Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

Hope you are having a very Merry Christmas!  We haven't had time to do a blog post since we returned from our last 2 cruises, but here is our Christmas letter in case you didn't receive it by e-mail.

Happy Holidays 2014
At this time of year, we always enjoy the newsy messages and greetings we receive from family and friends, and hope that you enjoy ours as well. Sometimes, as I think about our year and try to summarize it, it seems impossible. But lately the real challenge is remembering it!!!
     As usual, we pursued our passion - travel, by land and by sea. Early in January we flew to Ecuador where we experienced our first Gate 1 Travel tour. It was 8 days, cost effective, plus they allowed us to change our return airfare to 5 weeks later. Our fellow travelers (22) were a pleasant bunch, we had an excellent guide, and we had many adventures, wonderfully diverse and comfortable hotels, and delicious meals. Gate 1 has this motto: "more of the world for less", and they certainly provided that. From Quito we went to the Equator, Otavalo market, took a boat to the upper part of the Amazon, stayed in a spa hotel in the Andes, enjoyed the sights around Baños, stayed in a hacienda, visited a rose plantation, and hiked to the biggest waterfall in Ecuador, plus much more. We then spent several weeks exploring Ecuador on our own, staying in apartments we booked through Cuenca, was where we  stayed the longest. It has a nice climate and lots of ex-pats have settled there, mostly because they can live there very inexpensively yet there is good infrastructure and access to English-speaking friends. We returned to Quito just long enough to catch a flight to Baltra, in the Galápagos Islands. There we boarded the yacht Angelito, which had 8 crew and 16 passengers, plus Maja, our Swiss-born naturalist. It was quite comfortable, the food was delicious, and everyday we did hikes and snorkeling, usually on several different islands. It was hot, quite a difference from the other parts of Ecuador, which are cool because of the Andes. The Galápagos Islands have unique wildlife, which has no fear of people, so we could get right next to the animals for pictures.
     April 1 we left to do 2 cruises on the Legend of the Seas, first from San Diego to Ft. Lauderdale through the Panama Canal, and then on to Copenhagen, which we booked because it stopped in some great ports in France, England, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Going through the Panama Canal was awesome, as was Cartagena, Columbia which was new for us. Unfortunately Elaine had a hard fall in the solarium and fractured her left elbow two days from FL We decided to leave the ship and fly back to San Diego, thus missing the second cruise. At the Kaiser hospital the x-rays showed that the head of her radius was shattered, and on Easter Sunday she had surgery and they put in an implant.
Thank goodness we could stay with her son, Darran and his wife, Marielle while all this was happening.  
We returned to our lot at Park Sierra for the healing process.
     By June, Elaine had decided she could finish healing on a cruise ship, and we did 2 cruises on the Radiance, going up to Alaska and returning the next week. We always have old friends on the ships, and make new ones in the lounges, which enhances the experience. We also had good weather. As soon as Elaine was released by our doctor, we headed south again. She was still in a big metal brace, but could take it off to do exercises. This time in San Diego, there was her first biological granddaughter to visit (3 days old). Darran and Marielle were the proud parents of Evelyn Maryann Clemo, a real cutie. Marielle's parents were there, so we rented another Airbnb place. It was fun being with them all over the 4th
of July.
     Heading north in our RV, we stopped in Reno to see my daughter, Laura, and her husband, Dennis. Next stop was Denver, where my twin sister Marsha lives. Had an enjoyable time with her, and her partner, Debbie, and son Joe. We also celebrated our 70th birthday together, although the real day wasn't until Aug. 29. We had a nice visit in Rapid City with 2 RV couples we enjoy a lot, then drove to northern Wisconsin to see David and Diane Wilson, cruise friends, who also have an RV and a wonderful lake cottage. And we stopped for a few days in Mayville, to see Elaine's sister, Barbara, and her niece, Lisa. Finally we arrived at the Cannell family farm, where a big celebration was scheduled in early August
because it was the 100 year anniversary of family ownership. More than 250 people came to the huge lawn party, and we had fun seeing far-flung family members, and people who knew Elaine in her youth. Of course, it was wonderful to have a reunion of Elaine's older sisters too.
     Arriving in Florida in the heat and humidity of August was not smart, but we had to get ready for our big Europe trip. We put our RV in storage for 3 months in Ft. Lauderdale, and did a series of cruises and tours: the Vision for 4 days, then the Oasis 12 day transatlantic cruise to Barcelona. Had a lovely 4 day visit in Alicante staying with cruise friends, Ger & Jeannette in their villa, before flying to Madrid for 4 days in an apartment. We loved Madrid’s architecture and ambiance! Our Gate 1 Travel tour of Spain started there, went to Toledo, Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Valencia, ending in Barcelona. Fabulous trip, great meals and hotels, made some new friends. A quick flight to Paris followed, then 3 days in another airbnb apartment, with lots of city explorations on our own. Joined another Gate 1 tour through France: our tour went to Epernay (Champagne), Dijon, Beaune (Burgundy), Aix-en-Provence, Carcassone, Lourdes, St. Emilion, Bordeaux, Cognac, the Loire valley, Versailies, and Paris. Of course, every place had its outstanding attractions, which I can’t expand on here. If you would like more information, description, and pictures, please visit our blog at At the end of our tour, we took a train to Rotterdam and again boarded the Oasis for the 13 day return cruise to Ft. Lauderdale.
      Thank goodness for our friend, Doug White, who hosted us in his home in Ft. Lauderdale, between cruises. After the Oasis, we boarded the Allure and cruised a week in the Caribbean. Then we retrieved our RV and moved it to the Elks Lodge in Brandon, FL, near Tampa. After a lovely Thanksgiving stay with cruise friends, Dave & Colleen DeForest in Madeira Beach, Dec. 6 we flew to New Orleans and did 2 weeks on the Serenade with Dave & Brenda Neil, from Park Sierra. Now we are back in the RV and preparing to share Christmas with Elaine and George Lewter, in the Punta Gorda area. They have rented a house there for the winter. The 2 Elaine’s are childhood school friends who have kept in touch all these years.
     Plans for 2015 include several more Caribbean cruises, returning to California for Feb. and March, a flight to Australia in late March for a south Pacific island cruise, and other cruises taking us from Sydney to Singapore, to Dubai, to Istanbul, and through the Greek Islands after that. We will be back in the USA by mid-June and look forward to more RV travels in the summer.
Among the joys of travel are the visits we squeeze in with old friends, and the new friends we make along the way. Please keep in touch, and let us know what is happening in your lives. As this year ends, we wish you all the joys of the holiday season, and our hope that the events of your year in 2015 are the best ever.

1 comment:

Betty & Duane said...

Awesome, Mary and Elaine. What a great life you have! Since Christmas was yesterday, Duane and I wish you a Happy New Year. Sounds like it will be another good one! Love you guys. Betty and Duane