Road trip – Family, friends and celebrations IV

Rolling surf at Rehoboth Beach on an overcast morning.

We woke up to yet another damp and drizzly day.  After a light breakfast, hugs and kisses all around with Bill and Jane we hit the road again and headed in the direction of the Eastern Shore.

Despite the fact that it was a Sunday morning and the weather was a little challenging the drive over to the shore was quite nice.  Our first stop would be in Lewes, Delaware to see our friend Len.  We learned a while ago that he had moved from his home in North Carolina to Lewes, Delaware to be closer to his brother.

I have been friends with Len for almost 25 years.  We met at a time that was difficult for both of us in a support group called Parents without Partners.  I eventually moved over to a support group called New Beginnings, however, Len and I maintained our friendship.

When it came time for Randy and me to say our wedding vows I asked Len, who I thought of as a older big brother, if he would walk me down the aisle; and he said,”Yes”. Len even helped us move from the Northern Virginia to our new home in Florida after Randy and I retired.

Len looked great!  We spent a couple of hours talking about his move, his new lady love, bridge tournaments he participates in and his future plans.

It always amazes me that you can go long periods of time not seeing or talking to someone and yet when you meet again it was as though you had only been apart a blink of the eye.  No awkwardness, no hesitations just pick up where you left off and keep going.  I love it!

We said our goodbyes and promised to come back again. Back in the car again we drove the short distance to Rehoboth Beach to see our friends Steve and Debby.

What a wonderful visit!  Our first day with Steve and Debby was marked by a delightful evening of conversation and enjoying a delicious home cooked of steak, baked potato, salad and strawberry short cake dinner.

After a very restful night, we drove over to a restaurant named Goolee’s Grille for a wonderful, wonderful breakfast.  Goolee’s Grille is a small breakfast-lunch restaurant that, according to Steve and Debby, is the best for a great breakfast.

Now, I am very particular about my eggs and bacon.  One egg over medium and please be sure the white is cooked (I do not like runny whites – and not all restaurants will cook one egg) and very crisp bacon, (I cannot eat slightly cooked bacon).  I also ordered the breakfast potatoes and rye toast.  I loved that they had rye bread as one of the options, not all restaurants do.  My entire breakfast was cooked to perfection!

From Goolee’s we took a ride over to the beach.  I had never been to Rehoboth and liked very much the small main street with the large gazebo in the center.  Debby said that periodically there are concerts there.  “How nice,” I thought.  We Walked down the boardwalk enjoying being outside.  It was damp, a little chilly and once in a while we would feel a few sprinkles of rain but I was happy to be at the beach.

I mentioned to Debby that I would like to stop somewhere along the boardwalk to get some salt water taffy (One of my very favorite candies at the beach).  We stopped at Dolle’s and I went inside to make those very important decisions about what flavor salt water taffy would I choose.  I was in heaven.

Steve and Debby wanted to take us on a drive of the historical area of Lewes and then over to Henlopen State Park.  While driving through the historical area we drove by a home called the “Cannonball House”.  Evidently, this is the last remaining Lewes house bearing the ‘scar of the War of 1812’.  The patch on the foundation shows where the cannonball struck the house on April 6th or 7th, 1813.

We continued our morning drive and went to Henlopen State Park to take a walk around the historical area of Fort Miles.  According to the signage around the area, Fort Miles was built to,  “Stem the tide of war against German invasions along the Atlantic Seaboard that, at the onset of World War II, appeared unstoppable”.

 

The area includes Battery 519, six barracks buildings, a fire control tower, an orientation building, and the Fort Miles Artillery Park.  We decided to walk around the area stepping into one of the barracks, looking over the administration building and looking out over the waterway they were protecting.  I was taken aback at how austere the barracks building looked.  We also stopped and examined several of the guns that were used to defend the shore.

The grounds are open daily for visitors but the museum is only open for guided tours.  Randy and I both decided that the next time we come up we will make arrangements for a guided tour.Before leaving to head off to our next stop on our road trip, Steve and Debby took us to Mr. P’s for a delicious lunch.  We ordered a pizza and it was delicious.  We returned to the house to pack the car, set the GPS for our next stop and said our goodbyes.

Our next destination was Atlantic, Virginia to visit Jim and Peggy.

Enjoy,

Mary

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Road Trip – Family, friends and celebrations Part III

It has been either overcast, drizzling or raining since we left home nine days ago and I am starting to feel water logged.  That aside, we are looking forward to our next stop in Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania and spending a couple of days with our friends Bill and Jane.

We arrived at their lovely home and spent a little time getting acquainted with their home finally settling in the Florida room to share our experiences since we started our road trip. Bill and Jane mentioned that they wanted to take us to two places that they love and wanted to share.

The first was Booths Corner,a local farmers market, and the second was Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.  We love our friends, farmers markets and gardens so we were very excited about the next two days.

The look of Booths Corner from the parking lot is very deceptive.  Inside it was covers a large expanse of land with three levels and over 100 merchants.  There are booths that carry fresh vegetables and fruits, meats, jewelry, gifts, furniture, pet supplies, toys, games, beauty products and so much more.  While the men loved walking and stopping by the baked goods booths, I enjoyed looking at all the beautiful meats on display around the market.  I thought to myself, “If only the meat we buy back home looked so fresh”. I have to tell you that walking through the market was a test of our ability to look and not buy.  It was not easy!We stopped at a small Amish restaurant and enjoyed delicious deli-style sandwiches, chips and drinks.  After lunch we continued our walk oohing and ahhing at all the wonderful things on display and then leaving with empty hands.

After the large meals we enjoyed over the last few days and eating lunch after two o’clock in the afternoon, we begged off a large dinner.  Instead we feasted on cheese, crackers, shrimp, nuts and pigs in a blanket.  A dinner fit for kings and queens!!!

The weather the next morning was grey and gloomy with periodic drizzle dropping from the heavens.  But that did not deter us from going to Longwood Gardens.  On our way we drove through one of my favorite structures, a covered bridge.  Years ago when Randy and I were courting we had occasions to visit Amish country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Whenever we would come to a covered bridge he would stop in the middle, lean over and give me a kiss.  My heart is filled with many of these sweet memories.

Just some of the beautiful blooms we passed as we walked through the gardens.

The gardens were alive with many, many visitors of all ages.  We started by strolling around the gardens and were awed by the beauty that was all around us.  According to history, “The native Lenni Lenape tribe fished the streams, hunted its forests, and planted its fields.  In 1700 a Quaker farmer purchased 402 acres of this English-claimed land from William Penn’s commissioners”.  Since then many generations purchased, built on and cultivated the land so that by the l930’s Longwood had grown to 926 acres.

Jane standing inside the Weeping White Birch

Cow lot

At one point Bill needed to return to the visitor’s center so we walked back in that direction.  While the men went inside Jane and I took in the view of the cow lot.  This is a patch of land that was a pasture at one time in history.  It has  remained open and is edged by a variety of trees.

Jane pointed to a tree to our left and suggested that we take a closer look.  It was a weeping birch tree.  I was very excited because I love birch trees but never knew there was a weeping birch tree.  It was so very large and wide.  There was a small opening between the branches and we walked in.  “How beautiful”, I thought as I looked up and could see the sky peeping through the branches.

 

 

We returned to our walk and passed by many beautiful gardens and fountains.

Canopy Cathedral Treehouse

 

We continued our walk and came across a beautiful large lake.  We walked around and came across a large clearing and a beautiful wooden treehouse.  I love it.  We walked inside and stood on the balcony and had a wonderful view of the Large Lake.

Italian Water Garden

Waterfall to the left of the garden.

We continued our stroll and crossed a bridge with a beautiful view of the Italian Water Garden.  Each time we stopped I wished the sun would break through the dark grey clouds and shine down on these beautiful gardens.  But cloudy sky or sunny sky the beauty shone through.   We eventually decided to stop for a bite of lunch before continuing on to the Conservatory.

The Conservatory

The Conservatory covers 195,668 square feet and every foot is covered in beautiful flowers, bushes, trees, fountains, waterfalls, statuary and a beautiful children’s garden.

 

 

 

 

Loose-flower Hornbeam – Japan & Korea – Birch family – training started in 1991.

 

One of my favorite exhibits was the Bonsai trees. The accompanying  sign read: “Bonsai is an ancient art of growing plants in containers to represent mature plants found in nature…The bonsai display at Longwood was started in 1959 with the purchase of 13 speciments.  Longwood now has over 40 deciduous and evergreen plants”.

After walking through the entire Conservatory we made our way back outside.  Several gardens on the grounds were under renovation including the Main Fountain Garden.  However, when we exited the Conservatory we noticed a number of people lining the fence so we walked over.  To our delight the fountains were working.   We stood for a while and then decided it was time to leave and started to make our way to the visitors center.  On the way we passed the Topiary Garden.

I have tried to share but a portion of the beautiful things we saw at Longwood Gardens.  If you ever have the opportunity to go to Longwood Gardens you will be rewarded with such beautiful memories.

Once back home, Bill and Jane prepared a great dinner and we spent the rest of the evening talking about our day and our next destination.

We had a wonderful time with Bill and Jane. After enjoying a light breakfast we packed the car once again and headed in the direction of the eastern shore to visit with our friends Len, Steve and Debby.

Big leaf hydrangea “Tokyo Delight”

Enjoy,

Mary

 

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Road trip – Family, friends and celebrations Part II

Koi and lily pond outside Clyde’s Bethesda

After saying our goodbyes to Jennifer and Maddy at the restaurant we were back in the car and on the road again.  I was dreading our drive to Alexandria.  Over the years the traffic in the Northern Virginia area had become a nightmare for me.

Well, the gods were smiling down on us today as made our way from I66 to I495 then on to I395 to Alexandria.  Traffic was constant but not heavy and never came to a standstill making our drive actually somewhat pleasant.

Randy and I were looking forward to spending a couple of days with Kristine.  After the weekend we all had at the graduation and the last few days we were looking forward to just kicking back and relaxing.

Miss Paige during my March visit to Kristine’s

I was anxious for Randy to see Kristine and Brian’s dog, Miss Paige defending the house when we arrived.  I opened the door slowly and there was Miss Paige at the top of the stairs with her favorite toy in her mouth with a slow growl emanating from deep within her throat.  She had struck this pose when I visited Kristine’s home in March and I thought she was so cute!  Seeing Miss Maige made Randy smile.

Randy and Miss Paige

We made ourselves at home until Kristine returned home from work and set about making a decision about dinner.  After a little discussion we all came to the same conclusion; stay home and prowl through the refrigerator and cabinets and see what we could find.  We put together a hodgepodge of foods and made ourselves comfortable reminiscing about the graduation, Brian waiting to hear if he would be chosen for officer’s candidate school, and our plans for our shopping trip to the Pentagon City Mall the next day.

Randy and Elle (Miss Kitty)

Beautiful Miss Kitty (Elle)

After a very good night’s sleep we were up early, enjoying hot cups of coffee, eating a light breakfast and watching the morning news, Kristine and I were off for a morning of shopping.  Randy was very happy to be left behind to catch up on his email and play with Miss Paige and Miss Kitty (Elle).

I was so excited to be in ‘real’ mall.  There are so many things I miss about living in the Northern Virginia-Washington DC area.  I miss the malls, the museums, the theaters, the restaurants and on and on.  So, each year when I come up to visit Kristine during March Madness weekend we go shopping at the mall.

It was a Wednesday morning and still the mall was filled to capacity with shoppers of all ages.  We even saw a couple of school groups there.  We leisurely walked around stopping at White House Black Market, Sephora, Lord and Taylor and finally at Starbucks for a chai.

Feeling very satisfied with our endeavors we stopped at one last store.  It is a tradition in our family after a busy day of shopping to stop at the Godiva store to indulge ourselves with one chocolate truffle to eat on our way home.  My very favorite is the raspberry chocolate truffle.  YUM!

Panang Perfect – Savory shicken in curried peanut sauce with coconut milk, mixed vegetables, basil and Kaffir lime leaves.

We returned home to drop off our packages and pick up Randy.  We drove over to the Village at Shirlington and our favorite Thai restaurant.  T.H.A.I. Shirlington is a restaurant that is always on my list when I return to the area.  The food is delicious, the atmosphere is very nice and the service is great.  And yes, I have a favorite dish; Panang Perfect. The chicken is always tender, the sauce creamy and the rice perfect.  I have also taken a liking to Thai iced tea.

We returned to the house and settled in for a quiet evening.  Tomorrow we leave to head over to Bethesda, Maryland to spend an evening with our friends Barry and Lana.

Clyde’s

We arrived mid-morning and spent a bit of time catching up with all the news about our respective families and mutual friends around the area.  Before we knew it, it was time to leave for lunch.  Barry and Lana chose Clyde’s in Bethesda as our lunch destination.  I had eaten at the Clyde’s in Reston, Virginia several times and always enjoyed the food and surroundings.

When we arrived I realized just how different the two restaurants were.  The Reston location is more like a modern bar-restaurant while this Clyde’s reminded me of a lodge you would find out in the west i.e., Yellowstone National Park.  The outside was lovely but the inside was beautiful.  Beautiful polished wood, fireplaces, several bars, all manner of animal statuary, canoes, paddles, small boats hanging from the ceiling and on the walls, etc.  While we waited for our meal we took a walk around the entire restaurant enjoying each room.  Lovely!

I love a variety of cuisines but I have to say that I just love hamburgers.  I ordered the 6 ¾ ounce freshly ground, locally raised grass-fed beef bacon cheeseburger with fries and was not disappointed.  The burger was juicy and cooked perfectly.  It was very tasty.

We returned to the house and spent the rest of the afternoon reclining in comfortable chairs and sofas with our feet up and light blankets over our legs and whiled away the hours talking, reminiscing and laughing.

Barry and Lana

Barry and Lana off the ferry and ready to ride.

 

A great deal of our reminiscing covered our years motorcycling together to the Americade and Honda Hoot motorcycle rallies, several motorcycle trips to Canada and the Canadian Provinces.  Our time on the road was a wonderful bonding experience.

Randy and Mary

Americade- June 2007

 

 

We continued our conversations over a wonderful homemade lasagna dinner.

Randy and Barry looking over a 1966 Mustang GT on display in the parking lot, front to Founding Farmers restaurant, interior of restaurant. Hanging from the ceiling a piece of artwork entitled, “Birds flyin’ high, you know how I feel”.

The next day Barry and Lana took us to a wonderful restaurant for breakfast.  The Founding Farmers  restaurant was a great experience.  I was intrigued by the name of the restaurant so went out to their website.  The explanation read, “Our name “Founding Farmers” is a nod to our Founding Fathers, many of whom were devoted farmers long before they became trailblazers for our country. While those leaders built and contributed to the American agricultural tradition, we recognize that our mission is also about growing a new venture with farmers at the root: one that strengthens their livelihood, gives back to the community, and makes quality food accessible to all”.  “Very cool”, I thought.

I loved the fact that there were so many booths available as well as seating around the u-shaped bar.  We were seated at a corner booth near a window.  We started our very large breakfast with steaming hot cups of coffee and Uncle Buck’s Beignets.  The beignets came with raspberry, chocolate and caramel dipping sauces.  They were a little crisper than I am used to but delicious.

The menu was very interesting.  Aside from the usual offerings like eggs, bacon, pancakes and such there were breakfast cocktails, specialty coffee and teas and, one of my favorites from my childhood in New York, New York Egg Cream.  I ordered the Founding Farmers breakfast of two eggs over medium, very crisp bacon, sliced tomatoes and buttermilk biscuits.  Everything was cooked perfectly.  But, oh my, I was so full!

We returned to Barry and Lana’s house, packed the car and pointed the car in the direction of Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania where we would be spending a couple of days with our friends Bill and Jane.

Enjoy,

Mary

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Road trip: Family, friends and celebrations

Traveling through Virginia

I was so excited when the month of May finally arrived this year.  Two of my very favorite people would be graduating and, of course, we wanted to be there to help them celebrate.  But these two happy events also created a dilemma.

Kristine’s boyfriend, Brian would be graduating from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia at the beginning of the month and our granddaughter Fiona would be graduating from Randolph School in Huntsville, Alabama at the end of May.  Therein was our dilemma.

Now, we could just drive up to Virginia then return home and then two weeks later drive up to Alabama and return home. After some conversation we decided to spend those two weeks taking a road trip to visit family and friends up north before looping back and heading to Alabama; dilemma solved.

In the end this decision would put us on a road trip that found us visiting family and friends in six states and covering 2,828 miles.  What a great trip!

Geri and Randy collaborated on preparing dinner.

Newspaper stopped and car packed we pointed our car in the direction of I95 and headed for our first stop on this fun trip.  We drove to Hilton Head, South Carolina where we would spend the night at the home of our long-time friend Geri.  Once we were settled, Geri offered to take us around the area but we just wanted to relax and catch up.  I love talking with Geri, she has a wonderful sense of humor and keeps me laughing.  We enjoyed a wonderful afternoon and evening of lively conversation and a home-cooked meal of barbecue steaks, grilled vegetables, roasted potatoes and Geri’s famous rum cake.  As we prepared to leave the next morning, Geri presented us with the rest of the rum cake and another to take along.  How wonderful!!!! We shared the cakes with our family in Virginia.

Our next stop was the first of our family celebrations.  We met Kristine and Brian at the hotel in Danville, Virginia and once we were settled prepared to make the hour and a half ride to the university.  We drove in a driving rain and ran into a great deal of traffice once at the university.   We knew we would have to park a distance from the Vines Center so Brian stopped at the bookstore and bought umbrellas for the four of us.  We attended the Baccalaureate Service and the Military Graduate Recognition Ceremony both of which were very inspirational.

Kristine, Randy, Brian’s mom Wanda, stepfather Skip  and sons Zack and Jacob waiting to be searched and wanded by security before entering the stadium.

Saturday morning we were up at 4:00 am to make the hour-long trip back to Lynchburg and the university.  We met Brian’s family in the lobby at 5:15 am before we set off.  We left early because, aside from the hour-long drive to the university, there would be heavy security because President Trump was the commencement speaker.  There was a concern that it would be another rainy day and we would be in the stadium and because of the president’s visit there would no umbrellas allowed.

Kristine & Brian

As it turned out the rain stopped and the security check went quickly and smoothly.  We were able to find seating in the section that gave us a great view of the speaker’s tent.  The view of the stadium floor was amazing after 18,000 graduates and faculty had taken their seats.  The sky was cloudy and every so often early on there were a few drips of rain but eventually the sky cleared and once in a while the sun would peek through. Randy and I both thought President Trump’s speech hit the right note for a commencement. After the commencement ceremony the graduates were broken into their individual schools to receive their  degrees.  Brian graduated cum laude with a degree of Bachelor of Science –  Business Management Information Systems: Information Assurance.  We were all very proud of Brian’s accomplishment.

From left: Jennifer, Mary, Maddy, Kevin, Derek, Randy

Sunday morning, after having a lovely breakfast at a local restaurant with everyone, we left to make the trip to Fairfax, Virginia to visit with our daughter Jennifer and her family.  As soon as we got settled in our hotel room we made arrangements to meet them at the Kona Grill at Fair Oaks Mall for dinner.  Jennifer told us that the food there was very good and that they had a very wide variety of choices on their menu.

Chicken Satay with sweet hoisin and Thai peanut sauces

We arrived at the restaurant early and were pleasantly surprised as I was presented with a lovely rose and a glass of champagne.  It was Mother’s Day and so the restaurant presented all the moms and grandmothers with this lovely surprise as they were seated.  “What a nice touch”, I thought.

Kona chopped-macadamia nut chicken, eggs, applewood bacon, avocado, white cheddar, tomatoes with honey dijon dressing. YUM!!

Butter cake with raspberry sauce and vanilla bean ice cream and , of course, multiple forks. YUM!!

Jennifer was right; the menu was indeed varied making it a little hard to make a choice.  Of course, we had to try a number of foods.  So, we chose several appetizers, main dishes and a yummy dessert that we shared.  We spent our time catching up with everyone’s comings and goings, sharing our experiences at Brian’s graduation and learning all about Maddy’s new job at a restaurant called Mission BBQ and Derek’s anticipation at starting high school in the fall.

Before we knew it, it was time to part but not until we made arrangements to meet Jennifer Tuesday for lunch at Mission BBQ restaurant. Randy and I were anxious to see what Maddy was so excited about.

On Monday we made our way over to Springfield, Virginia to visit Randy’s long-time next door neighbor and friend Joe. Whenever we come this way we always stop by and take Joe out for lunch.  Joe is amazing.  Joe, who is a spry 97 years young, still lives alone, continues to be a dapper dresser and is as sharp as a tack.

As we walked up to Joe’s house, Randy looked over at the home he lived in for over 30 years and smiled with approval.  The young man he sold the house to was taking very good care of the house and grounds.  And, what is amazing is that he takes care of Joe’s yard too.

This year Joe decided he wanted to have lunch at Mike’s American Grill just a short drive from Joe’s home.  We spent hours talking and laughing while enjoying our lunch.  It was wonderful to hear that Joe’s three sons each play a role in making it possible for Joe to remain in his family home.

Granddaughter Maddy – Proud cashier at Mission BBQ working her way through college.

Promptly at noon everything comes to halt at Mission BBQ to salute our flag and country!

Tuesday we were off to meet Jennifer for lunch.  Mission BBQ is a small restaurant at the Greenbriar Shopping Center with inside and outside seating.  The restaurant specializes in barbecue meats, a variety of sauces, and typical sides like mac and cheese, fries, baked beans, cold slaw, green beans and bacon and salad.  Maddy told us to come at noon and watch as the whole restaurant stops, including employees, and everyone sings the national anthem. Promptly at noon I went inside to watch and, “What a sight!!!!!” I loved it! I found this display to be very heartwarming.

Jennifer and mom!

When I returned to the picnic table outside, Randy said that he watched as people in the parking lot also stopped and honored the moment. We had a wonderful visit with Jennifer while we enjoyed our lunch.  I had the pulled chicken and it was so tender.  The mac and cheese was beyond yummy!  Once Jennifer left to return to work, we went inside and asked one of Maddy’s co-workers to take a picture of us with our beautiful Maddy.

Next stop on our road trip, our daughter Kristine’s in Alexandria, Virginia.

Beautiful sunset!

Enjoy,

Mary

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Relaxing last day at sea and then the journey home

The last day of any cruise there is always a flurry of activity.  Last minute decisions to make about souvenir photos to buy, running down to the casino for our free pulls and spending a bit of time saying thank you and goodbye to the wonderful crew and staff that made your trip so enjoyable.

Well, today is no different.  But first, out onto the balcony to see what kind of a day it would be.  The air was warm but the sky seemed to be stuck between night and day with the moon still high above and hints of the sun breaking free of the horizon.

We took our time getting ready and then made our way up to the Concierge Lounge for a light breakfast and coffee.  We sat for a long time just watching the waves and trying to decide what we would like to do for the day.

In the end, we decided to bypass the sexiest man contest, the belly flop contest and even the volleyball contest between the officers and guests and just kickback, relax, finish packing and save our energy for the evening activities.

Around 9:00 Am it started to rain very hard so we retreated into the cabin until it stopped.  Randy decided to spend a little time checking his email, etc. so I went for a walk.

The Traveling Chair I

We have been on the Brilliance several times and have always enjoyed seeing all the beautiful artwork around the ship. I have found over time that I am always drawn back to the same artwork.  For me it is like being in one of my favorite art galleries back home always looking to see what is new but always being drawn back to my favorites.

The Traveling Chair II

Two of my favorites are entitled The Traveling Chair I and The Traveling Chair II.   Both pieces were created by artist Lars Widenfalk and are made of granite stone.  The accompanying plaque reads the same for each:

“The artist works in the classical and postmodern style, using a traditional and “eternal” material known as Nordic granite”.  I find both pieces very interesting.  I especially love the bird sitting atop the Traveling Chair I with the egg resting on the seat.

Then I moved down a few decks to a piece of architecture that has caught my eye several times.  The ceramic piece entitled Dar al Salam was created by Dutch artist Arthur Meijer.

The plaque reads:

“The main sources of inspiration for this piece are Romanesque, traditional Mediterranean and Arabic architecture.  Specifically, the ancient mud houses and buildings from the sun-blazed regions where civilization began.  With these ‘tower house” sculptures, the artist wishes to evoke pleasant memories and tranquil daydreams”.  This piece makes me think of castles.

I made it back to the cabin just in time to arrange for a fun picnic lunch on the balcony.  The rain had stopped and the sun was out in full force.  We had one beer left in the refrigerator, a bottle of water and a dish of treats.  Randy ran up to the Solarium and picked up a sandwich and a few cookies and we were good to go!

The afternoon seemed to linger on as we ate a little, read a little and chatted a little.  But, all too soon, it was time to prepare for the evening.

Monroe and Martha. Lovely couple

We met our neighbors in the next cabin at the lounge and, over drinks, chatted away the cocktail hour.  We exchanged contact information and said our goodbyes.  We joined our table mates and had a wonderful dinner together.  I finally got a picture of Monroe and Martha.  We all agreed that this had been a wonderful cruise because we had such a wonderful table, and we did!

 

This evening’s entertainment was two-fold.  First, we were entertained by comedian Miguel Washington with a show entitled “Don’t blink you might miss something”.  Mr. Washington’s act was at times was very funny.

The comedy act was followed by a farewell show featuring members of the production crew, activities staff, and many, many crew members saying, “Thank you and Goodbye”, to all the passengers.  At the end colorful streamers dropped from above making it a very festive scene.

We retired back to our cabin, but out our luggage and settled in for a quiet night.

Morning comes very early on arrival day.  We were up by 5:30 AM, showered and dressed and ready to go to the dining room for breakfast.

We were off the ship by 8:15 AM ready to retrieve our luggage, pick up our car and make the journey home.  I had mentioned to Randy on our way to the port that there was a mural I wanted to get a picture of on our way home.

Every time we have traveled to the Tampa Port I have loved looking at what I call the ribbon candy American flag and I wanted a photo.  Fortunately for me, traffic was light and Randy pulled over so I could jump out and get the shot.  According to what I have read, the 80’ x 30’ mural of the American Flag on the north wall of the Tampa Firefighters Museum was painted by American Artist Scott Lobaido in May 2013.  I love it!!

Just across the street is another sight I just love whenever we travel this way and took a few shots of the entrance to Perry Harvey, sr. Park.  I just love the statues.  There are musicians, dancers and a jukebox at the entrance to the park. They are so larger than life.  I learned that these beautiful and fun statues were created by artist James Simon.  I remarked to Randy, “The next time we come down here I want to stop and walk around the park.  I am sure there are many wonderful things to see there”.

Our ten-day cruise aboard the Brilliance of the seas was just wonderful.  We had a great time, met a number of very nice people, enjoyed seeing friends on the second leg of our trip and enjoyed each port-of-call.

Our next cruise will take us back across the pond to Europe for a trans-Atlantic back to the states stopping at a number of new and wonderful ports.  I am so excited!

Until then, enjoy,

Mary

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Enjoying the companionship of friends, cold beer and delicious food on Cozumel

Pulling into port

Is there anything better than having a cold one and breaking bread with family and friends?  I love sharing time with friends and I especially love sharing my favorite places with them that we have found during our travels.

On the ninth day of our Caribbean cruise we docked in Cozumel, Mexico and had plans to share a favorite restaurant with our friends Ron and Connie.

We made arrangements to meet Ron and Connie on the pier at 10 AM so we were up early, enjoyed a light breakfast in the Concierge Lounge and prepared to meet them on the pier.  We stopped by the little tent area just a few steps from the ship and waited.  And then, we waited some more.  Finally, we decided to walk down to the end of the pier just before arriving at the port area.

We ran into Sharon who told us that Ron and Connie had been waiting and finally gave up and walked up to the shopping mall.  Sharon said that if we hurried we would probably catch up to them.  Sharon had already been shopping and was returning to the ship.

We caught up to Ron and Connie and had a few laughs about the mix-up about where to meet and talked about where to go.  We were in a pickle as the ship docked at the downtown pier instead of the International Pier.  Our original plans were to go the Harley Davidson store to pick up tee shirts for Ron’s son and then go to a new restaurant near the International Pier Randy and I had discovered on our last stop at Cozumel.

After a bit of conversation, we decided to walk around the downtown, stop for a cold beer and stop along the way for lunch.  Randy wanted to go to Toro’s but I wanted to take Ron and Connie to Pancho’s Backyard.  I won.

We walked along until Ron said he was thirsty and wanted to stop for a cold brew.  We stopped at a very small restaurant called Mar y Juana with outside seating and ordered one of our favorite Caribbean beers, Sol!  The restaurant is colorful, the waiters very friendly and the beer very cold.  It was a pleasant place to just sit back watching the world go.

We continued our walk down the street periodically looking into the many shops along the way.  It has become a little obvious that more and more stores have made the decision to move down near the International Pier.  That concerns me a little as we enjoy visiting San Miguel and would hate to see more businesses move away.

We finally made it to Pancho’s Backyard and to my pleasure Ron and Connie were pleased with the choice.  Pancho’s is an open courtyard, is colorful and comfortable with a variety of seating and table arrangements.

Chicken Enchiladas Verde

Pancho’s Chicken Fajitas Especiales

Taquitos de Pollo

We all chose different dishes from the menu and all were delicious! Randy ordered the Taquitos de Pollo – eight golden crisp miniature chicken tacos with a center scoop of guacamole.  Ron and Connie ordered Pancho’s Fajitas Especiales.  I ordered the Enchiladas Verdes – with corn tortillas, shredded chicken breast, tangy tomatillo sauce, sour cream, beans and fresh salsa Mexicana.  Everyone at the table said their dish was absolutely delicious!

While we enjoyed our food we were entertained by a husband and wife team playing a variety of tunes on a xylophone.  Every once in a while the dining room would erupt in singing and clapping.  Pancho’s is definitely a very nice experience.  This was our second time and we will definitely go back again.

After our wonderful lunch we struck out again only this time in the direction of the pier.  We walked along and I caught sight of something I had never seen s since coming to Cozumel.  The copper sculpture that represents what Cozumel is famous for; its scuba diving and coral reefs, was alive with water falling into the starfish-shaped fountain.

Saw this outside a cigar store and could not resist to stop. Funny!

 

On all our other visits the fountain had been drained and the not running.  I had to stop and check it out.  “How beautiful”, I thought.  Ron wanted to catch a cab and make a run to the Harley Davidson store before returning to the ship so we parted ways.

The sky had been threatening all day and as we walked along it started to rain.  We actually considered stopping and enjoying another beer while waiting out the rain but came to the conclusion that we would not melt and proceeded to the pier and boarded the ship.

 

By the time we made it back to the cabin we only had a short time to freshen up, stop at the lounge for a cocktail and make our dinner reservation at Giovanni’s Table.  I love Giovanni’s.  The atmosphere is simple, warm, inviting and the service is always wonderful.

Then there is the food! We started our meal with the Caprese salad for two.  Vine ripened tomatoes topped with crisp greens and bocconcini mozzarella balls.  With just a little of pesto and balsamic vinaigrette the dish was delicious and filling.

For our main dish we both chose the 8 ounce grilled beef tenderloin, served with garlic fries and the Barolo reduction .

The steak was cooked to perfection and so tasty.  The fries were deliciously crunchy on the outside while soft inside.  I loved dipping my fries into the reduction!  By the time we finished I wondered out loud if I would be able to eat dessert.

Well, the question did not linger long when our server brought the dessert tray around.  Randy loves the tiramisu and ordered some.  He also ordered a small cannoli.   Me, I wanted dessert but did not want to walk away from the table feeling stuffed.  I chose a mini dessert called Crema all’ Amarena.  This creamy custard dessert had delicious black  cherries on the bottom and was just the perfect size.

It had been a fun and full day.  We went up to the Diamond Lounge for a nightcap and then returned to our cabin for a relaxing evening.

View of the sun setting behind Cozumel as we slowly cruised away from the island.

Tomorrow is our last day at sea before returning home.

 

 

Enjoy,

Mary

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Lovely, lazy day at sea

It was just a week ago today that I happily posted the next adventure of our back-to-back cruises to the Caribbean on the Brilliance of the seas when out of nowhere I was felled by, first the flu bug and then a bout with bronchitis that has kept me from making any effort at sitting for too long much less in front of a keyboard.

After a week of fever, chills, aches, pains and a cough that left every muscle in my chest in agony, I believe I am finally on the mend.  So, I will now finish sharing the last three days of our wonderful cruise.

Day eight of our cruise was a day spent at sea.  We slept in that morning and as a consequence missed a beautiful sunrise.  By the time I stepped out onto the balcony, the sun had already popped above the horizon and was ablaze with color that cast a golden light across the waters.

We had received a message from our friends Ron and Connie telling us that they would be heading up to the Windjammer Café for breakfast.  We dressed quickly and found them sitting back by the buffet stations.

And there we sat for almost two hours just talking and having fun.  Ron and Randy talked about motorcycles and motorcycle trips and Connie and I talked about their dog Ted and about our respective families.

We had an event to attend mid-morning so we parted ways but not until we made arrangements to meet later in the day for cocktails at the Schooner Lounge.

We returned to our cabin to freshen up then went up to deck 13 to meet our group.  The Next Cruise staff had arranged a VIP Exclusive Suite Event Tour and we were anxious to see which suite (s) they had chosen.

We gathered in the concierge lounge and learned that there were no suites available this cruise and that we would be attending a power point presentation instead.  We were all a little disappointed but the draw of champagne and a raffle helped us make an attitude adjustment.

The presentation was very interesting.  We listened intently as they showed the floor plans of each class of suite available.  There are three classes of suites; Star, Sky and Sea.  The sea class is made up of junior suites.  The Next Cruise representative did a very nice job of explaining the differences between the suite classes as well as the perks available to each.

Some of these suites are beyond amazing and quite beautiful.  Some of the suites actually come with the availability of a personal “Genie” (butler) whose only job is to make sure you have all your wishes and desires taken care of while on the ship.

For the last few years suites have been a big push for the cruise line and I must admit the suites and the perks that go with them are quite tantalizing but I have not reached that level of travel yet.  Although we have enjoyed many cruises using the junior suite cabins.  They are very spacious and come with upgraded amenities.

From there we returned to our cabin to take advantage of our lovely, large balcony reading, eating a light lunch and enjoying a plate of sweets from the culinary staff.

 

From left: Randy, Mary, Sharon, Don, Ron and Connie

Before we knew it, it was time to dress to meet our friends at the Schooner Lounge for cocktails.  We met Ron and Connie and their friends Don and Sharon and had a fun hour talking about our experiences on the ship and what are plans were for Cozumel.  Don and Sharon were celebrating their anniversary.

Mike, Rebecca, Randy and Mary. (Monroe and Martha has to leave before the photographer arrived).

The dinner hour had arrived and we all headed for the dining room.  But, before parted we, we agreed to meet in the morning on the pier and do a little shopping and have a nice lunch along the water.

As always we had a great time at dinner with our table mates.  It was formal night so one of my very favorite dinners was on the menu; carved tenderloins of beef, with Morel-crimini mushroom sauce, creamy mashed potatoes and asparagus.  This lovely dinner was yummy as always.

The evening entertainment featured the comedy of Mario and Daniel.  We had seen their comedy routine last week, and while we enjoyed them very much, decided to go up to the Diamond Lounge for a cocktail.  I could see that the sunset was going to be very colorful so I left Randy and ran down to deck 12.   While I waited a storm could be seen to my right moving towards the ship at a rapid rate.

Fortunately, I was able to capture a beautiful picture of the sun setting before I had to retreat under the overhang and the sun consumed by dark clouds.

I returned to the Diamond Lounge where Randy and I spent a bit of time enjoying  a nightcap and talking with Diamond Lounge concierge, Rafael.  He is quite engaging and very funny.

We returned to our cabin and just leaned over the railing enjoying the warm night air and watching the moon moving in and out of the dark, dark clouds.  It had been a lovely, quiet day of kicking back, being with friends and enjoying some really good food.  Life is so very good!

View from our wonderful balcony!!!

Tomorrow we dock in Cozumel, Mexico.

Enjoy,

Mary

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