2016 Alaskan Cruise Adventure

So, I took a little trip this past week. Just a jaunt across the country and way up north to Alaska……nowhere special! Yeah – right!!! It WAS special – VERY special! What a fantastic adventure it was! I could not believe how spectacular the views were – everywhere you looked! It was amazing and awe-inspiring and I’m so very glad I finally got there! The trip was in the form of a seven-day cruise out of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. A friend from church and I both had this little adventure on our bucket lists, so we decided to go together. It was so much fun and we were great “new” traveling buddies.

I have to warn you – this will be a long post – can you even imagine how hard it was for me to narrow down over 1000 of the most gorgeous photos to just a few of the very best representations of each day? But, it will be worth it, so hang in there and enjoy!

DAY 1:     Leaving Vancouver

We boarded the Volendam from the Holland America Cruise Line about lunch time on Weds, June 22nd. We dropped our carry on luggage in the room and headed to the Lido Deck for some lunch. After a required Muster Drill, the ship set sail and we were on our way! It was a LONG day with the flights across the country and time changes, so we hit the pillows pretty early.

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The Vancouver skyline.

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DAY 2:     At Sea – Inside Passage

Our first full cruise day – Thursday, June 23rd – was entirely “at sea”, but we were traveling through the Inside Passage, so much of the way we had incredible views to satisfy our need to see pretty things!🙂 We mostly relaxed and learned how to navigate our way around the ship. I took part in a beer tasting event with beers from the Alaskan Brewing Company of Juneau, Alaska – that was a riot and the beers were actually quite good (except two that I thought tasted like soap, but the more seasoned beer lovers thought they were excellent…..go figure). One of the perks we got with our tickets was two free dinners at a couple of the specialty restaurants – on this night, we dined at the Italian themed Canaletto’s restaurant – YUM!!! We heard some passengers talking about seeing whales and dolphins in the waters near the ship, but we weren’t lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time – we did see some whale sprays a little in the distance, though. We went to the evening show – a really funny female comedian who also played the violin and brought her seven year old daughter on stage to play with her – WOW!!! Great show! After the show, we sat in one of the common areas and listened to a jazz group that was pretty amazing, too.

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Set up for the Beer Tasting Event on the Lido Deck

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This guy seemed to be everywhere! But, the first time we saw him perform was on the Lido Deck just before the Beer Tasting Event.

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Our first glimpse of a glacier, although, at the time, we didn’t know what we were looking at! After we saw more glaciers and heard the explanations of what glaciers are, we realized that the cool view we had on this day was also a glacier!

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Pat and I at our table for dinner at Canaletto’s – check out the view we had while we dined!

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A shot of the crowd starting to gather in the theater for the evening show

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Chris Pendleton and her daughter, Zoe – 7-years-old! This was a wonderful show!

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The Jazz ensemble that was playing later in the evening in the common areas.

DAY 3:     Juneau, Alaska

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So, how to do keep track of what day it is on a cruise ship? Why, you step into any elevator, of course! The crew change the carpet in all the elevators every day so that you always know what day it is!

This, of course was Friday – June 24th. We arrived in Juneau at 1:00 pm, so we had the morning to relax a little. Another perk we received with our tickets was a free drink package! Neither of us are regular drinkers, so we didn’t think we’d get much value out of this perk, but the drink package did allow us to have sodas and other beverages that usually cost extra…..AND…..we did indulge in a fancy drink (or two) each day……hey, why not!!!???🙂 Once in port, we got off the ship and headed to our first shore excursion – whale watching and a hike through a rain forest to see Mendenhall Glacier. We saw the most critters in Juneau – LOTS of whales, some sea lions, squirrels, a tiny mouse-like critter that no one knew exactly what it was, but it was cute, and even a HUGE porcupine up in a tree right above our heads! We also saw a few bald eagles – I didn’t think I was able to get any photos, but when I reviewed all the pics when I got home, I discovered I DID get a photo of one without even trying! It was a wonderful excursion – everything was great and beautiful and so much fun. It was a cold, rainy/drizzly day and the hike was a workout, but it was all worth it! We got back to the ship, ate dinner, and crashed in total exhaustion and achy bodies!

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Enjoying our Mimosa and Bloody Mary while waiting to arrive in Juneau and looking out at the rainy day

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Saw this as we were pulling into Juneau – thought it looked cool! Probably looked a LOT different during higher tide!

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I took this from the ship, too…..and, look there on the end of that white arm thingy in front of the green building – I captured a bald eagle that I didn’t even realize was there until I looked at the photo!

Bald Eagle in Juneau

Here he is cropped so he can be seen better! WOW!

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Deboarding in Juneau

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This was pretty much “it” for the port of Juneau…..there must be more of the city somewhere, since it is the capital city and the third largest city in Alaska, but we didn’t see any evidence of it……not even as we took the bus to where we got on the excursions.

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This is our tour guide – Mircea (pronounced Meesha) Brown. He is a professional photographer/film maker, so this tour was geared towards photographers and he was there to help ensure we got the best photos we could get. The tips he gave us were so helpful! There were also only eight people on the tour, so it was very personalized and hands on…….and it didn’t hurt that he was such a cutie!!!

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There was a LOT of whale activity – we saw them spray, roll, just laying there asleep, and diving. We didn’t see any jump out of the water (breech), though – that was a disappointment. But, there was enough excitement with all the rest of the action to keep us oohhing and aahhing and snapping our cameras for the entire boat ride!

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There was one whale that came up within just a few feet from the front of the boat – RIGHT THERE in front of us! Unfortunately, the others were all in front of me, so I not only didn’t get a photo of one that close, I also didn’t even get to see it myself! Boo Hoo! Pat saw it, though!

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There were several sea lions playing in the water just off from our boat, too – they were so animated – they kept popping up out of the water to watch us and pose for our photos!

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After we were done watching whales and sea lions, we took a bus to where we started the hike through the rain forest. That was amazing! The floor in the rain forest was a blanket of moss all over everything and so much beautiful flora all around! And, this stunning waterfall! I got this great shot with a tip from Mircea on how to change my settings to make the water in a water fall look smooth as glass!

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This grassy area is actually a fluffy fern that was so beautiful!

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Then, we came to the end where the forest opened up to incredible views……and……

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Mendenhall Glacier……just spectacular!!!

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We asked Mircea to take our photo with my camera so we could be together with the glacier behind us!

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On the hike back to the bus, one of the other hikers looked up and saw this HUGE porcupine up in the tree above us just watching us go by! We stood there taking his picture for quite a while and he just sat there watching us!🙂 He was really humongous!!! You really can’t get a feel for how really big this guy was in this photo!

DAY 4:    Skagway, Alaska

On Saturday, June 25th, We fell in love with Skagway! It is the perfect picture of what you would imagine a little gold mining town in Alaska would look like. Adorable buildings, quaint shops, friendly people, little-no traffic on the street, and SMALL (only about 300 people live there year round with a little less than 1000 in the summer months).

We got up early to disembark and get on a train ride up into the Yukon. It was a fabulous excursion with some breathtaking scenery! We did some shopping after the train ride and stopped for lunch at a sweet little restaurant where I had a pound of Alaskan King Crab legs and Pat had Halibut Fish ‘n Chips. Both meals were outstanding! When we got back on the ship, we sat in our favorite spot in the comfy chairs by the windows on Deck 5 and had a citrus martini before dinner. The show that night was a magician – he was pretty good!

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Sadly, this is the only moose we saw on the trip! This was taken when we got off the ship at Skagway.

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This was taken from our veranda – it is the train we took on the shore excursion. See all the “graffiti” on the rocks? Well, we found out it isn’t “graffiti” – the city of Skagway has encouraged ships ever since the early gold mining days to paint their logo on the rock wall in the port on their maiden voyage into the city to document all the ships that have docked there over the years.

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We chose the excursion that put us in the Luxury car on the train – the other cars had bench seats with two to a seat – this car everyone had a leather swivel chair for great individual views, a small group, food, and drinks! Well worth the extra $$$!!!

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Enjoying a mimosa that was served on the train!

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Just one of the beautiful streams and views seen along the ride.

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This river is fed by glaciers – the milky appearance is due to the glacial silt that all glacier fed waters have.

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So glad this bridge is no longer in use……would not have been happy if we had to cross it!

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With all the curves and winding ledges, there were a few places where we could look out the window and see the rest of the train ahead or behind us!

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This IS a bridge that we crossed

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Along with several bridges, we also went through two tunnels!

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Here we are going through one of the tunnels – I went out onto the platform to get a photo of the light and tracks behind us

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This is the only major highway going into and out of Skagway. Even with a highway, though, it is quicker to get to nearby cities by plane or boat/ferry than it is to drive. And, Skagway is lucky to have a highway, at all – Juneau has no way in or out except for by plane or boat!

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A couple miles into the Yukon, we stopped, the engine disengaged, pulled ahead, and switched to the other track so that it could travel passed us to the back (now front) of the train to hook up and take us back to Skagway!

Later in the day, we heard that the second train tour of the day was stopped by a rock slide and couldn’t get back down the mountain to return. They had to send buses to get the people off the train and back to Skagway — how scary that must have been! Glad it didn’t happen to our tour!

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After the train ride, we took a Skagway Street Car Tour – what a hoot that was! The guide – Violet – was dressed in period costume and was very dramatic when telling the history and legends of old Skagway! We really enjoyed her a LOT!

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Here is Violet in the cemetery telling the story of the demise of one of Skagway’s scoundrels, who was touted and buried as a hero……until the secrets of his past came out after his death!

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Downtown Skagway — such a sweet little town! Would love to have spent more time there!

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This is a shot of our ship – the Volendam – docked in the harbor from a scenic overlook we stopped at on the City Street Car Tour.

Citrus Martini

Our citrus martini – my very first ever martini, so I was disappointed it didn’t come in a martini glass!😦 But, it was still quite good! It was made with lychee, pineapple, and some other citrus with a sprig of mint. A tad too citrusy for me to completely finish it, but it was still very refreshing and delicious!

DAY 5:     Glacier Bay, Alaska

If you think it was difficult to narrow down the photos so far…….it was impossible to pick just a few from Glacier Bay! On Sunday, June 26th, we pulled into Glacier Bay. OMG!!! What an emotional day this was! The choice of getting a room with a veranda paid off big time — we had breakfast served in the room and bundled up to take in the views from our private veranda – it was perfect! No crowds to fight for a chance at the railings for photos, comfortable chairs just for us, a roof and walls on each side to help keep us from the misty cold air, and the chance to step into our room to warm up when needed! And…..we thought there might be some scenery we might miss cause we only had a view from one side of the ship, but they turned around and went back through, so we got to see the other side, as well.

There are no words to describe our time in Glacier Bay! It was so incredibly beautiful and awe-inspiring! I literally cried, it was so overwhelmingly emotional to see! And, the state law prohibits ships from playing loud music or making any loud noises, so passengers were encouraged to remain as quiet as possible, so it was peaceful, quiet, eerie, and just plain like nowhere I have ever been, or likely ever will be again, in my entire life. We were there with the glaciers from about 9:00 am till about noon.

After we left Glacier Bay, we sat in our favorite chairs on Deck 5 and read. Later we had our second promotional dinner perk at the Pinnacle Grill – best dinner of the cruise! We had champagne, I had a huge shrimp cocktail and Pat had a Caesar salad, we both ordered the petite filet mignon with shared carrots, asparagus, mashed potatoes, and mushrooms. I added a 12 oz lobster tail that was gigantic! And we both had a vanilla and chocolate souffle for dessert. It was amazing! The show that night was a hysterically funny juggler and we capped off the evening by listening to a piano and violin duo playing classical music in one of the common areas. It was a perfect day!

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Our private veranda off our stateroom!

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Pat out on the veranda enjoying the scenery!

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On the way into Glacier Bay – already spectacular, but we didn’t have any idea what we were in for as we went on further!

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The first of many glaciers in the park. A glacier is formed when an ice field builds up and pushes over the side of a mountain to form a wall of ice that looks like a waterfall or, in other cases, completely covers the side of the mountain to look like an ice wall. The sides of glaciers break off or “calve” into the water to form icebergs that float off into the water. As the glacier pushes over the mountain, it chisels away at the side of the mountain and takes parts of it with it…..hence the layering effect and the appearance of dirt and debris in the ice.

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The upper part of another glacier as we approach it

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And this is what we found when we got past the opening to the cove

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Looks dirty, but it is just parts of the mountain side that became part of the glacier as the ice pushed over

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The colors and layers fascinated me! These are NOT just a bank of snow — this is solid ice walls as hard or harder than the mountain itself!

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One of many icebergs floating in the waters – they look small, but are actually quite big – chunks of the glaciers that “calved” off into the water

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A waterfall in the mountain

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And, another glacier – each one uniquely different and distinct in its own way! This one appears to have zig zagged its way down the mountain.

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These colorful rocks were so stunning! Nature’s artistry!

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And, another glacier…..

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In some spots, the fog was so dense and the quiet was so deafening, it was a strangely eerie feeling!

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Then……we got to the Grand Daddy of all glaciers and sat there in perfect silence for quite some time just floating just off the shore line from it watching and listening! It was so quiet – not even the sea gulls (that were quite plentiful) were making any noise. Then, every once in a while, you could hear what sounded like a gunshot and a crack and a splash, as a piece of the glacier would break off (“calve”) into the water. This area was so incredible……there are no words!

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Here, a waterfall was gushing out an opening in the glacier!

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Just beyond this tip, a chunk of the glacier fell into the water with such force, it splashed way up and caused a tidal wave that went off in multiple directions and was still reacting quite a ways up the side of the glacier.

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As we left Glacier Bay, we saw several sea lions playing in the water. There was also an island that the sea lions like to sun bathe on, but I sadly couldn’t get a photo of it!

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And, we also saw several whales!

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And, I just loved the look of this tropical looking island out in the middle of the freezing waters of Alaska!

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No more glaciers, but there was never a lack of beauty to behold!

Kim and Pat at Pinnacle Grill

Here we are with our appetizers and champagne at the Pinnacle Grill for dinner.

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My shrimp cocktail – there were four, but I had to eat one before I could take the photo! They were HUGE!!!

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And, just look at this 12 oz lobster tail sitting on top of my petite filet!!! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lobster tail so humongous!!! And, it was sooooooooo delicious!!!

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The souffles were perfect, too!

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The cap for the evening was listening to this classical duo – very nice! But, the only seats available were a little too close and the music was very loud, so we didn’t stay too long. But, what we heard was extremely good!

Day 5:     Ketchikan, Alaska

On Monday, June 27th, we pulled into Ketchikan. We weren’t as impressed with Ketchikan as we were the other stops. It was a nice little city, but very commercialized and touristy – lots of high end jewelry stores and the employees were standing in the doorways begging you to come in and buy something. We did find a great store called “Christmas in Alaska” that I stumbled on cause I was looking for a place to buy a stamp for a post card. I’m glad I didn’t have a ton of room in my suitcases or I would have bought out that store and made my pocketbook very unhappy!!! We didn’t book an excursion for this port, but did decide to take a trolley tour to Totem Pole Park, which was very nice. We also had lunch at a cute restaurant called the Fish Pirates Saloon – they had live music – a guy who sang classic outlaw country songs and sounded just like Waylon Jennings! After dinner in the dining room on ship, we sat and listened to a guy in the piano bar playing oldies for the lounge to sing along with and then went in to playing songs from all the states and countries that people yelled out – that prompted a lot of singing-along, too! It was a lot of fun! And……to make the evening complete, we saw the only beautiful sunset of the cruise! All the other nights were foggy, cloudy, or the sun went down very late…….the day in Ketchikan was the sunniest day and the warmest (almost 80 degrees) and the night sky was clear and made for a beautiful sunset!

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Getting off ship at Ketchikan

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Ketchikan is Alaska’s first city! And, apparently, the salmon capital of the world!🙂

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We were told that this tunnel is in the Guinness Book of World Records because it is the only tunnel in the world where you can go through it, over it, around it, and when the tide is right, you can go under it!!!

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I really wish I could have taken this guy home with me! He was gorgeous!!!

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The restaurant we had lunch at was on the third floor of this building

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This was the lunch time entertainment – just like listening to ole Waylon himself!

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One of the totems in Totem Pole Park

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Most of the totem poles were VERY TALL…..the guide told us the story behind many of them.

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We also stopped to check out Creek Street – the red light district in Ketchikan’s gold rush days!

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Beautiful rock wall mountain side

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This sculpture shows the old lady with the drum in the front telling the story of the first settlers in Ketchikan.

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When we returned to the ship, we had a cocktail and appetizers and read in our favorite spot on Deck 5. Pat turned me on to a Cosmopolitan – and, look, it came in a martini glass! I thought that was VERY good — never had one before, but if the opportunity arises, again, I will likely order one – I liked it!

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The piano bar guy doing sing-alongs after dinner. Fun!

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Our one and only pretty sunset…..

DAY 7:     At Sea, Inside Passage

Our last day on ship was a return trip through the Inside Passage enroute back to Vancouver. We did a lot of relaxing, reading, and packing up our bags to prepare to head back home the next morning. Here are just a few more photos worth sharing:

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I mentioned several times about our favorite chairs on Deck 5. Here they are – they were so comfortable and gave us a wonderful view of whatever there was to see along the way! Here, we would just gaze out the window, read, have cocktails, or sit and people watch.

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Our state room – we had a bathroom with a whirlpool tub and a shower, two beds, a comfortable seating area, and our private veranda – which we LOVED!

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View of the dining room

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Our view from our breakfast table one morning.

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Desserts were stunning and oh, so decadent!

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And, finally, I leave you with one of our “at sea” views…….inviting, isn’t it?

All in all, it was a fabulous trip! I loved every minute of it (well, except for the airports at Toronto and Vancouver – I will avoid at all costs flying into, through, or out of any Canadian airport, again, but……)! I wonder where my next adventure will take me!🙂

2016 Daily Photos – June 22-30 – Alaska!

So…..I have been away on vacation – an Alaskan Cruise, to be exact! I returned late Weds night and just now picked one specific photo that was taken each day of the cruise to highlight as my “Photo of the Day” each day. They aren’t necessarily the BEST photo of the day, but one I thought was fun or showcased the day without taking away from the anticipation of my upcoming blog post devoted to the trip that will be posted in the next couple of days…..as soon as I finish sorting through the more than 1000 photos I took of some of the most gorgeous scenery and fabulous adventures EVER!!! It was a great trip……but, this post is not about that – it is about finishing out the month of June for my 2016 Daily Photo Challenge!

So……here goes:

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 22:

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“Leaving Vancouver”

We followed another cruise ship out of the harbor in Vancouver, British Columbia as we set sail toward the Great North!

THURSDAY, JUNE 23:

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“Beer Tasting At Sea”

On our first day at sea along the Inside Passage, I took part in a hilariously fun Beer Tasting Event on the Lido Deck! All the beers offered were from the Alaskan Brewing Co in Juneau, Alaska. Three were VERY good (# 1, 2, and 4), one I liked, but didn’t love (# 6), and two were awful (# 3 and 5) – they tasted like soap, to me! hehehe

FRIDAY, JUNE 24:

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“Sea Lions in Juneau”

During a whale watching tour in Juneau, we saw a group of sea lions playing just off from our boat – they were quite animated and acted like they really wanted us to notice them and take their photos!🙂

SATURDAY, JUNE 25:

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“Switching Cars in the Yukon” 

We took a fantastic train ride from Skagway into the Yukon. When we reached the end of the ride, the crew had to disengage the engine, switch it to the other track, and drive it to the other end of the train to reconnect it and take us in the reverse direction back to Skagway. It made for a cool photo op!

SUNDAY, JUNE 26:

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“Seagull in Glacier Bay”

A foggy day, lots of huge seagulls, and a breathtakingly beautiful glacier…..what more do you want for the perfect photo?

MONDAY, JUNE 27:

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“Red Light District in Ketchikan”

Self explanatory, right? Of course, it is good clean fun, now, but back in the gold rush days, this was where the men would go to (ahem) relax after a long day of mining for gold!

TUESDAY, JUNE 28:

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“Last Day At Sea”

A gorgeous day at sea along the Inside Passage on our return to Vancouver!

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 29:

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We pulled in to Vancouver early with everything packed and were in airports and on planes all day until our arrival back in Rochester around 9:30-ish pm. So, no photos were taken!

And, now……to finish out June’s Daily Photos:

THURSDAY, JUNE 30:

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“Daisies”

Remember when I posted one of my two daisy bushes before I went on vacation? It was partially opened and the second wasn’t opened at all. Well, I got back and they are both fully opened and amazing!!!

Amish Trail Adventure

Adventure season is here! Sure, I have little adventures (and some big ones) all year long, but there is nothing like the start of steady good weather to get me itching to go places and see things and do cool stuff! So, my friend, Cathy, and I decided to kick adventure season off with a two day visit to the NY Amish Trail – something we had on our list since last fall. The trail is south of Buffalo – about 2 hours drive for us, so not too far, but we thought that if we spent the day shopping and exploring, we’d likely not feel up to the 2 hour drive back home. So, we booked a night at a Bed and Breakfast and made our plans.

The NY Amish Trail is a large area, but the most concentrated area of shops is in Leon, just north of Randolph, NY. It is not commercialized at all – the Amish shops are all small barns or rooms off their homes with just small handmade signs by the road simply stating the type of good they sell to identify them – even the non-Amish shops are very small and like stepping back in time. And, there isn’t much else there to do or see, either! So, it was a very quiet, uneventful trip – just the distraction I needed! With all that has been going on in my life, I was happy to just get away for a couple days and get my mind off things!

Before we even got started, we encountered the funniest thing that happened to us! We stopped for breakfast at Rudy’s in Medina. We were sitting at a table in the center of the dining room and Cathy had her back to the door. A man came up behind her with a big smile on his face and put his hands on her shoulders – obviously wanting to play the “guess who” game! Cathy looked at me for a clue and I just smiled and told her I had no idea who it was! So, she turned to look at him and the look on HIS face was PRICELESS!!! He looked at her and said, “oh, no, you’re not her!” We all laughed, but the poor man looked so embarrassed! For the rest of the trip, every time we mentioned the highlights, we’d say “and, don’t forget the man at Rudy’s”! It was hilarious!!!!

We took the scenic route down – my favorite way to get to go – often an adventure of its own. It was a LONG drive with some really pretty scenery, but nothing to entice us to stop for photos or mini-adventures.

We stayed at the Cherry Creek Inn – a B&B in Cherry Creek, which borders Leon to the west. It was a quaint little inn and Sharon, the owner, was very nice and extremely helpful with suggestions about the best places to go to shop. We booked the Loft room, which had two bedrooms, a private bath, and a seating area. They also had a building in the back where they had a hot tub and an outdoor seating area where they have bonfires at night – which, we sadly were too tired to join in on! Before retiring and becoming a B&B owner, Sharon had traveled all over the world and had extensive collections of memories throughout the house – she even had a photo of Ronald Reagan that had a lovely personal message and his signature on it!

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My room was named “Gertie” and Cathy’s room was named “Millie”

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We read that the Leon Historical Society offered personalized tours where one of their volunteers would ride with you in your car and show you around and talk about the Amish history and culture. We chose to take them up on that service! Our guide was Fred and he was amazing! He directed me to drive all over the area and talked extensively about the Amish – he was one of the top highlights of the trip! Cathy rode shotgun and tried to take notes and mark on the map the things we wanted to go back to……but, we were on so many little twisty-turny, hilly dirt roads that it was not an easy task. But, we thought we could figure it out! WRONG……after we took Fred back to his car, we tried to find a few places before dinner and were clueless! Hahahaha! So, we called Fred and he was, again, very gracious and told us how to get to a couple main places and then we were able to figure out the map from there on!

I didn’t get a lot of photos – it is against the Amish religion to have their photograph taken – they are to leave no trace of themselves behind when they leave the earth. I thought I might get some photos of Amish things, but there was usually people around, so I respected their wishes and didn’t take any photos that had any chance of someone – especially the children – in the photo.

What we learned: The Amish in this area are very much Old World Order Amish. They belong to small communities of 4-5 families that each have their own set of rules that the community lives by. The rules govern everything they do and how they do it – right down to what colors their clothes can be, the shape of their hats, and whether or not they can have rubber on the wheels of their buggies. When all the communities get together for an event – like the big benefit auction that was scheduled for today to raise funds for an account that will pay large medical bills for anyone in the community over the next year – you can tell who is from what community by the colors of their clothes and the hats that they wear. Most of the Amish in the area are farmers, but their farms do not always bring in enough money to sustain them, so they also have small businesses out of their homes to sell things that they have a talent for – such as, crafts, quilts, iron works, lumber, produce, furniture, machine shops, woodworking, etc. Some of the combinations seem strange, but it is because different members of the family may have different talents – for instance, one sign said “Footwear and Drainage Pipes”, and one said “Rhubarb, Homemade Noodles, and Kitchen Cabinets”. Some families run sawmills and other larger businesses – mostly ones that build sheds and furniture. Baked goods are typically only sold on Friday and Saturday because they do not have electricity, so they can not store foods for sale – they bake and sell that day – and it is difficult to keep supplies for everyday baking.

Another thing I found fascinating was their cemeteries. They have very small community cemeteries that are fenced in. They used to only use wood for their “head boards” because they would eventually rot and disintegrate back into the earth – consistent with their belief to not leave any trace of themselves after death. But, at some point they started to use small stone markers – nothing elaborate and the only thing they are permitted to carve on them is their name, date of birth, and date of death. The interesting part is that they put sheep in their cemeteries to keep the grass mowed! They have just put out the sheep to start mowing for the season, so the grass was pretty tall in the cemeteries, but I’m sure the sheep will catch up, soon! I stopped to get a photo of one of the cemeteries with the sheep – this guy was laying in a corner and when I crossed the road to get a photo, he stood up and posed for me!🙂 And, then he walked over to his buddy and they posed for a photo together!

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The shops we visited were all very typical and had some really nice things for sale. We went to a cheese shop that sold cheese plus other crafts and gifts, a candy shop that sold all kinds of chocolate and fudge made from goats milk, and an iron works shop that had a set of the most beautiful sounding wind chimes I have ever heard — I would have bought them in a heart beat if I had somewhere to hang them (they were extremely long – I don’t have a place high enough to hang them without touching the ground). We also stopped at a toy shop that had all kinds of wooden toys and gifts and the son of the owner was a HOOT! He was probably in the 13-14 year old range and he had the driest of sense of humors and a completely deadpan expression on his face while he tricked me into a series of puzzle boxes! When I got to the cash register to pay for my purchases, he asked if I had ever been there before – when I told him no, he said I needed to put a quarter in the “outhouse” – a wooden outhouse bank on the counter. As I got the quarter out of my wallet, he said – in a dry, low voice – “don’t have a heart attack”! I smiled and put the quarter in the outhouse and it instantly exploded into pieces!!!! Scared the crap out of me!!! There was a mouse trap inside that tripped and made the bank come apart! He then put my quarter in a trick box and made me try to get it out…….that lead to him asking me for a $20, which he put in another more difficult trick box! It was fun!

The best shop we went to was Mattie Hostetler’s Quilt and Gift Shop — WOW — she had some gorgeous quits and aprons and quilted items and lots of other things made from cloth. I fell in love with two, but wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the money – I’ve always wanted a beautifully handmade quilt and they were absolutely worth every penny they charged, but it was a lot of money and I had to think about it. I figured I’d sleep on it and go back the next day, if I still wanted one of them. Well, I got maybe 1/2 mile down the road and turned around and went back! I bought my second choice – first choice was incredible, but it was $100 more than I had with me, so second choice it was…….not that second choice was a lesser choice, because it is gorgeous and so beautifully stitched! I chose one that was mostly purple – my favorite color – with lots of green that will go well in my bedroom with the olive colored walls. It is the Lone Star pattern and it is queen size (the one I passed up was a peacock pattern with the same purples and greens). The photos don’t do it justice – hard to see it laying on my couch and the sun coming through the window didn’t help, either, but you get the idea!

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Here is a photo of what most of the roads we were driving on looked like and one that definitely shows that we were in farm country!

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And…….about the cows in the area!!! Every – and I do mean EVERY – field with cows we came across had every single cow laying down!!! I doubt we saw more than a half dozen cows on their feet (other than the ones in the photo above that were being moved across the street)! And, not only were they laying down on their bellies with their legs under them (they way you typically see cows laying down), many were actually flat on their sides with their legs straight out – looked like they were dead!!! We laughed every time we saw a field of these lazy cows! My grandfather always said if you see cows laying down, it means there is a storm coming! I rarely ever see cows on the ground otherwise. These were everywhere……and no storm in the forecast for days.

The next day, we planned to go to an alpaca farm and maybe a couple more shops and head home. The alpaca farm we wanted to go to was only open in the evenings and weekends, so we went to another one, but when we got there, they were closed. The alpaca were out, but inside multiple fences, so we couldn’t get near them. I got one fuzzy photo, though.

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Then…..the highlight of the trip for me was a visit to the Udderly Topnotch Nigerian Goat Farm in Little Valley! They specialize in Nigerian Dwarf Goats and they were ADORABLE!!!! Unfortunately, they were closed, too…..but the goats were out and I could pet them through the fence. Soooooo cute!!! They all came running to the fence to greet us and I put my fingers in the fence and they took turns nibbling on them…..it felt so cool – I fell head over heels in love!!! One, in particular, really took to me – she stood up against the fence and let me hold her hand while she sucked and nibbled on my fingers…..she followed me all along the fence as I took photos of her friends. I would have loved to get in the fence and pick her up to cuddle…..but, no one was home!😦

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When we got back closer to home, we stopped at the Indian Falls Log Cabin Restaurant for a view of the falls while enjoying a delicious dessert (we had lunch along the way). While we sat there overlooking the falls, some teenagers walked up to the falls and took turns jumping over the falls into the pool below – it was a BIG jump and got my heart pumping just watching them!

So – all in all, it was a very nice trip – good to get away for a couple days and I picked up some nice items and have some good memories! One adventure down……many more to come!

2016 Daily Photos – May 23-26

Here are the next set of 2016 Daily Photos – these were taken on May 23-26!

MONDAY, MAY 23:

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“Hat Lover’s Heaven”

This was taken at a B&B I stayed at in Cherry Creek, NY while on a two-day Amish Trail Adventure in the Leon / Randolph area in NY – it was a GREAT corner in a foyer!

TUESDAY, MAY 24:

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“Me and My New BFF”

This is me with the most adorable Nigerian Dwarf Goat! We were at the Udderly Topnotch Nigerian Goat Farm in Little Valley, NY – a stop on our Amish Trail Adventure. This one took to me more so than the others, although they ALL were so very friendly! This one stood up and let me hold her hand while she nibbled on my fingers! It was WONDERFUL!!!

WEDNESDAY, MAY 25:

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“Mom’s Snowball Bushes”

Mom started this one at the corner of the house and the one in the back to the left in this photo both from twigs cut off of bushes my Grandfather started from twigs…..and life goes one!!! The front one was planted just after we first moved out to this house when I was in the 5th grade…..the other one got started a few years later, but is still ancient! So beautiful — will be even prettier when the blossoms finish coming out and are huge bright white balls!

THURSDAY, MAY 26:

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“Happy Red Nose Day”

Just being silly for Red Nose Day!!!

Fall Cruise Adventure

A friend and I just got back from a fabulous cruise vacation! We took Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Sea out of Boston harbor up through New England and Canada! It was a wonderful week! I took 425 photos, so there is no way I can do a comprehensive photo tour here on this blog! What I’ve decided to do is pick a couple favorite photos from each port and add in some photos that have a cute or interesting story behind them and that will be that! I’ll have the photos on file, so you might see some pop up from time to time in other posts that they might make sense in!

Our itinerary is as follows:

Day 1 – Depart from Boston, MA

Day 2 – Portland, Maine

Day 3 – Bar Harbor, Maine

Day 4 – Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

Day 5 – At Sea

Day 6 – Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Day 7 – At Sea

Day 8 – Arrive back in Boston, MA

We flew to Boston on Sunday, Nov 11th. I was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly the transfer from the airport through check in and onto the ship went! This was my fourth cruise and the previous ones seemed much more cumbersome through this process. But, we used the Royal Caribbean transportation from the airport – there were RC staff waiting for us in baggage claim and our bags were first on the carousel, so it was a very short wait until they had everyone gathered to bus us to the ship. Then, the line to check in was VERY long and snaked through the building we were in, but the people at the desk kept the line moving right along and it wasn’t too long before we were on the gangway boarding the ship! Of course, our rooms were not ready, yet, so we found the buffet lunch and wandered around some to check out the ship. Once we made it to our rooms we, unpacked and were ready to sail! The worst part of that first day (in fact, the worst part about the entire cruise) was the required muster training! We had to stand in one place for an extremely long time waiting for everyone to gather and for them to do the training (which was only a matter of minutes – after all that standing)…..so, it flared up my bad knee and I was in horrendous pain….the next day, it was still difficult to walk on it for as long as I usually can, but what I finally figured out was that it riled up the cyst that forms on the back of my knee when it is stressed too much – as soon as that went back down, I was fine for the rest of the cruise!!! WHEW…..I was glad that it straightened itself out and I didn’t have to be concerned with a bad knee beyond the first day or two!!!

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This wasn’t taken that first day, but I wanted to put it here in the story, anyway……

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This was taken from the port in Portland, but it is of the ship, so it fits here……

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Deck 11 – the open pool deck – we were cruising in OCTOBER on the upper East Coast…..not sure why there was always someone in the hot tub and pool (especially when there were warmer ones in the Solarium)!

Day Two: Our first port was Portland, Maine and, as it turns out, was my favorite of the ports we visited! We didn’t purchase an excursion package for this port. We just wanted to wander around and eat lobster! Hahaha! So, we took our time getting a good breakfast and then went ashore. As we were standing at the end of the cruise ship pier trying to decide which way to go, one of the guys on a Pedicab (a bicycle pulling a two seat cart) asked if we wanted a ride somewhere – his name was Ivan and he was a cutie – wish I had taken a photo of him! We thought, what the heck, and he took us up the steep hill through the main streets where we’d find most of the good stuff and told us all about the area! He dropped us off and we strolled back down towards the pier, looking around and snapping photos as we walked. We ate at the restaurant he recommended – he said it was his favorite place for lobster and it had a nice outdoor seating area – The Portland Lobster Company! GOOD CHOICE!!! We both got the whole lobster dinner and a shrimp cocktail and it was fantastic!!! We also wandered around the docks and piers to see if we might be lucky enough to catch a fishing boat come in with a load of lobster traps and fish……but, no such luck! The weather on the day we were in Portland was PERFECT! A light sweater or jacket was needed, but it was very sunny and perfect temperature for walking – we couldn’t have asked for a more incredible day….we thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it and had a lot of fun!!!

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I do love lobster!!!

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One of my favorite photos in Portland – the back of a fish market where the fishing boats unload their daily catch!

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Down this street, we went into a working fish market and a shop called “Sea Bags” that hand makes tote bags and other items out of recycled sails right there on site!

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Just one of the main streets in Portland…..it was a bustling city, but didn’t seem at all crowded!

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I was standing on a corner and looked down to see this — got a chuckle out of it, so took a pic!

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This was very sobering…..an actual piece of the Berlin Wall!

Day Three: Our next port was Bar Harbor, Maine! This was the port I was looking forward to the most! The excursion package we purchased was a harbor cruise to look at all the lighthouses and other attractions that can be seen from the water! I was so excited……and, then, we got there! When we got up, it was so very foggy out the window in our room! Like, pea soup foggy!!! We got ready and went to get breakfast and the announcements began! You see, Bar Harbor is a tendering port – the cruise ships can’t get close enough to dock, so tender boats (actually the life boats on the ship) carry those who wish to go ashore from the ship to the docks……tender boats can’t operate in thick fog! And it WAS thick…..zero visibility and no evidence of it lifting any time soon! So, the captain said they would monitor the situation and make a decision by 9:00……that decision came just after 9:00 and it wasn’t what we wanted to hear! The fog was getting worse and expected to continue for some time longer – no chance we could tender ashore before it was too late to have any time for excursions or any other options ashore! So, they raised the anchors and we moved on with an unplanned day at sea!!! BOO HOO!!!! But…..you can’t control the weather, so we said good bye to Bar Harbor and made the best of the day at sea! I can honestly say I was in Bar Harbor – I have no idea what it looks like cause I couldn’t see through the fog, but I was there!!! LOL In hindsight, I wish I had taken a tour in Portland that included lighthouses, because missing out on the one in Bar Harbor resulted in my not seeing a single lighthouse up close the entire trip — how can you go to the coast of New England and not see a single lighthouse??? I didn’t let it ruin the rest of the trip, but it was a disappointment and if we had done an excursion in Portland, we would have missed some of the cool things we saw just wandering around……everything is a trade-off and I’m happy with the trip over all, so no harm done! I did get a couple good photos in Bar Harbor, though….so, all was not totally lost!🙂

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This was taken from the window in our room – it is the lighthouse tour boat we were scheduled to go on anchored near our ship in the fog!

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I think this was taken looking out toward the coast of Bar Harbor…..but, I don’t have any evidence of that…..in fact, you could tell me that the Loch Ness Monster was out there and I wouldn’t be able to argue the point with you!!! LOL

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As we were pulling away from Bar Harbor, we stood and watched the tender boats being put back in place – they were out and lowered deck level and ready to take us ashore, so had to be raised back in place – that was cool to watch!

Day Four: We had much better luck in Saint John, New Brunswick after a day at sea! It was another perfect weather day – they had predicted mostly cloudy with a chance of rain showers, but it was very similar to the day we had in Portland, only not quite as sunny. I really liked Saint John – rich in history and wonderful architecture!

We chose to do the “hop on, hop off” bus tour – I usually really like to do these tours when I visit a city I’ve never been to (and even in cities I’ve visited before and just want to ride around and hop off for special attractions)! These buses were special……Gray Line operated the traditional English double docker tour buses, but most were painted bright, “Pepto-Bismol Pink” in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness – a portion of every ticket is donated to the breast cancer research, regardless of the color of the bus (a few weren’t painted pink). The way I (and my friend) like to do these tours is to ride the full route around once, making note of the stops with points of interest worth spending more time to see, and then stay on to go around again to hop off at the spots identified the first time around. Unfortunately, that didn’t really work to our advantage this time – first of all, we weren’t thinking about the time constraint when doing it as a shore excursion on a cruise (we had to be back on the ship by 5:00) and the map that the was given out only mentioned the one main attraction at each stop, so we ended up wasting time waiting for the bus when we could have seen things within walking distance that we didn’t realize were right there! So…..we decided to just stay on the bus and get our photos and info from the bus and it turned out just fine! If we had realized that in the beginning, we wouldn’t have wasted so much time, but that’s OK – it still gave us a good overview of the area and we learned a lot about the history……and, although it was sometimes challenging to get good photos from a moving bus, I actually got some great shots!!!

The big news about Saint John was there there were (I think they said) FOUR cruise ships in port at the same time, which meant there were something like 10,000 tourists in the little city all doing the tours and trying to get into the stores and restaurants at the same time! Even so, I did not think it was all that crowded – it didn’t seem like that many people! But, I’m sure it lead to the longer than usual wait times for the next bus and the traffic that slowed things down somewhat!

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I got a kick out of this sculpture – it was called “People Waiting”! It is a cool place for a photo op for tourists and fun to look at!

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This English Bobby was outside a Police Museum – he posed for me, but cautioned that it might break my camera – it didn’t!🙂

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I loved this 1965 Volkswagen Beetle police cruiser – still operational and one of just a few still in use for special occasions.

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This theater was breathtaking!!! Fully restored and maintained beautifully! I took several photos, but none do it justice!

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This bandstand commemorating Queen Elizabeth was interesting – there is a fountain under it and the bands have to carry their instruments up to the upper level and play up there!

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This is my favorite statue of the entire trip — it was amazing! It is a memorial to those who have died in the various wars and has a cloaked man with a sword at the base and an spectacular angel reaching up to the heavens at the top! It was massive and very tall – quite humbling!

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Thought I was kidding about the “Pepto-Bismol Pink”? Here’s the proof!

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We didn’t see a TON of autumn colors during the trip – we found that odd, but here is some around Lake Lily that were pretty amazing!

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This park had a big circle with lots of wood carved statues of important people and wild life from the area – it was pretty cool!

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Looking back at Saint John from the deck of the ship

Day Five was an At Sea day, so I’ll fill in this spot with photos I took around the ship. The Brilliance of the Sea was huge and very beautiful! We enjoyed days when we could get out and sit on the deck and the buffets were amazing! We also really enjoyed sitting in the Centrum after dinner listening to music and watching people dance. The entertainment was quite good – we went to evening shows that included a comedian, a singing impersonator, and a performance of songs and dances from a variety of Broadway shows. There were also daily musical performances in the Centrum. We caught three of the daily movies while we were on ship – all were very good! But, mostly, we just relaxed, enjoyed the ride, and did a lot of “people watching”!

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The Centrum (center of the ship) looking up from Deck 4 (bottom) – each deck had seating areas around the Centrum

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The Centrum looking down from Deck 11 (top)

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Just one of the daily musical acts in the Centrum – this one was big band sounds and really got people up and dancing!!! They were very good, as was most of the musical acts we caught before and after dinner almost every evening!

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This little guy put a huge smile on my face – it was the first “formal” night and he was taking a photo of his parents in the Centrum — he looks like a real professional photographer in his suit and crouching down to get the best angle for the shot!

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This is the Solarium – an enclosed pool and hot tub area with a fruit/salad buffet and snack bar – it was always tropical and warm in there!

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The hallway along the specialty restaurants and lounges – very elegant all through this area

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The pool tables were equipped with a device that kept them level regardless of how the ship may be pitching! It was cool, but almost dizzying, to watch them float around on their bases!

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The casino — I love playing slot machines, so I went in there one day with about $25.00 – after the first $2.00, I was up $48.00!!! I printed out that voucher to not lose track of the winnings and kept playing (and losing) the rest of my initial $25.00!!! Then, I just HAD to try to win more (even though I was technically up $23.00) and loaded the voucher in a different slot machine……and left empty handed!!! But……I had fun – I played quite a while on winnings and, in the end, only lost $25 of my own money, so I was happy!

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The theater where the live shows were performed — it took up three decks for the stadium seating!

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Me – enjoying a beautiful, sunny day on deck!

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And, really getting into this “relaxation” thing with the sun on my face!

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My friend enjoying a cup of coffee and some sunshine and fresh air on deck!

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Unfortunately, we missed the sunset most nights because it was either not a pleasant night to be out on deck or it happened while we were having dinner or something……but, I did manage to snap this shot just before the sunset ended one night!

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I love this shot — I ran out one night just as we were leaving port (I think it was in Halifax) to get a shot of the lights in the skyline! It was cloudy and raining and dark, so my shutter stayed open longer than usual and I, obviously, didn’t hold the camera steady enough, so it blurred……but, look how cool it looks!!!!

Day Six – Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada was the last port of call in the trip! The weather, again, was quite pleasant for this time of year, despite the predictions of rain! We chose the Big Pink Bus “hop on, hop off” tour, again for this port. The history in this port was fascinating…..especially the story about the massive explosion that destroyed most of the city and killed thousands! The architecture was less ornate, in most cases, than some of the other places of their era, but it was still an impressive port. Our favorite spot was the Public Garden designed to commemorate Queen Elizabeth – it was absolutely stunning and so very peaceful! They had a Dahlia exhibit that was so beautiful – I was amazed by how many different varieties and colors of Dahlias there are!

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This is the Queen Elizabeth bandstand in the Public Garden – so beautiful!

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There were bed after bed after bed of gorgeous flowers!

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One of the more unusual Dahlias in the exhibit

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And one more stunning example!

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One of the rows of Dahlias in the exhibit

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A row of historic buildings

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I couldn’t get the whole building in the shot from the bus window, but still wanted to share this breathtaking church!

Day Seven – Another day At Sea……I’ll take this opportunity to share some of the photos I took of the amazing food we ate…..and ate……and ate……and ate!!! Hahaha

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The desserts were to die for…….this one is a chocolate souffle with Bailey’s espresso sauce 

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We ate at one of the specialty restaurants on ship one night – Chops Grille – and it was amazing!!! My dinner was the braised short ribs – OMG – I’ll never eat another short rib, again, cause there is no way it will compare to this!!! I could have eaten it with a cheap plastic fork and no teeth……and the flavor was incredible!!!

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We both went for the delicious chilled soups every night…..so good!!!

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Other appetizer choices included this amazing jicama and seafood salad loaded with shrimp, crab, and lobster!

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Succulent lobster wasn’t limited to in port eating – it was served up for dinner on ship one night, too!

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Then, there was the buffets……a huge room full of them with everything and anything you could possibly want to eat!!!

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And, the amazing food wasn’t limited to that available to eat – it was also part of the decoration – these were made with pineapples, carrots, squash, and turnips!!! Imagine that!

Day Eight: We pulled into the home port – Boston – on Sunday, Oct 18th! Again, I was so very impressed at how quickly and smoothly we got through the deboarding, claiming our luggage, and clearing customs process! WOW – so much better than I remember on past cruises!

Neither of us had ever been to Boston, so we considered extending our trip to see some of the sights there…..but, then we discovered there was a shore excursion that picked us up at the ship, took us around the city, and dropped us off at the airport! So, we did that! I’m glad we did – I did enjoy seeing some of the places I’ve heard about in history lessons. But, I was very disappointed in Boston as a whole! It has outgrown its space and continues to grow, but not in a good way…….they continue to tear down existing buildings and put up these massive glass skyscrapers full of condos they sell for millions of dollars! These buildings over shadow the historic buildings and, in some cases, take them over! It is so very sad……I like to see growth and progress in a city – you have to have it to keep up with the times and stay alive…….but, this is just too much! But, even though I found the changes they are going through to be sad and I’ll likely never plan a visit to Boston to further explore it, I am glad we did the tour and enjoyed quite a bit of it!

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The World Trade Center of Boston

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One end of the “big dig” that has taken many years to complete (and parts are still not complete) – this is a multi-lane bridge and the cars go underground as they pass under the bridge our bus was driving across – impressive!

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Downtown Boston

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The very first subway station in North America!

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One of many lovely historic churches

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Beautiful old architecture

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A perfect example of what I think is wrong with what they are doing to the city – here is this amazing church – a beautiful piece of history…..and then right behind it, taking all the attention away from it, is a tall sterile glass building! How sad!!!

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And, then, there are buildings like this……

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……and this, thrown into the mix…..it appears to be a city that doesn’t know what style it wants to be when it grows up!!!

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And then, there’s this……they couldn’t tear down the facade because of its historical significance, so they kept the outside and built a glass skyscraper in the middle of it and up through the roof!!! What??? Seriously???

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But, then you see this……the world’s first public library……not just the first in the US or even North America…..the first in the WORLD!!! How incredible is that???

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And this stunning church beside the library!!! Took my breath away!!!

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When we got out to photograph the library and church, I couldn’t help but be fascinated with these two people on the ground with bags and a large number of pigeons gathered around them!

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And another gorgeous church across from the library!

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I have no idea why this sheep sculpture is out in the water – don’t think they said what it was for – but I thought it was cool, so I’m adding it to my blog!!! Hahaha

So, that was our trip……it was incredible and we had so much fun!!! Next cruise I’m hoping to start planning is a land and sea one to Alaska on Holland America…..one I’ve wanted to do for about 40 years and maybe now I’ll get to go….but, not until sometime in the summer!!!

I’ll leave you with one more photo……and example of the towel animals we found on our beds at night – this one was my favorite!!!

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2014 Blog Review

2014 In just a few short hours, another year will close and a new year will open and breathe new life into us…..bringing with it new adventures, experiences, and memories to blog about. But, before I begin to write about all the exciting topics I know 2015 will inspire me to write about, I thought I might take a look back at what I wrote about in 2014.

It was an active blog year — 73 posts, including this one, which, technically, should be counted as one of the topics I wrote about in 2014. As I skimmed through the year’s blog posts, I discovered something that made me stop and think……I really got into going out and deliberately looking for things to take photos of – mainly because of the Sunday Stills Challenge I participated in and the Wordless Wednesday posts I challenged myself to do. In doing those posts, I found that I really enjoy taking photos and working on making my composition and framing better – just because I use my iPhone to take the pictures doesn’t mean they can’t be GOOD photos!!! Well, about mid year, I stopped both types of posts…..the SS Challenge because the host of that blog ran into technical problems and stopped hosting it for a while and I never started back up when he did……the Wordless Wednesday posts because I tried to make it a challenge other bloggers might join in on, but that made it too “forced” and took all the fun out of it. Regardless of my reasons, I stopped and so did the joy I got from going out and looking for reasons to take photos! So…..I think I am going to get back into that in 2015 – maybe not so structured in an every week sense, but definitely more often and definitely just because “I” want to do it – if I particularly like the Sunday Stills topic, I’ll do that one……if I’m out and about on a Wednesday, you may see a Wordless Wednesday……and, I think I just might put my own spin on a concept I like on a friend’s blog – his is “Nilly Willy Friday” – think mine might be “Mismatched Monday” – the point is to post a few photos that have nothing in common except that they were all taken on the same day by me! We’ll see how it goes and what I might bring you all to enjoy!!!

So……back to my blog review – click on any of the blog titles to go read the posts:

My overall favorite post to write was:

 

DRUM ROLL, PLEASE…….

 

FUN WITH A TUGBOAT CAPTAIN

 

Some of my very favorite photos of the year:

 

 

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Kim and Cathy

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Visit me throughout 2015 to check out my thoughts!

Bus Adventure to Lancaster PA

I have frequently considered trying a bus tour type of trip. One where I could “leave the driving to them”, as well as the planning and figuring out where everything I’d like to see is located. Someone else could determine what the best venues are, where the best food is, and what attractions have the coolest things to do. But……I really enjoy mixing my need to have somewhat structured plans with my love of having the flexibility to be spontaneous and veer off course when something interesting catches my eye. So, I have always opted to leave the bus tours to others and mold my adventures on my own. Also, I had a really bad experience on a bus trip a little over 30 years ago (the one and only time I traveled by bus) that has stuck in the back of my mind and pops up whenever the idea of traveling on a bus even remotely enters the realm of possibility.

Well, I changed all that this past weekend! Several months ago, some friends from church asked me if I wanted to go along with them on a bus tour to Lancaster, PA to see a production of Moses at the Sight and Sound Theater there. It was going to be a two day – one overnight stay – trip down and back, the price seemed reasonable, and I thought it might be fun…….so, the trip was booked…….and, now, it is over and in the memory books!

The trip, in general, was very nice – parts of it was awesome and parts left a lot to be desired, but over all, it was a good adventure and I had a really nice time. I’ll address the parts that fell flat for me, first, because there was much more that was really good and I want to devote the bulk of this post to the good parts!

I have only one “in general” complaint — I felt confined by a really structured itinerary. There was some time when we were “on our own”, but only in the sense that we got off the bus at a location and had a set amount of time to just wander and do what we wanted to do at that location – not that we could go where we wanted or choose to do something different. As we rode around from place to place, I saw several things that I would have stopped to get a closer look at or snap a photo of if I was driving, but couldn’t and that made me sad.

There were two more specific parts that made me wonder if I had made a serious mistake in agreeing to go……and, both were right at the beginning. First – the seating was assigned and REALLY cramped on the bus! It wasn’t long before the lack of leg room made my bad knee start to throb and the lack of elbow room made me feel tense and achy! This went on for the first five and a half hours or so until the first major stop in Lancaster when my friend and I discovered there were empty seats in the back that had a LOT more room and we moved to them and were able to stretch out – we claimed those seats for the rest of the trip!🙂

Speaking of that first major stop in Lancaster…….that was the other part that made me question my decision to go – and it was one of the items on the itinerary that I was really looking forward to! That first stop was at the Rockvale Outlet Mall for shopping and lunch on our own – we had three whole hours there. I looked it up online and got excited about some of the stores – I envisioned putting a huge dent in my Christmas shopping! But, when we got there, we found that it was a HUGE sprawled out place with all outside entrances and several pockets of buildings that weren’t attached – including all of the places to eat. AND…..the weather was not the best for a situation like that – it was cold and drizzly and windy! There were trolleys, but you had to stand and wait outside for them to come around. There were benches, but, again, they were outside in the cold! So, we waited for a trolley (that killed almost 1/2 hour) and went to Bob Evans for lunch – killed as much time as we could there! By then, the sun came out a little and the drizzle stopped, so we thought we’d check out some stores within short walking distance from where we needed to be for the bus. Every store was SUPER crowded – you could barely get in the door of some of them – and the prices were not what I would call “outlet” prices! So, we gave up and went to wait for our time to get back on the bus. I didn’t purchase anything…..all I accomplished was lunch and getting cold and wet! I couldn’t believe that they dropped off a bus load of mostly senior citizens (not all, but a majority) with no means of transportation in bad weather at a place that required so much extensive walking and no place to get inside to sit comfortably if they didn’t want to (or couldn’t) shop! It would have been a very different and likely more enjoyable feature to the trip if it was an indoor mall with seating areas.

So, that was the first half of the first day…….like I said, I was seriously doubting my judgment, here!

But……things began to look up from there! Like I said, the sun started to show itself and we discovered the better seats where we could stretch out and be more comfortable on the bus! So, now that I got the griping out of the way, on to the awesome parts!!!

We arrived at the hotel to find a really nice LaQuinta Inn and a very nice, comfortable room. We changed and went down to go to dinner. Dinner was a group thing that was included in the package. It was a family style dinner at an Amish family owned restaurant called Hometown Kitchen. They put on a full Sunday Dinner type meal – turkey and filling (they call dressing/stuffing “filling”), roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, buttered noodles, peas and carrots, a salad, homemade cranberry jam and strawberry jam, rolls, and dessert! IT….WAS….AMAZING!!!! Surprisingly, the pie wasn’t very good, but everything else was just incredible! We ate until we were stuffed!

Then, the main event for the trip – the Sight and Sound Theater production of Moses! I have no appropriate words for how awesome it was…..is there a good word that trumps AWESOME??? If you’ve never been to a Sight and Sound Theater, you will just have to take my word for it cause I don’t believe I’ve ever been anywhere that compares to it! They only do shows that bring the bible to life and they are located in both Lancaster, PA and Branson, MO. It is a humungous theater with a stage that surrounds the audience on three sides, as well as aisles where the performers also take the action. There was an extremely large cast of very talented actors/singers and lots of animals – REAL animals!!! Egyptians came charging down the aisle on horse drawn chariots or on horse back, Hebrew peasants and others lead camels and herds of sheep and goats, and large beautiful birds (parrots, I presume) flew in over the audience to perch right where they were supposed to be! The voices on the singers were so amazing – what talent they have in their shows! The only complaint I had was that the actor who played Moses didn’t look a bit like Charlton Heston, so he wasn’t very convincing! hehehehe Seriously, the entire cast, sets, animals, costumes, etc. were perfect! I did have one real complaint……not really a complaint, but something that did bother me – I wasn’t crazy about how they had the actors talk in more modern language – at times a little TOO modern for my taste. I realize it was done for the humorous factor and entertainment value, but I thought it took away from the authentication of the story – at times – not throughout! When Moses went to the mountain and God spoke to him, the voice of God bellowed through the theater and it gave me chills! The burning bush and the fiery etching of the Ten Commandments onto the stone tablets brought tears to my eyes! The angel of death flew in from the back of the theater over the audience, did her thing to those children not of houses of God’s followers (as evidence by sheep blood painted on their doors), and then raised way up out of sight……it was heart stopping! Then……there was the parting of the red sea…..I wondered how they were going to make that seem real…..I won’t spoil it for those who may want to go see it, but I will say that the wind whipped through the theater at high speed, rushing through our hair and across our faces, and there was a visual that took my breath away……and the sea was parted so that God’s people could escape down the aisles through the parted sea! From the time Moses was put in the basket by his mother and floated off to sea, to his time in the palace as the Egyptian Pharaoh’s son (taken in by his wife when she found him floating in his basket), to his exile from the palace and return to being a peasant, to his rejection by his Hebrew people, to his work on behalf of his God……it was all so real and awe inspiring! Just incredible! I do have to say that I thought parts of the first half were a tad boring, but not a lot…..and the second half more than made up for it! It was the highlight of the trip!

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Statue of Moses in the lobby of the theater!

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The curtain covering the set designs prior to the start of the show

That was about all the excitement we could take for one day – we went back to the hotel and got some much needed sleep (we left Batavia at 6:00 am…..I was up at 4:00 to be ready to head to the bus by 5:00!)

The next morning we got on the bus at 8:30 after breakfast and a tour guide joined us for a driving tour of the Amish communities. She was very knowledgeable and told us all about their customs and traditions. We drove around the area for a couple of hours and learned so many interesting things about these incredible people. We have Amish and Mennonite communities around here, but not as populated or as strictly traditional as they are in Lancaster County, PA. It was Sunday, so there wasn’t a lot of activity going on – it is worship and family time for them. We also didn’t have any stops where we could get out to take photos, so I only got a few that I took through the window of the bus when it stopped for a brief viewing. But, we did see a gathering for a worship service – they don’t have churches because they worship in the home – each family holds their own worship in their own home and then every other Sunday they all gather at one home for a day of worship, food, and fellowship. They rotate the homes and the host family is responsible for the food for the entire community – they all prepare the same meal so that they don’t feel like they need to compete with each other.  The following two photos are of a worship gathering we came across – you can see some of the buggies parked and (hard to see) some children wandering around by the tree.

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It was also wedding season…..we saw a few houses prepared for wedding festivities – one had temporary additions built on their homes (after the wedding, the additions are taken down and moved to another home needing them for a wedding) and one home had a HUGE tent that will be used to hitch the many horses out of the weather. The following photo is of a cemetery we went by.

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An interesting tidbit of info I learned — young, unmarried Amish girls wear a white mesh apron, once married the apron is put away and kept until it is taken out and placed in the casket with the girl at her funeral. The tour was wonderful……I really enjoyed it a lot! Also, there are a couple hundred one-room school houses in this area – one for each small district or neighborhood community. The Amish always homeschooled their children. Then, at one time, the government told them they had to consolidate all the small district schools and their children had to go to state approved schools, so they accepted that and sent their children to public schools. Then, at some point, there was the removal of the ability to pray in school and the requirement for PE (and the horrible gym uniforms all kids had to wear), so the Amish appealed to the courts to allow them to school their children in their own schools. The courts agreed, so long as they followed state sanctioned curricula and some other stipulations. All agreed and now they school their children in their little one room school houses until the age of 13 – at which time, the courts agreed that their “schooling” can end because they recognize that their “learning” will continue through their work and family life. Interesting!

Then, we stopped at the Intercourse Canning Company – a store that sells canned goods made with authentic Amish recipes canned under the Intercourse Canning Company label and the Jake and Amos label. It is not Amish run, which is why it was open on Sunday. There were samples out and about throughout the store – jams, pickles, beets, chow chows, mustards, dips, soup mixes, and on and on…….I tried just about everything and bought several items that I fell in love with!

We then traveled to Lewisburg, PA to stop at the Country Cupboard for lunch and shopping. Great food and lots of beautiful things to look at. I didn’t purchase anything, but really enjoyed the lunch and the browsing!

And, then we were homeward bound!

So……that was my latest adventure!!! Despite the questionable start of the trip, it was a great time and I really did enjoy it! I wish I had the opportunity to venture out a little more and had more chances to get some good photos, but C’est la vie……. I hope to make a trip back to Lancaster County, PA in the future – next time I will drive and take my time to see more of the local interests and less of the bigger commercialized attractions. Until then, this was a great little taste of a very interesting area and a truly inspiring production of one of the great Bible stories!