DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Getting Our Arizona Fun on Early

Love Field, Southwest Airlines
Early Risers

TRAVEL THERE:  UP WITH THE CHICKENS

So, remember how Southwest Airlines sent me an email with cheap airfare.  To get to our destination with the cheapest fares, we either had to be on a plane at 6 AM or virtually lose the first day to travel.  So, I convinced Bill Arizona was worth getting up for.  Here’s how it went.

There’s Early and Then There’s Really Early

The alarm went off at 2:15 AM.  I rolled out of bed.  Bill rolled out at 2:40.  By 3:15 AM the car was backing out of the garage.  No, it was not fun, but we were determined to make the best of it.

At Love Field, since it was raining, Bill unloaded me and the luggage at the terminal and went off to find parking.  I dragged the luggage into the terminal and stood by it, praying to the travel gods that Bill would navigate the parking lot and get back to me.  Parking lots are not his favorite thing in the world and I didn’t want to start the trip off on the wrong foot.

He returned and we set about trying to figure out what was next.  When you’re flying, there’s always a bunch of people who seem to know exactly what they are doing.  This is particularly true in a Southwest terminal.  Their customers are more like a cult than anything else.  I was frantically trying to read every sign I could see and Bill was watching the crowd.  We sort of captured the rhythm of the system and ended up in front of one of the ticketing machines.

We failed miserably.  The self-help machine treated us just like the infrequent, senior-citizen, not-Southwest flyers that we are.  Somehow we managed to press the right buttons to find our reservations and get our luggage tags, but we didn’t end up with boarding passes.

A Southwest employee quickly identified us as inept and came to our rescue.  With boarding passes she procured, we were able to progress to the bag check.  That’s when we discovered my other ooops.  I had attached both luggage bags to one bag and none to the other.  It was more than early.  It was really early!

Still, this trip made me fall back in love with Southwest, though we hadn’t flown them in years.  Thanks to their liberal baggage limits, we were able to check all three bags, rather than trot around dragging a carry-on.  I had everything I needed for being in transit in a small backpack.   I felt like screaming, “Free at last.  Free at last.”

What Bill really thought about waking up so early

Getting There

In truth, I think we could have slept for another hour, but we didn’t realize that.  For years we’ve been fighting the battle out a DFW.  Southwest can’t get you to the Mediterranean, Egypt and the Danube and international has been our focus for years.  Besides, it’ only been in recent years that Southwest was freed from the Wright Amendment, making flying them from Dallas a better proposition.  I think Southwest will be seeing a whole lot more of us, especially since we’re abandoning the International scene for a while, to catch up on some American destinations.

The flight was blissfully uneventful and arrived on time.  We made our way to the rental shuttle and were delivered to the Alamo facility.  That’s when our luck really kicked in.  There on the appointed row, among Hyundais, and Toyotas stood a Jeep – a Jeep with four while drive! He went back to the attendant and confirmed the Jeep was truly one of our options.

We just knew this was going to be a magical trip.  Sure we’d had to get up early, it was raining in Dallas and we’d had a little trouble at the ticket kiosk, but even with those little hiccups we’d had smooth sailing and we had no reason to think it would change.  One of my blogging friends accuses me of making up our little dramas to make my blogs sound more exciting.  Well, we’ll see, because this trip was breeze – not a single headache to report.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Come back next week and we’ll have breakfast in one of the Phoenix area’s top ten breakfast spots.

DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL, Travel Books, Travel Planning, United States

The What Next of Arizona

Arizona, Sc
Getting Away to the Desert

TRAVEL THERE: AZ MUST-SEE DONE, WHAT NEXT?

The first time you visit an area there are just things you must see and thanks to a great trip early in our marriage, as well as several times passing through AZ, we’d knocked out the musts.  From Monument Valley in the northeast corner to the Grand Canyon in the west, to BioSphere down south and seriously, everything in between, I’d taken care of the must-sees.  So why were we going back?

A Desert State of Mind

We like the desert.  There is a peacefulness that comes from the landscape.  Some people like beaches and others prefer mountains, but I’ll take a desert every time.

Bill made it very clear that he wanted to take it easy, very easy on this trip.  He wanted to play golf.  I wanted to have tea at the Phoenician.  The rest was supposed to be relaxation.  Message received.

Those Free Guides from the Internet

For most trips, the first thing I do is go out and buy a travel guide, but I already owned an AZ guide and it had served me well.  I just needed the latest information, including festivals and events.  The internet is great for that and so are those free travel guides the cities and states will send you.

In the world of free travel guides, Scottsdale has won the prize.  I pored over their guide the moment it arrived and continue salivating over it to day.  It was full of information without being overwhelming and hip without being shallow.  It had great maps and references to online resources that I really cared about.

Phoenix did not fare so well.  It was virtually anonymous, merely a template someone sold advertising in.  I yawned over it and it’s greatest contribution to the trip was some headlines I used in my scrapbook of the trip.  

Sedona’s guide was somewhere in the middle – not as snazzy as Scottsdale, but not as boring as Phoenix.  A map in the center served us during the stay and made it to the scrapbook. 

Wonderful Websites

From various websites I was able to glean a lot of useful information about some art festivals and events that proved to be very helpful in planning the trip.  There were Artwalks, Art Festivals and other Arty things just begging for us to take part.  The trick is not to merely google the city, but google “visit wherever.”

I used the local New Times sites to find the best places to have breakfast.  The internet is also where I found the amazing inn where we overnighted in Sedona.  Thank you, Expedia!  

Playing It By Ear

For those of you who say phooey on all that planning, I’m just going to play it by ear, I say good luck.  I find it is a lot harder to be ready to play it by ear, than it is to plan things out in detail in advance.  This only happens on the first Friday, that is only open one evening of the week, something else needs reservations at least two days in advance.

If you just show up somewhere, without doing your homework, and then try to play it by ear, well, you might have a great vacation, but the chance of you actually getting to see and do the things you were most interested in are slim to none in most cases.

The trick in this household it to be sure I know what’s most important to me and work it in early in the trip, then as the time plays out and the options get smaller, I haven’t missed my priorities.  I work out a list of daily options, focusing on the one time or limited access events.  I don’t get to see everything I want when Bill is playing it by ear, but I don’t miss everything either.

Next week, we’ll start out on our Arizona Adventure.  Please come join me.

 

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

We Can’t Resist a Bargain

Arizona, Scottsdale, Westin Resort
Westin Kierland Resort

TRAVEL THERE: WESTIN MAKES AN OFFER WE CAN’T REFUSE

We’d talked about it.  The Anniversary Cruise had eaten up more than its fair share of our budget.  We needed to give traveling a break.  Then we got the invitation from Westin.  Come take a look at our Vacation Club it said.  Stay four nights for $299 it said.  Had they been offering a trip to anywhere else, the invitation would have gone into the trash, but they wanted us to come to Arizona.

I’m Just Leaving This Right Here

I opened the envelope, read the offer and then shuffled it around on my desk for a few days.  As I moved the offer around on my desk, I started making a case for the trip.  While the Anniversary Cruise had been expensive, I’d done a multi-year cost analysis and we’d stayed within the allotted amount.  We just didn’t have anymore right then.  However each month the travel budgets accrues a little bit…and we didn’t have to make the reservations until September sometime…and then we had a year to take the trip.  It was at least worth running by Bill.

I went down to his office and made a disclaimer, “This showed up in the mail and it was too good to just throw away.  I’m going to put it here in your mail pile and you can take a look at it if you want.”  I think he probably moved it around on his desk for a day or two.  Then he said, “What’s the deal with this trip?  I don’t want to read the whole thing.”  I cheered inside.  The question was almost as good as a rubber stamp of approval.

I explained just how amazing the offer was.  It wouldn’t be our first trip like this.  We’ve been to Hawaii, Branson, Palm Desert and a number of other places, visiting time shares on the cheap.  Bill hates the sales pitch, but he loves the price.  And we love Arizona.  I got the green light.  We discussed potential travel dates and decided on February, because the real estate market would still be cool and we wouldn’t miss a bunch of shoots.  Bill even said, “Why don’t you also look into a visit to Sedona?  We love that place.”

And We’re Off

I called up the Westin, picked our travel dates and started dreaming of desert nights.  But I didn’t just dream.  I went online and ordered up free travel guides from Arizona, Scottsdale, Phoenix and Sedona.  As the guides arrived in the mail I started poring over them, turning down the corner of pages and highlighting the good stuff.

Then one day, out of the blue, I get an email from Southwest Airlines.  We haven’t flown with them in decades and I’m not on any of their mailing lists, but there it was.  They wanted to sell me some cheap air fares.  I jumped on it with alacrity.  It seemed as if the travel gods had sanctioned this trip and were doing everything they could to make it wonderful. 

Come back next week and I’ll share how I put the trip together.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

The Long Stretch Home

a luggage conveyor inside airport
Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

TRAVEL THERE:  BACK TO DFW EVENTUALLY

So after a very long wait in Montreal, we took off for Toronto.  We were almost home.  Just one easy overnight layover and we’d be there.  Only it didn’t turn out exactly like that.

Late Night Luggage Woes

We arrived in Toronto much later than our original 9:32 PM ETA.    I can’t remember ever being so zombie-like from travel.  We disembarked and made our way to baggage claim, but there was no baggage to claim.  The carousel went around and around and occasionally an odd bag would show up, but no one from our flight got any luggage.  Since it was just a commuter flight from Montreal, most of the passengers trotted away with their carry-ons.  We were all so tired it took us awhile to comprehend what was was going on.  We were at the right carousel, because the sign on it listed our flight, but nothing from our flight was showing up.

Bill got in the lost luggage line and as we waited, I made an inventory of the entire baggage claim area, just to be sure we were in the right place and weren’t missing anything.  How does an airplane even fly without having anything in the cargo hold.  There was only one Air Canada employee in sight.  They were behind the lost luggage counter and the counter was besieged by customers, so there was no chance to pop in and ask a question.  I also noticed there seemed to be a lot of luggage just sitting around, some looking as if it had been lined up and organized, but other piles looking as if it had merely been tossed there and forgotten – decades ago.

The line took forever.  The employee said nothing was arriving from Montreal that evening and our luggage would be delivered to our home.  Bill explained that Montreal was not home and we would be traveling to DFW in the morning.  The guy said, “Great, just come back here in the morning.”  Had we had our brains screwed in properly we would have recognized a problem with that, but our brains were as lost as our luggage.

Best Laid Plans Go Awry

So our plan for saving money had been to spend our layover at a bargain suite hotel.  The room for the three of us would still leave us with a significant savings on the airfare, but that savings was getting less valuable as the troubles added up.  If things had gone our way, we’d have caught a little of the hotel’s happy hour and gotten a great breakfast buffet.  As it was, we got perhaps four hours of sleep, but we all needed at least twelve.

Back at the airport, it was one headache after another.  We stood in a lot of lines that morning and none of them helped at all.  We would stand in one line and they would send us to another.  Finally, after hearing our luggage woes, someone sent us back down to baggage claim to get some document we should have received the night before.  Have you ever tried to reach the arrivals baggage claim area from the departure area of the Toronto airport?  Just give it up.  It ain’t happening.  It took most of the airport to get us back there and when we did it was a total fail.  The morning staffer was overwhelmed by the mess he’d been left with by the night crew and our problem was the last one he wanted to handle.  We did however end up with the requisite piece of paper and a lot of free time.

Needless to say, we did not connect with our luggage in Toronto and actually wouldn’t see it for days.  We could have gotten a few more hours of sleep if we’d known that in the wee hours of the morning, not so long ago, but we weren’t given any good breaks along the way.  We actually had to wait quite awhile to even check into our flight.  Since there weren’t any other bags to worry about, we checked our carry-ons so we wouldn’t have to mess with them.  We didn’t care about anything we owned at that point.  We just wanted to be home.

Home

The flight itself was uneventful and our checked carry-ons arrived without any trouble. The Park & Fly Shuttle took us to our car, which was intact, right where we left it.  We dropped Deb off on our way back to Heath.  And then we were home.

Bill got right on the luggage thing once we were home and the next week would have been funny, if it were happening to someone one else.  I’m not even going to bother you with it all, because I don’t even want to think about it.  The only good thing to come out of it for me was that while we were shopping for some replacement items we had to buy, to get the maximum reimbursement, I found a great after-5 dress that Air Canada ended up buying for me.  It’s the least they could do after what they put us through.

After it was all over – the year of planning dominated by a remodel gone wrong, the highly active and not at all relaxing travel, the beautiful vow renewal ceremony, all the amazing times we had, all the incredible things we saw,  the hassle over the photos and the hellacious trip home – for about 10 minutes, I thought, “This is just too much damned trouble.  I never want to travel again.”  Then I came to my senses.  That’s when we got a letter from the Westin offering us a bargain vacation to come check out their property in Scottsdale AZ.

So, come back next week and we’ll head to the Westin’s Kierland Villas!  See you, then!

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

Flaming Fingers, Fantastic Footwork and Farewell

TRAVEL THERE: FLAMENCO ONBOARD THE CELEBRITY EDGE

As we planned our shore excursions, we were disappointed when a Flamenco tour on Mallorca was cancelled.  My bestie, Deborah, adores all dance and Flamenco is a particular favorite of mine.  If we’d known Celebrity had something Flamenco-flavored planned for us, we’d have been a whole lot happier, but the Flamenco show was nice addition to our final day.  We discovered that along with other perks, like the wine tasting at the Monaco Yacht Club and a private tour of the Prince’s Palace, cruising with the Celebrity’s CEO offered some nice treats. 

A Return to the Ship

After the Tapas tour all of us tired tourists returned to the boat.  Jim and Melanie went to the buffet and then on to their cabin.  The rest of us hurried to our cabins to get ready for dinner and the Flamenco show which was held on the pool deck.

I have mixed reviews.  It was nice to get both the Tapas Tour and a Flamenco Show, but in truth, I think I would have been happier to have had the original Flamenco Show we had planned.  I think it would have been more dramatic to be in a darkened room, with a formal stage and better acoustics.  As it was, the music was over-amplified and the Flamenco dancers had to contend with dancing among tourists clumped about taking pictures.  It sort of compromised the mood.  No fault to the dancers or the musicians, though.  They did a spectacular job in a challenging atmosphere.

Since I failed to journal my final day, I’m not sure where we had dinner.  I keep turning it over in my mind.  I am pretty sure Bill and I ate alone.  Perhaps it was in the Cosmopolitan or the Cyprus.  Perhaps we just went to the buffet.  Obviously, it was unremarkable since I can’t even remember which it was.  I was just about over eating anything by that point.  Way too much food on this trip.

If you are a cruiser, then you know this was the evening I had to place most of our belongings out into the hall to be picked up and select the few items we’d keep for our carry-on bag.  This is always a challenge for me.  You have to balance what you might need with what you can actually have inside a carry-on.  I’m always a little stressed out about it, which in turn stresses out Mr. Bill.  Not enough that I want to quit cruising, but enough that I wish there was another way to end a cruise.

woman walking on pathway while strolling luggage
Photo by VisionPic .net on Pexels.com

Embarkation in Barcelona

The next morning we woke up in Barcelona.  Just as with Rome, I wasn’t going to get to see anything.  Jim and Melanie would be spending several days there, but the rest of us were going back to the real world.  Deb, Bill and I were among the first to head out.  Viktoriya’s flight was a little later.

For we three amigos it was one travel mishap after another, from the moment the bus dropped us off at the Barcelona airport.  Somehow, we got separated from Deb in the security lines – the eternal security lines, I might add.  We kept looking at the line ahead of us and looking at our watches, wondering if we were actually going to make it and wondering if Deb was having the same concerns.  When we got to the plane, Deb had already taken the seat I had intended for Bill.  The Air Canada website did not exactly make seat selection a user-friendly experience and Bill was officially assigned a seat in the middle of the row, but I knew that wasn’t going to work.  Before the plane took off, he was on the aisle, but there were a few tense minutes as his claustrophobic mind contemplated a transatlantic flight mid-row.

Our return flight was actually on Qatar Airways, not that it really mattered to us, but they ran into some delays in leaving.  That worried us a little, because we had a pretty tight layover in Montreal, but the delay was small, so we weren’t too worried.  We should have been very worried.  It was a smooth flight, the food was fine and we made it to Montreal fine.  We were a little tired by then, but ready for the next leg.

So, the small delay in Barcelona and a head wind did slow us down a bit.  Add to that a busy Saturday at a busy airport and you have a long layover.  See, I’d worked hard to get us the cheapest possible flights and in doing so, created a mess.  From Montreal, we had to fly to Toronto, spend the night and then fly to Dallas.  The savings seemed so great when I booked the flight.

There was no happy chattering among travelers.  We all stared at our phones, tried to stay hydrated and ate junk food.  We told ourselves that the delay meant our luggage would have time to catch up with us.  We really just wanted to go home and I was sort of wishing that I actually lived alone, because I was thoroughly tired of the entire human race.

Come back next week and I’ll tell you what happened next.

 

 

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.

Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

It’s Nice in Nice!

Travel There: Lunch and Shopping in Nice

Life on a cruise:  another bus ride, another meeting point and another meal.  That about sums it up, but come on with me and enjoy Nice.  While I’d still take Cap d’Antibes over Nice, there nothing not to enjoy about the city.

An Dining Opportunity

One thing I can easily say about this trip is that we bought more food onshore than we usually do on cruises.  Some of that may have been because our shore excursions were such marathons and not all of them included a meal.  However, I think it also had a lot to do with Jim and Melanie.  One of their primary interests at every stop was where to eat and drink, while Bill and me on our own tend to find other things to do.  I’m not complaining though.  It was fun.

Though it seemed as if we’d just left the sidewalk cafe in Cap d’Antibes, the first order of business in Nice was to find another sidewalk cafe.  This time it was Le Gande Balcon and we were getting more than a snack. 

Bill and I both had prawns and oh my goodness, I have rarely seen such big ones.  Mine came with pasta and Bill’s came with risotto.   Glasses of wines and adult beverages were enjoyed by all.

A Shopping Opportunity

Le Grande Balcon was in the middle of a shopping area.  Nearby shops filled the sidewalks with their wares and a little further down was an open air market.  We’d all been so busy being tourists, very little shopping had been happening, in spite of all the shopping opportunities the guides had forced on us.  Those opportunities usually came with a pretty heft price tag.  Though there was one more day of touring left, no one wanted to get home without the requisite souvenirs, so after our wonderful meal, we hit the shops.

The shop closest to the restaurant had laminated place-mats and for some reason Bill was all over them.  He picked out four odd place-mats – two with roosters and two with cartoon cats.  They were the absolute last thing I would have chosen as a souvenir of this trip, but hey, Bill rarely shows any interest in any souvenirs.  So, if he wanted plastic place-mats, by golly, I thought he should get plastic place-mats.

Further down I found a shop of linen goods.  They had a darling dress I knew my sweet next door neighbor would love, so I had to get that.  Continuing down the street we wandered into the open air market.  I found a delightful vendor offering gifts of lavender sachets in the printed cotton which Provence is known for.  That’s where I bought my souvenirs.

Visiting the Beach

There wasn’t much time left, but we wanted to get a few pictures of the gorgeous beach.  We headed back to the meeting point, which had been across from the beach.  We wished for a few more hours to explore the area, but we had minutes, not hours.  Another reason for us to head back to the French Rivera someday.

After having time for just a few photos, it was time to get on the bus and ride back to the ship. We had a quiet afternoon in our cabin.  Bill napped.  I caught up on my journal and did some reading.

That evening the rest of the gang had decided to fork out big bucks to eat at Eden.  They say it was fabulous and for the first time in his life, Bill actually admitted that he wished he’d had any idea it would have been so good.  He actually wished that he had spent the money.

Instead, we had dinner at the Cosmopolitan, which was actually the third time we ate there.  I was surprised Bill didn’t want to go back to the Italian or French restaurant, but I think it may have had more to do with proximity than anything else.  We enjoyed the downtime.

After dinner we took in a show called Gilly and Girl in the Theater.  It fit the easy-going mood of the day – just a couple doing love songs and ballads.  We strolled the shopping area where various events were supposed to be happening, but it was all just a come on to get passengers shopping.

Even the shopkeepers didn’t want to participate, so we just went back to our cabin.  Guess what!  We’d both left our keycards in the room and had to go back to guest services.  We giggled all the way there and all the way back to the room.  We’ve traveled entirely too much to have both made that mistake on the same evening – but that’s just what we’d done!

One day of touring left.  Come back next week for Palma de Mallorca.

 

 

Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Welcome to the French Rivera

TRAVEL THERE: CANNES, CAP D’ANTIBES AND NICE

The French Rivera surprised me.  I thought my favorite day would be Florence, but it turned out to be this day.  Travel always brings surprises.  Come enjoy this day with us.

Relaxing and Fun

Don’t faint.  We didn’t have a single museum or historical site to visit today.  I’d done some research and hadn’t been able to find much to get excited about it.  In fact, I had lobbied for a bus tour to some Provence Villages or a tour of the Provence perfume industry.  I was voted down and I am so very glad.

It was another early morning gathering in the Theater and then a ride to shore on a tender.  From there, we boarded a bus.  The tour guide was in a dead heat for last place with the lady in Florence.  In fact, this one didn’t even rate as a tour guide.  She was more like a room mother on a field trip.  Nice, but not much else.

Cap d’Antibes, the “S” is Silent

We got off our bus in Cap ‘d Antibes.  Our guide trotted down the street a bit with us, pointed us toward a cobblestone path and then told us when to come back.  

The picture above shows us wandering along the water’s edge unchaperoned and not quite sure what we were looking at.  If the view had not been so fantastic we might actually have minded, but we didn’t.  We could have gone to the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, but we didn’tWe could have gone to a Pablo Picasso Museum, but we didn’t.

Instead, we decided to find a sidewalk cafe and just enjoy ourselves.  It turned into a bit of a trudge, but the weather was ideal, the scenery was amazing.  I particularly fell in love with the house with the blue shutters.  I am quite certain I could spend several weeks there, reading great books on the patio and enjoying the view.

Eventually, we found a sidewalk cafe and to our delight, there was a sort of street market going on.  Since we didn’t have a guide, I can’t tell you whether it was the usual thing or just something happening on the Thursday we were there.

We communicated our dining needs to our waitress and were glad they had a restroom we could use.  We had our coffee and/or sodas and then headed back the way we came.  There had been a sort of Farmers Market going on and we decided we wanted to mingle a little with the locals.  Except for a pickpocket thinking Viktoriya’s bag was a potential target, we enjoyed the time we lingered there.

Too soon, it was time to meet our non-guide.  I would have happily continued to wander Cap d’Antibes.  At the meeting point, by a marina, local kids were having a go at something that resembled a boccie ball game.  People wandered back in a leisurely manner, but I had none of the hurry-up attitude I usually possess.  You know, let’s hurry up and see this so we can see the next thing.  I could have sat there for an hour watching the kids and their game.

Eventually, we sauntered back to the bus and headed to Nice.  I couldn’t imagine that Nice would be any better in any way than Cap d’Antibes, but I was also too lazy to begin some sort of campaign to stay, which would involve figuring out how to get back to the boat.

Nice was nice, but, as I had anticipated, it didn’t beat Cap d’Antibes for me.  In fact, of all the places we went on this cruise, Cap d’Antibes is the one I would be the quickest to return to.  Yes, I need to go back to Rome and see all the sites I missed.  I’d like more time in Florence.  I think Capri has the potential to be wonderful.  but Cap d’Antibes?  I just want to go be there.

However, I didn’t get to, at least not yet, so come back next week and let’s take a look at Nice.

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.

Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Celebrity Cruises’ CEO is a Nice Lady

TRAVEL THERE: RUBBING ELBOWS WITH A BIG WIG

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, CEO of Celebrity Cruises, is not the reason I went on the Wine Tasting/Prince’s Palace Shore Excursion, but she certainly made it a special event for us, because she is a very, very nice lady.  She’s also a great hostess.

Hostess with the Mostest

This picture may not look like much of anything to you, but in it we are getting the star treatment.  We’re up on the mezzanine and the waiters are bringing us refills and snacks.  That’s not happening on the main floor.  You see we’re on the mezzanine with the Lutoff-Perlo family!

As we entered the Wine Palace, a very nice blonde lady, who matched the picture we’d seen on a brochure, was greeting everyone, but we sort of dodged the receiving line.  As I said, we weren’t there to rub elbows with the CEO.  We were there for the yacht club and the palace.

Before long however, the nice blonde lady made her way over to us.  She wanted to meet the couple who had the vow renewal!  How did she know we were the couple who had the vow renewal?  Well, come to find out, she had been in the salon herself, while us girls were in there having such a good time.  The salon was a fairly small space, so she would have had a hard time missing us.

She was, as the CEO, very interested in how our ceremony went, if we’d liked the salon services and such.  I raved about the team in Florida, the folks in the salon and Eddie, the cruise director. I did not mention my meltdown on the first night, because I didn’t know whether the problem had been caused at the Florida end or the Edge end and I didn’t want to be one of those passengers who is best known for their complaints!

The Egypt Connection

But the lovely Ms. Lutoff-Perlo, who asked us to call her Lisa, was interested in more than our opinions of the crew.  She wanted to hear a little more about our marriage journey and that’s when she found out Bill is Egyptian.  Come to find out, her husband, Andre, was also born in Cairo.  Lisa immediately went to find him and brought him over.

Bill and Andre hit it off immediately.  They started comparing notes about where they lived, went to school and the like.  It was sad to discover Andre left Egypt decades ago and never returned, because he is a Jew.  That’s a sad legacy for Egypt.  I have been to what was the Jewish quarter and the beautiful synagogue, that is now a museum, because there is no longer a congregation of Jews to support it. Andre understood, better than most people can, what Bill’s family suffers, as members of the Christian minority.

About that time Lisa said, “Why don’t you guys go upstairs to the mezzanine, to meet the rest of the family?  That’s where they are hanging out.” So, that’s what we did.  We wanted to see what the rest of the Wine Palace was like and Lisa had been so gracious, we certainly wanted to reciprocate her hospitality.

We went up the stairs en masse, went through the introductions and had a nice chat with her wonderful family.  What we didn’t realize was we’d just entered an entirely different level of service than we’d had below.  Downstairs, there was a table set up to serve tastes of wine and on it was a platter of snacks.  Upstairs, we were brought our own bottles of wine and plates of assorted snacks were delivered. Yep, the star treatment!

Next up, we climbed back into our black celebrity-style SUV’s and headed for the Palace.  Come back next week and go with us.