So.... You may have been wondering what I've been doing for the past couple of weeks.
We took advantage of the fact that both our son and our niece had spring breaks that coincided to take them along on a week long cruise to the western Caribbean. We decided only 3 weeks before the actual trip, so were busy trying to get all our documentation, etc. together for the trip.
We sailed on the Jewel of the Seas (Royal Caribbean.) It's the front ship in the picture to the left. It was very nice, but didn't compare to the Grandeur of the Seas which was the one we sailed on a few years ago when we were fortunate enough to ply the western Mediterranean, the August just before 9/11.
The food - as on all cruises, was fabulous and more or less continuous! We often ate two breakfasts since Bob and I were up and out early and when the kids woke up, we joined them too. If we were on the ship, we ate lunch, followed by snack or "tea" mid afternoon.
I found that most of the pictures I brought home were from Key West, our first port of call. None of us had ever been there and so we wandered around, choosing not to take any of the shore excursions and found Hemmingway's house which we toured and also a few other interesting spots.
On the way there, we passed a guest house called The Banyan Tree and this monstrous example was outside. Bob and I both snapped pictures of it. Banyans always fascinate me since they send aerial roots down to the ground from their limbs. The roots reach the ground and then grow into extra trunks so that the tree is very well anchored in the ground. Seems like a really handy adaptation for a plant that lives in a hurricane prone area.
A little farther along, this sign caught my eye. I really should have gone inside, especially if they had shirts to go with the sign. If you'll notice, the little turquoise banner in the middle says, "no snivelling". I love it. If I ever would consider going into a retail business again, I would just love to add that to my literature! Just love it! I may have to check out their web site and see if they have T Shirts.
So, there we were, thousands of miles away from home and our own chickens. I'd heard about all the stray cats in Key West, but I'm not sure I knew that there are also wild chickens all over the place!
Here's one of the roosters, but there are plenty of hens, too. Every now and then we would pass a hedge and hear a peeping sound. Sure enough, there would be a hen and one or two peeps scratching around under the bushes.
I don't imagine there are huge clutches of eggs and peeps hatched - you know - because of all the, uh, cats.....
On to Hemmingway's house, which the kids were really anxious to visit. I have lots of other pictures, but as I was snapping a number of flora and fauna shots, I liked this one of an ibis(?) of some sort next to the swimming pool in his jungle of a back yard.
I kinda liked the reflection/shadow of the palm tree in the water in front of the bird.
Bob and the kids went off to an adventure in Tulum the next day while were were docked at Cozumel. The sea had been rough the night before (well, as rough as it got on the trip, so not really bad.) and I was still stiff from our long walk around Key West plus I had visited Tulum a few years ago, so I spent a quiet day on the ship. Apparently the ferry to the mainland was an adventure in itself, but Tulum is such a beautiful and interesting site that it was all worth it.
Our last port was Grand Cayman. I really liked this island when I visited it with my mother 5 years ago. It reminds me a bit of Bermuda - clean and safe, with a British influence.
The "boys" went on a tour to a turtle farm and "Hell" - a strange area of volcanic rocks.
Meanwhile, Molly and I decided we wanted to actually put our toes in the Caribbean and opted for a beach "tour". Basically, we paid for admittance to a "private" beach - we had to pay separately for transportation TO the beach.
The picture you see is NOT the beach we were actually on. It is a view to the south from the beach we were on. You can, however see our ship standing our from shore in this picture.
"Our" beach was wall to wall beach chairs and not what I would hope to be my only memory of a Caribbean beach.
If I were to do it over, we would have just hopped a taxi to the public beach and taken our chances there. This one was a definite "tourist trap". It is hard to know when it will be better to just go it on your own or to take the ship's tours although my advice on this one is definitely to go on your own here.
After a "day at sea", we pulled back into Ft. Lauderdale harbor around 6:30 in the AM. I was surprised at all the activity even so early in the morning.
The sight was just gorgeous as we pulled in after being at sea for a while. The sky was just brightening and seeing all that land was pretty nice!
Love to travel, but love to get home again, too. We knew Rudy was pining for us.
At least 4 cruise ships pulled into port that morning and the Ft. Lauderdale airport was totally overwhelmed. Unfortunately we had 6 hours to wait for our flight and there were no seats to be found. We couldn't even check our luggage for two hours. It was a very unpleasant experience all in all. I heard someone say that the Ft. Lauderdale airport is the fastest growing airport in the country and is experiencing definite growing pains....
Eventually though, we got through the numerous security checks, our wait at the gate and onto the plane. Back to the Philly airport which certainly seemed bright, clean and uncrowded after the nightmare of the day.
A quick couple of hours on the road and we happily pulled in the driveway and celebrated with an ecstatic Rudy!