Wednesday, July 2, 2008

European Friends

My trip was so special, meeting new people from all over the EU and the US that I would have never known. Now, via the internet, we can keep in touch and continue to relive the trip.

S and R from Wales were some of our dinner companions, R is fine and likes to boast that he was the only man amongst seven women at our dining table. Don't we all look so elegant!

When we were in Ireland, on the bus trip, we had the pleasure of the company of a quartet of women from the Boston area. This photo was sent by the group and was titled "Advice from locals on where to eat" in Killkenny. What fun!

and - just for the record - here's another photo of me with a lamb.

Who Knew?

There are sheep in Boca Raton, not 5 miles from Neiman Marcus, and two minutes from my house! This was very exciting to find out, a few months ago, and even more exciting to find that there are SIX bags of wool from these sheep waiting for me upon my return from Europe! The owners of said sheep were so excited to give me the wool, they took photos of me loading my car with the bags of wool. I think they are just as excited as I am!

So now there are six bags of wool in my garage! (My garage is a story for a rainy day… keep watching for that one.)The wool is waiting patiently to be sorted and scoured (washed). I’m trying to figure out how to scour using solar power, and am going to try to get a group of wool enthusiasts together to assist.

Suggestions and volunteers gratefully accepted.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Reflections and Home

This trip was the dream I had for almost 20 years. It became so much more, as I could not take it with my husband, but COULD take it with my Mom! I am so happy that we did this, I learned so much about my mom that I never knew, and our friendship grew so much stronger! It’s really good to be best friends with your mom.

It is so important to take the moments in your life as you can, don’t keep waiting for the right ones to come along as they rarely will. I learned that with this trip. I had this wonderful time with my mom, and carried David in my heart. People have told me that they hear their departed speak to them, but I never could hear David until this trip. I heard him loud and clear now. He is always with me, and I can treasure all our life together, but move on alone now. I found my independence, thanks to Mom, too, for letting me be the tour director.

I learned that I have to take the time to fulfill my dreams, too. Learning French and taking ballet to end up on pointe shoes are my current goals. We’ll see how that goes. There might be an aerodynamic issue with the ballet thing… Going BACK to Europe is also on the list, maybe to live for awhile, we’ll see.

So stay posted for more yarns. Quite a few in the near future will probably contain yarn and knitting information!

Manhattan, Family and Friends.

As this wonderful trip ended, the final highlights occurred.

On the last day at sea, we were informed that we would pass under the Verrazano Bridge at 5:00 am the next morning, and that there was a 6 meter clearance. That’s about a 36 FOOT clearance from the top of the smokestack to the bottom of the bridge. And then steaming into New York harbor past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. But… it was 5:00 am… I thought about getting a wake up call, and then re-thought that idea. The best thing then happened, my eyes flew open at 4:45 am! I threw on some clothes and ran up to the top deck, and missed going under the bridge by about 2 minutes, the ship was early. Still very moving, especially as David loved that bridge. He used to point it out every time we even came near that bridge on every trip to the city.

Then the Statue came into view in the distance, along with the New York skyline. I realized our cabin was on the right side to see the statue from our balcony, so I ran back down and woke up Mom. She was so moved at the sight, she cried, and I took her photo.

Getting back to Manhattan, and the US, was really coming home. It was exciting, as our last night would be at the Waldorf Astoria (I got a really good deal!). I called the family from the back of the cab, no more dollar a minute charges on the cell phone, and started making our last day plans.

We checked in, and met Melinda and Ryan for breakfast, I went to a yarn shop and met my shipboard friend at my favorite yarn shop, then I went out to buy more luggage (!) avoiding the Puerto Rican Parade on 5th Avenue. Dinner with Mom at her favorite, a sushi restaurant, then meeting Neil for drinks.

The next morning found us having the Breakfast Club at the Waldorf (how cool!!) and then Neil surprising us with lunch at his club, The Friars Club. What a send off to end the trip of a lifetime!

The QM2

The journey to London from Spain was “unique.” You know that joke about mañana and Spain? Well, it’s not a joke…. Our plane was delayed by at least 4 hours; we missed our connection from Dublin to Heathrow, and ended sleeping in an airport hotel in Dublin. We flew to Heathrow the next morning. Aer Lingus took good care of us, and the trip was uneventful, but long.

We made it in plenty of time to board our luxury liner, with a slight knitting emergency, I was running out of sock yarn!!! We had to find a haberdashery in a department store to fill my sock yarn needs. Mission accomplished, though!

And that English Queen keeps following us around! She was in Buckingham Palace when we visited, and she was decommissioning the QE2 just before we boarded the QM2. This was a BIG DEAL in Southampton, thus the photographs.

Then you are supposed to drink champagne as you leave the dock. The Commodore then sounded the horn (?) and we promptly spilled half our glasses! That horn is LOUD!

The next morning found us relaxing on our balcony.

Then the days flowed by, filled with activities. There is soo much to do on a trip like this! There were only two things wrong – too much food(!) and there were quite a few passengers in the “elderly” category, elderly like the customers at the big Florida grocery, they would be walking down a corridor and just stop. Combined with the rocking of the ship, some passenger collisions occurred. But, God bless them for taking the trip and enjoying life, whatever their circumstances.

Mom was a little worried about iceberg collisions, but we didn’t have any of those. There was one or two rocky days, it didn’t bother me, but Mom was a little green here and there. She just rested, the weather changed, and she was fine.

We went to two shows, absolutely fabulous!, a lecture, and other activities. Now let me tell you about the dining. The Dining! Breakfast was a daily adventure, sitting with different people, meeting passengers from all over the western world. It turns out that many people take the Queen over the ocean and back as their full holiday! Four hours in Manhattan is just part of the trip, not the destination.

Lunch was a daily buffet adventure, as was finding a seat… and dinner – well, that was a highlight. We had wonderful dining companions from England, Wales and Maine. Mom and I made a plan to change our personal seats every day, so we could converse with everyone, and I think everyone enjoyed that. We learned about shipboard activities, the home life of our companions, and why they were travelling. Here is an un-official ship’s photo of our group. I'll add the official photo soon.

My personal highlights were blogging and e-mailing from the champagne bar and the middle of the Atlantic Ocean via satellite, and the daily stitching group that met, also in the champagne bar.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Wedding

The Wedding was the epitome of Spain and Granada. It was so beautiful and so Spanish! It was the absolute highlight of the trip!

Here we are in the lobby of our fabulous hotel, just before starting out to “La Boda.” (The Wedding.)

Marelis and Casto were the most beautiful and handsome couple!

Mare was glowing as she walked into the exquisite church with her Papa.

Casto and his mom were waiting for her; Casto looked so handsome and proud, as did his mom in her stunning mantilla.

Even though we didn’t have a common language, we managed to communicate before the event.

The ceremony was performed by a bishop from Venezuela, Marelis’ home country, in the oldest Granada church. Notice the altar décor. We were surrounded by daisy bouquets in front of every statue, and each pew was decorated with individual flowers.

The ceremony was all in Spanish, yet Mom and I understood quite a bit, picking up words here and there. When Marelis’ grandmother spoke, we could almost fill in the words, she was so expressive. Casto’s sister gave a speech that put a tear in the eyes of the pew in front of us, it must have been beautiful.

Upon leaving the church, as Mare and Casto greeted the crowd, the party was the center of attention for all the onlookers. Then the Spanish guitars started playing, and the crowd went wild.

The reception was at the most beautiful mansion, outdoor cocktail party, beautiful centerpieces and the most striking building. The interior of the building was true Spanish historical luxury.

The reception followed the New York/Florida style event, with Spanish touches. The Bride and Groom sliced the cake with a sword. The food was presented marvelously and was delicious! No one was overlooked! Special deserts for the children!

Then out came the Venezuelan Mariachi band! It was hard to get a photo, the guests loved the music and players so much!

We were thoughtfully seated at a table with Mare & Casto’s German friends, who all also spoke English! It was very much fun, exchanging stories and laughing.

Claudia and Sasha came from Munich, leaving their two young children at home with a sitter. They did keep calling though, thanks to cell phones! They told us they did not even have a hotel, they just came for the ceremony and party, and were flying back the next morning….! I should explain that the party was scheduled to last till 5:00 am!!! (The ceremony started at 5:00 pm.)

Needless to say, Mom and I didn’t stay THAT late, but it was the wee hours when we returned to the hotel, which was just down the street.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Great Flamenco Adventure

We continued our tourist trek by deciding to go to a Flamenco dinner and show. Little did we know what was in store for us… da da da dum… Another hair raising bus trip! This time the bus was newer, and filled with fellow tourists, a very young guide, and a very angry driver. I guess he did not want to drive in the rush hour.

Manhattan has NOTHING on Granada when it comes to grid-lock! Try streets at up to a 50% slope AND only one car wide, with tight curves and a real lot of scrapes and dents in the walls! The other side of the wall is a looonng drop to the next layer of street curving up the hill.
And our driver liked to GO FAST!!

It took an hour and a half to pick up the 20 or so guests at different hotels throughout the city. The driver kept making wrong turns and getting into fights with the guide. The guide kept trying to smooth things over. Mom and I made the mistake of sitting in the front seat (again…) witnessing all the close turns, near misses and arguments (not really – it was probably not as bad as we thought, we just were going on tone, not words).

By the time we got to our show, we were pretty shook up. Then we had to walk up a steep incline and go into a building built into a cave. Granada Flamenco is performed by the gypsies, who used to live in the caves in the hills. Atmosphere, you know.

The food was really good, the service was good, and the show was really good. The show was by the family of El Gallo, consisting of six women, who were related. They took turn dancing very gracefully with lots of hand action, and turn, but the real effect was with their stomping feet, making lots of noise along with the hand clapping of the other dancers, and the gypsy songs, and a flute and Spanish guitar music.. Very dramatic and most enjoyable.

Even the eldest lady, Mama, stomped up a storm to show she still had gusto plus. After the show, we had to walk further up the “street” to see Alhambra at night, a beautiful sight! My photo didn’t turn out so well, but I hope you can get the idea.

Then there was the bus trip back… without the guide… the good news was there was not any traffic, and we were the third hotel stop. It did take me a while to go to sleep…

The Wedding is Tomorrow, today is beautification day. Sunday is travelling back to Great Britain and a boat to catch.

The Alhambra

Now I know why people say that Granada is the most beautiful city in the world – because of the Alhambra! Hope you can play the video...

The Alhambra is the oldest part of the city, on the top of a hill, overlooking the current city. It was built on top of Roman battlements, and was the palace of the Muslim rulers of the area, from 889 AD to 1492 ad, when Granada was (finally) captured by Ferdinand and Isabella, the same year they sent Christopher Columbus to discover the new world. In the center of the City is a huge statue showing Queen Isabella giving Columbus a degree to find the new world-America.
There are over 7000 visitors DAILY to the Alhambra, which consists of three main parts, the oldest are remains of the first fortifications:

The Muslim/Christian palace, photos from Mom's camera - I ran out of batteries again.

And the Gardens:
Oh, the Gardens! I went back the next day to tour them again!
More snaps for your viewing pleasure:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Touring Granada

We went to Mass on Sunday in the Cathedral annex. It was beautiful:

Mom wanted to go to a bull fight. I wasn’t feeling up to it, as I had cut my finger and it was a little infected, so we just watched it on TV. Mom was interested in the pageantry and the costuming. It was good that we didn’t go, I think. We looked up the history and details of bullfighting on the internet during the commercials. Those bulls weigh in at over 1000 lbs! It’s not about the animal at all, rather it is about the courage of the matador, and his ability to control his own fear.

The next day we started touring. Here are some snaps:

Now for the humor: Some of you know I was going to rent a car in Paris, but was shouted down by the customers around the knitting table at the shop. They told me I would be crazy to drive in Paris, so I cancelled the car and we travelled by taxi, which was “interesting” to say the least… Jean Pierre said that Parisians have no patience. But here in Granada we get to the center of the old town on a little bus that costs 1.20 euro each. The ride is about 10 minutes at the most.

Photo of the bus in the wide part of the street in front of our hotel:

On the way home today, the little bus was taking on many passengers on the narrow street, which took some time. Mom and I were in the first seats behind the driver and the bus was packed with an international collection of people. People in the cars behind the bus started honking. The driver waved out his window that he couldn’t help it. Honking continued…

Next thing we knew, the bus driver jumped out his door and ran back to yell at the car behind us. The bus started rolling backwards! Three French passengers and one Serbian man all grabbed for the hand break and saved the day!

I thought Mom was going to shout bad words in French & Spanish, I couldn’t believe it! The driver came back and had to light a cigarette right away, he was so upset that he couldn’t start the bus. Then he took a long time going the rest of the way up the hill. No one said anything, except to point out the hand break was on. Once we got off the bus, I started laughing, Mom wasn’t laughing at all. All I could think was that people told us the Parisians were bad drivers!

Mom says it’s funny now that we are back at the hotel, but I bet we’re going to be very careful on all the buses.

Now we are getting ready for the reason we came to Europe in the first place, the Wedding!

Granada – and how we got here!

Our last day in Paris was beautiful, as you can see from the photo.

Our trip to Granada was much more “interesting” – shall we let the photo tell the story?
Our whole trip was kind of like this photo! The train was noisy, bumpy, and did I mention noisy? Mom had the bottom berth and felt every bump, and heard every noise. I slept through the whole thing, thanks to Tylenol PM. But I was the one pushing the bags around…

Then it was time for the bus in Madrid. Have you ever seen those people running through the station? Well, not speaking the language, I purchased the wrong number of tickets (uno, not dos) and had to go waaay back to the ticket counter and buy another one, but the bus should have already left, so I had to buy two for the next hour.

I then ran (with big carryon containing my computer and a BUNCH of other stuff) from one end of the LARGE station, down the escalator, and all the way to the bus. I thought the driver would have left, and mom would be standing there with the rest of our bags, but he was nice enough to wait, and laughed when I told him I had tres tickets! Don’t worry, though, we have alternate (elegant) means of returning to London for our boat trip.

Coming to the Alhambra Palace was beautiful! Here’s a photo of the view from our room in Paris:
and here’s a view from our room in Granada (double click on the photo to get the big picture):

where we just rested for two days and recovered.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Our Last Night in Paris - by Elaine

Marni and Elaine’s last evening in Paris, France was most memorable…

It was like a fairy-tale of a perfect outing in Paris. Marni and David’s friend, JP, picked us up at our hotel, as he had parked his neat, new SUV at the end of the street.. His wife, Vony, jumped out to greet us, and then we sped on to the Louvre Museum Restaurant Le Café Marly, right across from the pyramid entrance of the Louvre.

We had a marvelous table inside looking out at the Louvre. Jean Pierre (cool French name) read most of the menu, and helped us decide what to order..He ordered a bottle of French Bordeaux wine..It was light, red wine with a spicy taste. Delicious..He continued to fill our glasses throughout the dinner..I had a delicious fish with a curry/lemon sauce. Marni had shrimp and risotto..We all had dessert..French pasties, framboises.

We had wonderful conversations about the French political scene, their medical plan, the social security, and the school systems..At dinner we took several photos, you see.

After dinner we walked outside and a diamond studded Eiffel tower greeted us with thousands of bright silver lights..The City of Lights..This display only happens on the hour of the evening..What a fantastic view!!

As the lights turned back to the regular lights we were driven back to our hotel with the traditional farewell kiss on each cheek by our gracious, delightful hostess and host.. for a fond au revoir of Paris..!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

For the Girls in the Yarn Shop

I saw this really nice shrug on a tall blond woman, and I snuck photos so we could make a pattern:

More about Paris!

We went to the Louvre yesterday, twice – the first and last time! That’s a David joke, meaning we will never be going back! Crowded full of tourists, all running into each other. It was not fun. Here’s the only good part:

Then we went shopping, and had lunch:
David would be proud of us, eating next door to Maxim's. It was delicious!
Mom was checking her e-mails in the lobby of our hotel:

Today we went to the Musee d’Orsay – and that was Fabulous! My photos did not turn out too well, we will have to wait for Mom’s film to be developed. Here’s as close to sheep as I will get in Paris!

It is just wonderful here – here are some photos of my new house and a business on the street: