Thursday, April 19, 2018

On Our Own in Glasgow, Scotland

We arrived a day before our official tour was supposed to start. We do this regularly, allowing for the possibility of flight issues. We took a taxi from the airport to the hotel in our paperwork, only to find out they didn't have a reservation for us. The manager kindly called CIE and found that we had been moved to a different hotel. We were put into a taxi, paid for by the hotel, and transferred to the other hotel. Glasgow is a small city and the ride wasn't more than 10 minutes. Check in went fine.

Of course, this made all the information I had researched about the area we were supposed to be in null and void.

The tour was supposed to officially start the next day with dinner. Plan for the day on our own was a visit to the Riverside Museum, formerly the Transport Museum. I had information on how to get there using public transportation but that was from the other hotel. A bit of research on my tablet gave me the information I needed from the new hotel and off we went. With help from the ticket agent at the subway station, we got our round trip tickets and headed off.

We really enjoyed this museum and recommend it to anyone looking for something different to do in Glasgow.








Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Please reread Review post

A very good friend pointed out that I  had writen Scotland twice instead of Ireland in my Review post. I have corrected it.

So if you received the post via email, please go to the blog to reread it. Sorry about that.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Review of CIE Tours

We took the CIE 16 Day Scottish & Irish Gold tour in the spring of 2017.

Our Scottish portion of the tour was excellent. We had a guide who obviously had many years experience and was a fountain of information that she loved sharing with us. She made herself available to us at our hotel stays, setting times she would be in the lobby for questions. She filled our morning bus rides with information on history, legends, etc. Afternoons, she played a soft CD of Scottish music, knowing that most would be tired and might nap. Overall, an excellent tour.

It began to fall apart when we moved to our Irish tour. We had an incredibly long drive from Edinburgh to Dublin, with a stop in Belfast to visit the Titanic Museum. All of us doing the two tours back to back (about 15 of us) were exhausted by the time we reached our Dublin hotel.

We had a brief meeting in Dublin with the tour companions we were picking up in Ireland and our guide at our hotel. This was about 8 pm after a long bus ride and we were tired and hungry.

Getting past that, we started our Ireland tour. We learned that our guide, a retired police officer, had only been doing this for about one year. He mentioned how he had applied for a job at CIE on Friday and was leading a tour on Monday. That tells you something about the training he received.

Our bus rides were filled with silence. No information about history. No tales of the areas we were driving through. I had more information on the papers I had printed out than we received on the Ireland  portion of our trip. I know for a fact that he gave us wrong information in one city. Overall, very unhappy with the guide.

I called CIE when I returned, commenting that for the ireland portion I could have just bought a guidebook or two, and taken public buses from town to town and seen and done the same for a lot less money. I asked for compensation and received none. The agent I spoke with commiserated with me and said she would send me something. Never received anything.

That said, our accommodations and included meals were excellent. We stayed in some very interesting hotels out in the countryside. We enjoyed the basic itinerary. I don't know if the influence of the guide had anything to do with it but we enjoyed Scotland more than Ireland. We found the countryside more scenic and the history very interesting.


Going To Get Back To Blogging

Yes, it's been over a year since I posted.

Not that we've stopped traveling.

I've just been so busy with so many other things.

But I have decided it is time to get back into it and will pick up where I left off.

After our cruise on the Grand we did a land tour to Scotland and Ireland, then a Mediterranian cruise on the Royal Princess.

I'll be adding posts here, I hope, daily.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Just Returned From the Grand Princess

After visiting friends in the San Francisco area, we boarded the Grand Princess for a round trip cruise to the Mexican Riviera.

Our ports of call were Puerta Vallarta, Mazatlan, Manzanillo, and Cabo San Lucas. With 5 days at sea (3 going and 2 coming), and having visited 3 out of the 4 before, this cruise was just an excuse to extend our winter time away from home.

The Grand was in dry dock in December. The scheduled dry dock was cut short because of a problem the Grand had on the sailing just previous. On its way back from Hawaii, a tender door came unlocked and fell into the water. Still attached to the ship, the Grand slowly made her way back to HI to have it closed. After disembarking all of her passengers in HI (I understand Princess did an excellent job getting everyone home), the Grand was full speed ahead to dry dock, arriving a couple of days late.

I don't know what was planned for the dry dock but there were certainly signs of work that still needed to be done. Some (very noisy) work was performed while we were in port. We could see that the work had to be done but it required our settling ourselves elsewhere on the ship, Which actually worked in our favor. Because the area around the pool was undergoing repairs, we discovered the small adult only pool on the aft of the ship and spend several very relaxed hours there.

We were concerned about spending three days at sea. No problem. Went faster than we thought they would (and I'm now ready for a transatlantic BG). The staff was excellent. The food was very good to excellent.

In Puerta Vallarta, we took a taxi to the beach (the water turned out to be a lot rougher than I anticipated) and walked the Malecon before taking a taxi back to the ship. In Mazatlan we got some exercise walking the streets outside the port and then wandering (me) the shops that are inside the port area. Town center in Manzanillo is very close to the pier and we wandered there a bit. And in Cabo, we took a zodiac whale watching tour which was excellent.

All in all, we had a very nice trip but returned home way too soon. Four days later we got a major snowstorm.  :(

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Island of Palma da Mallorca

(I guess better late than never. This was our next to last stop on our May 2016 Windstar cruise. Barcelona up next.


I had a hard choice to make here. We were only in port until 5 p.m. and that afternoon was the Windstar special event for this leg. Did we want to take the train (on our own) through the scenic countryside and stroll around the small and picturesque town of Soller? Or did we want to skip that and go to the special event?  Based on the experience we had at the special event in Morocco, we decided to do the special event. While it was very nice, I think we made the wrong choice.

Titled "Bolero, Fandango & Other Works of Art" the event started with a short drive through the town. The destination was to visit the March Palace where we had a guided tour through the home.











We also had the opportunity to see works of art by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Auguste Rodin, Eduardo Chillida, and Salvador Dali.







After the tour, we went out to the terrace where we were served tapas and a choice of beverage including vermouth (didn't like it), wine, beer or water.

Next, we got to see Mallorcan folk dances including the jack, the fandango, the bolero and the copeo.  We had beautiful weather and it was a pleasure watching the dancers. It was a nice experience but I think I would have preferred the train.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Clear Cookies When Pricing Airfare

Chocolate and butterscotch chip cookies, October 2008 For some people this is old information. Others have heard it before but don't believe it.

Well I just experienced it and wish I had taken a screen shot to prove it.

Yesterday was booking domestic air for me and DH. I had a really good rate on Delta but was also checking AA, United, Jet Blue and Southwest because I was also looking at flight times.

Delta was by far the best rate at $327 RT.

Somewhere along the line I must have closed the Delta window. When I went back and clicked on the same flights, fare was over $500!!!!

I closed my browser, cleared cookies and history, and repeated the steps with Delta. And guess what? There was my $327 fare back again!

Booked!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Tips For Traveling By Air


I got an email from an employee of Fix.com who asked if I would be interested in linking to a post on their site. I don't normally do this but I read the article and felt it was full of a lot of helpful information, all in one place. Hope you feel the same way too.

Air Travel Tips From Booking to Flying

Friday, August 5, 2016

Granada and Seeing The Alhambra

The opportunity to see the Alhambra was one of the main reasons we took this itinerary. Since Granada is about 2 hrs from the port of call, we decided to take the ship's excursion. We had an excellent tour bus guide and a fantastic lunch afterwards. In between ... well not so great.

We started out in decent weather and went through some beautiful countryside.













The weather changed when we got into the mountains. Whether it was the weather (drizzle) or the guide we had at the site (probably more that than the weather) we were disappointed. OK, call us crazy. Everybody raves about seeing the Alhambra. For us, it was a distraction of a sea of umbrellas and a tour guide who didn't know how to keep his group together. I think we spent more time looking for him than actually looking at the building. And then he would say things like 'look at this." Look at what? Where?
















I have to say the gardens and the view from the hillside were spectacular. I honestly think because we had such a wonderful guide in Seville for the Alcazar that we just couldn't appreciate the Alhambra with the lousy guide we had. (And, yes, I did fill out the review form when we got back to the ship.)















Whatever the reason, it is now checked off our bucket list.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Visiting the Market in Malaga, Spain

(Back to Spain after spending a few days in Puerto Rico with my 16-year old granddaughter. VBG)

Our ship docked right near downtown Malaga. It was easy to just walk off the ship and walk into the city for anyone who wanted to tour by themselves.

That morning, the chef was doing a Market Tour and I decided to join him, an assistant chef, 2 crew members and about 15 others. It was a fast 15-minute walk to the indoor marketplace. Inside were stalls of the types of things we've seen at other city marketplaces: vegetables, fruits, meats, cheeses. All beautiful arranged, everything clean and everything extremely tempting.







The chef went from vendor to vendor with what seemed to be just a hint in his mind of what he wanted to buy. If he saw something interesting, he stopped and spoke to the vendor who was more than happy to pass out samples to the group considering how much he had the potential to sell. We had samples of nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, olives, meats, and cheeses.







After the tour, I needed to head back to the ship. The other passengers simply walked into town to continue their tour of the city. The chef flagged a taxi down for the two crew members to take all the purchases back to the ship and I was able to bum a ride. Overall, it was a great experience.

Our chef with one of that night's entree options.








And, at lunch that day, almost all the items were displayed on the buffet. And this fish was prepared for dinner. Those who ordered it said it was excellent.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Visiting Seville, Spain In The Pouring Rain

I couldn't believe the weather we had in Seville. Pouring rain barely describes it. Jerry and I had our Gortex jackets on but by the end of the 3 1/2 hr walking tour, we were soaked through. Ditto with our shoes and socks. Still, we marched forward and onward, led by our tour leader, Marta of Toursevilla.com.

Typically, to visit Seville by cruise ship, you dock in Cadiz and take a bus to Seville. The Windstar Star Breeze is small enough to go up the Quadalquiver River, through the new lock, and dock within walking distance of downtown. Although we were about an hour late, Marta was at the terminal, waiting for us with her umbrella.








Our first stop was Placa de Espana. This is an absolutely gorgeous plaza, even in the pouring rain. We ran out from under shelter to try and get as many photos as possible. The plaza was built for the 1929 Iberian-American Exposition World Fair. There are tiled alcoves (on the left in the picture), each one representing one of Spain's provinces. Really beautiful and it would have been nice to enjoy it in better weather, but, on the other hand, this weather allowed us to take pictures without a lot of people in the way. :)

As we took a short walk in the area, Marta pointed out many buildings which were built by countries represented at the fair. All of them beautiful.

To save us a bit of walking in the rain, Marta had us hop one of the trams which took us from the exposition area to the pedestrian area surrounding the Alcazar and the Cathedral. These were the two main places we wanted to see while in Seville. We thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the Alcazar, enjoying seeing the mosaics and the Moorish architecture.


We spent quite a bit of time here, learning about the history of the building. It is used by the royal family when they are in Seville, the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe. The palace was built by King Pedro I who was reputed to be very ecumenical, incorporating Christian, Muslim and Jewish symbolism in the building.

Main Altar Covered in Gold
Our next stop was the cathedral. Built on the site of a 12th-century mosque, the only original piece still remaining is the minaret.  The Alcazar and the cathedral (the largest Gothic building in Europe) are all part of a UNESCO site. Plus, within the cathedral, is the tomb of Columbus. Or at least part of Columbus. Columbus was reputed to originally buried in the Dominican Republic. His body (bones?) were then moved to Spain. After a few more moves, at least some bones, confirmed to be those of Columbus through DNA testing, are now buried in this cathedral.



Our tour ended here and the original plan was to walk the streets of the old town, which had also been the area where the Jews lived. Marta (before heading in the cathedral) pointed out several portals to this area (not sure we would have found it on our own.) However, the weather did us in. We were uncomfortable and exhausted.

So after leaving the cathedral, we made our way through the pedestrian area to a main street where we hoped to catch a taxi back to the ship. It was pouring rain so what was the chance of catching one? Finally, a taxi driver without his green light on took pity on us and stopped. I gave him the piece of paper where Marta had written out the name of the port. And less than five minutes later we were there! Who knew we were just around the corner only a couple of blocks away? We thanked the driver profusely and tipped him generously for the short ride.


Monday, July 4, 2016

Staying Cool With Your Own Personal Mister

A cool mist of water is a nice way to stay cool whether at home watching a ball game at the local park or traveling in hot climates. While making my way around the Internet I discovered this water bottle which is so much more than a water bottle.

LUNATEC's Aquabot is a high pressure multi-functional drinking water bottle with a personal mister, providing either a shower, stream or mist. It is BPA free and requires no batteries. There are two attachments for lanyards making it easy to carry hands free. You simply pump it to build up the pressure and the variable flow trigger allows you to adjust it for just the right amount of water.
 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Our Excursion in Portimao, Portugal

The first leg of our B2B Windstar cruise ended/began in Lisbon, Portugal. Having spent several days there before, we decided to stay on board ship. For a few hours we were the only passengers on board and we felt like we had our own private yacht.  :)

Our next stop was Portimao, a small town on the southern coast of Portugal. We had several options here. The ship was running a circuit bus that went into town, the beach and back to the ship. Here was another place I had hoped to go to the beach, but again, the weather wasn't cooperating. 














So we took the excursion that went to Cape St. Vincent, the southwesternmost point in Europe. We had a beautiful ride through the Algarve region of southwest Portugal and lucked out by being on the bus during the worst of the rain.










Our next stop was Ponta de Piedade, another spot with beautiful sea vistas and golden yellow formations. 

















Our final stop was the charming town of Portimao where we had a chance to stroll, shop and enjoy some gelato.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Visiting Agadir, Casablanca and Rabat, Morocco

Two of our stops on the Windstar cruise were Agadir and Casablanca, Morocco. As a Jew, I had mixed feelings about visiting a Muslim country. We decided to stay on board ship in Agadir except for the included Windstar private excursion being held that evening. During our stop in Casablanca, we decided to take the ship's excursion to Rabat, the capitol.






The private excursion in Agadir was fantastic. We were taken to a beach by bus where tents and tables were set up. The walking area was covered by multiple carpets so we didn't have to step on the sand. We had a delicious multicourse dinner, with as much beer and wine we wanted (remember this is a Muslim country ....), entertainment and a beautiful sunset.  Food was beautiful presented and we had a lovely evening.









And as beautiful and amazing as everything was, even more jaw-dropping was the bathroom area!












Next day we were off to Rabat. I'm glad we took this excursion because we learned a lot about the country. If the tour guides can be believed (and we heard the same from others who took tours), the people absolutely love their king. He is working very hard to improve the financial status of the people, building new apartment complexes to be rented at very low cost to those now living in slums. (Which we saw lots of on our way to Rabat, and surprisingly, each slum complex had an amazing number of satellite dishes!) The country is very ecumenical and Sultan Mohammad V defied the Nazis during WWII in regards to the Jews. Currently there are about 3,000 Jews in Casablanca with three active temples. We even passed one on our way back to the port.



 Rabat is the country capital and we saw a few government buildings. Disappointed that we couldn't go inside. But we also visited the tomb of Mohammad V which was quite beautiful.
 
Our next stop was the old walled part of the city, where we had a chance to wander around some gardens, browse in shops and have some refreshment while sitting at a river overlook.

Our ride back was along the seashore, with many beautiful vistas and where we could also see the construction of more public works projects ... like playgrounds, parks, and even a skateboard park.