Monday, September 29, 2014

Starting A New Adventure

We were up at O Dark Thirty on 9/25 for a 7:30 flight to Los Angeles.  Terry picked us up, God bless him, at 5:30 am and delivered us in plenty of time to the airport.  For some reason I was once again not allowed to register online so we had to go to the counter.  Surprisingly we were given TSA Pre Check and bypassed the long security line for a less thorough inspection.  No pat down for me!  I have no idea why.

Our flight was uneventful and way more comfortable than our last flights on KLM.   The exit row was empty and we were allowed to move to those seats.  We arrived a half hour early which added to the time we had to wait for our transfer bus.  I called Gerre and told her where we were so they had their hotel shuttle bus drop them off to join us.  We had coffee and split a bagel since we were given nothing on the plane for a 3.5 hour trip.  We could buy M&Ms or chips though.  For breakfast!

Eventually the bus to the port arrived and in a half hour we were able to board our ship.  First up was lunch because it was now mid afternoon and that half bagel was not going too far.  We familiarized ourselves with the ship, met at the Sky High bar for the sail away, then left to get dressed for dinner.  We have two tables for the 14 of us and we are changing seats to mix it up.

We forced ourselves to attend the nightly show because we knew if we went back to our cabin we would conk out.  We gained two hours flying out and another hour this morning when we woke up.  The show was three different acts that will have longer performances later on.  It was sort of a preview. We headed to bed afterwards.

The next day we slept until 7:30 which put us on a good schedule.  We joined two couples for breakfast then played Trivia and Scattagories in addition to doing the ship sponsored one mile walk.  After lunch we attended a presentation on the building of the Panama Canal.  This is going to be a big treat sailing through.

We eventually joined the others for dinner and then attended the evening song and dance group performance.  We returned to our cabin afterwards since the show starts at 9:15 and ends close to 10:30.

Saturday morning we played our second game of Progressive Trivia.  We have 28 points out of 40 so far.  It is tough beating a group of USAF doctors on anatomy!  We did our walk again, looked at the photos that have been taken of us so far and just whiled away the afternoon.  We met again for dinner where Ted was presented with a small birthday cake and was sung to by the waiters who sang "Happy  Birthday dear Robert" which cracked us all up.

The show that night was a comedian who had us all laughing so hard we lost our breath.  He is terrific, using the audience as props and his quick quips are pure fun!

Today we docked in Matzalan.  Our itinerary called for Cabo San Lucas but last week's hurricane devastated that port.  Four couples joined up to rent a tour van and driver to show us around.  It was extremely hot so the A/C in the van certainly felt good as we visited the highlights.  We stopped at a jewelry store that had nice bathrooms, free beer, margaritas, pop and water but by the time we left it turned into very expensive water, etc.

Our last stop was at a restaurant right on the beach with great coconut shrimp but no tacos, fajitas, enchiladas, etc. on the menu.  What we eat at home is Tex-Mex and not eaten by real Mexicans.

It was a great day and we sailed away for Puerto Vallarto shortly after our return.

We decided to have dinner at the buffet early and see the earlier show. It was a hypnotist who was OK but I have seen the same sort of program done better.  Afterwards we listened to a Neil Diamond legend singer and then moved on to the martini bar to listen to Oldies.  It was a pretty late night considering we had to spring forward another hour as we sailed back towards the east.

Our day in Puerto Vallarta was a hoot!  Rhonda had arranged a tour guide and van for the day.  The A/C worked great, the cooler was filled with beer, pop and water.  Our driver Carlos was a terrific driver and guide.  We spent over six hours with him.  We visited old town with cobblestone streets, the Romantic District (but I don't know why it is called that), the pedestrian boardwalk along the water, Gringo Gulch and way up and out to the area where Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor lived.  There are many condos and homes tucked up in the forested hillsides.

We eventually ended up way, way out at a Tequila Distillery.  By the time we left there a few folks were feeling no pain.  Ted, Gerre and I just observed except for one swallow of a nut creme flavor.  At $37 a bottle we passed on purchasing anything.

We ate lunch at Chico's next to the river where we could watch divers and zipline riders.  It was a nice lunch and we enjoyed another group meal together.

In the previous pictures the diver is ready to enter the water below the falls and he is still curled up above the water in the next.

After lunch we came back to the ship.  I am sure there were a few naps taken before dinner.

Tuesday was another day at sea. We fell one more point behind in Progressive Trivia because my five team members did not believe me when I said I Feel Pretty came from West Side Story.  They said My Fair Lady!

We played a game of Shanghai which I won because I got Shanghai catching Ted, Irene and John in Round Five.  For dinner we all went to the Brazilian Steakhouse to celebrate Ted, Gerre, Rhonda and my birthday.  It was great and we all were sung to by the waitstaff.  Twice now we have received chocolate dipped strawberries in our stateroom from the ship staff after telling them how much we are enjoying the cruise.

After dinner the show was the juggler who made it further than any juggler on America's Got Talent.  He certainly was out of the ordinary and gave an amazing performance.

Wednesday we docked in Huatulca in rain.  We spent a bit of time in our ponchos in the dock area but  the prices were more like Rodeo Drive than a small Mexican village.  We just amused ourselves around the ship playing cards, listening to music, talking with others, etc.

After dinner the singers and dancers put on an impressive show that we all really enjoyed.  Proud Mary, Sweet Caroline, Let It Go, etc. were performed.  We spent some time in a lounge listening to Elvis songs and danced a bit.  We retired earlier because we were getting up early.

Our next port was Puerto Chiapas and we rode a bus into Tapachula.  It is a town of 400,000 but not really a tourist stop.  They did not accept VISA, some would take American dollars but the bank wanted passports to change dollars to pesos.  It was a local downtown and not too much of interest.  We didn't stay long and after using free wifi for a bit, we returned to the ship.

After dinner everyone was tired due to the early start so everyone retired to their staterooms.  Ted was happy because football was on TV!  The next day was another day at sea with another round of Progressive Trivia on the 80s.  We didn't do well because the questions were very specific like "what song won best single in 1984!"

Our next stop was Costa Rica where we went on a tour as a group.  Our first stop was to see the white faced capuchin monkeys.  I was standing aside watching others feed them when one jumped on my back and another ran up my leg!

They actually were very gentle, no scratching or biting and were cute when they didn't startle the heck out of you.  From there we went on the Tarcoles River for a crocodile tour.  Talk about up close and personal.  Our driver Jimmy got out of the boat and coaxed these huge, aggressive animals to within inches of his bare legs and feet!  One was over 18 feet long and I barely got him in the photo.  

After that we had a plate lunch at a Sports Bar that was quite good.  We continued on to a resort way up high where we could get great views.  Three scarlet macaws flew past right below us.  Neat!  A stop at El Jardin gave everyone a chance to souvenir shop, get a drink and use the bathroom.  It was a full, wonderful day and a great way to celebrate my 69th birthday.

When we returned, our room attendant had made me a towel birthday cake and included a bottle of wine.  At dinner the wait staff sang to me and gave me a birthday cake to share.  Ted bought me the robe available here on the ship.  My pink Royal Hawaiian robe has passed its prime.  Great, great day.

Sunday was a sea day and also the Texan/Dallas football game day.  We all gathered in O'Sheehan's Bar to eat lunch, play cards and watch the game.  It was a good game but Dallas won.  We have all been eating together in the evening and then attending the early show.  Entertainment has been excellent for the most part.

Monday was our 10 hour trip through the Panama Canal, a west to east full crossing.  We spent most of the day in the Spinnaker lounge watching the goings on.  What an engineering marvel.  

We had dinner and then saw a terrific show featuring the songs from Jersey Boys, one of the best shows yet.  Afterwards we all went to play Name That Tune where we did just okay.  Karaoke started and Ted, Linda, Irene, Gerre, Barry and I ended up being more of a show than the singers under Tony's tutelage.  He is such a character that Ted and Barry were in tears, Gerre and I were laughing so hard we couldn't catch our breath and Linda just shook her head at Tony's antics.  Such fun with good friends!

Tuesday was spent in Carthagena, Columbia.  We took a tour visiting the monastery high on the hill, the fortress, Our Lady of Candlemas Church, St. Peter Claver Church, Old Town, the Inquisition Museum, Bolivar Square and Boca Grande area.  The hotel in the news again about the Secret Service scandal was pointed out to us.  

Ted with St. Peter Claver SJ and a Columbian-African, the people he came to minister to.

We were gone six hours, missed lunch, so ate around 4:30 as soon as we returned.  We went to the early show which was another great one.  This has been one of the most fun cruises because of the passengers' camaraderie with the performers when brought on stage.  We have really enjoyed the games, performances and the folks we have met.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were final days at sea.  We played cards, ate, attended shows, participated in games, ate some more, etc.  I spent most of Thursday in bed nursing a cold but made it to dinner, the show and to the bar to watch some of the Colts-Texan game (another loss!).

Our last day was spent packing, filling out forms, buying photos, settling accounts, etc.  I learned they called my name Wednesday morning at the Emerald sale to win a small piece of jewelry.  Bummer!  I believe we were playing cards at the time instead of attending.

Saturday morning we were up early, dressed, finished packing, had breakfast and then proceeded to the gangway area to await our debarkation tag color.  I had reserved a bus to take all of us home from the Bayport terminal.  We arrived about 11 am and I spent time doing laundry, checking emails and going through our mail.  At 5:00 we went to church then to Linda's to play Shanghai once more.  Ted and I both came in second at our respective tables.

Today I need to get busy and back into a normal routine.  There are some things that need to be done around the house and we will finally be home long enough to get them done!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Prayers Answered

We passed 9/11 with no problems thank goodness.  But we must remain vigilant.  The world is a scary place.  Just to be on the safe side I did not go to the mall after lunch with my neighbors.  

We had another new neighbor join us.  She is leasing in our neighborhood and waiting for a house to go up for sale.  Things are selling immediately around here and it is difficult to get in on the bidding quickly enough.  The house next to us sold the first day $20,000 over the asking price.  Too bad we are not looking to move right now!

Friday we met Tommy and Susan for a late lunch to get caught up.  They had some difficulty with their motorhome on a trip to Colorado and told us of their Plan B to be sure they would be able to attend the wedding in Denver after getting stuck in Amarillo.  They made and cancelled several air, hotel, car reservations to be on the safe side.  It all worked out and they were able to travel on in the motorhome.  The joys of RVing.

Our card group was down to just four couples Saturday night.  After church we joined the others for an early night of Shanghai.  When we finished, the guys watched football while we gals talked about daycare since two of the others are actively investigating local businesses for their grandchildren.  Not a subject I am well versed in.

I used my time Sunday to get all the laundry done.  Then I put my shoes and jewelry together with the clothes I have ready for packing.  I printed our electronic documents and our baggage tags.  I put a roll of tape with the tags so we can tape them on when we pick them up in LAX.  I don't think paper tags would travel well with all the tossing around so we will just wait.  We do want the bags to end up in our cabin on Deck 9!

We started up the bunco group again after a two month hiatus.  We were short a player and still had three subs.  There is a spot to be filled so we are giving everyone interested a chance to play so when we offer the spot to someone the lady will know if she wants to join us.  Not everyone clicks so we do our best to get folks that will enjoy the group.  I did not win.  : (

When I came home I went to get my hair cut.  It was getting so long on my neck I actually had to use the curling iron to keep it from sticking out like two wayward clumps.  I will get it colored and highlighted before we leave next week.  I have to stay on top of things to keep the flying monkeys in check!

Tuesday I was asked to sub at Canasta in the morning at the country club.  We had lunch afterwards.  Again, I did not win.  : (.  But I came home to a new cleaning crew and they impressed the heck out of me.  The house really needed a good going over because it has not been thoroughly cleaned in so long (sorry Chris!) and getting a lick and promise from me every now and then.  My hip works great except for getting down and crawling around.  Climbing isn't advisable either.  Ted yells at me all the time when I drag chairs over to use.  It will be nice having things all clean and shiny.

I shopped for shoes for the trip since I tossed several pairs recently.  My bunion is getting more and more bothersome.  It doesn't hurt but finding shoes is getting more difficult.  Everyone I know who has had one removed say they wouldn't do it again.  Any advice?

Our monthly Newcomers luncheon, this time with a fashion show, occurred on Thursday.  I usually don't go but Irene and Carol were both models so I went and was glad I did.  There were 150 ladies in attendance and I saw lots of friends.  It rained cats and dogs all morning and made it difficult to arrive looking presentable!  I managed with an umbrella and a ride on a golf cart from the parking lot.  Irene arranged for us to sit at the models' table so we had good seats.

We had our awards meeting for Junior Forum on Friday.  I was assigned coordinating the "fruit" people.  There are also casserole and bread people.  I arranged for blueberries, mango, peaches, melons and grapes to go with the sweet breads, muffins and breakfast casseroles from the others.  I was proud to be recognized for 100 service and support hours for last year.  

The last weekend in March is going to be busy.  At the luncheon Thursday they announced a 35 year anniversary party on that Sunday for Newcomers and at my Friday meeting they announced our annual Gala being on that last Saturday in March.  Two dinner and dancing events in one weekend?  I may get some push back from Ted!  

Last night we saw Guys and Dolls at the community theater after having dinner with Gerre and Barry where Gerre and I exchanged birthday gifts. Having to take the Czech lead crystal piece out of my luggage each time at security, I didn't want to take it through one more time going to LAX!  Ted, Gerre and I will all celebrate birthdays in one week's time on the ship.

The play was terrific and the voices of the four lead stars were outstanding.  They all did an excellent job.  The weekend after we return it will be time for the next show.  They have a great line up this year.  We always miss January and July but we give those tickets away and still feel seeing the other five makes it worthwhile being a season ticket holder.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cool Front - Only Going Up To 90!

Living in the south produces some silly weather reports.  I remember FL - "clear and cold tonight, bring in your pets - 50 degrees."  We try to avoid the summer heat but travel schedules sometimes cause that to change.  I am just staying in when I can.  We did eat outside after church on Saturday with Terry and Carol.  It was actually a beautiful evening and it was fun catching up.

I spent Sunday getting ready for Canasta here on Monday.  I made the Chocolate Lasagna cake that I needed to make for Tuesday also.  It just seemed like a good idea to do a trial run with the recipe Junior Forum provided me.  

We had a new mix of ladies to play Canasta that were learning so they stayed at one table and I didn't get to talk much to them.  I hope they liked it and come back.  AND I won!  But I sent folks home with chicken salad sandwiches, cheese cubes, artichoke dip and no one ate any cake!  I was not about to make a second one for Tuesday so I was glad I made it in a foil pan with a lid.  It was going to the Senior Bingo and Lunch with me on Tuesday!

Ted had gone to Beaumont Monday so I was alone for the night.  Even Tucker went home.  He knows when Gerre and Barry ring the bell.  I don't know how but his response is different than when anyone else rings the doorbell.  It takes me a day or two to stop looking for him.

Tuesday was an "out the door by 7:45 am" morning.  I put the cake in a pan of ice to keep it cool since it was a lot of pudding and cool whip.  My bingo prize was 4 dishcloths and 2 matching dishtowels.   I picked them up this summer somewhere along the way.  I was hostess at Table 22 which was 7 ladies and one man.  In this setting that sort of makes him George Clooney!  

We had close to 200 seniors to visit while having coffee and juice, to play bingo, to be entertained by a couple singing show tunes and then have lunch.  My friend Joanne came by to visit with me for a few minutes.  Her husband Dwight is in a nursing home and she lives in senior housing in the area.  We are always hapoy to see one another.  Once they finish their lunch and dessert, the seniors are out the door.  I took a little piece of the cake that was left to taste it and it was pretty good!  After my busy 3 days I was tired when I got home and didn't do much.  Ted fixed dinner and I cleaned up.

Ted is very busy today.  He left for the men's neighborhood lunch, then went to the bank and is now at the doctor getting a new prescription for his antacid medicine before we leave again.  At 5:30 we are due at the country club for happy hour, dinner and cards.  Tomorrow is the lady's neighborhood luncheon.  Food, food, food!

Tomorrow is 9/11.  Please pray our country suffers no attack big or small.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

I Can't Get Turned Around

I am still falling asleep around 8 pm and getting up at 4 or 5 am.  Coming west is supposed to be easier than going east but for some reason this time it isn't working.  By the time I am on track I will be heading two hours west to LAX to start another trip!  I may become best friends with the early, early breakfast crew!

I did all the laundry the first day and my clothes are laid out on the bed ready for packing.  I went through the mail and have all that in order.  I filled out my GCT questionnaire and told them I was unhappy with KLM, did not appreciate confronting a young man who had walked onto our open bus in a rest area when the driver is supposed to stay with the bus or lock it.  It wasn't their fault but the late wake up call in Prague could have caused a problem for the travelers scheduled to go to the airport with us.  Other than that the trip was terrific, the food fabulous and our Program Director excellent.  If you don't let them know about the "bumps" they can't fix them.

I received a new roster for bunco and had some work to do on that.  We have a place to fill but several people are interested so that will be taken care of soon.  Everyone has the new info and we are good   through June 2015.

I did lose a day somewhere.  Wednesday night is Happy Hour with friends and I was amazed when on Thursday morning Ted told me I couldn't go because it was the night before!  I also received an email saying Canasta is at my house on Monday.  Sure enough I have Canasta written on my calendar but no indication it was here!  Not a problem though.  I am sure I signed up and just didn't add that info to the recurring Canasta date that gets entered automatically.

Should I be getting worried?  Am I getting forgetful or running on overload?  

Thursday we went to Sam's for paper products and I got most of what I need for Canasta.  Yesterday we hit the post office with a box of new baby clothes I purchased at the thrift shop where I volunteer.  My niece in Indiana has 3 kids and will have six grandchildren under 3.5 years old by January.  Twin girls were born last week.  A boy is coming in October and another girl in January.  I told her to give out the clothes based on sex, size and season.  We get lots of baby clothes at the thrift store with tags still in them.  A $20 Nike 3T shirt was $1.99.  In our family, someone can always use these things.  Jameson and Lilly already have some things I sent previously and enjoy Aunt Donna's boxes.

After the post office we ate at Sweet Tomatoes.  We came home and I stayed up until 9 but was snoozing on the couch before then.  I made it to 5 am this morning.  We have Tucker this week and he gets confused trying to decide if he should stay in bed with Ted or follow me to the family room!

Things gear up again next week.  I have commitments to accomplish before we head out again.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sixth Set of Photos - Almost There!

Some sights around Prague.  This is the lock fence.  Apparently they are popular in Europe with young lovers.  Engaged couples place a lock on the rungs of the fence to lock their love forever.  I knew there was one in Paris but apparently there are lots of them.

The water mill wheel behind the lock fence.

The little garden restaurant where we stopped.  There were red blankets over the back of the chairs and I thought perhaps it was for when it was chilly to wrap around your shoulders.  Then we noticed everyone folding them up and making chair cushions! 


A memorial to the U.S. firemen of 9/11.

The entrance to the Charles Bridge.  It was so crowded I was unable to take photos.  Also there were artisans lining it which made photo taking quite difficult without having their wares in your pictures.

We made our way to the metro and stopped at the Flora Atrium to check it out for dinner.  We had to take a photo of this store.

We found a food court with lots of restaurants and decided to get Ian and Bobbie to come back for dinner which we did.  We ate at Coyote's and it was quite good.  It was advertised as an American CafĂ© and that sounded really good after two weeks of European food which was fabulous but home is home.

The next day we went alone to Mass and then on to the 1/6 replica of the Eiffel Tower.  We walked a short way down from church to the funicular and was able to use our metro day ticket to ride it to Petrin Hill.  Besides the tower there was lots of other things to see.

Replica of Eiffel Tower.  It is only 1/6 the height of the real one but because it sits much higher above sea level, is actually as tall.


Saint Nicholas Church and Prague Castle area.

Charles Bridge.  You can sort of make out the black forms of all the statues that line it.

It was a cool, misty day so the resolution isn't the best.

Stone "stations of the cross" are spread throughout the park.  This is #14, Jesus is laid in the tomb.

The many beautiful rose gardens.

The roof opened just as we walked by.

The funicular track as we descended.

That evening we returned to the Prague Castle area for dinner at Lobkowicz Palace Restaurant.  Ted took a picture of the tower we had visited earlier in the day.

The next morning we left the hotel at 3:15 am for our trip home.

In the words of Woody Woodpecker "That's all Folks!"

Fifth Set of Photos

I forgot to include Kara and Bill with Ronald Reagan.  Also, the outdoor cafes draped in flowers make the streets of European cities so beautiful.  This one was along the water as we walked back to our ship.

We said goodbye to our family members and most of the passengers as 24 of us departed for our post extension in Prague.

We stopped in Slovakia and had lunch but we had little time to sight see other than our walk to the restaurant.  It is a lovely city and I would have liked more time there.  The center of town is a pedestrian way and you have trees all around you  Very pretty.

This is the American Embassy.  Bojana said each embassy is different and if we are not allowed pictures the guards will let us know soon enough.  I waited for another brave soul to take the first one.  He is still alive so I took mine!
This was the Performing Arts Center, a beautiful example of Old World architecture.

I am not sure what the story behind this is but it certainly attracted a lot of attention and produced many smiles.

I am always fascinated by buildings with the years still on them.

This is a Bratislava touring car if you have the time and don't want to walk.  Tours are good because they tell you things you wouldn't know on your own.

As we approached the restaurant.

These gold crowns in the street indicate where kings have walked to their coronation.

After lunch we boarded our bus and continued on to Prague.  We arrived in the evening and had dinner in the hotel with our friends from Virginia.  The next day we were out bright and early to visit the Prague Castle area.  This is quite a large complex and our walk was just an overview of all that is there.  We received instructions how to return - Metro A to M stop (some Czech word), then switch to Tram 22.  Easy enough!  They were changing the guard just as we arrived.

Our focus point was St. Nicholas Church.  Its spires stand visible no matter where you are so it was the meeting place if lost and all other directions were given from this reference point.  We were on our own to look around, have lunch and return for the 1:45 bus back to the hotel or we could use the metro back on our own.  We stayed awhile because we felt comfortable in finding the metro station and knew where to get on and off.

In one of the courtyards.

That evening we rode to Sychrov Castle for a short concert and dinner.  This castle was confiscated during WW II.  Can you imagine how surprised an Arizona resident was when in the 1990s the government contacted him to tell him he owned the family castle in the Czech Republic and the government was returning it to him!

The next day we visited Wallenstein Gardens.

Our next stop was so meaningful to me.  It was Our Lady Victorious Church that houses the Infant of Prague statue.  As a child I was always fascinated by the beautiful outfits that were put on these statues.  It was sort of a Barbie doll Jesus to me.  I know the story of how the statue was found after the war and the veneration that goes along with it but the clothes thing is still a mystery to me.   We learned Mass would be said in English there on Sunday at noon so we decided that was how we would spend our day.  Mass, lunch, Eiffel tower replica and then our Farewell dinner.

Our next stop was a complete 180, it was the John Lennon wall.  No matter how many times the city painted it, it was written on again so now they just let it go.  I think the only connection John Lennon has to it was the posting of him by someone early on.  This is our Prague tour director, Bojana.  She was fascinated by the photos of our RV.  She said she had never seen such a thing and asked me to email her our photos to show her family.

The purple marker Bojana gave us didn't write well but I did my best to write Love From Texas.

Ted wrote the WW II favorite, Kilroy was here.