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Time does not always fly

So now it’s mid April. Still another six months to go and two and half months (plus or minus) til we have to make a final decision (which, regrettably, involves parting with a lot of money). However it’s been planned and accounted for so I guess it’s ok. Sorta.

The plane portion has been booked and it doesn’t need to be paid til the final due date. Thank goodness for small favors. But my how things have changed. Luggage is an extra cost, if you want to pick a preferred seat (aisle, window…whatever) that is an extra cost. I haven’t asked about breathing yet, but I am practicing holding my breath just in case.

Two flights necessary to get there…first to Toronto, the next to Barcelona. I have a method I am going to try (again) on the leg to Barcelona to improve our comfort level. Surprisingly, it has worked in the past with very good results. I will keep you all apprised of the outcome good, bad or indifferent. Coming home from Ft. Lauderdale I will be doing it again. Who knows? I figure is MY TURN for some good fortune.

Most of our excursions have been tentatively figured out. There are a number of ports that we have never been to before (YAY!) and a few that we have dropped anchor at in the past. The new ones are easy…everywhere to go is different. The ones from previous adventures…well…there are a Lot of different sites yet to be seen (at least by us). Tuscany, for instance, is one of those.

Florence is the Tuscany region’s capital and is an area replete with Brunello…the only big fat Italian wine I have Not tried in its natural habitat. We have been north to Barolo country, and to the Amarone region so I’m two for two on my favorite big three. This time I aim to taste the third. There will be pictures and tasting notes to follow, rest assured. As we speak there are two wineries that we have all but confirmed viewings/tastings at.

They have another customary item there as well, known as Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Steak Florentine). Although a common association of the term Florentine involves spinach, this has Nothing to do with that type of greenery. Rather it is both the area (Florence/Tuscany) and the cut. Just so we’re clear…the perfect cut is about two inches, can be up to three pounds, and pretty much a T-bone. It also comes from a specific breed of Tuscan cattle, called the Chianina. The price? It borders on one of those things you maybe don’t want to know. Typically about $80 USD per kilo. You should be shown it before you order it so you can approve and definitely ask how much it weighs.

Oh yeah…one other thing. They do NOT do steak well done and steak Florentine is often served almost raw on the inside. As much as I like med-rare to rare steak, this one is simply too much for any one couple. Having said that, I suspect we will see it somewhere and if we do, you’ll see it here as well. 🙂

The remaining six month hiatus before our departure seems like it is going to be a long, drawn out affair. Before our plane leaves, the veggies and plants will have been planted, harvested, some eaten, many canned and the gardens emptied out again. Thanksgiving will come and go as will Halloween. Given our indeterminate weather patterns we will likely even see the first snows of next winter. So time does not always fly, especially when waiting for some grand occurrence such as this.

But, without out doubt, it will be grand indeed! Hope you are willing to hang on til then. 🙂

Just a little bit closer…

So here we are at mid-March. The little calendar at the right (on our home page) suggests there are now 7 months to go Still seems like such a long time. Snow still covers the ground like a blanket but certainly doesn’t Feel like one. Our seedlings for our gardens (both flower and veg/herb) are starting to pop up from the mini containers we have them in. Leaning as they do, toward the sun from the window, searching for the same warmth that teases both them and us.

This is the time of year that seems to drag on and on and on… It is bad enough when it’s simply a normal year. Spring is JUST around the corner, yet can’t seem to get here fast enough. The desire to get out in to the yard to do the planting and the tending is an itch that can’t quite be scratched.

Now we couple that with emerging from this 2-year hiatus due to the pandemic. Hope remains strong that the very worst is behind us. Presuming that it is, then we also look forward to friends and relatives visiting for weekend (or weekDAY…we live the life of the retired!!) bbq’s and get-togethers.

Add the fact that we have this fabulous adventure so tantalizingly close and the waiting becomes almost unbearable. This is likely the very first time in my 67 years that the month of November is actually something other than the inevitable beginnings of more snow.

Yeah…we’ll wait. We’ll do all the things we normally do and enjoy pretty much every one of them. Even more so because we Should be able to do them with everyone dear to us. But everyday will also mean we’re just a little bit closer to getting on that plane…and then the ship!!

Our Itinerary (with luck)

Should this wonderful trip actually come to fruition, this is a quick and dirty overview of where we will be. My endurance permitting, I will give more detailed information on a day-to-day basis. As most of you know, my keyboard has been known to take quite a beating from time to time. When I become boring or too long-winded, please do not hesitate to poke me in the ribs.

Day 1 – 3 (maybe 4) – Fly to Barcelona, Spain and toodle around. There is Certainly no lack of engaging things to do, see, eat and drink. We have been before, but are certain we will be awestruck again.

Ship day 1 – Leave Barcelona and head out into the Mediterranean Sea.

Ship day 2 – Arrive Toulon, France 8 AM to 6 PM

Ship day 3 – First of two stops in Florence, Italy 7 AM to 7 PM

Ship day 4 and 5 – At sea

Ship day 6 – Kotor, Montenegro 7 AM to 6 PM

Ship day 7 – Dubrovnik, Croatia 7 AM to 6 PM

Ship day 8 – Corfu, Greece 8AM to 10 PM

Ship day 9 – At sea

Ship day 10 – Sicily (Messina) Italy 8 AM to 6 PM

Ship day 11 – Naples, Italy (for Capri and Pompeii) 7 AM to 7 PM

Ship day 12 – Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy 5 AM to 7 PM

Ship day 13 – Second of two stops in Florence, Italy 7 AM to 7 PM

Ship day 14 – Genoa, Italy 7 AM to 7 PM

Ship day 15 – Corsica (Ajaccio), France 7 AM to 5 PM

Ship day 16 – At sea

Ship day 17 – Gibraltar 9 AM to 6 PM

Ship day 18 – At sea

Ship day 19 – Santa Cruz De Tenerife, Spain 8 AM to 5 PM

Ship day 20 – 26 At sea (or on a roller coaster, depending…)

Ship day 27 – Ft. Lauderdale, USA 6 AM

Fortunately the ship is big enough with a wide variety of things to do, so sea days will not be humdrum. The ability to simply sit and do…effectively nothing…is, in itself, a fabulous pastime. What to make for dinner? Not what to Make…what to HAVE as the Making and Cleaning Up After is Not our problem. Should I clean the room? No! It’s probably already done. Should I read a book? Sure…OR…go see live entertainment, go shopping, sit at the bar or poolside or in a lounge and talk with new friends. Go to an art auction (which I’m not allowed to do), or take a dance class. How you could possibly be hungry is beyond me, but IF you are, there is only about eleventy million things to snack on. Sea days can be as full or empty as you wish them to be.

Are we anxious? Yes…it’s only been 2 years of planning, getting shot down, more planning, more disappointment. But this time it does feel different. Time will tell (only 8 more months of anticipation).

Maybe THIS time…

It is possible, if not likely, that our loyal viewers have long since left this blog. Totally understandable given the fact there has been no updates for the past 2 years. For that I apologize but in my defense, dealing with a pandemic made travel well nigh impossible. Certainly cruising has been more than a little affected as has the entire travel industry.

If you ARE still here (or at least re-visiting because you get emails advising you of updates) Thank You! This adventure may actually happen this time. We can only hope.

Our cruise this time will be different once again. Actually a number of significant changes. First and foremost of which is we are travelling with long-time dear friends. While they are not new to cruising, they are new to Princess. The Regal Princess (our home-away-from-home this time) should give them a warm and impressive welcome. (If not, we’re going to have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do!)

Another major difference is that it will be our (and their) first ocean crossing. Hmmm….

7 days at sea.

Across the Atlantic.

In the beginning of December.

Should be more than a little interesting. 🙂

Sad To Say

Well folks…it’s now official.  COVID-19 has affected much of the world and now has reached out to touch us as well.  We are sad to say that Princess Cruise Lines has suspended ALL their cruises for the next two months up to May 10, 2020.

Although it is unfortunate, from a purely selfish perspective as we (like MANY others) were looking forward to this cruise, it is also the right thing for them to do.  Not only have they had their fair share of news headlines of late, the entire travel industry has been severly impacted.  (Yes, I know it’s not JUST the travel industry, but that’s what I’m talking about here.)

To their credit, Princess Cruise Lines have very much stepped up to the plate given the impact this overall cancellation will have on thousands of their faithful cruise passengers.  As compensation, passengers now have a choice:

1)  Take a Future Cruise Credit (valid to May 1, 2022) in the amount of 150% of their exisiting cruise price   OR

2)  Take a Future Cruise Credit (valid to May 1, 2022) in the amount of 25% of their exisiting cruise price as well as 100% refund of their existing cruise price (back to thier credit card or however they originally paid).

We have elected the second choice primarily due to not really being sure how long this world-wide pandemic will last as well as personal health reasons.  Cruising is still (hopefully) very much in our future, but right now it’s up in the air as to when it will be.

We fully approve of Princess’s decision (other cruise lines have made different choices) and will continue to book with them in the future.  If any of you have considered cruising, please consider Princess Cruise Lines.  No…this is in no way a ‘commercial’ for them, nor are we compensated in any way for this (our blog readership is too small to have a serious impact).  We just want our readers to know we support Princess and encourage others to keep them in mind.

Keep watching our blog…we WILL be back.   🙂

An Overview Of Our Itinerary

The first map I had of our itinerary is…ok…but I thought I would try to recreate it with perhaps a slightly better overview.  Below is a list of our stops after leaving Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Sat, 04/11/20 Ft. Lauderdale, Florida – 4:00pm

Sun, 04/12/20 At Sea
Mon, 04/13/20 At Sea
Tue, 04/14/20 At Sea
Wed, 04/15/20 At Sea
Thu, 04/16/20 At Sea
Fri, 04/17/20 At Sea

1 – Sat, 04/18/20 Azores Islands (Ponta Delgada), Portugal 7:00am – 4:00pm

Sun, 04/19/20 At Sea
Mon, 04/20/20 At Sea

2 – Tue, 04/21/20 Brest, France 7:00am – 3:00pm

3 – Wed, 04/22/20 Paris/Normandy (le Havre), France 8:00am – 9:00pm

Thu, 04/23/20 At Sea

4 – Fri, 04/24/20 Skagen, Denmark 10:00am – 8:00pm

5 – Sat, 04/25/20 Copenhagen, Denmark – 5:00am – 6:00pm

6 – Sun, 04/26/20 Oslo, Norway 10:00am – 11:00pm

Mon, 04/27/20 At Sea

7 – Tue, 04/28/20 Berlin (Warnemunde), Germany 7:00am – 9:00pm

Wed, 04/29/20 At Sea

8 – Thu, 04/30/20 Tallinn, Estonia 8:00am – 5:00pm

9 – Fri, 05/01/20 St. Petersburg, Russia Overnight 6:30am
Sat, 05/02/20 St. Petersburg, Russia – 6:00pm

10 – Sun, 05/03/20 Helsinki, Finland 7:00am – 4:00pm

11 – Mon, 05/04/20 Stockholm (Nynashamn), Sweden 7:00am – 7:00pm

Tue, 05/05/20 At Sea

12 – Wed, 05/06/20 Copenhagen, Denmark 5:00am

Fly to Berlin

Possible Changes 2.0

Having been in the tech industry for what feels like forever, I have seen a multitude of changes and reinventions and reiterations of everything from software to hardware to bloatware.  This is likely the first time I’ve had to deal with vacation changes.  In addition, they can (for now at least) only remain as Possible Changes.  One of those has happened and it has suffered defeat (mostly due to cost).  Now we’re on Possible Changes 2.0.  Now, rather than Portugal (which will REMAIN on the bucket list, as I ~have~ to get there for a more in-depth experience), we are headed to Germany.  Some of these areas are in what was Eastern Germany (before the fall of the wall).

What started out as nine days in Florence, then tried to re-invent itself into nine days in Portugal, should now be three days in Berlin, three days in Dresden and three days in Cologne.  In the grand scheme of vacation planning, this really is not a bad turnabout.  I have never been to that part of Germany.

During World War II, most of where we are going had been decimated by the bombing by the Allies.  However, German resilience and determination have resulted in not only bringing back old structures, but also ushering in the 21st Century World.

It is part of both my wife’s and my own heritage which makes it even more memorable.

After Cologne we travel to Amsterdam for another three days to finish our adventure.  That is always the harshest reality.  Fortunately, it’s quite awhile before we have to face it. 🙂

Possible changes…

The CoronaVirus issue that currently plagues the world may now have an impact on our own travel plans.  We have dear friends that had a exotic trip planned for Vietnam.  They cancelled it entirely, due to potential concerns brought about by that virus.  As it turns out, though it was not formally in the area when they decided to cancel, it now is.  So they dodged a possible bullet.  Now we face similar concerns.

We have visited Italy 4 times during our years of travel (with nary a regret, I might add!).  Each time, regardless of where else our countryside explorations there might take us, we have always managed to stop for a day or two in Venice.  On this occasion we were going to be in Florence for a few days, after leaving Copenhagen, with a day trip (by train) planned to Venice.  COVID-19 has now arrived before us.  Venice is shutting down it’s carnival two days early, as Italy struggles with outbreaks in its northern regions.

With that in mind and an ever-watchful eye on the news, Plan B is likely to become a reality.  Is that a ~bad~ thing?  Certainly not.  Florence (and Venice) will see our faces again, albeit possibly more down the road than originally anticipated.

So…just what is Plan B?  Portugal!  Being a bit of a Port aficionado and having been to Portugal (other than the Azores on this particular cruise) only once before (briefly in Lisbon), it seemed like a splendid idea to visit northern Portugal and the lovely city of Porto!  There will be more information as it becomes more set in stone (because Florence is NOT out of the question entirely just yet).  We would love to stay with Plan A as everything is set and ready for our arrival, but caution is the word of the day.

How this really plays out is yet to be determined.  Whatever the end result, however, our travels will be exciting, rewarding, and hopefully, enjoyable to read about. 🙂

Retirement and Turning 65

This past year has been one of massive change for me.  My mother passing away, dealing with everything That brought about and then ending up on long-term disability, put many things into perspective.  This blog is Not for that type of reflection.

However, one thing that also came from 2019, was the beginnings of a plan.  One that involved (health dependant!) an extended tour of lands yet discovered (by us).  The travel bucket list always seems to be similar to the honey-do list.  When one thing gets crossed off, another takes its place so the list never really gets any smaller.  However, I have never minded that problem with the travel bucket list. 🙂

We have done many cruises in the past 15 years – around various Caribbean Islands, up to Alaska, through the Panama Canal, down the west coast of South America, the west coast of North America, around the British Isles and a couple throughout the Mediterranean.  We even managed to do a river cruise that took care of another bucket list item – Oktoberfest in Munich.  Admittedly not nearly as much travelling as people we have met along the way, but certainly more than either of us ever envisioned.

The world never gets smaller (physically) but the ability to see more of it improves all the time.  YouTube (and other facilities like it) provide one method of viewing the world (albeit through eyes other than your own), but you all know it’s just not quite the same as being there yourself.  What we have found it particularly good for is finding things to do, places to go and sites to see.

Northern Europe has tempted us long enough.  Now it is time to ‘make the scene’ , find Fernando and the Dancing Queen and determine if Lutefisk can actually taste good in its homeland (I’m still not convinced my palate will appreciate any difference).


Mixed Emotions

It’s Saturday and we fly home tomorrow.  This past week has pretty much flown by as most vacations do.  And that in itself is perhaps the wrong term.  A ‘vacation’ is usually a term used in the context of a break from work.  For us, that’s not so much the case.  It has really been a chance to return to a place that we have not really paid a visit to in over 40 years.  And we’ve been able to do it in a much more relaxed state.

Leaving Sunday morning gives those same feelings that always materialize on ‘the last day’.  A thirst to go back home plus the craving to stay are almost like conjoined twins.  Mixed emotions fight internally, yet the home-front yearning always wins.

The original plan was to drop by Kendall Jackson then cruise down the highway to swing by Heitz Cellars.  But the reality of the time to do so and still keep our (now extended) return time for the car simply wasn’t going to work.  So, Kendall won out.

A long time ago the Grand Reserve Merlot from KJ was favorably discovered by my nose and palate.  It’s never been forgotten but it is so rarely available at home that opportunities for enjoyment are slim and very far between.  It just seemed apropos to make an appearance at the home of that most delightful beverage.  It did not disappoint.

The entrance and the surrounding grounds are stellar and immaculately kept.  The tasting room large, well staffed and replete with not only their wine but requisite souvenirs that beckon all that frequent.  Our tasting host, Chris, provided not only good pours of the wines but displayed a full and proper knowledge of just WHAT he was pouring.  While sharing with him our story of why we were here, and how long it’s been since our first visit to the SF area, he felt it would be proper to do his own sharing.  He very willingly offered to extend us an additional pour of something not on the list, but of a more refined selection.  It would have been very rude indeed to decline. 🙂  As it turns out, that 2017 Jackson Estate Camelot Highlands Chardonnay found its way into our car to join our flight home tomorrow.

Our next stop (now NOT at Heitz Cellars) was the Petaluma Premium Outlet Mall.  Save your time should you have the opportunity.  There was no joy for us.  As a for instance….Tommy Hilfiger had a huge number of items outside the store on sale at various reduction levels.  I found a very nice shirt that was marked 70% off and the marked price was $60 USD.  Ok…that should work out to about $18.  Good Deal!  No, no no…the $60 already was the marked down price.  REALLY?  Somehow they feel they can justify a short sleeve shirt for $200 simply because it has that brand name on it.  Even when I DO win the lottery that just makes No Sense.

Out of there in a hurry and on to our hotel to drop off the luggage then on to Costco to fill up the car before its return.  And might I add, at a price that was 90 cents a gallon cheaper than I had paid previously at a different store a few days before.  Even more luck, the Costco gas station was minutes away from the Hertz drop off which was also minutes away from our hotel.  That all worked out well.

A street-car was now on the menu for a trip to Pier 39, the heart of the wharf area of SF.  Again, decades since we have wandered about down here.  The hustle and bustle has become more intense, traffic around the immediate area is nuts, and the sheer volume of everything has been turned up many notches.  More and more of this and that.  Some constants exist though.  Ghirardelli chocolate is still easily available and just as fabulous (and non-caloric! 😉  )  Food is as plentiful and certainly some choices remain outstanding.  And, of course, the Harbour Seals still laze around, taking in the sun.  Continuity is a good thing.

Now sufficiently fed (probably good til Tuesday) we Uber back to the hotel.  We asked a readily available cab driver for an approximate price and he quoted about $50.  Uber cost us $28.  ‘Nuff said.

We had checked our luggage, as mentioned, because we really were too early for our room, and we knew that.  Fortunately they were happy to set our stuff aside in a locked room (with many others) to await our return.  As we checked in at the reception area, the wonderful lady behind the counter felt sorry for us because our room wasn’t ready when we arrived.  Before I could explain it was simply due to our own early arrival, she said she would upgrade us to a suite because of the inconvenience.  How could I disappoint her by turning her down?  This trip has truly been one of many surprises, almost all of which extraordinarily good.

Think we can get a free upgrade on the flight tomorrow???  (HIGHLY unlikely – it’s Air Canada)

This will be the last post for this journey.  I hope everyone that has dropped by got a kick out of our exploits and will return when the next adventure begins.  BTW…I will post more pics in the next day or 2.  The other thing I manged to forget to pack was the proper cable to download pictures from the cameras to the laptop.  YES there will be better accouterments management next time.

Dasvidaniya (now THERE’S a hint…)