Friday, June 29, 2012

I returned from vacation to see a class was going on at work for CPR.  It's been half a life time since I took those classes, so I was disappointed to only get on the waiting list, but pleasantly surprised to see an opening mid-day yesterday.  I jumped in and managed to get into the class last night, so I am officially back up to speed.  I can't believe how much has changed in their instructions!  Perhaps I shouldn't wait another *cough* years for my next update.
Second night with a walk again last night.  I had to wait until it was dark just to get it cool enough to consider going.  The house was staying reasonably cool to the point I wasn't going to turn on the air just yet, but then...
Vixen wanted to stay out, and I granted her wish since there appeared to be no rain in sight for the night.  Just as I was cuddling up w/ Saf and the bedroom window open my eyes got a bit of a burn and I had to cough a bit.  Within seconds I could smell it - skunk.  Time to close the window and turn on the AC and to go see if it involved Vixen.  Sure enough, she's out there rubbing herself around on the grass.  For once, I think this one got away - thank goodness, I really didn't want to chase down a stinky corpse and pry it from the dog.  Needless to say, this morning Vixen took her breakfast on the deck and she will be none too pleased when it really heats up later today to be cast out from the air conditioned house.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Yesterday was truly a long day.  I am in the midst of things that when combined with being away has left me feeling quite inept and in the wroooong work.  Yes, it was one of those come home and cry for a little while days because I simply can't fathom doing all of this for another 30 years.  There are deadlines, ones my effort will never be good enough for (in my own opinion).
I took up a last minute invite to go see Avengers at Westwood last night, even though it wasn't high on my list.  I had watched Captain America while on the cruise, so I guess it makes sense to now see Avengers.  Meh.  At least it was a very welcome distraction.

Monday, June 25, 2012

So, today the repair man friends recommended called and scheduled to meet me over lunch for the washer.  Turns out it was a broken switch on the door, so that's repaired.  $130, not cheap, but not awful either, at least it's fixed... and because it was apart I was able to clean up under the lip of the washer and get all that gunk out.
From there I went to Wagner's to pick up the Durango and drop off the Tib.  Autumn looks beautiful all cleaned up and ready to rock.  I admit I was a bit nervous to pull out with her, but she feels better, way better than she did for the past year.  That bill with all of the fixes on the list, inspection, and whatnot was around $2200 - major ouch, but still less than a down payment on a new car, or at least so I tell myself to make it seem less painful.
They don't have the equipment to test the sensors on the Tib, but it turned out unnecessary anyhow as the sensor went out when I started it to head there.  Amusingly when I talked to them this morning he noted that if it was the gas cap as I first suspected it could take a couple of days for the sensor to turn back off... ta da!  Either way I left the Tib so the body shop can fix a few spots on the spoiler where the clear coat was too thin - something Davey T noted last summer when I had Drake detailed.
With all of that handled my list of issues is wiped clean - for now anyhow!  Back to work and reality today.  I'm struggling to get back up to speed and my brain is fighting it, c'mon old gal, you've got it in you.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Well, I'm back and unpacked... I guess it's time to catch the world up on my adventures.  I'll be dating the posts for each stop appropriately, so you'll see some older posts getting added below.  It's been quite the good vacation.  It didn't speed by, I feel like I've been gone for a month and a half - so much so I had a rather hard time remembering my work computer password last night.  I even survived cooking for myself today at lunchtime.  It's funny how fast you get to the point of spoiled where you realize you're hungry and think "rats... I can't just walk to a dining room and grab something".

Slept til 11ish today, definitely needed it.  My trip back was even longer than expected.  We left Barcelona at 10am on the 22nd, that went smoothly *it is my experience that all international flights are pretty good about being on time, unlike domestic flights which are a constant cluster frell*.  I slept a little on that flight and we got in on time.  Headed to our next gates and shortly there after a storm rolled up.  Now, they said the cancellations were all weather related, which gave them an out to be a-holes to us, but that was after they said my flight was initially delayed because my flight crew's aircraft in was diverted to another airport due to aircraft issues.

After cancellations they gave me the option to leave JFK (AA) and head to Laguardia, at my own expense - thanks assholes, to catch a flight on Delta.  I joined up w/ a few others to split the cost of a taxi and got to LGA just in time for THAT flight to also get cancelled.  I waited it out in the line and got slid into the last flight back to DCA that evening at 9pm, a full 5 hours after I was suppose to leave.  Now, keep in mind, because I switched airports I had to get my luggage and take it over there.  They of course wanted to charge me for a checked bag because my international flight was on AA, not Delta.  I was still tense waiting for it as other flights were cancelled from there and nothing left there until about 40 minutes before my flight was to load up.  I did eventually get on and we headed out, but my luggage did not.  How did they NOT get my luggage on there when it was w/ me and there more than 4 hours ahead of time?  Only like 10 bags came off of that aircraft.

Further, note that on my trip TO Barcelona my flight from DCA to JFK was also significantly delayed, so much so that when I arrived at JFK and had to go from one tip of the U shaped terminal to the other I had to RUN the whole way just to join the very tail end of the line of people walking onto the aircraft.  Dani's was tight too due to weather coming from DFW, but not quite as tight as mine.  Regardless, I made it by the skin of my teeth - and my luggage was, much to my surprise, there in Barcelona with me!

The Delta baggage folks at DCA were so confused that I wasn't staying there, and further so when I said "home" was in PA.  They did at least ship it to me, and it arrived darn near a full 24 hours after I got to DCA - in one piece, so that's an unexpected blessing.

Also before I left I didn't get the Durango back, I'll be waiting to hear that total bill tomorrow.  Better still, the day I was to leave I tossed two blankets into the washing machine.  When I returned from work they hadn't drained and rinsed out.  My washer is now on the blitz, I have two soaked heavy blankets, and need to get the hell out of here to drop off the girls and get to Kirkus'.  Ended up manually draining the washer and leaving the squeezed out blankets in the tub.  That boded for a rather stinky house, but it was my only real option and off I went.

Without the Durango, the Tib is now loaded with dog fur again.  *sigh*  I felt quite bad too as Vixen sure didn't want to stay at camp.  Poor kid.

Casa de Rex is a pretty nice pre-flight hotel:  comfy bed, freshly made chocolate chip cookies upon arrival, all the amenities.  He'd best be careful or I'll end up there every time!  As a result of my later than expected return adventures I ended up crashing there for a few short hours upon my return as well, before heading home just in time to get the girls bright and shiny Saturday morning.  They slept pretty much all day, and are still wiped out.  I'd imagine it's tough to sleep at the kennel w/ the other dogs barking and acting a fool.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

We had a short day in Monte Carlo, Monaco today.  Before getting off the ship we met up with Kay and Tito for breakfast.  It was quite easy to get to the bus stop and buy a pass here.  I kind of wish we had a full day here as I felt rushed.  There isn't a ton in Monte Carlo, but the views are worth the time.  We stopped first at the Casino to get pictures out front and of Hotel Paris, then out over the water.

From there back on the bus we headed to the Jardin Exotique, arriving just minutes before it opened.  There was plenty to see here on the cliff-side gardens, but I don't think there was as much variety as I expected, just lots of similar cactii etc.  We stuck around to do the first tour of the caves there too, which was included.  I had to marvel that they don't lecture you to not touch things or break them off, and it looks like lots of people break things off.  250 steps down, at least this grotto was nice and cool!  As with most everything, it's so different than here in the US, there aren't rails on walk ways to protect you from your own idiocy and they don't bitch at you for touching/photographing etc.

Back on the bus we headed to the area of the Cathedral and palace... time didn't allow for us to find Princess Grace and Prince Rainier's graves, so we just headed straight to the palace for the exciting 2-minute changing of the guard.  Along the way we stopped briefly at the chocolate store and bought some evil delights - I think the delay by the horde of oriental travelers that inundated the place behind us is what did in us finding the graves.

Regardless from there we hopped back on the bus to the stop nearest the port and headed back on board for a shower and a nap for the girl - while I got packing.  Tonight's show was called circle of two and was by FAR our favorite even though it was a short show since it was the last one.  Long story short this guy comes out carrying what looks like a doll, but it's actually a woman, he just heaves her around with such ease!  He's trying to set up the little ballerina on the pedestal and this that and the other ensues.  Good stuff, I found myself smiling throughout.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Today we tendered at La Spezia, near Livorno - which is where we ported the last time in the Pisa/Florence area.  It is a bit further to Pisa/Florence than Livorno, so I opted for us to visit the villages of Cinque Terre.  We tendered in and took a ship tour.  I would have planned to visit them on my own, but with the mudslides last fall I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of what was in order.  Everything is VERY much so cleaned up and the villages are all very picturesque, but they pretty much all blend together, similar looking houses and a church in the middle.  Once again here they are all mixed up in my head.

We drove along the gulf, again windy tight roads and then arrived in Manarola, the second village, from where we walked along the lover's path to the first village, Vernazza.  It was quite a nice walk, but felt very rushed.  I am always reminded of why I hate ship tours once I'm back on one - 40-50 ppl, so rush rush rush, then stand around and wait for everyone to reconvene.

We then moved on to a ferry boat which took us to Monterosso where we got to taste a little pesto and some local wines then do some shopping and wandering around.  Back on the ferry we then road to Portovenere, pausing at a little cave where we saw some teenagers cliff diving.  BACK on another ferry (I was quite sick of these by the time we got back to the port and needed to tender back) to the port.

This was my last chance to find an Italy sweatshirt that wasn't for the futbol team, and I was successful despite the tourist shops not having much in the way of typical tourist items!  It is the one thing I had wished I had bought when I was there the last time.  I also purchased a small crystal heart shaped orange and red pendant at a store where we also bought little rose earrings for Dani.  Everywhere we went we indulged with a small snack - pastries or gellato, etc.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Unlike the last time I was in Rome, we were at a less busy spot in the port, we probably could have walked out easily, but instead took he free shuttle at 8am, which I also think was earlier than they started running the last time.  We made the earliest train we could and got off at the San Pietro station before 10.  This train was PACKED.  We walked to St. Peter's Square and I was surprised the lines weren't like the last time.  We moved pretty quickly inside St Peter's and had plenty of time to take it all in.  Snagged a couple of post cards, which I had already gotten postage for, and wrote them up quickly to mail from Vatican City before we headed for the Scavi tour.

You'd think it would be cool underground like that but it was not it was warm and humid, but it was easily mid-90's outside in Rome.  This was very far the neatest thing we did... The history given to us was awesome, I had not realized that St Peter's bones were truly found right there where the Vatican sits, and we were even able to see the container where they're housed from a bit of a distance.  As you move up into the grottos you can see where all of the popes are laid to rest.  VERY VERY cool... Dani enjoyed the church as well.

From there we walked around the wall to the Museum.  I'll admit, if we could have I probably would have cut through to get to the Sistine chapel and not spend much time in the Vatican museums, but in retrospect I am very glad there isn't a shortcut.  There is so very much there.  We didn't go slowly by any stretch, but it still took quite a while to get through and was worth gawking about.  Frankly, the Sistine chapel was a bit of a disappointment at the end.  Everything says you'll get shushed and yelled at for cameras, and they did have us put the cameras away on the way in, but once inside everyone had their phones out and up in the air taking pictures.  Sorry, but if they're doing it, so am I... so snap snap snap.  It was also quite loud.  Amusingly, others we talked to said when they were there they did get shushed and cameras were very much so nixed.  So I guess we got lucky and were there when some guards were on lunch break!

We stopped to grab something to eat and it pretty much sucked... the artichokes I ordered were so salty they were almost inedible and the pizza (yes again) still disappointed Dani.  There was 4 blobs of buffalo motz cheese on it a couple halved cherry tomatoes, and one spring of basil in the middle... no sauce (as I warned her).  It wasn't much to write home about.

Here is the only place we had a bit of a worry during the trip... we made it to the train station (San Pietro) and only two trains left we could take to get back in time.  The later would get us in at 6, the shuttle stopped at 6, and we'd need to hoof it (fast) to the ship by 6:30 - way too tight.  The earlier turned out to be a fast train, which should not have been included on our BIRG ticket.  We took our chances and boarded it anyhow, validating our tickets like good little girls.  I figured they'd check us after we got moving and we'd get in trouble in some way, needing to pay more, but we couldn't afford to wait for the other train.  We did get checked... the guy looked at our tickets for the validation and handed them back thanking us, nothing else said.  Talk about major crisis/worry averted.  I think he was just being nice, very nice.

We were so busy we didn't get to head anywhere else, I really do wish we had had two days there, there is so much in Rome I would have loved to show Dani.

We returned, showering quickly and feeling pretty okay despite the heat and long day.  Another show with the singers and dancers, one I've seen a couple times before - they really need to create a few more shows.  Another free drink at another welcome event for C&A - yay!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Today's stop was in Salerno, Italy - it's near Naples, kind of.  There didn't seem to be easy/fast options to Capri from here, so this time I figured we'd take in the Amalfi coast, and I'm not sad about that decision - it was stunning!  Here again we did a private tour with a family of four I found on Cruise Critic and another older couple.  We met up w/ our tour guide, Paolo, from Joe Banana Limos outside quickly and were on our way.  There were transportation strikes in Sorrento, so he had to reorganize our plan a wee bit and it resulted in us only getting a photo of Sorrento from afar to Dani's dismay as she wanted to find a music box there.

We drove along the coast on the gorgeous winding cliff-side roads.  This is one place where I got all turned around on the order of things.  We did see Positano, Amalfi town, and Ravello (not originally part of the plan) and a lovely little garden with excellent views.  Since we didn't get to Sorrento he also took us to this sweet little place for some good pizza - a stop you wouldn't anticipate being so yummy or having such a good view until you get upstairs.  Dani and I shared a 4-cheeser (she was surprised at it not having sauce, but so it is unless you want margherita or the like) and some lemoncello.  I ended up buying a cute little Cave Canine tile and ceramic lady bug at one stop and a small bottle of cream of lemoncello that we drank after returning to the ship in Monte Carlo.  It was a hot day, for sure.  Paolo gave both Dani and I a small bottle of lemoncello at the end, so there was some extra to bring home.

The other thing to note here is the size of the lemons... holy man!  I had no clue.  I can only imagine how much lemoncello those rinds would help make :)

Tonight's show was a pianist, again, not my favorite, Linda Gentille... she was a bit full of herself, which didn't help me appreciate her show much more.  After dinner we attended the majority rules game show quite tired - or at least I was and then headed off to dream land.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Our last day at sea before another run of three busy busy busy days on land.  Dani slept in, I headed to breakfast to discover this was the chocolate breakfast!  I requested some food to take back with me, hoping to lure her out of bed without too much complaint, a bit late and didn't think I'd get it... but our head waiter ended up coming through with the goods!  I tapped her when I returned to the room, got a glare, and then wafted the chocolate smell in her direction, which was enough to gain her interest and get the day underway.

Today we took in more than the other days at sea including a copy cat game, which I should have volunteered to participate in *rats* and the sexy man competition.  I've got to say there was quite a few nicely built guys on board who participated!  After lunch we snagged tee shirts out on deck, an Italy one for her and a France one for me... yes, I know we aren't going to France on this trip, but we did on my last European sailing, so it worked well.  We sat in on part of an art auction and then headed to bingo... I was at 1 number to win the larger game - RATS!  I'm not much luck when it comes to those things.

Tonight was the first time I took advantage of the diamond 'lounge' before dinner, while the girl was getting ready.  On this ship only wine, champagne, beer, soda for free and a discount on mixed drinks.  It was pretty slow up there, so I chatted with the bar staff assigned to us and did some people watching along the mini-putt, which we never did go do.

The show was Judy Kolba a comedian/singer who was actually quite good - prb my second favorite show of the trip.  After dinner we headed to the centrum for the 70's night celebration guessing which outfit each of the cruise staff would be in.  Carlos ended up the cowboy - he's quite nicely built and Mali our other favorite was the 'military guy'.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

We were up and moving early today for Ravenna, Italy.  Everything I had found online made me believe we could walk out of the port and get to the city center quite easily on our own - not so!  Not only that but the shuttle was $15 a person, which I think is ridiculous, and contrary again to information I found online that said free shuttles.  We wasted some time wandering on our own, not finding the streets called out in my notes before we gave up and came back to learn the truth.

The maps of the town weren't awesome, it seemed like some roads were missing from the maps... maybe I was just tired.  The things I had noted weren't too amazing to see and we were leery of trying to go in to see the mosaics because we were in shorts. I made Dani take over the maps because I was 'done' with this town before we even got there thanks to the bad notes, so she navigated us around a bit.  I also made her attempt to procure her own bottle of water from a grocery store we wandered through.  I purposely gave her more change than she needed and you should have seen the look the cashier gave her when she dropped all of it (almost double what she needed) into her hand at the checkout!

Long story short neither of us were a fan of Ravenna and the best thing we found there was some gellato.  We, and many others we talked to back on board, wish that this had been our day at sea, followed by an over night in Civitavecchia (Rome).

We were happy to come back a bit early to soak our feet in the hot tub and grab some grub at the sea view cafe before showering and getting ready for the second formal night.  Tonight was all about embarrassing Dani - first the magician show used her keep hold of a 'can' in which he had a couple of items as part of his act.  Needless to say for the rest of the trip people would meet us saying "oooh, Danielle has the can!"  From there we watched the sun set and headed to dinner where they brought her dessert with a candle and singing, much to her dismay.

Shortly after dinner there was a midnight buffet of which I did not partake, but we went up briefly to dance and enjoy things.  Another fond memory of the cruise staff, Carlos, is his 'dance' that he used for every type of music.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Day 2 in Venice I convinced the girl to get up a bit early so we could head to St Mark's Square straight away since our 24-hour pass expired around 1pm.  It was SO crowded during sail in the day before I was worried, but it didn't seem as bad there.  We walked around the square and then started following the signs to the Rialto bridge, not getting as lost as I expected.  There is lots of shopping to be had along the way for those interested, on the bridge as well which reminded me a bit of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence (spelling?).  Across the bridge we stopped, snagging some fresh cherries and a watermelon drink from a vendor and watching the pigeons stroll around.

We continued walking and got to the market area of the San Marco district, which always interests me, I love seeing all of the fresh goodies and interesting purchase options.  From there we took another vaporetto along the grand canal, hoping off for a little more aimless walking and exploring then back to the station and ship.  We had until around 7pm that we could have stayed out, but I think we were both a bit too tuckered and gave in early.  It was nap for the girl and hot tub for me once again.

Venice is quite nice, I think it was Dani's favorite stop.  I'd be happy to go back, that's for sure.  I guess it would be better if you could bask in the romantic aspects of Venice too.  Meh.  I was surprised I never smelled the canals.

Tonight's show was a violinist - which is like nails on a chalk board for me.  I guess it's the rubbing on the metal strings... he was good, but there were still spots where it sounds sqwalky to me.

I also wanted to comment a bit on our dinner waiters, Gonzalo and Zoran.  I really liked Zoran, he remembered my preferences and would bring me iced tea each night etc whereas Gonzalo seemed to always be rushing us, even though we always got there pretty on time and were the last to get our food amongst his tables.  Usually when you're finished things get whisked away quickly and you're on to the next course, for us we'd wait for things to be cleared and wait for the next round - dinner taking nearly 2 hours each night.  The smaller tables would be on dessert and we had not yet gotten our main course, their desserts before them while our food sat on the tray after it finally came out for 5-10 minutes.  I have to admit that was a bit disappointing... but it's hard to say where all of the blame lies.  It seemed like the waiter would go to get our food and be gone for forever.  It was also so late that we often had little option for replacements as the kitchen was out or closing down by the time we got our meals so we were again rushed to check that meat was cooked, things were still hot, etc.  It was also readily apparent that the two did NOT like each other and were at each other's throats.  That's not a good thing.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Day one in Venice we were able to get off the ship around 12:30.  It was a bit of a hoof to the Termini where we could get a Venice card ticket which would give us unlimited use of the vaporettos/traghettos.  It's a bit like the metro to get around (sign wise etc) and we screwed up on our first trip, heading in the wrong direction, but quickly got the whole thing down and were on our way to Fondamente Nove and off to the surrounding islands including:
San Michelle - the walled cemetery which was also pretty darn neat
Murano -  where we walked around a bit.  Glass blowing was only from 10-12 so we didn't get to see that.
Burano - where we also walked around a bit.  We did see one woman working lace here, so that was neat.  We also saw teenagers pull up in their boat at one point.  I mean, it makes sense, teenagers drive here, too, but it seemed odd at first.  Amusingly they had pink carpet and fuzzy dice in their boat!  We picked up a lacey looking Venetian mask for Dani and a small lace (obviously not hand made given the reasonable price) butterfly for me.

We did spend a lot of time on vaporettos as a result, so I'm glad we got these in on the first day.  That with our longer walk back to the ship brought us in at 8, just enough time to clean up.  Oddly, since we were overnight in this port we didn't eat at our regular dinner table and they didn't have a normal show.  Instead of the show they had the newlywed game this evening, which I missed a good chunk of to get cleaned up from a warm day.  For dinner you head in at will like you do at lunch time.  We ended up at a dinner table w/ a couple from Ireland and 3 couples from South Africa.

Of the South African couples 3/6 ppl had issues with something being stolen or attempted to be stolen in Barcelona!  I got a bit of a laugh during the conversation when NASCAR came up and the one tried to explain to the other the difference between it and stock car type racing.  She ended up saying it's kind of zef which promptly led to me noting that I had fallen for the band Die Antwoord.  Turned out the gentleman closest to me knows Yolandi's father, who is a minister!  They recommended a few other bands for me to check out (fokofpolisiekar and snothead/snotnose - at least that's what it translates to) that I'll need to see about, so that was a fun and interesting meal. After dinner we went up for 'pub night' which was basically sing alongs.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Today we stopped at Split, Croatia, where we had a private tour booked with folks I found on Cruise critic to the Krka National Park and waterfalls.  Turns out Kay and Tito (our travel mates) were in the room right next to us!  Not realizing as diamond I could sneak off on the earlier tenders we waited for the first one they'd allow us on after tours went, which put us a half an hour behind on our schedule, but our travel mates were also on this tender.

We met up w/ our guide getting off the tender and off we went for the 1.5 hour drive to Krka.  It's not the most picturesque area/drive, but it wasn't awful. I felt a bit rushed along the loop at the falls by the guide, but it was still nice.  I guess I expected taller falls than what we saw.  Due to being a bit late we didn't get to jump in for a few, so be it.

We did get back with a little time to spare so we walked over to the Diocletian's Palace area that is RIGHT at the port area and took that in quickly even though I had deleted those notes since I didn't anticipate getting to look around there.

Dani decided to be all energetic when we got back and went for a run on the treadmill while I instead went and soaked in the hot tub for a few.  Today I added the start of a series of sun-induced headaches to my overall bodily discontent.  I probably had 6 or 7 days where I came back with a tension headache tightening up the back of my neck making it tough to move my head around and throbbing up behind my eyes like it wanted to turn into a migraine.  Fun times but something I know comes with the sun for me.  Maybe I really am a vampire.

Tonight's show was a production show, first of two.  I recognize the one male singer from another trip - he may have been on Freedom in the fall as Dani also recognized him.  He's one that reminded me of an old friend.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Second day at sea, so we slept late again - or at least tried to.  Girl-child could since she didn't hear the pounding noise resonating up through the ship, I couldn't.  On my way to breakfast I heard a woman saying to her husband how SAD it is to see some older woman traveling by herself with all of the couples and families... I wanted to spin around and note to her that every day we get to see the couples and families, and up yours and your pity.  Freaking people.  Being a bit tired that put me in a bit of a mood for a little while.

We ended up at a talk on Rome in the afternoon where I was falling asleep and listening still to the pounding.  Back to the room for a nap and I couldn't take it any longer - so I called to the front desk and the pounding stopped within 15 minutes.  Not sure where it was coming from but it rattled up through quite effectively.

Today was a welcome back reception for Crown and Anchor (yay another free drink) and a show/tribute to Nat King Cole.  Not my speed, but he was good.  We also hit a finish that lyric game show.  At this point I started to not feel so excellent and had major stomach issues happening.  I certainly didn't feel on top of my game for a good portion of this trip, but I wasn't sick sick at least.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Two days at sea to start out our sailing, this has to be nice for those just arriving and adjusting to the time zone.  We did sleep a bit late today and took it quite leisurely.  It seems like all we did that day was eat, eat, and eat some more.  We did hit up an Italian lesson w/ Carlos from the entertainment staff, who ended up being one of our favorites - he also did the trivia the day before and quickly started making sure to interact with us every time we saw him.  Great personality - looks and sounds a bit like Borat, which made it quite amusing.

We were going to take in Captain America in the theatre, but they ended up playing Harry Potter.  Which would be great, as I hadn't seen the last movie the whole way through (never did by the end of the trip either, just bits and pieces on the TV) but it ended up being in Spanish w/o subtitles.  FAIL.

Another nap today... are you sensing a theme?  And then readying for the evening.  It was the first formal night, so we attended the Captain's welcome aboard.  It shouldn't matter, but I was quite proud to be sailing on the first cruise ship w/ a female captain and it was nice to get to see/hear her.

The new dinner table was excellent - before we even sat down we were greeted and I couldn't have been more relieved.  There was two sisters w/ their husbands (a bit older), a mother/daughter, and a British couple - all who were very easy to converse with and made the rest of our dinners quite the pleasure.  They were suppose to sing to Dani tonight "happy graduation" and embarrass the hell out of her, but I suspect that info didn't get transferred with out moved table, so I noted it another night w/ our wait staff and we instead embarrassed her another night.

The show this evening was an Abba cover band (AbbaMax), which was cool - but a sign of things to come.  I don't feel the diversity in shows is where it normally is on this sailing, but they were mostly good performances.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

We metro'ed to Jaume, in the barri gotic to the church I mentioned the past few days.  The service we headed to was (according to information I found online) suppose to be in English, but it definitely was NOT.  I believe it was Catalonia, not Spanish.  We did our best and got by, despite being confused by the different actions there.  There were chunks of nuns in front of us and off to the left of us - not everyone stood/kneeled/sat at the same time, which made it difficult to follow along w/ the mass.

The church is quite amazing inside, so very old and intricate.  I wish we could have hung out there and took photos inside, especially of the large pipe organ on the one wall.  As promised, a bit of normalcy for the girl on our way back - we stopped in a local place to grab a pastry and then went across the street to the starbucks for coffee before heading back to the hotel on the metro and get ourselves to the ship.

Of course, once on board, we headed to the windjammer (since the rooms were not ready) and grubbed some honey stung chicken - one of my very favorite delights on board.  We got to the room and took a nap while waiting for our luggage.  I snuck out at some point and hung up a door sign reading "congrats grad" to embarrass the kid and met our room attendant, Garfield, who brought us our luggage before the muster drill.

Turns out Garfield did a great job.  We didn't get to talk to him much, but we didn't see him much, which I guess is the perfect attendant - transparent.  If we needed things he'd respond to a note quickly and was on top of giving us things we needed each day.  The only disappointment there is that my special package was not there (which I had forgotten about until the end of the cruise).  When I booked they had a deal going where I should have had champagne and flowers in the room upon arrival.  No huge loss, but still a small bummer.

We unpacked quickly after the muster drill and headed up on deck for sail away.  Since we left from Europe girl-child was allowed to booze it, so she sipped (tried) a corona while I took in a BBC and got our first taste of the goofiness of our entertainment staff.

Our dinner isn't til 9, so we swung past the solarium for a small bite on the way back to the room to get ready for the evening.  We rocked out the trivia, scoring a highly coveted plastic key chain, hit the welcome aboard show (Los Pampos Gauchos) who I think I've seen two other times at this point but was still good.  Amusingly we saw them through out the rest of the trip and the one was even working the tee shirt stand, so that was odd.  For the first time EVER, RC didn't do a stellar job setting up our dinner table.  It was us, two empty seats, a british couple who may have been nice but were a bit too far to talk to, 4 oriental family members who kept switching to their language, and a couple (who we later found out were from Miami) who kept speaking Spanish to one another - talking about the table/people from what I could pick up.  ... and no one spoke to anyone else.  I simply couldn't deal w/ this for 12 nights so I asked for a new table for the next day.

So let's talk about the ship.  I was on Serenade for my second cruise, with mom to Hawaii, back in 2004.  For her age she's in really good shape.  I made sure to go up to the 13th floor for a quick picture of the swirly mirror wall that I so adored back in 2004.  If I could have a wall like that I would!  You'll spot it in my posted pictures when they're up.  We did notice some oddities and issues here and there.  One that disappointed me is that the projection wall in the centrum was not on the entire time we were on board ( I have to assume it was broken), I consider it part of the centrum art, so that made me sad.  In our room someone had a heavy ass finger and busted the on/off button on the TV and two of the buttons on our safe.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

For our second full day in Barcelona and on the HOHO we were up and moving by around 9.  Needed to get out there to make a stop at Mercat de Sant Josep and see our buddy at Pinotxo for a xiuxo... ok 1 1/2 each, and some cafe.  At first the girl didn't get it, but by the second bite her eyes were opened and she understood fully why we waited to get a spot at this crowded little joint.  From there we again walked back up to Catalunya and got back on the blue bus loop.

This time we stopped at Casa Batllo and La Pedrera, going into each.  Casa Batllo had a reasonably short line, so no worries there that we hadn't pre-booked.  Lots of interesting woodwork and neat design elements here to be seen.  Again a bit steep, but I'd still say worth the entry fee to enjoy.  La Pedrera on the other hand I think was way over priced.  The roof is way cool, but the rest doesn't compensate and the views of La Sagrada some folks out there posted that you get were a let down.  For those trying to plan a day in Barcelona, my advice is to take in Casa Batllo inside and out and stop for some photos outside of La Pedrera only.  Back on blue again to take in even more Gaudi at Parc Guell.  I have to admit I wasn't sure what to expect here and it was more than I had anticipated, I'm VERY glad we stopped.  We didn't explore every path, but did take in a good bit - best part, it's free :)

We opted to skip everything else on blue, including Barca (futbol stadium), and changed back over to the red at the Francesa Macio Diagonal stop, riding the whooooole way back around to Barri Gotic and back to the church area as I had heard there might be Sardana dancing there Saturday evenings ... sure enough a band was set up playing and several circles (large and small) were going at it.  [Note this is not my video, but it gives you an idea of what we saw/heard.]

From there we took a similar stroll back to the hotel, but the whole way to the bottom of Las Ramblas first, and then I fought to keep Dani awake.  We noticed outside there was some type of street festival on Paral*lel, including stages/bands, but some things were already closing down.  We walked up Paral*lel for some dinner around 9 - the typical meal time there - and ended up, of all places, in a chinese restaurant.  It wasn't awful, but it wasn't Szechuan either.

Out of my own curiosity, to use up more of our metro cards, and to have some photos of it all lit up to share w/ Doug, who was so intrigued by it, we took the metro (after dinner) to Torre Agbar.  From there we came back, got cleaned up and packed up, and hit the hay.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Arrived in Barcelona bright and early.  We sat at the airport for a little while to exchange our HOHO confirmation for tickets (needlessly).  From there we hit the RENFE and onto the metro to get to our hotel (Hostal BCN Port).  It was pretty easy to find and in as good of a location as I had hoped - very close to Colum (Christopher Columbus statue where we could pick up the HOHO), near the Paral*lel metro stop, and a reasonably short walk over to Las Ramblas.  The room was small, as expected, but it's way nicer than I'd expect from a hostal and clean - that's the key part.  Would I stay there again, yes!

They allowed us to leave our bags even though it was so early and we couldn't check in so we then headed out, a bit tired, but not as bad as the last time I visited.  I did eventually pull out the 5 hour energy type drinks for us to get through the first day and get on their schedule (6 hours difference).

As mentioned, the HOHO stop was close so we jumped on the red line there and headed for the green line, the one we didn't even run on the last time I visited.  From there we stopped at Par Diagonal Mar, which had some unique stuff, but it wasn't much of a motivation for taking the green line (in hind sight).  Now, the next stop, Cementiri del Poblenou was pretty nifty.  Yes, I like cemeteries, I love seeing the really old graves and taking in how well cared for they are even today by remaining family members.  It was a cool stop.  From there, back to the red line and heading towards the Barri Gotic.

We wandered there a bit aimlessly, peeking at the cathedral that we planned to attend services at on Sunday before getting on the ship, seeing the old roman wall still partially there, and walked across to Las Ramblas, eating at a little place on the way there which was quite disappointing.  We strolled up Las Ramblas to Placa Catalunya where both the red and blue lines stop and jumped on the blue.  We were scheduled to go into La Sagrada Familia at 4, and this got us there around 3:20ish.  We walked the outside again, like I did a few years ago (without hunting for a photo card *laugh*) and then headed in.  The entry fee is a bit steep, but it was pretty impressive inside and I know my fee is really a donation to keep the building going.  I'm very happy to have gotten to go inside on this one!  From there we jumped back on the blue line, riding it the whole way around just taking things in.  Dani crapped out somewhere along the way, giving me fond memories of snapping photos of Doug and Kirk passing out on the blue line 2 1/2 years ago :)  We came the whole way back around to Catalunya and then walked back down Las Ramblas and to the side roads to get back to the hotel, stopping long enough for a quick gellato.

She wiped out, I showered (I think it was the best feeling shower of my lifetime) and by 8 we were in for the night.  No English TV stations, so I had an interesting time watching a game show and reading a bit of one of my magazines before wiping out myself.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Feeling a bit paranoid the past few days.  I've always believed that when one thing goes others will follow, all to culminate in a large lump sum at the tail end.  So I've been doing the "has the fridge always made that sound when it's running?" and dreaming of finding leaks in my roof leading to soaked ceilings.
I did get my paperwork submitted for the scholarship that I'd need to consider going after that second Masters degree.  So that's out of my hair, but one more thing I will be waiting to hear on.
In the mean time, today my body is in such revolt that I've had to run to the bathroom not once (as I normally do) but twice so far feeling like I'm going to vomit.  If I don't get to find Mr. Wonderful in this lifetime and don't need the girl-parts the least they can do is not torment me.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Oh Durango.
Steel line was blown out... and 3 or 4 others are looking pretty rusted and ready to go as well.  So that caused the issues on Thursday.  Then the inspection leads us to the following that all needs handled to pass:  left and upper ball joints, right front wheel bearing, rear brakes/rotor (last year was front), backing plates both sides, left rear axle seal.  Not needed for inspection, but the ac wasn't getting cold again, so we're replacing the expansion valve again.  Ouch.  Don't want this bill.  I guess it's good that I can't have it back for a while.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Last night I capped off my week with a massage that has properly left me like tenderized meat, a bit tender and all.  From there I had Rey's with Eggs, yum!  Haven't had it in quite a while and was overdue.  This left me a bit full and lazy, couple that with the cooler temps and I didn't walk last night.  I'm thinking I need to turn the heat back on, since it's 66 in here now and the weather is calling for 60's the rest of the week.  Anyhow, I did however promise myself I'd be up this morning.  Keeping myself honest, I was up early to walk, run a load in the washer to clean up the bedsheets, and shower/wash my hair before heading out for a pedi.  Then on to lunch w/ Slips and Beff.  All of this eating out is definitely making it difficult to see a change on the scale.

Once back here I had a headache starting to take hold so I went down for a bit of a nap to allow the meds to take over.  That pretty much brings us here.  I really should try to get a few more things done, but I'm chilly and not feeling it.  Maybe tonight can be a leisurely movie night or something.

I didn't hear back on the Durango Friday.  She was in the bay when I swung by Friday night to drop off the  card for inspection that arrived.  Poor girl.  At least she's comfy in a garage.