Guest Bloggers Adam McCulloch and Emma Sloley are married travel writers based in New York. Originally from Australia, they moved to the U.S. in 2004. They have traveled to over 60 countries and written for a wide range of publications, including Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, New York magazine, Gotham, Gourmet Traveller, Coastal Living, Reader’s Digest and Outside. Adam and Emma are sending us stories and pictures daily from their 14-day voyage aboard Seabourn Odyssey between Rome and Venice. Come by and read their blogs often.
Day 3 — April 29, Sorrento to Tunisia: You Don’t Have to be Crazy to be a Conqueror, but it Helps
Today was a day at sea, so we had plenty of time to work on our sun tans, try out the spa and ponder the nature of megalomania. Here’s a remarkable fact: we’ve spent the last two days and nights sailing away from Rome in one of the fastest and most modern of cruise ships, by tomorrow morning we’ll be in Africa, and yet we still won’t have traveled beyond the reach of the Roman Empire.
How did Caesar and his cohorts conquer so widely? Well, just as absolute power corrupts absolutely, emperors, tzars and dictators have long demonstrated that a crazy amount of power makes you stark raving mad. The Roman Empire wrote the book on crazy. Take Caligula, for example. His name is synonymous with the kinds of depraved acts we can’t mention on this G-rated blog (there is, after all, one child on board). On his most rational of days Caligula was merely content to proclaim himself God. He even built a pontoon bridge across the Bay of Naples and pretended to walk on water. But on his irrational days? Oh boy. One day when he ran out of criminals in Rome’s Circus Maximus he ordered guards to drag the first five rows of spectators into the arena to do battle with the lions.
Caligula stands out in history because…well, we’re not entirely sure. Other emperors have been equally diabolical, and not just the ancient ones. Enver Hoxha, for instance, ruled Albania in 1944. When we say ruled, his official title (of his own invention) was Comrade-Chairman-Prime Minister-Foreign-Minister-Minister of War-Commander-in-Chief of the People's Army Enver Hoxha. He was rather paranoid – and probably with some justification — of being assassinated, so he kidnapped a dentist who bore him some resemblance and forced the poor man to undergo plastic surgery to strengthen the likeness. Now if that’s not crazy, we don’t know what is.
Shipshape: Talking of transforming faces, the treatment we had at The Spa at Seabourn this morning was pretty sublime. (And that’s how you do a segue, folks.) While the Seabourn 24 Karat Gold Facial sounded like something Caligula might have gone for, we opted for a humbler experience in the Elemis Oxydermy Facial. The treatment involved oxygen therapy and microdermabrasion: if you’re unfamiliar with these terms, imagine the world’s tiniest vacuum cleaner being swept over your face, followed by the world’s tiniest floor polisher. Finally, a facial massage and the application of a hydrating mask and voila! We suddenly felt all the travel fatigue swept away like the wake of a ship.
As the wise Scrabble board says, we had a fabulous ayda at sea…
What the heck is that? As we wander the ship, we’re occasionally struck by items that are, at least to us, inexplicable. (Hey, we never claimed to be sailors.) So it was when we saw this little blue creature stranded in the hot tub. At first it looked like a broken bottle, which didn’t seem right. On closer inspection, it seems to be a plastic dolphin in sunglasses on a popsicle stick. Seabourn staff or fellow passengers, feel free to school us in the comment section!
Day 4 – May 1, Tunisia: Souks Appeal
You can tell a lot about a society by its markets. We always like to head to a market when we visit a new place for a hit of full-sensory cultural immersion.
So wandering through the souks of Kairouan on our shore excursion in Tunisia today gave us a snapshot of life in this small north African country. There were the usual stoic donkeys tethered to makeshift carts, along with homicidal scooter drivers weaving and honking through the pedestrian traffic. There were vendors selling brightly colored ceramic tagines, freshly baked round loaves of bread, piles of saffron and henna and pastry shops galore.
Talking to Declan, a lovely English fellow from Guest Services over lunch at The Kasbah, we learned that Seabourn Odyssey’s chef often disembarks at ports like this and shops the local markets for produce to serve onboard – unusual fruits, the catch of the day, that kind of thing. We plan to grill chef before dinner as to what he’s grilling for dinner…we’ll report back.
Does This Mosaic Make Me Look Fat?
Some art forms are suited to portraiture and some are not. Today, on our day trip to El Jem we visited the mosaic museum that featured some of the finest mosaics on the planet. They depicted gods and goddesses, myths and legends, but they also depicted ordinary people…in a kind of unflattering way. While sculptors and painters can trim off the extra pounds and make you appear taller or more noble, in mosaic we suspect even the most stunning family member ended up looking like they had been dropped you on your head. To wit:
Souvenir: The beautiful and carb-tastic “makroudh” cakes stuffed with dates we picked up at one of the sweet stores in the market.
What the Heck is That? What was it that made us two hours late getting away this afternoon? Was it:
- Yours truly and 38 other passengers trapped in a rug store?
- Our anchor snagging an old abandoned fishing net in the harbor?
Answer: C (Both)