How did we end up here? We've lived in Northern Illinois for 20 years. Way too long for this vegetarian! Thankfully, we're only a Metra ride away from Chicago.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Beautiful Caribbean

Our trip started on New Year's Eve aboard Amtrak via the "City of New Orleans". Because of flooding of the Mississippi River we ended up being bussed around the track flooding from Southern Illinois to Memphis, TN.
The train was a great way to ease into vacation. 
New Orleans was freezing cold! Good thing we dressed for Chicago weather when we left.
We rode the streetcars, visited the French Market, and stayed in the Garden District for a few days.
We were all ready to set sail for the warmer and sunnier Caribbean Islands.
After a couple of days at sea we arrived at our first stop,Island #1-Grand Turk.
We spent the day lounging on the beach right at the cruise terminal. Our boat, the Carnival Dream, looked huge compared to this Princess Cruise Boat on it's journey around the world. 
We spent the next day at sea before arriving at Island #2-Aruba. We spent the day on beautiful powdery white sand beaches and visiting a bar with great views of those beaches.
The next day we were on to our third island-Bonaire. We rented a car and headed to go kayaking in these beautiful clear waters.
And through the protected Mangroves.
Viewing beautiful flamingos in the wild.
We stopped at a local distillery and bought some delicious cactus liquor before heading back on board.
During our next sea day I went to the ship salon and shortened my hair by about 10". 

Our next stop(Island #4)-St. Kitts. We decided to rent scooters for the day. It was fun but terrifying as we had to get used to riding on the "wrong"/left side of the road.
We visited Caribelle Batik.
And drank some local rum while sitting in the rain forest.
We rode to a spot where we could view the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Caribbean Sea on the other.

The next day we rented a car in Antigua(Island #5). Not only was I driving on the left side of the road but the driver's side was on the right side of the car. We headed to the north east side of the island to Devil's Bridge, a natural limestone bridge crossing the waters of both the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.
Beaches were beautiful here.
We were unable to dock at our last island, St Marten due to large ocean swells so we had one more beautiful day at sea. 
Over the days on the ship there were delicious mojitos.
Mini Golf with the family on the top deck.
Formal dinners with my Mom and Dad.
Ping Pong at Midnight.
Cribbage games, coffee drinking and knitting on Lido deck.

Lots of relaxing and goofing around as a family.
And one of my favorite things, watching the sun sink into the sea.
It was hard to get on the plane in Puerto Rico knowing we were heading back to temps that were 80 degrees colder. 
I am so very thankful to have made some beautiful memories with my family.





























Monday, November 09, 2015

This one time

on spring break(this past March), we loaded up the car and drove straight south until we met the Gulf of Mexico. As we get older, the winters in Chicagoland seem to get colder and last longer. Our first food stop on the way south was for bbq for the meat eaters at a spot outside of Memphis.
















We spent a couple of days along the Gulf beach at a cute town called Bay St Louis,MS.















We rented a nice apartment through HomeAway to enjoy the sand and the sun. It was only a block from the beach!

After a nice day on the beach it was time to head an hour west to New Orleans. What a change from the sleepy beach town!
We rented another apartment through HomeAway but this time it was a studio right on Bourbon Street. 


I doubt other people would take their kids sight seeing down Bourbon Street at night but since we were staying right there we thought we might as well. Here they are standing outside of Lafitte's bar.


We visited cemeteries,



walked around Jackson square,
wandered through the French Market,
toured the Jazz Museum,
rode the street car to the Garden District,
and spent some time listening to various bands along Frenchman Street. We were there on St. Patrick's Day and experienced catching beads from the parade moving through the French Quarter.

Finding gluten free food was extremely challenging in New Orleans. It's the only city we've been to where menus are not clearly labeled and finding food for the two celiacs in my family was very difficult.

There was more bbq,

Bananas foster prepared tableside(for breakfast!).
Really good coffee!!
Beignets at Cafe Du Monde for the ones who can eat wheat. And coffee au lait for those who can't.
And lots of Zapps Potato Chips. Terribly unhealthy but at least they were clearly labeled gluten free! Trust me no one wants to be around a "hangry" Dad.

The two days in New Orleans flew by and it was time to hop back in the car and head back home. We made a stop in downtown Memphis this time so I could listen to live blues and walk on Beale Street.
It was a marathon driving trip of 2000 miles and only lasted 5 days but it was one of those family road trips you "wish you would take but just haven't gotten around to yet". Well, we finally did it! And once we arrived back home I wanted to go back and do it all over again. A week or so later I scheduled our next adventure. Heading back to NOLA for New Years Eve!! I can't wait for more fun times together. 











Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Floating

Over the past two weeks we floated on the Sun Princess cruise ship for almost 6,000 miles. With only 4 ports it was the perfect itinerary for a knitter. We left Los Angeles with nice weather and a beautiful sunset as we were leaving the harbor.

A couple of days later, our boat encountered 19 foot waves and very high wind gusts so the captain changed our course and headed straight for Hilo on the big island instead of Maui.

We hit the farmer's market downtown before walking over to Finn's favorite shop of this vacation. He picked out a Hawaiian made uke to add to his collection.

Next we headed over to see Akaka Falls State Park. This was the only day without rain so the trail/area looked beautiful.

Next up was the black sand beach of Punalu'u where a few green sea turtles were sunning themselves.

The following day we stopped in Honolulu on the island of Oahu. It was cold, rainy, and windy but that didn't stop us from touring around the island. Our first stop was for pineapple at Dole. Did you know it takes 3 years for a pineapple to form and it will never become any riper than it was when harvested. It was so sweet and juicy.

Next stop was Sunset Beach at the Bonzai Pipeline on the North Shore to watch the surfers. They cancelled the Volcom Pipe Pro the day we were there due to no waves and horrible weather.

We stopped at the famous shaved ice place-Matsumoto's Grocery Store.


We made another food stop at  Giovanni's Shrimp Truck.



All the bad weather didn't stop us from another stop at Kailua beach on the other side of the island.

Before heading back to the ship we drank Mai Tais at a hotel on Waikiki Beach.

Kauai was our third island stop. Yes, another day of rain and clouds! But we ventured around the island with our first stop at the Waimea Canyon State Park, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.

Next up was driving to the South part of the island to see the Spouting Horn Park.

And another beach to view some grey whales from the shore.

The next day we sailed on to Maui to try to tender in. No luck as we had 70 mph winds. This is all we saw of Maui.

All the sea days this year were perfect for playing ukulele,

watching a sunset from the back of the ship,


watching movies and knitting,

and eating fancy five course dinners.


Superbowl Sunday we watched the game on the big screen with Mexico as our backdrop and dodged raindrops yet again.

Despite all the bad weather we had a great time. I'll take bad weather days in Hawaii over winter in Chicagoland anyday!