Friday, April 29, 2011

Between Ocean Drive and Surf Road

That’s been our address for this carefree week of sun and sand – can you think of any better location?
We’ll be moving into the next phase of our adventure this weekend but before doing so, I had to bounce the beach ball down memory lane one last time:

The concierge at our hotel had very tactfully told us that Fort Lauderdale Beach is still a haven for itsy-bitsy, teeny tiny teens in their bikinis. Hollywood Beach, where we are, is more of a ‘baby boomer beach,’ she said. (You get the picture).

But I still wasn’t going to be deterred from getting to the  beach from my “Where the Boys Are” movie.  And I did as evidenced by the photo below.

Please note, that while I may look like a boomer; below that wind-blown hairdo and tee-shirt was a bikini-clad college girl humming the movie’s theme song. . .
hollywoodcruise 2011 017
You can imagine my joy when the taxi boat guide announced that Connie Frances had been on this very same beach less than a year ago “singing her heart out.”
And then she added, “. . . she was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the movie’s  release.”  

I knew then, that it was time to head back to the ‘boomer beach.’

Note:  To hear the song sung by Connie, visit the post, “Where the Boys Are”

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Florida’s Wacky, Winding Waterway

No matter where we go, we try to use  public transit as much as possible. And kudos to Hollywood/Ft. Lauderdale for offering some great  public transit and tourism  options, including a great water taxi.

We headed north to Ft. Lauderdale one afternoon traveling  the Intracoastal Waterway on the Water Taxi  catamaran.  Tickets are $20 ($16 for seniors, 65+) for a full-day pass.  Although their posted schedules were loosely adhered to, we filled an afternoon exploring but a small section of this 3,000 mile waterway that links Norfolk, Virginia to Brownsville, Texas. We learned it has once stretched from Maine to Texas and was built during World War II as a safe means of getting our war ships repositioned.

hollywoodcruise 2011 011 Our crew pointed out nature and history, along the way but the most unexpected sight occurred just as the taxi was pulling in to pick us up: two docks south a man literally jetted out over the water. A Kodak moment for all.

We went through Port Everglades where Holland America’s Neiu Amsterdam was the only ship in port and later watched it head out to sea. 

hollywoodcruise 2011 012 We transferred to a Ft. Lauderdale taxi just past the port and in typical tourist fashion, photographed  mansions and yachts belonging to “‘the other half’” en route to Ft. Lauderdale Beach. . .you know, the beach in the movie I’ve been telling you about.  More on that next time.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hooray for Hollywood!

Hooray, indeed! It is everything Connie and her friends promised in that long ago movie (see the last post if that doesn’t make sense). . .the white sand, beach umbrellas, beautiful bikini-clad bodies, (some bodies that really shouldn’t be in bikinis or shorts, for that matter) and sun. Glorious, but intense, sun.

hollywoodcruise 2011 006 85-degrees today and the same for tomorrow. And the Hollywood Broadwalk is everything the tourist association promised.  We understand now why Travel+ Leisure Magazine voted it one of the best boardwalks around.

In fact the Broadwalk provided a type of Easter parade yesterday as hundreds strolled, biked, skated, jogged or ran along in front of the hotel.  This morning it was nearly empty as we set out to explore
hollywoodcruise 2011 003 Our north-facing room couldn’t be better for seeing both the Intra-coastal Waterway to our right and the Atlantic Ocean to our left. Sunrise right; sunset left.

We also had a late afternoon Easter Parade of cruise ships setting sail from Port Everglades which is less than 10 miles from us.
The first ship out was ‘our’ Solstice! It will do a final spin through the Caribbean before we board it for Europe next weekend. 
hollywoodcruise 2011 005 Among the ship’s departing yesterday was the Celebrity Infinity and on board it were our cruising buddies Bill and Madelin (they are the friends we made on a repositioning cruise a few years ago.) They called us just as their ship entered the Atlantic and chatted as the ship set sail for Seattle!

Friday, April 22, 2011

“Where the Boys Are. . .”

If you were a youngster in the early 60’s then the title alone should spark a memory of  that dark-haired beauty, Connie Francis, singing and searching for romance on Florida's beaches during a spring break romp in a movie named, what else? “Where the Boys Are”.

Movies --for a kid like me growing up in Yakima, Washington – were an introduction to the world; a time travel to places I hoped to visit when I grew up.  I’ve already told you how Hayley Mills in Disney’s “Moonspinners” kicked off what was to be my adult-life love affair with Greece.

In much the same way,  Where the Boys Are, created a magical image of  Fort Lauderdale; actually, anything, Florida.
HAL 2009 cruise photos 010
Now  decades later, I’ve been to to Fort Lauderdale a few times; usually a late-night arrival to catch a cruise ship the next morning.

We’ll soon be heading there to catch our Celebrity cruise.  This time, though, we are spending a few days on the Florida coast.

Unlike those dreamy, starry-eyed teen years, I am  no longer hoping to find my true love there as Connie so skillfully planted the seeds of hope so long ago - he’s coming with me. 

But at some point under that Floridian sun, I’ll be humming that song, thinking of Connie and back to a time that my friends and I watched. . .and watched . . .and watched that film over and over again.

Connie and others like her in those movies planted the seeds for our futures: romance and travel, success and happiness. Isn't it funny how just hearing a song from one of them now can take me time traveling back through the decades to the time my friends and I were lost in the land of movie magic?

Note:  If you don’t recall the movie or need a refresher course, click on the link above, as it will take you to a great video posted by glamourous888 on YouTube. Happy Memories!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Holiday Homework, Road Reads, and other Novel stuff

Nothing like a good book to get you in the mood for travel.

We turned to our local (just up the road 30 miles or so) travel guru Rick Steves’ for the homework part of our trip to Spain  Over the years we've come to appreciate his practical tips for getting around and saving money, not to mention hand-drawn, easy-to-understand maps. We've been reading his large book on Spain, but will only be taking one of his Snapshot Series books --  Madrid and Toledo -- with us. This series provides a compact, light-weight book specific to certain cities.

(I know you are thinking, why don't they use Kindle, or Nook or some phone with apps? Well, we pack light and between our cell phone, camera and Netbook, we have all the wires, chargers and batteries we want to carry - so give us a good ol' paperback in which we can jot notes and flag pages with the flick of a wrist and we are quite happy.)

Pre-trip reading:
I’ve learned much about the Spanish Civil War and the military coup of Francisco Franco in 1936, by re-reading the novel, The Return by English author Victoria Hislop. Caught up in the story she tells of Concha and Pablo Ramirez and their children, I’ve also learned much about flamenco dancing and its importance in the Spanish culture. Even if you don't travel to Spain, this would be a great summer read for beach or armchair.

A real life story by Frances Mayes, A Year In  the World, The Journey of a Passionate Traveler has almost had me tasting the tapas she ate and certainly smelling the orange blossoms as she has explored towns and cities in Spain and Portugal.  In her usual style she has also sparked my interest in not only the poetry of Spanish son, Federico Garcia Lorca, but in his life as well.  She’s also prompted me to research the Spanish concept of duende, in both flamenco dance and life itself. But, more on that later.

On the road reads. . .okay, so on the seas, reads:
HAL 2009 cruise photos 028I'll be seeing views similar to this photo -- taken on our repositioning cruise two years ago -- when I open Mark Twain’s Innocence Abroad the perfect re-read for the cruise. Then I want to find a copy of Bill Bryson’s Icons of England. . .you can never have too much to read.

We’ve got a lot of sea days reading time though and I am looking for your suggestions.  Any recommendations? Books set in Spain, England or France? Cruise stories? (I read Christopher Columbus's diaries on our last cruise and it was fascinating)

Note: Although I’ve added these books to the Amazon carousel on the lower right hand corner of the blog. I've also added a link in this post for those who get this by email and may want to look more closely at a book: simply click that link - it will take you to that book's page on Amazon. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Celebrity Crossing

We’ve taken many cruises since the time -- nearly a decade ago -- when we announced, “We are NOT cruise people.”
Ah yes, those famous last words that come back to remind you of the importance of keeping an open mind when it comes to travel and the adventures you might miss without it.

Take repositioning cruises.We also used to say ‘we’d likely go nuts” on a ship with as many as six days at sea . . .then we took one. Not only is it one of the best cruise buys available, but we love those sea days! 

Soon we’ll be crossing the Atlantic aboard Celebrity’s Solstice (pictured above). We will travel for six days from Port Everglades, Florida to Ponte Delgada, in the Azores. We’ll then hopscotch our way around the Portuguese and Spanish coastline finally arriving in Barcelona on day 14.

Our floating home, the Solstice,  is so large, that it is like a  floating hotel, well, maybe a floating a hotel in an amusement park.

Let’s start with statistics: Length: 1,033 feet (think three football fields put end to end and then some) and 15-floors high. (We are at the very back and on the 9th floor - we'll stay fit!) We will be among some 2,850 guests if the ship is full; I suspect it will be. And we'll have 999 crew members to take care of us all.

To keep us entertained, there’s a spa, a library, internet, a movie theatre, basketball court, 14 bars and lounges, 10 hot tubs, 3 pools, and a basketball court.

But this ship will also have some features we’ve never had on previous cruises: The Lawn Club, a field of real live grass; a Hot Glass Show (co-sponsored by the Corning Museum of Glass) and Smithsonian Journeys, a lecture series sponsored by the Smithsonian’s Travel Program. More on those from somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic. . .

Friday, April 15, 2011

Vegas Taxis: And the Rest of the Story

As the lengendary U.S. radio broadcaster Paul Harvey used to say, "And now. . .for the rest of the story. . ."

Our recent southwest road trip got off to a bad start when we were 'taken for a ride' by a Vegas cabbie  who used the freeway to get to The Strip instead of the more direct - cheaper - route to our hotel.  Luckily for us, we'd knew of this scam and, coincidentally,  had just read an article by Chris Erskine about a similar 'ride' in Vegas that appeared in the L.A. Times only days before our trip.

Between Erskine's article and our experience, I decided it was time to speak up. So, as Joel grudgingly paid the ransom I jotted down cab number, company's phone number and details of the driver.  All of which, I provided the company's manager when I called immediately upon getting to our room.

He assured me an investigation would be undertaken and took our address to send a refund check, in the event my complaint checked out.  Apparently it did because I received a full refund (including a tip and airport fee).

A letter of apology was enclosed that read in part: 
"I am sorry that this incident occurred (per the phone conversation) and you should know that the refund that I am sending you has been paid by the driver and all appropriate disciplinary actions have already been taken."

At the end of the road trip, we returned Ol' Orange, our trusty rental car back to Strip parking garage, and caught a taxi back to the airport. Price? $11.30 as compared to the $25 we had been charged the night we arrived. We told the driver about the first night's ride and my complaint to the company.   

His response:  "Thank You! I wish more of you would do that because those people are giving us all a bad name."

I didn't name the company in this post because the problem isn't limited to one business or city.  The lesson we learned is that if you think you've been taken for a ride, you may well be right, so let the company know.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

“The Bluest Skies You’ve Ever Seen Are In . . .

. . .Seattle!  And the hills the greenest, green are in Seattle. . .”

If you watched television back in the late 1960’s you're probably humming 'the tune' already and if not, click the link and watch a YouTube clip of the show, “Here Come the Brides” that aired from 1968 –1970, putting Seattle on the map and the song on the charts.

Seattle, these days, is a far cry from the remote, forested outpost portrayed in that show. It's a regular high-rise, high-density city.

Although it's only a 20-minute Metro bus ride away from my driveway, I admit that I am guilty of ignoring our state’s Emerald City.  I go there to show out-of-town guests our touristy spots like The Space Needle, and Monorail from the 1962 Worlds Fair, Pike Place Market, the Washington State Ferries . . .
Have you ever found yourself guilty of living so close to a ‘destination’ that you don’t often visit it?   I haven’t spent time really exploring this city-next-door since I did the walk through history article for the Seattle Times

But this week I’ll be joining the 10 million tourists who visit  each year~I am attending a conference there. (Can you believe that just under a million of those visitors are cruise ship passengers these days? )

Sadly the weatherman has dashed my hopes of seeing the ‘bluest skies’ – heavy rain is predicted.  But in this post-Bobby-Sherman era, what else could I expect. . . well, okay, maybe a cup of  Starbucks?


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