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Last year at BlogHer11 in San Diego, there was a session called "Boomer Bloggers" and seriously, it called my name. I was born in 1956, so I am smack dab in the middle of the Baby Boomer generation. For those of you who don't know, or haven't heard of us, we are the Baby Boomer generation, we were born between 1946 and 1964. We are now a huge segment of the population.  

 
The funniest thing about attending the Boomer session last year was the TV outside the room stating that this was the classroom for "Elder Bloggers". I chuckled to myself and probably said a few words out loud about my sudden entrance to elderhood.  
 
The meeting itself was an awakening for me.  I realized that there were quite a few of us, women and men, who blog.  We are also consumers, and I can definitely see a shift in advertising targeting us Elders.  We have opinions, and advertisers want to hear from us. 
 
The Boomer meeting was also the brainchild for Anne-Marie Kovacs and Chris Bradshaw to create BOOMbox Network, a place for baby boomers to network and connect.  
 
I'm proud to be a member of this group of wonderful ladies.  When I attended BlogHer12 in NYC a few weeks ago, I was invited to attend a party just for us boomers.  I must say I was thrilled to be invited!  However, I am extremely shy in person and I didn't do enough networking while I was there.  I'm disappointed in myself for being so backward when I had the opportunity to meet sponsors and possibly attract more paid writing.  I love it when I get paid to give my opinion!  
 
The party was wonderful and Anne-Marie was a gracious hostess. She is just a lovely woman.  But because I was alone, I felt strange.  Everyone seemed to be with someone there, except me.  I did have a ticket for hubby to attend, but he said no at the last minute.  So I didn't stay long.  While I was there, I did my best to thrust out my hand proclaiming "Hi, I'm Karen Sandoval" and handing out my cards to other bloggers.  
 
But soon the shyness consumed me and I found Anne-Marie and told her that I needed to head back to the Hilton.  She gave me a hug and a few jars of delicious brittle to take back to hubby.  
 
Thanks so much Anne-Marie and Chris.   

Underwear Man

On the cab ride to the party, we passed Underwear Guy.  The cabdriver pointed him out to me.  I've seen him on TV a few times and it was exciting to get his photo! 

FDNY 24

 I'm not sure how I got my times messed up but I arrived a half hour early. That gave me time to walk around a bit and take some photographs. The party was held at OffSite Parties, halfway between 5th and 6th avenue in New York. This firetruck was parked a few buildings up from the party.

 

Since I had some time to kill, I walked around the block and snapped a few photos. 

Early for the Party

I also had time to go into Lord & Taylor and find a souvenir. If you know me, you know what that might be, right?  

Souvenir From NYC

Michael and I were texting, I was a little unsettled about being alone in New York City, and I got some security knowing he was actively communicating with me.  When I told him I was at Lord & Taylor, he told me to buy a purse.  This is the photo I sent him, and yep, this is my NYC souvenir purse. Lately I've had a thing for Michael Kors, mainly because the logo is MK (Michael Karen). Michael approves, he likes the MK thing too

 

Fifth Ave, NYC

I must say I had a wonderful time, before during and after the BOOMbox party. 

 

I love NYC!   

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 4 (Last: Karen Lynn · 8/22/12 12:53 PM)

When I was in NYC for BlogHer12, the first session I attended  was an off-site program put on by Adorama called "Blographer". I am a photoblogger, although I use this term loosely to describe my blog.  I don't write about photography, rather I showcase a photo or two (or ten) in my blogs. This session called to me, as I want to be a better photoblogger and was very interested in learning new ideas.  

1st Annual Blographer

 

I'm a long time customer of Adorama, and I was excited when I opened the email from them about the first annual Blographer. At the time I signed up, I had never heard the term "outboarding" and I did not see the harm in attending as it was scheduled on Thursday: Pathfinder and Healthminder day at BlogHer, neither of which I had planned on attending. (I'm sorry Elisa and Lisa, next year I will attend Pathfinder, I promise).
 
All that being said, I am glad I decided to attend this session. The classroom was well appointed with tables and chairs and Adorama also provided refreshments in the morning and a wonderful lunch in the afternoon.
 
I didn't balk at the price for this session, the fee was minimal at 69 dollars for me and 30 dollars for a guest. My guest was probably the only man attending Blographer, but hubby is a good sport and came with me. Once we got settled and started, Joel announced that he would be refunding the fees we paid for the course. That was a nice gesture, and much appreciated. Thanks!
 
The sessions were given by women photobloggers and were chock full of great information. In the beginning of the session, I was typing like crazy trying to log all the excellent information given to us. And then I realized that I could just take photos of the powerpoint presentations and be able to refer back to them later. Ah, technology. 

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Hopefully next year Adorama can be an official sponsor of BlogHer and have a class like this at the convention. There are a ton of people who would really love this course! (and I won't feel guilty for attending a non sponsored class!)
 
I want to thank Joel Meisels and Adorama for putting on this wonderful class for bloggers. Even though it wasn't an official BlogHer event, I did enjoy the learning experience.  
 
Thanks so much Adorama
 
    
 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 0

A few weeks ago, I did a video interview with Pepper Schwartz for Replens.  Truthfully, it is probably a few months ago.  I've had a very hectic, busy and wonderful summer and I have been putting off posting this follow up to our interview for various reasons, mainly time constraints and a bit of self imposed pressure.  


Laura Giardina asked me to come up with a few questions to ask Pepper about menopause related issues that women face, and what to do and how to feel once you go from that stage of young vitality into menopause.  If you remember, I put this out to you, my readers, a while back, to help me with questions you might have for her.  And you came up with wonderful questions.  
 
My most pressing question was: "how do you still feel sexy when you're going through menopause?"  When I look in the mirror I don't see the same person that I saw just yesterday wasn't it just yesterday when I was in my 20's and 30s? Now I see an old lady looking back at at me who resembles my grandmother!
 
Pepper told me that although we can't turn back the clock, we can strive to be the best we can be at whatever age we are at. This was such a very profound statement, and has led me to more self acceptance since I spoke to her. 
 
Here is my interview with her.  
 
Replens can help us have the confidence that everything is right "down there". Because as we know, the more you worry about your response and sexuality, the harder it is to achieve intimacy. 

Replens helps to put your fears to rest. 
 
Are you interested in finding your sexuality confidence?  We would love to send you a  box of Replens and a copy of Pepper's book "Prime".  Please email me at karenlsandoval@gmail if you are interested.  The first five requests will be filled  

And remember, you can't reverse aging, but you can still feel sexy and confident whatever age you are. 

For more information on Replens, please visit their website and Facebook page

Replens Facebook page:
www.facebook.com/replens 
 

Replens web site: 
www.replens.com 
 

Replens® Ask the Expert 
 Have an intimate question but you’re not sure where to turn? Submit your question ANONYMOUSLY to Replens® and it could be answered by a leading sex & relationships expert. Some of the answers will be posted on the Replens® Facebook page. Be sure to stay connected with Replens® on Facebook so you can see if your question is answered. Visit www.facebook.com/Replens and click on the “Ask the Expert” tab to submit your question.

 
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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 0
☮Fear is a disease that eats away at logic and makes man inhuman. -- Marian Anderson  
 

When did I become such a sissy? I've been fearless mostly all of my life, until recently.  Last night was the Perseid Meteor shower and I was afraid to go outside alone. Hubby was sleeping. So I just laid in bed wishing I had the courage.  

 
We live in the middle of nowhere, our back yard butts up to a nature preserve. There are neighbors on the left and the right of us, but spaced fairly far apart which is cool because we are not right on top of each other.
 
A few weeks ago, hubby and I were in the living room watching tv, at about 10:30 BANG BANG BANG hammering pounding at the front door. Immediately, my limbs turned into jello and I couldn't move, other than the shaking from the fear. Who would be pounding on our door at 10:30pm? 
 
Hubby called the cops and told them what happened and they came to patrol the subdivision. That calmed my nerves, knowing that the police were driving around.  
 
Then just the other night, ding dong at 10:30. Who the heck is ringing our bell at 10:30 pm? Same thing happened, I turned to mush as hubby went to investigate.  No one was there either time. Maybe it's the neighborhood kids playing? 
 
So hubby called ADT, and we are going to have a security system installed. One with a camera that works with my iPad and so I can see who is at my door. 
 
Maybe I watch too much Investigation Discovery and Walking Dead. I know for sure we are toast if zombies find our house. We have floor to ceiling windows everywhere. Thank goodness that the ADT comes with a glass break alarm.
 

                  Security System

                  Killer Shih Tzu
Now I just have to train the dogs how to jump high enough to eat zombie brains.     

                                    Watchdog

                                    Zombie Protection

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 4 (Last: Karen Lynn · 8/13/12 5:03 AM)

Make that one ten and an eight please.  Here are my yay's and nay's from BlogHer12.  

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Things I loved about BlogHer12

  1. The hugs.  
  2. POTUS, Martha, Katie, Soledad, VOTY
  3. Elisa and Lisa knowing who I was
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The Poise Comedy Show
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Having hubby along
 
Meeting my lady friends from Chatter
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The incredible leaning unicorn cake at Sparklecorn
Someone said she fell over
Having the Em's stick people along to help me break the ice
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Sitting on the floor with Nikki outside Social Fiesta and catching up
She Broke Her Phone
 
Seeing "underwear man" in NYC
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Things I Loathed
  1. The elevator situation
  2. The food at the VOTY reception
  3. 26 dollar chicken burger in the lobby bar (how would I like that done?  cooked please)
  4. Noise level in the Grand Ballroom during Speed Dating
  5. The cattiness (just one incident, that was enough)
  6. The lady who pushed her way past me in the food line at Social Fiesta 
  7. The cab driver who charged us 70.00 from Laguardia to the Hilton
  8.  Saying goodbye 
 
How about you?  What did you love?  What did you loath? 
 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 6 (Last: Karen Lynn · 8/18/12 8:44 AM)

Ouch holy cow ouch.  I burnt my tongue the other day on coffee (what else?) and I'm just not liking the healing process.  If I eat it hurts.  This could be good for weight loss.  Ha.  No thanks.  

 
Have you ever done it?  If I had been by the sink when I took that sip I would have quick spit it out but I wasn't.  I figure I can tough it out and it's going to cool to mouth temperature soon, right?  Well sure it cooled down enough to swallow and good thing I didn't try to really tough it out and swallow it right away because my throat would be burnt too.  This sucks!  
 
So I've been googling around on the net looking for quick remedies for a burnt tongue.  Advice I've read includes, suck on ice, drink lots of milk (it'll coat the burn) eat ice cream (dang we don't have any) and be patient, it will heal.  
 
Any day now please.  Aye carumba!  Anyone got any home remedies for tongue burn? 

Big Bend Fire Company

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: Karen Lynn · 7/31/12 5:56 AM)

I could do without them if you took them away from me, but I wouldn't be happy.  Here they are, my can't won't give up.  Ever.  Unless there is no power, then I'm kind of screwed.  haha

 

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1. Electric Can Opener.  It took me a while to come on board with this as I never saw cranking a can open with a hand can opener was a big deal.  Hubby bought this when I came home from the hospital after my spine was fused.  I'm not sure why I didn't want one before!  I never have any problems opening any can and it sure saves my hands.

 

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2.  Keurig Coffee Maker.  I know this isn't the cheapest way to make coffee, but I love having a selection of coffee in the morning.  There is nothing that tastes as good as that first fresh cup of coffee in the morning.  I love being able to have that experience with each cup.

 

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3.  Nespresso Aeroccino Plus.  This is a recent addition to my small kitchen appliance arsenal.  It came as part of a set when I bought my Nespresso C100 on Amazon.  I love that I can add skim milk foam to all my coffee drinks.  I just drop a few stevia flavor drops into the milk before I turn it on to froth and I have a nice sweet skim foam on top.  Another great feature of this frother is that it will either heat your milk up when it foams, or you can hold the button for 2 seconds and you will get a nice thick cold foam for those cappuccino fredo's I love.

 

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4.  Nespresso C100 Espresso Maker I ordered this after being spoiled rotten in Europe on good espresso, real espresso.  I love the bright gem colored capsules all lined up in my Discovery Box (sold separately when you join the Nespresso Club).  

 

And now, drumroll please, my Favorite New Appliance:

 

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5.  Broan Trash Compactor. I don't know how we lived with out this.  Michael and I make a lot of trash, mainly due to my shopping addiction.  (I swear I'm not a hoarder).  Anyway, one afternoon hubby suggested we go to the casino, and I retorted with "let's buy a trash compactor instead" and he said "sure!".  I ordered it on Overstock and it was delivered to my door for 1.95 shipping!  We had an electrical outlet installed at the end of our breakfast bar and Viola, I have more flat surfaces to put things on.  Not really, I'm just kidding.  

 

This trash compactor is amazing.  All of our trash, from all the rooms in our house, for an entire seven day week, fit into just one trash compactor bag.  It has a deodorizer disk inside of it that does a wonderful job of controlling odors.  Although I haven't been throwing stinky stuff other than banana peels into it.  In one week, we fill one small garbage bag.  It's amazing.  I feel like I am reducing my carbon footprint.  Now if only we had one for the Amazon boxes that arrive just about daily (my bad).  

 

So there you have it.  My five don't want to ever live without appliances.  What are yours?

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 5 (Last: Karen Lynn · 7/25/12 3:11 PM)

On disembarkation day, we checked into the Pullman in Barcelona, dealt with Michael's lost bag (it was found) and just hung out in the hotel room until dinner.  So on Saturday, we were both antsy to get out and explore the city.

 

Barcelona

We asked the concierge if he could give some recommendations on a guided tour we could take, and he recommended the Barcelona Bus Hop on Hop off tour.  It had 2 separate routes, a green line and a red line.  The cost to do this was 24.95 euros each, and we got to use the bus all day long.
 

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Beautiful Crazy Curved Place in Barcelona

 

When you enter, you pay your money and the bus tender hands you a map and a pair of red earphones.  Either beside or under each seat is a headphone jack, and multiple choices of language.  My first seat on the very crowded bus was on the very back row, smack in between 2 families.  There was no way for me to bend down and insert my headphone jack.  I just couldn't do it.  Then on the first stop, I stood up and plugged it in while I could see it, and the bus took off again before I could hit the "English" button.
 

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Colorful Way to Hide Construction

 

So I listened to the first 10 minutes of the tour listening to Italian.  Finally after 2 stops, most all of the people hopped off, and hubby and I were able to sit together, and find the "English" setting of the guided tour.  We rode the red line bus to all it's stops, not getting off.  Once the sites started getting interested, we went upstairs to the top deck of the bus and started snapping away at the beautiful and diverse architecture of Barcelona.
 

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Barcelona

 

You'll notice mostly the top part of the buildings of Barcelona, that was our view.  When we came to the end of the red line, we jumped off in the shopping district of the city and I had my cappuccino fredo of the day, and Michael had his local beer.
 

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Pit Stop and Cappuccino Fredo Refueling restaurant 

 

I asked for the bathroom, and was sent downstairs.  Again with the sketchy bathroom instructions… I had to pee so bad and I just entered the first toilet I saw.  I knew I was in the wrong place right away, from the slipperiness of the floor (boys) but by then I was already peeing and just praying that no men came in while I was there.  No, I didn't see any urinals.  My eyes were trained for a toilet.  This isn't the first time I've accidentally used the men's room in Europe.  I'd done that in Germany in 1978… thinking the H on the door stood for Her, but actually it stood for Herren, which was "men" in Germany.  Oh well, messed up and used the wrong toilet in Spain too.  
 

Manchos

Cafe

 

After we were done with our drinks, we decided to walk around the city a bit and go on the "great purse hunt".  This time hubby was very proactive and was trying so hard to find me something I'd like.  But nothing really called me.  That helped me decide I'd just wait till I got home and order something from Zappo's as a souvenir of the trip.  It wasn't that we didn't try!  However, we did not cross the street to the designer strip of handbag stores.  I just won't shell out for a Gucci or a Prada.  My purse habit is bad enough without lusting after bags that cost more than a small car.  
 

Someday, Honey

He can dream!

 

Karen

No Purses in here

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Burger King in Barcelona

 

So after walking around a bit, we hopped the green line bus and saw the rest of the Bacelona tour.  I was starting to burn from riding on the top of the double decker bus and it was hot, so I grabbed my stuff and headed down for the first floor in the AC and stayed there for the remainder of the trip.  I almost lost a hat up top, but someone brought it down with them and handed it to the bus tender and I said it's mine, oops, thanks!  
 

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Steeple

 

The second part, the green bus line, got very tiring.  We were on the buses from 10 am until 4:30 that day.  Our butts and ears were tired.  And we were starving.  
 

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Building

 

We stopped at Monchos for dinner.  I was a little nervous there, the restaurant had a lot of middle eastern people both working and eating, ladies with scarves pulled carefully up to their lower lashes unless they were eating.  And when I went to the bathroom (downstairs again) I passed a green room where I saw someone sleeping on cardboard on the floor.  I'm not afraid to say the whole middle east thing freaks me out. 
 

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my dinner at Moncho's

 

I wish I had taken a photo of the lady next to me, because she was beautiful.  But I figured since she had to be covered, she wouldn't want her photo taken.  Kind of like the Amish who think photographs steal their soul.  But I don't know because I don't understand.  It just breaks my heart that women are still oppressed.  
 
We ended the day, rearranging our suitcases for the flight home, and just relaxing.  I read a few books on vacation, Jodi Picoult's House Rules (very good 5 stars) and Fifty Shades Darker.  Don't waste your time on the 50 shades books.  Seriously, this comes from someone who did.  

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So much beautiful architecture 

 

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On Sunday, the porter called us a cab.  Not just any cab would do, it had to be one that held ALL OUR LUGGAGE (never again).   You know you have too many things packed when you need a special cab.  Most European cars are small.  
 
Back to the cab ride.  Our driver was driving 110k's per hour, tail-gating and texting on the freeway to the airport.  I was certain we were going to die, and begged hubby to ask him to stop texting.  He did, but the driver pretended he didn't understand English.  After a few moments he did stop texting, and we did arrive at the Barcelona airport unscathed, except for our nerves.  
 
The flight home was long, but it seemed to go faster than on the way to Venice at the beginning of our trip.  The dogs were really glad to see us, and it felt so good to sleep in our own bed that night.  Monday we just laid around trying to get over our jet lag.  We made ourselves stay up until 9pm both Sunday and Monday night, and by Tuesday we were feeling back to normal.  
 
And that folks, is all she wrote!  
 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 4 (Last: Karen Lynn · 7/16/12 6:37 AM)

Our instructions were to tag our bags with the tags they provided with the instruction sheet, and put them outside of our room before 2am.  I was a little nervous about putting the bags in the hallway, but not for the reasons you may think.  The ship was so pristine, I didn't want to be the first to put our bags out and clutter up the hallway.

Last port of call

the port of Barcelona

 
We were the first to put bags out.  Hubby wrestled with the bags and the door shutting on him which I really didn't realize until he came back in and said "you could have helped by holding the door".  I told him I didn't realize he was having a rough time.  But he got them out and we were all packed except what we were wearing to disembark and on with our vacation.  We were spending 2 days in Barcelona!
 

Camera Roll-336

pristine hallway of the 8th floor

 

But first, disembarkation.  The ship kindly put all of our bags through customs, and the suitcases were in the port waiting for us, we had pink tags on our bags.  Once again, we were faced with "how the heck are we going to get all these bags out of the port".  
 
Luckily a porter showed up with a cart and loaded us up.  He spoke very little English, but hubby managed to communicate with him via American dollars and he stayed with us until we finally got hailed a cab that was big enough to fit all our luggage.  The entire shipload of people were in the taxi line, we were somewhere in the middle, but it seemed like forever until it was our turn.  And it was hot.  I didn't take any photos of the port of Barcelona, or the big taxi line of people.  I should have.  
 

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Once we arrived at the Pullman Skipper Barcelona, we were relieved to find out we could possibly check into our room a little early.  While we were waiting, we went to the little bistro cafe/bar in the hotel lobby, and I had my cappuccino Fredo and Michael had a Spanish beer.  

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cappuccino fredo of the day

 
The hotel manager had told us to go walk down to the beach, it was just a block away, but by now we knew that one block equaled 10 blocks in Europe, so we just hung around in the lobby.  We didn't wait for long, our room was ready before noon. 
 

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waiting to get our room at the Pullman Skipper

 

We started unpacking what we needed for our 2 day stay in Barcelona.  The night before, I had packed all my dress clothes and shoes and everything that I wouldn't need until we got home in one suitcase, and casual clothes that I would need into the other.  I was busy putting stuff in drawers and closets when Michael realized we had forgotten one of his bags.
 

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worlds tiniest tube of toothpaste

 

I told him, no worries, it had the pink tag on it with our name address and phone number along with the name and phone number of the hotel we were staying at so we'd be able to locate it fairly easily.  

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our view over the Sea at the Pullman Skipper

 
He rushed down to the front desk and asked for help.  Here is where the language barrier wasn't a good thing.  So, he hailed a cab and headed back to the port where we were dropped off in Barcelona.  He knew which area we came out of because our ship was still there, already loading up the next cruise load of people.  They found his bag and he came back to the Pullman Skipper and we just hung around the room for the day. 
 

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little restaurant in the Pullman Skipper

 

Michael booked us a new seminar, this time in Vegas!  (and someone is NOT gambling…she's going shopping with the gambling money!)
 
I wish I had taken more photos of disembarkation!  After he was finished making arrangements for Vegas, we took a walk to the beach and had dinner in a cool little restaurant that served an awesome cheese plate.  

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cheese plate, yum!

 

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I'll have a side of Rocket please.  wth?

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a performer on the beach walkway (is it a boardwalk if it's tiles?)

 

Tomorrow we tour Barcelona!  
 
 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 4 (Last: Karen Lynn · 7/16/12 6:40 AM)

We had 2 sea days while we were on this 12 day romance cruise.  Both those days Michael was in class for the morning, so those mornings I slept in, and read and drank coffee.  The last day, I pulled my suitcases out and started packing everything I wasn't going to use after tomorrow morning.  

 

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The Silk Den

Cruising was so much fun.  Having our own private stewards was so nice.  I really got spoiled getting high tea delivered every day. The laundry service was fantastic and everyone working onboard the ms. Nieuw Amsterdam just loved what they did, they were always smiling and going out of their way to help us.
 

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The first few days we were aboard, the stewards were really aggressive with the Purell. I guess the cruise industry has figured out that this is the best way to fight fast moving disease, and I appreciated their diligence with this.  You didn't have a choice, you just did it.
 

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I was glad that we had muster before we set sail the first day, I was glad to know that those who refused to participate in muster were ejected from the ship.  Everyone needs to know where to go and what to do in case of emergency.
 

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notes to self for next cruise: 
Never book shore excursions separate from your boat.  The ship does not wait long for you before they take off without you, and it's your responsibility to get to the next port to meet the ship.  
 

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You don't need to bring much cash.  The ATM machines in Europe and on the cruise ship give you Euros, but you can use a credit card almost anywhere you go.  Find out exactly how many formal nights you are going to have and only bring that many formal outfits.  You don't need so many pairs of shoes.  
 

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Never again with more luggage than I can handle on my own.  We each had 2 large suitcases and 2 carry ons.  Getting home through customs in New York was a nightmare, trying to get all the suitcases through was just a major pain in the butt.  We paid 5 dollars for a smart cart we used for 5 minutes.  Don't overpack!  
 

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Keep the papers the ship gives you daily so you can refer to them when you get home. You won't remember everything about your tours, and these are good memory joggers. Keep the tour maps too.  

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Let the boat take as many photos of you as possible.  The packages they offer are expensive, but you'll be glad you have them later.  And if you buy either the large or supersize, you get every photo they take of you.  Great memories that started before we entered the ship. 

 

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The last night, Dr. Jay had a get together for all the dentists that came on the cruise that took his classes up topside in the Silk Den.  It was an interesting place and all the photographs are from there.  It was there we held the silly souvenir contest.  

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The entries were, a rock, a donkey,a seashell whistle, a rubber chicken, a ring holder, kumquat liquor and a tower of Pisa shot glass.  Yes, it leans.  I'm not sure how our 2 headed donkey didn't beat the whistle, but we didn't even place.  The rubber chicken was a close second.  There are things in that red bag on the table that can't be shown in front of the kids that were there, so they were disqualified.  It was fun, but I got distracted trying to catch some memories of that part of the ship.  The views were magnificent.  

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Flower of the day

 

Tomorrow, disembarkment day, lost luggage and our first day in Barcelona.  

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Last sunset from our Verandah porch

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 4 (Last: Karen Lynn · 7/14/12 7:24 AM)

When the ship was at sea, the casino on the boat opened.  They held a slot tournament in Club 21 casino that we paid ten dollars to push the button as fast as we could and pray that you get the high score.  I have done another slot tournament in Vegas and it wasn't nearly as fun.  But then again, I did win the entire tournament!  500 dollars!  Woo hoo!  (i put it in my apple/camera fund envelope)

 

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Counting the cash

 

So at the finals, the casino gave us each of the finalists a Club 21 teeshirt for qualifying for the last round. I put mine on right away, overtop the shirt I was wearing. None of the other five finalists did that though, they handed their shirts to loved ones cheering them on. I figured it would be a good luck thing if I did. 

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I really won!  

 

They handed each of us a glass of champagne. I don't drink! So I set it aside and the game began. Same format, we got five minutes and whoever accumulated the most points won. 

Everyone else was pounding the respin button!  I can't do that because of my stupid arthritis makes pounding hurt my hand like crazy. So I'd wait till the last reel stopped spinning and then hit the button. At first I thought my handicap would dash my chances of winning, but I was wrong!!
 
Soon I was over 8 thousand points and the clock was ticking down and blammo!  I won!!  

Now this winning didnt offset what we had lost in club 21, but actually it was a bit more than I personally lost. I drank the champagne

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The gal who ran the tournament

 

Anyway, I was a Stunned and Happy girl! What an awesome way to end the trip!  It erased my sadness over pulling away from Italy. Did I tell you I cried my eyes out when the ship shoved off from Florence?  Yeah, Im sappy like that. 

Next up, photos from the Silk Den and our last sunset on board. 
 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: Karen Lynn · 7/13/12 2:13 PM)

After we visited Lucca, we headed to Rughi in Tuscany for lunch.  The drive was a little freaky, the roads are one way and in some places very narrow.  We arrived at  this farmhouse Tenuta Gaetano Spadaro, for lunch and a stroll around their property afterward.

 

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Tenuta Gaetano Spadoro 

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It was hot that day, and very humid.  And this was last culinary stop at a place with no air conditioning.  It was a beautiful place though, decorated so lovely.  Even the walls are intricate stone.  Lots of TLC has gone into this beautiful piece of Tuscany.  

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beautiful stone walls inside

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inside Tenuta Gaetano Spadaro

 

Tenuta Gaetano Spadaro

Water, Sparking or Still?

Tenuta Gaetano Spadaro

The olives grown at Tenuta Gaetano Spadaro

 

 

Tenuta Gaetano Spadaro

Bread offerings

Tenuta Gaetano Spadaro

homemade pasta

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homes on the hillside in Tuscany

 

Tenuta Gaetano Spadaro

foothills of Tuscany

 

Tenuta Gaetano Spadaro

hillside homes

 

Tenuta Gaetano Spadaro

The view at Tenuta Gaetano Spadaro

 

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beautiful HOT sultry day

 

Tenuta Gaetano Spadaro

the olive garden at Tenuta Gaetano Spadaro

 

Tenuta Gaetano Spadaro

up another hill to wait for the bus

Tenuta Gaetano Spadaro

we were all ready to go back to the ship at this point.  it was unanimous.  but we had one more museum to visit.  coming soon!

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: Karen Lynn · 7/16/12 6:42 AM)
Lucca, Lucca, Lucca.  I loved it there.  The walking pace was faster than my liking once again.  How do you get a chance to really shoot if you have to walk fast to keep up?  Anyway, Lucca was mostly flat once you got into the town, through the walls that protect the little city.    
 

Lucca, Italy

entrance to the moat

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ancient moat, still standing

 

Luca is surrounded by an ancient moat that has been transformed into a huge park surrounding the town.  The beautiful walls are still standing.  Our tour guide handed out walkie talkies and guided us from the beautiful moat to the town.  She told us "no cars permitted in Lucca" but there were some-shop owners, loading and emptying cars. People were on bicycles everywhere, you had to be careful to not walk in their way.  Scooters beep, cyclists veer.  It wasn't too busy though.  
 

Lucca, Italy

another part of the moat

 

The reason I loved Luca so much is because my favorite opera composer Giacomo Puccini was born there.  He is paid homage, there is a big statue in the square. Puccini composed my favorite opera Madama Butterfly.  I've seen many movies that use arias from this opera and one that comes to mind is Fatal Attraction with Glenn Close and Michael Douglas.  
 

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looking down into Lucca

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the entrance to Lucca

 

We walked 11,000 steps according to my fitbit for that day.  And the walking is doable, but there are cobblestone roads to walk on, I imagine it to be a jarring experience if you are in a wheelchair or stroller.  
 

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a tree growing out of a window

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sweet hubby photographing

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the curved buildings of the Piazza Anfiteatro

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Piazza Anfiteatro

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one of my favorite shots of the day

 

Luca was full of beauty and I tried to capture as much as I could.  Once again, I'm not going to put every photo in this blog, but please check them out here:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/w...s/72157630503048778/
 

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another of my favorites of the day

 

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beautiful ancientness

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baskets for sale at market

 

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Again, thanks for coming on.  Next stop is lunch at a private villa.  
 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 4 (Last: Karen Lynn · 7/11/12 8:51 AM)

Oh, writing about my travels is helping me relive the experience but it's wearing me out in a different way.  At least my legs aren't tired.  Nor is my back screaming!  But emotionally, I'm toast!
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So, after visiting Gandolfo we made our way back down the hill to our tour bus.  It was time to take off for our pasta making lesson and private lunch at a farmhouse in Lazio.

I loved our tour guide, he reminded me so much of my grandpop Morati.  He wore a pressed gray suit, a white dress and starched shirt, a tie and a tee shirt underneath.  He also sported a bald head which grandpop never did intentionally.  Grandpop was just thin haired and had what hair did grow was always trimmed into a neat hairdo.  He was much younger than I, but he still reminded me of grandpop.

We traveled windy country roads, the tour guide jumped out and moved a barricade so we could drive through a street that was closed, and then finally, we arrived at the Ristorante.  
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a section in the back of the resturant


I encouraged Michael to take part in the pasta making.  It was old hat to me, I had done it so many times when I was a young girl.  Slap me, but I didn't take any photos of him rolling the dough.  

The restaurant was at a beautiful farm and the inside was decorated just as lovely as the outside of the place.  All the tables were set with orange tablecloths.Untitled

tables of orange

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homemade whine

  

We were served homemade bread (hard as a rock) bacon soaking in olive oil (no thanks) salad and then lasagna and little pasta in sauce. And of course some homemade wine. Everything was delicious but the bacon and the bread.  

Did I mention it was hot?  Inside, it had to be at least in the mid 80's.  There wasn't a window open, and by the time we were done eating, I had melted. I excused myself from our table and went and sat outside under a canopy and caught a little breeze.  I took a few photos of my Epiphanie Bags Ginger while I was out there and soon enough, Michael came out and joined me.  

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Ginger being posed

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Ginger, my well traveled Epiphanie camera bag
 
They were serving desert complete with ice-cream inside the restaurant, but I was too hot to be eat.  A waitress came out and asked if I wanted a coffee and I asked in my best Italian "cappuccino fredo please" and she brought me a hot cappuccino.  Oh well.  Maybe my Italian isn't as good as I thought.  My entire two word language skills:  Cappuccino Fredo.  

After a while a few ladies joined us under the canopy to catch a breeze.  The tour resumed with a visit to the wine cellar, but I didn't join.  I don't drink much, I did taste a few wines while we were in Italy, and I even drank an Entire Glass Of Champagne when I won the slot contest (more about that later) but today I had no interest in going to the cellar.  I just wanted to go back to the boat!  

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birdhouse chimneys

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closer shot of one of the birdhouses atop the chimney
 
They told me I would have enjoyed it, as the temperature in the wine cellar was much cooler than outside.  I was happy taking photos outside while they tasted the restaurants home made wine.  

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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 4 (Last: Karen Lynn · 7/16/12 6:49 AM)

I was a little nervous about today's nine hour excursion, about my ability to do it.  The excursion guide said it was the equivalent of 1800 yards, but it was more like 1800 miles.  Just kidding, it wasn't that far, but it was a lot of walk, and a lot of walk at an incline which really makes my back twitch and complain.  

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as we rounded each corner, I was certain we were there... NOT!

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uphill the whole way

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beautiful building I saw on the way up

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 Another view of the building
 
But I made it!  And I was rewarded with beautiful sights 360 degrees around me.  I learned that the Pope vacations here in Gandolfo in his private villa in late July and August.  The town then becomes quite the tourist destination while he's there.  AKA busy.  I'm glad there weren't many people but our tour, it kept me from getting lost because I was always behind.  Not so much because I couldn't do it, it was because I wanted to take pictures and the group was walking way to fast to allow that!

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seen on the way up the hill to Gandolfo

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narrow streets

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skinny building
 
Castel Gandolfo is a little Italian town in Lazio, Italy, that occupies an area overlooking the beautiful Lake Albano.  It's about 15 miles south east of Rome in the Alban Hills.  As soon as we arrived at the top I said to hubby "cappuccino fredo please now" and we sat down at a little coffee shop.  I've really got the hang of ordering my cold cappuccino now, even my dialect is fairly good.  Hubby had a local beer and when we were through, he shopped for a little something for his daughter while I wandered through the town taking photographs.
 

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The Popes villa (with the clock)

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the angel on the popes villa

 

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the front door of the popes villa

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a chapel in town

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souvenir shops

 

I was so worn out from climbing the hill to Gandolfo I wasn't sure if I wanted to make the trek down the small hill overlooking Lake Albano.  I'm glad I did.  Lake Gandolfo is a volcanic crater lake formed by two craters.  (again with the earthquakes!).   In 1960, when Rome hosted the summer Olympic games, the lake was used for canoeing and rowing.  
 

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one more hill- Lake Albano

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lovely little village

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Lake Albano

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More scenery from above the Lake

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villas on the mountain side (tour guide said rich people come here)

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Another breathtaking view

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He's a sight for sore eyes too!

 

After taking a bunch of photos, hubby showed up (it was a really small town) and we hung out just admiring the view.  I got my flower of the day there, but soon it was time to climb back up the hill and make the long trek downhill to our tour bus.  It was waiting there for us to reboard and head for a special lunch at a countryside farm.

Flower of the Day

Flower of the Day

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Beautiful wall art

Again, you can find many more photos here:  

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/w...686/with/7536065138/ my set full of photos of the Roman countryside.

 

 

Next stop:  A little restaurant for a private lunch after a pasta making lesson

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 4 (Last: Karen Lynn · 7/9/12 6:55 PM)

Ahh I feel sad just like I did the last few days on the ship, our cruise is winding down now with only a handful of ports left to visit. 


Goodbye Naples

goodbye Napoli

 

We arrived in Civitavecchia, Rome on Monday Morning.  

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Today's excursion is a long one, 9 hours.  First to the catacombs San Callisto in Rome Italy, then a trip to the beautiful small town of Castelo Gandolfo in Lazio where the Pope vacations, and finally a private lunch at a ristorante in Lazio.  It was hotter than heck today.  You know, when your kneepits are sweating?  Hot and humid.  

The Catacombs of San Callisto

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Located outside the city of Rome.  

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good to know where the WC is

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 wall outside the catacombs

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beautiful things to photograph

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The stairs to the catacomb of San Callisto.  NO MORE PHOTOS! (I'm bad)

 

I know they are blurry, but I was scared  

San Callisto Catacombs

I used no flash in the taking of these forbidden photographs

 

The catacombs were built around AD 150.  They were built outside the city of Rome because it was strictly forbidden to bury the dead within the city limits. The tunnels and tombs are carved out of soft volcanic ash that hardens once exposed to air.

 San Callisto Catacombs
The catacombs is an elaborate maze of tunnels where Christians worshipped in secret. This is also where early Christians buried their dead.  It is a beautiful maze of underground tunnels and the tour guide takes you down stairs and into a few rooms of the catacombs, all the while reminding you that photography is strictly forbidden.  

However, touching was not forbidden, and that made no sense to me, the relics were more likely to be damaged by the oils in human skin, but whatever.  I snuck a few photos that didn't turn out so well because it was very dark in there.  It was also pleasantly cool.

By now we were used to touring in the heat and humidity so going into the catacombs was a welcome break from the hot sun.  We went into a room that had an altar that was surrounded by crypts of dead Christians.  A lot of them were small, and the guide told us that the small rectangles were children.  The atmosphere inside the catacombs, along with the volcanic ash make the tombs turn to rock.  I'm not sure how many years it took to do that.  

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window

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fountain

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ledge

 

Today it is a tourist attraction.

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Next Stop is Castel Gandolfo in Lazio, Italy.

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 6 (Last: Karen Lynn · 7/10/12 4:40 AM)
We were well rested and ready to go on our Naples excursion.  The tour I picked for the day was "A Taste of Naples: PIZZAS & PIAZZAS".  It was a four hour tour that took us to the heart of Naples and dropped us off in front of the Piazza Plebiscito.  I'm reading now that we were to tour the Royal Palace, but that didn't happen.
 

The Harbor at Napoli

 

During the drive into town, we passed a shanty town full of lean-to's and cardboard homes.  It was sad and depressing and I told Michael "no wonder my family left Italy".  The tour guide had the bus driver drop us off right downtown, across a busy street was a famous coffee shop.  That's were we were headed.  We had been warned on the ship that pick pockets were very aggressive and very good and to be aware of our surroundings at all times and I was nervous where they left us.  I had my cappuccino fredo of the day and a sweet roll and Michael had a local beer.  
 

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After we were done we decided to walk up the street next to the coffee shop and window shop and take some photographs. The street was pretty shady (no pun intended) though, and I'm really not happy with the way these photos came out.  I ended up with just a handful instead of many pictures, but I think I caught the essence of Napoli as I saw it.   
 

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 small stuff

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window shopping

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the shopping district

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 the view up

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Once our free time was up we found our tour guide who led us with a picket sign with our group number on it.  We then drove up a mountain and got out to enjoy a beautiful view over Naples.

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After that, we headed back to town for the culinary part of our excursion:  Real Napoli pizza.  I wasn't impressed so much with the pizza, it wasn't even nearly as good as Grotto's pizza at the beach or Crossroads here at home.
 

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During the excursion, I told the tour guide that my family were immigrants to the US and he asked what their last name was.  I told him it was Innamorati in Italy, shortened to Morati at Ellis Island.  Innamorati means "lovers" in Italian.   My heart skipped a little beat when the tour guide told me Morati means love.. I felt welcomed, at home in a way.  But also, I wonder what the Innamorati's did for a living back in Italy?  Or maybe their parents - my great grandparents were love birds when they came through Ellis Island and that was the name they were given?  Mom says she remembers being told the name was shortened at the harbor. 

 

Whatever the story, I started to feel a heart connection with Italy here in Naples. Despite the warnings of pickpockets and muggings.  lol!

 

Tomorrow... ROME, the Catacombs and another private lunch. 

 

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Once again, there are many more photos on Flickr here:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/w...434/with/7530956822/

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 4 (Last: Karen Lynn · 7/9/12 9:45 AM)

Overheard at dinner Saturday night:  "What are you doing tomorrow in Sicily?" "Nothing, there were no shore excursions for Sicily".  Me: thinking…"what?" and then "OK honey tomorrow we can have a spa day".  I didn't bother checking my little pink envelope for excursion tickets before I went to bed last night, someone said "no excursions" and I took them at their word and didn't check, or order breakfast.  Woo hoo, we finally get to sleep in!  Not that the excursions weren't fun, we were just excited to have a do nothing day after six excursions in a row.  

 

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Our Romance Package included a couples massage (times 2- remember I bought two).  On second thought, I wondered what the heck I was thinking, I'm not letting a masseuse touch my back, not after a spinal fusion.  So Michael called our concierge and asked if I could trade my massage for a pedicure and a manicure, and can he take a 50 minute block of massage instead of 25 minutes?  The concierge was more than happy to apply the credit for my portion of the two massages to my mani/pedi bill, and to credit Michael with 50 minutes.
 

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I took a bunch of harbor photographs before we headed to the spa.  The harbor at Catania is just beautiful, but I wondered why we weren't allowed off the boat.  (insert head smack here).  Michael and I headed to the spa for some pampering and his 50 minute massage turned into double that because he was talking to the masseuse doing him (no happy ending haha!) about dentistry and social health care in Indonesia.  I was busy getting my nails shaped and colored.  
 

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It just so happened that the captain of our ship was getting his weekly pedicure while I was getting my fingernails done.  However, the manicurist did not tell me that until after he left.  That was the only time I laid eyes on him and we had expected to have a private dinner with him.  Another one of promised perks from our crappy travel agent that didn't pan out.  Speaking of travel agents, does anyone have a good one they might recommend to me?
 

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When we were done with our spa treatments, we met in the reception area and we each had bags full of product that we both were talked into somehow.  Yeah, Michael and I are pretty similar in a lot of ways.  Being easy sales is one of them.  
 

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Then we went back to our room and had a siesta while waiting for high tea and deciding where we were going to eat Sunday night.  We ended up in the Manhattan Dining room for one of our last dinners there, and ate with Michael's instructor and his wife.  When we got back to the room I pulled out my shore excursion ticket envelope and guess what?  We missed the tour I had signed us up for of Sicily dagnabit.  There WAS a tour!!  Oh well, it was back to exploring in the morning.
 

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Tonight we shoved off for Napoli.  The land of pickpockets and warnings to watch your back.  
 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: Karen Lynn · 7/9/12 9:43 AM)
Disclaimer:  Although I strive never to copy other's writing, in my quest for information to share with you about Santorini Greece, I used wiki to get factual information to share with you.  My words may be similar but they are my own!  
 

water taxi

water taxi and tour buses

 

Santorini Greece, also known as Thera, is part of the Cyclades Islands named after Saint Irene, located in the southern Agean Sea. Santorini is the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history: the Minoan eruption that happened about 3600 years ago.  This eruption left a large caldera that was surrounded by volcanic ash hundreds of feet deep.  It is thought that the eruption may have indirectly led to the collapse of the Minoan civilization due to a gigantic tsunami.  Some people believe that the caldera that fell to the sea could possibly have been AtlantisSatellite photo of Santorini.  (please click on the satellite photo, it is excellent)
 

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Ok now that the background information has been laid, back to business (pure Karen and lots of photos) 
 

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SantoWines

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The view behind the Winery

 

Our first stop today was at the Santo Wines Winery. Michael liked the wine at the Santo winery.  I fell in love with the breath-taking view while he tasted the vino. We took lots of photos at the winery of the Aegean Sea, and everything else that we could see.  It was pure loveliness!  

 

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 on the left, you see the big ship? that is our cruise ship.  the marshmallows on the tips of the rocks are homes, hotels shops and churches.

 

After the winery we drove around and learned the history of the island of Thera. It has a climate similar to the desert and fresh Water is scarce. There are cisterns on the roofs's each home and business and we saw a water truck making deliveries. From what I read, Thera does have a desalination plant, but the water is not potable. 

 

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Cyclades Islands

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*only flower of the day 

 

In Santorini, they grow their wine grapes low and shape the plants into baskets with the grape clusters ripening in the center. This protects the vines and the grapes from the wind and heat and also importantly provides them with water from the dew collected on the leaves near the ground.  I have no photos of them, as they were pointed out as we drove by.


There's an old abandoned pumice quarry on the island that stopped production in 1986  to protect the caldera .   The island is built on layers of volcanic ash that can be seen in the rock walls that rise 200 feet from the water. 

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port

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another shot from the winery

 

The African and European tectonic plates caused the volcanic eruption that dropped the center of this Cyclade Island into the ocean. Archeologists have uncovered evidence of the island being inhabited by the Minoans before the last eruption. 

Perhaps this really is part of the lost city of Atlantis.

It is definitely a place I recommend visiting, it is indeed the most beautiful place I've ever seen.  I want to go back and spend a week or two there.  

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Homes in Santorini


The tour bus left us off in a parking lot on one side of the mountain and we were instructed to take the stairs to the top to see the best view.  Also to peruse in the shops and perhaps contribute to Santorini's only source of income:  Tourism.

 

We made our way up a narrow stairway, and I was shooting this and that and all of a sudden I saw a beautiful white floral wreath coming down the stairs towards me and I thought flowers and focused right on and turns out it was a funeral procession and I felt like paparazzi.  Those feelings didn't stop me from snapping 2 more photos discreetly that didn't turn out.  

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funeral procession coming down as we were going up

 

When we got to the top both Michael and I were busy snapping photos in every direction.  360 degrees of beauty.  

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There are 186 photos of Thera in my Santorini set on Flickr.  Please enjoy  

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: Karen Lynn · 7/8/12 9:50 AM)
We met at the bus and continued on our tour to Melisanni Lake, an underground lake in a cave exposed after an earthquake.  The tour guide told us of the scientific experiment done to track the waters passage from the Ionia Sea with harmless dyes in 1963 by Austrian geomorphologists.  They looked to find the path it traveled under and through Kefalonia.  They found it headed back to sea at Sami Bay two weeks later.  

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The brackish water from the sea filters through the limestone foundation of the island and is converted to mostly sweet water when it reaches the underground lake of Melissani. I stuck my arm in the water and tasted it, it was definitely not salty.  I think the guide said if you pulled water from six meters down, it would taste brackish.  

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Melisanni is a beautiful underground lake and cave located north west of Sami on the Island of Kefalonia.  After the tour guide promised my my camera wouldn't get wet, we made the trek down the stairs of the cave and boarded the boat for our tour of the lake. I just realized now that we arrived at the cave at the optimum time to see it's beauty.  

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At noon when the sun is overhead and filtering into the cave, there are glorious views of the bottom of the lake which is 32 meters deep in places.  The water was crystal clear to the bottom.  

 

32 meters deep

 

 I am superexcited for tomorrow is Santorini!

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: Karen Lynn · 7/7/12 7:09 AM)
 
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