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KansCocoa

Middle Aged Drama Queen's Eastern Med Review: Serenade, Pics, Surprises & Fun!

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Okay...here's Taylor's photo of the ceiling:

 

 

Sistine.jpg

 

 

Of course, I wouldn't have had to tell you which kid it was...you could probably figure it out all by yourself.

 

These new smart phones that take photos "sneakily" are going to give the guards at the Sistine Chapel some fits, I can tell.

 

OMG!!!!! I have these same photos with a different face. My DH insisted on taking a couple sneak photos since the reason isn't because it would damage it but because a Japanese company funded the restoration and has the "rights". He said he was taking the pictures with a Sony so it should be allowed.:rolleyes:

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YAY, you're back - missed you so much :D

 

Yes - I'm back! And now more behind than ever - I have to finish THIS review, and then get going on my review of the Freedom! :)

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OMG!!!!! I have these same photos with a different face. My DH insisted on taking a couple sneak photos since the reason isn't because it would damage it but because a Japanese company funded the restoration and has the "rights". He said he was taking the pictures with a Sony so it should be allowed.:rolleyes:

 

I like the way your Hubby thinks! :)

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I just got my binder last week for our June 2013 cruise! It's filling up quite nicely! It's great to know I'm not the only one with the binder obsession!

 

Thoroughly enjoying your review, and getting some wonderful information from it as well.

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After hopping in the van, Alberto maneuvers his way through the busy streets of Rome, dodging scooters, pedestrians and stop lights…There’s a saying, “All roads lead to Rome” – and it certainly appears that way, as we are not only flabbergasted at the beautiful scenery around us, we’re also a bit in shock at the chaotic driving. Although there are certainly traffic laws in Rome – it IS civilized, after all – it is pretty much a free-for-all, and I’m agape at how Alberto manages to drive safely through this…mess…all the while giving us running commentary on what we’re seeing. He does mention that in an effort to keep traffic at a minimum, there is a law that prohibits private cars from driving within the city’s historical zone any time between 6:00 am and 6:00 pm. This law excludes taxis and scooters…so you can imagine the number of scooters whizzing about, as every resident of Rome now has a scooter.

 

 

We arrive at the Pantheon at noon, and as we work our way from the parked van to the Pantheon’s entrance, we run into Gris (VegasGirl702) and her family, who advise Alberto that he MUST take me to a good gelato shop, for "research purposes", of course. Gotta' find that Perfect 10 in Gelato. This would become a running theme this day in Rome – we will bump into Gris everywhere we go - which is pretty amazing, considering Rome has a population of almost 3 million people, along with 2 million additional barbarians each day visiting (okay...perhaps a slight exaggeration of barbarians - but it certainly felt that way!)

 

Alberto hands us a cell phone, that he’s pre-programmed with his own cell phone number…he tells us to call when we’re leaving the Pantheon and he will pick us up. This is comforting for someone who is directionally challenged– to know we’re still “linked” with our driver - the umbilical cord is alive and well, and I have peace of mind as we head off to invade the Pantheon, along with dozens of other like-minded barbarians.

 

 

 

So…the Pantheon…a building dedicated, by it’s very name, “to every god.” One of the best-preserved Roman buildings in the world…and it’s dome the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. Pretty impressive stuff.

 

We first step into Piazza della Rotonda, the beautiful square in front of the Pantheon, to take a photo of the exterior of the building…which, although cool in its own right, doesn’t give you any hint of the beauty to be found inside:

 

Rome16.jpg

Don't worry...there are lots of barbarians here, but the interior is so massive, it doesn't ever feel TOO crowded...

 

There’s an inscription across the front of the Pantheon that says, “M·AGRIPPA·L·F·COS·TERTIVM·FECIT” meaning "Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, made this building when consul for the third time."

 

1O.jpg

Lucky for us, Brainy Brad speaks Latin...certainly a skill that will get him a job in today's job market....

 

The grey granite columns on the portico were quarried in ancient Egypt and are massive. Weighing more than 60 tons apiece, it was quite the effort to transport them from Egypt to Rome:

 

Rome21.jpg

Even Too-Tall Taylor can't hug the entire thing with his too-long arms...

 

 

Once inside the Pantheon, your eyes are immediately drawn upwards to “the hole”, or the “oculus”, as it’s officially known as. Twenty-seven feet in diameter, it’s the only source of light inside (other than the front doors).

 

Rome14.jpg

The classic "sunlight" picture that every visitor to the Pantheon captures....

We spent about 25 minutes inside here, taking in the beauty of the altar and the rotunda:

 

1M.jpg

 

 

A good resource that we often used was Rick Steve’s audio guide, listening to it on my iPhone. He has a great chapter dedicated to the Pantheon, that will give you more than enough information.

 

 

Because of the oculus, rainwater does come inside…and there are drainage holes in the floor if you look close enough:

 

Rome15.jpg

Well...that's ONE way of highlighting the holes....

 

 

After leaving the beautiful Pantheon, it’s time to meet back with Alberto – and we have definite plans on what we want to do next.

 

We want FOOD. Not just any food. We want PIZZA. We ask Alberto to take us to a good restaurant for lunch…and he says he has the perfect place in mind….

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I know that shoulders must be covered to enter St. Peter's. What did your daughter bring to ensure that she was "covered up"?

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I know that shoulders must be covered to enter St. Peter's. What did your daughter bring to ensure that she was "covered up"?

 

She had a little sweater/wrap that we used in St. Peter's, but left in the van the rest of the day...it was a summery, lightweight sweater that worked perfectly. (I think I bought it at Target???)

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I know that shoulders must be covered to enter St. Peter's. What did your daughter bring to ensure that she was "covered up"?

 

Here's a photo of her inside the Vatican museums, showing the little sweater:

 

Sweater.jpg

 

 

I should also point out that we realized - while on the ship - that every one of her little summer dresses that we purchased for this cruise were ABOVE her knee. Not knowing how strict the Vatican guards would be about the "no knees" rule - I made her wear one of my dresses this day. She wasn't happy about it. In fact, I believe she brought one of her own dresses in her backpack, and quickly changed in the backseat of the van out of my dress, once we left the Vatican. This is why you'll see her in a different dress for the rest of the day!

Edited by KansCocoa

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Here I am, sat in my office (in the unusually sunny centre of London!) and I am trying to read your posts - without anyone finding out (while I am supposed to be working).

 

But you are making me laugh out loud and visitors to my office keep giving me funny looks! :D

 

Just the thought of you running around taking photos is making me laugh so much!

 

Keep it coming - you are a joy to read.

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Sherri, Thank you so much for information, humor, patience, honesty, pictures and insight. We will be on the Serenade with the SAME itinerary in October. You have made the planning that much more exciting. You should seriously consider a new career......travel blog writer. You certainly have many people hooked!

 

Looking forward to the continuation of your review!

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Here I am, sat in my office (in the unusually sunny centre of London!) and I am trying to read your posts - without anyone finding out (while I am supposed to be working).

 

But you are making me laugh out loud and visitors to my office keep giving me funny looks! :D

 

Just the thought of you running around taking photos is making me laugh so much!

 

Keep it coming - you are a joy to read.

 

"Trouble" is my middle name...!

 

Just don't set off a panic alarm button while sitting in your office - THAT certainly gets attention (just not from security guards) - and you'll be fine! :)

 

Thanks so much! :)

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Sherri' date=' Thank you so much for information, humor, patience, honesty, pictures and insight. We will be on the Serenade with the SAME itinerary in October. You have made the planning that much more exciting. You should seriously consider a new career......travel blog writer. You certainly have many people hooked![/size']

 

Looking forward to the continuation of your review!

 

Aw, thank you! :) I'm glad I can help - I seriously hope EVERYONE has as amazing of an adventure as we did - that's what it's all about...passing good karma to others! :)

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We last left our breathless & winded travelers concluding their whirlwind tour of the Vatican museums - did you know that the art collection stretches over 9 MILES??!! And I think I ran every one of those miles!!!!

 

 

After shuffling through the Sistine Chapel, we exit and make our way over to St. Peter’s Basilica, which has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world. We slowly make our way up the stairs, through the front doors, and are swept away by the beauty and grandeur that are inside.

 

I SO wish I had a super-duper camera that took super-duper photos…but I don’t. Alas, our little point-and-shoot camera cannot do the Basilica justice. It’s dark inside, and so any pictures we took (and photos are definitely allowed) just didn’t turn out very well.

 

If the self-appointed photo police here promise not to critique me on the quality of the photos, hee hee, I’ll post a few that we took:

 

1H.jpg

The largest dome in the world…you can purchase tickets (6E) to climb the 320 steps to the top….or you can purchase a more expensive ticket (7E) to ride the elevator to the top.

 

 

1G.jpg

Michelangelo’s Pieta (1498-1499)…the only piece that Michelangelo ever signed. It’s behind glass now, after being damaged back in 1972….

 

 

 

1F.jpg

You can see the Papal Altar in this photo, where only the Pope celebrates Mass. The ancient tomb of St. Peter lies directly below the altar.

 

 

 

If I can give any tip here, it’s to make sure you see this beautiful structure on the inside – words can’t describe it. Don’t miss it – no matter your faith or beliefs.

 

 

After leaving the Basilica, we came out on the steps that overlook St. Peter’s Square, which was designed so that the greatest number of people could see the Pope give his blessing…

 

1J.jpg

A panoramic is about the best/only way to capture the size of the Square….

 

 

 

1K.jpg

A view of the Basilica from St. Peter's Square...

 

 

 

1L.jpg

The Pope himself lives in these apartments, overlooking the Square…

 

 

We have about 5 minutes to enjoy the Square, before our meeting time with Alberto. Were we rushed? Yes. Did we miss a lot? Most definitely. However, Brainy Brad considered the visit a true highlight; he said later that he LOVED spending 40 minutes at the Sistine Chapel panels, because he learned a lot from Aurora that gave him new insight to Michelangelo's masterpiece. Huh. So, don't always assume that you're "wasting time" - because your family may have a different viewpoint.

 

One other tip: If you have kids, and are planning on taking them to the Vatican museums - perhaps specifically to the Sistine Chapel - I highly recommend an old movie, "The Agony and the Ecstasy" - a 1965 movie starring Rex Harrison and Charlton Heston, which does a great job in recreating the story behind the ceiling. My kids loved this movie; they insisted on watching it several times before we left on our trip.

 

Promptly at 11:40, Aurora hands us back over to Alberto, and we are on our way…next stop will be the Pantheon…

 

 

are they super strict about the basillica about knees being covered, etc./ i see that your daughter had a short dress on, just want to know how strict they are. thanks.

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After hopping in the van, Alberto maneuvers his way through the busy streets of Rome, dodging scooters, pedestrians and stop lights…There’s a saying, “All roads lead to Rome” – and it certainly appears that way, as we are not only flabbergasted at the beautiful scenery around us, we’re also a bit in shock at the chaotic driving. Although there are certainly traffic laws in Rome – it IS civilized, after all – it is pretty much a free-for-all, and I’m agape at how Alberto manages to drive safely through this…mess…all the while giving us running commentary on what we’re seeing. He does mention that in an effort to keep traffic at a minimum, there is a law that prohibits private cars from driving within the city’s historical zone any time between 6:00 am and 6:00 pm. This law excludes taxis and scooters…so you can imagine the number of scooters whizzing about, as every resident of Rome now has a scooter.

 

 

We arrive at the Pantheon at noon, and as we work our way from the parked van to the Pantheon’s entrance, we run into Gris (VegasGirl702) and her family, who advise Alberto that he MUST take me to a good gelato shop, for "research purposes", of course. Gotta' find that Perfect 10 in Gelato. This would become a running theme this day in Rome – we will bump into Gris everywhere we go - which is pretty amazing, considering Rome has a population of almost 3 million people, along with 2 million additional barbarians each day visiting (okay...perhaps a slight exaggeration of barbarians - but it certainly felt that way!)

 

Alberto hands us a cell phone, that he’s pre-programmed with his own cell phone number…he tells us to call when we’re leaving the Pantheon and he will pick us up. This is comforting for someone who is directionally challenged– to know we’re still “linked” with our driver - the umbilical cord is alive and well, and I have peace of mind as we head off to invade the Pantheon, along with dozens of other like-minded barbarians.

 

 

 

So…the Pantheon…a building dedicated, by it’s very name, “to every god.” One of the best-preserved Roman buildings in the world…and it’s dome the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. Pretty impressive stuff.

 

We first step into Piazza della Rotonda, the beautiful square in front of the Pantheon, to take a photo of the exterior of the building…which, although cool in its own right, doesn’t give you any hint of the beauty to be found inside:

 

Once inside the Pantheon, your eyes are immediately drawn upwards to “the hole”, or the “oculus”, as it’s officially known as. Twenty-seven feet in diameter, it’s the only source of light inside (other than the front doors).

 

A good resource that we often used was Rick Steve’s audio guide, listening to it on my iPhone. He has a great chapter dedicated to the Pantheon, that will give you more than enough information.

 

 

Because of the oculus, rainwater does come inside…and there are drainage holes in the floor if you look close enough:

 

Rome15.jpg

Well...that's ONE way of highlighting the holes....

 

 

After leaving the beautiful Pantheon, it’s time to meet back with Alberto – and we have definite plans on what we want to do next.

 

We want FOOD. Not just any food. We want PIZZA. We ask Alberto to take us to a good restaurant for lunch…and he says he has the perfect place in mind….

 

The Pantheon is also the final resting place of one of the Great Masters himself, Raphael. It was THE reason we visited the place, although the light from the roof shining on an angel was pretty special as well :)

 

For art lovers, and particularly Renaissance art lovers, this is a must-see building, although my husband and I are biased, as Raphael is our favourite artist of them all, more so than Michelangelo and de Vinci.

 

By the way, we can identify with the run through the Vatican Museums, we did it in half an hour, as we had a flight to catch and that was our last chance! Even so, we got to see the Raphael galleries and the Sistine Chapel - twice. And, no, we did not take any sneak pictures either, as the ban on photography is there for a valid reason, as too much exposure to flash can cause irreparable damage. I can understand your son doing it, but adults who flount this rule should be ashamed of themselves. Sometimes, in the presence of wonder, it's best just to stand and stare :)

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There’s certain truisms in the world that we all know…for instance, it’s always the people in the BACK of a packed elevator that have to get off first (especially on a cruise ship)…another truism is that the day you wash your car…it will rain…and another truism is that invading barbarians will work up an insatiable hunger.

 

This was true in our case…I’m not sure if it was our 9-mile run through the Vatican museums while fighting barbarians, or gaping in wonder at not only the Pantheon but the crazy drivers along the way – but whatever the reason, we were RAVENOUS. Feeding time at the zoo, if you will.

 

Yes...part of the joy of touring a new city is taking in new sights...but enjoyment will be tempered if you don't keep your fuel reserves up. I had told the Klingons before we left on our adventures that part of our day in each port would be spent eating the local cuisine...and slowing down a bit...not that I would make them take a nap (huh...actually, a siesta IS part of the culture, is it NOT??!), but they WOULD be forced to sit. For a meal. And no hamburgers or hot dogs would be tolerated. Period. (Okay - off my Mom Soapbox)

 

We challenge Alberto to find us a restaurant that will not only make our tummies very happy, but must meet the following guidelines, as well:

 

1. It must be relatively quick (not fast-food, but we don’t want a 2-hour lunch, either.)

2. It must be relatively inexpensive (we don’t want to have to take out a 2nd mortgage to feed five people, two of which are boys...with bottomless pit stomachs).

3. It must be delicious. Duh. We’re in ITALY…bad food would be a sin.

 

So, was Alberto up for the challenge? He thought for a minute or two, did a slow grin, and declared, “I know the PERFECT place for you!”

 

Not only does this place meet our guidelines, he says, but there’s a bonus: it caters mainly to the locals, and so – we will not encounter hordes of barbarians here. Oh, blessed relief from barbarians. This place sounded promising.

 

So, off we go for a short drive through the crazy streets of Rome, and we’re taken to a little restaurant called “il pomodorino” – which means, “little tomato” in Italian.

 

Alberto talks with the maitre ‘d, who seats us, promptly brings us menus and water, and we peruse the menu….

 

And bread appears at our table…but not just ANY bread…no, this was to-die-for bread. Yum.

 

2B.jpg

I could have made a meal just from the bread...and I don't even EAT bread!

 

 

We each order our own pizza (don’t judge – we were HUNGRY!) The pizzas were prompt, they were hot, and they were delicious.

 

2D.jpg

Notice the cheese stringing...that's the sign of a good pizza...when the cheese strings like that....

 

11Rome.jpg

Diving in....

 

 

Wait. Let me back up for a minute.

 

I said the pizzas were delicious.

 

I lied.

 

They were more than delicious. There were awesomely-delicious. I hadn’t planned on doing a research project entitled, "Finding the Perfect Pizza in Rome", but if I had?

 

THIS WAS A PERFECT 10!!!!!!

 

 

Rome12.jpg

THIS ONE! This was the best...I think it was half artichoke/spinach...and the cheese was TO DIE FOR.

 

This pizza was the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life. Seriously.

 

 

 

Some of the most delicious Roman ruins you'll ever find....

 

I believe we did justice to this lunch…considering this was all that was left of FIVE entire pizzas!!!!

 

And all accomplished in an hour. Yes. One hour.

 

Amazing.

 

So...at 1:30, when Alberto came back to pick us up, I gave him the "thumbs-up" and told him that yes, he had most definitely risen to the challenge.

 

And Alberto just gave me his devilish 100%-Roman smile. Sigh.

Edited by Help@

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are they super strict about the basillica about knees being covered, etc./ i see that your daughter had a short dress on, just want to know how strict they are. thanks.

 

Polly - we probably posted at the same time. The dress you see Mickey wearing at the Pantheon - which is above her knee - is NOT the dress she wore to the Vatican. She brought her shorter dress with her in her backpack, and quickly changed into it (in the backseat of the van) after we left the Vatican. She definitely had on a longer dress while at the Vatican, as I wasn't sure how strict they would be, and I didn't want to be the one stuck babysitting her OUTSIDE the museum while the boys all got to go inside the Museum.

 

So...I can't say how strict they are, since we stuck to their prescribed rules. Hope that answers your question...somewhat. :rolleyes:

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The Pantheon is also the final resting place of one of the Great Masters himself, Raphael. It was THE reason we visited the place, although the light from the roof shining on an angel was pretty special as well :)

 

By the way, we can identify with the run through the Vatican Museums, we did it in half an hour, as we had a flight to catch and that was our last chance! Even so, we got to see the Raphael galleries and the Sistine Chapel - twice.

 

We did indeed see the tomb of Raphael while there, altho because I can only post six pictures per post, I don't always post pics of everything that we saw...but here's our pic of Raphael's tomb, which you'll recognize:

 

TombofRaphael.jpg

 

Again, Rick Steve's audio guides are a blessing, as he goes into detail about everything inside and outside the Pantheon...we used his guides at quite a few places while in Europe.

 

Holy Moly! A half-hour through the Vatican?! Wow - you must have been sprinting!!! :eek:

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We did indeed see the tomb of Raphael while there, altho because I can only post six pictures per post, I don't always post pics of everything that we saw...but here's our pic of Raphael's tomb, which you'll recognize:

 

TombofRaphael.jpg

 

Again, Rick Steve's audio guides are a blessing, as he goes into detail about everything inside and outside the Pantheon...we used his guides at quite a few places while in Europe.

 

Holy Moly! A half-hour through the Vatican?! Wow - you must have been sprinting!!! :eek:

 

Yes, it was a sprint :) We arrived at the museums on our last day and, with an afternoon flight, it was always going to be a bit touch and go whether we got in, given that the crowds were so huge.

 

We waited an hour in the queue and, even when we got to the front, we debated whether or not to go in, but I am so glad we did as, even with such a small amount of time, we still managed to see quite a lot.

 

That was eight years ago, and I am especially glad now, as my knees are very poor and I doubt I could walk around the vast spaces these days, never mind run!

 

Hope you had a good cruise with your daughter:)

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Here I am, sat in my office (in the unusually sunny centre of London!) and I am trying to read your posts - without anyone finding out (while I am supposed to be working).

 

But you are making me laugh out loud and visitors to my office keep giving me funny looks! :D

 

Just the thought of you running around taking photos is making me laugh so much!

 

Keep it coming - you are a joy to read.

 

 

OMG I am doing the exact thing... Funny how we all do that all over the world!!

 

Thanks Sherri for the review!!! It is awesome and we are doing a similiar cruise next year. Love the cruise binder. I'm buying one now!!!

 

Kellie

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Sherri! Your adventure is amazing! It's helping me gather ideas of what we should do, should we choose this itinerary for our honeymoon next summer! It's great!

We're going on the Freedom next month on August 19, so I can't wait for your review!

 

Your family is awesome and I honestly feel bad at laughing at your expense regarding the personal alarm, but it's been a long time that I've laughed out loud while reading something.

Keep it up!

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Good thing you knew the rules about the dress code for St. Peter's. I saw the guards turning away a lot of people who did not follow the dress code. A little research goes a long way.

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OMG I am doing the exact thing... Funny how we all do that all over the world!!

 

Thanks Sherri for the review!!! It is awesome and we are doing a similiar cruise next year. Love the cruise binder. I'm buying one now!!!

 

Kellie

 

Make that a 3rd person here in PA. No wonder companies try and monitor what their employees are doing.:D

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Good thing you knew the rules about the dress code for St. Peter's. I saw the guards turning away a lot of people who did not follow the dress code. A little research goes a long way.

 

For those going to the Vatican... A long, lightweight scarf works well too. You can drape it over your shoulders like a shawl inside, and then either tie it around your neck or waist like a belt when not in the Vatican.

 

(we did Rome on foot, so I couldn't stash it in a van when not wearing it) :)

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Thanks for all these tips! We are going on the same itinerary in September on the Serenade. I can't wait to read your next post Sherri! I don't like reading much but I am drawn to keep reading your posts. Keep up the good work!

 

Noelle

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This is a great review, very easy to read. Thanks for all the appropriate links, too. I also liked Rick Steves' walking tours; we used the one for Athens.

 

My kids did a version of the pigeon pics: they took pics of cats and dogs in Pompeii and Ephesus. There seemed to be a lot of of them lounging on the ruins.

 

I made a travel binder for our Med cruise too. I actually printed out pics of all the euro coins and put them in the binder so I wouldn't get confused about the money :o I still got confused when the taxi driver handed me all coins when I expected bills :o Too much info and trivia in my head!

 

And I really liked that other poster's suggestion to make an additional binder for safety. You know I am doing that on my next Med cruise!

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