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Saturday, December 22, 2012

FRIDAY'S FOTO


New York at the Botanical Gardens Train Show
The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Gardens is one of the creative delights of the season.
To see and read more about this extraordinary experience, use the search box at the top of Third Age
Traveler or follow this link. http://thirdagetraveler.blogspot.com/2009/12/new-york-botanical-gardens-holiday.html


Friday, December 07, 2012

REMEMBERING PEARL HARBOR DAY-71 YEARS LATER

Pearl Harbor, HawaiiThere are few places that command the solemnity felt by all who visit the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii.  Officially it is part of The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.  People whisper and stare, knowing but not quite believing that beneath them lies the remains of the sunken battleship USS Arizona.  Not only was the Arizona a casualty of Japan's attack but also it is the  tomb for 1177 sailors aboard on the morning of December 7, 1941. 

The Memorial is an awesome sight; its pure white building curved over the Arizona.  We are ferried across the harbor from the mainland, silent in expectation.  We see the Battleship Missouri in the distance and the graceful sweep of the Memorial’s lines grows as we approach. 
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii


A ramp leads to the Memorial building. We are a hushed group as we walk through the building, most barely stopping to look out as we head, instead, to the beckoning far wall where the names of the lost sailors are etched.  Just before entering that room, we pass an opening in the floor and gaze down through the murky waters at the Battleship Arizona.  We are standing above her, safe and dry. 

Pearl Harbor, HawaiiPearl Harbor, Hawaii


Pearl Harbor, Hawaii



The United States flag proudly flies against the blue sky above the memorial, and we see it through arched openings as we pass beneath. Here’s an interesting fact: the USS Arizona was stricken from the official register of naval vessels after she was attacked and sunk, but she was re-commissioned when the flagpole was erected on the ship.
Pearl Harbor, HawaiiThe room that lists the names of the sailors lost is almost shocking.  The entire wall is covered with names, and it takes a moment for us to see each of those names representing one lost young sailor.  There were 37 sets of brothers assigned to the USS Arizona.  In front the memorial wall stands a flower wreath brought by visitors in memory of the fallen.  Leis also hang on some of the posts. The side walls of this room let in the sunlight. The patterns of the openings are Trees of Life, the dominant theme here and at the Museum on the mainland. 

Midway through the building is a chart showing our position above the Arizona and pointing out which parts of the ship are visible to us.  People pause, point, study, and look out to locate their discoveries.  There is virtually no discussion.
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii


Pearl Harbor, Hawaii 

A National Parks Service Ranger moves through the building and explains to the visitors what we are seeing.  At one viewing point, fish swim amid the broken wreck.  Looking out from another point, we can see the names of the ships that were moored alongside; the Arizona’s still stands.

Striking and forever memorable to me is the eerie way in which the Arizona constantly reminds us of her existence.


Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
The oil droplets that escape and rise




Each day of the past 71 years, a small amount of oil escapes the Arizona and rises to the surface.   On December 6, 1941, the Arizona took on a full load of fuel—nearly 1.5 million gallons.  Since Dec. 7, 1941, oil droplets bubble up from the ship’s interior and float above the wreck, fanning out over the water.  The estimate is approximately 9 quarts daily. I can see the oil drops spread and color the waters of the harbor before they float off into the sunlight.  But before the oil has moved very far from the ship, the sun’s warm rays hit it and vaporize it.  The oil disappears.  Constantly for 71 years. 



Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
I wonder what he is thinking
 


While the Arizona’s veterans still live there are other reminders of the day’s tragedy.  Funerals occur aboard The Arizona. The bond between the shipmates was so strong and enduring that some survivors have requested to be interred with their shipmates.  These are funerals with full military honors.  Since returning I’ve met someone who witnessed one of these.  As part of the ceremony, a diver takes the urn and brings it to its final resting place among the man’s mates.

When we are ready, we line up to board the boat to take us back toPearl Harbor, Hawaii shore.  A new crop of visitors enter just as we did, solemnly and quietly.  Perhaps they scan our faces to gather hints of our reactions.  Some pause slightly to look at a plaque or out to see the moorings of the ships that went down.  Or they look out at the Battleship Missouri.


We return to shore and continue our audio tour of the Museum buildings, and I highly recommend you make the time to do so too. 

The tour out to the Arizona takes about 75 minutes beginning with a 23 minute film on shore.  Then we are ferried out to the Memorial, have sufficient time to view everything, and then are ferried back. 

We also took an audio tour narrated by Jamie Lee Curtis whose father, actor Tony Curtis, was a Pacific War veteran.  The audio tour takes us through the interpretive museums and the waterfront exhibits.  We have an opportunity to hear survivors’ narratives on what they experienced that day.  It probably will take at least an hour to go through the different exhibits. Plan to spend the time.  It’s worth it.

The museums are very interesting.  They present background, biographies of some of the key players, and try to enhance our understanding of why, how, and what exactly happened.  In our electronic age, it is interesting to see how communications were in 1941. 

On Dec. 7, 1941, approximately 40% of the Oahu population was of Japanese descent with 124,000 American citizens and 45,000 immigrants.  The museum also deals with the hardships these people suffered as a result of the War in the Pacific.  

As always, I have the highest praise and gratitude to our National Park System.  Please support them.  There is no charge for the Arizona Memorial. 


Travel Tips for the Arizona Memorial

We did not budget enough time to see everything.  We spent over three hours in this one area.  We did not get over to tour the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin submarine, or the Pacific Aviation Museum.  My suggestion is that, depending on your interest, you might need an entire day to really absorb everything offered.

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
The Battleship Missouri, commissioned June 11, 1944

A relatively new option is to buy tickets online.  (If you google Pearl Harbor, you will get a number of sites selling tours.  Go to the gov't site.) If your Hawaii tour book is not brand new, you might not see an online option, and buying tickets at the Memorial might lead to a several hour wait or, because of crowds, an inability to get a ticket at all.  Tours have 150 people and there is a 15 minute lag between tours. We bought online where we picked our tour time.  Online instructions prohibit backpacks and other items, so read those instructions.  We did see people with small packs.  Tickets must be picked up an hour before the scheduled tour or they are sold to walk-ins.  Honolulu has traffic, so be diligent in planning your time. 

Visit early in the morning to avoid crowds and the heat.  Or go to the beach in the morning and come here when the clouds gather in the afternoon.  The last tour is at 3:00. 

Another important point is to bring water.  Hawaii is hot—all year long—so bring water with you—here and everywhere you go in Hawaii.






Wednesday, December 05, 2012

FIRST THOUGHTS ON HAWAII


Honolulu, Hawaii
That's Diamond Head!
 My plane approaches Honolulu airport hours after I saw the California coast fade far behind me.  It descends toward the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Spread before me on an incredible palate are the white buildings of Honolulu.  I see the curved crescent of white along an edge that I know will prove to be Waikiki, and beyond that the looming presence of Diamond Head. 

For many of us first time visitors, Hawaii is a place fueled by the imagination of writers, artists, musicians, chefs, actors, story tellers, folklorists, and historians.  We each come with pictures we have created in our own minds and smiles of anticipation. 

Where did my imagination take me?  I grew up in the wake of Gidget Goes Hawaiian, the original Hawaii 5-0 TV series, surfing movies like The Endless Summer, and novels like James Michener’s Hawaii (+ the movie).  Talk about Great Expectations.

The Hawaii to which I was introduced had grown up--just as I had--but it offered wonderful adventures, incredible sights as diverse as one can imagine, beautiful Pacific water where I swam with the fishes (not in the mob sense!) and turtles, a myriad of water sports including snorkeling from beaches, and sunsets that caused Rob and me to take photos each night from a different site.  The first incredible moment occurred, however, when I asked to be awakened to take pictures of a sunrise!!!! Miracles do happen, friends. 

As always with us, travel is a learning experience too, and history, culture, geology, geography, and weather are just a few of the subjects we studied.  We met wonderful people and had fantastic mai tais—my new summer drink of choice.  See how travel broadens?

Please comment below the posts I will write about this trip by hitting the “comment” link, and I will comment back. I’d love to know your reactions to this very unusual place.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

MY ISLAND INN B&B---THE PLACE TO STAY


My Island Inn Volcano Hawaii
The Yellow room
with a lanai leading to a vast tropical garden
 The spirit of Aloha is alive and well at My Island Inn B&B in Volcano, Hawaii.  There we feel as if we are visiting family.  We are in one of the Garden Rooms, the yellow room, a modest but comfortable haven with a patio leading to a breathtaking tropical rainforest garden, part of the seven acre garden and walk on the property.  The walls of the room are a stunning museum of photographs and paintings—photographs by the owner, Gordon Morse, a retired photo journalist, and paintings by his wife and gifts from previous visitors.  We have a small refrigerator, chilled water, a stocked bookshelf, and a table and chairs. 

My Island Inn Volcano Hawaii
Imagine the peaceful atmosphere
where this paradise is the view from your room


Managed by his daughter Kii and son-in-law Bryon, My Island is a refuge for those visiting Volcanoes National Park or doing any of the myriad outdoor activities this southern section of The Big Island, Hawaii, offers.  The main building of the B&B is the Lyman Missionary House built in 1886, and it is almost a museum in itself.
My Island Inn Volcano Hawaii
The main house--1886--in a beautiful tropical setting

We “met” Kii by phone when we made the reservations, and she told us to make sure we check in before heading to Volcanoes National Park (the B&B is a mile away) so she could give us some helpful tips on getting the most from our visit to the Park, on where to dine in the area, and what other sights we shouldn’t miss.  Her enthusiasm assured us that she wanted to make our visit as complete and as pleasant as possible. 

BUT we arrive at the Park later than we expect and call about a “late check-in.” Kii suggests we come by anyway as they close the office early since they rise very early to prepare breakfast.  We take her advice and drive over.  We are glad we do.

Entering a Hawaiian home, it is customary to remove one’s shoes, and we do.  At My Island there are booties to borrow if we so desire, but what is so wonderful is the feeling that we are not entering a hotel; we are entering a home.

Kii sits down with us and suggests the best viewing spots to see the active Kilauea Volcano—and the best times.  She warns us that restaurants close around 8 PM, and that there aren’t many, so she helps us pick one and then makes reservations for us so that we will be able to go back to see the volcano at night after most of the visitors leave. 

To facilitate our visit even further, there are umbrellas (after all, we are in a tropical rain forest where 200 inches of rain fall annually) and walking sticks to borrow.

We also have the opportunity to meet Gordon Morse, Kii’s father, a wonderfully warm gentleman and a raconteur who tells us some stories about his past.  He has written several books on Hawaii, copies of which were in our room. Yes, before we leave, I buy one of them! 

We also meet Kii’s husband with whom we spend some time the following morning.

Taking Kii’s advice is the best thing we can do.  She is an expert, and her advice is invaluable.  While still daylight, we have stupendous views of Kilauea with the steam clouds rising against a steel grey sky.  We are able to read the information charts along the self-guided drive, to see the sulfur fields, to visit an observatory, and to listen to a native Hawaiian National Park Ranger describe and explain Kilauea to us. 

After an incredibly delicious dinner at Kilauea Lodge (more on this at a later post), we return to the Park (open 24 hours), and stand in the cold, uncrowded overlook to watch the colorful reds, yellows and oranges of Kilauea’s nighttime persona.  Jaw-dropping awesomeness.    

The new day dawns, and Rob and I are off to walk the damp, earthy scented Tropical Rainforest Walk cut through the dense verdant foliage and magnificent flowers.  Hibiscus and anthurium seem to pose and beckon us to stop and admire. 
Big Island Hawaii flowers
This is a floral wonderland


Later at breakfast Bryon tells us that most of what they’ve planted in the gardens thrives wherever the soil is deep enough.  Hawaii is a volcanic island, and whatever soil exists is born of erosion.  Sometimes ash is added to give depth.  This fact boggles the mind because we are surrounded by deep, dark, green foliage, huge ferns—Nature at her untamed best.  Yet the fact is that the soil is not very deep as it sits on its lava foundation.

I want to share some of our photographs.  None is retouched.  No special lighting is used.  This is EXACTLY what we saw.
Big Island Hawaii flowers

Big Island Hawaii flowers

Big Island Hawaii flowers

Big Island Hawaii flowers

Big Island Hawaii flowers

Big Island Hawaii flowers

Pretty Incredible!!!!!


Breakfast is another delight.  The B&B advertises a continental breakfast, but that is an incredible understatement.  In addition to the usual cereals, coffee, and juice, Bryon has baked a variety of breads, and there is even a chocolate zucchini bread baked by their college student daughter.  The jams are delicious—passion fruit, for example.  There is fresh fruit.  We comment to Bryon that the bananas in Hawaii taste different from the ones at home—firmer and sweeter.  He explains that we are eating apple bananas.  (My riddle:  When is a banana not a banana?  When it’s an apple banana.)  Delicious.  Fresh pineapple.  We learn one fruit combination we have since prepared at home.  Halve and seed a papaya.  Squeeze some fresh lime on it.  Put some yogurt in it.  Top with some pineapple bits and chopped macadamia nuts.  Enjoy.

Bryon is an interesting man to talk to, and there is also a German tourist, a young woman who had stayed for five days and hiked and explored Volcanoes National Park.  It is wonderful breakfast company, and a great way to start the day. 

If you are fortunate enough to be in that part of the world, My Island B&B is the place to stay.  If you are coming to Volcanoes National Park, don’t take a daytime only tour.  Stay overnight.  As Gordon Morse might say, Kilauea dances best at night in her finery, and you don’t want to miss it.  




Friday, November 16, 2012

FRIDAY'S FOTO


Autumn in New York
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I am thankful that I call the Hudson Valley my home.


Friday, October 19, 2012

SEE SEDONA--MY FIRST TRAVEL GUIDE

I’ve finally put the adventures I've shared writing Third Age Traveler into a different kind of travel guide.  See Sedona was published in September.  It is more than a guide; it is also a memory book with histories, descriptions, and photographs of the places I visited and enjoyed.  Use it in Sedona, and it will keep you busy for a week or more in one of the beautiful destinations of our country.

I’m hoping you’ll choose to read it, that you’ll enjoy it, and that you’ll let me know what you think.

I've learned a lot about today’s publishing industry.  I could not do in an ebook what I could do in a print book, so you will find the paperback fuller with more photos and a different layout.  I wanted it "carry-able" yet complete.

The ebook has fewer photos and a different layout.  But it, too, is "carry-able" and full. 

The print version of See Sedona is out there on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.  It is also available on www.CreateSpace.com/3993103.

E books are a bit more complicated. 

The Kindle ebook is also available on Amazon.  The regular Kindle is black and white, but the Fire is in color.  Kindle also offers a downloadable program so you can read your book on your computer.  That, too, will work in color.  (See what I mean about complicated?)

If you use Nook or any other kind of e-reader or if you want to see that version on your computer via html or pdf, those versions are available at www.smashwords.com/books/view/225612

Of course I also have a link right here on Third Age Traveler .  

See what I mean?  Complicated.  But I wanted See Sedona to be available and carry-able for everyone.

I am really happy about See Sedona, and I hope you will be too.
Wendy

FRIDAY'S FOTO


Old Faithful - during
Our friend Diane's photo of Old Faithful, that most famous Yellowstone Park geyser
really makes us want to head out West ASAP


Saturday, October 13, 2012

FRIDAY'S FOTO

Perfect Texas Sunset
How's this for a perfect Texas sunset?  Can anything be more peaceful?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

ONLY IN NEW YORK--YOU'LL JUST EAT UP THIS GREAT FOOD AND CULTURE TOUR!!


Food Tour
an Eleni creation

Recipe for a dynamic New York City Food and Culture Tour:  Take one small group of people, add one enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and vivacious guide; toss in three fascinating and historical New York City locations, and finish with incredibly delicious and varied tastings at ten different top notch restaurants and shops as well as peeks at and background information on many more.  We have all this and more with Food of NY Tours’ Chelsea MKT/Meatpacking District Food and Culture Tour.  It is superb—a tour not to be missed.

Our tour begins in the Chelsea Market, an area that has been incredibly transformed over the last 20 or so years that it bears no resemblance to the shady and unsavory area it was then.  Today it is alive with upscale shops and creative spaces teeming with business and people. 

The Market is the birthplace of Nabisco, and to give you an idea of the building’s size, at one time a steam train ran through it delivering and moving the wonderful Nabisco products, beginning with its first big seller, the Uneeda Biscuit.  The building fills two entire blocks.

Chelsea Market, NYC
Guess who takes this elevator

Companies that headquarter here today include MLB.com, Google, EMI Music Publishing, The Oxygen Network, and the Food Network.  Indeed, Iron Chef America and Emeril Live film in the Market.  Visitors can tell which elevator bank to use by looking at the decorations on the doors. The building is incredibly cool.

But for our purposes, we remain on the first floor with our absolutely perfect guide, Cindy! 


Food Tour
The ____________Place (fill in the missing name word)

That first floor is quite phenomenal, and Cindy did not allow us to lose the ingenuity in its creation.  The developers, for instance, wanted businesses to be able to combine their retail and manufacturing on site, but not behind closed doors.  In many of the shops we see bakers or sushi chefs creating the beautiful and delicious delicacies right before our eyes. 

If you are a fan of Sarabeth’s Kitchen, for instance, you can see her mouth watering creations being made, and on our tour, we savor a Sarabeth scone on which we heap our choice of her famous jam.  We even see Sarabeth herself scurrying throughout the bakery supervising her bakers.  (she requests no photos, so I just enjoyed my scone)  I have since discovered her jams locally, and there are now two jars in my pantry.

With each stop, Cindy tells an amazing story of the shop or the entrepreneurship of its creators or of the building itself.  With each story, a new dimension opens for us. 

Food TourLook at this picture.  Imagine a steam train riding down the middle, the vents opening in the roof to allow air to flow, etc.  The train is filled with the ingredients and products that have made Nabisco a household name.  The clock is from an old train station, and a great deal of money was expended to make it work.  The walls are an art gallery.  Presently exhibited are some extraordinary photographs. The photographer, Gregg Segal, posed today’s men in period dress at Civil War battle sites as the site currently appears.  Intriguing.  Another section of his work portrays Superheroes at Home.  Cute.

Food Tour
But let’s not stray too far from the food.  Let me give you a microbite of this great touring adventure, and show you just the places we had our taste buds delighted.

We begin in Eleni's where we have cupcakes.  But look at these creations.  This is art for tummy’s sake. 

Food Tour
Cookies of every imaginable shape, size, or theme!






Food Tour
Milk crates, ice cream, yogurt
 and "thank you" pictures from visiting schoolchildren
 
On to  The Ronnybrook Milk Bar where we enjoy chocolate milk to die for!  It is incredibly rich and creamy, and it comes from up in upstate New York.  While there is no cow in sight except in pictures, there are displays of butter, ice cream and yogurt. All for sale. To my total surprise, I have since discovered Ronnybrook's products in my local Warwick ShopRite and in Pennings Farmer’s Market in Warwick, New York as well as at the Florida Farmer's Market in Florida, New York. 

Food Tour
On to The Lobster Place where we have our choice of soups.  I have new England Clam Chowder.  Rob has Spicy Shrimp and Black Bean, but there are more choices.  One photo won’t suffice, so look at them all.  The sushi is tantalizing, the lobsters absolutely incredible, and the display is phenomenal.  BTW, The Lobster Place sells 100 million pounds of lobster a year.
Food Tour

Food Tour
oysters, anyone?
Just when you think you’ve had the best, you go to Buon Italia where we are served a mini feast at our own table; mini baguettes, cheeses, chippolini in balsamic vinegar, Sicilian olives, artichoke spread, mortadella, and more.  In Buon Italia, you will find everything Italian, and you will be thrilled.  Even outside the store you can buy fine store-prepared dishes.  Walking by the display case makes you salivate.
Food TourFood Tour

Food TourBut we are off to The Tuck Shop, an Australian Eatery.  Tucks are little pies filled with delicious savories, and they are Australian.  On our tour we had an Australian couple who, after tasting these tucks, declared them as authentic.  So, go ahead, visit this shop, and enjoy a real taste of Australia.


Food TourThink we are done?  Not quite.  We stop in Chelsea Market Baskets, a gourmet shop with just about everything tempting you can think of from just about any place you can think of.  It is a potpourri of fun items, beautiful items, and some very nice tasting.
Food Tour


After all of this, we need to take a walk, so we head to the High Line.  We can consider the High Line a work in progress, but it is so New York.  I will tell you about that, our walk through the meatpacking district, and our last stop at a very special Italian restaurant in another post.

Friday, September 28, 2012

FRIDAY'S FOTO


The Lone Cowboy
Our guide on a ride out in the California desert to an oasis high in the mountains. 
Just the three of us.  Superb!


Saturday, September 15, 2012

FRIDAY'S FOTO


Freedom Tower NYC
The Freedom Tower--the World Trade Center Memorial--rises beautifully in lower Manhattan. 


Sunday, September 09, 2012

FRIDAY'S FOTO


Appalachian Trail
As summer wanes, it's nice to get some time along the Appalachian Trail.  Here, in Vernon, New Jersey, a boardwalk allows hikers to cross a boggy area and still venture out amid the beautiful flowers before entering the enticing coolness of the woods beyond.


Saturday, September 08, 2012

ONCE UPON A RIVER IS HARDLY A FAIRY TALE

Bonnie Jo Campbell’s Once Upon a River is certainly a travel book; our protagonist is Margo Crane, a young teenager lost so convincingly in time and space that each time she encounters the modern world, I am stunned.  My mind has her someplace in the past, and when I realize the time is NOW, I find it difficult to believe.  Margo is a tough nut to crack, but for this reader she is definitely worth a try.

Once Upon a River evokes the familiar Huck Finn analogy and the familiar symbols of the river journey and the water baptism, but Margo Crane is truly twentieth century.  Perhaps the tragedies in her life could have happened in any era, but they are too terribly familiar and too avoidable to seem out of time. 

Yet there is a time travel element in Margo’s naivetĂ©.  Her hero is Annie Oakley, and her innocence and acceptance of that long ago time makes her unable to accept the modern world around her.  She has no interest in school.  She is a crack shot, taught by her grandfather and honed through long practice.  She is self-sufficient: knows how to kill animals, gut them and prepare them for food and clothing.  She has a vague understanding of human emotions and the forces of good and evil that work on them, but she is not always able to control her own impulses.  This skill takes time and practice ironically in the same way that shooting does.  She has the time, and she gets the practice.  She has no one to help her.

As a fourteen year old, Margo seems unable to distinguish between many acts of good and evil.  That will become a little clearer to her in the years we know her.  She is almost like a young, untamed animal herself, living on instinct, experiencing sensual pleasures and acting on raw emotions without any consideration of consequences.  There is no one in her life to teach her.  She is on her own.  That is a difficult way to begin life.

Because Margo tries, despite the odds and despite the people—good and bad—who meet her, use or help her, and initiate her into the ways of the world, we are in her corner.  We want her to succeed in spite of the odds, and as we read, we wait for some force to guide her on the right path.

This is a bildungsroman, a rite of passage story, and like Huck Finn it is picaresque novel—one that is told in episodes—and it works on both levels.  We follow Margo through several years of adventures, relationships, and choices, and we can see her growth over time.  The book is a page turner.  I wanted to know how she is at the end.

On the other hand, am I satisfied at the end?  I’m not sure that I am.  Margo keeps me guessing, and I want to know what the future holds for her.  It is also difficult for me to accept her final choices as the best ones she can make, and I wonder if her choice is not a doomsday scenario, all too familiar in today’s world that requires certain things of us whether we want them or not.  Her choices do not always really exist.

Great civilizations grew up along the great rivers of the world, but Once Upon a River is not the birth of greatness.  Nor is it a fairy tale with a happily ever after ending as the title might suggest.  Rather, this novel depicts some of the dark side of the human condition.  It is a kind of horror story—one definitely worth reading.

Friday, August 31, 2012

FRIDAY'S FOTO


Star of India
The Star of Inda, in San Diego, a three masted bark, is the oldest iron-hulled merchant ship afloat.  It was launched in 1863 and circumnavigated the globe 21 times before being bought, getting its present name and becoming part of early California's maritime history. 
It's gorgeous!!!!!!


Monday, August 27, 2012

CRUISING THE BALTICS AND SCANDANAVIA

I had never considered guest posts before, but I get some wonderful emails, and it is time to open up Third Age Traveler to others who love to see the world.  I find more people email me than use the comment link at the bottom of each post, and there is so much to share. 

This cruise sounds fabulous to me.  So does her next one!  Sharon's advice is well worth considering, and PLEASE note what she says about dealing in the different currencies.  We were beginning to see that off and on during our last trip to Europe, and as the idea of a credit card chip becomes more and more prevalent, our U.S. banks will have to adjust.

Thanks, Sharon, for sharing your trip with all of us.

Please tell me what you think of the guest post idea.

If you would like to be a guest poster, please send me your post.

***********************************************************


Wendy
My sister & I sailed on Royal Caribbean "Jewel of the Seas" departing Harwich, England on July 26.  We flew from Miami on British Air and it was a pleasure.  British Air is a great airline which great service and can you believe really good food.  We were a little concerned having to fly into and out of Heathrow because of the Olympics and the intended strike by immigration personnel due to begin the day we were to arrive, but the strike was cancelled and going through immigration and customs was a piece of cake.

We have sailed on the Jewel of the Seas before.  We had a balcony cabin in the front of the ship but the seas were like glass all the way and the Captain said it was the best Baltic cruise so far this season.  We did notice a change in RCCL over when we were on one of their ships last summer to Alaska.  No lobster and pot roast???  We could see a cut in quality, I am very sorry to say.  My sister and I are both Emerald Status with RCCL so we have sailed with them a lot.  The entertainment was good and the theater big enough to hold the crowd.  But there was only one Production Show with the RCCL singers and dancers.  It was called City of Dreams and was spectacular.  We had seen it before and it was just as good the second time around.  The singers and dancers were a new group to this ship having boarded at our first port in Copenhagen so I don't know if that had anything to do with the reduced number of production shows or not.

The activities on the ship during the day were pretty poor to say the least.  But to be fair, once we left England we had only one day cruising and then a port, one day cruising and a port and then 4 ports right in a row so there weren't many sea days.

This was a 12 day cruise and our ports were Copenhagen, Denmark; Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; St. Petersburg, Russia for 2 days; Tallinn, Estonia; Gothenburg, Sweden and back to Harwich.  We have never been to the Baltics before and really enjoyed the ports.  We have done a river cruise of Russia starting in Moscow and ending in St. Petersburg but one never gets tired of St. Petersburg.  All of the counties were beautiful, clean and full of history and architecture.  Sailing into Stockholm through the archipelago with its 24,000 islands and islets was breathtaking.

We toured many of the castles and mid-evil forts in different ports and they were all wonderful.  We visited a 100 year old non-working Vodka distillery and had a taste testing of 5 different Vodkas while we were in Estonia.  I was very surprised to find out that Estonian and Finnish Vodka is as good as good Russia Vodka.  Another fact that I learned is that Absolute Vodka is made in Sweden and Smirnoff is actually made in the US even though it is marketed as Russia Vodka and of the 5 we tasted, Smirnoff was the absolute worst.

One word of caution, on this cruise we dealt with US Dollars, English Pound Sterling, Euros, Swedish Kronor and Estonia Kroon.  Visa or MasterCard is accepted BUT most places only will accept a credit card with a chip embedded in it with a pin number that you must than enter into their credit card machine.  US banks do not yet have this system/technology and therefore US credit cards do not have the chip and many establishments will not accept US cards as they can't process them with the new machines they have.  If you intent to use your credit card, ask if the establishment will accept it before you buy that meal or glass of wine.

We are home for about 3 weeks and then are off on another cruise.  This one is on Princess, a transatlantic, and sails out of Copenhagen to Oslo, Norway; Kristiansand, Norway; Glasgow, Scotland; Dublin, Ireland; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Reykjavik, Iceland; Qaqortoq, Greenland and ending up in NYC.

Sharon


Friday, August 24, 2012

FRIDAY'S FOTOS

Modern Day Huck Finns on the River
Watching these kids playing on the rocks in Vancouver, BC, their childish figures silhouetted in the waning light made me think of Huck Finn on the Mississippi--only these gutsy young explorers were little girls.  Wonderful!

Friday, August 17, 2012

FRIDAY'S FOTO

doll towel sculpture
I get such a kick out of towel sculptures.  This lovely senorita greeted us one day at our timeshare, Temptations, in Cancun, Mexico.  Muy bonita.