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Columns > Annabel Lukins - Both Sides of the Rail

Published: 2008/11/09
by Annabel Lukins

Right Here, Right Now…in Europe

It was midnight on a Saturday. Barcelona was just getting going, the streets were alive. Sitting on the steps of Cathedral Santa Maria del Mar eating gelato, I was quiet. My friend turned to me, what are you thinking about? Tears started to well in my eyesIm just so grateful to be right here, right now.
Each year, around this time, we have to visit the Jam Cruise ship we are chartering in January in order to have meetings and make plans for the upcoming event. Its called a site inspection. Because the MSC Orchestra is in the Mediterranean until it comes transatlantic for the Caribbean season, we were extremely fortunate to travel to Europe for a week. I tacked on 48 hours in Barcelona before I came back to reality.
Let me just sayI try to live in the moment here in the states. But its hard. Noise just occupies so much of my life, whether its paying bills, driving somewhere, working, dealing with drama, the list goes on. You know what I mean, that little voice in our heads that just wont shut up. Each day in Europe was like a brand new mind, a new moment of humility in every country, a cultural wake-up call. I am truly humbled to have gone there. I only wish Americans could avoid going to Costco and instead, have outdoor fresh food markets scattered around town, where we shop daily to preserve the nature of it, instead of freezing in bulk in order to preserve time that it takes to go shopping.
Here is my story displayed with delicately taken photographs. Please note I actually took 137 photos this is an abridged version.

Arriving to Barcelona after a 9-hour red hour flight and it was: all aboard the VAST AND BEAUTIFUL MSC Orchestra this is actually the ship that we are sailing on in January it holds 3000 passengers and is FABULOUS!!!

Beautiful and colorful landscape of Genoa, Italy

Next up, Pompeii outside Naples, Italy. If you dont know the history, Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD – leaving Pompeii destroyed. Here is the Forum.

This is the Amphitheater where Pink Floyd played in 1972. Can you IMAGINE how ridiculous that show was?

Back in Naples, we randomly passed by the train station. I was in awe of its mass and beauty.

Our next port was Palermo, Italy. It was a beautiful city. Here, everyone shops daily for fresh food – the locals enjoy their lives tremendously. McDonalds was empty if you can believe that. THANK GOD!

Having been in 3 countries in the past 4 days (we also traveled to Marseille, France but I didnt include any photos for brevity), it was time to Tunis, North Africa, one of my favorite places to spend 6 hours. We could have traveled by camel, but we opted for a cab.

A few of our MSC staff traveled together. We asked Wes to take us all in as his wives for the day.

For any of you that know me, one of my guilty pleasures are necklaces. Here, I was really stumped as to which to buy. Each was more marvelous than the next.

Doors, Tunis is famous for their doors. While the houses might be simple and unadorned, wealth was expressed through the workmanship of these wooden elements. I loved taking photos of them.

I took this photo from the bus on the way to our excursion in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. How outstanding is it?

Our visit to the Dragon Caves was one of the most startling and unique places Ive ever been.

6 different underground lakes, and some of the lakes are more than 200 meters deep.

I couldnt believe how fast 7 days had gone by, but I guess when you are living in the moment, time flies. It was time to say goodbye to the Orchestra and my Cloud 9 staff until January and say HELLO TO BARCELONA! First stop, walking on Las Ramblas and finding La Boqueria without even knowing about it. Imagine a department store sized space FILLED with fresh everything and anything. I kept saying out loud Wow, wow, wow.

You know how your breath gets taken away sometimes when you get scared? Well, I lost my breath upon seeing Gaudis Casa Batllo.

On the roof, the colors became more brilliant and the shapes more staggering.

There are no straight lines found on any of his buildings.

This was his finest piece of work. It was unfinished when he died and will take 30 years to complete.

There are 8 towers (4 on each side) that represent 8 the 12 apostles.

There is so much restoration going on that scaffolding is everywhere, but it was still breathtaking.

Inside, the feeling of its vastness was overwhelming.

Cathedral Santa Maria del Mar this is where we ate the gelato and I had a spiritual experience about how remarkable my life is.

Heading out for a true locals nightFYI, Barcelona, Spain considers itself to be "Catelonia" and as such speak Catelon, not Spanish. Locals are offended if you habla espanol. But lets get back to this photo. This band is playing on the ceiling of a local bar. There is even a sound guy in the back of the place. Adorable, right?

Time to visit another Gaudi masterpiece, Parc Guell. My husbands best friend from college, Leslie, lives in Barcelona and showed me around.

Hi, I am SOOO happy with the famous Gaudi Lizard.

There were many intricate walk-throughs at the Parc.

Doesnt it look like Candyland or something?

It is one of the world’s most extraordinary music halls, with facades that are a riot of color and form.

Right after we ate gelato on those steps, we heard music coming from inside. Remember, I had just professed my utter gratitude for being in such a significant city. We walked into the church only to find these giants and about 500 people singing & dancingcelebrating. They were apparently celebrating St Anthonys Day. So everyone named Tony in the city was there having a 2nd birthday. It was truly unbelievable and only strengthened my belief that Europe has so much to offer its people.

We talk about being so free in the USA, but I have deep and disturbing feelings about being free prisoners. I dont want to get into it all, as this column is about beauty, not ugliness. But heres my messagePLEASE TRAVEL. We are so sheltered in our little communities, whether they are NYC, Colorado or Ohio. And I know its expensive, but put international travel on the top of your list if you can. It will change your life, as it has done so to me many times over.
Upon waking in Barcelona, I walked down the quiet and narrow streets in search of some morning yummyness. I stopped at a tiny cafucked behind a cobblestone road and watched them cool off the newly roasted coffee beans, grinding them, pouring me the freshest cup of coffee I had ever tasted. Topped off with a soft croissant, I brought my delightful breakfast outside to a table, took a deep breath, and sank into the smells, sounds and deep satisfaction of being right here, right now.

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