Cruising and books

Dark blue background with Vision of the Seas written in white.

Thank you all so much for your lively discussion about our stay in Barcelona. I am grateful for your Comments and Likes. Barcelona done, we took a cab to the port and boarded the Vision of the Seas for a 13 night cruise home. It was a form of R and R, which we termed Relax and Read. We had a balcony that we put to use with ebooks and audiobooks.

Cartagena and Coca-Cola

Large sailboats in the yacht harbor line the foreground. The ship is behind with a mountain in the far distance.On the first full day of the cruise we ported in Cartagena, which was quite different from Barcelona. They have created an incredibly nice, accessible pedestrian mall. The dock leads to a sidewalk with benches and some trees beside the yacht harbor. At the end is a crosswalk complete with smooth curb cuts, tactile warnings, and pedestrian Walk/Wait signals that chirped loudly during the Walk phase. The street itself is smooth and only two narrow lanes wide.

Across the street we were in the pedestrian mall. Long, wide, and paved with tiles. Yes, the entire thing is paved with ceramic tiles. We were hot and for no particular reason didn’t stop at a nice looking sidewalk cafe. A block later we found an American-themed, sidewalk eatery called the Cotton Grill. A hometown version of Johnny Rocket’s. Everything from appetizers to burgers to “unlimited Coca-Cola.” The proprietor told us they get locals for lunch and tourists from the ships. She stays busy all day. Local stores line both sides of the walkways with few of the American chains we found in Barcelona.

“The One-Armed Lady”

Day two put us in Malaga on Spain’s south coast. An intrepid walker might enjoy the trek into town, but a taxi seemed prudent. There was no real need to explain our destination. Everyone starts at the Cathedral of Malaga. The Renaissance cathedral was started in the early 1500’s, and construction was stopped in the late 1700’s. The designClose up of the Renaissance style cathedral. People are standing outside a huge door. The stone facade has sandstone columns beside the door and square stones above. The top is lined with stained glass windows. called for a large rectangular church with twin spires. For reasons which were lost long ago, the second spire was started but never completed. While the left rises majestically into the sky, the right has only the pillars on which the structure was to be built. It is affectionally termed “The One-Armed Lady.”

Barcelona was massaging, Cartagena smooth, and Malaga was downright rough. The ancient, square cobbles showed no mercy on my ride in the wheelchair. Relatively flat, we went slowly and loved the city. We needed to replenish our travel First Aid kit. Sandy found a local holistic pharmacy,  and we tried to explain that we needed Coban. She put us on a bit and then produced Coban by 3M. We truly enjoyed the time in her store. It is so much fun to travel and meet people. Around the world, sharing smiles and kindness is wonderful.

How many books?

The rest of the cruise involved relaxing on our balcony and reading. We were armed for the task with two dozen new ebooks and audiobooks plus what we already had on our Kindles. I lost count, but we read most. I love sea days, and a transatlantic cruise has lots of them.

Sandy and I travel light. We took one medium size suitcase, a carry-on size bag (we checked it, too), and a small backpack each. Mix and match, wash and wear, a small bag to the ship’s laundry. No tux for me, thank you. I had one, by the way, and gave it to charity. Meals were informal with care not to overindulge.

Azores and Nassau were no go’s

I don’t want to bash anybody, but I feel obligated to mention accessibility at two ports. The Azores are hilly. I was told not to expect wheelchair accessibility in Portugal. Steps and a steep hill greeted us, and we decided to stay on the ship. The view from our balcony was lovely, it rained, and we were glad we stayed onboard. Nassau was impossible with crumbling concrete, curb cuts that led to potholes, and a blocked sidewalk with no way to get my chair around. I have always had a soft spot for Nassau, and I hope they can get things repaired.

We arrived home fresh and relaxed. I had taken almost a month off from everything, it seems. It was time well spent, and I hope it can be done again. And I know you are wondering about this. Sandy and I both lost a bit of weight on the ship.

Thank you for stopping by and letting me share an amazing time that was fun and will help me immensely down the road. Comments are great, so let me know what you think or if you have questions.

Pictures: Main picture is a dark blue banner with Vision of the Seas written in white. Second picture is a yacht harbor with large sailboats in the foreground, our ship behind, and a mountain in the distance. Third picture is part of the cathedral. There is a large, wooden door with sandstone columns beside it, square stones above, and a row of stained glass windows near the top.

 

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Multi-Dimensional Barcelona

 

Looking upward toward the stone, Neo-Gothic Sagrada Familia cathedral. The foreground shows elaborate statuary within the structure.

Barcelona, the old and still vibrant Spanish city on the Mediterranean. We wondered why we even booked a cruise leaving from there, as Spain had not been high on our bucket list. It just felt like the right place at the right time. It was, indeed! Barcelona is a sensory experience like no other. Here is an experience of sights, of course, but also of touch, listen, smell, and taste. And kindness.

The Gothic Quarter

Having arrived tired in the late afternoon, we ventured out onto La Rambla and found a very busy eatery, La Poma Pizzeria. For our first experience in Spain we had spaghetti bolognese. What can I say?

After a good night’s sleep we thought we’d explore La Rambla to get a feel for where we were. About a block down, we encountered a busy walkway off to our left with a triangular or V-shaped building. A busy pedestrian walkway. A V-shaped building separates 2 narrow walkways. On the right are the pedestrian Walk signal and the store Mango.Walkways went on each side. “Which way?” “I don’t know. Left I guess.” We followed a narrow passageway with some stores along each side. The sounds echoed softly as my wheelchair tires bumped across 500 year old cobbles.  Then came a steep incline that took both Sandy and me to get my chair up. At the top, a busy plaza and beyond that the Cathedral of Barcelona. Built largely in the 1300’s, it is is a magnificent example of Gothic architecture. The Gothic cathedral is almost in silhouette against a sky of deep blue with white clouds. Toward the left rise the main spire and several smaller ones. Toward the right is the stone structure that makes up the rest of the building.From its rough, stone walls that beg to be touched to the young man filling the square with his opera (not amplified) you can feel the vibrancy.

La Rambla

Just a few pushes of the wheelchair rims from the entrance of the Hotel 1898 is La Rambla. This is a wide pedestrian walkway running north and south from the circle in the north to the port and statue of Christopher Columbus at the south. Unlike the cobbles of the oldest part of the Gothic Quarter, La Rambla is a a wavy surface of rectangular tiles. My expectations were that they would ride rough, but the reality was that riding on them was a bit of a massage. Wide, tree lined pedestrian walkway. Buildings along each side. The surface is rippled and made of rectangular tiles.

Along the sides of the walkway are shops selling souvenirs, gelato, and fresh flowers. Near the south end these give way to tables where tourists enjoy tapas and sangria.2 large glasses or red sangria with fruit floating and colorful straws. They are sitting on a table with a white tablecloth. La Rambla is about tactile and sound. Mostly couples speaking softly in Spanish, English, French, and some Chinese create a blend that seemed almost musical. I’m sure this got “livelier” late in the evening, but this guy is seldom out late. This sensory delight is a full day’s experience if taken slowly.

 

La Sagrada Familia

Towering above a newer part of Barcelona is la Sagrada Familia. Still under construction, I wonder if it will ever be finished. The architect Antoni Gaudi spent the last 40 years of his life working on it full time, and he died in 1926. He is buried in the crypts. The lines were excruciatingly long. Learning about an area in advance often pays off. We went to the back side of the cathedral where there is an entrance for people with disabilities. Parts of the cathedral are not accessible, and some had a rather steep ramp. There is plenty to experience, anyway. Multiple stone columns soar upward in the cathedral. In the background and on the right side are the magnificent stained glass windows filling the space with light.

Towering pillars support a ceiling that is far up. With the stone walls and floor, stained glass windows, and columns sounds echo and reverberate gently creating a sense of awe that I’m afraid most visitors might not notice amidst the marvelous statuary and windows.

A word about accessibility

Barcelona is old, but much effort has been put into making it accessible to everyone. There are curb cuts with tactile warnings, designated pedestrian crossings on La Rambla, and a genuine effort. Buses are accessible. We took the big red on and off tour bus. All of its busses have low floors and ramps that flip out. Everyone was eager to flip the ramp, no hassles.

As I write this the day before Thanksgiving in the U.S., please be mindful that each of us has much for which to be thankful. Family and friends mean more than anything we can imagine. And when things seem overwhelming, remember the simple flip up ramps and the people eager to help. No one can do it all; try to be thankful for what we can do and build upon our strengths.

Next up, day stops at Cartagena and Malaga. Each of these had its unique charms. Thank you so much for stopping by. I appreciate all of you. Please comment and let me know what interests you and what questions you have for me. Be forewarned, I might answer them!

Photos: Main photo is la Sagrada Familia, a large Neo-Gothic style, unfinished cathedral. Ornate carvings fill the facade. Second photo is a busy pedestrian walkway with a V-shaped building creating 2 narrow walkways. On the right are the pedestrian cross walk sign and the store Mango. Third picture is the Cathedral of Barcelona towering into a blue sky with white clouds. To the left are the main spire and several smaller ones. The right is the stone, Gothic  building. Fourth picture is La Rambla. A tree lined pedestrian walkway with buildings on either side. The surface is ripples made of rectangular tiles. Fifth picture is 2 large glasses of red sangria with fruit floating and colorful straws. Sixth picture is inside la Sagrada Familia. Stone column literally soar toward the ceiling. In the background and to the right are the magnificent stained glass windows that fill the area with light. 

Spanish adventure

Window display of a bakery and deli. Long, thin submarine sandwiches neatly stacked in a crisscross pattern. The sign below is Spanish and reads Entrepans Iberics.

A few weeks ago I said that I was claiming October for my own. A few days to rest, an adventure, and time to relax. Quality time with Sandy. The adventure started when Norwegian Air landed in Barcelona. With minimal Spanish and maximum smiles we explored Barcelona for 3 full days before cruising to Malaga, Cartagena, and on to Florida.

Arrival was an experience unto itself. After a few days of rest at home, we boarded a Boeing 787 bound for London’s Gatwick Airport. We arrived early both in terms of schedule and time of day. 4:30 in the morning, to be exact. Departing flights were backed up all day, and I’d be hard put to say the airport seats got softer. Finally it was out turn. The 737 departed and bounced through turbulence that made us long for the smooth ride of an angry bull. Barcelona had the same problem with excess planes, and they had the passengers deplane down steps onto the tarmac. Steps? This is not gonna be fun in my wheelchair, though I wondered if it would be any rougher than the flight. But here is where the magic begins.

Instead of using the front cabin door, after the other passengers were safely off, they took Sandy and me to the rear door. If you have ever had the displeasure of being taken George is seated in a blue and black airplane aisle transport chair. He is wearing all black and rimless glasses with a tint and has a red backpack on his lap.
down the center aisle in one of those refrigerator dollies with a seat, you will appreciate Barcelona’s aisle chair. The door was approached by a machine that reminded me of something from the first Star Wars movie, only friendly. We were taken into a large, white box truck by two men. They then moved from the plane, lowered the

Looking downward onto a device that is a huge chair lift. Two men are assembling a railing.

compartment, assembled a platform behind it, and lowered us all the way to the tarmac. Clean, safe, and fun.

One of the men is a designated guide for people using wheelchairs. He spoke fluent, American English. He was also quite familiar with American basketball and agreed with me about the foolish trades made by the Orlando Magic. He escorted us into the terminal and to Spanish Customs and Immigration. Passports checked, we were welcomed to Spain. Our guide then showed us to the restrooms, waited, and then took us to baggage claim. He helped us claim our two, small bags. Then it was on to the taxi stand where he got us a cab and told the driver our hotel and confirmed that the driver knew where it was.

We left home at noon on Saturday and arrived at the Hotel 1898 on La Rambla at 5 PM on Sunday. We had made it to Spain!

Thank you for stopping by and for your patience with the long interval between blogs. I promise that in a couple of days we can share our days in Barcelona.

Photos: Top photo is the window display of a bakery and deli. Long, thin sub sandwiches are stacked neatly in a crisscross pattern. Below the window the sign reads Entrepans Iberics. The second photo, on the right, is George sitting in a blue and black aisle chair. He is wearing all black and has on rimless glasses with a tint. In his lap is a red backpack. The white interior and large window of the truck are visible. The third photo is looking downward as two men assemble a railing around a huge chair lift.

 

 

Directing your show: Where fashion and disability meet

Originally published on Bold Blind Beauty.  I attempted to share the blog by the same title and failed miserably. It was after 9 PM, and I should have known better. The layout here will vary slightly from the original, but the content is the same. Reproduced with permission. I apologize for any notifications you might have received with links that didn’t work.

George is sitting on a wooden bench with his left leg propped atop his wheelchair which is next to the bench. He is wearing a green tee paired with khaki shorts and flip-flops. A camera is around his neck and he’s sporting sunglasses. In the background are lush green tropical plants.
“How we are perceived is determined by how we present ourselves. We direct our own show.”

Disability, Style, Fashion & Confidence

The elephants in my room are paraplegia and the ever-present wheelchair. The disability in my life is Multiple Sclerosis. The important things in my life are my family and friends.George is sitting on a wooden bench at Flagler Beach. He is smiling for the camera wearing a yellow tee, dark sunglasses, and minimal jewelry. In the background, waves are washing up against the beach and a pier is jutting out into the ocean.

When I first had to use a wheelchair, a nurse told me that she was confident I’d quickly learn how to make it enhance my life. As a Peer Counselor/Peer Support Volunteer, I have talked about embracing whatever piece of technology works for us. “If it makes your life better, don’t be afraid to use it.”

How we are perceived is determined by how we present ourselves. We direct our own show. What are we going to show to the public? Of course, they are going to look at our white canes, our wheelchairs, our crutches, but then they are going to look at us.

This is where disability meets fashion. Where disability meets style. Fashion makes the first impression; style makes the lasting one. It is style that determines how we perceive ourselves, and it determines how we are received in public. They are vital to the person who has a disability.

Your life, your production

I am interested in both men’s and women’s fashion. And style. Lots of designers are men. My personal style is simple, basic design with classic colors. If we pick a style that fits our personality and then stick to it, things get easier to manage. What works with your skin and hair color? What works with your daily activities? I am learning to stick with combinations of blue, green, and white. They fit my personality and with my light skin, blue eyes, and blond hair.

George is wearing a short-sleeved black dress shirt and black pants. He is sitting on the arm of a sofa and his gold necklace and bracelet are accents.
My advice is to think about our interests, think about ourselves, and stick with it. I’m getting better at it. I gave away half of the things in my closet and still have twice what I need.

And if you are wondering where I fit into the Bold Blind Beauty Community, I am a “retired” eye doc due to MS. Vision is my training and experience, but I am also a patient. Vision and MS are closely related. I am extremely light sensitive and have a tint for every need. I select a tint based on what I am doing and not by what I am wearing. While my distance vision is good, I have difficulty reading. For that, I have specific reading glasses, enlarge the print on my Kindle, and change its illumination.

Fashion, style, confidence. You can direct your show about how you feel and how others feel about you. And remember that the best fashion accessory is a genuine smile.

Thank you for stopping by. Thanks again to Stephanae over at Bold Blind Beauty for her kindness and for the topic. It has been an honor and a pleasure.

Picture descriptions:   Featured image; George is sitting on a wooden bench with his left leg propped atop his wheelchair which is next to the bench. He is wearing a green tee paired with khaki shorts and flip-flops. A camera is around his neck and he’s sporting sunglasses. In the background are lush green tropical plants.   Second image; George is sitting on a wooden bench with his left leg propped atop his wheelchair which is next to the bench. He is wearing a green tee paired with khaki shorts and flip-flops. A camera is around his neck and he’s sporting sunglasses. In the background are lush green tropical plants.   Third image; George is wearing a short-sleeved black dress shirt and black pants. He is sitting on the arm of a sofa and his gold necklace and bracelet are accents.

Sitting cleanly

Selfie of George sitting in his wheelchair. Blond hair, tinted glasses, teal shirt, and tan pants. The chair is partly visible with a titanium frame and blue tires.Please forgive the selfie. I hope that what is most noticeable when I go out might happen to be me. I do know that the ever-present wheelchair is quite noticeable, though. It’s rather hard to miss, actually. People look, sometimes stare. I don’t really care anymore. If we make eye contact I’ll smile or say “Hi.” I’ve met, and even helped, some nice people that way.

My guess is the one thing they don’t notice is the cushion. The cushion is responsible for protecting the skin upon which my body sits for hours.

Any wheelie should be doing weight shifts, and I do them faithfully. After the shift, though, it’s back onto the cushion. Sooner or later that thing is going to get dirty.

What happens now? Into the washer it goes! Yes, in the washer! And then it goes in the dryer! The cushion goes back in its cover, and in 2 hours I’m sitting cleanly again. Cushion is being slipped into a black cover. The cushion is a honeycomb material with blue and yellow stripes.

Ultra light weight wheelchair. Titanium frame, blue tires and front casters, and black seating.

 

 

So there you have it, my friends. The not so thrilling part of life on wheels. The part you don’t see when I’m popping a wheelie or showing off my spins and downhill speeds.

Laundry, it never ends!

(At this point I need to add a disclaimer: A wheelchair cushion should be prescribed for each individual by someone certified to do this. What works for one might not work for someone else. Thanks.)

Thank you for stopping by. I know it was an off the wall topic, but I had the odd notion that it might interest someone once they thought about it. If you have questions please let me know. I always appreciate comments, as well. Yes, those are blue tires and wheels. Just because I wanted some bling.

Picture descriptions: At the top is a large selfie of George. He is in his wheelchair. Blond hair, tinted glasses, blue shirt, and khaki pants. The chair is titanium with blue wheels. Second is the blue and yellow striped cushion with a black cover. Third picture is the wheelchair with the cushion back in it. 

Stinky and Dirty

A swamp in shades of greed with long afternoon shadows. There is a central area of moss covered water with trees on both sides.

Stinky and Dirty… Am I describing this beautiful Florida swamp? I’m talking about the cartoon that is currently playing on our seldom used TV. Stinky is a brown garbage truck, whilst Dirty is a yellow backhoe loader. They are best friends and the heroes of the series. It’s one of my grandson’s favorite shows. Our family is visiting from Taiwan. It is an exciting and blessed time and one of the reasons I’ve been a bit absent.

A couple of weeks ago we met up in Asheville, North Carolina and spent five days with our little guy while Mom and Dad attended a class. Wow! Five year olds have more energy than I remembered from being a parent. Or is it that I’m considerably older? Can’t be that, can it?

The summer has been another hot one here in Florida. It seems like there is an appointment or something every morning, and then it storms in the afternoon. Pool time has been non-existent. I love the pool because I can move freely when gravity is removed. It’s liberating.

It is a gray, gloomy afternoon. Thunder is crashing around us as we speak. Matches my mood. It just hasn’t been a great day. Sometimes I think I paint a rosy picture when in fact there are not-so-good days, as well. Such is the nature of life and especially of life with Multiple Sclerosis. My lesions are almost entirely spinal cord, but I am still blessed with the usual myriad of symptoms.

So while stinky and dirty is how my day feels, Stinky and Dirty are a bright spot reminding me of the love and joy inside that little guy and the hope of all our futures. Wishing you a Stinky and Dirty kind of day!

Thank you for stopping by. As I warned in the Popping Wheelies premise, “…you are about to find out.” Life is good, the future is fine, and there will be some clouds and thunder.

Picture: Large picture of a Florida swamp. It is shades of green with long, late afternoon shadows. In the center is an area of moss-covered water. Trees are on both sides. 

 

it’s the humidity

The classic American summer begins on Memorial Day (May 30) and ends on Labor Day (early September), which puts the Fourth of July pretty much in the middle. Close up of a huge, yellow sunflower. Yellow petals with an amber center.
Mix Florida with July 4th, and the result is a hot day. The forecast for Florida every day, every summer is the same: 90’s and thunderstorms.

One summer we went to Las Vegas. “It won’t be hot here because the humidity is low.” It was hot.

There is a point to all this. For many of us who are heat sensitive, whether it be due to multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, paralysis, or any number of chronic diseases, summer can be a difficult time. “Do you want to meet on the patio at the Crooked Can about 5:30?” In hopes of a miracle, I check the forecast. “I’d love to if we could make it later. Say October?”

So when those of us in your group of summer loving, heat wilting friends seem to be in hibernation, we actually are. Unlike Las Vegas, however, it is not hot in Florida. “It’s not the heat; it’s the humidity.”

On this auspicious American holiday I thank you for stopping by. The air conditioner is humming along nicely, and the thunderstorm missed us, so all is well. I love your comments. What are your thoughts on summer?

Picture: Close up of a huge sunflower. It has yellow petals and an amber center.