We loved all the wildlife we saw on the island: birds, lizards, gators and sea creatures including manatees, dolphins, mollusks and bivalves. It was a thrill to finally see a Roseate Spoonbill in the late evening in the Ding Darling Refuge. It was a totally different thrill to see an alligator eyeing us as we left Bowman Beach! Most of all, we loved the shells and the creatures that inhabit them. We were so glad we visited the Shell Museum and took the guided Shell Walk where we learned so much about these creatures. Afterwards, we knew what to look for in the sand so we could dig down and see the live whelks, olives and other critters.
One of our favorite times on the beach was at low tide when the Lettered Olives were out writing in the sand. In about an hour we found over 20 letters of the alphabet!
Next up was our eight day cruise on the Carnival Freedom. The Freedom weighs in at 110,000 tons and carries about 3000 passengers along with 1200 crew members. It has 13 decks, three pools, at least 6 restaurants, countless bars and music venues, a three story inside theater, an outside movie theater, and a large Serenity Deck for adults only. But most importantly, it has a Guy’s Burger Joint. In our opinion, these are the best burgers we’ve ever tasted and so as soon as we got on board we headed to Guys!
Mona got in line to grab two burgers and I found us seats with a good view of the ocean. Mona quickly made it back to the table and I thought she was going to bite off my fingers as she waited while I took pictures of the burgers. As soon as my snaps were done she devoured her burger. I mean, seriously and without exaggeration, it was gone in less than sixty seconds. Mona is a little scary at these times so I lowered my head and tucked my arms around my burger so I could dine at a more human pace. (In the meantime she got seconds!)
|Freedom and Big BrotherBreeze|
We disembarked and decided to first find a cache. Took us a few minutes but we soon had the cache in hand (and poison ivy on my ankle) and then we set out to see a little of Grand Turk. We first visited the memorial to the 1962 splashdown of John Glenn’s Mercury Spacecraft. Afterwards we headed about a quarter mile down the beach to Jack’s Shack. We chilled there for awhile, taking in the beach scenes and just cooling down from the tropical heat.
|Castillo de San Cristobal watchtower and cannon embrasure|
The next day we were in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The ship docks at old town San Juan so it’s easy to just get off the ship and start exploring. Here, we had booked an excursion to take a three hour walking tour of old San Juan. Mistake. Don’t get me wrong, the tour itself was great…we walked all through the city and learned so much. We also got to climb up to the highest point of Castillo de San Cristóbal which is one of the oldest forts in the Americas and a marvel of 17th century engineering. We also got to go inside several buildings including the capital and the Spanish House which reminded us of Spain. All that was good. What was bad was the heat. All that climbing in the heat was exhausting! Even Mona sweated (Is that a word?) and by the end of the tour we were drenched. Ugh! On the other hand, our tour guide was dressed in long pants and a long sleeved shirt with a tee over it and she was perfectly dry. How can that be!?!?
Our final port of call was Sint Maartens. Actually, this island has two countries on it…the Dutch Sint Maartens and the French Saint Martin. These two countries have shared this island since 1648, most of the time peacefully. The ship docks in downtown Phillipsburg on the Dutch side. Here we had booked another excursion; this time to do a 90 minute photographic scavenger hunt. Need I say the word “Mistake” again? Yes, we had a blast solving the mysteries and taking pictures of the solutions. Yes, we learned a lot. But damn, it was HOT! We finally were so worn out we ducked into a McDonalds to cool down and have a beer. Yep, McDonalds sells beer here…and of course it’s Heinekens. Due to our McD’s chill down we came in second on the scavenger hunt. Oh well!
Our trek took us across South Carolina and to Asheville, North Carolina. There we got on the Blue Ridge Parkway which travels 469 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Parkway was a Depression-Era construction project to link the Shenandoah National Park with the Smokey Mountain National Park. It winds up and down and side to side of the mountain tops with breathtaking views at every turn. There are lots of tunnels blasted through the mountains and pulloffs seemingly every mile where you can stop and take in the vistas. The trees are just beginning to turn color making the views even better.
|Some early splashes of color on the Parkway|
Till then I’ll say goodbye!