Tuesday, June 30, 2009

At Sea, Tuesday

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009 – At Sea

Ahhh…we slept in today until around 10:00 (even though Mikeo knocked at 9:!5 and we blamed Morgan). I took Morgan to the doctor as her foot was really bothering her and she said she couldn’t put weight on her ankle. The facility was much better than I thought it would be. I thought it would be a small room, but they seemed to have quite extensive equipment and rooms.

We didn’t understand how the medical center works though, and they were closing 6 minutes after we got there. There was also no doctor there except for 2 hours a day. There was a crew doc there, and he saw Morgan to start with. He x-rayed her right foot, and then he called the passenger doctor in. The doc took us to his office and said that it was fractured and that he needed to splint it. UGH. I tried to get an air cast or anything else, so he said that he would x-ray the left foot to compare it to the right. Unfortunately, he came back and said for sure that it was fractured, and that even though it is a small fracture, it is a fracture nonetheless. UGH. So, he splinted it and gave Morgan crutches. He said that she cannot put weight on it. Hmmmm……This is going to be interesting.

We didn’t do much in the day time after that, but Mike and I did do our 2 miles of walking and running. We had dinner in the dining hall, and they had surf and turf. It was delicious (Morgan and Mike had the same thing). After dinner, we went to the Filipino Crew Show, and it was awesome. We got to learn a little more about the culture by hearing some songs like the National Anthem, and we were also entertained by some dancing. Boozee, a bartender on the cruise, was the host. He did a great job. Also, Edwin, our wine steward was in 5 of the 7 acts. He was awesome. There was also an amazing Elvis impersonator. He was really great. We had a fun time, and it was great to watch the crew have so much fun performing.

We go to bed after discussing what in the world we are going to for the tours with Morgan in her crutches. She is not very good at the crutches, and she has fallen on them several times.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday, Santorini, Greece

Monday, June 29, 2009 – Santorini

Pictures are HERE.

Today, we didn’t dock until noon which was really nice. Grams knocked on our door at 10:00 and was completely dismayed that we were still in bed. Ahhh…sleeping late. What a nice change. To avoid the wrath of Grams, I got ready and went to eat breakfast with the fam. It was really crowded, so we ate with a couple from the Netherlands.

We left for our tour around 12:20. We took a boat in from the big ship to the dock. It was pretty rough getting out of the tender, and an older man almost fell flat on his face. I was thankful that right after that, they stopped people from exiting and tied the boat to the dock again.

Our tour was one of my favorites. We went to the highest point where a monastery is, and the scenery was FABULOUS. We walked around and took some pictures. Seeing the terraces (rock walls) and the white buildings with blue domed churches everywhere was such an amazing sight. We saw a few donkeys, some fig trees, olive trees, and grape shrubs (they make them into shrubs there).

We went to the town of Oia after crossing across the narrowest part of the island where you can see both sides. There are three types of volcano rock – red, brown, and black. It is a spectacular sight to see the different colors in the cliffs. The town of Oia was charming, and I could see spending a week there. We shopped (I got two necklaces, a slider for my other necklace, and some earrings), took pictures, and went in a little café.

We went from Oia (pronounced eee-ya) to Fira. We did a little shopping, Morgan got some gelato, and we walked toward the cable car to get back to the ship (it moved while we were in port). Mike let us know that he and Tracy had arrived in Fira after their ATV drive, and we met at the Kastro Café on the top of the cliff in Fira. As we were walking to the café, Morgan stumbled on the cobblestone and hurt her ankle. We had to help her get back to the ship. We had a few glasses of wine and headed back to the ship.

We ate in the dining hall and saw a beautiful sunset (supposedly they are the best here although we heard the same thing in Corfu). I had mahi mahi with some crab legs, and Mike had veal cordon bleu. Morgan had the “perfectly grilled chicken.” There was a party on the lido deck, so we went up there to check it out. They had chocolate fountains (Biko, I was good and so was Mark) and lots of other desserts. They also had line dancing, and I got to do the Cupid Shuffle. We were thinking that we need Mikeo to do the YMCA when they were doing it, but he and Tracy stayed in town for dinner.

We sailed at 11:00 pm, and I think we were all excited to have a relaxing day at sea the next day. Morgan’s ankle/foot was still bothering her and was kind of swollen. I hope it is better tomorrow.

Sunday, Argostoli, Greece

Sunday- Argostoli, June 28th, 2009

Pictures are HERE.

Today, we docked in Argostoli, Greece in Cephalonia (kefalonia) which was the location used for the movie Captain Corelli’s Mandolin with Nicolus Cage. The island is the famous resting place of Odysseus from Illiad and Odyssey. As we pulled into port, the water was smooth as ice, and the view was beautiful. You could see the white buildings with orangish roofs in the distance, and mountains all around. Mike and I didn’t go walk because we had to meet at 7:40 this morning to leave for our tour. We have been finishing our walk/run about that time, so we knew we would have to get up way too early for vacation. We had breakfast delivered to the room again. I had my same special K with skim milk and banana. Mike planned to prepare a croissant using the eggs and cheese, but the croissants were tiny so he just ate it.

We had to tender into port which means you ride in the lifeboat to the shore. I was so happy to see that roughly 100 people were on the boat comfortably, so I feel better that our 16 group could make it on the lifeboat if necessary. Of course, I am really hoping that we don’t need them at all.

Once we were onshore, “white 5” which was the sticker we wore to identify our group got on a bus. We had a good guide who was easy to understand (from England), talked enough but not too much, and was interesting with some humor. He spoke a lot about the Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and I decided that I wanted to watch it.

The first stop was to an underwater cave at Lake Melissani. We went down into the cave (on Astroturf on top of the rocks), and then we got into a boat. There was a man rowing, and he sang some of the time. He took pictures, and he rowed us around. He did hit me in the head a few times, but he was otherwise good. We went into the cave, and we could see the beautiful structures hanging. It was apparently damaged some by the 1953 earthquake, but it wasn’t as badly damaged as the rest of the island. It had to be rebuilt almost entirely.

We continued on a very steep and winding road that gave great views down. However, I nodded off a few times as it was so relaxing with the turns and the guide speaking so soothingly. The views were really nice though.

We arrived at a small town, Fiskardo, that didn’t get as damaged in the earthquake, so it still had Venetian architecture. It was a nice harbor town with shops and restaurants. I bought a pretty plate to hang on the wall. I also bough the Captain Corelli movie, so that we could see what the guide was referring to during the trip. Mike got some Greek snacks from the deli and said that they tasted authentic. :)

We had to do a bit of a rush to get back to the bus, and the steps and uphill were determined to be a 3 man effort because it made everyone breathe hard. We have laughed a lot about the one, two, and three man pictures used in the cruise brochure to represent how difficult the effort will be on the tour.

We rode the bus back into Argostoli and stopped to take pictures of a famous European beach. It was beautiful with the blue water, white sand, and spectacular scenery. We also saw a couple of fish farms and some goats on the way down. We could also see where the original town of Argostoli was by the remains, and we could understand why they moved lower. The city is still on a fault line, so we are hoping that they stay earthquake free for a long time.

We took the tender back to the boat, and we went straight to the Lido deck for lunch. I had cashew chicken and rice from the Asian place, Morgan had a hamburger, and Mike had some Asian, cheese and crackers, and a salad. You can’t beat that variety.

We set sail at 3, and it was a beautiful sunny afternoon as we departed. The sea is calm, and the atmosphere is just stunning.

For dinner, we ate in the dining hall, and I had prime rib. It was delicious. Morgan had prime rib too. After dinner, Mike, Mark, Tracy, Mike, and I went to the Pub Crawl. It was AWESOME. It costs $20, and you go as a group to 5 different bars where you get 5 different drinks. Every time the leader says “Pub Crawl” everyone has to yell “Pub Crawl at the top of their lungs. We started in the piano bar and had a wayne wayne or wang wang or something like that. It was fruity and pretty good. Then, we went to the top of the ship and had a chocolate martini. We also had to pass a lemon using your neck at that point, and it was a lot of fun. Team 1 was the victor which was our team. Next, we went to the pool bar and had a long island tea. After that, we journeyed to the Northern Lights bar which is the dance club for a Kamikaze. Even the bartenders joined in at that point. We ended up in the Queens Lounge where we had battle of the sexes. Mike G was one of the three men picked to be on stage, and he was hysterical. Basically, the host asked questions and the three guys and the three girls got points not on whether the answer was right but on how many of their answers were the same. So, they had to try to answer what the others said. They were questions like, “what does the ms stand for in front of the ship name, what does a woman notice first about a man (and vice versa), what is the name of another Holland America ship, etc.” It was really fun.

After that, we went to the casino to find Papa. He was at the craps table but it wasn’t going so well. We played “Let it ride” poker (both of us had never played that one), and then we played three card. I was down about 40 bucks after both. Papa went to bed, and Mike and I went to the Roulette table. It was a lot of fun. We both ended up ahead for the day. J 25 and 13 were hot numbers. What a great day.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mike and Morgan near argostoli Greece.

No Internet. Will write later, taking lots of pictures and loving
every minute. Did pub crawl on ship tonight and had a blast.

Morgan near Argostoli, Greece

View of beach near Argostoli, Greece

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday, Corfu, Greece

Saturday, June 27th, 2009 - Corfu

Pictures are HERE.

Mike and I got up and did our 2 miles of walking/running before our trip to Corfu. We thought we were doing good on time, but somehow we were rushing right as we needed to meet the family. Mike couldn’t find his flip flops, and he was stressing. He was crabby, crabby, and then Mom told me that I needed a towel. OOPS. I thought we were getting on the way out. I rush off to get a towel while Mike looks for his flip flops. We agree to meet at the exit of the ship since we are doing a private tour with someone Tracy recommended. We wait for a while for Mike, but we don’t see him. I go to call the room, and he comes down the stairs. He can’t find his key (you need it to get off the ship), so he needs my key to get his key. After a while, he finally comes back and says that he had to get a new one at the desk. Bummer.

We leave the ship and head into the port. We find Michelle, our guide, at the rental car area. It was sprinkling rain, and we were all a bit nervous about the weather. She had rented a van to drive us in. There were a lot of police in the town as the NATO summit was there, but Michelle didn’t seem to care as she ran red lights (“it is ok as the police are not paying attention to us.” We laughed and laughed as she drove a bit crazy but told us it was ok because nobody else cared. We thought oncoming traffic might care, but I guess not on Corfu. That is just the way that they drive. J She told us that Hillary Clinton was supposed to be there for the NATO Summit, but she didn’t come because of her arm (she broke it). It was pretty cool to see all of the police out in force.

Tracy had done Corfu before with our guide Michelle, so they had planned a fantastic day of activities. We went to a harbor first, and we got on a glass bottom boat. It was quite chilly as we started, and since we planned to swim in the sea, we were all thinking that wasn’t going to happen. We saw some amazing green hillsides – green everywhere. We also saw some really cool islands (one were Ulysses apparently crashed his ship). It was really beautiful. We also saw an amazing cave, and the captain of the boat even put the boat all the way inside one of the caves so we could see it up close. He was great at driving and got us right back out of there with seeming ease.

Then, we landed on a beach. The captain put us right on the beach with the ladder right at the water’s edge. Amazing. We all climbed down on to the rocky surface (not sandy beach, rocky but beautiful), and we admired the Ionian sea in the Mediterranean. The water was so blue, and the rocks were very interesting. Morgan and Mike swam in the water for quite a while. Mikeo, Mark, Tracy, and Papa went in waist deep. Grams and I just went in on our legs. The water was cold. I wasn’t so concerned about being in the water as I was concerned about freezing on the boat ride back after getting wet. As it would happen, the sun came out as if it were just for us (we were very luckya according to Michelle and the gods were shining on us). It warmed up and was a gorgeous day. We each were to find a rock for Michelle to make into a souvenir before we left the beach. There was a little fisherman hideout that we took a picture of Mark in front of to pretend that we stayed there. Lots of great pictures were made, and we drank mimosas on the beach. Amazing to have our own private beach in the Mediterranean for drinks, sun, and some swimming for a while.

On our way out, we saw dolphins. Michelle was so excited, and she said that we were in the area with the most positive energy around and that they hang out there. We were again very lucky and the gods liked us. I didn’t want to tell her that we boat in the gulf often and we almost always see dolphins. J It was still neat to see them. We saw a volcano that sticks up out of the water and the rest of it is under water. It is apparently in a lot of mythical stories. Michelle kept telling Morgan that she was like a beautiful mermaid.

After viewing the amazing scenery, we headed back to the harbor. We drove an amazing drive up the mountain and saw beautiful green mountainsides, narrow roads, olive trees, grape vines, and amazing views to the sea. We parked at the Golden Fox restaurant, and the view was absolutely incredible. I have never eaten somewhere with such a view. I couldn’t stop staring. We sat down, and he brought out some local beer and wine. Then, when we were all starving, he started bringing appetizers. I couldn’t believe how many he brought. The first one was an eggplant dish that had a tomato base and cheese with eggplant. Fabulous. Next, he brought some filet with pepper and mushrooms. Spicy and delicious. Next, he brought some cheese thing that was a square of cheese…drooling…he then brought mussels, and they were so delicious (I am not a huge mussels fan but these were really, really good). There was also a spicy shrimp dish that was great, and a really large Greek salad. Thankfully, he brought bread as Morgan ate a loaf of bread by herself.

As we are all full from the appetizers, he brings the main course of fish (whole fish with the head and teeth and everything) and lobster. We have two big plates of each to share, and the lobster also has some pasta dish on it. Morgan tried the fish with this olive oil stuff they put on it (Made the fish terrific), and she had quite a bit of lobster. It was all fantastic. Morgan got some ice cream at the end (Chocolate of course), and she rated it highly as well.

We went down and looked at the pool that had such an incredible view as you were in the water, and we shopped at a little souvenir shop before we left. On the way down the mountain, we stopped at a little store where I bought a bread basket with olives on it (it folds) and Mike bought some Kumkwat liquor It was rather interesting (we had samples). We are all cracking up as Mikeo comes by and says, “2 minute shopping warning” as he was dying to get out of the store. The store also had some anatomical (men and women) pieces on magnets and as little display pieces, and of course Morgan had to take special note of those giggling the whole time.
Next, Michelle says she will take a shortcut as the traffic is backed up a bit. Next thing we know, we are on a journey through the hillside that was rather long. It was beautiful though. At one point, there is a policeman behind us with his lights on. Papa tries to tell her that at least three times with no acknowledgement from Michelle. Finally, she pulls over and the policeman says “STOP!” Michelle waits for a couple of minutes as some obvious NATO vehicles come by escorted by the police, and then she says, “You know what, we will follow them and we know that we will get there fast.” She jumps in the convoy, and we are all a little frightened and slightly hysterical in laughter. Later, there is a red light, and the car in front of her stops. She screams at him. “Don’t stop. Did you just get your license yesterday? Don’t you know how to drive?” I am beside myself laughing at how someone is bad because they obeyed a stop light. Mike said that they are just decoration in Corfu. :)

We drove by the old and new forts as we headed to the ship. These old buildings were pretty neat. When we finally got to the ship, we were happy, tired, sunned, and FULL. We decided that we didn’t need our dinner reservations. Michelle came and gave everyone twp kisses on the cheek goodbye (except Mike who backed away after one and hurt her feelings). She went with us the whole way until we got on the bus (short ride to the ship).

We hung out on the balcony and relaxed. We went and got a quick bite to eat in the Lido restaurant. It was closing, and the food was a bit stale. I had a salad with wilted leaves and a piece of pizza that had sat out for a while. I also had a small cheese plate with some crackers. What an amazing day.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Coming into Corfu

This is the view Mike and I had when walking our 2 miles on the deck.
Exercise is going to be boring at home now. :)

Friday in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Friday – day 3 cruise – July 26, 2009 - Dubrovnik

Pictures are HERE.

This morning, Mike and I woke up at 6:30 to go to the “walk a mile” on deck 3 activity. Again, there was no organized group, so we just started. We ended up going 2 miles. We had a great time walking as the right side of the ship showed blue waters and the left side showed the mountains as we were approaching Dubrovnik. It was motivating to see such beautiful sights, and I always wanted to get to the side with the mountains.

We had breakfast in the room. I had my typical special k and banana, and Mike had an omelet. We met at 9:20 as our tour wasn’t until 9:30. It looked sunny even though rain was predicted. The ship docket at 9:00, and we were on the bus around 9:30. The guide had a microphone, and we all had a single headphone that allowed you to easily hear him. He was much better than the first guide as I could understand him. I think Morgan had a little trouble understanding his accent, but Papa sat next to her and helped. We stopped to take pictures on the way, and one man didn’t get back on in time. The guide asked if we were missing anyone, but I guess the son didn’t speak up. The dad who didn’t get back on ended up catching a ride with a different bus. How embarrassing.

We got to Dubrovnik, and the surroundings were beautiful and the old buildings were amazing. It was so neat to see these buildings that have been there for over 2,000 years. That is a long time. It was crazy to hear him talking about 5th century BC. We saw a monastery, a cathedral, and the outside of another church that had St. Micheal and John the Baptist outside. It also had Mary holding Jesus (dead) with God looking over them. They were amazing statues. The monastery had amazing architecture and incredible art. Grams and Papa were happy to get to see Dubrovnik as last time they were there it was pouring rain.

After the guided tour, we went to walk on the historic wall that guarded the city. The city was never taken by anyone other than Napoleon who closed their churches and schools. It is amazing to hear the voice used to say Napoleon. He is not well liked in this area..that is for sure. Walking on the wall was amazing, and I am so glad we did it. We weren’t sure that we would have time, but we did. The wall had lots and lots of steps going up, and we judged that this was definitely a 3 man activity (on a scale of 1 – 3 men rating how hard the effort is). Going down was a bit scary to me as it was steep, and I was so afraid that I might break an ankle or slip. I made it fine though.

We went to get Morgan Gelatto since she was so good. She got…CHOCOLATE! Of course! Papa has renamed her the chocolate bella (the chocolate baby).

It started raining as Morgan ate her ice cream, and she was worried about getting it wet. We waiting under the overhang of the building while she ate for a while, and then we went to the top to get on the bus. We had to wait a while, and Morgan and I went to use the restroom. They said you had to eat at the restaurant to use it, so I asked if I could buy something. She just said, nevermind, go ahead and use it. J Whew…

When we got back to the town, we drove around a bit, and then got on the ship. Since it was around 2, we were starving and went straight to the Lido for lunch. I had a ham and swiss sandwich, Morgan had a hamburger, and Mike had Asian.

Mike, Morgan, and I went to the pool for a bit. There was a girl around Morgan’s age in a bikini bottom with no top. I guess that is a European thing, but it was a bit odd to see.

We set sail at 6, and we all sat on the deck watching Dubrovnik disappear in the distance.
The Club Hal was FINALLY open tonight, and Morgan went to do a scavenger hunt. She had a great time meeting other girls, and they got all the items but they were the last ones back.
We went to dinner in the dining hall, and I had beef medallions, Morgan had pork madallions, and Mike had pork as well. It was delicious. Made, our waiter, has us figured out I think. He had Morgan’s cantaloupe every night ready and waiting, and he sends the wine steward over to Uncle Mike right away. J After dinner, Mark, Mike, Mike, Tracy, and I went to the craps table for a few mins. Again, frigid. Not good. Then, we all decided we were ready for bed and headed to our cabins.

Sunset on Cruise

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Arriving in Dubrovnik

Arriving in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Mike and I walked around the deck today for 2 miles. Each time we got
halfway around, we saw this view. Unbelievable. Made me want to walk

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

View from Breakfast at hotel


Day 1 on ship

Pictures are HERE

Today, I woke up in our hotel in Venice, and I went to the gym for the elliptical. As the tv was broken on both of the tv's for the ellipticals, I went to the treadmill. There was a very friendly woman there who was visiting from California. She had two kids, and she said
that the come to Europe for a month each summer. Nice...

We ate breakfast overlooking the waters of Venice, and inwas looking forward to teasing mark about not working out, but apparantly, he went at the crack of dawn.

We went on a tour to Murano to see how they blow glass. Talk about amazing. They would heat the glass, and then cut it and pour it over another glass piece. There is only on the job training where you try to progress to a master. Only masters can create the ideas. Very cool.

After the water taxi back to St. Mark's (our Mark has been calling it his square lol), we did a little glass shopping. I bought a necklace and earrings and Morgan bought a desk piece and earrings.

Next, it was time for the taxi to the boat. I think the water taxi guy had a heart attack when he saw our luggage. 16 pieces in all.

When we got to the ship, we checked in, bought drink and soda cards, and had our picture made. Once through security, we boarded. ;) The shops were all closed, so we said it was the Walk of Sighs (like the bridge of sighs in Venice).

We ate lunch on the lido deck where Morgan focused on the ice cream. I
had a salad and an Asian stir fry of shrimp and scallops.

After lunch, we walked around the ship to learn where things were. Club Hal for the kids was closed.

We ate in the main dining room, and I had a salad and fish with sugarless chocolate ice cream. Yum.

After dinner, we hung out with the family on our enormous balcony. What a fantastic day.

Mike and I walked around looking for a fun bar in the evening, but we guess everyone was recovering from the timezone change as they were all EMPTY.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Venice Day 1 - Tuesday, June 23rd

Tuesday June 23, 2009 – Venice Day 1

Pictures are HERE.

As we left the airport, it was around 10:30 am Venice time. We took this awesome water taxi to the hotel. Venice has mainly water streets made of canals, and there is no way to drive to the hotel. You have to take a water taxi which is a cab on water. The Grand Canal is beautiful, and it was amazing to see the awesome architecture. We wondered what the different colors meant on the poles outside some of the buildings, and we later found out that the main families have (mainly in the past) colors that represent the family, and everyone associated with the family wore the color (staff, children, etc). The poles represent the colors. At one point, the colors were banished as they didn’t want different classes. The areas of Venice are diverse, and you will see nice houses and less nice houses all in the same area. This was by design to prevent class conflict.
We checked into the hotel, but we couldn’t yet get into our room.

We checked our 14 bags into the holding room, and we went off to lunch. We walked left as the hotel suggested, and we crossed over three bridges and kept looking for this area they referred us to for lunch. We never found it, so we stopped at a small little restaurant. It was really good. Mike and Tracy came to meet us at the restaurant, and papa and Mark were saying to tell them to turn left from the hotel and to cross three bridges. They couldn’t find it (not that I would think they could with those directions), so Morgan and I went to meet them. We went to the hotel and showed them the way. They had been in Venice already for a couple of days, and they had turned the rental car in at the airport and taken a water taxi in. Unfortunately, their luggage had not been found, so they were hoping American Express would help. I had Minestrone soup, and a lot of the family had lasagna. They said it was awesome. Morgan got gelato at the restaurant, but she didn’t like it. She got some from next door and loved it.

After lunch, we did a tour of St. Mark’s square and the Doge palace. Mike and Tracy didn’t go as they needed to go shopping. Our guide was really nice to Morgan which helped a lot. We spent most of the time in the Doge palace, and we saw a lot of art work, the senate room, the waiting room, a 24 number clock, and some amazing architecture and history. I loved the place where people could secretly turn people in for tax evasion or other things. There was a face, and you would stuff the signed accusation into the mouth. If it wasn’t signed, they would throw it away. There were three people who read them and did an investigation if needed. They would talk with stones in their mouths to keep others from knowing who they were and what they said. They had different places for different offenses. Venice was an oligarchy which means that they had a large group of people who ran the government, but it wasn’t everyone like in a democracy. The Doge had to act important, dress nicely, and eat fancy foods in public and around others, but inside the palace, he could wear and eat what he wanted. He didn’t really have any power, but he was a symbol and had to act as one.

The prison was underneath the palace, and there is a bridge where the prisoners would be passing over and could see the city and their families. It is called the Bridge of Sighs. The prison was pretty neat to see, and it was interesting to imagine what it was like in the past.
After the Doge palace, we went to the St. Mark’s Church. It had some incredible stained glass and was really beautiful. The floor tilts and has cracks from where it has settled. It is amazing to see these places and hear the stories from 2000 years ago and realize how young the USA is. Even though you know it, it is a different thing to see the places and have it sink in. After the tour, Morgan talked Grams into another Gelatto.

Once our rooms were ready, they were really, really nice. We stayed in the Westin, and the rooms had a couch, huge closet, and a nice bathroom. Morgan even got her own bed.
For dinner, we went in search of a pizza place recommended by the hotel. The waitress said that the pizzas served one, but when they came, they were HUGE. So, we had a LOT of pizza. Morgan had double pepperoni (it said hot salami instead of pepperoni which caused issues at first), and she liked it. I had ham, tomatoes, and cheese. Mike had lobster fettuccine.
Morgan got two blocks of chocolate on the way back, and she was in heaven. She had to give up a third serving of gelato to get the chocolate, but I think it was worth it.

Mike and Tracy wanted to go to the bar after dinner, so we hung at the cool (but very expensive) hotel bar for a while. Morgan even hung with us which was fun. Mike and Tracy got upgraded to a super cool huge room with two floors. The upstairs was a loft with a desk, and the downstairs had a living room with an enormous chandelier. Then, there was a different room as the bedroom.

We closed the bar down, and went to our rooms. I took Ambien to make sure I could sleep. It is amazing how you can be so tired during the day and then be WIDE awake at night.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Trip to Venice

Pictures are here:

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

I didn’t sleep very well last night because I was super excited and because my arm was doing that weird itchy thing it does a couple of times a year. It is really annoying. I put ice on it and took Advil which finally helped me sleep again. When we got up, we put everything in the car and headed out. Oops…where are my sunglasses? Mike is ready to scream I think as I cannot find my sunglasses. Since I just bought a new pair of prescription glasses for the trip, I am not leaving them. I pull back into the driveway and run inside like a madwoman. I am searching everywhere when I hear Mike say he found them in the car – he was sitting on them! So, off we go to Mark’s where we are getting a shuttle to the airport.

We stop by the bank to get some US dollars to take with us. Grams has already secured us some Euros for the trip too. The shuttle guy is waiting at Mark’s because he is there early. We arrived right on time, but I still had to pull into the garage. I pull in, but I am too close to Mark’s car, and I have to back up and do it again. Now, the shuttle guy is ready to scream. :)

We get to the airport with plenty of time, and we head to the Crown Room after we get through security. We have 7 suitcases checked! We also had 2 carry on suitcases and 3 backpacks. What a load! We are hanging in the Crown Room (which Morgan calls the gold room) having a little snack (SOME of us are having alcohol already but as a hint I was the only one of drinking age who was not) and Mike gets a call from Delta saying flight from NYC to Venice is about an hour late. When he said it was Delta, I just knew that we were delayed out of Tampa which is the one flight that I wanted to be on time. Thankfully, it was. We suddenly realize that our plane is boarding 45 minutes before take off. Wow. We start to head downstairs, and Morgan, Mark, and I take the stairs while Mike waits for the elevator for the carry on bag (it is kind of heavy). We are waiting downstairs forever, and Mike finally comes down the stairs with the bag as he is tired of waiting. Where is Mark? Geez…this is like herding cats. Mike starts toward the plane to board, but I insist on waiting for Mark because he wouldn’t know that we had boarded (Mike insists that he will but I want to wait). Thankfully, we didn’t have to discuss it long as Mark was just in the “potty” as Morgan says and was ready.

I sat next to Morgan, and Mike and Mark sat behind us. Morgan watched movies, and I read. Nice flight. We land in NYC and head to the restroom. As we are going in, there are Grams and Papa!! Amazing that we run into them in that huge airport. We head toward our gate and then sit in the Crown Room (we had 4 hours to wait). We were sitting next to Jack Hanna, but Morgan and I didn’t believe Mike that it was him. After looking at pictures, he was right. J
We had a fun time joking around, and we had to check in with Grams if we went anywhere. Morgan loved telling the “potty” story, and I loved teasing Mark that I was going to tell Biko whenever he ate something bad or drank. J It was a fun time. I realized that delays when traveling for vacation and much less annoying than when traveling for business. I also learned that airports aren’t bad when you are with your family.

Our plane boarded around 7:30, and we took off around 8:00. The flight was pretty good. Morgan watched movies, and we had chicken for dinner (note, the people who got the pasta said it wasn’t good so if you are on a Delta flight with chicken or pasta, pick the chicken). Morgan even liked the chicken and it had sauce on it! This air vent was blowing right on me and it was FREEZING, and this evil lady across the aisle “couldn’t reach it” to fix it. I took an ambien right after dinner and crashed. I vaguely remember Morgan wanting something right after we took off, and I was so out of it that I was just begging that she would relax. She did, and we slept most of the flight.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Got my Body Bugg!

I am SOOOO excited that I got my Body Bugg! It arrived today, and it had to charge. I went through the questionaire online, and it gave me a meal plan to follow. Although, I am going to stick with the plan that the dietitian gave me. It looks kind of similar but it has Apex supplements in it which I don't want. I am so very excited about the Body Bugg though. I actually love the steps part too! I can already tell this is going to be addictive.

I only have two more days to get ready for vacation. I am going to try to get in a lot of activity, but I am not going to stress about anything while I am gone. I can always work it off when I get back. I am down 18 lbs as of today. My evil brother informed me that he is down 20 though, so the challenge is ON! :) Who knew that I would like having a trainer so much that I will miss him when I am on vacation? I was explaining yesterday that Biko makes me do the things I would never do if alone and the things I don't like to do, but somehow he manages to make it fun to do those things. Overall, I am very proud of the accomplishments I have made in the last almost 5 weeks. The trick is going to be to get RIGHT back into it when I return. Off to get some calories on my new friend the Bugg. :)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Almost forgot - 2 years not smoking

I can't believe I forgot to blog about this. On June 2nd, I passed the 2 year mark of stopping smoking. As I drove Katie and Morgan into camp this year, it was just a few days from that 2 year mark, and it was incredible to me to remember inhaling as many cigarettes as I could because I knew I wouldn't have any for a week. A WEEK! That thought was absolutely terrifying to me. I seriously didn't even think I would make it 10 minutes through the gate on the way home. In fact, I had two packs of Malboro Reds waiting in my glove box. They were there for about 2 months.

It is really odd that I really don't ever think about it. Every once in a while, maybe once every 2 months, I get that feeling that will make me think "Oh, it is time for a smoke."It isn't strong. It isn't even something I have to fight. It does however crack me up and frighten me at the same time. I can't believe that something is so powerful that TWO YEARS later, it can make me think about it - not want it, but think about it.

I still don't really notice the smell of smoke unless it is a really smokey room or it is right in my face. I don't mind being around friends who smoke, and it doesn't make me want one.

I can't believe that I went so long wasting my time smoking and doing harm to my body. It seemed so normal, and I really liked it. Now, I am so thankful that I am not burdoned with it. It was very stressful worrying about it all the time. I also can walk up the stairs without panting, and I can even run a little! I don't get colds very much now, although I do still get some sinus stuff. It is much better than it was though. I had a bad cough in February, and I remember struggling to accept that I used to SMOKE with a cough.

So, for anyone who is struggling with quitting, I will say two things.
1. Just accept it and move on. YOU WILL NEVER SMOKE AGAIN. If you don't do this, it will forever haunt you. If you just accept it and stop thinking about if you can do it or how you will deal with this or that, then it is much easier. It is all of that DOUBT that makes it hard. Yes, the first two months are rough, but knowing you can do it is the power you need. I also did the patch to ease the physical cravings, and I would recommend them to anyone.
2. IT GETS EASIER! Really, after a few months, you don't ever think about it. In fact, it seems odd to me that others even think I would struggle. It goes away IF you do #1,
3. No matter what anyone says or what your brain tells you, can't have one. NOT ONE. Never. Be done with it. YOu will really be happy about it once you have done it. I promise.

Here's to clear lungs and being here to see my kids grow up.

The other absolutely amazing thing is to realize that if I had kept smoking, I would have smoked 17,932 cigarettes. HOLY COW! Seriously. Of course, the dollar amount (at the price when I quit which would be much worse now) is $3227. The best part is that my lungs are pink, and my risk of coronary artery disease has been cut in half of what it would have been if I had kept smoking. Also, they say that you are less likely to relapse if you make it two years. So, here's to that...I think I will go have a glass of water and go to my elliptical.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wednesday at HOME

Still loving being at home. Love it. Gotten SO much done. It has been pretty weird to be home with no kids and no hubby though. Mike gets home today, and Morgan gets home tomorrow from the grandparents.

I caved and bought the body bugg at Liz's discount. It was too good of a deal to pass up.

Now, I am still coveting the Kindle, so if anyone has a discount for that....just kidding....

I have been shopping for suitcases. What a pain. I have had the same suitcase since 1996. I am in love with the spinner things though, so it looks like a Samsonite. I am struggling with the cost of suitcases. Man...I guess if the next one lasts 13 years then it will be worth it...:)

I am majorly counting down the days until vacation. FIVE DAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is the itinerary.

Did I mention that I am excited? I am actually getting close on my to do shorts, check, new bathing suit, check, new shirts, check, found formal wear, check, other checklist items, check, haircut, scheduled, laundry/dry cleaning, nearing completion...
I am also struggling with an alligator in our pond. I hate that it stalks Sophie. I will take her out, and that alligator all of the sudden shows up. I can see its little head coming at us down the pond. I always go inside before it gets to close to our bank. I learned a lot about animal control today, and I hope they can get him out. I want to be able to be outside without stressing every minute.
It was SO good to see the old Tampa Bond crew today at lunch. I literally almost cried seeing everyone all together at one table. With working from home and traveling, I haven't seen some o fhte dev guys for months, and I hadn't seen some of the Bond crew for even longer. It was fun catching up.

Monday, June 15, 2009


It is so nice to be at home. I have done my laundry, played with the dog, gone on bike rides, walked the dog, played with kids, etc. It has been so nice. I can't believe I am actually home this week. Seems odd after three weeks of a lot of traveling.

I have been spending most of my spare time exercising, and I am anxious to get into as good of shape as possible before the cruise. Yes, I know I should have started this journey more than 5 weeks before we leave, but I am thinking it is better late than never!

I am very perplexed on why the Chick Fil A cow is allowed to work on Sundays at a Rays game when the restuarants are closed? Hmmm....

I am also dying for two electronic devices - a Kindle and a Body Bugg. So for, I have been good and avoided both.

7 days til the cruise. I have never been on one, so I am extra excited (any more excited and I would pop out of my skin altogether!).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Trip to Washington DC

I got home Sunday night and turned right back around and flew out at 9am on Monday morning. This time, the trip is to Washington DC. I hadn’t been to DC since my rental car was stolen here from the Crowne Plaza back in the 90’s (the valet left the keys in the car in the ally next to the hotel – DOH). This time, I am staying in Arlington, and the purpose of the trip is to work with HITSP on the ARRA “meaningful use” definitions. It has been a long time since I have worked on anything policy related, and it has been eye opening again. I forget how process oriented things like this are.


Tony and I met up at the airport and shared a cab. The rooms at the Hilton weren’t ready yet, so we sat in the lounge and worked. Once the rest of the crew  arrived, we had a meeting to prepare for the meeting. I also had a late conference call, so I was late arriving to the group dinner. We had a great time at dinner, and it was fun to get to know some new people.


I talked Tony into working out with me at 11pm, so he did the treadmill while I did the elliptical. It was fun! Tuesday, the meetings were in full swing. After the meetings, we met Tom for dinner at Cashion’s Eat Place. It was awesome. I wanted fish, and I wasn’t so keen on the way the one I wanted came prepared as it was a whole fish. That whole fish thing just plain creeps me out. So, they generously offered to filet it for me so that I wouldn’t even know. J It was delicious. It had the best grilled asparagus I have had possibly ever, and the fish came with a tomato topping and sea salt. YUM. I also had some of the she crab soup, and it was as good as ones I get in South Carolina.  They had a good wine selection, and the atmosphere was great also. The walls have pictures of the owners’ families. Very cool place. Loved it. Had a blast. It was great to blow off some steam.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Trip to Camp Chattooga and the Tallulah Falls Gorge

Saturday was mainly a camp preparation day. We had to get physicals done for the girls, run to Target, pick up some forgotten clothes and shoes from Morgan's friend Alexis, go to the bookstore, and pack. We sighed with relief when the trunk closed with everything in it. Katie got everything in her bag except her sleeping bag. Victory!

We went to bed as early as possible as we had to get up at 4:45 to head off to the airport. FUN! NOT! We got the girls up and left about 5. Amazing! The girls read all the way to Atlanta, so I slept. J We rode the tram to baggage claim, and there were some military guys who were just coming home from Afghanistan. When we walked into the baggage claim area, there was a crowd of people greeting the soldiers who started clapping. Morgan and Katie were confused, so I explained it. They seemed very interested, but it was kind of funny to see them try to figure out WHY people were clapping (and to have them realize it wasn’t for them J ).

We went to the Avis counter for the very painful event of getting the rental car. I had reserved an SUV because I needed room for Morgan’s trunk and for Katie’s duffel bag. I am not sure what the issue was, but it took forever and I ended up with a different SUV than originally requested. It was some kind of Jeep Commander or something. For some reason, the girls were really excited to have a Jeep until I told them it wasn’t a little jeep. J

We then have to go on the bus to get to the rental car. I have the trunk on a smart cart, and we make it to the bus. We get to the lot, and I can’t find the spot for the car. I then realize it is up front. In that spot, there is some big vehicle, so we get in and load the trunk and duffle in the back. The girls are all excited, but I didn’t like it. As we are leaving the lot, the check out man says we have the wrong car. THANK GOODNESS I say. The windows are so small that I can’t see anything. So, I realize as I take it back to get the right one, I realize it is a Hummer. I cracked up. So, I know that I definitely don’t want a Hummer. J Here is the Jeep we ended up with

We start driving toward Tallulah Falls. The girls decide they want McDonald’s (Yuck) for lunch. I try to find something good, and I end up with a small cheeseburger and apple slices – could be worse. Somehow, I turned off the main road and ended up in the middle of nowhere. I finally had to ask someone how to get to Tallulah Falls. He tells me to go about 2 miles until I cross the railroad tracks and to turn left on “what used to be 197.” Hmmm….Then, I am supposed to go to a 4 way stop and then I will hit the 4 lane road. What he didn’t tell me was that it was almost 20 miles on the road before the 4 lane road. Katie had said she would know we were close when she saw the Kangaroo station. The amazing this is we are on this 20 mile road and I am thinking we have so missed a turn or something. Low and behold – the KANGAROO STATION! Whew. We actually were in the right place.

The girls wanted to be early in line so that they could get the bunk they wanted, so we went on to camp.

At 1:00 (an hour before you can go in), there were already around 10 cars in line. Very quickly, the line was very long. The girls are cramming chips down their throats since they know they won’t get any for the next week. J

As we drive into camp, MG was there. She was excited to see us and said, “The Gleasons are back!” I had to tell her that I wasn’t staying this year. I was so sad once I was there in the beautiful surroundings with all of the fun in front of me. Of course, the reason I didn’t go this year is because of the big cruise trip which is WAY more exciting. However, I simply LOVE camp. Next year. Here are the sites as we drive in

Morgan is in Wahi (3rd time), and Katie is in Maka (2nd time). The counselors take Morgan’s trunk, and Katie starts pulling her bag.

There aren’t very many campers this week, as the first session is always light. I think it is nice to have it small groups. The girls got their beds made.

After I got the girls settled, checked in, and happy, I headed out to go back to the airport. On the way out, I drove to look at the scenic overlook to Tallulah Falls Gorge. I always forget how breathtaking it is.

I made it to the airport, returned the car, and hung out in the Crown Room for a short while. It was so fantastic to travel without anything but a book. No laptop in security, etc. Wonderful. When I landed, I didn’t even have to do anything other than go straight to the car without dragging, heaving, balancing…Wonderful

Friday, June 5, 2009

Quebec Trip - Thursday/Friday

On Thursday, we got to walk around the city some before going to dinner at the Cafe du Monde on the water. The streets are very cool to walk around, and the buildings are varied in architecture. The hills are a bit rough to navigate up and down, but it was fun even with the torture to my legs. :) There is a vernicular lift that will take you up and down for part of it, but if you don't take it and you walk from the water up to the top, it is a steep walk on the street. Then, you get the reward of a LOT of steps. :)

The Cafe du Monde got mixed reviews on the food, but the view was spectacular. We sat outside, and it was a little chilly. However, our waiter brough us blankets to use to keep warm, and there was a heater. :)

View from Cafe Du Monde

Toilet Paper (sheets - not a roll)

Charlie After Dinner

Hmmm....isn't there a bar near here?

The beginning of the evil walk up the hill

Stop Signs Are in French

Interesting building art

Cute Cafe

That building is our hotel

Getting ready for the Vernicular

View down the Vernicular