Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Half Dome view from out cottage... they are hiking
but and should be close
to down..another 2 or thee hours.
I will be very happy to see them.. Exhausted, sweaty and grinning.

Yesterday~Chris taking photos as
we entered the valley floor area.

There was not a single direction to look
that wasn't breathtaking!
I just love places
that make me feel small.
Yosemite zooms to the top of the list.

Having Chris here for this event
means the world to Jim!

It does my heart good to see them
having so much fun together!

Outside Our Cabin at the Ahwahnee Hotel

Half Dome from the area right in front of our cabin.

With a name like 'Ahwahnee,'
is it any wonder
there is
Indian rustic decor everywhere?

I can't say I'm lovin' this wild and crazy bedding.

A close up of the twig headboard??

Nice Bathroom

We even got a Rubber Ducky with
a ranger hat to play with in the tub!

Look who came for a visit.

After getting settled we walked around the big hotel for a while and oriented ourselves to the amenities it had to offer. The hotel is quite old and Queen Victoria stayed here once in yesteryear. It is rustic and odd combination ~ but it works.

It is also built on the GRAND scale.

We had dinner outside at dusk at the outdoor bar and grill. It was very nice to sit and relax under the canopy of ginormous trees and granite cliffs, feel the summer breeze, and swat at mosquitoes. Just kidding about the mosquitoes being nice. Actually...they are quite annoying. But we came armed with bug juice. It was lights out at 9:30 for the hikers. We were pretty tired, it was a fabulous first day! This is my idea of where camping meets comfort.

Getting Here!

We left home after a comedy of errors yesterday morning around 10:30. Needed gas, Chris needed a watch battery, we lost our reservation info, the phone rang a few times, you know how it is, one thing after another but, we were not in a rush so no biggie. Most of the ride up was not that scenic but getting towards our destination it got better and better.

We stopped along the way in this tiny little town called Groveland, CA and had lunch. The place was a tea shop called Dori's Tea Cottage. They let me pick the place! Sweet!

Tea Time!

This is a pasta cole was great.
I forgot to take a photo before starting to eat lunch
How uncouth!

We all had a half sandwich and salad.
Not a lot for the men but everything was perfect.

It was so wonderful and just a tad bit girlie so the boys were humoring me quite a bit. Here in Jim holding up his pinkie as he sipped his iced, herbal Mijito tea.

Good sports~the food helped!

It was very good and tasted like flowers.
They had these cute little sugar
in various shapes and colors.

Are the boys having fun yet? Hmm, not sure but I was!

Chris took some photos of Jim and me and other things, but his camera is on Half Dome right now. They should be down in about 3 hours now. Whew! Still praying!

After lunch we finally got to Yosemite!

Here on the floor of Yosemite Valley I might be sitting in the most beautiful spot in the whole world right now. It has been described like that by world travelers for over a century. I cannot believe I have lived in CA all of my life except for 3 years and this is my first visit.

I am sitting in the beautiful Awhawnee Hotel playing catch-up on the trip. I still have to finish yesterday but I don't have the pictures from Chris yet. The room where I am writing is called the Solarium and is a semi-circular room with 20 foot windows around the perimeter. Windows any smaller could not possibly do the view justice. This is also the room used for the many weddings that take place at the Hotel.

This is not only a nature and outdoor sporting enthusiast's panacea, but is also highly lauded by the artists' community, photographers and writers, and all lovers of beauty. I have never had the pleasure of sitting in a more spectacular place to write. Everything about Yosemite is inspiring. More to come when I get all the photos sorted out in a few days.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Have You Ever Been on a Mediterranean Cruise?

Laura and Rossie relaxing on the cruise!

If not come along with our daughter, Laura, for a tour of some of the places they went on their recent cruise. They had been saving their money for quite some time to go to Germany for two weeks this month as they will be returning to the US on July 15th for a new duty station in Rhode Island and they wanted to take full advantage of their remaining time in Europe.

Things happened with Robert's assignments and it turned out that they had to cancel their plans to go there. At the same time they shipped their car to the US and that left 2 weeks of leave and no transportation. So they decided to look for a cruise instead and this is where they went. Excellent serendipity in my opinion!

"We recently got home from a
7 night Mediterranean cruise!It was amazing!!

We sailed on board this ship;
Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas.

We visited Sicily, Italy; Ephesus, Turkey; Athens, Greece and Iraklion on the Island of Crete.

Okay, so I have attempted to write this post at least 48 times in the last two days but every time I sit down to write I get pulled away by someone or something with more immediate needs than my own. In addition to the constant string of interruptions, I am having a really hard time deciding how to write about what we did. Should I write a day by day review? Or should I post by category; places we visited, things we saw, things we did on the ship? Hmm- what to do, what to do? So....this is how it went.
I really didn't know what to expect our state rooms to be like. I had visions a minuscule rooms with tacky decorations and bad circulation but that was simply not the case. Our rooms were perfect. They were much larger than I expected, they were immaculately clean. The room temperature and air flow were great- never once did I feel like I was in as a confined space. Overall the rooms were unbelievably comfortable.

Each night our stateroom attendant Josephine would come in, turn down the covers of our beds, and leave the next days schedule our for us to review. In addition she would leave us fresh towels folded to look like animals. The boys loved that.

In fact, they loved the "towel animals" so much they opted to dry off with washcloths each night after their shower rather than take them apart. Here are pictures of the towel animals Josephine left for us; an elephant, a pig, a chick, and a stingray (with a chick on his back courtesy of Spencer). She also left us a monkey and a bat.

Spencer with His crew of towel animals!

On the last day of the Cruise Spencer and Robert attended a towel animal folding class. Spencer LOVED it! I think he is ready to sign a contract with RC to be a stateroom attendant so he can make towel animals everyday!
The ship we sailed on was beautiful and ginormous! There really is no way to describe it to you so I will let the pictures do the talking.

Our table #49 was on the second level, on the right, nearest to the stair case. The prefect location! Our servers were Sebastiano from Sicily and Tankut from Turkey. They were so kind and so careful. They accommodated our special eating needs beautifully.

Spencer in his glory~no worries!

In addition to the Main dinning hall where breakfast lunch and dinner are served, the ship has 4 individual restaurants and a large buffet that is open to everyone almost all day long. This is a picture of dining area of the large buffet area, the Windjammer Cafe.

One of my favorite things about Cruising is that there is a Theatrical production of some kind each night in the ships theater. I didn't have a chance to attend every show but I did see several and was incredibly impressed with the quality of what I saw.

The Navigator of the Seas also has an ice skating arena where they do live ice skating shows, teach ice staking lessons and have open ice skating times for advanced and beginner skaters. I bet I don't have to tell you which group we skated with!

There are 3 pools on board the ship. The two outdoor pools shown here and an indoor pool. We were all a bit surprised the first time we jumped in and discovered the pools are filled with salt water- yuck! The terrible taste and stingy eyes didn't stop us though, we certainly spend our share of time at the pool.

We spent a lot of time on the sports deck too playing basketball,
climbing the rock wall,
(Ross climbed everyday and "rang the bell" 5 or 6 times.
He is a great climber because he is strong and fast and unstoppably determined.)

Playing ping-pong

Playing mini-golf.

The ship also has an outdoor walking/jogging track, a gym and a full service spa. I spent a bit of time at each. I walked on the outdoor track in the mornings and watched the sun rise. I attended a few health seminars at the gym, and thanks to Robert's encouragement and support, I did indulge in a spa treatment- it was heavenly!

There are 4 youth centers on board the Navigator of the Seas to accommodate the wide age range of its young passengers. Our boys spent their time in the Explorer and Voyager kids clubs. They had a great time.

They also enjoyed the ships arcade. Actually, we all did. We had several family air hockey tournaments (Robert is the reigning champion) and each played a handful of individual games.

One of my favorite parts of the ship was the Royal Promenade. Located in the center of the ship and lined with shops and cafe's- the Royal Promenade was a fun and lively place to stroll around. Each night there was a special sale of some sort on the Promenade and though I didn't do any shopping (I was sorely tempted a few times) I really enjoyed looking. One night they had a watch and diamond sale. The next night they were selling ancient Roman glass jewelry. Another night it was handbags. Another night Murano glass.

I spent one afternoon on the ship watching a movie
in the screening room. I saw Julie and Julia. I loved it!

Of course, there were lots of things to do and places to visit on board that we simply did not get to but everything we did do was first class. It was a very comfortable home away from home. A perfect place to come back to after a day of sightseeing.

"Our ship pulled into port in five different Mediterranean cities-
two in Italy, two in Greece and one in Turkey.

Since we had already been to Rome and Sicily in Italy we originally planned to just enjoy the ship on those days but I got antsy so when the ship docked in Sicily I got off to explore the town and do a little shopping. Unfortunately, I didn't realize until I was off the ship and poised to take my first sightseeing picture, that I had forgotten to replace my camera's memory card before leaving home. So while I did get to see a few things, I spent most of my time looking for a place to buy a new one. When I got back on the ship I bought a new memory card from the ships photo shop and went to the top deck to take this picture. Isn't it lovely?

I love Italy from a distance like this. It is just so... quaint and romantic looking.

Our second port of call, in Turkey. was by far my favorite. I am not sure what I was expecting Turkey to be like but what we saw certainly wasn't it. Turkey was so clean and so organized and so western- it really was surprising. Here are a few pictures of the port town Kusidasi.

We went on a cruise sponsored tour in Turkey and it was awesome. We visited Ancient Ephesus, where the Apostle Paul preached to the Ephesians for more than 2 years. We saw the amphitheater where he taught and where it was decided by the people that he would have to leave Ephesus or be put to death. Here are a few pictures from portion of the tour.

On the bus.

Temple of Hadrian

Ancient Library of Ephesus

Our Turkish Tour Guide.

Oz really made this tour special for us. He was very knowledgeable and considerate of each of his guests. He really loved his job and his country and it was a delight to be around him.

After our tour in Ancient Ephesus we headed into town for a Turkish carpet demonstration. I had heard horror stories about people going to these kinds of things without the least intention of buying a carpet and leaving with a beautiful Turkish rug and $15,000 of debt.

I was a pretty sure I was not going to be one of those people but that is what they all said too. Anyway, it ended up being an amazing experience. I learned that Turkish carpets are all 100% handmade. I learned that it takes 1 woman, 1 year to weave a 1' x 1' square of carpet. I learned that all of the colors in the carpets come from natural vegetable dies. I learned that many Turkish carpet making families only sell 1 carpet a year. It was a very humbling and impressive experience.

One of the weavers.

The carpets.

I fell in love with the red and yellow one in the top right hand corner of this picture. It was a love affair that began and ended in Turkey because as much as I wanted to I didn't bring it home!

Our third Port of Call was Athens, Greece. I had high expectation for Athens but was sorely disappointed. Athens is very large, old, dirty, seedy and crowded. It actually reminded me a lot of Rome- no wonder I didn't like it at first. Perhaps with time it would have grown on me but I really didn't care for it the first time around. We decided to take a Cruise tour to the Acropolis where we saw the Parthenon.

It was an impressive structure
but I didn't care for our tour guide,
it was also very hot and very crowded.

I know that sounds like a lot of complaining but it really does get better. Because of a transportation strike in Athens the day were were there, we did not get to complete the tour we had paid for. So we asked to be dropped off in the down town area to explore a little on our own and do a little shopping. I really enjoyed walking around the city center. The first thing we saw the reconstructed original Olympic center. It was very impressive.

We bought lunch at a local market and
ate on the steps near a church.

We did some people watching and a little shopping and really enjoyed our time together. When we were done we took a taxi to the port and we made it back to the ship just before they pulled up the gangplank.

Our final port day was spent on the Island of Crete. Robert and I decided to leave the boys on the ship and explore the Island on our own. It was such a delightful day. We hired a taxi and saw some beautiful things. Our taxi drive did not speak much English and of course we don't speak any Greek but he was very observant and noticed right away the kinds of things we were and were not interested in. He drove us through some very scenic places and pulled over often to let us take pictures.
Here are a few of my favorites.

We visited some ancient ruins (because what trip to any European city is complete without visiting ruins of some sort?)

We visited the Marina and old Military Fort.

Had a Gyro for lunch.

And then headed to the shopping district.

All in all it was a really delightful day!

There is no end to the amount of shopping one can do on a cruise. In fact, it was kind of ridiculous, even for me, and I love shopping! We came home with several unique souvenirs. Here are a few pictures.

A fantastic glass mosaic lamp from Turkey. I think it will be perfect in our bedroom.

A hanging candle lantern- also from Turkey.

An olive wood chess set from Athens.

A "good luck" charms from Athens. How could I resist- it was decorated with glass pomegranate beads (which represent fertility) and a bird holding a laurel leaf? I figured it was meant for me!

And some Olive Oil and beauty products from Crete.

There certainly was some "non-buyers" remorse on my part (the Ancient Roman Glass Jewelry and the W ring from the ship; The giant red coral necklace and carpet from Turkey; the labyrinth game in Athens; and the antique door knocker in Crete) but we decided ahead of time how much money we would spend each day and I feel really good about the fact that we stuck with our plan.

Well, it is official Robert and I are 100% converted to Cruising. It really is as relaxing and fun as everyone says it is!! I just feel bad it took us so long to get on the bandwagon. We have a few "must take" trips coming up but we are already thinking about and looking forward to our next cruise. Anyone want to join us?

For a few more pictures of the trip visit My Life in Pictures.
Thanks for tuning in!