Monday, November 30, 2009

Amazon Adventure Day 9 – The Third Sea Day

I am not sure that the plan of getting up to work up an appetite is working out quite as well as I had planned. We have been on the ship for 5 days and I stepped on the scale this morning expecting to see a large gain and was shocked to see that there was only a marginal gain if any. However the food is really excellent, whether it is breakfast lunch or dinner, you just know that it is going to be a great meal. The chocolate cake here has proven to be an excellent chose. At lunch to day there was this kind of rolled chocolate cake. It was like a jelly roll except that instead of jelly it was this creamy chocolate between the layers.

Being a sea day is generally relaxing and today was no exception. I have taken the time to write some on my blog, go to a few lectures on some of the ports we are going to stop at and just have a nice easy day. There is nothing more relaxing that sitting in a deck chair and reading a good book. I am a good way into a Robert Ludlum, and as usual with his books you never know who is going to be the bad guy.

Tonight’s entertainment is a classical pianist. I am sure that he is very talented however tonight the movie is “Year One” with Jack Black so it should be hilarious. Popcorn and a movie are probably more my style than classic piano.

Tomorrow we are in Aruba.

I didn't take any pictures today. Sorry


Amazon Adventure Day 8 – Santo Domingo Second Posting

So by now you have read the terrible posting that I made while I was actually in Santo Domingo. So you are probably saying man Terry sure didn’t have that together. And of course you are right. My excuse was that the internet cafĂ© that I was in was this shop which was on this second floor in a really sketchy neighbourhood. The computer which I had was right in the window of the shop and the sun was beating down on me. So it was probably over 100 F and all I could think of was man do I want to get out of here. I had no pictures to post and it was just put something up and get going.

The ship was docked on the Rio Ozama river which divides the city of Santo Domingo into the colonial side, where we were and the new town on the other side. There is a huge fort which was built by the Spanish as Santo Domingo was used as a central amalgamation point for shipping the plundered gold back to Spain. It was the earliest European settlement in the New World, and the first to gain independence from Spain. This was probably the high point in its history. Today it is known for it’s baseball players. It is a very poor nation and most people live well below the poverty level.

The taxis are unbelievably beaten up old Nissans and the buses are mostly ancient old mini-vans which have no side door. There isn’t a single square inch of body work which isn’t battered. There is a driver who has the thing either totally floored or has the breaks locked, and a “conductor” who stands in the door and collects the fare and gets people to take his bus. Fortunately I was within walking distance of the ship.

Up from the ship is the main street in colonial Santo Domingo. It is primarily a walking mall and has a lot of shops selling a variety of local crafts and souvenirs made in China. Having said that Amber is mined locally and there are several shops which specialize in amber jewels. I didn’t buy any.

Back on the ship we had a great super and I had a large New York Strip steak which was absolutely fabulous. Later the evening show was a comedian/juggler who was great. The show he put on was unbelievable. The Prinsendam stage has a very low ceiling so his juggling was all tricks involving hand to hand feats rather than the high aerial tricks you sometime see jugglers perform.

Well tomorrow is a sea day so I get to relax.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Amazon Adventure Day 8' Santo Domingo

This morning I was up extra early as the ship docked in Santo Domingo at 8:00 Am and I wanted to ge my workout in. So I was up at 6:00 and hit the elliptical and put 2 hours on it covering a 6800 strides and burning off 1600 calories. Off for a quick shower and then head for town.

The town on Santo Domingo is over 2 million and is on the edge of poverty. But it is a very colourful place. Very where you turn some one is trying to get you into a taxi or sell you a souviner. This is where Christopher Columbus landed or at least that is the local legend and there are stautues of him every where. There is a hughe memorial on the edge of town which is about 10 stories highand has lasers which project a cross into the sky at night. However as there is an electricsity shortage they don´t turn it on. Finding and internet was a mircal. However the key board is set to some strange steeting which has hidden symbols and I cannot seem to get it right. There is not Spell check either so tough luck. As a result no pictures and what you see is it. It is cheap however at about $1.00 per hour.

The temperature is close to 90 f and it is 100% humidity. So I am soaked through. I guess telling that to people who are freezing isn´t the best. Well it´s a tough life but someone has to do it.

Well I am going to sign off and head back to the ship. I am starving. That work out really built up my appetite.


Amazon Adventure Day 7 Second day at Sea

Amazon Adventure Day 7 – Second Sea Day

Up early and into the gym to get rid of extra calories. Thirty minutes on the elliptical and 60 minutes lifting weights. Ok should about do it and off to a hearty breakfast.

After breakfast I thought I had better play with my new PSP. I am actually starting to get pretty good at it. Not professional mind you but good enough to win the odd race and to get better cars that the Toyota Corollas, and Honda Civics I have been driving. I picked up a Mercedes CLK – AMG 63 which is pretty hot and a Mustang SHO. I was playing in this one lecture on famous baseball players on Santo Domingo and was getting dirty looks from other people in the lecture even though I had my ear plugs in, so I figured I must be doing pretty good.

The crowed on this cruise is quite old. The average age is probably close to 100. This makes me the second youngest person on the cruise. There is a young man and his wife who are on their honeymoon,. They are from Montreal. They are in their early 20’s. But its ok. They don’t spend long in the gym. They come in one door and walk out the other door. I over heard this fellow telling another passenger he was in the gym this morning. He was not lying. He came in looked left, looked right and went out the opposite door.

We booked our tours for when we are going to be in Brazil. They include piranha fishing, jungle walks, canoe trips into the jungle, and lots of other neat stuff. We also booked two suppers in the Pinnacle Grill. Once for my birthday and once for Jim and Sandra’s anniversary. In there you can have a 22 oz T-bone, and lot of other really great meals.

Off to supper. I am starving.


Amazon Adventure Day 6 ' The first Day at Sea

Amazon Adventure Day 6 – The first at sea day

With all the food aboard a cruise ship it wouldn’t seem right to not eat your fill and then some. You know that you are getting enough to eat if your weight gain is about one pound per day of the cruise. The best way to be able to make sure that you are getting the proper amount of “and then some” is to hit the gym. So I was up at 7:00 and off to the gym. In the gym I hit the elliptical trainer and turned it up to maximum tension and started off. After 90 minutes I had worked up a health appetite. The machine said I had burned off 1500 calories, so I figured that should be good for and extra breakfast.

Jim had brought this book called “Leisureville” by Andrew Blechman, for me to read. So I found a deck chair, put on some sun tan lotion, turned on the IPOD and settled down to read it. It is about life in 55+ age restricted active adult community. It documents the Florida retirement scene and all the wife swapping etc that goes on. Unbelievable is the only way to describe it. Some how I don’t think I am quite there yet. Naturally I fell asleep in the sun and awoke with a sun burn on one foot and on my belly button, where I missed putting suntan lotion. Ouch!

Being American Thanks giving it was the first of the formal nights on the cruise ( there are a total of 25). The dinning room was all decorated and it was lots of fun. I had a great Rib Eye steak rather than turkey. It was done perfectly.

We later enjoyed the first of the on stage performances. It was called “Europa A Tribute To Travel In Europe” . Although the singers and dancers did very well I thought it was somewhat uneven.

We set our clocks ahead so I better get to bed.


Amazon Adventure Day 5 ' All Aboard

Amazon Adventure Day 5 – All Aboard

When we awoke this morning it was pouring rain. And I mean POURING. The sky was totally black and the rain was just hammering down. About 9:00 Am it turned into a thunder storm and there were quite a few big flashes followed big huge booms as the thunder followed.

Agnes and Sandra had booked themselves into a spa to have their nails done so they took off leaving Jim and I to clean up the condo and check out. There were a few beers left so we sat out on the balcony and drank them and watched the rain. It was quite a show. We had to get out of the condo at 10:00 so we rolled the luggage down stairs and put the luggage into the bell check. As we had no car we were stuck waiting for Agnes and Sandra to return. We were expecting them around 10:30 so when they hadn’t shown by 11:00, we were beginning to wonder. By 12:00 it was what the heck happened? By 1:00 PM it wasn’t funny any more. Being stuck in the lobby for 3 hours was getting painful. At 1:30 they showed. Four hours to do your nails???

With the luggage in the car we headed off to the pier to board the ship. Port of the Everglades where the cruise ship docks was about 10 miles down the coast so we wandered down to the ship taking the scenic route. It is so pretty along the coast. All the palm trees, the beaches, the soft pastel colours of the condos, and the marines with the yachts. The rain had cleared off and the sun was out. It was surprising how quickly things dried off. The rain had cooled things off so it was a very pleasant afternoon. Jim dropped us at the dock and left to take the rental car back. Check in at the ship was very easy and 10 minutes later we were having an iced tea on the back deck.

The ship didn’t leave until 9:00Pm so we had a shower had super and went out on deck to watch the ship leave harbour.

WOW! Here we are leaving on the big adventure, which has been in the works for eight months.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Amazon Adventure Day 4 - Nov 24

This morning I was up at 7:00 Am and headed down the road for a little run. It turned into a 40 minute run down the beach. It was absolutely beautiful. It was about 75F and close to 100% humidity. So it was a little sticky but I got rolling and the miles just fell away. It was really great.

When I got back everyone else was up and eating breakfast. We had decided to go look at real estate. With all the news saying how badly the Florida market got hit we had to see for ourselves. We have been driving past signs advertising foreclosures and boarded up developments. It looked like there were lots of homes for sale up in Boynton Beach which is about 20 miles up the road so we headed off. We saw a lot of real estate today and most of it does in fact look like it is 50% off. Having said that it is still around $250/ sq foot. In San Antonio we were looking at equivalent homes for $80/sq ft. In Florida tornado insurance runs around $3000/yr. The Home Owner Association fees are around $430/month as the common area maintenance is very high. Taxes are also high at around $5000/year. So I think that when I come to Florida I will rent.
As we were driving home the Good Year blimp was coming into its hanger. It floated right over us and we were able to watch it land, right beside us. I had no idea how really big it is until you get up close. The thing is HUGE.

Well tomorrow we get on the boat so we had to buy a bottle for the cabin. I got a 1.75 l of Johnny Walker Red for $28.00. What a deal! Add the great weather and I understand why people want to live here.

Tomorrow we get on the ship and head off. So it maybe a few days before you hear from me.

Amazon Adventure Day 3 - Nov 23

We started the morning with a big drive. From Fort Lauderdale we drove south all the way to Key West. It was close to 200 miles. I don't think I realized how long Florida is. The last 100 miles was along the causeway.

It was really interesting as the causeway goes from little island to little island. On each of the little island is a marina, a beach bar, a tourist shop selling trinkets, and a dive shop. The marina's were filled with boats which had for sale signs on 70% of them and the rest had for charter signs on them. The rates were surprising at $750/day, it was sticker shock. The bars were filled with colourful locals all of whom were wasting a way in Mauretiaville. The dive shops had definitely seen better days. The one we laughed about was called "Discount Dive" What do they do to cut the price? used air? Or maybe the operative word was Dive, as it certainly was.

At the end of the drive was Key West. It is a really interesting little town. The place has a long history as pirate retreat, couch fishery, marine salvage industry, navy supply depot, finally the tourist industry has taken over. Narrow little streets filled with historic homes and buildings. The most famous is Ernst Hemingway, who wrote a lot of his books in Key West. He loved the deep sea fishing. However there were lots of other famous inhabitants of Key West. Harry Trueman had his "Little White House" on the navel base in Key West. There is a marker there which marks the most southerly point of the the US.

At the West end of town is the main downtown. At sunset there is a huge crowd which congregates on the pier for the sunset celebration. There are street performers, vendors selling everything from crafts to beer. As the sun sinks into the ocean the crowd goes wild cheering and yelling. You would think that it had never happened before. Then everyone wanders off the pier and into one of the hundred open air bars. As we had close to 200 miles to drive we got back on the road. What a fun day.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Amazon Adventure Day 2 - Nov 22

Today was a pretty lazy day. We got up late and had a late breakfast. The wind was blowing really hard so we weren't in any big rush to get out. Of course after the brutal flight it was no wonder everybody was into laying low.

About 10:00 we went over to this craft mall and flea market. There was a huge car show in the parking lot. There were a lot of cars, everything from customs to stock cars. There were a lot of Corvettes and Mustangs. There was a 1917 Van Blecker which was a 17.0 Liter 4 cylinder race car, which produced 35 hp. It had huge 40" wheels which were driven with a 1.5" roller chain. Very High tech. I had never seen one before. There was lots of other interesting vehicles including a bunch of pickups which ranged from the stock to wild customs. There was a monster truck which had been turned into a limo. Crazy!

In the late after noon we walked down the beach. The wind had stopped and it was really nice. There was a new condo tower which was an ocean front building. So we went in and had a look. The condos were 2450 sq feet to 2900 and ranged in price from $600K to $900K. They real really beautiful or at least the show suite was. It would be kind of neat to live in an ocean front condo. Watch the sun rise over the ocean. Sit on the balcony and drink your morning coffee 365 days a year. Well I don't know if I could do it. NO PETS. How could you live with out your dog to keep you company?

Back in the condo we watched the last of the NASCAR race and it was great to see Denny Hamlin win 4th race this season. He has had a great season. In fact the best of his career.
Well better get going as We are off to Key West this morning. The plan is to hit the sunset party there.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Amazon Adventure Day 1 - Nov 21

Wow! Here it is the big adventure begins. It seemed like along time off when I booked this trip back in March and here we are starting off. Work was so busy, that I didn't have time to do a lot of research, or much of anything except throw stuff into my suitcase, on Thursday. Then on Friday, I still had to go and put the motor home to bed for the winter. Drag the batteries out of it and make sure everything was good for the winter. We had been spoiled by the nice weather. However I am sure that it will be good and cold by time I get home.

This friend of ours drove Agnes and I out the airport Friday night, as we had the red eye flight to Toronto. The flight was scheduled for 12:35 Am on Saturday. Clearly a person does not get the choicest of flights when you book with Air-Miles. Having said that it was on WestJet so it was a nice new plane with nice leather seats. I thought I could catch some shut eye on the flight but it was so rough that when I closed my eyes I felt motion sick. In Toronto we had a 5 hour layover so a good breakfast helped. I did mange to catch 90 minutes of sleep on the floor in the airport. However sleeping on the concrete for 90 minutes made me feel like I had been body slammed by one of the TV wrestlers. My neck was stiff and my shoulders ached. The flight to Fort Lauderdale was totally uneventful so I caught a few minutes.

Just as we landed our friends Jim and Sandra who are on the trip with us text'ed us that they had landed. So we hurried off the plane to find our luggage. It was our lucky day as it was all there and not beaten up. Jim is a real digger and had gotten a rental car when there were none because all the cars are out this weekend due to the final NASCAR race here at Homestead. He swung by and picked us up and we were off to the condo.

The condo is really nice. It looks out over the ocean. We are here until Wednesday. So this will give us some time to see a few sights. Drive the causeway to Key West, see Cape Canaveral, and the Kennedy Space center. Maybe have a beer on the beach.

It looks like it is going to 83F here today. Sounds good to me.

Picture of the day is from the balcony of the condo last night when we arrived.