Sunday, March 29, 2009

Camping v RVing

Some folks think camping and RVing are the same, but there are subtle differences. Most of them have to do with electricity, running water and comfort. When you camp you live in a tent and sleep in a sleeping bag. This is not the case in an RV. But, one of the biggest differences is doing dishes. I’ll take the RV life with it’s modern conveniences. Doing dishes in cold water is not my idea of fun.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

First Stop

We are in Santa Nella RV Park tonight…our first stop on this journey. We had a nice lunch and visit with our nephew before stopping here. As of right now, we’ve not forgotten anything and everyting seems to be packed—at least we’ve not remembered anything that we forgot, if that makes sense!

The only glitch has been the aircard and the satellite TV. Both were activated when we left home, but once on the road, both needed to be re-activated. The process takes about 10 minutes. Next I’ll try our wifi network to see if it is up and running. It’s good to have the technology; it’s frustrating when it does not work on demand.

One last note: We’ve not been in the RV for several months, yet it felt like we were “home” from the get go. I guess the RV lifestyle is in our blood.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Getting the Land Yacht Ready

I know it seems like we just came home from a cruise, but we’re ready to go “cruisin’” again, this time in our land yacht. The price of diesel has gone down since last summer, so we are heading out for a long-ish RV trip. I think we’ll be on the road about 6-7 weeks, before we finally land back home. The route will be circuitous as we like to follow the sun and it’s still cool out there. We’ll head south first to Southern California, then east toward Tennessee, then north toward Minnesota and finally west back to Wyoming. Along the way we hope to visit friends, find our “fortune” in diamonds at the only public diamond mine in world, attend the International Reading Association annual conference, and we'll see a lot of pretty stuff along the way.

We’ve not been a long RV trip for a few years, so this is a treat we are both looking forward to. If you have been reading Cruztalking, you know we have sailed on over a dozen cruises the last 2 years. While sailing does assuage our wanderlust, it’s not like the lure of the open road. I just read an article stating that most of the big RV companies are going out of business, the RV lifestyle is on the wane, and the death knell is ringing for “full timers” who have called the open road their home. We’ll ignore the dire warnings, and have a grand time cruisin’ America’s highways.

So we are sorting out our gear and packing it into the RV. This is about a 3-4 day process. It could be done in a day, but it’s such a hateful day, we’ve learned that when we take our time, we forget less and like each other more. We have a master list of all the stuff that we need. Over the years, we’ve discovered we need about 10 days worth of clothing. We’ve also discovered we don’t need to bring a lot of food, as there are stores everywhere. If we plan to do any “back woods camping” we’ll have to stock up on a few supplies, but generally we can survive in the RV for 3 days before we need to tank up on water and food. We’ve also learned that life on the open road is less expensive than life in our home! I wonder if that will still be the case this year? I’ll let you know when all is said and done.

We are looking forward to this adventure. Just because we are "camping" does not mean we will be cut off from the modern world. To keep us connected with the world, we have electronic goodies ranging from a roof mounted satellite dome (that finds the satellite all by itself) to a secure wifi connection for internet use. For this trip, our computers will be an Asus 1000HA micro-computer and a MacBookPro for blogging and collecting pictures along the way. Watch this space as I’ll have pictures and stories from our beautiful country posted along the way.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Few Pictures

We’re home and we are surviving jet lag once again. One of these days, someone will come up with a way to avoid jet lag, but until then, we’ll deal with it the best we can.

During the last trip, I stole some pictures from some of the folks who attended my lectures. One of the best pictures taken was of a two headed camel. If you look at the picture closely, you will see 2 camels with his keeper sitting atop both of them. I think this is a great picture.

In Athens, we saw a perfect temple near the Acropolis. It’s the Temple of Hephaistos, a son of Hera, was the Smith of the Gods. In ancient Greek Mythology, Hephaistos fashioned the homes of the Gods and Goddesses. Considering this Temple is thousands of years old, it’s classic beauty remains intact.

Malta was one of my favorite spots. I wanted to stay there and take pictures of the wonderful buildings and their tiny details. I fell in love with the balconies.

The Canary Islands and Madeira are two semi-tropical islands off the coast of Africa. The flowers found on both these islands were their main attraction.

On Grand Canary, I also liked the colorful parrots that were hidden in the house where Christopher Columbus stayed before he sailed for the New World.

The Alcazaba, the fortress overlooking Malaga, was built by the Moors, centuries ago. It tells of the story of Spain before the Inquisition. The Alcazaba is sometimes called a miniature Alhambra, which we did not see in nearby Granada.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Last day on the Jade

We’ve been on the Jade for 20 days …tomorrow we disembark and head back for the real world. Some folks might say that heading back to retirement is not the real world either, but that’s as real as my world gets. For the last 20 days we’ve had sketchy news, so please don’t ask me about the stimulus plan or the state of the economy. I don’t know what the market has been doing, nor do I know how Mr. Obama is doing in the polls. We do get news on the ship, but we get BBC or Fox, but “news” does not seem to be their main agenda. And at 40 cents or more per minute on a painfully slow “high speed network,” neither of us have spent time surfing the web to find out what is going on. Living in this type of oblivion is interesting at first, yet after a while, there’s a hankering for some news about my little corner of the world.

Did I forget to mention that life on the Jade is easy? As with any cruise, the hardest part is getting to the ship and finding your stateroom/cabin. After that, it’s easy. Go to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, get some exercise, do some reading, take a shore excursion, see the evening show, enjoy the sunshine, attend a port talk or lecture, listen to music, sip a cool drink, dance, relax at the spa, swim in the pools and soak in the hot-tubs, and in your spare time you can rest and unwind. Cruising is nice if you like those things.

This trip we had relatively nice weather. There were a few days when it was too cold to enjoy the outdoors and one day was downright nasty, even for someone like me who has taken 16 cruises in 2 years. The seas were rough and the safest place to be was low and mid-ships. The poor folks in the fancy-dancy owner’s suites on the 14th deck were getting more than they bargained for as the ship rocked, rolled, swayed and creaked for 20+ hours.

It’s always hard to recall all the highlights of a cruise, but I’ll try. In Athens, we met our taxi driver from our last trip there, and he took us on a tour of some special places which was fun. Ephesus was incredible. While we had a rainy day with some spitting snow no less, the ruins were wonderful and the history is mesmerizing. The 3 islands of Malta, Grand Canary and Madeira were wonderful, as I wrote about before. Lastly, Malaga, Spain with the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castile, the fortresses that overlook the ancient Moorish city on the Costa del Sol, were fascinating. We will return to Malaga in November to find out more.

The packing is done. We will have 2 more meals on the ship before we disembark tomorrow at 8:30 in the morning. It will take us 2 days to get home as we will overnight in Munich. We’re both ready for the long flights back to our world.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Three Islands

On this cruise we have visited 3 islands: Malta, Grand Canary and Madiera. Each is different from the other except for one thing…all are beautiful.

Malta was the first of the 3 and what makes it distinctive is the uniformity of the architecture. Most of the buildings were built sometime in the 16th or 17th century. They boast similar colors and styles, with wonderful enclosed balconies facing narrow streets that wind around the island. We visited the co-cathedral of St. John, an over the top baroque church that has 2 Caravaggio paintings. I had a grand time taking pictures of tiny architectural details that made each home different and intriguing. We also had tea at the home of one of the Knights of Malta. Malta is the home of the Knights of St. John, a hospital order of men, who have been taking care of the sick and wounded since the time of the Crusades. It is an independent country, about 100 miles off the coast of Sicily, and is part of the European Union.

The second island was Grand Canary. A volcanic island that is circular in shape a few hundred miles off the coast of Africa boasts a semi-tropical climate and wonderful views of the ocean. Here we visited the house where Christopher Columbus stayed before sailing off to the “new world.” The Canary Islands are not named for birds, but the Latin name for dog, so there are statues of dogs around the island. The Canary Islands are part of Spain, and also part of the European Union and use the Euro for their currency. Here I took pictures of churches and interesting buildings.

Today we visited the third of the 3 islands, Madiera. It is part of Portugal. The name derives from all the trees that were on the island when it was discovered in 1419. Madiera is Portuguese for “wood.” It is an autonomous region of Portugal with an elected President, yet the country owes it’s allegiance to Portugal. While Malta has a unique and uniform architecture, Madiera has flowers. The climate is just about perfect so there is a riot of colorful blooms every day of the year. As a flower lover, I was in heaven trying to take pictures of all of them.

Each island is different; each is similar too. All members of the European Union, all use the Euro, each is a European resort visited by lots of folks yearning for sunshine when the rest of Europe is freezing. I don’t know if I could spend a lifetime on any of these islands, I know I could spend another fortnight, enjoying what each has to offer.