Monday 29 April 2024

Aruba - March 19 (Part 2)

 I'll start where I left off on the last post, on our drive to the Natural Bridge in the Arikok National Park. The highway ends part way into the park, when it turns into a gravel road. I recall our driver telling us the reason for this, but have forgotten.

The vistas outside the bus windows were simply amazing. As the next few photos were taken from the moving bus, they likely are little fuzzy.

The original natural bridge in the park collapsed in 2005. According to Wikipedia, it was 25 feet (7.6 meters) high, and 100 feet (30.5 meters) in length and a remnant of a cave.  The natural bridge we saw is called the Baby Bridge, for obvious reasons, with a span of 25 feet (7.6 meters) and only 3 feet (.9 meters) above sea level.

I walked onto the bridge and took photos from that vantage point.

Looking out towards the Atlantic ocean on my left

Watching the waves crash against the shore to my right.

I turned to take a photo of the ocean again, just as a wave crashed into the bridge.

I got sprayed and tasted the salt of the ocean.

Smaller waves hit the formation on my right, with the sea water from the higher waves pouring off the shelf that was hidden.

I have many photos (too many to share) of this particular spot as I was fascinated by the height of the waves and the force with which they reached the shore.

One last photo of the pool under the bridge.

Then it was time to board the bus for one more stop at a discontinued gold mine/smelting plant.
This was a stop I could have done without as it was very hot, overrun with tour groups, and frankly, not that interesting (at least to me).

The interior was full of debris, and while others attempted the climb to the top floor, I stayed on the ground. I'm a klutz and climbing over and on rocks and stones is a sure way for me to sprain an ankle.

On the ocean side, there was a rather desolate looking series of rocks piled up, I suspect by other tourists.

The lighting wasn't great for photos, and there seemed to be haze in the air that was obvious even as we walked around the site.

Our drive back to the port was long, as traffic was backed up for some time. I was happy to get back to the ship to shower and change for our solo meet-up that evening. 

Sail-away that evening was late, about 9 p.m. I wandered down to Deck 7, just to watch for any last minute pier runners. While everyone arrived in time, there were a couple who squeaked in while the crew were starting to dismantle the ramps and barriers. 

Next up - Bonaire


Saturday 27 April 2024

Slowing down

Another busy week is nearly behind us, and I'm tired. We've been cleaning at the old house for a couple of hours every day and have the house emptied of everything but the appliances that are staying. The company who did the move also haul garbage. We had them in on Wednesday to take away some broken furniture and lots of garbage. There will be another haul away needed when we finish in the shed and garage, along with some yard waste.

We did make a run to the nearby town on Tuesday to look for a television stand for the living room. That task was not successful, but we did pick up a few groceries at Walmart and made a Value Village run. D walked out with a good number of brand name clothing pieces for Eli, some with original tags. I used my seniors discount of 30%, and she paid $60 for all of it. He's getting harder on his clothing now that he isn't growing quite as quickly. He continues to stretch up, but not out.

On Thursday, while my daughter finished the carpet cleaning on the second floor, I started filling holes and making some minor repairs to the walls. That work continued on Friday as well and I got the main floor spots sanded and wiped down. D stayed home as Eli was home from school with an ear ache. He's had a mild cough most of the week too. 

At the new house, we've continued to unpack in the office/craft room. There is enough of a dent made that there is open floor space. We still need to sort through everything and put duplicates together, rather than having them in separate containers. My under the bed space has been utilized too, for boxes of family mementos and photo albums. There are two boxes in the bedroom too, of photos and commercial artwork. I told D we'll go through that on a rainy day and I suspect a lot of it will end up being donated. Some pieces will stay but there is less wall space than in the old house in Regina. We have a lot more windows, which I appreciate fully....or at least until it is time to wash them this spring. :)

Today, I'm off to the old house for another hour or so to some sanding, and start laying cardboard on the large flower bed in the back yard. D has never been able to keep up with the weeds (even with her neighbour's help), and I'm hoping to take care of some of them early and without sprays. There is a large day lily that I'd like to split to bring a piece to the new house. 

The handyman, CT, will be in the house on Tuesday evening to start patching some cracks in the plaster that are beyond my abilities. There is more work to be done, but I need those taken care of before the painters arrive. They are booked the following week and expect to take two days to complete their work. After that, CT needs to return to do a few more minor repairs before the house can be listed. As I'm planning to head back to the city around the 15th of May, I'm hoping all will be done so we can list the house before I get away. To be honest, I doubt it will happen, but we'll try. However, not having any control over CT's schedule means we'll need to wait until he is available. Not only does he do good work, his pricing is also very reasonable.

Time for me to get moving! Have a great week ahead everyone. 

P.S. that's a photo of Stanley napping on my bed. Yes, there are still boxes in my room.

Monday 22 April 2024

Aruba - March 19 (Part 1)

 I was awake by 5:30, discovering we were about to dock in Oranjestad. Off to deck 16 for a few photos.

It was overcast and gloomy but the streams of sunlight assured me that it would be another pleasant day.

I always find the architecture of the ABC islands; Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao so interesting. It's clear that the Dutch influence is strong here.

After breakfast on Deck 15, I had a bit of time before my excursion so relaxed and read by the pool until it got too hot for me. Down to deck 7 for more reading before I had a quick bite to eat at the International cafe. I was even able to catch a quick 30 minute nap in my stateroom before I packed up and went to meet my tour group at the terminal.

Today's tour was the sights, sounds, and scenes of Aruba. There were so many guests in attendance we needed to fill two buses. Our bus driver, Marvin, was also our guide and he did a wonderful job of telling us what we were seeing while on the bus , all while navigating the large bus. 

From this point, I'll let the photos tell much of the story.

This was one of the many beach scenes from the bus window. If memory serves, this is Eagle beach home to many resorts as well as a public beach. 

At a round-about on Eagle beach is this two-ton Leatherback sea turtle. The beach is a nesting ground for the turtle.

This was the largest resort we saw - a Palace by Riu. I'm not a fan of resorts at all and this one, frankly looked out of place among the others. In the islands there is often a height restriction and this definitely surpasses what I would expect to see.

Aruba is a dry, desert island with a number of varieties of cactus. I'm sure my readers who spend time in Arizona in the winter will recognize the type, far better than I.

Our first stop was the California lighthouse. The structure is the tallest, at 90 feet tall, on the island.

Built between 1914 and 1916 of stone, lime, and cement. The tower was built after the S.S. California crashed on the north-west shore of Aruba, hence the name. It took until 1919 for the light to be installed because of WWI.

The lighthouse was automated in 2007, and taken out of operation in 2015. Today it is open to public tours, and there is a restaurant across the parking lot. The day we were there, a food truck set up offering cold drinks and snacks. 

While my fellow passengers and other tourists were climbing the tower, or partaking in the beverages, I went for a bit of a wander.

Beyond the restaurant looking out to sea.

I believe we were given about 20 minutes at this stop before we headed off to our next stop, Chapel of Our Lady Alto Vista.

I could not get a decent photo of the chapel while everyone was wandering about, so this was taken from my bus window. The original chapel was built in 1750. This building was built in 1952, but not made any larger than the orginal. Those cement pews you see outside the church as used for the overflow. 

There was some vegetation outside of the chapel inlcuding these cactus. The other plants did not seem to be flourishing in the dry heat.

Our next stop on the tour was the Natural Bridge (baby bridge) in Arikok National Park. As this post is quite lengthy already, I'll do another post in the next few days. But, here's a hint of what is to come.

Saturday 20 April 2024

Progress report

Aruba will have to wait - it's been a busy week and though I've managed to sit down and read blogs (in fact, that's been a great way to take a break), writing much of anything has been a task I've not felt up to even thinking about.

Monday, we headed into the city about 8:30 in the morning, for Eli's appointment with the pediatric optometrist. (I called her a opthamologist in my last post - I was wrong). We headed to C's house first to pick up a few items from the garage and house. He managed to sleep through our short visit. And if he didn't, he managed to stay in his room. Next up was a stop at Costco for a few needed bulk items and a few wants too. Staples is across the road where we managed to find a printer. I have one at C's, but didn't want to bring it back and forth with me. 

While D and Eli were at the optometrist's office, I slipped into the Dollar Store next door. I found a couple of pairs of gardening gloves, including a pair just for Eli, some flower seeds, and a package of a variety of screws. The day was sunny, but windy, and I spent the last 15 minutes of so sitting in the car with a breeze cooling me from the open windows. 

We stopped at a nearby Dairy Queen for lunch, before heading home. The wind was even worse than it had been earlier and I later learned we had gusts of 50-60 kms per hour (31-37mph). It was crossing the highway, and I found myself struggling to keep the car from blowing to the right. By the time we reached town, my right hand was cramped and sore. 

The local plumber dropped by after we got home and installed the new control panel for the hot water heater. Hooray for hot water from the tap! I had been boiling the kettle for washing dishes, and while it works, it wasn't nearly as convenient. 

On Tuesday, Eli had a dental appointment in the next town over. He has been wearing an appliance to keep two of his teeth apart. A few days prior before I moved, he had flushed it down the toilet. He had let me know, it was a big mistake and he needed money to pay for it. His mother had clearly had a serious chat with him. After the appointment, his mom dropped him off at school, then came home to wait for the plumber who was to install the new dishwasher and two new sump pumps. 

We spent our day putting together Eli's new bed and partially completing her bed. At one point we had to run out to Canadian Tire to buy a drill to finish the work on Eli's bed. I don't recall if I went over to the old house to start cleaning that day, but do know I spent several hours there on Wednesday. I managed to get all of the appliances scrubbed clean and do a couple of loads of laundry.

Just as I finished throwing the last load in the washer, D called to say that the appliance repair guy had fixed the washer at the new house. If you recall, it would wash but not drain. We had bailed the machine out that morning. It turns out a sensor on the lid had broken/malfunctioned so it was an easy, if not inexpensive fix. 

We had snow overnight Wednesday and woke to covered lawns, though the streets and sidewalks were clear. D was tired and sore from the bed building, and I was ready for a break too, so we agreed to take the day off. She took Eli to school while I went grocery shopping.  Once the groceries were put away we spent the day doing a little more unpacking, and a lot of television watching (and for me, blog reading). 

There was more snow overnight on Thursday, this time covering the streets and sidewalks. We dropped Eli off at school and run a few errands before heading to the old house. We took several boxes with us, and gathered up the last of the items that had not been packed/ready for the movers. We filled the back seat and trunk of my car, D held a box on her lap before returning home. It took a good part of the morning to finish sorting through the boxes and putting things where they belong. D was doing laundry too, washing and drying some new sheets and bedding for Eli, new sheets for her bed too, and all of the rest of their bedding. She and I put the trundle together for Eli's bed. I made dinner that evening while she kept an eye on the laundry, and put toys away in Eli's room. After dinner, we made up their beds. As you can see in the photo, Eli entertained himself. :)

Friday was also the day that the tree company was scheduled to remove the Lombardy poplars in my son's yard. I spoke with him briefly after work and had him send me a picture. I'm pleased to see how much more light we'll have in the backyard as a result of the removal.

Today, I'm planning to spend some time at the old house cleaning. I'm not sure what D will do, as I'm pretty certain Eli will not be happy hanging out in an empty house. The morning has started out cold (-6C/21F) but it is supposed to warm up nicely (10C/50F). I'm sure they will make their way to the park this afternoon. By then, I'm certain I'll be ready for a nap. 

Have a great week ahead everyone!

Tuesday 16 April 2024

Trinadad - March 17

Although I didn't venture far from the ship in Trinidad, it turned out to be a very interesting day.

The port in Port of Spain in Trinidad is clearly used more for an industrial port.

We weren't however, the only sea faring tourists in town that day. I hadn't realized until I was reviewing photos that the Royal Clipper was docked there too.

I noted this interesting building in the distance and after an internet search, determined it is the National Acadamy for Performing Arts.

I also learned the building was opened in 2009, and contains "a 1500 seat theatre, dance room, piano room, sound lab, a lobby, a hotel, and a spacious auditorium". 

In the other direction there were a number of tall buildings. The green building in the center is the Goverment Campus Plaza, housing four government ministries, including Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise, National Security Immigration, and the Attorney General and Legal Affairs. On the left is the Radisson Hotel. I was unable, however to identify the black building on the right.

After taking my photos (Deck 16) and breakfast (Deck 15 aft), I headed down to Deck 7 Promenade to watch my fellow passengers disembark and the entertainment provided by the locals. 

About 10 a.m., I left the ship and spent a little over an hour on shore in the port area. I was able to use the WiFi to connect with D and then did some shopping. I picked up a t-shirt for Eli, pepper sauce for my son C, and some pain relief salve for myself. It was made by a local woman. It smells lovely, and seems to work well.

Back on ship, I spent a good portion of the afternoon on the Promenade Deck reading and watching the activity off the side of the ship. At one point, an ambulance rolled up to pick up a passenger from the medical center. It took some time for the attendants (both ship and ambulance personnel) to bring the patient out to the waiting ambulance. As they were loading him, the stretcher collapsed dropping the patient (still on the stretcher, thankfully) to the ground. He was clearly conscious and appeared quite shaken but they had him loaded shortly and left the port area. Poor guy!

Later, I headed out to the pool before showering and changing for dinner. Before the solo meet-up we had sail-away so I went back to Deck 7 for that. However, we were delayed as yet another passenger was being transported to hospital by ambulance. I didn't wait to see who was being brought off the ship, instead I went to meet the solo group.

Monica, one of the solo group, shared with us her experience in Trinidad. She had been battling a bit of a cold and run out of cough medicine. There was nothing in the port area, so she had gone across the pedestrian crossing to the city where she found a farmacia. As she left the store she saw a church across the way, and was making her way towards it when a police officer stopped her and told her to return to the port area. She noticed a couple from the ship were heading in the same direction but were not stopped.

Later that afternoon she ran into them again and learned that they had visited the church, before venturing further down the street. On their way back to the ship, they suddenly heard gun shots and the police quickly sent them on their way. They posted on FB saying, "Two shots rang out, I heard the pops then "zing" go by. , I yelled "Gun!" and ducked behind a concrete trash can. Several more shots." They went on to say, that it did not appear that anyone was injured. But I can tell you, their experience made me appreciate my quiet afternoon on the ship.

Sunset that evening appeared in a hazy sky

The following day was a sea day, primarily spent reading or crocheting, with a little time in the pool. 

Next up - Aruba

Sunday 14 April 2024

Move update

The last several days have become a blur in my mind but I'll give you an overview. Wednesday was possession day, I was in the city so D met the realtor at the house at noon to get the keys. She had picked up Eli at school for lunch so he was able to see his new home as well. When he went back to school that afternoon, she packed more boxes and brought a couple of loads of items to the new house. I had an easy day, since I was almost completely packed - just those last few personal items and some food; I had a nice afternoon visiting with the ladies at stitch and chat.

Thursday was my moving day. I loaded my car with most of the items I was taking with me before the movers arrived. They arrived at 9 a.m. and by 9:20 everything was loaded and they were leaving the driveway. They had two pieces of furniture to take from the house, and about 50 boxes in the garage and a few other garden items. Their response on seeing the boxes and items in the garage was, this is so well organized! They stopped for gasoline on their way to D's, while I finished packing the food before I headed out. At the other end, the unpacking of the load was quick as well, and they were away from here before noon. 

D and I spent the afternoon moving boxes out of the dining room and unpacking what we could. We are leaving the craft room to the last. This photo was after her boxes had arrived.

The local mover advised he wouldn't be available until 2 p.m. on Friday, which turned out to be a blessing. D and I spent that morning, closing and taping boxes, moving small pieces of furniture and the boxes from the upstairs to the living and dining room area. After lunch, we had run a couple of errands and returned to the old house and found the movers there around 1 p.m. They were excited to see the boxes with handles (U-haul) and that they were all piled in one room.  The movers filled one smaller van with furniture, the other with boxes. They did have to return to pick-up the couch as there wasn't quite enough room with the rest of the furniture. While they were finishing the unloading, D picked up Eli after school. In total, I think it took about 3 hours to complete the move. Then we sat and stared at the boxes.

Moving is hard work, and hard on my old body. D has been doing a fair amount of the heavy lifting, and I unpack. I did manage to kick a piece of furniture (don't ask me which one) and broke a toe on my right foot. My left foot got banged up too when I dropped a box. D, on the other hand, has bruises on her legs. Both of us are feeling the bending, lifting, and stretching in our backs. Robaxcet is our friend.

We've had a couple of hiccups - I tried to light the pilot light on the hot water heater but it would not stay lit. Then we discovered that the cold water taps had no running water. A call to the plumber had the water heater pilot lit and the proper turn off valves turned on to get the cold water running. I've never lived in a house that had several shut off valves (all in the basement). Unfortunately the water heater did not continue to work, so the plumber was out again that evening. Apparently the control panel died (which I assume is some sort of computer thingy as almost everything now has to be digital). He ordered the part and will be back tomorrow to replace it.

Thankfully, we still have the old house to return to, as we managed to get only enough hot water for me to do dishes and shower, and to give Eli a bath. Meanwhile we've been doing laundry at the old house as the washing machine here would not drain with the first load. The plumber will look at this too. When she goes over to change loads, D has been showering there too. 

The last hiccup was also plumbing related. When D was a child, she used to think that anyone who had a fridge that had the water and ice maker on it was wealthy. Well, this fridge has these functions, however we woke on Saturday morning to water leaking from a pipe for the fridge water in the basement (thankfully just in the laundry area.) There was no water on the kitchen floor so I'm hopeful it's just a pipe that needs re-soldering. The plumber is the one that installed the water line so I expect he'll be able to repair it easily too.

We're still living with boxes and tubs and our bed frames are in the process of being built. Sunday morning, D and I put mine together, and partially built Eli's trundle bed. We discovered that there were no pre-drilled holes for the slats, so that meant another trip to Canadian Tire for a drill. I'm sure they are happy to see us come through the door as we've had to pick up a number of items (some needed, some wanted). 

Eli has a opthamologist appointment in the city tomorrow, and a dental appointment in the next door community on Tuesday. While I'll be going to the city with them, I'll stay behind on Tuesday, and hopefully get started on the cleaning of the old house to prep for painting. No, I am not doing the painting! I met with the painter this morning, and tentatively scheduled the job for the beginning of May. We still have to get the handyman in to do some patching of cracks and repairs to the ceilings...long story.

I'm hoping things will start to slow down in a day or two, as I could use a break. 

But on a more positive note, spring has arrived!

It's time for lunch, then back to bed building. The battery should be charged.

Thursday 11 April 2024

Grenada - March 16


We docked in St. Georges in Grenada about 6:45 a.m. As you can see it was hazy, with the remnants of the clouds coming over the island. I was awake as we docked, and after showering and dressing I was heading to the buffet for breakfast. I realized I'd forgotten my phone in the stateroom so turned around to retrieve it. I also took the opportunity to add a pair of bicycle shorts as it was gusty on deck and I'd nearly had a couple of Marilyn Monroe moments during my walk across the ship. 

I made my way off the ship about 8:30 a.m., and with free WiFi was able to make a short call to D, check my Facebook and e-mail. Our driver, Clint, started to load his van of 12 passengers about 9:15 a.m. Clint drove us up, up and up circling around a deep valley. (Sorry, I was in the middle of the van and unable to capture a photo out the window.) Along the way, he pointed out places of interest, including the schools he had attended, and answered questions about the island. He was very entertaining and one heck of a driver!

About 20 minutes later, we arrived up a very steep driveway to the Great House, at Tower Estate. The house was a gift of C. F. Renwick to his English bride and built in 1913. Our guide informed us it was made in an effort to entice the woman to stay in Grenada. However, Renwick was both a womanizer and a gambler, and his wife eventually left him and returned to England. The house was later sold to the Slinger family in the mid 30's. The family still owns the property and live in the third story. The second story is open to the public, for tours and other events, while the first story is rented out. 

Our tour started with some information about the house and then moved into the gardens. These were a highlight of the tour, as our guide showed us the various plants, flowers, and trees. There were familiar to me as houseplants including wandering Jew, Boston and Asparagus ferns. The familiar Caribbean flowers including bougainvillea, frangipani, and ginger lilies. Others were new to me and so fun to see.

This plant, a crown of thorns, was aptly name. The flowers were pretty, the thorns not so much.

This was set in a container on the steps leading up to the side door of the house.

In front of the house, the flower bed included several bougainvillea, as well as this healthy croton variety. 

I'm sure I've seen this at garden centers for use as a houseplant in our climate. None nearly as tall as this particular specimen!

The photo I shared a couple of weeks ago of the pink bougainvillea was in this area too. Here's another photo of a more vibrantly colored flower.

Although it looks very much like a bird of paradise, this particular variety is known as a false bird of paradise. There was another similar flower called the lobster claw, and the actual bird of paradise.

These were ginger lillies in red, pink and this striking yellow.

Here is a flower that ought to be familiar to many, especially in the spring. It is a variety of iris. 

The most interesting plant, at least to me in the garden was the asparagus fern. Not because I haven't seen them in the past, but because of the berries. Those I've never seen before.

There were many trees as well, including Norwich pine, Mahogany trees, and Royal Palms.  The gardens are also home to various plants and herbs used to make the teas that are served at events held in the house. The blue tea, made from the butterfly pea flower is the most popular.

After our garden tour, we were invited into the house (second floor) for a cold juice (no tea) and the granddaughter of the original Slinger offered information on the house and it's former owners. 

I didn't stay long, but wandered off to see other parts of the house.

The dining room would hold a large group for a meal or afternoon tea.

My favorite room, though, was this office that contained a collection of trophies. Most were related to tennis, though there were a few for water sports. The windows looked out to the front of the house, and I could imagine sitting in the room reading.

From the Tower Estate, Clint drove us down, down, down, with a stop at a no longer working rum factory. It was an interesting place, but the interior had me on edge as the second story floor had a bounce to it. I was glad to get out of there. Those who chose to do so, could sample the wares at the store. 

Back at port, I stopped in the market and picked up a bottle of cinnamon for D. I probably paid too much (though I did get it for less than the first price offered), but by this point I was tired and reading to get back on board the ship. I did make one more stop to listen to the steel band. You can listen to the video here - there were several moments of videobombing.

I spent the afternoon by the Terrace pool, sometimes in the water, and mostly reading. The day in Grenada was wonderful and the gardens at Tower Estates were certainly a highlight of the entire cruise.

Next up - Trinidad