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John and Diane's Latest Adventures - 2020

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Your pictures have such a positive energy. You all shine and share it with us. Thank you!

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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Roseau, Dominica

 

For an island which has been ruled by both the French and the British, Dominica has a personality all its own and is distinctly Caribbean.  We docked at 8:00 in the morning, just across the street from Roseau’s downtown, so it was easy to just walk and walk, stopping along the way to check out shops and chat with the friendly locals.  Many people from the ship even found pharmacies to purchase items they had left at home.  

 

John and I began by walking up, up, up the main drag, King George V Street.  It was about a half mile to reach our destination:  the botanical gardens.  These gardens stretch over forty acres, and include virtually every tropical plant one can imagine, from a bamboo structure similar to a large tent to bouganvilla to everything you would imagine as an indoor plant at home.  There was even a parrot “house,” where those birds are studied and helped to multiply.  

 

A part of the gardens is Jack’s Trail, which climbs (according to my IPhone) 22 flights by using stone steps which must have been installed in the 19th Century.  They’re irregular and slippery, and by the time we got to the top, we knew we had really accomplished something.  The view was worth every step, however, and we felt somewhat sorry for the tour members who came to the viewpoint by bus.  We could see all the way to our ship, the enormous cemetery, all the buildings in between as well as the beautiful blue Caribbean.  

 

We took the coward’s way out for our return, and walked down the road to the center of town.  One thing that I kept noticing is how lush and fertile these islands are.  I even saw a car that, in addition to being covered in mud, had plants growing outside and inside it and even a small lizard enjoying the vehicle.  

 

Once we got downtown, it was well past lunchtime, so we found the Ft. Young Hotel, which had a beautiful terrace overlooking the sea where food and drinks could be purchased.  John had a local beer and I had a rum punch which was extra delicious having been made with spiced rum.  John’s tacos were a no-show because they were “out of tacos” but they were replaced by calimari which were crispy and delicious.  The dipping sauce just about burned my tongue off, but I just went back for more.  

 

Then it really was time to head back to the ship, tired, hot and sweaty, but with five miles under my belt (plus the two from this morning’s treadmill).  I really did need that nap and I fell asleep almost immediately upon hitting the pillow, sleeping for an hour to power up for the rest of the afternoon and evening.  What a great day!

 

P. S.  I'm trying to upload photos from Dominica, but having little luck.  I'll try later today.

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Even though Roseau doesn't have a lot of stores, we do like browsing through the vendors.  Have done various tours.  Nice port.

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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Castries, St. Lucia

 

As we looked out the window this morning to see where we were docked, I noticed another ship approaching the harbor.  It turned out to be the Carnival Fascination, one of their older ships.  But that wasn’t enough!  Soon a huge ship pulled in behind us and it turned out to be a massive Royal Caribbean vessel called the Freedom of the Seas, the type of shp our friend Bob refers to as The Enormity of the Seas.  Of course that added thousands of people to this small island, but we managed to see much of the downtown area without any trouble.

 

We headed out this morning with the idea of walking to the beach, but we found out that to do that, we’d have to cross St. Lucia’s airport runway - never a good idea.  So we turned around and walked along the harbor, passing both our ship and the Carnival vessel, and headed into the downtown area.  Our goal was Derek Walcott Square, the center of the downtown area.  It’s named for the winner of the Nobel Prize in literature who was born and raised in St. Lucia.  His statue is in the middle of the square near a 300-year-old Saman tree.  The library is on one corner of the square and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is on another.  I love to walk through churches, occasionally lighting a candle, but there was a mass being celebrated and the cathedral was filled to overflowing with adorable little uniformed kids, so we just took a peek and continued on.    

 

Since the missing flip-flops are still a mystery, I found a nice shoe store and chose some  new ones.  They were marked at $80 East Caribbian dollars, or $30 US (they really are nice), but it turned out that they rang up at $15 US. Lucky me! Next we headed to the Castries Market, a fascinating place with sellers of produce as well as straw bags and hats and other hand-made goods.  We found the required postcard, but no stamp, so that would have to wait until later.

 

Since Rich and Ginni have upgraded to a suite, they host the parties, but we all bring snacks and beverages for each event.  That was our excuse for finding a really nice supermarket, where we bought such necessities of life as crackers, spreadable cheese, and salt and vinegar chips.  Since we were all given a bottle of (bad) Champagne on sailing, the first party will be a mimosa party, where the bad Champagne will be cut with fresh-squeezed OJ.  We all believe that life is too short to drink bad Champagne, but there’s no such thing as a bad mimosa!

 

We finally headed back to the ship, passing through the shops at the port.  We were fortunate enough to find a stamp and then hunted down a post box.  Our granddaughter should have three postcards within the next week.  

 

While John took a nap, I typed yesterday’s blog and fought the computer, trying to upload photos.  I finally managed three of them, but then for some reason the first one copied at least three times.  I think today’s photos will be better.  

 

Sailaway began at 4:30, with the plan being that it would last until about 5:30.  Well that didn’t happen.  At about 5:15, as we were sailing out of the harbor, huge raindrops began descending upon us, and you’ve seldom seen so many people move so fast to find shelter.  

 

Now it’s time to dress for dinner (I feel like I’m in Downton Abbey) and then head up to the Crow’s Nest for our usual pre-dinner get-together.  As with most port days that include more than five miles of walking, I should sleep well tonight!

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Wonderful pictures!! Your smiles show how much you both are loving this time

together on your journeys.

Thank you so much 

Denise😊

 

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Loving your review!  John gives us a little appetizer on FB and you give us the entree and dessert with lots of details and photos!  I love your writing style!

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Friday, January 10, 2020

At Sea en route to Devil’s Island

 

I don’t know about you, but I love it when the ship is rocking and rolling.  In his noontime message yesterday, the captain warned us that rough seas were to be expected between St. Lucia and Devil’s Island, but he did say that they would only be six feet or so.  However high the seas are, it was a bit of a challenge to walk down hallways in a straight line.  During the night, the bed rolled enough to keep me in a deep sleep - always a good idea.  Some people have more trouble with this than others; I saw a woman holding on to the stairway bannister with both hands while walking down the steps one at a time.  We can always tell if high seas are expected because saltines and green apples are available at the front desk.

 

The shows so far have been, by general opinion, pretty good.  We actually attended three in a row:  The Amsterdam Singers and Dancers, and then two back to back comedians.  The first one was Jeff Buenger,  a comedian/singer/pianist and he was not only funny but played a mean piano.  The second comedian, Jeff McBride, made me laugh as hard as I can remember.  If someone had told me in advance that there would be a show where a comedian pulled up about ten people from the audience to act out The Wizard of Oz, I think I would have taken a pass, but it was hilarious.  Three of our friends, Rich, Will and Nancy were among those on stage.  Rich was a flying monkey (perfect for a retired pilot), Nancy was Dorothy, and Will was the scarecrow.  By the end I had tears running down my face and I’m happy to report that both of them are putting on a combined show tonight.  

 

Tonight is our second formal night (now renamed “gala”).  It seems really early to have this be the second, but such it is.  It turns out that Leslie and Handler have been invited to another table, so Ginni is inviting her watercolor teachers (and good friends) Carol and Siri (yes, that’s really her name).  We’ve been told we’ll have an officer, but we don’t know who yet.  After dinner there’s a ball in the Mainstage (formerly the Queen’s Lounge), but since it begins at 9:30, we’ll probably be late.  We’ve partially solved the “late to the show” problem by beginning dinner at 7:45 instead of 8:00, but I’m still trying to avoid desserts, so I substitute tea.  

 

I am really looking forward to Devil’s Island tomorrow.  It’s our first tender port, so I hope the rough seas settle down enough to be able to land.  As you probably know, Devil’s Island was a French penal colony made famous by the novel (and movie) Papillon.  Today the island is mostly uninhabited, and a long walk takes us past the old barracks, cemetery, and other buildings.  Our map of the island says that there is one hotel/restaurant, but no other modern buildings.  I’ve read about the island many times, and now I’m anxious to see if it measures up to my imaginings.  

 

John had a nasty cold attack him last night, and he coughed and sneezed his way through the rough seas.  Right now I’m going to head upstairs to wake him from his nap, and we’re hoping that the medications he’s taken will at least alleviate the symptoms, if not end the cold.  Preview attachment IMG_0500.jpgIMG_0500.jpg71 KB.webloc

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I'm very sorry about the photo situation.  I'll try to work on it (or get instruction) tomorrow before we arrive at Devil's Island at noon.  

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Hope you enjoy Devil's Island as much as we did -- many years ago.  When you get off the tender it is a long walk up the hill to see all the ruins.

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Saturday, January 11, 2020

Devil’s Island

 

It’s hot, humid, and plants and flowers grow wildly everywhere, but it’s not Kauai, my favorite island in the world.  It’s Ile Royale, Devil’s Island, made famous by the book and movie Papillion.  Actually, the island on which the prisoners were kept was Ile Royale, with Devil’s Island across a small channel, but the whole group of three islands is now called Devil’s Island.

 

We hiked around the ruined stone buildings, looking into many buildings, including the prisoners’ quarters, the guards’ family quarters, the children’s cemetery, and the chapel.  Right now, however, we’re at the island’s hotel having a cold beer and a sit down while enjoying a bit of a breeze.  

 

We wanted a postcard, so I checked out the shop, where the cards were all copies of museum representations of the island.  I had a hard time choosing, beause one showed a beheading and another a flogging, so I settled on a picture of prisoners pushing a cart for the guards - figuring that it would be more appropriate for our granddaughter.  

 

As we sit on the terrace, we’re watching a flock of peahens and their peacock run around the grass in search of chunks of baguette thrown from the lunch buffet.  As part of the French colony of Guyana, we were able to use some of our saved euros to buy both the beer and the postcard.  

 

It’s wonderful to call at a new port, and this one is unique in its history.  Like Alcatraz, Devil’s Island was the most maximum of prisons, where to escape took some strong swimming across strong ocean currents.  Many political prisoners were sent here and most prisoners never left the island.  It was opened in 1854 for the worst criminals and repeat offenders and wasn’t closed until 1953.  What surprised me the most was that the guillotine was in active use here for capital crimes committed on the island.  The history of the island tells that 40% of prisoners died in the first year (many of malaria) and over its century of operation, only 5000 (out of 70,000) survived to see their release date.  Even the trip to the island was dangerous, and many didn’t even make it off the boat.  

 

Of the two successful escapes from Devil’s Island, the more famous was by Henri Charriere, or Papillion.  Another famous inmate was Alfred Dreyfus, who was wrongly accused of treason in 1895, and after a decade spent in horrifying conditions, was finally released in 1908.  His story was told by Emile Zola in J’Accuse.  

 

Overall, it was a fascinating day, and one which made history come alive.  The movie today on board was Papillion, (the newer one, not the one with Steve McQueen), and since it will be on TV tomorrow, I think I’ll give it a look.  

 

P. S.  There were a couple of good Devil's Island photos that wouldn't upload; I hope you enjoy the ones that did.  

 

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Once again I am enjoying your adventure. Thank you so much for the reports.

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Hi Diane,

I just found your post on Cruise Critic. I love following you guys through your adventures. Please be safe and have fun! 🙂 I am glad you get to keep up your writing skills. 

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

At Sea en route to Belem, Brazil

 

If I haven’t mentioned it before (or a thousand times in the past), I love sea days.  I just love, love, love them.  It isn’t necessary to get anywhere, decide what to go see, or do anything you don’t want to do.  Since today is a sea day, we were able to sleep until 7:00 (I know, not very late for many people, but late for us).  Then, since the gym was being ignored, the only deadline I had was church at 9:00, which has now been moved from the Mainstage to the Wajang (wah - yang) Theatre, a much smaller and cozier venue.  

 

Last world cruise, the dining crew came up with the most delicious idea:  a Sunday brunch sampler on Sundays at sea.  It’s a wonderful meal, with three courses.  The first is a “cold sampler” on a tray with 7 tiny courses, from a spoonful of Caesar salad to a deviled egg with a bit of caviar on top.  

 

The main course is a “hot sampler” consisting of such delights as an incredibly tender bit of minute steak, a little biscuit and gravy, and a tiny little two-stack of pancakes with maple syrup (as well as four other little treats).  

 

My favorite course is the “Sweet Ending Sampler.”  Today it consisted of chocolate creme caramel, pecan pie (which was really more of a muffin), and apple strudel.  I had the creme caramel and the apple strudel, but I traded off the pecan pie as we had done with a few other bits and pieces of our brunch. 

 

That’s why it is so much fun to go with friends; we can trade things around.  I’m not a biscuits and gravy person so mine went to Will.  I love, love, love deviled eggs, but I’m not so much for caviar, so I traded my caviar to Ginni for her eggs.  The best accompaniment for a brunch, of course, is a mimosa, and at the brunch they’re two for one.  

 

A nap was called for, of course, followed by watching Papillion, to see what they made of the story and the place.  It was a brutal movie which I turned off in places, but it was an excellent representation of a brutal time in history.

 

Tomorrow is Belem, Brazil.  Last time we were here we took a boat up the end of the Amazon for several miles, but this time we’re going to take the shuttle into the center of the city.  It will be another hot day, but it’s going to be a good one.  

 

 

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Monday, January 13, 2020

Belem, Brazil

 

The last time we were in Belem eight or ten years ago, we booked a tour which took us by boat several miles up the Guama River, a part of the Amazon River system.  This time we decided to take the shuttle into the middle of town to wander around, since last time we saw nothing of the city.  One of the great perks of HAL’s “Grand Cruises” is that shuttles are free whenever they’re needed.  

 

Belem has an interesting history, since it benefitted from the discovery of rubber in the 19th and early 20th centuries which triggered an economic boom and the building of many beautiful colonial structures.  

 

Since this is a tender port, I waited in line for almost an hour for our #3 tender tickets.  Then it was another half hour before we were able to board.  The tenders used are usually the ship’s lifeboats, but because of the way the dock is situated, we had to use the old dilapidated boats owned by the city.  They did at least have enough life jackets 

for all passengers and I know that the water is warm!  

 

The tender ride to the dock was only about ten minutes, and then the shuttle to the center of town was forty minutes.  As we disembarked the bus, we realized that Rich and Ginni were on the same bus, so we set off walking together.  Our first stop, which took most of our morning, was the Mercado Ver-O-Peso, reportedly the largest open-air market in South America.  It sits at the waterfront, and began with a long strip of very modern restaurants with indoor and outdoor seating.  Then we entered the market proper, where we could have purchased tee-shirts, any type of clothing, fruit, vegetables, and any number of unidentifiable things including “Natural *****.”  Who would’ve known?  By the time we finished our walk at the fish section, the smell was driving us out, but it was fun to watch huge birds that looked like turkeys feasting on fish parts thrown their way.

 

Then we headed into the city, feeling like we were almost the only non-Brazilians in town.  Our general goal was to see as much of the city as possible, but our specific goal was to find an anniversary card for Leslie and Handler, whose 23rd anniversary is today.  We never did find the card, but Ginni is going to paint one so we can all sign it.  The two fun things we did find were a really tacky beaded tiara for Leslie (as the “anniversary girl”) and a blow up “Feliz Aniversario” in gold foil.  The tiara is still in the plan, but the blow-up is in the trash.  We couldn’t blow it up and when we took it out of the package we realized that every letter was separate and that each letter was about a foot tall and a foot wide.  There wasn’t room in The Pinnacle restaurant for the whole sign!  Since it was only $4.00, we decided it wasn’t a great loss.  

 

Our walk continued, and as Rich looked up and said, “I think we’ll have an afternoon shower,” the rain began and we tried to stay under awnings and overhangs.  As California people, we’re not used to 85 degrees and rain.  Oh well.

 

We kept walking and walking, just enjoying seeing the people and the lifestyle.  Everyone seemed very relaxed, chatting with their friends and the merchants.  I never heard a cross word spoken all day.  We finally headed back toward the market with the idea of having a beer and some lunch, but most of the restaurants were closed (which happens on Monday here), and those that were open were only serving a buffet lunch.  That told us one thing:  it’s time to head back to the ship to eat.  By the time we walked to the shuttle, drove the 40 minutes to the pier, and took the sad little boat for ten minutes to the ship, the Lido lunch was closed so we were “forced” to share a burger at the Dive-In, which makes some of the best burgers around and accompanies them with possibly the best fries on the planet.  Our hunger taken care of, John and Rich headed up to the pickleball court, followed by sailaway on the back deck, and then back to the cabin to shower and get ready for the anniversary dinner.  And what would an anniversary dinner be without a tiara?

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Monday, January 13, 2020

Belem, Brazil

 

The last time we were in Belem eight or ten years ago, we booked a tour which took us by boat several miles up the Guama River, a part of the Amazon River system.  This time we decided to take the shuttle into the middle of town to wander around, since last time we saw nothing of the city.  One of the great perks of HAL’s “Grand Cruises” is that shuttles are free whenever they’re needed.  

 

Belem has an interesting history, since it benefitted from the discovery of rubber in the 19th and early 20th centuries which triggered an economic boom and the building of many beautiful colonial structures.  

 

Since this is a tender port, I waited in line for almost an hour for our #3 tender tickets.  Then it was another half hour before we were able to board.  The tenders used are usually the ship’s lifeboats, but because of the way the dock is situated, we had to use the old dilapidated boats owned by the city.  They did at least have enough life jackets 

for all passengers and I know that the water is warm!  

 

The tender ride to the dock was only about ten minutes, and then the shuttle to the center of town was forty minutes.  As we disembarked the bus, we realized that Rich and Ginni were on the same bus, so we set off walking together.  Our first stop, which took most of our morning, was the Mercado Ver-O-Peso, reportedly the largest open-air market in South America.  It sits at the waterfront, and began with a long strip of very modern restaurants with indoor and outdoor seating.  Then we entered the market proper, where we could have purchased tee-shirts, any type of clothing, fruit, vegetables, and any number of unidentifiable things including “Natural *****.”  Who would’ve known?  By the time we finished our walk at the fish section, the smell was driving us out, but it was fun to watch huge birds that looked like turkeys feasting on fish parts thrown their way.

 

Then we headed into the city, feeling like we were almost the only non-Brazilians in town.  Our general goal was to see as much of the city as possible, but our specific goal was to find an anniversary card for Leslie and Handler, whose 23rd anniversary is today.  We never did find the card, but Ginni is going to paint one so we can all sign it.  The two fun things we did find were a really tacky beaded tiara for Leslie (as the “anniversary girl”) and a blow up “Feliz Aniversario” in gold foil.  The tiara is still in the plan, but the blow-up is in the trash.  We couldn’t blow it up and when we took it out of the package we realized that every letter was separate and that each letter was about a foot tall and a foot wide.  There wasn’t room in The Pinnacle restaurant for the whole sign!  Since it was only $4.00, we decided it wasn’t a great loss.  

 

Our walk continued, and as Rich looked up and said, “I think we’ll have an afternoon shower,” the rain began and we tried to stay under awnings and overhangs.  As California people, we’re not used to 85 degrees and rain.  Oh well.

 

We kept walking and walking, just enjoying seeing the people and the lifestyle.  Everyone seemed very relaxed, chatting with their friends and the merchants.  I never heard a cross word spoken all day.  We finally headed back toward the market with the idea of having a beer and some lunch, but most of the restaurants were closed (which happens on Monday here), and those that were open were only serving a buffet lunch.  That told us one thing:  it’s time to head back to the ship to eat.  By the time we walked to the shuttle, drove the 40 minutes to the pier, and took the sad little boat for ten minutes to the ship, the Lido lunch was closed so we were “forced” to share a burger at the Dive-In, which makes some of the best burgers around and accompanies them with possibly the best fries on the planet.  Our hunger taken care of, John and Rich headed up to the pickleball court, followed by sailaway on the back deck, and then back to the cabin to shower and get ready for the anniversary dinner.  And what would an anniversary dinner be without a tiara?

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Oh my, I have gotten behind in your reports and pictures.

 

We loved Devil's Island when we were there many years ago.

 

Those special Sunday brunches look wonderful.

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Love this set of pictures, Diane. The colors are vibrant, and they show a good time. 
But where's the picture of the tiara? I wanted to see that, too! 

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Tuesday, January 14

At Sea en route to Recife, Brazil

 

It was a wonderful anniversary dinner, and the tiara did look lovely.  Since we never did find an appropriate card, Ginni just came back to the ship and painted one with a globe on the front showing North and South America.  What she can do in an hour I couldn’t do in a lifetime.  

 

The Pinnacle, as most of you know, is one of two specialty restaurants on board (the other being Canaletto).  Its featured entrees are meats of all kinds, particularly beef.  There’s a list of about a half dozen types of steak, from the petite filet to a plate-covering rib eye steak.  I’m not much of a beef fan, so I always go to alternatives, as most of us did.  

 

Each couple ordered “Clothesline Candied Bacon” to share as a starter, along with another first course.  Since bacon is that one food which tastes wonderful and is terrible for you, we only eat it on special occasions.  Last night was such an occasion.  The bacon is dipped in maple syrup and then strung up on a metal contraption that looks like a clothesline and cooked.  Since each serving has three pieces of bacon, there was a total of 12 of those delightful strips and not one of them went to waste.  

 

As his first course, John had adorable little crabcakes, so we shared both of them.  He had one of my pieces of bacon and I had a tiny little taste of one of his tiny crabcakes.  Not fair!  Rich and Ginni shared the bacon and a really nice looking wedge salad.

 

Then it was time for main courses, which I dithered about for some time.  I finally decided on lamb chops and John on scallops, with the idea that we would again do some sharing.  The lamb was seasoned and cooked perfectly, just medium and melt-in-your-mouth tender.  John’s scallops were good too, but they’re not as big as they used to be.  Dinner includes a choice of ten sides, but our server, Natasha, said that since there were eight of us, she’d just bring all ten of them - and she did.  We shared plates of veggies, baked potatoes, mushrooms, French fries, and six others.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t finish most of them.  Ginni was so full by the time they brought her petite filet that she just sliced it up, put it in a zip-lock bag, and took it back to her refrigerator for steak sandwiches today.  I’m hoping we get to share!

 

There are several choices of dessert, but as it was a special occasion, there was a delicious chocolate cake with two layers of dark chocolate cake and two layers of ganache.  A few people asked for vanilla ice cream, but the cake pretty much finished me off.  In fact, today I had tea for breakfast and blueberries for a mid-morning snack.  I guess this is my example of giving my body a break.  

 

We have two sea days before Recife, and most of the passengers are really looking forward to the break between ports.  I’ve just booked a toursbylocals.com walking tour for seven of us in Buenos Aires, so now its time to look up one in Rio. 

 

P. S.  The asterisks in yesterday’s post (placed there by Cruise Critic) refer to “little blue pills.”   

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The tiara (and the woman wearing it) look lovely! You all look like you are having such a good time. 

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A handmade card was probably better than a store bought one anyway. 

Thanks for taking me along on this journey.

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