Day 1 – We’re Off to Scandinavia and Russia!

It is such a job getting out of town on vacation.  It is so much work that we need a vacation to recover from the effort.  There is always a last minute disaster or two, which in the moment of chaos, makes me wonder whether this is all worth it.  But, of course, it is.  What is moderate inconvenience (and lack of sleep) compared to heading out on a grand adventure!

This trip we are taking our granddaughter Ellie, aged 14, along.  We took her twin sister, Emma, with us to South America last spring.  This time we are headed to Scandinavia, with a trip to St. Petersburg, Russia thrown in.

We are taking another Celebrity cruise, this time on the Silhouette.  We sailed on this ship six years ago on our 30th wedding anniversary.  My cheeks are still burning from being a contestant on their “Newlywed Game.”  Unbeknownst to me, George had entered our name to be chosen to play the game.  I know he didn’t have a clue what this meant.  He thought it was for a drawing to win a prize.  Four couples, all having different anniversaries were called up to the stage in the huge Celebrity Theatre, which was packed with cruisers.  Remember the old TV show The Newlywed Game?  The couples are separated and have to answer questions about their marriage.  Once reunited one spouse has to guess what the other answered.  George, while a loving husband, frankly couldn’t tell you the color of my eyes, if asked.  He would guess brown, because that is the color of his eyes.  And he’d be right.

It should have been called the Sexywed Game, because  all questions were related  to where, when and how we…..well you can guess.  George, who has a deadpan demeanor and needs a novocaine shot from a dentist to paralyze his lips into a smile showing teeth, delighted the audience.  My face was scarlet from answering the questions.  I could have lied; in fact I should have lied.  It’s just in my nature, particularly when put on the spot to blurt out the truth.  So I am blurting out horribly embarrassing answers and George is giving me an unbelieving (and unforgiving) glare.

Of course, we lost, but won a consolation prize of a Celebrity T-Shirt.  Worse, however, was the fact they played the gameshow over and over on the tv channel.  For days, people stared at us, nudging one another and whispering “Isn’t that the woman who said something about cellophane?”  Or the would come right up and want to discuss it.  Thank God we didn’t have a grandchild with us on that trip!

Ellie has never been out of the country, and is enthusiastic at the prospect.  We shopped for her cruise wardrobe, and weeded through the mounds of clothes she brought.  We would have needed six steamer trunks to accommodate it all, but settled on one suitcase. 

I stayed up until 2:30 a.m. getting us packed and the house cleaned before getting up at 5 a.m.  God forbid we die on an adventure and people come to our house afterwards and find dishes in the sink, or the toilet not cleaned.  I headed into the trip already exhausted, which is usually the case.  I love long flights because it is such a great opportunity to sit still and get some rest.

We found our departure terminal and settled in to wait for our flight.  First leg to Dallas, Texas and next stop London.  Woo Hoo!  Our name is suddenly called on the speaker to come up to the desk.  Puzzled, because we had already checked in and shown our passports three times to get to this spot, I went up.  They needed to see our passports one more time, apparently to satisfy them that we weren’t a couple of geriatric terrorists who was going to put Ex-Lax in the airplane’s water supply.

When I was a teenager, I read a book about a South American soccer team whose plan crashed high in the Andes mountains in the dead of winter.  The only people who survived sat in the tail of the plane.  Between this factoid and the part about cannibalism, this book stuck in my memory.  I always get seats in the back of the plane.  And look at George as a potential pot roast in a pinch.  This also means we are the last people to board the plane, and last to get off.  Safety comes at a price.

There are nine boarding groups on this flight.  I’m assuming we are number nine (the back of the plane), and a quick glance at my ticket protruding from the passport says “9.”  Another announcement stating all passengers in group 9 must surrender all hand luggage to be checked, and pay for the honor of losing it.  Okay, this ticked me off.  They had already separated our seats, despite my original booking of three seats together.  I had to pay $188 extra dollars to sit together, which put my girdle in a bind.  Now I had to surrender our carry on luggage and pay for it to be checked?  The old woman who was going on two hours of sleep was not happy.

I try not to be a rude old witch, but I marched up to the desk and said I did not appreciate having to pay to check my carry on.  The woman eyeballed me, decided I was trouble and said I had agreed to it in the ticket disclosure.  There are always those tiny little lines of disclosure, that nobody reads – but agree that they have, so their payment can get processed.  I haughtily responded that they could have made it plainer so there wouldn’t be surprises.  She raised her eyebrows and turned to the passport guy I had already spoke with and indicated they had a anarchist here.  He stepped over and I reiterated that I shouldn’t have to pay to check my carry on luggage when I hadn’t been informed.  He replied there were four different areas on the ticket purchase that disclosed this.  Yeah, right.  I KNOW I didn’t miss it four times, so I’m getting pretty righteous by now.  I politely, and condescendingly, tell him that I know he didn’t make the rules, but I want it on the record that I don’t care for all the extra ways they have increased the ultimate ticket price.

I hand over the luggage and give him my ticket.  He looks at the ticket, smiles smugly and says “Madam, you were reading your ticket upside down.  You are in Boarding Group 6, not 9.   No need to check luggage and no charge for Group 6.”  Of course, I had got on my moral high horse and then read the ticket upside down.  My face is now redder than when I was disclosing to the Newlywed Game crowd as to the most unusual location where George and I had ever made love.

The man and woman roll their eyes at each other in an unspoken message of their suffering, and I gather back our luggage and take a seat.  George actually guffaws and Ellie looks like this may be a very long vacation.

George suddenly announces that he needs chocolate, so he can be in training for visiting Bruges, Belgium.  And, he is going to buy a huge box in Belgium so he has a good supply for the trip.  Oh great.  We aren’t even on the plane yet and he is on a sugar binge.  This doesn’t look good for my hips.  Because I was still embarrassed about the boarding issue, I volunteered to go get him some chocolate.

A two week cruise takes planning to avoid weight gain.  I have found if I can successfully eat healthy on the airplane flight, it puts me in a good frame of mind when we hit the ship.  I feel stronger and more motivated.  And it helps that I write this darned blog and feel compelled to confess when I go off track.

I picked out chocolate bars I don’t care for, to help avoid being tempted from eating them.  George is easy, he will eat any kind of chocolate.  He happily sat munching his treat, while Ellie and I scurried around, securing coffee drinks to take with us.

George has gout.  He always has gout when we go on vacation; it has become a familiar (and absolutely NOT comforting) tradition.  It does, however, make it easy for him to get out of carrying the luggage.  Ellie and I carried all the heavy stuff, and he was assigned the food snack bag.  Okay, because I am food obsessed, it is a snack backpack – stuffed with food for emergencies.  You never know when we may crash in the Andes and not have food.  Rather than the prospect of me gnawing on George’s left leg, he is more than happy to carry the snack backpack.

Section 6 of the plane is called and Ellie and I load up with one carryon, two cups of coffee, one duffel with travel pillows etc, purses, computers, passports, tickets and head to the plane.  George follows, he is in charge of the food bag.

It’s slow loading in the back of the plane – but safety takes time!  We eventually get to our seats and settle in.  I look around for the emergency food supply to put under the seat and can’t find it.  It is no where to be found.  George looks blank when I ask him where he put it.  It is, of course, been left as an unattended bag back in the terminal, aka  potential unknown bomb.

This is serious.  Not the bogus bomb threat – but the fact that I now don’t have any food with us.  Trapped on a plane serving plastic carbs and no protein?  This is my SNACK BAG.  After giving George a furious glance,  I bump my way past all the other passengers trying to stow their belongings, to the front of the plane.  I explain our anti-cannibalism bag got left, and could I run get it.  They threw themselves in front of the exit door and yelled “NO! We are now closing the doors!”  But they did radio the terminal staff, glared at me and told me not to move.  It caused them a delay and extra work, and I felt guilty.  I didn’t lie and say the bag contained vital medicines, but I sort of implied it was important.  They don’t want me contemplating eating the other passengers in an emergency, do they?  After about ten minutes, a panting employee came racing up and handed the potential bomb cleared munch bag.  And I apologized all the way to the back of the plane to the admonishing looks of the waiting passengers. 

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George and Ellie before he left the snack bag “bomb” unattended in the terminal

Carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes now safe, we took to the air and headed to London, England.  We had a dash between planes in Dallas and the 9.5 hour flight began.  Airplane food  seems awfully carb heavy, so

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I tried to balance it out with some protein (hard boiled eggs, hummus, seaweed and WW one point pepperoni sticks, Biena chickpeas and veggies.  I also brought protein bars and treats for George and Ellie.  Enough to look like a bomb sized backpack.  We only had 40 minutes In Dallas to change terminals and board our plane, but I managed to purchase a large green salad, just because it felt reassuring to have lots of green with me.

The airplane dinner was a pesto pasta (here comes the processed carbs….).  I took a bit of the pasta that had the most pesto on it and dumped it on the purchased salad. 

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Carb Heavy Airline Meal

There was also a  tiny salad with a couple of slices of tomato and parmesan cheese that I added to it, along with a Laughing Cow cheese.  Not the most gourmet meal, but I skipped out on most of the pasta, the roll, the crackers, and the brownie.  George was thrilled because he got my pasta and the brownie.

 

 

 

 

 

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Less than gourmet dinner I made from purchased greens and airline food. Lower points and I was filled!

Ellie had the hardest time with the flight.  Not the food, the seats or being stuck with two old farts.  She was devastated that she couldn’t text her friends for 15 hours.  Oh My Goodness.  Her world came to a screeching halt.  Never mind she had 200 movies to choose from on her own TV screen.  Nope, she couldn’t SnapChat.  While she went through the DT’s, my eyeballs hurt from rolling them at Grandpa.

She finally fell asleep and a few short hours later they fed us a continental breakfast.  Yogurt, dried fruit, granola.  In order to save yet another dollar, they served a muffin top, minus the body of the muffin.  More carbs – oh great.  I dumped the last of my fresh blueberries in the yogurt, broke off half of a WW Cranberry Almond Breakfast Bar and called it good.  I figured we could eat at Heathrow. 

We landed at Heathrow, and after maneuvering the customs lines (Ellie got her first passport stamp), we were met by Celebrity and hustled immediately onto their shuttle bus.  Two hours later we were at the ship.  So much for breakfast – or lunch.  We walked on the ship and right into the life boat drill. 

Poor George, his stomach was suddenly seized by the copious amounts of sugar and carbs he had been eating all night and was rushing through the crowds trying to find a bathroom.  If you had seen him, you would have thought here was some poor old guy who thought the ship was sinking, and he was frantically searching for a lifeboat.  They wouldn’t let us go to our room, so he had to fight his way through the masses.

By this time, my stomach was rumbling with hunger, and it sounded like malfunctioning  cruise ships engines.  I kept hoping people would believe it was the ship – and not me.  We ate in the main dining room and Ellie almost fell out of her chair when the waiter placed the napkin in her lap.  She was completely dazzled.  I wanted to eat everything on the menu, and preferably RIGHT NOW.  That little breakfast yogurt had disappeared a very long time ago, and this food obsessed mama wanted something to chew on.

I ordered an appetizer Shrimp Louis that was served on guacamole, and a salmon dinner.  It was great, but I honestly could have eaten another four or five plates.  That’s the problem when you get too hungry – it is hard to fill up the bottomless gut!

 

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Appetizer dish of shrimp nestled on bed of guacamole, garnished with lime. Small and very tasty!

 

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Seared Salmon with Veggies and small (very small) scoop of smashed potatoes. I could have eaten a couple of these…..

We all were dozing in our seats by the time we were done, but Ellie got her second wind when the fuel of the food took control.  There was a “get to know you” teen mixer at the teen club, so I dutifully hiked up to the 15th floor with her.  She wasn’t feeling self-assured, so I agreed to sit in a lounge and wait for her.  I typed this post, but have to confess that I was asleep more than awake.  But Ellie seemed to enjoy herself, and that is what mattered.  I really do hate falling asleep with my mouth hanging open.  There’s nothing more unsightly than a grandma sleeping upright, mouth open with drool dripping onto her lap.  I had this horrible image of Ellie bringing a new friend to meet her Grandma, and there I would be – asleep, drool dripping, with an occasional snorting snore thrown in for good measure.  I valiantly tried my best to stay awake.  I feel proud that I awoke every time I snorted, and Ellie never caught me.

We finally headed back to our room and slept like the dead.  At least for a few hours.  First stop  is Bruges, Belgium.  Chocolate capital of the world.  I’ve been dreading facing the Great Chocolate Challenge.  Can I actually walk down a street advertising chocolate in every window and modestly restrain from eating more than 2.2 pounds of the devilish stuff?  George is so excited about making bulk chocolate purchases.  At this point, I’m thinking I should have left him at home, but I guess the old fart does deserve some treats in his life.  Then again, this is the same man whose leg I was considering eating in lieu of the magic in case our plane crashed.  It’s hard to have it all……(sigh).

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Picture of first sunset from the back of the ship as we steamed away from Southampton, England

Author: Traveling Grandma

As an aging mother of six and grandma to seven, travel was always a dream. Diapers, work and an eccentric high-maintenance husband just seemed to keep those trips a distant desire. Eventually, however, the kids potty trained, lived through the teenage angst years and left the nest to start their own families. Work still gets in the way, but it does help pay for the trips! Can't do much about the eccentric, high-maintenance husband; after 36 years I have reconciled that he will never pick up his underwear. He's my partner for life, travel companion and can always be counted on to do something totally odd. It makes for a good story, and besides - without his major financial contribution, we would sitting at home year after year, watching yet another rerun of NCIS. I work for a national weight-loss company and LOVE to cook. My love of food, and birthing those babies, led to an 85 pound weight gain. After joining a weight loss program, I shed the weight and found a new career. For me, it is a dream job. How many people can say they love their job? I get to work together with people to help them live a healthy lifestyle, and lose weight. And it changed the way I cook! Instead of coating foods with fat and/or sugar, I've learned to bring out the real flavor in foods and keep them healthy. It's a joy to travel the world and explore new foods. I'm always on the lookout for different foods and willing to try almost anything. George, my husband, is always aghast at my choices. He's looking for a McDonald's while I'm trying to find the best local eatery. Checking out grocery stores and food forums in different countries is endless fun. Bringing back cooking ingredients keeps the memories alive every time they are used in a recipe back home. Paprika from Budapest, Sumac from Turkey, dried squid from Japan....what a lucky person I am to experience it all. Life is interesting everywhere, and there is always something humorous to be found. I love to journal and people have been telling me for years to become a writer. With Medicare looming in my near future, I figured this was as good a time as any. If I don't do it now, I'll be writing stories about my neighbors in the nursing home. A big trip will probably be whacking along in my walker to the day room to watch the Travel Channel. I take heart that Colonel Sanders started his finger lickin' fortune late in life because he wasn't afraid to try something new. So here I go!

3 thoughts on “Day 1 – We’re Off to Scandinavia and Russia!”

  1. Kathy, Thanks for reminding me about time zones and long airplane rides. That’s why we prefer cruises from the West Coast or even the East Coast. St. Petersburg is a fabulous city to visit. Looking forward to hearing about what you see. Cathy Rousett

    On Sun, Aug 5, 2018 at 3:36 PM Traveling Grandma wrote:

    > Traveling Grandma posted: “It is such a job getting out of town on > vacation. It is so much work that we need a vacation to recover from the > effort. There is always a last minute disaster or two, which in the moment > of chaos, makes me wonder whether this is all worth it. But, of ” >

    Like

  2. Kathy
    Thanks for letting us follow you on this awesome journey.
    The pictures are magnificent.
    The sunset was gorgeous..also the snapshots of what you’re eating . It’s nice you include those because it really helps us with our personal food choices at home. If you can make good food choices on an airplane ( much harder to do )
    We can make good choices here. Thanks again!!
    BTW your granddaughter is adorable, just like her sister!!

    Like

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