Tag Archives: senior

Amtrak Lakeshore Express

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There is a Cafe Car on this Lakeshore Express Amtrak train that offers beverages, chips, hot dog or hamburger. Or, down one more car is the Dining car, which offers different menus for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Since reservations had been made & the dining car was pretty fully booked, I was seated across from a young man from Rochester who is on his way to Boston to a conference.  Adam enjoyed a sirloin burger, while I tried out the daily special of BBQ pork shanks & mashed potatoes. Both dishes came with opening appetizers of marinated vegetables and sliced fruit.

Two women were seated across the aisle from me, and asked if I would use their phone to take their picture. This is their first train trip. Another older couple got seated at their table across from them. They are from California and travelled overnight through Colorado, then a 2nd overnight from Chicago heading east. After seeing NYC, including the new Ground Zero museum they will take another train down to DC.  They’ll fly back to the West Coast from there. My seat mate back in the coach car is a student at Geneva heading home to Boston for the weekend. He plans to drive his car back. Such an intriguing cross-section of folks from around the States.

As an extrovert, it’s easy for me to talk to strangers and find out a little of their story. But the train is perfect for introverts – there’s no need to talk at all. I spent most of the time looking out the window at passing scenery, checking where the train was on an Amtrak app that showed progress along the route, and checking email and social media on my smartphone. The passenger seats on the train are about 4 inches wider than on a plane, recline more, and it’s easy to walk around… like down to the Café Car for snacks.

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Trip to the Azores!

 

(Looking out train window… trees in Upstate New York still haven’t leafed out yet)

I was going to fly to the French Caribbean with a relative when she had a week off at the end of April. But due to the zika virus, those plans were cancelled and we get to visit the Azores instead. I made the arrangements, keeping in mind the countries and types of places Clare had said she’d like to go to, and trying to find reasonable airline tickets. SATA was offering reasonably priced flights to the Portuguese Azores Islands, and some friends had taken a wonderful “trekking” trip to the Madeiras just 2 years before. So I booked our flights, having a vague idea that we were flying to islands somewhere off the coast of Portugal.  Then, when we looked at a map, we realized we were flying to a tiny little dot in the Atlantic Ocean! I guess the Azores are 900 or 1000 miles off the coast of Portugal.

Apparently when whaling ships were being built near Boston, Portuguese from the Azores helped to build them. Azores Airlines offers direct flights between Logan International and Sao Miguel Island, with connections on to Lisbon or to the Madeira Islands. Clare is going to meet me in Boston tomorrow for our overnight flight. But I decided to start my trip by taking Amtrak between Syracuse and Boston. I haven’t been on a cross country train trip since 1988 when I traveled between  Chicago and Santa Fe  (Lamy really).

Trains got a little fancier in the last 30 years (although not as advanced as Europe or Japan). Nice padded, reclining seat, electricity to recharge my phone or other electronic devices. I’m going to go check out the dining car, since it’s lunch time!

Women Who Buy Shoes

I can’t believe I came to Martinique and bought shoes.

A daughter who lives in New York City was upset when her puppy chose to chew on – you guessed it – her designer heels. I’m now a senior citizen. Not only do I NOT care about designer heels, I don’t care for heels at all. I don’t know how those young women can walk around NYC in stilettos, and think they’re crazy. Especially with all the grates in the sidewalks. I gradually stopped wearing high heels as I got older, and gave them up completely in my 50s. Then, after breaking a bone at the bottom of my foot, I gave up even low heels. I now wear running shoes or other shoes that support my feet.

For my trip to Martinique, I brought an older pair of white running shoes and flip-flops. But, it turns out the older pair of running shoes are getting worn down and were hurting my feet after walking around all day. So I switched to the flip flops. Only I ended up with blisters where the stupid thong fits between the big toe and next toe, and also sores where the plastic rubbed the tops of my feet.

Old women have different priorities from younger ones. While my daughter cares about style, I just wanted shoes that didn’t hurt my feet! I decided I couldn’t last even the one remaining day of vacation, so hobbled over to the shopping district in search of comfortable shoes. Most of the shops had swim suits and more flip flops; I found one store that carried a few pairs of patterned canvas high tops that looked like they were meant for skateboarders. Finally I found a store that had Birkenstock sandals with 2 straps across the foot and nothing between the toes. They were 49 euros, but I probably would have paid even more to save my feet.

So, the souvenir I’m taking home from the French Caribbean is German shoes. LOL!

That Trip to a Greek Island – rerouted

Another dream trip was to go to Greece. Not just the mainland, but a Greek Island. Corfu is one of the Ionian Islands off the west coast of Greece. Tourist season is in full swing June, July and August, but early May is just getting warm and just right for someone wanting to avoid all the crowds.

We had a brutally cold winter in Upstate New York – the month of February broke records for cold since records were kept in the 1880s. So I was really looking forward to my week on the island of Corfu. My smart phone told me temps were into the 70s and even low 80s, Fahrenheit.

I had booked through American Airlines, who used their partner British Airways for the actual flights. I drove to JFK (230 miles) and caught a redeye to London Heathrow, then was supposed to catch a direct flight to Kerkyra. Something was wrong with online check-in, so I had to wait in a long line with hundreds of other people at British Airways desk at JFK. They only gave me a boarding pass for the JFK to Heathrow portion, but I thought maybe I had to pick up the other boarding pass when I actually got to London.

Turns out , when I tried to use international connections to catch my flight to Corfu, JFK had only booked my checked bag as far as Heathrow. They mistakenly handled my trip as 2 separate tickets instead of one connecting flight. So my checked bag was waiting at baggage claim. I was told I had to go back out to disembark through customs, fill out a landing card to enter the UK,  go retrieve my bag, go upstairs to departing flights, drop my bag, go back through security and make it to my gate. I said I’ll miss my flight to Corfu – Oh, you’ll make it they said. NOT.

I don’t usually feel my age, but try being over 60, dashing through a large airport, having to deal with long lines and airport attendants who didn’t care what my story was – I still had to go through with everyone else, exit secured area to retrieve bag at baggage claim, go back upstairs to departing flights, try to drop off my bag again to go back through security and get to my gate – I was almost in tears when informed I was too late, they’d taken my name off the flight.

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British Airways tried to make it up to me, apologizing profusely. They only have one direct flight a day to Corfu and offered to put me up overnight a the 5 star airport hotel. I wanted to be in a remote part of a Greek island, away from tourists. They finally got me on a flight to Athens, then switch to Aegean airline  to arrive in Corfu close to 10 PM – 5 hours late. Getting to ride in business class was nice, but doesn’t make up for getting to Kerkyra after dark, having to drive in the dark to my destination at the southern end of the island. They did call Budget for me to make sure I’d still have a rental car, and I was able to call my small inn.

A Classic Sail on the Passaat (1911 Schooner)

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On Thursday I booked a dinner cruise on the Passaat, a 1911 long sailing ship that offers both day tours and weekday dinner cruises. The dock behind Skipjack’s restaurant is the loading area, with folks ferried by dinghy under the Simpson Bay bridge out to where the ship is moored. Pieter and Mirian crew the ship and provide the drinks and meal, which are part of the dinner cruise package.
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Continue reading A Classic Sail on the Passaat (1911 Schooner)

Exploring Saint Martin by Car

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The island of Saint Martin is actually 2 countries – Dutch (southern) and French (northern). There are no guards or border crossings between the two – only a monument to peace and the flags of the 2 countries. Both flags are red, white and blue – the Dutch side flag has horizontal stripes with red on top, the French side has vertical stripes with red on the right. The only way to know you’ve changed countries is by the main spoken language – French or Flemish, and that the exchange rate for US dollars is better on the Dutch side. Dutch Sint Maarten trades $1 USD for 1 euro, but on the French side, the euro is worth more.

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On Wednesday I had booked to go on a day sailing trip, but the wind was from the south instead of the east and waters were rough, so my trip was postponed till Friday. For my first full day on the island, I decided to explore. I took my rental car on a big loop – Orient Beach south to the Quarter Orleans, to just north of Phillipsburg, to Simpson Beach and around the airport, west to Cote D’Azur and up to Nettle Bay, east to Marigot,  north to Grand Case and east back to Orient Beach. The island roads are narrow and often have cars parked on the side… I was glad to be driving the standard island rental car – a small white Hyundai.

St. Martin has steep mountains rising up from the sea and the roads go up and down and curve around. I would have liked to be driving a Porsche… except the roads are not in very good shape, with potholes and rough patches. The views are scenic… but no good places to pull off and take photos. Also, February is high season and traffic is heavy. Locals get around by mini-bus (like a narrow tall mini-van), with a label on front of where it’s heading to. Retired seniors wintering on the island say rental cars are too expensive all the time and often use local transportation, except when they make a grocery run. But unless one flies in and wants to stay stuck in some large tourist resort, a rental car is a must.

A Day Late and $200 Short

Best laid plans… I missed a day of my vacation in St. Martin, flying in on Tuesday rather than Monday. For the 3rd week in a row, NYC got a winter storm on Sunday – Monday. Not as bad as Boston, but enough to cancel flights or warn flights might be cancelled. Enough to make driving Sunday evening through Monday evening hazardous… A headline Tuesday morning in NYC exclaimed someone was killed in traffic in NJ due to the ice storm.

Jet Blue offered me the option of changing my flight free of charge, but I’d been hoping my flight would still be able to take off.  However, my travel plans had been to stay with a friend at the edge of Queens, and she was supposed to drive me to the airport Monday morning. It was so icy I never made it there Sunday night. When I got into the city to see my 2 grown daughters at dinner time, I miraculously managed to find a parking space in Inwood – but the car had to be moved Wednesday. I thought about trying to drive to the airport myself and paying for parking (expensive), but I was too nervous to drive on ice early Monday. So we decided to make a daughter responsible to move the car around and I was to take MTA – mass transit.

Only I didn’t leave early enough and the trip took forever, walking, changing subways, waiting for transfer, missing the Airport link train and waiting for the next. When I finally got to the Jet Blue desk, the flight was closed, it was less than an hour from scheduled departure.

When I retried this morning, this time driving my car and leaving it at Smart Park (a little cheaper than JFK itself), it took me only an hour instead of close to 3 hours travel time. I was literally at the airport 3 1/2 hours before my flight.

But the parking I thought I’d have for free if my car had been at my friend’s driveway, instead is costing $130, and Dollar car rental in St. Martin decided since I needed a car one day less, I should pay more (since I no longer qualified for he weekly rate I’d locked in).

So the delay is costing a couple hundred extra dollars.

But I got to meet my good friend Valesca for a late lunch in downtown Manhattan and I got to spend some more time with my girls. And by the time I really did make it down to St. Martin today, after an extra day in the ice and snow, I have been very appreciative!