Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category


November 27th, 2014 No comments

There are four ships in port today:
us on the Serenade
Oasis of the Seas
Carnival Paradise
Caribbean Princess

Worst case is 20,000 worth of passengers and crew. Normally it would not be an issue at all since there are a large number of tours and a good size area in which to spread out the influx.

Unfortunately, today is windy. Windy enough that all of snorkel and scuba tours have been cancelled, at least from the RCCL ships. The resulting herd of passengers wandering from here to there aimlessly around the port area didn’t come as a surprise.

There were a few moments, like when walking by Señor Frogs, when it was easy to identify the originating ship of the passengers. Otherwise, the port was crowded with mixed age, mixed racial distribution of individuals being blow about by the wind and trying to find something to purchase.

I hiked 30 minutes out of town or until I ran out of sidewalk (which happened first). Coming back I went an equal distance in the other direction. I had my hour’s worth of walking on shore and gratefully went back on ship windblown and in a good mood.

After all, this is the last port on this cruise. Saturday sees me back in New Orleans and on my way to the airport. By Sunday morning I will be home…..

Categories: Travel Tags:

Grand Caymans

November 26th, 2014 No comments

It is us and the Disney Magic at anchor today.

I thought about it (for all of three seconds) and didn’t even bother to take the tender to shore and back. I spent the day finishing up a cowl, reading and watching a number of lectures.

I now know a lot more about GPS than I did before and remember why I quit math after linear algebra… it cramps the brain.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Not my cup of tea

November 23rd, 2014 No comments

I don’t know why I was so brain dead as to book this cruise. I like the ship. Don’t get me wrong on that. Rather I didn’t expect being overwhelmed by poorly behaved children old enough to know better. Or maybe I should just lay the blame where it belongs: on their parents who seem to abdicate their role in favor of being absent or “friends.” The first number I was given was 400…. but it turns out that 600 under the curfew age seems a lot more realistic. That is a significant number of school age children not in school. As it turns out – one of the Louisiana Parishes has school vacation this week. Makes sense – nothing is likely going to be learned in a three day short week. A week off now and in the spring is probably a better compromise than one and a half or two weeks in the spring. Most of the children, however, are just missing three days of school.

Now, I may not always have been the best of parents; but I have four fantastic young adults who, when growing up, were always welcome everywhere. It didn’t occur to them to run, scream and shove in public halls. They didn’t get on elevators just to hop back off after pressing all the buttons. And most certainly they didn’t spit, throw things or deliberately spill their drinks on the floor. I don’t think I can really take credit for them. Perhaps it was growing up in Europe. Maybe just that none of their friends severely acted out in public.

I just wonder what this new group of parents are going to be able to say in 10-20 years. Are they going to be as extremely proud of who their children are? Are they going to be delighted at their personalities, accomplishments and considerations of others? Or are they going to wonder why everything seems to have turned out like a Country & Western Song?

Categories: home, Travel Tags:

West Caribbean Loop

November 22nd, 2014 No comments

Originally, when I scheduled this 7 day add on, I had this dream/hope/fantasy that my dear George would be joining me. Wishful thinking. But considering how many years he had to deal with me in combat zones, I am more than willing to forgive him getting stuck at Company Board Combat. I can hardly be the sticking point when he is the only one saying “not that week” now can I? Well, I could be a complete and total pain about it, but it is more fun and productive to just whine. A lot. In public.

You get the idea.


the route

the route



Sat Nov 22 New Orleans, LA 4:30pm
Sun Nov 23 At Sea
Mon Nov 24 At Sea
Tue Nov 25 Falmouth, Jamaica 9:00am 5:30pm
Wed Nov 26 Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands 7:00am 4:00pm
Thu Nov 27 Cozumel, Mexico 9:00am 5:00pm
Fri Nov 28 At Sea
Sat Nov 29 New Orleans, LA 7:00am


Categories: Travel Tags:

Tenerife, Canaries

November 10th, 2014 No comments

No exciting travelogue today, I am afraid. I just hiked around the city, ran a couple of errands followed by four hours of concentrated Internet @ El Corte Inglais. I would have purchased more than my Caffee con Leche but just wasn’t hungry. The connect speed wasn’t all that great but more than sufficient to update what I need for some presentations.

Side note: the other ship in port today is the MSC Sinfonia. She is a bit older as can be noted by the extensive collection of port hole cabins and balconies really limited to two decks. What she does have that is lovely are rear stairways and decks open to everyone. No aft cabins with balconies on this ship.

The reason I know this? In Nov 2007 this is the ship I boarded in Genoa for my very first transatlantic crossing. A friend and I abandoned our husbands and took off for 19 nights at a rate of under $50/day. The crossing ended in Buenos Aires. I returned home ~ 7 Dec to the surprise of orders to the UK.

So bringing back memories. It’s seven years and a lot of cruises and crossings later. I like my balconies and more than happy I can afford them. Now on to six sea days!


Categories: Travel Tags:


November 9th, 2014 No comments

I was totally thrown off today by the schedule. It just never occurred to me that any reasonable Cruise Director would schedule a Meet and Mingle after lunch. Now, I happen to really enjoy this particular Cruise Director/Activities pair (married couple who were on the Enchantment in Fall 2012 and have been with RCI more than 20 years). So I took a deep breath and got over myself.

It helped that I know a fair number of the people, was able to peddle off a couple dozen more pins and had knitting.

Just like any morning there were stacks, non-alcoholic things to drink, announcements and a raffle. This particular group is rather active. In addition to the usual privately arranged tours the on ship activities include: cabin crawl, pub crawl/poker run, 2 slot pulls, craft group, scavenger hunt, gift exchange. I am sure that I have forgotten something, but one never gets it all the first time through.

The “Welcome Back Party” was held in two shifts as there is no way the theater can accommodate more than 1200 participants. Actually, the numbers are lower I think than on the Legend (where I think there were only a few handfuls who weren’t experienced cruisers).

Now all I have to do is finish up the lectures I promised to deliver and knit. And knit…. or read.

Categories: Travel Tags:


November 8th, 2014 No comments


From on the hill overlooking Malaga.


It is a brisk hike up the paths, stairs and trails in the earlier morning, prior to the crowds escaping the ship. The actual castle grounds open at 0900. Beating the tour groups is always a lovely idea.


I was able to walk the outside wall, the inner gardens and the grounds taking pictures that were people free as well as look at the model of the site

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and the rest are just random pictures of the walls, grounds, and various architectural features.

Categories: Travel Tags:


November 7th, 2014 No comments

Alicante was awash with Spanish sunlight this morning. Reflecting off limestone, sandstone, marble and white painted block, the city felt cheerful and welcoming. Not just to those off cruise ships, but historically those who fled other regions and countries but most recently the totally insane competing in the Volvo Ocean Challenge Race. It might make sense to some, but taking a racing sailing vessel with a team around the world through all manner of seas and weather is not my idea of the good time. Not that it stopped me from visiting the museum again, but just saying.  Don’t ignore some of the more interesting graffiti

in favor of the intricately fashioned iron balconies and the fabulous doors. There is time to see both while walking the city.

Mount Benacantil towers on behind the city.
You can go reach the Castle of Santa Barbara one of three ways – (not including paid tours). The adventurous can hike into the city, partway around the mountain and hike up the road. The early birds can put a few Euros in the ticket machine and travel by elevator from sea level to the Casitiollo.

Then there is the Mercado in the more modern section of the city. The upper floor has the butchers with extensive displays of animal meats and the occasional cheese. The lower floor is fish with a side of bakery goods and personal products. After all, this is a port town.

There are bits of history tucked here and there around the city leading you on a hunt of treasures.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Over the waves and

November 6th, 2014 1 comment

Across the Atlantic

the route

the route


Thu Nov 6 Barcelona, Spain 5:00pm
Fri Nov 7 Alicante, Spain 7:00am 4:00pm
Sat Nov 8 Malaga, Spain 8:00am 4:00pm
Sun Nov 9 At Sea
Mon Nov 10 Tenerife, Canary Islands 8:30am 5:00pm
Tue Nov 11 At Sea
Wed Nov 12 At Sea
Thu Nov 13 At Sea
Fri Nov 14 At Sea
Sat Nov 15 At Sea
Sun Nov 16 At Sea
Mon Nov 17 St. Maarten 8:00am 5:00pm
Tue Nov 18 At Sea
Wed Nov 19 At Sea
Thu Nov 20 At Sea
Fri Nov 21 At Sea
Sat Nov 22 New Orleans, LA 6:00am

and the ship is the Serenade of the Seas.

Categories: Travel Tags:

why couldn’t it have waited just one more day?

November 5th, 2014 No comments

There are those times when you think that inanimate objects might, just might, have a life and will of their own. Rationally it makes absolutely no sense what so ever but in reality, how can you otherwise explain things that break just when you need them the most?

Case in point. We have a good washing machine. Front Loading, energy saving and really quite cooperative as long as a few basic things are done. It is always smart to empty pockets, but I know that it doesn’t always happen. Things that are water soluble make a mess, but aren’t deadly to the machines innards. Coins, on the other hand, can plug up a hose. It has happened before. College Guy fixed it.

This morning I hauled a rather large basket of clothes to the laundry room, sorted out the first load and started it. Went back down an hour later to find that the load had stopped with the digital display saying “EEEEEE [some number]“. Plus half a tug of water.

I did mention that it is a front loader? After attempting to check the filter and cleaning up the water which spewed on the floor I tried to pull the filter out. Turn counter clockwise (anti-clockwise for you Brits) and pull. Nada. Waited a few hours till the West Coast checked in by Face-Time to confirm what I needed to do. Yep, pull the filter. It was not cooperating.

When George got home he proceeded to tell me to pull out the filter. A little while later, he came upstairs. Filter was stuck, but managed to empty out about a gallon of water.

So here I am, packed for tomorrow which turned out to be a rather creative undertaking. All my normal cruise wear was in the laundry basket as well as my favorite jeans and tops. Since most of my clothing is in SF, it makes in challenging. Perhaps I should just take this as an opportunity to pack more yarn?

Categories: home, Travel Tags:

Duckie goes flying

November 1st, 2014 No comments

I forgot to mention yesterday that on entering the hotel bathroom

small yellow perched on the tub

small yellow perched on the tub

In case you don’t recognize him –

closer view with on his duckie butt

U closer view with on his duckie butt

I just thought he was cute. Not as cute as the crew displayed at the front desk, but cute enough.

This morning I turned on the shower. Standard setup – snake and head on a pole. There was water pressure. A lot. Enough that the shower head escaped, swinging back and forth attempting to drown me with scalding water and soaking everything in reach.

It took me a few minutes to mop up the worst and find poor duckie

he should have gone swimming

he should have gone swimming

Categories: Travel Tags:


October 31st, 2014 2 comments

In case you are wondering – I am in Vienna attending an international conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases. George and I drove to the airport, my flight was fine but earlier than his. The CAT goes directly to Vienna Center and the Hilton is across the street.

What I had assumed was that Halloween is essentially (in the current commercial form) a US issue with creep into the rest of the world.

In the US – with Photos supplied by off-spring not counting on redistro –

What yo get in Vienna is pumpkin soup

with a bit of bite

with a bit of bite

and drunks with/without costumes out on the street making what to them is glorious noise till all hours.

Friday – should have thought of that!

Categories: family, Travel Tags:

Off! and done….

October 27th, 2014 No comments

I felt my self become lighter and lighter as I managed to get off the Oasis in spite of there being no directions and no signage. Now I can understand why they don’t print the Gangway the night before – something might change. But is there anything wrong with signage? With something in their TV announcements?

In stead there is a button in the elevators that says “Gangways.” Ok, that works for all the people who take elevators, but what about the rest of us? Or perhaps a sign or five when you get off the elevator? It is a rather large ship and that might eliminate scads of people randomly milling around knocking into everyone else with their baggage.

Ah well, I had figured it that it was going to be Starboard (since my cabin was Port and overlooking the water) and midship figured to be a good bet. I didn’t quite dance down the gangway but it was close. Since all I had was my 19″ suitcase and a backpack self carry turned out to be brilliant. There were issues getting the luggage off the ship….

Anyway – took the shuttle to MIA. Took the Hilton shuttle to the MIA Hilton. Left my suitcase with the Bell Captain and hiked to the Post Office via Office Depot. They were out of tyvek mailing envelopes, but had bubble nylon envelopes. Since the Post Office turned out to be out of the good mailing envelopes (must not be the only one who turns them inside out…..) this also turned out to be a good idea.

The clerk at the next counter was a local young woman, my clerk with 28 years in the system is originally from Peru. We discussed hats, scarves, real winter and to remember that Lima is not characteristic of his country (big city = bit city). They both found the idea of someone walking in with $56 in change as a welcome event (me in Aspen). Meanwhile, packages to Coral Springs, Touano, Annadale, Brooklyn, Chicago and Berkeley to arrive anywhere from tomorrow to Sat.

I’m about to take the shuttle back over to the airport and hang out in the military lounge till Lufthansa opens its counter ~1400. Free Wifi is always good…..

Categories: family, Knitting, Travel, yarn Tags:


October 25th, 2014 No comments

As in the musical and Andrew Lloyd Weber. Which explains several things on the ship including the lack of availability of the theater for anything useful during the day and the tendency to front of the curtain performances at night.

Thinking back, I believe it was around 2000 when we, as a family spent a week or so in London during winter holidays. Besides seeing some of the really touristy places, riding in a London Taxi and hunting for food on the 25th – we went to a performance of Cats!  The set was spare, the costumes clean and simple, the music, singing and dancing superb. I wish I had not had that in mind when I stood in line prior to the theater opening this evening.

This performance was….busy… The set was interesting but so intricate and textured that the lighting reflected strangely depending on your seating (second row balcony). And, since it was complex and (I think) set up to resemble a trash heap or back alley – it was distracting rather than performance enhancing. Look at the scenery – what the “h…” is that @ 0200 anyway?  kind of discussions. Since the singing varied in both quality and miking – there was a need for distraction. The dancing was by far better than 80% of the vocalists, but there were simply too many on stage to pull off anything that intricate. I don’t remember 21-22 cats (not counting 3 of the main characters). Spare would have been better and showcased the talents.

If I sound a bit irritated, count me in the 300+ who didn’t bother to come back after the intermission. Overall, that isn’t a high number. But the “musical” felt more like a standard ship’s production number than a real musical. In fact – their standard “Come Fly with me” was much better. The Comedians were better – and many of you know that I normally avoid comedians like the plague. The Speakers were better. And their Jazz orchestra is by far better than the poor guy who was the entire musical support on a poorly tuned piano.

Cats? Give it a miss. I’m sorry I didn’t go to the Aqua show instead.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Back to Sea

October 22nd, 2014 No comments

And now we start the long run to Ft Lauderdale.

Actually, I am kind of curious why the sole port on this westward journey was Vigo rather than holding off and stopping in St Maarten.  But then, I am always up for Phillipsburg.

Looking at the schedule, I am not all that impressed with the Cruise Director’s staff. There are ~5500+ passengers on this ship. The daily program is just about the same (with the addition of the sport with dedicated facilities) that you would find on any ship. Including various assorted craft activities limited to 25 participants.


Or various dance activities accommodating a maximum of 30-40 people. Several of the lectures have been standing room only 30 minutes prior to the lecture which either reflects widespread interest in the speaker or lack of other options. No clue on how well attended Bingo or gambling events have been, but my impression is that the lack of decent large lounges is playing a role. The Schooner Bar – location for all Trivias is overwhelmed. Forget ordering anything to drink, just get there early enough (maybe an hour or two?) for a seat.

I’m glad I sprung for the balcony. It means I am lucky enough to have light, air and a comfortable place to  hang out.

Categories: Cruising, Travel Tags:

Vigo in October

October 18th, 2014 No comments

Having been to Vigo before I wasn’t under a lot of pressure to bail off and explore the city this morning.

This was a stop on that Independence of the Seas circuit I did mid June. The city doesn’t see so many ships that they have to accommodate more than one ship at a time. There weren’t any issues with docking or the gangways. In fact, the local immigration, constabulary and merchants were more than wiling to insure that everyone who was interested in disembarking could easily get off the ship without incident, hopefully with wallet in hand.

Oasis docked in Vigo

Oasis docked in Vigo

The last time I wandered through town it was off the ship, past the new fancy shopping center and up the hill to the right into the older part of the city, exploring it for several hours.

This time I headed to the left, first getting a picture of the ship from the other side of the small boat harbor before going and looking for parks, museums, doors or anything that might prove interesting.

And so we have more doors – old, new and in between.


I didn’t spend as much time off ship as I initially planned, but after walking for a few hours, my stomach demanded food….

Oh, and can’t forget the knitting…….

Categories: Cruising, Knitting, Travel Tags:


October 17th, 2014 No comments

which in this case doesn’t mean Cheap & Awful (courtesy of Maus) as standing in for the store of those initials. Crown & Anchor instead, as the loyalty club of frequent Royal Caribbean cruisers.

I know that in the past I have mentioned in the past that transatlantic crossings seem to draw the frequent cruisers like flies. Traditionally it has been a combination of good prices and a lot of cruising days. More recently, it has been more about the number of days (and route) with a little less consideration to the price as it has steadily climbed. The only bargains seem to be available at the point that airfares to get to the origin or return to home skyrocket. It still is an option if one has frequent flyer miles to burn.

The rumor was that we had way too many senior cruisers board in Rotterdam to be augmented by more than 1200 boarding in Southampton with the final count being somewhere around 2400 – more than a third of the ship. The logistical challenges alone can be interesting. Where, for example do you hold your evening cocktail hour when there are that many people eligible? Celebrity had an easy answer – cancel the 1700-1900 canapé & drinks instead giving those eligible drink coupons. It does work and I didn’t hear all that much complaining from the sheep. Apparently Royal cruisers are not as kind. Even though they now have 3 drink coupons per night built into their sea pass cards (to be used at almost every lounge) it seems that there is an expectation of munchies to accompany those drinks. I mean really, what are the possibilities of going without food on a normal cruise such that snacks with drinks make a difference?

Anyway, the solution here was to hold the evening hour (which actually runs from 1700-2030) in multiple venues. There is the Diamond Lounge on Deck 4. It might hold a couple hundred packed in like sardines in a crunch. Then there is Blaze, a bar/club type atmosphere also on Deck 4 which probably can managed upwards of 300 and still be able to walk through the club. Dazzles (Deck 8/9) is a two tiered Disco venue and finally there is the Suites Lounge which is only available for the non-suite guests during the evening hours on this sailing. It is large, open, light and echoes to the point you can’t carry on a conversation. Rather than comfortable chairs, there are cafeteria like 4-tops and chairs. I am not impressed, but then no one asked me.

After attempting to find anyone I know for the last several evenings I decided it is easier to drop in, grab munchies, relax for a short while and take off. This preserves my sanity and hearing for important things like catching on on CME and knitting.

Categories: Cruising, Knitting, Travel Tags:


October 16th, 2014 No comments

Unlike what might have initially passed through your mind (yes, you. And yes, you do have a mind), my thoughts have nothing to do with late night parties, drinking, alcohol or insanity. It is more watching people start to bounce back from the boarding procedure just in time to feel lousy from sea sickness.

As it turns out, size matters only to a certain point. Even a ship as large as this one obviously is affected by “high” seas and is subject to wind, wave and staggering. That last bit a result of the above denied alcohol, ships movement and just plain mobility challenges at 2300 of an evening.

The main topic of the day was …. as you might have guessed …. the lousy boarding experiences had by everyone irrespective of Rotterdam or Southampton terminals. In many cases, I think pride of suffering more was claimed by those who had boarded in Rotterdam and attempted to go into town on their own. After all, they were also able to experience the insanity of Southampton.

All in all, it was no one’s finest hour. To make confusion even more wide spread, today’s Cruise Compass claims that this is Day 2. Ok – Rotterdam is chopped liver. Apparently this is a 1 + 12 day cruise.

I think it is time I get over myself and get back to knitting.

Categories: Knitting, Travel Tags:

Southampton -

October 15th, 2014 No comments

second verse was same as the first. Shall we just leave the reboarding progress at “even worse than Rotterdam” and move on to other subjects?  The smart people just checked everything, went into town and came back after 1500. I, foolishly enough, finished up all my errands and headed back to the ship about 1400 to total chaos.  Seems that they forgot to plan for all the Rotterdam boarding passengers needing to reboard the ship…

At one end of the pedestrian zone you can walk around or thru this arch which amazingly appears more functional on the back side.

facing High Stree

facing High Stree

the side toward the original High Stree

the side toward the original High Stree

Continuing down the street I remembered seeing this church tower the last time I was here. It was never rebuilt after a devastating fire in  7 Nov 1837 cost the parish it’s church and the lives of 22 men who attempted to battle the blaze.

There are other churches in town. One a block away seems to be about the same era. One wonders if it was the loss of life that stopped the rebuild? But the sobering thoughts left me thinking about expectations.

Yes, I can live with the disorganization of the ship. It seems like such a small thing in comparison.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Can you believe

October 14th, 2014 No comments

Not that I am sailing from Rotterdam to Ft Lauderdale

The Route

The Route


Tue Oct 14 Rotterdam, Holland 5:00pm
Wed Oct 15 London (Southampton), England 10:00am 11:59pm
Thu Oct 16 At Sea
Fri Oct 17 At Sea
Sat Oct 18 Vigo, Spain 8:00am 8:00pm
Sun Oct 19 At Sea
Mon Oct 20 At Sea
Tue Oct 21 At Sea
Wed Oct 22 At Sea
Thu Oct 23 At Sea
Fri Oct 24 At Sea
Sat Oct 25 At Sea
Sun Oct 26 At Sea
Mon Oct 27 Fort Lauderdale, FL 4:00am

But on this ship?

Oasis of the Seas - arriving Rotterdam @0700

Oasis of the Seas – arriving Rotterdam @0700

Categories: Travel Tags:


October 13th, 2014 No comments

Choices, choices and no matter which way I chose this morning, the dominos were going to crash.

First up- do I take George to the train station, come home then head to the station myself? Or do I ride along for his early train? I chose company & coffee. Either way, my train turns out to be substituted and 15 minutes late.  Then we have a few stops along the way to Mainz which means that my connecting train has long since departed.

(Did I mention that I stupidly paid for seat reservations for the trip? Since there is a service charge of 15 E it means that my 9E is gone forever. Go figure, I can’t but it means that the Bahn makes a lot of money…(

I skipped the first change possibility due to severe delays on that line and figured that I would just reroute to Duesseldorf instead of Koeln. Imagine my surprise when  this particular train (25 minutes late) had gone through Heidelberg on its way here….  Next connection – not late which was why this was a good choice – was to Venlo. Next connection was directly to Rotterdam.  All anxiety aside, I arrived safe and sound, but almost two hours after my original arrival. Had this been the day of the ship, I would have missed boarding….

Rotterdam! Port, bridges, cruise terminal!

IMG_1771 IMG_1769

I ate dinner at a Korean restaurant and called it an early night.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Packed again.

October 12th, 2014 No comments

I have been home for over a week which leads to the obvious follow on question. Yes, that one. And the answer is that I am off to Rotterdam tomorrow morning. Given a choice of 5-6 hours on trains or dealing with Heathrow and Southampton – it should be obvious which I picked.

This time it took me the better part of the day to get organized. Finding and packing clothing wasn’t all that hard. Sorting out which yarns to take along to mail in the states for gifts took a bit longer. Please ignore the time spent printing out patterns, sorting knitting needles and otherwise digging through my hard drive. So I will not discuss the new books downloaded from Amazon, Audible or both.

This trip is only 13 days – Rotterdam to Southampton to Vigo (Spain) to Ft Lauderdale. Translates to a lot of sea days in a row which is just fine with me.

In other news – I finally fond both the charging cable and wrist band for my FitBit so back on line with that. I also located both parts of my Jawbone Up and am thinking about comparing their sleep logging function.  George also talked to the lovely folks at I now have double the server space at ….. wait for it…. the same price as before. Apparently the tariffs have going down and I didn’t notice.

Just like I didn’t notice where I had tucked my electronics when I unpacked. Nothing like spending an hour or so tearing apart several rooms in a frantic search for an external hard drive. Not any one you have to understand but the specific one that has all my patterns and audio books and Coursera Vidoes… It was in the living room cupboard along with the 5D that is not coming along on this trip. Smaller backpack, 19″ carryon and perhaps a small bag. Backpack should be empty of all the yarn by the other side of the ocean which should give me space in case I need it….

Categories: home, Travel Tags:

Update Challenges

October 8th, 2014 No comments

For the simple reason that it was 2007 when I set up all the blogs and websites I face a challenge when needing to perform software upgrades. I happily programmed everything, put the FTP on automatic and away I went. Think about it – setting up the account that long ago means that, while I have the log in information buried securely in my software, I really have no clue as to how to log into the account. What is more, it means that I am restricted to an old netbook. This particular piece of hardware happily tells me everytime I boot it up that “Win 98″ is no longer support since April 2014.

Do I really care? Why would I? Oh, yes – if the netbook crashes I am really stuck.

It only took an hour or so to accomplish the updates. This was after the back up. And after the update “failed” once. Probably due to the fact that I skipped a few files…

Any who – I am alive, well and getting over my time zone and travel challenges.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Of course their plane was early

October 7th, 2014 No comments

I meant to check the arrival for DL14 from Atlanta last evening. Oh, wait! I did check it, and it said it was on time. Due to arrive 0740. So when my alarm went off at 0600 you would think I had a lot of time. Pick up friends at the airport? Easy-Peasy.

Then I reloaded the webpage. Flight now due in at 0650. Doesn’t compute. Even given that it normally takes 40-60 minutes to hike from the far end of nowhere, get one’s passport stamped, tramp to the baggage carousel, wait for luggage. Wait for luggage some more prior to man-handling it off the belt and escaping to arrivals Hall D.

So, let’s say that if I leave right now (which I did) I should just about make the drive, park the car and be there about 0745 (right when that plane should have landed).

I didn’t know about the construction involving the access ramps onto A6 from B656. By the time I was hung in traffic 2 km short of the Autobahn it was a bit late to change my mind. We also will ignore all the insane sludging and slow downs that occurred for no apparent reason. (Dominos falling anyone?). And the back up involving all four northbound lanes of A5 (don’t ask – A6 seems to vanish and become A67 which goes to Wiesbaden at the juncture of A5 & A6) which lead to still more delays.

Terminal 2 – I can find Terminal 2, where it would have been nice to be able to easily find parking rather than having to jam my car into the only remaining place on the entire deck. Right next to the guy who didn’t manage to stay within the lines. I might not color within the lines – but parking in someone else’s space is just rude.

Dashing into the Terminal and beating feet upstairs, Clint & Zandra weren’t in Arrivals D. They weren’t in Arrivals E either. On my third pass from one side to the other I spotted them. Easy? (grin) Two very American looking people with backpacks and a couple of large suitcases complete with yellow Cruise Critic Straps.

Trip home was a picnic after that.

I only get to keep them till Friday. Tomorrow we will tour a bit of Heidelberg, Thurs a look around Speyer.

Would you believe that I even cooked dinner?

Categories: Friends, home Tags:

Dark to Dark

October 3rd, 2014 No comments

It seemed foolish, but I actually went to bed for a couple of hours last night. And that is literally a couple of hours. I had to haul my bags down to the front desk and check out which granted me a clearance chit for security. The chit got me through my favorite security guards and on to the pier to join a few of the crew perusing the Internet which hanging out in the welcome tent.

My prebooked taxi was there promptly at 0200 and I was at the airport by 0225. There isn’t any traffic, but the route is primarily local roads complete with fully functioning stop lights. My driver was a new emigrant from Tanzania in the last few years. He and his wife, along with his brother & family made the transition. He described the challenges of cold that first winter and the joy of his 3 month old son.

Quebec City is a small airport. Really small. If you stand at the center of the one terminal you can see all the check in counters. Since they are so small, there is non of this “open the counter 3-4 hours before the flight non-sense.” Of course the website said to be checked in no later than 90 minutes out if you had luggage so I guess it was split the difference. Since there was free WiFi I took the opportunity to further run down my phone battery. When the counter opened, the very nice lady was more than willing to take my bags and point me toward security.

Security wasn’t open, so there I stood along with several dozen passengers off one of the Princess Ships who were also anxious to leave. I wrote my final batch of post cards while sitting at the gate and the lovely woman at the quick shop put them in the drop off box at the counter so that they will be posted at the end of the day.

Quebec City to Toronto. Of course my plane is in another terminal and I have to clear US Customs. Of course there is a line since we arrived late. Surprisingly, they have the new Kiosks + someone walking the line after the Kiosk and asking about boarding times. Those of us with tight connections actually were pulled out of line and passed through quickly. Even with a second set of security, I actually had five minutes at the new gate prior to boarding.

JFK…. Arrived at Terminal 7, departing at Terminal 1. George had checked for me – yes, I could change to a flight leaving at 1555 instead of 2145, that would be an additional 800E. No, I don’t think so.

First I entertained myself in the United Lounge at Terminal 7 for a number of hours. Lots of nice coffee, poor snacks, not crowded and excellent WiFi. About 1500 I wandered via the Sky Train to Terminal 1 and confirmed that JFK has the rudest, ill mannered and inconsiderate TSA screeners I have had the misfortune to encounter. It isn’t just that they take their breaks while sitting around one of the lanes (which they don’t bother to tell the people standing in line that the land is currently non-op) but they also yelled at everyone to get their things on the belts?

Hello? How about giving us some bins since they want every item placed in a bin. Can’t do anything without bins. Since I really don’t like the body scanners, I opt out. The reply I got was “I have no idea when we are going to be able to get you through. It can be a really long time.”

I just looked at the guy, waited till he actually made eye contact and asked him to please repeat what he just said as that it was so noisy I was having difficulty hearing. The repeat was “it might be a while till we have a female available” to which I happily told him I had hours and didn’t mind waiting.

It didn’t even take 15 minutes for him to decide that I really was going to wait, and he found one of the women who had been standing around talking for those self same 15 minutes. No fuss, no bother and less than 5 minutes later I was out of there.

The Lufthansa Lounge has United beat. They had warm food, even decaf lattes, working power outlets and blazing internet. Unfortunately, heat was a bit lacking. Kept on my jacket and munched till sundown.

The minute the plane launched and the fasten seatbelt sign was off, I motored the seat flat and drifted in and out of sleep for the entire flight. Bummer, all that good food in business class – and it is Yom Kippur.

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Montmorency Falls

October 2nd, 2014 No comments

It is astonishing, what people will do when they have an incentive. Or Not. You will easily see where I am going after just a few short sentences.

I know that I have commented, completed, whined more than once about all those who are perfectly competent (as in physically capable) of climbing a flight of stairs or so on ship but just don’t. Those are the individuals who crab and bitch about slow elevators while going up one floor or down two. I am excluding formal nights – I can accept that stairs are not safe in 5″ stiletto heels. I can’t comprehend why anyone would wear them, but safety does come first. Tottering downstairs is not safe for either the individual or the others on the stairs.

These self same people who won’t do stairs have no compunction about attempting same when out on a tour. At this point we are excluding those who blow right past the discussion about “not suitable for anyone with mobility challenges to include walkers and wheelchairs” and then get upset. I am ignoring them for the moment and focusing on those who think a flight of stairs is a mountain.

On the outskirts of Quebec City there is an amazing waterfall called Montmorency Falls. There have been battles on the high grounds in the past. The falls has been known to freeze over in the winter. (more reading here from the Wiki folks). Besides being the highest in the Province – their claim to fame is that they are higher than Niagara Falls.

You can walk across the falls on a suspension bridge. From this view, it just doesn’t seem all that big. From one end of the bridge you can take a walkway with stairs partway down the cliff if you are so inclined. Which leads right back to those self-same people going down the stairs. Once down they panic at the four-five flights back up (yes, Sandy – 16-18 steps per flight. I counted) and drag themselves back up puffing and wheezing. Breath enough for complaining so this particular group couldn’t be that badly off.

Out on the bluff top and facing the falls is another set of stairs with switchbacks and observation platforms as it descends to the base of the falls. I did mention 84 meters (274 feet) didn’t I? On the facing side this works out to 29 flights of stairs and five observation platforms.  At the bottom is spray, mist, log jams and some fabulous rainbows on this particular sunny day.  Unlike the other side, if you go all the way down you can take a tram back, avoiding the climb.

Then there are those who pay the ~$20CA to take a 2 hours tour where the bus drops them off on top and picks them up at the bottom. Or you can chose the #800 Metrobus for $5.70 return/pp and have as much time as you want. Guess which one Diane, her husband and I decided to take. It also gave us the opportunity to mangle what little remained of our French, see the ViaRail Station and find out that the ATM didn’t like any of my cards.

I am headed to bed extremely early since I have an 0500 flight tomorrow. Quebec City -> Toronto -> JFK -> Frankfurt. I am going to be a really tired puppy by Saturday morning.


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October 1st, 2014 No comments


There is always a difference between the face one shows the public and how one app rears at home. Game face perhaps, showing only what we want others to see. I am starting to think that this is most noticeable in tourist areas. Take our stop today in French speaking Canada. We are greeted on the pier by individuals dressed as 16th century First Nations, by those outfitted as fur trappers and even more as early French settlers to the area. I didn’t see a priest but perhaps I just missed him. There is a major cultural show production which features the story and music of the area. Sold out to the ship which insures that both sides RCI & local make money.

I decided to hike out of the port area to the rest of town and found what is really important. Hockey. For a town this size the ice complex is amazing. Multiple rinks, overhead connecting skyways. Much more than what would expect from the size of either the population or parking lots.

The town itself is neat and well maintained. The houses are almost all wooden, two stories with upper balconies and the kind of pitch to the roof that might just indicate a tendency to snowfall in the area. If one has enough snow, that second floor, noted often to have outside side stairs might provide an outside escape route. This is not to say that the town is absent the usual flat roofed apartment buildings or a few McMansions on the bluff overlooking the area where most mortals live and shop.

The strip mall has a Dollarama which seems to serve as holiday inexpensive decoration Central, cheap craft supplies and a awesome selection of kitchen outfitting supplies. I don’t need a measuring cup that can double as an oil separator, but they have one. I found a strand of holly garland to augment my shipboard door decoration and some beads for Cruise Critic gatherings. I didn’t indulge in any of the Halloween items, just not enough suitcase space.

There are local artisan boutiques with excellent fur, fabric, glass, leather and wooden items for sale. There is a museum for the local area which is also on my list. And then there is Tim Horton’s with coffee, autumn spiced muffins and free wifi.

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Too many choices

September 30th, 2014 No comments

Since today is the last official sea day of the cruise it seemed like everything was scheduled for today.  The concierge scheduled both galley and back stage tours for the morning. The C&A staff planned their bridge tour at the same time as the above two activities.  Then there was the luncheon promised to those of us B2B from the last cruise.  It was added to the “Meal with an Officer” luncheon which was combine with e B2B luncheon for those staying for the next cruise.  (That makes it a 3/1 deal on the part of the Legend…..). The Salmon was excellent, the veggies crisp and the mashed potatoes ignored.

After attending a couple of the afternoon lectures, I presented myself at the dining room promptly (more or less) at 1730.  John Rae, the Hotel Director, had included me at his table this evening.  Since it was a formal evening this counted as being invited to the Captain’s Table complete with souvenir menu and photo.

Returning to my cabin at a reasonable time, the maintainence guys managed to find and stop the leak which appeared mid day. And before the cola line in the pool bar was depleted.   I completed most of my packing for the obvious reason of ports the next two days plus an early departure on the 3rd.

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And not Sydney either

September 29th, 2014 No comments

It was yesterday just after boarding when the Captain warned us of another cold front ahead. Other than a potential for a bit of rough seas, it doesn’t affect the overnight sailing along the Atlantic Coast.

However, I was up early to the presence of 40+ knot winds and the early realisation that this was going to be another port missed. It is a small harbor without tugs and possessed of a single pier. Where I might really want to hike part of the Cabot Trail, visit the used book shop and buy fiddle CDs on the pier; I don’t want to do it if there is a safety risk.

Yes, there was a lot of whining and moaning. Not among the experienced cruisers but frequent with those dedicated to buying out the junk in very port.

I had time to finish watching more lectures, complete a cowl and have afternoon tea. Not a wasted day at all.

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Halifax and sunshine

September 28th, 2014 No comments


Returning to a familiar port is a joy. No hurrying to see everything all at once. No worry that I might possibly miss something whether it be a museum, photo or landmark.

It was that way yesterday in St John. I spent a few minutes knitting at CricketCove after a great hike out to Reversing Falls. My view this time was better than the last both from having all the time I needed and the walkways. I skipped the visitors center in favor of taking the footpath under both traffic and regular bridge.There are two tectonic plates that come together under the railroad bridge. Walking along the path you can touch the obviously different stone of the two plates.

Today we were a bit late docking. For what ever reason, the NCL Dawn just ahead of us had difficulties. Our captain has given us back the 30 minutes at the end of the day.

It is Sunday, the churches are open, the Superstore is open (as is ViaRail where I found a free hotspot) but LK Yarns is not. Wallet and suitcase spared. From here I am going to hit the Map Store and the Museum Store at the Titanic Museum.

It is a god day for walking while avoiding adding to yesterday’s bit of sun. George made it safely home from Hong Kong. I may add to this later. Or not depending on time…..


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Byways & Skyways

September 27th, 2014 1 comment

You can tell the weather of certain northern towns by their building construction, at least in the most recent. Take the Twin Cities (Minneapolis, St Paul Minnesota for those not from the Upper Midwest. Back more than 30 years ago, some one with a streak of genius decided that no one really likes walking outside in wind, driving snow and -20* (in this case, it really doesn’t matter *C or *F, just think cold). If something was not done to revitalize downtown areas, all that would be left would be a few hardy businesses and lawyers. Everyone else seeming to have fled to the suburbs in the 1950s and 60s.

How about connecting the buildings above street level? Say about the second or third story so that trucks could still use the streets but the pedestrians would stay warm and dry. And so the Skyways were born. I don’t know for certain that the first major connections originated in Minnesota but the Twin Cities have perhaps one of the most extensive networks. I have seen the same in Calgary, just with a different name. After searching for yarn store in St John the last time I was here, I found a partial system without much signage starting on the second floor of what appeared to be a government building.

The whole process is not without cost, especially to those who have shops at street level. It would seem on the surface that for half a year or more they would be fine with customers walking in front of their doors. Admittedly those fortunate enough to have had space on both second and first floors might be a bit more successful as they would have a presence and be ready to take advantage of the winter season. In fact, I think that humans are creatures of habit. If they take skyways to avoid the cold and snow in the winter, they are likely to take them in spring and fall to avoid wind and rain. That means that they are going to take the skyways, leaving merchants in a quandary. Store fronts are visible to anyone in a car, on bike or on foot. They are not visible to those hurrying above the street. At the same time, all those shops on the second floor are invisible to those above. You have to know that they are there. Same principle as to why mall space on the main floor costs more, second floor costs less and the food court is tucked either one floor down or up on the third floor. Everyone knows it exists. If they are hungry they will find it. Why have it compete with retail space?

Back to my original discussion – there are skyways here. An extensive retail and business structure. St John was also where the brand new gangway was first hooked to the Enchantment of the Seas, Sept 2012. Unfortunately, it didn’t want to unhook, causing chaos on the docks and 2 hour waits to reboard. As I remember the fix involved a cutting torch and a return to a standard gangway rather than the lovely enclosed number through which we disembarked.

Today there were absolutely no issues at all. I walked a portion of the old city and went into Brunswick Square to see if I could find WiFi. Imagine my surprise at the Running Store being open early. The reason? The local Canadian Air Cadets were having a fun run/walk. So how could I resist? I donated my money, walked the 3k with a nice Canadian Army Officer and her husband (the daughter was being spoiled by grandparents for the day) and cheered in all the kids. If I hadn’t been lazy I could have gone back to the ship and changed shoes, but I didn’t.

I have grabbed postcards, a magnet or three and am now about to hike back out to the Reversing Falls Bridge. Then the yarn shop which is open till 1800 but the ship is leaving about 1530 so those are my limits. I remember the fix involved a cutting torch and a return to a standard gangway rather than the lovely enclosed number through which we disembarked. Today there were absolutely no issues at all. I walked a portion of the old city and went into Brunswick Square to see if I could find WiFi. Imagine my surprise at the Running Store being open early. The reason? The local Canadian Air Cadets were having a fun run/walk. So how could I resist? I donated my money, walked the 3k with a nice Canadian Army Officer and her husband (the daughter was being spoiled by grandparents for the day) and cheered in all the kids. If I hadn’t been lazy I could have gone back to the ship and changed shoes, but I didn’t. I have grabbed postcards, a magnet or three and am now about to hike back out to the Reversing Falls Bridge. Then the yarn shop which is open till 1800 but the ship is leaving about 1530 so those are my limits.

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