Thanksgiving on Long Island

I did something a little different for Thanksgiving, this year. I traveled with a friend to her sister’s home on Long Island! I had never been to Long Island – been to NYC many times, but never Long Island! So, I can check that off my bucket list……and a few other things, as well! It was a wonderful week of friendship, food, fun, and adventures…..definitely made a lot of memories……I am truly blessed and thankful!

On our first full day, we took the Long Island Railroad into New York City – we had tickets to see the Radio City Music Hall Rockette’s Christmas Show! It was a day crammed with lots of wonderful activities! I always wanted to go to NYC during the holidays…..and now, I have!

We caught the train out of the Ronkonkoma Station and arrived at Penn Station about an hour later

This sink is in the ladies room at Penn Station — it was sooooo cool!!! You put your hands under the far left side and get your soap, then move to the center to get your warm water, and then move to the far right for the air dryer!!! All in one bar……and there were several of these along a long shallow sink! I just thought it was worthy of a photo and mention here!!! I thought about taking a photo when I was in there, but didn’t…..then, my friends were surprised I didn’t, so I went back in to snap it! Yeah – I know – it’s the little things that make life so much fun!!!

We had to go in to Macy’s to see if Santa was there, yet…..we didn’t think he would be, but thought we could at least see it set up for him!

Macy’s is such a magical place! I remember my first time shopping in the “Mother Ship” of all Macy’s not long after I graduated from HS! And, after shopping there several times over the years, it still has a thrill I can’t possibly describe!

There is so much history there and they preserve it so well – like the original wooden escalators that snake up from floor to floor to floor!!!

And, the “over the top” decorations throughout the huge store!

And, the place where Santa can be found…….

And…..Santa, himself!!! Yes, he was there!!! We were thrilled to discover that we could see him! I asked him if I could ride with him on Christmas Eve and travel around the world helping him……he said that, unfortunately, there isn’t any room for extra helpers on the sleigh……but, I was really just happy that I got to see the Macy’s Santa in Macy’s!!! Albion’s very own Charles Howard was the original Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Santa and he was an adviser on the movie Miracle on 34th Street……for many years, he taught Santa’s from around the world right here in Albion at his world famous Santa Claus School! I had my photo taken with him when I was a little girl at his school……and, now, I have completed the dream of seeing a real Santa right there in the original  Macy’s!!!

And, my friends did, too!!!

There was a lot to see on the walk from Macy’s to Radio City Music Hall

A lady making a pie in a bakery window!

And we finally made it!!!

They passed out Santa hats and 3D glasses to everyone as we walked in

The glasses were for a beginning part of the show where Santa takes the sleigh to NYC to see the show and the audience goes along for the ride! Real cool!

A high school chorus from Wisconsin got the chance to go on stage to sing a Christmas medley for us before the show — what a thrill that must have been for them!

Then, a curtain opened on each side of the stage and two organists played more Christmas music — it was FABULOUS!!!

I’ve seen the Rockette’s before, but never their Christmas Spectacular…….something I always wanted to see! I was not one bit disappointed!!! It was amazing!!!

The most famous kick line in the world!!!

Chandelier hanging above the lobby of Radio city Music Hall

Flags at Rockefeller Center with St. Patrick’s Cathedral spires in the background

We watched the skaters at Rockefeller Center for a bit

The tree was up, but was still scaffolded and being prepped for the famous lighting……so, we really couldn’t see it!

On the walk between Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, there was a long pool with lighted angels all along on either side!

One of many, many wonderful store window displays – this is one of Saks windows!

We went in St. Patrick’s Cathedral – another thing I’ve never taken time to do when in the city, but always wanted to!

We sat and listened to choirs singing…….so beautiful as their angelic voices echoed through the massive sanctuary!

And, then we stopped to see the light show on the Saks Fifth Ave building! Awesome show of lights to the tune of There’s No Business Like Show Business!!!

And, the Saks window displays!

Right behind us as we watch the Saks light show was the pool with the trumpeting angels we saw earlier – now all lit up! So beautiful!

We stopped for dinner at Megan’s – an Irish Pub!

NYC at night is so………amazing!!!

The Empire State Building was lit up in blue

We went back by Macy’s on the way back to Penn Station to see their windows lit up

The Macy’s windows tell an animated story as you walk by to view them all

The front of Macy’s where the parade passes and all the performances take place!

It was hard to see with the barriers and equipment trucks, but the street was already shut off and painted for the parade — it was Tuesday night, so two more days till the Parade!

No – we did NOT go back in the city to watch the parade – we watched it from the warmth and comfort of Linda’s living room while we worked on our Thanksgiving dinner, just like the rest of the world – no freezing temperatures (it was the coldest in the history of the parade), no crowds to fight, and much better views! LOL

 

Linda lives in a beautiful wooded setting on Long Island — so peaceful and full of nature! Lots of squirrels and birds and deer – we saw a huge buck wandering up her driveway, but couldn’t get our cameras out in time to get a photo, and we saw others while we were there, too!

This is her driveway in from the street

I got the best sleep while I was there…….I stayed in a wonderful room they have in the basement – it was cozy, comfortable, quiet, and dark……and I slept like a baby every night!!! I didn’t want to leave!!!

The night before Thanksgiving, Cathy and I were charged with making “turkeys”!

It was fun and they were really quite delicious!

Then, our Thanksgiving was full of family, food, and lots to be thankful for! This was taken BEFORE all the food was on the table…….it shows the stunning pottery plates and mugs made by Linda’s husband, John, who is an artist!

And….after dinner, there were the desserts!!!

The next day, we ventured out to do some shopping on Long Island – yes, we went out on Black Friday – the stores and mall we went to were not too crowded and we had a very pleasant experience! We stopped at Zan’s Kosher Deli for lunch — this is my corned beef on rye sandwich! YUM!!!

The pickles were good, too!

On Saturday morning, we had bagels at Linda’s son’s home and then drove to Montauk to see the lighthouse……We drove through all the Hamptons on the way and had lunch in South Hampton!

We stopped at this lovely cemetery in East Hampton on the way!

There were swans on a mostly frozen pond

The stories on many of the head stones were so interesting!

It was just a small fenced in strip between the main street and a side street and was fenced off, but it was loaded with history and awesome stones and crypts!

And, there was this incredible crypt with a stone knight’s armor lying in rest on top!

He was a Lord and came from Holland to settle here!

We spent quite a bit of time at the Montauk Lighthouse – it was a beautiful place at the tip of Long Island with the ocean on one side and the sound on the other and views of Connecticut in the distance!

As we were leaving, this silly creature was wandering around the entrance to the lighthouse and parking area delighting the children of all ages who were there!

As we drove through Flanders, NY on our way to Montauk, we saw the Big Duck — listed on Roadside America as a quirky American site (click here to read about it)! The duck was originally the location of a shop where a local Long Island farmer sold ducks and eggs – it is now a gift shop! On our way to Montauk, they were just starting to decorate it and when we saw it on the return trip, it was all decked out and ready for photos!

We also saw a flying pig at a restaurant of the same name!!!

No trip is complete without a visit to a local ice cream parlor……this was a delicious treat from McNulty’s in Miller Place, NY

We also got a slice of amazing pizza from Uncle Giuseppe’s in Port Jefferson…..it is a grocery store that is truly awesome – like if Wegman’s and Trader Joe’s got married and took steroids – LOTS of steroids!!! They even had a little Italian guy wandering around serenading the customers!!!

It was sooooooo good!!!

Sunday evening we went to Linda and John’s church for mass……St. Francis Chapel in Miller Place

It is a Friary – an old Monastery with Father Frank – a wonderful “hippy” priest who runs Hope House Mission – a program that helps addicts get and stay clean! It is a great program that Linda volunteers for and has had great success in helping so many!

It isn’t big and elaborate, by any means, but it is warm, inviting, and Father Frank’s message was extremely inspirational…..and the Hims and Her Choir of recovering addicts was a very emotional experience! Although I’m not Catholic, I felt like a welcomed part of the service and felt really good about being there and left with a full, warm heart!

One of our other days, we went to the shore —- the ocean was really active after the rain and wind from the night before – HUGE waves!!!

But, it was a gorgeous day to be on the beach……a bit chilly, but sunny and bright and very pleasant!

We found this little green guy enjoying the sun……

There were several people out walking on the beach and a few dogs, too

And, LOTS of seagulls!

Don’t look, now, but you’re about to get wet, my friend!!! LOL

This is a place I could spend hours just sitting and walking and taking photos!!! It was so relaxing!

This is the spot on Long Island where TWA Flight 800 took off from JFK on the evening of July 17, 1996 and 12 minutes into the flight crashed just off shore, here! There were no survivors! This International Memorial was established to honor those who died in the crash and those who worked tirelessly in search and recovery efforts.

It is a beautiful tribute with benches and information and inspirational quotes!

This little building caught my eye – it is across the street from the ice cream parlor we went to that is close to Linda’s home — it is an old school house turned into a Free Library!

It seems like everywhere we went, we saw ducks and swans!!!

So……I’m not sure what I expected Long Island to be like — I guess I thought it would be little quaint beach communities……well, there was definitely plenty of those, but it was so much more! First of all, it is a LOT bigger than I thought! I guess I thought it was just a small strip island with just beachy communities…….it has a LOT of rural space and wooded areas and many both quaint little shopping spots and bigger malls – including a Tanger Mall! And, it is a HUGE island — I think it took us a little over an hour to get from Miller Place to Montauk and Miller Place is about 1/2 way up the island!!! But, whatever I had pictured in my head, I found Long Island to be a beautiful place to visit with tons to do and see! I had a really nice time and knocked several items off my Bucket List and/or did things for the first time ever: See the Radio City Music Hall Rockette’s Christmas Show, see NYC decorated and lit up for Christmas, get my photo with a real Macy’s Santa AT Macy’s, visit Long Island, add the Montauk Lighthouse to the list of amazing lighthouses I’ve seen, went inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, drove through the Hamptons – all of them, and even saw a little green man on a beach!!! And, so much more!!! It was a great week of wonderful memories!

November Photos – Part 1

November in pictures…..so far:

Taken today in Mount Albion Cemetery! I always love going to Mt. Albion in the autumn and seeing the deep leaves that have fallen from all the trees throughout the cemetery – covering all the roads and paths. Due to weather and / or being busy, I hadn’t been out there during the peak colors until today! I was instantly disappointed in myself because the maintenance crews were already hard at work blowing all the leaves into piles and vacuuming them up with their big hoses into trucks and hauling them off! Most of the paths and open areas were already cleared. I was so sad that I missed the blankets of leaves everywhere you look! But, I was still able to get some great shots and see and enjoy quite a bit of what makes Mt. Albion one of the best places on earth during the weeks that the trees shed their beauty!

“This Rules!”

This one was today’s Daily Photo Challenge pick…..

And, now, for others from the November Daily Photo Challenge…..so far…….

“Morning Sky”

Three days deliberately combined to tell the story of:

“I Want”, “I Have”. and “I Need”

“Fave Fruit”

“Strong”

“In My Kitchen”

And, one more look at:    “This Rules!”

November is going to be an awesome month for photos!!!

The rest of a colorful month in pictures

I really enjoyed doing the October Photo A Day. The topics all related to colors in some way. Here are the ones I took since the last update on here.

Gold

Silver

Two Colors

Pattern

Bright

Pop

Contrast

Black and White

Pastel

Rainbow

And, now……..on to November!!!

Movie Review – A Star Is Born

I have now seen all four versions of the amazing movie “A Star Is Born”! I have to say that I was, at first, reluctant to see the current version. While versions 1 and 2 were very good, version 3 – the Streisand / Kristofferson version – was so incredible it has the honor of being one of my (if not THE) all time favorite movies….I still get chills and a little teary eyed just thinking about it! It was movie perfection!!! So, when I heard they were working on yet another remake, I thought – oh, hell no……they can’t possibly top the 1976 version, so why waste the time and money! Then, I heard who they had cast in the lead roles — Bradley Cooper in Kristofferson’s role…..OK, that could work……..and Lady Gaga in Streisand’s role – WHAT? Seriously? No Way!!! So, right from the start, I was refusing to even consider going to see it!

But, then, I started seeing the trailers, clips, and interviews and thought……heck, this might be good, after all! Lady Gaga does have an incredible voice and the over the top image she had early on is being replaced with that of a strong, impressive woman! So…….maybe she can be effective in the role. So, yeah, I started getting excited about it coming out. And, by the time it got released, I was chomping at the bit to go see it! It opened two days before I left for Bermuda, so I had to wait to see it……then, going the week I got back didn’t seem to work out……so, my friend and I went to the matinee show on Monday, the 22nd – two days before my birthday – Happy Birthday to me!!! 😀

So…..did it live up to the hype I built in my mind about it or did it fall flat? I’ll go into more detail in a bit, but – in a nutshell – YES – it was amazing and definitely did NOT fall flat or disappoint me in any way!!! I LOVED IT!!! That said, however, the 1976 Streisand/Kristofferson version still reigns supreme and has not, in my opinion, been derailed as THE best version of them all…..and, therefore, still on the top of the leader board for my all time favorite movies!!! But, that doesn’t diminish the splendor of the current version, which I rank # 2 of the four versions and one I will definitely see again and again and again!!!

For those who are clueless and don’t know the story line………this movie is the story of a burned out star (in this version’s case, a country singer) who meets, falls in love with, and boosts the career of a rising star (in this version a pop singer). They have a rocky relationship as her career soars and his starts to fade. I won’t do any spoilers…….but, suffice it to say, if you go see it, you’ll want to take tissues —- lots and lots of tissues!!!

Lady Gaga does do a phenomenal job as Ally. Her voice is amazing and she breathes life into the character in a way that both surprised me and felt completely natural. I think we’ll see more of her on the big screen……at least I hope we will! Bradley Cooper……well, duh!!! He was perfect as Jackson (Jack) Maine – those gorgeous eyes of his – they penetrate from the screen to each and every viewer – in every role he plays he manages to ensure everyone who watches feels a personal connection! And, as usual, he portrayed the character easily and brilliantly! BTW – he also directed the film AND co-wrote the screenplay!!! And…..if Bradley Cooper wasn’t enough eye candy for one film, they threw in Sam Elliott as Bobby – Jack’s brother and manager! OMG……just a bit of handsomeness overload going on in this film!!! The surprise was Andrew Dice Clay as Ally’s father…….I kept looking at him thinking “that man sounds and sorta looks like Andrew Dice Clay”, but he wasn’t his usual “in your face” comic with dark hair and a black leather jacket, so it threw me off — I had to read the credits after to see if it was really him and – yes – it was!!! I liked this Andrew…..I hope to see more of him in roles like this!

So, how does it compare to the other three versions? I already told you it didn’t knock the 1976 version off its pedestal, but it did come a very close second. All four version, of course, have the same basic story line……but, they all have their differences to make them stand on their own. In the 1937 (original) version, the stars were Janet Gaynor and Fredrick March and the lead characters were Esther Victoria Blodgett – an aspiring actress who took on the screen name of Vicki Lester – and Norman Maine – an actor at the end of his career. The 1954 version had the incomparable Judy Garland and James Mason and they kept the same names for the lead characters – the difference was the addition of a musical element, as Esther (Vicki) was a singer with Norman being an actor breaking her into Hollywood. The 1976 version really shook things up with Barbara Streisand as Esther Hoffman – a singer who refused to change her name – and Kris Kristofferson as John Norman Howard – a larger than life rock star! The current (2018) version kept music as the primary theme – Lady Gaga’s character is a pop singer known only as Ally and Bradley Cooper is a country music star whose name is Jackson (Jack) Maine (bringing back the last name of the earlier versions). Some of the most notable, memorable scenes are consistent from version to version, but there are other subtle differences – aside from the names and careers of the main characters – in each (the first two are most closely matched). Not to spoil it for those who have not seen any version, yet, but to let those who have seen it and have an expectation of the ending……the current version ends the same, just differently…..so, yes, you’ll need tissues – lots of tissues!!!

         

Yes – I enjoyed ALL four versions — I’d rank them in order of least to most favorite as: 1937, 1954, 2018, 1976. And, for someone who didn’t want to consider a remake after the 1976 version, I actually can’t wait to see how they do it next time…….hope they do it again in my lifetime – the first three were ~20 years apart (give or take) and the last one came 42 years after the best one — guess that was smart! So — my rating: I give this one a BIG TWO thumbs up and a solid 4.8 out of 5.0……only because it didn’t top the 1976 version and I didn’t sob quite as hard as I still do every time I see Streisand/Kristofferson – even after at least a gazillion times, so I probably unfairly deducted 0.2. Go see it……whether you’ve seen the other versions or not……and, work towards seeing them all at some point! You won’t be sorry!

 

October Daily Photos…..continued

If you remember earlier this month, I wrote that the October Daily Photo Challenge topics were all related to colors. Here are some I came up with since the last time I posted:

Orange

Aqua

Grey

Black

Fave Color

Natural

Baby Pink / Baby Blue (combo pic)

Chocolate

Light

Until next time……

Swimming With Dolphins in Bermuda!

THE # one BEST thing I did in Bermuda was a one hour shore excursion…….I had the BEST time EVER…….I absolutely LOVED every minute of it……..I’m so glad I did it…….a memory of a lifetime!!!

I saw the excursion option for Dolphin Quest and got really excited! But…….I started to debate myself about it – it was a lot of $$$ – I have a swim suit, but never wear it and wasn’t sure I wanted to wear it in public – I know how to swim, but haven’t in years……and on and on……I kept arguing with myself about it – just do it – when will you ever get the chance to do it again – it’s only money and it will be worth it – you’ll never see these people again, so who cares if you wear a bathing suit in front of them!!! My heart finally won the argument and I am SOOOOOOO glad it did!!! It was such an amazing experience and I’ll never forget it! Hands down, the best part of the entire trip! And……I not only didn’t feel a bit uncomfortable in my swim suit, I’m actually going to post photos of me wearing it on here……because I HAVE to share the experience with you all…….so, don’t judge me…….LOL!!!

It was a small group – only four of us – a couple, me, and another single lady! So, it was great – we each had group time and individual time with the dolphins! There was a professional photographer there capturing our experience…..of course, I couldn’t pick just a few photos, so I bought them ALL!!! LOL We had to wear life jackets and they were so good that there was no way our heads were going under the water unless we wanted them to! The water in the lagoon was about 15-18 feet deep, but the jackets kept us afloat to where it looked like we were standing with our feet on the ground in water about chest deep!

If you don’t believe me that I had a good time……just look at the smiles on my face in the photos — I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing……resulting in a lot of mouthfuls of yucky salt water…..but, heck – it was worth it!!!

We started out standing on the ledge and waving at the dolphins as they swam by……they were very excited to see us!!!

Then, we sat on the ledge and they swam by so we could pet them and they could get used to us!

We each took turns feeding them fish and saying “hello”

We each also had individual turns with them doing tricks for us – I was told to hold my hands out and wave…..

My dolphin leaped up out of the water and waved back enthusiastically — splashing and dancing and giving me my first mouthful of salt water!

It was a mutually fun activity!!!

After a little while, we got in the water one at a time for more up close and personal time with the dolphins

We held hands and danced

I put my hands out and she laid her head in my hands

I clapped and cheered to praise her and she got all excited and danced around for me

THEN I KISSED A DOLPHIN AND I LOVED IT!!!! LOL

We did some group things with the dolphins — we put masks on and were told to do the dead man’s float with our face in the water while the dolphins swam under us……but, I couldn’t do it — I’m not sure why – I put my face under water when I swim, but there was something about that mask, I guess…….I wanted to gasp for air and, of course, that filled my mouth with salt water…..so, they had me remove the mask and just do the above water things……I wasn’t the only one – two out of the four of us panicked when we tried to put our faces in the water!

Here I am feeding one of the dolphins a big fish as a reward for playing with us!

Me and one other girl missing out on the underwater stuff…..oh well…….

To close out the session, we returned to sitting on the ledge and petting the dolphins as they swam by

Then, we stood up and waved “goodbye” and the dolphins put their tails in the air and waved back!!!

What fun…..I am so glad my heart beat out my brain and I was able to do this……and, I’d do it again in a heart beat!!!

 

October 2018 Cruise – Bermuda

I try to take a cruise every year and I like to go to places that don’t include just heading to the usual destinations in the Caribbean! I’ve been to the Caribbean via cruise ships four times in the past, so now I look for more interesting destinations…..I did Alaska, New England/Canada, the West Coast…….and, now, Bermuda!!! I chose this cruise for several reasons – it caught my eye because I’ve always wondered about Bermuda, it sailed out of Boston, and even though it was a 7 day cruise, it only had the one destination — oh, I do love getting to see multiple places in one vacation with stops at multiple ports….but, it sounded like a nice, relaxing change to cruise to one port, stay there for a few days, and cruise home! So, Bermuda it was for this year’s cruise! I sailed out of Boston, was at sea for a half day and two full days, stayed docked in Bermuda for three days, and was at sea for a day and a half! It was great to have the convenience of being on the ship for meals and sleeping and be able to leisurely get on and off for shore excursions and exploring without feeling like I had to pick one thing to do and be rushed to get back to the ship! I was able to see everything the island had to offer in one way or another and enjoy my time there!

We were very lucky —- our ship was the ONLY ship in port the week we were there AND it was the end of the season…….so, there were not many tourists to crowd the locations we visited, which made for easy access and zero lines to wait in!!! AND…..the weather was PERFECT the entire time we were there…….70s at night / 80s during the day with massive amounts of sun and zero rain!!!

I took a LOT of photos……I’ll try to pick the best of the best…..but, it won’t be easy! hehehe I am planning a separate post for my very favorite activity while I was in Bermuda cause it deserves its own post to showcase it! 😀

Photos from around the ship and some of the wonderful food:

My stateroom……I had a veranda that I LOVED!

The Centrum…….a multi-deck common area mid-ship where there was always music and activities

Kids dancing in the Centrum

Introduction of Officers

Our Captain and Cruise Director

There were a couple of these rather odd little chair sculptures on either side of the main dining room

Sunrise on my veranda

Sorry for so many pictures of my feet, but I spent a LOT of time on lounge chairs by the pool, on the decks, and on my veranda!!!

First “Formal Night” at the Centrum

Second “Formal Night” in the Centrum

Every night there was a fantastic show in this theater

Parade of Nations – a celebration of all the different nations represented by the crew

I could get my own soft serve ice cream any time I wanted!!!

Surprisingly, I didn’t gain or lose a single pound……

A Miami Vice…….strawberry, coconut, and rum……thick, creamy, and so delicious!!!

Wine tasting event

And, then, there are those amazing Towel Animals that the cabin crew leave for us when they freshen up the cabins at the end of the day:

the puppy was my favorite……till I got this one!!! 😀

Sunrise and Sunset:

BERMUDA

Bermuda is a fascinating place! It is a small island – just 21 miles long and 1.5 miles wide – that is British ruled and sits on a dead volcano. Their government is both local and British. They have a Premier that is voted in by the people of Bermuda – this position MUST be filled by a Bermuda born citizen. They also have a Governor, who is appointed by the Queen of England and is filled by a former member of Parliament. They don’t rely on England for much and are pretty independent! They have 65,000 citizens and typically have another 4,000 or so seasonal workers. The island was discovered in the 1600s and the original population after it started to develop was mostly slaves who jumped ships to freedom when they sailed past the island and thought it looked like a good safe haven. The island is made up of 9 Parishes. Their current capital is Hamilton, but the original capital is St. George’s – the capital was moved when the population of the island started to grow – Hamilton is a larger city and more centrally located. It is VERY expensive to live there……Bermuda has the highest cost of living rate in the WORLD! Nothing is produced on the island and there is limited farm land, so almost everything has to be exported in at a significant cost. The average Bermudian has to work 3-4 jobs just to live comfortably and everyone in the household is expected to work to contribute to the family income – even children as young as 10 years old (however, it is illegal to pay a child a wage, so they only work for tips). There is no minimum wage, but most workers start out at an average of about $18/hour. That sounds like a good wage, until you consider what they have to pay for out of that! The cost to purchase an average home is $500,000-800,000 for lower income neighborhoods and $8 million and up for middle to upper classes! Average rent starts at about $2000/month and goes up from there. Each household may have ONE car and most do…..however, gas costs $9 / gallon and annual registration fees average about $2,000……so, mopeds and scooters are the preferred method of transportation whenever possible and the family car tends to stay parked. A loaf of bread is $7+ and a 1/2 gallon of milk is about $6+. There is NO fast food joints on the island — 99% of restaurants are locally owned and operated — only exception is one KFC in Hamilton and only because it was there before the law was passed to keep the commercialization out…..if you want KFC, though – prepare to pay $36 or more for a bucket of original recipe with NO sides!!!

Bermuda’s currency is equal to ours – so they have both Bermudian currency and American currency throughout the island and use it interchangeably.

Bermuda is very protective of their heritage! They don’t allow just anyone to purchase a home and live on the island or stay for more than a visit! Most homes, in fact, rarely ever go up for sale – they are almost always handed down from generation to generation and can be traced through a single lineage back to the time they were built – many all the way back to the 1600 / 1700s! If you do want to purchase property, you have to apply to the government and they will do an extensive review of your background and financial information – then, if approved, you will have to be able to purchase a home in the several million range – I believe they said it had to be at least $20 million – even then, you are considered an “extended visitor” and can stay up to 7 years before you are expected to get a job and contribute to the economy! If a Bermudian marries a foreigner, their spouse must remain married and living on the island for 10 years before they can apply to become a citizen! If they leave the island for more than a visit to their homeland (they didn’t say how long that period is), they will have to start their 10 years all over again!!!

Just some tidbits of info…..as for the smallest drawbridge in the world – it is called Somerset Bridge and it only opens 18″ when drawn — just big enough for a sail on a sailboat to pass through and it is guided manually by people walking it through so that the sail doesn’t get caught on the bridge! It is no longer drawn – it remains just a drive over bridge, now.

More cool info as the post progresses!

Royal Naval Shipyard

Our ship was docked at the Royal Naval Shipyard – the only port large enough to accommodate the large cruise ships – they used to dock in Hamilton and St. George’s when ships were smaller, but the passage into those ports are too narrow for larger ships to maneuver through.

Feral chickens roamed everywhere!!! LOL

Glass Bottom Boat Cruises

I booked two glass bottom boat cruises — one a bit earlier in the evening that was a pirate theme and one that was at night that focused on the Bermuda Triangle. What I learned about the Bermuda Triangle is that it is a myth……yes, strange things have happened there and the magnetic and gravitational pulls can be an issue. But, a lot of what has happened can be explained by understanding that ships and planes didn’t use to have as advanced technology as they do now……they didn’t know how to navigate through the extensive barrier reefs and the magnetic and gravitational anomalies made it difficult for them to pass through the area safely. That said……it is still cool to be out on the water in the portion of the triangle surrounding Bermuda at night, in the dark, listening to stories of mystery and intrigue!!!

A little funny for ya……our tour guide (the pirate) said that the only “triangle” that is totally real, extremely dangerous, and has resulted in many deaths over the years is the one that involves a man, his wife, and his girlfriend!!! hahaha

We saw lots of fish and coral and a shipwreck — hard to tell it was a shipwreck cause it was covered with coral, but we did see hatches and windows and this section that is sticking up out of the water! It was cool!

Both cruises came with complimentary Rum Swizzlers!

The first one was mostly in the light/dusk, but the second one was totally in the dark……and, yes, it was DARK!!!

Even at night, the water is the most gorgeous aqua blue I’ve ever seen!!!

Island Bus Tour

I took a 5 hour tour by mini-bus — it was amazing! We saw just about every inch of the island and was able to stop for photos and time to wander around at a few places!

Our amazing tour guide – pictured above, not below! hahaha

All homes are made with cement blocks which are filled with cement and then coated with cement — they are NOT going anywhere in a storm!!! All buildings (homes and businesses) also have white limestone roofs. There is a very important reason for this……there is NO fresh water on the island! So, right from the 1600s when they first started developing the island, they required buildings to use white limestone slabs or tiles for their roofs – the tiles are overlapped and cascade to a lip – they are then coated with cement mixed with limestone and painted white that also has limestone in it. The roofs are carefully designed to allow for rain water to cascade over the limestone, which helps to purify it, down to the lip, which prevents it from continuing down to the ground. The water runs into an elaborate gutter system that diverts the rain water into a “water cellar” – every home has one – it is the same size as the frame of the home and very deep (I believe they said 20′). This water cellar is where the family gets their water for cooking, bathing, cleaning, etc. They are very diligent in conserving the water because they may need it during a drought! In the early years on the island, people would stock their water cellars with fish to eat the algae, bacteria, and bugs and to keep the water aerated. Now, they have filtration and purification systems. The island does have three plants that take salt water and turn it into fresh water, but everyone is required to collect their own water and only procure it from the plants during times of drought or other issues. Some more affluent homes and businesses have started in recent years to install their own systems to turn salt water into fresh water. I found this so fascinating!

Also — homes may be painted any color the owners choose and most are very colorful in beautiful pastel colors! The paint is made on the island using a formulation that can hold up to the extremely salty sea air and is very expensive. Even with this, home owners tend to have to repaint every 3-5 years.

Most cemeteries do in ground burials. Because of the space on the island, graves are “family graves” and they are dug 20+ feet deep and whole families are stacked in single graves – up to 10 per grave. The island recently began allowing cremation in an effort to keep from running out of burial space. Bermudians are buried in the parish they were born in – so, regardless of where you live at the time of your death, you are buried in your family grave in the parish you were born in! Also – ALL graves on the island are laid east – west with the head to the to the west and the feet to the east — this is so that when Jesus returns and raises the dead, all who are buried there will raise facing the east – the direction that Jesus is expected to appear from!

this is a beautiful par 3 gold course – it is very hilly and challenging – and costs $120 to play a round!!!

There are 100 churches on the island – all religions are represented and there is no main religion in Bermuda

The Royal Bermuda Regiment is a non-fighting unit. All Bermudian males are required to serve, if called. Upon their 18th birthday, they must start watching the local newspaper on their birthday each year to see if their name is printed on the list. If it is, they MUST report for duty. If they do NOT report, they are subject 3 years in prison! Those who report serve 2 hours per week for training and missions that include things like going to hurricane damaged areas to help rebuild and other world assistance type activities. They also have a choir and band that perform in parades and festivals. So…….not sure why someone would want to dodge their draft and risk being in prison for 3 years…..but, some do, I guess!

Speaking of prison – there are four prisons on the island and they do have the whole gambit of crimes, including gangs, drugs, murders, theft, etc., and there are tourists who serve time in the prisons in Bermuda, if caught with drugs, firearms, or committing other crimes while visiting Bermuda.

They do have farm land – small patches of it. They grow most all types of crops and farm year round – they have an almanac that tells them what to plant, when.

Banana trees

They drive on the left hand side of the street —- confusing! LOL

Scooters and mopeds EVERYWHERE……parking for these vehicles is free……parking for cars is VERY expensive!

One of many private schools – they also have public schools. All students must wear uniforms at both private and public schools. They ride to school on public transportation, not dedicated school buses. Their school year, hours, and class structure are basically the same as ours. Students are taught respect and are expected to act appropriately. They are not allowed to have tattoos, colorful hair, wear any jewelry or other items that could be viewed as gang colors or financial status. All students are treated equally – there is no tolerance for bullying and it is rarely heard of. They also are not permitted to wear their pant waistbands below their waists!!!

The lone KFC in the capital city of Hamilton

Main shopping district in Hamilton

 Hamilton City Hall and Arts Center

A group trying to get their message across put blindfolds and these signs on all the statues across the island!

I didn’t care much for Hamilton — it was a pretty city and very clean, but it is a city — congested and busy!

This is Black Watch Pass — it was hand dug by the Black Watch Regime to provide a roadway through one part of the island

Some of the typical $500,000 – 800,000 homes

This is one of three remaining wooden homes built in the 1600-1700s……..

We got to spend some time in St. George’s — I LOVED this town! So quaint and peaceful – just lovely!

I had lunch in St. George’s —- this is a wonderful French Onion soup made with Bermuda Onions — MUCH sweeter than even a vidalia onion!

I had the soup, this burger and onion rings, and a coke —- my bill was $46 BEFORE tip!!! UGH!!! But — I it was delicious and I sat right on the water outside and it was lovely! I couldn’t finish the burger and onion rings and was really upset that I paid $46+tip and was wasting part of it……but, when the waiter came to take my plate, he tossed all the leftovers into the water for the fish, ducks, and birds! That made me happy!!!

As I wandered around St. George’s after lunch, I came upon this church — St. Peter’s – it is St. George’s most historic site – it is the oldest church in the Western Hemisphere still operating as a church!!! It was established in 1612 and still stands…..although, there was a devastating hurricane in 1713 that resulted in the church being rebuilt using the wood of the original building and new stone walls to strengthen it. Other repairs and renovations were done over the years.

I love this —- it has the Lord’s Prayer and Apostles Creed in the center and the Ten Commandments on either side!

Not sure where this very steep staircase went — maybe the infamous Stairway to Heaven???

I got so engrossed in touring this amazing little church that I lost track of time and had to high-tail it back to the bus!!! An elderly oriental couple were out front and asked me to take their photo — I stopped long enough to do that for them and made it back to the bus just in the nick of time!

This is an example of an $8 million home!

And, this fixer-upper can be had for the bargain rate of $200,000!!!

We made a photo stop at John Smith Beach……lovely! It was my first chance to get my toes in those beautiful pink sand beaches of Bermuda!

Dang – I can’t believe someone got a picture of me in a bikini in the water!!! LOL

Then, before we headed back to the ship, we stopped at a lighthouse!

This lighthouse is still operational

The entrance into a typical working class neighborhood! Love this sign!!! LOL

typical working class neighborhood with average $500,000-800,000 homes

Horseshoe Bay Beach

On our last day, we were going to be pulling out at 4:00 and the “Back on ship” deadline was 2:30. So, I decided to take the bus transfer to Horseshoe Bay Beach and just relax in the sun and sand! Horseshoe Bay Beach is ranked in the Top 5 Most Beautiful Beaches in the WORLD……and I understand why!!! I spent three hours on the beach and loved every minute of it! I rented a beach chair and umbrella — but, I could have saved my money on the umbrella – I didn’t get under it at all! hahaha

The sand is PINK —- it has the most amazing pink flecks all through it — they come from the coral reefs and shells

the sand may be pink, but the water is the most amazing crystal blue!!! even bluer and prettier than the water in the Caribbean!

The water was so clear…….like someone had filtered it! And, the beach is cleaned every day! So……this beach is gorgeous, clean, and fresh!

The bus driver pulled over after he picked us up and let us get photos of the beach from the road way above

I hope you enjoyed this look into the wonderful world of Bermuda! As they say on the island…….Have a Bermudaful Day!!! I’ll leave you with these night shots of our ship taken from the glass bottom boat as we pulled back into port after our night cruise:

Stay tuned for the post with my most favorite activity while in Bermuda!!!

October Daily Photos – So Far…..

October Daily Photo topics are all based on colors. Here’s what I came up with for the colors we were prompted to portray, so far:

Yellow

Pink

Blue

Green

Red

Purple

 

Finger Lakes Wine Tour

This past Tuesday, a friend and I went on a day trip bus tour with the Busy Buddies group. It was a wine tasting tour with stops at three wineries in the Finger Lakes and a lunch cruise on Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen. I had been looking forward to this day trip – I love the Finger Lakes and have not been to Watkins Glen since I was a child! I woke up that morning and it was raining – HARD – and the forecast showed heavy rain, including possible thunderstorms, and cooler temperatures all day! I hoped it wouldn’t ruin the day! As it turned out……it didn’t!!! It rained off and on and we had to put our hoods up to get into a couple of the wineries without getting wet, but we were mostly inside and the rain let up at key times to let us enjoy the day! As for the boat ride – it rained while we were eating and then the sun came out and it warmed up when we were done with lunch so we could open the windows and enjoy the view! Perfect cooperation from the weather!

So – here’s how the day went!

The bus picked us up at Tops in Albion and we rode to the first winery – Wagner Winery and Brewery in Lodi, NY. We had five rounds of tastings where we could choose if we wanted the sweet, dry, or beer offering. I tried one of the beers – a nice pilsner that I really enjoyed. The rest of the rounds I picked a wine – mostly the sweets, but did try one dry red. I liked them all and purchased two that I particularly liked. We left with our complimentary wine glasses and the taste of fine wines on our pallets!

Next stop was the lunch cruise on Seneca Lake. It was a very nice two hour cruise – the food was INCREDIBLE!!!! Usually, I find the food on these lunch cruise things to be “OK” and sometimes a little less than “OK” – usually a buffet. This was a sit down meal served by waiters with table cloths and real silverware!!! We had the choice of roast beef or chicken – I had the roast beef and my friend had the chicken…..both offerings were sooooooo good!!! And, the scenery was beautiful and the weather, once it stopped raining after lunch, was quite pleasant, in deed!

This was our boat

My lunch —- it was soooooo good —- the best roast beef I’ve had in a long time! So tender, juicy, and a rich, delicious flavor! The potatoes were good, too! But, it was the carrots that had everyone talking — both the roast beef and chicken entrees came with the carrots —- we all thought they used some special tool to make them into those little balls and everyone commented on how super sweet and tender they were! Simply amazing!!! Later, Mitzy, our travel agent who organizes trips for the group, told us they were from Argentina and they actually grow that way!!! I gotta try to find them…….maybe Wegmans carries them???!!!! They also served us a wonderful salad, rolls, and a brownie for dessert!

I missed getting a photo of the huge waterfall we saw, but did get photos of several small ones, like this one

It’s a little early for the fall foliage, there, but we got to see some……

Painted rocks — parts of this was actually painted by the Seneca Indians long ago — the flag and tee-pee were added later.

Salt factory — I forget the specific details we were told, but suffice it to say that there is enough salt to be mined from the Seneca River to last the whole world a VERY long time!!!

Out next stop was the second winery on the tour – Magnus Ridge Winery in Rock Stream, NY. This was everyone’s favorite! They put us in a big tasting room where we sat at long tables. They came around with EIGHT rounds of tastings (we chose between sweet or dry each round) and cheese pairings (of course, I skipped the cheese because of my allergy, but everyone else raved about it)! I liked every wine I tasted, except one – and that one I didn’t particularly care for it, but didn’t really DISlike it! I purchased four bottles – three for myself and one for my brother for his birthday, along with two different cheeses for his birthday, as well (he’s not allergic – haha)!

the tasting room

The Sweet choices with their cheese pairings (except the Cheeky Monkey – that was a dipping oil that I tried and did not like at all)

Our last stop before heading home was Anthony Road Winery in Penn Yan, NY. It was a nice winery, but we were kinda spoiled by the last one, so……LOL I did enjoy their wines, but none blew me away to the point I wanted to purchase one. Their gardens, though, were amazing — so beautiful and fun to walk through and photograph!

I was amazed at the beauty of the trees on either side of the entrance —- they are Weeping Alaskan Cedars! So whimsical!!!

Our tour bus……

One of many quotes painted on the ladies room walls……..hahaha

And, this is what I bought —- remember, one bottle and the cheese is for my brother’s birthday, so it isn’t as much as it looks like……hahaha! For myself, I got two from Wagner Winery and three from Magnus Ridge Winery…..and the complimentary wine glass (they gave it to us……I didn’t sneak it off in my purse!!! hehehe)

Another fun day trip with the Busy Buddies group…….I always enjoy the things Mitzy puts together for us!

2018 Caravan Tour – Idaho and Utah

In my fourth and final post covering our recent Caravan Bus tour of five western states, I’ll talk about and provide photos of our 7th and final full day – Idaho and Utah!

IDAHO

We didn’t spend a lot of time in Idaho — but, the main stop was one of the best stops on the trip! We stopped at the National Oregon Trail Center and it was amazing! It was created and maintained solely by volunteers and donations. The center offers a first hand experience of what it was like to travel from Missouri to California in the 1800s by wagon train along the Oregon Trail. More on that as we get to the photos! I didn’t take a lot of photos while we were in Idaho — I regret that!

Former location of the Bank of Montpelier, that boasts being robbed by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on august 13, 1896 – they got away with more than $16,500 in gold, silver, and currency! There is a Butch Cassidy museum there, now!

Hard to see the true color in this photo thru the window glass, but this lake has the most amazing aqua water — said to be bluer than the Caribbean!

We went inside and were greeted by volunteers dressed in period clothing. We were first brought into a room where a gentleman explained the use of the wagons – how they loaded them with all their belongings, which left no room for riders – everyone walked, except the severely ill and dead. It was very expensive to join a wagon train, so it was typically the wealthy or upper middle class who were able to go. They had to purchase a wagon and then an appropriate team of animals to pull the wagon – usually oxen because they were the strongest and cheapest to purchase, as well as horses to be used if someone needed to venture off for whatever reason. It was a LONG and difficult journey and not everyone made it. Those who died along the way were put in the wagons so they wouldn’t be slowed down – they had to make it so many miles every day in order to stay on schedule – and they were buried at the next stop.

This is a buffalo chip — everyone on the wagon train had a job – it was the kid’s jobs to hunt for and gather buffalo chips that were old enough to be dried just right. They found that buffalo chips were extremely efficient fire materials – they burned hot and long.

Then, we were taken into a dark room where we got on a wagon and sat along the side benches. Once on the wagon, it began to pitch and bump as we proceeded on a simulated trip along the Oregon Trail. During this time, recorded readings of actual diaries of pioneers who traveled the trail were broadcast for us to listen to – fascinating!

We then left the wagon to sit around a simulation of a camp at the end of a long day on the trail where a lady explained what happened during the camp hours and told stories passed on by those who made it to their destinations.

Then, when she was done, she asked the ones who were given white handkerchiefs to stand in a row in front of the group. When they did, she told us to say goodbye to them — they represented the 1 in x that died along the trail……and then she waved her hand and declared them “back to life”! 😀

It was an awesome experience! So interesting and fun! Our guide told us that they are very proud of their little center and theater…….we all agreed that they SHOULD be, cause they created something truly amazing!

Another cool thing happened while we were at the center! One of the volunteers asked where we were from and my friend and I said “Upstate NY” – she said that one of the other volunteers was from there, too! So, she found her and pointed her in our direction — I figured there is a lot of area in that category, so it was highly unlikely that she was from anywhere near us, here in tiny little Albion! So, when she came over to talk to me, I narrowed it down and said I was from Western NY and she said she was, too —- she said, I doubt you’ve heard of it and said she was from Lyndonville……OMG – that is in the same county as Albion and just a few miles away! So I told her I was from Albion and she said she’s never come across anyone out there that’s ever heard of Lyndonville! So we chatted a bit before we had to say good bye so I could get back on the bus!

I wish we had spent more time exploring Idaho —- I think I’d like to go back, someday, and see more of it!

UTAH

We spent the rest of the day and that night in Utah. This is another state that I think I’d love to return to and see more of! We drove through a good portion of the Utah country side – so beautiful – like all the other states we visited during our seven days!

We stopped for lunch in, I think, Lava Hot Springs – home of the “Famous Raspberry Shakes” – which I had had to try – it was very good!

We spent several miles on a VERY high twisty turny road on the side of a mountain……it was a bit scary at times!

And, finally, we got to Salt Lake City…..where we stayed at a hotel right in the middle of downtown – a couple blocks from Temple Square and the Mormon Tabernacle! We were let out to tour Temple Square and it was fascinating! Two lovely young missionaries led a guided tour through two of the buildings and the courtyard. We toured the Tabernacle and the Assembly Hall – we could not tour the Temple, because only those Mormon who follow the strictest of the church’s covenants and are declared “clean inside and out” may enter – temples are considered THE House of God and no unclean thing may enter – they are not used for regular Sunday worship – only sacred rituals, such as weddings, etc. Sunday services are held in Meeting Houses – a more informal house of worship. So, the Temple was off limits to us. We also toured the beautiful gardens in the courtyard.

This is the Tabernacle — I was surprised that it looked more like a sports arena than a place representing religion and worship……until I got inside!!!

Inside the Tabernacle — the two young missionaries who led our tour.

This organ has over 11,000 pipes, multiple keyboards, and multiple sets of foot pedals! WOW!

The organist was playing while we were there – the sound was amazing! We were told that the acoustics in the Tabernacle are perfect – if the organist wasn’t playing they could drop a pin in the choir loft and you could hear it in the back of the room!

This is the Assembly Hall that we also toured — it is currently used for worship, meetings, lectures, recitals, and concerts.

The benches are original to the building – they are situated very close together and had to be elevated on blocks (see the bottom of the legs) because people were typically much shorter and smaller than they are, today!

 

The girls explaining the significance of the statues and gardens in the courtyard

I believe this is the back side of the Temple

View of the front of the Temple as we drove past it in the bus

The Mormon world headquarters office building is a HUGE building near Temple Square

Then…….we had a wonderful opportunity! The Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearses in the Tabernacle every Thursday evening, except when they are on tour, and it is open to the public! We were there on Thursday evening!!! WOW!!! So, we attended the “Farewell Dinner” to end the tour and then whoever wanted to go listen to the choir went back to the Tabernacle after dinner! DUH – of course, we wanted to do that! It was amazing —- the sound was so awesome!!! I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t the emotional experience I expected it to be —- since it was a rehearsal and open to the public, people were more informal – they came and went and talked during the rehearsals…..so, it took away from that emotional experience……but, that aside, it was still an awesome experience and we were so very glad we went. I loved getting to hear them in person in that beautiful building!

After we left the rehearsal, we went back to the hotel and prepared ourselves for an early morning flight back home……our wonderful vacation was over! I am so happy that I was persistent and didn’t give up when I first found I waited too long to get in on the tour! I loved every minute of it…….sure, there were a few parts that were less exciting than the majority of it and my knee decided to be a little stinker and blow out on me! But, over all, it was an amazing trip — one full of awesome memories and experiences! I would totally do another Caravan Tour — they put together wonderful itineraries!

So……with this trip, I am now down to just THREE states I still need to visit: Kentucky, Colorado, and New Mexico! I figured I would try to knock them out in 2019, but now my travel buddy and I started talking about the possibility of doing a Viking River Cruise and I already booked a Transatlantic Cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Ireland in the Spring, so I’ll see how things go……I can only do so much in a year! hahaha Once I’m done with visiting all 50 states, I have a few I’d like to re-visit and see more of! So, my travel days are not at risk of ending any time soon! 😀

2018 Caravan Tour – Yellowstone and The Tetons

Post # 3 of our Caravan Bus Tour of five western states. This post covers Day 4, 5, and 6. We spent these days in Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons at Jackson, WY. Yellowstone National Park is the first National Park in the United States and is located mostly in Wyoming, but also extends into portions of Montana and Idaho. When we woke up on the morning of day 4, we spent more time in Montana as we made our way to Yellowstone and our return to Wyoming.

More scenes driving through Montana – we followed the Yellowstone River and the Lewis & Clark Trail to Livingston, Montana and then into Wyoming through Yellowstone National Park:

This herd of sheep was being shepherded by a cowboy on a horse right on the side of the road as we drove by – see the far left side. Unfortunately, the swaying of the bus and the speed we were going caused me to miss the chance to get the cowboy in the photo!

Entering Yellowstone National Park and more scenes as we followed the Yellowstone River – locations along the Yellowstone River is where the movies “A River Runs Through It” and “Horse Whisperer” were filmed – both ones I’ve seen and love! We also saw a lot of people out standing in the river fly fishing!

Roosevelt Arch – park entrance

Pronghorn

45th Parallel of Latitude halfway between Equator and North Pole

These dingbats were out trying to get close to the wildlife……I got much better photos from a safe distance with my zoom lens!

And more dingbats…..

A lot of burn over areas from the last big forest fire……

We saw a few of these — park sponsored tour vehicles

Mammoth Hot Springs – Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming – this place was totally awesome! So beautiful! We were told to not walk off the designated areas because the ground around the hot springs is extremely fragile and to not attempt to touch the springs, water, or other surfaces due to danger of severe temperature and chemical burns!

Despite the high temps and chemicals, beauty still finds a way to survive!

Before leaving Mammoth Hot Springs, we were treated to some elk that were lounging by the Visitor’s Center: