Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

A Gastric Disappointment

Travel There – Chicago’s Millennial Park

The Bean

As I’ve mentioned before, Bill and I travel differently. I have my list and I want to check stuff off. Bill likes to meander. It’s not that I don’t like to meander. It’s just that I want to meander around something on my list.

At this point I wanted to meander over to Millennial Park and eat at Park Grill, but Bill just wanted to meander. He had no clue about where he was, what he was looking at or what was missing that might be more enjoyable. He just wanted to meander. So we did – for a while.

A Gastric Disappointment

One of my favorite memories from a previous visit to Chicago was lunch at the Park Grill in Millennium Park. Bill had been in a training class, so he had not joined me, but the memory of that lunch stuck with me. Yes, the burger had been good and the service attentive, but the real treat had been sitting in the middle of everything, watching it go by.

I’d done my homework and according to their Facebook page, Covid had closed down the Park Grill, but it was supposed to open just in time for me to share it with Bill. Not only was I getting hungry, but the meandering had not exactly offered up much in the way of entertainment. We finally turned towards my destination.

But wait, what’s this! I could see Millennial Park across the street but we had happened upon Chicago Cultural Center. As much as I wanted to get over there and find Park Grill, I took a deep breath and agreed we should go in and look around the Cultural Center. It is a remarkable building with beautiful architectural feature. Should you go to Chicago I think you should take a look at it, so I was not going to deny Bill a peek, just because I was anxious about what was next.


Awestruck by what we’d seen, we finally headed across the street, but there was no Park Grill. Their Facebook page had promised they’d opened a few days before, but there was nada. Now, I felt as I did when we stood at the empty showroom at the Merchandising Mart. Had I made a mistake about where it was? I didn’t think so, but just like at the Merchandising Mart NO ONE was there to help us. Of course, there was an app for the Millennial Park, but it told me less than I remembered from my previous visit.

The schism continued. Bill was still in meander mode. He hadn’t been to Park Grill, so he didn’t know what he was missing. He also wasn’t hungry yet, so he he wasn’t suffering in any way. I was desperate to find any food, but in particular I wanted the damned Park Grill to appear before me. Instead we discovered all the lovely sights below.

Bill was happy to wander all over Millennial Park and to watch the fountains forever, but finally I made him understand I was about ready to start chewing off my own flesh, if he didn’t feed me – and soon. Using good old google, we located a Shake Shack across the street and went for it.

Now, you may be a big fan of Shake Shack and probably don’t even have to look at the menu when you walk in to get your burger fix. Well, we didn’t know our way around and the wall full of icons and pricing didn’t help us one bit. We stood there lost as we had been for most of the day.

I am a Texan. I grew up in Dallas and now I live out in a teeny town on the edge of suburban Rockwall. Down here, we keep an eye out for one another and if someone looks the least bit as if they’re not sure where they are, someone offers to help them out. As I’ve noted elsewhere, Chicagoans don’t seem to have a ready eye to help anyone. Their eyes are glued to their phones. They don’t even look at each other. They may have to walk around you to get by, but they are still not going to talk to you. Heck, they won’t even look up from their phone!

Eventually, we did figure out something to order. I really wanted to try one of those Shake Shack Shakes, but Bill believes all fast food should be consumed with free tap water. I thought that after watching them go by during our entire meal, he might be tempted to share one for dessert. I may have even suggested it. He probably said, “Maybe next time,” which in Bill speak is, “Tough beans. I’m never darkening the door of a Shake Shack in my life!”

To start the day with dreams of re-living my Park Grill experience with the man I love and find myself at Shake Shack without the hope of a shake is a long way to fall in one day. It was time to meander back to our car, find our way to the airport and play that game. By the end of the day, we were home.

Come back next week and see where we are headed next!

Architecture, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Mari Vineyards – The Oak Island Winery

Thanks to the Curse We Had a Great Experience

Yep, I’m a fan of The Curse of Oak Island, but Shad, who did all the planning, is not a Lagina Brothers groupie. When he sent me an outline of what he intended for us to do, I did some poking around on the internet. It’s there I saw Mari Vineyards on an attractions map outside Traverse City. I knew this was one of Marty Lagina’s many enterprises and it would not have any direct connection to the TV show I loved, but I still wanted to go. Our host accommodated my desire.

WOW! Is This It?

Fresh off our visit to Black Star Farms, we were hoping for something a bit more, shall we say, engaging. While a covered porch and adjacent farmyard has a certain allure for some people, it’s not exactly my scene. Mari Vineyards suited my taste to a tee. To begin with, the winery sits on a gorgeous piece of real estate, with a commanding view of the area. Even if wine is not your thing, you can’t help but love the view.

As you can see from the first photo, the architecture and accoutrements are also much more upscale. The patio was particularly inviting. I loved the exterior so much I never made it inside, but according to the others, the restroom facilities were nice and the staff was pleasant.

Honestly, however, the wine was not outstanding. I’d give the wine honors to Black Star, but if I was looking for a great way to spend an afternoon, Mari Vineyards would win hands down and I’d probably bring a picnic.

Traveling with Kids

So, I don’t do kids. I like to see them at church and I enjoy my great niece and great nephews in very short spurts, if they can be returned to their parents after a bit, but I don’t dote on them the way some people do. That being said, these kids were pretty great. Major kudos to the parents in both cases. Hannah and Daniel are both obedient, intelligent and respectful.

Hannah is a sweetheart all the way around, perhaps a bit of a Daddy’s girl, but who could blame her Dad when she works so hard to please him.

Daniel is a whole ‘nother ball of wax, a real cut up and slightly naughty. Catching him for a photo was a hit or miss thing. He seemed to know just when to make that face or strike a pose to highlight the imp inside.

Hannah, who is older, can sit quietly and needs little supervision, with or without her ipad. Daniel can sit quietly forever, if he’s playing a game, but once the electronic devise is ripped from his hands, one needs to keep an eye on him and should you fail to do so, he’ll find a way to get your attention.

Wineries are not exactly kid-friendly, so after our second one, we took another tack, visiting the Old Mission Lighthouse. Come back next week and check that out!

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Fashion, Gardens, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village

TRAVEL THERE: ARTSY FARTSY MORNING

So, I admit I love shopping, but what I love best is buying bargain clothes and shoes.  My favorite price is $9.99.  It’s like a game with me to find gorgeous things that the stores want to give away at ridiculous prices.  There are only a few people I buy for when I am traveling and while I enjoy that, I don’t usually hang out in retail establishments.

Bill is a lot more likely to shop on vacation.  He loves consignment stores and will wander around a shopping mall just to see the architecture.  Since we’re not going to buy anything, I sort of see it as a waste of time, but I accommodate his desires.

When we are in Sedona that all changes.  We both love Tlaquepaque with a passion.  We can’t afford most of it, but we want all of it.  Come along with us.   

What’s Not to Love?

So, to begin with, Tlaquepaque is in Sedona.  We pretty much love everything in Sedona.  Even when we have a pizza and think the crust was way too thin, we enjoy it and look back on it fondly.  Maybe there is something to that whole vortex thing.

Next up, Tlaquepaque is visually appealing.  You do not have to enter a single store to enjoy it.  Wandering among the archways and courtyards, listening to the splashing fountains, smelling the delicious food cooking, people watching…it’s all good.  The architecture is part Spanish colonial, part southwest –  tile roofs, black rod iron ornamentation, brick walkways, desert foliage…all the stuff we like – all gorgeous.

But what’s more, the shopping in fun.  It is perfectly OK to wander around for hours, stopping into shops, some multiple times and not buy a single thing.  Maybe they’re lonely.  Maybe they’re just nice.  Whatever it is, everyone is thrilled to see you.  They greet you and chat you up.  They do not hover over you as if you are about to steal the whole store or try to sell you everything you linger at.  They want your opinion on the goods they are unpacking or will ask you if a particular wall is a good place to hang something.  They will let you try on every ring in the case without huffing or puffing and won’t be the merchandise monitor limiting you to one item at a time.  Here – try them both on, go show your husband, step out in the courtyard to see it in the light.

Some of the stores are also studios, so you can watch someone do whatever they do.  Or there’s a partially finished something that allows you to see how they arrive at finished products.  You smell clay and leather and paints.  You’re just as likely to smell magnolia blossom essential oil, patchouli perfume or burning incense.  

How It Went This Time

Bill made friend in one of the first shops we entered.  He didn’t so much love the merchandise as he discovered the proprietor goes to Egypt every year – so Bill being Egyptian, they had a lot to talk about.  So much so that I had time to discover the bargain of the day – a pair of blue topaz earrings set in silver – but it was that blue topaz that is visually interchangeable with aquamarines, which are my birthstone.  They were quite a bit more than my $9.99 price, but a steam nonetheless.  So much so, that Bill bought them for me!

Then we wandered – for hours.  We barely scratched the surface.  We strolled without any particular pattern.  We had a marvelous time enjoying all the things I just described to you above.  About halfway through, I found a cute shop with unique hand-blown wine stoppers – not cheap, but reasonable.  I’d found the gifts I wanted to buy.

The weather was a little gray and a little nippy, so it didn’t beg us to linger outside or take photos.  Sorry about that.  Bill did fall in love with these pieces in one of the galleries, but they didn’t come home with us.

We could have gone on for hours more, but we had a plane to catch.  El Rincon Restaurante Mexicano was wafting amazing aromas into the courtyards.  We followed our noses and had an amazing meal before heading out to the airport.

Home Again

The drive back to Phoenix was without incident.  We returned our rental car with ease and the shuttle bus delivered us to our terminal without a hassle.  The Southwest plane was on time and the flight was fine.  Our car was right where we left it and we got home with no trouble.  See we can go on a trip without a single hassle.

What’s next?  Right this minute I don’t know.  It’s July as I blog about this February trip and our lives are dominated by the pandemic.  I tried to plan another trip out west during December, but there are so many unknowns right now that I finally gave up.  Stay tuned, though.  You know I won’t be able to stay home!!

Accommodations, Architecture, ART, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, TRAVEL, United States

Adobe Village Inn

TRAVEL THERE: IN THE SHADOW OF BELL ROCK

This was the view from our window.  Though not immediately identifiable from this angle, with the trees in front of it, the formation to the left is Bell Rock.  On the right is Courthouse Butte.  We were very happy with our accommodations!

It Looked Good and Got Better 

When the GPS told us we’d arrived at Adobe Village Inn, we patted ourselves on the back.  It was located right smack dab in the middle of the most awesome scenery.  From outside, the inn was a lovely adobe home with gardens.  Fountains, a tile roof and various statuary said this was going to be good.  We were greeted by a gentleman who looked like he belonged in a setting just like this and he welcomed us into the home.

We should have taken more pictures.  The living room was spectacular.  Expansive view, tile floor, lovely patio, charming decor and more and more and more.  We were so excited we were almost giggly.

The nice gentleman who looked like he fit right in was actually the manager, not the owner, but he gave us a nice tour and let us to our room.  Our room was great – if not perfect.  There was a fireplace, but it was crowded into a corner.  The only way to get cozy with it was a love seat, crammed into the same corner.  On the other side of the entry was a huge space that was a sort of dressing room/closet combo with bathroom.  I would have preferred more space around the fireplace, but they didn’t ask me.  I’m thinking many of their patrons do sporting things and the big closet space is for storing their equipment.

Further in the room, past the storage/bathroom there was a large piece of furniture, like a sideboard with coffee and such.  On the facing wall was the TV and other electronics.  Then the room opened up to embrace a king-sized bed.  Theoretically, you could watch the TV from the bed or love seat.  In reality, you weren’t there to watch TV and it wasn’t great viewing from either spot.    

They get an A for hospitality.  Snacks were available, the fire was going and nice music was playing.  I gave it a 9.5.  We retrieved our luggage and got settled in.  There was a patio, but the sign said we weren’t supposed to go out there.  Another window, next tot he bed gave us the view above.

In our discussion with the manager we discovered the Inn really was a village.  Besides the several rooms in the home, there were several casitas just up the hill a few steps away.  Wedding ceremonies are often held on the lovely patio and the wedding party stays in the casitas.  Up from the casitas are other full size homes and several of them belong to the inn to be rented out by larger groups.  I highly recommend this facility for a wedding or family reunion or even your next getaway.

The day was getting warmer and the sky was clearing of any threatening clouds.  We climbed back into our Jeep for our next adventure.  I’d seen something on the map that had caught my attention, “Schnebly Road Requires High Clearance Vehicles.”  Our guided 4-wheel expedition may have been cancelled, but we were going to see if we couldn’t find our own adventure. 

Please join us next week for some fun and sun! 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Going to the Chapel

TRAVEL THERE: CHAPEL OF THE HOLY CROSS

Hopping from trail head to trail head, we soon found ourselves at a favorite attraction in the area – The Chapel of the Cross.  Come along for a visit.

A Little Savoring Side Trip

Confession, while I may not need to hone my skills at savoring a Mickey D’s breakfast, Bill is right that I do not savor enough.  I want to see everything right now and I want to see all of it fast

As soon as we caught sight of the chapel, I was ready to zip right up there and take it all in.  Mr. Bill was busy savoring things.  First, he savored a few more trail heads.  Then he drove around a residential neighborhood just below the chapel.  Though I was antsy at the beginning of the process, I did manage to slow down and begin dancing to the beat of his drummer. 

Visiting the Chapel

When you have a favorite place, you keep it pasted on the walls of your brain to retreat there whenever the desire arises.  When you go back to visit in reality, sometimes they have dared to change things.  Sometimes that’s good and sometimes that’s bad.  At the chapel it was a little bit of both.

The experience of arrival was pretty similar.  I think they may have moved the angel statue I was so fond of, but the elevated walkway was much the same and the exterior of the chapel was as it had always been.

However, when you actually entered the chapel things had changed drastically.  A huge life-sized crucifix has been placed inside, dominating the view of the valley from the interior.  I had fond memories of standing inside the chapel, close to the huge windows, looking down on the valley.  Am I allowed to say that I loved the sculpture of Christ on the Cross, but I didn’t like what it did to the chapel?

Instead of being allowed to appreciate the incredible view spread out below the chapel, you are now separated from it.  First, by tables of candles and then by the statue itself.  For some, this might make the chapel a more holy place, but for me, surveying the creation of a man, over God’s creation was a disappointment.  I don’t know how to tell them to fix it.  The copper sculpture needs to be inside to keep the beautiful finish, but the space is really to small for it.  I couldn’t get far enough away from it to really appreciate it and the barricade of candles before it ruined the truly awesome view of the valley.

On other visits I’d had a difficult time dragging myself away from the chapel.  This time, I was in and out in moments.  Once outside you became aware of something else that had changed – the view outside the chapel.  See that enormous house just to the left of center.  They should be ashamed of themselves.  Overly ostentatious and very distracting!

So, I’ve decided to retain my memories of the chapel before these latest additions.  The sculpture and the house will stay and other distractions may be added, but I’m just going to keep my old memories intact and go to the old chapel in my brain.   

After we finished with the chapel we decided to check into our Bed and Breakfast Inn, The Adobe Village Inn.  Join us next week and discover this delightful place to stay.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Fashion, Museums, TRAVEL, United States

Phoenix Art Museum

Museum guide with our Entry Stickers

TRAVEL THERE: AN AIMLESS ART ADVENTURE

In my research for this trip, must-see items in the Phoenix Art Museum did not make themselves apparent.  Going was more of a you’re-here-and-it’s-free kind of thing.  So we stood in the short line and made it into the museum with perhaps an hour to kill.  Here’s what we did in that hour.

No Need for Speed

Front and center in the entry way was an exhibition called Legends of Speed.  It was 20 race cars posing as art.  What we could see from outside the exhibition was lovely, but it cost extra to see it and we didn’t even have enough time to see what was free.  So, we sort of followed our nose up into the European and Western Art areas. 

The Phoenix Art Museum is quite modern.  I don’t mean that all it has is modern art.  I mean the building and its architecture are very modern.  Nothing grand and stately.  More like plywood walls painted white with concrete floors.  Lingering is not encouraged or accommodated.   No conveniently placed benches available to relax as you practice art appreciation.

https://phxart.org/arts/art-deco-hall-c-1925-salon-art-deco-c-1925/

A Showstopper

Almost by accident we wandered into the Thorne Rooms Exhibit.  I say almost by accident, because we did not purposely go to find them, but decorative arts being my favorite art form, we went to the part of the museum where we would be most likely to find something like Narcissa Niblick Thorne’s Miniature Rooms. 

The art deco room you see here is about the size of a shoe box, but their’s nothing small about the craftsmanship.  The brass fireplace tools are exquisite, the murals are tiny hand-loomed tapestries.  The wall sconces are real silver with actual crystal teardrops.

What’s more, this room is just one of many.  Pick a style, any style.  You’re likely to find a room with that style in the exhibit.  For me, it was worth all the craziness of Art Walk to get to spend some time admiring these gems.  I highly recommend them.

The Rest of It

We did not do the museum justice, but time was ticking away.  I’d say we saw most of the second floor.  We found the Western Art and saw everything European, which included their very nice Monet.  We purposely avoided the Modern and Contemporary Art, but that also caused us to miss the Ansel Adams show in the Photography Section.  The Fashion Section was closed, because they were getting ready for a new exhibition in there.  We breezed through the Art of Asia and found the Gift Shop, where I picked up some postcards of the Thorne Rooms Exhibit to put in my scrapbook.

Would I go back to the Phoenix Art Museum?  Of course, if for no other reason than to gaze at the Thorne Rooms again.  They are amazing.  I can imagine if I lived in the area, I would be a member and visit often.  However, I do have to say that it didn’t work very hard to win me over.  The whole thing sort of felt like a temporary exhibit space.  I like my museums to have a certain amount of permanence and gravitas.  PAM seems as if it might perpetually be under construction.  The first “art” you see is a huge red plastic dinosaur and next we encountered race cars.  It was a little like arriving at an amusement part, rather than a museum.

I think art should be approachable and create interest for the masses, but that doesn’t mean it should quit taking itself seriously.  The entry area should WOW you a bit, not remind you of a road side attraction.  So, I’ll not add PAM to my list of favorite museums, but I also won’t kick it to the curb.  We are falling a little more in love with Arizona every time we go through, so I anticipate many more visits.

We grabbed some fast food on the way back to the resort.  It had been another long day of sightseeing.  We were tired, but not exhausted in the same way we had been after 10.5 hour shore excursions in Italy.  The next morning we had to pay the piper.  Come back next week and I’ll explain what I mean. 

 

 

Accommodations, Architecture, ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Bagpipes in the Desert

TRAVEL THERE: WESTIN KIERLAND RESORT OFFERS UNIQUE ENTERTAINMENT

Remember how I was reeling from lack of sleep when we got to the Westin Kierland Resort, but all the staff was trying to welcome me with more information than I could grasp.  Well, I figured I had misunderstood them when they told me I could go hear a bagpiper at the Dream Weaver Canyon on various evenings, but they do in fact have a bagpiper that comes and plays their bagpipe.  It was actually pretty cool.  Let’s go!

Farewell Phoenician

It was almost as hard to quit taking pictures at The Phoenician as it was to say, “No, thank you, we don’t want anymore, tea or dessert.”  We backtracked out of the resort through the golf courses and made our way back to the Westin.  Along the way we stopped to pick up another gallon of water.  You have to stay hydrated in the desert.

The Bagpipes Are Now!

Getting back to the hotel via the grocery store took a little more time than we anticipated, so we screeched into the parking lot and trotted into the hotel, hoping we could find the Dreamweaver Canyon.  The canyon is actually a patio outside the hotel and by the time we got there, all the good seating was gone and lo and behold, as advertised, there was a kilted bagpiper entertaining with his bagpipe.

It really was a cool experience, but it was also quite incongruous.  The Dreamweaver Canyon area is by a small man made lake beside a golf course.  In the lake is modern non-figurative sculpture.  There’s also a fire-pit.  What that has to do with kilts, Danny Boy and the theme from Outlander beats me.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Since seating was at a premium we found ourselves wandering around taking pictures from every possible angle and then just for the heck of it, we took pictures of each other.  I will also admit that while I like bagpipes, I’m really only interested in hearing a song or two.  This guy played for what seemed a long time and the more he played, the more people started wandering off to other places, so by the time he quit, there was actually room to take a seat around the firepit.

Photo Safari  

After the last lonely note had sounded over the fairway, we took a little photo safari around the lobby.  We were all done with our photo taking until we walked out the front door and were overwhelmed with the sunset. 

You might think we’d already done enough for one day, what with shopping at the Quarter, having tea and the Phoenician and then hearing the bagpipes, but no, the day is not yet over.  I was as surprised as you are.  Mr. Bill was ready for action and I had done my homework, so as soon as we got back to the room, we reorganized for another adventure and headed to downtown Phoenix for yet another adventure.

Enjoy these photos from our photo safari and then come back next week to enjoy the Phoenix First Friday Art Walk.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Fashion, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Breakfast Snooze and Cruise

TRAVEL THERE: SNOOZE, THE QUARTER & MORE

The next morning gave us the chance to try yet another breakfast place recommended by the Phoenix New Times: Snooze, an AM Eatery.  We visited the location at the Kierland Commons.  We totally endorse the New Times choice.  There are multiple locations in Scottsdale and Phoenix so don’t miss it.

Scottsdale Quarter

The Quarter imagines itself to be superior to its “Commons” cousin across the street.  The Commons is upscale.  The Quarter endeavors one ups-manship.

Though the Quarter is just across the street from the Commons, it’s a busy thoroughfare that separates them, so we moved our rental Jeep to a closer position.

One of the anchor stores is a huge, monolithic gray block.  Upon exploration, we discovered it was a Restoration Hardware showroom.  You don’t buy anything there and load it up in your car.  You lounge around on ginormous furniture and let gracious salesladies talk you into letting go of enormous amounts of money.

We confess, we’re not your basic Restoration Hardware customers, so we didn’t realize they had transitioned into this showroom format over the stores we’d visited in the past.  However, we had a lovely time hanging out there.  The restrooms were spectacular!

One of those gracious salesladies chatted us up about their transition to showroom and said some of their showrooms actually included a sort of restaurant, where they hosted dinners.  One imagines exactly how much money you’d have to invest in Restoration Hardware goods to be hosted in their dining room.  For all we know, common people like us might be able to go in there and pay for our meals, but we got the idea that wasn’t the point.   

She also said they had a surprise coming to Dallas.  I don’t know how much of a surprise it is, since a June 2019 edition of The Dallas Morning News announces the location with a restaurant is coming.  However, a quick look at their website doesn’t mention the potential restaurant, so one wonders if it is a victim of Covid.

The Quarter Beyond RH

The RH was lovely and I’m guessing we spent an hour enjoying their store.  It was a lazy sort of morning – a filler before what was to come next.  I was happy as a lark, because later in the day, we had reservations for Afternoon Tea at the Phoenician Resort.  In the meantime, I was perfectly content to wander around the Quarter.

Though the Quarter presented itself as an upgrade to the Commons, I noticed they had more in the way of empty retail spaces than their cousin.  The RH showroom is the only store we actually wandered into, but we did stroll throughout the complex, noting a number of restaurants we’d love to try out.

This is sort of where we started talking about our next trip to AZ and saying things to suggest that while we wouldn’t have time for everything on this particular visit, we’d be back to the Greater Phoenix Area sooner rather than later.

Enjoy the pictures below of the Quarter.  It was a lovely development and I hope it thrives through Covid and will actually be there next time we go to the area.  After taking the pictures, we had to get back to the resort and get all dressed up for the afternoon activity.  Come back next week for tea.

 

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, International, Restaurants & Bars, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

The Last Day of Cruising

Palma de Mallorca, Tapas Walking Tour, Beewi Tapas Bar
Spanish tortilla mushrooms in a sauce patatas bravas and a typical Mallorca sweet cake at Beewi in Palma de Mallorca

TRAVEL THERE: TAPAS TASTING IN PALMA DE MALLORCA

Confession, this is where my travel journal ended.  For some reason I happily journaled all through the trip and just quit after our day on the French Rivera. Another confession, while I blogged about most of this trip in the weeks right after the cruise, life got busy and I took a break that lasted longer than I anticipated.  So eleven months after the cruise, here I am finishing up the last few posts of this trip.  Glad you are still with me. 

Large Storm in a Small Teacup

While traveling is fun, it is also tiring and while traveling with your friends has a lot of benefits, after the trial by vacation we’d been on, it was time to go home.  Everyone needed some personal down time, but it was still a few days away.

One of the things that got my visit to Monaco off on the wrong foot was a scheduled meeting with the photographer.  Bill hadn’t wanted to have a photographer at the vow renewal ceremony in the first place, because he thinks the onboard photography thing is a racket – one that charges entirely too much.  However, the photographer was non-negotiable.  Since he didn’t want the photographer there, he really wasn’t interested in a meeting with them to look at the photos and when it conflicted with his desire to go visit Monaco, well, Monaco won.  I’m so ruled by the things that I am supposed to do, that I wasn’t able to blow off the appointment with as much aplomb as he was, especially since there was no way to contact her and let her know what was going on.  We just stood her up.  I felt bad for the photographer.  She was just trying to do her job.  

Eventually, she got in contact with us and I was able to apologize.  The appointment was reset for this day.  If we had gone in Monaco, then we would have gone on our own and quite possibly would have said thanks, but no thanks, except for perhaps a few as gifts to our friends.  As it was, we ended up with the whole crew of us in the very small space of the photo office and not everyone was on the same page.  It was also the very last moment.  If we didn’t make a decision right then, there would be no photos for anyone.

The photos were beautiful.  The price was astronomical.  Some folks thought that I should have every single one.  Bill was paralyzed with sticker shock.  I just wanted it to be over.  We arrived at a compromise that wasn’t quite what anyone wanted, but we moved on.

The Shore Excursion

Everyone went their separate ways after the photo storm.  We knew we’d be seeing each other at 2:15 for the Tapas Walking Tour.  The meeting place instructions changed and even after we started gathering on the pier, there seemed to be some sort of question about where we were supposed to be.  I think our crew was almost as ready for us to go home as we were.

The good news was our guide was somewhat better on this day.  She loaded us on a bus and delivered us to  Bellver Castle.  It was really just a photo op with a great view of the harbor.  From there, they parked the bus and we set out on foot.

Our first tapas stop was El Pesquero, a sea-side patio restaurant.  The food was delicious and the patio was amazing.  I personally could have just stayed there and been perfectly happy.

El Pesquero was in the shadow of the old cathedral, so our walking tour began there.  We passed lovely plazas and canals along the way and then we arrived at Beewi.  Beewi was just a small cafe with nothing much to recommend it, besides the food and what they served was delicious.  Deb and I agreed the view in the cafe was also quite nice, if you like to look at handsome Spanish men.

Next up was Es Rebost where we were able to order whatever we wanted.  I went for something with beef, since we hadn’t had any of that yet.  Then it was time to head back to the boat, where an absolute delight waited for us.  Come back next week and see what I mean.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, International, Music, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Visiting Monte Carlo’s Prince’s Palace

TRAVEL THERE: THE GRIMALDI’S PRINCE’S PALACE

Black SUV’s whisked us from the Yacht Club to the Palace.  That’s probably the last time I’ll be able to say something like that about my own travels, so perhaps it was worth the splurge.  Since we weren’t actually VIP’s, they parked about a block away, near the Cathedral and we strolled over to the palace.

Visiting the Palace

Virtually anyone can make day visits the palace during the summer and fall, as long as it’s not Grand Prix weekend.  However, the tourists are shuffled off at closing time.  We had after-hours access, which means we went to the same places, just at a different time.

The Grimaldi’s were gracious hosts to us cruisers.  We didn’t see any of them, but they gave us the run of the state apartments and provided some very nice young ladies to act as guides.  The run of the state apartments did not include taking any pictures, so to see what we saw, you’d have to go to the website.  My general impressions were the apartments showed a great amount of good taste, a good bit more than some of the gaudy displays of some state apartments.  However, they were at the same time smaller than most I’ve seen before.

For Americans, this palace is almost a must-see, because evidence of our own American fairy tale, Princess Grace of Monaco, is in plain sight.  Having just watched a Hallmarkish commoner-meets-and-marries-a-prince movie last night, I know we are still very much in love with the story of this lovely lady.

Photo Opportunities

Before and after the tour we were welcome to take photos of the outside the palace.  The red carpets and kneelers are not part of the every day look.  They were setting up for some kind of religious ceremony and around the corner at the cathedral there was a lot of activity, so no telling what that was about.

All that was left was to get back into our SUV’s and travel back to the ship.  Our day in Monte Carlo was over.

Grabbing a Show and Dinner and a Show

Back on the boat, Deb, Bill and I went to Hype with Marcus Terrell at the Theater.  We weren’t much impressed.  His greatest asset was volume, but he was surrounded with lots of energetic gyrating dancers.  Nothing as fascinating as Hot Summer’s Night we’d seen a day or so ago.

After the show, it was time for dinner and all of us met for dinner in the Cosmopolitan.  It was the same menu they had offered for their embarkation lunch.  This is the weakness of their dining plan.  Sure you have a variety of dining rooms, but once you’ve eaten in one, there’s no reason to go back.  That’s probably because they are trying to encourage you to drop a few bucks in their specialty dining rooms, but with all we’d spent already, that wasn’t happening.

Our companions were ready for bed when the meal was over, but Bill and I wandered into the Club and saw an acrobatic show called Mirage.  It had some good parts, but their tricks all began to look the same after awhile.

Still not ready to call it a night, I pulled the daily newsletter out of my purse and unfolded it.  They had something called the Color the Night White Party happening on the Resort Deck, so we decided to check it out.

I don’t know about you, but I am just about done with the whole White Party thing.  Isn’t it time to let that one die a natural death?  The Edge was trying to jazz it up some, with a variety of colorful lights, but as you can see, it’s a pretty dead scene.  I must not be the only one tired of White Parties.

I think if there had been anything else to do, we might have continued to wander, but it seemed the ship was rolling in its sidewalks – unless you wanted to sit in some bar and rack up some beverage billing, so off we went to bed.

The next day our stop was Cannes.  Come back next week and I’ll share my favorite shore excursion with you.