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Our Transatlantic Cruise

Serenade of the Seas

We are crossing the Atlantic .... 16 nights. Kids are very excited to be going to kids club with about 10 other home school kids there age, we are looking forward to seeing some new countries and just generally hanging out.

As Jordi always says, "Cruising is our holiday from our holiday"...lol

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Serenade of the Seas

Posted by Go See Do Kids 23:19 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Jazzed up New Orleans

Countdown to cruising :)

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The plan was to get to New Orleans a day before Lee's parents arrive. And then spend an additional day, so they could adjust to the timezone and get over their 24+ hours of travel. And it was a good plan. We booked a car in advance, over a month in advance (pretty good for us to be that planned ahead - a whole month!!) and Keith had booked the hotel from Australia. So, all good.

You know how bad luck comes in 3's. Well, if you read my Las Vegas blog, you might remember our first disappointment with the rental car process there, eating into 2 hours of time I had pre-planned to take the kids out for "dinner in vegas". That was my #1 bad luck. Remembering, less that 24 hours we arrived in New Orleans - and went to pick up the rental car - receipt in hand, to be told there was none. Zero. Nada. No cars, no size. That was it. Bad Luck #2. Us and at least 15 other people stranded at the airport were not impressed. But what can you do? They told us to catch a cab to our hotel and they would reimburse us. We did. It was quite a ways to our hotel. We finally got there and got booked in.
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old homes


The hotel was ... definitely a 2 star. But we were expecting that. I had tried my best to upgrade our accommodation within our budget, but our cruise was leaving the same weekend as the New Orleans Jazz festival. So, as you can imagine, accommodation was either booked out or at a premium. I had been a credit card verification number away from being got on a craigslist scam for "french quarter" accommodation. Lee had a feeling, and she rang the number, which was a Florida phone number for a guy claiming to be living in New Orleans, and it was a Western Union payment to a ladies name in NY state. Lee probably had a point, me I was just ecstatic I could get us out of 2 star blahness, but I was wrong, so so wrong. Thank goodness, Lee checked it out more thoroughly than I had been doing.

Next morning, Lee spent on the phone, trying to figure out if she made the $50 taxi ride out to the airport rental car center if she would have a car or not, combined with the complication of her parents, Hazel and Keith, arriving at 5pm that same day. We needed the minivan! Finally, she braved it and went. A couple of hours later, somehow, she managed to get a minivan (with bad brakes) back to the hotel in time to grab us, and get back to the airport to collect Haze and Keith. In the meantime, we had reserved the 2nd room, Hazel and Keith, would use at our same hotel. They wouldn't give us a key, or let us "check in" as it was in Keith's name. The best we could do, from the 2 rooms next to each other as originally stated on our booking, was get the same room number one flight down. So directly below us. Anyway, the hotel was filling up fast with the Jazz festival people arriving, so we took what we could get.
madi and denny

madi and denny


With 2 excited children, we waited for Hazel and Keith at the airport, their flight arrived at a different gate than on their itinerary. Nobody came from the gate that was listed on the light up board thingy either. Damn. I made Madi wait up top, near the empty gate, while i race back down the escalator trying to figure where they could be. One man came from a strange direction. I asked what flight he was on, and with luck it was Haze & Keiths. He said that it had to unload at a different gate number. I described who I was looking for, and because Keith had gone on in a wheelchair, they had to roll him off in one. The man said he had seen them going to an elevator. I raced back to Madi (do i get worse mother of the year award, first no "dinner in vegas" then leaving her as look out in the New Orleans airport.) We went downstairs, there were more people coming now, and 3 elevators but none within line of sight of the other. Once again, I posted her at one end and I hovered around the middle to watch her, and quickly dart to the other 2. Finally, seriously 10 minutes after I spoke to the man who said he had seen them entering an elevator, they came out in the one near Madi. Madi of course, fidgeting and a little worried and trying to keep me in her line of sight, didn't see them come out. Anyway, i waved at her from 200 yards away, to look behind her, but she didnt understand and started running towards me. (Note to self: must practice what hand signals mean with kids - before needing to use them) . I met her half way, and then turned her back to find Grandi and Poppy being wheeled in our general direction, I don't think they saw us before we saw them ... so all good. Bags got. Short walk outside straight into the waiting minivan. Quick reunion with 2 grandchildren and Lee. And off we were, driving through peak hour in New Orleans.
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Number 3. You knew there was one coming right? We go to book Haze and Keith (Grandi and Poppy) into the hotel and they tell us there is no rooms. Yep, no rooms. Can you believe it. After a day on the phone to get the very last, and worst, minivan in the rental car lot. After coming to the office 3 times to make sure their was a room reserved. After telling them what time we would be there - and we were on time - they had given away the room. Three's. Bad luck comes in threes. I already know there is no other accommodation around, I had tried for the week before we got here. They say that Haze and Keith can get a room at their other hotel, 25 minutes away. So we stay here, and Grandi and Poppy are miles away, depending on us for transport. Hmmmm. I don't think so. We will both go. They say they only have 2 rooms left at the other hotel, and weren't exactly reassuring that they would hold them for us. I had unpacked quite well upstairs ready for our 3 day stay. Darn it. In our travels I can think of 2 other times we have had to pack up and get out quickly. Hopefully, this finished that set of 3 (years later) as well.

20 minutes later, we are packed, Gps set - grrr - gps isnt working. Poppy brought the gps, but had it upgraded to european maps just before he left. The guy promised it wouldnt affect the US maps, and he was right, it didnt. Plain as day, we could see our position. Problem was, US as a country wasn't on the "type in your address" list any more. Only European countries. So though we could see where we were, we couldnt enter in and find where we wanted to go. Luckily Lee had downloaded an offline ipad app called city maps or something like that. Like an old fashioned refedex (ie. paper map) with a zoom function - i could look up and direct us to the other hotel. We made it. We booked in. They had 2 rooms near each other (on the same level at least). They were 2 star - but hey, it was a bed. And after the last 2 days, all we wanted to do was sleep. In our typical fashion, after our set of 3's was over, Lee and I said that everyone was safe and well. And better we have such frustrations when we can at least speak the same language. Better to happen now, than in Europe.
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Day 3 in New Orleans. We all woke up late. Decided we better go and look at something touristy, seeming as we were there and actually had a car and all :) Highlights .... The old oak trees in the park that the kids climbed for an hour. Our offline map app did an amazing job of listing tourist sights and getting us there. Last minute shoe shopping, and last minute throw outs (t-shirts, shoes). And last minute regrets that I packed too much already .... we are ready for the boat tomorrow. We get to board at 11. And we cant wait.

Just cruisin' the streets in New Orleans

Posted by Go See Do Kids 13:08 Archived in USA Comments (0)

12 hours in Vegas!

Painting the town Red (yellow and a little blue)


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We often start and end trips with a "bit of a treat". I thought that breaking our long plane flight to New Orleans into 2 parts, especially with "dinner in Las Vegas" would be very cool. I even had the best vegetarian buffet with coupons, planned and ready. Our very good friend drove with us down to the US to drop us at the airport. We had a relatively painless boarder crossing only taking about 1 hour, so had time to go pick up the car rooftop luggage carrier that Lee is convinced we will need. We had a quick lunch at "Denny's Diner" in Dennys honour (another family goodbye america ritual) then made it to the airport in plenty of time. (kids are still traumatized after us arriving late at a flight in Peru and the plane taking off with me and the kids and leaving Lee and the luggage behind. Now we always have to have plenty of time!!)

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We were flying Alaskan to Vegas and then SouthWest to New Orleans. SouthWest gives you a checked bag each, but Alaskan we have to pay for every checked bag, and Lee just bought another 10kilo worth of rooftop luggage carrier. So when checking in online last night, it gave me the option to pay for the 2 checked bags I would need at $25 each or upgrade a passenger (which included 2 checked bags) to 1st class for $50. I upgraded Lee and tried not to tell her. But stupidly, I told the kids, who cant keep a surprise secret longer than ... well, the minute Lee stepped in Madi told her ... so that surprise fizzled. Still, putting her in 1st class (which on a small plane was a curtain and a row of seats between her and me and the kids, couldn't have been a bigger mistake. She hated having to sit by herself. She got her drink, and peanuts and then saw that she was going to get a meal - and well, she bailed and got a whole hour, with a window seat and meal to myself.

When we arrived at Vegas, on good time, we went looking for the shuttle that would take us to the rental car place. Hmmm... might be a reason that Fox rental car was only $25 for the night. After 1/2 an hour and the shuttle arriving, it took us another 1/2 hour to drive to their depot. Then that again to get the car sorted. Finally we were heading back to the strip and Excalibur where we were booked that night, but it was already 9pm on a Tuesday. We got free parking, checked in, and rushed out hoping to get to the buffet I had especially chosen before it shut. We couldnt even find it. Then we opted for another buffet, the Station down near Fremont we had done so often before in previous Vegas visits, but it had shut hours ago too, by the time we got there. So we gave up. We had eaten heaps at Dennys at about 2 that afternoon, so would survive, but I had made a big deal about "dinner in Vegas" hadn't I!!! Denny, tired and frazzled was very dissapointed. We were near fremont so headed that way to see the giant TV ceiling, and walk down it. Always a fun place to hang out. Then we said we would go do "the strip" till we dropped. How many casino's can you visit on one quiet Tuesday night.

Well, Lets count:

1: Caesars - get a photo with Julius while we are there, check out the Roman columns, wonder if the real ones in Rome are this shiny white?
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2: Paris - Lets get a photo with a fake Eiffel tower. Madi says this one doesn't count. We still have to take her to the real one. Lee & I suggest they can see all the worlds highlight in one street, maybe this is our European tour in 12 hours and we can just go back to Canada :)
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3: Exchalibur - We have already booked in and explored Excaliburs. We are staying in a castle. I thought that would be a corny touch before we go see the real castles in France and Germany etc.
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4: Bellagio - not to waste a minute waiting. Lee dropped us and went looking for parking, and the dancing waters with a classic italian opera song started immediately. Then inside for the glass flowers, and giant garden. This is a fave everytime.
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5: Then the Venetian. We have Venice penciled in for our Europe trip, so this is just a taste test, too see if it is anything like the real place. It is about midnight on Tuesday night by the time we get there and the place is empty. Very nice!
6: Fremont street, last on this list but we kinda did it first. A trip to Fremont street for some party atmosphere and dancing... love the street long tv screen, though the kids were less than impressed by the big fat Elvis.... "gross mum", "why is his hair like that?" .. lol
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7: New York New York - posing with the statue of liberty. hey, we actually did see the real one, just last summer!
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I think thats all we got through between arriving at Excalibur at 9pm and then dropping into bed at 1:30. The kids were exhausted.

oh, there was 1 more
8: Luxor - nothing like going to an egyptian pyramid for breakfast. (Mumma's guilt to make up for missing out on "dinner in Vegas" the night before. A quick walk by the Sphinx and plenty of time to get to our plane......

Our pictures are online here... :-)
Las Vegas Pictures
Kids dancing at Fremont St

Posted by Go See Do Kids 03:28 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Our European Adventure (finally)

Leaving Vancouver

semi-overcast
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After nearly 6 1/2 years of full on travel, we have never got further than the America's with the kids. This has been for a number of reasons, a sense of security, proximity, language, finances ... but finally, with the offer of a house to use in France, we have taken the plunge. And of course, as we always believe, once on a continent, might as well explore thoroughly as the return prices are more than just staying there for the longterm.

And the long term it will be. Arriving May 12 in Barcelona, we have to return our lease car on September 1st in Paris. So unless something else happens along in the meantime to change that, our plans are 3 1/2 months in Europe.

Most of our time in the last months has been spent packing up our "on the road" life out of the RV and into a storage unit in North Vancouver. So where in Europe we are actually going, we aren't too sure yet, past a little village in France that I cant pronounce or spell - (i'll look it up for you later) and Lee's mum Hazel, wants to go to Croatia. Oh, and the kids wishes are Madi: Paris for the Eiffel tower and Denny: The Swiss Alps - I think his reasoning is to do with the swiss army pocket knives - but it is hard to tell with Denny exactly what his obsession with something stems from sometimes.

The other piece of good luck was finding a transatlantic cruise that leaves end of April. Perfect timing with the kids hockey, Madi's musical and other North Vancouver Homeschool activities wrapping up beginning of April.

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From Lee:
Time for these aliens to take off..... it has been a wonderful time for all of us in Vancouver.... skating, skiing, abacus (Ok this might be the opinion of the author lol), awesome friends, chess and speeches, playdates and park plays, wonderful productions and fun sword fights... so many great times and it is all because of wonderful friends in Vancouver. We are ever so grateful to you all.

Now we set sail (yep pun intended) on our next adventure.... and we look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Posted by Go See Do Kids 10:01 Archived in Canada Tagged vancouver nth Comments (0)

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