"" Writer's Wanderings

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The 3 and 6 Month Passport Rules

Planning on going out of the country? Have you checked your passport expiration date? If it is due to expire within six months of your arrival in some countries you may be turning around and heading home before your holiday begins.

I did not realize until recently that there is a rule in many countries that you cannot enter if your passport is due to expire within six months of your entry into the country. Some countries are more lenient and make it three months. We have always allotted plenty of time for passport renewal but that has always been for our peace of mind. Now we will be checking to be sure our passports have plenty of lead time on them.

To find out what the requirements of each country are you can go to the US Department of State's travel site. Generally European countries require a passport that does not expire within three months and many Asian countries extend that to six months. South American countries vary. It's always a good idea to check each country you will visit. You may also need a visa which takes some time. Words for the wise: Plan ahead.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Staying Cool

 My birthday came around while we were on our World Cruise and my table mates had a little celebration for me. I had already ordered chocolate cake with chocolate icing and kept my fingers crossed that it would be real cake not chocolate mousse. It was and tasted great.

I was surprised though when our new friends came up unexpectedly with several gifts, one of which was a cool headband. I wasn't quite sure I would use it but once I got home, it came in pretty handy.

The band is paperlike but when wet becomes soft and pliable. You wet it and wrap it around your head to stay cool while you exercise or work out in the heat. The day the temps climbed uncomfortably high for working in the yard, I tried it out.

I don't like things around my head but I wet it down and wrapped it around my neck letting the length extend into the neckline of my shirt. It was amazing. I had to rewet it once but it kept me working much longer than I would have otherwise.

Recently Smarter Travel.com had an article about clothes that keep you cool when traveling. There was a similar towel mentioned and several items of clothing, including a hat with a built-in fan. Sometimes I feel a little behind the times. Who knew?

Friday, July 31, 2015

Flashback Friday - Reunion Island

Hearing about the wreckage of MH370, the Malaysian plane that went missing over a year ago made me think about our visit to the area on our World Cruise. As we left Albany, Australia and headed west it was difficult not to think about cruising over the area that was part of the large search. I thought I would re-post our visit to Reunion. It is a beautiful place. Now perhaps it will also play a part in solving some of the mystery of the missing plane.

An early call from the alarm clock. We had a tour scheduled for 8:15 AM. As we dressed, we watched the ship channel with the live camera shot at the bow of the ship. Land was getting closer. It looked good. Green. Very green.

A quick breakfast and then we met with our tour group in the lounge to await the call that the ship was cleared and we could head for the bus. Today’s excursion would only be a little over four hours and included a view of the caldera and a geranium distillery. Geranium distillery? Who drinks geranium juice? I couldn’t wait to find out.

Reunion is very French and in no way resembles a Caribbean island except for the weather perhaps. It is very warm but it is also very mountainous and as we climbed up the central mountain on twisty turning narrow roads, the temperature began to fall. By the time we had reached the top an hour later, the temperature was about 20 degrees cooler than below. It was almost chilly but very refreshing.
Reunion was not like a Caribbean island. There was a world of difference between it and Mauritius the day before. The island’s roads were well paved although sometimes very narrow through the mountains. It was neat and clean for the most part. The standard of living looked a lot better.

At Piton Maido, we exited the bus and walked a short way up to the observation area. The view was breathtaking. Before us instead of the brown rocky caldera I expected (like those on the island of Hawaii) there was lush garden foliage covering most of the jagged rock formations that made up the caldera. The whole center of the island is apparently made up of several calderas from extinct volcanoes. And there were villages perched on the hillsides and plateau within our view!

I looked at the map and realized that the brown area on the southwestern end of the island was where the active volcano was. Piton de la Fournaise (pardon my French but I think it means furnace) is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and in fact, according to our guide, had erupted just three weeks ago. With a shrug she added, “But it only last twenty-four hours.”

We trekked up some rocky stairs and along a path to get a better view of the shore line from where we were as well. Clouds were beginning to climb up the mountain side but we were well above them and still in the sunshine and enjoying a cool breeze.

On our way back to the viewing area and to our bus we paused in the hope that we could get someone to take our picture. We don’t get enough of the two of us together. A man near us with two boys offered to take it. He said he lived on Reunion and wondered how we were enjoying our visit. We remarked how beautiful the view, etc. and he replied that we were very fortunate because usually the clouds obscured much of it and today there were none—yet.

Not far from our observation point at Maido, was a little village called Petite France. Near there was the geranium distillery called Maison du Geranium. We were led through the gift shop and outside to the area where the still was. Yes, it was just like a moonshine still. The owner explained, in French (translated loosely by our guide and someone in the group who spoke French), that the geraniums all had different smells. She passed around some cuttings from a rose geranium and yes, it did smell like a rose. I was amazed.

The stems are what hold the oil and those are harvested before the plant blossoms. I didn’t get all of what was going on but the basic was that oil and water don’t mix and when the geranium oil that is expelled from the still floats to the top of the bottle, it is extracted. The oils are used in toiletries, perfumes, and some are for medicinal purposes—not much elaboration on that.

On a back patio we were invited to try some rums which I think had some geranium extract in them along with a cake and some jam, again having some geranium in it. The jelly was good, the cake dry, and I wasn’t about to try the rum again. I finally got the cake down without a wash and moved on to the gift shop for my “shopping experience.”

Our trip down the mountainside was as thrilling a ride as it had been coming up. I don’t think there was one person who didn’t get off the bus and compliment the driver on a job well done. At the bottom of the mountain we got on the freeway and a short time later were back at the ship.

Lunch was had at the specialty restaurant, Tastes, which is on Deck 12 and has a beautiful view. It was a nice morning followed by a quiet afternoon of reading—well, I read. Bob played paddle tennis again. At least he’s easy to keep track of.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Miniature Golf - A Sweet Deal!

The B.A. Sweetie candy warehouse has been around for a while but they are now in a new facility and have just recently opened Sweeties Golfland, a miniature golf course--actually two. One is easy and one is hard but the sweet deal is that the early bird special Monday through Friday from 10 AM - 3 PM is only $5/game (normally $7).

We chose the easy course for the grands and set off on the first of eighteen holes. The day was perfect and there was no one playing behind or in front of us for most of them so the kids got to practice the next hole while Grandma and Grandpa took their shots. There were lots of trees to shade us and benches to sit on while we watched the others take their shots. Beautifully landscaped and well-cared for, it was a wonderful morning outing.

On the last hole our grandson got a hole in one so he got a spin on the prize wheel and won a free ice cream cone. He cashed in on it after we had our lunch of hot dogs and nachos. Of course we had to buy the other two ice cream as well but the prices were reasonable.

The only mistake we made was taking them into the huge candy warehouse. There was no way to come out without some kind of sugar treat. Prices there kind of surprised me. They were more than I expected. Maybe the savings is in the quantity buying.

A soda shop is in the works and we will definitely be back to check it out and play more golf--with or without grandkids.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Hale Farm And Village

Looking for some fun things to do near home with our grands and having a great couple of days of wonderful weather, we decided to spend a day at nearby Hale Farm and Village in Bath, Ohio.

We thought we might take the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway there but in addition to not being able to make it to the train early enough, the grands ride trains in Japan all the time so they weren't enamored with the idea of a train ride.

I checked out the prices online ahead of time and found out that adults were $10 and kids were $5. We'd been to Hale a few years ago but it was for a lantern tour at night during the Christmas season. I wondered what would be offered for such a price. Was I ever pleasantly surprised!

While the historical buildings were not as interesting to the kids they did explore them with an eye to some of the unique period items, especially the toy replicas they were allowed to pick up and use. They were however fascinated with the pottery shed, blacksmith shop, spinning area, broom maker and the candle maker.

Each of the people involved with the crafts gave a great explanation of how things would have been done back in the early days of the 1800's. Our youngest, the five year old, was intrigued by the pottery wheel demonstration and the oldest, eleven, loved the candle making.

All of them were entranced by the blacksmith and left with a "pocketful" of jokes and funny sayings. The only thing that disappointed me was that we got to the glassblower too late to watch the demonstration and we needed to leave before she was back again from lunch.

There is lots of room to roam between a pioneer era section and the 1800s village across the road. We arrived at the village in time to sit in on the school master's talk. The kids enjoyed that more than I thought they would.

Then we were dismissed to make it over to the commons where a gentleman recruited the youngsters for training in marching Civil War style. Amazingly he got the kids to perform quite well even with a couple of fancy drills and a charge down the hill. I think he must have been a retired school teacher.

The general store offered all sorts of candies and some soft drinks and grandpa shelled out a few coins for some sweet treats. Of course that was all after a delicious lunch at the cafe in the Gatehouse Visitor Center.

We stopped a few minutes to look at the vegetable garden in the pioneer area and were surprised to get quite an explanation of how crops were grown back in the day from the gal who was weeding it out.

I am still amazed at how much we got for our admission fee. It was a Williamsburg-type experience and a price that was affordable. Great day!

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