Up at dawn after a wonderful night’s sleep – we have to have our bags in the hallway by 5 a.m. for pick up and taking to the ship.
Venice at dawn:
We decide to go to the big buffet today, and, while the buffet is lavish, the dining hall is crowded and noisy, and service is slow and confused. We are nostalgic for our breakfast the day before, quiet, serene, plentiful if not lavish, enough. We could make our own cafe mochas. We go back to our room and debate whether we have time for another vaporetto ride before the shuttle to the ship, and decide we probably don’t, but we do have time for one last wonderful walk. This hotel is in a great location for uncrowded walking.
By 10:30, there is a large crowd waiting, and we are lined up to go aboard the shuttle to the ship. It is a short trip, then we are offloaded and we walk about a quarter of a mile to the processing terminal. I mention this because we don’t really enjoy being a part of a herd, and because people considering travel on the Viking sea cruises need to know about the walking involved, especially if they have mobility issues.
There is a demographic who is on these cruises. No children. These are “destination” cruises, and while they have entertainment on board, entertainment is not a big draw, nor do they bother with casinos. They are destination rich, and enrichment lecture rich. They have a gorgeous spa, and nice fitness room, plus a jogging track on deck 2 and a fitness deck on deck 8. But many people in my demographic begin to have mobility issues, some use canes, some are in wheel chairs, and they struggle with these aspects of the trip, the herding, the walking, even though it is a short distance.
Another snaking line and then we are photographed and given ship cards as we process. Our bags go through screening, and then we enter the ship, to wait in one of the lovely ship spaces to be able to go to our cabin. It isn’t a long wait, but I am stewing a little. We are wasting time! We are in Venice! We don’t have to stand in line; we could come later and process in! We have a quick lunch and head to our cabin.
Our cabin is lovely. We took a “penthouse” because to us, the cabin matters. Philosophies differ, many people choose small cabins, or cabins closer to the fine restaurants because they don’t intend to spend much time in their cabins. We are less social. We like the destinations, we like the spa, and we take our meals in the restaurants, and we spend time in our cabin. We love having our own “veranda” and we like having enough room to lounge around and not bump into one another. This pretty much fits our needs.
One thing we loved is that it is sparkling clean. We also love that there is fresh water waiting for us, and it is refilled every night. Viking excels in these small, but important touches. Notice that there is room for two people to pass each other between the bed and the storage units.
Lots of places where you can charge up your phones, iPads, computers, camera batteries, etc., and the outlets accept a variety of plugs, and the outlets are plentiful.
A double closet, in the hall way so it doesn’t inconvenience a person sleeping in a bed or the other person who might need to get into the closet while the other person is sleeping. Small matter? It matters! There is also a safe behind one of the drawer units, and up top, an in room individual coffee maker. I never used it because coffee was available everywhere on board, and you could drink it in lovely areas.
One person on Cruise Critic criticized that the coffee was bland and never felt caffeinated. I didn’t find the coffee bland, but I also wondered about the caffeination. But a little less caffein is probably not such a bad thing for me 🙂
Storage under the flat screen TV with two sets of three drawers each, and two great shelves for shoes., under which is a longer drawer.
Another of those small things that matter. We had bedside lamps, and we also had these more focused individual bed lights so that one could read while the other slept. Lovely touch. When I didn’t have enough hangers, Fernando, one of our cabin stewards, quickly brought me more; he and Dina made us feel like treasured guests, and every wish was fulfilled with a smile.
More drawers on the right, and a pull out drawer / refrigerator on the left. Contains champagne, which we didn’t drink, and whatever beverages we wanted – we are so boring, we had a little beer, a little wine and mostly coke and ginger ale. Never touched the hard stuff.
I neglected to take a photo of the bathroom, which was beautiful, all beautiful surfaces and glass, with drawers and shelves to hold all the things you keep handy in bathrooms, and lovely toiletries so we didn’t need to bring any hair shampoo, conditioner, soap, shower caps, or even a hair dryer. While some mornings were chilly, the floors in the bathroom were heated, oh what sweet luxury. The towels were oversized and thick, and the bathrobes ample and warm. Some people wore their bathrobes to the spa, one man even showed up at the fire drill in his bathrobe!
Our veranda. We loved being able to sit or stand outside as we entered or departed a port, but it is hardly private. There are people just like us with verandas on either side, so you can’t help but overhear one another’s conversations. We are sort of private people, so we rarely talked while on the veranda, or even if the door to the veranda was open.
Storage, TV, water . . . we loved that there was a bridge camera, and that the TV also showed the time. It was a huge relief NOT to watch TV, with the utterly vicious election going on.
We had booked ahead, having heard about the super restaurants on board. We ate dinner the first night in Manfredi’s, an Italian food restaurant. The food was really, really good. In the bread basket the table was this very unusual bread, just a thin thin sheet, sort of like peanut brittle, only savory, with slices of garlic baked into it. I’ve never seen anything like it, and it was delicious.
The food was delicious. And we never went there again. We cancelled our second reservation. The food was wonderful, but too much. We had no control over how much would come. The tables were very close together, and some the people spoke very loudly. The staff was attentive and helpful, but there was also a lot of loud inter-staff co-ordination, a lot of clatter as they picked up dishes, and clanking as flatware and tableware were picked up together. It was noisy, and not private, not elegant dining. The staff sent in orders by cell phone, and to do that effectively, you have to be paying attention. It wasn’t working for us. The food is delicious, but I can’t even remember what we ate.
We explored the ship, and unpacked and fell into bed. At some point, I felt a slight bump, and could sense movement, so I went to the veranda – and we were leaving Venice. I opened the door, which squeaked, and wakened AdventureMan, who joined me, and we sat whispering to one another, watching the lovely sight of slumbering Venice at night drift by. We know that we had extraordinary luck; Venice in late October can be really rainy. We would take that chance. We would go back again in a heartbeat.
My Mother and I are talking and she asks “How did you girls do it, coming home from university? Did we send you tickets, or money? I can’t remember, I just know it happened. You were so young! How did you manage?”
I laughed. “Mom, you sent us tickets to Philadelphia, and from there we took buses or shuttles to McGuire. (McGuire Air Force Base, the old home of the Military Air Transport command) At McGuire they would put a couple on this flight, a couple on that flight, until it reached some kind of critical mass and they had a hundred or so students waiting at McGuire, and then they would send us all out on one plane.”
When you’re young, it’s all an adventure. Even though we had terrorists then, too, the Red Brigade and the Baader Meinhof gang setting off bombs, taking hostages, etc. there wasn’t the same kind of anxiety about safety that exists now.
My parents sent tickets. When our last final was over, we packed our suitcases and headed to the airport, usually late at night to fly out space-A on one of the red-eyes to Philadelphia. We didn’t need a lot of sleep.
Airplanes were different then, too. My first year, I flew overnight sitting in a lounge, where people had seat belts, but not really seats. It was a curved sitting area with a table. Drinks were served all night, and people were smoking. All that mattered to us was to be headed in the right direction.
The plane would land and we would go to the USO or something – someone would point us to a bus or shuttle going to the air base, we would pile in, and upon arrival at the MAC terminal, we would sign in to the Space-Available list. We were like category zero – we had the very lowest travel priority.
And then – the fun began! You’d think it would be boring sitting in an airport waiting for a flight and you don’t even know that there will be a flight – but it wasn’t. This was a major gathering of Third Culture Kids, military kids, state department kids all headed to wherever home is this month, this year. It was like the biggest, most fun party anywhere. You’d see friends you hadn’t seen since their family moved, and you’d meet friends of friends headed to your own family post. There was always music, always talk about overseas adventures, and always an endless hearts game in one area and the serious bridge players in another.
You shared food. You shared rooms. You shared books. You shared transistor radios. You shared playing cards, and chess sets. You shared memories and made plans. You often napped on a pile of baggage (we were all post-finals, and exhausted.)
These friends would pop in and out of our lives the whole summer, it was all “when you come to Heidelberg/Stuttgart/Nuremberg/ Munich/Tripoli / Asmara (!), you can stay with us”. Our friends would usually arrive in town and call around dinner time and my parents always found a way to be sure there was enough for everyone, and an air mattress and clean sleeping bag for our vagabond friends.
Oh Mom. We had such fun.
“But where did you sleep? I know some times you were there for days, waiting for a flight.”
Oh yes. Sometimes, if we thought there was a plane leaving late at night, we just stayed in the terminal. Because my parents sent us some money, my sister and I would often go over early to the Transient Hotel and book a room, then head back to the terminal. If they closed the terminal, we’d take a bunch of people back with us, take the mattress off the beds and we could get eight young college women in one room.
One time they told us around two that there would be no more flights for the day, so we left for the hotel room, got in our swim suits and hit the pool. I stayed a couple hours and then strolled back to the room; when I got there everyone was packing in a panic; a flight was going out and we had to be there in 30 minutes to get on it. I ran back to the pool to alert my sister and the others, ran back to the room carrying towels and shirts, packed in chaos, and we were in the airport and on that flight. I think my sister had her wet bathing suit on under her clothes, she packed so fast. They put us all on a troop carrier. A troop carrier is really fun, no isolated rows of seats going down the length of the plane, but four long webbed seat thingys, two facing two, the length of the plane. Let the party begin 🙂
One time, there were over a hundred of us waiting, and they scheduled an extra flight, but it would only hold a certain number, so we had a lottery – and I lost. I was one of only two who didn’t make it on that plane. Somehow, though, after that first flight left, they put the remaining two of us on a plane to a military base in Spain, and from there we hopped another military plane to Germany, beating (I don’t know how) the arrival of the first plane by half an hour.
You couldn’t do these things now. The world has changed; security takes priority. Parents hover to protect their children from very real threats. Our parents had the luxury of letting us fend for ourselves and figure out how to make it work. We made it work. We had fun. There is a whole group of those same people who gather on FaceBook, and meet up in Heidelberg, or Colorado, or Washington DC for a reunion, or even a dinner or a holiday. We stay in touch.
You weren’t oblivious, Mom. It was a different time. But what great adventures we had and what memories your questions bring me!
We’d been up late. This was the first text I received, early this morning, as we entered our day a little more slowly than usual.
“Shoot-out in Pensacola! Are you OK?”
Yes, we are OK, and we were in the thick of things last night. We’d both had long days, and we were headed to bed a little earlier than usual. I had just finished my prayers when I heard a very loud screech of wheels going around a nearby corner. Usually when the screech is that loud, it is followed by a crash or a thud, but this time the car seemed to be OK. Very soon after that, however, I noticed flashing lights on the ceiling, flashing and dancing in red and blue.
I know those lights. When we lived in Kuwait, we lived on a busy corner, a corner where the Kuwait police frequently set up check-points to check people’s residence cards. AdventureMan could sleep right through them, but sometimes I was wakeful, and would watch. There was a lot of drama as the cars had no where they could go, there was no where they could turn off, they were trapped. Many people who lived in Kuwait illegally, or whose visas had expired were caught and taken in to be processed and, if they couldn’t prove someone was sponsoring them, deported.
It was ugly, and heartbreaking, and sometimes . . . comical. Ancient Arab men would talk to the police, it was begging of a different sort, and kiss the policeman. Kissing a policeman is just something that would never occur to me, so to me, it looks absurd, but in the context of Kuwaiti culture, it is perfectly acceptable. Sometimes the old Arab man would get a pass, just as a pretty girl in the US will sometimes get a pass.
So I “arose from my bed to see what was the matter.” There were big SUVs with flashing lights blocking traffic to the south, seven or eight cars in an array to the north, cars blocking entrances to several streets to the east. The only traffic were Sheriff’s department cars, trucks and SUV’s, some with flashing lights, some unmarked. They were all working together.
I called the Police Department.
“I live at blah blah,” I said, “and there appears to be a lot of activity, flashing lights and stuff, is there something I should know?”
“We’re looking for some suspects,” the officer answered tersely.
“OK, thanks!” I chirped, not knowing any more than I knew before.
There have been gangs of kids who come through the neighborhoods from time to time, looking for unlocked cars to steal cash, guns, or even the cars if the owner leaves the keys in them. Recently three young teens in Pensacola stole a school bus and drove it for about three hours before being stopped. This response seemed a little extreme for neighborhood looters, even more grown burgers. There were a lot of resources involved, people, cars, canines, a lot of man-hours and teams of people going door to door, searching the backyards with flashlights and the dogs.
They searched our yard twice.
We have a high fence and keep our gates locked. When I saw the team methodically making their way towards our house, I called out to AdventureMan to go down and unlock the gates. As the team was trying to get in, I opened the window, and flashlights zipped up to illuminate my face.
“My husband is on his way now to unlock the gates to let you in,” I said.
One of the guardians of the law looked at me, astounded, and said “You lock your gates?”
It seemed very funny to me at the time, considering the activity, but I didn’t dare laugh, clearly this was serious business, and around then AdventureMan opened the gate for them.
It was a cold cold night in Pensacola, near freezing, and I felt sorry for the pure, hard work of searching house-to-house in the very cold temperatures.
A part of me also felt sorry for whoever was being chased, hunkered down somewhere, being chased by dogs, and, once the adrenalin wears off, being really cold.
Cars raced here and there, the teams continued their searches and we kept watch. We heard a helicopter, briefly, and we don’t know if it was a police helicopter or a news helicopter. Then, around 12:30, all the cars raced off. Somewhere. It was very quiet, and we gratefully went back to bed.
This morning I didn’t feel quite so sorry for the couple, who had invaded a house in our neighborhood, held a couple hostage, and then stole their car to escape. Those were the last few minutes of a man’s life, and he spent them terrorizing and stealing that which was not his. After another – their third – dangerous fast car chase, they were trapped, and a gunfight ensued, killing the man. During this final gunfight, Blake Fitzgerald used his girlfriend, Brittany Harper, as a shield.
I was never afraid. If you had seen the number of police / sheriff’s deputies out last night, you would understand. They were focused and professional. They were given an opportunity to practice their skills. They performed as a team, and you could feel that they were excited to be doing the job, on a grand scale, that they are trained to do. They stopped a couple on an interstate spree of kidnapping, abducting, robbing, invading houses, burglarizing and terrorizing. They can feel good today, about what they accomplished last night.
And I was just telling you in my last entry what a quiet life we lead . . . 🙂
We’ve been waiting for a free afternoon to see Jurassic World, and yesterday was it. We wanted to see it in 3D, although in retrospect, I am not so sure it makes that big a difference. It was LOUD. We are not hard of hearing, and at the beginning I had to cover my ears, it was so loud.
And, for all the movies I have seen, this one had some twists I didn’t see coming. It was full of exciting moments, and, within its own context, believable. You have to believe that humans let greed overcome their good judgement. You have to believe genetic manipulation is possible. You have to believe that the minute someone says “this is totally safe” you’d better be looking for a life jacket and a way out. All this, I believe.
AdventureMan had some struggles with unexplained things, but I think they were good at covering their bases, if you paid attention when the scientists were talking. I had a really hard time believing velociraptors could be tamed in any way. Trained – maybe if they are bored enough, and the training follows their normal instinctive practices. Tamed? Ummm, I don’t think so.
I loved the homage paid to Jurassic Park. I always love it when the bad guys get their just desserts. I always wonder, if we get curious and clone/create a prehistoric animal, will we be able to foresee all the possible outcomes?
I was eager to drive this leg of our journey; I drove it the last time. AdventureMan had a cold and thought it was boring, but I loved the colors and the dryness and it was very much one of those zen zone kind of things for me. I-10 in West Texas is easy driving. Or it was the last time.
This day, it is an anomalous day in San Antonio, it varies only from heavy rain to downpour. As we hit the road, and I have to say, life is so much easier with Google Maps, and now that I’ve discovered the voice, I don’t even have to nag when I am navigating, she just tells us where to turn, and most of the time, gives us plenty of warning, tells us when there is going to be a left exit, tells us which lane we need to be in when exiting, etc. IF, on the rare occasion (LOL) we miss the right turn, she is very patient. She doesn’t even say “recalculating,” she just gets on with it, getting us to where we need to be. It takes a lot of stress out of driving in strange cities.
We wanted to get on the road early, as this is going to be one of our long days driving, and wouldn’t you know, the long day is this messy, rainy day?
We really need some breakfast to fortify us for this drive, all this rain, all this low-visibility and all these racing trucks with sheeting water spilling off the tops. At one point, I am trying to pass a truck on a curve and AdventureMan is saying “Go! Go! Go!” and I can’t see a thing and I am on a curve and I have to drop back behind the splashing truck until I can get a straight-away and a clean pass.
Thank God we find the Flag Stop, in Bjorn, just outside San Antonio.
AdventureMan and I diverge. I had a great breakfast, very traditional, eggs, bacon, and coffee. The coffee was surprisingly good, and the eggs and bacon were fine. Filling, tasty, cooked pretty well. I mean, it’s breakfast, it’s a truck stop. He had biscuits and gravy, and it did not meet his standards.
On this route, there are a lot of areas that are very rural, without a lot of stopping places for gas. At one point, when we were beginning to get nervous, we came to a gas station but the gas was marked way up. We thought we’d drive a little to see if there was a station in the town, and quickly came to a sign that said “no further services” meaning NO GAS. So we went back to the highway robbery place and bought gas, happy to have gas. We ran into a couple just coming from the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, heading on toward Los Angeles. We almost got run off the road entering El Paso by the Eagles road van, with an aggressive woman driver, also coming from South by Southwest.
About four hours later, hour after hour of driving rains and speeding, splashing trucks, we found a town big enough to have a place to eat. We searched for one that was not a chain, and we found the Bienvenidos. I loved the exterior.
Once again, we diverged. AdventureMan thought the food was very good; I thought it was just OK. I didn’t even bother taking photos of my two greasy tacos. Service was fast and friendly, and there were a lot of local people there, so maybe I just ordered the wrong thing.
Just wanted you to get a feel for the road conditions. The good news is, as we got close to El Paso, the sun broke through and we had clear visibility finding our hotel.
This guy is a disaster. So sad, nuts with guns, and who suffers? He claims his dog jumped out of the truck, causing the accident (dog died) and then his truck rolls over and all these legal and illegal weapons fall out, and fifteen chickens??? IED’s???
From today’s AOL News
Officers responding to a single-SUV crash Friday in West Virginia found bombs, drugs, guns and more than a dozen chickens inside the vehicle – and may have thwarted a domestic terror attack.
Seth Grim, 21, somehow managed to roll the SUV off a highway about 40 miles northeast of Charleston. Police found four improvised explosive devices, two AK-47s, a rifle and about 15 chickens inside the vehicle, police said. They also uncovered a large amount of marijuana.
Authorities also found about 10 loaded magazines and body armor, they could possibly have halted a major tragedy. Two of the bombs were six inches long, two were four inches long, police said.
Grim’s Ford Explorer rolled off Interstate 79 at around 3:30 a.m., police told the West Virginia Gazette.
Grim apparently blamed the wreck on his rottweiler, which he told police jumped out the window while he was speeding down the highway, Office of Emergency Services Director Melissa Gilbert told AOL.
The dog was found dead several yards away, Roane County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Mike King told AOL.
West Virginia State Police arrived on the scene shortly after and found the chickens inside a cage, said Gilbert.
A number of the chickens were dead on the road and a few others escaped, said King. They were not recovered. Also scattered on the road were a few of the loaded magazines.
Cops also found multiple improvised explosive devices, assault rifles and several loaded clips stashed inside with the chickens, according to Gilbert.
King shot down reports Grim was on the run from police in Pennsylvania. Police are not clear where he was heading or what his intentions were. Several agencies are waiting to speak with him, according to the officer.
Grim suffered minor upper body injuries but was immediately arrested. The potentially dangerous man also declared himself a “sovereign citizen” upon his incarceration, according to Gilbert.
A bomb squad took the bombs to a secure location to be detonated out of harm’s way, Gilbert said.
Sovereign citizens often refuse to pay taxes as a form of protest against the federal government. They are seen by the FBI as domestic terrorists.
Terry Nichols, who helped plan the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, is the most infamous sovereign citizen.
A call to local police seeking further information about the charges filed against Grim and to find out why he was running from police in Pennsylvania was not immediately returned.
Only the marijuana and IEDs are illegal in West Virginia, according to King. Grim faces four felony counts for possessing them.
He remains in a West Virginia jail.
No, I didn’t take that photo, but it was exactly that kind of day. It was beautiful when I got to Seattle, it rained buckets one of the days I took my Mom shopping; she was such a good sport as we raced across the parking lot to the restaurant, both getting soaked, and then it was beautiful again for Mother’s Day and departure day.
Had juicy, laughing, crying visits with two very long time friends, feasted my eyes on all the rhododendrons growing so luxuriously, dancing with their intense colors in the Seattle gardens, watched the ferries coming in and out of little Edmonds. It was heaven.
On the way to the airport KUOW, the local National Public Radio station, mentioned, very politely, that there was a huge accident on I-5 going South, blocking all lanes of the freeway, and would I please consider taking an alternate route south, and gave a couple of suggestions.
So so Seattle. So civil.
Rarely do I hear a car beep in Seattle. People actually do the “after you” gesture – all the time. It takes some getting used to. 🙂
As soon as I got there, I opened the window where I was staying and just breathed the fresh sweet air. It always smells like fresh mown grass when I drive into Edmonds, and then the salt air. It is cool and refreshing. When the birds settle in for the night, there are the sounds of a thousand bird voices, loudest of all the seagulls, squawking at one another while the others are all doing sorter nestling sorts of sounds.
There are trains that go through in the middle of the night, but you learn to just wake up a little and say “oh, the train” and you go right back to sleep.
I took highway 99, which at one time was the major north south road, and while it was a little crowded, due to cars like me taking the alternate routes, it was peaceful and steady, with no delays. I haven’t taken the route for a long time, and got to see an old truck-stop my youngest sister mentioned, and I got to see all the things that are no longer there – the teepee pancake house, the elephant car wash sign. Things change. Taking 99 South took me a little longer than normal, but sometimes it can take a long time on the interstate, too, even without a major accident. Seattle, like Kuwait, has outgrown its infrastructure.
It seems to be the story around the United States. Who is paying attention to the decaying bridges, the once smooth and now potholed highways? Who is checking the buildings in the abandoned city centers and malls?
When I turned in my rental car, the little girl checking me in was in hijab and looked Sudanese. She asked me where I was from, and I told her, and I asked where she was from and she told me Cleveland. LOL.
The Seattle Airport is a gem, full of art works, you just have to take the time to look. Off in corners, they also have free wi-fi, free power plugs, Chinese take away and quiet areas where people can read or use the internet. For some reason, I am TSA PreCheck. Someone said it is age related, but AdventureMan looked it up online and there doesn’t seem to be a connection. I love the shorter line, and not taking off my shoes.
I have plane karma. Just before the plane was loaded and ready to go, the two inside passengers for my row arrived – a basketball player and his also-tall Mom. Behind us arrived a Mom and her two babies – in two seats. The doors closed. There were only three empty seats in the plane, and they were across from me. The basketball player jumped into the window seat and the woman sitting in the aisle seat behind me jumped into the aisle seat across from me, and the Mom and her babies had all three seats to themselves, while the rest of us had room for knees and elbows and room to breathe . . . it makes all the difference.
I like Pensacola, and I like our life here. I am already missing the beauty and coolness of Pensacola winter, dreaming of the beauty and coolness of Seattle summer, LOL.