If it’s Tuesday, This Must Be Scotland

Oddly enough for a travel blog entry, I won’t be adding a photo today. That’s because the free unlimited data from T-Mobile is slow, and ship’s Wi-Fi is slower. I can’t upload a photo without it being cancelled due to a network timeout. I’ll consider myself lucky to get a blog entry posted at all.

As usual, I find the cruise-with-edifying-port-excursions format frustrating. I get but a tiny taste of something I’d rather sit down with and savor. All I can say for it is that it’s far less stressful than trying the same thing with land transportation.

I can’t complain about our cruise provider, though. Viking Cruises is serious about “all-inclusive”—aside from our fare, we need pay for nothing besides gratuities. The staff is always courteous and eager to provide anything—extra pods for our in-cabin espresso machine, 24-hour room service—that we might reasonably request. Shipboard laundromats are free.

On the other hand I’ve managed to have some experiences that I thought I never would:

  • Seeing the Northern Lights
  • Being at sea during a North Atlantic gale
  • Seeing icebergs
  • Watching a Swedish customs officer get really pissed with a clueless American who thought he could wander back and forth through checkpoints at will

Mind you, none of these was actually on my “bucket list”; in fact, I would put “being at sea during a North Atlantic gale” on my anti-bucket list—an experience that I would happily have gone to my grave without. I’m usually a good sailor, but I needed Dramamine that night. There was nothing the ship’s captain could have done—Hubby pulled up the marine weather forecasts, and the blasted gale actually formed around our position. We had to skip a port-of-call because it would have had the full force of 50-knot winds slamming us into the pier.

Sadly, I had bought my Dramamine from the ship’s shop before I found out I could have gotten a dose by just asking at the passenger desk.

Note to self: Never again attend a presentation in the ship’s theater when said theater is in the forecastle, has no horizon reference, and we’re pounding through forty-foot waves.


Packing For the Cruise == Madness #amwriting

My brain creates chaos while packing...
The floor of my room looks like this now… (Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net )

I love travel.

I hate packing.

I envy Tim Ferriss’s mad lightweight travel skillz—but even if I were going to live abroad for months, I’d likely still pack to live out of my luggage for a week or three. Yes, yes, unlike my mother I know that non-USA cities have toothpaste and mouthwash and even toilet paper for sale, but I’d rather have some time to scope out the local shops so that I’m not getting ripped off in tourist traps.

And since I’m not doing the lightweight, living in a hostel or couchsurfing thing, but going on a freaking cruise ship, I had better have all the socially and climatically required clothing available even if I have to use the laundromat aboard every three days.

But—how many sets of underwear? Will there be enough USA-compatible outlets in the the stateroom for both Hubby’s electronics and mine? How cold is it in the North Atlantic in September? (Pretty darn, by South California lowlands standards.) What should I wear for shipboard dining? Dancing? Swimming pool or spa? (Should I even bother? Am I too fat and too old to wear a swimsuit? If so, how can all the other old farts on the cruise stand showing up at the pool?) How can I get the ridiculous variety of dietary supplements I take past security and customs?

Then I must answer the most agonizing question of all:

Which electronics should I take and which should I leave behind? Will I get to write? Is it worthwhile schlepping the MacBook Air? Can I get by with the iPad, or should I take the iPhone as well? Is there T-Mobile data service in Greenland? (Not really, no. Not even T-Mobile covers Greenland.)

The fact that I’m in the middle of switching all my wireless devices from Verizon to T-Mobile doesn’t help. Yes, T-Mobile has vastly superior travel support, but right now I’m sweating transferring each line as it comes off Verizon contract. (T-Mobile’s offer to pay off your Early Termination Fees isn’t as good as it sounds. It only applies if you buy all new devices and trade in your old ones. I just bought the iPad Air 2 in May so I’m not trading that in, and I happen to really like my green iPhone 5c. Besides, the point of the carrier change is to save money, not spend gobs of it on new toys.)

So I’d just decided that I definitely would NOT take either phone or MacBook Air, but would schlep my iPad, its keyboard, and a Real Camera (not a DSLR, but a nice upscale point-and-shoot—the Canon Elph 190 IS.) Hubby then raised the issue with some friends as to the possibility of voice calls while we’re in Canada, and I considered the issue opened again. Finally, I decided that if Hubby wants to take voice calls in Canada on his work AT&T phone, he’s welcome to do so and work it out with his management after. The green iPhone stays in California.

So that means packing spare batteries for my noise-cancelling headphones, my Misfit Flash activity tracker, and my Logitech iPad keyboard. I’ll need a Lightning cable and charger for the iPad, and a charger for the camera battery. I’ll be working with iOS Scrivener without a net, as I don’t expect that I’ll have enough bandwidth to either sync with Dropbox regularly or save zipped backups to Google drive. Besides, I upgraded to iOS 10, and the zipped backups function of iOS Scrivener is crashing until Keith is sure that there are no further bugs related to iOS 10 and releases an update.

Foo. The good news that I’ll have even more experience using iOS Scrivener in isolation from the Mac version. If I find out any good stuff, I’ll let you know.


Who Crosses the Atlantic by Boat Anymore? (Cruising the Atlantic)

Atlantic Cruise Map
We’ll travel “In the Wake of the Vikings” starting 18 September 2016 (image from http://www.vikingcruises.com )

It seems I cross the Atlantic by boat. Or I will.

Both Scrivener techniques and writing are taking a back seat to preparation for our upcoming two-week adventure with Viking Ocean Cruises. We’ll start in Bergen, Norway and travel by . . . ocean cruise ship (squee!) to:

  • Lerwick, Shetland Islands, UK
  • Torshavn, Faroe Islands, Denmark
  • Reykjavík, Iceland
  • Nanortalik, Greenland
  • Qaqortoq, Greenland
  • L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, Canada
  • Saguenay, Quebec, Canada
  • Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
  • Montreal, Quebec, Canada

So I’m arranging for international data service for my iPad, while setting it up to write for extended periods without an Internet connection. (I know better than to rely on the shipboard Internet—on our river cruise in Europe it was . . . feeble at best. It’s a desperation alternative only.) I’m increasing my daily walking miles to be ready for those shore excursions. I’m checking my winter wardrobe, replacing a few pieces and adding others.—What’s that you say? It won’t be winter?

I live in Southern California, folks, and I don’t ski. Therefore, autumn in Greenland looks like winter to me. Layering will be my friend, here, because I don’t want to invest in the really heavy stuff that the forecast for Greenland would suggest to a cold weather wimp like myself . . .

I’m excited! Not only am I crossing the Atlantic in a way I’d thought I’d been born too late for, but I’m also getting to hike in Scotland—a delight I missed on our last visit.

Hubby’s birthday falls on the day we’ll be in Reykjavík. I wonder how they do birthday celebrations in Iceland?

Time to Get Back to Work

Nuremberg -- The inside of a gigantic Nazi arena that was never finished.
Nuremberg — The inside of a gigantic Nazi arena that was never finished. Supposedly it’s being preserved as a warning — but the trees growing out of the walls cause me to question that…
I arrived back in Los Angeles from Europe late Monday, five days ago. Tuesday was fine; I sort of got back into the swing of things . . . and then that nagging sneeze and nasal itch became a full-fledged summer cold.

Not my favorite souvenir of Europe.

But I’m back to almost healthy again, and it’s time to face up to the fact that while I was on vacation . . . I was on vacation. No, I got no writing done. I’ve learned a lot about myself though:

  • Seven days is about the maximum time I can go without solitude. I love Hubby, but after seven days sharing a tiny room and every activity I’m climbing walls (or bulkheads. Whatever.) Note to self: Plan opportunities to go off by myself on future vacations.
  • The experience of a very large cruise ship finding its way out of a lock by Braille is unpleasantly like that of being in an earthquake. Note to self: Avoid bottom-deck staterooms.
  • I would rather go exploring with Hubby than listen to history lectures from a guide.
  • I would rather have honest sausage and sauerkraut than Haute Cuisine every. Single. Night.
  • Nuremberg is the Museum City of “We’re Really Sorry About That.” Listening to two hours of “We’re really sorry about that” is depressing — and old Nazi buildings are even more so.

But I need to get my second draft finished, so it’s back to work for me today. One day, one sentence at a time.

Off the Beaten Path

Trained Golden Eagle
Trained Golden Eagle at Ehrenbreitstein Fortress
After my shipmates and Hubby came back from the Bamburg tour I had a talk with Hubby about, well, how boring I found the conventional tours were that came with our cruise. As a result, we started branching away earlier and more thoroughly.

At Koblenz, Germany in particular we ignored the harrowing bus trip to Marksburg Castle, because we could see a cable car ride to a perfectly good castle just meters from our dock. We were ever so glad we did. The cable car ride was fun and we got to see a falconry demonstration that was superb (even if it was all in German so that Hubby had to translate for me.) Ehrenbreitstein Fortress itself was a museum with a historical perspective on the site as far back as the Bronze Age. We had coffee in a courtyard that overlooked the confluence of the Mosel and the Rhine. Meanwhile our shipmates were driving up one lane, two-way roads to a castle that was, yes, abandoned earlier than Ehrenbreitstein, and therefore had intact medieval architecture. I didn’t really get to see an intact medieval castle from the inside.

Instead, I saw the eagle flying. Good trade.

Day Off

Stained glass windows in Regensburg Cathedral
Stained glass windows in Regensburg Cathedral
I decided not to do the Bamberg tour with Hubby. Instead I’m enjoying a relaxing day without being force-fed history lectures and tramping up cobblestone-paved hills. In the rain. Perhaps by tomorrow’s city, whatever it is, my enthusiasm will be back. In the meantime, peace and quiet are lovely.

Back in the UK

20140805-124259-45779662.jpgI’m in transit, at Heathrow airport near London.

I’ve visited the UK twice before, and it’s familiar now, comfortable, and regrettably expensive. I’m glad to be back here, glad to hear the numerous accents of the Commonwealth, glad to experience the formal British courtesy. Dang, if I could afford to, I’d move here.

But I’m only on my way to Budapest, and will not get to stay here for another two weeks, when I get to take care of the non-profit’s business at a convention. Bah. No British sightseeing, nor even relaxing, I fear. If there’s relaxation to be had, I must find it along the Danube, Rhine, and Main this trip.

Camp NaNoWriMo Fail

Bummer.

I have tons of excuses. There’s the “I was sick” excuse — good one, but I wasn’t that sick. More debilitating was the “OMG, I’ve got to go to London in a week (yeah, there’s a few blog posts…) and I can’t take donations for the charitable organization on whose behalf I’m going there!!” excuse. In less than a week, I put up a website with e-commerce capability, linking back to the parent organization, developed promotional material, (OK, a PowerPoint. Still.) and put together a paper flyer with donation form included.

If only I could put that kind of energy into my novel, I’d be done by now.

Well, about the London thing. Yes, Hubby and I are going there for charity. We sit in the departure lounge at LAX as I type. We’ll also be taking a two-week river cruise through Central Europe, thus blowing our vacation budget for the next four years. The nice thing about the cruise is, that while we will be taking a whirlwind tour of Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands, we won’t need to unpack — our “hotel” will move in the night from city to city. I intend to make the most of this — particularly as my afternoons will be free.

We’ll see if any writing gets done while I steam up the Danube. Have iPad, will travel.

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