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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

India, Mumbai Memories

 

Just past two in the afternoon ahead of schedule, Air India Flight-101 rumbles down the runway at Newark Liberty International Airport. With the wings of the Boeing 777-300 flexing up and down at the tips it truly seems as if it is a giant bird trying to take up flight as a lot of asphalt passes beneath us before we become airborne.

Comfortable in Row 52 we settle in for an almost 15 hour flight to Mumbai (BOM). Somewhere over the North Atlantic we encounter some of the worst turbulence that we have even encountered. I was certainly glad that we were seated with our seat belts fastened although prior to this situation the “Fasten Seat Belt” sign was off. The flight attendant announcement about the seat belt sign being on was interesting as it reminded us not only to fasten our seat belts but also to not use the lavatories.

A movie, “Sherlock Homes”, dinner, some sleep time and I wake up with still over 7 hours to go. A few laps through coach while snacking on delicious Air India peanuts and I repeat my long flight routine.

 

Picture 387Elephant Island 2004

 

It has been at least ten years since my last visit to Mumbai. I am looking forward to it although it will in essence only be a stop over en-route to Colombo, Sri Lanka.

At 2:20pm we firmly touchdown in Mumbai and having purchased ahead of time E-Visas online it is a quick and painless process through Immigration and Customs. One thing that is new here since my last visit is Uber and I am anxious to give it a try. We make our way to P-7 West Parking Area and although we have to wait for our Uber driver there is a collection of them there and even a Uber supervisor. It will cost us about INR 600 or less to get to our hotel instead of INR 4500 for a private hotel shuttle.

 

BOM BayTraffic is about the same in this sprawling metropolis and before long the Mumbai skyline I remember comes into view.

 

 

 

 

In about an hour we are dropped off at the Trident Nariman Point. Back in 2004 I remember this hotel being known as The Oberoi. Unfortunately, in November of 2008 it was one of the sites of a deadly terrorist attack.

Although the name has changed it is still a part of The Oberoi Hotels and Resorts with the staff, service and rooms just as friendly and nice as I remember.

Feeling the effects of jet lag it's time for an afternoon then it's an early evening walkabout before heading to Leopold's Café for a delicious and so filling dinner.

A walk back to The Trident and we discover that Mumbai with over 13 million people still has it population of street sleepers although some creative arrangements. At an area with taxi cabs one cab driver is sleeping in an elevated bed with a net and a fan. Along the way a dog who is not to fond of foreigners on his stuff barks and follows us for at least half a mile.

Before retiring for the night we spend a few moments at a favorite gathering spot for locals. Although the air is clear and the night skyline beautiful there is an unusual smell that lingers along the Mumbai waterfront. Still it is a relaxing area to lie down on the concrete wall while listening to the harbor waves and looking up into the Indian night sky.

The alarm goes off at 5:15am and it is time to get going for an early morning (US$25) bike tour to see the highlights of the city before the blazing sun and temperatures reaching almost 100 degrees makes the experience sweaty and miserable.

 

Picture 347

Our first stop is the Gateway Of India one of India's most valued monument. It is from here the last British troops sailed prior to India's independence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Victoria StationChhatrapati Shivaji Terminal

 

Next it is a ride across town pass the Bombay High Court towards Old Victoria Train Station now renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal. From there we head to the Fruit Market then it' time for a cup of freshly made “Street Cha”.

 

Flower MarketThe Flower Market is next followed by a visit to Bombay Panjpole an almost 180 year old infirmary that houses over 200 cows, pigeons and other animals. It is somewhat of a scared protected institution where locals come to feed the animals for “Good Karma” and picture taking is frowned upon.

 

 

Music fills the streets as we leave the area on our way for a daytime view of the Mumbai waterfront which we are told has some of the most prized and expensive real estate in the India. Our last top is smelly but still worth the visit. We have missed most of the day's activities but the Fish Market is still bustling.

 

Not DoughnutsA late breakfast at Madras Café and we get to experience another style of Indian cooking. What looks like cake donuts are not.. and a relish made of grated coconut with chili peppers is wonderful.

 

 

 

It is not even noon and we are already boiling under the morning sun as we begin our walk back to the hotel. “Hello, how are you?” Not far from Madras Café we are approached by a few locals. Their smiles and friendliness are so charming. I can't help but think that on a hot day like this an ice cream cone or a cool treat would be nice. We make sure these kids could enjoy a hot day treat or two if they wanted to.

A few more blocks of walking and we get to watch some local cricket action then I part with 100 rupees for a sample or two of what I consider one of the treasures of India. It is mango season here and IMHO my 100 rupees is well spent.

 

BOMHead

 

We get an unexpected welcome back at the hotel, well not really.. The local cricket team is staying at our hotel and their fans have filled the lobby area of the hotel waiting for pictures and autographs. I’m a bit disappointed no one ask for my autograph but I do feel kind of special having to go past security to get to our room.

 

 

Mumbai WaterfrontSoon it time for another Uber ride and we will be off to Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Thanks, Mumbai for the memories.

India Hello Mumbai

Friday, April 14, 2017

Mexico, An Afternoon In Guadalajara

 

A visit to birthplace of “The Nectar Of The Gods” shows there's a lot more to see and discover in Jalisco, Mexico than “Tequila”.  

 

IMG_20170403_172154On a beautiful afternoon with temperatures in the mid 70’s, I hop on a Tapatio Tours “Big Red Bus” and for less than US$7 (120MXN) I get an excellent overview of Guadalajara.

 

 

 

GDL Cathedral

Catedral Metropolitana

 

GDL SandwichFrom seeing many of the city highlights then afterwards enjoying a popular “Torta Ahogada”, this tour turns out to be a pleasant surprise.

 

 

 

 

IMG_20170403_165503I am looking forward to returning to Guadalajara and enjoying more of it’s “Mexican Delights” and maybe even a few more sips of... Tequila!

 

 

 

 

 

GDL SquareCentral Historic District

Tapatio Tours Guadalajara

Monday, April 3, 2017

Cruising, Jewel Of The Seas

 

IMG_0001An early afternoon boarding and we get to enjoy a nice view of Old San Juan from our balcony

 

 

 

 

With an 8pm departure sailing, night has already fallen and the twinkling lights of Old San Juan are soon becoming distant as we head south for hopefully seven days of fun. Our first “After Dark Sail Away Party” is underway as the Jewel Of The Seas navigates to our first port of call.

 

ST CROIX, USVI 

A planned late disembarkation has us roaming around the quaint cruise port city of Frederiksted. With only three cruise ships calling here a month it seems that many of the businesses here have “closed shop” and the town has almost an abandoned feel to it.

 

IMG_20170320_130855

 

We are told by a “Tourism” information representative that Christiansted which according to her was only a half an hour away by local bus had a lot more to see and do. After waiting about 45 minutes for the bus a group of us are on our way after paying a $1 fare. Turns out it is an hour and a half bus ride.

 

Clear WatersClear waters of Christiansted

 

 

 

 

 

While for us it was an adventure seeing and experiencing the island on a hot and crowded bus. I think for most others the $8 per person taxi shuttle is probably a better option which we chose for the return trip.

 

IMG_20170320_145221 Christiansted definitely warrants a return visit especially for another slice of ”Pistachio Rum Cake”.

 

 

 

 

Back in Frederiksted just outside of the cruise terminal we have some beach time to enjoy the clear and refreshing waters of St Croix. At 4:30pm we are back onboard the Jewel Of The Seas for a second night of fun. It starts of in 60 Seconds Or Less then we are “Rolling On The River” before ending the night with push ups on the dance floor.  

 

ST MAARTEN

Although we have previously visited St Maarten and Maho Beach, a return trip is always fun. A last minute car rental for $83 which now includes a $15 “Cruise Terminal Tax” and we are off to Maho. On a warm afternoon this makes a $1 ice cream cone at McDonald's seems like such a bargain as we drive to Princess Juliana Airport.

 

 

IMG_20170321_122109Release The Kraken

 

Our next bargain courtesy of “The Driftwood Boatyard Bar” is $6 rum punches made with 5 different rums including “The Kraken” a black spiced rum. At Maho we enjoy the beach as airplanes pass less than a hundred feet above us then I join a few others and get blasted my Jet Blue. Not the same as when I held onto the fence a few years ago but still fun having hurricane force winds slapping you in the face. Next it is some other St Maarten sightseeing with a stop at Friar's Bay.

A Guavaberry Colada then BINGO it's time for the always revealing Love & Marriage Show followed by “Shots,Shots, (Almost) Everybody” at The White Party.

 

DAY ONE AT SEA

A beautiful day under the tropical sun and it is time to make a splash at the pool. Fortunately, not any splash will do and only those with a “24 Pack” should attempt this feat. The International Belly-Flop Competition draws a tough field of competitors who for the most pleases the crowd except for one. To his apparent disappointment sagging “Speedo's” and shallow flops are just not that appealing.

 

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However, a crazy Brazilian disappoints no one in Dancing With The Stripes neither does three guys from Las Vegas as they hit the high notes in The Coral Theater.

 

BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS 

It is less than a 45 minute walk (or a $5 per person one-way cab fare) from the cruise terminal to a nice beach. Our walk gives a chance to stop at the local fish market and chat a few minutes with a friendly local vendor.

Across a small bridge in town and we are now less than 15 minutes from The Boatyard. A $20 fee gets us private beach access, a welcome drink, a free shuttle ride back to the ship and use of their facilities including beach chairs, umbrellas and Wi-Fi.

 

The BoatYardNot long after we arrive a loud siren goes off with a wail then we are told to evacuate the beach and head to the bar.

“Shots, Shots, Shots”... and this time it's “Everybody”.

 

Another great day at the beach and I am in the swing of it especially when it comes to a 70's Party!

 

GRENADA

A quick walk by Sendall Tunnel (1894) then we climb a steep set of stairs towards Fort George where we get an offer to consider. Outside of Fort George where the entrance fee is $2 person I make a quick calculation and a case. Coming to an agreement on our plans for the day in light of the offer we got a few moments ago we define our roles in the negotiations. I am going to be the “Good Cop”.

 

Grenada WaterfallAnnandale Waterfalls.

 

It does not take long and a deal is made. For $35 plus a tip we are going to get a 2-3 hour tour with a visit to Annandale Waterfalls. Anthony turns out to be a pleasant guide and gives us some insights about this tropical paradise. Unlike some of its neighbors, Grenada produces a majority of its own food supply. With over 160 inches of rainfall a year a huge part of the landscape is filled with vibrant green vegetation.

I pass on the option to dive at Annandale Waterfalls but a swim is very refreshing.

 

Grenada Thank YouOn the road we pass an appreciation mural for the US liberation of Grenada in 1983.

Just prior to this time Grenada was under a curfew with the possibility of it becoming a communist nation. Anyone found on the streets was shot on sight, no questions asked.

 

From Prisoner's View we get one of the best views of the island then Anthony drives us to the school he attended some maybe 60 plus years ago. He still has memories of standing in front of it waving a flag as Queen Elizabeth's motorcade drove by.

Our next stop is at the largest and best known distillery in Grenada. At the producers of Clarke's Court Rum along with sampling the products and purchasing a few of them I make an attempt to get one of the employee's mother secret “Rum Punch” recipe.

We say goodbye to Anthony at Coconut Beach as we all honored our deal.

A swim offshore from Coconut Beach presents a multi-spike threat beneath the warm waters. Lying on a grass bed are multiple sea urchins waiting to inflict some pain on the unaware. I know from personal experience.

 

 

Coconut BeachCoconut Beach

 

A $5 person water taxi and we are soon about to begin our journey back north to San Juan. Just past 5pm the Jewel Of The Seas begins its separation from Grenada. Soon it is The Battle Of The Sexes which turned out to be no battle at all as the stronger sex won. However, The Quest is never over until the tables are turned...and “Man!... I Feel Like A Woman”.

 

DAY TWO AT SEA

Beautiful weather along with another sea day provides the opportunity for more fun outdoor activities. From “The World's Sexiest Man” competition which turns out to be too much for one judge to handle, to “Pool Volleyball”, a “Mini-Golf Tournament”, a “ 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament” won by the “Old Guys” and “Dodge-ball” our last sea day is filled with FUN.

A Farewell Show along with laughs at The Late Night Comedy Show and it seems like another cruise vacation is ending too quickly.

 

Jewel Of The SeasThe Jewel Of The Seas

 

However, this cruise on The Jewel Of The Seas will be one of our most memorable thanks in part to a great Cruiser Director Simona and her entertainment staff especially "Erika, From America".

RCL Jewel Of The Seas

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Cruising, Sunshine On A Cloudy Day

 

Last Fall we took our first and hopefully not last cruise from New York. For September in “The Big Apple” it was an usually cloudy, windy and cold afternoon as we boarded the Carnival Sunshine.

 

Adios New York“Adios New York” is just not the same as “Adios Miami”. However, saying good-bye to the New York City Skyline and then later sailing under “The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge” was a delightful thrill.

 

 

Although we only had one port of call, a half day or so exploring New Brunswick, Canada by car turned out to be a scenic wonderland and lots of fun. We drove towards Fundy National Park but not before making a few detours and a stop to climb the St Martin's Lighthouse during high tide.  

 

 

St Martins High Tide

 

 

Fundy National ParkScenic Fundy National Park

 

 

 

 

A few hours driving and hiking in Fundy National Park and by the time we past back through St Martin's it’s low tide.The world's highest tides occurs here and on this particular afternoon our timing was just right to experience it.

 

 

St Martins Low TideSt Martin’s Harbor Low Tide

 

 

PA150047A nice lobster roll for lunch and soon we headed back for some more “Fall FUN” on The Sunshine.

Carnival Sunshine New York Fall Cruise

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Uganda, Ride On Entebbe

 

After over an eight hour flight from Amsterdam we land in Kigali, Rwanda. During this scheduled hour or so stop many passengers disembark and their seats are cleaned before we take on new passengers headed back to Amsterdam and beyond.

A short less than forty five minute flight and I arrive at my final destination in “The Pearl Of Africa”, Entebbe.

 

EBB AirportOther than parting with US$50 (which I did not need to pay) for a Visa On Arrival, the airport arrival process was straightforward.

 

 

 

A comfortable night sleep at Alison & Dave's Guesthouse followed by a wonderful homemade breakfast and I am off to explore Entebbe on a set of two wheels. TIA.

 

 

EBB Fruit MarketEntebbe Local Market 

Uganda Bike2Go Entebbe