Sunday, January 21, 2024

Birthday Weekend: Nassau, Bahamas

I must admit this is the day I have looked forward to the most.  The last time I was in Nassau on a land trip, Colin and I had an excursion to visit Exuma and the swimming pigs but weather canceled it.  I was so bummed.  When I looked at what excursions the cruise offered I noticed on to Pig Island.  It was not the same but the concept was so I booked it . . . Happy Birthday to me!
When we arrived it was super windy and cool outside . . . I considered canceling but then would have nothing to do.  The first part of the excursions was to hang out and eat lunch at Pearl Island until our time slot to visit the pigs.  Pearl Island was  bit run down but the views made up for the worn out beach chairs.
It was time to make a quick boat trip to Pig Island to visit the pigs.  They did not disappoint!
We were given a small cup of apples and weenies . . . feed me . . . they knew why the humans were there!  
 
I absolutely loved watching the pigs go from person to person looking for food.  They were so funny!
The 45 minutes went by so fast.  Oh and I know someone is probably wondering about the poop.  I had read reviews from previous travelers that the pigs pooped in the water and it was disgusting.  I did not see one pig do this but I was mindful and did not get in the water at all; I just feed the pigs from the sandy beach.  We boarded the boat to head back to the ship in Nassau.  I went right back to the ship to relax.  The seas were a bit rough tonight which made it fun!  I packed my bags and went out one last time to enjoy the last night of the cruise.  Of course I ended up at the Windjammer for dessert and hot tea!
I took this short cruise to see if I thought I would enjoy a longer cruise as a solo traveler.  I was just getting into my cruise groove and now it is over.  Now I am looking for a longer cruise!
The Freedom of the Seas will arrive back in Miami super early.  I have a flight to catch early afternoon which means I will be sitting for a long time at the airport terminal.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Birthday Weekend: CocoCay, Bahamas

Since I went to bed so early, I was up at 5am!  I quickly got out on deck to watch us arriving at CocoCay.  This is a private island owned by Royal Caribbean and have never been here.  It is always cool to watch the ships pull into port and dock.  
We shall see if today really is a perfect day?
It is unseasonably cool this weekend and very windy but when you have limited time you sort of just have to accept it and enjoy the best you can.  I lingered around the boat as we were there all day and no hurry to get off.  I often get asked about how I travel alone.  You know it is fine.  My thought is if I want to go some where then it is either go alone or stay home!  I don't mind eating alone or hanging out alone.  Sometimes it is nice to do things solo but it is also nice to travel with others too.  
I finally got off and found a spot to hang out for a bit.  I brought a new tripod to use to take photos and was having fun but a little embarrassed too.  I definitely need some practice with my solo photos with the tripod.
Honestly, I was a little bored just hanging out so went for walk to explore the island.  One thing that I did not realize is a lot of areas require you to buy a ticket or pay extra.  There was not way I was paying to sit in a specific area when there were hundreds of empty lounge chairs.  I did enjoy lunch at the Snack Shack at Oasis Lagoon.
I liked this place because it was not a buffet and you ordered and they handed food to you.  I had had enough fun for the day so headed back onboard for a shower, nap, and more food.  Here's the thing about cruising . . . anything goes and there always food everywhere you turn!
I also feel cruising in not super friendly for solo travelers.  I had to pay double for my room even though I am the only person occupying the room!  Thankfully it was last minute and the price was not bad even paying double.
Normally, I would eat dinner in the main dining room but since I am alone I decided that I did not want to sit with strangers and be chatty and answer a lot of questions on why I am traveling solo.  People always have questions.  So I headed to the Windjammer which is the buffet.  I am not really a buffet person but was there when the doors opened which meant I could get my food before anyone else had their nasty hands on the serving utensils.  The theme tonight was Italian and man was it all delicious and the view was pretty good too! 

Friday, January 19, 2024

My 50th Birthday at Sea

Honestly, I can not believe I have lived 50 years!  I mean how does that happen?  It seems like yesterday I was celebrating 30 with a three week old baby boy.  I am sure my parents feel like I was just born!  It was a slow wake up with a nice breakfast at Ambersweet . . . today it was Avocado Toast which I love!
I headed back to the room to pack for my trip to the Miami Cruise Port.  My boarding time was 1:30 pm and I was ready to get on the boat . . . I mean ship.  Apparently avid cruisers get offended when you refer to a cruise ship as a boat.  The drive to the port was less than 20 minutes.  I have not cruised since 2019 so I was curious to see the changes. 
Since this was a short cruise, I only  had a small carry-on bag so did not drop bags with the porter.  I knew that by the time I was onboard that my cabin would be ready and I wanted to get my stuff unpacked.  I decided to have some fun taking silly photos in the cabin before heading out for the evening.
 
I treated myself to a special dinner at the Chef's Table . . . me and eight other people would have a multi course meal with a wine pairing for each course . . . I am not a drinker so this might be interesting!  I never pay for the special restaurants so this was going to be a treat for me.  It was neat that the chef came out with each course and talked about how she picked this course and prepared it.  
Let me just say it was a lot of food and booze!  I was stuffed and d-o-n-e!!!
I liked all the courses except for the roasted branzino (bottom row, first photo) . . . it wasn't horrible just not my favorite.  The aftermath of all those glasses!  One little sip and our server Arnold would add more.
I might have stumbled back to my room and been asleep very early.  At least I did find my cabin!
It was a great way to spend my 50th birthday, but I still plan on taking a bucket list trip later this year!

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Birthday Weekend: Miami Beach, Florida

I love lazy wake-ups when you do not really have plans, but I could not wait to pull back the curtains and see the beach, ocean, and sunshine . . . 
GOOOOOOOD MORNING sunshine . . . well okay clouds . . . the only thing on my list today was plopping myself in a beach chair and watching the waves . . . but first it was breakfast.  A buffet breakfast was included at Ambersweet which I am not a big fan of buffets so I asked if it was possible to order from the menu.  It was; so I had Challah "Tres Leche" French Toast with Cherry Compote.  Can you say yummmy?
I walked to the beach as soon as I finished my breakfast . . . I am not sure what I was thinking but the news said it was a cold day today . . . it was 74 . . . so I did not wear my swimsuit.  After a few minutes, I went back to the room and changed.  I know, what was I thinking?  I was back at the beach by 1015am and would stay there until late afternoon.  It was so nice, relaxing, sunny, warm, not crowded . . . just a perfect afternoon.
The hotel has complimentary bikes to ride on the boardwalk so that was my evening activity.  I grabbed a bike and headed out to watch the sun set.
And then I had a bit of a mishap.  I fell . . . off my bike.  It was not as dramatic or exciting as it sounds but as I went to get off, I swung my right leg across the back and it hung on the basket that I forgot about.  My foot was caught and in super slow motion I was falling on the pavement as these two young girls watched.  All I could think about was protecting my head as I fell backwards.  The bike landed on top of me, my elbows and knees were scratch, and my pride was crushed.  I got up and the two girls asked if I was okay and then giggled.  Thankfully, I was returning the bike for the night  . . .  so on my last night of 49; I fell off a bicycle.  I returned the bike and went to my room for the rest of the evening.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Birthday Weekend: to Miami, Florida

So I decided to take a bit of time off from work and head out early to celebrate my birthday.  Not just any birthday but my 50th birthday!  I really wanted to go somewhere on my bucket list but time just did not allow me to skip work for that long.  For some reason I have become a bit wishy washy when it comes to booking my trips but a week before my birthday I decided to take a short cruise out of Miami.  I arrived after dark and decided that the Miami airport was just a mess, but when I walked outside and it was warm and humid, all was better.  When I left Texas we had terrible winter weather and it had been below freezing for 4 days.  Today was the first day in several above freezing, and I was extremely happy to be leaving that behind in Texas for a few days.  I booked a hotel on Miami Beach and was so excited to see how the hotel and beach looked in the morning!  I booked The Confidante Miami Beach Hotel which was a delight and large for one person!  I loved the mix of so many fabric patterns and the d├ęcor.
And to top off the night since I was in Miami, I watched a few episodes of The Golden Girls . . . this room reminds me of an updated version of their house.  Calling it a night!

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Day 3: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Today is my last day in Philadelphia and since there is very large event I wanted to try and get out of the city.  I found a tour company called WeVenture that had a half day tour to Valley Forge National Historical Park .  It sounded perfect except that would there be enough other people sign up for the tour to actually happen.  As a solo traveler, I find this the hardest part of making plans . . . most organized tours require a minimum number of participants and sometimes it is just me.  Due to the marathon the tour was delayed a bit which made me nervous since I had a flight to catch in the afternoon, but the company was super accommodating and said they would drop me off directly at the airport instead of the middle of Philadelphia.  Much to my surprise I was the only person on the tour and the guide told me that this company, WeVenture, ran tours as long as someone signed up.  Well isn't that nice!  So after a lot of traffic, detours, and closed streets we finally made it to Valley Forge National Historical Park.  
I am not a history buff but do enjoy learning.  Tom, the guide, was very knowledgeable and gave me a good overview.  We stopped at the visitor center which was very nice and newly updated and then we started the driving tour.  It was a sunny day with a brisk breeze and that jacket left behind in my car at the airport would have been very nice at this point!  We stopped from time to time to discuss the area and look at some of the reconstructed structures.  I was amazed that the park was about 3,600 acres. 
George Washington (and Martha too) lived, slept, and worked here.
. . . and just like that it was time to catch a flight back home!

Friday, November 17, 2023

Day 2: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

When I booked this trip just two days before I left, I found it hard to find hotels for two nights at the same hotel that were available on points for free.  The first night was easy but the second night was harder so I had to change hotels.  I packed up and set out to drop my bag at the next hotel, Hyatt Centric Center City Philadelphia.  The room was ready so I went to check it out.
It was very industrial with the concrete ceiling and the view was nice!  I headed out for my first stop by taking a ride share with the plan to walk back.  The Eastern State Penitentiary was built from 1822-1836 and became the model of over 300 prisons worldwide.  It closed in 1971.  
It is massive and a notable former prisoner was Al Capone who was a resident for about seven months.  It was a self-guided audio tour and only allowed in a small area.  I am sure it is because some parts are just not structural safe to wander around. 
 
It was a short walk to my next stop . . .
Can't you just hear the Rocky song in your head?  I know I sure did and couldn't believe there wasn't someone blaring it from a boombox.  Of course, I gave it a brisk walk to the top!
It wasn't that bad and I did feel a bit like a superstar.
And then I realized why the hotels were hard to find . . . the Philadelphia Marathon would take place tomorrow morning!  I sure did plan my days just perfect to avoid this area and the crazy crowds!  I made sure my shoes were tied and set out to walk back to Redding Terminal Market for round 2.  I liked it so much that I was going back.  Today, I would grab a loaded roast pork sandwich at Tommy DiNic's and whoopie pies from Flying Monkey Bakery.  It was so crowded compared to yesterday so I got my food and started walking back to the hotel.  I found an area a few blocks away with tables and sat down.  The weather was sunny and beautiful so perfect for a picnic for one.   
I'm not going to lie that sandwich was huge and sure needed to walk if off . . . thankfully the hotel was about a mile so that was good.  I just hung out at the hotel and watched some mindless television.  I don't have cable at home so it was nice to watch some of my old favorite shows.  I was needing a sweet treat and those whoopie pies were beyond words delicious!  I got two, hot cocoa and maple pumpkin.
The maple pumpkin was soooo yummy!  I walked 12,578 steps or 5.5 miles . . . so not a lot but it sure felt like a lot more. 

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Day 1: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

When I became an empty-nester I thought I would travel all the time . . . I have not.  A few days ago, after an awful couple of days at work on a whim I booked a trip to Philadelphia.  I would leave in less than 48 hours!  It was kind of exciting and if nothing else I would just relax and enjoy the hotel!  My flight from DFW was delayed and we arrived at PHL around 2am.  Thankfully I had booked the airport hotel and just had to walk across the street.  As easy as it sounded it wasn’t really that easy.  I was tired and nervous and well what should have taken me 2 minutes took me 20 because I read the directions wrong and ended up in a very dark and scary parking garage.  I back tracked and found my way and was never so happy to take a shower and crawl into bed . . . only to be wide awake at 3am!

I woke up earlier than I planned to be awake but took the opportunity to get the day started!  After a quick ride into the city, I was off!  I had a list of places to visit and wasted no time starting my own walking tour!  First stop:  Betsy Ross House
 
Elfreth's Alley . . . the nation’s oldest continuously inhabited residential street
I was hungry so a quick stop for lunch.  I was told that when in Philadelphia you must eat a Philly Cheesesteak; so I did.  I picked Sonny’s.  Steak beef, with, whizz or something like that!
Back to my walking tour for a stop at Christ Church Burial Grounds.  This is Benjamin Franklin’s final resting place.  It was neat to wander around and see how long ago this cemetery burial ground had been around.  It looked a bit odd to see a recent headstone in the mix of all the old.
 
The leaves were so pretty.  I do not get to see the leaf changing color season in Texas so this was a treat.  It was the end of season but still pretty.  Next stop was the Benjamin Franklin Market Street House that has a reproduction printing press with demonstrations on how the process worked back in the day. 
I had a tour of Independence Hall with a park ranger.  These tours can be hit or miss but today our guide was a former social studies teacher, and she was fabulous! 
She was full of great stories and factual information too.  We learned that John Adams gave his inaugural address here and it was less than twenty minutes!  
 
I stopped by to see some important documents to our U.S. history; Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution of the United States.  I wandered across the street to see the Liberty Bell . . .
. . . I thought it was cool that Independence Hall was in the background!  I feel safe walking around however there are some shady people so I knew that I really wanted to be back to my hotel before dark.  The day was winding down so I made one last stop at Redding Terminal Market.  It was so neat to explore all the aisles with so many unique foods.  I was not super hungry and decided to have an apple dumpling at Dutch Eating Place
My hotel was just two blocks away.  I had dropped by bag when I arrived and finally able to check-in to my room . . . which was a total delight!  My diamond status with Hilton is ending at the end of the year since I don’t travel that much anymore so I enjoyed the upgraded room at the Canopy by Hilton Philadelphia Center City Hotel.  I have stayed at another Canopy Hotel and always find them so unique and fun!
It was a great day and when all was said and done, I walked 18,733 steps or 8.2 miles!