Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Our Vacation - Days 1-4

The vacation is over! :(

We started the night before we left by using a gift card to have a nice dinner at Logan's and then a free dessert card I had for DeBrand's. They did not have any left of what I originally ordered, so she gave me back my free dessert card, did not charge us for the dessert they had me choose instead, and gave each of us a dark chocolate Sorry candy bar! Yum! We accept your apology!  :)

The drive down to Jacksonville Florida went well. Kevin took the first shift and ended up driving most of the day the first day. We stopped in Berea, Kentucky. Edith went to school there and so I knew it was an artsy place. Unfortunately, many of the shops were closed for winter, but we did get into a couple nice shops, including one where the man built dulcimers, and had a nice dinner at an Italian Restaurant and got candy at a fudge shop. We may go back there sometime during the summer when the stores are all open. It was a cute little town.

I took over driving at that point in time for twilight, which is not my favorite. We also encountered a storm in Tennessee and North Carolina with ice and snow. It was dark and windy and the roads were curvy and steep and the passing lane had crusty snow in the middle of the lane that made it kind of dangerous, so I just stayed behind the semis in the other lane and waited until we were out of that particular area! The driving was not all that bad, all things considered. We missed the brunt of the storm and were following a salt truck, so we were okay, and I actually was not flustered except for the time when I was trying to drive on the snow chunk side and was sliding around.  :)  We stopped for the night, I think just across the South Carolina border.

The next day we drove into Jacksonville, Florida. We asked the clerk at the hotel if she knew of any artsy places we could go where they sold blown glass, pottery, handmade jewelry, that sort of thing, and she recommended The Landing. I knew she gave us bad advice, though, when she threw in at the end that there was a Hooter's restaurant there, too. :)  But we went anyway and it was just a tiny little mall with a few stores, outside dining (which would have been good except it was in the 50s and windy), and, as stated, a Hooter's. There was a welcome center in the mall, though, so we asked them about artsy places. I even went into more detail - where local artists sell blown glass, pottery, jewelry, wood working or metal working, etc. But, no. She kept telling us about museums and the husband seemed flabbergasted by the concept of blown glass. We had a hard time extricating ourselves from them, because they were trying so hard to help us, and the lady even hunted us down after we left to give us another museum brochure. I did find a place that was described as "nationally recognized" and said there were many different artists who sold their own creations there. It was called The Eclectic Galleries. We got a notice that night that our boarding had been moved from 8-11am to 5-8pm because the ship was still in dry dock, so we decided we'd check it out in the morning.

The next morning we got another notice from Carnival that boarding was delayed, this time until 8-11pm. It was funny because everyone in the breakfast area at the hotel except one family was going on the cruise so they were all getting messages and talking about them.
The good news on late boarding for the ship is that we are being refunded the lost day and we also got a lunch ($15) and dinner ($25) credit on our Sign and Sail cards. And we also had the day to go to St. Augustine, which we had wanted to do on our last trip to Florida and did not have the time to do.

Kevin and I decided to do some exploring and start at the Eclectic Galleries. When we got there, though, we found a restaurant, hair salon, and two stores. The woman in the one store had no idea what we were talking about when we said Eclectic Galleries, then went on to tell us what eclectic meant. So we called it a loss and headed out to St. Augustine, where we visited the Fountain of Youth and the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. And lots of cute little shops with all kinds of souvenirs. We also ate at a Greek restaurant while we were there. It was a nice jaunt!


 Kevin with a Spaniard

 The fountain where they draw mineral water - interesting taste

 One of the Spaniard statues peeking over the wall. I found this highly amusing.

A "pirate" ship in the bay.

 The fort moat.

 The fort chapel. All the rooms were very tomb-like.

 Viewing tower.

 Antique canons on display. They had fascinating engravings!

 Firing the canon.

 In the little shopping area.

Soldiers in the shopping area.

We got to the port and parked the car to wait, but did not have to wait long before we were moved to another lot and unloading the car. We did have a lengthy wait inside the building, though. But we had our passports and room information ready to go and were some of the first people to board. We found our room, which had two portholes, a king bed, and a bathroom, tv, and a guide for the next day. 

Then we explored the ship. Kevin found a video game to play and we checked out the different decks.

 The casino.

 The library.

 View down to our deck (7) from the Lido deck (10).

 Mini golf course - you can see the rain on the camera lens.

 Excellent guitar dude who played every day on our deck at the bar.

It was pretty chilly out, being night, and windy and maybe in the 50s, but there were people in the pool! We bought our soda cards ($30 for unlimited soda and fruit juices) and wandered until everyone had boarded and they could do the safety drill (which I think ended up being around 1am - I was tired!). Then we went to bed.

The entire first day at sea, I was sick as a dog. I almost vomited. I didn't eat anything until 4pm and then ate 2 pieces of dry toast. The boat was really rocking and people were staggering around like they were drunk. I had taken Dramamine and went to the store on the ship and bought some of those acupressure wrist bands - a waste of $16. I saw a bunch of people with ear patches on, but the ship does not sell those so the people must have brought them along with them. I did end up going down to Guest Services after our stop at Nassau and buying some of the medication they give out for seasickness, but it turned out to have the exact active ingredients as Dramamine. However, it either worked better or I got used to the motion or the motion was not as rocky, because I did not get seasick after the first day.

The other bad thing that first day was that I had decided ahead of time I was not going to get a spa treatment, but Kevin signed up for one and so I waffled and ended up getting one for myself. It was supposed to be a 75-minute deep tissue massage, but because I almost threw up in their lobby they told me to go to my room and lay down before my appt and then I was 20 minutes late because I fell asleep and my phone alarm didn't go off (somehow, its time was set to 7:42pm instead of 2:00pm.They had tried calling the room but the call would not go through (they tried again when I arrived back at the spa and it still would not work). So I ended up getting a 50-minute massage which consisted of the following - 10 minutes of filling out forms, undressing, and dressing; 10 minutes of her explaining to me what a massage entails, including drawing a muscle and lactic acid; 15 minutes of a horrible back massage that did not hit on the areas I told her about beforehand; 5 minutes of me laying face down on the table (not a standard massage table with a headrest, either) while she wrote notes on a card; and 10 minutes of her going over her notes with me and trying to sell me stuff (to which I quickly said I was not buying anything else). So I paid $140 for that. I will regret that for a very, very long time.

Do not give up hope - things looked up after that! Day 2 at sea, in which there will be much frivolity, comes tomorrow!  :)

Teaser photo...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Les Mis - Of Course, I Cried.

Mom and Kevin and I went to see Les Mis last Saturday. I brought a box of tissues. I should say that I have the 10-year anniversary on VHS, the 25-year anniversary on DVD, the original soundtrack, and have seen the play twice. So, yes, I'm a fan already. And yes, I can hardly get through singing along without tearing up.

I loved the movie.

OMG, Anne Hathaway was HEARTBREAKING. Her singing and her acting. If she does not get the Oscar, it will be a crime. Personally, I think she was much better than the singer on the original soundtrack, who kind of had a yelling voice, and in the 10th anniversary, and though I like Lea Salonga in the 25th anniversary, I think Anne Hathaway's rendition is my favorite, partly because they could get close-ups of her tragic expressions.

I liked the voices of the Aaron Tveit as the student leader Enjolras, and Eddie Redmayne's Marius. Amanda Seyfried's voice, which I had never heard, was interesting - she's got quite the tremolo going. It reminded me a bit of Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Samantha Barks did an excellent job as Eponine, though the coughing in her dying scene was a bit fake-sounding and her acting was a tiny bit stagey.

Hugh Jackman was, of course, splendid. I thought Russell Crowe's voice was a little too whispery for the role of Javert, but he brought a depth to the character I have not seen before. I also liked the song the young Cosette sang, which I never have before. I loved the way she whispered, "I love you very much." Poor Gavroche; I have always found him annoying and this was no different.

Mom and I were not crazy about the song they added, Suddenly, but we cried for just about every other song. And Kevin and I have had the songs in our heads ever since we saw the movie. We're picking up the soundtrack tonight.

Overall, the acting was great, the songs and singing were great, and we all loved it.  :)