Friday, February 29, 2008

Last of the vacation pics

Well that took far longer than expected. I got sick and then the reality of our life kept interfering with getting the pics sorted.

On arriving in Cozumel, we opted to not get on one of the pre-arranged port excursions and do things at our own speed. We got ambushed upon leaving the terminal by the scoot guys and I thought it would be fun to get a scooter and zip around the island. I suppose we would have been more comfortable in a jeep but whatever...the scoot was fun all the same.

We did stop briefly at a beach spot where all the chairs are lined up "side by each" and pack you in like cord wood. We stayed long enough to get wet and go for a swim as we wanted to explore the island. It was difficult walking underfoot and wish I had those neoprene walking shoes or my teva's with me.

Most of the geography of Cozumel is relatively uninteresting, save the azure blue of the ocean. It was fairly windy and the surf was pretty choppy. We stopped and had lunch at this restaurant tucked up on a knoll, hidden in some vegetation and was surprised to see it so busy. A couple of fellows from Galveston offered to share our table. The Galveston lads were on the Carnival Ecstasy which sailed out of Galveston, TX and were supposed to go to Progresso too but fog kept them from leaving Galveston on time. One of the lads was a vet from Iraq and was now a fish and game warden in Lousiana. His other buddy was a rig pig (worked on the oil rigs). Greig had lots to chat with them about as Greig did that work too ages ago, though mostly on the sour gas wells in Northern Alberta.

The food was delish. Neither of us had tried conch before and after reading An Embarrassment of Mangoes and all its talk of conch I had to try it. It was quite yummy as were the fish tacos. I think Greig had a quesadilla but it he made the egregious error of taking a scoop of some green stuff. I watched the game warden's eyebrows raise into horror and the shock on Greig's face as he registered the hotness. "Oh," he gasped, "that was not wise!" At least he was still able to speak.

It was a lovely day and I was happy to get a bit of sun though I'd have preferred a bit more beach time. Still, though we'd never do a cruise again I am still grateful we were able to get away and managed to get break.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A far too rare family outing

Sunday, with a big spring sun blasting down upon us, we decided to play hooky from chores and go walk about Westham Island. It is one of our favorite places as it is affordable for a whack of us to go plus have a lovely walk about.

Dennis, one of Bui's best friends had never been here before. We were Dosha-less as she was sick home at her Mum's on the weekend. Dennis, and his sister Payton are our weekend surrogate children and often as not, spend weekends with us.

Dennis and Bui couldn't help flogging each other with bull rushes and scattering the fluff about. be 14!

In addtion to some American Coots, Northern Pintails, Widgeon ducks, Bald Eagles and oodles of Mallards, We stumbled upon a pair of Sandhill Cranes, which I now see from this list, is a very rare thing.

Gee I wish I knew my birds.

"We're going to Chicken Pizza!"

The four year old boy on the bus exclaimed. Everyone roared with laughter over this, though our guide wasn't overly impressed, in spite of his slight smile. "No, it isn't Chicken Pizza."

After pulling into Progresso, Mexico on the boat, we boarded a bus for the 2.5 hour drive out to Chinchen Itza. Arriving shortly before 11am the 7,000 people that visit this place daily hadn't yet arrived and our guide took us on a 50 minute tour around the place.

Unfortunately, we had less than an hour after the tour to actually take it all in as we had to get back on the bus for the 2.5 hour ride back to the ship.

Alas, I wish we'd had more time there to take it all in and behold the place a bit more. It is pretty amazing. Here are some pictures.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A big boat and crossing the Gulf

We left New Orleans on the Monday afternoon. Also in port were two of Paul Allen's boats and I just had to take a shot of the Meduse as my friend Sparrow was working on it only a few weeks ago. Also, there is a picture of Alice's brother for you Will. Both were kind of happy accidents to find.

It took us eight hours to get out of the river. I guess I never figured it was so far in from sea. The shoreline was dotted with refineries and chemical plants. I also never realized just how big Lake Ponchatrain was either.

The ship was full of locals, escaping the tawdriness that is Mardi Gras (their words, not mine). So it had a funny kind of energy. I had made the mistake of thinking our flights back were on the Friday so I had to rearrange our flights for Saturday. Rather than have his nibs chomping at the bit waiting for me, he boarded the ship ahead of me and went on recon.

A partial reason for taking a cruise was for Greig to check out if he would like working for that kind of an outfit. Well, by the time I had got on board, he'd checked the ship out entirely and surmised it wasn't his cuppa tea. That alone made the trip worth it in my mind.

The staff was excellent as well as the food but I guess we're not that kind of cruising type. We tend to shun that contrived "organized fun" plus getting gouged for internet to the tune of $24 an hour on board on computers set up to not actually open up windows to make you buy more time left a bitter taste. The staff work long hard hours and probably only pull in about $1100/month. Now most of them were eastern European or Asian and I think with the drop in the US dollar that a lot of them wished they were earning Euros.

It was a bit bouncy on the crossing as we were getting the wind that made those deadly tornados in Tennessee. We didn't get sea sick but found it funny that so many others did. The other strange thing is that Greig was happy as a pig in mud at being on a boat and was up at 5:30am most mornings. So unlike home...very funny for me to be the one wanting to sleep in for a change.

Greig also discovered flying fish. They looked to be about six inches long and would pop out at the crest of a wave and fly quite a distance across the water into the next wave.

Here are some more pics!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Searching for Mark Twain

When I received this award back in December, I don't think my colleagues really knew it would portend in me actually going on a trip on the Mississippi. It's their fault really. But there we were heading down "Old Man River" on the Carnival Fantasy.

You see, we've been together for six years and had yet to have a real vacation. Trips home to visit family or time off when family visit doesn't count as a "real" vacation in my mind. We're a bit over due. Long overdue and a milestone is approaching for me so all I really wanted was some sand between my toes, a cold and frosty girl drink and a good book to amuse myself. We weren't sure if we could swing it and in fact toyed with the thought of just me going somewhere and well, that just wouldn't do.

So we took the plunge and put faith that everything wouldn't fall apart in our absence and the chaos WOULD remain quite. And it did - many thanks to Karen and Sean 'cos it wouldn't have happened otherwise.
New Orleans, Chichen Itza (or as the four year old on the tour bus called it, "Chicken Pizza"), Cozumel and back home again and all before the landlord took off on his annual vacation. When I booked the cruise, I hadn't realized it was on the eve of Mardi Gras either. I was warned that it was a bit of a gong show and, well, it was. BOO-BOO-ZIG-ZAG CRAZY.

I have to say we really enjoyed walking around the French Quarter on the Monday morning BEFORE Fat Tuesday. All the garbage from the night before was cleaned up and it was very quiet and peaceful. I loved Royal Street with all the antique shops and boutiques though all I did was window shop. I found it odd that all the bead chuckers on the float wore colourful KKK-like costumes and shrouds. We also never knew that in the south, Democrat really means "black" and Republican means "white" and the civil war is still very much going on down there. The food really is rich and it is no wonder there is so much obesity. I also wish I had a chance to try some mud-bugs. We missed that.

Here are some pics of NOLA at least. I'm still sorting and re-sizing the cruise, Chicken Pizza and Cozumel bunch.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Still here...recovering...

I have been trying to sort through and get around to posting pictures about our trip.

Yes, a trip. A REAL VACATION. It was a long time coming. Six years in fact and truly the first real vacation we've ever had.

We've never felt comfortable at leaving before. The timing has always been off and haven't felt that we could leave things in reliable hands so that the whole thing wouldn't fall apart in our absence. Moreover, it was important that someone was around in case somebody did something stupid or if a freak storm or a big fat tug pulling a barg going by too fast wouldn't pull the whole thing apart.

Thankfully we have a Dr. Sean and Karen the first. He rescued Mt. Kleeman when it's lines pulled away in a storm and drifted out into the river. The galley sink on the Bowie clogged up too and he got that working again for a time but then it clogged up again. That was Greig's first order of business when he got home and that's been repaired.

I have been fighting a huge malaise since returning. All I want to do is sleep and that alone is very unusual for me. I slept nine and a half hours last night. My usual sleep need is six to seven hours). I'm hoping it is just a post-travel thing.

I am slowly sorting through the million pictures we took and trying to cull the best ones of the bunch.