Monday, June 30, 2014

Anna — 9 Months

Anюta. 9 months old.Вот нашей малышке уже и 9 месяцев. Она уже ходит. Еще, конечно, не очень уверенно, но с каждым днём всё больше и лучше.

В последнее время я с детьми по будням часто хожу на Manhattan Beach. Идти туда примерно полторы мили в каждую сторону и занимает это у нас примерно 40 минут. Конечно, немного утомительно, но с другой стороны — это неплохое добавление к физической нагрузке. Ароша проходит такое расстояние без проблем, остановок и нытья.

Должна сказать, что они оба очень любят воду. Арошу невозможно вытащить из океана, хоть он и довольно прохладный. Анюта тоже как может быстро топает к воде и очень любит ходить по ней и шлёпать руками.

Они также хорошо играют в песке. Вообще на пляже весело — там обычно есть наши старые или новые (пляжные) знакомые. Мне можно поболтать, а для детей и компания есть, и дополнительные игрушки.

Brother and sister.Единственный не очень приятный момент, это мытьё под холодным душем. Но выхода у меня нет, потому что они под конец с ног до головы покрыты песком. Анюта плачет всегда (и трясётся от холода), а Ароша через раз. Я думаю, что от всей этой холодной воды они только здоровее будут.

Мы стараемся выходить на пляж пораньше, быть там в 9-9:30 и уходим с песка где-то в 10:30-11.

А вчера мы всем семейством ездили на Coney Island. Ароша очень любит кататься на разных каруселях и колесе обозрения. Всё прошло хорошо, хоть было и жарко. Анюта тоже прокатилась на колесе обозрения и на одних каруселях. Не могу сказать, чтобы это вызвало какой-то особый восторг, но и неудовольствия она тоже не проявила.

А на прошлых выходных мы ездили в зоопарк на Staten Island. Было неплохо. Ароше, конечно, там понравилось больше. Он стал вообще как-то больше замечать разных животных и интересоваться ими. Анюта, которая часто пищит от восторга когда видит собак или зверей на ферме, была к зверям в клетках развнодушна.

Strawberries.А еще неделю назад мы ездили собирать клубнику на ферму. Ароша набрал, наверное, фунтов 5. Он даже есть её на поле особо не хотел, а хотел собирать. Анюта тоже там ползала и пробовала ягоды. Я знала, что у неё после этого обострится диатез (что и случилось, но не в очень сильной форме), но не дать ей пожмякать и попробовать клубнику я не могла. Клубника, кстати, в этом году не очень сладкая, потому что было очень много дождей.

Анюта уже неплохо может пережёвывать пищу. Зуба у неё по-прежнему два, но это её не останавливает. Она пока не особо любит овощи и фрукты, а предпочитает хлебобулочные изделия и мясо. Еще Ароша её как правило угощает мороженым, которое он ест практически каждый день. Она, ясное дело, сьедает немного, но радости испускает на все 100 порций.

Picking strawberries.Вообще дни сейчас длинные и тёплые, так что на улице мы проводим очень много времени – 5-7 часов каждый день. Мне, конечно, тяжеловато это чисто физически выдерживать иногда, но на то оно и лето.

Книжки я Анюте читаю не так часто, как Ароше, но она слушает как я читаю ему, и, думаю, этого достаточно.

Спит она днём два раза — минут 30-40 на утренней прогулке, и часа 2-3 дома. Ночью просыпаетя 1-2 раза, но меня это не напрягает.

Анюта очень общительная, много улыбается и с удовольствием идёт на контакт и с детьми, и со взрослыми. Мнногие малыши на площадке любят её, делятся с ней игрушками и хотят покатать на качелях.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Costa Rica — Impressions

View from the balcony.Alёna already wrote about things in general, so I’ll probably be somewhat repeating her thoughts here, but here are my own impressions in a few words.

Flight


The flight was surprisingly easy. Arosha has “matured” a lot since our last trip to Dominican Republic. Even though the flight to Costa Rica was quite a bit longer he spent most of it in his seat either watching cartoons (not much at all) or looking at books, looking out of the window or just talking to us. And when he needed to go to the bathroom he would just ask. The flight back went pretty much the same way.

In addition to that I myself stopped taking motion sickness pills for the flights about a year ago. I find that I actually handle flights much better lately because I’m not insanely drowsy and can just watch movies and read without falling asleep while not being able to actually sleep.

Our Hilton Papagayo resort.One interesting thing was the fact that when we landed we expected to pay an entrance fee as it usually happens at these types of destinations. We were quite surprised that there was none. However as it turned out later there is a catch after all. Even though there is no entrance fee everyone has to pay a departure tax of $30 per person. I actually would’ve rather dealt with that upon arrival than having to do all that when you’re trying to catch a plane.

Car Rental


Renting a car worked out rather well for us. I’m typically not a huge fan of beach vacations, but a car gave us an opportunity to see more of the country rather than spending it in the confines of our resort. As Alёna said I just got a decent quote from a guy in the airport — you can actually push them for a better deal, and we got the car for exactly the price that was promised to us.

Our rental — Toyota RAV4.A quick shuttle took us to their location and soon after we were in a nice Toyota RAV4 on our way to our hotel with the help of a rented GPS unit. We decided not to rent a car seat for Arosha, even though we originally planned to do so. Instead we just bought a brand new one at Wall Mart for the same price that the renal would’ve cost us and this way we were sure that it was clean and new. It was light enough and you can check it in with your luggage for free for the flight.

Vacationing.The car was big enough for us to fit four of our suitcases in and seat 5 people comfortably. Later I also was glad that we rented an SUV as some of the roads would just be not passable on a normal sedan inside the national parks. The roads around the country itself were in a quite decent condition.

Resort


We decided to stay in Hilton Papagayo Resort. However we didn’t really win much beside free Internet for all our iDevices for our Diamond VIP status. We ended up booking the vacation through a travel agency because the combined price for the flight and hotel was coming out $500 cheaper as opposed to us booking it all separately. As a result we got no points for all the money spent.

Our rooms are next to each other and 2 balconies.The property had 3 restaurants in addition to a buffet, but the food seemed quite repetitive. Italian restaurant actually had different kind of food, but the service was the worst and the food didn’t taste good. For example risottos that we ordered with Alёna were so salty that we couldn’t really eat it.

The territory itself was quite big situated on the coast of a very nice quite bay of Pacific Ocean among pretty steep mountains. There were very frequent shuttles running around, but as Alёna mentioned we ended up being pretty close to the beach, pools and main restaurants that we didn’t even need to use those shuttles.

Buffet. Checkout that fork action.Basically the moral of the story here is that as far as food goes we had the best experience at Riu Palace in Cancun and Hilton wasn’t really worth it in this situation. I think we’ll stick with Riu for our next vacation of this type if it will be available. Although maybe all the waving of my Diamond VIP card did have some effect on the rooms we got, even though we did have to move to get them.

The Beach


The beach was really nice. As I mentioned it was located on the bay and therefore there was practically no waves which can’t be said of the open coast of Pacific Ocean. When we were in one of the parks there were waves my height hitting the sand. Nobody dared to get into that water at all.

Arosha on the beach with his beach accessories.Arosha had a blast. He loved playing in the sand, jumping into the water, playing with his shovel and a bucket and all other things. He also spent a lot of time in the pools and enjoyed going from one place to another. He spent hours and hours playing and swimming throughout these days.

I on the other hand jumped into the ocean water once and preferred to spend my time hiding under a shade reading something on my iPad. I am very susceptible to sunburn and I enjoy putting on all the sunblock about as much as I enjoy the sunburn itself. Although I did swim in the pool almost every day when there was shade from the water bar covering a portion of the pool.

In the pool.Also on our last day my dad got burned by jellyfish. He had a pretty severe red line around his arm and a bad burning pain. I read that the best thing to treat this would be to spill some vinegar on it and fresh water would actually be the worst thing one could do. I suggested he goes to the diving equipment rental place that we had and ask them about it. Luckily enough the lady working there whipped out a bottle of vinegar when she heard about it and put it on his arm, so I guess it’s not a very rare occurrence there. Vinegar did help a lot. We were just glad that it happened on the last day and didn’t happen to Arosha.

Excursions


These were actually the most fun days for me, but I’ll write about them in the next post.

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Costa Rica — Vacation Start

Hilton Papagayo Resort.Vacation time came unexpectedly fast as always. As the majority of people, I dislike packing, but at least I’ve become quite efficient with it over the years. It takes me 2-3 hours on average to pack bags for the three of us, and even though I usually overpack, the amount of unused stuff nowadays makes up a considerably smaller proportion of our overall luggage than it used to.

Anyhow, we packed, we made arrangements for Shublik, we went to bed early on Suturday and got up early on Sunday. The drive to the airport was quick — we do live very close to JFK after all. Checking in and going through the security lines was a pretty fast process too. We had a flight on JetBlue.

Our first set of rooms — 404 and 406.Aroshka was excited. The best thing about the airport as far as he is concerned are escalators. He kept telling us from the moment we set foot in terminal #5 that he wants to take a ride! He had to wait for all the necessary procedures to be finished (and that included breakfast), and then he just ran to the escalators and kept going down the escalator and up the stairs (there was no escalator up) over and over and over again. By my count he did it for about 20 times before it was time for us to go and board the plane.

Our second set of rooms — 202 and 203.What I love about JetBlue planes is more spacious leg room. In majority of airplanes my knees touch seat in a row ahead, and when people lean back, it actually hurts. I don’t have this issue while flying JetBlue. We had 5 seats next to each other — Aroshka, Danya and I were on one side of the isle, and Danya’s parents on the other. Arosha got a window seat. He first watched cartoons for about 10 minutes, but got quickly bored (maybe because they were in English and he does not understand it yet). We talked to him a lot, I read one of his favorite books for a little while, he watched cartoons on iPad for a little while (no more than 20 minutes I think). He ate potato chips snack — he likes chips, but we don’t buy them, so for him it was a rare treat. He did not sleep, but we kind of expected this. I was a little worried about him using the restroom on the plane — we have not had any accidents in months, but I was not sure if unfamiliar situation will affect him — but it turned out that I had nothing to worry about.

Aroshka playing on the beach. Check out the running part.Upon our arrival to Liberia airport, we took a shuttle which drove us to Budget car rental. Danya made a few reservations with other places in advance, but at the airport he got a better price quote from the Budget representative, so we decided that there really is no point to pay extra. We rented a Toyota RAV4, and there was plenty of room for all 5 of us and all our luggage. Before the trip we bought an inexpensive car seat at Wallmart for Aroshka and brought it along. It makes me feel better to use our own car seat — not only it’s cleaner, but we also know its complete history of accidents.

The drive to our hotel was relatively short, around 20 minutes. Hilton Papagayo resort, where we stayed, is located in Guanacaste area. The bay where resort is placed is really beautiful. I did not tire of the view throughout our stay, but kept thinking of how nature can create such an amazing, breathtaking grace. There is an old tree at the center of the beach line, and due to the dry season it was absolutely naked. Each time I looked at it, it seemed as though its branches formed faces and bodies of some magical creatures.

Main buffet-restaurant.We were pretty exhausted and starving. When we were checking in, in turned out that they only had rooms which required taking a shuttle to get to the main area where beach, restaurants and pools were located. It was slightly disappointing, but not a big deal, since this particular Hilton had a lot of small bungalows covering large territory and I think that majority of people have to take shuttles to move around. When we arrived to our rooms, it turned out that they were not interconnected as we have requested months in advance, but just next to each other.

Danya went to the front desk to see if it was possible to fix this, since having interconnected rooms was really convenient because of Aroshka. After initial reluctance of a lower level manager to do anything, the upper level manager fixed it — he told us that tomorrow a pair of interconnected rooms will be available, and that if we wish, we could move. And so we did. Our new rooms were also much closer to the center, which was an added bonus. We did not have to take a shuttle to get to the beach anymore. I have to say though that shuttles were driving around often and you could always request one. Moreover, Aroshka LOVED riding on shuttles, so pretty much each night we were taking a ride just for the fun of it.

One of hotel's frequent shuttles.We had a dinner at local buffet, and the food was pretty decent. They have a salad bar, and then everyone has to order the actual meal. It was functioning as a 100% buffet only at breakfasts. There were three other restaurants, but I find that the food was very similar in all of them. We got progressively more tired of it, but this usually happens to us in all-inclusive resorts. The only exception was Riu Palace hotel in Cancun — their food was far superior to other places we stayed in, and their restaurants were definitely high end. Aroshka ate pretty well. I felt slightly bad that he was eating french fries almost every day, but he ate a lot of fruits and vegetables too, so whatever.

We spent Monday at the resort. Woke up early, ate breakfast and headed to the beach. The sand on the beach was not yellow as we are used to, but grayish-black in color due to its volcanic origin. I think it also had a smaller grain and was lighter. There was also a lot of small pieces of corral on the beach, so I guess the beach itself has a mixture of volcanic-coral sand.

Hard at play.Aroshka loved the ocean. He spent around 3 hours running around, playing in the water, playing with sand and overall being happy. The sand area of the beach was pretty much deserted. Sometimes there were people going for a swim in the ocean, but they preferred to stay under umbrellas in the grass-covered area above the beach. Which worked perfectly for us — it was much easier to track Aroshka when there were no other people around.

I used a combination of zinc oxide sunscreen by Badger, which made Aroshka and I look like a pair of mime artists, and a more conventional spray which provides a chemical block. The combination of Badger and small-grain black sand was really something, plus it was hard to wash off!

Hilton Papagayo from the top.After the beach we ate a lunch in one of the cafes, and went to get some rest. After a shower Aroshka was fast asleep. He did not require any song-singing or fairy-tale telling throughout the whole trip. The only thing that was needed is the cosiness of his crib. By the way, he could barely fit into the standard hotel crib. I fear that in a few months he will outgrow it completely.

We planned a trip to Santa Rosa National Park for Tuesday, but I’ll leave it for the next post.
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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bermuda Cruise Vacation

Warwick Long Bay beach with pink sand.Ну вот мы и вернулись из нашего первого путешествия на круизном корабле. Было хорошо, но как всегда отпуск закончился едва успев начаться.

Конечно, пустешествовать с маленьким ребёнком сложнее, чем без него. Не могу сказать, что у меня было много времени расслабиться (мы даже ни разу не искупались в бассейне и не посидели в джакузи), но всё равно было очень хорошо. Я волновалась о том как Арошка отреагирует на перемену обстановки и на большое количество незнакомых людей (когда мы ездили в Атлантик-сити в феврале, незнакомцы его частенько напрягали), будет ли он хорошо спать в чужой кроватке и сможем ли мы сами хоть немного отдохнуть. Всё оказалось совсем не так страшно — Арошке очень понравилась смена обстановки, незнакомцы и новые развлечения! Без сомнения, то что с нами были Данины родители в положительную сторону повлияло на наш с Даней уровень комфорта.

Leaving NYC.Доехали до порта в Манхэттене мы без особых приключений — Даню, меня и Арошу отвёз на нашей машине Миша, а Даниных родителей Лёня. Арошка проспал почти всю дорогу, что было весьма кстати. Выгрузившись, мы сдали багаж и отстояв больше часа в длинной очереди погрузились на корабль. “Norwegian Gem” отплывал в 16:00, а на борт мы поднялись где-то в пол второго.

Каюты наши были уже готовы, так что покормив в спокойствии Арошку мы отправились подкрепляться в буфет.

Norwegian Gem at Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda.Хочется сказать пару слов о каютах. Всвязи с тем, что Арошка спит 2 раза в день и в целом укладывается на ночь довольно рано, мы знали что относительно много времени мы проведём в наших номерах. Каюты без окон отпали сразу, но мы решили потратиться немного больше и взяли апартаменты не только с окнами, но и балконами, с которых открывались виды то на пристань, то на безбрежный океан. Большим плюсом было еще и то, что между нашей и родительской каютами были двери, которые мы днём держали открытыми. Это было не просто удобно, а очень удобоно — мы затемняли нашу комнату на время дневного сна Арошки и закрывали одну из двух смежных дверей. Если бы номера были полностью отдельными, кому-то пришлось бы всё время сидеть со спящим ребёнком в тихой и полутёмной комнате. Каюты были небольшого размера, но нам вполне хватило. Кровать была немного коротковатой для нас с Даней, но зато одеяло было очень уютным. Арошкина детская кроватка тоже оказалась удобной.

Beach at dockyard.Буфет, работающий по принципу шведского стола, был очень неплохим, хотя и немного хуже чем в Мексиканском резорте, где мы отдыхали пару лет назад. Несмотря на то, что цена круиза якобы включает в себя все расходы, за напитки (за исключением воды, чая, кофе и молока) надо было платить отдельно. Меня, как человека пьющего практически исключительно воду и чай с молоком, это не напрягало, но в тоже время от свежевыжатого сока, например, я бы не отказалась! Так же в первоначальную цену ны были включены чаевые ($12 в день с человека), и за большинство ресторанов надо было платить так называемый “cover charge” варьирующийся от $10 до $25 на человека (бесплатно поесть можно было в буфете и 2-х ресторанах).

Bermuda Coast Guard.За время путешествия мы успели охватить почти все едальни корабля: бесплатные буфет, главную столовую (Main Dining Room) и пурпурную столовую (Magenta Dining Room); а так же платные мексиканский, французский, азиатский и американский стейк-хаус рестораны. Меньше всего мне понравился самый дорогой стейк-хаус (нам, похоже, не повезло с официантом), а остальные места были вполне на уровне. В Мексикансий мы с Даней попали два раза — в первый вечер всей компанией, и в последний вдвоём. В ресторанах Арошка вёл себя по-разному. В первый день ему нравилась новизна и он отлично отсидел и обед, и ужин в специальном детском стульчике. На следующий день новизна, к сожалению, пропала и то мне, то Даниной маме приходилось отходить с Арошкой на выгул (какое-то время его можно было развлечь книжками, игрушками, хлебом и ложками, но на все протяжение трапезы этого не хватало).

Tour around Bermuda on taxi.Из еды я получила большое удовольствие от мороженого — сорта менялись каждый день, и я обычно комбинировала два сразу. Арошка тоже попробовал мороженое, и, что совсем не удивительно, ему очень понравилось. Еще из нового он попробовал индюшку и эдамаме, ну а из опробованного он подркеплялся хлебом и зелёной стручковой фасолью.

Arosha found a stick.А в целом если говорить об общем удовольствии полученном от ужина, то больше всего мне понравились первый и последний. На первый помимо отличного поведения Арошки повлияло то счастливое предвкушение отпуска, когда волнительная часть добирания до корабля уже позади, а всё интересное еще впереди. Ну а последний, наедине с Даней (идея его мамы, между прочим), был несколько ностальгическим — и по почти законченному отпуску, и в целом по всем хорошим временам, как в прошлом, так и в будущем.

Arosha and ocean for the first time ever.Следующие два дня мы провели на корабле. Морская болезнь меня, кстати, не мучила. Может, и было пару моментов когда я чусвтсвовала себя немного странно, но ничего такого что могло бы испортить отпуск.

Near Horseshoe Bay.Организаторы круиза постарались сделать так, чтобы гостям не было скучно на корабле — в театре ежедневно проходили 2 разных представления и иногда игры (Deal or No Deal); в баре на 7-м этаже играли и джаз, что-то приятное на рояле, и еще что-то не менее приятное на гитаре; в другом зале проводились различные конкурсы для гостей (такие как Newlywed or Not so Newlywed, Dancing with Norwegian Gem Stars, Karaoke); на палубе возле бассейнов и джакузи тоже иногда играл карибскую музыку небольшой ансамбль, а так же проводились дискотеки.

Our staterooms.Еще можно было поиграть в баскетбол на специальном корте или позаниматься в спортивном зале. Лично мы с Даней посмотрели одно представление целиком (там пели и плясали), одно частично (там мужчина “гипнотизировал” зрителей на сцене), посмотрели одну игру (нескольким женатым парам задавали смешные вопросы об их половинке в то время как эта самая половинка находилась в другой комнате), поучаствовали в Deal or No Deal (купив за $20 билет можно было выиграть приз, но мы ничего не выиграли), Даня с мамой сыграли партию в боулинг, а еще я спела в караоке.

Arosha at kids pool on the ship.Вообще с караоке получилось интерсно — я просто хотела спеть, а вместо этого поучаствовала в конкурсе. Дело в том, что когда мы пришли петь, начинался конкурс — причём соревновались между собой любители и так называемые профессионалы. Даня положил бумажку с моей кандидатурой в список любителей, и я пела самой первой! Песню я выбрала “Let It Be” — это единственная песня из моего чрезвычайно ограниченного английского репертуара, которуюф я нашла в списке. Было немного волнительно — больше даже не от того, что надо было петь перед кучей народа (такой опыт у меня уже есть), а потому, что певцы-любители по условиям конкурса должны были соревноваться не голосами, а способностью развлечь толпу. Я знала, что с попаданием в песню у меня проблем не будет, а вот с развлекательной частью я могла и не справиться. Вобщем, спела я очень неплохо — Дане и д. Боре понравилось. Конкурс я, однако, не выиграла (хоть и спела лучше двух других участниц) ввиду вышесказанного. Даня волновался больше меня! Хотя, признаться честно, после того как я села на место, меня немного подтрясывало — частично от холода, а частично от нервов.

Jet ski riders doing circles.Арошке тоже не было времени скучать — во-первых, ему очень интересно было наблюдать за людьми и общаться с ними. К моему удивлению, он очень много улыбался незнакомцам которые с ним разговаривали. Вообще было очень приятно, что люди относились к нему весьма доброжелательно, а обслуживающий персонал буфета его очень хорошо запомнил (два раза когда я показывалась в буфете без Арошки меня о нём спрашивали). Во-вторых, на корабле была игровая комната для детей до 2-х лет, оборудованная парой-тройкой игрушек. Мы наведывались туда каждый день, и иногда даже заставали там других малышей. В-третьих, рядом с игровой комнатой находился детский бассейн. Арошке там очень понравилось плескаться, так что водные процедуры мы устраивали тоже каждый день.

Arosha with grandpa after his first swim in the ocean.Ранним утром в среду мы приплыли на Бермуды. К сожалению, к тому моменту как мы позавтракали и собрали вещи пошёл дождь. Мы даже решились выйти на улицу, но увидев что промокнуть до нитки при таком дожде дело нескольких минут, мы вернулись обратно на корабль. К счастью, к обеду распогодилось и у нас появилась-таки возможность хоть немного осмотреть остров. Корабль был пришвартован в хвосте острова, так что для осмотра достопримечательностей надо было уезжать от дока. На 5-ти часовую автобусную эксурсию мы не решились (и правильно сделали), и услугами общественного транспорта тоже решили воспользоваться в другой день (от дока отходили 2 парома — в Гамильтон и Сэнт-Джордж, а так же несколько автобусов). Вместо этого, мы взяли экскурсию на такси (плата — $10 в час с взрослого, ну и Арошка бесплатно), которая заняла у нас 2.5 часа. Таксист по имени Дэл провёз нас по некоторым известныем местам острова, включая Гамильтон — столицу Бермуд, известный Horseshoe Bay пляж, Warwick Long Bay пляж с розоватым песком, и еще пару мест названия которых я не помню. Арошка извертелся у нас на руках, и я была даже немного рада, когда экскурсия подошла к концу. На розовом пляже, кстати, он впервые познакомился с песком. Не могу сказать, что он ему очень понравился — скорее, вызвал чувство недоумения. Там же он первый раз помочил ножки в океане. Ему было интересно — он пытался ногой шлёпнуть по приливающей волне.

Warwick Long Bay.В четверг мы решили сходить на пляж, расположенный примерно в 10-15 минутах пешим ходом от места швартовки корабля. Пляж этот платный ($5 с человека), но в любом случае даже до бесплатного пляжа надо добираться на автобусе, который стоит $4 в каждую сторону. Мне бы, конечно, больше хотелось еще раз наведаться на розовый пляж, но мы решили, что с Арошкой это организовать слишком сложно. Наше решение оказалось верным — Арошка выдержал на пляже минут 40, а потом начал капризничать. Не знаю раздражало ли его солнышко (хотя мы старались быть с ним в тени) или он просто устал, но у меня времени хватило только на быстрое ополаскивание в океане, а Даня не залез в него вообще.

Glass-bottom boat tour of coral reefs.После обеда мы планировали взять паром и поехать на другой конец острова в Сэнт-Джордж, но оказалось, что утренний паром мы пропустили, а следующий отходил только в 5:30 вечера, что было для нас уже поздновато. Альтернативно мы могли бы взять автобус до Гамильтона, а там пересесть на другой до Сэнт-Джорджа, но в данном случае поездка в одну сторону заняла бы около 2-х часов, что нас тоже не прельстило. В результате мы остались в районе дока — Даня пошёл в крепость в надежде сделать из неё пару фотографий корабля, мы с его мамой и Арошкой посидели на травке в тени деревьев (Арошка, кстати, впервые в жизни увидел петуха), а Данин папа побыв немного с нами тоже отправился изучать окрестности.

Leaving Bermuda.Пятница была последним днём на островах — корабль отплывал в 17:00, a в 16:30 все туристы должны были быть на борту. Мы решили, что снова тащить Арошку на пляж слишком хлопотно (учитывая сборы, нанесение солнцезащитного крема на отбивающееся дитя и ходьбу с хныкающим ребёнком по солнцепёку). Вместо этого мы с т. Оксаной пошли в его любимый детский бассейн, а Даня с д. Борей поехали на розовый пляж (главным образом для того, чтобы сделать фотографии). В 13:30 у нас была запланирована экскурсия к коралловым рифам на лодке со стеклянным дном. Когда в 13:10 д. Боря и Даня так и не появлись, мы втроём отправились на док к месту начала экскурсии. Я очень переживала, что они могут не успеть — на рифы посмотреть хотелось, и это был наш последний шанс. К счастью, за 5 минут до начала экскурсии они приехали на пристань на автобусе. Даня разглядел мою высокую зелёно-оранжевую фигуру в толпе, и всё закончилось нашим счастливым семейным бегом на ожидающий нас кораблик. Как выяснилось, автобус с пляжа не пришёл по расписанию, и им пришлось 45 минут ждать следующего.

Sitting on our balcony.Экскурсия к рифам мне очень понравилась. Кораллы было довольно хорошо видно через застеклённые куски дна. Так же мы видели много рыб — и не только через дно кораблика, но и просто выглянув за борт. А еще нам выпала возможность покормить этих рыб хлебом, заготовленным организаторами экскурсии. Я получила от этого процесса большое удовольствие — рыбы стайками набрасывались на куски хлеба, который исчезал в их голодных желудках за считанные мгновения. А еще мы видели затонувший корабль (очень живописное зрелище), и заплыли в зону бермудского треугольника. Экскурсовод немного рассказывал об окружающем нас водном мире, и запомнилась одна деталь — оказывается, если человк дотронется обнажённой ладонью до так называемого мозгового коралла (по бороздкам и форме он и правда напоминает мозг), то буквально через 5-6 недель коралл погибнет. Я знаю, что люди существа в целом довольно ядовитые для планеты земля, но тут это, пожалуй, выраженно особенно ярко.

On the way to Warwick Long Bay from Horseshoe Bay.Всю субботу мы плыли обратно. С утра корабль немного подкачивало, но к обеду стало получше. Мы последний раз получали удовольствие от всех развлечений на борту, а так же купили себе парочку украшений — я стала счастливой владелицей кулона на цепочке от Swarovski, а так же еще одного недорогого, но очень сипмпатичного кулона. Кстати, на корабле проводился аукцион по продаже картин, на котором помимо прочего для всех пришедших разыгрывались 3 литографии. Д. Боря и Даня пошли посмотреть что же это такое — и оба! выиграли по картине. Очень неожиданно и приятно! Картины мы пошли выбирать вместе (выбор был из 5 различных литографий), и мне больше всего приглянулся летящий мальчик, играющий на трубе. На нём мы и остановились. Картины нам сразу не отдали, а вышлют их почтой в течение ближайших 10 недель.

Arosha in his stroller.В воскресенье рано утром мы приплыли в Нью-Йоркскую гавань. Было грустно, что отпуск закончился — я бы еще с удовольствием пару дней пожила в нашей плавучей гостинице. До дома мы добирались на такси — Арошка снова всю дорогу проспал, что снова было очень кстати. Я очень рада, что Даня сделал так много чудесных фотографий — и для нас отличная память, и Арошка как подрастёт увидит своими глазами то, как в 10 месяцев он совершил своё первое путешествие за границы родной страны.
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Friday, June 24, 2011

Bermuda Cruise

Warwick Long Bay. Pink sand beach.It seems that only yesterday we were on our way to Bermuda, but alas, all good thing end quickly. I’m sitting on the balcony of our stateroom. The sun is shining, the wind is nice and warm and there is nothing, but water beneath my feet. Water as far as the eye can see. We are sailing home.

Us on our balcony.I, as always, was planning to write all throughout the vacation, and as always had no time for it. There are a lot of things to do on the ship and Bermuda had a lot of interesting destinations. We didn’t have enough time for everything as it is. Tomorrow we’ll be home and I decided that now is a good time to start writing memories down. I guess I’ll go in sections, as always, and hopefully will finish by the end of first week home.

The Cruise


Papa on deck 13. Leaving New York.For Alena and I this was our first cruise ever. And even though we were in all-inclusive resort in Mexico once, we didn’t really know what to expect from all this. Plus there is an added bonus of Aroshka and he is a handful to say the least.

As far as all-inclusivity goes it’s not like it was in Mexico. Only some places are free and no drinks hard or soft are included. In that respect Mexico was much better, but this was a whole other experience.

Ocean from our balcony.We spent a little bit over an hour in the port going through registration and check-in, which wasn’t too bad. The cruise itself has started the moment we got onto the ship. Our staterooms were ready, the buffet was open, we were in vacation world.

Beach. Water. Sand.Norwegian practices a form of cruising that they call freestyle cruising. What that means is that you can go into any restaurants at the time convenient for you and you can seat wherever you wish. This might not be a big deal normally, but when you are traveling with a 10 month old anything else would just not work.

The Ship


Norwegian Gem docked on Bermuda.The ship, Norwegian Gem, is an experience on its own. It’s huge. It’s a floating resort with restaurants, bars, clubs, lounges, pools, water slides, casinos, bowling alleys, stores and a full 2-level theater which can rival most Broadway theaters in size. And I’m probably leaving something out. It’s paint jobs is fresh, light and uplifting, compared to most other ships out there.

Mama, Alena and Arosha on Warwick Long Bay beach.The ship has 15 decks, has outdoor promenades for walking, running and sun-bathing. It also offers magnificent views of the city or the islands when in ports and endless ocean when at sea. The ship has the capacity for almost 2,500 passengers and over 1,000 crew members. It weights 93,000 tons!

Endless ocean.Even though it is this huge the movement of the ship still can be felt. Rocking gets especially pronounced when it’s moving at the maximum speed. I decided not to test fate and wore a patch behind my ear that prevents motion sickness. So did my mom. Alena and my dad were fine without one.

Parents' stateroom.The staterooms were quite small, but they served their purpose well. The best part was that our room was interconnected with our parents’ room. And unlike in hotels, when the opened door gets into your way all the time, these doors would swing open 180 degrees and would get magnetized to the wall, which was very convenient. It was also nice to have a 2nd room to go to when Arosha would sleep during the day, so we wouldn’t disturb him.

Departure


Manhattan skyline from the middle of Hudson river.This is something that I was really looking for and enjoyed very much. Armed with camera in hand I got up to the deck 13. As we started moving we were presented with very unique perspectives of our magnificent city.

Verrazano Bridge.Manhattan skyline, Empire State Building, construction of WTC 1 — everything right in front of us. However the best moment for me was sailing under Verrazano Bridge. I driven over it hundreds of times, but never under it. All in all I took a LOT of photos, as you can imagine.

Food


As far as food goes — there was plenty. A lot of different options and restaurants. The cruise includes 4 venues in it’s price — several buffets that have great variety of food depending on the time of the day (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and are open 24 hours a day, 2 large dinning rooms that have a permanent main menu and a list of daily specialties and a place called Blue Lagoon which serves lunch food such as hamburgers, hot dogs and other kinds of sandwiches. There is also free room service available 24 hours a day, but we only used it for lots and lots pitchers of water.

Arosha eating green beans. Our first lunch on the ship.As I mentioned earlier the only included drinks in the price are hot tea, unsweetened iced tea, coffee and water. Also in the morning one could get juices which were not of the highest quality. Everything else costs money. An alcoholic cocktail would typically cost around $10 and one could get freshly squeezed juices for $4 a glass. Overall it worked just fine for us.

Deck 12. Pools, BBQ.Beside the included stuff there are multiple restaurants that require a cover fee. What that means is that you have to pay a fixed fee per person and then you can order as much or as little as you wanted from the menu. One could order several appetizers, soups, salads and main courses. We usually stuck to an appetizer or two, a soup and a main course. The cover fee ranges from $10 to $25.

Alena. Dinner at Grand Pacific Dining Room.The quality of food was pretty decent. Wasn’t anything spectacular and some places were more enjoyable than others, but we sure did enjoy it a lot as far as quantity goes.

Right when we boarded the ship we visited the buffet for a large selection of foods. What stuck in my mind was beef curry, which was very good. Other days we mostly ate breakfast and lunch at buffets and for dinners we would explore different restaurants.

Mama. Grand Pacific Dinning Room.We went to Mexican Tequila Restaurant on our first night and on our last night (last night it was only Alena and I), on our second night we went to Magenta Dining Room, then we tried Cagney’s Steakhouse, French Le Bistro, Oriental Garden, Grand Pacific Dinning room and there were several places which we didn’t get to — not enough time. One such places was Japanese Teppanyaki which was always packed and ran $25 a person. There are plenty of these around us, so we comfortably skipped that on the ship.

In Cagney’s Steakhouse, which also ran $25 a person, our waiter screwed up the order of things. As a result our steaks were put under heat lamps to keep them from getting cold and I think they ended up being very dry because of that. The manager of the restaurant offered us a free bottle of wine because of the screw up.

Grand Pacific Main Dining Room.I think my favorite places ended up being Tequila ($10 per person) and French Le Bistro. Free dinning rooms were only OK. Each evening after dinner we liked to go back up to the buffet and eat fruits and deserts. And all throughout the trip we consumed several tons of ice cream.

Arosha


Arosha tries open water for the first time ever.Now this is a most important section and could be a post in its own. Arosha handled the trip very well, had no problems sleeping in his temporary crib, tried a lot of new things and generally had fun, I think. Of course the brunt of dealing with him fell upon Alena and my mom who was very very helpful. He didn’t really sleep any better than he does at home, but my mom would let me and Alena go do our own things after 7-8pm when Arosha would go to sleep for the night. We usually didn’t stay out for more than 2 hours, but it gave us a lot of freedom to explore a lot of things.

On the beach in the dockyards.When we were getting ready for the cruise we read that kids that have to wear diapers will not be allowed in any pools, including a kids’ one. Luckily for us that turned out not to be the case. For the kids who are 2 years old and older there are plenty of activities, including a baby-sitting-kindergarten service. For kids under 2 (and there were plenty of those too) there is a play room with all kinds of toys making a bunch of sounds and such, and as I mentioned a kid pool.

Kids pool on the ship.Arosha had a lot of fun swimming. Alena went to the pool with him every day and with each passing day he seemed to enjoy it more and more. The pool is really shallow, so he could crawl right in it on his own, but he insisted on trying to drink the water from it, so Alena had to pick him up all the time. He also tried swimming in the ocean on the beach while we were in Bermuda, and he seemed to like it for a short amount of time as well. I guess the water in the ocean was a bit too cold for him though, so it didn’t last long.

Arosha in playroom.When we went to eat we would give Arosha a piece of bread, green bean, or some other food and it would keep him occupied for a good amount of time. Although often it would still end with Alena or my mom having to pick him up and entertain him in some other way because he would start to get bored and would start to get fussy.

Arosha crawled into a tent in the playroom.As far as people were conserved — everyone was very very friendly — passengers and crew. They would talk to him, make sounds, funny faces and he would smile back to most of them. It really is a nice family place and people don’t mind little kids at all, which was very pleasant.

On the boat. Looking at fish.Arosha’s main forms of transportation turned out to be baby Ergo carrier strapped to Alena or his stroller. Large back-pack baby carrier that we bought right before the vacation and brought with us wasn’t used a single time. It simply isn’t practical at all for these trips. It’s way too big and complicated. Maybe if you take hikes every weekend it might work, but for vacation purposes it turned out to be an overkill. We returned it right after coming back home.

Ship Activities


There are a lot of things to do on the ship. We got to try only a small portion of activities. We didn’t even have time to go to the pools or hot tubs. We watched some of the evening shows in the theater, but found them rather simplistic. Dancing was somewhat amateur and got boring quickly. Hypnosis comedy was not funny. After several unsuccessful tries we gave up.

Deck 12.One evening Alena and I went to see a show with married couples in one of the lounges. Host, a guy named Sinan, would ask the questions of the wives while husbands couldn’t hear and vice versa and then the other one had to match the answer. That was pretty hilarious and we enjoyed that.

One of the hallways. Staterooms on both sides.Another very curious thing that happened to us was at the art auction. There was a gallery and they would host auctions daily. Everyone had to register to participate and you would be given a number for bidding. My dad’s number was 186 and mine was 190. Only two of us went from our family. There were a lot of people there. The prices however we quite high and we didn’t really find anything that we really wanted to get.

Bowling alley.The best part came at the end. There was a raffle and the auctioneer goes — the winner is one-eight-six! We got quite ecstatic. It’s not often that you win anything. The winner gets to go to the gallery and pick one of the five paintings. I’m sure they are not expensive, but it still is nice. So the room murmured and the auctioned told them to applause because the guy won, even though they didn’t. Then surreal starts to happen. He puts his hand into the bucket and pulls out another number — the winner is one-nine-zero. I raise my hand in disbelief. The guy looks at us and says: “Did you guys mess with my bucket?!” So out of 3 tickets that he pulled out 2 of them were us. Unreal. We won not one, but a pair of nice paintings.

Mama bowling. The sharpest shot I got.The night before last we all went to the bowling alley. My mom never played bowling and really wanted to try. So we played one round and I was really glad that she got to experience that. Also I got my parents to play air-hockey for the first time. That same club also had a karaoke machine. When Arosha went to sleep for the night my mom stayed with him and Alena, my dad and I came back. You see, Alena wanted to try karaoke.

She says that she tried it once a long time in Minsk, and never tried it in America. The club was full of people and I was thinking — why would somebody voluntarily put oneself through all the stress of going on a stage and singing in a club full of people, but she insisted. The book of songs had songs in English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese and Japanese, but of course no Russian. Alena picked out a Beatles song Let It Be.

Ship pools.We put her name into the bucket and she got picked first. I was slightly freaking out from the nervousness, but she just went up there. The host asked her what did she have to do to get there. I’m not quite sure what the question meant, but Alena replied that she probably should’ve drank a bottle of beer before it. And then she started singing. All my nervousness went away when I heard how good she was. I stood up all proud. Then everyone started clapping and so did I.

Ocean.She was happy and my dad was extremely surprised at how good she is. He has a lot of musical background seeing how he played four musical instruments, his dad (my grandfather) was a professional musician all his life and his sister (my aunt) was a music teacher. Of course he heard Alena sing before, but when at home she always tries to keep it down. Anyhow that was a very cool experience.

Last night Alena and I went to see Deal or No Deal and the computer would pick people out to play. I was really nervous about that too, so I was kind of glad that we didn’t get picked. One lady next to us got selected though, but she didn’t do too well. She “won” 50 cents.

Spinnaker Lounge.Also we could just go to a lounge located on one of the high levels on the front of the ship. It was called Spinnaker lounge. It had beds and large chairs right in front of the windows. You could just lie there and enjoy the view. Balconies also had a great view. Actually it was just an endless ocean and nothing else, but it felt very peaceful and romantic.

Ship guide.One day looking out of the windows at Spinnaker lounge I spotted a large flock of dolphins just jumping out of the water. We were in the middle of our journey at the moment. It felt special to just see a group of wild dolphins living their lives in endless waters of the ocean.

Beach near dockyards.Alena and my mom did some shopping on the ship in Duty Free stores and we played in a casino once. I’m sure there were other things, but I can’t think of anything else we did. We just relaxed. And spent a lot of time in Kids’ Playroom.

Bermuda


On our way to Warwick Long Bay.For my last section I left the Bermuda itself. We were supposed to get there by 8am on Wednesday, but we had to increase the speed because somebody had a medical emergency and we were supposed to meet with some boat from Bermuda who would pick that person up. So we ended up seeing the island itself on Tuesday evening. However the ship didn’t go into the port.

Fish in the water.When we woke up on Wednesday morning we were already docked at Heritage Wharf. We could go off and on the ship as many times and as often as we pleased. The ship served as our hotel while we were there. Wednesday morning turned out to be rainy and everything looked gloomy. Not at all as I imagined Bermuda. But luckily for us the rain stopped soon after and we took our first tour.

One of the scenic outlooks.There were a bunch of taxis right in the docks and we picked one guy who agreed to show us around for $40 an hour. Not a bad deal at all for a private guide and a car for the 5 of us. He took us to Hamilton — Bermuda’s capital — at first. The city was really nothing special. The tallest building on the whole island is 10 stories tall, which makes our ship taller. But we did get our passports stamped with Bermuda stamp at the Customs Building.

Park in Bermuda.The driver made a lot of stops at the scenic outlooks and we visited one of the beaches on our way back. We saw the famous Horseshoe Bay that is supposed to have pink sand from the hill, but he took us to a beach where the sand was noticeably more pink — Warwick Long Bay. All the beaches were absolutely beautiful with volcanic rock formations of different forms in azure water. The only sad thing was that the sky was all covered in dark gray clouds. All in all we ended up spending 2 and a half hours with our guide, which was more than enough for us.

View from our window on Bermuda. Commissioner's house.On Thursday we woke up to a sunny blue sky with amazing blue-green-azure water. Now that’s how Bermuda should look like. In the morning we went to a local beach. This was Arosha’s first time swimming in open waters on a real beach. We didn’t spend much time there as we didn’t want to get sunburn. Later in the day we went through some local shops. We were considering to take some tours, but we were late for most.

View from the fort.I really wanted to try a Segway tour for $75 a person, but it really only went through docks which was not fun and the day was too hot. I’ll try a Segway somewhere else. Also we wanted to try a glass-bottom tour, but they were done for the day. I ended up going into a local fort that was visible from our rooms, but it wasn’t very interesting. However the views from the top of the walls were pretty good. That’s where I took a shot of our ship that i wanted to get.

Horseshoe Bay.On Friday we only had a part of the day, since the ship was leaving at 5pm. In the morning my dad and I took a bus back to the Horseshoe Bay to take some photographs of the beaches and blue sky this time. Alena, mama and Arosha stayed behind. We agreed that when we get back we’ll take a glass-boat tour that starts at 1:30pm and ends at 3pm. We were supposed to be back on the ship by 4:30pm the latest.

Horseshoe Bay.The bus ride to the beaches took a little over 30 minutes. We got off at the right spot and started our hike. We wanted to hike from Horseshoe to Warwick. We calculated that we should be back on the bus stop near Warwick at 12:20pm to make it back in time. So that’s what we did. The views were magnificent. I took a lot of photos. All the beaches were filled with people. Some had more, some had less. Horseshoe Bay had way too many. On our way we had to climb a bunch of steep rocks and hills and I’m happy to say that my dad at his 72 has no problem keeping up with me.

Near Warwick Long Bay.When we got to Warwick Long Bay, I took my photographs while my dad jumped into the ocean for a swim. After he got out I decided that I should get into the water at least once during this vacations as well. So I jumped right in and stayed in the water no longer than 5 minutes. Now I can say I did swim near Bermuda.

Hamilton. City hall.At 12:20pm we were on the bus stop. To our dismay however the bus would not come. Something happened and they were not running on schedule. One full of people finally showed up at around 12:50pm. It took us to the next stop and told everyone to get out at Horseshoe. That bus stop had 3 times more people. And no buses. Finally some “Special” showed up and started loading people. We decided not to wait for the next one, get in and just stand. We were not making it at all back in time for the boat tour.

Glass-bottom boat tour.Because the bus was overfilled with people it was not making any stops. I was hoping only for one thing — that Alena and mama would come down from the ship to the start of the tour. But what were the chances? When we got back to the dockyard I somehow spotted Alena in the massive crowd before we even got out of the bus. I don’t know how. We jumped off the bus and ran to her and spotted mama too. It was 1:30pm. We got the tickets and got on the boat at the last moment.

Coral reefs.The boat didn’t take long to get to coral reefs. We could see all kinds of weird things growing and tons of fish through the glass. Bermuda is a shipwreck capital of the world as we were told because of all the hidden reefs. We saw one shipwreck and even got to feed the fish. There are tons and tons of them in the water. We ventured into the Bermuda Triangle as well, but luckily didn’t disappear. I thought that hour and a half might be a bit too long of a tour, but the time flew by in an instant.

One of the shipwrecks.And that was that. We were back on the ship, waiting for it to sail off back home. Exactly at 5pm it departed. We were going back full speed and the ship was rocking hard from side to side. Vacation was coming to an end.

Coming Home


Pink sand.The vacation was great. The cruise was a lot of fun for the whole family. Bermuda was beautiful and now we can stick another pin in our travel map. Too bad it was so short. It felt like one moment we were getting onto the ship, all excited and another moment we had to get off and it was all over.

Getting ready to leave Bermuda.The disembarkation procedure was simple enough. Pick a time when you want to get off, get an appropriately colored tag, attach it to your luggage and put the luggage out into the hallway. Ours was green for 9:30am. We got up in the morning, ate our breakfast and waited for 9:30. When we got off we found all our bags, but Arosha’s brand new baby carrying backpack was missing. We looked through everything and were starting to make our peace with the fact that somebody took it, since it was new and there were no checks of any kind. But our faith in humanity was restored when we spotted our backpack in the Lime section. Somebody just can’t tell the colors and they put into the wrong group.

Sunset. On the way back home.When passing through customs the officer didn’t even open our passports. Counted our passports, counted us and let us go. We caught a cab and that was that. Great vacation, great memories.
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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Floyd Bennett Field Photowalk

Trail. Taken at f/2.It’s been raining for 5 days straight now. They are predicting it will keep raining for at least 3 more. But since I got my 50mm f/1.2 lens in the mail yesterday I’ve been itching to get out and shoot.

Brassicaceae. Taken at f/1.2.Today during the lunch break the sun peaked out from under the clouds. Alena, Arosha, my dad and I jumped into the car and drove to the nearby Floyd Bennett Field (5 minute drive) for a 40 minute walk. I took a good number of shots and pretty much all of them came out great. I’m very very happy with the purchase at this point.

Pebbles. Taken at f/1.2.As soon as we got home it started raining again. Our timing was perfect. Here are some of those shots. All of these were taken at either f/1.2 or f/2.

Footprints on the sand. Taken at f/1.2.
Shell in hay. Taken at f/1.2.
Hay. Taken at f/1.2.
Papa. Taken at f/1.2.
Wooden beach. Taken at f/2.
Beach grass. Taken at f/2.
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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Walk

Today we went for Arosha walk with Alena, Mike and, you guessed it right, Arosha. I took my camera with me. Mike along with all the men in his office are in support of Movember. I just pulled a copy-cat. Here are some shots from the walk.

Beach
Mustang
Autumn
Sunset
Movember Mike
Movember Dan

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Alena on the west coast of Big Island.Из мест, куда мы ездилии, больше всего запомнились следующие.

Гавайский вулканический национальный парк


Bottom of the caldera. Cooled lava.Видели кальдеру, из которой валил дым (она еще светилась красноватым в темноте). Прошлись по пещере, проделанной когда-то лавой (lava tube). Спустились в старую и неопасную кальдеру и прогулялись там по хрустящим под ногами вулканическим камням (вообще иногда казалось, что всё простаранство залито асфальтом). На стекаующую лаву мы смотреть так и не поехали. Маруки сказали, что для того, чтобы что-то увидеть, надо брать экскурсию на лодке — и так как впечатления у них от экскурсии остались смешаные (было страшно, когда лодчонка прыгала по волнам), то мы решили не ехать. На вертолёеную экскурсию мы тоже не решились — не знаю почему, но мне жутко страшно… Может, зря, конечно, мы такие нерешительные, но уж как было, так было. )

Водопад Акака


Довольно симпатичный водопад высотой 135 метра. Мне очень понравилась окружающая природа — прям джунгли, почти как из приключенческих фильмов.

Akaka Falls.Парк, где расположен водопад, очень маленький — прогулка по проложенной тропинке заняла минут 15. В целом – стоило поехать.

Pu‘ukoholā Heiau национальный
историцеский парк


"Castle".В этом небольшом парке вроде бы и нет ничего особенного — ну если не считать развалин “крепости”, построенной королём Камехамеха, которые лично для меня выглядят просто грудой камней — но в местечке есть какое-то спокойное очарование.

Sun rays coming down through the dark clouds.Мы прошлись по окресностям, посмотрели на развалины, а потом просто посидели на деревянной скамеечке и полюбовались океаном, небом, лучами солнца, пробивающимися из-за туч. Еще мы там видели двигающиеся над водой рыбьи гребни, которые, как нам потом обьяснил парк рэнджер, принадлежали серым рифовым акулам (по размеру они достигают 1.5-2 метров).

Пляж с чёрным песком


Black sand beach.На самом деле мы немного ошиблись с этим пляжем. В отеле нам сказали, что на острове таких мест несколько — и единственная разница между пляжами, это рассторяние до них от отеля. На самом деле пляж с вулканическим песком на острове только один (и когда мы поняли что да как, мы на него уже не успели доехать), а остальные представляют собой гибрид – вулканический песок смешанный с перемолотыми белыми кораллами.

Salt and pepper sand -- lava and corrals. Вобщем, мы попали на пляж с песком а-ля “соль и перец”. Тож ничего, но впечатление от “настоящего” пляжа, думаю, было бы сильнее.

Гора Мауна Кеа


К моему удивлению, это гора является самой высокой в мире. Да-да, именно ей, а не Эвересту принадлежит пальма первенства. Дело в том, что высота горы считается от ее подножия, а подножие Мауны Кеа находится на дне океана (примерно 6 км горы скрыто под водой, и чуть больше 4 км возвышается над водой).

On our way to Mauna Kea.Изначально наш план был поехать на макушку горы (~14 тыс. футов на уровнем моря), где, кстати, находится известная астрономическая обсерватория, построеная еще в 1967 году. Однако, в свете бедного Даниного глаза, конечной точкой нашего восхождения стал центр для посетителей, расположенный на высоте ~9 тыс. футов. Возле центра висели предупреждающие знаки, что давление на вершине горы сильно меняется, и людям с разнообразными проблемами здоровья лучше туда не ехать.

Looking over the clouds from Manua Kea.По совету работников центра мы прогулялись минут 10 до места, откуда хорошо смотреть на закат солнца. Было очень интресно смотреть на облака сверху, а не снизу, как это обычно происходит. Пошли мы на прогулку в свитерах, и успели немного подмерзнуть. Температура снижалась буквально на глазах. )

Moon.Когда стемнело, мы посмотрели документальный фильм, посвященный горе, её значения для гавайцев, постройке обсерватории и установке разнообразных телескопов. После этого работники центра (вернее, добровольцы) рассказли нам немного о созвездиях, видных с горы, и очертили некоторые из них лазерной указкой. Потом мы имели возможность посмотреть в телескопы на луну, юпитер и некоторые звёзды. Нам не очень повезло с небом — половина луны нагло сияла ввышине, и из-за этого мы не смогли разглядеть даже млечный путь. Еще было жутко холодно. Мы одели еще по одному свитеру, куртки, шарфы и перчатки — и всё равно мерзли. ) Спасибо Марукам, которые предупредили нас о таких погодных условиях.

Pu`uhonua o Hōnaunau национальный исторический парк


City of Refuge.В этом парке находится так называемый “City of Refuge”, где когда-то могли укрыться от смерти гавайцы, нарушившие определённые законы, а так же раненые в бою воины. Опять же — ожидала я от парка большего. В разных местах очень небольшого парка стояли вырезанные из дерева фигуры (наверное, божества?) и не особо впечатляющие дервянные постройки. Больше ничего в голове не отложилось.

Mahaiula Beach, Kekaha Kai State Park


In the water.В этот “штатный парк” мы поехали главным образом потому, что могли. Именно так! ) Дело в том, что дорожка к парку (а вернее её отсутствие) представляет собой сплошные колдобины и выбоины, естественно ничем не заасфальтированые. Некоторые люди ехали туда на обычных легковушках — не знаю, чем они думали (хотя застрявших машин мы на дороге таки не встретили). Качало-мотало нас солидно, но зато наш джип наконец-то смог показать себя во всей красе. )

Mahaiula beach.Парк оказался пляжем, где мы увидели несколько довольно больших компаний полностью экипированых для пикника (стульчики, еда, питьё в переносных холодильниках). Мы на пляже пробыли довольно недолго (купальников/плавоок у нас с собой не было). На обратном пути мы увидели семейную троицу козлов — причём всё они были разных оттенков серого и довольно неплохо сливались с окружающим вулканическим пейзажем. К сожалению, запечатлеть на память эти лёгкие создания нам
не удалось.

Кофейная ферма


Coffee on the trees.На острове оказалось довольно много кофейных ферм, и мы решили заехать на одну из них и взять небольшую экскурсию. Расставленные вдоль шоссе рекламы кофейных ферм напомнили мне рекламы виноделен в Мэйне и Нью-Йорке (Hudson Valley area).

Coffee beans.Вообще Гавайи знамениты кофе “Кона”, которое из-за места произрастания по вкусу немного отличается от других видов кофе. Мы попробовали разные смеси этого кофе на ферме, но если честно, то мне не понравилось. Может, дело в том, что я всегда пью кофе с большим количеством молока, а на ферме молока нам на предложили. Данька (известный “любитель” кофе) тоже рискнул снять пробу, но неожиданной любви к этому напитку в нём не проснулось. )

Coffee farm.Небольшую эскрурсию для нас провёл молодой работник фермы. Он показал нам кофейные деревья; аггрегат, который отделял кожуру от кофеный ягод; чан где в воде отмачивались свежеобработанные ягоды; ну и наконец длинную платформу, где на солнышке сохли кофейные зёрна. По словам нашего экскурсовода, большой частью бизнеса для них является продажа сырых кофейных зёрен разным японским компаниям.

А ещё я на этой ферме впервые в жизни увидела авокадовые деревья. Вот уже не думала, что они могут быть такими высокими. ) Экскурсия, кстати, была беспланой, но можно было в благодарность оставить любую сумму в специальной корзиночке (мы оставили $5).

Post Scriptum


Scenic route near Hilo.В заключение, хочется сказать, что отпуск — это всегда хорошо. Да, в этот раз у нас было несколько не очень приятных моментов, которые немного омрачили общий тон поездки, но в целом я осталась довольна. ) Ну и еще приятно воткнуть новую булавку в нашу карту путешествий! )
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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mexican Vacation

Caribbean sea.We’re home. Just yesterday in the morning some of us were swimming and Caribbean Sea and now we’re in cold, gray New York. But I must say no matter how good the vacation is it is always nice to come back home. Home, sweet home.

I want to take a moment and jot down some notes before the memories start to fade.

Flying


Flying out of JFK is sweet. The ride there is less than 20 minutes which keeps my departure fears in check and saves greatly on time and taxi fees.

Near the main pool.We had a bit of a scare during check-in. First we were told that we were missing some papers that we should’ve gotten for Alena at Mexican consulate, so she can’t go. I kept insisting that I did call the consulate and the embassy and was told that we don’t need anything and kept making them recheck until they did figure out that everything is OK. That was scary 15 minutes.

After a relatively short flight1 we stood in a passport check line for about hour and a half. The line was huge and was moving slowly.

And going back was even more fun. When we got to the airport the line to AA (our airline) was spanning through half the terminal. We stood in it for 1.5 hours and started feeling that we’re not going to make it. At that time they started letting people bound for New York go ahead of the line. Ironically it turned out that pretty much all flights were delayed, including ours, so we wouldn’t have been late anyhow.

The whole “check-in” in JFK took about 10 minutes, which was nice.

Hotel


Riu Palaces Las Americas in Cancun, Mexico.During check-in I gave $20 to the clerk and asked for 2 rooms to be next to each other, be on the highest floor they can give us, and have ocean view. Inside the resort, near the elevators on our, 6th, floor.I’m not sure if $20 did it, or just asking would’ve worked, but that’s what we got.

The room had a full fridge of beer and other drinks and there was a full bar of hard liquors. I proceeded to take a shot of tequila before putting down my bag. )

The territory of the resort was not too big, but it had 5 restaurants, a buffet, a couple of bars and a bunch of pools and jacuzzis.

And no matter where you were there were always somebody asking you if you wanted any kind of drink. So needless to say we drank our fair share or all things alcoholic.

Rooms didn’t have any internet, but there was a Wi-Fi connection in the lobby, which was half dead as well. But that’s probably should be added to the “pros” column.

Activities


This is the main part of the vacation. There was no plan, no place to rush to and it was great. Alena, mama and Lina were on the beach getting their tan starting from 7am. Initially I was out there pretty early too, but as the time went by I kept sleeping later and later. )

On the beach near our hotel.The water in the sea was very clean and the color was beautiful. It was as warm as a sea can get and we did a lot of swimming. I took my Casio watch swimming with me every time and I it was cool not having to worry about it going bad and having the time right there with me.

The only bad part about the sea was the fact there was a lot sharp hidden stones under the water. Each one of us ended up hurting our feet pretty badly at one point or another.

Alena sitting in the water on the Caribbean Sea beach.Besides that we treated ourselves to the spa with a massage, dry sauna and hot and cold jacuzzi. This was the first time either one of us got a massage. We all ended up liking it.

And obviously we did a lot of eating.

Food


There is no question that there was a lot of choices. Buffets had different themes every night and there was a choice of 5 restaurants for dinner. For lunch there was buffet and Italian restaurant and for breakfast — just the buffet. There was also 24 hour free room service which a small selection of light meals.

A restaurant requires a reservation at least one night in advance, so our first 2 dinners were in buffet, but the rest were in the restaurants.

We tried out all the restaurants and I have to say that living in New York spoils you. Brazilian was a joke. A very sad parody of what a real Brazilian steak house really is. It got nothing on Plataforma and the service was horrible on top of that.

Japanese was a big disappointment for Lina and Alena. And even thought I’m not a big sushi eater, I can tell when a Japanese place is good. The problem with this one was not the fact that it was bad — it just wasn’t Japanese. Anything, but Japanese.

Tio Pepe Spanish restaurant.Our 3rd visit was to the Spanish restaurant. We were impressed. Really interesting selection of meals, great atmosphere and great service.

Steak house was OK. I for some reason had grown tired of steaks, so I kept ordering different dishes in different places, but in steak house I had to go for a steak. As I’ve said, the steak was OK. I’ve had better, but it wasn’t bad.

And for our last night we went to a place called Krystal — a fusion of different cuisines. Another great place. Delicious food. I ordered bass and I loved it — this never happens. The atmosphere was really nice, you get greeted with champagne and friendly, funny servers.

Out of 5 restaurants I’d love to go to Krystal and Tío Pepe (Spanish cuisine) again and would stay away from Brazilian Rodizio.

Chichen Itza


On Wednesday we a took a tour to Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza it an ancient city built by Mayans.

The pyramid at Chichen Itza. Temple of Kukulkan.The price of a ticket for one person was about $99 and the private tour for 5 people was $348 + tickets2. The choice was obvious. We had a van all to ourselves with a driver and guide. Our guide was really mediocre and boring, but he showed us the right spots.

They used to place the heads of people they sacrificed on top of this.It was interesting to see the Mayan pyramid with our own eyes and the rest of the ruins of their city. They were a bloodthirsty and brutal civilization and a lot of their art and architecture depicts it.

Temple of the Warriors.Later on we drove to a swimming well. It seems to be a round deep crater filled with water, and you can swim in it. The distance from the top to the water is 75 feet and from than there is another 150 to the bottom.

Ik Kil Cenote by Chichen Itza.Sadly I managed to catch a cold a day before and by this time I had a fever of 38°, so papa ended up the only one going to swim. He said the water was not nearly as cold as he expected, it was very clean and there was a lot of fish swimming in there.

Overall


All in all it turned out to be a great vacation. It’s nice to sometimes have no agenda at all and just do a lot of nothing on a beautiful resort on the shore of a Caribbean Sea with family.

  1. 3 hours 40 minutes there; 3 hours 10 minutes back. []
  2. $110 pesos per person. Dollar was 15 pesos at the time. []
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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cancun

HDR shot of the main hotel pool in the evening.We are back from swimming in Caribbean Sea for the first time ever. The color of water is nothing short of amazing and reminds me of Hawaii.

Riu Palace Las Americas resort is located right on the beach.The hotel is as good as hotels go. There are five restaurants and a buffet. So far we’ve been to buffet only, but we have reservations to Brazilian and Japanese for dinner tomorrow and on Tuesday.

Main pool of Riu Palace Las Americas during the day.Hotel has a bunch of pools and jacuzzis, but everyone is swimming in the warm waters of the sea.
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Time: 14:10   Comments: 4 Comments   Post a Comment  
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O.o teeth mrgreen neutral -) roll twisted evil crycry cry oops razz mad lol cool -? shock eek sad smile grin