Friday, June 25, 2010

Graphic Good-Byes

Remember how I was telling you how I was going to miss my boss in my last post? Well, this is just one reason why. The guy always knows how to give the perfect gift. (Click for a larger image.)

We here at Mildenhall are lucky enough to have the most talented military cartoonist (is that a word?) in at least the whole Air Force, if not beyond. If you haven't seen Austin May's work as Box D Blues (Team Mildenhall's cartoon), or in the Air Force Times weekly publication, or at his own personal site, Air Force Blues, then I am super excited to introduce you to his work.

Simply stated, the guy is friggin' hilarious. You don't necessarily have to work with or for the military to understand or appreciate his humor, but it certainly makes it sweeter sometimes. I look forward to my daily fix of Blues after I check my email in the mornings.

Anyway, I'll stop blowing sunshine up Austin's skirt. I was just super excited to receive a signed print of this personalized strip and wanted to share it with you guys. How cool is that?!

It was a seriously long week at work, and I, for one, am seriously glad to see the weekend. It's already packed with things to do, but luckily they all promise to be fun. Woo! Anyway, have a great weekend!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In other news...

Okay, I know that by now you are surely thinking, "WE GET IT, KEL! You went on a Disney cruise. It was amazing. You had the time of your life. Blah blah blah! We're over it!"

Well, you're in luck. Everything there was to say about the cruise has been said, so we can wrap that up in a pretty little box and put it behind us. *Phew* No kidding, it felt like a homework assignment that I just needed to tackle, so I'm a bit relieved it's all said and done.

In lieu of holiday blogging, I now present real, actual news in our family! It's not really breaking news, since we've known from last week. But if you aren't my Facebook friend or someone I see in real life, then chances are you don't know, and it's news to you. (But really, if you aren't my Facebook friend or real life friend...who are you? Where did you come from? Who let you in?!) ;)

Our news is that we got our next assignment, and we're moving to South Carolina! Columbia, to be exact. We're pretty excited about the news. It looks like we'll be moving back stateside in January, which will come quickly, I'm sure.

Of course, leaving England does mean we'll be leaving cool scenes like this. (Geeze, I wish this had been my house for the last 3 1/3 years!)

But being back in the States does mean we'll see more scenes like this.

Something to look forward to, I guess? As our four year tour in England wraps up, I know we'll have many bittersweet moments that will remind us of how lucky we've been to have this assignment.
In other bittersweet news, my boss is leaving soon. He's been a pretty good boss (understatement of the year), and we are sad to see him leave.

Where I work, this is how they say good-bye. Fortunately, I'll escape this treatment when I leave since I don't fly. (I dunno, I might trade in one day of sopping wet good-byes to be able to fly!)

So, lots of changes in the immediate and distant future! Lots of things to plan and prepare for, and even more things to say good-bye too, sadly. It'll be a challenging, but fun six months!
And now, just because I feel like it, I wanted to share this adorable picture of my son with his friend Lily. He loves that girl! Tomorrow is Lily's mom's birthday. So, happy birthday, Robin! Have a great day! :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Disney Cruise - See You Real Soon!

I've been struggling for a few days to think of how I wanted to end my Disney cruise blog series. I've already shared the majority of pictures and stories, and quite frankly, all that's left is the sad bit: saying good-bye.
This was our first cruise, and man did we set the bar high. How can you top an eleven day Mediterranean Disney cruise? I'm not sure you can! We were on the ship so long, that room 7584 really did begin to feel like home.
Our dinner servers, who moved with us from restaurant to restaurant, began to feel like friends we'd look forward to seeing every night. They knew our likes and dislikes well enough to make some pretty spot on recommendations and to always have our drink of preference ready and waiting for us.

The food was incredible. Never having to cook or clean up after ourselves made it even sweeter. We felt like royalty.

But mostly, it was just nice to be away for a while. I love our life. I like my job. I like my family. I like living in England. Even so, it was nice to step back from the hum drum of normal life and just be us for a while.

The on board babysitting was great. Having the opportunity to dine alone, go hang out in the hot tub on the adult side of the top deck, or go see a show without our sweet rug rat in tow was so much fun.

The ship itself was beautiful. There was so much to do and so many places to eat. Every day was different, and yet we fell into a pretty comfortable routine during our time on board.

Caleb, of course, had a blast, as we knew he would. Whether is was running around in the toddler splash zone...

Or running into Mickey Mouse at breakfast...

Or Goofy on shore...

...Caleb was always looking for the next adventure.

Unfortunately, our time was wrapping up. After our last port of call in Villefranche, we had one last day at sea to enjoy everything the Disney Magic had to offer. As much as we were grateful for that last day at sea, it was tainted with the knowledge that every minute brought us closer to Barcelona, and the end of our cruise.
Since we've returned, I've been asked numerous times if I would recommend the Disney Cruise Line. And I want to say, emphatically, "Yes, yes, YES!" It was amazing!

But, see, the thing is this: I'm the kind of person who totally buys into the magic. From the first sighting of Mickey to the farewell show on the last night, I'm still mostly a kid a heart who gets excited when the mouse waves at me. I get goosebumps when I walk into Magic Kingdom. I get up and scream and dance just because some dude on the stage tells me to. I yell loudly for Capt Hook just to get him to wave.

So maybe I'm the kind of person Disney cruises are made for -the kid at heart. But I'm naive enough to think that most of us still have a kid a heart. Many of us keep it under wraps a lot better than I do, that's for sure. But I think a lot of people are eager for the chance to play, to be carefree, to be unashamedly excited about little things.
And if you can't be excited and playful on a Disney cruise, than I just don't know where you can.
So this is it. Not just the end of my Disney cruise, but now the end of the travel blogging as well. And I'll admit, I'm a bit sad to really wrap this up and put it all behind me. Because it was so much fun. I've enjoyed re-living it through the blog. And I can't wait to do it again sometime in the not-so-distant future!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Disney Cruise - Day Ten: Villefranche

Our last port of call was Villefranche, along the coast of France. This was another stop I didn't really have the biggest expectations for. But, as with Corsica, it ended up being one of my unexpected favorites.

I woke early again to probably my favorite sunrise. Don't worry. I didn't wake up early every day. It was vacation, after all! But when I did, it was no hardship to do so with sights like these out the window.

Like in La Spezia, the harbor wasn't deep enough for us to properly dock, so we had to tender a little ways out in the water and take smaller boats to shore. Watching the coast of France grow closer on our tender boat was beautiful.

But turning around while still on the tender boat, I got my favorite picture of the Disney Magic. Isn't she beautiful? I wish I lived on that boat! If you look closely, you can see the smaller, tender boats loading people up. This picture seriously makes me happy.

Our shore excursion took us to the principality of Monaco. I didn't really know what to expect from Monaco, so I was blown away by how beautiful this tiny little country is. If I had to pick one word for Monaco, I'd lean towards "posh."

The first part of our tour took us through the old, downtown area of Monaco. One of our first stops was the church where Princess Grace Kelly got married. (I feel a Mika song coming on!)

This is where the princess is buried.

We walked further downtown and stopped for a while near the palace where the royal family of Monaco lives. We had a little bit of free time at this point, so we sought out souvenirs and (of course) ice cream. I think we ate ice cream at almost every stop on the trip!

We also passed a Lamborghini along the way - you know, as you do, when walking through Monaco!

After our walking tour in the old town, we took a street train tour of the newer downtown Monaco. The tour took us along the Monaco Grand Prix racing track, which was cool. Would have been nice to have the Lamborghini now!

We passed by the Monte Carlo casino on our tour. We didn't stop in, though! We weren't dressed nicely enough to be let in anyway.

We finished out train tour and then walked towards the marina to stop at a cafe for coffee or beer. As we were walking, we noticed a huge, thick cloud of fog rolling in over the coast.

It was surreal. It wasn't like being in a fog, it was like watching the fog just ahead of you. We never seemed to actually be in the fog, but it seemed to be seeping into the landscape everywhere else we looked.
On the ride back to the ship, the roads were taking us along a higher elevation, and the clouds were lying thick along the mountains, just below us, like a heavy quilt. It was like we were in a plane, flying over Monaco, instead of on a bus driving through it. Our tour guide was amazed. She said she'd never seen fog like this in Monaco.

We pulled around the curve of a mountain and there was a break in the fog just over the harbor where our ship was tendered. It was such a cool sight to see. Thick, white clouds hanging heavy all over the coast and the sea, except for one small patch of clear blue right where the Magic was waiting for us.

It felt like we were returning home. Except that we knew it was the last port of call for our cruise. One more day at sea, and then we'd be getting off in Barcelona. I honestly felt a bit like I was mourning the end of our cruise. It had been so much fun, and we had seen so many amazing places. The daily grind of life seemed a million miles away.
But regardless of how we felt, the trip was coming to a close. We were so lucky to be able to take such an incredible trip. The pictures and words will never properly capture just how incredible it was. Even now, two weeks out from the trip, I feel homesick for the Disney Magic.
I've got one more travel blog up my sleeve. Just a collection of random on board pictures and general thoughts about the cruise overall that I hope will cap the whole series off nicely. But for tonight, I'm going to go lay down and try to dream that I'm back on board and looking out my verandah at sun rising over the coast of France. Bonne nuit!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Disney Cruise - Day Nine: Corsica

Our next port of call was Corsica. To be honest, I was really looking forward to our three stops in Italy the most. Everything else was just kind of icing on the cake.

We had previously arranged for a half-day beach break excursion without Caleb. (We were going to leave him on board with the Disney nursery staff.) But we were called in our stateroom a couple of days before to let us know our excursion had been cancelled because of a problem with the tour company they contracted with.

So instead we were left with a free day in Corsica. This was actually a bit of a relief after five pre-arranged shore excursions. A chance to explore a city on our own was just what we wanted at this point. So off we went into Ajaccio to see what the day held!

Corsica ended up being an unexpected treat on our trip. Without a guide or agenda, we were free to go at our own pace, stop when we wanted to, and plot our own journey.

Additionally, Corsica was beautiful. As in I-want-to-live-here beautiful.

Again, we had awesome weather. We really hit the luckiest streak of sunshine imaginable.

We did a bit of shopping and stopped at a cafe for a quick drink and a bite. (Mostly we needed an excuse to use a toilet, but the espresso and white chocolate cranberry cookie I had were a welcome bonus!) Caleb had apricot juice here!

Ajaccio is the birthplace of Napoleon, so with the help of a map we could barely read, we managed to find the house he was born in. We didn't bother going inside this time. It was just too crowded, and today was less about sightseeing and more about relaxing.

After that, we found a little beach near the town center, so we went down to hit the sand for a while.

Of course, I had to get the obligatory feet-in-the-water shot. Look! I'm standing in the Mediterranean Sea! And it's cold!

Caleb must have felt that every rock on the beach was misplaced, because he spent the majority of the time throwing them back into the ocean. He loved the beach. Even though the water was cold, he didn't care at all. I can't tell you how many times he's asked to go to the beach since we've been back home.

It was such a relaxing afternoon. Tommy and I laid out on the towels we brought from the ship, I read a book, Caleb played in the water. I could have stayed there all day.

After a while at the beach, we decided to head off to the other end of town to see the Napoleon monument.

Caleb was pretty wiped at this point, so Tommy found a bench to sit at with Caleb while I climbed to the top of the monument and looked out over Ajaccio.

Corsica ended up being one of my favorite stops. I had virtually no expectations for it, but it ended up being such a relaxing nice time to spend together as a family. Looking back, I would have trimmed back on the pre-planned guided tours and done a few more days on our own like we did in Ajaccio.

Unfortunately, we knew our time was almost up. We only had one more port of call left and a day at sea before we had to disembark for good in Barcelona. It had been so much fun, and we had seen so many cool things, it was hard to imagine how we could end on a higher note than Corsica. But we still had Villefranche left!

Oh, but one more note from Corsica:

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Disney Cruise - Days Seven & Eight: The Med & Florence

Want to know the difference between a 10-day and an 11-day Disney Mediterranean cruise? It's a single day at sea dropped right in the middle of all the ports of call.

Instead of heading straight to La Spezia from Citiavecchia, the captain took us out into the middle of the Med for a relaxing day at sea. I didn't think much of a day at a sea, but following four hectic ports of call, that quiet day at sea was perfect.

We also lucked out with the most beautiful weather we had all cruise! I've already mentioned this, but we had great weather all cruise, and this day, our lazy day at sea to relax and recoup, was the best! The crew went on and on about how they have never seen a more peaceful day at sea. One of servers said in his many years of working there, he had only seen a day like that maybe two or three times. It was awesome!

I woke up a little early the next morning and watched the sun rise from our verandah as we pulled into the next harbor. I could get used to a veiw like this!
The next day found us in La Spezia, where we tendered the boat. I guess the harbor of La Spezia isn't deep enough for the cruise ship, so we anchored a way out in the harbor and took smaller tendering boats (that held about 200 passengers) into the shore. Caleb liked going from the big boat to the little boat.

We took a bus from La Spezia to Florence. It was about an hour and a half through beautiful Italian country side.

We made our way through the city passed the Santa Croce to the Palazzo della Signoria. One one side of the square is the impressive Palazzo Vecchio, that I remembered visiting when we were stationed at Aviano AFB when I was in high school.

We had a chance to look inside the courtyard of the Palazzo.

The piazzo is kind of like an outdoor museum. There were beautiful sculptures in various areas of the square.

We left the piazzo and walked passed the Uffizi, which is a huge art gallery. We didn't have a chance to go in due to our time crunch.

Walking through the other side of the Uffizi, we caught sight of Ponte Vecchio (the Old Bridge.) It felt a bit like a homecoming for me. I hadn't been to Florence in about 15 years, and it's not like I lived there. But my Italian class took a few trips there, and I absolutely loved the city. It felt great being back there again.

This ice cream-eating, underwear exposed girl had the courtesy to make it into our one and only family picture on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. Thanks, girl.

We then made our way to The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, which is really amazing to see as you approach it. Covered in white, green and red marbles, it's very beautiful.

In my mind, The Basilica di Santa Maria is kind of the opposite of St Peter's Basilica in Rome. The outside of St Peter's, while impressive and imposing, isn't necessarily beautiful. But then you step inside, and it is gorgeous! The sculptures, the marbled floor, the's just breathtaking. Florence's basilica, on the other hand, is magnificent from the outside. But the inside, surprisingly, is rather plain.

After we toured the basilica, we had some free time. Our tour guide had scolded us earlier in the day for eating ice cream that she did not deem worth of the name gelato. (It was just ice cream on a stick.) So she gave us a business card for "good gelato." Jackpot!

We wandered down a few streets, and with the help of the map the guide gave us, we found Gelataria di Neri. SCORE! I had finally found my great gelato! The soft, sweet, tart gelato I remembered from our years in Italy as a high schooler. I had a scoop of lemon and a scoop of strawberry. It was SO good! Just looking at the picture is making my mouth water.

We had a little time to kill, so we did some shopping around the Piazza Di Santa Croce, which is where we were meeting our group.

Caleb had a blast chasing the pigeons around the square. This was probably the highlight of Florence for Caleb. Don't worry, we made sure he was nice to the birds. Besides, they looked like they could use a little exercise!

Leaving La Spezia that night afforded us some beautiful views from the ship, including this island with a little light house on top.

We also got to watch the sunset as we sailed further into the Mediterranean.

It was an amazing day! Got to see the sun rise and set over the Med, and in the middle, we saw some amazing views in Florence. Can't ask for more than that!