Cruisin’: Unlikely Travel Buddies

“The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends….Friendship must be about something….Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travelers.” -C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

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Departure from Miami

Our second ‘date’ was 10 days long and we didn’t kill each other… so I guess we should get married, right?!

Just kidding.

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Carnival Glory

When Randall informed me just before Christmas he had two free cruise tickets from winning Employee of the Year at his work in Plymouth, Massachusetts, I jumped at his offer. I knew I would have to miss a week of my last semester of undergrad… but senioritis was kicking in, and besides, when else might I have a chance at a free Caribbean cruise?

cruise5Randall and I had met in Italy: I was in Rome for the weekend, he was there for a week or so on vacation. We sat next to one another in St. Peter’s Basilica for mass that Sunday morning. After exploring Trestavere all evening together, we discovered that we enjoyed travelling and adventuring together–but when we parted we doubted we would ever see one another again. Until now!

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Two Carnival ships

I think it’s rare that someone would go out on a limb like Randall did, and ask someone he had met only once to spend 10 days with him–and I think it is equally rare that someone would accept that invitation. But we are both at times in our lives where we are willing, and able, to try most anything for an adventure. I am thankful God placed us in one another’s lives so we could take this crazy exploration together.

We had the time of our lives. Thank you, Randall, for all your hard work, and thank you for asking me to join you in this incredible experience.

The Amber Palace

The Amber Palace, on board the Glory

10 days, Jan. 30-Feb. 8: two overnights in Boston due to early/late flights into/out of Fort Lauderdale, two days travelling and boarding/debarking, two days solely on the beautiful Carnival Glory, and four days in the middle of the trip during which we debarked in Caribbean locations for 8-9 hours during the day.

photobomb...

photobomb…

The ship was gigantic–it was a floating city. There were 12 decks, approx. 18 elevators, a giant casino, more than a half-dozen restaurants, a large theatre, a water slide, multiple bars and lounges, and constant live music and stand-up comedy in the evenings. Randall’s free tickets left nothing wanting–we ate every night in the Platinum Restaurant, a private balcony, and still left some ‘cruise cash’ left over for drinks during the week. We spent our two ship days lying in the sun on the deck, watching the Superbowl on a giant outdoor screen, soaking in live music and dance, and sitting in the hot tub and looking at the stars.

cruise9cruise10We spent a day on the island of Cozumel, Mexico, where we rented a moped and zipped the 43 miles around the island, stopping frequently to visit Mayan ruins and talk to the locals. We came upon a free tequila tasting–I’ve never been a fan of tequila before, but now that I’ve had the real Mexican stuff, there’s no going back.

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Giant lizard!

Cozumel

Cozumel

We stopped once to watch the water crashing on the rocks on the back side of the island. On the way back to the dock we stopped in the town for lunch and pina coladas…and literally got caught in the rain… /cue country song/

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Belize City

Belize City

In Belize City we wandered around the city, went to the Belizean History museum, walked up and down the river, and talked to the locals. Much of the city was dilapidated, but it made for some neat pictures of staircases and walls in the middle of overgrown lots.

Miss Jenny

Miss Jenny

I ate Belizean food for lunch from a woman named Miss Jenny who served up delicious meals outdoors under a tent. As all her friends gathered around the tent they spoke quickly in Creole and smiled at me sitting wide-eyed on a tiny plastic kids chair beneath Miss Jenny’s large pots of chicken, rices, collard greens, and plantains. We met Edward, who told us about Belizean government and festivals, and I had a beer with Alan, who used to be a diving fisherman. He knew everyone on the river.

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Fishing boats on the river in Belize City

Roatan

Roatan

In Honduras we stayed on the island of Roatan, and from there took a chairlift to a smaller island with a beautiful beach. We rented snorkel gear and explored the beautiful reefs just offshore. We saw an octopus and a few squid, in addition to a plethora of brightly-colored fishes and corals.

Chairlift over the jungle

Chairlift over the jungle in Roatan

Otherwise we just lay in the sun all day: I read a book, Randall napped. That hard worker deserved it.

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Grand Cayman Island

By the time we reached Grand Cayman Island we were exhausted from the previous days’ adventures, so we decided to go with a guided tour for the main part of the day. We took a bus through the island, mostly comprised of large stucco houses and American-looking neighborhoods of American stores (vastly different from anything we’d seen on land yet), and older women going for walks in white shorts and visors. We were driving on the left side of the road: I discovered later that the Cayman Islands are British territories.

A boat took us out to the middle of the large bay where an underwater ‘beach’ came to a plateau about waist-deep, and stingrays circled our feet. Following the lead of our tour guides, we kissed and hugged stingrays, then snorkeled around the reefs. Our tour guide was Tina, and she homeschooled her son CJ and took him on all her tours. He loved to participate in fishing competitions, and wanted to go to college in New England. Randall spent most of the time on the tour talking with them.

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Paul Revere statue outside Old North Church

Paul Revere statue outside Old North Church

I had a night in Boston before I had to leave the following morning, so Randall took me downtown to Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall, and Old North church. It was cold, and we were both missing the sun, but we had a great time seeing a bit of the old city and drinking Sam Adams in the Black Rose Tavern. It was a bit strange to be blistered all over with sunburns but also be chilled to the bone because I did not have sufficient jacket or shoes.

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Nailed it.

Midwest from above

Midwest from above

But it was worth it.

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A City–Eternal?

‘I have breathed the air of a thousand Romans.’ -Unknown

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I spent last weekend in Rome for my birthday, and I realized a few things:

1. I did well in choosing Florence over Rome for my study abroad location. Rome is a bit too big for me, especially if I want to get to know the area well. Everything was bigger in Rome: not only the sheer size of the buildings, statues, churches, and piazzas, but even the very bricks from which they were made.

Mass in St. Peter’s on Sunday morning was mostly spent gaping at the ceilings so far above, and gazing at the biggest bronze statue in the world behind me, and smiling at the Koine Greek words around the top of the nave. The pipe organ played, and the monks chanted in Latin, and we worshipped God together in many tongues.rome1

Rome even astonishes in numbers: there are over 600 churches in the city, and over 2000 fountains. 1400 of the latter were present in the ancient days, and most are still in working condition. I love walking up to the stone faces on the side of buildings and taking a deep drink of the cool water, still brought in by ancient aqueducts.

2. I can officially travel on my own–a real confidence builder. I was wandering through this foreign city alone when I thought to myself, No one knows where I am. I had no roommate, no host mom making supper for me, I didn’t have to text anyone about my whereabouts. It was the most alone I have ever been, and not only did I survive–I thrived.rome2

Sunday afternoon was the height of my ‘lonely’ travels: I asked the hotel manager where the closest beach was, stole a towel from the room, and headed out to Ostia, an hour south of Rome proper. I took two different metro lines and a half-hour train ride with a bunch of wild, screaming Italian children who were going to the amusement park there, then paid a fortune for a an hour’s use of a lounge chair.

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I didn’t realize you had to pay to go to the beach in Europe. The Montanan in me thought, Isn’t nature supposed to be free? But I saw enough old men in speedos to last me a lifetime, so I guess I’m picky about freedom…because that shouldn’t be allowed.

Anyway, the beach was a nice change. I realized I hadn’t seen the ocean (except from an aircraft) since I went to the beaches of Normandy in northern France in 2011. I’ve always considered myself a mountain girl, but there is something fascinating about endless water.

3. No earthly thing is eternal. The ruins, especially in places such as the Area Sacra, sang softly of sadness: still and lifeless, they tell a story–a story of death. The Colosseum was still an impressive structure, but it, too, will pass.

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The forum has always been one of my favorite places in Rome. Unlike many of the other ancient structures, the forum is a picture of everyday life in ancient times. Small signs point out ‘the house of Caesar Augustus’ and other similar locations. There were gardens, still tended, and small fountains in courtyards.

I took off my shoes and allowed the dust to cover my feet and ankles. I thought of the days when Romans must have passed through these houses, kicking up the same dust.post 3.7

I wondered if they ever thought that their lives, then so well fortified by power and made secure by the sheer size of Rome, would someday become a city-wide museum. Did they consider their legacy?

What will I leave behind?

Dust?