Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Cruising During the Pandemic--Saint Lucia



 One glimpse of the port in Saint Lucia and I knew this was going to be a beautiful island.  




It was very clean and neat.  






No more history and culture, we decided to do something fun today.  Even better Ron and Rebecca decided to also do the catamaran island tour.





I did have a hat on but no way would it stay on with the breezes as we sailed around the island.  Note to self, buy a hat with a strap before our next trip. 


We had a much better tour guide this time.  I always say they can make or break a tour.  This girl was nervous because it was the first group she'd had since the pandemic began.  She gave a little information like the island was 27 miles long by 14 miles at the widest point, population was 181,000 and the island gained its independence in 1979 and then the music would play. The catamaran would stop at a noteworthy place and she would say some more of which I quickly forgot followed by more music.



Here's a photo of Bill with Ron and Rebecca.  We were the first ones on the boat so we picked a seat up on the front of the boat--where we also got a lot more sun.



Here's a picture of Bill and I with the Gros and Petit Pitons in the background.  We sailed up much closer, but I failed to get a photo.





The catamaran anchored at a beautiful beach.  You could either go down a slide to get in the water or there were some steps that dropped down at the front of the boat.  I was the only one in yellow and Bill is waving.



As soon as everyone was back on the boat, the rum was brought out.  The music was turned up and you could tell everyone was having a wonderful time.  There were no limits on the rum.  I have a great video of everyone dancing but can't seem to get it to load into blogger.

It was great fun and we were so happy we chose to do this tour.  I didn't mention that Saint Lucia was considered a free flow island.  You could go anywhere you wanted and didn't need a mask.

I believe this tour lasted 4 or 5 hours.  Everyone was very happy by the time the catamaran returned to the pier.  

There were the usual shops as we approached the pier.  I wanted to get a Christmas ornament for our travel tree.  Bill said he was going to the rest room.  

After I found an ornament, I looked around for Bill.  He wasn't anywhere and neither were Rebecca and Ron.  I walked over to the security people that let you pass out of the shopping area and he wasn't there.  

About this time, I realized I had Bill's ship pass instead of mine.  I did have a copy of his passport and I showed his photo to the local police.  They went into the men's room and Bill wasn't there.  There was no one else in any of the little shops.  By now I have two police officers looking for him.  

Not knowing what to do at this point, I decided to go through the first shops security which did not ask for a ship pass and go ask for help from the ships crew that have the water station by the gangway.

When I walked over to the area to board the ship, there was Ron, Rebecca and Bill.  I was so relieved to see Bill.  I guess maybe Bill wasn't lost, I was.

It was a wonderful day and we really enjoyed spending time with Ron and Rebecca.

The captain announced that we were going to have a change of plans as we couldn't go to Tortola because of more cases of Covid 19 instead we were going to Curacao.

I had another one of my calendar challenges that evening.  I thought the dinner for this night was chic.  Would you believe we were the only ones dressed up?  I had the wrong night.  It could have been worse, Bill always has me triple check the dates of any flights at least I had the right days for them.

Turtle Safely........









Monday, July 26, 2021

Cruising During the Pandemic--July 12

 The ship docked in Barbados and I must say it was interesting to watch how the tugs put those big ships in to the docks.  They literally turned one around in the harbor to get it docked in front of another ship.

I had forgotten why we never like room service, but since we had a tour leaving at 8:30, I ordered breakfast.  It's not anyone's fault but it is impossible to have eggs that are not cold by the time it gets to your room.


We did enjoy our juice on the balcony.






Bill needed another cup of coffee before he finished getting dressed.




You were not allowed to leave the ship unless you were on a curated ship tour.  We had to wear masks and be temperature checked.  The ships crew handed everyone an aluminum bottle of water before we departed the ship.


We decided on a panoramic tour of Barbados.  Bill always enjoys learning about the history and culture of a country.  Unfortunately, this wasn't the tour for that.  Our tour guide hadn't been doing tours since the start of the pandemic.  The bus rode very fast over the roads and when the guide mentioned something on the right or left he never slowed down.  Some of the things the guide pointed out, you couldn't see at all because the brush and trees were overgrown.  One thing we laughed about with Rebecca and Ron, who we met while on the tour, was the guide pointed out that the black bird on the left was called a blackbird.

We weren't impressed with the area.  They did have a hurricane come through the week earlier, but it didn't appear to have done much damage other than blow the roof of a shack. 

Our first stop was Gun Hill Signal Station.  In 1883 the telephone replaced the signal station.  The Barbados National Trust restored the station in 1981.  

Bill is always drawn to any kind of weapons.  

The views were great, and we were grateful for another beautiful day.  

It wasn't much to see but I did see some interesting flowers that I didn't get a picture of.  I forgot to mention that the camera I brought along on the trip decided not to open the lens cover completely and I took these with my phone.  I should have had some of the rum they were passing out.



Our next stop was suppose to be the Farley House.  As the bus got up to the gate to enter there was a lot of discussion between the gate guard and the tour guide.


The bus pulled through and turned around in the parking lot.  We were told that it was closed because they hadn't finished the hurricane clean up.  All we saw were workers sitting on the picnic tables and a few limbs on the grass.  We were only going to view the outside.


Our tour guide had pointed out a windmill before so she had the bus driver drive past it.

As we left the windmill the "road" turned into a bicycle path.  A car would come from the opposite direction and have to back up until there was room for us to pass.  


Now remember that no one knew we  had been diverted off our original itinerary.  This "road" was not for a bus.   All of a sudden the bus tries to make this steep grade and it just stalls.  The driver kept trying and finally made it.  All I could think of was no one would ever find us.  There were big sighs of relief when he finally got the bus going again.  I'm sure there were no cell phone signals there.  


Our next stop was the beach.  Do you see all the brown stuff near the waters edge?  That's seaweed! The local workers rack it up and use it for fertilizer. 




How do you like this photo of Bill and I?  Well, it was taken by a professional.  Remember I said we met a nice couple, Ron and Rebecca Turner from Beaufort South Carolina?

Sorry I can't figure out to turn the photo, but check it out if you're interested.


It turns out that they are president and vice president of The Beaufort Film Society.  They have filmed the graduating classes of the Marines for many years.  Next February will be the 16th annual international film festival.  I'm sure they filmed some Marines that we know.

The rest of the day was spent lounging by the pool.


Turtle Safely.........

 
 

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Cruising the Pandemic--Part 3

One thing that amazed me with only 400 passengers on the ship is that every night when we went to the dining room all the tables were set with linens and dinnerware.  I would have removed some tables and saved myself some work.

The pools and hot tubs were the same way.  Each lounger had a fresh towel and way more loungers than people.  

Did I mention that the weather was perfect for the entire trip?

Our second day at sea was uneventful.  Bill and I just used the pool and whirlpool.  Now this is what we booked the cruise for.  Gentle waves as we have a drink and a book to read.  

I forgot about humidity.  The list of what to bring said to bring three swimsuits.  I brought 4 and wished I would have packed more.  In Arizona your suit would have been dry by the time you walked back to your cabin.  I had them hanging on the clothes line in the bathroom and it took a couple of days to dry. I brought 3 suits for Bill and as he rotated them they were still a little damp.

We had good news from the captain today.  Originally, we were suppose to sail to Saint Lucia but a couple of weeks before we left they changed the ship and said we'd go to St. Kitts and Nevi in place of Saint Lucia.  It didn't matter to us one way or the other.  The Captain announced that we were going to be able to go to Saint Lucia.  

Bill and I were talking by the pool and we both agreed that neither one of us had any jet lag from the overnight flight.  Of course, the time change wasn't anything like when we fly to Europe and we gained hours but still we'd been up for over 24 hours with no problem.  I failed to mention that the seats were very big and the leg room was almost too much.  I like to put my airplane bag under the seat to use as a foot stool.  I had to move it out as there was too much leg room for me legs to reach.  I know some flights were on the new 737's and I really noticed a big difference in the room.  The bathroom door is a full size door instead of the bifold ones.  

I'll try and explain how I pack for the plane.  I pack my purse in the carry on.  Bill's wallet and watch go in the front of the carry on bag until we go through TSA.  Bill wears a money belt with a plastic buckle.  Inside my carry on I pack another bag that has reading material, our pillows, blankets, aspirin, brush, headphones, snacks, medication during the flight and anything we might need once we're on the plane.  I hate it when people get up and try getting stuff out of the overhead bins.  This makes going through the TSA pre check much easier.  Because of Bill's pacemaker, he goes through a different machine.  Right before we're ready to board, I take this bag out and then use it for my footstool.

Every day we had a gift in our room.  On this day it was a silk face mask which we'll use for tomorrow's adventure.

Tonight was chic night.  It was fun to wear something besides shorts.


We went to the theater and I'm sorry to say I can't remember what it was but we weren't disappointed.

The next day will be in Barbados.


Turtle Safely.........




Saturday, July 24, 2021

Cruising During Pandemic--Part 2

Thinking back about the plane ride, I forgot to mention that when our Phoenix flight arrived in Newark we had to wait about 20-25 minutes for a gate. 

 The following flight, once we boarded, had to wait for a mechanical problem to be repaired.  Then when we pushed away we were number 23 in line for take off.  It seems Newark is improving (?) a run way and they only had one open.  Despite that we ended up landing about an hour late.

Now back to when we boarded the ship.  You know how you can always feel every ones excitement that the voyage is ready to begin?  There's always a lot of people around the ship, well this wasn't the case.  

It turns out that there were only 400 passengers and 700 crew on a ship which holds more than 2,000 passengers.


I booked the cruise a little over a month before it sailed.  Since Bill and I were cruising without our trusty traveler friends, George and Linda, I didn't pick a cabin.  I let Celebrity find one for us.  We never book the more expensive cabins as we find we only sleep and change clothes in the cabin.  I did get a window cabin. When I received our cabin number, 6000, before we sailed I knew we had one of four cabins across the bow of the ship looking straight out.  It looked like on the deck plans that those four rooms were much larger than the others.  You could have put two king size beds in that room.  There was a nice fruit, cheese, and meat platter for us in the room.

I had packed our swimsuits in the carry on so we wouldn't have to wait for our luggage to come to the room.  I didn't need to do that as the luggage arrived before we even had time to change.

While the room was perfect, it was a very long walk to most places.  We decided to go get something to eat. We hadn't had anything but the hard cookies and a soda since Friday.

When we came back to change into our swimsuits, there was a message on the phone.  It was from guest relations, so we just walked down to see what the message was.

They wanted to know if we wanted to change rooms up one deck to 7 and have a cabin with a balcony.  Well knowing the cost of the balcony compared to the window room, I said yes.  They said I could go look at the room and let them know.  Knowing how far we had to walk, I just said it would be fine.  Our cabin attendant would move everything for us.  

I have to say we were torn after moving to the balcony room.  It was about half the size of the window one, but much more convenient to mid ship.

We drank our champagne on the balcony and that was the only time we used it.  You couldn't see near as much with the panels between each balcony.  Of course, we never thought anything about the humidity and that the loungers were always wet.  I've learned now I would never pay the additional fee for a balcony.

The always dreaded safety drill is entirely different.  Now you just acknowledge that you watched the video  on your tv or phone.  Then you go to the muster station sometime during the day and click your phone and you're done.  Of course no one else was at the muster station but a crew member.

All of the crew members call you by your name.  I'm not talking about your cabin attendant or dining room attendant--everyone.  Bill finally asked them how they knew everyone's name and one bartender said they studied our names and photos before the ship embarked.  Of course at full capacity I'm sure that will change.

The major change we noticed right off was there were only a handful of people at the oceanview cafe.  Normally, there are two sides both with the same food.  Now there are little pods--Indian, Latin, Asian, which change daily into other areas of the world.  You still have the salad pods, meat and cheese pods, sandwich pods, pasta, pizza, breads, desserts, ice cream and etc.  When you enter the cafe instead of the machines for sanitizer they now have an area with sinks to wash your hands.  There's always someone standing at the entrance to show you where to wash your hands.

It looks like the same amount of seating and the drink machines haven't changed.  It seemed like there was no one there.  Of course, they fill your plates for you which is much better.  

Bill and I went to the Whirlpool pool after lunch.  There were loungers everywhere but they weren't occupied.  They were grouped in groups of two.  Only two other people in that giant pool.

We decided we didn't want to be tied down to a certain time for dinner so we did the selective dining.  Same meal as the other dining.  The lower section was for selective and the upper was for the regular dining.

I have to say it was nice not worrying about what time we needed to go to dinner, but we ended up going about the same time anyhow.  Our waiter said we could request him for the entire cruise if we liked.  We did that and sat at the same window table every night.

Now you cruisers know what it was like to go to the theater.  If you wanted to sit with someone you had to go early.  Can you imagine only 400 passengers and not all of them go to the theater in that huge theater.  There were no people in the row in front of us or behind us.  

Well that is pretty much all I can remember for our first day at sea.  We've been cruising since the early 90's and there have been a lot of changes, but this was the most relaxing cruise we've ever been on.


Turtle Safely........




Friday, July 23, 2021

Cruising During the Pandemic--pre flight

We had our land tour to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam cancelled twice and our small ship cruise of the English Channel & Celtic Sea Crossing: England, Normandy, Ireland, Derry & Belfast scheduled for July cancelled.  

So far, our Sicily and Malta trip and the Suez Canal Crossing: Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Red Sea are still going before the end of the year.

When I saw that Celebrity Cruises had begun their cruises to the Caribbean, Bill said to book it.  We've seen a lot in the Caribbean and this was only a 7 day cruise, but at least it was something.  The brochure said that all the crew were vaccinated and you had to be vaccinated to take the cruise.  

From the time I booked the cruise until we left on the 10th I had numerous emails on what was required to fly to Saint Maarten.  I knew we had to have a covid test 72 hours before.  That seemed really simple until I found out that the country required an electronic health form before you could get on the plane in the USA.  Now anyone that knows me knows I am calendar challenged.  Try figuring out when you need the test.

Our flight left on Friday at 11:15 pm and our appointment to check in at the cruise terminal was 2 pm Saturday.  Everyone had to have an appointment.  Now is when I started to get nervous.  We received an email about the health forms saying you had to have a copy of your negative covid test before you could fill out the forms.  Ok, we can do that.....but wait it will take up to 12 hours to get your health form returned.  You had to have hard copies of the forms before getting on the airplane.  We had planned to leave for the airport about 7 pm and get dinner at the airport.  

I called our local lab where we get our blood work done and they said results for a covid test could take as long as 72 hours.  I then contacted other agencies in town and no one would guarantee we'd have it back any sooner.  It wouldn't have been a problem if we didn't have to fill out the EHAS forms for Saint Maarten.  Bill and I decided to bite the bullet and go up to the airport on Thursday morning for our test.  We had the first two appointments at 8 and 8:15.  We waited about an hour for the hard copies of the test.  We then high tailed it back home and started working on the health forms.  There were some glitches in filling it out.  This is where Sherry, my sister, has always helped me with these, but they aren't in town.  It seems some of the dates are put in the USA way with the month, date and year and in some places the day, month and year were needed.  You had to include a scanned copy of your vaccine card and the test.  I filled mine out and then the form asked if there was another person to add.  I said "yes" and entered Bill's information.

It took about 15 minutes and I had a reply that said approved.  I noticed their were two pdf attachments.  I opened the first one and was so relieved that it turned out that simple.  

I added some last minute items to the luggage.  Later on in the day I decided that I better print the forms and make sure there were no problems with the printer.  I went in and printed mine and then opened up the second PDF attachment.  This can't be.....there were two for me and none for Bill.  Now what do we do?  There is a no reply email and no phone number to call.  I sat down and re-entered Bill's information and about an hour later his came back. 

Friday morning we went to Yoga class and did laundry and before you knew it, it was time to leave for the airport.

Our flight last month was out of terminal 4 but United was flying out of the newly remodeled terminal 3.  When we went to get something to eat, we were surprised that nothing was open.

Just as they started boarding everyone's cell phones started going off.  I had already stowed my phone in the carry on.  Once we were on the plane the captain announced that we'd be delayed due to a bad dust and electrical storm.  We ended up leaving almost and hour late.  Our snack for the 4 hour flight was a clear bag with an 8 ounce bottle of water and hard cookie.  Later they came by an gave us a can of Dr. Pepper.

When we arrived in Newark we had to run to the next concourse to catch our flight.  We were the last in line and then they called us out of line because they didn't see our covid test and the health forms.  They literally shut the plane door as we got on the plane.  Exact same "meal" and this was an international flight.

I wouldn't say a lot about the Saint Maarten airport.  There are no gates, you land on the tarmac and climb down the narrow staircase to the bus which takes you back to the 10 gate terminal.

As we got off the bus we had to show our covid test and passport.  We then walked down a hall and showed our passport and covid test and had to put our hand in a temperature machine.  Passport control also wanted to see our passports and tests.  Our luggage came out as we walked into the baggage claim.  Our Celebrity Rep was waiting for us and took us to the bus where three other people were waiting.  There were no crowds whatsoever.  The five of us arrived at the terminal about 20 minutes later.

As we got off the bus, we had to show our passport,  covid test and electronic health form (EHAS) and be temperature checked.  Now we entered that big tent where you usually see lots of passengers waiting to get on the ship.  It was only the five of us.  We went to one end, they went to another side.  They now have an app on your phone that has your passport and a photo that you take on it.  It checks you in.  We had to have someone give us our "Tracelet".  It a silicone watch like thing.  I had a pink dot on the back of mine to tell mine from Bill's blue dot.  We were instructed that we needed to wear it the entire week.  I started thinking this would be great if anyone went overboard.  One more time showing our passport and we went outdoors to a waiting golf cart.  At this point, we finally got to take our face mask off.  



As we walked up on the gang plank, there must have been 50 crew members cheering as we entered the ship.  They actually took our carry on and showed us to our cabin.

I'll let you know more tomorrow.


Turtle Safely.......


 


Friday, December 18, 2020

Memories of 2020

Last year at this time we were in France on a river cruise with our good friends and traveling companions, George and Linda.

We stopped in Pittsburgh on our way home to visit the kids, grandkids and great grandkids.  Christmas eve was an adventure with everyone there.


In February our daughters, Misty and Shay came for a visit.  Bill had a lot of plans to show the girls some historic sites.  Here's a photo from the Renaissance Festival.  Although they enjoyed it, I think they preferred the Mesa Flea Market.  We arrived when they opened and other than a quick lunch break with Ron and Mary and Jim and Bev, the market was closing when we left. We did have to give them some luggage so they could take everything home from their shopping trip.


A few days after they left, we started packing for our adventure to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.  We received a call from our trip leader telling us what to expect on our trip and if we had any questions.  A few days later we received a call from our travel company asking us if we wanted to change our air travel from stopping in Hong Kong.  That sounded like a good idea so we changed it to a stop in Tokyo.  And then 48 hours before departure we got a call saying the trip was cancelled and we would get a refund in a couple of weeks.  I am happy to say we received a full refund to the penny.  I got a call when they mailed the check and they asked if we had incurred any other expenses.  I mentioned that we had paid for our visas.  They asked us to send a receipt for them and they would refund that also even though we did that through a different company.  

As all good Americans, we spent our stimulus check immediately.  We had a contractor knock down the block fence and add wrought iron.  Bill built a water station in the field behind our fence and we enjoy watching the wildlife come for a drink.  Our back yard looks out on the north branch of the Santa Cruz River.  Sounds classy but it just the desert.  

I did find some new fans that match our western theme.


.
Well we needed the fans when we hit 118.  Yes, this year has been the hottest on record but it just got hot and stayed there.  At least on a positive note the skies were sunny and bright.


 

During the hot summer, I spent time reading travel brochures.  When I saw that our travel company was offering huge discounts for trips, I decided to rebook our Asia trip.  It's booked for February 28th.  At the time I thought everything would be looking up and travel would resume.

About a month later I got a brochure from them about a small ship adventure to Ireland. They advertised two people for the price of one on the English Channel & Celtic Sea Crossing: England, Normandy, Ireland, Derry and Belfast adventure.  How could I pass that up?  It just happens to be when Bill turns 85.  Sounds like the Barney Stone would be a great place to celebrate his birthday.  The ship has a 98 person capacity.  We've been to London before but I noticed that we'd be staying in the Tower Hotel again.  It is on the Thames right next door to the Tower Museum and Tower bridge.  Another great thing about this trip is Hal and Sue, who we meet on our Spain trip are going too! 


Excitement this year was when you found a new mask.
In June we had a surprise visit from grand daughter Courtney and Josh and their boys Maverick and Reid.  
We had two great grand children born during the early months of the pandemic.  We did get to meet great grand child number 6.  Do you think Bill was excited to meet Reid?  We'll stop in the Ohio Valley on the way to Ireland to finally get to meet number five great granddaughter, Layne.

We actually made our first trip to Manuel's restaurant with them since the pandemic.  Many year's ago when Courtney was very young, she fell into the water fountain.  We wanted her to know it's still there.

Bill and I always wanted a big flag out front instead of the one we had attached to the house.  2020 was the year to do that! 

I forgot to mention one good thing from the pandemic.  When we were having difficulties getting some food items, I kept forgetting to order cookies on my online grocery order.  I finally realized that I didn't need them.  I've given up eating sweets.  I can look at Bill's stash and still walk away from them.  

Sherry and Dave had us over for Thanksgiving and I must say I did have dessert then.  She had a fabulous meal for the four of us.  

Nikki and family called before we went home and she wanted to do a Zoom call.  This was our first attempt and it was so nice that Dave and Sherry were included in the call.  I got to thinking about how nice the call was and decided to try and do a happy hour virtually on Zoom.  There's a learning curve be we somehow managed.  Plan to do another one before Christmas but I put a notice on Facebook.

The Recreation center opened back up for limited hours.  They are open from 6 am to 10 am and then again from 4 to 8 pm.  We've been walking a couple of miles on the track.  Classes are limited to 8 people and you have to register 48 hours before class.  We've been able to attend both the senior fit and the chair yoga.  It sure feels good to be back there.  They have virtual classes but I don't feel they are quite the same.  


Bill's FBI graduating class of 1968 was published in the magazine.  Can you find him in there?  Hasn't changed much in all those years has he? 




Here's hoping everyone is doing alright.  We are happy and healthy but know not all of you are.  We're wishing you a Merry Christmas and a better year in 2021.


Turtle Safely.......







Thursday, December 26, 2019

Paris during the Holidays

December 16, 2019
Paris, France


Behind in blogging as usual.  We are in Paris and if I don't blog this today it won't get done.  I never finished blogging about our last trip in September to Spain and Portugal.  

George and Linda, who decided to join us after we had booked the trip, drove their car to Sky Harbor in Phoenix and we all flew out on Saturday.  We were early for our noon flight so had a great breakfast at the airport.  Our flight took us to Dallas where we had a connection to Paris.  We were happy to see a man with a motorized cart when we got off the plane that took all four of us to the other terminal.  We had a short wait before we boarded.  Linda and George had a shorter wait because they had upgraded seats and boarded first.  Both flights arrived early.

I told Bill that 8 hour flight was just practice for our 25 hour flight in March for our next trip.  Needless to say that's the part of traveling no one likes.


We arrived on Sunday morning and you could tell that a shower had past through as the runways were wet.  There were no lines at all at customs and our luggage had already arrived before we got down to the carousel.  Our Grand Circle representatives were waiting for us on the other side of the doors.  Our driver grabbed our luggage cart and showed us to the van.  The weather was mild, so we didn't need to get our jackets out.  

Grand Circle used to include the town on the guest list that is sent to you with your final documents.  I was surprised to see a couple from Arizona listed and further surprised when I saw their last name was Carr.  They arrived shortly after we did and we found out they live about 2 or 3 miles from us.  They weren't related to Bud and Cathie though.  Another couple is from Morgantown, WV which wasn't that far away from where we came from.  Nobody from West Virginia has ever been on a trip that we were on before. We talked with one lady who graduated in 1954 the same year as Bill.  After further chats we learned she went to high school in Steubenville, Ohio and was the rival school to Follansbee, WV, the one Bill graduated from.  All of this from a group of 68 travelers.

Our program director had called us a few days before we left to find out if there was anything special we wanted to see while in France.  She seemed like she was going to be a lot of fun.  We were in the air when she sent us an email about her father. When we arrived we found out that her father died a few hours before and therefore we have a different program director.  

More than half of the 68 guests had arrived and were having their first taste of french wine at lunch.  It's always nice to chat with different people at every meal and of course the icebreaker is, what trips have you taken.  I was hoping to find someone that has taken the Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand trip we have booked for March  but so far haven't found anyone. I have decided to add the South America and India trips on my trip planner list after talking with some people.

Hal and Sue from our Spain and Portugal trip wanted to know if Harry, the waiter, was still on the ship. Harry was one of the first crew members I talked with.  I told him he was the reason we returned to this ship and France.  

After lunch, our program director took us on a vicinity walk to familiarise us with the area.  Even though we are still docked in the same place by the Eiffel Tower, we saw different things on our walk.  

It looks like Bill is wearing earmuffs in this photo but he actually has his own headphones instead of the supplied ones that hook on your ear.  If you look closely you can see someone walking by in shorts.  It's nice temperatures but not that nice.


This balloon in Citroen Park  near where we are docked measures the air pollution in Paris.  You can also take rides on it.  




During our welcome briefing our program director  explained the current conditions with the protest strike.  The subways are closed down except the ones that don't have operators (operatorless?).  There are two bus lines that are operating, the 42 and 72 which are both nearby.  I really think the traffic was worse the last times we were here.  Some government places are closed but it is an hour by hour thing.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that we can visit Versailles.  

Did I mention that we didn't sleep at all on the airplane and we know the worst thing you can do is take a nap to get over jet lag.  My head kept bobbing up and down but once we got to the dining room for dinner we became wide awake again.   Of course, we skipped the nightly entertainment and went straight to bed.  




This morning we woke to rain, but by the time we left at 9:15 it had stopped and the sun came out later.  Of course, our first stop was the Eiffel tower.
George and Linda are enjoying the trip too.  







We made another stop and then visited the Christmas markets.  We've seen the ones in Germany but these are different.  These are locally crafted items that you won't find anywhere else.  They are not Christmas items but could be very nice gifts.  

We arrived back just in time for lunch.  Not that we were hungry but you would have thought we were by all the food on our plates.  

After lunch Bill and I walked for an hour or so exploring the area.  It's fun to try and chat with people who don't speak English.  

Bill is upset because inflation has hit the restrooms.  It used to be 20 cent euro to use the restrooms, now it was 80 cent euro.  

I threw this blog together and now it's time for the Captain's Welcome Dinner.  Hopefully, more tomorrow.

Turtle Safely........

Thursday, October 17, 2019

September 12 2019--Day 9 of the Spain and Portugal in Depth trip

Casa Grande, AZ

Now I am more than a month behind on blogging about our Spain and Portugal trip.  

On this day we left the Sol Don Hotel in Torremolinos after breakfast for a tour of one of the oldest cities in Spain.  Ronda was nicknamed the "Dream City" and once you see the 360 feet river gorge you'll know why.  Although, besides beauty if you've ever read Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls you'll remember the place where the Fascists were thrown to their deaths during the Spanish Civil War.  

Whenever you book a trip with this tour company, there is always so much more than what the itinerary lists.  Bill was actually afraid there was too much time on your own.  



On our way to Ronda, Estefi said we were going to take a side trip to the ranch of a famous bull fighter.  I have to apologize because I've forgotten his name.  Our tour guide showed us inside the bull ring and the first thing I noticed was the gold colored dirt.  She told us it could either be red colored or the gold.  





I was surprised that they raised horses on this ranch.
The ranch was huge and Domingo had to really show off his driving skills manuvvering that bus through all the gates.
Everyone had a chance to practice in the practice arena. The capes were very heavy.The ranch also had a museum, chapel and of course a gift shop.
When we arrived in Ronda, we had another interesting guide.  Here's the view of the gorge below.  That's the road we drove up on.Here's a better view of the gorge.Our surprise treat for the day was a visit to a ham shop and small museum where we had the acorn fed pig with wine and cheese.  I couldn't believe 200 Euro for a kilo of ham, but it did taste good. It was another fun filled adventure.  We had time to walk along the beach when we returned to Torremolinos.  I have to tell a funny story here, Hal and Sue had dinner with us the previous night and we all loved our fresh fish dinner and wine at this cute little cafe on the beach.  We decided to return to the same place for dinner this night.  We went to the cafe and sat in the same corner table as the night before.  When the waiter brought the menu, we all looked at each other and said this isn't the same menu or special.  We ordered a wine and then walked down the street a little bit further to the place we had dinner the previous night.  We all got a laugh out of it and decided the wine at the first place wasn't as good. Turtle Safely........













 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Gibraltar 9/11/2019--Spain and Portugal in Depth Trip

Casa Grande, AZ

I'm still trying to catch up on blogging about last month's trip to Spain and Portugal and want to finish this trip before we leave on the next one.  Torremolinos isn't like a beach town in the US.  The beach is clean and beautiful and not crowded.



This morning Domingo drove the bus to Gibraltar.  This was our first glimpse of the island.  It looked just like the insurance commercial on TV.





Domingo would let us off the bus by the airport terminal as the bus was too large to go to the places we were going.  We would then separate into two smaller groups and take smaller buses with our local guides.  We were all waiting for Domingo to move the bus closer.  We waited about 30 minutes.  It turns out that to enter the country you have to drive over the airport runway and traffic was held up so a plane could either take off or land.  

Our local guide later told us that Gibraltar airport is the 5th most dangerous places to fly into or out of in the world.  

Finally, we all used the airport terminal for what Estefi referred to as a "Happy Stop" and crossed into the country.  Doesn't that sound better than a bathroom stop?



The runway goes across and both ends are the sea.










Maybe this photo will help you understand how scary this runway is.  My pilot family and friends, would you want to land here?






Our British local tour guide told us that Gibraltar has by far the cheapest fuel for all the ships in the area.  They all stop in Gibraltar for diesel.



The small bus drove over some very very narrow streets.  I guess I was sucking air on those streets as I didn't get any photos of them.  Our guide told us those streets were two way traffic.  I wouldn't ride a bicycle on them!  I didn't think there were narrower streets than the Amalfi coast, but I was wrong.




Our itinerary said we were going to visit  the Apes' Den.  






I don't think we could have gone any higher on the island.  



We stopped to take photos of Morocco and the Iberian Peninsula.  I was thankful we had another clear beautiful day.






As we're leaning over the stone wall taking photos of the beautiful scenery, our guide introduces everyone to an ape.  She knew the names of all of them.  




Bill wanted me to stand closer so he could take a photo.  I insisted I was close enough.








Notice how the mama ape carries the baby on her back.  









Okay, let me explain about the jacket Bill is wearing.  We knew we were going to be gone all day but also part of the tour was going to be the World War II Tunnels which we thought might be cold inside.  Bill didn't want to carry the jacket so just wore it.

Here's a better view of the baby riding on the mother's back.







As the bus started to drive away one of the apes jumped up on the roof of the bus.  One also jumped up to the window right beside me.  I screamed and jumped at the same time as it happened so fast.

A short drive from the Apes' Den were the World War II Tunnels.  Should I also mention it is only  12 minutes to go from one end of the country to the other.  



Hard hats were required in the war tunnels.











Hal and Sue were the only two in the group that looked good in the hard hats.


You will have to click on this photo to enlarge it to be able to read about the ammunition explosion.










The record day for drilling the tunnel was 180 feet by 8 feet by 8 feet in one week.  Drilling began in October 1940 until 1943.  There entire garrison could hold 1,600 people with enough food to last them 16 months.  



The tunnels had hospitals, underground telephone exchange, ammunition magazines, power generating plant, water distillation plant, bakery, exercise area, and vehicle maintenance workshop.  There are approximately 34 miles of tunnels.



We passed by many historic buildings that I have since forgotten the names of.  There wasn't enough time to tour them.  After the Apes's Den and the World War II Tunnels my brain was on overload.



Our next stop was Europa Point, the southern tip of Gibraltar.  The Christian Shrine of our Lady of Europe was also here, but I failed to get a photo.





Hal and Sue insisted we should have a photo together.  There was a breeze so that's why the breezy hairdos. 








Our next stop was in a quaint fishing village of CatalanBay where we had a traditional English high tea.  We were in a beautiful ballroom with views of the sea.




Once again we had the whole room to ourselves.  So much better than our last cruise ship where there were so many people.




After our wonderful high tea we had some time to stroll around the fishing village.  I started collecting Christmas decorations from every country we visit.  It's one way that at least once a year you take your souvenirs out and see them.  They are also inexpensive and don't take up a lot of room in your luggage.  I was happy to find a decoration in that village.  

Gibraltar was a wonderful experience and not at all what I expected.  It was another great memorable day. 

Estefi did an excellent job of rounding up the group and getting them through customs without leaving anyone behind.  It was very busy at this time as a lot of workers were just getting off work and going through customs. I was surprised that Hal, Sue, Bill and I all got our passports stamped but most people didn't.

Not one person took a nap on the way back to Torremolinos as Estefi was still talking about Gibraltar on the way back to the hotel.




After dinner we walked across the street to put our feet in the Mediterranean Sea.  








We asked Hal and Sue up to our patio to drink the champagne but they were too tired.  I must say, we also were too tired.  

We pack a lot into a day and we still haven't been to Portugal yet.  

Turtle Safely.......