Tuesday, November 27, 2012


After 6 months of planning we finally left for our 32 day European Vacation, which included 3 days in Venice, Italy, 7 day Greek Island cruise, 3 days in Paris, 3 days in Rome and 16 day transatlantic cruise from Rome to Galveston, Texas.  Things didn't start out too smoothly, our Amtrak train to SF was delayed 2 hours, the flight to Dusseldorf Germany was delayed 28 hours due to mechanical problems, and connecting flight to Venice was delayed overnight due to mechanical problems and the flight to Venice the next day was delayed due to fog in Venice.  Bottom line we arrived in Venice 45 minutes before our cruise ship was set to sail, missed out on Venice completely and lost 3 days of our vacation.  Only bright spot is Air Berlin has a rule if your flight is detained more than 24 hours and they cannot find a hotel for you, they have to pay you 600 Euros each, which came to $1600 for John and I.  Didn't get to see Venice though (pout)

We boarded Royal Carribean Splendor of the Seas and first stop was Bari, Italy.  Not much to see in Bari, mostly shopping
Then on to Corfu, Greece.. I have always wanted to see the Greek Islands after seeing the movie "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants".  The Greece in my imagination was beautiful white houses with terrazo tiled roofs, quaint villages, azure blue waters, etc.  It was pretty but maybe the other side of the island was more what I imagined.  Don't get me wrong, we did enjoy seeing it though.

Next stop Mykonos,

Next stop Athens. We decided to take a tour bus as we only had one day in Athens and wanted to see the parthenon.  Athens is a huge city with much traffic congestion.  Took us forever to get to the parthenon and then long lines to get in and out.  Was worth the waiting.  Here are some great shots.

They are doing a lot of reconstruction on the parthenon.  Each block of marble is numbered in order to put it back in place.

I think the greatest part of cruising is the great people you meet at your dinner table. We had the pleasure of sharing dinner with some great people from Britain. I am enclosing a picture of me with Marion, Sue and Pat and various unknown Japanese women behind us.  When I sat down they wanted to take a picture with us.  Confused me until one of the Brits told me they thought we were from the Royal Family, go figure

Next stop, Debrovnik, Croatia.  This made our whole trip worthwhile  Debrovnik was beautiful.  The streets were marble and the whole city was immaculate.  I would go back there anytime.


When we got back to Venice we flew to Paris for 3 days. We took the metro from the airport and enjoyed the colorful people on the metro, including one frenchman playing the accordian.  Gave us a warm welcome to Paris.  Our hotel was great and included a complete breakfast every morning, which saved us oodles of money.  We did all the usual sights the first day including the Eiffel Tower and the Grand Palace.
                                                      Notre Dame Cathedral

Grand Palace
Statue next to River Seine
We did the Loeuve the last time we were in Paris so wanted to see other sights.  We used the underground metro which we found easy to use and cheap.  The second day John got intestinal problems and hugged the toilet bowl all day.  That pretty much ended our three day trip to Paris

Next we flew to Rome for 3 days.  We stayed at the Hotel Grand Fleming for $49/night included full breakfast.  Elegant old hotel, all marble and mahogany.  Would really recommend it.

We purchased a three day muni and metro pass for $16 Euro.  We found it quite easy to use the buses and metro to see everything in Rome.  The highlight of this trip is we got to see the Pope.  Every Wednesday he makes an appearance to bless the masses of people gathered in St Peters Square.
                                                                     THE POPE
  This was from the giant teletron screen as he was too far from us to get a good shot
Also I got to buy some great designer purses at great prices (probably knock-offs but I didn't care, they look real).  We saw every ancient site in Rome including the Colosseum and lots of old Roman ruins.  John was in his glory, he loves all that old crap.
                                                             ROMAN RUINS

                                                               ISN'T THIS TOO CUTE
After 3 days we said goodbye to Rome and took a train to Civicchevecchia to board the Mariner of the Seas for a 16 day transatlantic cruise to Galveston, Texas.  Good travel tip (cost us $8 to take the train if you arrange a shuttle it can cost up to $150).  You do need a strong man to handle the luggage sometimes, luckily I had one. (You can imagine the amount of luggage I needed for 32 days and 2 cruises)  I had to add this statue of the picture of the sailor from World War II.  It was huge. This was at the port.

First port of call on the cruise was Ajaccio, Corsica.  Most famous native, Napoleon Bonaparte  We took a little train sightseeing around the Port City.  More pictures including one of our monster huge cruise ship (even had a skating rink on board)

                                                           GOTHIC CATHEDRAL
Next destination was Palma De Mallorca, Spain.  Michael Douglas has a home here.  Here is Bellver Castle, Almudaina Palace and gothic cathedral.
                                                              BELLVER CASTLE
Day Four of cruise we landed in Cartagena with the Punic wall surrounding the town
Day 6, Lanzarote, Canary Islands.  This is a volcanic Island . Landscape around Lanzarote is lunar like because of the volcanic activity.  We had the pleasure of sharing our table on this cruise with Mickey and Kelly from Southern California.  Mickey lost his leg when he was seventeen and is the most amazing man you will ever meet.  His passion is hang gliding and surfing.  He even climbed the rock wall on the cruise ship.  We shared a rental car with them on this island and proceeded to the top of island at Haria.  Mickey was going to hang glide but when we got there the winds weren't right that day for gliding.  Really wish I could have seen him do this. 


The other amazing thing about Lanzarote is their ability to grow vineyards in volcanic rock. They grow the grapes hydroponically and they pile volcanic rocks in large circles around the vines to protect them from the winds.  They have very little rainfall so it's hard to believe the vines can thrive.  The wine is exceptional.

Day seven, Tenerife, Canary Islands.  It's said that the lost city of Atlantis once existed right here on this archipelago off the coast of Africa before it plummeted into the depths of the ocean.  Golden sand beaches lined with lavish resorts.

The next six days we were aboard ship crossing the atlantic, long, long, six days.  We had gorgeous weather and relatively calm seas.  I was expecting turbulent seas, so this was a bonus.  By the way, I should mention that we did this 16 day cruise through Vacations to Go for $600  each.  They had a marvelous ice skating show on the cruise and the cruise ship had a mall down the center of the ship 7 stories high with inside cabins with windows facing the mall, very cool.  Very good shows and excellent food.  They had sales every day on the mall and you can imagine with that many women captive on a ship for six days, the sales were mobbed.
We had two parades on the mall, a pirate's parade and a lollapolusa parade.  Here is one

Day Fourteen we arrived in Nassau, Bahamas.  Really good to see land.  Took a taxi to Paradise Island and spent the day on the beach looking at beautiful azure seas.  Good shopping in Nassau, came real close to buying diamonds but lucky for John I contained myself.

I hope you stayed with me through all of my rambling because here is the best part of the cruise.  On the last day of the cruise I decided to play the last game of bingo (I never play bingo)  I heard they had to give away the coverall jackpot on the last day so decided to give it a try.  I heard it was around $4000 so thought it was worth the gamble.  Miracle happened........I won the big jackpot. $5700 cash (paid for this whole fiasco)  You could have heard me scream all over the ship when I won.  You can bet I will try this on every cruise from now on.

Arrived in Galveston Texas on the 16th day, and spent the night in Houston and flew back to Sacramento the next day.  Good to be home.

Hope you enjoyed our travels, next post from Kauai.......

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Last Christmas our family decided to give gift certificates for services to stimulate the local economy.  My daughter and son-in-law gave us a gift certificate to have a gourmet lunch on the Napa Wine Train.  We waited to use the certificate when the vineyards were at there peak beauty and the weather was warmer.
We took our RV to Canyon Creek Campground on Putah Creek next to Lake Berryessa for several days.  We have had a membership to this particular campground for 27 years but never seem to have time to go there.  They have two swimming pools and a spa, rental cabins, and children's playground.  Nice place, but no computer, telephone or TV service (which might appeal to some people).  We do set up our satelite dish and get pretty good reception (John won't go 24 hours without TV).
This seemed like a good time to use our Wine Train Lunch, so we made reservations.
When you arrive at the train station, they start you with free wine tasting (yum)

We elected to have the second seating for lunch on the train so we were escorted to the Club Car for appetizers  and wine prior to lunch.  The food was excellent and so was the wine.  Here is the Club Car
 The servers in the club car were very knowledgeable about the local wineries we passed and told some great stories.  One of the wineries was featured in the movie "Bottle Shock" (sorry I can't remember the name of the winery) early alzheimers......??????
The trip takes around three hours and goes through Napa, Yountville, St. Helena  and Calistoga.  Very beautiful scenery.
After our appetizers we decided to go to the wine tasting car. We met Mike Delacy (wine educator)and he poured our wine.  I told him I was going to take his picture for my blog and he protested that he doesn't do pictures as you can see by the first picture.
 I told him I was going to do it anyway so he might as well pose nicely and he agreed and wanted me to send him my post.  Here it is Mike.  See it is a good picture.
After the wine tasting we went into the dining car for our gourmet lunch.  I had the pork tenderloin with a wine reduction sauce and roasted veggies.  The food was amazing and the service impeccable.  I would really recommend doing the wine train.
 I did take a little peek at the kitchen.
The train cars were decorated with great paintings on the walls.

All in all it was a great experience, I would really recommend it.  Thanks John and Karen for the amazing Christmas present.

This fall we are taking a five week trip to Europe and two cruises, one of the Greek Islands and the second a 16 day transatlantic cruise from Rome to Galveston.  I will have lots of pictures and stories to post. stay tuned.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

John and I recently spent the night on the Delta King Paddelboat in Old Sacramento to celebrate our birthdays.  I have had dinner on this boat previously but have never spent the night.  This was one of my good deals I found on Travelzoo.com.  We got one nights lodging, bottle of wine upon arrival, full breakfast the next morning and free wine tasting at 8 wineries at the Sugar Mill.  Total cost was $99.  We had a wonderful dinner that night and free dessert as it was my birthday.  This 285 foot riverboat has so much history.  It was christened on May 20, 1927 and began daily voyages between Sacramento and San Francisco.  It was a 10 hour trip that included prohibition era drinking, jazz bands, gambling and fine dining.  A stateroom was $3.50 but for a dollar and "your own blanket" the night could be spent on the Cargo Deck.
During WWII the Delta King was drafted into the U.S.Navy and served as net tenders , floating barracks, troop transports and hospital ship.  In 1984 after partially submerged for 15 months in San Francisco Bay, the Delta King was towed to Old Sacramento where it underwent complete renovation.  Five years later it opened to reign, once again, as the heralded monarch of the Sacramento River.  The original 88 staterooms now number 44 larger rooms.  Don't mean to bore you locals, but my readers around the world might like some background.  I tried to look at Old Sacramento as if I were a tourist seeing it for the first time.  It really is pretty neat with it's cobblestone streets, wood plank sidewalks, and great old buildings.  Here are some of the pictures I hope you will enjoy.

All in all it was a very memorable birthday.  It's kind of fun to act as a tourist in your own backyard.  Happy Fourth of July everyone.  Next trip David Whalley's Resort in Carson City, Nevada.  Stay tuned.