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Quebec City

May 24th, 2015 No comments

It is only 1300 and I feel like I have been traveling all day.

Well, I probably have since my flight from DCA was 0600 in the morning which meant a wake-up before 0400 coupled with a no coffee ride to the airport. To add insult to injury – there is no lounge in Terminal A. Makes sense considering it is primarily SW Air, Frontier Air and Air Canada. The lovely woman at the check-in counter informed me that there was a Star Alliance Lounge over in Terminal B, but that I might not have enough time to safely wander over and get back. So there I was, early to the gate area at 0450 (did I mention that the counter was not exactly manned early but security was an absolute breeze) without coffee but in possession of free Wifi.

My connection was through Toronto where I may have encountered the one pleasant immigration agent in the whole Canadian system. She smiled, agreed that I could have put either “personal” or “business” down as the reason for the visit; either was fine. Especially since I had a return airline ticket to the US.

Toronto to Quebec City was Air Canada Express. And yes, a slightly bigger than the average puddle jumper. I had the mis/good fortune to be in the first row of this classless aircraft. My seat mate turned out to be headed to the same meeting. A pharmacist from South Africa, we had a nice conversation about traveling in sub-Saharan Africa. This is her first time attending an ISTM meeting and we have agreed to meet later for lunch/supper/whatever.

It was a taxi to the city: the public bus doesn’t run on weekends. At least it is a fixed rate to the CBD (Central Business District). From the hotel it was just a short walk to the Convention Center where I received a nice bag, various assorted seminar invitations and the Wifi access code. I am contemplating walking back to the hotel about 1600 in order to charge up the electronics and divest myself of the heavy backpack before returning for the 1700 opening…..

Or I could wander the streets with my camera…..

Categories: Medicine, Travel Tags:

Richmond -> DC

May 23rd, 2015 No comments

It’s sunny and quiet sitting on the Richmond’s Station patio. Or at least it was before loud and rude people made their appearance scaring off the birds and irritating the rest of us. I was here in time to watch #79 – the southbound Carolinian arrive only 15 minutes late.

You could hear the train several crossings before it pulled into the station. It rolled up on the far track and the passengers headed toward the station at the same time the waiting group lined up at the gate. The baggage guy had it down pat. He rolled out with the new luggage, handed it up to the baggage car, then gathered the waiting bags from the platform and headed back. A second cart came buzzing back with bags of trash. Less than three minutes and the train was on its way after a turnover of at least 50.

Imagine clearing an airplane that fast! So now I wait with 14 others hanging around, blasted out of my relaxation by the dude on the very loud speaker.

My train was actually on time and surprisingly still within 10 minutes of scheduled arrival to Union Station. Finding the luggage delivery was more difficult (no – no signs saying Baggage – only one saying “Red Cap Service”). The Metro turned out to be on a holiday schedule with the Red Line running @ 20 minute intervals and Blue/Yellow at 24. Given all of that, including the walk from Crystal City Metro I still made my hotel in less than an hour.

Both my hotel and the one next door were hosting large numbers of motorcycle veterans in town for Memorial Day. Mostly New York next door and the south in my hotel. No grunge here; beautiful bikes and kempt clean bikers.

Off to hunt the elusive dinner feast.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Colonial Williamsburg

May 22nd, 2015 1 comment

Mostly what we went to see were gardens since Cheré is an active volunteer in the Master Gardener’s Program.

But there are also the Leicester Sheep – in horrible need of shearing (had to have been missed last year)

itches, scratches and still can't see

itches, scratches and still can’t see

plus bird

plus bird

Categories: Travel Tags:

Errands

May 21st, 2015 No comments

Given Status of Forces in Germany (lots of limits on where you can go and which facilities one is entitled to use upon retirement) I have not had a lot to do with most military facilities since I bid a not completely fond adieu to the Army more than four years ago.

Specifically – no PX, Commissary, Post Office, Petrol Station or Class 6 stores are on the allowable list in Germany without a Germany tax number so that you can pay the owed VAT at the end of the year. Since we are already paying taxes in Switzerland and the US – it really seemed stupid to give the German government another channel in which to decide to collect more tax from us.

Anyway – that means that I hadn’t been inside either a Px or Commissary in a long time.

Nothing has changed. Except to note that many items are actually more expensive than they would be at comparable facilities. It was interesting to wander around, mostly to see what they don’t carry (CF Cards for an example) and to confirm that I really haven’t missed all that much

Categories: Travel Tags:

Mobile Munch

May 20th, 2015 No comments

it seems that there are a number of four footed creatures in this neighborhood. The area is the Virginia tidal basin. The predators have moved on leaving the deer and rabbits in over abundance much to the detriment of gardeners everywhere. Even (or especially those who comply with all the Home Owner’s Associations rules about what you can and can’t grow).

The deer and bunnies seem to think it is free lunch; a veritable smorgasbord of nutrition (we will not talk about idiots who feed the deer… they deserve the destruction of their lawns, gardens and shrubbery).

Chere found a fawn tucked into a corner this morning. Too young to be on its own, she reported a mad scramble as it dove for safety and high tailed it out of there. Unfortunately, it left behind a calling card in the form of a tick.

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Now, I don’t know about you – but I am not interested in providing tick snack. Nor will I feel deprived if denied the opportunity to be exposed to Lyme’s Disease. I think the deer are useful – as coyote food, wolf food, source of venison and deerskins. Apparently the local ticks also view them as both a mobile feast and transportation.

Chere has it figured out: a local bow & arrow hunter helps clear out the deer during season. Now, just to figure out a method to avoid the hitch-hikers without extensive use of chemicals.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Amtrak #79

May 18th, 2015 No comments

The Carolinian rolls from Penn Station in NY to Charlotte, North Carolina. I didn’t notice the first couple of stops but looked up when we paused in Trenton. I started to think about New Jersey and the bad rep it gets in print, TV and movies. It isn’t all Jersey Shore, Stephanie Plum, the Mafia and cows.

Mostly it was countryside and bridges between Trenton and Philadelphia where the car started to fill up a bit more. Apparently this is the first passenger train running this section since the accident last week. Amtrak had offered full refunds through tomorrow for anyone who is ticketed and changes their mind about traveling on the train.

The Wifi is working and actually much more responsive than anything I have recently experienced on ship. Amtrak actually provides a tracking window featuring the train’s current location just in case you don’t have a clue as to the local geography.

I managed to stay awake for the trip and arrived only about an hour late which for Amtrak really is pretty close to being on time. I would like to say the Bahn is doing better. The rails maybe properly maintained at home, but promptness is no longer a virtue.

In any case, I contemplating a nap….

Categories: Travel Tags:

St Whomever’s

May 17th, 2015 No comments

We wandered a bit from the Cornell Club (6 E 44th in Manhattan) and wound up having lunch a fairly short distance away.

Back a number of years ago – the edifice was an Episcopal Church – St Bart’s. George said it was 60s-70s when the church converted a significant portion of its property into affordable housing and relocated the church operations. Now, since you can’t exactly move a huge sanctuary – a repurpose was in order. Instead of food for the soul – to food.

To a restaurant? Ok, this is New York. The end result is that you can eat outside and watch the traffic on ?Park? Ave or inside and stare upward. We sat outside in the moderately fresh air and had a nice lunch. I am still appalled at the prices.

Categories: Travel Tags:

ICE

May 14th, 2015 No comments

today it was ICE 202 from Basel to Dortmund which we boarded in Mannheim. Alternative call sign is LH3437/3608.   The S3 from Heidelberg was packed with Fußball fans easy to spot with team jerseys and beer bottles in hand. Mind you that this is 0920 on a Thursday morning. It also happens to be a holiday of the Christian variety. No clue what a holy body has to do with beer.

On the travel front – it is home to Frankfurt Airport to JFK to Supershuttle to Manhattan. The Youngest (called by various names over the years from Ms Copper, Ms Pink, Maus ..) graduates from Pratt tomorrow afternoon. The Commencement Exercise is being held at Madison Square Garden.

At the end of the weekend I will become a moving target with no more than a few days in any one location until mid-June.  I can view it as making it challenging to hit a moving target or maximal infliction on friends and relatives. I will leave it up to you to decide.

I’ve been spending my time in the Lufthansa lounge after bidding farewell to George (booked late, on the Lufthansa flight to Newark) sorting computer files and contemplating starting the first pair of socks.  72 stitches rather than 56-60. I can do the math, but would rather not in terms of how many more stitches are involved per sock…. Oh, well, at least I don’t have size US 14 feet so this is only a short term challenge.

ordinary guy color

ordinary guy color

Dark green, bit of brown and maybe a speck of grey but not sure. Since I have literally more than a dozen small balls of yarn the stripe pattern should be quite interesting. I am thinking 7/1 rib or maybe slip stitch so that I don’t go completely numb. I don’t really think I have knit a pair of socks since 2007 and the 52 pr challenge. As should be obvious, I still have a lot of hand knit socks…

I’ll update when I have arrived in NYC.

(Flight was fine – I was upstairs on the 747 where it was extremely quiet without a child in the place. Almost 1/2 the seats were empty which means I could move over – watch out the window and not worry about dumping coffee on my neighbor or losing a knitting needle more than a few times on the floor. Note to self – black carbon needles -even those DPs with silver points are hard to see on the floor…

Took the SuperShuttle into town to find Miriam hanging out with her dad at the hotel).

Categories: Knitting, socks, Travel Tags:

Leaving tomorrow

May 13th, 2015 No comments

and it is already time to start packing again. This time it will be for about 5 weeks. I will need decent clothes (nothing fancy) for NYC, whatever I want for visiting Tuano, VA, jeans for the ISTM meeting in Quebec City, decent clothes in DC where I am playing tolerant wife at someone’s Georgetown Reunion. After that – well AMTRAK doesn’t care what I wear from DC to Chicago. Unless they are going to surprise me, the two dog enthusiasts in Chicago aren’t expecting fancy (but they just might be expecting the presents I am hauling in the extra bag).

From there – the three of us are boarding AMTRAK to the west coast. About 10 days in the SF Bay area, then back to Europe.

So – I have decided (not that I really have any control at all over the weather) that winter season is over and I don’t need cold weather gear. It might rain, so I have both the backpack cover and a rain jacket. It is not going to be desert hot; forget the beach gear or skimpy clothing. That leaves me with my constant companions and standbys: jeans, long sleeve shirts, one sweatshirt, one sweater, sandals, running shoes&gear, jacket, smalls and a regular date with the washing machine. Oh yes – packed something acceptable for reunions and graduations.

More importantly, I had to properly asses the knitting: I promised socks to a couple of really nice guys so I am stocked with dps and a bag of zauberball over runs in guy colors. Plus the chart – nothing like size 47 (EU) feet for knowing these are going to be a long time in the knitting…..

Categories: Knitting, Travel Tags:

made it

May 9th, 2015 No comments

You knew that there was a train strike in Germany, right? Ending at midnight tonight.

Notice that we docked today in Copenhagen and had train tickets to get to Heidelberg with only three (or was that four?) transfers. No sweat. Or at least it wouldn’t have been except for

1) seems that both Cheré and I had accumulated enough extra items that we needed more packing space than we had on hand with our suitcases.

2) somehow I hadn’t properly calculated how much time is always involved in loading a tour bus. What is supposed to be a three hour tour can end up making you feel like a participant with Gillian [Island] and run a risk of not making your train.

3) lastly, it is simply not cool to give up on the tour, take a cab to the main train station where you find that your train has been canceled. In fact, there are no trains at all going to Hamburg. Not this morning, not at 1222 when we were scheduled. No way, not today. But there was a bus…..

And it cost since it wasn’t the Danish Railroad’s problem that the German one was being struck.

So bus to ferry, bus on ferry, bus on road to Hamburg where we hung out on the platform for about 30 minutes. There were only two more trains of all normally scheduled that had a possibility actually showing up.

ICE 1171 actually appeared on time, with plenty of seats available. The conductor, rather than point out we were on the wrong train, wrong compartment and wrong seats just stamped our ticket.

George bailed us, suitcases, extra bags and all out of Mannheim.

Home, fresh spargel and strawberries….

Categories: Travel Tags:

Göterburg. Sweden

May 8th, 2015 No comments

the port of which doesn’t seem to be much to look at from high on the ship.

view of the complex

view of the complex

Town is almost 10 km down the road. Which would leave us only with an industrial port except the Volvo Factory is here.. and more importantly – the Volvo Museum. Aside from the usual “we are smart, great and responsible” lines in the movie it was interesting to realize exactly how many lines are actually under the Volvo name. The cars have been around for a long time. And the trucks – not just the little ones but the over the road haulers (Volvo, Mack, and Renault are theirs), plus the heavy duty construction vehicles (graders, plows, articulated haulers, and a dozen more), buses (bought out UK Leland a while back – so double deckers), Maritime engines (Penta) and jet engines (see Swedish fighter below).

so just pictures:
First – the official museum sign
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then the cars

1936 Gas Station

1936 Gas Station

older than me

older than me

truck, family hauler, sleeps 2 and roof rack - what more could you want?

truck, family hauler, sleeps 2 and roof rack – what more could you want?

electric concept car @1976

electric concept car @1976

new vehicles on their way to the port

new vehicles on their way to the port

followed by trucks

trucks

trucks

construction vehicles

construction vehicles

old style bus

old style bus


then the really cool engines

sleek lines –

fighter jet

fighter jet

toys are not just for kids (more than 200,000 blocks on a real chassis and frame)

the car

the car

amazing detail

amazing detail

and finally: cheesecake?

nah, the other is better

nah, the other is better

yes, I did mean the desert

with strawberries and chocolate

Categories: Travel Tags:

The Final Competition

May 7th, 2015 No comments

The Required Ingrediants

Rack of Lamb
Port Wine
Spinach
Crimini Mushrooms

The challenge – create a meal in 20 minutes from raw ingredients.

The Competitors

Given the complexity – each chef picked a sou chef from the previously eliminated contestants.

Here are the teams – Hotel Director with the Staff Captain as sou chef
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vs
F&B Manager as sou chef and the Head of Guest Services

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the dishes

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Obviously it was a real hardship to taste and judge.

Awaiting the final word

Awaiting the final word

and then – it was time for cake!

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Oh, yes – Karine won.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Bicycle, Bicycle

May 6th, 2015 No comments

and no, not the song by Queen but the city of Amsterdam.

There are little bikes, big bikes, fancy bikes and those that are falling apart.

and even in the Eye Glasses Museum

and even in the Eye Glasses Museum

Some riders wear helmets, a lot do not. Fleets of children hit the road at the end of the school day. Parents tote, haul or squire their offspring

for one to short to reach the peddles

for one to short to reach the peddles

while shoppers take home groceries. There are delivery bikes.

the fruit delivery bike

the fruit delivery bike

I am sure there are police bicycles, I just didn’t see any today.

Oh yes, and the bike in front of Penelope’s Craft:
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for the rest? I don’t think there is a gate, lamp post or railing in the city which does not have a bike attached.

railings &

railings &

lamp post adornment

lamp post adornment

just in case someone has an acute bike shortage.

for rent

for rent

Categories: Travel Tags:

Raining in Zeebrugge 

May 5th, 2015 No comments

It’s raining, the wind is up and there are white caps on the bay. We are in Zeebrugge and I am happily ensconced in the concierge lounge with my Mac Air, latte, knitting and camera.

Instead of paying to get out of the commercial port and to a local town rather than being dropped off outside the gate in the small commercial zone where there are chandleries, coffee shops and wifi, I am staying warm and dry. Last year the shuttle was local and free. This year they want 12€. I am not amused (grin).

Cheré has also elected to stay.

It will soon be time to contemplate lunch, perhaps a nap. More useful would be a sort, toss and pack drill. Or perhaps catch up on some editing or course work. In either case my most difficult decision will be latte vs mocha.

Categories: Travel Tags:

We are not sinking

May 4th, 2015 No comments

The time is UTC + 1 and the city is Cherbourg.  Last year I went to the beaches and U.S. Cemetery.  This year even though it is Monday I am hoping a few things may be open. It wasn’t so when I was here in 2012. But then it was also 30th April sandwiched between a Sunday and May Day

Even from the ship you can see how little of the inner harbor predates WWII.  Before opening hours it is a good time to walk, camera in hand looking for interesting doors and architectural details.
As it turns out, my memory of the city is accurate. Little to nothing is open on Monday morning and the idea of hanging out till 1430 just to walk into stores does not compute in the least.
map

map

simple arch

simple arch

obligatory statue

obligatory statue

WWII to the Martyrs

WWII to the Martyrs

symbol of the marine industry

symbol of the marine industry

narrow door (trust me)

narrow door (trust me)

narrow alley

narrow alley

narrow building (I have a longer wing span that it is wide)

narrow building (I have a longer wing span that it is wide)

door- about as wide as my shoulders...

door- about as wide as my shoulders…

Part of the city center is severely depressed. Blind eyes windows gaze from emptiness across to more blank expressions.  Only those location dealing with food and drink seem to be hanging on without even the leavening of a uni-sex hair salon.   A few streets further on feature ugly reconstruction prefab with first floor glass show rooms and tightly shuttered living space on 1-4 floors above. As an aside, I suspect that none of the buildings as tall enough to require an elevator (lift).
After wandering through the village centre on both pedestrian and regular paths I was ready for a new direction. I had already confirmed that neither the knit shop or the embroidery boutique were opening today. I don’t need pastries (fudge a plenty) and my Euros are still on board.
Walking over to Cité de la Mer I explored the outer area  once again not noticing any changes from 2012. The goods in the gift shop have been updated to the current year but it is not like I needed anything. I’m skipping both postcards and magnets this trip for which I am sure family is grateful.
Now – would it be creepy to add a jigsaw of the Titanic to the Serenade’s  puzzle collection?
Categories: Travel Tags:

Puzzled about what to do…

May 3rd, 2015 No comments

Le Havre is no more Paris than Dover is London. Never the less it certainly didn’t stop a huge proportion of my fellow passengers from bailing off the ship at first light for the trip. Since the all a board isn’t till 2230 that leaves a number of hours for the whirlwind tour while wasting more than five for the round trip. And no, the high spend train isn’t an option for an early Sunday arrival.

I’ve been to Paris. For that matter I gave been locally more than once.  About a year ago at last check.
Did I mention the overcast and rain upon docking?  At 1500 the sun has finally come out and I am deciding if I want a walk around town.
We finished the Wentworth Puzzle of the Corfe Castle ruins in Purbeck, some of the fudge has been consumed and knitting accomplished. It might be just the time for some scones.
The puzzle

The puzzle

whimsy pieces

whimsy pieces

partly completed

partly completed

completed

completed

upon on departure

upon on departure

Categories: puzzles, Travel Tags:

Portland

May 2nd, 2015 No comments

Portland is along the  Dorset Coast. Mostly south but perhaps a bit west as well. Not Plymouth as I was originally thinking. Or not thinking as the case may be. My only excuse is that I was watching the broadcast map which clearly had Plymouth marked on the coast. It stuck in my mind. They both start with “P” right?  

The Cruise Compass says the following “….windswept beaches, limestone arches, hidden coves…”  Which makes me think cold, wet, windy & smugglers.
As it turns out, what I should have been thinking about was fossils and dinosaurs.  This area is also known as the Jurassic Coast. Depending on which end  of the 100 km you are standing the stone under your feet is from 56 million to 200+ million years old. There are fascinating coves, amazing rock formations, hills, windswept walks and fudge shops.
holes worn through by time and tide

holes worn through by time and tide

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plates shifts and strata visible

plates shifts and strata visible

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one of the bays

one of the bays

the cliffs

the cliffs

I have great pictures of Durdle Door, the cove, and thatched roofed cottages. (To be inserted when I have wifi )
the occasional dot is an idiot in a wet suit attempting cliff diving

the occasional dot is an idiot in a wet suit attempting cliff diving

the first stop at Corfe Castle –

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most of the town is built from castle stone after the destruction

most of the town is built from castle stone after the destruction

castle - entrance

castle – entrance

what's left of the main tower

what’s left of the main tower

cemetery out of town

cemetery out of town

classic English village

classic English village

(no, not from Thomas Kincaid)

(no, not from Thomas Kincaid)

re-enactors taking a break and coming to the pastry shop

re-enactors taking a break and coming to the pastry shop

before going on to the coast –
We will skip the story of the three husbands who got separated from the group, failed to either listen or follow directions. End result is that we had to back to Durdle Door where they finally had had enough sense to go and find security who called around and found our driver.
One of the guys and I had listened. We just hiked the less than 20 minutes along the Coastal Path. It was fine and well signed.
I rewarded myself with fudge.
Categories: Travel Tags:

Off to Cork

May 1st, 2015 No comments
sailing in

sailing in

 

and however you pronounce Irish towns in English. Up front, I have never, ever managed to figure out either Gaelic or Welsh pronunciation on anything. All I see is this long line of letters and my mind completely and totally blurs out. Not quite as badly as when I attempt Arabic but close to the same thing. Which is all to tell you that failure to comprehend anything of Gaelic is not a unique failure in my life but my reality of staring, thinking and being able to come up with a really intelligent “huh?” I would try to blame it all on dyslexia except that I think it is just me and the way my brain is wired. 

Languages are not my thing beyond the basics of numbers, food, train station and that caffeine bearing elixir of life. In high school and college I really tried to learn French. Honestly – and it was in one ear and out the other. Often without a stop in the middle to leave even a smidgen of residue. After a while I just accepted that I didn’t have the ear to hear the nuances and letters were not shaped like numbers. Numbers are fine – they stand still and behave. No changing who they are from moment to moment or speaker to speaker. Now I just admit my limitations and move on – in today’s case after six outstanding days at sea which included  five days of time zone shifts – to the shore in Ireland. The last time I was here I stayed in Cobh, walking around and seeing the town. This time I am off to join a group which is off to see Cork (and hopefully no wizard). I am not looking for yarn.

At the English Market inCork I procured a lovely local artisan cheese to go with my rye &  linseed crackers. There were also dates and chocolate invited to the party. Cheré brought s huge scone and shared.  After driving s bit more, which had followed meandering through bookstores in Cork, we stopped at Ft Charles before arriving in Kinsdale. 

More book shops,  wool stores and really cute sheep courtesy of www.tomjoe.com but on sale and in €.

Our return trip was via interesting roads, local hill tops and a cemetery or two. Since I have finally fallen off the ship’s net, pix will wait till I have WiFi other than my iPhone 

We just made it back to the ship, I need to play with my ship puzzle and find a ‘cuppa before then ship sails.

Tomorrow it is Dorset where we land at the originalPlymouth.     

Categories: Travel Tags:

Three or Two

April 30th, 2015 No comments

It was a busy day – crossing the Atlantic, Awarding Russell as he sat in his Crow’s Nest his second transatalantic pin and the Semi-finals of the Sea Chef Competition. And the Pizza Party – can’t forget that either.

Russell in his Crow's Nest - Second TransAtlantic Award

Russell in his Crow’s Nest – Second TransAtlantic Award

The Chef Competitions – the three remaining contenders –

The Executive Chef with Fernando, the Hotel Director

The Executive Chef with Fernando, the Hotel Director

The  Staff Captain spinning yet another tale

The Staff Captain spinning yet another tale

Karine, cool, calm and very French

Karine, cool, calm and very French

And it is not that I have anything against Jacket Potato, or a full roasted chicken. In small quantities and in their place. Or endive or beet root or….

anyway – I still hit the scones later in the afternoon.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Hit the Road, Jack

April 29th, 2015 No comments

Besides the competitors, the executive chef, the cruise director and us judges there is also the dude running the sound system. Topi ( Finnish and the incoming cruise director) has chosen themes for each of the contestants plus entry music.

Of course, what else could you suggest for that moment when the disqualified contestant has to leave? Exactly. Hit the Road Jack which was sung by staff, judges and a good 1/2 of the audience.

Today, it was Angel, Food & Beverage Manager, who had to take off his pinny and jacket before making the walk of shame. Not that he didn’t prepare a nice sea food plate, it is just that he forgot to use one of the required ingredients. That, my friends, really blows your point score.

The Staff Captain had another fun story to go with his frankly pretty plain dish. And then there is the Head of Guest Services. She is French and just blew the competition out of Centrum.

The required items: Tiger shrimp, Alaskan crab leg, cilantro, cocktail sauce, Boston lettuce.

The three guys all made essentially a shrimp cocktail with decorations, crab stick and veggies. Korine made ceviche; totally awesome. It was so good that none of us were willing to give up our serving.

Off to have scones and dress up for dinner at the Captain’s table tonight (with the Finance Officer hosting).

Categories: Travel Tags:

Chef’s Table

April 28th, 2015 No comments

I think I mentioned that Cheré & I had planned on using up some of the on-board-credit last cruise at the Chef’s Table.  If you are not familiar with the execution – fancy meal with wine pairings with the chef coming out between courses and describing the execution of each dish in excruciating detail.  Much of the actual entertainment comes from your dining companions.

Originally scheduled about half way into the cruise, I wound up with a conflict (can’t be at two dinners at the same time – something that never ever happens to be on shore. One dinner is all I usually manage and that is if I remember to eat. ) Wait – none of that has anything to do with the fact that we rescheduled for the last night of the cruise – not exactly the first choice for either of us.

Come that last day, we sort of had finished our packing and were ready to move to a new cabin as a reward for our organizational skills. The seas were mildly rough, but neither of us thought anything about it. We arrive promptly and talk to Bento – seriously excellent waiter from Portugal. And we wait. He goes out, comes back. A couple has cancelled because of the rough seas.

Now we are six.

But not really since no one else has shown up. He gets a second phone call – the guy is sick, according to his wife, and they aren’t coming.

Now we are four at a table that will hold up to 16.

Waiting a bit longer, Bento tries to reach the last couple but they are not answering their phone. End result is that we rescheduled to this cruise where we had a full table this evening. Really full – as in all 16 chairs filled.

The dinner was lovely, most of the other guests were lovely people. In fact they all were great until the wine started influencing a couple of the gentlemen who became a bit louder and stupider than anyone really appreciated. Honest fact that drunks are normally funny to themselves and other drunks – but not the rest of us. But then I don’t think that just because there is wine in your glass requires that you drink it.

Why am I not talking about today’s Master Sea Chef Competition?

The dish of the day was steak tartar complete with raw egg.

Need I say anymore?

Categories: Travel Tags:

Sea Chef Cook Off

April 27th, 2015 No comments

Now it was a bit of a challenge today – was this entry supposed to be a starter or a main? The required ingredients were: smoked turkey, caviar, hard boiled eggs, cranberry sauce and blue cheese.

Traditional Pairings

Traditional Pairings

everything inside a lettuce roll

everything inside a lettuce roll

compare, contrast and find the cranberry

compare, contrast and find the cranberry

out of the world sauces carrying flavors across

out of the world sauces carrying flavors across

 

To add a bit to the fun – the top contestant from yesterday was able to chose an additional ingredient and add it to the list of another contestant of his choice.  (No foreshadowing here -it rebounded on him big time).

Lucky me, as well as not appreciating being on stage, I wound up with the camera down at my end. Just what I want – everyone on the ship watching me handle knife/fork and eat in public. Comment? At least I managed without spilling all over myself or sounding too much like an idiot.

Clare, Dennis and I

Clare, Dennis and I

How do I know? I got to watch it on TV this evening.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Master Sea Chef

April 26th, 2015 1 comment

for those of you who have ever sailed on a Royal Caribbean Ship – there is usually, 1000 in the morning on a sea day, a cake decorating contest. Mostly the Master of the vessel vs the Cruise Director/Hotel Director; the goal is to put together and serve a Blackforest cake.  Dark chocolate layers, cream frosting, cherries, some shaved chocolate.  Did I mention the Kirschwasser?  At least one of the cakes will be swimming in so much alcohol that it almost floats off the plate.

Carly (one each Welsh Cruise Director) came up with a new spin. A la Iron Chef, they are having a cook off in the Centrum, 1100 each day.  The contestants, all staff officers, were dressed in traditional chefs jackets and aprons. Presented with a surprise box of ingredients, today’s task was to create a salad in 15 minutes or less.  The tables for the contestaants were in the centrum. The bar counter behind them had a full range of garnishes, condiments and dishes.  The judges platform was on the steps facing the action.

Describing the action shouldn’t be difficult since I had a “ringside” seat.  Surprised? As I normally will do just about anything to stay out of the spotlight I still don’t understand why I agreed to be part of this insanity. No. I am not cooking. Most know better than to suggest that.  Married over 36 years to a wonderful guy who still honours the agreement: I don’t do kitchens or bathrooms.

Nope, I am one of the three idiots sitting on the judges platform with the opportunity to taste the offerings and render judgement.  Not quite the “fit/not fit for human consumption” comedy routine that one of the vets and I pulled off in Kuwait for the command BBQ but still….  Based on the points awarded collectively by the three of us, one contestant a day will have to “Hit the Road Jack”   Today it was Paul, the Refridgeration Engineer.  It was a case of ooppps.  Forgetting an ingredient doesn’t do much for your score.

I will try and have pix in the morning.  Meanwhile, this is turning out to be a lot more fun than drunken cake! 

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ANZAC

April 25th, 2015 No comments

For those of you who don’t remember from the last two springs – 25 April is ANZAC day – standing for Australian-New Zealand Army Corps.

This year is the 100th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli in WWI. The casualties on both sides were horrendous. What was supposed to be a preemptive strike turned into 8 months of hard fighting with little to no progress.

The significance of today (25 April) hit me a few days ago which should not be surprising considering that I was on the Mariner two years ago when there was standing room only in the upper lounge for the memorial service complete with New Zealander bugler from the crew. Last year was the Legend. With a bit of nudging from Val, Ian and a few others the CD managed to get together what turned out to be an impressive service with ANZAC biscuits at the end.

This year I asked the Cruise Director about a service and mentioned that I still had the documents and audio clips I had pulled last year. We also have a larger Australian contingent on the ship one of whom came equipped with flag, readings and the audio for the Last Call.

So there we were, a small group of 15 this morning at 0600. On the pool deck with the wind blasting and the temperatures barely over freezing. There is the Aussie who has the readings, the Padre (Catholic, USAF (ret)), passengers, cruise director and two Yanks (Cheré and I, and she is from Oklahoma).

A second service was held at 1100, up in the Vortex Lounge. Much better attended.

Meanwhile, it is first formal night and we have already started the time jumps ahead. So need to change clothes, wander to dinner and then go back to reading #NewHugoAwards and #NewHugoCategories…

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And across the Atlantic

April 24th, 2015 No comments

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DAY DATE PORT ARRIVE   DEPART
Fri Apr 24 Boston, MA 5:00pm
Sat Apr 25 At Sea
Sun Apr 26 At Sea
Mon Apr 27 At Sea
Tue Apr 28 At Sea
Wed Apr 29 At Sea
Thu Apr 30 At Sea
Fri May 1 Cork (Cobh), Ireland 9:00am 5:00pm
Sat May 2 Portland, England 11:00am 9:00pm
Sun May 3 Paris (Le Havre), France 7:00am 11:00pm
Mon May 4 Cherbourg, France 7:00am 5:00pm
Tue May 5 Brussels, Belgium 9:00am 7:00pm
Wed May 6 Amsterdam, Holland 10:00am 9:00pm
Thu May 7 At Sea
Fri May 8 Gothenborg, Sweden 8:00am 5:00pm
Sat May 9 Copenhagen, Denmark 6:00am

Admittedly the map is a bit weird. From what I know, Amsterdam is on the Atlantic Side…

Any way – Cheré and I are on our way across the ocean in a fancy cabin, no less.

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Russell

April 23rd, 2015 2 comments

When I met him last fall, he was quietly perched in his blue easy chair. Surveying his kingdom and content to observe. He had been there for a while, none of the bridge officers knew exactly how long. I gave him a transatlantic pin for his efforts and more or less forgot about him.

Well, apparently one must be cool to cruise the Caribbean and that means sunglasses. Add to that a home port of New Orleans and you start to see the problem. No longer content to sit quietly, both his and others feathers are ruffled and he has to have his beads. Both in addition to his pin.

The bird of the bridge

The bird of the bridge

Do you think giving him a pin on the upcoming crossing might restore some order?

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went to St Maarten

April 19th, 2015 No comments

and stayed in Phillipsburg. Didn’t go to the airport and get pummeled by planes. Didn’t go snorkeling (although I probably should have since the camera battery is recharged), but I didn’t want a lot more sun exposure till I recover from Bonaire.

Forget my sunblock? Who me?

Anyway, it is Sunday in St Maarten. The stores that are going to open do so at about 1000. The streets are not blocked off and the merchants seem a bit desperate. There is only one ship in port today not the five to six which has been my usual experience here. Additionally, according to multiple shop keepers – there has been more looking this year and less buying.

The good thing about all of this for me is that the streets are not so swamped with people that I can’t walk.  So I visited my favorite camera store and picked up the last thing I am going to need/want for a long time.  Then we hiked back toward the ship and made a stop at the Leathergoods store. Over the years I have purchased belts and the occasional jacket here.  I love leather jackets and have no guilt in wearing them, so I always go looking. The manager recognized me and, among other suggestions, pointed me to the really bargain rack.

That was nothing compared to Cheré greeting him in Turkish and receiving the red carpet treatment. It was fun to watch.

We hiked back to the ship with bags, not all that much poorer. The Art Box (jewelry store) wasn’t open so the credit cards were spared.

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Too few days –

April 18th, 2015 1 comment

and too much OBC.

Not a problem one often has. Most cruises anymore don’t provide a lot of On Board Credit. Further, many have limitations on how you can spend it. For some reason, I wound up with a bunch on this cruise. In an effort to avoid dealing with the main dining room, Cheré and I both prepaid the gratuities leaving us with monopoly money to spend. Since almost all of it is non-cash, it vanishes into the coffers of RCCL without a trace if we don’t spend it. And as far as the shops on board – forget it! The last thing I need is either junk or more t-shirts.

What my kids will appreciate even more is that I am not even buying magnets this go round. No postcards either because they already have them from these ports.

Not sure either of those have anything to do with OBC but I get distracted quite easily.

OBC – one can eat in specialty restaurants. Cheré and I hit Giovanni’s the first night. It was excellent. We went there for lunch once. We tried the sushi – it was ok but not fabulous and certainly not worth a trip back.

Will have to figure it out, but meanwhile, knitting proceeds

Octavia's Garden in the middle of the melody

Octavia’s Garden in the middle of the melody

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Name that Fish!

April 17th, 2015 3 comments

The location is Bonaire, the snorkeling trip put on by Woodwind Tours. If you are ever here, book with them – fabulous people, extremely knowledgeable, excellent equipment for everyone from beginner to experienced. They are more than reasonably priced (book the five hours, drinks, 3 snorkeling locations and food!)

The water is crystal clear. You can’t touch anything, feed anything or walk on the coral. Some areas are really shallow and you have to be extremely careful as well as along the drop off where you can’t see the bottom, just reflections off fish as they come and go from the depths. The photos were taken with my CanonD20. I don’t have names for most of these critters – so if you know any, please leave me a comment and I will fix the caption!

Fish #1

Fish #1 – parrotfish

Fish #2

Fish #2

Fish #1 again with friends

Fish #1 again with friends parrotfish

juvenile green turtle

juvenile green turtle

Fish #3

Fish #3 – French Angel Fish (thanks Stu)

Fish #4

Fish #4

Fish #5

Fish #5 – parrotfish

#5's buddy

#5’s buddy? juvenile parrotfish

Fish #6

Fish #6 – Blue Tang (thanks Linda)

a school of #6

a school of #6 – more Blue Tang

Fishes #7

Fishes #7

fish #8

fish #8

larger turtle - really deep

larger turtle – really deep

Fish #9

Fish #9

and last - Fish #10

and last – Fish #10

And then there are sponges…. and coral

sponge

sponge

staghorn

staghorn

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Aruba – take 2

April 16th, 2015 No comments

At least I think it is take two. I was here in Jan 2014 certainly (which I figured out simply by doing a search on the blog).

the tourist shopping area

the tourist shopping area

We waited till the first of the crush made it off the ship before stepping out into the heat and humidity. It isn’t a far walk to either the Archeological Museum or the Fort (which is now a local history museum). The first is free, the second a whopping $5/US.

The Archeological Museum is signed in both the local language (which reads like a combination of original amerindian, dutch and spanish smashed up together) and English. At one time a private residence; grants enabled the board to convert, update and maintain. It is open, bright and easy to navigate with steps, ramps, elevators so that anyone can get around. The descriptions are no more than a sixth grade reading level and many are pointedly directed toward school age children. The story is told of the original inhabitants (probably ~1000 CE), various European exploring groups and subsequent conquerors. Although not really stressed, it seems obvious that the closest mainland links are Venezuela. There was information on local archeology, pottery, house construction and use of shells. Domestic animals, long a part of the European household did not appear until the Spanish in the 1500s.

pre-ceramic era house

pre-ceramic era house

Lastly there was a lovely exhibit of local art.

Back out in the heat and trekking along looking for shade Cheré and I avoided all the high end name stores on our way to the old Fort. Not large, most but not all of the wall has been maintained. In case you have any difficulty in finding it – tall square clock tower and two canons out in front (pretty broad hint). Inside, it is a local history museum with friendly staff, a lot of rusted shop and farm implements and a building focusing on “then and now.” So showcased are furniture, old household implements, music making and musical instruments and dolls (one looks definitely like E II).

1800's outdoor kitchen

1800’s outdoor kitchen

yes, a real telephone

yes, a real telephone

sewing basket

sewing basket

Most interesting was an oral history project involving young people on the island.
Their instructions were to find the oldest possession in their family and track down its history through relatives, written documents. Posters gave the information and a video ran with each one of the 20 telling their story in turn. The objects ranged from a gold watch to a cactus soup recipe to cookie iron.

Outdoors we noted birds and iguanas…while confirming that there were a lot of shops with the purpose of separating the tourists from their money. Assume the presence of everyone of the awful cruise ship jewelry shops, most brand name stores, and a lot of bars. When you leave the ships (We and the Adventure of the Seas were in port today) if you turn left and walk down the main street you will find stores more attuned to the local populations (groceries) which is where I imagine most of the crew went.

Linda - what bird is this

Linda – what bird is this

Other things to do – the troll ride looks to be short but might be fun. Water sports are certainly an option. Lots of food and drink.

Post Box

Post Box

It was a nice time, warm. We found no tacky Santa shirts, bought no magnets. At 1000 this morning which was well before we docked the Serenade had held its “Milestone Recognition” so I have my crystal paperweight. Don’t need to add anything else to the suitcase…

(photos to follow)

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Sliding

April 15th, 2015 No comments

I did mention that there are almost no children on the ship, right? In fact there are only two, teens both, who do not belong to the crew. Lovely young Canadians, met them on shore in Grand Cayman.

Apparently the water slide still is open, even when there are no takers.

I went sliding this afternoon. The sun was bright, the humidity up and even with the wind blowing it seemed like the thing to do. I was their first customer this cruise. Day 5, third sea day. Only person sliding.

Climb the stairs

Climb the stairs

down the shute, around the 360 and into the water

down the chute, around the 360 and into the water

I even took my underwater Canon and made a couple of videos. From this I can assure you that it is a long walk for a very short (15 seconds) slide.

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