Live your life, and forget your age
As you might have noticed, I get a lot of my inspiration for my blogs from what I see as Catherine and I run all over the world. This saying, live your life and forget your age was on the wall as you get off the elevator on the 6th floor of the Marriot, Renaissance hotel in ATL. This hotel has become one of our favorite hotels for a number of reasons.
They are located on the first stop of the Airport sky train and everyone there makes you feel like family. The only drawback is that they have valet parking for 29 bucks a day but to compensate we usually stay there on points. They do have an executive lounge so breakfast and dinner are on them.
Catherine and I definitely live our lives and except for birthdays we do not think about our ages. It might have to do with the fact that both of us have some health issues. Not unlike anyone else. I tell Catherine all the time you never know what others might have just by looking at them.
This 28-day jaunt will start with us going to Amsterdam for a night. I do show my age, sometimes, when going to Europe and need a stop and recuperation before going on to Lisbon, which is another one of our favorite destinations. This will be my fourth trip there, second for Catherine. The first two was when my daughter, Mariah, was touring Europe for a year after college. I was responsible for Europe at UPS so I took the time to meet her there.
If anyone knows about the area of Lisbon called, Bairro Alto, you definitely know about the attraction of the city. I am intrigued by the level of detail of the stonework of the sidewalks. After two nights there, where we enjoyed some of the best food and drinks ever before, we met up with our favorite cruise ship, Windsurf.
February we were on board it when we were in the Caribbean and right after its crossing we joined the ship and crew for a 15-day adventure. You can read about that trip on my blog entry called, Everybody is where they want to be. You can also read about our last trip to Lisbon on my blog entry called, Nothing or Nobody is Perfect.
Outside our room now above and then below
Most of the crew were still be on the ship and I understand that 12 out of the 14-day Atlantic crossing was smooth as silk. The last two days were a different story while they navigated around some storms in the area. Two rouge waves hit it broadside and the passengers’ account were hair-raising.
They had to bring on a special crew and supplies in Lisbon to do some cosmetic repairs and within days the ship was once again like brand new. Some of the 200 passengers that did the crossing were still on board and they wore the experience like a badge of honor.
One account was of a man being shot out of his bed and across his room all the way to the door, at 4 am, showing off his bruises. With that in mind, I guess an Atlantic crossing is now off our bucket list. Our first day was a sea day and with our fingers crossed it was the smoothest sailing ever.
As always we needed to get our steps in so we were around and around the decks. Up and down the 3 decks and in no time 10,000 steps were in the books. I must admit it was really nice to give all the familiar crew members high fives along the way. Our first stop was Tangier, Morocco and that was a much nicer experience then we had in Casablanca a couple of years ago.
Along the way to and from we were traversing the Straits of Gibraltar and turns out you could actually see Spain in the distance a mere 7 miles away. As always looking at some possible future cruises there is one that caught my eye for June of next year going in the opposite direction from Rome to Lisbon on the same ship. That trip actually has us seeing, The Rock of Gibraltar, with a stop in Gibraltar, Spain.
The next stop of Malaga, Spain is a must see if you are ever in the area and the Botanical Gardens called, Jardin Botanico Historico La Concepcion, was well worth the 4 miles walk, for us each way. I am sure everyone else on the ship saw the breathtaking site either on a tour or by taxi but for us, sightseeing by foot is the only way to go.
Not to be outdone by the day before, when we arrived at our next stop of Almeria, Spain we decided it was time to do a two a day. Morning walk along the boulevard that runs from the port to the surrounding mountains and back by the only functioning bullfighting arena in the area, Plaza De Toros. After a quick bite to eat back on the ship we were off again this time along the beautiful beach.
While there they brought on a very talented flamingo dancing troupe and I was spellbound. The couple were exceptional and the other three who accompanied them were also outstanding. Picture, if you can, the night ending with a deck barbecue as we sailed away with the sails out and the sun setting in the distance.
I must admit that has to be my favorite meal ever. The sheer number of different entrees, salads, and desserts for you to feast on are too numerous to mention but suffice to say many were taking pictures of the beautiful presentations.
Life always seems to have twists and turns along the way and now that my right knee is doing much better my left foot thought it would be appropriate to raise some cane. The toe joints are giving me problems for no good reason. Usually I can figure out what I did to aggravate whatever body part is not happy with me at the time but in this case, I have no clue. Old age I guess. Another possibility is simple overuse. We have been putting on a lot of steps/miles under our feet these days.
As I usually do on these cruises, I take an assessment of the fellow passengers and their abilities or lack thereof. I kind of take a gander at what lays ahead of me. Some with canes and others leaning on others but all are living by the adage, live your life and forget your age.
It always amazes me that many that are 10 or more years older than me are still working full time or have been winding down their work schedule over the last several years. Many say they love their jobs but I think they love the steady income even more. Since I have not walked a mile in their shoes who am I to judge. To be fair they are simply living their lives as they see fit, no matter their age.
Off we go to another city that I have never heard of, Cartagena, Spain. Surprise, Surprise there they had a famous, Fort, Church, Amphitheater, etc. What caught my eye was the oddest looking sailing ship and sculpture in the public square.
Overnight we are sailing to Ibiza, Spain. The last and only time I was here was when I was in College and understand not much has changed in 40 years. The experience will be completely different since we will only be here during the day and will not be able to go to the largest nightclub in the world. I understand that most people here won’t even be up during the day.
Our mission for the day was to find some replacement running shoes for Catherine. Her 6-month-old New Balance shoes had a blow out the other day and with my Skyroam.com wifi in my pocket and iPhone in hand, my GPS took us from running store to store until we found some reasonably priced Nike that will work for our race in Geneva in 2 weeks.
Back to the ship for lunch then off to nearby lighthouse and massive fort, Pulig de Missa, that I did not even know existed 40 years ago. Not sure how I missed it but I imagine I really was not interested in something like that back then. It might just be that it was 40 years ago and a lot has transpired in my life in since then. I might have to put it on my list of some place to visit for at least a few days in the future.
Southern Spain has turned out to be very special and Tarragona, Spain is another gem all should visit. It is only 60 miles from Barcelona and I understand that many living in Barcelona, often make the hour drive to the beautiful beaches here. Just like anywhere else along the Mediterranean coast there was a fort, Roman Amphitheater, and Cathedral. We were able to hit them all and walked miles along the beach.
This is the last stop prior to most of the quests getting off in Barcelona whereas 68 of us will continue for another 7 nights over to France, Monaco, and Italy where we get off in Rome. So far the weather has been spectacular and can only hope the rest of the cruise will be the same.
I think I might have figured out the big toe joint paint and have found some relief by sticking some cotton balls between the two toes causing all the uproar. We have walked a lot of miles so far and fear to try to run since my right knee is doing so well. In lifetime always tells so we shall see, especially at my age.
We did a marathon in Barcelona 4 years ago so except for seeing the famous Columbus Monument and traverse La` Ramblas boulevard our search was to get some much need supplies, Red Wine, Cava etc. With another full boat of some 300 guests, we were then off for another unheard of the port of Port Vendres, France. That is one of the things I do love about Windstar is that their ships can slip into ports that the large ship cannot. The hidden gems in the world.
The Challenge for us in Port Vendres was for us to go over to the nearby city called Collioure, the gem of the Catalonian coast, of course by foot and then make our way safely up and down to the nearby fort called, Saint-Elme which was originally a signal tower. The trek up was steep and rocky but figured there had to be a paved road for the trip back down since it looked well maintained and cars must come and go.
I am a vista junky and was not disappointed with the views from this fort. They even had a grand museum inside and was well worth the hike up and down along with the small entrance fee. Catherine and I are very diligent in getting in at least 10,000 steps in a day which equates to about 5 miles. This past week with have doubled that average which is great since the food on this ship has been, as always, exceptional.
Next stop, Sanary-Sur-Mer, France which was a very quaint town which is about 20 miles south of Marseille. It is where the pioneers of diving Jacques Cousteau, Frederic Durmas and Phillipe Thailliez, the three musketeers, enchanted their skills.
For Catherine and I, we just did a nice slow walk around the area from the pier to the nearby beach called Le Levant then in the opposite direction to a nice hideaway beach called Place de Portissol. It is a large crescent-shaped, mainly sand beach fringed by tamarisk trees and sheltered from the wind.
Off to our 5th country on this 15-day cruise of Monte Carlo, Monaco. The city was all abuzz with the construction of the stands, etc for the upcoming Grand Prix. What a site of all the uproar of construction and big ships in the background. We had been here three years ago just prior to our Marathon in the Medco region of France. You can read all about that trip on my blog entry called, You get what you pay for.
Fun fact, the principality of Monaco covers just 1.95 square Kilometers and would fit comfortably inside New York’s Central Park or a family farm in Iowa. The goal I had set myself was to see the Grand Casino, Japanese Garden, walk up into nearby foothills and last stop of the Prince Palace.
Since we were doing a short backtrack to the France port of Cannes we were able to stay in Monte Carlo until Midnight and the night lights were magnificent. We were also in Cannes three years ago so the plan for this port was plain and simple, six-mile fast run/walk once again along the Mediterranean.
Our path took us right past the site for the Cannes Film Festival, JW Marriott, where we stayed three years ago and the famous Carlton Hotel. We are loving this cruise so much we went ahead and booked the cruise in the opposite direction in June of next year. By doing so I was able to take advantage of their reduced deposit policy that runs till the end of May, 5% savings as a returning quest additional 5% discount for booking within 60 days of taking a Windstar Cruise, free laundry and $500 per person shipboard credit.
Our ship with the sails out
On to another port I have never heard of but well worth the visit, Portofino, Italy. As I looked at the landscape from the ship and reviewed the material provided by the ship on the port I came up with another very energetic game plan. First, climb the moutan in the rear of the port and then make our way to Santa Margherita, once again by foot.
I thought my heart was going to explode as we climbed the well-marked trail. Along the way it had numerous branches going off to different places, I had never heard of, but my mission was to the top. Catherine was taking the very steep trail and steps like the billy goat that she is and I had to stop numerous times to catch my breath.
It actually felt good to press the envelope and the views were also well worth the effort. Once there we made our way back down by another well-marked road barely wide enough for a small vehicle and the last stage in the decent was along an extremely narrow set of steps to the street.
Next up was to find our ways to the next port called Santa Margherita but since the street did not have sidewalks I did find a similar trail system that was well paved and sat right above the road below. The 2.5 mile walk each way was once again well worth it and there were many we passed that were also enjoying the views.
Last stop before they were going to kick us off in Rome was Portoferraio, Italy. I believe this port held the record for the most forts, three but I had decided that I was fortted out so just a leisurely walk around the busy port for us. The ferries were plentiful and constant. Watching the hundreds of vehicles, including large busses, offload and load was well orchestrated and fun to watch.
Just like clockwork, we were kicked to the curb in the Rome port of Civitavecchia, Italy. For a small fee, a bus was provided for some of us going straight to the airport. Instead of goodbyes, we choose, see you next time, to the wonderful crew knowing that we will be back on this ship in the Caribbean next February. For the crew, most have 9-month contracts then 2-3 months off so time shall tell how many we shall see then.
Alitalia is our next mode of transportation as we now head to Cagliari, Sardegna which is a small Italian island off the coast of the mainland of Italy. The pick for this stop was very scientific. We finish in Rome and have to be in Geneva in 5 days for a race so looking at a map. What is nearby and we have not been there before. Sardegna fit the bill.
Often your first impression is your lasting impression. Through Orbitz, the hotel, La Villa del Mare, had arranged for the transportation from the airport. As we arrived, the street adjacent to the beach, was full of activity with people walking, running and biking.
The owner met us at the gate and we felt right at home. The room/apartment was spacious and had everything I could have asked for. The sky was blue and the beach and water were very inviting but I could not wait to walk the boulevard in front of the hotel to explore the area. The owner gave us a map of the area, the bus schedule to center city/port and a list of the recommended restaurants both nearby and in the city.
They had bikes to rent, beach towels and even sold bus tickets. Very reliable and fast internet was included and I woke up each morning with anticipation for the beloved chocolate croissants, freshly prepared fruit and the best every cappuccino’s. This was a great transition since we had come off a cruise ship where bacon and eggs were the staples for breakfast there.
For Catherine’s birthday, we got in a very long walk around the nearby park that was home for thousands of Pink Flamingos and a very tasty dinner at a nearby restaurant. The next few days was a bit challenging since the rain gods had found us but the hotel gave us a list of indoor activities in the area.
We did make it to the port one day and low and behold there we found many guys selling umbrellas, hats, bags, selfie sticks, etc. They were not very aggressive as we have seen elsewhere, so no big deal. As we walked along trying to find someplace to eat, the sidewalk cafes were not very appealing, but low and behold we saw a sign for a rooftop bar and restaurant.
They had free Wi-Fi but could not find the place listed on Trip Advisor. That was very unusual since I have used the app everywhere and this was a first. Since it is off-season most good restaurants don’t open until 8p which took awhile for us to get used to. Once again the food was good, the place was empty and the cost above average.
I guess the owners of the hotel felt sorry for us because of the washout and they had left a bottle of Prosecco, cheese, and olives while we were gone. The three-year-old boulevard was empty but the wind and brief showers did not stop us from getting an up close and personal view of the Pink Flamingos and the Park. Since it had rained so much the last few days we got occasionally landlocked but were able to make our way back to the hotel.
I need to do some research on the area since you would see some very nice home dotted with old abandoned structures which all seemed out of place. I am sure the area is packed during the summer months and would be a perfect place for us and others to enjoy.
A thought came to mind as we were leaving with the same driver that picked us up from the airport as to whether we would come back sometime during the summer but Catherine and I both came to the conclusion that at our age, there are so many places yet to visit and we probably saw all that we needed to see during this trip.
Not sure what this is for
Arona is a make of car we found on the island and also the name of my Mom
Geneva Switzerland was my 71st country to visit and the half marathon there was the 29th country that we have run at least a half marathon. I truly did not know what to expect since my recollection of Switzerland was the Alps. For a runner, all that comes to mind are hills or mountains.
Since I don’t do a lot of research before we go somewhere I was presently surprised by the basically flat course. There were a few rolling hills thru the farmland portion of the race early on but I really enjoyed the downhill after the tunnel down to the lake at around mile 8.
The race started off in a beautiful park as we wound our way around it and finished right next to their majestic lake. I can say that was the best half marathon course I have ever been on. The weather was perfect and getting to the start and back from the finish to the hotel was effortless.
You could tell that this was not their first rodeo and the weekend was full of different races for every member of the family. The half started at 8:30 with the full at 9:45. That was perfect since we were able to still be at the finish to see the marathon winner come flying by for both the men and women.
Several minutes before the second place winner went by
We ran around the lower portion of the lake and our hotel was only a few blocks away. The race website had many suggested hotels in the area and the one that I picked because of price and location gave me great pause when we arrived. We had to check in at the Novotel around the corner and there was absolutely no curb appeal for our hotel.
The area itself was very interesting with all the hookers of the city surrounded the six square block with their very own red light district. The did not harass you as you walked by and every now and then the police would show up not to pick them up but to merely ward off their clients. With two laundry mats within blocks of the hotel that fully compensated for the ladies of the day and night.
The room itself was clean and even had a kitchenette which came in handy. The food was very expensive and is some restaurants the portions were a bit small. Maybe I was still adjusting to two weeks of cruising.
They had several parks and a wonderful botanical garden adjacent to the lake and I could not believe the number of people running around the area. You could see the mountains and the alps off in the distance and I could not resist a boat tour on Swiss boat, of Geneva Lake so I could get up close and personal with the worlds tallest water fountain.
Here are the stats
It draws the water from the lake and shoots 500 liters of water per second to a height of 140 meters, at a speed of 200 kilometers per hour. The column of water weighs 8 tons and the pumps generate 1360 hp. The fountain operates only when the wind blows at under 20 kilometers per hour.
Overall it was a great visit to Switzerland. I learned a number of things about the area that I did not know. I did not realize how diverse it is and the fact that they speak four official languages. No matter my age I would not come back since this trip and race were near perfect and I would like to keep it that way in my mind.
We are now ready to head back to the states with an overnight stop in Amsterdam. We are going to have to make that our Europe hub since Air France sounds like they are on their last legs. I am not surprised with our last experience with them and our bags.
Turns out Delta threw some more miles to make up for our delayed bag issue on our last trip from Europe and have rolled out an update to their app to improve tracking your bags to include when they are delayed or lost. I am taking full credit for the upgrade of their app since I did do an extensive write up on our experience and how they need to improve customer service when it comes to their bags.
After only a few days in ATL, we are back off for another 18-day jaunt to Seattle, Bangkok, and Bhutan for another half marathon with Marathon Tours. My task at hand, while in ATL, is to get us down to two carry-on bags for this trip and all trips of around two weeks.
I think I have it figured out and I hear all the time from others how they travel that way. One of the drawbacks for us is that many of our trips are around 30-45 days with different climates and types of travel, ie cruising clothes.
Bottom line I refuse to let my age to determine what Catherine and I are going to do with the rest of our lives. Even as we get older and things don’t work like they use to, it still beats the alternative. Hope you enjoyed reading about this trip and if so please sign up to get an email when I publish the next one.