September 11, 2001 – I remember that day as if it were yesterday.  How I was sitting in my office preparing paperwork for the day and someone stepped in and said come watch the TV in the Captain’s office!  For much of the remainder of the day that is where I sat, dumbfounded!  I still have newspapers from Local and National Press’s.  I have photos and memories of  my ERT brothers and I spreading a huge American Flag on our roof that could be seen for quite a distance. I rallied our officers to make donations and sent what we raised to help, help in any way that it could.

Fast forward 16 years – Never have I forgotten!  Maybe memories have dulled a bit and day to day passes as usually, but come September 11 of each year the emotions return with sweat sorrow.  This past spring I visited the 9/11 site and memorials.  Very poignant and thought provoking.  So many stories to be told and heard.

Such as this TREE the “Survivor Tree”.  In the picture the man is holding you can see a branch of a tree.  This is the only living thing that was found after the few survivors were rescued.  This tree was taken and cared for by the New York City Parks and Recreation. They tenderly cared for this tree and kept it alive.  The large tree in the picture is the Callery Pear Tree that is now known as the Survivor Tree.  There is a seedling program where each year, the 9/11 Memorial gives seedlings from the Survivor Tree to three communities that have endured tragedy in recent years.  I was floored to learn of this, how from tragedy, the Survivor Tree embodies our nation’s spirit of hope and healing, strength and resilience in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.  One small act shows so much compassion.

Then there was the CHURCH, St. Paul’s Chapel more commonly known as the Little Church that Stood. The resilient chapel withstood the fall of the Twin Towers in 2001 and has had worshippers “ranging from George Washington to those who searched for victims following the Sept. 11 attacks.”  The church doors never closed and became a rest haven for the searchers and rescuers.  They served meals and provided pillows for the weary to sleep on the pews.  The stories that were told about this little church were never heard all across the US but thankfully the tours and museum are keeping them alive.

I was astonished in no matter where we went or what tour we were on how the stories of 9/11 were told.  From a ferry crossing to see the Statue of Liberty we were shown a plaque on the wall of the ferry.  A Plaque awarded to the Captain and Crew of the Ferry who responded to the SOS call to transport the thousands of people stuck on the island of Manhattan after the attack. S%2HLAlWRwmRZSvsQ1LKaA

And then there was the actual museum, these are actual pieces of the original Twin Towers, and in the center is part of one of the planes that took them down.

The size and magnitude of the iron and steel was incredible and so powerful and it played twisted and crumbled around the museum.  Story after story was retold in pictures and objects that were found.  Some being a woman’s pump, a man’s nice gold watch, a stuffed teddy bear.  Each were identified and donated by family members as a remembrance of their loved ones.


The 9/11 Memorial is located at the site of the former World Trade Center complex and occupies approximately half of the 16-acre site. The Memorial features two enormous waterfalls and reflecting pools, each about an acre in size, set within the footprints of the original Twin Towers. The Memorial Plaza is one of the most eco-friendly plazas ever constructed. More than 400 trees surround the reflecting pools. Its design conveys a spirit of hope and renewal, and creates a contemplative space separate from the usual sights and sounds of a bustling metropolis.

Each name is set in a particular order, each person is connected in some sort of way to the person next to them.  This was to show how everyone, everywhere are connected somehow, someway to each other.  They may have worked together, rode the subway or bus together everyday, maybe they went to school or church together, but each were connected.

The single white rose is placed on each name on the day that was that person’s birthday.  This is done everyday…regardless.



I am going to let these photos speak instead of me.  They say a thousand words!

One  World Trade Center or Freedom Tower is a powerful reminder of the largest loss of life resulting from a foreign attack on American soil and the greatest single loss of rescue personnel in American history. The Tower’s  final component, the spire was installed, making the building, including its spire, reach a total height of 1,776 feet (541 m). Its height in feet is a deliberate reference to the year when the United States Declaration of Independence was signed. The tower’s observation deck was specifically constructed with the memory of the Twin Towers in mind. The deck itself begins at 1,362 feet, and a glass parapet extends to 1,368 feet—the exact height of the South and North Towers.  The building has a cubic base and its edges form eight isosceles triangles. Near its middle, the tower forms a perfect octagon. When standing at the base and looking upwards it appears that the side is disappearing into space. Its overall effect is that of a crystalline form that captures an ever-evolving display of refracted light. As the sun moves through the sky or pedestrians move around the tower, the surfaces appear like a kaleidoscope, and change throughout the day as light and weather conditions change.

If ever you have the opportunity to visit NYC, you must see these sights and not forget September 11, 2001.

Barcelona in a Day

First, start with getting a really great tour guide and an awesome mode of transportation!  Nuria (our guide) from “Withlocals” on a Private WWII Side Car Tour!  What a wonderful way to see the city.  Open air and and an easy way to get really great pictures.

A few random pictures from the tour, La Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera, Passeig de Garcia, Placa Catalunya, Arc de Triomf and Casa Bitllo and Casa Mila.


Street performers created huge bubbles and the children ran and chased them.  It was magical to see the bubbles floating everywhere.


My artistic side came out as we travelled along Picasso Passage and saw art pieces by Roy Lichtenstein.  Several more shots of art deco by some unknown artists.


A few shots from the Beach and Park.


Withlocals in Barcelona, Spain +34654067673


Eating in Barcelona Spain

Aside from frequently visiting the Corner Bar, where we found great appetizers and cold beverages we found a couple of very good restaurants.



One being the Los Caracoles, one of the oldest restaurants in Barcelona.  Los Caracoles

HISTORY: In 1835, the Bofarull family founded one of the most charismatic restaurants in the city, Can Bofarull, in the most emblematic part of the Gothic District, near Las Ramblas in Barcelona.


From the street a large spit roaster is constantly tended where the aroma draws patrons into the restaurant.  Upon entering the restaurant you are directed right through the kitchen, talk about up close and personal.  The waitstaff is very friendly and colorful.  The antics between them were hilarious even if you didn’t understand their language.  Looking around as we are escorted to our seats was like going back in time.  The restaurant was full of small rooms upstairs and down in every direction, it was as if the restaurant was several stories high and in two different directions.




Once to our table and handed the menu, the hard part came.  Choosing our entrees.


Our choices were:  Oxtail served deboned with Parmentier Potatoes and Catalan Style Salted Cod.  Each dish was savory and delicious.

Then we topped it off with desserts that were signature dishes of the Los Caracoles, Catalan Style Creme Brûlée and “Los Caracoles” Pyjamas (Peach in syrup, flan and ice cream with nougat.  Yes they were just as mouth watering as they look and sound.  So we give this restaurant two thumbs up.


On our tour of Barcelona the next day, our guide mentioned the 7 Ports restaurant.  As she told of the history, I was like we got to go there.  She was quick to add that may not be possible since we didn’t have reservations.  I looked it up on line and requested reservations, not fully expecting to get a reply or a table. To my surprise we did and we made plans to have dinner at “7 Portes”.

HISTORY:  In the early to mid nineteenth century, a powerful Catalan business man, Josep Xifre, commissioned the Porxos d’em Xifre Building in Passing d’ Isabel II.  When the plans were being drafted, Xifre was very clear that the building should have arcades (“promos” in Catalan) similar to those of the main square of Paris and the emblematic Rue de Rivoli.

The new budding housed Xifre’s home and offices, as well as a large cafe,  This establishment had Seven doors for the public and eighth door for staff and goods.

It wasn’t until 1929 that it was made into a restaurant.  “Restaurant de les 7 Portes” and the establishment became one of the most popular in the city; a meeting place for journalist, intellectuals and politicians among others 7portes.com

As we were led to our table, it was pointed out that we were at the table with Ava Gardner, and that each table was once patronized by famous people.  (Visitor’s book) 


The atmosphere and ambiance of the place was another one of those stepping back in time events.

We began with cocktails and wine.  They have their own label of wines and I found the white to be very nice.

Who knew that you would receive the whole garden when ordering a salad!  And this was for one.  I ordered the Cannelloni de Carne Con Trufas -it was delicious.

And then came the main course:  Bacalao (Salted Cod) and Braised Chicken.

Dessert – why do they serve desserts last?  They are to die for and you usually feel like you are dying by the time they arrive and you have been eating for over an hour!  Flan and ice cream with chocolate sauce with cafe au lait.

Day 1 of 21 day Trip

Started our trip with a noon flight to Atlanta from Little Rock. Although it didn’t help because Greg still had us up before the roosters! Loaded and on the road before 9am. Breezed through check in like a pro. TSA PreCheck is so much faster. Weather is great and so far all flights are on time and smooth. We threw caution to the wind and scheduled first class on all our flights! I must add it is quit lovely

To start the experience you were greeted with a glass of champagne as you boarded the plane then you were directed to your assigned seat. But it’s not just a seat – it’s a pod or something! The seat turns into a bed (totally flat- not just reclining). You have a keyboard of buttons to move in every direction. Plus a back massage that you can continually push if you want.

Each seat comes with a quilt and pillow, headphones and a Tumi comforts case loaded with items to make your trip comfortable.

After takeoff, cocktails were served with heated mixed nuts!

Your complete comfort is catered to in every step. This maybe the best international flight ever!😊 Menus were handed out and then personal orders were made. The choices were awesome-Pistachio Crusted Australian Lamb Rack, Chicken Milanese, Bourbon Grilled Cedar Plank Salmon, Cacio e Pepe Ravioli. No pictures of the entrees since I feel asleep and missed supper. 😳. But I didn’t miss dessert!

Assorted cheeses with wine!

and then ice cream with Carmel sauce and nuts. Glad I skipped supper!

A perfect uncomplicated flight to Barcelona!

The flight actually arrived 20 minutes ahead of the schedule. Luggage all arrived with us and transportation was on time !!!

Check in at the Park Hotel was smooth and uncomplicated.

Technically we are into Day 2 now.

Jet lag was upon us and a nap was needed.

After the nap, we went out to explore. Next to our hotel was a wonderful park, hence the name of the hotel!




Why is packing such an ordeal???  We leave in 15 days for a 3 week European-Trans-Atlantic vacation.  Since we are flying to Barcelona we limited to 50 pounds or less per suitcase and we are allowed two suitcases a piece.  Okay 200 pounds of luggage doesn’t sound that limited!  BUT you have to be able to transport this luggage yourself through airports and cruise ports and hotels and taxis.  Add on your carry on luggage and personal items and things get a little out of control.  So I am back to two pieces of luggage at 50 pounds each.  Packing clothes for different climates and different situations makes for a lot of clothes and shoes.  We will have at the minimum three formal dinners, tours that require walking shoes and comfortable attire, gym wear, swimming and sunning attire, baseball fan apparel and of course shoes.  We will have the ability to laundry items and will take advantage of this but who wants to wear the same thing every day?

I have learned from previous trips that packing cubes and 2 gallon Ziploc bags are definitely time savers.  I try, at least for the first part of the trip, to identify and bag daily outfits.images3images1

Ziploc makes a 2 gallon size bag that is perfect for a pair of pants, shirt, socks, underwear and accessories.  I iron and carefully fold the shirt and other items into the pants and then slide everything into the bag and zip it up, squeezing out the air to make it as flat as possible.  I’ve been known to even write the day and/or occasion on the bag.  The reason I said for the first part of the trip is because so many items must be worn again.  Kinda makes it hard to pack for each day when the pants you are wearing on Monday has to be worn on Thursday also.



I use the packing cubes to pack items like pajamas, swimwear, underwear, gym clothes, etc.  Each category get it’s own cube. This makes it so easy to grab and go.  Now to the dreaded shoes!  How on earth can you not take too many shoes?  You will need walking shoes, dress shoes, sport shoes, flip flops, sandals, water shoes…do I go on?  And…not all shoes go with every outfit so add a couple of pairs or more to each of those categories.  I do try to keep it simple and take as few as I possible can.

So for the next two weeks I will be packing and unpacking, picking and choosing, opting for this one or that one and continually weighing the luggage.  If you have any suggestions, comment on the post.  Add your two cents worth, I’m game to trying anything to make this simpler.  Keep reading my posts as I will keep it going during the trip.  Hopefully with lots and lots of photos too.

Harrod’s of London


If you go to London you must visit Harrods!  Of course I had to!  I was so amazed at the shear size of the store, I’m not even sure you can call it a store.  Upon entering the doors you are greeted by staff that inquires of what you may be looking for and will direct you. Or you can just browse.  Founded in 1834, Harrods, a luxury department store, occupies a 5-acre site and has 330 departments covering one million square feet of retail space. It is an adventure just to look around.  The Food areas were a sensory overload of sights, smells and even taste.  The staff and chefs on hand are all dressed in 1800’s style clothing and everyone is so polite and helpful.

As you can see the Food Hall was one of my favorites and I couldn’t help myself but take tons of pictures.  The food was so bright and colorful and totally intoxicating.  The aromas were killing us, around every corner was more food items of every thing imaginable.  Even the architecture was captivating and reminded you of how it must have looked in the late 1800’s as you strolled through Harrods to purchase a scone and a cup of tea.


Take time to really peruse the photos and see more of what Harrods has to offer and if ever on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, London step into a timepiece from the past as you enjoy Harrods too.



Loyalty, at times pays, I am and have been pretty loyal to Carnival Cruise Lines.  I have been cruising with them since 1981.  Every time I think about trying a different cruise line I start thinking about how many days/cruises/points I have accrued with Carnival and I hate to lose that and start over with a new company / system.  So I am sailing in 50+ days on my Diamond Status Cruise (more on that later).  Carnival is a very FUN company.    Do you know how they got that name?  Back in 1971 a man named Ted Arison had an idea and very little money, he bought a used ocean liner and started making runs or cruises from Miami to San Juan.  On his very first cruise the ship ran upon some rocks right outside of Miami before Mr. Arison could even get all his ideas off the ground.  Knowing there where several reporters on board following the “inaugural” launch of the Carnival Mardi Gras in March 1972 Mr. Arison had to think fast. And that is just what he did, he quickly opened the bars and had drinks for everyone as the ship waited for the tide to turn and the the Mardi Gras to return to Miami where she was greeted by even more reporters who snapped photos and took first hand quotes of what a “fun ship that was”!  And that my friends was how they became known as THE FUN SHIPS!

I’ve sailed on many, many of the Carnival Ships (starting with the Carnivale in 1981 and ending with the not even launched yet Horizon in May of this year).  Carnival Cruise Line currently has 25 cruise ships, with at least four more being added to the fleet in the next 5 years. Carnival Horizon will debut in the spring of 2018 and the 3rd Vista class ship is scheduled to be completed in 2019.

I’m all for getting your moneys worth for everything you can.  Squeeze every penny out of every dollar.  Find every coupon and cut every corner. So when I heard about the stock options when buying stock with Carnival Corporation I wanted to learn more.  What I learned is:

This benefit is available to shareholders holding a minimum of 100 shares of Carnival Corporation or Carnival plc. This benefit is not transferable, cannot be exchanged for cash and, cannot be used for casino credits/charges and gratuities charged to your onboard account. Only one onboard credit per shareholder-occupied stateroom.  You must provide by fax or by mail your complete legal name, reservation number, ship and sailing date, along with proof of ownership of Carnival Corporation or Carnival plc shares (for example, photocopy of shareholder proxy card, a dividend tax voucher or a current brokerage or nominee statement with your brokerage account number blacked out) no later than 3 weeks prior to your sail date to your travel agent or to the cruise line.

So if you purchase a minimum of 100 shares of Carnival Cruise Line (CCL)stock and supply the proper authorities with the correct information you will receive an on board credit.  Wow!  you still have the stocks and they have given you the credit to use on the ship – that is defiantly and win-win.  I purchased my stocks in 2002 and have gone on somewhere around 18 cruises that I have been able to use my stock option on.  This is more than paid for it’s self plus over the years the stocks have split at least once that I remember.

And then there is the VIFP (Very Important Fun Person) Club  aka Carnival’s Loyalty Program.  As mentioned earlier I will be crossing that all important DIAMOND line on our next cruise in May and I am so excited to see what all is on the other side!  I most defiantly will report here!

VIFP Club Blue VIFP Club Red VIFP Club Gold VIFP Club Platinum VIFP Club Diamond
My Benefits* BLUE First Sailing RED 2nd Sailing – 24 Points GOLD 25-74 Points PLATINUM 75-199 Points DIAMOND 200+ Points
*Itineraries featured on carnival.com.au may offer different benefits. no no no no no
Members-only offers yes yes yes yes yes
Member e-newsletter yes yes yes yes yes
Complimentary 1 liter bottle of water
(delivered to stateroom on all sailings)
no yes yes yes yes
Appreciation drink on 5+ day cruises (on the last evening of the cruise after 5pm no no yes no no
Gold VIFP pin on every sailing no no yes no no
Priority check-in and boarding no no no yes yes
Platinum and Diamond VIFP Party on 5+ day sailings (featuring complimentary drinks and appetizers) no no no yes yes
Complimentary beverage at Seaday brunch (on ships where brunch is not available, complimentary beverage at breakfast or lunch in Main Dining Room) no no no yes yes
“Chocolate Delight” strawberry plate
(delivered to stateroom on 5+ day cruises)
no no no yes yes
Unique, collectible pin (noting specific ship and year),
received on each sailing
no no no yes yes
Priority spa reservations no no no yes yes
Priority tender boarding
(ship to shore only)
no no no yes yes
Casino: Buy-one-get-one-free tournament entry (Blackjack or Slot only) no no no yes yes
$5 worth of complimentary arcade credits
(guests under 18 only)
no no no yes yes
Carnival logo gift on every sailing no no no yes yes
Priority Guest Services assistance by phone no no no yes yes
Priority line at onboard Guest Services desk no no no yes yes
Priority debarkation no no no yes yes
Priority reservations at Main Dining Room and Specialty Restaurant no no no yes no
Complimentary Wash & Fold laundry service
(2 bags on 3 – 6 day cruises,
3 bags on 7-12 day cruises, 5 bags on a 12+ day cruises )
no no no yes no
Guaranteed seating time requested in Main Dining Room for dinner only no no no no yes
Priority reservations at Specialty restaurants no no no no yes
Unlimited complimentary Wash & Fold service no no no no yes
Special event invitation from the Captain
on each sailing
no no no no yes
One-time free cabin upgrade OR third and fourth
guests sail free
no no no no yes
One-time donation to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® no no no no yes
One-time complimentary meal for two at Specialty
Restaurant of choice
no no no no yes
Dedicated toll-free number for sales and service no no no no yes


 So, yes, I am partial to Carnival.  I like them, I like what they do and what they stand for and and how they help others.  I have witnessed them (Carnival Cruise Lines) take linens and food items to islands that we were visiting – on vacation – that we were relaxing at -and having the time of our lives. – Carnival employees were taking pallets of linens to the people of the island that barely had shoes or shirts.  Carnival provided food after hurricanes hit ports that their ships frequented.  Carnival aided if not completely rebuilt the ports themselves.
Carnival goes further to show it cares.

Through all of their shared efforts, they have now raised more than $18 million to help St. Jude fight childhood cancer. And not to brag, but they have been on an absolute tear lately, hitting their last goal of a full two years ahead of schedule. Hand-in-hand, Carnival and their partners have passed milestone after milestone, setting their sights on ever-larger goals. Now they are ready to meet their most ambitious one so far: raise another $2 million in the next five years… for a total of $18 million.

Carnival Foundation oversees the many philanthropic endeavors of Carnival Corporation as well as its employee-driven service group, the “Friends Uniting Neighbors” (F.U.N.) Team.  See Carnival never gets very far from the FUN!

Carnival Foundation is dedicated to creating positive change through empowering youth, enhancing education and strengthening families in the communities where we live and work.

We believe that being a member of a community means giving something back. Carnival Foundation supports a broad spectrum of organizations that positively impact thousands of youth and families each year through charitable giving, in-kind donations and volunteerism.

I really am not trying to push Carnival down your throats but just wanted to educate you a little to what I have found to be interesting and FUN about Carnival.  I love selling Carnival cruise to people and hearing or seeing if I am lucky enough to go along with them, experience cruising.  Cruising is FUN.  Cruising is a way to see many places without having to pack up and travel to the next destination.  You don’t have to worry about finding somewhere to eat or entertainment for the evening either.  Once on board the ship you are at your “hotel” or “resort” for the week.  All your meals are included along with desserts and room service.  Soft drinks and alcoholic drinks are extra but tea, coffee, juices and water are included.  Entertainment includes Broadway style shows, musicians and magicians, comedians and contortionist, games and movies!  And what is great is you travel to your next destination while your are partying or sleeping and when you get up the next morning you are there, ready to discover a new day in a new place.