My Thoughts · Travel

Extreme Greece: Athens & Mykonos!

Extreme Greece: Athens and Mykonos—two very distinct destinations. History and mystery surrounded me in Athens, and I could hardly wait. Beauty and mystery abounded in Mykonos. Greece truly captured my heart!

October 10—Piraeus, Greece; Visited Athens

Up at 6:30 AM, we started this amazing day early! ATHENS! I couldn’t believe I was actually here. We met the tour organizer, grabbed a bus, and headed to the metro subway station, where we met our guide. Interestingly, she toured us around inside the metro, which was an archaeology site. She said anytime they dig in Athens; they unearth ruins. And immediately she started telling the Roman mythology stories I had shared with my students as an English teacher as many years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed every tale she told!

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

From there we walked to the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, like ours in Washington, DC, but so different. We watched as the pair leaving marched in a synchronized, high stepping manner with a distinct kick that appeared to be in slow motion with exaggerated movement. She told us that the Greek soldiers had knife blades in the pompons on the tops of the shoes.

Glued to the ceremony, I photographed the showmanship of the two guards leaving and two coming on duty. The whole ritual was breathtaking.

Zappeion

Zappeion in Athens, Greece
Zappeion in Athens, Greece

From there we walked through The National Garden of Athens, a beautiful garden, to the Zappeion, “is a large, palatial building next to the National Gardens of Athens in the heart of Athens, Greece. It is generally used for meetings and ceremonies, both official and private and is one of the city’s most renowned modern landmarks.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zappeion

The Fountain Spraying by Zappeion, Athens, Greece
The Fountain Finally Spraying by Zappeion,

From there we walked by a fountain below Zappeion. Our guide assured us it would start spraying water anytime, but it didn’t, so we walked away. One of our group lingered and shouted at us, “It had started,” so we all rushed back and took pictures, looking back at Zappeion.

Temple of Olympian Zeus

Our next stop was the Temple of Olympian Zeus, all within proximity.

“The Temple of Olympian Zeus is a former colossal temple at the center of the Greek capital Athens. It was dedicated to “Olympian” Zeus, a name originating from his position as head of the Olympian gods.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_of_Olympian_Zeus,_Athens

Here we saw tall pillars surrounded by scaffolding. So much care taken of these old structures! It was a massive site with rocks laying on the ground around the Temple. Ruins surrounded it too. And the Acropolis called in the distance!

The view of the Acropolis from the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens, Greece
The view of the Acropolis from the Temple of Olympian Zeus

Hadrian’s Arch

Then we passed the Arch of Hadrian.

“It spanned an ancient road from the center of Athens, Greece, to the complex of structures on the eastern side of the city that included the Temple of Olympian Zeus.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arch_of_Hadrian_(Athens)

Acropolis

For some unknown reason, I thought the Acropolis would be out of town, out of Athens, but we kept getting a peek of as we walked closer and closer.

So, I needed clarity—was the Acropolis different from the Parthenon? Our guide helped me get it clear. These are all terms I’ve heard and seen in history books, but it’s been years.

The Acropolis is the hill where the Parthenon sits.

“The Parthenon is a former temple on the Athenian Acropolis, Greece, that was dedicated to the goddess Athena during the fifth century BC.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parthenon

 As we walked up the hill to the Acropolis, our guide told story after story from the Roman mythology and took frequent stops so we could rest.

Theater of Dionysius, Athens, Greece
Theater of Dionysius

On the way, we stopped at the Theater of Dionysius with special carved seats for the royalty out of marble—not super comfortable!

View of Athens, Greece
View of Athens, Greece

Climbing higher and higher, I marveled at our view of Athens—here I am in Athens, Greece, climbing up to the Acropolis! Wow!

The Crowd as we reached the top of the Acropolis! Athens, Greece
The Crowd as we reached the top of the Acropolis!

As we got closer and closer, it felt like a crescendo of a lifetime of hearing about this place was about to explode. When we got inside the ruins, the crowds increased, and the size of the Parthenon overwhelmed me!

The Parthenon in scaffolding

Oh my God! When we finally arrived and stood in front of the Parthenon, a pillared structure looming gigantic in front of me, I just couldn’t take it all in and then. Again scaffolding caressed the beloved structures. Then, the battery for my camera died!!

Our tour ended, but Lin and I lingered. I grabbed my iPhone and took pictures. Its magical draw kept me there, not wanting to leave. We took picture after picture, standing in a variety of places.

When we finally left the Acropolis, a guard directed us to go a different, shorter route out and we missed the masses of people.

From there, we joined some people from our tour, but we took a wrong turn and ended up wandering down a side street. Lin and I decided after quite a while to turn around, leaving the others. We walked right in front of Mars Hill, where St. Paul preached. I googled it later when we got back to the ship. I knew it had importance but couldn’t remember why.

After our wrong turn, we finally made our way back to a familiar area of shops and restaurants near the Arch of Hadrian, where our shuttle was picking us up to go back to the port. We ate Greek pizza, and I bought a delightful Greek dress made of blue and white cotton material. I also bought a gold leaf headband and enjoyed wearing it that night on our ship to dinner.

I will never forget this memorable day in Athens and the history and mystery that surrounded me that day.

October 11—Mykonos, Greece

We were up at 7:00 am for breakfast and out to the port to our tour, which ended up being a sizeable group. When we got on the bus, our tour guide said something about us being back to the ship by 3:00 PM. One of the other travelers told her we had to be back at 1:30 PM. The guide gasped and I could see she was flustered. It changed the plans for our entire tour.

Panagia Tourliani Monastery, Mykonos, Greece

Our tour first took us out of Mykonos eight kilometers to Panagia Tourliani Monastery. On the way, the guide told the history of the island of Mykonos. Mykonos is one of 56 islands which are a part of The Cyclades, and Santorini is also a part of those islands. It saw its first cruise ship in 1920. During the 70s, hippies and artist came, and the culture embraced a very liberal stance, being gay friendly. In the winter, there are 15,000 residences now; in the summer 60,000! They saw 50 million visitors from March to the beginning of November this year.

When we stopped at the monastery, we quietly entered and saw the inside of a beautiful Greek Orthodox church. Our guide explained all the different parts. At the back of the church were lit candles stuck in sand, so I bought one and lit it. I love doing that whenever I can.

From there we walked through this village to a restaurant and had Greek coffee and doughnut, delicious. Then we drove to a beach for picture taking. From there, we went back to Mykonos and had to decide what to do because we didn’t have time to continue our tour to the windmills.

I Did Get a Picture of the Windmills! Mykonos, Greece
I Did Get a Picture of the Windmills!

So, our guide bought us Sea Bus Tickets, then we followed her through a crowded walkway. There, Lin and I left the tour group and shopped a little and bought gelato. I’m always wanting to be on time; Lin always pushes to the limit. When we got to the line for the Sea Bus, it was so loooong, but we made the second one.

Before boarding the ship, I shopped at the Duty Free shop. When I got back to the room, I put on my bathing suit for the first time and went to the pool to get some sun.

Stromboli Volcano Erupted As We Went By!--Greece
Stromboli Volcano Erupted As We Went By!

As we sailed away from Mykonos, we saw a volcano, Stromboli, erupting! Remember, I told you last week we were in volcano country!

Sadly, that night, we went to the Epic Beatles show, and I lost a precious piece of silver, a Zia which is a New Mexico symbol. I guess I lost it while we were up dancing, but it tainted that day for me!

Finally,

Athens and Mykonos—two glorious ports in Greece. I will never forget either of them! Have you been to Athens? Mykonos? What are your thoughts about my experience?


News, News, News!

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme
Write out your answers to my thought-provoking questions at the end of each chapter!

~My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? WON the 2022 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards in the Body, Mind & Spirit Category. Have you bought your copy yet?

~Wish You Were Here: A Novel by Jodi Picoult, one of my favorite authors, deals with the COVID pandemic in fiction as opposed to my nonfiction book. Check it out! Interesting story!

~MY FIRST AUDIOBOOK IS AVAILABLE: Go to Audible to buy my first audiobook, Let Me Tell You a Story. I’m working on Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? but have gotten stalled with shingles.

~Do you listen to podcasts? Here are three podcasts with interviews about my new book & some Flippo stories:

Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo meme
Grab a cup of coffee and your tablet and enjoy!

~Have you bought a copy of Flippo’s biography yet? Believe it or not—it’s been two years. Go here for your hardback or paperback: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

~For me, it’s Christmas all year long! Here’s a variety of Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

Italy · My Thoughts · Travel

My Favorite Port: Santorini & Two More!

Looking from Santorini towards our cruise ship with Blue Dome Church - My favorite!
Looking from Santorini towards our cruise ship with Blue Dome Church

My favorite port of this Mediterranean Sea cruise was Santorini, Greece, the breathtaking city on top of the cliffs. Before Santorini, we visited two other ports: Kotor, Montenegro and Corfu, Greece. As I thought about these three ports and all the possibilities, I highlighted Kotor, Montenegro and Corfu, Greece and focus on Santorini.

October 7 — Kotor, Montenegro

As we moved in closer to Kotor, we enjoyed the gorgeous scenery as we came into a beautiful bay with the mountains coming closer and closer on each side. The tender was late because of port authorities.

This small country has an intriguing history. During World War II, President Tito’s presence was obvious. Montenegro achieved independence as a country in 2006.

For the first part of the excursion, we went to the city of Budva, considered the “Queen of Tourism.” We had limited time there, and I desperately needed a bathroom, so we had to buy a drink to use one. We walked through narrow paths that wove through the city.

Afterwards, on the way back to Kotor, we spent one hour in an expensive rug shop, listening to an informative presentation on the different rugs. I made the mistake of commenting on the beauty of one rug, and a hungry salesperson grabbed me and took me to another area to see more like that one. Again, I had to go to the bathroom, so I left Lin with this ambitious salesperson, which Lin didn’t appreciate. The price: $10,000 for a rug about 3 feet by 5 feet. Needless to say, we didn’t buy one!

When we returned to Kotor, we toured the fort of old Kotor, a fascinating historic city where we needed more time to explore! We saw a fascinating orthodox church, a cathedral that dated back to 1166 inside the fort. Lin found time to have another gelato, though!

When we tendered back to the ship in the early evening, beautiful sharp mountains surrounded us running down to the sea. As lights came on, we saw an ancient defensive wall lit up in the nighttime.

October 8 — Corfu, Greece

Corfu, one of the Ionian Islands, was gorgeous, surrounded by the azure blue Mediterranean! I dressed in a culotte dress in case we visited a church. Before we left the ship, I needed to exchange my money and get some Euros for the day.

The Old Fortress of Corfu - My favorite
The Old Fortress of Corfu

On our excursion, we traveled through the town of Corfu and enjoyed the tour guide’s tales about its rich history and folklore. The old fortress of Corfu sat sentinel on the hill.

As an English major, I loved when he shared Odysseus left his ship here and, legend said, it was petrified.

“Odysseus’ ship, which took him home from Corfu to Ithaka, turned to rock according to legend.”

http://i-greece.gr/news/corfu-homers-odyssey-and-odysseus-petrified-ship/

Another important fact he shared about Corfu—Prince Phillip was born there and we drove by his family’s home (mansion).

Evidence of how close we were to the building!
Evidence of how close we were to the building!

When we left Corfu, we traveled through a village, and the bus barely passed through between the buildings. Then we went on up a windy road to the top of a mountain where we shopped for souvenirs and enjoyed the view.

Beautiful view going up the mountain!
Beautiful view going up the mountain!
Mavromatis Distillery - My Favorite

On the way back to Corfu, we stopped at the Mavrommatis distillery where they made kumquat liqueur, a specialty of that area. We bought a variety of kumquat treats!

October 9 — Santorini Island, Greece

All of our ports took my breath away with their beauty—turquoise water and beautiful historic islands! But Santorini Island was my favorite!

At first, as we sailed closer, we saw white on the tops of the gigantic cliffs that looked like snow. As I zoomed in with my new camera, I realized the white was houses. Beautiful white houses trimmed in blue and blue domed churches covered the very top of the cliffs.

Hikers on a different island!
Hikers on a different island!

As we got closer, we saw a variety of boats in coves along the way. Lin, using his binoculars, saw a large group of hikers on one island as we passed. With my new camera, I zoomed in and saw what he was talking about.

Cable cars going up the cliff to Santorini
Cable cars going up the cliff to Santorini

This was another port where we tendered from our ship to the port because of the size of the Norwegian Epic. We knew we were meeting our tour guide up on top by the cable car.

I’m sad to say neither Lin or I knew about the donkeys you could ride up or down the cliff! We found out after we rode the cable car up! I would have loved to ride a donkey up—my ranch girl heart came out! But we had donkey encounters on the trip down.

The crowds at Santorini
The crowds

The cable car was quite efficient and effective, moving people up the cliff. We met our guide at the top and gathered our small group together, and went to their office. The tourists crowded the narrow walkways shoulder-to-shoulder between the busy shops, yet our tour guide said this is not the busy time of year!

Quickly I realized why our tour was called “Panoramic Blue Shade Tour”—blue domes filled Santorini! This was the first time Lin and I didn’t use a Norwegian excursion company. We had waited too late to book them before we left, so we worked with an agent and she booked several tours for the end of our cruise through Viator (viator.com), and we loved them, especially this one!

It was a small group of about twelve.

We had a fantastic young tour guide who told us why they built the houses on the top of the high cliffs. The cliffs are pumice stone, so the digging was easy. So, when you think about it—the houses are cave houses.

Here was another place in the Mediterranean where volcanoes played a big part. The most recent eruption was 1957!

The history of the Santorini fascinated me:

  • In the late 30-40s, they suffered a cholera epidemic. They white washed the houses with limestone, and it stopped the cholera.
  • In 1956, they had a big earthquake.
  • In 1967, they found many archaeological ruins.
  • In 1967, during a dictatorship, every house was painted white and the domes blue, being patriotic—the color of the Greek flag.
  • In 1974, the dictatorship ended, and the demand of painting houses white and domes blue ended, but the tradition continues.
Engagement Locks At Oia
Engagement Locks At Oia

We toured around Santorini, heading towards Oia, the village world famous for its sunset view. We were given time there to shop and relax. At the spot for sunset viewing, we saw hundreds of locks attached to railings. We found out couples put their “engagement locks” there, with their names and engagement date.

During our free time, we shopped and had a gelato. When we got back to the cable car line, it went on and on—the wait would have been an hour or more. We had already decided to walk down the path, but the line convinced us. What an experience that was! Several white-haired people made the same decision.

Donkey manure dotted our path, and we enjoyed several close encounters with the donkeys. They did have a halter and reins, but it did no good. The donkeys walked wherever they wanted!

By the time we got to the bottom, my legs felt like jelly, and I knew the next day I would feel it, but what a glorious end to our wonderful time in Santorini! We caught the tender back to the ship, and I relished the day’s amazing experience with blue domes in the horizon and donkey humor everywhere!

Finally,

My favorite port, Santorini, lives in my mind with bright blue domes and white washed buildings. Have you ever heard of Santorini? Have you ever been there?


News, News, News!

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

~My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? WON the 2022 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards in the Body, Mind & Spirit Category. Have you bought your copy yet?

~Wish You Were Here: A Novel by Jodi Picoult, one of my favorite authors, deals with the COVID pandemic in fiction as opposed to my nonfiction book. Check it out! Interesting story!

~MY FIRST AUDIOBOOK IS AVAILABLE: Go to Audible to buy my first audiobook, Let Me Tell You a Story. I’m working on Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? but have gotten stalled with shingles.

~Do you listen to podcasts? Here are three podcasts with interviews about my new book & some Flippo stories:

Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo meme

~Have you bought a copy of Flippo’s biography yet? Believe it or not—it’s been two years. Go here for your hardback or paperback: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

~For me, it’s Christmas all year long! Here’s a variety of Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

Italy · My Thoughts · Travel

Volcanoes: Ports 3 & 4 in Italy

Volcanoes! Our Mediterranean cruise continued to two Italian ports: Naples (Napoli in Italian) and Messina where volcano eruptions changed history, and a recent eruption captured our attention!

October 5—Naples, Italy—Visited Pompeii

Yes, Dean Martin sang “In Napoli” and that song ran through my head as we docked at 11:00 AM in his beloved city. We slept in that morning. I took our passports to be held by the Norwegian Cruise Line for this part of Italy. They handled this exchange efficiently, and I was in and out in minutes. We ate a late breakfast and enjoyed our leisure time. Before leaving the ship for our next excursion, we went upstairs and snacked on banana bread and an apple.

Once again, our tour guide wowed us with his knowledge. This time he shared about Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii which is where we headed out of Naples.

In 79 AD Mt. Vesuvius erupted, destroying the populace site of Pompeii. Mt. Vesuvius is still active, being a young volcano. It erupted the last time around World War II. They now have sensors around the mountain that can predict a week before any eruption activity.

We drove around the Bay of Naples and the guide let us know Naples is the birthplace of pizza! He also identified the island of Capri to the right and the Sorrento peninsula to the left as we traveled.

When we got to the parking lot near the Pompeii site, our group walked to a streetlight. There we found out a man in our group got himself locked in a bathroom in the parking lot which detained us. Our guide was not too happy with him. The guide shared so much information, but I immediately forgot it.

Before our Pompeii tour, we stopped in a shop and saw how cameos are made. I bought one made by a student which cost $56. A master’s cameo of the same cameo was $400! I bought this because my sister had bought one years ago in Italy and encouraged me to buy one too! She died this last week before I could share my purchase with her.

I suffered from dizziness badly on the tour due to my neuralgia, but Lin helped me a lot.

There were phallic symbols in many places—I remembered that!

Here are the 10 Most Fascinating Pompeii Ruins

10.Temple of Apollo

9. House of the Vettii

8. Lupanar – the largest of the city’s many brothels

7. House of the Tragic Poet

6. Forum of Pompeii

5. House of the Faun

4. Pompeii Thermal Baths

3. Pompeii Spectacula – the oldest surviving Roman amphitheaters in the world.

2. Villa dei Misteri

1. Plaster Casts

https://www.touropia.com/pompeii-ruins/

Body mummified by the ash—volcanoes
Body mummified by the ash

At the end of the tour, we went through a museum that housed the bodies mummified by the ash from the volcano. They appeared frozen in time with gruesome expressions frozen on their faces.

After the tour and returning to Naples, we didn’t see the sights the guide suggested: the fort, the Royal Palace or the Theater. I just didn’t feel well. But we enjoyed shopping inside the terminal and our shopping experience.

Here’s my haiku about this day:

Mt. Vesuvius

Erupted and destroyed

Pompeii! Lives shattered!

October 6—Messina, Italy—Mt. Etna

The next day started early again with another fantastic excursion and guide. As we drove through Messina in the early morning, she shared fascinating information:

Another day of dealing with nature’s destruction quality. Messina was totally destroyed by an earthquake then a tsunami! When they rebuilt it, they followed an international idea. This area of Italy—Sicily—uses the famous dialect of “The Godfather.”

When we left Messina, the guide identified Carrara, “The city is famous for some of the world’s finest marble, called Carrara, taken from nearby quarries and used by sculptors from Michelangelo to Henry Moore.”

https://www.britannica.com/place/Carrara

As we drove, she shared endless information: “Our region was Greek. Mt. Etna erupted twenty years ago. One thousand years ago, the Arabs found this area. Twenty thousand years, it was first founded by the Byzantine Empire.”

Savoca where The Godfather Filmed—volcanoes
Savoca where The Godfather Filmed

As we drove, she identified a medieval village on the top of a hill, Savoca, where they filmed part of “The Godfather.”

Mt. Etna Smoking—volcanoes
Mt. Etna Smoking!

Mt. Etna loomed in the distance as we drove, and the guide continued sharing information about this volcano, and we could see where it was smoking—eerie for sure!

Then we stopped at the Crateri Sylvestri Visitor’s Center for a bathroom break and a snack. Here she explained a lot about volcano eruptions and different types of ash and volcanic rocks. We walked around the top of the whole crater, and I struggled with dizziness, so I stayed away from the edge.

Lin on the edge of Crateri Silvestri—volcanoes
Lin on the edge of Crateri Silvestri

Afterwards, we went to the GIVAL jewelry store and saw a demonstration. Lin bought me beautiful turquoise earrings for our anniversary. They had a light buffet for us there, served on a tropical patio.

Looking towards the sea—volcanoes
Looking towards the sea

On the drive back, I took lots of sea pictures, but my camera’s battery died again!

When we returned to the ship, we napped, dressed up and ate dinner where they had live music. Finally, we danced! Several years ago, we had such a memorable time on the Norwegian Epic ship—this ship—because they had a fantastic duo who played a variety of dance music. We hooked up with the dancers and followed the duo all around the ship at the different venues. I had been aching to dance, and it finally happened.

Finally,

What a memorable day we had near smoking Mt. Etna. Our amazing guide snow skied alongside Mt. Etna when it was erupting! Wow! And Pompeii in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius fascinated me with its massive ruins.

Do you like volcanoes? I grew up near Capulin volcano in northeastern New Mexico and have always loved them.


News, News, News!

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

~My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? WON the 2022 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards in the Body, Mind & Spirit Category. Have you bought your copy yet?

~Wish You Were Here: A Novel by Jodi Picoult, one of my favorite authors, deals with the COVID pandemic in fiction as opposed to my nonfiction book. Check it out! Interesting story!

~MY FIRST AUDIOBOOK IS AVAILABLE: Go to Audible to buy my first audiobook, Let Me Tell You a Story. I’m working on Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? but have gotten stalled with shingles.

~Do you listen to podcasts? Here are three podcasts with interviews about my new book & some Flippo stories:

Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo

~Have you bought a copy of Flippo’s biography yet? Believe it or not—it’s been two years. Go here for your hardback or paperback: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

~For me, it’s Christmas all year long! Here’s a variety of Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

My Thoughts · Travel

Ports 1 & 2: France & Italy

European map - Ports 1 & 2 - France & Italy

Our first two ports onboard the Norwegian Epic moved us to France and then on to Italy. What breathtaking sights we saw!

October 3—Cannes, France

We procrastinated on our excursions for this cruise, so the flamboyant trips to Monaco and Monte Carlo were full. We chose a delightful excursion to Nice, France, weaving our way through the streets of a quaint town on a small “train” (motorized).

Little Train in Nice, France - 2 ports
Little Train in Nice, France

Our ship couldn’t dock at the port at Cannes, so the morning began with a tender ride to Cannes, which always adds to the day. Because of my still experiencing neuralgia from shingles, my doctor said I might experience motion sickness, so I bought bands my husband uses. Thankfully, the ship and the tender didn’t cause motion sickness.

As we traveled through Cannes, I’ve heard of this place my whole life with the Film Festival—I couldn’t believe I was there. It felt surreal as we passed a mural of Marilyn Monroe the full size of the building. From Cannes, we traveled by bus twenty-seven miles to Nice, following the coast and seeing the allure of the beautiful French Riviera with sparkling turquoise water.

Horserace track - 2 ports
Horserace Track

On this trip, I enjoyed seeing a horserace track between Cannes and Nice, actually at Cagnes sur Mer—my country roots!

https://www.cannestouristinformation.co.uk/horse-racing.html

Repeatedly, we saw boats, boats and more boats—all sizes but mostly gigantic yachts!

Palace Hotel Le Negresco - 2 ports
Palace Hotel Le Negresco

In Nice, we passed the massive Palace Hotel Le Negresco, a landmark. “Staying at Le Negresco is like jumping into a joyous mixture of eras and styles. Contemporary artists, masterpieces, monumental sculptures… Le Negresco owes its well-respected identity to its important collection of artwork and period furniture with over 6,000 references.”

https://www.hotel-negresco-nice.com/en/hotel

After the astounding little train ride around Nice, we ended up at “Place Masséna (Massena Square) is the vibrant center of Nice, attracting both tourists and locals.” https://www.hotels.com/go/france/most-popular-streets-squares-nice

And the centerpiece of the square is the Sun Fountain with Apollo standing regal and powerful.

Larada at the Sun Fountain with Apollo statue - 2 ports
Larada at the Sun Fountain with Apollo statue

After our tour, we had a little free time here and went to a restaurant to get a drink, but mostly to use their restroom. We asked the owner if we would be served in 10-15 minutes—she said, “No!” So, I asked if we could use her bathroom. She saw our age and kindly said, “Yes!”

When we returned to Cannes, we walked around the port and took in the beauty. One thing I notice were the outrageous size of yachts and number of them!

At the end of the day, we tendered back to our ship. I had to deal with our internet package, and the line to the tech was way too long. I ended up figuring out our problem with the help of a woman in line.

That night we saw the “Burn the Floor, The Ultimate Ballroom Sensation!” What a great show it was! They moved from Viennese Waltz to the Latin influence to contemporary dance.

https://www.burnthefloor.com/

October 4—Livorno, Italy port; visited Florence & Pisa

The next day began early at 5:30 AM and then we went to breakfast. We ported at Livorno, grabbed our tour bus and headed to Florence or Firenze to the Italians for an hour and a half ride. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride through the countryside, seeing a castle on a hill and beautiful green fields.

Our guide, Claudia, began immediately sharing information about the area we traveled through.

Ponte Vecchio bridge - 2 ports
Ponte Vecchio bridge

When we arrived in Florence, we did a walking tour through town. First, we saw the Ponte Vecchio bridge that was bombed during World War II.

Replica of David - 2 ports
Replica of David

Then we walked to Piazza della Signoria, the square where the famous David statue used to be, but now we saw a replica of David—he’s so big! This was one statue I was so anxious to see! David was featured in a square where there were many statues. We also saw there the Poseidon fountain and Equestrian Monument of Cosimo I.

Claudia shared fascinating stories as we walked like you can see Galileo’s index finger from his right hand in a museum. The church cut it off because he used that figure to show them the rotation of the earth.

Dante Statue - 2 ports
Dante Statue

Also, Dante wasn’t buried in a church because in Divine Comedy, he has a pope in “the Eighth Circle of Hell.” We saw his statue in Piazza Santa Croce, outside the Basilica of Santa Croce.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, Italy - 2 ports
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

We also saw the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, a massive, beautiful church.

Then we had free time in this square, and I bought a beautiful leather handbag and reversal belt. Lin bought a wallet. And Lin squeezed in a gelato break for us before lunch.

Next we ate lunch where Claudia’s husband was a chef. We had vegetarian lasagna and chianti. Lin sampled the chianti; I had water. Then we had prime rib and potatoes and a delicious dessert.

From there we drove to Pisa and didn’t nap. We enjoyed driving through the Tuscany landscape. My new camera’s battery died! We walked to the Leaning Tower of Pisa near the Cathedral and Baptistery. We took lots of fun picture (using my iPhone), taking cues from creative people. Lin had another gelato, and I had a Fanta.

Our trip back to Livorno from Pisa was shorter. This excursion day exhausted me with so much walking, so I napped until 8:30 PM. We had a light dinner and turned in early.

I’ll end with a haiku I wrote that summarized our first three days:

Three countries, three days

Spain, France and Italy—Wow!

Connected by smiles!

Have you been to Cannes? Florence? Pisa? Share your experience with me.


News, News, News!

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

~My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? WON the 2022 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards in the Body, Mind & Spirit Category. Have you bought your copy yet?

~Wish You Were Here: A Novel by Jodi Picoult, one of my favorite authors, deals with the COVID pandemic in fiction as opposed to my nonfiction book. Check it out! Interesting story!

~MY FIRST AUDIOBOOK IS AVAILABLE: Go to Audible to buy my first audiobook, Let Me Tell You a Story. I’m working on Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? but have gotten stalled with shingles.

~Do you listen to podcasts? Here are three podcasts with interviews about my new book & some Flippo stories:

Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo

~Have you bought a copy of Flippo’s biography yet? Believe it or not—it’s been two years. Go here for your hardback or paperback: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

~For me, it’s Christmas all year long! Here’s a variety of Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

My Thoughts · Spain · Travel

Barcelona: Our First Mediterranean Stop!

Barcelona: our first Mediterranean stop! The trip for our Mediterranean cruise started with an early departure. How I hate those early mornings because I can’t sleep, all exciting and anxious!

Here’s the first four days of our fifteen-day adventure!

September 29, 2022Not Yet Barcelona

The alarm went off early on September 29, 2022, at 3:30 AM. We left the house at 4:30 AM after doing those last-minute bag checks.

Our flight day to Barcelona, Spain via Atlanta, Georgia and Amsterdam, Holland took off at 7:15 AM. We had about three hours in Atlanta and thought we had enough time to eat at a sit-down restaurant, but the server charged the booth behind us with our bill, so it got dicey.

From Atlanta to Amsterdam, I slept a little, which is unusual for me and also enjoyed the great distraction of movies. Lin and I both watched the new Elvis movie but had trouble hearing it because of the cabin and engine noise, so we need to see it again, but what a great movie!

September 30, 2022—Destination: Barcelona, Spain

When we arrived in Amsterdam, we had to go through customs but had enough time to grab coffees and sweets. On the flight from Amsterdam to Barcelona, they required we were masks—the only time on the trip.

At the Barcelona airport, we gathered our bags—yahoo! After so much media hype about lost luggage, I bought AirTags for our checked luggage in case they disappeared. We both breathed a sigh of relief when we saw our bright blue and red suitcases appear on the carousel.

Then came our next concern—the transfer to our hotel. We immediately found the guy wearing the “Orange shirt,” we were supposed to from our paperwork, but he said we had a private transfer. After some delay and a helpful phone call, I saw a man go by with “Linwood Miller” handwritten on a sheet of paper. Relief!

Our hotel, The Corner Hotel, was a genuine treasure, but not in any tourist area. We rested a little, then found a neighborhood restaurant suggested by the friendly clerks at the desk. Eating outside thousands of miles away from home in Barcelona felt magical that evening.

On our walk home, we stopped at a market and bought essentials: water for both us, chocolate for Lin and prunes for me and my stomach!

That night before going to bed, I reviewed the settings on my new camera and experimented with it while Lin reviewed the map of Barcelona to get his bearings again.

October 1, 2022—Barcelona Sightseeing

We had been to Barcelona before in 2020 on an Insight Tour with AAA. This tour with Bradley Dick, as a tour guide, had shown us the wonderful highlights of the city. So, we knew we had a full day ahead of us—the alarm went off at 7:00 AM. First, we thoroughly enjoyed a leisure European breakfast at the hotel.

Then we caught the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus, one of our favorite ways to see a European city, weaving our way through the area closer to our hotel. We had a destination in mind: the Columbus statue by the sea and Las Ramblas.

https://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/ramblas/barcelona-las-ramblas.html

Because I needed a bathroom, we found a Starbucks and had some coffee. Then we wandered through an outside market (that had been there in 2020) near the Columbus statue.

Salvadore Dali in Barcelona on Las Ramblas

From there we walked “Las Ramblas,” enjoying three mimes: Salvador Dali, Don Quixote and a mythological creature. We stopped, and I had a photo taken with Dali. We shopped at tourist spots and I enjoyed “dickering” with a salesperson over a Gaudi Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus and a solar Flamenco dancer.

Afterwards we hunted for a side street we had found in 2020 but never found it. However, we found another hidden jewel.

We ate lunch outside on the sidewalk. When we finished our time on Las Ramblas, we caught the orange bus to Montjuïc, which means Jewish Mountain. https://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/areas/montjuic-district.html

We continued our bus ride, getting off at La Pedrera, Gaudi’s Casa Milà, an amazing building.

https://www.lapedrera.com/en

We hoped to tour one of Gaudi’s famous creations but decided against it because of time restraints, but we looked in the gift shop.

On our walk back to the hotel, we walked two extra blocks past our hotel and then back, probably because of deep conversation. I have Morton’s neuroma on my right foot, and it hurt terrible at this time. Those four extra blocks didn’t help.

When we arrived at the hotel, I checked email and received the notification of my book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? had won the 2022 New Mexico/Arizona Book awards in the body, mind and spirit category. What a delightful addition to our great day!

We ate dinner again outside and enjoyed the Spanish food and ambiance.

October 2, 2022—Left Barcelona on the ship

Our second morning in Barcelona went quickly. We packed up after another delicious breakfast and waited downstairs. The hotel staff helped us so much! The transfer to the port arrived on time. Pablo, the driver, spoke a little English, but I enjoyed speaking Spanish with him.

We easily checked in to the Norwegian terminal. As we passed the photographers that always station themselves for the passengers going onboard, Lin tried to avoid them, but I grabbed his arm and we took the picture.

We found our stateroom easily—we had upgraded to a stateroom and the extra space was great. We unpacked our carry-on bags, then went to the deck 15 and ate pizza and coconut ice cream out by the pool.

Later we saw the Epic Beatles show, a tribute to the Beatles! What a fantastic show with so many memorable songs!

Onboard the ship, we could finally relax and know that all the airplane rides and transfers worked and now the real fun would begin!

Finally,

Barcelona continues to be one of our favorite cities in the world. We love cruises too. Next week I will share about our one day in France and then on to three ports in Italy.

Do you like to travel? Have you ever done a cruise? Traveled internationally? Any interesting stories to share?


News, News, News!

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

~My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? WON the 2022 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards in the Body, Mind & Spirit Category. Have you bought your copy yet?

~Wish You Were Here: A Novel by Jodi Picoult, one of my favorite authors, deals with the COVID pandemic in fiction as opposed to my nonfiction book. Check it out! Interesting story!

~MY FIRST AUDIOBOOK IS AVAILABLE: Go to Audible to buy my first audiobook, Let Me Tell You a Story. I’m working on Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? but have gotten stalled with shingles.

~Do you listen to podcasts? Here are three podcasts with interviews about my new book & some Flippo stories:

Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo

~Have you bought a copy of Flippo’s biography yet? Believe it or not—it’s been two years. Go here for your hardback or paperback: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

~For me, it’s Christmas all year long! Here’s a variety of Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

My Thoughts · Spain · Travel

I Came, I Saw, I Walked!

Tennis shoes walking. I walked
I walked!

I walked and walked and walked for a two-week total of 193,199 steps! Julius Caesar’s famous quote: “I came, I saw, I conquered” inspired me for today’s topic. Lin and I just got home last night from an eleven-day Mediterranean cruise with a two-day extension before in Barcelona, Spain and a two-day extension in Rome, Italy. On almost all of our excursions, we walked!

MY STEP COUNT FOR THE TRIP=193,199:
  • September 29–4594—Flight day to Barcelona, Spain
  • September 30–0—Barcelona—my FitBit wasn’t working!
  • October 1–272—Barcelona: we did lots of walking, so my FitBit must have not been charged!
  • October 2–10387—Left Barcelona on the ship
  • October 3–14047—Cannes, France
  • October 4–15176—Livorno, Italy port; visited Florence & Pisa
  • October 5–18517—Naples, Italy; visited Pompeii
  • October 6–7126—Messina, Italy
  • October 7–12070—Kotor, Montenegro
  • October 8–9241—Corfu, Greece
  • October 9–17067—Santorini Island, Greece
  • October 10–16003—Piraeus Italy; visited Athens
  • October 11–12227—Mykonos, Italy
  • October 12–10605—At Sea
  • October 13–12231—Rome, Italy
  • October 14–26323—Rome, Italy
  • October 15–7313—Flew Home

Some of these days’ totals don’t reflect that day’s activity because of the seven to nine-hour difference in time zones from ours in New Mexico, but they are close.

But we had to walk! How else could you see the ruins at Pompeii? Or the mind-blowing Acropolis in Athens? Or the massive colosseum in Rome?

I Walked the Most in Rome!

My largest walking day was in Rome, Italy, on October 14, where we followed suggestions given by the desk clerk at our hotel and wandered around from site to site. Lin’s amazing map reading skills made this possible. Then we had an excursion that evening where we moved from restaurant to restaurant sampling traditional Italian food. I walked 26323 steps in one day and ended up with busted blood vessels on my right leg from this action-packed day!

For the next few weeks of my blog posts, plan on traveling with me. We had such a fantastic time; I want to share this trip with you! I haven’t downloaded my pictures yet, so I shared none of mine today, but be ready for some great shots!

Finally,

As I walked where centuries ago many people walked, I felt in touch with those ancient ones. Are you a traveler? Have been to this part of the world? What was your experience?


News, News, News!

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme. I walked!

~My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? WON the 2022 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards in the Body, Mind & Spirit Category. I’M SO EXCITED!

~Wish You Were Here: A Novel by Jodi Picoult, one of my favorite authors, deals with the COVID pandemic in fiction as opposed to my nonfiction book. Check it out! Interesting story!

~MY FIRST AUDIOBOOK IS AVAILABLE: Go to Audible to buy my first audiobook, Let Me Tell You a Story. I’m working on Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? but have gotten stalled with shingles.

~Do you listen to podcasts? Here are three podcasts with interviews about my new book & some Flippo stories:

Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo meme. I walked!

~Have you bought a copy of Flippo’s biography yet? Believe it or not—it’s been two years. Go here for your hardback or paperback: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

~For me, it’s Christmas all year long! Here’s a variety of Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

Ireland & England · Memories · My Thoughts · Patriotism

A Historic Week: The Queen & 9/11

Two major historic events happened this last week: the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday, September 8, 2022 and the 21st anniversary of 9/11, the day when 2996 died at the hands of an international terrorist’s attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. Both events happened miles away, but touched my life deeply.

I will never forget where I was for both.

Historic Week: September 11, 2001

In 2001, it appeared to be a normal Tuesday morning. I had gotten up early for my Quiet Time, showered and ate breakfast. My ex-husband had the news on the TV on in our bedroom. As I blew my hair dry, I heard the newscaster saying what I couldn’t believe. Both of us rushed closer to the TV and became eyewitnesses to an airplane crashing into the first tower of the World Trade Center.

Shocked, we tried to fathom what was going on. A terrorist? An accident? When the second one struck, it solidified the obvious—a terrorist attack.

For my specific description of my experience of that day, see my blog post on September 11, 2019 named, “Where Were You on September 11, 2001?

Historic Week: Queen Elizabeth II’s Death, September 8, 2022

This past week, on Thursday morning, Lin and I received news alert on our phones that Queen Elizabeth’s health was failing. We shared our concern and went on with our morning. Preparing for lunch, we received the alert she died at Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

Thousands of miles away from England, this American woman wiped away tears, and you may wonder why. Queen Elizabeth II had become a heroine to me.

Queen Elizabeth II loved horses; me, too! A Historic Week
Queen Elizabeth II loved horses; me, too!

Many years ago, I learned of Queen Elizabeth II’s love of horses which touched my ranch girl’s heart! My ex-husband and I watched Monty Roberts, the famous horse whisperer work with some of her horses.

“In 1989, the Queen Mother was reduced to tears after Roberts managed to tame her wildest horse.” https://montyroberts.com/monty-roberts-honored-privately-by-the-queen-for-service-to-the-royal-family/

“In the early 1990s Roberts toured England at the behest of the Queen to demonstrate his methods.” https://montyroberts.com/monty-roberts-honored-privately-by-the-queen-for-service-to-the-royal-family/ 

Lin and I made our first trip to England to attend my cousin’s wedding in 2017. We extended our time there, spending 10 extra days touring England and then ten more in Ireland. Being there and meeting the people ignited an interest for me in all things English and especially Queen Elizabeth.

Then in 2019, we did a cruise of the British Isles and my interest grew. We stacked up more memorable experiences with lovely Brits and in the Queen’s lovely world.

These trips ignited an interested in Queen Elizabeth, so we watched “The Crown” which filled in many details about her life I didn’t know.

Lin, a history major, remembers watching her coronation on June 2, 1953, as a twelve-year-old boy, mesmerized by the pomp and circumstance. I was born June 27, 1953, so I didn’t see it. As a history buff, Lin followed Queen Elizabeth closely throughout his whole life, probably influencedy that young boy’s exposure to her beginning. He often offered pertinent details about her life that fascinated me.

Since 2017, I’ve kept my eye on the Queen, admiring her as a role model and woman leader. We so desperately need strong women for our young girls.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip’s Relationship

When Prince Phillip died on April 6, 2021, I wondered about the Queen’s loss and the enormous hole in her life. Their marriage spanned seventy-three years—I can’t imagine that length of partnership and then that loss.

See an informative presentation named “The Queen and Prince Philip’s royal romance,” which describes their relationship.

After her death, I read any article I could find on the Queen, inspired by the world’s love for her, and one raised an interesting question, “Did she die of a broken heart?” https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/health/article-11195881/Did-Queen-Elizabeth-II-die-broken-heart.html

I do believe people die of a broken heart in the loss of a spouse after a lengthy marriage, and the medical world identifies it as “broken heart syndrome.” What do you think? Is it possible?

I plan to watch her funeral on Monday, September 19, 2022, to honor this amazing woman. It’s Lin’s birthday, so truly it will be a bittersweet day.

Finally,

I honor historic events in my life because of who I am. Today, stop and remember the horror that happened on September 11, 2001 that changes our world. Shed tears for the end of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and life, and tears of joy, knowing she’s joined her beloved Prince Phillip.

How do you honor key historic events?


Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme
Read, reflect and respond!

~I’m not afraid of tough subjects like the coronavirus. Yes, I get people are tired of hearing about it, but. . . Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

~Wish You Were Here: A Novel by Jodi Picoult, one of my favorite authors, deals with the COVID pandemic in fiction as opposed to my nonfiction book. Check it out! Interesting story!

~WATCH MY NEW INTERVIEW on Douglas Coleman’s show dated August 5, 2022.

~MY FIRST AUDIOBOOK IS AVAILABLE: Go to Audible to buy my first audiobook, Let Me Tell You a Story. I’m working on Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? but have gotten stalled with shingles.

~Do you listen to podcasts? Here are three podcasts with interviews about my new book & some Flippo stories:

Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo meme
Grab a last drink on the beach with Flippo & enjoy!

~Have you bought a copy of Flippo’s biography yet? Believe it or not—it’s been two years. Go here for your hardback or paperback: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

~For me, it’s Christmas all year long! Here’s a variety of Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

Colorado · family · Friends · My Thoughts

A Reunion Reborn!

Last week on Saturday, August 27, 2022, the Branson-Trinchera Reunion saw a rebirth after being canceled for two years because of the pandemic. The creative committee came up with a different format, which attracted younger alumni.

So, this is how the day looked! The celebration started off at Branson’s new amazing football field with two games—first the junior high and then the high school. Many alumni circled the football field to cheer on both teams. We didn’t have football when I was in school. In fact, the football field is where the baseball field used to be!

The senior class manned the concession stand and provided needed refreshments on a hot day. What fun I had talking to old friends in the cafeteria—hugs galore!

After the two school games, there was an alumni flag football game. Several recent graduates stood in front of me and my car during the game, eager to get back on the field. As the high school game drew closer and closer to its finish, they put on their cleats and stretched muscles, ready to get on the field once more. During this game, the festivities began in the gym with an ice cream and dessert social. The committee provided the ice cream; the alumni brought the delicious desserts.

Keeping with tradition, the committee displayed Tom Cummins’ amazing historical photo collection and land plats. Many alumni with their families strolled by the photos, and I heard exclamations and shouts when someone recognized a relative.

The atmosphere of lifelong friendships and storytelling filled the air. What a pleasant experience! We only had a few “ole timers,” but people clustered around them to show their love and respect. The sad truth—we don’t have many “ole timers” left!

Kaylinn Gilstrap, a professional photographer, added an art show to the festivities, with its opening reception on August 13, 2022 from 3:00—6:00 PM and its closing reception coinciding with the reunion from 5:00—7:00 PM. This art show added quite an artistic flair to the traditional reunion. Many people ventured up to the old County Garage building to view the amazing artwork from many local artists and alumni.

I served on this committee for about twenty-five years, and we had seen a major decline in attendance. The “ole timers” were passing away. Many alumni from the 60s, 70s and 80s, for whatever reason, chose not to attend the reunion, and I don’t understand why. I love the fact that we had it this year—maybe different, but we had it.

When I first saw the flyer announcing a change of date and format, I have to admit I was skeptical. I couldn’t see how our elderly alumni could attend the football games, then stay for the social time with ice cream and desserts. I thought it would be too long! It worked!

Finally, it wasn’t the old format, but is that so bad? This innovative committee worked hard to provide the event we all love—a time to get together with family and friends. You can’t beat that.   

And now looking towards 2023 and the future. Next year we will celebrate 100 years for the Branson school. What a time to celebrate! (The black-and-white picture is the original Branson School!)


~WATCH MY NEW INTERVIEW on Douglas Coleman’s show dated August 5, 2022.

~MY FIRST AUDIOBOOK IS AVAILABLE: Go to Audible to buy my first audiobook, Let Me Tell You a Story. I’m working on Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? but have gotten stalled with shingles.

~Do you listen to podcasts? Here are three podcasts with interviews about my new book & some Flippo stories:

Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo meme. Reunion
Grab a last drink on the beach with Flippo & enjoy!

~Have you bought a copy of Flippo’s biography yet? Believe it or not—it’s been two years. Go here for your hardback or paperback: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

~For me, it’s Christmas all year long! Here’s a variety of Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

~Wish You Were Here: A Novel by Jodi Picoult, one of my favorite authors, deals with the COVID pandemic in fiction as opposed to my nonfiction book. Check it out! Interesting story!

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better meme. Reunion
Read, reflect and respond!

~I’m not afraid of tough subjects like the coronavirus. Yes, I get people are tired of hearing about it, but. . . Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

Colorado · family · My Thoughts

Colorado At Its Best: A Fun-Filled Weekend!

On Friday, July 29, I returned to Colorado for a fun-filled time with my brother. We took our cousin Lisa to Cuchara, Colorado, on Saturday. Then Sunday we rose early and drove to Denver to see the Colorado Rockies play the Dodgers. Then, Monday morning, we got up and went to the Denver Broncos Training Camp! We explored the beautiful Colorado mountains and then went on to Denver and a sports adventure! What fun we had!

Cuchara, Colorado with Lisa

On July 25, 2022, I received this text from Lisa: “Are you in Branson or back in Tijeras?”

I let her know I plan to go to Branson the next day and found out she would be in the area for a while, so we agreed to find some time together.

When I arrived in Branson on Friday, July 29, my brother and I put together plans for the next couple of days.

“How about we take Lisa to Cuchara tomorrow?” He asked. I texted her, and we made our plans.

I said, “Let’s go to the Bronco’s Training Camp on Monday.” My brother stated, “If we’re going to Denver, why not go to a Rockies’ baseball game on Sunday?” So the die was cast!

On Saturday morning, Lisa met us in Branson, we left Branson at 9:30 am and drove to Cuchara, a lovely drive west of Trinidad through the mountains. We stopped by Monument Lake, driving around the lake and marveling at the high level of water in the lake. Then we drove by North Lake and I reminisced about attending church camp at Camp Salvation near the lake.

From there we drove to Stonewall, Colorado and stopped at the store there, a favorite of ours for fun touristy items. It was on to Cuchara where we toured some stores. We ate lunch at the Dog Bar outside on the patio, enjoying all the dogs and their owners at this fun-loving bar.

After lunch, we continued our shopping tour and ended up at the Yacht Club for a drink and more conversation. My brother and I so enjoy any time we have with Lisa!

On the drive home, my brother saw a bear, but Lisa and I, heavy in conversation, didn’t see it, so we turned around to find this wildlife, but we didn’t. We hit a heavy rainstorm which we all celebrated because of the need for rain.

What a delightful time we had with Lisa in our favorite funky mountain town.

Trip to Denver & Colorado Rockies Game

On Sunday morning, we left Branson at 7:00 am, just in case there was any traffic issues on I-25 northbound. Because it’s a four hour drive, we cushioned the arrival time, just in case. It was a pleasant trip with no problems.

Once we got to Denver, finding Coors Field became a major task. My brother thought there would be signage up on I-25, but there was nothing. My Car Play app on my Jeep and iPhone weren’t working correctly, so that added to the confusion. After wandering around downtown, finally we found the Coors Field’s parking lot, parked and caught the shuttle to the field.

Because we arrived early, we had lots of time to walk around the stadium and enjoy the sights. We each bought a foot-long hotdog and delicious fries for lunch. After eating, we went to the store and looked around, but fans overflowed, so we got out quickly.

Then we went upstairs to the Rooftop Bar and took pictures. Up on that level, purple seats identify “A Mile High” in that level.

What a hot day! 90 degrees and we were in the sun for most of the game. I enjoyed the game, having bought a score sheet and pencil so I would watch it closer. When we were in high school, I kept a score book for my brother’s games and gave it to him as a graduation gift, but he had to help me with some notations—too many years away from baseball!

My brother is a San Francisco Giants fan, so he didn’t want the Dodgers to win, but they did and there were Dodger fans everywhere!

After the game we found our hotel, but it wasn’t where we thought it was going to be—within blocks of Dove Valley and the Bronco Training Camp the next morning. We had a delicious Mexican dinner at the Hacienda Colorado next door and spent the evening relaxing and watching TV.

Denver Broncos Training Camp, Denver, Colorado
Me and my brother waiting in line for the Broncos Training Camp, Denver, Colorado
Me and My Brother Waiting in Line for the Broncos Training Camp

On Monday morning, we again got up early, grabbed a ridiculously minimalist breakfast at the hotel and drove to Dove Valley. We arrived before the parking opened next to the training camp, so we parked some ways away and walked.

By doing that, we got in line ahead of those parking close to the camp. We waited in line from 8:00 – 9:00 am. When they opened the gate, the workers controlled the crowd, and we had front-row seats (on grass). Then, we had to wait another hour before it started. The Broncos provided free water and also had plenty of misters where fans could cool down.

Being avid Bronco fans, my brother and I have wanted to attend training camp for years, but it never worked out before. What an experience!

There we sat in the blazing, scorching sun—ended up being 94 degrees! I wore a bare shoudlers top—I have no idea what I was thinking! But I did have a light hoodie with me and I alternately draped it over my shoulders and then my legs.

The whole thing fascinated me with all the veteran players I love and the new players vying for a position on the team. When Russell Wilson, our new quarterback gained from Seattle, came on the field, the crowd exploded.

For most of it, we could clearly see the drills and the running backs were so close, it was exceptional. Onedrill they did farther away with the non-players standing between us and the action. That drug on and on!

Our kicker, Brandon McManus, entertained the crowd during one part. He got fairly close to us and kicked the football into the crowd. Fans threw it back to him, then he moved farther back and kicked again. This went on for quite a while.

At the end, some players came by all us crazy fans lined up for autographs and high fives. My brother still for the high fives but gave up for the autographs. I got a few.

Russell practiced with two receivers right in front of us for a long time after the autograph time began and regular practice ended. Then he took off his helmet and started autographs at the end of line to the right of me.

Hot, tired and not feeling optimistic he’d come as far as where I stood, I gave up and found my brother further up the hill. I went to the bathroom and talked to a woman in there who worked at the camp.

She said I shouldn’t have given up because Russell walks down the entire line and gives autographs to everyone he can! It devastated me! So close to getting his autograph!

On our trip home, we left the craziness of Denver and ate lunch in Castle Rock and drove home. All in all, it was a fantastic time for us, but we both decided we never needed to return to training camp.

Finally,

Are you a sports fan? If so, which team? Which sport?


~NEW—Join me for my One-Year Anniversary of the Release of Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? Celebration on Zoom Wednesday, August 24, 2022 at 7:30 PM MST. Email me at larada@icloud.com for the Zoom meeting information.

~WATCH MY NEW INTERVIEW on Douglas Coleman’s show dated August 5, 2022.

~MY FIRST AUDIOBOOK IS AVAILABLE: Go to Audible to buy my first audiobook, Let Me Tell You a Story. I’m working on Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? but have gotten stalled with shingles.

~Do you listen to podcasts? Here are three podcasts with interviews about my new book & some Flippo stories:

Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo meme

~Have you bought a copy of Flippo’s biography yet? Believe it or not—it’s been two years. Go here for your hardback or paperback: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

~For me, it’s Christmas all year long! Here’s a variety of Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

~Wish You Were Here: A Novel by Jodi Picoult, one of my favorite authors, deals with the COVID pandemic in fiction as opposed to my nonfiction book. Check it out! Interesting story!

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

~What happened to you in 2020-2021 during the coronavirus pandemic? Do you care? Are you on a spiritual path? Do you want to heal from the horrible effects of the pandemic of 2020? Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

Friends · My Thoughts · square dance · Travel

Part 2: Two Special Friends Continued!

Kathi twirling - Part 2
Kathi Twirling

Part 2 of my series on two special friends continues today. I met Kathi Raver at Duke City Singles square dance club in 1997, excited to have a younger woman to relate to—she was a teacher, too! She immediately jumped in and took part in the club’s leadership.

Kathi stood nearly six-foot-tall and I’m 5 feet 3 inches, so we were like Mutt and Jeff for sure, but we loved to dress alike with our square dance clothes. When she died, we had about thirteen outfits alike.

One year to promote the Fling, we went to TASSD (Texas Area Single Square Dancers) in Amarillo, Texas—Art Tangen, our club caller, was calling. So, we decorated our petty pants on our backside with, “I (a heart) Art!” Then we mooned him when he was calling, showing him our petti pants and our support. Someone took a picture of Kathi’s bottom, and they featured her on the TASSD newsletter the next month.

I had been the chairperson for the New Mexico Singles Fling for several years, and she became my co-chair, then chaired it for several years. I stayed onboard the committee then and did the publicity for her. We had so much fun on that committee, producing major successful event, one right after the other.

For years, we did an outfit check before a dance weekend to see what we would wear each night. Kathi made several of my square dance outfits when she was chairing the Fling. She always felt that it helped me out because she liked to sew and I did the computer stuff for us for the Fling.

In 2000, she and two other women square dancers from Albuquerque went to Oklahoma City for Dance-A-Rama, the national single square dance festival. They came home and convinced me to chair the Dance-A-Rama in Albuquerque in 2003.

To promote Dance-A-Rama, 2003, the committee traveled to Richmond, Virginia, Norfolk, Nebraska and Dallas, Texas. Those travel trips top the list of my memories with Kathi. We had a blast doing it, and again, we had a major success. After DAR, 03, we promised each other we would go into the same nursing home and remember DAR, 03 and all of our fun antics over the years.

During this time, Kathi’s melanoma came back with a vengeance after being in remission for twenty years. It broke my heart to watch my spirited, fun-loving friend slow down as she dealt with this horrible disease. She continued working and daily gave herself shots as needed.

In 2004, Kathi met Lin Miller, and immediately they connected. In 2005, I treasure the memory of being present at Festigal, an annual square dance festival in Gallup, New Mexico where they met, when Lin asked her to marry him. Her face said absolute shock.

We hung out together with my ex-husband. We danced all over the Southwest together. When we were home, we danced at Duke City Singles on Friday night, then afterwards played cards until the wee hours of the morning.

Kathi’s the one responsible for my red hair. At a dance in Norfolk, Nebraska, in 2007, we went out to have breakfast. She saw a woman standing in line in front of us. Casually, she whispered in my ear, “Go ask her what color she uses. You’d look great with red hair.”

So, I did. The women chuckled, “Hot Tamale.” I came home and colored it and loved it. I returned to my natural color after a year, but in 2013 I went back to “Hot Tamale” and have had it red ever since. Every time I color it, I think of her.

During the years, we traveled together a lot. In 2008, we went to Branson, Missouri with two other couples. We cried at the Roy Rogers Museum during the show with Roy’s grandson.

In 2008, my ex and I broke up, and Kathi and Lin took me under their wing. Kathi went house hunting with me and her sister-in-law was a realtor. She would tell her sister-in-law, “Larada can’t afford this place.”

When I moved into my new townhouse, Kathi helped me find it. After getting instructions from her brother on how to do it, she hooked up my gas dryer. She climbed behind the dryer with barely enough room to get around in. She did it to save me $85.

In thinking about relationships, Kathi had a brisk attitude about them: give your mourning time of six months, then get on with life. She had a hard time watching me deal with my recent divorce—she wanted me to move on.

Her cancer came back with a vengeance again, and she kept beating it, but she couldn’t for the last time. Her powerful spirit still shown through, though. When the ambulance drove her to the hospice in Albuquerque, they went to the wrong hospital, and she had to direct them to the right one! Leave it to Kathi.

Kathi died on November 25, 2009, eleven years ago today. I felt privileged to be by her side when she died. My heart felt shattered as I stood by her bed and witnessed her last breath after our fourteen years relationship. What a privilege to be there!

Her spirit lives on around me today—because Lin, her husband, and I ended up together and married. We live in her house she built. Some might be uneasy about this. I have never had an issue because I remembered her strong directive when my ex and I broke up—take six months and get on with life.

Lin and I had a very interesting confirmation about our relationship from a mutual friend of ours and Kathi after she died. We’re all on the committee of an annual dance, Hot August Nights. Kathi and this friend were talking in the kitchen. Kathi had been battling her last round of cancer. She watched me on the dance and told our friend, “I hope Lin and Larada get together if something happens to me. They would make each other happy.” That was August; she died in November!

So every day I get to thank Kathi for so much! The memories, the fun, the craziness an her beautiful house! And she gave me Lin!

Part 2 features Kathi; Part 1 featured Candy. I’m so fortunate to have had two friends like these two women, and I carry them with me each day.

Here’s the Gratitude Log again if you need it. I shared a couple days ago.

Do you ever buy clothes alike? Have you ever been present with a friend dying? What did you take away from it?


Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

Check out Cyber Week Specials at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, on select books! 40% off of select Individual books, 40% off of select bundles and 50% off of digital copies! These books make the perfect gift for your friends and family.