Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Caribbean Cruise - Day 8 - Heading Home

Today is our last day aboard the Norwegian Jewel. We are already docked, in fact we were docking during dinner the night before but the cruise was to last until Saturday. I spent one more day practicing before breakfast. There was only one person beside me in the fitness center, a woman who was using the exercise machines. I was surprised that there were a lot of people in the Garden Cafe when I went in to get our lemon water. I guess some people wanted to get a head start, like us they had a full day of traveling head of them. Our flight to Atlanta was not until noon so we were not in a big hurry to leave. As i was walking down the stairs with our two cups of lemon water, trying not to spill them, I saw groups of people queuing up at the elevators. my wife was already dressed when I got back to our room.

We went up to the Garden Cafe for breakfast. There were more people there than I had seen during the entire cruise, but then again, it was everyone's last breakfast on board. We had a hearty breakfast of eggs Benedict with salmon that we added to make it eggs Charlotte, home fries, Chelsea buns, fresh fruit and coffee with a lot of hot milk which essentially made it cafe au lait.

After breakfast we went back to our room to finish packing. we had decided that we would carry our own luggage off the boat, it was simpler and faster. We walked off the boat and directly into the SuperCab that was waiting for us, it could not have been simpler than that. There was an older couple already sitting in the SuperCab. We started talking with then and found that not only did they live  near Edmonton, Alberta but they lived in the same town where our  son teaches high school,amazing!

At the airport, we checked in and waited.. We had lots of time before our flight so we sat in the baggage claim area and ate the tuna salad sandwiches that mt wife made on the ship. After eating, we went through security. Both of us refused to go through the radiation scanner so they had to do a body check which was fine with us. After security we had a cup of green tea and waited.

Our flight from Houston took off without delay, the trip to Altanta was just under two hours. When we landed in Atlanta, we immediately found our connecting flight and made sure our cell phones were on the correct time. We found a place to have dinner called Book Ends. We had crepes filled with artichokes, Spinach and cheese.They were tasty and filling. After dinner we still had hours to wait before our flight so, we walked around B terminal where we had dinner before going to D terminal where our connecting flight was. Since there was nothing else to do we went to D terminal on the train. We went to the gate to make sure it was the right gate. we checked the electronic board to make it was the right gate. We sat at the gate with at least two hours to go. My wife was watching the monitor and saw a notice that there was an art exhibit in terminal T. We had lots of time so off we went to terminal T.

When we got to terminal T I saw some sculptures that I wanted to see before we went to see the art exhibit, the sculpture was on the same level as the train. the exhibit was sculpture from Zimbabwe. I was called "A Tradition in Stone" zimbabwe. I thought that the sculptures were absolutely amazing! There were original in concept and powerfully expressed, they were simply beautiful.









We had to tear ourselves away from the sculptures or else we would not have time to see the art exhibit. the art exhibit was also interesting, it was called Flight Patterns: An Exhibition of Fiber Art flight-patterns-exhibition. The pieces were constructions of different kinds of fiber medium. It was very textural.




We returned to terminal D because it was getting near the time for departure and we did not want to miss our flight home. At the gate, they started boarding the plane. The agent at the desk called our name. I went up to the counter, I did not want any issue with the flight home. The agent told me that we had been upgraded to first class. I was confused, shocked and pleased. This was a great finish to a great vacation. 

We had lots of leg room in big comfortable seats in first class. My wife had a big glass of red wine. Since I can't drink I had black tea, several cups actually. It was nice, comfortable flight to Toronto. Getting through customs and getting our bags was fairly routine. we caught the shuttle to the Marriott. The difference in temperature was a little bit if a shock on the body, we went from 30 degrees Celsius in the morning to 5 degrees Celsius in less than 12 hours. 

Our hotel room was a nice, large room, clean and comfortable. The thing that interested us the most was to take a shower a get to bed. We were up around 7:30 AM on Sunday. we dressed and checked out. We could have lounged around the hotel for a few hours but we wanted to get home. We stopped at Oceans grocery store oceansfood.ca on the way home because we did not have any food at home. We had the  coffee that we bought at the Second Cup next door to Oceans and the Dim Sum that we bought at Oceans for breakfast. We bought a few things that we needed and we were home by 11:00 AM.

It was a great cruise. I am really that we celebrated my 60th birthday in this way.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Caribbean Cruise - Day 7 - Last Day at Sea

Today is our last day at sea, by tomorrow morning we will be docked at Houston. I was up at 5:30 AM to get my last day of practice in on the ship. I will miss the aerobics room with it vast floor space and mirrors on two walls. today, I feel strong and energetic.

We had breakfast in the Great Outdoors at the rear of the ship. the early morning was warm and gentle on our face and arms. I am sure that we got a full dose of vitamin D on this cruise! After breakfast we walked the deck but before that we used up the rest of the $100 credit that we received when we booked the trip. I bought two T-shirts. That left $1 of credit left. There was a machine near the atrium where you could make a medallion out of copper. We made a medallion of Dora because we know that our grand daughter likes Dora.

Getting back to our walk, it was a nice 24 degrees Celsius, partially cloudy but mostly sunny. We started to notice oil rigs off in the distance on either side of the ship. As we walked around the ship we saw more and more oil rigs. I never knew there were so many oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, but then again, I never really thought about it. I took a lot of pictures of the tankers and the oil rigs, I also took pictures of the clouds.

 
We went to a demonstration on pastry in the Atrium. It looked more like they were setting up for a demonstration on Black Forest cake. My wife said that if it was not interesting we woulds leave. Well, it was not that interesting. As soon as the chef started talking about how he was going to put the Black Forest cake together, my wife asked me if I wanted to go back out on deck to walk. I said that that would be a great idea, i was not really interested in watching someone put a Black Forest cake together. It was nice outside, warm and breezy. We might as well get as much of this nice weather as possible because tomorrow, we were going to return to the cold.

We are at another show with David Naster, this one is about bullying. he showed a video that had people who talked  about why and how they worked through being bullied and how they eventually rose above being bullied. David Naster is sincere about what he is trying to do, use comedy to improvevpeople's lives.

We had our last lunch in the Garden Cafe, actually we sat outside in the Great Outdoor on the rear deck. With the breeze it actually felt a little cool so we went back inside for tea and dessert. I guess we were getting far enough north that the ambient air temperature was starting to cool off.

On the one hand, it is sad that cruise is  coming to an end but on the other hand, I am looking forward to getting back to our regular life. I am thinking about home and the life that my wife and I have together. It is funny in a way, vacations make us realize how much we appreciate the life that we have. i miss our house, I miss our bed, I miss the food that my wife makes every day that is both healthful and delicious.

At 4:00 PM I went for a consultation with acupuncturist Acupuncture who was on board. He asked me a series of questions, he looked at my tongue. His diagnosis was that I was deficient in Yang Qi. I did not have enough heat in my stomach to transform the food into Qi. The fact that food was sticking in my esophagus and coming back up hours after I went to bed was evidence that I was having rebellious Qi. Instead of the food going down which it is supposed to do, it is going up. interestingly enough, his diagnosis and treatment was the same as my regular acupuncturist. I might have had some treatment with him  with him but it was our last day on board and I was going to see my own acupuncturist the following week. I have a lot of confidence in my acupuncturist's ability to help me.

Based on the acupuncturist's recommendations we decided that I should eat some meat for dinner, lamb would be preferable but we would see what was available. I settled for Mahi-Mahi which did not cause me any problems at all at dinner, My wife had linguine and calamari. We switched plates half way through dinner so that we could sample both dishes, they were both good.

Back in our stateroom we started packing, as much as we could so that we could be prepared to leave the ship in the morning. It was 11:00 PM by the time we finished packing so we just went to bed. Tomorrow was going to be a long day of travel.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Day 6 - Day at Sea - Heading Back to Houston



Although I did not get to bed until 11:00 PM the night before, I was still up at 5:30 AM to go to the fitness center to practice. Since we were at sea for the next two days, there was not hurry to go anywhere early in the morning. i went through quite a bit of Qigong; Yi Jin Jing, Six Healing Sounds, Whole Body Breathing, and Bone healing Qigong. I went through Taijiquan slowly and softly, the sword form, as it is,, twice, then I finished with a hard and fast version of Taijiquan, much more external than internal Qigong.

After discovering the Great Outdoors, the outdoor restaurant at the rear of the ship we decided that we would have breakfast there, weather permitting. When I was walking back from my practice this morning, the temperature was very nice, I would say about 25 degrees Celsius. It was a bit windy but the wind was warm. It was an easy decision, we ate breakfast at the Great Outdoors. It was nice, there were not a lot of people there and it was warm and sunny. After breakfast, we tried walking on the upper deck but it was so windy up there that we were forced to go back down to the lower deck.

At 10:30 AM we went to a seminar on fruit and vegetable carving. I stayed with my wife until just before 11:00 AM, then I went to seminar on Modern Masters that was given by park West. I know that objective of all of their talks is to sell art but I still found these seminars entertaining. I learned about several new artists that I did not know before, Romero Britto britto.com/,



 Peter Max petermax.com.



 Yaacov Agam, Yaacov_Agam
integrated rainbow by yaacov agam



 and David "Lebo" Le Batard.

  • Conga Loca In Space / David Lebo Le Batard / 32

They were all quite modern artists who had very unique styles and who had built successful careers as artists. these are the kind of artists that someone would want to collect with an eye for investment because these are all artists who will increase in value during their lifetime and certainly afterwards. At the end of the lecture everyone received a free work of art, a limited edition print of an original work of art.

After lunch we went back to the Stardust theater, listening to David Naster talk about the benefits of laughter during difficult points in a person's life. He showed a nine minute video about people who used humor to deal with their lives. David talked for an entire hour. he told true stories about people who he had met and how they used humor in real -life situations; injuries, divorce, death and other stressful situations.

After dinner we went back to the Stardust theater again to see Le Cirque Bijou le cirque bijou which featured the Russian couple we saw before plus other acrobats, singers and dancers. I thought that the Russian couple were the most elegant and graceful of all the performers. It was an entertaining show.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

DAY 5 - THE BANANA COAST- HONDURAS, TRUJILLO - CONTINUED

As I said in my last post, there was too much to say about day five in Trujillo, Honduras for one past so I am splitting it into two.

after returning to the ship we went back to our state room, deposited all our purchases and finds. I found a number of stones and other interesting objects as we walked along the beach. There were a variety of things that I found, a rock that had small deposits of copper on the outside, several pieces of coral and a really interesting piece that looked like it might have been a home for some small sea creature which after closer inspection it seems that it might have been the barrel of an old gun that had become attached to a rock and over time it became encrusted with stones.



After lunch we walked around the top deck to make up a mile, as if we had not walked ans climbed enough in the morning in Trujillo! Having achieved our mile walk we sat out in the shade in deck chairs and read. I started reading a new book on my Ipad, Volume I of Essential Chinese Medicine   Essentials-Chinese-Medicine-Volumewhich is the first volume of a giant three volume compendium of traditional Chinese medicine. As we sat reading the crew started pulling up the boats from the water, the very boats that they had used to tender us to shore. it was an interesting process to watch.

Afterwards we went to the Stardust theater to see the comic JP  The-Comedy-Magic-of-Jean-Pierre. we had started to watch him on the first night out by the motion of the ship caused my wife to be sea sick so we had to leave his first performance part way through.

The Comedy & Magic of Jean-Pierre's photo.

After watching JP we went to the art gallery to see the unveiling of several new works of art. There was also complimentary wine. The first painting that they unveiled was a still life by Peter Max, Peter_Max.
It was quite beautiful, bursting with color. I liked it. the next two works of art were etchings by Rembrandt Rembrandt.

Rembrandt etchings: De Omval

 One was a self portrait completed near the time of his death. The second etching was a scene of his childhood where Rembrandt grew up. The third etching was another self portrait but when he was a young man. As much as I appreciate the technique of etching and Rembrandt's artistry in this medium, I could not see my wife and I hanging a Rembrandt etching on a wall in our house. We are not people who would buy a work of art just because it was by a famous artist, we would have to like it as well. I guess I am just a Philistine when it comes to etchings. the third artist was Itzchak Tarkay

 an artist from Israel. Most of his work was in acrylics but he painted a dozen or so watercolors of women in various poses. When the paintings were unveiled i was immediately drawn to their beauty. The color and the way that the artist balanced color and composition showed the hand of a master. We were told that these paintings we going for $2500 - 3500 a piece. I would say that that would be a bargain. I would love to own a Tarkay painting but we don't have the wall space, we still  have works of art that we have yet to hang in our house.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Caribbean Cruise - Day Five - The Banana Cost - Honduras - Trujillo

Today, we are going to the Trujillo in Honduras Trujillo , it is also known as the Banana Coast, I am not sure why. Again, we are going to be tendered to shore in small boats from the Norwegian Jewel.



It is a beautiful morning and we are looking forward to going to a place that has not yet been ruined by tourism. As we move towards the shore, Trujillo looks lovely.


It was only a short ride to shore, about ten minutes. we landed about 9:00AM. There were local singers and dancers performing at the terminal when we landed.


There were souvenirs near the terminal but it was disappointing that it was more of the same stuff that we had seen the day before and the day before that. We had a vision of all these souvenirs being churned out in a factory in China then shipped to all of these sights to be bought up by tourists, and there were people buying them.

Trujillo is a new place for cruise boats to stop, you can see that it has not been developed. The historical area of Trujillo is not very interesting and they want you to pay $3US to look at the ruins of an old fortress. It was hardly worth $3US, I took a few pictures from a distance instead.


We walked around the town for about an hour, going into some of the local stores to see what they had to offer. We found the local hospital which was interesting.


There was a church near the town square so we went in to take a look. The church itself was not all that interesting but my wife took the time to light a candle.


For the rest of our stay in Trujillo we spent our time walking along the beach which we found to be quite satisfying. The feel of the sand on our feet, the sound of the waves, the feel of the water as it caressed our feet was all satisfying and relaxing.


as we approached 11:00 AM we returned to the terminal. We bought some rum and a local liquor, that I was told, is like vodka. I guess we could use it for making crisp pastry.

When we got back on the boat to take us back to the ship it was starting rain and the waves were quite active. The ten minutes that it took to get back to the ship were quite interesting. My wife found the ten minutes nerve racking but it was pretty entertaining for me. The little boat was tossed about on the waves, going up and down with each succeeding wave. I think everyone was thankful to get back on the Norwegian Jewel.

There was a lot more than happened that day but I am going to stop the post here. I will continue the rest of the day in part two of day five.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Caribbean Cruise - Day 4 - Tuesday, December 2, 2014. Belize City, Belize.

By 7:55 on Tuesday morning, I had completed my qigong practice, we had eaten breakfast and we were sitting in the Stardust theater waiting to be called to go ashore for our tour to the Mayan ruin in Altun Ha Altun_Ha. we did not wait very long before our group was called.

Because the Norwegian Jewel could not dock at Belize City Belize_City we were tendered to shore in smaller boats. We went to shore in a small, open-sided boat. On the trip to shore, the air was light and breezy, very pleasant. The boat was rocking and bobbing gently in the water as we waited for people to get on. As we traveled to shore I saw little islands or atolls around us. In the distance I could see buildings on the shore, behind us I saw our ship getting smaller and smaller. It was about a 45 minute trip from the ship to terminal #1 in Belize City. The shuttles run every half hour from the ship to shore. The shore is littered with shops and restaurants.

It took us about an hour to get to Altun Ha by bus. It was an interesting ride, the guide gave us a running commentary about Belize. At first, we thought that it might not be a bad idea to spend a few months a year in Belize when we retire but by the time we finished our tour we reconsidered that idea.

The tour in Altun Ha was interesting. As we were walking to the site the tour guide gave us background information on the Mayans and the site. In 1961 Belize City was almost completely destroyed by hurricane Hattie Hurricane_Hattie. People went to the site of Altun Ha to get stones to rebuild the city. It did not take too long before the authorities realized that this was an archaeological site. the government of Belize hired an American archeologist, Dr. David Pendergast /David_M._Pendergast who was the Field Director of the Royal Ontario Museum's ROM excavation of Altun Ha. He uncovered several tombs which we saw during our visit. In 1977 he discovered the Kinich Ahaw jade head jade head. The tour guide proudly informed us that it is the large jade sculpture to be found in that part of the world.

alt


















According to our guide, the jade head is kept in a vault in the bank of Belize and it is only brought once a year for all the Belizians to see. After the talk about Altun Ha, we were allowed to climb one of the main temples. My wife and I climbed to the top and took pictures.






After looking at the site and taking pictures, we took a walk through the gift and souvenir shops. They were expensive and not all that original, we had seen similar looking souvenirs in Cozumel. we kept seeing the same figures and images over and over again.

Back in Belize City, we were dropped off at a restaurant called the Smokey Mermaid where they gave us a glass of rum punch which seemed to go down okay and did not bother my stomach. We walked around the area a bit and \i took a few pictures of the Taiwanese embassy taiwanembassy which did not look like any embassy that I had ever seen before.


Apparently, Taiwan and Belize have very good relation. This probably accounted for the the reason why there were so many Chinese restaurants and businesses in Belize City.

All in all, it was a good day. we spent the rest if the afternoon on the upper deck of the Norwegian Jewel basking in the lovely Belizian weather. I finished reading the book that I had brought with me on the trip, Super Survivors, by David B. Feldman, Ph.D and Lee Daniel Kravitz Super Survivors. It was a book about how some people not only survive catastrophes in their lives but actually use the experiences to thrive and achieve great things. It was a good book, and inspiring book! I have to think about how to apply the learnings of this book to my own life.

We had dinner at Tsar's, a restaurant decorated in the style of a Russian palace. We found that the quality of the food and the service was much better at Tsar's than at Azur. Our order was taken promptly and the server brought our food within a reasonable period of time. The hot dishes were hot and the salads were crisp and fresh. We were finished our entire meal by 5:30 PM, at Azur we would have been still waiting for the entree to arrive. We would have stayed for desert but we wanted to see the show, acrobats from Russia. Instead, we went up to the Garden Cafe for dessert.

Picture Norwegian Jewel Tsar's Palace

We watched the Russian act called Deja Vu duo-deja-vu, they were a husband and wife team. Both of them were superb athletes, strong and controlled but able to move with grace and elegance.The performed singly and together for a full 40 minutes. The husband sang a couple of songs as well, they were incredibly entertaining.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Caribbean Cruise - Day 3

Day 3 - Monday, December 1, 2014.

I was up at 6:00AM to practice in the fitness center. This morning I found something that I could use as a substitute sword during my practice, there was part of the frame of an easel that had come apart and was laying in a corner of the aerobics room. It was the right length. About ten minutes into my practice an older gentleman came into the room dressed in exercise clothing. He had a yoga mat with him as well as a timer and some other gear. He set himself up in one of the corners of the room and went through a kind of timed yoga routine where he held modified yoga poses for a timed period. I went through my practice, when I got to the sword practice I took the piece of the easel that \i had found. as soon as the piece was in my hand I could do the form again, it was as if part of my that had been missing had been restored to me.

After breakfast, my wife and I spent the morning in the tourist area of San Miguel, in Cozumel Cozumel, a island off of the coast of the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico.



The tourist area is a long strip along the waterfront starting at the dock. It isa series of streets with stores and restaurants, all for the benefit of tourists to deposit their American dollars. We were also looking for opportunities to spend some of our cash on souvenirs to take home. Some of the stores did spill off the main street onto the side streets but I did not want my wife to wander to far off the beaten track because I did not know how safe it was. On the main street there were armed police on every street, I imagine to keep order for the tourists.

Here is a picture of our boat from the terminal in San Miguel, Cozumel
I was amazed at how blue the water is




We wound up buying two maracas for our grand daughter as well as some clothing. We also bought two bottles of tequila to give away when we got back home. We returned to the ship around noon for lunch then we went back out again. When we were returning to the ship, my wife noticed that there were several people with bags of groceries from a store called Mega, we could see the store from the ship. When we returned to the town after lunch, we went to Mega. We bought a bar of soap for $.35 because we were tired of using the liquid soap on the ship. We also bought a bag of ancho chilis that my wife will use for cooking Mexican food, and finally, we bought three palmiers, two plain and one with chocolate. Palmiers are a French pastry from the Langedoc area of France. I would guess that they are one of the traditions that Mexico kept after the French left Mexico in 1866. My wife was happy, she got to shop  in an authentic Mexican super store instead of a touristy shop on the waterfront.

locals dressed up as natives to entertain the tourists



Back on the ship we had an early dinner so that we could go to an art lecture on Rembrandt, Chagall, Picasso and Dali. It was an  interesting talk. The speaker was very enthusiastic and we got to see some original art by these artists. After the talk we to see a  comedian, David Naster  David Naster, in the theatrer David was very funny.

I was a long day so we went to bed early. Tomorrow promises to be an equally long and interesting day.