But I thought
I'd update the site with details and pictures of our epic
Transatlantic trip in the meantime. As usually happens while
on these cruises I tend to journal every day or so and just
jot down my thoughts of the vacation. As such there's not
much editing done, things can sometimes be out of order, and
are essentially just raw notes. Here then are the chronicles
of our adventures:
Today we were
supposed to go ashore and go on a 'Taste of Miami' tour
where they take you around to various restaurants to sample
dishes that are iconic to the city and culture. That didn't
happen. Being that yesterday was my birthday we were busy
toasting my aging existence. Blaine and Janice decorated our
room while we were out which was a pleasant surprise.
Normally I'd be the one getting silly and regretting all the
libations consumed, but I was good for once. Blaine on the
other hand was ready to party hard so we stayed up until
early in the morning trying our best to accommodate him.
Needless to say we didn't feel like only getting a few hours
sleep so we cancelled the tour. I'm currently relaxing
topside in a nicely shaded cabana and Chris is napping.
Yesterday was Key West and it was a lot of fun. Kept saying
it'd make an awesome overnight spot, but figured the cruise
lines probably would end up losing a big chunk of their
passengers who weren't able to stagger back in time. We
rented a six person electric cart to get around, but really
everything around Duvall street - the main drag - is close
enough that you could just walk everywhere.
I got my picture taken at the Southern-most point in the
Continental US marker, so I was happy. I had read that the
lineups were really long, but it wasn't too bad. The worst
was sweating up a storm while waiting. We hit a bunch of
bars for some bevies and I was delighted that so many of my
favourites - Sr. Frogs, Fat Tuesday, Hard Rock - were all
within a few blocks from each other. It was a fun stop and
great party place.
For dinner last night we went to the Brazilian place where
they keep bringing you skewer after skewer of meat until you
tell them to stop. My favourite was the lamb chops. So good.
We went to the dinning room on our first night and both
Chris and I thought it sucked, but Blaine and Janice liked
their meals. We'll give it another go, but we might be
eating at the specialty restaurants quite a bit.
The ship is good, this being our third time on this class,
and we got a suite in the Haven which is its own little
world tucked away on the ship where Haven guests have their
own pool, Jacuzzi, solarium, sun deck, drinks, snacks etc.
We always get a little snobbish thrill when we get into the
elevator and swipe our card to go to the 14th deck and other
people in the elevator are like 'why can't we go there'?
They also refurbished the ship a couple weeks ago so
everything is new and shiny.
Getting to the ship was a bit of a shit show as I got into a
spat with the Customs Agent. As always happens, my 'ticket'
got a big X stamped on it by the kiosk machine. So when we
got to the agent Chris simply asked why to which he curtly
replied that it was 'not her concern'. Then he asked me to
put my hands on the scanner to take fingerprints at which
point I stated that I thought Canadian citizens were exempt
from having to do so. Of course then I was questioning his
authority and he had to remind me that I was a low life
nobody with zero legal rights and marched us to the
secondary screening room. So I'm thinking we're probably
going to miss our flight as they're going to be dicks and
make us wait there a long time. There was a lady next to us
sobbing because her flight was leaving in 10 minutes and
they simply didn't give a shit.
After 15 or 20 mins they called us up, asked if Chris was
married to me, asked us if we were going on a cruise and
stamped our papers and let us go. What in the hell was the
point? Every time we travel to the US it's so stressful for
me that we're gonna miss a connecting flight or I'm gonna be
denied entry and we're going to be out 15 or 20 grand for a
vacation I can't get to. This over and above the security
farce you're forced to go through at the airport. Remember
boys and girls, it's not sexual assault if your friendly TSA
agent is going to town rubbing your genitals...
Day 2? at sea...I think? Kinda lost track of time at this
point. I know we have several more days of nothing but open
sea before our next stop. We just finished checking our bill
which normally we don't do until the end of the
trip....let's just say the Casino has been a cruel hearted
mistress. Maybe we'll win back what we lost right? Right?!?!
Like with our Transpacific cruise the frequent time changes
are making it interesting. Almost every night we're having
to move the clocks forward. Soon I'll be watching the hockey
playoffs at 4am. I'm feeling somewhat guilty as on most
cruises I usually get up pretty early and will walk a few
kilometers around the jogging track. But so far this trip
I've been lazy and have been sleeping in. It occurred to me
that due to the demographics on the ship that the fitness
centre is probably empty - I should take advantage of that.
Apparently the average age onboard is 65, but it seems
higher. We always joke that 'maybe we're the hotties'...this
time it's a fact.
Still at sea for two more days before we get off in the
Azores. Last night was pretty rough with 22' waves and gale
force winds. A younger guy next to me in the Casino bathroom
puking all over the place. Outside decks closed. Stuff in
the cabins sliding back and forth and falling to the floor
etc. It is what it is. With all the rocking back and forth
though all you want to do is sleep. Our sea day routines
have pretty much been established - get up late, eat, nap
time, wander the ship, Casino, lunch, maybe another nap,
dinner, Theatre show, Casino, drink, drink, drink, bedtime.
We did manage to hit the spa yesterday and I was in
relaxation heaven after getting a head, arms, feet massage.
We planned on having a little party in The Haven courtyard
today, but with the crappy conditions I'm not sure how much
enthusiasm remains. The downside of postponing it is with
each passing day the average temperature has been dropping.
From the high 30's in Florida to 16 degrees currently.
Let's see, where are we? Yesterday we stopped in the Azores
and it was our first time there. Much like Madeira, the main
island is made from volcanic rock and as such is beautifully
lush and green. I don't think I've ever seen so much green
and such a vibrant green in my life. Instead of doing the
boat tour gong show we simply rented a couple vehicles and
set out on our own. The island isn't overly large and you
could probably go all around it in just a few hours. Our
first stop was to Lago Fugo? Which is a volcanic crater lake
high up in the hills. Again, just gorgeous scenery. From
there we went to another crater lake on the other side of
the island and then stopped for a nice lunch. We then
decided to split up and head back to the ship. That's when
the fun started...Even though we had a GPS it was next to
useless in the main town. Being that you're in Europe you
can't see the street names until you pass them. Pressing
'Home' as the destination took us to a different car rental
office. Trying to find a gas station would take us to
non-existent stations etc. etc. Couple that with driving on
tiny narrow streets with people darting in and out of
traffic, unsure of the traffic signage - you'd be facing a
green light and a stop sign at the same intersection - and
it led me to have a major meltdown. It was like when you
watch the Amazing Race and one couple just loses it.
Thankfully Chris was able to calm me down and we finally got
back to the right rental place. Not wanting to end the stop
on a sour note we popped in to a local restaurant for a
couple beers before getting back on the ship.
It was a beautiful place and I wish we had more time to
spend there. You'd think after six straight days at sea they
would have over-nighted there.
Afterwards we had our butler bring us up some champagne to
enjoy as we pulled out of port. We've really enjoyed
travelling with Blaine, Janice, her Dad George, and their
daughter Maya whose 3? She is adorable once she warms up to
you but she's also a whirlwind of energy. While enjoying
sail away she was climbing up the slats on one of the
Cabanas. I warned her that wasn't probably a good idea and
they told her to get down, which she did. But only a few
minutes later she was back up there again and predictably
she fell. She was crying and screaming and it took us awhile
to determine if she was really hurt or not. Then I looked at
her leg and could tell something wasn't right. So they took
her to the medical centre. Later they called and Blaine said
she had broke her leg. I thought he was joking. He wasn't.
She broke her leg in two places. Obviously it sucks and we
feel bad for all of them. But shit happens. From what they
told us the medical centre has been terrific throughout her
ordeal and hopefully once home she'll be back to her usual
self in a couple months.
On a happier note Chris and I did extremely well at the
Casino. It seemed like we just could not lose and kept
winning at every slot machine we played. I ended up
increasing what I started with by a factor of eight. But
last night was also a very late night and we're both feeling
a little slow today.
On the plane home, currently somewhere over Newfoundland. We
got the new 'improved' pods this time. They're ok. But I
prefer the old ones as I found them comfier. The larger
screen is an nice HD upgrade however. Also currently wiping
snot from my nose as I caught a cold on our last day in
London. But hey, it just wouldn't be a vacation for me
without getting sick - Every. Single. Time.
My fourth visit to London was good even if it was only for a
few days. We finally went and saw the Tower of London which
is something I wanted to do last time, but it just didn't
happen. Chris & I waited for the free tour by one of the
Beefeaters and it was interesting finding out all the things
that went on there over the centuries. The previous day we
had gotten off the ship after parting ways with the
Blanice's and caught a bus tour which took us to Stonehenge
and Windsor Castle before dropping us off at our London
hotel. Stonehenge was pretty cool - again, something I've
wanted to see for awhile. The main thing that struck me
however was that it was smaller than I expected as it's
apparently lost a number of the original stones over the
years. We didn't go into Windsor Castle instead opting to
just relax at a local pub.
Our first stop after the Azores was in Cork, Ireland and we
spent the day with Janice's Dad on a private tour. Janice
and Blaine couldn't cone as they had taken Maya to the
hospital to get her leg checked. We went to Blarney Castle
with its beautiful surrounding areas. We didn't go up it and
kiss the stone as there was already a big lineup even though
it was early in the morning. But I was happy just toodling
around taking a bunch of pictures of the gorgeous scenery -
think Butchart Gardens with a Castle in the middle of it
all. We also stopped at the quaint town of ?? Where despite
its small size was the source of a pivotal battle determine
the fate of Ireland back in the day. We had lunch at a local
pub and I got to ogle the pretty waitresses and listen to
their adorable accents.
We stopped the next day in Falmouth which is also a smaller
port town. Our entire group spent the day wandering around
and we also popped into the maritime museum which was
surprisingly enjoyable. True to form we ended up in a pub
and shared a few pints with one of the locals who regaled us
with his thoughts on everything from hippies to Germans.
This stop was the only port of the trip where we had to
tender to get back to the ship and it was a memorable
experience. The winds had suddenly picked up and it was an
extremely bumpy ride back with the front of the tender boat
under water most of the time and everyone at the front
getting soaked from all the water coming in through the
windows. At one point I honestly was worried we might
capsize. Later that night we found out that two of the
tender boats had crashed into each other and a number of
people were injured.
As for the ship itself we had no huge complaints although it
was our second time on the Jade and our third time on that
class of ship. Our biggest disappointment was the food. We
quickly tired of the buffet and the dining room wasn't that
great. Thankfully the specialty restaurants were all
excellent. The biggest plus was that we were in The Haven
which is their little private slice of paradise sealed off
from the rest of the ship. We had our own solarium, pool,
hot tub, deck with gazebos, breakfast restaurant, and
dedicated wait staff to bring us drinks and snacks. This
time we made the most of it and some of my fondest memories
were just hanging out in there with everyone. The ship had
also just been refurbished a couple weeks before so all the
decor, chairs, bedding etc. were all new.
Just landing in Toronto now where we have a connecting
flight and then we'll finally be home. It's been a great
vacation. Usually at some point during one of our long get
aways I'll get to a point where I'm done with it and just
want to go home. But that didn't happen this time. I could
have stayed in Europe forever and I did not want to leave. I
was hoping this trip would have done me good. I thought two
weeks away from work and breathing in the sea air would have
been therapeutic. Sadly that was not the case. Looks like
there's some health issues I finally need to deal with...anyways,
here's some pictures of our adventures:
enjoying an extra long Easter weekend. In addition to having
Good Friday off I also took off the Monday. I've been
feeling 'off' the past few weeks so I'm going to take
advantage of the break and just relax and putter around the
house and take it easy.
Kim & Hailey
came over for dinner Friday night. Chris had slaved away all
day making a yummy Ham and scalloped potatoes. To finish it
off we had a tasty upside down pineapple cake. Afterwards we
hung out in the garage and played some Mario Kart (I kicked
butt). Sadly the rest of the family was scattered to the
winds and couldn't come but it was still an enjoyable
Previous to that
Chris & I and some friends went to
Spark for their adults only night which is held every
2nd Thursday of the month. Telus Spark is the new science
center that was built a few years ago. I'd been to the old
one when I used to live downtown so long ago and quite
enjoyed it. Everyday I'd drive by the new one on my way to
work and kept telling myself that I should check it out.
Bored and wanting to do something different I finally got
around to arranging it. The reason for it being adults only
that night was because they served booze in the concourse.
Booze and science - the perfect match!
In addition to
just wandering around and checking out the various exhibits
and displays they also had a planetarium which was pretty
cool. It was kind of like an Imax screen that was curved all
around you. The show we watched was just ok, but I could see
it being pretty amazing with the right one. There's also a
large area for special features which I gather they change
every so often. Currently it's devoted to all things Star
Trek so we checked it out as well. It was ok. There were
lots of people with big grins on their faces walking around
so they obviously loved it. In addition to various props and
displays from the shows and movies they had various
interactive kiosks. The idea being you'd try all of them and
at the end you'd get a summary of what role in Star Fleet
you'd best be suited for. Maybe I'm not a big enough geek to
have gotten the most out of it? I was also feeling crappy
that night so that probably didn't help.
But overall I'm
glad we went and a big thank you to Jamie, Kim, Dori and
Matthew who came out!
Making Music With
before that Chris & I did a quick trip up to Edmonton to see
my Mom before we head out on our vacation. Unfortunately we
only got to spend one day with her as we had to stick around
on the Friday to receive one of our pieces of art we bought
when we were in Seattle. But it was a good visit and we'll
have to head up again when we get back from our trip.
As for our
cruise, it'll be here before we know it. All our excursions
are now finally planned out and the various transports,
guides, tickets etc. all bought and booked. I just looked at
our world map and realized I'll get to put an extra five
pins in it. I can't wait. Bring on the squishy drinks!
A couple weeks
ago we were in Seattle.
Because of all
the artwork we've bought in the past while on our cruises we
got comped by the auction house a stay at a nice hotel with
free meals and drinks. Of course they also held several art
auctions, but unlike on the ships, you also got to meet the
artists, interact with them, and hear their stories. We've
had similar offers from them before, but this time we
decided to go. In the basement we had a wall niche built to
display something fancy and we've looked for awhile now for
a piece that would fit - but neither of us has found
anything that we both liked. So we were hoping we'd find
something at this event to fill that space. I've also never
been to Seattle so we thought it'd be a nice get away and as
everything was paid for it'd also be relatively cheap...
At least that's
what we thought.
Well of course
while there you're feeling pretty important, downing the
free booze, and they're making the artists out to be the
greatest thing since Van Gogh. So naturally we got caught up
in it all and during the first auction ended up buying a
nice painting from this quirky little Frenchman named
When they unveiled his work I scanned the room (which was
extremely large, holding roughly 300 guests) and there was
only one that I liked which was a gigantic abstract which
naturally was also the most expensive. But then a smaller
one caught my eye and Chris liked it as it reminded us of
Europe so we tagged it and when it came up for auction we
held up our bid card and won it.
difference between this event and ship auctions is that on the ship people are usually
just there for the free champagne and to kill time before
they have to go to Bingo. In fact, even though it's their
bread and butter, the host made several cracks about the
cruise ships which were pretty funny. Some bidding does
happen but it's usually pretty low amounts and people do
pre-bids - where once the piece you tagged is presented they tend
to bang out the gavel as soon as your bid card goes up so
you're almost guaranteed to get it with no other competing
bids. But during this event it was just like in the movies
where you had back and forth bids of increasing amounts. It
was pretty exciting to watch.
Our hotel room
was really nice as was the hotel itself - The Four Seasons -
which was right downtown on the waterfront. We did manage to
do some wandering around outside but only within a several
block radius. We went to Pike Place Market which was pretty
neat. The amount of seafood everywhere was crazy. We also
got to see the very first Starbucks (ooh, aaah) which was
nearby. And last but not least we stopped at the
gum wall which was both amusing and gross and we made
our contribution. But then it was back to the bidding...
auction was all about this artist named
Godard whose work I've seen before. He's a pop culture
artist, and has been compared to a modern day Warhol. He
came out during dinner the night before and told his story
which was pretty interesting. He's the typical rags to
riches story and now hangs out with Hollywood celebrities
and rock stars. But the cool thing is he donates a chunk of
his sales to various charities, specifically ones related to
cancer research as he lost his own daughter to cancer. I'll
admit he had me choked up listening to him tell the crowd
about her struggle and according to Chris I wasn't the only
one in the audience shedding a few tears. All that said, I had no
intention of buying any of his work because we were done
Michael Godard and Our Newest Piece
But again, once
the booze starts flowing, you're feeling pretty self
important, you scan the room and see that one piece that
calls to out to you...'buy me!'. What else are you supposed
to do? You have to buy it right? So once again, we put up
the bid card and became the proud owners of yet more art. To
be fair, we justified it as the purchase price would put us
over the limit whereby we'd be qualified to go on a free
cruise. In our wine soaked state it made total sense. Hell,
we were being thrifty! Except we didn't do the math properly
and were short of the limit amount by about $400. Not only
that, but when we got the Visa bill I almost crapped myself
because I sorta forgot about the 'tax me another 30% just
because I'm Canadian' tax.
them after we got home and whined about being short and
reminded them how much we've bought from them in the past
and so on and they said there was a 'very good chance' we'd
be offered a cruise. So we'll see what happens.
All I know is
once I get the thing up on the wall I'm going to stop and
admire the shit out of it each and every single day and let
it be a valuable life lesson in self restraint - or the lack
hold for the past 30 minutes with the company that hosts
this website. I'm trying to renew my domain name but for
whatever reason the online form is messed up and it won't
let me do it. So now I'm enjoying the elevator music
emanating from my phone. Isn't technology great?
When I got the
renewal notice I was somewhat surprised how long this
website has been going. Most personal websites come and go
rather quickly as people don't realize how much effort is
involved - even today when there are so many tools and
website builders removing the need to even know HTML, CSS,
to just add new content, especially when also working and
leading a busy life. So I'm somewhat proud that I've managed
to do this for what will be 15 years as of next year. I've
been 'blogging' before 'blogging' was even a word.
All those years
ago I built this site from scratch using the now ancient
Frontpage editor. I figured it's probably time to upgrade to
something newer. Of course Wordpress is the current darling
of bloggers everywhere, but I'm still going to kick it
somewhat old school and use MS Expressions instead. Yes,
it's no longer supported, but it's still substantially newer
than Frontpage. I also decided to update my ancient copy of
Photoshop Elements and bought a newer version off eBay.
Again, it's not the latest, but it's still five generations
ahead of what I currently have. As such I've been spending
my spare time tinkering with creating a new website which I
plan on unveiling on the 15th anniversary next year.
This is the time
of year where we make our vacation plans, figure out our
money situation, taxes, RRSPs and so on. So we've been busy
planning our next trip which is a Transatlantic cruise, now
only a few months away. We're going with some friends of
ours and this will be our first time travelling with them.
Hopefully we're still friends afterwards as we'll be stuck
together for six straight days at sea. I'm kidding - they're
a lot of fun as are we so I know it'll be a great time. As
we didn't go on any cruises last year it'll be a welcome
return to the ocean waves.
I've now been on
hold for an hour...
can't come soon enough!
Not the best
start to the year. The 2nd day into our Vegas trip I started
to not feel well. I'd get short of breath, felt like someone
was sitting on my chest, break out in sweats etc. Part of me
thought it was from all the bloody smoke in the Casino which
we had been spending probably the most time in of any of our
Vegas trips. So I figured it was just allergies and
time on New Years Eve I started to feel a bit better and was
able to enjoy the festivities, but by the time I got home I
felt like death. It was bad enough that I agreed to go to
the doctor - of course this was on the holiday Monday so it
took half a day after calling Healthlink for them to get me a
location to go to. Once there they were useless but agreed
with me that I should get a chest X-ray. Of course, that had
to wait until the next day because all the diagnostic
clinics were closed. What was going on was that whenever I
would lie down I would find it hard to breath, to the point
where I had to focus on my breathing to get enough air in
and out. And all I could hear was my lungs gurgling every
time I exhaled. Needless to say that prevented me from
sleeping. So over the course of three days I got maybe six
hours sleep total.
Eventually I got
the call back from the doctor after they reviewed my X-rays
and was told I had pneumonia. Great. So I went in and they
wrote me a prescription for some antibiotics (Levofloxacin)
which I grabbed from the pharmacy. Once home I popped a pill
and figured I was on my way to recovery. A couple hours
later I got this wave of numbness and tingling that shot
from my fingers all the way up my arms and into my neck. My
arms felt weak as hell and I could barely lift them. But it
was late at night and I went to bed to try and sleep. The
next morning I was still messed up so I looked at the
literature that came with the prescription.
antibiotics (including levoflacin) may cause serious and
possibly permanent tendon damage, nerve problems in
the arms and legs (peripheral neuropathy), and
nervous system problems.
I then went
online and found horror story after horror
class action lawsuits etc. etc. of people whose lives have
been ruined by this class of drug even after a couple doses.
So now I'm freaking out and called the doctor back, went
back (now my 4th trip to the doctor), and actually had to
argue with her that a bad reaction to the drug had occurred.
Her response was to flat out deny it but she humored me by
writing a prescription for a regular antibiotic (Teva-Clarithromycin).
Two days after that my arm (thankfully just the one at this
point) was still weak and numb. I simply cannot believe a
doctor would prescribe this drug when safer alternatives
exist. This class of drugs should only be used when someone
is in hospital and their lives in jeopardy. Giving it to me
was the equivalent of hammering a nail with a nuke.
please - if you are ever prescribed antibiotics in the
future, make sure you find out what they are prescribing and
Anyway, as I
type this everything seems to have gone back to normal, I'm
now getting adequate sleep, and feeling not to bad. Although
I still tire out pretty quick. Of course as I'm getting
better Chris is getting sicker. She started getting
'something' a few days ago and it's gotten progressively
worse. She's at the doctors right now and just informed me
that she has Bronchitis.
frickin start to the year.
But on to other
things...despite everything we still had a great time in
Vegas. It was our first time staying at Aria and we really
liked it. The location was great with access to the tram
which would take you between Monte Carlo and the Bellagio
and it was directly connected to The Cosmopolitan and not
far from New York, New York. As mentioned earlier we spent
alot of time playing the slots. I was looking forward to
playing the Charlie & the Chocolate Factory game I loved so
much the last time we were there but it was gone. They had
three other variants of it, but they weren't the same. I did
however finally find it next door at the Cosmo. In the end I
would guess we maybe broke even? It was hard to tell as it
was all a blur. Some times we'd win four or five hundred
bucks on a game. Other times we'd blow through a hundred in
under a minute.
We had New Years
Eve dinner at a Tapas restaurant in Aria and it was really
yummy. We both had this fancy ass mushroom soup with real
truffles and it was heavenly. After that we went outside to
party on the strip. We had heard that they shut down the
strip to traffic, so we knew what to expect. But it was
surreal to actually experience it. There was a place across
the street where the music was pumping so we wandered over
there. Essentially it was the opposite strip equivalent to
Carnival Court where we've had so much fun in the past. So
we grabbed a table, loaded up on squishy drinks, and hung
out listening to the music and waiting for midnight.
The table next
to us was well on their way when we arrived. I noticed that
in addition to the squishy drinks they also had a 26'er of
booze that they were downing. Buddy would leave the table
every few minutes and stagger past us bumping into us almost
each time. I thought to myself 'this isn't going to end
well'. Sure enough not long before midnight we look over and
chicky is puking her guts out. Gross, but whatever, moving
on right? Nope. Because at that point she went unconscious
and collapsed on the ground. Her underage lover and her
girlfriend were trying to hold her up, but she was, let's
say, rather a large woman and they didn't have the strength
to do so. As they were trying her dress was up around her
head, and her fat was spilling out (luckily she was wearing
underwear). At this point it was a big enough of a commotion
that security had come over (obviously security was super
tight all along the strip) and they were trying to get her
up. But then buddy had come back and was freaking out and
got violent. At this point more guards came in and pushed
our table out of the way to subdue him (Chris and I were
just drinking our drinks and casually watching the whole
shit show unfold). But buddy was amped and four guards were
trying to control him - and then he went to reach for
something and the entire place went apeshit with them
slamming him to the ground and yelling for more help - at
which point I was like, um, we should get out of here. We
wandered out onto the strip as we didn't want to ring in the
new year in the midst of all that drama.
clock started on all the hotel billboards and the entire
crowd did the countdown and at midnight fireworks were going
off from various hotels. It was pretty cool. I'd say outside
of being in Times Square that was the next best place to be
in all of North America.
Here's some pix
of our Vegas shenanigans:
we'll both be healthy soon and can move on with what
will hopefully be a great year.