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Spain Part 1: Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona on the Queen Elizabeth shipLabor Day, September 4, 2023
Because Sara, our granddaughter, didn’t have class today she was able to drive us to the Airport at 6:30 am. More secure this year, I guess, she didn’t play the music from “Titanic” for us. We got there way-earlier than we actually needed. Why they say to come 2 hours early makes no sense in a little airport like Bluegrass. We just sat and waited. Even “security” was a piece of cake.
The flight to NC and then on to Ft Lauderdale was also uneventful, except for us getting a complementary drink (scotch for me, bubbly for her) because Georgia had the foresight to pay for a marginally larger-legroom seat. My sweetie is really getting good at setting up these trips. She’s missed her calling—she should have been a travel agent.
The hotel in FLL was ok, but everyone we asked at the front desk about shuttle service to the dock tomorrow had a different answer. But everyone agreed on the virtue of the nearby Italian restaurant, and it was good—though they put way too much garlic on the garlic bread. It was either the garlic or the pepper & sausage foccacia sandwich that gave me the runs later. In any event, I was well cleaned out by morning.
Tuesday, September 5
We were sitting in the lounge killing time before we had to ask for a taxi. “Bridget” was there, too, waiting for a shuttle to the dock. We asked if we could tag along with her. That was fine and we were shortly on our way to the dock. Since 9/11 they have upped security here too. I’m glad we didn’t try to walk over there pulling our suitcases. But our driver somehow was unable to give me the change from the forty I handed him for our two $15 rides. Assuming Bridget gave him 15 he made $55 for a half mile drive, and the bell-hop at the dock was miffed because I didn’t give him a tip for taking our 3 carry-ons out of the back of the van and putting them on the luggage cart 3 feet away. Yikes! I can see that this is going to be an expensive trip.
We were processed through the preliminaries much faster than on the Queen Mary in New York last year. I think Georgia, God bless her, had done much of the preliminaries on-line. Did I tell you I was really glad she was taking care of things?
We weren’t even supposed to begin the process before 2:30 but we were already in our stateroom by then, unpacking and heading to the bar for some overpriced but still welcome liquid refreshment.
Then on to the afternoon tea where we sat next to Jerry and Lilian from Montreal. “How many times are you going to Barcelona?” seems to be we are to greet each other on this ship. Once and you’re getting off there. Twice and you’re getting off after a turn around the western Mediterranean. Three times, and you’re getting off after another longer tour of the whole Mediterranean.
We were seated at dinner at 7pm as the ship set sail. My sweetie was so excited to feel the ship move under her feet. At dinner that first night we sat next to Sue and Kathy from Vancouver. Kathy was a retired structural engineer who had worked on the construction of the Twin Towers in NYC. The destruction on 9/11 had been particularly painful for her. She saw not only the appalling loss of life but also the collapse of her work.
Wednesday, September 6
Room service coffee with cream out on our little patio at 7:50. Georgia relaxed and got ready for breakfast and I went up to the Lido cafeteria and sat next to another Kathy, this time from Melbourne. She told me that you can tell the difference between Aussies and Kiwis by how they say “fish.” Aussies say “fish” and Kiwis say “fush.” Or was it vice versa?
I learned that there is no priest on board so there won’t be any masses said.
We had a meal at the Lido Restaurant on Deck 9 and Georgia didn’t miss her phone for an hour. Fortunately it had been turned in and we recovered it at the purser’s desk on Deck one. The international staff on-board is fabulous.
Lots of shows and entertainments planned at various venues around the ship. I enjoyed watching the hotel band and two singers rehearsing in the main ballroom. The singers’ two little children were charming as they danced and played on the ballroom floor. The young just enjoy being alive. It’s too bad that adults sometimes lose that feeling of joy.
We ate supper in the Britannia dining room next to a couple from North Carolina who travel by ship year round. They have stock in all the different cruise lines and that gives them discounts on Princess, Viking, Cunard, etc. Their itinerary this time was daunting, adding up to more than 2 months on one boat or another. They recommended “Shore Excursion Group” to show you around the ports and get you back to the boat in time.
When they left we talked to Mike and Roger from Tampa who suggested “Vacations to Go,” for discount last-minute cruises. Mike was a retired vascular ultra-sound physician and Roger was a retired travel agent.
Jason texted us that the apartment hadn’t gotten his rent and they were going to evict him and take him to court. He’d called Amy too. I went to the Library onboard and paid for internet for one 24-hour period for 24 dollars, checked the Union at Crescent portal and saw that they’d gotten their money on September 3rd just as I’d set it up. That’s the day he gets his Social Security money. I reassured Jason that everything was ok while wearing my suit for the “Red and Gold Gala.” A maid out by the elevator had to do-up my bowtie for me.
Thursday, September 7
This morning we had room-service coffee then breakfast in the Lido then lazed around the ship for the rest of the day.
Friday, September 8
We docked in Bermuda this morning. It didn’t look that far into town so I started walking. They had warned us that the road was very narrow. It was and what cars there were drove on the wrong side of the road. There were occasional sidewalks but not dependably. Rather than just stick to the road I took little side trips that may or may not be shortcuts through the woods and along the crystal-clear water. Whatever. The plants are luxuriant here, as I should have guessed—and the water is a lovely turquoise, even on an overcast day. The water is so clear that the rocks on the bottom look strangely dry. Saw an orchid-like flower. Maybe it was an orchid. Growing wild, of course. Saw a Japanese-style “moongate” on someone’s property. For luck, I’m sure.
Walked for two hours and saw on the map that I wasn’t even half-way to Hamilton. Learned later that Georgia had seen me trudging along the road, as she blew by in the bus. I was getting hungry so stopped in a little “village” along the road and ordered a hamburger. It was delicious and I sat on a bench in front of the little store to eat it. Several passersby stopped to admire it. A very relaxed vibe here. Watched a workman “repairing” some fallen stucco in slow motion. I gave up on walking and caught a bus. It was 5 dollars and worth every penny, though I may have made a mistake in surrendering my seat to someone even older than me. Having to stand and hold the overhead strap while the driver practiced his downhill slaloms was hard on my shoulder.
In Hamilton, the capital of Bermuda, I saw Georgia on the street and we went in search of a museum. Found one with interesting photographs and a room where some ladies were displaying local children’s art.
Had some local ice cream (very grainy and icy) then headed for the dock to try to catch the ferry. I didn’t think my shoulder could take another Bermuda bus ride. It was so much better than the bus! Fifteen or twenty minutes and we were back at the ship. And there was a lovely olive tree at the ferry dock for me to admire.
Saturday, September 9
Another cat-diary sort of day. Woke up, ate, relaxed in the sun, ate, rested, ate again, went to bed.
Sunday, September 10
Went to the Maritime interdenominational church service lead by the ship’s captain. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to see the Union Jack used as an altar cloth. I should have known that the liturgical colors at sea are always red, white, and blue. And all the hymns are all sea-related. Protestant version of the Lord’s Prayer. I’m glad they didn’t serve communion. In lieu of consecrating the wine they might have sung “Yo, ho, ho, and a bottle of rum.”
Monday, September 11, 12, 13
Sick in bed. Probably from the crowded bus ride. Lots of humanity on a bus.
Thursday, September 14
In Madeira. Took the shuttle bus to town and then another wild-mouse public bus ride, like so many that we’ve had on the various trips through mountainous territory on miniscule roads. Got off at the Botanical Garden. Like Bermuda, the lushness of the flora was amazing.
Had to start our garden tour with a little smackeral of something. Had “Poncha,” a local alcoholic brew and an ice cream bar.
Stood at the wrong bus stop upon leaving and missed the bus back down. The drop-off and pickup stops are different. So that gave us a chance for some souvenir shopping at a little local tienda. It was crammed with doo-dads and knick-knacks. Postcards and magnets are always a sure-bet. Took the wild-mouse city-bus down the mountain to find the local farmer’s market. Filmed part of the trip down so I can replay it if ever I have hiccups.
The market was marvelous. We shared a tuna sandwich and a cider. And we were back on the boat in time for tea.
We were supposed to set sail at 6:30 but didn’t get away until 8:30 because of some medical emergency. Someone on the ship was carried off to the local hospital. Leaning over the rail I was able to watch the harbor-pilot leap back onto the pilot boat and wave to us as we sailed away.
Friday, September 15
I had breakfast with a lady from the border between North and South Carolina, up in the mountains. I mentioned that I’d lived in Asheville before the interstate highways when moonshine-running was the major industry—“Thunder road” time. “I know,” she said conspiratorially. “We called that part of Carolina the . . . [dropping her voice even farther] . . . ‘dark corners’” she whispered, looking around to be sure no one overheard her. “And that was where all the . . . [another quick look-around] . . . ‘moonshine’ was found. Big secret, I guess.
Later, outside the library I sat trying to solve one of our daily sudokus when I saw a wife trying to persuade her vacant husband to go for a walk around the deck. “I want to check something,” he said irritably. She didn’t ask what. She just told him to log into their internet account. They both sat. She, doing something online and him staring absently at his phone, apparently at a loss as to how to log on or what it was that he wanted to “check.”
She handled it all so wisely—not telling him what to do or asking questions he couldn’t answer, just sitting quietly while he ruminated. After 5 minutes or so she said, “Right, ready to go for that walk?” And they both stood up. I noticed then that she had a crippled leg. A crippled leg caring for a crippled mind—each being strong at the other’s broken places. In many ways, that’s what marriage is.
To be continued
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