A Travellerspoint blog

Washington DC

rain -12 °C

Saturday 22/4 We had to be off the ship at Port Canaveral by 9.30 am. So we had an early breakfast, said our goodbye to Laura, again, and headed off to Orlando Airport for a long wait for our flight to Washington at 3.15 pm. We arrived in Washington at about 5.30.pm. It was raining and cold when we arrived, a bit of a shock after the Caribbean. We took a short taxi ride to our AirBNB apartment in inner Washington, settled in, and then went out for pizza and beer at a local restaurant. Looking forward to exploring DC over the next few days.

Sunday 23/4 we headed off to the Washington DC everyone knows. The Capitol Building, the Washington Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the White House and some of the Smithsonian Museums.

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But two highlights for me were the display of nature photographs at the National Museum of Natural History and the Renwick Gallery. The photographs are stunning.

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And the Renwick Gallery had some remarkable works of art but nothing more impressive than the "Ghost Clock" which looks like a sheet over a Grandfather Clock but is actually made of one piece of wood. At first you just don't believe it. Amazing!

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Monday 24/4 we went to Arlington National Cemetery, the Castle (Smithsonian Visitor Centre) the Sackler Gallery and the National Museum of African Art.

Arlington National Cemetery, is a very special place. It is peaceful and, in a way, beautiful. Odd for a place which is mainly a cemetery for those killed in wars. It was quite a moving experience to walk among the graves and read some of the stories of those who lie there. Definitely a highlight of the trip to DC.

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We had intended to visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum but tickets had sold out for the day, after we walked a long way to get there, so we went to the nearby Sackler Gallery and the National Museum of African Art. Both were quite good with interesting works of art.

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Early dinner tonight as we have to leave for the airport at 5.30 am to fly to Boston and our next cruise.

Posted by John McReynolds 13:37 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Disney Fantasy

sunny

On Saturday 15/4 we flew from Raleigh-Durham Airport, NC to Orlando and took the shuttle to Port Canaveral to embark at about 2.30 pm. All went to plan and the trip was uneventful. We were happy to catch up with Laura, watch the "Welcome Aboard" show and have a nice dinner, the first of many on this cruise.

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Sunday 16/4 was a sea day with nothing much to do but relax and eat. And eat we did. Only had a very light breakfast because we had a reservation for Brunch/Lunch at Palo at 12.00 noon. “Palo Brunch” is legendary as a food experience. We did this on Wonder and Dream and we (with Laura) did it again today. It didn’t disappoint. The afternoon was spent digesting lunch and I had a session in the gym to work some of it off (Liz went to the gym before lunch).

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In the evening, we went to “Aladdin”, the first show of the cruise in which Laura performs. It was very entertaining. And then we had dinner. We didn’t really need a three course meal but we had it anyway.

On Monday 17/4, we arrived in Cozumel, Mexico about 7.30 am. We didn't book a shore excursion because we wanted to spend time with Laura who wasn’t free until 1.00pm. So we went ashore and ran the gauntlet of all the souvenir shops and tourist bars for about an hour and then returned to the ship for a break.

In the afternoon Laura took us to a restaurant “Pancho's Backyard” which was a good walk from the port and far enough to deter most of the tourists. They served great big margaritas and really good Mexican food. Very nice.

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For dinner we again went “Palo” with Laura and two of her friends from the cast. Sam and Zac. Again, great food and good company. A great day but far to much food than is good for us……again.

Tuesday 18/4 we are in Grand Cayman. This is a tender port where we have to go ashore on a boat. As we were doing an afternoon port excursion we didn't get off the ship until midday. Just did some laundry, had a (light) breakfast and did some relaxing and reading.

The excursion was a bit ordinary. The George Town port was very crowded, there were two other (Carnival) cruise ship in, and the organisation was poor. Grand Cayman doesn’t seem to have much going for it. There are a lot of resorts and hotels but you don’t get to see much from the road as we were driven past them. And there is not much else to see. The beach we were taken to was unexciting and the visit to “Hell” was laughable. Well “Hell” was laughable. The most interesting part of the trip was a boat ride into the mangroves which included a lecture on mangroves and their life cycle. We also got to see some iguana which was the most exciting part.

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In the evening we saw Laura perform in the night’s show and, again, had a nice dinner.

Wednesday 19/4 we visited Falmouth, Jamaica and played golf at the White Witch course, about 30 minutes from the port. The course was spectacular and fun to play. Liz played under her handicap and I just played. On the way back to the ship we stopped for some jerk pork which everyone enjoyed.

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Previously visited Jamaica in 1987 and while the country is doing better than back then, it doesn’t seem to have changed much. Still second world at best but quite interesting.

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Thursday 20/4 was “Star Wars Day at Sea”. The day was taken up with photo opportunities with Star Wars characters, watching kids and adults parade in their Star Wars costumes and, for us, a 3D viewing of “Rogue One”, (my first ever Star Wars movie). Of course dinner was Star Wars themed and then a Star Wars show on pool deck followed by fireworks. A good day but probably much better for Star Wars fans.

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On Friday 21/4 we spent the day at Castaway Cay, Disney's private island in The Bahamas. It's a great fun spot with lots of activities, if you want them, beautiful beaches and blue water. Spent some time on the beach, had a swim, and ate on the island then returned to the ship to watch "Beauty and the Beast", in 3D. Great movie.

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Today is our last day on the Fantasy. Tomorrow we head for Washington DC.

Posted by John McReynolds 04:29 Archived in Bahamas Tagged cayman grand jamaica cozumel Comments (0)

Chapel Hill

University of North Carolina

sunny 28 °C

On Thursday 14/4 we travelled from Pinehurst NC to Chapel Hill NC by way of Pinehurst Shuttle to Raleigh Durham Airport and taxi to Chapel Hill. Taxi fares are quite cheap here and competitive with Uber.

Chapel Hill is the town that contains University of North Carolina (UNC), or should I say, Chapel Hill is UNC. In every shop and everywhere else, it is about the university. The students, the residents, the tourists, the buses, even the fire engines are blue and white, the university colours. It may have something to do with the fact that UNC two weeks ago won the national college basketball final but I understand it's pretty much like this all the time.

Our nephew Brodie is a freshman at UNC and we came here to visit him. And we were lucky to have him give us a guided tour of the campus. The campus is simply amazing. Wonderfully buildings, beautiful open spaces, fantastic sports and training facilities, libraries, lecture theatres, laboratories, a hospital, you name, it it's here and it's good.....except the dorm rooms which are very small and dated (but you only need to sleep in them I suppose).

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We are staying in the Carolina Inn which is a fabulous hotel right on the edge of the campus. It is a beautiful old building, excellently maintained and a luxurious hotel experience.

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Friday 15/4 is Good Friday and a public holiday here. There was no school but most of the shops and restaurants were open. We had a quiet day with a leisurely breakfast, a walk, a short visit to the hotel gym and, of course, some gold watching on the golf channel.

Dinner with Brodie and two of his friends at "Crossroads" at the Carolina Hotel was great. Good conversation and great food, probably some of the best food we have had in the US.

Heading for Orlando/Port Canaveral in the morning for our cruise with Laura and so looking forward to that. But our detour to Chapel Hill was delightful. We are so glad we decided to visit.

Posted by John McReynolds 03:15 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Pinehurst

Golf at Pinehurst

sunny 25 °C

On Monday (10/4/17) we travelled from Augusta GA to Pinehurst, North Carolina, a 3.5 hour coach trip, and then played Pinehurst #6, one of nine golf courses in the Pinehurst Estate. No. 6 is the Pinehurst members' course and regarded as the easiest of the nine courses. We didn't find it that easy and as with most "first time" courses, we fell into a lot of traps. We also thought the course was in rather poor condition although the greens were very good. (Champion Bermuda for the BGC crowd and a little bit better than ours). Liz and I both played OK but we (especially me) found the greens hard to read.

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We were disappointed that we were not staying in the Carolina Hotel at Pinehurst which is a wonderful old hotel which we were so looking forward to staying in. Instead we were shipped out to the "Condominiums" which are a shuttle bus ride away and not where the action is. The "condo" is big and not badly equipped but it is dated and needs work. This is the first real disappointment of the trip and we have communicated our displeasure.

Tuesday we played Pinehurst #2., the most highly rated of the courses having hosted a number of US Opens and other prestigious events. It was fabulous. Not so difficult from the tee (white tees, not blue or black) but the approach shots are very testing. We had a caddie who advised us where to aim and the read of the greens which made a world of difference. Played OK and made some puts but when we went bad, it was very punishing. But a lovely day walking a magnificent golf course.

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On Wednesday we played Pinehurst #8. This course was visually quite different to the other two we have played. A difficult course, but again, not punishing in the lose your ball in the hazard sense, just a course where you have to land in the right places. because you don't you have difficult chips or impossible puts. We played today with the tour group professional and he hired a "caddie" to helps us with shot selection and green reading. Once again, having a person there to advise us was a great help and I, for one, had a much better scoring day as a result. (Only 32 points but enough to come second on the day.) Another very enjoyable day of golf.

Group farewell dinner at "1895", a restaurant in the Pinehurst Village, where we enjoyed good food, wine and conversation together with a presentation of trophies for the day and the tour.

Tomorrow we leave Pinehurst and head in different directions. Liz and I are heading for Chapel Hill NC to visit our nephew who is at UNC, and then on to Florida for cruise with Laura.

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Posted by John McReynolds 18:50 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The Masters Week

The Masters at Augusta and Golf in South Carolina

25 °C

Wednesday, our first Masters experience, was a bit disappointing. We travelled to Augusta National about 9.30 am and managed to get to the practice area and take a few photos before the siren sounded and we were required to evacuate the course. Our tour had a hospitality house nearby so we went there and waited until 12.30 pm when they re-opened the course. By the time we walked back and made our way to "Amen Corner", a part of the course we really wanted to see and photograph, the sirens went again and we had to vacate the course again. But we did get some good photos before we had to leave. An extremely long walk back to the hospitality house and the rest of the day was devoted to drinking and eating.

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On Thursday we played golf at the River Golf Club just across the border in North Augusta, South Carolina. Just like at the Masters, it was a very windy day which made golf more difficult than it usually is. But the course was great, even if a little wet, and we played OK, even if the scores didn't show that. Lunch at the club with a few beers, the afternoon watching the Masters on TV, dinner at "Tbone " a sports bar/steakhouse that really rocks during the Masters and serves really big meals, and finally, a couple of post dinner drinks, courtesy of Masters hospitality, all added up to a really great day.

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Friday we went to Tournament Day 2 of the Masters. What a great experience. The weather was windy and cold and Sunday will be better as far as that goes. But today we really got to see what a great course and tournament this is. So there are about 40,000 + patrons here on tournament days plus
literally thousands of staff. Everything from merchandise, to food and beverage, to restrooms, to check stands (cloak rooms) are just so efficient. Large lines at times but hardly any waiting. Everything moves so quickly. It is hard to describe and hard to believe. And the staff are so friendly and courteous.

The course is beautiful and you need to be here to understand this. But it is also very challenging for the best golfers in the world, as the scores indicate. We saw some great and not so great golf and we saw all our favourites on the course. It was so good.

No cameras allowed on tournament days so no photos.

On Saturday we travelled to Aiken, South Carolina to play golf at the Reserve Golf Club at Woodside Estate. This is an excellent course in great condition and the club has great facilities and service. I played well but putted badly. Liz won the day (with 36 points). After golf we watched day 3 of the Masters on big screen TV with drinks followed by an a la carte dinner. Another great day.

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Sunday, I left for the Masters early (7.00am) to get a good viewing spot for the day while Liz stayed back to do some laundry. The course opens about 7.45am but the first tee time is not until 10.00am. However, thousands arrive before 8.00am to place their chairs in the best spots and I was part of that. Wanted to get a spot at the 18th green but all the good ones were taken by the time I got there. I ended up getting a great spot near the 16th green. Liz arrived at 9.00am and we spent the morning roaming the course and watching what we could. It was very crowded and viewing is sometimes hard work, particularly as the weather was pretty hot. But it was fun. And the Masters organisation makes it as easy as possible. In the afternoon we watched the field come through the 16th. Good watching with the highlight being a hole in one by Matt Kuchar. Amazing.! We couldn't get near the 18th for the final drama so watched it on TV. We were happy to see Sergio Garcia win.

A great day and a great week. It has been worth it.

Posted by John McReynolds 18:51 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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