Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Santa Cruz de Tenerife - Canary Islands, Spain.

Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain
After a wild day at sea yesterday, today, we find ourselves 180 miles off the coast of north Africa in the Canary Islands at a lovely port called Santa Cruz de Tenerife.  Today's activity, another Tapa tour.  However, after last night's martini-off, I seemed to have misplaced my money-clip with my driver's license, which is needed at this port to get back on the ship.   I guess that's why I can't be trusted with nice things.  I'm usually never this careless.  Haynes helped with the search for my money-clip.  We checked jacket pockets, slacks pockets, the safe, every handbag that I brought, my backpack, robe pockets, drawers and even the refrigerator - just because ... one never knows.  We finally called off the search and headed down to the Constellation Theater to meet our tour group, but stopped by the reception desk on the outside chance that someone had found the misplaced money-clip and turned it in.  Haynes was trying to describe to the receptionist what the money-clip looked like, so he reached into his pocket to pull his money-clip out to show her.  
Found it!!
We were both surprised to see the clip lying in his palm was MINE instead of his.  Mystery solved.  Then we had to return to the room to find HIS money and drivers license.  Found it in his slacks from the previous evening.  

By now, we had missed our tour, so we decided to take the "blue line" tour of Santa Cruz.  From the ship, there is a blue line that we followed through the port all the way into town.  

The BLUE Line tour.

Away we go!
Santa Cruz is a larger city than Cadiz.   We wandered around the city snapping photos of various sights.  No clue what we were looking at, but they must have had some importance since they were pretty sizable monuments and statues.  So please enjoy these photos.  
Don't know, but got a photo anyway!!

This guy's got nothin on you Haynes!!

No clue what the statue represents, but must be important.

One of many walkways meandering through the city.

This walkway ran along the shore for miles.

Another walkway lined with great shops.

We ran across this lovely park.
Local park.  It's hot here!!
There is a little kid in all of us!!
The city was abundant with beautiful walkways that ascended up the hillside bordered by apartments, hotels and small businesses terraced alongside up the hills.  We found a gorgeous city park with gardens and fountains and a wonderful playground.  

Back to the ship for lunch.
After a four mile trek, we headed back to the ship for food.  It's free on the ship AND we know that we're getting good food.  Can't beat that price and quality at LaVeranda. 

Cocktails in the Observation Lounge.

Pre-cocktail party cocktails in Observation Lounge.
After a lunch, it was time for a nice nap before the cocktail party at the Meridian Lounge hosted by our host and hostess with the mostess, Tom and Melody.  It was great fun catching up with the folks that I met on the earlier New Zealand/Australia cruise with the Vintage Club folks.  

After the cocktail party, our butler, Fernando, collected us and escorted Haynes and I to the secret restaurant, La Chambre, where Fernando had secured reservations for us this evening with Bruce and Gail.   This very special, private and cozy little restaurant seats 18 people, only master suite guests.  

Dinner at Le Chambre with Bruce and Gail.
We were able to select our meal from the Prime 7 or Chartreuse restaurant menus.  Oh!  By the way, Bruce, Gail, Haynes and I were the only ones dining in La Chambre tonight.  It was like having our own private restaurant.  The meal was incredible.  I ordered every dessert on the menu and had to sample each one.  Every once in a while, sugar is a good thing!!  It certainly was tonight with a Deconstructed S'more, Popcorn Sundae with chocolate sauce and 14 layer flourless chocolate cake.  Oh my gosh!  I'm going an extra hour on the treadmill tomorrow!!

We are currently underway for another Canary Island, Arrecife, Lanzarote, Spain.  More tomorrow.    

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Next Port of Call - Cadiz, Spain

Waiting to disembark for our Chef's tour of Cadiz .
After a day at sea, it felt good to arrive in Spain.  Today's plan, The Chef's Tour of Cadiz.

Cadiz (pronounced Cah-DIZEE), is a quaint little city with narrow cobblestone streets lined with interesting shops.

Cadiz has plenty of narrow streets lined with cute shops.
Chef Nicolle, from the ship took a small group of us on a walking tour of the city to the local market where Saturday shopping was in full swing.  Each small booth was filled with colorful fruits, vegetables or some form of sea food.

LOTS of fresh seafood.

Tom checks out fresh fruit.

I really hate when they look at me like this!!
Kiss a fish!  
Huge Tuna, Squid, Prawns, Sharks, Crabs, Clams, fish of every size and description and in every stage of life, from still swimming, to skinned, trimmed and filleted.  There was definitely something for everyone.  Interesting local merchants were hawking their goods.

We had an hour to explore the market, but it certainly didn't take long to get our fill of the crowds and the aroma of fresh fruit and fish.  Before we left the ship, we were given ten Euros to spend at the market.  Since I didn't see a fish purchase in my future, we quickly found a small sidewalk cafe, ordered beer and water and enjoyed watching the endless parade of folks strolling by.  It was great fun watching the locals and the tourists saunter by.  It was also fun and easy to distinguish between the two and follow up with an interesting class category from homeless to royalty and guessing their country of origin.  The Irish were easy to find with their lily white legs and red hair.  I know I saw some of my distant relatives from Arkansas stumble by.  

The PERFECT people watching perch.
This particular little sidewalk cafe didn't seem to be the type of establishment that accepted American Express, nor American dollars and we only had 10 Euros.  So I was a little concerned about how we were going to pay the check.  So we did what any disconcerting patron would do ... didn't worry about how were were going to pay up, we ordered another beer and continued to enjoy the comfortable seat and enjoy the parade of folks.  Turned out, the beer was cheaper than the water.  Two beers and one water added up to 4.80 Euro, less than half of our cash.  Sweet!!  Another beer, please!

Soon, we met up with our group and headed to lunch.  The drive to the restaurant took us along the shore on Saturday afternoon.  Clearly a beach day, the beaches were filled with hundreds of colorful umbrellas and swimmers.  Unfortunately I couldn't get a photo of the umbrellas.  But the way they are clustered together would have made a lovely painting of the seashore.  

Our lunch spot, Ventorrillo Del Chato, is known as the origin of the "Tapa."  Tapa is a small serving of food or a "small plate."  Legend says the king stopped here for lunch.  He was served a glass of Sherry and flies quickly filled his glass.  So he placed an empty plate on top of his glass to keep the insects out.  Not wanting to see an empty plate in front of the King, the barkeeper placed a small serving of food on the plate.  Thus, the Tapa was born.  Now I don't know if this is fact or folklore, but it certainly was fun trying plate after plate of the tasty Tapas.

Tapa time at Ventorrillo Del Chato with Roger, Jen, Bruce and Gail.

More tapas with Haynes, Tom and Melody.
This particular area of Spain is known for Serrano Ham.  Made from white pigs and fed a specific diet, these pigs are slaughtered, stacked and covered with salt.  Then they are hung to age for six months resulting in a tasty, salty ham. 
Serrano Hams waiting to find a home.
Our first Tapa was Serrano Ham and cheese.  Then we moved on to Shrimp, Fois Gras, small omelets and vegetable lasagna.  Then they brought our entree.  Thank goodness the Tapas were tasty, because the over cooked and fishy tasting tuna entree was not.  

After a day of Tapas, only a few hours later, we met Bruce and Gail at Pacific Rim restaurant for dinner.  Bruce decided since we have a day at sea tomorrow, tonight would be a night for us to "howl!!"  So after a fabulous dinner, we found ourselves at the upstairs Observation Lounge for cocktails.  I forgot to mention earlier how stunning Bruce's footwear was for the Tapa tour.  He was wearing a pair of Nike tennis shoes, one green and one blue. 
Bruce sports Nike's new multi color tennis shoes.
He said he was a bit taken back when the shoes arrived as he thought the store had mistakenly shipped the different color shoes.  But turned out to be a statement.  So I had to answer back tonight with another "statement."  One black and one blue shoe. 

The new LOOK.  Everybody on the ship is wearing multi color shoes now!  What a trend setter!

Hey, I think we're on to something here.  Shoe sales could double when women buy two pairs of the same shoe in different colors, wearing one of each to match an outfit.  It worked.  And only one bitchy woman pointed out the fact that I was wearing different color shoes.

Bruce, Gail and Julie at Observation Lounge.

While dancing with Bruce in the Observation Lounge, a rather large woman, Ruth, shoved Bruce out of the way and began to teach me how to dance.  I was a bit shocked, but didn't want to make this woman angry.  She looked like she could take out Haynes ... and that's saying a LOT.  So I just finished the dance and escaped her clutches  I have to admit, she is a great dancer!  But she could us a little work on her brutish technique.  She told Haynes to NEVER let me dance with Bruce again.  And I thought we looked like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers!!

Our quest for the perfect Cosmo continued tonight.  Although, I believe I mentioned that all of the bars on board have perfected the skill of the perfect Cosmo.  So it was an easy night, in that we made only one stop at the Observation Lounge until closing time.  After all, it was our night to HOWL as tomorrow is a day at sea.

And howl, we did.  What a fun evening.  So much so that I slept until 2:00 in the afternoon on our "sea day."  It couldn't have been the Cosmos.  I must be suffering from jet lag.  Yeah, that's it.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Haynes and I set off for the gym for a workout and to sweat off some of the booze from the night before.  It was an awesome, but quick workout, as we had to get back to the room in time to prepare for a cocktail party we were hosting tonight in our suite.  By the time the guests arrived, our butler, Fernando, had a full bar set up with plenty of hors d'oeuvres and programmed the piano to play endless tunes.  It was great fun catching up with our Tampa friends and The Vintage Club Friends. 

Tom plays the piano as Bruce sings and Monte watches in amazement.

Gail and Haynes

Don, Karen, Nora and Julie

Don, Jack, Park and Sandy ... friends from Tampa.

Francine, Doreen, Nora, Dede and Julie together in Spain.

Park, Haynes and Sandy.

Bruce and Monte

Nora entertains the group.

After our cocktail party, we joined our Tampa friends, Don and Nora, Dede and Sandy, Francine and Park and Doreen and Jack, at the Compass Rose for dinner.  I can't believe I had to come half way around the world to catch up with these friends.  It was great fun watching Francine and Park enjoying their "martini-off," racing to see who could down their martini first.  It got interesting.

After dinner, Francine wanted to find the Karaoke bar.  Jack had already thrown in the towel and retired for the evening, but the martinis were in full swing for Francine.  We had a great time AND found another spot for excellent Cosmopolitans, the Explorer Lounge.

We will arrive in the Canary Islands tomorrow morning and have scheduled another Tapa tour.  

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Here We Go Again - August, 24, 2016

A year and a half ago, while cruising New Zealand with friends, Bruce and Gail, and a group from the Vintage Club, Tom and Melody suggested another cruise on a new Regent Ship, The Seven Seas Explorer, traveling from Lisbon to Barcelona in the summer of 2016.  Well most of you know my mantra, "I'm in!" So I booked a nice suite on the ship and I can't believe it's already summer 2016. 

A lot has happened since the time I booked this trip in January of 2015.  Most of you know the details because you were by my side living this nightmare with me.  Thank you!  But for those of you who don't know, I'll just hit the highlights ... or some could refer to them as LOW-lights.  I lost my daddy, my boyfriend, my boobs, my dog and various other miscellaneous crap was thrown my way to throw me off course.  Now some folks would let these things get them down, give up, throw in the towel and quit.  But with incredible support from my family and dear friends, I've come out on the other side stronger, incredibly happy and soooo grateful.  Oh!  And I've contacted Kenny Chesney to write a country western song about Julie's 2016.  

Enough about the beginning of the year!  Don't cry for me!  You certainly wouldn't if you could get a load of the suite we're in on this brand new Regent ship.  Called the "Master Suite," it's a quite comfortable 2100 square foot, 2 bedroom corner suite on the very back of the ship surrounded by a 1200 square foot private wrap around deck.

If the kids on Brown Street could see me now!!

Forgot to mention the baby grande player piano.

The deck wraps around this pretty sweet suite.
Talk about a water front view!!  This is spectacular.  I've been to a few goat ropings and have been blessed enough to stay in some nice places, but this suite is right up there in the top 10.  We have our own butler, who unpacked our bags and is doing a great job of keeping us well supplied with food, booze and plenty of hot water for my tea.

I guess I should back up and bit and let you know who the players are.  I booked this trip in the winter of 2015.  As I mentioned earlier, there have been a few changes in my life.  Friends have come and gone.  But one of the best blessing has been reconnecting with a dear family friend, Haynes.  I don't know what I did to deserve such a friend, but Haynes put his life on hold while I was struggling and helped me through some really dark and difficult times.  That you Haynes.  And thank you for coming along on this trip.

Cheers and Cheerio!

Not exactly the easiest flight, we left Aspen around 1:45 Wednesday afternoon, with a tight connection in Denver on to Dulles, where we had another very tight connection on to Lisbon. 
Made the next flight and cocktails are kicking in.
But all went off without a hitch and we arrived in Lisbon
United sleeper socks rock!!
Thursday morning and set off to find our ship, the Regent Seven Seas Explorer, which was not difficult to find in the port.  After a lengthy check in process, we stopped in the room to say hello to our Butler, Fernando, and then, while waiting for our bags to arrive and get unpacked by Fernando, we ventured upstairs to the pool area for lunch.  It was great fun to see familiar faces from the New Zealand Cruise, Karen and Monte from Virginia and then Bruce and Gail.  But a huge surprise was running into friends from Tampa, Don and Nora, Dede and Sandy, Doreen and Jack and Francine and Park.  Small world.

After the all night flight to Lisbon, I could barely hold my eyes open after the delicious lunch.   A nap would have to wait until after the compulsory safety briefing to learn how to evacuate the ship in case there is a Titanic event.  It's always fun to cut up with the life jackets and laugh with good friends.  

Gail and Julie ask, "Where's the life boat???!!!"  

All is well and Julie and Dede are good to go.
Immediately following the safety briefing, we found our way back to the suite and I crashed!  I slept so soundly, that I missed two phone calls from Tom about cocktails and  dinner with he and Melody, Bruce and Gail and Karen and Monte.   Since we missed the phone calls AND cocktails and dinner, we were forced to call the Butler requesting lobster and salads for the room.  Dreadful!

Lobster dinner in the suite.  Best spot on the ship!
I believe I finally caught up on my sleep last night.  This morning, the ship anchored at our first stop in Portimao, Portugal.  Portimao is known for it's sandy beaches, warm calm waters, and incredible cliffs that fall off the land into the sea.  While we were gathering our gear, preparing to disembark for an exciting 4x4 jeep tour of the area, the captain came on the intercom and apologized as the normally calm water was too rough for passengers to load into the waiting tenders to be transported to shore.  So we had an unscheduled day at sea.  Naturally, Haynes and I set off to the gym to burn off some of those cocktail calories so we can start over again later today.  


I believe I've become a "gym rat."  I hopped on a treadmill for 50 minutes, followed by about 20 minutes of yoga stretches and then finished off with an arm workout that my friend Barbara taught me.  Now I'm not pumping 245 pounds of steel - like Haynes,  but I've worked all the way up to a whopping 10 pounds.  Woop! Woop! Our time in the gym justified a tasty lunch poolside with Bruce and Gail.  

Later, we toured the ship.  The art work and chandeliers on this ship are worth the price of admission.  Stunning.  Especially the grande entrance where a crystal chandelier rivals the one in the movie, Titanic. 
The Grande Staircase is truly spectacular!
Every hall, bar and restaurant is decorated with  unique art pieces and colorful crystal lights.  

We were invited by the Chief Purser, Heidi and her assistant Purser, Levi to join them for dinner tonight in the Compass Rose restaurant.  Another couple from New York joined us, Richard and Christine.  Interesting folks. 
Richard, Christine, Levi, Heidi, Julie and Haynes at the Purser's table for dinner.
We had a lovely evening laughing and sharing stories.  Christine asked what the ship does if someone dies while on board.  We learned that it DOES happen and that the ship is equipped with a functional morgue.  That's one tour I definitely DON'T want to take.

After dinner, we went bar hopping to find the perfect cosmo.  Guess what ... ALL the bars make the perfect cosmo.  Somewhere along the way, I managed to loose my room key, which is also identification to get on and off the ship.  That is just not like me.  Not the part about finding the perfect cosmo ... the part about loosing a key.  But the ship made me a new i.d. card/key and all is well.

Thank you Monica for the Wooley DayCare Cups.  We are the envy of the ship!!