"" Writer's Wanderings: June 2014

Monday, June 30, 2014

World Cruise 2015 - Easter Island

Easter Island is our first stop heading west across the South Pacific from Peru. Anticipation and excitement are building for this stop, a first for us. The island is about 64 square miles in size and is about midway between Chile and Tahiti. The island formerly known as Rapa Nui by its inhabitants was renamed Paaseiland or Easter Island by the Dutch explorers who found it on Easter in 1722. In the late 19th century it became a part of Chile and now has tourism as its main industry.

Much of the attraction, or perhaps all of it, lies in the 900 giant stone figures called moai that date back centuries and have become iconic and synonymous with Easter Island. The statues average 13 feet in height and weigh in around 13 tons each. They are carved from local rock formed from volcanic ash. It is not known why they were made or for what purpose but some could date back as far as 700-850 A.D. The largest moai is 32 feet high and weighs 82 tons.

Tradition has it that long before the Dutch arrived two ethnic groups lived there peacefully but sometime around 1680 there was a civil war, the Short Ears verses the Long Ears. When an expedition from Peru landed on the island in 1770 they estimated the population at 3,000 but when James Cook arrived in 1774, the population was reduced to about 600-700 men and only 30 women. They surmise another civil war in the span of four years.

Today, under Chile, the island's largest town is about 3300 people. The people speak Spanish and their economy is based on tourism. In 1995  UNESCO named the island a World Heritage site The Short Ears and Long Ears now live peaceably I'm told.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Transatlantic Cruising - A Less Expensive Cruise

There was a time when the only way to get across from the Americas to Europe was by ship. In fact, Mark Twain wrote about crossing on a side wheeler. Ships have gotten a lot bigger and much more comfortable since then. If you like cruising and don't mind more days at sea, you can find great bargains on transatlantic cruises. Most cruise lines offer them in spring and fall when they are repositioning their ships from their European itineraries to their Caribbean ones.

Prices vary depending upon how many ports the itinerary offers. There are usually two or three with five to seven total says at sea. Because of so many days at sea, the price is lower. If you are not interested in ports of call, you may opt for Cunard's Queen Mary 2 who makes regular crossings several times a year. It takes six days to cross from New York to Southampton but their are lots of ways to entertain yourself on board with the planetarium, shows, movies, art auctions, the casino, and my favorite, excellent lecturers. The only down side to the QM2 are so many formal nights. They adhere to the if it's a sea day it's formal rule although I hear that may be changing.

Other cruise lines that offer transatlantic cruises have much to keep you occupied as well as you enjoy days at sea. Each ship is unique and may have different offerings. For example the Celebrity Solstice Class chips have glass blowing demonstrations. You may
find a putt putt course on some Princess or Royal Caribbean ships. Check out the layout of the ship, the venues, and of course any theme cruises they may have for the crossings. You will find all sorts of choices.

A transatlantic crossing at a lower price is also a great way to try out a more upscale cruise line that you wouldn't normally cruise with. That's how we came to love Crystal Cruises and choose it for our World Cruise. We know we will enjoy the food, the venues, the service, etc. It's a little more expensive than our usual cruise choices but 108 days is a long time. We wanted to be sure we would enjoy every day of it.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Clever Uses for Common Things When You Travel

What do buttons, dental floss, dryer sheets, oven mitts, bubble wrap and drinking straws have in common? When used cleverly, they can be a big help as you travel.

Have trouble keeping track of your pierced earrings in your jewelry bag? Try putting them through the holes in a button and fastening them. They'll be much easier to find. And while we're talking about jewelry, have you ever had to try to untangle delicate necklace chains? Passing them through a drinking straw and fastening them will keep them from tangling when you pack them.

Save a little bubble wrap the next time you get a package mailed to you. Use it to wrap around breakables in your suitcase or the fresh fruit you toss in your carry-on to eat on the plane.

Don't have time to wait for your curling iron or straightener to cool before you have to toss it into your suitcase? Try wrapping an oven mitt around it. Secure it with a rubber band if necessary.

Dryer sheets are great for more than just softening your laundered clothes in the dryer. Use them to rub on clothing that may have found some static cling along the way. They will help to keep shoes and dirty laundry from smelling quite so bad in your luggage. Use one to refresh the shine your shoes.

And now for my favorite versatile item, dental floss. People actually claim you can use dental floss as a clothes line. I'm not sure I'd want to try it but I did find the suggestion of using it to tie zippers together on your suitcase instead of a lock a possibility. TSA will probably just cut it anyway but if you have to check luggage at the gate it might not be a bad idea.

The best use for dental floss I found online--other than using it for dental hygiene--was to keep a dripping faucet from driving you crazy all night. You tie one end to the end of the faucet and drape the other end down and into the drain. The water will drip down the floss without making a sound. Cool!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Financing Your Vacation Trip

There is a cable company commercial circulating in our area where a young girl comes home from school each day and puts her change from her lunch money in several jars to build funds to be able to change cable companies. The bottom line of course is that the advertiser will help you out of your old contract. I haven't found too many travel venues willing to help finance travel though. While of course there are deals to be had you still have to come up with the funds to pay for your trip. So let's see how we might fill those piggy banks.

Do your homework.

As I've said before, research your trip before you go. Half the fun of travel is the anticipation and the preparation. If you know where you're going start looking into how much it will cost to get ther
e, to stay there, to eat there, and to see and do the things available there. What did we do before the internet? We relied on lots of travel books. Now those books are online as well as prices for hotels, air/train/rental car travel, and even the cost of restaurants. Many have their menus on line for you to peruse so you can even get an idea of how much meals will cost. Put it all down on paper and then decide what is a reasonable bottom line amount you can live with and begin working toward that.

Be frugal with home entertainment.

Let's face it, we all enjoy going to the movies, buying popcorn and soft drinks but that gets expensive when you add up the cost for a family. Try an in-home movie night with a rented DVD, microwave popcorn and your own soft drinks. That big amusement park can make a real dent unless you find free tickets. Why not try a neighborhood festival instead? Try some outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, biking, etc. that don't cost anything. There are probably tons of free events going on all around you that will keep the family interested especially if they know that they are saving for that big vacation time.

Find some other sources of income.

This doesn't have to be a second job or mortgage. This can be a way to get the kids involved by having them volunteer to pet-sit, mow lawns, etc. to earn some spending money for their trip. My daughter-in-law each spring has a yard sale where they sell old toys, outgrown clothes, unneeded household items, etc. The kids also make and sell cookies and brownies. They put it into a summer fun fund and use it for their summer activities.

Save your pocket change.

It's amazing how much that can add up. I know nickels and dimes don't seem like much--until you put them all together.

Drink cheaper coffee. 

I am convinced that there is something more than caffeine in Starbucks drinks. How else do you explain those who just can't give it up. If you must, try some less expensive versions of your favorite drink or at least cut back on the size. Your waistline will thank you as well. Take that money saved and put it in the travel piggy bank.

Save a little each day or week.

Determine how much you can save from your income each day or week and put it aside in a special account if necessary to keep you from dipping into it. Discipline will deliver an ample vacation fund for your travel needs.

Dream vacations are possible.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Have You Got Pteromerhanophobia?

Pteromerhanophobia, a big word for fear of flying in airplanes, helicopters, and other flying machines. As a kid our family did a lot of flying in small planes and in the historic Ford Trimotor that made trips between Port Clinton, Ohio, and South Bass Island. In the winter time, it was the only way to reach the island when the ferry season ended. There were a few bumpy rides but not enough to scare me away from airplanes.
I do remember the first flight I took all by myself on a commercial jet however. I was a little nervous but mostly because I was alone and then eager to meet my soon-to-be fiance. I sat next to a young woman about the same age and we struck up a conversation immediately as we began to fly through a storm. A couple flashes of lightning had her white-knuckling the armrest and on the verge of screaming. I kept talking, hoping to calm her. 

"We're fine," I said. "We'll be through this in a jiffy."

"We won't get struck by lightning will we?" she asked anxiously. "I mean, the plane's grounded, right?"

"Oh sure," I answered without missing a beat. "We're safe. I'm sure the plane is grounded if lightning hits."

Little did I know. And it was probably best I didn't. I calmed her and I stayed calm in my ignorance. Unfortunately my soon-to-be fiance corrected my assumption with, "What would your ground the plane to when you're in the air?"

If you'd like a few more frightening stories about flying and some urban legends here are a few from Smarter Travel to enjoy:

How to Survive a Plane Crash

"Out of the clear blue of the western sky comes Sky King. . ." I always wanted to be Penny.

Friday, June 20, 2014

How To Get Mugged While Traveling

"What?!" you say. "Mugged? Who wants that?" No one and yet so many of us become so enrapt as we explore and travel that we neglect the common sense approach we follow at home for personal safety. No matter where you travel, no matter how pleasant and lovely the countryside, if there are tourists about, there will be those who are only too happy to relieve them of their valuables and cash. Here are some of the ways you can attract muggers.

Flash the cash.

Only take with you the cash you think you will need. The rest should be left in the hotel safe in your room or tucked into a carrier that fits inside your pants or shirt against your body. We always try to use a credit card for purchases when we can. First of all you get the best rate of exchange with that and secondly, you are not flashing cash around. Now that's not always possible if you are at a craft market or other local merchant fair. They will mostly want cash. Just be careful as you are counting it out that you're not showing a big wad of greens (or the other colorful money found in some countries).

Men, keep the wallet in the back pocket. Ladies, rely on a fanny pack.

The biggest argument I have with my husband when we travel is that he keeps his wallet in his back pocket. He's been lucky so far especially considering that his most comfortable jeans, shorts, and pants have the outline of the wallet worn into the pocket. Easy enough to spot where it's at. He says he is sensitive enough to feel if someone is picking it. I say, you'd be a lot more sensitive if it was in your front pocket. Someday I'm sure I'll get to say, "I told you so."

Years ago I gave up my fanny pack. It was not only uncomfortable but I discovered from experience that it's not a safe place either. We were visiting Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Lots of people, mostly tourists and of course, as the signs all indicated, lots of pick pockets. A lady rattling off French to me approached with newspapers spread on her arm. She kept getting closer to me and appeared to be trying to sell the papers. I'm not one who enjoys someone getting into my personal space too much so I backed away, put my hands out as if to stop her and loudly said, "No!" No is no in most languages. She moved on but a few minutes later I looked down to see that in a short period of time she had unzipped all three zippers on my fanny pack--zippers that were not easy to work, I might add. Lesson learned. I carry a small cross-the-shoulder purse now and when we are near strangers, I keep it in front of me with one hand on it. 

Find some lonely dark places.

Again in Paris, we decided we wanted to walk to the Eiffel Tower from a restaurant after dinner. It was getting dark but it was a lovely evening and after all, Paris is the city of lights and romance. Sigh. Well we started out without a map and before the apps and GPS we use today and began walking. We could see the Eiffel and we started cutting back and forth still keeping it in sight. I'm not sure how far we walked but it was getting darker and much less populated. Finally we spotted a subway station and decided we'd better give up on the walk. It was getting creepy. Two things here: we should not have been out walking alone in an area we knew nothing about and objects like the Eiffel Tower appear closer than they really are. It's become an inside joke now when we travel but I shudder to think what could have happened and thank God it didn't.

Lose yourself and appear lost.

Take the time to map out where you are going and if you do get lost, move over to a park bench or stop for coffee or tea and take the time to figure it out. A map or smartphone in hand and a 360 turn is a sure indication that you are lost. It's an opportunity for a scam artist, pickpocket, or other non-well-intentioned person to approach you. 

Carry valuables in your backpack!

I would be remiss if I didn't bring this up. This lesson was learned the hard way by my brother-in-law (the one related to the guy who keeps his wallet in his back pocket). He thought he was safe in carrying his iPad in his backpack with him as they toured Venice. His wife happened to notice that it was unzipped. When he took it off to secure the zippers, he realized the iPad was gone. Many times you will see people wearing their backpacks in front of them. Not a bad idea but a bit uncomfortable. Perhaps some backpack makers will look to putting some more secure compartments into their product in the future. It would certainly sell me on their product. 

Leave your common sense at home.

No, no, no! Pack your common sense and carry it with you! This is the best tip I can give you. We don't want to travel in fear of losing valuables or personal safety. Just don't throw caution to the wind. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Help! I'm Stuck in the Airport!

A few days ago a friend asked me what we do if we get stuck in an airport because of a delayed and/or canceled flight. She and her sister had been stuck in Denver for nine hours and said they hadn't fared well. I'm guessing that high altitude probably didn't help (smile). Fortunately for us, we are retired. Therefore we don't have the pressure to be back to go to work in the morning but here are some ways you might try to pass the time.

Check to be sure there's no other earlier flight available.
This works best with domestic flights but not always. The airline is the one who will decide whether your delay is substantial and whether they can put you on another flight. If your delay is weather related, you will probably have to wait it out. Remember in any situation, honey is always preferred to vinegar so keep your attitude in check as much as possible when dealing with the airline representatives.

On flights out of the country you may be at an even bigger disadvantage. On our way to Ireland a couple of years ago, there was a major hurricane that moved up the coast and caused our flight to be canceled. The frustrating part was that Bob's brother and his wife were able to fly out of Columbus to New York and on to Ireland while we were stuck trying to get out of Akron/Canton just an hour or so later. We ended up having to spend two nights at home before we could get a flight out because of the flights being full. The upside of that (honey-coated approach) was that we were upgraded to first class.

See if you can barter or buy time in an airport lounge or a hotel attached to the airport.

We have a card that gets us into the airport lounges for many of the airlines we travel on. For as much travel as we do, it's worth the extra we pay for it. But there are some airport lounges that will allow you to buy time there and, though I've never tried it, you might ask if they could get you a pass to a lounge for your delay if it's more than a couple of hours.

Airport lounges offer a TV lounge area, some light refreshment, a bar if you are in need, comfortable chairs, and other great amenities depending upon the size of the airport and the airline. They will also announce when your next flight is due to board.

Some airports have hotels attached to the airport or just a minute walk away. If you are sure you're going to be there for a length of time, perhaps getting a room might help. We've done that on occasion when we've had a long time between flights. On our way to Tahiti, we stayed at a nearby hotel in Los Angeles for the twelve hours or so layover that turned into another overnight when our flight was canceled. On the up side, we took time to see Universal Studios.

Become an explorer.

Airports usually have lots of restaurants, snack bars and shops to explore. If you are there when it looks like places are closing up, be sure to grab some snacks and drinks. By the way, even those airport lounges will close around 10 p.m. I posted not too long ago about unusual things to see at some airports. You might even find a massage, a mani/pedi, or some live entertainment. Just be sure that you keep an eye on the status of your flight.

If you must sleep. . .

There are not going to be any comfortable places to stretch out unless it's a major air traffic problem and they roll out cots for passengers. The chairs in the waiting areas are made so that people can't stretch out across them although I've seen some pretty funny attempts. Best spot is, yes yuck, the floor. Be sure to lay your head on your backpack or suitcase and wind an arm through a purse handle. Tuck phones, readers, etc. away in your carry-on. If you can sleep sitting up (Bob can sleep in any position), then be sure to tuck your carry-on between your legs or wrap a strap around your arm. You don't want it "walking off" to a new home.

Relax and enjoy a good book.

Hopefully you have one tucked in your carry-on. Always keep your chargers with you in case you do get stuck like this and you need to charge your electronics. There are usually plenty of places to plug in. While it's often easier said than done, take a deep breath and relax. As Annie always sings, "The sun will come out tomorrow." Who knows you may just make a new friend, find great inspiration in a book, or finally finish all those levels on Candy Crush.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Wanderlust - Trying to Scratch the Itch

It has been a little over nine weeks since we last traveled anywhere. It was a trip to Seattle to see our kids before they moved to Tokyo. We've cut back on travel some this year to try to ease the deficit in the travel budget with our World Cruise coming up next year. Wanderlust has struck and we still have a couple of weeks before our annual dive trip to Grand Cayman. The itch to go somewhere is worse than a poison ivy rash.

Adding to the discomfort are the emails I get from some of the travel websites featuring the best places in the world to go and see. I was just looking at one from Smarter Travel that features 10 Romantic Islands. We've been to five of them: Kauai, Santorini, St. Johns, Bora Bora and St. Lucia.

Santorini in Greece is the only island we have actually stayed at for any length of time and yes, it is a romantic place. Sunsets are amazing. Food is unbelievably delicious. Atmosphere is perfect. The pace is such that it gets you to slow down and smell the roses or the bougainvillea that strikes a colorful contrast to the mostly white buildings that hug the seaside cliffs.

The other islands we have only visited by cruise ship so our stays there were only a day at best. We've stayed at Maui but I believe Kauai is a bit less crowded and the Waimea Canyon was beautiful. St. Johns is a much slower paced island than its close neighbor St. Thomas. The French Polynesian Islands are all romantic idyllic places to visit and we've stayed at Papeete and Moorea in over-the-water bungalows.

Smarter Travel lists five other islands: Maldives, which I've always heard is good for diving, Cape Breton Island off the coast of Canada, Anguilla in the Caribbean not far from St. Martin, Capri off the coast of Italy near Naples, and Nantucket off the coast of Maine. Of those five, I've put Cape Breton and Nantucket on the bucket list. Don't know if that's helping the itch though. I think the only way to get relief is to pack a suitcase and go.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Rental Cars - Help!

There has been only one time I've ever rented a car on my own. My husband handles all our rentals when we travel but I'm pretty observant and have picked up a lot of the tips he has to offer.

First, shop around. Rates vary a lot as you can imagine. Be sure to compare apples to apples or in this case mid-size to mid-size, etc. If you are traveling out of the country be sure to check on the restrictions for where you take the car. For instance many US rental places frown on you taking a car across the border to Mexico. Overseas, you want to check the restrictions as well (some countries require a special license too). Our road trip in New Zealand included both North and South islands. We found a rental company that not only let us take the car on the ferry but included the purchase of our tickets as well. It was one less thing for us to do. And don't forget those AAA, AARP, etc. discounts!

At the counter you will be offered all sorts of options. Don't prepay for gas unless you know you're not going to be able to stop on the way back to return the car. On your way out of the rental place look around for a gas station nearby. There's always one. Mark it on your map. Even though the price may be a little higher than other stations, chances are good it will still be lower than what the rental company charges.

Insurance? Only if you really must. Check with your insurance company. It probably covers you for rentals. The credit card you use can cover things your policy doesn't and often covers you when you are abroad where your regular car insurance may not. While traveling in Australia a large bus passed us kicking up a stone that shattered the rear passenger window. Our credit card company covered all the damage.

"Want an upgrade?" If you are asked that, be sure the price is right before you agree. 'Nuf said.

Inspect your rental thoroughly before you drive out. We've taken to documenting the condition with iPhone pictures especially if the car already had some scratches or dents. If you are doing a drop off where no one inspects when you turn the car in, it might be a good idea to photograph it then too.

Those are the major things I can think of. We've never really had too many problems with rental cars. Oh, maybe just one more. Before you leave the car, check that glove compartment for anything you may have left behind in there. We lost a camera that way once.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Little Nostalgia - Ice Fishing with Dad

With a grandfather and father who were avid outdoors men, fishing and hunting whenever they could, and a mother who learned to fish in self-defense (besides, at that point she was smitten with the guy), is there any reason to doubt that I would love to fish? I grew up with a fishing pole in my hand. My fondest memory of fishing with my dad though was the time he took me--just me, the daughter, not the son, out on the ice of Lake Erie to go ice fishing.

Our winter weekends were spent at Put In Bay, OH, and once the ice was thick enough, a village of ice shanties would appear on the ice covered water. People actually had old cars usually with doors removed for a quick exit that they would use to drive onto the ice, plant their shanty, and return to fish in it until the ice began to melt as weather warmed.

When my dad invited me along, I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. A whole day on the ice with my father fishing! We took the old car out onto the ice and parked it a safe distance from the shanty. Grabbing our gear, we stepped carefully to the door and stowed what we needed inside and out. Dad had brought a few pieces of wood and a couple of large chunks of coal to stoke the fire he started in the little tiny potbellied stove inside the shanty.

The ice shanty was about the size of a playhouse for kids. It was framed in wood that was covered in treated heavy duty canvas and had runners on the bottom. You couldn't stand up in it. The stove sat in the middle of the floor at the back wall, a hole in the floor on either side of it and a bench opposite each hole to sit on as you fished. Heavy white twine was anchored to the beam above each hole and  looped with a rubber band that allowed you to see the matchstick tied at eye level bobble up and down when a fish bit on the hook.

Live minnows were the bait of choice. I was careful to hold on tightly as I baited my hook since I knew Dad would get frustrated if I let too many get out of my hands instead of on the hooks. We dropped our lines in the water shortly after our arrival and just about the time that the little stove began to pleasantly warm the shanty. Eventually we sat in shirt sleeves in the pleasant little shanty.

We caught a lot of fish that day and tossed them into the burlap bags that hung from hooks in each corner opposite us. When we ran out of bait, Dad showed me how to pop the eye of a fish out and use it for bait. This girl was no prima donna. Whatever it took to fish, I was ready for it.

At noon, Dad pulled out a small iron skillet from the sack beneath his bench and reached in a little cooler for some kielbasa. We ate warm sausage sandwiches, munched on chips and apples and held each other's meal when a fish needed to be pulled in.

All too soon the day ended and we headed home. I think he was proud of me that day. He always grinned when he was proud and that day his grin wide, he said to Mom, "She's a real fisherman." I could not have received a greater compliment.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Unique Entertainment on Christmas Island

Back in 2007 we flew to Papeete, Tahiti, stayed in bungalows over the water on Moorea, then cruised the French Polynesian Islands and set off for Hawaii. Along the way to Hawaii we cruised near Pitcairn where the mutineers from the Bounty were said to have taken up residence and then we stopped for a very short time at Christmas Island.

Jokes and teasing abounded as we neared. Christmas Island (Karitimati) was the site of hydrogen bomb testing by the British and Americans. Be on the lookout for a green glow was the primary comment. According to what I read about Karitimati on Lonely Planet, the glow, if there ever was one, was long gone before we landed.

What we did find was a lot of sand, few trees, and some locals eager to greet visitors and sell us something. So far out in the middle of nowhere I had the feeling perhaps they were eager for new faces and something different in the regular course of their days.

I remember it being extremely hot--a good reason not to linger. The craft fair was interesting but what we truly enjoyed was watching a couple of pickup trucks arrive with PVC piping that turned out to be homemade instruments. It only took a couple of minutes to unload and instantly we were being entertained by undoubtedly one of the most unique bands I'll ever see. The video is not the greatest (old camera) but I wanted to share it.

Our 2015 World Cruise won't stop at Christmas Island but will pass it by. I'll not look for a green glow but I will listen for those musical pipes as we do.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Left Behind

We were about an hour away from Key Largo and on our way home when I reached a hand up out of habit to touch my ear and adjust my earring. Immediately my other hand flew to the other ear and I yelled, "Oh no!"

Now I should know better than to yell something like that while Bob is driving. He touched the brakes and said, "What's wrong?" Traffic began whizzing past us.

"I left my earrings in the little dish beside the bed." I looked down at my wrist to see what time it was. "And my watch, too," I whined.

Sucking in a deep breath, Bob found a turn around point and we headed back down US 1 to Key Largo. The only problem we could see was that we wouldn't be able to get through the gate to the condo without the passkey. We knew where the key was for the condo but the gate would be a challenge.

I texted the condo owner but she responded that she wouldn't be there for a couple more hours. We traveled on and when we arrived at the gate, we pulled over a bit and waited. Surely someone would come in and we could slip in behind them. When no one did, we went to the call box and tried the main office. No answer. I suddenly remembered the name of someone we played tennis with and through a process of deduction, we figured out what his number was on the call box.

He was confused as Bob tried to explain what was wrong but eventually he opened the gate remotely and we were able to retrieve my left-behind items.

I'd like to say that's the only time we've done that but I lost a pretty robe and had to retrieve contact lenses on another trip. Bob has left behind a pair of pants and once left a camera in a rental car's glove compartment. The camera disappeared quickly.

According to an article on Smarter Travel, some of
the most common items left behind in hotels are jewelry, toiletries, charger cords, eyeglasses, clothes, keys, and surprisingly dentures and laptops. Now who would leave their teeth behind? And a laptop? That's the first thing that goes back in my backpack when we travel.

Want to avoid leaving things behind? I find that packing everything up the night before and laying out your clothes to wear the next day along with those last minute items to stuff in helps. Charge your electronics the night before and then pack them and their cords. It's not a perfect system but it's all I have. What about you?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

World Cruise - Through The Canal to Ecuador and Peru

As I write this we are 229 days away from our World Cruise. I have an app on my phone, T-Zero, which counts down for me. The anticipation is almost as much fun as the cruise will be, I'm sure. Once we cruise from Miami to the Caribbean to Columbia, we then go through the Panama Canal. We've been through the Canal three times already and each has been a wonderful experience. We always learn something new. There is so much history there as well as new construction that had started when we last passed through. It will be fun to see how it is changing.

Once through the Canal, we move on to two ports in Ecuador. Our last trip to Ecuador was to see the Galapagos Islands. This time we will be stopping in Manta and Guayaquil. Manta is the largest seaport of Ecuador and is the gateway to Quito, although the city is reached by airplane from Manta. My search for things to do in Manta revealed a lot of kite-boarding schools. Think we'll pass on that. There is a little town about twenty minutes away however where Panama hats are made. It's called Montecristi. While the taxi fee looks to be $20 roundtrip, there is a ship excursion that is $59 includes a stop at a museum and we can be sure there will be no language problem as some people experienced according to the Cruise Critic boards and we'll get back to the ship on time.

Guayaquil is a little harder to figure out and we may just wait to plan anything until we get closer to it and learn more about while aboard our ship. It looks to be a large city. The offerings for excursions that are within our price range are not terribly interesting from this perspective yet. This will be a wait-and-see port.

We have a day of cruising before we reach Salaverry, Peru, our next port. Salaverry is the port for Trujillo which has several temples from ancient times that look interesting. One especially, The Moon Temple, is said to rival Machu Piccu in interest. It is thought to be a thousand years older. Need to do more research as this doesn't look like a great port to get transportation easily especially with language problems and instances reported of drivers taking the long way around at $10/hour.

Lima, Peru, will be an overnight stop. This is where passengers from the first segment of our cruise will disembark and new passengers will arrive for the second segment. This is the opportunity to meet new people and change dining situations if we need to although as I understand, there are so many booked for the whole world cruise that there may not be a lot of change over on each segment.

Well, off to explore the options in Lima. Ever been there? If so, tell me what you saw and liked.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Through My Lens - The New Zoo Carousel

The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo just opened its new carousel ride in the newly constructed area called Circle of Wildlife. Hand carved and painted animals were a delight to the kids we saw riding. Rides are $3 each ($2.50 for zoo members).

Friday, June 06, 2014

How Do You Clean A Lion's Teeth?

In answer to the question, you clean a lion's teeth very carefully and with the lion completely sedated. I think they used more than "happy gas" on him as you can see.

Since we have a zoo pass for the Metroparks Zoo, we often go just to get out of the house and get some exercise walking around. One of our stops for a peek in is always the Sarah Allison Stefee Center for Zoological Medicine. The last time we were fortunate enough to catch the veterinarians at work, we watched a root canal on a Mandrill monkey. This day, our attention was directed to the procedure they were doing on the male lion of the zoo.

The Center is a hands on learning place for children who can don a lab coat and pretend to be a vet while learning about the animals and their diets and health. There are several viewing areas where you can watch them work on some of the zoo animals when it's appropriate.

The lion was definitely out of it but I had to laugh when one of the guys got his arm tangled in the IV tubing and almost pulled out the IV. That could have been a rude awakening not only for the lion but the team of eight or so working in there on him as I'm sure that's what was keeping him sleeping peacefully.

We weren't sure what all they were doing. One zoo volunteer said they were just giving him a checkup. They were definitely cleaning his teeth though and we were able to watch the close up action on a video screen. I don't want to know what they were doing at the other end with his leg up in the air. Do male lions get a prostate exam?

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

In My Backyard - The Bramley House

Just around the corner and up the street a bit is a house that was built in 1856 and has been given over to the Independence Historical Society for restoration. The last owner of the house, Betsey Bramley, passed away in 1996. The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. All this history and just a short walk away from us!

We have watched with interest as the yard has been landscaped and work has gone on and we have even participated in one of the fund raising flea markets they held to raise money for the restoration but we have never had a chance to see inside. My husband picked up a brochure recently from our library and it gives some of the history as well as shows pictures of what they've done inside the Bramley House and now I am a bit more informed.

The house was originally built by Jasper Fuller, one of the earliest pioneer settlers in Independence (Ohio) and is made of sandstone block quarried in the Independence area. In 1861, Matthew Bramley and his wife Sarah who emigrated from England in 1842, purchased the house and occupied it with his large family of twelve children. Really? The house doesn't seem big enough.

Ownership of the house stayed in the family through three succeeding generations ending with Betsey Bramley in 1996 and thus represents a 140 year period where the city went from a pioneer agricultural settlement to a populous suburb which is now celebrating its 200th birthday.

Part of the house has been furnished as a place for small business meetings and the rest of the house will continue to be made into a museum. I look forward to the next opportunity to venture inside and explore more of the history of my hometown. How about you? Have you ever explored the history of your

Monday, June 02, 2014

Pitch And Width. What Makes You Comfortable When You Fly?

Bless those who can afford to go business or first class every time they fly especially on those long-haul flights. If we did that, we couldn't afford to travel as much as we do. In researching some topics for this blog, I ran across some information I found very interesting. Seats are measured by width and pitch. Width is a no-brainer but pitch was new to me. I had no idea. Did it mean the seats are at an angle? Are we not sitting flat in a plane? Here's what I discovered.

Pitch is a measurement from one point on a seat to the same point on a seat either in front of or behind that seat. I guess the point on the seat doesn't make much difference but one picture I saw measured from the back of one arm rest to the back of another. Most of the seats I saw for economy had a pitch of 30-32 inches. This measurement should give you some idea of what kind of leg room you will have (the greater the pitch, the more leg room) but some of that also depends upon how thick the back of the seat is. Some airlines are changing over to thinner backed seats which can lead to a little more leg room but I don't think that's terribly significant.

There is a handy-dandy site that will give you the pitch of the seats on numerous airlines and their fleet of planes. It's called the SeatGuru. You can find seat maps and comparison charts for pitch and width of seats on each plane and even what type of video is available.

Of course if that sweetheart sitting in front of you reclines his seat all the way back all bets are off.

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