Archive for April, 2008

call from the teacher

Monday, April 28th, 2008

This afternoon I was home trying to nap when the phone rang. I always hesitate to answer because there’s a good chance the person on the other end will be speaking French. But I took a chance. I was right… it was someone speaking French. It was Kaitlyn’s teacher calling to tell me she didn’t feel well and can I pick her up?

I went right to the school to get her, and she was standing by the door in her coat, holding her backpack. She did look a little pale. The teacher told me that it was most unusual that Kaitlyn didn’t eat much lunch today (she eats at school on Mondays). The assistant who eats with the kids confirmed it. “D’habitude, Kaitlyn mange boucoup et boucoup.” (Normally, Kaitlyn eats lots and lots).

I brought her home where we flopped down on the couch to rest. At one point she did seem to have a fever. But around dinner time she asked for some nacho chips and after eating those, ate a bowl of rice. Then some raspberries she found in the fridge. So I don’t know if she’s really sick or if she was just worn out from vacation. I guess we’ll see tomorrow morning.

learning from our mistakes

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

Maybe it’s the aftermath of a terrible time in Lisbon. Bill is upstairs on the computer actually looking up information about our next vacation. Well, he’s looking up pictures on Google Earth. It’s a start. I don’t mind planning everything… but it’s nice to think he has some clue what we’re going to see. He also found Discovery Channel has links to videos of different cities. Maybe now he can be the vacation planner and I’ll just go along for the ride.

back to the salt mines…

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

I dragged myself down to the Petit Casino this morning for some basic foods so we can eat without having to go to the pizza truck tonight. It was packed; I think the whole world came back last night from vacation and rushed to get some basics before the store closed at noon.

When I got home I was working on the laundry and Bill came in to help. He said “you’re doing both the shopping and the laundry?” Uh, that’s what I do everyday. The shopping and the laundry. What does he think I do????

not again!

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

As soon as we walked into the house tonight we knew something was wrong. It was freezing cold. I don’t know what it is about going away, but our hot water heater seems to love to stop working if we’re gone… so that we can come home to a cold house and cold water.

At least Bill’s frustrating experience on the phone with the service company last time the thing conked out meant he knew how to restart it. Hopefully we’ll have hot water by morning.

a taste of home

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

After a week on a cruise speaking nothing but English, surrounded by a very American culture (there was even ranch dressing on the salad bar) it was a little hard coming home to France. So, since there was no food waiting at home, and few take-out options, we went for a last bit of America. We hit the drive through at the new KFC in town. We got an entire bucket of chicken (lunch tomorrow’s covered now). The woman at the window asked us if we were having a party. Yes. It was the easier answer.

The chicken wasn’t too bad. Tasted pretty much like I remember KFC tasting. I don’t even go there when I’m in the U.S. But tonight it was just what we needed.

all ashore

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

The cruise is over. It’s time to get off the ship and go home. I don’t know how Kaitlyn is going to handle not having Kids Club to go to every night after dinner!

The cruise ended in Venice. I didn’t have much of a plan for this stop. We didn’t want to stay overnight because we wanted to be home all day Sunday to recover. (Sad that you have to plan a day to recover from your restful vacation.) Our flight out is at 5:30, so we have a few hours. I figured worst case, we drag our suitcases to a cafe in Venice and sit while Kaitlyn chases birds.

When we got off the ship, Bill noticed a little room off to the side marked “baggage storage.” For something like 5 Euros we could leave our bags while we went into the city. The guy even said he’d have a cab waiting for us when we got back to take us to the airport. Perfect.

We waited in a long line to get on a ferry to St. Mark’s Square. As soon as we arrived, Kaitlyn remembered being there and immediately asked to feed the birds. Once she’d finished that, she wanted to shop. I took her in a couple of shops and she was determined to buy a mask. We’d bought her a mask last summer when we were in Venice, but I put it away in the display cabinet so it isn’t really hers to play with. This time she wanted one on a stick. Things you can wave around in other people’s faces are always more fun. She picked one out and it was 38 Euros. So I took her out to the square and one of the cheap souvenir stands set up where she picked out another one that looked pretty similar for 10 Euros. She was content with that… for a few minutes. In Venice you can go into a couple of old buildings which we’d already been in and which had crazy long lines today… you can drink Italian coffee… you can feed the birds… you can ride in a gondola… or you can shop. Kaitlyn wanted to shop. For a while she was content looking in windows. But then at the window of a music shop she had a meltdown because she wanted a guitar. Even if I were going to buy her one (which I am not), I am certainly not going to buy it in Venice then lug it home on the airplane.

Finally, we were saved by lunch time. She must have been getting hungry to have gotten so cranky so quickly. We knew where we wanted to eat; we just had to wait for it to open. We went back to the restaurant we’d discovered last summer with Patrick… the night he was so determined to get chicken cordon bleu… and ended up with a plate of spaghetti that tasted just like what our grandma used to make. I was a little afraid going back that it wouldn’t be as good as I remembered. But it was every bit as good or even better. I have been trying this whole vacation not to eat until I’m stuffed… but today I couldn’t help but do just that. And Kaitlyn must have been hungry. She ate Bill’s big bowl of tortellini soup, some of his fried shrimp and three-quarters of an entire pizza.

Despite eating lunch, she continued her “I want to buy something” mantra. It was making us crazy. We finally dragged her to a cafe so I could have a coffee, telling her it was Mommy and Daddy’s turn to do what we wanted. (We’d even tried going to a park but there was no grass in the park, just gravel… which she tried using to build little castles but that was just getting gross.) The two cappuccinos we ordered set us back 17 Euros. That’s about 24 bucks for coffee. But at least she stopped asking to buy something.

We ferried back to the dock and picked up our bags. As promised, the guy had a taxi waiting for us. We didn’t even ask what the charge was to get to the airport. It sort of didn’t matter, we had to go. It was a white knuckle ride, with the driver spending more time in the lane for oncoming traffic than in our own lane. Bill said it didn’t seem bad to him. Kaitlyn sang and played with her stuffed octopus from Kids Club the whole time. (I think he was another scavenger hunt prize. She was carrying him in the backpack she won at a bingo game there.) When we got to the airport, the driver said it would be 40 Euros. Bill tried to give him a tip, but he wouldn’t take it… saying our bambino made his day. Gotta love Italy. Even without a plan.

nearly over…

Friday, April 25th, 2008

Hard to believe it’s already the last day of our cruise! It’s been so much fun.

This morning I wished we could have had breakfast in our room, because the view from our balcony of the coast of Croatia as we sailed in was just beautiful. What an amazing place. The water was so blue and the cliffs so pretty. We were supposed to tender in this port, but the captain got clearance to dock for 90 minutes this morning. That meant a very early call for our excursion. We were supposed to be in the theater at 7:30. The first room service delivery is between 7 and 7:30. Turns out, of course, we probably could have eaten in our room and been just fine because the excursion group didn’t leave the theater until 8… but better safe than sorry.

This was the only port where they required a photo ID. I’d been carrying our passports at each stop; I’m not going to be in a foreign country without it. Heaven forbid we need it. Anyway, the check in Croatia was that as we were leaving the port, a police officer boarded our bus and we all held up our ID’s as he walked by. Very strict, indeed!

Our excursion was a walking tour along the wall surrounding the old city. It started with a small drive to a good lookout point with a beautiful view. You could see the entire old city and the coast. Then we drove down to the outside of the wall and we started our walk. First we walked through the center of town, then up the stairs to the wall. Which included lots of stairs on the wall. I wasn’t sure Kaitlyn would manage the entire walk around the city. It isn’t that long, just over a mile. But she gets antsy. Bill had suggested leaving her on the boat at the Kids Club and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, but it may have been better to have done that. As we walked along the wall, the guide stopped and shared stories about what it was like in the city when it was under siege of the Serbians during the war just 17 years ago. I remember working in Dayton when the Bosnian peace talks happened there and we sent a crew to Bosnia and the idea of vacationing in part of the area that had been in the war… well… I’d have never believed it. She pointed out that all but just a handful of roofs in the old town is new… because of all the damage done during the war. At one point as we were walking the wall, an old lady leaned out her window and started hollering at the passers-by in Croatian. We have no idea what she said. The guide didn’t translate for us. It was sort of odd.. and sort of sad… wonder what that woman was trying to tell us.

After the walk, we were on our own to shop or whatever. We went in a couple of souvenir shops. I picked out a traditional Croatian Christmas ornament. Kaitlyn picked out a fan with a picture of Dubrovnik on it when you fan it out. She was thrilled.

When it came time to find lunch, we struggled. The menus were in English but we couldn’t seem to settle on what to have or where to have it. We finally just plopped down at a pizza place. It really was just mediocre, but it was something. We weren’t too happy when the bill arrived and they’d charged us just for sitting down. They also didn’t take credit cards. Later I realized I should have looked at the fact sheet I’d gotten during the little shopping lecture on the ship; it included some recommended restaurants. Those probably would have been better. Well, you learn a little something each time.

Tonight after dinner, Bill and I decided to finally go to the show. It wasn’t a singer! The picture on the daily schedule was of a guy on his head twirling big rings around his legs and arms. We figured if it was horrible, we’d just leave. The guy was actually really entertaining. First, he came out and spun plates on sticks. I know, that doesn’t sound like a show worth going to, but it was actually enjoyable. He got the audience involved and added some humor. I want to know… just how do you get into that line of work???? Then the cruise director came out and gave us her list of the top ten dumbest questions crew members have been asked on this cruise. My favorites are: “does the crew sleep on the ship?” and “do I have to leave the ship to go on a shore excursion?” Bill thought the question “does the ship generate its own electricity” was a really silly question… I don’t see why. Then the cruise director showed a short version of the dvd you could buy with highlights of the cruise. I wondered why there was a camera crew following people around on the ship. We saw Kaitlyn in the pirate parade. I’m not saying I’m a professional videographer (far from it) but I didn’t buy their dvd. I’ll use my own footage. After that, the plate spinning guy came back out, this time to mostly balance on his head and spin things on his arms and legs. Sure, you can see that at a French circus, but the boat was really starting to rock, which meant it was extra difficult for him to do.

When we picked Kaitlyn up the wind was blowing so hard across the ship we could barely walk from the Kids Club to the snack bar for her late night snack and Bill’s evening crepe. He went back up on deck with the video camera to get some footage of it and said the wind nearly knocked him over. We’ll have to see what that looks like. I guess we’ll finish the trip with another rocky night. But now I know… don’t bother taking the motion sickness pills. Just go to bed!

just sailing….

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

It’s our second full day at sea. I didn’t wake up super early again. Besides, between my blister and my back I’m not power walking anywhere.

Naturally, right after breakfast Kaitlyn wanted to go to Kids Club. Bill and I played some shuffleboard, but stopped to take pictures when the ship sailed past Sicily. We cruised through the straight between Sicily and the mainland of Italy, so you could see land on both sides of the ship. It was pretty neat. Hard to capture in a picture, though.

Once that excitement wore away, we played some ping pong. I would have won, but I had to go to my appointment at the spa. I’d made the appointment Sunday evening when we boarded the ship… which was kind of annoying because I had no idea what might be going on today but it was the only time they had open for a manicure and pedicure. I didn’t manage to get a pedicure when I was in the US last fall, I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity again. Even if it was the most expensive manicure and pedicure I’ve ever had at $115!!! Some sort of back massage might have done me more good, but I’ve been thinking for weeks of the joy of having my nails done. By someone else. Who knows what they’re doing.

While I was being pampered, I missed the family scavenger hunt. Bill and Kaitlyn took part. He said they came in dead last, but the Kids Club gave prizes to everyone, so Kaitlyn had a new Kids Club sun visor. They had to find things like a magnet (he had to buy 5 in the gift shop because they were trying to get rid of them and they were 5 for a buck and the guy wouldn’t let Bill take only 1.)… a postcard from a port of call (he didn’t know I had one in the room)… a grandparent…. the cruise director’s first and last name… sugar packets…. I don’t remember what else. They seemed to have had a great time, I’m sorry I missed out on it.

They found me at the ice sculpting demonstration. Bill said during the scavenger hunt they passed by the towel folding class (where they show you how to fold towels into shapes of animals like the cabin attendants do each night) and Kaitlyn told him that’s what I should learn. Her expectations are getting a little high. I already thought I’d created a monster by cutting out her sandwiches with cookie cutters once.. now she demands her sandwiches be cool shapes.

At lunch I made the mistake of offering to take Kaitlyn into the hot tub. She agreed at first, then realized I was trying to take her close to the pool but not actually into the pool. (Our dinner-mates told us that they got kicked out of the adult pool yesterday.) She begged until Bill finally gave in and agreed to swim with her. I don’t know how he managed to get into that pool; I put my feet in and it was freeeeeeezzzzing. While he swam with her, I watched the Mr. Splendor contest going on next to the pool. It was fairly amusing. One guy seemed to be taking the whole thing way too seriously… he was especially entertaining. I didn’t get in the pool, but I did have to take Kaitlyn to the bathroom at one point. She was sitting there and looked down and there was a piece of poop on the floor. Which she announced very loudly for anyone else in the ladies’ room to hear. “That’s gross! Poopy on the floor!” I was annoyed that the bathroom attendant who was in there when we arrived had left before we came out of the stall. She’d better not have left after hearing Kaitlyn’s proclamation.

We couldn’t convince Kaitlyn to nap, so we watched some cartoons and just rested. I finally remembered there was a family activity going on, but I couldn’t convince her to get up and get dressed to go. She was tired, but refused to admit it.

Tonight was the second formal night in the dining room. I forgot to sign her up for the kids meal, so she ate with us. Then she went to Pirate Night at the Kids Club in her little black velvet dress. They took the kids on a pirate parade around the ship… with all the parents chasing after them with cameras. It was really cute. They’d painted the outline of eye patches on each kid and each had decorated a bandanna tied around their head. They shouted about being pirates and did a little routine. It was funny… we put our kids in the club so we can spend time on our own, then we chase them around to see them. It was worth it. The show was yet another singer, so it’s not like it was a hard decision. After chasing the pirates around, we went back to the bar with the friendly bartender. He made me a Cosmo that just about guaranteed I’d pass out as soon as I put my head on the pillow. He told us he’s studying for his PhD in tourism and finds his time on the cruise an interesting part of his studies.

We picked up Kaitlyn and took her to the open snack bar for a late night hot dog and French fries. (We’ve been getting her ice cream after Kids Club which is not a good pre-bed snack.) There’s a woman there making crepes so Bill also got a late night snack. I managed to overcome the temptation.

It was not easy getting that pirate eye patch off Kaitlyn’s face. I think that when they paint on the kids faces, they should have to get that stuff off before letting the kids leave!

Day in Sardinia

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

We’re back on time for our stop in Cagliari, Sardinia. (For those who don’t know, it’s a city on the southern tip of the Italian island of Sardinia.) We don’t have an excursion planned so we figured we’d leave the boat a little after the groups do, to avoid the crowd. As we were getting dressed, I turned to button my pants (side button) and pulled a muscle in my back. I couldn’t move. I wasn’t happy. Bill managed to get me to the couch to sit down then he announced that I’d probably not be moving much from that spot for a good three days. No way. I did not come on this cruise to sit on this couch. It’s bad enough that we’re asleep by 11 and napping in the afternoon to boot! He brought me some Tylenol and after a few minutes I said we were going to breakfast. I figured the dining room wouldn’t be crowded and the hard chairs there would be better than the couch. Plus I needed some coffee. By the time I finished my eggs my back felt ok enough to leave the boat. Unless I couldn’t walk, I was not going to tell Bill it still hurt.

When we got off the boat there was a shuttle bus to take us to the edge of town. When we got off that, there was a guy handing out fliers about an open-air bus tour of the city… including a drive past the flocks of flamingos that live nearby. We found the bus, got on, and we were off. It was a little cold and poor Kaitlyn huddled in the corner trying to snuggle against me. She listened to the guide on the earphones and occasionally commented. “flamingos!” So I knew she was awake and paying attention. It was the perfect little tour of the city, which isn’t really that big. We saw the few monuments, we saw the flamingos (there weren’t tons of them, but it’s still neat to see a bird like that living in the wild. And, no, none tried to take anyone’s ice cream.), we saw the shopping district.

After the tour we wandered around a little bit. The stores were crazy expensive. I saw a lovely pair of flip flops for 300 Euros. 300! The loafers I liked were twice that. We didn’t even go past the windows of the stores. We climbed some stairs, then went back down and wandered toward lunch. I’d brought a small guidebook with me and we walked toward the street where its recommended restaurants all are. We found the restaurants but they were all fancy, over priced not what we were looking for places. So we wandered more, heading down tiny side roads, until we found a place that touted spaghetti and pizza. Perfect. We went in and no one else was in there. It was just noon, so we were a little early I think. The people running it had to have been a family. They didn’t speak English. They kept the Italian farm report on the tv. And that was the best meal! And inexpensive, too. I made Bill take a picture of the outside. I’d have asked for a menu to keep as a souvenir if I thought I could have explained it to them. (I keep menus from my favorite restaurants.)

Back on the boat we, naturally, laid down. Bill had a horrible allergy attack and needed to rest. Kaitlyn was, naturally, tired. I read a little bit before dozing off.

At dinner, Kaitlyn scarfed down her meal again so she could dash to Kids Club. After Bill and I finished at a more leisurely pace, we headed to the casino. I guess because you’re trapped there they figure they don’t need to pay out even as much as the casinos in Vegas or Atlantic City. It isn’t as much fun when you don’t even win a little bit. We managed to stretch our playing money for about an hour before we’d had enough of that.

When we picked Kaitlyn up she was wearing a medal. She’d won second place in a hula hoop contest. I didn’t even know she could hula hoop. You learn something new every day.

all day on the boat

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Our first full day at sea. Cruising along at full speed still trying to make up time.

With nothing to do, I woke up bright and early around 7. After lying there for about a half an hour, I decided to get up. I’d packed my exercise clothes, I figured I’d put them to good use. So I told Bill I was going on a walk and headed up to the top deck. There were a few other early birds, but not many. I wasn’t interested in joining them in jogging; I walked a decent pace around the deck. It was beautiful blue skies and blue sea as far as you could see.

Around 8:30 I figured Bill and Kaitlyn had to be awake (and I’d managed to give myself a blister) so I went back to get them. From the deck where I was walking I could see that there was almost nobody at the breakfast buffet. So I told them to toss on some clothes, brush their teeth and put on shoes, we were beating the crowd to eat. It worked. The food was good, there was a good selection. We had a good seat right by a window. Kaitlyn begged to go to kids club when she finished, so we took her up there.

After Bill and I had showered, we went to get her. I’m really afraid that if she spends every possible minute in Kids Club she’ll be too exhausted at the end of the day. So we got her and went to play putt putt. She’s getting slightly better at it, but she’s still no threat to anyone on the PGA tour.

I completely forgot there was family bingo, or I’d have dragged her to that next. Instead she begged Bill to take her swimming while I went to the talk on what to do in our upcoming ports. (We don’t have any excursion planned for Sardinia, so I wanted to see what they’d suggest.) It’s warm but not hot outside and the pool is freezing, so Bill took her to the indoor pool. It’s supposed to be for adults only, but there were several kids in there. They were all being well behaved. I’m sure someone will complain about it later, but it worked for today. We finally dragged her out of the pool with a promise of ice cream after lunch. She nearly fell asleep at the table. So then we dragged her back to our room for a nap. I felt guilty leaving to go to the water color class I wanted to attend, since I’d already gone walking and to the shopping lecture. I tried reading but fell asleep.

After her bath, we took Kaitlyn back to the kids club while we went to a wine tasting. It was interesting. I don’t know how much I learned, but it was still fun. It would have been more fun if I hadn’t kept worrying about getting to pick Kaitlyn up on time. When I picked her up, I said we’d see them in a little while at the special kids dinner. Tonight is formal night, so they have a dinner you can send your kid to instead of dragging them to a fancy meal. Then I again forgot about the family activity they had and we went to play ping pong. Kaitlyn is better at it than I expected but it’s not like you can play an actual game with her or anything. At two minutes before 6, Bill took her up to the Kids Club to drop her off for the dinner while I went back to the stateroom to get ready for our dinner. He called and said no one was at the kids club. I called customer service and they tried paging the kids club manager but he (or she) never answered. After about 20 minutes, I could hear Kaitlyn crying as they walked down the hall to our room. Bill was furious; Kaitlyn was terribly upset. I finally got her calmed down by reminding her that she’d brought a special dress up dress for the fancy dinner. I don’t remember what it took for Bill to calm down.

After Kaitlyn ate her shrimp (which had to have been better than the hot dog she’d have gotten at the other dinner) I took her up to the Kids Club. I was sure Bill would yell at someone and she’d be banned for the week. They apologized and said we were supposed to take her right to the snack place by the indoor pool. I think it ended up working out better. I don’t know if Bill agrees.

We skipped the show tonight. It’s some singers. I’m holding out for a comedian or magician. We went to one of the bars that doesn’t really have much going on until 11.. so we had the place pretty much to ourselves. We sat and talked with another couple and with the bartender. It was a really nice evening… and a really nice day.