Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My first socks

Ok, so here's a pic of my first socks. There's a lot that I don't like about them, but then again, they are my first attempt and they were done by just figuring out the pattern. So, who knows whether I actually did it right. They fit, so I guess that's the most important thing, right?

The yarn was self-patterning, so it didn't exactly line up. Still, it's a neat pattern. I also started a hat last night so I could knit something "simple" at knitting circle tonight. Yup, I ventured over to Rosie's for knitting circle and it was kind of fun. Anyway, here's a picture of the hat in progress. I'll probably finish it tomorrow night, it's that quick.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Back in Philly

Well, I'm back in grey and dreary Philadelphia. Then again, Florida wasn't much better. I had sun and warmth on Saturday, but then clouds, winds, and rain showed up on Sunday and stayed until I was getting ready to leave today. Figures, huh? I did manage to get in some great walks while I was down there and had time to decide that I am definitely going to do the Philadelphia Triathlon in June w/ Team in Training. It will be a new challenge to focus on this winter/spring!

I was also very productive as far as knitting goes. Probably b/c there wasn't much to do except watch movies or football. I not only finished my brother's scarf, but I also finished my first pair of socks. I'll post pictures of the socks tomorrow and then scarf next week after I've given it to my brother. Now I'm working on my mom's wrap that I started back in November. It's lace, the same pattern I did for my "first" project, so it requires focus and I'm much more into the mindless knitting at the moment. We'll see how far I get before another project catches my eye.

Friday, January 18, 2008

On the road AGAIN!

That's right. I've been home for a week and now I'm turning back around and headed to Florida for the long weekend. I haven't even finished unpacking my suitcase and now I have to pack up another one! This week has pretty much been a blur with work, catching back up with folks, and trying to go thru my 50 million pictures, which I have finally finished. It was fun going thru the pics and reliving the trip. Now, my life back in Philly is so lame in comparison! Hopefully the weather will be nice and I can relax on the beach and then hang w/ the family. If not, then I'll get to catch up on all those movies I missed over the holidays. :-)

I also came to a decision Weds. night after talking w/ a friend about my "upcoming" races for the year. Most of you know that I've done a whole bunch of marathons and half marathons over the past few years. Well, b/c marathon training takes so much time and has been really hard on me, I've decided to take a break and maybe only do the Rock n' Roll Half in Va Beach this year. Well, in talking to my friends, I think I might try something different and train for a triathlon this June in Philly. I'd still do it w/ Team in Training since they've got a great training program. I figure it's great crosstraining and it's not as harsh on your body as marathon training. I already bike, a 10K is a piece of cake for me, and I can swim breastroke for hours. I just need to work on doing all 3 at once and maybe work on my freestyle capacity. Sign up for the race and training isn't for another few weeks so I have time to stew on it for a bit. I think it's a great way to keep moving this winter and try something different! Ok, now that I wrote it on my blog, I guess I have to do it, right? Right!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Reacclimating . . .

I really didn't think jet lag would affect me since I slept the entire flight home. Well, I was wrong. I have been exhausted. I crashed the past few nights around 10:30 and that was after forcing myself to stay up. I got a good 10 hours of sleep last night. Now I'm doing 50 million loads of laundry. I went and added pictures to my previous posts, so go back and look at some of them. I'll add a link from the blog to final batch of photos when I actually get thru them.

These posts are going to get very boring now that I'm not traveling anymore. Instead, you'll be stuck w/ my exercise and knitting updates. What fun! Not.

It is nice to get back into a routine. The weather is nice this weekend so I hopped on my bike yesterday and went for a ride around Kelly and West River Drives. Today, I met my friend A and had a nice 4-mile walk along Kelly Drive. Of course they are calling for snow tomorrow so that means back to the gym for me. I see my trainer tomorrow night and it won't be pretty since I've been a slug the past few weeks. But hey, I was on vacation, right?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Back to reality :(

Well, I made it home safe and sound yesterday. I was supposed to have most of yesterday to unwind, but b/c my flight was delayed out of BA, I missed my connection. The whole setup in BA was just terrible. The a/c was barely working and they take your water away from you as you go thru a 2nd round of security. This is even the water I bought next to the gate! Needless to say, I was dying of thirst. Then, on the airplane they barely gave out water b/c they were running low. To top it off, the woman next to me had no concept of space and kept jabbing me with her elbows as I slept. I tried to tell her to stop but she did not understand English. Very frustrating. The nice thing is I was not charged in either BA or Miami for my overweight bags. I spent 6 hours in Miami watching movies until my new connecting flight. I had bought a jar of Dulce de Leche (caramel) in the duty free shop in BA (which I was able to take onto the plane, even though it was a liquid); however, I didn't think to put it in my checked luggage in Miami and was forced to forfit at security. I mean come on, the darn jar was sealed shut in plastic and I still had my duty free receipt for it. I guess that was a sign that I really didn't "need" it, but only bought it to use up my pesos.

Last night I crashed around 10:30 and somehow pulled myself out of bed this morning and went to work. Yup, I worked today, but it was a very relaxed day filled with going thru emails and catching up with folks.

My last day in Iguazu I slept in a bit and went for a quick walk along the upper circuit before we had to leave. I had originally planned to go w/ the group for the airport transfer but instead grabbed my bags and went with some folks to their hotel in BA and hung out by the pool for a couple hours. It was a great way to unwind before beginning the trek home.

I am in the process of uploading my photos. I'm thinking I might just add a few pics to my previous posts and then add a link on this blog to all my photos once I get them organized. My plan is to continue posting on this blog even though my trip is over. It's a great way for folks to keep tabs on what I'm doing and for me to show off whatever I want to show off.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Buenos Aires

I guess I should jump in and talk about my short time in Buenos Aires on Sunday. We got off the ship around 8:30 on Sunday and easily found our bags and made our way to our tour bus. We disembarked so quickly that many of us did not have a chance to say goodbye. We did a city tour before checking into the hotel. Let me start by saying that BA is huge. It is a city of 3 million people and with the suburbs, about 10 million. Our first stop was the cemetary in Recoleta to see Evita's grave. Sure, it was neat to see her grave, but even more interesting were all the other graves. They were mini homes, almost like mini city blocks. Lots of cool pictures.

Next, we went to the Plaza de Mayo to see the Pink House, or the government house, which most are familiar with since it's the balcony Evita spoke from. From there, we drove thru La Boca, where the stadium for the futbol team is and then to an area within there called Los Caminitos, or little streets. Great area. Very colorful and vibrant, but very touristy. We also met up with the other bus from our group of folks leaving that night.

At this point we checked into our hotel and then had the afternoon for free time. I walked along Florida Avenue for a bit before heading to a leather store recommended by Amazing Journeys. It's owned by a woman who is not only Jewish, but has also traveled with AJ. There I bought myself a beautiful leather coat, which is being custom made for me. I will pick it up tomorrow, or one of my friends will pick it up on Thursday if our flight is delayed tomorrow. From there, I went to the San Telmo flea market in the older part of the city. San Telmo is where tango was born. The market was a lot of fun. That night we had dinner at a parilla near our hotel and then went to see the oldest tango show in BA. They performed tango dances from different time periods, including the beginning of tango. In between dance numbers, there was music and singing. It was a great show.

The next morning (Monday) we were supposed to go to the airport right away, but the flight schedule had changed. Instead, several of us went to the oldest cafe in BA, Tostini's, to kill time. Even when we got to the airport, the flight was delayed another hour or so. The good news is that being friendly to the ticketing agent worked out for me once again. Not only was I not charged for my extremely heavy bags, but my friend and I were given exit row seats without even requesting them! What luck! Once we arrived in Iguazu, we hit the pool and relaxed.

Water, water, everywhere

OMG, what a day! Throughout our trip, our guides always started out by welcoming us to the best day of our trip so far. Well, let me tell you, this was the best day of the trip so far! Wow. We knew we had a jam packed day since our flight out of Buenos Aires was delayed yesterday. Instead of touring some of the falls, we decided to chill out by the pool. By doing that, we knew we had to do everything today. We started the morning by walking the upper and lower circuits of the falls. Basically, we were walking on catwalks on top of and below the different falls on the Argentine side. We definitely had a nice workout w/ all the steps, etc. Not only that, but it was hot as can be so we were all sopping wet. After the circuits, we boarded a boat that took us into the falls - literally! We got soaked! It was great and a ton of fun. Afterwards, we took a jeep ride thru the subtropical jungle, where a guide pointed out different trees and birds. After that, we took a train to the catwalk for the devil's throat falls. This catwalk took you over the river and literally to the top of the devil's throat falls. It was amazing. I admit I had a little vertigo when I first saw the mass of water coming over the edge, but I was ok after that.

At this point, we went back to the hotel and dropped off those folks that weren't going to the Brazilian side. Those of us that were, hopped into a van and proceeded across the border. There were 6 of us that went and although this was not part of the tour, we all decided we wanted to take a helicopter ride over the falls. OMG, it was sooooo cool! It was the first time I had ever been in a helicopter, so that was intimidating, but it was very exciting. The views over the falls were spectacular. I have some AWESOME pictures!

After the helicopter ride we went and walked the trail over to devil's throat on the Brazilian side. Basically, it was a winding path with frontal views of the falls on the Argentine side, and then a catwalk on the river, in between the upper falls (just in front of devil's throat) and the lower falls. Words cannot describe how cool it was. There was so much spray from all of the water that we were once again soaked. The spray mixed with the sun to create some rainbows. Again, great pictures.

Eventually, we made it back to our hotel and then proceeded to walk the grounds in search of toucans.

Everyone met for dinner in Puerto Iguazu, the closest town which was 17 km away. We ate at a restaurant called La Rueda. The food was excellent. Had to have been the best steak I've had on this trip, even beating out the steak I had at the parilla in Uruguay.

We just got back and I'm ready to crash. Our flight out of Iguazu is around 1 and my flight out of Buenos Aires is around 11pm. I'm hoping to have a little more time in Buenos Aires before I fly out. I'm so sad it's almost over. Sure it will be nice to be home and see friends and family, but I'm loving the weather and the different scenery. I'll definitely be back!

Welcome to the jungle . . .

WEll, I am alive and well and getting ready to head over to Brazil for a peak at the falls. We had a bunch of delays yesterday, but made it hear without any problems. Spent the day walking around the AR side of the falls and got totally soaked in a river boat ride. What fun! I will update more later. Did not spend enough time in Buenos Aires. I really liked it. I ended up buying a custom made (picking up tomorrow) leather jacket. It is really beautiful. Bumming that I did not extend my trip more! I cannot believe I come home tomorrow. So sad. Off to Brazil . . . .

Saturday, January 5, 2008

I see a mountain . . .

If you ever wondered what Montevideo meant, now you know. Too bad there really aren't any mountains, just hills in the distance. Montevideo is a beautiful city. It reminded me of parts of San Juan and southern Florida. We had a Jewish tour of the city, including services and lunch with members of the community. I did not go to services, and instead walked around the area. I happened upon an outdoor market (non-tourist) and purchased a "mate" cup and a neat batik parchment that I will frame. I'm not quite sure where I'm going to put all this art in my apartment. I may have to upgrade apartments for everything! The mate (pronounced, mah-teh) cup is made of a type of gourd and mate is the national drink of both Uruguay and Argentina. I have yet to try it, but I knew that I wanted to purchase one from Uruguay. I'm sure I'll have a chance to try it in Buenos Aires.

Our lunch with the congregation was very nice. The rabbi invited some singles to eat with us. Afterwards we visited the holocaust memorial which is the only one in South America. It was a moving experience, as all holocaust memorials are.
Uruguay has about 20,000 Jews and about 18,000 of them live in Montevideo. We visited one of the old synagogues in the city which is only used for special events since the community has since moved further out in the city.

Once I got back to the ship, I frantically had to pack and get my stuff outside before dinner. I have so much more stuff than before. I don't know what to do with it. I will be paying a pretty penny just to fly this stuff to Iguazu, back, and then to the states. Before dinner we also had a farewell program for our group. It was nice to reminisce about the trip. Also, Malori's husband put together a great slide show for all of us. It's hard to believe now that the trip is almost over. It's almost as if I've been at camp b/c the time has allowed us all to really get to know each other. I still have 4 more days, but most of the group leaves tomorrow and that will be sad. Folks are already talking about the next trips. AJ is doing the Mediterranean in the summer, China in November, and possibly Australia and New Zealand next new years. All I know is I have to start saving as soon as I pay off this trip. Either trip (China or Australia/New Zealand) sounds fabulous.

Tomorrow, after we leave the ship, I'll be in Buenos Aires overnight. We'll have a city tour and then some free time to walk around. I'm hoping that I can take some time and find a leather jacket. BA is the place to get custom made leather jackets, which are priced very well considering the exchange rate. Tomorrow night, after dinner, we have reservations for an authentic tango show. Should be fun. Monday morning, we are off to Iguazu falls.

For now, it's farewell to the high seas. The itinerary and ports of call were amazing. I can now say that I have been to the end of the world. I've seen sites that I never thought I would. I saw penguins in their natural habitats. It was awesome.


Figuratively, not literally. After only 5 hours of sleep on Thursday night, a long day on shore, and then a long night in Montevideo, I don't know how I'm up and functioning at the moment. Mind you, it's 10:00 am, but I could have slept until 1 if I had the time. Today is our last day on the ship and suddenly the last few days have just flown by. I have so much to do before I leave yet I have a jam packed day.

The best part about being on this trip w/ Amazing Journeys is that I didn't have to figure out what to do when we learned that we would be going straight to Montevideo. AJ managed to keep the Punta del Este tour, but also give us free time in the town. It was a long drive, but well worth it! The Uruguayan countryside is beautiful. The country is similar to Iowa in size, population, and primary economic source -- agriculture. From there, the 2 part ways. The highest point in the country is 1500 meters. Punta del Este, which is billed as the riviera of South America, is a laid back resort community. We first stopped at Casapueblo (see link in earlier post). The building is beautiful.
The artist's work (spacing on the name at the moment) is vibrant and I ended up buying a couple lithographs. The most exciting part was the artist came down and signed all of our purchases. I got a picture of him signing my purchases and a picture with him. A very nice man.

We then had lunch in town and instead of shopping, a friend and I walked along the Malecon (the sidewalk b/w the road and the beach) for 40 minutes. It was so nice to get out and walk! I have been such a slug this trip, partly b/c the ship was too rocky to exercise in the gym and too windy on the jogging track to attempt anything. Afterwards, we went to the Ralli museum, which specializes in latin american art, specifically surrealism and more modern works. They also had a number of Dali sculptures.

We got back around 7:45. Since we were docked overnight, we took advantage of Montevideo and did not each on the ship. A couple of us walked (about a mile) to a tango bar for dinner and music. The Uruguayans, like other latin american cultures, don't start going out until after 10 so we were very early. Kind of like seniors at an early bird special. A few more folks from our group showed up and we decided to go to a parrilla (grill) instead for some dinner. We found a great place and had a wonderful time. We finally finished dinner around 1:30. We headed back to the bar, but no one from our group was there so we took a taxi back. I then stayed up until about 3 talking w/ my roommate. Hence, the sleep fog I'm in at the moment.

I have the Jewish heritage tour in a couple of minutes. I will try to get back on later today to update. If not, I may not get back on here until I'm in Iguazu on Monday.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Soaking up the sun

Another beautiful day at sea. It's sunny and in the mid-80s. A huge difference from only a few days ago. I slept in this morning and then snagged a spot by the pool. I was a good girl and slathered 50 spf sunscreen all over, but of course, I am still a little red. It was just nice to relax in the warmth of the sun. Much better than those sea days last week where it was cold, windy and cloudy. I just got back from the final round of BINGO where the jackpot was $11,000. Sadly, but not surprisingly, I did not win the jackpot. Three of us even went in together and agreed that if one of us won we'd share it. Yeah, that didn't happen either. Oh well. I'm sure that if Eric or Michael had been there, they would have won it.

My reflexology appt last night was great b/c it was actually reflexology. Plus, after the long day, it was nice to relax. Last night, instead of the dining room, we had dinner upstairs at the buffet. Nice thing about it is we were done early and also got to watch the sunset. Afterwards, we gathered in one of the clubs and watched (and sang along with) one of the performers on the ship. This guy, David Mendelsohn, is a solo guitarist who has a ton of songs to choose from and then sing along with him. Our organizers managed to get him into this club area instead of in the cafe which is around the atrium. We hung out there and got him to play until 12:30 or so. It was a lot of fun. I could probably just hang out and watch him every night. He sings everything from American Pie to REM to Led Zeppelin to the Dead. Tonight we are trying to get him to come watch us at karaoke.

It's been pretty windy today, but not as rocky as it was on the Pacific the first few days. However, due to the winds and the forecast tomorrow in Punta del Este, the captain made an announcement a little while ago that we won't be going there b/c it would be too dangerous to tender ashore. Instead, he is taking us directly to Montevideo where we will spend 2 days. Punta del Este is a beach town, also known as the riviera of South America, so I'm ok w/ not going there. Now I'll have a chance to see more of Montevideo since my original plan was to spend the day doing the Jewish highlights tour. They are sending folks out to PdE (an hour or 2 away by car), but not sure if our group might try to rework it that way. We'll soon find out. I had originally planned to visit the art museum and Casapueblo and am fine with missing out on them altogether if need be. I've heard that you can get some great shoes in Uruaguay, so I might have to check that out. Also, it's even cheaper there than Buenos Aires, so I might find better deals.

I also found out today what I'll be doing for the post cruise. Up until today, I just knew I'd be in Buenos Aires on Sunday and then Iguazu on Monday and Tuesday. Now we have our itinerary and I'm getting excited. We have city highlights tour on Sunday in Buenos Aires and then some free time to walk around and shop. I have some recommendations for leather shops where I can go and get a jacket custom tailored. We then will do dinner on our own and then a tango show. Monday, we'll board a plane to Iguazu and once we check into our hotel, immediately turn around and head out for a tour of the Argentine side of the falls. The next day, we'll do a jungle tour in a jeep and then an inflatable boat ride up to the falls. It's supposed to be really exciting, but also very wet. Good thing I brought 2 waterproof cameras. We've been told that at dusk and dawn, right outside our hotel, toucans (think Fruit Loops) can be seen in the trees. On the jeep ride, we'll see various fauna and wildlife and possibly jaguars. That afternoon, some of us will be heading over to the Brazilian side for a different view of the falls. There are 15 folks going on the trip and of that, only 6 of us are heading over to the Brazilian side of the falls. On Weds. we get back to Buenos Aires around 2, so we'll have time again to walk around before we are taken to the airport.

Although we just had one, tonight is our last formal night. They are also having the grand midnight buffet tonight. Normally, the ships I've been on have always done a midnight buffet, but this one has "gourmet bites" at midnight (which I don't think I'd eat, even if I was hungry then). They are opening the buffet up early so folks can take pictures of it. Seriously people, are you that desperate for pictures? I know I'm not. I think the penguins, sea lion, elephant seals, mountains, lakes, falls and people are quite sufficient for me, thanks!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

It's finally HOT, HOT, HOT

Today we are in Puerto Madryn, Argentina which is part of the Chubut Province in the northern part of Patagonia. We took a 2.5 hour bus ride out to Peninsula Valdes to see the elephant seals and sea lions. It was hard to see the elephant seals b/c we weren't allowed to get up close and then were in the water instead of on the beach. I don't blame them. I wanted to be in the water with them. The forecast said sunny and 86 degrees, but it sure felt like it was in the 90s. Couple that with the fact I was just in 50 degree weather and I was HOT today! The wind was blowing sand everywhere so I am quite dusty at the moment. I can't wait to go shower! Afterwards, we headed to another part of the peninsula and saw the sea lions. I liked this part much better since we could see better and they were more lively. There were also 4 or 5 little sea lion pups running around. They were so cute! On the bus ride I started working on my sock. Not sure how much I'm going to like it but at least it's something to do on a long bus ride!

Tonight is a mellow night. I have a reflexology appt tonight before dinner to make up for the terrible reflexology appt I had yesterday. It was more like a hand and foot rub instead of reflexology. I figure, if I'm paying $130 (including tip) I should get what I signed up for. Afterwards, folks are meeting for a casual dinner upstairs in the cafe.

To continue my gripe about the smoking. I am in the internet lounge, on the other side of the atrium (starboard side) from the "smoking" side (port side) and I can smell the smoke in here. If it bugs me this much, Mom would be miserable!

I have officially filled up 2 memory cards worth of pictures and am about to start on the next one. Amazing, I know. A lot are repeats that I'll just go thru when I get home.

Happy 2008!

Happy New Year! Celebrating the new year on the ship was a new experience for me. After a long and tiring day in the Falkland Islands, we had to get dressed up in our formals for the night. We all met for cocktails before dinner, took lots of pictures, and then proceeded to dinner. Dinner itself was unimpressive (if that's even a word). Afterwards, we all went up to the disco to ring in the new year. I had been there a few times earlier in the trip (we all know how much of a night club fan I am) and there was always room to sit. Well, the place was practically standing room only. It was so hot in there it was overwhelming. I lasted about a half hour more before I had to crash.

Yesterday was a sea day and I woke up "early" for a reflexology massage. Afterwards, I participated in our group's annual slot tournament (no money reqd) and quickly was eliminated. The skies were gorgeous and the weather was starting to get warmer, so I then parked myself on a lounge chair upstairs w/ a bunch of folks from our group. I read, chatted, and slept for several hours up there. I then made it to bingo for the FIRST time this trip. I didn't win, of course. Tomorrow is the big jackpot, so I might try it one more time.

Folks went to the casino last night after dinner, but I turned in since the smoke was really bad in there. That is probably my main gripe on this trip (well, that and the food and dining room service). An entire side of the ship in the public areas is devoted to smoking. This is the same side that the mid-ship elevator lets you out so you end up walking through clouds of smoke all the time. This has been bugging me the whole trip. No one goes outside to smoke and since there are a lot of south and central americans on this trip, there are a lot of smokers! I must say that I much prefer Princess over Celebrity. The food was better on Princess and I'm not just talking about the dining room. The cruise staff does not provide port updates before the ports of call, nor does it provide you with maps of the area like other lines have done. The only time I have seen the cruise director (who has to be in his 60s, at least) is on TV and that is very random at best. The promenade deck, in my opinion does not exist. I much prefer the promenade decks on Princess where you could walk around the ship or sit out. There is no place to sit out on that deck. It's more just a place that is under the tenders. The rooms and balconies are also much smaller. I know this is just my opinion, but after having such wonderful experiences on Princess and even that one time on Royal Caribbean, I was disappointed.

However, as disappointed as I am with the ship, the group I am with is great. Folks are already talking about the upcoming trips that I will now have to start saving for!