Monday, December 31, 2007
We arrived in the afternoon of Friday, the 14th. A little food shopping and a dip in the pool were the first order of business. Michael Gallagher and Mike Kostoroski (former colleagues at school) were down visiting Becky and Jon Hurwitz in their condo, which is 10 minutes from our place. We invited all 4 of them over for dinner on Saturday. We had a great time talking about life after Fort River School. The weather was wonderful and we spent the whole evening on our lanai. Here is a picture of the 4 Fort River retirees. When you look at that picture you are seeing over 140 years of teaching experience, the vast majority at Fort River School. AND all of us so handsome after all of those years! (The last sentence was an editorial comment from an unnamed source.)
Scott and Libby arrived on Monday the 17th instead of the planned Sunday the 16th. Something to do with being forgetful. They had forgotten what day their flight was. They thought that they left Sunday evening but when they went to check in on line Sunday morning they discovered that they were supposed to be in Chicago already! All worked out well and we were able to have a great week with them. They both had a lot of work to do so they spent a lot of time on our lanai with their computers on their laps. We did get the in the pool once in a while. Here they are working and doing water ballet!
Julie and Michael arrived later in the week. Michael had to come in 24 hours before Julie. Julie had been filming a small independent movie and they needed her to stay an extra couple of days in New York. She arrived on Friday morning and all 6 of us were all able to visit a non profit farm called ECHO. Check out their website here. It's a wonderful experimental farm whose goal is to "to network with community leaders in developing countries to seek hunger solutions for families growing food under difficult conditions." They gave a 2 1/2 hour guided tour of many of their projects. It was very impressive.
On Becky's birthday, the 22nd, all 6 of us drive up to Largo to pick up Becky's 95 year old mother. We then drove up to New Port Richey to have our Christmas dinner with Sandy's mom. We had a great time and Mom did a great job as usual! Here are a few pictures of that afternoon.
We dropped Becky's mom off around 5:00 and headed back to our home in Fort Myers to celebrate our Christmas. Scott and Libby were flying out to Duluth, MN the morning of the 23rd so we decided to exchange gifts the evening of the 22nd. We all sat in the living room and in the McNiven tradition we opened presents from the youngest (Libby) to the oldest (Becky). Every year this brings back such vivid memories of our Christmases in Altamont and what an amazing childhood our parents gave us!
Here are some pictures from that evening. Scott and Libby are soooo excited about what is in their stocking!
We dropped Scott and Libby off at the airport on Sunday morning the 23rd. They flew from gorgeous 80 degree weather to a mid-west snow event in Duluth. They made it all the way to their street but the car got stuck in the snow a half a block away from the house. They needed to get out the shovels and snowblowers and clear a path for the car to the driveway.
Meanwhile Julie, Michael, Becky and Sandy drove up to an animal sanctuary in Zolfo Springs. Here is the website. We learned a lot that day about how many wild animals are kept as pets by people who should just know better. Then they get too big or dangerous to keep and ask this place to keep them. This family that runs this sanctuary has found their mission in life!
One day we noticed black spots on the lanai and pool cover and they were like soot to touch. Sandy got out his power sprayer and cleaned it up but more came back. We were puzzled! The next day we found out the cause. There had been a tire fire in North Fort Myers and the wonderful breezes that we always have carried the oily soot all over the place.
Most of time was spent relaxing, reading, swimming and playing in our pool. Sandy managed to combine all 4 of those in one experience. Check out the picture of him doing just that!
Thursday the 4 of us went to Shark Valley. It is one of the four entrances into the Everglades National Park, located along the old Tamiami Trail which is US 41. We took an excellent narrated 2 hour tram tour. (This was our 3rd tour!) It's best to do it during the dry season (the winter) because that's when the birds and gators gather right alongside the tram road. It's very informative and there are plenty of chances to see alligators up close. Sometimes you can see 2 generations of baby gators all with 10 feet of you. Becky took these pictures of the female alligator and the wood stork while on the tram tour. (We were fortunate to see a total of about 25 wood storks. They're not a common bird!) Next time you see us ask us why it's called Shark Valley. Very interesting!
Julie & Michael went up to Busch Gardens in Tampa on Saturday, the 29th. They rode lots of roller coasters and had a great day visiting all of the sights. They then drove up to Sandy's mother's home in New Port Richey and spent the night. Michael had a 9:00 flight in the morning back to New York from Tampa airport. Julie dropped him off and then came back down here. She'll fly back late on the 3rd.
Anne and John Jones will be back on the 2nd and we will be spending a couple of days at the Kroodsma's condo in Naples.
Next: Our first cruise with Becky & Jon Hurwitz and a visit to Ron Moyer & Karen in Cocoa Beach
Thursday, December 13, 2007
It was only a 90 minute flight. We took a taxi to the Club Med Turkoise and checked into our room. Check out this Club Med here. The island nation is in the same time zone as the eastern part of the United States except Club Med Turkoise does not observe daylight savings time. This way the sun doesn't set until about 6:15. It gives us more daylight to play in.
And play is what we did. The beach is spectacular! The club is on a quarter mile of beautiful white, silky, sand beach. We took a number of walks along the beach since it's all public.
There are so many water activities to take advantage of. Tandem Kayaks, windsurfing, sailing, snorkeling, and scuba are all available with good quality instruction. We took out a kayak one day but there really wasn't anything to see, i.e. explore mangroves. They were too far away.
The windsurfing was disappointing. Sandy never went out since he had lots of other activities to keep him busy. Becky went out three times but it wasn't very good. Either the wind was inconsistent or it was too strong. (We've never tried to windsurf in the winter and will keep this in mind when booking another trip.)
Land activities included volleyball, basketball, tennis, softball, water exercise, stretching classes, a complete fitness center, pool games and much more. We found plenty of time to play as well as down time to read and take the occasional nap. Sandy played a lot of beach volleyball and a little regular volleyball. He also had the opportunity to use a trampoline and a trapeze. Take a look at this very short video of Sandy on the trapeze.
Sandy had done this 20 years ago but he needed to see if he could do it again at 58. It turns out that he could but his knees ached for several days afterwards. It was worth it!
The food was just spectacular. All meals were done in a smörgåsbord style with one ethnic food highlighted each night. After we filled our plates we were seated at tables of eight. This way we had a chance to eat with and meet people from all over. There were many Canadians there as well as vacationers from South America, Europe and the United States. We enjoyed these meals and made many friends throughout the week.
At 10PM every night there was a show in their open-air theater put on by the workers. Most were good. A few were excellent, like the trapeze and circus shows.
Scuba and snorkeling were good but some days it was a little rough on the surface. While snorkeling we did get to see two nurse sharks and a hawksbill turtle as well as the many common reef fish in the area. Sandy took two scuba dives on Thursday and had the chance to see a 7 foot green moray eel, a reef shark, barracuda, and a hawksbill turtle swam right under him. (We're waiting for a picture to be sent to us.) Snorkeling was much better in Hawaii!!
We spent the week playing in the sun and were sad to leave on Monday the 10th. (At least we weren't returning to a really cold place.) All in all it was a nice week but not as much fun as other stays at Club Med. Becky expected to have fun windsurfing and snorkeling everyday and it just didn't pan out. But she got a couple of books read, met some great people, and had 2 really good instructors for stretching and exercise in a perfect setting.
We left about 3:30 in the afternoon and arrived in Miami around 5:00. By 6 we had cleared customs and immigration, picked up our bags and headed off to Naples to spend another night in the Kroodsma's condo. Right now we are up in New Port Richey visiting Sandy's mom. We'll head down to Fort Myers on Dec. 14 to spend some time at our home there until Jan. 2. Our wonderful renters, John and Anne Jones, will be in South America visiting Machu Picchu and and then the Galapagos islands. Scott and Libby will arrive on the 16th and Julie and Michael will arrive on the 19th. We're looking forward to a wonderful visit with the four of them.
Here are some pictures of the beach and facilities. We stayed in the first floor room.
Friday, November 30, 2007
November 20-25. As if it wasn’t bad enough to leave sunny, warm
Wednesday we visited
We had a fabulous time visiting friends and family: Doug and Denise, David and Betsy, Don and Melissa and David, and Ron and Karen.
We usually spend Thanksgiving at
Friday we drove
That night we celebrated Kate’s and Owen’s engagement at the Gagnon’s with Owen’s parents, Willy and Lynn, the Mullins, Chris and Chelsea (and Ryleigh and Carter), Bob and Pat Hursh, and Owen’s brother, Ally. Kate has a gorgeous antique white gold ring!
Saturday morning it was 16 degrees when we left on our 9 ½ hour drive to
The drive was easy. We enjoyed the fading colors of fall and the rolling hills of
It was great to see Gail and Dale and 2 of their grandchildren, Quillan (13) and
Monday, Nov. 26.
We hope to visit again and spend more time in
We really had no idea that
In 1733, General James Oglethorpe was sent to
The streets were gorgeous with overhanging oaks. Many of the house foundations and some sidewalks and parts of streets were made out of tabby, a mixture of oyster shells, lime, sand, and water.
In the movie, "Forrest Gump" he sat on a bench in
After doing the walking tour we decided to pay for 2 individual tours: the Owen-Thomas House and the
They have a very nice River Walk on
The Savannah School of Art and Design had a part in redesigning a number of buildings. What great experience they’re getting!
We learned the original of some words. 1-Indentured, as in indentured servant. It refers to how they identified those people. They took impressions of their teeth. 2-A pub is short for publik tavern. 3-A mad hatter refers to the condition that afflicted many hatters (hat makers for males). They used beaver fur to make felted hats. The beaver pelt had to be soaked in a solution with mercury and then the fur was pulled off. The mercury got in the hatter’s body through his hands and eventually affected his brains and other organs. 4-Daisy Scouts, girl scouts for Kindergarten and First Graders, got their name from the nickname of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts. (She was born in
We really liked the architecture of these. (There were actually a lot that we really liked.)
We took a beautiful drive out to
Nearby the lighthouse were some beautiful houses.
Last stop was
What a cool city! We're very glad we visited.
Next stop is June McNiven’s in New Port Richey and Club Med in the Turks & Caicos from 12/3-10. We look forward to spending parts of the rest of December with Scott and Libby and Julie and Michael.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
It was the battleship where the WWII peace treaty was signed. Sandy's sister, Gail, had suggested we take a guided tour like she did in June. It was quite interesting and we learned a lot. Right away we were surprised to see that the deck was made of wood (we expected metal). It was 2 inch thick teak. It turns out that teak is not slippery when wet. We also watched a movie about the history of the Missouri. The last thing it did was fire its guns and cruise missiles in Desert Storm.
Also docked there was the USS Bowfin, a submarine. We took an audio tour of that. What small quarters!
I had really mixed emotions looking at these warships and the torpedoes. As interesting as they were it was sad to think so many people died because of them.
When we visited the Botanic Garden north of Hilo some people suggested we visit the Waimea Audubon Botanic Garden on the North Shore. There's a path to the Waimea Falls, through lots of trees and bushes and flowers from all over the world. The falls weren't that impressive but it interesting to see what they had done to the area. It was like a water hole with a park. There was a life guard and even bleachers set in to the side of the hill. We chose not to swim. The water was cold and it was cloudy and a comfortable temperature. We just enjoyed all the foliage, banana trees, and flowering trees (although there weren't too many of these).
We went through a driving rain to and from this garden but it was only for a few minutes.
(The GPS system continues to be very helpful to us.)
We went to a melodrama put on by a local theater group tonight. It was a lot of fun - just over-top stuff. The setting was typical Hawaiian but different for us. It was in a park under a roof. There were small round tables surrounded by 4 chairs each. These were on concrete tiers with room for about 150. They just had one set. By Hawaiian prices the ticket price was a steal, only $5.
We asked George about the ethnic makeup of the island since almost everyone at the play was caucasian. He said that about 40% caucasian, about 40% Japanese, about 14% Filipino, and the rest Korean and Hawaiian. Most of the causasian are or were military since there's a big naval base. The area where the theater is is mostly caucasian.
Day 2, Monday, Nov. 19. Our last day in Hawaii!! It was kind of sad. We'll miss the trees, the shape of the mountains, and flowers and you certainly can't complain about the temperature.
The last time we were in Oahu we spent a few hours in the Bishop Museum and needed longer so we made it a point to visit again. This time there was even a new building, a science building that was very much hands-on. We got to make a volcano erupt. We saw lava (melted volcanic rock) flow from a container. There was a great display of the entire island chain above and below the water and a computer generated model of all sides of each island. There was info on tsunamis, volcanic rocks, and plants and animals.
There was also lots of info on natives of other polynesian islands and planetarium shows. We saw how the night sky looks here. Some was a rehash from our trip to Mauna Kea with lots more added.
We took a night flight and slept fitfully on our 7 hour flight from Honolulu to Dallas. Then it was a 2 hour flight to Hartford. It was about 75 when we left Honolulu and 34 when we arrived in Hartford. And, they had just had their first snow!! Just what we wanted to see. We're glad we're back to New England to see our friends and relatives but won't be too sad to get back to Florida and some warmer weather.
They do things a little different in
We went exploring the northwest coast today using our guidebook as our guide. The first stop was Mauna Lani Resort. All the beaches on the islands are public so even resorts have to have their beaches public. What they do is put up signs that the lounge chairs or whatever are for their guests only. This one was gorgeous, with ancient Hawaiian fishponds still being used by the resort. Here is one surrounded by palm trees and the wooden gate that lets in the smaller fish but prevents the bigger fish from leaving. 1621 1623
We walked an historical paved trail showing lava tubes where there was evidence that natives lived here from 1500 to 1700.
The golf course shows the lava in the foreground. There are some sand traps here but mostly they’re lava traps!
We then drove down to
Day 13, Thursday, Nov. 15. Today we went back to the Place of Refuge to walk the 1871 Trail and go snorkeling at
We gassed up for $3.53!!
The 1871 trail was an interesting self-guided walk (with a brochure) through 3 ancient villages that stretched from mountain to sea. It ended at a sandy picnic grounds. It was a beautiful setting with palm trees and then lava down to the ocean. (No pictures. Left my camera in the car!)
The guidebook said that a short walk from the visitor center is a great snorkeling place. We saw lots of different kinds of coral and lots of different fish but today the water was a little murky and there weren’t nearly as many fish as we saw at Capt. Cook Monument. We were spoiled by that place.
Have you ever had a seahorse wrap his tail around your finger? This afternoon we had a tour of Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm. It’s the only seahorse farm in the world. It was started by a couple who realized about 10 years ago that seahorses were endangered. The Chinese use them for herbal treatments and people want to buy them for their tanks and then they die. So they started this farm and sought to educate people.We saw tanks of different ages of seahorses, fed them sea monkeys (brine shrimp), learned about their behavior, and got to have one wrap its tail around our finger. What cute animals! The male is almost constantly pregnant and doesn’t like to be held. The very enthusiastic biologist had names for these seahorses. They raise these to sell directly to people. It was really interesting! Within a few months they’ll start breeding a seahorse called a sea dragon that looks like it has seaweed growing out of it. Here’s a male (left) and a female (right) in tanks. Becky’s holding 3 year old female, Goldy.
Tonight, we went to our first luau at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. It was great food and entertainment. Before a buffet dinner they had different learning stations: make a fish from a palm leaf (my activity), learn the hula, get a maori tattoo, and learn how to open a coconut. After a delicious dinner with lots of choices (the pork was yummy), the entertainment included a history of Hawaiians, a number of songs by the emcee and hula dances with male and female dancers. Great fun out on a point in downtown Kona overlooking the water. It’s so nice to be able to do things out in the open air.
(It’s so weird to see ads on TV for Christmas where they show snow. We just can’t relate! It was up to 86 today with lots of sun.)
Day 14, Friday, Nov. 16. Today was so much fun kayaking over to a snorkeling spot.
Day 14, Friday, Nov. 16. Today was so much fun kayaking over to a snorkeling spot.
We first took a walk about 1/2 mile towards Kailua-Kona and visited the Hulihee Palace. (Keith Kaneta, the realtor in Amherst, has this family name somewhere in his ancestors.) It was built in the early 1800's by the second governor of Hawaii for his summer home. It was damaged in Oct. 06 by an earthquake and they had to keep people out of the top floors. But we could watch a video of its history and how each room should look. It was right by the harbor wall and must have been quite some place in the 1800's!We rented a 2 person kayak from Aloha Kayak Company in Kealakekua for a 1/2 day. At first they said the rental was from noon but we wanted to be in the water by then so we just arrived about 11:15 and fortunately there was one available. We then had to drive Hwy 11 to Napo'op'o Road to the Kealakekua harbor. We had our towels, camera and snacks in plastic grocery bags that we put under bungee cords. We started paddling out and about 5 minutes later I realized we didn't have our snorkel gear!! So back we went and then set out again. The water was a little rough but no whitecaps. It was strenuous but exhilerating. We paddled almost nonstop for about 30 minutes over to the Capt. Cook Monument where we had taken a snorkeling trip on Tuesday. And today it was sunny! (There are sometimes pods of spinner dolphins in the bay but we didn't see any.)
We were anxious to get in the water with our underwater camera. It actually was a little more murky in a couple of areas but we saw and took our 27 pictures of beautiful Hawaiian fish. Here are a couple of pictures from that camera. The small yellow fish are butterfly fish and the long yellow one is a trumpet fish.
(We try to stay connected to the world by listening to NPR whenever we can.)
Day 14, Thursday, Nov. 17. We had to fly out of Hilo on the east coast so we packed up and said goodbye to the Kona Coast. It was beautiful, warm, and sunny here.
We took Hwy 11 to 19 and then 190. This time it was a morning trip through that area so it was sunny and just looked nicer.
It was a 2 hour trip. Before we got into downtown Hilo we checked out Waielele Falls. It wasn't very big - maybe it hadn't rained that much.
In Hilo we parked downtown and walked around. We stopped into what looked like a storefront but was really a museum about the coast and marine birds and animals. It was really well done and we learned a little more.
We wandered around a farmer's market and found a van selling delicious and inexpensive Thai food for lunch.
When we first arrived 1 1/2 hours early for our Aloha Airlines flight, to make sure our luggage made it with us, we were the only ones in the lobby. Spooky! We had fun playing cribbage while we waited.
An hour after arriving in Honolulu we got our Hertz car rental. Too bad they didn't have an economy car. We had to take a 2008 Camry with 500 miles. Nice car! New sleek control panel.
We wandered around Chinatown but found a lot of stores closing. When we found a retaurant open we ordered take out.
We headed for Kuhio Beach in Waikiki to see a hula show at 6:30. After finding parking and walking 1/2 mile we arrived at the beach and found a place to sit and eat. We couldn't see much but we enjoyed the music.
We stayed again with the same couple, George and Mary Ann Wyman, in Kailua, that we stayed with when we first arrived in Hawaii. They're very nice and we enjoyed talking with them.