I just love looking at photos others have taken of their vacations around the world but when I look at my own photos I get much more.
They bring back memories, often quite different to what might be expected. I may imagine the warmth of the sun or the taste of a drink but mostly I remember the people and the way my family reacted with them.
I have many fond memories of our Caribbean cruise and after looking through photos I will try to cover some of them in this oration.
Our philosophy on traveling to other countries or even other provinces is this. If something bothers you, try to see a funny side and if something pleases you enjoy it.
As it turned out we needed this philosophy on our first two days before getting aboard the ship.
We left Vancouver early in the morning and, because we had had bad experiences with Toronto's Pearson airport, we had chosen to change planes in Chicago which was the only other option. Had we taken the advice so often given to me as a child Better the devil you know than the devil you don't know we may have made a better choice but we arrived in Chicago and the two boys immediately christened it O'Hairy airport.
My boy Mike, at seventeen, was quite well traveled so tended to handle himself well in airports and since we had a couple of hours with nothing to do and nowhere to go he asked if he could get a hot dog from the only vendor in the area. I gave him an American twenty and then positioned myself to watch him in the lineup.
I saw him get the hot dog and then hand over the twenty but after checking his change he said something to the checkout clerk. He was obviously being ignored so I went over and Mike told me that he only had change for a ten. I had to insist on being heard and told the clerk that Mike had given him a twenty. We knew this because it was the first American money we had spent and we brought nothing but twenties. I stood with my mouth open as I listened to the foul languaged retort from the clerk and pulled Mike away telling him, what he already knew, that all Americans were not like that and this was not going to spoil our cruise.
We found ourselves sitting among a group of middle aged Americans who were talking about an important VIP who was supposed to be coming through at any time. He was a senator who had been in the news quite a bit lately so Scott, our 10 year old, went off with Mike to see if he could get a look. He came back when all the broo-ha-ha had died down and one of the group asked him if he managed to see anything.
I just saw an old man was all he said which brought a chuckle from the crowd. I expect with all the fuss he was expecting at least a superman outfit.
On the flight to Miami we made fun of the hotdog clerk saying he probably belonged to the mafia and it was a good job we hadn't made more of a fuss or his buddy Vinny would have worked us over and broken a few kneecaps.
In Miami we were booked into a hotel at the airport for one night.
When we checked in the desk clerk told us the room was already paid for, which we already knew, gave us the key telling us checkout time was 11am and said she would call a bellboy to help us with our large cart full of luggage and show us to our room. Our cart was very full because my family included two females with enough clothing to last two weeks. Had the clerk told us 'THE' bellboy instead of 'A' bellboy we may have just gone straight up ourselves but there was no desperate rush and only two couples ahead of us.
We gave up waiting after the bellboy had taken those two plus another couple with much less luggage who had just arrived so we pushed our well laden cart into the elevator and up to the room. We should have just kept the cart in the room since everything we needed here was in one bag and loading and unloading the cart was heavy work but we unloaded and pushed the cart into the hall. Surely the bellboy was strong enough to push an empty back to the lobby.
At about 10 pm, which was still only 7 pm for us due to the time change, my wife and I decided to go to the hotel lounge for a beer because they were advertising entertainment.
When the waiter brought the drinks I held out a twenty but he said Are you a guest here? and when we answered in the affirmative he told us just to show him our key and he would charge it to our room. How nice of him and what a pleasant person he was.
A few minutes later the entertainment gathered on the stage and a pleasant Spanish looking lady sang a song. The song was in Spanish and, while not really our kind of music, was nice enough and we were, after all, on vacation to soak up different things.
With the song over the singer now started to speak in Spanish and before long we realised that she must be telling jokes because the audience was laughing. It was then we looked around the room and found that we were the only Caucasians there. We started to laugh too, not at the jokes but at ourselves for managing to find a foreign speaking lounge in, what we thought, an English speaking city. We gave up and went to the room to get some shuteye before our big day tomorrow.
At four in the morning I was awoken by the phone and picked it up quickly so as not to disturb the family too much. Before I could say Hello I was told to get down to the lobby immediately to settle my bill. I pointed out that he must be mistaken because our room was already paid for but he said we had charged drinks in the bar and he needed payment right away. I told him that we would be checking out around 10 am and would be settling our large $3 bill at that time and hung up wondering if we had somehow been transported to a different country altogether where the normal rules of courtesy experienced in other American cities were null and void.
Early that morning we brought in the cart which had not changed its position since we pushed it out the night before and loaded it up again ready to go when we checked out. Not wanting to take any more chances with our hotel, we decided to have breakfast in a nice looking restaurant across the street. The menu was normal to us except that where a Canadian menu would have shown hash browns as a side dish here it was grits. The kids asked the obvious question but we didn't have an answer. We had heard of grits but that was as far as our knowledge extended. Mike would have nothing to do with it and my wife and I opted out too but the other two ordered grits.
When the meals arrived with the huge American servings of food we remarked that we should have just ordered one meal and four extra plates but the food was delicious and we were well through the meal before I realised that the kids had not tried the grits.
I asked them and they said they didn't like the look of it. I went into my usual spiel about this being a time to experience new things and how could they make a judgment if they didn't try it. I didn't mention that I didn't like the look of it either.
They both picked up a forkful and put it in there mouths and then I had to tell them that it was not considered polite to gag loudly in a nice restaurant.
After breakfast we went back up to our room only to find ourselves locked out.
My normal calm disposition had melted completely away when I arrived at the front desk and demanded an explanation.
Well you owe us $3 and we are keeping your luggage until you pay us what you owe.
What kind of clientele did this hotel cater to if they had to go to this extent to settle a $3 bill? I paid up and told him we would check out now as we had no intention of staying here a minute longer than we had to.
While we waited for the cab to take us to the docks we joked that we had to be the only people who could find ourselves in a third world country inside a hotel in the middle of an American city.
The cab driver was a rather frightening looking guy but he did carry one of our cases to the car for us leaving us to get the rest and then took off at a frantic rate. We told him there was no hurry but he was too busy yelling at other drivers to hear us. At one point he actually shook his fist out of the window at another driver from the same cab company as he forced his way past him.
We waited until we were out and the cab had left before we all broke out laughing. We were all too scared to do it in the cab.
At the port things couldn't have been easier. Someone took control of our luggage immediately and we were shown to the hall where we were to check in.
It was all very organised with lineups being divided alphabetically. The only strange thing was a line marked Aliens. We looked at the folks in the line and could see no little green men or people with antennae and suddenly realised that this was our line. The kids got a big kick out of that one and Scott said he wished he'd brought his Halloween costume so that he could look the part.