"" Writer's Wanderings: May 2019

Friday, May 31, 2019

A Friday Funny - Venice

It's always an adventure filled with humorous moments when we travel with my husband's identical twin and his wife. Polly and I have bonded over the years as we have had to endure the twin jokes and escapades. One of the oft repeated is when a waitress will come to the table and suddenly realize the resemblance between the two. She'll usually say something like, "Are you two brothers?" So begins the litany.

"No. What makes you think so?" Followed by "We were womb mates." It takes a while to catch on to that last one but most waitresses will shrug it off and take the order.

In Venice our fun didn't have so much to do with their twiness as much as it did our ignorance of how things were done there. We were introduced to St. Mark's Square in the rain. Old buildings do not look appealing when they are dripping wet. My first thought was why do people think this is so beautiful? And then the sun came out and dried up all the rain. Ah, yes. Amazing difference.

We walked around the square and visited some of the buildings including the cathedral and then decided it would be nice to enjoy a real Italian cappuccino. There were delightful looking sidewalk cafes set up and each one had a small group of musicians playing at them. We picked out one--I think they had some stringed instruments--and sat at a table. A waiter handed us menus and we said we just wanted cappuccinos. He shrugged, collected the menus, and went off to get them.

The cappuccinos were delicious. The music was grand. And then the bill arrived. Both guys did a double take. "Hope you enjoyed those cappuccinos girls," one said. "They were $15 dollars each!"

Apparently, if we had taken the time to look the menu over, we would have discovered that there was a cover charge for sitting at the table to listen to the music. If we would have ordered something with the drinks, the cover charge would have disappeared. Lesson learned.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

A Caribbean Treat--Fried Bread

One of our favorite restaurants on Grand Cayman on the north end, is Over The Edge. Their back porch hangs over the water and it's a great view of the sunset as you dine on their delicious menu choices. Whatever your order, they always begin by bringing you a basket of their wonderful fried bread, hot and tasty.

I've done a little searching for a recipe that might be comparable to theirs. While I hinted, no one was volunteering the recipe but they did say it was made with a dough that used baking powder. Here's one that might be closest. I'll be trying it at home sometime soon.

3 cup sifted all purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter softened
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup warm milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon sugar
Fat for deep frying

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in bowl. Cut in soft butter. Add enough milk to make soft pliable dough. Knead on floured board until dough is smooth and soft but elastic. Divide into 8 balls and brush melted butter on top of each. Cover and let stand 45 minutes. Pat out into rounds 5-6" in diameter and about 1/4" thick. At this point, I believe the restaurant cuts the rounds into fourths. You can either fried the large round or smaller pieces in the fat or oil for deep frying. I'm guessing the restaurant uses lard because of the taste. In the States, a restaurant would have to use something more "healthy." Dough should rise immediately to surface. When brown on one side, turn over and brown other side being careful not to pierce bread. Drain on paper towel and serve hot.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Love The Smell Of A New Suitcase?

One of my most popular posts was from 2011 and had the title "Ah, Love The Smell Of A New Suitcase." To this day I don't understand what the draw was but it was one of my top posts ever.

Some people drool over the smell of a new car. I like the smell of a new suitcase. Better yet, I love the way the zipper works without getting caught and how the wheels are aligned. Needless to say, with our traveling an average of four months a year, our suitcases take a beating. On our last trip, the old suitcase handle that pulls up so you can roll it behind you got stuck. Add to that the almost worn through corners, a bad zipper, and we knew it was time for a new one.

Now suitcase shopping is not easy and very much like car shopping. What do you do? Buy an expensive one that has all the bells and whistles but may not last or do you go with something cheap that you don't regret having to replace sooner? We chose a more middle road approach.

The one we found is suitable. Lots of space for packing. Lightweight so when we add the clothes it doesn't add so much to the weight that we're paying overage fees. It also has the "fancy" wheels that let you push it or pull it. Now there's a feature I can really live with! I found that it was much easier to push it than to pull it behind me and it handled very easily. So much so that we may consider getting a garment bag with the same kind of wheels.

Now it's almost time to pack again but this time I know that I'm gonna love my new set of wheels!

Friday, May 24, 2019

Titanic Memorials

Thought I would repeat a post that has received a lot of views. This is a walking tour we took of Titanic memorials in Southampton.

Southampton, England, is Cunard’s main base for all of its ships and has been since the beginning, I think, when it merged with the White Star Line. There were wonderful options for excursions on our day in port—Bath, Stonehenge, The New Forest, etc. but in all our stops here, we’d never actually explored the port city. As usual, we did our pre-cruise research online and discovered several self-guided walking tours outlined for us. We chose the Titanic Trail which would take us to several memorial spots and places significant to the Titanic story.

The Queen Mary 2 berthed at Dock 4 and we should have reversed order on our walk and started at the gate to our Dock area but that is hindsight now. Instead, we got on the shuttle bus that took us to the West Quay shopping area which was near the Civic Centre, the start of the walk. Our Titanic Trail gave us great opportunity to see a lot of the city and tempted us to return for other historical aspects we found there.

Here is the trail we followed:
1. In the Civic Centre is the Titanic Postal Workers’ Memorial, a plague on the wall next to the Council Chambers. It commemorates three American and two British postal workers on the Titanic all of whom died. The Civic Centre itself was an impressive building inside and had several other models and memorabilia on the second floor along with the plaque.

2. As we walked through St. Andrew’s Park to get to the second memorial on our list, we actually came across the third, the Titanic Engineer Officers’ Memorial. It is a large stone and bronze (I think) structure featuring an angel with outstretched arms. The carvings represent the engineer officers on the ship, all of whom died.

3. Across the intersection near the Engineers’ memorial, we could see a the Paris Smith building where the plaque for the Titanic Musicians’ Memorial is located. The musical inscription is the hymn, “Nearer My God To Thee.”

4. We went back to the Engineers’ memorial and walked behind it through St. Andrew’s Park all the while enjoying sunny warm weather and the beautiful spring blooms the park had to offer. This was a bit of a long walk before we got to the Bargate, a large stone structure and then on to High Street where we walked past the Star Hotel and the Dolphin Hotel to find the remains of the Holy Rood Church. There, inside, is a memorial to the crew, stewards and firemen. There is a “talking post” in front of it with recorded accounts of various events of the Titanic’s journey.

5. We found our way down toward the waterfront and the street labeled Town Quay. Near the Red Funnel Terminal (a ferry service) and across the street is an old stone building with a red roof. That is the Maritime Museum. It is a small museum but on the second floor has some memorabilia from the Titanic and accounts of some of the people who were aboard. The museum is opened most days from 10 to 4 and has a small entrance fee.

6. At this point in our journey, lunch was suggested but it was a bit too early for us. Apparently we had walked a little faster than the author of our tour had allowed. But our map that we had picked up from the shuttle bus showed Oxford Street as the place for sidewalk cafes and since that was the area we were to explore next, we decided on getting there and having a mid-morning cup of tea and a “sit” as the Brits might call a rest. Oxford street was a little tricky to find but we managed and sat down at a cafĂ© across from The Grapes Public House which was the next on our list to see. Four members of the Titanic crew stayed here too long on the morning of the ship’s departure. They arrived at the docks too late to board the ship.

7. Refreshed and ready to walk again, we headed down Oxford to where it ends and crossed over Terminus Terrace to see Stanley’s Casino which was originally the Former Docks Railway Station. At the back of the casino is a roofed-in covered area where the railway platform used to be. Across from it is the South Western House which was where many passengers stayed the night before Titanic left Southampton on its Maiden Voyage.

8. We traveled along Terminus Terrace to Canute Road and turned left to find a large yellowish building that once housed the London and South Western Railway Company. Next to it is the Canute Chambers, the building that was the headquarters for the White Star Line in 1912. It was here that the people of Southampton gathered when they heard the news about the Titanic. The names of survivors were posted outside front of the building.

9. As we continued back toward the Dock area, we passed the other side of the South Western House. There is a large relief above the main entrance that features the head of Queen Victoria and symbols of industry during her reign. On our left was the Union Castle House—former headquarters of Union Castle Line—and next to it the Royal Mail House, reminders of the great shipping lines that used the port of Southampton in the past.

10. At this point, we found ourselves back at Dock 4 where the QM2 was berthed. There was supposed to be a memorial plaque just inside the gate but the traffic was horrendous at that point and we were too tired to try to dodge it and ask permission of the security guard to see the plaque. Instead we stood and waited on a bus to take us back to the shopping mall where we needed to pick up a few things. The correct bus didn’t arrive at the scheduled time so we braced ourselves, told our feet they could make it, and trodded on back to the West Quay Mall. All-in-all not a long walk.

The plaques and memorials we saw that day all had flowers placed by them from historical groups. We were there just shortly after the anniversary of the Titanic disaster and were about to board a ship to sail transatlantic over the same path the Titanic. A bit daunting but thanks to those who were involved in the Titanic’s loss, ships have been made safer. As I write this, we are nearing the Titanic’s resting place. I’m sure we will take a few moments to remember. (Note: We passed over the Titanic's resting place during the night but here is a memorial service from a previous crossing.)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Recognizing A Travel Addiction

You know you are addicted to travel when:

1. Instead of winter/summer clothes, your closet is divided into home/travel clothes.

2. When 80% of your email inbox is full of travel deal messages and 90% of your mailbox is full of cruise catalogs.

3. Haircuts are scheduled not on when you need them but when you can get one to carry you through the next trip.

4. You carry hand sanitizer, lip balm, lipstick, hand lotion, etc. in your purse in a quart-sized ziploc bag.

And. . .

5. When you are out walking, you stumble because you are looking up at a jet in the sky and wondering where its going.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Mozart Moves On

Saturday morning Bob mentioned that the river cruise ship we took for our Christmas Markets tour would no longer be a part of the Crystal Cruises river fleet. He's worse than I am in constantly checking out the Cruise Critic forums for news. The Mozart, which is the ship we were on for that cruise in December of 2017 will become a part of the Gentings Cruise Line for a venture that is yet to be announced.

Gentings Cruise Line is the parent company of Crystal. While we were on our World Cruise in 2015 is when I believe that happened. So many cruise lines are a part of a bigger conglomerate. In some cases that can be good for frequent cruisers as many times your cruising credits (days at sea accumulated in the cruise lines' loyalty programs) can be applied to another cruise line in the conglomerate. For example, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity will upgrade your status to reflect your cruising experience with each of them.

The Mozart is a grand ship and the ship experience was exceptional on our cruise. It didn't hurt that we got upgraded to a better suite because of our loyalty points (108 days on a world cruise paid off). While Mozart moves on, there are still other ships in the Crystal fleet that are cruising in Europe. A little pricey but a great way to cruise the rivers.

Here's a link to my Christmas Markets river cruise posts.

Cruising the Danube

Monday, May 20, 2019

Through My Lens - Learning New Tricks

What do you do when Pickleball is cancelled? You spend the morning at the zoo of course. It's a great walk and we always get lunch at the Rainforest Cafe. This day we also got to see tons of kids as well. The parking lot was yellow with buses even though it wasn't the best day for a trip to the zoo. I had been wanting to figure out how to manually focus my new Canon Powershot SX 740 and I finally think I mastered it. The shots I was getting of animals before were focusing on the fencing rather than the animal. It was amazing to see the fencing disappear. 

Glad to see this wasn't the usual bunny we've seen for a meal. I'd hate to think the teachers would have to explain that to the little ones who were there that day. I think this guy had a fish for breakfast.

And a special treat! The new baby giraffe had his first day out! He was frolicking all over the giraffe area. Guess he's learned to use those wobbly legs.

Friday, May 17, 2019

It's A Deal! Fort Lonesome -- Only 99 Cents!

Today and tomorrow Fort Lonesome, in ebook format, will be on sale for 99 cents! After that, the price goes up to $2.99, then $4.99 at the end of the week. After that it will be back to the regular price of $6.99. So, if you want to take advantage of the lower price, act fast!

Available at Amazon.com

Fort Lonesome --

Ginnie Scott looked forward to the beginning of a new life in Fort Lonesome. She felt a new sense of freedom leaving behind the parents she had so deeply disappointed. She was starting fresh as a preschool teacher where no one knew her past. Little did she expect that the past would catch up with her.
Grant Richards’ life has been through some deep valleys. Just as he thought his heart might mend from the loss of his wife, Becca, he has to cope with his daughter’s perilous brain tumor. Then Bonnie’s new preschool teacher arrives to throw his life into more turmoil. Is she Becca’s ghost? The resemblance is uncanny.
Martin Westfall ruined Ginnie’s life with his rash promises and failures to fulfil them. He’s found her again and this time he won’t let anything come between them, not even a little girl and her cowboy father.
Fort Lonesome, Florida, is classified as a ghost town but the only ghosts in town are the ghosts of the past that come into Grant and Ginnie’s lives. Will those ghosts bring the two together? Possibly, but only if they can overcome their fears and find the hope they need for the future.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Fish Powered Cruise Ships

Fish power? Visions of fish towing a cruise ship spring to mind but alas, the real power behind the fish fuel that powers this cruise ship is found in the fish remains and for that matter in the waste of other organic matter. Let me explain.

It all started with an article in Porthole Cruise magazine. The article pointed out a cruise line unfamiliar to me called Hurtigruten. While it has a mailing address for the US in Seattle, I believe the origins of the cruise line are in Norway and date back to 1893. Their website shows some really nice adventure cruises, among them, Antarctica. They are building new and refitting old ships to run on battery as well as LNG and LBG fuel.

LNG is liquefied natural gas. LBG is liquified bio gas and is the one that is made from organic waste. Biogas can be upgraded to become biomethane gas which as I gather from what I read, a little easier to transport and store.

It is quite a concept and I wonder if in the future somehow the cruise ships will be able to make their own on the ship just as they purify their own water now and process waste. Just one more thing to amaze us as to what the future may hold.

Meanwhile, I'm checking out the Hurtigruten destinations. They sound inviting.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Through My Lens - China

Here are some pictures from my podcast episode titled The Temple of Heaven. If you'd like to hear about them click this link: Majesty, Exploring the works of His hands. Or you can listen in from you iPhone on the iPodcast app.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Monday's Majesty

Today's podcast episode continues our land tour in China several years ago. We travel from Wuhan to Beijing and along the way visit a Chinese farmhouse and tour the Temple of Heaven. Have a listen at the link below:

Majesty, Exploring the works of His hands

Friday, May 10, 2019

Calming The Fear Of Norovirus

Not too long ago school children from our area returning from a Washington DC trip became ill with what was later declared to be Norovirus. It is not confined to cruise ships. You often hear more about it on cruise ships only because they are required to report an uptick in illnesses on a ship. Hotels, restaurants, and other places where people may cluster together are not required to report the outbreaks.

So, before you decide not to cruise or travel take some time to investigate and find out the facts about Norovirus. Here are a few.

Yes, it is contagious. It is transmitted by contact with someone who is ill. There is a reason you are required to fill out a health form before boarding a cruise ship. Unfortunately, there will be those who will not be honest and will board the ship anyway. So what do you do?

Wash your hands! Over and over and over again. Each time you've used the handrails, pushed the buttons on the elevator with a finger instead of a knuckle, played the casino slots, or just about anything else where you've touched another public surface. Wash your hands especially before it's time to eat. And if you're going through the buffet and serving yourself, use some hand sanitizer when you sit down to eat at your table.

Understand that the cleanliness of a cruise ship is just about impeccable. Again, it is someone coming on board who is sick that causes the problem.

If you should feel ill, go to the ship's doctor. You may be asked to remain in your cabin for a a couple of days if it is the Norovirus. I was surprised to find that many ships now have a way to test for it right on board if someone is ill. The virus effects last for 24 to 48 hours but some people can still be contagious for a time afterward.

Chances are very slim that you will contract the virus as long as you remember to wash your hands and be careful in your contact with others. There's a reason that shaking hands at the captain's reception has been discontinued. Just be diligent in your own hygiene--not paranoid, just diligent. The message is beginning to get around and people are taking it to heart and being more proactive. Less and less cases of Norovirus on ships are occurring. Keep up the good work!

Here are a couple of links if you'd like to learn more:
Norovirus--What you need to know
Demystifying the myths of Norovirus

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Books For The Road - Becoming by Michelle Obama

There have been several biographies/autobiographies of First Ladies that I have read but I found Becoming by Michelle Obama gave me quite a different perspective. Well written, it took me into a world I wouldn't ordinarily see partly because of the color of my skin and partly because of the world of politics I've never entered.

While many of her experiences were beyond the realm of my world, there were so many other places that I could connect with her. Becoming a wife and mother for one. While I never had the kind of career she entered into, I could imagine the chaos and stress of juggling as it related to my own as a business woman years ago.

I have to say, I admire all the First Ladies of our country. Theirs was not an easy job either and this First Lady gave a personal view of what it was like to sacrifice career and home and privacy for service to country in a unique position. I enjoyed the behind the scenes look and admire the courage and fortitude to move forward with programs that despite criticism were a step in the building of a better future for our children.

Whether you agree with the politics or not, it is an interesting look into eight years of serving in the White House and still being a mom and a wife and trying to keep a semblance of family. Hats off to you Mrs. Obama. Yours is a great book for the road.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Through My Lens - Yangtze River Cruise

Here are a few pictures from our Yangtze River Cruise a few years ago. The story of our trip to China is told in a series of podcasts called Majesty, Exploring the works of His hands. Click on the link or find the podcast in Apple iPodcasts and travel with us.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Monday's Majesty

This is my very favorite travel story of all the years and all the miles we have traveled. In the middle of China, in the middle of a river, we find Amazing Grace.

To hear the story, click on the link below:

Majesty, Exploring the Works of His hands

Friday, May 03, 2019

A Friday Funny

There are not a lot of countries in the world that still drive on the left side of the road which is the right side for them. Let's try that again. The countries who drive on the left side of the road, drive on the correct side for their traffic laws. It does make it confusing for those of us used to driving on the right side of the road which, in our home country, is the right side of the road--make that the correct side of the road for us. Confused? So is the driver who rents a car in a country such as Ireland for the first time.

Several years ago my husband's brother and sister-in-law joined us for a road trip through Ireland. Actually it was a trip around Ireland as the path we mapped out took us more around the exterior coastline of the country. My brother-in-law had never driven in a country where the correct side of the road is the left side. Needless to say he was quite nervous. I'm guessing my sister-in-law's feelings bordered more on petrified.

We were all to arrive around the same time in Dublin and Bob, who had a lot more experience with driving on the left would have driven from the airport and given his brother the opportunity to drive when it was less hectic. Unfortunately a hurricane foiled our plans. Bob and I were delayed when our flight was canceled--for two days! Our travel companions had managed to make it out of their city just before all the air traffic shutdowns.

When we finally made it to Dublin, they picked us up at the airport looking a little shaken but very proud of themselves for having survived several days on their own and driving back and forth to the airport. "The biggest problem we had," he said, "was the roundabout. Bad enough I was on the wrong side of the road but then I had to figure out how to get out of the circle." It had taken them several go rounds before they managed their way out.

The first week or so went quite well with Bob driving mostly and his brother on occasion to even out the responsibility. We laughed a lot about the rental place saying the most important thing was to bring the car back with both side mirrors. It didn't take long to discover that some of the roads were extremely narrow and had brick or stone walls bordering them. The walls were usually covered in ivy making them look softer than they were. Passing an oncoming car left little space between the cars and the walls. The other piece of advice was to remember to veer left to avoid something, not to the right into traffic.

The incident that had us truly laughing though--afterward--was on a narrow dirt and gravel road that led back to some site on our list to see. There wasn't any traffic to speak of and we seemed to have the road to ourselves. Bob's brother was driving and we started up a slight hill which blocked our view of anything coming on the other side. We no sooner crested the hill and we met a car head on. Both drivers did what came naturally. They veered to one side. Thankfully, the other driver must have been another American because we both veered to the right. The laughter was a good release from the fright we had.

Oh, and the rental agency was very happy to see us return the car with both side mirrors still attached.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Bad Cruising Habits?

If you follow me at all, you know that I like to check travel habits, or been-there-done-that places, etc. against my own experiences. Recently a list popped up about bad cruise habits--10 of them I might have!  Let's see how I did.

Not washing hands was up first. No problem there. I wash them often on a cruise and give an extra shot of hand sanitizer when I can. One down.

I don't smoke, so I'll skip the smoking on the balcony one and move on to saving seats around the pool and in the theater. We have been known to save a seat or two in the theater when we travel with family but never around the pool. We're really not pool people on a cruise and if we want to lounge we usually find a quieter place with a lounge chair.

Moving on. Eating and drinking too much? Not usually. Especially not drinking. Those stocked mini bars that are all inclusive are a waste for us. Now over eating is a challenge. To  guard against that we generally avoid the buffet unless we're getting a plate of fruit or a salad for lunch. We save our calories for the tempting dishes in the dining room for dinner. We find that dining in the dining room we eat less for other meals like breakfast and lunch. Also we compensate for extra calories by taking the steps whenever we can instead of the elevators.

The only time the lights are left on in our stateroom is when the attendant does the turn down at night and leaves them on as a welcome back for a good night. Okay, big pat on the back for that. We have been guilty though of leaving electronics plugged in to charge. Not really a good idea and we've returned on occasion to find that they've been unplugged.

No problem with letting kids run wild--we don't cruise with kids. And as far as leaving dirty dishes in the hallway, no. I hate moving down the hallway and finding them.

We try to keep things picked up and put away in our stateroom to make it easier on our attendant. There's no reason to make it more difficult for them to keep our place neat and clean.

As for noise? We are usually asleep early enough that the TV, which might get a little loud (we are older) will be off well before midnight--probably eleven even. I can't control the snoring though.

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