Showing posts from October, 2012

Gutter Clog

There's always something to do at the Bradley Lodge. From raking pine needles to replacing stairs and snow blowing, we stay busy, but also have fun. This trip was no exception. As we were cleaning the Lodge gutters, we noticed a problem, the downspout that has a long extension that goes underground and around our cabin had a clog. After an hour or so of digging, we were able to remove the section of underground pipe, remove the 3.5 foot long clog and get everything back in place. We then headed to Arnold'sAce Hardware to buy a guard for the downspout to make sure that doesn't happen again.

Beyond the work, we made sure to eat. Highlights included Chocolate Carmelita Bars and nachos with a bean/salsa dip base. We also played Pinochle and watched the Giantswin game three of the World Series.

Downtown Napa Culinary Crawl

I go to Napa a lot for work, but this was the first time I got to participate in an entire Culinary Crawl. Culinary Crawls happen every other month and make stops at three restaurants in Downtown Napa. This one started at Andaz Napa, then headed to the Grand Hand Gallery (food provided by Cole's Chop House) and finished up at The Thomas. It was a lot of fun to see each place, try the food, enjoy a beverage and, of course, hang out with many of my friends from both AugustineIdeas and The Meritage Resort, while meeting a few tourists and Napa locals.

Back to Work

After 17 days of vacation (11 were work days), it was time to get back to work. Luckily I had been checking my email throughout the trip, some may disagree with this philosophy, but I really hate coming back from vacation and then having to go through 1,000 emails. I would rather look at 50 or 60 a day, respond to the important ones immediately and respond to the remaining few when I get back.

The week also included three special events. First, while I was out, my manager accepted a new position, so our team took her to P.F. Chang's (this helped me avoid cooking for yet another meal). Next, it was off to Del Paso County Club to celebrate the official re-branding of HMH Builders to Swinerton Builders Sacramento (another meal I did not cook). Finally, I enjoyed my Saturday at the Denio'sScarecrow Festival and Parade. I helped hundreds of kids paint pumpkins, decorate Trick-or-Treat bags and, of course, ate a corn dog and nachos.

Back in the USA

I wish the 17 days of travel didn't end. Now it's back to reality. Work is fine, but cooking, cleaning and not having a Chauffeur? I'm not sure about those. The flight back on Lufthansa was long (12 hours), but we did get to stop in Munich and, unfortunately, LAX. I finished another book on the flight, got a little bit of sleep, then once in Sacramento slept at my parents' house, got my car out of their garage and headed back to work. Not wanting to admit to myself that I had to get back to reality (and because I had no food to bring for lunch), I went to Yard House for lunch and got dinner at Costco (Rotisserie Chicken). My mom and I also planned our next vacation ... Cruising the Pacific Coast on the CelebrityCentury in April 2013.

A Royal Caribbean Mediterranean Experience on the Serenade of the Seas

17 days of vacation is pretty amazing, especially when 12 of them are aboard Royal Caribbean'sSerenade of the Seas visiting eight ports along the Mediterranean Sea. This ship itself is due to be revitalized in just a few weeks, but all of the staff was great, the food (new menus are coming out soon too) was scrumptious (including my add-on Surf & Turf - think very thick Filet Mignon and 2 pound Maine Lobster). As Diamond members in the Crown and Anchor Society (pretty much means we cruise a lot), we were treated to a nightly cocktail/wine hour, a behind the scenes tour with the entertainment staff, which was surprisingly informative and fun, plus a few extra events. We also took the opportunity to play lots of miniature golf, climb the rock wall, watch sunrises and sunsets and just relax by the pool between workouts at the gym and stops in fabulous ports.

Each port has a separate post ... Getting Ready to Cruise, Barcelona and Montserrat (Spain), Cannes and the Villages of Pro…

Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast, Italy

Pompeii was once buried by a volcanic eruption, but much of it has since been painstakingly uncovered and now sits as a giant classroom for everyone to learn about the city and what life was like nearly 2,000 years ago in Italy. They were pretty smart, they would throw their garbage in the streets then nightly flush water through them to wash it away, so they created raised crosswalks so people could cross without getting wet. To get their carts past the crosswalks they made sure to leave spaces between the stones just wide enough to fit the wheels through too. They also had brothels, with directional signage on the streets (they didn't need to be as secret as Ephesus I guess).

After Pompeii we had lunch and wine, followed by limoncello and a drive along the picturesque Amalfi Coast. Although it started to rain, it was still a great drive and compliments to our driver who navigated the entire stretch that should really be one lane, but in typical Italian fashion is intended for tw…

Mykonos, Greece

Wow. Ephesus may have had the best ruins, but this was one of the most beautiful ports we visited. With whitewashed buildings, dozens of churches, iconic windmills, narrow streets and more shopping, Mykonos had everything, not to mention the color of the water was breathtaking. We went to Fato a Mano for lunch and to use their free WiFi, we were their first customers of the day, but seeing what a great time we were having, all the outdoor tables quickly filled. The staff was great and as a thank you, ended up giving us a free dessert fruit plate. From what I understand Santorini is even better, but this was a spot not to miss and I'll have to go back to do a comparison.

Athens, Greece

Athens was interesting in its variety. On the one hand it was a very sad city. We were there the day after a large protest, so the graffiti on some main buildings was still very fresh. Weeds growing up through Olympic venues used just 12 years ago was also difficult to see. Then there were the impressive parts. The Acropolis, the Acropolis Museum, shopping in the Plaka and seeing the very first Olympic Stadium of the Modern Olympic Games.

Kusadasi and Ephesus, Turkey

This was really a country that surprised me. I had no idea what to expect and it was probably one of my favorite stops. We took a tour to Ephesus, which was truly amazing. The ruins at Ephesus, including the Terrace Houses, were spectacular. To walk on the same streets that Paul walked on was cool. To see one of the world's largest libraries (with secret tunnel to a brothel across the street) was breathtaking and there was so much more. We had lunch overlooking a harbor full of sailboats (and in full costume), then went to a rug demonstration back in the port city of Kusadasi. Although I didn't buy a rug for $30,000, it was interesting to learn how they are made and see how much they change just by the direction you look at them. After our rug demo, it was off to the real shopping, three bazaars with thousands of vendors offering everything from real silver to genuine fake watches.

Civitavecchia, Italy

We already knew that people in Rome thought that traffic lights were just Christmas lights left up year-round from our trip there about 12 years ago, so my family decided on a restful day in the port city of Civitavecchia. We walked around the city, found a restaurant with WiFi (we did this in just about every city ... good excuse to drink, check email and post photos to Facebook). While in port we also saw a beautiful sailboat, an Italian aircraft carrier and a lifeboat that had seen better days - sadly the ship also had a sign on it that clearly said "Safety First," either someone forgot or they painted it after the life boat crashed.

Cinque Terre and Florence, Italy

This was a partial exception to what I mentioned in my post from Cannes and the Villages of Provence. We had been to Florence before and my mom did go there, while my dad and I ventured a little further north, past Pisa, mountains made of marble and over to the five seaside towns, collectively known as Cinque Terre. Although devastated by landslides in October 2011, these primarily one street towns with no vehicle traffic have all bounced back and are thriving. I loved the colorful buildings, pizza and beer made for a good lunch and the boat ride between each of the cities was fun with 5-foot waves making it a little more challenging to get on and off at our stops.

Cannes and the Villages of Provence, France

Before I graduated from high school my family took an amazing bus tour of Europe with Insight. So whenever the Serenade of the Seas would port in a city we had been to before, we wanted to do something different. We had visited Cannes, Nice and Monte Carlo before, so this time we went to two tiny, hillside villages in Provence (Fayence and Seillans). With narrow, cobblestone streets, centuries old buildings and filling beer, I would say it was a good choice.

Barcelona and Montserrat, Spain

We only had three days to explore both Barcelona and Montserrat, but we crammed a lot in and I can speak for our entire group, we fell in love with Barcelona. Although we were all very tired from our long flights to Spain from California we managed to make it to La Rambla our first night to experience some of the nightlife in the city, check out the Columbus Monument and even caught a very popular traditional Flamenco show (think Hawaiian Luau, but in Spain and with Sangria instead of roasted pig).

The next day we all took the "Hop On, Hop Off" bus tour of the city. We started by visiting the cathedral that will still be under-construction for the next 14 years - it started in 1882 (Sagrada Familia). Next we got off the bus at a park/community designed by Gaudí (Park Guell) and did a drive-by of the 1992 Olympic Stadium and many more cool sites. My parents and another couple also took the opportunity to walk along the Mediterranean Sea, get our feet wet and eat tapas. Beyond …