A Travellerspoint blog

Things I Want to Remember: Mexico, Cayman Islands, Jamaica

- the AirBNB home in Orlando, a teal wall filled with exotic masks, a crackling stone fireplace, three sweet cats, doors that stay cracked ajar for freedom in and out, an outdoor garden vibrant with various colored flowers and ferns, a clear pool with rolled towels in a metal bin ready for use, morning coffee and separated trash for recycling, good conversation on travel, art, and film, feeling like once again I wanted to stay longer

- Harry Potter at Universal Orlando, discovering Knockturn Alley in the Diagon Allery area, appreciating the darkness and hidden aspect of it, appreciating the vanishing cabinet with the chirping bird from within, wishing David was there to see the skulls and the special effects spiders, seeing the young children with their wands activating the magic areas around the park

- Single Rider Line for the win!

- relaxing on the outside of Deck 4 of the Disney Fantasy, a recliner chair with my Castaway Club tote on my lap to catch my dress from picking up on the ocean wind, sipping on the 'Drink of the Day' that was strong on acidic pineapple flavor, maneuvering the straw around the maraschino cherry and bit of greenery on a plastic sword, falling asleep with my sunglasses on and feeling so relaxed with the sounds of the water, the light afternoon sun illuminating the sea in front of us, the occasional quiet sound of a family or a jogger going by on the adjoining deck

- enjoying Palo for lunch, champagne jelly cubes, chocolate covered strawberries, and oysters that made me squint my face, delicate fresh baked mini-muffins, and various breads with bleu cheese or onion & cheese bread, feeling stuffed on our way out the door

- first swim in the pool in Quiet Cove, learning how to use my underwater camera, test photos with bubbles and eyes squeezed tightly shut, Clare's foot as a test subject for 'flash on' and 'flash off', feeling excitement as we realized the quality of images that we'll pick up when swimming underwater in port, the guitarist in the background playing 'Landslides', orange setting sun and the pool water that slowly took on the cold water from the edges until we knew we had to get out of the pool and brave the ocean wind

- Cozumel and the local ruins, walking alone down the dirt path to the unknown, looking up at the trees with their curling branches above me providing much-appreciated shade, stopping for a moment to take a picture, close my eyes, breath in the smell of earth and fresh air, hearing the sound of far off voices as many others explore the ruins, our host Ivan showing the group the Mayan calendar at the entry way arch, explaining the symbolism of the stones and pointing to the shadows and their alignments

- the beach in Cozumel where Clare and I jumped into the water without hesitation, floating and allowing the waves to carry us, botched attempts at anti-fog spray on our snorkel masks, heading out for our free strawberry daiquiris, then returning to the ocean waves and swimming once more before heading to the showers and changing area to return to our ship

- the Mexican merchants all calling out the same lines: "For you? Or for your boyfriend? No? Ah, for your ex-boyfriend?"

- the man painted gold standing on the box, touching my arm for each pass I made by him, then on the third pass I in turn reached out and touched his arm, winning a startled look

- finding the art store in Cozumel with handmade goods including the beautiful designs by an artist from Puebla, Mexico made from tree bark twisted and contorted, stained to look like leather, seeing various spiral designs and choosing one for my home to mount on a white canvas

- talking with our cruise neighbors the Finks in front of us, answering the parents' questions on how to order breakfast room service so that it arrives in the AM at a time of their choosing, discussing the magnets on our door, slowly donating more to their door as we developed a rapport with the kids and the family, including a donated pair of Captain Mickey Mouse ears to place around their room number, Ariel and Aladdin magnets, and a dry erase board with a very slow game of hangman, receiving a Valentine's Day card and a handmade mask, the parents telling us that the kids ran out to see our Mickey Mouse ears and how they changed each day

- Dylan Fink on the bus with me in Grand Cayman, introducing himself and when I said my name was Sarah, he said, "Whoa", took off his glasses and asked "As in Sarah and Clare?" then his father told him yes, the kid acting like we were celebrity, talked during the trip from Spot's Bay to Georgetown, falling in love with the family and deciding to give them more items on their door

- our elaborate magnet decorations on door 2519, with rotating Mickey Mouse/Minnie Mouse/Maleficent ears around the circular room number, the printed nametags for Clare and Sarah, the various cutouts from Clare's auction book including several Peter Pan magnets arranged around Clare's nametag, the pirate map logo with the Disney characters and the tropical Mickey flower magnet created by my parents, Clare's magnetic Princess frame with our photo from the previous cruise that fell almost every time we shut to the door until we finally brought it inside to prop on the desk, the dangling photo holder from my brother Greg and sister in law Jalaine that held some of my favorite photos from our previous cruise, and the cherished hand stitched Jack Skellingtoon and Baloo made by my mother and father

- our lively guide Che at the Green Grotto Caves in Jamaica, taking on Steve Irwin's accent and making the crowd laugh, making a wish into the wishing pool with a small shell in place of a coin, seeing large porous formations that I assumed to be volcanic only to learn that they were large bits of coral from the time when Jamaica was underwater, walking through the caves and seeing the small furry fruitbats and hearing their squeaks as we wandered through the tunnels, seeing formations of illuminated stalagmites and stalactites in the distance aligning symmetrically with their reflections on the pitch black water

- the man in the Falmouth shopping center who asked how I was doing and then responded 'irie', when I asked what it meant he said, 'the world is good, it's all right mon, it's all right'

- the first off the boat in Falmouth, out to explore and shop before our excursion that would begin an hour and fifteen minutes later, laughing and joking with the locals, getting promised "first customer of the day" prices, and bringing Clare back around in the afternoon, being remembered as the first of the day by many and Clare being given the same haggled down prices as we laughed our way around the center

- my "future husbands" in the handcarved wood area who engraved Jamaica onto my blue pineapple and pink flamingo

- the sea-turbulance of the Disney Magic, causing sliding and adjustments while walking, creating a bit of disorientation when we came back to solid land, leading us to ask naively, "Wait, are we moving?"

- sitting with Clare on Deck 9 at night, bundled, sipping hot cocoa and watching bits of "The Little Mermaid" on the Funnel Vision, stars in the background and the funnels illuminated against the night sky

- sitting with my drink in the shaded portion of Deck 9, clear view of the Funnel Vision trivia slide rotation while service men in bright yellow suits worked on the refrigerator door to the soft serve area behind me, guessing the trivia answers and learning a few things I did not know

- visiting the Tortuga rum cake site in Cayman Islands although "not officially on the tour", sampling unique flavors like key lime, hurrying in my shopping, picking up beanies and bits of memorabilia for my family, laughing as more of my tour mates came in to sample a little rum cake

- the Aqua Dunk of terror, seeing a sign for 40 minute wait and realizing it was a walk-on moment, feeling severe anxiety right before Clare climbs in, not sure how to prepare myself or maintain a calm nature, stepping in, feeling the humidity of the tube, crossing my arms over my chest and hoping for the best before the floor opened beneath me

- the turtle farm, holding a baby turtle in the small tanks available for tourists to step inside, appreciating hearing how they release the turtles into the wild

- making friends with the mother and daughter whose names we never learned while on our Jamaican excursion, the approximately 13 year old girl complimenting my teal nail polish and showing me her glittery pink pedicure with white hearts on the big toes, telling me pink was her favorite color and how she got her first pedicure done for the cruise and for Valentine's Day, the mother asking me to take photos of them at the caves, later at the beach Clare telling me she overheard the girl tell her mother that she wanted to stop and wait for her friend, being near them in line for food and the girl asking her mother, "Can we sit with them? Please?" Clare and I laughed, saved them a beach recliners by us and directed them to the seats with backpacks and a pink flamingo boca clip

Posted by WanderingWorld 00:05 Archived in Jamaica Tagged mexico jamaica cayman_islands cozumel grand_cayman things_i_want_to_remember disney_cruise Comments (2)

Disney Cruise (2015)

Cozumel (Mexico), Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands), and Falmouth (Jamaica)

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2/6/15 at 2:34 PM (Orlando time)

My journey east has started again!! I'm on my connecting flight from Dallas to Orlando, where I'll meet up with Clare, we'll pick up a rental car, and enjoy a little Downtown Disney and Universal Studios before our Disney Cruise on Sunday. I'm feeling pretty excited. The last cruise was so fun and this time it'll be on a different ship and hopefully we'll get our full amount of time at Castaway Cay. (Last time it was cut short due to a medical emergency where we were diverted to Nassau.)

Only a few more hours . . .

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Downtown Disney fun

2/7/15 at 0031 (Orlando time)

Tired and off to bed! Great evening in Orlando. Met up with Clare at the Avis rental counter and picked up the car. They told me I had a Mustang or I could downgrade to a Nissan for better gas mileage. Umm, I'll take the Nissan. ;-)

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Clare with her lollipop and handmade Mickey cover made by my mama

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We opted for the fun bar at the Rainforest Cafe

We headed off to Downtown Disney, singing along with the radio along the way. We had dinner at Rainforest Cafe, of course not before trying at T-REX. I will eat there one day! We did some shopping, I picked up some Minnie Mouse ears for my pirate costume, and then headed on down to our AirBNB room. Cheryle met us warmly, giving a quick tour of the house. We found out she was an interior decorator and we met her friend Katherine, who is a volcanologist (which excited me very much, considering my new found love of volcanoes). Although we were sad to hear the pool wasn't heated, we had a good time chatting with the lovely ladies as I got to know their shy kitty who ended up letting me give him some pets.

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The most interesting part of our AirBNB accommodations. A teal accent wall covered with the owner's travel memories.

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An intriguing art piece greeted us as we entered the home of our AirBNB hosts.

Now, on to bed before Universal and Harry Potter!!

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2/8/15 at 0215 (Orlando time)

Feeling the connection of all things tonight . . . sitting and watching the film 'Nebraska' with a volcano specialist while staying in an AirBNB home . . . the first time I watched 'Nebraska' was in a friend of a friend of an AirBNB host's home on Faial, the island I stayed at on my way home from the volcanic island of Pico. I also connected with the film 'Nebraska' itself, recognizing the struggle of a family member with dementia and wanting to travel to Nebraska where I have family living from my father's side.

The film concluded, the crackling of the fireplace ambers died down. Clare & I spoke with Catherine (a fellow AirBNB patron) of wild dolphins and the deep dark ocean, lost loved ones and spiritual natures, healing chi, and asking what is the appropriate price to pay for assistance in healing? I find myself very taken with Catherine and her animated speech, outgoing nature, and precise accent, talking of dangerous volcanoes and caring for her family.

Before this late night experience, we went to the new Harry Potter Diagon Alley area in Universal Studios, rode the Hogwarts Express, the new Gringott's ride, danced to Beetlejuice music, ate earl gray & lavender ice cream, sipped on butter beer, and had a good time overall.

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The Dark Mark!
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I wonder where the other Vanishing Cabinet opens up . . .
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Edible Dark Mark? You don't say . . .

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It was a little stale

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Krazy Krusty

Now to sleep, and tomorrow our cruise!!

2/8/15 at 1939 (Orlando time)

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First time on the Disney Magic

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The famous Mickey Mouse helmsman statue of the Disney Magic

On the ship and officially off and sailing, rockin' and a-rollin'! We've unpacked, enjoyed the pool, talked to Guest Services to verify our $150 onboard credit, took frownie-face photos when we realized a nearby scheduled rocket launch was cancelled. The door is decorated and now we're on our way to our first dinner at Lumiere's. =)

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We were so sad that the rocket launch was cancelled!

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2/9/15 at 1725 (Orlando time)

Sitting in the Promenade lounge, listening to softly sung cover songs and munching on chicken tenders while I wait for the Villains show to start. Today is our first day at sea and tomorrow is Cozumel, Mexico. It's a special day for me as I've often remarked how I've had the opportunity to travel the world but haven't been down to see our neighboring country yet. While I still need to visit Baja California, I'm looking forward to seeing Cozumel. We booked an excursion to see ruins and then do some swimming on the beach.

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This morning we ate at Palo for brunch, which was a first. It was delicious, as expected. Buffet style combined with hot plates, and food varying from freshly baked muffins and melt in your mouth cinnamon rolls to oysters rockefeller and caviar to chocolate dipped strawberries and tiramisu. Mmmmm, can't wait to go back for dinner later on the cruise!

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2/13/15 at 1901 (Orlando time)

I have officially been slacking on my travel journal duties. Been relaxing and running around simultaneously, enjoying Mexico, Cayman Islands, and Jamaica! Sitting now in the Cove Cafe on deck, and it's our second (and last) day at sea. Listening to guitar covers of Norah Jones, cheating before dinner with a prosciutto and salami plate with crackers, chunks of fresh parmesan and carrot sticks with veggie dip. Sipping on the tart blue drink of the day garnished with a slice of fresh lime, I was enjoying my last hour by relaxing in the warm room that smells of freshly brewed coffee, silent BBC World News playing in the background as I flipped through the New Yorker and Martha Stewart Living. It's semi-formal night at dinner and we'll be going to a show of Buckets-N-Boards after, so I'll need to head out to get ready soon enough.

A quick recap of the past few days . . .

Cozumel, Mexico
- tour of the island, animated Ivan (pronounced E-Van) as our guide and Pepe the previous NYC cabbie navigating through the narrow roads, quick look at the ruins and time on the beach, swimming in the light azul water with sand kicked up, tested out my water proof camera, rinsed off and headed back to port, where we walked around and did some shopping, enjoying the glittery sculptures set up along the ocean

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Cozumel

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
- diverted Spot's Bay due to rough waters which would affect the tender boats, spontaneous markets set up with locals selling conch shells, slicing coconuts to drink, and of course, assorted t-shirts and other mass produced keychains, pens, and the like, took a complimentary bus to George Town where we did some shopping, walked down the road to the fabulous 'Da Fish Shack' sitting right on the beach, took up a patio seat and felt the wind, listened to the waves, and enjoyed the free WiFi as we both contacted our loved ones, then headed back to town where we took the complimentary bus back to Spot's Bay, then hopped on a tour where we stopped in Hell, Cayman Islands for approximately 10 minutes, sent out some postcards and took a picture with the interesting formations, then went on to the turtle farm where we were able to wade into water tanks and hold 4 and 6 month old turtles, which will be released into the wild when they reach 1 year of age, then stopped by the Tortuga Rum Cake factory (which was not on the tour but our driver told us was nearby), picked up a few including regular, chocolate, and key lime, then headed back to the boat

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Cayman Turtle Farm
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Grand Cayman

Falmouth, Jamaica
- first off the boat to do some shopping which included Jamaican coconut cream liquor and a handful of wood carvings, flirted with the locals for a good deal, returned to the boat to drop off my goods, then headed out on our excursion to Green Grotto Caves with Daniella as our guide, then Che as our guide in the caves, made friends with a lady & her daughter where we took photos for them, then on to the beach where our time was unfortunately cut a little short due to running late, but we enjoyed the clear water and were able to walk quite far out on the sand bank, then returned to Falmouth where I enjoyed a Red Stripe (had to) and some tamarind, took Clare around to the various shops where I found the best deals, then returned to the ship where we munched on chicken tenders and sat by the water until we headed out of port

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Jamaica's Green Grotto Caves
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Cave reflections

We are having a great time, relaxed and with an easy flow. I think with so many trips together, Clare and I have a good understanding of how each other are, and know in what ways we are different and in what ways we are alike. Together is fun but we also don't hesitate to tell each other that we're going to separate off and check out that movie or show solo. We then return and tell each other of our experiences. Quite well paired travel partners!

Oh, we also are having a good time comparing the Magic ship to the Fantasy ship. We both are in agreement that we love the Fantasy and if we were ever to do a cruise again, no Magic. =P

Now on to Castaway Cay tomorrow, which is our last stop. We're looking forward to having a better experience there than last time, when our time was cut short due to a medical emergency on board that had previously diverted us to Nassau.

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Pulling up to Castaway Cay

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Getting ready

2/15/15 at 1501 (Orlando time)

On the plane from MCO headed to DFW, sitting next to two women who are quietly discussing religions and cultures, a conversation that stemmed from my seat neighbor reading a self-help book chapter entitled "How to Stop the Pain." The film playing silently overhead is The Princess and the Frog and I'm enjoying the various night scenes, depictions of candlelight and shining stars, shadowy voodoo figures, and everything else that we link with New Orleans. It reminds me of my trip to New Orleans with my brother David and how I made sure to watch the film before heading out on the flight to meet him. New Orleans where we ate beignets and bananas foster, rode on the Mississippi during a stiflingly humid evening, walked on the broken streets and took the old cable cars, explored the French Quarter and listened to live jazz. It was all in celebration of his graduation from college, a long-planned trip that checked off a big "to see" box for both of us. But I digress . . .

The cruise is over, the Orlando trip completed yet again. Castaway Cay did not disappoint and we were grateful for our 8 hours there. In the morning, the weather was chilly and windy. We were among the first off the boat. After picking up a Castaway Cay shirt for me and a Castaway Cay towel for Clare, we headed directly to Serenity Bay via tram, tested the chilly sea water with our feet before bundling up with beach towels and relaxing on the reclining beach chairs. Every now and then the sun would peak out and we could feel the tease of warmth that would come later that afternoon.

Although it stayed a bit windy, we were able to hop in the water after our afternoon lunch. We exhausted ourselves with about 2 hours of swimming against current, in search of the Mickey and Minnie Mouse underwater statues. We explored the sunken submarine and watched random fish and flowing bits of sea life dance underwater. Our new snorkel gear worked perfectly and my Olympus Tough TG-3 (underwater camera) worked like a charm, taking fun images of fish and of ourselves with snorkel gear suctioned to our faces.

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A little wiped after snorkeling

Afterwards, we biked the trail around the island bike path, enjoying the warmth and light breeze inland, stopping occasionally to snap a picture or enjoy the beach view. We took the tram back and headed back to the boat a little early to partake of the drink of the day, grab a warm slice of pizza and watch the last few minutes of "Up" on the Funnel Vision.

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The end of the bike trail near Serenity Bay

I stopped by the Future Sailings desk and spoke with them about accommodations and arrangements for those with service dogs. I have been speaking with my parents for sometime about taking a Disney Cruise and am hoping to talk them into it for sometime in 2016. I was able to book a "place holder" cruise for April of 2016 and I have two years to complete the booking, in which we will have a stateroom credit for booking onboard, an onboard credit for using my Disney credit card, and a third onboard credit for booking with Dreams Unlimited travel agency. (EDIT: They only allowed two of these three stateroom credits. Boo.) Not too shabby of a deal . . . only now to convince my parents to go. And possibly find another travel partner for myself. Any takers?

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Clare at the Sail Away Party

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No Island Info on Castaway Cay today?

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Animator's Palate animation night
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Jamaica

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Pirate night

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Gotta have Red Stripe in Jamaica!

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The door of our Fink Family neighbors
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A mask that the Fink Family made for us

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Green Grotto Caves
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Face in the Green Grotto Caves

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Bats!

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We were surrounded by gigantic coral, proving that in the past Jamaica was once under water

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Hell, Cayman Islands
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Cayman Islands
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Cayman Islands

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Cozumel

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El Arco at San Gervasio
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Cozumel

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Gotta keep it all lookin' pretty

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Trying escargot again

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Close up of the chandelier

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"The Little Mermaid" on the Funnel Vision

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Posted by WanderingWorld 23:10 Archived in Jamaica Tagged beach mexico cruise sand caribbean jamaica florida disney orlando snorkel cayman_islands cozumel universal_studios harry_potter falmouth grand_cayman disney_cruise Comments (0)

Things I Want to Remember: New York and Pennsylvania

- touching the cool steel exterior of my ONT-PHX plane directly on the painted heart logo of Southwest Airlines, smiling, loving that now there was a heart to aim for & connect with rather than simple scratched paint, appreciating how the outside of a plane always feels cool & solid, knowing that soon the door will be closed and the cool exterior will be against the clouds and full air of the sky

- the little boy on the ground of the Phoenix airport, playing loudly with his action figures strewn across the black leather seats. Appreciating his battle scene as it played out, realizing how incredibly long it has been since I've seen a child in public whose attention was held by something non-electronic

- talking late at night with Arlyn and Brandon, laughing about how Clare & I thought they were home and were respectfully whispering. Seeing them cuddle up and watch Wes Anderson films, smiling, appreciating the positive energy of their home

- petting and cuddling with their puppies Preston & Duke, with Preston choosing Clare and jumping on her lap for attention. Missing my Bella-baby

- munching on banana pudding late at night, appreciating the full flavor and texture

- Hedwig. John Cameron Mitchell. Clare calling out "His eyes!!" as we got close enough to Belasco Theatre to see his glitter make-up on the large mock-ups. Seeing the car wash, watching him touch the hands of his fans, seeing him hug them. Laughing at the unscripted lines such as when his mic cord became tangled, impressed with the set and the music. Goosebumps. Feeling on fire, letting go of inhibition and allowing the tears to come. Appreciating this man . . . performer, artist, singer, writer, director . . . perform a story I had seen a million times over on film and via shadowcast troupe. Realizing this was special.

- seeing Sandy after so many years, sitting in a trendy historic restaurant with brick walls, Ikea sparkling lamps, historic paintings and drawings in ornate frames, sitting in an elevated wooden booth, and catching up. Remembering Baltimore and MICA, recalling the smell of gesso in the halls. Eating Korean bibimbap for the first time, discussing possibly visiting Hawaii, feeling hopeful.

- the lanterns of the Disney Store, an illuminated escalator, beautiful soft glow in the middle of a chaotic intersection of commerce

- arriving on the train in NYC from New Jersey, climbing to ground level and seeing the light, thinking "I'm here again, in NYC, where I want to be" and feeling my fantasy of east coast living renewed

- enthusiasm for NYC increasing, learning of lottery tickets for shows, discussing the rental process with Sandy and my AirBNB hosts, picturing a small studio one day being in my future

- Kathy, laughing that I find NYC relaxing, talking at the bar about New York people and attitudes, hearing of her excitement to see Marilyn Manson, seeing her sketches, textiles, & fun bags

- seeing a chunk of the Berlin Wall, the irony of seeing a piece of Berlin after Hedwig not being lost on either Clare or myself

- the 9/11 Memorial, seeing the large pools for the first time with the infinite water, overwhelmed by the names and the heaviness of remembrance, seeing more than the Twin Towers were remembered, feeling overcome, recalling staying home from school that day in 2001 to watch the news coverage on what was happening in our country

- the NYC subway, appreciating the efficiency, sometimes orange-red tiles with a touch of grime, other times ornate mosaics, cleaner than I remembered from my childhood, feeling connected to the people of the city, comfortable with the navigation a smart phone and a map provides, riding along the multitrack and seeing an illuminated train beside us going at a slightly slower pace, people watching from my moving seat Some reading, others sleeping, some talking. A speeding illumination in the dark tunnel, a fellow train that may have been our own reflection, wanting more of this experience

- walking around Central Park, seeing various benches dedicated in memory of people and wondering who they were and what was their life story. Remembering the horse and buggy ride taken with my family when I was a child, not being able to recall if we walked around the park at that time

- to New Jersey from the city, the bottleneck crowds pushing just as Clare warned they would be, finding seats and relaxing in the warmth of the train, watching the snow fall lightly outside, adding to the soft white clumps already settled on the tree branches and rounded bushes

- the jubilant diner, music playing, one man laughing and shouting "Sexual harassment!" as the older waitress grabbed his waist to make her way around, her laughing and responding "Now, isn't it funny how much less you mind stuff like that as you get older?", a smile and "Absolutely" in response. A refill of hot coffee, sipping slowly and people watching out the icy window, leaving a good tip and a note to the staff saying thanks for creating a positive vibe

- waddling down the street with my large metal medicine cabinet, huffing & puffing up the steps to Clare's apartment, collapsing on the couch to catch my breath, waiting to recoup before heading out again, feeling energized despite the cold and exhaustion

- flipping through Clare's book of Mary Blair's Golden Books illustrations, getting lost in the whimsical paintings with black backgrounds and starry skies, remembering how much I love her work

- the Death Becomes Her exhibit at the Met, yellow and purple mourning clothes alongside those created with black cloth, the gray wedding dress from a woman who was married during the Civil War and didn't feel a white dress was proper when so many had passed

- laughing and good conversation at Ooka with Clare and Russ, becoming stuffed on sushi and edamame, cracking up over simple jokes of hot & spicy rolls and various other fish-related come-on's

- the airport security woman with the round joyful face and strongly-controlled blonde hair telling me that she loved my hair, advising me not to cut it and confiding that when she was younger she would encourage her friends with beautiful hair to cut theirs so she would be the prettier one, assuring me that she was no longer that way and re-emphasizing, "Do NOT cut it!". Later passing by a security guard who recognized me from an earlier interaction, him saying "I never forget a pretty face!" Me responding, "Wow, I like going through security in Philadelphia. I'm told I have pretty hair and a pretty face. I'll take it."

Posted by WanderingWorld 20:41 Archived in USA Tagged new_york friends nyc new_york_city pennsylvania central_park bellasco_theatre bellasco Comments (0)

New York and Pennsylvania: Hedwig and the Angry Inch

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1/23/15 at 4:47 PM (Pennsylvania time)

I'm in the air with only about an hour to go before touching down in one of my favorite states. This trip stemmed from John Cameron Mitchell's return to the stage as Hedwig in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch". I fell in love with the film rendition in my teenage years. When I heard that Mitchell was reprising his role for a few week stint, I got the urge to do something I never considered previously: to buy a plane ticket for New York to see a Broadway play. I am beyond excited. A little part of me still hopes I get 'the carwash' though I know that won't happen. =P

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This is an interesting flight experience for me as it's my first after my around the world trip. So much of my travel style and habit changed with that trip, and I feel it evolving again. During that two month span of travel filled with numerous flights, I started to appreciate the aisle seat as opposed to observing various landscapes from my window seat. Before August 2014, I <i>always</i> wanted the window seat. With the RTW trip, I stretched my legs and enjoyed uninterrupted access to the plane's mini-bathroom. I started to take an aspirin before each flight and kept facewash easily accessible in my bag for washing the grime away before I fell asleep on the plane. I always had lotion on hand to battle the dry air of the plane. Where I used to shun the high price water bottle behind security gates, I found myself investing $5 towards my hydration before each flight; you never knew when (or if) that water cart was coming down the aisle. Signing up for Global Entry allowed for an easy customs process returning to the United States as well.

With this flight to NYC, I took no aspirin. I last-minute packed like many working gals do, staying up late the night before. Coming in to the airport, I appreciated my 3-minute luggage drop to behind-security timeframe, thanks to my Known Traveler ID. I don't have to remove my shoes? Don't have to take out liquids? Don't have to remove my iPad? Thank you ma'am! I picked up a bottle of Icelandic water, paying a little extra for my drink because the bottle makes me happy. (Marketing + packaging = customer satisfaction.) I still touched the outside of the plane before entry, which remains a necessity for me.

On my second leg of the trip, instead of taking one of the first available seats in the front, I went to the back of the plane to enjoy a window seat. It was different than I had been doing. I wanted to look out the window. I felt giddy sitting and waiting, watching the employees at the airport scatter around like ants driving suitcases to this plane & that, loading them up and moving on to the next. I had traveled so much that although still enjoyable, travel in its literal form had become an efficient process, filled with easy to retrieve liquids and shoes easy to both remove and lace up. Now, back in Ontario, CA, I was feeling the joy of travel again. The early morning flights had always been my favorite, reminding me of morning drives with my Mom taking my Dad to the airport for his various business travels. I feel lucky to remember the time when we were allowed in the airport with the traveler before the flight, remember picking out an overpriced scone to sit and have breakfast with my Dad before he left to exotic places like Las Vegas and Chicago, remember walking him to the gate, waving, and then waiting to see his plane take off in to the sky. It was magic, it was flying, it was adventure and foreign. And it was a relatively good scone, too.

Flying over unfamiliar territory today, I snapped a couple pictures of near-white desert, coarse wide mountain ranges, and bits of earth that looked like giant maple-leaf shaped fissures. Now descending towards Philadelphia, we have moved below the clouds again and I see twisted streets with snow on rooftops and twinkling car headlights as the sun is starting to set in the west behind us, a faint pink line of sky visible if I turn my head back.

I realize at this time that having the opportunity and ability to do what you love (over and over again) has the possibility of taking the joy out of the experience. A joyful act can become routine in the right set of circumstances. While still enjoying myself in travel, the flight itself, which had originally been an act of travel that thrilled me, had become simple transportation from point A to point B. I want to make sure I don't lose the joy because it's very important to me. I'm looking at my style of travel as of today and I feel like I've figured it out a bit . . . take the aisle when ya want to stretch, take the middle when ya don't care, but remember to take the window seat from time to time to enjoy the scenery. It's OK to spend $5 on a bottle on water if it keeps your body hydrated and the bottle helps boost fantasies of future destinations to explore. But still keep that lotion handy in the bag . . . these dang planes get dry!

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Arriving to Russ and Clare's apartment

1/23/15 at 2242 (Pennsylvania time)

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An interesting Glenside shop apparently has an interesting owner

Time to head to sleep! A quick recap of the evening: Clare was kind enough to pick me up from the airport and a short drive later, I was able to meet her man Russ and get a tour of their cute little apartment in Glenside. We went to Keswick Tavern for a delicious dinner, where I also enjoyed a Big Lushious raspberry stout from Founder's Brewing Company. Before dinner, we walked around their downtown area, which was quaint and fun. There was a small theatre advertising upcoming shows, including Robert Irvine, a Michael Jackson tribute band, and Jack Hannah's animal show. Overall, a good night . . . now, off to sleep because tomorrow is New York . . . and Hedwig . . .

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Clare's excited-to-go-to-NYC face

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The narrow entrance to our AirBNB apartment

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Heading out again to explore the city

1/25/15 at 12:42 AM (New York time)

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About to see John Cameron Mitchell at the Belasco Theatre

It has happened . . . . I finally saw John Cameron Mitchell in person. And he was amazing. To see Hedwig live on stage was special enough but to see Mitchell reprise his role as well meant so much to me. I got goosebumps and am somewhat embarrassed to admit I cried. It started during Wicked Little Town and just got worse the farther into Midnight Radio we got. The Belasco Theatre was smaller than I had imagined, and so the experience felt more intimate than expected. We had a clear view of the stage and all the orchestra shenanigans.

Clare and I started the day off with a Dunkin Donuts breakfast, a drive to New Jersey, and an hour train ticket into the city. A straight walk and twenty minutes later we were at our AirBNB room. Our hosts are the sweet Brandon and Arlyn with the sweet pups Preston and Duke. We had immediately dropped the bags and headed out to wander.

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Times Square

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Can you find us on Google's Jumbo Screen in Times Square?

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We went through Times Square, took a few pictures of large flashing advertisements and then met up with my friend Sandy for lunch. I last saw Sandy around 2003 when I was attending MICA in Baltimore and had taken a bus trip up to NYC to see her during her time at NYU. Catching up was great and I found out she has a desire to travel more . . . future travel buddy, perhaps? =)

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Me and Sandy

We explored Rockefeller Center and wandered through the official NBC store where I resisted the urge to buy a plush peacock logo pillow. Clare and I visited the famous Magnolia Bakery where she insisted I try the banana pudding that's made with fresh bananas and vanilla wafers. After returning to our room tonight following the Hedwig showing, we busted out the pudding for a quick snack . . . and wow. Wow. Let's just say she didn't oversell it. Another highlight was finding some S.H.I.E.L.D. and Avenger shirts in the large Disney Store and seeing all the fun NYC Disney merch.

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Magnolia Bakery

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Banana Pudding goodness

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Clare with the goods

We met up with Clare's friend Kathy and her boyfriend Andre for a quick drink before the show and ended up ordering a taco platter to split so we didn't get too hungry during the show. I had a great time talking to Kathy about her creative textiles and designs.

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Large sculptures found in NYC

Now, we're off to sleep and plan on starting the day with the 9/11 Memorial tomorrow, then moving north towards museums and Central Park. I'm looking forward to some subway time. =)

1/26/15 at 0144 (New York Time)

Whew, I'm tired after another great day in the city. We started with the 9/11 Memorial. It was large and humbling, filled with names of victims.

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The Survivor Tree

Afterwards, we walked round to see the Statue of Liberty across the water. I always forget how small it seems in person. We moved on to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we saw Death Becomes Her, an exhibit on period mourning clothing.

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Death Becomes Her exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

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The Temple of Dendur

We met up again with Clare's friend Kathy and her boyfriend Andre, had a drink at a place where we were ignored, and saw a portion of the Berlin Wall (fitting for Hedwig). We were lucky enough to have a free warm pretzel from a Met vendor closing up shop for the night. We relaxed back at our AirBNB room and chatted for a bit. Ah, almost forgot, we also walked on the High Line! It was a nice place I could see relaxing on if I lived in NYC. We met up with Sandy for some yummy Korean BBQ . . . Sandy, who I hope is another future travel buddy. Sleep calls . . . heading off to sleep now. The plan is for Central Park tomorrow where we'll explore Strawberry Fields, the Alice in Wonderland statue, and possibly the Natural History Museum? Not sure . . . we shall see . . .

1/27/15 at 0842 (Philadelphia time)

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Alice's Tea Cup

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The last day in NYC was one of exploration and also one of uncertainty. We were constantly warned about the "record breaking" Blizzard Juno that was going to hit. Snow was light and although chilly, we were able to see much. On the way back to Pennsylvania, I heard that my flight was cancelled and rearrangements were made for me to fly out tomorrow afternoon. (Thanks to my Mom for helping make the phone calls to the airlines!) So today I'll be exploring Glenside while Clare & Russ are at work, after I finish up the documentary I Am Divine. I'll be getting some food, and possibly doing some thrift store, craft beer, & antique shopping. All of my favorite things. ;-)

Yesterday in New York City we walked around a snowy, chilly Central Park after getting breakfast at "Alice's Tea, Chapter 1". We saw the Dakota building where John Lennon was shot, walked around the strawberry fields, saw the Imagine mosaic, and then the Alice in Wonderland statue. We made our way back through the snow, stopping in a little deli to get some wraps and snacks for the train ride back to New Jersey. We returned to our room to pick up our belongings and say goodbye to our AirBNB hosts and their lovable dogs. After the train ride to New Jersey, we were happy to find clear weather and clear roads awaiting us. We stopped by Clare's parents house to pick up brownies and hot cocoa for the chilly night ahead. Once home, I zonked and took a 5 hour nap! Russ came home, we watched a little Patton Oswald standup before calling it a night.

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The famous Dakota Building where John Lennon was murdered

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Thanks to Clare, I have my list of places in Glenside to check out. I'm excited to head out the door and explore, similar to when I was traveling on my own. To wander and feel free . . . and possibly return for more Netflix and some magnet creations for our upcoming Disney Cruise. =)

1/28/15 at 1603 (Philadelphia time)

I'm flying over who knows where on my way to Dallas, a stop on the way home. Our flight was delayed by approximately 1 hour but they guarantee that we won't be that late in my connector city of Dallas. There's about one hour between landing and takeoff of my next flight. I'm not so concerned about making the connection, but I do wonder if we'll have enough time for the checked luggage to be transferred over!!

Yesterday I had a great time exploring Glenside while Clare and Russ were at work. I felt that it was a return to solo travel. Mostly overcast with occasional bits of sunshine peeking through, I started my day off in their local diner off Keswick avenue, where I enjoyed a Denver omelette, hot fresh coffee, and people watching. The servers were so positive and outgoing, speaking with the customers on a first name basis. Some girls were there from the local university, debating on whether or not they should head in for the single class that was not cancelled as the other ones were cancelled due to the supposed 'blizzard' that never came our way. "Do you want a shake to sip on while ya think it over, honey?"

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View from the Village Diner

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I then walked around historic Keswick Avenue, surprised at how many of the little shops were in fact open despite the blizzard warnings. In Rustic & Refined, I enjoyed chatting with the owner Kathy. She talked about staging homes and all the great finds she & her husband had found in Connecticut. I came across two medicine cabinets in the back, similar to what I was looking for for my bathroom remodel. One was Art Deco style from the 1940's and the other was creamy painted metal mixed with bits of rust and a small clear glass handle that latched well, marked from the 1930's. It was $225 but she agreed to come down to $110 in price after admitting that the piece had "been there a while". I told her I would think about it and possibly return later that day, which I did.

Little did I know this was the beginning of the saga of the antique medicine cabinet from Connecticut . . .

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The medicine cabinet that now resides in my California home

After purchase, I walked back to Clare's apartment carrying this cumbersome antique. After measuring, I realized it was approximately 2 inches too wide to fit in my suitcase. I called around for shipping quotes, which ranged from $170 to $200 for packaging and shipping. I then heard from Clare that she had the perfect box from work. She almost threw it out but luckily didn't! Coming home, she even brought foam and bubble wrap to help cushion the medicine cabinet. With Clare's expert help, last night we cushion-wrapped, packaged, and sealed the cabinet into the box and created a makeshift handle inspired by the ready-to-go packing tape handles we used at Disneyana when I worked at Disneyland. I marked 'FRAGILE' all around the box and felt ready to go.

This morning, I walked to the train station with my 50 lb suitcase and Hedwig and the Angry Inch playbill sticking out of the outer pocket, my 40 lb 36 in x 24 in x 6 in medicine cabinet box balanced on my shoulder with the makeshift strap of packing tape, and wearing my backpack carry-on. The 5 minute walk from apartment to train ended up being the easiest portion of the trip to the airport. Boarding the train with my cumbersome bags, I asked a stern-looking employee if it was the correct train. He grunted and walked away. There was no clear place to store my bags once aboard but an older gentleman aboard the train attempted to help me maneuver my bags, bending my dear Hedwig playbill in the process. Perhaps a battered and bruised playbill is more fitting for Hedwig than a pristine poster?

I was lucky enough to find a seat right away and settled in as best I could. About 30 minutes in, I noticed the people with larger bags had all been exiting the train at different stops. Suddenly, no one else around me had a suitcase or a bag, which is not a good sign when you are supposedly on the train headed for the airport. An old man asked if I was relocating in the state and I told him I was trying to make my way to the airport and asked if he knew when we would arrive? He said he wasn't sure the direction of the airport and recommended I ask the conductor. A different but equally stern-looking train employee came in and responded that "Nope, we don't go to the airport. You're on the wrong train. Get off on the next stop, make your way to platform 6, and you best hurry or you're going to miss it." Excellent.

Getting off on the next stop, he pointed me in the right direction, said, "See that gentleman? You're going there, down the steps, over 2 platforms, back up the steps, straight on. Hurry." Hurry? Yes, I hurried. As best I could trying not to knock down my fellow commuters with my bulky luggage. I was lucky again that another Good Samaritan came to my rescue to help me down the steps, this time in the form of what appeared to be a young college student. He heard the exchange, saw me struggle down the steps, and as a golden glow appeared around his head & angels began to sing from the heavens, he asked "Do you want some help with that bag?" Yes, sir, yes, I am not too shy to say I would love help with this damn bag.

Made it down, around, and back up. The lovely Pennsylvanians who I have always loved parted like the Red Sea to allow the huffing and puffing girl from California to get onto the train. A woman told me she was going to get off on the next stop and relinquished her seat to my antique medicine cabinet that I wanted to save shipping costs on. I squished myself beside the box and tried to hold my large suitcase in from the aisle as best I could so that others could get around me and my bulky companions. When the conductor came down the aisle, I realized that my ticket had been punched and wasn't sure if it worked or not anymore. I went on a perhaps too lengthy explanation of what happened while he waited patiently, then he responded, "Do you know what terminal? OK, A? We stop at Eastwick, then your stop is after that." Great. Made the stop, another gentlemen helped me with my box and suitcase to get out of the train. I then heard the angels sing yet again as I saw the beautiful, glowing luggage cart less than a foot away with a sign that said, "Sarah, I'm meant for you and your medicine cabinet. Take me. I'm all yours."

I loaded up, headed in, marked a couple extra "FRAGILE" marks before dropping it off with my checked bag for $35 and reveled in my sudden freedom from bulkiness. I grabbed my tattered Hedwig playbill and backpack and headed off for the plane. I was happy to partake of a complimentary beverage, courtesy of a smiling Philadelphia International Airport employee. (I would have gone the hot cocoa route but the woman advised me, "It's supposed to be hot cocoa. But it's not hot anymore. I'm telling people because I would want to know, and I don't want you to be disappointed." Water it was.) TSA Precheck, behind security in a jiffy, a burrito for lunch with a soda for indulgence, and on to my flight. I appreciate my new Gold Priority status although it doesn't get my heart pumping the same way that TSA Precheck does. Allowing me to go through security without having to take my shoes off really is the best way to my heart.

Now that the saga of the medicine cabinet is completed, moving back to yesterday . . . I also went down to a large thrift store called New Life Thrift, as suggested by Clare. I picked up some frames and wooden bits of art that I plan on putting up and/or redoing for my home. I loaded them up and made my way to Madonna's Distributing where I was sad to find all beer had to be sold by the case. I was referred over to Giuliano's Deli for individual craft beers and was pointed in the right direction by a nice man with a large Bud Light pack and a short squatty mutt that had the lovable face of a pitbull. In Giuliano's, I was pleased to find a growler fill station behind the fresh meat and bulk cheese slicing station. Their variety was not the biggest but the man working there was very happy to make suggestions and was also willing to break down their multi-packs so that I could purchase some individual local brews that he recommended. I stayed for a small amount of time chatting before moving on out.

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I also made my way to the other side of Easton Ave, where I picked up some beautiful simple earrings and notecards from Inspired by Colors, had a great conversation with Trina at the counter who ended up being the owner of the store. We talked about life as a businesswoman and an independent woman, discussing life, relationships, travel. We ended with her wishing me luck, telling me it was nice chatting and "Tell your friend Clare to come on in!" She referred me down to her friend Mo "at the little shop with the green door". Of course, I had to stop in and see Mo, where I met the exuberant pup Curly. Mo (or Maureen) was equally outgoing and genuine, talking about travel, her experiences in Newport Beach, and sharing with me the frustration of freight shipping costs. She made me tea, offered shortbread cookies, and gave me a salted caramel to sample. (The caramel was delicious and I bought some to share with Clare and Russ, as well as my family back home. Made in Montana . . . once again, enhancing my desire to travel to that state!) I picked up beautiful Art Deco style earrings that I hope to use for the upcoming Disney Cruise. Mo's husband Bill stopped in to walk the dog, we were introduced, and proceeded to chat about a small cyst in Mo's thumb that had been causing discomfort.

About this time Clare came home and I headed back to find Russ home as well. We headed out for sushi at Ooka which was fresh and delicious, then finished up with a tempura ice cream roll. That night at the apartment, we watched some Tales from the Darkside while Clare helped me pack the medicine cabinet. After the cabinet was bundled and ready to go, Clare and I worked on creating Disney magnets for our upcoming cruise. It is crazy that I'll be seeing her again in a week in a half. This time we won't be in blizzard territory, but instead in warm, Caribbean weather. And I'll finally be able to travel to Mexico! About time . . .

So for now, the journey west continues, to where I'll meet up with my parents and Frank & Brad for the traditional meal at BJs upon my return to Redlands. And I'll get to see my baby Bella. It'll be good to be home. =)

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The famous Naked Cowboy of Times Square

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Broadway

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Gotta love those flamingos

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Rockefeller Center

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NBC

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Blizzard Juno from the train to New Jersey

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High Line

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Posted by WanderingWorld 21:55 Archived in USA Tagged new_york nyc new_york_city hedwig broadway pennsylvania central_park airbnb foot_shot hedwig_and_the_angry_inch john_cameron_mitchell bellasco_theatre belasco tsa_precheck blizzard_juno Comments (1)

30th Birthday Solo Round the World (RTW) Trip

Casualties

Item: Khaki cargo pants (1)
Cause of Death: Turtle cage
Place of Rest: Ecuador

Item: Lightning-to-SD Card iPad adapter cord (1)
Cause of Death: Early arrival of taxi, leading to careless last minute packing
Place of Rest: Ecuador

Item: Ecuadorian wrist watch (1)
Cause of Death: Spontaneous battery death
Place of Rest: Turkey

Item: Roxy Flip-flops (single of pair)
Cause of Death: Enthusiastic international use
Place of Rest: Thailand

Reflection

The journey is complete. I am home and have been for some time. It has been difficult to review these journal entries and its equally difficult for me to explain why that is. Looking at photos and reading the details of my travels, I find myself experiencing a hungering and aching wanderlust. I crave a return to the experiences that brought such joy, awe, and calm along with feelings of freedom.

The purpose of travel such as this is not only to enjoy the world and discover new lands, to meet new people, but also to glean lessons from those experiences. I came to several realizations. Everyone wants to show off their hometown. Even if they feel it does not compare to other areas, even if there are parts they are ashamed of, they want to share and let you see it through their eyes. It seems to share these places is to also share themselves. People want to connect with you as much as you want to connect with them.

People want to help. Genuinely, unselfishly, people will answer your questions on which street is best to take, what's the better museum to spend your time at, or what's the best restaurant to sample the local fish specialty.

When attempting to figure something out that you are unfamiliar with, embrace the unknown and do not fear the struggle. Realize that tomorrow you have the gift of hindsight and you may walk away with a funny story to share with others or a bit of knowledge to make you better prepared in the future.

When alone, you are not truly alone as you become more approachable. Others are more likely to initiate conversation. Although they may assume that you are sad or lonely, it is touching to see others reach out from a place of true kindness and offer themselves as a potential friend to pass the time. People will ask you about your family, show you photos of their grandchildren, offer the food off their plate, or assist in carrying a heavy bit of luggage. I repeat . . . people are good.

One of the more interesting lessons is do further research on whether or not toilet paper is to be thrown in the trash or to be thrown in the toilet. I did not realize how many septic systems I put in danger until it was far too late.

People often asked the moment I was most frightened or "weren't you afraid?" Without doubt, the moment of most fear was when my elephant I was riding in Thailand slipped in the mud and began to lose her balance. I had a spike of fear and adrenaline, following by bemusement as I realized "death by elephant" was a hell of a way to go out of this world. There's something to be said for traversing the continents of this world and to return home saying, "I felt welcomed and was unafraid."

The other question is "where was your favorite place?" How to choose? I fell in love with jungle life, sweating hard each day, laughing with friends by candlelight as the stars twinkled and exotic birds called out the open window. I fell in love with Pico Island of Portugal, imagining my ancestors and their life, eating fresh seafood, swimming in salt water pools, and exploring bits of volcanic earth. I fell in love with the fresh tart pomegranate juice of Turkey, the ancient "fairy tale chimneys" that I wandered through and imagined them twinkling at night. I fell in love with beachfront living in Thailand, with lush growth around me, outgoing people with welcoming smiles, a relaxed sense of self and delicious cuisine unique in it's own right. I fell in love with New Zealand, a land of complex and impressive public toilets, quiet long drives with large variances in both flora and fauna, the creative and peaceful nature of the people. I cannot choose. I cannot say. I love them all as there is always something to love and embrace with new adventures and new destinations.

In the future, I want to do it again. Another solo trip. In the future, I must do it again. I had planned for my 40th, but now I feel my 35th must be it. I cannot wait. I crave it. I ache for it. This "solo" experience was the most social of all.

Recommendations

Ecuador
D'Mathias Hostel in Banos
Mitad del Mundo
Sacha Yacu Animal Center

Portugal
Adega da Mó in Lisbon
Gruta das Torres on Pico Island
Museu dos Baleeiros on Pico Island
Porto Pim Beach on Faial Island
São Roque Convent Hostel on Pico Island

Turkey
Chambers of the Boheme Hostel in Istanbul
Grand Cave Suites in Göreme
Green Line Tour in Cappadocia
Mevlana Museum in Konya
Pegasus Airlines

Thailand
AirAsia
Baan Arlhan Hostel in Chiang Mai
Baanchang Elephant Park in Chiang Mai
Dawn of Happiness in Krabi
North Gate Jazz Co-Op in Chiang Mai
Sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Sunday Night Market in Chiang Mai

New Zealand
A2B Cheap Car Rental
Circa Theatre in Wellington
Hobbiton Movie Set Tours
Mitai Maori Village in Rotorua
Mount Maunganui
Te Papa Museum in Wellington
Waitomo Caves

Posted by WanderingWorld 19:57 Tagged beaches animals beer auckland rotorua ocean beach volcano flight thailand elephants bangkok cappadocia turkey krabi istanbul new_zealand hobbiton chiang_mai lisbon amazon portugal wellington railay rtw quito mitad_del_mundo banos ecuador whitianga waitomo goreme azores glowworm airbnb horta açores cascais konya terceira sacha_yacu sao_roque analya erdek empenada baang_chang work_away dawn_of_happiness pomegranate_juice chatuchuk baanchang railay_beach house_of_many_faces Comments (0)

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