I know a lot of you know I love my volcanoes, though I don’t love the human trauma they cause. Lately, I’ve been watching the developments in Fissure 8, which first took over half of Leilani Estates and then pressed onward to the sea, taking out several hundred more homes in the process.
In the last couple of weeks, the flow has become less intense than shown above, and I’m hopeful that the flow will wane to a tolerable new normal before taking out more houses. That’s good, because there’s already been about 450 million cubic meters of lava flowing through the system.
I’ve honestly been glued to the volcano footage since it first started showing up on YouTube, preferring small channels that would go through the neighborhood like Apau Hawaii Tours. Later on, I added a couple more channels, the best of which is H.I.S. Survival.
What’s interesting to me is the human impact: going to bed and waking up with the sky a brilliant red all night. Friends losing their homes after previously getting a reprieve. Not to mention the heartbreaking tales of people whose houses are still standing but unoccupiable, but who don’t qualify for FEMA assistance because their houses are still standing.
Video and screenshot photo credit: USGS, screencap by me from their video.
You can usually tell the difference between Rick photos and Deirdre photos: mine only rarely have people in them. In fact, it’s hard for me to remember to actually take photos of Rick or myself. Or anyone.
I’m just so conditioned to waiting for that people-free shot, which means I usually don’t have photos of the whole of a tourist monument; my shots typically start above peoples’ heads.
Why? Partly for the reason in this photo: a lot of the photos of people in touristy locations wind up being very meta. I’m quite charmed with the meta nature of this one, though.
Despite the fact that it was a brutally hot day, magnified by the stones soaking up the hot sun, it was super-great to finally have the chance to walk around Dubrovnik. In the early 80s, I had a French teacher from Yugoslavia who waxed poetic about the place (she herself was from Belgrade, which is now in Serbia). I’ve wanted to go ever since, so more than thirty years.
At the time Rick took this photo, I was sitting in a shady spot behind on the right. It was still a billion degrees out.
When I first sailed on a cruise ship in the late 80s, a 39,000 ton ship was rather large. The first ship I sailed on, the Starship Oceanic was originally designed in 1965 as a transatlantic ship and was short by modern standards: 782 feet long. The contemporary, and much larger, transatlantic ship, Cunard’s QE2 was 70,000 tons and 963 feet long: small enough to fit in the locks at the Panama Canal, long a shipbuilding constraint.
These days, no one bothers to build ships as small as the Oceanic.
In fact, if you look at the history of cruise ships from the 1960s until now, you’ll see pretty much the same theme in every mid-size or large line: older ships were smaller; newer ships are not.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s first ship was under 9,000 tons. Currently, their smallest ship is 75,000 tons, and the largest is 155,000 tons. When we saw the trend on NCL, we basically vowed not to sail them again (except for things we’d pre-booked), and to pick smaller ships that went more interesting places.
Saba, for example. It’s a small island surrounded by a coral reef with a narrow opening that sometimes even small ferries can’t get through. It has the world’s shortest (and one of the hairiest) commercial runway. Let’s face it: you have to work to get to Saba. Once you manage that, there are six taxicabs on the entire island, so there’s a real practical limitation on how many people can visit at once.
It’s a beautiful island, and I’m glad I visited, but you’re never going to get there on the megaships. Similarly, you’re not going to go some of the other places I’ve found so endearing, either.
Last night, we anchored in Montenegro, and the ship that pulled up alongside us (Star Pride) looked to be about twice as large. It had a W, stylized in the way I thought Windstar cruises used, except that it wasn’t a sailing vessel. It turns out that Windstar, having been bought by Holland America Lines, has also joined the trend of getting larger vessels.
Interestingly, the Star Pride happens to have been an old Seabourne vessel. Seabourne’s a luxury line that was bought by Carnival and has been building larger and larger ships. You can’t get the kind of quality on the larger ships it’s been building. You don’t build the relationships over time that you do on the much smaller ships.
We happen to be sailing on one of the two original Seabourne ships, after all. At a modest 4,253 tons, it doesn’t have a ton of features like some of the larger ships. Hilariously, it has one blackjack table.
Last night, though, we realized the real advantage. We had our dinner out on deck, where we could all sit comfortably and eat excellent food. Next door, they had a typical cruise ship rah rah party outdoors with tunes designed to appeal to the 40-something audience they were clearly intending to attract. There was no escaping it if you wanted to eat, and I’d rather have conversation (or reading) with my food.
Pity. Star Pride’s a nice ship size for a bigger ship, and they clearly do some interesting itineraries given that they also wound up in Montenegro. But I’d rather my dinner be Macarena-free, thanks.
— Colter Reed (@ColterReed) December 22, 2014
So Colter Reed shamed me into cleaning up my own desktop, which had 252 items on it, mostly dragged items or stuff I wanted to upload to my blog (and have done so).
My desktop background is an Olivier Grunewald photo of the Nyiragongo volcano in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which I originally saw on this BigPicture feature from Boston.com. I’m just in awe of these scientists.
The picture up top was one I took of Strawberry Field (yes, of the song fame) in Liverpool in 2011 and altered the color. It was sitting on the desktop, but is no longer.
Also, while I’m giving a shout-out to Colter Reed, his blog has a lot of great articles about productivity and motivation.
As of today, I’ve completed one of my travel life goals: to visit 100 countries and territories from the Traveler’s Century Club list. In short, you can’t join the club as a full member until you’ve been to 100.
Sure, they are liberal in what they count (their list totals 324 countries and territories, where the UN list is 193), but they encourage people to see far-flung places that are very different from the ruling government far away.
For what it’s worth, I’ve been to 65 UN member countries (plus the Vatican). Eventually, I’d like to get to 100 there, too, but that interests me less.
Here’s my list in alphabetical order:
Alaska * Aruba * Australia * Austria * Bahamas * Balearic Islands * Barbados * Belgium * Belize * Bermuda * Bulgaria * Canada * Canary Islands * Cayman Islands * Chile * Colombia * Corsica * Costa Rica * Crete * Denmark * Dubai * Easter Island * Egypt * El Salvador * England * Estonia * Faroe Islands * Finland * France * Germany * Gibraltar * Greece * Guam * Guatemala * Haiti * Hawaiian Islands * Honduras * Hong Kong * Iceland * India * Indonesia * Ionian Isles * Ireland * Isle of Man * Italy * Jamaica * Japan * Leeward Islands, French * Leeward Islands, Netherlands * Liechtenstein * Luxembourg * Macau * Madeira * Malaysia * Maldives * Marshall Islands * Martinique * Mexico * Micronesia * Montserrat * Morocco * Myanmar * Netherlands * New Zealand * Nicaragua * Northern Ireland * Norway * Panama * Pitcairn * Portugal * Puerto Rico * Romania * Russia * Sardinia * Scotland * Singapore * South Africa * South Korea * Spain * Sri Lanka * St. Barthélmy * St. Lucia * St. Maarten * St. Vincent & Dependencies * Sumatra, Indonesia * Sweden * Switzerland * Tahiti * Thailand * Trinidad & Tobago * Turkey in Asia * Turkey in Europe * Ukraine * United States * Vatican * Venezuela * Vietnam * Virgin Islands, British * Virgin Islands, US * Wales
On the TCC list, I have at least one visit in each region except Antarctica.
My 100th was Trinidad and Tobago. Here’s a picture from Charlotteville, Tobago, announcing a cricket match (click for full size):
So, remember last month when I said I was at 97 countries after an ill-advised tromping through the Vatican museums?
We’re heading to the Caribbean on Friday, and I’ll cross the 100-country mark.
A few years ago, I listed nine hotels from my “hotel envy” list. I used to work in the luxury hotel industry, so I’ve seen and heard about a ton of beautiful hotels, but these were particular standouts for me.
This will be my third visit from that list of nine. (One, Kona Village, has since closed for good. Palazzo Sasso is now called Palazzo Avino.)
I was extremely lucky to be able to book a three-night stay on Hilton points before the devaluation. There’s no question that this is the nicest place I’ve ever stayed.
The Maldives consist of many thousands of coral atolls in the Indian Ocean. Because of that, and the fragility of the atoll reefs, much of the inter-country travel is via seaplane.
I’ve been in excruciating pain for the last couple of weeks.
It started innocently enough: I got an awesome Thai massage, which loosened everything up.
Loosened everything up enough that I managed to later torque some muscle in my hip, a rather critical muscle/muscles for balance. This was bad the day we were in Sardinia, meaning I wasn’t able to see the rather awesome caves there.
Walking was excruciating. Climbing up and down stairs was excruciating. Rolling over in bed was excruciating.
The last meant I wasn’t sleeping, so I had a persistent fibromyalgia flare on top of everything.
We’d picked this cruise because I’ve always wanted to see Corsica, and one of the places I wanted to see was Bonifacio. The photo above is one of the last pics I managed to take. We were up early that morning (and I’d climbed the stairs to the Top of the Yacht bar) to see the sailing into port. Bonifacio’s kind of weird: all the ships have to back in, hence we went in flag first. (The odd flag is actually two flags: Bahamas, for the ship’s registry, and Norway, for the Captain’s nationality.)
I got off the ship, only to discover that I really couldn’t walk more than 100 feet without breaking into tears from the pain. Given that, I declined to go on the day tour I’d hoped to see. Instead, I hobbled down to see the shops, literally going from bench to bench. I spent the rest of day in bed.
The next day, we were using tenders, so I never got off the ship. Rick says I didn’t miss much, but it looked to me rather like an awesome place we went in Costa Rica—kind of a small beachy place with a small town, but not too much. I love those places.
I don’t need to say how much of an idiot I was for trying to go through all the Vatican museums, but I lasted through two hours of that idiocy. We had a nice hotel in Rome near the Vatican. Except for the slow waitstaff and the three steps up and down to get from one side of the building to the other, I really liked the place.
Had enough emergency meds to last through today, but I’m not better enough to function without more than my usual, so I’m going to the doctor.
I’m still really bummed about missing what I wanted to see in Corsica, and about not being able to see St. Peter’s Basilica.
President of the United States of America
This flag of your state was carried to the Moon and back by Apollo 11, and this fragment of the Moon’s surface was brought to the Earth by the crew of that first manned lunar landing.
I think that’s the first time I’ve seen anything Moon-mission-related outside a science museum.
So, you’ll never guess what we saw in Civitavecchia yesterday.
Yep, the long-lost bag was found!
Sadly, this threw off the bag count, and another bag was left behind. I’m hoping this doesn’t become a trend….
In the last installment of the lost luggage saga, mom’s suitcase was pouting in Köln, Germany, despite there being no visits to Germany on her itinerary.
On Monday, we visited Ibiza, one of the Balaeric Islands. That was the day the luggage was due to try a re-delivery attempt in Málaga, despite our having left there on Saturday.
Yesterday, we were in Menorca, and we heard the luggage was in Mallorca. There are fast ferries between the two every hour, and the ferry that arrived in our port was berthed within easy walking distance.
After our private estate tour in the morning, we were hoping that the luggage would get delivered.
Alas, it was not to be. We sailed away.
So near and yet so far.