September 21 Day 1 and 2 Off to Dublin

Catch-up posts from our trip to Ireland.  Most of these posts are quite lengthy, with a lot of detail that is important only to us, or close friends and family.  Feel free to cruise through at whatever speed suits your fancy. All the additional photos of the trip will be located on my SmugMug site eventually, but not just yet.

grand tour with goahead toursOur trip to Ireland was with Go Ahead Tours – Grand Tour of Ireland.  We have used Go Ahead in the past, and it is a good value for price and content.  The pace is a bit quick, but since we may not get back to Ireland with so many places in the world to visit, we would rather see a lot, even if it means a lot of moving and traveling.  Much like a cruise, a tour like this is a good way to see a country for the first time, and then if you return later it is much easier to do on your own if you want, and you know where you want to be.

It is 4 in the morning here in Dublin, 8 pm back at home  After an incredibly long and tiring day on airplanes and in airports, we are somehow still awake.  Last night after we arrived, we were addled completely from the lack of sleep.  After our welcome dinner, we fell into bed exhausted, and then woke up at ten pm.  Back to sleep and then awake again at 1am.  or 2 am.  I don’t remember.  But we are still awake.  Talking, laughing, getting quiet, and one or the other of us breaks the silence with a question.  “Which night is the included dinner and where is it”.  Mo gets up to find the itinerary and we figure it out.  Back to darkness and silence. 

OK then…a few more minutes pass and one or the other of us says, “Let’s read.”  “OK.  Maybe I can write”. Without an easy way to blog and no way to process photos, I decided that the best way to track our days was with emails to the daughters and the very short list of friends.Temple Bar (1 of 1)

Dublin at the moment feels a lot like taking a trip to New York.  They didn’t even take our passports at the desk here at the Maldron Parnell Square Hotel.  The wait staff last night at dinner was Thai, with several people from several other places, and the accents were less strong than many we hear at home.

Our tour guide, for this two weeks in Ireland, is Italian, with a very strong accent.  Italian, not Irish.  We will see how that goes, I guess.  We arrived after 6pm, with the welcome dinner at the hotel scheduled earlier, they postponed it for our arrival.  We hit the room, and had 15 minutes to regroup and get back downstairs.P1050331

Couple of things we did learn however.  Folks who showed up at the airport early in the day spent up to two hours waiting for the shuttle.  Not a good thing.  A taxi picked us up and immediately took just the two of us to the hotel.  Nice driver, nice drive through a part of Dublin that I recognized from looking at the Google maps obsessively back at home when I couldn’t sleep.  Other nice thing, the check in process was almost instantaneous.  We met our guide, and received our keys.  Only thing we had to sign was the order for what we wanted for dinner.

When we left Rocky Point yesterday morning, it was gorgeous.  Perfect September weather, with dry, clear air and blue skies.  By the time we got to Eugene, it was cloudy and raining.  go figure.  Both of us were like parents leaving a kid at daycare for the first time.  Our friend, Joanne, was excited about taking care of our dog Mattie, and in true Joanne nature had our list of written instructions all printed out with red lined questions and markings to check with us.  Mattie seemed just fine, pottying in the yard, barking at Joanne as expected, but deciding that with a hot dog in her hand, Joanne was a pretty cool and interesting person. She took her outside to the back yard while Mo and I disappeared out the front door. 

We decided to get gas in Albany…what maybe an hour from Eugene….when I get a frantic text from Joanne, “Mattie won’t let me put her leash on.  What do I do”.  Seems as though Mattie would only bark at Joanne when she tried to get close.  I told Joanne to let her go in her cage and then try to get the leash on her.  Response back was that Mattie went in the cage, but when Joanne approached, she ran out, but still managed to get the hot dog bribe.  Panic.  Then a few minutes later, another text.  “All is well, she let me do it”.  I immediately called and Joanne said, “You guys are going to drive me crazy if you keep calling every few minutes!”  Eventually Mattie just walked up to Joanne, sat down and accepted the leash without a qualm.  Whew.  Texts later throughout the day, and a couple of emails here to Dublin seem to indicate that all is well, Joanne and Mattie are having a great time, and Mattie could care less about he fact that we are nowhere around.  Fine.

Gas was all the way down to $2.13 at the Albany Costco, so getting in and out of that place was still worth it.  We made great time, the rain cleared up by the time we got to Portland, and the skies were once again blue and clear.  Haven’t seen that from the Portland airport very many times.  We checked in without a hitch and found the Beaches restaurant for a snack and a drink.

beaches-restaurant-and I could foresee that being the best food of the trip if last night’s welcome dinner is any indication.  I had some kind of amazing Thai crispy breaded pork and sweet hot chili sauce and Mo had perfect taquitos.  My drink, some kind of orangey marguerita was rather incredible.  We had time to lounge in the bar and decide that by the time we were through our 4 hour layover in Seattle, we could have a light dinner there before boarding the plane. As we were boarding in Portland, waiting in a long line, when the agent saw our pre printed boarding passes, he said, here, go this way and don’t take off your shoes or empty anything out of your bags.  My boots, purchased especially for wet cobblestone streets in rainy Ireland, still rang, however and I had to take them off, but they are easy and I was ready for it. The flight from Portland to Seattle is something like 22 minutes.  Again, perfect clear skies with the volcanoes looming to the east and the Olympics and Puget Sound shining in the west.  Once on the ground, we checked the reader board and..wait…what?….our plane was scheduled to begin boarding in half an hour.  Somehow I had morphed a 90 minute layover into an imaginary 4 hour layover and dinner was not to happen.delta 767 seat map

Our flight is operated by Delta and KLM, and the plane was a Delta 767 with our seats almost in the very back.

We like the 767’s because they have side rows of only 2 seats across, so we can share window and aisle space without dealing with someone else next to us.  Not all that huge, but at least a lot roomier than some of the flights I have been on lately.  We had ten hours to go, and imagine our surprise when the drink cart came along dispensing red and white wine complimentary along with the usual teas and sodas.  Yes.  We even got refills of wine with our supper, which was not nearly as good as the wine.The little boxes of pasta for me and chicken for Mo were in some kind of awful sauce, and Mo’s chicken was served with some mushy overcooked veggies that actually tasted OK.  I ate the veggies, and she ate my pasta, tortellini’s, which are not a favorite.  Dessert was a brownie that was so thick and gummy you could hardly chew it.  I was happy for our fresh baked chocolate chip cookies that I had made the day before to fill in the blanks. Finally around ten or so PST, I snuggled into the neck pillow, put my big scarf over my head, and took a sleeping pill.  I don’t remember sleeping, but neither do I remember being awake that much.  By 3am PST, I had jumpy legs and thought I wasn’t going to make another two hours.IMG_5109

We arrived in Amsterdam at 1 in the afternoon (5am to us) and it was quite gloomy out, but you could see the water and the huge windmills in the ocean to the west of the city.  Amsterdam is just so incredibly clean and manicured.  I commented that I doubted that there was any kind of wild country anywhere in the Netherlands.  All so pristine and cared for.

IMG_5107 The airport is a lovely one, but somehow not quite as enchanting as it was the first time I was there with Melody in 2012.  I kept searching for the comfy sofas with plug-ins.  We walked a lot, and did finally find the chocolate stores and the tulip kiosks, but they looked kind of drab instead of so bright and fresh as I remembered.  Maybe it was because it was raining by then, and there was a lot of construction going on inside the terminals. Still, it was a pleasant wait, and with neither of us hungry after our airplane dinner (and tiny breakfast), we just relaxed after our check in and passport check.  Four hours went by in a flash.

The Air Lingus Irish airline to Dublin was a bit different.  All shiny new airplane, but no amenities at all, no sound plug ins, no in flight entertainment, and even a cup of coffee was available for 3 Euros.  At only an hour and a half, we didn’t really care, but the quarters were tighter than the previous plane as well and we were both so tired that we kept falling asleep.  Mo dropped her book with a crash, and her elbow kept falling off the armrest with a bang while I would suddenly wake choking because I had been breathing through my mouth and probably snoring.

Wasn’t all that much to see anyway.  Blue ocean and lots of clouds between us and the water, with an occasional glimpse of England and the edge of Ireland as we approached the airport.  What surprised both of us the most was how brown some of the landscape looked in Ireland from the air.  Probably fields that were ripe, because other fields that looked like pastures were green enough, but somehow I didn’t expect to see Oregon late summer brown anywhere.

at the Maldron Hotel (4 of 6) On the ground and our baggage appeared very quickly, nothing delayed, nothing lost.  Lovely.  Once we passed through customs, also very quick and easy, where they checked our passports, we were into the main terminal without a hitch where our Go Ahead taxi driver was waiting with a big sign on his IPad screen with our names.  Lots easier than printing something, I would say. Fifteen minutes to the hotel, and as I said before, 15 minutes down to dinner.  At first I was horrified, because it seemed that there were at least 80 people in the main dining room where we were to have dinner.  Turns out that many of those people were with another tour of German travelers who were arriving as well. 

Our group consists of 31 people, but the way that the dining room was set up, and with us arriving a bit late, we were at a table of eight.  The four people who were at the other end of the table were conversing with each other, and even when I asked a question I was ignored.  The young woman next to me was quite conversational however, and seemed to quite the traveler and quite brilliant.  Some kind of contractor for NASA in Houston.  She and the other folks had arrived early today and spent the afternoon touring the Guinness Factory, something that is obligatory when visiting Dublin.  Something we are going to skip actually, in favor of our own tour of the Neolithic world heritage sites in the Boyne Valley.  Ancient history and prehistory, Druids and temples all win out over beer for me!

at the Maldron Hotel (6 of 6) I was a bit disappointed with the way that Go Ahead handles these welcome dinners, and this one was even worse.  Unlike in the past, where there was at least a private banquet room, this was in the main dining room, quite noisy, and not at all conducive to communicating with anyone.  Even though she was near us when speaking, we couldn’t hear much of what Isabella said, and had no interaction with anyone else from the group.  In the past, there has been at least a rudimentary introduction so you have an idea who you are traveling with.  While not especially social, I do like to have an idea and a bit of encouragement to interact in the beginning.

Dinner was just OK.  We made our choices from two options, and both had a vegetable soup that was probably some kind of squash puree, the main entree of Guinness Beef Stew which was rather flat and flavorless.  I make a Guinness stew sometimes for St Patrick’s day and I wish this had been half as good as mine!  Dessert was excellent, however, an apple crumble pastry pie sorta thingy, that was a bit tart and really good.  A couple of glasses of wine were nice along with some excellent coffee with dessert.

at the Maldron Hotel (1 of 6) By the time we got back to our room, we were a bit more ready to tackle the tight quarters and try to figure out where to put stuff.  The room is very nice, but in true European style, very cramped, and there are a couple of chairs, tables, and a desk that makes it impossible for us to pass each other or even get around the suitcases as we tried to unpack.  No place really for the cases, so we struggled a bit with the whole thing.

at the Maldron Hotel (5 of 6) We were very well and tightly packed for the airplane and transfers, but everything changes when we are in a room and getting into things differently than the way we do when flying.  It didn’t help that the nifty little converter I bought to charge USB devices didn’t work on the UK part. I had no problem with the Euro part at the airport, but for some reason it refuses to work here.  Sigh.  Mo, thank goodness, brought her converter as well so we have one plug to charge the iPad, the iPhone, and two Mophie batteries, and oh yes, the curling iron if I want to use it.  Frustrating.
I was so tired I was feeling weepy about losing my Advil baggie, but eventually I found everything, found tight spots for what I needed after realizing that the three tiny drawers are only about  6 inches to the back, and moving the suitcase holder in front of the door.  Till we have to get out of it in the morning, then all will be moved around again.

at the Maldron Hotel (2 of 6) We will be here  at the Maldron Parnell Square – Dublin, for three nights.  The WiFi in the room seems fast and is free so the phone is on airplane mode for the duration, but I can talk to people via facebook chat and email without a worry.  It is now 5:11 AM.  We will go down to breakfast at 7 and then leave for our extra tour of Newgrange and the Boyne Valley with Mary Gibbons Tours around 9:30.  That involves walking a bit toward the famous O’Connell Street to catch the tour bus in front of the bank. Maybe I can sleep for two hours now that I have all this out of my brain on on paper so to speak.

Next: Dublin and Visiting the Boyne Valley, the Hill of Tara, and Newgrange

Vermont in October

Current Location:  Rocky Point, Oregon Clear and Cold at 32 degrees F this morning

I had a year to get excited about my trip to Vermont.  My friend Jeanne was getting married, and I knew I had to be there one way or another.  The trip was wonderful in so many ways, and yet losing our sweet dog Abby, just a few days after my return, made it impossible for me to write about the beautiful days and the beautiful wedding until now.

Around Dorset (28 of 35)Mother Myrick in the morning sunrise above Dorset, Vermont

Some time has passed since Abby left us.  We buried her not far from where our also recently deceased cat Jeremy lies, both small rock headstones visible from the kitchen window.  The initial grief and sadness has eased a bit.  The huge empty space that a beloved pet leaves behind is no less empty, but feels a bit less shocking.  The house is very quiet.  I did finally clean the dog spit off the sliding glass door, and just recently Mo put Abby’s toys away somewhere, I am not sure where.

137-Christmas_036 I think October is a beautiful month just about anywhere in this wide country.  However the classic New England fall was on my bucket list.  Mo and I have talked often of attempting to get back there in the MoHo, to fill in those last few states we have yet to experience in our rig.  However the timing for such a journey can be daunting at best.  It is always a juggle between catching the height of color and still not getting caught in the snows that follow.  If we had attempted it this year, we would have no doubt been caught in the early snowstorms that are hitting the South at this very moment.

driving to Dorset (4 of 18)The Connecticut River Greenway along my route from Boston to Dorset

Instead, I flew to Vermont on my own, while Mo spent the time caring for Abby and keeping the home fires burning, shutting down the sprinklers for winter, raking the rapidly falling pine needles and beginning the fall burning. I think I got the better end of the deal, except for Abby of course.

IMG_4470First sight of fall color at the hotel in Marlborough, Massachusetts

With Jeanne’s wedding scheduled for a Saturday, I planned my trip to give me several days of Vermont time before the wedding and before the major influx of guests.  When Jeanne lived in Klamath, and we worked together, she often shared stories of her life in Vermont.  We were both excited that I would be there in time for Jeanne to show me her beloved home state.  I was also happy for the time to spend with Jeanne and Alan and to get a taste of Jeanne’s new life.

driving to Dorset (9 of 18)The Vermont Visitor Center as I enter the state for the first time

Flying from Medford, I flew to Portland and then got a nonstop cross country flight directly to Boston.  Mo and I had been to Boston a few years ago, but it was on a cruise ship.  This would be my first visit to Vermont, and I rented a car with the thought that I would drive the 200 miles or so directly to Dorset.  I obviously wasn’t thinking clearly when I planned this, and realized that I needed to stay somewhere close to Boston rather than attempting to drive unknown back country roads in the dark of night.

driving to Dorset (17 of 18) Finding a hotel in Boston was a bit daunting, with the cheapest rooms beginning at $329 per night!  Not in my budget, for sure.  I could sleep in the car if I had to pay that much for a few hours sleep.  Instead, I drove an hour or so north toward Marlborough, and found a basic decent room for a mere $149.  The bed was OK, but the room wasn’t much more than your average Super 8 out west that goes for 49 bucks.  Still, when I woke the next morning to brilliant skies and gorgeous color in the trees, I was so glad that I waited.

It took me nearly four hours to get to Dorset because I just couldn’t resist stopping a bit for photos along the way.  It was my first time in Vermont, and the timing was very nearly perfect.  The visitor center at the Vermont state line was state of the art, beautiful, and I began to get a feel for the rural nature of the landscape, and the focus on dairy farming, agriculture, and forestry that is the hallmark of this lovely place.

driving to Dorset (12 of 18)On the winding highway along the West River I came upon the beautiful West Dummerston Covered Bridge,  remembering that Vermont has more than 100 covered bridges, and that there are more covered bridges per square mile in Vermont than any state in the country.  Of course, after our springtime covered bridge tour of Oregon, I couldn’t miss taking a photo of this lovely bridge.  I learned later that it is the second longest covered bridge in the state, but at the time I was taking the photos, I only remembered some of what I had previously learned about trusses and joists and supports.  I loved the open window on one side of the bridge especially.Around Dorset 2 (2 of 21)Alan’s home on the hill above Dorset.

I really had to make some tracks because the weather was cooperating perfectly for Alan’s offer to take me up in his airplane that afternoon.  It was a gorgeous, completely cloudless sunny day, and the rest of the week was forecasted to be rainy and dreary.  No time to waste.  If I was to see Vermont from the air, I would need to do it on this beautiful Sunday afternoon.

Around Dorset 2 (4 of 21)I arrived at Alan’s place by noon, and after greetings and settling in to his brother’s home down the path, Jeanne and I walked to town to the local farmer’s market to get some veggies for supper. 

Around Dorset 2 (9 of 21) Alan was brining a beautiful “happy chicken”, and only fresh grown organic veggies would be worthy of the meal.    Dorset is a beautiful small burgh with lovely historic homes and inns, winding country roads, a town green, and lovely historic churches, one of which would be the location of the wedding the following weekend.

Around Dorset 2 (1 of 21)My home for the week, just down the path from the main house.

My home for the week belonged to Alan’s brother, at the moment traveling around the world on a sailboat, and later the three bedrooms would be filled with other wedding guests.  It is a dramatic timber frame home, with great views of Mother Myrick towering over Dorset. 

airplane over Dorset (5 of 37) Within a short time, the three of us piled into Alan’s new truck for the drive north to Rutland airport. Needless to say, I was excited.  Flying in a small plane is thrilling to me, and as a map maker, seeing the landscape below up close is magical.  Alan is a forester, and his understanding of the patterns of the vegetation, his explanation of the various timber communities, and the history of the logging industry in Vermont added tremendously to the flight.

airplane over Dorset (13 of 37)airplane over Dorset (31 of 37)airplane over Dorset (18 of 37) airplane over Dorset (23 of 37)airplane over Dorset (36 of 37) Alan was excited about the flight as well, exclaiming over and over how incredibly lucky we were with the clear skies and the beautiful color playing out over the mountains.  Alan and Jeanne pointed out the local mountains, and told some sweet stories about their first hike together on Haystack as they flew past the dramatic glaciated peak. It was a perfect introduction for  my week in Vermont.

Around Dorset (1 of 35)Around Dorset (8 of 35) After our flight, Alan drove some of the back country roads around Dorset, searching for color on the hillsides.  I learned that Vermont was almost completely denuded of forest when it was first settled in the 1700’s, with more than 80 percent of the state being cleared for agriculture.  In the ensuing years, the trees have once again taken over the landscape and there is now only about 25 percent of the state cleared for agriculture. 

Around Dorset (21 of 35) I knew I wanted to see New England stone walls, but what I didn’t know was that many of those old walls are found in the forests, marking what were once open fields.  Now taken over by the forest again, the old stone walls are crumbling and tucked away in the shadowy undergrowth.  Around Dorset (9 of 35)

After that breathtaking afternoon, we returned home to Alan’s place to partake of one of the most amazing roast chicken dinners I ever experienced.  Alan is a fabulous cook, and his favorite resource is Cook’s Illustrated, also a favorite of mine.  I have never ever ever in my entire life had such a succulent chicken, set off with Jeanne’s homemade cranberry sauce and fresh beets from the market.  The gravy (another favorite food group of mine) was beyond incredible.  Thus began a week of some rather fabulous meals, both home cooked and at inns and restaurants throughout Vermont.Around Dorset (25 of 35)

Next:  Lake Champlain, Mad River Glenn, and more of “Jeanne’s Vermont”

The beginning and the end

thunderheads are building over New YorkIt is the beginning of our New England cruise trip but the end is all about the last hour of our flight to New York’s La Guardia airport!  Our non-stop flight from Denver was 3 hours of simplicity until we reached the east coast, until we  reached New York, where there was a wild mess of storms that spawned tornados in Virginia. Thinking of Erin and Mui, of course, and hoping you two didn’t get hit by all that wind.

We circled over La Guardia for almost an hour with rumors of a diversion to some smaller airport who knows where before the pilot finally received the notice that we could land.  The turbulence was a bit exciting, and watching the plane circle around those big thunderheads made for some interesting views.  Our seatmate was a frequent flier from New York, you know, those kind of folks that are supposed to be so calm and jaded??  This lady was NOT calm, and with every jump of the plane she screamed and even said once, “I want my mother!”

circling the thunderstorms while we wait to land at La GuardiaEven though I had my camera packed and buried, I suddenly remember “airplane mode” and the camera in the iPhone 4 (no not the 4s yet) and pulled it out for some great photos of truly dramatic clouds.  Once we landed, it  was amazing to me how one dimensional the cloudy sky appeared compared to the three dimensional shape changing views as we circled.

We began our trip with a nice drive from home to Reno, down 139 to 395 into the wide open dry and very warm deserts.  Staying at the Ramada, with the Park and Fly option, our room only cost 79. with all the taxes and ten days of parking for the car, including free shuttle to the airport. The room was lovely, and just 12 blocks from downtown where we parked right on the street near the Silver Legacy Casino.  After dropping a bit to support Nevada in the slot machines we found dinner at Sterlings Steakhouse.  A bit of a sticker shock didn’t stop us, though, and we proceeded to have one of the finest dinners we have had in a long time. In addition to perfectly mesquite fired steaks, our dinners came with amazingly seasoned spaghetti squash, butternut squash,  snap peas, and sautéed spinach.  Yum and double wow!

laughing while we are circlling and shaking over New YorkMy daughter has supported me through the 40 days of 500 calories a day, and now I am on maintenance, and wow, maintenance is so much fun, Deborah!  Somehow skipping the bread and potato and dessert didn’t feel a bit like any kind of suffering at all.  Can you believe I brought my scale along on this cruise and will be watching daily?  I don’t want to mess up all that hard work, and this morning somehow I was down another 2 pounds. Yay for Deborah and all her encouragement!

Our flight from Reno left at 6am, calling for a 3am wake up call and a dark ride to the airport. Check-in was simple, and security in Reno wasn’t the least bit daunting and we were in the air as the sun rose over the Rockies.  Denver is a huge airport, but lucky for us we didn’t have to change terminals so spent a lovely 90 minutes wandering the great shops and eating some more of last night’s yummy dinner that I carried with me.

our view from the East Elmhurst Comfort Inn in New YorkOnce in New York, an hour late, we called the Comfort Inn shuttle to pick us up.  No lost baggage was a relief, and in a short time we were settled into our very tiny room.  Here in New York, the rooms aren’t cheap, with 157 dollars, yes that is US dollars, for our one night here.  We are actually in East Elmhurst, Queens, not far from the airport. The room is at least very clean, but the bed is a bit hard and as I said, it is TINY!  I guess that must  be a New York thing.

We walked a couple of short blocks to the local recommended restaurant, Joey’s, an Italian place.  A glass of wine and some simple antipasto with a ceasar salad was the perfect ending for a long day.  We were entertained by a couple of big Italian guys at the table next to us speaking rapid Italian.  I realized that on the west coast where we live there aren’t a lot of Italian neighborhoods, except maybe in San Francisco.

I have never been to New York before and am looking forward to our drive to the Brooklyn pier today and a gorgeous sunny, if windy view of the Statue of Liberty as we sail from the harbor tonight.

La Guardia to Hotel and Brooklyn

From 36,000 feet

Picture 001 At the risk of seeming horribly provincial, I just can’t resist making a post from the sky.sitting here with my laptop open, crammed into a seat so tightly that I can’t get the lid all the way up.  I’m on a Delta flight and I have a wireless connection.  Amazing.  Of course, I can’t turn my phone on, but I can post to my blog?  Ah well, no laughing allowed here.  This is a photo of me taken with my webcam on the laptop.  Of course, there is an adorable girl sitting next to me who will NOT be quiet for even a minute.  I’m hiding behind earplugs while she flirts with the cute guy next to her.  This may seem like a completely irrelevant post, but really, for most of us, isn’t technology shifting and changing exponentially?  Blogging from the air.  I think someone else recently did this as well, Jeanne, I believe, on her way to Tucson.  Now if we could just figure out how to get the computer all the way open so we can see the screen and type at the same time when the person in front of us has their seat reclined.  Too funny!

Off to Miami for our cruise January 3 and 4

Since I currently live in California, Mo and I planned our flights from San Francisco, flying to Miami to embark, returning to San Diego for our final port, then flying back to San Francisco. The South San Francisco Travelodge has a park, stay, and fly package that is a great deal for these kinds of trips. With a stay on either end of the trip included, and parking for the entire time we are away, the cost is much less than even the economy lots at the airport. The shuttle is free both ways as well. Our room was warm, roomy and comfortable. Especially with the cold, wet fog of San Francisco, we were happy to be cozied up in a decent place. Arriving in South San Francisco early in the day gave us some time to do some shopping, enjoying lunch and wine at the Maceroni Grill. Later in the evening we drove down to the wharf and had a great dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. I had to try the key lime pie, in preparation for our upcoming trip to the Florida Keys in March.

Our flight was scheduled for 11 pm so we went to the airport to wait. The red-eye flight was uneventful on American Airlines, and we had great seats again, on the 2 seats per row side of the airplane. I slept well and the flight went quickly. Morning in Miami was cool and sunny, and getting to the pier was uneventful, but the boarding of the Celebrity Constellation was really slow. With all the extra security due to the Christmas Day bomber, it took much longer to clear the incoming ship for immigration. The lines were long and the wait was more than a couple of hours. Very tiresome. We hoped this wasn’t setting the bar for the rest of our first Celebrity cruise!

Finally on board, we settled into our cabin. It was very roomy and comfortable, with a large bathroom and shower, the biggest yet in our experience. We decided to explore the ship and with only 11 decks, it seemed very small. For a moment, we wondered how it might be to have to spend 14 days on this smaller ship. This was my first cruise longer than 7 days, although Mo managed a 21 day cruise to China several years ago.

Our first evening in the dining room wasn’t especially memorable. Although we requested a private table for two, we were seated with two other people, an obnoxious woman and her husband who never stopped talking and carrying on a very negative conversation throughout the entire meal. However, after dinner we enjoyed the entertainment at the very lovely Celebrity Theater We explored the ship some more after the show and began to adjust to the size. It certainly didn’t take long to find our way around.

On Monday morning we arranged for a room service breakfast, served right on time, but decided we didn’t need to try that again. The food was very boring, with tasteless bacon and sausage and dry toast. Ugh. Since it was a sea day and we were exhausted from our previous travels, we snuggled back under the covers and slept in until 10 AM. The skies were cloudy and gray and I just watched the sea slide by my window for a long time. Amazingly, I wasn’t the least bit seasick and found myself really enjoying the gentle movement of the ship. When we got up we checked out the shops and computer lab. Sadly, my ACER Netbook refused to boot up, so all my plans for photo management and blog writing during the cruise were nipped in the bud.

Later we enjoyed a truly delightful lunch at the Seaside Buffet, eating by the main pool area. After checking out the spa on the 11th deck, we settled in to play cards in the game room, had a snack at the Kove Patisserie, played some bingo in the afternoon, went to the Casino, had a drink in the Rendezvous Bar, and again explored the top decks of the ship. Sounds like a typical cruise trip, doesn’t it!

The evening was formal, and again dinner was impressive. We insisted on our requested table for two, and after some confusion we settled in to a table in a narrow part of the dining room near the galley. Although not a perfect location, we never again had our dinner spoiled by irritating table mates. I especially enjoyed the many courses offered at dinner, with an amazing beef capriccio appetizer, cold fruit soup, spinach salad, sea bass, and cherries jubilee. Off to the theater for another Broadway type production with great music to end our first full sea day.