Christmas in Montevideo – Part 5 – last days onboard

Humble apologies for the month’s delay.  A lot happened in the last days on the ship and the days in Chile, afterward.  Then there’s always re-entry and I came back to a pretty busy travel business that needed me.  I’m not complaining, and here are the last days on the ship.  Chilean Wine Tour next and after that, a weekend in Napa.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 30, 2018, we were at sea, going around Cape Horn, and very lucky with the weather.  Today’s desk hours were pretty quiet but my email was lovely.  Pat and Mike liked Holland America so well that they bought a Panama Canal cruise for next Christmas.  It’s on the Amsterdam, my favorite ship, so I asked DV to save it or me, should it become a Distinctive Voyage.  Cross fingers.  I gave the envelopes with the cocktail party tips to Wendy to distribute, and I know she did, because I got a thank you.

One of my people came by and took a copy of my latest newsletter, claiming none of them had received the information.  Three cabins, really?  That I hand delivered myself, really? I get tired of all this pitching of my hard work, and ignoring of my phone calls.  My rolling office contained four postcards from the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.  I thought they were odd enough in this context to get a look.  I wrote, “This is silly, but so is ignoring me.  I have a FREE tour for you in Puerto Montt, a gift from your travel agent.  Call me at 3159 to hear about and collect it.”

It worked and now there are 68 people coming on tour, 69, if my wheelchair lady makes it.  A guest I had never heard from called me wondering why her parents had never received anything.  She had thrown out all she got, as had her sister.  This, by the way, is a different three cabin group from the one in the previous paragraph.  I explained that receiving our amenities depended on the travel agent you used.  She swore that all three cabins had been booked at the same time, by the same travel agency.  Since I had to turn in the count tomorrow, I decided to believe her, and had the whole six of them sign the waivers.

We tried the Spa Café for lunch and it was pretty good.  They had a lot of salads, but I had a spicy udon bowl, a carrot and ginger soup, and a delicious muesli cookie.

Around 4 pm, Andrea and I went up to the Sky Lounge to have a glass of champagne at “The End of the World”.  We met up with Patrick and Rosie, and it turned out to be a floating photo safari.  Patrick takes some wonderful photos.  I got this one of the lighthouse at the end of the world:

20181230-01CapeHornLighthhouseSmaller

Another nice dinner in the dining room, another bottle of good wine, another decent show, and a great night’s sleep.

On New Year’s Eve, we docked in Ushuaia, Argentina, the last town before the end of the world. We went ashore.  We were on a mission, here, to get rid of all the Argentine pesos.  We had so much trouble getting them in Buenos Aires, that we had all stocked up.  It wasn’t made any easier by the fact that it was New Year’s Eve.  Most of the shops were open, though, and we managed to spend most of the money on clothing.

I met Jorge and Javier on their way into town, when I was going back.  He owned up to the deception about the champagne and I thanked him profusely.  It was a good thing, too, as that night, in the Dining Room, the sommelier wanted to tell us we were on our second bottle of our second package, when it was, indeed, our first.

The Hotel Director had given me a bottle of prosecco on boarding day, and I brought it to dinner, too, for the six of us to share.  We toasted Paul and Elvon with it.  We had eaten late so it wasn’t too long to midnight.  I volunteered to go down to Deck 3 and save seats at the foot of the staircase.  Ha! There were no seats.  They had made every one of them disappear on both the third and fourth decks, to get more people in.  I managed to stake a claim to two corners of a lamp pedestal, that was immovable.  We took turns perching there, never letting them go.  At midnight, they became little tables for the free champers.  Patrick is sure it was very low alcohol, because he had three glasses of it, on top of three glasses of the real thing at dinner, and never felt a thing.  That actually would have been pretty smart of the ship.

There’s some amazing soundproofing on here, too.  Our cabin is the first one down the hall from the party, which went on for quite a while, after Andrea and I retired, around one am.  We closed our door and never heard a thing,

New Year’s day, 2019, was an ordinary sea day and I was back at the desk.  It’s no hardship to sit there, as I can always read my email, log and blog, while being available to my 80 cruisers.  Distinctive Voyages had written me that we had to verify eligibility of the parents who had not been included.  I duly got their booking number from Guest Relations.  At that point, I finally wised up and had a look at the “Do Not Include” tab in the Excel workbook, and there they were.  I wrote DV, explained, and told them I can suck up the price of their tour, and will be paying the tour company, myself.

More of the wheelchair lady’s family members stopped by the desk, to make another plea to get their mother on tour.  I spoke to Wendy again and found out that the rule was that she had to go down the stairs to the tender on her own steam.  She had chickened out the last time, when it was just a bit rough.  I spoke to the wheelchair lady again that day, in the presence of about three family members.  She will still be afraid, if it is even a bit rough on the 4th. I don’t blame her.  I have been on ships where there have been tender accidents.

I worked on a newsletter to go out on the 2nd with our tour meeting place, bus assignments, etc.  I have enough Spanish speaking people (27) to warrant a bilingual bus.  Then I went to the gym, as I do most days, and worked on my log and blog in the Oceanview Café.  If was a bad choice.  I ended up eating again.

Of course, we still had the oinking big dinner in the dining room.  They have been especially good lately.  Tonight was lamb shank.  The entertainer was Amy Lee on violin, and she was good.  We are tired of screaming singers.  Then Ellen, Andrea and I went up to the ABBA tribute party in the Sky Lounge.  No conflict there.  ABBA didn’t scream, they actually sang.

Wednesday, January 2, was listed in the Itinerary as “Straits of Magellan”. That’s just a fancy name for another sea day.  The Straits can be rough, though, and we were privileged that they weren’t for us.  It was overcast and the Internet was iffy, but the scenery was beautiful, even in the mist.

One of my guests came and took a picture of our detailed itinerary in Puerto Montt.  He had a friend to meet in Puerto Varas.  Then we delivered the newsletter about the tour.

Thursday, January 3, was billed as “Chilean Fjords”.  That’s another fancy name for another sea day.  I had office hours.  Our shore excursion tomorrow, leaves at 8:30 am rom shore, in a tender port.  Wendy, the Event Coordinator, came to tell me that we cannot get a tender of our own.  I will have to show up at 7:00 am to collect 69 tender tickets.  Then I will go to our meeting point and distribute them.  At 7:45 we will move out of the meeting place to the designated tender boarding place.  There we will probably end up on two tenders and have to re-assemble on shore to process through the terminal building to the buses.  Luckily I have trusted people to help, but it will probably give me nightmares, anyway.

To minimize the trouble, I put out a clarifying broadcast.  I was also in a spot of trouble for having teed up a Spanish bus.  It was a unique situation, because of all the Spanish-speaking families aboard.  The only non-Spanish speakers on the bus were my own clients, Patrick and Rosie, who agreed to be bus monitors in exchange for an exceptional bottle of wine. The bus will be full of bilingual people to translate for them, if the need should arise, and they are both ex-school teachers, who make the best bus monitors.  Andrea Terni, my co-host, speaks passable Spanish.

I delivered one more letter, too, just to make sure everyone got the message and would be in the right place at the right time for the tour.

Finally, on Friday, it was time for our tour in Puerto Montt.  The group was prompt in getting to Celebrity Central, and we were able to move out and get into the tender line, together and on time.  Wendy was there, acknowledged us and did her level best to get us into the tender line in a group.  It was a very slow line and people had to leave to go to the bathroom, etc. Net, we ended up on two tenders and had to wait in the terminal for the second.

Our shore excursion suppliers were there for us, and waited with us.  Our people were sweet and patient, and soon it came together.  This area of Chile was originally settled by Germans, but eventually became Spanish, like most of South America.  It’s just joining the rest of the world, as to things like owning cars and pets.  These things just happened in the last ten or twenty years.  Before that, they rode horses, and the dogs stayed outside, year round.  There are still a lot of street dogs, but they don’t fight and they grow long thick coats for the winter.  I have a couple of pictures.

All of this, and a lot more, we learned from Carlos, our guide, as we drove through Puerto Montt, on the way to Puerto Varas.  He was excellent, teaches IT, during the school year, and supports other IT teachers.  The Internet is changing the people’s lives, too.  They now buy a lot of goods, both from Amazon, but also from Alibaba, the Chinese equivalent.  It’s just as close, and often cheaper, to have things shipped to them from China.

Puerto Varas is a nice little town, with a main square ringed by restaurants and pastry shops, and a nice handicraft market, probably the best I saw in Chile.  These markets are starting to look all the same to me.  There aren’t nearly as many real handicrafts, actually made in the country, as there were, even a decade ago.  The fault lies with our own industry.  Too much demand, not enough supply.  The real stuff gets replaced with goods mass produced in China and they are all the same.

Our next stop was Frutillar, a preserved German village, where we could tour the blacksmith’s house, museum, library, more cottages, and the rich man’s house on the hill, of course.  It was very pretty and peaceful.  This is Andrea, from a window of the house on the hill.20190104-13FrutillarGermanVillageAndreaSmaller

There was a functioning pastry shop, that a number of people used for a mid-morning snack.  It had nice things, including a jam cake that brought me back to my childhood, when my mother and my aunt Annie used to make it.  I still have the recipe; one day I’ll make another.  It’s more expensive to make, than to buy, but it’s wonderful.

We returned to Puerto Montt, and its handicrafts market, which was a little disappointing, but we have come to expect that, for the reasons noted above.  Some people left the bus to make their own way back to the pier, as we were close.

I printed, and Andrea and I collated the farewell letter and comments cards, and delivered them.  Then we met Patrick and Rosie for sail away, which was lovely, as was dinner, with them and the Morneaus.  We are family now.

Saturday, January 5, was our last day aboard and a sea day, which you need before disembarkation, to pack and sort yourself out.  I met a number of my people at breakfast in the buffet.  They were all delighted with the tour and thanked me very much.  The long wait to get off the ship had been forgotten.

I had office hours at ten.  A lot of people came by to thank me and say it was a lot of fun.  The people I paid for stopped by to thank me for taking them on the tour.  They still do not understand why they were not included when their children were.  Guess who was paying?  The mother loves the program and wants to be included every time.  She took a look at our brochure and wants one to help her pick her next cruise.  I told her she needed to have a conversation with her travel agent about how this happened and that it should never happen again.  Her agent can also order a DV brochure for her.  She’s a lovely lady.  I am not a bit sorry I paid for her to join the tour.

More people brought in their Comments Cards, all smiles and compliments.  I left the desk around noon and went to pack.  That done, I went up to the Aqua Spa Café to log and blog.  I have been using this quiet place, for this purpose, all week, but today was different.  It was full of Mexican families playing games like Mah Jong.  Now, when the Chinese play Mah Jong, all you hear is the clacking of the tiles.  When Mexican families play it, it’s a lot more interactive, and a lot louder.  Oh, well, they were having fun and I decided I didn’t feel like working on the last day, either.

I checked our envelope at the Front Desk just before six, and went upstairs to the Sky Lounge to meet my people and draw for the $25 SBC.  Then we went to dinner and off to bed.  We had a wine tour starting in San Antonio tomorrow.

 

Christmas in Montevideo – Part 4

This picture is carried over from Christmas Day, as even I thought it might not be appropriate then:20181225-01MOntevideoPotShopSmaller

The Pot Shop was open, too, and that plant on the left was alive and growing, in its window.

Thursday, December 27, was a sea day, and I had a good few people at the desk.  I was glad to see Daniela and Ventura del Rio, as they are part of the group of 28, within our group, and were very helpful in sorting out the names.  Spanish names can be very long, as they give great reverence to their ancestors.  It’s a lovely custom, but it makes keeping a manifest a lot harder.

Six cabins needed duplicate folders.  I swear they throw them out and then claim they never saw them.  Some of them admit that when they get the second one.  I always have one handicap problem, too.  This time it is the matriarch of a group of eighteen.  The ship had refused to take her on the tender in Punta del Este.  She is in a wheelchair, but can climb stairs, etc.  Her kids, of which there are five, were worried that she would not be able to do our shore excursion because Puerto Montt is a tender port, too.  This isn’t over.

Jorge, our friend from the helipad, had called back and we six were going to dinner in Luminae, with him, Javier and Julius.  We had to eat early, though, which was fine with us, as we wanted to see the show.  Dinner was excellent, both food and conversation.  Luminae, the Suites’ dining room, is a little more soignée than the main Dining Room, and they have the best staff on the ship.  The sommelier stopped the “who gets to pay for the champers” fight, that I was having with Jorge, by faking me into thinking that I had.  She took my card and gave me a receipt, but a couple of nights later, there was a bottle left in our 7-bottle package, when it should have been done.

Then the whole staff outdid itself when a family with about eight unruly kids came in and they fed them and got them out in twenty minutes flat.  They were a long twenty minutes, mind you.  You don’t see such badly behaved kids in the main dining room, either.  I’m guessing the parents don’t feel quite as entitled, there.

The show was called “Topper” and it was very clever.  Too bad I fell asleep during the acrobats, as they are my favorite part.

Finally, it was Friday, December 28, time for our penguin tour in Puerto Madryn.  We were all keen on walking among the Magellan penguins of Punta Tombo, so I had booked a private tour with Edgardo of “Tour Guide Ushiaia”.  It got off 45 minutes late, when Andrea went ahead to find the Guide, while I waited for the last couple.  She managed to walk past four people she knew well, and a guy with a large sign saying “Helen Megan Group”, to get all the way to the port entrance.  When she didn’t come back to me to say she had found the guy with the sign, and I had waited long enough, I went back on board to verify that she was still off.  Then I went up to where the sign was, and we all waited again.  We only found her, at the port entrance, when we had decided to give up and go without her.

As we were leaving town, I noted the housing was pretty bleak, but there were a number of people walking good purebred dogs.  That sort of thing always interests me.  I guess they are a minor status symbol.  We skirted a town called “Trelew”, which is a Welsh name.  Imagine them being the first settlers. They arrived in 1865.

We made up some of the lost time by buying a sandwich lunch at a gas station, and eating it on the bus.  It was actually pretty good, Sorrento ham and cheese.  The scenery on the long bus ride was pretty bleak, punctuated by guanaco, a type of llama.  There are also rodent deer, called caviamara, but we never saw any.

We sure saw a lot of penguins, though.  They’re very lovable, but quite scrappy.  The males spend a lot of time standing erect and screaming “This land is MY Land”.  We saw a very nasty fight over a great nesting spot, under the footbridge.  I was mystified, because the chicks were born over a month ago, and the penguins would migrate to Brazil in April, to return again next year.  They would doubtless have to fight for it all over again.

This little guy thought Patrick’s shoes were other penguins and he came in to challenge them.  Patrick got a very lucky shot that looks like he is holding the screaming penguin.  He wasn’t:20181228-33PuntaTomboPenguinonPatrickSmaller

The weather was wonderful, in the high seventies.  I wondered why it wasn’t much colder, like Alaska is in summer.  Our guide had the explanation.  It has to do with the shape of the continents.  South America tapers to a point, so the oceans keep it a lot warmer than North America, where the land mass at Alaska’s level is about five thousand miles wide.

It was the kind of day to toast, and we have a new one.  It’s “Pura Vida” and Central and South Americans use it for everything.

We were back at sea on Saturday, December 29.  Our desk hours competed with the ship’s Bridge and Kitchen tours and not a soul came.  Finally, I got around to logging and blogging.  With any luck I won’t still be doing it two weeks after the cruise, which happens.  The six of us had another very nice dinner in the dining room and went to another production show, called “Amade”.  We couldn’t figure out the connection to Mozart, mind you.

Christmas in Montevideo – Part 3

Christmas Eve, Monday, December 24, 2018

It doesn’t feel like Christmas Eve when you’re working all day, but it sure kept us out of trouble.  We were docked in Buenos Aires for most of the day, but at the container port, so going ashore wasn’t attractive to anyone except Rosie and Patrick.  They had left their phone in their room at The Brick and sort of wanted it back.  Wendy, the Event Manager, was off the ship, too, which wasn’t so good for me, because my DV broadcast had not gone out last night.  I duly recorded another one, changing “tomorrow” to “today”.  Unfortunately, when Wendy came back, she blasted out the first, rather than the second, so I had to record a third, apologizing for the first, and stressing that the cocktail party was tonight.  Yup, Christmas Eve.

One group leader, a travel agent, no less, had called in the morning to complain that no one in her group had received anything from Distinctive Voyages.  I said I would wait while she looked outside her door.  Sure enough she was calling me on suppertime news, and we had delivered after dinner.  They had their packets.

I met with every department I needed to and wrote my cocktail party speech.

Thirty-three people came to the cocktail party, which was good, considering we were competing with “Carols with the Captain” and our group of 18 must have had their own event planned, as not one of them came.  Neither our group of eight didn’t come, either, nor did our other group of six.  That accounts for most of them. Groups within the DV group change the dynamic.  My group of six was there, of course, and Patrick took the pictures for me.

It was a nice party, and it was nice to connect with these good people.  I wish our shore excursion were coming earlier in the cruise, it will be almost over before we see them again.  We hit the rush in the dining room, so dinner was a late affair, and we missed the show, but we like each other’s company and all was well.

Christmas in Montevideo

The six of us, Rosie, Patrick, JP, Ellen, Andrea and I, met for breakfast on the aft deck, outside the Oceanview Bar, happy that it was warm enough to do so.  Then we went out in Montevideo.  We shopped our way to the cathedral, getting there in time to catch the last half of the noon mass.  Both the cathedral itself and the service were beautiful.  The familiar hymns are nice to hear in their intended setting. When the mass was over, we toured the church, like the tourists we are.  The cardinal was giving an interview on the front steps.  There was a little market in the square in front of the cathedral, but most shops and restaurants were closed.

Patrick had struck up a friendship with the chef at one restaurant that was open, El Cuatro Equadorio.  The cuisine was very local, consisting of foods grilled with the heat coming from the top of the oven, circulating by convection.  We wanted to try it.  As in the church, we were the only tourists, and it did not get us favored treatment.  Quite the contrary.  This was a locals’ place and the locals got served first on Christmas Day.  When our two enormous Stellas came in their ice bucket, we fell on them with great joy and ordered a third.  It was pretty hot by that time and Ellen and I decided to cool our hands on the ice bucket.  JP was having none of it.  He told us to stop warming the beer.  The food finally came and it was pretty tough and disappointing, but we ate with the citizens of Montevideo, and that was super.  At one point they ran out of big ice buckets and we found ourselves with one bottle in a double, when the next table had two bottles in a single, which just didn’t fit.  We offered to switch and got the short end of the stick when they kept all the ice.

And that was Christmas, topped off with a turkey dinner in the main dining room, and The Eclipse Holiday Show.  On these big ships, not only are the production shows all singing and all dancing, they’re all Cirque du Soleil, too.  Those acrobat schools in Montreal are sending talent all over the world, at sea.  The stage, slings and cables, are all there, and our acrobats are good.  They are the best part of the show, really.

Boxing Day, December 26, 2018, in Punta del Este, Uruguay

I stayed aboard, wrote and delivered a newsletter, while Andrea went to the beach and everyone else toured the town.  It was a tender port and I was happier working than waiting around for little boats. Patrick got a great souvenir picture, though.

20181226-03PuntadelEste

The newsletter wasn’t optional, if I was to find 60 people who wanted to spend New Year’s Eve with us.

Andrea and I were invited to the Helipad for Sail-Away.  I tried to beg my own clients in, but it was strictly for VIPs. As far as we could gather, that meant Suite Guests, and, well, us.  It turned out well, though, we made some nice friends, Jorge and Javier, from Miami.  Jorge used to be a travel agent and he was convinced the we needed to experience Luminae, and bring my clients.  He was sure they would be buying suites from now on, if they had that experience.  These are my Montreal clients.  They’re gourmets, spoiled with Montreal’s fine food, not to mention what they make themselves.  The Michael’s Club concierge was there and she told us how to go about it.  We could be guests of Jorge’s for $30 per person.  That would work for us.  We were delighted and so were Rosie, Patrick, JP and Ellen, when we told them at dinner.

The show was Charyn Cannon, a blues singer, and she was good.

Christmas in Montevideo – Part 2 – Buenos Aires

Thursday, December 20, 2018, Buenos Aires

My plane landed in Buenos Aires, probably an hour before the plane from Toronto, carrying J.P. and Ellen, Patrick and Rosie, and Andrea.  I made contact with Eilat and Vivianne, our transfer person, and waited.  Eventually they processed through and we were off to our hotel, The Brick, a Sofitel, in Recoleta.  It was around noon, and we had all been traveling all night and then some.  We got our rooms right away, dropped our luggage and went out for lunch.  We plan to be fully on Buenos Aires time, by tomorrow.  We pretty much are, already, just tired.

 

There is a currency crisis in Argentina, and it’s the holiday season.  The HSBC ATM in the upscale mall, across the street, wasn’t even giving the natives money, much less us.  We had lunch there, though, and it was good.  After lunch, Patrick, Rosie, Andrea and I went out on the streets, following the hotel’s directions, to the nearest ATMs.  None of them was in the mood to accept the Royal Bank’s debit cards but Patrick got some money out of another Canadian Bank through the National Bank of Argentina, about eight blocks away.  We’ll keep trying, but now it was nap time.

We had a dinner engagement, planned by my BA friend, Eilat. We were going to a restaurant she was dying to try.  It was called Mishiguene and, when I just googled it, I found out it is one of the Diners’ Club 50 best restaurants in the world.  Singlethread in Healdsburg is on that list, but The French Laundry and Per Se aren’t any more.  There are three in Tokyo, though, so I’ll be dragging Trish and Steve to at least one of them.

We were ahead of the crowd, so Mishiguene’s celebrity chef, Tomas Kalika, had time to help us choose our meal and wine.   The cuisine is “Modern Jewish” and it was unique and wonderful.  It was served like a Chinese dinner, all about sharing. I was too brain dead to list all the appetizers, but I remember the one I contributed.  It was Kibbeh Nayeh.  It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, which was a pile of raw lamb with bulgar and spices.  It was just outstanding, though, as was everything else Tomas served us.  By the time we got to the mains, we were filling up, and we had ordered two bone-in pastramis, grilled and sauced up, with caramelized onions draped over the sides.  It was too much.  We sent more than half a pastrami home with the delightful Eilat, for her husband, who had been baby-sitting.

Eilat was thrilled with her treasure and called her husband, César, from her taxi to tell him she was bringing home supper.  He said he had already eaten. She got home, triumphantly put the box on the table and told him to dig in.  He said he had already eaten.  She got him a knife and fork and opened the box.  He said he had already eaten, and then he saw it.  He was persuaded to have just a bite.  He ate the whole thing.  He was very happy. Don’t miss this restaurant when you visit Buenos Aires. http://www.mishiguene.com/prensa.php

Of the four taxis we took, one had a dishonest meter, so J.P. Ellen and I paid double to get there, but we were a lot smarter on the way back, and we had Eilat cautioning the driver, not to try that.

Friday, December 21, 2018, Buenos Aires

We slept like logs and just made it up for the last half-hour of The Brick’s buffet breakfast, which is absolutely excellent.  I took Chase’s ATM card out and had better luck getting money.  RBC still wasn’t giving me a peso.  I had work to do for my Distinctive Voyage on board, so I bought the rest of the group a tour guide for the afternoon.  They all liked Soledad a lot and had a lovely time with her, at Eva Peron’s grave and all the usual Buenos Aires highlights, except …… JP got attacked for his Rolex.  He fell but he managed to hang on to it.  The perp got away on the back of a motorcycle.  JP took it off and put it in his pocket.  Less than half an hour later the same perps had the nerve to try again.  Unbelievable.  What else is unbelievable is that he was able to identify them, following the group, in one of Patrick’s photos.  Here they are:20181221-13BuenosAiresPerps

There was no fancy dinner this night, we were going out to tango with Soledad.  We weren’t seeing a Tango Show.  We went to a place where the locals go to tango.  We left the hotel around 9:30 pm.  I hadn’t had dinner yet, so I was dependent on the snacks they would serve.  The others hadn’t had all that much, either, just a few treats on tour.  We were hungry.

Soledad took us to a Milonga.  We were the only tourists in the place.  The other couple of hundred people were there to dance the tango.  The tables were set so almost everyone could face the dance floor, especially on the boys’ side and the girls’ side.  The couples sat at tables on the ends.  That way everyone knew who was who.  Very efficient.  All the ladies had proper tango shoes, as did Soledad, and she put them on.  No one asked her to dance, though, doubtless because she was busy with us, because she’s lovely, and serious about tango.  It was wrong, but we, myself in particular, were pretty focused on food, and we were not in luck.  They had three little empanadas left, and some terrible pizza.  We ate it anyway, and we drank bad wine.  JP was smart.  He had a giant Stella Artois in a thermal cooler. He also had a pretty sore shoulder, thanks to having hit the pavement a couple of times.

We were glad we went, because we like authentic cultural experiences, but none of us was ever going to tango, so we left around eleven.  The night was young, if you tango, but we just wanted to go back.  I know Soledad was disappointed in us, but she had been with the group when JP was assaulted, so she understood.  We went back to The Brick.  I gave JP my Voltaren and Andrea and I went to Rosie and Patrick’s room to share their very nice Canadian wine.  Yes, I did write that last sentence.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

After another yummy Brick buffet, Rosie, Patrick and Andrea went walking around town, which they love to do.  JP, Ellen and I went to the Brick’s fitness center, which had a nice little covered pool, as well as the usual machines, weights and mats.  I got an hour of exercise in, along with a short swim.  Ellen swam a lot more, and JP rested and nursed his sore shoulder.  Then the three of us walked to the Saturday Artisan market in Plaza Francia to spend a fun hour.  I ended up buying a bag of plastic bags.  Well, it was supposed to be a sleep shirt.  I think I insulted the vendor, when I made a fuss over examining my change for a thousand pesos.  I had been caught with counterfeit, on a previous trip to B.A.  She fixed me.  The money was real, but the shirt was fake.  She probably need the $7.50 a lot more than I did, but I felt pretty stupid, all the same.

Eilat was coming out to play with the three of us, all of whom knew her from previous trips.  Ellen and I had found the Alvear Palace Hotel on the way to the bank the day before.  It was perfect, a Grand Dame, with a perfect English Tea.  At a little more than $25 per person, it was less than half the price of all the other Grande Dames I know.  Apart from the scones, cucumber sandwiches, smoked salmon and petit fours, it included a glass of champagne and desserts from the trolley.  20181222BuenosAiresAlevearPalaceEllenEilatHelenJP200pxBy the time the trolley came along, we were thoroughly stuffed.  Lucky César, again, Eilat chose him four, full size, delectable pastries.  He may start liking minding their little daughter, if she keeps coming home with the treats.

We had to eat again in a couple of hours.  You can’t do Buenos Aires without a fabulous steak dinner.  Belen, our hotel concierge, had found us Piegari Carnes, a couple of blocks up the street.  The ojo de bife’s were fabulous, and cooked right, and the Malbec was delicious.  The bill came to about $75 a couple, which wasn’t bad for the quality, but not a patch on Mishiguene, where we had twice as much very good wine, and paid about the same.  We recommend both these restaurants, as well as The Brick Hotel.

Sunday, December 23, 2019

There’s not much to do on boarding day except board.  Vivianne came back with her van to pick us up at 12:30 pm.  The van driver and bellmen began loading it up.  She kept suggesting they try to close it before they topped it up with luggage.  She must have told them three times before they found out for themselves.  Ellen and I knew, too.  When the bottom suitcase won’t let the door close, there’s little point in finishing the job, until you solve that one.  But what did we know?  We were just women.  But we had a secret weapon, Patrick, a man who was really good in geometry.  He stepped in and solved the equation in a jiffy. QED.

Boarding was slow, but uneventful, the way you want it.  I had trouble getting the info I needed for the Distinctive Voyages letters, though, and Andrea had trouble getting her suitcase.  We got the folders all ready, but not delivered, by dinner time.  I recorded the broadcast welcome, and we delivered them after dinner.  It was a pretty good dinner, and we all fell into bed, after we had delivered the letters.

Christmas in South America – Part 1

Friday, December 21, 2018

It was busier than ever this year before I left. I had deliverables on no less than six cruises, this one, another Christmas junket to Mexico, Shanghai to Singapore, Shanghai to Tokyo, a SilverSea combo that was complicated, and a brand new one, National Geographic circumnavigating Iceland, in July.  I sure would like to go along on that one.  I might.  They have single cabins.

Anyway, I curtailed my social life for a few days and got it all done, with two nights that I could socialize, and I did.  Sylly P was moving downstairs to Steve and Trish’s apartment, and her vet was visiting her mother, next door to me.  She brought Sylly P some meds, including steroids, for her unrelenting diarrhea.  (Only I would discuss this in my blog, I know).  It’s no joke.  It has been going on for months, but the pooping puddy tat is otherwise healthy, acting normal, and so far, not messing the rugs.  Steve and Trish and I had dinner on the 17th with Dan, her vet’s husband, and Geri, her mother.  And last night she moved in with the Harrolds.  It was strange, not having her in bed, especially as she had been so loving the night before.  I missed her warm furry little body.

I had booked a couple of last minute things for our holiday, yesterday, and woke up this morning realizing that re-printing our itinerary and sending it to Montreal would be a very good idea, so I did that, and the long suffering Eric put up with me being 25 minutes late out the door.

The Petaluma narrows didn’t do us in, but there was a lot of traffic getting through Marin.  It didn’t matter to me, as my plane was only scheduled to leave at 12:15 pm, but it put Eric in a crunch for his next ride.  I used the time to wish the family a Merry Christmas and to call the Montreal friends who were flying out later to join me.

I had to call them again from the airport, and Eilat, my Buenos Aires friend, too.  After I had left my checked bag, and was comfortably settled on the pot for my morning constitutional, AA sent me a text saying my plane now wasn’t leaving until 12:50 pm, and I would likely miss my connection to Buenos Aires.

On that happy note, I got back into the service line at American, and waited over an hour, because I had been too cheap to pay for Business Class or even an extra $33 for “Priority Service.”  I had paid for a seat upgrade, mind you, but priority service was extra.  No wonder everybody hates flying now.

By the time I got to the head of the line, I had another text to say that my SFO-LAX would now leave at 12:35 pm.  I stayed in line and talked to the agent.  I figured I had earned it.  She was most reassuring that the plane would dock near the LAX-EZE plane and I would make it.  I headed for the gate.

On my way there, lo and behold, I passed a yoga room.20181219YogaRoomSmaller

It was pretty basic, but there were a couple of mats, and some sanitizing wipes, and I had a half-hour to spare.  By the time I was done, there were five people in there, all of whom could put me to shame, but I am sure it did me good.  By the time I got to the gate, it was almost time to board.

Of course, the plane left late, and by the time it got to LAX, we had to dock at a farther gate, and there were less than 10 minutes before take-off, for Buenos Aires.  I shouldered my backpack, grabbed Rroffice (Red rolling office) and took off at a very fast walk.  A couple of minutes later, I was at the gate, which was closed, but they were waiting for us.  I was the first passenger from LAX to get there, and I wasn’t even breathing hard.  “I’m a healthy little old lady”, I said.  The gate agent wanted to know what I ate.  I had to fess up to the fact that my diet contains absolutely no green vegetables.  That even impresses my own doctors.

So, here I am on American Airlines inaugural non-stop flight LAX-EZE, with my computer balanced on its spine, because the person in front of me is rude enough to recline the seat.  Welcome to the friendly skies. They can’t get much friendlier.

And about the blog.  Please always remember to practice safe sex with the Internet – If you answer this blog be very sure your coordinates don’t appear in the message.  Better still, email me directly.  You know my email.

Happy Holidays, and Purrs,
Helen and Sylly P

SyllyPEmailGraphic

 

California is on Fire Again – Part 2 – Final, I hope

California is on Fire, again – Part 2

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sylly P is in good spirits and still asking for food.  If she would just not be pooping all over the place…  Maybe these antibiotics are working.  I hope I have long enough here to find out.  The air quality is a bit better this morning but the Camp Fire (Don’t you love the name?) is up to 109,000 acres and 25% contained.  If the acreage would stop going up with the containment, that would be more cheering.   Over 6500 structures have been destroyed, most of them homes.  Most of them poor old folks.  You want to cry.

Many people have written about Sylly P, whom, by the way is a lot better today.  I started giving her cannabis oil three days ago, and it has given her the munchies.  She’s grooming herself again, and is most social.

Marilyn Salhany wrote: “Poor Sylly P.  She probably  missed Elvon more than you realized if you say she got sick last Christmas.  Pets are funny that way.”    Sure enough, I noticed the coincidence.  It started with her pooping in the bath tub, and that happened very soon after his death.  The odd thing is he hadn’t lived with us for 2 months, but I suppose I brought his scent home every night, and then no longer.

Sylly P is getting better every day, but my poor carpet is still in pain.  We’re only half-way through the antibiotic, so there’s still hope.  We’re expecting rain next week, so it will soon be over for this year.  There is concern for what the future holds, if you believe in Global Warming, and, I do.

So, a last note, from the SF Chronicle:

Camp Fire: Death toll grows to 48, Butte County requests National Guard help in search for remains

Kurtis Alexander and J.K. Dineen Nov. 13, 2018 Updated: Nov. 13, 2018 10:57 p.m.

Fire181114smallerCHICO, Butte County — The death toll from the Camp Fire, already the worst California has ever seen in a wildfire, grew by six to 48 on Tuesday, officials announced at an evening news conference.

The Camp Fire grew to 130,000 acres and was 35 percent contained as of Tuesday evening.

It had destroyed a total of 8,817 structures — including 7,600 single family homes and 260 commercial buildings, officials said. Officials said 5,615 personnel were fighting the fire; 52,000 people remained evacuated in and around Paradise and 13,085 people remained sheltered.

The conditions in Butte County are extremely dry, officials said. They said 212 days have passed since it has rained in the area.

With the cadaver dogs and search and rescue teams still scouring the obliterated structures in search for human remains, it’s still uncertain when property owners will be allowed to return home.

 

Upcoming: 3 nice cruises

For those of you who have been asking where I go next, that’s Buenos Aires to San Antonio, on Celebrity, Eclipse, December 23, with add-ons in BA and the Chilean Wine country. https://tinyurl.com/2018BAtoChile

If you want Asia, I have TWO choices for you:

I’ll be hosting on Celebrity – Millennium – March 30, Shanghai to Tokyo, 14 days
Celebrity Millenium – Shanghai to Tokyo – 2 back-to-back China/Korea and Japanese Explorer: https://tinyurl.com/2019ShanghaiTokyo

Start with a few days in Shanghai, then”

  • Seoul
  • Beijing – 2 overnights
  • Jeju Island, South Korea
  • Kobe, Japan – overnight
  • Mt Fuji

End in Tokyo –Stay a few days there.   I have good friends to help me script that.

https://tinyurl.com/2019ShanghaiTokyo

Then, I have four exceptionally nice ladies from L.A. who are going, Shanghai to Singapore, also on Celebrity, in eraly February.  I have been working with these gals for a few months, and they are all lovely.  They like to travel well, and they don’t quibble.  I have some pretty nice stuff lined up for them.  Read my own Asia blog from last February, to get the flavor.  They’d be happy to have a couple more people along to share private tours, etc.

Email me about any of these, or anything else you want.  I’ll be home when you get this.

 

 

 

California is on Fire, again

Fire181110smaller

Thursday, November 8

There’s a big wildfire to the east of us.  It started at 6:30 am and grew rapidly.  By the end of the day it was bigger than our fire had been, and the smell of smoke was heavy in the air.  Our normally raucous chickens were very quiet when I went to feed them and pick up the eggs.  I’m spooked.

Friday, November 9

The big fire is 170 miles away, in Butte County, but the smoke is so bad here that I had to get off the treadmill after five minutes.  Then I got down on the floor and had to quit exercising after about 20 minutes because I was getting headachy and nauseous.  This is in an air-conditioned room, with its door taped shut.  My apartment is better sealed and I have a “Molekule” air purifier which is doing its job.  But it’s no picnic.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

So far my internal systems are holding and that will be true as long as the power stays on and the fires don’t come too close.  They are predicting high winds again for tonight and Monday night.  I am trying to keep busy.  I have plenty of work to do.  If we have to evacuate, I’ll have to stop at a vet’s and have Sylly P put down.  She has been sick since Christmas.   I gave up on the holistic vet, whose treatments never ended, and were very hard to administer.  She is now on anti-biotics, 2nd round, this time directed at colon and bladder.  4 days into that, and I am still cleaning up, two or three times a day.  I have a wonderful offer from the Scalbergs in Carmel, again, but if I get there, it will be all alone and very sad.

 

 

Upcoming: 3 nice cruises

For those of you who have been asking where I go next, that’s Buenos Aires to San Antonio, on Celebrity, Eclipse, December 23, with add-ons in BA and the Chilean Wine country. https://tinyurl.com/2018BAtoChile

If you want Asia, I have TWO choices for you:

I’ll be hosting on Celebrity – Millennium – March 30, Shanghai to Tokyo, 14 days
Celebrity Millenium – Shanghai to Tokyo – 2 back-to-back China/Korea and Japanese Explorer: https://tinyurl.com/2019ShanghaiTokyo

Start with a few days in Shanghai, then”

  • Seoul
  • Beijing – 2 overnights
  • Jeju Island, South Korea
  • Kobe, Japan – overnight
  • Mt Fuji

End in Tokyo –Stay a few days there.   I have good friends to help me script that.

https://tinyurl.com/2019ShanghaiTokyo

Home and Rome – Part 11 – FINAL for now

We all had the same plane to catch, on Friday, October 19, Air Canada 893, to Montreal.  The Fairchilds and Martins live there, and I had a eulogy to give for Paul Terni at 5:00 pm, Montreal time.  We caught the 9:00 am shuttle from the Hilton – Rome Airport, for our 11:45 am flight.  It would have been plenty of time, had there only been two or three wheelchair passengers, as we had one of them.  However, there were a bunch of them.  I heard eleven.  Our wheelchair passenger ended up walking, with the aid of a luggage cart, but it didn’t help much, as a good five of them didn’t have the option.

We ended up missing breakfast entirely, and we reported it to Air Canada and the airport officials.  They should take notice, too, because the plane had to wait for all they wheelchair bound passengers to be aboard.  It wasn’t their fault.  They were all there two hours before takeoff.  The plane took off a whole hour late and only made up 10 minutes of it.

Instead of touching down at 2:40 pm, it was 3:30 pm.  Thank the Universe for the Fairchilds’ daughter, Christa, who was picking them up. I couldn’t have got a taxi anywhere near as quickly. I walked through the door of the beautiful Mount Royal Funeral Complex, on the dot of five, and slipped into the second row, on the extreme right.  Just behind the family.  I was scheduled second to last, just before Paul’s daughter, Jennifer, herself.

When the MC called on me, Jennifer rose to tell everyone my plane was late, and I had not made it.  I was standing just behind her and gave her a surprise hug, before I took the stage.  This is what I said:

Paul Terni, my boss, my mentor, my tenant, my travel buddy, my client, my patient, my friend.

20020803-07 OwlsHeadPaul

As Paul reminded me himself, the week before he died, it was 46 years ago when I walked into the office of the new IBM Ed Center manager, and asked him “Do you play Bridge?”  and then “Do you drink?” Affirmative answers got Paul and Andrea into the best Bridge group, ever.  We met once a month, on a Saturday night, played all seven rounds of Chicago, drank like fish, ate a gourmet meal, prepared by the hosts, and three couples drove home, while the fourth cleaned up.  It was usually around 4:00 am on Sunday.

Every good manager finds a few subordinates they and can trust with any project.  Paul found that in me and took me with him.

When my then-husband was one of the salesmen on the Air Canada proposal team in the early ‘70s, and Paul was in charge of the Technical Support Team, he added me to it. After months of technical work, the proposal itself was getting out of control—all four two-inch binders of it. We were up against a deadline and the thing was a mess.  Paul was called in and he devised a plan.  It involved putting one person on point and filtering all documents through her.  That would have been me.  I sat at a terminal for 28 hours straight.  They fed me at my desk, but nothing went into the final version, when I had to go to the bathroom.  We printed, bound and delivered the proposal in time.  We still lost, but Paul had made me a hero.

Paul switched to sales after that, heading up the Canadian Pacific team, three salesmen and four systems engineers, and I was one of them.  When CP went Amdahl, IBM, in its infinite wisdom, kept the team together twiddling its thumbs for almost a year.  We all found our own ways out, of the company, and went on to better things.

Right around then, Brock and I split, and when my dog was six years old, she had lived in seven houses.  The last one was 425 Victoria, in the heart of Westmount village.  When I took it into my head to try my luck in Hong Kong I needed a tenant, who would manage the duplex.  Paul and Andrea were in the process of selling their TMR house and moving to Magog.  They needed a pied à terre, where Andrea could teach yoga and Paul could keep working, during the week.  Next thing you know, we had another wonderful relationship.

When I came back from Hong Kong, five years later, re-married, Elvon and I went to live in the Napa Valley, and moved in with the Ternis in Westmount, for a month or two every summer.  Just like family.

We spent a lot of time with them in Magog, over the last 25 years, and we went a lot farther afield.

Traveling with Paul was special, as he spoke seven languages, which meant you could always get help, anywhere.  We spent our month in Fonte Vetriana, Italy, as if we were Italian, ourselves.  Not only did we visit just about every town in Tuscany, there was a reunion of no less than five of Paul’s classmates from the very chichi Victoria School, in Alexandria, Egypt.

We cruised with the Ternis, all over Europe, we visited them in Magog, and they visited us in the Napa Valley.

We went to Jennifer’s wedding to Phil, at their home in Magog.  Jennifer baked her own cake and I helped decorate it.  It was the best wedding cake I ever tasted.

Michael married Cullen in the Eastern Townships, too. I’ll never forget the fireworks.  If you are laughing.  You were there.

Ten years ago, Paul celebrated his 70th birthday in Puerto Escondido, where they had been wintering for a couple of years.  He said he was tired of celebrating Jesus Christ’s birthday, every December 25th and wanted to celebrate his own.  We joined them, and repeated that for two more years, until it became too difficult for my husband, and we took to sailing around the world in the winter.

We mourned with Paul, Andrea, Jennifer, and Cullen, when Michael died in a tragic hockey accident. And I came up for a week to give Andrea and Jennifer a break, when Paul needed company, and a hospital advocate, all day, every day, while he fought to come back from a four-way heart bypass operation, done under what the hospital calls “dirty conditions”, meaning there was infection in his system.  Not many people make it out of that situation.

But Paul did.  He was a quiet fighter, and a very good one.  You rarely saw him upset.  He would just put his head down and get it.  He made love, not war, and he won his wars.

This year, he met a battle he could not win.  But he was ready, and with his usual quiet grace, he simply bid us all farewell, and left.  The last time I was with him, his doctor called.  I handed him the phone and he said: “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes” in a strong even voice, as she detailed the arrangements to him.  When he got off the phone, we had a little laugh about them not taking “Yes” for an answer.

I’ll never have a better friend, nor one I could respect more.

Upcoming: 3 nice cruises

For those of you who have been asking where I go next, that’s Buenos Aires to San Antonio, on Celebrity, Eclipse, December 23, with add-ons in BA and the Chilean Wine country. https://tinyurl.com/2018BAtoChile

If you want Asia, I have TWO choices for you:

I’ll be hosting on Celebrity – Millennium – March 30, Shanghai to Tokyo, 14 days
Celebrity Millenium – Shanghai to Tokyo – 2 back-to-back China/Korea and Japanese Explorer: https://tinyurl.com/2019ShanghaiTokyo

Start with a few days in Shanghai, then”

  • Seoul
  • Beijing – 2 overnights
  • Jeju Island, South Korea
  • Kobe, Japan – overnight
  • Mt Fuji

End in Tokyo –Stay a few days there.   I have good friends to help me script that.

https://tinyurl.com/2019ShanghaiTokyo

Then, I have four exceptionally nice ladies from L.A. who are going, Shanghai to Singapore, also on Celebrity, in February.  I have been working with these gals for a few months, and they are all lovely.  They like to travel well, and they don’t quibble.  I have some pretty nice stuff lined up for them.  Read my own Asia blog from last February, to get the flavor.  They’d be happy to have a couple more people along to share private tours, etc.

Email me about any of these, or anything else you want.  I’ll be home when you get this.

 

Home and Rome – Part 10

Finally, on October 16, it was time for our shore excursion in Nice, out of Monte Carlo, Monaco.  The weather report didn’t mention rain, so I left my raincoat in my stateroom.  That was a mistake.  It rained plenty.  Most, but not all, of my people were smarter than their fearless leader.  Our guide was excellent.  She really knew her stuff.  Her patter was right on point and we all learned a lot, even the likes of me, who has spent a month in a villa in Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Because we were so near the end of the cruise, I hurried back on board, finished the letter, had it printed, signed it and collated it with the Comments Cards.  Then I ran it around the ship, so they all had them by 3:30pm.

I had one more treat for my own clients.  I took them to the Yacht Club de Monaco, the snazziest Yacht Club in the World.  It’s right across the harbor from our ship, and there’s a Bateau Bus to take you there for 2 euros.  I took a little bottle of Elvon’s ashes with me and dropped them discreetly over the stern.  I think he’ll like it there with the mega-yachts.  Some of them are pretty unreal.  Their owners doubtless belong to the YCM.

I presented my credentials, and letter of introduction, we toured the parts that were open, which, alas, included no restaurants, as 5:00pm is between lunch and dinner.  The dining room opens at eight.  So, we had a couple of drinks in the bar, overlooking the harbor, and saw a good few four figure outfits, on men and women.  The most spectacular one must have been between $5,000 and $10,000.  And it was in mustard yellow, which is only in style every thirty years or so.

We took the Bateau Bus back again for a 7:30pm dinner in the dining room.

On October 17, 2018, in Livorno, Italy, I met up with the Millers and Zahorkas a little after nine to go to Florence.  Life threw us another 5 Euro port shuttle, and that would only get us to a taxi, which would get us to the train station.  There were a few eight passenger taxis for hire there, that had permits to enter the port.  We started negotiating and ended up back at 55 Euros, but it was door to door, no fuss.  We got the deal by taking on a couple of other passengers, overflow from another van.  They had relatives in the other van, who wanted to see Pisa, too, and we agreed to a very short stop there.

These two lovely couples wanted me for their travel agent, too, and I had to tell them I simply could not do that.  They understood, but they were pretty persistent.  Their Agency should be warned that they are very dissatisfied with the service they are getting.

My purpose in going to Florence was to meet up with Edgardo Pinto Guerra, one of Paul Terni’s Victoria School classmates.  I knew him from our month near his home town, back in 2008 or so.  Meeting up was a serious problem, as he had told me he would be at McDonalds, and there were three of them.  Only one was actually in the station, though, so I stayed there.  His train was to arrive an hour before mine, but of course, I wasn’t on the train.  I arrived before his train was scheduled.  I tried to phone him, but the number I had was his home, not his cell, and he hadn’t given me that.  So I waited, and waited.  His arrival time came and went.  I wasn’t having fun, yet.  About twenty more minutes passed and, finally, he showed up.  He had been waiting where the people stream out of the trains.  So why, pray tell, did he tell me McDonalds?

Anyway, it was good to see him, even if I was skeptical about his choice of restaurant.  It was Capitale de Chine.  A Chinese restaurant in Florence!  Edgardo assured me he knew food, and this was the best Chinese food he had ever had.  He does know his Italian food, and guided us well when we were there, but he hasn’t lived in Hong Kong.  I have.  It was pretty grim, and what made it worse was that he kept looking for reassurance from me that it was great.  I can hear Roslyn laughing from here.  Anyway, it’s meeting old friends that counts, and we were getting plenty of good food on the ship.

I walked back to our meeting point at the Duomo, on the corner of Prada and Gucci.  I was a good forty minutes early.  In less than ten minutes I was joined by the Millers and Zahorkas.  We circled the baptistery and took a few pictures.  This is Charles and Rita Miller.  Note the FitBit on her wrist.  I’ll get to it, soon.  It’s part of our story.

20181017-09FlorenceDuomoRita&CharlesMillerSmaller

Everyone showed up for our taxi, more or less on time, and we were off for Pisa.  Rita was sitting in a middle seat and every time we went over a bump, her FitBit lit up, and recorded a bunch of steps.  She was at 11,000, when she first noticed it.

I have been to Pisa before, two or three times.  I don’t believe people who say they have seen everything in Hong Kong or Singapore or any big city, but, when you have seen Pisa, you have seen Pisa, plus I was getting a blister on my toe, so I couldn’t walk much.  When Simon, our driver, announced it would be a one-hour stop, I wasn’t amused.  I was back at the van in half an hour, and the Millers and Zahorkas weren’t far behind me.  The lateness of the hour was bothering me, too, but Simon assured me we were only fifteen minutes from the ship.  But we were leaving at 5:00pm.  Simon assured me there was no rush hour traffic.  I am never sure there won’t be something or other to cause it.

There was.  It was soccer game night and the authorities had closed one of the roads.  Simon got us around it and we made 6:30pm All Aboard, with 20 minutes to spare.  That meant it had taken an hour and ten minutes of mostly back roads.  Rita’s fit bit was well over 14,000 by the time we were near the ship.

October 18, was disembarkation day in Civitavecchia, port for Rome. We five met for breakfast in the Lido, and disembarked about fifteen minutes earlier than our planned 9:00 am.  We knew Cabroma would be there, and sure enough, there was our driver with my name on his sign.  We piled in and were at The Hilton – Rome Airport, a little after 10:00 am.  The rooms weren’t ready, of course, but I got us our boarding passes, and pulled my email.

We had Pizza, Quattro Fromagi, for lunch in the Hilton’s café, and it was very good.  Then I went to the gym, and worked on my computer, until it was time for dinner.  The Martins and Fairchilds insisted on treating me at Miranda, a concierge recommended seafood restaurant in nearby Fumicino.  We still had two bottles left from our second half-price wine package, and I brought them with me.  Of course the restaurant had never heard of corkage and wanted to sell us wine.  I explained how it worked in our wine country and asked them to name their price.  Finally, they just looked at us and said “open your bottle”. Good thing they were screw caps.

 

Upcoming: 3 nice cruises

For those of you who have been asking where I go next, that’s Buenos Aires to San Antonio, on Celebrity, Eclipse, December 23, with add-ons in BA and the Chilean Wine country.

If you want Asia, I have TWO choices for you:

I’ll be hosting on Celebrity – Millennium – March 30, Shanghai to Tokyo, 14 days
Celebrity Millenium – Shanghai to Tokyo – 2 back-to-back China/Korea and Japanese Explorer

Start with a few days in Shanghai, then”

  • Seoul
  • Beijing – 2 overnights
  • Jeju Island, South Korea
  • Kobe, Japan – overnight
  • Mt Fuji

End in Tokyo –Stay a few days there.   I have good friends to help me script that.

Then, I have four exceptionally nice ladies from L.A. who are going, Shanghai to Singapore, also on Celebrity, in February.  I have been working with these gals for a few months, and they are all lovely.  They like to travel well, and they don’t quibble.  I have some pretty nice stuff lined up for them.  Read my own Asia blog from last February, to get the flavor.  They’d be happy to have a couple more people along to share private tours, etc.

Email me about any of these, or anything else you want.  I’ll be home when you get this.