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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Do you know the way to St. Tropez?

Oh, come on. You knew I would do that, right?

One way is, you go in on a ship. Some ships are too big to dock, so you take a tender. Luckily the water wasn't too bad and the ride was short.

You can fly into Cannes. Then you have to drive. Flying is as bad as driving.

Another way to go is to drive. That would be just plain crazy. So of course we took a bus tour. But of course, we couldn't just get on a bus. That would have been too easy. First, the tender, then, a stop in a parking lot to explain why the buses couldn't come any closer. Then, a stop at a port building to use the restrooms, which they didn't want us to do. But were there any other restrooms? No. How about on the buses? No. So they backed down, because we are TOURISTS. Of course, they want you to go into a restaurant and eat and use their toilet. Except it was too early for any restaurant to be open. Needless to say, finding a public restroom in Europe is never guaranteed, and then you usually have to pay. I like a lot of things about Europe. I like them even better than a lot of the things we have in the United States. But not that.

Following the pit stop, we hiked through the marina to where the buses were allowed to park. Now, St Tropez, to me, conjures up scantily clad people covered in some sort of grease, slowly roasting to death on the deck of a yacht. And to some extent, this is true. They also sit around with drinks, ride jet skis, and watch insects like us skittering past, unaware that they are occupying a floating slum.

That's right. The yachts moor stern in, touching each other's bumpers, those big soft things they hang over the sides. You are no further from the people on either side of you than you are in a tenement or a Motel 6. You paid umpty-doodle zillion dollars for your yacht with all the fancy electronic doo-dads on top, yet you are basically living in your neighbors' groins. Yeah, that's real special. So is the carbon footprint on one of these things. The plus side? Employment for a crew of six to twenty per copy. I wonder how many of these owners knew what the marina conditions would be like when they signed away their fortune for one of these monstrosities. Someone on the tour with us told a joke: The two happiest days in a boat owner's life. 1. The day you buy it. 2. The day you sell it.

We all got into a couple of buses and took off up the coast and then inland to see "Scenic Provence," the name of the excursion. The traffic was a dreadful mess, but we got to see lots of pretty and interesting spots, and stopped in one for drinks and to poke around.

Joyce was still trying to get Euros. On the ship, she cashed travelers' checks into dollars, no problem. But they had no other currency. She thought now, for sure, banks would turn dollars into euros. Boy, are we stupid. Trying to find a bank that changes money (for which they could charge money) is like trying to find a public bathroom. What we did find was some desperate enterpreneur IN A BANK where he couldn't get dollars. Match made in heaven. Another woman came in while we were doing this transaction in the lobby and he changed hers, too, with a very good rate! Merci beaucoup, etranger Francais!

Mediterranean fauna

French fauna

Yacht slum

I have more pictures and more blather to present, but Blogger in its infinite wisdom is not allowing me to attach photos, so I'll stop here and try again tomorrow. I have better yacht slum pics I wish to share.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Not dead; just lazy. And it's football season!

One reason I'm so behind in posting these blogs is the topic I want to get into: absolute exhaustion! And this time I can't blame the altitude, or not having enough recovery time. We had plenty of nap time, and slept well at night except for that shithole of a train. And we were taking vitamin B tablets, which are real uppers to us. In fact, without them, I don't know what would have happened. Probably just wouldn't have taken those excursions, or gotten off the ship, or something. I did lose seven pounds and two pants sizes, but once we came home exhausted (and after the accident which isn't till the end so I can't discuss it yet) we were pretty beat. Pretty much from Auschwitz on, we were tired all the time. It translated into going to bed as soon after dinner as we could, and preparing everything for the next day before going to sleep. So we survived. Maybe next time we'll take one of those geezer tours, but here's the thing. My 80-year old aunt took a geezer tour of Germany and Austria last fall. She said she didn't really enjoy her two-week enlistment in the Wehrmacht, because that's what it felt like to her and my cousin, who went with her. Kind of reminded me of my ten-day stint in the Russian Navy in 2008.

Now, here's how you can tell Spain is socialist (and no, it's not an epithet; far from it). I needed moleskin and the farmacia had two kinds. I couldn't decide which (cut or uncut) so I said I'd take both. They refused to sell me both "in case someone else needed it." While it doesn't say much for their stocking practices, it was a very sweet example of how bad they are at capitalism. Viva Espana! I took the uncut.

We had a few little issues with the ship. One issue that really didn't bother us all that much was that the foward elevator kept taking vacations on our time. As long as we aren't in a great big hurry, we can climb stairs. Just gimme a railing.

In our cabin was a flat screen TV and an iPod dock and probably some other shit. We ignored all electronics. But also in our cabin, there were some things they should fix. Like, there are something like 16 lights in the bathroom. It's a real sauna in there when you take a shower, and great for drying laundry after. There's no such thing as turning some of them off. It's all or nothing. Also, they have these low-flow toilets, which are great for the environment. Except for one thing: plumbing engineers, do not make the bottom of the toilet bowl flat. If you can't guess why, let me just say it causes a lot of extra flushing.

Outside the cabin, there was the lounge issue. They kept it freezing in there for no discernable reason. Every night we told them to turn the air down. And then we told them to turn it down farther. People were bringing blankets from their cabins to see the shows. Every day it was the same until Joyce got hold of the captain. Speaking of the captain, he never shut up. All day long he would interrupt sleep and conversation with position and speed announcements, or tell us they were doing some drill or other. Our presence was never required, so why? Honestly, we expect you to get the ship where it needs to go. Don't bother us with details. If I need a detail like that, I'll ask for it. Not to mention, they had a whole channel devoted to showing where in the Med the ship was, the speed, the wind, the wave size. So please shut up.

One other thing that amused, but didn't effect me at all, was that some people apparently were trying to smoke in their cabins and somehow got caught. It was probably their stewards who smelled it and ratted them out. You know you can't smoke indoors, especially in a cabin, because the fabrics absorb the smell. The whole port side of the ship outdoors is a smoking area, and they have plenty of ashtrays, so what's the problem with going there? Joyce used to smoke and she never tried to sneak, so it really pissed her off.

Okay, here are some more ship pictures, since we're talking ship here:

People getting into a tender, taken from above. Joyce hates tenders.

Joyce refusing to get on a tender.

Me with nice people we met on the trip. In front of more ship art.

Answer to last entry's quiz:

Tomb of the Two Kings, Plock Cathedral, Poland

Close-up of the pen of the Anonymous Author, Budapest, Hungary

Monday, September 5, 2011

Some catching up to do

Before I describe our next port of call, let me catch up a few things I should have mentioned earlier. There's no point going back to the exact blogs; readers don't do that. Just a few weirdos like myself would ever do it.

So, about the Olivia entertainment. I mean the shows they put on in the evening. Our favorites are always the comics, and of course, all of Olivia's entertainment is about women. The "regular" entertainers hired by the cruise line must go do something else, although they retained a combo and a vocalist for ballroom dancing every evening. We love it, and we can't do it anywhere else. In the Tampa Bay area, where we live, certain lesbian groups do organize dances sometimes, but it's always loud, sternum-pounding disco, heavy metal, rap or country western, as if all of us were under 30. We tried going a couple times, even wrote to the organizers, requested dancing music all night, and made absolutely no progress. For example, for a Valentine s Dance, they didn't even have "My Funny Valentine" available to play. So we don't give them our money anymore. And the "tea dances" the boys have on Sunday afternoons? No way. So, ballroom dancing on an Olivia vacation is very important to us, and we are always delighted to go when they have it.

As to the comics, of course their material is topical,either about current events, being lesbians, or both. This time, due to the age of the crowd, they all had material on aging, and it was hilarious. So Elvira Kurt, a Hungarian-Canadian, went on the first "real" entertainment night, and you can't help but see yourself. I think a lot of people wet themselves laughing. Unfortunately she also had some parenting material, which isn't as funny to us, but a lot of lesbians have kids these days. Yeah, they have a lot of means of doing this, God knows why! We always thought one of the great things about being lesbians was not having kids, and not having discussions about kids. Now they expect us to trot out pictures of the grandkids. No, we're childfree for a reason, thanks. But hey! Your kids are paying our Social Security, so we sure appreciate that! And we do enjoy the schadenfreude when we hear about the dear little ones' antics. No, really!

So, Joyce forgot to pack her snore stop, and though you can find a lot of things for nasal difficullties, including things with the name "Snore-Stop" in the local language, nothing works on Joyce's snoring like the real thing. I mean, we guess so, although since we have separate bedrooms, she doesn't use it at home, and we haven't tested it. Maybe by now nothing works. I usually whistle to stop her. The idea is it will disturb her enough to make her turn over without waking her. This is somewhat true, except she starts in again so fast, it's usually pointless. Not to mention she snores in every possible sleeping position. And we travel with sleep machines, drugs and earplugs and use separate beds and honestly, the things that have worked best for me are sleeping in the closet or the bathroom. She tells me I snore, too, and I don't doubt it, but apparently she can't hear me over her own snoring. I wake myself up snoring; she doesn't. Is it a bone of contention? It's the bone. If we tried to sleep together at home, we'd be long since divorced. Luckily, sleeping separately just makes us gladder to see one another when we get up.

One thing we always enjoy doing when we travel is people-watching, and because we are traveling, we see a lot of luggage and a lot of shoes. Women, please! What are you doing to your feet? You're only issued one pair for life, you know? Human bodies weren't designed to walk balanced on sticks. Get out of the ho-heels and be comfortable. And men, hello! You're in an airport: luggage, crowds, escalators, people movers. Flip flops are not going to protect you. And stop wearing those horrible black droopy socks with your sandals. You look like slobs.

We were going up and down escalators in some airport, I want to say Prague, when we came across a great big heel stuck in an escalator. The young man I was next to, and I, looked at each other and started laughing. Joyce saw it too, and I guess we were all wondering how that must have looked when it happened, and what she's limping around on now. I'm fine with people destroying their feet. It's their body and their life, but please don't endanger me with your foolish choices, and don't expect me to rescue you, either. You get stuck in something, you're staying right there until someone else shows up with the Jaws of Life.

And the luggage! We each have two pieces, a hold-all and a convertible suitcase/backpack. They don't roll. We can travel for months like that, and in varying climates, and bring back souvenirs. Some people, apparently, need a troop of porters for their trek into the jungles of . . . oh, I don't know, Puerto Rico? The first hilarious thing I saw was this poor guy lugging two huge pink suitcases on wheels, each large enough to contain a human body. Next to him was a female hauling one small black case on wheels, and carrying a pink pocketbook. Somebody's a dupe, and it isn't her. But she is a moron, because she doesn't yet understand what travel is about. That is, it's not about impressing other epeople with your wardrobe. It's about learning, maybe learning about yourself and how to be a human.

Another time, there was this couple. She had two enormous rolling bags; he had one medium. A porter went to pick up one of hers, and it was so heavy, the handle ripped right out of it.

Finally, the French wedding trip. She has a cart piled high with about five suitcases, including an enormous garment bag for the wedding dress. He has a shoulder bag and a skinny little garment bag for his tux. We're in line waiting to check in, and she's on his case about moving her crap. Joyce leans across the velvet rope and whispers in his ear: "Run." He actually nodded, as if he had already been considering it. She had long nails, hair out to Mars, ho-heels, and was screaming on a phone. Believe me, if he doesn't run, they're both morons.

Despite the fact that you're reading this on the internet, we're no slaves to technology. I can barely get Joyce to carry her ultra-simple cell phone out of the house, and we didn't have any on this trip because neither of ours works in Europe. We had a tiny crappy netbook that was just great for e-mail but not at all tempting to use otherwise. So when we got to hotels and the TVs were these huge honking HD flatscreens with mulltiple menus and remotes, we just turned them off. I don't travel to watch TV. Even when they attempt to greet us by name "Good evening, Mr. Lesbian!" I'm not impressed. You want to talk to me? Call me on the hotel phone.

As we made our way through a typical day, there was a lot of self-talking and reminding. We would always be asking ourselves questions: Did I take my pills? Do I have my passport? Did I lock the safe? Am I travelling with an idiot? Joyce called this communication with our other selves and used it as an excuse for her corporeal self to forget anything my corporeal self said to her, claiming I must have actually been speaking to one of her alternate personalities at the time, the one currently off-duty, apparently. This led to having the same Q & A sessions over and over again, mostly while trying to get ready to go somewhere. If anyone had been eavesdropping on us, they would have been quite justified in thinking we were unqualified to be wandering around in countries not our own.

Well, that's enough catching up for one entry, so let me throw in a couple of pictures, and you guess where they are. Answers at the bottom of the next entry.

Friday, September 2, 2011

All at sea

This was our first, and only, such scheduled day, although we sort of got one more later. In my opinion, the best cruises have two for every seven days. There's nothing I would like better than a nice, long, repositioning cruise with no stops at all. The only thing that might bother me there would be running out of fresh fruits and vegetables. Maybe other ships could re-provision us along the way?

And unike the big party cruises, our day at sea was relatively quiet. People slept late and laid around on the decks (the lounges, not the bare wood), and swam and ate. Lots of napping going on, too. Joyce and I did all of those things, but I think napping took the prize. I like to read and I was doing it but I just fell asleep.

And we took some more ship pictures. Actually, this one is from before we sailed, so we're at the dock in Barcelona.

Everything is a potential picture to Joyce. Here we are, still in port, when she wasn't taking pictures of cranes and trucks. Black really is slimming, isn't it?

And of course. Joyce is all about remembering how hard everyone works so we can have a nice vacation, like this guy.

And here's some ship art, that represents the work of at least three people. Be thankful she didn't photograph all the art. the Windsurf is full of it.

This is the lounge. See the happy crew? Crews love lesbian cruises. They get guaranteed big tips (we pay those ahead, too) we bring no children, and we aren't violent drunks. It's almost like a vacation for them, too. So if you are a childfree (at least for a week) female and a non-violent drunk, call Olivia for a good time!