Saturday, May 11, 2024

California Vacation - Day 08 (San Diego)


San Diego.  It was nice NOT having to entertain my new friend for a change.  She found someone else to keep her company, and I can have free time for myself for the last day of the cruise.

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But let me start at the beginning....

Again, I didn't get a good sleep, and woke up much earlier than needed.  It was just as well, as I had a schedule for the day: Have Breakfast in the buffet, then get off the ship and see RQS's cousin.  Since I didn't make arrangements to see my new friend, I enjoyed breakfast without having to talk with anyone. And then, all I had to do was wait for RQS's cousin (I'll call her "C" for now) to arrive at the pier.

Around 11 am, C arrived, and I met her in a female presentation for the first time.  There was no strange reaction, and C made the effort to call me Marian for the entire time we spent together.  We weren't sure of what we were going to do at first.  Did we want to go to the Zoo?  Or, did we just want to hang out and chat?  Chatting won out.  

C drove me through downtown San Diego to show me around, then she drove to Harbor Island where we sat on a park bench for 90 minutes before going to a local restaurant which overlooked the water.  Lunch was my treat - I was glad to show her that I appreciated her company.  And she was glad that RQS and I found each other. All too soon, C had to go home.  She didn't want to drive in rush hour traffic, and I wanted to get back to the ship.  So, C dropped me off and I did my thing onboard the ship.

- - - - - -

Once back onboard the ship, I took a break before going to dinner.  I had reservations for a shared table, and was willing to wait until other people showed up. While waiting, I saw one of the people I dined with last night. and said hello just before they finished their after dinner coffee.  It was nice to see him, and even nicer to see his wife.  Too bad she couldn't have been with us at our table - we had a great crowd.

A few minutes later, a lovely couple from the North of England joined me.  We enjoyed chatting about shoes and ships and sealing wax, and whether the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings.  Needless to say, I wished we could have chatted longer in a more quiet place.  Then, it was time to go back to my room for the evening.

Friday, May 10, 2024

California Vacation - Day 07 (Catalina Island)


Today's Port stop was Catalina Island (Avalon).  This is a place where I'd like to visit again, stay a couple of days, and chill for a while.  But I won't get this chance on any cruise anytime soon.

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I had arranged to meet my new friend around 9:30 am in the buffet for breakfast.  And again, we kept talking until it was past lunch time.  Well, I found an excuse around 1:00 pm to go to the tender boats and take a ride to Avalon.  

Avalon is the main town on Catalina Island.  The tourist section is picturesque, and a great place to chill for a few hours.  The area near the dock is filled with tourist based shops and restaurants, yet it felt like a place where people actually lived - several people were walking with their dogs in the area near the dock.

One of the stores I went into was a former bank building.  The current tenant has turned the former vault into a place where local artisans' work is displayed.  Further down the stretch is a ice cream and candy store, where I bought some candy for RQS and some ice cream for myself.  Once done with the ice cream, I called RQS for a while and caught up on things.  And then, it was back to the ship before dinner.

Changing into a fresh dress, I went downstairs for dinner - finally at a shared table in the main dining room.  There was a motivational speaker from New Zealand at the table, a couple from Las Vegas, and some other people who I didn't get the chance to talk to that much.  Most of my conversations were with the woman next to me (from Las Vegas), her husband, a male nurse across from me, and the motivational speaker.  Somehow, I seemed to click with everyone at the table, as my idea of skills every child should learn (Baseball, Poker and Chess) was taken well.  And the motivational speaker found what I had to say about America's political divisions (as well as the rest of the world) and the failures of democracies to deliver value to all citizens to be very interesting.  (I can't reconstruct that conversation in any detail anymore.)  Although we were all seated by 6:30 pm, we didn't get our main courses until 8:00 pm.  None of us were happy about this.  But it did allow for the many great conversational threads we were sharing while we waited.

Once done with dinner, I walked over to the "Inch of Gold" stand and bought 2 x 23" necklace chains (from which I plan to attach pendants), getting 2 "free" bracelet chains as part of the deal.  This took longer than expected, as I missed the opening numbers of Tommy McPhee in the ship's theater.  This Scottish singer did numbers from Neil Sedaka, Elton John, Barry Manilow and others.  He has a good voice.  But it is easy to see how he'd be performing on cruise ships with small audiences instead of areas with large audiences - he didn't have charisma, nor did he have any material of his own.  In short, I'd sit in the audience if he performed on a cruise ship I was on, but I wouldn't pay to see him live.

Leaving the theater, I checked when the chains would be ready (the last night of the cruise), and had a drink before going to bed....

Thursday, May 9, 2024

California Vacation - Day 06 (Sea Day)


Last night, I fell asleep between 2:00 am and 3:00 am and woke up this morning around 7:30 am.  Of course, looking back at things, I didn't feel thoroughly rested.  But I made sure to get up and get dressed to connect with my new friend for breakfast at the buffet around 9:30 am.  As has become usual on this ship, we hung out together from breakfast through lunch.  And then, we met again for afternoon tea, only to schedule dinner together with her friends. Now, it's nice to have someone to chat with, but it's always nice to have time alone. I just didn't make enough of this time today.  But I will do so tomorrow, when we reach Catalina island.

But I have gotten out of sequence.  So I'll go back a step or so....

We rushed through our breakfast, as there was a cooking demonstration being given in the main theater.  It was scripted well, with one chef playing a true professional, and the other being a clown who would screw up the recipes by adding too much of certain important ingredients such as Garlic, Worcestershire Sauce, Brandy and Vodka.  It was a funny show, followed by a quick tour of the galley. Next, we were off to lunch in one of the main dining rooms, where we shared a table with other cruisers.  By the time this meal came around, I really wasn't hungry.  I simply ate to be social.

Once lunch was over, we took a breather, as afternoon tea was coming up for the last time on the cruise.  This time, I couldn't find my friend, so I sat at a shared table with other cruisers.  This was an interesting group, as I was the only Easterner, and we shared our thoughts about the "Grab and Go" thefts going on in California, and the lack of an adequate response by law enforcement.  No wonder why at least one Latin American nation elected a dictator to clean up the mess left by a bumbling democracy - and he is well liked for making it safe again to go out of the house.  Once this table broke up, I found my friend and some of her friends at a nearby table, and sat down with them for a while before going back to my cabin to change for the last gala night of the cruise.

Once I got some pictures taken, I went to dinner with my new friend, and then helped two people at the table to celebrate their birthdays.  This was steak and lobster night, and I ordered (and paid for) an extra portion, so that I could have an extra piece of lobster with my meal.  Dinner went by quickly, and I exited so that I could go back to my room for a while before going to the main theater to see Elliot Hunter perform his illusions.  As much as I do not look to see magicians, I can be entertained by them now and then.

All too soon, it was time to go to bed.  Although I have plans to see my friend for breakfast, I will be heading out to Catalina island to spend the day....

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

California Vacation - Day 05 (San Francisco)


26 years ago, I scattered my late wife's ashes in a spot under the Golden Gate Bridge, right behind Fort Point.  Due to 9/11, this spot is no longer accessible to the public.  But I try to get as close as possible each time I visit this city.  Today's visit would be special, as I don't see myself coming back to this city for a while.

- - - - - -

When I got up this morning, I planned to drop by Fort Point and then visit the Swan Oyster Depot for lunch.  My plans were to visit the fort first, and then take Muni (SF's Mass Transit system) to the Oyster Depot for lunch.  These plans were blown to pieces early in the day, when a lady asked if she could share my table at the buffet.

This lady and I start chatting, and it was as if we had been related to each other in a prior life.  We chatted from 9:30 am to 2:00 pm without stopping.  She never picked up on the fact that I am not a cisgender woman, as I code shifted my conversation to refer to my life with my late wife as if she were my late husband.  We talked about many of the things that only women could experience, such as "Boob Sweat" and struggles with one's bra.  We talked about our late spouses.  And we talked about what we liked about the opposite sex.  (I can translate well in a pinch.)  So, when her friend called her, I took this as a good opportunity to make my way to Fort Point via trolley car and bus.

Getting to Fort Point from Pier 27 is relatively easy.  One takes the historic trolley to Fisherman's Wharf, then walks a couple of blocks to catch the 28 bus to the Golden Gate Bridge.  From there, it's a walk of 0.8 miles (all downhill) to the shoreline and then to the Fort.  Once I paid my respects to my late wife (for which this might be the last time), I decided to make it back to the bus station for my return to the ship.  What was an "easy" 0.8 mile downhill walk was an arduous 200 foot uphill trek back (over the same 0.8 miles) to the bus stop.  By the time I reached the bus stop, I felt that I needed a shower.  Only one problem - it would have to be quick, because I had a 5:00 pm reservation at the ship's steakhouse and I would likely be a few minutes late.

When I arrived at the ship, I proceeded to my room, then stripped, showered, dressed (in fresh clothing), and reapplied my makeup before going downstairs to dine.  I chose both the sea scallops (with salmon roe) and the French Onion Soup for appetizers before trying the veal chop.  Although the veal chop was good for what it was, I found that it was not the cut of veal that I like to eat because of the texture of the meat.  (Give me a good queen cut of prime rib from Peter Luger any day....)  However, I don't have any regrets in trying this cut of veal, as I try to try out new things to eat whenever I can.

After dinner, I realized that I needed to rest, and I fell out for an hour or so.  Shortly after waking up for a while, I exchanged a series of messages with RQS before calling it an early night.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

California Vacation - Day 04 (Sea Day)


My body is still functioning as if it were still in New York.  I awoke around 6:00 am, and found that I had fallen asleep watching a movie last night.  This was OK to me, as I was tired after roughly 4 miles of walking the day before.

Given that I was hungry when I woke up, I knew I wouldn't be ready in time to make it to the sit-down breakfast venues.  So, I ended up going to the buffet, where the food was good, yet had a mass-produced feel about it.  Hopefully, I'll get up early enough tomorrow to enjoy a breakfast in one of the main dining rooms.

- - - - - -

I didn't go straight back to my room after breakfast for some reason.  Instead, I walked the ship a little, looking to see if there was a ship's library. (I didn't find one.)  By the time I was done walking around, it was time for lunch - and I went to one of the sit-down restaurants and got a served meal.  Sadly, I made one mistake:  Instead of ordering the calamari as a small appetizer, I should have ordered a lunch sized portion.  It was that good.  While there, I met another couple, and we chatted about cruising for a while.  I handed the woman information about the Hawaii cruise I took, as well as giving her the info on the travel blog in which I make monthly posts.

Once done with lunch, I went back to the room to freshen up and do some reading.  Soon enough, 4:30 came around, and I prepared to look my prettiest for a formal night.  I was very glad that I had all the accouterments with me to present myself as an elegant, but heavy set lady in her 60's.  Realizing that my second specialty dinner reservation wasn't on the computer, I went down and got a reservation for 1 for 8:00 pm.  And I'm glad I did, as the food was yummy.  First was the Mussels Provinciale.  Then came the "Three S's" - Scotch Salmon, Sea Scallops, and Shrimp.  Although I was not too happy with dessert, it was not because it wasn't' good.  Instead, I was simply not in the mood for this flavor combination.  I'd have rather had only the ice cream that came with the dish.

- - - - - -

After dinner, I went to a show called "Rock Opera" in the main theater.  Although the singers were fantastic, it was not an opera.  It was opera trained musicians overdoing rock classics such as "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and "Sounds of Silence".  Too much background dancing, too much amplification, and too much strength in their voices.  There was no subtlety in the performance.  Yet, I found my feet tapping for most of the songs being sung.

When I arrived at my room, I found a bouquet of flowers.  Seems like my choice of the Princess Premier fare for this cruise gave me a willing raffle entry this trip.  This T-Gal certainly enjoys the flowers in the room.....

Monday, May 6, 2024

California Vacation - Day 03 (Cruise Embarkation)


I am writing this entry on the day I embarked upon my California Cruise.  Although nothing major went wrong, I have a bone to pick with Princess Cruises in regard to dining reservations.  But I'll get to that later....

This morning was the second day in a row where I woke up early, and couldn't fall back to sleep.  While I was getting showered and dressed, the bellman came to take my suitcase to the bus.  Well, I wasn't expecting him at this time, so I finished what I was doing, packed up everything I had left out, and went to the Starbucks upstairs to get what passed for breakfast.  Then, I settled down in front of the "logistics lady" (Princess outsources the logistics of moving people from the airport to the hotel, from the hotel to the cruise terminal, and from the cruise terminal to the airport.)  That's where I met the bellman again, and he moved my bags to the staging area, While sitting down, a widowed traveler struck up a conversation, and I talked too much - I could see she was bored.  So I let her be, and waited until it was time to board the bus.   

Around 10:45, the bus came, and both we (the passengers) and our luggage were corralled into the bus and delivered to San Pedro to board the ship.  I was prepared for the security line, and when the lady checked my passport, I said "Yes, that's me!" in a deep voice.  The next thing she did was to compliment me on my looks.  From there, it was a quick run to get on the ship, while taking forever to find an open elevator to get to my cabin - but I did, by moving to another elevator bank. The cabin surprised me with how much room it had for storage.  Yes, the bathroom seemed tiny.  But at least, the shower had a place I could put my foot while shaving my legs.

Now, this is where I got a little annoyed - making dining reservations.    I couldn't make them before getting on the ship, and the good reservations were impossible to get.  So I have to play catch as catch can, so that I can get a seat at a non-buffet restaurant.  AARGH!  At least, the main dining rooms are decent, and I don't mind eating alone that much.  But I'll have to see about one reservation that was supposedly to have been made - it still hasn't shown up online.  

By the time I finished dinner, I was too tired to go to the theater to watch the provided entertainment. I ended up going back to my room, stripped and fell asleep....

Sunday, May 5, 2024

California Vacation - Day 02 (Exploring Los Angeles)


What's that old song that Nat King Cole sang so well?  In the past 8 months, I've been to the two ends of the "Mother Road", historic Route 66.  From Chicago to LA, more than 2,000 miles all the way.  But I didn't drive it.  I flew....

- - - - - -

This morning, I woke up on a New York City, and not a Los Angeles rhythm.  By my watch, it was 7 am New York Time.  But it was 4 am Los Angeles time.  So, I turned my TV on to watch the talkings heads discuss the upcoming Trump trial of the week, and just as things things were getting interesting - POOF!  The TV was on, but no signal was coming to the TV.  I figured that I might try turning it off and on, but this only made things worse - the TV would not come back on.  (Reminds me of the Cable Box issue I'll be dealing with the day after I get home.)  So I called the main desk and asked them to look at things while I was out for the day.

So, with no fixed plans for the day, I decided to take the bus to the Santa Monica pier and walk around.  If I had gotten there two hours later, things would have been perfect.  But most of the places wouldn't start opening up until 10 am Pacific time, and my body was acting like it was 1 pm Eastern.  This meant that the crowds hadn't yet arrived, and I could see the place without the crowds.

Unfortunately, the pier's carousel wasn't open for business, so I had to get this shot through the windows, rather than from the inside.  At least, I was there about 20 years ago, and the place looks as classic as it did back then.

I saw a couple feeding money into this machine and gave them some advice: Do NOT under any circumstances wish to be BIG.  This machine has a weird sense of humor, as I remember that it granted a child this wish in 1988 and all hell broke loose in his life.  Luckily, he was able to wish himself small again, and there his story ended.

Sadly, as I was walking to the Santa Monica Metro station, I saw one of the many homeless people taking up space on a sidewalk when they should be sheltered in a safe and clean space.  If you look closely enough, you see a man laying on the sidewalk - one homeless person among many that I saw near the beach. Too bad that this problem is nationwide - these people need help, and it's not being provided to them.

Now, I must interrupt the flow of this narrative to mention that I attempted to use LA's "Tap Card" app on my phone, and it worked less often than it didn't.  After having breakfast at Starbucks, I asked one of the hotel staff where I could catch the bus to Santa Monica - and he gave me the wrong bus stop location.  (LA is a suburb in search of a city, and like most people in suburbia, this person was clueless in regard to mass transit.)  Thankfully, both Google Maps and the Transit app gave me better information - I still had to walk an extra two blocks to find the bus stop - which wasn't marked well.  This is when I tried to use the Tap app - and it didn't work.  Instead of holding up the bus (as would happen in NYC) until the fare was paid, the driver told me to take a seat and not worry about it.

When I left Santa Monica, I walked to the Metro station, and voila! - the Tap app worked!  Either something I did was wrong, there was an incompatibility between my phone and the scanner, or there were a lot of bad scanners in the field.  Later on, I only had one successful use of the Tap app (with some help from a Metro system employee), with two F-it's by me and a bus driver.  Next time I visit LA, I'll buy a Tap card instead of using the app, as this is more likely to work properly.  Out of the five times I tried to use the Tap app, it worked for me only once, leaving $13.25 in my account.

After Santa Monica, I decided to go to Downtown LA and visit Union Station and the Olvera Street shopping district.  The last time I was in this area of LA, I was with Ex-GF-M, and she didn't want to go to this section of town because she felt unsafe.  (Ex-GF-M didn't feel safe unless she was in a predominantly Anglo neighborhood, and being surrounded by Mexicans must have frightened her enough to say No.)  This time, I didn't have to deal with her nonsense, and I had a nice time walking through this district and having lunch there.

While there, I stopped to visit the Avila Adobe, a free museum which shows what the oldest house in Los Angeles must have looked like,  For the most part, it reminded me of a larger place in Old Town San Diego.  Hopefully, I'll be able to get here again with RQS, as I think she'd like to have seen in person where I went today,.

All too soon, it was time to leave.  I wanted to get back to the hotel by 3 pm, as I was getting tired.  Instead of going back via Santa Monica (as I might do on another trip), I took the tram heading to Long Beach, with the idea of transferring to the tram heading to the airport.  This is not a trip to do at night, as one passes by a few industrial areas before going through Watts (you can see the towers from the tram), then transferring for another tram at the Rosa Parks Boulevard stop.  Although I felt safe (it was daytime), I don't recommend doing this at night.  Once I got to the Airport station (which is not in the airport), I had to take another bus to get to my hotel.

Arriving at the hotel, I found that my TV still wasn't working.  AARGH!  At least, after 30 minutes of fiddling with the equipment behind the TV, I had TV again, and I could consider stripping for the evening,

RQS went home, and I got keys made - a quick post

  One of the problems with going about as a female is that almost everything one carries around during a typical day is carried in a handbag...