I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!

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Thursday
Feb022017

The benefits of having a plan

 

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We had no intention of being caught out like we were yesterday and made sure we had plenty of addresses and note of parking places before we drove out this morning.

 

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Well, it’s a dark and rather unobtrusive welcome, wouldn’t you say?  I don’t suppose I’d have noticed it at all had we not been stuck in traffic by that particular junction yesterday so this morning, I had my camera ready.

 

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In not time at all, we’d parked the car in the multi storey and were walking towards Ocean Drive.

 

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Where, of course, there were plenty of parking spots this morning!  Never mind.

 

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It was a beautiful morning, just right for walking and enjoying the fresh air.

 

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Oh, and taking a closer look at the architecture, of course.  We loved the way the Hotel Avalon parked a cute car outside, too.

 

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Walking on the beach side of the road to avoid the breakfast solicitations from every hotel we passed, it also gave us a better view of the buildings too.

 

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We really enjoyed simply strolling around, spotting quirky features there amidst the stylish hotels.

 

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Love the colour pops!

 

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But hey, there’s a beach here too!  We turned right and wandered down there, marvelling at the miles and miles of clean, well maintained sand, even if all those vehicles had compressed the beach to an almost concrete-like firmness.

 

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I guess it makes an easier commute than Ocean Drive?

 

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I considered dipping a toe in the water, and walked down to the softer, sandier stretch a little lower down, stopping to admire the brightly coloured lifeguard station as I did.

 

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But as I did, I noticed the lifeguard feeding the birds.  Guess which direction I chose to run in?

 

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We’ve seen signs like this all over the world and count ourselves lucky not to have to worry about hurricanes and things generally.

 

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The Victor Hotel caught our eye, causing us to overlook the stunning Casa Casuarina next door!

 

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Perhaps we should have joined a walking tour?  No, really, we’ve had enough of that kind of thing during the last couple of weeks!

 

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Anyway, as people queued to take their photograph in front of the sign, we enjoyed a bite to eat at the Breakwater Hotel opposite, wondering what it’d be like to stay here.  The answer was all around us – noisy!

 

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We had one or two bits and pieces still on our list, so dropped into a supermarket and marvelled at the quantities of beer and snacks people had in their trolleys as we paid for our shopping.  As we left, I turned around and spotted the answer – the Superbowl.

 

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Our day ended in Little Havana.

 

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We’re unfamiliar with Cuban food, though have really enjoyed a couple of meals on previous visits elsewhere in the US (here and here) and thought that this would be a great place to have dinner.

 

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La Carreta wasn’t billed as fine dining, but seemed to offer good, reliable choices and had reasonable Trip Adviser reviews, so we headed there.

 

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The mojitos were great!  (Plural: Happy Hour = 2 for 1, and guess who was the designated driver?  Clue: not me!)

 

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But the Cuban sampler dish was a disappointment.  With plain white rice in the centre, then from the top, fried plantain (the best), yuca (like eating wallpaper paste), carnitas (pulled pork but without sauce), a croquette (rather dull), tamale (ditto) and piccalilli beef (like my Mum’s minced beef in gravy).  No spice.  No interest.  No seasoning.  Unlike any Cuban/Latin food we’ve had anywhere and certainly not in the same league as the delicious offerings in Rosa Mexicano the other night.  Poor choice – our fault.

 

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But hey, we can’t end on a dull note. 

 

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There was another Calle Ocho address on my list!

 

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The Jeni’s of Miami!  Delicious ice cream that more than made up for the “first course”.

 

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Next door, there was quite a party going on!

 

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Watching the trails of aircraft taking off from the nearby airport form kisses in the sky, it was time to make our way back.  We have fun planned for tomorrow, involving about an hour’s drive, much chatter and even more laughter, of that I am sure.

An early night is required!

Wednesday
Feb012017

Living the Dream?

 

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Here in Miami for a few days, we had made a list of things we wanted to do and see.

 

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We woke to blue skies and, for us, warm temperatures.  As we drove, we passed joggers, dog walkers, power-walkers and cyclists.  Just what would it be like to live here?

 

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What would appeal more, city or beach?

 

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Modern or Deco?  We thought we’d take a look at South Beach Art Deco today.

 

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Aaaagh!  For heavens’ sake.  The traffic!  The parking!  (there appears to be nowhere at all to park a car!) 

 

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Oh, we just couldn’t be doing with this, driving round nose-to-tail in a total traffic jam, looking for a parking space (just like everyone else).

 

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At least there’s a pedestrian shopping mall nearby (with a multi storey car park) so we can stretch our legs and have coffee.

 

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Actually, along here are modern apartment blocks right there on the ocean – South Beach looks pretty nice.

 

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Well, it would be nice if we could see the ocean too!   Those apartment blocks are side by side, right along here and form a canyon-like feeling to the road.  Yes, I could imagine living here…but only if I had an ocean facing apartment.  Who wants to live above a busy road with traffic 24/7?

 

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The beach might be nearby, but I was staggered by the number of apartment blocks which are cheek by jowl all over this part of the city.  All of those people – and all of that concrete – I think it would drive me crazy.

 

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The behaviour of at least one local suggests that I’m not alone!  (He did that wheelie right across the road junction)

 

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The sunny weather would be nice, wouldn’t it?  Or?  Maybe the summer heat would get a little much, especially when radiated from all that concrete.  And I’m not sure I could be faffed about applying sunblock all the time, even though it’d be an essential daily task.

 

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As we returned to our car this evening in a vast parking lot (yes, we resorted to the remote unlock to see which car flashed), we thought of home.

 

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You see, the Moon and Venus were high in the sky, as they were a month ago when I took the same picture from our sitting room window.  Yes, it’s fun being in Miami.  Of course, we love travelling and are having a great time here and yes, it’s ever so cold at home, we are told. 

Slowly, though, we’re getting ready to be back.

Yes, Crisy, it was hard to leave Explorer after such a great time.  Rick, we were delighted to have you along, if only in the virtual sense.  But I‘m glad to say that we already live the dream in my opinion and after another couple of days of good times here, meeting with friends we can look forward to being at home in Gloucestershire and to anticipating our next adventure!

I hope you’re coming too?

Monday
Jan302017

Adventure Part 3

 

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We were already “here” when I opened the curtains this morning.  Already packed and our luggage collected, we simply had to manage our time today.  No point in rushing – we were assigned the last disembarkation code, with no flight to catch, no tour to take.

 

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So we took our time over a leisurely breakfast in the restaurant, enjoying Aras’ company again and appreciating the small details like the little ship-shaped garnish to my blueberry pancakes.

 

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Not to mention the clever carrot garnish on my Hero’s omelette.  I looked closely at that one and might add it to my repertoire!

 

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Though our estimated disembarkation time was 9.10am, it was more than an hour after that when we were finally called and gone 10.30am when we had collected our luggage, gone through immigration and joined the last queue of the day, for a taxi.

 

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Hello Miami.

 

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As we drove through the city, we spotted a billboard for the Harmony of the Seas, the ship we’d passed by yesterday.  OMG.

 

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We checked into our cool hotel, learned that our room wouldn’t be ready for another hour or so, and went out to get our bearings.

 

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I guess we’re not in Kansas any more Winking smile

 

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We hummed as we walked.

 

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Doing our best to avoid road and building works around and about, we took refuge in a new shopping centre, which the concierge had recommended for the architecture alone.  Built to capitalise on the breezes during the hot Summer months, it made an interesting diversion for a while.

 

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Still awaiting our call to say our room was ready, we mooched around the Brickell Key a while longer.

 

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Had we but got our beachwear with us, we could have settled on the hotel beach for a while.  But everything was still packed up and for now, we must simply be patient.

We seem to have been doing a lot of that today.

 

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As we turned the corner, we spotted a familiar sight.  The Explorer was just over there, awaiting her next complement of guests who would be boarding about now, I guess.

 

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She’ll sail at 5pm for a short, five day Caribbean cruise, chartered to an hotel group for their employees.

Bon Voyage, Explorer!  Hope to see you soon!

Monday
Jan302017

Moving along

 

All good things come to an end and as my Mum would say, we have to leave one good thing in order for the next good thing to begin.

 

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Our last day on board Explorer got off to an excellent start with Sunday Brunch in the restaurant.  The choice was overwhelming, the service was legendary.  Sweet Darle, from Myanmar was there to help us choose and we were glad of an opportunity to say thank you and hope to see you soon!  One thing we really love about Regent is the way young staff are engaged, trained and enabled to progress and it’s so good to meet them time and again and watch their career develop.

 

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It’s good to meet chefs face to face and be able to thank them for their fantastic work.  Even better to see how proud they are when an event like this involves them at the front.

 

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Happy though we were to linger as long as we could over Mimosas and crepes, there was the essential business of packing to consider.

 

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I had the door open as we worked and turned around just in time to see the Harmony of the Seas pass us by.  One of the largest cruise ships in the world, she carries almost 6000 passengers and more than two and a half thousand staff.  Wow.  But you know, I’ll bet everyone on board is having just as great a time as we are enjoying!

 

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All packed and our suitcases locked and put out, we are left with the sweet message that reminds us it’s our last evening.

 

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We have one more dinner with our friends, the Clueless Trivia Team: Sue and Don, Vince and Joyce, my Hero and myself.  We engineer a table for six in our favourite spot and share an evening of fun stories and much laughter.  The wine flows freely, the food is great and the company even better.  Each of the three couples begins the next stage of their adventure tomorrow – all six of us will stay in Florida a little longer before returning to our homes.  But for one last night, it’s great to celebrate our good fortune, our success (one win and several second places) and wish Vince good luck in spending his on board credit before the Boutique closes shortly.

Tomorrow, Part 3 of our adventure begins.  The fun just keeps on coming!

Saturday
Jan282017

On a warm, sunny afternoon

 

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What better way can there be to dip one’s toes in cool, fresh water and enjoy a little peace and quiet?  That’s exactly what I did when we returned from our walking tour in Cartagena yesterday, making my way to the Infinity Pool in the Spa.

 

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Though I knew there was a discreet entrance to the spa on Deck 6, I chose to use the main Deck 5 entrance so I could exchange my suite key card for a locker key at the desk here.

 

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Once inside, through the ladies’ locker room, there’s a peaceful lobby area with several facilities accessed from here.  There in the room with the glass door is an infrared sauna, and just across from there, the entrance to a glorious experience, the experiential shower!

 

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I pressed one button and stepped inside for a truly amazing and uplifting five minutes.  First, a cold mist descended upon me.  It was aromatic and rather soothing; perfectly calming after a hot and rather bustling walking tour.  After a few minutes, the lighting changed and I found myself in a tropical rain shower.  Cool drips of water splashed on my head and felt exactly like being caught in the rain somewhere warm.  Just as I was getting used to that, a gentle massage shower began with water coming from all directions!  How amazing was that?

 

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Had I been a little braver, I might have stepped inside this next “cold room”,

 

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but as it is, I simply opened the door (as there was noone inside) and snapped a picture of the ice walls instead.  I’m told it is very invigorating to step from the sauna or steam room into the ice room, but for now, I’ll take their word for it.

 

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The wonderfully aromatic steam room is just opposite – and as with everything here, I’m assuming this “women’s section” is exactly replicated on the other side for the gentlemen?

 

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Both sections open out onto the aft deck, where there are a small number of sun loungers and a couple of the circular beds.

 

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There’s a couple of showers and shelves of towels behind what I think is the best kept secret on board.

 

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The Infinity pool.

 

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It’s not large and who knows what would happen if the whole ship descended upon it at once, but oh my, it’s lovely.  The tilework is spectacular – as it is throughout the spa – and my only comment would be to say that the stairs to access the pool are very steep.  Even using the staircase with the handrail involves a step of 12 inches or so, so those with wonky knees could find it tricky.

 

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But me?  I loved it!  I was tempted to say nothing about it, to keep the secret safe, but you know, I just had to share!

 

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The spa is on two levels on the Explorer, with treatment rooms, a beauty salon and two workout rooms

 

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I’m not a gym bunny so can’t comment on the equipment.

 

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But for sure, there’s a great view from some of the machines!

 

I think that really does complete my walkthrough.  I’m sure there are corners I‘ve missed and with only one more day to find them, maybe some will have to wait until our next time on board.  I’ll look forward to that!

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