Disney Trip Review!

Disney Trip Review!

Last weekend, I took advantage of my Annual Pass and Rosh Hashanah being on Monday and Tuesday (here in NYC we are out for that and Yom Kippur, and our Spring Break is over Passover) and took a trip to Disney! I plan these trips with the SOOOOOOOOO patient Jacki York who is an agent with MEI-Mouse Fan Travel who puts up with all my indecisiveness and changing of where I want to stay. Seriously, Jacki is the best!!

So! Friday, one of my colleagues gave me a ride to JFK, and since I had a lot of time (I don’t trust the subways to NOT have issues if I decide to go home and back) I treated myself to a day pass to the Admirals Club and hung out there until it was time to head towards my gate and get ready to board. I’d requested an upgrade to First Class, but it didn’t come through. But at least now American gives free wine/beer/alcohol to their Premium Economy (or whatever it’s called – the coach seats you pay more for…every carrier has its own name for that). The cockpit was not super communicative until we’d been sitting – just sitting – for a while and at that point were told it could be an hour until we took off. It ended up being a little less when we started moving and it was pretty clear we were going to take off. According to a friend who is into these kind of things, we had to reroute around some weather (pre-Florence, so that wasn’t it), so perhaps they were planning out the new route with ATC and that caused the delay. At any point we finally landed and I booked it to Disney’s Magical Express.

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The bus looked fairly full, but we still sat for about half an hour – and then Port Orleans French Quarter was the 4th of 5 stops. So it was about 1:30-1:45 when I got to the lobby building. I needed to stop at the desk to decline housekeeping (at Value and Moderate resorts at Disney you can decline housekeeping for an e-gift card for $10/night minus 1 night! Your room will likely get a security check if you do, but since I’m in the parks or out all day, that doesn’t bother me.), so it was closer to 2 when I got to my room.

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I had requested top floor and a corner room, and both of my requests were met! Granted, I was in the furthest from the lobby building, but French Quarter is a small resort, so it’s not that long. It felt long at 2am though!

I quickly unpacked and got things set for the next day – I just felt better doing that, and I’d already decided to not try and get up for Passholder Play Time at Toy Story Land, so I knew I had a little more sleep time in the morning.

When Winnie the Pooh gave me my wake-up call, I got ready and headed to the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory (the food court for the resort) for breakfast and made two happy discoveries…

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Halloween refillable mugs AND the fact that they could do the pumpkin spice beignets gluten-free!!

I had decided to play “bus roulette” on Saturday. This is something that puts fear into the Disney planning people who don’t think you can do Disney without making all your plans 180 days in advance for dining reservations and 60 days in advance for Fast Passes if you’re staying on property. When you play bus roulette, you go out to the bus stops (this pretty much only works at Moderate or Deluxe resorts as Values have the busses corralled for each separate park while Moderate/Deluxe have one or two covered areas to wait (some moderates have more than one stop for all busses – then there is usually one shelter per stop) for the buses. You go and see which one comes first! For me, I’d decided I’d limit it a bit between Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom. As luck would have it, French Quarter, which has only one bus stop for the resort, has two shelters side by side, and AK is at one and MK at the other. So I stood in between the shelters and waited. Soon, I saw my fate for the day…

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I got on and looked for Fast Passes once we were off, and I actually found one for Na’vi River Journey! It was clearly meant to be!

When we got there, my first stop was one of the shops where a friend had told me they had the rainbow ears!

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Ears goals accomplished, I headed to Dinoland because I wanted to meet the characters out for Donald’s Dino Blast! They were precious! Especially Chip and Dale!

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I rode Primeval Whirl and wandered the Maharajah Jungle Trek where I got to see one of the “baby” tigers (who had his mouth open to cool off as it was hot).

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Then I headed to Pandora!

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I went to get lunch at Satu’li Canteen (best counter service place on property!!)

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Rode Na’vi River Journey and then decided to get in the “only” 80 minute line for Flight of Passage (Best. Ride. Ever.) – and managed to miss most of the rain while I was in the line (also? best themed queue ever – and you miss it ALL when you Fast Pass it) and on the ride. I went and did the Safari and saw a LOT of animals

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I did see a lot more, but my cat had apparently turned on my camera one night at home when he jumped on that shelf as the battery died two pictures into my walk to breakfast that morning.

I was pretty tired at this point, so I opted to head back to the resort where I had some jambalaya

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and got some gluten-free beignets with chicory-coffee ganache dipping sauce to take back to the room. I watched Naomi Osaka win the US Open, then I took a bath, set my wake-up call, and went to bed.

Sunday I woke up and headed to breakfast where I opted for gluten-free Mickey Waffles…with that chicklry-coffee ganache sauce! Yummy!

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I headed to wait for the Magic Kingdom bus where I was going to meet up with Seth and Matt! It’s all Halloween-ified now and so cute!!

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They got there and we did some rides (Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, and the Jungle Cruise) and then headed over to meet Stitch…

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They got some LeFou’s Brew at Gaston’s Tavern, and I got a Peter Pan Float (lime soft serve in Sprite with a chocolate feather) at Storybook Treats

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I made a bathroom stop and got pictures with The Great Goofini and The Amazing Donaldo

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Met Seth and Matt in the gift shop (I’d texted them I was detouring on my way back when I saw the super short wait time for the characters), then we rode Dumbo

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We wandered a bit and rode the Little Mermaid ride and It’s A Small World and then it was finally time to wander over to use our Fast Passes for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I somehow without knowing where the cameras were managed to look like I was in an ad for the ride…

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Then we went to Skipper Canteen for lunch where I got the GLUTEN FREE fried chicken (called “Tastes Like Chicken, Cause It Is!” on the menu)!!

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Then it was sadly time to say good-bye to Seth and Matt. 😦

I got my bag out of my locker and changed into my “Disney Bounding” costume for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party – loosely bounding as Moana. I knew from reports that her line would get LONG, so I headed over to that area and was 3rd in the unofficial line (that quickly turned into THE line – we just waited about an hour before we were led through the queue to get officially lined up. She was super friendly.

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Next stop: Elvis Stitch. He was good and did not try to eat Pua.

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I did some trick-or-treating (I got both regular stuff – which I sorted through and left the things I couldn’t eat in the laundry room at the resort – and allergy-friendly tokens), rode Pirates of the Caribbean, got snacks at Pecos Bill’s – Hades Nachos and Worms and Dirt – both safe for me

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I walked around for a bit and rode Peter Pan – where again I missed most of the rain storm in the queue. It was still raining, so my sandals got wet – and the total flatness of them was beginning to make my feet hurt, so I decided to go back to the locker and change back into my other outfit. I stopped on Main Street during some wandering for a Magic Shot

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And then it was time to watch Hallowishes (the fireworks show for the party) and get my spot for the Boo to You Parade!

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Then it was back to the room for some sleep!

Monday morning I got up and showered quickly and ate something in the room before heading for the bus stop to get to Magic Kingdom for my Keys to the Kingdom tour!! We got admitted early along with the people with pre-park opening dining reservations. This is super cool, because you can get the coveted “castle with no one in the shot” picture!!

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So pretty!!!!!

I got some coffee (a Cinderella Latte, of course)

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And went to check in for my tour. No pictures were allowed, and I’m not going to spoil anything for you (yes, we learned how they do the Haunted Mansion ballroom scene), but I really recommend this tour! You learn a lot, and it does NOT kill the magic!

Once we were done with the tour, I headed out to get the bus to Animal Kingdom.

Started things off with Flight of Passage via Fast Pass. This ride takes my breath away every single time! And this time I was in one of the theaters that exits through the hallway where you can see this AMAZING touch

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The handprints of James Cameron, Jon Landau, and Joe Rohde who were the primary creators of Pandora, Land of Avatar and the attractions, especially Flight of Passage!

I did the Safari again where I got to see the baby giraffe

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A common eland who decided to decorate his antlers…

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Elephants – including baby Stella

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A zebra

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The sleepy male lion

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And a white rhino who had taken a mud bath

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But BEST was the Scimitar-horned Oryx!!!!

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Even our driver – who does this route all day every working day – was amazed that we saw him!! SHE hardly ever sees him!!

I wandered a little, rode some things, got dinner at Reataurantosaurus, and caught this AMAZING sunlight on the Tree of Life

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Then it was time to check into the Rivers of Light Dessert Party! Of course, because severe weather was predicted, they had moved it to the Flame Tree Barbecue area – on the other side of the lake, but that’s ok…more steps. I got there and got checked in. One of the cast members escorted me around to show me what I could have being gluten-free and tell me what they had separately that they could get me. I was VERY well taken care of – and it was MUCH better than the Happily Ever After dessert party for me being gluten-free.

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We also got Mickey bars if we wanted them (I did get one later). I could have had more of anything I wanted, and the drink (Tiger Lily – alcoholic) was awesome!! There were a couple of offerings I opted to not have. And the manager kept checking on me, asking me if I was ok with what was offered, etc. It was still drizzly when it was time for them to escort us over for the show, so they gave us all ponchos! And we were encouraged to go back for more after the show! So cool!! It’s pricey – $79 I think – and it would be nice if they included a ride and/or some take-away like the Illuminations and Star Wars dessert parties do – but I was exceedingly happy that I had actually good desserts and not just obviously refrigerated Erin McKenna stuff or ice cream like at HEA.

And the show is beautiful.

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After the show and a stop for another drink and some water, I headed back to the resort where I packed up, took a hot bath, and got in bed.

Too early, Winnie the Pooh called me again, and it was time to go and catch the Tragical Express (pretty much everyone’s term for the Magical Express on departure day). I was hoping to be able to get some beignets before I had to be out front and that area was open at 6, but apparently the chefs don’t get there until 7 or so. When the cast member (who did not seem like she wanted to be there) finally noticed that she had a line, I asked for gluten-free beignets and she sighed and said “Give me a few minutes. I’ll need to see if the chef is even here. And then it’ll be a while.” I told her to forget it. That was my only negative experience with needing gluten-free food this whole trip. So if you’re gluten-free and have to catch the Tragical Express before 7:30 at the earliest (so you’d have time to eat), get something the night before that you can eat in your room because they clearly aren’t going to want to accommodate that early.

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The flight home I ended up with my upgrade to First Class, which was a nice surprise! Other than that it was uneventful. I got home and started getting ready for my next week (three-days only!) with the kids at school!

It was a quick and busy, but wonderful trip! Again, Jacki was amazing with all my changes to resorts (at least 4, maybe 5?), and I’ll be using her for all my future travel needs!! Thanks Jacki!!

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Finding my way home

Finding my way home

Literally as long as I can remember church has been a part of my life. When I was born, my dad was the senior high youth minister at a large United Methodist Church in Houston, TX. We moved a few times throughout my childhood, but Daddy’s job was always in a local church or to do with something on a more national church level. Unless we were sick, skipping church was not an option.

I started going to a week-long church camp every summer from the time I was a rising 4th grader until I was a rising 9th grader. I didn’t want to go after that because that group, that week was the pinnacle of what it could be. We got so close so quickly and shared so much…anything after that would have been a let down.

I went through Confirmation Class when I was in 6th Grade – I might not have been a hundred percent sure about things, but in the back of my head, I worried about how it would look if I didn’t go through with it. I mean, part of me wanted to, but part of me was not sure. Still, I enjoyed the activities and my leaders in youth group, and I loved singing in youth choir – so I stayed.

Until we got a new youth director who made a lot of changes. Granted, part of those – specifically the senior highs needing new counselors (the couple who had been our counselors for a few years split up and neither remained with us even as an individual) – were not his fault. But rather than bringing in people from church who knew us, knew what we were about, and who we would have at least known, he brought in friends of his who…well, today we’d call them “crunchy” in a very ironic way. Looking back, I’m not sure if they even had any kind of faith background. But basically I didn’t like the way things were going, and I fussed. And fussed. And finally got permission to go home after choir. The first Sunday everyone was like “Where are you going?” and I said “I don’t have to stay. I get to leave after choir now!” The next week, a lot more people left after choir.

We moved right after I graduated high school, and for the first time we got to choose a church rather than just going where Daddy was working. I had some input, but I let my parents and sister make the decision because I was leaving for college and they were the ones who’d be there week after week. I was happy with where we chose.

In college, I didn’t have a car, so if I wanted to “do church” my options were walking to the little United Methodist Church near the campus (that lasted a whole week – I brought the median age to around 75 (maybe), and they had a tiny electric (read: non-pipe) organ), riding with a friend to a Baptist Church (no thanks…I like to be able to have a voice and a brain as a woman), or just doing the Student Christian Association meetings on campus (which is what I did up until Senior year when I just quit that because I wasn’t comfortable with the direction it was going).

After college, I moved home for a bit and started going to the church we’d decided on. I was singing in the adult choir and enjoyed that. I was in a young adult Sunday School class and it was ok, but it was quickly turning into a “Couples on one side, Singles on the other” kind of thing, so soon I was only going for choir. And then even that became an internal struggle for me.

Mom and Daddy and I had a long talk, and they both said that if I wanted to look at other churches, I was welcome to. I knew what I didn’t want – that was easy. I knew that I was attracted to the rituals and liturgy in the Roman Catholic church, but I wasn’t comfortable with all the restrictions and regulations – especially around my body and choices that should be mine. I vaguely remembered going to Ash Wednesday service with a friend on my college campus early in the morning – it was done by an Episcopal priest. I remembered liking that, so I went to an Episcopal Church one Sunday. It was moving in the right direction, but not quite. The next, I went to another and found my home.

I went through their catechism class and was confirmed April 15, 1995. (Because the United Methodist Church doesn’t do confirmation by a bishop, I was confirmed rather than received.) I became very involved in my church in Nashville – helping with the catechism class and doing some other things. And within a couple of years I found myself looking at seminary.

Not for ordination. I was pretty clear that my path was not that (even if I’d been clear, the bishop in Tennessee at that time was not really 100% on board with women’s ordination). But a lay theology degree and doing something like Christian Education or Youth Ministry? That felt right. I looked at some options, including General Theological Seminary in NYC. When I came to visit that, I stayed with my priest’s daughter and we went to her church – a church in the Chelsea area of New York City. A friend from my church in Nashville had moved to NYC and went there also.

Ultimately I decided on Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, VA. I had a 2-year program which included an “internship” at a church where I largely worked with the youth program. My first job out of seminary was at a church in Raleigh, NC – my first priority was righting the youth program which had pretty much gone off the rails due to a disastrous attempt at a curriculum which, while amazing, needed to be implemented in a specific, prayerful, and timely way. I loved those kids, and the cumulation of my time with them was a mission trip to Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

Because I really wanted to focus on Youth Ministry, and that church needed someone to do Children as well and wanted my focus to shift a bit from the Youth program, I had a long talk with the rector and got his blessing to look at other possible jobs. Which led me to a church outside Chicago, IL. In addition to that church I was very involved in the Diocesan Youth Ministry activities and made some very good friends. Unfortunately due to budget issues that position ended.

Another job search ensued and I landed at a United Methodist Church in the Northern Virginia area. And ultimately that turned out to not be a good fit either for myself or for the church – part of which could have been avoided had the search committee more accurately reflected the congregation.

At that point I found a job at KinderCare and Starbucks and just avoided church for a while. Twice burned (even if one was strictly budgetary) made me pretty hesitant to go back. But slowly things started becoming clear – personally (sexuality-wise) as well as church-wise, and I decided to go to a parish in DC that I’d visited before and liked. As it turned out, thanks to the Metro I was getting out of the subway closest to it just after service had started. I’m weird in that I don’t like walking in late to service. I’d looked online and knew there was another Episcopal church in the same area, and their service started later. I could make it!

I walked in and discovered that an acquaintance from seminary – she graduated my first year – was the rector there! It did not take long for me to feel at home there and become involved.

Then I was accepted into the Teaching Fellows program in NYC and knew I’d be moving. One of my first priorities was to find a church home, so I pretty much immediately started visiting around. I liked some that I visited, but nothing really clicked. I got a postcard from the contingency from St. Bart’s in the Pride march and investigated them. Their daytime service was a little too “corporate” for me, but they had this evening service that was a lot more experimental and I loved it. That became home for a while. Until the priest in charge of that service got a job in San Francisco and that service was going on hiatus – with no foreseeable restart date. I tried the morning services again, but they just never felt right. So it was time to explore again.

And I found my way to the same little parish I’d visited back when I was looking at seminaries – Holy Apostles. And found home. I loved the people there. I loved the music, the liturgy, the whole ethos of the place. And then some changes in clergy happened and home didn’t feel so much like home. It didn’t feel horrible, but it wasn’t the same, and it was different enough it just wasn’t right for me.

So I quit church again for a while. Until Easter a few years ago when I felt like I wanted – no, needed to find a place. Things were still pretty much the same where I had been, so that was a no-go. Maybe go back to the United Methodist Church? I knew about the Reconciling Ministries Network through my dad, so I went to their website and found a few member churches in the NYC area. One I liked their Taize service during the week, but not so much their Sunday service. One was too far away for me to reliably be able to get there.

One felt ok…not a perfect fit, but I thought maybe I could figure out a way to make it comfortable. I liked the clergy, and I liked most of the people I met. I really tried – I got involved on a couple of committees, did some special events…but something never really felt right. More and more I was leaving worship wondering if I’d been at a worship service or a political rally. Not that I don’t think churches have a place in social justice issues – I 100% do. But I also don’t believe that worship should be specifically about that. Committees, non-Sunday meetings, etc. are one thing – even bringing a bit of current events into the sermon…but not make it the whole sermon. It’s hard to explain – it was just too much “look how progressive we are” and too little “we worship to equip ourselves to go out and be warriors for justice”. Does that make sense? It just didn’t feel right for me as a church home.

And so…I left. Didn’t go anywhere for a while. And then one day I found myself walking by an Episcopal church where i knew the rector. Started going there and really tried…but it just never felt welcoming other than by the clergy. I found myself going there less and less often and going to TaeKwonDo more and more often on Sundays.

And on weekends when the dojang was closed?

I found myself going back to that Episcopal church I’d been at the longest in NYC. That first one I’d visited so long ago. The other one where I was technically still a member had an evening service that I liked…but I found myself skipping it more often than not, using the excuse that I was tired and needed to get ready for school the next day.

Then Easter approached this year, and I really felt drawn to go to an Easter Vigil…and went back to Holy Apostles. And went on Easter. And with some thought and prayer, I knew by the Sunday after Easter that I was back home. Got the “reactivate” button clicked so I’m official.

We have a new rector, who I really like. And I really like the other clergy. But I’ve learned through all my wandering that it’s not about them. It can’t be. It’s about the people in the congregation, the way you’re accepted and loved and drawn in. The way you become family. It’s…home.

In a couple of months, we’ll have our annual visit by the bishop. At that service there will possibly be confirmations or receptions (people from the Roman Catholic Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and I think the Eastern Orthodox Church who have been confirmed in their tradition are received), and there is the possibility of reaffirmation on a personal level. Technically every time there is a baptism or at certain other services, we all renew our baptismal vows, but this would be more on an individual level. I’m prayerfully considering doing this – I’ll likely email our rector and associate and talk with them about it.

But after all my wandering, it’s kind of feeling like a right decision. A way to definitively say to all “I’m home.”

Greek Isles Cruise completed – Sea Day

Greek Isles Cruise completed – Sea Day

We ended the cruise with a sea day back to Rome.

The sea was pretty calm in the morning when I woke up…
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My friend and I went to breakfast in the MDR where I had strawberries and banana and gluten-free French toast…
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I headed to the bow of the ship on Deck 5 (where the helipad is) for sailing through the Strait of Messina. This is the small section of water between Sicily and the toe of Italy’s boot. As you’re sailing North, there is a whirlpool (we could not see it from the ship, but it exists) on the port side (left) which the ancient Greeks called Charybdis and the landform on the right which the Greeks said was Scylla – a monster who would destroy ships sailing too close to her lair to avoid Charybdis. She was turned to a monster by Circe because of jealousy. And in the novel I was reading (see last post), Circe used her witchcraft to turn Scylla to stone which became the formation that is there. It is still not an easy passage to navigate, and a pilot must board any ship going through the Strait.
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I had some lunch in the buffet, then found a spot on Deck 5 to sit and read. This is one of my favorite spots on any ship – give me a deck chair on the promenade deck with a book and I am a happy camper! (Well, as long as I can be on the non-smoking side of the ship – Royal seems to LOVE to do maintenance and cleaning on the non-smoking side on every sea day, which is annoying as all get out as I’d rather not expose myself to nasty smoke when I’m trying to relax.)

I saw a flashing and noticed a pod of dolphin leaping next to the ship. I missed the bigger group, but did catch the little trailing one…
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There… On the far right…

See??
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We passed this island, which made me think of Moana…
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After dinner it was sunset…
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And then watching the Croatia v. Russia soccer game – and rooting for Croatia in that game. ABR!!!!

The next morning we did breakfast, then waited for our number to be called for debarkation. Found the shuttle to the front of the port and then took the shuttle to the train station and the train to FCO. I grabbed a taxi to my hotel in Fiumicino (do yourself a favor…just pay for shuttle service to FCO from Rome…there is NOTHING in Fiumicino) and my friend flew to Copenhagen.

All in all it was a great trip. I learned I’m more a solo traveler, which is fine. We are still speaking to each other. Haha!

I’m not sure I’ll cruise on RCCL again. I feel like things have gone downhill a bit since I last cruised Brilliance 2 years ago. But Greece is definitely on my “revisit” list!!

Greek Isles Cruise continued – Katakolon (Olympia)

Greek Isles Cruise continued – Katakolon (Olympia)

I had opted to pre-order gluten-free pancakes for breakfast in the MDR (I can only do so much bacon and eggs…well, more so much eggs – I’m always down for some bacon!!), so I headed there. My head server gave me the menu to look at if there was anything else I wanted – I decided to order strawberries and banana. I thought that maybe they would be in a dish together, but…

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The berries were sliced. I saved about half of them for my pancakes. I neglected to take a picture of the pancakes. They were good…but VERY cake-y. I had to ask for more syrup to help make them a little more moist. But they were ok.

Soon, we were pulling into Katakolon – which is a little fishing village that is about 30 minutes away from Olympia, the original site of the Olympic Games. I went out on the balcony to watch the activity in the Bridge.
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The buses were all lined up and ready for the excursions…
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We went to the theater to get our number sticker and head out for “Olympia On Your Own”!

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My friend wanted to hit the restroom first. The line was HUGE as there were a couple of tours who had gotten there ahead of us. I said I was going to go ahead and head into the site, and that was fine. We’d meet up later.

The ruins were generally not as well marked as at the Acropolis, and I’d accidentally left my copy of the walking tour I’d found, so I just wandered and looked most of the time.

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This was the “gymnasium”.
There were so many things that all ran together, I was pretty mad at myself for forgetting the paper. But it was still cool to see everything.

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This was a bathhouse. It was probably the most complete building.

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I did find this beautiful cat…
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Soon, I wandered my way to the Stadium entrance…
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It was pretty cool to see the original starting line! Even though I don’t run anymore (unless they make us run around the mats at the dojang), it was pretty cool to put my foot on that line.
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A lot of families were doing “races”
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(The kid in the hat clearly does not want to, while dad is pointing to the spot where the kid needs to be. Haha!!)

The Olympic Flame is kindled to begin the torch relay before every Games at the Altar of Hera. This is her temple…
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You’d think that the altar would be something elaborate. Like
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This.

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Or this.

But nope.
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This little roped off area? That’s the Altar of Hera! Pretty cool though!!

Then I wandered to the Temple of Zeus. This was the centerpiece of the grounds.
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The cross-sections were HUGE! I had someone take my picture next to one. I’m 5ft 6, and at least a foot of this section was underground! So that gives you an idea of how big this temple was…
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I finished here and went to the museum – it was crowded and hard to take pictures there.

After that, I wandered the little town.
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I found a pharmacy at the other end of the street and went in to ask about some Benadryl cream – or something that would help with bug bites. The pharmacist’s English was only slightly better than my Greek (I could probably recite The Lord’s Prayer in Koine Greek (with a Taiwanese accent) if I really had to – thanks Virginia Theological Seminary!), but I showed her my leg and she said “Ah! This!” and sold me a tube of cream for 4.50 euro. Everything on the box and instructions were in Greek, but she said “Two or three times day”…and it did help a lot, so hooray!!

Closer to the bus park, there was a beach volleyball tournament going on. No apparent charge, so I wandered down…
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Back on board the ship, I treated myself to a drink of the day…a margarita azul (which is a margarita with blue curaçao)

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Dinner was chicken parmesan. Interestingly with mashed potatoes. That is how it was served to everyone…not just gluten-free kids like me.

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Our towel animal that night was a ray.
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The funny part about it was I was in the process of reading Circe by Madeline Miller, and had just read about when she went to visit Trygon, the great ray of the ocean, and asked for his tail to make a spear for her son Telegonus to protect himself. Our cabin steward had no way of knowing that since the book was on my nook, so it was one of those weird coincidences!

Greek Isles Cruise continued – Athens

Greek Isles Cruise continued – Athens

The day dawned bright and early…though we were aware well before dawn as we could hear the thrusters firing as we docked around 4:30 or 5am.

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The port of Piraeus in the early morning light.

After a quick breakfast in the Windjammer, we headed to the theater to get our number sticker for the “Athens On Your Own” excursion. (As an aside, it always makes me laugh how they give you this advice for avoiding theft, and the biggest thing they say is “Don’t look like a tourist” yet the first thing they do is give you a bright sticker to slap on yourself. For the On Your Own tours, I pop it in my lanyard case (the lanyard goes in my bag as soon as we’re on the bus/boat) to show if necessary.) We followed the crew member with the numbered lollipop who handed us off to our local guide, and we were off.

The drive took a while because of morning traffic, but soon we were in Athens, and off to the left we got our first glimpse of the Acropolis…
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It’s hard for me to put into words how excited I was to see the Acropolis – and specifically the Parthenon – in person. I largely grew up in Nashville, TN which has the nickname “The Athens of the South” because of all the educational institutions in and directly around it. Nashville is also home to the only full-sized replica of the Parthenon. During the state’s Centennial celebration, it was constructed of paper mâché as part of a whole exhibition thing, but it proved so popular, it was decided to construct it out of Tennessee granite and make it permanent. In 1990, a re-creation of the Athena Parthenos statue was commissioned and added to Nashville’s Parthenon. (The original was stolen and destroyed in Late Antiquity, the Nashville one is based on information about the original, the artist’s knowledge of the sculpture and culture of that time period, and his interpretation of those.) So to be able to see the original Parthenon… It was super exciting!!

Our guide showed us where we should meet her, pointed out a nice coffee place and a good taverna, showed us where the line for the Acropolis tickets was as well as how to get to some other places, and turned us loose. We joined the long – and VERY slow moving – line…
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It was hot, and there was very little shade once we rounded the corner. There were a few licensed guides (they have to wear a distinctive ID, so you know they are ok) offering tours – you paid the cost of the ticket for the Acropolis (20 euro) and a tour fee. We passed on the first offer without asking how much the tour was, but by the time the second guy came around we decided to find out how much the tour was and if it was reasonable, we’d pay it and lose the guide along the way. He was offering the tour for 10 euro, and we decided it was worth it (totally was…the best 10 euro I spent the whole trip) and got our tickets for 30 euro each. As it turns out, “losing” this guide was even easier because he was not done selling tickets for that group, so he gave us the tickets and told us to meet him at an umbrella he pointed out. As luck would have it, the umbrella was right next to the entrance turnstiles. So we just kept going through the turnstiles and began our journey. (Hint: Don’t ask the guide “What happens if we don’t want the tour?” because he will say “Then you stay in this line.” and not sell you the ticket. Woman in front of us did that. Just decide what you’re willing to pay, buy the ticket/tour, and go. IF the guide keeps/takes you with him/her, it is crowded enough along the path that you can easily lose them.)

I’ll just let the pictures speak (mostly)…
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Theater of Dionysos

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Temple of Asklepios

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This sign made me laugh. Apparently even the archaeologists aren’t positive what it is.

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The Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Please don’t call it “Yanni’s Theater” – they don’t like that!

That’s where I got swept up in the middle of a crowd and lost my friend. We each figured either we’d meet up on top or just meet on the bus at our return time (2:10pm). It was crowded from here on up to the top.
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FINALLY I could see light at the end of the sea of people…
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A few more steps, and there it was…
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There are other things up there too…
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But the Parthenon is what had me most excited…
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We also saw Hadrian’s Arch…
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We named the pigeon sitting there in the middle arch Hadrian because he would NOT leave.

And the Temple of Olympian Zeus
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Keeping it Disney, we saw an ad for Incredibles 2 on a tour bus…
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We had lunch at the taverna – I could do the rolled grape leaves because the filling was rice and meat – which is where there was some biting bug in my chair (only I didn’t know that until later that evening). But the food was good. Grabbed a coffee at the coffee shop, and then met up with our guide to take the bus back to the port.

We watched them cast off the lines and sailed out of the port of Piraeus heading to Katakolon.

Greek Isles Cruise continued – Mykonos

Greek Isles Cruise continued – Mykonos

Mykonos day!

The morning dawned bright on “New Port” where we got the docked spot (other ships in that day had to tender).
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Went to the theater to meet up for my excursion. We headed out and loaded up in the bus and were off. First we did a scenic island drive and stopped at “Shirley Valentine’s Beach” – actually Agios Ioannis (St. John’s) Beach, but everyone calls it Shirley Valentine’s Beach because there was apparently a movie where someone named Shirley Valentine went to Mykonos and I guess a “poignant part of the movie” is filmed here.
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We could see Delos – mythical birthplace of Apollo and his twin sister Artemis across the water.
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Then we headed to the little village of Ano Mera to tour the monastery.
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This is the icon that legend has it was given to Mykonos by the sea. The faces have worn away. The rest of it has been gilded with silver. The things hung on it are thank you from people who offered them in exchange for some prayer request from the Virgin.

I am a huge theological geek, so I took a TON of pictures of the church. I will spare you. (I mean, I’m editing all the pics in this, but this one especially.)

We then went to a taverna for mezes (appetizers) and Ouzo.
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I could eat everything but the bread (and hence cheese spread) and meatballs.
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Ouzo is clear unless you add water or ice. It is YUMMY!

I did some shopping at a cute little store – the owner and worker were super sweet and so happy to talk to me about Mykonos and Greece! After a little free time, we boarded the bus and headed back.

We got back to the ship, and I dropped off my purchases, then decided to get a ticket on the Sea Bus (4 euro round trip) into Mykonos Town.
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Some pictures of Mykonos Town
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Mykonos is famous for the windmills. They no longer have the sails on them because they were constantly having to be replaced, but they are still iconic and pretty!
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And then it was back to the ship for dinner and another glorious sunset at sea…
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Greek Isles Cruise continued – Santorini

Greek Isles Cruise continued – Santorini

The first full day was a sea day – just water all around. Well, we did go through the Straight of Messina (the small bit of water between the toe of Italy’s boot and Sicily) – but I have better pictures on the return trip.

Then it was Santorini day!! The morning was a sea day, and we had a late departure. It was a tender port – meaning we were not at a dock but anchored off shore and shuttled to shore in small local boats. Because people not on ship-based excursions want to get off ASAP, they do tickets for tender boats for the first 2 hours – after that no tickets needed, it’s just first come, first served. My experience with tender tickets for Kotor was a clusterfuck, so while I had an excursion and as such did not need a tender ticket, I headed up to the pool deck to see how it went this time.
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It was amazingly organized! I was a little worried about the clump at the front, but it turned out they had ropes up with some switchbacks so it was organized in spite of looking like a clump.

Soon, we were able to start seeing land. This is looking back (and zoomed in) on Oia (pronounced EE-ah)…
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And here we are, anchored off Thira (aka Fira)…
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I went to the meeting point for my excursion, we headed to our tender boat, and we were off!
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This was the boat – a kaiki – that we took to get to Nea Kameni, the volcanic island in the middle of the caldera. (When she had a massive eruption between 1642 and 1540 BCE, it created the caldera, destroyed the city of Akrotiri, the island that is now Santorini, and the coast of Crete…and is thought by some to be what destroyed and lost forever the mythic city of Atlantis.)
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After some discussion (loud discussion) between the captain and our guide (apparently there were more people than originally scheduled and that required a different permit?) we were allowed to board and we were off.
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The captain was pretty much exactly my image of a Greek sea captain…
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We pulled up to Nea Kameni…right next to another boat that was docked. A line was fed through that boat’s rails to tie up, and we walked across that boat to land.
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Apparently that’s how it’s done in Greece.

After getting a map, a return time of 3:30, and some instructions…
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…we were set free to hike the trails at our own pace.

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She is not extinct – indeed there is monitoring equipment all over the island. Her last eruption was in 1950, and there is some thought that she is due for another big eruption in the possibly not-so-distant future. There are sulfur vents around, and this was one of them. You smelled it before you saw it.

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My (very bad) attempt at imitating Diana’s stance on the cliff just before diving off in Wonder Woman…
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I really wish I had gone back down a small but steep hill to get the other angle on this equipment, because from behind, it looked just like Wall-E…
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I finished hiking on Nea Kameni, and headed back to our boat – again, climbing over another boat to get there.

After a very hot and sweaty change into my bathing suit in the small and not ventilated bathroom on the ship, I treated myself to some diet Coke.
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We headed to the hot springs. The brown water is not silty but made that shade from the sulfur jets which heat it.
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We all jumped in and swam to the springs. I liked it better in the cooler water though…
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After getting changed again, I treated myself to a Malibu and diet.
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After getting back to Santorini, we got passes for the cable car up and back, so I headed up to Thira…
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The view was amazing!
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Donkeys are an option to go up, but many people don’t like it because of the treatment of them.
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The streets are super narrow…
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I bought some souvenirs from this shop…
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The line to the cable car was RIDICULOUS and not super organized, so I decided to walk down the 587 stairs.
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After finally getting some food and hydration in me (“open seating” on the ship meant that I did not have my regular serving team, and it took the team I had forever to locate my pre-order (being gluten-free, I pre-ordered my dinners each night) in spite of me giving them all the information they could possibly need – lesson learned: if I am ever on a RCCL ship again and there is open seating, I will just go to the buffet that night), I watched the sunset. Santorini sunsets are about as famous as Key West sunsets.
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It was a great day!!