Sunday, November 29, 2009

Late Fall in the Valley

It's almost December, but the Central Valley is showing some fall color. The streets of our town are lined with trees wearing red and gold leaves. Considering Christmas is less than a month away, we are finally getting some autumn color. If you remember, I took pictures of the fall colors in the Rocky Mountains...there fall comes early. Not so in the valley.

The colors were a good excuse to take pictures using my new camera. Since my Canon G9 was stolen, I've been looking for a possible replacement. I considered a DSLR camera, but when I looked at their size, I decided once again, they are just too big for me. Next I looked at the compact point and shoot cameras. The Canon S90 was tempting but it lacked a viewfinder. I also looked at the updated version of the camera I had, which is a G11. I read reviews at, Best Buy and Canon trying to figure out what would be best for me. After a whole week of thought (that is a long time for me) I decided on the Canon G11. It's a point and shoot camera, but it has the same exact settings as the Canon EOS DSLR. In fact, Canon calls the G-line of cameras their "first professional" cameras. I'm not a professional, but I do like to take pretty pictures.

So today I took pictures with my new camera. I played with different settings and came up with some pretty shots. Take a look and tell me what you think?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Slowly--getting back to normal

It's a slow process, but things are starting to fall into place. Even though it was Black Friday, I ventured out to buy a camera. I took the back road to Best Buy, thinking I would avoid some traffic. Well, it seems like a lot of other folks had the same idea! Once in the store, it was a zoo! I did find my camera and a sales person and between the two of us I bought what I wanted. The new camera is a Canon G 11 (replacing my Canon G 9). Instead of dealing with several small SD cards totaling 24 gigabites, I bought three 8 GB cards. Also replaced were the tripod and the flash drives. At Wal-Mart the computer backpack and one more of the adapters that was stolen were replaced.

Once home, I did some online shopping which is definitely the way to go! At I bought a spare battery for the camera (it had the best price). Lastly, at Apple I bought a super mouse, replacing the mighty mouse. Apple was having a Black Friday 1 day sale, so there was a $5 discount! I still need to find all of my receipts from the stolen items. That's a task that I'll tackle tomorrow.

Black Friday shoppers were out in force. The mall was jammed, as was Best Buy. On the other hand, Wal-Mart was about normal and the grocery store was quiet! The check-out clerk said she was having a slow day! After Best Buy, the urge to go to the Verizon store at the Mall to replace the aircard was erased. One zoo-like store a day is enough!

IF my accounting is correct, I've bought or ordered just about everything that was stolen. I am on schedule to turn in the insurance claims on Monday. AND, since I now have a camera, some pictures might start to show up on Cruztalking. I think the website needs a bit more decoration than it has been having the past few days.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Happy Thanksgiving! We have a lot to be thankful for. It's been a wonderful year with many outstanding adventures. We have good friends, good health and good times I hope y'all have the same!

I'm slowly digging my way out from under the drift of paperwork that is the result of the loss of one small back pack in Spain. (I shudder to think what I would need to do if more had been stolen!) I have been digging around in my files trying to find receipts for everything. (One receipt I cannot find is for a "travel patch" from Fort Lockroy, Antarctica. It cost $10. It's not an important item, it's just a neat souvenir. I don't think I can get another one. It's gone, like the pack, and that's all there is to it.) Then, for the more tangible stuff, I've been trying to discover replacement costs. Looking up everything on the Internet has made that part of the task easier. With luck, I should be able to file the insurance claims by Monday! Yes, I know it's trite, but I'm thankful this task is coming to a close.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sleepless in Spain

I have been debating what to label this entry. At first I thought "Ladrones in Espana" sounded good, then "Nightmare in Malaga," came up, but I settled for "Sleepless in Spain" because that's exactly what happened the first 3 days of the trip.

After flying for hours from San Francisco to Frankfurt to Madrid we landed in Malaga, tired, but happy to be in Spain at last. We picked up our luggage and a rental car and drove to our hotel in downtown. We had plans to spend the next three days driving the Spanish countryside on our way to Granada, Seville and if we had time, Torremolinos and Marbella. Well, we did not do those wonderful things because as we were checking into the hotel in Malaga, someone stole my backpack! Of course the backpack was filled with all sorts of wonderful goodies, including my camera, computer, lots of electronic toys and tools, a bit of cash, some jewelry, tickets for the ship and subsequent flights home, and a sheet of paper with copies of all of my credit and debit cards.

Instead of seeing the Spanish countryside, we saw a police station and our hotel room where I could make calls to the US to report what had happened and sort things out. We filed a police report, called different insurance companies in the US and in the end we cancelled the cards, collected some much needed cash from Western Union, and we hoped we would be able to board the ship (as the tickets were in the backpack). Hence a few sleepless nights worrying about what was going to happen next!

Boarding the ship was a bit of an adventure. Since we did not have our tickets, I showed the security team the police report that said they had been stolen. The security person wanted to take the police report to the "back room" to see if we were on the manifest. Needless to say, I did not allow that police report out of my hands--so WE all went to the "back room" and found our names on the manifest. We were allowed to get in line to board the ship. The first hurdle was passed.

Then came another tricky detail. A credit card is needed when you board a ship and all of our credit cards had just been cancelled. I gave them a defunct debit card and crossed my fingers it would work. It did! And we were given a "sea pass," a map to our cabin, and we boarded the ship. That was easy. However, the next day, when they ran the debit card thru their system, they discovered it was not valid. It took a trip to the Pursor's Desk to tell them our problem and that we would be settling the account with cash (of all things) when they said, "this happens all the time...don't worry, we know what to do." And they did know what to do.

After 3 days of running around getting things squared away, we were finally able to get some sleep! The next 12 days were great. The Navigator of the Seas is probably the prettiest ship we have cruised on. We were surprised at how much we liked her as we really like small ships, and Navigator had 3100 passengers and about 2000 crew. She's hardly a small ship. If I had my camera I would say, scroll down and see some pictures...but alas, no pictures (so I guess we'll have to take another voyage on her).

(As an aside, throughout the cruise, I would stop at pretty places and say "click" "click" and take an imaginary picture. It was so strange not to have any record of where we had been or what we were seeing and doing. I can however, tell WeedWoman that the travel sweater had a good work-out, visiting some new and interesting places...see below.)

We stopped in Funchal in Madiera, Tenerife and Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, and Nassau in the Bahamas. We had 8 wonderful days at sea. It was one of the few cruises we've taken where we did not go on any shore excursions ( credit cards...) It was also one of the few vacations we've had recently where we did not check email...for the same reason. Nevertheless, we enjoyed being away from the hassles that were going to greet us once we got back to land.

On Saturday we disembarked the ship, collected e-tickets for our flights and flew from Miami to Chicago to San Francisco. We over-nighted in SF and drove home on Sunday arriving about 3:30 PM. This morning I started the next round of calls, following up what I started back in Spain on the 6th of November. I think I was on the phone about 6 hours today. All the cards were successfully stopped. NO one tried to use them! I have filed insurance claims with my home and travel insurance policies. New cards are being sent to me as I write, and soon we'll be back to something that will resemble normal.

Since my computer was stolen, I needed a new one, so the big ticket item I bought today was a Macintosh MacBookPro 15. It's the new version of what I had and it seems to be a very nice replacement. I still have to figure out how to get my backed up files into the new computer and I hope my iTouch is successfully sync-ing with the computer right now. Next item to purchase is a camera! I thinking of updating my Canon G9 with the G11 model that came out in August, but then I'm also looking at the Canon S90. The reviews on both are good, so I have to see what I like the best when I can get my hands on one.

There are few more loose ends to tie up, but I know what needs to be done and it will take a few more days. We learned a lot of stuff from the backpack misadventure. I had never made a collect call before and I discovered that in Spain, you need to have a collect code. The hotel gave me the wrong code, so my calls did not go through. Out of desperation, I just dialed the numbers from our hotel room and charged them to the bill, and the calls went through. We should have had an international calling card to use, it would have made the "collect call" fiasco disappear. I learned that Western Union will transfer funds to you, but you need a Transaction Number to get the funds. My insurance company forgot to give me the Transaction Number. You also have to have the funds sent in your "passport name" not your first and last name. The funds were sent to my first and last name, but my passport has a middle name at first Western Union was not going to give us the money. That was an interesting call to make, and another story, and this is getting far too long.

I'm pleased I had a little bit of Spanish. Between my "broken" Spanish and their "broken" English, we were able to communicate. By the third day, I was getting pretty good at coming up with the words I wanted to say WHEN I wanted to say them. I even expressed anger at a taxi driver! I was surprised when the correct Spanish words just came flying out of my mouth!

We're going to be on dry land for awhile. The next big adventure will be a 32 day cruise that starts in Bangkok at the end of December. We'll be very ready for that adventure, but right now, we are licking our "wounds" and thanking our lucky stars that we did not get hurt and only things were taken. We are stronger than we were....but why did this have to happen in the first place? I don't think anyone has an answer to that question.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

One More Red Carpet Lounge (RCL)

We're on the road again. This time we're at the RCL in SFO. This RCL is 3000% better than the RCL in Denver which we visited in September. It's serene, clean, quiet, just plain nice. Did I say it was CLEAN. Right now there are more big screen TVs in the lounge than there are people.

Getting here was a bit of a challenge. The TSA lines were horrible and nothing seemed to move with ease...then came the ritual undressing (I guess I should say the security check) -- off with the shoes, jacket, backpack, computer, purse--What would it look like to have naked people in the lines? Somehow the picture of middle aged travelers standing in their birthday suits conjures up an image that the world is not ready to see.

Next stop is Frankfurt, then Madrid, then Malaga. In Malaga we pick up a rental car and drive to our hotel. That will be interesting. We need to find the car, then find the hotel. Watch this space to see how well we do.

A note to WeedWoman--I have the traveling sweater with me. I'll take pix along the way documenting the journey. When we see you next, that sweater will be well traveled! Should I have a sticker or patch or button for each location??

Monday, November 2, 2009

Rain in Spain?

View of Malaga from the Alcazar

I wonder does it really rain on the plain in Spain? We’ll be in Spain on Thursday and maybe we’ll find out. It’s another cruztalk for us; this time the other DrC is working while I’m playing back up support.

Before we board the Navigator of the Seas we’ll spend a few days in the Malaga area. I have 2 day trips planned: one to Granada and the other to Seville. These are places I’ve read about for decades, as they were part of what I had to learn when taking Spanish way back when. I have rented a car; I have Google maps as well as AAA maps, we have International Driver’s Licenses and a good sense of adventure. I think we should be ready to go. The packing starts in earnest tomorrow and we’ll be ready to leave on Wednesday!

For several months I’ve been getting to know about 90 folks who are taking the same cruise, thanks to the Cruise Critic website. The 100 page online conversation we’ve had is extensive as we’ve talked about shore excursions, rental cars, hotels, restaurants and travel in general. We’re supposed to meet a couple at our hotel in Malaga, and once on the ship, we’ll meet the rest of the Cruise Critic writers at a “Meet and Mingle” party, and then throughout the trip there are other adventures that have been planned.

In the meantime watch this space, as we’re on the road again!

The Alcazar in Malaga