Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Another dream

You want to talk about making other people’s dreams come true? I know I talked about my husband making my dream a reality while in the process of a previous blog, but what I didn’t mention was that my sister just about fell through the floor when I invited her to go on this trip with me.

Karalyn is a lucky girl. It’s just as expensive for one person to travel as it is for two. If you want to go on a guided tour alone, like I did in Eastern Europe, you have to pay what is called a “single supplement.” It’s to make up for the fact that there is a price difference between a double room and a single room, especially in Europe. The single room is cheaper, but not quite half the cost of a double room. My favorite tour company is great about really low supplement costs, so I still tour on my own.

But cruise lines are different. On a cruise, you pay per person. There are no single rooms, because they can make twice as much if they require you to pay for double occupancy. So even if I were to go alone, I would still have to pay for another person, whether I bring them or not. My sister is simply lucky because she tends to be the only one with the available time to go with me. And she’s lucky that she’s a good travel companion, minus the bathroom hogging. She needs a lot of rest, just like I do, and won’t go at the insane speed I’ve seen people her age go at on these cruises.

The bonus? I, thanks to my husband, get to take her to see the world, bit by bit. Up until two years ago, she’d never been on an airplane. I’ve taken her to the Bahamas, California, and Mexico. And now, I’ve taken her to see something that had her speechless. Yes. That’s a miracle.
We all have something we love, some subject we love to study more than any other. It’s the reason my husband tours Civil War battlefields. It’s the reason why I’ll give in and watch hours of WWII documentaries on the History Channel. And it’s the reason why my sister took several hundred pictures while we were at Olympia. She’s a Greek mythology fanatic.

We arrived at Katakolon after our stop in Corfu. Olympia is an archeological site where the first Olympics were held, and now there is a museum and acres of ancient ruins. And Karalyn quickly lapsed into a trance when we walked through the doors of the museum.

This is a satisfied kid.

Doesn’t she look at home among the ruins?

And who is this cranky woman roasting in the sun?

Today’s lesson: While getting away on your own can be relaxing and fulfilling, there’s something about bringing along someone who can share in and appreciate all the amazing sights this world has to offer.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Make a wish!

There is a wishing well in Corfu at the Monastery of the Virgin Mary. The monks say you have to toss a coin into the well over your right shoulder and think your wish…

…and toss!

Ah, to be a dreamer.

This monastery was so peaceful, despite the heat and the throng of tourists. Even I looked mollified.

In fact, this may have been the second happiest day of the cruise for me. It was ranked first until later, but, as you know, I’m writing this way after the fact.

This was the coldest water ever. Colder than Lake Superior in the fall.

But I’m the happiest girl with goosebumps.

Today’s lesson: Getting your feet wet can be even better than diving in head first. Especially if the experience is bound to shock you either way.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Another day, another country (or two)


It’s always a numbers game. I want to see as many countries as I can. I want to see as many places as I can.

So when the opportunity to drive through Bosnia-Herzegovina during our stop in Dubrovnik, Croatia came up, I jumped on it. It turned out to be the best excursion we could have chosen. A beautiful drive up the coast, a stop for a snack overlooking a bay in Herzegovina, a boat ride through a marsh delta in Croatia, and lunch by the river.

Since there really are no words, here are the best of the best of our pictures.

Here I am in Herzegovina. Another country down. And darn happy that I just got to have orange Fanta out of a glass bottle.

And Karalyn being dweeby while I’m trying to figure out how to set the camera so we actually show up in the photos.

Ah, here she is, looking carefree in a way I’ve never found possible for me.

There is a Croatian tradition that you offer your visitors a shot of brandy and a dried fig.

Here’s Karalyn with the brandy (rocket fuel, I tell you, and yes, she’s legal to drink in Croatia).

And biting a fig.

You can’t beat this view from our riverside restaurant.

Me again. I know exactly what’s going through my head at this moment.

“I hope my hat doesn’t fly off. Again.”

Today’s lesson: Sometimes you have to shut up and take a look at what’s surrounding you. I guess that’s a less demure way of saying you should stop and smell the roses.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The blogs begin

I'm sitting at a desk in the beautiful St. Regis in Rome. Things have finally settled down enough here that I can post at least one of the blogs I have already written from the cruise. So here goes!


How do you make someone’s dream come true? Well, I suppose it’s different depending on the person’s dream. And some dreams are easier than others. I’m blessed. I really am. Because my dream was a tall order, and my husband not only decided to foot the bill, but he carried my luggage and stuck me on a plane.

Those of you who read my blogs know I’ve been many places. But I’ve always felt that going to Greece had to be special, like it was the final step in my travel journey. I thought once I got to go that it would be the end of my traveling days. We’ll just have to see about that.

After laying over in JFK and Rome, I met up with my sister in Venice. We caught a cab out to the port and promptly passed out in our stateroom. Jet lag is a killer, and Karalyn swore up and down she wouldn’t get it. Since I’m writing this blog days after our arrival, I can confirm that jet lag is still kicking both our butts.

I wish I could say that Venice was a dream. It wasn’t. We ended up being there before 10 in the morning, and all the really good shopping was closed. It was fine, but Venice really is a city for lovers. It’s all about romantic restaurants and gondola rides in the moonlight. So K and I wandered around, took our pictures, and got back on the boat to go back to the ship. That was that. That was Venice.

Today’s lesson: Don’t underestimate the effect messing up your schedule can have. 17 hours in airports and a jump ahead in time can feel like crashing into a brick wall when it finally catches up to you.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Meet Karalyn

This is my sister. I will admit that I lovingly stole this picture from her Facebook page. It's a pretty accurate portrayal of her attitude, I swear.

What prompts me to write a blog about my little sister? Well, blog readers, you'll be seeing a lot of her in the coming weeks. My husband is sending Karalyn and I on a Mediterranean cruise this month. I offered to take him, but he's sending my sister instead so he doesn't have to take any time off work. :-) Actually, that's only partly true. He's also sending her because, like me, sometimes she just needs to escape.

To say my sister and I are alike would be an outright lie. She's outgoing, and I'm an introvert. She's a little tall, I'm a lot of short. She likes very different clothes and very different shoes. She likes to spend time on her hair and makeup, whereas I have a perm so I can shake and go, and my makeup lives in my purse so I can put it on only in the event of an emergency.

Then again, we're not opposites, either, which is not to say it's genetic. We spent a great deal of our childhood alone together, rebelling against the clean and beating the stuffing out of one another. She is 6 1/2 years younger than me, but grew much, much faster. We began arguing over clothes when I was in high school, my wardrobe slowly disappearing into her closet, piece by piece. Every month I had to make a pilgrimage into her room and bring all my shirts back to their home in my room. And the white shirts? Never survived a day if she wore them.

So now that we're grown, we have our own styles and our own lives, but we still come together to whine about our parents, men, friends, pets, and whatever randomly pops into our heads. We get online or on the phone and watch movies together, 1052 miles apart. I miss her. I know how much she loves where she lives, but I sincerely hope she makes her way down here someday.

That said, now that I've been given the gift of travel, I love dragging her with me. We do cruises together, and it's a riot. She never puts down her phone, but she also walks my drunk butt back to the cabin after I've had one too many blue cocktails. She gleefully dresses for dinner and goes with me to dance to dances we don't know the steps to. We get stuck at group tables on cruises, always the odd ones out, so I'm glad to have her. I've now seen enough of the world that I'm excited to share it.

My sister, like my husband, is a history buff. Which is another place she and I differ. I'm a science and math nerd, and she really blossoms when the talk turns to history, especially of the ancient sort. She can research and write fantastic papers without a whole lot of effort. So when I mentioned Greece and our upcoming itinerary, she was all over what we had to see and the stories behind each location. And, for once, I get to teach her something, because our cruise makes a day stop in Turkey. Not only have I been to Turkey, I've been where we're going. Plus, I can shop in Turkish. That's right. Turkish. I can't wait!

Basic facts about my sister:

1. She has had a part in ALL my weddings. She was in the first two. And she helped me with a dress emergency at the last minute with my dress for the third. "Kris, do you OWN a slip?"
2. She changes her major at least as often as she changes her hair. The current one is history, and I think she might just stick with it! Mostly because it was my idea.
3. She doesn't eat pork. She just doesn't like the taste.
4. She loves animals. She has a house full of them.
5. Speaking of which, Karalyn lives in my house. She's taken the little place I bought with so much hope and turned it into her home. I had a lot of sad endings there, so I'm glad the house has renewed purpose.
6. Her luck with cars is much like mine. They're either crashed or they break down.
7. Karalyn has a million friends. I mean it. A million. She'll out of the blue start talking about someone and I'm always like...."Who?" With a big, bubbly personality, she is a magnet for friends. Unfortunately, that means lots of enemies, too. Family tradition, I suppose.
8. She is not the most camera savvy. Which is why when we get back from our trip, you will see 300 pictures of her, and maybe 2 of me.
9. Her first plane ride was only two years ago to see me in DC. Shortly after, I surprised her by dragging her on another plane for a cruise to the Bahamas. And she can snorkel like a pro.
10. The kid commits more cell phone homicides than I'd have ever thought possible. I mean it. For as much as she loves being on the phone, you'd think she'd be kinder to the ones she owns. But not so much.

Today's lesson: Stolen from Mulan. "The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all." My sister and I didn't have the most idyllic childhood, or even the friendliest relationship during out younger years. But by standing together through the roughest of times, we get to enjoy each other with unconditional love. Even when I trip over her doing the electric slide, or she lands another phone in the electronics morgue.