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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Princess Cruise Excursion to Normandy and a Day at Sea

Wednesday, September 9th, Day 7

I woke up at 5:00 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. At about 5:30 am I decided I was just wasting time so got up and showered. I was probably too excited about leaving early for our trip to Normandy, France.

As we left the port, the sun was rising this absolutely gorgeous shade of red and I would have taken a picture of it, but the part of the port of LaHavre we were docked in is not very pretty so the sun was rising over transport containers in the dock yard, which is definitely not the prettiest of settings for a sunrise.

We headed out through LaHavre to the beaches of Normandy as that is our excursion for today. On the way, we went over a really extraordinary bridge over the Seine River. To our right was the mouth of the Seine where it joined the sea, and to the left was the Seine River flowing toward Paris. At the mouth of the Seine we went by a town called, “Honfleur” which is where a group of explorers left from France and settled in Canada. I felt a real connection to that town because I am part French Canadian on my dad’s side and it was really exciting to see where my French ancestors came from.

I have to say I was not looking forward to this excursion but on our last transatlantic cruise, I promised Chuck that if he took me to Paris,(which he did) I would go with him to the beaches of Normandy on our next cruise in the area, so here we are. I didn’t want to go because I thought it was really going to be incredibly sad. But for some reason that I can’t quite fathom, most of the men I know are really intrigued with war, especially World War II, and Chuck is included in that group so we were on our way. It was a 2 ½ hour bus ride. The guide was quite interesting, although he was originally from Australia. I was disappointed that he was not a native of France. We passed a lot of fields with cows, sheep and horses. The terrain in France is mostly fields with some hills, but not high hills. More like slopes with lots of green grass. We saw a lot of hedgerows, although the guide, Geoffrey said that 70% of the hedgerows in France have been taken out. There are no forests in France so what people did was to make rows of earth that are about 3 to 4 feet high. They planted trees in rows on top of these mounds, and used them as living forests. Not only did they serve to delineate fields for farmers, but each year branches would be sawed off and used for firewood, and every 10 years, the trees would be chopped down to make lumber to build things, with more trees being planted to replace them. During WWII, the Allies lost a lot of men when tanks would try to go over the hedgerows and expose the bellies of the tank as it was going up the hedgerow, and the Germans would shoot into the belly of the tank which was the most vulnerable part, and blow the tank up. Within a few weeks of breaking into France, the Allies came up with a way to prevent that from happening by using metal spikes to attach to the front of the tanks that would act as teeth and dig into the hedgerows, and pulling the tanks through without exposing the bellies. Geoffrey also pointed out many apple orchards in this area of Normandy which are used to make apple cider and apple brandy. We stopped at a rest area which had a bakery and coffee shop and shared a croissant which was absolutely delicious. It was moist, light and flaky and pulled apart easily, which is exactly what you would think a pastry from France should be.

Our first stop of the tour was at Point du Hoc. When you get off the buses you follow a path down toward the cliffs. On the way is a series of plaques with pictures of some of the rangers who were the first to climb the cliffs and take fight the Germans. The plaques honor those men who died either on the beach, or within 24 hours after they made it to the top. It was quite sad to see their faces.

Past that, the path leads to the top of the cliffs. All around were grassy fields and it was odd to imagine that this is what those men saw when they climbed up the cliffs. Although on that day, they probably couldn’t see much due to smoke and exploding ammunition. There were still huge craters on the earth, now filled with grass and some wildflowers, where the Allies had been trying to fire at and explode German cannons and gun arsenals. I thought it fitting that the wildflowers are growing in such a place of destruction and death. It seemed a fitting tribute to our men who gave their lives at this place. I have seen enough movies about WWII that I could imagine the sounds of gunfire and explosions all around me. I also imagined seeing US soldiers falling down dead and hurt all around me through smoke and a gray sky and tears sprung into my eyes. I felt no sympathy for the Germans who also died that day. They were fighting for something so evil, I find it hard to find sympathy for them. Here are a few pictures of those craters.

We wandered around in that field for awhile, and were able to go down inside a German gun embankment, where rooms had been built underground to house German soldiers and a lookout area was built in the concrete structure to look out to sea. In front of that was a fenced off area but we could go to the edge of it and see the cliffs the rangers climbed up after they landed on the beaches of Normandy that day. It is really as sheer and straight up as the movies portray. Some had grappling hooks to help them climb up.

After that somber experience, we went to Omaha beach, which is an open area where the ships came in. There is a monument there with flags flying in front of it from each of the Allied countries. I went down to the water and walked around the beach and touched the ground. I needed to walk where these brave men walked, and to touch the ground they walked on to defend freedom. I could only get 1/2 of the flags in the picture.Here's also a picture of Chuck in front of the monument on the beach which symbolizes wings and freedom.

After this we were supposed to go to the American cemetery. I am sure you have seen pictures of all the white marble crosses that overlook the sea. Unfortunately, pictures are all we will have of this site as well because the cemetery was closed due to a loss of electrical power there. No one could quite figure out what electrical power has to do with a cemetery, but we were denied access. Everyone on the bus was quite disappointed.

I want to mention here that at this point I was quite sad. This trip is very moving but not easy to someone who is sensitive to the suffering of others. I would have much preferred to get out and take pictures of all the beautiful old stone farmhouses we were passing in the French countryside. By noon I had had enough about death and destruction. Here is a picture I took from the bus of the narrow streets we were driving through on the way to various beaches. They were very quaint.

Since we were not able to go to the cemetery, we went to lunch earlier than planned. Lunch was held at a very pretty country club surrounded by a golf course. We sat down to beautiful table settings on white tablecloths. We had a choice of French Rose wine, or a Merlot. Each setting had 2 wine glasses. The first course was a wonderful salad with a piece of French bread. On the side of the salad plate were 4 round slices of cheese which were delicious and very rich tasting. The main course was chicken, a solid potato patty, and a baked tomato. Dessert was a custard type of patty that tasted as though it had pineapple in it. All in all, it was delicious taste of French cuisine.

Back on the bus, we headed to Gold Beach, and then another area above Gold Beach where there were still German guns present in the embankments. Our guide said he didn’t know why they had been left there because after the war, metal was hard to come by and almost anything the French could get their hands on was melted down. It was so peaceful up above the ocean, it was hard to imagine Germans being there and looking out to the sea, within walking distance to French houses. It must have been so hard for the people of that village to have the Germans occupying their land. Chuck is the man in the blue striped shirt in front of the cannon.

The last stop of the day was in the village of Arromanches. This was where the D-Day museum is located. On the way into the village, many of the stone walls and sides of homes had large pictures of the Americans coming into the village as heroes and the townspeople greeting them with enthusiasm. I truly don’t understand why the French seem to dislike Americans so much today when we helped set them free from the Germans 70 years ago. I should have asked the guide about that.

The town itself centers around the D-Day museum. There are lots of gift shops and the museum itself, all set along the beachfront area. The museum is small and old, and with a few bus tours in there all at once, very crowded. There are lots of models of the beaches and surround areas. There are examples of uniforms and helmets worn, and guns, canons, etc. that were used in the war. One whole wall is full of portraits of the generals and important Allied political people such as Winston Churchill, Franking D. Roosevelt, and generals I have never heard of but were important. The museum also offered a diorama of the floating harbor built in England and transported to this beach because the Allies were unable to capture any of the harbors the Germans held, so they designed their own and brought it over. That was actually really interesting and quite ingenious of them to do. You can still see some of this floating harbor in the water. The museum offered a 20 minute movie which everyone raved about on the ship since many of them had already been to Normandy. I was disappointed because it was a black and white movie, probably done in the 1940s and it wasn’t about the storming of the Normandy beaches, but all about the floating harbor only. After the movie we had 30 minutes of free time. I wandered around and took some pictures, mostly of the village, since I didn’t get many pictures of France today, only war related items. Chuck and I then met up and went in one store and bought a book about the Normandy Beach landings.

Then it was back on the bus for another 2 ½ hour bus ride back to the ship. We were tired after this day so just ate in the Horizon buffet and enjoyed our meal. We went back to the room, read a little and headed to bed.

Thursday, September 10th, Day 8

Today is the first day I woke up at a normal time. We went to bed at 11:15 pm and I woke up at 8:00 am. I hope I am adjusted to the change in times now because I am tired of feeling tired. We had another wonderful breakfast at the Horizon Court buffet area and came back to the room. At 11:15 Chuck went to a port lecture about the port of Lisbon, Portugal while I went to a Ladies’ Pamper Party put on by the spa staff here on board. I would have gone with Chuck but we had already booked our excursion for Lisbon and I thought it would be fun to do something different. Basically the Pamper Party consisted of the spa staff demonstrating the spa products such as make up remover, toner and moisturizer, and then letting us use them as a group by ourselves. We also tried a teeth whitener, and a “California Sun glow” product that they put on us and is really a bronzer. We did our regular routine after that, which included lunch, a movie and a nap in the room. I watched the movie, “Wild” starring Reese Witherspoon. After a workout, we got ready for the first formal night of the cruise. I was excited that as I was waiting for Chuck to get ready for breakfast I went out on the balcony of our room and saw dolphins off the side of the ship. For those of you who have read my cruise blogs before, you may remember how happy these sightings make me. And since I have seen dolphins in the wild in their natural habitats, I have no interest in ever going to an aquarium again. There were about 12 of them, leaping over the water next to the ship. It’s is truly an amazing sight to see.

We headed downstairs to the atrium area in time for the champagne fountain to start. The waiters came around and offered everyone champagne or mimosas and the champagne began flowing into a pyramid of champagne glasses. At 7:45 the captain came out and introduced himself and his main staff. The staff passed out chocolate lollipops to celebrate Princess Cruise Lines 50th anniversary!Here is Chuck all dressed up for formal night with his lollipop!

We then went to dinner in the Symphony dining room. Chuck had salmon and I had beef which of course was delicious. After dinner, we went to a show by the Princess Theater singers and dancers titled, “Colours of the World.” The troupe sang a series of songs from different countries and it lasted about 45 minutes. It was quite colorful and there were 4 main singers, 2 guys and 2 girls, and a troupe of about 12 dancers.

After a relaxing yet eventful day at sea, we headed to bed to rest up for our day tomorrow in Vigo, Spain.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The First 3 Cruise Days: Amsterdam & Rotterdam

Sunday, September 6th

Today is the day we are getting on our beautiful ship. And even though we have been on this ship, The Royal Princess, 18 months ago on our last cruise, we are still excited to be getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. One of the things that we love about cruising is the chance to get away from work phone calls and emails and just gives us a chance to relax.

This morning we had another delicious breakfast at the Novatel hotel and then got ready to head to the ship. A 10 minute taxi ride and we were there. We were extremely surprised and thrilled that the check in process went so quickly and easily. We were dropped off at the pier at noon, done with security at 12:15 and walking onto the ship at 12:20 pm. It really pays to be a repeat customer with Princess cruises as we had priority check in. Fortunately we got there when we did because I heard other passengers talking about getting to the pier at 1:30 pm and having had to stand in a very long line due to a fire alarm. We were able to go straight to our rooms and after dropping off our carry-on luggage we headed to the Horizon Court for lunch.

There weren’t too many people on board yet so there were lots of tables with window views. I was trying to be good so had a huge salad and Chuck had a sandwich. The goal is to not gain too much weight during this 15 day cruise, BUT with all the delicious choices in front of us, it is always hard to not gain at least a little bit of weight on a cruise.

Above is a picture of our mini-suite on the Royal Princess cruise ship. Our steward in charge of our room came and introduced himself to us. His name is Gabriel and he is from Romania. He brought us each a complimentary glass of champagne which is customary for mini-suite customers and above. We are still trying to get used to the time change so we took a nap, and wok up in time to go to the mandatory safety drill where everyone is instructed on how to use the life jackets. After the safety drill we headed up to the top deck for the sail-away party. Usually Princess Cruise lines does this up and a lot of the entertainment crew get people up and dancing and there are prize drawings. We were surprised that none of this was going on. There was a band, and there were waiters taking orders for drinks, only a few couples were dancing and there were no prizes or staff anywhere to be found. There are a lot of older people on the ship and we thought that may be why they didn’t really push a dance party. In fact, I have only seen one child so far, and she was eating with a woman and a male crew member so she is probably related to him. Here’s a cruise tip for you: If you don’t want a bunch of kids on your cruise, make sure to go when the kids are in school! We found a couple of lounge chairs and toasted our cruise with a glass of wine and enjoyed relaxing in the sunshine as it had been in the high fifties since we got to Southampton and today was the first day we actually saw sunshine, although it was still in the low sixties.

After the sail-away party, Chuck went to the work out center to do a work out and I went to the outside deck at the top of the ship to walk on the walking track. I loved walking here during our last cruise because it is really high up and I always brought my camera and got some beautiful pictures from up there. I walked a mile and then used a few of the arm and leg exercise equipment that they have around the walking/jogging track and went down to meet Chuck to get ready for dinner.

We were still tired from the time change so rather than get all dressed up for dinner, we stayed in our jeans and went back to the Horizon Court buffet and had our choice of delicious foods to eat. Chuck had prime rib that he loved and I had some delicious bow tie pasta. And we both enjoyed the mashed potatoes with gravy. My favorite dessert on this shop last time was the peanut butter cookies and they did not disappoint!

After some relaxing back in the room, and reading our, “Princess Patter” the daily schedule the Princess puts out each night with the following day’s activities, we called it a night. We are excited to head into Amsterdam tomorrow. But before we go to sleep we have to set our clocks ahead one hour because we are losing another hour between Southampton, England, Amsterdam, Holland.

Monday, Sept. 7th Day 5

We had a good night’s rest last night, except I guess I am not adjusted to the time change and woke up at 6:00 am. and went to breakfast. I had a little bit of a variety of foods for breakfast including oatmeal, yogurt with a raspberry swirl, watermelon, a pear, banana bread, pumpernickel bread spread with raspberry jam, and grilled hash browns. There are so many different choices of foods here on the ship it is hard to just choose 1 or 2 things for breakfast. We spent the morning sailing up a channel to get into the port of Rotterdam. It took a few hours to get there and we saw a lot of industrialization along the way. There were a lot of wind turbines along the canal for power. We also saw many tall apartment complexes with a walking/biking path all along the canal. Many people waved and took pictures of the ship as we passed. I was surprised by all the groups of swans we saw along the way. They were beautiful and I am sure I saw at least 60 in small groups of 4 to 12 as we sat at breakfast.

We checked out the ship’s stores for fun, and headed back to the room. Chuck watched a bit of TV while I went and found the ship’s laundry room. One of the nice things about Princess Cruise lines is they let you do your own washing and ironing with a laundry room on every floor. A lot of my shirts had gotten wrinkled along the way so I got them all ironed this morning while talking to a very nice older couple from…wait for it: Atlanta, Georgia! Funny to have crossed the ocean to England only to meet some people who live an hour away from us on this ship.

We docked next to the Erasmus Bridge (above with the sea walk on the ship showing to the above right) which is pretty impressive from an engineering point of view! At 1:00 pm we met with a bunch of other people in one of the ship’s dining rooms to get ready to board buses for the drive in to Amsterdam. The drive in took 90 minutes. We tend to enjoy the types of cruise excursions where we are bused somewhere because we can just sit back and relax and enjoy the scenery while the tour guide tells us what we are seeing out the windows. We find it much easier than renting a car on our own and trying to figure out where we are going on our own. We passed many fields of cows, horses and sheep on the way in. We also passed a lot of windmills and large wind turbines and I did my best to get a picture of them as we passed.

Once in Amsterdam, we got dropped off near the central train station. This is a part of Amsterdam we have never been to before, even though Chuck has been three times and I have been twice. I had made a list of things I thought would be interesting to see depending on where we got dropped off. The guide was very good about helping everyone figure out how to get where they wanted to go, and within 20 minutes we had arrived on foot at the Amsterdam Museum. I thought it was fitting that as we followed the guide to the Dam Square where he was going to give us directions to a museum, some young guys got in between us and the guide as we walked along the sidewalk, and they reeked of pot. What’s a trip to Amsterdam without a whiff of pot to remind visitors of the laid back attitude of the people of Amsterdam?

The Amsterdam Museum has an interactive exhibit which seemed to take a long time because you had to wait your turn and pass a special code on front of a machine in order to hear the automated description at each station about the history of Amsterdam. I was much more interested in the permanent exhibit of paintings and art so was happier when we got to that. There are many paintings by Dutch artists of 16th through 18th centuries, but my favorite one by anyone recognizable was part of a painting by Rembrandt called, ”The Anatomy Lesson.” In Rembrandt’s time, once a year doctors would have this special day when they would actually use a cadaver to teach their patients about the human body and Rembrandt painted a scene from this day. The human body they used belonged to a deceased criminal. The original Rembrandt painting was actually destroyed by a fire, and so all that remains is a much smaller portion, but it is of a physician’s assistant’s hands holding the scalp of the cadaver, with the brain exposed. Holy cow, I couldn’t believe Rembrandt had painted that so I had to take a picture.

After the museum, we were pretty hungry since we hadn’t eaten lunch so headed out to find a restaurant with traditional Dutch food. I also wanted a Heineken because although I don’t drink much beer, I had really enjoyed Heineken on draft when we were in Amsterdam a few years ago. We stopped at a place that looked good and traditional but after we ordered our Heinekens we realized it was just a bar with no food. It was really a quaint place though with real blue and white painted tiles on the walls and wooden booths. The date outside the building said 1869. We asked the bar tender where we could get some authentic Dutch food and he sent us to a place down the street that was absolutely perfect. The name of the restaurant is, “Restaurant Haesje Claes.” This is pronounced “Haajee KlaJee.” The building dates from the mid-1600s and was wonderful inside with lots of beams and dark wood. Chuck had been wanting some traditional Dutch pea soup that we had had on a previous trip. They served it with a side of rye bread and a slab of meat, and it was just as good as he remembered it. He also had a very thin beef, cheese and greens plate that he said was wonderful. I had beef stew which was a slab of extremely tender beef served over mashed potatoes with a beef gravy, sweet cabbage and applesauce were also served on the side.

I love Amsterdam so took as many pictures as I could on the walk back to the bus. There’s just something about the beautiful old houses all crammed together along the canals that just speaks to me.

After our bus ride back, we headed up to the food court as we had not had time for dessert at the Dutch restaurant. They have tea and coffee and iced tea that guests can help themselves to so I had two cups of orange spice herbal tea, 2 peanut butter cookies, and a few bites of angel food cake with vanilla sauce and whipped cream. It was all delicious. Chuck was able to get some vanilla soft serve ice cream that was a favorite treat of his on this ship. He said it was as good as he remembered it to be. Something tells me we are going to gain a few pounds on this cruise!Tomorrow we are going into the city of Rotterdam.

Tuesday, September 8th, Day 6

Today we didn’t have to get up early because we were just going to take a free shuttle into the city of Rotterdam. We ate breakfast (my favorite items are now Rye bread and banana bread spread with raspberry jam) and headed off the ship at about 9:30 am. We had to wait in a very long line to catch the shuttle bus, but spent the time talking with 2 women who are very experienced cruisers and have traveled all over the world. I think they were retired but I honestly don’t know how they have the money to cruise as often as they have. Once we caught the city bus shuttle, which was provided to the Princess cruise passengers as a courtesy of the city of Rotterdam, we were dropped off at the city market. This is an amazing place, divided into 2 parts: the first part of the market is housed in a HUGE dome shaped building with a glass window on the front and back that is almost as large as the building itself. Inside of this dome is almost any kind of food being sold that you can imagine. There are stalls for meat, candy, spices, a bakery with amazing looking cookies, doughnuts and pastries, coffee, fruits and vegetables, fish, nuts, etc. Downstairs is a wine shop, a grocery store and rest rooms which cost 70 euros to use (about 85 cents American money). Outside of this building is the outdoor market which consists of rows and rows of goods being sold. Some of the items are food like fish and produce but there were also stalls with clothing, shoes, electronics, sheets, coats, and hot foods for lunch. All of this is right in the middle of the city with lots of modern buildings all around. Most of the town of Rotterdam was leveled with bombing during the second world war and they had to rebuild it all over again so chose modern architecture. There is an old harbor area that got the least amount of damage and I would have loved to have gone there but we didn’t have time. We only spent a little more than an hour at the market then had to get back on the ship. We ate lunch and watched the shop leave the dock and head back down the channel we had just come up the day before.

After lunch I did laundry which is a whole crazy experience. Each floor on Princess Cruise ships have a laundromat, with at least 2 washers and 2 dryers, but lots of people want to use them so you sometimes have to wait awhile. I wandered around the ship with our small bag of laundry and finally found an empty washer one floor up and on the other side. We used to have to use quarters for the machines but now you buy tokens and they charge it to your stateroom. It’s $3.00 to wash and $3.00 to dry a load of clothes. Good thing we brought Tide packets and dryer sheets from home or it would have cost even more. If you go on a Princess cruise, definitely bring laundry soap and dryer sheets from home.

We are still tired from the time change and our busy day in Amsterdam so we took a nap and Chuck worked out while I used the walking track. We went to dinner around 7:45 and we had to wait for a table because we chose anytime dining, but the wait was only 20 minutes. I had a crab and artichoke dip served with toast points, a Caesar salad, a pasta dish with oxtail gravy, and chocolate mousse cake with ice cream. The ice cream was butter pecan and was delicious. Chuck had shrimp cocktail, a tossed salad, smoked pork roast with a potato patty and carrots and the butter ocean ice cream for dessert. It was good and our waiter in the main Symphony dining room was excellent.

Although there was a show, I felt like I could fall asleep at dinner so I was ready for bed at 10:15 pm and fell right to sleep. I hope we adjust to this time change soon. Between the time change, my body waking up early, and exploring ports every day, I am still very tired.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Transatlantic Cruise 2015 Day 3

Day 3 Sunday, 9/6/2015

Today we enjoyed an absolutely wonderful buffet breakfast at the hotel. There was so much to choose from and many different styles than we would get in the US. Here's a shot of what I tried for breakfast and it was all good, especially the croissants with raspberry preserves.

Our choices included:

Waffles, pancakes, mixed fruit, sliced and peeled oranges, or sliced and peeled grapefruit, 3 types of yogurt, scrambled eggs,mushrooms, fried potatoes (like tater tots but larger and in a triangle shape), sausage, thick bacon slabs, 4 types of instant cereal including museli, croissants, 2 types of other pastries, thick white or wheat toast, slices of cheese and ham, coffee,tea, 4 types of fruit juices.

After breakfast we headed to the Sea City Museum which is divided into 3 parts: the Titanic exhibit in terms of how the tragedy affected the town of Southampton since the Titanic left from here and 500 families lost a family member in the disaster, the history of Southampton going back thousands of years, and a dinosaur exhibit. We didn't do the dinosaur exhibit but our favorite part of the museum was the Titanic part. We were surprised that there wasn't actually more from the ship itself displayed at the museum. We saw a lot of items that were from the Titanic's sister ship, "The Olympia" and saw more from the Titanic when we saw the Titanic exhibit when it was in Las Vegas. There were some items displayed that belonged to people who were on board the ship, some items belonged to people that died, but more belonged to survivors. One of the most poignant exhibits was hearing actual voices of survivors and their retelling of the events as they remembered it. Here are a few pictures from the museum.

After we were done we had tea and lemonade in a cute cafe attached to the museum while we waited for Chuck's friends George and Carol Crowe to pick us up. They actually live in Norwich, England and drove down to take us to lunch. We had a wonderful time and learned a lot about England during our lunch at a nice Italian restaurant. After they left us we came back to the hotel room and took a nap. We haven't adjusted yet to the time change.

Dinner was at McDonalds as it was also in the parking lot of the hotel. They had no salads here so I was disappointed. But the ordering process was fun. You can actually order from a screen in the lobby and pay with your credit card which speeds order along. They do things a bit differently here though and my grilled chicken wrap had a mayo and ketchup sauce on it. I missed the ranch sauce I get in the US. The fries were yummy though.

After dinner I decided to try out the small pool and get some laps in. I felt as though I was in a spa and because I was by myself, it was great. And the water was quite warm as well. Perfect way to relax before bed. Chuck used the workout room which is behind the pool windows that you can see in this picture, but he said it wasn't very good. Nothing like the workout center at Big Canoe, but we are spoiled!

It is now Sunday morning and we are getting ready to take our taxi to the ship. We are SO excited to board. Although we have been on the Royal Princess before, it is always exciting to board a ship at the beginning of a cruise and to know we have a wonderful 2 weeks ahead of us on our transatlantic cruise! More to come in a few days...

Transatlantic Cruse, Days 1 & 2 of Our Adventure

Day 1, Thursday 9/3

On Thursday, September 3rd, 2015 we left Atlanta, GA by plane to begin our journey on our long awaited transatlantic cruise. The flight left at 10:00 pm and we settled in quickly. I was originally going to get some sleep as soon as dinner was over but was too tempted by the free in-flight movies, as was Chuck. He watched The Godfather, while I preferred to watch movies I had never seen before, and knew if I didn’t watch them that night, probably wouldn’t get a chance to see them at all. The first movie I saw was Aloha, starring Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams and Emma Stone. I enjoy all of their talents and enjoyed them in this movie as well. Then I watched Far From the Madding Crowd, which was filmed in England, to prepare me for the few days we would spend in England. Since I am a hopeless romantic and this movie was about a young woman in England who tried to remain independent while being courted by three different men, I loved it. The Princess fleet of cruise ships shows wonderful movies on board and I just hope they don’t include these because I want to catch up on my movie watching on board the ship too. I don’t have a lot of free time to watch movies in my regular everyday life.

Day 2 Friday, 9/4/2015

We arrived in England at 11:45 am which was really 5:45 am GA time. Chuck only got about 1 hour of sleep while I think I squeezed in about 3 hours. Chuck got a chuckle out of my reaction when I woke up and thought we had slept through breakfast. Ha, if you know me, you know I don’t want to take a chance on missing anything FREE, and since breakfast was included in our flight, I didn’t want to miss it! They gave us a small breakfast of coffee, juice, yogurt and bagels just before landing. We took a taxi from Heathrow airport to the Novatel Hotel in Southampton.

The hotel room is small, but adequate. I was surprised at how modern the rooms are here. We have everything we need, including a small love seat, but there are only 2 drawers to keep things in, unlike in the US where the hotel rooms have actual bureaus. The bathroom situation is rather odd. As soon as you walk in the door, to the left is a very narrow room with a toilet in it. That’s it, just a toilet. There’s a tiny closet across from that, then you walk into the main from which includes a bed, desk, love seat, TV and the doorway to the rest of the bathroom which includes a tub, shower and sink. There is also a cute set up with a frig with cold water, and above it, an electric kettle with your choice of instant coffee or tea, including herbal tea. I have already had some peppermint tea. After all, when in Rome, uh, er, I mean England in this case.... What's England without a "spot of tea?"
Accessible from the lobby are the bar, restaurant, workout center, and a really wonderful yet fairly small heated pool. We settled in, took a nap, and got up for an early dinner at TGI Fridays which is adjacent to the parking lot of the hotel. We were too tired to be adventurous! Chuck ordered a lemonade and when it arrived at the table it was a lemonade by Schweppes which was really lemonade soda, which tasted surprisingly like Sprite! I had a cheeseburger and Chuck had salmon. Both were fine, but Chuck’s mashed potatoes left a bit to be desired and the vegetables were al dente. Below is the view from our room, with the TGI Friday's straight ahead, in front of the IKEA store!
Too tired for dessert, we headed back to the hotel room and after a bit of time on our computers, we went to bed around 11 pm England time, which was really 6 pm US time. We woke up wide awake at 4 am due to lots of yelling and shouting in the parking lot which had been going on intermittently throughout the night. We had read online that this hotel has no air conditioning so we had left the windows open. We weren’t used to the time change yet so got on our computers till 6:00 am and then tried to go back to sleep. Instead of voices, this time we heard very loud sea gulls outside the hotel room window. Southampton is a sea port and we are very near the cruise ship dock so there are lots of sea gulls around. We finally decided to get up and go for breakfast.

That's it for now, because we have to run, but I will add more exciting things soon, including a description of the wonderful breakfast we had, with a picture! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Another Las Vegas Conference and What I Have Learned About Marriage

The week before Valentine's Day Chuck and I went to Las Vegas again for his annual conference. Chuck attends meetings during this conference, and his company also has a booth in the convention hall that is open at various times during the three day conference. Last year, I had three days to Las Vegas all by myself and I had a ball going to the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, exploring the Las Vegas strip and shopping. I took a lot of pictures and wrote all about my experiences online. I thought I was going to be able to do the same thing again, until a few days before we got on the airplane to head for Vegas.

Before we left Georgia, we were having a conversation about our schedules in Las Vegas. I mentioned something to Chuck about wanting to go check out some thrift shops to find items to resell on eBay as I have gotten much busier with my eBay business recently. He asked me how much time I was going to be spending at the booth in the hall, as he thought I would be doing that. I hadn't expected to be manning the booth at all this year. I had done that only one year when his company was down a man at the conference. This year that was not the case. I was disappointed and it took me a day or two to adjust as I could tell he really wanted me to be around.

Had I been in my previous marriage, or married to someone else, I probably would have put up a fuss and made a real case for myself about how I really needed to be able to get out and about for my eBay business. But because it's my second marriage, I have learned a few things. I have learned to pick my battles. I have learned that there are some things more important than what I want, and that I will have a happier and more fulfilling life if I remember the fine art of compromise. And I remember who I am married to, and how much he does for me, and how much we both love and respect each other, so I adjusted my plans. I did spend some time at the booth, and felt quite helpful on the first night when I stayed at the booth by myself as Chuck and the other person covering the booth were able to go around and network with other people because the booth was covered. I was there other times too, and I think Chuck appreciated that.

But I was also able to get out and explore some on my own for a few hours each day. We stayed at the Golden Nugget and just outside the back door of the Golden Nugget is The Fremont Street Experience. If you aren't familiar with it, it's five blocks of restaurants, stores, and wait for it...casinos (surprise, surprise). This is where the picture above was taken on our second night. I have been here other years, but I love exploring it and seeing all the strange people that dress up and want you to pose with them and expect a tip. This year I was thrilled to find something new while I explored. The toy expert on the show, "Pawn Stars" has recently moved his toy store to this area and I had a ball talking to an employee about all of the toys in there and wishing I had saved my toys from the 1960s because apparently they are now worth a lot of money! I even came home and got paid to write an article for an online website about the Fremont Street Exerience.

All in all, the trip went well and I think that my decision not to push to get time to go to thrift stores and do my own thing was the best decision to make. I have learned through past experiences that having a good marriage and showing my love and being loved by Chuck is worth more to me than all the money in the world, and certainly more than I could earn on eBay in a few trips to Las Vegas thrift stores!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Holidays With His Family

One of the challenges of marrying for a second time is that you both often bring with you a ready made family. Chuck's kids were all adults when we got married, and mine were teens who are now young adults living on their own. We lived in Connecticut the first few years of our marriage and my parents and children were all nearby. Holidays were spent with my family. Chuck's children and their families lived in California and Georgia. Now that we have moved to Georgia, we are closer to two of his kids and their families. Although it is hard for me to be away from my family during the holidays,(especially Christmas) I am happy for Chuck that we finally get to be with his family. It's been a very long time since he has been able to spend any holidays with his kids and their families. We spent Thanksgiving at his son's house, and Christmas at his daughter's house. Last night, we were able to go out to dinner with his son, daughter in law and his daughter at a wonderful restaurant with good food, good music, and good company on New Year's Eve. It felt good to me to see him surrounded by his family. And I know he enjoyed being able to spend this special time with them. The sacrifices a spouse may have to make in a second marriage are so often worth it to see their husband or wife happy. I was feeling very happy and blessed last night because I think this move was great for Chuck, and good for us as a couple. We didn't take any pictures last night, but here are a few from a previous visit with his son and daughter.