Thursday, January 19, 2012

TP Thursday: Seaside Serendipity

Hula Babe and Beach Boy (our noms de blog while in Hawaii) set out Monday afternoon to visit Honu, the sea turtle we’d happened upon last year at a nearby lagoon.  We were disappointed in not finding our old friend, but totally stunned to find a new treasure: a Hawaiian Monk Seal sunning herself at the lagoon.

hawaii2012 032

What’s so amazing about our find is that there are fewer than 1,100 such wonderful creatures still alive; they are an endangered species on course to vanish in 30 – 50 years.

hawaii2012 031 

She had arrived on the beach Monday morning and the volunteer keeping watch over her said she’d likely swim away that night.  A rope barrier kept curious on-lookers from disturbing her slumber.

hawaii2012 033

Sadly, the headlines have been reporting that three Hawaiian Monk Seals were killed recently; two on Molokai and one on Kauai – rewards are being offered for information leading to the criminals responsible for the deaths. The good news is that people like the volunteer are working to keep the seals safe.

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Hawaii continues to provide us a new travel treasure with each visit – this one was priceless.

It is TP Thursday so head to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos and tales from around the world. Just click these photos to make them larger.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Diamond Head: Been there, done that!

 hawaii2012 016 Hula Babe’s and Beach Boy’s Hawaiian adventures began by climbing Diamond Head. As we gazed out over the Pacific Ocean, the only thing we asked ourselves is, “Why did we wait so many years and visits to Hawaii to enjoy this trek?”

Thanks to Kim and Sue, who after reading last week’s post in which I pondered the possibility, encouraged us to ‘just do it!'Their encouragement moved it to the top of my Hawaiian ‘to do’ list.

hawaii2012 006 And then there was our hotel...

Our first four days were spent in Diamond Head’s shadow, at the The Lotus at Diamond Head in a room that provided a postcard view of this decades-old symbol of Waikiki. It felt as if we could reach across Kapi’olani Park and caress its rough hewn sides.  We used binoculars to see the people way up at the very tiptop viewpoint (the point on the right in this photo).

So Friday the 13th we tackled Le-ahi, the other name for Diamond Head; a name given by the goddess Hi’aka because the summit resembles the lae (forehead)  of the ahi fish. . .or at least that is one of the stories told of its name.  Another is that it stands for the wreaths of fire lighted atop it to guide canoes to shore.

We walked from our hotel to the trail head in the midst of the crater of this 300,000 year-old volcano. Entry fees were a very reasonable $1 per person walk in.  Parking fees for those who chose to drive were also minimal.

hawaii2012 010 The trail itself is less than a mile (1.3km) one way and the climb is 560feet (171m) from the crater floor.  The trail, built in 1908 as part of the U.S. Army’s Coastal Defense System, was originally used by those on foot and mules that hauled construction equipment up it. The surface was uneven in many places but secure handrails made it feel safe.  There were steep stairways and dark narrow tunnels – it might not be for everyone. 

hawaii2012 014 I admit there were a couple of times as I paused to drink water and suck air on the way up that I did wonder why I had been so hell bent on doing it. However we were joined by young and old; fit and fat - a testimony to its popularity. More than a million visit Diamond Head each year.

And then. . .the final flight of stairs and we were at the top. . .paradise literally surrounded us every direction we turned. The views were stunning.

I can hardly wait until next year! It might just have moved even higher on my “must not miss” list.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Celebrity’s Cruise Director: Our Cheerleader at Sea

Mix together talents as a cheerleader, entertainer, and mother. Add a large dash of caring and organizing then wrap it in a blanket of energy.

DSCF2246What do you have? 

Our Celebrity Constellation Cruise Director, Sue Denning.

I introduced you to Sue just after I met her on our transatlantic cruise.. Remember? She’d zipped past me en route to clean toilets in a public restroom on our ship. Along with the ship’s near-thousand other employees, she was working to eradicate the gastrointestinal virus that struck the sailing before ours. That toilet-cleaning made an impression on many of you and I promised a sequel; here it is:

DSCF2192It didn’t take long for life to get back to normal on board and then we started seeing Sue in her more traditional duties: interacting with passengers (like making the rounds on Sea Days with Hotel Director Jamie Petts) and  introducing a variety of on- board entertainment and enrichment activities; always perfectly coiffed and always smiling, I might add. (I couldn’t have done it – way too much energy and enthusiasm required).

DSCF2220This English wife, mother and entertainer has been working in  the cruise industry since 2004, both as a performer and Cruise Director. Yet, having a work schedule that requires four months on board, followed by two months off, hasn’t had a negative impact on her marriage (35 years!) or on her family (a son and daughter).

“I have a magnificent husband, two great kids and a wonderful home,” she says, flashing her trademark smile. “My husband performs on both land and sea. My daughter is performing in Vienna and my son in London’s West End.  You might call us a modern-day Von Trappe family.”

“I genuinely care about what I do,” she says of her 24/7 job, “I have a passion for it.” But the job’s not for everyone, she cautions. “It is essential to be a people person.  You must like what you do. It requires tolerance, not temper.”

DSCF2255Among cruise directors’ responsibilities are:
*directing passenger services, from activity programs and public announcements to "welcome onboard" and disembarking information.
*developing schedules for a staff of lecturers, speakers, special guest performers and on-staff entertainers for regular onboard programs.
* attending VIP functions, private parties, and ship-organized events, such as past passenger and welcome aboard receptions, like the one pictured above.

The real key to job success for a cruise director, she says, “Just to be yourself. Wake up the same way, every day.”

Do I need to tell you we are already hoping to have Sue aboard our Celebrity cruise next November?

Note:  I wrote this post about Sue last week and our travel schedule prevented me from getting it posted until Sunday, Jan. 15 - two days after the tragic accident in Italy involving a Costa Cruise Line's ship - not Celebrity.. We love cruising and know how seriously all cruise lines take the safety of their passengers. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families whose lives were impacted by this incident.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

TP Thursday: Winter in Venice. . .er, . . .Vegas

It’s a city that has Paris’s Eiffel Tower and Rome’s Trevi Fountain, (or close replicas anyway), so it seemed normal for this adult Disneyland-of-a-city to also have “Winter in Venice” last week at, where else? The Venetian Resort and Casino.


The event which was winding down the first week of January drew crowds to the Christmas tree, especially for the nighttime light shows.


And of course, you can’t have Venice without gondoliers singing and steering their boats past the ice rink. (Make that fake ice, but hey, it worked and we are talking Vegas. . .)


It was a Carnivale type atmosphere with skaters twirling to Christmas tunes and street performers posing for photos.


Snowflakes on the building  helped remind us that this was a ‘winter fest’ – temperatures were in the high 60’s F -  an unseasonably warm week, the weatherman said. (Last year it was in the 30’s for daytime temperatures and it snowed during our early January visit).


Note:  It is TP Thursday so head on over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos from around the world.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Aloha Honolulu!

Hula Babe and Beach Boy are heading back to Hawaii!  That would be us – and our nom de plume, okay, nom de blog -- during those winter weeks when we frolic under swaying palms and a tropical sun with a renewed, near rampant, enthusiasm for life.


We do feel younger and more carefree in Hawaii.  From the first sniff of the tuber rose and plumeria leis at the airport, we are enveloped in a magical spirit – the Spirit of Aloha, perhaps - that seems to feed both the body and the soul. And it never lessens, instead, it only gets stronger with each passing year.

DSCF0014It’s a shift in attitude that doesn’t require consumption of coconut juices or alcohol-laced mai tais (although quite yummy); papaya mask facials or yoga. . .the mind simply switches gears in Hawaii.

‘Life is Good’, as the tee-shirts proclaim.  If you’ve ever been there, you know what I am saying, and if not you should give it a try one day.

Our Waikiki stay will be in the shadow of Diamond Head’s 760-foot punchbowl crater pictured below, at the Aqua Lotus Hotel, (formerly the W Hotel) near Kapi’olani Park on O’ahu’s Gold Coast. 

And because we are so close, maybe we’ll finally climb the trail along the top of Diamond Head’s crater this trip. . .

Map picture

DSCF0085The first ‘big trip’ I ever took was to Honolulu way back in 1979 when a good friend who was living in Guam and I met  in Honolulu.  I was swept up by Waikiki’s Spirit of Aloha on that trip  and unbeknownst to me at the time, Joel and his buddies were making similar discoveries about the same time. As a result, the place just keeps drawing us back.

So put on your Aloha shirt or grass hula skirt, grab a tropical drink and join us. . . Hula Babe’s and Beach Boy’s adventures are about to begin . . .Aloha!

So, what about you?  Have you visited a place and been caught up in its spirit?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Happy New Year! Happy Travels!

Media headlines have been noting the Mayan calendar's ‘end of the world’ prediction for December, 2012. To our way of thinking it’s as a good a reason as any to travel more this year!
France Vegas Mike G. 2009 050After all, we have a lot of places yet to see on this big old world before it - or we - cease to exist. 

Our bucket list – the one where we note new places to see, things to do, and favorite places that call out for a  return  visit – just seems to get longer each year.

We’ve already put Asia, Australia and Bali on the fall destination list. We’ve scheduled time in Scottsdale. And this month “Hula Babe and Beach Boy” head back to Hawaii for  more tropical adventures.  In between those planned excursions, we’ll keep our bags at the ready for any other adventures and misadventures that await us. 

What adventures are ahead for you? What’s on your 2012 bucket list?

DSCF2065As one travel year ends and another beckons we thank you for joining us at TravelnWrite and hope you’ll continue traveling with us.
Along with our wishes for a Happy New Year and Happy Travels, I am adding this poem, which I found on the blog* of a fellow traveler:

On an ancient wall in China
Where a brooding Buddha blinks
Deeply graven is the message,
It is later than you think.
The clock of time is wound but once and no
man has the power,
to tell just when the hand will stop
at late or early hour.
Now is all the time you own,
the past a golden link
Go cruising now my brother,
It is later than you think.

Note:  *Raymond’s Man on the Lam blog. Photos: Paris at daybreak and us on Celebrity’s transatlantic cruise.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

TP Thursday: Give me land, lots of land. . .

Remember America's singing television cowboy, Roy Rogers and his horse, Trigger? They brought the Old West to life back in the mid-20th Century. And way back in 1944, he introduced Cole Porter’s song,  “Don’t Fence Me In” in a movie called, Hollywood Canteena.  The song is one of those cowboy songs that even now, decades later, I can't help but hum when we head out on road trips through America’s Southwest . . .
“Oh,give me land,
lots of land. under starry skies above,
don’t fence me in. . .

Let me ride thru
the wide open country that I love,
don’t fence me in. . .

Let me be by myself
in the evening breeze,
Listen to the murmur
of the cottonwood trees. . .

Let me wander over yonder
Till I see the mountains rise. . .

. . . Don’t fence me in. . .”
Note:  It is TP Thursday so saddle up and mosey on over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos from around the world.   Photos taken in Scottsdale and Tucson, Arizona, and points in between.  If you want to hear Roy singing the full song, click the link above which will take you to a You Tube clip.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

‘EXPLOSIVES DETECTED’ . . . sadly, on me!

And as soon as those two words in bold black letters on a bright orange background showed up on the screen, the TSA agent at SeaTac said, “Afraid you are going to have to come with me, ma’am.”

And thus began our 2012 travels . . .

vegas 020 We were on our way to Las Vegas yesterday, our annual trip to watch college football games on big screen televisions in Sports Books found in nearly every casino in town when it all began. I wrote about our similar trip last year and had planned not to even mention this trip That was until Lady Luck – or Lady Un-luck – struck before I’d even left Seattle.

“Why is it always you?” I heard Joel ask from behind me.

I’ve thought about that since yesterday and here’s my answer:  it is because I am generally a happy traveler (I smiled at the guy) and short (5-feet tall) and blonde (although chemically-induced blonde, I could have the traits of a real blonde) and I am over 50; all of which I think adds up to: I am an easy mark.

Back to my tale .  . .

We were in the line snaking its way to the TSA bag, body and document screening when I smiled at the agent, he smiled back and said, “Ma’am I need you to step over here – I am doing a random swab of hands.”  He swiped, put the cotton pads in the machine and I joked (yes, up until yesterday, I still chatted with these folks) about detecting the type of hand lotion I used.

EXPLOSIVES DETECTED flashed on the screen and that was the end of that conversation. . .

On the bright side, he led us right to the front of the line (hopefully people thought we were celebrities or something) and helped put all of our stuff through the screening. After we both cleared the body x-ray (now standard screening at SeaTac) Joel went off to wait for me while I was led to more screening. 

Everything I had, plastic baggie, coat, shoes, purse and contents were individually wiped down and tested. They all passed with flying colors. . .No explosives!

Then two female TSA agents arrived and took me into a room and closed the door for my ‘pat down’.  Now I can’t say I was real happy at that point, BUT I do need to say the exam was explained to me in advance: and done in an extremely professional manner.

 (“I will be using a backhand pat down everywhere but the inner thigh and there I will need to used the front of my hands to pat down,” she said.) 

They checked my hair (“I am trying not to mess it up,” she explained) and then did the pat down. 

The second woman took the gloves she had been wearing and tested them for residue.

vegas 044 Again, I passed with flying colors. . .I was free to go.  And on the bright side, we didn’t have to wait long at all to board our flight.

As I left I told them I was a white-knuckle flier and I really did appreciate the security efforts. (They told me most people react much differently.)

The afterward of this tale is that we are in Las Vegas, the sun is out, we are barefoot in our sandals, the two teams we wanted to win games did so yesterday we were upgraded to a room with sweeping views over the valley and mountains and all is again well in our travel world. 

However, we might just allow ourselves a little extra time at the airport prior to our return flight -  just in case Lady Luck strikes again!


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