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Sunday, 30 December 2012

Our third stop was at Lahaina, Maui.....

During supper, I met a computer guy, James.  On the night before we got to Maui, we decided to rent a car and drive around.   James wanted to go to a restaurant in the town of Paia.  He had been here before and liked the restaurant.

Maui is a tender spot, which means you are taken over in lifeboats.  You have to wait until all the people taking shore excursions are taken over.  The ship announces when you can go, and you go down to the tender station.

                                                                                   Banyon tree

James used his business card, and we rented a nice car.  I paid him $65 for the car and gas.  We waited about 20 minutes for them to come pick us up - the rental place was quite far away.  When we handed the car back in, we had to take a taxi back - $20. 

Maui was really hot - too hot to walk around the town of Lahaina.  I was glad that I was in the car with air conditioning.

The restaurant was busy.  It was good to eat something away from the ship.  After we ate, we sat on the bench outside, and had a good visit with some tourists.

Then we went to Walmart as we both had some shopping to do, and then went to Second Cup.  James went to the hairdresser shop next door for a shave and a haircut, and I was on my computer.

We drove back after dark - it was nice to be with someone because it was after dark, and I didn't know the road.

So a good day in Maui.

 Pictures belong to Phil Bianco and Dorothy Lloyd.


Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Jaro and the Dodo bird........

The local brew is quite good, and I am well stocked now.

Rode to the high-altitude town of Cilaos.... and the BEST wall poster I've seen so far!

Here in Reunion, I don't have a whole suite to myself - just a bedroom. The rest is shared with an older couple and a 17-year old university student, whom also have bedrooms on the floor.
I am paying 320 euros a month - roughly what you might pay for a single night at a good Paris hotel.

In Mauritius, I will have a private suite, but a bit more expensive, of course.

                                                     Unwelcome guest in the house!

We share the kitchen.  It is not as bad as you might think, because local folks like to have supper very late - like 8:30 to 9:00 - whereas I prefer earlier, so that I can get a good rest after the bike ride and also the long walk (1hr) back from the Mediatheque where I get my WiFi connection (also usually stop along the way for a bit of grocery shopping).  The kitchen is quite well equipped, except for the toaster, which I had to buy - people here generally don't eat toasted bread, just baguettes.

The newest resident of the house...

Photos belong to Jaro Franta.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Night life on a sea day.....

                                                                                   Vista Lounge

Out of the 34 days, 19 were sea days. 

When I first got on the ship, I ate a late supper.  Supper usually lasted about two hours, because I always had decaffinated coffee with the dessert.  But I met so many interesting people, that one night we stayed there until 10 p.m.

I would change about 5 o'clock, and go down to Deck 2.  There were two young women playing in the Explorer lounge - one played the violin and the other, piano - very nice music.  At about 6:30, I would go next door to the dining room.

                                                                             Explorer Lounge

But I had to quit eating so late.  I like to play Texas Hold'em, and there was only one table.  By the time I caught there, I could never get a seat.  So then I started to eat at 5:15, with the same 3 people, and we always got the same table.

The one couple wanted to see the show at 7 o'clock, so we always left the dining room at about 6:40 and went to the Vista lounge.  I would go to the show for about half a hour, then get a seat at the poker table.  The Casino was right next to the Vista lounge, so no problem.


The poker table was electronic.   The blinds were only $2 and $1, so if you stayed out of the big hands, you could play all night and be up/down only about $50.  I like to drink a glass of water, but be sure to tip the waiter - I gave $1.  Also, the pit boss often bought us a drink at night.  If you have to buy a drink, 15% tip is added to your bill  But if the pit boss buys, then tip them a dollar or two, because you are not paying the tip.   Plus, you don't have to tip the dealer.

I was talking to the pit boss about having two tables - she told me that this table was very expensive, and that Holland America was leasing it.  There were lots of players.  We had two Women Only tournaments during the last sea days at 10 o'clock in the morning - at the first tournament, the pit boss gave us champagne.  The tournament costs $30, and first and second place are paid.  We had one empty seat at the second tournament, but otherwise full.   And this was without the men, even though they were always hanging around the table during these two tournaments.

At about 11 o'clock, you could always go upstairs to the Lido for pizza.   And if you like coke, buy a soft drink card, and you can have a coke with your pizza. 

Pictures by Holland America and Pokerpro. 

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The high-altitude town of Cilaos.....

The largest settlement in any of the Cirques, Cilaos sits 1200m above sea level.

 Developed as a spa resort at the end of the 19th century, the town’s fortunes still rest on tourism, particularly hiking and canyoning, backed up by agriculture and the bottled mineral-water industry.

 The area is known for the production of lentils, embroidery and, increasingly, palatable red and white wines.

Comments by lonely planet.
Photos by Jaro Franta.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

We had many sea days.........

Out of the 34 days, 19 of these were sea days.

The food was excellent.  I always had breakfast and lunch on the Lido deck, and supper in the downstairs dining room.  In the dining room, each dish was presented beautifully, and I tried many things that I had never tried before.  After a couple of weeks, I sat at the same table in the dining room with 3 other people, and another two filled the other seats, so supper was always pleasant.     

When I first got on the ship, I was so impressed with the food and desserts that I ended up gaining 5 pounds.  I was much more careful after that and managed to lose the 5 pounds, plus another 5.

And that was without any exercise - I took exercise clothes, thinking I would hit the gym or go swimming every day.  But I never did.  The gym was busy (when I would go and weigh myself) but the pool was not.  Lots of sun worshippers hanging out, but hardly any swimmers.  However, you are walking up and down the ship every day, so quite a bit of exercise there.

There is an excellent library on Deck 10, the Crow's Nest.  Here, you can play cards, go on the internet (very expensive), work on a puzzle, enter trivial pursuit contests, and read.  There is a bookcase right behind the librarian where you can exchange books - I picked up one to read on my flight home.  The dance lessons are held here as well, so you can watch them. 

In the afternoon, tea is held at 3 o'clock.  You sit around a table and meet many interesting people to talk too.  During the cruise, High Tea was held twice, and once an Indonesian Tea. 

This is the size of cabin that I thought I would have.  Mine was much smaller - two little night tables and the queen sized bed completely filled the cabin.  But you got used to it - you could watch movies, have a nap in the afternoon or read.

Next blog, night life......

Pictures belong to Phil Bianco, Norm Burgoyne and Holland America.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Jaro biked to the high-altitude town of Cilaos.....

To get from Tampon to Cilaos by road, you first have to ride down almost to sea level (from 675m to about 135m), and then go back up from there - with a few dips in altitude along the way, including a good descent inside the caldera, before climbing back up to the town of Cilaos.

There are three tunnels, with the two longer ones near the top - the last actually crosses from outside to inside the huge caldera through a jagged peak.

It is quite dark inside, so it is tricky to maintain balance on the bike.... have to concentrate on the light at the other end.

The third and highest tunnel entrance can be seen at left, with cars lining up for their turn to pass through, after traffic from the other side clears out.

They actually fold back the rearview mirrors on the driver's side.  Didn't get a chance to watch a tour bus go through here ....

Excellent road, with very little traffic during the day.

Next bike blog, pictures from the town of Cilaos.

Photos belong to Jaro Franta.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Our next stop was in San Diego..........

There is an Old Town Trolley in San Diego, with the trolley station right beside the ship.  A day pass costs $36 and you can get on and off at any of the 8 stops.

There are many things to see, including the zoo, Balboa Park and Petco Park.


The trolley runs out to Coronado Island, where there is an old hotel.   I got off here and walked around ..... very nice.

Before you go on the cruise, look at their website, and plan what stops you would like to get off at.  You can even buy tickets on their website for $32.40. 

Listen for when the bus driver calls out questions and if you know, be sure to answer, because you will win one of these tickets, which will give you a free tour.  I answered one about an old movie star, and next time, free tour.

Photos belong to Dorothy Lloyd. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Jaro is staying in the town of Le Tampon ....


                                              Map of Reunion - Jaro lives in Le Tampon.

Back from another ride... Overlooking the apartment house in Trois Mares, with St. Pierre in the distance, along the coast.

                                              The bridge from Tampon to Entre Deux....

This is quite a ways downhill from where I'm staying, and much warmer - too warm in fact, when you consider that I have some 550m of climbing to do, to get home......
But the downhill ride to get here is a blast!!


A look towards the mountains from the bridge....

Bamboo groves along the road....

Nice roads here...

Local flora ( this is Australian species, not endemic...)

Photos belong to Jaro Franta.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Our first stop was at Astoria, Oregon.....

On the next day, when I went up for breakfast, the ship had docked at Astoria, Oregon.

Astoria has many, many volunteers -  they were meeting the boat, working on the trolley and volunteering downtown.

I was talking to the volunteers who were meeting the ship, and they were telling me about a private house full of antiques, and they told me that Holland America had a brochure of this house at their tourist booth.  They told me to to buy a bus ticket to go to the house.  Otherwise, I should walk up a block, and take their trolley going up and down the town.  I decided to go to the house, so I bought a bus ticket for $7.

I had lots of time to go and see the house, so when the bus stopped downtown, I got off and walked around. There was an old theatre downtown which is being fixed up - there is no charge, just a donation box. Well worth going to see. And the bathrooms are on the second floor, so again, well worth it to go upstairs.  I also went to the Deals store - a store we don't have in Canada - and bought 3 pairs of socks for $6, and love them all.

As I was walking around downtown, the trolley track was right there, and I jumped on the trolley. You took the trolley one way, got up and reversed the seats, and faced forwards again for the ride back. The trolley ride was $2 - and I think that if you paid $5, then you could ride it all day.   Neat little ride.

I asked the train volunteer about the house, and she said she would phone and find out.  After about 15 minutes, she told me that I would have to walk uphill for quite a way.

When I got back to the ship, I went to the tourist bus office, and asked them how to get to the house.  They told me that I would have to walk 5 blocks uphill from the bus stop.  I said that I had only bought the ticket to go to the house, and they immediately refunded my money - they were very polite and helpful.

Photos belong to Dorothy Lloyd.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Jaro went on a bike trip to the Indian Ocean.......

If you are looking at a globe, find Madagascar off the coast of Africa - the islands are to the right - Reunion (first three months) and Mauritius for the remainder.  Jaro went from mid November to the end of April.  Here is his blog....

It's a very long trip to get here - about 6 hours from Montreal to Paris, and then another 11 hours from Paris to Reunion.  Mauritius is only about 130 km away, so there is a choice of flying or taking the overnight ferry, which is much cheaper.  Of course, I rented a place in Reunion, and will do likewise in Mauritius.

                          Bike survived the flights and bus rides OK, didn't have to retrue the wheels or anything....

When you think about it, there aren't really that many places around the world where one may bicycle comfortably during the months from November to April that has a reasonably modern infrastructure, and lots of good paved roads - preferably with interesting scenery as well.

Reunion and Mauritius certainly qualify, plus the currency exchange is not bad right now either.
And I didn't even consider Mauritius until I found out that I can't stay on French territory for longer than 90 days without a visa  (and it was too late to get one by the time I found out, and the flight was booked)....

                                                            Arrival at Roland Garosse airport, Reunion.

After nearly three weeks here, I have yet to see any big tourist beach hotels.  Part of the reason is that I haven't been to the beach yet, but I can see from my location several km away that there aren't any, at least not on this part of the island ( I think that cities in the north end of the island tend to be more touristy...)

The economy here is problematic - I heard that the unemployment rate is around 30%.  There is much subsidization from the French mainland, and the rest is mostly sugar cane and small scale construction.

Photos belong to Jaro Franta