A Day At Sea

July 31, 2014, 10:54, In the Med Between Tunisia and Barcelona

Today marks our real last day on the boat. We have been off of work for nearly two weeks when we return to the States, and I have truly enjoyed this time away. Away from the things of man, at least American man.

The differences between Americans and Europeans has been very evident to me in this cruise. For one thing, Europeans don’t seem to be as hung up on women’s weights or shapes as those in America seem to be. The women in Europe are all different shapes and sizes. So far, I have seen relatively few obese people, although most women my age and even younger are more my size than the Size 00 anorexic women we seem to have millions of in the States, judging by the clothing racks at Dillard’s. It’s funny how you can always find S and XS on sale but nothing else. This should be a hint for clothing companies. There are like 5 people in Little Rock who are XS.

Here, nearly everyone wears a bikini. I have seen maybe ten one-piece swimsuits and all of one tankini since we have been traveling. I brought my bikini and wore it to the beach both days we actually got in the water. I am glad I brought it. Otherwise I would really have stuck out like a sore thumb. We have seen relatively few thongs, although there have been quite a number of swimsuit bottoms that seemed to be slightly undersized. But such is life.

A few travel tips for those venturing this way:
1. I would recommend changing dollars to Euros before you leave. The exchange rate is better ($0.74 to 1 € versus about $0.60 here).
2. Also I would advise bringing more cash than when you are typically traveling. I’ve noticed relatively few shops that take credit cards, and the restaurants seem to hate them. There is no way for them to add a tip on the tab, although a lot of European waiters do not expect tips from anyone other than Americans, and that’s only because we tend to tip everyone.
3. I would lot recommend bringing traveler’s cheques. The exchange rate is one issue, but also there is the possibility that the cheque will not be honored if it is not filled out exactly the way the exchange people accept them. I saw this happen with a lady next to me in line on a $200 traveler’s cheque that the exchange group would not cash or exchange.
4. Bring sunscreen and apply it liberally if you will be outdoors. Marseille gets about 300 sunny days per year, and the sun can be pretty harsh in some areas. In some, there are trees and shady cafés, but in others, such as Tunisia, there is really ok escape if you are not under an umbrella.
5. Bring an umbrella. You never know when a brief shower might pop up, although they seem to be infrequent. Also, though, you can use it to share yourself from the sun.
6. Bring a good wide brimmed hat, preferably with a tie chin strap if possible. It is quite windy in a lot of places, especially near the beach.
7. Bring a power converter and a plug strip without a polarized plug (so both plugs are the same size). If you can get a power converter that has USB, do that. Ours worked beautifully, although things like my flat iron didn’t work because of the polarized plug.
8. Try off the beaten path cafés and shopping. Be careful of your surroundings, but don’t let the tourist traps trap you into being just another boring traveler.
9. We did not find that there was a lot of blotting or such, although we were warned to be wary. I think just paying attention and not being a jerk as a tourist helps a lot. I can understand why Europeans would hate some American tourists if they acted like American tourists do in America.

Overall, we have truly enjoyed this trip. It has been a nice break for me, personally, as I needed time to relax and recharge. I’m glad we are at sea on the last day of the cruise as I won’t feel rushed getting packed and such. I also am glad we are staying over one additional day in Barcelona, as that gives us a bit more time to explore the city. Of all the places we have been this week, I enjoyed Genoa, Italy most of all. Barcelona was a close second. I think if we had had more time in Marseille, I would have liked it as well as the others.

For now, I will enjoy this day I have been granted and hope for safe travels back to the US, where a very unhappy Maltese wonders where the hell her parents are!

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