Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Ski Weekend in the Rockies for the Non-Skier


You may wonder what could possess someone who does not ski to take a trip to a place that is famous for skiing and winter sports. Well, depression hits the north east by the end of February, and when it sets in, it doesn’t mess around.  Having something to look forward to really helps get through the bitter cold and slush, even if that something is an escape to the Rockies and even more snow!  I met someone over the weekend that really put it into perspective for me… vacation snow is fun, snow at home is not.   Plus, I don't like being out of the loop when everyone talks about how fabulous the snow is in Colorado.  My plane departed Boston Friday evening with a direct flight to Denver.  Approximately 4.5 hours later, I picked up my rental car and made my way out to the Sheraton Denver West.  The hotel was a 45 minute drive from the airport, and wasn’t the best decision for a late night arrival because I was exhausted by the time I checked in.
 
Beautiful views
By 9 AM the next morning (this was obviously a strategic move to avoid traffic, not because I wanted to sleep in), I stocked up on the SPG free breakfast and started to drive on I-70W.  A good amount of snow had fallen the day before and with typical weekend traffic, my drive was delayed by about an hour.  If I had left earlier, it would have been even longer.  Fortunately, the views along the way were gorgeous and I stopped multiple times to snap some pictures. Eventually, I crossed the Vail pass and pulled into the Westin Beaver Creek Riverfront.  I did some research beforehand for activities in the area, but didn’t make any reservations until after I arrived just in case I was delayed due to traffic or any other reason.  I also wasn't sure how I was going to adapt to the altitude, especially since sometimes my grand plans are a little too over the top.  Fortunately, I was feeling just fine.  I quickly called Nova Tours to secure my spot on the 2 hour snowmobiling tour of Tigiwon Trail.  This company had great reviews online and they had van to come pick me up from the hotel so I didn’t have to drive out to their camp. 
 
Sharp turns through the woods
Before the pickup, I stopped into a local pub walking distance from the hotel, Bob’s Place, for lunch and a beverage and to decompress.  The food was delicious and the company was nice. The van arrived right on time and shuttled about 10 people out to the trailer where we all got geared up and had our payments processed.  After a brief walk through of how to operate the machine, we were off!  I had never operated a snowmobile before, but didn’t have any trouble figuring it out.  I did go a little slower than the norm, but the guide stopped frequently so we could all catch up.  There was a good mix of straightaways and turns through the trail.  We stopped for photos and the guide was more than happy to take pictures on our behalf.  We also had a stop about half way through to warm up with hot cocoa. Overall, I think the tour itself took just over 2 hours not including gearing up and transportation, because we did not get back to the hotel until after 5.   I highly recommend this activity, especially if you’re not quite adjusted to the altitude yet and don’t want to exert yourself the first day.
 
Beaver Creek Village
That night, I visited another local favorite within walking distance, Vin 48 in Avon, for dinner and drinks.  Vin 48 is a wine/tapas bar with a packed reservation list on weekend nights.  Fortunately, a seat at the bar opened up shortly after I arrived.  I was not overly impressed with the selection of wine by the glass, but I was able to find something reasonable.  The prices are almost shockingly high, even with me being from Boston.  Between a few small plates and a couple glasses of wine, I was creeping up near $100.  My pescetarian diet (only for lent) limited what I could order, and there were a few dishes I just didn’t like.  The smoked salmon fell short, but the scallops were delicious. After dinner, I made my way back to the hotel lobby to listen to the live music and relax before bed.
 
Views from McCoy Park
Because of the time difference, I had no trouble waking up bright and early before the 10 AM cross-country ski lesson in Beaver Creek.  I picked up a coffee from The Lift marketplace in the Westin hotel and then jumped on the Riverfront Express gondola up to The Landing.  From there, I grabbed a shuttle to the Beaver Creek Village. I walked around the shops a bit to peruse and grab a bottle of water before making me way to the Nordic Center for the lesson.  As luck would have it, no one else signed up for a lesson that day, so I had private instruction.  The instructor was wonderful!  She even walked me through how to get on the lift and what proper etiquette is.  The next 2 hours consisted of progressively moving from standing with no skis to going down a hill and around a bend on my two skis.  We had some time at the end to move out of the instruction area and into McCoy park.  The tracks really help with keeping your feet in line.  Sadly, the park was not tracked, so my skis ended up going every which way.  I have no control in moving my feet in the same direction apparently and almost slid down a hill into a tree.  At that point I just laid in the snow until she came over and unsnapped my boots.  I was totally exhausted by the end of the lesson.  All my grand plans for going ice skating in the village went out the window…  In replacement, I took a 3 hour nap.  J
 
Is this a joke?
After my nap, I went to check out the 3 infinity hot tubs back at the hotel.  They were great, but there were a lot of kids there… not exactly relaxing. A quick shower later, I was back out in for dinner at Ticino.  Ticino is a tiny little Italian restaurant; jam packed with both families and adults.  I sat at the bar and ordered a bottle of Malbec to share. I started my meal with a delicious rustica salad and had the quarto formaggi pizza for my entrée.  The pizza is big enough to share if you get your own salad.  The food was wonderful, but the company at the bar was far better.  Everyone was very chatty and engaging.   Not wanting to call it a night, I went back to the hotel to order a make-it-yourself smores kit and some sparkling wine.  Sitting out by the fire roasting smores was a wonderful way to end my mountain trip. 
 
The next morning was mostly uneventful – just checking out of the hotel and driving back to the Denver airport.  I am glad I went for the experience, but I’m not sure I will go out of my way to return.  I’m not an avid skier and while the views were beautiful, we have some pretty awesome mountains nearby too.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Indianapolis in the Snow

This post is very much delayed, and I wanted to get it up before my next trip, but that did not happen.  A few months ago, my brother and sister-in-law moved to Indianapolis.  I was starting to itch for a trip, so I decided to fly out for a quick weekend getaway.  Being from Boston, I decided that it could not possibly be any colder out there than it has been here.  For the most part, I was right, but I still had to bundle up all weekend and try to scurry from one place to the next in the shortest amount of time possible to avoid the frigid cold.
 
After a layover in Philadelphia, I landed in Indianapolis in time for a late dinner on Friday evening.  My brother drove us from the airport out to his place in Carmel to drop off my bags and play with his two shiba puppies, Zelda and Sheik, for an hour before we ate.   That night we had dinner reservations at The Northside Social.  I’m not entirely sure if reservations were needed; by the time we got there around 9, there were a lot of empty tables.  The service was good and our waiter was patient and friendly.  We all ordered cocktails to start and shared the calamari app.  I love places that serve drinks in funky glasses, so this place was right up my alley.  My brother ordered the Moscow Mule, and it came in a tin cup.  For dinner, I ordered the gourmet mac and cheese.  It was delicious, but too big of a portion for me to finish in one sitting.
 
Our plans for Saturday were somewhat thought out beforehand, but not entirely.  One of my to-do’s for the area was visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Unfortunately, there are no grounds tours scheduled during January and we were only able to drive by and snap a quick picture before moving on.  This alone is enough of a reason for me to come back when there is nicer weather.  It looked like a huge venue from the outside.  Around noon, we made our way over to the Museum of Art.  Though I could have stayed much longer, my stomach reminded me that we had not eaten lunch yet.  Going to the museum of any kind on an empty stomach is a bad decision.  Amazingly, admittance is free, so I did not feel so bad after only stay a couple hours.  You can easily spend multiple days exploring the exhibit halls and looking at the art.  This is a huge museum and a great way to spend a few hours!
 
We headed downtown to a wine and tapas bar called Tastings for lunch and a drink (I was on vacation after all).  Upon entering Tastings, I noticed two things.  #1 was the wine “vending machines” located throughout the restaurant, and #2 was the incredible art hung up on the walls.  Since there weren’t many people there, we chose to sit at one of the high tables over the lounge chairs.  Within moments, our server came over and explained the menu and the vending machines.   After perusing the price of a tasting per bottle (easily averaging $8), I decided to just order a glass of the sparking Shiraz.  It was delicious and the perfect accompaniment to the many apps and flatbreads we devoured.  The food was great, but a meal here is not cheap.  Our lunch was expensive!  Fortunately, a bottle of sparkling wine and dessert were free because my roaming eyes would not leave one of the prints up on the wall, and I ended up buying it.  The artist, Leanne Laine, has an amazing talent for wine inspired works.  They are incredible!  My print is proudly displayed in my living room right now.
 
After lunch, we worked off the calories by strolling around the mall and hitting a book sale at one of the shops going out of business.  The cold weather kept us from doing too much and we headed back home to relax before a late dinner at Harry and Izzy’s.  I heard from multiple people that I needed to eat the shrimp cocktail at St. Elmos while I was in town.  Harry and Izzy’s is a sister restaurant of St. Elmos and they also had the famous appetizer on their menu.  We ordered a round of martinis to accompany our meals and I bit into the most ground horseradish I’ve ever had in my life.  I am not usually a fan of shrimp, but the sauce was so overwhelming, I did not actually taste the shrimp itself.  If you like horseradish, you will definitely enjoy this dish.  All of our food came out in a reasonable amount of time and was good.  This is a high quality restaurant and the food (and bill) reflect it.  Post- dinner drinks were had nearby before calling it a night.
 
Because the cold weather continued all weekend, Sunday morning was spent drinking coffee and playing with the puppies.  After unsuccessfully searching for a brunch place, we headed out to Kilroys for lunch and a Bloody Mary.  The drinks were good and cheap, but the food was just average pub food.  This would be a good place to watch a game and eat some nachos.  My flight was scheduled to leave at 4:50, but I wanted to get out earlier because another storm was moving in. 
 
I’ve decided that since the weather forced us indoors for most of the weekend, I will have to make a return trip in the summer and give Indy a second chance.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 in Summary

Last year I wrote a post summarized all the adventures I went on during the year.  That was so much fun for me, that I decided to do it again!  I may not have gone on as many trips this year, but I did make some awesome memories and wonderful new friends.  Starting with...

An ice cold January in Quebec City where I spent the night in a hotel made entirely of ice and snow.  While the experience was incredible, it most likely won't be repeated this winter.  I did have a great time dog sledding through the forest and was introduced to one of my new favorite liquors, maple whiskey!

After thawing out, I headed south in February to San Antonio for the Rodeo.  While I confirmed that I do not want to be a rodeo clown when I grow up, I had a great time watching the professionals.  I also explored the Alamo and visited a longhorn ranch where I got to pet a newborn calf!

I repacked my parka and snow boots in March for a visit across the ocean to Iceland. Over 4 days I had many amazing experiences, including eating whale, walking on a glacier, exploring frozen waterfalls, soaking in a geothermal lagoon, and watching the northern lights dance across the sky.  It felt like I went from the moon to the jungle, and then to the arctic circle with all the different types of landscapes on that island. 

The next two months, I prepared for my big trip at the end of May to Peru!  The Amazon jungle presented a new set of challenges without electricity for most of the day, but held an amazing number of plants and animals I hadn't seen in the wild before. The altitude sickness that is usually associated with Cusco effected me minimally, and I was able to enjoy the quaint mountain town before exploring the ruins on my way to Machu Picchu.  To end the trip, I came back to sea level and spent a day in Lima.

Escaping the summer heat in July (or so I thought), I boarded the Carnival Glory for a cruise up to Canada.  The Reversing Falls in St. John were a nice stop to kill some time, but I enjoyed Halifax the most.   I am wearing my Roots sweatshirt as I type!

I stayed local for most of the fall until November came around.  My best intentions for planning this trip were cast aside with life's craziness and spontaneity took over!  Fortunately, it worked out most excellently and I had a great time both in Nashville and Memphis. 

December rounded out the year with a trip back to Pennsylvania to visit with friends and family.  Next year is going to be full of more adventures and excitement.  I can't wait to start planning! 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Tennessee Roadtrip!

Sun Studio, Memphis
Earlier this year, my friend and I were talking about how much fun she had the last time she went to Nashville and how much she wanted to go again. Since I had never been to Tennessee, I jumped on the opportunity and we started to plan a trip together.  During our brainstorming sessions, we decided to see both Nashville and Memphis so that she could see a new place and I could see both in one go. The plan was set... a trip from Thursday - Monday starting in Nashville and driving cross state to Memphis for the second half. 

Nashville

Me @ Honky Tonk Row
Our flight left Boston bright and early and had us landing in Nashville in time for lunch.  Since we couldn't check in yet, we grabbed a few brochures from the Sheraton hotel and sat down to eat at Demos', a place she remembered had a long line on a previous trip.  While eating my huge chili cheese potato, we planned out the next few days.  This is a bit usual for me as I usually plan everything very far in advance, but my mind has been elsewhere for the last few months and so we were incredibly spontaneous this trip!  It all worked out in the end, so I have no complaints.  From the restaurant, we made our way to the Country Music Hall of Fame.  For the next few hours, I learned all about the history of country music and toured exhibits featuring lots of famous names.  In my opinion, this is a must-do when you are in Nashville.  Even if you don't love country music, there is enough to look at to keep anyone's attention.

After a few side trips into the various shops lining the street on honky tonk row, we made our way back to the hotel to check-in, make reservations for the next day with the concierge desk, and freshen up before a night out.  When I think Nashville, the first thing that comes to mind is country music and lots of dancing!  With a little convincing, I managed to get my friend on board with the idea of line dancing at the Wild Horse Saloon.  Even though the huge venue was sparsely populated for Thursday night, we had a great time attending the dance lessons and practicing our new steps.  We even managed to try some of their famous fried pickles (average) and some hushpuppies (delicious!).  A few hours later, the bar closed up early and we made our way (with a group of new friends of course!) down the street to the next honky tonk. Some of our favorites of the night include The Second Fiddle and Whiskey Bent.   The music was live and loud and the crowd was fun!  Almost every honky tonk we walked by had live country music blasting all night long; and there were no covers!  It was amazing!
The Hermitage House, Home of Andrew Jackson
Early the next morning, we met our Grayline tour bus in front of the lobby for a Historic Nashville Tour.  Our first choice was to go behind the scenes at the Opry, but because the Rockettes were setting up for their Christmas Spectacular, the Opry was moved to the Ryman and the tour wasn't offered that day. The historic tour included two stops, The Hermitage House and Belle Meade Plantation, as well as a stop for lunch at a locally owned buffet.  The Hermitage is the home of former president, Andrew Jackson.  He and his family lived in that house for multiple generations before they couldn't afford to keep it any longer and it was turned into a museum by the state.  The tour was guided with hand offs to different guides responsible for different parts of the home.  After the tour, we were free to roam the grounds and walk through where the slave cabins once were, including Alfred's cabin.  Possibly my favorite part of the tour was the field of Belted Galloway cows.  They were so cute and furry, though Kathleen would not let me jump the fence to pet them. 

Nashville music fun!
Before Belle Meade, we stopped at the supposedly delicious local buffet, the Hermitage House Smorgasbord.  For only $10, you can eat as much as you want from a selection of tasteless, and unappealing food.  Everything I took literally had no flavor at all.  Somehow they even managed to remove all flavor from the ranch dressing at the salad bar.  For being in the south, I was severely disappointed.  I can't recommend this stop for anyone looking for flavor.  If you have a dull palate, or maybe some severe dietary restrictions, go right ahead and indulge.

Fortunately, my spirits picked back up at Belle Meade Plantation.  Belle Meade is a beautiful mansion/winery that was decorated for Christmas throughout the ages.  Each room showed Christmas decorations from a different decade.  The tour guide was wonderful and very engaging, and the tour was just long enough to see a lot, but not get bored.  After the tour, we went out to the winery for a wine tasting.  If you know me, you know I love wine..  I purchased a sparkling Riesling that is sitting in my kitchen waiting for the right occasion!  They also had a beautiful gift shop with all sorts of southern paraphernalia.  I could have spent a while here shopping, but we were on a schedule.  The ride back to the hotel was short and in no time we were back in our room getting ready for another night out and a quick dinner at Puckett's where I had the most delicious pulled pork quesadilla.

What is a trip to Nashville without going to the Grand Ole Opry?  As I mentioned before, there was a lot of spontaneity to this trip, so we secured our tickets the night before the event.  We were very lucky to attend the Opry at the Ryman theater, instead of Opryland.  The theater was beautifully intimate and there was a big lineup of both older and young and up and coming country music acts.  Listening to a radio show being broadcasted live was an experience you don't typically get in this age.  It was a fun way to spend the night, and I came away with a new poster and a new band to like, Old Crow Medicine Show!  After the show, we returned to honky tonk row and listened to some more of the live music I was starting to love in Nashville.

"Hello, I'm Johnny Cash!"
Because of some hiccups with the room, we were offered a free breakfast on Saturday morning from the hotel's buffet.  This breakfast ended up being one of the better meals of our trip.  I am a sucker for biscuits and sausage gravy, and both we in abundance.  Along with a side of buttery grits, I was in heaven!  After eating, we packed our bags and made some last stops before leaving the city and starting on our TN road trip.  Aside from shopping, and picking up yummy pralines for the rest of the trip, we also stopped at the Johnny Cash museum.  If you love Johnny, or just are interested in his story, the museum is a fun little stop and a nice way to kill an hour or two.  If you're not very interested in him specifically, you can pass on this "museum".  The gift shop is fun to checkout though. 

Inside Opryland!
Arkansas?

By early afternoon, we had picked up our rental car from the airport and after a pit stop at Opry Mills just so I could see the huge development, we were on our way to Memphis.  The 3+ hour ride was easy and quick.  When we were planning this trip, we both agreed to stop over in Arkansas so that we could cross that state off of our bucket list.  Fortunately, West Memphis, Arkansas is about 10 minutes away from Memphis, TN.  The first thing we came to on the road was a truck stop.  I don't know about you, but truck stops scream authenticity to me!  We stopped for a short while and perused the small shop.  Arkansas = check!

Memphis

Memphis BBQ!
By late that afternoon, we rolled into Memphis.  Our path of rolling must not have been the best because we were quickly driving through some scary parts of town.  That was not the best first impression of this Blues City.  We eventually made our way onto the strip and found our Westin hotel near the FedEx Forum.  The location was very close to the bars and restaurants, but only a block in the wrong direction, and I wouldn't be walking outside at night.  I quickly noticed that Memphis was much smaller than Nashville and that maybe we should have allocated our time a bit differently spending another day in Nashville instead.  That night, I convinced my friend to go get barbeque for dinner at Rendezvous.  A short walk from the hotel, we were able to find it quickly and get immediately seated.  Rendezvous is well known for dry rub bbq.  I ordered a small order of ribs and proceeded to stuff my face with the delicious food.  The ribs were actually in a tie with the slaw for what was most delicious on my plate.  After dinner, we walked down the main road looking for a bar and some music.  Quickly realizing that our pickings were slim, we handed over our cover charge at on open air venue, Silky O'Sullivans, and listened to a cover band play many genres of music, with the exception of country.  This was very bizarre to me, but it was a theme of Memphis, no country music.  No boots, no hats, no nothing...  Because Memphis is a big college town, the bars cater to a younger crowd; not at all the same as Nashville.

Inside Graceland
The package we booked at the Westin included breakfast each morning.  Breakfast was plated and served in the hotel restaurant.  Sadly, the Westin is trying to be healthy, and did not offer any traditional southern fare.  It wasn't bad, it just wasn't what I expected.  After breakfast, we dropped off our rental car and headed out to Graceland to have an Elvis experience!  Upon arrival, we purchased our middle-tier tickets (so that we could see the airplanes too) and hopped on a shuttle.  The van basically took us across the street.  I found this odd as we could have walked there faster. The Graceland mansion itself was beautifully set up on a small hill.  The tour was self guided and we were all given a pair of headphones to listen in to an audio tour.  While the audio was helpful, it makes it hard to experience the tour with a friend.  We were often on different parts of the audio and listening made it hard to talk to each other.  We spent about an hour in the home and on the grounds.  I found the burial plots in the meditation garden very calming and a nice touch for visitors who come to Graceland to honor Elvis.  After the tour of the house, we got back on the shuttle and crossed the street back to the crazy tourist plaza.  The plaza contained shops, restaurants, and additional "museums", or more appropriately, exhibits, highlighting different things.  There was an automobile museum, a museum focusing on Las Vegas costumes, etc. etc.  One of the more interesting exhibits was for Elvis's airplanes.  Not just anyone owns multiple airplanes for their personal use.   That was impressive! 

Burial Plot of Elvis Presley
From Graceland, we caught a bus to Sun Studio.  Sun studio is well known for recording some lesser known artists, such as Jerry Lee Louis and Johnny Cash.  Elvis also was there for a short while.  Though the studio was small, the tour was wonderful!  Artists still record at Sun Studio today, so it was nice to be able to touch things and not worry about being extra careful.  There is also a cute little café that serves soda in glass bottles and little snacks if you're getting hungry.  Don't pass on this tour, even though it doesn't seem all that exciting.  It was one of the highlights of my trip.  After about an hour, we got back on the shuttle and made our way to the Rock N' Soul museum.  We did not actually go into that museum, but it was right next to our hotel, so we had a free ride home.  We had a few hours after the busy tour day to decompress in the room and chill out.  After a short while, I went down to the hotel bar to have a drink and mingle with the locals.  I quickly found out it was
Lorraine Motel
Memphis's restaurant week, and wherever we went that night, we'd have limited dining options. 

The last two days, we heard here and there, that we should check out BB Kings.  We decided to listen and walked down to main street to the other end (about 1.5 blocks away - a long street, I know).  We were seated in a half booth that was arranged in stadium style seating around a big stage.  I ordered a cocktail and waited for the music to begin.  Approximately 45 minute later, the musicians got their act together enough to start playing and we were treated to live music while eating dinner.  The food was average, but the atmosphere was fun.  I'm glad we decided to come here and check it out.  After dinner, we decided to make our way elsewhere to find some pecan pie and more music.  As we walked down the street asking each bouncer if they served pie, we found a winner!  We were serenaded by a group of old men resembling the cast of duck dynasty while eating our dessert.  It doesn't get much better than that!

Our last day in Memphis, we ate another healthy breakfast in the hotel restaurant and walked down the street to the Civil Rights Museum.  We contemplated going there the night before, but quickly realized we made the right decision to wait until daylight.  The short walk was questionable through some run down parts of town.  The museum was nice, though small, and focused mostly on the investigation of the death of MLK Jr.  With admission to the museum, we were also able to walk over to the Loraine Motel and stand on the balcony where he was shot.  This museum is a nice side stop in Memphis and even though it is off the beaten path, it is a nice place to see.

Gus's Fried Chicken!
Before leaving for the airport, I had to get in one last taste of southern cooking at Gus's Fried Chicken.  If you know me, I am not one who really enjoys gnawing meat off of bones, but I do believe in experiencing local flavors.  I ordered the fried chicken fingers plate with baked beans and potato salad.  I don't know how, but Gus managed to keep the chicken incredibly juicy and crispy at the same time.  Everything was delicious and I fully appreciated the souvenir soda glass to take home.  One last run with pie left us happy and full on our flight back to Boston.  Gus's is a must do if you like fried chicken and are in the area.  It's a must do even if you don't really like fried chicken, it's that good! 

All in all, I would love to go back to Nashville for round two, but would skip out on Memphis.  Once is more than enough for me.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

October Updates

It's been a while since my last post, and while I don't have much of an update, I do want to write something so that my account doesn't go inactive!

Summer is over and fall is in full swing, and while I did not make it to either of the places I was hoping to go to this summer, house related activities are finally slowing down and vacation planning will be picking back up soon.

In about a month, I will be making my way down to Nashville and Memphis for a long weekend road trip with my friend, Kathleen.  Stay tuned to see how it went.
 

Friday, July 19, 2013

July Updates

I'm feeling a bit antsy lately because I don't have too much to plan.  I've been trying to work in some day trips on the weekend, but they have been so full of house hunting, I haven't had the chance to go anywhere!  I am dedicated to taking a trip down the Cape and another up to the White Mountains this summer!  

As far as upcoming trips, all I have booked right now is an extended weekend down in Tennessee with my friend to take a road trip between Nashville and Memphis.  We may even stop over in Arkansas so I can check off another state from my list!  I am really looking forward to this trip, I can't wait to do some line dancing and visit Graceland!

I'm also in the research phase for early fall trips, focuses mostly on long weekends in August, September, and October.  Anyone have suggestions as to where I should go?  I'd love to hear them!

Happy Travels!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

All Aboard the Carnival Glory!

Carnival Glory Docked in Halifax
A last minute decision had me boarding the Carnival Glory last Thursday, July 4th.  Because I did not know if I was going to have time off over the holiday, I did not spend too much time searching for an Independence Day getaway.  Only a few weeks before the sailing date, I got the boss’s OK and decided to book the cruise!  I have been on two cruises with Carnival in the past and have enjoyed myself immensely.  In fact, one of my first blog posts was from a quick cruise to the Bahamas.  The idea of going on a vacation without having to spend time in an airport flying somewhere was appealing because I only had a few days over the long weekend. 

I left my apartment around 3pm and made my way to the Black Falcon terminal in the Boston seaport district.  To my surprise, there was no line outside and barely anyone waiting around inside.  I tagged my bags and passed them to a porter before continuing up to the check-in desk.   If you have never cruised before, this is an important thing to note: fill out all of your information online, including your passport info and your credit card for room charges/billing.  Since I had everything ready to go, I spent less than 5 minutes at the desk getting my Sign and Sail card.  Some people (especially those traveling in large parties) took way more time than necessary getting checked in.  I made my way up the gangway and into the lobby on the 3rd floor.
 
Reversing Falls in Saint John, NB
In my opinion, the Carnival Glory looked like every other Carnival ship I’ve been on.  Lobby on the 3rd floor, photos on the 4th, and casino/shops/bars on the 5th.  The dining rooms and show rooms are always toward the ends, and rooms are everywhere else.  Pool and spa are up top.  This doesn’t mean I didn’t get lost.  I have a poor sense of direction and found myself turning one way when I was supposed to go the other.  Fortunately, you can only go so far before you realize you made a mistake.  Also, there are maps in every elevator bank.  I stayed in a balcony room on the 8th floor.  It was quiet for the most part, and though the balcony was small, it was nice to sit out there and read.  The deck up on lido got a little loud at times with all the kids and music.  Even the serenity area wasn’t very relaxing.  I’m fine with noise when I want to drink and dance, but not when I want to read or nap.  One of the reasons I enjoy cruising is that all of the employees take careful consideration in learning your name.  From our wait staff at dinner to our room steward, I was called Tina all the time. It actually made me feel a little bad because I could barely pronounce some of their names.  The staff comes from all over the world and works for 6 month contracts. 
 
The best part of a cruise is (and should be!) the food!  I had delicious meals every day including mouthwatering tacos at Blue Iguana Cantina, fresh caught lobster tails, and a 14 oz cheesecake in the Emerald Steakhouse!   By the time I got home, I couldn’t even think of food.  As with most restaurants on land, the best deal for drinks is buying wine by the bottle.  They have a decent selection for people on a budget.  You can also bring two bottles with you when you board to drink outside the dining room.  If you want to drink your own wine with your dinner, you are charged a small corkage fee ($10 in the main dining room, $14 in the steakhouse), but they will hold the bottle for you in the dining room if you don’t finish it in one sitting.  


Lobsters in Halifax
Slightly more disappointing was the entertainment.  The performers at the nightly show were sub-par.  I actually walked out at one point because my ears couldn’t take it anymore.  I spent more time entertaining myself at the casino playing roulette and craps than at the shows and comedy clubs.  I found the bands playing on deck 5 near the casino and in the lounges to be better than anyone in the choreographed shows.
 
The ship had two stops in Canada – one in Saint John, New Brunswick, and another in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  On past cruises, I have both opted in and opted out of excursions.  Based on my research online and from what I found browsing the Carnival site, I decided to opt out and walk the cities on my own.  I went in expecting Saint John to be a bit of a bore, and it was.  They have a wonderful greeting staff passing out roses to women and maps and flyers, but that’s where it stopped.  One of the pre-booked excursions was to go to the Reversing Falls.  I read online that you can walk there yourself along the harbor walk, and so I did.  The walkway was really run down and a little scary.  At times, I had to walk along the main highway! 
 
About 45 minutes later, I arrived at the falls.  I’m not sure if I didn’t time it right, but there was not too much to see.  I did not go on a boat ride, but it looked like the jet boats that were speeding around in the rapids would have been fun.  It was a hot day, so I wouldn’t have minded getting splashed!  The people working in the gift shop were not very welcoming or nice and gave me a hard time about getting change for the bus ride back, even though I purchased something.  After standing around for an hour staring blankly at the falls, I made my way back to the seaport on a bus and had some drinks and a lobster roll at Steamers Lobster Co.  The food was good, and the entertainment was better.  Out on the deck, a singer was performing lots of music (mostly from the 50’s and 60’s).  He was better than the performers on the boat and all he had was a small karaoke machine and a dancing lobster mascot. 
 
We made our way back to the Glory well before the ship left Saint John early that afternoon.
The next morning, we docked in Halifax.  Right away, I noticed a difference in the attitude of this city.  There were a lot of shops, restaurants, and things to do nearby.  I walked down the pier and then up towards The Citadel.  After lots of walking, a much needed pit stop at Starbucks for a coffee and souvenir mug, and even more walking, I stopped for lunch at Cora’s.  Cora’s was explained to me as the Canadian iHop, and there was a big all-day breakfast menu.  I decided to have an apple and cheddar crepe before continuing along to more shops. 
Score!
As I was strolling down the road, I began to notice people carrying bright red shopping bags.  Upon closer inspection, I realized they were Roots bags!  I love Roots!  I’ve had an unnatural fascination with the store since they sponsored the Olympics back in Salt Lake City.  I found the store a few minutes later and proceeded to try everything on.  I walked out with a lovely grey sweatshirt with a Canadian flag on it.  I can’t wait to wear it! Good thing I live somewhere with a long winter; I will get to wear it a lot!  We can back to the boat for a few hours before venturing out again for a few drinks.  Originally I wanted to get some poutine as a snack before dinner, but it was too hot to justify eating fries, so I never got them.
The weather finally broke the last day at sea as massive fog rolled over the ocean.  It was so thick the fog horn was going off every 10 minutes and I couldn’t even see the water from my balcony!  I managed to spend my last day shopping in the Fun Shops and attending an art auction.  I also got some good reading in before my 8 PM reservation at the Emerald Steakhouse, the fancy restaurant onboard.  There is a $35 fee per person to go to this restaurant, but I had a good time.  I cracked upon the bottle of champagne I brought with me and chugged it back with my surf and turf.  Dinner ended with a ginormous 14 oz cheesecake!  I made it about 1/5 of the way through before giving up.  It was yummy though!
Leaving Halifax
Tuesday morning started early for me as I was summoned to go through US Customs before getting off the ship.  Typically only Non-US Citizens have to do this, but there is a lottery of US Citizens who also get picked, and I won.  I sat in the auditorium for about an hour before they briefly looked at my customs form and waved me away.  After a quick breakfast on the Lido Deck, I grabbed my bags and walked off the ship.  It was all very painless and I was back at work by 8:30 AM.  Adios vacation… Until next time!