Tuesday 27 March 2018

Catching up

Now that I've caught up on my vacation posts, you might (or not) be wondering what I've been up to in the past month.  Well, not much yet it has been busy.  Work, of course, takes up most of my daily routine.  The last two weeks were particularly busy because one of my staff have been on holidays and I've filling in for her.  It has been an interesting exercise...and that is all I will say about that.

The weekend after I returned home, the Canadian men's curling championship (the Brier) was held here in Regina.  I had purchased the championship weekend tickets as my Christmas gift to myself.  There was really incredible shot-making and I love the strategy of the game.  As one of the other spectators seated nearby said, "I haven't missed a shot all day".  

The photo isn't the greatest, it was taken with my cellphone as I didn't feel like lugging the camera bag with me.  The two teams in the final were Team Gushue (Team Canada - they won the event last year) and Team Bottcher (Team Alberta).  Gushue's name would be the most recognized, the team won the 2006 Olympic gold medal in curling.  Bottcher, however is a team to be reckoned with - they are a young team and I predict they will win a Brier in the not to distant future.  The game was decided on the last shot of the last end - in my mind that is the ultimate way for a game to end.  Both teams gave as good as they got and the spectators saw a thoroughly enjoyable game.


The following weekend we celebrated Eli's first birthday.  While his birthday is actually March 2nd, the party was held on the 17th to allow for out of town guests.  It was those out of town guests who caused the most grief...they had booked an Airbnb, but before they arrived on Friday, they received an e-mail advising that the property wouldn't be available until Sunday.  My daughter D had picked them up off the bus, and without consulting me, brought them to my house.  Initially they, mom, dad and 7 month old daughter were going to sleep on the basement floor.  I felt that would be more disruptive, so gave up my bedroom (and bathroom) for the weekend.  Though I did tell them, they had to find a place by Sunday.  My generousity does have a limit.

D asked me to bring my camera; I took nearly 300 photos, but narrowed those down to about 180 after getting rid of the fuzzy shots of moving babies and children.  The afternoon turned out just as D had planned - the young ones had a great time, the adults too, and little Eli was spoiled rotten.  Here are just a few photos from the happy day.

The happy birthday boy!  
He's started smiling at me when I bring out the camera - and you can see a couple of his bottom teeth.  He's already got 9 teeth, six on top, including two molar and the third one on the bottom popped through the morning of the party.  Since then, his bottom molars are coming through as well....I know because I was dumb enough to stick my fingers in his mouth.  :p

I got such a kick out of this shot.  Eli and R are watching A take a bite out of the foam.  R looks a bit shocked!

The boys are close in age, R turned one in January, and little A is the 7 month old.  I was surprised that the three of them enjoyed the foam pit so much.  I suspect it is deeper than they are tall but they loved crawling around in it.  

The moms were keeping an eye on them here but I often spotted a baby who had crawled into the pit on their own.  Happy babies!

This is J, R's older brother. He is just over two years old, and a little shy.  He and Eli get along very well, as he walks and Eli's crawls and the two of them can get where they want to go very quickly.

Little R isn't crawling yet, though can scoot around on his bum.  He can move, but not as quickly as the other two and tends to get frustrated when they take off on him.

My daughter has coached gymnastics since she was a teenager, and had competed in trampoline as well.  She took Eli over to the large trampoline and jumped with him.  It may not appear that way, but he really enjoyed himself.  

She did too - after she passed Eli back to his dad, she did part of a routine...I assume the less difficult portion but watching her flip and turn brought back a lot of memories.  Good ones!

After 90 minutes on the gym floor, we moved upstairs to the party room, where the presents and birthday cupcakes were waiting.

After his mother lit the candle, Eli immediately grabbed the flame.  So there were a few tears but he quickly made a dive into his cupcake and all was forgiven.

There are a stack of presents behind him.  There was a set of blocks (which went to Dad's house), a small rocking horse (which went to Dad's house), clothing, books, and a teddy bear.  Remember how I said he was spoiled...and note how all the large toys went to Dad's house?  My house is overflowing with Eli's stuff already!

There were a few minutes of animosity between D and J but the two held it together for the afternoon.  She was unhappy as he had arrived over a half hour late - because his back hurt.   To ensure I didn't say anything untoward, I hid behind my camera, hence the reason for 300 photos.  While I know that Eli won't remember his birthday, I can share these photos and tell him all about when he gets older.

Our house guests left mid-afternoon on Sunday, thankfully so I had a few hours of housework and laundry done. It made for one very busy and tiring weekend!  This past weekend, on the other hand, was quiet.  I did watch the women's World Curling championship - Team Canada (Team Jones) did us proud and came home with the gold medal.  Eli watched some of it with me; when I tell him, "hurry hard, great shot!" he claps his hands. What a character!


Last Friday, we got another dump of snow, about 10 cms. along with wind to blow it around.  I was out mid-afternoon shovelling as the driveway had blown in.  C got home shortly after 5 p.m. after a 45 minute commute that would normally take no more than 15-20 minutes.  By 6 p.m. the snow had stopped falling, and the wind wasn't blowing so I headed off to dinner with friends.  D was running out to a children's clothing pre-sale so left Eli with his uncle.  I got a text just before I left the restaurant, "this kid could use a diaper change and his mom is in no hurry to come home".  I arrived home to this little stinker (literally) who was undressed, wiped off, and popped in the tub immediately.  OMG I'd forgotten how bad a toddler's poop can smell!  He sure looks pretty proud of himself, doesn't he?  

On that note, I suspect that's TMI and I'll end this post.  Have a great week everyone!

Saturday 24 March 2018

SeaWorld - Vacation Day 11

This is going to be a photo heavy post – I think the photos speak for themselves.  On my second day I decided to go to SeaWorld – the I-Ride trolley had a stop right outside the main gate.  I had already decided that Universal Studios and the Disney park was not high on my list of things to do.  But spending time at, what is basically a zoo, sounded like a good plan.

Being that it was Sunday, the park was filled with families, and yet it never seemed crowded.  There are annual passes available that were definitely reasonable, so I can understand why it would be an attractive option.  The day passes weren’t so reasonable; I paid $100USD but all in all it was a great day and I’m so glad I spent my time there.

While I was standing in line-up there was a little girl and her mom ahead of me.  She was clearly excited about being there, so I asked her if she’d been there before.  She said “yes”, and when I said I hadn’t and asked what I needed to see, she responded, “the animal show”…and “the dolphins”….and “the sea lions”.  It was pretty clear that I was in for a good day.

The park is quite large, and comprises a number of exhibit areas, as well as the theatres where the dolphins, sea lions, and killer whales perform.  In addition, there are rides including Atlantis and a huge roller coaster that winds its way above the park.  Of course, there is shopping as well and several restaurants and concessions.
I started my visit to the park at the enclosure with the flamingos.  I’ve never seen them up close before.  What odd looking birds they are, and they truly do sleep on one leg.  Later, I saw them being moved (to where I don’t know). 

I planned my day around the shows and had a bit of time before the dolphin show, so after a few false starts and turns I made my way to the Antarctic Penguin exhibit.  The temperature inside the exhibit is about 0C (32F).  I’ve shown my photos to my friend K, who has an affinity for penguins – she tells me there are two or three different species.  I couldn’t tell the difference.

There was an area below the exhibit where visitors could watch the penguins swimming.  I took a number of photos but most weren't clear.  Definitely the best of the lot.

I stopped by Atlantis, no ride for me!

Next up was the dolphin show.  Simply amazing!  These mammals are obviously intelligent creatures and these were definitely well trained. Would they be happier in the wild? Perhaps but there are certainly fewer dangers to their lives in the park.

A glimpse of the roller coaster, another ride I didn't go on.

My next stop was the "Wild Artic" exhibit.  I took very few photos as it was disappointing.  Meant to reprsent the north along with the Franklin Expedition, it could have been much more.  There was one beluga whale, one walrus, and one seal.  When I asked one of the attendants why they didn't have a polar bear, she told me "Because it's Seaworld".  When I replied, why do you have flamingos then? - she had no response.

The next show that I attended were the killer whales.  Another amazing show!
I sat beside a mom and her little boy who is a week younger than Eli.  The little one was so excited and clapped with the audience and danced to the music.  I enjoyed watching him as well - I'll definitely have to bring Eli to SeaWorld one day.

 While not a particular good photo of the killer whales, I've included this one to give you a sense of the size of the theatre.  

This would reprsent less than half the entire theatre.  It wasn't entirely full as you can see, but there are lots of people.

Yet, leaving the venue and moving to another was never an issue.  They obviously have built the park in such a way to keep the crowds moving.

In this last photo, the whales are waving good-bye.  They circled the pool, got close to the edge and used their tales to spray the water into the crowd.  I was in the final row of the "splash zone" but didn't get wet.  

My next stop was lunch!  They have a number of restaurants and kiosks around the park but I wanted to sit down.  I went the Spice Mill, which offered sandwiches, burgers, hotdogs, fries, salads and desserts.  I grabbed a chicken club sandwich and coleslaw, along with a soft drink.  There is a wrap around porch style deck so I went outside to enjoy the sunshine and the view.  I think I must have been hunger as I have no photos.  Though I did take a few on my way to lunch, including this one, another view of the roller coaster (and the flamingo paddle boats)

I presume this is a local inhabitant who has made its way to the park for the ponds (and food source?).  

After lunch, I headed for the animal show recommended by my young acquaintance earlier in the day.  

It was fun show - I can definitely see why little ones would enjoy it.  There was loose story line, but the best was watching the animals race about the stage...chasing well placed treats.  Most moved so quickly it was difficult to get any photos, especially the cats.  

I was impressed with the number and variety of animals.  In addition to the four pictured, there were several more dogs and cats, a hamster and a gaggle of ducks.  The shrieks of the small children in the audience was fun to hear.  (Another reason to bring Eli someday).

I had some time before the next show, so headed over to the open exhibit for the seals and sea lions.  The sea lions are loud, noisy, and incredibly rude especially when a visitor had fish to feed them.

The birds hang around waiting to scoop up the fish the visitors throw.  The guide warned people to avoid the birds as apparently they are quite aggressive.

This guy used his flippers to climb from the water.  Impressive core strength!

The last show I visited was the sea lion show.  I didn't get there early enough to get a good seat, and the venue was quite shaded  so my photos are less than I would hope.  But here are a few.

 The premise of the story are the two sea lions are a few credits short to graduate from high school.  The show revolves around the various classes they need to pass and the misadventures that follow. (Cute but cheesy)

Of course, by the end they both manage to do what is needed and graduate.  If I remember correctly the walrus was the valedictorian.  

At some point during the show one of the humans "bought" a can of pop from the machine, drank it, crushed the can and tossed it into the pool.  From the bag of the stage came this little otter. It dived into the pool, brought the can up from the bottom and ran across the stage to toss it into the recyling bin.  (Missed on the first toss, got it on the second).  That brought the loudest applause during the show.After I left the show, I wandered towards the exit.  This is another shot of the roller coaster - it could be seen from almost every area of the park.

I stopped in at the shops on the way out and picked out some souvenirs, pens for my staff, a glass dolphin for my daughter and a bottle opener for my son.  Eli got nothing from SeaWorld because everything for little ones was ridiculously priced...besides I had t-shirts for him from Jamaica and Carters already.

By this time it was nearly 4:30 p.m. and I was ready to head back to the resort (and the pool!).  The sight of the trees in bloom reminded me, it is spring....at least in Florida.

That evening I spent my time by the pool.  They have a cabana grill, so I bought my dinner and a beer and ate outdoors.  

The next day was a travel day - another adventure but a fortuitous one as I arrived home an hour earlier than planned.  I took the following day as vacation and spent the day doing laundry and housework.  (My daughter's idea of cleaniless does not match mine).  

So at this point, I'll end my vacation posts - it's about time, as I've been home for 3 1/2 weeks.  Just one more photo from the animal show.

Sunday 18 March 2018

One sea day, return to land - Vacation days 9 & 10

Well, that took a while to get back here.  Partly because I had a busy couple of days at work and wasn't feeling up to posting and mostly because I woke up Friday morning to a houseful of company.  There's a story behind it, but suffice to say it's been a crazy weekend and I'm grateful for the few hours of quiet since they finally left about 10 minutes ago.  While the bedding is being washed I thought I'd get back to the blog.

For our final breakfast on the Epic, nine of the solos met to go for breakfast in the Taste main dining room.  In an earlier post, I mentioned I had a bottle of sparkling wine in my cabin....as did every other solo.  Three of the nine brought their bottles to breakfast so we could have mimosas to toast our cruise.

I wandered off after breakfast to take my final photos around the ship.  In particular, I wanted to get that final wake shot.

To get there I headed into Spice H20, another adult only area.  This one had a bar, pool, and two hot tubs.  Had we not gotten our Posh passes, this is likely where we would have spent our time.  I did head over there one afternoon for a splash in the pool.  After a cool down, I went back to Posh because the area was packed.  That is generally an issue with adult only areas, the chair hogs show up early in the morning and claim the chairs.  The staff generally don't pick up the towels and other items, even after a few hours, so one has to be there early in the morning.  The price we paid for Posh was well worth it despite the lack of a pool.

I think I have  similar wake shot from every cruise.  It reminds me are heading back to the port.  This time, though I wasn't nearly as sad as I knew I had a couple more days to relax before it would be time to head home.

Speaking of Posh, I met Sandra and Amy there after my walk-about, then we met Sandy at the Garden Cafe (buffet) for lunch.  After our meal, we went to the Atrium where Sandra and Amy played Deal or no Deal (similar to the television show except in addition to the two contestants, the audience plays along on cards (similar to bingo cards).  Sandra won a free photo!  

It was a sunny, hot day so it was back to Posh until late afternoon.  Last day, time to pack!  After a shower, I dressed and met the group in the lounge.  

Our solo cruise director Lester took this selfie with most of the group.  I think there were close to 20 of us.  The lady in the stripes is Helene, I'm next to her, Sandra is behind me.  Amy is to the left of Sandra, Sandy is to Amy's left, and Che is behind the two of them. I've already forgotten who most of the others are, though I have their e-mail addresses so if I took a bit of time I could probably figure them out.  

After a drink, the group headed back down to the Taste main dining room for our last dinner.  We were a group of 20 that night; we had three tables.  Lester joined us towards the end of the meal.  He's quite the character and did a great job of working with us, when he wasn't off leading a dance class or a game show.  The staff on the cruise ship are kept very busy!

The following morning I woke up early, shortly after we arrived in Port Canaveral. I headed up to the one of the top decks to catch the sunrise.  What a beautiful start to the day!

I had a quick bite to eat at the buffet, then it was time for "easy" walk off departure by 7:30 a.m.  I met Amy and Sandra, who were heading off as well and we headed down to the gangway.  We were in quite a line-up in the terminal but they've obviously done this a few times so the entry back into the U.S. was very efficient.

As part of my fly, snooze, and cruise package I was scheduled for an 8 a.m. shuttle.  The volunteers at the terminal exit sent me the wrong direction.  By the time I called the company and discovered the mistake I thought I'd have missed the shuttle.  Ha!

What the company did not divulge was that they use large buses and they won't leave the port until it has reached a certain capacity.  As a result, we didn't get away from the port until 9:15 a.m.  This didn't matter to me as I was merely catching a taxi from the airport to my resort, however it mattered to one young couple.  They had thought 2 hours would be sufficient time to get to the airport, through security, and catch a 10:45 a.m. flight.  I don't know what happened but suspect they missed the flight.  When we arrived at the airport just before 10, we were held up at the gate because the bus was missing the appropriate stickers.  And to add insult to injury, they were dropped at terminal A and told to walk across to terminal B.   If they did make it, they should buy a lottery ticket.

I took the elevator to the 2nd floor, to the departure area, and grabbed a cab to my hotel, Point Orlando resort.  I booked the resort along with my flight, so the only additional cost was a $12USD resort fee. (Oh yeah, and the $50USD cab ride to get there.)

When I arrived, it was just after 11 a.m. and check-in wasn't until 4 p.m.  I thought I would just drop my luggage but was thrilled to learn they had a room available.  I was quickly checked in and given my key card to my executive studio, first floor, poolside!

The room contained a living area, kitchenette with bar fridge and microwave, a Keurig, sufficient dishes and cutlery for four, and everything needed to wash up the dishes.

The bedroom area held a king sized bed, the television and a closet with a safe.  Just as had happened at the Cocoa Beach hotel, the safe wasn't working.  But this time it wa truly was just batteries.  While I unpacked, Tim the maintenance man showed up to make the necessary replacements. 

The bathroom was large with a tub/shower combination.  After a full week of showers I looked forward to a good soak that evening.  But first, it was time to do some exploring.  I checked at the front desk and learned the I-Ride trolley had a stop just a block away.  I took the trolley down to the end of line to the Vinings Premium Outlet mall.  The stores were too frou-frou for me though I did stop in at the Carters (children's clothing) store.  I got three t-shirts and a long-sleeved shirt (clearance) for $20USD. 

On the way back, I decided to get off the shuttle 3 stops before my own.  I quickly learned that Orlando is a bit like the Vegas strip.  Things look close by, but they really aren't.  I walked over from Universal Boulevard to International Drive (about 4 blocks) then up International to Carrier.  (My resort was on the cross street of Carrier and Universal).  It took me about an hour in the heat, the temperature was around 85F, but fortunately I was carrying a bottle of water.  I must admit my feet were killing me by the time I got back.

Time to check out the resort pool!  I took a quick dip, then relaxed on a lounger reading my book for an hour or so. Wow, it was hot out there...without the breeze we had at sea.  Just after 5, I cleaned up and headed out to TGIFriday's, about a 10-15 minute walk from the resort. 

Way back, when I did my research for the this trip, and learned this restaurant was close to the resort, I'd been thinking about these green bean fries with wasabi aoli.  Yummy!  The beer is a Belgian Blue Moon...it went perfectly with the fries.  I should have simply had the appetizer and beer but I also ordered a BBQ chicken salad.  It was great but huge - I barely made a dent in it.  

After dinner, I walked back to the hotel and spent another hour out by the pool (feet in the water - since they were still aching from my long walk.  As the sun went down, I was ready to head back to my room to relax and watch television before bed.

I knew I needed a good night's rest as I planned to visit SeaWorld the following day.  That will be the next post....likely in a couple of days or so.  

Tuesday 13 March 2018

Cozumel - Vacation Day 8

This is as close as I got to gangway in Cozumel.  I had planned to stay onboard ship and I did.  The others went off to do their tours and excursions, leaving a very few of us behind.  It was great!

The reason for the bikes is the walk from where the ship was docked to the port is quite a hike.  It was fairly cool (low 70'sF) in the morning but I'm sure they got lots of riders in the afternoon when it heated up.

I wandered around the ship for an hour or so after the others left before heading to the spa for a deep tissue massage.  

I got sucked in to a longer massage, 75 minutes instead of 50, and while it was stupidly expensive, it was the best massage of my life.  I carry the tension in my neck and upper back, and by the time she finished I was as relaxed as I've ever felt.  For the rest of the day I made certain to drink lots of water (no strawberry daiquiris for me that day).

I continued my wander through the ship, since there was little sun that day so no point in going to Posh...especially since there were no strawberry daiquiris for me that day.  I found various corners to people watch and read my book.  It was a quiet but perfect day!

I wandered up to deck 15 for sail-away and got this photo of a small fishing boat heading back to the mainland.  I really didn't take many photos at this port and the few I did, were taken with my cellphone.

Dinner was at Taste that evening with Sandra, Amy, and Helene.  It was the worst meal I ate the entire trip...the entree was chicken basil.  It was supposed to be stuffed with cheese and basil but the chicken was dry and the service was slow so there seemed little point in ordering something different.

After dinner we went for a drink, and visited for a bit before I headed back to the cabin.  The others headed off to Spice H20 (another adult area of the ship at the back of the ship) for the glow party.  Participants wear white or neon colored clothing and carry glow sticks or wear bracelets or necklaces.  I had picked up some at the dollar store intending to attend, but I was just too tired.  The rest of the group was happy to use them!

Cozumel was our final port, with a sea day before disembarkation.  I'll (hopefully) post about those two days tomorrow.  It has been a busy week at work thus far and tomorrow is looking even more so.  

Monday 12 March 2018

Grand Cayman - Vacation Day 7

Forgive me for dropping this thread for a few days....but the Brier was in town!  I spent the weekend at the rink watching Canada's best men's curling.  But I'm back with the continuing series from my February vacation.

Day 7 found us in George Town, Grand Cayman.  We had company in port that day, the Carnival Vista, a Celebrity ship, and a private yacht.

This is a tender port as well as the bay isn't deep enough for the ships to sail into.  The smaller boat you see there is one of the tenders from the Carnival ship.  

I haven't checked but presume, on average, there would be 4000 guests on each ship.  Assuming 75-80% of these passengers went ashore that day, the population of Grand Cayman increased by close to 10000 people.  

I've visited the island previously and had done the tour to the Turtle farm and the post office in Hell.  (Of course I sent a postcard from Hell....and I can truly say I've been to Hell and back).  This time I decided to wander downtown George Town. 

Directly across from the terminal is this lovely little church.  Actually this is the side view but there were so many tourists wandering in front, I couldn't get a decent photo.  I wasn't able to get a full photo from the side either, because of the vehicle parked there.

Inside the church were these beautfiul stained glass windows. 

It was a small church but beautifully maintained.  I certainly wasn't the only tourist visiting that day, so I didn't spend but a few minutes inside.

The road curves around the bay, and all along the way were various malls containing shops designed for the many visitors.  

I'm not certain what this sculpture is meant to portray but it was interesting none the less.  It certainly was a tourist magnet!

I gave up trying to get a photo of the ship from shore without other tourists in it.  Everytime I'd line up the shot someone would appear....not surprising really given the sheer numbers.   

I hadn't seen many flowers in bloom on this trip so was thrilled to find these.....oh, hum, what are they?  Bougainvillea...I think.  Pretty despite my inability to recall the name.

I did venture down this street (behind me) as I saw there was a local open air cafe.  It was getting close to lunchtime but there were no other customers and I was a bit timid about sitting on my own on a side street.

More color along the street! It was a bit faded in the sun, and I suspect will get a coat of paint some time soon.

I stopped in at the National Museum, where I paid an entrance fee of $8USD to wander about the building.  There was a short film available for viewing, about 20 minutes in length, which shared the history of the Cayman Islands and the people who lived there.

It was an interesting place, a portion of the building is the oldest building on the island, and housed the jail (a small one).  In the past, the building has served as a courthouse, a school,  and a church.  There was a gift shop on the way out but I didn't do more than just browse as it was small and there were quite a few tourists looking around.
By this time, it was definitely lunch time.  I thought about heading back to the small cafe on the side street but I decided to stop at Margaritevillle (since I missed it in Jamaica).  

I made my way upstairs from the store below and made my way out to the deck overlooking the street and pier.  I had just settled in when the waiter came by and sent me back to the center of the restaurant to be seated by the attendant.  She brought me back to the table I'd originally been seated at (i specifically asked).

Finally, I settled in with a cold Caybrew (a local lager) and ordered a cheeseburger in Paradise (what else?).  I posted the photo on Facebook; Sandra saw it from her table in Margariteville so she came and joined me for lunch.

My last stop in George Town was Sharkee's, a t-shirt and souvenir store.  I picked up a rum cake (for my adult children), fudge (for the office) and three keychains.  

I was back onboard ship by 2:30 or so, changed into my bathing suit and headed to Posh where Nestor poured me a refreshing strawberry daiquiri.  Good man!   Dinner that evening was at O'Sheehan's (the ship's Irish pub) where we played a game of "Getting to know you".  We learned one of our fellow passsengers survived a plane crash, another is a member of SAG (Screen Actors Guild) who had a bit part on Married with Children, and our cruise director is a cancer survivor.  

Six of us, Sandra, Amy, Sandy, Che, Helene and I, met up at 9:30 p.m. at the Epic Theatre to see "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert". In case you've not heard of it, the play is the story of three drag queens as they travel from Sydney, Austrailia to Alice Springs in a bus they affectionately call Priscilla. The ships show is an adaptation of the Broadway show and I loved it.  The costumes were  phenomenal, the music was great, and the story line was both entertaining and raw.  There were several warnings before the show, that some people might find the language and content disturbing...apparently true as some of the audience left early.  I didn't think it was that bad and the ending was very sweet.

This was my latest night, as I didn't get back to the cabin until nearly midnight.  Luckily the following day we were in Cozumel, where I had no intention of leaving the ship so I could sleep in a little later.  This guy was waiting for me.