Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Blogging 2015: 200 down, 1815 to go (the vacation post)

We're finally back from vacation.  We were technically back on Sunday night, but since our stuff wasn't back and there was quite a bit of running around to do on Monday I didn't feel like life was getting back to normal until today.  I just finished making the monthly menu and a shopping list and doing a load of laundry, so I guess now I'm officially back in the game.

First things first.  Last Saturday was the Ice Bowl at CFGB and I went straight there after working all night. I got a nifty t-shirt to wear...that I vanity sized and ended up with an overly tight fit.  oops.

It was alarming. I'm sorry people had to see this.

The format was a bit different this year and we had a lot more space to stage stuff.  The day went by insanely fast, and by 5pm when I was hitting that "I've been awake for 30+ hours" state things were wrapping up.  I made it home and managed to stay awake until about 7pm, but that's all I had.  I was asleep right away, so the 4am wakeup call was no big deal.

The trip to Puerto Rico was completely uneventful, which is unusual.  We almost always have some kind of bizarre travel issue.  Mechanical problems, weather delays, lost luggage, bad turbulence (fantastic husband gets motion sick), missed connections etc.  This time we landed exactly on time, got our shuttle, and were on the ship with minimal fuss.  We had a balcony room, which is pretty nice, and our luggage even made it up to us without anything missing.  Woot.

We went up to the Lido deck to meet up with the rest of our group.  I had an umbrella drink, because vacation.
Drinks taste better with umbrellas. It's science.

We'd had breakfast in Chicago, but really nothing to eat after that so we hit the buffet when we got on the ship.  Unfortunately, the group wanted to go to dinner not too long after that so I was faced with 2 meals in rapid succession.  I didn't eat all that much at the second go, but holy shit was I overly full and ready to explode afterwards.  Add to this the residual sleepiness from being up so long the previous day and I called it a fairly early night.

A little tidbit about me.  I'm a constipated traveler.  I'm like Amy Farrah Fowler-the ideal hotel roommate. My guts know I'm about to travel and they shut the fuck down.  I've combated this in the past by taking docusate beginning a few days before travelling. Last cruise that worked pretty handily.  This time...not. My 2 meals-in-three-hours hit a brick wall in my colon.  For the next few days I wasn't able to eat more than a few bites at a time without feeling sick.  I ultimately resorted to purchasing bisacodyl in the ship's store on Tuesday.  By the time it took effect I'd been at an ummm....standstill for 8 days.  After I got the "result" eveything went back to not functioning again until Monday.  At which point I made 4 trips to the bathroom in 4 hours.  Am I the only person this happens to?  I can't be, or the cruise line wouldn't put prunes on the buffet every morning.  Incidentally, I ate about a million prunes and nothing.  

Monday we anchored in St. Thomas and our group went to a place called Honeymoon Beach on Water Island.  We checked out an abandoned WWII bunker and then got drunk on the beach for a while.  The beach was gorgeous and had a great swimming area.  I swam, I drank, I swam and drank some more.

Bunker.  Dark and creepy.

Top of the bunker selfie.  
The old fashioned way-blindly with arm extended.

This drink is called a Painkiller.  It was highly effective.

This place was a pretty good painkiller as well.

Look how not in pain I am.

I took a little nap on the ferry dock.  We had to wait for a while and I was drunk.  See this white swim suit top?  I love it.  It makes my tits look fantastic.  It became extremely stained from sunscreen.  I have no idea how to get this out.  I just took it out of the laundry and it looks like shit...all yellowy-brown at the edges where it came into contact with my skin/sunblock.  I am beyond sad.

Tuesday was a day at sea.  Fantastic husband spent a lot of it down with seasickness.  I napped, read a book, got some sun.  You know.  Cruise ship shit.  

Wednesday was Barbados.  Our surfing excursion!  I don't have any pictures of the actual surfing, because we went down the beach a ways and it wasn't camera conducive.  Fantastic husband actually surfed.  He was able to stand up and ride waves in on several occasions.  I was able to get up into a crouch several times and stood up twice.  Then I became so surprised at my success that I freaked out and fell over.  We went to a place called Barry's Surf School.


They picked us up at the cruise terminal in the oldest truck I've ever seen.  The kid who picked us up (Jordan) was island raised by an English army brat father and an American army brat mother.  He was super friendly and managed to not kill us driving the world's oldest truck over the world's narrowest, shittiest roads.

A note about the Caribbean?  The roads are atrocious. The cars are either these space aged looking models you never see in the states or the oldest, shittiest, rustiest cars ever.  There are car husks and random parts everywhere and tire (or tyre if it's a British island) shops every 60 feet.  That is not an exaggeration.  I'm assuming there's just a) nowhere to go with old cars and b) a huge need for tires/tyres because of the craptastic roads.  The beaches are beautiful.  Everything else is....peeling.

The surfing was really fun and pretty strenuous.  Afterwards we walked down the street a bit for some lunch and a couple of local beers.

I always try to drink the local beer.

Then we went back to the beach and crashed for a bit.

Motherfucking palm trees.

When you take a cruise and get off in port, they tell you when you need to be back on board.  In Barbados there were 5 people that were late.  The cruise terminal is huge, and it's a major hike from the outside to the gangway.  The last people walked the 400m or so along the ship with a crowd of screaming, jeering drunks hanging off their balconies.  If ever I needed a reminder to not be late back to the ship, I got it in Barbados.

I'd like to see other parts of Barbados than just Bridgetown.  Bridgetown was, well, kind of ugly.  The beaches were pink sand covered impossible blue watered sea turtle spotting beautiful.  The town was crappy house surrounded empty storefront peeling paint and potholes.  Port towns in my experience are pretty ugly, especially around the port itself (abandoned warehouses anyone?) and I expect it, but it's still a little disappointing.

Thursday we were in St. Lucia.  We booked a private tour to Gros Piton for a hike to the top.  The drive from Castries to the mountain is long, even though it's not very far, but we got to see a lot of the island.  The roads are nicer on St. Lucia, and I bet they'd be a scream to drive as they are up and down windy awesome. The hike up and down the mountain is supposed to take about 4-5 hours.  We didn't start until about 10am and it was HOT.  The trail was straight up and more like a rock staircase than a trail.  The scenery was beautiful, but I called it at halfway up.

That's Petite Piton behind me.

Fantastic husband tried to press on, but the next section of trail was just too much in the heat.  We'll go back one day and start at sunrise so we can be on the way down before the heat of the day.  The guide said that about 30% of people who start up the trail turn back right outside the village once they realize what they're up against.  Here's a few shots of the "easy" section of the trail.

Do you see the trail?

How about now?

I will hike to the top of that bitch one day.

When we left St. Lucia the ship did some "maneuvers" before we headed out to sea.  This means basically that the damn thing spun circles for a couple of hours.  Literally spun in circles.  Our dining room was way in the back of the boat and full of windows.  The engines are right under it, which means that the dining room was not only vibrating but spinning.  I don't get motion sick, so I didn't care aside from the noise, which was irritating and not exactly dinner conversation inducing...but fantastic husband had to leave dinner.  Not cool, Carnival.

Friday we were in St. Kitt's (ie St. Christoper and Nevis).  Apparently Alexander Hamilton was born on Nevis and Thomas Jefferson's great, great, great grandfather owned a plantation on St. Kitt's.  History and shit.

Nevis from our balcony as we came into port.

We did 3 things on St. Kitt's.  We went to Caribelle Batik on Romney Plantation, then to Brimstone Fortress, then to the beach for a flap in the ocean.  The tour was run by a man who looked and sounded like a thinner Morgan Freeman.  If you're going to run a tour company, you should definitely sound like Morgan Freeman.

Brimstone fortress.

Batik fabric drying on the line.

The belltower at Romney Plantation.

I like to know the history of places. I read all sorts of random histories for fun, because I am lame. So when tours combine scenery with history I like them better.  The fortress on St. Kitt's dates back more than 300 years and a lot of the original stonework remains.  There are some exhibits there that outline the history of the fort and it's construction.  That combined with seeing the old sugar works at Romney house and the bell tower...they made me feel slightly uncomfortable.  All that stuff was built on the backs of slaves.  In fact, pretty much everything in the Caribbean was built by forced/captured labor.  The Arawaks and the Kalinago are pretty much gone-in fact the Kalinago (Caribs) are on a reservation. Colonialism completely altered the face of the Caribbean.  I'm not sure why that makes me feel so shitty.  After all, my ancestors weren't slavers. I'm not British, Dutch, French, Spanish, or Portuguese.  If anything my forebears were indentured servants and shopkeepers, but I still feel yucky when I think about how all that stuff came to be. White guilt, anyone?

We made one last stop on our tour before heading back to the ship.  The tour guide had us all tell him where we're from and something about ourselves.  I mentioned that fantastic husband is a firefighter/paramedic, so we got to stop at the firehouse on the way "home".

Look at the tiny ambulance!

Kittian firefighters.

Lucky us, the ship spun circles again off St. Kitt's.  At least the second night they warned us.  They also didn't start the spinning until about halfway through dinner so fantastic husband at least got to eat.  I don't get the spinning.  I'm sure it serves some training purpose, but every cruise I've ever taken is peopled with men and women sporting Trans-Scop patches (scopolamine for motion sickness).  I heard plenty of people discussing taking Dramamine to combat motion sickness each night.  If you have 3,000 people aboard and say 50% of them get at least a little sea sick...should you be spinning the fucking ship at dinnertime?

The final stop was St. Maarten/St. Martin.  We docked on the Dutch side and spent a large part of the day on the French side.  First we went to Orient Beach.  Orient Beach is beautiful.  Turquoise water, white sand, the works.  It's also topless on one side of a rock jette and nude on the other.  I didn't go topless with the group, because frankly some of our party were Judgy McJudgersons and I didn't feel like dealing with that for the remainder of the trip.  However, being Judgy McJudgersons they weren't going to go to the nude side.  When fantastic husband teasingly said "Wanna go check out the rest of the beach?" I said "Hell yes" so we walked over the rock wall, stripped down and swam naked in the ocean.  We saw a bunch of yellow and black striped fish...the water was so clear that no snorkel was required!

It was fucking fantastic. There were people of all ages, shapes, and sizes just letting it all hang out.  Sitting in beach chairs reading books, sleeping, eating sandwiches, snorkeling, swimming...like it was completely normal.  And it was.  Completely normal.  No adjustment period at all.  I didn't give a rats ass what any of them looked like, and once I was out of my suit I was completely comfortable in my own body.  Maybe because I didn't know anyone?  I don't know.  I just know that it wasn't a big deal at all and I'm so glad I did it.  I even got to sleep in the sun.  Best part of nude swimming?  No yucky wet swimsuit to deal with afterwards.  It was also really fucking funny to watch a tour bus vomit big white Midwesterners onto the nude side of the beach.  They all did the same thing.  Walk down the beach gawking and blushing then hustle back onto the bus.  

Can you imagine a nude beach in the Midwest?  People's heads would explode.  

After Orient Beach we went to the Marigot French market and had a little lunch and bought a souvenir or two, then headed over to Maho Bay which is right at the end of the airport runway.  All that separates you from the planes is a short fence and a narrow road.  The surf is crazy at Maho.  I got tossed around and my suit filled with so much sand that I'm still washing it out of places.

Before I got my ass tossed by a wave.

After the toss with a plane.  
There is no way to describe the amount of sand in my hair.

The person in the water on the far left is fantastic husband.

When a plane takes off, people hold onto the fence and get blown back.  If you're on the top of the beach you get blasted with so much sand it feels like your skin is being peeled off.  Bizarre.  I'd recommend going once, but I don't need to go again!

When we left St. Maarten the sea was rough so fantastic husband had another difficult night at dinner.  Here we are before dinner-matchy match for Valentine's Day.  I even carried a Valentine card all the way from home because I am a great wife. 
Still a shitload of sand in my hair here.

He did rally after dinner for a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity and the stand up comedy show.  

Sunday we got off the ship as planned, to the airport as planned, then spent TWO FUCKING HOURS in line to hand over our bags and print boarding passes.  I had checked in and paid online.  It took us less than a minute to complete our transaction at the kiosk after standing in line for TWO HOURS.  I have a few airport peeves.  A couple are on the airline.  Have enough goddamn counter agents to deal with the flights you have scheduled. If there's a few big ass planes going from San Juan to Chicago?  Maybe have more than 2 people at the counter while they're all checking in.  Also maybe make sure all your kiosks are in working order and have someone directing the line to the next available kiosk. It can be hard to see them when you're way the fuck down at the end and there's a see of people and luggage in the way.  A couple are on the travelers.  For the love of little baby dolphins learn to use a kiosk. It is 20fucking15 how are you still holding a sheaf of paper and insisting on a person to print your boarding passes.  See that computer screen that is at your eye level?  The one that stays PRESS HERE TO START in all caps?  Maybe you could, I don't know, PRESS THERE TO MOTHERFUCKING START.  You don't even need to know your reservation number anymore!  Just your goddamn name!  You know your goddamn name, right?  No?  BACK OF THE LINE.

I'm also peeved at wheelchair cutters.  I'm not talking about people that are legitimately handicapped and require assistance beyond what their spouses/kids can provide.  I'm talking about people who are just old so use a chair to take the pressure off old hips and knees.  By all means, use the chair, seriously I have no issue there.  The issue I have is you going to the front of the line while I wait even longer because invariably these passengers also fall into the "Kiosk? What is this kiosk?" category.  Get in line.  YOU ARE ALREADY SITTING DOWN.  

I actually did a very good job of not becoming agitated while in line until we were right up on the counter and there were four open kiosks and a bunch of fucking people standing in line completely ignoring them.  Go to the kiosk, idiot.  You can do all your shit from the kiosk.  Go to the kiosk before I cut you.

Our flight was overbooked (of course it was) so we wasted a bunch of time while they looked for volunteers with ever increasing voucher numbers plus free hotel and transportation.  They got them, then we left.  In O'Hare everything was going swimmingly until they cancelled our flight to GB.  Because the wind changed. So we said fuck it and rented a car and drove home.

Monday I had to return the rental, retrieve our bags, get fantastic husband's car and play car shuffle.  Imagine my delight at being home again.


At least the bags showed up and everything made it intact.  Oh, the parking thingy broke as I was leaving the airport which was the final "fuck you" of our trip home.  I'm glad we drove home, though, because the flight they rebooked us on didn't actually land in GB until after noon on Monday and I had to volunteer at the boys' school at 1:30pm.  

So that's our vacation in a nutshell.  It was very relaxing until the last 12 hours or so.  We got to see and do some neat stuff, got some sun, and a much needed break from the daily grind.  Tonight I'll go to yoga and probably the box tomorrow to try to get back in the swing of things.  For all that we were quite active and I didn't feel like I went overboard with food, I'm up a few pounds (plenty of which is water) and that's frustrating.  Whatever.  It is what it is.  Whenever I feel shitty about myself I'm going to remember how great I felt on that nude beach and try to recapture that sense of peace with my body.  Maybe it'll work.

Back in the studio, back to the box, then back to work on Thursday.  I'm already losing my buzz. 


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