Sunday, March 31, 2019

Lion Country Safari

Today we got up early and left the ship, which was a surprisingly smooth process. We were planning to go to Mass at 11 at a church called St. Patrick's in South Beach, Miami; however, the process was so seamless that we got there in time for the 9:30 Mass. They had a very good choir, and they sang a beautiful "Kyrie," but there was a weird moment when a baby was crying (as they do) and some woman yelled, "It's OK to take it out!" right in the middle of the homily. It's easier to forgive the baby than to forgive her for interrupting the priest...

Our next stop was Lion Country Safari, since Travalon had always wanted to see it, and it did not disappoint. We drove slowly through a wildlife park filled with lions, rhinos, giraffes, zebras, and all sorts of exotic antelopes. Then we parked and wandered through the second part of the park, admiring fish and smaller animals, especially an aviary full of colorful lorikeets. We really enjoyed it and took tons of photos.

We got back on the Florida Turnpike and entertained ourselves in a very 21st Century fashion: by my googling things while Travalon drove. I wanted a royal palm, and did you know you can order five seeds for $4.49 online? Then we passed a marina with inflatable quonset huts, and I wondered if you could buy those online too. Sure enough, you can. Travalon made me laugh till I cried when he said we could get one and inflate it at Rich's house if we ran out of things to talk about. Now we are just outside of Inverness... Florida, not Scotland. However, I do have my red plaid hat from Inverness, Scotland along with me. I don't need it now - I'm using Famous Hat's replacement - but soon enough we will be back north and I will need it once again.

Here are some photos from today. First are some colorful buildings in Miami.

Next are the interior of St. Patrick's, the parish building across the street, and the outside of the church:

Here are a bunch of shots from our safari:


 young giraffe

 orange fish


 ti plants (like my little one at work, only pink)




 ibis and some sort of coot...?

gars that look like little alligators

I am going to try to upload the photos from our cameras, so stand by for that blog post.

Famous Hat

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Conch Fritters and Guava Duff

Sorry that I didn't blog yesterday; we were supposed to go to Great Stirrup Cay and swim with pigs, but the wind was so strong that it wasn't safe to send the tenders out to the ship, so we just had another day at sea. Those aren't too interesting for you readers to hear about, I suppose, although they are very fun to experience. Travalon and I spent some time lounging in a hot tub, then we played some trivia games, and in the evening we listened to a band playing Earth, Wind and Fire and other soul and disco hits. In the evening we docked in Nassau, so Travalon and I got to go ashore and explore. There were a lot of loud tourists at Señor Frog, but we found a quiet bar patronized by natives where we had the local beer, Kalik. It is very tasty!

Today we took a boat tour of the Nassau harbor, then we took a bus tour of the city. For some reason it stopped at the Atlantis, a big soulless resort that we didn't find too interesting until we found a pool full of baby sea turtles. Also, the staircase down to that was made of stone full of fossils. After that we found yet another place off to the side that was patronized by natives rather than tourists, called Captain Vinny's, where we had conch fritters and cracked conch, which was delicious. A conch is some kind of big mollusk, and they eat it prepared all sorts of ways and carve the shells into jewelry; Travalon bought me a necklace and earrings of conch shell carved into sea shells. For some reason it is pronounced "conk," despite the way it is spelled. Then we went to some shops to get free trinkets, and at the Straw Market Travalon found a T-shirt that says "Kalik Beer." For some reason he could not find one with a map of the Bahamas on it. The other big thing to eat in the Bahamas is a dessert called guava duff, and we found a stand that sold it, so I got to try that too. So good!

This first picture is from last night - we got some sort of puppy dog for a towel animal!

Here is a shot of the band playing Earth, Wind and Fire at our favorite bar in the ship. Right now they are doing karaoke up there, but I am skipping it to blog.

Here is a shot from our boat tour of the pastel buildings in Nassau.

This is one of the baby turtles that was at the Atlantis.

And this is the floor made of stone full of fossils.

Here is a shot of the little back alley where Captain Vinny's is. If you go to Nassau, eat there. Don't even bother with Señor Frog - it's just loud and full of tourists.

The Nassau harbor is just full of boats! The closest one might be the yacht we found out was owned by Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys football team.

This is a shot of the Bahamian Parliament building, which might be the closest thing to a Capitol building that they have:

More pastel buildings! And I love the architecture. Look at the pink building with all the arches.

We wanted to have lunch at this bar out in the water, but they didn't have conch fritters, and Travalon said you really shouldn't go to the Bahamas without trying conch fritters. He is right about that!

Lighthouse in Nassau's harbor.

In this shot you can see the lighthouse in the foreground, the ginormous Atlantis resort on the left side of the photo, and where the cruise ships dock on the righthand side. There were five of them there! I took a shot of that too, but it's not that exciting.

You can kind of see my seashell earrings and conch necklace in this shot, as well as the free bamboo lei I got at one of the shops. I also got a free conch charm and a free butterfly necklace. (I thought it was supposed to be a flamingo necklace, but how can you complain about something that's free?)

As we were pulling out of the harbor, we saw this rainbow!

When I walked to another part of the ship, the rainbow looked like it was going right into the sea next to us!

After we had sailed away, Travalon took lots of cool photos of the sunset and a passing sailboat with his really good camera. I will try to post those at some point. Also, because we had participated in so many games during our days at sea, we got a prize: a Norwegian Cruises pen. Then when I came back to the room just now, I found this... polar bear?

Famous Hat

Thursday, March 28, 2019


Yesterday morning we woke up in the port of Havana. After breakfast Travalon and I set out to find the beautiful white and gold church we had seen from the ship, but we went the wrong direction and ended up first at the Basilica of San Francisco, and then at the Cathedral, where I - huge shock! - bought a rosary. We had lobster paella in a courtyard with peacocks and cats for company, and a trio of musicians strolled in and serenaded us. I thought, oh man, they are going to want money, but they were so good that I ended up tipping them and buying their CD. We took a bus tour of Havana, stopping at the Christopher Columbus Cemetery (so named because he was supposed to be buried there, but actually nobody knows where his body ended up), and at an old fort where we bought the Holy Trinity of Cuba: cigars, coffee, and rum. Our last stop on the tour was a statue of Jesus made of Italian marble, commissioned by Battista's wife in thanksgiving for his surviving an assassination attempt. In the evening we took another bus through the surprisingly dark roads of Havana to the famous Riviera Hotel, where we attended a performance of the "Legends of Cuban Music," some of the surviving members of the Buena Vista Social Club and the Afro-Cuban All Stars. Man, were they fantastic! During one part of the show, they asked audience members what countries we were from, and for every country they did a little snippet of a song. I said I should have said I was Columbian to see what they did, but Travalon pointed out that I should have said I was from Ireland, which would make much more sense. One old singer looked a lot like my maternal grandfather. He always kind of seemed like a cool cat, like he was an old jazz musician, but I never would have guessed salsa singer! By the end they had us up and dancing onstage too.

Here are some photos. First are examples of the beautiful pastel buildings in Havana.

Travalon made some new friends! We also made friends with some kind of lizard and about a gazillion cats, but the internet is slow here so I am not posting all our pictures yet.

Their Capitol building looks surprisingly like ours in Madison!

Most of what you have heard about Cuba is true, like that there are lots of candy-colored classic cars on the road.

Check out my new replacement for Famous Hat.

All the photos I took at the cemetery and the fort were on my "real" camera, not my cellphone, so I will have to upload them later. From the giant Jesus statue we had a fantastic view of our cruise ship, the Norwegian Sky:

And here is the statue. Some people say he looks like he is holding a mojito in his left hand and a Cuban cigar in his right one.

There are random things in Havana as well, like the white and gold church that we finally found. It is a Russian Orthodox church, which is sort of bizarre if you think about it, because the Russians were supposedly in Cuba to teach them how to be Godless atheists. But there it is, nonetheless.

Today we had a day at sea, listening to a Beatles cover band, a reggae band, and a Brazilian group. I wanted to do a painting of a palm tree, but apparently you had to sign up ahead of time, which a bunch of us didn't know since it wasn't in the onboard daily flyer. So then instead Travalon and I did a really weird geographical trivia game, where they showed you photos of famous cities, only most of them had no well-known landmarks in the scene so it was hard to guess where they were. We still got almost half of them right somehow, but another team beat us. Oh well, didn't need that key chain anyway.

Here are my two new narwhals, Bjorn and Erik.

Our housekeeper put all the stuffed animals together on top of the couch:

When I asked why he hadn't made us a towel animal yet, he said they don't do that anymore unless you request it, but since I asked, he made us this adorable elephant:

I still have tons of photos of Cuba, and Travalon has even more, so watch this space for future posts.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Our Road Trip South

Sorry for the lack of blogging. We kept getting into our hotels late at night, but now we are on the ship so I have a chance to update everyone. Here are some pictures from Champaign-Urbana:

 Artwork on campus

 Math Building

 Carillon  (not as pretty as ours)

 Episcopal Church

Atrium of their workout facility

Sunday we drove to the Johnny Cash Museum and had lattes in the cafe again, and they are still the best ones I have ever tasted. We even bought some of their coffee, which they roast there themselves: A Brew Named Sue (medium roast) and Folsom Prison Brew (dark roast). This first photo is artwork made from metal from the World Trade Center:

As we drove along, we came across a sign for the James K. Polk House. Now who ever thinks about our 11th President? This appealed to my random side, but it was actually a very interesting tour with lots of political talk. Travalon and I both loved it. This first photo is a cool tower right across the street from the house.

Here is a photo of the James K. Polk House.

This table came from the White House when Polk was president. It is made from marble from ancient Carthage. I didn't know that when I took the picture; I just thought it was beautiful.

This is the courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee, where the Polk House is located:

When we first crossed the border into Tennessee, we listened to "Tennessee" by Arrested Development, and I cried. Once we were in Alabama, we encountered things like the Chevron gas station where the purse hooks were on the outside of the bathroom stall doors. How does that make sense? We stopped at the Ave Maria Grotto just after it had closed, so we just took a walk along their Stations of the Cross path, and another walk around the pond at the St. Bernard Academy across the street. When we went into the chapel there, the monks were chanting the psalms. Here is a photo of the columbarium at the Ave Maria Grotto:

I thought about making a video of the monks chanting, but that seemed disrespectful.

We got to Montgomery after dark, and we walked along the outside of the Capitol building. Some flower in one of the gardens around it smelled amazing. I wish I could have put the scent on the blog! Here is the Capitol:

This wasn't in the same area of the garden that smelled so heavenly, but I wondered why this one azalea bush bloomed mostly purple but in the lower section you can see it is white.

We stopped at another Chevron station that didn't have an issue with the purse hooks, but outside of it we encountered this...

... dying luna moth on the sidewalk. I tried to move her to the sidewalk since she could no longer fly, but she was amazingly strong and feisty. Finally Travalon had to move her, since I couldn't do it. I thought about bringing her with us, but why?

Travalon brought his usual companions along, some stuffed red pandas and the honey badger Kizi. I brought a tiny dragon and a triceratops that I got for 69 cents at Goodwill, but then at a rest stop we found a larger dragon to go with the little one. Meet Zephyr, Tonica (named after a town we passed in Illinois), and Indigo:

I also ended up getting a couple of narwhals, Bjorn and Erik, but I didn't take a picture of them yet so that is something to look forward to.

Yesterday we spent most of the day driving. We did stop at a shrine to Our Lady of La Leche, but some women were praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet in there, so I didn't take a picture of it. Our big adventure was going to Silver Springs, Florida and riding the cute glass-bottomed boats that look like green trolleys:

Here is a sample picture of what we saw through the bottom of the boat: lots of bluegills, some gar and shad, and a few turtles.

We also saw a couple of alligators, including this one swimming alongside our boat:

No manatees, unfortunately. Then we took a walk on the island in the park, which looks like a jungle.

Then we took the Florida Turnpike south, since it is very direct and not nearly as packed as the other highways, being a tollway. We stayed at a hotel in the Design District of Miami, and this morning we explored the historic Art Deco district in South Beach. Check out this sign!

Here I am having an iced latte at one of the Art Deco hotels.

I took many photos of the Art Deco architecture, and Travalon took way more, which I will post at some point.

Here is a picture of a sailboat coming into South Beach:

This is a shot of Miami from our balcony on the cruise ship:

And finally, my first tropical sunset this year!

Famous Hat