The second serenade cruise

Version 2 (3)

When we think of the Caribbean, our first thoughts are sand, turquoise water,  palm trees, and deep blue sky. Rightfully so, I think, but the Caribbean is a delightful blend of sights, sounds, feel, and feelings. Sandy and I recently re-created a cruise we took a few years ago, this time with a less dramatic start. Here’s a bit of history.

We had dreamed of someday celebrating our Anniversary with a special cruise. We pinched the piggy bank a bit and booked a very nice cabin on the beautiful Serenade of the Seas. All started well, for about 2 hours. I became very ill, which proved to be a faulty gallbladder. The medical staff  literally saved my life.    The entire crew was wonderful, and we managed to finish the cruise, though staying on or close to the ship at all times. I promised Sandy we’d do it again someday. When this cruise popped up again was when “The Second Serenade” trip became a reality.

Having been on several ships, the Serenade was instantly our favorite. Beautiful, clean lines and gleaming white paint outside with a huge atrium, the “Centrum,” with brass elevators and railings accent everything from shops to intimate bars to gourmet coffee. A bank of outside elevators are open with spectacular sea views as they glide up and down.  We were glad to get back aboard, this time feeling fine.

Destination – the Southern Caribbean. Cruising along at a comfortable 18 knots we relaxed and enjoyed the warmth of the sun, the ocean breeze, and the heavenly sounds of the sea. With Kindles and iPhone fully loaded, we were ready to solve some whodunnits.

Our mistake on Arbua

The first port was Aruba. It was where we made our first, and probably only, mistake. The downtown area is close to the ship, and we remembered it as nice with quaint shops and rather accessible. The plan was to visit this area and then take a taxi to the newer Palm Beach area. We soon discovered that the sidewalk and curb cuts were something of a tactile nightmare. There were some large cracks, slopes we didn’t remember, and curb cuts that took a wheelie to pass over the gaps. We forged on. With Sandy pushing and actually guiding the wheelchair and me doing the same, we used a lot of energy. The shopping area was nice, though it did not have an accessible gentleman’s restroom. We bought a bottle of mineral water from a nice lady in a small convenience store and headed for the trolly. A map of the Caribbean. It is blue with a few black areas to indicate deeper water. Each island of the cruise is noted. There is a line showing the ship's route along the north coast of Cuba, between Cuba and Hispaniola, and across the sea toward Aruba in the south. Moving east and north from Aruba are Bonaire, Curacao, St. Lucia, and Antigua.

The person at the trolly said it went, “all over the island,” and from the way she described the schedule perhaps a 75 minute ride. Free. There was an area for wheelchair users to sit in their chairs, but 2 steps up to it. For me, that is a no go. As more people came I got adventuresome and accepted some gravity defying help. But before we could get to the area, some tourists from another ship charged into the area and took the companion seats. We asked them to move, which they refused to do. So we crowded right in on top of them! At the first stop, they moved. The trolly is actually a ride up and down the streets of the old downtown, which appeared to have some economic distress. Sadly, we’d expended so much energy that we called it a day and went back to the ship.

Lovely Bonaire is a gem

Bonaire was our favorite of the islands! A small and delightful area of clean buildings, it had the fewer stores, but they were nice as well as accessible. They have worked hard on safe sidewalks, curb cuts, and access for everyone. There was a small park with venders in tents, like a permanent street fair. It is surprisingly and pleasantly quiet. Looking from the white, tented bar on the pier into the waterfront street. There are buildings of teal and blue, with white rails and shutters.
Conversations yes, but nothing to disrupt the feeling of the small island. We stopped in a small mall for a Coke before going through to the water side of the shops. Behold, a pier going into the yacht harbor that is entirely a Caribbean style bar. There was an open table in the shade with a easy route to it. It was a fun hour watching the boats and talking with our fellow cruisers. On the way back we picked up a couple of T-shirts and had a late lunch on the Serenade. I’d say Bonaire is a gem and would gladly go back.

Curacao’s colorful waterfront

Colorful, painted buildings along the waterfront. The buildings are in classic Dutch style painted yellow, brown, orange, green, teal, and blue. All have red, tiled roofs.

Curacao has upgraded its waterfront and access from the cruise port. It is a nice, smooth stroll (or roll!) into the tourist area. Along the way are a few vendors on the land side and large boulders between the sidewalk and the harbor. The air and sun were warm, the breeze refreshing. Across the way, the painted buildings for which the island is known did not disappoint. The buildings were old, the colors fresh and new. They have turned  the small fort into an area to enjoy the shade and get refreshments from one of the convenience stores. The liquor Curacao is made on the island, obviously, and it is available in multiple flavors. It would not fit into our luggage, perhaps another blog topic, and we probably wouldn’t drink it anyway. It was another late lunch on the ship.

Beautiful St. Lucia

St. Lucia might be the prettiest island in the Caribbean. It’s natural harbor is curving and relaxing the way Charlotte Amalie’s on St. Thomas is magnificent. There were exactly zero accessible tours offered for this cruise, so we visited the small shopping area and returned to our cabin’s balcony. From a high angle, the foreground is a channel of water with a pier and sailboat. Beyond are dense trees, and after that the sea and sky with a few, white clouds. From there we could experience the harbor, the live entertainment as the shopping area, and even watch the airport. We were in the shade all afternoon, and it was a truly relaxing port.

I got to compare wheelchairs with a local tour guide. Super nice guy!

Mountainous Antigua

The people of Antigua have had a hard way to go since Hurricane Irma. The small nation of Antigua and Barbuda was hit hard by the storm. Fearing the worst, the entire population of Barbuda evacuated to Antigua. The worst happened. Virtually everything on Barbuda was destroyed. They have worked hard to regroup on one, small island, and I applaud their determination.

A strip of mountainous island goes across the middle of the frame. Above is a deep blue sky with billowing clouds glowing in the sunset. The sky is reflected in a narrow body of water at the bottom. Just above the mountains is the silhouette of a frigate bird with a white body and very long, thin black wings.With three ships in port, nearly 10,000 passengers the town was beyond capacity. Not too accessible or easy to navigate originally, we ventured into a few shops, could not get into either place to get something to drink, bought a bag, thanked the nice lady in the store, and worked our way back to the ship.

Not so fast

It wasn’t time to call it a trip. More books and our balcony awaited. The distance from Antigua to the east is about the same as to Aruba in the south, and we had another two days to relax and watch the Caribbean. So the second Serenade trip was a huge success. Sandy and I had lots of quality time together, got to experience different things at each port, and came home feeling better about everything.

Thank you for stopping by. Cruising is a fun and accessible way to travel for virtually everyone. Far more than what is seen in pictures, there are sounds, tastes, smooth ports and some that are hard to navigate. I’d remind everyone to exercise caution in port towns and not venture into areas that aren’t common tourist places unless on a tour.

Picture descriptions: The main picture is taken from the waterfront in Curacao. It shows the smooth sidewalk, boulders, and the Serenade of the Seas. The ship is white and has 13 decks. The second picture is a map of the Caribbean. It is blue with a few black areas to indicate deeper water. Each island of the cruise is noted. There is a line showing the ship’s route along the north coast of Cuba, between Cuba and Hispaniola, and across the sea toward Aruba in the south. Moving east and north from Aruba are Bonaire, Curacao, St. Lucia, and Antigua. The third picture is looking from the white, tented bar on the pier into the waterfront street. There are buildings of teal and blue, with white rails and shutters. fourth picture shows the colorful, painted buildings along the waterfront. The buildings are in classic Dutch style painted yellow, brown, orange, green, teal, and blue. All have red, tiled roofs. 


The Amish bakery

Front of a bakery. The entire front is made of doors and windows with individual panes. The trim is painted bright red. There is cutout of an Amish lady with white hair, black bonnet, blue dress, and black apron. She is holding a basket with a napkin and cookies. Below is a sign that reads, "Fresh Amish Pies and Cookies.

Do you ever simply need to get away from the daily routine? A simple outing? We visited a small town an hour from our home. It was not a thrilling, or even particularly successful visit. Then we found a small Amish bakery and deli. I’ll tell you about lunch, but first…

We left home, crossed Sugarloaf Mountain, the highest spot on the Florida peninsula at 312 feet above sea level, circumvented Lake Apopka, and arrived in Mt. Dora. A small town, noted for its quaint shops and eateries, it is usually bustling. It is also extremely hilly. We have gone before but never were able to get an accessible parking space. We arrived in town, passed a picturesque church, and spotted an old shelter house. Perhaps there would be parking there. Yes! In the back was a space. We ate our mid-morning snack as we watched a rousing game of pickle ball. Shopping time. We trudged up and down hills over a few blocks. There were some interesting antiques and some fun things for the garden. An old cooler resembling a Volkswagen Bus from the 1960's. It is blue with a white stripe and front. On the front is a peace sign. The lid is open, and the inside is painted black.We didn’t buy anything. Manual wheelchairs are not fond of steep hills and rough curb cuts, but we made it. What we didn’t find was a lunch place that struck our fancy. It was only noon, and we decided to explore in the car. If we didn’t find lunch other than a chain, we’d go home and have a protein shake. 

Aha! A small building with red windows and doors. “Amish Bakery and Deli.” There were bright red tables and chairs on the small porch and in the front lawn. I opted for the pastrami, and Sandy chose the chicken salad, both on freshly baked ciabatta bread. Lean pastrami piled on ciabatta bread. It is cut in half, and top center is a small cup of macaroni salad.Ten dollars each seemed a bit high until we learned this included the sandwich, a side of macaroni salad, a bag of healthy potato chips, a warm chocolate chip cookie, and our choice of beverage. Yum. Each lunch comes is a red box that makes its own carrying handle. We ate half of our sandwiches, our macaroni salads, spit a bag of chips, and ate the rest for dinner. 

Life on wheels. It has its challenges but can be very rewarding if we keep searching and enjoy the simple things. 

Thank you for stopping by and sharing a common day with Sandy and me. I enjoy your comments and questions. In the works are some pictures and descriptions of the repeat of an ill-fated vacation that was very successful this time, but I got overwhelmed with things at home and haven’t finished it yet. 

Picture descriptions: Main photo is the front of a bakery. The entire front is made of doors and windows with individual panes. The trim is painted bright red. There is cutout of an Amish lady with white hair, black bonnet, blue dress, and black apron. She is holding a basket with a napkin and cookies. Below is a sign that reads, “Fresh Amish Pies and Cookies.” Second picture is an old cooler resembling a Volkswagen Bus from the 1960’s. It is blue with a white stripe and front. On the front is a peace sign. The lid is open, and the inside is painted black. Third picture is of  lean pastrami on ciabatta bread. It is cut in half. Top center is a small cup of macaroni salad. 

Directing our own show – take 2

This is a revised version of a post from earlier in the week. It did not seem to generate much enthusiasm, and I took it down. Several people have encouraged me to re-post it. Perhaps this time I will express myself better. Thanks to all!

Out and about

George is in his wheelchair, at home, with shopping bags from Skechers, Nautica and a brilliant green bag. He has blond hair, wire rimmed glasses with an orangish tine, a blue T-shirt with white stripes, and he has removed his shoes.
As I share some thoughts with you on a warm, Sunday afternoon, I am sitting on my lanai. In Florida that is a part of the house under roof but open and screened. It is quiet and peaceful. But we don’t live only at home. We go out, and we interact with other people.

Those of us with a visible disability, or our family and friends, know that people look at us. I’ve become used to looks and stares, but it took time. They are going to look. People will naturally look at anyone or anything unusual. What happens, though, when it comes time for us to interact with them?

Our audience is watching

Those of us who use wheelchairs, and I’ve learned white canes also, seem to come under some kind of scrutiny. I’ve read that people in service and retail are often, sadly, apprehensive. They don’t know what to expect or what to do. Hence, the Just Say Hi campaign.

As we approach someone, we become the director of our own personal play. Do we look friendly? Do we look clean? Do we look alert? It is to our benefit to put people at ease.

Some tips I’ve learned

  • Adaptive equipment needs to be kept clean. It is an extension of ourselves.
  • Bling is good. My wheelchair is natural titanium, a silver gray. When it’s clean, it looks spiffy. I added bright blue tires and translucent blue casters. A gentleman in Saint Lucia recently told me that the sun through my casters made them positively glow.
  • Dress for the occasion, and wear what works for us. In the first picture I’d been shopping. In every store we went in I was welcomed and treated nicely. Obviously, from the load of goodies. Clothes need to fit and colors coordinate.
  • Smile and say Hi. Just Say Hi goes both ways, though if we can’t see the person well, we might not want to intrude.

Two guys in wheelchairs

George is sitting on the balcony of a cruise ship taking a photo with a small camera. He has rimless glasses with a gray tint. He is wearing a bright green polo shirt.On a recent cruise, as people were starting to board the ship, I heard a greeter say on her radio, “There are two guys in wheelchairs down here. The guy going by me now looks like he can handle things nicely.” Sandy and I smiled.

Thank you for stopping by. I’d very much like to hear your thoughts on this and if I’ve been of any encouragement to you.

Picture descriptions: In the top photo George is in his chair, loaded with shopping bags. He has medium length blond hair, almost round wire glasses with reddish-orange lenses, a blue shirt with narrow, white stripes, white short pants, and has removed his shoes. In the second picture George is taking a photo from his ship cabin’s balcony with a small camera after boarding. He is sitting up straight and is wearing small, rimless glasses with a gray tint and a bright green polo shirt.

Sandy, there’s no floor here!

Large, round sign that reads S P R Coffee against a green background.“Sandy, there’s no floor here!” I opened the door of the state-of-the-art elevator and found only a metal grate, through which I could see the floors below.

Taiwan is an island nation south of Japan. The island’s previous name, Formosa, is Japanese for beautiful island. I don’t know why I panicked in the coffee shop.

An urban park. The foreground is grass, followed by a small stream lined with river rocks, and beyond are more park and then skyscrapers in the distance. To the right is a foot bridge on which is visible a man doing Tai Chi.Across the city of Kaohsiung is a small chain of American-themed coffee shops called SPR Coffee. They are ornate and have a retro atmosphere. On the walls are photos, posters, and signs from the 1940’s and 50’s. Frank Sinatra, Norah Jones, and Harry Connick, Jr. emanate from the elaborate sound system. Coffee is ground in a huge, elaborate grinder and is always freshly brewed. They do food from hot sandwiches to Eggs Benedict. The shop near my family’s home takes 3 floors of a modern building across from a park.

Guests use ornate stairways, but there is an elevator for wheelchair users. It sits prominently near the lobby area and is a plexiglass tube. A barista showed me how to operate it and invited me to use it as needed throughout my stay in Kaohsiung. You’ve used the pneumatic tubes that connect bank drive-throughs to the main building. This is the exact same thing, only it will lift an adult using a manual wheelchair. It is swift and quiet.

On our first trip, we sat in the second floor cafe. The coffee and sandwiches were tasty and aromatic. We vowed to return, and return we did. Only this time we elected to try the third floor. That is where I nearly lost it.

In the center is the elevator. It has a blue, steel frame with a clear tube and a door. It is just large enough to carry a wheelchair. To the right is a young man with glasses, a navy shirt, and jeans. On the left are posters and pictures on the wall.As Sandy made her way up the steps, I was whisked quickly upward. I opened the door, began to roll out, and panicked. “Sandy, there’s no floor here!” All I found was an open, wrought iron pattern of elaborate, curving lines. My casters, the small wheels in the front of the chair, would fall right through those openings! I don’t do well with heights and balconies, except on a ship. Looking though the grate disoriented me.

“It’s fine. Come on out,” Sandy assured me. “But there’s no floor!” “It is plexiglass,” as she walked across it.

Sometimes things, are better than we might think. When scared, I made the matter out to be worse than it was. In fact, it turned out okay. This is the case with so many things in our lives. Bad things turn out for the best if we have faith and keep trying.

Expect the best, and prepare for the worst.

Thank you for stopping by. I apologize for having not written in a few weeks. Sandy and I did a 30 day detox. We have reset our brains and cooking back to healthy and nutritious. Much of what we are eating is organic. I’ve resumed doing free weights and have added some new things for arm and wrist strength.

Comments are welcome and appreciated. I wish you all the best. For those who have been in the bitter cold, Sandy and I care and hope you get an early spring.

Photo descriptions: The main picture is a round sign that reads SPR Coffee against a green background. Second picture is an urban park. The foreground is grass, followed by a small stream lined with river rocks, and beyond are more park and then skyscrapers in the distance. To the right is a foot bridge on which is visible a man doing Tai Chi. The third picture shows the elevator in the center. It has a blue, steel frame with a clear tube and a door. It is just large enough to carry a wheelchair. To the right is a young man with glasses, a navy shirt, and jeans. On the left are posters and pictures on the wall.

25 years later

George is stretched out on the sofa. He has blond hair and glasses with an orangish tint. He is wearing a black, Mickey and friends sweater with white snowflakes, black pants, black headphones, and he is barefooted.

At first I blamed it on the new shoes, the fall in the mall and the second fall later in the day. It didn’t seem right, though, as they were an exact replacement of the ones I loved. It was my introduction to MS. Later came the ice storm and a more serious fall. Finally after exhaustive tests with lots of E’s in their names and 24 vials of blood, we met with my neurologist.

There was no drama, no tension. He told us what we already knew. The MS is progressive, and there is too much spinal cord damage for you to walk again.

After a struggle, MS put an end to practicing optometry, though I never lost the love and try to stay current. I’ve been a disabled parent and a licensed swim official. I volunteered at the hospital where I edited the volunteers’ newsletter. Then one day I called the National MS Society for information and was soon a Peer Counselor.

So I’ve officially been rolling for 25 years. Somewhere along the way I learned Rock your disability! It was a life changer. If I have a message it would be that going through a progressive disease is, at times, agonizing. A few years ago my neurologist managed to sort out the MS from the injury. That explains things that are going on now, but it doesn’t change my resolve – or yours. I know my followers, and you are strong. And kind.

Thank you for your support, and this is probably the last you’ll hear of my Paraversary. Twenty-five is a big enough number, and I’ve long run out of fingers and toes. It’s time to quit counting and roll on to the next challenge.

Thank you for stopping by and for indulging me whilst I look on some emotional times. Thanks to Sandy and Cliff for their unwavering support and the sacrifices they have made to keep me mobile. I’m blessed more than what I could possibly deserve.

Photo: George is stretched out, on his side, on the sofa. He has blond hair and glasses with an orangish tint. He is wearing a black, Mickey and friends sweater, black pants, black headphones, and he is barefooted.

A day at Christmas

A very large topiary of Mickey Mouse pouring water into a large jug with water then cascading down other containers. He is wearing a red Santa hat with a white, fur band. There are planters of poinsettias beside and a tree, still with leaves, behind.What do you do when you are married to your best friend, have the things you truly need, and Christmas is coming? What do I buy for Sandy? What does Sandy buy for me?

It wasn’t so hard when we were friends in college. We didn’t have any money, so we each bought a simple, thoughtful gift. Then came the years when we worked downtown and had the ability to shop alone. The gifts expanded. Things began to change when we moved into our own office, worked together, and were blessed with a child.

Neither of us had the opportunity to shop alone, and neither of us really needed much. Thus was born the Day Together at Christmas. Each year we took a day off, and while our son was in school we went for a day together. We helped each other select a personal Christmas gift. It was a magical day to which we both looked forward each year. Time together, a nice lunch, and the fun of shopping together. “You would look really good in this.” “Would you like to have that Snoopy sweater?” George is sitting in front of a display of large tree ornaments and is surrounded by rotted poinsettias and other blooming flowers. He is wearing a green shirt, jeans, white Converse shoes, and a tan visor.

Sandy is standing between, slightly to the front of, 2 snowmen. Each is made of white and red balls. The female has a red hat, and the male has a black top hat. Sandy is wearing a green top, white jeans, and blue skimmers.The Day Together continues. Saturday we went to Disney Springs, and it was a wonderful day. Warm and sunny. Lunch outside at Blaze Pizza. We split a nice salad and a small pizza. We drank Coke Zero, watched the people, and listened to the joyful music and chatter of thousands of tourists. And just talked with each other about Christmas and nice things.

Then it was off to walk (and roll) around and enjoy the holiday decorations. There is a huge Christmas tree in the square that is without a doubt the most marvelous Christmas tree I’ve ever seen. Huge balls, each lighted by an Edison bulb, prisms, and mirrors make the tree unique.The top portion of a large Christmas tree rising above the rooftops. It has massive ornaments lit with Edison light bulbs. At the top of the photo, in the foreground are two palm fronds from a nearby tree.A couple of times we stopped and enjoyed the day in the sun. As we were headed toward the car in the late afternoon, I saw a new stand that I wanted to visit. Thirty minutes later it was starting to get dark, so we decided to stay and see the lights. Back to Blaze Pizza! (We like their pizza!) After looking at the lights, which were reminiscent of the small towns in which we grew up, we headed home. Long, long day. Together at Christmas. With all else put aside, we gave ourselves the best gift of all, a day together to celebrate our lives together and the blessings of this amazing season.

I wish each of you a Happy Hanukkah and a Merry Christmas. May you be blessed with joy and love.

Pictures: Top photo is a large topiary of Mickey Mouse. He is pouring water into a large jug. The water is then cascading from container to container. He is wearing a red Santa hat with a white, fur band. Photo on the left is Sandy sanding in front of 2 large snowmen. They are made of white and red balls. The female has a red hat, and the male has a black top hat. Sandy is wearing a green shirt, white jeans, and blue skimmers. Photo on the right is George sitting in front of some large tree ornaments and surrounded by potted poinsettias and other blooming plants. He is wearing a green shirt, jeans, white Converse shoes, and a tan visor. Fourth photo is the top portion of a large Christmas tree rising above the rooftops. 


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.


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.



Fall break, finally!

Version 2

I need a break – badly. It looks like that is going to happen. It has been very hot here all summer without any let up in the heat. In July I wrote about the Florida summer. ( it’s the humidity ) I am pleased to say that autumn is bringing a bit of relief. I’ve stayed inside with the overworked air conditioner,  but it and I are going to being spending less time together. When? Let’s try now!

The days are getting shorter, the light more slanted. It is time for me to just roll back and take a break. As we speak my camera battery is on the charger. More time with the old camera and less time with the computer. More time reading and less time stressing. The rest of October is mine. I’m claiming it for Sandy and myself.

I’m going to find a winding path, a city street, an old church. Something other than the daily grind. Look at the ocean, share some small plates. With my Kindle loaded, it is time for an adventure.

Please bear with me when I get behind again because I surely will. Please know that your comments and blogs will be read, just maybe not on schedule for a few days. Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate your comments – and your patience!

What is your favorite season? Do you love fall or dread it? There seems to be no in between.

Picture: A paved path winds through a park with grass and trees still wet after a rain. A mist hangs in the background.