Monday, April 29, 2013

You know you're close to vacation when...

you start dreaming about espadrilles...

I don't even own a pair of espadrilles and would probably never think to buy them, yet they sure did show up in my dreams this morning.

I'm also within the window of reading weather forecasts in Italy with some accuracy.  Looks like the weather will be better in Venice a week from today than it is in North Carolina this morning.  I can't believe it's time for another trip.  I hope I can adapt to less frequent travels in the coming years.  Well, I guess I'll have to adapt somehow... I just hope it's not too difficult.  I really love traveling, especially in Europe.  I learn something new with every trip.

I'm also hoping that the cruise is lovely.  Most SeaDream cruises are excellent, of course, but you never know what kinds of people will be onboard.  Hopefully there won't be a lot of obnoxious folks who take over or little kids who snorkel in the hot tub.  SeaDream is a very adult line, but some people feel it's still appropriate to bring their kids, even though there's nothing for their kids to do.  I would think most normal kids would be bored silly on a SeaDream cruise.

I'm glad we're doing this trip in May.  It's the shoulder season, so maybe the crowds won't be too much, the weather won't be too hot, and the kids will still be in school...

I also hope that the dogs do okay at the kennel and we don't get any frantic emails about them.  And I hope the flights aren't too annoying.  I dread the flights the most.  

Yesterday, I told Bill that I was going to change my nightgown (I never did get dressed yesterday) and take a shower.  I then lamented about how lazy I am.  Sweet Bill looked at me and said, "Don't worry.  It's dark outside.  Besides, you need to rest because we're about to go on vacation."  One of my friends said she knew why I love him so much...  The fact that he spoils me rotten is just one of many excellent reasons.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Getting really close...

In a week, we'll be within a couple of days of boarding a plane to Venice.  I've been hearing a lot of horror stories about flight delays because of the government's failure to pass the budget.  Hopefully, that won't be an issue for us.

SeaDream II, which had been on a transatlantic cruise from Barbados, was a couple of days into its journey across the Atlantic when someone got hurt.  So they turned around and went back to Barbados, so the woman could get medical care.  The ship is now behind schedule, so those who were scheduled to be on the first European cruise will have their trips shortened by four nights.  This doesn't affect me, but it does affect one poster on Cruise Critic, who said he'd just decided to cancel.

If Bill and I were in that fix, we would probably just go anyway and fuck around in Europe.  We can easily entertain ourselves there and SeaDream is no doubt going to refund some of the money for that interrupted cruise.  I had been looking at that cruise when I was considering trips last year.  Glad I didn't end up choosing it.  On the plus side, those who are on the transatlantic and can spare the time off are getting four extra nights for free!  What a bargain!

I'm hoping this vacation is as much fun as most of our trips are.  At the very least, I'm excited to see Greece at last and color in that country on my map of visited countries!  Once we get back home, I'll have to add it to my blog.

SeaDream II

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It's Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day...


Every April 24th, Armenians from all over travel to Yerevan to walk to the Genocide Memorial.  During my second year of Peace Corps service, I lived across the street from the sports complex.  Right next to the complex, there was a path that led to the Tsitsernakaberd Park where the Genocide Memorial is.  Back when I lived in Armenia, there were fuel shortages, so the eternal flame in the memorial was only lit every April 24th.  Things have improved since then, so now it's constantly lit.

I will never forget watching the teeming crowds of people who made the pilgrimage up that hill.  You would have thought they were standing in line for a headline act, like Michael Jackson (who was extremely popular there in the 90s).  Men, women, and children of all ages carried flowers up that hill to lay in a ring around the eternal flame, which is surrounded by huge slab pillars that represent the lost Armenian provinces.  I remember seeing people crying as they walked up the hill.  A couple of people were overcome by the crowds and the emotional impact of the day and actually fainted.  Since the memorial is on a hill, it does take some effort to get there if you're not in somewhat decent shape.  

The Armenian Genocide began on April 24, 1915, when hundreds of Armenian leaders and intellectuals were forcibly ejected from the Ottoman empire.  Most of these people were executed.  After that, many thousands more Armenians were marched into the Syrian desert where many of them died of starvation, exhaustion, and dehydration.  It's estimated that between 1 million and 1.5 million Armenians died in the Genocide.

When I lived in that apartment across the street from the memorial, I used to take walks and even jog up there.  There were a lot of nice trails and on a clear day, you could see Mount Ararat somewhat easily.  Unfortunately, in Armenia, clear days were pretty rare.  The air quality was abysmal when I was there.  Granted, as it was pointed out to me today, I've been away a long time.  Perhaps the air quality has improved since then.

I can see that other things have improved somewhat...  In fact, when I lived in Armenia, things improved at quite a quick pace.  We went from having no electricity most of the time to having it 24/7.  The first year I lived there was more of a struggle for many reasons.  But getting electricity that first year was probably the single biggest boost to my quality of life, even though it meant we had to carry iodine pills in case there was a nuclear accident.  The reason we had no light was because the nuclear power plant was closed down after the 1988 earthquake that killed and injured thousands of people.  Then, in the early 90s after the fall of the Soviet Union, Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war over Nagorno-Karabakh, which ultimately led to an energy blockade.  So when Metzamor (the Armenian nuclear power plant) went back in power in 1996, it made a big difference.  

Armenians are very strong people.  They can be passionate, loving, and fierce.  I had a difficult time in Armenia, but I learned and grew a lot from my experiences there.  Time has softened some of the bitterness I had as I left there in 1997.  I won't lie.  I was glad to be going at the time.  But I look back on my two years in Armenia as one of the great growth experiences of my life.  I'm glad I went there and learned about Armenia.  And I wish them peace today as they remember all those who died in the Genocide.




Monday, April 22, 2013

Two weeks...

In two weeks, we'll be in Venice, Italy.  I'm really looking forward to getting off the plane in Italy and hoping I'm not in a foul mood.  I'm really ready for this trip.  And when it's over, it'll be time to plan for our move to San Antonio in earnest.

Gotta say, looking at the housing I've seen advertised down there makes me think we'll miss our house in North Carolina somewhat.  On the other hand, there are plenty of things about this house that I really won't miss.  I hope for a better kitchen and bathroom, for instance.

I have a few headaches to attend to in the next couple of days.  But I'm really ready to start packing and GTFO of here for awhile.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Barging in Europe...

As if I didn't need any other temptations, now I'm tossing around the idea of taking a barge cruise through Ireland or possibly France.  I had already been watching French Country Waterways' Web site for some time, but their prices seemed a bit out of our reach.  They also only do cruises in France.  I would love to do a French river cruise sometime, but I think I might want to visit Ireland first, since I have no real memories of ever going there (if, in fact, I did).  I lived in England in the 70s, but I was  a wee lass at the time and don't remember everything about the experience.

But then I started looking at European Waterways, which offers French cruises, but also has barging in Ireland, Germany and Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium, Scotland, and Italy.  Barging is different, really, than regular cruises.  The vessels are very small and intimate, with only about a dozen people or so at a time, sometimes more, sometimes less.  And you travel at a very slow pace... slow enough that you could get off the barge and walk if you wanted to, easily keeping up.  It's all inclusive and informal, yet the food is supposed to be very good.

I sent a request for a brochure and got an email, which came with a video.  I must admit, it tempted me.


Of course, yesterday, I got an EOB from my dental insurance provider.  The fuckers denied my claim for payment for my cleaning and exam.  I think it's bullshit and plan to raise hell about it.  Met Life Dental sucks, though.  It actually makes me miss United Concordia.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand...  I showed the video to Bill and he was delighted.  We might just do this.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Another traveling housewife who enjoys shit as much as I do...

Every day, I check my blogs for new comments.  When I'm using my iPad, I use Google to get to the site.  This morning, while struggling to wake up, I checked my iPad and ran across another blog written by someone calling herself The Traveling Housewife.  Granted, she's not the Traveling Overeducated Housewife-- that's me, of course!  And really, I just dropped the word "educated" because it simplifies the name of my blog, making it easier to fit the title in places like Epinions.com.

So anyway, I was curious about this lady's blog, and found out that she's probably as much or even more twisted than I am.  She's American and lives in Shanghai with her husband and two kids.  And her most recent post, dated from March, involves eating dessert at a restaurant where patrons sit on toilets to eat and there's a definite poop motif.  Looking at her photos, I see there are toilets on the walls and glass tables with plates full of simulated poop.  How appetizing!  I have to wonder if they spray a special air spray that makes the atmosphere reek of manure, too...

Since I can get into anything or anyone who enjoys poop stories, I had to join this traveling housewife's blog.  I invite you to at least read a couple of her posts.  She's pretty damn funny!

On another note, I've never really cared much about traveling to Asia, but now that I've seen that there's a restaurant with a shit motif, I might just have to make plans to go there.  The other blogger has helpfully provided a link, so you can check it out for yourself.  Damn, a trip to Modern Toilet Restaurant would be a dream come true for someone who enjoys scatological humor as much as I do.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pisa?

Last night, I asked Bill if he'd like to visit Pisa while we're in Italy.  I have never been there and it's about 43 miles from Florence.  We will be in Florence for about two days-- that is, the afternoon of the 7th, the 8th, and the morning of the 9th.  I suggested that maybe from Florence, we could go to Pisa, see the Leaning Tower, have lunch, and hop a train to Rome.

It seems a shame to rush the visit, though... On the other hand, we may never have another chance to see the Leaning Tower because who knows if we'll ever get to Italy again?  I think the odds are in our favor, but it's definitely not guaranteed.  So we'll see.

I've heard the city of Pisa isn't all that exciting, but it does have a very interesting architectural wonder in it.  I wish we had more time.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Seriously considering taking a cruise on American Safari...

Actually, American Safari merged with another company and they refer to themselves as Un-Cruise Adventures...  They have luxury cruises on small vessels and they have expedition type cruises that aren't all inclusive.  Most of their cruises are in the US, with the exception of one in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.

I've been curious about this outfit for a long time and I'm thinking this year might be the time to try them out.  But again, it all depends on whether or not I book something on SeaDream this year.  I do like where Un-Cruise Adventures goes, though.  SeaDream has nothing affordable during our anniversary and Un-Cruise has something that might be doable for us.  We could do a Snake River cruise from Portland, Oregon, or we could go to Hawaii.  I ordered a free promotional DVD from them and watched it.  My husband and I were equally intrigued by the concept of a luxury expedition cruise.

I first heard of American Safari when someone posted on Cruise Critic about them and said they had a wonderful time.  And they go to places SeaDream doesn't go to.

Or... maybe we'll just stay home this year.  I dunno.  I'm ready to plan another big trip, though.






Thursday, April 11, 2013

Cruise tickets arrived yesterday...

The FedEx guy showed up while I was on the phone with my mom.  He brought me wine and a very stylish leather portfolio containing cruise documents.  I looked through it yesterday and noticed that the discount SeaDream used to give people who book onboard appears to have been rescinded.  Now, it looks like you have to book a specific cruise, pay a 25% deposit and get 5% off.

In the past, you could get that deal, or you could do an "open booking", pay $2500, and get 15% off.  We've done two open bookings.  Both times, I was under the heavy influence of champagne and a good time.  This time, we might not do it.  There are other cruise lines I want to try, especially since I have a tendency to throw up on SeaDream (small ship + rough waters= seasickness).  I would probably pick another ship that causes me to puke, but SeaDream is also more expensive than other lines...

So we'll see.  Of course, if I end up having as much fun as I usually do, I might want to book anyway.  The bad thing is that next year, my husband will be leaving his job and adjusting to life as a civilian.  We may not have the money to go on vacation, so I want to make this one count.  And if I can manage one for the fall, I want to make that one count too.



I do like the portfolio.  It smells great.

I posted about the discount issue on Cruise Critic yesterday and people were kind of upset.  This implied new policy may end up backfiring.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Never mind...

I purchased a new camera yesterday, the Nikon CoolPix P330.  It's supposedly a brand new camera with GPS, wi-fi, and stereo sound for videos.  Hopefully, I'll like it... or at least be able to use it on our trip.  Now that I'm learning how to use iMovie, I want something I can make decent videos with.

Someone told me I should get a videocamera instead of a still camera.  But I wanted something compact, that would not be cumbersome and complicated to use.  And really, I take a lot more still photos than video, anyway.  So hopefully, my new camera will enable me to make some good videos... and hopefully, this won't be the last decent trip where I can use my fancy new camera.

In a month, we'll be in Europe and I'm really looking forward to it, hoping to see and learn new things and meet new people.  Hopefully on this SeaDream cruise, there won't be too many people holding court.  Honestly, this may be our last SeaDream cruise.  There are other lines we want to try and SeaDream is very pricey.  We'll see.  I usually end up in a drunken stupor on the last full day and pull out my credit card.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Looking for a new camera...

I just bought a camera in the fall in anticipation of our trip to Scotland.  Unfortunately, I could never get the software to load properly on my computer.  For some reason, I can't share videos I made with that camera, so now I'm looking for something I can take to Italy and Greece.  If anyone has any suggestions, I am open to them.  I don't know that much about cameras.  What I want is something that does a reasonably good job with still photos and videos.  I don't care about making expert videos.  I just want something that makes something relatively decent without a lot of fuss.

I don't care about making professional grade photos.  I just want something that takes somewhat decent pictures that doesn't require a bunch of bullshit.

My Canon camera is easy to use and takes nice pictures, but the video part-- not being able to share them because the software didn't work with my computer-- is a bummer.  I might buy another Canon anyway, because while the Nikon I used to have gave me no troubles with video, I hated the touch screen interface and found it a pain in the ass to use.

I had a Samsung camera that took good photos and was very easy to use, but it used regular batteries and ate them up quickly.  And it was too slow.

So I don't know...  Anyone got any ideas for me?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Germany video!

Just made it today....

Turned out nice, I think!


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Guess I'll never fly Samoan Air

According to an article on the Sydney Morning Herald's Web site, Samoan Air has a "pay as you weigh" scheme, which means that overweight people will end up paying more.  Samoan Air uses little "puddle jumper" airplanes, so I guess it makes sense to know how much people weigh so you can distribute the weight properly and the planes can take off and land.  But I sure as hell don't want to be weighed in public!  I don't even let the doctor tell me how much I weigh.

Apparently, obesity is a big problem in the South Pacific.  Samoan Air's chief executive Chris Langton says this policy might get people thinking more about their weight.  I think about my weight all the time.  I don't think having to pay extra for the same tiny seat is going to help that.

It's funny that this article came out on April 2, though...  Otherwise, a lot of people would think it was an April Fool's joke!  It's 100% legit, though.  I'm staying the fuck out of Samoa, that's for sure!