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Deck Chair Queen

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  1. Here is Snowy this afternooon dozing in her igloo, thinking about her seafaring forefathers such as Captain Cat, who explored the Arctic and discovered the coziness of an igloo. Thanks to to you all for participating and truly making this a community effort! Happy cruising! Carol
  2. Hi Crystal. Sorry to be so late in responding. I’ve had a very busy week and can’t keep up with Norris’s prolific output. Yes the garden was spectacular especially the 900 bird of paradise plants. But it was being taken through it by the gardener himself that I will never forget. I’ve been to many botanical gardens bigger and better organized and labeled but never had the experience of walking through them with the guy who plants, tends, and nurtures them. We transcended language and cultural barriers and bonded. He was so shy at first and spoke only to our guide. By the end we were chatting like old friends in broken English and much worse Spanish. He had relatives in Chicago! There were only a few birds of paradise in bloom yet he cut off a bloom (with a rare blue center) to give me. He wove a little bookmark from a tough sturdy brown leaf for me. Other flowers and leaves soon joined them in my bag. The bookmark was the only thing I was able to keep as you cannot bring plant material on board. Francisco helped me up and down the steep rock steps of his hillside sanctuary (no handrails). We met another garden worker aptly named Orchid, who was the local representative in the National Assembly. Big warm smile and great people and language skills. There was, of course, a friendly dog and some chickens. It was a very special experience, a genuine one not put on for tourists. Carol
  3. The Beatles. Roughly. Happy birthday to Cap’n Norris from me and Snowy! (Best way to catch his attention when he’s mid review.) Carol, researching Norway excursions for September. ABP is our motto; Always Be Planning!
  4. Seeing the photo of me and our guide, Diana, reminded me of how much I enjoyed talking to our guides and drivers about their lives, families, hopes, and dreams. As Guidebook Carol I have already done a lot of research and know most of what I hear from guides, sometimes more than the guides. In fact it is quite tiring for me to have to pay such close attention and respond as appropriate to show I was paying attention for hours on end. (Am I the only one who feels this way about private tours?) The responsibility for interaction falls to me usually as Norris is hither and yon taking pictures. In most cases I would prefer just having a driver, actually. I also love using Rick Steves audio tours when in Europe , no interaction required. But these Cubans were very special and I’m glad I had the chance to get to know them a bit and experience the pride they had in their cities. Carol
  5. The gardens were vast and varied but nothing was labeled and there were no paths. The most charming part of our visit was our guide Diana walking beside me telling me personal remembrances about the plants and flowers; how she made dolls out of them as a child, which ones grew at her grandmother’s house, which were used for medicinal purposes. None of our guides ever had a rehearsed “spiel.” It was all spontaneous, proud, and heartfelt.
  6. In case you are wondering about my T-shirt it refers to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s upcoming production of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle (it’s in 2020 and we just ordered our tickets). We travel all over the world to see the Ring and this will be my 15th I believe. Norris has seen a few fewer as I saw several before I met hm. I like to wear an opera T-shirt on sea days because it always snags a like minded person. And so it did, as a lovely man from St Louis hailed me in the buffet line and we started talking Rings, much to the annoyance of folks trying to reach for the smoked salmon! Presto, a new friend!
  7. Hi Jazzbeau! This is so odd! I am not an alcohol drinker but I drink a small bottle of tonic water every night and it’s Fever Tree all the way. But I get it delivered with my groceries from Peapod, where the selection is “tonic” or “no tonic.” I had no idea there were other flavors. I will investigate Whole Foods delivery. Carol
  8. These few minutes watching the National Ballet of Cuba rehearsing Swan Lake in that beautiful theater was one of the highlights of my trip. To suddenly hear that beloved music in such a strange and exotic place made me feel at home and was so moving. I feel like this wherever we go in the world to see opera. Kindred spirits sharing an experience that transcends language, cultural, and economic differences. Not something that is done just for the tourists but something authentic. Plus Cuban ballet dancers (the men, especially) are legendary. I had to be torn away, I’m afraid. I thank our guide, Michael, who somehow knew how much it would mean to me and came and called me back in from the street when he was already leading another tour group. Cuban kindness and hospitality again! Guidebook Carol
  9. A couple of items of interest. Our driver asked if we minded mostly avoiding the Malecon as the sea was rough and the salt spray is bad for the finish on these lovingly restored cars. We understood completely. Also re the Museum of the Revolution, I think our guide was surprised to have an American request to go there. We had recently watched the eight part Netflix documentary The Cuba Libre Story and were fascinated by the history and, frankly, impressed by what they accomplished. Seeing that little boat, the Granma, in person was very moving. The exhibits inside were all labeled in Spanish and not tourist friendly but I was able to get the gist and of course having a private guide at my side really helped. Next trip more museums, says I.
  10. Carol chiming in on rest rooms in Cuba for the ladies, about which I could write a book. I don’t want to be seen as an Ugly American, demanding that everything be just like home. But let’s be pragmatic—forewarned is forearmed. Azamara gave us some excellent advice months ago to carry our own toilet paper. To which I would add don’t expect light, soap, paper towels, a toilet seat, a door with a lock, flushing capability, or a functioning sink. TP in your pocket and travel handiwipes in your purse are a girl’s best friends. But do expect to have to tip an attendant. And some were quite insistent about it. But nowhere were the public ladies’ bathrooms filthy or gross and they were always welcome after hours of sightseeing. To the guy related to the Harbert Swedish Bakery, can you get me a virtual cinnamon roll please? Carol aka Deck Chair Queen
  11. Carol (aka Deck Chair Queen) here. One does not have to spend this much at Joe’s but stone crab is among my favorite foods and alas it is market priced, which is currently astronomical because of supply constraints. But who knows when I might be back there? I am always amused at how few people at Joe's are actually eating stone crab even when the prices are more reasonable. It’s a lot of work and very messy to eat but my is it tasty! And fun to make into hand puppets.
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