Our Canada – New England Cruise Part Three

Oh goodness it’s been a while since I sat down to work on finishing this series of posts about our recent cruise to Canada and New England.  We were saying goodbye to Halifax at the end of my last post, and today we say a brief hello to Bar Harbor Maine.  I had never been to Maine before, but had always dreamed of going.  In particular, I’d always wanted to see Acadia National Park.   Bar Harbor is situated on an Island called Mount Desert Island. Our ship had to anchor out in the harbor/bay because the town is not set up to accommodate cruise ships of our size. Today’s tour was arranged by me, and not the cruise line.  I know I’ve said it before, but it’s so typical that with a little bit of research you can find great tours on your own that are much more reasonably priced than booking with the cruise line.  In this case, I booked with a company who has a fabulous reputation on Trip Advisor, called “Oli’s Trolleys”.  Once on shore, we had a short walk to where the Trolley pick up was. It was a grey, drippy day, but we were determined to make the best of it.  Here’s a pic I quickly snapped on our walk to the trolley –

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It’s true, everything is about the Lobster in Maine!!!  I know this may sound crazy, but neither one of us are lobster lovers, so nope, we never ate any.  People did say it was delicious!     After boarding the trolley, we headed into Acadia National Park. My photos from there were not spectacular – mostly because of the weather, but I will share a couple. One of the reasons I chose Oli’s Trolleys is because if the weather cooperates, they WILL drive you up to the top of Cadillac Mountain. Many other tours do not. In fact, I’m not sure any of the the ship sponsored tours went up there! We were very lucky…. while it was wet and grey, it wasn’t foggy, so our driver took us up the mountain!  Here is a view from the top, looking down. You can see three cruise ships and the bay is called Frenchman’s Bay. The islands are called the Porcupine Islands. Apropos, I think!!

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It really was a stunning view in person, and OH… if it had been sunny!!!  Well anyway, we quickly realized how lucky we were to have had this view at all!  Just as we were beginning our walk back to the trolley, the fog started to roll in. In less than 5 minutes, this view was TOTALLY obscured. Here’s how it looked as we approached the trolley:

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Crazy weather, eh?  We came on down the mountain and made a circular drive around Mt Desert Island, nearly all of which is in Acadia National Park. Some famous people live on the Island according to our tour guide – the most famous I think is Martha Stewart who has a summer home there.  Here is a snap I took during one of our stops…

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Ahh, the Atlantic sea breeze… It really is lovely there and we sure enjoyed finally getting to Maine!  One thing I am fascinated with is the poem, Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.   I read this as a teenager and never forgot it. It’s about how the Acadian people were rounded up and marched south from Maine to Louisiana. It’s well worth a read and heart-wrenching the way Evangeline is separated from and searching for her love, Gabriel.

The next day we woke to sunshine and another “new-to-us” place, Gloucester Massachusetts. Gloucester is not too far from Boston (about 40 miles) and is mainly known for two things: Fishing and the movie “The Perfect Storm”.  This tour was booked through the cruise line and whoa baby, did we tell the cruise about it later….. anyway, our first bus stop was at the iconic “Fisherman” statue (the Gloucester Fisherman’s Memorial).  I don’t really know why, but I had always wanted to see this. Here is a view from behind the fisherman, looking out to sea…

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This is a memorial (built in the 1920’s) to all the fishermen who have lost their lives at sea. There are plaques with  the name of every unfortunate soul who died while fishing. Here’s a view of the front of the statue –

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Oops, hubby is blocking the inscription. It says, “They That Go Down To The Sea In Ships  1623-1923”. Funny thing, I found what I think may be one of my distant relatives on one of the plaques of fallen seamen. I’ll have to do some research on that!  Anyway, here’s one of me –

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Oh, and that’s our cruise ship, the Holland America Zuiderdam way off in the background. Gloucester was another “tender” port.   We went around a lot of Gloucester with our tour guide telling us stuff like, “there’s the beach I swim at every day of the year… yes every single day”…. or “there’s my family home — it’s for sale but we will keep it in the family” (what? that didn’t even make sense, but it’s just what she said!)…. or “over there is the pole they grease every year.. oh, well, we’ve gone past that now…..”  You get the drift, she was useless as a tour guide. A nice woman and clearly a local, but being a tour guide was NOT her forte.  Then there was the bus driver…. he kept driving into parking lots and other tight areas where it was nearly impossible to turn around. This guy was really struggling! John and I felt somewhat unsafe, but what could we do? We wanted to see the area, so on to Rockport Massachusetts we went!  Rockport is a really cute, tiny, touristy coastal village. We had an hour and a half on our own, and really enjoyed exploring the small area.  I guess the area is called “Bear Skin Neck” and I had to take a photo of this sign:

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I was so caught up by the sign that I didn’t even notice (’til now!) that I walked right past a Pewter Shop! Hmmm, would have loved to have gone in there!  We wandered down the streets and struggled to find a place that served fish and chips! Since we’re not lobster fans, we were rather put off by all the Lobster and Chips establishments, but did finally did find what we were craving – and it was so delicious!  After our meal, it was time to wander through the little town that is truly so picturesque!

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Our tour guide told us that the little red boat house (above) is “the most photographed building in America”. While it’s quite quaint and all that, I highly, highly doubt her words are factual. Oh well, we sure did enjoy Rockport.

As we approached our bus, we noticed another bus in the road, trying to pass our bus which was parked. We watched as the moving bus hit our bus and damaged the side mirror. Within 5 minutes another bus tried to pass by, but this time our bus driver started up the bus and moved it closer to the curb (where it should have been all along….) and avoided another bus to bus confrontation! Oh my.  Needless to say, we did mention the less than adequate tour guide and the less than competent bus driver in the survey sent to us by Holland America after we returned home.

Our final port of call was Newport, Rhode Island.  Again, a new place for both of us… 🙂  I’d always wanted to see “the mansions” along the water in Newport and so we arranged (for less than half the price!) a local tour that drove us all around Newport and then included a tour of one mansion.  We had a small bus with only about 6 people onboard and a great guide. The walk from where the tender boat dropped us, to where we connected with our tour was about a block. The day was stunningly gorgeous with clear blue skies and bright sunshine.

Here are some mansions we drove past…

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This one, fondly known to locals as the “Hurricane Hut”

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Don’t know the name of this one, but love how close it is to the water!

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Then we arrived at “The Breakers” the mansion we would tour. It was owned by the Vanderbilt family.

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How’s this for a back yard???   Check out the sailboat in the distance. Wow. Just Wow.

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We were allowed to take photographs inside the mansion, but without flash. My camera did the best it could in low light… which isn’t great. Here’s one that hubby snapped of me… this home of the Vanderbilt’s was quite opulent. For the self guided tour, we were given headsets that worked perfectly. By pressing a button as we entered each room, we could hear a description of the room, the pieces in it, and how it was used by the Vanderbilt family. Fascinating stuff.

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Here’s one of the Music Room.

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In a way, The Breakers reminded me of Hearst Castle. An ‘over the top’ home near the ocean, lived in and loved by it’s owners.  Well folks, that wraps up our photos for the cruise.  The day after Newport we were “at sea” and then the next day arrived at 6 am in Manhattan, New York City. We rode a pre-arranged Holland America bus from the cruise terminal through Manhattan over to JFK Airport. It’s about 20 miles of driving, but oh my, it took well over an hour! It was a VERY long day of traveling to get home, but we made it, safe and sound.  Cruising is a lot of fun, and there’s a chance we’ll do one more – someday…. maybe. It’s just too soon to say.  I do love traveling and seeing new places SO MUCH, but coming home… well, that’s pure sweet heaven to me.

Our cruise to Canada & New England – part two

On this post we’ll cover days four and five of our cruise. Day four finds us in Northern Nova Scotia, Sydney to be exact, on Cape Breton Island.  Because many are not familiar with this region of the world (including me), I’ll insert a map.

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Because I tend to research a thing to death, I read quite a few reviews of the port of Sydney saying that “there’s nothing to see or do here”. Hmmmmm.  One of the excursions that was actually offered by Holland America was a taste of the local music.  Scottish and Irish music, as well as Scottish dancing are common here.  Here’s what we saw upon reaching the port of Sydney…..

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There you have it folks, the world’s largest fiddle!  Just seeing this thing let me know we were in for a musical treat! This was the view from the deck of the ship, zoomed in a bit.   Looking another direction we saw what is a very pretty little harbor town.

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Here is a short, three minute video I made showing a few clips that I took from the music show. It starts with a bagpiper and then we go inside to hear the local musicians. If you are a fan of Irish or Scottish music, you’ll love this. We sure did!!!!!  I hope you’ll take a peek. Just click on the pic below and the video will start. Be sure and have your speakers turned on!

Talk about a delightful afternoon!! Not only were they talented, they were super friendly too.  Homemade Oatcakes were on every table, as well as coffee or tea to go with them.  I sat there and silently wished I’d been born on Cape Breton Island – I love when people are SO proud of their heritage!

Day five was another sunny one, and we were SO pleased!  Our port of call today was Halifax, Nova Scotia. This is the only port that was not new to us.  Back in 2009 we did a cruise that took us to Halifax.  We remember thoroughly enjoying the port, taking a tour out to Peggy’s Cove (stunningly beautiful) and around the town. This time around we decided to forego an organized tour and take a short walk down the street from the cruise port to visit the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.  We sure enjoyed it!   We particularly enjoyed watching the Bluenose II come in to dock after taking a group of school children out on a morning cruise. The Bluenose II is an exact replica of the Bluenose which was a celebrated racing ship and fishing vessel. Interesting facts: The Bluenose is featured on the Canadian dime and was one of the first ships involved in the now famous America’s Cup sailing race!zz5

Hubby, lover of America’s Cup and sailing ships in general was thrilled when we got to go aboard the Bluenose II and he got to grab the wheel!

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After enjoying the Maritime Museum, we meandered our way back to the ship. The walk was less than a mile and so pleasant on a sunny day.  Here’s a pic of our ship, docked in Halifax.

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On our walk back, we noticed a fishing boat come in to a small public dock. We watched in astonishment as they pulled up this MASSIVE fish!  People say that it was a blue fin tuna, probably headed to Japan or China as sushi or shasimi for BIG bucks.

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Farewell beautiful Halifax!  The view below is looking back to the city.

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Our cruise is now leaving Canadian waters and moving south towards the USA.  The third and final cruise blog will take us to Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.  I hope you’ll stay tuned!

Our cruise to Canada and New England – part one

Time to put up a blog post on our lovely cruise to (mostly) new places in Canada and New England!  I could probably do an entire post on how much we despised our red-eye flight out of Seattle to New Jersey… and then the long lay over in NJ, before finally reaching our destination of Quebec City at 2 pm Eastern time, the next day. All in all it was 19 hours from door-to-door, so to speak.  We were unable to sleep on that overnight flight so we arrived totally exhausted.  Oh heck, we knew that red-eye was going to kill us, but in the end it was SO worth it.  We left home on Friday September 16th, arriving in Quebec on Saturday the 17th. The cruise lasted until September 27th.

Here is photo of our ship, Holland America’s Zuiderdam.  The view is from the top of the “old town” in Quebec City.

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This was our third cruise with Holland America and our second cruise on this particular ship. In regards to our cruiseline, we really like HAL. The service is always fabulous, the food quite good, and the other cruisers, nice. To be honest, HAL is not a popular line for folks with kids. Carnival, Disney, and Royal Caribbean have lots of kids on their cruises, and lots of activities catered towards kids. Let’s face it, we kind of like the “no-kids” feel.  Having said that, there were a handful of young children on our cruise and they are certainly allowed to cruise with Holland America, but you just don’t see that many – this is our observation from having done three cruises with them.

Next, I’ll say a word or two about our cabin. In past cruises (we’ve been on 7 now), we’ve always had either an ocean view cabin or a verandah (balcony) cabin. On this cruise we chose an inside cabin, mostly to save money, plus, we’d never had an inside room, so why not give it a try – we thought.  We were surprised at how small the cabin was and we took to calling it our “cubicle”. After a few days, we found we really missed being able to look out and see where we were or what the weather was like. We really missed the verandah for our own little “happy hour”. On past trips, we’ve enjoyed sitting on the verandah, sipping a glass of wine, and watching the world go by. Obviously that was not possible in “the cubicle”.  Take away from this: the extra $$ is worth it, get a verandah cabin!  Here’s a snap of our little room –

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I’ve got to say, our cabin steward was wonderful, in there cleaning the place twice a day and leaving us cute towel animals at night. The bed was extremely comfortable. The bathroom was perfectly adequate. We just wished we had sprung for a larger room with a balcony, in hindsight.

Day two on the ship was our second day in Quebec City. What a gorgeous place! So clean you could eat off the sidewalks! We took a 2.5 hour walking tour that was billed as a “leisurely walk from the top of the old town, down to the lower old town”. Hmmmmm. It didn’t actually turn out that way. We walked up lots of hills and stairs to be able to see everything, there was no time to rest, go potty, or run in somewhere and buy a bottle of water (it was a warm, humid day). We still thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the sights that QC has – so much history here, as well as the stunning Hotel Frontenac which looks down upon the St Lawrence River from high on a cliff.  It is rumored that this is the place where Churchill, Eisenhower, and FDR made the decision to do Operation Overlord, AKA, “D-Day”.

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Our guide was fabulous, and even made me want to come back and visit in the wintertime when everything is frozen over, including the St Lawrence River.

Next is just a random photo of some historic buildings I thought were pretty –

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I can just imagine this with snow everywhere and all decorated for Christmas…. 🙂

After our lovely tour of Quebec City, we meandered back to the ship (pretty darn hot and tired) and went up to the Crow’s Nest Lounge. It’s nearly at the top and at the front of the ship, with huge windows everywhere. A great place to be comfortable and watch the sailaway. It was here we got in on the 4-5pm Happy Hour special. You can buy one libation at the normal price and get the 2nd for $1. On a cruise ship, that’s a pretty good deal. What we found out though, is…. I couldn’t have a glass of white wine and hubby a glass of red, even if they were the same price! Nope, you have to get two of the EXACT same thing to get the deal. Oh well, we worked through that, but thought that rule was a bit silly.

We wandered around the ship a bit after we got going and went up really high to the area where they rent out the “private cabanas”. I think these cabanas are only in use on Caribbean cruises. No one was using them that day, so we did!  Here’s a photo of me, hanging out in the private cabana, shortly before sunset. There wasn’t a soul around!

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We stayed out there quite a while, admiring the gorgeous, and I DO mean gorgeous Quebec countryside. Talk about peaceful and pastoral! We loved it!

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Sorry it’s a bit blurry… this was a big zoom-in photo and I don’t have a fancy camera. But you get the idea. Peaceful.

Day two was an “at sea” day, which had us going the length of the St Lawrence seaway and up around the top of Prince Edward Island. This was the only day that the boat really started rocking. We had “gale force winds up to 60mph” according to our ship’s captain!

Day three found us on Prince Edward Island. Unfortunately, the day dawned cloudy with the threat of rain, but we were still thrilled to be here. We took a tour called the Island Drive and Anne of Green Gables House. I didn’t remember ever reading Anne of Green Gables as a child, so made sure I read it just before we left on the trip. I’m so glad I did 🙂  Next two photos show us at Cavendish beach, not far from Anne’s house.zpei1

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The beautiful red earth is everywhere on the island!   We then hopped back in the bus and carried on to the Green Gables house. Obviously, Anne is a fictional character, but the author of all the Anne books, Lucy Maud Montgomery, lived on PEI as a child and this farm was owned by one of her family members. She visited the farm and apparently based the books on this lovely place.

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Here’s a pic of the woods surrounding the farm. Just gorgeous, even on a cloudy early-Fall day.

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I couldn’t resist this next one. I had to join the rest of the tourists and put on the “Anne with braids” hat and stand by the buggy.  It wasn’t all that much of a stretch really….. only a few decades back, I was a little girl with long red braids. No buggy though! 🙂  PS, I still have the braids, wrapped in plastic, in my garage. Don’t ask me why because I don’t know. Strange, eh?

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After a lovely visit to Anne’s house, we hopped on the bus and the rain started in earnest. I tried to get some shots through the bus windows showing the stunning beauty of this Island, but the weather made it difficult.  I loved this place so much that I told hubby I wanted to pack up and move there. Forget about this crazy upcoming election and terrorists, and just live out our lives in such peace. Hubby’s a Canadian, so we actually COULD do this. Then the tour guide said that it’s typical for the Island to get up to 10 feet of snow a year. My friend Karen, who actually lives on PEI has since told me that that number is really a bit of an exaggeration, that they only get that much snow on the worst of the worst winters.  Well, it scared hubby (the 12 feet of snow scenario), so I guess we won’t be moving there.  It’s ever so tempting, though.

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Okay, I can see now that this cruise blog is going to be a long one.  So, I’ll go ahead and publish this part now, and work on the rest of it in the days to come.  So far we’ve done 4 of the 10 days.  Many more ports of call ahead!! Hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoy remembering the fun on our recent trip.

An Autumnal Getaway

cruise-shipBack in 2013, hubby and I took a very exciting trip to Europe and did a Mediterranean cruise.  We got to see lots of all new places and totally enjoyed it — well, until I got a really nasty nasty cold, two days before the end of the 10 day cruise….. but I digress.  We love cruising. I could write an entire blog post on Why We Love Cruising but instead of that, I’ll give a couple of the biggest reasons. Number One:  You get to see lots of different places and only have to unpack once.  Number Two:  Somebody else does the “driving” & your food, “hotel”, and some entertainment are all included in the price.   There are pages I could write on choosing the right cruise line for you, the cruise destination, the type of cabin, and how to get a good price on the cabin you choose – but instead I’m just going to talk about the cruise we chose.

We’ve decided to do an Autumn Canada – New England cruise this year.  It’s been three years for us and honestly, I’ve been champing at the bit to go again.  Last year we nearly booked a similar trip, but just could not justify the price we were going to have to pay, so we canceled it. This year, we found a slightly shorter cruise, 10 nights instead of 14, on a different cruise line, and a different class of cabin – one that was more affordable, AND, since we no longer had a sick kitty that needed twice-daily medication  😦   well, we decided to go for it.  Some people when choosing a cruise, look at the ship and it’s amenities first. We don’t. We look at the itinerary first because we really enjoy exploring NEW places, and the ship itself doesn’t really matter to us (the cruise line does matter, but the particular ship, no).  In fact, this time we selected an “Inside” cabin to save some more money.  We have friends who have told us that having an Inside cabin (no porthole) is perfectly fine and comfortable – and after all you’re really only in your cabin to sleep, anyway.  In the past, I’ve loved having a Balcony Cabin, but we’re going to try an Inside this time. 

In 2009 we went on a similar cruise to Canada and New England, but this time we picked all new ports, except for one repeat, Halifax Nova Scotia.  We’ll get to Maine, Prince Edward Island, Massachusetts, Quebec City, & Newport Rhode Island. This will be our 7th cruise. Sometimes we’ve traveled with friends, sometimes on our own… this time it will be just the two of us.

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I’m so excited to go on our little “Autumnal Getaway” this year!  I’m sure I’ll post some pics to Facebook along the way, and will definitely report back here with the full recap.  The pictures above show…. a lighthouse in Maine, the hotel Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, a pastoral scene on Prince Edward Island, and the waterfront mansions of Newport Rhode Island. 

Mediterranean Cruise Day One – Barcelona

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Hello one and all!  I know I’ve not blogged in literally forever, but I’m back!!!  Since I last wrote I’ve retired from my job as a bedside RN in Neonatal Care after 35 years.  For a while, we hope to do some traveling, and my plan is to document it here.  In mid-September we did a 12 night Mediterranean cruise, embarking from Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.  We had cruised at least 5 times before, (Alaska, Mexico, New England, Panama Canal, Caribbean) so I felt like we were “seasoned cruisers”.  We booked this trip back in March and did LOTS of research about our ports of call prior to the big day.  Another exciting thing was that we cruised with our neighbors, Brian & Paul.  Here we are, pictured above with all our stuff (which I struggled to put into just two suitcases per person, one big and one carry-on) packed into Brian and Paul’s car.  We decided to take the shuttle down to SeaTac airport instead of driving and paying to park for 17 days.

It was a very long trip.  This is an understatement.  We knew it would be grueling and for a couple of “older folks”, it was.  If you consider the time getting to Seattle, the time waiting to catch our overnight flight to Amsterdam, the flight TO Amsterdam, and the flight from Amsterdam to Barcelona, the total travel time was about 21 hours. We arrived totally exhausted, but determined to stay awake until the normal local bedtime… which we succeeded in doing.

We arrived 3 days prior to our big cruise which was intentional.  We wanted some time not only to explore Barcelona, but also to visit with John’s son, David (who we hadn’t seen for over a year).  He lives/works in London UK. He arrived from London just minutes after we arrived from Amsterdam and we met up in the airport.  🙂  It was so great to get to have a couple of fun days with David!  First stop was our hotel, Hotel Indigo Barcelona.  Now I cannot take credit for finding this gem of a hotel… hubby did the research on this and we were all very pleased.

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Here is our room…. absolutely LOVELY and modern.  The bed was honestly the most comfortable hotel bed I have EVER slept on…. could this be because I was one very weary traveler?  Possibly, but this really was one great bed!

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Here is a view from our little balcony, looking down onto the busy street below.  We were on Floor 2, which in Europe really means the third floor.  They count the ground floor as “floor 1”.  My apologies to all who already knew that little piece of info.  We read on Trip Advisor that some folks complained about the street noise, but we weren’t bothered by that since the windows are triple glazed and did a good job of blocking out the all day and all night traffic.

Our first order of business, after securing our rooms was to get something to eat.  David got a recommendation from the front desk clerk for a non-touristy place for Tapas.  It was only a few block walk… which would have been NOTHING for normal people, but we were SO tired and my bad leg was also SO tired, that it seemed further.  Just for the record, I’ll say right up front that my bad leg was literally a PAIN IN THE….. well, hip, the whole time.  I now will fully admit that I should have had the replacement surgery back in March when I wanted it – no matter WHAT kind of implant they wanted to put in!  Yet, one cannot go backwards, only forwards, so I did the best I could with what I had (a degenerated hip joint).

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We sat outside at this nice, busy, non-touristy restaurant.  The weather was divine!  About 75 degrees here in the early evening (about 7 pm or so).  Oh, at this point I will mention that Europeans – or at least folks in Barcelona – normally eat dinner quite late…. like 9 or 10 pm.  That may be why this place was not yet filled to the max.  Anyway, it was here that I had my first CAVA (Spanish sparkling wine, mostly produced right here in Catalonia) which was delightful.  It seemed that it was the tradition to start dinner with Cava everywhere we went.  We had Tapas (an assortment of interesting appetizers) but unfortunately I didn’t snap a photo of them.  You will see later on that I enjoyed taking photos of meals…. but I digress.   It was also here that I had my first real Spanish Sangria!  Yum!

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Here’s a nice shot of David, just chillin’ over the Tapas and wine 🙂

After dinner we began our walk back to Hotel Indigo.  On the way we came across a place that I HAD to document! What the heck??

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It’s the OBAMA British Africa Pub.  They apparently serve “Ales, Stouts, Gin, and Rhum”.  I know this is not a great photo, but I snapped it while walking across a busy street.  Looks like an interesting place, eh?  Then we saw “him”.  Mr Obama himself, just lounging outside the establishment….

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No surprise, hubby had to go sit with “him” for a while.  I can only imagine what John may have said to our President.  Hmmmm.

From here, we dragged our sorry behinds to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.  We would need it as the next day was an all day tour of Barcelona and Montserrat.  Montserrat was where I nearly kicked the proverbial bucket …. but more on that next time!

We’re back from Mexico!

mexican-cruiseWe just returned from a wonderful cruise vacation!  If you would like to see several interesting places but unpack just ONCE; if you like a vacation that includes all the food you’d like to consume and a lovely clean room to return to nightly, I really do recommend a cruise.  This was our 4th and probably not our last cruise.  We were away 7 nights with three ports of call, places we’d never been to before.  This time we got to cruise with son #2 and our daughter in law, which was a real treat!  What’s especially nice when cruising with another couple – or even a group – is that you have plenty of time to be together, and also plenty of time to be on your own if you wish.  We think we had a great mix of both J  My dear husband always complains about “nothing to do” on the Sea Days, but it seemed like we ended up keeping plenty busy!  We played mini golf, ping pong, lounged a bit by the pool, and enjoyed a glass of wine or two on our balcony. 

 

Our first port of call was Puerto Vallarta.  We had two shore excursions planned for that day – one on a canopy tour over the jungle (a “zipline”) and an evening with native dancers on a far off beach with traditional food called “Rhythms of the Night”.  DH and DS managed to make it to the zipline, while DIL and I stayed back at the ship.  We were both fairly disappointed that an intestinal flu bug had to rear its ugly head and keep us from ziplining!  Yet, after hearing all about it, I know it was truly a Godsend that we didn’t go.  Apparently it was VERY physically taxing, and I’m sure with the 85 degree heat and 80% humidity, I would have hated all the climbing they had to do.  Thankfully, I was recovered enough to attend the evening excursion.  It was fantastic!  The setting was sort of like a mix of “Survivor” and “The Blue Lagoon”.  Totally lit by torches and candles, the native dancing and food were simply excellent. 

 

We had to be up bright and early the next morning for our tour into the Sierra Madre Mountains outside of Mazatlan.  It was a 7 hour tour to a working brick yard, handcrafted pottery and furniture place, and then to a very remote mountain village for lunch.  For me, this day was without question the most memorable.  To get away from the ocean front façade, away from the high-rise hotels and “Americanization” that lingers near the water was a VERY good thing.  Frankly, it’s something that every visitor to Mexico ought to do.  We were able to see first hand the REAL people of Mexico – how they struggle just to survive.  The feelings that ran through me were many.  I was in awe, at the way the folks can live in such “basic” conditions in this day and age.  I felt sympathy for these people, and then immediately felt guilty for feeling sorry for them.  Then I began to feel such gratitude for what I have and how I live, and then sort of felt guilty about that too.  What a mixed bag of emotion I felt.  What I do know is that I need to find something I can do to help – especially the children. 

We enjoyed a delicious lunch of traditional Mexican food (which I LOVE!!) and then made our way back to the ship. 

 

On Friday, we arrived at Cabo San Lucas.  It is a beautiful port and it was here that we got on a real America’s Cup Yacht and went out into the ocean for a sail.  This was something that DH had been dreaming of, and while we didn’t get to “race” the other yacht, we still had a fantastic time.  I would have loved a bit more shore time at Cabo, but they had us back on the ship by 3:30 and sailing away by 4. 

 

 Cabo

Some general cruise thoughts: 1. Cruise food is really NOT as great as it’s cracked up to be.  I mean, it’s ok, but it’s not “great”.  2. Yes, you can eat as much as you want, and the guy at our table ordered THREE lobster tails the night that was on the menu.  3. It was fun to meet our tablemates, Brad and Mary from California.  4. The bed and pillows on this Carnival ship were very comfortable, much more so than the previous cruises we were on.  5. Having a balcony room was fantastic! 6. Cruise ships should truly make an effort to separate smokers cabins from NON smokers cabins.  Our stateroom smelled strongly of smoke – but only from time to time!  We think it was coming in through the ventilation system!  7. Don’t expect the entertainment to be as good as Las Vegas.  If you keep your expectations down a bit, you’ll be satisfied.  8. I wanted to bring my cabin steward home with me!!  Having our room cleaned twice a day was a dream! 

Sunset from our balcony

Sunset from our balcony

 

 

Now it’s back to work, back to real life, and sadly, back to winter weather.  Ahhh, but without all those things, I wouldn’t appreciate my vacations nearly as much J

 

 

Time for a cruise!

Well folks, it’s that time again – time for a few days off work; time for some R & R; time for some fun with family; time for A CRUISE!  I’m so excited about our upcoming trip to Mexico!  For one, we’ve never been to any of the places where our ship docks (Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta), and this time we are going with family!  Dear son #2 and DDIL will be on the same cruise with us – their first, our 4th.  A few years ago, my dear husband was totally against the idea of taking a cruise.  He said he would go “stark raving nuts” stuck onboard a ship, even a big one, for a week at a time.  Somehow, I managed to gently convince him that we should at least give it a try.  That was in 2000.  We were living in southern California and took a short 3 day cruise from L.A. to Ensenada Mexico.  It was a borderline disaster.  It was horribly disappointing.  We were assigned to a table for eight each night for dinner.  That part was A-OK with us, we enjoy meeting new people…. our tablemates were… well, quite an odd bunch.  First there was the couple who spoke ONLY Chinese.  They seemed quite nice, but it was nearly impossible to converse with them.  Then there was the “Father/Daughter” duo – who we were pretty certain were NOT father/daughter!  Then there was the couple from Chicago who we actually did enjoy visiting with.  The food was ‘so-so’.  The onboard activities included watching NAPKIN FOLDING and ICE CARVING, which we were not too thrilled with.  We had one shore excursion – to a winery near Ensenada which was OK.  We met quite an array of folks onboard who had ONE and only ONE plan – and that was to get into downtown Ensenada to buy DRUGS!  In Mexico, you can purchase over the counter, a lot of drugs you can only get with a prescription here.  People were heading to town to bring back their year’s worth of antibiotics like penicillin, and only God knows what else.  One woman informed us (proudly!) that this was her 18th time on this same cruise to Ensenada.  Hmmmm.  The only real bright spot was when I managed to annihilate my dear hubby at Ping Pong – fair and square!  Ahhh yes, a moment I’ll remember always!! This grand moment in our married lives has never again been repeated, unfortunately.  After that cruise, DH said he’d never ever do another. 

Once again, somehow, I managed to gently convince him that going to Alaska on a cruise ship would be MUCH different than the little 3 nighter to Ensenada.  We boarded in Vancouver B.C. and had the time of our lives — truly loved every minute of it!  Since that experience was sooooo good, he was easily convinced to do New England and Eastern Canada last year.  It was so much fun – we had a great time!  This year, it’s the west coast of Mexico and we are certain it will be fantastic once again.  I am SO looking forward to our balcony cabin (this is a FIRST for us) and also spending relaxing moments with son #2 and DDIL.  Photos coming next time!!!  Bon Voyage!  🙂