Saturday, October 3, 2015

And The Streets Are Made Out Of Cheese

America! I'm back in America! Okay, yes, I've been back for several days, but you know when it really hit me? It wasn't seeing the White House. It wasn't beholding a giant American flag made of Lego. It was when a clock in D.C. struck noon, and the bells began chiming, playing -- and I am not making this up -- Yankee Doodle. You don't get more American than that. Heck, that even trumps Denny's Red, White & Blue pancakes, by gum.

I'm having a pretty good time in D.C. so far. Aside from the rain. Well, rain is fine. It's the wind that turns umbrellas inside out and the puddles that drench your socks and the slippery surfaces that try to kill you... those things aren't so great. Oh, and I keep getting temporarily lost. But when I'm not getting lost or getting drenched or falling down, I'm taking in the sights. Some sights I plan for, like the Smithsonian Museum Of Natural History and the Museum Of American History. Others... Like the parking garage where Watergate secrets were spilled... I've happened upon by accident.

 I've been blessed with many little happy accidents on this trip. The good has far outshined the bad.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Magic Has Landed...

The cruise has ended and I am back on dry land, and guess what? I'm actually pretty bummed about  that. Surprise! Aside from the days I felt dizzy, I had a pleasant time. It was really relaxing and fun, and I met some great people, tried new foods, and participated in all sorts of crazy activities. I'll post a few pictures below, and promise to put together a detailed trip report with 100 photos (at least) when I'm back in Oregon, in front of my laptop.

 SO. Remember before this trip began and I was talking about the things I wanted to do? Well, I knew I'd have to be flexible and that I couldn't do everything. One thing that did change is that I decided not to stay 2 nights in Miami after all. In changing the dates on my train ticket (Miami-Washington) I also opted to save some money and get a regular seat instead of a sleeping compartment.

I don't regret bypassing Miami, but I AM sorry to have missed out on that private compartment, especially considering the people I had to share a train car with last night. We had...

*Old guy who kept getting phone calls that he'd let ring 4 or 5 times, and then answer with, "Hello???" as if his phone didn't have caller ID. Or perhaps he had given out his # to random lunatics.

*Lady who sprayed Bath & Body Works' Vanilla Sugar spray at least 5 times. It sounds delicious, but it is most certainly not.

*Ladies who spent half an hour discussing the differences in taste re: possums, raccoons, and other specimen.

*Seat kickers.

*Amtrak announcers who believe they need to repeat everything four times. "We're coming upon our next stop, Jacksonville. I repeat, we are about to pull into our next stop, Jacksonville. That's Jacksonville, ladies and gentlemen. Does this PA make me sound cool, guys? Jacksonville Jacksonville Malkovich."

Annnyway, I did enjoy some of the views of Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia. Sorry to say I slept through Georgia and the other Carolina. I saw ducklings, cranes, and what I thought was a lizard, but was told by possum lady that it was an iguana.


And now I'm just outside of D.C., ready and waiting in case the President needs saving.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Where The Ocean Meets The Sky

I'm alive and well. The ship has managed to avoid both icebergs and pirates and is still scheduled to arrive in Miami on Wednesday the 30th. At which point I will be sad, because I really have enjoyed myself (some credit must be given to Bonine, but....) 

The bed is so comfy. There are activities all throughout the day, but no one makes you do anything you don't want to do (save for the lifeboat drill... and getting off the ship in the end.) The food is across the board, some excellent, some unappealing, but there is plenty of it.

I've discovered I love looking out at the sea... The waves rolling against the ship... It's quite calming.

I tried both waterslides on board... even the one where the floor drops from underneath you and you basically plummet.

I got up on stage and sang karaoke one night. What song? Jolly Holiday, which I realized/remembered AFTER I got up there that it's a duet. I... did my best.

I've watched Disney movies I haven't seen in 30 years. I've watched ones that have been out for years but I never saw. 101 Dalmatians? Slightly less scary than it was when I was 5. Lilo & Stitch? Good. Lone Ranger? Guh.

Tomorrow we visit Castaway Cay.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Rocking The Boat

Day 4 of the WBTA, and Madeira Day! I woke up just as we were pulling into the port, so I hurriedly got dressed and went upstairs to get photos out on the decks. Then, a quick breakfast before heading to the meeting point for my Madeira excursion.

 Our excursion group, which consisted of about 20 people, boarded a bus that took us up a mountain. Then we got out and began our "nature walk," which was really a hike. We had a guide who gave us lots of facts about Madeira and the "levadas," or waterways, that provide people and farms with water. The hike lasted about 2 hours, and I can not call it fun, though I did get some nice photos.

Then we were driven to a restaurant where we were shown how to make a drink called Poncha, which is rum and honey and juice. We got to sample that, and we were gifted with a wooden stick for mixing our own Ponchas, should the need arise.

Back on the boat, well, after we set sail again, I got quite motion-sick. Not in my stomach but in my head. I was dizzy and miserable the whole evening. It convinced me that this will be my one and ONLY cruise. I did manage to participate in a pin trading event, but that was it. What a crappy day. 

Day 5; a sea day. I still felt terrible when I woke up. I had some breakfast but went back to bed. Around 11:30 I recalled that I had packed Bonine, and I wondered if it would help. I took one and 45 minutes later I felt so much better! I was able to get up and go do activities! I went to a concert, listened to karaoke, and, after dinner, helped create a volcano in the Oceaneer Lab.

One fun thing about this ship is that there are multiple chances to see Disney movies. They play on the TV, the ship's movie theater, out by the pool. I've caught Dumbo, Cinderella, Robin Hood, Tarzan, 101 Dalmatians, and Beauty and the Beast, as well as Pixar's newish movie Inside Out. Tomorrow they're doing a Frozen party. Let it gooo....

Monday, September 21, 2015

You can be blase about some things, Rose...

So I'm on the 2015 Disney Magic Westbound TransAtlantic (WBTA) cruise. We left Barcelona the evening of September 19th. I've been looking forward to this cruise for so long, it seems unbelievable that I'm actually here. Just lying on a bed. On a boat. On the open sea.

So far I think I like it. There is food galore, and a lot of it is delicious (I can't say "all the food" because I had an unfortunate encounter with some grapefruit yesterday.) There are different activities all day long. On Sunday I played Star Wars Angry Birds, made Flubber, watched a Broadway-style show, and took an afternoon nap. Yep. No regrets here. Around 7:30 pm that evening, we passed through the strait of Gibraltar. It was foggy, but you could still make out land to the north (the Rock of Gibraltar) and south (Africa... I presume.)

Our first port stop will be Funchal, Madeira, Portugal, on Tuesday. You do have to pay for internet on the boat, but you get 50 mb for free if you sign up on the first day. I'm going to see how long I can make that last. (Edit: pictures now posted!) See ya real soon!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Architecture & Animals

My second (and final) full day in Barcelona is complete..

When I was planning my trip, I made a list of about 10 places in Barcelona that interested me. Today I looked at that list, pondered, and finally settled upon Casa Batlla, a whimsical artistic house designed by the notable architect Gaudi. I walked there (about a mile and a half) and had to wait in line about 10 minutes to buy tickets. Once in, each person is given a set of headphones attached to an iPod-type device, which has audio and visual information programmed into it. I thought the place was neat, less so for the wacky artistic features and moreso for the clever, practical architectural features, like the ways the architect allowed natural night in, or how he designed the ventilation system.

Pictures from Casa Batllo:

After that, I considered my options, and decided to visit the zoo, with the hopes of seeing a red panda. I walked there as well and, surprise, was quite tired. I did enjoy the zoo, but alas, the red pandas were not out. Still, I got to see brown bears, zebras, and kangaroos, among many other species the Oregon Zoo doesn't have.

I used the subway for part of my journey back to the hotel. By then, I was limping. Stopped in a few shops to get things for dinner, and called it a day by 6pm.

Tomorrow I board The Boat, eager to sail the ocean blue. I will try to update once or twice on board, but photos and long updates will have to come after I'm back in the U.S.

In the meantime, enjoy some zoo pictures!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Hopping On

I will fully admit I did not want to leave my hotel room this morning. My legs are so sore. Sore in weird places. Hamstrings, maybe. What's a hamstring? I don't really know, but I'll bet it hurts.

Ultimately, what got me out of the room was the knowledge that this was only one of two full days I had in Barcelona, and I didn't want to waste it, and the fact that I was hungry.

I decided to do a hop on/hop off bus tour around the city... and then, you know, seldom hop off. I figured it would be a good way to see lots of Barcelona... without collapsing. Sure, I had to walk about a mile to Placa Catalunya to get my ticket and catch the bus, but I got a muffin on the way. €.90! NINETY CENTS for a muffin. I love Barcelona.

I had intended to use one tour bus service, but was talked into doing the other one by the guy selling me the ticket. I have no doubt a commision was involved, but since they were about the same price, I just went with it. Both tour companies have double-decker buses. I spent part of my journey on the upper deck, and changed to the lower one when I got too warm.

I hopped off exactly three times. One, at Park Guell, which I had read about and wanted to see. Unfortunately, it involved a trek up a big hill... And the park, being a park, is really best appreciated by those who are active. I was not feelin that. Still, I took in a few sights. At the entrance there was a ticket kiosk saying you could buy a "general ticket" for €8, not saying what the ticket was really for. I knew from my research that the park was free except for a couple of areas. But I bet a lot of people see the sign/kiosk and think it's for park admission and they pay. Lame.

Back on the bus, I made plans to switch from the "green" route to the "orange" one, as there are three stops that overlap. At one of these stops I spotted an Imaginarium store! So I disemarked and went in there for a bit. Then a trip into Starbucks to get some rations for dinner, and THEN I got on the orange-line bus. This route was more scenic. We got to see the Olympic stadium, which was neat. I didn't do the whole route, because one of the stops toward the end was in walking distance of my hotel. So I hopped off and called it a day.

So now I am resting, trying to decide what on earth to do tomorrow.

Here are some photos, mostly taken from the bus....