It’s the Time of Your Life so Live it Well

Puerto Rico

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Sitting in the airport reliving the most amazing, wonderful, memorable experiences of our 3-week journey: Amalfi Coast drive, Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Vatican, Table 16-the first one, Mixology Class, nude beach, I realized I forgot to tell you some stuff!

Animator’s Palate
In this restaurant, the walls come to life, literally. You can draw a character and watch it animate on screen. They interact them amongst each other and even intersperse them in Disney cartoons and make them dance. How cool is that? You get your drawing back with a seal that you’re an official Disney animator. Melvin’s the artist in the family so I will show his off.

Mickey with Stack of Drawings
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Melvin’s Character
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Melvin’s Animated Character
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Random Character and the Princess and the Frog Crocodile
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Guest Animators
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Behind the Scenes of the Walt Disney Theatre
We did a behind the scenes tour of the Disney Magic theatre. I was like a kid in a candy store! It was fantabulous for a theatre geek like me. We met all of the technicians through various station stops: stage manager, costume, prop master, lighting, audio/microphones, sound mixer, scenery, stage lift operators (we got to ride up and down!), pyrotechnics, theatre technicians and some of the cast members. They rehearse for two months in Canada, then come on board for a 6 month contract. The costume person said she has a team of 3 and they handle 3,000 costumes. That are tailored to each cast meMber. The wig person has to redo a total of over 500 wigs. The most expensive costume is the Belle dress from Beauty & the Beast at $20k!

I met the stage manager on another cruise and he remembered me! He teaches at Bowie High School when he’s not on contract and runs a theatre camp in Bethesda and we knew a fellow Helen Hayes judge. Small world!

#selfiewithNatalie
Look who I met in St. Maarten.

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Back to Normal
Nephew reports that the boys are acting up a bit so he said “they need y’all”. Soon it will be back to work, business trips, Black Girls Runs, and football practices and games. I’m ready for some normalness, teenage boy attitudes and drama sprinkled with home cooked meals.

Melvin and I were talking about how some folks wait til retirement to travel the world. That was his parents plan but his mom passed away before that plan could happen. But Melvin and I know for sure, up close and personal, that tomorrow is not promised.

On this trip, I have watched a million Disney cartoons. I mean I know all the words to all the Pixar movies now. But anyway, at the end of A Bug’s Life, Randy Newman sings, “You can only go around one time, as far as I can tell; it’s the time of your life, so live it well.” What a motto.

And with that, I will see you all on the next journey adventures: New York, Atlanta, Trenton, Miami, Orlando are on deck for this year. We have a West Caribbean cruise to Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel WITH the boys early next year. Smooches!

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Oh yeah, we finished our Run Across the Atlantic with Melvin 75, Natalie 11 plus all those miles of walking in Europe. So it balances out! (tee hee)

A Happy Ending
Italian Cocoa drinks (hot chocolate with Frangelico) in the Cove Cafe before getting off.

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Our Last Hoorah in St. Kitts

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Today marked our last excursion on this 14 day cruise. It’s the first time the Disney Magic has been to St. Kitts.

Carnival pulled up right beside us. We could talk to the folks in the cabin across from us.

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We did an open safari tour of the island. Loved this tour and our tour guide. His colorful beard and hair matched his personality.

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He was very knowledgeable about the entire island and I wish I wrote down everything he said but I couldn’t. Today was their Independence Day so a lot of stores were closed but here are a few scenes from the island:

Downtown

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The little window close to the sidewalk means there is a basement. This was used as holding cells for the slaves.

Independence Square
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This square is where slaves were auctioned. It has a statue or a topless woman. This statue was a supposed to be a gift to Trafalgar Square in London, I think, but they rejected it because it’s topless. St. Kitts had no problem keeping it!

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Scenes from Various Villages

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Prime Minister’s House: He lives among the people
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Romney Manor

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We visited the Historic Romney Manor
which was a land grant from King Charles to Samuel Jefferson (Thomas Jefferson’s great great grandaddy) in 1864. In the middle of this beautiful rainforest, they demonstrated the process of Caribelle Batik which makes everything from casual wear, paintings, accessories and trinkets. No two are ever alike.

Batik Process
It starts with a white cloth and is made with beeswax to keep the white parts white and dipped in other colors. It could take a few days to make one piece with various colors.

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More Romney Manor Scenes

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This picture is point where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. The sea goes from left to right. Even the winds changed when we got on this side of the island.

Black Rocks
The remnants of volcanic lava flow.

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The Dormant Volcano
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This little 3-month old guy was at the Black Rocks…for a small fee of course. Vendors be everywhere but he was cute.

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Ultimate Indulgence
Yesterday we had a 3-hour couple’s spa treatment that included a private villa, jacuzzi and treatments for 100 minutes. I got a hot stone massage and a facial; Melvin got all massage. It ended with some jacuzzi time and a tea ceremony with fruit. I’m the only one who does tea and fruit so I enjoyed it. It was a nice, yet expensive, way to end the cruise.

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Tonight we head to Puerto Rico to end the cruise. No time for excursions because we’ve been there before but we are getting on the plane and coming home. I’m so ready!

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4 Things I Learned at a Nude Beach in St. Maarten

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Went on a French Riveria beach rendezvous excursion today. Melvin doesn’t like beaches or swimming so he left me to my own shenanigans. And he actually said he “didn’t want sunburnt berries.” Lol

Our group went to Orient Bay, the top beach destination in the Caribbean and the 5th top beach in the world by Trip Advisor or Travel & Leisure (I couldn’t hear). Included in this trip was a welcome drink, chair, towels, fabulous buffet lunch and another drink. It could be alcoholic but you know me and alcohol now.

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:

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The tour guide said for those who want the Disney beach, go to the left. If you want to swim in your birthday suit, turn right and keep walking until you see others in their birthday suit. You can’t miss it. Of course, I was the only one who turned right.

It took me about 15 minutes to get there but there was no mistaking when I found it!

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Now I was a little apprehensive. Never done this before. There were folks that has bathing suits on, some women were topless. Then I saw one dude on his cell phone, hand on hip and all the way nude. Then another and another. Then I realized some of the women in the water were nude. I got comfortable.

So, me? I laid out my towel. Sat down. Looked around and took off my top. I don’t know what I expected to happen at that moment but I was out there! Jiggle and fancy free! I laid on my back for a few minutes basking in the sun. Then I saw a security guard go to a woman, who was clothed, with her camera, and told her to put it away. She was standing next to a sign that said NO PHOTOS! And they enforce it strongly. He came past me and asked if I needed anything. He didn’t gawk at my chest and was very polite. With that, I felt comfortable and went into the water. So here are a few things I learned from this experience:

1. Folks get real comfortable when talking to you.
I go in the water solo and don’t know anybody. I was near one middle aged couple and then an older couple came later. They asked if I was on a cruise. Me, Disney. Them, Royal Caribbean and Carnival.

Royal Caribbean and Carnival
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We talked for quite a while about a lot of stuff. They weren’t shy at all. Swam real close at times. The oldest couple were nudists and said they had been to every nudist camp/colony/beach on the east coast. Wow. I was just trying to stay under the water but my boobs kept floating to the top.

2. I will never drown.
My boobs floated the entire time and wouldn’t let me go under. There’s that.

3. Don’t come to a nude beach if you are not going to be any parts of nude!
There was a few folks that came, took off their clothes, jumped in, got out as said “Bucket List! Check!” There were some who came and stayed clothed. They passed a ton of clothed beaches but chose this one and didn’t remove a stitch of clothing. I was offended.

4. If you’re with someone, don’t jump in next to another female person when your clothed wife is on the beach!
I was the only black person out there for a long time. Then another black couple came. I was standing up at the time halfway out of the water. They saw me and the husband said, “Let’s stop here!” Without any hesitation, he stripped down went and jumped in close to me. His wife, fully clothed, was laughing because she couldn’t believe he did it and wasn’t trying to take any clothes off. But she kept giving me the side eye. I floated away. I saw them clothed later and he was smiling. I didn’t realize who he was at first until he spoke very nicely to me. She didn’t speak. Mm-hmmm.

Next time, I will try going commando. The only reason I didn’t this time is because I hadn’t waxed. #poorexcuse That didn’t stop some folks but I was just too scared. There was a breast cancer survivor out there and she was not ashamed. Go on girl! At least I did get to even out my tan lines. Mission accomplished!

Glasses On
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Now I’m going to the Spa for a couple’s treatment. Pardon me while I get undressed…again. ๐Ÿ™‚

Glasses Off
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Antigua: Scenes in the Sea of Life

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Hey folkses! I have missed you all. Three weeks is a long time and I’m ready to come home. This has been such a lovely trip but I miss my babies and normalness. My stomach is still nervous from my mixology stupor so smells of any kind are taking it’s toll on me.

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Today we docked in Antigua. We came here before on a previous Disney cruise and fell in love with it. Melvin asked if we were going to buy a house here or on one of these islands. He has put it out in the universe for me to jump on! *insert evil laugh here*

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Reminding Me of Home

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We took a 4×4 tour on some back roads to get to some scenic photo stops. These were some back country rural roads, you hear me?! It reminded me of going to my grandaddy’s farms off the paved road. These roads had nothing on Emporia, Virginia though! These dirt roads here had some craters and canyons for potholes. We were thrashed around in the jeep but Melvin and I were giggling constantly because we could so relate to these backcountry roads. A beach stop was at the end of the tour so I wore my bathing suit all day. It didn’t have much hold in the top area at all. I de-clare, it felt like one of my boobs was gonna come out of the socket because we kept rocking around so! But we just kept giggling at our private joke. ๐Ÿ˜€

Back Road Sightings

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Scenic Photo Stops

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Beach Stop

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We had 45 minutes at The Nest Beach Bar. It had a restaurant, bathrooms, jet skis, umbrellas, etc. I immediately got in the warm, salty, clear water. Wanted to take a selfie but I didn’t trust me, the phone and water. I felt like an otter that could swim all day. Picked an otter cuz they are cute and hairy. And my hair is a curly fuzzball right now but anyway, Melvin wouldn’t get in (party pooper) so it was just me, the sun and the warm water. #heaven

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Caution: Nudity
Tomorrow we go to St. Maarten. This was in the description of the various port adventures: “Caution: Nudity or topless bathing may be observed on St. Maarten beaches.” Yasssss! Welp, when in St. Maarten….Why the heck not?! The revolution will not be photographed though. Lol Sorry Ayanna!

We also have a Couple’s Ultimate Indulgence package at the cruise spa. Private villa, facial, massages, body scrubbing, jacuzzi, fruit/drinks, ecstasy. Ahhh. See ya soon!

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There’s a first time for everything

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Hey folkses! Been at sea for a few days. We are in the middle of nowhere following behind a storm. Overcast skies but the sun has been shining most of the day. I’m almost finished the Maze Runner. Got a mani/pedi. Took a boot camp class. Melvin’s been going to the Anyone Can Cook classes and art lectures. We are catching up on a lot of movies in the theater, on the Funnel Vision big screen over the pool on Deck 9 and in our cabin with the verandah open to the ocean. Saw Beauty and the Beast for the first time. I know. I know! Aaron Reeder, stop yelling. ๐Ÿ™‚ I need to catch up on all the Disney classics. I’m watching the latest Godzilla for the first time now too. Bryan Cranston doesn’t last a minute! Dang. And what kind of Godzillas are these?! But these are not the firsts I’m talking about….

Mixology Class

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Went to this class thinking it would be like the Martini class in that I could stand up afterwards. Chiiiiiiiiiile! Please! They provided us with a line of 4 drinks…and then a shot afterwards. Here are the recipes:
Bahama Breezer
Vodka 1/2 oz
Midori melon liqueur 1/2 oz
Creme de banana 1/2 oz
Pineapple juice 4 oz

Key Lime Margarita
Tequila (He race that the best tequila is a silver tequila with 100 blue agave)
Cointreau- orange liqueur or Grand Mariner or triple sec
Lime juice and sugar
Liquor 43-Spanish vanilla orange flavor liquor

Washington Apple Martini
Cranberry juice 3 oz
Crown Royale Whiskey 2 parts
Apple pucker 1 part
Apple juice (if needed to balance out)
Triple sec 1/2 oz
This was his take on the Cosmo. I think my linesister Julie, the Queen of Cosmos, would like this.

Creme Brรปlรฉe
Bailey’s Irish cream 1 part
Amaretto- Almond liquor 1 part
Vanilla ice cream mix 3 parts
Vanilla vodka 1.5 parts
Caramel 1/2 part

Brain Damage: A Shot Drink
Vodka
Lime juice
Tabasco sauce

The Shot that Almost Killed Me
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This was my first shot. Ever. In life. I am a lightweight y’all so I was already feeling it after drink 3 and I didn’t even finish the drinks like Melvin did. Lol Anyway, there’s a reason this shot is called Brain Damage. There was a guy on board that took 75 of these shots and they had to take this fool to the hospital afterwards, therefore the bartender named it Brain Damage. I took ONE, after all these other drinks, had the nerve to eat a hamburger and fries afterwards, and literally thought I was going to die. My head over one eye was pounding. My stomach, well, you know the rest. It was like “My God, why has thou forsaken me?” kinda feeling! Melvin got me something for my headache and I went to bed at 8:30pm. I am now eating like I have some sense. Fruit and toast with peanut butter. Lol

The Phone
I leave my phone off on the ship at sea so no data can pull. We have talked to our boys twice. I text them almost everyday. I’ve talked to my mom to let her know we made it and hopefully my nephew is keeping her up to date since she doesn’t text. So all my important people are good. Well, I happened to have the phone on in the movie. It was on WiFi and rang from a New York number. Didn’t answer cuz I didn’t know it. If important, they will leave a message. They did. It was a talent manager from New York who heard about me a few years ago and wanted to know if I was still interested in auditioning in New York for national commercials and things. I immediately called her back. She wants to meet in NY when I get back and is looking for more actors to play black moms. I couldn’t focus after that phone call. I’m like jumping up and down gleeful. Of course, Melvin was calm yet smiling as he always does when I get overly excited but was happy. If the timing is right, and I mean IF, we’ll see where this goes! What is so interesting is just the night before, I was meditating while staring at the ocean and asked, “So what’s next, Lord?”

What’s Next
Taking a Behind the Scenes tour of the theatre on the ship later today. We hit Antigua, St. John on Wednesday. More later. Smooches!

Oh yeah, Melvin is at 53 miles. I’m up to 11. Progress!

Goofy and Us
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Not a Bird but a Dog

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There are seven Canary Islands and they are tops of volcanoes. Tenerife is 3rd tallest volcano in the world measuring for the bottom. First two are in Hawaii.

When Columbus sailed to the New World in the 1490s, he stopped in Canary Islands on La Gamora. It took them 12 days to travel here because the Pinta needed fixing. Took us 2 days. I’m just saying. ๐Ÿ™‚ He stayed there for 3.5 weeks because he met the Queen of La Gamora there. Go head on Chris!

The islands were named after dogs and not a bird. Presa canario is a dog breed known for its work ability. They saw a lot of them roaming around. They are even part of the flag.

Southern Area with Dry Hot Climate
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Tenerife
We docked in Tenerife means “snow mountain” as Mt Tiede is it’s highest peak. It is the largest and most popular island in Canary Islands. Called Land of the Eternal Spring because it’s on same latitude as Sahara Desert. Winter stays at 62 degrees and spring/summer is 80s. It is 180 miles from Africa so geographically it belongs to Africa but politically it belongs to Spain. There is North and South. Most of south is on volcano so they have 300 days of sun; hardly no rain and equivalent with the African climate. The north has more rain and vegetation. The north is where we went on our excursion.

Heading North with Mt. Tiede in Background
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Orchid Garden
Stopped at an Orchid garden along the way.

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Saw a dragon tree. It grows straight for 35 years then divides. This tree is over 600 years old.

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Puerto de la Cruz Scenes
This area was one of our excursions. Melvin liked it because it reminded him of Hawaii. The beaches have black sand because of the volcanic rock. Some of the skyline is in the clouds. Nice busy tourist area with plenty of shops, hotels and restaurants.

Black Sandy Beaches
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News on the Homefront

Khalil will be 15!
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Our oldest son, Khalil, turns 15 tomorrow (9/12/99) and we’re across the Atlantic Ocean. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ First birthday I’ve ever missed for my children but we left gifts behind. And we’re constantly in text touch. I send long paragraphs with questions. They both respond with one word answers. At least they respond. All is well with the world. Teenagers. Sigh.

I checked my work email. 247 emails. I shouldn’t have.

My casting agency called to say one of my past commercials in Virginia, Sentara Hospital, wants to book me again to update it and then run it for 13 weeks! Ka-Ching! I have to tell them that my hair is not red anymore. That commercial was about two hair dyes ago! Lol

5 Sea Days: On to the Caribbean
Now we have five sea days ahead of us before we hit Antigua. We will have another time zone change tonight for the second time on this trip. I probably won’t have another blog post til then but there probably will be a few sea day shenanigans unless Melvin throws me overboard or something due to cabin fever. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Just kidding. There will be more sunbathing, movies, lectures, cheese and cocktail classes and naps! Also starting to read my next book: The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

Sea Day Reading
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Oh yeah! Made some homemade sangria. Melvin calls it my hooch. We bought two sangria bottles from Barcelona and I’ve been requesting fresh fruits from the restaurants to put into my own Disney bottle to “marinate”. Everybody’s been asking about it. Maybe I should charge by the glass? Smooches!

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Melvin: 42 Natalie: 6

Sea Day Randomness

Hey peoples! It’s been a minute since we talked. We’ve traveled for two sea days from Malaga, Spain to the Canary Islands. I’m still sick with this darn cold so taking meds, reading, sunbathing, napping and catching up on all the Disney cartoons: Mulan, Wall-E, Jungle Book, The Incredibles, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Lion King, Ratatouille, Monsters, Inc., etc.

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Before these two days, you can see the moving rushing waves of the Mediterranean Sea. The first sea day though, the water was like smooth glass. There was no land in sight. Eerie yet so calming. I can look and listen to the ocean all day but THAT day in particular was so very relaxing.

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I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman in these two days. Supernatural fiction. Good read when you want to get lost in another world.

Martini Tasting

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There are a lot of offerings and activities throughout a cruise like workshops, classes, lectures, spa, gym classes, comedians, shows, flamenco dancers, dance classes, movies, and various tastings e.g. Whiskey, beer, wine, chocolate/liqueur. We went to a Disney animation presentation today by a woman who runs the Disney research library that captures all of the art from the cartoon films. Melvin went to a session on Ham and one on tiramisu. We went to a martini tasting together. Maaaaaan! The bartender talked about the origin of martinis (vodka or gin) and made 4 martinis for us to taste. You had to finish one before you got the next one. They were small but, if you know me I’m such a lightweight, that two almost knocked me out. Here are 3 of the recipes:
Master Linguini Martini
Malibu rum
Pomegranate liqueur
St. Germaine
Raspberry and passion fruit juice
Berry or jasmine tea!!!

Honeymoon Martini
Gin
Champagne
Mango and orange juice

Bubble Gum Martini
White chocolate Godiva
Absolute vanilla vodka
Bailey’s
Vanilla ice cream mix
Cream de me menthe
Grenadine to create the color
Mint leaf and cherry garnish

Next week, we are going to a Mixology class and an International Cheese class.

Rock of Gibraltar

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We passed this monumental Rock of Gibraltar at 10pm two nights ago. It’s at the point that connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. From our verandah, we could see this monstrous shape sticking up over the land. Since it was dark, we couldn’t get a proper picture but it was a WOW moment!

RATA
Before we go on a cruise, I sign up with a cruise meetup on DISBoards to get to know people on the same cruise. For this cruise, someone suggested a RATA or Run Across the Atlantic. You select how many miles you want to run and then run them on your own. One woman was kind enough to make medals for a medal ceremony at the end. I signed up for a half marathon. Melvin signed up for a marathon plus a half. On every sea days, he’s run at least 10 miles. Melvin can run across the world and never get tired. Me? The one supposedly training for a half marathon? Well I have run only 6 miles up to this point. Excuses: sick, bruised 2 of my toes, that time of the month, I don’t wanna, my Achilles hurts again, I’m on vacation, etc. etc. We have been walking at least 2-5 miles durin the Mediterranean excursions so that’s gotta count for something. I’ll get with it on these next 5 sea days.

Dinner Came with Hardware
At Carioca’s, the Brazilian-themed restaurant, Melvin ordered Jose Carioca’s. The server brought this piece of hardware first. A dude at the other table looked just as puzzled as we did.

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The dish features a skewered and grilled Brazilian sausage, adobo crusted lamb and tenderloin with Mexican tomato rice, chimichurri, and a lime garlic mojo.

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Next Up: Tenerife, Canary Islands
Just docked in Tenerife! Going to check out Puerto de la Cruz and Orotava Valley today. See ya!

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