Brigid Travels

Updates from The Road

Leaf Peeping - Day 9: Montreal -> Boston -> San Diego [2014]

We had planned on leaving at 8, hopefully getting to Kevin's at 1pm, so we had 3 hours yo socialize before Steve & I left there at 4 to comfortably return the car and catch our flight home at 7. That was the plan. We left the pavilion at 8:30, stopped at the souvenir shop and got on the OAS at 9. Not terrible. The main bridge out of Montreal was closed and there was no detour. And we didn't have any detailed maps, and if we used our iPads it would have cost like $300 (international data roaming). And all signs were in French. So we (anxiously) meandered and asked (3 workers until one understood English) at McDonalds and eventually got to where we needed to be, close to the other end of the bridge, at 10. We crossed the border at Falls, stopped for a few bathroom breaks and to pick up Subway in spectacular Montpelier and got to Kevin's at 3:45. In the car 6h45m. It was an absolutely gorgeous drive, or should I say ride - Steve drove the whole way.

Steve and I had some marvelous veggie chili Kevin had prepared and scooted at 4:15. At 5:30, thanks to Kevin's stellar directions, we made it to the car rental return, through security by 6:10, they were loading already so steve got on and saved me suitcase space (he has status) while I went to the rest room and immediately loaded when I got out. On the plane by 6:40 EDT flight of 5h30m

Long day

Looking forward to seeing our little girl :)

Leaf Peeping - Day 8: Montreal, Québec [2014]

Arrived an hour or so late in Montreal since we had a late start from Quebec City. Once during the night the ship rolled left and then rolled right... And we saw something go by very close and very fast... Not sure what that was! We had a lovely porter at the port, and decided to all go together in a taxi to pick up the rental car. Good decision. I had thought maybe I would walk to the rental place and then drive back and pick up everyone. It would have been quite a walk, and I think difficult to even pick folks up! And we scored - had reserved a full size car but ended up with a nice big minivan.


We drove straight to the St Joseph's Oratory and quickly decided to make it our only Montreal tourist destination. We explored until about 3:30, then checked into our room on the grounds, freshened up and headed back up the hill for 4:30 mass in the basilica. It was a special once a year mass for the Knights of Columbus con celebrated by 2 cardinals plus a gaggle of priests. Did I mention it was in French? And the Knights had plumage/capes of all different colors - the normal white/red, green, yellow, purple... Not sure what they all mean. It was visually and aurally stunning :)

We went in search of food, and found an Irish pub - McGouls. Good stuff - single malt scotch, snakebites, rum+coke! fish+chips, pout ills++

Finishing the night, we are playing cribbage at the John XXIII Pavilion at the St Joseph's Oratory.

Leaf Peeping - Day 7: Québec City, Québec [2014]

Gorgeous Old City area, rented a car and headed to Ste Anne de Beaupre. We pretty much had the place to ourselves, which was lovely. Then we drove to the top of Montmorency Falls, just gorgeous, and Steve and I crossed the bridge that goes across the top. It was a bit of a nightmare getting the car returned and back to the ship on time, but Québec City is gorgeous, and definitely worth another trip!

Leaf Peeping - Day 6: Gulf of St Lawrence, Québec [2014]

Today it was raining. First thing in the morning, Steve and I saw 2 whales traveling side by side away from the boat :) I was hoping we would see more, but nope. No other sea life or birds or anything. It was a relaxing day. In the morning I sat up in the Crows Nest, very quiet and serene, very few folks. We all met for lunch in the Rotterdam, our first non-buffet breakfast - nice.

We walked breakfast off by going to deck 6 and walking all around the ship a bunch of times, the Promenade. Still rainy, but most of it is covered.

Later we played cribbage in the Crows Nest and hit up the PEI baked potato bar. Yummy.

Then napping and chilling took up a few hours, followed by dinner in the Rotterdam followed by cribbage in the Explorations library/cafe while we finished the rest of the champagne and red wine in coffee mugs :)

Leaf Peeping - Day 5: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island [2014]

Sunny and warm, though a bit windy. The weather on this trip has been entirely unexpected - temps in the 60s and sunny every day! Unfortunately that means the leaves have not changed completely since they haven't gotten enough of a cold snap to cause the truly dramatic colors, but still it is gorgeous. This morning we went on a bus tour, first to the beautiful Anne of Green Gables Historic Site - Anne is a fictional character but the writer spent lots of time on PEI nearby with her grandparents, and this was a neighbor's house on which a Green Gables was loosely based. Steve, Gert and I got a chance to hike through the woods for a km or 2, while Mom spent time near the house and barn.

After that stop, we briefly went to the cliffs on the beaches of Cavendish - just beautiful: red cliffs, blue ocean and sky, and white sand dunes. Then more driving through the lovely colorful rolling hills of Prince Edward Island and back to Charlottetown while the tour guide regaled us with anecdotes and history. Nice tour.

We grabbed lunch on a pontoon dock on the water, at D's. Lobster rolls for Mom & Gert, veggie burgers for me & Steve, local beer topped it off!

Mom & Gert got back on the boat while Steve & I wandered through the town for a few hours - to the art museum, a coffee shop (fabulous lattes!) and to the provincial capitol building. Founders Hall closed early so we missed it.

Mom & Gert went to mass, and we Started laundry - what a stroke of luck that the machines were empty!! We popped open the bottle of bubbly Julie had supplied (thank you!) and headed on deck to check out the Confederation Bridge in the dark at 8pm as we (barely) went under. We went to a secret spot at the front of the boat on deck 11, that I had discovered out the front of the fitness area.

Then it was time for dinner, and we closed the joint! Mom got her chocolate martini! And the rest if us sampled some fine scotch. Salads, veggie jambalaya, breaded veal, beef cooked rare, chocolate parfaits and hazelnut mousse.


Leaf Peeping - Day 4: Sydney, Nova Scotia [2014]

Wow, it has been warm! We docked this morning around 10, after a local pilot jumped on board mid-channel to take us into the Sydney dock. We had met in the Lido pool area god a special breakfast of creeps and flapjacks (with real maple syrup) and some Celtic music accompanying! At the dock (deck 3, so minimal gangway - yesterday the exit was on deck 5 with lots of ramps) we met our guide Tommy by the worlds largest fiddle and he took us around Cape Breton Island, including Christmas Island, Iona with the Highland Village with reenactors and buildings transplanted from surrounding old settlements, Baddeck including the fascinating Alexander Graham Bell museum - what an amazing renaissance man! - and Kelly mountain. He was a ton of fun, and got us back in time!

For dinner, Steve and I took advantage of their offer to give us a free meal at their upscale joint, the Pinnacle, in compensation for he damaged luggage. Just lovely: amuse bouche of a mushroom 'cappuccino'; appetizer plate of grilled asparagus, a dollop of whipped potatoes and some terrific sautéed mushrooms; main course was a roasts pumpkin risotto with a side of brussel sprouts for Steve and baked potato for me; pre-dessert of coconut covered in dark chocolate, espresso cream covered in dark chocolate and pistachios, pecans and dried fruit in a (solid) puddle of white chocolate; dessert for me was a baked Alaska variation: Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia in the center, surrounded by fluffy white cake and covered in toasted whipped cream cover, plus some bing cherries in a sauce and for Steve, a trio of creme brûlée: normal custard, espresso and chocolate. And we decided on a yummy Pinot noir to help up along the way :) a wonderful meal.

Afterwards, we went next door to the Explorations Cafe to see if we could find Mom & Gert. They were there, finishing up their second game of cribbage. They had dinner in the dining room, the Rotterdam, and met some really fascinating well traveled folks.

Off to bed!

Leaf Peeping - Day 3: Halifax, Nova Scotia [2014]

What a sweet city - so much more to see! We must come back. We walked along the waterfront for a few hours this morning, and this afternoon caught a bus tour of some of the city's highlights and did some walking in key spots. First, the cemetery where most of the bodies recovered from the Titanic are buried, then a stroll through the amazing Victorian Public Garden, and lastly the Citadel. Our tour guide wore a kilt - lots of Scottish traditions here. Halifax is very multicultural due to lots of waves of immigration: French, English, Freed slaves, German, S Ottis's and Irish primarily.

Mom had an unexpectedly long day of walking but muscled through it.

As we were shoving off, us girls got together for a drink while Steve hit the gym... And we all met for dinner in the main dining room. Again, the food was a hit - citrus fruit salad infused with Gwerstemiener for all, then tomato fennel soup (wow!) and French onion (guess who) for the middle course and for the entree the meat eaters had turkey+stuffing+veggies in solidarity for Canadian Thanksgiving and us vegetarians had a yummy penne with a bit of basil, etc. For dessert we sampled a fruit cobbler, pumpkin pie and strawberry mousse in a white chocolate cup. And we all had the drink - Violet Beauregard - chambord floating on top of creme de cacao.

By now it was about 9, and we had missed the fiddlers, though we had been serenaded by a bagpipe and drum before we left. So we ambled over to the pianist who played Irish songs for about an hour, followed by some standards and singalongs. Really good stuff!

Our towel animal was a butterfly :)

Leaf Peeping - Day 2: Bar Harbor, ME [2014]

Or should I say Bah Haabah? We pulled in this morning between 7 and 8. We got on the tender to take us to shore, a conscripted lobster/tour boat, around 9. Once on land, we immediately got on the 60' catamaran that took us back out to sea for a few hours!

It was a lovely tour - cruising into bays and around islands, enjoying the craggy rocks, fall colors, lighthouses and posh 'cabins' on shore. Definitely got some leaf peeping in! In the morning it was a bit chilly, but it really warmed up and was only less than pleasant if we exposed ourselves to the wind at full throttle.

Once back on land, we wandered into town, hoping to take a ride on the Island Explorer which is a free bus that loops through Acadia National Park but in the end we didn't have enough time. So we walked back towards the dock, camped out in a bench in a park overlooking the dock area for a while.

Steve and I took a brief walk on the water's edge and then we all got lobster pics :) and took a lifeboat tender back to the ship. Us girls met for a snack in the Lido, then we scattered go a little while. Back together, we had a nice dinner (lamb chops for the Wilkinson sisters, veggie 'spaghetti' with portobello for us vegetarians.

Our first 2 cribbage games were played in the very posh Explorations lounge/library/coffee bar. I won the first, when Mom was skunked, but then Mom won the second. We didn't have proper cribbage board so we devised a new manual scoring process :)

Good night!

Leaf Peeping - Day 1: Boston, MA [2014]

Today we shoved off! It was a bit of a rainy day, but we really enjoyed the hotel this morning. So much history! And a nice oatmeal breakfast. We had a few short shopping forays out and about, but were in the cab on the way to the dock by 11am. Since Mom ordered a wheel chair, our check in / security / loading process was quick and painless.

After dropping hand luggage At out lovely rooms, we activated complementary drink cards and headed to the Lido buffet for lunch. A bit busy, but we snagged a window table and sampled the selection.

By the time we got back to our rooms, most of the luggage had been delivered, with the exception of one of my bags. So we settled in before joining the muster drill. Following that, on the chilly promenade deck 6, it was time for the Crows Nest bar so we could get a good view as we pulled out. We finally shoved off just before 5, as we were making our way down to Mass. Holland America is possibly the last cruise line that has Catholic Mass on all ships most days.

We unwound with one of the bottles of wine that Julie had chosen for us, a lovely Chardonnay. That helped significantly. Then it was time for dinner, a lovely meal with a lovely couple.

Back to the room, to be greeted by our first towel animal, a lobster!

Leaf Peeping - Day 0: San Diego -> Boston [2014]

And so it begins! Busy logistical day. Kathy drove Mom to CT where Mom joined Gert for the rest of the drive to our greater-Boston facilitators Kevin and Mary Beth who will keep the car safe for the duration. Kathy took the opportunity to visit with Chris and Rob on the way back home :) Then Mom, Gert, Mary Beth and Kevin went to the downtown Boston hotel, the Boston Hotel Buckminster, a very cool old hotel. Meanwhile, Steve & I were on our transcontinental flight, enjoying our seats in the back of the 'bus' by the lavatory and playing cribbage (Steve won).

Kevin & Mary Beth let Mom & Gert settle in while they picked us up at the airport, and we all had a nice meal in the hotel restaurant.

Meanwhile, our thoughts go to Julie and Jay together at U of K for parents weekend! Football game tomorrow for them!

pulling into los angeles [2013]

its 6am and we are pulling into our disembarkation port.

awesome photo by Mom

awesome photo by Mom

it was supposed to be 8am so i wonder if they will let us off early. need to pick up our rental and figure out where to go to church before heading home to see yin yang and the rest of the family this afternoon.

it's been a wonderful trip. i'll do another post later with thoughts on the cruising experience in general. it has been so wonderful to spend two whole weeks with mom and gert. and share such adventures :)

yesterday was a sea day and our last progressive trivia session - we didn't come close to winning but learned so much and had a blast.

our progressive trivia team – Team YinYang!

our progressive trivia team – Team YinYang!

yesterday was also a final art event. i've been a bit of an art auction junkie... but only ended up with the piece i won in a raffle. some of those peter max paintings were calling out...

Cheers to Dad on His birthday!!

and last night was a show where lots of the staff was brought on stage for a thank you... the housekeeping staff all had towel animals in their hands! so cute!! we had collected an adorable menagerie but they were all taken this afternoon so i suspect some of ours were in their arms.

Our towel menagerie!

Our towel menagerie!

off to do the final pack and have the final breakfast!

leaving cabo san lucas... [2013]

had a lovely day today - boat ride to the famous arch then bus to a spot where the view was spectacular. shopping followed, then steve and i got a margarita at senor frogs (complete with balloon headgear) while mom and gert headed back to the ship.

tomorrow is a sea day and then its all over :(

puerto vallarta [2013]

just about to leave port... mom and gert did a city tour that looked really interesting. steve and i did a boat to snorkel to kayak to great margaritas and lots of boobies (the blue footed bird, get your mind out of the gutter) .

the water was pretty murky and there were tons of snorkelers on the marietas islands but it was sill an amazing spot. and steve said when he dove down 6 feet or so he saw rays and other great fish. i cant dive that deep with the snorkel plus the required life jacket tethered to my wrist.

but it was a woderful excursion and the staff was incredible - doing a big gangham style number as well as a kiss number. they put themselves out there!

i didn't realize puerto vallarta was so big. our excursion was the whole day so we didn't get to see the town.

pushing off ! we did see a few dolphins and a momma and baby whale earlier :)

tomorrow is cabo san lucas. no plans yet...

just 3 more days !

in huatulco [2013]

great 3g signal here on my kindle! there was none in puntarenas and it was flaky in chiapas. puerto chiapas was very small, so if you didn't go on an excursion the only place to go is the port center which is built like a huge thatched roof hut with shops all the way around the outer edge and a pit in the middle where they had dancers in local costume all day - very sweet. they all gathered on the dock to sing, dance and hoot us away, telling us they love us and to come back. tourism is a pretty new thing to the area and we got the impression that they are still getting their bearings. but it was nice.

we had a great dinner last night at the summer palace dining room, which takes its decorating inspiration from czar nicholas's summer place (st petersburg?). and then mom and gert came to see our room. we all agreed that the few dozen extra square feet in their cabin makes a big difference.

this morning steve and i got up as we were pulling into port and dawn was breaking. then off to the 7:30 stretch class, followed by me on the rowing machine and a walk while steve worked on the elliptical. followed by breakfast where we have discovered muesli! yummy.

and now we are going to go into town and explore. looks like a nice beach :) must lather up with suscreen first!

more costa rica [2013]

so we took a bus ride around probably every street in the little hamlet of puntarena and headed out to a 50 year old train which we took through the backyards of some very happy but very poor costa ricans. lots of houses made from random pieces of corrugated steel and foundations of tires packed with dirt.

the area has lots of agriculture, and there were lots of fields whose cantaloupe had recently been harvested. the ones that were too big or too small for the packing boxes were left in the fields where some people got them or more likely the brahman cows enjoyed them. the train was very cool - wood paneling throughout and open windows you could alternately lean out of or get whipped by a passing branch!

the bus met us about 40 minutes later and took us to the boating portion. we got in small flat bottom boats, probably 30 or so people, 4 across. we cruised around in the lower part of a river and saw egrets and a bunch of other cool birds (to be listed later) and also crocodiles!

the boat driver would approach a shoal where there was a croc and get out onto the shoal with some raw chicken(!) he slapped the chicken on the surface of the water until the croc was interested and then held it up so the croc would snap at it just as we were snapping our pictures! very fun yet scary. the drivers and the croc obviously know each other well.

afterwards they had fresh pineapple, watermelon, and i think papaya with out of this world mango juice.

we were a bit late getting back to the boat but they waited for us. yesterday was a sea day. relaxing. i went to the art auction and won a bottle of champagne for being enthusiastic and also won a raffle. very productive considering i was mostly there just to look and enjoy free champagne. afterwards we all played trivia as we do each sea day. team is yin yang.

pushin off

a little longer if the signal holds out... [2013]

we had a fabulous day at sea after the panama canal day, recovering from a long and fascinating day in the sun.

the next day was costa rica. steve and i did a ziplining adventure first thing in the morning - very fun! there were 9 lines including one very long and very fast one that required squealing (at least i thought so).

afterwards we stopped at a souvenier shop and i may have picked up a shotglass for someone... they had fresh pineapple, papaya and watermelon, and some great juice and coffee. lovely. we got back to the boat about noon and waited under a canopy enjoying cold orange juice and water supplied by the cruise line and heat and humidity supplied by mother nature - both about 80.

mom and gert emerged about 12:45 and we were off to the bus, train, bus, boat, bus to cruise ship adventure.

in mexico [2013]

flaky internet so i'll do one quick then hope for one longer. having a great time. love love loved costa rica.

now in puerto chiapas.

tomorrow is huatulco where there should be a great beach. all having fun and getting alot of walking in. and cribbage!

still in transit! [2013]

we are now in the pedro miguel lock. we have been tooling through gatun lake all day, and the culebra cut.

we all got tons of sun and boy is it hot!

but very cool to see the construction activities that continue to go on... dredging mostly.

mom got a spot on deck 13 at the front of the boat and we went up to the 14th where the glass only goes up half way.

but now we are in the room as that is the best spot to watch the lock goings on. we are lucky that all the action is on our side of the boat!

on the other side of the lake it took us 3 locks in a single set to lift the boat from sea level to the level of the lake. on the pacific side we go through this single lock first to bring us down to the level of a small lake, then across to the mira flores set of 2 locks. and then we will be in the pacific!

the engineering is flabbergasting here. so simple yet solving such hard problems. brilliant.

suffice to say there will be an overabundance of pictures.

tonight and tomorrow we are out at sea. next check in should be in puntarenas costa rica where steve and i will zipline in the morning and all 4 of us do a train, bus and boat tour that should be wonderful. hope all is well in the world!

in it [2013]

so we have gone about 6 miles from the breakwater to the first lock. we will be traveling in the west set of locks (currently have two and are working on a third, expected to be completed in 2015). it is the norwegian sun ahead of us. they will be using the east set of locks.

now the deck is positively swarming with people. unfortunately i'm not with steve or mom or gert - hopefully they are watching!

we go through the first set of locks, gatun, and then enter a lake to other locks. a few panama canal folks have boarded the boat - they take control of the boat while we are in the canal.

boats go from pacific to atlantic early in the morning and so we are all going atlantic to pacific - so we can take turns in the one way section of the canal, the culebra cut.

the gates of the first lock have opened for the sun. there are cargo ships in the upper locks on both sides.

wow. people are three deep behind me and i'm at the top of stairs!

i think i'll go to the cabin and see if i can hook up with steve. we are so close to the gates i can't really see much...