Friday, January 14, 2011

sorry - here's the link

Sorry! Here's link to the pics. please ignore the photo link at the
bottom of all my emails, that is no longer relevant. You can also get
to the photos from the cruisebaggs link below.



Panama Canal Photos now online

Hello everyone

We have been home for over a week already and covered up with snow and work...... oh how I long for those long, lazy warm days on the ship.....

After browsing through over 12 000 photographs we took, I have sorted out some for you to see....... to see. There are 10 folders in total.

Thanks again. Till next time :)
love and light


Monday, January 3, 2011

n - Back in the USA

The last day on board the Celebrity Constellation was spent quietly and
with a combination of happy and sad moments. We met up again with Nena
and Hal for a couple of hours in the Reflections lounge which gives a
really great view from right up front and on the highest deck of the
ship. Lovely. The water was too choppy to spot any marine life, but
nevertheless, it was great. The sky was overcast and the ship had her
stabilizers out to stop too much listing, The waves were only around 6
foot high, and all of this gave a gentle lurching movement as we headed
north along the Baja coastline.

The sky was covered with clouds and it was really cold on deck, which
meant that almost every seat was filled inside. I took a quick trip out
on deck 4 which is much more sheltered than anywhere on the open decks
and watched the white water breaking and creating a huge v-shape from
the bows. The water churned in a mixture of green and blue with that
beautiful white froth rushing by... lovely. Teeth-freezing cold.

Walking around the boat, we were still seeing people I swear I have
never seen before and many people were hugging total strangers and
saying goodbye. It really was nice. We met up again with a good few
people that we had spent some time chatting to and had time to say
goodbye and exchange details. The mood on board was really good......
two weeks is a long time and I think that everyone was quite happy to
hit solid ground again despite it being a wonderful time.

The last show on board was great as usual with beautiful singing,
dancing and the costumes were just glorious! We sat with our last
margarita, crushed ice and salt, enjoying the music and the rocking of
the boat too. The waves had picked up, as had the wind, and I have to
admit that I was watching those dancers carefully to see if any of them
would stumble because of the movement of the ship. They never did.

There is lots to say for organized tours and also to break away and and
do it on your own. One repercussion of the independent tour is what
happened to 5 people in Costa Rica - they got left behind! They took a
tour that was not organized through the cruise line and they got back as
the ship was literally pushing off the jetty and they could not get on
board. Their little bus came shuddering up to the jetty, filled with
wide-eyed, horrified passengers, but the ropes had already been
tossed..... It was very sad. Another result of the independent tour
was our whale sightings in Cabo San Lucas, twice, while doing something
unplanned. So there you have it.... its all a calculated risk when on a
cruise like this.

So what was my favorite? Ok, here goes..... It started with feeling
very fortunate in the shadows of all those rich and empty houses of Ft
Lauderdale, enjoying the nightlights from the seemingly endless canals
around town......... then leaving the pier with the engines of the
Constellation humming beneath us, being at sea and watching the lights
and land of the USA disappearing into the rain.. Then the wonder of the
warm weather, the gentle motion of the boat and seeing no land at all
for two whole days.... well, apart from Cuba and Jamaica in the far
distance. Arriving and leaving at each port was pure magic and I did
not miss one.... Cartegena, Columbia - oh those narrow lanes, beautiful
colors and just being somewhere totally new.. and that sloth! that was
really special. It was great to be in Costa Rica again and I loved
being back in the rain forest and driving through the hills and smelling
that wholesome, unpolluted smell. The Panama Canal was truly amazing -
what a feat to have built all that and now the expansion. We saw the
digging of the new part of the canal, saw the dirt being moved - saw
history being created here. It was a very long, very lovely and
interesting day filled with something new every minute of the way.
Going under The Bridge of the Americas was quite a feeling - I had seen
it on Google Earth and now also in person...

Hautalco - those beautiful mountains, little villages, the wedding and
finding guavas!; Acapulco and those cliff divers was pure magic and the
dancers afterwards in their beautiful costumes; San Sebastian holds my
heart because of the color of the bouganvillas everywhere up on the high
stone walls of the narrow and steep lanes everywhere...the discovery of
the real taste of tequila and being able to take such a long drive
through the lovely Sierra Madre mountains with such a small and easy
going group. Cabo and the whales, the sand between my toes and the
freedom from organized tours and soaking up the last warm sunshine we
will have for a while - we even got tanned!

I thoroughly enjoyed each sunset, especially when we were leaving port
at the same time. I would stand for a long time up on deck, just
watching the sky lit up by the most glorious shades of orange, red and
sometimes pink too. The lights of the cities we left behind would come
blinking on as we gently slid away to the horizon. That was probably my
very best times on board. Long after everyone headed back indoors
leaving the decks totally uncluttered.... it was wonderful to stand up
there totally alone with the wind whipping my hair and that smell of the
sea watching the trail of foam behind the ship still linking us to where
we had been..... pure peace.

But then I loved so many other things too - the quiet and beauty in the
churches, the odd things at the market places, the stunning views of the
countryside, the faces of the people who lived and struggled to live in
all the places we visited, that special feeling when strangers stood and
waved us goodbye when leaving port........ and the room service that
would bring us coffee at any time of day or night! Even "Larry the
Lousy Tour Guide" makes me smile - poor man had no idea just how bad a
guide he was... maybe some day someone will tell him. But even that
trip was not a bad one - we got to see new things and learned new

Something I noticed is that children all do the same sort of things, no
matter the culture or country they are brought up in. In some of the
very poor areas of Costa Rica, the little girls still clutched dolls and
the little boys still made their vroom vroom noises in gruff 3 year old
voices. We have seen this in a good many places, and also at the stops
we have made along this cruise. And the teens, they all try to be
different by doing the same things - baggy clothes, weird hairstyles and
'the sullen look' along with piercings in places they should not have
piercings... Its a great equalizer.

And so the last day at sea, first day of 2011, quietly slid by, filled
with packing and goodbyes, last walks and taking last looks around the
ship... At around 5am on Sunday morning I woke up feeling a difference
in the ships movement - she was quieter with more of a gliding motion,
so I quickly dressed and went outside on the balcony to be met by a
beautiful sight - San Diego waking up. Her many-colored lights
glistening in the early morning moisture, cars lit up small tubes of
space as they sped down the roads, the tall buildings stood high and
bright in the pitch dark sky and as we slid silently past one long
jetty, we were greeted by a good many sea lions honking either their
hello's or their irritation at being disturbed. It was really cold out
there and soon Frank brought me a jacket - he knows I would freeze
before missing a view like this.

And all too soon we were docking alongside our final pier. As the ship
came to rest, I looked down and knew we were home - there was a stop
sign..... in English! It was right at that moment that the cruise was
over for me and I was ready to leave. We watched for a while as those
heavy blue ropes tied us to the jetty, ensuring no escape and the
forklifts started the unloading process of all the trash and luggage.
Then it was off to get cleared through immigration. That was held in
the Celebrity Theater and no one would be let off the ship until
everyone had been through there. Oh boy. They were still searching for
two couples at 10.45am! Everyone was really cool and calm but the
irritation was growing and we found ourselves glaring at people we
thought might be the missing couples. That really was so inconsiderate
of them.

Finally the captain gave the all clear and they started letting people
off, but by now the exit lounge was crammed with people so we just sat
quietly in the casino, chatting with people as the next hours went by.
I really liked that no one got all huffy, everyone just took it as part
of the process, but everyone who had been on this sort of cruise before
said that this was not the normal way it happened. Thank goodness for
that! And so we quietly left the Constellation behind, quite happy to
be on the next leg of our adventure - and even tentatively planning the
next cruise.

We were shown where to get a taxi and headed to the hotel and then off
we went to meet one really special lady. A quick explanation of
this...... around 8 or 9 months ago I got an email from a lady that I
did not know. She had mistakenly sent it to me instead of to a friend of
hers with a very similar email address. It was around the time Tiger
Woods' problems were all coming to light... and evidently I was in a bad
mood that day because I sent her a really horrible reply! As I hit that
send button, I was already sorry...... anyway, she answered me with
absolute kindness and gentleness and since then we have been emailing
every day. What a lady Esther is! Her birthday was in November and she
turned 99 years old, still drives, still volunteers, still goes walking,
still lives independently, still golfs and the list goes on and on and on!

So when we decided to do a Panama Canal cruise I started looking for one
that ended in San Diego. I just had to meet this woman! Most of the
Panama Canal cruises end in other places and the timing had to be right
because we were also training Steven in the shop. After looking for a
good while, I found this cruise that would give us the opportunity to
meet Esther. And so after disembarking, dropping our luggage at the
hotel, we grabbed a cab and headed her way.

Esther, it was an absolute pleasure to meet you and visit with you.
That sparkle in your eye and mischievous smile tells more stories than
we had time for. You are an inspiration to me and I will always treasure
our friendship and also our meeting - thanks SO much!

Frank and I were exhausted and we got back to the hotel, ordered a
Chinese dinner in and fell asleep at around 6pm San Diego time.. This
morning turned out to be another overcast, cool, drizzly day. It
promised patches of blue sky and drops mixed in, so we decided to head
off the the Midway. This is an aircraft carrier that was built in the
1940's and since 2004 she has been here in San Diego where they have
done some amazing restorations and turned her into a museum - airplanes
up on deck and all. We spent about 2 hours wandering around her innerds
of narrow passages and steep stairways as well as her huge expanse of
deck, seeing the incredible conditions many men lived in while serving
aboard this ship. They hardly had any space at all. The equipment
was......well old fashioned. Big old black telephones, telex machines,
huge pieces of equipment that these days are housed in the size of a
microchip. It was really interesting to see this ship and fascinating
to see just how quickly technology has advanced in a relative few short

The sky had cleared a bit, but the wind had picked up and it was quite
chilly. I had not dressed for cold weather so we bought a jacket there
and decided to head out and do some walking along the shoreline. Its
really a pretty place - and we wandered through Seaport Village which is
a gentle and rather attractive collection of shops with all sorts of
goodies offered along with plenty places to sit and just enjoy the view,
many pieces of artwork all around, strange gnarly trees and restaurants
all around. We walked on to the marina that holds a good many fishing
boats - these places always deliver interesting smells and screeching
seagulls - this time was no different. We bought a cup of coffee and a
huge cookie each and sat at a table, expecting a quite rest.... no such
luck! First there was one cute little bird, about the size of my palm,
perched on the very edge of the table....... but before long I counted
30 of them and they were even trying to get inside the paper bag that
had another cookie! We spent a good many minutes feeding them and had a
good few of them sitting on my hand pecking away happily. It was
sweet..... until they started pooping all over the table. We finished
our coffee, crumbled a bit more of our cookies on the table for them and
left them to it.

And then it was time to head back to the hotel again - time to print
boarding passes for our full day in the air tomorrow, repack everything
safely and rest our tired feet.

The time has come, the end of a simply wonderful three weeks. Steven,
Laura and Lisa had kept the shop humming along really well - thanks you
all, but it is time to head home where we can sit and savor these past
weeks quietly. I have not been able to sort, or even look at, most of
the near 12 000 photos we have taken but will be posting some of them
online for you all to see soon and will send out an email telling you
when they are up.

The new places we have seen have all added a bit to our souls, to our
stories and hopefully they will inspire someone to go and see some place
they would love to see.

Thanks for all your lovely emails, for encouraging these emails and for
coming along with us....... It's been another wonderful adventure! So,
till next time............

love and light


Saturday, January 1, 2011

m - Cabo San Lucas, Baja Mexico

With the really good feeling of a lovely day at San Sebastian still
glowing, we headed off to the show of the night - boy was it good!
While we sat and waited for it to start, questions were being flashed up
on the screen as in Who wants to be a Millionaire. They were all
questions relating the other parts of the worlds and the couple next to
us played along - oh boy, we learned a lot! And the show was just
fantastic. Its funny how an hour of enjoyment goes by so fast. The
costumes and singing were amazing - altogether a really wonderful

After the show, I thought I would check up on the time to meet up with
our tour in Cabo, and discovered that it was only at 9.15am! Whoo hoo -
we could sleep in. Not a chance, with sunrise, the cruise-gremlin
prised open my eyes and I found myself waking up on the balcony watching
Cabo slide into view with the sun slowly lighting it all up for us.
Just beautiful. This was another time where the ship did not go onto a
jetty and the tenders were used again, but most people were heading off
really early for their Cabo experience and we were quite happy to hang
back and wait for the later tender.

The view from the deck was lovely, we watched at two other cruise ships
slid gently into the bay, as the para-sailers littered the bay and as
the waters became more and more filled with little boats going in all
directions - and then it was our turn. Seals glided through the water
everywhere, pelicans flew right up close to our tender to check for any
fish and suddenly we were part of all those rushing around little boats.

We were taken to meet up with our tour. We had decided on a very short,
one hour trip in a semi submersed submarine with glass windows
underneath. And there she stood, in all her glory - the Yellow
Submarine! There were again only a few of us on this trip which was
great again. At first we sat on the top deck and were again bombarded
with the birds checking for food and sealions everywhere. We motored
past the huge towering cliffs of Land's End of Baja... At this point we
were in the Sea of Cortez, with the Pacific Ocean just on the other
side. There is a temperature different in the water of around 8 degrees
even though the waters meet just a few short beaches further down. One
of the gaps in the cliffs, deliver a beach that you can get to both the
Sea of Cortez and the Pacific ocean.. it looked lovely with crystal
clear waters.

And then it was time to go below deck where we we found what looked like
an aquarium. The glass windows are the whole length of this little
submarine and many beautiful fish of different shapes, colors and sizes
swam lazily past as we hung literally feet away from the rocks and
reefs. There were starfish dotted on the rocks everywhere, we saw a big
needle fish, puffer fish and some huge groupers. It was really lovely.
There were snorklers below us and the bubbles from their tanks added to
the scenery. Then off we went, around the point to the Pacific side
where we found different type of fish and a few very colorful starfish.
I could have stayed down there for hours.... but soon we were told that
we could come back up on deck and see what there was to see on the
outside. Up on deck again, we were met with a really great close up
view of the arch and on the way back we slowly cruised by a few small,
beautiful beaches that were almost deserted. But they were really small
and the other beaches were not accessible from one to the other.

So after our ride in the Yellow Submarine, we wanted to go for a walk
around the town. With three cruise ships in town it was chaos. Total
chaos and I quickly felt our souls wilting. We spotted a bicycle taxi
and took that for a short ride to what we thought was the other side of
town, the driver huffing and puffing and offering us a city tour - at
around 2 miles and hour. We declined. This end of town held just more
tourist shops and about the same amount of people. I was looking for a
hat and we must have had 'sucker' written on our foreheads as the one
guy wanted $30 for a simple hat......we found one a bit further on for
$5. And so we decided that this was not what we wanted to do and I
really did want to walk on the beach, so we did an about turn and headed
to the water taxi jetty, hopped on one and told him to take us to that
beach that goes all the way through to both oceans. Now we were smiling
again, shoes off in anticipation and heads back soaking up the sun again.

The water taxi guy took us on a tour first, this little boat had a glass
bottom too and he took us really close up to some rocks to see some fish
- we could see shadows of fish, but looking over the edge of the boat
was clearer. What was quite amazing was where we were...... all around
us, sometimes only a foot away, were other taxis doing exactly the same
and the snorkelers were everywhere! At one point I wanted to lean over
the edge and straighten the snorkel of one diver - yes, we were that
close! There was also a sailboat of about 30 in length hovering around,
small boats and then there came the yellow submarine too. The bubbles
from the divers were everywhere around and I wondered just how no one
got injured. There is no way at all that I would snorkel around there,
not with all those boats around.

And so he moved on closer to the arch where there was a little "window
to the Pacific" - more light a gun opening in the rocks where the water
pounded through and then receded so that we could see all the way
through. The sealions honked, the seagulls screamed and the waves
crashed and the motors of a good many boats hummed all around us - it
was not peaceful at all, but it was soooo good being on the water,
rocked around and the smell of the sea is just lovely. Around one more
rock and there she was.... we were right under the Arch again. There is
a huge cave with its own private beach stretching in front of it and a
good many very strange rock structures stretching way up into the blue
sky. The waves here was much bigger, this is where the two bodies of
water meet - the Pacific and the Sea of Cortez.... uuuup we went and
then down went the bows and we could feel the slide begin.. Those water
taxi drivers have incredible control over their boats and we could tell
that they read the waves very well.

Just then the driver looked up, frowned and asked "there are whales, you
want to go see?" Well YES! So he turned that little boat around again
and we headed right out to sea, the waves increased dramatically and we
clung on harder and then there they were - two huge whales breaking
water just about 20 feet away from us! Oh wow. There was a guy on a
kayak literally 5 foot from them - his face told that he did not expect
that. As those whales broke water there was a hush from all the boats
and then the clicking began. And the hunt was on again - we followed
the whales almost all the way back to the cruise ship out in the bay and
we got a few really lovely tail photos as well...... and then it was
time to go to our beach for our walk. What a taxi ride - by far the
best I have ever had.

We hopped off the bouncing bows of this boat and deposited in crystal
clear waters and soft white beach sand........ aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!
There were a good few people around, but it was not crowded at all. We
wandered around the cliffs just enjoying the sand between our toes, the
quiet after the madness of all the activity of the other boats and the
excitement of the unexpected whale tour. There was a guy sitting on the
beach, under a brilliantly multicolored umbrella, selling ice cold beers
out of a cooler... yum! And then there was the Pacific ocean crashing
into the shore in front of us.... and yes, that water is definitely
colder than that on the Cortez side. The beach was quite sloped and we
were warned that no swimming was allowed on the Pacific side at all.
Well, there were a good many people in the water - families with small
kids! With our good and cold beers we walked away from the crowds and
found quiet. Only the sound of the ocean slooshing onto the sand and a
few gulls whooshing through the air. The sun gently baked a tan into
our arms and legs and we found ourselves smiling broadly again. What a
good day this had been so far.

Too quickly it was time to meet the water taxi again. We had already
paid him for a return trip and he said that we should not go with any
other boat or they would charge us. So we walked back to the Cortez
side of the beach, found a soft rock to sit on and watched the world go
by while waiting for our taxi. I found some brightly colored crabs
scuttling around the rocks and some interesting barnacles and stuff on
the rocks. I loved watching the kids as they ran to the water, only to
head back the same way, screaming enthusiastically, as the waves chased
them away. The timing was great, our taxi, the New York 1, arrived
right as our beers ran out. On we hopped..... well, it was not as easy
as that at all. The boat was hopping and dancing in the waves crashing
on the beach and we each had our camera's with us too. So they were
handed to a guy waiting to help (and get a tip), then we clutched the
handrail and quickly rolled ourselves up on board. Interesting and
definitely not elegant at all. But we were on. And we still had about
an hour to get to the tender to take us back to the Constellation - so
all was good.

The other people on the taxi were also on vacation we we went along
while they did the tour of the sea lions, pelicans, arch and window to
the Pacific. And then - there were some more whales! He asked us if
we wanted to be taken back first or if he could head out to the whales.
Whales, of course! The ship will wait - we hope. Immediately we could
see that the waters we much rougher than before and it was not long
before we were all sprayed with ice cold sea water. Fortunately neither
Gypsy or Nomad suffered a dousing and they both still work great. We
headed out to the whales and a good many other little boats that were
also trying to catch sight of these huge animals. One moment we had a
clear view of everything around, and the next we were way down in the
bottom of a dip between waves, so deep that I was beginning to wonder at
the idea. But it was great, we saw the whales again, followed them for
a bit and then headed off to back to dock. It was really good to see
the excitement of the others on the boat - the kids were absolutely in
awe, their huge eyes taking it all in with a nervous grin on their faces
at the same time. Lovely.

We made it to the tender in time, well in time it seems as people were
still being rounded up and ferried on boat an hour later. We went up on
deck to get our last looks at it all, the sun had started its silver
road across the waters and most of the water taxis had stopped for the
night. It was a lovely time of a day, when everything was wonderful,
the memories are great, the slow wind down is good and gentle...... and
the views still lovely. We watched the last of the para-sailors, the
last of the jet ski's whizzing around at high speed and a good few
sailboats, sails stretched tight, heading home. And then the wind
picked up, driving us all inside again. A few of us were hangers on and
tried to stay out there, but soon we had to give up too.

And it was New Years Eve....... time to get ready to see the new year
in. As I said in the other email, we were in for two celebrations due
to a time change.....Frank and I also wanted to do something different,
so we got a bit dolled up and headed off to get some official photos
taken! (Ok, breathe, U3!) We had about three taken, all posed and
beautifully smiled for and they came out really nicely, we think. After
dinner we went to the Reflections Lounge which is right at the top in
the pointy end of the boat - there they played tunes of the Beatles
while we enjoyed a strawberry dachairy (sp?) And then off we went to
find one of the other celebrations going on..... Now remember, this was
already 1am in Chattanooga! And yes, Frank was still awake. (Breathe
U3) He pretty much was the driving force behind us staying up. I was
really really tired, you know, like when even your eyeballs feel heavy.
So to stay awake we wandered around between the different sites on the
boat - all filled with people enjoying their evening and appearing to be
wide awake. At around 11.30pm (1.30am Chatt time) we joined the throngs
at the main atrium and the main stairway. There they had balloons and
ice carvings of the year 2011 ready to unveil on the top of the steps.
And so the countdown began. Frank's eyes were still bright and awake
and I was seriously fading. And then it was time - along with the final
minute's countdown came a glass of champagne, the balloons fell, the ice
sculpture was unveiled and ........... there it was. A whole new,
uncluttered, clean new year to make into whatever we could. Everyone
wished everyone around, it was a really good vibe

Right afterwards was the time change which would take us back to
11.15pm, 2010, but that was enough for us both. We had raised a glass
to everyone at home at their New Year, to others around the world, seen
the new year in on the boat time and we were happy that we had it all
covered. So off to the cabin we headed, along with many others also
doing the same thing, interestingly enough. By the time we were ready
to close our eyes to end the day and the year, it was, once again, the
new year. So we wished each other a very tired, quiet and happy 'Happy
New Year' and went to sleep.

What a wonderful day. And a lovely way to end a year that has been
really great to us.

Happy New Year to you all..... I hope that 2011 brings you a good
balance in your life; that you are given a good many happy surprises,
and that you give and receive lots and lots of love, light and laughter.



l - Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

And so as the glistening lights of Acapulco receded and the pink in the
sky faded, so did we. Off we went to the cabin for a snooze till the
show of the evening. This time it was a magic/comedy show with a guy
that is very good....... but maybe we were just not in the mood the give
it all the credit the show deserved. It was fun, but the walk around
the very very windy deck and the glass of wine afterwards was better.

The next day was a full day at sea and it slid gently by with a few
dolphin, a good many birds and the distant sight of Mexico off our
Starboard side all day long. We people watched, snoozed, enjoyed the
balcony, walked around and watched a pool volleyball competition between
the passengers and the crew. The crew members won again and they played
in their uniform - yup, jumped into the water fully decked out. The
atmosphere on board was really good.

We met up with Nena and Hal for a chat and some whale watching - the
chat was great and we ended up having lunch together, but the whale
watching was a bust. Ah well. Another lovely sunset and our first
night again with the sliding door closed - its getting chilly as we head

This morning, the wake up call came waaaay too early! 5.30am. We had
to meet in the Theater at 7.15am today because we had to be tendered to
the shore. There were three other cruise ships due in the port today
and we were just going to hang out at anchor in the bay. The tender
boats are the life rafts too and it was interesting to imagine being at
sea in rough weather in one of those things.........and if they were
filled with panicked people, that would really be something else. Two
of the other cruise ships in port today were of the Holland America Line
and I think the other was Spirit of the Sea - Carnival, I think. They
filled the sky. We watched one of them come in right at sunrise this
morning - it looked beautiful all lit up against the dark water and
lightening sky. Yup - got photos.

Anyway - we sat on the top floor of the tender boat - hmmm, that does
not sound right...... but we did, and it was lovely, and cold and windy
and I would not have gone downstairs for anything :) A short trip to
the shore and we found our tour group - a total of 7 of us! Glorious.
So off we went in an SUV, through the town and into the SIerra Madre
Mountains - up and up and up..... Around tiny little roads that
sometimes fell away into the abyss below, being handed the most
beautiful views of mountains all layered just like the Smokey Mountains
in Tennessee..... It has a blue/gray haze and looked as if it belonged
in a fairytale. The shades of green covered the whole range, from
light, almost dusty green, to a lush deep rich color that almost lit
up. We saw many birds around, a few unfortunate racoons in the road,
but the view was the best!

Every now and again we would pass a little village and seeing how they
live here makes me really grateful for everything I have. Actually, it
makes me feel spoiled and ...well, very spoiled. I know life is really
very tough for most of these people, and everything is covered in a
thick layer of dust and there is no grass for the kids to play on and no
shiny bright plastic toys in the yards either - but they all have a
smile and a wave for us as we drive by. Maybe its a 'see you in the
USA' wave, but still, the friendliness in these poorer countries far
outdoes anything back in the States.

After about an hour traveling, we stopped at a Tequila processing
place. I thought it would be a big place, but its small, really small
and very interesting. As they saw us arriving, they quickly put out all
the goodies to show us and I am sure we saw a few still wiping the sleep
out of their eyes.... but I could not be too certain of that - I was
still doing just that! We were given the walk through on the process of
making tequila. One Agave plant will produce about 3 liters of tequila
- pure, 100% tequila. It takes the plant 8 years to reach maturity and
after it has been harvested, the land then stands for two years free of
anything so that it can recover.... only then is the new plant put in
and another eight year cycle begins.

The equipment used here is........ I want to say old, but that implies
dirty or not good and this is not true. Its made of solid wood and
brass fittings and the finished product drips into a glass jar standing
on a little wooden bench just 6 inches off the floor. Everything is
done by hand and there is no electricity there at all. And so we came
to the tasting part of this demonstration.

Now tequila has never been something I really enjoyed drinking. I dont
like the taste and don't like the smell, so I stood there a little
reticent when we were told that we were going to be taught the right way
to drink 100% pure tequila.. 100% alcohol too! We were each given a
small shot glass with about a quarter inch of this tequila in it and the
process of correct drinking was explained. Toss it all in your mouth
and zip your lips. Drink it down at your own pace - close mouthed
still. Then breath in sloooooowly though your nose - hooolllld
it........ and breathe out sloooowly through your nose and enjoy the
experience. Eyes closed.

And so we did - me of course peeking to see what the others were
doing..... the owner of the distillery was the one demonstrating and he
was really enjoying it all - he seemed to go into a trance as he drank
his part. What an experience! It was simply wonderful - the taste, the
smell of that tequila, the feel in my chest and throat was gentle and
vibrant all at the same time. All our eyes came open in mute (mouths
zipped!) surprise... It was really a great experience. By the 5th
tasting, we all had the correct process down pat and were slightly
swaying and much friendlier :) And it was only 9.30am! Our lips
started tingling too by now and it was generally agreed that we had
better not taste anymore or the tour would end right there and we would
go no further :)

We tasted about 6 different types of tequila as well as the 100% pure
agave syrup and bought two bottles to take home and some syrup too. Got
some lessons to give when we get back home! :) Party time anyone?

And on we went - higher and higher into the mountains. Although they
are beautiful, I just know that my liking of them could change in a
heartbeat if I were left to find my own way, no roads, in the middle of
nowhere. They are not friendly mountains at all and go on forever in
all directions. I would really hate being lost up there. Finally we
came to a cobblestone road that led to San Sebastian - the mining
village we were visiting for the day. By now we were all happily
chatting away in the SUV, all knew each others names and much laughter
was happening. The road to this point was really lousy - so maybe this
is why they do the tequila stop first!

San Sebastian is really something else... very narrow roads of
cobblestones that were originally laid in the 1800's.... high stone
walls with beautiful thick wooden doors, high windows with potted
flowers hanging down everywhere. Bouganvilla plants of all colors
leaning over the tops of the high stone walls narrow lanes leading in
every possible direction - all filled with the same splashes of color.
The old church was again in the center square of the town - just lovely
inside. The decorations here are all hand made. In the church were
huge bells and balls and baskets and other decorations - all made from
grasses and reeds. The nativity scene was also all done with natural
things and it made us think. Here is a village of people that has so
little and they spend a lot of time making stuff - they seem so grateful
for what they have, thankful and willing to put in the effort to make
beautiful things out of virtually nothing. Its very humbling to see
this life and to think of just how much we have, how relatively easy we
have it all.

There were so many beautiful doors in San Sebastian that I filled Gypsy
up - she did not complain at all. I think I must put together a series
on old doors and their hardware. I was not the only one with a door
craze. One of the other ladies, Margie, also got a gleam in her eye
when yet another old, battered and bruised door was spied. We walked
around the town just soaking the clean air in and the doors and all too,
for about an hour. The cobblestone roads made one have to go slowly and
watch carefully where we walked.

Now this all sounds quaint and I can almost hear the clip clop of donkey
hooves on those shiny cobblestones............ but no! Not a donkey in
sight at all. There were cars of all shapes and sizes - mostly new and
well looked after cars. This was a huge surprise to me and the contrast
was stark. We were treated to a very tasty lunch in a very peaceful
restaurant. We all agreed that we wanted to sit outside in the
sunshine...... it was not very hot today and the other couples were from
Canada and UK and needed all the sunshine they could soak up before next

And then, sadly, it was time to head back down to the ship. It was a
good 90 minute drive back down the mountain. All of us on this tour
agreed that it was just lovely, and the most relaxed, less pushed tour
of the whole trip. We had time to wander around and in a village where
there were virtually no other tourists and not a single tourist shop to
see either! Oh wait - we did stop at a coffee place too and were given
a sample of the local coffee. It was not bad and I think I was not
supposed to keep the little earthenware cup! Only after leaving there
did I notice that I was the only one still to have one clutched in my
hand - well, it was small and .......... now I have a very small, very
pretty little coffee cup as well. We also found some guava wrap
there...... not quite sure how to describe it, but its guava rolled into
a thing that looks a bit like a swiss roll - but tastes much better
'cause it's guava :) And some coated peanuts of sorts - very good too.

Anyway - down the mountain we went, back through town and straight to
the port. We were about 10 minutes late so the driver did not play
around at all - we zooted at a fair clip all the way. Only to find a
huuuuge delay in the boarding of the boat. The tender boats were not
handling the load and people from four different cruise ships were
milling around the square. But there was so much to see while snaking
along that line so it really was not a problem at all. The ship left a
good 45 minutes later than planned and was still pulling the last of the
little boats up on deck as we pulled up anchor, turned around and headed
out to sea again.

I just have to stand on deck when we do this.... staying on our balcony
is just not enough for me - I think I am a 'view glutton'.... just gotta
try to see it all. So up we went and watched Puerto Vallarta slowly
fade into the distance. The sunset was spectacular, but quickly
forgotten when some whales were spotted. One breached right in front of
the ship and then breached again four times down the length of the ship,
giving everyone a beautiful sunset show.

After dinner we headed of to the "Music of the World" show, put on by
the Celebrity Cast. Wow - that was spectacular. I also finally found
the perfect setting on Gypsy and took some really great photos from the
very back row of the theater!

Right now we are heading to Cabo San Lucas, Baja, which is right on the
bottom end of that thin strip of land right below California. We aer
just south of Mazatlan right now in the open water and the waves are
about 5 feet high, giving us some gentle rolling motions... We drove
through Cabo a couple of years ago and its going to be good to spend a
day there tomorrow. We have a glass boat tour along a reef and then the
rest of the day free to walk the beach. We are hoping that the tide is
out and that we can walk to the arches at the end of the peninsula.

Its definitely getting cooler - fast. I have stopped my nightly walks
up on deck - its just way too windy and the other night I was almost
blown off my feet up there... and I was on deck all alone too. Not a
nice feeling at all. Sadly my evening quiet time on our balcony is also
over, it seems. The wind whips the spray and the chill and damp in the
air does not make for a good relaxing late night sit. It was fantastic
while it lasted and I am not complaining. It's probably good that we
are slowly being led back into reality - the cold reality of winter back
home. But not yet - Cabo waits!

Oh yes! Happy New Year to all of you! I hope this will be your best
year yet, only to be outdone by the many other years still to come.

Seeing as we are still traveling west, we get a time change and it will
happen on New Years Eve - and that means we get to celebrate twice - one
hour apart. So its going to be a late night tomorrow night - but the
boat is fully stocked up with balloons and streamers all ready to party.

Love and light

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

k - Acapulco and the Cliff Divers

Last night we were both very tired and I think I had the earliest night
yet - lights out by 10.30pm! Maybe it had something to do with the
margarita's ? It was probably a combination of those, the rocking night
before and a long day in Hautalco....... And so we woke up a tad more
rested this morning.... early, but rested. I just love being up on the
top deck when coming into port - its a whole adventure in of itself. So
with the sun rising and Acapulco waking up, we eased into the bay - and
then turned around and went in backwards! We glided past some
incredible scenery, watching the night lights slowly flickering out as
the sun lit the sky and Acapulco showed us her colors. The hills are
filled with houses all painted different colors, on the left of the bay
are the 'normal' size housing and on the right the hills were splattered
with huge, sprawling homes of the rich and famous. On this side, right
at the top of the tallest hill, stands a huge cross - towering way about
everything - very impressive. I much preferred the older part. And
yes, we came in backwards. As the ropes landed on the jetty, the
traffic was already picking up and we could hear the city starting to
roar. And it did all day long.

We headed off the boat to find our tour guide - and ended up on a mini
bus with only five of us. One guy was from Croatia, but lived in
California but did not speak English well at all - he smiled a lot. The
other couple had done this cruise before, done Acapulco before and were
not impressed by anything at all. They had words with the tour guide
really early on which really did not help matters. From the start we
all felt that the guide was.......well, otherwise occupied. He was slow
and sort of rude and short and so on...but there was no need to be rude
to him.

Anyway - first we headed to the Pacific side to the Flamingo Hotel where
some famous films were made, Elvis and Rambo and ...... well, I bet you
all know better than I do who made their movies there - Tarzan maybe?
Evidently I was not listening too well, but then the "rich and famous"
never really impressed me at all. But that hotel was all pink, with
coconut hulls hanging everywhere, the most incredible views of the ocean
and the cliffs........ no wonder it was a popular place.

And then, after being left there for too long by the guide, which
further irritated the 'been there done that' couple, and totally put the
Croatian into a flap, we left there and headed to the shopping part of
the tour - all jewelry that none of us were interested in, but the guide
had to take us there for a while. Unfortunately the guide left us there
too long again which did not help the vibe at all. Soon after we all
mutinously stood together at the mini bus, we headed to the other side
of town - right to that cross that is way up on the hill towering over
the rich and famous people and places. But first we passed the beaches
- all along the main drag where everyone and their brothers went to
visit, seeing as it is one of the busiest weeks in Acapulco! The
traffic is incredible....... no, replace that word with 'ridiculous'. I
would never drive here. It's not quite as bad as Ecuador, but still
totally crazy. Cars squeak through openings that I did not think a
bicycle could get through. The beaches looked good but were thickly
packed even by 9.30am. For a good many miles there are no buildings
along the beach - it is free to everyone and no building is allowed
along this stretch - and then the hotels start and the ocean is lost to
view apart from little slits between buildings.

And so up we went, up yet another steep road with incredible views. The
guide, Larry, kept on talking and asking questions and no one answered
and I was in the front seat - or was that 'the hot seat'. I just could
not let his questions go unanswered, or sit silently as he tried to get
the group moving, and there we a good few times when it seemed easier to
walk up that road than to keep the conversation going in that van. But
the views were amazing - there is a tall ship in port too - she is sleek
and white and looked stunning this evening with all her lights lit up
all the way up those masts. The houses on this end of town seem to be
built with money itself. One guy build a house, sold it a short while
later...... the guy that bought it loved the house so much that he had
it demolished - only to rebuild it exactly as it was - just so that he
could say he built his own dream house. Now THAT should be an illegal
waste of money! This area is being built as the "diamond class' of
everything - this is way above the 5 star class hotel. One place here
is famous for honeymooners and each room has its own indoor swimming
pool, as well as an outside one.

Anyway - the place where we were headed to is called the Chapel of Peace
and it consists of that huge cross thats on the top of the hill and a
Chapel and masauleum - dont know how to spell that...... It was
privately owned by the parents of two boys who died at the same time in
some or other of the wars of the country. They vowed to build something
in honor of their sons - and they did. The view from there is beautiful
and it really is beautifully peaceful and quiet. The Chapel is stark in
its plain-ness, but its soothing, with a very light and airy feel -
along with ......well, everyone went quiet as they walked in there. And
there is a statue of two hands - the boys' hands - a huge statue.

After that, we headed back down again to the Fuerto de San Diego - a
fortress that was right opposite where the ship lay waiting for us. By
now the 'btdt' couple was almost mutinous and the Croatian disappeared
at every turn, absolutely irritating the peace out of poor Larry who was
by now at his wits end. We had an afternoon tour to meet up with and
Larry kept on saying that 'all going well, we will make it in time'.
Well, that sort of played on Frank and my nerves too, and we were all
really ready to leave the fort and get back . And Larry made that
happen too. Frankly, the tour was not the best by a long way, but I
really felt sorry for Larry when, at the very end and after the other
three had stalked off, he asked us if we thought he did an ok job
because he felt a 'vibe from de odder peeple". Poor man - we just did
not have the heart to tell him that we hoped he had better days, or at
least a night we told him that he was fine, gave him a tip,
told him not to worry about the others and trotted off to meet the other

I thought I had booked the boat ride to see the cliff divers. Not. I
looked at the tickets and read "City tour and Cliff Divers". Oh heck oh
heck - another city tour?? But after being greeted by the new guide we
hopped on the much bigger bus and headed out again - straight back to
the shop we were nearly held a mutiny on poor Larry.... Sigh. But this
time we headed to the Cliff Divers first.

Oh boy were they just amazing. There you have cliffs of about 160 foot
tall with these young men standing on the sides and top getting ready to
dive off. They only have a narrow strip of water to dive into and when
they start their dive they cannot even see the water - they have to push
off hard from where they stand to hit the water - but not too hard or
they will hit the other cliff on the other side! I am going to try to
put a photo in with this email to show you what I mean. Anyway, as we
found a place to get the best view, these young men, about eight of
them, scrambled up and down the cliff, stretched, waved and got
themselves ready for yet another show. On the very top of where they
dive from are two little places for them to pray before taking the
leap... and they all use those tiny chapels.

And then it was time for them to jump........... oh boy. They pray
first, then go to the dive spot, stretch again, wave and then turn and
look at the water, watching the waves, timing the waves... They have to
jump exactly at the right time when the water is at its deepest of
around 24 foot. Not much at all. Then up go the arms, head down and
the slow and graceful arc starts. All of us watching held our breath as
they jump, one by one, hitting the water and then clamoring back up that
wall. 5 jumped from about 120 feet up the cliff face, then two jumped
together, sailing down gracefully together and the last one jumped from
the top - a height of around 150 foot up...... What an incredible jump
that was - it went on forever and was over in just a couple of seconds.
So beautiful. So insane.

These guys train from around 13 years old and the divers of today were
all between 18 and 25 years old. Right after watching the cliff divers,
there was a show of some dancers in some very beautiful costumes. I
stood up on a balcony and got some really good photos of them and their
shadows...... They were all very beautiful, very lithe and very fit -
the guys very handsome and well built and the ladies just perfect. But
my mind was still on the cliff divers....... and then we got to meet
them too - there they stood, still dripping wet from another successful
jump. They are so young! Quite amazing.....but I guess those are the
years to do something as crazy as this. They have become so successful
that they apparently have unionized! They get paid ok, after about 5
years of training, but really need any tips, so we gladly obliged.

Then off to see the rest of the city - again. But this guide was fun
and funny and we did see a good many other things too..... We stopped at
view points that we were not able to earlier in the day and although
much of the time after the cliff divers was spend on the bus with only
short breaks - our feet were happy and we really enjoyed it. We had met
up with another couple we have seen many times on board - Nina and Hal.
She clicks away just about like I do and just 'gets' why i take photos
of crazy things. Both Hal and Frank just quietly shook their heads as
we got chatting. We were going to meet up tonight, but that did not work
out - maybe sometime tomorrow :)

And so we got back to the ship about an hour before sailing time. We
were really hungry as we had missed lunch because of the combination of
tours - only snacking on guavas and jerky/biltong. As good as they both
were, it was just not enough...... so we hustled ourselves on board,
grabbed a beer and headed up to eat and then to stand on deck as we left
port - again at sunset. This time we had a really big crowd of wavers
and for some reason it choked me up just watching those flashes going
off, the enthusiasm of the waving, listening to the yelling and the
goodbye's - just lovely. Some smaller boats came closer to yell and
wave goodbye and for a good long while after we were off the jetty, we
could see camera flashes popping. The lights of Acapulco glistened like
gems almost all around us as we headed out to sea - really pretty.

Its late again now, and its been a really good day. I can hear that
lovely bow wave crashing and the ship has almost a wobble in it tonight
- not quite a shudder like the other night, but getting closer it
seems. Time to close today..... Tomorrow, Wednesday, we have a day at
sea - lovely time to rest up. The next stop is Puerto Vallarta where we
go way up into the mountains again to the mining town of San
Sebastian... This is a town that was originally settled in 1605 and
still has the original cobbled streets...... more about it later. This
chapter has become a book all in itself...... till next time

Love and light

Dolphins - small photo

And here is one of those dolphins the other day...... I have to make
them small in order to send, but will have the bigger photos online soon
after we get home again