Cruising the Mediterranean: Rome and the Cruise Ship

The trip from the U.S. to Rome was relatively uneventful, but very long. Eight hours from Philadelphia to Rome. I discovered that I don’t fly well anymore. Planes are now so cramped and such close quarters. But, on to more pleasant things. We made our way from the Rome airport to the port where we would board our cruise ship. Rome has a Mediterranean climate and all along the way were small, country homes and every one had a garden. I think that struck me because kitchen gardening is becoming less and less common in the US. The scenery was beautiful. Palm trees and small homes with gardens all along the way. The photo above was taken the first time I looked out the window at the Mediterranean. You can see the tug boat pulling away from the cruise ship. The water was aqua, though it looks blue here.

We boarded our cruise ship, the Oceania Marina. Quite large and with all the amenities. It was filled with university alumni from many major universities, but passengers also included private passengers and other types of tour groups including a large group from Korea and another from the Philippines. Our stateroom was large with a big balcony. It was evening and we had a delicious dinner in one of the many restaurants onboard. Food was strictly European which was not so good for me. I eat a low-carb diet and the very generous buffets were filled with high-carb foods. I had resolved to eat what I wanted on this trip. I found that my taste in food has apparently changed permanently. I have been eating low carb for many years. None of the high carb foods appealed to me at all.

Bedtime came early for us that night. The ship left Rome around 7 p.m. to sail up the coast of Italy. One of the things we grew to dislike about the cruise was the fact we always sailed at night. We wished we had sailed during the day for at least a couple of days so we could see he coasts of the countries we visited. But it was not to be. By nightfall, it was chilly outside and raining, weather that would persist for most of the week.

Cruising the Mediterranean: Getting Prepared

We’re really excited! We’re leaving on an 8 day cruise on the Mediterranean tomorrow. We board the ship at an Italian port. We fly into Rome from Cincinnati, boarding our international flight in Philadelphia. We get to Rome in the early afternoon, their time. I’m not sure if the time difference is six hours or seven hours. They are on daylight savings time as we are, but we change back to standard time tonight. I’m not sure when they change back. But, we’ll be either six or seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard time, where we live. The port where our ship is docked is about one and one half hours by bus from the Rome airport. We have an extra one and one-half hours in case of delays. Not a lot!

Today, we are packing and trying to remember everything you have to remember for an international trip as well as for a trip where you will be on board a ship and on land. Also, the weather is variable at this time of year. It is usually in the 60s in the day and 40s at night, but it could be hot or cold, so packing is a challenge. Whew!

Our cruise line is the Oceania, which is heavily used for group tours. Our’s is a group tour through my university. Other universities are on the ship as well, but no one else. I’ll give you a report on this cruise line. The travel agent between the university and the cruise line is GoNext and I’ll also report in on their services.

My biggest concern is my dog and cat. My dog, Clarabella, does just fine when boarded at the kennel. My husband’s cat – not so much. He is terribly bonded to my husband and suffers when he isn’t with him. This will be the longest we’ve ever left him.

That’s it for now. The next time I will write will be our first night on the cruise ship as there will be no time until then. That will be Monday evening, whatever time zone Italy is in!  I’ll try to be more specific after I get oriented. Our first stop after Rome is beautiful Florence, Italy.

Oh! Ladies! There is a Canyon Ranch Spa on board the ship and I plan to take full advantage of it! 🙂

Back soon!

A Trip. Across the Western Mediterranean

Hello to my subscribers!

Beginning on Sunday, November 3, I’m going to take you on an Adventure. I’m taking you with me on a trip across the Western Mediterranean on a mid-size cruise ship. We’ll stop at a number of fascinating ports of call during the eight-day voyage.

We’re leaving for Rome, Italy on Sunday and the ship leaves on Monday, Italian time. The ship is a luxury vehicle and it should be quite a journey! Be prepared for lots of pictures and commentary.  The blog posts will start with Trip:

Talk to you soon! Start packing!

I’m Going to Miss Bob

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Have you ever come to a fork in the road in your life where you had to make some hard choices? See that picture above? That’s Bob. A rather rare species of wood stork. Bob illustrates what has been a rather hard choice for myself and my family.

Wood storks like Bob only live along the far southern coast of the United States. Seldom do they frequent your yard and you have the chance to get to know them up close and personal. But, I had the opportunity to get to know Bob and so many other wonderful things over the last ten years on Pine Island, a barrier island off the Gulf Coast of Florida.

We discovered Pine Island in the spring of 2009 quite by accident. It was love at first sight. It is a wildlife lover’s paradise and a slice of Old Florida thrown in for good measure. Pine Island used to be a place primarily for commercial fishing, until the tourists discovered it. It still isn’t frequented as much for tourism as Sanibel Island or Marco Island due to its lack of sandy beaches. The beaches are rocky and filled with mangroves. But if you love wildlife, beautiful tropical birds and fish, exploring and hiking, and really nice people, you would love Pine Island.

We started going there every year, at some point during the cold Kentucky winters. Since it is off the coast of Ft. Myers, Florida, it is warm and dry all winter. Lovely weather. We loved it so much we bought a small place there. But time marches on and it finally became obvious that the drive of 1100 miles one way was going to finally be too far and that finding a housesitter for weeks or months on end was going to be impossible. We made the decision to sell our place on Pine Island. That certainly doesn’t mean we’ll never go back. It does mean we won’t be residents and we won’t be wintering there in the future.

There are so many things I’ll miss. Bob, of course. The beautiful fishing pier at Bokeelia. The little town of Matlacha. The awesome seafood. That beautiful ocean. The weather (but only in the winter!). The really nice and often delightfully eccentric people. The wonderful restaurants. The opportunity to observe exotic wildlife and birds up close and personal including ospreys and bald eagles. The chance to see my friend, Amy, and so very much more.

To me, Pine Island represents one of those wonderful interludes in life that you love looking back at and it makes you happy that you were there and sad you had to leave. I’ll always hope to go back. But, if life happens and for some reason, I don’t make it back to Bob, I’m a lucky girl that I got to be there at all. Not everyone gets to experience such an interlude in life. Maybe I’ll write about it someday.

Now it’s time to move on to the next Great Adventure and we’re thinking the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Superior, the land of my ancestors.

I wouldn’t trade my time at Pine Island, and with Bob, for the world.

Update on Whales: Prisoners for Entertainment

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A few months ago, I wrote a blog post on orca whales, who are actually dolphins, and the problems they face in captivity, and Tilikum, the whale featured in the movie Blackfish. Blackfish is the movie that publicized the plight of the orca whales that are kept in captivity. The movie finally forced entertainment facilities like Sea World to stop using the orcas for entertainment purposes. They also stopped breeding them in captivity.

Tilikum recently passed away at the age of 36. He died from a persistent bacterial lung infection. Tilikum finally became aggressive in captivity and, in 2010, he killed a trainer at Sea World. He was implicated in the deaths of two others. There was actually sympathy for Tilikum because the stress of his captivity was seen as the major factor in his behavior. There have been reports of oracas trying to commit suicide in captivity as reported in the above-mentioned blog post.

After Tilikum died, the President of the Humane Society, was quoted as saying that his death meant the end of the orca captivity program. We can only hope. A much better alternative for us is to take whale-watching tours a few miles out into the ocean. RIP Tilikum

#weekendcoffeeshare 12/24/2016

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Good morning, Merry Christmas, and Happy Hanukkah, to all of you! Please come right in and join me for our Christmas Eve special #weekendcoffeeshare. I have several types of coffee for you. I have just about every type of tea as I am a tea aficionado. Blackberry and other herbals. Russian and other bold teas. Lighter green teas. Even white tea which is a treat to try. My favorite Hot Cinnamon Black Tea. I also have, as a holiday treat, scones and muffins. So load up your plates and let’s talk!

The Holiday Season is here. It isn’t especially my time of year but so many people love it. I’ve been around some friends this year who really get into Christmas and it’s almost been a new experience. I haven’t celebrated Christmas in a big way in a lot of years. Watching my friends prepare for their holiday has been amazing and overwhelming. I don’t see how they do it! Those days are gone for me but I have enjoyed watching them.

Since we’re all writers, I want to report on some writer stuff. I got my Brother laser printer hooked up this week. It is WiFi-enabled and it was terribly easy to hook up. It is handling two different computer with ease – an iPad and a Windows laptop. I’m impressed. I’d forgotten how easy a laser printer is since I have used an inkjet for many years. Here’s the good part. This laser printer was no more expensive than an inkjet. I can remember when they cost $700. Check out Amazon if you need a printer. You will be pleasantly surprised.

I probably would not have thought of a laser printer had it not been for another writer who recommended it. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Chuck Wendig. He is a well-known horror writer in the U.K. and increasingly in the U.S. I love his website and reading his writings. He is amazingly talented and gives great tips to other writers. He also hosts the occasional challenge which are indeed challenging. I would recommend signing up to receive his blog. One caveat: It is at least R-rated so if bad language offends you, don’t do it. Trust me, the information you will gain as a writer is more than worth it. His site is terribleminds.com. You don’t have to write in his genre to take advantage of the information he passes on.

Speaking of gear for writers, my new keyboard for my iPad arrives today. I will report next time on it. Take a look. You can find it at querky.com.

So that takes care of Christmas presents for writers!

I’ve had a productive writing week and hope all of you have too. I am making good progress on my novel which has morphed from a romance novel into a psychological thriller. If that sounds weird to you, believe me, it was weird to me too. Now that I have let the story flow naturally and become what it was meant to be, the writing is easy. I have some free time over the next couple of weeks and I am shooting for maybe 20,000 more words.

I’m taking a trip! Soon, my husband and I are taking our RV and going to Florida to escape Kentucky’s cold weather. I’m just about over having four seasons and am ready for one season – a warm one! We’re spending several weeks there and I was lucky enough to find a house sitter. We will be in my favorite area of Florida most of the time, the Gulf Coast along the peninsula but will spend a week or more along the panhandle as well. I hope to get lots of good pictures and have many experiences that I will share with all of you.

I will blog the entire time I’m gone and I also have a consulting project I will probablly have to work on. But only for a few hours each day.

That wraps it up for this Christmas Eve edition of #weekendcoffeeshare for me. I would love to hear your plans for the holidays! Leave a note for me and tell us about them in the comments! Next time we talk, it will be New Year’s Eve, the dawn of 2017. #amwriting #amblogging #writing #Christmas #Florida

Thanks to Diana and Parttimemonsterblog.com

Flint Michigan Water Crisis: Don’t Forget About Flint

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A lot of press was given to the Native American Standing Rock Pipeline Resistance, which has now been resolved. Some press has been given to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, but we don’t seem to know quite as much about it. The Standing Rock protest was being held to try to protect their water supply. The Flint, Michigan water supply has already been severely contaminated.

The Flint, Michigan water supply was contaminated beginning in April, 2014. Flint switched its water supply from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River. The Flint River was treated improperly and the pipes in it leached lead into the river which made its way into the drinking water. Between 6,000 and 12,000 children have been exposed to lead in their water. An outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease in the area is most likely the result of the contamination of the water supply. Ten deaths resulted.

By June of 2015, Virginia Tech tested Flint’s water and found that it had almost three times the amount of lead in it that water had that the Environmental Protection Agency classified as hazardous waste. Children were getting sick with rashes and mysterious illnesses. Lead has a particularly bad effect on the nervous system.

The President declared a state of emergency in Flint in January 2016. Criminal charges have been filed against some officials who were involved this situation. Some were involved in what amounted to a cover-up.

At this time, the Flint water supplied has been switched back to the Detroit supply though it takes a long time for the lines to be clear of lead.

Not enough attention has been paid to Flint and the children of Flint. What is going to be done about those 6,000-12,000 children who have been exposed to very high levels of  lead? Since lead is a neurotoxin, it causes behaviorial delays, lowered IQ, and developmental problems. These issues can’t be reversed. The proper diet can decrease the absorption of lead so parents are being given information regarding mitigating the circumstances somewhat. Of course, switching water supplies back to the old one is also necessary and has already happened.

Unfortunately, the crisis in Flint is still ongoing and has not had the positive ending that the Standing Rock crisis was able to accomplish.#amwriting #amblogging #writing #Flint

 

Serendipity

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I was thinking tonight about serendipity. Just simply deciding to do something on the spur of the moment and having it turn out to be a really desirable and fun thing to have done. In my life, I’ve found that the less you plan and the more you do things on the spur of the moment, the more fun you have. At my age, fun is important. In fact, at any age, fun is important! Just going with your gut and getting out in the world and doing something you want to do is what fun is all about.

It’s interesting. I know people who, as they age, seem to plan more and do serendipity less. I don’t know why. Perhaps they feel more of a need to control their lives, control their destiny. But, I think you lose some of the joy of youth when you forget about serendipity and plan every activity down to the last detail. Some seem to have to screen every thought they have about possible activities they might like to pursue. I guess I am youth-obsessed. As I age, I want to keep that joy that we feel when we are young, even the joy we have as children. Of course, I have also been accused of having the Peter Pan Syndrome, but I think that is a good thing. Doing serendipity allows me to keep that joy in my life.

I’ve had some interesting experiences by doing serendipity. Once, a friend and I were presenting a paper at a conference in Mesa, Arizona at Arizona State University. We had a free day so we took a drive (a long drive!) over and around the Grand Canyon. We  went off the beaten path to the northern edge of the Grand Canyon. To give you some perspective, the tourist area is on the southern rim. The northern rim is pretty deserted.

As we drove toward the northern rim, we felt totally lost. We were hungry and needed gas in the car and there was nothing around. Suddenly, we ran upon a restaurant with gas pumps so we stopped there to eat. It was a restaurant that was run by the Native American tribe who lived in the area. The menu was interesting and we didn’t know what to order since we didn’t really recognize any of the food on the menu. We told the server just to bring us something good. I still don’t know what it was I ate.

We set out, after eating and getting gas, for the northern rim. We drove down this straight, long, lonesome road, assuming that the northern rim would be at the end of it. We were literally the only car on the road. Suddenly, I had to slam on the brakes as a huge heard of elk ran out of in front of us. They were crossing the road and it was a beautiful site. There had to be 50 or 60 of them. We drove on and soon, we saw a parking lot. We parked and walked a bit and there was the Grand Canyon, but it looked different than it does on the southern rim.

There are not even any guard rails around the northern rim. It is steeper and more raw. It’s absolutely beautiful but in a different way. We spent some time taking pictures and drinking in the beautiful sight.

It was a long way back to our hotel in Mesa so we started back. On the way back, we saw a herd of wild horses. Being a horse lover, I wanted to jump out of the car, but they aren’t exactly longing for a pat!

When we got back to our hotel, we talked about our day. Serendipity was good to us that day. We would never have had those experiences if we had meticulously planned something.

I hope I can keep my joy in experiencing new things on the spur of the moment for the rest of my life. #SoCS #amwriting #amblogging #writing #GrandCanyon

This post is part of SoCS.

#weekendcoffeeshare 10/15/2016

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My friend, Jenn, is back from vacation and she is coming for coffee this Saturday morning. Since we are having coffee, I’d like to invite all of you to join us! It’s still warm in my part of the world (global warming) so we’ll have our coffee and tea on the deck. I see Jenn pulling in the driveway right now. Let’s all go out on the deck. I have all kinds of coffee and tea, including decaf, for you to choose from. I even have a new green tea some of you might enjoy.

“Hello, Jenn! It’s so good to see you. Help me carry out these trays! I hope you had a great vacation!”

“Hello,” Jenn says. “Yes, we saw Greece and Turkey. It was an awesome trip. Very romantic for my husband and I. When I have my pictures, I will tell you all about it. What’s been up with you?”

“It’s been a good week, Jenn. I’ll tell you about it.”

It’s always a good week when you get to spend time with friends. I was able to have lunch with a friend at a good restaurant in Lexington one day this week. They had the best food and it’s always so nice to see Pam. After lunch, Pam had things to do and I had shopping to do. I visited a couple of my favorite stores. I have to replace winter clothes and made a trip to the mall and some other spots. Even shopped for some girly stuff like makeup, perfume. I hadn’t done that in a long time since I usually shop online. Betsy, my little dog, was being groomed by my friend, Anne, while I shopped and she looks beautiful now.

The next day, Pam, Janet, and I went to Keeneland which is always so much fun. I wrote a  blog post about that so I won’t repeat it all here. I could go to Keeneland every day and enjoy it!

The rest of the week, I have been getting ready to take a little trip this coming week. Just a short trip but I really need it! I’m going to Virginia Beach for a few days and will be leaving on Monday. I’ve been to a lot of the beaches up and down the East Coast of the US but I’ve never been to Virginia Beach. So, a friend and I decided, just on the spur of the moment, to take a few days off from life and drive to Virginia Beach while it is still warm.

I think we’re mostly going just to get away, walk on the beach, and sit and look at the waves and the horizon. We’ll probably do a little sightseeing but we haven’t decided exactly what we’ll see yet. We’ll just do serendipity and go and do whatever pleases us at the moment. We were lucky because we were able to get an oceanfront hotel room!

I have been amazed because we heard so much about how Hurricane Matthew damaged Florida and the Carolinas but we heard nothing about how Hurricane Nicole, which almost wiped out Bermuda, impacted Virginia! I’ve heard no news coverage of that at all. The concierge at our hotel told me that they had water in some of the guest rooms, a lot of wind, beach erosion, and even a road closed. The hurricane was hundreds of miles off the coast. Lucky for us, the hotel has been able to get everything repaired so we can go on with our visit. We’ll be back at the end of the week. I’m really looking forward to the trip!

I’m making excellent progress on getting my sunroom converted to a writing room. After I return from Virginia Beach, it will only take another week to get it ready to go, if that. We’re working on the heat and air conditioning. I have the furniture, some of the art work, some tapestries for an extra dose of warmth, and I’m still on the fence about window coverings. I want the windows as open as possible but I also need to be able to cover them when necessary with something insulating. If anyone out there has a suggestion, please send it along!

I’m really excited because I plan to spend the remainder of 2016 writing my book in my writing room. I hope to have it completed by the end of the year and off to the publisher.

I don’t usually do much for the holidays, so while everyone else is doing the holiday thing, I’m going to just write. The holidays have been a down time of year for me for years since I lost my parents at Christmas and don’t have much family left. Writing will bring me comfort this year. I usually just sort of suffer through it and pretend I’m in the holiday spirit even though I’m usually not. I’ve also had some other problems this year and I’m trying to deal with those. Problems make the holidays difficult so I’m hoping to avoid that.

That’s about all that’s been going on this week except I think everyone is worried about this crazy Presidential campaign that we have going on and what the outcome will be. The second debate was disturbing. Who knows about the third debate?

Maybe, Jenn, next weekend, we can share vacation pictures and I’ll tell you about Virginia Beach! I’ll hope to see you next Saturday, along with all my friends who read this blog! Have a great week, everyone! #amwriting #amblogging #writing #VirginiaBeach #Keeneland #travel

Brought to you by parttimemonsterblog.com

 

 

Destination Travel: Keeneland Race Track in Bluegrass Country

I am lucky enough to live just about 60 miles from the most beautiful horse country in America – the area around Lexington, Kentucky. The horse racing track located here is Keeneland Race Track, ranked in 2009 as the #1 premier horse racing track in the United States by the Horseplayers Association of America. Keeneland has two racing meets per year. One in April for 4 weeks and one in October for 3 weeks. Here is a photo of two horses in the padlock in the 2016 October meet:

Besides racing, Keeneland does many other things. They have sales meets every year at which some of the best all-time race horses have been sold. Nineteen Kentucky Derby winners have been sold at Keeneland along with 21 Preakness and 18 Belmont winners. Eighty-two of 88 Breeder’s Cup World Championship race winners have been sold at Keeneland.

.The atmosphere at Keeneland can’t be beat. It is a bit old-world and certainly “old Lexington” and reminiscent of the thoroughbred industry of both the past and the present. Lots of old and new money changing hands but the common person off the street can also have lots of fun. There is seating from general admission at $5 per person to very expensive box seating. You can always “ride the rail” and feel the dirt being kicked in your face by the horses as they pound the track running by.

The dining options are extraordinary with three fancy dining rooms. Make your reservations way in advance! Then there are the equivalent of fast-food restaurants but many serve a Keeneland specialty food called Kentucky burgoo which is a type of stew. Burgoo can be made out of almost anything. The recipe is a closely guarded secret. Rumor has it that it may have rabbit, squirrel, or other game meats in it.

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Of course there is the gambling. Betting on horses is certainly gambling. Racing forms abound at Keeneland and there are experts sitting around in the most varying costumes. There are also ATM machines which this writer advises you to stay away from!

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The betting window

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There are so many things to do at Keeneland. You can go there early in the morning, watch the horses exercise, and sometimes have breakfast. They have a famous equine library you can peruse. Their gift shop and its merchandise is to die for. Arrange a trip to the backside (the stables) if you can and see the horses, grooms, and what really goes on in racing stables up close and personal.

There is also the quite fascinating people watching. Sit on a bench, relax, and watch the quite varied types of people who wander through Keeneland Race Track. That will entertain you all by itself. This is truly a travel destination. #amwriting #amblogging #writing #Keeneland