My Life as a Traveler

Spain cruise Jan2012

The Rest of the Spain Cruise Adventure


I have to interrupt this program.

Yes we had a fantastic trip to Spain and continued on to visit the island of Lanzarote, a totally black-soiled isle home to the active Timanfaya volcano, wine produced by grapes grown in volcanic soil, the artist Cesar Manrique, and some mighty fine seafood.

Cruising past the coast of Morocco and the island of Ibiza, we docked in Malaga, but did not linger there. With the help of our newfound friends we made on ship through, I put together a private tour to Granada (3 hours away) to see the magnificent Moorish palace, the Alhambra.

After one more day at sea, we ended the trip in Barcelona. Norwegian Cruise Line wants us off the boat early, so we had the entire day free before boarding our flight home the next morning. We bought an all-transport day pass and went to the highest peak and walked through the barrio to the beach.

And, strangely enough, I’ve been home since the middle of January, and it’s now May. George has been traveling, but just short trips where it wouldn’t have been a good deal for us to go.

But now, I am getting ready to hit the road again, and this is a biggie.

Tune in to the next post to see where…..

Canary Islands Calamity, Part 2

After our scenic lunch, we hop back into the car to explore the rest of this part of the island. We find a fertile valley with a hill like a wart smack in the middle of it. However, the wart has slices cut out of it. The local folks here found some useful ore in that wart and mined it slice by slice. Not sure how long ago that was, but it didn’t look like they were mining now when we drove by.

We hit the rocky coast and stopped for a stroll. A golf course dramatically set along the shore had a trail alongside that just begged to be walked. We explored tide pools, got close ups of cacti, and watched the golfers zip around in their carts. The weather was perfect, and it looked like a great ending to a great day.

Not wishing to drive back the same way we came (hate to do that!) we headed back to port around the other side of the island. Much more verdant than the dry side, we passed by towns large and small that just begged to be discovered, but we forged on. Morgan’s asleep in the back seat. We still had 2 hours before we needed to be back to the ship when we saw the sign saying we only had 20 kilometers to go. Time for a detour!

I looked on the map and found a scenic drive with a great view over the mountain range closest to our ship.  Looks like it was only another 20 kilometers out of the way. No problem, we thought, let’s take the scenic drive. We got off the freeway and wound our way up the mountain to the most amazing viewpoint you can imagine. You could see Teide volcano looming over the valley between these mountains where the airport is located. This airport is the infamous location of one of the biggest airline disasters in history In 1977, two Boeing 747 airliners collided there in the fog, killing 583 people. From the viewpoint, you could really see how fog could fill that valley. We woke Morgan up so he wouldn’t miss it.

Well, it was about an hour before the ship leaves, and we have 10 kilometers to get down the hill (the other way, can’t go the same way twice!) and another 5 or so to get through town to return the car and get back to the ship. No problem! That is, until we started driving. The road became tiny and clogged with Sunday drivers. Our speed dropped to 10 Km/Hr. Yikes! After about 10 minutes of this, we got really nervous. We had gone too far to go back the other way, yet if we continued at this speed, we would miss the ship! Plus, we couldn’t remember if we needed to get back by 5pm or 5:30pm. That was then George started really driving. We started speeding around hairpin turns, tailing the slow drivers until we could pass or they pulled over, and watched every slow kilometer pass. Hearts were beating fast and we contemplated what we would do if the ship sailed without us.

Finally, we got off the mountain and headed on the road to the port. Aaarrgh, stoplights! It took us another 15 minutes to go the 5 km to the car rental agency. We hurriedly parked the car, gathered all of our stuff and RAN to return the keys and see if we missed the bus. Out of breath, we were happy to see that we had a bus coming to take us to our ship, and it wasn’t even the last one. Turns out we had an extra half hour of time to spare before last call. Phew! I have never been so relieved in my life.

We were shaking with stress as we headed up to our cabin and poured a glass of smuggled wine to enjoy on the balcony. Sunset graced the volcano as we said goodbye to Tenerife.

Canary Islands Calamity, Part 1

Today we’re in  Tenerife, one of the larger Canary Islands. These islands are in the Atlantic off the coast of Morocco, so the weather is mild. After a busy day of canyoning, we are ready for a small break. We have a reservation for a car and plan to drive around the island, circling the still active volcano, Mt. Teide. Teide is the highest point in Spain at over 12,000 ft and is the third highest volcano in the world, measured from its base underwater. We are not going to explore it today because there is a more interesting volcano in Lanzarote, our next stop.

Getting to the car rental office at 9am, we find a huge line. It’s 45 minutes before we’re out the door and on our way. Unfortunately, the car has no gas in it. I hate it when they have you start with an empty tank and expect you to return it empty. Really, you know that the renter will always put more gas in than was in there when he picked up the car… but that’s another rant for later. We all have a huge fear of running out of gas in an unknown place, so we stop at the first station on the way out of town.

Like many volcanic islands, there is a dry side and a wet side. They’re called leeward and windward, but I just can’t seem to wrap my brain around which is which. All I know is that when the rainclouds come over the island, they can’t make it to the other side without smashing into the mountains and leaving lots of moisture. After the rain dump, they either dissipate or roll over the other side of the mountain, which stays dry because of the mountainous windbreak. As we drive around the island, we are on the dry side, where there are not too many towns.

Once we turn the corner, though, we see more resorts and attractions. Hang gliders are floating overhead. But we are on our way to the Masca Valley.

Before 1971, the only way the 100 or so inhabitants of Masca could get to civilization was by walking 3 hours down a valley between the jagged volcanic peaks or by burro 3 hours up and over the hill the other way. Many people did not even know this village existed. After the road was built, this hidden village was more accessible. It’s an amazing location, with the old traditional houses built along the crests of the mountain. That 3 hour walk downhill is now trekked by tourists, and I was hoping that we could figure out a way to do it once we got there. Unfortunately, you need to pre-schedule your boat ride to the nearest town and get back to your car somehow, or walk the 3 hours back up. You really need to be staying on the island to do this. Too bad.

We did drive through and up the hill where we found a restaurant with a magnificent view of the town. The sun was shining and we all (even Morgan) ordered beer and lunch. It was one of those perfect moments.

Later today, those perfect moments will be balanced out with moments of terror…..


On every trip, I plan an excursion that Morgan would consider worthy. It has to be relatively unique, something we wouldn’t do at home, and have a certain amount of danger. However, it also has to be something that George and I can do as well. After researching activities in each port using the boards at www.tripadvisor.comand the boards at, I came across this little company called Harmony in Nature who lead canyoning expeditions in Madeira. After a few emails back and forth, a trip was scheduled for our stop there.

We pulled into Funchal before sunrise and watched the day begin in the city. After disembarking the ship, we spied Hugo and Ruby in their van, got in, and headed through the city and up the mountain. Actually, Madeira is all mountains, pretty much straight up and down. Turns out that because of this, it is one of the world’s primo canyoning locations. Who knew?

So, you might be asking, what’s canyoning? Well, first you find a canyon. Then you walk to somewhere near the top of it and get yourself down to the bottom of it by walking, swimming, jumping, climbing, and rappelling. And it’s fun!

The van stopped at the end of the paved road at an old concrete house on the side of the hill. We changed into swimsuits and wetsuits in the side yard outside. It was a little chilly, temperature in the 60’s, so we were pretty quick about it. As we were finishing suiting up, a woman herding sheep came down the hill from behind the house. Back to the driveway, we find Hugo and Ruby all packed and ready to go. They helped us get a better fit in the wetsuits and off we hiked along the hill toward our canyon.

In about 30 minutes, after passing 200-year-old houses and gardens, we found a hole in the brambles alongside the road and descended through a tunnel of brush to the river. Well, it wasn’t much of a river; the water was low. Good for us newbies, though. After a brief tutorial practice rappelling on fairly level rocks, we were off down the canyon.

Our first drop was about 30 feet. Hugo hooked up the ropes and Ruby rappelled down the waterfall and stood in the bottom of the pool, holding the rope. Morgan got hooked up, and down he went.  Easy and fun! Then George, then me. Really, anybody could do this. Because Ruby was holding the ropes below, there was no way that we could fall, even if we weren’t holding on. She let the line out enough, though, so we could control our own descent.

As we continued down the canyon, there was more rappelling, some butt-sliding and some jumping into the pools from the rocks above. Some pools were so deep that we had to swim to the other side, cumbersome in the wetsuit. The water was close to freezing temperature – anything that wasn’t covered by the wetsuit was take-away-your-breath cold. Verdant mosses and ferns clung to the rocks along the river. Primordial cascades of flowers from the trees above glittered in the sunlight. This is January, in May it’s even more flowerful.

About halfway down we stopped for a chocolate and water break. A local man with a radio was sitting on the ledge above us. He was almost midget-short and kind of reminded us of a hobbit. Refreshingly, he didn’t want a thing from us and just smiled. We smiled back.

We continued down the canyon until we found a trail alongside an old irrigation channel. The exit to the canyon led us back up through an old-world homestead. We picked some banana passion fruit from the wild trees growing in their yard. It was like a juicy yellow pomegranate. Back at the car, we unpeeled our wetsuits and changed back into our street clothes. On the way back, Ruby took us into their local supermarket and we bought some Madeira wine, sweet like Port.

After saying goodbye to our guides, we packed our wine in our packs and headed for the ship. We figured since they didn’t care about our bringing wine aboard in Barcelona, they wouldn’t care here. Wrong! As our packs went through the x-ray machine, we were told to line up down the hall and deposit our wine to be picked up at the end of our cruise. They did not want us drinking wine that was not sold on the ship! Unfortunately, the line was long, the wine check-in guy never heard the x-ray guy, and I had to go to the bathroom. We slunk down the hall, hoping nobody would catch us with our contraband. Thankfully, nobody did.

We left Madeira with memories of what I knew would be the highlight of our trip. Watching the sun set and the lights go on in Funchal, we toasted Hugo and Ruby as I tried to figure out how to get back to try the next level of canyoning (longer walk to canyon, higher drops, longer in canyon) in Madiera.

Watching the Medical Emergency

It’s day two at sea and there’s more of the same on tap. Sleep in, a quick breakfast, then Latin Fitness at 930am, then yoga up on the deck.

On our second day at sea, there are more people sunning themselves next to my yoga spot this morning. I’m a little self-conscious to be doing yoga while the white Russians next to me are working on their sunburn, but I’ve got my headphones on and my favorite yoga podcaster, Elsie at Elsie’s Yoga Kula is encouraging me to stay just a bit longer in pigeon pose. I’m thinking they really need a seagull pose as I watch the birds fly overhead when I hear the captain’s voice over the intercom. “We have a medical emergency.” Oh my, deja vu.

I flash back to lying in the hospital bed just six months ago on the Diamond Princess and I say a prayer for the person who’s in the ship’s infirmary. I’m a little ashamed to say that I’m thoroughly thankful that it’s not me this time. The captain announces that a helicopter is coming to evacuate a passenger who requires more medical attention than the ship can offer. I stop Elsie’s podcast and gravitate toward the railing. From my position on the smokestack deck, I have a perfect view of the drama that is about to unfold.

A red and white helicopter appears from the direction of the mainland and hovers over the other high deck of the ship. The ship is still cruising forward and the helicopter pilot keeps pace. Slowly the helicopter gets closer to the ship. Is it going to land? It’s not clear. More and more people crowd the rail to see what’s going to happen. The helicopter is still hovering over the water, not the ship. Suddenly, a line is dropped from the helicopter and caught by an unseen crew member. The helicopter seems to be tethered to the ship. Then a guy (or gal) jumps out of the helicopter and ziplines down to our boat. Wow. A basket follows.

For what seems like a long time, the helicopter hovers alongside the ship, attached by a rope like a balloon to a child’s wagon. Then we see the basket again. There’s a person in the basket this time and they’re being hoisted up to the helicopter. Geez, I hope the person didn’t have a heart condition, because hovering 15 stories over the water in a basket on a rope connected to a helicopter is not my idea of calming care. After some finagling, the basket is back in the heli and I’m sure it’s not just me who’s wondering how the first guy (or gal) is going to get back up there. More minutes pass and it looks like the cable has gone slack, but just for a minute. Next thing you know there are two people, our first guy (or gal) and another person who is hugging his midsection for all they’re worth being hoisted up to the helicopter. The helicopter, now released from the ship, slowly moves away as the two people are being pulled up. I think we all breathed a sigh of relief as the helicopter closed it’s doors and circled above us on it’s way back to land.

Supremely thankful that there are services like this available, I head back to my cabin, hoping that the person who got the helicopter ride had insurance and, more importantly, was going to get the help they needed. I believe that if they had travel insurance, the helicopter ride and zipline experience would have been covered, as well as their $8,000 daily bill in the infirmary, and any other medical costs they will incur back in Spain.

After that, everything else seemed somewhat more brighter. Got George to a merengue class, read some more of my book, had a nice steam, dinner, and show. Early to bed, though, we have a special excursion planned tomorrow in Madeira.

Spa Vacation at Sea

One of the reasons we chose this particular sailing is that it has just as many days at sea as it has in port. Here’s our itinerary:

Day 1 – Leave Barcelona

Days 2 and 3 – At sea

Day 4 – Funchal, Madeira

Day 5 – Tenerife, Canary Islands

Day 6 – Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Day 7 – At sea

Day 8 – Malaga, Spain

Day 9 – At sea

Day 10 – Back to Barcelona

Today is day 2 and we are at sea. Many people who haven’t cruised before say that they’re afraid that the sea days would be boring. I find them anything but. They are often my favorite days of the entire cruise. So, what do we do today?

Well, Morgan is off to the teen center. I’m not sure if he found some friends last night at the orientation or not. Back in the old days, George and I would take Morgan to the kids club on the first night of the cruise, sign him in for activities, and sign him out when the activities were done. Until about age 12, parents need to show up and physically sign kids in and out of the kid’s club. Operating times were 9am – 12noon, 2pm – 5pm, 7pm – 10pm, not that I had them memorized or anything. But these days, Morgan can come and go as he pleases. Sometimes I find him in our cabin reading, sometimes I see him with a few other kids getting ice cream. You just never know where he might be. We don’t really care, as long as he participates in shore activities with us.

George has a good book and is on the balcony of our cabin. We’re rather spoiled that way. There’s nothing like reading a book on your own balcony, with everything you need just right in the room behind you. It’s quiet (unless you have noisy neighbors – ours are from some Eastern European country and they’re not bad), there’s shade (or sun), and you have an unlimited view of the sea. I’ve seen dolphins, flying fish, and different types of birds; heck, even the way the waves break are mesmerizing. So that’s where I usually find George. If he’s not there, he may be walking the deck, but that’s only in the morning.

Where am I? Well, I’ve decided to make this cruise NOT an all-you-can-eat lazyfest. No, it’s a spa vacation. I vow to eat healthy (light breakfast – yogurt and prunes, my favorite, for obvious digestive reasons), and exercise when I can. One option for exercise is the substantial fitness center with every type of cardio machine you would find at the Y, weights, balls, and a nice studio where they offer yoga, pilates, spinning, and other types of aerobic classes. The gym part is free, but they charge for the classes there. But even though it’s a spa vacation, I am not spending much time in the fitness center.

Why? At 9:30am every day at sea in the Medusa Lounge, Mercedes from Peru brings her Latin music to the dance floor for Latin Dance Fitness class – for free! For about 40 minutes, we shake our booty to great music and fairly simple steps. Love this. Then I go downstairs, grab my yoga mat and head up to the smokestack deck before the sun worshippers come out and do some yoga with a view of the entire Mediterranean. Love this, too.

After that, shower, a good book, a big salad and some Indian food with George on the back deck for lunch, back to the room for a nap, then a line dancing class at 3pm. I’m not much of a line dancer, but it gets me up and moving. To continue my spa experience, I put on my swimsuit and head to the women’s locker room at the fitness center. There is a steam room there that is free and definitely not advertised. I have the place to myself as I breathe, breathe, breathe. Sooo relaxing.

We dress for dinner early, have a nice glass of Cava on the balcony, before we head out to dinner and see the show.

Before we know it, it’s bedtime. More spa day tomorrow.

Cruisin’ Time

After an amazing breakfast of champagne, eggs and Spanish ham, chocolate pudding and cream puffs, it’s time to leave sweet Sitges and take the train up to Barcelona and board our cruise ship, the Norwegian Jade.

But first, there’s one last walk through town for a little shopping. Can’t believe that I left my makeup at home, so I find a pharmacy and buy some L’Oreal foundation. It’s more expensive than home, yet I know prices in Spain are less than in France or Germany. Also, looks like black legs are back in, not bare legs with dresses. My dress is black, so I find some black hose to complement it. There’s an entire little store in the old town devoted to hose, and it’s packed this morning. I find my size and get back to the room – it’s time to go.

The hotel desk clerk gives us directions to the train station and it takes us five minutes to roll there. After buying tickets (using my Spanish, it works!), the train comes in ten minutes and we scramble up to the top level. It’s a pretty ride right along the coast until we get to town.  A strolling musician is at one end of the car plays a tune, then comes down the aisle with his hat. We find a taxi to take us to the ship and before we know it, we’re at the port. (Cost of train 3Euros each for a 25 minute ride, cost of taxi 18 Euros total for a 15 minute ride – not bad.)

It’s a quick process to get our cabin keys and board the ship. We’re a little nervous, though. In Sitges we bought some Cava (local Spanish champagne) to bring on the ship. It’s a new policy that we’re allowed to bring a bottle each of wine aboard ship. Just last year, boarding passengers were not allowed to bring any alcohol at all with them — the cruise line wants passengers to only consume the expensive drinks sold in the ship’s bars. But after arriving at the port building, our luggage went through security before we checked in for our cruise. The people at this security check point couldn’t care less that we had good things to drink. And, to our great joy, there was no further security required to get on the ship.

Most passengers (probably almost all of them) check their big bags at the entrance to the port buildings. Their bags are then loaded on the ship and delivered to their cabin sometime that evening. Since we carry on, we can go straight to our room, unpack right away, and then begin our cruise, exploring the ship. For me, the cruise really doesn’t start until everything’s unpacked and I’ve changed from my travel clothes into cruisewear.

An exploration of the ship, interrupted by lunch, is followed by the safety drill. On some ships, when the whistle blows, everybody is supposed to go to their cabin, grab their life jackets, and head up to their muster station, usually located on deck by the lifeboats. Norwegian is a little bit more laid back. We are asked to leave the life jackets in the cabin and report to our muster station in the dining room. A room with no lifeboats. We watch as a crew member demonstrates how to wear the life jacket. Guess we all have to have good memories if an actual accident occurs. Like the one that happened off the coast of Italy the day we left Spain to go home. Hmm…

After the drill, we snag some glasses from the bar, open our Cava, and go up on deck to say goodbye to Barcelona before dinner. There’s another tradition: no matter how cold it is, we always put on our layers and stand on deck watching the ship leave port. There’s something magical about this — I feel like Columbus departing the known for the unknown. With a big pool and a waterslide. I love this!

Surprising Sitges

Rather than stay in Barcelona proper for our chill time before the cruise, we head 30 minutes south to the beach town of Sitges. With small pedestrian-only old town, no high rises and some great views, it’s the perfect place to just rest, relax, and try to overcome the jet lag of the first day or so we find when we travel to Europe.

The hotel, as mentioned, has an amazing rooftop bar with great views of the old church, beaches, and the Mediterranean Sea. The weather was in the 60’s to low 70’s, and if you sat in the sun behind the glass windbreak, it was the perfect place to read a good book.

Morgan was still recuperating, so he stayed in the room while George and I got a chance to get out and walk north over the hill through the old town to the boat harbor and south down the beach. It’s low season, so we pretty much have the town to ourselves and a few other hearty souls in the 65 degree weather.

Many of those hearty souls were guy couples strolling and holding hands. I read that Sitges was the gay beach capital of Spain, but it didn’t really sink in until we ventured out. South of town, the beaches are broad and flat, but north of town the beaches are in little coves surrounded by cliffs. There are guys sitting on blankets together on the beach tucked in close to the rocks. A little disconcerting are the guys walking around with only a shirt on, no pants. Eeeek, must have stumbled on the nude beach. There are no families on these beaches, yet these guys are in plain view, if only from a ways away. And it’s cold out! Yet I can’t look away… does that make me perverted?

The walk south is much more family friendly, with people rollerblading, kids running in the sand, and dogs chasing each other through the surf. It’s a pretty place, with street signs on hand painted tiles and lots of palm trees.

One of the other tremendous treats at our hotel was the amazing breakfast. You could go British with eggs, beans, broiled tomatoes and blood pudding, you could go French with croissants, cheeses, and pastries, or go American with bacon, scrambled eggs, toast, and cereal. Top it off with cava (local Spanish champagne) mimosas, little cups of bloody marys, and a huge dessert bar with pudding, cake, pie, and chocolate mousse. Believe me, when we at late (cause it lasted til 11am), we weren’t hungry til dinner.

However, the hotel had a lunch special (and you can have lunch until 4pm), so I collected Morgan and we had delicious fish soup and squid ink paella, local delicacies all. We hung out outside for as long as we could before we retreated to hotel lounge to watch the lights come up.

Tomorrow is our cruise!

Boarding Stories

After a short night, we find ourselves in Madrid. We stop at the Spanair lounge looking for breakfast but only find chips and olives, plus all manner of alcohol. Breakfast of champions!

The Madrid airport is one long long long building and it takes us about 40 minutes to walk from international arrivals to domestic departures for our flight to Barcelona. When we get to the gate, it seems that nobody’s there. We find a seat by the window and talk about what we do when we get to Barcelona. After, I swear, about 5 minutes, we look over our shoulder to see half the people in the airport lined up to board the flight. There were no announcements made at all! Yikes. We are now at the back of a very very long line. Turns out that in Spain, there are no boarding zone numbers or division of boarding. Everybody on the flight just lines up in an orderly fashion and files in.

Well, with our carry-ons (which were way bigger than anybody else’s) we could not risk getting on last and having the overhead full. So, I decided to see if our frequent flyer status would do anything for us. Leaving George and Morgan, I went to the front of the line and flashed my ticket, which had Star Alliance Gold on it. It seemed to mean something. “Stand here,” they said. I waved to George and Morgan to come forward. At first, people were like, “hey, get to the back of the line!” But when we said the magic word, “Preferred,” the sea parted like we were Moses and company. Oh, the power!

We were the first through the line with our carry-ons, which one of the agents tried to take from us. The other one waved her away and, in the process of boarding, switched our seats from row 15 to row 3. Wooohooo, we’re in business class and might get something to eat that’s not chips and olives!

However, the great food was not to be. Although we were in the business class section, we were ignored by the flight attendants who were serving drinks, croissants, and hot chocolate and churros (hot chocolate so thick that it coats the churro when you dip it, yum). I guess because of our last minute seat switch, there were no churros for us. Bummer. Every time when we tried to catch the eye of the flight attendant, he would look away, pretending not to speak English. Hm.

All was better when we arrived at the Barcelona airport. Still nice and shiny from the rebuild for the 1998 Olympics, it was easy to maneuver. We found the cash machine and the bus that took us to our first destination, Sitges.

Usually, when I cruise, I like to arrive in or near the port a couple of days prior to boarding the ship. If you have the cruise ship book your airfare (and pay lots more for the privilege), you don’t have to worry because it is their responsibility to get you from your home airport to the ship, no matter what. If there’s a problem, they handle it one way or another, without a cost to you. We book our airfare independently from the cruise line and forfeit that guarantee. Since you never know what kind of delay can happen enroute, I plan one or two “chill” days somewhere near the embarkation port as a buffer.

This trip, our “chill” days are in Sitges, a beach town south of Barcelona.

Our room’s not ready yet so we go across the street to have a bite to eat. Morgan’s still not 100%, so when lunch is finished, we check in and George and I leave him in the room and go for the walk that needs to keep us awake until at least 8am.

I’ll tell you more about Sitges in the next post.

Happy New Year: At the Airport Going to Spain!

Happy New Year!

It’s January 1st. What better way to start 2012 than at the airport and then on a flight to Spain! We have a 9 day cruise booked from Barcelona to Funchal, Madeira, the Canary Islands, and Malaga, Spain, with a couple of days on the beach before and a day in the city before we fly back home. So exciting to visit places we haven’t been before.

But let’s back up the trolley a bit to December 30th. Morgan is throwing up and is too sick to do anything. If we had to leave then, we would have had to cancel. Yikes! And did I learn my lesson from the Alaska trip and purchase insurance? NO. We never get sick.

However, on the 31st, he’s feeling a bit better. George and I, fearing that it was a contagious bug, laid really low, not even going to the annual New Year’s Eve party at our friends, the Sheelers. We had nightmares of throwing up on the plane, or worse, not being able to board the ship due to illness. So, for the first time in a long time, we were in bed on the last day of the year by 10pm. Of course that doesn’t mean we slept the night through — I glanced a look at the clock at 11, 12 (is someone shooting guns in our neighborhood?), 3:30, and 4:30am. At 5:30am, I gave up and got up. We leave around noon.

Yesterday I packed, stopped the mail and paper, made the usual call to the credit card fraud center to let them know where we’ll be, and reconfirmed our pet sitter. I’m set to go.

Morgan’s feeling much better and, with a huge sigh of relief, we head out the door at 1pm for our 3pm flight. Halfway to the airport, I realize I forgot to bring my USAir Chairman’s card. This might mean we have trouble getting into the lounge in Spain. Guess we’ll see about that. Thank goodness I’ve nagged Morgan into bringing his, so we should be ok. For every trip, no fail, I always forget something!

Here’s what’s new since our last international flight: instead of boarding people with kids first, they now board after Zone 2. I guess they figured out that letting those strollers on the plane first thing really slowed down the more experienced travelers.

AND our favorite lounge does not serve great food or wine anymore. There’s a pretty good mushroom/brie soup, but the chips/salsa and apple/cheese offerings are not great. We could always count on a nice glass (or more) of wine, a fruit and cheese platter, sandwich materials, several salads, and a brownie tray. It made for a great meal so that we could go straight to sleep once we got on the plane. I guess this is USAir cutting back on costs. So disappointing! When I get home I’m writing to them to get them to bring the goodies back.

Our flight tonight goes to Madrid and on to Barcelona. Morgan’s sitting in front of George and I and we hope to sleep at least 4 hours. Good night!