The Coolest Thing We Ever Did On A Layover

I was reading a post on Points With A Crew that asked the question:

Can you leave the airport during a layover?

I knew the answer was yes, because we did just that while on our way to London a few years back. We had a stop in Dublin and the original flight plan only had us there for 1 hour before boarding our flight to London. Knowing from past experiences that our hotel in London was not likely to have our room ready before check in time anyway, I figured we’d rather spend time in Dublin than sit in a hotel lobby in London.

So I scheduled our connecting flight so we had approximately 8 hours in Dublin. Looking at websites, it seemed that even if we were just connecting in Ireland, we’d still have to go through immigration. Since we’d have to do that anyway, why not stay in the country for a while? It was a bit interesting to tell the immigration officer we would be there for 8 hours, mainly for lunch (and yes, we really did).

Continue reading “The Coolest Thing We Ever Did On A Layover”

#TBT: Sharon’s 2009 Alaska Cruise – Part 6 of 9

Part 6 of 9: Day at Sea – Hangin’ Around the Ship, Enjoyin’ Doing’ Not Much…

In August of 2009, I (Sharon) deserted my husband Joe and our puppy Dobby (at the time we had had her for about a month and a half) to go on a cruise to Alaska with the choir of which I was a member at the time (we were booked to sing on the ship). Some of my writing style has changed since 2009, some of my snark is exactly the same and heaven knows that cameras and photos have improved in the past 8 years, but here is the trip report I wrote about those adventures…the good, the bad and the ugly! To get up-to-date on the trip:

Part 1 – Arriving in Vancouver
Part 2 – On board and getting my bearings
Part 3 – Rehearsals and relaxing
Part 4 – Juneau – Nature Trails & Humpback Whales
Part 5 – Skagway – Walking on a Glacier & Taking A Train to Canada

Today was very much a “do nothing” day. It was a day at sea with no rehearsals, no spa appointments, no nuthin’! That alone was wonderful. I made sure to NOT set my alarm and so, of course, after going to bed at 10:30pm, I was bright eyed and bushy tailed at 7:00am (I swear Dobby is channeling me or something).

Breakfast was an Egg Beaters omelette at the Lido buffet, after which time I walked around the ship and took pictures of the various lounges, dining rooms, pool areas, etc.

I next plopped my butt into a chair at the Exploration cafe and, except for having lunch with Antony, Colin, (Lord) James and (Lady) Brenda, pretty much spent the whole day there.

We went through Glacier Bay and I watched the glacier from my chair.

 

I took a nap in my chair (sorry, no pictures).

I updated my blog in my chair (still couldn’t post – I fixed one technical problem and gained another).

I liked my chair.

I finally got up to change clothes around 5:45pm, bidding my chair goodbye.

Our choir was scheduled to meet in the Atrium at 7:15pm for a group photo in our formalwear. I got there by 6:30pm, ordered a drink and hung out, people watching until some of the others arrived. It’s not so easy to get 50-something people organized but we did it in pretty decent time.

Dinner was, of course, very good. Since it was our “big” formal night, they had their “special” dinners – I got the surf and turf, which was fine – the lobster was good, the steak was OK. The side dishes and desserts were starting to meld into one big respectful side dish and dessert, with none of them particularly spectacular or memorable (the food on Holland America, in general, fell into that category…none was bad, but none was stupendous either. Just “adequate”).

As always, I was exhausted by the time we were done with dinner and I went almost straight to sleep. What an old fart I’m turning into!
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We went to Australia …and didn’t die

How many articles have you seen about all the crazy animals in Australia that can kill you? They usually have titles like this one I saw on Oyster’s twitter feed. 

9 Things That Can Kill You in Australia (and Why You Should Visit Anyway)

That just makes you think the entire country is like this:

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Don’t listen to them. Australia is totally worth visiting. For this:

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and this:

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and this

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and because you get to see sunrises like this.

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But on your way back from the beach you get a bit worried when you see this sign and remember those articles you read about all the things that can kill you.

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Fortunately the only crocodiles we saw were at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. I wouldn’t want to run into one of these while walking on the beach.

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So yeah. Don’t listen to them. Australia is REALLY cool. Even though there is a teeny tiny, itsy bitsy, teeny weenie little chance that something there could kill you. It probably won’t happen.

Help plan our trip to Las Vegas!!!!

Vegas, Baby! These are two words Sharon hates to hear. Well she would hate hearing them if I ever said them. Which I don’t. Let me explain.

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Every year, Sharon and I try to have at least one “epic” trip. The one we plan all year. Because we went on two epic trips to Cuba and then Europe last year, we decided that it might be best to take it easy this year. We first thought that a drive on Route 66 would be pretty cool. Then we started to do more research and decided that while some of the attractions are neat, that is a whole lot of time to spend in a car. So we narrowed our search and are going to spend time around the American Southwest. It’s an area we’ve been to before but never on a road trip like this.

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I know that in Phoenix we might go to “the house the man built all by himself that was in a Monkees episode” as Sharon calls it. (I think this is the Mystery Castle but I’m not sure). When we go to Sedona, I just want to go back to dinner at Dahl & Di Luca. We ate there during our Adventures by Disney trip in 2006, at our guides’ suggestion, and it was one of the best meals we’ve ever had. I’ve already locked in our rooms at the Thunderbird and Bright Angel Lodge at the Grand Canyon. We are also planning on going to the Grand Canyon Skywalk even though it is supposedly a tourist trap – but Sharon likes to show how much of a bad ass she is about not being scared of heights.

Now I’m up to planning the part of the trip I really know nothing about, Las Vegas. The last time we were there was 2005 and that was mainly to see Avenue Q and Toxic Audio.

Back then I booked us a luxurious room at The Orleans. As you can see, our biggest concern when booking the room that time was that it was inexpensive.

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Our room at The Orleans
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The not bad view from our room (once you look over the office parks)
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I’m amazed I found a picture of Sharon smiling in Las Vegas.

Sharon doesn’t hate Las Vegas. She’s just bored the minute she gets there. She doesn’t gamble. She watches what she eats. She doesn’t want to sit by the pool all day. She doesn’t like the classic Cirque du Soleil shows. Because of this, I’ve never even brought up the idea of us going back. It’s just not on the list of places we actively want to visit. It just turns out on this trip that it is the only place between the Grand Canyon and Los Angeles we could think about staying a few days. She was even the one who brought up the idea of us going there.

So here is where I need help. Let me know what do you like to do in Vegas? Places to stay, places to eat, shows to see. We’ll have at least 2 nights there in October over a weekend (I know it’s more expensive but we’d rather be in a crowded Vegas instead of a crowded Grand Canyon).

Drop us a note here on the blog or comment on Facebook or Twitter. I am looking forward to seeing what you all like to do when in Las Vegas. And remember, what happens in Vegas just might end up being a story on the blog.

 

 

#TBT: Alaska – Part 5 of 9

Part 5 of 9: Skagway: Walking on a Glacier and Taking a Train to Canada

In August of 2009, I (Sharon) deserted my husband Joe and our puppy Dobby (at the time we had had her for about a month and a half) to go on a cruise to Alaska with the choir of which I was a member at the time (we were booked to sing on the ship). Some of my writing style has changed since 2009, some of my snark is exactly the same and heaven knows that cameras and photos have improved in the past 8 years, but here is the trip report I wrote about those adventures…the good, the bad and the ugly! To get up-to-date on the trip:

Part 1 – Arriving in Vancouver
Part 2 – On board and getting my bearings
Part 3 – Rehearsals and relaxing
Part 4 – Juneau – Nature Trails & Humpback Whales

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For those of you who know me – this was one of my first ever photobombs

I had gotten a letter last night that said

my Glass Blowing excursion, due to lack of participants at 9:30am, had been changed to 1:30pm. Unfortunately, that caused some time conflicts, so after waking up at 7:30am (luxury!), I went to the Excursion Desk down on Deck 1. I couldn’t switch my excursions around to get all three in, so I told them to cancel my Glass Blowing so I could receive a refund.

I next went to the Lido Buffet (the food isn’t so great but it’s convenient) and grabbed a breakfast of an omelette, hash browns, whole wheat toast and coffee. After that I called Joe so we could talk for a while.

We were already in port in Skagway, so with several hours to go until my first excursion at 1:30pm, I decided to see the town (it was only a few hundred feet off the dock) and go shopping. And shop I did!

Below: Downtown Skagway

My first excursion was a helicopter ride to Meade Glacier, followed by a walk on the glacier and then a helicopter ride back. The helicopter ride was fun but, well, I’ve done ‘copter rides before (Hawaii and the Grand Canyon) and it wasn’t anything new or special, other than a different view – and a cloudy view, at that. But still a pretty awesome view.

The glacier though, was incredible. A massive 700 feet deep, miles wide and many more miles long. Comprised of 100 feet of snow per 1 foot of glacier ice, moving downstream at 1″ per hour. Deep crevices, above and underground streams…just an amazing thing to stand on and something I MUST visit again someday!

The helicopter ride back was just as cool as the ride there, with some awe-inspiring (but still cloudy) views:

My White Pass Summit Club train ride to the Yukon was scheduled for a 4:10pm pickup. With just a 30-minute turnaround time and a VERY empty belly, I half-walked, half-ran to Starbucks (Skagway AK: Population 800. And they have a Starbucks!) for a sandwich that I wolfed down in no time flat.

The pickup for the train ride was on time but they said the train was running late (I found out later that a car of an earlier train had derailed. Oops.). So they drove us around town…all 8 blocks of it. We saw the Skagway library, fire department and police station (the latter of which looks an awful lot like a single wide). Finally it was time to go on the train, so we drove to the area where we would board car #242.

The train ride was fun and pretty (if not particularly interesting), with some lovely views of the valley below. The tracks were built during the Klondike gold rush and as we rode, they told some stories about areas and items we passed.

The train was riding, of course, on the side of a mountain so whereas the people on the left had a lovely view, the ones on the right only got to see the side of a mountain. So once we hit the Yukon (back into Canada – we weren’t allowed to leave the train), they gave us our champagne (part of this particular tour), detached the engine car and brought it to the back of the train, where it was reattached. Our seats were made to flip to the other direction so, with that, we did the mandatory switch of passengers to the “other” side of the train and those who were on the left side now had a mountain view, while those on the right now had a valley view. It was fair. And then we made our descent.

Had the train left on time, we would have arrived back at the ship at 7:15pm, which would give me just enough time to go back to my cabin, change clothes and be at dinner between 7:45 and 8pm. Unfortunately, with the delayed start, we didn’t arrive back until 7:45pm. So I rushed to the dining room to tell my table mates what I wanted to eat, figuring I could do that, get changed and be back in time for my main course to be on the table. However when I got to the restaurant and told the people at the desk my intentions, they told me I could eat there as is, so I got to eat in jeans, a polo shirt and my brand-spanking new Tilley OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhat, LOL! The meal itself was, as always, just OK, but I chose chocolate pudding for dessert. Now granted, apparently what the British call “pudding” is not the same as what we call “pudding” (I never did figure out the difference – I’m bringing some Jello instant pudding with me to England next time I go), but I took a picture of what they gave me because it looked VERY much more like a souffle than chocolate pudding. I even double-checked with the server who insisted that the cake-like object on my plate was indeed chocolate pudding. OK, then…

It had been a LONG day with a LOT of walking. With no plans for Wednesday (another day at sea), I went to bed at 10:30pm and figured I would wake up whenever I woke up.
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