Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Highlands Fall Moments

Fall is beginning to spread her yellows and reds onto the forrestry which is so abundant here in Highlands and surrounding mountains. It's October 4th and I would anticipate the 'peak leaf season' this year to be about 2 weeks from now. Each day, there are noticeable differences in color changes.
Today, mist hangs over the distant hills, rain comes and goes gently hour to hour. A perfect day presents itself as a time for relaxation and curling up with a favorite book. I'm hooked on T.C.Boyle right now and just finished After The Plague, a collection of short stories. We are taking turns between the noise of the TV and silence for 'written words.'
There is a consignment shop here which is fun to visit. Knowing any purchase goes to funding various projects here in Highlands makes that 'unique find' almost a duty. The shop is made up of all volunteers and accumulated funds are given to various organizations in the area. Today, we bought two sets of dishes for the 'new house' for a grand total of $17.00! They were not complete sets; but, the combination of the two match nicely. One set is Mikasa with a pretty floral print and square shape to the plates.
Al is loving Highlands more and more. Framing of the new house has been delayed till next week. There needs to be a termite treatment prior to laying of the floor. Patience is required for any building project. We'll be staying another week and then head home - 'hope it's getting cooler in Tampa.

Cliffside Lake and VanHook Glade
A first attempt to take the trail to Cliffside Lake ended up in a side jaunt to VanHook Glade. On highway 64 between Highlands and Franklin, there was a little road just a half mile or so prior to Cliffside where we turned in. There, we saw campsites with tables full of breakfast or lunches and signs stating no food on premesis. Always black bear issues exist. Even barbecues and picnics were easily visible. We started on the trail that said VanHook Glade thinking it was the trail that would take us to the lake. At first, all of us took the trail; but, then, we came to a paved road. After flagging down a driver who gave us friendly directions, we turned to go back to the car. However, Fran and I were more adventursome than Al and Marty. She and I veered off of the trail onto another side trail. On we went further into the woods and the trail path started narrowing. It's easy to see how one could get lost if he/she ventured off the designated trails. Sense of directions can get clouded in the dense forrestry. As we returned to where the guys were, we heard "MARCO" echoing through the trees. Safe at last, we echoed "POLO" back to reassure the boys we were safe and sound.
Just a few minutes onto Highway 64 again, the sign CLIFFSIDE RECREATION showed us where to go to take the lake trail. We have a book with all the local trails that are listed by levels of difficulty. Cliffside is number 12 out of 62. (VanHook is listed as #10). We thought the trail around the lake was fairly easy if one watched for the multitude of tree roots protruding above the soil. The eye needed to focus where the foot trail was going. Pauses along the lake provided many beautiful vistas. Children were swimming, people were fishing, others were resting in lawn chairs and there were many places to be very alone with nature. There's a TV station up here dedicated to Highlands which recommends taking a hiking map with you when you venture out. I think that is very wise!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Evening Dinner and Theatre in Highlands, NC

Tonight was 'take a shower', put on some clean 'smart casual' attire and enjoy dining at one of the 40 eating experiences in Highlands. Al had obtained reservations for Paoletti's, where classic Italian fare awaits you. (Reservations are recommended due to the high volume of visitors to this area) Pat ordered a special preparation of Linguini with Alfredo Sauce which the waiter indicated there would be no problem whatsoever to provide. I'm glad she did, as that would definitely be something I would order in the future. Bill ordered another pasta with bits of veal and other little tidbits in a creamy tomato sauce . Al and I both had the mushroom crusted Halibut which was absolutely splendid! This was an eatery we will return to again and again.

After dinner, off to one of several theatres (no, not for movies - yes, actual plays) to see the play Secret Weapon. Four women presented moments in the lives of women in the white house. The viewers recieved insights into the lives of Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton and Jackie Kennedy-Onasis. A delightful evening, indeed!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Dry Falls and Bust Your Butt Falls, Highlands, NC area

Dry Falls (3.5 miles from Highlands) and Bust Your Butt Falls

Today's 'auto' trip can be counted as one of the more spectacular, yet easier trecks. On highway 64 going south from Highlands to Franklin, there are two stops that can be combined to make a wonderful excursion. If you drive too far (which we did), you'll see the gold mining store. Stop, turn around and head back towards Highlands. Stop number one was 'Bust Your Butt Falls. Driving from Highlands, it would be 6 miles south on 64 on the left side of the road. This was actually about 1.5 miles south of Cliffside Lake Recreation entrance which we did not turn into; but, is definitely on a future jaunt. Note, roadside parking only at Bust Your Butt Falls. Here, dozens of huge granite rocks await your climbing skills. Hardy shoes are very much a requirement for all of these trails, leave your sandals at home. Brother Bill and Pat took the challenge and descended way down towards the falls. What a picture to see the powerful water cascading from on high and serving as a back drop to them as they cuddled on one of the granite boulders in the middle of the Cullasaja river. Al and I preferred to stay on the upper side and enjoy the view from on high.

About an hour later, we left the big granite rocks and drove to Dry Falls. This, however was one of the wettest areas we'd seen! (Better parking here) An easy 73 stone steps led down to a cascading falls that actually had the trail moving behind and past the falls. The views were so spectacular - here you can see the falls from literally all angles. Huge portions of the mountain hang high above our heads, green moss, jutting plants, cool moist air hovers around us. There is one section where you can stand almost inside a huge area that looks like a shallow cave. Watch out for drops of water falling off the upper ledges of the mountain above. This area was hard to leave - almost magical. So far, Dry Falls is one of the top 'must see' sites.
Back to the van. BEAR PAW prints noted on the back of the van doors!!!!! How did they get there? During the night perhaps, a bear wandered to the van and then meandered elsewhere as there was no food items available. The dusty print certainly looked to be that of a bear. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it! Keep in mind when up here, never leave food items out on the decks, etc. The END.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rhododendron Trail, Highlands NC

Rhododendron Trail, Highlands, NC

A little jaunt to the Highlands Conservation Center turned into a work-out when we discovered a new trail! While taking the lliesurely path behind the Conservation building, we sauntered through a thicket of trees, bushes and luscious plants down to a small lake bejeweled with pink and white water lillies. Then, with a sense of wonder and adventure within us, we came to a section which appeared to be the end of this jaunt. However, across a little road, there was a small hiking sign stating: Rhododendron Trail. Should we take it, not knowing how far or how strenuous this was? The trails in Highlands are listed with reference to increasing order of length and difficulty. Since we had no clue, brother Bill decided he would go ahead and scout it out. Pat and I waited, and waited and waited for him to return. We called out "BILL" - no response. Soooooo, forward we started. The path was beautiful, but also it was necessary to be very aware of where our feet were positioned with each step. Some sections were about 12 to 18 inches wide with a very deep descent on the right side. Don't lose the grip, or down we go! We called out to Bill several times with no sound echoing back, so - forward we continued. A little fear crept in; but, we had crossed the line of no return. Finally, there was a small creek with a clear flowing stream. With some difficulty, we climbed over a large tree trunk and partially jumped, partially stumbled across the flowing water. 'Really did not get our shoes wet, thank goodness.

The sound of a road with cars became evident, then sunshine started creeping through the leaves. At last, civilization! On the road, shall we turn left or right???? Not a clue! Then a car passed by. Pat wildly waved her hands and got the driver's attention. He indicated which way to go. Soon, the sight of Bill was in the distance, 'twas a relief, indeed. Joined as a team once again, we trecked back to the Highlands Conservation Center. We traversed about 2.5 miles or so from door to door - a wonderfull work-out indeed! The trail itself was listed as two tenths of a mile IF we had turned around at the creek. Maybe, we should have checked with the Conservation Center BEFORE the treck. They provide information for all their trails. By the way, no bears were discovered on this journey!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Stumphouse Tunnel and Isaaqeena Falls, Walhalla SC

A nice day trip, today, for the mild activity level Al and I enjoy. A 31 mile car trip from Highlands, NC to Walhalla, SC. We walked the main street of a town lost in long ago. Several antique stores were waiting for the occasional customer. Quiet, sunny, hot at 86 described the day. A very nice lady at the Coffee Grounds Cafe directed us to a very special spot in her area of the world. We would surely have missed seeing this, had it not been for her directions. In fact, we still almost missed it as there were no signs leading the way.

Stumphouse Tunnel and Isaqueena Falls are located about 2.6 miles south of the junction of Hwy 28 and Hwy 107 (about 25 miles south of Highlands). It's just past the Stumphouse Ranger Station on the Left. Once you turn in to the correct road, you then see a small sign indicating turn left for Stumphouse Tunnel and Right for the falls. First we visited the tunnel. This was a 1,600 foot gouged out black, dark, mist covered, musty, wet, spooky hole dug deep into a mountain back in the 1850's. The plan was to build a railway through the mountains; but, then the Civil War started and plans died. I was only able to walk into the darkness for a little ways before getting spooked. No lights in there! Lots of water leaking through the mountain and filling both sides of the floor as it cascaded down and out of the darkness. A low blanket of mist 'welcomed' you as you entered. A palpable cold, wet air also hit your senses. Turning around to come out, the welcome of sunshine was reassuringly there. Note, it would be wise to bring a flashlight if you plan to go deep in the tunnel, so you can see snakes and bears easily!

Then it was back to the fork and on to Isaqueena Falls. A serene walk along a brook, noticing a mother and her children enjoying a picnic at one of the tables, a couple with two little dogs barking savagely at my little sweet Sunny (quiet poodle). Then it was a short treck through a wooden bridge and then to the lookout perched just so you can enjoy a beautiful vista of water again cascading down the mountains. Al was tempted to stop at the first lookout; but, I braved a few more feet and was taken aback by the beautiful view. Al joined with a little coaxing and was pleasantly surprised. The kids far below, did some stenuous rock climbing to descend down to the bottom of the falls and then return to where we were. We left the scene very contented that we had again enjoyed a treck through a special part of the US of A!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Highlands, North Carolina - Spring, 2007

A 10 hour drive from Florida to North Carolina, 'hoping to see the blooms of spring. NOT! We arrived at our 'campsite' in Highlands to see the trees bare of leaf except the evergreens. Winter still leaves her chill in the air. Just a few days ago, there was a terrible storm with 80 miles per hour winds and left homes without power for several hours. Much of the plants (such as pansies) that were tenderly put in the 'spring' ground lay helpless and withered from the change in weather.
Still, life is good up here! The mind starts to relax. The realization of 'vacation' days begin to fill the spirit. Today, the big event was to take a short trip through one of the many, many trails in this part of the USA. Though trees were bare, the moss, the woods gave to us their special presentation. Every season up here changes it's colors, it's temperatures and vistas to provide a special treat for you.
Photos always located here: http://community.webshots.com/user/msalo2002

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Australia, Bali, Vietnam, Hong Kong

Friday, March 30, 2007
Cruise from Sydney, Australia to Hong Kong

March 1, 2007 - Sydney, Australia: Happy Mardi Gras from the Queens of the Desert! Yes, we arrived just in time for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardis Gras and yes, our hotel was conveniently located in the heart of the festivities. We will be gone before the big parade in 2 days; but, there is a flavor in the air. People by the thousands will attend the parade. We happen to go to our hotel rooms about the time the action starts developing on the streets.
Highlight: Tour of the Sydney Opera House - wonderful presentation by a woman who was very enthusiastic and did a great job explaining the tiles on the roofs, the design by John Utzon, the differences in woods used, the reason for the high ceilings, etc. Some rooms are designed to carry voice, others designed to carry music. There are special breaks throughout each area that stops sound from being echoed back. Amazing!! There are six individual areas for performances and a 1,000 rooms total in the buildings.
Al and Bob are walking the 1 1/2 mile bridge this morning. Marsali and I opted out, instead, sip our coffee, pack and prepare to board the cruise ship this afternoon.

one sea day here

March 4, 2007 - Brisbane, Australia: Today was the day to visit all the animals of Australia. Up close to the Koalas, the Kangaroos and baby (Joeys). Also, Emus, wombats, shrub Turkeys and crocodiles. We went through the Koala Sanctuary, similar to Lowry park in Tampa. Very hot here, Brisbane is similar to Tampa and this is the end of summer here (similar to September in Tampa). After the park visit, we took the CITY CAT back to the ship. Brisbane has a long river running through the city and people travel the large river catamarans just like using the city bus. Transportation via CAT or Bus is very easy over here. Tampa does not know how to provide bus transit - too inconvenient, etc. Here, we just get on the bus, pay the fare and away we go. Bus tickets usually cost $2.00 per trip and the CAT was $2.00 also. You can get a day pass for $4.00 - then get off and on along the river anywhere. The Koala park was $16.00.

Houses are half million dollars and up. Waterfront - 2 million +. Everything is more expensive than home. Gas is $5.00 per gallon.

Next day at sea. No word yet, as to whether we are going to change plans due to Cyclone Odette which may interfere with our travel to Darwin in a couple of days.

All clear for being bothered by storms. I did purchase wrist straps as I was a little whoozy (?sp) yesterday morning. It works! Or, the seas calmed down.

March 6 - Whitsunday Island, Australia. I marvel at the differences in land formations this continent has. From desert to lush tropical islands. We are on the Eastern coast where the the area is very tropical, much like South Florida in plants, etc. Animals are completely different! Last night, there was a little Koala bear (toy) sitting on my bed when we came back from the show. Sunny gets his souvenier! Supposedly most of the deadliest snakes are here in Australia - 'hope I don't see any! Today is the first TENDER day where the ship cannot anchor at the dock - instead we take those life boats in - ie, tendering.
The island had many little golf carts that are rented out. No cars. We rented one and went up to the high parts of the island. This is one of the most beautiful island complexes in the world. Mountains rising out of the sea. Prettier than the Hawaiian islands. A little hazy, but the seas are calm and the water is very clear and aqua color. No swimming here due to little jelly fish that are difficult to see; but, when stung by them creates a medical emergency - muscles are attacked and breathing is altered.
We also saw a beautiful white Cockatoo - native to these islands. We were told not to feed them as they have a delicate digestive system.

March 7 - Cairn, Australia - pronounced KENZ. Surrounded by mountains high in the clouds. Probably raining way up there. The train that goes up to these mountains is out of commission for 2 months due to land slides from rain. They have cable gondolas; but, we did not take them. Instead, we stayed in the quaint town. Looked a little like the old gold rush towns out west; but, much newer looking. Lots of shops and souvenirs. I bought a small kangaroo leather bag. In the shopping mall, we sat next to an aborigine family. I took a few photos and will send them copies. It's surprising to me how 'new' Australia is. 1770's was the beginning of realizing this continent existed. Only the Aborigine's were here. These people are actually black caucasions. Cairns is one of the gateways to the Great Barrier Reef.

March 8 and 9 - sea days. Days when we sleep in - not really. Still get up around 6:30 or 7:00am. But, more leisurely (?sp). The captain informed us we would be crossing the Great Barrier Reef and be on the lookout around 7:00am. Sooooo, yes, we were out there looking for that magical moment when the Reef would appear. Off in the horizon appeared a little boulder popping out of the water and a long line of azure blue. That was it! Not the picture I had in my mind. A school of dolphins surfaced at the back of the ship for several minutes. We did see much of the coast of Australia as we went along, and that azure blue stretched for miles on the horizon. The Reef is a couple thousand miles long! The high definition documentaries on TV is where to experience those magical moments on the reef.
Later in the day, misty rain. Time to continue reading a good book - The Buffalo Soldier by Chris Bohjalian. My goal is to finish the book on this voyage. There are still two cyclones that are out in the seas we will be traveling. George is forecast to go well south of us. The other one is intensifying; but, should be out of our way before we get into that area. Next stop - Darwin. On board there are two lecturers who are giving great talks on the history of Australia. Also, there's a movie theater - 'saw Babel the other day. Queen is showing today.

March 10 - Actually it is one day ahead of the dates I list (USA dates). We cross the international dateline way before Australia. Yesterday, we set our clocks '30 minutes' back, not the usual hour.
DARWIN, Australia is our last Ausie port of call. "Where winter never visits" - Darwin was the site where the Japanese attacked during WWII. Lots of historical battles took place in the coral sea and near this area. Australia is forever grateful to the US for the help they recvd during the war. We've had a wonderful lecturer on sea days who tells the historical stories as if he was 'grampa telling his grandchildren' about personal adventures. What a story teller! So factual and yet, so entertaining. His wife says he's had this gift all his life. (More than just a photographic mind!) (Dr Jay Wolf - sells discs of many of his travels)
Water lillies - the usual white is indigenous to Florida. Not so, in Australia - it's the pink ones! They are all over, as well as many tropical plants. No swimming here! The box jelly fish and the saltwater crocodile call these shores home. Instead they have an olympic sized swimming pool.
We just spent a very hot day in Darwin. We saw some Aborigine folks in the shopping areas. They still have their own language; but, clothing is much like others. Much of this area is majestic when seen by air. We didn't venture out that far. The second cyclone has stayed well clear of us.

Sea day tomorrow and then off to Bali.

Marlch 11 and 12 - Sea Days: - attended lectures - Digital Photography and the story of Charles Darwin. Went to the gym for treadmill walks both days. The machines are very nice. Did 25 minutes - I'm out of shape!!
Added 20 minutes FREE to the internet by attending a beginners computer class (usual price: 40 cents/minute). I benefited by seeing how the computer guy (mere child) teaches. He has his laptop with all notes/pics/etc on it - then hooks it up to a computer via an SVGA cable which transmits the info to the projector and onto a movie screen. The technician recommended a SONY projector (for video/multiple inputs). Hmmmmm, 'wonder if Life Enrichment Center could get someone to spring for this equipment??!! All of the presenters used the same method. They simply used their own computer with their own notes.

March 13 - Bali - Padang Bai (Town/port). 'Have been to and seen many, many islands during out trips; but, Bali is the most beautiful and culturally different islands that sets it apart. We met a waiter on the ship and he arranged for his brother-in-law to provide a private tour of the island. The trip was one of the best!! 'Made' (his name meaning first born) took us to temples, a monkey forrest (monkies came up to inches looking for food), a wood working village (where all the beautiful Bali carvings come from) and to a housing complex that represents the real way of life for the Balinese. 'Made' lives in one where there are 15 people, some married with children) each son's family lives in little one room concrete huts, a separate concrete 'room' for a communal kitchen - a stone stove/oven is about all there is in the 'kitchen', and a shrine in the central courtyard. There is even a small concrete area where a pig is kept and chickens wander freeling. The roosters are kept in cages to conserve their strength for illegal cock fights. The oldest (parents) live in the main structure. Women leave their compounds to go to their husbands compound when married. That's one of the reasons parents want sons instead of daughters. 'Made' says there are lots of MBA marriages ("Married By Accident" - it babies come first)

Hinduism is an ingrained and very important part of Balinese life. It permeates all activities. You can see small food offerings everywhere, doorsteps to stores, homes, hotels, streets, etc. There are 5 -10 temples in every village and shrines everywhere, including homes. 90% of people participate in religious ceremones. They have a New Year coming in 5 days. 'Made' went into great detail why the men where head coverings (to join their minds to their gods, why they were surrongs (?sp) to keep the unclean away from the gods. The colors of black/evil and white/good are represented in black and white checkered cloth - symbolic of good and evil existing together in their society. They do not try to erradicate evil; but they give multiple offerings to recieve blessings from the good gods so as to protect them from evil. Too much info on this subject to express here.

Agriculture is so visible. The entire island has literally thousands of rice paddies that are harvested every four months (rotate the fields - where harvesting takes place constantly). I HAD A LIGHT BULB moment when we were shown where the rice comes from. Each rice shaft looks something like a wheat shaft and the rice grows at the very tip of the stalk - just like wheat does. I always thought it grew in the water just below the grass shafts!!!! Duh! The paddies were in all stages of growth.

Food - they eat lots of rice. Porcupines are caught and eaten (they damage the rice paddies). Then, there are eels that swim in the rice paddies, dragon flies - remove wings and deep fry, grasshoppers, crickets, ducks + their entrails and other delectable delights. We ate in a hotel; but, very carefully!

Vista - The middle of the island is made up of a mountain range that has 5 volcanoes, two which are active. We were able to get photos of the smoke plumes coming from one of them. Lots of black volcanic ash in many of the places - this provides rich noursishment to all the fruits and vegetables on the island.

It was a very long day; but, we learned so much. Did not have time to experience the shopping that is everywhere in Bali. Miles and miles of shops selling art, wood, clothing, statues, etc. We would recommend Bali to anyone who wants to visit an exotic land that is so different from ours. I will keep 'Made's contact info in case anyone needs an exellent tour guide in Bali.

'Worthy of mention: we discovered a new drink. Orange juice in glass, small amount of sugar/splenda and HOT WATER poured into glass to make hot orange drink - like a tea. Delicious!

March 14: Samarang, Indonesia - Java - a Muslim country (Bali was Hindu). Many Java ship staff are meeting their families today. The families come on board until 2:30 in the afternoon. Many of the staff do not see their families for months at a time. This is a special day for some. Our friends, Bob and Marsali took an 8 hour trip to a temple (World Heritage Site) and said they were glad to have gone. The weather is in the 90's and very humid. Al and I stayed on ship, I got some good photos of visitors to the ship. We ventured out to the small markets/tents set up along the ship area to sell trinkets to the tourists. We lasted approximately 5 minutes! There were literally dozens and dozens of locals that descended like mosquitos as we emerged from the terminal. That was it! We did a 180 and returned to the peace and quiet of the ship.

March 15: sea day - Crossing the equator today. There is a tradition on all cruise ships - King Neptune appears on this day - a silly ceremony with the ship staff in costume. The ship issues lots of horn sounds at the moment we cross. Great entertainment - comedian, xylophone player - never heard it sound so good!
March 16: Singapore - City of the Lion, though no lions have ever lived on this penisula. Many ships come and go from this popular port. A very homogenous group of Indian, Chinese, Arab, Malaysian and Indonesians all living in harmony and refer to themselves as a 'family'. During WWII, thousands were killed by the Japanese who occupied this area for 3 years until the end of the war. The British then occupied it; but soon it became an independent country. This is where that American boy was caned for trashing autos several years ago. They do not accept unacceptable behavior to this day.
We rode the cable cars up to the highest point and saw the city view. Also visited a million square foot shopping mall with all the big and expensive names from around the world. Did not buy anything. This was our second visit; so we did not revisit the famous Raffles hotel which is a must see.
Also, this was the first time we were able to make a connection with our SKYPE wireless internet phone. Unfortunately it was 1:00AM when we telephoned Marty and Fran while overlooking the Singapore harbor. What an experience to communicate through a wireless hotspot at the Corduroy Cafe in such a faraway land!

March 17 - sea day. While on the treadmill, listening to a podcast, I heard this saying:


March 18 - still on sea day. Captain has issued orders to take extra precautions of disinfecting hands, etc. Also, all food handling is now done by crew - no taking breads, salads at the buffet line. Apparently, 6 have come to medical station with stomach cramps. Captain said it's probably from eating on Semarang. There are disinfecting liquids available at all the elevators, dining areas, workout rooms, gangway, etc.

March 19 - Nha Trang, Vietnam. Today, we were on a 'mission'. Teresa and Marcia visited us in January and Teresa introduced us to her cousin (Martin) who is married to a woman (Phuc) from Nha Trang! Phuc wrote a note to her mother way back then and our mission was to deliver it to her mother and family when we visited Nha Trang. Early today, we hailed a taxi and he took us to the restaurant that Phuc's mother owns and operates. When we arrived, we were greeted by both her mom and her sister. They proceeded to serve us a wide assortment of vegetables, meats, rice, sauces, fish and other items. Their hospitality was much appreciated. Mission accomplished.
We then went to the central market where everything you can possibly imagine from meats to vegetables to clothing to electronics are bartered and sold. I bought a Rolex for $12! I wonder if it's a 'real' Rolex?
A funny note: went we entered the port, there are cable cars that cross the harbor from the main land to a plush resort area. Those cable lines had to be 'lifted and stretched tight' so the ship could go underneath. It took awhile for this process to be accomplished. 'Wonder if this will discourage ships from entering this harbor? Our ship, the Statendam is not one of the bigger ships. Who 'thunk' of this brilliant idea????

March 20-21 sea days

March 22 - Hong Kong - The final port of call. It was raining and very misty; but we could still see the magnificence of this 'city of life'. Hundreds of very tall sky scrapers - they are building one 118 stories high. Many of the buildings are less than 10 years old - so the city looks quite new. It is surrounded by mountains. We were able to take a city tour - all 44 square miles. Al did not purchase any property there as the cost of a single family home with a nice view was approx $2,700.00 per square FOOT. The average size of a condo is 600 square feet. The older public housing was about 250 square feet. That would house parents, children. Typical family is husband, wife and 2-5 children. Some families have 7-8 children - still in the same square footage.

March 23 and 24. Back to the USA! Stayed with Uncle Artie and Aunt Jane for a couple days and are now planted at the San Francisco airport waiting for our flight HOME. I am soooooo ready for my own bed.

END OF TRAVEL JOURNAL - I'll be sending you an invite to view my photos as soon as I get them posted.

Norwegian Cruise

Hello from The Norwegian Cruisers..Destinations: Istanbul, Ephesus, Athens, Croatia, Venice, Naples, Rome and Barcelona..
CRUISE NEWS (Photos will be posted when I get home

Day 1: 'Sitting at the airport, Sunday, Oct 8. The Tampa airport is one of the FREE wireless internet sites. Lots of airports charge fees to access the internet. I'm sitting near an AC outlet, so no strain on my battery. 'Waiting to take off for New York and then Istanbul, Turkey where we will board the ship (NCL Norwegian Cruise Line - JEWEL). Destinations: Istanbul, Ephesus, Athens, Croatia, Venice, Naples, Rome and Barcelona. Our bags have been checked in from Tampa to Istanbul. No problems getting through security, shoes off, lipstick in plastic bag, computer removed and send through screener separately. Our friends, Marsali and Bob Caldwell from California are meeting us on board. They went a couple days early to see Istanbul. We've been there before; but plan to go to the grand bazaar again.

Day 2: Arrived in Istanbul. Soooooo tired. Slept about 2 hours in the last 24. This is the first time we've checked in at the Cruise counter and was addressed as VIP's! This is the one and only time we will have flowers in our penthouse suite along with snacks delivered to the room and gourmet coffee/espresso machine in the room. It's looks like a little apartment. Our 'butler', Karan is very nice and addresses our every whim. Pshaw! Now, we see how the better half lives. Al's out roaming the ship, I'm about to crash!

Day 3: JET LAG! That's when you get so tired from lack of sleep, the brain is on overdrive and sleep will not come. Then naussea and feeling 'fluey'. 'Better this afternoon. Istanbul today, Grand Bazaar where tunnel after tunnel houses over 3,000 shops. You could walk in there forever and not see all the stores. Lots of gold, leather, spices, etc. I bought a piece of gold with the 'eveil eye' which is unique to this area. The story behind the evel eye is it keeps bad spirits out. This city is divided in two - half in Asia and across the sea, the other half in Europe. Over 400 mosques with multiple minarets rising in the skyline throughout the city. Two of the most famous mosques here are The Blue Mosque and the Saint Sophia. Christian churches converted to mosques hundreds of years ago. Now, 90 percent of the people are Muslim; but, there is a separation between religion and government unlike other Islamic countries.

Day 4: Ephesus Turkey. Feeling great, good sleep last night. Negotiated our own "taksi" in Ishmir to take us to Epheus - the ancient ruins where St. Paul, St. John and the Blessed Mary lived. 5 adults CRAMMED into a small taxi for a total of $50 round trip for the car. On return, the driver insisted on 50 Euros which started a good argument. We finally put the US dollars on the car and told him to call the police. End of that. He was trying to get as much $$ as he could. The final cost was $65 which still was a lot better than $189 per person for the Bus tour from the ship! The ruins were very inspiring; but difficult to maneuver because there were a total of 3 ships in harbor all at the same time.

Day 5: Piraeus, Greece. The 3rd largest sea port in the world. So many ships of various uses. Cargo, passenger, ferries, tankers, military, yachts of every description. Here, some of the passengers took the scheduled tour to Athens to see the ruins. Some were allowed off the bus for 5 minutes, some were not allowed to get off the bus at all. There were so many ships with passengers, too crowded. I'm glad Al and I did not go. Instead, we walked the city (at least a small part of it, since it's population is at least a couple million. We walked along the pier where the BIG YACHTS are moored. These are owned by very rich people, to say the least. It made the regular million dollar yachts look like little boats. I took lots of pics. Also, there was a big ship here, named 'LILI MARLEEN'! I was soooo excited, took photos near the name. Rarely do you see the name spelled like that.

Day 6 - Sea Day. Relax, sleep in, read book. This ship has multiple restaurants with various themes. Our butler scheduled reservations for all of them at different days. He also delivers snacks each afternoon - from sweets to shrimp cocktails. COMPLAINT: Internet access on this ship is the worst! It takes over 4 minutes just to get to one screen. What a gimick to charge 75 cents a minute. I'm writing this note on wordpad and will then do a copy/paste if/when I ever get connected properly.

Day 7 - Dubrovnik, Croatia - a city with red tile roof landscape, mountains, walled old section and worn marble streets. We had to 'tender in' which is anchor out in the deeper part of the sea and then take a smaller boat to shore. One person in our party is in a wheelchair and she transported nicely. There was a large farmers' market in the morning and smaller vegetable vendors moving carts in the afternoon. Lots of outdoor cafes and small narrow streets that run from a large open square. There was a Pharmacy Museum which we did not pay extra to see. Wonder what was there? 'Did go into the pharmacy to get dental floss and cough drops (just in case) - there were no items on display, you asked for the item and the clerk went to the appropriate door, opened it and retrieved your item. It cost $12 US for the two items.
Next time, bring cough drops. One of our group got an upper resp infection and I doled out some of my stash of cough drops. Only brought a few with me. We've learned over time, to bring medicinal type items. Going to the ship doctor can be very expensive.

Day 8 - Venice, Italy. Now I see why many cities have admirers; but Venice has lovers! The marble arches, gondoles-vaporetos-water taxis, pigeons, St. Marcos square, shops, Venetian Glass, Soborno lace, water canals instead of streets, small bridges over the canals, colorful boats and sooooo much more. Venice cannot be seen in one day. We only had a small taste. I can see why Jeff and Stacey Salo want to return! Of all the countries we've seen, I'd say the cities in Italy are my favorite.

Day 9 - Sea Day. This is the second 'formal night'. There was a notice in the daily bulletin today that jeans are not appropriate for the dining rooms. Apparently some are coming down looking like riff-raff. I somehow forgot my only top for the skirt I brought, soooooo I'm wearing black slacks for every single night with changes of tops. I sure hope the passengers don't go home worrying about what I wore on this cruise. If they do, that's their problem! I downloaded audiobooks from the library before I took this trip. I just finished EVERYMAN and have a T.C.Boyle audio novel to start yet. I also finished a great paperback book - THE ROMANOF (sp?) PROPHESY by Steve Berry. A must for those who like fiction books twisted with facts. Lots of excitement. The seas were a little rough this morning, so I didn't go to breakfast. Lord knows, I'm making up for it. After a few days at sea, the volumes of food slow down some, thank goodness. Karan, our butler from India brings snacks each day. I asked him for a banana this morning and he brought a big bowl of fruit inlcuding 3 bananas. LOVE THIS PAMPERING. Reality will come soon enough. Only 4 more days left. Luv, Marleen and Al.
PS - Minutes are so slow on the ship - I copy/paste the emails into my wordpad, read it later and then respond on wordpad and then copy/paste all of it when I log on to the internet the next time.

Day 10 - Naples, Italy. Take your life in your own hands if you want to traverse the streets of Napoli! The zooming back and forth of motor bikes, cars, buses, etc all honking at you as you try to set your feet in the path of the cars - no matter that the light says 'walk'. No one pays attention to signs. Then watch your step, don't twist an ankle on the square cobbled bricks. Scooters parked in every open section of the sidewalks - no pattern. A feeling of excitement just to watch the chaos. Mount Vesuius lay in the distance off our balcony. Last eruption was 1944. Thousands of people have built homes at the base of the mountain in what is called the RED ZONE - ie dangerous area to be. Pompeii saw it's eruption and is now a place of rouine for tourists to see. We saw it on our last trip here.
Pompeii - I'll post some photos as our friends Bob, Marsali and Clay made a special trip to that area.

Day 11 - Civitavecchia - the entry port to Rome is a very old city, worn walls - castle ruins, cobbled streets. The market was quite a place, many blocks long. Flowers, cheese, olives, meats, fish, vegetables, nuts, fruits - every variety presented. It looked like the city dwellers all came here for their 'groceries'. A covered building quite large, housed every imaginable type of fish from snails/escargot, clams, squid, shrimp, etc. Strong aromas! A pleasant day spent walking the streets and taking in the colors. Our friends went on to Rome via train which is what we did the last time we cruised here. Clouds are building on this last port of call. Tomorrow, we'll probably be going through rain on the seas between Civitavecchia and Barcelona, Spain. From Barcelona, it is off to the airport and fly HOME!

Maine USA

Here's a snippet of part of our trip to Maine. I did not keep logs prior to this.

... 180 mile trip to Acadia National Park - Bar Harbor section. The park is located in several sections of coastal main. Yesterday, Schoodic Point Acadia Park was a 280 mile trip from where we are located. My camera cannot do justice to the magnificent vistas! Very dog friendly up here.

At the restaurant today, the waitress sat us outside, Sunny on his leash next to the table and was served a bowl of water while Al ate crab cakes and I had Lobster bisque, yummmmm. For dinner tonight, I bought some fresh lobster at the grocery store, mixed it with a little mayo and had it on crackers for dinner.

Two more days here and then we head south to Booth Bay. Al checked out the Catholic Church in Belfast and Mass will be at 4:00PM tomorrow. He always gets me to the church in time .
Boothbay, Maine – What a great place to stay. Explanation below about covers it.
Their website is: http://www.vrbo.com/26635

Sheepscot River Hide-a-way - Relax & Watch Beautiful Sunsets
Location: Boothbay, Mid-Coast & Islands, Maine, USA (Sheepscot River Hide-away, 1 hour Northeast of Portland)
Accommodations: Efficiency Apartment - Studio - 1 Bath - (Sleeps 2-3)

Beautiful sunsets, lobsterbakes on the shore, a private patio for lounging and reading, all this just feet from the Sheepscot River. Enjoy your morning coffee on the patio or by the water's edge while watching local lobsterman at work. Canoe or kayak around the nearby islands or just explore the coastline. There are ospreys, kingfishers, and great blue herons over the water and hummingbirds, cardinals, and goldfinches in the perennial gardens. Beautiful and quiet area just minutes from Boothbay Harbor. The botanical gardens are a brief walk from the house, and several land trust hiking trails are just a short drive or boatride away. Great spot for boating and a canoe and kayak are available. Public boatramp nearby and a private mooring is also available.
In the fall the foliage is spectacular, the town is quiet, and the Chamber of Commerce sponsors a huge fall foliage fair in October with crafts, food, music,antique train rides, and antiques.