Monday, November 23, 2009

A Thanksgiving resolution

Anybody remember the book Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach? Subtitled A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, it's a book of daily readings designed to help you appreciate your life.

When the book was first published back in 1995, I joined a lot of people I know and read it daily. One of its recommendations is to keep a gratitude journal, listing every day five things you're thankful for. Focusing on what we have, rather than what we don't have, is a way of bringing contentment to our lives.

By nature I'm a bitcher, a whiner, a glass-half-empty kind of person. And I like it that way.

But then I look at my mother, a bitcher, and my mother-in-law, a whiner. They both drive me crazy. I don't want to drive people crazy. At least, not because I'm so annoying.

So, even though it's not the New Year yet, I'm making a resolution. No more bitching. No more whining. I'm going to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. When I really stop and think about it, my life is full of wonderful things--my family, my friends, my church family, my home, even my ten-year-old car, which runs great and gets terrific gas mileage.

My friends won't recognize me anymore. But maybe I'll find contentment.

How long do you think it'll be before I forget this Thanksgiving resolution and go back to bitching and whining? A month? A week? A day?

Five minutes?

I'm working on it.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Back in the U.S., back in the U.S. of A.

Travel Diary Day 16
Saturday, November 7

Made it back to Newark and found the car there, safe and sound. Now at Molly's house, will probably spend the night here and head back to South Jersey tomorrow.

The pic on the right is one of the cool van taxis they have in Barcelona. Love the van--fits four big suitcases and four big adults plus driver. Some odd make, but I wish I could get one when I trade in my venerable old Camry.

I want to sum up the trip in some profound manner, but I'm just too tired. All I can do is quote Dorothy... There's no place like home.


Friday, November 6, 2009

License to kill?

Travel Diary Day 15
Friday, November 6

Okay, that's just a joke, because when we arrived at our hotel in Barcelona we found our rooms were numbered 001 and 002. We're just like Bond... James Bond.

We had another beautiful day in Barcelona,
perfect cloudless blue skies and clear air, though a little chilly. We headed straight for the Bus Tursitic and rode it to Montjuic, one of the mountains that borders the city. For about eight Euros each we got round trip tickets for the Teleferic, the cablecar that takes you up the mountain to Montjuic Castle.

The castle is more like a fort, with cannons and everything, and was built on the site of a former fort. We walked along the top of the walls and got amazing views of the c
ity and the port.

What a gorgeous city. My new plan is to move here and learn Spanish and just explore Barcelona. Of course I'd have to take up smoking, because everyone smokes here, and get skinny, because everyone is skinny here.

Hmm, maybe not such a great plan after all.

But I'm thinking about it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Land ho!

Travel Diary Day 14
Thursday, November 5

Bye bye Brilliance, Brilliance bye byyyye-eye-eye. Sorry, we had a Four Seasons tribute show last night and I can't get Bye Bye Baby out of my head. We're all packed up, suitcases outside the door and Spain is on the horizon as we prepare to go to bed for the last time on the Brilliance of the Seas.

It's been real, and in spite of all the missed ports it's been a great vacation. And Royal Caribbean is giving us a coupon worth 25% of what we paid for this cruise, good toward another cruise. So I expect we'll be going somewhere again next year.

Tonight's pictures show the 10th deck lounge, which has been my private place a lot of the time. It's the closest spot to our cabin that I can connect to the ship's wifi. So the top view is from across the Centrum (look real close for the blonde head in the middle), and then you have a closer picture of me and my netbook.

Tonight during the final show of the cruise, Gordon, our British cruise director, gave us the top ten stupid questions people ask the ship's staff. So here you have them:

10. Do these stairs go up or down? (They go whichever way you want them to.)
9. Does this elevator go to the front of the ship? (Only if you're already horizontal.)
8. How small does my face have to be for the mini-facial? (Just the right size.)
7. What do they do with the ice carvings after they melt? (Put them in the toilets.)
6. Is this island surrounded by water? (Duh... it's an island!)
5. What elevation are we? (Hmm, I didn't notice the ship climbing any mountains.)
4. Is the water in the toilets fresh or salt? (I never tasted them, but you go right ahead.)
3. Does the ship generate its own electricity? (No, they use a really long extension cord.)
2. If the photos in the photo gallery aren't marked, how do I know which are mine? (Don't you recognize yourself?)

And finally, the number one stupid question...

1. Does the staff sleep on board? (No, that's why there's a helipad.)

And so the cruise ends, but we still have one more day in Barcelona to look forward to.

Good night.

Critter quiz

Travel Diary Day 13Wednesday, November 4

If you've never been on a cruise, or haven't been on one lately, here are some examp
les of the towel critters the talented cabin stewards leave on our beds. It's obvious what some of them are, not so obvious for others.

So let's have a little opinion poll-- what do you think these towel critters are supposed to be? Leave your answers in the comments section by numbers. We've done our guessing, so it's your turn now.

Another sea day today, still windy but nowhere near as bad as yesterday. We were able to go up on the walking track and do our mile today, trying to keep the extra poundage to a minimum. Of course we just discovered snack time a few days ago, and that means we're going up and eating an extra meal around four p.m. to tide us over until nine o'clock dinner. But hey, if you don't gain weight on a cruise, how will everyone know what a great time you had?

And we may have missed Naples but we caught a little glimpse of Africa--Tunisia--in the distance today. How cool is that? Pretty cool.

Now go do the critter quiz!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Napoli interruptus

Travel Diary Day 12
Tuesday, November 3

Today was a sea day, and it was a rough one. Lots of wind. We couldn't go up on the walking track to do our mile walk, because the outer decks were closed on account of the weather. I even had to hold onto the grab bar when I was showering. Both girls were wearing those acu-pressure wrist bands to try to avoid seasickness.

We went to Chops Grille, one of the specialty restaurants on the ship. Filet mignon, rack of lamb, and extra special food, better than the main dining room.

While we were in the middle of dinner the captain came on the PA system. The weather is so bad that we weren't able to go through the Strait of Messina, so we're now out in the middle of the Med, trying to avoid heavy winds. This means our last port of call, Naples, is canceled. The captain isn't even positive we're going to make it back to Barcelona on time. Instead of the usual 20 knots, the ship can only manage 15.

They keep publishing these colored maps to show us how bad the weather is. According to the captain, there are hurricane-force winds, 80 mph, that are slowing us down and forcing us to circle around Sicily. So we're looking at two more sea days to get back. At least.

Disappointing. Four of our eight stops have been canceled, so we haven't seen nearly as much of Europe as we'd hoped to. Two bottles of wine with dinner (Robert Mondavi, one of my sister's companies) helped a little, but we're still pouting.

Mother Nature hates us.


Travel Diary Day 11
Monday, November 2

I hate to say it, but I was disappointed with Athens.

Our tour took us to the Acropolis, or "High City," home of the Parthenon and the ruins of several other ancient buildings. We had to climb up the hill to get to it, a rough and rocky trek, and it was really cold and windy. We had a crappy guide, a lecturer rather than a storyteller, and her voice through the headsets was almost unintelligible. And most of the ruins were covered with scaffolding because there's restoration in progress.

I was upset to find out that the remaining statues on the Acropolis are copies because the originals were all taken to other countries centuries ago. Apparently Greece hasn't had any luck in attempts to recover them. Sad.

The city itself was a jumble
of buildings and traffic. The dark, dreary day didn't do anything for it, although I must say the view from the top of the ship was impressive, with tree-covered mountains thrusting up between the populated areas crowded with pale-colored buildings. And the harbor at Piraeus buzzed with ferries and jet boats, tankers and tugs-- all kinds of interesting water traffic.

After visiting Rome and Ephesus, Athens was no biggie. But the drink of the day was an Olympic Torch, rum and fruit punch, so that helped, along with a bottle of wine with dinner.

Nothing like going to bed happy.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Mother Nature strikes again

Travel Diary Day 10
Sunday, November 1

Take a good look at the picture of Santorini Harbor. Seems kind of far away, doesn't it? Well, that's as close as we got to it.

We dragged ourselves out of bed to the alarm clock at six a.m. and down to breakfast so we could make our seven a.m. meet-up time for our day on Santorini. At seven the boat was still creeping forward, so we sent Dave down to see what was going on. They told him we weren't anchored yet, and to come back in an hour.

Half an hour later the captain came on the public address system with an announcement. He was very sorry, but due to high winds and heavy seas it wasn't safe to use the tenders to get off the ship. Therefore he was canceling our stop in Santorini.


So we went back down to the buffet and had second breakfast.

Drink of the day today is an Aegean Dream, mix of vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry and orange juice. And they're two-for-one during any show. I think we'll be attending every show and enjoying those Aegean Dreams.

And Santorini will remain a dream.

Goddess of the swoosh

Travel Diary Day 9
Saturday, October 31

Today we visited Turkey and toured ancient Ephesus. The extent of the ruins there is astounding, and the grandeur of the place must have been amazing in its day. A huge city, Ephesus was the
crossroads of the ancient world from about 600 BC to 400 AD. St. Paul spent several years there working to convert the citizens to Christianity.

Most of the ruins are from Roman times, and the picture to the right shows the girls with an image of Nike, Greek Goddess of Victory. You can see the Nike swoosh in the design if you look carefully. Who knew?

After viewing Turkish carpets, and even helping Molly
pick out a small one for her townhouse, we had lunch in Kusadasi and shopped for souvenirs. Walking down the streets was an experience in fighting off the merchants, all of whom had great deals and end-of-season sales. It took a firm "No" to convince them we weren't interested.

I'm hoping all the walking we've been doing will work off all the eating so we won't gain a lot of weight on this trip.

Yeah, right.