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The Irony of Irma, Literally

I spent a week visiting family in Orlando and Eastern Florida shortly after Hurricane Irma. Other than debris and short power outages, I am thankful my family was spared. Much of my travel time was spent on the Florida Turnpike (no tolls, thank you Governor Rick Scott). As I drove, I saw many fallen trees pushed off to the side of the highway and lots of cattle in open pastures. I naturally thought, as any city gal would, how did they survive? I was told that they hunker down and ride out the storm.

Shown below are typical scenes. Some folks weren’t taking any chances with the other hurricanes swirling out there and kept boarded up. In front of every house you’d see piles of debris from fallen fences and tree branches.

irma house and trash

Irma boarded house

Irma side of road

Getting to the irony part of Irma, the turnpike and other major roads in Florida are billboard intensive. You see everything from “Jesus loves you and your unborn baby” to “Your wife is hot, get your air conditioning fixed.” All of those had been blown away or shredded by Irma’s fierce wind. Guess what billboards remained intact? Literally, only lawyer advertisements. I couldn’t believe that even Irma didn’t want to mess around with those Florida lawyers who will win you loads of cash for every imaginable lawsuit.

I recently read that the word literally is one of the most common overused words of 2017. See if you can go a day without using it. It is harder than you think especially since most of us are using it incorrectly. Literally means factually, exactly, or accurately. For example, “That novel was translated literally from Russian.” Most folks use literally to replace the words actually or really. So in my example above, I should have said “Actually, only lawyer advertisements.”

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Take me to Church – Winchester Cathedral

As a child growing up in the Sixties, I remember hearing my dad whistling the melody of “Winchester Cathedral.” The song was a huge hit by the British group The New Vaudeville Band. They performed the song on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1966.

With that nostalgia, I visited this beautiful church in Southern England. It’s no secret I love historic churches and this one didn’t disappoint. In addition to having the longest nave of any Gothic cathedral in Europe, it is also the burial place of Jane Austen.



If all that isn’t special enough, I was in for a double blessing. On my visit, the choir sang and was accompanied by the pipe organ. This huge, but delicate instrument, was installed in the Winchester Cathedral in 1854. Although the video isn’t super, I was able to capture the sound quite well. I hope you enjoy.

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How to Describe the Sagrada Familia

Some moments in life make lasting impressions:

The day Mother Nature amazes you with her palate of colors during peak foliage season or with a spectacular sunset.

Your heart skips a beat and you realize you’ve fallen in love.

You wonder at the marvel of life when your newborn is placed in your arms.

And then there are moments that you don’t expect at all. This happened on a visit to the Sagrada Familia, an unfinished basilica in Barcelona. Designed by Antoni Gaudi, an illustrious architect from Catalonia, I shook my head at the exterior. It reminded me of a huge sand castle.

It was the interior of the Sagrada Familia that took me by complete surprise. Unlike other churches with statues, stained-glass biblical scenes, and other religious symbols, Gaudi used light as his tool. Words like magical, dreamy, and heavenly aren’t adequate to describe the effect. Gaudi brought nature inside the church and it touched my soul.

I’ve included a couple of my photos, but even those on the Sagrada Familia’s website cannot replicate how awe inspiring it truly is.

Sagrada Familia 4

Sagrada Familia 3

Sagrada Familia 2

Sagrada Familia 1

Just Added

Review of Royal Caribbean Bahamas Cruise

My nieces from New Hampshire and I took a three night Royal Caribbean Bahamas cruise. It left from Port Canaveral in Florida on a Friday and returned on a Monday. A great escape if you only have a short time to get away.

Lucky for me, I have a sister who lives in Florida, and she’s done this cruise many times. I am sharing the tips she gave me plus my own feedback.

Meals: The food in every venue was delicious. This includes the buffets and the dining rooms. The dining room portions are small, but there is no limit to what you can order. Want three appetizers, order them. If you’d like a couple of desserts, that’s not a problem. And the bread…love the pumpkin seed rolls at dinner.

Drinks: Don’t be cheap. Splurge and get the upgraded drink package. Even if you are a light drinker like me, after a couple of glasses of wine, you’ll make up the cost. Tip: buy the drink package before you get on the ship – it is cheaper.

The Island Accent: Everything sounds better with an island accent. When I complained about the dirty curtains at our table in the dining room, the manager said, “Don’t worry, my love. We will fix it for you. Anything else we can do for you, my love?” No, just keep talking!

The Announcements: Good Lord, enough with the announcements over the in-room speakers all day long. All we need to know is the safety information. Not: We are here. We are leaving. Bingo is starting. Diamonds on sale now. Time for the art raffle. Book your shore excursions. Tonight’s entertainment will be… We got the daily newsletter on our bed. We can READ!

Gratuities: Want to save money? Prepay the gratuities before you get on the ship. Note: it is sad to imagine what the salaries of the crew are because they are practically begging you to give them excellent reviews on the online survey you will get after the cruise

The Casino: Smoking is allowed…

Shopping: On the stop in Nassau, shopping is a major activity. Someone is always enticing you to their shop for the best knock off purses, or to take their tour, or to visit their crafts stall for island souvenirs. Just be polite and when you need help, there will many choices.

Unexpected Surprises: Dancing to Uptown Funk with a hip grandma and getting the spotlight turned on us. Listening to many talented karaoke singers. Entertainment by great comedians and a fabulous band. Meeting a lady who lives in my neighborhood. Drinking one chocolate martini. Enjoying the beautiful views of the Bahamas. Visiting the cool Pirate Museum in Nassau. Hearing the Islanders say, “Smile Mam.”

View of Ship from CocoCay - RC's Private Island

View of Ship from CocoCay – RC’s Private Island

Best of all: spending time with my two wonderful nieces who make me feel young, laugh at my jokes, and remind me how much fun it is to still be in your twenties.

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Can Airports be Enjoyable?

Chicago O’Hare Celebrates the Holiday
I traveled in early December to visit family on the East Coast. On the way out, my connection was in Chicago. I try to avoid stopping in Chicago anytime during the winter because, you know, the weather usually sucks. To my surprise, the weather was fine, the flights were on schedule, and I had extra time to walk through the airport.

It is safe to say that I rarely notice anything inside an airport terminal besides the gate numbers and restroom signs. I don’t think I’ve ever taken a photo in one either. The stunning decorations at this airport make you stop and look up. I rummaged in my purse for my cell phone and took a photo. I couldn’t believe that in the hectic rush of traveling, I felt some holiday joy in my heart.


Charlotte Douglas Dining Choices
On my return flight, my connection was in Charlotte. This was my first time at this passenger-friendly airport. The variety of dining options was impressive. I was tugged three ways: the Beaudevin Wine Bar, First in Flight for sushi, or the 1897 Market with hand-crafted cocktails and locally-sourced produce.

First in Flight Hissho Sushi bar won because it is right in the middle of the atrium and has a cool airplane mobile circling overhead. The bartender asked what I liked to drink and suggested I try the Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. I could smell the passion fruit notes before I tasted it. Now, I’ve got a new favorite wine which I can easily find in San Diego.


The sushi bar was also very woman friendly. After I sat down, two solo women travelers joined me. The Army Navy game was on TV. I wondered out loud why Donald Trump was talking to the sports casters since I thought he’d be doing important president-elect stuff. We all laughed and were polite enough to not engage in any heated political discussions. One of women informed me, however, that President Obama was also there. So shame on me for not knowing that attending this game was a big deal for politicians: it gives them a fun way to show their support for the military.

Whether you are staying home or traveling over the holidays, I wish you the joy of the season. Let’s try to be kind to each other.

“Kindness is like snow: It beautifies everything it covers.” Kahlil Gibran