacio.

Michael, George, Mary and I in Bonifacio.

 

On the street in Bonifacio.

On the street in Bonifacio.

 

I loved the textures in this shot.

I loved the textures in this shot.

 

A typical street in Bonifacio, Corsica.

A typical street in Bonifacio, Corsica.

 

Looking down towards the stunning harbour.

Looking down towards the stunning harbour.

 

Starting the steep descent from the top of Bonafacio.

Starting the steep descent from the top of Bonifacio.

 

The fortress wall from our little tour boat in the harbour.

The fortress walls from our little tour boat in the harbour.

 

Leaving the harbour.

Leaving the harbour.

 

Inside the Cave of Sdragonato.

Inside the Cave of Sdragonato.

 

You can see where the rock of the island of Corsica changes from limestone to granite.

You can see where the rock of the island of Corsica changes from limestone to granite.

 

Bonifacio sitting high on the linestone cliffs of Corsica.

Bonifacio sitting high on the limestone cliffs of Corsica.

 

Last Night Onboard. The last night of a cruise is always difficult because you’re trying to say goodbye to everyone, pack and get your bags out to be moved off the ship by the staff; plus you still have dinner and a big final show. So between rushing around and trying to get everyone coordinated for our last dinner together, it was kind of a circus.

We made some great new friends and got to spend time with some of our favorite people from past cruises as well. Since many of us live all over the United States, and Anthony and Michael in London– you just never know when you’ll see each other again.

The good news is that quite a few of us have booked the Broadway on the Rhone River Cruise in May so we have that to look forward to in 2017.

The Big Show. Our final show of the cruise featured all of the performers including the ‘Broadway Ambassadors’ that didn’t give solo concerts. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Faith Prince on stage with her husband Larry Lunetta playing his trumpet.
  • Charles Busch singing “Those Were the Days” – It was a master class in storytelling.
  • Laura Osnes and Lindsay Mendez singing “For Good” – Both got emotional and teary eyed; sweet, spontaneous emotion.
  • Hudson Flynn, Lila Crawford, Juli Wesley performing – Hudson is the multi-talented son of Andrea Burns and Peter Flynn; Lila played Annie in the most Broadway revival and Little Red in the film version of Into the Woods;  and Juli is the wonderful daughter of Seth Rudetsky and James Welsey. (Juli celebrated her 16th birthday on the trip!)
  • West Side Story Quintet – This was the show finale- thrown together in an hour! Featuring Chita Rivera singing Anita ( the role she originated); Andrea Burns (Maria) and husband, director Peter Flynn (Tony) – they met playing those roles in a European tour of West Side Story!;  The rest of the performers made up the Jets and Sharks.

 

Faith Prince

Faith Prince

 

Faith Prince & husband, Larry Lunetta

Faith Prince & husband, Larry Lunetta

 

Lila Crawford

Lila Crawford

 

Chita Rivera

Chita Rivera

 

Adam Pascal

Adam Pascal

 

Charles Busch

Charles Busch

 

Hudson Flynn, Lila Crawford & Juli Wesley

Hudson Flynn, Lila Crawford & Juli Wesley

 

Seth Rudetsky, Music Director and Master of Ceremonies

Seth Rudetsky, Music Director and Master of Ceremonies

 

The Creative Team & Travel Pros for BOTHS7.

The Creative Team & Travel Pros for BOTHS7.

Up Late. A bunch of us congregated afterwards for the last time. Bill, Paul, Janet, Ron and a few others came and went, chatting and saying their goodbyes. Michael left to go put his luggage out- it was supposed to be out by 11:30– and I assured him I was right behind him. As everyone left, Janet and I stopped and chatted for a few minutes with Andrea Burns in the lounge.

I escorted Janet to the elevator than headed back to the room. Of course, me being me, I was late getting my bags out– so they sat there all night. I went up to the casino to meet Michael, we played some slots, then headed back to the room and called it a night.

 

Tomorrow we disembark and head back to Rome for a day at the Vatican.

Travel 2016: Day Twelve – The Italian Ruins of Nora and a Broadway Legend

It was a sunny but hazy morning as we hurried through breakfast and our morning routine.

We boarded the coach bus for day’s tour and it seemed to take forever to get out of the port. We maneuvered through traffic and our guide gave us some of the history of the region as we trudged along.

The Devil's Saddle on the coast of Sardinia.

The Devil’s Saddle on the coast of Sardinia.

It felt like as soon as we actually started moving, we were stopping at an overlook for a panoramic view of the area. We had Cagliari on one side and the Devil’s Saddle on the other.

The Devil’s Saddle is a natural rock formation, jutting out into the sea. The legend says that the Devil loved the beauty of the Cagliari coast. God sent Archangel Michael with an army of angels to banish Lucifer. During the battle, Lucifer was thrown from his horse, losing his seat which later turned to stone.

Cagliari is the capital city of the Italian island of Sardinia.  It has about 150,000 residents and is the largest city on the island.

 

Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy.

Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy.

It was a nice little stop, not rushed and some great views. The haze hadn’t burned off so my pictures don’t really do it justice.

Archaeological Site of Nora. Nora is located on a peninsula. A portion of it is submerged because the southern part of Sardinia is slowly sinking into the Mediterranean Sea.  An ancient Roman town, only part of Nora has been excavated because much of it is under the control of the Italian Army. The part that has been excavated is not nearly as impressive as the ruins of Pompeii, but jutting out into the ocean, it’s a wonder that this much has survived.

From Nora, the skies over Sardinia.

From Nora, the skies over Sardinia.

There’s a substantial amount of walking, nothing treacherous–  just getting to the site from the parking. Along the way is a beautiful public beach, a rocky coast line and on the other side- a nice view of the island’s mountains.

At the actual entrance, there is a nice little cafe where we stopped to use the facilities while our guide purchased our tickets.

We entered the site and the guide stopped to talk… and talk…. and talk. True to form, Michael and I got bored and decided to wander off, keeping the group in sight so we didn’t repeat our Pompeii incident.

At one point as we were wandering, Michael’s attention was drawn one direction and I walked off in another. Suddenly, alarms were going off– which I ignored– until they sounded a second time. There was also an announcement to return to the main path. I still wasn’t sure it was me until I turn back the direction I’d come from and saw two of those small security cameras pointed my direction. I’m still not sure exactly why the area was restricted. It wasn’t marked, it wasn’t roped off and looked no different than the rest of the pathways. I guess this is why you’re supposed to follow your guide!

 

Much of the ruins of Nora look like this.

Much of the ruins of Nora look like this.

 

Excavated Walls of the Ruins of Nora.

Excavated Walls of the Ruins of Nora.

 

Portions of a surviving mosaic floor.

Portions of a surviving mosaic floor.

 

The Ruins of Nora set against a stunning backdrop.

The Ruins of Nora set against a stunning backdrop.

 

We were given very little time to explore so we made the most of it. As it turns out, had there been time, we could have gone out and explored one of the two watch towers on the site.

 

One of two watch towers at Nora.

One of two watch towers at Nora.

 

I’d highly recommend that anyone interested in visiting Nora, make it a relaxing day trip and plan on some beach time while you’re there. Though the ruins themselves aren’t spectacular, the location and views are. A lovely place to spend a relaxing day.

 

Autograph Session, Part Due. Back on the ship, we went to the second autograph session with the other half of the performers. Immediately following, we went to dinner, excitement building for the headline performance to follow.

 

Our framed, autographed poster from Broadway On the High Seas 7.

Our framed, autographed poster from Broadway On the High Seas 7.

 

Chita Rivera in Concert.  Who hasn’t heard of Chita Rivera? The legendary star of such Broadway musicals as Can-Can, West Side Story, Chicago, Kiss of the Spider Woman and most recently, The Visit. She’s a Broadway Icon.

Chita Rivera.

Chita Rivera.

Michael and I had seen her on Broadway twice before. The Dancer’s Life (2005), was a sort of retrospective of her life and career; and the revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, played Broadway in 2012.

Her concert for us tonight, was a mix of interview and song. It featured many wonderful numbers from her illustrious career. I was most thrilled that she sang “Chief Cook & Bottle Washer”, from the musical The Rink, in which she co-starred with Liza Minnelli in 1984.

Of course, the audience loved her! She might have even given the longest concert ever on a BOTHS cruise.

 

The legendary Chita Rivera.

The legendary Chita Rivera.

 

Chita Rivera in Concert.

Chita Rivera in Concert.

 

Tomorrow is our last full day of the cruise and we’re visiting Bonifacio, Corsica, France.

Travel 2016: Day Eleven – Erice, Sicily: Feels Like Home

Our Silver Seas ship, the Silver Wind, docked in Trapani.

Our Silver Seas ship, the Silver Wind, docked in Trapani.

 

We docked this morning in Trapani, Sicily. Beautiful blue skies only added to our anticipation of exploring another new location. Today we were headed to Erice. We actually could have fit in two different locations but the scheduling would have been pretty tight. Instead, we opted to just stick with one excursion and have a more relaxed day.

Early afternoon, we boarded the bus and headed up the narrow winding roads to the top of Mount Erice. We had some pretty spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea and of Trapani below us as we climbed.

 

The view of the Mediterranean as we climbed Mount Erice.

The view of the Mediterranean as we climbed Mount Erice.

 

Looking up towards the top of Mount Erice and our destination.

Looking up towards the top of Mount Erice and our destination.

 

Just outside the city’s walls stood the Chiese Madre (Main Church) greeting us. Originally built in 1312, it actually collapsed in 1853 and was immediately rebuilt in the Neo-Gothic style.

 

Chiesa Madre against the clear blue sky.

Chiesa Madre against the clear blue sky.

 

Chiesa Madre.

Chiesa Madre.

 

We had the opportunity to spend some time inside the church and marvel at its majestic detail.

 

Inside the Chiesa Madre.

Inside the Chiesa Madre.

 

Close up of the altar in Chiesa Madre.

Close up of the altar in Chiesa Madre.

 

Intricate detail in the Chiesa Madre.

Intricate detail in the Chiesa Madre.

 

We entered the west end of Erice through the Porta Trapani, one of three entrances to the city. Erice has a long complicated history dating back to ancient times. The population here at the peak is only about 300. The city was all but abandoned by the year 1800; one of the reasons being the harsh winters.

 

The west entrance of Erice, Porta Trapani.

The west entrance of Erice- Porta Trapani.

 

There are a lot of Greek and Roman influences here. The biggest impression you get from the city is the quiet, quaint charm of it all. Even with thousands of tourists filling the streets, it remains a calm, peaceful place.

 

One of several dogs we past, lounging in the streets of Erice.

One of several dogs we past, lounging in the streets of Erice.

 

The simple, quaint charm of Erice.

The simple, quaint charm of Erice.

 

The bell tower of Chiesa di San Giuliano, Erice.

The bell tower of Chiesa di San Giuliano, Erice.

 

Our walk took us through the streets, slowly climbing upwards but not steep enough to really notice. We reached the Venus Castle, also known as Norman Castle, Torri Pepoli Castle or simply Erice Castle. The castle was built in the 12th century on top of the ancient Temple of Venus. In addition to the castle itself (now part of it is a resort hotel), you have the advantage of some of the best views in Erice.

 

Approaching Venus Castle.

Approaching Venus Castle.

 

Venus Castle.

Venus Castle.

 

A view of Sicily from the top of Mount Erice.

A view of Sicily from the top of Mount Erice.

 

The mighty fortress, Norman, or Venus Castle.

The mighty fortress: Norman, or Venus Castle.

 

The resort entrance at Venus Castle.

The resort entrance at Venus Castle.

 

Feels Like Home. At some point, Michael voiced what I was thinking, “How’d you like to live here?” A relatively peaceful, quiet, simple life- maybe not a very practical idea– but that’s just how Erice felt. Like home.

The first time I ever felt that way about a place, was in my 20’s in Greenwich Village, NYC. It was late at night, just a few days before Christmas. A light snow was falling and the city was quiet. I passed just a few people on the street and we all seemed to be enjoying the magic in the air. It just felt– right.

The next time I felt that was when Michael and I visited Stockholm a couple years ago. Strolling around the Stortorget (The Big Square), lined with brightly colored, centuries-old buildings.

It’s an incredible feeling when you find a place like that. It’s the ambience– more of a vibe than anything. Erice has that vibe. It’s sort of a fairy tale place.

 

Where the sea meets the sky.

Where the sea meets the sky.

 

Looking down on the Torretta Pepoli, part of Venus Castle.

Looking down on the Torretta Pepoli, part of Venus Castle.

 

A vendor stopped by the castle.

A vendor stopped near the castle.

 

Norman Castle is poised on top of the steep cliff.

Norman Castle is poised on top of the steep cliff walls.

 

We had time to wander the streets but our visit ended too soon. It was time to board the bus and wind our way back down Mount Erice to Trapani. We had Broadway stars waiting for us on the ship.

 

I'm waiting for the autograph session with the stars. (Photo by Mary T.)

I’m waiting for the autograph session with the stars. (Photo by Mary T.)

Autograph session. Every cruise, Playbill Travel creates a beautiful piece of frameable art that we can have signed by the Broadway performers on that trip.

For those of us (most of us) that don’t stalk the performers on the cruise, it’s an easy chance to say hi without feeling like you’re imposing.

I was disappointed though. Right before it started, we were told ‘no time for candid pictures and no conversations’– keep the line moving.

Seeing that this was the third time we’ve done these sessions– and the fact that the other two– moved quickly, even with photos and short conversations– I felt a little cheated.

I did sneak in a few pleasantries…. even if I didn’t get the chance for pictures.

 

Kate Baldwin.

Kate Baldwin.

Kate Baldwin in Concert. Another great concert tonight. This time, by the stunning Kate Baldwin.

She gave us an energetic and powerful mix of familiar and lesser-known Broadway songs from a wide variety of composers.

She has appeared on Broadway in Finian’s Rainbow, Giant and Big Fish. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Kate will star as Mrs. Malloy in Hello Dolly! with Bette Midler next spring.

 

Kate Baldwin.

Kate Baldwin.

 

Kate Baldwin during Broadway On the High Seas 7.

Kate Baldwin during Broadway On the High Seas 7.

 

Kate Baldwin in Concert.

Kate Baldwin in Concert.

 

From Home. Before bed, I checked Facebook for the day’s pictures from the boarding facility we use back home. They post daily so owners can see their pet children at play. The biggest drawback about a long vacation is missing the children. Belle and Dudley seem to be doing fine without us– a good thing– but I always wonder if they miss us as much as we miss them.

 

Belle on the left, Dudley second from the right.

Belle on the back left, Dudley second from the right.

 

Tomorrow we visit Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy.

Travel 2016: Day Ten – A Day In Malta

We were extremely anxious to get off the ship and explore a new country this morning. There was only a slight chance of rain, so we were looking forward to covering a lot of ground.

We had some beautiful views of the coast as we sailed into Valletta’s Grand Harbour in Malta. Instead of a regular excursion, we had wisely scheduled a car and guide so we could see more at our own pace.

Before the day was over we’d have toured Valletta, Vittoriosa, Rabat, and Mdina by car and on foot. We’d also do a car tour through Senglea and Cospicua.

 

Sailing into Grand Harbour, Valletta, Malta.

Sailing into Grand Harbour, Valletta, Malta.

 

Malta from our ship.

Malta from our ship.

We met our guide and walked from the port down to the waters edge to board a Dghaisa for a boat ride around the Grand Harbour before meeting our car. A dghaisa is a colorfully painted Maltese fishing boat, reminiscent of a gondola.

I really enjoyed seeing Malta from this viewpoint. I have to say though, that it was a bit of a rough ride. A little wet too. We got quite a bit of ocean spray as we hit the wave crests.

 

Touring the Grand Harbour in a Maltese dhaj

Touring the Grand Harbour in a Maltese dghaisa.

We took a short drive in the car, stopping at a spot to get another great view of the Grand Harbour.

Malta is a beautiful place. The cities we visited are made up of many densely occupied, narrow streets made of tile and stone. Most of the buildings are made of limestone, which is no surprise considering the island itself is one massive limestone rock. Walking through the streets, I loved the balconies, bay windows and shutters accenting the exteriors.

We walked down Strait Street, the most famous street in Malta. It is the hub of English, Italian and Maltese people and is known for its nightlife.

 

Malta's most famous street, Strait Street.

Malta’s most famous street, Strait Street.

 

On Strait Street.

On Strait Street.

 

We saw so much and covered so much ground–I better just touch on a few of the day’s highlights:

Grandmaster’s Palace or the Governor’s Palace.  In St. George’s Square (Valletta), the Grandmaster’s Palace is the Office of the President of Malta. It was built between the 16th and 18th centuries.

 

Guards at the entrance of the Grandmaster's Palace in St. George's Square.

Guards at the entrance of the Grandmaster’s Palace in St. George’s Square.

 

Looking into the courtyard of the Grandmaster's Palace.

Looking into the courtyard of the Grandmaster’s Palace.

 

Casa Rocca Piccola is a 16th century palace and a ‘living museum’. The 9th Baron of Budach and the 9th Marquis de Piro, Nicholas de Piro; and his wife, Frances, are the first family to open their home to the public.

We actually met the Marchioness (Frances) when we arrived. She greeted us before our tour of their house. We later met the Marquis as he was searching the house for someone to help him with his new computer. They were both very friendly and welcoming.

The Marquis’ additional claim to fame is that he is a prolific author, having written many books on Maltese history.

 

At the entrance to the Casa Rocca Piccola.

At the entrance to the Casa Rocca Piccola.

 

The Green Room in Casa Rocca Piccola.

The Green Room in Casa Rocca Piccola.

 

The Family Chapel.

The Family Chapel.

 

The Summer Dining Room.

The Summer Dining Room.

 

The Garden at Casa Rocca Piccola.

The Garden at Casa Rocca Piccola.

After touring the house, we were invited to tea, coffee and fresh cannoli in the garden.

Kiku is the family macaw who spends warm days greeting visitors in the garden. Kiku is even on Twitter!

Kiku enjoying the Garden.

Kiku enjoying the Garden.

Before leaving the house, we went underground, through tunnels to explore where over 100 people were sheltered from bombing during WWII. It was dark, damp and a little chilling.

St. John’s Co-Cathedral was built in the 1570’s and dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. It contains nine chapels. It barely escaped destruction in World War II– all the art having been moved out and hidden– so none of it was lost. A major restoration began in the late 1980’s. It is considered one of the finest examples of surviving Baroque architecture in Europe.

 

The Facade of St. John's Co-Cathedral under renovation.

The Facade of St. John’s Co-Cathedral under renovation.

 

Ornate Walls and Ceiings inside St. John's Co-Cathedral.

Ornate Walls and Ceilings inside St. John’s Co-Cathedral.

 

St. John's Co-Cathdral.

St. John’s Co-Cathedral.

 

The marble floor is actually a series of tombs.

The marble floor is actually a series of tombs.

 

We enjoyed a nice walk through Valletta before rejoining our car.

 

I loved the splashes of color again the limestone.

I loved the splashes of color against the limestone.

 

Many colorful balconies and bay windows accent the buildings in Valletta.

Many colorful balconies and bay windows accent the buildings in Valletta.

 

After another short drive, we had a wonderful three course lunch at Palazzo Castelletti in Rabat. Our guide did not dine with us and was visibly frustrated by the slow service as she was trying to keep us on schedule. She kept poking her head in the room to see if we were being served and then would go find a server to bring the next course. It was sort of funny. Luckily, we missed a little rain while we were dining.

Mdina. After lunch, we finished our day with a relaxing walk through the walled city of Mdina. Total population of the “Silent City” is 300.  Mdina was once the capitol of Malta. It was founded in the 8th century BC.

 

One of the narrow streets in Mdina.

One of the narrow streets in Mdina.

 

Exploring the walled city of Mdina.

Exploring the walled city of Mdina.

 

A visit to the Carmelite Priority Museum is intended to give the public a look into the living traditions of a Carmelite monastery. The 17th century building has been renovated and stands as an example of a monastic cloister.

 

In the halls of the Carmelite Priory.

In the halls of the Carmelite Priory.

 

Frescoes in the refectory at Carmelite Priory.

Frescoes in the refectory at Carmelite Priory.

We ended our day in Malta overlooking the country. Our viewpoint from the high walls of Mdina was impressive. From there, we walk back through the city to our car which took us back to the ship.

I’m really glad we chose to see Malta this way, even if we still only saw a fraction of it.  It’s a beautiful country.

 

Looking out over Malta, the high wall of Mdina to the right.

Looking out over Malta, the high wall of Mdina to the right.

 

Looking out at the clustered buildings of Malta from the city of Mdina.

Looking out at the clustered buildings of Malta from the city of Mdina.

 

Bougainvillea climbing the wall of a building in Mdina.

Bougainvillea climbing the wall of a building in Mdina.

 

Back to Broadway (On the High Seas 7). We got back on board just in time for the late afternoon/early evening offering: a talkback with Faith Prince and Jennifer Simard, hosted by Seth Rudetsky. They both talked about their lives and careers ‘in the business’. Most recently, they both starred in Seth Rudestsky’s short-run Broadway musical, Disaster!

Faith Prince, Seth Rudetsky and Jennifer Simard discuss life in the theatre.

Faith Prince, Seth Rudetsky and Jennifer Simard discuss life in the theatre.

Jennifer Simard is incredibly talented. I hadn’t heard of her prior to her run in Disaster! this past year. A role for which she was Tony nominated in the Best Featured Actress category. She has an extensive list of credits on and off-Broadway including Sister Act, Shrek and several editions of Forbidden Broadway. It was recently announced that she will hit Broadway with Bette Midler in Hello Dolly! this spring as the scene-stealing Ernestina.

Faith Prince is known primarily for her comedic and musical work in such productions as Guys and Dolls (1992 Revival, Tony Winner) and  Bells Are Ringing I was lucky enough to see her in the ill-fated musical, Nick and Nora, and the off-Broadway production of Falsettoland, which later became the second act of the Broadway musical, Falsettos. Her heartbreaking rendition of “Holding to the Ground” was another one of those pinnacle moments in theatre for me.

Michael and I saw her moving performance in A Catered Affair (2008); and last year in the Chicago, pre-Broadway engagement of The First Wives Club playing opposite Carmen Cusack and our friend Christine Sherrill.

Both Faith and Jennifer were on the cruise as “Ambassadors” so they weren’t going to be doing full out concerts. During the talkback we did get a musical number from each of them. Faith Prince treated us to her delightful rendition of “Broadway Baby“, while Jennifer Simard had the audience rolling in the aisles with her imitation of Bernadette Peters doing “Rose’s Turn” from Gypsy.

 

Faith Prince during the afternoon talkback.

Faith Prince during the afternoon talkback.

 

Jennifer Simard share her experiences.

Jennifer Simard sharing her experiences.

 

One other note: Faith arrived on the cruise late, having had issues with her flight. If THAT wasn’t bad enough– the airline lost her luggage for three days. It’s amazing how someone can get by with only one outfit and a few accessories. She looked great!

 

After the long day, I skipped dinner and laid down for a little bit…ordered room service and then took my time getting ready for the evening’s concert.

Lindsay Mendez in Concert. Can I say perfection? I can’t imagine anyone being better or putting together a better set for a show.

Lindsay performed a great concert on last year’s cruise (BOTHS5) and somehow managed to outdo herself. She is best known for her Broadway performances in Godspell, Grease, as Elphaba in Wicked and her critically acclaimed performance off-Broadway in Dogfight.

Lindsay married her husband, Philip Wakefield, in May. As a special treat for the audience, she brought him on stage for one of her numbers, playing the drums. She also did a fun duet with Laura Osnes, recreating “It’s Raining On Prom Night” from their revival of Grease.

 

Lindsay Mendez with Seth Rudetsky on the piano.

Lindsay Mendez with Seth Rudetsky on the piano.

 

Philip Wakefield on drums.

Philip Wakefield on drums.

 

Lindsay Mendez bringing down the house.

Lindsay Mendez bringing down the house.

 

Lindsay Mendez and Laura Osnes team up to recreate a number from Grease.

Lindsay Mendez and Laura Osnes team up to recreate a number from Grease.

 

After a wonderful show, a few of us gathered at our usual spot and everyone was abuzz about Lindsay’s great concert. We turned in before midnight, another full day ahead.

Next stop: Trapani, Sicily.

Travel 2016: Day Nine – And God Said, Let There Be Rain… And Waves…Lots and Lots of Waves

Soon It’s Gonna Rain. We knew for a couple days there was a likely chance of rain today. As a matter of fact, last night the prediction was above 80%. Not just a shower… rain all day. Troupers that we are– and because you can’t cancel an excursion without at least a 48 hour notice (without paying anyway)– We got up early, dressed appropriately, had breakfast and watched as we were hit with the first down pour.

Our tour was supposed to take us to explore Taormina and Castelmola this morning. The key phrase here is supposed to. All tours ended up being cancelled with ongoing weather concerns anticipated throughout the day and because we were supposed to tender into port. The water was just to rough to safely make it to and from land.

Unfortunately for us, the decision was not made until around 10 AM, long after our scheduled tours were supposed to have started. This left us in limbo, waiting for the final word. It’s too bad we hadn’t known the night before because we could have caught up on some much needed sleep. This is just one of the chances you take with cruise travel.

What To Do? The good news was that the change in plans gave us time to socialize. We had a favorite spot where many of the same people would gather at some point, day to day, throughout the week. The conversations were always lively and anything was fair game– we didn’t just talk Broadway. You could frequently find us with Janet, Paul, Bill and a few others engaging in some animated fashion. One of my favorite ongoing discussions was with Susan, Champ (He was in the cabin next to us on the last cruise with the wall that slid open!) and Philip (Lindsay Mendez’s husband) discussing the upcoming election. After more than a week away from home, I was itching to get some things off my chest.

One thing that I’ve noticed– if you put a group of theatre lovers together in a room– they can talk about pretty much anything, speak honestly and not be attacked by anyone for a differing viewpoint of belief. I find it really comforting. Theatre people are the most accepting, loving, understanding and all-inclusive group I know.

While I was in deep conversation, Michael was off with Mary, Linda and Wendy playing euchre in the card room.

Let’s Put On A Show! In typical fashion, Phil Birsh (CEO of Playbill) and Seth Rudetsky (Music Director on BOTHS) rallied the troupes — Mickey and Judy style– throwing together a really fun, entertaining show with many of the Broadway performers contributing.

Laura Osnes, fresh off her performance the night before, led off the truly enjoyable set of musical numbers this afternoon.

 

Laura Osnes

Laura Osnes

 

Charles Busch

Charles Busch

 

Jennifer Simard

Jennifer Simard

 

Lindsay Mendez

Lindsay Mendez

 

Faith Prince

Faith Prince

 

Chatterbox. As originally scheduled for late afternoon, Seth Rudetsky hosted a Chatterbox session with Brenda Braxton and his longtime friend, Andrea Burns. I always like hearing artists talk about their experiences in the business and sharing their highs and lows.

Brenda Braxton was on the cruise as a “Broadway Ambassador”, not a scheduled performer, per se. I saw her in Legs Diamond with Peter Allen many years ago and got the chance to share that with her later in the cruise.

 

Brenda Braxton

Brenda Braxton

 

Old friends Seth Rudetsky and Andrea Burns.

Old friends Seth Rudetsky and Andrea Burns.

 

Sea Sick? As it turned out, we really didn’t experience much rain during the day but the water was rough. It continued to be throughout the evening. I’ve been on boats that were rocking and swaying a whole lot worse but for some reason it really started to get to me at dinner. I left halfway through and Michael had my entree sent to the room.

I wanted to just stay in bed, only I wasn’t about to miss tonight’s concert. I did start feeling better as the evening wore on.

Adam Pascal in Concert. If you know me or have read my blog, you know that RENT is my all-time favorite musical. So how can I not love Adam Pascal? One of my pinnacle, theatregoing experiences was Adam’s performance of One Song Glory the first time I saw him in RENT. It’s forever etched in my brain.

Adam also starred on Broadway in AIDA, Memphis, Chicago, Disaster! and currently, Something Rotten. He also played Freddy in the highly-acclaimed concert version of Chess with Josh Groban and Idina Menzel.

The format for Adam’s concert tonight, was an informal sing-interview format with music director Seth Rudetsky. It was a great evening– showing off his versatility, powerhouse vocals and occasionally accompanying himself on guitar.

 

Adam Pascal

Adam Pascal

 

Adam Pascal accompanying himself on guitar.

Adam Pascal accompanying himself on guitar.

 

Adam Pascal with Seth Rudetsky.

Adam Pascal with Seth Rudetsky.

 

After the show– a nightcap with friends and then off to bed. Tomorrow Michael and I have a private car and guide scheduled for a whirlwind tour of Malta!