We boarded the ship in Barcelona, got settled in, and then spent the day exploring that modern city of rich tradition before getting back on board and setting sail. It’s a city of cathedrals, ancient streets, and eccentric architecture. One big adventure was figuring out the crowded Metro (subway) system, in order to visit the Gaudi cathedral. (The term “gaudy” doesn’t trace back to architect Antoni Gaudi.)
We spent the afternoon wandering around the Gothic Quarter along Las Ramblas promenade. Over the years Regina has become a good vehicle for healing energies, thanks to the various forms of energy healing she does for clients… so this picture in the Barcelona Cathedral seemed a natural.
Then it was off to Monte Carlo, where we glimpsed the royal palace, the Grand Casino, and drove along the route of the annual Grand Prix, which you may have observed recently in Iron Man 2 (what a disappointment that was after seeing the first Iron Man movie, eh?) We saw the Grand Casino up close and from a distance, but didn’t venture in on this visit.
With our first stop in Italy, we decided to enjoy il dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing). From Livorno, Italy, we took a tender to Cinque Terre, five towns carved neatly into the hills along the lush, terraced Mediterranean coast, where narrow alleyways and stone stairs take you past small shops and B&Bs, up to grand vistas of land and sea.
Some of the political and military leaders of ancient Rome had mansions on the coast, in places like this, where they could get away from the political intrigue and chaos. Army general Pompey the Great was honored with three Roman Triumphs, celebrations of his many conquests that had extended the Empire. (click here and check out the 9 AD map for an idea of the breadth of Rome around the time of Pompey and Julius Caesar) After conquering territories, the armies gathered up the spoils of war and carted them back to Rome. Generals like Pompey kept vast treasures in their coastal mansions, and during a Triumph in their honor, they and their armies would march on Rome with large convoys of carts heavily laden with gold, jewels, tapestries, and works of art—a small portion of their vast personal treasures—to help enrich the Empire.
Society was falling apart at the time, as described in the book Lustrum: “…a vortex of hunger, rumor, and anxiety; of crippled veterans and bankrupt farmers begging at every corner; of roistering bands of drunken young men terrorizing shopkeepers; of women from good families openly prostituting themselves outside the taverns….” The rich whined constantly, struggling to hold onto their wealth, while the poor lived day to day, quietly, trying to get by. Politicians would announce outrageous lies about their opponents—calling them immoral or dishonest—and the angry, frustrated crowds would mob those discredited leaders on the street, pelting them with insults, stones, and handfuls of shit.
Most of today’s richest Americans whine about paying taxes. They buy the favors of corrupt politicians (mostly conservative senators and legislators nowadays), and they buy expensive political ads that tell blatant lies about their opponents… all for the sake of gaining power with which to hold onto their wealth in troubled economic times… while the growing ranks of poor resign themselves to supporting the government while trying to get by. Many of them believe the lies, get outraged, and lash out at the slandered leaders on the Internet and at the polls… but I digress.
Next stop on our trip was Civitavecchia, a short bus ride from Rome, where we visited the Coliseum and other ancient structures… where I’ll resume with the next entry.