Monday, December 19, 2011

2011 Nov. Eurodam cruise do-over Eastern Caribbean: Grand Turk; San Juan, St. Thomas, Half Moon Cay

The "suite life"!  Originally I booked the same category room that we had last year (a VD veranda), but when the lowest suite came available for about $60/person more, I jumped on it and booked a SZ guarantee.  We had never had a suite before, so I was really looking forward to that. 

It just so happened that our daughter, Angie, and her husband, Josh, were going to be in Puerto Rico on vacation with some friends and scheduled to fly home the day we were in port there. After joking around with her about continuing on the cruise with us instead of flying home, I managed to get approval for her to board in San Juan for the last 4 nights of our cruise.  She was even elgible for a special 3rd person add on fare of $49 + about $90 in taxes and fees.  It took some doing, but persistence paid off.  I had to call 5 or 6 times and work out everything from: does the Jone's Act apply here; to writing a letter to get approval for "late embarkation"; to getting a room assigned (went from the SZ guarantee to a complimentary upgrade to an SS cabin) before she was approved.   So instead of flying home, Angie was able to join us for the remainder of the cruise.
About 2 weeks before our cruise, I even got an email from HAL offering us an upsell to an SA suite (next category down from the penthouse) for another $398 total. I immediately called them and jumped on the offer. Not only did we have a suite, but the SA, SB, and SC suites had a lot of added benefits over the SS, SY, and SZ suites, like breakfast in the Pinnacle restaurant, a private lounge and concierge, larger pull out bed for Angie; much larger room and balcony, flowers for formal night, free laundry service, and a few other things. We very much enjoyed the SA cabin. It may be hard to go back to any other cabin now!   Our room, 7069, was a short distance down the hallway from the Deluxe Suites' private Neptune lounge.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

2002 Jan. first trip to Orlando with Dad

When I found out that Lifetouch was having their 2002 winter meetings in Orlando, I decided it might be time to check and see if Prestige would let me go to these meetings!  When they daid that I could go and they would even pay for part of it, I started making plans to go. 

When I told Dad I was going, he mentioned that he had never been to Orlando and would like to come along.  With that, I jumped on the oppurtunity to make it a vacation as well as a work trip.  Work was going to take up most of the first 4 days and a couple nights, so we decided to extend our trip 3 more nights to make it a full week.  I happened to have a Bonus Week certificate from RCI, so I called to see if I could use it for Orlando the first week in January.  They had 2 Gold Crown resorts that I could choose from, so I arbitrarily chose Orange Lake Resort.  Then I booked a midsize car (which Budget upgraded to a Ford Sport truck), booked my flights and was set to go.

Dad's flight arrived about the same time as mine and we were off to the resort.  We were both pleasantly surprised with Orange Lake resort.  It is made up of several sections and each one has it's own configuration of units.  We were in the West Village and loved the singe story "golf villas".  It had a very residential feel.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

2009—Feb. solo trip to Waikiki-then to Kauai

 I flew off to Honolulu by myself. I hadn't planned to go off to Hawaii by myself, but an unfortunate circumstance resulted in this oppurtunity. I had picked up a week at the Wyndham Waikiki Beach Walk for a friend and her cancer stricken husband, but he ended up too sick to take the trip. So it was loose the whole week and the money I paid, or go by myself and "try" to enjoy myself. The decision wasn't too difficult to make. Ken and I were scheduled to go to Kauai on award travel the following Sunday, so I was able to change my flight to go out on the previous Wed. So I didn't get the whole week there, but did have 4 nights on Waikiki. 

This was my 4th trip to Oahu, so I felt pretty comfortable wandering around Waikiki by myself. I liked that I could wander around the streets and beach without being accousted by poverty. Everything was clean and the people are helpful.  I even used The Bus enough in the past 3 times that I felt comfortable using it. 

It was a bit cool this trip with temps only about 70 and the winds were pretty high. But it definately beat the 20s and 30s back home. There were spritzes of rain and lots of clouds, but the clouds were the type that made for fabulous sunsets.

 2009-Feb. 18: STL-LAX-HON-LIH

2009-Feb. 19:Walking around Waikiki, Beach, and Sunset cruise

2009-Feb. 20: Foster Gardens, Waikiki Aquarium

2009-Feb. 21: Waikiki beach, Marina reflections

2009-Feb. 22: HON-LIH

It was a short stay in Oahu, but it turned out to be a really great one.

For the rest of my 2009 Kauai blog, check out: 2009 Kauai

2009 Kauai with Angie and Josh

 2009 Kauai- Feb. 22 - March 8-Angie and Josh trip: Napali cruise; Smith's luau; bird whisperer; Hyatt lighting ceremony; waimea canyon;

 We love showing off Kauai to friends and family.  So when Angie and Josh wanted to join us, I was really excited!  It was their first time to any of the Hawaiian islands.  Plus I know Angie enjoys the ocean and snorkeling almost as much as I do.  They weren't here the whole time we were, but long enough for us to show them some of our favorite things:  lots of snorkeling; or just enjoying the beautiful beaches;  tried to take them on a Napali cruise to see the striking cliffs; feasted and enjoyed the Smith's luau which we love for it's great food and young performers; bot to mention lots of time at their resort in the heated pool and jacuzzi.

Note on cameras this trip:  above ground-Canon 20D; underwater-Coolpix S-5 with housing.

2009-Feb. 22: travel day and Lydgate

2009-Feb. 23: Lawai, farmer's market, Poipu

2009-Feb. 24: ride to the North shore, snorkel Anini

2009-Feb. 25: Lawai

2009-Feb. 26: sunset cruise, Hanapepe, Waimea Canyon overlook

2009-Feb. 26: No Hoku and Smith's Luau

2009-Feb. 28: Lawai, Maha'ulepu beach

2009-March 1: new Wyndham owners, Tunnels

2009-March 2: the bird whisperer, poipu; lawai

2009-March 3: McBryde/Allerton office garden, Hyatt

2009-March 4: Lawai, Waimea Canyon, Saltpond

2009-March 5: Kee, Tunnels

2009-March 6: Hanalei, Lydgate

2009-March 7: Hyatt grounds

2009-March 8: Kileaua lighthouse, Anini, East side

All in all, another great trip to Kauai (8th trip to Kauai if I'm remembering correctly)! Still finding plenty of things to take pictures of even after 8 trips! Not as warm and sunny as usual, but I won't complain about 70ish. Lots of rain, but where were all those rainbows they promise with the rain?! Not much time on the northshore, but we did get 1 beautiful day there and the south shore surf was excellent for snorkeling the whole 2 weeks. Ruined another camera, but now have an excuse to buy a new one. Got 2 beautiful pendants from NaHoku jewelers this trip (one that I bought on Oahu and one that my daugher and son-in-law got me). Only really great sunsets this time were from the short while I was on Oahu. Very very windy for the first 7-10 days---sustained 30m/h winds! Whale watching didn't seem to be as good this year. Got to enjoy showing our island to some newbies (my daughter and son-in-law). Even got to meet a fellow trip advisor.

We will be back!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

2004 Graduation 7 nt. Cruise to the Western Caribbean with Angie on Carnival Elation: Progresso; Belize; Cozumel

July 4, 2004:
This was another mother/daughter trip. The excuse for this trip was celebration of her graduation from K-state the month before.
We got an early start to the day. Our flight to Houston left at 6:30 am, so we were at the airport about 5:45. We arrived in Houston about 8:30 where we retrieved our luggage, then waited until 10:45 for our shuttle to Port Galveston to catch our cruise ship, Carnival's Elation.  One thing we discovered from this cruise---when you cruise out of Texas, 90%+ of the passengers are down home Texans!  Lots of ye-haws and cowboy hats!  Nothing wrong with that, just found it interesting and amusing.
I picked this particular cruise for a couple of reasons. I always heard about the great barrier reef by Belize and wanted to snorkel there. The other reason was because I found a travel agent selling that cruise on Ebay for $450@ + $150 onboard credit.
After waiting through the lines to get through check-in and security, we finally made it on board and went to explore the ship a bit.

Img_9978-windblown angie copy

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2003-Aug., Oahu for Sean’s reenlistment

While Sean was stationed in Oahu, he reenlisted for his 3rd (I believe) term. He asked my Dad (his Grandpa) to be his reenlisting officer. So Dad asked me to go along with him and make a vacation out of it. I eagerly accepted and flew out to PDX to meet up with him and fly out the next morning.

As it turned out, the Navy didn’t have enough money to give Sean his reenlistment bonus if he did it at the originally scheduled time, so Dad didn’t end up being the reenlistment officer, but we did spend a few days visiting with Sean and playing tourist on Oahu. Sean did later reenlist, but Dad wasn’t able to make it back out for that.

Back in those days, I didn’t have as many timeshare points as I do now, so I went online and found a reasonable rental for a 1 bedroom/2 bath condo about a block from the beach---Imperial of Waikiki Vacation Club. I believe I got the week for something like $450 for the week at short notice. I figured that was a great deal. After seeing our unit, it was a fantastic deal! Since it was only a one bedroom, I let Dad have the bedroom and I took the fold out couch. It was actually more comfortable then I expected. It was also really nice having our own bathrooms.

Dcp_4725-entryway to table

The kitchen was small but very functional.


I had called and requested an upper unit with ocean view and we got the request. We were both blown away by our view!

Dcp_5043-view from our window

Monday, March 28, 2011

2003---Orlando, Feb., with Dad and Angie

This was our first trip to Orlando using Dad’s timeshare at Orange Lake Resort for the 5th week of the year. Angie happened to be on winter break from UMKC, so she was able to go with us.

We spent a few days of our week at Disney. We made it back to Epcot---Dad’s favorite. Here they are waiting to go into the America’s theatre.

Dcp_3844-angie and dad

We spent all day in Epcot. Here’s the night parade they use to have.


We also finally made it to Animal Kingdom. Here we were waiting for the show, “it’s a bug’s life”.

Dcp_3723-dad and angie with bug eyes

AFter spending another day at Epcot, we decided to check out a couple of the other Disney parks.   First we headed to the Magic Kingdom.

Dcp_4409-dad and angie in front of magic kingdom

And finally, MGM Studios, now known as Hollywood Studios.DCP_4173

Saturday, March 26, 2011

2007 Alaska Cruise--Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas, Aug. 24-31 (7 nt): Juneau, Skagway, Prince Rupert, Tracy Arm

For as long as I can remember, Dad had 2 dream vacations that he wanted to take---one was to go on an Alaska cruise and the other was to go to Ireland. Unfortunately, he never got to do the Ireland trip, but after his first set of chemo, I immediately booked him and me an Alaska cruise. By then he was fighting metastatic prostate cancer and recovered from colon cancer surgery and chemo for colon cancer. By the looks of him, he appeared to be doing well. If he wasn't, he never let on. But within a week of our return, he was in the hospital fighting for his life and on dialysis for blocked kidney tubes due to his prostate cancer. Stints were able to be put into his kidney tubes and he did recover from that, but the cancer treatments were beginning to stop working now. My best friend and great traveling buddy was on his last great vacation with me, but I didn't know it at the time. But this was a fantastic cruise---so much so, that I now have another Alaska cruise booked for my husband and me (his first cruise), as well as first cruise for my brother, his wife, aunt and uncle (my dad's brother) whom will also be joining us. I will cherish this dream vacation with my Dad always.
Here's my Dad dressed up for one of the formal dinners. He enjoyed having a chance to try weird stuff like escargo and foie Gras at these dinners.
Since Dad lived in Oregon and it was a fairly easy trip to Seattle from where he lived, I chose a RT out of Seattle for our cruise. I really had no idea what ports to look for or what we would see, but I ended up settling on Royal Caribbean for a couple reasons--the RT out of Seattle, the supposed grandeur of all the windows, and the advertising that there was an adult indoor pool and jacuzzi area. Unfortunately the pool area was not just for adults on Alaska cruises, as we found out when a bunch of noisy splashing kids showed up all the time and I inquired about it to some employees. I also didn't find the selection of food all that great, or the crew exceptionally friendly. The ship also became a ghost ship shortly after 11ish at night. Not sure if it's a Royal Caribbean thing or an Alaska cruise thing, but it was eerie wandering around the ship late at night. But the weather was outstanding and the scenery was gorgeous!

Friday, March 25, 2011

2001—Grand Cayman, June 2-9

I had a week banked with RCI that was about to expire. So I called and said I wanted a week in the Caribbean, on the beach, for the week of June 2-9, 2001. They had 2 choices---one in Tortola (I think) and the other at the Morritt's Tortuga Club in Grand Cayman. I mainly chose the Morritt's because I thought it would be easier to get to. This was another trip with just my son Tim, his future wife Faith, my daughter Angie, and myself.
We flew USAirways to Charlotte, then on to Georgetown, Grand Cayman. We left St. Louis about 8:30am and arrived in the Caymans about 1:30pm---not bad.
Along our way we even flew over CUba.

Soon after that we had Grand Cayman in view.

Again we cleared customs quickly and were on our way.

I had rented a mid-sized car (a very used Tercel). I was a bit concerned when I first saw it, but it managed to make it through the week---barely. I was also concerned about driving on the "wrong" side of the street. It really seemed weird having cars come at you on the right side of the road instead of the left, but we made it through that, too!

Our first stop was at the grocery store in Georgetown. Our resort was on the other side of the island (about 25 miles away) and I wasn't sure there would be a grocery store nearby. Other than the milk being $7/gallon, prices didn't seem too bad.
When we checked in, I asked if we had a beachfront room, he checked, made a change in his book, and said, "you do now". The location of our room was great! We were on the ground level, but our livingroom opened up onto a gorgeous beach. We were also near the club house and deck where all the entertainment took place.

the lobby
 the pool
Our unit as seen from the beach---bottom level 2nd from the left.
our condo from beach
It wasn't the fanciest place, but it was clean and sufficient. There was no dishwasher or washer/drier, but we didn't miss them too much.

livingroom with sofa sleeper.
small tv in livingroom

Our unit opened up onto the beach just steps from the water.  We loved the views and being so close to everything!
The bar b q hut
 our bar b q lunch
 tree outside our unit
 Tim and Faith enjoying a hammock
 the dock --- just to the right of our room.
pier through palms
Even the snorkeling there was pretty good. Saw BIG fish under the dock---tarpin, I think , and some giant snook later. Dinner the first night was chicken stir fry cooked up in the condo. Angie worked out in the excercise room there for awhile, then she and i went to the bar for the nightly activities. That night it was 70's disco party-name that year.
Here she and I are enjoying the bar.

We spent much of Sunday exploring the other side of the island. We rode into Georgetown and on to Hell, stopping along the way to take lots of pictures.
This was taken before the town of Georgetown.

2004—Feb. Disney Wonder 4 nt; Not your ordinary 1st Cruise!--Nassau; Half Moon Cay

Feb. 2004 Disney Wonder 4 night cruise:
I guess Dad's and my Florida/Disney trip was doomed from the beginning! On the way to the PDX airport, Dad wrecked his car---which was ultimately totaled by the insurance company. But he had the car towed to a repair shop and continued on to the airport and I flew from St. Louis and met him in Orlando for the beginning of a very different "vacation".

I will say the week at Orange lake Resort (his timeshare) was great. We didn't do the Disney thing this year, instead, we went to Universal Studios and a new favorite place of Dad's, The Holyland Experience. When our week there was up, we headed back to the Orlando airport and dropped off the car. Then spent the night in a hotel with a free shuttle to the airport.

Next morning, we took the shuttle back to the airport and caught our shuttle to the Disney cruise ship in Cape Canaveral. It was about an hour ride, but they had tv monitors throughout the bus with videos of the Disney ships and their cruises. When we got to the port, we made our way through the lines and onto the ship without much trouble.  We chose this short 4 night cruise because neither of us had been on a cruise before and we didn't know if we'd like cruising, so we thought we'd try a short one.  We went with Disney because Dad had Disney stock and a general fondness for Disney.  You might think Disney would mainly by for families, but it was an excellent cruise for just adults, too.  They have plenty of adult only areas, including pool and Jacuzzi area, and monitor those areas so kids do not come in them.  Not that I hate kids---I have a couple, but now I'm older and enjoy a little peace and quiet sometimes!

We boarded the ship around 1:30 and were directed to the Lido deck for lunch. Rooms weren't ready yet, so everyone was sent to lunch. By the time we got to the restaurant the inside seating was full so we sat outside. A cold front had moved in the day before and it was COLD and WINDY. But the food on the Lido buffet was very good.
IMG_4041 (800x531)

1999-Florida/Bahamas trip

June 1999:
This was another "graduation" trip (the England one for Tim, this one for Angie). So shortly after she graduated, Angie, Tim, and Faith (Tim's girlfriend and now wife) took off on another week long adventure. The destination was to be a surprise to Angie, although my sister made the comment to her right before we left, "I can't wait to see your Bahamas pictures." so some of the trip wasn't a surprise.
Originally I booked the trip through a promotion on a post card we got in the mail, then decided I could book basically the same trip for less and i did.
Angie and I got to Orlando a little before Tim and Faith (got them a great deal on Delta and Angie and I flew on AA award travel). By the time I got the car, Tim and Faith had arrived, so we were on our way. First stop was to a 2 bedroom condo near SeaWorld. This was my first time using RCI for nightly stays and it worked out great. The condo was beautiful! The first night was just spent basically aclimating to the area. Angie, Faith and I drove down International Drive while Tim lounged around the condo. We also hit a grocery store for snacks for a few days. Had fast food for dinner and hit the pool and jacuzzi. That took care of the first day.
Day 2:
This day we went to Disney World's Magic Kingdom. We even met up with some Disney addict friends of ours from St. Louis and they gave us a great tour of the place---got us on more rides then we probably could have done ourselves.
It was a great day!
Even got to see the light parade finally.
We had dinner at a Bennigan's. I'm sure the waiter was annoyed at bringing us glass after glass of ice tea, but we were very thirsty after a day in the heat! We got back to the condo about 1am.
Day 3:
Time to check out and head on to our next part of the trip. First we headed down international drive to an outlet mall and shopped a bit, then we headed towards the coast. We drove straight to Cocoa Beach and got our first look at the ocean. We also shopped at the huge Ron Jon Surf Shop there. Then we wanted to get to our next destination (W. Palm Beach) as quickly as we could, so we jumped back on the highway and headed south. There I had reserved a 1 bedroom condo, also through RCI, and it was very nice, too. We immediately went to the beach and checked out the water. It was great. That night, Tim and Faith went off to find dinner by themselves and Angie and I went to a little Italian joint right by the resort. It was very good.
Day 4:
Angie and I went on a boat tour of the million dollar houses along the shore. It was a neat tour. Back by the condo we all played in the ocean for quite awhile. Then went to R J Gators and had another great dinner (even tried alligator).
Thursday, November 06, 2003 (8)2
Day 5:
Time to hit the road again. We turned in the car at the Ft. Lauderdale airport and waited for our flights to Grand Bahamas. Finally it was time. The plane really didn't look that small until we got into it-- 1 seat on each side (3 across the very back), and even I had to bend over to walk down the aisle. The flight was really pleasant. The water was unbelievably blue and green. Once in Grand Bahamas, we waited about an hour for our shuttle to pick us up and take us to Deadman's Reef. I had found this little place after lots of research for a place with great snorkeling right from the beach. There were 2 little villas there and 2 - 1 bedroom condos (2 larger villas were under construction when we were there). I rented us a little 2 bedroom villa for 3 nights. Turned out to be a really neat place. The accommodations weren't fancy, but comfortable for our purposes. The shuttle even stopped at a grocery store on the way to the place and let us pick up some groceries. The villas wasn't quite ready when we got there, so we wandered around the grounds a bit. They even had a pretty good bar b q grill open air restaurant there.
Finally we were able to check into our villa. It even came with board games and free movie videos (the tv didn't have much in the way of reception).
Soon we were out and into the water.
Day 6:
This day we rented snorkel gear and found out it's really easy and so much fun snorkeling with good equipment. So much fun that we all got burnt and couldn't get back in the water the next day! But i loved all the coral and fish. Even prettier then the coral in Hawaii, there I didn't see any fan coral or brain coral. Loved all the colorful fish, too. After 7 hours of snorkeling, I was extremely ill that night from severe sunburn (even though I did use sunscreen). Never got that sick from a burn before! Had me rather worried with the severe pain and chills. Finally I took 4 ibuprofen and laid down awhile. That helped. I managed to get up and make pancakes for dinner. We all got burnt, but we all would love to go back! After 5pm, the beach was ours. But sand mites where bad, so when darkness set in, we stayed in and watched videos.
Day 7:
Since we were all too burnt to enjoy the water again, we used the shuttle to head into Freeport. The owners of the place we stayed at ran a business where they brought people to the beach for the day and their shuttle ran back and forth to Freeport and the cruise ship port until about 5. The kids were excited about being old enough to go to the casino and gamble, so we each spent about $20 (except Angie who won about $10). We also shopped the mall and marketplace. Tim and Faith went back to the cove while Angie and I went to dinner then caught the last shuttle back to the cove.
Day 8:
It was time to get up and get to the airport, again. We flew back to Ft. Lauderdale and waited for our respective flights---Tim and Faith on Delta and Angie and me on AA. Much to our surprise, Tim and Faith ended up on our flight! Their connection was going to be missed in Atlanta, so they were sent to our flight and got there with about a minute to spare. Their luggage was even on our flight.
Another trip I will cherish with the kids. I had a great time! Hopefully they remember it fondly, too.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

2010-Kauai trip #9, Feb. 19-March 5: tim and faith-Year of the Tsunami: plantation monument; TripAdvisor M&G; Moloaa; Wailua falls; Gaylord train ride; Smith's Luai;

AA did away with the flight from STL that let us get to LAX 2 hours before the LAX-LIH flight, so we were rescheduled on a much earlier flight. We ended up with a 5 hour layover in LAX and arrived in Kauai about 9:10pm (Hawaiian time)---almost 15 hours after leaving home. We had carry on luggage only, so were off to catch the Avis shuttle in minutes. We've always used Budget in the past, but after a really bad experience with Avis in Skagway, Alaska, over the summer, we were given $50 in Avis certificates so I found a really good deal with them through --- $350 for 2 weeks include all fees and taxes. I figured we'd give them a try. Check in was a breeze and we were in our Pontiac G6 on our way to Worldmark Kapaa Shores in less then 20 minutes from the time we got off the plane. As Worldmark owners, I was able to pick up the lone Friday night on bonus time for about $85.
Some pictures of the Worldmark Kapaa Shores 1 bedroom unit:
small but adequate kitchen
 murphy bed in the livingroom.
 ocean view from our side window.
We flew out a day before our Wyndham KBV stay started in order to redeem air miles to fly free. That pretty much takes care of day one.

Friday, March 11, 2011

2011 Kauai---trip #10 to Kauai! Feb. 10-25 Year of the Shark!: vog; Hanapepe gallery night; Waimea Canyon; Na Aina Kai garden; Kanikapila Kakou concert;

2011 Kauai---trip #10 to Kauai!  

Feb. 10-25 Year of the Shark!: vog; Hanapepe gallery night; Waimea Canyon; Na Aina Kai garden; Kanikapila Kakou concert

On about our 5th trip to Kauai, we had read in one of the visitor booklets that if you vacation to Kauai 10 times, you'll have a good chance of eventually moving there. I wonder if that'll hold true for us, too!?  Unfortunately, with this being our 10th trip to Kauai, there's still no plans for that move as of yet.

I imagine if this had been our 1st trip to Kauai, I still would have been blown away by it's beauty, but since this was our 10th, the weather made this trip ever so slightly disappointing. We had Kona winds for the whole time, which I have mixed feelings about. I like the warmer more humid weather it brings, but dislike the vog it can also bring. This year the vog was really bad because the volcano on the Big Island was being especially active. Our crisp vibrant colors of the distant hills weren't there for the whole 2 weeks of our visit. The first several days we didn't even get to see the brilliant blue/green ocean colors due to constant cloud cover. We did have quite a bit of rain, too, but that in itself doesn't bother me that much. It's the constant cloud cover and vog that were disappointing this year. Our usual routine of snorkeling all day then finding a sunset didn't work out well this year. We still snorkeled quite a bit, but by sunset, the clouds were usually too heavy to produce a pretty sunset, so most evenings we ended up just going out for an early dinner instead.

The past 2 years I've booked our flights to arrive a day or 2 before our timeshare stay started and left a day before our stay ended in order to get AA award tickets. This works out pretty well especially since we've had ocean view rooms the last 2 years and it was nice checking in when we could enjoy the view, instead of after 9pm and a long day of flying. It's also nice having the condo all day on the last day until we had to catch our red eye flight.

2011-Feb 10---Travel day:  STL-DFW-LAX-LIH

2011-Feb 10-12: Plantation Hale

2011-Feb 11: South Kauai

2011-Feb. 12: Wyndham Kauai Beach Villas, Lihue

Friday, January 21, 2011

2002 London trip---April 16-24, with Carolyn

This was a last minute trip for me. My sister was suppose to be going here with my brother-in-law to visit his Aunt and Uncle, but he died a couple months before they were suppose to go. Instead of cancelling the trip, she asked me if I would like to go with her. After thinking about it for a minute, I said YES! So she left from Portland, Oregon, and I left from St. Louis, and we met up at the Gatwick airport. There to meet us was her Uncle-in-law, Don Arnold.

One of the things that I found interesting right from the start were the variable speed limit signs on the highway. In England, they actually work! Here in St. Louis, they are ignored and traffic backs up like normal.

It was really nice having a home base in the house of relatives---maybe they weren't my relatives, but they treated me like I was. We spent much of the week "visiting"and getting to see how the Brits live. They even had the USA flag flying when we pulled up in their driveway in honor of their visitors.

One of our host's, Barbara's, hobbies is floral arrangements. She was even in a floral club. The day we arrived was one of her meetings. Having been a florist for a couple years, I was excited to go with her to the meeting. She really excelled in her arrangements.

Our hosts, Don and Barbara, are old enough to be our parents, and they were very active and fun to be around. While Barbara prepared most of our dinners, Don took us out of her hair and off to see the sites in the area. They didn't actually live in London, but in a northern suburb.

ONe of the first places he took us to was Runnymede. It is where the Magna Carta was signed, and is also the site of a lot of memorials.

One of the memorials is even for our USA president, John F. Kennedy.

Our rides also took us by Anne Hathaway's cottage, the former childhood home of Anne Hathaway (the wife of William Shakespeare). Located in Shottery, Warwickshire, it is about a mile from Stratford-upon-Avon. This large farm house is a great example of Tudor style architecture. Another of it's memorable features is it's thick thatched roof. We weren't able to tour it, but even seeing it from the outside was pretty impressive.

Don also took us to Warwick Castle. This medieval castle was built by William the Conqueror in 1068 as a fort. In the 17th century it was converted to a country house.

In 1978, Warwick Castle was sold to Tussauds, a large visitor attraction operator. Tussauds performed extensive restorations to the castle and grounds in addition to opening its gates to the public. The State Rooms are enhanced with waxworks from Tussaud's and beautifully illustrate the spirit of a bygone age. The furniture is ornate and intricately detailed. In 2001, Warwick Castle was named one of Britain's "Top 10 historic houses and monuments" by the British Tourist Authority. Seasonal attractions include "Flight of the Eagles'" (a bird show, featuring bald eagles, vultures, and sea eagles), archery displays, Jousting,"The Trebuchet Show" and "The Sword In The Stone Show". This fellow doing the archery display was outstanding!

On another day we went to Hampton Court with one of Don and Barbara's daughters and granddaughter. It was every bit as impressive this time as it was when I went there in 1997 with Tim and Angie. Here I am in front of the castle with my sister.

Unfortunately photos aren't allowed inside the castle. But with their extensive gardens on every side of the castle, I was still able to take lots of pictures. This is looking out to the "back yard" from the 2nd level of the castle where King Henry VIII and the queen's bedrooms are.

The castle even has a little restaurant within it. Hear we are devouring a tasty lunch.

Back outside the castle, we wandered around the many gardens. This one was along one side of the castle.

Looking out at the side garden from the side of the castle.

On another day Carolyn and I took the train into London for a little shopping at Harrods and then on to Bath. This time we made sure we got into the bath houses.
The city was first established as a spa resort by the Romans in 43 AD. They built baths and a temple on the surrounding hills of Bath in the valley of the River Avon around hot springs, which are the only ones naturally occurring in the United Kingdom. The City of Bath was designated a World Heritage Site in 1987.
Shown in the back of this picture is the gothic Bath Abbey. It is still used for religious services, civic ceremonies, concerts and lectures.

The temple was constructed in 60–70 AD and the bathing complex was gradually built up over the next 300 years. After the Roman withdrawal in the first decade of the 5th century, the baths fell into disrepair and were eventually lost due to silting up. The Roman Baths themselves are below the modern street level. There are four main features: the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Roman Bath House and the Museum holding finds from Roman Bath.
All significant stages of the history of England are represented within the city. Several companies offer open-top bus tours around the city. We took one of those tours and were treated to many views like this.

Back north of London, while Barbara cooked another of her wonderful dinners, Don took us out for some more sight seeing. Here we walked around St Martin's Church in Bladon near Woodstock, Oxfordshire. It is best known for the grave of Sir Winston Churchill.

Another night they treated us to real english fish and chips. I forget the name of the place they got them from, but they were great. Here we were enjoying our fish and chips in their kitchen. We even got Don and Barbara to serenade us during dinner.

One of our last days there, Barbara cooked a huge Sunday afternoon meal and invited their 2 daughters and grandchildren over. It was a very traditional english meal with bangers and mash, bubble and squeak, toad in the hole, yorkshire pudding, and I forget what all else. It was by far the best meal I've had in England!  She even went all out setting the table.

After dining, we retreated to the back yard where we visited for quite awhile.
Here's 2 of the grand daughters setting up the lawn tennis. (They do take their tennis seriously there! I even attempted playing against Don and Barbara's daughter, Karen, one day and Barbara came to watch. I hadn't played in quite awhile, but did quite well for as long as it's been. I think I gave Karen a run for her money. She did beat me, but not without a fight. I was surprised how mad she got when I did actually win a few games.) Back here at their house is the first place I've ever played lawn tennis. It was a fun way to close out our visit.
I would love to see them all again. We use to exchange emails, but I haven't heard from any of them in years now. Hope they're all doing well.  I'll always have very fond memories of my time with them.