Sunday, December 23, 2007

Cruise Ships in the Ports We Visited

Grand Princess Cruise of the Western Caribbean, December 2007

Here's a list of the cruise ships in each port on the day we visited.

Port Everglades, Saturday, December 8
Carnival Liberty
Grand Princess
Navigator Of The Seas (Royal Caribbean)
Radiance Of The Seas (Royal Caribbean)
Zuiderdam (Holland America)

Ocho Rios, Monday, December 10
Grand Princess
Navigator Of The Seas (Royal Caribbean)

Grand Cayman, Tuesday, December 11
Carnival Legend
Carnival Valor
Grand Princess
Navigator Of The Seas (Royal Caribbean)
Norwegian Majesty (Norwegian Cruise Line)

Cozumel, Wednesday, December 12
Carnival Legend
Fascination (Carnival Cruise Lines)
Grand Princess
Norwegian Majesty (Norwegian Cruise Line)
Norwegian Sun (Norwegian Cruise Line)

Princess Cays, Friday, December 14
Grand Princess

Port Everglades, Saturday, December 15
Costa Mediterranea
Enchantment Of The Seas (Royal Caribbean)
Grand Princess
Jewel Of The Seas (Royal Caribbean)
Zuiderdam (Holland America)

Grand Princess Cruise, December 2007 -- Photos

Here's a link to the photos we took on our Grand Princess cruise.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Grand Princess Cruise, December 2007 -- Last Day

Saturday, Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Debarkation took a long time because our cabin group was among the last to be called off the ship. However customs and baggage claim were a breeze. We caught the van to the parking lot and a few minutes after 10:00 A.M. we were on our way north on Florida's Turnpike.

From Fort Lauderdale to Ocho Rios, Jamaica
754 nautical miles, 867 statute miles, 1395 kilometers
average speed 20.4 knots

From Ocho Rios to Grand Cayman
254 nautical miles, 292 statute miles, 470 kilometers
average speed 18.9 knots

From Grand Cayman to Cozumel
334 nautical miles, 384 statute miles, 618 kilometers
average speed 21.7 knots

From Cozumel to Princess Cays
806 nautical miles, 927 statute miles, 1491 kilometers
average speed 21.9 knots

From Princess Cays to Fort Lauderdale
285 nautical miles, 328 statute miles, 527 kilometers
average speed 21.4 knots

2433 nautical miles, 2798 statute miles, 4501 kilometers

(Getting to and from the cruise by car added another 1367 miles -- 2529 kilometers -- for a grand total of 4165 statute miles or 7705 kilometers.)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Grand Princess Cruise, December 2007 -- Day 6

Friday, Princess Cays, Eleuthera, Bahamas

We didn't visit Princess Cays. But I did take some photos of the Grand Princess.

From Fort Lauderdale to Ocho Rios, Jamaica
754 nautical miles, 867 statute miles, 1395 kilometers
average speed 20.4 knots

From Ocho Rios to Grand Cayman
254 nautical miles, 292 statute miles, 470 kilometers
average speed 18.9 knots

From Grand Cayman to Cozumel
334 nautical miles, 384 statute miles, 618 kilometers
average speed 21.7 knots

From Cozumel to Princess Cays
806 nautical miles, 927 statute miles, 1491 kilometers
average speed 21.9 knots

2148 nautical miles, 2470 statute miles, 3974 kilometers

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Grand Princess Cruise, December 2007 -- Day 5

Thursday, at sea

Windy weather again.

The TV in the cabin says it's a "moderate gale." Tonight is formal night again but the food is the same in the informal buffet restaurant so we will dress for comfort and still get to have all the Beef Wellington we can eat.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Grand Princess Cruise, December 2007 -- Day 4

Wednesday, Cozumel, Mexico

Just as we were about to get off the ship in Cozumel a squall started up and it looked like it might last all day. But half an hour later it stopped and we had a chance to visit the shops along the dock area.
Los Cinco Soles shopI bought some Christmas gifts and a sun face for the backyard fence at a shop called Los Cinco Soles. Lots of colorful decor items there.

We got back to the ship as the next storm moved in.

From Fort Lauderdale to Ocho Rios, Jamaica
754 nautical miles, 867 statute miles, 1395 kilometers
average speed 20.4 knots

From Ocho Rios to Grand Cayman
254 nautical miles, 292 statute miles, 470 kilometers
average speed 18.9 knots

From Grand Cayman to Cozumel
334 nautical miles, 384 statute miles, 618 kilometers
average speed 21.7 knots

1342 nautical miles, 1543 statute miles, 2483 kilometers

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Grand Princess Cruise, December 2007 -- Day 3

Tuesday, Georgetown, Grand Cayman

Launching the tenders
There is no dock for cruise ships in the harbor at Georgetown so if you want to go ashore you have to be tendered. They use the life boats for this. The schedule had the Grand Princess arriving at 7:00 A.M.

At 6:45 we were startled to have the cabin filled with the loudest metalic screaming noise you have ever heard. I was sure we had run aground or something. I rushed to the balcony and saw at once that one of the life boat supports was right under our cabin. And it was extended so the tender connected to it could be launched.

All of the photos of the life boats were taken from our balcony.

From Fort Lauderdale to Ocho Rios, Jamaica
754 nautical miles, 867 statute miles, 1395 kilometers
average speed 20.4 knots

From Ocho Rios to Grand Cayman
254 nautical miles, 292 statute miles, 470 kilometers
average speed 18.9 knots

1008 nautical miles, 1159 statute miles, 1865 kilometers

Pirates!As always it was nice to have the ship to ourselves while the majority of the passengers were ashore. And of course if you leave the ship there is the danger of the Cayman pirates.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Grand Princess Cruise, December 2007 -- Day 2

Monday, Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Cruise ship dock, Ocho Rios, JamaicaAbove is a photo looking west past the end of the cruise ship dock in Ocho Rios. This was taken from our balcony on the starboard side of the Grand Princess. Our cabin was on the Dolphin Deck, Deck 9.

We had no serious plans to leave the ship during the stop in Ocho Rios. Possibly we might have taken a taxi to Dunn's River Falls but the weather was rainy and very hot so we stayed on the ship and had a fine time. In the afternoon the sun came out and the temperature got hotter so we were glad to be where we were.

Below is a picture of the harbor (or harbour, as they spell it) with the town of Ocho Rios in the background.

Ocho Rios

On a Princess Cruise nearly everything you need is included in the price of a cabin -- meals, some of the non-alcoholic beverages, all the shows and the gym. You have to pay extra for beer, cocktails, wine with dinner and soft drinks. There are also two special restaurants -- Sterling's Steakhouse and Sabatini's Italian Restaurant -- that charge an extra "cover charge." For Sabatini's it's $20 per person for their upscale service and food choices.

We had eaten at the steakhouses on other Princess ships, but this was the first time we visited Sabatini's. We had a very good meal there and the service was excellent. (This was not our experience at the steakhouses.)

The meal consists of many small courses of classic Italian dishes followed by your choice of entrée and dessert. A meal at Sabatini's takes quite a while, nearly two hours, and it is great fun watching the wait staff present all that food in the stylish dining room.

From Fort Lauderdale to Ocho Rios, Jamaica
754 nautical miles, 867 statute miles, 1395 kilometers
average speed 20.4 knots

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Grand Princess Cruise, December 2007 -- Day 1

Sunday, at sea

The Grand Princess is circling Cuba heading for our first port, Jamaica, tomorrow morning. There is a moderate gale blowing and you can feel the ocean a bit. No problem at all, though.

We had a quiet day relaxing, eating, napping, reading and recovering from our long drive on Thursday and Friday. Tonight was "formal night" but we didn't dress up. So it was dinner in the Horizon Court Buffet for us.

In the evening we went to a show in the Princess Theater -- "Cinematastic." The concept was fine as were the lights, sound, pre-recorded band and the dancers. Sadly three of the four singers were not good singers. And in a show that's about songs from the movies that's not good. After the excellent shows and performances on the Coral Princess last spring this was a disappointment.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Grand Princess Cruise, December 2007 -- Departure

Saturday, Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Mid-morning we checked out of the Hyatt Summerfield Suites at MIA and headed to Fort Lauderdale. We were early so we got off Interstate 95 north of Miami and drove up Route A1A -- the beach road -- through Hallandale, Hollywood and Dania. I had to stop at Ross Dress for Less and buy a belt. I had forgotten to pack one. As usual we left the car at Park and Cruise and took their van to the ship.

We arrived at the Grand Princess at 12:35 P.M. and there were no lines at all. We were in our cabin by 12:50 and had our luggage by 2:30. Great room -- a mini suite with a balcony. Our steward was somewhat impersonal and vague but he got us everything we needed. Best of all he got us the prized "egg crate" foam rubber mattress covers. They help a lot to make the beds more comfortable.
Departing Port Everglades
The weather was partly sunny/partly cloudy -- typical winter skies.
Escort service
The ship departed about 15 minutes early, at 4:45. We were amused to see that in addition to the usual pilot boat we also had an escort from the U.S. Coast Guard and armed with a machine gun.
Sunset over Fort Lauderdale
As we pulled away from the port the sun came out and we had a nice sunset and it lasted a long time. Our course took us down the coast of Florida and we got a nice view of Miami and South Beach in the mist.
Sunset over Miami Beach

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Fall has arrived

Backyard daisiesBackyard Sago PalmBackyard sun faceBackyard wall decor, star and clownThe weather here has finally cooled down. And with last week's rain (and that tornado!), things are looking very green in NW Florida. The storm brought us over 14.5 inches of rain in less than 24 hours.

The heat of August and September had been rough on the trees, lawns and plants. The combination of hot sun and dry weather had bleached the colors out of all the leaves and flowers. But now they are coming back very nicely.

For the past few days the high temperature has been around 76 degrees (24C), Instead of the typical summer temperatures around 96 degrees (36C). It's now perfect for lounging around and reading a book. Sad to say the pool is 63 (17C) degrees now and way too chilly for a dip.

Here are some photos of the backyard I took today. You'll see we have several new pieces of wall art for the garden fence.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Our Memphis Trip, Day 5, Thursday

We woke at 5:00 am to get ready for the southbound morning City of New Orleans train. The Memphis weather was off and on light rain and chilly out. Our taxi was on time at 6:00 and we got to the station as the train arrived a few minutes early. It departed on time and soon we were in the dining car ready for breakfast. They were out of all the hot breakfast items, so we had juice, coffee, toast, cold cereal with milk, and yogurt. Some people at our table were grumpy at the lack of hot items. But it didn't appear to bother the waiter at all.

It isn't easy eating a bowl of Frosted Flakes with milk on a moving train. Lots of spills.

The engineer was in a hurry and much of the trip was rough with the cars swinging from side to side. On one trip to the snack car, two cars away then down a narrow spiral staircase, I fell down in the middle of the observation car. Luckily I wasn't carrying any hot liquids. I was very careful on the way back to my seat.

We got in to the New Orleans station around 3:30 pm. And got a cab to the parking garage. A few minutes later we were on our way out of the city and headed for home. We decided that since we had such an easy time getting out of New Orleans before the rush hour, we would try to drive all the way home without spending the night on the road.

We made it home with a beautiful full moon leading our way due east to Pensacola. The trip was tiring but we were glad we did it. It's probably the last chance we will have to experience what train travel was like in the U.S. for earlier generations.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Our Memphis Trip, Day 4, Wednesday

The weather this morning had improved. Still misty and rainy, but the wind had died down and it seemed warmer. We still had the rental car so after breakfast at the hotel we set out to see a bit of Memphis.

Elvis Presley's GracelandWe headed for Graceland. The ads all say "Elvis Presley's Graceland." It is down the way from "Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel." We saw Graceland. That's what we tell people. Actually we saw it as we drove past. The rain had returned and we were in no mood to stand around in it waiting for a tram to take us from the parking lot to the mansion.

We drove south to Mississippi and the casinos in Tunica. We expected a strip of casinos, just like the Las Vegas Strip. But the eleven casino hotels are far apart, miles and miles apart. And we never did see the Mississippi River.

The designers of Tunica seem to have learned nothing from the newly created town of Laughlin, Nevada, where a cluster of casinos creates a community of attractions along the Colorado River, all within walking distance from each other, or a quick trolley ride, or a delightful boat ride -- free except for a tip to the driver. Laughlin is charming; Tunica is Spaceport Mars.

Beale Street, MemphisAfter a dull and very ordinary lunch at the Goldstrike Casino we headed back to Memphis to drop off the car and return to the hotel. On the wet trip back from the car rental place we did get to see the neon lights of Beale Street glistening in the late afternoon rain. Very pretty.

It was too wet out to go see the ducks at The Peabody.

Dinner was delivery sandwiches and shrimp bisque from Westy's in our cozy room. And early to bed with a 6:50 am train to catch.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Our Memphis Trip, Day 3, Tuesday

A storm had come in overnight and it was dark and rainy when we got up. Should we drive to Arkansas and back today or tomorrow? We watched the Weather Channel and we decided that the worst of the storm was passing north of the line between Memphis and Little Rock. And tomorrow's weather might be worse. So after breakfast at the hotel we called Enterprise Rental Car and they sent somebody to come and get us at the hotel. They do that.

The drive to Little Rock -- cold, wet and windy -- was about 140 miles via Interstate-40 all the way. We were fine in the station wagon we got and we were at the Clinton Presidential Library before lunch. This was my first time ever in the state of Arkansas and for Jack the first time there in 40 or 50 years. What we could see of the city looked very pleasant and I hope we will get back there again someday. When the weather is nicer.

The Clinton Library is very well done and informative (as are all the presidential libraries it seems). The grounds looked lovely, too. But it was no day for a stroll. We had a very good hot lunch in the Library's restaurant Forty Two (he was the 42nd president of the U.S.) and spent about three hours seeing the exhibits.

The weather on the way back was still stormy and we were happy to get back to the hotel before night settled in.

As for getting a taste of Memphis, several local people told us we should eat at the Rendezvous for Memphis-style BBQ. The directions are daunting, but if you follow them you will find it -- "go down the alley next to the parking garage..." We did and we loved the place, its atmosphere and the food.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Our Memphis Trip, Day 2, Monday

Union Passenger Terminal, New OrleansWe spent Sunday evening at the Hilton Garden Inn in Kenner, right near New Orleans' Louis Armstrong International Airport. Shortly after a leisurely breakfast at the hotel we headed into New Orleans to park the car. Although the train didn't leave until 1:45 P.M. it was raining off and on with heavy rains predicted. So we thought it would be a good idea to get to the train station a little early.

By the time we got to the parking garage, at Machu Picchu Travel Services on lower Jackson Avenue, the rain was belting down. Angel who runs the place (and yes, he's from Peru) drove us to the Union Passenger Terminal.

Detail, Union Passenger Terminal MuralThe terminal dates from the 1950s and has been kept in good shape. It is well maintained and surprisingly clean. The wonderful murals are high enough up so there's been no vandalism that we could see. Above is a detail of the mural over the doorway to Track 2.

The City of New Orleans departed right on time and as we splashed along the rails we saw how much rain had fallen. There were detours on the main streets because of the flooding and underpasses were filled with water.

After the airport we headed north alongside Interstate 55. Much of the time the rain was so heavy that we couldn't see out of the observation car.

Lucky for us the observation car was even there. Two weeks later the observation car, with its curved floor-to-ceiling windows would be gone, along with the dedicated dining car. The two cars will be replaced with a dining/cafe car combination. This follows last year's switch from china dishes and real linens in the dining car -- replaced of course with plastic plates and paper table cloths.

Near Pass Manchac, LouisianaAbout 45 miles north of New Orleans I snapped this photo of Pass Manchac in the rain. Nowadays Manchac's claim to fame is Middendorf's Restaurant. Perched on the shores of Pass Manchac, on a thin piece of land between Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas, Middendorf's has made thin-cut fried catfish its specialty since opening in 1934. In our opinion they may be famed for their thin-cut fried catfish, but they are surely remembered for their gumbo. It's worth a trip. But sadly the Amtrak doesn't stop there.

Later on... dinner in the diner wasn't bad. We made our reservations earlier in the afternoon and they called us to our table when it was time. A few minutes late but it was close to when they said we could eat. The choices were pretty limited -- chicken fried steak, pasta, salad -- and there were no items that related to New Orleans cooking, perhaps America's most famous cuisine. In fact nothing during the whole trip made any reference to the train's New Orleans connection. Despite the famous song.

The roadbed is rough. Whenever we had to sit on a siding and wait for a freight train to pass us, the engineer later tried to make up the lost time and we sped along tilting wildly from side to side. And there are no seat belts!

After lots of stops for freights and long periods of inching ahead (safely I'm sure) at one mile per hour, we arrived nearly an hour late in Memphis in a light rain.

Memphis and the Hernando DeSoto Bridge at NightOur hotel, the Comfort Inn Downtown, was a ten minute cab ride from the station and what a surprise. The reception staff was warm and friendly and the room was huge and very comfortable -- with a great view of the Mississippi River and the big, red "Memphis" sign just south of the DeSoto Bridge. What a relief after our bumpy ten hour ride.

On the TV news we heard that the floods in New Orleans were very serious, the worst since Hurricane Katrina.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Our Memphis Trip, Day 1, Sunday

Crescent City Steaks, Since 1934

Logo: Crescent City SteaksOn a Sunday afternoon two weeks ago we set out on the first leg of our trip to Memphis, Tennessee. The train out of New Orleans wasn't until Monday afternoon but we decided to drive to New Orleans the day before and spend the night there. This meant we could have dinner at a famous old New Orleans restaurant, Crescent City Steaks.

The Vojkovich family has owned and operated the place for all of its 73 years and it has the reputation of having perhaps the best steaks in New Orleans or anywhere for that matter. I had never been there and Jack thinks it was nearly 50 years ago for him.

It's in an older part of town, on Broad Street about two miles from the heart of the French Quarter. To call the neighborhood "seedy" won't get you sued by any of the locals.

The restaurant is in a neat, old building and at 3:30 on a Sunday afternoon it was packed with serious steak eaters. And steak is about all they serve aside from a shrimp or chicken dish ( by special request, only) plus a variety of vegetables and potato side dishes.

Crescent City Steaks dining roomThe steak was wonderful. The best I have ever had and I think everybody around us felt the same way. The prices are good, too. About 60% of what Ruth's Chris charges for the same high quality prime beef. The decor is clean and simple and the service is great.

The Best of New reviewed it in their 2007 Winter Restaurant Guide when Crescent City Steaks reopened after Hurricane Katrina:
CRESCENT CITY STEAKS, 1001 N. Broad Street, (504) 821-3271

This just-reopened Mid-City institution Crescent City Steaks is back serving big cuts of beef that arrive at the table sizzling in butter. There's the 36-oz. porterhouse for two, plus filets, T-bones, rib-eyes and sirloin strips. Bordelaise sauce, potatoes and vegetables are available as side dishes. By request, the kitchen can prepare shrimp or chicken Clemenceau. Reservations recommended. Lunch Wed.-Fri., dinner Wed.-Sun. Credit cards and checks. $$$

Please note: Be sure to call before you go. The hours of operation vary quite a bit.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Noel Coward's Firefly Presents

YouTube amazes me again. Here's 100 seconds of film showing Noel Coward's Jamaican hideaway in the hills above Port Maria. The music is totally wrong -- it's "travelog jazz" and not one of his songs. But it has great views of Firefly and the setting.

Last April we visited Firefly and here's a link to the post about that visit.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Yet Another Post About Menu Planning

Yum!Yes, the question: "What would you like for dinner?" keeps coming back. I found there are many on the web asking, and answering, that very question. Here are a few of them.

The site Whats for offers a new meal suggestion every day. What's on their menu for today? They give you a week's worth so you can pick and choose -- and a shopping list, too.'s What's For Dinner? site, from Portland, Maine, has lots of great recipes, fabulous food photos and a wonderful section on leftovers.

Paul Bausch's Dinner Dialog Generator is also worth a try and it's very funny.

Yum, yummy!Or maybe you will get some cooking inspiration from the more than three dozen take-out entrées offered by Weiland's Gourmet Market of Columbus, Ohio. They call them "EZ Foods." "A broad variety of chef-prepared, ready-to-serve items." How I wish we had a Weiland's in this town. Check out their site for other menus of "EZ" items, too -- soups, salads, breads and specials.

And of course if you haven't done it for a couple days you can always get away with something from your neighborhood take-out.

(It looks like Betty C. didn't see the need for a food stylist.)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Tiki Culture

The Backyard TikiWhen we moved to Pensacola in 2004 there was this wonderful tiki (on the left) in the backyard. It was about 4 1/2 feet tall and carved from the trunk of a palm tree. From the style and quality of the carving it was probably made by a local artist. And not mass produced in some tiki factory far away.

In 2004 Hurricane Ivan damaged it and in 2005 Hurricane Dennis finished it off. We miss it and want to replace it with one in a similar style.

Photos: Ka'anapali Maui, torches, plumeria, Easter IslandHere are some Tiki links:
(in no particular order)
Book of Tiki
Easter Island's Home Page
Tiki Kiliki's Hukilau
Kon Tiki Museum 
Tiki Farm
Charlie Knight's Palm Tiki
Wheelock Gallery
Tiki Objects by Bosco
Paradise Found

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Boating on Big Lagoon

Pensacola Lighthouse, built in 1858Last week Jack's nephew Bill took us and his mother, Joan, out on his boat. It's usually a fishing boat for him and his son Ross, but he had converted it to a tour boat for the afternoon with some comfy lawn chairs for us. We went out of the Sherman Cove Marina at NAS Pensacola, the Cradle of Naval Aviation.

He's a retired Coast Guard officer so he can use the Naval Air Station's recreational facilities like the Sherman Cove Marina and the beach side cottages at Oak Grove Park where his family spent the weekend.

We had a wonderful time on the boat seeing NAS Pensacola from the water, the Pensacola Lighthouse and the city's skyline. We also went out into the Gulf of Mexico and saw lots of people on the beaches and sandbars fishing and drinking cold beverages.

I didn't get many good photos. It was my first time out in nature with the new digital camera and I was barely able to use it at all. But here are a few.

Photos from the new camera
On the right, the wall with the cannons on top is Fort Pickens, guarding the east side of Pensacola Pass. Fort McRee guards the west side of the Pass. It was my first time taking a photo using a zoom lens from a rocking boat.

Thanks, Bill. We had a great time.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A side trip from Memphis

Clinton Presidential LibraryOur plans for the Memphis trip are underway. We have the hotel reservations and the train tickets. We are ready for a ride on The City of New Orleans, ready for the tour of Graceland and ready to eat BBQ.

While doing some research on the trip it occurred to us that Memphis is pretty close to Little Rock, Arkansas, about a 2 1/2 hour drive each way. And since Memphis is somewhat out of the way for us, we may never get back there. So if we don't see Little Rock on this trip we may never see Little Rock.

What's to see in Little Rock? The William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library.

The Clinton Library is the twelfth Presidential Library and it is administered by the National Archives and Records Administration.

The twelve presidential libraries represent all presidents from Hoover through Clinton. The Nixon Presidential Library, at the time it opened in 1990, was not administered by the National Archives. It was recognized by them in July, 2007.

Clinton Presidential LibraryThe William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park includes the Clinton presidential library and the offices of the Clinton Foundation and the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, established by Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States.

Click here for Little Rock Tourist and Visitor Information. And here, too.

Friday, September 07, 2007

"Good mornin' America, how are you?"

Illinois Central's City of New OrleansSometime during the fall we want to take a trip on a train. It's something we love but rarely get a chance to do. It's not easy to find a train nearby and there is none out of Pensacola at all.

After the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes down here, AMTRAK, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, cut off most of the passenger service along the entire Gulf Coast and has no plans to restore service. "For safety reasons." Although freight trains safely pass through town on the same tracks several times a day.

If we drive to New Orleans we can take a train from there north to Memphis and even Chicago. So I checked out schedules online. I found we could leave from New Orleans at 1:45 P.M. and get to Memphis at 10:00 P.M. The trip is roughly 400 miles (640 km).

Train Route: City of New Orleans
Best of all, the train is Illinois Central's "City of New Orleans." Yes, the one in the song written by Steve Goodman -- made popular in the early 1970s by Arlo Guthrie and later by many others including Willie Nelson and John Denver.

The Peabody DucksMaybe we will stay a couple nights at The Peabody Memphis. It the famous restored Memphis hotel with the fountain and the ducks. We can visit Beale Street and Elvis Presley's Graceland. And we can eat Memphis BBQ.

The trip back leaves Memphis Central Station at 6:50 in the morning and arrives in New Orleans Union Terminal at 3:32 P.M.

We don't know when we will take this trip but it's never to early to start planning.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Road trip, new shoes, flashing lights

Pensacola is a fairly small city, population 54,000 with a widespread metropolitan area that brings the total up to about 440,000. Despite the small size and the long distance to any big cities (see driving distances), we have some major shopping opportunities within less than an hour's drive.

Fifty miles to the west is the Tanger Outlet Center in Foley, Alabama with, according to their ads "more than 120 brand name manufacturers and designers outlet stores."

About the same distance to the east is the Silver Sands Outlet Stores in Destin, Florida. It claims to be the nation's largest designer outlet center. And it may well be true.

Logo, Silver Sands Factory StoresTheir brochure says:
"With over 100 designer names and located just minutes from the beautiful white sandy beaches and emerald green waters of Destin, Silver Sands is a shopper's paradise!" It's so scary (I'll just stay in the car).

Jack needed some new Rockport deck shoes to wear around the house. We decided to drive over to Destin and get a new pair at the Rockport store in the outlet mall. It was a beautiful day, lots of little fluffy clouds, blue sky, sunny but not too hot.

Florida Highway Patrol uniform patchOn the way along Interstate 10, I was driving, there was no traffic and suddenly I realized, (A) I was going way too fast -- close to 80 miles an hour -- and (B) there was a Florida Highway Patrolperson hiding in the bushes up ahead. Suddenly there were flashing blue lights. A speeding ticket, the second one in 49 years of driving. Oh, well. I don't usually drive that much over the speed limit. The fines and fees came to a total of $80.50.

Logo, Back Porch RestaurantThe Gulf of Mexico was beautiful in Destin, blue sky, white sand and many shades of green water. We had lunch on the beach at a favorite seafood restaurant, The Back Porch Seafood & Oyster House. Then we went shopping for shoes and found them at the Rockport store. We got home easily, we returned along the coast road instead of the Interstate highway. And without any more flashing blue lights.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Today's Holidays

Today is Labor Day holiday here in the U.S. -- and in Canada it's Labour Day -- always on the first Monday of September. It's the end of summer vacations.

In the U.S. as it is September 3, it is also National Welsh Rarebit Day. Click here for a list of the official September national food holidays.

Recipe, Welsh Rabbit or Welsh Rarebit?
I always thought it was Welsh Rabbit, not Welsh Rarebit. Perhaps it was originally a light-hearted aspersion on the Welsh character by the Brits? But Rarebit isn't new, it has been the standard spelling in America since the early 1800's. Why, I cannot imagine.

The dish, however you spell it, has been around for centuries with many variations. Over-consumption is known to cause nightmares or at the very least, vivid dreams.

Here's a history of the dish and it's spellings. And for even more information check out the Wiki.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

ultrasparky: on teeny houses

ultrasparkyAmerican type designer, graphic designer and photographer, ultrasparky, is currently a master's degree student studying typeface design at the über-cool (and wildly selective) program for typeface design at the University of Reading in the UK. It's the world's top school for type design and research.

His blog discusses his artistic world, personal life and a wide range of other interests. Plus daily photos of ultrasparky himself.

I enjoy reading his posts about the school and his progress through the design curriculum, but best of all are the posts about what it's like to be an American spending an extended time in the UK -- a place he seems to love as much as I do.

Single HauzSometimes he reports on teeny, wee houses such as the Single Hauz designed by Front Architects, his post has links to both sites.

Sparky says,
"So pretty. So teeny. So sleek. I want one on a glacial lake somewhere, and another rising like a pretty, rectangular flower over an urban factory or something."

Here's an earlier post from Sparky about teeny houses.

Now don't leave his site without viewing some examples of his beautiful font, Gina. Two links to check out: the story behind Gina and the Gina specimen book.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Road Hazards

A couple of Tuesdays ago we decided to spend the night at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi. The Beau Rivage is a beautiful place, perhaps the fanciest hotel in the whole state of Mississippi and it's officially the tallest building in the state.

Constructed in 1999 by Mirage Resorts, then owned by Las Vegas' Steve Wynn, it was soon was acquired by MGM through the merger of MGM Grand Inc. and Mirage Resorts, Inc. in 2000.

All of Biloxi's beach resorts, and most of the city, were badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina. All of the casinos were destroyed and the hotels unusable. The Beau Rivage re-opened in August 2006, exactly one year after Katrina.

We decided to go over and spend the night to help support the revived tourist economy. Also the Beau Rivage Casino had offered us a free room for the night in their luxury hotel.

"Why don't we drive over early and go to New Orleans for lunch?"

Commander's Palace Restaurant, New Orleans, LouisianaSo we called ahead and made a reservation at the justifiably famous Commander's Palace on the corner of Washington Avenue and Coliseum Street in the Garden District.

I should have read my horoscope it must have warned that it was a bad day for travel. On the way over the traffic was terrible. It was congested and erratic, wildly fast and then slow.
Wide load ahead
In Mississippi we found ourselves at the end of a long line of cars and trucks. There was a wide load ahead. The widest wide load ever. It was the roof for a pre-fab house and it was fully two lanes wide. The pilot truck was making the oversize truck drive in the ditch long enough for one vehicle to pass by, then the wide load would resume driving down the middle of the two-lane highway. At last we got around it. Very scary.

Then as we entered New Orleans' French Quarter, nearly at the restaurant, all five inbound lanes stopped and we sat -- moving ahead one car length at a time. -- for about 20 minutes. There had been a multi-car accident ahead of us and it took a while to clear the road. When we got going again we got to the restaurant too early and spent about 30 minutes driving around the narrow streets of the scenic Garden District looking at the old homes. Very Anne Rice.

At Commander's Palace, quietly in command of the reception desk was the very recognizable Ti Martin, daughter of Ella Brennan. We arrived at 1:00 P.M. and the dining room was nearly full of happy customers and lots of very attentive staff. Great food and great service. Jack had their famous turtle soup, I had their gumbo. For the main course Jack had a grilled filet salad and I also had a salad, mine topped with crisp fried oysters. For dessert we had their signature bread pudding.

By the time we left it was really getting hot and humid. The temperature was 95 degrees and the heat index was 115. After a long wait for the valet parking guy he came running back to say the car won't start. Dead battery.

Of course -- a half-hour stuck in the traffic jam and another slowly driving around the Garden District looking at the old houses -- keeping the air conditioner on for so long at slow speed had drained the battery. The people at Commander's Palace were very helpful. We called the Auto Club but they were very slow so some gardeners spotted us waiting in the hot sun and gave us a jump start.

By 3:30 we were on our way out of town and got to the hotel and a beautiful room about 5:00 p.m.

Beau Rivage Resort and Casino, Biloxi, Mississippi

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A question for Jae

Very sneaky are you. How did you figure out how to place those cool quotation mark images in the block quotes on Walk This World with Me?

I liked the effect so much I just had to steal it. Well I didn't steal the image but I did steal some of the code. What other BloggerSecrets do you need to let us know about?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I'll Be Back Soon

I know it has been ages since the last post but it has been a busy time here in Pensacola. And it's August. With lots of heat and humidity.

Regular posts will resume very soon. Meanwhile here's a car commercial you may enjoy. It takes a while to load. So relax.

Oh, and check out & Maybe your productivity will drop to less than zero, too.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Grand Princess Ports of Call Planner

Western Caribbean Cruise, December 2007

It is very likely we won't step off the ship at all. But just in case we decide to see the sights ashore, here are some links to information about each port of call the Grand Princess will make.

I will add some more links as I find them so check back often.

Taj Mahal Shopping Plaza, Ocho Rios

First Port of Call -- Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Here are three links with info about what to do around the port area whilst dodging aggressive street vendors: Frommer's Ocho Rios Guide,, Ocho Rios Shopping Centres.

Local News -- The island's major daily newspapers are the Jamaica Gleaner and the Jamaica Observer. And there's a weekly tabloid, The Star.

From Kingston, the Gleaner's radio station, Power 106 FM, has news, talk and music of Jamaica.

Hell, Grand Cayman

Second Port -- Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands have the highest standard of living of all the Caribbean Islands. But there is also Hell. Some links, Cayman Islands Restaurant Guide, Grand Cayman Wiki, Maps of the Cayman Islands.

Local News -- For local and tourist news check out the national daily paper, Caymanian Compass, and Cayman Net News Online.

For online local radio there's Z-99 Radio Grand Cayman and you can listen here.

Cozumel Shopping

Third Port -- Cozumel, Mexico
Guide to Cozumel, Los Cinco Soles, Mexican Arts & Crafts Store.

Local News -- Cozumel Today, The Island Tourist Newspaper

Tender Dock, Princess Cays

Fourth Port -- Princess Cays, Eleuthera Island, Bahamas
There's not much to do except enjoy the beach and the BBQ. Shopping is limited to some local handicrafts.