Tuesday, April 27, 2010

4/27/10 Here we are in our cozy little apartment in the El Born district in Barcelona, where we have been enjoying wonderfully warm, sunny weather ever since we arrived Sunday evening. Our 2 week trans-Atlantic cruise ended Sunday morning in Southampton, where it was rainy and cold when we disembarked. Happily, flights had been resumed several days before so we were able to take a bus to Gatwick and catch our Easy Jet flight to Barcelona. That is about the worst airline we have ever been on and they really nailed us for extra baggage too. We were happy to arrive and catch the Aerobus to Plaza Catalunya and then we walked down to our apartment. It is very small, but has most of the necessities and we have been able to cook some of our own meals, which helps with expenses. Here is a picture of Elaine sitting in the dining area of the apartment:

This is the same apartment we stayed in for one night when we joined our friends Carole and Dick Schneider here just before we all took the Navigator of the Seas back to Galveston in Nov., 2008. The El Born district has many old, tall apartment buildings with shops, restaurants and bars at street level. There are lots of very small streets which are too narrow for cars, so it makes walking around here delightful because of all the pedestrian streets. It also means staying here is more enjoyable because it is quieter.
Yesterday we had to get set up in the apartment so we went to the nearby Santa Catarina market to buy some food. There were wonderful displays of fruits and veggies, meat stalls, pastries, and just about anything else we could want.

We bought salad makings, some of the delicious Spanish green olives, a couple of great cheeses, and some fruit. Everything else we needed came from the nearby supermarket.
Today we did some walking around to get set up for our train ride to Montserrat tomorrow, then we took the bus to Park Guell. This was a park where the most famous architect and artist in Barcelona, Anthony Gaudi, lived for 20 years. He made some decorative benches and pavilions and several very fanciful buildings. Here are a few pictures of some of his creations in the park:
Part of his decorative benches:

One of the buildings at the park entrance:

Another park building:

It was hot and we needed a rest so we sat down at an outdoor eating area and had a beer and a sandwich. A delightful couple from Peru named Lucy and Armando came and sat with us. We had an enjoyable time discussing travels in their country, and other parts of the world, because they spoke good English and had been to quite a few places. It reminded us that one of the joys of traveling are these little incidental interludes with new friends. Here is a picture of them with Elaine:

Another interesting part of the park experience was seeing lots of small green parrots in the palm trees and listening to them squabbling. Here is a picture of one of them sitting on her nest:

Of course, while we were on the transAtlantic cruise, we had some fun times in ports also. One of our favorite port cities is Funchal, in Maderia, which are islands belonging to Portugal. The island has a mountainous interior so the city goes up steeply from the waterfront and forms a kind of a bowl. We took a bus to the area where they offer rides down the steep streets in a wicker toboggan controlled by several of the local men who run alongside.

Some people take a cable car to get up there, and there is a nice botanical garden up there too. Here is a picture of us with David & Diane after we got up there:

There was also a big flower festival going on during our day there, and here is a picture of Diane with some of the flowers:

There was also a nice flower arrangement with lots of the different types of flowers:

Lisbon was the next port and we enjoyed walking around for a few hours. We spent a week here a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed everything, so we didn't need to rush around trying to sightsee this time. The last port was Vigo, Spain, which was new for us. It specializes in good seafood and here is a lady in the market who shucks oysters:

There were lovely flowers in the park, and here we are with some of them and a fountain behind us.

It was a nice little town but we were glad that we weren't going to have to get off there and make our way to Barcelona, as we thought we should if air flights hadn't started up again from England. Whoever would have thought that a volcano in Iceland would have such a huge effect on so many people and in such far-flung places.
We will be here until next Monday, and the weather is supposed to be nice until Saturday, so I'm sure we will have lots to tell you gain next time.

Friday, April 16, 2010

April 15, 2010
Hello from the middle of the Atlantic. This is our 5th day on the Independence of the Seas and, as always, we are having a great time. Quite a few of our friends are on board with us and we have been having daily Happy Hours with them in the Diamond Lounge. The drinks and appetizers are free to Diamond and Diamond Plus members between the hours of 5 and 8:30PM but the real perk is having the time to schmooze with our good friends from other cruises. Here is a picture of some of the friends in the lounge:

Last night 14 of us went to one of the specialty restaurants on board called Chops, where we had a gourmet meal which unfortunately took quite a long time because of the slow service. But the food was fabulous!
This adventure started last Thursday when Elaine and I drove to San Diego and stayed with her son, Darran, and his partner, Marielle. It was another beautiful day there and we enjoyed walking around on the Mission Bay pedestrian path. Friday morning we got up at 2 AM and Darran drove us to LAX where we boarded a flight to Miami at 6:05AM. This was our first try at using a companion fare and flying standby, which we were able to do because one of our Boy Toys, Martin, works at American Airlines and put us on his buddy list. The flight was very full and we felt lucky to get on it, although we didn’t get into First Class, and Martin and Roger often do. After landing, Martin & Roger picked us up and took us out for a lunch at a Cuban restaurant we had enjoyed the last time we visited. We also stayed at their condo and we all used the hot tub in the evening, along with Roger’s brother and his wife.
The next day we worked out in the exercise room at their condo, then joined a bunch of friends for lunch at Sweet Tomatoes. The guys then dropped us off at the Ramada in Fort Lauderdale where we shared a room with our good friends David and Diane Wilson, and were just down the hall from Jim & Jan Sylvester. Both of these couples hosted us on our recent trip across the south as we returned to California in our RV, and we are also sharing a table at dinner with them on this ship. Here we all are at our table on the first Formal night:

Sunday we all took the hotel shuttle to the ship. Too bad the weather was cool and rainy on Sunday, and our suitcases even got wet while being transferred to the ship. It has also been the coolest crossing we have ever experienced, even while we were still in the Caribbean area between Florida and Bermuda. The swimming pools and lounge chairs aren’t getting any use on this trip so far!! We are hoping for better weather soon, especially as we approach our first port which will be Punta Delgada in the Azores.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

April 3 Tomorrow is Easter, and we hope you all have a lovely day, whatever you decide to do. We will be having a delicious dinner with Ken & Carolyn Kimpton and Brenda & Dave Neil here on "our hill" at Park Sierra. These people are all good cooks, so we are happy to share this holiday with them!
Not many interesting things have been happening in our lives, and I wouldn't even be updating this except some of our family members have indicated that they want regular updates even if nothing exciting is in it. Today I whacked all the weeds on our lot and then sprayed them with Roundup. It just reminds me that I never want to live in a house again where there is lots of this regular maintenance!
Of course, we are having to do some maintenance on our bodies as well. This week we had more medical appointments, some of which are the prerequisites for some minor surgeries we are hoping to schedule when we get back from our Europe trip in early May. I am going to have a foot surgery for a hammertoe as soon as they can get it scheduled. Yes, I did try to convince Elaine to do it for me, since she was such an excellent foot surgeon but she says that after 23 years of retirement, she isn't going to take it up again, even for me. I will also be trying to schedule a surgery for a carpal tunnel problem, which I have in both hands. The left one is the worst so I want to get that one done in May or early June. Elaine also needs surgery on her hands because she has Dupyertins Contracture, which means she has knotted tendons which are causing one of her fingers to stick up and she can't straighten it. So that will have to be scheduled too. It really stinks when we have these problems, all of which are related to GETTING OLDER!
The next few days will be busy, as we organize and pack for our upcoming trip. The next blog entry will be when we start that trip, so I promise that it will be more interesting than this one!