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Posts Tagged ‘Florida’

I really wish I could have been in Florida today, not because it’s cold here but because today was Grandparents Day at Finley’s school.  The kids dictated notes to their grandparents which were then typed by their teacher.   The letters were read aloud in class today. I am so, so, happy to have received this video today of all days! 

This is the BEST Valentine ever!  Finley Ray has my heart, there’s no denying it.  

Finley Ray

Finley Ray

 

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This is the last leg of our journey, the final chapter in Peterlori’s Great Adventure.  The trip down to Florida was a bit rough and it lasted 26 hours, and believe me that’s a long time to be on a train.  Guess I wouldn’t do so well on those romantic transatlantic crossing of the old days!  Well, the trip back to New York lasted 30 hours!  I couldn’t imagine why the way back was longer than the way down until I learned that we were going to Tampa to drop off some travelers and then head east again and north.

I’m not used to having breakfast so early in the morning and certainly not doing so sitting in a dining car opposite a stranger.  The stranger actually was a lovely young woman who was a waitress and lived on City Island.  That made for interesting conversation as neither of us had ever met someone who actually lived there.  I had the same issues with the waiter as before.  He rushes you to make your order and listens half-heartedly if at all before he races off to deal with another diner.  This time I got potatoes instead of the grits I ordered. The girl ordered a vegetable omelette BUT she didn’t know there were no vegetables otherwise they would have been in last night’s medley!  More roasted corn and tomato or red pepper.

I wish I had some real drama or humor to interject into this post but I think the rest of the day just seemed to drift by.  Even though we ate breakfast so early, when they came around asking us to make if we wanted to make lunch reservations we passed.  The day was bright and sunny and sitting in our little roomette and reading was a great pastime.  Peter was ensconced on the upper berth and loved sitting up there.  The only problem was that the lower berth was still in berth mode and needed to be put back into individual seats.   

Finally I caught a glimpse of Thomas going by and I snagged him and asked him to please put our room back in order.  He worked his way down the aisle and eventually got to us.  Peter asked him if we could leave the upper berth as it was because he really liked it up there.  Thomas said yes as long as we let him remake the bed sometime before we got back to NYC .  

There is no real dinner service on this last leg of the trip but there is what they call a simple dinner.  “The” waiter went to each roomette and took orders for this light repast.  Our choices were half of a roast chicken or a pasta dish made with spinach and a light garlic cream sauce.  As I said, the food so far had been good but you still have to remember where you are and under what circumstances.  Food and some dishes in particular are mass-produced and  I had a feeling that the cream sauce and pasta fell into the category.  So we ordered the chicken meals and were told it would be served around 4:30 or when we got to Baltimore.

When we went into the Dining Car, we were seated across from a couple who within moments went from polite hellos to those uncomfortable airplane conversations one might have with a total stranger.  What is about the fact that you don’t know this person and will never see them again that allows people to reveal their inner feelings, their secret fallacies and even air the dirty laundry about their family? It wasn’t long before I was nudging Peter under the table and trying to nod in agreement in hopes the discourse would wind down.  Way, way too much information!  It was interesting that he had been born in the Midwest but raised around the panhandle  and she was from south Florida and that they were celebrating their anniversary with a trip to New York City and then Niagra Falls and then Toronto.  We are always fascinated by what tourists think New York City is going to be like and what they are planning to see.  This couple  had bought those New York Passes that appeal to tourists.   She had no idea what was in the Metropolitan Museum but was definitely interested in seeing Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum….oh well.

Penn Station (New York City)

Penn Station (New York City) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was dark and freezing cold when we pulled into Penn Station. Peter’s much-loved, much-worn over-the-shoulder bag had ripped around one of the zippers and so he was anxious and afraid something might fall out – I had to walk behind him.  All I was thinking about was that I was wearing sweat pants and a tee shirt with a shawl tightly wrapped around me and hoping we wouldn’t have to be outside too long.   We did luck out getting a cab and believe me it was luck as the area around Penn Station on a Saturday evening is a zoo!  

We were so happy to be in our own apartment after soooooo long on the train.  I surely thought the cats would be at the door to greet us but no.  Nicky never got out of the chair he was sitting on and I don’t know where Nora was  but the fact that we had returned apparently had no real effect on them.  And as much as I adore my fur babies, it would have been nice if they had at least pretended to be dogs and wag their tails and jump around when we came home.  And the thing is the cats know their owners are needy and just for spite they act indifferently lol lol.  That will teach us not to abandon them for a week and expect a warm welcome!

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PART I

What a difference a roomette makes!  We left Florida on Friday afternoon at about 1:00pm, not exactly looking forward to the trip but hoping that with the guarantee of a berth in a roomette we would find the trip more pleasant than the one down.  As soon as we got on the train, the conductor informed us that lunch was being served.  Seemed like a good way to start the trip.  Sitting in the Dining Car is really cool.  The tables are large and the food is quite good.  We were in high spirits, ordered our food and watched the scenery go by.  It’s very pleasant sitting in a large open area with white-clothed tables, civilized in fact.  One of the waiters who might have been the head waiter was the one we got and he left much to be desired.  Who knows maybe they don’t make that much money but somehow I think with the steady work, health care, vacation and probably unionized, he could have been much better.  First of all he had this habit of starting to take your order and then either walking away while you were still talking or jumping across the aisle to take the newly-arrived guests.   I ordered tea with my meal and he never asked me what I wanted.  So of course he brought me tea – I said, “Did I tell you what kind of tea I wanted”?  I guess it did sound a little snotty but it wasn’t delivered in that manner.  He looked at me and said,”What do you want”? “Herbal”.  “What kind”? “What do you have”?  Finally I settled on Apple Spice only to be told upon his return that they were out of Apple Spice. “OK, orange”.  Tea was only the beginning of what they would be out of!

After lunch, we went to our tiny roomette and figured out how we and our luggage were going to live and sleep in this 5′ by 6′ cubicle.  Let’s see now, if I put this bag here and the suitcase there and Peter puts his suitcase over there…well honestly it was going to be really tight in here and I need to stretch out my legs a little.

Turquoise-socked footies

Turquoise-socked footies

For a while, we sat across from one another and tried putting our legs off to the side while we read.  I am SO HAPPY that I brought a John Grisham novel because it held my attention for hours during this trip.  There was the small tray table you could pull up and out of a slot by the window and opened up between the two of us.  Neat, it had a checkerboard stenciled on it.  I propped up my computer and although there was no Wi-Fi, I worked on writing a blog in the Word program so I could upload it when I got home.  And the afternoon slipped by.  However, at some point I had to pee (no surprise there) and I asked Peter if he had seen a restroom.  No, he hadn’t so I went out and down one aisle and into the next car and then back to the car behind us and saw nothing.  I can’t remember now if Peter left to go ask a conductor or whether someone informed him that the toilet was in the roomette!  Really?! Yes really!  The before picture is above and you see my TOWN bag sitting on a shelf.  Here is the after photo.

I'm a toilet, I'm a shelf

I’m a toilet, I’m a shelf

Now it should be clear as to what the first half of this blog title is all about! Intimacy is mandatory. Above the toilet is a sink with real running water and a mirror above it.  The sink pulls down from the wall, the faucets are there and there are drain holes in the back of the sink so when you pick it up to return it, the water runs out.  Just amazing design and use of space.

Wash up, brush your teeth and you're ON a train!

Wash up, brush your teeth and you’re ON a train!

Well once we discovered the facilities we had to work out some plans to use them.  Not going into a lot of detail here, truly it would be TMI!

To while away the late afternoon, we watched a movie on my computer and it was a great way to watch one of the old Preston Sturgess movies Peter had packed.  We made reservations for an 8:00 dinner leaving Peter enough time to make a martini in our little room first.  I had packed a very cute little plastic shaker and we had brought along some gin.  There was ice down the hall (just like a hotel) and so he enjoyed his pre-dinner cocktail just as if we were home.  We had already spent so much time on trains in the past few days that the train was beginning to feel like a getaway home to us.  Dinner was delicious;  We had steak and a baked potato and uh oh,  no vegetable medley.  They were out so they substituted roasted corn with tomato or roasted red peppers , couldn’t quite discern!  It was all good and by the way, meals are included in the fare for the roomette,

All afternoon as I sat in my seat reading, wrapped in a shawl, I kept complaining about how cold it was.  We thought we  could adjust the temp and although there was a thermostat I think it was only for heat because nothing changed.  I should have known this would be a problem at night.  As we were eating dinner, Thomas, our compartment attendant made up our beds and when we returned it looked mighty cosy.  Peter opted for the top bunk as he was agile and I had no intention of climbing down every time I had to pee.  We sat up reading for some time and then I realized just how cold I was going to be all night.  I slept in my sweat pants and a tee shirt, I had the shawl, I put socks on my feet and tried blocking the vents with a towel but that kept blowing off.  It was a very fitful night for me while Peter slept comfortably up above and about 5:30am I realized I should block the vents with one of the pillows.  Awake again by 6:30am, I finally gave up the idea of sleep.  We brushed our teeth, splashed water on our faces and headed to the Dining Car for breakfast.

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God, I hope not!  It is still really dark outside and I hear the pitter patter of little feet approaching my room.  You know even without opening your eyes that there is someone in your presence;  Sure enough, Francesca is looking at me!  I say, “What are you doing up? Is the owl green?” She just looks at me…There is an owl light in the girl’s bedroom and all night the light is yellow but it’s set for 7am and the rule is you don’t get up until the owl is green!  (of course you can get up but you have to stay in your room till 7am) So I suggest that it’s quite possible that since it’s still dark,  Santa might be still putting presents downstairs under the tree.  Still no response just an adorable smile which is hard to see because it IS still dark.  I look at my phone and it’s 6:30. “Frankie, c’mon I’ll take you back to your room and then in a little while we can go downstairs”

I figured we had maybe another 15 minutes to rest before Christmas mayhem began.  I had been hoping to give the girls some of their presents on Christmas Eve so they wouldn’t be lost in the mound of treasures  left by Santa, but that didn’t work out.  Finley can read and we thought it would nice if she distributed gifts.  That lasted about 2 minutes and then the mad cap ripping began with me periodically shouting, “Check the name on the box first”.  That was followed with “How come she gets two books?  How come she has gel pens and I don’t ?”

Ruthie Wearing Her New Silk Pajamas

Ruthie Wearing Her New Silk Pajamas

Eventually all the Hello Kitty paraphernalia  was uncovered, the American Girl dolls now had a bed of their own along with new clothes.  Best of all Frankie and Rebecca had matching pj’s and Finley and Ruthie had matching dresses with leggings.  There were books, and more princess dresses  (Really! How many Disney princesses are there?) bean bag chairs with each girl’s name and a teepee.  Well if your tent is shaped like a teepee but it is made from pale pink striped cotton duck, is it still a teepee?  I gave Frankie a book which I thought she would enjoy and she took one look at it and said, ” I don’t like this book”.  I asked her why and her answer was, “I only like Princess books”. Francesca always speaks her mind;  Earlier, the girls emptied their stockings and discovered candy cane holders filled with M&M’s.  For days, there has been MUCH discussion about healthy eating, what’s nutritious, should we cook everything in coconut oil and on and on  So Frankie wants to open her candy and eat some before we open presents.  Justin is horrified and tells her “No, no we have to breakfast first” .  Frankie states the facts as she sees them, “I LOVE CANDY”.

At about this time, in rolled the rest of the gang.  Of course our whole entourage could not fit in one house so Chiara and Tom rented a house nearby for the overflow of guests.  We’re leaving tomorrow, some are leaving on Saturday, some are staying longer and the guest room sheets have been changed every couple of days.  First to arrive for the opening of the gifts were Dennis, Brad and Tom Sr. and Lisa.  Linda and Ed were expected shortly;  They were flying in from Long Island.  

More gifts…oh no roller blades.  And who thinks that the girls should put them on right now and try them out?  Well I’ll tell you it wasn’t any of the mothers.  It was the two bachelors and Tom!  Sometimes it’s hard to tell who the kids are and who the adults are.  We got everybody back into the house and just as I thought we might have breakfast, there was open more present to be had – the girls were ushered to the garage where they came upon not a midnight clear but rather a battery-operated  car! It seats 2 and with Finley at the wheel, the girls were tooling around the yard.  Everybody thought they were so cute until Finley stepped on the speed pedal and veered toward the pool! At least 3 of the grandparents screamed.  “BREAKFAST IS SERVED”

Egg casseroles, bagels, croissants, fruit salad, and muffins and by God we are in Florida because half the people are eating outside.  The mimosas are flowing and the adults are happy.  The kids are eating whatever they want  and sitting outside in the sunshine it surely doesn’t seem like Christmas.  We are going to take it easy for awhile before we have to be at Laura’s house for Christmas dinner.

Stay tuned for Part II.

 

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Cover of "North by Northwest"

Cover of North by Northwest

Monday 6:30 am Oh what a night….I’m not sure that I ever fell asleep, I know I dozed now and again because I have some remembrance of short dreams.  Trying to sleep in the seat was just awful; No way to get comfortable, no way to stretch out your legs and as I had been warned, it got really cold in the car last night.   I kept clutching my cotton shawl around my shoulders and arms.  The eye mask and neck pillow only helped a little.  I doused my eyes with drops in hopes that they would stop feeling like sandpaper and asked Peter to get us coffee.

He brought back two steaming cups of tasty coffee and convinced me that we should go to the dining car for breakfast.  I really didn’t want to be in bright lights but ok, he wanted a real meal so we went.  It was still dark out!  This is a trip of many firsts;  I’ve never traveled this far or overnight on a train before, I never ate in a dining car and I surely never  saw the sun rise in Savannah Georgia sitting at the window of a lovely dining car!  We sat across the table from a nice man and his young son who were on their way to Florida to celebrate Grandpa’s 100th birthday!  It was really nice sitting at a table with a white tablecloth and having someone wait on you after the hours spent in our seats eating carrots and humus and fitfully trying to catch some zzzz’s 

It’s now 8:30am and my husband is already napping – he who claimed 4 hours of sleep was quite enough for him!

NOON  We didn’t make reservations for lunch, the food is not so great  for the price so I guess some of now warm snacks left from yesterday will be our lunch. I just watched my travelogue documentary on the Northern Lights narrated and starring Joanna Lumley.  I love this film; I want to duplicate her journey, it was amazing!  We are just past DeLand which is southwest of Daytona so we are still pretty far north in Florida. I’ve been tracking our progress with the GPS on my phone.  I can see and feel just how long this day is going to be.

The rest of the afternoon was all about reading and looking out the window and standing in line to go to the rest room.   Actually there was no line at the end because both the toilets weren’t working, but this is probably  TMI.  Overall, the fact is that riding an Amtrak train is certainly not the Orient Express.  Okay of course it’s not the Orient Express, The Blue Train of South Africa, and for sure my trip in no way resembled  the trip Cary Grant took in  North By Northwest.

Anyway it was absolutely wonderful to step off the train and be greeted by my daughter and my sister-in-law.  Soon we were at her house, the kids came running out and the smiles on their faces and the shrieks of “Gig, Gigi” made all the long hours of the night before seem very far away.

The girls have been staying up late the past few nights with all of the company arriving at their house  and so convincing them it was bed time took a little negotiation and a LOT of “but what is Santa going to think?”  I even invoked the ELF last night!  Surely you know about the “ELF”.  He  or she ELF is endowed with magic powers which allow the ELF to report back to Santa Claus each night on the day-long behavior of the house’s young denizens.  Not only does he snitch, he also moves around so each morning you have to find him – it’s always good to know where your elf is.  However, I can see that the real issue here is what do we use as leverage after Chistmas?

You know the luxurious feeling advertisers try to describe like a bubble bath, a certain lotion or even your bed at some  national chain hotel?  Well, when I laid my weary body down on the bed last night, I thought I had never felt anything so soft and cosy and comfortable!  AHhhhhh!

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20060730194237 - T27 - Dining car

Dining car (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We pulled into Philadelphia at about 4:45pm and stayed in the station so engineers could come aboard and fix the falling out window.  Yes that’s what I said; Earlier when we were Newark and the conductor came through to check tickets, the people two rows ahead of me told her there was something wrong with their window.  Oh my, wrong? I should say so, apparently it was out of its frame!  One hour and four hard-hatted engineers later, the window was replaced. 

By 6:45, we’ve snacking on cheese, crackers, carrots and celery and almonds and it’s that time; We have to get ice from the bar car;  I brought a little travel shaker and now someone is very happy, not to mention that he is sitting by himself on the other side of the aisle since the window fiasco necessitated several groups to move to another car in order to keep the families together!

7:45 I know we are already at least 45 minutes behind schedule and now we are in Washington D.C. and once again, engineers have descended upon the train.  The window has not been fixed correctly.  Three hard-hats all agreed that something is not right and they have shut the power off in our car and here we sit.!!!

 9:00 Earlier when the man came through the car asking if anyone wanted to make dining car reservations and we were informed of the 5:00 (must be the Florida early bird special) only time and we declined, he told us we could go to dining car at 8:30 and perhaps there would be a table.  If not, we also had the option of ordering some food and bringing it back to our seats.  So at 8:30pm Peter went to the dining car and immediately returned as the line was all the way into the next car.  He went back at 9:00pm and the dining room was closed.  SO MUCH FOR DINNER! 

Finally at about 9:30 we went to the Bar Car and ordered a Tempting Turkey Sandwich to split.  I’m not even sure it was turkey.  At 10:30 they turned off the lights in the car but I continued to read for at least another hour hoping I would feel sleepy – I did not.

I never fell asleep all night!! I know I dozed off several times because I had little dream vignettes but the arms of Morpheus were elusive and trying to sleep in a seat titled ever so slightly back was really impossible for me.  As I roamed down the aisle to the rest room I was envious of all the travelers sacked out and sound asleep!

 

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Wi-Fi Signal logo

Wi-Fi Signal logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SUNDAY

Well, I’m off on another adventure to Florida!  Usually the “fun” begins when I’m there and I amuse my readers to no end with accounts of the daily craziness.  NOT SO this time!  Let the games begin! 

Today is Sunday and after racing around to finish up packing, getting a pedicure, trying on 3 different things that did NOT fit and not being able to locate one of the cats (we finally did) we finally left our apartment.   Since we were leaving late (apparently my fault) (NOT), tempers were already running high.  Add the 71 degree weather in the no-longer-air-conditioned apartment AND picture this – I have my rolling suitcase with a heavy tote bag on top of it, carrying my computer over my shoulder and one large canvas bag of Christmas presents; I’m wearing flip-flops because I don’t want to squish my new pedicure and all black because that’s what fit that would be ok to sleep in.  Peter is carrying a suitcase that must weigh 25lb on his shoulder that pulls his sport jacket down and he’s carrying another canvas bag with Christmas presents and a bag that has some last minute snack food I scavenged from the refrigerator and cupboards.  Actually the snacks are leftovers from Wednesday night’s gathering!

Hailing a cab turned out to be fairly easy but of course we got a driver who was indecisive about the fastest way to Penn Station.  First he started west on 86th St and then thought the FDR drive would be better so he U-turned.  The Drive was ok but when he exited at 34th St and headed west on 35th St, we virtually crawled across town.  I was already overheated, cranky and watching the meter climb was making me crazy.  $22 later we arrive at Penn Station a.k.a. Penn’s People Zoo.  It was MOBBED and it was hot.  

We were supposed to leave by 1:30pm but by the time we walked out the door it was almost 2pm.  Our intention was to get to the station an hour early so we could check to see if there were any cancellations for a roomette.  There were none, the train is sold out!  Oh, didn’t I mention that by the time we booked the trip they were no more roomettes left? And why did we book so late?  Look to my right…. therefore we are in for a 26 hour train ride in Coach seats, no beds.  I knew right away it was Christmas since there “was no room at the inn”. 

Getting onto the train was like being part of a herd of cattle.  There’s a cop at the top of the stairs next to the ticket agent and he’s shouting “Keep the families together, keep the families together” which means there are straggling kids with wheeling suitcases trying to push through the 5 lines of passengers trying to reach the top of the escalator!  

I boarded the train and turned right like the conductor said only to come to an immediate HALT.  There was a family of four trying to get out of the car against the tide of us trying to get in the car.  This necessitated a strange dance backwards of several people and their luggage with no place for them to back up.  Finally they got off and I lunged forward hoping to find two vacant seats together, lol lol.  Of course there were no seats.  I was ahead of Peter so I dropped one bag down on one seat and across the aisle and one row forward, I dropped another bag.  Then I tried to negotiate with the woman in the second pair of seats.  “ Excuse me ma’am would you mind switching your window seat here for the one over there so I could sit with my husband”?  She looks at me as if I asked her to move to rest room.  I try again and she leans over to look at the seat I’m pointing at and says, “No, I think I’d d rather be here”.   At this point Peter comes up the aisle and sees that I’m not standing in a pair of seats and I’m already putting the bags of Christmas presents up on the rack.  He loudly says, “What, aren’t there 2 seats together?” And then adds, “Well can’t you ask someone if they will move?”  I tell him I did but no one wants to.  I guess that did it because the lady announced she would move.  I said, “Bless you, thank you, you are so kind and you have no idea how he’s been, I’m never traveling with him on a train again! 

Once underway, the train cooled down a bit and we settled in.  As soon as one of the conductors came by, I inquired about Wi-Fi and was informed there was no Wi-Fi on the train and here I thought I would be writing my blog, playing scrabble online, cruising through ebay and checking in on Facebook, Not Happening! 

Shortly thereafter, a man came through asking is anyone wanted to make reservations for the Dining Car.  We looked at each other and thought a change of scenery would do us good later on so I told Peter to make it for 8:00pm. Well that wasn’t happening either because the only reservation he had was for 5:00pm and it was already 4:30pm!  And I wanted to buy a large sub for us to split on the train since everyone told us how expensive the food was and Peter said not to AND I listened to him, so really who’s the schmuck? 

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