Friday, May 29, 2009

The Tower is Still Leaning!

What was first discussed as a relaxing day on the boat proved to be a full day of visiting and travelling. We started out via taxi to Florence...about 1.5 hours away from the port...once at Florence we embarked on a race through the city to see as much as we could...churches, museums, bridges etc...we took plenty of opportunities to take scenic photos and relish in the memories of our last visit to Florence and close the book on the chance of returning...Our excitement rose as we headed to Piza to see the leaning tower and the surroundings...we can officially confirm that the tower is still leaning...ever so slightly more than it was when we first visited in 2004!! We didn’t climb the interior this time, but took time to tour around the adjoining park and do a little shopping...I set out on our European vacation to bring back another leather handbag/purse as I did in of my fondest memories of our last trip across the ocean was purchasing my leather purse in Piza...I added 2 more to my collection today...and if I remember correctly I paid less today for the 2 than I did for the one five years ago!! Both purses are black, one more of a small purse that can hold the minimum essentials and the other a midsize handbag that I can use for night and day (big enough for my school stuff, but not a gym bag size!)...I had the best lemonade slush I have ever had in my life...I wasn’t too sure about slush, but it wasn’t like the typical Canadian Slush Puppy you got after a hockey game or public was real lemonade that was partially frozen...just what I needed to boost my back up after a long day of visiting...back on the boat was the chocoholic festival on deck 12...yummmmm, but I ate too much!!! Reality is starting to show its face again to us...we have just one more day of exploring before we have to strategically pack all of our things up and make the trek back home...the topic at the dinner table tonight was the destination of our next trip!!! Hopefully the day tomorrow in Cannes & Nice, France is as beautiful as today was in Florence and Piza and we can enjoy it to the fullest.

There’s something special in Rome, Italy

With an early start to the day, we were off to Rome, Italy and Vatican City. The weather was perfect for the day long events, over cast, yet warm. We purchased the hop on, hop off tour bus excursion to be sure to see all the important locations throughout the city. It worked like a charm! Starting out with a bang, we visited the oldest sporting venue in the world...the Coliseum. Marc and I had been there before, but never inside. With a short line up for tickets we decided to take this last opportunity to tour inside and see it for was fantastic...we could finally place the events and the proceedings that happened 1900 years ago and try and imagine an event in action...the steps were steep, the building made of brick and stone and the tunnels underneath the stage for the fighters and their combatants (lions, jaguars, tigers, elephants etc)...after leaving the Coliseum we toured by the State capital building and the tomb of the unknown soldier...the monument is guarded 24 hours a day, are not permitted to sit on the steps leading up to the monument nor to talk once within a certain distance of the tomb...our travels continued to the Pantheon...a dome covered chapel that has an opening in the top for the sun to shine in...the tomb of the first king of Italy in housed there...with a slight detour we found our way back to the tour bus and hoped on to the next stop...the Vatican and St. Peter’s Square. This was the location that I was looking forward to the most...It has peaked my interest even more since going back to school and studying religion, but this time I could take everything in and connect the dots between the meanings of statues, paintings and names...I can’t imagine being able to go to the Vatican once in a life time, but I have been ‘blessed’ to be able to go twice...I took lots of pictures this time to remember this forever...with the day winding down we headed for the tour bus to take us back to the train station for our 1.25 hour train trip back to the port to board the boat... The evening was a quiet one with the daily dinner in the Grand Pacific dining room at the Captain’s table and then retiring to our cabin to catch up on homework and the news of the day. Tomorrow we’re off to Florence and Pisa...we’ll see what the day brings us...hopefully it doesn’t lean too far to one side than the other and we’re able to handle what is thrown our way... P.S. – the seas are a little rough tonight...we can hear the waves hitting the boat from our cabin, but the sway isn’t as bad as last night.

Naples/Pompeii, Italy

Fantastic is all I can say about today...we were fortunate enough to be able to rent a mini van and a driver for five hours to take up to Pompeii and through a brief city tour of Naples...Pompeii was a resort village in the early first century that was smothered in molten, lava and ash from the neighbouring volcano that eventually buried the entire village...excavation began in the mid 1750’s and still continues was fascinating to see the structures and the forums that were excavated and recreated to show how the village was 45 hectares of the 66 have been excavated for people to walk of the artefacts that have been uncovered include pottery pots, columns, statues, tombs and even people with their dogs...our day continued with breath taking views of the city of Naples, from high on the coastline...our driver Salvador was nice enough to frequently stop for us to take photos and tour around the points of interest...Naples is a very risk taking city...there are no rules of the road, literally a free for all...there are thousands of motor scooters that weave in and out of traffic, passing on both the left and the right, sometimes coming within inches of an oncoming vehicle...not something that we’re use to seeing!! Naples has a high rate of crime especially pick-pocketing. In 2004 there were over 150 Mafia related deaths, but apparently the crime rates are improving...The seas were very rough once the sun felt like the table was swaying at dinner time...I had to sit right back in my chair and not stand for too long or else I would really feel the sway...not a comforting feeling in public!!! Tomorrow I am super excited to be going to Rome...we don’t know how we’re going to actually get to Rome as it’s about 2 hours away from the port, but that’s tomorrow’s worry...tonight’s worry is just trying to ignore the sway and the banging of the waves hitting the bottom of the boat.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Day at Sea...

Today was a full day of sailing the Mediterranean Sea...the weather was sunny but windy. With a day to catch our breath and acquaint ourselves with our new home, we took advantage of the sights and services...We woke up a little later than we thought...11 am! It is very easy to lose track of time when you don’t have a window in your room. We have an inside cabin on the port side of the ship and are about is taking some time to get use to the room riding the waves and taking a shower in a wind storm!!! It is just a slight sway to the boat that I feel most when I’m standing...I try and sit the most I can!
We went for a good workout this’s not every day you can work out with the Mediterranean Sea passing you by as you run into nowhere!
The food has been fantastic...lots of selection and plenty to go around.
We’re docking in Malta tomorrow for our first off-ship experience. Hopefully the sun keeps shining and I’ll be able to report back the sights and sounds Malta has to offer.

Embarking the Norwegian Gem!

Today is embarkment day! We’ve packed up all our things, piled into four taxies and headed for the port to board the ship. What a MASSIVE SHIP! Board was soooo is better than any airport or entrance/admission I have ever had at any event...within 30 minutes our bags were checked in, we had out embarkment card and we were seated in the buffet lounge having can’t over eat on the first day or it’s gym for you every day after’s had lived up to the hype so far...lots of variety and the food is fresh (no excuses...we haven’t left shore yet!!!). Our cabin is room for making a mess, but plenty of room to be organized. We tested out the hot tub before going to bed and it provided a great night’s sleep...tomorrow we’re at sea all day and the pool is on the list of things to do. Here’s to my sun chair and a good book...

Day One- What an Adventure!

Day one of the Ranger Family vacation as been quite the adventure so far...the 7 hour plane to Barcelona took the road in progress route...there was so much turbulence that I thought on several occasions that I was going to be sick...sitting in the middle seat next to a women who insisted on planting her elbow and/or her hip into me for the entire trip, being sick didn’t seem to be an option. I didn’t take any gravol this time, and in hour 5, 6 and 7 I was beginning to regret that oversight. Once we arrived in Barcelona we were greeted with wide open arms of Marc’s sister Marie-Josee and her boyfriend Mathieu. MJ and Mathieu continued to guide us through the airport and onto the train to head into the city. So far so good...nothing out of the ordinary happening. Once we climb up and down many....and I mean M-A-N-Y flights of stairs we were on our way on the metro to our hotel/apartment. The REAL fun started once we got off the metro and started walking towards our thought that I was in shape, but clearly after walking close to 30 city blocks to our hotel, I had had enough. My patience, energy and strength to continue on with the trip were tapped dry. I impatiently revealed that I needed to get out of my wool sweater and fleece pants if I was going have any way to continue on with the day. The hotel/apartment that we are staying in was not going to be ready until 3 pm...not good news to the group that had just walked (more like hiked) for over an hour with all our baggage...all we wanted as a place to have a, sweating and tired...all we wanted was the shower. It worked out that we could get one of the two rooms and the shower rotation has begun. As I sit and write this paragraph, I had the fourth spot in the shower...and man it was nice! Jet lag is starting to set in so I’m going to get Marc’s Red and my pillow and camp out on the floor for a little while. do-do was excellent...the floor was the best thing I have felt in a few hours!! We explored the city for a few hours tonight...we hopped on the City tour bus and it took us all around the city’s prominent destinations...with the city trek is on order for dinner...a quiet night ahead is promising a good night’s sleep! We embark on the boat tomorrow afternoon...there is excitement in the air!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Vacation Eve

So the time has is the eve of the big Ranger Family vacation to Europe. Marc and I started to pack our suitcase last night and for once it is not me having to pare down the selection of clothes!! Marc officially made our suitcase bulge at the sides and just about maximise the weight allowance. We debated long and hard about what could be eliminated and what could be moved over to the carryon bag. In the end, nothing really had to be eliminated, but rearranged to other places. Marc will now carry his jeans, 2 pairs of shoes and our snack treats in his carry on knapsack along with a few other important items. Marc has never brought a carryon bag before so this will be interesting to see who in the end is carrying it. I too have my knapsack for my carryon bag, but I have to pack a week’s worth of homework that needs to get done before we get back. I just have the last minute things to pack tonight before we try and get a good night’s sleep in. I wonder if it will be like trying to sleep on Christmas Eve knowing what happening in the morning? The weather looks nice and sunny in Spain and was 34 yesterday in Rome...ummmm I can’t wait to get there! Marc and I had a little pre-vacation this past weekend in Toronto...Marc as I’m sure you know is a huge Toronto Blue Jays fan. We didn’t get to any games last year with my school schedule and the way our holidays fell with their home schedule so we more than made up for it this past weekend. We battled the traffic on the 401 on the Friday night to get to the game in the 5th inning...not bad, still time for a slice of pizza and an ice cream cone. Saturday’s game was interesting with Marc refusing to let his Jays loose 1-0, but in the end they prevailed...the weekend was a fantastic get away that we both really needed, but it was made even better by our good friend Jeff who is the GM at Rogers Centre...he’s hospitality was second to none with spectacular seats in the VIP club right behind home plate and the outstanding food both on Sunday and beat that slice of pizza and an ice cream cone from Friday night by miles! We definitely owe a few to Jeff the next time we’re in town. Here are a few snap shots from the weekend...the intense fan and my favourite...

I am hoping to update my blog once we’re on the boat so that you can track our progress and adventures. Keep checking back and don’t forget to leave me your comments! Stephanie

Monday, May 11, 2009

The End is in Sight

Well, here we are on the last day of the tournaments...I can hardly wait to get my sweat pants on tonight and crawl into bed where it is warm and have a nice quiet evening at home. This last tournament has had it all...a team not show up...a team quit after their first game...and the zamboni run over a puck causing delay. We can honestly say that we will not be planning a midget/junior tournament for the next couple of’s just short of disaster. I started back to school this week after a brief time off. My courses are going to be interesting, they kind of overlap and once causes the other. The tough part will be keeping them both straight and not mixing the theorists. I had to do a little bit of sideline work with my anthropology teacher as his midterm exam was scheduled while we’re on the Ranger family vacation in Europe. In the end I’m having my midterm exam mark dispersed between the written assignment and the final exam. A little more pressure for both, but I get to go on vacation still. My sociology teacher is super funny...he likes to take side tracks while lecturing so you never know if you’re on topic or not. Besides, his first language is French and he’s a lot like me when I try and speak French, he has to translate things in his head first and then’s like a live TV broadcast with a 3 second delay to make sure that there are no obscenities! I’m still trying to shake this bug that I got last weekend...I’ve gone from not being able to eat to being able to eat with nothing staying down...again last night was rough. Once I decided to move into the spare bedroom for the remainder of the night, Marc didn’t reserve any time to take over my side of the bed...he had it covered within milliseconds! We’re starting the serious countdown to our vacation...we less than 14 days away. We’ve booked a mini pre-vacation for the long weekend coming up to Toronto. I scored big time on the hotel nights...we’re staying downtown Toronto at the Renaissance Hotel at Rogers Centre for $100 per night. It’s an amazing deal considering it’s a long weekend and its right in the middle of the action. Marc is super excited to be able to catch (hopefully) 4 Jays in a row...we didn’t get to see any last year with the house renovations and my school classes. On the Sunday it’s Photo Day with the Jays so we might be able to get our pictures taken with a few of our favourite players before the game. This is truly the highlight to my weekend! I’ll keep my countdown to our real vacation alive and get back to my sociology and anthropology textbooks!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Weekend Wrap-Up & A Look At A Monday!

Yesterday’s tournament action was more exciting in the stands than it was on the ice at times. The mom’s really take things seriously in summer hockey! That brings me to something we’ve seen week after week lately. Parents and coaching screaming at the referee and opposing team for some of the most minute of things. It was once said best that you have to remember that the parents are of the same knowledge and experience as the players are. The younger the players, the less experienced and knowledgeable they will be. It tough to sit and watch how some parents act when in a few years after they’ve seen many more hockey games they will understand the particular ruling and circumstance surrounding it. Until then we’ll continue to see unexplainable yelling & screaming from inexperienced parents. It was Marc’s birthday on Saturday, but with the hockey tournament we didn’t celebrate. Instead I went out with my bestest friend in the whole world Debbie to go see Il Divo. They were FANTASTIC! Debbie & I both commented on the different demographic they attract (we were definitely on the younger side of the demographic chart!), but the four guys are all varying in age. The Spanish guy was a little greasy looking...definitely lives up to his latest news that he has separated from his wife because their schedules keep them apart...clearly after the Saturday night performance he hasn’t gotten any in a LOOOONNNGGG while! I’m heading back to school today for another 2 months of classes to catch up on the semester that I missed. This term I am taking Anthropology and Sociology, which I’m hoping will help me with the same courses in religion starting in the fall. I’m looking forward to studying again, but if the weather keeps being sunny, I’m going to hate it soon! Tonight’s the surprise dinner for Marc’s birthday that he isn’t suspecting at all. So far, so good!! I’ll let you know how it goes! 18 Days until our family VACATION!!!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Yikes, Time Flys when your Having Fun...or are just too busy to notice!

It’s been well over a month and a half since I last logged on to share the events and happenings. I last left off saying that we were heading down to Lake Placid for the NCAA Division III Men’s Ice Hockey Championships for my brother’s team. Well...we did make it to LP and had an unforgettable time. The boys pulled out a 2-0 win in the semi finals over Hobart College on the Friday night and then continued to over achieve the expectations but posting a 4-0 will over GA. Marc and I had a great time. We were able to enjoy some time with the other families and friends of the players at a reception before and after each game hosted by the school. There are some real characters that surround the team!! When you get a chance check out the Neumann Knight’s Men’s Ice Hockey Mom’s and their karaoke night at the local watering hole “Wise Guys” after the semi final win. ( I could divulge all the stories of the night after the championship game, but I’ll keep those for another 25 years when we’re all reflecting back on the time that was.
Hockey ended there for me as I had to focus again on my school work and finish up two group assignments. Marc continued to follow Kevin’s season until the end leaving me to look after everything at home. Now if that isn’t a lucky guy, I’m not sure who is....Marc hasn’t been home on a weekend in well over 3 months!
I made it through all the group assignments and the final exams that had to be written. I have to say that I made out pretty good in the’s finally nice to see some grades rewarding the hard work and time that I’ve been putting in. I learnt again what I thought I already knew about group work...I hate it and I will never trust people again. A group project of 5 people turned into working in partners all so that all the members could get the same grade. I must have it written on my forehead that I will look after everyone’s work because that’s what I ended up doing...I attract the lazy SOB’s!!
I’ve been enjoying a week off from school this past week and boy did I need it. We’ve been running AAA summer tournaments for the past 3 weekends with another one this weekend and the last next weekend. It has been consuming all of our time, energy and the space in our house. We’ve got stuff everywhere...there’s no guest room, dining room, garage or even laundry room. They all belong to the Casselmen Pirates!! Soon enough it will be all over and we’ll (I mean I will) be able to pack everything away for another year. For my week off, I’ve been able to catch up on laundry, housework and the now attention demanding yard work. The weather has been nice for the most part all week, so I’ve also managed to catch a little vitamin D (sunshine colour!) to touch up my fading colour from Cuba. I now feel like I’m not the only one with our Christmas lights still up on our house (in APRIL!), we have grass seed laid in the front and my stargazer lilies are starting to poke up in the front flower beds.
For now I’m going to leave you, I have to get back to the timekeeper’s bench for a peewee hockey game....oh what we do for kids these days!!
Enjoy the sunshine!