Friday, May 27, 2011

Sicily/Messina: Day 7

Messina (a port town on the island of Sicily) is home to the world's oldest astronomical clock.  At 12:00, the gilded figures come to life.  The rooster crows, the lions roar, and the saints rejoice in Christ's Resurrection.  We spent about half an hour milling through Italian teenagers and bedraggled tourists in the square in front of the church, and then watched the 10-minute show. 

Here is my Blake in front of the sculpted duomo doors. They reminded me a lot of the baptism doors at the duomo in Florence...or Rodin's Gates of Hell. 

By this time I figured that I may as well just eat whatever I wanted because eating tons of fruit and veggies was not helping me to get better any faster.  So.  We ate gelato for lunch . I had four scoops (I went back to the store twice) and developed a new passion for the flavor called Bacio.  Makes me salivate just thinking about it. 

We spent the rest of the afternoon slowly winding our way through the tiny, graffiti-covered streets up to the highest point of the city.  We both got a kick out of the fact that the most prominent feature in the landscape and/or cityscape was our cruise ship.  Look at that monster!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Sometime between my Sunday night CVS run and my Monday evening Giant run, our card was burgled. 

I say "burgled" rather than "burglarized" because it sounds more leisurely, and it appears that our perpetrator took a leisurely approach to his theft.

He (well, let's not discriminate, it could just as well have been a she-burglar) jimmied the door open, sat down in the passenger seat, and proceeded to go through all of the possible hiding spots: the glove box, the center console, and the front console.  He took our beloved Garmin (affectionately know as "Garmie") and all of our spare change. 

He/she did not, however, take any of our CDs.  Instead of swiping the whole CD case and looking through it in the safety of his/her own home, our burglar sat in the front seat, opened the CD case, and went through all of the CDs individually.  It would appear that we have terrible taste in music because not a single one was gone when we looked through them last night.

Punk kid.  Wouldn't know good music if it punched him/her in the face.

After carefully removing every last penny of the approximately $1.71 we had stashed in the center coin organizer, he/she ended his/her burgle, kindly re-locked the car, and left.

When we called the police to make our report, the officer told us to file an online report and asked "well, do you know who it was?".  Um, no sir, that's where you come in.  Seriously?  What exactly are my taxes paying for ...

Monday, May 23, 2011

At Sea Again: Day 6

Dinner on board every night was quite the affair.  Because we were a party of 16, we lucked out with our dinner table locale.  We had a huge table at the back of the boat with a panoramic view.  We had three waiters and three courses every night.  If it weren't for the sea sickness I would have gained some serious poundage.

Here we all are pulling out of Dubrovnik (not really day six...whoops).

You'll notice that my plate looks empty while everyone elses' plates are still full.  Blake and I laughed at this while we were scanning through our photos and chalked it up to my family specialty: eating fast.  (A friend from my paralegal days once looked up at me after she'd taken her second bite and saw that I'd finished my whole sandwich.  "Did you even chew?!" she gawked.  Yes, yes did.  Barely.)  What can I say? I am my father's daughter.

Anyhow, just to clear this all up, I'll have you know that I did not -in fact- clear my plate before the others even started.  I blew the picture up really large to turns out that I had an alfredo pasta which was essentially as white as the plate, making it appear that I'd licked the dish clean.  You'd think I'd have remembered this as the cruise was not very long ago, but as I'd mentioned before, the sickness I had caused a temporary paralysis of my memory (read: entire brain) and I remember a very limited number of details.

Here we are on the real day 6 after our "formal night" dinner. Neither of us went very formal. I even opted out of wearing any make-up (ok, so that was more of a sickness-induced accidental forgetfulness than an opt-out, but there you have it). 

In my sickness-induced stupor, one of my favorite things was to sit on our balcony and watch the sea go by.  The Adriatic (and later the Mediterranean) is so beautiful.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Finale

Blake and I watched the season finale of The Office last night.  When the credits came up, Blake was still glued to the screen.

"But John Kerry never came on!"

me: "John Kerry?  Why? Was he supposed to be on tonight?"

"Well, didn't you just say that John Kerry would be on the finale?"

me: "No, Blake.  I said Jim Carrey would be on tonight."

And that's how I can tell that Blake is still sick.  Poor guy.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dubrovnik: Day 5

Croatia has been at the top of my "must travel" list for some years now. So, I wasn't about to miss out due to a silly little (read: horrible, near-death) cold.  Luckily the port was only 10 minutes from the old town, so I roused myself out of bed to go.

It was drizzly and cold (and had a little bit of the Venice "Disney-land-for-adults" feel), but it was still gorgeous.  Blake kindly took the day at my snails' pace and we wandered the old town for several of wet and muggy hours before heading back to the ship to sleep it off.

Old town Dubrovnik is tiny, but it packs a punch.  There is no space on the winding streets for cars, and there are impossibly steep and narrow stairs everywhere.  Combine that with the rain, and it probably wasn't a good idea to do while sick, but hey, it's not every day you're in Croatia, right?  Carpe diem, I say!

We took a break in the town square with a cup of delicious and rich hot coco.  Due to the exchange rate (and the fact that the cafe didn't post prices - making it impossible to determine in advance how much we'd be paying) the coco was something like $15.00 for the two of us.  But it was so worth it.  We took it easy for a while, watched the passers-by and escaped the drizzle.  We even learned how to "thank you" in Croatian: hvala (pronounced "chwala"), which brought joy to my nerdy linguist heart.

We started walking around the city wall in the harbour, but didn't make it very far.  The photo below makes it look all calm and un-assuming, but don't let that fool you like it fooled us.  The waves around the corner were so high and so violent that they were crashing up over the walking path.  We didn't dare brave it, so we stayed on the protected side.

This is a view from the old town harbour up to the newer part of the city:

And here's a photo of my Blake with old town in the background.  A sick/coughing/sniffly wife, rain, and soggy shoes and he's still happy.  What a guy!

Here I am perusing the map of old town to make sure we'd seen it all. 

And here we are in the harbour trying to look as dry and presentable as possible.

Note: the mis-matching purple scarf has a purpose. I wore that constantly so that I could cough into that instead of into my hands (or into the hairdos of the unsuspecting persons walking in front of us). Ingenious!

At Sea: Day 4

There's not much to tell here (and thankfully for me, no pictures).  Other than occasionally making making it to our balcony to watch the Adriatic roll by, I spent all day laying lead-like in bed. 

Blake was a gem and brought me soup and bread periodically and our steward kept to me up to my ears in tissues (he had also learned my name by then, and would occasionally call through the door "Rachel??? Are you ok????"  Such a nice guy).  I also learned a great deal about the royal wedding couture and Osama's demise.  (There were six channels on the boat, four of which were international news channels.)

Thank goodness for a recovery day.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Venice: Day 3

Blake's (30th!) birthday started early.  A 5:00 a.m. wake-up called followed by a 7:00 a.m. flight from Orly to Marco Polo.  (How cool is it that he had his 30th birthday in Paris AND jealous!) I would have been tired on the best of days.

But it was not the best of days.  And after pressurizing and de-pressurizing in the plane, my head felt like a boulder that I was trying to balance on my shoulders.  I say this not to complain, but merely to give you a good reason why I'm not sharing photos of myself from that day.  Boy howdy! They are not pretty.

But my Blake, the Birthday Boy, was looking pretty (pretty handsome) as usual.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

I've had mixed feelings about Venice ever since I went there on Spring Break during my study abroad.  It's a beautiful city, no doubt, but it feels a bit like an adult version of Disney World.  Nothing is real.  It's no longer a functioning city.  No one actually lives or works in Venice (outside of selling tschotskes and expensive gelato).  It's just a tourist trap.  Albeit a beautiful tourist trap. 
It's a perfect place to go for a day trip.  You can see everything you need to see in one day and then move on to another Italian city where you won't be so badly ripped off.

So, it worked out perfectly that we were only there for the day.  We got in early, took the vaporetto into town, spent several hours sight-seeing (or in my case, a couple hours trudging around followed by a couple hours sitting in St. Mark's square trying to get my ears to pop), and then took the vaporetto again to get to the cruise ship. 

Blake took some fabulous shots around the city.  I particularly like this one:

The week before the cruise, I had promised my niece, Ella (4), that we would be "cruise buddies."  Much to her chagrin, I wasn't much of a cruise buddy because I didn't want to get too close and get her sick. 

We made do by playing a game of giant chess onboard the ship that afternoon.  And by playing chess, I mean that she ran around knocking down the huge pieces, laughing hysterically while I up-righted them again.  (Now that I think about it, I guess I was just leaving my germs strewn about for the next unsuspecting giant chess victims.  Oh well.)

Notice my arm bands in the photo.  No, they are not a fashion statement.  Yes, they are acupuncture point wrist bands that aid with preventing sea sickness.  I failed to mention above that about 10 minutes after getting on the ship, I was curled up in a ball on the bed, unable to move, absolutely green at the gills with sea sickness.  Perfect.  Seasickness, sinus pressure, un-popped ears and a cough.  A great way to start a cruise.

Blake's brother, Kirk, came to my rescue when he pulled out an extra pair of the wrist bands.  I was skeptical at first, but they really helped.  I still felt dizzy for most of the time I was on the boat, but I was able to --you know-- keep things under control.  Thank goodness for Kirk.  He really saved the day.

Did I mention that the cruise ship was brand new?  We were on the maiden voyage and took a certain pleasure knowing that we were the "first ones to sit in this chair," "first one to go down the water slides," (I just watched) and most importantly, "first person to use this ultra-clean and sparkly bathroom."

Here's the view while we were docked in Venice:

And here's the view of Venice as we sailed away: 

It's almost heartbreakingly beautiful, isn't it?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Paris: Day 2.

At 12:51 a.m. I woke up with that pannickly feeling.  I had a sore through, itcy eyes, a clogged nose, a headache.  No!  No, I will not get sick while I'm here in my favorite place with my favorite person.

I took a steaming hot shower.  I took sudafed (from my emergency suply kit that I put together thinking I'd never use it -- joke's on me.  I used every single thing I brought.  Bad karma.).  I used up our whole box of tissues blowing my nose.  I went back to sleep propped up in sitting position against the headboard. 

I did everything I could think of.  But to no avail. 

By 8:00 a.m. I was down for the count.  I could barely move, let alone carry out our plan of heading out into the city for a long day of sight-seeing.  I was so depressed that I could hardly think straight.  There I was.  In Paris.  In Paris with my Blake.  And I was sicker than I'd been in several years. 

I periodically shook my fist at the heavens (and at the memory of the woman coughing in front of me on the plane)...but again, to no avail.

At 1:00 p.m. I finally forced myself out of bed.  And as much as it hurt my I-know-this-city-so-well-that-I AM NOT- a-tourist pride, we took a bus tour around the city all afternoon so we could at least see it.  So we sat in the open air looking at my city go by while I cried uncontrollably on the inside (real crying is not condusive to a sinus infection). 

Blake was such a good sport the whole time.  I was too tired to get out most places, and so he stayed with me on the bus. 

Luckily, the sinus gods did give me some brief relief now and again. And with the help of many drugs, we were mostly able to see what we wanted to see.

Again, please don't judge me in the photos.  Whereas Blake looks as delightful as always, I look sick as a dog.  Oh well.  Can't have everything, I suppose. 

We made a quick stop at Notre Dame while the sun was shining. 

Quick note: you see that purse on the left that looks unattended?  It's mine.  But don't worry, it wasn't unattended...Blake's parents were keeping an eye on it for photo-taking purposes.

I took exactly 7 photos during our whole trip, which is a bummer because Blake gave me a really cool point-and-shoot for Christmas.  I was just too tired to open up my bag, pull out the camera, and hold it up for any amount of time.  Add to that the drug-induced stupor I was in for most of the trip, and I would have almost no memory of most days.  Luckily Blake is much more talented that I am in the photography (and memory) department and he took scads of gorgeous photos on his new camera.  What would I do without him?

I especially love his below shot of the Eiffel Tower.  It's so unusual and I love the contrast of the red elevators with the grey/brown iron.

I was determined to take Blake out for a birthday-eve celebration.  I'd planned it all out in my mind: a fabulous french dinner with never-again-to-be-matched dessert, a walk on the banks of the Seine, and a night river boat ride. 

Alas, it was not to be.

We managed the fabulous french dinner part, but due to my "condition" were unable to continue the evening.  Poor Blake.  It's not every day that you turn 30 in Paris.  What a bummer when you have to deal with a sick wife.

Blake picked this lovely cafe on the Boulevard Richard Lenoir and we had an amazing salmon dinner with chocolate mousse and tarte citronne for dessert.  Yum.  I'm still salivating over that salmon.

Paris, I miss you already.  Can we come back and do it all over again now that I'm feeling better? 

Friday, May 13, 2011


visited 29 states (58%)

visited 20 countries (8.88%)

So many places to go.  So little time (and money)!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Travel and day 1.5.

Our travel day started off well. Really well. Both of us decided to take the morning off so that we could sleep in, exercise, and finish up some last minute preparation. So we did just that. We slept in. We took a walk around the neighborhood to see the azaleas. Blake worked and I cleaned the whole house.

The day peaked at 11:15 a.m. and went downhill from there. We left our house at 11:30 to walk to the metro, to get to the bus, to get to the airport (did you get all that?). At 11:31 the skies opened up and it poured. We had umbrellas, but our luggage was still soaked by the time our 6 minute walk to the metro was over.

We got to the airport - wet luggage and all - on time and had just about the easiest check in experience I've ever had.

But, as it turns out, it was too easy.

After getting lunch at potbelly (I especially love eating Potbelly at the airport because their prices are the same as the outside world...hooray!) and sitting around waiting for our delayed flight for a couple hours, I noticed that there was a group congregating around the gate. It didn't look like they were about to board, so we went to check it out.

With no prior announcement our flight had been cancelled. The terrific storm moving through New York at the time cancelled all incoming and outgoing flights from JFK. Perfect. Because we had planned to connect through JFK to Charles de Gaulle, both of our flights were cancelled.

We ran back to the ticketing gate to beat the rush and spent the next 45 minutes finagling the last two seats on another airline that would leave late that night, and connect us through Heathrow rather than JFK.

There was no way we wanted to get back on the bus to the metro to walk to our house with all our luggage, so we tried to entertain ourselves at the airport for another nine hours. We read, we ate, we walked, we coveted the girl scout cookies that the deploying soldiers were receiving in their care packages. Blake spent some time calling the vending machine company to argue back the dollar the machine had stolen from him. (Incidentally, the did end up sending him a dollar in the mail this week. Not a check. But a lone dollar bill. Go figure.)

When we finally got on our flight (that had been delayed yet again) that night, we were exhausted. I made it through the in-flight meal and about half of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader before I dropped into an uncomfortable, though satisfying, sleep...punctuated only by the hacking cough of the woman in front of me.

Not only was our flight delayed on our end, it was also delayed coming into Heathrow because they'd shut down a large portion of the airport. We finally landed and were immediately given "fast passes" to get us through security and boarder patrol quickly to make our connecting flight. These fast passes only helped so much. You see, we had landed just as the Royal Wedding was starting. And as that started, Heathrow stopped. Everyone was glued to to the TV screens and we had run, pushing our way through the masses of on-lookers, while they said their I-Dos. Those darn royals almost cost us our flight to Paris.

Now I can tell all my friends that I was in London for the Royal Wedding.

But after all of that (plus the train to the metro to the hotel) we made it to Paris for day 1.5 of our European adventure. It had been 5 years since I'd been back, but it almost felt like I'd never left. Our first stop after dropping off our bags was the FranPrix to snag some tabbouleh, baguettes, and brie. Be still my heart. I dream of that lunch constantly.

We walked a couple of blocks and ate our lunch at the Places des Vosges with Blake's parents.
Don't look too closely. I don't want you to see how tired and bedraggled we look.
We walked around my old stomping grounds....
..... and stopped by my school on the Rue St. Merri. 

We also stopped by a couple of my other favorite haunts in the quatrième:
Amorino (where they shape the scoop into a rose)...

..and Le Gay Choc (where the pastries are shaped like pastries, except for their specialities on the weekend when some are shaped give you a Gay Shock let's just say).
We also started Blake's pre-birthday celebration that night by going out to a fabulous seafood restaurant with his parents.  It's not every day you turn 30, and it certainly deserves several or more days of gastronomical celebration.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pitch and Stitch

Tomorrow I'll begin my recap of all of our European adventures. It's been a while since I've used the Internet, and we need to get re-acquainted.

So before I bog you all down with a lengthy travelogue, I'll leave you with some really good advice. Well, not it's so much advice as it is a plan to make your Friday the 13th a glorious-not-gloomy day:

See you there, crafters!