Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Celebrations....

Yes, we are at the end of 2008. It has been a stressful year in more than one way, but my family and I have been healthy and things are working well in the job no way I am going to complain....BUT I will certainly complain about the celebrations. This is not the way I would have been spending my afternoon have we'd been in Curaçao!!! Sitting in front of the computer, after a day of shopping with my daughter???....NEEEE!!

Since noon, my family and I would have been after the pagaras, Chinese firecracker rolls that are the staple of the celebrations on the island. They can be as long or short as you can afford and come in wooden crates. Once you decide what you want, you unroll it in front of your house of business. All your friends and family will be there enjoying drinks and food and lively music. At an appointed time, the pagara will be lit. Everyone gets as close to it as possible...the smoke and noise are supposed to chase the demons away and bring in the New Year. It's so noisy and reassuring at the same time.

This is repeated around the island at private homes and business until around 8:00 p.m. Everyone gets home to rest for a while and get ready for the REAL celebrations! You first go to family or friends' and have more to drink and eat. At 12 o'clock the government will fire a cannon in Fort Amsterdam, and the whole island erupts in noise and smoke! Literally, every home has its private fireworks show and everyone runs outside to receive the New Year outdoors.

The display goes on for a couple of hours. Then, there is THE party to go to. Tickets have been on sale for months and everyone attends....well, all the young and fun and able people. There is still the older generation that doesn't participate, but they stay at their parties and continue to celebrate until kidding! It's so much fun and we absolutely miss that. So, resolution for 2009, let's go back next year!!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Back on Land!!!!!

Yes, I'm back on land...still wobbling a bit, though. The cruise was wonderful, we had family time and we enjoy the food, drinks, shows, islands visited...We started on Sunday the 21st. The embarking procedure took a while, but was fairly organized. My husband and I carry Dutch passport and the agent checking us in had to show them to the captain...never had that before! He even commented on our children's US passports...Ah, you have US ones!!!

Once on board, we went for lunch, had a drink and waited for our cabins. Afterwards got our luggage and went exploring the ship. Up we went to the upper deck to see the ship leave Miami and the glorious sunset behind us. It was a bit windy, but lovely. It turned dark almost immediately and we went inside to get changed for the evening. We had dinner, went to one of the bars for a drink. There was such nice music, we wandered around and went to bed relatively early. We were expecting a good day on Monday....and we did!

It was sunny and warm and breezy, perfect weather for lounging around the pools and having a couple of drinks. So we had breakfast and sat in the sun....after looking everywhere for chairs!!
After a light lunch and a more hours in the sun, the wind picked up and it was time to get ready for dinner in the main restaurant......delicious! On to the show with a a 1970s theme and then a bit of sing-a-long with dancing to the same beat. We retired early, Frank and Camille went to do their own thing and our first full day on the cruise was over.

On the third day, we arrived in George Town, Grand Cayman. A pretty little town , but with too much traffic and souvenir shops. We decided on a day at the turned out to be only a couple of hours in a crowded beach with a small welcoming drink, and it sprinkled....never mind, the water was fabulous! Nothing like a Caribbean beach for us. On board we had Chinese food and went to the theater to see Second City. Great comedy and talented performers.

On Christmas Eve we disembarked in Cozumel and joined our Eco-tour group. We got our own Jeep and followed the guide. He turned out to be fantastic and the tour was a great idea. The water was rough because of the great wind storm we had the night before, so snorkeling was out of the question for me. My family enjoyed every much, I had a drink! We saw a Mayan hurricane warning system, amazing stuff! A small pyramid with openings on four sides and conch shells inside. The wind would go through the openings and made the shells whistled. Had excellent Mexican food and saw salt water crocodiles, did some shopping and got back exhausted but happy. We had a lovely dinner at the steak house on board and on to the show: a very funny comedian that was booked on the main theater the first night. I'm glad we could catch his routine! There was a White Hot Party for the younger crowd....

Christmas Day was just another day on deck with the sun warming us...and the wind blowing everything out to sea if permitted! Had small bites throughout the day, drinks, and family time. Got dressed and went for Mongolian food...interesting and very healthy. Everything is cooked in broth. We could do this again. That night they had a fabulously wonderful show. Sort of like Cirque de Soleil. Perfect finale. A Chocoholic Buffet had everyone drooling...I had champagne instead!!!

But nothing is perfect. Norwegian Cruise Line did not live up to our expectations, maybe because we are sort of a structured family and freestyle cruising is not for us. Or maybe it was the fact that the ship moved like a leave on a steam, or that we didn't get adjacent cabins, or that the lock on the door to our balcony was broken and the wind whistled and howled one night keeping us awake. Response to complains were not taken up immediately, so things took a while to be fixed. The luggage took forever to appeared the first night and was not ours!

Still, it was a great idea and we should do it again soon.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Anchors Away!!!

Decorations finished and house sweetly smelling of Christmas....finally a time to put up my feet and enjoy the Ponche Krema......Curaçao's answer to eggnog, but MUCH better! Holiday music in the background and plans for a wonderful Christmas finalized.

Today Camille and Frank arrive from London and there is nothing to do but enjoy their company. On Sunday we are sailing away to the blue Caribbean on a cruise ship. Nothing to look forward to, but sea, ocean breeze and relaxation. Our biggest concern will be where is our next drink coming from and at what time should we have something to eat! It'll be heavenly!

My husband wins top prize for this most brilliant idea.... He is not much for planning in advance, so it was a last minute decision. Fortunately, finding the right cruise proved to be easier than we thought. Our cruise expert friend, Johnny, knew exactly who to contact and where to go this time of the year in the Caribbean. It was a pleasant experience with this company, for sure we'll use them again.

We are sailing on NCL's JEWEL and will be gone for five days! most of them spend at sea which suits us just fine. We'll have time to spend together, hear all about Frank's five months adventures in Europe, Camille's career moves and nobody can call Frankie with business matters. We will have time enough to make memories to be cherish for years to come. This was really inspirational!!!

So off we go into the sunset on Sunday, leaving behind worries and looking forward to a well deserved family vacation!!! Merry Christmas to all and a Healthy, Joyful, Peaceful and Prosperous New Year!!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas has arrived.....

I have been delaying, playing busy with other things, telling myself that I'll do it tomorrow...but my children get home on the 19th, not too much time left to get the house ready. So today I did something I haven't done in almost five years: I took out my Christmas decorations from storage and got ready to decorate my house.... I know, every year since I moved to Miami, I have decorated in one way or another. One year all in silver, one all in red and the last two years, not much....since we have traveled at this time of the year.

Not this time, no buying new decorations that mean very little, I am a traditionalist when it comes to the Holidays. This time, I took out the decorations I have been accumulating since I got married, since the children were, well, children!! Each one has a special meaning, a special memory attached to it. Sort of a Christmas family history, and it has been so wonderful to see all those old friends again. I have no clue how I will manage to put up all those things up, this apartment is half the size of our old house, so I am sure some picking and choosing will have to take place. Still it feels great!

With Christmas music in the background, I am unpacking and remembering and enjoying. It has been a journey into our past, our times together as a family, the trips we took, the decorations we picked, the ones the children made, the ones given by friends now living far or the ones given by dear ones no longer with us. There have been laughter and tears and joy and a bit of sadness, but most of all it has been well worth the wait! This will be a Christmas to remember, one more in a long line of celebrations....can't wait to see the children's faces when they see all this again!!!