Whalechaser's Musings

No Matter Where You Go...
There You Are
Make the Best of It

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Rainbow River and Cedar Key Sunset

We started our day with a 5:30 AM departure from our hotel for American Pro Diving Center in Crystal River; from there we wet-suited up and took a short trip to swim with the manatees. What a wonderful experience. We snorkeled and floated above the manatees and they would rise and gently swim up to us so we could pet them on their backs and when they were really trusting of us...would roll over for us to rub their bellies as well. The fear and thrill of having one of these mammals swim directly under you by mere inches is one I will never forget.

We left the manatees and put in at the US 41 launching point of the Rainbow River for a 2.5 hour paddle up and down the river. We saw plenty of wildlife along the river including a nesting pair of sandhill cranes, a red-shouldered hawk and other nesting birds that we could not identify.

We ended the day by watching the sunset in the community of Cedar Key, Florida. There is a cement 8-pier fishing structure from which one can comfortably view the sunset. There are resident pelicans which add to the enjoyment. All in all a perfect day.

Some interesting buildings along the Rainbow River

Lunch on the river...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Cirque du Soliel -- Orlando

This acrobatic performance was also a part of our Behind the Scenes at Disney program. Actually, we went to the show first and the following day went behind the scenes to see the stage structuring, costumes, and make up tables.

Again, we were not allowed to take any pictures. During the show was a demonstration of Chinese Diablos by a group of young Chinese girls. They were absolutely phenomenal with them.

After our tour, they let us try our hand at them and it was at that point I realized just how talented those young ladies were. Chuck tries it with a little wrist and hip action...not ready for the big top just yet though!

The show is performed by the worlds' best acrobats; 40 different languages are spoken here.

Some of the highlights of the show included silk flying - a gymnast barely wraps long silk-like material around his wrists and seemingly floats several stories through the air and lands as softly as a butterfly on the stage.

BMX Bike acrobatics that had me on the edge of my seat several times. There was a cute little bike also, no longer than 20 inches nor higher than 18 inches, that was ridden across the stage and around the BMX's that was added as a comic element.

High wire acts and trapeze antics along with trampoline action second to none. All just amazing and performed to live music and song.

The Canadian fellow that developed this (and other shows across the country)has done a remarkable job.

Disney's Animal Kingdom - - Behnd the Scenes

We started our tour in one of the teaching facilities; one of the rooms was muraled with hundreds of animals. Our guide said there were at least 40 "hidden Mickeys" in it. That of course forced us all to go looking for a few minutes. Here in the ostrich head...eye...you will see a hidden Mickey (you may want to double click to see it better)
Perhaps a bit more obvious is here on the wings of the butterfly below... a hidden mickey in each wing where it joins the body.

In the back of the building is the animal care facility; that particular day was the annual checkup for the white tiger. He was already sedated and the aides were holding it down so blood could be drawn, vital statistics taken and teeth cleaned. It is truly amazing how much care each animal gets here at Disney.

Our guide, Anita getting ready to begin our safari tour.

Some f the animals that we saw on the safari. This park is designed in such a way that no bars are needed. The animals indeed run free and are kept away from the people by moats, gorges and other natural landscaping.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Elderhostel Behind the Scenes - Day 1

(I am still catching up on this extended trip and the related blogging...be patient, I'm gong to get there soon. This trip took place the first week of February)

We got to see the parks mostly before anyone was allowed in; that was really special. It was as if the whole thing was just for us. You can see in the pictures that they are devoid of anyone! It almost looks eerie now.
First stop EPCOT---Experimental Protocol Community of Tomorrow
Here are painted wood carvings from the Mexico pavilion. The vibrant colors just have to make one feel happy
The China pavilion is very formal and elegant. Their presentation was a 360 surround movie along with acrobatic shows.

There is something so perfect about the Japanese gate and the geodesic globe in the background. (especially with no people)

There was a merchandise shop in the Norway section and this troll was begging for a showing in my blog post. How did he know I had a blog? Beats me! Anyway, here he is. (He was way taller than me!)

Likewise for Goofy...he is so cute.

We were not allowed to take any pictures of the behind the scenes activities. At the time I was very disappointed about that, but now I agree that the mystery behind the magic should stay that way..a mystery. We did discover some techniques of how they build certain buildings to appear taller, use sound to ease you in to each country as well as vegetation. The idea was to make you feel as though you were really there. All things considered, I think they did a pretty good job. Since the visit was geared towards how they created this atmosphere, we definitely had to go back to see the "on stage" Epcot once this tour was over.

Panera Bread - - Hot Chocolate

If you've heard the expression that a picture is worth a thousand words; you will understand why my description stops here.

Galveston-Port Bolivar Ferry

Our cruise came to an abrupt halt and we had to 'move on'...

We decided that it would be best to skirt the Houston traffic and use the Galveston-Port Bolivar Ferry to cross the bay and head towards Florida. The ferry ride is all of 18 minutes long and is 2.7 miles; nice that the Texas Department of Transportation has provided it free of charge! (Not something you would find in New Jersey)

While on board I caught this shot of double seagulls...a first for me!

It only takes nine minutes to load/unload the ferry so it was within minutes after we were on land again that we could see the remaining destruction caused by hurricane Ike back in September 2008. Pretty nasty.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More Cruisin' between Ports

This is what cruisin' is all about; relaxing and enjoying where you are and what you are doing...

They have a variety of activities for those who can't find ways to busy themselves. Here children are learning how to scuba.

Here they put on a demonstration for us on ice carving. They start with a large block of ice...

After just a few moments the shape becomes apparent

And here is the final product. He completed this work in less than ten minutes!

For the more cultured among us there is the art auction...

Then if you grow tired of the "same old dining room food" you can go to one of the special restaurants, in this case, Portifino's
They start you off with a little mezza tray ( olive timpanade, roasted red peppers diced and roasted garlic mash) for the basket of bread varieties that they provide

You have to get salad...it is likely the only healthy thing in the entire meal...

Ah...seafood appetizer; who could want for more? I opted for the calamari

Chuck was a little more adventurous
The table next to us ordered the tower of seafood on a skewer..I just had to get a picture of it.

I ordered the veal Marsala; it is one of my most favorite meals. I get it very seldom.

and then...there is dessert! This actually is not it...it is a dessert teaser. They bring chocolate dipped strawberries and delightful little petite four type cakes. It is only the beginning...

Here is my dessert. Beauty for the eye and the mouth. I was really too full to eat it...but I managed some how!

Cruisin' between Ports

So, we are not in port and doing exciting tours everyday on a cruise; sometimes it takes a day or so to get to the next port and you need to be ready for these sorts of things.

On one such day I signed up for a slot tournament; the second time I have ever done one! I should probably limit my casino play to tournaments...my winning odds are better, I lose a lot less and I have a lot more fun! Sadly, I lost on this particular one...but I had fun. I tried to drown my "sorrows" with a couple of drinks of the day. These make anyone feel better!

Then of course, since you have a little more time on your hands, you can enjoy the sunset. This one was particularly nice.
Then, as if I need to say anything more about the food....there is food lots of it and pretty darn good too!

Here are our waiters, they were so much fun! We looked forward to their antics everyday. If the world could only be as happy as these two guys seemed to be... Dessert...never forget dessert. What is really great about shipboard food is that you can order whatever you want. Not just the mini combo dessert as shown below, but also the flan and cherries jubilee
(all at once if you like; no one is going to stop you) One must exercise constraint!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Most Important Part Of The Body

(Thanks Darline...)

My mother used to ask me what the most important part of the body is.

Through the years I would take a guess at what I thought was the correct Answer.

When I was younger, I thought sound was very important to us as humans, so I said, 'My ears, Mommy.'

She said, 'No. Many people are deaf. But you keep thinking about it and I will ask you again soon.'

Several years passed before she asked me again. Since making my first attempt, I had contemplated the correct answer.

So this time I told her, 'Mommy, sight is very important to everybody, so it must be our eyes.'

She looked at me and told me, 'You are learning fast, but the answer is not correct because there are many people who are blind.'

Stumped again, I continued my quest for knowledge and over the years,

Mother asked me a couple more times and always her answer was, 'No. But you are getting smarter every year, my child.'

Then one year, my grandfather died. Everybody was hurt. Everybody was crying. Even my father cried. I remember that especially because it was only the second time I saw him cry.

My Mom looked at me when it was our turn to say our final good-bye to my Grandfather. She asked me, 'Do you know the most important body part yet, my dear?' I was shocked when she asked me this now. I always thought this was a game between her and me....

She saw the confusion on my face and told me, 'This question is very important. It shows that you have really lived in your life. For every body part you gave me in the past, I have told you were wrong and I have given you an example why.

But today is the day you need to learn this important lesson.'

She looked down at me as only a mother can. I saw her eyes well up with tears.. She said, 'My dear, the most important body part is your shoulder.'

I asked, 'Is it because it holds up my head?'

She replied, 'No, it is because it can hold the head of a friend or a loved one when they cry.. Everybody needs a shoulder to cry on sometime in life, my dear. I only hope that you have enough love and friends that you will always have a shoulder to cry on when you need it.'

Then and there I knew the most important body part is not a selfish one. It is made for others and not for yourself. It is sympathetic to the pain of others.

People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will NEVER forget how you made them feel.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Cruisin' days 4 through 6

We left Cozumel, Mexico and sailed toward Grand Cayman Island. We had to go to a more protected side of the island, since the weather was not cooperating, to board a tender and take a short ride to shore. Needless to say our power snorkeling and kayaking tour was cancelled due to the size of the waves. We replaced that tour with a horseback riding tour along the beach. While the ride was nice it was hardly worth the price charged. We spent more time getting to the beach than riding the horses and so we were a little disappointed.

But the stroll through the capital, Georgetown was nice. We got several nice shots of the waves crashing on the sea wall, had lunch in a small cafe and picked up some souvenirs. All in all the visit was nice.

That night our waiters gave us a little puzzle to solve. He took five toothpicks and broke them in half and placed them on a dish. Our mission was to make a five point star out of it without touching it.

All that was needed was a couple of drops of water and some time for the wood to absorb the water, thereby moving the toothpicks ever so slightly to create the five point start right before our eyes!

The following day we were in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Here was the tour that we had both been waiting for...zip lining over the canopy in the jungle of Jamaica. This was by far the most fun thing we did on the entire trip. The guides were spectacular; with safety first always we never felt unsure of anything that we were doing.

Their personalities were always up and full of joking antics, we all had a ball. I would recommend this tour to anyone! It really was great! Chuck was sorry when it ended all too soon....