Wednesday, December 26, 2007

December 2007 Cruise

Mike and I boarded Celebrity's Millennium on December 16th for a one-week cruise. The afternoon we boarded was unusual in two ways: there had been a Coast Guard inspection, which delayed our embarkation process, then there was some bad weather in the northeast and midwest which delayed air travel for some folks, so The Millennium shoved off later than usual. In fact, we were the last ship docked in Fort Lauderdale to leave, so we got to watch all the other ships pass by. It was actually very interesting.

We smiled and waved at several boatloads of people, and then we left, as the sun was setting.

After a cloudy Sunday, the rest of the week was remarkably beautiful, the best weather we've ever had on a cruise. I got my dose of sunshine.

The first day of the cruise was a sea day, so we mostly sat on the deck and gazed at the beautiful sky and ocean, and read our books. We also participated in a Chardonnay blending class, which was sort of a demonstration about how wine is made. We wound up drinking a copious amount of Chardonnay, and that made my afternoon seem even more carefree and happy.

The second day, Tuesday, was San Juan day.

Such a handsome ship! We walked a lot, and I tried to take a few photos, but the streets are very narrow, and San Juan is actually very hilly, and it's hard to capture what it's like, but I'll try, anyway:

That's me in front of El Paseo de la Princesa, and there's a much more artistic picture of it here, no offense, Mike:)

The old city wall juts out, here and there...

Horse and buggy rides...

...and my new paradise alley. After all that walking, we went to the Harbor Brewery and had a couple beers at the bar and watched very strange Madonna videos on some music channel.

Now it's Wednesday, and that means we're now on the island of Tortula. Actually, the ship is not docked but anchored, so we have to take a tender to the island. In this case, it's a ride in a lifeboat. So, what do you do in Tortula? Go to the beach, of course. We took a small bus/taxi to the beach, and it was a very scary ride. It wasn't quite as scary as the ride to the beach on St. Thomas, but it was very close. Actually, the islands look a lot alike. Kidnap me, blindfold me, wake me up, and I wouldn't know the difference, except for the roosters. I've never seen more roosters per square foot, ever.

So, we're riding this open-sided scary taxi to the beach, up and down very very steep, windy, narrow roads. Oh! And they're driving on the left-hand side. This is the British Virgin Islands. I'm hoping all the tourists got the memo about that. And these narrow roads are two-way. I'm having nightmares of failed brakes and head-on collisions, and now there's a teenaged girl two seats in front of me who thinks it's fun to reach out and touch buildings, branches, and such as we go whizzing by. Where is her mother? Obviously, she needs to be hit upside the head because if she loses her arm, I will faint and fall out, and then I will definitely be kilt.
This is a blurry picture, but what do you expect from a tourist who is holding on for dear life with one hand and not focusing with the other? Beautiful views! We still had a lot of zigzagging to go before we got down to that beach, though.

And then the taxi driver stops, two miles before we get to the beach, to make sure everyone pays him now. Then, when we get to the beach, we discover why they told us to bring cash: it's three bucks for each chair, and seven bucks for that umbrella. The beer is surprisingly cheap, though! And we are helping the local economy. It was another beautiful day, and the way back was just as scary, but I survived. This time, we sat up front with three darling little boys who rode with their hands in the air, as if this were a roller coaster. At least their arms were inside the bus. I appreciated that.

Thursday is Caso de Campo day. This is in the Dominican Republic. We once heard a comedian say that Caso de Campo was Spanish for "stay on the ship," but I'm glad we headed for the beach again. We bought a partial day pass to an all-inclusive resort, and it was a very nice day, and our only complaint was that we didn't get to stay long enough. And it was another scary bus ride, this time for a different reason: our driver kept hogging the narrow road, and oncoming vehicles were being forced onto the shoulder. What is it with these bus and taxi drivers, anyway? And we must've forgotten to take pictures.

It's off to Labadee, Haiti, on Friday. This is a beach area that's owned by the cruise line, and it's really a fantastic beach. It's a very short tender ride, and we were once again blessed with fantastic weather.

It wasn't crowded at all, there's more than one beach, and there are play areas for children, too. This stop is really popular, and once again, I wanted the day to last longer...

But now it's Saturday, which is a bittersweet day. It's another sea day, but it is also the last day.

One more day of sea and sunshine...the food was wonderful, and I finished three really good books, and I got beat at Scrabble every night. It was a great time.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Lots of pictures of the Iberostar Paraiso Lindo

September 8-15 in Playa Paraiso, at the Iberostar Lindo. This is one of the first glimpses one gets, on arrival. There is something supremely uplifting about simply being in such a beautiful place. It's hot, but somehow, in the shade of these courtyards, you'll feel good. Maybe it's all the light, or the reflections from the fountains.

Our room wasn't immediately available, so we visited our favorite bar at The Maya. That's the Lindo's posher sister hotel, next door. See the snake head hanging over the booze? Nice touch.

This is such a cool bar. I love how the plants hang from the ceiling. We spent some time speculating about how the staff cares for those plants. We always have exciting conversations.

Our room's ready now, so it's back to the Lindo. Now, I've been drinking, remember, and that's why some of these photos might seem a bit unbalanced. If anyone paused to laugh at the tipsy middle-aged lady staggering around behind her husband with a camera, she didn't notice.

This is not the swimming pool:) Around this fountain are restaurants, a couple bars, and some shops. Keep going straight, though, and you'll get to the pool.
We're going to the room first, though. This is what I call The Boardwalk. I love it.

Lagging behind Mike...

There are lots of fountains. The skinny stray cats get plenty to drink...

I tend to get lost in such big places. It really helps to have so many landmarks. After the rooster fountain (see the rooster on the top?) comes the four pottery sisters, then

ooooooh, I'm tilting...

the columns! We're getting close.

This is our courtyard. Now, I just have to remember which side we're on.

This way....

We're upstairs. By the way, these knees are famous! Mike was proclaimed Mr. Knobby Knees a few years back, and he's still got it, baby.

This is just another picture of the courtyard from upstairs.

Our room was resplendent in decor and towel decorations. We always carefully transfer those towel creations to a nearby shelf, but a picture lasts longer.

Shots from the pool and the beach:

The pool looks especially lovely at night, but it's hard to get a good picture. This is about a quarter of the pool area. There's a wave pool and a lazy river (rio Lento) behind the pavilion, and another pool in front of this area. We started almost every morning at the river. Now to the beach...

We're pausing here to watch the cute coatis.
YO! I'm open, over here!!!!!

A coati will eat anything--watermelon slices, pizza, or the last bite of your sandwich. Meanwhile, the stray cats, who do not have the advantage of being tourist attractions, must fend for themselves. Mike and I watched a little cat catch and devour a couple small lizards. Serena would be disgusted. Mike got the idea that maybe the cats should wear fake snouts and nip some viagra for their tails. It might work on the tourists, but it wouldn't be worth it, if all they're giving out is fruit. Blek.

That's a lifeguard stand with a view!

We got in lots of strenuous activity. The water was perfect, and the sand is very fine and almost white. The waves are smaller than the ones we see on the mid-Atlantic, and the ocean is bluer.

These guys are working. I thought that we might get to see how these huts are thatched, but by the time we got to the beach the next morning, the huts were up, the stain was dry, and they were already thatched!

These wooden frames are heavy--it took five guys to get this one upright, Iwo Jima-style, first. The men and women who work at this resort are incredible; they can do anything and they are the nicest people you'll ever meet.

On with the advertisement: the food was fabulous. This is Mike with his favorite desert

The Maya Bar at night

The pathways are beautiful at night, lit just enough along the way to give one the feeling of walking through the jungle by torchlight. The week flew by.

Bye, bye, Lindo, until next year.

Monday, May 7, 2007


May 2-6: Magical Collector's Weekend

Downtown Chicago was resplendent in tulips.

The skyline is so intriguing. (Yes, I know I closed my eyes for this one...)
Bean Pictures!
This magnificent bean is in Millenium Park.

Lots of bean pictures...

Take a lap around the bean, and see Chicago! I went for a run in this area a couple hours before taking these pictures, and had the bean all to myself.

There we are, in our wacky distortions--

We went for a walk down by the lake, and spied a lighthouse. We were lucky to have such gorgeous days for our walkabout in Chicago.

We then left for Schaumburg, one of Chicago's suburbs, for the actual convention. Maybe Ekim took more pics...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Belated Punxsutawney post

We went to Groundhog's Day!! We being me (Actonbell), Mom (TLP), and my older sister (Dddragon)

These pictures are not in order, and these are not all of them, but anyway--

There's Dddragon, before we bought our groundhog hats. She's all bundled up and ready to walk around Punxsutawney. Stylin', isn't she?
We went to the community center to visit a small craft show, and we all got silly groundhog hats. People gave us lots of friendly looks and compliments on them.

Mom and I took a long stroll up to Gobbler's Knob the day before, February 1st, because we knew that we wanted to take the bus the next morning. It was cold. Mom and I took pictures of each other in front of the podium where Phil would make his appearance the next morning.

These are pictures were taken in front of the library, where Phil lives, and where the tuxedo Phil statue is located. I don't happen to have a pic of Dddragon with it, but if I see one, I'll snatch it.

This Bellhop Phil lives in front of the Pantall, where we stayed--

Before dawn on Groundhog's Day, there were fireworks, captured here by Dddragon--

After all the entertainment, fireworks, and the prediction, we rushed on back to the Pantall for a wonderful breakfast before heading home. We had a very nice trip home!