Last Daily Photos of 2018

So, here we are at the final hours of 2018…….soon, we’ll start a new year and a new annual photo challenge! For now, here are the some of my favorites from December since the last post……right up to today’s final 2018 photo! The daily topic is below each photo!

Hat

Tree

Wrapping

Something Green

Together

Fave Animal

Self Portrait

Yay

This was my final photo of 2018 and the final sunrise of the year, as well!

And, now, for some of my favorite Advent Photo Challenge photos since the last posting:

Special Ornament

Act of Kindness

(Guess this needs a bit more explanation – a random stranger picked up my breakfast tab that day)

Wish

Holly Jolly

Ginger Bread House

Star

Nativity

Joy To The World

See you next year!!! 🙂

 

Movie Review – Mary Poppins Returns

I went to see Mary Poppins Returns on Christmas Day. We had our family “Christmas” on Saturday, so I was free to spend the day enjoying a movie at the theater with popcorn and a coke for my dinner…..well, to be fair, it was actually lunch and I made a pan of delicious scalloped potatoes and ham for my actual dinner later that evening, but you get the point! I love going to the movies on Christmas day and I’m always surprised to see how many other people also enjoy going to the movies on Christmas day – not sure why it still surprises me, but it does! I started going to movies on Christmas day years ago when life started making it difficult to spend Christmas on the 25th…..when kids become adults multiple families get in the mix and miles get in the way and you discover that Christmas isn’t a “day” – it is in your hearts and happens whenever family and friends can be together…..and, can even happen on multiple days! So, what started out as a way to forget that December 25th wasn’t being spent in a mad frenzy of family and gifts and food turned into a wonderful tradition that I have enjoyed for many years and actually look forward to! I start checking to see what movies will be opening on or just before December 25th to decide what I want to see that year! I usually look for something light, fun, and entertaining……and, I usually find just the right movie……well, except for the year Mom and I went to see Marley and Me when she was visiting me over Christmas in NC – what we thought would be a “feel good” movie about a cute dog left us depressed and sad the rest of the day…..LOL!!! This year, Mary Poppins Returns was my choice……and, I’m so very glad it was!!!

I started getting excited about this movie when I first saw the trailers announcing it was being made and would be released in late 2018!!! Mary and I have a nice bit of history and I couldn’t wait to see her come to life, again! Mom took me and my best friend, Cathy Pinson, to see the original Mary Poppins at the movie theater on Main Street in Albion for my birthday when we were in the 5th or 6th grade. It is my first memory of going to an actual movie theater – we’d been to the drive-in a lot, but I don’t really remember going to an inside theater before that movie – oh, I may have, but just don’t remember! Cathy and I were mesmerized by the movie — we were totally caught up in the magic and the awe that was Mary Poppins! Mom bought me the sound track album and I wore it out playing it and learning all the songs……Cathy and I would sing the songs over and over and over – we knew them all by heart – I can still sing most of them! Mom, Cathy, and the Albion theater are all gone, now, but that day was on my mind as I drove to the theater and waited for the movie to start……and, I truly felt Mom and Cathy there with me for the show!

I was happy to see they didn’t “remake” the original – that would have been a mistake! They made it a sequel…..a continuation of the original story with many of the original characters…….and it was perfection on the screen! They kept the mix of live action and animation – which, of course, it had to in order to stay true to the story – and, with the modern advances in technology, the wild adventures that Mary takes the children on were even MORE magical and fun without losing the vintage appeal of the original (no flashy special effects – it is still Mary Poppins, after all)! I told a friend I was going and she said she already saw it and that I would LOVE it – her response to my question “Is it as good as the original?” was the best summary of the movie – I can’t say it any better, so I’ll plagiarize her……”it is enough of the same to be familiar and enough new to be different – but the same”….or words to that effect! 🙂

For those who are not aware……..the story this time is that Michael and Jane Banks have grown up and Michael is a widower with three small children and a housekeeper named Ellen (which, ironically, is the same name as the housekeeper they had as children). Michael, who lives in the family home with his children, has fallen on hard times and is at risk of losing the home. Along comes Mary Poppins to save the day! And, the next two hours are full of song, dance, and magical adventures!

Emily Blunt was amazing……she truly was the perfect choice to play Mary Poppins! Her look, her expressions, and her demeanor were spot on! I always enjoy seeing her in movies – her role in A Devil Wears Prada helped to make that movie great – second only to Meryl Streep’s character! So, I knew she’d make an awesome Mary Poppins……and, she did! This time, Mary’s sidekick is Jack – a lamplighter on the streets of London – played brilliantly by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Michael and Jane are played by Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer, respectively, and are just as you’d think Michael and Jane would be like as adults! Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson play Anabel, John, and Georgie Banks – Michael’s children – and they are just lovely! The absent minded housekeeper, Ellen, is a hoot – she is played perfectly by Dame Julie Walters (one of the three best friends on Mama Mia and Mama Mia, Here We go Again!). There is also an evil banker played by the wonderful Colin Firth and his bumbling sidekicks! Yes……there is a stellar cast with amazing performances and excellent characters brought to life brilliantly!

But……that’s not all……there are three cameo appearances that brought absolute joy to my heart to see……..first, Mary Poppins takes the children to visit her cousin Topsy – a delightfully whimsical character played by Meryl Streep! Then……I won’t give away the circumstances or when in the movie it happens, but Dick Van Dyke returns as the elderly son of one of the characters he played in the original movie – Mr. Dawes, Jr (he played Bank President, Mr. Dawes, Sr. in the original) – when he appeared, the audience in the theater applauded and when he “did his thing” (not spoiling it), the audience cheered and applauded with glee!!! What a treat!!! And, finally, Angela Lansbury appears as the Balloon Lady and was a pure joy to see!

OK, so…….I guess I don’t really HAVE to say it, but it is part of all my reviews, so here goes……..I loved this movie!!! It was the perfect way to spend my day! It met all my usual criteria for determining if it was a good movie – I laughed, I cried, I fell in love with the characters, and I left feeling good…..and, wanting to dance my way across the parking lot to my car!!! And, yes……I think Mary Poppins helped with a bit of magic for me, as well, as I did feel like Mom and Cathy were right there enjoying the movie with me…..we just had more comfortable seats this time! hehehe

I rate this movie a solid A+++++!!! I highly recommend it……go see it……I don’t care how old you are or if you ever saw the original or not…….go and let the magic seep into your imagination and lift you to heights only a balloon (or kite) can take you……and, at least for a couple hours, remember what it was like to be a kid and have an imagination that had no limits! Yes, it is a wonderful children’s movie…….but, it is so much more…….this 62 year old guarantees it!!! After all……per Mary, herself, “Anything is possible! Even the Impossible!”

And, here’s the trailer……

A Few Daily Photos…..

Let’s catch up on some of my favorite Daily Photos from the end of November and so far in December……the prompt is noted below each one!

Big

Small

Gorgeous

Walk

Sleep

Fave Vegetable

A Drink

A Good Habit

Under

Joy

Begins With “S”

Lights

Decoration

And, now for my favorites from the Advent Photo Challenge I’m doing……so far:

Waiting

Candy Canes

Fave Christmas Movie

Gathering

Hope

Holiday TBT

 

Seven Day B&W Photo Challenge

I just finished a Seven Day B&W Photo Challenge – the rules were the photos had to be B&W Photos of Life – No People – No Explanation! And I had to challenge one person every day to accept the challenge – some did, some didn’t! So – here are mine:

Day 1 of 7

Day 2 of 7

Day 3 of 7

Day 4 of 7

Day 5 of 7

Day 6 of 7

Day 7 of 7

I love doing B&W photos……maybe I’ll do this challenge again, sometime!

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