Saturday, March 25, 2017

Eating with bigger fishes!

Last chapter of our Florida Reunion saga. We were scheduled to leave Florida on Sunday night. Unfortunately (or not), Mother Nature intervened and our flight was cancelled due to bad weather. Can you say tornados? Long story short, Alexa worked her phone, got us a nice room at Embassy Suites while I rebooked our flight for Monday night, 10pm, the last flight available the next day. That was all the good news. The bad news was that they lost my luggage. We finally got to the hotel around midnight. The room was great, breakfast was very nice - made to order omelets but we were faced with what to do for the whole day while we waited for our flight. We had to check out of the hotel by 12:00 but we knew they would hold our bags for us.

One of the features of our Discovery Cove visit was that it came with FREE admission to Sea World and Sea World's water park for 14 days from our initial DC visit. So we went for it. We had done Disney, Discovery Cove, Universal and we were going to finish with the last big park attraction in Orlando, Sea World!

We'd used up all our free or discounted Uber sign-ups so Alexa loaded Lyft onto my phone and we took advantage of their sign-up discounts and away we went! The weather was a little chillier than the days before and it was very windy. We made our way directly to the first roller coaster Alexa could find - The Manta...As the winds were kicking up we were the last group to ride the coaster before they closed all the park's coasters down, whew! Saved my butt, seriously! Now don't get me wrong, I love roller coasters but my body not so much. This is very distressing to me. Barb has had issues with coasters for a while now. I have other friends of the same age who also say they can't handle coasters anymore and I'm thinking - wimps! But to be honest, when Lex and I hit Space Mountain our first day I can honestly say I didn't remember being buffeted about as much and my head and neck hurting as it did this time. I had the same reaction on several of the more strenuous and extreme rides we road this time around. So I was very glad I only had one coaster this day especially since the other big coaster, Mako - scared the sh*t out of me to look at! Even more, the Manta had you strapped in head to foot and then lifted you up so that you were hanging from the top, parallel to the ground before it took off!

Rides off my mind, we hit all the other animal attractions including the Shamu theatre and show. I love these beautiful, graceful animals and while they are being "held in captivity" I truly believe they are cared for and not exploited as some animal activists would have us believe. I worry about how our species careless disregard for the other species that inhabit this planet as we invade and destroy their habitats and decimate their populations. Sea World and other organizations do their best to preserve the species and educate us as to the wonders of these majestic creatures.

We also saw flamingos - I love flamingos!

We were in time for sea lion feeding!
 Then we had dinner with the orcas! In one of the smaller pools adjacent to the large theatre pool they had a dining area with a buffet and you could have dinner while sitting not six feet from the edge of the pool, separated by a plexiglass window. We watched the orcas as they were playing with large 'toys', a plastic drum with holes in it that would push in the water and toss.
 After we ate the trainers came out and we got a front row feeding and educational session with the orcas with a few tricks in too. These photos were taken by just leaning over the plexiglass. We were very close and it was so cool!

At the end of our day we used Lyft to get us back to our hotel, collected our luggage and headed back to the airport. We were home just after midnight and up and away the next morning by 10 to get Alexa back to school for classes. We had a wonderful time and even though we thought we'd only get a chance to visit one of the parks besides our scheduled visit to Discovery Cove, we managed to hit three Disney parks and close it down, a full day at Universal, a wonderful relaxing day at Discovery Cove and dinner with Shamu at Sea World - couldn't have done it better if we planned it. The best part of the whole trip was having Alexa meet my old high school friends and spending time with Barbara. That was just priceless. It was a great, great trip!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Swimming with Fishes...

Remind you of Gilligan's Island? Welcome to Discovery Cove. We had a wonderful day at this great nature theme park. There are no rides, no characters jumping around in costume, no repetitive music playing in your head all day long. Just soothing, calming water and nature.

As I mentioned in my prior post, Alexa had swimming with dolphins on her bucket list. She did her research and found Discovery Cove. Operated by SeaWorld and just across the street from the main park. Discovery Cove offers a unique experience for it's visitors. The price for the day was all-inclusive. We got our breakfast, lunch, snacks and drinks along with our snorkeling equipment, lockers, wet suits and life vests as part of our cost. I will not lie, it's not cheap, but it was so worth it!

We arrived at 8:30, signed in and had our photo badges and id's checked and created. Walked to where they were serving breakfast - very nice I might add and afterward we walked over to the dolphin lagoon.

We had a check in and met our trainer who gave us some basic instructions, told us what to expect, checked that we would all be OK with being in the water and then we walked into the lagoon.

We met our dolphin, Aries and spent some time learning about his anatomy, how to touch him and doing some basic commands. Then we got to swim out, in groups of one or two about 20 yds. from where we were standing to another trainer and one by one we got to ride a dolphin into shore. Pictures were taken (mine were awful!) but Alexa was one happy girl! I'm adding a link to a blog post  (where I found this map) about a family that had a similar experience. The photos on this blog illustrate our experience very well and will give you a good idea what to expect of Discovery Cove.

After the dolphins, we went to the Grand Reef. I have to say, this was great! I really enjoyed myself snorkeling and wish I had stayed there longer. The giant manta rays at my feet really freaked me out though, I have to say. It was like swimming with the fishes in 'Tanked' the show about the fish tank builders in Las Vegas. I could have sworn I saw fish that I see on that show.

We walked over to the aviary - great fun, informative and what beautiful birds!

There were trainers everywhere and they gave us not only tips on feeding the birds but what we were feeding them and why.

We finished our day - after a very nice lunch, on the Wind Away River. It's like a lazy river, current always moving you but it's attached to several small beaches, one large beach with a grotto with waterfalls and several waterfalls along the route. You can use a noodle (wuss girl, me did) or you could just swim along. There were several areas where the bottom would drop to 8 ft. and others where you could easily stand. We loved it so much we went around twice and ended up late getting back for our reunion launch!

I would go back there in a NY minute! I hope to be able to take Norm and visit. It's the one park I think he would really like.

Next up, my last vacay post about our last (or so we thought) theme park and our trip back.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Florida, Part Deux or How I'm getting old!

OK, so the reason I went to Florida was for my high school unofficial reunion. The reason Alexa went is because:
1. She's a great student, daughter and I really wanted her to meet my friends.
2. I'm a mother who can't say no...
3. She whined, "I want to go to Florida too!"
Just guess which one, I dare you...

As soon as I 'caved' and said yes, Alexa's minions started researching. Alexa has a bucket list - I'm 60+ and I don't have a real bucket list. On this list is swimming with dolphins. So Alexa did her due diligence and found out that SeaWorld has a sister park called Discovery Cove. It's right across the street from SeaWorld and it has a 'dolphin experience' package. Long story short, Barb was onboard with the idea, we booked reservations (a must, especially if you are looking to do the dolphin experience), booked our air trip allowing for an extra day incase the weather in NY or NH delayed our arrival and we were off!

This plan gave us an extra day in Orlando before Discovery Cove and before the reunion. Theme parks here we come! After of months of negotiation, consultation and gnashing of teeth, we agreed on Disney's Magic Kingdom. Before we left we didn't think two old broads and a soon to be twenty something could manage more than one park in a day. There's the physical strain (Barbara has a bad ankle from a nasty break a number of years ago), Alexa wanted to see everything, and I did not want to go on the Tower of Terror - no, no No, NO!

So what did we do on our lazy, relaxing day at Disney? MAGIC KINGDOM, HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS AND EPCOT! We closed the park down! Last monorail to the transportation center, last tram to our parking lot - last car in our parking lot! It's all because of Alexa's mad iPhone app skills, a motorized cart and a mom who can't say no. Here are some photos.*

First things first, Mini Ears! We spent the first half hour, easily, searching for Minnie Ears (hint: they were everywhere! But we needed the right pair)

* I don't have a lot of photos - however, we stopped every 30 seconds to take photos - Alexa had to have a selfie of EVERYTHING! Needless to say, the photos are all on her camera! We also had park photographers take pictures of us, her EVERYWHERE! Again, stored on her ticket so I got nothing!

Tower of Terror - the ride I was not, not, NOT going on...I went on it, under duress, under extreme protest, with my eyes closed, tightly!

OK, here's where the 'old' comes in. Neither Lex or I had ever been on the Aerosmith,Rockin Roller Coaster ride. I was really looking forward to it. I discovered on our first ride, Space Mountain (one of my all time faves) that my head and neck were really getting buffeted around. Same with this ride. I was uncomfortable - what's up with that! I admit that there are some rides I just look at and I don't want to get on (more of that a little later), but rides I like aren't fun anymore?!? I'm seriously bummed!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

45 and Counting

2016 marked the 45 anniversary of my high school graduation. If college was all about my husband, high school was all about my friends. They were and are a great group. Facebook has been a wonderful thing in that I've been able to reconnect with many of these people that I've lost contact with. Using Facebook we were able to communicate and arrange an informal reunion in Orlando Florida.  So I thought I'd share a few photos.
 First night in Orlando we met my BFF, Barbara and went to Disney Springs for dinner at the House of Blues
 Rock On!! Barb and I at the Rockin' Roller Coaster at Disney Hollywood Studios.
 Some of the 'old' gang - myself, Sandy Bernstein, Frank Fish, Barbara O'Dea and Sandy Butterworth.
 We had an old fashioned 'Sandy's Pool Party!" on Saturday although we were so busy talking no one went in the pool!
 Steve Anderson and Dave Scherer. Dave was the driving force behind the reunion and he and his wonderful wife, Sandy (yes, another Sandy) made all the arrangements. What a great couple and they did a marvelous job of hosting us all.
 Dave had a friend who was opening a bar the Saturday night of get-together so we all went over for a drink or two. (Sandy, Barbara, Frank, Steven and Dave)
 Comparing notes! Barbara, Steven, Dave and Sandy (Dave's wife)

We had a wonderful, wonderful time and Sandy Bernstein, our fearless leader in high school, had a great idea - for our 50th - CRUISE! All aboard!  I'll have another post soon about our 'side' visit with Alexa and some serious park hopping!

Monday, August 22, 2016

It's a New Year! Kinda...

The calendar starts in January and goes to December, right? If you are like me, you have several different calendars whirling around in your head besides the classic January to December one. For most of my life my main calendar begins in September. Even before Alexa, calendars in our house begin in September as we have been an academically based household since college. It's a good thing and it has it's drawbacks.

GOOD - we have off the same holidays our daughter has off.
BAD - it's much harder to take a holiday or vacation any time of the year that does not revolve around a school schedule. So taking a trip after everyone goes back to school - not so easy.

GOOD - 2+ month Summer Vacay!
BAD - my DH works year round...

So you see, it's good and it's not so good!

We did do a lot (for us) traveling this summer. It was our 40th wedding anniversary this summer - no clue how that happened! With a kid in college we've been trying to keep expenses down so that trip to Hawaii or Europe was nixed pretty early. We talked about going to Canada for a offense, but we could do better than that, so we decided to go to a Yankee game (what else, duh!!) in CHICAGO!!!

Norm has been to Chicago several times but I have never been so we checked the schedule, found out they were playing the White Sox a week or so after our official wedding date and decided to make the trip. We had a great time and managed to sneak in a second game across town with the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Getting to and from the games was so easy. We took the El to both. Nice to know NYC subways don't have the corner on crowded subways!
I'm awful with names - getting worse as I get older...I keep wanting to call this Cominsky Field even though I know it's not. U.S. Cellular? How about where the White Sox play?! While we were waiting to get in I helped a cameraman from the YES Network do a color check on his camera. Didn't help get us any perks, but I saw that YES logo and had to help out!
We had the BEST hotdog at this park! Smothered with sautéed onions and a little sauerkraut, it was the best hotdog I've ever had at a ball park.

Funny story - a few posts back I talked about our trip to Toronto to see the Yankees and how my brother saw us on TV - completely taking us by surprise. In Chicago we had similar tickets and of course, I looked to see where the cameras were and thought, no - he can't see us, we're not in the line of camera - WRONG! I get a ping on my phone an it's my brother complaining I'm not wearing Yankee swag...! Of course I protest, texting back to him, and he comes back telling me what Norm is wearing along with the guy sitting on the other side of him!

Then I posted on Facebook, as I usually do, and I get question from a friend asking what the Cubs score is - I'm not at the Cubs game...but I find out they are in town also, making up a game or two that got postponed. I get on StubHub and find out the Cubs are in town and buy tickets for the game the night after next! This one I KNOW my brother won't see us at because we are in the rafters of Wrigley Field -- in the rain!
It poured! The game was held up for a good 40 minutes. We had to run through the downpour just to get into the park from the El and we couldn't see the iconic Wrigley Field sign that's behind home plate. We were about 12 rows from the top of the stadium - that was the good news because our seats were dry and we were protected by the overhang.
The game finally started but not before some idiot fell over the ivy covered outfield wall on to the warning track!
I walked around to the other side of the field and took this photo of the stands built on top of the buildings across the street from the ball park.
We did do other things than baseball while in Chicago. One of the funest things we just stumbled upon was a local Beatles tribute band called Kaleidoscope Eyes. They were at the base of the Hancock Tower and they played for about two hours. They were great! As you can see they were down in the lower level off the Michigan Ave entrance and we were up on the street level looking down. They were just fabulous and one of the surprise highlights of our trip. We went down and talked to them after their set to see if they were playing anywhere else while we were in town and unfortunately they were out of the city the rest of our visit. 

We did go up into the Hancock Tower and took some great photos of the city. During our visit we walked along the waterfront, pictured directly below this photo, along the beach front and over by the park section opposite. You can also see the Navy Pier jutting out and we spent some time there also.
 They have a 360 degree view and we walked all around.
 Our hotel is the center one in this photo below with the rounded side and patch of green on top.
 This is looking north along the lake.
I wanted to go to the Art Institute and it did not disappoint!

 Norm taking a photo of the Seurat.
 Monet's waterlilies!
 Grant Wood's American Gothic
 Georgia O'Keefe
We also saw 'The Bean' and met a very nice woman who gave us directions commenting on how when she was new to Chicago someone did the same for her.
We also HIGHLY recommend the Architectural River Tour. This was great! You tour down the Chicago river and get an informative and fun guide to the history of Chicago and the wonderful buildings and architecture of the city. We had a beautiful day to be on the water and the views were amazing!

Our guide even took our picture!
Remember the photo of the shoreline looking across to the Navy Pier? This is from that park edge looking back over to the city.

I said we did a lot of traveling, but I guess we didn't do that much, it just feels like it. Alexa did two trips with friends, one to NYC and another to Toronto.

Our other big excitement was my boss's daughter's wedding. Congratulations to Kaitlyn and Dave!
Lastly, Miss Priss is back at school and living in her sorority house. We brought her back to Cornell last week and helped her set up her room. She's a sorority sister now so she'll be someone's 'Big' come spring semester. She went back early to help with freshman orientation. We're hoping she has as successful a year this year as she did last.
That's it for our summer. I'm looking forward to the fall. I/we have a few little trips planned for the fall and January so that will give me something to write about. I'm also looking forward to cooler weather. I HATE the heat!! (and sound like a broken record saying/writing about it!) I hope you enjoyed my summer travelogue and I'll see you in October!